Friday, October 31, 2014

It was 33 years ago today...

It all started with a copy of the Village Voice.

I was 19 years old.  A sophomore at Bucknell University.  A brother at Theta Chi.  My fellow brothers had re-shaped my musical world my freshman year.  After years of AC/DC, Judas Priest, and the Scorpions, plus a little bit of Pink Floyd and Zeppelin, I had been turned on to David Bowie and then Elvis Costello and Talking Heads, plus some new bands like U2 and the Psychedelic Furs.

In high school, I'd seen Devo do Whip It! on SNL.  Didn't we all watch SNL then?

But, until college, they were nothing more than weird guys with flowerpots on their heads.  But, listening to entire albums at school, I became a huge fan.  When they released New Tradionalists, it was on the turntable pretty much non-stop.

So, in September or maybe early October of 1981, through the Village Voice, we heard that Devo was going to play Radio City Music Hall on Halloween.  I forget how we got tickets, but it certainly didn't involve the internet.  Somehow, we got tickets to the second of 2 shows that night, and we were in very last row of Radio City Music Hall.

We had a party at the fraternity on a Saturday night, right after we'd scored the tickets.  Three of us were so excited about the show that we spent the entire night at the party bothering people.  We would walk up to a group of people, with our backs facing them.  Then, we'd spin in tandem and say the words "October 31st.  Radio City Music Hall.  Devo.  Be There!".  And we'd walk away.  I'm sure we were really annoying, but we were so excited about the show.

The Friday before the show, I headed to NJ with my buddy Jeff.  We went to his house and then headed across the NY state line, where the drinking age was 18.  Of course, we went to a bar.  I have to assume we were drinking Schaefer beer.  I do remember that it cost us 35 cents per glass.  I'm sure I had too many.

On Saturday, we headed to NYC.  Four of us met at a bar called The Blarney Stone.  There were a few places in NYC by that name, and I assume they were connected.  I think we were in the Hell's Kitchen area, on West 47th, which would have put us close to RCMH.

I was then (and still am today) a big college football fan.  My team, Penn State, was ranked number 1 that day and playing at Miami, who was not yet a national power.  Penn State's Curt Warner, who was averaging 168 yards per game, had been injured and missed the previous week's win against West Virginia.  He started against Miami, but re-injured his hamstring, and Miami went on to upset Penn State 17-14.  I remember so vividly watching the game at the Blarney Stone, and seeing Warner carrying the ball, and then, mid-play, he reached back and grabbed his hamstring.  That win for Miami propelled them to a new level and they've been a national power ever since.

After the game, we wandered around town for a while.  I remember we stopped at one bar that charged us $8 for a pitcher of nasty beer.  Their tap lines were filthy, the beer was expensive and undrinkable, and they refused to give us a refund.  One of our group, a guy named Eric, was still yelling at them as we left the place.

At some point, we were in Times Square, which was a much different place in those days.  And about 11:00 or so, we headed to Radio City Music Hall for Devo's second show of the night.  It was a fantastic show, a mix of their older songs and the new material from New Traditionalists, plus their cover of Working in a Coal Mine, which was part of the soundtrack to the movie Heavy Metal.  Here is the set list:

To be honest, there is only one set list online, and there were 2 shows.  I don't know if they played identical sets or not, so this might not be exactly what we saw.  At the very least, it is close.

That was my first visit ever to NYC, and despite our college-age appetites for beer, it's a day I still remember very well.

I haven't seen Devo since that night.

My next trip to NYC was on another holiday - St. Patrick's day in 1982.  That night, we went to the Ritz, which is now long gone (the original venue has returned to its old name of Webster Hall), with pretty much the same group of guys, and we saw a young band from Ireland who had just released their second album, October.  Even though October remains perhaps U2's least known and least successful album, I've always been a fan of that release.  Years later, when I saw U2 in a stadium with over 50,000 people, I remembered fondly seeing them in a venue that held only 1400 or so.

October 31st.  Radio City Music Hall.  Devo.  Be There!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A couple PRs in the gym

Where did this come from?  We've been doing some work on power snatches and power cleans with push jerks the past few Tuesdays.  Last night was a testing night on those lifts.  To be honest, I'd missed more of the sessions than I'd made, and I still had a decent night last night.

I do have to admit that I think my vacation helped me out a bit.  I had been to CrossFit 15-17 days per month for the past 6 months before October.  I think my October total will be at most 10 days.  I did put in 4 gym days last week, but only 2 the week before, 1 the week before that, and 0 the week before.  So, I'm somewhat rested, but also under-trained.

I was active while away from the gym, but spending 6 hours in a river chasing trout does not exactly elicit a training effect.  I also slept poorly on Monday night because my right shoulder was bothering me for no apparent reason.  I tend to sleep on my right side and I had a poor night of sleep and wondered if I should even try the Olympic lifts, especially going for a 1 rep max.

I had a pretty good warm-up at the gym.  We started with some dynamic stuff - mostly body weight movements, but we also did some mobility work to get the shoulders working.  By the time we were done, I'd decided to approach the first part of the workout slowly, and just see how it felt.

I started at 53# for power snatches.  Yep, that's not a typo.  I worked on some shrugs, hang pulls, and eventually hang power snatches.  Things felt OK, so I moved up to 73# and repeated the work.  Still OK, so I moved to 93#.  At this weight, I did a single hang power snatch and one power snatch.  Still OK, so one to 103#.  A single power snatch felt OK, so I moved ahead, planning just single reps at each weight.  I hit 113# just fine and went to 125.5#.  Until late summer, that would have been a PR weight, but I got 133# late in the summer.  I hit 125.5# and added 10 pounds for a new PR attempt at 135.5.  I was actually surprised at how easily I got this weight for a new PR.  From there, I moved to 138 and I got the weight overhead, but I didn't get the full arm lockout needed to call it a valid snatch.  I thought about trying again, but instead, moved on to the power clean/push jerk combos.

I started at 113, 133, and 153 - all weights I knew I could handle, and I did multiple reps at the lower weights.  My all time best clean is 195# and my best C&J is 185#.  From 153#, I moved to 163#, 173#, and then an attempt at 185.5#.  I hadn't cleaned that much in quite a while, and I wasn't sure if I could even pull that off.  I was very surprised when the weight came to my shoulders fairly easily.  The push press was a little shaky, but I got it - a second PR.  But, I still felt like I had more in me, and I moved to 188#.  This time, the clean was a bit tougher but the push jerk was smoother - another PR.  I was pretty sure I could have cleaned 200# or more, and I might have gotten over 190# overhead.  But, the second part of the workout was 100 burpees for time, so I needed to save something.

For years, I've wanted to break 10 minutes for 100 burpees.  We have guys in our gym - young, skinny guys - that can go sub-5.  I just want sub-10.  My previous time doing 100 burpees solo (I'd done it as part of a bigger workout on the 4th of July) was last July, and I'd done 11:05.  To be honest, I didn't think I had a shot at that either.  I also hate this workout because I'm always the last to finish, and everyone is encouraging me as they finish, and I feel pressured to push harder.  When I push hard on burpees, I have a tendency to go too hard and end up puking.  So, for most of the day, I'd told myself that I'd just do 80 and call it a good workout.

I did 13 in the first minute, 9 in the second minute and 8 in the third, giving me 31 for 3 minutes.  Right then, it was clear that 10 minutes was not going to happen, but I kept pushing.  By the time I started my 51st rep, 2 guys had already finished.  I muttered a bad word under my breath.  By the time I was approaching 80, almost everyone was done.  But, about rep 75, I had decided I was going to finish the 100, no matter how slow I was.

If I exclude the person who didn't really do 100 reps, by the time I did my 82nd rep, everyone else was done.  We were in a big circle in the main part of the gym, I was tired, and I had 18 reps to do solo.  I was not happy, but I just kept plugging away.  Every 2-3 reps, I'd take a short breather before I hopped back to the squat position.  I tried my best to ignore everyone else in the gym.  Just do one more.  One more.  One more.

Finally, I got there in 11:55.  I was slower than a year ago.  I'm heavier and older now, but to be honest, I was pretty happy with my time.  I know I can improve.  If I lost 30 pounds of the excess fat that I carry around, sub-10 would be automatic.

All in all it was a good night.  I've had more good days than bad days at the gym since my vacation.  I really think the rest helped my body to recover a bit, and I'm having more fun now than I have had in a while.

Next time we do 100 burpees, I'm getting sub-10.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Transition Time

After 3 weeks of very few workouts (lots of fly fishing in there, plus an almost-concert and an NHL game), I finally got back to the gym this week.

It seems that things have really changed in those 3 weeks.  Not in the gym, so much, but in the outside world.  I've actually been happy with my workouts this week.  I think the rest did me some good, and I've felt strong and a bit refreshed in the gym this week.  I've been a bit sore but still feeling relatively strong.

But, the outside world has changed.  It's now dark when I get up at 6:30 in the morning.  It's dark again when I leave the gym after my workout.  We had snow accumulations in the mountains last weekend.  My daughter is asking when we are going to light a fire in the wood stove, because the house is cold.  I have an appointment tomorrow to get some maintenance work done on my snow blower.  On Sunday, I'll be at Sugarbush for most of the day, doing my pre-season ski instructor orientation.

It seems that the older I get, the faster each season just blows right by.  It seems like trout season just opened a few weeks ago, on a cold wet weekend in April.  And while I'll still fish for a couple more weeks, it's about time to put the fly rods away and get the skis tuned up.  I need a new helmet and new ski gloves for this season and I haven't ordered them yet.

I need to rent my daughter's skis for the season, something I normally due in early October.  I still have some winterizing to do around the house.

And, I haven't stacked my firewood yet, but that one is not my fault.  I don't even have my firewood yet.  Apparently, the person we buy our wood from got married this summer.  While he was on his honeymoon, the person who covered his firewood business sold a lot of wood.  That included 4 cords of wood that my wife and I had reserved in April.  Trying to find firewood in the fall in Vermont is a fool's errand.

We had reserved 4 cords at a price that seemed fairly high to me - $260 per cord.  All we've been able to find so far is quality dry wood, but at $370 a cord.  So, one person's business error is going to cost me an additional $110/cord for firewood.  While the original seller has been apologetic, he certainly hasn't offered to help pay that extra money.

This weekend, I need to finish the winterizing work - mostly rain gutter stuff.  I still need to take the air conditioners out of the bedroom windows and store them for the winter.  I'll probably sneak in a little bit of fishing.  Snow tires go on the first car next Friday.

Soon, it will be what Vermonters call stick season - that time of year after the leaves have fallen from the trees, but before we have snow on the ground.  Once we hit stick season, the long range weather forecast starts to become important, telling us when we can expect to start skiing.  I have occasionally skied in early November, but it's been a while.  Last year, my first day was November 17th.  I'd be happy to be on snow that soon this season.

And, it will probably seem like just a couple weeks until I'm back in Addison County for the opening of trout season.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Lots and Lots of No CrossFit at All

I just spent most of the last two weeks on vacation.  I worked on September 26th, and went to CrossFit after work that night.  After that, I was on vacation, with a primary goal of catching trout.

For the first week or so, I mostly fished with my wife, and the fishing was terrible.  Or maybe I'm a terrible fisherman, because I was seeing posts on Facebook from local guides and fly fishing shops that indicated others were catching trout.  In reality, our streams were really low, and I think that had the fish holding deep and not being very active.

After 4 days of fishing and then a day of work around the house, my wife and I headed to Boston to meet some college friends and see a concert by Bryan Ferry, who we've wanted to see for years.  We were a bit nervous about the show, because he had canceled two shows in DC earlier in the week.  But, the night before the Boston show, he played in NYC.  So, we headed to Boston.  Very late in the afternoon, the show was canceled.  This happened after we'd committed a fair amount of travel money to see the show, and we were not happy at all.  The notice to ticket-holders was sent by e-mail after 5:00 for a 7:30 show.  In DC, the cancellations had happened by noon.  If we'd heard by noon, we probably would have just returned home, having only spent a lot of gas money.

His next show was 2 nights later, and I'm sure the fans in Philly were thrilled.  He added Don't Stop the Dance to his set list, a song he hadn't been playing and a favorite of mine from his solo work.

So, we headed home on Friday, very disappointed and a whole lot poorer.  Saturday, it rained all day, so we basically goofed off. I was optimistic that the rain would help the fishing, but when my wife and I headed out on Sunday, we got skunked again.

On Monday, my wife returned to work, but I had three days left to fish, and I finally started to catch some fish.  After three good days of fishing, I returned to work on Thursday, for my first CrossFit workout in 13 days.  Despite the workout being easier than average (40 ring rows, 30 man-makers, 1000m row, 60 kettlebell swings, and 56 goblet squats), I'm still hurting today.  But, I have a medical appointment today, so I can't get to the gym anyway.

One great thing about the vacation was getting to see my daughter play a lot of soccer.  My wife and I don't get to as many of her games as we'd like, due to working an hour from home, and their early starting times.  They are having a rough season, but it's nice to be there to support her.  I've been to 4 of her last 5 games and I hope to make it to tomorrow's game as well.

So now, it's back to normal.  We are trying to get ready for winter, although we found out this week that our firewood supplier "accidentally" sold our 4 cords of wood to someone else, and we now have no firewood at all for this winter.  A local company that we really dislike (blatantly political company whose politics we don't agree with) has some very expensive wood, and we might be forced to hold our noses and pay up.

My first pre-season ski school meeting is in 2 weeks.  There were some snow flurries in the mountains yesterday.  The days are getting short.

But, I will continue to fish until it's time to ski.  And, I'll probably go to a lot of CrossFit classes.