So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Nuts to You

Still, we are having what I sarcastically call Climate by Sybil. Our hopes are raised by 60-something degree tempeatures, bright sunshine and nearly-perfect conditions, only to be dashed by the onset of sub-freezing crud. I must admit I felt a great deal of sympathy for my athletes as they went through their paces last Tuesday night in the chill with the 20mph gusts kicking the daylights out of them on the front stretch; I did my workout a couple of hours earlier and had my behind kicked on the back stretch. And it was bad enough I lost count of where I was supposed to stop my repetition during the first part of my run.
Yesterday was even colder during the daytime. I resorted to dressing a little closer to an athlete and a little less like an analyst; wearing a technical fiber (tight) top under my dress shirt. I looked like a cross between Johnny Cash and Johnny Gray. But, why am I complaining? I live in Florida. Because I can?
This week has been enough to make my nut-sized brain feel more like a chestnut roasting o'er an open fire. I'm doing the number crunching on a information professional training adequacy survey, plus trying to make sense of the government contracting process. The number crunching isn't so bad, more mentally-draining than anything else. The contracting process, however...woo hoo hoo...that's the reason there are contract officers' representatives (COR), with requisite educational background and all, isn't there? If I can help my commanding officer to understand this stuff I probably deserve a job working as a COR...or a Purple Heart, or an early retirement.
My lunchtime habit of having french-fried potatoes is probably going to have to come to a screeching halt soon enough. I'm not gaining any weight that I can tell right now, and it's not like I can't fit into my size 32 jeans or slacks. Really, most of the weight I think I used to have as fat has probably been burned down to more lean muscle tissue. I can't tell the difference too much, including the times when I'm in the pool (I still have a hell of a time trying to float, but I'm slowly getting a little bit faster here and there...more strength...and so on...). However, I've got to drop a couple of pounds so I don't have to carry them on the bicycle with me this summer...and the only thing I can remotely think to sacrifice (something inherently unhealthy I eat on a regular basis) are french fries.
Man, is that going to suck. Hard. But I guess that's part and parcel with wanting to be an athlete. Nobody who wants to achieve anything in athletics ever achieves it without a little bit of self-sacrifice.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Energy Conservation

Today I'm kind of in the middle of bouncing between a meeting with some HPC folks from Orlando and trying to get other research done, so today's screaming will be brief. Besides, I'm starting to figure out that fighting City Hall is more trouble than it's worth. It still sucks, but at least I see my leave and earnings statements twice a month. Near the end of yesterday afternoon I took the time to look at the web site for Peter Reid, two-time Ironman world champion (CORRECTION: Three-time Ironman world champion. Sorry, Peter. MB) and now coach. One of the articles he had posted grabbed my eye almost immediately...which is what a good title should do. The title was Want To Swim Faster...definitely something I would love to do, since I'm taking a more-serious approach toward triathlon. I know, 'what does tri-geek stuff have to do with running?' Well, more than you can imagine. While running is the third element of triathlon, the swimming and cycling elements translate well into most good cross-training programs; you can still work the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems without pounding your legs. So, Reid lists many of the ingredients necessary to swim faster, of which I'll try to adapt to strict road running:
1. Believe that you can swim faster. As Reid says, 'where the mind goes, the body follows.'
2. Swim more. Don't just depend on the once/twice/thrice-weekly track workout to provide speed and endurance gains. Get out and run on your own. Make certain to rest. Cross-train at a high-enough intensity to provide variety and ward off staleness.
3. Use new and existing technology. Videotape your running form. Watch videos of elite athletes and good runners to pick up on the cues they use. Compare how you look to how they look in flight. Odds are good you'll find posture and mechanical inefficiencies (if you look closely) that can add a few seconds here and there to your 5K.
4. Coaching. Goes without saying. But really, really, really use that coach for something more than a guy who stands at the trackside and tells you little more than 'five 200s, fresh...' In other words, don't hesitate to ask questions, advice, give feedback...learn what you can so you can coach yourself, if the time ever comes that you have to do so.
5. Get with faster swimmers. (I get beat on twice a week in the pool by faster, more efficient athletes who have years and years of swimming experience on me.) Running the occasional Six at Six with Paul Epstein and his gang reminds me I'm decent, but not world-beating. If I could make it down there, and be in the pool at the same time...I would. Sometimes it doesn't hurt to work out with good runners.
6. Swim faster. Add short hard stuff on a regular basis. Push the envelope every so often...not every workout, though, lest you get injured. The third week of the month seems to be the good one for me.
7. Consistency. Know how you respond to a certain level of training and be prepared to adapt accordingly. Set a training schedule and stick to it, with illness and injury being the only rationale for missing out. All right, emergencies do come; family members do show; business trips do happen. Most of the time you can plan in advance for these.
8. Make the most of your hours. If you don't like 350s on the track, do them anyway. There's a reason for them or your coach wouldn't have assigned the repeat. If your mid-week run is supposed to be at aerobic threshhold pace, then run it at that pace. You have to run the workout at the right effort, otherwise you're wasting your time.
9. Flexibility. I don't stretch because I never learned how to not fight the instinctive stretch reflex. If you can stretch, do it. But do it when your muscles are warm. Do it gently, without a lot of fighting. And if you do stretch, do it regularly.
10. Visualize. Goes back to the use of technology. There's no lack of video on YouTube for running, swimming, cycling and triathlon. If you feel like you can visualize proper form and relaxed mechanics, fast running without the use of video, then cool. I try to get my athletes into the mindset of thinking about racing during some of the last Tuesday/Thursday workouts before a big race; how to deal with the pack, who to draft off early on, how to pass when the person being drafted off tires, and so on.
11. Feeling badly in the water isn't so bad. Once again, Reid says: 'my college run coach used to say, "if you're training well, you're not training well"'. The days you feel like $#!+ at the track or on the Sunday long run are probably a sign that you were operating at your limits...for the day. So stop beating yourself up over a single effort, or a week or two of bad days. It's probably going to pass and you'll have a day soon enough when you feel very, very strong. No doubt you'll forget all about those days when you felt your training, and you, flat out sucked. Res Ipsa Loquitur.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

World Dominance Thwarted By Lack Of Thumbs

(Editor's note: Lengthy period of silence placed here.)
There was an article about three months ago; some researcher had developed a means of understanding dog barks with a certain degree of accuracy. I am not buying it. If anyone tells me they can tell what my dog is saying when he barks, I'm going to offer them another beer and then kick them out the door. Well, edit that...I'm going to keep the beer.
There are days when I feel like I can tell exactly what my dog is thinking about...then there are days when I can narrow it down to three things: food, walks, and space on the couch. However, IMHO it's gazing through a glass darkly. If Rubin had opposable thumbs and human speech, however, the world would be a much more dangerous place...I know he's try to take over as supreme ruler and stern, unwavering-but-beneficient master of the world as soon as he could. I can see it in his eyes, especially when I've informed him there are no dog biscuits available and he will have to suck it up and drive on.
Res Ipsa Loquitur.
My American Express bill came in yesterday afternoon, or at least the dispute notification I lost. That's going to take care of my stimulus check. Well, I'll have enough left to buy a round of beer when we go to the Crescent City Classic in New Orleans. My friend mentioned the other weekend about beer mileage; I guess the average American beer, 12-ounces, has 82 calories...which is (at the least) equal to the number of calories an adult burns running a mile. So, she thinks, a 6.2-mile race warrants the consumption of a six-pack of beer. Wow, that means a marathon is worth (at least) a case.
Yeah, I know it's not a healthy point of view for an athlete. If you do something foolish once every six months it's not so bad. Just make certain one foolish thing (like a beer mile, or rehydrating with a beer for each mile you ran) is not compounded with another, like driving a car or operating heavy machinery. While there aren't many of us who will run a 5K, slug down too many beers and then think hey, perhaps I should cut down that dead tree in the backyard, there are folks who would do exactly that. I know. I usually get to read the synopsis of their accident report each Friday. Makes ya shudder to think.