Wednesday, January 28, 2009

One of THOSE People...

"If you cannot be a poet, be the poem."

~David Carradine

Perhaps you have had this experience:

You do something, something completely "normal," and someone says:

"'re one of THOSE people."

So you say, "One of WHAT people?" Its hard not to feel defensive, right?

To which they reply, "Oh, you know, one of those people who ___________."

What?? Wait a moment. Did I just get criticized for that or was that just the way it sounded? I do believe it is entirely possible that the statement can be a compliment. For example, a girl who is looking for Mr. Right might hear about you making weekend Valentines plans and be really looking for someone to do that for them, and they sound critical but really wish it was THEY who were going to X place for the weekend. But what they actually verbalize is "Oh, you are one of THOSE people who takes their girlfriend/wife/whomever to _____ for the weekend."

In which case, YES, I am.

But it can also be a very tough thing to interpret.

Say you are picking up some things from around a common area at work. Someone sees you busy doing this kind of monotonous task and says:

"Oh you are one of THOSE people who sees something that has to be refilled or cleaned and just go and do it right away..."

To which you reply "Yeeeeeeaaah, and the bad part of that is....?"

Anyway, just an observation. Are YOU one of THOSE people???

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

2 out of 6? Perfect!

"Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell 'em, "Certainly, I can!" Then get busy and find out how to do it."

~Theodore Roosevelt

I was grinning.

I shut the small viewing window on the front of the gel doc, an instrument that allows me to see and photograph the bands of different size DNA fragments which I had separated in an agarose gel. The bands, highlighted by the ghostly UV lights below the black tinted glass, were glowing brilliantly in patterns resembling the impression a spiral binding might leave on uncooked pizza dough. This little window gives me a pleasant view down onto my handiwork while protecting my eyes from burning into cancerous nodules protruding from above my snout after too much undiluted UV exposure. I clicked a few buttons of the digital camera menu toolbar on the computer screen to clarify and brighten the image, and took a snapshot.

Beep. Click. Done.

A few clicks later...
The photo came creeping out of the small, whirring, Mitsubishi printer. I tore it slowly and carefully across the serrated edge and held up the new photo. Everything about this was more pleasing than normal. Two things caught my eye and made me smile, yet again. A particular glowing band in lane 3 and 6, corresponding to the 2 KB mark in lane 7--the ladder. The other 4 lanes had no band at 2 KB. This remarkably small piece of data led me to some powerful conclusions.

I made some stupid remark to Jean and Brianne about the beauty of those two bands to which they rolled their collectively 4 eyes.

Those two bands meant a lot to me. To my thesis. To others in my lab group. A year of work, probably more, potentially saved from the magic "redo" box. Instead of attempting to troubleshoot and reinvent my previous work, I would only have a couple of small steps to perform. My mood reflected this potentially good fortune and I literally bounced off to my desk where a bottle of 15 year single malt awaited me.

And then, of course, the gym for day 1 of this weeks training.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Believe: Week 3 Done.

"Survival is nothing more than recovery."

~Dianne Feinstein

2003, Lance Falls, attacks, almost falls again, attacks again. Yikes

Week 3 is over, can you believe it?

I believe I made it through another week, although it took more determination than the previous two. It took a lot of that self-talk. I believe I made it through some hard days and now can look back and say "I can do that, even when its not fun or doesn't feel good." I believe I made it through some other days that will now make it easier to complete the days to come.

I believe in the work I did and how much commitment it requires to wake up every morning and go to school and work even though it feels terrible, and to make it through that day to my workout at the end. I make it through, dragging myself and my spirit, but still I managed to get the time in towards my goal of Ironman. As hard as it gets, I am so motivated towards my goal of breaking 11 hours that I feel mechanical towards training--no thought required. That may very well be the best way to approach it, also, because when I start to think is when the doubt has a chance to sneak in, when the distraction of discomfort rears its unwelcome head. No, instead its better to approach it like a robot in a lot of ways, methodically and unfeeling. However, as hard as it is, I enjoy the hunger, I enjoy the burn, I enjoy the last 100 in the crowded lane and wavy water. It hurts in a wonderful way, training for Ironman.

Yesterday I could not bike ride because of the plans for the day, so it was a morning for a quick 30 minute spin followed by an hour of super easy running. It was sunny and perfect outside, albeit 35 chilly degrees. Jan and I went to the small tourist town of Poulsbo for the day, and on the way home it started snowing... it was like a bad dream--didn't it already snow enough this year? Jan and I kept on thinking winter was over; after all we have already received a couple years worth of snow in Seattle in December. But no, this was really happening. It IS still January, so it has "the right" to snow, but it's just mean for more snow to hit us.

Today is going to have to be biking day, since we ran Saturday. Hmph.

The snow had better stop... The report Saturday evening seemed to indicate it would, indeed, stop snowing and turn to sun at noon Sunday. But this morning when we got up it was snowing and there was a slight dusting on every cold, flat surface. I cringed at the thought of biking for 3-4 hours in that, and opted for a 2 hour trainer ride. Jan concurred and I set about getting our bikes ready for another hard 2 hour garage ride.

It was a hard ride. Trainer rides always are, especially when you watch the tour de france DVDs and see how hard THOSE guys are working. Damn, I am glad that is not ME!

Says the Ironman.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursdays are my Friend that Hurts Me.

"A professor is one who talks in someone else's sleep."


I am posting this a day late. Oh well.

Its Thursday. The day that the toll of not only the workouts from Tuesday and Wednesday begin to take effect but the mental toll of the week.The beatings and mental lashings. Thursday is also moving closer to Friday afternoon when I am not going to be in school for 2 and a half days straight. That is my weekly goal.

Not only that, but the recovery day, Monday, seems to mean next to nothing. Really I need a recovery week. But that would not be conducive to Ironman training, would it? Monday might as well be another training day because Tuesday, while I am excited and mostly feel ready for the workouts of a new week, my body is less and less able to get moving as the training wears on. In a few weeks malaise is going to be the word of choice. Its starting to creep into my thoughts, already. Its only the 3rd week.

But (and I know its improper to begin a sentence with "but") even as tired as I get I still look forward to workouts and I still feel "up" when I start going. I look forward to the early mornings on saturdays to get out on the bike and still have time left in the day to play. Or eat and drink. Or sleep. Or all of them. Its true the work is difficult and will only grow more demanding, but I am keenly aware of the rewards and dividends it pays.

I once heard someone say "what's the point of doing this (ironman) if you arent going to win or have a chance to win?" That's a tough question to answer. First, if you are asking that I hope you are not the one doing it because you will never experience the joy that it can bring and do not understand the nature of this sort of challenge. Second, you are a neanderthal driven only by your insecurity and ego and therefore not even worth arguing the point with.

When I cross that line in June, regardless of my time, I will have won.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Seattle Winter Sun!

"My wife and I just prefer Seattle. It's a beautiful city. Great setting. You open your front door in the morning and the air smells like pine and the sea, as opposed to bus exhaust."

Ron Reagan

What does Ronald Reagan Junior have to do with Seattle, or biking, or anything for that matter? And who knew he liked Seattle. And...what?

The explanation will be startling to some, because it is the closest to A.D.D. I will ever be. What I will do is actually write-out my train of thought, as I decided to let the train run its course. It started with biking, and ended with Ron Reagan.

I like to begin every blog entry with a quote that usually has SOMETHING to do with that about which I am writing. In this case, I thought it would be a good blog to describe how surprising the weather was in Seattle today, during our 3 hour bike ride in the very middle of January. Typically, winter is a nasty time of year to be outside in this region.

I decided to describe the sun that came out and how surprised Jan and I were to be biking dry for a change and not be wearing our rain shells. I was even going to point out in the picture that the ground is DRY as a bone, and, if you look closely to the right of the bathroom building against which our bikes are leaning, you see the strangest glow... some parts of the world call it Sunshine. We believe it is a mythical event in the winter, here in Seattle.

Having formulated my basic topic for this blog, I set out on finding quotes about Seattle. I found a couple of interesting ones, including:

"I really liked the Seattle movement."

~Axl Rose


"My parents were laborers so we lived on South Park, which was a low-income region of Seattle. You had a choice - you either joined or formed a gang or you let others bully you."

~Jack Bowman

And there are others, less interesting, usually having to do with grunge music or rain or coffee. And then I saw the name Ron Reagan, and, like many of you (or both of you, seeing as how two people read this crap I post) I originally thought former President Ronald Reagan.

No, this is RON Reagan. The cast-away Reagan Jr. who because a liberal, atheist Ballet dancer who lives in Seattle...with is wife. In case you were wondering. He is about as ANTI-reagan as Stalin.

I became immediately interested in this individual and therefore arrived at the page which the link on his name takes you to. Its interesting how we get to where we are, literally, figuratively, and creatively speaking.

And so, now, here we are. We have officially finished the second week of Ironman Training, and we are really feeling it. The 6 days in a row, every week, consists of Monday off, Tuesday Lift Weights, Wednesday Swim, Thursday Lift Weights, Friday Swim, Saturday Bike, Sunday Run. I will be soon adding in additional running and biking during the week, and eventually other things will change. We will eventually nix the weight lifting and increase the number of swimming days. 2.4 miles is a long way...

The second week felt good. I feel my energy level during the day increasing, which usually happens at that apex early in the season when my fitness level is increasing but my training is not completely sapping my will to live. This usually lasts a few weeks and gives way to the MALAISE PHASE of training. This nasty, tired, hungry, grouchy phase is no fun for anyone who has to work or live around/with me, and lasts all the way until a couple weeks before Ironman. So that being said, lets all enjoy ENERGY PHASE while it lasts.

Today my legs were strong, and felt good. The struggle will be to ride faster, this year, but Jan's greatly improved level of fitness (that damn girl was pushing me on the last 10 miles, today) should make it much easier. I remember the last time we did this, in 2007, we both started pretty out of shape, with Jan never having really done any serious long term training. This year she is a seasoned veteran to the world of triathlon and triathlon training, and it shows. She kicks ass.

I feel this week, now. And tomorrow is run day. I remember this feeling... and I love it and hate it all at the same time.

Imagine what Ron Reagan might say about it...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

You're in Luck; I Speak 'Asshole.'

"Don't be yourself - be someone a little nicer."

~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966

Some days more than others I realize I am not a "nice" person. I realize in the same instant that the statement preceding is just the kind of sweeping generalization that I detest with a fiery passion. However I am growing to believe I need a serious change of character.

Case in point #1:
I read Jan's blog this morning and finally, after fighting back a number of tears remembering with fondness and heartache our beautiful adventure in Europe this past summer, got to her recollection of our meal in the square in Brussels, the final night of being in Europe.

Here is the difference between a nice (my wife) person and myself. Go read Jan's blog about this situation, then come back and read the following.

We sat there, trying as hard as humanly possible to treat this, our last evening in this beautiful country full of beautiful people and now wonderful memories, like any other fun evening out in Europe. But the fact of the matter was we could NOT seriously delude ourselves completely. We enjoyed speaking, oddly enough, with another American couple who were traveling. We sat for a long time after we finished, talking and just enjoying ourselves. We had not ordered anything for some time, which in Europe we had found was never an issue. In the U.S., the wait-staff are relying on tips for a large part of their income, and therefore want the table to be ordering or make way for another table. Jan and I are increasingly fond, as we age, of drawing out our evenings at dinner into the long hours of the night talking and reminiscing or thinking out-loud together. And, we found, this enjoyment is well received in Europe, where you are allowed to linger virtually until they close the restaurant without ordering anything after dinner, just sitting and talking. And here we were, our final evening, in French speaking Brussels, doing just that for the very last time this trip. And this is where Jan's version of the story, and MY version of the story, diverge.

The waiter came to us, we did not summon the waiter. He came to our table and put the check down in front of me, pointed to the total owed. I said thank you and resumed my conversation, expecting him to leave.

He coughed, and said "No, you pay now."

There was no please. There was no courtesy. It was a demand. I bristled and felt hugely uncomfortable in this very public setting with other Americans who were experienced travelers nearby.

"Ok, here is a Visa." I said, trying to sound calm, at ease. I was nervous. I do not appreciate the manner with which the waiter was putting me on the spot.

"No," he said again, now pointing at the amount on the reciept, "you pay cash. We only take cash."

I forget how we covered the bill, but we covered it. Jan went in to use the restroom and I followed her in. I was fuming, still, and it was about to get worse. I glanced back toward the door and indeed saw the sticker clearly posted in the window that shows the VISA, MASTERCARD, DISCOVER logos.

I purposefully calmed myself and turned to the bartender who smiled and greeted me. I asked him if I could pay with Visa.

He looked at me as if I were crazy and said "of course, monsieur."

At that perfect moment the waiter had just come in and was standing nearby. I looked to him and said right at him "Excuse me..."
He said something in French. "Sorry, do you speak English?" He gave me a mean look and nodded."Hey, I see that the sticker in the window says you take visa, why did I have to pay cash?"

"No, we do not take visa."

Even more perfectly, the bartender turned to his coworker and saidin ENGLISH, "Yes we do, what do you mean?"

I looked again at the waiter, who was visibly angry at me, and I said "Why did I have to pay cash?" I understood and understand the futility of this, but I was angry, humiliated, and thought I could make my point better.

To my surprise the waiter rattled something off in French. The bartender even shook his head and walked away!! I assume it must have been an insult directed towards me.

"What?" I asked the waiter.

"Maybe you should learn French."

There is angry, and then there is RAGE. And THEN there is how I felt at that instant. I can not find adequate descriptors.

I said "Shut up, you stupid fuck!" But I said it in SWEDISH.

"What?" Said the dumbfounded waiter, who was obviously surprised I could speak something other than 'American.'

My moment of victory had arrived, at last.

"Maybe you should learn Swedish, I said with a BIG smile." I won. Checkmate.

Jan came up and he pointed to the door. "You go, now."

I am just not that nice.Oh well.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I Am GarlicMan...

"You've got to spend some serious time training because you're going to spend some serious time racing."

~Jan Howard

I know it's an Ironman year because I spend 6 days a week training.

I know it's an Ironman year because people are avoiding conversations with me, knowing full well its always going to come back around to, well, Ironman.

I know it's an Ironman year because my bike toys are piling up already and its only January.

I know it's an Ironman year because I am graduating with my PhD and the ceremony is in June and the first thing I think is its going to interfere with my taper.


I know it's an Ironman year because I smell Garlic all the time, emanating from my skin, my breath, heck, even my hair.

I just completed the first full week of training. Its not momentous, seeing as it was only the first week and I planned it to be purposefully uneventful. If I can make it consistent that's the best result possible. And consistent it was. I did not escape unscathed, however. My neck is hurting (I DID crack the "Ironman is a pain in the neck" line this evening, to which I received a chorus of BOOO!) because I seem to have strained some obscure little muscle with a very strange name that sounds more like it should connect my eyelid to my scalp, and yet is debilitating. For that there is hydrocodone...

The first week is behind and I made progress. Not as difficult as I expected, but we did not bite off too much hard stuff, either. I feel as though I am in better shape, as well... which might be because I have raced much more before in the last two years than I did before Ironman 2007. I am entering this year well prepared, mentally. I am now familiar with the requirements. All of the above.

Always in my head I have this number... and its not random, there are reasons for it. I finished Ironman 2007 in 12 hours 44 minutes, and felt ridiculously happy at the end, and remarkably healthy. This time its a different beast, a very very very scary proposition.


Think it.
Plan it.
Train it.
Believe it.
Race it.

Friday, January 09, 2009

A Pilgrim in an Unholy Land.

"We grow neither better or worse as we get old, but more like ourselves."

~ May L. Becker

We stepped out onto the platform before the track encircling the upper-most floor of the elaborate IntraMural Athletic center at UW. On the readerboard ahead and above, arrows flashed the direction in which the track was to be run upon, pointing towards our left. We dutifully obliged and looked to our right, as one would do before crossing a street. Very responsible and very, well, rigid, we stepped out.

And then jumped against the wall.


An army of semi-belligerent college co-eds blitzed towards us, ponytails and patchy pubescent whiskers flying everywhere. One after another dozens of what I swore were 14-year-olds, in all shapes and sizes (though most seemed anorexic and maybe 100 pounds soaking wet--including the guys) bounded and clomped towards us in strides of varying degrees of awkwardness. All looking very resentful of our middle aged selves. The girls all wearing shorts that looked a little to low and short. Guys, well, looking like guys. And smelling like guys.

We waited and watched in some sort of convalescent, pathetic stupor while our age became an ugly truth. Jan and I shook our heads and started walking towards the cardio equipment to warm up.

Creak. Creak. Snap. "Ow."

Its like fishing.
"Wow--a 40-pounder just smacked into me and tumbled across the deck, I think."
"That's a big one. Can we keep it?"

It happens right under our very snouts. We become "those old people". As teenagers we look up to early 20-somethings as gods. 24 year olds? Super humans. They have their own bills, their own jobs, school only by choice, bar experience... 28 year olds? OLD. At least it used to be. But I think the blurry age barrier is even blurrier now, fortunately for the 40 year old male crowd.

31-year-olds? A gnats eyelash away from being the age of their parents. DREADFULLY OLD. Old enough to make fun of but not old enough to take seriously. Well, that is unless you are rich and can drink your weight in jello-shots, all after doing a dead-on impression of... wait, who are the popular musicians these days?

I wonder when it happens. When did I grow up? And when will I feel grown up?

I need some coffee.

Where is the Ibuprofen and Icy-Hot??

Crap, it happened.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

In the Beginning...

“Beginning is easy - continuing hard”
~Japanese Proverb

Ironman 2009 training has begun.

Ironman CDA 2009 is on June 21st. Today is Thursday, January 8th. There is a little over 5 months left of training.

Over the next 5 months there will be approximately:
-180,000 yards swam in the pool (approximately 102 miles)
-1,200 miles ridden on the bike(s)
-600 miles ran

Including weight lifting.

Not to mention the approximately 850,000 calories consumed. And that's just by me.

Today I feel invigorated, hungry (because of the two-day fast I just completed, a good way to get my diet and eating habits in order at the beginning of training), and excited about the transformation I will achieve in the coming weeks and months. I am excited about the places I will ride my bike, regardless of how wet I become. See Jan's blog for some history on this statement.

The next 5 months are about consistency, forward progress and positive thinking. The next 5 months is about training my mind as much as training my body.

With Ironman training and physical preparation comes preparation of the spirit--they are really inseparable. I have the knowledge that I have been there and done that before, probably my best asset heading into this; it is no longer the great unknown. I hear this drum beating, calling me to push harder... But at the same instant I am trying to remember that overconfidence has beaten me before. I am both my greatest supporter and my greatest enemy.

My spirit remembers the finish line, but it also remembers the start line. Which had a more powerful impact on me? The former was elation and endorphin and success. The latter was pure, unadulterated, cold-wind-waves fear. It's a good question that is shaping the way I am approaching this year's test, and one I have been considering privately long before now. The truth is the fear of the beginning and the overwhelming sense of accomplishment at the end are equal motivators for me. And I know I control both.

Ironman is unique. The physical aspect of the race itself is something we train for and is completely within the realm of possible. What could kill the most capable person is the unknown, the challenges which arise unexpectedly be it mental or physical, and not knowing how to handle it. So as much as we control the controllable, we as Ironman athletes have to prepare for the uncontrollable--and controlling our responses to that.

Ironman is June 21st. Today is January 8th.

Determine your plan.

Train your plan.

Race your plan.

And deal with the bullshit along the way.

And it helps to have a good training partner and spouse.