Dec 312013


I hope.

I hope that you’ve read all this. All of the baring of my soul and publishing of the details of my life to all the world. All the hours of capturing, editing, writing, editing again. I hope that you saw what I made for you, took it in, tasted it.

I hope you loved what you read as much as what you saw. I hope it made you laugh, made you cry, made you think. I hope the words that I wrote and the pictures that I took stuck in your head, and you thought about them later.

I hope you got to know me better. Even if we were already close, I hope that I showed you a part of me you never knew existed, and I hope that you like what you learned.

I hope that you leave this project, as I will, more appreciative of the exquisite, beautiful details present in every day of a life lived with passion.

But most of all, I hope inspired you to action. I hope I helped you see a way to improve your own life. I hope that you move, and sweat, and strive. I hope that you relax, and plant flowers, and cook dinner with your family, and drink beer with your friends. I hope that I have helped make your life better, in whatever small way I could.

I hope.

Dec 302013
A peek behind the curtain!

A peek behind the curtain!

So where do I go from here? I’ve talked about my goals for next season on the bikes, with my running, and at the gym. But what is to become of all this? This little project has developed a small, but devoted following. It’s become important to me and to more of you than I ever would have guessed, over the past 12 months. A whole lot of you have asked what will happen when the year is out, and expressed hope that I’ll continue.

Well, I think that I will. Daily posts aren’t very likely, but I intend to shift the focus from quantity to quality. There will be fewer “this is what I did today” posts, and more posts commenting on industry happenings, trends and news. More posts about training philosophy and motivation. I’ll still write about my races, and keep you all well appraised of what I’m doing, what I have planned, and where I’m going, but I want to broaden my subject matter by adding stories about other athletes as well.

Another thing I’ll be doing more of, with my sudden influx of spare time, is reading. My writing has only become what it is because I read a lot, but that’s had to take a back seat to the sheer volume of writing I’ve had to do as part of this project. In an effort to continue my development as a writer, it will be nice to be able to read, and by that to study the styles and techniques of others.

I’ll also be pursuing other writing opportunities, in an effort to broaden my skill set. You may see me linking to things I’ve written for other sites more, and hopefully one day I might even make a few bucks for what I write. There is a large gap between here and there, but it’s a possibility many of you have encouraged me to explore, and I want to.

In that vein, I’ve accepted a post as Communications Director for the Miami Valley Mountain Bike Association. I’ll be in charge of newsletter stuff, website stuff, social media stuff… In short, doing for them what I’ve done for myself all year this year. It’s a volunteer position, but an important step forward in my media career, if I’m to have one.

And what of this project as it sits? I’m not sure yet. It’s been suggested that I work it into book format. I may shop some of the articles out for republication. At the very least, it will serve as a memento of the year that has been. And if that’s all it ever becomes, it will have been worth the effort.

Dec 292013
What stories will I have to tell at this time next year?

What stories will I have to tell at this time next year?

It’s no secret that I started planning for next season months ago. With how the last two seasons have gone, I can barely wait to write another chapter! I started off this year with some ambitious goals, and while I missed a few small ones, they all served to spur me forward.

For 2014, all I want is more of that. I plan to do my best Daft Punk impersonation, and go harder, do better, race faster, and get stronger.

  • On the mountain bike, I want to become a regular contender for the podium in the Sport class in my local race series, and I want to hit 6 laps in the JB 6 hour race. I also want to expand my endurance racing outside the local area more, taking on at least one round of the TriState 6 Hour championship. I really want to complete a 100 mile mountain bike race, but we’ll have to see how things go early in the season, before I can commit to that as a goal. At the very least, I’ll be going for a few metric centuries.
  • On the road bike, I want to do Calvin’s Challenge again, and have another go at my goal of over 100 miles in 6 hours. If I can do that, I should be in the mix for a class win! Other than Calvin’s, I just want to improve my hill climbing ability, tackle the Linden Road hill in Miamisburg, and log a few more centuries during the Tour de Cure, the Young’s Ice Cream Charity Bicycle Tour and others.
  • I don’t have any real goals for the ‘Cross bike, other than to keep racing, improving my skills, and having fun. I may try out some gravel racing with it, if I can fit it in.
  • On foot, I only want to add speed, and continue to work toward being able to run injury-free. I’d like to lower my half marathon time below 1:45, my 5k below 22 minutes, and my 1.5 mile TT under 10 minutes.
  • In the weight room, my expectations are more modest. I need to develop some shoulder strength and scapular stability before my overhead movements can progress, but I would like my bench to get to 225. My squats need a lot of work as well, but I’d love to get 255. My deadlift is coming along nicely already, but I’d like to push the envelope and get over 400 for the first time. Outside of weight PRs, I want to continue to master more Olympic movements, and make my whole body more resistant to injury.
  • I’ll keep working on swimming, and will set a whole bunch of little goals, starting with just one length of the pool. If it ever clicks, I’d love to try my hand at a small triathlon.
  • I want to get the motorcycle back on track again, heading out a few weekends here and there to knock the cobwebs off. If I can get going well enough, I’d love to do a race weekend with MotoSeries at Putnam Park.
  • While all of that is going on, I want to drop my “race weight” under 180. That’ll be tough, but with how I felt at 185 this year, I certainly think it’s doable.

When I write it all out, it sounds like a lot. It is a lot. But having all these goals keeps me engaged, interested, and most of all, training. I may hit all of them. I may fall short on some, or abandon a few for lack of time or funds. Heck, I may wad myself up in a bike crash at the beginning of the year and spend the rest of the season rehabbing. But I’ll always make sure to have something to shoot for. For me, to do less would be not to live.

Eyes up, friends. 2014 is going to be amazing.

Dec 282013
Holy crap I made it!

Holy crap I made it!

Today at CrossFit was another team WOD, this time in teams of three. And a good thing too, since some of the exercises were things I wasn’t sure I could do. There were four stations, and each team would have three minutes at each to complete as many rounds as possible before having 1 minute to change stations and get reset. There were stations for deadlift/rope climbs, tire flips/push ups, wall walks/burpees over box, and farmer’s carry/wall balls, all in 3 rep increments.

I had never done rope climbs, tire flips or wall walks before today. The tire flips aren’t complicated, and I figured out wall walks during the warmup, but rope climbs… Well, I was just glad that there was somebody on my team (Emily, a visitor) who could do them.

The clock started and we set to it, blowing through reps with the same rowdy, kid-like fun I’ve come to expect from Saturday WODs. When we got to the station for deadlifts and rope climbs, Emily powered through three of the latter with impressive ease, and I pumped out the deadlifts. When it was time for our second round, Emily lurched up the rope again, but it was clear she was tiring. I had been watching what she did with her feet and decided to give it a go, locking the rope between my shoes and using them to push me up instead of just pulling with my arms.

And it worked! All the sudden I was at the top, and I touched the rafters before shimmying back down, grinning like a kid. Or better, because I could never climb ropes when I was a kid. I’ve never had the strength, and nobody ever showed me the technique before.

Any time you try a new sport, there’s a honeymoon period where everything is new and exciting, and you’re setting “firsts” every time you go out. Because CrossFit has you doing so many different things, the opportunity for that excitement is very frequent, and it’s not hard to see why it becomes addicting. I can climb ropes now! Who’d have ever thought?

Dec 272013
I gotta say, the sound effects are a little disappointing. (It doesn't have sound effects.)

I gotta say, the sound effects are a little disappointing.
(It doesn’t have sound effects.)

Our new cardio room at work has two new row machines, and they are the fanciest I have ever seen! Each one sports this fancy display, a belt drive in place of the customary chain, and servo-actuated resistance internal to the unit. Perhaps its best feature is the seat, which is slightly cushioned. That’s a big bonus when doing longer sessions.

I decided to try it out today, with the intent of grinding out a 10 km row, since I couldn’t make it to CrossFit again. It was just the sort of long, slow cardio I needed to help burn off some of the Christmas goodies I’ve been enjoying over the past couple weeks.

I ended up doing two rows of 2500 meters instead. I spent the first row just trying to figure out the interface and the programs, before starting a second row using the Pacer feature. It’s a neat idea, and a good motivator to maintain pace through your workout. The display tells you how far ahead or behind the pacer “boat” you are, along with a graphical depiction of the race.

I steadily worked up to about a 40 meter lead through the first 1500 meters, before getting a little lazy and letting the computer catch back up a little. But I turned it up again for the last 500 and ended up beating the computer by about 60 meters.

Compared to the standard Concept 2 rowers I’m accustomed to using, this LifeCORE model seems fancy almost to excess. The display is visually attractive, but not as customizable or easy to read as the Concept 2. The padded seat and handle on the LifeCORE did result in less hand and butt fatigue than I’m accustomed to, but something about the seat caused my hips to be a little uncomfortable, too.

I’m undecided on the rowing mechanism itself. Adjusting the resistance level requires you to spin the Select wheel on the display, which isn’t easy to do on the fly. And the resistance itself is just different. The initial pull feels a little closer to what water actually feels like, which is good, but the pace I was able to maintain was substantially lower at a given level of effort. It almost felt like rowing uphill. The caloric output estimate seemed low, although I’d need to do a longer, sustained effort to say for sure. Most confusing, the Watts meter seemed to fluctuate unreliably, sometimes getting stuck at 117, and other times jumping over 300. I know that not every one of my pulls is identical, but that’s a huge variation.

But in all honesty, that’s mostly nitpicking. I’m still happy to go use it, I’ll just need to recage my expectations a little. I do wish it made some nerdy sound effects, though.

Dec 262013
514 miles on one tank. The novelty of this has not yet worn off!

514 miles on one tank. The novelty of this has not yet worn off!

Our new (to us) BMW 335d is fun for a lot of reasons, but maybe the best one is the fuel economy. It has nearly twice the range of the Sentra it replaced, making it seem like we almost never have to fill the thing up. Which, when you’re running around as much as we do, is a pretty big luxury to have.

BMW’s little MPG needle below the tachometer is a surprisingly effective tool for helping to keep your foot out of the throttle, as well. It’s easy to want to romp in this car everywhere we go, but having a visual indication for how much that fun is costing you tampers your enthusiasm a little. Even with cold weather and city driving, we’re still averaging around 30 mpg, and as high as 36 when the driving is mostly highway. It’s nowhere near hybrid territory, but then I don’t want to blow my brains out after driving it, either.

Dec 252013
Bacon, eggs, bacon fat hashbrowns with sriracha, all washed down with a mimosa. Is festive, no?

Bacon, eggs, bacon fat hashbrowns with sriracha, all washed down with a mimosa. Is festive, no?

Christmas Day is a funny thing, as a married adult with no kids. Just about everything is closed, and our families typically get together before or after the day. Katie and I usually end up with the day to ourselves, which is never a bad thing, but it’s not as if we have much reason to gather around a tree and open presents, either. After church, we usually just spend the day watching movies and relaxing, enjoying eachothers’ company with an uncharacteristic and refreshing leisure.

One year we went to Waffle House for brunch, for lack of a better option, but this year we decided to make our own greasy spoon meal at home. Our house may lack the distinct atmosphere of Awful Waffle, but the food was several times better.

This is one Christmas tradition I wouldn’t mind continuing.

Dec 242013
Use this stuff...

Use this stuff…

Christmas falling in the middle of the week this week complicated my workout plans a little. But being unable to make it to class is not an excuse for doing nothing, so today I decided to improvise.

The workout on CrossFit Dedication‘s site was called “Merry 25,” and it was basically half of the benchmark “Filthy 50” WOD. The gym at my work is nicely equipped, but I still had to make a couple substitutions. I replaced the wallballs with thrusters, and since the only jump rope I could find was too short and heavy to even try double unders, I figured I’d do a boatload of singles instead.

I got my equipment laid out, set up the stopwatch app on my phone, and got to it. As has become the trend for most of my CrossFit workouts to date, the first few exercises went well, and I thought I might just breeze through it. I banged out the push press and back extensions in no time at all, before running to the hallway for the walking lunges. I was surprised at how easy those felt, given that I usually hate lunges. I guess I’m getting a little stronger, after all.

Back in the weight room, I… er… jumped right into the jumping pull-ups, completing them unbroken before turning to do box jumps. After my first ten, I finally ran out of breath and had to stop for a second. The jumping pull ups had revved the motor, and now the box jumps were pushing it toward red line, but I was managing.

I turned back to the pull up bar for knees-to-elbows, but had to break them up into 10-5-5-5, just because they hurt my shoulders a little. I was happy to move on to kettlebell swings, but was shocked at how little juice I had once I started. I had only done 10 when I found myself sucking air, and had to break up that set as well.

... to do this stuff.

… to do this stuff.

It got a little ugly on the the thrusters. I had chosen 20 pound dumbbells, thinking that was conservative, but not realizing that it was also twice the weight of the wallball I was replacing. I thought that set would never end, and I kissed my impressive completion time goodbye.

Oh yeah, and then burpees. I had almost forgotten them, reaching for my jump rope before seeing the paper and remembering. I did ten good ones and felt okay, but had to stop after eight more. Then I did two more. Or did I? Did I only tell myself I would do two more? I couldn’t remember three seconds ago, so I did seven more just to be sure I was getting at least the required reps.

Double unders were out of the question for the aforementioned reasons, so I picked up the rope and told myself I’d do 75 singles. Oddly enough, the singles came easily, and I was banging them out unbroken, something I can’t always do when I’m just warming up. I lost count as I clicked past 50, and decided to just keep going until I messed up. I think that was somewhere in the 70s, but whatever it was, it was good enough for me.

I walked over and stopped the stopwatch on my phone, finishing my adapted WOD in 15:40. Not too bad, for having to improvise! It’s not quite as good as being in the class for it, but it’ll do in a pinch.

Dec 232013
Huffman Dam, on the Mad River

The Mad River, living up to its name.

What do you get when you cross five rivers, a foot of snow, a random 60° weekend and two days of torrential rain? A freakin’ whole lot of water, that’s what!

All of those elements combined over the past weekend to make the Miami Valley as wet as I’ve seen it for a long time. There was some localized flooding, not least of which was seen at Innisfree on the Stillwater, which very nearly became Innisfree in the Stillwater. I’ve crossed the Huffman Dam countless times this year on training runs and rides, but I’ve never seen the river quite like this.

I stood at watched for a long time before I took this picture. Fast-moving water is fascinating in much the same way as fire, and maybe the only earthly thing more powerful.

Dec 222013
Geez, that didn't take long.

Geez, that didn’t take long.

Maintaining my body weight through the offseason might just be impossible. Okay, not impossible, but I certainly lack the willpower to do it.

For all the training I’m doing this winter, it’s not going to be anywhere near enough to burn the sort of calories I burned training and racing through the warmer months. I’m not burning a few thousand calories at a time in a race every other weekend, but my appetite hasn’t gotten the message. It’s a challenge I face every year, and I’m only a little better at it than I was in the past.

Sure, a little bit of the weight I’ve put on in the last month has been from getting back into lifting, so I’m adding back some muscle mass that I lost during the height of the race season. But 12 pounds of it? Yeah, not likely.

That said, experience shows that I shouldn’t sweat it too much. January and February have historically been good months for me leaning out, as my supply of Buckeyes and Christmas cookies dwindles, and celebratory dinners with family and friends are mostly over with.

Besides, it’s psychologically important to have a break now and then, to avoid burnout. Some people may be able to keep their diet on lockdown all year long (they clearly haven’t had my Mom’s bean dip), but I’m not one of them.So long as I can limit the damage through the end of the year, I shouldn’t have any problem heading into next season light, lean and strong.

Dec 212013
It's even more fun if you sing them in your head.

It’s even more fun if you sing them in your head.

Saturday WODs are always fun. They’re not so much about serious weightlifting, or focused training, as just goofing off on the gym and having fun with friends. Don’t misunderstand, they’re still lung-busters most of the time, but I always feel more like I’m in a grade school gym class than an adult fitness center.

And that’s a good thing. Who didn’t love gym class?

Today’s WOD was a special, Christmas-themed edition, variations of which pop up at boxes all over the country at this time of year. CrossFit Dedication’s version is at left, and was billed as a partner WOD, with one person working at a time.

I partnered up with Katie again, and we quickly gathered our weights and divvied up the exercises. I’d do the cleans, she’d handle the snatches, then I’d go do pull ups, and we’d divide the rest on the fly, based on who was more out of breath.

The 12 Days of Christmas workout has the added complication of mirroring the song, a detail we promptly forgot when the clock started. I did my power clean and we started marching down the list of exercises, instead of doing 1, 2-1, 3-2-1, like we were supposed to. We got all the way to burpees before we realized what we were doing, and backtracked to catch up.

Once we were past that mix-up, we got into a rhythm and started really busting it out. It might seem like working with a partner would lower the intensity, but with the low rep counts per exercise, we were still both flying all over the place. With an eye toward speed, we started breaking up even the low rep exercises to get through them faster, clapping and yelling encouragement to each other.

The whole gym was happy chaos, with weights and athletes flying everywhere, barbells slamming to the ground and music blasting. It was hard work for Katie and me, but a couple people took it another step toward crazy and were doing it solo! Maybe next year…

Katie and I finished up in just under 29 minutes, which is longish for a CrossFit WOD, but still short enough that we never got to the misery stage. I was laughing before I even caught my breath, just at the childlike fun of the whole thing!

A sweaty Christmas tree.

A sweaty Christmas tree.

If we do the same workout next Christmas, it’ll be fun to try it solo, or do it again with Katie and compare our results. But even if they change it up, I’ll look forward to it!


Dec 202013
The harder the work, the better we work together.

The harder the work, the better we work together.

Matt and Melissa, the couple who own and run the CrossFit gym Katie and I go to, celebrated their 16th wedding anniversary today. Instead of shipping the kids off to the sitter and going out for a candlelight dinner, they decided to celebrate with their favorite thing, and do a special Couples’ WOD!

Okay, so it sounds a little campy, but I thought it was really cute. And it ended up being a bunch of fun! The workout was, in keeping with their years of marriage,

  • 16 partner wallballs (I throw, she catches and throws, then I catch, etc.)
  • 16 partner pushups (her legs on my legs, we do pushups simultaneously)
  • 16 tandem deadlifts (pictured)

As many rounds as possible, in 16 minutes.

It wasn’t the hardest workout we’ve ever had, but it was fun to work with Katie to get it done. For workout nerds like us, things like this (or the Mud Ninja) end up being some of the better bonding experiences we have together. It’s nice to know that other couples are the same kind of weird!