Jan 042015

Goal SheetOver the past few years, I’ve made a habit of making my fitness and racing goals public. This has served well to drive me forward. It provides a sort of passive accountability, as once I’ve made my goals public, they become obligations to my friends and readers. I harbor the perhaps delusional notion that people are watching me, and waiting to see if I succeed. Maybe they’re rooting for me, and I want to live up to their expectations. Maybe they’re waiting for me to fail, and I don’t want to give them the satisfaction. Either way, it’s fuel.

There have been more than a few people, from psychologists to motivational speakers to coaches, who have come out lately against the practice of setting goals. They say that setting goals is too risky, too idealistic, too finite. They say you don’t need goals, you need a system. Sometimes, they’re even willing to sell you that very system (oh boy, what luck)!

To them I say, goals are my system. They’ve worked for me for years, and I expect they’ll continue to do so. For me, goals are the footholds by which I climb the mountain that is life. They are the ruler by which my progress as an athlete, and a person, is measured. To abandon them in favor of some nebulous “system,” when they have proven so useful for me, would be foolish. My systems, where I have them, have evolved to meet my goals, not the other way around.

Missing goals is a risk, and in fact I missed several of mine over the past year. I missed my goal time for a 5k by 23 seconds, for a half marathon by 1:04, and for my Iceman Cometh finish by 1 position. I wasn’t able to achieve some of my goals due to injury. I missed Barry Roubaix after I put myself in the hospital with thunderclap headaches during the 2014 CrossFit Open, and my progress in the gym has been hampered by nagging shoulder injuries.

But learning how to accept setbacks is part of the process. If I were achieving every goal I set out for myself, then I probably wouldn’t be setting high enough goals. It’s important to know yourself well enough to strike that balance; set goals that you can reasonably achieve, but not so reasonable that you won’t be challenged and improved by striving for them.

So with that in mind, I give you my 2015 goal sheet. It is as ambitious as the same sheets from 2013 and 2014, perhaps more so. Some of the things on this list scare me, but that’s as it should be. Being a little nervous will keep me focused and training. How will I do this year? Keep checking back here to find out.

Note: The first number or time is my goal, the second is the difference from last year’s record, and the third (if present) is the pace.


  • <15% Body Fat                           (-5%)
  • >99 AFPFT Score,                     9:29 run (-0:17)
  • Rehab/stabilize shoulders


  • Deadlift                                        455               (+50)
  • Back Squat                                  315               (+30)
  • Front Squat                                 285               (+40)
  • Clean                                          255                (+30)


  • 5k                                                 20:59             (-1:23)          (6:45/mi)
  • 10k                                               44:59              (new)            (7:15/mi)
  • Half Marathon                              1:41:59           (-4:05)          (7:45/mi)
  • Marathon                                     3:59:59           (new)            (9:09/mi)


  • JB 6 Hour 6 Laps                        (+1)
  • Big Frog 65                                 7:29:59             (-1:36:14)
  • Lumberjack 100                          9:59:59             (-1:12:57)
  • Iceman Cometh                          AG Top 35        (+16 pos)


  • Try a road race
  • 10 mi TT                                      22+ mph avg      (+.36)
  • Calvin’s Challenge                      108 mi                 (+13.5)          (18 mph)
  • Cat 5 Crit Podium                        (+4 pos)

Cyclocross & Gravel

  • Finish races in the pack
  • Gravel Grovel                               5:29:29         (-20:02)
Aug 272013

Laugh away, fellas…

My wife can talk me into just about anything. As proof, I submit the above. I went with her to a yoga class the other night, because I had a rare evening with nothing on the training schedule, and it seemed like it’d be fun to try. And she wanted me to go.

Honestly, it was fun to try. It’s well documented that I’m about as flexible as a 2×4, so putting myself through the stretches and gyrations of a yoga session is probably a good thing to do, from time to time. Just don’t think you’ll catch me in yoga pants. Ever.

Aug 042013


Have I mentioned that my niece is a total rockstar lately? I have? Well, here’s one more example.

A few weeks back, somebody mentioned to my sister that they have triathlons for kids now. Just so happens, Hannah has been swimming and running competitively for a little while now, and like most kids, spends a huge percentage of her free time in the summers on her bicycle.

With that in mind, my sister signed my niece up for the next round of HFP Racing’s FIT Family Series, hosted at ARMCO Park in Warren County.

And then she got nervous. Not Hannah, of course. She approached the idea with all the ease and enthusiasm you’d expect from a kid her age. But my sister, being a mom, worried. Hannah had just started racing distance a few weeks earlier, and hadn’t been in a swim race since last season. So she threw together a quick training plan and went about trying to make Hannah as ready as she could be.

She needn’t have worried. Hannah blitzed right through each training session with astonishing ease, even for an active kid. She did laps at the pool like she’d never missed a day, ran in practice like she’d been doing it all her life, and of course she’s always been fast on her bicycle. A trait she gets from her uncle, I dare say.

But as the worry about Hannah’s readiness subsided, concerns over the weather rose. Saturday morning was dreary and wet, and scattered thunderstorms in the area threatened to scrap the whole affair. But the weather held off long enough for the races, and soon she was lining up at the dock for the swim leg.

Her 100m swim leg was a little slow, partially because of drifting off course for part of it. But she made it all up on the 5k bike, where she posted a time two and a half minutes faster than anyone in her class, and faster than most of the boys! Her half mile run was really solid, and her transitions quick enough to earn her the win in her age group!

A timing error meant that they awarded her a second place medal at the race, but the official results have her listed as the winner of the girls’ 9-year-old division. Great work all around, and a deeply impressive debut for our rookie Triathlette!

Aug 012013
MapMyFitness vs. Endomondo vs. STRAVA


Over the past three seasons, I’ve become a total geek about my training data. What started with just a simple tracker sheet blossomed with my first really smart smartphone, and now has become an obsession. I’ve tried logging everything, from walking the dog and mowing the grass, to half marathons and 188 mile bike rides, just to look at the squiggles and see what they can tell me about my training. It’s been a useful exercise, as I’ve been able to study my splits and heart rate zones, and find out what I needed to work on, and what was working for me.

On a recommendation of a Facebook friend, I started out with MapMyRun, part of a GPS-enabled fitness logging suite (MapMyFitness) that is coupled with pretty useful and very intuitive route-creation tool online. But when I got my bluetooth heart rate monitor back in April, I was surprised to find that the app suite for Android had the bluetooth module disabled, thanks to an ongoing spat between MapMyFitness and Google over some technical details that I don’t really understand.

That drove me to try Endomondo, and for the past several months, I’ve been mostly happy. It’s tracked my workouts well, interfaced with MyFitnessPal, and allowed the use of my heart rate monitor. But lately, the app has been getting really buggy, refusing to connect to my heart rate monitor for no apparent reason, and locking up the GPS. It also lacks some of the analysis tools and social features of Strava and MapMyFitness, and is particularly naggy about signing up for a premium membership. More frustrating, the premium membership is in no way linked to the premium version of the app, so that you have to pay two different ways to get full functionality. What kind of ridiculous business model is that?

So recently I joined Strava, easily the most popular GPS logging app among cyclists. The migration was painful, since MapMyFitness doesn’t allow export of workout data at all (which is borderline criminal), and Endomondo only allows you to do it one workout at a time, unless you pay for their premium membership (which I won’t do, until I find a service that does what I need it to). Still, I uploaded the last several months of .tcx files from Endomondo into Strava with only a few little bugs and hiccups, and mostly liked what I saw from the import and analysis.

I was immediately impressed with the polish on both the  Strava app and the online interface, as well as the increased accuracy of the GPS logging, despite using the exact same phone. But it’s still far from a perfect solution, as some of the functionality is downright wonky.

For instance, despite the well-known and pervasive tendency of GPS units to cut off sharp corners and occasionally skip, there is no provision to edit the total distance of a ride or run, such as there is in Endomondo. This is an enormous problem for me as a mountain biker, as even with the increased accuracy offered by their logging algorithm, I was missing two miles off a recent trail ride. For a program that places such emphasis on segment records and PR tracking, this oversight is unconscionable.

Even one of the better features, that of establishing “privacy zones” over your home and workplace, lacks the ability to customize the location an size of the zone, rendering it almost useless. The whole experience so far has reminded me of why I hate Apple products so much, honestly. It looks great, it’s very popular, but lacks access to certain features that are so obvious and crucial that I wonder if I can go on using it at all.

So I guess the search will continue. I’ll keep messing with Strava for a few more weeks to see if there are ways to make it better, but if not, there’s every chance I’ll have to use it along with Endomondo to get what I want, data-wise. How these three companies can have such a good concept, and screw it up so thoroughly, is beyond me.

Jul 282013

209This came in the mail the other day. It’s my “thank you gift” for my fundraising for this year’s Tour de Cure ride. It was funny, because after the ride, they sent me a survey regarding my experience, and one of the questions was about how much the fundraising level gifts (they had levels from $250 to $10,000) motivated me to raise more. Which was confusing to me, because I didn’t know about any gifts! Sure enough, some time later I got an email telling me to log into the site to claim my gift.

I have to say, as swag goes, this thing is really nice. It’s huge, properly insulated, and has a well designed top. If you drink as much coffee as I do, you know that a well sorted travel mug is sometimes hard to come by, so for a “freebie” to be this nice is really unusual.

So to those of you who donated to my Tour de Cure ride, thank you again!  I’ll be thinking of you with every sip.

May 222013

I’m normally very skeptical of supplements. I’ve tried a whole lot of stuff, and continue to try new things to see what works and what doesn’t. One of my general rules is to ignore things with stupid names, flashy labels, and sensationalized flavors. So when a good friend of ours sent us a tub of this stuff to try, swearing it was amazing, I had serious doubts.

Still, I gave it an honest go. Katie and I cycled through the entire tub, using it during our workouts and runs, and it seemed like it was helping, a little. I’ve tried other intra-workout products in the past (like N.O. Shotgun), and while they worked, they had some fairly serious side effects that I wasn’t happy with, and a level of caffeine that borders on dangerous. Xtend has no caffeine, no sugar, no vasodialators, no carbs and no calories. It’s basically just BCAAs and electrolytes, and the taste isn’t bad, either.

So we went through the whole tub, and I didn’t order more, so we could get the “with/without” contrast necessary for an honest evaluation. And what a contrast! I was more sore after lifting, and for longer. My workout intensity faded in the gym much more quickly, and I wasn’t able to train multiple times in a day without serious difficulty, as I had been doing when I was taking it.

We let that go on for a few weeks before we buckled and ordered more. And as soon as I started drinking it during my workouts again, all those problems went away. I’ve had 10 workouts in the last 8 days and I still feel like hammering it tomorrow. It’s always satisfying to find something that works, and this stuff really, really works.

Apr 292013
When I first had the idea for this post, as I was leaving for work today, I thought it might be the most boring post on this blog yet. But really, the more I thought about it, this picture ends up saying a lot.
This is the bag that comes to work with me just about every day. It’s the bag I take to the trailhead when I go ride my bikes. It’s not a great bag, but the price was right: it was a freebie I got for reenlisting a few years ago. It has a shoe compartment, a few side pockets, and it’s big enough to hold a couple sets of clothes, my shower stuff, and assorted workout gear and gadgets. I also strap my lunch bag to the top of it when I’m going to work, and carry a tub of whey protein, a shaker bottle and a water cup. If you look closely, you’ll see a handful of things that have been the subject of previous blog posts.
So really, this bag, however lowly and unexciting, represents everything that I’m doing or trying to do. It depicts both sides of the fitness equation, with my workout gear and my planned, portioned nutrition. I spend so much time carrying it back and forth, it ought to have a name or something. Come to think of it, there are days I spend more time with it than my wife, because of our sometimes-opposing schedules. It is perhaps a mundane detail, but one I couldn’t do without, either.
Apr 042013

Who doesn’t love gadgets? This nifty little nugget came in the mail, today. It’s a Bluetooth-enabled heart rate monitor chest strap. With this little puppy, I can get far more accurate caloric data from my workouts, find out just how hard I’m working, and do some of that oft-cited “zone” training that’s at the heart of so many performance improvement programs.

I tested it out today on the mountain bike, during my season-opening ride at MoMBA. I was initially disappointed that the app I’ve been using to log my runs and rides for years, MapMyFitness, currently doesn’t support Bluetooth HRMs, because of some tiff with Google over driver software. Dumb. So I downloaded Endomondo instead, and I have to say that my initial impressions are pretty good. It’s a little more restrictive within the app than MapMyFitness was, but the functionality and ease of use seems pretty well executed. If I use it as much as I think I will, I may even pay for the Pro version.

Apr 032013

This is my “good” knee. The one without all the scars and screws and reconstructed parts. But for the last month or so, it hasn’t been very good. I finally got into the doc, and he’s preliminarily calling it Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, or PFPS. There are a whole lot of theories as to how it happens, and it can lead to some fairly bad things (like Chondromalacia Patella, or a breakdown of the cartilage on the back of the kneecap).

The doctor was of the same opinion I was before I went in. Essentially, I’ve been doing a whole lot of work that recruits my outer quadriceps (vastus lateralis) more than my inner (vastus medialis), which can pull my kneecap off center over time, which causes it to wear against the groove in the femur that it’s supposed to track through. No bueno. So he’s sending me for an x-ray to make sure nothing more insidious is going on, and then to physical therapy to correct the muscle imbalance.

In the mean time, because it was cheap and simple, I picked up this knee band strap. It’s supposed to help with patellar tracking issues for people who run/jump and have knee pain. We’ll see. I wore it to the gym tonight and it seemed to sorta kinda help some.

That’s the bad news. The good news is, he twisted and pulled and poked and prodded, and he doesn’t think there’s anything worse going on. Nothing to indicate a ligament or meniscus problem, which I was more concerned about. So now it’s up to me how much I can do. As the doctor put it, “you can do as much as you think you can tolerate.” Sweet! So with some reservation, it’s time to register for my first big road running race of the year.

Feb 112013

My flexibility rates somewhere between 2×4 and lead pipe. Reflecting on some of the problems I had in the second half of last season, I think my lack of flexibility may have been part of the cause. So this year, I’m making a concerted effort to stretch, often, and thoroughly.

This may not look that impressive, but being able to touch my toes is something of a victory, for me!

Jan 222013

File this one under “things we did as kids that we didn’t realize were hard.”

I started using a jump rope as a warmup before a leg workout a few weeks back. I never realized just how much work physically goes into jumping rope. Also, I apparently have all the grace and coordination of a dump truck with three flat tires. I’ll be really happy to make it to 100 straight without messing up. Rocky Balboa I ain’t.

Then again, I was never particularly good at jumping rope, even as a kid. If I master this, maybe there’s hope for me yet.

Tonight was a conditioning night. I had some extra time, so I warmed up with 200 jump ropes (lame, right?), then did 5000m on the row machine, and 25 minutes each on the elliptical and stationary bike, random hill programs. Observations: I think that the elliptical, if used solely, will leave certain muscle areas (like hip flexors) completely deficient for running. Second, come on spring. I hate this hamster wheel stuff!