31 October 2009

Soap Box Sermon

While I was at the YMCA yesterday, a woman and her son walked into the room where I was visiting with a friend supervising the area. The woman and her child, a boy in sixth grade, were obese. She dropped him off and asked how long he had. My friend told her she had an hour and a half.

The room, designed for children between the ages of eight to thirteen, is outfitted with a vast array of equipment to make exercise fun. There are high tech pieces of equipment like Espresso Bikes that have screens to allow for virtual racing against the computer and a video game that lets you chase dragons for points up to a half hour, awarding incentives along the way for distance and speed. There is also a DDR (Dance Dance Revolution): a dance game that combines balance, coordination and endurance by trying to sync your feet to corresponding arrows displayed on a large video screen. The music helps serve—for those with rhythm—as a tool to help you place your feet on the beat. There are eight floor pads, so you can compete against seven of your friends. There is also a game that puts a belt with a sensor on kids to play games that work on coordination, agility and speed. Lastly, the crown jewel of the room are the fifteen pieces of Hammer Strength equipment that use weight resistance bands to allow children to learn weight training safely at an early age. The equipment all have pictures attached to them to show the various muscle groups that are being worked.

The boy, who could have benefitted from the use of any of this equipment, instead went straight to the most popular item in the room: a Wii video game counsel. The mother gave a half-hearted "Okay, don't play that the whole time...." on her way out the door. Discouraged that the boy was using the Wii, my friend asked if he wanted to try something different. The boy gave a "Nah, that's okay." It was so discouraging. Worse, the mother came back after only fifteen minutes and announced that she could not get motivated to work out upstairs, so she started working out—barely— in the room on the Hammer Strength equipment. She is not really being a great example. I don't want to change the world. Okay, yes I do! I wish I could have said something to this woman, but that would have been very inappropriate. I wish I also could have said something to the morbidly obese woman I saw at Wegmans last night (a local grocery store) with her already obese young daughter who had a shopping cart filled with large chocolate chip cookies from the bakery, another bag of cookies, soda and she was standing in front of the take-out counter watching her daughter pick out a calzone for dinner. Sure, I admit it, I was eavesdropping. All I could think is "What the hell is this woman thinking?!" This surely constitutes child abuse. No one is reporting this woman instilling a lifetime of bad habits and health problems for her daughter. Am I out of line? Am I way too judgmental? Do people really enjoy being fat? Do they think, "..hey, I'll eat these last boxes of cookies, then I'll start getting into shape? Do they just think it's pointless?

My secret wish—perhaps in another life—is to start a camp, like on the show The Biggest Loser, where I could work with unhealthy people turning them on to diet and exercise. Of course, it would have to be a residential treatment program. You would have to teach people how to cook healthier food. Like I said before, working with my cousin and my once out-of-shape, couch potato, rock star-lifestyle training partner and watching them become fit, fast, healthy eating athletes has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I don't have a degree in exercise science, or nutrition. I am not a certified personal trainer or a former professional athlete, but I do have a real passion for helping people and exercise.

Okay, I will try not to get on the soap box much more. Who am I kidding?

29 October 2009


When I started swimming two years ago—I mean really swimming—I never thought that I would enjoy it as much as I do now. I look forward to getting in the pool and training. The great thing about my swim workouts is that every time I train in the pool, I feel like I am still making significant gains with my form, rhythm and breathing. I even spent about 10 minutes working on my flip turns last night... and they are actually improving! Now my swim workouts will be so much more enjoyable thanks to the very generous sponsorship that I received from H2O Audio. Swimming 3000+ yards and spending over an hour and a half in the pool in preparation for an Ironman will be a little easier knowing I can rock out to my favorite inspiring tunes while I am doing it. I will be posting a review of their Interval 3G waterproof system for the iPod shuffle shortly after I receive it sometime next week. Thanks again H2O Audio, I am looking forward to a great season using your gear!

28 October 2009

Thoughts on School Lunches, Pt. II

I was encouraged and optimistic when I heard a couple of years ago that action was being taken to remove soda machines from schools throughout the United States. That takes a lot of courage (and good old common sense) considering the contracts that school districts signed with beverage companies had to be very profitable. It came at the heels of the rather leery comment "The school system is where you build brand loyalty" - John Alm, president, Coca-Cola Enterprises, quoted in AJC, April 6, 2003.

However, I am disheartened by the fact that many schools replaced these machines for other beverages that are just as high in sugar: Snapple, Gatorade, fruit juices just to name a few. Don't get me wrong, I drink Gatorade frequently, especially before, during and after exercise. I do not allow my children to drink it though. I remember there being one option to quench my thirst in grade school and high school: water. You remember, they were little white
porcelain or stainless steel units connected to the wall? They now come in a variety of different shapes, materials and sizes. I especially like the granite enclosed ones that are inside community parks and playgrounds. You know, when I was a child I would ask my mom if I could have orange juice or milk an hour or two after dinner. Her response to me (and the rest of her children) was always "drink water." I would respond with "...but I am not thirsty for water." To which my mom would respond in her matter-of-fact tone "Well, then you're not really thirsty then." Wow, my mom, who knows very little about nutrition, knew enough not to let us consume ridiculous amount of sugar before bedtime. Thanks mom!

Is this one of those crazy ideas again about giving middle school and high school student choices to make them feel all warm and fuzzy? I think my mom ought to sit down with school boards across the country when they are contemplating putting beverage machines in schools so that she can remind them that students can drink water when they're thirsty.

24 October 2009

Thoughts on School Lunches, Pt. I

About two or three times a month, I like to meet my boys at their school for lunch and talk about how their day is going. I usually come unannounced because I love watching their faces light up when they see me. Of course, it is exciting for me as well, to know that I had such a positive impact on their day. I remember the first time I ever showed up to Luca's school—he spent half his lunch going around the lunch table introducing me to everyone— "This is my dad, Mr. Olivieri," he would say. The last time I went in to their school for lunch, I witnessed Luca at the "allergy-free" table eating lunch with a girl from his class who has a severe peanut allergy. They were the only two at the table. I asked him why he was sitting there. He told me that he did not want her to sit alone. I was incredibly proud of him.

Most of the time, I sit at the tables with his entire class. Even the first time I went into have lunch with him, I immediately noticed that Luca was one of the only children at the table who brought his lunch from home. Approximately 90-95% of his class purchases lunch at school on a daily basis. My wife and I prepare our children's lunch every day, which invariably consists of a sandwich—peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat, tuna fish with mustard, salami on ciabatta, a cheese stick, yogurt, some kind of fruit and vegetable: apple, strawberries, grapes, raspberries, pears and the usual lunchtime vegetables: carrots, celery sticks, or edamame beans. The students around us who had purchased their lunches were literally eating foods that I could not even identify. Honest. One student had a side of corn. The corn was completely unappealing to me. It had a light brown hue and looked liked it was drenched in butter or some sort of mystery brine. So, with the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I am absolutely appalled at the choices our district/state/country makes with regard to school lunch choices, and the scores of parents who willingly allow their children to eat these foods. Here are some of the choices at my children's school during the month of October:

Hot dogs, chicken nuggets (although sometimes in the form of the always popular "popcorn chicken," grilled cheese (at least five times during the month), pizza (at least five times during the month,) chicken tenders with dipping sauce, mozzarella sticks (a shoddy bar-food appetizer at best,) with red dipping sauce and french toast sticks—French freaking toast sticks!
The secondary choices on one of the days—to accompany the already stellar, highly nutritious first course of foods like the aforementioned french freaking toast sticks—consisted of seasoned spiral fries, glazed carrots and sliced cinnamon apples. Seriously, is it that difficult or costly to prepare carrot sticks or edamame beans, or some type of fresh fruit?

I have neither the time or energy to lead yet another crusade, directed at school boards, who award multi-million dollar contracts to food service corporations like Aramark. Their are plenty of well-intentioned, brave souls who fight that battle. Food service corporations supply school districts across the country with high volume troff-style feedings. Perhaps I am being extremely cynical, but the real bottom line of food service corporations (or any corporation for that matter) is to make money. I understand that. To be fair, Aramark's education website: (http://www.aramarkschools.com/food nutrition/index.php) uses language that would lead one to believe that they care a lot about nutrition and the health of students. Perhaps the real problem is how the food is prepared. Do carrots or snow pea pods need to be glazed with anything? They are pretty sweet already if you ask me. My children eat them willingly, and even request them often! Apples do not need cinnamon. What's wrong with children learning how to eat this food without all the excess sugars?

Nutritionists often site the high rate of diabetes in low income, African-American communities as a result of consuming low cost , high fat, fast food. Even on the way in to work this morning, I saw one fast food restaurant offering a one dollar double cheeseburger and I have to admit that I felt a little like Ivan Pavlov's puppy for a second or two. I think we are all witness to the long-term cost and outcome of eating poorly and a sedentary lifestyle. Heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and a laundry list of other ailments await those who practice poor eating habits and do not exercise.

Part of my job as a parent is to educate my children the best I can about making smart choices with regard to what they put into their bodies. Apparently, the school lunch programs do have something referred to as "sensible choices." I guess what I want to know is why all the choices are not well-balanced "sensible" meals. One glaringly obvious fact I've learned about nutrition is that when we eat well, we feel well, and we perform better. Many of the foods on my children's school lunch menu are foods that would make most healthy eaters feel sick, groggy, even cranky. I do not want any child to eat that way. Unfortunately, like my cousin Matthew who lost 72 pounds over his two and a half month stay with us two summers ago, the solution (as I see it,) requires a massive lobotomy on the part of all the parents and food preparers. If you give children a choice between pizza and grilled cheese as your primary options, they are allowed to choose from two relatively unhealthy choices.

Children go to school to receive an education. Why not turn lunch into a place of learning as well? Instead of presenting these unimaginative choices to students, why not stretch their young palettes with fresh fruit (that does not need to contain extra sugar,) new vegetables—artichokes, asparagus, spinach salad, arugula, the myriad of legumes: red and brown lentils, pinto, garbanzo, black and red beans, and fruits that they might not be familiar with like kiwi, pomegranate, figs, quinces, kumquat. You could even make theme months like "Tree Fruit Month:" cherries, apricots, apples, plums, pears, or "Citrus Fruit Month:" Oranges, Clementine, Lemon, Limes. Children could also learn the nutritional information of the food they are eating as well. Their is a great resource that I learned about that lists the nutritional information for all different types of fruits: http://www.thefruitpages.com/sitemap.shtml

Coming Soon: Thoughts on School Lunches, Pt. II: Replacing soda machines for Snapple and Gatorade.

As always, I look forward to your comments, criticisms, and expertise!

20 October 2009

What I eat in a week

For some strange reason—perhaps because several individuals notice that I consume as much food as a large barnyard animal—I am often asked what my diet consists of. So, on Sunday, I made the decision to write down everything I eat during a one week period. Like my flip turns, I found it incredibly difficult and the result was unsuccessful. Writing down everything you consume during the course of a day is very, VERY difficult. Don't believe me? Try it for just one day. It is not that I do not know what I eat during the course of a day, but trying to figure out the relative portion size and calories for say, two pieces of lasagna is nearly impossible. I mean, how thick was the lasagna? How large did I cut the pieces? How much mozzarella cheese did my wife grate on to the top when she made it? How much ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella did she put inside? I can measure two cups of my favorite breakfast cereal in a bowl, but what I do for lasagna? Do I weigh my food on a scale? I need to think of a good plan to count, or even estimate my daily caloric intake. I am also going to start logging my workouts and weigh myself throughout the course of one week.

I did take some things away from trying to keep track of my food. I was very conscious about all my decisions throughout the day. I found myself agonizing over whether a chocolate fiber granola bar or a Honey Crisp apple would make me look like a healthier eater. It also made consider my fluid intake—or lack thereof—throughout the day. Tuesday, I had coffee in the morning and then not much else until my camel-like intake of water later late in the evening. So, here is what I definitely ate on Monday:


Breakfast : 2 cups of Kelloggs Frosted Mini Wheats, 1 cup of skim milk.

post Breakfast snack: "everything" bagel with cream cheese

Lunch: peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat, banana

Snack: 1/4 cup of teriyaki beef jerkey, cup of mixed salted assorted nuts—whoa sodium intake!

Dinner: approximately 2 cups of potato's and 2 cups of veal in tomato sauce, 1 cup of green beans, 3 cups pasta fagioli soup, one ciabatta panini.

Evening "snack:" 2 1/2 cup of cheerios, 2 cups skim milk

Monday Workout: Weight Training (chest), core, 2.25 mile run

Weigh In: 182

Workouts: My workouts this past week still consist heavily of swimming and core and strength training with some bike mixed in. I am swimming nearly a mile every day, sometimes 1.25 miles. I never though I would actually enjoy swimming this much, but when that is all you can do, you better grow to like it quickly.

The Running News: I ran 2.25 miles on Tuesday. My right knee got a little tight around mile 2 and instead of pushing it, I decided to play it safe and leave well enough alone. The good news is that I did not have any pain that evening or the following day. I think all the stretching and time off is really finally paying dividends—even though it is sometimes difficult to lay off because I feel like I'm slacking.

Friends in the News: Good luck to my friend Vanessa Taylor (Medievalist Running in Circles), who will be running the Marine Core Marathon on Sunday 25 October in our Nation's capitol. She will be running for a bid to race in the Boston Marathon. Vanessa graciously trained a group of my fellow triathletes this summer to prepare us for the half-Ironman. She is a super runner and an even more wonderful human being.

17 October 2009

The Prohibitive Cost of Racing Triathlons and What Can Be Done to Fix It

Those of us who participate in the sport of triathlon do so for a number of reasons. We love the challenge of competing against ourselves and our peers in a test of both physical and mental endurance. We enjoy the camaraderie of the triathlon community—sharing our knowledge of gear, nutrition, courses and training. We appreciate just how insanely dedicated our fellow triathletes are who wake up at five a.m. throughout the year to allow time for them to negotiate their jobs, families and training.

Unfortunately, for many athletes that I train with, the sport has also become a test of financial endurance. I recently heard a statistic that was published in Triathlete magazine, which stated that the average annual income of triathletes was $120,000. This statistic might not be taking into account the modest group of athletes that I train with who talk about the prohibitive costs associated with running triathlons. In some respects, triathlon has become the new "sport of kings" with serious age group triathletes having to spend a small fortune just to own the gear, let alone shell out the dough to participate. Think about it: wetsuit, bike, shoes. Those are the basics. Then there are the ongoing costs associated with training: nutrition, shoes, bathing suits, goggles. The last category of expenditures falls into the sleuth of peripheral "toys" we feel are necessary to make us faster athletes: GPS, tri shorts and top, heart monitors, wattage monitor, lap counter. Sure, I put tri shorts and top here. I raced this whole past season in my Speedo Jammers—Jammers, I said—I did not go "old school" (thank goodness) like Farris al Sultan and sport the bikinis. Of course, triathlon is the only sport in which a man can wear Speedos and sport a crop top and be considered one of the manliest hombre's on the planet. I just did not see the need to shell out an additional $65 dollars for something I can live without. Sure, my butt was a little sore after riding 56 miles without a chamois, but I survived.

We see professionals race on their full carbon bikes and think that we need to shell out serious dough to take our bike leg to the next level, after all, bike manufacturers tell us all the time that their bike is the fastest bike on the planet, in the wind tunnel, milky way galaxy, universe. I could shave as much as 12 seconds per 40 kilometers or almost a minute over the course of an Ironman bike. Wow! I am sure to give Craig Alexander a real run for his money with that kind of improvement. More, the rider accounts for 85% of the overall drag on the bike, yet amateur triathletes everywhere are searching for the most "aero" bike affordable in the hopes that it will guarantee them an unprecedented bike split on race day. I have been fortunate to have decent splits on the bike this season. I attribute that to training really hard. I am pretty sure that if I had my "dream bike" complete with NASA engineered aerodynamics built with carbon and space age materials, and I rode my proverbial a _ _ off, I would still not be faster than Lance Armstrong riding a Schwinn ten speed on his worst day. Someone once told me "there is no substitute for youth." That being true, there is also no substitute for training your tail off and wanting to improve way more than someone your racing against. A friend of mine raced to two top 5 overall finishes on a Schwinn 10-speed for a sprint. No kidding!

Now, lets talk about the costs of races. The average sprint cost—a race comprised of a 800 yard open water swim, 16 mile bike ride and a 5K is around $70. As the distances increase, so do the costs. The average Ironman costs averaging around $500. Yes, $500. I have done some simple arithmetic to hep you understand just how much per hour of your hard earned cash you are shelling out to go out and beat the hell out of your body for 11+ hours:

12 hour Ironman=$42 an hour, 13 hours=$38 hour, 17 hours=$29 hour

It seems to me that if you are going to be running an Ironman, a shade under 17 hours would give you the most bang for your buck. Be out there as long as possible. Pocket as many Hammer Gels to use later on training runs. Get an i.v.—even if you don't need one. After the race, do the post-race massage, chiropractor, ice bath—you've paid for it!

Maybe it's the law of supply and demand. In the early days of Ironman, Valerie Silk had to work hard to increase the number of participants from 100 to 300 (You can read the complete history of the Ironman race here.) Coincidentally, losing Budweiser as an official sponsor along the way might have been a decent idea. Now, over 60,000 athletes compete for a chance to win a spot to the most coveted Ironman distance race in the world: The Ford Ironman World Championships in Kona. I once read that "...a product only retains currency so long as it is current," and triathlon is very current right now. I have my theories as to the huge explosion of the sport, but that might be a post for another occasion. Back to Kona; let's examine just how much money is made on the entrance fees alone. Approximately 1800 athletes participated in the 2009 Ford Ironman in Kona:

$550X1800=$990,000. Nice, just shy of a cool million. That is not counting the throngs of corporate sponsors who shell out big bucks to participate in expos, be an official race sponsor, or have their products used on the course. I am sure that the job of Race Director for any Ironman distance event is no small task, and there has to be some administrative costs associated with the team of people that work year round putting these events together, as well as insurance, permits, etc, I am just not sure if I can commit to racing an Ironman AND smaller races in preparation for that event without the help of winning the lottery. My friends and I would do a lot more races if they were more affordable. So what can be done?

Grass roots friends! Look, there is no substitute for participating in an official USAT sanctioned event. Nothing beats the excitement of rolling your trusty steed into transition at some unGodly hour with a thousand other nervous, anxious athletes setting up their transition area and mentally preparing for a 7:00 a.m. swim in brisk water. However, that does not mean you can not grab a group of athletes from your local triathlon club for a little friendly weekend competition. This past summer, I held a "Poor Man's F1" from my house: run 2, bike 10, run 1, bike 10, run 2. It was the same day as an "official" F1 event that all of us wanted to run, but were unwilling to shell out the $85 dollar entrance fee to race an hour and a half. Four of us competed and we each won our age groups. Seriously, we were all very competitive. We set up a transition area on my lawn and raced into transition with every intention of getting out of transition area as quickly as possible. This past season, I have spoke to many triathletes who are interested in putting together an athlete run triathlon. Can we get enough athletes to volunteer their time, resources and some dough to put it together? I am not talking anything extraordinary here. The theory is that we all know enough people that we could set up aid stations along a course. Of course, their is the little issue of a safe bike course. But, how is it any different than a group of bicyclists going out for a Sunday ride? When you go on weekend rides, some folks fall back, and others forge ahead. Of course, we usually stop and wait for the slower riders to catch up. I liken it to going out on a country ride by myself. I guess I just need to remember to wear my Road I.D. I don't have any idea how much police escorts cost, professional road sweeping and other costs associated with triathlon, but I would like to do some research. If any of you have any ideas or commentary, I welcome it. Wouldn't it be cool to design your own finishing medal?!

12 October 2009

5K and More Stretching

I had a good week of swimming that capped off with a 2500 yard Master Swim on Sunday (a little more than a mile and a quarter.) One of my students who is on the college swim team told me that their warm-up is 2200 yards and that he usually swims between 7000 and 10,000 yards during a practice. Of course, he gets the advantage of only training one sport as opposed to three simultaneously. I spent the first half an hour in the pool learning how to do flip turns. The result: not quite there yet. I can not seem to manage a somersault in the pool, even though I spent countless hours doing them as a child vying for the attention of my parents who pretended to watch for hours.

I ran my first 5K since my injury back in September on Saturday. I made sure I warmed up the legs beforehand by stretching and doing a nice pre-race jog. I started slow. I ran with my brother for the first half mile who runs at a slightly slower pace than I do. I picked up the pace about a mile in. I could feel the fatigue in my legs still and my wind was a little short after not running for so long. A lot of athletes I talk to think that swimming is the most difficult cardiovascular workout, (someone recently told me that it requires four times the effort to swim a mile than it does to run one.) It may very well be a better cardiovascular workout, but I do not think there is any substitution for any of the disciplines. I noticed that I really could not push it too much more than I was doing. I ended up running a moderate 7:51 pace for the race. The knees and foot felt good until my brother ended up finishing and we went back to run with his wife. I noticed my right knee started hurting a little bit and I had a slight pain on the left side of my right foot. It will subside—I have been there before. My friend Jodie—who reminded me several times that she beat me—was awarded first prize for females 20-29—great job Jodie! (That's her on the left with the pink hat with Karen Leastman who also ran.) My brother Leonard ended up running 4-minute PB over his fastest 5K. Now, that is impressive! I am not sure he realizes just how ridiculous of an improvement that is over a 5K.

As a result of all this discomfort, I have started an intense daily stretching routine. My goal is to increase my overall flexibility. My wife, who has the flexibility of Gumby, is coaching me along and we are starting to stretch together in the evenings. Remarkably, I have seen dramatic results after only a few days of prolonged (at least 20-30 minutes) of stretching. My hamstrings were not just tight, they were a liability out there racing. Tight hamstrings lead to a shorter stride, knee, hamstring and foot pain. What tends to happen is that I will compensate for my muscle tightness by changing my natural gait—not good!

I am very conscious of not eating like an Ironman while my training has decreased in volume over the last month, but it has been difficult. I make sure that I am on that bike or in that pool everyday burning some calories keeping my weight down.

I am going to try to run another race this weekend. There is a great 10 miler for Hospice, but I think I better listen to my body right now and just run another 5K and reassess things after that.

07 October 2009

Getting Faster, Going Nowhere, Lost and Found

It was actor Val Kilmer in his role as Chris Knight in the finest comedic film ever made about lasers liquidating individual human targets from space—the 1985 classic Real Genius—who said "...sometimes you just need to take a little step back to take a giant leap forward. "

The last couple of weeks have been a dichotomy of sorts. On one hand, I have not done ANY running—except the visualizations in my head— since 20 September (date of the last triathlon of the season.) The break has been necessary in helping to recover from the damage I suffered as a result of not respecting the marathon distance nearly as much I should have. Note to self: weekend-warrior-ing a marathon, bad.

However, I have gotten in the pool nearly every day for the last three weeks. The result:

I have managed to take off nearly a minute and a half per 1000 yards from my usual swims. I am thinking less about my form in the water and things are just starting to happen naturally. I have noticed that I am really starting to roll my shoulders and get streamlined. I have also gotten myself back into strength training. I have not really done any since I dislocated my shoulder back in March. Certainly I am swimming faster in the water because of my consistency, but I have also been swimming faster to swim faster. I notice that the muscle density in my legs make them want to sink if I am going at a moderate tempo—or for you hardcore endurance junkies and triathlon nerds—an RPE of about 1-5.

I lost my wedding ring on Monday. I looked down at my hand after getting home from work for just a few minutes and told my wife "I think my ring came off my finger." Monday was a particularly cold October day—somewhere in the low 50's—and the ring must have just slipped off my finger without me noticing. I retraced all my steps over the last few days, both at work and at home. This was the proverbial needle in the haystack. Since I had no idea when it fell off, I really had no idea where to look. This afternoon while at work, I received a call from home. I answered and heard my wife say "tell daddy." All at the same time, my three girls said "we found your ring." Actually, my wife had found it. Yes, she found it somewhere in the middle of are yard in the grass. When I got home on Monday, I immediately started throwing the football around with my boys. It must have fell off. I was simply nauseated for days thinking that I lost the ring that had such sentimental value.

One more week of rest and stretching before I get out there for a run.

03 October 2009

Motivation, Motherhood and Massage

Motherhood: When my wife and I had our first child, we inherited a much greater appreciation of just how difficult a job our parents had raising us (and our siblings) into seemingly well-adjusted adults. I mean, really if you think about it, it is amazing that any of us made it past puberty. The way-back of the family "station dragon" would often serve multiple functions as play, sleep and picnic areas. Car seats? Thank goodness they were invented—they save a lot of lives. I do not ever recall any of my friends wearing bicycle helmets thirty years ago, yet we will not let our kids get anywhere near their bikes unless they are wearing one. Yet, despite all that could have gone wrong, I remain relatively unscathed, despite a few stitches I received on my hand from accidentally running into a rear view mirror on my bicycle when I was six. Even a helmet would not have prevented that hospital excursion.

Why do I bring this up you ask? Well, I flew solo today while my wife left early in the morning for a dance rehearsal and afternoon performance. She came home just before 5:00 to a relatively calm house—thank goodness for Legos! Minutes later I was outside with all five kids while she started preparing dinner. I am not even going to pretend that it was simple taking care of all the kids. I am not one of those guys that would ever dare use the "I would love to stay at home all day with the kids instead of going to work" line. That is true, but only if my wife was home with me to help. I barely know where to look to find most things when my wife is not home.

It is not the first time I have flown solo, nor will it be the last. In fact, it will probably become more frequent as my wife is starting to dance professionally again and it is very difficult to find an affordable, competent sitter for five children. All I can say is that I have great respect for my wife and mothers everywhere for the amazing job they do. I took my children to the Y yesterday morning. I got everyone dressed, prepared all their drinks and snacks and brought the diaper bag for the baby. Of course, once I got there I realized I forgot my suit for my swim workout. It seems to be a recurring problem whenever I am taking care of the children for any prolonged period of time. I simply lose my mind. Changing out my pajamas and showering is not at the top of my "to do" list. Keeping my children out of an emergency room until my wife comes home becomes my number one priority.

I liken meals to the job of an air traffic controller. Managing portions, drinks and trying to avoid meltdowns for whatever reason is only part of the mealtime dynamic. I find myself scarfing down food as quickly as possible to meet the needs of my children—yet my wife somehow manages to do this day in and day out with relative sanity. Notice, I said "relative sanity." So mom, thanks for not following through on your many threats to send me off to live in the zoo.

Motivation: Last night I spoke to a friend of mine who is expecting her second child. She asked me how I find time to train. I told her that during the school year I wake up at 4:45 and get to the gym by 6:00 a.m. If I want to be home by dinner—which is the agreement I have with my wife—it is the only time in my day that I can do it. What motivates me is that exercising makes me feel good the rest of the day. I have more energy and am more alert. My psyche is great because I know I already accomplished a tough morning swim (any swim at 6:00 a.m. is tough for me) and weight training workout. Not to mention, I want to go out and perform better next season in the triathlons I race. I made huge strides this year. You have to put in the time—whether your training for triathlons or writing music—to reap the rewards.
My friend also mentioned that she knows her diet is terrible. Aha! Here we go again—diet rears its ugly head. We all know when we select poor choices, but somehow rationalize them. Perhaps for her it is the fact that she has always been pretty fit. She was an athlete in high school and kept active with pilates after the birth of her first child and took the weight off quickly.

More on motivation later and how I even came to running triathlons. Everyone has a story.

Massage: My workouts last week consisted of three 1000 meter swims. Nothing to write home about, but we had a terribly rainy week here and it was impossible to get out for a bike ride. Well, not impossible, but it would have been a miserably cold and wet ride. Not good for your bike or your body. I am bumping up the numbers this week to be sure. I already swam 1200 yards this morning. I am scheduling a massage this week to try to realign and stretch out the hamstrings and knees.