27 April 2010

Update: Work Induced Ironman Tapering And Other Detours

Oh, what a marginal week of training will do for your psyche and endurance. You're probably expecting some self deprecating talk about how  terrible my training is going, and that I should probably give it all up and take up sewing.

Much to the contrary, my work induced tapering this past week left me feeling suspiciously strong this weekend, with a lot of extra fuel in my tank. I had an awesome 20 mile climb before returning 20 miles back home on my bike and running four miles alongside my son Julian, who I had promised could go for a bike ride while I run. He was so excited to be out there with me. I almost had to stop when he asked me if he could have a gel so he could go faster. Today, I ran a short 8 mile stretch in an hour.

One thing will definitely change once my semester is over at the university. I am committed to getting back in that weight room and pumping iron. It should be a little bit easier since I will have my wife's cousin up again this summer spending time with us. If you have not heard about him already, his name is Matthew, and he lost 72 pounds the summer he lived with us by changing his eating habits and exercising—a virtual lobotomy. I get to chronicle his progress here, as well as mine.

Getting back in the pool is on definitely on the agenda this week. I am going to try to fit in my three swim workouts. There is really no reason why I shouldn't, other than the fact that I love making excuses not to swim: my shoulders are sore, the pool is too warm, the Loch Ness monster resides in the water.

Update: Mucho congratulations to my running buddy Vanessa Taylor, who finished her first Boston Marathon with a time of 3:38:51. Way to go little buddy!

To all my blog buddies: Sorry I have not visited in a while. I miss reading your posts when I get so busy, but it is great fun to visit your blogs and hear completely unexpected things going on in your lives once time presents itself again. It is like watching an entire season of LOST or Battlestar Galactica over the summer in a few weeks... well,  minus all the kick-ass cylons, and electromagnetic fields.

22 April 2010

Crossing The Finish Line And Picking Up The Pieces

Phew!  What a weekend. I had a nice 14.35 mile (24km) run with my training partners Adam, Manuel and Mike on Saturday on my way to the concert hall for the premiere of my newest composition, Stress Test. I felt pretty solid all the way there, but the last two miles my hip flexors and calves were starting to get a tad bit tight. The great thing about doing such a long run on the day of a huge premiere was that I was about as laid back as I could possibly be throughout the rehearsals that I had to coordinate throughout the day. Not only did I have a premiere, but I was also the artistic director for the concert series that premiered four new works with choreographic essays. My premiere was great, and the performance the following day was even better. It was great having my friend Kelly play the concert as well. She played the flute part on my piece, but she is also a fellow triathlete, so we got to have a little bit of nerdy triathlete talk in between rehearsals. Now that the premiere is over, you would figure that I would not know what to do with my free time. Much to the contrary, I am now in the process of catching up with all the grading, writing, and general life activities that I put on hold—or at least slowed down considerably—the last three weeks. Now, in the aftermath of all the craziness I am—like The Average White Band—starting to pick up all the pieces.

I went out yesterday for an hour mountain bike ride. Fifteen miles of dirt, mud, sweat, sun, and fun. This is the time of year that I need to mix it up a bit. I have not been swimming much lately on account of being so busy, but I believe everything kind of happens for a reason. My shoulders have been a bit sore after my long swim workouts. I did a 3400 yard swim last week. I tried getting in the pool today, but I think the stress of the weekend and all the traveling in the car had left me very tired. Nothing really makes me more tired than spending hours riding in a car. I also feel like I have been doing a terrible job hydrating lately. I can always run and bike when I am tired, but swimming is a completely different deal. If I am tired, forget about it. Never mind the fact that the pool at my Y is about four hundred and fifty degrees.

Hopefully, I can get on track with my training again, especially the swimming. I know that is my third discipline, so I really need to keep on it. I feel like I have been marginally maintaining my cardiovascular strength lately. I also feel like I need to start getting in the weight room again to increase my shoulder strength and range of motion. I have had a little break from all the weight training and I need to get my butt back in there

Update: Congratulation to (Mr.) Kelly Covert for being the winner of the Fly By Night Duathlon held at the historic Watkins Glen Motor Speedway on 29 May, 2010. I will be contacting race director Jeff Henderson to let him know. Congratulations (Mr.) Kelly Covert—not to be confused with Mrs. Kelly Covert.

Oh yeah, I finished my PhD at doctor school on Tuesday, thus the infrequent posts. I am now Dr. Mark. My mother asked me if I felt differently now that I am Dr. Mark. I said "No, no... I am just as dumb and absent-minded as I was before I began."

Until next time.. train smart!

15 April 2010

Premiere Week=Less Stress Ahead

Every once in a while, I have a swim workout that makes me feel less like one mammal in the water, and more like another. Although, I seldom go through an entire swim workout and feel like I belong in the water. My swim workout on Monday was as close as I have ever come. I practiced something that I practice on my runs: submitting. For some reason, if I can give into my fatigue, it always helps me fall into a groove, and often, swim faster. One of the things I appreciate most about swimming is that I can completely turn off my brain, go on autopilot, and not have to think about a thing. This was especially gratifying considering the ticket for driving with my cell phone that I had received just minutes before my swim workout. Ironically, I am always the first person to get upset at people that I see talking on the phone while driving. I always keep my hands free device in the car, but as my life is currently in complete disarray, I broke the law and used it for an instance and got caught. It is amazing, I see the SAME people driving down my street every day talking on their phones and apparently they never get caught. C'est la vie! If I cut the tags on my matresses, the FBI would probably show up. Drinking milk past the expiration date: the dairy farmers of America would stand outside my house picketing. Of course, I could eat while I drive, and apparently their are no laws on the book prohibiting me from doing that. I wonder if I put a banana next to my ear and started talking if I would get pulled over. Hmmmm.

I did have a thought on Monday while I was swimming: "you know, if I had gills behind my ears like Kevin Kostner in Water World, my life would be so much easier." Coincidentally, Water World is the finest film ever made about post-apocalyptic, iceberg-melted Earth ever made—much in the same way the Over the Top with Sylvester Stallone is the finest film ever made about professional arm wrestling. But I digress.

My piano concertino premieres this week—aptly titled—Stress Test. As I said in an earlier post, I believe that the best art really comes from a direct correlation between an artists life and his work. How   could any artist separate these two you ask? Take Theodore Giesel (Dr. Seuss) for example. The masterful writer of children's texts had no children of his own, and many biographical accounts of his life say that he was not not even particularly fond of children.Go figure. It is hard to think of anything else this week other than the premiere, but I did have a successful swim yesterday. I teach an evening class on Tuesday that does not allow me to really get in a good session, unless I do it early in the morning, but this morning I was once again firing out emails and coordinating rehearsal schedules. I did have an opportunity to hear  my piece in a rehearsal yesterday and it sounded really wonderful. I am really fortunate to have such masterful musicians playing my music.

A couple of updates:

I have been compiling some questions for Dr. Alex McDonald—a member of the Timex Multisport Team—who happens to be a professional triathlete and medical doctor. Anyone still interested in having their training, nutritional, and/or any other relevant questions answered, please send them along in a message and I will make sure that he gets them. I will follow up his answers in an upcoming post—following my premiere, not before.

Manuel and I got out for only my second ride of the season. My first was a 72-miler. Nothing like jumping right into it. I am thinking about doing another long run and bike this weekend. Perhaps a 90 miler on my way to the matinee of my second performance. Crazy? A little. Triathlete? All the way. Here we are having just finished a short 25-miler and a two mile sprint. We are completely prostituting ourselves with our corporate gear.

More soon... Train Smart!

10 April 2010

Self Induced Stress Inflicted Paralysis

Do you ever have those points in your life where you have so much going on that you feel yourself on the verge of paralysis? I'm there. Last night, after teaching until 7:30, I took a half an hour to decompress before putting my kids in bed for the night. Those of us who are parents know that the bedtime ritual is no small task. Teeth brushing, bathroom, jammies, books. The minutes add up. Don't get me wrong, I love it, and I am really cognizant of the fact that this time in our lives—with young children— is precious, and will not last long enough. However, I can not speak for all kids, but my children have perfected the art of stalling to new heights. Clearly, they have all made the jump from amateur to professional when it comes to concocting insipid bedtime questions to ask. There timing is also impeccable. My girls wait until I have the door almost completely closed before I hear them squeak "Daddy.... I have to ask you something." "Sure, what is it sweetie?"  "Um.... um... um..... can we go to the museum sometime?" "Sure sweetie. We can go to the museum sometime."  "Okay, goodnight" Here is a recent example of a bedtime conversation post lights-out that my wife had with my girls:

Janina: Mommy?

Wifey: Yes?

Janina: Do you you know....... do yooouuuu knoooow, um...... do youuuuu knoooooooow.....


Janina: HEY!  Amalia, you found my polka dot slippers today!

Wifey: Okay, goodniiiight girls.

Janina: Wait, mommy?

Wifey: Yes?

Janina: Do you know where my Barbie dress is?

Wifey: Yes. We can get it tomorrow. Okay. Goodniiiight.

Amalia: Wait, mommy?

Wifey: Yes Amalia?

Amalia: Can we listen to Cinderella music tomorrow in the car? 

Wifey: (now exasperated because LOST started five minutes ago) Sure. Go to bed! (door shutting)


Following the bedtime ritual, I had an hour long phone conversation with a performer about one of my scores. Then, I  got on the phone with one of my mentors and asked him how he has managed to stay sane the last 35 years while managing a career, family life, and time for himself. The great mystery unveiled? Not likely. No, the secret to inner peace does not lie atop a Himalayan summit, or meditating to achieve some type of nirvana-like transcendental experience. Unfortunately, the answer to getting it all done within our 24 hour linear cycle is about as cryptic as Stonehenge. My Monday and Tuesday were so busy, in fact, that I can not even remember what I was doing that kept me away from training.... or did I train? I can't remember!

Training: I had an awesome week thirteen of training capped off with a 72 mile ride and a 9 mile run. My ride was amazing. I was all geeked up with my new Crankskins.com team gear. Got my new tri shorts and bike jersey, but I am waiting on my new tri top. It seemed like the first batch we ordered were not quite accurate with the sizing chart. I usually wear medium tops, but this medium was either built for seven guys that live with a Disney princess, or manufactured for the same populous from whence there made—China. Perhaps if I trained by manning a rickshaw for eight hours a day, I would burn enough calories to fit into the medium, but in fact, it was so tight, I could not take it off. I actually had to unzip it and pull it down my legs. I felt like Ahhhrnold. The first 10 miles of my ride were south, uphill, and directly into the wind. Nice! Hello wind. In fact, my whole ride west, the wind was blowing southeast at a pretty decent clip. Miles 10 through 25 were pretty good. I recognized most of the scenery having taken short rides to the southwest last season. Once I got past mile 25, it was all brand new territory for me. I felt pretty strong along the way. Good thing I brough  plenty of nutrition on the ride, because I needed it. I went through 140 ounces of fluids, 3 gels, a bag of carbohydrate lemon snacks, and one super-delicious chocolate brownie Clif bar. Once I arrived, I drank an additional 64 ounces of fluids. All that fluid, and I did not go pee until three hours after I arrived.

Week fourteen has found my butt, yet again, in front of a computer screen firing out emails, working on music, and running around trying to get things done. You know, life. I was doing good for a while, balancing training with life. But, with four weeks left to go in the semester, and the projects steadily growing more numerous by the minute, I have found my twenty-four hour day compressed into a one or two hour window to train—usually at a time of day that the pool has no lap swim, or it is cold, raining and dangerous on the roads, or any other excuse I can think of. Why not ride indoors you ask? Well, it was so beautiful this past week that I took the trainer tire off and put my outdoor tire on my rear wheel. It is not that easy to get that puppy on and off. Those of you who have trainer tires know what I am talking about. Getting one of those on your rim is like trying to put on a pair of jeans you wore when you were twelve. Really, there is no excuse to miss workouts. I will be the first one to tell others that. Every once in a while I get derailed, but I feel better if I can just string two or three long steady workouts together. It is incredibly encouraging to my psyche to get in a two hour bike ride, or a run over an hour and a half. 

Okay, I think I am back and ready for more frequent updates. The whole family is in Connecticut visiting some friends of ours that we have not seen in a while. The purpose of the trip is my wife had a performance in New Haven with her company. This morning I got out for a  nice 8 miler and ran steady 7:20's. Fastest splits of the early season. The season that is quickly creeping up on me!

More soon... stay tuned!  Train Smart!

01 April 2010

Incessant Whining And Other Joys Of Parenting

There is no greater joy in my life than being a father. It is difficult to explain to my friends without children just how amazing it is to have these little, wonderful people run to the door and jump into your arms every time you come home to greet you with hugs and kisses—unconditional love. You are at the center of their universe. Of course, being the center of their universe, there is no escape from the the strong gravitational orbit they exhibit at all hours of the day to your person. Truth be told, there are hours, especially in my wife's day, that every one of our five kids seems to be attached to us as if we were wombats (one of my favorite marsupial.) We had five children—six and under at one time. Now, the oldest is eight. The most difficult part about parenting all of them now is that they all desire and deserve attention from mom and dad throughout their days—usually having to compete with attention from their siblings. There are times when I am talking to one of my children, and two other come and interrupt me with a question like "Daddy, do you like coconuts? I made you coconuts and strawberries."  I will then be handed a plate of plastic food that apparently is the aforementioned coconuts and strawberries. Amazingly, they also double as steak and potato's. Then there is the inexplicable Girls Never Stop Talking During Dinner Phenomenon. I am not sure why girls talk so much more than boys. All I know is that mine never seem to stop talking. The idle chatter becomes like a trance-like mantra for my wife and I at dinner. They have mouths full of food, but are talking about squirrels, or princesses, or pink lego's—sometimes we really have no idea—we just can not believe that they keep talking. And we, of course tell them not to speak with food in their mouths, but perhaps their insatiable need to talk turns off their ears, so that they can not actually hear anything we say to them. The boys are a different story. They are getting to the point were they are competitive with one another. It's funny though. They both have their particular strengths.
Luca, my oldest (8), is coordinated beyond belief. He played baseball last summer, and was switch hitting regularly during games. However, he lacks, what my wife and I refer to as any semblance of common sense whatsoever. Julian, the second oldest (6), is not particularly athletic, or coordinated—although my wife likes to remind me that he was riding a two-wheeler sans training wheels when he was three—but he has an incredible gift of memory. We are not sure how he can recall the data from when he was three, but somehow it is all stored up there in that young, formative brain of his. I mention the competitiveness only in the context of how this translates into amplitude. Competition equals volume: "Yes it does! No it doesn't! Yes it does! No it doesn't." Calgon, take me away! Even though dinner time can sometime be as chaotic as a bee hive in July, we submit—rather than embrace—the insanity with equal parts humor and angst.
With that said, wifey and I have days that we wish we could run away to a beach and drink piƱa coladas and strawberry daiquiri's all day, while basking in the warm sunlight without the incessant whining of five air raid sirens. Every once in a while we experience this strange anomaly of everyone getting along under one roof seemingly without any drama. Shortly thereafter, the cosmos somehow realizes this, and restores everything to normal disorder.

Training Update: I was really excited about my long run last weekend. I was down in Geneva, NY for a concert and was planning on running the Musselman Half-Ironman course on Saturday morning. However, Thursday, following my swim I started experiencing some post-nasal drip, and general unpleasantness in my body. I woke up Saturday morning and felt run down and tired. After a late morning breakfast and some coffee, I spent the day doing busy work in front of a computer overlooking the beautiful view of Seneca Lake. I had a big project to do and had to get it done before I could get outside for my run. When I finally got out at 3:00 p.m., I could only manage 40 minutes of running. My body was just exhausted. One of the most difficult things to do when you are training is to take a break. Psychologically, I always feel like my cardiovascular strength is going to diminish rapidly, or I am somehow going to forget how to swim.

Life Update: My new piece: Stress Test for piano concertino premieres on a concert this month—thus the less frequent postings. I have been up to my earlobes with work recently. Luckily, I have a team of unbelievably dedicated people working with me. I am especially excited that my friend Kelly—and fellow triathlon blogger over at trimommylife—is playing the flute part in my concertino. Kelly and I went to graduate school together. I owe a lot of my triathlon knowledge to her. When I first got started in the sport, she sent me a surprising email after a triathlon that I ran just to say "good job." It took me a second to figure out that she must have run it too. After that, I picked her brain about everything from gear to nutrition, blogging to training. She has been incredibly supportive along the way. Thanks Kelly!

If you are in or around my neck of the woods mid-April, come check out our concert.

Happy Training!