30 January 2011

The Friday Top Five (On Sunday)

I've thought about this a while now, and in an effort to have a consistent piece on this blog, I have decided to have what I will henceforth refer to as "The Friday Top Five." In this new "piece" I will continue to subject you all to my completely biased, subjective opinions on matters of triathlon and anything else I feel like torturing you with. Your welcome in advance for the forty-some remaining weeks of the calendar year. Alas! Look on the bright side: if the Mayans are correct, you should only have to put up with my insipid verbiage for but one more year. If I were a betting man, my guess is that the universe will not implode on itself to the size of an atom, and that you will have to go on living with my acute, yet banal, observations and growing neuroticism. Lucky you.

This semester, I am teaching the greatest class in the history of classes taught at the college level—History of Rock and Roll. I have noticed a really interesting phenomenon with my teenage and twenty-something year old students. They know a lot of music from the late 1960's and early 1970's (much more than the generation of students ten years their seniors), because of things like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Others, now have parents that grew up in the generation after the Baby Boomers who actually rocked out to The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who and The Rolling Stones. Most of my students know music from a really narrow window from about 1968-1978. Seriously, most of my students were born after Nirvana's Nevermind was released on Geffen back in 1991. Obviously rock and roll music did not start in 1991, although grunge certainly did, and soon became a widespread commodity to a growing number of white middle class teenagers—just like every other style of music before and after it. Of course, grunge was around before Nirvana. Bands like Sonic Youth and Mudhoney helped to coin the term when talking about their own music, but I remember Nirvana being one of the defining moments of my young musical career. Here were these three white dudes from Seattle playing music that rocked even harder than anything I had ever heard on MTV's Headbangers Ball back in the late 1980's, and they were doing so while donning flannel, torn jeans and sneakers, instead of hair with an insane amount of Aqua Net, and enough makeup and spandex to make Roxanne blush. I knew immediately upon hearing Nirvana—without ever hearing anything from the music rags and talking heads—that this band was definitely ground breaking. Did not end well. I love being able to speak anecdottaly about my experiences with the music. It is really hard to feel "old" talking about Nirvana because I still think of them as really current.

Anyway, one of the things that I get to speak is who I think the best rock singers in history are (I have a PhD in Music—I'm able to decide such things). Throughout the semester, we get to engage with all of this great music and the artists who recorded it.

Without further adieu, here are my Top Five singers in rock and roll history, with some honorable mentions:

 #1: Freddie Mercury: Not a good looking man, but apparently rock singers do not need to be attractive for throngs of women (and men) to go completely hysterical at the mere sight of them (see: Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler, and David Bowie). You've never seen as many lighters in the air as when Freddy sang Bohemian Rhapsody to an appreciative Wembley Stadium crowd. His voice is dynamic and identifiable, and he can belt it and sing the ballad.

#2: Robert Plant: The lion-maned frontman of one of the most influential rock groups in history—Led Zeppelin admittedly modeled his singing after early African-American blues singers  Ma Rainey and Big Mama Thorton. He had an incredible stage presence and when I listen to Zeppelin tunes like "Black Dog," "Rock and Roll," or "Kashmir" on my iPod while I am training, I have to control my testosterone from making me want to run through walls.

#4 Ozzy Osbourne: Even if you do not like his music, this one-time frontman for Black Sabbath whose career has spanned over forty years, had an unbelievable dynamic range an had some of the most incredible intonation (ability to sing on pitch) of any rock singer in history. The Prince of Darkness and Godfather of Heavy Metal has sold over 100 million albums worldwide. That is more than John Tesh and Yanni combined. His reality T.V. show, The Osbournes, introduced a whole new generation to the lifestyle of rich and underserving privileged children of rock icons.

#5: John Lennon: C'mon, what would a list of the greatest rock singers of all time be without the man who sang I Want to Hold Your Hand and Helter Skelter? Those two tunes have dramatically different vocal styles. More, Lennon could be expressive and lyrical with tunes like "Nowhere Man," and deliver in the stuttering vocal declamation of "Come Together." Like Mozart (who lived to only thirty-five years), it would have been fascinating to hear what Lennon's musical output would have been like had his life not been tragically cut short.

#5 Steve Parry: I know what you're thinking, Steve Parry, really.. are you sure you don't mean Steven Tyler. No. I feel funny putting Parry here, because the music is a bit cheesy. Okay, it's a lot cheesy, and I am embarrassed to admit that I can sing just about every lyric from every tune Journey wrote.
The once frontman of the rock band Journey had an amazing instrument—not to mention wrote some of the most catchy rock tunes of the late eighties. Heck, Journey even had a video game. You know you've made it when you have a video game. I think everyone who went to school in the eighties had the tunes "Open Arms" or "Faithfully" as one of the themes for their school dances. The school dance tune was swiftly replaced for the next ten years by the Boyz II Men song "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday."

Honorable Mentions: David Lee Roth, Sting, Bono, Janis Joplin, Roger Daltrey, Jim Morrison

Now, for all you talking heads out there, notice, I did not say most influential. That would be a completely different list. Dylan would be on that top five. Coincidentally, Rolling Stone listed the top 100 singers of all time. Number one on the list was Aretha Franklin. I might have to agree with that analysis. She can sing everything.

Training: Have you ever had one of those weeks that has completely kicked your ass? Wow. I was SO incredibly busy with work and my personal life this week that trying to fit in my training was.... well... insane!  I missed a couple of workouts, but I tried not to miss consecutive swims or bikes or runs. I missed one swim and one bike. I am a slacker, what can I say? I feel awfully guilty, but I have so many projects on the burner that I really have to concentrate on.

The good news? I got fitted for my new Kestrel (post to follow). It is beautiful, and the fitting was amazing. I have never been as comfortable on a bike as I am on this one—really!  I think my Trakkers teammates are going to be VERY excited about their new rides—especially those of us who live near the Arctic Circle who will not have a chance to bike outside until say... our first triathlon in June. Okay, I am exaggerating a bit, but just a bit.

My hydration during my workouts has been a lot better thanks in part to my First Endurance drink. I have both the Grape and Fruit Punch flavors and enjoy them when I train. I have a tendency to cramp up, especially in my swim because I often forget to hydrate as much as I should during the day. If you have not tried First Endurance yet, I highly recommend that at the very least, you get on board and try it for a couple of weeks of workouts. I like it because it is not real sugary either.

Okay gang, my Kestrel post to follow. Another busy week, but I hope to be communicating from the craziness.

More Soon. Train Smart!

21 January 2011

Running in Ragnar And Ready for Redemption

Being sick for ten days has really sucked. I sometimes will express my hatred of being sick to the wifey.
She finds it especially funny when I complain about having the stomach bug. No one ever says, "you know... I haven't had chronic diarrhea and vomited in a while, that would be really great." Having the flu is the absolute worst. I'm not there. I just have this chronic cough and chest cold that is making working out impossible. Have any of you ever had that experience when you feel so awful that it is tiring to climb the stairs?  I know when I am really sick, because when I lay down in bed, I just crash as if I hadn't just gotten a full night of sleep. I tried "taking it easy" for a couple of days. I tried working out through my sickness. That just made it a bit worse. Because my throat has felt slightly sore, I have not wanted to drink, so I have been getting dehydrated.

I am ready to announce some pretty amazing news.

I am racing a 24-hour relay in May called the Ragnar Relay. Ragnar has a bunch of relays all over the country. I decided that doing this would be:

1) fun
2) slightly crazy
3) a great story to tell my grandchildren
4) possibly life-threatening (in the dark, there could be bears out there in the middle of the wilderness, ya know)
5) A rare opportunity to spend a day with eleven of my tired, hungry, smelly friends.
6) A fun preparation for Rev3 Quassay and Rev3 Cedar Point.

The course starts at Colony of the Arts in Woodstock, New York and finishes in New York City.

The best part about doing THIS race is that the wifey has signed up with me! Wifey does not do a lot of races on account of:

1) her dislike of running
2) she is not competitive at ALL. I think it is a dancer thing. Every dancer I know is non-competitive. I think it has something to do with the aesthetic. 

I think wifey also agreed to do this race because it is slightly crazy. The wifey likes slightly crazy things, thus, me! Here is the best part. There is something you do not know about wifey. She's a legitimate ringer. She might not train a ton now, but she has serious game. Like, way more game than I could possibly hope to have. Let me put things into perspective for you:

Wifey was invited to the Lake Placid Olympic development camp in high school. One day, last summer, my wife decides to go out and run my 10k course for giggles. Wifey does not train. Wifey runs the occasional 5k on a treadmill at the gym two or three times a week. Wifey goes out and runs 6:15's. She comes back sweating and a bit tired, but not in need of oxygen like I would have been. 

So, the breakdown of the running for the twelve of us will look something like this:

I really do not care what leg I run. I just think this will be an absolute blast. The hardest part of the race for Alaina and I will not be staying up all night and running, but rather, trying to find someone to watch out brood for four days. 

In Other News: My Garmin 310XT heart rate monitor decided to completely die. Crazy. The funny thing is my Timex Ironman race kit is still taking a licking and ticking. Garmin replaced my monitor two days later, and I am happy to say that I have a heart rate again. 

Training: I finally worked out yesterday for the first workout since Saturday. I did a two hour ride on Saturday that left me feeling terrible again. Since coming back from Seattle two weeks ago, I feel like I have not been more than 85%. I got in the pool last  night and did 3000 yards in one hour. I actually swam 2500 free, then started on my 800 kick. Yes, I used fins. Otherwise I would still be there. I think I could have done a bit more if it was not my first workout back in a few days off. However, when I hit the wall at 500 yards into the kick, my right leg started severely cramping. Dehydration is such an odd feeling. 

On the docket are a one hour zone two run tonight and a one hour tempo run tomorrow. With almost a week off from running, it will be interesting to see how my body reacts.  I think I vaguely remember how to run. 

More soon. Train Smart!

16 January 2011

Back By Popular Demand: The Nephews

When I raced my first Ironman at REV3 Cedar Point back in September, my nephews met me out in Ohio to act as my support group for the weekend. They were fabulous, and comic. To know them is to love them. I am happy to announce that the comedic pair has agreed to come out once again this summer to spend a weekend with me in Ohio as I set my sights on "getting even" with that little thing called the marathon. I have a score to settle with the marathon at REV3 Cedar Point.

My nephews are twenty-something young professionals. My nephew Nicholas is a  mechanical engineer, and Michael (at the wheel) is a marketing guru. 

One look at this video and you will immediately understand why I enjoyed having them around with me Ironman weekend. They do not take themselves, or Ironman, too seriously. They kept the mood incredibly light, and just went along with the flow. Awesome. 

Training: I think I tried to come back to soon after being sick. I had a two hour trainer ride yesterday (that was truncated to an hour and fortyy-five minutes. When I was done, I was literally spent—dripping from head to tow. My body did not feel right. Last night, I paid for it. The wonderful phlegm I started coughing up reminded me that I am in fact, not immortal as I previously thought. I am really disappointed because I have wanted to get in a long run for some time and I had an hour run scheduled for today. My body just feels terrible still. This is SO frustrating! What do you do? Take two or three days off? 

I am back at the Colleges this week teaching, so I want to be healthy for that as well. There is nothing worse than sitting in front of a class lecturing while you feel your lungs are about to collapse, or you have a sinus headache. 

I have a pretty long swim workout next week that includes an 800 kick. Yes.... an 800 kick, so I would like to be healthy for that. Oh, and I would like to grow fins for that as well. 

More soon. Train Smart!

12 January 2011

Sickness in Seattle

My trip out to Seattle for the premiere of my new piece, Chromium Music went well. I consider myself really fortunate that I get to work with so many super-talented musicians as part of my job. What made this especially great is that the group's inaugural performance also came with a CD release—which included two of my compositions. It was also especially rewarding that I got to travel to Seattle to work my friend, choreographer Missy Pfohl Smith. Missy is the Director for the Center of Movement and Dance Studies at the University of Rochester and  is the Artistic Director for the established modern dance company, BIODANCE. The wifey dances with Missy's company.

Being the conscientiousness triathlete that I am, I remembered to pack gear giving any set of circumstances that I might encounter. My wife had to hold me back from bringing a pair of bike shoes, but you can bet I brought jammers, a swim cap, goggles, cold-weather running gear (yes, tights too), gloves, and running shoes. Oh, I also brought bike shorts, just in case I found a place to bike indoors.

However, I made one fatal error in getting ready for my little excursion out to the Pacific Northwest—I forgot to bring my water bottle. Not good. Have you ever been on a flight for six hours with less than 18 ounces of fluid to drink? Amazingly, I always get sick after flying. I am hereby convinced that any future plane rides will have me ingesting a considerable amount of Airborne or Emergen-C.

You see, when I do not have my water bottle, I somehow manage to completely forget to drink. Upon arriving at our guest's home, I did manage to inhale three or four glasses of water before crashing. Too late. The damage was slowly and quietly  uncoiling my immune system to system failure.

I am not sure what kind of triathlon scene Seattle has, but with all of its many small lakes nestled around the city, I thought it was a perfect place to hold a kick-ass event. Of course, the water never actually gets very warm during the summer. Bonus—WETSUIT!

The morning after my arrival, I headed down to a place called Green Park with my friend/Seattle tour guide/violinist Jo. We did some running. It was fairly warm—upper 40's, low 50's—and it was drizzling all day and overcast. Imagine that. Raining in Seattle.

Proof that even musicians are bad-ass runners!

We went back to the house and got cleaned up to accompany joe to the luthier (someone who makes or repairs string instruments.) I felt like I was at a old world grocer.

Yes, I will take half a pound of the Stradivarius, and quarter pound of Guarneri please. 

Shortly after that, we made our way to rehearsal, BUT, not before stopping for lunch.

Jo said it was mandatory to stop and do the appropriate touristy thing and get a picture taken at this statue. I think this looks like an album cover gone terribly awry.

We made our way down to Pike's Street Market. If you go to Seattle, check this joint out. It is the bomb-diggity of all street markets. 
The market is a great place if you like seafood.    GUILTY. 
The Pike Street Market also caters to the Italiano. Have I died and gone to Heaven? 
Despite incessant pleading, and a very generous tip, this sitar player simply refused to play Free Bird. 
The only negative about the whole trip was my return back home. I got really sick on the plane ride back—from being dehydrated and exhausted and was laid out incapacitated in bed for twenty-four hours. 

So, here I am three days later... still in recovery.

Training: The training had been going really well until I came home sick. I had to take a complete day off today, so that I can get some rest and try to hit a swim/run in the morning.  

I had my second swim test of the season. Survey says: FASTER!  Something I am doing in the pool definitely working. 

Okay.. I need sleep. More soon. Train Smart!

06 January 2011

Holy Heart Rate Homeboy!

Oh Heart Rate... you really rue the day.

My last four weeks of training have been great, and I contribute that to a number of factors:

1) I have an exceptional new coach who is accessible and makes my swim workouts tolerable. 
2) I have made the Trakkers Team and have a lot of great new teammates to bounce ideas off of.
3) I have a positive mental attitude. 
4) Am learning that proper hydration and a minimum of seven hours of sleep can go a long way.

Unfortunately, with only three seasons of triathlon under my belt, I am at that point of knowing just enough to be dangerous.

For instance, this season, I actually took the time to learn the difference between a tubular and a clincher tire. Sure, simple enough you say. I had always heard the terms, but thought they were associated with World Wrestling Federation moves performed by the likes of Superfly Jimmy Snuka:

"... He's got him in the dreaded tubular now... and it appears... yes.. my goodness... he went right into a full clincher."

You know.. in a lot of ways, professional wrestling is just like triathlon. You get to wear a lot of tight spandex without anyone looking at you funny. The competitors are spent, and soaked in sweat while hugging their teammates at the end of the competition, and both sports have athletes that enjoy throwing their arms in the air, and making the number one sign while shouting like an air raid siren for some odd reason.

Oh, for those of you who are unfamiliar with these therms, :

Tubular: A type of tire mainly used for racing. A tubular tire has no beads; instead, the two edges of the carcass are sewn together (hence the term "sew-up") with the inner tube inside. Tubulars fit only on special rims, where they are held on by cement. If you do not glue those puppies on correctly, they can come undone, you could crash, and most certainly die, or at the very least, be held up in a hospital bed for 6 to 8 months. 

Clincher: This is the normal type of tire—you know, with the rubber balloon inside of the tire, referred to as a tube. It fits inside the tire and is mounted to the rim. 

If you want to sound really smart talking to the bike shop mechanic next time you are there, check out Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Glossary. 

So, about this heart rate thing. Apparently Coach Mary thought I knew things like my lactate threshold, maximum heart rate, and who this Joel Friel guy is. Heck, I still do not understand the difference between a $150 and $500 dollar wetsuit, and I am totally convinced that Andy Potts could beat me wearing one of those suits from 20,000 Leagues under the sea, much in the same way Lance could smoke me in a time trial riding a 1970's Schwinn.

Coach Mary—the greatest, most patient coach on the planet—had me doing a lot of my early base stuff in zone 2. Unfortunately, for the first two weeks of training,  I really had no idea what my zone 2 was, nor was I overly concerned until I remembered the reason I decided to work with a coach was so that I would actually improve my results from last season. I think she probably thought, this guy has some experience. He understands zone 2. Negative Ghost Rider. So, I took a lactate threshold test with a nerdy science friend of mine, and learned that my HR zones were off. Way off. I had previously thought that the ceiling for my zone 2 was somewhere around 125-127. Turns out, my ceiling is closer to 165 in zone 2. How did I get 125ish? Well, if you plug your maximum HR into your fancy Garmin by doing the unofficial "poor-man's" method of figuring out your HR (i.e. 220 minus your age), Garmin will conveniently spit out some generic HR zones for that work equally well for me as they do for the guy who smokes two packs of Marlboro's a day. It only makes sense that I should have a higher maximum HR than cancer stick guy. Now that I understand the zones, it is still a challenge to be patient and remain within them. I find little things like ego and boredom start creeping in and I just want to run. However, I understand what the idea is: slowly and steadily build up your zone 2 to allow yourself to run faster in that HR zone. In other words, I want to go from running a 9:30 mile in zone two to running and 8:30. Duh! There is no getting away with anything. I wear my HR monitor (most days—and when I don't, there are severe consequences).

Twilight Update: As many of you are aware of, the wifey and I have watched the first three Twilight movies and I hate to admit it—but I was completely sucked, er... bitten.... I mean... we really liked this teenage campy movie. I am totally Team Alice for sure.

So the wifey and I were sitting around the other night having a serious conversation about this whole vampire/werewolf thing. Here are some questions we have about all of it:

1) So, if Edward and what's her face get together, are they unable to procreate because he is.... you know... dead?

2) Do vampires poop? I mean honestly, they don't eat.

3) Can Edward and Bella have children? AND, if so, isn't it going to be weird once their kids are finally older than their parents?

Okay... plane to Seattle is calling... gotta run. More soon. Happy Training!

02 January 2011

New Years 7.5 Miler Race Report

I was pretty excited to get out there New Years morning and run.

It was 50˚ F this morning at 10 a.m. at the start of the race. Last year for this same race it was 2˚ F. I did not run the race last year because I do not run outside when it is 2˚ F. I believe only polar bears and abominable snowmen should run after prey when it is 2˚ F.

My instructions from Coach Mary were simple: "go all out." Actually... it was worded a bit more colorfully than that, but in an effort to keep my blog PG-rated, let's just say for all intensive purposes it was worded with the aforementioned rhetoric.

My extraordinarily tall blogger buddy Alexa—yes, I am laying it on thick, I know she's tiny as a tree elf—agreed to come out to the race to snap a few photos of me enjoying my 7.5 miler scamper. In exchange, I am Alexa's official therapist. Of course, this means I will have to pay it forward sometime and go out to  one of her races and snap some action shots. I will have to snap fast though. Alexa's all business.
Alexa's an Ironman. Can you tell?

Here I am with fellow Y buddy Nick

"Hamming" it up at the beginning of my race. 
So fast that I am blurry and not even touching the ground.
The actual race was great fun. I felt like I was in much better shape than when I went out and ran my Thanksgiving Day 10k. That day was quite dreadful. It was cold, windy, and I was sick with a head cold. 
By the miles:

Mile 1:
Realized that I should have warmed up longer, but unfortunately I saw about a dozen people I know at the race and spent a little too much time fraternizing, and not enough warming up.

Mile 2:  Feeling a little frustrated that I started so far back in the pack of runners. It took until the middle of mile two to clear some space for me to run. 

Mile 3: Thankful that I am finally warmed up. My 8:40 starting pace is gradually getting faster. I was running a solid 9:00 minute mile up some of the hills. 

Mile 4: Trying to stay positive and push my pace a little. Trying not to let my Thanksgiving Day run creep into my memory, when my race was essentially over at mile four because I felt so terrible. 

Mile 5: Have been running after the girl with the green shorts since mile 1. Still trying to catch her. 

Mile 6: Know that I have to keep my tempo up or turn it up if I ever want to catch the young running couple in front of me who seem to be casually going for an afternoon stroll. This was the hardest part of the run. Long, steady incline here. I was trying to keep my heart rate a little in check so I still had legs to make my final triumphant surge toward the finish and New Years Race immortality.

Mile 7: Pass running couple. Still gunning for green-short girl. Ran really hard the last quarter mile, but she ran harder. 

The Data:

151/357 Overall

119/242 M

AG ?  They could not read my age for some reason. There is a big question mark next to it. 

Overall, I am fairly pleased with the result. I mean, I would have loved to have won, but you know... it's early in the season and all. Kidding. I am really excited to see where I am come spring. 

There you go. It is all there. I can not fudge the data! 

More soon. Train Smart!