20 February 2012

Kick Out The Funk

There is good funk:

James Brown.

George Clinton.

Sly and the Family Stone.

At its best, funk is a perfect recipe of soul, jazz, and Rhythm and Blues that deemphasized melody and instead placed emphasis on the downbeat—so that white guys everywhere with poor rhythm and a terrible body awareness could understand what it means to groove. Yes.  There, I've said it. Funk helps white guys dance. Well, funk and vast quantities of malted hops and barley.

Nothing transports me back to the late 1960's like listening to the "Godfather of Funk" himself, James Brown. Music, like language, is more than just a tool to communicate. They both help us understand how people within a culture think. Plain and simple. We study languages to understand the way people think. We study music to understand the way people think.

What makes Papa's Got A Brand New Bag,War, and Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine so awesome are there ability to infuse unprecedented levels of sexual mojo to whoever dares listen to these libidinal masterpieces. Seriously, why do I always feel like I want to dress like Shaft and have the same swagger whenever I listen to JB?
Then, there is the BAD funk:

You wake up in the morning to look at your workout(s) for the day and feel overwhelmed by the prospect of spending more of your discretionary time with your ass on a bicycle, or running miles than sitting on a couch and allowing yourself to eat chocolate covered almonds and drink good stout. The best thing about the end of my season—which has culminated with REV3 Iron Distance at Cedar Point the last two years—is that I spend at least two weeks recovering, eating whatever the hell I want, whenever the hell I want.

I find that the Funk starts to creep in about two months after you've started your base training. You know what I'm talking about....
It's December and you have started your training for your first race..... in June... and realize... it is going to be a long, long winter.

There is good news. You can shake off the funk. A couple of good workouts in the gym and you are back to feeling like Bootise Collins. For me, there is also no substitute for sleep. Admittedly, I am still a total slacker when it comes to getting my butt in bed early. You would think that I would have no choice in the matter—than after getting up at 5:30 a.m. for a 3 hour training day—my body would go into a voluntary coma. Nope.

Does anyone else do this?

Do we as triathletes just enjoy pushing ourselves to the absolute bring of sanity? Wait.. don't you really have to be insane to even do this in the first place?

Kick it out.

The Funk.



I will have an awesome product review in my next post and some exciting news.

More soon. Train Smart!

01 February 2012

Vegans, Beer 4-Packs, And Training!

"If God didn't want us to eat animals, why did he make them out of meat.?" — Homer J. Simpson

As much as I love Israeli couscous and quinoa, I start salivating like Pavlov's dog at the mere thought of a strip steak. 

I do not really understand vegetarianism, let alone, vegans. I have listened to arguments about health benefits of vegetarianism for years from good friends who swear by it. I understand ideological vegans and vegetarians, but some can be a bit judgmental and militant towards us omnivores. My wife recently found herself in the middle of a heated Facebook exchange (as heated and serious as one can take a Facebook exchange) with a vegan who could not appreciate my wife's ignorance for ruining the world by eating animals. All I have to say to this is ... really? 

Do you drive a car? Do you put gas in it? A bicycle? Does it have parts that were manufactured in a factory? Do you make your own clothing? Oh, you do? From hemp? What do you use to sew it? A sewing machine? A needle manufactured in a factory in China? Unless an ideological vegan is prepared to live off the grid, eat only local ingredients, make their own clothes, dig their own wells, and live without indoor plumbing, please do not judge my wife. Or, if you do, prepare to be judged yourself. Pick your battles. I do not often stand atop the soap box, but I really get irked by the shortsightedness and hypocritical thinking by some folks. 

All I know is that after 3000 yards in the pool, or by mile 10 of a long run, I start visualizing and smelling cheeseburgers.

This can not be a coincidence.

Speaking of the pool, I had a really great second swim test this past week. I guess I should preface by saying I have never been a really efficient swimmer. I have only been swimming as long as I have been doing triathlons, which is six seasons. Before beginning triathlons, I was the guy who use to swim flinging his head from side to side keeping it above the water, or bury my face in the water and kick like hell and fling my arms in front of me with the hope that I might be getting somewhere quickly. What the hell was I thinking?

But I digress...

I shaved 18 seconds off my previous 400 time trial time. 18 seconds!

1 went from a 7:15's, all the way down to two consecutive 6:57's. That is good improvement for me.

The crazy part is that I feel that my effort has not nearly been as hard. I have learned how to re-relax in the pool while I am swimming. As a musician, I can attest to there being some similarities between performing on your instrument and training. As a pianist performing concert repertory, you have to make a conscious effort to continue to relax while you are playing—especially difficult passages. Improvisation can be even more mentally demanding. It is is one thing to play repertory form the printed page, but it is a completely different thing to compose "on the spot" in front of an audience while you are performing jazz. Nothing really prepares you for that like practicing technique and understanding the theory of jazz improvisation, but relaxation is key to this as well. Young jazz musicians will often feel the need to play too much, or continue to introduce new ideas rather than expanding on ones they have already stated. A more experienced player will allow space, and time for musical ideas to develop without being nervous about their audience. You have to trust your instinct, follow your own trajectory, rather than being worried how the music is being perceived in the moment.

So, my swimming has borrowed a page out of my musical playbook: "Allow it to happen."


BEER: What the hell is up with my favorite beers now being sold in four packs?  I want MORE of a good thing, not less! 

It happened first with Young's Double Chocolate Stout, followed soon after by Brooklyn Brewery's Black Chocolate Stout. To my knowledge, my favorite beer on planet Earth, or any other planet for that matter, Sam Smith's Oatmeal Stout has never been sold in a six pack, only four packs. Is it something specific to stouts? Are beer companies worried about the caloric intake of stout drinkers specifically? 

NETFLIX: Yeah, so I recently discovered Netflix. Perhaps you've heard of it?  For the past couple of years, I have been searching for ways to make my tedious long weekend trainer rides to seem a little less.... tedious. Music in my ears does not work, nor does reading. Although, I did read much of books six and seven of the Harry Potter series while working up a nice sweat. I am not sure whether my heart rate use to elevate because of my hatred of Voldermort, or because I was actually working hard. This brings me to my next random topic:

SPARTACUS: I am a sucker for those sword and sandal type films. You know, Gladiator, Clash of the Titans, Alexander, etc. I recently started watching the new Spartacus series—based on the legend of the famous Thracian leader who led his army of slaves against the the Roman Empire—on Netflix while on my trainer. It is everything I could ever want in a program for my long rides. There is plenty of gratuitous sex, graphic violence, and poor acting. What I find the most difficult to understand is how every single male gladiator and slave in the show are incredibly jacked for performance enhancing drugs. Seriously, how are these guys 6'2, 240, incredibly ripped with six packs while seemingly be limited to about an 800 calorie a day diet. More, they show these cats bare chested in the middle of winter crawling on the side of a mountain in the snow. They are not shivering. They barely notice that it is even cold, because their giant muscles and underdeveloped gladiator brains—and an apparent slight neurological problem not being be able to feel pain or cold—has left them unfettered by these minor nuisances. 

...and one more thing. Since when did these women have breast implants in ancient Roman times? Seriously!  If you are doing a period piece, it is difficult to take it seriously when there is more silicon in the breasts of some of the actresses than all of the semi-conductor industry. 

TRAINING: Training has been going unbelievably well. As in, I am doing it. Consistently. Perhaps that is why I have not been around as much as of late. I know... I know.. I use these lame excuses like having five children, blah blah blah, and a job that comes home with me every night (i.e. grading papers), blah blah blah, and a training schedule that I try to fit in to a ver busy professional life. LISTEN... I am NOT complaining. I am the luckiest human being on Earth. I have an unbelievably patient wife. Speaking of which, my wife has resurrected her amazing dance career and has been performing quite frequently after taking several years "off" to have children. I am quite proud of what she is able to do. 

RUN ACROSS AMERICA: You know what is really, really, really cool about the REV3 race series?

Answer: Everything.

But, do you know what else?

The amazing folks over at REV3 have decided to run across America. I know, how lame. I mean, they are going to just run across America once? How many times did Forest Gump run across the United States? The REV3 goal is to raise $100,000 for the Ulman Cancer Fund. I know that we have all been affected by cancer. I lost a lot of people I love dearly, especially my father, to cancer. 

What's that?  You say  you want to do your small part to kick cancer's ass? 

Do your part here, would ya?

REVIEW: I have an unbelievably kick-butt review coming up in my next blog post. Trust me, it's a winner. 

Train Smart!