Monday, December 10, 2012

Is this thing on?

I've been trying to post something for the last week or so.  Nothing has struck me as "post-worthy".  Yeah, I've been doing lots-working, training, riding my bike when I can, etc.-but nothing I really felt was interesting enough to write about.

I suppose the biggest thing going on has been my focus in my own training.  Like I said above, I've been riding my bike a bit, but I've focused a bit more on strength work recently.  Fact is I just haven't had the time to get out on my bike (part laziness, part time constraints, and part just not interested).  It's still my absolute favorite thing to do, but everyone once in a while you just need a break.  For me, the break's been all about trying to regain the strength I had before I started doing triathlon and mountain biking.

In my college days, I used to be a beast.  I was 250lbs of silverback gorilla.  All muscle.  I'll be honest in saying that I did it to get attention, and honest in that I did it to be intimidating (making up for a real low self esteem problem at the time).  The change in my life came in the form of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and later in MMA, where size and appearance aren't the deciding factors in who's gonna win a fight.  Maturity played it's role and soon, after learning to fight, I found myself riding a bike, running, and yes, actually swimming.  The rest is history.  What sucks about all this, though, is that even with the "healthy" change and difference in my attitude towards what "tough" actually is, came a HUGE loss in upper body strength and generally anything that didn't involve swimming, running, or riding.  What was fine at the time finally caught up with me this summer when I realized I was weak as shit, and could only lift about a fraction of the weight I was able to in my early 20's.

Now, before you get carried away and think that I'm back toward being a meathead, I'll explain.  My priority this time around is to be functionally fit.  Functional Fitness is a term that gets thrown around so much in the fitness industry it ought to be outlawed.  What functional fitness truly entails is performing daily and not so daily activities with proficiency.  Things anywhere from simply getting out of bed in the morning to moving a refrigerator from your basement to your garage (did that last one this past weekend!).  It's about being able to live your life and use your body as it's meant to be used, and it's about having a certain quality of life that will last you into your later years.  I'm very dedicated to giving  this last one to my clients, and now I've decided to take care of myself in the same way.

So with my workouts, I now have a more total body focus.  I'm not a big fan of Crossfit, but I believe in a lot of the principles they follow.  I agree with their idea of using body weight for many exercises and I agree with their ideas of using a full range of motion.  I agree that being able to move between one high intensity exercise to the next is important, and I agree that pushing yourself in different ways on different days is important to keep your body "on it's toes" so to speak.  Why I differ in philosophy from the Crossfit folk is primarily in timing their exercises and using a high volume rep scheme on powerlifting exercised that were not exactly designed to be used in such a way.

 I'll get into the timing thing in a second, but first a word about the high rep schemes for power lifting exercises.  I will say that when weight is adjusted appropriately, high rep power lifting movements can be useful.  I've learned with kettle bells that exercised like cleans, jerks, and snatches have their place in being "endurance" exercises.  However, when I see videos on youtube of "Crossfitters" doing high rep sets of cleans, jerks, and snatches with horrible form (as a coach watches no less) I begin to cringe.  The key, as with any workout program, is form and safety.  Complex movements need to be scrutinized at every point, otherwise the risk is far higher than the reward.

As for the timing of their WOD's (Work Outs of the Day), I'm in disagreement mainly because it encourages rushing through your sets to get the most done.  It places quantity in front of quality and I'm not in favor of that.  Even with a coach watching, your natural inclination when timing yourself is to beat the clock in any way possible.  Get in as much as you can in the least amount of time, usually at the expense, again, of form and safety.  No es bueno.  In order to get the most out of anything, you need to keep yourself honest and keep yourself safe.  Fighting against a clock invites too much variation to the equation.

With all that, I will be honest in saying that I do train some Crossfit workouts and I really do enjoy a lot of what they have to offer.  For where I'm at in my life, it makes sense to push myself in a different way and enjoy my workouts.  I'm not planning on competing in anything for the next few months, so this will be a nice little project for me to enjoy through the winter.  And, as an added benefit, it will be nice to have a focus which does not include having to depend on the weather.  If this winter is going to be anything like what we've had in the past (save for last winter), I'll be looking at months off my bike due to the snow.  Never a bad thing, and in this case, I'm looking forward to making the most of it.

I'll say this as a bit of a disclaimer... If Crossfit is your thing, than go on and get yours.  Fitness is all about what works for you and your lifestyle and interests.  If you like dodgeball, play dodgeball.  If you like bodybuilding, body build.  And if you like riding your bike, ride your bike.  As long as you're out and moving, you're doing it right.


Friday, November 23, 2012

More on Kettle bells...


alg_lance.jpg

Ok, so the image that most people think of (at least those in the "know" about what kettle bells are and what they're all about) is not that of Lance Armstrong doing a swing.  However, since he is a popular athlete-particularly in the last few months-it seems appropriate for me to begin this post with a picture of him doing a swing.  For the vast population of those people in gyms, kettle bells seem gimmicky...even at one time they did to me.  But, and it's a big BUT, there's so much more than meets the eye with these things.

There's a long history that I won't go into here (look it up on wikipedia if you've got the time), but I will say, that they've been around much longer than "traditional" gym equipment, and in my opinion, are a far better option when seeking to get the most from your workouts, and your performance potential.  

Speaking of "performance", lets take a moment to talk about that.  The number one thing that anyone should expect from any kind of exercise is performance.  Most think of performance as being an "athlete only" thing, but in real life, we've got to perform very basic activities day in and day out.  When someone talks about quality of life, they're referring to performance and how well you perform the basic functions of everyday life.  Nearly everyone is physical in some way.  Just to get out of bed in the morning, you've got to perform the actions we mimic with exercise (think crunches and squats).  It's of the absolute greatest importance that whether or not you fancy your self as an athlete, you are strong in the fundamental movements you PERFORM on a daily basis.  

Going back to kettle bells, the various kettle bell exercises mimic the things we do day in and day out.  I'm not going to go onto a long lecture on what specific exercises cover which specific actions, but I assure you, if you're to start a program integrating kettle bells (having learned to use them correctly of course), you're not only going to be stronger swimming, biking, or running, but you're going to cover yourself from injury and imbalance, not to mention making that next session of cleaning up the yard or chopping wood much, much easier.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Run what ya brung!

Though the title of this post often refers to mountain biking, I think it's got a bigger meaning and has been something I've thought about often these days.  As winter is looming, and surely going to be much worse than last year's "snowless" one, I'm thinking of more and more ways to be creative with my exercise so I don't get the dreaded seasonal depression that has afflicted me so often in the past.

As you know (or may not), I love to ride my bike.  I'll take a day on the mountain bike over just about anything else (exercise related anyway).  Being in the woods and on singletrack is one of my greatest pleasures in life.  I love my fiance, and I love my family, but being able to shred is a thing that is nearly sacred.  It clears my head and can put me in a good mood for days afterward.  These days I'm not riding as much as I want to, but when I do it's pure bliss.

Anyway, as I stated before, I'm trying to broaden my "winter athletics" horizons.  I like snowboarding quite a bit and have been exploring that avenue.  It's got all the same adrenaline rush as downhill mountain biking, and combines skills from skateboarding and surfing (some of which I have from skateboarding) that I feel can be fun and enjoyable to me.  I like building skills, both on the bike and otherwise, so the snowboarding might provide enough stimulus to get me over the hump.

Another thing I want to dedicate myself to is hitting the kettle bells...HARD.  I started lifting again this summer and since have felt so much better both on the bike and off.  It's fun to be strong and it's something that I never again want to let lapse.

The point I want to make is that you have to make due with what's presented to you.  In the past, I've let myself get down and allowed other things in life that are out of my control to dictate the way I've felt.  I've realized over the last few years that this is quite possibly the worst thing you can do.  If you can't control your body and your own emotions, what can you expect to get out of life?  If you let yourself get frustrated with things that are and never will be in your control, you will be lost.  No matter what life gives you, make the best out of it that you can.  Run what you brung!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thoughts

Whenever I sit down here to compose a blog, I usually start off with one thought in my mind that switches to about 30 by the end of the post.  I don't edit this in any way and I rarely re-read what I write, so I'm sorry if it doesn't make sense at times.  It is what it is and that's why I like it.  This is my little space to spout off at the mouth and I'll take the liberties it awards me with the greatest of appreciation.  In other words, it's my blog and I'll write what I want to!

I'm currently in a bit of a transitional phase, both in my life and in the sports (see: hobbies) I pursue.  I'm happily engaged to the most wonderful and beautiful woman I've ever met and I'm working hard at being the best man and best future husband I can be.  She makes me want to be a better man (yeah, that sounds cliche but it's absolutely true) and I can't imagine letting her down.  She's the best thing in my life and I'm more than excited to live, grow, and have a family with her.  On the sports side of thing, I'm for the moment putting a lot of things on hold.  I've had the itch to start racing again (only downhill and enduro), but for now it just isn't right.  I don't have the time to make the commitment to it that I'd want to in order to be competitive, and because of this have decided it's best to just ride my bikes and have fun when I can.  It's not a cop out, it's just reality.  I've thought about how much time I'd need to feel confident in my racing abilities, but the need for money and procuring a future for me and my future wife is just more of a priority right now.  As the great Lucho once told me, "racing will always be there".  He's right.

Exercise, in relation to my sports, though, has been a lot of fun.  I've been exploring kettle bells quite a lot in the past months, and I'm in love with the feeling of being strong again.  I hadn't realized how much I'd slipped in the strength department when I was busy riding my bike.  Let's just say it's almost embarrassing to see how much I'd slipped in that regard.  Nevertheless, after a few months swinging around kettle bells and becoming serious about strength training, I'm feeling a lot less like a girly man and much more like I did in my early twenties.  For me now, the only thing I need to watch out for is over doing it.  Physically I'll be able to hold up much better and see increasing results if I don't push it too much.  Like everything, too much is often a bad thing when it comes to kettle bells.

And then there's my new dirt jumping obsession.  Like I said in my post yesterday, it scares the hell out of me and that's why I'm doing it.  I haven't found many things in life that feel better than conquering your fears, and this is just another test of my own meddle.  I'm still amazed at how the process of doing these things work, and the feeling of accomplishment you feel when you get what you're going after.  Pretty cool all around and a journey I'm enjoying thus far.

Long story short, life is good.  There's a lot of exciting things in store, along with a lot of changes as well.  Life is continuing to march on, and for one of the few times in my life, I feel like I'm in the train and on the right track.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Process

In sports you hear the words "the process" thrown around quite a bit.  In endurance sports that coincides most times with training; in team sports it can mean cohesion of a team and/or skills development.  So many times throughout my athletic life, I've heard these words but never really sat back to think about what they mean.  Sure I've always trained or practiced for something, but I always just let things take their natural course.  I suppose as I grow more into adulthood and approach new sports with a more mature mind, I "think" things through much more now than I did when I was younger and just "did" them.

On a bit of a whim, I got a dirt jump bike this autumn.  Obviously I've been riding bikes for quite some time now, but in with my ever-lasting desire to learn more stuff (about every two years I shift my focus to a new sport-I'm developing a pattern here!) I decided to give it a go.  The seed was really planted this summer in Spain when I watched all the kids in the village riding DJ bikes everywhere-and I mean EVERYWHERE.  They rode them on the streets, the steps, the trails-anywhere and over everything. I loved the versatility of the bikes and figured owning one would be worthwhile just because of that.  But, it was when I saw them jumping that I was sold.  Small jumps or big jumps, it didn't matter.  It was awesome to see them develop their skills...and skills, after all, are what attracted me to my love of mountain biking.  See where I'm going here?

Ok, well if you don't I'll spell it out.  Skills on a bike are something I really value.  When someone tells me that "so-and-so" is a good rider, I ask them, "In what way?"  To me, Lance Armstrong is a 'strong' rider, but I wouldn't necessarily call him a 'good' rider.  Danny McCaskill is a ridiculously 'great' rider, but he might not be considered a 'strong' rider.  The measure of a rider, in my opinion, of being fit vs. skilled is very important.  Lance is very fit and can ride on paved surfaces faster than most, but Danny can backflip, front flip, tail whip, etc. until the cows come home.  It's two different types of riding-one requiring great fitness and one requiring great skill.  Sure, it takes skill to climb, descend, and navigate mountain roads like Lance, but I don't think I'd lose an argument as to who the more 'skilled' rider was.

So anyway, with all that, my skill set on a bike is very important to me.  I feel that endurance can be built up in anyone.  Skills require a patience and natural ability that not everyone possesses.  Yeah, there are some people who will be faster and stronger than others as they reach their peak fitness, but I feel like there is a much more definitive line drawn by what limits skill development.  Earning your peak fitness on a bike takes patience and commitment.  Earning your maximum skill potential takes patience and, in most cases, a giant set of balls.

Back to the DJ bike...
So I got this thing and have ridden it a few times.  Been to the dirt jumps (before today) a couple times, and then did some street riding (learned 180's and how to ride backwards-before falling off-in the process).  It wasn't until hitting the jumps today, though, that I realized learning the new skill of dirt jumping is a process.  It takes commitment, heart, and guts enough to know that you're going to crash, get dirty, and possibly get injured.  However, if you go about it in a specific way, you're going to get the most out of it.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraphs, I'm taking a more "thinking man's" approach to this.  The idea that I'm "just going to get out and do it" doesn't take a back seat, but it does share one with the question of "how am I going to get there?"  The answer, quite simply is progression.  You start small, doing what you can manage, and then you push the envelope ever so slightly.  When you get comfortable there, push it only a slight bit more.  Get out of your comfort zone until it becomes your comfort zone.  Then, continue to repeat this process.  With consistency, you'll build confidence and strength in what you do.

What I've got here isn't anything grand, and certainly isn't anything that anyone who has accomplished anything in their life would consider strange.  What I suppose it is, is a road map for getting to where I want to go.  With endurance sports, this would be referred to as a training plan.  I'll call it my "skill-development plan".

The process is what this is all about.  Learning along the way and dealing with adversity won't always be an easy thing, but in the end I'll find out some things about myself and do something that I'll be proud of.  I think what's most important in this is that I do this for me and only for me.  Sure I'm stoked that it'll look cool and people might think I have "talent", but why I really do this is because it legitimately scares me.  Something about overcoming that fear and doing with my body what my brain says isn't possible is kind of a cool thing.  Actually, it's a DAMN cool thing.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A bit more thought...

After I posted my last post yesterday, I started to think that perhaps I'd been a bit too harsh.  Maybe I was letting things get to me a little too much and getting them out on the screen helped.  I won't exactly go back on what I said yesterday, and the thoughts expressed, but I will say that the way I reacted was a little over the top.  It's not that I'm apologizing for the way I feel-and the last thing I want to do is come off being PC-I just feel that everyone has their own ways to deal with things and mine was to spurt out a bunch of thoughts on my blog.  Enough said.

Things are slowly getting back to normal.  The storm that came about 2 weeks ago still has lingering effects (people are still without power, water, and homes), but life as I know it is just about back to what it was before.  One glaring thing though, still out of the norm, is the mountain bike trails in the area.  Some trail systems were hit harder than others, but I think my most local trails were hit the hardest.  Trees are down and branches along with other debris cover the trail.  It's a mess back there and it made my attempt to ride with some folks today a near impossibility.  Still it was good to get out and get on with some things, but it's going to be a lot of hard work and time before the trails are back to what they were.

The rest of the day will consist of caffeine, yard cleanup, and football.  Not a special day by any stretch of the imagination.  The one huge difference between this day and the past days is the weather, however.  Super warm and beautifully sunny.  Had the trails been primed and ready to go, it would have been the perfect day for a ride.  Cool enough not to sweat too much, but warm enough to wear a t-shirt and shorts.  PERFECT riding weather.

Tomorrow, weather wise, will be more of the same, so at least that's something to look forward to.  Anyway....Keep on trucking!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Am I being too hard on people?

For the last couple of weeks, I've been on edge from the storm and having to rearrange my life according to what "easy" things were now transformed into "hard" things.  More than anything, this storm, for me at least, was just one of inconvenience.  I didn't loose loved ones, property, or anything other than power, so to say I and my family got off easy is an understatement.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.  I got out on my road bike early this morning, and, after having missed the group I was supposed to ride with, decided to run some errands, one of which involved stopping in to the gym where I work.  It's been a while since I showed up in full lycra to the gym, and I usually like to keep a low profile about my riding when I'm there (I don't want what I do for fun to become "part" of my job).  As I walked about, grabbing a few things before setting off again, a member  came up to me and inquired about where I was riding, how many miles I planned to do, and how many hours a week I train-all the normal stuff I've been asked a million times by anyone interested in what I was doing.  Innocent enough question, but then it lead to him telling me about his son, how he just did a half ironman, how he brings his bike with him when he comes to visit, and how if I want a "real" workout, I should try and keep up with his son when he's here.

While I was smiley and cordial on the outside, I was burning from the inside.  I get so pissed when people start to compare workouts, compare times, and compare their "strengths".  It's just like cockroaches, as soon as one measured "thing" is announced, everything starts to come out and be compared.

As I rode on after this happened, I started to wonder if I was mad because I was competitive and wanted to say that I was probably a better rider than his son?  Or was I mad because I'm genuinely sick of this "look at me (or my friend/son/daughter/etc.) and how tough I am" attitude.  The truth is, no one cares!  Nobody cares about how much you rode your bike or how tough you are because of it.  I'll admit, when put in the correct forum and in the correct wording, "training talk" can be cool and very beneficial.  However, if I posted up every ride/workout/stretch/poop I did, even I would get sick of myself.  Yeah, triathlon, and all endurance sports are tough, but I don't think any more or less of you as a person because of what you can or can't do.

I suppose what I'm getting at here is that I'm sick of people hiding behind masks.  They try and prove something to everyone (and especially themselves) by describing how hard what they do is.  Generally, all this running around boils down to a hobby for 90% of the individuals involved.  Therefore, it is something that is done by choice and by fun.  It's kind of hard to be a certified badass when you're doing an activity (albeit a tough one) that you chose to do and in some way enjoy.  Tell the soldiers fighting our wars that you're a badass for riding your bike while their out risking their lives so you can.  Tell them how hard your last swim session was, and try to impress them with how hard you are because you did a stacked brick workout.  I'm sure they'll agree you're just as tough as you think you are as they tell you about how they were able to get out of their Humvee just before it exploded from an IED.  And they'll surely agree that you're a tough guy because you held X amount of Watts on your last ride while they were fighting off insurgents with automatic weapons.  Go ahead, and let me know how that works out.

I might seem a little brash here and I may seem a little insensitive.  Of course this does not apply to all people that participate in endurance sports (or any sport for that matter).  Yeah, we all think at some time or another when we compete that we're a badass for completing something or coming out victorious in an event.  The only thing I ask for is a little humility.  Remember to put what you're doing into perspective.

So, should I be mad with what the member said to me today?  Should I let it get to me to the point where I spend my precious time vomiting on my blog about it?  Not at all.  My own anger at this situation is symptomatic of exactly the type of thinking I outlined in the words above.  I'm just as guilty as he is of the "look at the badass I am" sickness.  At the end of the day, the best thing we can do is to examine ourselves before we speak.  Learn about the inner you and be honest with what you find.  Do this first, and then speak.

Ah, glad I got that off my chest!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Honestly...

People need to get a clue.  I had a person come to me today asking if I could move a class that I teach to an earlier time that suited her better.  While I have absolutely no problem with trying to please anyone and everyone that takes the time to come to my class, I was outraged by her request.  She specifically sighted the fact that because of the class's time, she was stressed about being able to get a workout in, as she has to pick her kids up from daycare/school.  There are two blaring things wrong with her request:

1-She did not take into consideration the other "regulars" in the class.  These people come at the time that the class is scheduled, week after week, and have arranged their schedules so that they can be there.  They count on the class being that time each and every week, and have adapted what they do around it. And,
2-She has not realized the fact that the class is there as a service from the gym and is included in her membership.  Therefore, if she wishes to get more of a workout in, she should come 15 minutes before the class, use the weights and other equipment the gym provides, and do her own workout prior to the class.  She's a big girl, I think she can manage something on her own.

The real fault here lies in her inability to be self sufficient.  This recent storm and living in the dark and cold has taught me (as well as many others, I imagine) a whole lot about being self sufficient.  You have to adapt to what's presented to you, and if you can't, then you're shit out of luck.  I can understand her want of a "structured workout", and not wanting to go it alone, but somewhere deep down you have to summon the will power to learn and do a workout on your own.  She's motivated enough to come to the gym, certainly a 39 year old woman can be equally motivated to learn a few movements and train on her own for 15 whole minutes.

Perhaps I'm letting this get under my skin a little too much, and perhaps I should be more understanding, but with all that is going on in the Northeast and all the people who have lost so much but continue to persevere, I can't help but get angry at a person like this.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Starbucks Purgatory

So I can't be upset.  I talked to one of my best friends last night. He lost his house, many of his possessions, and just about any semblance of a normal life for the foreseeable future.  Through it all, he's been upbeat, and keeps on movin' on.  No tears, no complaining, just manning up and taking it as it comes.  I admire that.

For me, the power outage we've had has been somewhat therapeutic.  You realize what you need, what you don't need, and all those things we have that don't actually matter when it comes to survival.  If you've got water and shelter, you're just about halfway there.  Get some warm clothes and the occasional meal and you can actually live.  Sure there's no Facebook, no internet, and not a whole lot of comfort, but in reality, you can look forward to seeing the sun rise on the following morning.

I can't say that all this has had a transforming effect on my personality.  What I can say, however, is that it's served to reinforce those things that I knew deep down were integral parts of my personality.  More and more each day that passes I am sure that my values and core beliefs in what life should contain-those possessions that are needed and those that are not, how you see the world, and such-are correct and can be upheld.  In a lot of ways, I believe I would be happier living with less, on a mountain somewhere with the bear minimum.  Something about that gives me energy and makes me feel truly human.

I digress... Before this goes too deep into something about life and the human condition, I'll get back to the title of this post.  I'm sat in Starbucks-again-as I have just about every day since we've lost our power and water.  Mostly it's to get warm, check emails, and just veg out.  With what I've stated in the above paragraphs, I'm noticing more and more the trivial crap that goes on in the world as I sit here.  So funny how just a week ago we were all banding together, moving toward a common goal of sorts, and now, just like it was the days before the storm, we're back to the bullshit.  Just an observation and I'm not sure I'm getting through to my point (having coffee names and people yelling about politics in my ear as I write this has derailed my train of thought more than a few times).  Still though, this all makes me think about how nice it would be to get out of all this and live as we were intended to live.

So, here I sit in my little Starbucks Purgatory, yapping away on my keyboard and pondering life.  I wonder if this is what the founder of Starbucks had in mind when he set up shop...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hurricane Sandy (and the aftermath)

If you haven't heard, the Northeastern part of the US got ravaged by Hurricane Sandy about a week ago.  People have lost their lives, their houses, and the well-being in addition to losing their power and having many gas shortages.  It's getting colder now, and those of us without power are starting to feel the effects.

There are many things in this time that you feel thankful for, but most of all it's nice to be alive and know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Luckily, my family and I didn't lose our house, though we haven't had power since the storm, and lost our drinking water a few days after.  These things will return, and we've got the means to deal with it until they do.  Yeah it's frustrating, but a lot of people have lost a lot more.  We are fortunate to have a roof over our heads, warm clothing to put on, and money to go out and buy food.  Many at this point do not.

One of my best friends and his wife lost their entire house, all their belongings, and any normalcy they could have expected for the foreseeable future.  In addition, his family, which all live in the same area, lost their houses as well.  In some way or another, I don't know of anyone who lives in the surrounding area NOT to have been touched by a friend or loved one who has at least lost something.

And then you bring things to the week after.  People are waiting in lines for gas, so desperate that they are willing to fight and literally kill one another.  We have another storm approaching tomorrow night and still the very real possibility that many are going to be without power and even colder as the temperatures drop below freezing in the coming days.  Again, I'm thankful to have a roof over my head.

I'm not one to beg, or one to solicit in any way, but if there is the possibility that you can donate money, food, supplies, or clothing to anyone affected by this storm, please find the means to do so.  Like I said, my family and those close to me are fortunate, but many are not.

Friday, November 2, 2012

In search of...

DIRT JUMPS!!!!

So this stupid bitch of a hurricane, Sandy, has things up in the air as far as most "life" things are considered, so methinks what better time to get a little gnarly with my ass and build some new jumps in a secret place close to my home.  Ideally I'd like to find a spot deep in the woods with the potential to get by using pedal power only, but I realize, given my location, that I might actually have to travel a bit to find my ideal spot.  Nevertheless, the digging will commence tomorrow!

We lost our power on Monday during the storm, and haven't been back on the grid since.  Yesterday, while washing my hands, we lost clean water as a brownish sludge covered my then Palm Olive clean hands.  As I've said to Anne, people live like this many places in the world each and every day.  I (and hopefully my parents) can deal with a little bit of discomfort and inconvenience for the next week or so.  After all that we've been through, the calm and quiet nights really aren't all that bad.

So with the uncertainty of the power and water coming back on, and the general "life situations" dealt with, it's time to get out and have some fun.  I managed to get in a pretty cold, albeit fun kettle bell workout today (felt like Rocky getting ready to fight Ivan Drago) and tomorrow, as mentioned above, I'll attempt to get out with the shovel and build some new dirt jumps in a hopefully "double secret probation" type of spot.  I'm not sure what I'll come up with, or even if things will work, but screw it, Why the hell not!?

Over and out for now-whenever this power comes back on I'll be back to my normal life.  For now it's all about appreciating what we've got, and realizing how lucky we all are for having our lives and our families around us.  Let's play Monopoly bitches! :)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Busy Week

Lots and lots going on these days, most of it work related.  Not to exciting I'm afraid, but then again, "exciting" is like art-all in the eye of the beholder.

Since Anne's left, it's been a whirlwind of work, work, and trying to ride my bike when I can.  These days I'm lucky to get in 3 rides, so I've been supplementing my riding with weight work and running.  Getting back into both has got me riding better than I have in a while, as well as feeling much more balanced in the process.

Like I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm VERY into kettle bells these days.  Not only are they something I believe can make you stronger and more explosive, but they're something that can balance you out at a much quicker rate than anything I've done before.  I've found that detecting imbalances is something that's hard to do with traditional gym equipment and even yoga.  Sure you may feel that you're not stretching in a certain way, or that one leg is stronger than the other, but in truth, it's difficult sometimes to put a finger on exactly what it is.  For me, kettle bells have pointed out a severe imbalance I had going in my back-one that I may not have stumbled upon otherwise.  Through their use, I have quickly and efficiently addressed it and made myself a more flexible and powerful athlete.  It sounds like a bunch of "hocus-pocus" talk, but kettle bells are the closest thing I've ever encountered that resembles a true "miracle" piece of equipment.

As for the running, I can't say that I've 100% fallen back in love with it as in it will replace my bikes, but for certain it is a viable substitute when I'm crunched for time or can't make it to the trail.  It's just easy to tie up the trainers and head out the door.  Getting to the trail can take time and planning.  Sure it can be done, but on a day to day basis where you may have clients calling last minute to either work out or cancel their sessions, having a pair of running shoes with me means I can run anytime, anywhere when I need to.  Of course I've taken things out of the gate a little too hard and I'm dealing with a bit of a knot in my calf at the moment, but hey, at least it's getting me to think outside of the box a bit with my exercise instead of being glued behind my handlebars.

I have to say that for the first time in a long time, running doesn't seem like work.  Yeah it hurts and yeah I'm not able to run as easily as I did a couple years ago, but as the muscular system gets up to par and weight goes down a bit, it'll come back sure as anything.  It's fun again and keeping it that way is my biggest priority.  No GPS.  No HRM.  Just trainers, dorky tights and/or shorts, and a relaxed mind.

Another new thing (or old as the case may be) is that I'm considering buying a new road bike.  It's been a while since I've been out on a road bike, and now having sold my old faithful Trek before the summer began I've got nothing to ride.  I've been offered a really sweet deal from a local shop and I just may take them up on it.  Only problem is I'll have to sell one of my other bikes to get it.  I'm definitely not looking forward to that, but in reality, getting fit again and making a purchase that I'll use more than what I'm selling seems like a reasonable thing.  I'm still in the process of thinking it all through, but a skinny tired, suspension-less bike may soon be in my future.

Otherwise it's just keeping my nose to the grindstone and getting work whenever and wherever I can.  I've got a lot to look forward to in the coming months: A trip to England, seeing my beautiful Fiance, and enjoying the beginnings of the next chapter in my life.  To say I'm happy would be an understatement.  Right, time for a run!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Let's talk about bikes, baby...

...let's talk about you and me, let's talk about all the good things and the bad things that can be!

I felt it appropriate to blog about bikes and the good and bad things that they bring today in light of the recent developments regarding Lance Armstrong and the US Postal team.  What a shit-show it's all become.

I'm not going to sit here behind the keyboard and say whether or not I believe Lance Armstrong to be innocent.  To me, at this point, it doesn't really matter.  It's more than clear cycling has been dirty, and the recent news drags it further into the mud.  It's too bad because there's really been so much done to clean things up, and I'd bet money that this past year's Tour de France was one of the cleanest on record.  Yes, there will always be cheats, but it's getting (seemingly anyway) harder and harder.

Anyway, moving on to where I'm going with all this...
I started thinking a lot about riding this morning when I got an email from some cycling website I joined (I really can't remember the name) asking me how riding a bike has changed my life.  As I thought about it, I can say the clear winner in what cycling has brought me is my future wife, Anne.  I met her because of triathlon and subsequently because I rode a bike.  If I hadn't gotten into cycling and then into triathlon, I never would have been in a little village outside of Spain in 2009 attending a training camp where she worked.  If you'd asked me if riding a bike would bring me the woman who I love so dearly, I can't honestly say I would have believed it.  So awesome.

As I thought more throughout the day, I started getting into more and more aspects of my life that have been effected by my two-wheeled passion.  At first all I wanted was to be fast-faster, faster, faster!  I had my skinny tired road and triathlon bikes and my life was filled with numbers, training sessions, more numbers, heart rate monitors, power meters, and lycra.  Fun was tempo sessions, trainer sessions, and back to back long rides.  After getting sick with the predictability of riding the road, I got into cross country mountain biking.  I transferred the fitness built over a couple of years dedicated to road riding to mountain biking and enjoyed it for a bit.  But still I wanted more.  Mountain biking provided the excitement I needed, but the endurance races I was doing began to remind me of my days riding the roads.  Long, long sections of fire road climbs and descents coupled with single track that was just too mellow had me thinking of bigger and harder challenges.  So I bought a full suspension trail bike.  Five inches of travel front and rear had me trying things I never would have thought of ever doing when I was training for the road.  I was hitting drops, rock gardens, and jumps with reckless abandon and dedicating myself to improving not just my fitness, but more importantly, my SKILL on the bike.  I moved onto racing downhill and enjoying more than ever the adrenaline rush I got from shredding my big, heavy bike at speed down steep and technical trail.  I find myself now enjoying trail riding more than anything.  A mountain bike with 150mm of travel front and rear is the sweet spot for me-allowing me to climb and to bomb nearly any trail, grinning the whole way.

So through the story I've told, I  realize I've learned more and more about myself and the type of person I really am.  When I was on the road and doing triathlon, it was all about competition.  When was the next race?  What was my average power for a 10k TT? A 40k TT?  Numbers, numbers.  Now, after having decided to step away from all the pressure I was putting on myself, I'm just enjoying riding my bike.  I'm enjoying hitting the trail with friends and not worrying about pace, distance, or time.  Just riding and having a beer at the trail head when we're done.  I'm allowing myself more room for personal development and more time to go after the other interests I have in life.  While my life still revolves around the bike, it actually doesn't.  If I ride I ride, but if I don't it's because I was doing something else that's important to me.  So, in this regard, the ultimate result is more balance.

And then we're brought to today where I landed my first 180 on a dirt jump bike.  Again, pushing my skills to another level and developing myself further on the bike.  From the person I was back in 2006 when I started riding road bikes to the person I am 6 years later is phenomenal.  It blows my mind that I can still get as excited as I was when I got that first race bike back in 06.  It's a wildly different bike and a wildly different style that I could have imagined, but it's still two wheels, pedals, and handlebars.

So when I see how cycling has been brought through the mud and I see the sorry state of what a "joke" sport it has become to many people around the world, it saddens me only a little bit because I know it's so much more than that.  I've experienced so much more than just lycra and skinny tires.  So much more than just big suspension and mud tires.  Though I've really never mad much from it, I've gained a fortune in life by being on two wheels.  It's an amazing thing.  Lance isn't cycling.  The old US Postal team isn't cycling.  The kids on BMX bikes are cycling.  The 40 year old soccer mom that wants to get fit is cycling.  Don't get it twisted.  Bikes are a way to travel, gain freedom, and do something that might just change your life whether you know it or not.

Get a bicycle.  You will not regret it if you live.  ~Mark Twain, "Taming the Bicycle"

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I know, I know...

I'm terrible at updating this blog.  Every time I say that I'll "elaborate" or "fill in the blanks" on something, it takes me ages to get to it.  Even with the best intentions, I usually fall short simply because there are other things going on.  I guess it's a symptom of society and the never ending attitude of instant gratification.  In the past couple years I feel that my attention span has just gone to a fraction of what it used to be.  I find it hard to actually read anything that's more than 140 characters (thanks Twitter!).  We're just so into speed and efficiency as a society it's crazy.  I'll have to force myself to actually sit down and breathe every once in a while.  Maybe reading a book or two might help!

Anyway, I dropped a bombshell (actually 3) in my last, "mini" post the other day.  Of course, I'm more than just a little bit excited about being engaged.  I feel like the luckiest man in the world to have found someone that I not only love with all my heart, but that makes me a better person every minute that I'm with her.  She's the most beautiful person, inside and out, that I've ever met, and I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with her.  I could go on and on with the cheese, but I'll spare anyone reading from all my mushiness.  Bottom line is I couldn't be happier. Period. :)

As for the running, I've again found a pair of trainers and the road.  I had been wanting to get back into the swing with it, but, because I'm a paranoid type, I laid off until the beginning of October.  Back in April, I tore the skin apart between my toes on my right foot.  I was mountain biking and hit a downed tree trunk with my foot.  The sharp edge of the trunk tore through my shoe, splitting my toes apart and causing the injury.  It wasn't a puncture, but rather a result of the toes just being spread so far apart so quickly.  I didn't realize how bad it was at the time, thought at worst that I'd just broken my toes and rode on.  It wound up taking months to heal and I was off the bike for a while.  Not fun, but I didn't want to re-injure it.  So, because of the obvious nature of running, I wanted to give it a bit of extra time to really heal.  Soft tissue is a bitch to heal, and the last thing I wanted to do was start running too soon, mess it up, and spend more time off my bike.  If you have to choose between breaking a bone and tearing some skin/ligaments/tendons, I'd advise you to break the bone.  If it's clean and "run of the mill" it'll heal faster.

Well, I got back into running on Monday and it was fantastic.  The only drawback to having not run in nearly 1 and a half years was that even though my heart and lungs were still well conditioned from all my riding, my legs are not nearly what they were.  I made it about 5 k before I started to get soreness.  Still, not bad considering the length of my layoff, and I wound up being able to run again the following day.

I think the reason for my layoff was nothing more than just simply burning myself out to the point where I didn't even want to see a pair of running shoes.  All of the technical aspects and "training" I was doing really took the fun out of it.  For now, I'm happy to run for as long as I want when I want.  In no way to I want to start to train for any races or to run for any other reason than it just makes me happy.  I don't care about pace, I don't care about time, and I don't care about distance.  I just care about being out there, moving my feet, and enjoying being outside and not tied to anything other than my feet hitting the ground.  While I love my bikes and nothing makes me smile (except my fiancĂ© of course!) more than shredding single track, the simplicity of running makes me calm and settled unlike anything else.  There's no equipment to worry about, no terrain to travel to, and nothing besides the clothes on my back and the shoes on my feet needed to get fulfillment.  Very cool and I'm glad to be back into it.

So finally, for the vegan thing...
Simply put, my diet has been shit.  I blame this mainly on triathlon (because I blame triathlon for everything!).  Really though, it's more a function of being young and being able to get away with it.  Before I got into racing tris, I was into MMA fighting and bodybuilding.  Both of which require you to eat cleanly and target your training around being a specific weight (MMA more so, but there is a similarity).  So, because of that, I paid a lot of attention to my diet and ate rather cleanly for a guy in his early and mid twenties.  When I found triathlon, I got into the habit, like most I suppose, of eating anything and everything around.  Yeah, some may not do this, but when training for long distance tri, it's pretty hard not to.  I have a lot of respect for those people (my fiancĂ© included) that can remain disciplined enough to eat healthy AND race long.  To me, it was hard enough to get in the calories with junk food, much less pounds and pounds of fruit and veg.

Fast forward to the present and you have a nearly 32 year old, ex-triathlete-mountain bike rider-kettle bell swinger-runner-personal trainer.  For the moment, I'm very concerned with setting up things for my future wife and I, getting work straight, and taking care of the "life" things that I was able to put on the back burner for so long when I was pursuing my racing goals.  Sure, I could still race and get all these life things together, but I'm the type that becomes so obsessed with competition that I could never be productive in both.  I'm happy being in a supportive role now for Anne, and that's where I'll stay until things get a bit more settled.

So, the vegan thing.  It's really more to do with being healthy than anything else.  I don't think that I would ever become a strict non-meat eater, but I do think it's a great way for me to get the jumpstart I need.  By focusing on a plant based diet for at least a little while, I think I can start to get in the habit of making better choices and change my attitude toward those healthier options that I've neglected for quite a while.  Along with this, I like what I've read in researching it along the lines of heart disease and cancer incidence, both of which run in my family.  This is becoming more and more important to me as I see my father deal with his cancer.  It's a real "C. U. Next Tuesday" of a disease, and I'd like to never have to deal with it again.

And that's all folks!  I promise to get more pictures up on this thing sometime soon, as well as TRY to document my experiences with the vegan experiment.  I plan on easing into it gradually over the next week or so.  This should make things a little easier when giving up all the good tasting crap I've been eating!    

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bombshell!

Ok, 3 big statements and then I'm out for the time being. (Until tonight when I elaborate on all three!)

1. I'm in love with running again.
2. I'm changing my diet RADICALLY (and that includes possibly going vegan)
3. I'm engaged!  (This is by far and away the best of the three, and the reason I left the best for last!)

That is all for now.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Really kinda funny...

...how this whole blogging thing goes.  Years ago blogging used to be the next "big thing."  I can remember reading blogs all night and finding inspiration from my favorite athletes to keep going and training.  It still is fun, and I do still find inspiration, but the world has changed, even in the past two years.  Twitter and Facebook have become the norm, and taking the time to actually "read" a whole blog seems like too much.  Maybe it's me, and maybe it's growing up and having less time.  Or, maybe it's just being impatient and becoming used to the instant gratification that twitter and Facebook provide.  I'm not sure how to quantify it, but I find myself skimming long posts more and more these days.

Ok, end of thought process...

Last week was a solid week for me.  Getting stuff done, working out hard-both on the bike and off it-and finding the time to relax a bit have been awesome.  I can't say that I've ridden a lot or even done the type of riding that I really enjoy, but I've gotten in enough time to make me feel happy.  Couple that with the time I've been putting into my kettle bell training and all is good.  In the kettle bells, I've really found something that's not only brought me back into the realm of strength training, but something that's really proved to be beneficial not only in my riding, but in my life as well.  For the first time since college, I feel strong.  Real life strong.  Strong to the point of things being easier.  My every day life is improved.  It's amazing how much I let myself slip in that area.  Needless to say, I'm back and feeling good.

The rest of the week is work, some riding, and plenty of kettle bells. I'm trying to put together a bit of a home gym, complete with kettle bells, ropes, sledge hammers, tires, and heavy bags.  Real life Rocky shit!  Should be good and I'll post pics when it's done.  Looking forward to wrecking myself at home! :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cruising Along

There are so many things I wish I could write here at the moment.  My life has taken such a dramatic change for the better I'm on the edge of my seat wishing I could write everything that's gone on in the last 5 months.  In time, in time...

Anyhow, I got a lot done today and woke up with that "I'm gonna kill the day" attitude today.  I got a lot done and by the end of the day felt more accomplished than I have in about a week.  Still there's more to get done, and things that need to be addressed, but at the end of the day, I'm feeling pretty damned good.

A lot of this good feeling can be contributed to the people around me, the circumstances I live in, and most of all, a beautiful woman that I know is by my side, whether we're together or an ocean apart.  It's funny how this life things goes, and I've quit trying to make plans when "life" obviously has other, more important considerations.

I continued to work the kettlebells today, loving them more and more with each workout.  And, of course, I got out on the bike with one of my best friends, having a great time and enjoying the outdoors.  Too often I think we forget about just how lucky we are just to be alive and able to do what we enjoy when we want to.  It's a luxury not many people have in this life-we need to make sure we make the most of it!

Otherwise, just a busy day on all accounts.  Work in the morning, fun in the evening.  Not much else to report.  Tomorrow will be another work focused day, with some housework stuff stuck in the middle.  More than likely no bike riding, but I might try and fit in a strength workout somewhere in the middle.

Great life.  Keep on truckin'....

Friday, September 14, 2012

Another Kettlebell Day

Really digging the kettlebells these days if you haven't noticed.  I've been really busy the last month and a half and with that haven't had the spare time to ride my bike as much as I would like.  This isn't a bad thing though, as I truly believe to be the best athlete you can be, in any sport, you need to be well rounded.  From the time when I was just a teenager, I always found that the more sports I competed in at any given time, the better I was at ALL of them.  The "cross training" if you will, of other sports, for me, really gives me a great balance and an awareness of what I can do across the board athletically.  It took me a long time to figure this all out, but now that I have, it's really pretty rad.

I think to a certain extent it's a mental thing.  I'm obsessive about whatever athletic pursuit I choose, so, knowing myself in that way, I find that when I diversify my attention, I'm less crazy.  Like anyone that has ever been obsessive over something, I've found through experience that the more I think about something, the more I analyze every little detail, the more I "choke" when it comes time to perform.  Being less into the competitive mode these days helps things, but even on my daily rides I find that I can become so detail oriented that I forget to have a good time and just let things flow.

Finding kettlebells has not only reformed my workout routine off the bike (which, in honesty, was pretty much non existent for the last 4 or so years), but also gotten me to think less and just literally enjoy the ride more.  After all, what the hell do we do all this for if we don't really enjoy it?  I'm not getting paid to ride my bike, so why make a job out of it?

I'd have to say that the thing I love the most about training with the kettle bells is their simply brutal nature.  You're literally swinging cannonballs with handles around.  It's just moving weight and letting yourself flow with it.  Every part of your body is coming into play, and, for my money, it's the best way to get the most out of a small amount of time.  As of now, I've yet to be able to make it over 30 minutes when going hard.  I might have been able to stretch things out a bit if I were to actually rest during the workout, but the nature of the kettlebells and their flowing properties make it easy and meaningful to transition from one exercise to the next.  You literally never have to stop.  Going from one thing directly to the next is not only what makes it fun, but makes it effective as well.

Before this becomes an infomercial for kettlebell training, I'll stop it here.  Bottom line is I'm loving these things and I can see the difference they've made in my riding and my overall sense of wellness.  I'm back to feeling like the strong, 31 year old man I should be and not the skinny, over trained cyclist I had become.  (And by skinny I don't mean anything derogative, I just mean that I wasn't feeling strong. You can be skinny and strong for sure-just ask any of the guys I used to work with at the moving company.  They all looked like marathoners but could lift couches over their heads all day long.)

This weekend I'm going to try and get out on the bike at least once, but I've got a busy schedule to get through before that can happen.  It would be nice to get in a ride both days, but at this point, I'll just take one ride.  Best part about it is, though, there's no pressure to do anything.  It's all dependent on what I feel like doing and what I've got the time for.  Either way, with kettlebells and my mountain bikes, I've got choices.  It's good to have choices.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Awesomeness, Awesomeness, and more AWESOMENESS!!!

I've got some great news, BUT, being the internet and the nature of social media, I can't explain things just yet. For now, just know that I'm the happiest man in the world.  'Nuff said!

So, since my last blog entry (few and far between they are), much has happened.  Mainly Anne and I had been running around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to make plans for her move here, working no finding out immigration info, and working on planning for our business.  In between, of course, we spent as much time on our bikes as possible-me having a blast being able to ride with and watch her progress, and her trying to stay on two wheels and avoid getting any more bloody shins and elbows.  All in all, she is not just a total babe, but an absolute bad ass as well.  She took her lumps and bumps but still continues to progress.  I threw some of the toughest trails around right at her and she came through with shining colors (be it mostly "blood red", but that's another story!)  I can say I couldn't possibly be prouder and more stoked with my girl!

On the work side of things all is going pretty well.  In the personal training biz, things are always a bit hectic, and being that I was out of the country for the better part of 3 months, I'm excited to have found out that ALL of my clients were LOYAL and stuck it out, allowing me to have my time away and getting right back to work when I returned.  Great people are like that-like great friends, you can pick up right where you left off without feeling like you've even missed a day.  I'm fortunate to have so many wonderful clients to work with.  Really blessed.

So, with all that, Anne had to leave this past Monday to head back to Spain and begin the moving process.  We've both got a couple months of busy work ahead of us, planning her return in the new year to the States.  Life stuff has a funny way of seeming intimidating at the outset, but once things begin rolling and you begin to chip away at the mountain, you're soon left with much less in front of you and a pure feeling of accomplishment when you're finished.  Both of us will work hard and do what we have to, and things will be all the more sweet when we're back together.  Not to sound too mushy and romantic, but I'm a better man with her around.  She challenges me every day to be the man that I should be, and to me, that's the best thing any woman can do.  I always laughed at guys who said that their women made men out of them, but in my increasingly older age (ha!), I'm learning that notion to be quite true.  And, most importantly, I'm embracing it and loving every second of it!  Bottom line: I love the hell out of her and miss her just as much.  Holding her again cannot come soon enough!

On my own training side of things, I'm back to regular riding and lifting again.  I've decided to chill out on trying to ride too much, focusing a bit more on lifting with special emphasis on exercises that do NOT include dumb bells, barbells, or any "traditional" gym equipment.  Meaning, I'm all about kettle bells, ropes, pull ups, push ups, sledge hammers, and big ass tires.  Since discovering kettle bells and learning more about what they entail, not only trying them out for myself but learning and studying more about them in every aspect, I'm in awe of the results the produce.  I've been using them solid now for about 5 weeks and I feel strong again like I did when I was stuck in the gym for hours upon hours each week.  I've never used something that had faster results and gave me more power and strength in such short time.  Sure, you can say that since I've been a "power" athlete my whole life I'm going to fall easily back into that category, and I won't argue that.  However, for the time versus effort ratio, you can't beat the damn things.  I spend, on average, about 30 minutes, 2-3 times a week working with them.  So let's say, on a good week, I get in 90 minutes of strength training.  From that 90 minutes, I feel just about the same as I used to from about 10 HOURS of strength training in the gym.  Add to that work with heavy ropes, hammers, and tires, and you've got one of the most AWESOME methods of training I've ever done.

Of course, this wouldn't be great if it didn't translate itself to my bike riding and general activities.  Sure I want to be healthy and strong, and I may appreciate having the extra muscle and strength when I'm older, but for now, if it improves my enjoyment on the bike, it's going to be first and foremost in my mind.  I'm stronger, more agile, and generally just BETTER in my riding now.  Quite cool for something that you'd probably not imagine had much to do with actual riding.

So that's pretty much it for a quick update.  Like I said at the beginning, I've got some HUGE and GREAT news to share, but I can't just yet.  Give it about 2 weeks and you'll know (if you don't already!).  Time to get some sleep!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Blue Mountain

Each Sunday for the last 3 weeks Anne and I have gone up to ride our bikes at Blue Mountain, a nature reserve that is host to some of the best single track on the Eastern Coast of the US.  It's an awesome trail system with everything from flowy, smooth single track to big rocks, rollers, and trials style obstacles.  It's got something for everyone from the xc racer to the free ride maniac.  I always have a great time when I go alone, but with her it's that much better to share a place that I love with someone I love.

So, yesterday, again, we headed up early in the morning to get a nice start on the day.  Typically we spend about 4-5 hours out on the trails (or whenever I get tired-which once comes first depends usually on my fat ass!).  The previous week had been a bit of a bummer.  Though the ride was good, I was tired and cranky, not riding well, and of course acting like a child for some of the time.  Nevertheless, we got in a decent ride, had some fun, and were excited about going back the next week.

As we rode yesterday, for what wound up being around 4 hours, I couldn't help but marvel at the progress that Anne has made in such a short time.  She's really only been riding seriously for about a month, but she's tackling some obstacles and very technical trail that took me nearly a year to even try.  Sure she's being pushed on by an overzealous boyfriend, but that's beside the point.  She's crashed, been scraped and bloodied, but still, the girl keeps coming back for more.  She's either incredibly determined or stubborn as hell-I think both!

Anyway, we took some pics (which I haven't had the time to upload just yet, but will this afternoon) and we had some fun.  On my side of things the riding is getting back to where it used to be.  I'm clearing the stuff that I always have and even making some things that I wasn't able to before.  I've started lifting and using Kettle Bells in the last month, and I'm seeing some drastic improvements in my strength and power.  My explosiveness is at least 75% better than it has been, and I'm feeling more and more athletic with each workout.  I had neglected this part of training before, what with all the training for endurance that I was doing.  I had really not felt the need to do much weight training.  I was concerned I'd gain too much muscle and slow myself down.  It's nice not to have to worry about being "too heavy" (I'm laying at about 200lbs right now).  I'm more concerned with protecting myself in the even of a crash and being able to power myself up technical sections.  My natural weight seems to be right around where I'm at now, and I haven't felt as good in all aspects of my fitness in a long time.  Riding a bit less and lifting a bit more really makes a big difference.

So today, in addition to uploading pictures of our ride later of course, we haven't got a ton planned.  I've got a client to train early, then we're headed to a cafe for breakfast, then relaxing for the day until we head out to dinner with my folks.  All in all not a bad way to spend a holiday Monday!  Happy Labor Day and welcome to the fall!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Money, Stress, Work, Money, Work, Stress...

It's all a big ball of worry for me at the moment.  With so many things in my life going on and so many wants needing to be addressed, it's difficult at times not to be stressed out.  Every part of it, though, is something that I do want and I do believe can be accomplished.  There's nothing that I see right now in my life as a burden, only as things that need to be addressed and things that need to be handled.  With any endeavor comes inevitable hardship, but it is in that hardship where we find the worth of our goals.

The weeks since I returned home have been busy.  I don't think I've sat down for more than ten minutes at a time (not including the five or so hours a night I've been able to sleep).  Anne came in a week after I arrived back in the States, and since, we've spent almost every waking hour doing something.  We've pursued the things we love, cycling, running (for her), and having fun, but it all takes its toll after a while.  You can't always be busy and you can't always be up on your feet.  Rest, just as in athletics, needs to have a place in your everyday life.

On the cycling side of things we've been riding the hell out of our bikes.  Well, more she has than I, but I've managed to get in some good rides too.  Seeing someone progress their skills on a mountain bike is something that gives me a great deal of pleasure.  No matter how much influence I've had on their learning, seeing them ride and get better hits a soft spot in my soul.  It brings me back to the time when I first started, with the wonder and excitement I got out of riding a bike on an uneven, unpaved, and rocky surface.  Feeling my tires eek out from underneath me ever so gently, listening to the crackle of organic matter beneath my tires, and narrowly slipping through tight trees on windy single track gave me such a buzz when I first began it's hard to describe.  I imagine Anne feels the same. There's something addictive about it.

I still, of course, get my kicks from those things, only now it's on to bigger obstacles and more technical challenges.  The same rocks and roots that gave me trouble when I began are now molehills.  Not that they're easy, but they've become routine.  The greatest part about mountain biking is that you can always push yourself that much further.  Cleared a rock garden that you couldn't?  Go and try that 4 foot drop that scared the piss out of you.  The 4 foot drop too easy?  Go and do a whip over that table top over there. Even for the best of riders, there's a nearly endless amount of envelope to push, you just have to be creative and willing to take the leap.  Whether you're a cross country rider or a hucking free rider, you'll find something somewhere that will continue to challenge you and continue to inspire you about riding your bike.

So today is another day of busy.  I've got errands to run, bikes to fix and build, and work to do.  Anne and I have got a trip scheduled tomorrow with a good friend of mine to ride, so of course we're looking forward to that.  One of my favorite things, again, about riding my bike, is the time that it allows you to spend with those people around you that matter.  Unlike riding on the road, being on a mountain bike in the woods can be an either truly solitude experience, or one shared with friends.  The best part, though, is that there are no other distractions to get in the way.  No cars are going to buzz you, and no traffic lights are going to force you to stop.  I'd mention that there are no potholes to look out for, but then, as mountain bikers, I'd assume we'd more than welcome the potholes (it's just those sissy roadies that hate them!).  In honesty though, there are few times in this crazy life when we can just tune out life, concentrate on what we're doing at the moment, and let things rip.  It would be a crime not to take advantage of the great times that we do have.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tough Goings

Without getting into too much detail, I had to make a really tough decision today.  Sure we all have to make them, day in and day out, but more often than not, they have to deal with things that are not of a personal nature.  So many times in my life, I've had to make work related decisions that, in the big picture, really have no bearing on my personal life.  The decision I made today, with someone I care about more than most things and people in my life, was a tough one.

It wasn't a life altering decision, or even one that would change much in terms of the path that we're both on, rather, it was just one of those "somebody had to make the call" type of decisions that come up from time to time.  At times, it's shitty to be the one that has to take charge and do things that might make the other person unhappy.  But, with foresight, such decisions can prove ultimately to be the ones that you look back at and realize, though at the time they may have sucked, in the end prove to be something that worked out quite well.  I have a feeling this will be one of them.

I realize that this post is all "mysterious".  I don't want to delve too much into it all, and in the end, it's probably boring to read.  There is a lot in life that's boring, plain, and just not exciting.  This is more than likely one of them.  No one ever said that love and relationships is easy.  I'm learning now why they're not.  It's work for sure, but with that work and determination and stubbornness can come great reward.  You've just got to stick with it, that's all.

In other news... I rode my bike today!  And I'll hopefully get to ride again tomorrow.  I got out to one of my former "favorite" trails, though now, after having ridden so much more and experienced so much more of what I actually like, it's just not the same.  The trails at East Setauket (where I rode today) are much more XC'ish than I like.  No rocks, little roots, and very few truly steep sections.  I realize, of course, that in order to get to many of what I like (see "rocks, roots, steepness") I've got to get off of Long Island.  Granted, we're not exactly at any sort of elevation here.  Thankfully, the ride to those types of things aren't exactly far.  My thoughts are to get to them sooner rather than later.

Otherwise things are moving along.  There are a lot of things going on on the "life" front of things, and I might be inclined to fill in some of the gaps here.  Much has changed in my life in the last 5 months, and much more will be changing in the future.  So many things, so little time, and so much to do!  Looking forward to it all, but just wanting to get moving.  Priorities have to be set, and goals have to be reached.  Best get to work!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Busy...Again.

I would say that I couldn't remember the last time I've been this busy, but that would be a lie.  It was yesterday.  And the day before.  And the day before that.  The past week has been one of the busiest in recent memory.  I've ridden my bike less and less over the days, spent more time up and around, and have found myself more tired from not sleeping than from exercise.  Not good.

The sole reason for all this, in my opinion, is a lack of organization and thought.  Lack of organization from the aspect of time management, and a lack of thought stemming from, surprise, surprise, NOT THINKING!  Not many things frustrate me more than lack of a good plan and lack of figuring something out from all angles.  It's important in life to disregard emotion at times, dealing straight with what's in front of you and letting the "feelings" stay off to the side for the time being.  Too much emotion takes away the effectiveness and efficiency of a plan.  You begin to act with your heart and not with your head, ending in, most times, a downward spiral and a failure to achieve what you set out to do from the beginning.  I believe this is true not only in athletics, but in life as a whole.

Many times I've faced this frustration this week, leading me to react, albeit not in the way I might have if I had not been so frustrated.  I suppose I let emotion dictate my reaction-something that I just finished saying I needed to take out of the equation in order to succeed.

This is all likely coming out as diarrhea of the keyboard, so I won't go much further into it.  I'm not exactly willing to let out all the details here, but it still helps to get things out on the screen.

Anyway, like I said, riding has been at a sincere minimum this week (possibly why I'm so frustrated in the first place).  I haven't been able to get out to any of my favorite spots, and I fear the summer is passing away quickly and the potential of good days and subsequent good rides is fast passing me by.  After not being able to ride what I wanted when I wanted for about 4 months, this extra lack of "fun" is really tearing me down.  I'm out of shape, with rusty skills, and an increasingly dusty bike.  When is this gonna end!!!???

On the positive side of things, work seems to be picking up and nearly all of the clients I left when I was away have returned.  You can't put a price on loyalty.  Just now I've got to make things happen more and more, allowing me the chance to get on the bike more and enjoy life a bit more than I have in the past week.  The time will come...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Busy Bees

Anne and I have been moving and shaking since she got in this past Tuesday.  Getting the apartment cleaned, sorting out a bike for her to race, and getting in rides have taken a big priority.  With me getting back into the swing of things at work and trying to get my business normal again, it's been even tougher to sit back and relax.  Then again, we're both young and the time to relax will come later.

This weekend we're headed up to New Paltz for Anne to compete in the Wildcat 100 mountain bike race.  It will be her first proper mountain bike race and should be a good experience.  Her background is in long distance triathlon so this should provide quite the challenge, but, riding with her the last few days, I've got to say that she should be well up for it.  The longer distance, endurance mountain bike races are really not all that technical, and given that she's got good handling skills on the bike already, I feel that this race will be more a test of fitness than skills.  She's coming off of doing Challenge Roth about a month ago, and is pretty healthy and fit.  While I'm confident she'll be just fine and wind up doing quite well, I'm more excited for her just because I know it will be a really fun experience.  Mixing things up (especially with mountain biking-the "real" sport-hahaha) is always something that's good.  If nothing else, it'll give her an opportunity to get her mind out of the "swim-bike-run" mode for just a bit and concentrate on something a little different.  It's still going to hurt like hell, make her tired, and test her meddle, so she should be right at home.

For me, being on the course and at the event will be fun.  I've never spectated a mountain bike race before (at least a 100 mile one), so this will be a new experience.  Though endurance racing is no longer something I like to do for myself, like watching Anne race triathlon, I'll just be pumped to be there supporting her.  And, being that it's a mountain bike race, there's bound to be plenty of beer there to help me pass the time.  I'll have my own bike there too, so being able to get out on the course to see her as well as have some fun of my own will be cool.

I love the town of New Paltz and have been dying to get up there for over a year now.  Last year, when I was still racing, I wanted to do this particular race, but because of health reasons I had to give it a pass.  It'll be cool to see what I missed, but I'm sure that I won't actually miss it-riding that long and that far in the shape that I'm in now would suck more than having to swim in the Hudson for an Ironman two days after a sewage dump.  Not fun.

So today is going to be a little bit of a restful, get life stuff and errands done type of day before we head off early tomorrow morning to get up to the race site.  I'm hoping to get a good chance for Anne to pre-ride the course and get her bearings.  The opportunity to camp before the race was available, but given my experience with camping the night before a long race, I suggested we take a pass on that.  It's all well and good to be part of the atmosphere, but when you're out to do your best the following day, sleeping on the earth in a hot tent is not the way to go about it.  Anyway, this weekend should be lots of fun filled with lots of cool experiences and hopefully a new sport that Anne can get excited about.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Thankful

I'm thinking about a lot right now, and I'm thankful for all of it.  I'm thankful for the many, many good things in my life, as well as the hardships.  I've learned a lot in my 31 years on this planet, and the cool thing is that I've still (hopefully) got a lot left to learn.  I've made a lot of mistakes, hurt a lot of feelings, and did some things that I look back and cringe when I think of what I've done.  There have been a lot of conquering moments, and a lot of disappointments.  I've got regrets about the past and I've got doubts about the future, but realistically speaking, who doesn't?  The bottom line is that this is my life and every minute of it has been worth living.  I've got scars and I've had heartache.  I've got smiles and I've known success.  The true value of what life is, in my eyes, can be quantified in the experiences we've had and what we've taken from them.  It's all a big roller coaster ride with the end coming sooner than any of us want to admit.  What we do while we're on board is our choice.  When it ends is someone else's.

Not quite sure why I'm writing this now.  I'm not on the verge of a mental breakthrough, or the downside of anything emotional. Just thoughts in my head that I wanted to get down somewhere, so why not here.

Today wasn't bad.  Still getting back to the realities of life being back home, riding my bike when I can, and getting back to "life as normal."  I'm slowly building back up my personal training business, though it isn't without stress.  Going away for 3 months was a big risk no matter how you cut it, and I'm more than thankful that all of my clients have held strong and given me some slack.  It's nice to know that in a job with absolutely no job security, you're fortunate to work with loyal people that enjoy the service you provide them.

As for the bike, I'm stoked beyond belief at riding right now.  I missed the fast and flowy local trails I ride, and the rocky, chunky, technical trails that I travel to.  I've never appreciated them more than now.  With that, as far as actual riding is concerned, I feel like a new rider.  Not in the sense that I've picked up my skill level or I've changed my riding style.  In a funny way, it just doesn't mean as much to me as it did.  That doesn't mean that it's still not my absolute favorite way to spend my free time, it's just to say that if it were suddenly taken away from me, I'd be alright.  If anything, being away and being forced to go without the type of riding that I enjoy has taught me more about myself than I could have imagined. I'm healthy, able, and have enough of a mind to enjoy a variety of different things.  In simple terms, I'm more of a complete, multi dimensional person now than I was 3 months ago.  Learning to step outside of the box you've painted yourself into is never an easy thing, but when you do learn and you do step away, it's worth it's weight in gold.  Learning to "do something else" and get away from the hobby/sport/activity/whatever that it is that holds your attention is probably the best thing I've done.

So, do I still love riding my mountain bike more than just about anything? Certainly.  But, if all goes wrong, can I live without it and still maintain my happiness?  Absolutely.  The important thing is to value yourself, and value what you've got.  If you're fortunate enough to peruse athletics, you're fortunate enough to find other things to be just as passionate about.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

When Old is New

Got out this morning and rode a trail that is one of my favorites in the entire world.  I haven't gotten out to ride it in probably over 4 months, and with being injured and then being away, I was dreaming about it for a while.  It's technical and resultantly slow in areas, but with so many natural features you could spend an entire day enjoying everything and still want for more when the sun goes down.

The trail itself is probably less than 15 miles long.  Might even be shorter than 10.  The fun factor is what keeps me coming back though, coupled with the fact that I don't think I've ever had a ride there where everything went perfectly well.  There's always a section I have trouble with, a crash, or simply a dab of the foot when trying a new line.

Most importantly, this particular trail is someplace I can go to completely punch out.  It's technical enough for that you can't possibly think of anything but what you're currently doing.  Any time I've ever thought about "life" stuff while riding there, I've crashed.  Plain and simple.

Today was all about getting back out there and seeing how I would react to A) being truly unfit for the first time in many years, and B) having to deal with a set of rusty skills that were in no way helped by the type of riding I did when I was away.

In the 3 months I was gone, the predominant trails available were downhill.  There was no lift service, and the single track was too steep to climb, so basically you're left with riding up dirt and paved road to a trail head that will lead you back down to where you started.  More on this later, but this particular aspect of the riding there was probably the biggest reason I wound up not riding much.  Anyhow, when you do nothing but downhill, you get used to picking lines that make use of the speed with which you're traveling.  I'm not saying that downhill riding is easier than any other type or riding, all I'm saying is that having speed and momentum on your side is a big advantage when it comes to blowing through a rock garden or clearing a jump.  When you don't have to pedal through tech, you tend to loose the feel of the trail and the power in your legs and upper body that it takes sometimes to get through different sections.

So, like I said, today was a day to test out the bike, test out the skills, and hope to God that I hadn't gotten too fat to ride the way I like to.  It was obvious from the start that I was rusty and obvious from the start that I came back a different rider than the one that left 3 months ago.  Nevertheless, as I rode more and more, remembering how things felt and what went where, I started going from huffing and puffing and being sketchy on every feature, to falling right back in line with where I was before I left.  In fact, I've returned a smoother and more graceful rider.  While I did get tired more quickly and while I didn't quite make and clear everything I tried, by the end of the ride, I felt that I was close, if not back to, the skill level I was at before I left.  It was truly like riding a bicycle: You never forget.

Going back to the riding I did while away, one of the biggest points of contention I had was with doing so much of my riding on roads, both paved and dirt, only to get a fraction of that time back on single track.  More often than not, I would spend over an hour climbing on road only to reach one or two kilometers of single track. To me, the math just didn't add up.  Here, depending on the trail, it's not uncommon to spend an entire ride in the woods, with natural features, not having to hit anything more than a bit of double track every once in a while.  I've been easily spoiled with such good trails and trail systems that I've become too much of a snob to ride the road.  Good or bad, it is what it is.  Part of how I get my fix is by being in the woods, enjoying nature and nothing but nature.  The last thing I want to see on any of my mountain bike rides is road, whether paved or dirt.

In the end, it was a good day and a great opportunity to get back to one of the trails I love.  I left, driving away with that familiar, shit-eating grin that I'd not had after a bike ride for quite some time.  Great to feel good about riding my bike once again.

Tomorrow is back to work, trying to sort out my clients, beg people to start training with me again, and get my apartment cleaned up-always have to make sure even the smallest bits of dirt are gone when entertaining a beautiful lady. :)

I may or may not ride tomorrow.  Yesterday's post was all about my decision to be in control of NOT being in control and I intend to keep things that way.  I think I'd like to ride, but the way things are looking at this point, it might not be a possibility.  And that's ok.  It'll almost be a bonus if I do get the change to get out tomorrow.  Either way, I will wind up doing some exercise.  And I honestly can't say that the gym and those damned kettle bells aren't calling my name right now.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Getting older, being lazy, or none of the above?

I'm not sure about the spot that I'm in currently regarding my competitive athletic career.  As I've mentioned here on my blog numerous times, I've been out of the competitive loop for about a year now.  In fact, the last race I did, The Wilderness 101, was a exactly a year and a week ago today.  In this time of non-competition, I've still ridden my bike nearly every day, exercised and stayed healthy.  Nothing mystifies me more than when an athlete stops competing and goes to mush almost over night.  I don't know if I'll ever compete again as seriously as I once did, but I do know that I will continue to be considerably fit no matter what life brings me.

So, today, in keeping with the habit of lifting more that I developed while overseas, I got back at it with a great kettle bell workout.  I've got a new appreciation for the types of things you can do with the bells,  and I've found more and more that they (and the movements involved) produce sheer strength and fitness that actually carries over to almost any activity.  As I learn more and more about them, I'm able to diversify my own workouts and focus on functional strength, the same I would use while on my mountain bike.

In addition, they're just plain fun.  I can remember the days of doing endless sets of bicep curls, bench press, triceps extensions, and the like.  I was building a body that was generally good at only doing those things.  With the types of things and focus that I now have as a result of using the kettle bells, I'm able to not only ride my bike more effectively, but work out in the yard more effectively, pick up any old heavy object more effectively, and just generally be more of a complete human being-not just an athlete doing exercises just for their one particular sport.

I suppose where I'm going with all of this is in the last sentence I just wrote.  Being a "complete human being" is something that, I believe, has been developed as a concept in my head as I've gotten older and more mentally mature.  When you're competing at a high level in any sport, you become consumed by it, taking all of your attention and all of your efforts to be the best that you can be.  I don't care who you are, when you're trying to be the absolute best at whatever it is you do, you have to be this way.  And, if you're not this way and you're still successful, you're a freak!  Of course I mean this all in the best and more respectful of ways, I'm only trying to convey the point that to be the best you need to engulf yourself in your sport.

For me, no matter what sport I played, I was always in it with everything I had.  I was the kid that slept with his hockey skates on; the kid that put oil in his baseball glove, wrapped it with a rubber band and put it under his pillow; and, I was the kid that woke up at 2am to head to the ice rink to get in 4 hours of practice before school.  I was never the "best" but I was good.  I was the best that I could have ever been, and I like to think that no matter what sport I attempted, I sold out for it.

At this point of my life, I'm entering a bit of a different mode.  I'm now more concerned with having fun.  I'm concerned with enjoying the time I spend doing what I'm doing, and getting a positive boost both mentally and physically because of it.  The aspect of serious competition, to me, was fun for a while, but when it became anything but that, I knew it was time to move on.

In all of this, the point is that getting older has not made me want to stop competing (in the traditional, "my body ain't what it used to be" sense), and being lazy isn't the answer either.  For me, the change in my view of what competing means to me has changed as a result of just wanting to smile, wanting to be fee, and wanting to allow the holistic aspects of what I do to shine through.  I don't want to stick to a schedule and I don't want to expect a certain outcome because of the schedule that has been adhered to.

I believe some people come to exercise (and endurance sports in particular) out of the need for control in their lives.  It's obvious that they can control their workouts and training sessions, and because of that and the fact that they may not be able to control other aspects in their lives, they become addicted to it.  It turns out in the end to be more of an enjoyment of being able to keep an aspect of their lives under their thumbs than being able to actually excel at their given sport.  They'll deny it, but an objective look at their lives would reveal it as clear as day from night.

I'm a control freak too.  The only difference between the control I seek now and the control I sought then is my new desire to control being out of control.  Let me explain.  When I was so dead set on competing and doing my best at all the sports I played, it was the obvious case of what I just explained in the last paragraph.  Now, differently, I want to have the control in my life to say, "I don't need  to go for that ride today, so I won't."  Instead, I want to say, "I don't need  to go for that ride today, but I love riding my bike and today is nice, so I'll ride."  It's all about not feeling the guilt, and it's all about doing what feels right.  There's probably no worse feeling than the guilt you get when you skip a workout that's on your schedule.  Nobody needs that in this life.  You should not feel bad for missing something that you do out of what should be nothing but pure enjoyment.  Life is simply too short.

So today, like yesterday, the day before, and the weeks and months before that, I trained what I wanted to train how I wanted to train.  No plan, no rhyme, and no reason.  Just move, enjoy it, and feel better for it at the end.  Simple.  Tomorrow will be more of the same.  I'll let life and my own "human development" develop my next competition.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday

Worked, ran errands, and rode my bike.  Why the hell do I NOT have a beer in my hand right now?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It's been a loooong time...

...since I've even thought about posting an entry here.  I've been away for a while, and in that time I managed to keep a journal that I had intended to publish upon completion, but I'm having second thoughts.  It was nice to keep my thoughts to myself and my keyboard.  It allowed me personal time where I could work out and manage my thoughts without the worry of having to completely explain and communicate what I was trying to say.  I strongly suggest everyone does it.
Anyway, I have neglected this blog to the point where I'm sure my very few readers have all but given up on it.  Sorry 'bout that.  I am, though, toying with the idea of starting a new and different blog from this one.  It would contain most of my thoughts and descriptions of my days (like this one), but I feel like the freshness of it all might inspire me more.  I had originally started this blog as a triathlete, then an XC mountain biker, and then as a All-Mountain/Downhill mountain biker.  I've progressed in my personal life so much in that time, it's not really about just the riding anymore.  Being that this blog was all about that, it kind of seems fitting to start with a fresh, blank page.
I haven't decided what I want the new blog to be, so I won't describe anything much deeper than I just want to start something new, incorporating all aspects of my life.  I'll keep this one, updating from time to time, but my major focus will likely be elsewhere.  I'll post a link up if and when I get it going.  For now, it's time to unpack, go for a ride, drink a whole lot of beer, and get back into the swing of things.  Peace...