Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Just another Tuesday but enough with the scare tactics...

Just another Tuesday night in the bag. Just me, the trainer, and the lovely Erin Andrews. I'm glad to say that after suffering with my eyes closed throughout the Zn4 set I completed the last hard effort just before halftime. This meant that I was finshed with the hard stuff just in time to look up and see the post 1st half interview with the beautiful Ms. Andrews.

Of course later in the evening was the address by the Prez. He said some things I agreed with and some things I didnt. Overall though, I'm getting a little tired of people saying banks need government money so that they can "start lending again." Obama stressed that he knew that people were upset with banks getting government money but that it was necessary so that people could get loans to "buy houses, buy cars, and pay for their children to go to college." I realize that the availability of credit is imperative to keep businesses running, spur new investment, etc. However, are things really that bad? Isnt it bad loans that started this problem in the first place?

I'm currently looking into buying a home and from what I can tell, banks are more than willing to lend. After calling around to a few places, I've had Countrywide (technically now BoA) call me back to "check up" on me three times in the last week. I finally gave them permission to run a credit check so that I could get preapproved for a home loan. I've only been working for a little more than a year and I dont exactly have a huge amount of capital. Regardless of this, they came back that same day saying that they would have no problem offering me a 30 year fixed loan at 4.75% up to my requested amount. Thats right, 30 year fixed at 4.75%... and the banks arent lending???

Monday, February 23, 2009


S: 34,000 yds
B: 7h 59min
R: 1h 8min
AR: 1h 51min

Total: 19h 55min

Another week in the bank. The running was coming along well but the improvement was tempered by the return to frigid temperatures the last few days. With the IT still on its way back to being fully recovered, I've been a bit hesitant about running in cold weather. Thus when it was in the low 20s when I woke up yesterday morning, I went ahead and decided to ditch the run. Hopefully this will be our last bit of cold weather but you just never know.

Friday, February 20, 2009


All in all this article in the NYT about the TDC is decent at best. However, this quote by TT extraordinaire, Dave Zabriskie, is priceless: “Being good at the time trial, it’s mostly mental,” Zabriskie said. “If you think you are having a good day, you are probably not going fast enough. You just have to believe that it is possible.”

So much of time trialing, and endurance sport in general, is mental. On one hand, an all-out effort is going to hurt and, as Zabriskie says, if it doesnt, "you're probably not going fast enough". On the other, you have to know this, accept it, and at the same time maintain a positive attitude throughout the race in order to have a truly optimal performance. In some ways cyclists like to overdramatize TT's but in all honesty I believe this helps. While constantly complaining about how much the TT is as bad as pure torture contains a bit of hyperbole(Really? Torture... like waterboarding??? Come on...) , it also helps to mentally prepare themselves for an optimal effort. This only helps, though, if they also believe they will "conquer" the pain and ride fast. Perhaps then it is no coincidence that most great cyclists arent exactly lacking in self confidence as the intense belief in ones self can have a very positive impact on performance.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Swimming works!

Some refuse to acknowledge it altogether (see the multiple "How do I get faster at swimming" threads on ST). Others (like Bri and Rachel) recognize it but are still slow to fully embrace it. To what am I referring? The simple idea that swimming more will make you faster in the water. It's a novel concept, I know, but one that often gets overlooked when people complain about not being able to swim fast.

Anyway....I only bring this up because after hitting it pretty hard in the pool the last few weeks I had a nice set of 5x400 this morning during which I swam about 6 sec per 400 faster than last fall. Cant complain about that! The surprising thing is that this gain came with absolutely no weight lifting!!!

Monday, February 16, 2009


S: 33,600 yds
B: 7h 43 min
R: 1h 1min
AR: 2h 29min

Total: 20h 4min

Quality wise this week was certainly not one to write home about. I've been fighting a head cold since about last Tuesday and it has made the early morning swim workouts particularly brutal both because the cold symptoms have been (as they usually are) the most severe in the morning and because it is just never fun trying to keep up with the 14-16 yr old girls while also coughing up a lung.

The good news however is that the IT seems to (finally) be healing. Yesterday I ran for a whopping 20 min which is almost enough to qualify as an actual run so hopefully things will continue to improve. I think the goal for this week will be to run more on land than in water which will def be something to celebrate!

In other news, I'm home from work today celebrating Washington's Birthday. In the original George W's memory, I'd just like to thank him for being such a bad ass.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Water running, a definitive guide

Sadly I've been forced to spend more than my fair share of time in the pool running lately. While I can't say I've enjoyed it, it has given me plenty of time to contemplate aqua jogging. So here goes, four fundamentals for fantastic water running!

1. Form- Water running is such an effective form of cross training for running because it mimics the running motion so well. Therefore, if your water running looks nothing like your actual running, then you arent getting any benefit! When water running, make sure you keep your chest up, back straight, and butt in, just like you would when running. For some a belt like those seen here can help significantly but it is possible to maintain good form without one.

In addition to a straight upper body, it is also important to focus on what your legs are doing. Mainly, make sure really think about pushing off the ground with the bottom of your foot. This will help you activate your calves and prevent you from just moving your legs up and down.

2. Turnover- I was going to call this "stride rate" but do you really have a stride in the pool? Anyway, just as it is important to keep a good tempo out on the road, it is even more important to focus on stride rate in the pool. When aqua jogging it is very easy to let your tempo laps partially due to the extra resistance of the water but also because you dont have any external evidence to signal you have slowed down.

3. Visualization- This is related somewhat to the first point but goes a little further. Not only should you visualize yourself running in order to maintain correct form but also to help stave off boredom. I like to think about races or training runs, put myself out on the course, and really feel all of the elements of the external environment. This also provides an excellent opportunity to prepare for an upcoming race. Imagine yourself out on the course among your competitors See the images that stand out, feel the expected weather, and think about how you expect to feel at different parts on the course. All the while, of course, keeping your good form and tempo in mind. Sound like a lot to think about? Of course it is, but keeping your mind occupied will only help you get through the workout sooner.

4. Sweat!- Last but not least, try to work up a sweat. The ease of this will be highly dependent on the water temperature of your pool. (Incidentally, this is because the thermal conductivity of water is about 20 times that of air, meaning water dissipates your body heat much quicker than air. This is why a change of water temp of only a few degrees has a much larger impact than a change of the same amount of air temp.) If you aqua jogging at the local wellness center in 84F water while the old ladies are doing their water aerobics, working up a sweat wont be much of a problem. In this case, shoot for a "heavy" sweat. On the other hand, if you are working out in a "competition"style pool where the temp is closer to 80F, simply try to break a sweat. You can also wear a HRM to monitor effort but expect your HR "zones" to be about 10 bpm lower in the pool compared to actual running. This is due to the added cooling and decreased effect of gravity from the water.

Hopefully everyone out there will be able to keep running and wont have to use these pointers any time soon. However, if there are any other experienced aqua joggers who feel I've left something out, feel free to share some chime in!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Astronaut's Video Satirizes NASA Bureaucracy

This morning on NPR there was a great story about a video (see below) which has been circulating and supposedly causing a bit of discussion amongst NASA's top officials. The video was produced by a former astronaut, Andrew Thomas, who was part of a group put together by top senior administrators at NASA's Johnson Space Center to enhance innovation and open-mindedness. Rather than write a report or make a PowerPoint, Thomas decided to produce a video and while his production skills could use some work, he got across his message very effectively.

After watching the video, I can certainly relate to a number of the points and can testify that I've run into a lot of the same things here. However, if I were to make the video, it would probably be a little different. The part about the project managers is spot on. They really are all about schedule and can certainly get a "tunnel vision" approach. On the other hand, my branch chief is actually very supportive of new ideas and will go to bat for one if it is the best technical choice. Now granted, this idea still must meet certain cost and schedule restraints but all in all I've found the individual branch chiefs to be pretty receptive to new, technically better ideas.

Overall though there is a larger culture of reinforcing "what we've done before" rather than asking, "what is the best way to do this?" Part of this is because of the massive amount of data and testing required to certify a new process, design, and/or material for manned space flight. This certification costs time and money up front and therefore even if the new idea will ultimately save money, the project office is usually too short sighted and conservative as they simply need to meet this year's cost and schedule constraints and sadly cant afford to look further into the future.

You have to admit to having a problem before you can solve it and discussion of that problem is the first step towards actual change. This video both vividly portrays a problem and has caused people to start talking about that problem, making the video very effective.


S: 35,100 yds
B: 8h 1min
R: 24min
AR: 2h 15min

Total: 19h 54min

The running is making a comeback, slowly but surely. Hopefully by the end of the month I'll be back up to a respectable level and I'll be able to ditch the aqua jogging. In the meantime, its more time in the water.

In other news I've been hit with a pretty hard case of the Mondays. The good news though is that means the week can only get better from here!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Pumkin Pie Oatmeal

A couple of weeks ago canned pumpkin was half price at Publix so I picked up a bunch of cans. After all, canned foods last forever and pumpkins are loaded with beta carotene and antioxidants. The only problem is that I now had to figure out what to do with it. The most obvious solution wouldve been a pumpkin pie but making a crust is way too much work for me. So rather than making a pie, I tried to replicate some of the same flavors and mix it with oatmeal for a delicious, nutritious breakfast. I've been experimenting with the ratios and have setteled on the following recipe:

1/4 cup old fashion oats
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/8 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp brown sugar
1/4 cup dates and/or raisins
1/3 cup chopped pecans

Mix the first seven ingredients and microwave on high for ~1:30. Then mix in the pecans and enjoy!

You may have to adjust the cooking time a bit depending on your microwave and on how "done" you like the oatmeal. I like cooking the mixture just long enough to warm it through but not so long that the oatmeal is fully cooked. That way the raisins/dates soften a bit and the oatmeal still adds some texture. Additionally, the pecans add great flavor and a nice extra crunch. Also, the above is for one serving but you could also make a big batch at one time and refrigerate it. Then just scoop out however much you want and pop it in the microwave. If you go this route, though, I would suggest keeping the pecans out and adding them just before eating. This way they stay nice and crunchy.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

TT pic

Here is a shot from the TT on Sunday. Yes, its a little blurry but you can blame the photographer (Paulo) for that.

In other news, I ran a whopping 5 minutes last night.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Listen to the music... while swimming

Lately I've been spending more than my fair share of time in the pool both swimming and aqua jogging. While the swimming, especially when done with the kids, can be enjoyable, the aqua jogging is just downright dreadful. It might not be quite as bad as the trainer but that is only because the amount of time required is less. Luckily though, there is one toy, the Speedo Aquabeat Waterproof mp3 Player, that makes it much more enjoyable by helping the time go by much quicker.

My friend Stephen, who works at First Place Athletics, hooked me up with this a couple of months ago but I have only started using since I've been relegated to running in the pool. Now admittedly the sound quality isnt great and you can only listen to songs in the order in which you uploaded them. However, the 1GB storage size and 9h playtime are more than adequate for the intended application. Additionally, the software was easy to use and the buttons were self explanatory. Most importantly, it is fully waterproof and while it is made to clip onto goggles, it also fit very nicely on the strap on the back of my Timex running hat. While I'd never swim with it, this is a pretty cool toy if you have some disposable income and want to listen to tunes in the water.

Monday, February 2, 2009


S: 34,300 yds
B: 8h 15min
AR: 2h 21min

Total: 19h 38min

Paulo wanted less swimming this week (yes, you read that right... Paulo actually wanted less swimming!!!) so I only swam 6 sessions as opposed to the 8-9 I had been getting in the last few weeks. Filling the void, unfortunately, has been aqua running. While I generally despise this activity, it is the most beneficial workout for run fitness outside of running. Luckily, the IT pain has all but vanished so I'm really just waiting on clearance from Nicole Bock, my new doc, before I start slowly running again. Hopefully that will come soon because, as we all know, biking and swimming make you fat.

The one silver lining regarding the lack of running is that I've been getting in some very high quality bike workouts which should bode well for the rest of the season. Nothing like getting the "lifting" out of the way now so I can do the "filling" during the long days of summer!