Saturday, August 6, 2011

Getting Old Don't Mean You Slow Down

Last week I did the Tiburon Triathlon.

It was the 2nd triathlon I've done this season, the second triathlon I've done since ending my three year long triathlon hiatus.

My first time doing this triathlon was 5 years ago -- when I was 15 pounds lighter, and much younger both mentally & physically. I had very few expectations for myself this time around, other than to get some more race time in, and a have fun.

There's also the beer that Marin Brewing Company serves at the end of the race...but I digress....

To my surprise;

- My swim time was faster by close to two minutes;

- My bike time was several minutes faster -- but some of that is explainable by a mechanical failure back in 2006, and a different course this year.

- My run time was (to my great surprise), much faster. I ran a sub-8 minute mile for those two miles. Five years ago (and 15 pounds back) I ran a slower time on the same course.

The swim is explainable by a combination of a newer wetsuit and being a much better swimmer. Better doesn't mean better cardio or upper body strength -- it means smoother in the water.

The run -- this is where it gets funky. I was dead tired after the bike section. The whole first mile of the 2 mile course I had chest pains. Also -- because my legs were trashed from the bike portion -- I couldn't do a long stride. So I ran with a lot of short steps, often mid-foot striking.

While I don't support (anymore) barefoot running or the usage of barefoot running shoes like the VFF, there is no getting around the fact that fore and midfoot striking is (in certain contexts) a faster way to run. The results from last week bore that out.

The key is to find the right training methodology to make forefoot/midfoot running safe. This isn't about shoes -- its about drills, training routines, and contexts.

Lastly, like Randy Couture, Deana Torres, and George Foreman, it really is possible to still perform at the top of your game as you get older. The key is to find ways to improve your game as time goes by.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Riddle of Steel....

The other day I was at Box Dog Bikes doing a stem-ectomy on my 1990's Kestrel. Box Dog gets a lot of the people just randomly stopping in to pump their tires, do minor maintenance, or just shoot the sh*& with the staff. Its a bike shop for people who really love bikes.

I struck up a conversation with an ex-bike mechanic riding on a 1980's Trek road bike. The thing had been through Hell. You could tell my the nasty dents on its frame. Twenty + years of hard riding had taken its toll. But it was still running well. The ex-bike mechanic had done his share of work to maintain its moving parts. We discussed the beauty of older bicycles, the fact his battle shattered Trek was still running, and the fact my well preserved Kestrel SC200 would snap in two if I sneezed at it the wrong way.

Thus we come to the discussion of the Riddle of Steel.

Going around SF every day, you come across tons of vintage steel bicycles. Many have been converted into fixies or single speeds. Some are still in something close to the same condition they were 20+ years ago -- with the same Campy and Shimano components that were originally installed on them. No STI shifters for these guys.

Vintage carbon -- a little.

Vintage aluminum -- some -- lot of Cannondale 3.0 series frames out there.

But at the end of the day -- it's all about double and triple butted Cro-Mo. The city is covered by old steel frames that have been through accidents, theft, and horrible owners. Dents, bad attempts to spread out the rear triangle. You name it. But the frames still function. Something you can't really say about an aluminum or carbon fiber frame of equal age.

These days it is VERY rare to come across a steel frame for less than a $1000. Even above $1000 there aren't that many options. Sure, modern science has given us some wonderful aluminum alloys, thinner and stronger carbon fiber, bargain basement titanium, mixtures of all of the above.

But bang for the buck -- in terms of reliability, longevity, and resilience, it still steel.

The cycling industry -- Evil Empire that it is -- will argue otherwise.

Screw them -- that's why we have Craigslist.

So for those out there who like myself are struggling to balance off their expensive endurance sport hobby with a pocketbook that doesn't get much bigger every year, take heart. Find that beautiful hunk of handcrafted lugged steel Italian masterwork from the era of High Hair and Parachute Pants. Spend the extra $100-200 to clean her up and get her running again --- and ignore those Shmucks at the local bike shop that tell you otherwise. It'll be cheaper, faster, and more reliable, than almost anything you buy brand new.

And you won't regret it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Guy Values, Girl Values, Asian Yuppie Values...

A few weekends back I had another run in with a local resident -- an angry 300 lb Black Man who likes to call me a Fucking Gook every time I passed him in the street. The first time was in evening when I went to Walgreens to load up on diapers. The second time was when I was walking home on a Sunday morning from a swimming class. Same deal, I'm focused on something else, then I hear, "FUCKING GOOK!" I turn around and I see the guy's back towards me walking away -- all 300 Lbs of him listening to something in black earbuds.

Whenever these things have happened, I've run into the usual thing -- anger and a thought maybe I should wack this guy. Then there is the reality that he's 300 lbs, and probably at least a little crazy. Not someone you get into fights with.

When I've discussed this with other Guys I've noticed that the Guys are less than sympathetic. The attitude I get is that I should have either done something, or kept my mouth shut about the whole thing. The fact I didn't challenge him means I'm a wimp --- the issue of him being a 300 lb Black Man with a lot more pent up anger being a non-issue.

When I discuss this with my wife and the Girls, I get the attitude I should just ignore all this. The line there is that he's a hater, a junky, and an idiot. And I should be "better" than this.

Ironically -- the local Krav Maga school I work out at it once posted on their website to NEVER get into a fight on the street due to a stupid provocation like this. Their shtick, is that the guy doing the provoking has got something up their sleeve, so don't fall for it.

Then there are the value systems I was raised with --- which I hate, but I can't escape. The few times as a child I got into fights, and got into trouble for them, my family members (my parents, older brother & sister) would come down on me with a shtick that was;

- You lost your fight -- so you are an idiot for fighting;
- Fighting is a low class thing -- and we are NOT low class people;

The lesson from family members in this -- irrespective of the context or whether or not I was justified -- unless I know I can win, I should not be fighting anyone.

So, unless I had kicked the shit out of that Angry 300 Lb Black Man (a big if), my wife and family members would view me as an idiot. my friends who are female -- they'd probably think the same thing as my wife and family members. And the dudes --- even as they dismiss me for being a Wimp for not sticking up for myself, I'd still get shit for starting a fight with someone a lot bigger & tougher then me.

Which leaves me with nothing but this blog, where I vent about things I can't change.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Can Fighting Make You a Wiser Person?

I've written in a few previous posts that I was working out at a local Krav Maga school.

What I didn't write was that I had taken the sparring classes there. They hold them every few months. I've had my ass handed to me multiple times. I've also given a few people a rude awakening with my hands and feet.

With a school like this, even though it ain't so big, you get beat, and you get to beat others sometimes. Law of averages.

A few weeks back the instructor was giving his shtick on the initial shots you hurl out at an opponent. Don't expect them to connect. You are just using them to test out their responses, see how they react. Once you understand how they react to your attacks, THEN you figure out how you will attack them more seriously. No cookie cutter combos. No brilliant plans you set up beforehand. You improvise as you go along.

It made me think about previous attempts to do the fighting arts 20 years back in college, and also the general approach to life that my relatives (and other would be role models and finger wagglers) tried to instill in me.

Years back, being overly influenced by Van Damme and Steven Seagal movies, I expected/wanted, martial arts to make me an invincible killing machine -- bad guys don't touch me, but I connect and kick the shit out of the other guy with every shot.

Reality is much more sloppy. The other guy will connect. You will get hurt. You will bleed. The key is to get more shots on them than they can on you.

And as for the general approach to life others tried to instill in me?

The approach could only be described in two sentences;

-Get it right the first time, or don't do it at all.
-Do it elegantly, with class and style.

Over the span of multiple sparring sessions, its become apparent that you have to allow yourself to screw up a few times, to have attacks that went to crap, so you can learn from them, and figure out new and better ways to do it next time.

Moreover, Krav Maga is anything but elegant. There are no beautiful kata or forms like you see in karate & kung fu, no fancy high kicks like Tae Kwon Do. Like boxing, Western wrestling, and to some degree kickboxing, its simple, effective, but ugly.

It made me think back to episodes during the past 15 years in my personal and professional life. Without going into too much detail -- things never worked out whenever I sought out the bling/brilliant goal, the elegant way of approaching/solving a problem, or the perfect no trade off's solution to things. I often achieved my goals after taking unusual approaches that made no sense to friends/relatives -- largely because they involved trade-offs they would never make in terms of time, energy, and the potential loss of face (where the whole elegance thing comes into play).

In life, as in fighting, the ultimate solutions are the product of initial screw ups, improvisation, and being focused on the most efficient way to solve the problem -- not the most elegant.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Been Violated...

Had the two most expensive pieces of athletic equipment stolen from me during the past week;

My bike: An early 1990's Specialized Allez Epic Carbon Fiber frame
My wetsuit: A Quintano Roo wetsuit I got as a closeout item from Lombardy Sports 4 years ago.

In both cases some scumbag/scumbags who crawled into our buildings garage most likely took them. A week back, the only time in 9 months I did this, I only secured my bike with a steel cable, using the u-lock I share with my wife to secure her bike frame, and not mine. The scumbags cut the cable --- judging by the clean cut, probably some bolt cutters.

The wetsuit (and a pair of swimming jammers) I left to dry on the landing of the staircase leading up to our floor of the apartment -- which is the top floor of a multi-story building. The only way to access that staircase without a key is through the garage -- and the thief/thieves probably went up and down prowling those stairs looking for something to steal or some way to bust in.

How do I know it was through the garage? Because thats where we've had the most problems. Another tenant in the building called the cops one afternoon when a pair of homeless people snuck into our building garage and did the hunka chunka on top of the landlord's Land Rover. Our garage just ain't secure.

If you calculate the loss dollar-wise, its not that bad. Replacing them won't cost me that much. Both items were also very old and had issues. The bike dated from the early 1990's. The wetsuit had an unfortunate problem of the zipper bursting while I was swimming in it -- leading to very embarassing and frustrating wardrobe malfunctions in the middle of Aquatic Park.

But both items (for all their flaws) had sentimental value. I was very proud to show up at triathlons, centuries, and various training rides, on a bicycle that was almost 20 years old, with technology so antiquated many couldn't figure out. The downtube shifters got many odd stares. I was even more proud when I smoked people using much newer technology. And lastly -- the Specialized brought me BACK into road cycling after a hiatus of almost 16 years. It was the bike that helped me rediscover the beauty of the open road, and allowed me to take on challenges that I didn't dare dream of taking on during my previous period of cycling -- when I was younger, skinnier, and still in my late teens.

The wetsuit -- yeah it was a cheap piece of crap. Yes I had wardrobe malfunctions with it as my girth expanded. But it got me into open water swimming. Without the suit I would never have known about the sub-culture of both triathlon and open water swimming here in the Bay Area.

Then there is the safety issue. I hate knowing that that some asshole/assholes are crawling around our building, looking for easy targets to pounce on. Being a father now, with a wife still recovering from giving birth, and an infant daughter, I'm tempted to either stay up all night stalking the halls of my building with a baseball bat to hunt the bastards down. Or maybe get all geeky and set up some wireless cameras connected to a laptop to record the comings and goings in the building THEN go stalking the hallway with a baseball bat after ID'ing the perps.

This being San Francisco of course, with its excessively PC attitude towards homeless people/junkies/petty criminals, my act of self-defense would make ME the bad guy. And because I have a decent job and income -- I become the bastard for not "sharing my wealth" with the unfortunate (and undeserving) unwashed mass.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What the Acupuncturist Told Me

"Use this stuff on your heel. Chinese martial artists use it all the time, it makes bruises disappear overnight."

"And by the way, its flammable."

So basically I'm putting gasoline on my skin.

Should have asked him, "Do I look like f#$%-ing Kwai Chang Cain to you!"

This sh#$ better work!


What the Doctor Told Me

Well... looks like I won't be running in the VFF's again for a long time.

A week after the Half Marathon that destroyed my VFF Sprints, I did a two hour back to back series of workouts at the Krav Maga school. The burpees, mountain climber tabatas, and kettle bell workout, afterwards my left achilles was killing me.

Three weeks later, after dealing with a nagging pain in my left achilles that didn't go away after laying off long miles in the VFF, I went to the Orthopedist. His shtick;

- I had an inflammation of the sheath that wraps around the lowest point of the achilles, right where it connects to the heel bone.

- The causes of my injury (in his order of precedence) where forefoot/midfoot striking, using the VFF's, and excessive mileage.

- I'm a dyed in the wool heel striker who went from one extreme (bulletproof motion control shoes) to the other extreme (virtual barefoot running) in a very short time.

- My goal, a half marathon, was excessive given the context.

- I have a Haglunds Deformity AKA bone spur on my heel, which means anytime my achilles gets activated (like when I run forefoot/midfoot), it will rub abrasively against my achilles tendon.

His recommendation -- lay off running for another month, do easy spinning on a bike, or swim. When I get start running again, ease off on the VFF's. Use a mixture of running shoes, and a mixture of running styles (both forefoot & heel strike?).

I don't plan on giving up forefoot running. But my VFF saga is pretty much over now. At this point I need to find a light show that I can forefoot/midfoot in without destroying my achilles.

Should I just swallow my pride and buy a pair of Nike Free's?

The horror....