Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How to Lose 2 lbs. During Thanksgiving Week, Part II

Click here for Part I


Monday should begin with coffee and an actual, productive work meeting in the morning. Following this meeting, you should participate in an information webinar and Q&A session for a grant proposal you need to put together in the next few weeks.  This will be marginally informative, and take up 2 hours of your day.
Then more socializing work with old grad school friends in the late afternoon.  The day ends with a 5 pm work meeting regarding the grant proposal over a beer.  This quickly turns into a 3 beer meeting which expands on topics beyond the grant proposal. At this point, your planned departure for this evening is changed to tomorrow morning. This is completely due to the weather, and has nothing to do with the beers. 

Dinner at the bbq restaurant you had lunch at a few days ago. Another huge meal is ordered, but you are able to talk yourself out of ice cream.  No exercise today, overtraining can lead to injury after all.


Get up at 6:30, pack up, and drive 2 hours to sisters house.  Upon arrival, you get to see your 6 month old niece who has grown a lot since Labor Day weekend. After a (cold) 4 mile run, make your way over to your parents' hotel pool where the niece gets her first taste of swimming. She loves it. 

On Tuesday evening, you eat your body weight in sushi, vegatables, and rice at a Japanese restaurant for dinner. You will feel extremely handsome and young-looking after being carded by the waitress when you place a sake order.


On Wednesday morning you should have an oil change scheduled at 9 am.  After sleeping in until 9:01 am (literally) and getting the oil change done, spend the rest of the day trying to get some grading and other work done.  Later in the afternoon, head over to the hotel and run 3 miles on the treadmill. Then, attempt to spend 30 minutes on their crappy elliptical.  After 15 minutes, realize just how crappy it is and go back on the treadmill for 2 more miles to punish yourself.

Thursday (Thanksgiving)

After waking up at 8 and stalling for a couple of hours, you take the road bike out for a 10 mile ride to justify the second helping of mashed potatoes and gravy you plan to have later.  The temp is in the teens, with a wind chill in single digits. 10 miles is more than enough.  When you get back, walk around gingerly for about 15 minutes while trying to get feeling back in your feet.  After showering, prepare for the meal. 

Here was my, apparently successful, two-pronged strategy: 1) load up on veggies so that you are almost full before the real food is even served, and 2) resist the urge to have seconds after inhaling the first plate of food for at least 10 minutes. This allows time for the uncomfortable full feeling to set in before you do any more damage.  Mission accomplished on both counts.  No pie after dinner. Back to the hotel for 3 miles on the treadmill and to check some football scores.  Return to sisters' house and eat some pie.  And chocolate-cashew clusters.


Plan to be on the road by 7 am.  Wake up at 7 am and pack, and be ready to actually hit the road by 7:30.  At this point you start to realize you won't see the niece again until Christmas. Also, she will be in a good mood, smiling and happy to sit on your lap and play with some of her toys. So you stay until almost 8:30. 

After stopping to ride some trails for a few hours, you finally make it home around 4 pm.  Shockingly, your post-Thanksgiving weigh-in is a few lbs. lighter than when you left.

See, wasn't that easy?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

How to Lose 2 lbs. During Thanksgiving Week, Part I

Here is a day-by-day guide to how you can actually lose some weight during Thanksgiving week.  To begin, you need to plan to spend a full week away from home.  The first half of this week should be spent where you went to college.  The justification for this visit is to get some work done with former advisors from graduate school.  The real reason is to visit friends from college, and tailgate for a football game.  The second half of the week should be spent with family, celebrating the holiday.


Plan to get up early to pack and be ready to hit the road at 8 am. Actually get on the road at 9 am.  Oh yeah, you should bring your mountain bike and gear, because halfway through the drive you are going to stop and ride it on some trails for about 3 hours with someone else who is meeting you. This person should forget their helmet, wear long underwear under their bike shorts (this only looks slightly more ridiculous than tights under bibs), and take a few entertaining spills because they just started clipping in. 

After the ride, quickly change clothes in the parking lot so as not to get mud all over your car seats.  Then finish up the second half of the drive, arriving at some friends' apartment in the early evening.  Proceed to the local brewery  and order an appetizer, entree, and a number of beers. Consume them, and then take the bus back to the apartment to sleep on their couch.


Get up at the crack of 9 am for a "work day" that will involve walking around the building you used to have an office in on campus to bump into old friends. Make some appointments to get some actual work done with people on Monday.  Go to lunch with a friend at a bbq restaurant and order a lot of food followed by one of their signature ice cream sundaes.  It is, after all, a special occassion.

Then head back to the apartment and go for a 4 mile run around campus.  Look jealously at the students while they look back at you wondering who the weird old guy is staring at them in running tights. After the run, head back to the apartment to shower up for dinner at your advisor's house (Note: it helps if you drop hints that you will be in town a few weeks beforehand so that this dinner party can be planned). 

Arrive at dinner fashionably late and be handed a glass filled with beer before you even have a chance to take your coat off. Eat some salad, followed by two large bowls of the cassoulet that they serve (which was made with twice as much bacon as the recipe calls for). Also, you should drink at least a bottle of wine.  Probably closer to two.  Then get a ride home with your friends.  The wife will volunteer to drive, which is convenient. Before leaving, make plans to join one of the assistant professors in your old department for some mountain bike riding, tentatively at 8 am the next morning.


Wake up at 7:30 am with a fairly wicked wine hangover.  Go back to sleep until 8:30, then wake up and call the person you were supposed to pick up at 8 and tell them you are going to be an hour late.  Don't worry, they won't mind because they will also have a wine hangover and probably would have preferred you just forgot about the bike ride altogether.

On way to pick up the friend, stop at a gas station to buy some Vitamin Water and a protein bar.  After picking up the friend, you should hit the trails for a few hours.  You will quickly realize just a few minutes into the ride that mountain biking requires more balance than someone who drank a lot of wine the night before may have.  After suffering through the first 20 minutes the effects of the wine will be gone and you will really start enjoying yourself.  Until your feet get wet and proceed to remind you (painfully) that it is below freezing and windy.

After the ride the two of you should go out to eat, preferably somewhere that serves very good and large sandwiches.  Again, it is a special occassion.  After inhaling the sandwich, drop the friend off and head back to the apartment to get ready for some tailgating. Don't forget to make a stop at the grocery store for some beer, chips, beef jerkey, and cookies (your friends are bringing burgers and brats).

Spend the remainder of the afternoon tailgating with old friends.  And by tailgating, I mean drinking beer and eating food while talking about the good old days when you were all younger, thinner, and better looking (yet, still had about the same luck with the ladies).  Old people get cold easy, so after much debate you should decide to watch the game at a local bar or restaurant rather than in the actual stadium.

In addition to watching the game, you and your friends should vow to "tear it up" in your old stomping grounds.  Unfortunately, you are old and most of the students have gone home for Thanksgiving break.  After bouncing around to a couple of the old place you used to hang out (which just don't feel the same anymore - the smell of stale beer and urine is not as sweet when you are 30 years old), you decide on a bar that has exactly one of the person in it.  Luckily, this person is the bartender and an attractive female who is bored and willing to give you deep discounts (in some cases full discounts) on drinks and shots.  You will once again be reminded how old and pathetic you are when everyone starts yawning and talking about hitting the road to get home by 11 pm.  Retire to your friends' apartment for night 3 on the couch.


On Sunday you have a late morning/early afternoon bike ride planned with a bunch of people in your old department.  After waking up to light rain and 35 degrees, the bunch quickly dwindles to 3 brave souls.  Ride 25 miles on one of central Iowa's new bike paths between Slater and Woodward.  On the trail, which is a converted rail line, you will cross a magnificent bridge across the Des Moines river which must have cost millions.  Thank you stimulus money.  By the end of the ride you actually weight 5 lbs more than when you left, most of which will be in your feet as your socks will be very wet.  And heavy.  And cold.  Luckily the wind is with you on they way back.

After the ride you join the old advisor who hosted you for dinner on Friday night and joined you for the ride today for a late lunch at his house.  A bowl of leftover cassoulet, 1/3 of a loaf of fresh whole-grain bread, and two glasses of scotch later you return to the apartment, change, and head out to your friends' acreage that they are currently fixing up.

Spend some time spreading mulch around the yard with their 4 year old (only later finding out that said 4 year old has been told repeatedly not to do this, and you just reinforced something that they had been trying to get him to stop doing).  Finish the day off at their apartment with some pork parmesan, broiled asparagus, and garlic bread.  And more wine. And a port nightcap.  Night 4 on the couch.

Part II tomorrow, or the next day, or whenever I get around to writing it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Intervals

Today I did my first interval workout.  And my second. Unfortunately, that probably will not be my last.

What is interval training you might ask?  Basically, you do varying levels of resistance/speed for specifed intervals of either time or distance.  You go all out, then you recover.  Rinse and repeat. In short, intervals suck.  Running or biking at a constant speed allows you to get into a groove.  If I have a relative athletic strength it is endurance - finding a groove and staying in it for an extended period.  The point of intervals is to not let you do this.

A friend convinced me that incorporating some interval training into our running workouts might help to break the monotony during the week and improve our speed.  This friend is probably right.  The same person also convinced me that starting this program today at 6:30 am would be a good idea.  At about 6:45 I was not in agreement.  We ran two consecutive ladder workouts - sprint intervals that got consistently longer in distance with short recovery periods in between, the back down the "ladder" (and back up and down). 

The local bike shop started their free indoor group rides for the winter tonight.  Every Tuesday and Thursday you can show up at closing time with your bike and trainer, and ride indoors to a training video with a group of people.  I convinced myself that this was a good idea.  Daylight savings and colder temperatures make it harder and more inconvenient to ride to work, so I thought the group effect would provide the motivation necessary to still get miles in over the winter.

Tonight we did a climb interval video led by Chris Carmichael. We started with some short all out sprint intervals.  You know, to really get the lactic acid pumping so the rest of the workout hurt more.  Then we shifted to some 5 and 10 minute climbing intervals which consisted of getting into your highest (most resistance) gear and pedaling at a low, steady cadence.  In between these climbing sections we would ride recovery intervals at high cadence.  I have to admit, while it did suck, the intervals made the hour go by a lot faster.  Staying in the same gear at the same cadence for 60 minutes makes for a long, boring workout.  It was kind of cool to have a series of goals of reaching the end of the short intervals.

Chris (I feel like we are now on a first name basis) kept telling us how this was Lance Armstrong's favorite workout.  I think my favorite workout begins at the top of a very long hill and ends at the bottom. With lots of food and cold beer.

Honestly, I did enjoy both workouts.  A change of pace is always good, and sometimes you need to changes things up and shock your body to prevent plateauing.  So while it may have seemed like I was complaining in this post, I really enjoyed the challenge and I am sure I keep these workouts up until I catch Lance in the segments of the video where they cut to old clips of the Tour de France.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, or at Least a Picture

Spent the morning out at Kickapoo today.  A total of 3.5 hours and 30 or so miles of riding.  Weather was awesome.

"Lake" overlook towards the end of the trail

I am very handsome in a bike helmet
Based on the quality of these pictures (taken with my phone), I should really consider getting myself a digital camera. Actually, a camera mounted to my helmet would be really cool.  Hey, isn't there a gift-giving holiday coming up?

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Awesome Week that was Pure Torture

Here is a formula:

Exam in Undergrad Class + Computer Lab Session in Grad Class + 5 Days of Sunny, 70 Degree Weather in November = Really Blows

A formal proof for this formula is available from the author upon request. For now, let me explain in laymen's terms.

I am a procrastinator.  I knew that I was giving an exam and holding a lab session this week; as the instructor I set the dates for both of these activities.  I am also fully aware that preparing an exam and a lab session takes considerably more time than preparing standard lectures (it's hard to BS an exam or lab session, you have to be prepared).

Furthermore, the 10 day forecast told me well ahead of time that the weather this week was going to be beautiful, with a 90% chance of awesomeness.  So I could have been prepared ahead of time (like finish the exam and lab activitities last week or over the weekend).

But I didn't.

So, instead of being able to get up early for some riding after a good night's rest, I chose to write the exam and prepare for the lab into the wee hours of the morning each night this week.  5:30 am comes a lot quicker when you go to bed at 2 or 3 am.  And riding your bike doesn't sound like nearly as much fun under those sleep deprivation conditions either.

So, to punish myself for squandering this rare opportunity so late in the year, I put more miles in on the treadmill this week than ever before.  Running sucks.  Trail running sucks a little bit less.  Running on the treadmill sucks2.

Of course the weekend forecast is for highs in the low 50s, lows in the low 30s, rain, and a 50% chance of shittiness.  I am riding at Kickapoo again on Sunday regardless.  You know, just to punish myself again.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

More Miles, Different Bike

Twas another beautiful day for November.  The temperature had reached 50 by about 10 am, and was supposed to get into the low 60s.  Winds were much stronger today, 20+mph gusts from the SW, so I decided to stay out of the wind and take the mountain bike to Kickapoo. 

The trail system at Kickapoo is about 10 miles total; folks who ride out there generally refer to how many "laps" they do.  I have always been a 1 lap guy, with maybe an optional swing back out along the road that borders the trail system to ride trail 7 (< 1 mile) again since it is easy to get to and one of my favorites.

Today was different.  I became a 2 lap guy today.  What with it being November, I am getting worried that riding days which fall on a weekend (since, you know, I have a job and all) may be numbered.  Plus, we finaly got some rain this week, and the trails were in great shape.

Despite being alone Since I had a full professional medical staff with me (just remembered my mother is one of the few who actually reads this), I decided to try and ride hard.  I am happy to report that there were no major crashes (guess I wasn't riding that hard).  I also discovered that, apparently, I get faster the longer I ride.  My first lap was about 1:10; my second lap was about 5 minutes faster.  Which means that if I rode 5 or 6 laps, my last one would almost be fast enough to actually win some races at Kickapoo.  After all, I am sure the time trend would have continued, even though I felt like puking after lap 2.

Paul Simon should probably get most of the credit for today's performance.  "Cecilia" and "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" are excellent biking songs.  It was fairly busy on the trail today, so hopefully not too many people had to listen to me sing these songs while breathing heavily and attempting to wipe the snot from my nose.  Jack Johnson's newest album was also on today's playlist.  It sounds like his other albums.

I actually lapped a fairly large group of people who probably should not have been out on the trail.  They didn't have the bikes for it, and they certainly didn't look comfortable on technical singletrack. In fact, both times I saw them they were stopped or walking their bikes along the trail.  I am guessing some friends told them how fun Kickapoo is, but failed to mention that many sections of the trail are fairly dangerous. 

Anyway, they decided to stop at the top of a steep climb which came out of a very steep descent.  Not a good place to stop when more people (me) are coming up behind you.  Luckily, I was able to avoid them while also using my momentum from the drop to get up the climb.  After all, my bike handling skills are world class...

I would have been somewhat upset, but then the woman leading their group noticed my jersey and yelled "RAGBRAI!!!!" as loud as she could as I rode by.  So we were all good.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

40 miles @ 40 degrees

It seemed like such a good idea this morning.  I had a fresh cup of coffee, was standing near a vent with heat coming out of it, looking out the window watching the sun rise*, and checking the forecast.  High of 49 degrees, 7 mph wind out of the west.  Perfect conditions for a bike ride. Right?

What I seem to keep forgetting is that, by this time of year, those highs that are reported are reached for about 15 minutes around 2 pm.  And that 7 mph wind, which would feel good at 60 degrees, has a wind chill effect in the 40s.

But I didn't feel like running today, and haven't had my bike out since Sunday (another stupid ride, into the wind 25 miles back home from the trail race).  So I put on the cold weather gear, pumped up the tires, and set off.  I headed into the wind planning on doing 20 miles into the wind, and then an easy 20 miles back with the wind.

It was cold, so I rode hard.  Then I started sweating, which is your bodies natural process for cooling itself off.  It works very well when you are riding into the wind on a 40 degree day.  Almost too well.

Regardless, I made it out and back and was happy I decided to ride.  Spending the whole week inside on the trainer because of my cold was boring as hell.  But this makes me wonder how realistic my winter riding plans might be.  I think I have softened considerably since living in MN.

The only thing that happened of note during the ride was an encounter with a motorist who thought I was taking up too much of the road and needed to move closer to the shoulder.  Their feelings on this issue were so strong that they felt the need to slow down and tell me this through the passenger window.  I attempted to explain that motorists are, by law, supposed to allow cyclists 3 feet of room on roads in IL.  I also explained that, as a taxpayer, I had just as much right to use the road as they did.  They were unreceptive.   And complained about being delayed by having to wait to pass me.  I then pointed out that I was going 20 mph in a 30 mph zone (the point being that many cars drive this slow and are much harder to pass) and, more importantly, how quickly they were progressing to their destination by slowing down to tell me to get off the road.  Then our conversation ended.

*Note: Since turning 30 I have found it hard to stay up much past 11 pm, and seem to naturally wake up at 6 am.  Sleeping in much past 7 am takes a lot of effort. If I had a social life this could be a problem.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Teaching Process (followup)

Two posts today - an embarrassment of riches for the 2 or 3 family members that actually read this.

A colleague sent me a link to this youtube video which nicely, and very sarcastically, addresses some of the negative aspects about teaching that I have already written about. Given that this is week 11 of the semester, this is very timely. Let's just say we all need Thanksgiving break right now.

The Movie

Going to a movie tonight.  A special, one-time only premier event for Race Across the Sky 2010, which documents this year's Leadville 100 mountain bike race in Leadville, CO.  I am excited.  How could I not be given the trailer?

Race Across The Sky 2010 from Citizen Pictures on Vimeo.

I entered a drawing for a free ticket at my local bike shop.  Being the risk averse individual I am, I also bought tickets ahead of time online since the drawing was not held until yesterday.  I was worried that the movie would sell out - what with the huge mountain bike race crowd in Central Illinois (heavy sarcasm).  Of course, I won one of the free tickets.  Luckily I was able to give it away to a fellow cycling enthusiast in my department.

There are a few possible outcomes that may follow my viewing of this documentary. 

First, I may decide to quit my job and pursue a professional bike racing career.  That probably won't happen. As long as I can fight the urge to resign through the weekend.  And since I am giving an exam next week, I doubt I will make any rash career decisions.

Second, and more likely, this film will get me really pumped up for mountain biking (even more so than I already happen to be right now).  I will then proceed to go out and buy some more gear and accessories. And start making tentative plans for mountain biking trips in the next few years, which will probably eventually "require" even more gear and accessories. 

I guess what I am trying to say is that, at least in my case, it was a very good idea for the local bike shop to give away some tickets to this event.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Trail Race

Victorious Racers

That is how long it took me to "run" 5.5 miles of trail on Sunday morning.  In a costume no less. I dressed as Forrest Gump - the bearded Forrest from his running across the country scenes.  It is tough to run when you are not a runner, and you are wearing an itchy wig and beard.  It was kind of a sweaty mess by the end of the race, but it won me a nice pair of thermal wool running socks.  You just can't underestimate a good pair of socks.

I was not the only one in costume.  Since the race happened to fall on Halloween this year, and prizes for costumes were involved, many of the participants came through with some creative dress.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Ostrich Cowboy
This guy ran in jeans and a western shirt, with a fake ostrich he had crafted himself.  Oh yeah, he also ran the entire race in bare feet.  His legs were actually the ostrich legs, and ostrich's don't wear shoes.  Nice work by him.

The Viking
Full viking dress, including battle axes in both hands. Wig with braided locks and helmet.  Well done.

Richard Simmons Twins
Complete with afro wigs.  I could just picture them sweatin' to the oldies.

One of the Simmons Twins

Chilean Miner
This guy was cheering the runners on near the end of the race (he may have just finished with the fast people) yelling: "If I could survive for more than 70 days underground, you can make it up this last hill!"  Inspirational, funny, and probably politically incorrect - I loved it.

This girl actually drove over her running clothes (she was not wearing them at the time) to create realistic looking treadmarks across her torso. Plus she was hot; unfortunately no photo is available.