Free Speed for the Dumb

That’s what I am. Dumb. And free speed is what I got.

It just took a couple of nudges to remind me of things I already knew. And free speed was the result. How so?

Bike – flipped my stem over. Sure it was comfortable with the higher rise, but that meant that I caught more much wind with my chest and slowed me down. So after rest week last week, I flipped it, just like the picture to the right.

So what did that do for me? Well, during my “test” last week, I rode hard around a certain loop near my house, averaging 20.2mph. After the stem flip, I rode the same course averaging 22.3mph with an average heart rate 10 beats per minute lower. Faster with less effort. Gotta love it!

Since I showed you the stem, I guess it would nice to show the rest of my ride. My sweet ride.

This is what it looks like, except mine is bright red instead of silver. Gotta love that carbon fiber beam, especially on these farm roads, since it acts as a huge shock absorber. After years of riding Cannondale, I absolutely love aluminum since it’s stiff enough for my big ass and doesn’t flex too much. But a few hours of riding and having that stiff frame jam the seat up my butt got quite tiresome, especially during ultra-marathon (12 and 24-hour) races. Now I have the stiffness of that aluminum, but the comfort of the carbon fiber. Now I’m not afraid to ride straight through potholes, railroad tracks, rumble strips or any other bumps. I feel the jar on my forearms when I’m down in my aero bars, but my butt stays smooth as butter.

It’s a wonderful thing!

And for some odd reason, especially since I’m not a Brit nor an Aussie, I kept wanting to type aluminium. Go figure.

The other free speed was in the water.

As you can see to the right, I watch a few other triathlete blogs. One guy posted a video that reminded me how to swim properly. Mind you, I’m no slouch at swimming. Never have been. Basically, I’m part fish; I just need gills.

So what’s the video? Here it is:

That’s Ian Thorpe on the right. See his flow through the water. Especially the glide as his lead hand hits the water and sits for a second before he strokes. The glide is the key. And it’s something that I knew at one time but managed to forget about in the past year or two during my infrequent swims.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not comparing myself to Ian. Not even close. Hell, his shoe size is literally twice mine! And who can compete against such flippers? But watching this video was a forehead slapper for me. How could I be so foolish?

So yesterday, after a session of “pyramid” intervals (100yd, 200yd, 300yd, 400yd, 500yd, 400yd, 300yd, 200yd, 100yd), I did some 100yd repeats. Every single one was significantly faster than my average 100yd speed during my 1000yd test last week. My first few were even 20 seconds faster than that average 100yd time! My last one (#10), when I was pretty much knackered, was still 8 seconds faster than my average 100yd time. And I wasn’t breathing anywhere near as hard as I was when I did my 1000yd test. Gotta love it.

Well, spring is here. Tornado watches here on Thursday with some pretty strong storms. Luckily we didn’t get anything here other than heavy rain and some wind. Since then, the wind has been howling. This morning saw 90 minutes of my 2.5 hour ride slogging straight into a 25-40mph headwind at 44F.

At one point, going downhill, fully exposed to the wind, tucked as small as I could get, in my lowest gear, I still could only manage 9mph! But the best part of heading into the wind like that is turning around. What took me 90 minutes to cover going out took only 50 minutes coming back.

The daffodils are in bloom, the birds are starting their spring migration north, the bucks have dropped their antlers and the bullfrogs are croaking in the bottoms. So things are looking up.

Speaking of deer, on two separate occasions this week the bastages almost took me out while I was out for a ride. For some reason, they decide that they must always flee to the right side of the road, even if they’re 50 yards off the left side of the road. On Monday night a herd of about 30 decided to take that track when I spooked them; Wednesday morning it was only four, but they were big and fast.

Jen’s been instructed to engrave on my headstone: “Here lies Bill, out for a ride, greased by a deer. Poor Bill, no more beer.”

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“Rest” Week

Those two words are a wonderful sight. “Rest Week”. The phase of the training program, every third or fourth week, when total hours working out for a week drops from the mid-teens to about seven and a half. A nice respite, a chance to rejuvenate, a chance to take stock, a chance to spend an hour with Fran, who teaches massage at the local technical college.

If only it was all good. In the last column, the one on the far right of the annual training plan, is a small letter “t”. Slowly pulsing, black, blue and red; oozing pain. Because that one small letter, which always coincides with a rest week, means “test”.

Testing to evaluate progress. Testing to set baselines for the coming three weeks. Testing to make sure all is on track.

And it happened to coincide with a very busy week at work. A few 12 hour days, which mean late evening efforts. Very hard efforts. Efforts which make it hard to fall asleep. And I’m someone who can fall asleep anywhere, in any position, at any time of day. So “rest” becomes a relative word.

The basic structure of the week is to spend the first few days in “active rest”, which means I continue to work out, but slow and easy, keeping the muscles moving but not stressing them. It’s much better than just taking the entire day off. After those active rest days, the tests begin. One test in each of the three triathlon disciplines; swimming, biking and running.

Swimming – a short 400m warm-up, then 1000m at 1000m race pace, which is quite fast. And for someone like me, who has dealt with sinus issues for the past 15 years, trying to suck air in while gagging is always an adventure. Much like trying to take in a deep breath after gulping down a big piece of ice cream (not that I know what that’s like). This test is usually frustrating for me, since I can swim like a fish; but gagging, choking and sputtering have a tendency to slow things down. But the total time, divided by 10 to determine my average 100m time, is the baseline for my intense workouts in the weeks to come. In other words, I swim real hard for 15 minutes to figure out how to swim harder for 90 seconds over then next three weeks. Capisce? And in the interest of full-disclosure, that is not me in the photo, although some days I feel like that!

Bike – a short 15-20 minute warm-up, then all out for 30 minutes. Ideally one would use a flat course on a calm day, with no traffic, no stop signs and no distractions. Then there’s the real world. The one where I live in a non-flat part of the country (although I certainly wouldn’t consider it hilly either). One where the surrounding farm roads have stop signs and other obstacles every few miles. Luckily, very little traffic. The purpose of the 30 minutes is to figure out where one’s lactic acid threshold lies; at what point can I maintain the most amount of effort to get through the 30 minutes, without pushing so hard that I can no longer flush the lactic acid (burning sensation) out of my legs. Basically, finding the threshold is similar to finding the red-line on an automobile; it’s different with everyone. I actually like this test. If I push harder, I start to look like a rabid dog, foaming at the mouth, gasping and dazed.

Run – Complete warm-up of about 10-15 minutes, with several surges into hard race pace. Then a test similar to the bike test, but instead of time, it’s measured. One mile, flat out in a sustainable pace. Really takes me back to my track days as a teen; too bad the times aren’t similar, but that was over half a lifetime ago.

Each of these tests are on different days, but they’re sequential days. So at the end of my “rest” week, I feel as if I’ve worked myself to the bone.

And it’s a great feeling.

Hope all is well with you!

Srick, Snow, Brick, Glass

What’s with the title? Well, that’s my weekend boiled down to four words.

What’s Srick? Well, it sounds much better than Sick and more accurately represents what I did. Srick is a swim and run combination workout. Friday made for a 3500 yard interval/pyramid speed workout, a quick liquid lunch (no, not the alcoholic kind) and then a 5.6 mile run. Learned quite a bit about timing my food that day. Luckily it was minor gastro-intenstinal (GI) gurgling, not anything involving backflow.

Saturday was a planned Brick, which is a bike and run combination workout. A brick is the normal transition during a triathlon of any length, running right after the bike. The purpose of a brick is to get the legs used to the quick change in types of leg muscle used between the two activities. Well, the weather changed that plan, with an inch or so of snow on the ground when I woke up, more coming in and icy roads. No sense in getting out with the stupid people.

Forget trainers or rollers. Those are a last resort. I can’t stand riding inside for much more than one hour and even that’s a stretch. Same thing with running. Boring. You can stick forks in my eyes and I’d find that more entertaining and worthwhile than riding or running inside.

So I flip-flopped my weekend workouts and Saturday became a rest day. Which I was ready for.

Sunday was the Brick. Nothing like slogging into a stiff, cold headwind for an hour with snotcicles freezing on your cheeks. But the beauty of that is turning around and getting that stiff, warm tailwind. Flying through the sunny countryside with a strong tailwind really makes for an enjoyable ride, except for dodging the ice patches that are hidden in the shade while flying through a curve at 25 mph.

That covers the first three words. The fourth was a very pleasant surprise, sprung on me by my lovely bride.

We had the immense pleasure of 9th row seats, front and slightly off-center, for a wonderful retrospective performance by the Philip Glass Ensemble (PGE). For those of you who don’t know who Philip Glass is, you’ll likely be familiar with his works. I was first introduced to him, as a teenager, when I saw a screening of the first of Godfrey Reggio‘s “-qatsi” movies, Koyaanisqatsi.

For those of you that know me well, you’ll know that Koyaanisqatsi is one of my all-time favorite movies and consequently, Philip Glass has been my all-time favorite musician/composer. So it was definitely a great thrill to be able to see him in person, playing his selections of music through his 40-year career. We were even amazed at how good he looks at 70 years old. I can only wish I’m doing half as good.

The performance was held in Nashville’s beautiful Schermerhorn Symphony Center, which is home to the (of all things) Nashville Symphony Orchestra. You can read the Wikipedia page on the center, which is quite amazing in and of itself. But musically, one of the more interesting aspects of this beautiful hall is that it’s across from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, two blocks from the Ryman Auditorium and right around the corner from Broadway Avenue, home to many of classic country bars and music shops, including Ernest Tubb‘s Record Store.

The audience at PGE performance was quite eclectic, to say the least. From typical symphony-goer attire as dress suits and gowns to flannel pants, sweatshirts and knit beanies. In other words, a few folks didn’t get the word that Bonnaroo isn’t for a few more months.

Speaking of Bonnaroo, we’re disappointed that we won’t be going this year. It’s being held just 90 minutes down the road, but it falls right in the middle of recovering from my 1/2 Ironman and building my base for my full Ironman later in the year. That, and with tickets running $200 each for the weekend, the family/race budget would take quite a hit. So it fell off the priority plate pretty quick.

But with acts such as The Police, Tool, Wilco, The Flaming Lips, The String Cheese Incident, etc., it’ll definitely be quite a show.

I just hope someone takes some soap.

Holy Shrinking Helmet, Batman

25 F, or -4 C for the rest of the world.  Slight northerly breeze, about 7 mph, or 11 kph for the rest of the world.  Makes the wind chill about 19 F, or -7 C for the rest of the world.  Grinding into the headwind, in the big ring, tucked as aero as I can go to cut down on what parts of me are exposed to my effective wind chill of 8 F, or -13 C for (oh heck, you know the drill).  For 90 minutes.

What does all of that mean?  It means the plastic band that holds my helmet snug to my head shrinks in the cold, which squeezes my melon.  Which leaves large marks in my forehead and gives me a headache.

It’s good to be alive.

Focus Change

 I haven’t been updating this very well, now have I?

Well, I lost a bit of focus on keeping this updated. Seems I didn’t think of the blog tag line as it was written; I had previously focused on my photography (pardon the pun) while telling a bit of the story behind the images. Since I haven’t been out shooting, I haven’t had much to update. Also, other aspects of my life have taken priority to shooting. Well, that and the Arctic air mass that settled down over the area over the past few weeks, making for some raw, cold days. Not exactly the kind of days that make me want to get out and shoot.

As far as updating, a good friend made a comment that got me to thinking about my use of this blog. He said something to the effect that it would be a bit more successful if it was actually updated from time to time. What a simple comment. A simple comment that got me to read my own tag line. Notice there are two parts “My photography, my life”. Well, the photography’s not here (at the moment), but I’ve still got a life. So here goes…

My last post revolved around photos taken over our holiday trip. Since then, work and other things have kept me quite busy. Outside of work, the most time consuming events have been training. Training for the year’s upcoming race season, with all of my races building towards an Ironman triathlon in the latter part of September. For those of you who don’t know, an Ironman is a non-stop race consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run. In other words, a good time!

I’m sure some are saying “WTF!” or something along those lines. Fair enough. But for me it’s a natural progression, tying together three of the sports that I have loved the most and participated in all of my life. I’ve swam like a fish for most of my life, even swimming on a team as early as elementary school. I’ve run for almost as long, competing in track and cross-country throughout high school; I was a week shy of running my first marathon right after turning 18 when a stupid injury kept me from the starting line; during my late-20’s, I was an avid ultra-marathon bike racer, competing in 12- and 24-hour time trials. All good fun!

A few years ago, before moving to Japan, I raced a few sprint triathlons (200m swim, 20km bike, 5k run) down in Florida and loved every minute of it.

Triathlon in Japan was very difficult for me for several reasons. My work schedule really wreaked havoc with trying to keep a regular workout schedule (although some co-workers somehow managed to do it. And do it very well!); riding a bike to train for a race in Tokyo is pretty near impossible (a gazillion stop lights/signs); and trying to find triathlons to race was impossible (being a gaijin and trying to communicate with Japan’s national triathlon agency was futile). Anyway, those were my excuses and I stuck to them.

Back here in the states, there are hundreds held every year, running the gamut from the sprint distances to the ultra-distances (generally 2x the full-Ironman distance). After perusing the schedule for the year, I was quite pleased to discover an Ironman being held not 40 miles from my house. A bit more digging and within hours a race schedule was built for the year. A week or so of planning the training and I’ve been in business.

To give you an idea of a typical workout week for this time of year, here’s my schedule for this upcoming week. You’ll have to click on it to be able to read it.

Workout Week

Lots of numbers there, eh?

Basically, I train by hours and minutes, not by miles. As you can see in the far left of the calendar, my scheduled training time for this upcoming week is 13 hours and 45 minutes. Those workous need to be scheduled around work and family activities, so it takes quite a bit of juggling to make it work. Mainly by scheduling morning and afternoon/evening workouts. Now, I do have the luxury of having a small well-stocked gym at the end of the hall at my work, so that makes the strength sessions very convenient.

Each of the codes means a different type of workout, which helps me mix up my routine while keeping things interesting and progressing toward my goals.

For example, on the Monday swim session, referring to M5d tells me that I’ll be working on muscular endurance by doing speed intervals over distance, while completing about 2800 meters of swimming in that session. Another example would be the bike workout on Saturday, which will focus on force, by climbing all hills seated yet focusing on maintaining a steady heart rate. The “brick” workout immediately following on Saturday means that right after my 2 hour 30 minute ride, I’ll swap for running shoes and go out for a 30 minute run.

The beauty of that Saturday is that I get it done early enough, eat brunch, shower, nap and then I have the rest of the weekend with my family. What a wonderful group they are, encouraging me and understanding that this is something that I like to do, as well as something I need to do.

Anyway, this has gone on long enough. I’ll be surprised if any of you have read all the way through this. I will be updating this a bit more than I have, but for now there won’t be as much photography, unless we can manage a day trip on the weekend and I take my camera along.

Hope all is well with each of you. And thank you, Shimon, for identifying the flaw and inadvertently forcing me to reevaluate. I need that from time to time.

Southeast US

Two months have passed since the last post. Pretty sad, isn’t it? But life sometimes gets that way…

In three separate trips since late November, I’ve been through North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida (three times), Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. I’m am so glad to be sitting at home in front of my own computer.

But it’s not all bad. I’ve managed to reacquaint myself with some old friends and see family that I haven’t seen in years.

I’m just tired of the travel. But at least through travel we’ve been able to enjoy some wonderful sights.

Saint Mark’s Light
Sentinels

Broken

St Marks Light

Shuttered

And one of the most interesting things that I had the pleasure of experiencing on each of the trips through Florida are the amazing pine trees. Straight and tall, perfect for lumber.

Solo Pine

A couple of days after Christmas, we were able to visit what has been, for many years, our most favorite town in the southeastern United States – Natchitoches, Louisiana. It was a pleasure to see the town lit up for the holidays, just as it has always been. Especially after spending the day driving across southern Mississippi and Louisiana, where we got to see the effects of Hurricane Katrina, fifteen months on.

Lit Convergence

Impressionistic Reflection

I hope the new year is finding you in good health and good spirit.

Vintage glass and the Political Pains in the Ass

Gotta love thrift stores. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Or in my case, one person just didn’t know what they had.

$15

That’s a Canon A-1 35mm SLR with Data Back A, a Speedlight 199A and Canon FD 28/2.8, Canon FD 35-70/4 and Vivitar 70-210/3.5. Plus a bag and a few accessories, all for $15! Definitely a steal. Running a roll of B&W through it to see how well it works.

Market price for everything, based on its condition, adds up to over $500. Not too shabby, eh? Of course, finding someone who would willingly shell out over $500 for all would be difficult, but it’s nice to know that there are still steals to be had out there.

Only 2+ days left until we no longer have to listen to the political ads for another year. Whoo hoo. They are all thieves and liars. It amazes me how much people get wrapped up in the lies and lying liars, regardless of their party affiliation.

I think I’ll go buy some meth and get a massage from a gay prostitute now

If Clapton is God, that makes Jonny Lang Jesus

I love live music. Especially good live music, even though I have been known to suffer through some questionable acts to enjoy the talent of one of the band members.

Suffering was not the issue this past weekend. We drove down to Nashville to see Jonny Lang play at the historic Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry for over 30 years.

Absolutely incredible performance.

Several of the ladies in the audience were more interested in his flexing muscles and eyes, but they really added to the atmosphere. If you’ve never been to the Ryman, it’s a cozy theater, where none of the 1298 seats is no more than 100 feet from the stage. The seats are church pews, very fitting for the hallowed hall. The flooring is all wood, which makes for a rocking time when everyone’s stamping their feet, both on the main floor and up on the balcony.

When we bought the tickets, they were adamant that no cameras be brought into the auditorium. Wouldn’t you know it, right before the show they announce that we can take pictures from our seats. Aaaarrrgghhhhh! All of the cameras were at home.

The boy can wail on a guitar, with incredible feeling, flow and technique. He has truly mastered his art. It was a pleasure to watch. Especially when he got giddy after he discovered that he had blown his amp. Ooops.

If you get a chance to see him play, you must.

My other project has kept me very busy. If you aren’t sure about what that project is, look at the pictures here. That project has kept me so busy that I’ve actually managed to miss the peak of fall color here, which is, hands down, my most favorite part of the year. But with a lull in the project, we got out for a look just down the road.
Running of the Bull, KY style
Falling Autumn

It was cloudy, cold, wet and windy. Great lighting conditions for photography, but not so good for standing out in. I was thinking about the conditions and how it couldn’t possibly get any worse, except for a good hard rain. I got what I “wished for”.

Falling Road

Get out there and enjoy the show, whether it be manmade or natural.

p.s.  If you are scratching your head at the title of the blog, read this.

Marriage of Miss Jessica Vinson and Captain Robert Partain

We had the pleasure on Saturday of visiting a re-enactment of an 1850’s-era wedding. The wedding was between Miss Jessica Vinson, daughter of a farmer, and Captain Robert Partain, who commands a riverboat.

The event was an all day affair, starting at 10am with the preparations all the way through 4pm with the send off of the couple. All was done in period dress and was meant to educate the public on the lifestyles and technology of the period. Incredibly well done.

Although the entire event was quite interesting, one man grasped my attention. He was a photographer, practicing the art of collodion (wet plate) photography, which was state of the art in the 1850’s. Even now, the details and tonality that he was able to achieve on tin plate and glass rivals what we can do on computer. In many instances, surpasses what we can do.

Some samples:

Wet Plate Stop Bath

Wet Plate Amber

Wet Plate

Wet Plate Apothecary

In the bottom photo, the subject of the photo was a lovely young lady who had no problem bouncing in and out of character to answer our questions as well as discuss events, whether they be current or current in 1850. The photographer ended up taking two pictures of her. This was the first, which she wasn’t pleased with since there was so much grass at the bottom of the image. The second, which she liked more, was technically inferior in our eyes. He offered to let her choose, but I never did hear which one she picked.

Even more amazing, the photographer was charging only $40 for the image that the subject took home. Even if it meant five sittings to get it right. And let me assure you, five sittings would be quite arduous for the subject.

After the wedding, we drove up the road, watched the sun set and were serenaded by elk bugling in the forest. Perfect.