Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Link to First Column

Back writing for The Eagle again this semester. Below is a link to my first column...

http://www.theeagleonline.com/opinion/story/a-global-mentality-post-9-11-beyond-our-own-backyard/

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chatting w/ Gary Hall...well not really


This would be a good Twitter moment. Or maybe Faceballs. A few minutes ago, I answered the phone and a guy introduced himself as Dr. Gary Hall. Immediately that name sparked my interest. Where have I heard that? Before he was finished describing why he was calling, I pieced it together. Gary Hall - the swimmer. The complete total bad ass, wildchild that would show up drunk to swim meets. The guy who made people like me pay attention to swimming pre-Michael Phelps. The dude from my hometown...Phoenix!!

My Pops I think had met his father a few times in business circles. His father was an eye surgeon and we used to drive by it sometimes in Central Phoenix. By the time I got to transferring him to the proper connection, I missed my chance to speak up. I was timid, wasn't sure if it was the same guy as he seemed too old to be the Gary Hall that I remember watching on TV.

Sure enough, it was his dad. And I'm so angry with myself for not speaking up when he phoned. Especially now that I've been swimming 3-4 times per week. UGH! JIMINY CHRISTMAS (as my high school b-ball coach would say). Speak up- fail.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Weekend Recap

The brouhaha that was Hurricane Irene blew through the mid-Atlantic region this weekend, spoiling my weekend plans of sunbathing. Sensing fall is just around the corner, I hoped to catch a few rays before I'm stuck in the library/classroom for the next few months. My brother, curiously nervous about my safety (he must want money) asked what my plan was.

Plan? Ya, he responded. For like the hurricane and stuff.

I texted him - lawn chair and a stogie. I wanted a front row seat to this bad boy.

I didn't end up doing that of course because my lungs are my main advantage in endurance sports so smoking a stogie is borderline retarded. Instead I went to the gym. Saturday was supposed to be a big test of my 1/2 marathon goals. I was to run at race pace for 10-11 miles. If I could do it, I know my chances of breaking 1:30 would be pretty high. If I couldn't, I knew I was gonna have to start mapquesting my way shortcuts in the course.

Of course, like many an ex-girlfriend in a mall drifting towards shoes, I kept gravitating toward the weight section to express my manliness among fellow meatheads. This particular gym is jam-packed with some of the meatiest guys around. Think Jersey Shore meets Hulk Hogan. Normally, this would deter me as the stench of Axe body spray prevents me from breathing normally. But recently, I like to go to the lightest section of weights and begin lifting (throwing in an occasional grunt or two). Now, I'm nowhere near as meaty as I used to be, but I'm still a relatively big dude. I'm 6'2". 175 pounds. And it's ineluctable that men will posture and check out their competition. Meaning me.

So over I walk to the 5-20 pound dumbell section and begin my workout. In my peripheral I can see stares of mass confusion coming from Body-Spray dudes. Like, dude, what is that guy doing? Does he even realize how much of a pussy he looks like? Anticipating these thoughts, I wore my high-cut running shorts as well as my neon racing laces on my shoes. I like to get these guys thinking and asking questions. It's good for 'em.

Anyway, after 20 minutes I got bored of watching other men adore themselves in the mirror. If I'm gonna watch men in the mirror, it better damn well be me. Wait, does that say something about me....nevermind. So I headed to my refuge, the treadmill.

Unfortunately, 20 minutes in, the obnoxious intercom announces the gym will be closing early. Drat! I had another 25 minutes before they were closing shop. So I cranked up the speed and did 6.5 miles instead. Damn paranoia, had everyone scared about the storm.

A few hours later, the storm finally arrived and I did what most normal people do when the government and TV personnel demand people stay in their homes. I went outside. I acted like a human airplane and played in the falling rain. The sky was a real neat shade of grey, it reminded me of the scene in Twister when the cow comes flying out of nowhere. Of course the wind wasn't as intense, so instead of cows, I was hoping more like supermodels (b/c they're light ya know). But to no avail, instead I splashed and stomped for no rhyme or reason and had a blast doing it.

I also came up with a great idea.

OMG!!! No one's allowed on the roads! This is totally awesome! Like, we could drive on the left side of the street...in REVERSE!!! Ohhhhhh fu@# ya, we have got to go do this. Imagine, we could do that NASCAR thing after they win in the middle of the intersection. We could CAR SURF!! I've always wanted to try that!

I was rambling on and on, yet clearly no one else shared my ebullience for this idea. Something about..'that's the dumbest idea ever.' Or 'no...just no'. Or 'please stop while you're ahead.' Oh well. It beats watching the Adjustment Bureau, which was so objectively awful I had to turn it off after half hour. Stick to politics, Matt Damon.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wacky Weather Wrecks Washington

D.C. is no stranger to drama. We're perhaps the most diverse city in the nation, but when you bring 'em all together, we go from intellectual smorgasbord of serene, to rushing to the hospital over papercuts. For some reason, instead of balancing each other out and allaying our fears, all the opposing cultures tremble at the slightest threat and pandemonium breaks loose. Ohhhh the debt ceiling!!! Ohhh, Snowpocolypse!!!! Ohhhh, fu@#ing earthquake...

Wait, what?

How'd that one slip in there? Count me as one of the people who flipped the f@#$ out during the earthquake a few days ago. It started off as a tremble, kind of like an old persons hands. The light fixtures seemed to rattle as if the Budweiser Bullet train (props to me for keeping analogies American-made) was passing through. Then things started getting really weird.

The building literally shook. I know what you're thinking. Umm, ya dude, that's why it's called a freaking earthquake dips@#$. But, I repeat...THE GROUND STARTED MOVING!!! My eyes darted across the room for some semblance of reassurance that we weren't about to flatten the IHOP (right across the street). Instead, I hear someone yell, "Conor, get under a doorway." I stood up and braced myself by my desk. I'm at the 9th floor of my office building. If this building goes down, it's taking me with it. I then realized I didn't heed the advice and was the only one standing in the middle of the room looking petrified like a Jew at a Klansmeeting. Unable to process what the hell was happening, I thought a plane had hit a nearby building.

This is D.C., ya know. These things happen.

Everyone was tentative until the tremble ceased. Finally, someone suggested that we exit the building and we all thought...ya...that's a good idea.

So we hustled past all the obese people down the stairs and stared at the building for 1/2 hour like it was the Parthenon. I kept looking for damages, feigning engineering expertise. One girl approached me and asked if it she thought the building could endure the aftershocks. My thoughts, B@#$%, I'm as scared as you right now, do I look like I know what I'm doing. I've been staring at an inanimate object for 1/2 hour now. What I said was, "Ohhh ya, the engineers who constructed this thing came from Asia, it's definitely up-to-standards."

Of course the veracity of that statement is suspect at best. I have no clue who designed our building except to say that they're likely in the glass business and really appreciate their corridors.

Today, I got excited about sampling a new food truck in Arlington a few blocks from my work. Except, as soon as I got up from my desk and looked outside it was pouring. Coming down in sheets. I paced to the window and said something like, "It's really coming down out there." This elicited blank stares from my colleagues who had been listening to the storm for the previous hour and a half. See, this is one example of my hearing disability in action. I almost thought they were gonna say, "Ya, and a few days ago...we HAD AN EARTHQUAKE!!"

Had I not felt it, I'm sure I wouldn't have heard the damn thing anyway.

Apparently now, a Hurricane is barreling toward us. Lest I remind you, this is not a place that tends to get hurricanes anymore than Phoenix tends to get snow. What the hell is going on!!??

I don't know about you, but I'm blaming Obama. First the earthquake and now this? What's next, cut social security and medicare? Wait....

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Early Year Snippet

As I mentioned yesterday...I'm gay. Kidding. Didn't mention that. Just want to keep you on your toes. As I did mention, I'm sharing space with some other eager columnists for The Eagle this time around. I still haven't composed my column for next week (due Saturday I think), but I got some ideas percolating. Hard to write when there's no news coming out of AU yet!

Here is a link to the introductions to the columnists. My editor has good taste by listing me first :). It's probably seniority, since I'm the only rollover from last year. Classes start Monday and it appears the job-offer-in-waiting may be here today (or at latest tomorrow). Looking forward to finalizing the details.

I went to Borders in Annapolis last weekend and fought back tears to see its doors closing. They're selling everything. Some dude was trying to purchase the Mystery/Thriller sign for his bedroom. (Suppose Romance wasn't his thing). I did buy a couple books on clearance: One compliation of Chomsky, Howard Zinn's A People's History, one by satirist O'Rourke and Chris McCormack's Ironman bio. Been speeding through the latter and have collaborated with one of the best racers in the mid-atlantic region in Andrew Sovonick. Check out his blog here. He's been kind enough to offer his insights on how to improve (especially in the bike and run). This dude is FAST. Such an amazing sport in so many ways, but I gotta say, the people you meet are just second-to-none. You can easily see why this sport becomes addicting (and also necessary after putting in $5,000). Reminds me of trampolines people used to buy. Don't let them go unused!

Tonight or tomorrow will be the last deliberation before accepting or declining the full time job offer...much to digest.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

Half Marathon Looms

In this ever-evolving blog, you may have noticed a shift from political, religious, and social commentary to an emphasis on triathlon training and exercise. At least as of late. Most of this is a reflection of my present day priorities. The summer sun casted its glorious spell and I've avoided much of the typical intellectual musings in favor of hedonistic ventures outdoors. I mean, if running 10 miles can be considered hedonistic...

Well, also, because summer time is a reprieve from school and that annoying thing people tend to do - 'thinking'. Now, with school creeping its ugly head around the corner and the pending job offer still floating somewhere in bureacracyland (where tax dollar come to waste), it's time to return to the books. It turns out I'll be published biweekly in The Eagle again this year. Fortunately, I share space with five other columnists this time around, and therefore have less pressure to churn out a column each week. Tomorrow an introduction-to-the-columnists paper will run (I'll link to it) and my first column will hit stands the week classes start (a week from today).

It's still a lurking possibility that I'll work full-time and reduce my school load this fall. I should have some clarity by Friday one way or another.

In the meantime, I've continued my triathlon training every day. I have definitely transformed my workout regimen and shed weight. I was flirting with 210 pounds around Christmas time last year, lifting weights each day. I weighed myself after yesterdays 12-mile LSD (long-slow-distance) and was 172 pounds. I've dropped approximately 40 pounds in the past 8 months. A lot of that was muscle. A lot of it was my butt sorry ladies), too. But I did tone my stomach too, so some of it had to be fat. I lift weights a whopping total of 30-45 minutes per week now (unless you count push-ups), the rest is cardio.

My buddy Freddy, who lives in San Diego, (and who I used to train with at SDSU) has inspired me to do another 1/2 marathon. He set a PR of 1:28 something a few months ago. That's fast. My PR for the 1/2 is 1:39:45. That time was set at the Parks Half Marathon (2009) in Bethesda, MD, and I've registered for the race again this year. This time, I'm hoping to break 1:30. Dropping 10 minutes is more than a little gap. The race is September 11 and I'm neither delusional nor shying away from my goal. I can do it. I have it in me. But all factors need to coalesce for a perfect race with no injuries between now and then. I've been running 20-30 miles per week, biking 80-120 miles per week and swimming 9-10,000 meters per week. Since my primary goal remains to improve in triathlon, I'm going to continue to cross-train as I focus on quickening my run. Ideally, I'll run my first marathon sometime in early 2012 with a goal between 3:00-3:10 (depending upon my new 1/2 PR).

I have ambitions of becoming one of the best age-group triathletes in my division (25-29). However, I vacillate between doing a full-Ironman sometime at the end of next year (2012), or keeping with Sprint/Olympic distances with one (or maybe two) 70.3's (half-Irons). I have the next couple months to think about it, before I start logging considerable miles for either. Almost every newbie triathlete yearns to complete the treacherous Ironman. And almost always it's solely for the street credibility. To hear the words "I am an Ironman." I'm no different. It's just a matter of when, not if. However, I don't know if itt'l become my niche in the sport. I need to ascertain where I'm best (which distance). Next year should give me a pretty good idea of where that is. Also, training 30 hours per week for the full IM is nothing to scoff at (however this could be the best time of my life to do it).

Anyway, expect to see some more political/American University related material in the coming weeks. I'll link to the introducions later today or tomorrow. Until then, I gotta figure out what the hell I'm gonna write for the first issue...until then, here's a link to some Luray Tri Photos...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Vetting your Information

I gotta say, one humorous tidbit about this election madness is that the one extreme 'change' candidate (see - the only fella worth voting for) is the oldest white dude in the field. And the status quo is voting for the young, black dude. You couldn't make this s@#$ up. We live in some crazy times.

I don't watch a lot of TV. With my interest more than piqued in triathlon at this point, I barely have time to cook after 2-hour workouts post work. Chipotle owners are happy for this reason. And when I finally plop down, I'd prefer to watch a movie, read, or surf the Internet than suffer through another episode of Bachelor Pad (I'm kidding, Bachelor Pad, you know I'm just saying that to make my readers think I'm too cool for you).

Anyway, after Bachelor Pad, I mean, after reading The Nation, I channel surf before bedtime and I started noticing a theme of information vetting that is beginning to drive me bonkers. I suppose it's been there the entire time, but lately its looming presence becomes nauseating and I find it condescending to the point where I belittle my television for showing that crap (don't worry - I do it when no one else is home).

For example, when you watch a sporting event, you don't just get the game, uncensored, unedited, unscripted. You get the commentary. You get the play-by-play (unless you're like me and put the TV on mute). You get analysis and expert opinions. Gag me. Just because you used to play football, doesn't mean you know s@#$ about it now (or ever did). What's most maddening is these 'pundits' are without fail, almost always wrong. They'll say things like, "Cam Newton...his skills just won't transfer over as a pro. His college athleticism just won't serve him in the NFL."

Next play - cut to Cam Newton dodging 5 elite defenders while twirling the ball on his finger and posing for cameras while screwing a cheerleader. Or something like this. I mean sometimes they're so immediately wrong that it take less than 10 seconds for an obvious refutation of what the announcer just said. But, alas, this is sports you claim, it's always been this way.

Okay, fine.

I change the channel to news stories. But I don't get the news uncensored, unedited, unscripted. I get slanted rhetoric where 'talking heads' patronizingly 'break down the news for us'. I mean this is a boastful marketing headline, "Breaking down the news". Right...because we're all idiots who rely on these experts to remind us to change underwear once a week (you don't change more than that, right?). These folks are also imbeciles and almost always completely wrong. "Obama is just too liberal, his policies don't transfer over to Main Street. People care about the deficit." Cut to shots of thousands of protesters demanding their Medicare! But it's the news you cry, it's always been this way.

Okay, fine.

Change the channel to a cooking/food channel. Ahhh. Now I can relax and watch delectable goodies simmer and think for myself for a change. Maybe even learn a thing or two. But no! Back again are the 'experts' qualifying the food and critiquing each morsel as if the fig muffin was serving Henry VIII. "The presentation is lacking, um, buoyancy, it just kind of flounders there in the souffle." Girl was probably just making tacos. But you can't just watch something, you got to get an opinion or expert analyses to tell you what to think. But it's food you declare, we can't taste if ourselves, how else are we to know?

Ugh. Okay, fine.

Change the channel to a cast of dancers/singers gloriously gracing the stage with eloquent, athletic poise. Brilliant. I love it. Can't wait to see more. But no! Back come the punditry with their 'analysis'. Nitpicking the performers like gymnastics coaches. "It really doesn't look fluid. You clearly need to work on your dismounts." To which I reply, you really need to go f@#$ yourself. I can't tell for myself how much I like it anymore, because I'm so bombarded and influenced by the 'experts' it skews the whole experience. Oh, c'mon you say, these are competitions. Of course there will be 'judges'.

Double ugh. Okay, fine.

Change the channel begrudgingly to a movie. Yes! A reprieve from the punditry! Finally, it's not like someone's gonna pop up during my movie and tell me about it.

Oh, c'mon, you knew this was coming.

How blasphemous of me! Of course someone's gonna come talk to me about what I JUST SAW. What, do I really think they can trust me to think for myself??? What do I want next, my own remote that doesn't 'guide' me to the 'hot' channels? Just who do I think I am, some kind of individual or something?

Sure enough, during the commercial breaks two 'film reviewers' assay the latest snippet of the film and reduce it to its complete simplicity so I can understand it. Thanks. Wouldn't know how else to process that sh@# if it weren't for you two. Bruce Willis is just so damn deep and mysterious. How the hell was I supposed to figure him out without you guys? I was gonna go right on believing that that asteroid really was heading for Earth (f@#$ sometimes I wish it actually was). So thanks for that.

I get so disgusted that I turn the TV off. Enough. I CAN'T STAND ALL THE EXPERTS, PUNDITS, ANALYSTS, ETC. I want to think for myself dammit! Is that too much to ask????

So I open The Nation, and head straight for the book review.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Results...

Like before, the in-depth race recap is posted below. This is just the results.

I tried to avoid looking at the posted results as long as possible, knowing my run was awful and that I missed out on an age-group award.

Overall, I placed 27th, out of approximately 700 (388 men) total finishers. As Luray is a very competitive venue, I'm pleased with that showing.

For my age group, I was 4th. One off from an award. Shucks. I really wanted it, and it was within my reach but just couldn't get the job done.

I believe that I could easily have been at least 2 minutes faster on my run, potentially 3-3.5 minutes faster. I think forgetting my energy bar was a costly blunder than induced fatigue sooner than necessary. Hopefully I won't make that mistake again.

I had the 7th fastest swim split overall (1st in age group), which tells me that at this point in my fledgling career, somehow the swim is my strength.

My transition times remain abysmal. Not sure how to fix this unless I stop wearing socks, but somehow people are waaaayyy more efficient than me in this 4th leg. I was 67th, and 71st overall in my transition times. That's just not gonna cut it.

My bike was actually not disappointing for me. I raced it about as hard as I could and finished 45th overall. I think this is an improvement from last time and now I have some training insights I will use to get faster.

The run. Ugh. What I thought is generally my strongest leg (I can run a sub 40-minute 10k) really hindered my overall time. I placed 51st overall with a time of 45:25. I can do better. I was expecting anything from 42-43 minutes. Granted it was an extremely challenging course and we're all tired from after the previous two events, but still, had I not bonked I would be writing about my award right now.

So that's it for now. I introduced myself to Andrew after the race and we chatted for 10 minutes. And also introduced myself to fellow racer Doran Bosso who is another blogger I follow. Hope to get to be friends with him and maybe start training together...and btw, my lactic acid in my hamstrings has still not dissipated. Even after a 7-mile recovery run yesterday....

Luray International/Olympic Traithlon Race Recap

This weekend I upped the ante in triathlon racing and competed in the Luray, Virginia race. Instead of racing the Sprint distance, I chose the Olympic/International (1500m swim, 25.7 mile bike, 6.2 mile run). It is sometimes referred to as Olympic distance (like, well, in the Olympics), and sometimes the International. They mean the same thing and really it's just code words for: This S@#$ is Fu@#ing Hard.

The race was Saturday morning and hosted at Lake Arrowhead which is approximately two hours from my humble adobe nestled by American University. Unable to fall asleep until 1AM, I set the alarm for 4AM so I could be on-site no later than 6:30 (transition opened at 6). Thankfully I gave myself more time than necessary as the Beltway was rerouted and I angrily charged through the detour. Before I left I cooked two scrambled eggs with a piece of cheese and half a banana. Washed it down with some Gatorade and off I went.

During the drive I passed many fellow competitors (noted by the bike racks and tri-bumper stickers....was hoping this was a harbinger for the actual race). When I got within 20 miles of the site, the roosters literally began to crow as I rolled down the windows to acclimate myself to the temperature. Dawn was rapidly approaching and I parked at 6:20, 1 hour and 40 minutes before gun-time.

Pre-race was relatively uneventful. I had just enough time to grab my bib numbers, set up transition, get body-marked, pick up my racing chip, use the port-a-john and scout out the course and competition. I wanted to ensure myself a front-row starting spot for my wave, so I got down to the lake early for a warm-up swim.

I also had to get away from all the men in their 20-50's (yep, 50's) with six-pack abs. It's all a bit intimidating and the posturing is nauseating at times. It elicits mixed feelings of pride (that you belong) and shame (that some 50 year-old is in better shape than you). So down to the water I went to get a feel for the temperature and visibility(was preferring murky mud to abs at this point).

After only 5 minutes in the water, I was asked to come ashore for the National Anthem. I immediately spotted our former mayor, Adrian Fenty, and his brother Shawn. They were in the wave before mine. Just a few minutes later I'm nervously bobbing in the water, anxious to release my pent-up anxiety.

Bam! Gun goes off and arms are flying everywhere. Anyone who hasn't witnessed this spectacle really needs to just for sheer amusement. And anyone who's witnessed it and hasn't experienced it should give it a shot. It's a hell of a way to start your day!

The first 300 meters, I'm comfortably keeping pace with about 15 other guys in my wave (29 and under) at the front. I'm surprised we haven't separated all that much. Another 400 meters in, and I see only one other light blue cap nearby, which implied I was near the front as I had already been passing many of the earlier wave racers. At this point, I dig in and stop looking up periodically to check my buoy status. Mistake. When I finally did look up, I had drifted about 15 meters off and had to correct my trajectory immediately. I dug in and picked up the pace to make up for my meandering.

With about 200 meters remaining, the shore was within sight and there were no more turns. I dug in and pulled hard with each stroke. At this point, no one was really near me, and later I'd find out that I had a great swim leg.

I stumbled sideways for footing when I reached shore and knocked into another racer (he probably didn't enjoy it all too much). I began jogging up the flight of stairs toward transition areas (stairs after water = disorienting). Thankfully, a large crowd had lined the stairs and cheered loudly as I ascended. It was a great feeling because the closest guy was now 10 seconds behind me. So. Those cheers were for me :).

As I entered transition I noticed that nearly all bikes were still on the racks. A very good sign for me. I was feeling confident about my position. I got to my bike as quick as possible and exited transition with my Gu in my back pouch. I passed two cyclists within the first mile and then creeped up on another couple riders when I was overtaken for the first time. I checked out the calf (where the age is written) and noticed it said 25. Dammit! But since I recognized the racer (Andrew Sovonick) I knew he would be a top finisher and therefore took solace that I was ever ahead of the dude in the first place. 

I tried to keep him in my sights but it proved as easy as keeping Bill Clinton out of your pants, so that didn't work very well. Instead I had told myself before the race not to hold back on the bike. I didn't want another disappointing split so it was all in on the bike.

It was a stunning bike course. Absolutely lovely with rolling hills, false flats, one monstrous climb and two epic downhills. My quads were burning. I devoured all the Gu by the 20th mile and the last 5 miles were real tough. A 29 year-old (also in my age group) passed me around the 21st mile and I muttered something angrily under my breath (something like, "You bloody bastad"). To my luck and surprise, only a quarter-mile later, the dude is pulled off the road (presumably with a flat tire) and my schadenfreude kicked in as I mini celebrated. Of course, karma is a bitch, and soon enough he was passing me on the 'infamous monstrous climb' at the 24th mile.

I assumed (based on body type) I was a better runner than he, so I wasn't too upset that he had gained 15 seconds or so on the bike. I'd pass him later.

The crowd was boisterous as I got back to transition, at this point I knew I had to be in the top 50 overall.

I also passed Andrew during my ride who was probably 1/2 mile into his run when I came in on the bike. Dismounted, scrambled to get my shoes off and put the running shoes on. And in all the blur, I forgot to grab my energy bar. Too late, had already exited transition and quickly passed two runners. I'd be okay, it's only 40 minutes left...right?

The sun was now beaming down and I had no idea what the run course was like. But I felt no tweak in my hip/knee/back and felt strong. Lungs were doing okay, legs were cooperating. The first mile or two went by and I was cruising. Mile two to three was mainly downhill and I really felt like I could reel in a few more racers and keep my #2 spot in the age group (top 3 get awards). Except, the course was an out-and-back. So what came down...must come up. And from miles 3.5-6, I just completely and utterly bonked. My mouth was agape, my head was down, my shoulders were high. I must've looked helpless (kinda like Napoleon Dynamite without the dope hair). A few people passed me and my speed had reduced so significantly that I pondered walking. Walking! Never!

Walking to me, meant defeat. It meant I was quitting. I dug in as deep as I could to maintain my snail of a pace (a smidge north of jogging). with only a mile to go, a '27' calf passed me and I knew my award was out of reach. I was disappointed. I raced so hard, only to bonk a mere two miles from the finish.

At the 6 mile-marker I tried to sprint and couldn't. I tried again in the last 100 meters and literally looked like the wobbly guy you've seen in the Ironman videos. Never in my life did I understand those people. Just finish dammit! You're right there! I'd always think. There's no way you can be that close and just fail! But now I've experienced it. My body just shut down. Would. Not. Respond. Every stride my hamstrings had a major charley-horse. I thought I was gonna collapse. I honestly would love to see a video of those last few meters in the chute. Extreme pain.

Fortunately I was able to finish with that awkward wobble of a sprint. I wanted to fall on the ground but my charley horses were sooooooo relentless that they only moderately alleviated if I was absolutely straight legged. So I hobbled like a wood-legged pirate and downed 3 bottles of Gatorade within 2 minutes. Ya, had to be some kind of record. Then I ate a PB&J and submerged my legs in the ice bath.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. I was done. And surprisingly revitalized and chipper! I did it! And it was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have ever physically accomplished.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Christianity and War - A Marriage in the Mind

Last night I tuned into POTUS (one of my preferred XM radio stations) and endured a hybrid form of torture...listening to a press conference from someone speaking about the military (funerals). Since I didn't catch the introduction of the speaker and didn't recognize his voice, I assume he is a spokesman for the State Department or the Department of Defense. Didn't sound like Jay Carney, but could've been.

The speaker was fielding the most ridiculously obscure questions from the press pool imaginable. Things like, "Before the bodies are transferred into the caskets, where are they held?" He'd reply something like, "Dignified plastic containers (I'm serious...dignified is now an adjective for plastic)." Another journalist would chime in, "How many soldiers per container?" He would respond, "I'll have to get back to you on that, but one per casket." "How many flags are draped on each casket, and how many times is the flag folded?"

American journalism, ladies and gentlemen.

The elephant in the room remained unprovoked. How dare we challenge our venerated leaders on the pertinent issues at stake.

After listening to the speaker invoke the words; God, sacrifice, and servicememebers for the nteenth time, I turned off the radio in disgust. Sometime thereafter I tuned back in and listened to parents of the slain American military members (the Navy Seals who were recently gunned down) defend their son's deaths. Saying things like, "We couldn't be prouder. He loved this nation and he died defending something he loved." Or, "Without our son's courage, we wouldn't be speaking hear today (I assume b/c our freedom would be stolen by the freedom-stealers...though you should note the irony)."

Perhaps the most frustrating dilemma I encounter when dealing with folks, is the routine glorified explanation whenever a soldier is killed. The sense of duty, loyalty, honor, and courage gets heaped onto the slain victim so profusely that it completely overwhelms any potential discussion that his life didn't need to be wasted. I always wonder why critical faculties are completely ignored under these circumstances. Instead, the mourner will ultimately revert back to the propaganda we've been fed since birth. He fought for our freedom. He died to keep us free. He died for you and me.

It literally makes my blood pressure spike.

Why do people believe this bullshit when it's patently false? How is it that 99% of the population is captivated by a vacuous theory and defaults into cliche justification after cliche justification in the event of a death? Why can't we see that these soldiers are being used as fodder for the politics of the day? Why can't we see the ineluctable pointlessness after our present invasions? Even with history as hindsight, we still refuse to alter the paradigm that these people died 'for us.'

And then it occurred to me. Jesus.

Because I wasn't indoctrinated as a young boy to believe in him, I remain skeptical of all claims regarding the dude. But the strangest (and most outlandish) is the proclamation that "Jesus died for our sins." To a non-Christian this is truly a bizarre statement, and one that makes them feel like the person who said it probably just finished snorting Valium.

What does that even mean? He died for our sins...um, WHAT!?

It must be difficult to question when you've been consuming that slop for decades. And think of how simple it is to transfer that ridiculous wonder-of-a-statement over to your son/daughter/friend/spouse who was killed in the Middle East somewhere. It's okay. He died for us. To keep us safe. It's regurgitated, unchallenged. And yet still...makes no fuc@#$ sense.

Jesus died for us. And so did the Navy Seals. All is well in the world in the minds of the public.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Riddle...


Love 'em or hate 'em here's the latest:

Walking angrily is what am I,
Or an accurate ball caught on the fly,
I can also be a force that sticks,
Will leave your jaw aching from the hit,

One of three is what I can be,
Or a routine endeavor by our mil-it-ary...

What am I????

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Subcultures - Leg Shaving

Matriculating into the wonderful world of triathlons, I've been introduced to a variety of different subcultures. The most prominent, bar none, is the cycling world. No one sums up the debonair condescension associated with said leg shavers better than my amigo BikeSnob. Snob ridicules the 'fixies' (single-speed bikes), carbon (crabon infatuates), the know-it-all pontificates, or the intense club rider (amongst others). He knows a hell of a lot more than I do about it (and is on par as far as sh@# talkin is concerned), and I generally defer to his posts when gently criticizing the 'lifestyle' that is cycling.

But a recent thread on the DC Triathlon Club website caught my attention and I had to opine, because, well, it's my damn obligation now that I own a racing bike. It comes with the helmet (sold separately). It's called, "Must have a zealous opinion on everything." Of course I purchased that accessory long ago, and applied it to pretty much everything, but lest I forget, cycling deserves its due.

The initiator of the thread asked a relatively benign question about whether or not he should shave his legs. Simple enough. The omniscient cyclists were quick to respond, most of whom endorsed leg shaving for a couple reasons. First, it's cleaner in case of a crash. For some reason, hair interacts with the pavement and inflames the bloody mess (wouldn't it act as a buffer???). It's science, meaning - hard to explain and we know it doesn't exist and can't trust it - so moving on. Secondly, hairless is more aerodynamic, hydrodynamic, etc. Simply put, less weight, less air resistance, less drag. This is also science so we must do our best to display discomfort at its findings (kind of like climate change, gravity, Cornell West's hair, etc.).

Included with the racing bike (also sold separately) is the responsibility to share personal anecdotes to convince others that your way reigns supreme. Therefore, I shall justify my hairless proclivity, and will tell you from the outset, it has NOTHING to do with the above reasons.

Of course, sometimes I lie when someone asks me.

Dude 1: Bro, do you shave your legs?

Dude 2: Word, I noticed. What's up with that? Are you like..gay?

Me: Oh, sh@#, ya, I mean, it's all about efficiency. Can't be dragged down in my races ya know. You should try it.

Dudes: No, we're good. Thanks.

Or....

Massage Therapist: You're so prickly, do you shave your legs?

Me: Nope. Just grows in that way.

MT: Really, never seen that before. Like ever.

Me: Yep. Rare skin condition. Called hairwontfuckingrowcorrecltyitis (said really fast).

MT: Ahhhhhh. Good to know.

So why do I shave my legs? Hard to remember when I started (no it isn't). I mean I just can't place my finger on it (I absolutely know the moment it began). If I only think back (right...like I need to).

During high school, my buddy Casey had the best calves ever. I mean those things were like shiny plates of carved gold. It never occurred to me that the reason they were so shiny and bronzed was due to the unfettered sun attention he'd been giving them (along with numerous calf raises). I just thought the dude had great calves (note to women - see, we judge other men just as much as you judge other women).

One day after basketball practice we were soliciting behind some snack bar and one of the cool guys (not me) said something along the lines of, "Damn, Conor, you're like a Woolly Mammoth. Your leg hair has its own zip code." It was something like this (precisely this, in fact verbatim). Usually immune from the peer pressure and harassment of pubescent teens, I looked down embarrassed and shrugged it off. Never had thought about it up to that point.

That night, went out in the desert (sounds creepy, but this is Phoenix mind you) and with a pair of scissors I trimmed down the hedges.

But a curious thing started happening a couple years later. I had been in the habit of trimming my leg hair, and suddenly it's as if the subculture had an about face. Kids my own age (about 18-20) started teasing me for shaving my legs (fuuuuuuuuuck just can't win with you people can I???)

However this time I refused to be bullied into altering my routine and continued to trim (except procured a body trimmer this time). And viola, I still do today.

Over the last 6 years, I encroached on other bodily territory (arms, chest, upper legs, pretty much anything aside form armpits). I'm telling you, that trimmer has a mind of its own ( I even once cut my eye brow, but that's a different tale). Believe it or not, I like the way it feels. However, I'd be lying to say that's the main reason. It's no longer because I feel compelled to stemming from a stinging high school comment. It's not to appease my fellow cycling pals (ahhh the piety). It's not because I want to be faster, or because I'm worried about road rash.

It's simply because, as my buddy fraternity brothers (who didn't shave) used to say in San Diego...you just look sooooo good. Any fledgling triathlete will tell you, race pics look exponentially better when the skin is smooth. The veins protrude, the muscles, refulgent from under the sun, glimmer. Why should I train my ass off, only to have hair sabotage my look? I work hard to get ab definition, and now no one's gonna see it because of some hair that's in the way? It's like getting a boob job only to go on to wear sweaters the entire year. Uh uh. Not having it.

Egotistical vanity? You bet. Not denying that for an instant. But it's honest. It's the truth. And at least I'm not hiding behind some flimsy justification to deflect from the chief explanation.

I shave because women are attracted to hard bodies. And in order for peeps to see mine, I gotta manicure a bit. Since I'm not the most handsome bloke on the block, I rely much more on my athletic prowess to attract the wandering female glance than men like, Colin Farrell. In fact, I have personal stories of how successful I've been with women solely because of my body. It is what it is. Gotta use your strengths to your advantage.

One final tidbit, women don't tend to like it all that much. I mean, they enjoy spectating for sure, but ultimately, they find it overly feminine to the touch. They don't mind a little hair on your chest/legs. Of course most my age enjoy the trimming of the...well...you know. But anything else is superfluous and ummm...kinda weird.

Just can't win! :)

Oh, and one more thing. Maybe I'm lying. Maybe it's because I'm addicted to it and it makes me lighter on the scale....or is it...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Culpepper Sprint Result

Before you read this post, you may want to read the one below to give you a better idea of the race. This is just the results.

As I mentioned, I won the novice race. By a lot. The link shows that the second-place novice was 14 minutes behind me, but, it's not a major victory as in reality, this was my second race.

I was, however, pleased that I finished 9th (out of 265 men) and 10th overall (out of nearly 500). One woman beat me and another was one second slower (for that coveted top 10 spot!!).

I loved this race. It was a gorgeous course. The people were friendly. The weather was amazing. It wasn't too crowded. Literally loved every second of it. Can't wait for the Luray Olympic distance in less than 2 weeks!

After boasting to anyone who'd listen about my bike ride, I was stunned to see I finished 31st. I could have gone faster, but it was hard to know how hard to push, since no one was passing me. Next time I know not to measure it on whom I pass, rather my heart rate and watt output.

The swim, wasn't as brisk as I've done in the pool, but it did secure me 7th, and I'm only getting faster now that I've joined a master's swim group.

My run was a predictable 20:09. I would've liked to be sub 20, but considering I could barely jog two days prior, I'll take it.

Most shockingly, my transition times were comparatively awful; T1 (79th place) T2 (55th place). I need to do much better. I guess this is something I should actually practice. The guy who finished one place ahead of me was 30 seconds faster overall. But he was 44 seconds faster just on combined transition times. No good.

Overall, I'm happy with the result and am nervous and curious how I compare to the tougher Olympic distance racers rapidly approaching...

Culpepper Sprint Triathlon Recap

Happy August 1st, or as we like to say in Washington, "We just saved your dumb@#ses from the doom of the pending apocalypse!" You can thank us later. For now, we're all following Rep. Boehner to the tanning booth to celebrate. Hurray brilliant legislators!

I actually got the hell out of Washington this weekend, trying to avoid the histrionics and unnecessary grandstanding that you can expect as much as triple degree weather this month. Gag me, good grief. Everyone seemed so captivated, but it seemed to me pretty par-for-the-course for this gang of idiots occupying Congress. What resulted of course, looks like an awful 'compromise' that takes money from poor people while maintaining our bombing preference of the week. Gotta keep that military spending up, because, ya know things can get real bad over here if we don't. How bad? Bad like the government cutting social security benefits, medicare and medicaid? Well not that bad, sheesh, talk about overreacting...

Anyway, I don't want to waste time disparaging the gang of six, or marvel at Obama's lackluster presidency (to put it mildly). On to more personal matters...triathlon #2!!!

Well, technically #1, because the first one wasn't in my name, and I could've made the whole story up just to illustrate my ability to bamboozle folks with my words. Because I had never registered personally for one, I once again registered as a novice (first-time racer). Which, of course, has its perks and liabilities.

A perk would be the limited competition (last time I finished 2nd out of 324). A liability - I had to begin my race in the last wave (12 minutes behind my age group). Which means I started behind men 40+, the young women, and the 40+ women.

Didn't sleep much the night before. Woke up around 3AM, read articles on my iPhone for two hours, then hopped in the shower and departed for the race. I ate a couple eggs w/cheese and half a banana. The weather forecast was ideal. Clear skies, 75 degrees when the gun went off at 8AM.

Culpepper, Virginia is about an hour and a half southwest of Washington, nested in a bucolic setting of rolling hills, small farms, and the looming Shenandoah mountains. Prior to race day, I injured my hip on Wednesday. I was on the treadmill attempting to run 10 miles at 1/2 marathon race-pace (6:50m/mile) and felt a sharp pain on my left side at the 3-mile marker. I felt I could push through and by mile 5 it was flaring up again. I decided I'd reduce the total to 8 miles, but of course, by the time I got to 8....you know the routine.

When I hobbled off the treadmill I knew I tweaked it pretty good. Half hour later, I'm in the shower, I glance down and notice a small uncolored peach protruding from my hip bone. I literally looked like a girl going through puberty (WHERE DID THESE HIPS COME FROM??!!). Needless to say s@#$ hurt pretty bad and I didn't think I'd be healed in time to race. Self-daignosed with a bad case of hip bursitis. After grimacing through a few practice strides Saturday night, I was a game time decision and elected to give it a shot.

Sooooooooo happy I did.

Swim (750m)

Muscled my way to the front of the last wave, didn't want to get kicked in the face to start my day. Instead of jumping into the water from a dock, we had an in-water start. I splashed around, getting acclimated to the temperature (85 degrees) and visibility (murky). When the gun went off, instead of freaking out and sprinting, I tried to take long strokes and refrain from panicking. Mission accomplished. 150 meters in, I was feeling great, hit a rhythm and looked up to find the buoys right in line. My group had to wear green caps, and by 200 meters, all but one was behind me. I started to catch the 40+ women (the 4th group) and had to watch out so as not to swim over them. Made the first turn around the yellow triangle buoy, and was into the long straightaway. Another hundred meters and I was passing some in the younger women wave. It was great to see different color caps.

By the time I approached the final turn (150 meters remaining) I was kicking it, and even managed to catch some men in the first group. Felt refreshed and energized and jogged into the transition area.

T1 (First Transition)

Felt much, much faster than the previous ones. Still decided to wear socks, but didn't sit down and had no major impediments. Got my bike and jogged out.

Bike (16 miles)

Before I was able to mount (love that word), competitors had to jog their bikes uphill on wet grass (some peeps ate it) for 75 yards or so. I didn't fall, but was a bit out of breath by the time I hopped on. Bike course was constantly up and down with almost no flat stretches. The ups weren't too intimidating and the downs weren't that exhilarating, but the constant change made for an interesting ride. I took a small protein energy bar with me and had filled my water bottle with my favorite G2 (low-calorie Gatorade). The first sharp (1/2 mile in) turn I saw a man about 40 years old, wipe out hard. His tire, wet from the grass, skidded as he took the turn too fast and he got banged up real good. I initially slowed and considered helping him (you guys believe me....right??), but a race usher ran over to assist so I kept plugging away. Noted to self: take the turns slow.

I.....was.....flying. I must've passed 100-150 people over the 16-mile ride. Not a single person passed me the entire way (granted I started in the last wave and had a lot of making up to do). At mile 15, there was a turn I didn't see and was about to pass a man 41 years old (they mark your calf with your age) on the outside. Well, the turn was a left, and since I didn't see it, he yelled it out to me, a second before I almost t-boned him. I yelled, "Sorry bout that!" and "Thanks for the heads up!" He was very cheerful and smiled and we chatted for a minute before my jet engines kicked in and I zoomed down the hill. One thing I absolutely love about triathlons is the people. They're all so kind and supportive. When I was passing folks they all encouraged me and said things like, "Way to go", "Looking strong" "I want to have your babies". Okay, maybe not the latter, but you get the idea.

T2 (Second Transition)

This time, I procured some neon green racing laces (ones you don't have to tie) so that saved me some time. I decided to keep my sunglasses on for the run since it was so bright. I took one final swig of Gatorade, snapped my race belt on, and headed back to the hills.

Run (5k)

The course was only 5k, so I knew I could go out fast. Problem, was that it started with a 1/3 mile hill, and my form was compensating for my hip. Another hum-ba-ling moment was when I started the run, the first finisher was sprinting by me the opposite way. Hum...ba...ling...Initially I was worried I'd have to walk for a large portion of the run due to my unbalanced gait, but endorphins kicked in and the injury was mostly an afterthought.

The run shared most of the same course as the bike so it was up and down. My lungs felt great and I passed many people. I tried to pick off as many top women as possible (usually how I gauge my performance). I made an effort to smile the entire way and each time I passed a water station I dumped some (brrr...ice cold) to cool me down. I really tried to enjoy this race the entire way, instead of putting pressure on myself or having a singular focus. I'm not curing cancer. I'm doing an elective race and I tried to keep a healthy perspective.

My socks didn't go up high enough on my foot and ended up brushing up against my heel pretty badly. Should've applied some body glide there too. Felt strong, not too fast, not too slow, but ran a relatively good race I thought.

Post-race

Saw four kiddie pools and didn't immediately make the connection that they were filled with ice water (and not designed for childcare). Only a few souls were brave enough to go in, and I was coaxed in by none other than the dude I almost T-boned an half hour earlier. We chatted and shared a laugh about the ride and he said next time he should've let me go straight so then I wouldn't have passed him.

The weather was heating up, and as I downed some post-race snacks, they posted the results. I stuck around and collected my prize (a folding chair) for winning the novice race...See new post above for results.