Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pike's Peek 10k Race Recap

The night before I was dreading this race. Annoyed with the sudden and dramatic shift in (cold) temperatures, I wasn't looking forward to driving up to Shady Grove and shivering my buns before the starting gun. Let's face it...I'm a wuss. So much of a wuss, that I had worn my tights for a 45 mile bike ride the day before and hung them out to dry so I could wear them again today. Once I got to the race venue...practically NO ONE was wearing tights. Fuck 'em, I thought...let them shiver.

About 45 minutes later (approaching gun time of 7:50) I understood why. The sun reared its lovely head and I knew those other runner-rejects had it right. Drat. Too late to discard 'em. Thankfully, I tossed my long-sleeve at the last moment in bag-check so I was only wearing my bright green tee. Plus the tights, a pair of running shorts, a visor and sunglasses...but who's counting? I was certainly the most stylish of the bunch.

The course was fast and generously downhill. Starting at 502 feet and ending at 383 feet. Aka...my kinda course. We climbed 50 feet total for the 10k, but dropped near 150 feet.

Two days prior I had an awful taper run of 5 miles. I did 2 miles slow, 2 miles at race-pace and 1 mile slow. Felt sluggish, heart-rate was sky-high, and felt thoroughly depleted. The next day I bonked on my bike ride at around mile 30. Signs were pointed to some major fatigue.

Nevertheless, undeterred by the high 40's/low 50's forecast (in truth..ideal running conditions...but not for almost MAY!!) we drove up to Maryland.

Pre-race was easy. Did a 3-5 minute jog before but didn't really care to do anything more substantive to warm up. I recognized a few of the top competitors from blogs I follow looking sharp and ready to blister the course. Speaking of blister...more on this later.

Gun went off and we were on our way. The great thing about this course is there is only one turn. 1. That's it. You hang a left within the first half-mile and then it's literally a straight shot down to the finish. It's also highly enjoyable to race on a road where I'm usually queued in traffic. The road was mostly closed down and there was tons of room to maneuver.

I started with the sub 6:30 pace crew. I preset my Garmin for 38:45. Which is something like a 6:15 pace per mile. This is about as fast as I've gone in training. Maybe a little faster, but it's a tad easier on the treadmill to keep up the pace (or your ass goes flying off the back). This put me in with the 'elites'. Now, I'm nowhere near elite...but it is fun to be lumped in with those dudes/dudettes. Out of respect/deference, I kept my ass at the far back of the wave...assuming that's where I'd end up. It would be. The winner averaged a sub 5 min/per mile clip! But it was a perk because the 6:30-8:00 crowd and the rest of the gang had to wait a full minute for a separate gun to go off.

Anyway, early on I thought I recognized a great runner/blogger from Baltimore, Ryan McGrath. He's a better runner/triathlete than I am, but I figured he could pace me through the first couple miles and maybe...just maybe if I was feeling good, I could try and hang with him as long as possible. I drafted right behind him for the first couple miles (although didn't see his name in the results so it musta been someone else). First mile was right at 6:10. Perfect. Second mile split was near 12:30. Still feeling fine. Lungs were good. Decent turnover. At the 5-k point my brain was fighting back a little bit but I told it to STFU, I have a race to run and it listened more or less. I split the 5-k around 18:40 (will double check this when I post the Garmin stats).

Near the 3-mile marker I checked my Garmin and 'Ryan's' (or whomever) and my pace had dropped near 6:30. I thought my watch might be off so I stuck around for a quarter mile or so. After almost no deviation in pace, I decided to kick it back up a notch and get a rhythym back at 6:15. I figured this was probably just a training run for him anyway...maybe he was going longer. Time to surge.

Success.

This was probably the best I've felt in a race aside from one small irritant...PAINFUL blisters developing on the outside of my foot. By mile 4-4.5, each stride became more painful than the prior. Ouch. I knew what the problem was. I rarely wear my long black socks to run, and when I do, I don't run downhill. The friction of these oversized socks was rubbing my skin raw on the sides of my feet. Fuck...it hurt. Despite that minor inconvenience, legs and lungs felt strong and I was able to pick up the pace even more over the final mile. I probably passed 5-6 people in that span. One of whom yelled, "AGRGHHHHHH!" as I came shooting by her. She was bonking. But I was feeling great and sped up to the finish with a smile.

Final Time and Results: 38:20. Peep the winning times....WOW those dudes are fast!!!! I was the 91st Male out of 1307 and 32/149 in my Age Group. Which doesn't sound overly impressive but when you kick out the sub 30 minute guys in my AG (7 of them)..it's a bit more respectable. If you're running sub 30 minutes...you are just INCREDIBLE...and you don't get an AG...you just get to be known as FUCKING AMAZING.

I'm happy. I was thinking the fastest I could go is two 19 minute 5-ks. I almost accomplished that. Granted, this course had ideal conditions. Cool weather. Flat and downhill. Lots of space. Zero turns. Nevertheless I ran well and had a strong day. It's a perfect tune-up for Knoxville this upcoming Sunday. I'm stoked. A tad nervous about the blisters formulating on my foot, but I'll take a couple days off running and hope they heal. I did a technique slow swim this afternoon because I ate like a fatty afterward, and now I need to work on my final paper. Last week of school...finally!!!!!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vegetarian/Vegan Delight



The cook at work. Got my whole-wheat figs close by, plus Coke (c'mon it's sugar) and peanuts. Protein packed!

I'm not a good cook. Like most people, I love food, but it's usually devoured quickly and then onto the next project. My cooking skills are rudimentary and I generally stick with a few staple dishes. Recently, someone close to me transitioned toward veganism from vegetarianism. Veganism connotes different (primarily negative) meanings, so a lot of 'new-age' folks simply call it plant-based diet. I've studied vegetarianism extensively, yet never gave much thought to vegan. In fact, it'd be incorrect to label myself vegetarian as I still consume meat on occasion.


The secret to sauteed tofu...cinnamon. Ya, ya, big surprise coming from me, eh?

Lately, I've become a happy beneficiary of vegan meals. So, while I will succumb to a steak and cheese sandwich now and again (or let's be honest...Taco Bell), I'm actually consuming fewer animal products than many vegetarians by eating vegan meals.


Broccoli and bell pepper. Yum. And no I did not add a dash of Coke for flavor....riiiiight???

It makes sense because the identical reasons why a person would become vegetarian (animal rights, health, environment, energy, minimize disease, etc.) are the exact reasons why a person would become vegan. In fact, I'm actually surprised I neglected it in the first place. Dairy can be one of the worst foods for people FYI. Now, that isn't to say I will become strictly vegan (I'm not really strictly anything....except well..sexy), but I gravitate toward it and do enjoy the dishes. It's also become more and more mainstream (again relatively...but there is a notable shift in material, marketed foods, and people who are embracing the lifestyle shift). I've also read numerous articles on endurance athletes (particularly runners and triathletes) recently and while their bodies look incredible, they credit their performance and energy levels to a plant-based diet.


Accompany it with some rice and dinner is served. 

Hence, I'm cooking more and sticking with more raw foods packed with nutrients. Plus, that bloated-I-just-ate-a-hamburger feeling I avoid. I can eat more food, and not gain weight.

Finito! Bueno!

A couple years ago I righteously came down on those who didn't recognize the obvious benefits of vegetarianism. I was angry by ignorance or dismissiveness. Now, I'm much more laid back. Eat what you want. But you are what you eat remember and the fuel you give your body directly relates to your energy levels and performance. So give it a try now and then...say once a week. Cook a vegan meal. If you don't know where to start this is one of my favorite blogs -http://runningwithrewards.wordpress.com/ (had a couple of these quinoa bars for breakfast today). Tons of delicious, healthy recipes to fuel your day. Comment with any questions/thoughts!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Link to the punditry

If you want to see me make the same point over and over again ;). This was filmed last week. My 'episode' starts at 23:00 marker (might have to wait for it to queue) and lasts only about 15 minutes. Enjoy.

http://politics.auatv.com/episodes/capitol-politics-april-17-2012/

Book - The Great Animal Orchestra

For as long as I can remember I've been missing out on things. Not missing out like, 'damn I wish I woulda smoked that blunt back in middle school' or 'shoulda got the nerve to ask out Julie back in the day'. Not those type of things. The blunt I passed up for in favor of candy (gotta pick your vices) and Julie either wound up sleeping with me and hating my guts or hating my guts - then sleeping with me. One of the two.

Anyway, what I mean by missing out on things is my hearing loss. Since 5th grade I've had noticeable loss that has affected my social life, scholastic life, work life and everything in between (although suppose it helps on a one-to-one relationship level to some degree ;)). My hearing is degenerative. Putting it in vision terms...if a normal person hear's at 20/20. I hear around 65/20. I can't remember the last time I watched TV without closed captions. Every movie I rent I turn them on too.

Walking through BandN this week, a book caught my eye with animals on the cover. As an animal rights advocate (and someone who eats mostly vegetarian and increasingly vegan) my interest was piqued. Instead of joining the abundance of books on veganism filling the shelves, this was a book on sound. Specifically, the origination of music. Think about that for a second...the origination of music. We're not talking Beethoven here. We're not talking tribal chants. We're talking the root of music...in nature. Looong before humans like Katy Perry started to annoy us on the radio waves. Where did music start? Why does it exist? How can we measure it?

For most people, (me included to a lesser extent due to my disability) we use our ears as filters. With so much background noise distracting us and drawing our attention, we find it hard to focus on the object of our fixation. It's mostly subconscious. Rarely do we conscientiously say, 'Ears..tune out this skeezeball harassing people on the metro'. They just do. Or we eavsdrop electively.

This has its plus and minuses. For one, it enables us to function and progress in our day without being bogged down in screeching brakes and approaching sirens. Filters keep us well adjusted. On the other hand, we miss out on a lot of the beauty that is sound(s). And while I primarily refer to the hum of insects, the caws of birds and the barks/sniffing of dogs, even city sounds can orchestrate a nice melody once in a while. RARELY...but still.

Today, I decided to run without a headset. I spend an unenviable amount of time running on treadmills (mainly for convenience, softer surface, equal footing, and for speed work) but running on a treadmill without TV or music is 8th amendment status. Plus, the weather has been wonderful and I was due for an 11-12 miler so I hopped outside with the intent of listening acutely to nature. I jogged along Capital Crescent Trail on a truly magnificent day. The sun was squirming through the trees to light the trail and a cool breeze whisked my sweat away. I stayed at a 7:30 per/mile pace and felt wonderful. More surprisingly, I previously envisioned suffering through 1.5 hours without my typical music/TV distraction. Not this time. I tried not to let my eyes wander as it would detract from the auditory sensory I was focusing on. I kept my head neutral and listened to the whooshing of the water from the tributaries, heard the birds call out for their friends, heard the small feet of the critters scurry as I approached their nests, heard the gears shift from the passing bikers.

Not gonna lie, it was splendid. I felt invigorated. Never had I went out to run with the sole purpose to just enjoy and focus on the sounds. Sites, sure, but never sound. For many of you, you may shrug and say that's normal (if you have decent hearing). But for someone who has to strain to hear..it was nothing more unusual and therefore, more exciting. I really enjoyed it.

And I'm anxious to read another 50 pages of this book. Just think of how ugly a world without music would be. When/if I go deaf, I hope to learn to cherish these moments now while I still retain some level of hearing.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fun Facts Friday

Before I get started..here is a link to me swimming today in the pool. My coach is filming me as I work on 'technique' so it's not intended to be fast. Gotta lot to fix, so this is just one of the things I'm working on.

file://localhost/Users/conorshapiro/Downloads/Video_1_Apr20_113pm.mp4

1) If I didn't eat so much sugar/candy I'd be 10 pounds lighter for sure.

2) If I didn't eat so much sugar/candy I'd probably also be a hell of a lot angrier...so it's a trade off.

3) When I set my alarm(s) I never set it for a :05 or :00. For example it's usually ex: 7:42 A.M. or 6:27P.M. Don't know why I do this, I just do.

4) The best time to exercise for me is usually mid-afternoon (3:30/4). Morning is also nice, but not my fav.

5) The healthiest meal I eat is usually lunch. Always eat vegetables w/o fail at this time.

6) I don't know why I love LeBron James as much as I do. He's been my favorite player since I was 17.

7) I have a major problem with the word/concept of 'leadership'. It's something I've been dwelling on lately and something that's crystallizing in my head.

8) I hate almost nothing more than photo radar. I'm VERY close to smashing a machine some night when I can't sleep...

9) I hate having lots of lights on. I don't like the glare of most lights opting for natural light or little to none at all. My roommate and I fight about this at times.

10) Most time when I read magazines I start from the back. The best stuff is generally back there anyway, I skip the ads, and I don't waste time shifting through all the B.S. that is the first 25 pages. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rumpus in Bumpass Pictures and Column Link

Last night, I again appeared on AUTV (my University's TV channel). They asked me to come on as a panelist to discuss President Hope-Change and his re-election chances and general outlook. Was a quick episode (20 minutes I believe). This was my third appearance so that's kind of a cool stat. I will likely post the link when it becomes available online. And then you guys can tell me that I should stick to radio ;) or triathlon. Eh, you're probably right anyhow.

Speaking of tri, the professional photographer snapped some decent pics of me you can see below by clicking on the links. And if you're really creepy (or just think I'm dead sexy) you can purchase them yourself! Always wanted to be a poster on someone's wall! Even if it's my own :).

And finally, here is the link to my latest (and final) column for the Eagle...enjoy!

http://www.theeagleonline.com/opinion/story/the-virtues-of-individualism/

https://birdseyeview.net/cgi-local/ImageFolio42/imageFolio.cgi?action=view&link=Triathlons/20120415_RBS/Bike&image=RBS_B2003.jpg&img=&tt=

 a cool shot...exiting transition chasing silver...
https://birdseyeview.net/cgi-local/ImageFolio42/imageFolio.cgi?action=view&link=Triathlons/20120415_RBS/Run&image=RBS_R3001.jpg&img=&tt=

dammit Garmin...why won't you start.
https://birdseyeview.net/cgi-local/ImageFolio42/imageFolio.cgi?action=view&link=Triathlons/20120415_RBS/Run&image=RBS_R3002.jpg&img=&tt=

the finish chute...funny b/c it's the exact same expression my brother makes.
https://birdseyeview.net/cgi-local/ImageFolio42/imageFolio.cgi?action=view&link=Triathlons/20120415_RBS/Run&image=RBS_R3007.jpg&img=&tt=

dazed and confused...
https://birdseyeview.net/cgi-local/ImageFolio42/imageFolio.cgi?action=view&link=Triathlons/20120415_RBS/Swim&image=RBS_S1018.jpg&img=&tt=

really gotta learn to keep my head up...
https://birdseyeview.net/cgi-local/ImageFolio42/imageFolio.cgi?action=view&link=Triathlons/20120415_RBS/Swim&image=RBS_S1021.jpg&img=&tt=

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Rumpus in Bumpass Race Report

Earlier this morning I completed my first triathlon of the season...the Rumpus in Bumpass. The venue was one I was semi-familiar with as I raced one up the lake about 5 miles late last fall (Giant Acorn International). This venue was much better in my opinion. The bike course was almost identical, but the swim and run were a bit more fun. Same lake, but less chop. And the run had some real nice shaded sections with lots of course help (although there were many 180 degree turns throughout the course).

Make Up: A small tweak from a traditional 'sprint race' this one was 750m swim, 12 mile bike, and 5k run. The bike was listed between 11.5 and 12. I'll check my GPS to see how close it really was.

Pre-Race

Grubbed a few Fig Newtons to get the engines going so I could lose some weight before the start and that was successful #win. Got to the race site with almost an hour and a half to spare, so perfect timing to get all checked in, Body Glided up, wet suit on, warm-up complete and transition setup. Even though the race started at 10, it was a 7AM wake up call.

As usual, click on the pic to enlarge. 
 Actually starting to enjoy the wetsuit feel. Swam thrice with it in the pool last week. Tight in the crotch, obvi...but when you're packing...ya know what can ya do ;). 
 Visualizing the course. 
 That's more of a forced smile from the temperature...61 Degrees!!! Brrrrr. 'Bout to warm-up. 
 Doggy-Paddle Warm-Up
 Like bro...like, do you know any shortcuts? Sizing up el competition. 
Always the most nerve-wracking part...jockeying for position before the gun goes off. 

Swim (11:33 10th Overall) 

Gotta say, nothing beats an open-water swim. Started out in the very front and had minimal bump with the other dudes in my starting wave (34 and under). This can be kind of a rowdy crowd, so that was refreshing. There were two quick left turns to start, followed by a looooooooong straight-away. It was a point-to-point swim. It also seemed rather lengthy, as the winner was only a minute faster than me (and times weren't overly impressive overall). I swam at the back of the lead pack most of the way. Most of us got out right around the same time. I never swam in a pack before so that was pretty dope. I let those dudes do the sighting and I just tried to draft and conserve energy. Felt strong. 

 Blare of the horn goes off and the madness ensues. Look at the next wave scramble for spots immediately after. Impressive. 
 Pummel-fest. 
 Clear day, minimal chop, great conditions. 
 First open-water ever w/ a wetsuit. Had no problems whatsoever getting it down to my waist. 
 Trying to get it as low as possible to make transition easier. 
 Gotta remember to breathe. 
Uphill running...not my fav. 

Transition 1: (1:53 55th Overall) 

I'm fucking awful at transitions. There's just no way around it. I spent a few hours the past week trying to practice, but nevertheless my times were atrocious. I COULD NOT get the wetsuit off my feet (even though I applied copious amounts of bodyglide). Eventually I sat down to yank it off and it STILL wouldn't budge. Very frustrating. As soon as I did manage to squirm out of it, I put on the helmet and shoes (sockless) and busted outta T1. 

 Aero helmets are very weird. First race with it. 
 Jogging with my bike shoes on = not easy. 
Think this dude was the leader...not sure. 

Bike (29:39 6th Overall) 

Far and away my shining moment in the day. Mounted my bike and snapped into my clips immediately. Within the first 1/2 mile I already passed one dude and was gaining on another. I overheard the announcer say something like, "And the 5th place male has just exited transition," around that time I was jogging toward the mats so I believe that put me around 5/6/7/8th overall at that point. 

Legs felt really strong. I did an agonizingly slow 20-miler the day before to 'shake the legs out' and felt awful so was quite happy to have immediate power today. I knew I was in for a strong bike early on. Shortly after I passed the first dude, I passed another and about 2 miles later...one more. 

Still fairly unsure what place I was in...I rode alone for the next few miles. I refused to look behind me to see if anyone was gaining, or if the previous guys were cranking it up a notch. Didn't want to lose anytime if that's the case. So kept my head down and pedaled. 

The terrain was gradual ups and downs. Undulating but not annoyingly. In fact, it had just the right amount of variety to keep it interesting and keep you honest. I did something like 1:06:40 in two loops last season so this would be a true test. 

Around mile 6.5 I passed one more kid going up a hill who was clearly struggling. Sweet. Around the corner I thought (well, what I thought I saw) was a motorcycle about 1/4 mile ahead of me with a biker right behind him. Couldn't be the leader....right?!? It motivated me to push even harder to find out, unfortunately, 1/2 mile later I was passed by a strong rider. It was the only time I was passed the entire bike ride. I rode with him for a mile and a half before he pulled away and chased down the leader. 

At that point, I (well, we) were gaining on the leader and I knew the guy who passed me would take the lead. At mile 9 or so, sure enough, he did. Knowing I only had about 2.5 miles remaining, I had my eyes on the previous leader as well and kicked it up a notch. 

At mile 11, I finally caught him. I was in 2nd place. 2nd Place!! WTF...I was a horrible biker last year. I think those Thanksgiving/Christmas/cold weather rides and time cycling in the Mark Center have really boosted my power and paid off. 

 The leader. Moments before hitting T2. 
 Me (the chaser). The only thing I executed well was getting my feet out of my shoes before dismount. 
Actually kinda proud about that. And apparently chick in blue is impressed too. 

T2 (1:03 81st Overall)

Yikes!!! Not sure what happened here. I had some trouble putting socks on (took about 12 seconds), but really not sure why my time and place sucked. Really gotta start figuring this shit out as a sprint race it can come back to haunt you (as you'll soon find out). 

Run (20:14 9th Overall)

Exiting T2, my lower back (as expected) was spasming. I felt it during the bike, but hoped it would allow me to stride out. Nope. It was painful and tender, but I knew my place was too high to justify stretching it out and stopping. When I exited T2 there was a young guy (22 on his calf) literally two steps ahead of me. I ran behind him in the precise position through the first turnaround (1/2 mile or so) down and up a hill. I was in 3rd place. He had tree trunk legs and was clearly a strong swimmer but he did not have a runner's body. As we went down the hill we saw the leader coming up and he looked great. Really great. My chances of catching him were practically non-existent, so it was all about fending off coming assaults. 

I was grimacing through the pain and the back did loosen moderately as the race progressed. Funny tidbit - as soon as I came up to 2nd place guy (after running with him for a mile) he asked me, "Uh..by chance you're not 20-24 are you?" I laughed. "Na" I replied. I asked him if he saw the calf (where they mark your age) on the leader, to which he replied he didn't see. We both laughed b/c we knew we wouldn't catch the overall leader but still had a good chance in our age groups. 

The run was hilly. Up and down. Mostly gradual and slight, but constant. Hardly any flats (where I perform optimally and where the photos are taken). At about the 3rd/4th 180 degree turn (seriously there were a ton) I could tell other dudes smelled blood. They were coming for me. One guy in particular had a snarl that would make Vin Diesel cry. He would pass me :) (please don't hurt me scary man!!). 

Except, somehow, on the last formidable hill, my legs found another gear. Relegated to 3rd overall, I thought, "Holy Shit, Conor, you could podium here if you don't fuck this up." So I pumped my arms and tried to hang on for dear life. My 5k time should be a minute faster and potentially even faster than that, but I gotta keep working on this lower back issue so I don't have to run 7 minutes the first mile. 

I entered the chute with no one near me...3rd Overalll!!!! Or so I thought...

 Convo: We're safe in our age group at least...right??
 Coming down the final .2 miles. 
 At this point I legitimately believed I was gonna be passed from a strong on-comer. Yet no one is behind me (I think that's the 3rd place woman heading out..)

Al.Most.There.You.Can.Do.It


So, I crossed the finish line 3rd...but the race wasn't over. 35 and older men were still out on the course and those dudes started 3 minutes after us (thereby jeopardizing my tenuous hold on the bronze). 1/2 hour later I overhear a guy say, "Hell yeah, I swooped up 3rd!" Score. This was ten feet before I glanced at the results for the first time myself. His time: 1:04:20. One second. 1 SECOND!!! I missed the podium by a single second. Looking back at my abysmal transitions and poor run time, I was temporarily disappointed. But then I noticed that I had won my age-group which is my goal (well podium in my age-group is my goal). So I tried to focus on the positives. And there's lots of 'em to take away from this event. 

Gotta lotta training to do to keep improving and the field wasn't particularly strong at this event, but nevertheless I'm pleased. My next triathlon is in Knoxville and will be very competitive...so I'll just keep improving and taking steroids so I keep my edge ;).

For any tech/obsessive geeks out there...here are the stats from my Garmin Forerunner 305. Granted, I didn't start and stop them at the precise moments, but they're not too far off either.
Bike:

Run:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Three Things Thursday

This is another one of those 'staples' other bloggers do. Unsure if it will stick but let's give it a whirl shall we??

1) I've never smoked pot. Ever. Throughout high school, peeps tried getting me to smoke, but I think DARE scared/scarred me and I thought if I smoked pot I'd be selling the junk in my trunk for $5 just 2 weeks later in some back alley. I don't know really, maybe it was more just moral superiority. I was around it, but in all honesty never had the desire to try it. Now, I'm nearly 27 and I still haven't tried it. I'm also no longer morally opposed whatsoever and am not in danger of becoming a 'pothead' or reliant drug user (painkillers will be exempted from this discussion). The powers that be (peeps in my life) are thinking it'd be fun to see what I'd be like 'high'. And 4/20 is rapidly approaching. So...I just may light up a joint. Or...I may stay prude and clean. Gotta think about this one a bit as there are many work-related factors to consider...

2) If you are supporting President Obama in 2012 and have purchased a bumper sticker/donated to his campaign I want to know why/how. My #giveashit factor remains quite low when it comes to politics these days, but I honestly cannot believe someone would willingly/be proud of their support for him. I. Just. Don't. Get. It. If you are one of the many bozos voting for the lesser-of-two-evils, I can somewhate sympathize (not really actually), but if you are out campaigning, fundraising, sporting Obama gear - explain yourself here...I'm truly interested.

3) The oddest factor to me in the whole Trayvon Martin debacle is the fact that 'Neighborhood Watch' even exists. We already live in a surveillance state that is so utterly intrusive it's amazing people would feel the need to exacerbate it. The Martin case is a tragedy and Zimmerman deserves to rot in prison, but how was he able to be 'on-guard' in the first place. Quite obviously, his presence did not make the neighborhood safer. If I were a rich man, and opted to live in a gated community, they'd have their own security and I wouldn't necessarily be opposed to it. But to have volunteer strangers harassing judging our every move seems ridiculous and offensive. With our ever-eroding civil liberties, it irks me that more people aren't outraged by the mere presence of these 'do-gooders.' Get a life.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hey, There Friend

The other day I waltzed into one of my favorite bakeries in Bethesda, Maryland, as I often do, to directly counterbalance the tough workout I put in earlier in the day. Well, technically that's not the purpose of visiting this euphoric place, but it's the result nonetheless. Anyway, I was glancing down at my Twitter feed to kill time as the FF (fatty family) in front of me squabbled over which cupcakes to devour. This took an exceedingly long amount of time (see FF note above), at which point I almost ditched the craving and went with frozen yogurt instead, but ultimately persevered because I wanted that damn cookie. And triathlon teaches nothing if not perseverance. I earned it dammit.

The cookie I buy is called "The Man Cookie". Obviously, it gives you street cred. It's basically two large chocolate chip cookies sandwiched together with a thin layer of chocolate ganache on the inside surrounded by a generous dallop of peanut butter. It's fairly amazing, especially when served warm.

So I bided my time reading snarky tweets when I got to the front to place my order, the lady behind the counter says, "I just want to tell you, that you are extremely hot." I was taken aback. Of course, I see myself as 'extremely hot', but the consensus in that debate is largely suspect. Sort of as suspect as my man Ron Paul's presidential aspirations  :( so sad...Also her use of 'extremely' took me further aback. Usually that word is used in other circumstances i.e. (don't drive in extreme conditions, that theme park is extreme, Hunger Games is extremely overrated).

Anyway, worried she was perhaps partially blind or hungover, I thanked her for her compliment while blushing. Since this happens about as much as Shaq making a free throw, I didn't want to jinx the occasion by saying other words. Just smile, be polite and walk out. And that I did, but it made me think (for those of you who encounter this more frequently than I) how the hell do you respond to that? It's like when the movie stub dude says, "Enjoy the show!" and peeps reply, "You too!" You could just say thanks I suppose, but for some reason that seems so banal and almost dismissive. I don't know, next time I'm just gonna ask her if I can get a damn discount on my 6 dollar cookie.

Anyway, onto more interesting things such as swimming. Oh, and before I forget FYI - I'm 'extremely' hot...just saying. It's been corroborated.

I've started taking swim lessons from a young coach at AU. He's a former collegiate swimmer himself who dabbled in triathlon in the past. Because I have no swim background, I feel I needed some stroke analysis and technical advice to improve. Since I showed some innate talent for it last year, I think I could leverage it as a strength to give me some space between the super fast bikers/runners.

And #holycrapIsuck. He takes video of me swimming and I look like I'm floundering as if a shark is circling my feet. I look like the people that I tease in the pool swimming next to me. Well, almost. I have more flaws than Obamacare.

While I don't have time to deconstruct my stroke for the triathlon season, there are some useful tips I've gained from working with him thus far. In the future, I will need to break the bad habits, but until then, hopefully I can just skate by this year on talent/effort alone.

I still haven't registered for this Sunday's race, but I might do so today or tomorrow. It's only a 750 meter swim if I do, and it's wetsuit legal. I never swam with a wetsuit before yesterday in the pool (and it takes forever to get on/off) and wow it makes a huge difference. It did tend to make my arms more sore which I noticed, but what was immediate is the buoyancy and warmth. While this upcoming race (about 70-30 for doing it at this point) is not an 'A' race. I'm especially interested in my swim time...keep checking back as I hope to post some of the ugly footage of me swimming up here too.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

"The Wave" Movie Review


I probably watch more films than A.O. Scott. Therefore, I'm about as critical as Tiger Woods after carding bogey when watching most movies. Generally I walk away disappointed, lamenting the acting, the dialogue, the plot, the cinematography, the music, shit - the previews, the candy, whatever...Yet, I keep renting/buying tickets - not one to learn from my follies.

Two films in the past year have greatly exceeded my expectations. The first, unquestionably, is "The Skin I Live In" by my favorite (visionary) director Pedro Almodovar. All of his films are spectacular, but this one surpassed my lofty expectations. Antonio Banderas is exemplary and Elena Anaya is excruciatingly gorgeous. The plot thickens with suspense building like a novel a la John Le Carre. Truly an incredible film from start to finish. Can't say enough good things about it. WHY HAVEN'T YOU SEEN IT YET?!?!

The second, is a German film (foreign just make 'em better what can I say) titled, "The Wave."    I rented this movie from school, as it was recently acquired and I'm a sucker for provocative foreign films.

And, gotta say, it's incredible.

First, the acting/casting is poignant and precise. I can't think of a single actor who disappoints with a shoddy performance. The lead, Professor Wegner (Rainer) excels as the inspiring teacher who students respect and revere. Picture the hippest teacher you ever had with a bald head and bad teeth. Kind of like Jason Statham but with the wits of George Clooney.

The plot is fascinating and lures you in by delving into the personal lives of the students, while dutifully plodding along the primary storyline. There's just enough deviation to keep you enticed throughout, the film doesn't drag whatsoever (in fact in my opinion it could be longer).

So what's it about you ask??

A high school in Germany asks its professors to teach one week regarding a particular governmental system (all bad I should add). Students are mandated to choose one, but have discretion as to which one they prefer. The only respectable choice of course is anarchy (not a gov. system), but Rainer, despite his copious activism, is denied the opportunity to teach it. Instead, he is stuck with autocracy.

Because of his ubiquitous popularity, students reluctantly register for his class anyway and he is tasked with the monumental challenge of creating a positive learning environment without completely reprising the horrific events of the Holocaust (not that that was the only autocratic regime by any stretch).

Rainer has a few tricks up his sleeve and decides to experiment with the idea of literal autocratic rule by manipulating the students into believing it's actually the best system. Students are initially skeptical but quickly embrace the idea and a new cult on campus is born. The question is asked explicitly and rhetorically, "This could never happen again in Germany (or anywhere)...right?" The audience is left meandering between yes and no as 'The Wave' - the fledgling cult - expands and attracts new members at an alarming rate.

Within a few days, most of the campus has embraced (via peer pressure or otherwise) the movement while the dissenters become increasingly alienated and harassed. Predictably, conflict escalates as students are unprepared to grasp that this experiment is just temporary....or is it??

Events spiral downward uncontrollably, relationships are betrayed, and Rainer is left to assemble the pieces to try and reconcile the impending balance between class experiment and legitimate tour de force.

Will he be able to rescue/impede the burgeoning zeitgeist, or will his crafty experiment swallow him and the temporary(?) plan he concocted?

Watch and find out. A magnificent film from start to finish. All the more fascinating coming out of Germany given its history. Wonder how it was received there???

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On Swearing

Ahhhh, curse words. How you irk thy masses. The mere mention of the word, 'fuck' elicits such revulsion amongst smug purists out there, it's hard to imagine how their illiberalism allows them to function in public. Some cultures invoke swear words all the time, others do not. Some cultures sing, others don't. Some abstain from sex, others have multiple wives. So goes cosmopolitan life in America.

We're certainly free to select which (if any) aspects of culture to include in our daily lives, but we can't insulate ourselves entirely from external elements we have no control over. For example, folks in a city like Washington share public transportation. My assumption is you wouldn't go one half-hour without 'overhearing' a curse word or two, either in others' conversations, a painful exclaim, or - worst case - directed at you specifically (like FUCK YOU!! GIVE ME BACK MY WALLET!). It's just reality in cities like this one. In which case, give the old lady back her wallet for crissakes.

Hence, you cultivate a layer of thick skin. You learn to shrug off the meaningless. Your hearing becomes more selective. Ultimately, the poignancy of the word becomes banal as its use increases. It's an adaptive process that has a long acclimation period before you fully adjust. I assume the reciprocate would be true for those moving from urban areas to more homogenous rural regions. The urban 'slang' would be largely unappreciated or tactless.

In regards to this blog in particular, I've refrained from swearing for years, not out of respect to my readership or because it's uncommonly used in my own language, rather because Blogger has a 'censoring' policy on vulgarity that relegates free access blogs to private once that language is exposed. Lately, I've decided to employ the words more often for a few reasons: A) My readership is small and the likelihood of being reported is slim. B) I use this forum as an outlet, a frank disclosure of my inner personality, C) I find the words utterly amusing and employ them flippantly almost exclusively for humor's sake.

Some folks have mistaken my usage as a sign of anger and aggression. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a west coast boy at heart, I'm nothing if not laid back. While I have moments of frustration/anger like anyone else, 95% of what I do/write is intended to be taken lightly/humorous. Even political posts are really just an outlet for me to vent my annoyance with our system. Even while I compose those - I try to incorporate jokes and not take myself too seriously. Status quo ain't easily altered.

That's the bottom line: I don't take anything that seriously. Therefore, I ask that if you stumble over a curse word (or four), you broaden your provinciality and recognize the intent behind its use. I'm not asking you to laugh at them. Heck, I'm not asking you to read any of my posts (not many people do anyway!). But I should not field criticism on my own blog for the terminology I use. Ironically it's quite offensive.

Think about it like this - what's more offensive: a person you voluntarily read using words you may/may not find offensive...Or...anonymously commenting on said person's blog reprimanding them for their frank assesments of modern-day culture? You be the arbiter, but it seems to me that if the primary cause for 'offense' is the profanity, it's more 'offensive' to react in that manner! It's like being upset about lethal injection not because it's immoral but because it's too humane (meaning you'd prefer firing squad).

To me it's like this...there are soooooo many things to bother you in this world, i.e. child molestation, hate crimes, rape, drone missiles, betrayal, photo radar (had to throw it in there), famines, etc. You really want to add onto that list and get mad over the petty!?!?! Really?!?! Offend someone just trying to utilize an outlet to express themselves?!? Righteous much? (Not to mention culturally imperialistic)

There are bigger fish to fry, and why is it that I have an inkling that these same folks identify with either Republicans or Democrats (parties full of some of the most abhorrent practices on earth).

So do you and I a favor. Relax. Lighten up. Don't sweat the small stuff. Learn to laugh at these words (that's why I use them in the first place) and get riled up about more meaningful issues. Our world needs less reprimanding, more commending, so update your comments accordingly lol.

'Tis all for now.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sat. Night Festivities

Today was...er..is..April Fools Day. As you may know, I post annually about this because it is mi Madre's favorite holiday where she pranks everyone each year. She revels in doing this. I think it's the one day it's permissible to lie, hence she's giddy like a senior anticipating graduation. Of course, I'm a master in my own rite, as I learned from the best, and I had an idea up my sleeve.

While I was riding my bicycle (think of a car but more gas efficient) today, I thought it would be harmless to tell my Mom I crashed and was banged up in the hospital (pretty much anything is fair game in my family). Only way to do this, of course, (not to mention the only way I'd pull it off) is to have a co-consipirator. With an action plan designed, I thought for sure she'd buy it like NY Times on a Sunday (she still sounds like a party-line hack liberal sometimes to me ;)). 

Nope, she didn't fall for it in the slightest. Instead she twisted the tables back on me (er..us) and had built up a couple days before that she was coming to visit me imminently in Washington. I was getting hyped up, thinking of things to do, places for her to stay, etc. I once asked, "Ma, this isn't gonna end up as a joke is it?" She said, "No. Nope, got an expiring ticket I gotta use." 

She lead me on more than my 9th grade girlfriend (though not at all in the same way obviously) and I fell for it hard. And am bummed cuz now I can't see her! But once again, the champ reigns supreme. Don't mess with the best. 

Your comments on my previous post didn't go unrecognized. I think I may respond to them in a separate post called, "Leave me the fuck alone, this is my one outlet to be ME and I'm not letting you shit on it" but we shall see. The responses seem as if no one frequently reads this blog or really 'knows me' (as in I rarely take myself very seriously) so, perhaps I need to delve a little deeper as the humor seemed to go over your heads like an airplane (see...cuz it's in the SKY!!). I'm not asking you to enjoy my sense of humor and if you think vulgarity is repulsive, you're likely a tad prude or pretentious for my liking anyhow. But I will contemplate crafting something more articulate to define the rationale behind using curse words. So stop fucking hating already and lighten up. :). 

Yesh. 

Moving along. Here are a few photos from my Grad School Formal Saturday night. Enjoy. As usual click to enlarge.  
 Me and my gay-Muslim friend Walid. Love this guy. (He loves me too but in a more romantic way)
 Thought about stealing the AU logo made of sugar, but someone beat me to it. 
Sex....yyyyyyyyy.