the tin man, part II

The scarecrow was always too scratchy for Dorothy to really hug, he smelled like hay from close range, and after he got his brain, like most people he found true thinking a mixed blessing. He spent many hours in his original field, conversing with the flowers, consulting with the rain, right back where he started from, less happy than before (so he would sit, and think some more).

The lion at heart was just a big pussy, and his inner doubts about his courage were never truly appeased no matter what he did, no matter were he wore his wizard awarded medals, they were symbols that masked a heart that always had something to prove, and once one goal was accomplished, another loomed to gnaw upon his fundamentally mammalian and carnivorous self-esteem.

But the tin man was different. Outdoorsy yet obviously high tech, once he found his heart, it filled him with regard for love and art, and his metal warmed to Dorothy (he became tender, gentle, and awful sentimental). Also he needed her, as when on those rare moments he cried, or the world threw a thunderstorm his way, she could expertly apply the oilcan. He would always be a tin man, even his when his heart occasionally reveled its basic mechanical and finite nature she loved him anyway, besides, any guy who can handle an axe well, is very sexy.

I do my 2.5 hour Russian jump skate training program tomorrow, and will be calling on dorothy’s love, and oil can to help cure the full body case of sore rust I will be applying to myself…

the tinman

I feel as if I am the tin man from the wizard of oz, after being caught in a rainstorm. Today I am staggering around my house, rusted, squeaky and sore, muttering “oilcan, oilcan!!” (ibuprofen! ibuprofen!!)

And it is my own fault, this season I have taken a new direction with my training, I have been self-coached since I started, and had taken it as far as it could go, but now I have a pair of coaches. Rex and Boris. Boris is as Russian as his name would suggest, and he has done amazing things for my friend eva rodansky.

Boris has given me my training schedule for the next month. Suffice it to say, its not a lot of hard work, except for 2 days a week, and those are this insanely hard jump program. I did it for the first time last night, and wow… my muscles are FRIED.

If you are a functional athlete like me who needs to move with agility, power, and acceleration, you have to train, to a great extent, as one piece. This is why things like squats (a one piece exercise) or pylometrics are so effective on real world athletes. Boris’ workout, on paper, looked medium hard, long, but with no mega poundage lifting, how hard could it be?

It took me 2 1/2 hours at the gym to finish it!! and halfway through, I realized its method/madness. After endless arm circles & hip rotations, dips, pushups, leg swings, bounding, and skate position work with no more resistance than my bodyweight, I was cooked, fried, fini. There was only one “ab” specific exercise in it, halfway through, but by the time I got to it, my core was so shot I could barely do it!

Bodybuilding is a good thing in and of itself, I have an amazing friend who pursues it with passion. But the bad influence of bodybuilding on other sports (and bodybuilding-bodies dominate our media culture, the supplement industry, and magazine newsstands) is that bodybuilding approaches the body as a set of disconnected pieces. Do this to improve your abs, do that to highlight your biceps definition, grip your weights just so to hit the muscles just so, etc, etc.

I am sure the other courtside denizens, all linked to elliptical trainers & machines, used to training with bodybuilding principles in mind, looked at me with wonderment, as I stood in a corner, trying to master things like spinning my arms at top speed in the opposite direction from each other (jess can do that one with ease), or moving my head in the largest circle I possible while keeping my hips rock solid.

Like the tin man in the picture above, I came home and squeakily crawled into bed, instantly rusting into immobility. My wife was so sweet, gave me a massage out of sympathy… healing the body and mind…

Certainly lifting makes you tired, but it makes the pieces you work tired, after last nights workout my whole body is now one sheath of rust. I will recover from this though, repair, and become one sheet of steel (tin?) and it will only help my athletic development. Even so, I am so surprised at the level of my exhaustion and soreness… my abs hurt just sitting here typing!!

Are there any readers out there with their with their own stories of mega-soreness, of waking up the next day and discovering they have become the rusty tin man? if so, speak up! I am getting an average of 41 (!!!!) readers a day now, so there has to be at least one or two good stories out there!

blogging from 33,000 feet

Someday, internet access from airplanes will be as commonplace as cel phones are now… then one will be able to blog successfully & email from 33,000 feet…. there is an airline testing service in flights from Japan to the US, but its still in its infancy… Someday bandwith will flow like airline pretzels, as the urge to always be in touch becomes consuming (that will strengthen the backlash to it as well) as the urge to never leave a moment unfilled with some gadget completely triumphs…

So I am just doing the best I can right now, and writing on Microsoft word…. I am flying home after my trip to salt lake.. it was really a very successful trip.. my wife had some great interviews, and has narrowed her job search down to a few vet clinics in salt lake… And I did get to meet with my 2 coaches, and get instructions on what they want me to be doing for the next 2 months until I move to Salt Lake proper (more on that later, once I start the brutal jump program they outlined…)

I am feeling better about moving now, being honest about how I feel has been important in sorting the bizarre mechanisms of my heart out.. My wife clearly outlined to me all the things that will capture my heart about Salt Lake, and in her exact analysis she is right, and she predicts that I will love it in the end as much as I did Colorado, my friend Carla commented on my last post, and really hit the nail on the head about why I was freaking out about moving.

Also I stayed in Salt lake with some dear friends, their hospitality and nutritious spirit and household was what I needed (Thanks K & B & D!! you guys are the best). A hotel would have left me feeling even more adrift…

Maybe a hurricane in the heart is normal and necessary before a move of 2,500 miles!!… Especially when you move for a reason that really speaks to your self-conception or development… The Romans had an interesting theory that I have always enjoyed, they believed that when a person travels on the horizontal plane, they also travel equally far on a spiritual plane. And when one has truly traveled far, you become wiser for it (this is also why you don’t mess with travelers, they are worthy of a spiritual respect, besides they might be a god in disguise!).

I am sure that our modern methods of movement make the travel equation different that what the Romans were talking about. Sitting in my airplane seat, I am traveling at 565mph, without expending a shred of effort. I would have certainly traveled farther on my spiritual axis if I had ridden my bicycle from Salt Lake all the way back to New York, or done the Forrest Gump cross country jog. That motion of the soul is probably more dependent on the time and effort of rhythmic travel than on pure mileage. But even with modern travel velocities. I have now been on the road for almost 2 weeks, and I cannot wait for my own bed (and high speed connection, I am such a bandwidth whore!).

salt lake gloom

I am not sure why I dislike Salt Lake City, and why I have such a strong & depressive reaction to it sometimes…

the image posted on this page is an early morning shot I took last July of the mountains that loom over the town. Salt Lake is a place of simply stunning physical beauty. It has the fastest indoor speed skating track in the world, and the typical amazing mountain west climate (amazing to an east coast fella like myself).

When I first moved to Colorado in 1993, I fought it in my heart for a while. The big sky, the massive blizzards that melt away in a day, the dry heat of summer, the moods of the rockies that constantly changed like my own moodyness within the spin-cycle hurlybury of grad school. But I stayed for 8 years, and came to truly love that place and the gentle climate.

So why am I fighting Salt Lake in my heart? Am I simply fearing change? of embracing the uncertainty of pouring my whole self into Olympic trials, into a town I don’t know? There are so many good things in salt lake, I have terrific coaches who want to work with me, I have many skate bums for friends, the beauty of the place, is again, simply stunning…..

But last night driving around town with my wife in pouring rain (Jessica is pretty excited, personally and professionally, about moving here), talking about if we should rent or buy some cheapo house, I just fell into this depression, this vacuum of despair, and I went silent as a statue, and felt about as alive as one too..

Salt lake does have a particularly hideous kind of western urban big-box store, gated community, ticky-tacky tract housing sameness some areas. The Mormons are not a factor in my mopery, as my life & self is separate from their theocracy.

But I do not understand this black stone in my heart about salt lake. Maybe I know so little about it, my fears rush in to fill the empty space. Like the water table filling a quarry pit. Ask me in 8 years how I feel about Salt Lake.

the smooth stone of words

blah blah blah.. I say more and more blah to you, since you and I exchange blah on a regular basis… maybe an interesting blah??? its entertaining to me at least… the blah blah of our specific, little lives..

I am tossing these words out blindly into the dark, like hurling a stone at a lake in the pitch black of night…. I expend the effort to toss the stone/write the words, and far out in the dark, I cannot see the splash, but I know it landed in the water.. but who is reading the ripples? why did I feel compelled to toss the stone in the first place? Some collect things, some garden, some follow sports teams, I write.. I love the feel of the smooth stone of words in my hands, and I truly enjoy the effort of the throw…

So onward to today’s stone…The last 6 days has been a crazy whirlwind… I karmicly owe a lot to one of my sponsor, John Dimon of Dimon Sports, and I traveled to the Pettit center in Milwaulkee to help him sell speedskates at short track North American championships… That is john and his van here on the right.

I had a blast, but it was 5 exhausting, intense days. We had to be set up and ready before the first skaters came, and we took the stand down and packed up our booth after the last skater left.. this was lots of 14 hour days that started at 6am.

I have never lost my voice before, but these ripped my vocal chords raw, and my jaw was tired from all the talking.. it was nice though, to be back in Milwaukee, where I spent much of the last winter, I saw many of the excellent people I know there, and saw a little bit of some incredible short track skating…

This morning though, I am paying for these long days, I tried to do an easy bike workout, I could simply not turn the pedals.. I drank a ton of coffee and soda this weekend too, and so now I am at higher levels of caffeine addiction than normal… the best coffee I was able to find this morning within walking distance of where I am staying, was the el crapo BP gas station coffee…

oh well, probably its like methadone therapy for a heroin addict, maybe it will let me down easily during an enforced caffeine detox over the next few days..

Gentleman, start your engine!!!

Its really finally starting, I began training again over the last few days… my break is over, and now is the time to really begin.. I feel fat and squishy, my leg definition is gone, my endurance, quickness, and peak strength are pretty pathetic compared to normal. However, I REALLY want to train right now, and I am so looking forward to feeling fit again (I know I am pretty fit and healthy by most measures, but I really don’t feel that way at all right now).

Today’s workout was actually pretty easy, an hour on the powercranks, 4X10 minutes of pretty low rpm and high resistance work. Kept the HR under 170. No real pain, this is more getting myself back into the groove of things. The body responds to structured effort and work more than “just kind of ride yourself into shape”. So I try to always have some structure to what I do…

powercranks are phenomenal training tools. I must admit that I am pretty biased, since I do work for them (their website is my work) but I was a customer before I was their developer, and I would be singing their praises no matter.

Dang, it feels great to really sweat again! I want to stoke that engine, that kernal of metabolism, that furnace of me!

Gentleman, start your engine!!!

The cables, pistons, and reactors within

The crazed, clawing the walls, freaky, I can’t live unless I get my daily endorphin fix is officially over.. I have spent the last 3 days working on all sorts of things, but I don’t have the addicts craving, the rhytmn in my head and heart to go work out… My coaches wanted 4 weeks of downtime from me, I don’t know why 4 weeks was the magic number, but I gave it to them, Week one was easy, I was tired and emotionally trashed, it was easy to rest, weeks 2 and 3, it was hard to sit still, but there has suddenly been a dramatic change from week 3 to week 4

In the middle of week 4, now I just want to lie around, keep working on learning CSS, take long walks, read blogs on the computer, and do the dishes while listening to BBC Radio. I am not a body anymore; I am a brain with feet… The dog takes my spot in bed the moment I get out of it, gives me a furry look, and sometimes its hard not to return. Lilly was very abused before she came into our lives, and now, seeing her all sprawled out and making happy grunting dog sighs, that is rewarding.

I feel the cables, pistons, and reactors within me slowly disappearing under the surface. When I am training my hardest its almost like I am closest to seeing the raw blueprint of how my body really is. I can feel every muscle and small flexor in my legs & hips as independent entities moving with and against each other, I can feel the anglings of the vertebrae in my back, the sheath of connections, muscular and tendons, that keeps me walking upright, and keeps me crouched over in the unnatural skating position. I can feel the astonishing slosh of energy within me, blood and muscle, like tides moving in and out. I eat, and the grand drug of good food, slowly changes my aura (ok, muscle glycogen levels), and readies me for another challenge.

But they are gone, cables & pistons, the blueprint has receded from view, it’s a memory, not a “right now” truth. I miss it. I frigign love it.

Next week I start up again, lots of easy cycling, high rep lifting, and trying to remold my body, to learn how to skate with a more powerful “cat back” instead of the “cyclists flat back” that I developed during a decade of intense bike racing. To learn to skate with my pelvis rotated forward, not down like on a bike.

Technique technique technique… yeah, that is what this whole next year will be about, it’s how I will go faster. But I love this path, this experience, the gift of understanding the blueprint of myself.

another week of almost nothing


my buddy eva just smashed the US women’s 10k record by 17 seconds! go eva! women rarely skate the 10k, but some fast ones have tried.

I will never forget my own experience doing a 10k, I hammered and hammered in the crosswinds of lake placid. I gave it my all, my legs just about gave out with the effort, and then I look up and see that I still had 18 lapsto go! (a 10k is 25).. never again!! Eva is a stud.

I spoke with one of my coaches on the phone last night, and confessed to him that I had spent the whole evening on the couch, eating nutella.. and going nuts about barely working out!! and could I please start up this week!1

he said that what I am feeling is just about right, and please could I endure one more week of low key inactivity! now my coach does not want me to completely turn into a blob, but whatever I do physically needs to be super low key and fun…

There is the rest of the year to train hard.. and if eating nutella on the couch in march will make me go faster in december during olympic trials, then a guy has to do what a guy has to do!!…

However it is hard for me to be a completely inactive fellow, so to avoid chewing my own fingers off, or fates worse (like a television induced coma) I went for an easy 45 minute XC ski. It was sloppy snow, but the tracks were hard and fast….. I find XC skiing a gentle, full body sport, with endless variety of terrain and experience, and bout as far from speedskating as I can get. kicking and gliding through the woods calmed my mind today… although I did not take this pic, there is something about the scrub brush dark scrabble nature of these woods in this pic that says “upstate NY” to me.. ahhh home…

would you take your animals to this woman?

My wife jessica is starting to ramp up the job search process, she came home yesterday with some interview worthy clothes. She looked so smashing I got out the digital camera. None of the pictures I took were as interesting as this one, where the animals came over and were checking her out. I would make some comment on how she cleans up nice, but she usually looks sharp.

Late yesterday we went to see jon stewart of the Daily show last night at Cornell,we went with some friends, one who runs the weather blog cirrus. In person jon stewart is as funny and earnest as he seems from TV. But of course, without the modicum of network propriety in the way, he was far raunchier.

One thing that really struck me when I was there, and we were only 50 feet from the stage, is that we are so used to seeing him on TV, that it was more familiar to watch him on this big TV monitors, instead of looking at his live face, right in front of us. He is a comedian with an amazing facial ability, easily equal to Jim Carey. The Jon on the monitor is the one we know, not the one standing in front of us. Its also easy to forget, since we see him in fake newscaster role on TV, that this fellow is really a professional COMEDIAN, by his professional training. I had engaged in this willful fantasy that he was something else. A journalist or writer who just happens to be funny. But this guy could work saturday night live, or in living color, as a cast member, easy. That is his gift. and wow, what a gift. In person, his talent is absolutely huge.

At the end of the show, there was a breif Q&A, and the final question was an audience member who just wanted to give him a hug. Hug was given. That moment symbolizes how many people feel about him, a sunny beam of laughter in some dark times.

the flywheel toy car of the soul

I am pre-coffee this morning, and feel as if I am yodeling up from the bottom of a swimming pool to reality that walks around above the water…

I am just about to finish my 3 week break from real training, and then will be able to get back to my “real job” of training and feel like my normal driven self.

I can’t stand being this inactive! the worst part is that I can feel my body/soul slow down, I can feel the couch calling… non-moving is the magnetic attraction to me now, I see a beautiful snowy day outside, and I think “brrrrr…frigging cold” not “hey, an easy run through the falling snow would be nice and thoughtful/sweaty”…..

I was even intending spinning on the indoor trainer yesterday, just for 30 minutes, to keep the blood flowing, but, naaaah, there was a special on the discovery channel about “the last days of pompeii”!!

my father always said “if you want something done, give it to a busy person” I think there is an athletic corollary to that.. I think people are like those little flywheel toy cars that you push along the ground, and then they just keep going on their own for a while…

and this is not just true of athletes visualizing how they want to race, but true of all of us, we get our mental routines, pointed in a certain direction, and after we put the initial choice of effort (or the initial choice in how we want to live) in, they can simply carry us along…. I have come to that simple belief that life (at least for me) is in great extent about those fleeting moments of choice where we push the car of our souls in a chosen direction, and get the flywheel of our days going.

of course there are limits to choice, and certain choices do preclude others, I can already hear people arguing with this, but to a great extent, as 21st century Americans, our ability for choice dwarfs our lack of choice, we can do whatever we friggin want! (and so many never find how to grab the little toy car of their lives and give it a push.. how sad)

is it as simple as that saying “believe and therefore achieve”? Is it as simple as me believing in myself will put me on the Olympic team? Nope, since there are others who believe in themselves too (and there are 4 slots for the games in the 500m, and the top 6 or 7 guys are still waaaaay faster than me)… but believing and choosing how to push the flywheel of self can help you/me be the best you/me can be..

Its more fulfilling than just watching tv, too…

we only have one “right now” so choose well!! (I am choosing to go get some more coffee, and then I am going to choose to work on more CCS, after being totally inspired by the CCS zen garden a few days ago)

a week from now, I will give that flywheel a huge shove!!