Monday, August 20, 2012

Motivators that Work for Me: #3 Earn a Reward

This is Part 3 of an occasional series of blog posts in which I discuss things I do to stay motivated for workouts. The first were fairly unique to me, but this one could probably work for anyone. What's my secret?

Answer: I earn financial rewards to spend on fitness gear. This sounds amazing and who wouldn't want to do this? But there is a catch. You have to have the money to spend in the first place. I'm not winning money from someone else; I am simply giving myself permission to spend money. Here is how it works:

First, I save a little bit of money each month and I designate it for "workout rewards." This fund builds up until I have done something deserving enough to spend it. For example, on May 22, 2009, I set a personal best in the amount of weight I lifted during a workout at the gym. I "gave" myself $25 as a reward and set it aside. Just a few days later, I did more pull-ups than ever before. Great! Another $25 was put into my savings account. Then another few days later, I set a personal best in fastest running pace during an outdoor run. Yay! I gave myself another $25.

Prior to all this I came up with a list of things that would qualify for a $25 reward. These things generally included personal bests, as described above. The magic here is that just beating a previous time or a previous weight or a previous pace or previous calories burned--whatever your set of goals--is worth a reward. The reward is not something hard to obtain in the beginning; in fact, it's easy to beat your previous performances in the beginning of a workout program. And then it gets harder as you improve and time goes on. This is by design, because if you're like me, you are not made of money, so you can't sustain all these deductions from your paycheck or checking account for long. But as you improve, and earning a reward becomes harder, you won't need as much motivation to keep going.

Now the fun part. As I explained, I had about $75 saved up by the end of May 2009. Now I got to spend it. The rule I made up for this was that whatever I spent the money on would have to go toward a purchase related to my workouts. At the time, I was involved in a church softball league, I was lifting weights, I was cycling, and I was swimming. So in June 2009 I see in my records that I spent the $75 on additional weights to put on my barbell, some slider pants I could wear on the ball field, and swim goggles.

This system provided me with a lot of new clothes and toys through summer of 2010. The drawback of the system was that I had to keep records of all my workouts, how much I earned, and how much I spent on workout gear. Admittedly, I lost interest in this "Workout Rewards" motivator for about a year (but i hasten to point out that I was still working out a lot, so the system worked!). Then in early summer 2011, I splurged and bought a new road bicycle. I hadn't saved up enough to buy this bike; I just wanted it. I felt a little guilty for violating my system so I put it back in place in order to buy the necessary accessories that one usually needs for a new bicycle. For example, I wanted a cycling jersey, cycling shorts, cycling shoes, cycling gloves, water bottle cage...lots of things. But I didn't buy them right away. I had to earn them. How? By riding the bike, of course! For every mile that I rode, I set aside $2. Today, I am riding that bike at least 30 miles a week. But I'm not giving myself $60 to spend every week; now that riding the bike is part of my routine, I no longer need the extra motivation of the financial reward. So once again, I'm not really keeping track of personal bests for the purpose of financial award, and that's OK, because I'm still working out. My "Workout Rewards" program is something that definitely works for me when I'm trying to reach a goal or when I want a new fitness toy.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Race Report: Pittsburgh Triathlon

This was my first Olympic-length triathlon (aka international distance).


First segment (1.5K open water swim) went well. The swim was in the Allegheny River as it flows downtown past Heinz Field and PNC Park. We entered between the two stadiums and swam directly upstream to the Clemente Bridge. Then at a yellow buoy, we turned 90 degrees and swam to another buoy halfway across the river. Then we swam downstream past the entry point and on to Heinz Field. I did a similar swim course a couple weeks ago, but today's race was very different. First, there were 135 men in my heat (crowded!). We all piled into the water, treaded water for a few minutes behind the start buoy, and started swimming after a countdown. Obviously there were lots of inadvertent contacts with other swimmers, and I felt trapped by not being able to pass people ahead of me while at the same time being bumped by people behind me. I suppose I could have been more aggressive by squeezing in between bodies, but the underwater visibility was zero and I had no idea what was ahead of the people I wanted to pass. One good thing about this race was that orientation was made easier by where the rising sun happened to be. We couldn't see the buoys marking the course, but if we swam toward the sun, we'd be heading in the right direction. The second thing that made this swim different from my last was the roughness of the water. A couple weeks ago, this river was as lazy and flat as a pond or pool. Today (after heavy rain all week), the water was more rough, and the current much stronger (16-fold increase in cubic feet per second). There was also a fair amount of flood debris. I'm making this sound bad, but it wasn't really. The water was still warm (78 degrees) and I swam at a speed comparable to my times in a pool.

Exiting the water after a 1.5 K swim.
There were two instances where I almost got off course. First, I was swimming a little farther in the middle of the river than I should have, and I nearly missed a buoy. Swimmers were supposed to keep all buoys to his or her right, and I was nearly upon a buoy when a kayaker patrolling the race yelled at me. I couldn't hear what she was saying, but it was enough for me to look up and see that I needed to make a quick adjustment to my swimming direction to stay to the right of the buoy. I made a similar mistake a little later, as well. The buoy was marking a 90-degree turn and I cut off the corner. Realizing my mistake, I turned around and headed back toward the buoy so I could round it on the correct side. No race officials seemed to be nearby, so no one would have known. But I would have, and I didn't want to cheat.

Overall, my swim time was faster than 50% of the 358 participants. Being below the median, I am happy with this time.


My T1 time between the swimming segment and cycling segment was just over 3 min. Looking at the results, I see that 75% of the participants did this faster than me. Oh well, I'm not that competitive. To save time I skipped my cycling gloves and I also didn't eat anything. I did get a swig of water.

Once on the bike, I started strong and quickly realized that the one other person I knew doing this race was just ahead of me. That's quite a coincidence, and I appreciated racing immediately behind him for the first few miles. Drafting was not allowed, so I kept a few bike lengths behind him. At one point I passed him going up a hill, but he soon passed me, and then maintained his lead for the rest of the race.

The 40-km bike segment consisted of two identical loops. The course wound around a few city blocks, then climbed an entrance ramp onto a highway HOV lane (closed to car traffic). We followed the HOV lane to its first exit (at Perrysville), looped around a park-and-ride lot, and then followed the HOV lane back into downtown. Then repeated the loop. Going into the race I was not concerned about the bike segment at all. I can charge up the (steep) hills around my home without much trouble, so when I looked at the bike route for the race I didn't see anything I couldn't handle with ease. However, what I maybe didn't prepare myself for was the continuous incline that the HOV lane features from the downtown entrance ramp to the Perrysville Exit (approx. 3 miles). So while the slope of this hill wasn't bad, its length tired me out. I maintained a speed around 10-11 mph going uphill and then 22-24 mph going downhill. I was expecting a faster descent but the wind was a headwind, I didn't pedal on some parts just to give my legs a rest, and on the second descent I even stood up on the pedals (not aero!) to stretch some really sore back and hip muscles. My max speed was 34.3 mph.

40 km bike segment
The part of the loop downtown featured a lot of brick crosswalks that I had to be careful on as I rounded corners. I saw one person had crashed taking a corner too tightly on the brick surface (he was OK).
Probably my favorite part of the bike segment was at the park-and-ride parking lot where volunteers were there handing out water and Gatorade. Instead of handing us paper cups, they handed us plastic bottles that fit into our water bottle cages. Since I was having a hard time on the bike, I elected to take one of these bottles. I simply put my hand out, and grabbed it as the volunteer held it out. I felt like "yeah, he's on my team." It felt so natural and practiced, but I can't think of any other time that I've grabbed something from someone while riding past them at 15 mph (except maybe when I was a juvenile delinquent purse-snatcher...just kidding). BTW, I had purposely left my water bottle off my bike during the race, so when I was done drinking, I slipped it into that vacant spot on my frame. I had decided against bringing water with me because I expected to complete the bike segment in about an hour. I figured I'd be fine for an hour without water. However, it took longer than an hour and I was glad to have a drink.
My total time on the bike ranked low; I was faster than only 25% of 358 participants. Obviously, this isn't very good, and I knew that as soon as I started the bike segment. I passed almost no one, and it seemed like nearly everyone passed me!


Given how tired and hurting I was from my bike ride, and given how challenging running is for me, I decided as I pulled into the transition area that I would walk my bike there, rather than run with the bike to my assigned rack. I felt a little embarrassed to walk, as everyone else was rushing around. But I needed to rest and re-group for my run. I sat on my towel, changed my shoes, grabbed some food and drink, and started the 10K run. And run, I did. It actually felt easy. My leg muscles were not complaining and any discomfort I had from the bike ride dissolved. I was worried about cramps, but no cramps! Several things caused my run to go really smoothly. First, the aforementioned walk in the transition zone. Second, I knew that a ton of people had passed me on the bike, so I no longer had the illusion that I would have a competitive finish time. Therefore, I allowed myself to just go slow. Third, I drank orange juice in the transition area. No, not orange-flavored Gatorade. This was 100% pure orange juice left over from my breakfast that I kept in a cooler. Oh, did that taste and feel good going down! Real OJ has a lot of sugar and potassium, too, so it's just as good as the artificial Gatorade stuff. Speaking of artificial stuff, the last thing I can think of that led me to have a good run was GU packets. My triathlon shorts have a zippered pocket in the back, and I stashed three packets there. GU is really gross. Containing several types of sugar and some vitamins, it's like consuming a flavored honey or drinking maple syrup. It doesn't feel or taste good. But it really worked for me. It gave me the calories I needed to keep going without putting solid food into a bouncing-around stomach. I haven't used GUs before, so I felt a bit like those early astronauts that had to eat tubes of food paste. (this allusion probably sounds strange to you, but for a moment I was pretending to be an astronaut eating paste, and that was a pleasant distraction from my run!).
Finishing up my 10K run
The run course was on the riverwalk that runs along the Allegheny River north from downtown (on the North Shore). Half of it was paved and half was crushed stone. We ran 3.1 miles north, turned around, and came back. Having runners using the same trail to go both directions was useful because as a runner going the opposite direction would approach, I'd glance at him or her, and wonder about who the person was: how old they were, what they did at work, whether they had families, how rich or poor they were. Just people-watching stuff to keep me entertained.
Like every other out-and-back race I've done, the first half seemed to take forever. This is because I didn't scout out the trail ahead of time and didn't know where the turn-around was. But once I had turned around, I knew that I was halfway done. Of course, I knew pretty well where I was along the course, first because there were volunteers handing out water at every mile, and second because I was wearing my HR monitor and it was telling me what my pace was.

Speaking of heart rate, I am truly surprised that I kept it so low. When I run (up hills) near my home, my HR regularly goes above 160, and sometimes higher than 180. But on this flat course, I had a steady 150-155.
With 1 mile to go, I decided to pick up the pace. After a pair of folks passed me, I thought maybe I would increase my speed to keep up with them. That worked for a while, but ultimately they were going too fast. Nevertheless, I was running faster and maintained a quickened pace until the finish line. As I crossed over the finish mat, I saw the time was just under 3 hours and my spirits raised considerably because I realized that despite my slow biking and running segments, I still achieved my goal. I wanted to finish in under 3 hours, and that's what I did. Amazing!
Moments after crossing the finish line, I experienced something that has never happened to me. My eyes started to tear up. This sensation lasted only a minute, but it was a curious experience. Were these tears of exhaustion, or tears of joy, or...what? To be honest, I wasn't all that exhausted, but still, with the cessation of exercise, I imagine certain neurotransmitters and hormones started to change in their rates of secretion. But even though I am a biologist, I don't think I need to come up with a physiological explanation here. I think these were tears of joy. This was my first Olympic-length triathlon (the ones I did last year were shorter), and I have been looking forward to this day for months. To complete the race--just to finish it--is a great feat that five years ago I never would have imagined I could do. I am a confident person in many areas of my life, but a race like this helps me realize that I can do great things in many more areas than I previously thought. Joy. It feels good.

Oh, and just so you don't think I'm a sap, I want you to know that no tears were actually shed. I only felt the sensation of wanting to cry. The only thing running down my cheek was sweat.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Triathlon Pants

I have an Olympic-length triathlon coming up and I recently purchased a pair of triathlon pants. You see, I've done three sprint-length triathlons already, but all of them have featured a swimming segment in a pool. I don't know why this makes a difference, but since I own a competitive swim jammer (a suit that runs from waist to just above the knees) already, I have always worn the swimsuit during the triathlons--even for the cycling and running segments. Now that I'm graduating to a longer-distance triathlon event, I feel buying a pair of pants made for triathlons makes some sense.
I am a strong swimmer and an equally strong cyclist. I'm not fast at all while running. Most (amateur) triathletes are the opposite of me--they are great runners, do well with cycling, and poor swimmers. So I figured I'd buy my triathlon pants from a company that is best known for making swim suits: TYR. By going with TYR, I at least know that the product will be excellent in the water, and for a competitive swimmer like myself, that's important. I didn't want the pad in the crotch area (or any other design feature of the pants) to interfere with my superior swimming ability. 
So how different are triathlon pants from cycling pants or competitive swim jammers? I can't speak for all types, but in comparing one set of each that I own, I find these differences:

type triathlon shorts cycling shorts swim jammer
brand TYR competitor Nishiki Speedo endurance
fabric 80% nylon/ 20% spandex 88% nylon/ 12% spandex 50% polyester/ 50% PBT
pad insert 10" back-to-front; 5.25" at widest point; 3/16" thick 12.5" back to front; 7.5" at widest point; 3/16" thick none
inseam 9" 10" 12"
panels 13 7 8
pockets three none none
drawstring waist yes yes yes
grips around leg openings thick dots thin ridges none

The fabric matters for several reasons, the most important being that spandex (Lycra) is quickly broken down by pool chlorine, so fabrics with high spandex content will wear out quickly if worn in a pool. A lot of triathlons are not in pools, so it's fine that the TYR shorts are high in spandex. The Speedo endurance fabric contains a different elastic fiber (PBT) that is more chlorine resistant than spandex. In fact, I have swum more than 140 miles in my Speedo Endurance swim suit and it has not yet worn out (though the color has faded).
The number of fabric panels these shorts are made from matters because the higher the number of panels, the better they are supposed to fit. I imagine there are a lot of assumptions with this general rule, but as you can see, the triathlon shorts have more panels and I really do think they conform to my body more than even the Speedo endurance swim suit.

Conforming to the body is good for several reasons including aerodynamics in air and water, as well as muscle support. The muscle compression that these shorts and other products provide is promoted by manufacturers as a way to speed blood flow and improve muscle efficiency, but I am very doubtful about those claims. Nevertheless, there is a certain macho feeling that one gets when they wear tight-fitting fitness clothes and this can act as a placebo effect to improve performance. On the other hand, there is a negative aspect to these shorts in the way they hug the body. The more they conform, the more they reveal hints of the male anatomy. I've gotten completely comfortable with the Speedo swimsuit in this regard, but the pads inserted into the cycling shorts and the triathlon shorts create an exaggerated bulge in the front that could cause some embarrassment. The triathlon pants are probably the worst offenders here, because the pad is shorter from front to back than the cycling pants. As a consequence, the pad in the front doesn't come up as high, and it is much narrower there as well. The smaller pad dimensions tend to emphasize the male bulge rather than obscure it, as the larger pad of the cycling pants do. Oh well. The smaller pad is probably good for allowing greater leg motions during the run segment of a triathlon, and if someone is sensitive about this issue, he can always wear a pair of regular shorts over top. But not when swimming or cycling, as you don't want extra water and wind resistance during the race.
I have worn the triathlon shorts on both a bike ride and a run. I will soon test them for swimming when I visit the pool next. But so far the shorts performed well (no chaffing) and I expect they will work great for my upcoming Olympic-length triathlon.
Now...what should I wear as a shirt? They sell a top that goes with the tri shorts, but it's expensive and I don't see why I need it. I'll probably just wear a compression shirt made by UnderArmour, but the one I own right now has colors that clash with my tri shorts. Perhaps I should fix that problem by buying another shirt? I'll decide soon. Stay tuned for a race report!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Motivators that Work for Me #2: A New Physique

In this second installment of a series of blog posts on things that motivate me to stay physically active, I discuss the fact that once a person has acheived an improved physique, he or she will want to keep it. 

There are plenty of people I have encountered or read about that used to be overweight and then they lost a lot of pounds through diet modification and exercise. Some people in this situation maintain this improved physique forever, and some revert back to their original size. I can understand how difficult it would be to lose all that weight, and then to gain it all back would be hard to deal with, too. My story is not like this, though. I guess I'm one of the lucky ones.

I have always had a thin build. Even my own mother remarks when I come to visit that it looks like I've lost weight. No. I'm the same 6'4" and 175 pound male today that I was back in June 2001. I have records from back then. I have a completely normal weight for my height. However, my impression of myself is that I am a little underdeveloped in the upper body, including arms, shoulders, and chest. Data show that the maximum bench press of an adult male in his 30s should be about 93% his body weight. For me that would be 162 pounds and I don't think I could do that. 

Back in September 2008 I started to do weight lifting to see if I could build my muscles. At the time I was not a swimmer, so I wasn't worried about strength; increasing muscle size was my goal. I'm embarrassed that this was my goal. It's so sophomoric to worry about having big muscles. But guess what? Weight lifting several days per week for 16 months caused my chest circumference to increase 3 inches and my upper arm circumference to increase 1 inch. To be honest, I don't think these minor gains in muscle size were ever noticable in the mirror. But it didn't matter; I knew I had made progress and it made me feel better about myself.

My weight lifting diminished during winter 2010 because of minor shoulder injuries at that time and an increase in my professional responsibilities, and I haven't really done a lot of weight lifting since. Meanwhile, I've been swimming on a regular basis and I think this has maintained my muscle size and strength. It better have, because by swimming regularly, I am walking around in public with no shirt and I have to look good. I can't have a bunch of belly fat. I can't look sickly thin. Thus, one of my motivators for keeping a regular schedule of fitness activties is to hold on to the improvements I made to my physique, and to stay visually pleasing to the eye during my time at the pool. Oh, and ladies, I'm still single!

All kidding aside, I want to stress that what works for me might not be helpful to others. First, I don't know what it is like to struggle with one's weight their whole life. Relative to others, it's easy for me to say "I want to look good at the pool" and be able to work toward that goal. Second, "looking good at the pool" isn't that great of a goal to have anyway. It is a subjective goal. It is an unreachable goal because there is no way for me to know when I've attained it. This goal  emphasizes outer appearance rather than the more important things that count. Lastly, I'm pretty sure that people don't look at my body when I am at the pool as much as I used to think. Maybe they snatch a look or two, but in general, swimmers are there to do their own thing and encourage me as I do mine. There is very little judgment at the pools where I swim--swimmers come in all shapes, ages, and sizes, and we are all far more beautiful than we think we are. You might catch me staring at someone at my pool, but I'm almost certain to be studying their swimming technique than thinking about their body's appearance. Seriously.

In sum, one of the things that motivates me to workout is how good my body looks to me. It doesn't matter that much how I appear to others. I think I look good, and I exercise to keep it that way.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Motivators that Work for Me: #1 Never Say Never

This post is the start of an occassional series in which I will describe the top 10 things that have helped me stay motivated during the last 3-4 years of working out and becoming a middle-aged athlete. I think this list of motivators could be helpful to a lot of folks, but I must be clear at the start that I am not the most experienced athlete, nor the best. To put things in perspective, over the last year I have logged 142 miles of running, 841 miles of cycling, and 136 miles of swimming. Compared to some people, these totals are small. But compared to most people, these totals are exceptional. Compared to me 3 or 4 years ago these totals are exceptional. Today at my workplace, at my church, and within my family I'm viewed as someone who is really dedicated to fitness. I even have a colleague who keeps saying "I know you eat really healthy, but would you care to join us at X resturant?"  Yes, of course! My diet isn't really that great--it is terribly void of vegetables--but I let her have the impression that I'm a health nut anyway. So how do I stay motivated and reap the benefits of this reputation among my friends? My first strategy is to never say never:

1. Never Say Never
Insecurities hold you back. I look at them as being excuses that cause us to fail before we ever begin. That doesn't mean we can fix the things we are trying to fix, but what I have found is that accepting the challenge and working toward improvement--even if it does not ultimately succeed--makes me a more confident person. Motivation and self confidence increase together. If you work toward a goal, that is evidence that you are motivated. As you work, you gain confidence in your self. With greater self confidence, motivation to succeed grows even more. The key is tricking yourself into starting this process. I suggest imagining yourself as a motivated and confident person. Ask yourself "What would I do if I had no fear, anxiety, or lack of confidence?" Then do what comes to mind. It's easier said than done. I know that. But it can be done. I celebrate these successes:
  • In a previous blog post I described how I grew tired of being a lousy player on a fast-pitch softball team. Maybe this was due to a lack of confidence, maybe it was lack of skill. Probably it was both. So after failing a few times during a game, I picked myself up and decided to concentrate much harder. Ultimately, I was the MVP of that particular game. This sort of softball success was rare for me, but simply knowing that not every game would be a disaster kept me motivated to do well.
  • In late 2010 I didn't think I could commute to work by bicycle because there are two hills between my home and work. With some encouragement from my swim coach, I did it, and it wasn't bad at all. I have continued to commute by bike whenever the weather is nice.
  • I don't think I've mentioned this on my blog before, but my recent experience as a cyclist gives me a lot of thrills, both good and bad. Since buying a road bike last summer, I have started to ride regularly on roadways with motor vehicle traffic. The roads around my house are narrow, winding country roads, plus a few busy yellow-striped highways. With 359 miles on the new road bike, I admit I am still nervous to ride this bike. What if I get a flat tire when 15 miles from my home, or what if I get really exhuasted in climbing a hill? Or worse, what if I get hit by a car, or lose control and flip over the handlebars? I would be so much safer if I didn't ride my bike on roadways or anywhere else. But is the answer then to give up? Of course not. Someone with greater confidence and less fear would head out on his bike because it is fun and good. So, with Godspeed and defensive driving, I ride, and I ride well.
  • I joined a competitive swim team in late 2010. What in the world happened to me? I had only just learned to swim 15 months before. I felt self-conscious about swimming, diving, and what I'd look like in a close-fitting competitive swimsuit. But I did it anyway, and I've kept at it.
This "Never Say Never" rule has worked for me a lot of times, but there is more work to be done. Even now, about 4 years after learning how to swim and 1.5 years of competitive swimming, I have a deep, subconscious fear of water. It doesn't come to my attention very often, but I know it is still there. It showed up recently when I asked my swim coach to show me a second kind of dive that swimmers use when they are on a relay team. The dive must propel me quite far into the air before I hit the water so that I don't dive into the swimmer below me, swimming to the wall as s/he finishes the first segment of the relay race. My normal dive plunges me rapidly into the water without much time spent in midair. So on this day, as my coach asked me to aim farther as I launched off the diving platform, I just stood there. I did many false starts, sometimes loosing my balance and jumping defeatedly into the water feet first. But for at least 15 minutes I would fall in, climb back out, mount the diving platform, and try, try, try to jump off. Finally, I gave up. But not for good. I won't say "never." I'm going to do it someday, and when I do, I'll feel as though I'm at the top of the world. That will be a good feeling, and that hope is what motivates me to keep trying. 

Stay tuned for more motivational tools I use to keep me fit. The next one I'll write about is Keeping Records.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Cycling Glasses

I recently bought a pair of glasses for use on the bike. As a weekend-warrior type cyclist I used to think that cyclists with fancy shades really didn't need them. Instead, I thought the glasses were just for fashion and for shading one's eyes from the sun. After all, there are lots of folks who drive their cars wearing fancy sunglasses, and sometimes the sun is out and sometimes it is not!

But now that I am a developing roadie--someone who speeds around on a bike more than once or twice a week--I understand that cycling glasses are not just for style and not just to dim the sun's light rays. In addition, cyclists need glasses to protect their eyes from bugs, dust, and debris that can be thrown into our faces as a car passes us. A bit of dust or a bug can be an annoyance for the casual rider, but if you are riding along at 20 mph, you can't afford to be distracted or temporarily impeded by a speck of dust in your eye. The situation can become unsafe.

So I bought a pair of glasses. I now own Tifosi FORZA FC Gloss Black T-V215 Fototec glasses. The purchase price was about $40 on the Bike Nashbar website. This was about 3 months ago, so I don't remember why I chose this particular model (actually now I do: I have a big face and very few other brands were rated as fitting large faces--what are all cyclists like horse jockeys?). I can say that the glasses are completely worth every penny. They sit lightly on my face and never bother me during a ride. In fact, the only time I notice I am wearing them is when the wind is blowing on the rest of my face and I don't feel it around the eyes. "Oh yeah, I've got glasses on." [I should note here that off the bike I do not wear glasses or corrective lenses of any kind]. These things are as comfortable as can be, and they never shift position. I've never been worried that they would fall off.

Tifosi Forza FC cycling glasses
I wasn't actually sure how to wear them with a helmet. Should the earpieces go under the helmet straps or over them? I looked through an issue of Bicycle Magazine and saw photos of people doing it either way, but I can't be sure those are real cyclists or just models. Indeed, some of their helmet straps were much too loose under the chin to provide them any protection during a crash, so these people either loosened their straps for the photo shoot, or they weren't real cyclist. Anyway, I decided to wear the ear pieces over the helmet straps so that if I was in a crash, the glasses would fall away from my face and not cut me.

This pair of glasses is supposed to be photochromic, such that the lenses become more darkly tinted in bright light. This feature is not noticeable while wearing them, but I suppose that is the point. Off the bike I see that they never get very dark. However, I am not one who wears sunglasses routinely (i.e. a motorist who wears them in the car), so I'm not bothered that they are not very dark....except that a certain "cool factor" is lost when you are riding your bike without dark sunglasses. That's OK. I know I'm cool anyway!

Goals for June 2012

In my last post I evaluated how well I attained my May fitness goals and my self-grade was a C. The whole point in working out is self-improvement, so I want to get a better grade in June! So here is my plan:

  • June 9-10: Bike MS Escape to the Lake. This is a fundraiser for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society that hundreds of thousands of cyclists do all across the country. This will be my first year participating. I've chosen a 137-mile route from near Pittsburgh to the shore of Lake Erie.

Monthly Goals:
  1. Cycling. Obviously I'll do at least 137 miles, since that is part of the Bike MS event. I am also planning a 25-mile ride with my parents at the end of the month. Adding another 50 miles in weekly rides (this would be closer to 80 if I weren't planning to be out of town for some of the month), that gives me a realistic goal of 212 miles. If I attain this, it would be the second month where I rode more than ever before.
  2. Running. This goal is easy to set. I want to run more this month than in any other before it. That sounds dramatic, but given my low running totals, it's completely attainable. Besides, I can run anywhere, even if I'm out of town.
    1. I will run 22 miles in June.
    2. I will also make sure that at least one of my runs will exceed 4.8 miles (my un-met goal from last month) 
  3. Swimming.
    1. I will swim 11.3 miles in June, which is an average amount.
    2. I will make sure 4 of my swims are an hour in length.
    3. The majority of my swims will include: (1) diving, (2) 125 yards of straight butterfly, (3) at least two 100 IM. Practicing my dives will help me spend more time in the air. I need to build endurance in the butterfly. My best friend does a lot of IMs and that's inspiring. I want to see if I can do what he does (eventually).
  4. Bird Hikes. I think four hikes with bicoculars this month is not unreasonable, and I always enjoy it.
  5. Weight-Lifting. Last month I said I'd do a workout 3 times per week. That still seems reasonable, but in reality I did just 3 workouts in the entire month. 
    1. I will do 6 workouts in the month. 
    2. I will start most of these workouts with leg raises as a warmup, since my swim coach wants me to work on building my abdominal muscles.
    3. My biceps circumference will increase 0.20 inch to 11.5 inches.
    4. My forearm circumference will increase 0.25 inch to 11.25 inches.
    5. My chest size will increase 0.25 inch to 43.25 inches.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fitness Grade for May 2012

At the end of April I set some goals for myself to attain in May. Let's see how well I did:


I said I would ride 160 miles on my bicycle, which would include commuting to work whenever possible. I did this, and in fact rode 166 miles in the month of May.


I said I would run 21 miles but I only did 19 miles. That's 90% of my goal. However, I had two other goals that I also did not reach. I said my longest run would be 4.8 miles (but I only did 3.74). I said I would experiment with interval training...and I did not, so I drop a letter grade!


I said I would swim 10.25 miles and I swam 13 miles. But my grade was dragged down by the fact that I did numerous short workouts rather than less numerous long ones. I also had a very specific 8-point plan for each day. I fulfilled 5 out of 8 of these on most days. I did not do as much diving, or butterfly, or IM distances as I said I would.


I'm not sure what to give myself in this area because I did go on 4 different walks totalling 10.5 miles, but my goal was mostly social and not birding.


I said I would lift weights three days a week during the month of May. Instead, I recorded 3 workouts for the entire month (grade = 25%). I saw my bicep size decrease (minus 10), my forearm size stayed the same, and my chest size increased (plus 10). I did follow through with the committment to do leg raises as a warmup each time, so plus 10. My grade is calculated as follows: 25-10+10+10 = 35%.

These grades average out to a C grade. Tomorrow is June 1. I'll come back and post some goals for June tomorrow.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Trek 700 "overhaul"

I own two bicycles and the oldest is a 1990 Trek Multitrack 700. Back in 1990, the concept of a hybrid bike--the combination of road bike and mountain bike--was fairly new, so I think they named this particular model "Multitrack" to help people understand why it was different. Today my bike is different not because it is a hybrid but because it is so old.

I don't know how many miles are on this bike. In the last 22 years I've had at least three bicycle computers, and as each one fails, it loses the odometer reading. My current odometer is around 600 miles. The last cycle computer didn't last long because a squirrel chewed through a wire and there was no way to repair it. But at that time (2006) I was regularly commuting to work on that bike and doing some other rides, too. So I easily had anopther 500 miles on it. In high school (1990-1992) I rode a lot, then I only did scattered rides in my college and grad school years. So adding another 800 miles I get a sum of at least 1900 miles. That's actually not a lot of miles at all for a 22 year old bicycle.

But it is a lot of miles for the drivetrain, specifically the chain. I didn't know chains could wear out until last year when someone at my bike shop told me I had a worn chain. According to Todd Downs, "as the chain wears, the inner surfaces of the chain's pins are slowly ground away, effectively increasing the center-to-center distance between the pins" (p.174). This causes the chain to elongate and not fit into the teeth of the cogs that make up the chainset and rear cassette. As I said, I hadn't noticed this until someone pointed it out. But upon inspection, I saw daylight between some chain links and my cog's teeth where there sould be none. So, off to the repair shop for a replacement chain!

Rear Cassette
I also read in Todd Downs' book that "putting more than 1,500 to 2,000 miles on a single chain and cogset will most likely [result in the] need to replace the entire cassette and chain at the same time" (p.164). Uh-oh. I put a new cassette on the list for my bike shop to tackle. I was concerned that the front chainset would also need to be replaced, as I saw the middle chainring had some broken teeth. To my surprise, the bike technician said the chainring had always been that way. The design includes having the middle chainring with a couple ground-down teeth so that the chain shifts more easily from one chainring to another. Well I'll be. I learned a lot today at my bike shop!

I still had two more items for the bike technicians to fix. First, I complained that the rear brake squealed whenever I used it, and it didn't seem that strong anymore, either. Remember, this equipment is 22 years old! The technician looked at my brake pads and didn't see excessive wear, and the rubber still seemed pliable. So he said they'd adjust them. I note on the work order that he didn't mention the squeal, so I hope they fix that.

The last thing on my list was the shifter. I showed them how the left shifter tended to skip the middle chainring so that I would downshift straight from gear 21 to gear 7 (rather than 14). When riding, this causes me to lose a lot of speed as I approach a hill. I can get to gear 14 by gently pressing the shifter, but not always. Hmmm. The technician diagnosed the problem quickly. There is some tiny part inside the shifter that is broken or otherwise not functioning right. He said they's take a look and see what they could do, but otherwise the only solution would be to replace the entire shifter/brake lever. "That would be really expensive," he said, and he seemed to dismiss that possibility outright. I appreciate his honesty and respect for my wallet's resources, but I wish I had pressed him on what "expensive" really meant. In my mind, I had already saved some expense by him telling me that my chainset could be spared. He had also relieved a concern I had about my bottom bracket, and he didn't think my brakes needed to be replaced, either. I entered the bike shop thinking my bill would be about $200--about half of what it would take to replace the entire bike with a new one. I left the bike shop with an estimate of $100. So expensive or not, I was actually ready to pay for a new shifter if he had given me that choice. Ultimately, I may have to do that anyway, but in the meantime I'll see what they can do.

Something I crossed off my list before getting to the bike shop was an adjustment to the kickstand. My kickstand was loose on the frame and while I can temorarily fix that by tightening the bolt, it always gets loose again. Yesterday I took off the kickstand, cleaned it, and tightened the bolt again. I noticed the washer that goes on the bolt was cracked, so I assume that is the problem. It is not producing enough friction to hold the kickstand mounting bracket in place. I felt kind of silly asking the bike shop to replace a washer for me, so I've elected to do that myself when I get the bike back.

They had to order a part, so the shop will have my bike for about 10 days. Meanwhile, I've got my Trek 1.5 road bike to keep me happy.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

April 2012 Report and Goals for May

In April 2012 I logged a total of 140 miles in running (17 miles), swimming (9 miles), and cycling (107 miles), plus a few random hikes (7 miles). My overall total of 140 miles is the second-highest monthly total in the last year, and this is due to well-above average running miles and my highest monthly total of miles on the bike since this time last year. My April totals include two competitive swim meets and one 5K running race. At my swim meets I broke three personal short-course yards (SCY) records: (1) 100-Fly in 1:23.58, (2) 50-Back in 0:39.25--as part of a relay, and (3) 400-Free in 5:53.02. My 5K performance was stellar (for me), as I did it in 25 min at an 8:05 pace. This completely shattered my personal best pace of 8:54 in October 2011.
I'm doing the butterfly stroke during the 100-Fly event at one of my swim meets.

So that's pretty amazing, isn't it? I'm only talking about my personal improvements here, as I know there are plenty of people who go more miles, swim faster, and run faster. But overall, for me, I was pretty hot in the month of April.

I want to continue this into May...and add to it. Here are my goals:

1. Exceed 160 miles on the bike (a 50% increase). I need to train for a 2-day bike excursion in early June that will total 150 miles. It's part of the "Bike MS" program of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. I plan to commute to work by bicycle whenever the weather cooperates.

2. Exceed 21 miles running (a 50% increase). I want to do an Olympic-length triathlon later in the summer, which means I've got to work up to a 10K distance. Therefore, sometime this month, my goal is to do a single run that exceeds 4.8 miles. This represents a 10% increase over the longest run I've ever done. On a separate day, I want to try to do intervals--running fast for a short burst and then running slow to recuperate before repeating the cycle. Doing intervals will increase my speed over time, but I'm more interested in increasing my distance at this point.

3. Swim an average amount: 10.25 miles. My competitive swim season is over, so I don't really need to have a stellar month of distance swimming. However, I do want to revamp my workouts and make them more thoughtful and strategic. Once school is out, I will do longer workouts (60 min) at least three times a week.  These will include:
  • 1x500 warm-up
  • 6x50s freestyle concentrating on posture
  • 2x50s breaststroke rest :15
  • 2x50s backstroke rest :15
  • 2x50s butterfly rest :15
  • 4x100 IMs rest :30
  • 2x200 free cool down
I will end each extended practice with some dives to increase the distance I travel in the air while horizontal.

4. I still plan to go on some hikes, specifically to look for birds, which is my other hobby.

5. Weight-lifting. I want to start this up again. In fact, my goal for May is to lift 3 days a week for >20 min (not including warm up). I always make weight-lifting goals and then renege on them. So with maybe with such a timid goal as this I will be able to keep it up. One problem with the above goal is that there is no reward it I attain it. With running and swimming and biking, I can measure my progress in terms of pace. I could certainly express weightlifting goals in terms of maximum pounds lifted, but I don't yet have a sense of satisfaction with that. Besides, I tend to hurt myself if I max out the weights. So, I'm going to step out on a limb and make the following measurable goal that will make me feel really good if I attain it. I will seek out bigger muscles. This strategy seemed to work for me in 2008-2009 when I saw a 1-inch increase in biceps circumference and chest size.

Today's measurements
Upper Arm = 11.5 inches. Goal at end of May: 11.75.
Lower Arm = 11.0 inches. Goal at end of May: 11.25.  (I'm measuring my left arm, prior to any workout, at the thickest point near the elbow)
Chest = 42.25 inches. Goal at end of May: 42.5 inches.

I will add leg raises to every weights workout, as this will strengthen the muscles I need to maintain proper swimming posture.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Use it or lose it

I had a conversation with one of my students today. It started with him asking if I planned to go running today. He reasoned that the weather was nice, so given my triathlon training, I would probably be taking advantage of it. He's certainly got a point. However, I didn't run today. I didn't intend to. The last run I did was a 5K race on Saturday (4 days ago), and today is the first day I haven't felt really sore (delayed onset muscle soreness). But now I feel a bit guilty that I didn't run. If the soreness is gone, it's time to push forward!

I shifted the conversation with my student to what physical activity he did on a regular basis. He said "I really want to, but not much at all these days." He used to be a body builder in high school and that carried into his freshman year of college. I remember that. I had him as a freshmen in his first semester, and he was very well muscled. He told me today that since his freshman year, he has lost 25 pounds. Much of that was muscle loss because he stopped lifting weights. He said his arms are 8 inches smaller in circumference and his maximum bench press had decreased from more than 300 pounds to 225 pounds. Now what you need to know is that this student is short, so the fact that he can still bench 225 pounds is impressive to me. I'm more than 12 inches taller than he is, and my maximum bench press is around 145 pounds. At least it used to be, a couple years ago.

I've probably shrunken a bit as well. I stopped weightlifting because it was more work than fun, I never had a goal, and I often hurt myself to the point where I'd have to take 7-10 days off to heal. It was definitely a case of "two steps forward and one step back," and I'm not even sure if I netted one step forward. Regardless, anything I gained in strength or physique is gone. My upper body is really quite slim.

Maybe I'll work on it again next month when I'll have more time to lift weights. I'll have the whole summer to get stronger and maybe make weightlifting part of my habit again. I'd like that. But I'll still need a goal--something attainable, something safe yet challenging. For example, maybe I could work on my arms and increase my upper arm circumference by an inch (to 12 or 12.5 inches). Obviously I'd work other muscle groups, too.

Or maybe my goal shouldn't be in terms of size, but rather in terms of strength or accomplishment. For example, I'd like to be able to do a lot of pull-ups (10 in a row?). I think doing pull-ups would do a lot for my upper body strength, and it would help with my swimming strokes.

Speaking of swimming, I'd like to set some goals for that, too. My best friend trains in the pool by doing 400 IMs (individual medleys) over and over for a total of 2600+ yards. My workouts are shorter and are composed of mostly freestyle. There is no reason I can't match what he does in the pool.

Except, I lack the motivation at times. I find that a lot of my blog entries have this theme. When things are going well, I don't tend to post to my blog. So my readers are likely to have a much dimmer picture of my life of fitness. Sorry! The reality is that I usually have good motivation, so the goals I set forth above are realistic and I think I will in fact work toward them. Let me end with a list of all the great things I've done...rather than a list of things I wish I had done.

Accomplished so far in 2012:
  1. I have run 37 miles. This is an increase of 264% compared to last year during the same time period.
  2. I have swam 48 miles. This is an increase of 77% compared to last year...
  3. I have bicycled 189 miles. This is an increase of 497% compared to last year...
  4. I have set 10 personal bests in swim competitions including: 25 Free, 50 Free, 200 Free, 500 Free, 25 Fly, 50 Fly, 100 IM, 25 Back, and 50 Back. Even the number of personal bests is up this year compared to last year (10 versus 7).
  5. Competing in the 100-yard butterfly event at a Master's Swim Meet.
    I competed in one additional swimming competition and beat a college student half my age by a significant margin in the 400 Freestyle. I did it in 5:53.02, which was well below the 6:03 I was expecting.
  6. I have done one 5K run so far this year and my 8:05 pace crushed my old personal best of 8:54 (set in November 2011). My average running pace today is an improvement of 19% over the average pace I had in April 2011.
  7. I have done 13 weightlifting workouts (despite what I report above, I haven't actually given it up entirely). This is exactly half the number I did in 2011 during the same time span, but something is better than nothing.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Joy of a Longish Bike Ride

I rode 14.7 miles today at an average pace of 15.1 mph with a net climb of 1,650 feet. This is the longest bike ride I've done since at least October 2011. This is not to say that I haven't been on the bike recently. In fact, I've logged 189 miles in the last six months...but mostly this has all been in 5-mile increments. So I celebrate!

I'm also going to have to come up with a longer course for next time. Until now, I've had a few smaller loops that I take, and for today I combined them all into one big loop. It will be fun to add a little more distance the next time. And there will be a next time, because I've got some training to do:

  1. The Bike MS ride is coming up in early June. I'll be riding 150 miles over two days.
  2. The Pittsburgh Triathlon is July 27th, and I am planning for this to be my first international-distance race. The bike portion is 40 km.
  3. I'm doing another couple sprint triathlons in August, including one with an 12-mile bike race August 12th...
  4. ...and one with a 13-mile bike race on August 25th.

So those are my goals; I just have to keep going. I wanted to write this little post so that I remembered the good feelings I had to day after my ride. I felt energetic. I felt I had better concentration after the ride when I was at work. I felt endorphins. I was pain-free, which is significant given that my shoulder has been sore from swimming and both knees felt kind of achy--also from swimming (breaststroke). The next time I say to myself "Maybe I should go on a bike, I don't feel like it," I want to remember the good feeling I get after it's over. And of course, it's fun during the ride, too, or at least interesting--

  • How fast can I go down the first big hill?
  • Will I have to stop for the traffic light in the first little town I ride through? (I actually like to stop at the traffic light, as this gets the attention of people in the restaurant at the intersection. I'm glad to give them something to talk about)
  • Can I manage the slight incline out of town without downshifting to my lower bracket?
  • How winded and tired will I get climbing the beast of a hill that comes next? How slow can I go without having the bike fall over?!
  • I always enjoy the horse pasture and broad view at the top of that hill.
  • I enjoy that wide, smooth road near the airport that never has any traffic.
  • I enjoy the extra risk I take past the airport where the country road becomes narrow, steep (up and down), and traction is reduced due to all the black sealant applied to the road surface. Some of those hills are so steep going down that I have to ride my brakes all the way, so as not to exceed 35mph and/or lose control.
  • I like the forested patch of road I encounter after crossing the highway.
  • I like the open view I find at the top of the next hill by the cemetery. In fact, by the time I get there, it seems like it's all downhill from there. I zoom more freely down the next road that goes past the lake.
  • I zoom around the traffic circle and then relax as the paved shoulder expands and I can take my time going up the last climb.
  • Lastly, I enjoy crossing from the right side of the airport road to the left in order to use the left turn lane onto the road that takes me home. I'm amazed that the road sensors there are sensitive enough for my bicycle to trigger the traffic light.
--That's a long list of interesting things along my 14.7-mile cycling route. Now think of how many more things I can add to this list as I lengthen the route and cycle for longer periods of time.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Competitive Swim Season Ends

My Master's Swim Team season is wrapping up for the year. We had our last regular meet yesterday, and only the championships remain on the schedule for the end of the month. Today as I write this I am feeling the "let down" that comes after a big undertaking. And my body is sore from my racing.

I did four events:

(1) 500-free in 7:27, which beat my old record set last October by 22 seconds. Ha! This was the most fun I've had in a while, as I was neck-to-neck with the guy in the adjacent lane for the whole race. And then I gave it everything I had and beat him in the last 25 yards. He finished in 7:29. This finish was almost as good as Ryan Lochte squeaking out a victory over Michael Phelps in July 2011 ( Of course, the key word here is 'almost.' I should note that I really like how professional swimmers greet one another at the end of the race before they get out of the water (see photo). We don't do that at the Master's meets because we have to clear the pool for the next heat to take place.
(2) 50-free in 30.47 seconds, which beat my old record of 30.60 seconds. I wanted to break the 30-second barrier but I'll take the incremental improvement and break it next time.

(3) 100-breast in 1:29. I failed to break my old record of 1:27.70.

(4) 25-back in 17.7 seconds. I had not done this event before so I have no old time to compare. This was another race where my lane neighbor and I were swimming at the same pace; in fact, we tied.

This last swim meet coincides with the end of the "marathon swim," which involves logging all the yards swum each day from the start of the season in early September to the end of the season, March 4, 2012. There are several levels of recognition: 176,000 yards (=100 miles), 120,000 yards, 75,000 yards, and 50,000 yards. Last year I was somewhere around 70,000 yards at the end of the season, so I missed out on the "silver" award that is passed out for 75k. This year I was headed for a similar nearly-there sum of 110k yards and then decided in the last week that I really wanted to reach 120k. So I swam everyday for 1500-2200 yards and finally reached the "gold" level of 120k exactly one day before the deadline. Whew! I was physically and emotionally tired and I remain so after this swim meet. I have a forced vacation from the pool now for a week, as my college's pool is closed for spring break. This break from swimming will be good for me, I'm sure.

Someone asked me what I'll do  with my time this week instead of swimming. Answer: cycling and running. In my effort to get ahead with the swimming, I let those two other activities slide. The weather is forecast to be fair and warm for the next 3-4 days, so I plan to enjoy them. Of course, I still have to go to work and earn my pay...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Snowy Saturday Sweatfest

I don't actually sweat that much when I do exercise, but today I feel like working out for a long time. I had a busy workweek and I didn't get to do much physical exercise--just two miles of swimming and that is it. So today is a day for catching up. This blog post will be written during my workout to keep things interesting and give me a bit of time between each set to rest. My starting time (right now!) is 3:10pm. I'll start with a warm-up bike ride on the stationary bike...

Time: 3:32
I've done 9.5/4= 2.4 miles on the bike. The bike speedometer is shot, so I take what it says and divide by 4 just to get a more realistic mileage.
Then 3 sets of 20 calf raises.
Then 3 sets of bench presses. I did 10 reps the first set and 5 reps for the second two.

I watched professional snowboarding on TV while I worked out. Those guys are awesome athletes but they need to cut their hair. Not every snowboarder should have the trademark hair style of Shaun White. Come on, guys. It's a little silly and transparent. I also noticed that if the snowboarder messed up, they quit. They didn't bother to finish their routine on the half pipe. I understand they may not want to injure themselves if they know they're going to lose, but it makes them seem lazy. Real athletes do their best...all the time. OK, gotta keep going. Time is 3:37pm.

Time: 3:58
I've done 3 sets of triceps extensions. Those are hard, as I am trying to keep the upper arm completely vertical and my shoulder just isn't that flexible. I suppose the triceps is worked in any case, but Salo and Riewald (2008) says to keep them as straight up as possible.
I also did incline chest flys. I did a set of 20 @19 pounds with no problem but my muscles were shaking rather violently so I reduced the weight in the successive two sets. This is not the first time I've gotten the shakes, but it's weird. I can only assume my muscles were already fatigued from the bench presses I did a few minutes ago.
Lastly, I did 3 sets of 20 standing rows using elastic bands. This works the back muscles.

Law & Order was on TV. I've seen the episode already, so I was not that invested. I like that series a lot! Time is now 4:03pm

Time 4:17pm
I've done 3 sets of dumbbell military presses (with decreasing weight each set). Now that I think about it, I should probably increase the weight with each set, but I haven't lifted weights in so long, I'm not sure what weights to start out with. It appears I'm overestimating my abilities rather consistently!
I also did 2 pull-ups using the bar in my doorway. I've written about this before. I'm afraid of it, because I seem to always hurt myself doing pull ups on that bar. So, as I indicated above, I'm starting slow (again). In fact, these were not full pull-ups because I started from a bent-knee-on-chair position.
Lastly, I did 3 sets of 30 abdominal crunches. I'm going to be sore tomorrow! A good sore.

More Law&Order on TV, this time the "Criminal Intent" version. It's not as good as the original, but I still like it well enough. Interestingly I'm not paying close attention to the plot. That's a good thing, as it means I'm really listening to my body and paying attention to my form. So the time is 4:22pm. What should I do now? Answer: more cycling.

Time 4:45pm
I did 17.5/4 = 4.4 miles on the stationary bike in 20 minutes. I'm sweaty now! Time to go check on my household laundry. Then I'll do some leg raises and go from there. Time 4:47pm.

Time 5:09pm
I did 15+10+10 leg raises to work the lower abdominals. I also ate a banana. I realize that I am feeling pretty tired at this point. It's been 2 hours now, and I think I'm done for now.

Overall, I cycled 6.8 miles, worked all my abs, worked my calf muscles, my back muscles, and used my arms, shoulders, and chest to lift a combined 3,925 pounds.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

First racing suit bites the dust

I've stopped posting to my blog regularly. There are assorted reasons for this but the main reason is I found another website that enables me to post my workouts and have people comment on them. I can also use that site at work and post things right away instead of waiting until I get home. I also get more consistent feedback there (no offense to my 11 Blogger followers, but I have 37 on the other website).

Anyway, despite the fact that I don't post much to Blogger anymore, I still think of lots of things to talk about here. For example, I was cleaning up my room and found my first racing swimsuit. I bought it a couple years ago and I posted the announcement on this blog. But the thing wore out so quickly that I had to buy a second one only months later.

My old suit was a Speedo "Lunar Twist" jammer, purchased for $45. It consisted of 74% nylon and 26% spandex. Apparently the Lycra spandex component is sensitive to pool chemicals, and one day I noticed that the fabric that stretched across my rear end was getting thin. I replaced this suit with a new suit made of Speedo Endurance fabric, and that has lasted more than a year.

I am NOT a hoarder but I do keep things with sentimental value and I put this worn-out swimsuit back in its box because I didn't want to throw it away. Well, it's been a while and I think maybe I should discard it. So, like I've done before, I am proclaiming how great its been to learn how to swim, to work with a coach every week, and join a competitive swim team. I swim at least 4 times a week, and putting on a racing suit is no longer an unusual event. So, thank you to my friend Dan who got me into swimming, thank you to my coach J.G., and thank you old swimsuit for giving me confidence in the water.

Now, regrettably, the suit is in the trash, and I can continue to clean my room.