Friday, October 31, 2008

My office rocks. Proof at last!

Everyone who wore a costume got to be in the picture. People who didn't wear a costume were forced to wear "sharkie".


The Eastern Science Conservation team... Mark didn't have a costume, so had to wear Sharkie.

Arlene and Juanmin were an olympic bike team. I've never seen those jerseys anywhere, they're so unique! They wanted to be like Michael Phelps but decided against the wetsuit/bathing suit idea...

Melissa was alternative energy - wind power.

Dan was Dr. Dementos.

I was a bumblebee.

There were cupcakes.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Frosty mornings

It was cold enough this morning to warrant fleece tights and an extra layer riding in. I actually went through that period of extreme pain in my hands for the first seven minutes before they warmed up. I don't know why its seven minutes, but I have noticed that when I ski in the cold, it takes seven minutes exactly of extreme pain before my hands warm up. I guess they're cold in those seven minutes, mostly I just notice that they hurt. My feet stay cold, though, no amount of time spent skiing will help them. At least my feet go too numb to notice if they hurt or not. Anyway, I was thoroughly impressed with how many bike commuters were still out there! Granted, it wasn't raining, but it was cold enough. Maybe the whole high-gas-prices thing that pushed more people to bike will keep them biking even though prices are down? I mean, these were some real commuters, not skinny hipster punks on fixies with no brakes, helmets, or brains. I figure I have another month in me, but come December, enough with the bicycle thing, its ski season!

The problem with this weather, aside from the 'it makes me cold' issue, is that my rollerskis get really slow, and my tips don't dig into the pavement. That makes for some frustrating rollerskiing. And yesterday there were a ton of pine needles down, they must have all blown down overnight, which made for some slippery moments. I love sliding corners when I'm on rollerskis! The only problem is when you go from sliding sideways to not-sliding...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A giant pumpkin...

Linnea brought me a giant pumpkin. I slaughtered it.

Then I butchered it.

And then I turned it into cupcakes!


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On top of the clouds

I thought this sort of view was only supposed to happen in cool, high-up places that you'd go to on a big, expensive, vacation. Not on some weekend jaunt up a well-traveled mountain in NH...

Its a big bald hump.

This is my "oh my god let this be the top" face.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Moosilauke hill climb

Sunday I convinced Anna that running up a mountain was good for bike training, and we drove up to NH to race up Moosilauke against Dartmouth, Middlebury, GMVS, Burke, and other random stragglers from all over New England. It was supposed to be raining but it ended up being a nice day, in the end. Anna and I started at the end of the pack, with Anna just behind me. I remembered that last year I hadn't gone as hard as I wanted, so my race plan was "go harder". Does that translate to faster? Apparently not... Protip, if you're going to be running uphill for an hour, don't go into the red in the first ten minutes. Yeah, I'm not that pro, I went out too hard, and suffered for it. When Anna went by pretty early on (20 minutes in?), she tried to make me feel better by saying how awesome she was, but of course in a humble, Anna- sort of way.
Me: "uh oh, this isn't a good sign"
Anna: "whats not a good sign?"
Me: "I'm getting passed by a cyclist!"
Anna: "yes, but, a cyclist with a really good VO2max..."
After a period of damage control, I passed the "last water" sign and the trail went up for a bit instead of this gradual up, and I could see glimpses of Anna's gray shirt ahead of me. That kept me somewhat motivated, but the damage had been done and my legs were heavy with lactic acid. Eventually I got above the cloud layer and it was like I was blinded, what is this burning star in the sky??!!? It was a beautiful day for a picnic when I finally staggered up the last hump to the top, 50 seconds slower than last year. Unfortunately I hadn't brought a picnic basket with me. Alas.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

More photos from Italy

Got a cd from my dad in the mail with some of the photos he took, mostly the ones of me. I felt like sharing.

Innocently doing a handstand... about to get ambushed.

At least I got him back and made him carry me up hills =)

Bet you wish you had this sort of backdrop when you worked out...

A deep discussion. And you never know when shit might fall from the sky. Always wear a helmet.

"My hat!"

you mean... I can have all of that!??!?!


Really, it was all about the food.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Its a little like Alex-logic. Which is not something you'd use to come to a normal conclusion, but explains how I get to my conclusions. Anyway, the point is that here is the science for why I am sucking when I ride my bike:

Percent of my hours spent on a bike between May and September (out of total training hours for that time period):
2006: 55.5%
2007: 44.2%
2008: 25.9%

For those of your not so numbers-inclined, this means that I am spending more and more time doing something other than riding a bike in my spring/summer/early fall. And apparently, you need some bike-specific training under your belt to race fast on a bike. weird.

All this ski training darn well better pay off!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Core strength

I used to love doing core strength. It was definitely my favorite workout in college, I would get to practice after chemistry lab, where things would never have gone right, and I was lighting things on fire (accidentally! I swear!) and the stupid gen chem experiments that are supposed to be fool-proof never worked right, and my lab partner (his name was chewy. like in star wars.) was no help whatsoever, since he always came to lab stoned, and in general it was just a very frustrating time. So I would come to practice and we would be whipping medicine balls at each other and it was a really fantastic way to let off steam. Unfortunately, you can't huck medballs around if there is nobody to catch them, or if you don't have a cement wall, neither of which I have. One summer in VT, I spent my core strength sessions throwing chunks of firewood from one pile to another, alternating sides, but for some reason I felt really stupid doing that, and it was lacking the satisfaction that I'd get from a medicine ball.

I have since developed a little routine of core strength stuff that you can do on your own, and I figured I'd share it, since maybe there are people out there who need some motivation to do core strength, and a new routine might be just the ticket! I use my pink bouncy ball (I suppose other colors would work too. I just like that mine is pink) and a medicine ball, but you could use any ~10lb weight for the ball, since you aren't actually throwing it. If you're a cyclist, this might make you sore, heck if you're a skier this might make you sore too. But its a good sore!

The premise is that you do a circuit of 12 stations, and at each one you do the exercise for one minute, and then you get 30 seconds to switch to the other station and get set up for the next exercise. You do this circuit three times. Then you finish with a fun little thing called "8-minute abs", which is, unsurprisingly, eight minutes of abdominal exercises. This brings you to a nice round one hour of strength, with 45 minutes of active time, which is short enough that you can do it in the morning, but long enough that you're actually doing something. Yay! I should probably say something like don't start an exercise program without consulting your doctor, and don't sue me if you hurt yourself, thats your own damn fault.

The circuit: I've drawn some beautiful pictures in paint (I love drawing in paint...), hopefully they're helpful and informative rather than confusing.

1. Medicine ball twists - Sit on your butt, bend your knees, and lift your feet off the floor. Holding the medicine ball in front of you, twist so that the ball touches one side, then twist so it touches the other. Do it for a minute.
2. Lunges holding a medicine ball - as you lunge, move the ball from your chest to above your head with straight arms. As you stand back up, lower the ball back to your chest.
3. Pushups with your hands on the bouncy ball. You'll probably only be able to do 20 of these or so in a minute. Don't be ashamed.

4. Back plank roll-outs - Lie on your back, with your feet on the bouncy ball. Lift your body up so that you are supported by your feet (on the ball) and your shoulders (on the ground), and your body is straight. Bend your knees, rolling the ball towards you, then straighten your legs back out, rolling the ball back.
5. V-ups with a medicine ball - The ball stays over your head at all times. Start on your back with your arms and legs straight (arms above your head) but not touching the ground. Sit up, keeping them straight, and keeping the ball over your head.
6. Tuck jumps - starting in a squat, jump as high as you can, bringing your knees up.
7. Pushups with one hand on the medicine ball - Put one hand on the floor, and one on the medicine ball. Do five pushups like that, then roll the ball to your other hand, and do five pushups. Keep switching every five.

8. Back-ups - Hook your feet under something (the couch. the refrigerator. whatever). Facing downwards, put the bouncy ball under your hips, and hold the medicine ball over your head. Lift your upper body up and down, keeping medball over your head.
9. Front plank roll-outs - Assume a pushup position with your feet on the bouncy ball. Keeping your back as level as possible, bend your knees to roll the ball towards you, then straighten your legs and roll the ball back out. To make it extra hard, keep rolling the ball out behind you until your hands are way out in front of you.
10. Chair squats - Stand on a chair on one leg. Squat down on that leg and then back up.

11. Pushup twists - Do a pushup, and when you get to the up position, twist your body and lift your upper hand to do a side plank. Then go back to the pushup position, do a pushup, and twist to the other side.
12. Supermans with a medball - Lie on your stomach. Lift your shoulders and feet (with straight legs) off of the ground. Hold a medicine ball out in front of you. bounce it on the ground.

Eight-minute abs is where you do a minute of each type of exercise for eight minutes, and you don't stop at all during the eight minutes. It might burn, but eventually you get used to it.
1. Front plank
2. Tuck-ups
3. Dying bug (I've heard this called a dead bug, but really, the bug is in the process of dying, if it were already dead, you wouldn't be moving, would you?). Make sure you keep the small of your back pressed against the floor while you do this one.
4. Side plank (right)
5. Side plank (left)
6. Flutters
7. Crunches
8. Bu-fu's

These are all just suggestions, you can mix it up any way you like. I like to do a rotation of abs, arms, legs, back, but you can change that too. Hopefully this gets you all motivated to get a strong core!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Canton Cup

I raced more 'cross this weekend. True to form, it was an unimpressive performance. I really need to understand that you just can't do well in something if you don't train specifically for it, and "biking to work" does not equal "training". Maybe I'll figure that out some day.

Anyway, I could have sworn that this course was fun, and technical. Maybe thats because the last time I rode it was on my mtb and it was frosty or frozen or something. Or I just blocked the parts I didn't like out of my head. Anyway, I showed up, rode the course, and decided that it was basically Gloucester but with more fun stuff interspersed. Lots of power sections. I decided that today would be the day I would stop bitching about power sections and just go faster. Seems like a good plan.

Since IBC was helping to sponsor this race, I helped out at registration for a while. It was pretty chilly. Luckily, I'd brought a blanket. People were jealous. Still, I got pretty cold by 1pm. The chili was delicious and very warm, so a huge thanks out to the guys serving food to the volunteers!

2pm rolled around and I was kitted up and on my bike, despite some serious wimp-talk in my head. My feet were cold, it was windy, my ears were cold, my nose was snotty. I lined up behind Libby, because that girl starts like a rocket, and found myself in the top 10. Cool. This won't last. Libby and I yo-yoed, mostly she was in front and I would occasionally make contact and then we hit something flat and she'd go a lot faster than me. I will admit, I bungled the transition to the runup once or twice...

Anyway, we only ended up doing four laps, so I guess they were long. First lap was pretty uneventful, I was mostly chasing Libby, and then going up the pavement, three girls caught me. I think it was Rebecca Blatt, some NEBCer, and another girl. I tried to go fast, I swear, I did. But I couldn't even hold a wheel. Luckily, the first part of the field had enough turns and stuff that I'd caught back up by the pavement in the back, and I realized, hey, this drafting thing is pretty nice! Then through the loops and mini-barriers, I realized, hey, this accordion thing sucks! So I passed three of the girls, couldn't get past Sarah from Landry's, but I figured there was no way she would be holding me up in corners. By the top of the runup, I'd actually put a small gap on the other three girls, woot! And then on the backstretch of the track they went by me so fast I couldn't even contemplate holding a wheel. Caught up in the corners, probably thanks to the accordion effect slowing down the one in back, and then there were more straights, and I got dropped again. Hard.

Lap three (I don't know what happened to lap two either), the group I had wanted to ride with (please, can I play with you? please?) had passed Libby, so I set about catching her. I made contact by the pavement in the back, and sort of hung on, yo-yoing more than drafting, until she almost washed out in a corner in the back where I passed her, got a small gap by the top of the runup, and got passed like I was standing still on the track. I'm sensing a pattern. By the time I hit the pavement, I knew I had one lap left, and I was determined to catch Libby, possibly Rebecca, and not let Sue Mclean or Marci Titus-hall catch me. Caught back up to Libby (I AM the definition of yo-yoing) as we hit the back pavement, and she stopped pedalling there, I heard she got a flat so maybe thats where she did it. But I was just glad I'd passed her because it gave Sue and Marci someone else to focus their energies on and reel in, and hopefully I'd get away. I went as hard as I could everywhere I could, but Marci had my wheel by the turns before the runup. I tried to ride off the course there, held it together but no gap at the top of the runup, but I didn't lose her wheel on the track as quickly as I'd lost every elses'! This was exciting, and I had almost made contact by the third turn.

pedalpedalpedal pantpantpant pedalpedalpedal pantpantpant CLUNK nosewheelie almost-bite it. Huh? Why won't my chain turn? Sue goes by. Some fiddling, oh, its off the derailleur pulley. More fiddling. More swearing. Oh, the wheel isn't on. More swearing. Cathy and Hannah go by. Wheel is in, back on bike, really, really, really pissed off. Kate from MIT has caught up to me. I go as fast as I can over the barriers, hoping to put time on her, but its not enough, she goes by from like 30ft back and my "sprint" was more pathetic looking than a kitten in a bath. Who knows if I could have held on to Marci and Sue, but it certainly burns to lose five places because of a mechanical that was totally preventable. Lesson learned...

And then Tiffany and Mario came over for dinner and we had an amazing dinner, but Tiffany had forgotten her lucky red sox shirt, so had to make one. We think it was the improvised shirt that caused the loss of the game.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Self-induced torture.

(picture from zoo at Suckerbrook)

Standing on the start line of a 'cross race is like voluntarily seeing how high you can turn the voltage on the electric dog collar you've wrapped around your ankle - you know its going to hurt, you know you don't have to be doing this and its kind of stupid, but you do it anyway. Its that moment right before you push the button that you think - "wait, I don't have to do this. I can go back home and take a nap. I don't have to subject myself to the pain thats about to hit".

And then Ed turned the collar up to 10, hit the button, and yelled. In a manly way, of course. I only put the collar to 2 before yelping and taking it off.

And your legs burn and you wheeze like a fat kid with asthma and you fall off your bike and you get back on your bike and you gasp and flail some more and your brain stops working except to inform you of useful tidbits like "you have to pedal the bike to make it move" and the leg-burning takes over your whole body which is screaming at you to stop and hopefully the brain can override the curses that your legs are throwing at you and then you finish and the elation at being done mutes the pain you just went though. You catch your breath, you spin your legs, and within ten minutes you've forgotten all the bad parts and can't wait to race again.

Cyclocrossers have sick, twisted minds. Who would put themself through this so willingly every week?

(unrelated peaceful mountain picture)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Gloucester, and a rollerski time trial*

*By time trial, I mean "race against your teammates". This is the way skiers think of time trials. If you're a biker and you're confused, think of it as a training race.

I only raced one day at Gloucester this year, because I remembered how much I hated it last year. I didn't really enjoy it any more this year, I don't know why I bother with this course, it only makes me angry. Not only that, I forgot to pre-register (I could have sworn I registered, but I guess I only thought I did), so it was a $50 race. Youch.

I lined up in the back, whistle goes off, I'm stuck behind people who aren't exactly sure where to start looking for their pedals, and then theres a bang and some girl in light blue fades abruptly from my peripheral vision. Not ten seconds later, her teammate, up ahead of me, swerves back and forth a couple times and then falls over. How do you even manage that one? I was on the side, so I got around these minor issues. The first part of that lap went smoothly, I was comfortable and quite happy with where I was sitting, it even felt sustainable, which is not a normal thing in a cross race. Then on the off-camber loopety-loop thing (by the baseball diamond), I rode into a wooden post, rather forcefully, and bounced off of it onto my head and back, which knocked the wind out of me and caused quite a headache. Doh. After that the race was pretty boring, I chased as hard as I could, caught two girls, and never caught up to Callie, riding in no-man's land for the remaining 4 laps. Yay. I'm obviously quite enthused with my race.

Still in a negative slump, I headed out to Concord for a rollerski time trial with CSU sunday. We had a pretty big crowd, which was great given that its a holiday weekend. The time trial was two flatter laps and then finish at the top of Annursnac hill, classic. I had trouble going hard enough on the flat stuff, but it was fast enough to keep up with Chris Stock (winner of eastern highschools classic race last winter) for the flat parts. Then it went uphill, and there was nobody around me but I felt fast, and more importantly, I looked fast. Afterwards, I skied to Kimball Farms for some ice cream. That was worth the extra distance =)

Looking fast.

We're a sophisticated bunch, we have high tech ways of carrying clip boards.

Kimball Farms: Doing their part to prevent childhood obesity (this is a kiddie cone).

Foliage in Concord MA

Then I got home and decided on a whim that I couldn't spend another day in Boston, I had a day off and gosh darn if I wasn't going to use it. So I decided to brave the leaf-peepers and go north and hike something. Kathleen happily joined me on three-hour notice, and we ran over the Moats in North Conway. Beautiful day for a hike! We also discovered that the blueberries still on the bushes tasted delicious, like concentrated little explosions of blueberriness! Hike over and soul rejuvenated, I sat in stop and go traffic for almost four hours to get home. Worth it, though.

Foliage in NH

Thinking on it, I-93 is the giant pipeline for leaf-peepers, skiers, and day-hikers to get north and invade the mountains. Without that escape, I don't think my sanity would last too long down here...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Back to the grind...

Coming back from vacation sucks, quite frankly. Everything was fine and dandy and gelato-ful, but now I'm in Boston and I have to go to work and I have to commute and I have to do laundry and what happened to my afternoon naps? Life almost would have been better without the vacation, then you wouldn't have gotten used to the wonderfulness of afternoon naps and three gelatos a day and the lazy bored feeling you get when you don't fill your day with working. Except that vacation was awesome. And now I feel super recharged. Amazing what ten days without rollerskiing will do! Of course, I joined CSU for a workout last night, on skis, and despite the gazillions of pushups that I did while I was in Italy, I still felt slow and weak. Grrr.

Anyway, I'm doing one day of Gloucester. Tomorrow. And playing around with crossresults, I'm predicted to be fifty points behind last place (I could have sworn I preregistered, but I guess I remembered wrong). Whee! Nothing like low expectations to get all pumped up...


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Italy, part II

We went from Umbria to Rome, and did a lot of walking. I took a lot of pictures. Here are some of them. Some of them are from Umbria, as well.

View from the castle in Assissi.

Ed was our reliable map-reader. This is in Perugia, at caffe stop number one...

View from Perugia walls.


Along one of the bike rides we took.

This is the top of (I kid you not) an hour-long hill. That was STEEP.


The inside of one of the little shops in Castiglone del Lago, where they had us sample different kinds of wild boar salamis, prosciuttos, cheeses, dried tomatoes, and wine.

A huge church (I forgot the name already) in Orvieto.

Behind bars...

The inside of St. Peter's Cathedral. Pictures cannot convey the grandeur. It was HUGE.

The square outside St. Peter's Basilica.

Tiber River