Tuesday, July 29, 2008
I've run twice now and haven't had any pain. I'm keeping my runs to a 20-minute duration for now. I can't afford to risk injuring myself right out of the gate. It has been nice to run again.
Friday evening, I asked my son Ethan if he wanted to see Batman. I told him he couldn't go unless he dressed like Batman--it took him all of 30 seconds to get his costume on. It was really fun...he was so excited. He kept bouncing on his chair during the previews in anticipation.
I'd read a lot of good reviews of the new Batman movie...and frankly, that gave me a bit of concern. So many movie reviewers miss the mark--significantly. So, I went in a bit jaded. But, this time I think the reviewers got it right. It was a great movie. What's good about the new Batman is, for once, we have a worthwhile adversary--a true foil. It wasn't like James Bond, where every bad guy shoots 1,000 rounds only to miss. Or, all those movies when the bad guy is easily out-fought, out-driven, out-ran, and out-foxed. In Batman, both Batman and the Joker are mortal--they bleed and they get hurt. They have limitations. Their powers are almost attainable by the average-joe. It's not so unfathomable that we, too, could be a Batman or a Joker. Batman wasn't zapped by cosmic rays, bitten by radioactive spiders, or born on Krypton--he was just filthy rich and pushed in a direction by the murder of his parents. At any rate, Batman was a good show and Heath Ledger did Joker proud.
It is a rather strange phenomenon that people love superheroes so much. I can understand children. When I was a kid, I collect comic books; I won't lie. But think about the block buster movies this summer: IronMan, Hulk, Batman, HellBoy, and Hancock. How strange is that?
Sunday, July 27, 2008
The ride was good, but I'm not sure I should be pushing anything just yet. I came home and rested briefly and decided it was time to try a short, easy run. I ran on the treadmill for 20 minutes at a 10-minute-mile pace. No pain in the leg. Now that's some great news. As I ran, I was overly cognizant of every twinge of pain trying to detect any lasting or lingering shin splints. There was nothing in the shin department. My chest was very tight with congestion though. Twenty minutes of running was the most I wanted to push at this point. I'm a bit superstitious, but three weeks off of running just might have done the trick. More to come.
So, all this time not training has given me lots of time to think about my current work situation. Here's a brief summary of whats transpired over that last year. When I came back to my present employer, they were struggling with financial issues--isn't every company? They announced a 500 person work-force reduction along with numerous organization changes to cut costs, eliminate redundancies, and realign tasks. Right off the bat, 200 bodies hit the floor. My organization was consolidated with another organization--capital budgeting and analysis. This was a change I was excited about because capital is my niche, and my boss insinuated that I'd be able to transition to this area. In the meantime, I took on a temporary task, which was supposed to last 3 months at the longest. The task was very "accounting" in nature, but I could handle that if it was only 3 months. That 3 months grew to 9 months. I was able to do the job fairly well; I just kept telling myself "it'll be over soon" to get by. Finally 9 months after the first round of lay-offs, all the individuals in our organization (minus 1 who got laid-off the morning prior to the meeting) gathered and the director provided an org chart with the new org structure and job descriptions...but no names were put in the boxes. Oh the suspense! Instead, the director informed us she was going to meet with each of us, one-on-one, and tell tell us what our new role would be. My time came, and I was told I would be a manager of consolidations. She tried to sell it like it was a great opportunity. Two things came to my mind: 1) this is not capital nor budgeting, 2) this is an accounting job. At this point, I couldn't keep a poker face and the disappointment was evident.
In the corporate world, you're supposed to embrace change with excitement. If you don't, you're considered static or an obstacle in forward progress. I was in dangerous territory now. Up to this point, I've tried to be enthusiastic about the challenges presented to me, but this one was different.
By formal training is in accounting, but my true passion is for financial analysis. Give me a spreadsheet, and I'm in hog heaven. I model cash flows, income statement impacts, net-present value calculations, capital acquisitions, whatever. I like to deal with future possibilities and decisions. On the other hand, accounting is historic; it's meant for those that like to balance check books. It's not sexy. It's the past. I disdain accounting!
From the moment I became aware I didn't like accounting, I've tried my darnedest to transition away from it into finance. The last five years, I've steered clear of any accounting functions and have been involved in financial analysis--primarily capital. This new challenge would negate my efforts and suck me back in. When I asked what functions I'd be doing, the response was assist with external reporting (i.e. SEC reporting) and provide input for other internal reports.
This new "challenge" was very disappointing. I trusted my director. On numerous occasions, I told her how much I disliked accounting-type jobs--she agreed. Yet, without asking me, I was slotted into a roll that met her needs at the expense of my career choices--at least that's how I viewed it. Furthermore, this isn't an optional deal--it's my new role in the organization whether I like it or not. I wasn't the only person this happened to; there were many others as well.
So this last week, I've been pondering how to deal with the situation. Do I throw up my hands and take on the next challenge? Do I try to steer my career in the direction I want? There are a lot of things at play right now. After being laid off just over a year ago, I'm a little gun shy about making drastic choices (it's nice to get a paycheck)--and my wife isn't willing to discuss anything. More importantly, what will a job change really accomplish? I've tasted the grass on the other side...it's still grass. I think there's an element about my line of work that's distasteful regardless of the organization. When I talk with others in my field, there is an inherent discontentment. We work long hours; our work is trivial in the grand scheme of life; we're hostages to our paychecks; we work with people who are mean or taxing in nature. I fear that I have spent the last 10 years racing my bike, running and swimming in an effort to supplement or smooth over what's lacking in my career.
So my mind has been wrapped around settling the career conflict--the same conflict I've struggled with since I started working. I get to a point where I think I have the answer, then the money factor weighs in. Honestly, it's nice to have money, especially with hungry children. I'm sure millions of people struggle with this same conflict. We're all hostages.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
In the past, a set back like this with the lost fitness would really frustrate me. It takes a while to recover completely. But, I've been training long enough now to know that sometimes getting sick is your body's way of telling you you're doing too much. Extreme physical exertion breaks down your body's immune system. External stress has the same affect. In the last month, I've been dealing with job, family and financial related stress. I was a pressure cooker ready to explode. My diet hasn't been stellar with lots of coke and chocolate. Dealing with sleep deprivation from getting up early (4:30 AM)for Masters swim. Having 4 kids who are always in and out of being sick. All these things add up to a frail immune system. It was only a matter of time. Tick-tock tick-tock tick-tock!
Well, the upside is I got lots of rest these past 5 days and I'm only 3 days away from being able to start running again after a three-week hiatus. The big picture is I still have plenty of time to get ready for my next triathlons (Redman, Soma, and IMAZ). I might miss a few things in the interim, but my A-priority events are still intact.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
This lady parks her car facing the mountain, sets up a little ghetto blaster, and begins to dance facing the mountain as though she's dancing for the mountain. I'd guess she's in her mid 50s. The last two times I've seen her, she was wearing a crazy pink curly-haired wig. Otherwise, she wears a traditional ballet get up.
The way she dances, you can tell she's had some formal training. She twirls, kicks, bounds around next to her car oblivious to the people passing by, gawking, on the road behind her. I've seen her about 10 times now, generally on Saturdays. But, I saw her again last night while on my evening ride.
As comical as the entire scenario seems, I actually find it refreshing to see her. Some people are so committed to what they do, they don't care what others think. Crazy Dancer Lady definitely doesn't care what others think--that's why she's crazy! I'd like to think I'm in that category, but, honestly, there are times I make decisions otherwise. I need to take a picture next time I see her, so you'll know I'm not making this up.
Swimming was killer this morning! And, again, each practice reinforces that I'm really slow. I'm hoping after punishing myself for 6 months, I might get a little speed.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
When I got out of the pool, I noticed my Zoomers (mini-fins--not to be confused with bloomers) were missing. Either someone stole them, or someone in my lane inadvertently thought they were his/hers. I'm hoping the latter is the case, so I can get them back on Wednesday. If they were stolen, I'd be very disappointed.
At lunch I did my super-secret strength training routine. It took 45 minutes and was a lot considering my workout in the morning.
After work, the family pulled weeds, ate dinner, and called it a night.
Oh yeah, we told Elise (our oldest child) that, through some friends, Tanya procured an all-expense paid trip for Elise and Tanya to go to Las Vegas and see Coldplay with VIP passes. They'll go this weekend leaving Friday morning. Coldplay is Elise's favorite band, and this will be her first concert. She'll even get to meet the band. Talk about setting the bar high right off the bat! It should be really fun and memorable for Elise. I get the rest of the kids for weekend. We're going to see the new Batman movie...touche'
Sunday, July 13, 2008
It's been more than a week since I've run. My leg feels great, but I'm going to give it at least a month. Everyone keeps suggesting I might have issues with calf compartments. Gosh, I hope that's not the case.
Friday, July 11, 2008
I've been doing these for a long time. I generally go outside and use a hill, but today it was nice to not worry about getting rained on or anything else. I started with 5x5 minutes a couple weeks ago. I'm now going to do 4X10 minutes for a couple of weeks. Next, I'll move up to 4X10 minutes, 4X15 minutes, 5X15 minutes, 4X20 minutes, and 5X20 minutes, and finally climb the Crest in the big ring.
It was a good set last night. The kids were at piano practice, so no one was in the house. I fired up the ipod and just focused on my form. Toward the end (last 2 sets) my legs were burning. Just as I got done, the family got home and we ate dinner--easy breezy!
Sometimes, I just like riding on the trainer. In the winter, I ride once a week for three hours. In fact, I'd rather run on the treadmill. When I lived in Boise during the winter/early spring, I'd spend 80% of my bike time on the trainer. I once rode 15 hours in a week on the trainer--that was way too much!
On a different note, my little brother just bought his first house and is scheduled to close mid-August. Congrats!
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Well, this week, a work related change is tempting to throw the balance off for me. This wasn't something I requested either. As a bit of background, I returned to current employer a year ago after taking a two-year sabbatical--of sorts. When I returned, the company had fallen on hard times and we started a series of organization changes. There were lay-offs and temporary assignments. I was one of those that got a temporary assignment to fill in for some organization changes. It seems everyone who didn't get laid-off got the task of plugging holes in the dyke. Well, after being in my temporary role for 9 months--it was supposed to only be 3 months--my department had a meeting and the new department organization was announced. My temporary assignment is coming to an end (as soon as they fill the position and I train him or her), and I'll start a new role. This is a lateral move. The new role will require me to move to our main downtown office and will put me on the floor with all the other accounting/finance workaholics. Furthermore, I will be reporting to someone who's notorious for working long hours. Her husband is a full-time doctorate student who spends all his time on campus (this has been the case for the last 8 years), she doesn't have children or any other out-of-work interests. This is her social life.
I caught wind of this change a few days ago and have been feeling a great deal of anxiety ever since. Once the organization was formally announced, I had many long conversations with my former boss (she's now my new boss's boss) about my fears of working long hours. She did her best to allay my fears. But, it's still a concern for me.
I have many objections to this move. It's completely out of my desired area of specialty: capital. It's in an area that's demanding in terms of time and effort. I wasn't even consulted as to what I wanted to do. There's a position that's opened up that would be a promotion that I'm not being considered for in the capital area.
I have no doubt I can do this new job, but at what cost? I don't know if this is the new norm for the corporate world to force you into jobs you're not wanting to do to fit the organizations needs. Don't I have a say in where I want my career to go?
This is what I do know. I have my priorities in terms of family and training. I do my job to support my family and do my athletics. If I can't be the father/husband I want to be or if I can't train like I need to, there's no sense in having this job! So, if things get out of hand (i.e. grumpy from working too many hours and with other grumpy people, tired from training at odd hours to accommodate long/odd work hours, or my career is heading down a path that I'm not enthusiastic about), I will move on.
This is what I'm talking about when I wrote about Dara Torres. Most age-groupers fight so hard just to cross the line.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Total hours: 22
Swim: 5.25 hours/13,665 yards
Bike: 13.6 hours/210 miles
Run: 50 minutes/5.7 miles
Strength: 1.25 hours
Yoga: 1 hour
This next week will be a recovery week with 10 hours of training. I will also use my first of three hours of massage I got for Fathers Day.
Regardless of what my doc told me, I'm not running for at least a month. I'm certain I've got a stress fracture. Based on every thing I've read and feel, all indicators lead to a tibial stress fracture. I ran 2 times last week--granted the first time hard, but the second time really gentle and the results remain the same. There's no sense in dragging this out any longer than necessary. The frustrating thing is if I'd just stayed off it after Boise, I'd be pretty much ready to run again. Cycling and swimming don't seem to impact it. I'm now doing lots of dorsi-flex activities to strengthen my shin muscles. I'll continue to go to the chiro though.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
She's being hailed as the new middle-aged athletic icon. According to the article I linked her name to, she had a baby just a few years ago. She challenges the expected athletic age for swimming athletes. If you recall, Amanda Beard went to the Olympics at the age of 14. She's the oldest swimmer to make the US Olympic team. Previously it was Rowdy Gaines at age 35. Much of the news buzz echoes the same info.
Now for the rest of the story....
She's married to someone who's extremely wealthy that allows her access to whatever financial resources she needs. She has a full-time nanny, a full-time swim coach, a full-time swim sprint coach, two full-time stretching coaches, chefs and whatever else she needs to do the day-to-day chores. The article says her staff costs $100k a year. She gets 9-10 hours of sleep a night. She doesn't do anything but train for swimming.
Now imagine what kind of athlete you'd be if this were the case for you--regardless of your age?
Don't get me wrong...I got it pretty good in terms of how much time my wife lets me train. But, I got to go to work, or we don't eat. I have to deal with bosses, with their ever-changing schedules and expectations. I have family obligations. Our dryer broke, and I spent a good chunk of Saturday getting a used one off Craig's List. I have to be creative to figure out how to get that next hour of training in.
Secretly, I'd like to live the life of a pro-athlete; Train, sleep, compete, repeat! However, I found cycling and triathlon later in life after I've taken on responsibilities that precludes me from living the train, sleep, compete, repeat lifestyle. In spite of that, I train as much as I can. Last week I put in 20 hours, and this week was supposed to be my all-time high of 25-27 hours. Friday was a holiday, which gave me a long weekend. We didn't have plans and we're trying to keep it low-key financially to build up our savings. So, I was going to peg it with training. By Friday morning, I was cracked. Thursday night I was out on the bike and got rained on...drenched...three times, but I refused to stop because I wanted my hours. Friday morning I was up at 5:00Am with friends moto-pacing on the bike followed up with a 1.5 hour endurance swim. By Saturday, I couldn't get out of bed until 9:00am. It seems like everything had accumulated, long training hours, work stress, family stress, financial stress, everything! I had planned on riding 5 hours than follow that up with a 20 minute run and a 1.5 hour swim. All I could muster was the swim...and that wasn't until 3:30 in the afternoon. All that day, I kept on fighting with my wife because I was down-right ornery! It was becoming obvious that 25-27 hours wasn't going happen even with the available time.
Sunday, I finished my training week with a 4 hour ride to the Crest (again getting rained on--but it was good this time). The whole time I kept thinking of all the things I wanted to improve my times: a Zipp Disc, a power meter, a coach, etc, etc. I don't have the money for these things, and I've sold everything in my garage to get what I already have.
So, when I hear about Dara Torres and her representing the middle-aged athlete. Sorry if I don't stand up and clap! She's not one of us. She's an outlier. We have to fight for everything we have. I guess that's why so many people cry when they cross the finish line at an IronMan. We've made so many sacrifices, and suffered from sleep deprivation and strained relationships. We've had co-workers and peers question our sanity. We've ran through blisters, shin splints, and stress fractures. We've gotten up exhausted and early, and we went to bed exhausted and late. We've tasted the blood, sweat and tears. And, on the day of the big event, when all the seams holding us together are stretched tight with everything we've stuffed in your little lives, it all comes out over that 140 miles...bit by bit. And, when we cross the finish line and we see our families and there's nothing left to give, we give the last thing we can...our tears.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Anyways, during our last set (3X300 yards @ 4:30--which is cooking along), so random big fat dude just jumped in our lane and started swimming a modified side stroke-dog paddle. He jumped in just before me. So, when I come swimming on him in my anerobic state, it was like hitting a wall. It didn't phase him though...he just kicked me. I had to stop and see what was going on. To further complicate the situation, he was swimming in the middle of the lane. So, when the other 2 guys came back, they had to stop and move out of the way to let him pass. That killed our set and we just walked back to the side of the pool. When the hippo got back to the side of the pool where we were standing, one of the guys started yelling at him, "hey, what are you doing?" He just swam away on his back and gave us the bird.
I need to point out, that the Masters swimmers pay a hefty monthly fee and come extremely early to use the pool exclusively. This is partially why the entire situation was so strange.
I think this made all of us a bit madder, but given the time of the morning and the intensity of our workout we just did, we all let it go. The two other guys got out of the pool--it was the last set after all. I stayed as I normally do to swim an additional 1,000 yards, but waited to see what the uninvited guest was going to do. After his second lap, he got out of the pool and called it a day. 2 LAPS! All that for 2 LAPS! After much effort and struggle, he hoisted his gluttonous body from the pool and made his way to the mens locker room.
I swam my 1,000 more yards for a daily total of 3,750 then hurried off to work. My leg was a bit sore from last night's run. Work was a zombie-fest as you'd expect from some pushing their body too hard and living on too little sleep. The highlight of my work day was meeting my wife at Taj Mahal for lunch and eating na'an and curry on jasmine rice--oh ya!
After work I rode for a couple of hours easy then came home and hung out with Elise for a long time. She did my hair in different ways and she told me about her day at Kid's Camp! Mia and Grace zonked out really early, Ethan was at a friend's house for the evening, and Tanya was with her sister seeing a late-night movie.
After Elise went to bed, I checked my losing Powerball numbers and went to be myself. Gosh...this early retirement plan isn't working out too well!
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Yesterday, I did yoga and our instructor is currently in school to become a physical therapist. She's also a runner. She gave me a few exercises to strengthen my shins. They seem weird, but I'll do what I need to.
After yoga, my leg was feeling really good, and I was lamenting that it's been a while since I last really ran. I wanted to run today but didn't want to go against my doctors advice.
Work has been really stressfull with lots of big projects overlapping. I wasn't sure if I was going to have to work late tonight and forego my scheduled ride. I spent about 7 hours last Saturday working and another 5 hours on Sunday working. I had a meeting scheduled for 8:00AM the next morning that I needed to be ready for. This meeting was going to take a bit of preparation. Then at around 3:00, I got a Outlook meeting reschedule notice for next week. I was so happy. That freed up my night and pushed the work to next week, which happens to be my recovery week. I try to schedule all of my heavy work during my recovery week and lower volume training weeks-when possible.
After work, I jumped on the bike and rode towards La Luz road. All day, there wasn't a cloud in the sky and it was hot. I schlacked my body with sunscreen--this is a new initiative on my part to avoid skin cancer and wrinkles. As I got closer to my destiniation where I was planning on doing 5 by 5-minute big gear climbs for strength building, a stiff wind blew black clouds in my direction. I could see the rains moving accross the valley in my direction. The wind blew sand all over my sunscreen covered body; the sand stuck and I was getting gritty. I decided to retreat a little from La Luz, which is in the far northeast of Albuquerque, and do my climbs up Alena Gallegos, which more mid-valley. I did my first set and waited 3 minutes. The wind was picking up and I got an occasional drop of rain. I did my next set and waited 3 minutes. The wind and rain were picking up a bit more. I continued my sets and got my fifth one in just as it began to pour. I rode back home with a mighty tailwind. Just to illustrate, I wasn't even pedalling and I was traveling 30MPH. When I got home, I'd been riding 1:50 minutes. My goal was 2 hours.
I figured the only thing that seperated me from Wednesday, at this point, was a few hours. There shouldn't be any harm in a brief 20 minute run in the rain. So, right after my ride, I threw on my running clothes and began to run. It was cool outside. After running for 2-3 minutes, all my holding back these last few weeks finally boiled over. I just opened it up. I ran the rest of the 20 minutes at a 6-minute mile pace. My heart rate was at 172. It felt so good to let it go! There was a bit of pain in my shin, but not like before. When it was over, I ran a little over 3 miles in 20 mintues. Maybe not the conservative thing to do coming off an injury, but it felt so good.
I packed my stuff and was in bed by 10:00. Tanya did everthing possible to sabatoge my sleep and kept me up until 11:00. Only 5.5 hours of sleep tonight. Thanks alot Tanya!