The Wave One Project (#2): Howgozit

It's not you, LUX Rye Ale by Bissell Brothers of Maine. It's me.

It’s not you, LUX Rye Ale by Bissell Brothers of Maine. It’s me.

Two months into the Wave One Project. Two months into my 50th year. How are things going? Pretty good. I set up four major tasks for myself after the 2016 Birkie. I asked Jason Kask at Superior Performance to build me a training plan. I’ve looked closer at the training plan. It meshes well with the goals I set before I hired him. Let’s cover the goals in reverse order like a countdown. Do you feel the excitement? I do.

“4) Do strength and core work. Should be easy to exceed this year’s amount.”

The volume of strength training I’m doing is on target to be the most of the last 15 years. We moved to Duluth in 2001 and that was the year I did my first Birkie. In 2003, I put in 28 hours of weight training. As of today, I’ve put in 10 hours. The plan has me doing 25 more hours by the end of the calendar year, for a total of 35 hours. That’ll be the new record.

Believe it or not, I track sit-ups. The most I’ve done in a year was also in 2003: 12,500. This year I’ve done 7000 in accordance with the plan. If I stay on track, (the same “if” for all these topics) I’ll add around 18,000 sit-ups for a total of 25,000. This will double the most I’ve done in a year. (“Sit-ups” is a simplification. There are a lot of core exercises in the plan, but I track them as “sit-ups.” For example, I give myself 30 sit-ups for a one-minute plank. Sue me.)

“3) Go fast. Do more ski races of any length. Add more ski intervals than this year.”

Since it was a scary hot day here in Duluth, I haven’t done any ski races yet. But roller ski intervals are something I track (of course). The biggest volume of roller ski intervals was in 2004 at 6.5 hours. Interestingly, my fastest Birkie was after that summer in Feb 2005. I’ve done two hours of intervals on roller skis so far this year. The plan will add 18 more for a total of 20. Again, this will more than double the amount done in my biggest year.

“2) Ski a lot. Equal or exceed Ski and Total Volume from this year.”

2015 was my biggest year for overall training volume at just over 300 hours. Not just in Duluth, but in my whole life. (Clearly, I’ve never been serious, but hey, it’s my sorry record. Back off. Maybe we can come up with a new race category: performance based on training volume.)

The training plan will add to the 180 hours I’ve already done and put me at 326 for the year. This is in line with about the 10% increase in year over year volume that “they” recommend. So, the plan has me on target for my goal for total volume.

As far as ski volume, I don’t know yet, but I can compare roller ski volume. 2005 was my biggest roller ski year with 31 hours of training. I’m matching that pace at this point in the year. However, this year’s plan has me adding 49 more hours of training to the 17 I already have. That’ll be 66 total hours, more than double my max. Once again, the plan is helping me reach my goals. The goals that support the overarching goal of being in Wave One after 2017.

“1) Get skinny. 174 = BMI normal.”

The plan’s fine, as we’ve seen. I just got home after two weeks visiting family in Maine. I stuck to the plan pretty well while there. But, starting about 7 years ago, cranking up a training plan doesn’t work for losing weight. I have to watch what I eat to take weight off the chassis. So, I didn’t do that. Beer. Pie. Lobstah. Hodgman’s. (It’s a frozen custard place; two minutes away from my folks house and ranked among the best in the country). Did I mention beer?

Before we went away, I got from 193 down to 188. I stepped on the scale yesterday. Two steps forward, two steps back, like I always say.

Overall, things are on target. Except for the fat dude. Next time we’ll talk about how I’m going to succeed at getting down to fighting weight.

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The Wave One Project: Episode 1

Gunflint Lake, February 2011.

Gunflint Lake, February 2011.

I’m one month into my 50th year on this rock. I’m one month into training to move from Wave Two to Wave One in the American Birkebeiner 50k cross-country ski race. I’m calling it The Wave One Project. I guess I just named my mid-life crisis. Mid-life? I sure hope I don’t live to be a hundred. It’s not a pretty picture. Drooling into a cup at the cabin. Yeesh.

Wave Placement

If you don’t like thinking out loud, go back to looking at kitten videos.

My annual 2016 ski race from Cable to Hayward went well. I skied myself (barely) into Wave Two for the first time since 2005. I’ve examined how that happened elsewhere. I identified some holes in the training plan. Namely, being too heavy, lack of intervals, and lack of strength training. I hired Jason Kask at Superior Performance to make me a training plan. I started it on June 1st. It’s nice to have a long-term strength and interval plan, along with all the expected volume from biking, running, roller skiing, and skiing.

I’m going to write about this mighty quest. Today, the question is why? Why do I want to make it into Wave One?

There are three reasons:

1) To improve my health.

2) To be an example.

3) Pride.

Let’s talk about health. My family has a history of heart disease and high cholesterol. My pop is in his 70’s and rides his bike five thousand miles per year, runs a chainsaw for six hours at a time, splits his own firewood by hand (several full cords a year) and cross-country skis. He’s a fit son of a bitch, but if he doesn’t take cholesterol meds, his cholesterol is through the roof. I’ve got those genes.

In 2009, at the high point of my military career, I was at the high point of stress. I was at the high point for weight also. I once saw 209 on the scales. I was at the low point in volume for aerobic training that year, too. My cholesterol was sky high. My flight doc, Eva, scolded me (properly) and told me to lose weight or she was going to put me on cholesterol medication. I said please don’t do that; give me a year to drop weight. Naturally, I did nothing. A year later, true to her word, she put me on cholesterol medication to get my numbers down. The medications worked. But I looked in the mirror in 2010 and realized I was a fat guy who couldn’t control himself. So far gone that I had to take drugs to balance my sloth. I became the thing that I openly mocked. My powers of self-delusion are powerful.

Eric Sam Grace Backpack

Around that time, The Chef was having horrible heartburn. So bad it would wake her up. The doctor’s were suggesting surgery and other invasive solutions. She took matters into her own hands, like she does, and found a book called Clean. This doctor’s theory is that your gut is under assault in modern society. He has a program that resets your gut in one month. It involves removing caffeine, wheat, and other routine things from your diet. Eventually, you have a smoothie-type drink in the morning and another in the evening. One solid meal in the middle of the day. All of this to re-boot your gut. After that month, her heartburn turned off like a switch and never came back.

I did the program along with her as moral support. The program is not designed to be a weight-loss effort. But that’s what happened to me. I lost 15 pounds in a month. I kept working on it and got back down to around 175. That was a full 30 pounds down from the high number I saw before. “Normal” BMI for a guy my height is 175. I felt great. Eva let me off my meds to prove my numbers were down without meds. They were. I stayed small for three years or so. I keep meticulous records of every workout (for 30+ years now) and write down my weight every time I step on the scale. The graph shows the average of an entire year of those measurements. You can see my 2011 success. 2013 was the year I tried to PR in Grandma’s Marathon. (Being lighter makes you faster. It’s science. Physics, really. But overall health is my primary concern with less weight on the chassis as a performance side effect.)

Weight Graph

You can also see that my weight has ballooned back up to previous levels. I haven’t been tested, but it’s a sure thing that my cholesterol numbers are bad. That’s not acceptable. I’d like to be around long enough that my kids have to wipe that drool off my face in the manner to which I’ve become accustomed.

Next, let’s cover my desire to be an example. In my (now finished) military life, I used to think about this quote by Erwin Rommel:

“Be an example to your men, in your duty and in private life. Never spare yourself, and let the troops see that you don’t, in your endurance of fatigue and privation. Always be tactful and well mannered and teach your subordinates to do the same. Avoid excessive sharpness or harshness of voice, which usually indicates the man who has shortcomings of his own to hide.”

I tried to be an example. I miserably failed at the last two sentences, since the list of my shortcomings is quite long. Nevertheless, I tried to walk the walk. But I seem to have forgotten that at home. I’ve become complacent as the chart of my weight shows.

I talk to my kids a lot about how life is like planning for a mission in the Viper. You work from the target backwards. You determine the target. When you’re going to hit it. What the weather is going to be like. Where are the enemy missile sites and AAA batteries? Then you work backwards in time to the Initial Point about 15 miles before the target. Then back to where you’re going to cross into enemy territory. Where will you hold before you push across that border? Back to when you hit the tanker for pre-push gas. Back to when you’ll takeoff, when you’ll start engines, when you’ll walk out to the airplane, when you’ll brief the mission, and all the way back to when you’ll wake up. Back to how you’ll train for that mission months, even years, before.

Fat guy in a little coat.

Fat guy in a little coat.

Any athlete or musician knows this process. For me it was a target. For an athlete, you work backward from the race or competition. For a musician, you work backward from the recital or the gig. The principles are the same. But for some reason, I’ve let myself off the hook. Sure, I’m plenty active. But I’ve let myself go. Physically, sure. But probably more importantly, mentally. I’ve lost focus. Commitment. Discipline. Desire. They’ve all been missing. Essentially, I’ve been exhorting my children to perform while I’m sitting in a folding chair, wearing a wife-beater t-shirt with Cheetos stains on it and cracking open another beer. Once again, turning into what I mock. “Do what I say, not what I do.” Pretty much the opposite of being an example. Time to turn that around and show the kids I know how to mission plan.

2011 American Birkebeiner

Sad proof I was in Wave 4 once.

Lastly, the sin of pride. I know how to ski. I’m pretty sure, at least. In 1985 I was the NH state champ, for Pete’s sake. But what have you done for me lately, Shmo? Sometimes the people around me at the Birkie just can’t ski. Just awful technique. I think this as they pass me, kicking my ass. I mentioned self-delusion, right?

When the Birch Scroll comes with all the Birkie results in it, I look at the age group podiums. I always make a little joke that I could win the women’s age 60-64 or the Men’s 75-79. Rubbing some salt in my own wounds. But the point is that those age-group winners are maximizing their potential. I would like to ski to my potential. I know I can ski faster. Sure, I’ve got gray hair, but plenty of aerobic mutants do. There are plenty of them in this town and they’re wicked fast. Last year, a trio of those guys passed me out by Ely’s Peak at Magney. I joked with them that I’d hang on for a mile or two. I lasted for two hundred meters. Pride, baby. I’ve still got some and I’m tired of it getting crushed.

So, I want to: get healthier, be a better example to my kids, and hold my chin up a little higher. There’s the “why.” I’ll cover the how another time.

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Thank You Card

One New Plank

I dove down the stone steps just above Superior Street. Immediately, I noticed that the footbridge was back to square, level, and plumb. It was knocked sideways by the floods in 2012 and had been sitting crooked since then. Now it was healthy again. Then I ran some more and there was a new culvert. An improved access to some steps. A single solitary board that was missing was fixed. The railing that the raging waters tore loose was fixed. A few stone steps were mortared back together. The little trail by Tischer Creek was all spruced up after the 100-year flood four years ago.

Square, Level, and Plumb

Square, Level, and Plumb

Well, that’s just great, I thought. I’m going to thank somebody.

New Culvert

New Culvert

Then we had our big rain and wind event. There are bigger fish to fry. But I went out to take pictures of the repaired trail anyway. Maybe I could see what new damage was done.

Stone Steps Salvaged

Stone Steps Salvaged

The trail’s fine. As a matter of fact, dozens of trees that were downed in the recent weather were already sawed up and moved. The storm was Thursday morning. I went running on Saturday. The trail all the way up and down both sides of Tischer Creek was passable. Amazing turnaround time.

One of dozens already cleared.

One of dozens already cleared.

As a matter of fact, when I ran downhill on the west side of Tischer Creek above 4th Street (the footpath, not the paved path), it was the first time I set foot on that section in 4 years. It was an eroded trench that I skipped on my little loop. I gather it was filled with gravel and repaired the same time as the other stuff down below, but I don’t know for sure. I guess I’m just pleasantly surprised since I didn’t think any of that old flood damage would ever be repaired. I understand priorities. Most people don’t give two shits about whether Shmo’s little neighborhood trail is all better. Nor should they.

Trench is a trail again.

Trench is a trail again.

But that’s actually the point: Somebody somewhere does give a crap. I would like to know who precisely that is. It’s probably the Parks Department of the City of Duluth. If you know that to be true, make sure they see this please. Or if it was a group of volunteers. Or both. Thanks.

Railing back up.

Railing back up.

I’m not a child. People got killed up north in that storm. I was without power when I went on my little photo expedition. I had a generator running so we could preserve our food. There are still people without power. I suppose I could add a little commentary about man’s inhumanity to man with trucks and car bombs and guns. But that’s a given, I guess.

So, yes, I’m glad that a little footpath in Duluth is repaired. (Both before and after the recent storm.) I’m also glad my family is safe. I’m also glad that my beer is cold again, thanks to linemen who know what they’re doing. I’m glad that I can take some fallen branches out to the curb for pickup. I’m glad that my neighbors didn’t lose their ever-loving minds just because the lights were out. I’m glad that when some graffiti goes up, it gets painted over. And when the graffiti goes up again, that it gets painted over again. All of these things mean that somebody gives a crap.

I’m grateful that I live in a town where people give a crap. When it’s big. When it’s small. Either way.

I’m not sure where to send my thanks, but I’m pretty sure the address belongs to people within ten miles of me. So thanks.

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