Outdoors

The last time I skied was the day of the biathlon. Ever since then, I’ve become more and more impatient for spring to arrive. I’ve grown tired of running in my basement. Of course, I could pile on clothes and run outdoors after work, but it’s been miserable outside lately. And I frankly don’t want to spend half my run warming up.

Today, however, I ran outside. It was only 35-40°, but it was calm and sunny, and I’m so glad I got out. Hurry up, spring!

Posted in Running | Leave a comment

Insulin is not Insulin

Last week NPR ran a story about why insulin is so expensive. It wasn’t a perfect story about diabetes—so few are—but it was better than most in the non-diabetes press. The crux of the feature is this: Despite being a life-preserving drug taken by millions of people, there are no generic versions of the high-priced insulin analogues most people with type-1 diabetes take, and the drugs are becoming more expensive. That is undeniably true. The most common insulin analogues—fast-acting Humalog/NovoLog/Apidra and “peak-less” Lantus/Levemir—do not have inexpensive generics.

Like a fool, I skimmed the page’s comments. Once you get past the mostly superfluous confirmation bias comments (“More evidence that corporations are evil!” “More evidence that fat, lazy Americans want to take a drug instead of making lifestyle changes!” etc. . . . sigh) there was a class of interesting comments. “But there are less expensive versions of insulin out there! Regular insulin is $25/vial at Wal-Mart!” From there the comment devolved to the usual “discussion” of whether Wal-Mart is evil, whether Big Pharma has doctors in their pockets not to prescribe these low-cost alternatives, etc.

It’s true: Not having generic versions doesn’t mean there aren’t inexpensive alternatives. “Regular” human insulin is widely available as a fast-acting insulin, and (trigger warning!) NPH is relatively inexpensive when compared to Lantus. But these are alternatives in the way that a taxi is an alternative to a bus. They’ll both pick you up and drive you in the direction of your destination. You’ll wait for each, but you’ll probably wait longer for the bus. The bus also requires you to go to it and adhere to its schedule and probably doesn’t drop you off exactly at your house, hotel, or workplace. Taxis are more expensive but you get flexibility for that cost. They’re similar but not the same.

Regular insulin and Humalog/NovoLog/Apidra have similar insulin actions, but the former takes longer to start acting and has a longer duration of action. They are different enough that Regular is not recommended for use in contemporary insulin pumps. The action of Lantus/Levemir and NPH are extremely different. NPH has a huge peak in its action, making it a terrible “basal” insulin for multiple daily injections (MDI) therapy. Trust me. I’ve been there. It was awful.

I can hear the follow-up question. “So these insulin analogues are fundamentally different from their low-cost counterparts, but why aren’t there generic versions of them? Many of them have been around long enough.” That’s because insulin analogues are really complicated. They’re grown in huge fermenters by E. coli whose DNA have been modified to produce an insulin-like substance. In fact, none of the insulin varietals on the market are really human insulin at all. They’ve all been changed in some fundamental way to make them behave more like insulin (fast-acting) or less (slow-acting, peak-less).

Unlike most generic pharmaceuticals, there’s no “simple” compound for insulin you can mass-produce if you know the chemical formula. Producing insulin requires knowing how to modify the genetic material of the bacteria in the fermenters. It requires knowing the process for separating the insulin analogue from the E. coli. It requires knowing how to stabilize the end result. The insulin people with diabetes take isn’t a compound so much as a process.

Processes can be reverse-engineered, of course, but it’s a lot more difficult than reverse engineering a compound. The FDA has just recently approved rules for “biosimilars,” which are generic versions of products (like insulin) which are too complicated to reverse engineer to an exact chemical copy. Essentially if it looks more-or-less like an insulin analogue and acts almost exactly like an insulin analogue, then it’s a biosimilar insulin analogue and can go on the market without being treated as a completely new drug requiring all of the layers of new drug approvals which take time and cost money. (This is, after all, why generic drugs are less expensive to bring to market.)

Personally, I’m really excited about the idea of biosimilar insulin analogues, which were mentioned in the NPR piece, by the way. Downward pressure on prices is a good thing. It helps more people get access to insulin at a more-or-less reasonable price. And it also encourages drug manufacturers who currently have a corner on the high-cost insulin analogue market to come up with even better insulin analogues for us in order to maintain their market share. (Some people are using the term “smart insulin” for the next generation of products.) Because—until we get a cure—we need a lot of treatment options, and better insulin is part of the mix.

p.s. — A commenter did make a good point (if it’s true) that the same bottle of insulin costs much more than it did a few years ago even though the cost to produce it should be about the same and the R&D investment has long been paid. That is an entirely different issue to be sure.

Posted in Diabetes | 1 Comment

And So It Begins

Today is the first day of “official” Ironman training. It’s exciting, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating it since the beginning of the year. That’s when I started working on the plan, which I’ve been cobbling together from various sources. It’s mostly based on Gale Bernhardt’s Training Plans for Multisport Athletes with lots of inspiration from Matt Dixon’s The Well-Built Triathlete. It’s still a work-in-progress, but it’s reasonable and doable.

Here’s the plan for the first week:

  • Monday: AM swim (1:00)
  • Tuesday: AM strength/conditioning (1:15), PM run (0:30)
  • Wednesday: AM swim (1:00)
  • Thursday: AM strength/conditioning (1:15), PM run (0:30)
  • Friday: AM swim (1:00), PM bike (1:00)
  • Saturday: Run (1:00)
  • Sunday: Run (1:00)

Most weeks for a while will follow this same pattern, just with different durations for the workouts, which also serve different purposes depending on where in the training cycle I am. The hardest part for me is going to be not adding too much volume. At only 9:30 this first week, it doesn’t feel like a lot. Later, when I’m doing between fifteen and eighteen hours per week, I hope not to have overdone it in the earlier weeks.

Wish me luck!

Posted in Reluctant Triathlete | 2 Comments

I Did a Biathlon!

Saturday, I did a biathlon. (That’s skiing and shooting, y’all, not cycling and running. That’s duathlon.) I had not expected to ever do one, but I was enticed by a coworker, and we sort of mutually enabled each other. Lisa was kind enough to say “OMG! Okay.”

I may have never believed I would get the chance, but I certainly thought it would be really cool to try. At least, I started thinking so after watching last year’s Olympics. At that time, I barely skied, but I was resolved to learn how to do it. At the end of the 2013-14 season, I picked up the basic gear and waited for this season to roll around. And has it ever been a good season for the snow! I’ve been skiing and getting better at it these last few months, but . . . biathlon?

Thursday morning, a coworker e-mailed me a link announcing a biathlon at a sort-of nearby gun club sent to him by an old friend, and we talked each other into it. The main thing it had going for it was that it sounded laid-back and inexpensive. And the idea of it was pretty badass! It was difficult not to tell everyone I worked with about it.

Climbing

The morning dawned cold, clear, and calm. It was a beautiful day to ski and shoot. The only problem was the snow. It had warmed in the mid-week and then gotten quite cold, and the groomed snow was hard and fast . . . too fast for likes of me to ski well. I did a practice lap and fell several times. I wasn’t worried about myself so much, but the track was narrow, and I worried about getting in others’ way or taking out another skier. I told Jason, my coworker, that I was considering switching to the snowshoe race (which had two other people). He bolstered my courage and talked me out of it.

A couple hours later, when we finally lined up to ski after some safety instruction and target practice, the snow had warmed up significantly, and it was much easier to ski on. I did still fall a bit on the steepest parts of the trail, but it wasn’t as bad as I feared. I didn’t ski very quickly, but that’s okay. It was really taxing—especially climbing the hills—but that’s okay, too. Why? Because nobody really seemed to care. We were all there to enjoy the day skiing and to shoot. We skied five laps and shot four times, trying to hit five targets at each shooting. Five targets, five bullets. Hit the target, and a paddle swings upward, changing the color of the target. Miss the target, ski a penalty loop.

(We weren’t originally supposed to ski the penalty loops. The novice and advanced skiers would, but the beginners like us would simply be assessed a time penalty. Jason and I weren’t having any of it. Part of the reason we wanted to do the biathlon was to have the whole experience. So they decided it wasn’t going to hurt anything, and that’s what we could choose to do. They did not, however, let us ski with the rifles on our backs. It was probably better that way.)

The shooting was so much fun! I wasn’t sure what to expect; the last time I shot a gun was over 25 years ago, and it was a 9mm handgun. These bullets were so small in comparison: just .22 caliber. Dangerous enough to be sure, but there was no loud crack when we shot. Nor was there any real recoil. Opening the breach to eject the shell casing spat out a wee, smoking bit of metal and a puff of burnt gunpowder. I couldn’t really tell whether I had hit anything in practice. After we were done shooting, we inspected the targets, and it turns out I had hit 5 of 5.

It was considerably harder to hit the targets with my heart-rate around 170 during the race, as I learned during the first moments of the first or four shootings. I took my time. I lined up the sights, took a breath, steadied my aim, eased back on the trigger, and . . . nothing happened. I had forgotten to take the safety off after loading the magazine. With that problem taken care of, I hit 3 of the 5 targets, skied a couple laps (which took 1:30, better than the 2:00 they would have added for the misses), and set off on my second lap. I was pretty consistently hitting 60% of the targets. One lap I hit two; another lap I hit four. One of the novice skiers hit 19 of 20!

Shooting #4

When I was finishing (not quite last) Jason and his friend Nathaniel, the instigator, came to the finish line to cheer me on. No one really cared about my time, least of all me. I was happy to be done. Once I’d caught my breath, I was a little sad that the season was coming to a close and that, after the next week or two, I wouldn’t be able to practice much more skiing until November and that I hadn’t learned about this event earlier. It’s been a good year with lots of progress, and I’m really happy for the whole season, rough edges and all.

Did you know? There’s summer biathlon, and I can run a lot better than I can ski. :-)

Posted in Skiing | 4 Comments

Backup for the Backup

This morning when I got to the office gym, I discovered that I had left my blood glucose meter at home. This is not the worst possible thing to forget when going to the gym. Over the last few years I’ve forgotten my shoes and socks a couple of times. Few things look as silly as doing a strength program while wearing black socks and dress shoes. Another time I forgot my shorts; I did not workout that day.

Kettlebells

“No worries about the meter,” I thought. “My BG was a little high when I left home, and it doesn’t drop that much when I do a strength workout. I’ll just wait to test until I get up to my office.”

Weights big and small

About an hour later—after a forty-five minute workout and getting myself pretty for work—I got up to my office, dug out my backup meter, and was relieved to find test strips with it. Occasionally I rob my backup meter’s stash when I forget to bring enough from home, but I always try to restock the next day. I placed a test strip in the meter, pricked my finger, drew a nice droplet of blood, and saw this message:

LOW BATTERY

Replace battery now

See owner’s booklet

“Well, that sucks!” I muttered to myself. I popped open the back of the meter, hoping to find a AAA battery or two, which I could replace from the Big Ole Bag of Diabetes Backup Supplies™, which I carry with me everywhere. Instead, I saw two CR2032 lithium button batteries.

“Well, that really does suck.”

It looks like I’ll be winging it for a little while this morning until I can get to the CVS. Fortunately, my CGM sensor is fresh and accurate today (*touch wood*) and doesn’t need to be calibrated for another three hours.


Update: I went to my local Batteries Plus store and bought a pair of batteries, and I’m all set.

They’re especially chatty (for New Englanders) at that store. The previous time I was there to buy a replacement for my FiOS modem battery, the clerk told me about how she saw a mermaid in Florida once. Mmm-hmm. Today: “So, what’s this going into?” A medical device. “oh”

New batteries

Posted in Diabetes, Life Lessons | 2 Comments

January and February Round-up

My good friend Céline gives a report each month on her fitnessing. It’s kinda cool, so I decided to do the same thing for myself this year. It’s not a competition; everyone should follow her own plan, listen to what his body needs in terms of rest, take into account everything else going on in life, and have fun. Just doing it (whatever it is) is important. This is just where I’ve been and what I’ve done. Clearly there is something wrong with me.

Oh, and I’m counting all of the shoveling I’ve done if it lasted an hour or longer and caused me to skip another workout on the plan.

January — 40 workouts:

  • Swim: 9 times
  • Bike: 12 times (2 of them outdoors)
  • Run: 9 times (Only 2 of them outdoors)
  • Strength: 4 times
  • XC skiing: 3 times
  • Plus . . . A 10km row on New Year’s Day, and whole bunch of snow shoveling.

February — 31+ workouts:

  • Swim: 7 times (The pool was closed a lot because of snow and school vacation.)
  • Bike: 7 times (None of them outdoors, but I did ride 130 miles indoors one day. So there’s that.)
  • Run: 6 times (None of them outdoors)
  • Strength: 1 time
  • XC skiing: 8 times
  • Plus . . . Even more snow shoveling!

Maybe if I have enough time I’ll circle back around and fill in distances, too.

Posted in Cycling, Reluctant Triathlete, Running, Skiing, Swimming | 1 Comment

OMG, A Meme!

It’s been a while since I participated in an internet meme, but I kinda liked this when I saw it over at Scully’s place this morning. So here goes.

1. Four names that people call me other than my real name:

  1. Chief, slick, champ, ace, etc. (Okay, Alex is the only one who ever does this.)
  2. Iccabod (way back in high school)
  3. Sweetheart (Alright, Lisa is the only one allowed to say this.)
  4. Hey man! Dude! Homie! Amigo! Muchacho! etc.

2. Four jobs I’ve had: (that aren’t my career of choice at present)

  1. Technical support for MATLAB
  2. Customer service for a Facebook-like web company
  3. Technical support in the college computer labs
  4. Mathematics tutor

3. Four movies I’ve watched more than once:

  1. In the Mood for Love
  2. “The Philadelphia Story”
  3. “Some Like It Hot”
  4. “Christmas Story” and the 1984 “A Christmas Carol” with George C. Scott… usually in that order on Christmas Eve.

4. Four books I’d recommend:

  1. Cowboys and East Indians by Nina McConigley
  2. Middlesex by Geoffrey Eugenides
  3. The Well-Built Triathlete by Matt Dixon
  4. Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco

5. Four places I’ve lived:

  1. Greater Boston, Massachusetts
  2. Des Moines and Grinnell, Iowa
  3. Casper, Wyoming
  4. Troutdale, Oregon

6. Four places I’ve visited: (all of these were with Lisa)

  1. Australia (2010)
  2. India (2005)
  3. The Canadian Rockies (Lisa and I honeymooned there for about two weeks in 1997)
  4. Nebraska (So. Many. Miles. Between. Iowa. And. Wyoming.)

7. Four things I prefer not to eat:

  1. Shrimp
  2. Any kind of squash (except for pumpkin pie)
  3. Most kinds of melons
  4. Well-done meat

8. Four of my favorite foods:

  1. French pastries
  2. Hard cheeses
  3. Really good chocolates
  4. Rare steaks

9. Four TV shows I watch:

  1. “The Walking Dead”
  2. “The Americans”
  3. “The Amazing Race”
  4. “Dexter”

10. Four things I’m looking forward to this year:

  1. June: Lisa’s birthday
  2. July: JDRF Ride to Cure in Burlington, Vermont (Support me!)
  3. September: Ironman Wisconsin
  4. December: Patagonia!

11. Four things I’m always saying:

  1. “That’s interesting.”
  2. “Let me look into that and get back to you.”
  3. “One more.” (usually to get myself through interval training)
  4. “Thanks!”


How about you?

Posted in General | 6 Comments

Cross-training

I haven’t gone for a long run—longer than an hour, that is—in over a month. It was January 10th, to be exact. It was also my most recent outdoor run. I’ve been doing a lot of shorter distance/duration workouts on the treadmill. 30 minutes here. 45 minutes there. An hour a couple weekends ago. Usually in the morning. Often on the day that I would have done strength work in the morning before running in the afternoon, instead of running in the morning and skiing in the afternoon.

Someday soon I’m going to have to switch back from mostly skiing to mostly running. But until all of this beautiful snow goes away or my Ironman training plan requires it, I’m going to keep having lots of fun sliding around on two skis while working harder and going slower than when I run. :-)

Posted in Running, Skiing | 1 Comment

Doubts

In the winter 2015 USA Triathlon magazine there’s a great article about Sarah (Groff) True, the triathlete who finished just off the podium in 4th at the London Olympic games. Much of the article concerns doubts and how she overcame them. Even if we’re not Olympians, there are some excellent things to think about.

[To weed out doubts True's Coach Siri] Lindley said, “You need to talk to me about everything that scares you and makes you feel insecure because those are the things that are limiting your ability.

“And don’t feel weak doing that! You’re actually doing the strong thing, because [it's] going to allow you to reach a new level.”

True left the Olympics with a lot of regret for not believing earlier that she could win as much as the other women on the podium.

“It’s so easy to believe that athletes have preternatural self-confidence,” [True] said. “I thought that you had to go to the start line thinking you were going to win and if you’re not that person, you’re never going to win. The truth is: every athlete has doubts. I realized you can be world class even if you don’t have this innate confidence.

“Things you perceived as shortcomings, you realize are just you. You accept [your] flaws and you stop fighting yourself.

“Some of my internal battles push me forward to be a better athlete, no question.

“It just took a while to keep them from holding me back and [instead] give me fuel.”

The closer I get to the Ironman, the more real it gets and the more opportunities I have to think about all of the things that can go wrong. I haven’t thought about many things, but lately they’ve been starting to show up. So I just have to remember, instead of getting anxious, I need to see each of these as a chance to learn something I can apply not just to the Ironman but to all of my other races, too.

Posted in Life Lessons, Reluctant Triathlete | Leave a comment

Super-Fun (and Slow) Ski Time

Two hours!

I am a tired man! I skied for two hours tonight. I’m still not very efficient at it, so I didn’t coverage much distance: 8.7 miles. But, oh mon dieu it was vigorous. Despite my best efforts not to push too hard, my heart rate was ridiculously high the whole time. Waah!

Robyn's Purple Hat of Victory

I skied with my fellow newbie and friend, Robyn. We’ve both made big improvements in our abilities. After a very good ski lesson last Thursday, I was hoping to be able to keep up with her better, but she’s got the madskillz and is still out-pacing me. We did figure out how to keep the two of us mostly skiing together; she just needs to ski without poles. When I watch her, I can see the spark of talent and hope that I’ll get there, too. The good news is that every time I ski, I get a little bit better.

I had been skiing for about a half-hour before Robyn showed up, and I was feeling on-form. I did 1-skate (V2), 2-skate (V2a), and a little bit of offset (V1). I skied without poles for about 10 minutes, and I did some double-poling. The first hour was fun. The next hour was really hard, y’all! My triceps and abs and rhomboids and everything else above my navel were wicked tired. It was a bit less fun, but still enjoyable with the company I kept.

Robyn, My Beard, and Me

Tomorrow, I have my second lesson. I have some questions. Let’s see if I have any breakthroughs.

Posted in Skiing | Leave a comment

Knighthood

Here’s a multiple-choice question. On Saturday I…

  1. Did something very silly;
  2. Went on a quest;
  3. Kept a friend company during a fundraiser;
  4. Watched TV all day;
  5. Ate food every half hour;
  6. Rode my longest/farthest indoors;
  7. Rode my farthest on a bike (indoors or outdoors) in 25 years;
  8. Kickstarted my Ironman bike training; or
  9. All of the above.

The correct answer is, of course, “All of the above.”

Inside the studio

About six weeks ago—just a short time after we hopped in the lake together on Christmas Eve—my friend Alex wrote about her quest to become a “Knight of Sufferlandria.” Sufferlandria is a mythical place invented by the creators of the Sufferfest video series. While the place may be mythical, the suffering induced by these top-quality videos certainly is not. To do one as prescribed is to get a very intense workout. To become a knight requires doing ten . . . in one day! Surely an insane undertaking.

Naturally, this was my reaction:

Okay. Tell me more about this Sufferlandria thing and whether there’s room for one more person… if it isn’t too insane… even by my standards.

As if you didn’t already know how my mind works. :-)

Artsy set-up shot

When Alex and I talked about how to approach the event (which was a fundraiser for Children’s Hospital of Boston) we agreed the right way to approach it was to scale the power way back for most of the day. After all, we were looking at 10 hour-long videos done with a maximum of a 10-minute break between them. That’s a long time to be in the saddle at full throttle. Thanks to TrainerRoad, I had just recently started training with power. I figured if I did most of the videos at 75% of the recommended power targets and one or two at 100%, I wouldn’t have a problem. Plus, it would be an opportunity to work on my Ironman pacing and nutrition.

I knew the undertaking was legit when I started having stress dreams about it. On Tuesday night I dreamt that I forgot all of my food . . . and shoes . . . and changes of clothes at home and had to drive back on the morning of the event to get them. Of course it was a dream, so the event was in Wyoming and my stuff was just down the road at Grandma’s old house in Iowa. Oh, dreams!

Early. Feeling good.

On the day of the event, I woke with high blood sugar. The cupcake I ate while “carb-loading” the night before probably had a bit to do with that, but the main culprit was the adrenaline from the anticipation. It was just like before a triathlon. “This is perfect,” I thought. “Just like race day! Something to anticipate for Ironman Wisconsin.” I gave some insulin and then we settled in for a bit of riding.

Here’s the set list for the day:

The set list

  • A Very Dark Place (51 minutes – 5 x 4 minute high-intensity intervals)
  • Downward Spiral (60 minutes – 2 sets of 8 intervals from 2 mins to :15 seconds)
  • Revolver (45 minutes – 15 x 1:00 maximum intensity intervals)
  • Fight Club (58 minutes – 5 x 6:30 intervals with 22 (!) attacks)
  • Angels (56 minutes – 3 x 8:00 climbs with lots of attacks)
  • There Is No Try (60 minutes – Accelerating intervals)
  • The Rookie (55 minutes – 3 x 10:00 race simulation)
  • Rubber Glove (60 minutes – A 20 minute FTP test)
  • The Wretched (48 minutes – A pure, attacking, climbing, fighting TdF stage)
  • Nine Hammers (55 minutes – Nine VO2 and Threshold Intervals)

Sounds like fun, non?

Ridin'

We were at Steve The Bike Guy‘s bike shop and velo studio, which has almost daily Sufferfest sessions. It was a perfect setting. They put on a fantastic event, attending to so many details that Alex, Nancy, and I had it (relatively) easy. All we had to do was ride. Video and audio? Check! Food and water? Check! WiFi for social media? Check! Sharing our exploits with the Twitter and the Facebook? Check! Steve and Kristen (the eponymous bike guy’s wife) even rode a bit with us.

The first few videos were relatively “easy,” especially at 75% of the recommended intensity. We talked and joked. One of our minions even went out for an hour-long run on the snowy backroads of Sherborn, Mass. It was nice to be distracted. About 3-1/2 hours in, my iPod’s battery died, and I couldn’t use TrainerRoad to see my power targets. For the next couple hours while my iPod charged, I just went based on feel and speed. “Take whatever effort it says, multiply by 2, and that’s my target speed,” I reasoned. An effort of 8.5 out of 10 became 17 mph.

The last few videos were when it got real. Fortunately, by then I had my power data back.

1524659_618888551480960_947870370461060208_n

Video #8 was similar to the test I did a couple weeks ago to find my training rates. There was no way I was going to do that level of effort given that I was already starting to feel the all-out sprint I did during the previous video. (You might recall that the previous FTP test had me crying in a fetal position by the end. At least, that’s how I felt on the inside.) Despite not going hard hard, I was definitely ready for the 20-minute long interval at just below threshold pace to be over. Then on video #9 (“The Wretched”) I upped my target goal even more. I was looking forward to being done with the day.

And then came “Nine Hammers,” the last video. What can I say about it? As jovial and carefree as we were at the beginning, we were equally quiet and resolute when the video got underway. One of the minions said we looked as if we were trying to melt into our bikes, we were so aero. Or tired. Take your pick. We all tried our best to make this one count. As you can see, it was intense:

Nine Hammers

About halfway through I said, “I think my butt is starting to hurt.” Alex shot me a look of death. Meanwhile, Nancy seemed like a woman about to murder someone, so (at her request and everyone’s approval) the minions set Pandora to play the Indigo Girls, Tracy Chapman, and friends. That was just what we needed to finish the last video. But we weren’t done! Oh no. No no no no no. The suffering wouldn’t be complete until Nancy reached 150 miles. “Are we there yet?” became a common question for those last three miles until she told us all just to shut the fuck up.

And then we were done!

All done!

We chatted. We ate food. Alex and I cooled our taints in the snowbank outside the shop. We changed clothes for the third or fourth time of the day. It was jovial once again.

Cooling off

Clearly I didn’t work as hard as I expected because, even though I rode 130 miles over 11+ hours, I didn’t feel completely destroyed. (Sorry, Sufferlandrians!) Don’t get me wrong; I was really tired, and my legs were pretty sore. Nevertheless, I feel like I could have run a bit afterward. Maybe not a full marathon yet, but probably a half. It probably wouldn’t have been pretty, though. That’s what the next seven months of training are for, eh?

I’m happy to have done this silly thing. It was fun . . . fun in that “I’m a triathlete and can flip a switch in my brain to compartmentalize pain/boredom/effort/etc.” kinda way. Thanks for inviting me along, Nancy and Alex!

p.s. — Many thanks to Kristin at Steve the Bike Guy for all of the fantastic photos (and everything else!) yesterday.

Posted in 101 in 1001, Cycling, Diabetes, Reluctant Triathlete | 6 Comments

“I Was Never Told…”

This. Just this.

I learned a bit from the people who were there [at my diagnosis] to teach me. But I learned the most from just living the experience. I learned. I adopted that knowledge into my new reality and then forgot that I didn’t always know it. . . .

But I do know that there are many people out there who may not figure this stuff out for themselves. Who may do everything they are told to do and then not understand that it is not their fault when the wheels still fall off the cart on a regular basis. Who may feel personally responsible for every low. For every high. For every up and down.

Posted in Diabetes | 1 Comment

Verticality Rocks!

It’s snowing again.

Winter scene

If you’re in New England, you’re probably thinking, “Big shock, right?” Counting today, it’s snowed four or five times in the last nine days. Honestly, I’ve lost track of when the snow came. What I do know is that I drove to Boston a couple Saturdays ago when the first snow arrived. The storm flipped tractor-trailers on the Mass Pike and turned a half-hour drive into an hour-and-twenty-minute limp to a work commitment downtown that I couldn’t miss. Fortunately I was able to ski fresh snow on the way home after changing into my ski garb in a bathroom of the Sheraton at Copley Place.

That skiing was pretty good, although it turned a little sloppy near the end when the temperature rose and the snow turned to sleet. I almost made it all the way around the 1K loop without falling, but (alas!) I did buy it with just 50-ish yards to go. The skiing made me eager to do more, as did watching ski videos on YouTube. “I wish there was somewhere really close I could go to try out the technique tips I’m seeing online,” I thought.

So I asked some sporty online friends how to groom my backyard for skate skiing. I got some good advice from someone who “may have tried this before,” as well as some less good advice (“spend $50K for a consultant to groom it for you”). After a half-hour of tramping around in skis in my backyard, I had something mostly skiable. I just didn’t have enough light to take advantage of it.

Ski track before the storm

Then the winter storm hit.

Snowpocalypse

My town got about 30-36 inches of fluffy snow, and—after digging myself out—I had a harder time turning all of that fluffiness into something I could ski . . . despite my best efforts. I’ve decided to call my ski track “Moby Dick,” because it’s a big, white, ridiculous whale of an undertaking.

The morning after

Digging out

Clearly I need one of these.

The right way to groom snow

So yesterday I went back to the ski track first thing before going into work for the afternoon. (It’s really very atypical for me to work on the weekends, much less two weekends in a row.)

Waxing

Yesterday was, without a doubt, the best day I’ve ever had on skis. It was sunny and cool, and the snow was freshly prepared. There were a lot of people at Weston, but it didn’t feel crowded. I practiced double-poling. I practiced free skating (skiing without poles). I practiced my “two skate.” I did an acceptable herringbone up a hill.

About halfway through my ski, things started to really click. I was using the edge of my skis better as I pushed off, and my glide was going farther, too. I felt more sure in my balance. There’s still not a lot of power or speed in my legs—and I can feel how awkward it must look—but I managed to stay upright for the entire hour I was out. I’m considering that a major accomplishment! In fact, it’s my first time on skis where I didn’t land on my ass, shoulder, or face.

Progress!

Even better, I was actually starting to have a good time. A few times I got into a good rhythm, and it felt a bit like meditation. I lost myself in the moment and felt confidence wash over me in a way that it had never done before while I’ve skied.

Monday snow

And, as I wrote earlier, it’s snowing again. Add these 12-18 inches to the 40 or so that we’ve already received and then throw in the very cold temperatures we’ve had recently, and the rest of February looks good for skiing. Tomorrow and Wednesday, Robyn (my fellow newbie) and I are going skiing after work. I’m really looking forward to it!

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Whip It. Whip it good!

“Let’s race!”


I arrived at the pool on Friday eager to learn a new stroke: the breaststroke. For my birthday last autumn, I received Sheila Taormina‘s Swim Speed Strokes book. I’ve been swimming freestyle for six seasons now, occasionally throwing in a bit of kicking on my back. My main focus is still improving my freestyle, but I’ve also been eager to learn a new stroke. I believe doing so will improve my freestyle, because every bit of mindfulness and intentionality can only help me get a better feel for the parts of my regular swimming. Plus, in my heart of hearts, I’m excited just to try something new.

When Alexis discovered that I was learning a new stroke, she was excited. “You need to have Jen help you with your kick. It’s hard, but she helped me a lot with mine. Hey, Jen! Jeff is learning the breaststroke!”

Jennifer is one of the best swimmers at the pool, and it was great that she volunteered to help. We spent a lot of time at the wall going over the basics. “It’s not a frog-kick. It’s a whip-kick.” Some people are capable of hearing what they should do with their limbs, visualizing it, and then doing it. “Bring your feet up with your knees mostly together, then snap them around back to the start. That’s where the power comes from.” Some people can hear all of that and do it. I am not one of those people.

Eventually I did it well enough that she cut me loose with a kick-board. It wasn’t pretty—I kept veering to the left and running into the lane divider—and I was exhausted after each length of the pool. But I did my kicking, although I never felt like I really got the hang of it. After 100 yards of kicking, it was time to do a little freestyle.


Which brings us back to Alex’s challenge: “Let’s race! I haven’t done any breaststroke in months.”

I got a good push off the wall and started whip kicking. Alex arrived at the far end of the pool and looked back in my direction. I waved at her from 1/3 of the way down my lane. She laughed and waited for me to arrive. A few seconds later, we started the second part of our race.

Somewhere on the way back, it all clicked. I could feel the power in the whip. I pulled ahead and—I can’t believe it—won! It was a small victory, to be sure. More than anything, starting to get the hang of the technique was the true win.

Soon I’ll start working on the front half of the stroke. G-d help me when I try to incorporate the two together.

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Ski Report 2015

Wintertime outdoor fun-makers

We have had very little snow here. And it’s been warm. Driving to the ski track on Wednesday everything was winter brown. How would the skiing be?

Fortunately, Weston’s snowmakers had plenty of cold temperatures to work with recently, and the snow was really good despite being man-made, rained upon, and groomed to within an inch of its life. It was fast but not icy. “If—I mean—when I fall,” I thought, “it won’t hurt so much.” And, based on all of my previous outings, I was going to fall. And fall I did, usually in the same place on the track, but I wasn’t getting hurt (unlike two years ago).

Let’s just face it: I am not (yet) good at skiing. It’s a technique-intensive sport, and I’m more-or-less a complete newbie with very little natural rhythm or balance. But I’m getting better at it—if you consider the number of times I fall—and I’m having fun. Honestly. Well, mostly. Although I have to say, I think I have more hope that I’ll have lots of fun later going around the track than actual fun now.

As Lisa says, “It didn’t kill me, and I know I could do better.”

And I really can do better. After all, it took me two years to learn how to swim.

So I’ve been watching YouTube videos about basic skate technique. Mostly I’m trying to stay out of the way of the better skiers and not fall down in front of them. I’m excited to get back to the track.

It helps that I have a friend who is equally green. She’s a competitive sort, though, and somehow she’s already better than me. Anyway, she really wants to race badly. (Or is it “badly wants to race?”) This is far lower on my list of priorities than hers, but I’m easily talked into things. We came to an agreement: When we could do the 1K loop in a particular time, we would become back of the pack ski racers together.

Here are my goals:

  • Have fun!
  • Ski the 1km loop at Weston without falling.
  • Ski the 1km loop at Weston in 4:00. Start racing afterward.
  • Learn to do “1 skate” well.
  • Learn to “offset skate” uphill well.

Oh, and I learned the basics of waxing skis.

Waxing setup

Waxing

Wax shavings

Ready to go!

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