Saturday, October 30, 2010

WTC - Not a rant. Well, maybe a little.

Create a wait list system for Ironman registration.

For my readers that are not into triathlon, WTC stands for World Triathlon Corp in this blog. It is a for profit organization that owns and runs a series of Ironman races. Not all of them, but lots of the best known ones. In particular, the world championships held in Kona early October is owned by them, and if you want to race in it, you need to qualify for it by doing very well in other races, or be very lucky in a lottery. No, not the lottery that pays out millions of dollars in prize money, though that helps. There are about 200 spaces in Kona reserved for people who's names are drawn. Maybe it's from a hat, I don't know.

When people say ironman in conversation, they could be talking about three things. An Ironman distance race is 3.8 Km swim in open water, 180 Km bike ride, and a 42.2 Km run. The people who complete this distance in the 17 hours allowed, call themselves ironman. Male and female both. Proudly. Technically, Ironman is also a brand owned by the WTC.

These 25 races have become very popular. They typically sell out a year in advance and are not cheap in any sense of the word. Doing one is a huge commitment in time, money, and energy. Even getting signed up is a bit of an ordeal. Sign up works like this. The people entered in this year's race get first chance at next years. Then the people that volunteered at this years race. Then the people who travelled to the event and lined up (really early!) the day after the race. Then, if there are any spaces open, it opens to internet registration. Have your credit card ready and be prepared for a $US600 hit. It's just the first of many expenses. There are some spaces reserved in addition to these, but I don't know the details. A certain number of slots at each of the 24 races qualify you for going to Kona. It's a complicated formula, but if you want to go to Kona you'd better plan on being one of the top 5 finishers in your age group, and even that might not do it.

Few of us know what we'll be doing a year from now. Most of us can plan vacation, can schedule family events, and fully intend to go, but this is life. Shit happens. Some things are just more important. Funerals. Weddings. Births. Changes at work. Financial emergencies. Injuries. Some people are "ironstruck" as they say, and sign up for it even though they have no business doing so, and sometime over the coming year reality sinks in.

The WTC claims there are thousands of spots in races that are bought, but the person does not participate for some reason. Maybe so. Their solution was to create a club that allowed people to cut in the front of the line. They could register for the event a week before anyone else. The fee for this privilege was $1000 US. For one year. You'd get some other goodies, but that's it. (The unicorn skin membership card - I nearly peed myself laughing.) They claimed this was saving people money so they wouldn't have to travel to the event to register.

As one could imagine, there was a wave of fury. I won't get into that. Suffice to say that 24 hours later they rescinded the program. The WTC president apologized. It was a very, very, bad idea that rightfully died a quick death. Now we'll see what the hit to their brand will be. Worst of all, it didn't even address the problem.

All this has been boring intro to my tri buddies. Sorry guys. Now about me. I make my living providing business analysis services. Not a huge living, but we get by. I only wish WTC had consulted me, or someone like me first. They could have saved themselves a lot of trouble.

Problem statement:
A big part of what a BA does is to understand what, exactly, the problem is. A solution is no good if it doesn't address the problem at hand. Understanding the problem is often more difficult that you would think. Let's start with a pair of related problem statements.
1- More people want to enter the race than there are spots.
2- Some people enter the race but don't participate. This denies a spot, and makes #1 worse.

The simple solution is to add more spots to each race. But just as the fire codes stipulate a maximum number of people allowed into a meeting room, each event venue has a maximum number of people that can safely participate. About 3,000 people enter Ironman Canada, and that site is nearing it's limits. Each venue has issues that limit how big it can get, and the issues might be different for each venue.

All right then, add more races. WTC has been doing that. But that's not fast or easy. Putting on such a race is a huge organizational effort even when you are building on years of experience with a race. Doing one for the first time must be an organizational and logistical nightmare. Thousands of racers, thousands of volunteers, tons of equipment, all getting to the right places at the right times, along with all the other associated stuff. Go back and read the distances and time involved. Adding a badly done race is no solution.

Given the outrage about the club, people should be grateful WTC didn't try the pure economic solution. Economics says that if there is more demand than can be filled, raise the price till demand equals supply. Clearly, people are willing to pay a $600 entry fee. How about $750, or $1000, or $1500? At some point the number of people willing to sign up will drop to the number of people that can be supported by the existing venues. This might be a way to increase profits, but it doesn't do much for your brand image.

Another potential solution is to extend the qualifying mechanism to the other 24 races. In it's simplest form, a person that wants to sign up for an Ironman distance race would have to do a shorter race in a certain time. What races might that be? Why, the 70.3 series, of course. This is the half ironman distance, and there are 47 races, including a world championship at that distance. Entrants are allowed 8 hours to complete the course, but they could make a rule that says if you want to qualify for an Ironman distance race, you need to complete it in say, 6 hours. Just to pull a number out of a hat. That would drive down the number of ironman entries.

This would have two benefits, from the WTC point of view. It would increase participation in the 70.3 series, essentially forcing more people to enter those races, which increases the revenue stream. By getting faster athletes, they might then be able to shorten the times for the Ironman distance. Instead of 17 hours, maybe drop it to 14. This would simplify organizational issues. Still, the trick is finding the right number to still have the maximum number of Ironman entries. Very tricky.

But really, all these potential solutions are dancing around the mulberry bush. All would annoy the people wanting to enter the race, and all would damage the brand to some extent. What's really needed is a better way to manage lists of people and their money. Right now withdrawing from a race is very expensive. This is nonsense.

A modest proposal:
Create a waiting list to fill drop outs.
Run the entry per current procedure, up to the point the volunteers are registered. Then open it to internet registration. At some point the race fills up. Then put people on a waiting list, first come first served. Charge them a modest non-refundable processing fee. Once there is a waiting list, anyone on the race participant list can drop out and get their money back, minus that same processing fee. For much of the year the race organizers don't care WHO is on the list; they only need to know it's full. Which would be their maximum number based on whatever their site limiters are. During the wait list sign up each person is told there are x many people ahead of them, and asked if they want to proceed. So what if thousands, or even tens of thousands want to go on the waiting list? It's just a list in a database that is scrubbed every year.

At some point the organizers do need to know who so they can get the race bibs printed. That's the deadline for a normal withdrawal. When an entrant withdrawals, the organization contacts the next person on the list to confirm they still want to enter, and gets their credit card number. This can be automated. Or securely store the credit card numbers and send the person an email to say they're in and their card has been charged. Setting up the suitable procedures and controls is what a business analyst does. There are all sorts of picky issues to be sorted through, but none are deal killers.

Even after this point, if they wanted, they could still allow people to withdrawal. Since they are now changing bib information and potentially altering the sizes of the age groups, it would be natural to charge a larger processing fee. Perhaps a much larger fee. There is bib printing on short notice, and probably all sorts of special handling involved. Maybe the T shirt order gets messed up. But the entrant should still get back at least some of their money, and allow a person from the waiting list into the race.

Eventually there is an actual deadline where it is no longer practical to allow a new person to take the place of an existing person. I do not support the practice of selling a race bib, and completely agree with showing ID to claim your bib. At this point the people not racing are doing so because of last minute issues, and there will always be some of these. It should be a very small number.

These procedures would allow a race to proceed at near maximum capacity. There are a number of benefits for all involved:

  • People understand the concept of a waiting list, and the idea of first come first served. 
  • Entrants who drop out get back most of their money. Some people do the race injured, just to avoid losing the money and having to go through the process again.
  • People would not have to shell out for a trip to the site just to sign up.
  • It simplifies on site computer issues, though I suppose if you are already registering existing athletes, and volunteers, it's no big deal to add in general entries.
  • It gives the WTC real data on the popularity of their races from year to year. 
  • It gives them an incentive to figure out what the maximum number of people for a given venue really is, and investigate de-bottlenecking ideas. Or publish what the max number is and live with it.
  • It gives them contact information on a wider group of people for marketing efforts. 
  • While the purpose isn't to make a profit on the processing fee, it should certainly cover their costs. Which ought to be minimal once the initial coding is done.
  • They could cross reference the lists to offer a person on one waiting list an entry into another race, if that waiting list is depleted. I don't imagine many would take advantage, but you never know.

Here are some additional thoughts around race registration:

  • Maybe they ought not to allow on site registration at all. Do it all on line the following week, using codes to validate each class of people, existing entrants, volunteers, general entries.
  • Race volunteers ought to be allowed a discount on next year's race entry fee. 
  • Morning porta-potty line ups mean someone didn't plan properly. The organizers know how many people are going to be there, and know that a large fraction of them want to (NEED TO) use the facilities, and they know (or could easily know) how long on average each person is in there. The rest is simple math. Yes, there is a fee to rent them. So what? I can cope with fewer goodies but it's unsanitary to have to cope without a toilet.
  • I would LOVE to follow the money. About 3000 people times $600 each is $1,800,000. That doesn't seem like a lot of money for such a huge event. No doubt there are other fees charged to expo vendors, licensing fees, and who knows what all. Balanced by equipment and space rentals, printing, food, and who knows what all. Never mind the volunteer issue for the moment, supposedly the races are profitable.

For a bonus, here's some thoughts on streamlining package pickup. My experience at IMC was a shambles. It took much longer than I thought, and I'm not talking about the time in line. I had to show ID several times, and fill out paperwork. On site. That's ridiculous. Send the paperwork to each person to be filled out, printed, and brought to site. I dug out my ID several times. More wasted time. There were lots of volunteers that did nothing but tell people where to go next. That doesn't seem terribly efficient. Here's what should happen:

  • Banding. Each person presents their ID and is banded. The band then becomes their ID. 
  • Paperwork. If they don't have their paperwork filled in, they go do the dunce playpen where they are given crayons and someone can help them with the complicated shapes involved in literacy. Can you tell I don't have much sympathy here? 
  • Paperwork. Hand it in where it is reviewed and filed. 
  • Gear. Pick up the goodies we need, and check our chips. 
  • Get out of the tent and find a cold drink.

I'm not sure if it's better to have one stop shopping for gear pickup, or sequential. In any case, there are people who specialize in figuring such things out. A few experiments ought to generate some practical data on how long it takes for a person to get through the process. For example, the Red Cross knows to the second how long each blood donor spends at each station in the process.

  • One stop. There are a number of stations each dealing with a range of numbers. All the gear is there. From there go to a central place to check the chip, with provision for dealing with chip issues.
  • Sequential. A person goes to several stations, one each for chip, swim cap, info packet, swag, and anything else. Then to check the chip.

Speaking of chip issues, why is the chip mounted on such a huge piece of plastic? The chip itself is tiny. Some people forget or lose their chips. Maybe there should be a system for fastening the chip to the ankle during registration, similar to the wrist band. Then they could put a mat at the entrance to each tent in the expo and know how long each person spent in each pavilion. Talk about big brother!

These are some of the ideas that came to mind after the Access Club fiasco. Feel free to spread the URL to other people. Maybe if enough people yank the WTC's chain, we'll see something like this done.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Running before the heat of the day sets in

When I got up this morning I knew I wanted to go for a run sooner rather than later. After all, the temperature here was forecast to go up to a scorching 9 C (48 F). Better to go early and avoid the risk of sun or heat stroke. Can't be too careful, you know.

My three leg exercises were squats with the fit ball, Abdominal Hollow Leg / Arm extension, and Hip Abduction - Side Lying. All were good, though the last couple of the hip abductions were tough going. I was thinking of copying the sheets, and putting them up on a wall board somewhere downstairs so I can mark them off as I do them, make it nice and big so I'm accountable.

A few more stretches and I was ready to go. Ran 45 minutes fairly easy, concentrating on form. About the 30 minute mark I got a dull ache down at the bottom of my left calf, which is sort of weird. Never had that before. Stretched after. And will ice calves, and knee muscles.

And now I'm free for Friday Follies!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Riding into the retaste zone

Swim was nice and relaxing this morning. Half an hour or so, thinking lots about stroke. 15 minutes of core in the dive tank.

Knee exercises when I got home. I have 28 of them to choose from. I expect a few of them are going to be like the first time I tried side plank leg lifts. There I was, telling that leg to go up, and nothing was moving, except my ass falling back to the mat a few seconds later.

Spin class was the hardest I've worked on the bike in a long time. Chris has lots of fun stuff, and we were doing some short hard stuff. Really hard stuff. My knee was feeling good and I decided to go for it on the hard parts. Did I mention Chris had us doing some short, really really HARD stuff? I pedaled myself into feeling a bit queasy for a short while, beginning to regret dinner, sweating a bucket, and feeling kind of clammy about it. I backed off then. I think I set a new personal speed record on the trainer though, 78 Kph via 138 rpm in the hardest gear. That did not last long, I assure you. My heart rate peaked out at 156, which is just into zone 5, and that's the highest I've seen it in a long time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Week of the Knee

Took a break from all training so far this week. The massage on Sunday and ART on Monday really left my leg feeling done onto and worked over. The timing of the ART appointments Mon and Wed was such that I really couldn't swim before them, and on Tuesday I just didn't want to. Since I'm not on a plan, and I want my knee and the muscles in the leg to get better, I figured better to indulge myself. Said indulgence is growing my waistline, so I'll have to be careful about that.

The doctor is really pleased with my progress. He says the muscles are calming down, which reduces the stresses on the knee. The one exercise I've been doing has helped a lot, and I now have a 5 page handout of leg exercises to do. The knee is feeling much more normal, with the occasional click or pop. These are the usual clicks or pops that don't have the ominous feeling of pressure buildup where you want to click the knee but you're almost afraid to.

Yoga went by in a blur, lots of good stuff, though airplane pose on my right leg was a bit scary.

Light snow and fog most of the week so far. The fog part is weird, the light snow is normal. So far none of it is sticking around long, but that will change soon.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I was overly patient today

There is one girl laughing her face off reading that title. If nobody else gets it, that's fine.

Took it easy on Sat. Linda's sister showed up Friday night so we had a nice chat and hung out. They were out doing sister stuff on Sat. Our buddy V came over to help me bottle the two wine kits. That was a blast and made things go much quicker. There was a half bottle of the Syrah that we worked on during the bottling and for dinner after. Very nice! The South African ended up being exactly 29 bottles, so our only sampler was what was left in the bottle filling wand. We had a mouthful each. Nice but will need a while in the bottle.

The workout today was a bit of an ordeal. It started ok, but with the change in my cleat position it seems my hams are doing a lot more of the work, and they gave up part way through the spin. Nothing else felt like taking up the slack so the last part of the spin was an exercise in patience. Nothing was really hurting, but it wasn't working very well either. I had to struggle to get over 100 rpm, then could do that ok, then that stopped. Then the ability to put out any amount of effort below 100 rpm went way. I stuck it out, tried to keep things moving, and hoped it would get better. Perhaps I was undernutriated too. Maybe, though I had a good breakfast.

Once again I was the first of the herd out the door and into the fog, mainly because I was essentially dry after the spin. All I had to do was put on tights, long sleeved tech shirt, jacket, gloves, hat, shoes and I was ready to go. This felt like a run from last year; a slow steady chug. Nothing was hurting, but my legs were in no mood to run. But I finished the 20 minutes. Grrrrrr.

Then Katie's Killer Kore set. First thing up was 30 pushups. There were some teeny little rests in there, and we did a bunch of other stuff, but I was so shattered from the pushups that all I remember is we did another 30 pushups at the end. Some plank happened, and since I was the first one to crack, and I had to do the longest held squat. 6 inches. Squats. Lots of other stuff. Seriously, I can't remember what else happened. My mind is numb. In shock. Even the post workout cupcakes didn't help my memory. Or maybe they helped erase the trauma. Cupcakes are helpful like that.

Zoomed up to my book club. Then home for a massage. JL pummeled me so good, especially the grumpy muscles around my right knee. She is a super therapist, and is looking to grow her mobile practice. Mobile as in, she brings a table to your house and works on you there. So when you're done all you have to do is put on a robe and shamble to your fave chair. It's wonderful. If you're interested in trying this out drop me an email and I'll give you her contact info. She is really good.

And youwhohasnothadamassage, ever!! freaking ever, which totally boggles my mind. I don't understand how you are still moving, let alone so fast, so far. If you didn't live so far away I'd arrange for her to ambush you. All your friends would conspire to help. So would your coach. So would your family. Conspirators R us, in a good cause, yeah.

Weekly Summary
Swim 1.25 hrs
Bike 4.25 hrs
Run 1.33 hrs
Total cardio 6.83 hrs
Core 1.5 hrs.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A geezer outing

It seems that geezer outings are getting better. Used to be the geezers were trucked to the lawn bowling court and back to their cages. Either that or the inmates are taking over. As we were going into Coop for some groceries there was a delightful juxtaposition. These two photos were taken from the same place, facing in opposite directions. The two are about as close as they can get without the van parking in the fire lane.

And yes, the grocery store was full of geezers. So was the liquor store shortly before these were taken. They were tottering out as we drove in.

Ran this morning about 30 minutes. Nothing special. Hip flexors were getting tired by the end of it, but most of it felt really good. Just post dawn, cold enough to see breath on the air. Nice.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Swim, Dr appt, yoga, bike, which of these is not like the others?

Wed swim, 45 minutes of goodness. Good warmup, working on stroke, did some kick drills, good feel for the water today. Swam 500 m working hard on maintaining stroke focus. Took a break, doing some easy easy pull and some kick. Did another 500 concentrating on stroke and flip turns, not trying to go fast but go smooth, efficient, and steady. Just for reference, not an indicator of speed, it's just a number for future reference 9:20. By the end I was starting to lose focus.

Doctor appointment involved some firm ART, which wasn't actively painful, but let's just say there was some discomfort. He worked me over pretty good. My legs actually felt more tired and sore after, and for the rest of the day, but I think it was good.

Dogged it during yoga, being very careful of my knee. Slept like a rock. Did the exercise for knee and leg, and stretched a bit.

Chris worked our tails off during spin class. Great workout, was dripping sweat by the end. 1:55 and the only reason I didn't go the last 5 minutes is that I wanted to stretch and people were already putting their bikes away. Mostly my knee and leg felt good and fairly strong. My left ham was the muscle doing the most complaining. I'm probably doing some compensation things that make it work hard. One leg drill was ok the first times, but it felt like my kneecap was a bit loose so I stopped that. The rest of the evening and up to right now it has that feeling like it wants to click. I am cautious.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My legs came alive

Today I tinkered with the cleats on my bike shoes to get my toes pointed in more per Dr's advice. Amazing how much crap accumulates on the bottom of shoes. I had to get a pointy tool to clean out the allen key heads. I guess I need to stop walking on soft dirt and gravel to pee in the bushes. Tinker, pedal, tinker, pedal. Hmmm. Pedal more. Pedal harder. Hmmmmm! This was good. Amazing the difference such a small change makes. Rode for a half hour, some of it quite hard, no leg pain at all. (But I know the knee isn't right yet.) I could feel slightly different muscles working, which was sort of odd.

I followed that up with a run and my legs surprised me. They wanted to run. They wanted to run much faster than my lungs were willing to work, which hasn't happened for a while. I felt light on my feet, and being mindful of the knee, I turned my legs loose to see what would happen. I don't have any pace information, but it felt really good. Even the slower bits seemed faster than I've been running. Overall that was just over a half hour of shorts and T shirt in the sun. There won't be many more days like that.

Working on my knee exercises. Another appointment tomorrow.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A dull, technical swim post

Half an hour in the water today, but I think it was one of the highest quality swims in quite a while. Since IMC I've been trying to concentrate on my swim stroke. My theory is that if I spend some time now trying to make my stroke better, and train the muscles to do it consistently better, then I'll be swimming faster.

So far I haven't been particularly timing myself. I don't want to get into the game of trying to swim fast now, because I'll slide back into my old ways. So typically I'll warm up doing a mix of free and pull. Today I added in some kick with the fins I bought. These are the blue aquasphere ones with the leaf shape. They work pretty good, though they are a bit more floppy than the big fins the pool supplies.

After the warmup I'll usually do 100 m intervals. Again, not trying to be fast, but rather trying to work on some aspect of my stroke. Usually by the end I'm losing focus, so I'll stop and rewind what I was doing, then think about what I want to try. Again. Then have another go at it.

You all know the things your coach has told you to work on during swimming. Reach. Catch. Slide. Pull. Push. Return. Breathe. Head down. Chest down. Streamlined. Kick. (my kick really really sucks.) I'm also thinking about the flip turn, and trying to do them better as well. Lots of thinking, lots of concentration. It's surprisingly hard work. I'm barely noticing the other swimmers now.

One of the things I noticed today especially on the pull, is an actual glide. I'm assuming from this my body position is better. Now I'm trying to replicate that feeling during free. The major thing I'm working on is trying to feel the muscles in my back working instead of the my shoulder muscles. I'm trying to coordinate the roll with the pull so it all goes together. So far it seems like the effort needed to initiate the roll is detracting from the pull, not adding to it. If my lats have been working, it's an ongoing mystery to me.

It turns out we're allowed to take a video camera onto the pool deck, as long as we don't video anyone else, or the pool staff. I don't think any of the people I see at the pool actually read my blog, so I'll have to see if they're interested as I see them. If you're interested at showing up to Renfrew about 7 am or so and take turns with the camera, let me know. (A big hint to my out of town give lessons to the fish buddies who like cookies!) Mine isn't waterproof, so we'd only see from above.

Today I couldn't hang around the pool much as I had to be at the knee specialist for 8:30. He did a good history, and thoroughly articulated my legs. That made me a bit nervous since some of those motions usually end with pain. He says I've got good leg strength, and it's reasonably well balanced, though there is one small muscle that helps stabilize the kneecap that is being overpowered by the quads and IT band. However, the big issue is a small tear in my medial meniscus. It's not bad, most people wait till they can barely walk and then there's a major problem with healing. With mine he is suggesting several sessions of ART and chiro will do a lot to get the muscles calmed down. There are some exercises to do. I need to tweak the positioning of my bike cleats to turn my toes in just a bit. That might take some playing. He will sending me to see another doctor about getting some sugar injections. I'm not sure if this is like refined table sugar, or it's something else they call sugar. Supposedly it helps build some scar tissue around the torn cartilage to help support it.

He is astonished that running doesn't cause pain, and that bike sometimes does. He wants to see my shoes so he can evaluate the wear. Going back through my blog it seems I've run for about 40 hours in these shoes since new in early Feb. They still feel pretty good to me, but what do I know? I'm guessing I've run somewhere around 300 K in them. More news as it happens.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I am losing my mind. You guys are all unaware of my Thursday swim, since I somehow didn't blog about it. Now that I've blogged about that particular half hour of my life, we can move on to the first spin, run, core, and cupcakes session of the fall. Which I bailed on, but not for the reason you think.

Oops, also missed blogging about the Friday run. Just barely a half hour nice and easy, with lots of stretching after.

Now to today. Slow warmup, since my legs were a bit creaky from Thursday spin and a lot of standing around on Saturday. Plus a crappy night's sleep. I'd finally got around to fixing the music on my iPhone. Somehow I'd got a bunch of music on it, but it wasn't what I wanted. So I was listening to some of my fave tunes, LOUD, chatting to some buddies via MSM and FB chat, and a long series of quick emails. You all know who you are and thanks, it was fun! So there I was, pumped from using the iPhone, when I realized I had to be on the bike at spin class in 10 hours.

Now we're caught up. It took me a while to get into the groove. I was mainly more interested in seeing what my heart rate was doing; this was the first time wearing the monitor since IMC. Overall that went pretty well. My legs are getting lazy. I used to be able to maintain a particular cadence and not pay a lot of attention. But today I was tending to drift downward. For a while I was wondering if the sensor was actually working properly, since it seemed I was pedaling a lot faster than what the bike computer was telling me. On the bike an hour and 50 minutes, butt feeling pretty good. For someone who had "lost" her voice the night before, Katie did pretty good at shouting over the music to keep us moving.

You know the old joke about spilled drinks? That after you die, you are dropped head first into a barrel with every drink you've ever spilled, and if you drown, to hell with you. I sometimes suspect Katie has a fear that all the people she's ever bored are going to meet her in a dark alley after she dies. So she works extra hard to keep things moving fast, always changing things up. This isn't a spin class where you can go to sleep while your legs pedal on auto-pilot.

The run was tricky. It was still cold enough to see your breath on the air. I changed and headed out for 20 minutes, legs feeling a bit heavy at first. But what do I expect, this was my first T run in a long time. They came around and the run ended up being pretty good. I was running ahead of everybody else, since I was ready to go and I hate standing around waiting for people. Even with the big head start most of them just about caught up to me.

The rest of the class went onto the dreaded core session. Katie has this special watch she uses for timing plank. It's missing a gear or something, so it runs really slow. Really, really, slow. I was on the phone checking the arrival time for Kelly's flight. I'd hoped (really, truly hoped) that it would stay being late, and I'd have time for the core session. But no. I was heartbroken, totally crushed at having to dry off and zoom up to the airport. It worked perfectly. I parked and went in, Kelly appeared and grabbed her bag, and we were headed out to the car again. There was about 5 minutes on the park card. To compensate for not doing the core, I denied myself one of the cupcakes of scrumptiousness that Katie makes. (and no, that doesn't mean I had two. You. Guys.)

Weekly Summary
Swim 1 hr
Bike 3.33 hrs
Run .83 hrs
Total cardio is just over 5 hours, taking it very easy. Except the bike.
Core 1.5 hrs.

I'm trying to get onto a regular schedule here, each activity done 2x per week.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

First spin session on the trainer

Poor Estela. She was hoping to get out for another outdoor ride but Wed was much colder than expected and I weenied out. After careful mental, physical, and emotional preparation, (focus and procedural reviews, a good stretching session, and a big hit of wine, respectively) I was ready for the struggle with the trainer tire. Further proof that preparation pays off, or good wine conquers all. The trainer tire went on without any fuss, and without any tools. In contrast to the last time, and no I'm not going to provide a link to document THAT struggle.

Yoga last night, but I didn't find my happy yoga place. It was just another session, and while doing an armpit stretch (don't ask) I managed to find a really sensitive spot on my knee. Which, along with another thing, pushed me over the edge, and I've made an appointment to get my knee checked out by some specialists. The other thing was receiving an unsolicited email, with info about this clinic. It's normally called spam, but in this case it was good.

Baking cookies was the important activity of the day today, and I was outside for a brisk walk and some stretching. Just too nice to be indoors. This is likely to be the last warm day of the year.

Now that the trainer tire is on, it's going to stay on. Any further outdoor rides will be on the hybrid. Spin session was fun. About 14 people showed up, many of whom I know, which is nice. Chris took it easy on us, but a pair of ambulances still showed up, lights and everything. They just sat and watched us for a while and went away again. That was about 1.5 hours. My knee was a bit creaky but behaved. Even though I padded around the house looking, I knew I was going to forget something for spin class. I knew it, and didn't sweat it. I had the essentials. Turns out I forgot my watch and heart rate monitor.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A response to a reader request

In other news I swam this morning. The pool was nearly empty. No idea why, unless people were still bloated from their turkey overdose.

Swam about a half hour, working hard on form. All sorts of the things that we all know we should do. Head, elbows, hands, hips, ect ect ect. I'd swim a bit thinking about it and working on being correct, then I'd take a break for a minute when I was getting sloppy to go through it in my mind again. Also worked on flip turns, trying to make them more of a flip! rather than a slow tumble. Another 15 minutes of core after.

One of my readers asked "And, Happy Thanksgiving. What do you Kanooks celebrate, anyway? What's your story? "

That's a good question. No doubt there are as many different answers as there are Canadians. Oddly enough, most people I know spend at least part of the day being thankful for what they have, and spending time with their loved ones. If there is a country in the world that has won the lottery, it's Canada, and most of us know it. The vast majority of us live in such a way that almost everybody that has ever lived would love to trade places with us. Why? Let me start:

  • We live in an open, peaceful society. Crime is rare, and violent crime rarer still. With very, very few exceptions, our police regard civilian society as something to protect, and not to prey off of.
  • Our government is reasonably honest, and reasonably non-corrupt. We've got 3 major parties, 4 in Quebec. There are some minor parties, such as the Greens that are still finding traction. What they all have in common is a respect for the ballot box, and at least some sensitivity to enraged taxpayers. While they put on an appearance of conflict, and there really is some gutter partisan politics, by and large they work together to make government work. And yes, government has a role in society.
  • In all but a tiny percentage of homes, you flick a switch and you get electric light. Turn a tap and you'll get a constant supply of clean, cool water that's safe to drink, bathe, and cook with. Unless you want it hot, in which case you open a different tap. We flush away our waste products and they flow to a place where they are treated, preventing a major source of disease from bothering us. Our garbage is taken away regularly and dealt with in a sanitary manner. Our homes are the temperature we set the thermostat for regardless of the outside temperature. Unless we forget to close a window rain doesn't come in and there are few drafts. Homes are a secure place to keep and display our stuff, the endless amazing quantities of STUFF we accumulate. We press a few buttons and we get whatever kind of music we like to listen to, at whatever volume we want, for as long as we want, with an audio fidelity that's probably better than our ears can perceive. We have devices that display text and images from around the world, and have an astonishing choice of what to look at. We can read any book that's ever been written within a moment of conceiving the desire. We pick up a device and can talk to anyone in the world with a similar device, and with some of them we can also transmit a video image at the same time, and do so while we're walking down the street. (Unfortunately some of us choose to do so while driving, with potentially tragic results.) We have devices to store food and delay it's decay, and other devices to heat food up for serving. We have comfortable beds to sleep on. Most of us have so many clothes it would be a chore to decide what to wear, except for the half of the people who would say they have nothing to wear. 
  • We are inoculated at birth and during childhood against diseases that have crippled and killed people throughout our history. It astonishes me that some people think that vaccinations are a BAD THING. I say that preventing your child from being vaccinated is child abuse, and should be prima facie evidence you are an unfit parent and should have your children removed from your "care". 
  • Our medical system is one of the best in the world. No Canadian risks bankruptcy because someone in their family gets sick. We may have to wait for treatment in line with other people, as doctors ration the available care, and that sometimes takes longer than it should. But the problem is that there is essentially infinite demand, and limited dollars to meet that demand. I'm glad the medical insurance company sharks aren't eating from our trough and taking some of those limited dollars for their private profit.
  • If a building catches fire, a team of professionally trained people will promptly arrive to rescue people and put out the fire. In addition they provide numerous services to prevent the fire in the first place. 
  • Canadians have one of the longest life expectancies in the world. And it keeps on getting longer. When I was a small child I was told I could hope to live to my late 60's. Someone dying at that age now is regarded as being cruelly cut off. My doctor tells me I have every reason to believe I'll live to my mid 80's, and my financial advisor tells me I'd better plan on it.
  • We go to the supermarket and buy food from all over the world. Most of the time, we don't care what season it is. That is, if you don't mind supporting a global petroleum economy. Still, our food is essentially disease free, incredibly cheap and varied, and available in quantities that are making most of us fat.
  • We can travel almost anywhere on a whim. There's not many places a Canadian passport isn't accepted, and most of us can afford to travel at least a bit. Most of us have our own private automobile, and can drive it almost anywhere on an amazing network of roads. Safely. Being able to buy fuel when and where we need it. Using a credit card. The infrastructure required is mind boggling when you think about it.
  • We have the freedom to do what we like, when and where we like, within very loose and broad limits. Most of us can choose what profession or trade we'll practice and if it turns out we don't like it we can change. Anybody that wants advanced education can get it, to whatever level satisfies them.
  • Most of us have the means to take up whatever hobby we want, and through our tools like the internet, be able to find other people interested in the same things. 
  • The odds of our children predeceasing us are trivial. 
  • And probably more that doesn't come to mind just at the moment.
All this. Most of the people that have ever lived would say we live like gods. Until about a hundred years ago or so, NOBODY lived like this. Nobody at all, not even the wealthiest. Nobody could even have conceived of it. Am I grateful? You bet your sweet ass I am. And so are most of the people I know.

What amazes me, just flat out amazes me and totally breaks my mind, is that there are people who live in such a society that say they: 
  • are bored. BORED??!! If you're bored, it's your own damn fault. You were either born mentally deficient and I suppose that's not your fault, or you've turned your brain off, and that IS your fault. In my books, someone who says they are bored is warning you in big letters of fire that they are stupid and will try to leech your life out of you by making you entertain them. Fuck them and whatever they rode in on. 
  • can't get by or don't have enough. Figure out what's essential, then get on with it. Much of our society is optional glitz, dressing to hide the essentials. Anybody that can't separate the essentials from the glitz, and get a supply of the essentials is too stupid to be allowed to live unsupervised. Maybe you don't get all the optional glitz. Poor baby. Hustle for it or do without. 
  • never got a break. Tell that to the kid starving to death, while dying of small pox. Tell that to the pioneers that came here with next to nothing and not only scratched a living out of the soil, they made the country and the world a better place. Tell that to the Chinese labourers that built a railroad and were treated like vermin. (One of the stains on our history, I admit.)
  • can't afford an education. There are these places called libraries. A year's access here is $15 or so, and they offer special rates for those that can't afford it. If you want an education, there are scholarships out the ying yang. Hustle for them. Take on the debt if you must; if you aren't willing to invest in yourself, why should we do anything else for you? Why are you paying for cable television?
  • want to listen to some fundamentalist whacko cult leader and go back to living in the middle ages, or worse. Here, let me put you on a plane to Zimbabwe, or Somalia, or Afghanistan. In fact, I think that's a good use of our tax dollars. I'd consider it a good investment, a few hundred dollars of airfare will save us who knows how much in welfare, and other government assistance programs. The trick is to recognize them early, before they infect others.
What I'm afraid of is that this pinnacle of civilization is going to come crashing down. Our infrastructure is delicate, and it wouldn't take much to damage or cripple it. A few deranged individuals can do enormous damage. No, not terrorists, at least not in the sense that most consider terrorists. I'm more worried about some idiot genius teenager that unleashes some computer virus. I'm more worried that the anti-scientist religious kooks, or the people that believe there is no role for government in society, will win; that might end things quicker than the computer virus. And we'll never get it back.

Yes, our society has flaws. There are problems, there are things we can be doing better. But overall, we're doing pretty darn good, and we can take a day out to pat ourselves on the back, to appreciate what we've got. Then it's back to the grindstone trying to make things better for those that don't have it as good.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lots o'stuff

Where to begin? I was up early, no idea why, since I was up fairly late last night watching IM Kona. What a race! Seeing Raelert slowly gaining on McCormack, then the two of them run even for a while, then McCormack crushed him and pulled away in the last mile. Having Chrissie call in sick opened the field up for the women, and I can only imagine the fire it lit under the butts of the top female pros. Carfrae heard the bell and kicked ass, setting a new female run record for Kona, and finishing within a few minutes of the record that Chrissie set last year. Talk about a dream race to see them go head to head.

I watched the race last year, calling Julie regularly with the news since she was on the road. Now that I've done the distance, I have a whole new respect for what these people are doing. During the day it was more than 40 C out there. I soften just thinking about it, and am pretty sure I'd melt quick if I tried to run at that temperature.

It was nice to hear my last name near the beginning of the race. Fraser Cartmell was 5th out of the water and had a great day, ending up 29th overall. Any relationship is going to be distant, several times removed cousins at best.

Shortly after waking up I wandered outside to watch the sunrise. The different textures and shades of gray were fascinating. Unfortunately, the camera doesn't see them the same way human eyes do. This shot is the nicest of the bunch, though the photo doesn't show how much it looked like a log in a bed of coals.

I'd been thinking about a bike ride, but it wasn't looking like that nice of a day. If it was a regular training day I'd have gone. But I'm still supposed to be taking it easy. Recovering. And I'm a bike wuss at the best of times. My legs are feeling a bit heavy this morning, and I remembered going a bit hard on the bike last time. So I decided to go for a nice run up 37th St. Did some stretching and loosening exercises, more than I normally do. Walked to the lights at Anderson, then ran easy 15 minutes.

All my running since IMC has been fairly easy, but I've been thinking about form and trying to run easily and efficiently. It's resulted in feeling lighter on my feet, and feeling faster. Today I wanted to push a little bit. Just a little. So at 15 minutes I leaned forward, and started driving my knees forward, and working my arms harder. My heels started coming up higher. My pace picked up, and although I don't think my cadence change, my stride sure got longer. It felt like I was flying!

I remember the last times running felt like that. It was back in high school during gym class. We'd gather in a group to listen to the teacher do the blahblahblah that nobody listened to. Then he's say Go! and we'd run out the door and around the track before getting on with whatever activity we were doing. Me and my buddy Barry were always at the head of the pack. I'd love to know how fast we were running then. It was only 5 or 600 m so it was fast.

This didn't last so long. I'd go a minute, then ease off for 4 minutes. Did that 4 times. Each time the fast run felt great! The next 15 minutes were at a steady pace, trying to run smoothly, imagining that my coach was watching with a video camera. Then I went off the bike path to run on the trails west of the path for the last 15 minutes and a bit, easing off at the end. Walked the 8 minutes home or so. More stretching after and some core. Feels good.

It's really weird with the quad. Running doesn't bother it. Feels good in fact. I can do deep squats, deep as in butt touching heels and back up again. I don't think I'd want to do a lot of them, but it works. Yet get on the bike, or do a fast walk, and that bit of quad starts complaining. It's number one on my massage therapist's hit list, and if that doesn't work, it's ART.

I've been thinking about a recent blog post by Josh Krabbe. He talks about training for Ironman, and being able to race it, as opposed to doing it as a stunt. (His word.) Normally I'd just leave a comment, but that's turned off. He and I think about it differently, and I think that difference comes from the difference in our ages and our physical condition. I don't know how old he is, but the IMC results give it as 18-24. I'm past 50. There is no way in the world I'm ever going to be able to race an Ironman, at least not what I think of as racing. To me, racing means you have a shot at winning. Distant, maybe, but a shot. By that standard there aren't more than a few dozen each of men and women who are racing an IM. Let's open it up a bit, and say a shot at winning your age group. If Josh agrees with that, then we're good to go.

He talks about many people training for IM within the year. I think he's underestimating the training involved. I strongly suspect that most people signing up have already done significant training, or have reason to believe they are in sufficiently good condition and may need to tune some skills. Even so, this is a very small pool of people. Yes, some people sign up and start training from an unfit base, and some of these people get through the race astonishingly quickly. And some of them blow up big time, even before the starting line.

But let's not forget the rules. There's the distance and the various cut off times in black and white. Can you do it? Or not?  I think it's entirely legitimate to use the "race" as an event to measure yourself. Some of us at the back of the pack might never be able to "race" even for the age group podium. We may lack the competitive fire in the belly. We may have physical issues limiting our performance. What's important to me (and you can claim self justification if you like) is that we go into the race honestly to measure ourselves against a standard. Can we do it? Or not?

It took me 3 years of steady training to be able to finish. I know for a fact that had I tried to do it after 2 years I would have failed. No question in my mind. Three years training, building to regular 15+ hours a week, and I got done comfortably before the cut off. That three years trimmed about 60 pounds off my frame, and took me from being a complete non-runner to someone who is now looking to break a 2 hr half marathon.

I didn't even consider racing it. I'm simply not in good enough condition. But my goal was to finish the race and not need a trip to the med tent. And to have fun. I paid my $ and had my day. Goals accomplished and I'm thrilled. Could I get in condition to race IM, race used in the terms of having a shot at winning my current age group? Lets see.

The winner in my age group at IMC went 9:28. Several pros went slower than that! Pardon me a moment while I take off my hat. Tenth is 10:32. Wow.

Mid pack (144th of 288) is 12:53. Now, I consider myself a sensible optimist. I could see myself setting a goal of going sub 13 and my coach not bitch slapping some sense into me. Not that I want to do another IM any time soon, mind you. That gets me to mid-pack. Is that racing? I suspect not. Is that a stunt? I don't know. Demonstrably, I can't do it now. What would a few more years of training do? I don't know and suspect going sub-13 would still take everything I have.

And that's the important thing. We're competing against ourselves here. Competing against our limits, mental or physical. Trying to go a bit faster against a remorseless clock. Trying to cope with the weather and everything else that happens during a long day. To the extent we put ourselves on the line we succeed. Everybody that crosses the finish line in under 17 hours, even if it's a last second sprint and puke and fall down and go directly to the med tent, is a winner in the race against themselves and the conditions of the day.

Weekly Summary
(trying hard to dial it back and take it easy)
Swim .75 hr
Bike 3.5 hrs
Run 1.5 hrs
Walk 1.5
Cardio 7.25
Core 2.0 hrs.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Short run, a few pushups

A very few pushups. Let me try to retain some dignity by not saying exactly how few.

Thursday was a quiet day. Snoozed. Napped. More recovery.

This morning I was sort of thinking going for a bike ride on the weekend might be nice, and I ought to look to see how bad the tire is. The tube had a cut 5 mm long. I couldn't have cut it any neater with a sharp knife. The tire has a huge slash in it, running right from the rim to the centre of the tire. I really wonder what I ran over. I have a couple old tires I was going to use in the spring for when there is still lots of crud on the roads, so I guess I'll use one of those for the last couple rides before spin season starts on Thursday. Once I get that damn trainer tire on, it's not coming off till spring. Any outdoor riding will be on the hybrid. Here's a photo of the tire.

Went for a really nice run, about 5 K. Stretched and did a bit of core. Walked a few minutes, then started running easy. Ran totally by feel, faster and slower, but not trying to run faster, only trying to run with good form. That ended up being about 30 minutes overall, easy at the start and end, plus more walking. Then a bit of stretching and core, and the very small number of pushups. Lets feel pretty good.

Scoped out the new addition to Chinook Mall. There's an Apple store there! I hadn't known this. We had some fun playing with an iPad, but don't think we'll be shelling out to buy one. Nothing much else of note, except the traffic! Lots of parking spaces, but getting in and out was brutal, even with the people directing traffic. And why was there a whole mess of cops with several cars clustered around the one exit?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Clockwise around Tsuu T'ina

Wow was I out of it on Monday. Didn't talk about my swim. 45 minutes swim, 15 min core in the dive tank. Warmup 1K trying to swim smooth, just to see how I did. 19:25. Blah. Found out about my buddy Deb, hope she's feeling better.

Today was beautiful out, right in line with what a typical fall day is here in Calgary. About noon I headed out on my bike. Out 22X, north on 22 for the first time, back on 8. Turns out to be 87.5 K. If I'd been training I'd have gone around the block to make it 90, just because. But I didn't. 3:39, including 20 minutes to fix a flat near Bragg Creek. Not sure what I rode over but it made a heck of a noise and slashed the tire up pretty good. I'm glad I had some paper money in my saddle bag to line the tire with. Legs are tired.

Yoga was hot tonight. Blah. Did I say my legs are tired, and that bit of quad is sore again?

For the record Tsuu T'ina is pronounced Sut Inna. That u sound is part way between the u in hut, and oo in soot. Not not NOT soo tina. Unless you're looking for a knuckle sandwich.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A beautiful day for a walk

Another nice day here, though is started off wet and cold. By lunchtime it was nice enough out for a bike ride, if a bit cool. But later this week is supposed to be warmer yet, so I wanted to hold off on the bike, and didn't really feel like going for a run. Actually didn't feel like doing much of anything, but did want to get out and enjoy the day a little, so I went out for a walk, down to the traffic bridge over Fish Creek, and looked for the spot where the old one way bridge used to be. Then wandered up the hill to find the defaced sign about the steep hill. So here's a bunch of photos for you.

I've been over this bridge a zillion times, but never under it.

I was looking for where the old 37th St bridge was. The road lwent up the hill about where those power poles go. And no, I don't know why I've got those purple marks.

As near as I can tell, the old road was right about where the river is now.

Who would have expected to find art underneath the bridge?

As you're going from the south part of Fish Creek to the north, at the very west end, you will see this sign. You will regret it if you don't pay attention.

This is the hill looking up. I'm not sure how I can point out how steep it really is. Even though it's paved, I'm careful with my footing. It would be very easy to have your foot skid out from under you if you put it down on some wet leaves. And just behind me is a hard right turn if you're coming down the hill. I wouldn't even consider trying to ride up it, even in the granniest gear on my hybrid.

 People like to play with the rocks in the creek.

Even though you might think the bridge is pretty obtrusive, it's not. Here's the view of it from the very expensive houses along the edge of the park.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A great run, followed by a video with Linda's semi-witty commentary

Today is a bit cooler and I have an appointment early this afternoon, so I don't really have time for a long ride. Lots of time for a run, though. Maybe I was inspired seeing all those people running a half marathon yesterday.

Here's what I looked like, just ready to head out the door. Linda's first pic with the iPhone! Look Kelly, no drink in my hand!

According to Google Earth I ran just over 9K in one hour exactly. The Fish Creek part was from Bebo Grove, along the pathway to bridge 2, over it, hard right and up the hill, along the path, then down the really, really steep part. I need to get back there and take a pic of the user modified warning sign. From there over bridge 1, and back up the hill towards the 37 st pathway. I'd been expecting my watch to say I'd been running for over an hour, and was astonished to see it had been 51 minutes. Here's a map of the whole route.

The run started and ended easy. Much of it was a steady high zone 2 pace, with some faster bits. Worked on form and posture. Thinking about how to get a video of me running.  Ran up the really steep hill that I used to have trouble walking up. Ran fast up the hill out of the park to 37 St.

My legs and feet felt great throughout. Strong and fast, even. (For me, guys, for me. Think of T Rex chasing dinner.) I'd done some stretching and walking before the run, and walked after. Stretched. Then to help Linda learn to use the iPhone I consented to be the video subject. Me doing plank. Voluntarily. With Linda making (semi) witty comments.

Weekly Summary
Swim 1.0 hrs
Bike 4.75 hrs
Run 2.0 hrs
Total Cardio 7.75 hrs
Core 2.75 hrs.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Today looked beautiful out, as long as you ignored the leaves going sideways. And a thermometer that was barely out of double digits. Celsius digits of course. I dithered about what to wear, and ended up with a long sleeve jersey under a short sleeved jersey, and shorts. Perfect!

22X to 22, to Plummers Road, right, up to the Priddis mall, back to road going west, and come out on the Priddis Golf course road again, then home on 22X. Strong wind out of the SE the entire time, getting stronger throughout. Or I was getting weaker. Comes to the same thing. The last stretch along 22X was one of the strongest crosswinds I've had to deal with. Especially since the bike lane is narrow there. I'm guess the wind was 35 to 45 Kph, based on how it felt on the short downwind stretch on the way home. On the bike for 2 hrs 40 minutes, about 65 km. Short transition, then a 20 minute run, nice and easy. Legs felt pretty good over all, and they were actually spinning for a while on the bike, I could feel it in my core.

I haven't taken a photo of Estela for a while, and thought I'd do that while she's nice and clean, and it's a sunny day. She's so good to me.

This is near the east end of Plummer's Road. Look for the Canadian flag standing out straight in the wind, near the house on the left.

I took this just for fun, while I was singing Me and my Shadow. First photo taken while actually riding. Not sure I'll do that again.

Stats. I looked at my blog stats and was astonished to discover the following:

  • I get more traffic from Leana's blog than any other. Like twice as much. Not sure why. Someone, or several someones there loves me. Thank you! Darryl, you're in second place and gaining recently. You'll have to try harder.
  • The most popular post, by far, over the last month and for all time, is Stock at Large means only one thing.  Again, I have no idea why. It's not long. It's not witty. There are no pics of naked boobies, but that describes all my posts. There's no blood or gore. I don't get it. Oh, now I do, when looking at my search terms. One of them is "Planet Fitness Stock". All is clear now.
  • The strangest search term is -"with flippers" photo , which isn't bad, all things considered.
  • I'm just past 21,500 visits, over not quite 2 years and 874 posts. As always, thank you for reading, and even bigger thanks for commenting.