P90X


Weakend Warrior

I’m not exactly sure what I was thinking.

Down in San Diego, pondering the possibilities of a job as Webmaster for a school district up in Alaska, something was grievously wrong with my grasp on reality.

To wit, I imagined me getting up, going to work, coming home, reading or perhaps catching up on movies and television, particularly during the dark winter months.

I could learn to juggle, do crossword puzzles, cultivate Bonsai trees, learn to speak Jive. A myriad of possibilities flashed through my mind. An 8 to 5 job, no entanglements, scads of free time. What couldn’t I do?

Turns out what I couldn’t do is any and all of the above. Somehow my free time became learning to cross country ski. Then teaching P90X classes. Then training for swimming. Learning how to road bike. Running hill repeats. Doing triathlons. Hiking mountains. Adventure racing. Running races. Mountain bike trekking… Things I never imagined doing whilst in Southern California.

I’ve been with KPBSD for a year now. This, if any, seems like a good time to ponder anew.

Since my weekday schedule seems to more or less bereft of free time, I thought I could put relaxation on my To-Do List during the weekends.

As you might imagine, this, too, was a complete failure.

Weekends are active for me. It’s the best way to explore this amazing state. The sun’s up most of the time these days. Sometimes you can even see it.

The weekend before last was a sun filled affair with pleasant people, beautiful scenery, blooming wildflowers, and a death march.

It began innocently enough; a planned mission up Skyline Trail, across the ridge and down to Upper Fuller Lake and the trailhead. 13 miles of hiking. Couldn’t be too difficult, right?

Wrong. Skyline itself is a bit of a trek. Not even two miles, but it’s more or less like ascending muddy stairs for said two miles. But the view is incredible. There were six of us, and we quickly fell into different groups according to hiking speed. I ended up hiking with a Liz, a former Peninsula resident and pro cross country skier. She runs marathons, and liked to hike like she had left ice cream in the car. We quickly made our way around the ridge, leaving the rest of the group behind. We talked about cross country skiing, training techniques, and diet. Well, Liz did. I focused on trying to hear her over my ragged breathing. Five hours after starting, we had completed the trek.

Finally, here was my chance to recuperate, to finally start trimming Bonsai. Alas, no.

The next day, I decided to give my hiking muscles a break. I jumped on my mountain bike and went up Resurrection Trail to Juneau Lake – a round trip of nearly 20 miles. I’ll make a quick aside here to note that the muscle group used primarily in hiking, we’ll call them “legs,” is precisely the same group used whilst biking.

Mine, however, began to falter, at times even flail, earning the new title of “flegs.”

Monday morning, my flegs were flummoxed.

I tried to recover as best I could during the week, but instead I tried my hand at “Active Recovery,” which is the ill-fated theory that the best thing to do for muscles in need of recovery is give them more to do. I ran for three evenings in a row, including the Salmon Run Race 4.

I had nearly recovered enough by the weekend to feel inspired to do the entire Resurrection Pass, a nearly 40 mile mountain bike trek from Hope to Cooper Landing.

It was amazing. Breathtaking scenery, marmots bounding hither and yon, and hemlock trees that look like Alaska’s version of the Bonsai. Perhaps here, then, I can enjoy my idle time. Midway during a five hour trek through the wilderness, a brief respite to behold the beauty of nature. This is what my free time has become, and I couldn’t be happier with this development.

Besides, learning Jive is exceedingly difficult.

New Beginnings

Like sand in an hourglass…

…if you break it, it gets EVERYWHERE.

So, too, are the days of our lives.

As you might notice, I’m having a bit of a metaphor-mixing crisis. Such is the time.

A lot is going on around the District. Today is the last day of school for students in most schools. But for us, the journey continues. We have the formidable task of switching out a great many old computers with new machines in various schools throughout the District.

This starts tomorrow, and on this occasion, we’ve hired an additional 10 employees to help with the festivities. Things should get interesting. Meanwhile, the year-end frenzy is in full swing, so people are scrambling like mad to complete everything required to have a guilt-free summer of relaxation.

I’ve been adamantly keeping up with triathlon training, nearly to the point of meltdown last week. The week began with P90X on Monday morning, then running hill repeats in Soldotna in the evening. This was tough, but over the weekend, I had gone to Los Anchorage and picked up some new running shoes. I was very pleased that my entire body didn’t have that “I’m about to rattle into a bazillion pieces” feeling during OR after the run.

For Tuesday after work, my normally-scheduled Master Swimming was not active thanks to scheduled maintenance at the Skyview Pool. Therefore, instead of Skyview I opted to meet a group going up Skyline. Skyline is a mountain about 40 minutes out of town. It’s steep. Think a two mile stretch of muddy stairs. Straight. Up. I got there as quickly as I could (No, Officer, I didn’t speed. Not even a little). I saw several other cars in the lot, and sure that my group was already summit-bound, I made haste to catch them. I didn’t. It was not because of a lack of speed. It was a temporal problem. In that they managed to start after me. So all the way to the summit I climbed. Upon my descent, I encountered my group, still intent on a summit bid. I was ready to go again, so I did. My enthusiasm was somewhat diminished the second go around, but I had a great time, and came back down the hill on less-than-top-shape legs.

Bright and early the next morning, I had a P90X Legs & Back workout that left my Skyline-crippled legs hardly able to support my bodyweight. The evening’s workout was more hill repeats, this time via bicycle. Thankfully, Celeste is an aggressive hill-climber, and despite my reluctance to do meaningful exercise, she took up the slack. She’s awesome, that way.

My legs sufficiently impinged-upon, I took it upon myself to go to the Tsalteshi Trails and try to do the first “Real” mountain biking of the season. I failed rather miserably, as the trails were a mucky quagmire. Apologies to the groomers for being too eager to go biking. But I do love a good mud biking episode.

Friday’s Tri Class consisted of transition training, where speed is of the essence as one switches between sport disciplines, such as swimming to biking and biking to running. This means doffing and donning helmets, goggles, spandex, bowling shoes, wafflemakers, and assorted triathlon paraphernalia. Having stayed late to get some last minute details up on the website at work, I actually ended up skipping this workout, but observed the hardworking athletes of my tri class, many of whom were heading up to Anchorage for the Golden Nugget Triathlon. They crushed it, and I couldn’t be more proud of all of them.

On Saturday, I did nothing. I didn’t even leave the house. I did nothing and it was everything I thought it would be. It was glorious.

By Sunday, I was eager to get out again, so drove to Resurrection Trail and rode my mountain bike as far as I could. I got a bit over three miles in before the increasing amounts of snow and mud and fallen trees forced my turnaround. Oh, and the new bike, with full-suspension, was an absolute dream on the downhill sections. Just brilliant. After Resurrection I hit the Russian Lakes Trails, and managed all the way into the Falls, but the Upper Russian Trail and path around Lower Russian Lake to the cabin was well-blocked by a rather large avalanche. But the path to the Falls was perfection.

This week has seen hill repeats on Goat at lower Tsalteshi, the reopening of the pool, and even some mountain biking planned for tonight.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be picking up grains of sand.

Turns out that when an hourglass breaks, it gets EVERYWHERE.

 

(No title)

Swim like a Brick

Tired of being bored? Thinking of trying something new? Want to suffer like you’ve never suffered before?

Try a Brick Workout.

Coach Angie appears to subscribe to the Nietzsche School of Workouts; to wit, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

We should be plenty strong by now. Last week’s brick workout saw sufficient bouts of near-death that we might be expected to be invincible now. After a rather exciting and involved swim, where we tried to compress 90 minutes of workout into a mere hour, we quickly changed and met outside to run. And run we did. On Ski Hill Road. I’m going to stress the Hill part. There are many hills on Ski HILL Road. Hill, yes. We were to meet by the blue sign, which happened to be about a mile down the road from the starting point.

You might find this astonishing, but I got lost again.

I blew right by the sign and managed to find the Wildlife Refuge Headquarters. It wasn’t open. Back I ran and caught up to the group, which were enjoying an exciting round of hill repeats. Hill repeats feature a brutal sprint up said hill, and then a “recovery” period on the way down. We did this many, many times, then staggered back to the starting point. That night I ran over 4 miles, and my time for the first mile was around 7:30. Not great, but not bad for hilly conditions.

Wednesday we biked again. We were to do a race-pace loop to the College and back. We did, and finished with a decent time. Then we were told we were to do it again, this time faster than the first loop. I did it, but barely. It actually helped to be warmed up from the first go-round.

I was out of town, so missed the remaining workouts for the week, but managed to get a good bit of biking in.

Monday saw more running. On Ski HILL Road, naturally. Of course, this was after a big time P90X Chest and Back and Abs morning workout. We met at the High School again. This time I knew where the one mile mark was, but we didn’t use it. Instead, we blew past all the way to the other side, and then regrouped to do more Hill Repeats. And these were devastating. Repeat after repeat. It’s like the infinite loop I’ve been caught in when I try to follow exactly the instructions on a shampoo bottle.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Lather. Rinse…

I ended up running over six miles. That’s way farther than I have ever run in my life. And much of it was sprinting. Oh, and my time for the first mile was 6:30 – so I’m improving.

The next morning, I was so sore I could barely move. Luckily, I had Masters swimming to look forward to. After two miles of “Broken 500s,” I was feeling the Broken aspect all too well.

This morning I taught P90X Plyometrics, also called Jump Training or “Cry-o-metrics.” It wasn’t easy, as my legs weren’t enthusiastic about having me repeatedly leave the planet.

So now, tonight, we bike the Loop. I have done some tweaks to my lovely borrowed bike (She’s named Celeste.) We’ll see how it goes. Fingers crossed, but I hope to do the entire Loop in under an hour. This of course depends on whether my legs will speak to me.

I think they’re still upset from Cry-o-metrics.

 

Brick by Brick

Bricks are heavy. Most people know this, regardless of if they listened to L7. For last Wednesday’s Tri Class, I was informed we’d be doing a “brick workout.” Not being familiar with the term, I had fleeting thoughts of bricklaying – maybe we could build a foundation for a new edifice! I showed up ready for bike class – indoors again. Coach Angie told us that we were to leave immediately after cycling, change shoes, and go running. This training method – two or more disciplines back-to-back, is called a Brick Workout. Fortunately, it has many other bricklike features, as I was to soon find out. As our hour on the bikes rolled to a close, we jumped off and gathered our gear. This wasn’t easy, as my legs refused to cooperate well, and I looked like a three-sheets-to-the-wind sailor staggering off a ship.

Phase 1 of a Brick Workout: Your legs and feet – they feel like bricks.

Switching into running shoes, we began running. I might add that my gait had not deviated from that of the abovementioned sailor. To wit, I staggered. My calves felt insanely tight, but this moderated after a bit. We ended up running up Water Tower Hill, which has the charming feature of being at an extreme level of elevation compared to the surrounding city – gravity fed water and all that. Not only did we run up it once, we did sprint drills on that hill.

“Recover on the way down!” Coach would yell. Easier said than done.

Phase 2 of a Brick Workout: Your brain has to be over 80% brick to agree to do a brick workout.

We worked on form and psychological aspects of the run segment, which was good, since my body had given up halfway through the first hill climb. The good thing was that it was a gorgeous day, and it was nice to be outside, despite having a brain and legs made out of bricks. Another nice feature: according to my heart rate monitor, my heart still believes I’m in my 20s.

Phase 3 of a Brick Workout: Afterward, you feel like you’ve been pummeled by a great many bricks.

Friday found us cycling indoors as coach gave us important pointers on nutrition necessary for training and competing for events like triathlons. This was in anticipation of Saturday, where we had a fast but brutal swim workout. After a brief hiatus, a group of us got together for a bicycle ride around the Loop – the path/road system between Kenai and Soldotna.

This was the first time I had taken my gorgeous borrowed bicycle outside, so I had no idea what to expect. I had ridden plenty on the trainer, but that’s completely different than actually hurling along outside. I realized that this was the first time I had EVER ridden a true road bike. I had ridden some hybrid mountain/road bikes some two decades ago, but that was it.

I was excited.

We ended up going over 26 miles, with an average speed of 17.5 mph. I think that’s a pretty good starting point. It was way faster than any mountain bike. My borrowed bicycle did brilliantly – smooth and fast and easy to get going. Climbing, in particular, was very fun. Also of note: I hit 36 mph on the downhill from Skyview High School. Good times.

The next day, I did a very less-intensive mountain bike ride between Kenai and Soldotna. I noted how interesting the scenery was – something I had missed completely when road biking.

So, things are rolling (snort) right along with the tri training. I’m going to go for a run tonight before tomorrow’s Swim / Run Brick.

I’ll be the one with the brain and legs made of bricks.

 

Confessions of a Dangerously-Confused Mind

With Triathlon training well underway, I have been dabbling in the various disciplines involved. The most serious, thanks to the Masters class, is swimming, which I have been doing twice a week, and enjoying it very much. I haven’t been training as hard as I would like at cycling, thanks to late meetings or CPR evening classes. My running has been nearly nonexistent – mostly stumbling about on the Dreadmill for a while on mornings when I’m not doing P90X.

As luck would have it, I got an invitation to join a friend’s free cycling class over the weekend. The class was whimsically titled “The Sufferfest” and featured two (!) hours of intense cycling training. Her facility has a great many stationary bikes, a sound system, and giant televisions. The first Hour of Suffering was her own program – interval training mixed with long, long climbs for endurance. THEN, we got to the Extra Special Bonus Suffering. The next hour was a video program that we followed along with – from the perspective of a biker in various races. It was great. And difficult. I’m happy to report that I pushed it hard – as hard as I could. My posterior was not thrilled with the saddle time, but I managed to walk away from the class. Angie, our instructor, was not only pushing harder than anyone else, but encouraging and very helpful.

After the Sufferfest concluded, I decided that it was in my best interest to join her Triathlon-specific training program, which was to begin Monday.

After work yesterday, I rolled up to the SoHi parking lot and met my fellow triathlon enthusiasts. There were a bunch of us. I was apprehensive, as I had that day learned that the day’s lesson was a time trial. For RUNNING.

Yes, my most dreaded form of transportation, aside from moon walking.

“What’s your mile time?” Coach Angie asked. I had no idea. I thought about running in high school (nearly two decades previous).

“Um, seven, eight minutes?” I guessed.

“Okay, you’ll run four miles today, then. I have to see your average heart rate for at least a 30 minute run.”

“Oh…kay?” I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I was reasonably sure I could do three miles, especially if I could walk for a minute or so between miles, but four? I was dubious.

After some warmups, we set out to run.

I began with what I thought was a good seven or eight minute per mile pace, and monitored my heart rate. After a few minutes, I was steadily into the 160s, which is perfect for me, as I felt that I could maintain that pace for a good while. My legs weren’t really used to running, but they were in good shape from P90X and skiing. One mile rolled into two, and I felt surprisingly good. Coming in on the home stretch to mile three, Coach yelled me my three mile time and asked if I wanted to keep going so I could complete my four. Astonishingly, I did, and kept rolling.

This is where things went haywire.

I managed to get lost (in SOLDOTNA!). But I kept running, eventually found my way, and ran all the way back to the SoHi parking lot. I even put on a little extra speed at the end, pushing my heart rate up into the high 170s.

And I felt great! I ran for over 37 minutes straight, and could still do things like speak in complete sentences and not die.

I was blown away. My three mile (5k or thereabouts) time was 22:40 – so there is room for improvement, but that amounts to about a 7:33 minute per mile pace. That I held onto that (and even sped up) for 37 minutes means that I ran for nearly five miles, WITHOUT STOPPING. I’m pretty sure I’ve never done that in my life. My average heart rate during the run was 164, max 177.

So, I was able to run. I am a runner. Gads, I might even be enjoying it.

It seems my most-feared event might be not-so-terrible, so who knows? They might make a runner out of me yet.

Now I just need to stop getting lost.

 

Fit to be Tried.

Well, I’m halfway through the first official week of triathlon training. Why official? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m thinking of someone officiating it. Or perhaps because I’m writing from an office. That’s probably it.

Random digressions aside, I have a schedule and everything:

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Morning P90X Run P90X Run P90X    
Work           Run/ Bike/ Ski Resties!
Evening Bike Swim Ski or rest Swim Bike    

So, I have many opportunities to rest if I need, notably Wednesday night and Sundays.

But let me back up, like I so often do when I Moonwalk on the treadmill. On Thursday, I went swimming for the first time in a great many years. Like 18 years. The instructor is very serious, and she emails workouts the day of training, which feature an inspirational phrase followed by a soul-crushing workout.

“If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain.” Said last night’s workout, followed by over 4000 yards of laps. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s over 2.3 MILES of swimming.

So, I survived Thursday, and in all honesty, it felt good to be back in the water. There were plenty of things I needed to correct, but I was overwhelmed at how much I had changed since high school. I was stronger, probably faster, and my lungs were really good thanks to the ski season. Also: I didn’t die. Silver lining and all that.

This past weekend saw me running hither and yon (have you been to yon lately?) to get my gorgeous borrowed bicyle up to riding shape. First, I stripped off all the unnecessary components (rack, water holders, barbeque) and then found some aero bars, which allow the rider to lean way forward in a most aerodynamic of postures whilst riding, and got a new rear tire tube, because the old one had suffered miserably.

I also acquired a trainer, which allows for indoor riding, because the bike remains in one spot while it spins a magnetically-resisted wheel. It’s pretty fun, and works extremely well. I tried this out Monday night, and spent 35 minutes (I’m building up to more) on the saddle.

Tuesday morning I went to the gym to spend time doing one of Life’s Worst Activities: the treadmill. We should probably rebrand them as Dreadmills. My hiatus time for running is on par with that of swimming – around 18 years. So, I started easy(ish) at 7 mph on some varied inclines. I did this for 10 minutes, then fast walked for one minute. Then I ramped things up to 8 mph on level ground, and put in another 8 minutes, then went to 10 mph for two additional minutes. Then I warmed down for four minutes by brisk walking. I’ll again note that this didn’t kill me, but it did expose some weaknesses. Namely, running. I’m just not that good at it. I think it’s a mechnical thing. My stride rivals that of a drugged giraffe. But, it’s something to work on improving, since it likely can’t get any worse. My legs, lungs and heart are in good shape from skiing and P90X, but my calves and shins were not used to the running motion, so they did protest a bit.

Yesterday’s swimming was great again, even if it was over 2.3 miles of it. My calves did have the tendency to cramp when kicking too much, but I blame this on the morning run. I was able to work with the instructor on improving my technique, such as keeping my face down in the water, as opposed to the old style I learned (during the FIRST Bush Administration – yes, Herbert Walker) of tilting your head slightly up. I also need to glide for a greater distance coming out of turns. And yes, I do flip turns, which is probably a great reason to wear a helmet, but thus far it’s been a moot point.

So tonight, I’m taking a break to let my legs rest up for tomorrow morning’s run, and am happy to report that my training is going swimmingly (snort) and I am eager to continue.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be on the Dreadmill.

 

This week, I’ve raced the Tour of Anchorage, started Phase II of P90X, and am starting to train for the summer triathlon series.This is Exhibit A of having zero social life.

With the new snow, this morning’s P90X class was nearly rebranded as “P-Shovel-for-90-Minutes-So-Mike-Can-Leave-The-Driveway-X.”

On Planetary Alignment

Once again, it appears the planets have aligned sufficiently for me to continue my blog. Life, as it has a way of doing, has become more intricate and involved, both at work and not. For my days spent at work, things have been going swimmingly. A few inservice days with no kids in school meant that school administrators and secretaries have been upping their efforts on getting their schools’ websites up to scratch. This means a great deal more students enrolled in Awesome High School, and a proud new lot of diploma-having Awesome Wombats, ready to use their skills to make their sites the best they can be.

With a Five-Year Plan looming, KPBSD employees and the Kenai Peninsula community are being asked to give feedback to the Five-Year Plan. Everyone is encouraged to participate – the more meaningful and constructive feedback we can give, the better our District has the potential of becoming. See the front page of the KPBSD website for details. And as a heads up, we’ll be seeing more surveys in the coming weeks. Take them seriously. They will help everyone.

In the wide world of sports, the cross-country ski season is rolling, nay, SHUSSHING along. Sunday’s She Can Ski race was the largest ever, with proceeds benefitting the Leeshore Center and the Tsalteshi Trails Association. Mark it on your calendars for next year – it’s on Superbowl Sunday. Rest assured you’ll be home in time for the game. Speaking of the Superbowl, another close one! Of course I’m talking about the halftime show. Thankfully Madonna or Cee Lo Green had no wardrobe malfunctions, but Cee Lo did come onto the stage dressed as an Idi Amin stunt double. Not sure of the take-home message there.

Lastly, I have decided to curtail my skate skiing in favor of classic skiing, as I want to focus on that for the Tour of Anchorage. I have also decided to do the only classic-only (fentoozling) race available – the 25k. I think this will give me a better estimation of how I compare to “real” skiers. I’m nervous but also very excited. Another reason I decided on the shorter race is that I have to start Phase Two of P90X the following day at 6:00 am, and I think it would be best for everyone if I were, you know, alive and stuff.

On the topic of P90X, we’re cruising through Phase One, and have picked up a few new students. Luckily for you, THERE’S STILL ROOM AVAILABLE! It’s never too late to start exercising and getting into the best shape of your life. Next workout is Wednesday morning, and it’s the ever delightful Legs and Back, with a bonus Ab Ripper X thrown in for fun. You don’t have to do anything fancy, JUST SHOW UP  at 6:00 am Wednesday ready to work hard. We’ll be done and out of there well before work. I promise.

Well, it seems that these planets just keep on moving, so it’s time for me to wrap this up – I’m getting ready for next year, where I plan on being a body double for Cee Lo Green or Idi Amin – whoever needs it most.