January 2011 Archives

More nutrition babble.

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Just what you all wanted to read/hear about, right? I realize you're probably growing tired of my regular postings about diet plans, nutrition calculations, workouts, and training routines, but hey - this is my blog, so I'll ramble and babble at will. :-)

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the book and plan from Matt Fitzgerald titled "Racing Weight" and I raved about how cool it was, and how I'd been sticking to the plan without fail. And, while that's all true, I also stumbled across another book titled, "The 4-Hour Body" by Tim Ferriss, and it piqued my interest.

Ferriss is a controversial figure; he's not really an accomplished athlete, and from what I can tell, he's not done much of anything other than write two really popular "4-hour" series books: The 4-Hour Work Week and his newly released The 4-Hour Body. A lot of folks refer to him as a smooth-talking snake oil salesman... not really as credible as someone like Matt Fitzgerald, especially when it comes to promoting approaches toward endurance training and related nutrition.

But, I stumbled across a segment on a recent Doctor Oz show that featured Ferriss talking about some of his theories. He talked about how cold temperatures (ice baths, training outdoors with minimal clothing, ice packs on the neck) can accelerate fat loss by activating "brown fat." He talked about how to minimize damage while binge eating by using cinnamon, grapefruit juice, and some basic large-muscle exercises prior to eating something sweet. And he talked about a few other things, all of which drove me to download his book (via Amazon's Kindle Application for the Mac and iPhone) - it was only $5.00, so I figured it was worth a skim.

And, I've got to say, he's got some interesting ideas. But more importantly, he appears to have a bunch of data to back-up his theories. He has apparently measured, monitored, recorded, and analyzed every single bit of diet-related data for himself for at least 10 years. He had a blood glucose meter permanently implanted in his abdomen because he found there was too much inconsistency with the traditional finger-stick systems. He's spent over $250,000 on lab tests, blood analysis, body composition, DNA tests, and so on (granted, all supposedly). If he is as silver-tongued as some claim, he's surely earned the title.

Anyway, I took away a few ideas from the book and have implemented them in addition to my Racing Weight plans, namely:

- Slow Carbs are key. Avoid eating anything that is, was, or ever could've been white: sugars, wheats, potatoes, dairy, and so on. Instead, focus on eating as many "slow carbs" as you wish - lentils, black beans, spinach, kale, broccoli, and so on. Avoid sugar-laden fruits or veggies like bananas, carrots, berries, and so on.

- Protein is your friend. He suggests eating 30g of protein with each meal. For me, that's equivalent to a 6-ounce chicken breast, or 5 egg whites, or 4-6 ounces of pork or fish, or a protein shake. Pretty easy to accomplish. He suggests 4-servings of protein + slow carbs each day.

- Timing of protein is critical, especially in the morning. He advocates that people do two things immediately upon waking: drink 500mL of ice cold water, followed by a "meal" of at least 30g of protein. Ideally, you'd eat your breakfast meal within 30-minutes of waking up.

- Fat isn't the enemy. Healthy fats are good for you, but avoid "trigger fats" - foods that are easy to trigger an eating spree, like nuts or peanut butter, for example (most commercially available peanut butters include a boatload of added sugar, by the way, so they're not a great idea regardless). Avocado, Brazil nuts, and (who knew) Macadamia Nut Oil are preferred.

Why Macadamia Nut Oil instead of Olive Oil? Olive Oil, it turns out, is rather "unstable" - it goes rancid when exposed to air or light for any length of time. It's not heat stable. It's a great oil, no doubt, but in our market it's anything but ideal because of its volatility. Macadamia Nut Oil is much more stable and actually has more of the "good" fats. I scored some last weekend and have been using it with a pump aerosol sprayer from MISTO with great success. It's incredibly delicious - I lightly mist my broccoli, add some pepper, throw it in a 400-degree oven for 12 minutes and WOW. Much better than using olive oil. So far, after using it for a week and a few days, I've used just slightly more than 1-tablespoon in total... that MISTO pump rocks (available at Bed Bath & Beyond for $9).

- Schedule one cheat day per week. He wants you to trick your metabolism back into overdrive by eating whatever you want for one day each week. He suggests using the "anti-damage" binge controls (grapefruit juice, cinnamon, and squats) to help stabilize your blood sugar, but other than that - go crazy. Have at it. Just get right back on the plan the next morning.

- Don't rely on supplements, vitamins, or other stuff. I agree. I do take a multivitamin, some calcium, and some Omega-3s each day, but that's it. Nothing exotic or too crazy.

What don't I agree with from Ferriss?

- Less is more for exercise. He claims that you can add tons of lean mass by working out for just 10 minutes a week with Kettle Bells. That may be true, but I've got to keep-up with my running, riding, and swimming. Sorry, Tim.

- Protein timing. I fully realize the benefit of eating breakfast - I notice that as soon as I stop doing so, I gain weight, even if I'm restricting calories. But, I also recognize the benefit of a "fasted workout" from time-to-time, so I'm torn on this one... I've tentatively planned to eat breakfast immediately after my morning bike rides (30-45 minutes most days, save for the weekends, which last 2+ hours); that gets me a fasted workout in the morning, and I still eat within 1hr of waking, which I hope is ok.

- Ice Baths. I appreciate that they work wonders for sore legs, and they may help speed-up your metabolism, but yikes - they're painful and difficult. I tried taking a fresh ice bath this weekend (after a 9-mile run) and couldn't do it. The water temp was 48F and it was freakin' painful. I sat in it for about 3 minutes and jumped out. Sorry, Tim.

- Some of his other theories around "the body" as it pertains to exercise/mass, testosterone, and so on. I'm just not interested in adding 30-lbs of muscle or increasing my testosterone levels, so I didn't bother with those chapters.


So there you have it. What's the net change from my original plan?

- I've cut sugar from my diet from 35-40 grams per day down to less than 10 grams.

- I've added a little fat to my diet by way of Macadamia nut oil and "regular" (nitrate-free) bacon (with breakfast). By the way, one of my new favorite breakfast meals goes like this: slowly pan fry 2 slices of nitrate-free bacon (60 calories), remove, drain on paper towels, and pour off the excess grease. Add 2 cups of frozen chopped spinach to the pan, using the residual bacon grease to prevent sticking (75 calories). Cook until spinach is tender, add pepper to taste. Mix in 5 egg whites, stir regularly until eggs are cooked (80 calories). Remove from heat, and serve with 1-cup of cooked black beans (140 calories) and the bacon. All told, you've got a monster breakfast that totals 355 calories. It literally keeps me full for a solid 6 hours, and it's super tasty. You could get away with 3-4 egg whites and 1/2 cup of beans if you wished, and that would drop the calories to about 275...

- Slow carbs only. My carb sources now come solely from black beans, lentils, broccoli/cauliflower, tomatoes (1 per day), and Lawash wraps (1-2 per week as a treat at lunch).

- Water, water, water. No Splenda. I still drink a Diet Dew or Pepsi Maxx every day, but I limit myself to one.

And that's about it. The rest of my plans stay true to the Racing Weight guide. I've seen a 1.1% drop in body fat since January 16, and my overall weight is holding fairly steady. I didn't include a cheat day this weekend, but with the Superbowl coming next week, I figure I'll probably indulge a bit, so that'll be good. Immediately following the game, I start the heavy-duty marathon training schedule, so I'll be interested to see how Ferriss' ideas work with the endurance training efforts.

I've noticed even fewer cravings since last week, and my energy levels have been really good, so that's a good sign. I did eat like a maniac for a few days about 2 weeks ago, but have "recovered" and am back on-track, thank goodness.

If you'd like to watch the video clips from the Doctor Oz show, you can see them here:

Part I

Part II

Part III

I spent my Sunday riding from Madison to Eau Claire with a newfound friend - a "hitchhiker" of sorts, if you will. His name was Bryce and he was the perfect traveling partner; quiet, relaxed, grateful, and really fun. I was lucky to spend 3 hours with him in the 'ole car.

What?! "Steve picked-up a hitchhiker? What next?"

Here's me and Bryce, riding along, somewhere on I-94 north of Tomah:

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Not quite what you may have pictured, eh? Hehe.

I had an opportunity to help a group of rescues transport five (5) dogs and one (1) cat from various locations in the south to a rescue and/or final homes in Minneapolis. It was my first-ever venture with transporting a large group of animals as part of a multi-leg "tour." It was pretty interesting, and the folks who coordinated the trip did an amazing job of lining everything up.

It started with an e-mail from the transport coordinator that was re-posted on a message board at my workplace. The e-mail begged for volunteers to help drive/shuttle these dogs and cat - they really needed drivers to cover the legs from Illinois through Minneapolis. I looked at the available legs and the approximate timeframes and figured, "eh, what the heck? I'll give it a shot."

So, I e-mailed the coordinator and volunteered to drive from Madison to Eau Claire. The only problem was that the Prius can only accommodate one or two dogs at the most, but I had nothing to worry about as the transport had lined-up at least two vehicles per leg to help accommodate the six furry passengers. It also turned out that the Madison legs were covered, but they asked if I could drive from the Wisconsin Dells to Eau Claire. I said, "No problemo," and prepared to meet the other transport drivers in Wisconsin Dells at around 12:15pm on Sunday.

We met at a convenient location near the interstate, figured out who would transport who, swapped leashes, handed-off paperwork, and prepared to hit the road. Here's a few of the other volunteers from the transport - I believe these folks drove from somewhere in central Illinois:

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Bryce, my passenger, was a lab-mix of sorts and appeared to be 2-3 years old. He was surrendered to a shelter in Georgia because he was supposedly "uncontrollable" and "wild." If he was wild, I'll eat my shoes. He may have been one of the sweetest dogs I've ever met - an absolute gentleman in every respect.

He immediately jumped into the car and sat respectfully near the back hatch. I sat down next to him and snapped a quick photo of us together. He's about 45-50lbs - perfect size.

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The weather was awesome, and the traffic was light, so the trip went really quickly. According to the GPS, I drove about 145-miles with Bryce by my side. I had him tethered to the inside of the car with a carabiner and a 4-foot leash, but he really wanted to sit in the passenger seat, so after a few miles I decided to let him ride shotgun with me. He curled-up into a classic "dog ball," rested his head on the armrest, and snoozed away. I'd pet him every so often, talked to him a bit, and enjoyed my time with him - I really do miss Monica, Regis, and Riley... dogs are simply awesome.

Before I knew it, we were in Eau Claire, so I started telling Bryce about what was going to happen next and that I was going to miss him. He sat-up and tried to talk a bit - I think I got him a little excited...

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We met-up with the next shuttle drivers just north of Eau Claire, I bid Bryce farewell (along with the other four dogs that rode in the other vehicle), and headed back to Madison. The trip back went just as quickly - 175.8 miles later and I was back in Madison - total mileage roundtrip? Just over 350. But well worth it. I'll definitely do this again - it was really rewarding and enjoyable.

The only unenjoyable part? Dealing with AT&T's horrible cell coverage. Man, are they awful - AT&T has to be the worst cell provider on the planet; if I didn't love the iPhone so much, I'd drop them in a second (and probably still will when my current contract expires). Here's what I saw for signal strength during 75-80% of my trip along I-94 from Tomah to Eau Claire (look in the upper left corner):

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Only about a year until I can switch to a reputable, reliable cell company like US Cellular.

w00t for Zoot!

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For those not familiar with the slang term, "w00t" here's wikipedia's definition. It's basically a typo'd version of the word "woohoo" if you don't feel like reading the entire definition.

Woot also happens to be the name of a website that offers incredible one-day-only deals on everything from blenders to composters to water bottles and what have you. I've seen 60" plasma televisions on woot for $999 with $5 shipping, and brand new digital cameras for $29.95.. and the deal changes every day at midnight (today's deal is a 48-pack of Colgate disposable toothbrushes for $4.99 with $5 shipping). When it's gone, it's gone.

Anyway... I'm "w00ting" because I just scored a spectacular deal on a new pair of shoes from a company called "Zoot." Zoot is a triathlon-focused clothing and shoe company that got its start at one of the early Ironman races in Kona, Hawaii way back in 1983. They innovated the idea of the dedicated "triathlon race suit" - something that would allow an athlete to swim, ride, and run without having to change their clothing during the transitions.

Prior to the invention of the triathlon suit, an athlete would start the race in a swim suit, change into their biking shorts, and then change into their running shorts. All of those wardrobe changes made for slow transitions and slower finishing times, so the triathlon suit was a novel and impressive idea - no more changing meant faster race times.

As legend has it, the company name came by way of some german athletes who were mispronouncing the word "suit" - they were looking for those cool new "triathlon zoots" and I guess the name stuck.

I've bought some Zoot stuff in the past, and while it's really nice, it's usually really expensive... so when I stumbled across a running store from Minnesota that was going out of business and clearing its inventory, I took advantage of the opportunity and jumped on a pair of Zoot Ultra Tempo 2.0 running shoes.

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Not bad for $35 shipped to my door! They would normally cost $120-$130.

They're super light - about 6.5oz per shoe, are fast to put-on (big loops for grabbing with thumbs, speed laces), and don't require socks - the insides are completely seamless and lined with a foot-friendly material. I wore them around today and like 'em, even if they are a bit "loud."

I'll probably use them primarily for walking-around shoes as they don't have a ton of "guidance" - my foot pronates when I run, so I need a stability shoe for most of my running/training efforts. I may use them in a few races, just to see how they work out.

And speaking of racing, I have tentatively identified my racing schedule for 2011. It's looking like there will be three marathons, two half-marathons, two half-ironmans, and with any luck, the Madison-to-Chicago 200 relay race. The marathons will be a challenge, but I'd like to knock a few of them out, and I'm not getting any younger, so I suppose there's no time like 2011.

I'm focusing the last few weeks of January as my "cutting" weeks - lower mileage running/biking/swimming with emphasis on an extremely clean diet (save for an upcoming cheat day that I have planned). Then, on February 7, I start the marathon-focused training (with plenty of biking/swimming/lifting added).

Cleaning up

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I managed to pick-up a cold earlier this week and I chalked it up to everyone and his brother from my workplace being sick. If I didn't know better, I'd posture that my office is actually an infirmary filled with salaried patients who are carrying and sharing things like walking pneumonia, whooping cough, and countless other infectious diseases - everyone is coughing, hacking, sneezing, wheezing, and looking just miserable. I tried to fight it as best I could - I washed my hands a dozen times a day, wiped down every shared surface with Lysol wipes, used hand sanitizer, doubled-up on the vitamin C, but I still caught something... ugh.

To make matters worse, Mack (one of the cats) also came down with a really nasty cold as well. She'd been sleeping nearly 24/7, coming out only to eat a little, drink a little, and every so often to stare at me with her "I'm so miserable," look. We actually sat staring at each other for a number of minutes - me on the couch, sore throat just scorching; her on the floor, eyes running and green goo coming from her nose.

And then the humidifier kicked-on, and I wondered, "What if the humidifier made us both sick?"

It didn't really dawn on me that the humidifier could've been the culprit until that very moment. I pulled my Lasko humidifier from storage just a few days earlier, filled it with water, and set it to "high." About 2 days later, Mack was sick. About 2 days after that, I was sick.

So, I busted out the internet and did some research. Turns out you're supposed to clean a humidifier pretty regularly - like at least once every 2 weeks. Whoops! I'd never cleaned it (although I got it in January of last year, used it for 2 months, drained it, and then stored it in a box until last week). Hmm.

I learned that you're supposed to use a bleach/water solution to disinfect the tank, the reservoir, and any areas that hold water. A white-vinegar/water solution used after the disinfecting will help break down any scale or crusty mineral build-ups. And, you're not supposed to "run" the humidifier with either solutions in place - you disassemble the humidifier, clean it, rinse it super well, replace any filters, reassemble it, and enjoy the clean humidity.

So, I set about cleaning the dickens out of the humidifier and was shocked to discover how gross the inside of it was. I took time to wash everything with soapy water prior to using the bleach solution, and I used a toothbrush and some srubber pads to make certain I removed any crud from every visible area. I soaked the reservoir and tank in the bleach solution for an hour or so, rinsed everything, and then repeated the process with my vinegar solution.

A quick trip to Menards yielded a new filter (and for just $4.99). I reassembled everything, filled it with fresh cold water, and fired it up. It certainly smelled more clean, and now, 2 days later, both Mack and I appear to be doing much better. You might want to take a moment to clean your own humidifier - it's pretty easy and if it helps keep you healthy, it's worth the effort. Oh - I also learned that a lot of the commercial treatment products/additives may be harmful to your health, so if possible, take the time to use the soap, bleach, vinegar approach.

Here's my nice clean humuggity machine:

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I also cleaned the rest of the apartment from top to bottom - windows, cupboards, floors, light switches, the refrigerator/freezer, the stove/oven, dishwasher, and so on... Everything was moved, vacuumed behind, and thoroughly cleaned. It's so nice to have a clean place!

And finally, speaking of cleaning, you're all aware of my efforts to manage my diet/exercise/performance/composition ratios. I've talked about a bunch of plans and so on, and for the most part things have gone really well. But I'm trying to perfect and extract the last few bits of performance from myself - I know my ideal racing weight, but it's really difficult to maintain it. I usually undereat for a period of time, then overeat for a day or two - rinse/lather/repeat. It's really frustrating.

So, a while back, I bought a book called Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald. I read it, loosely mapped a plan, but never really followed it - I just didn't quite "get it" at that time. Matt is an elite coach and athlete, but I couldn't buy into his theories - I was convinced that eating less calories was the key to maintaining my racing weight (based on his theories, I would've needed to double my calorie intake to maintain my ideal racing weight). His theories seemed counter-intuitive, and my body is pretty calorie adverse - I can perform really well on a small number of calories; adding calories causes my weight to rise and my bodyfat percentage to increase as well.

It's terribly frustrating, because most nutritionists, coaches, etc. all preach that "carbs are king" for endurance athletes, and that endurance athletes of my size would need to eat around 2800 calories per day, just to maintain their current weight. I can all but guarantee that if I ate anywhere near 2800 calories per day, I'd balloon up by 20-30lbs in no time flat. Apparently my metabolism hates me.

Well, he recently came out with a follow-up book called Racing Weight: Quick Start Guide - A 4-week weight loss plan for endurance athletes, and I was intrigued. I read some reviews about it and decided to give it a visit.

While many of the underlying principles are identical to his original book, he has modified the approach, so I decided to give it a go. I sat down a few weeks ago to read the book cover-to-cover and to map out an appropriate plan. Some of the theories are still complex, but this most recent book offers more of a "step-by-step" plan which I found really interesting and (potentially) helpful. Here are some of my calculations in progress:

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I've been following the plan "to-the-T" for just over a week, and so far, so good. I have absolutely no cravings for any of my normal vices (donuts, cookies, cake, popcorn), and my composition figures appear to be starting to head in the right direction. We'll see how it goes as time progresses.

Strap-in folks, this is going to be one heckuva long entry - don't say I didn't warn you.

Story 1: The Bitter Break-up

They say that all good things must come to an end - be it a meal, a vacation, or in some instances, a relationship. And, sadly, I must report the end of what was at one time a very beautiful relationship - my love affair with the Tyranena Brewery.

Yes friends, I've officially "broken-up" with that infamous Lake Mills microbrewery. After the events that unfolded last night, I've vowed to never patronize their location, never purchase any of their beverages (be it from the brewery, a bar, or the grocery store), rid myself of all Tyranena-branded clothing, and never participate in another one of their events.

Why? What happened? I believe that I, along with many other folks, were effectively cheated on by the brewery. Here's how the story goes.

The brewery has what's known as a "mug club" that is a fairly exclusive "club" with some cool benefits. Members of the mug club purchase a limited-edition, hand-made, ceramic mug for $50 from the brewery, and for the period of one year, can enjoy $4 refills from the brewery via their personalized mug. Your mug stays at the brewery, and any time you come in for a beverage, they grab your mug, fill it with your beverage of preference, and you get about 1.5 pints for $4. When you're done, they wash it and return it to storage. At the end of the year, you get to keep your mug, and you're given a 1-day window/opportunity to renew your membership for the next year by purchasing another $50 mug (new design and all of that fun stuff).

It's a pretty exclusive club, as I've mentioned. So much so, in fact, that they hold a lottery drawing for the few available slots that open up each year. To enter the lottery, you must travel to the brewery and officially enter your name into the drawing. This "registration period" opens on Thanksgiving and closes on New Year's Eve. You're allowed to register yourself once per day, and you must do so in person - you can't have someone else register you; can't do it online; etc.

When I learned of this club, I decided to register. So, I made many, many, many special trips to Lake Mills for the sole purpose of registering my name as many times as possible. All told, I believe I registered nearly 20 times between Thanksgiving and New Year's. And, it's not a short trip for me to travel to the brewery - roundtrip, it totals at just under 100 miles. That's nearly 2,000 miles that I put on, all with the hope of having a fair shot at gaining entry into this club.

Complicating matters even more, the brewery holds the club drawing on a Saturday night in January, and you must be present at the moment they call your name, or you lose your opportunity. The drawing was held on January 8, 2011 from 7:00pm to 10:00pm. There were 9 slots available, and they drew the names approximately once per hour, on the hour.

Sounds like a fair system, eh? The more often you go to the brewery, the better your odds. And, since the names were to be drawn "at random," you should have a fair shot at getting in. Ah, but that's where you (and I) are wrong.

As 7:00pm approached, I watched the owner of the brewery get up from his table, navigate through the huge crowd, walk to his office, and return with a large mug that was filled with registration slips. I figured he would take it to the stage (where a band was playing) and begin the drawing.

But he didn't. He returned to his table and started fishing around in the mug, pulling out registration slips, examining them, showing them to his table of pals, and then either leaving them out of the mug, or placing them back into the mug. After fiddling through the slips for about 10 minutes, he carefully walked to the stage where the singer took the first few slips from the mug and "winners" were announced.

I turned to my friends, who were as dumbfounded as I was. We couldn't believe what we had just seen. We tried to justify it by thinking that the owner must have been "filtering" people that he knew weren't there. But, when the second drawing approached, he did the same thing, but this time, he kept digging through the registration slips until he found the slip that appeared to belong to someone sitting at his table... when he spotted it, he showed it to the girl who "owned" the slip, who nodded, and surprise - the slip went back into the "hat."

Wow. So much for a fair shot. We were all so upset by what we had seen that we debated an immediate departure, but decided to tough it out for the final drawing. And surprise, it went exactly like the other two... rifle through the slips, nod/shake your head as he looked at them, and "draw" winners... ugh. I felt as though I had been sucker-punched. It was simply unbelievable.

I can't confirm that he was actually "hand selecting" winners from the hat, but I can't figure out what else could've been happening... like I said, if he was pre-filtering non-attending folks, why? Why wouldn't the singer just reach in, fumble around, call a name, and if the person wasn't present, repeat the process until they found someone who was actually there? It all seemed pretty fishy to me (and my friends)...

We left, and I promised to never support, visit, patronize, or mention the brewery ever again. When I returned home, I rounded-up my brewery apparel and threw it in the trash. Seriously. Call me overly dramatic, or call it sour grapes, but that whole experience left a really bad taste in my mouth.

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Story 2: Taking Temperatures: Is it that difficult?

After last night's fiasco at the brewery, I felt the need to get out this morning and run. Really run - like Forrest Gump run - to get some of that anger out of the 'ole system. So, after feeding the cats, I took a peek at my indoor/outdoor weather station and saw that it showed 15F. A little chilly, but not unbearable.

I then turned-on the television and tuned to the local weather station, which showed the outside temperature was 8F. Hmm - now, that's a variance... Confused, I fired-up the computer, went to weather.com, and saw that they were reporting 12F. Alrighty, then...

I decided to go with the "average" temperature and dressed for what I believed was going to be a run in 12F weather. Yes, it was sunny, and there wasn't any wind, but 12F is still pretty nippy, so I put on a wool t-shirt, a wool baselayer, and my very favorite Sporthill 3SP jacket. I put on cold-gear tights, my baclava, gloves, and then hit the road.

Within the first mile, I was sweating like crazy. Not good. I unzipped the jacket, lifted the baclava, and removed my gloves. That helped a lot, but I was soon too cold, so I put the gloves back on and pulled down the baclava. So that's how it was going to be... oh well. I soldiered through the cycles of being too warm followed by being too cold, but I almost fell over when I ran past one of two banks and saw that their temperature gauge was showing 32F. Really? 32F?

As soon as I returned home (9.7 miles later), I flipped on the television and the computer... here's what they showed (this was at about 11:30am).

My weather station is first - the outdoor sensor is on my deck, in the shade:

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Up next is the televison - here's what NBC Channel 15 was reporting for Madison's current temperature as of 11:34am:

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Here's what Weatherbug was reporting via my phone - this temperature sensor is about 2 blocks from the apartment:

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And, to prove I wasn't making-up the bank's temperature reading, I hopped in the car and took a quick spin to document their temperature reading:

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Followed by the other bank that I run past - look at the "swing" between the two banks:

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And last but not least, here's what my pathological liar of a car was showing:

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Really? With all of the technology that's available to us these days, we can't even take an accurate, consistent temperature reading? It's no wonder the weather-guessers have such a bad rap... I personally believe it was about 20-25F outside, based on how warm I felt on my run, but what do I know?


The Elusive White Whale & The Most Useless Signs in Wisconsin

Speaking of running, every so often, I've spotted an unbelievable vehicle that I've tried to tell people about but always failed to convey how impressively grotesque this vehicle was... words simply couldn't do it justice. It was my elusive white whale - a tale of lore - non-existent or under-appreciated without a photo to document its existence.

So imagine my delight when I spied the white whale while I was running around taking photos of bank temperature signs. :-)

Folks, I present to you what may be the most filthy car in existence. A 1990s Mercury Sable sedan, filled literally to the roof, with garbage - mostly coffee cups and mail.

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As mentioned, I've seen the car several times over the past 1.5 years, but it's always been while I was running and didn't have a camera with me. I've seen it mostly at fast food restaurants, gas stations, and parked alongside the road. And, believe it or not, but I've seen the driver, who appears to be an otherwise "normal" looking person - if I saw him in the office, I'd never dream that he was driving around in what is literally a dumpster.

The last time I saw the white whale (my nickname for it), the garbage was about "headrest high" - there was still a gap between the garbage and the roof. But today, it appeared to be almost completely filled. I wonder what'll happen when it really does run out of available space?


And finally, I present to you the most worthless road signs in all of Wisconsin:

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I swear to you that not a single person in this state believes in following any posted speed limit. Everyone speeds and tailgates like the dickens... there's a school zone near the apartment that has a "your speed is:" radar thing, and I've never once seen it show less than 33 mph (speed limit is 25; 15 when children are present). I see it every day - cars fly through there without regard for the speed limit... and if I'm in front of them, traveling at 25mph, it's guaranteed that I'll be tailgated, flipped off, brighted, and on two occasions, passed.

The kicker? I was running through the school zone area yesterday and I saw the radar thing show a speed of 38mph. I turned to look, and sure enough, here came a minivan, barreling through the school zone. I kept running and saw a cop was sitting in the school parking lot, radar gun in hand. "TAKE THAT!" I thought to myself, certain the cop would bust the speeder.

Wrong again. The cop just sat there. The van slammed on its brakes as soon as it saw the cop, nose dived, and then crept past the cop as if it hadn't been speeding. The cop was sitting literally 10-15 yards "beyond" the speed readout sign, so he HAD to know the van's speed.

As I ran past the cop, I held both hands up in a shrug and said, "REALLY? NOT SPEEDING?" The cop looked at me, then looked back down the road. Nice. I'm going to wager a wild guess that had the speeder been anyone other than a suburban mom in a minivan (like say a kid, or a person of color), that there would've been a citation issued.

Gotta' love it.

Oh, and speaking of love (and irony) - as I was taking the picture of the speed limit sign this morning, I spied this sitting immediately in front of the sign:

speed_beer.jpg

Perfect. Speeding + drinking + a major city street = WIN. You've got to love Wisconsin... or at least the awful drivers.

Is it 2011 already? Seriously?!

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Wow, where did the year go? It seems like only yesterday I was writing a blog entry about the Madison-to-Chicago 200 race... and that was in June or July. I guess time really does fly when you're having fun. Now if only I was having fun... :-)

Actually, I can't complain much (although it doesn't stop me). 2010 was a pretty decent year, all things considered. I'm lucky enough to have a job, a roof over my head, decent health, and a great network of friends - yeah, I guess everything is pretty much A-OK. It doesn't hurt that Sirius hit $1.69 today, either.

It's been a few days since my last entry; not much has happened, but I'll do my best to bore you with the mundane details of my uneventful holiday season. My offices were closed on Friday, December 24, so I had arranged to hang with Dan & Tara and to spend the night with them at their home. Due to some major miscommunication, plans fell through and I found myself stuck in Madison without any food in the apartment (I planned to grocery shop upon my return), and absolutely nothing open.

I understand it was Christmas Eve and all that jazz, but I honestly drove 40+ miles around Madison looking for something that was open and found nothing. Not a single gas station, not the WalMart, not the Woodmans, nor the Cub, nor Copps - nothing. Well, there were some Chinese restaurants that were open, but they were either slammed or completely dead (never a good sign)... and I'm not much of a fan of Chinese food, so I passed on them all.

So, I returned back to the apartment and enjoyed (not exaggerating) my last 1/3 cup of Fiber One cereal with 1/3 cup of water (I didn't have any milk or Almond Breeze) and a small bag of frozen peas for dinner. Making matters worse, I didn't eat much earlier in the day, as I was planning to eat dinner in Lake Mills. And to serve the final dagger - both of my obnoxious and inconsiderate neighbors were having raucous parties, so I got to listen to competing Christmas tunes and drunk people screaming loudly until about 3:30am. Fun. And people wonder why I dislike Christmas... (and my neighbors)

Things were quickly salvaged by Christmas morning, and I found myself over at Dan and Tara's where I enjoyed some of Dan's signature egg nog French toast (it was delicious) along with some good company. Dan's sister (and her husband and son) were in town, so we all hung out at Dan's parent's house and caught-up with each other. It was really enjoyable, and thanks for the gifts - you guys didn't have to get me anything!

I left Lake Mills so that I could catch-up with my Aunt, Uncle, cousin (and her husband), my cousin-in-law (and his son), and Parmilla (and her husband) for a late dinner. Parmilla is a person that I met back in the late 1990s when she was a foreign exchange student/guest of my Aunt and Uncle's. I hadn't spoken with her or heard from her in 12+ years, so it was a shock when I received a voicemail/invitation to meet-up with everyone for dinner.

Truth be told, I was a bit nervous to meet-up with everyone as I've not been getting along with the family for a while now, but it was extremely great to see Warren, Linda, Leanne, Jeff, David, Lee, Parmilla, and Daniel. I really - honestly - enjoyed hanging out with them, and I need to keep in better touch with them. They are all such wonderful people; they "get" me, they "accept" me, and I really appreciate their honesty and "realness." Here we all are at dinner - one of the waitstaff from the restaurant was kind enough to snap our picture (lighting was dim, so photo is blurry):

xmas.jpg

We talked non-stop until around midnight and then called it an evening. I really did enjoy seeing everyone and it was great to catch-up with Parmilla (who is now living in the US with her husband, Daniel). Lots of good stories were shared, plenty of beverages were consumed, and I personally believe that I nearly cleaned the kitchen of all available food - a good night, for certain.

I spent the rest of the weekend recovering from eating way too much; did a little snow shoeing, a lot of running, and a lot of riding on the trainer. I had to work during the week between the holidays, but it was OK as nearly everyone else was on vacation so I was able to get a lot of things wrapped-up thanks to the quiet nature of things around the office.

On Tuesday night, I was invited to celebrate Dan and Tara's wedding anniversary, so I joined them and the family at the 1855 Saloon in Cottage Grove. We had a good dinner, great conversation, and a really enjoyable time. Here's Dan's brother-in-law, Mark, sharing a (lengthy) story about having to retrieve a vehicle from a shop in Watertown:

mark_anniversary.jpg

We called it an evening at around 9:00pm; we all had to work the following day, and I was trying really hard to not overeat... I had an excellent grilled chicken salad - the food from the 1855 appeared to be good; the desserts looked incredible, but alas, I was good and took a raincheck on the sweets.

On Thursday, Amy stopped by to attend a hockey game along with our friends Jed and Jamie. Jamie won some really killer seats to the game (along with a parking pass - score!), so we agreed to meet-up at Jordan's Big 10 Pub for some appetizers before the game. Here we are in our booth, enjoying some cheese curds, some guacamole bites, and some mozzarella sticks:

hockey_jordan.jpg

Jordan's has some awesome fried goodies, I must admit. I tried to be good and had a soup and salad, although a few curds did manage to fall into my mouth along the way... :-)

We headed over to the Kohl Center for the game, which Wisconsin handily won. They literally trounced Massachusetts in a 5 to 1 romp; there was tons of scoring which kept things really interesting. Here's the view from our seats - thanks again to Jed and Jamie for the tickets!!!!

hockey_game.jpg

And here we are, in our row:

hockey_seats.jpg

We called it a night - we actually left the game a few minutes early - but not before heading over to the Come Back In for a beverage and some of that infamous popcorn. The stuff is so good, but oh so evil - it's pure crack, I swear. I could eat their popcorn every single day and be completely happy. It doesn't help that they cook it in oil and load it with butter and salt...

For New Year's Eve, I hung out with Amy at her parent's house and got to play some Scattergories, just like old times. It was really fun, I truly enjoyed it, and I really appreciated hanging out with everyone at the house. Thanks again for the hospitality!

New Year's Day started with a really chilly 8K (5-mile) race called The New Years Day Dash. It was hosted at the local Quaker Steak and Lube (wings/beer/burgers/sports bar) and kicked-off at 11:00am.

Oh - I forgot to mention that the temperature dropped dramatically on New Years Day... it was 48F when I left Amy's parent's house at 11:00pm the night before, and it was a whopping 6F when I left the apartment to start the race... that's 42F lower in just 12 hours' time! And, to make matters worse, there was a super strong wind - averaged 20+ mph, with gusts to 35mph. Nice! Here are the weather conditions as recorded just before the race started:

race_temp.png

I ran to the race, as I live about 2 miles from the Quaker Steak, and by the time I arrived to the race, my face was thoroughly frozen. Everything else was plenty warm, but the portions of my cheeks and nose that weren't covered by my "one piece" hat/face/neck warmer thingy were literally frozen.

I ran the race - started near the back of the pack (to avoid direct windshot) but quickly found myself working my way to the front. The wind was so strong that many people were literally walking, leaned fully forward, and cursing the wind. I was able to chug through, and thanks to my Sporthill 3SP windproof gear (jacket and pants), I never once felt the wind against my torso or legs. That stuff is worth its weight in gold, I swear! One single layer of the Sporthill 3SP gear is rated to 0F, is windproof to 35mph, and waterproof. Yet it breathes. It's amazing - buy some.

Finished the race in 65th place with a time of 39:23, for an average pace of 7:53/mile. Not bad, especially given the conditions. Here's a shot of my number and some of the cold weather gear - the Sporthill jacket is on the far left; my head warmer-thing to the right, and my super toasty gloves to the right as well.

race_gear.jpg

After the race, I ran back to the apartment, rode the trainer for a few hours, and then took a nice warm shower. I watched the Rose Bowl over at Dan and Tara's house, ate way too much food, and then called it a night.

Well, that's it for now... enjoy your 2011, best wishes to everyone, and I'll be back with another story sometime soon.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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