Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Photo Essay that's mostly essay: 2013-14 early offseason

There was once a time I thought I wanted to be a the point where my parents even bought me a nice (by the standards of non-photographers in the year 2001 with a mind that I was 11 and had earned the nickname of "Baby Destructo" as a wee one. So it wasn't actually that nice; it just wasn't disposable) digital camera. So that didn't last long, naturally. I also grew up in a household where my mom was a newspaper editor. Probably around the same time, age 11 or so, it got increasingly frequent that she would call back home and ask for help with a headline or caption, or the occasional pseudo fact check if it was anything sports-related. Remember, this was at a time when "google" was only a noun, both the common noun number, as well as the proper noun company. It was a few years before it entered the general lexicon. It took until 2006 to be worthy of addition to the Oxford English Dictionary, a feat achieved recently by "twerking," "selfie," and "srsly," much to the chagrin of junior-high educated people everywhere. Nevertheless, I learned a bit about writing, and although I revoked my mom's paper-looking-over authority when I got to high school and decided the reason I wasn't getting As on my English papers anymore was because she was removing all the fluff, I definitely developed more of her sense of written humor and style because of this. I don't get to use it too much anymore because I have a feeling it would be frowned upon if I put some sort of multiple-layered humor into my inspection reports at work.
What does any of this have to do with triathlons, which is supposedly the reason I occupy a couple bytes on Blogger's servers? Good question. I am still working on a more drawn-out philosophical post that's actually more about economics than philosophy or political theory, but in the mean time, I've decided that some of the photos I've taken on my iPhone deserve more than the remainder of the 140 characters I get on Twitter to caption it once the URL to the photo is put in, which usually leaves me somewhere just over 100 characters. And to tie back to my original point about my digital camera: despite being over two years old (practically ancient), my iPhone 4S takes FAR, FAR better photos than that digital camera ever did. At one point I had a brief rebirth of my desire to be a photographer, but it was at best one-tenth-hearted (as opposed to half-hearted), in that all I did was buy lenses that attach to your phone.
So, because I have slowed off on using Facebook because there are too many children and engagements and political debates going on there, and because I've gradually turned my Twitter feed into an Instagram feed but refuse to get Instagram because of the abundance of #hashtags and heart-shaped foam in $38 coffee-related drinks, I present you, my photo essay from the early offseason 2013-14, complete with at least some captions >>140 characters.

I pretty much started the offseason by retiring a pair of running shoes. This isn't quite as emotional as retiring a swimsuit or drag suit, but it's close, especially because I finally started to break through a plateau in the old green ones.
I spent the better part of a day trying to figure out how and why a bulbous bow works when somebody asked me at work. If my desk wasn't in a windowless closet and/or I'd had a grease pencil, you bet I would have done this drawing on the window instead of on a sticky note, even though I wasn't figuring out anything groundbreaking whatsoever.

I learned that the safest time to ride in Virginia Beach is actually at 4 in the morning on a weekday. Very few, if any drunk drivers will be left, but it's too early for anybody else to be there. Riding back and forth on a 3 mile stretch of well-lit Atlantic Ave is mildly better than riding the trainer, I guess.
I started doing plyometrics and strength stuff again. This led to me no longer having an ottoman. It turns out Ikea doesn't account for its furniture handling dynamic loads, especially once you've already made an unorthodox repair for making the same mistake a year earlier.
I didn't take a picture of the suit I retired, but I did take a picture of my new one, mostly because it's awesome. Well, entirely because it's awesome. It's been a month and a half and I've yet to buy a new drag suit because why would I want to cover this up?
(Spoiler alert: this is actually from my computer) I developed something of an addition to Coursera, the website with arguably the best selection of MOOCs available. From international criminal law to engineering mechanics to game theory, I'm hooked. MOOCs are incredible. This one is when I was busy learning about learning.
I really liked learning game theory. I'd had some limited introduction to it, but never as in-depth or quantitative as this class was. Although a lot of it is things that make you say "oh, that makes sense," taking a class in it made me start to see everything in more abstract terms, and everything could be broken down into a game. Here's my attempt at rationalizing a two-man breakaway in a draft-legal triathlon or a stage race, where energy conservation is part of the equation, with Attack, Cooperate, and Passenger as strategies, with the assumption that Attack will drop a passenger. Yep, this is over the head of 95% of the people reading this and probably wrong.
I sat in a lot of traffic, because that's the state pastime of Virginia, just like surfing in Hawaii, skiing in Colorado, or fist pumping in a bagel shop on Long Island
I got promoted! All I could think of to say at the time was "thanks to everybody who helped me get here so far, and hopefully this isn't the last one of these." I've got great self-confidence.

I actually got to swim in an outdoor pool! But, I've already put a picture of that in a previous post on here that was probably my most boring post ever, and honestly they don't look that much different. I did, however, eat post-swim breakfast at the same place every day the week of Thanksgiving, and it was clearly put there by the New Yorkers who colonized South Florida.

While friends in Colorado complained about the subzero temperatures, I took this screenshot of my weather app in early December, declaring that the 95% humidity for the entire month of July has its positives.
Trying to get down to proper racing weight while I'm still in base phase. I'm also trying to save money for next season, so I can combine portion control with free food at Trader Joe's.
Saving lives, one (or in this case, two) properly installed liferaft(s) at a time.
Or, one lifeboat. 'murrica
I sat in more traffic. Don't worry, I had actually put the parking brake on at this point because it'd been several minutes since I moved. It's funny, because until I moved to Virginia, I'd never seen dark red on a traffic map before. (blue dot is me for the non-tech-savvy)
I ate my usual breakfast.
I ate about three crumbs of this and contemplated drinking some ipecac to wash it down, it was so disgusting. It's probably not that different from what people eat/drink in those super-concentrated calorie concoctions in Ironman racing, which is enough reason for me to stick to short stuff.
The best way to know if you're going hard enough is that if you can remember the intervals your coach gave you, you're not trying hard enough. I solved that problem.
I brought home a Christmas tree that I begrudgingly bought in a parking lot, a far cry from actually cutting it down from the tree farm back in New Jersey. Unfortunately, my mom, dad, and brother didn't come down to Virginia this year to see it, but the rest of my family (seen here) liked having it.
I discovered that Wawa now carries "cannoli kits" as I will call them. Yes, cannolis contain gluten AND dairy (both of which I avoid to varying degrees with slightly different rules pertaining to time until next workout), but I will put up with any and all digestive discomfort for this combination of deliciousness, pretty much combining two of my favorite things.
I rather swiftly convinced Jonas that driving from Virginia to Key West was ridiculous and that I had no intention of doing so.

I learned that Pandora can now be used as an alarm clock! Now I get to start every morning with "Could You Be Loved" Radio. Who doesn't want that? Admittedly, I have changed it once or twice to have me wake up to "Hypnotize" Radio when I'm feeling extra spunky, despite its name. That's actually what I have on right now as I'm typing this, and it's now playing this song. So good. I think that's going to be my new anthem for my job.
I did actually do one running race, I swear! Pick the swimmer out of the group of runners....ready, go!
I finally had a muddy cyclocross race and probably my best one at Mt. Trashmore. This caused me to decree that my next apartment/house/cardboard box SHALL have a hose. For anybody who comes to visit me (the 36 people I've offered my couch to for Rev3 Williamsburg), I promise I've cleaned the shower since this photo series.
I went home to see my family for Christmas. Fatty was there too.
I also finally made it to see my brother's awesome apartment in NYC that has a backyard. I'm not kidding. After a night of Brooklynizing, I was pretty pumped to get to go for my run in Central Park, starting and ending at the Imagine memorial for John Lennon a short distance from where he was shot. Alter ego hippie Ian was happy about this (the memorial, not Lennon being shot)
I got my butt kicked by this not-so-little guy, my cousin Declan (seen here about to wind up his James Bond car). He loved wrestling and tackling. Last time I saw him and a lot of that side of the family was when I graduated from the academy.
I finally got around to registering for the LSAT, which I am taking on February 8, so hopefully I will be able to go to law school within the next few years. I realized I've made the right decision to pursue a career in law when this was one of the possible forgotten password recovery questions, right along side mother's maiden name, first pet, and high school mascot. Ron Burgundy, Easy E, and Agnetha Faltskog all seemed like plausible answers for me.
Despite getting lovely gifts from my family the weekend before Christmas including a bike fee-avoiding Hen House, I must have been on Santa's naughty list, because the week of Christmas itself was pretty terrible for me. It started out while I was still in New Jersey/Long Island and starting to get sick, but it was its worst the day before Christmas Eve when I was back home in VB. I would say I didn't have any coal, but that's not true when I live in and inspect ships in the largest coal exporting port in the country.
Then, because I had no plans on Christmas Day itself because I was working both the 24th and 26th and no family was in town and most of my local friends were also out of town, and I was just getting over the death flu bug, I decided to take out the MTB for some play time. I covered this a bit more in my other post, but I stupidly decided to play around on the freeride features and ended up flipping over the handlebars, landing on my head before eventually rolling to my back. Even two weeks later, I'm still not 100% recovered.
I should point out that the DOD medical system still thinks I'm an Ensign. Disappointing.
I decided to take up artsy cooking...sort of. Basically, I tried making maple-bacon-cinnamon popcorn with the intention of giving away the small jars, but ended up eating all but a couple of them because it was so delicious. A week or so later, I made it and just put it in a bowl to bring into work.
In the aftermath of my bike crash, I got creative trying to explain exactly where the pain was when I went to the massage therapist and physical therapist. With the massage, apparently it wiped off within minutes, turning the therapists hands grey-ish. Whoops. She did say it was helpful though.
Free stuff is always fun, this came from Princeton Tec lights, a company based out of Bordentown, NJ, just next to my hometown of Columbus. They were giving away a handful of these limited festive editions of the Fuel light, which is one of their almost-overwhelming variety of lights ranging from kids lights for the campfire to industrial-grade, intrinsically safe lights, for those of you who like to play around in explosive atmospheres.
I finally returned to the trails when I had a 2.5 hour ride scheduled for New Years Day, because riding that long on my road bike would be beyond boring, especially because I knew it would be all or mostly alone. I avoided the freeride features this time, but I had to stop for the Big Easy, because the name to me was uncanny. When I think New Orleans, my thoughts drift to people blacking out and waking up in a hospital with injuries they're not really sure how they got. I imagine that's what would happen if I went off this 15+ foot drop.
New Years Day for me did not mean 100x100s or even 50x100s. In fact, I didn't swim at all New Years Day because all the pools I go to were closed, or at least I didn't bother looking if they were open. Instead, because I can't count at all when I'm swimming, and definitely not to 50 or 100, I modified the traditional workout to make it New Years-ey nonetheless. I did 14 sets of 500 immediately followed by 100. I did the 500s on 7:00, which ended up being a lot harder than I expected by the very end. I figured with a race time somewhere in the 5:30 range, 7:00 would be no problem. However, I was doing the 100s at 1:30, but sprinting each time, so I was killing myself and my ability to recover. It was probably the hardest swim workout I've ever done. Two hours of straight swimming is a looooong time.
As you can probably imagine, I get really uncomfortable in gyms because meatheads scare me. Since about December 28th, my social media feeds, generally biased towards regular exercisers, have been full of "ugh hate how crowded gym is with resolutioners." However, even on January 3rd, I was the ONLY person in the leg room at the gym, which my gym tends to be pretty meathead-ey. They really, really don't like legs.
I've let my hair get among the longest it's been since I came into the Coast Guard, and it's starting to bug me when I swim, in addition to just getting totally gross and chlorinated, so I sought out my random cap collection and decided to get a little artsy before deciding on the "Say No to Doping" cap.
And finally, I did prove it. 116 characters left after tweeting a photo. I don't know how valid this is, but I'd venture a guess that it's probably never outside 110-120 characters. Regardless, that justifies a several-thousand character blog post.

So that ended up being a lot more than I initially planned, but I can only write so many treatises on sports doping without sounding like I am just repeating what I read elsewhere or even repeating myself. I thought this would be a nice change of pace because I'm pretty sure everybody only looks at the photos anyway. The thing is that you get absolutely zero of the context of most of these photos, but some are still nice to look at I suppose.

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