Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wednesday 9/30/09

It's the last day of September 2009. The fall of the year is officially starting to pull us into the deep end where it all goes dark. Fortunately that's not how I'm seeing September and the hereafter.

But things have been a little tough lately. And this year has been less than ideal as far as running is concerned. Granted, my expectations are pretty reasonable -- stay healthy, develop my aerobic fitness and get after some off-road (mountain) racing here in SoCal. Still, this has been an uneventful year, one of which I can easily say I didn't progress much (so far) and therefore feel fairly unsatisfied. But that's not how I see Jan--September either.

I set aside a lot of my racing goals early on because my wife was studying for a huge test. She passed that one and then became eligible to take another one. She passed the last one in August. I am so proud of her. Going into the first one, we were both saying "go big or go home" (pass or move-on). She passed. The second test was almost perfunctory. Done deal. Mission accomplished.

As for my year running-wise. Physically, I've been a mess. I got a little leg injury (calf) early in the season from going too hard too quick? I guess. Then I got going again, but with no races on the schedule (nod to wife's goals) I just sorta plodded along. I picked-up again on the aerobic program, started to work on that and just tried to groove that with an August race on the calendar. I was going to hit my first 50k. With my failure to develop a disciplined program of running early early, before the family got going, I flailed at some mid-day work-outs in the heat, between appointments . . . obnoxiously ineffective. One of my solutions? Run on the treadmill. I proceeded to develop some shin splints and other tweaks so I had to then deal with that, with a 50k on the horizon.

You guessed it: only 1 loop, 25k. But I felt great. With very mediocre training (total crap) I had a good run and the body, shins and all felt pretty solid. Nice.
Then a couple of days later, after a run, I developed a bruised heel. The Bulldog descents? Perhaps. By limping around on that, trying to walk on my forefoot, I aggravated my ankle. I was a mess! Oh yeah, a week before the 25k, I found myself grappling at a jui jitsu practice and I strained my groin. Geeez.

So really I've been hobbling around for a few months, since July really, but I was able to get in a nice 25k that left me feeling really good about doing what I'm doing.

Then three weeks ago, I came down with a cold. My son had a little something, but he never got worse. I proceeded to get bronchitis! I haven't had that in a loooong time. My wife got it too! We have been toast for 3 weeks. Unbelievable. Really demoralizing, incapacitating. Huge bummer.

But I have to say, I did a lot of thinking. A lot. I read a lot. I kept-up on my buddies' blogs. I grew to appreciate more than I ever have the beauty of working-out, of going hard and having a few laughs with friends, drinking a beer. We were in lock-down. Brutal. But the light had gone on. I was making commitments to myself and my wife (and even my son). I couldn't wait to get back at it, make the most of every day. You hear that and you think whatever, talk about cliche. But I feel that. I feel so blessed to have the freedom to go. And that's what time it is.

So, I have had my off season (After last off season --December/Jan-- I said I would never do that kind of total down time again). I am ready to go. I finished the steroids I was on (yeah) on Sunday. I felt the turn Sunday night and Monday. Worked all day Tuesday.

I ran 4 miles today. I felt amazing. And although I got a little weak this afternoon (uh-oh!), I think I'm through the crap. The run was flat but the sun was perfect, it was early and I felt none of my tweaks. The shin splint is long gone. The only soreness I'm going to feel is unfamiliarity. I have goals. I can't wait for 2010 but I still got some '09 left.

I will be in touch!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ripped-off and Blowin' up

I ripped this off of GZ (and he got it from here). Most of my "work" is the exploration of various cultural ills. This image is money. The debates concerning health care, executive compensation, food standards (the encouragement of fast food), education and war (among many others) put people in such awkward positions. For instance, there's the individuals going broke because of the cost of health care (we're a "wealthy" nation?). And there's the ugly paradox of the right wing jack ass who shops and eats organic food. And the people who have no debt, have kept themselves out of danger in the flood of excess now drowning much of this great nation -- any "thank yous"? Any, "we should all live more like that" messaging? To watch all of the breaks being given to people who have thrown themselves into debt is a joke. These stimulus packages are vain attempts to get people to spend again. Spend spend spend. Obama, despite his education, common sense and political values, doesn't seem to have much in the way of encouraging the real change we need . . .because consumerism is too big. Just as George W. promoted shopping following 9/11, the same pathos seems to be at work now . . .and forever as long as we continue to pave the way for the free and the brave.

I gotta see that Ken Burn's flick. Perhaps another statement on the values of this once great nation, especially given the current crisis: close a national park, but rescue the imbecile from his lame consumer choices, the institution from its "business development."

Citizen X: Hey Uncle Sam, my child is sick. Can you give me a hand?

Uncle Sam: Sorry. Get a job or just pay for the damn insurance you need.

X: I'd put it on my credit card, but it's maxed.

U.S.: I might be able to help you there.

(and I love the "Conservative" illegal immigration rhetoric. A great example of talking out of both sides. . . save it).

By the way, that SNL video I posted last week or so, Timberlake and Sandberg. . .got nomiated for an Emmy. Beautiful.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Media

I love the mass media.
I hate the mass media.

A perfect example:

Note his commentary after he calls Kanye West a jackass.

Thanks to the media (in all of its transmogrifying beauty) we are given access to this behind the scenes candor. No thanks to the media, the Prez (and most of us) have to deal with any idiot out there who thinks the Prez was wrong to say that.

By the way, Kanye West is a Jack Ass.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Final word. . .for now

Federer was beaten in five sets by the Argentine. If you were there, you definitely got your money's worth. The weather looked good. I think the tennis was so so, especially from the Swiss Maestro.

Del Potro is 20 years-old and at 6'6" he has a HUGE career ahead of him. What was most interesting, aside from Johnny McEnroe's obvious Del Potro bias (I get it; a lot of people are sick of Federer), was the mature strategy employed by the youngster.

With his height and strength, the kid can hammer a first serve. He was characteristically tossing 125 - 135 mph first serves Federer's way. getting a return on that meant at best that Del Potro could use his dominating forehand to finish the point. His forehand will be legendary. He doesn't have the classic one-hand backhand like Sampras or Federer, but his forehand is brutally good. Incapacitating.

However, the wise-beyond-his-years strategy came in the later part of the match when he started putting first serves in play at ~95 mph. First serves! McEnroe thought he was tired. Carillo thought he'd lost his nerve after double-faulting to lose the 3rd set. But the guy was simply making sure his first-serve % stayed productively high and trusted the rest of his game. Taking a little off that huge first serve enabled him to use a little more spin and placement to keep Federer off balance. During the 3-5 set range I recall his % being roughly 75%. This from a 20 year-old. Keep in mind, he always had the 130 mph monster waiting to feed. I would say wow. In contrast, a guy like Andy Roddick will show-off his 140+ first serve all match despite getting out played in every other way. Del Potro showed some serious high-stakes savvy, something one needs to beat Federer. In fact, Nadal and Del Potro both appear to be very intelligent players and both have had success against Roger (Del Potro took Roger to 5 sets in the French this year), which might suggest that Roger is not quite as smart as he looks. Intelligence was the term people were throwing around in Australia after Nadal beat Federer. Rafa is not as talented, so he has had to use el cerebro. Del Potro, in complicating his service game, demonstrated some prodigious maduriz.

Federer, unfortunately, finished the match with a service game of 50%. And that was for the entire match. During the crucial 3-5 set range, he was at roughly 45%. That is terrible. As the Argentine gained more confidence, Roger's margin for error shrank, and that kind of serve isn't going to cut-it in just about any match let alone the finals at the U.S. Open.


Who doesn't like to laugh? Word on the street is laughing (hard) is very good for the heart. Obviously. Besides, I just want to post some funny shit and since I just figured-out how to post videos in the blog, boom.

For this next video, to really enhance the affect, watch this on YouTube. Then watch Colbert's satirical analysis of Beck's/Fox's BS. Some funny shit.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Doom Bunker - Jack Jacobs and Stephen Moore
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Protests

Happy Monday, everyone!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

More tennis

Update on the U.S. Open since ya'll are dying to know. . .

Nadal lost in one semi-final to a 6'6" Argentine named del Potro.
The South American is seeded #6 and has gobs of game.
He killed Nadal 6-2 6-2 6-2. Nadal was having abdominal issues (muscle). Again, injury is the man's achilles heel.

Federer absolutely held-up his end of the bargain beating Djokovic 7-6 7-5 7-5. Djokovic is a very good player, winner of only one major but lots of game, very athletic, and Serbian, which only means he burns pretty hot.

6 5 and 5 means it was very competitive and given the nature of these two giants' games, terribly entertaining. Listening to Dick Edberg, Johnny Mac and Mary Carillo call the match is a huge benefit, creating the kind of theater one might come to expect in September in NYC.

The penultimate point of the match will be part of tennis lore, especially part of Federer's growing legacy. Check this out:

Granted, you've seen a shot like that. But not like THAT at THAT point in a match like THAT. Sick. Listen to the commentary amongst the cheers. McEnroe saying "Come on. .." is classic.

Totally coincidentally, I finally hooked-up the Wii that my in-laws gave us (they have a pawn shop and give us the occassional used "stuff"). It came with a Wii sports disk that has, among a few other basic sports, tennis. Even with this brutal cold I've got going and therefore refraining from much exercise, I have been throwin down in the living room! Wait until I'm healthy ;-D

Friday, September 11, 2009

The U.S. Open

September in NYC means the last grand slam tennis tournament is on like donkey kong. I am a huge tennis fan, especially with the men's side at an all-time high. Roger Federer is still going strong despite looking very very very vulnerable at the beginning of the year. In fact here's a post I wrote in February regarding the Australian Open when Nadal had all but locked-up the men's field with his incredible run of grand slam tennis (he won French, Wimbeldon, Oly gold, and Australia -- he was hurt during the U.S. Open, which Roger won).

Part of me is writing this post to intentionally betray the little bit of pride I'm taking in what amounted to a gem of tennis discourse between The Science of Sports blog and a few of its readers. Ross, one of the esteemed authors of that great blog, and I were discussing the state of the men's game. I was writing out of a pain that was turning into some sort of fratricide because my brother the Fed Express was coming off the rails. Like a beaten, weak man I was crawling into the new champion's camp (Nadal) although I think I qualified my affection some so as not to turn my blog into some kind of homo eroticism. Bottomline: Nadal had thoroughly dominated Federer in 2008. It was sad to watch.

But where I differed with Ross at Science of Sports was on his forecast for future of the men's game. First of all, he made a statement along the lines of Roddick is championship material (if only Roger wasn't playing in this era). I totally disagree. Other than this year's Wimbledon final (in which Roddick played fantastic tennis physically and mentally), Roddick is a swinger, not a head-of-the-household kind of player. His career has been riddled with soft tennis, big serve and all.

But Ross also said that Gilles Simon, Andy Murray, Novak Djokavic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are ready to step in for the beleaguered Federer. I totally disagreed.

2009? Federer won French and Wimbledon and is playing in the semi finals this weekend. Nadal is in the quarters now with play postponed (rain). My argument back in February was that Federer would still win majors unless Nadal beat him, and it looked like Nadal had his number. Even though time will continue to march on and Federer will eventually relinquish his crown, I will relish in my own forecast: Nadal and Federer are the champions of this era. The rest of the field are merely pretenders and until one of them can step-up and win CONSISTENTLY at the grand slam level, don't bring that shit in here:)

One has to comment on Federer's spring and summer wins with regards to Nadal. It appears that Nadal was injured during the French. Going into Rolland Garros, he had never lost there. He was beaten easily by a Swede, Soderling. Roger handled Soderling easily in the final. Nadal didn't play Wimbledon because of injury; Roger won that. So. Has Roger faced his fear and conquered it? Not necessarily although even Roger said in his post-French interview that the absence of Nadal wasn't enough to invalidate his win since a win is a win AND Roger had beaten Nadal in Madrid just prior to Rolland Garros, on clay. It was a big win, indeed, but a healthy Nadal might have complicated Roger's quest some.

However, the bigger issue here is Nadal's logevity. I myself said Nadal is the greatest of his generation (an example of the aforementioned fratricide) and may win more majors than Roger, who was poised to pass Sampras on the all-time list. Nadal was 22 when he won the Austrailian. But, then he was injured for the next two majors and in fact has had injury problems during his short career. Why? Because he KILLS IT everytime he's on the court. Nadal is Chris McCormack of Ironman, Federer is Mark Allen. Although one might have more genuine athletic talent (Macca), Allen's intelligence and training methodology perhaps resulted in more big-time success. Granted, different eras, but you get the picture.

Roger is like a ballet dancer on the court, fluid, graceful, supremely athletic and almost effortless. Nadal is like a bulldog, a very very healthy bulldog from the island of Mallorca!

In conclusion, tennis is still owned by Roger and Rafa. Roger has surpassed Pete Sampras as the all-time grand slam champion. This feat alone might be enough to give him the nerves to face and conquer a now healthy Nadal. Perhaps we see this on Sunday in NYC.

Don't miss it!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Coping mechanisms

A nice little start to the Labor Day weekend. The heat wave is starting to subside, but it's been pretty nasty lately, which I know is all relative. Friday night I stayed in and had a few beers. Tried my first imperial pilsner. Big. Ate some ahi poke with that, a big salad, and watched my buddies' band play live online. They're called the Styletones and they are bad ass.

Saturday was about shopping for the tiny dinner party (does 4 make a dinner party?) we were having. Then I got in a 1 hour ride on the trainer in my garage with an inconsistent cross breeze. I was worked. Have not felt 100% lately. The heat, my feet. . .things just not quite the way they should be. Speaking of exercise, I got a message from Tim this week to see how close I was to Newport for a run. Didn't work-out but nice to see this blogosphere working its community mojo. I'll run into him in the bay area one of these days.

Talked to a personal trainer today and my problem might be the fascia. Tightness is occurring in my soleus/lower calf/achilles. This all started with the shin splint. Once that subsided more or less, I ran a brutal 15 mile (3500ft. of climbing) trail race. Felt AWESOME afterwards. The next day I ran for 30 minutes on the trainer and woke up to a bruised heel. WTF? Is this a stress fracture? I was freaked for a second. Just a bruise. I guess the hard descending and overall damage done during the race was enough to set that up, so a little trot on the tready pushed things too far. So. Then I proceed to walk very very gingerly on only the front of the foot for a few days, and really pay attention to recovery. But the walking on the front of the foot Fs-up my whole left foot/lower leg. I have like a mini ankle sprain and tightness. Bottomline, I'm still working-out but no "opening-up" on a trail. Actually a lot of attention is on the bike and more attention is going there in the future. But I can't wait to run pain free again.


As for the dinner party. A blast. My wife and I broke out our Dutch Gourmet sets and chopped up a bunch of ingredients. Each attendee gets to make his/her own meals. So, steak, chicken, scallops and a ton of veggies makes up the list. Light the fire, add some oil, burn some food, sample some sauces and have a cold drink handy. Good fun.