For new readers

To get an idea of what I'm trying to do and why I think it's possible, check out the following entries, they'll help get you up to speed.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"I never win ANYTHING"

The title of the post now has to be added to the list of things i can't say anymore.  Not that i mind too much.  It was a tad bit awkward to do all that smack talk against the Canadians (all in good fun of course) and then go up there and inadvertently back it up.

Yep, we actually won (our division) at the sixth annual Swamp Donkey adventure race... probably the largest adventure race in North America this year in terms of the number of teams (113!) in attendance.  We were racing against nearly 45 teams in the three person coed category. 

Tammy and I after our first race together back in 2010
The best part though is that i got to do it on a team with my wife, tammy.  How cool is that? 

On that note, i learned a cemented a few lessons about racing with one's spouse during an adventure race.  Sure they may not apply to everyone, but i'd be shocked if they didn't apply to most:

1) If your partner is hurting and going slow, have them go slow in front of you.  You'll find that they go faster trying not to slow you down than they ever would trying to keep up.

2) Plan strategy before the race.  Think you'll go faster if you take all of your partner's weight?  Even if you're right, if you come to this conclusion and try to implement it once the starting gun has gone off it might not go smoothly.  I was adamant that this was a 'must do' for us weeks ahead of time and so all the discussions/arguments/ego issues were well out of the way by the time the race came around and it mattered.  By the way - it did matter, and it worked really well!

3) Hold hands at the starting line.  Even though i turned into a task master once we were underway, we went in to the race feeling connected and loving towards one another.  This meant that all things being equal, it was harder for the negative feelings that came up during our inevitable suffering to take root.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Swamp Donkey Adventure Race

Scene from 2011 Swamp Donkey where team ENDracing took 4th in the premiere category
Good race directors like to race.  I consider myself a good race director, maybe because i LOVE to race.  This weekend i'm headed up north of the border to Falcoln Lake, Manitoba, with my wonderful wife Tammy and good buddy Joel as one of 2 American teams challenging the 115 Canadian teams at what is probably the biggest (in terms of teams) adventure race in the country this year.

In preparation, our team got together a couple of times for training and decided to make a couple of videos to let those Canucks know what to expect. 

Training video 1

Training video 2

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Silver Bullets

Silver bullet #1

Silver Bullet #2
I waded into the fitness blog-o-sphere last night after i got an email letting me know i had a new twitter follower, Pete Cerqua (thanks for following Pete!).  Pete is author of a book called 90-second fitness and i had to check him out.  During my surf session i also ran across another 'fitness program' called the 20 second fitness solution.

Talk about doing more with less.... but is this kind of stuff for real?

Well yes and no.  But if you look into it, you're likely to only find the 'yes' part - in other words, you'll get lots of claims affirming that it works, or pointing to the science behind it.  Both of the above mentioned programs are best sellers, have made their 'creators' wealthy, and have obviously helped lots of people.  But there are a few issues that always pop up in my mind surrounding stuff like this that bear mentioning, and that i don't think are voiced often enough.

1)  Statistics (part 1). ANY program that claims to help people accomplish something that enough of them want to accomplish and is 'affordable' will have lots of users (assuming people know about it).  The fact of human nature is that many people want the silver bullet and are willing to pay in the hope of finding it.
2) Statistics (part 2).  ANY program that has many people trying it is going to be able to trot out what seems like an endless stream of success stories.  Crash diets and ridiculous exercise programs included. It is hard, if not impossible, to distinguish between a good program and a bad one based on success stories alone.
3) Consistent exercise and a sensible diet lead to good health.  Period.  ANY and ALL 'programs' that are sound and really work will be based on these ideas - differences in programs amount to variations on the theme.  Some variances may actually be 'important' of course - particularly for certain individuals who have limitations in one way or another.  It seems like a favorite perceived limitation of people is time, hence the popularity of programs that are marketed on the idea that they only take seconds.

Ok, now i'm going to get a little bit ornery.

I do believe (obviously) that truncated programs an work.  BUT.... they are f'ing hard.  In many ways they are much harder than more traditional programs - particularly for the majority of people (out of shape trying to get in shape) who are attracted to them.  I read so many quotes from reviews of the above programs written by self described out of shape people who were apparently delighted to learn they could get in shape in such little time.  Yep, you can.  But it will hurt.  A lot.  And it will hurt the next day, and the next.  Sure, you may only be doing two tabata sets (the 20 second fitness program involves having participants do one to three tabata sets a day - really 4-12 minutes rather than 20 seconds.... the 20 seconds refers to the length of the work intervals in the tabata set) a day - but how many people can do that?  more to the point, how many people will?  

Real truth in advertising might include something like the following description:

In order to successfully follow this program, you will need to have the mental tenacity to subject yourself to an excruciating amount of pain on a regular basis!  During the last 30 seconds of your wall sit, for example, it will feel as if someone is slowly dragging a razor blade along the top of your quivering thigh, parting the skin and making you bleed.  Don't worry, any scarring (emotional or otherwise) is most likely temporary and a necessary part of the program!  And remember... due to the truncated nature of our revolutionary approach, you will only have to endure this EXTREME discomfort three times a day, three days a week!  What are you waiting for?!

But there really is science supporting the efficacy of Tabata and other HIIT (high intensity interval training) schemes as an alternative to more time intensive training. the science, however, is based on clinical studies in which subjects actually meet the high intensity requirement.  Most of your average couch-potatoes-cum-fitness-converts that form the bread and butter for these companies don't have an actual experience with what high intensity means. And even though the literature of these and similar programs will mention (although they certainly don't emphasize) that you're going to be working hard - people typically will have no idea what will actually be required of them as they are typing in those credit card digits.

Here, in my opinion, is the bottom line.

There are no silver bullets.  95% (or more) of people who think time is the reason they aren't able to stay in shape have just found it to be the latest hindrance, and will find a different obstacle in a truncated program.  Getting in shape for those not in shape - and then staying in shape - will continue to require something that no prescribed program gives you.  Something that if you do have, allows you to succeed with pretty much any program.  That something is WILL.  and as far as i know, its still not available in three easy payments of 39.99.....

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Getting some action

I was asked to write a guest blog by Eric Collard, a fitness coach and chi running teacher in Canada - thought i'd stick it on here as well!  You can click on the image below to see the entire post.....

Diving in to the murky waters of social media

I had a great discussion yesterday with a guy named Eric Collard from Canada who offered to help me try to increase my 'exposure' in terms of social media circles.  Thought I'd give it a try.  Have spent this morning trying to link and unlink things, creating a nice tangled web of connections between various social media platforms.

Essentially this is a 'test' post.... should appear on my newly established twitter account (yep, i may occasionally be tweeting.... who'd have thought) and on my facebook page.  Here goes nothing.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


if he's like me, inside he's smiling!
I failed today.

That's a good thing, it means i overreached.

Today it was more mental than physical (at least that was my subjective experience of it).  I wasn't particularly motivated for my 30 minute run (damn 30 minutes just seems so long compared to the 10 minute sessions that make up my three a week workouts!) and so headed to the treadmill for some mechanized motivation and the no-slo-random-pro.

Turns out i'd gotten soft doing this workout on the woodway treadmills, where each segment of the program only lasted 10 seconds. keeping a fast pace up the hills always seemed doable.  Well, the woodways are gone from the Y and only some old precor machines remain.  for a 30 minute random program the segments lasted 1 minute and 4 seconds.

Now i don't let myself cherry-pick an easy looking random profile - i just get what i get.  Today it was 'back-loaded', the last six segments - six minutes and 24 seconds, were at either a three or four percent grade.  Damn.  But the program started out easy and so i attacked with relish.

5 minutes in i bumped the speed up to 8.6 mph (6:58 pace) for 10 minutes, then bumped it again to 9 mph (6:40 pace) for another 10 minutes.

I was pretty tired.  the smallish nylon-belt-simulated hills had begun to take their toll.  but i summoned up my gumption and yelled "once more into the breach my friends!" inside my head and pushed the increase speed button twice more.  I was running up a 4% grade at a 6:30 pace!

For another 30 seconds.

Then i was holding on to the console for dear life for the next 30.  I rallied.  30 more seconds, hands free before a desperate lunge for the bar kept me from being flung off the back.  I still had over 3 minutes left.  I contemplated having one more go at it.  Then i caved and slowed down to a 7:00 pace.  I let go.  i still couldn't manage more than half a minute without the support of my arms - my head just wasn't in it - i couldn't figure out how to override that little man in my head that told me it was quittin' time.

but i'm stubborn and so did what i could - i eeked out a compromise. he promised me i could take the last 100 right foot strikes on my own.  And sure enough, as soon as he signed that executive order, it didn't feel nearly so hard, and left me feeling like i could have pushed harder - maybe even finished the whole thing without slowing down or holding on.

But i didn't.  Today i failed.  but like i said, in a good way.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Boom Shakalaka Boom (26.74 seconds!)

Woo hoo!  My first step in reaching "off by 50" sprint status has successfully been completed.  Over lunch today, after a 150 yd warm-up, i knocked out a 50 yd short-course freestyle swim in 26.74 seconds.  The world record is 18:51 (i'd previously reported the American record that is a bit slower).  This means my goal was 27.76 seconds.  coming in a full second under means that even with potential timing errors, i made my goal!  Awesome! Here is a link to a video of the swim if it doesn't play above.  Thanks Beek for being the record keeper!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

time for a little shave

I decided to stop procrastinating and start getting after some of this Off by 50 nonsense.  Needed to see where i was at on the bike so i went out for a 10 mile time trial today - somewhat windy conditions - 15 mph or so with stronger gusts.  Started from a dead stop (to be fair) and did an out n back (also to be fair).  the first half was the easy half (i prefer it the other way around) and i pretty much died coming back into the wind, particularly when there were no shelter belts of trees to make it a little less blustery.  Total time was approx 27:55 or maybe just under - about one minute will need to be shaved off that time to make my target time and be within 50% of the fastest 10 miles ever ridden.  I almost think i can could do it on a calm day - may try to crack this nut yet this fall.
"i tasted my own blood" icon

Now tomorrow is my first attempt at swimming the 50 meter or yard (never sure how the pool at the university will be configured on any given day) distance.  My friend Beek will be my official time keeper - maybe he'll even video the attempt for me for posterity. Fingers crossed.

My ride today was may leave me less than 100% though, so we'll see.  Less than 10 minutes in i realized i need to add another option for the workout description choices on the 'two hours a week' workout tracking app - "i rode 10 miles and i tasted my own blood!"

Friday, September 7, 2012

Article in Breathe Mag!

The Breathe article is finally out (you'll have to click on 'preview' in the upper right of the site to see the most recent issue, V6 I3).  This is a great magazine, chock full of inspiring stories, race reports, and stunning photography.  You can even order single issues, digitally or hard-copy.  Go get yours.  If you live nearby i'll even sign it for you.  Years from now when i'm famous for being a visionary and bringing a new fitness paradigm to the masses you'll be able to say to all your friends that you were one of my first nine followers (yeah baby!  i have nine now!!!!) and so were clearly on the cutting edge of things.

And you'll have the signed copy to prove it.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Feeling Great

"I was exhausted!" "I couldn't get up!" "I vomited in my mouth" "I was a bile factory!"
Icons that would be available in the two hours a week workout tracking app

I have a few FB friends whose workouts appear as updates courtesy of any number of 'workout tracking' apps such as Dailymile.  I know some people don't like seeing workouts posted on FB, but it really doesn't bother me - we're developing into a rather 'social media' based culture, so why fight it.

I do realize, however, after seeing "Mr. X ran 8.5 miles in one hour and felt great!" for the tenth time, that there might be a market in a new workout tracking app for the group of people (as small as it may be by comparison) following an approach similar to my two hours a week philosophy.

This version won't have any smiley face icons to click on to describe a persons workout experience.   it won't report that the person doing the training felt good, fine, blah, or even tired.  Tired is the starting point and so won't need to be mentioned.

This version will have icons of stick figures on their knees, or retching up bile.  It will report things like "Mr.
X did Tabata intervals on the bike and dry heaved (insert number here) times."  Or "Mr. X did a three mile tire drag run in half an hour and couldn't get off the ground for (insert number here) minutes."

Come on all you web developers - there's a (teeny teeny tiny) gold mine here, just waiting for you!

Note - in full disclosure, i must admit that i've never actually thrown up as the result of a workout, or even a race.  I have, however, been reduced to crawling.  In fact, most of my workouts end up somewhere between exhausted and crawling - with me stumbling around in somewhat of a stupor waiting for the pain to subside and wondering with a degree of desperation why it's taking so long for this to happen.  My buddy Joel though is another story, and regularly tastes his own digestive juices as as a result of his efforts.  One day Joel, one day...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Limits - RadioLab confirms existence of peanut butter monsters

On a long car trip this past saturday my dad passed the time listening to minnesota public radio. Lots of re-runs since it was the holiday weekend, but one that caught his attention was a re-broadcast of a 2010 RadioLab on limits.

 It's utterly fascinating to listen to, and in my opinion, worth every minute.  It talks with Julie Moss about her now famous finish of the 1982 IM race and, even more interestingly, about the relatively new science behind the 'central governor' theory (starting around 12 minutes in).  Basically, the central governor is analogous to my fear response when faced with really big peanut butter monsters.

So it's pretty cool that there is starting to be evidence that the mind is the vastly more powerful - much more the 'decider' - than the body.  I know, I know, soooo many people are going to take issue with this. I've heard it all before.... people will cling to that seemingly objective experience (minute 17) that they believe is definitive 'proof' that they are done - that their jar is empty.  We'll just have to agree to disagree though, and it's nice to finally have someone (especially someone as hip and quirky as the RadioLab guys) in my corner.

And as a final note,  i've just gotten a comment on one of my posts that indicates that the Breathe Article i pitched way back when and eventually wrote is floating around out there actually in print- not just in cyberspace.  pretty cool. Will post a link to it on here when i actually find it.  Watch out world (;