Friday, December 31, 2010

Winter Wonderland - a visit from our friendly owl

Winter seems to be one of those LOVE IT or HATE IT things.  Love it for the beauty of fresh snow and the great outdoor activities or Hate it for the bitter cold, dangerous driving, and endless shoveling.  Today I love it; let me tell you why...

I just flew back home again yesterday and I was laying on the couch just looking out the window.  I saw a flash of movement and a huge bird landed on a limb right in front of me.  I recognized it as the Barred Owl that has been visiting our yard all winter.  This time he was in one of the closer trees just scanning the fresh snow on the forest floor for any potential lunch opportunities.

He spent about 30 minutes moving from branch to branch and tree to tree with his head on a swivel.  At one point I got brave enough to open the sliding glass door and shoot a photo of him.  As you can see he was keeping an eye on me too.

I was amazed at what an amazing presence this bird had.  He was so well camoflaged, but it seemed every animal had such respect that they stayed well hidden.  Probably a good idea, he looks hungry.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Gym Rules

It's official, I've been working out for half of my life.  That makes me an expert on gym behavior and allows me to make the rules.  Don't believe me... check out a couple of my baby photos.

Pay attention because this is important.

Gym Rules
#1 - This is not social hour, it's ok to say hi to someone but beyond that I don't want to hear you talk.
#2 - Cell phones, (see rule #1)
#3 - If I am 3 feet from the mirror, doing an exercise, and looking at my form, don't walk between me and the mirror it makes me want to punch you.
#4 - If you sweat on a machine, good for you, you are working hard.  Now clean the machine.
#5 - If you are grunting and dropping weights I better be impressed by how hard you are lifting, otherwise you are just being obnoxious.
#6 - If you can do your workout and read a book at the same time, you aren't trying hard enough.
#7 - If you pick up a weight, put it back where it goes. 
#8 - It's not a fashion show and nobody cares how your hair looks.
#9 - Do not have body odor, that means ANY, perfume or stink.  I don't want to smell you.
#10 - Don't bring food in the gym, it's not a bistro.

Locker Room Rules
#1 - Don't let your balls touch anything you don't own, use a towel.
#2 - If you need to pick something up off the floor, don't bend at the waist, use your knees.
#3 - Don't stare at my genitals, it's just wierd if you do.
#4 - I know your kid is an electrical contractor, I don't need another one of his business cards.
#5 - Don't leave your half used soap in the shower tray.
#6 - There are only two acceptable body positions in the steam or sauna room. Sitting and walking in or out. Don't stand in front of me while I'm sitting.
#7 - Shaving, brushing your teeth, combing hair, etc can be done with a towel around your waist. 
#8 - There is a time limit on cleaning your private parts in the shower, it doesn't take 5 minutes, everyone knows what you are doing.
#9 - If you don't use a lock on your locker, you waive your right to complain about stolen items.
#10 - Seriously, stop looking at my genitals.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Couple more miles under my belt

I have never really been any good at arts and crafts.  It's not hard to tell I don't have any skill.  Here is my attempt at an updated map showing my travel.  Since the last update, I've been to Hong Kong twice (once was just an overnight layover), Mainland China, Jakarta Indonesia, through Tokyo Japan, and through Toronto twice. 

In the next month I will be in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, via Dubai, and will have two quick trips to the Carolinas. 

I get asked quite a bit "do you mind doing all this traveling?"  My reply is usually "It all depends on how you look at it".  I choose to look at it as a great opportunity to see many different things I would otherwise never get the chance to see.  Everytime I experience something new it changes my view of the world.

So how do you view the things in your life?  Do you see the bright side of things?  There are good and bad things about almost every situation in life.

 I hope we can all take a minute to see the bright side and appreciate the good things.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Aero Helmet

Nothing in this world personifies a Triathlete like the Aero Helmet. 

There is a moment in every Triathletes journey when they realize that they are ready for this masterpiece of refinement and evolution.  It is a commitment to speed that outweighs the potential for embarrasment that wearing a pointy piece of foam and plastic on your head can create.

Just to compete in a race you must be ready to cross certain barriers of humility.  You start your day by donning a suit made 100% from spandex.  To make matters worse, you will wear this into public and place yourself into the spotlight.  You will immerse yourself in cold water and then run for everyone to watch.  This is just the beginning. 

Once you have become comfortable with the spandex, the nasty sweaty wetness, the snot rocketteering, and other other unspeakable incidents, you will soon be ready for the pointy helmet.

I turned this corner myself just this past race season.  I woke up one morning and I just knew I was ready.  I announced it to the world (ok maybe just family, friends, and coach).   I went to my favorite bike shop and I announced it as if it were important news that must be heard.  "I am ready for the pointy helmet!"  Matt , the owner, just stared at me for a minute then gave a slow nod like he was witnessing some significant evolutionary moment in my life. 

Soon it had arrived and I was not the only one excited!  Matt had already taken it out of the box and had it waiting for me right on the counter.  I placed it on my head and I think I heard angels sing.  I felt faster than ever before.  So I rushed home and got suited up as quickly as possible.  Not in the normal bike training outfit.... No Way.... this was a day for the race clothing.  I found myself faster than ever that day, I pedaled with the focus of a fully committed athlete. 

I checked the calendar for the next bike club Time Trial event.  I had 3 days to wait.

The day of the event, I once again wore my race outfit, crowned myself with my pointy helmet and arrived ready to compete.  I could feel the eyes of the others staring in envy,  I could hear their wispers about my new found speedy gear.  I gave that day my 100% effort and it felt great. 

I hope some day you too can feel the dedication and commitment that is the Aero Helmet. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Injured Triathlete

The injured triathlete is a difficult thing to be around.  I can say this without fear of hurting the feelings of anyone I know who trains and competes for these races.  We know that we can be a real pain in the butt during normal circumstances.  This is bound to happen when someone trains intensely at three different sports and goes through the rollercoaster of competition.

If a healthy triathlete is a 6 on the difficult-to-put-up-with scale, then a triathlete with an injury is easily an 8.5 on a good day and a 9.5 on a bad one.  At some point, a portion of our happiness relies on training and competing. 

I've been pretty fortunate in that I haven't suffered too badly from all the training, but recently my running has been sidelined by some kind of a muscle strain in my right calf.  The crap thing is, I don't even understand really how I hurt it.  I was just running on the treadmill at a liesurely 9 min/mi pace and all the sudden sharp pain in my calf.  I tried to walk it off, but nope, it was there to stay.

I gave it a day with no running and it felt fine again so I went for an easy run, BINGO, 3 miles in it starts hurting again.  So I stop and shift my training to other things like swimming and biking and weights.  I give it another couple days then test it out, 2 miles this time before I'm limping badly.

So at this point, me and my bike are becoming good friends down in the basement.  The folks at the pool are seeing me more often than ususal.  I'm still grumpy because I want to continue to improve my running, but I guess I'm going to have to give it some serious downtime.

I guess this is the beauty of triathlons, there is alway something else you can do to keep up the training.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Planet Fitness, you suck and I want my money back!

My gym membership at Anytime Fitness ran out last week.  At the same time, I was struck by a feeling that I am spending too much money on gym memberships, gear, etc.  So I decided to give the local Planet Fitness a try.  $10 a month doesn't sound too bad on the wallet and I spend most of my gym time on the treadmill when it is too nasty to run outside.

First lets just say that Planet Fitness has done some unique branding moves.  For instance they market themselves as a "no judgement zone".  Let me clarify this for you...

That means that when at the gym I am supposed to not grunt or make noises while I work out.  I am not supposed to lift heavy weights that would make other people uncomfortable.  As a matter of fact they don't even have any heavy weights, their dumbbells only go to 50 pounds.  Normal gyms have dumbbells that go up to 130 to 150 pounds. 
Now this particular location is also located in the basement of a building and is not very large at all.  As you can see in the picture above they have crammed about as much crap into this room as possible.  Also please take note of the slouchy caveman dragging his feet, this is exactly who I'm not supposed to judge.

In another twist of marketing genious, Planet Fitness offers the Black Card which they say is to give you "status".  Wait a minute, but if we aren't judging each other then why do I need "status" and is that something you can buy at Planet Fitness.  I thought status in the gym was determined by hard work and sweat and having  a road map of veins on your forearms.
But hang on! The Black Card provides you with unlimited TANNING!  You have got to be $hi++ing me!  We aren't judging each other but now the color of my skin is important? 

So now we get beyond the marketing retardation (can I say that?) and we get into my personal experience.

Day #1 - signing up for a membership
Approach the counter, be greeted by teenage bubblegum chewing ditz #1 and #2 who offer me a tour.  Ok sounds good.  The tour takes 1.5 seconds because the place is the size of my closet.  It includes a briefing on not judging people.  Sign me up!  I promise I won't judge! (fingers crossed)

Day #2 - first workout
Enter the gym to find the windows fogged with humidity and the temperature at 80 degrees.  When I approach the neanderthal at the desk, he tells me it's hot outside and the gym is busy so it got hot and humid inside.  I scratch my head and make a counter argument that it is 35 degrees outside and the gym is supposed to be busy.  35 is warm for December, what is going to happen in July?  This was countered by a stupid look on his face and a odd guppy type jaw motion.

Day#3 - second workout
Enter the gym, it's only 74 degrees inside today.  Same dip$hit at the counter "hey buddy why's it so hot today?  It's 15 degrees outside and the place is empty.  This is greeted by some drool from his mouth and an excuse that the air conditioner is not working properly but someone will fix it.  Great no problem.  How about you give me the # of the owner or manager so I can find out when it will be fixed.   "Ummmmmm I cant give you that info".  Ok, when will they be in?  "8 AM weekdays"

Day #4 - 8AM monday morning
Enter the gym and dip$hit is at the counter again.  He greets me with an Oh Crap What Do I Do Now face.  He tells me the manager already left.  I reply with about 47 second of silence.  Then tell him to give me her phone number, which he can't do.  So I give him mine and tell him to call her and have her call me.  Complicated instructions, but I'm sure he can get it done. 

Phone call from Kim the "Regional Manager" - without going into too much detail, they can't give me a refund and there is nothing wrong with the heat.....  Excellent, I guess I have a couple weeks left to enjoy the gym.  (update: Kim called me back later in the day to say that she had reconsidered the situation and decided to give me a full refund.)

Day #5 - hasn't happened yet but when it does! (day 5 cancelled, thank goodness)
Enter the gym singing "We Will Rock You" by Queen.  Proceed to the front desk to check in with the inept staff member of the day.  Reveal my home made "Planet Fitness Sucks" t-shirt.  Begin to lift and slam every weight in the gym while grunting and posing in the mirrors.  Proceed to do an interval workout on the treatmill while sweating all over everything around me.  I will congratulate myself after every interval because I am a beast!  Then I will do my stretching in the middle of the floor because there is no other place to do it.  When people have to step over me I'll tell them to get the hell out of my way!  Finally I'll do some poses in the mirror while grunting and growling at myself.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Welcome to Backwards Town

In case you have been wondering where I have been and why you haven't seen any updated posts... once again I have been censored by the Chinese Government.  Because this blog is run by Google I can't access it while in China.  I can't even check my Google mail account unless I am signing in at one of our corporate servers. 
So now that I am home from my trip and well rested.  I'm ready to unleash some serious blogging activity!

So for today, lets piss off the Belchertown Police again!  No wait, lets piss off the entire local government!

As I have said before, I live in a small town, not very sophisticated.  Now they have decided that the best solution to heavy traffic outside a small local bank is to post a police officer there EVERY DAY.  His sole job is to get out of his car everytime someone wants to pull in or out of the bank, he steps in the road and stops traffic.

I know it's a novel idea...... but...... maybe we could install a traffic light! 

Am I missing something here people???

So, may I make a formal request.  Public Works, Town Council, Someone, Anyone, please pull your head out of your ass and install a traffic light!  Then our officers can get back to doing what they do best, racial profiling, donuts, and practicing intimidating looks in the mirror.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Jakarta, Indonesia

So I hinted earlier that I had just come back from Jakarta which was actually a pretty interesting place to visit.  Indonesia is surprisingly large and Jakarta is very heavily populated.  There is something like 9.5 million people living in the city.
To get there I went from Hartford to Chicago to Hong Kong to Jakarta, this can be bad enough on it's own but with a tight connection in Hong Kong and mechanical issues in Chicago it is worse.  We missed the connection and did an overnight in HK.  The Hotel is actually connected right to the airport terminal which is very handy.  To put it simply, this place is huge! 

 This is the hotel airport lobby at 3 AM and later in the day.  I had wicked jet lag so I went to the gym which you can see below.  The gym was empty except one other American who was in the same situation.
As you can see it is rated the best airport hotel in the world...  it was pretty handy.... and pretty cool.

So after I got in a serious fight with the airlines the next morning as they tried to delay my flight again, I finally made it to Indonesia.  The airport was pretty crazy and uncoordinated.  It was more of a mob than lines trying to get through security and Customs.
It takes 3.5 seconds to get a Visa in Indonesia, just pay them $25 and they hand you a Visa.  Pretty handy.

We were greeted by a company car because the plan was to head directly to the factory.  A new Toyota van was brought around and I was surprised that it literally didn't have a heater.  It also only has a cassette deck, no CD. 
I guess I just thought all cars had heaters, but, I guess not here.  Maybe because it is always sweltering hot.

This is basically what the skyline looks like.  Overall, it is pretty dirty and nasty and mostly a free-for-all on the roads.

The streets are all lined by these food carts that have anything from soda to fruit and other local foods.   TONS of people on motorcycles.  Now keep in mind, it's like 90+ degrees outside and some of them are wearing winter type coats.  WTF?
Also note that the cars are only inches apart.  That black jeep nearly took off our mirror as he drove past.
Below you can see one of the other modes of transport, the 3-wheeler.  Indonesia has this awesome "lifted" version which I think is pretty awesome.

 Now for my usual shots of the workout facilities.  This is the gym and pool at the hotel.  Overall, not too bad and they agreed to open it early for me.  All workouts as usual resulted in people standing and staring at me.  I'm totally used too this now and try to give them something to do, like get me a towel or water or something.  I'm not very muscular now that I stopped lifting, but anywhere over seas, I'm a giant compared to them.  Good for my ego, bad for privacy. 

So in the end, I won't be going to Jakarta on vacation anytime soon.  But I hear Bali is nice...