Sunday, October 31, 2010

Back in the Saddle

Today started at 6 AM which I think is great considering I'm still suffering from a moderate case of jet lag.  I usually get up around 5 so that means I actally slept in.  I made a steak and cheese omlette and two cups of coffee for breakfast.  I let the dogs out and stood outside for about 5 minutes breathing the morning air.

I wonder, do you think you could tell the season just from the smell of the air?  I think that I could.  In the fall the air smells woodsy to me.  In the summer you can smell the grass.  In the spring, it smells like mud.  In the winter the air is just so dry and crisp.

I haven't been on my bike in a couple weeks and I really missed it.  There is something really great about riding in the fall.  The weather is cool but the days are still long enough to have enough time.  The rides can be more recreational and not centered on mileage, heart rate, intervals, etc. 

Today, I did one of my favorite shorter rides up to the Quabbin Tower.  It is rolling terrain with about a 2 mile steady climb to the top.  On the way, you pass over a large earth dam that usually has families and couples.  At the top their is a lookout with a tower, typically people drive to the top and sit to take in the sights.  You never know who you will see up there.

Today, there were 3 people at the top.  One park ranger sitting eating lunch in his truck and a middle aged couple who told me all about their daughter who does the Lake Placid race.  They are obviously very proud of her. 

On the way home, an older man riding a titanium road bike pulled up next to me and started a conversation.  It is always interesting the people you meet out on a ride.  This man was about 60, very lean, he was wearing and old school wool jersey and knit wool arm warmers.  He asked me what class I raced in, I told him that I was a triathlete and was too afraid to ride in a bike race.  It was clear that even though he was much older, he was much more fit that me.  Basically I drafted him for the next 4 miles until he turned off.  It was nice to have some company for a couple minutes, especially because of the wind.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween Costume Guide

Tis the season for Halloween parties and Trick or Treating.  It can be stressful picking out just the right costume for this holiday.  You could just go to the store and buy something, but that is a little weak.  The challenge is to be creative and unique.  Last year, I created a Lone Ranger costume and I'm not sure it worked out so well.  Overall, if I was going to describe it, I would say ODD.  I am no expert and my historical choices have been questionable, but, if you are struggling for ideas this season, please use the following guide.

Chilean Miners
I guarantee this will be way over done.  Unless you want to look like 5 other guys at the party, skip this one. 

You can go as Justin Bieber, especially if you can pull off the swoopy hair.  It's not really creative or edgy, but just OKAY.

Going Headless is ALWAYS cool and guaranteed to make people do a WTF double take.

Jack Sparrow, ok, do it if you want, but I'm telling you right now keep the friggin sword away from me!

Now this is just bad-ass, but why are they the only ones in costume?  Interesting...

Go ahead and go for the Lady Gaga move if you want.  Let me just warn you... people will ask if you are a hermaphrodite.  And you will probably have to sing too.
 Obviously, these are OK

If you are going with your pets, here are some funny options.



If you come near me in this outfit I will punch you in the face!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Byzantium, Constantinople, Stamboul, Augusta Antonina, New Rome, and Kostantiniyye

So these are all names for Istanbul, the place where I spent the day this weekend.  What a beautiful city with lots to see and lots of history.  Don't worry, I'm not going to get too boring here, just gonna give you my version.

Tourist stop #1 the Blue Mosque, it's wicked old and pretty impressive.  They throw everyone out at prayer time which is announce by a man howling over a loudspeaker.  Also visited was the Hagia Sophia and other historical sites that you could look up online if you actually cared.

It's bad for men and women to spiritually cleanse together.  This a very different area when it comes to the treatment of women. Nuff Said.

There is no place in the universe that is free from Starbucks and McDonald's.  I don't know why people would go there with so many great unique options available.

Lunch was a Margharita pizza, Fanta, Double Espresso, and Baklava.  This was all eaten on a patio with Bob Marley playing.  On the desert menu was a "water pipe" which is the long way of saying Bong.

They take their smoking very seriously.  I saw this guy and asked his permission to take a photo.  His only request was that I let him properly arrange his bong first.  I can appreciate that he didn't want his bong looking bad in a photo.  He was smoking this one on the sidewalk

I spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out down by the water with a bunch of guys who were fishing.  There were people selling nuts, fishing tackle, hot tea, corn on the cob, and other things. 

Overall, I had a really great time exploring the city.  The buildings were beautiful, the weather was perfect, the people nice, and the food was tasty.  I don't want to move there, but it was a nice place to visit.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Welcome to Baghdad

Well I never thought I’d be looking out the window of a plane and see Baghdad that’s for sure.  This weekend, I’m transferring from Sri Lanka to Istanbul via Dubai and guess what… I fly directly over Baghdad. 
As I’m snapping this photo of the TV screen, the people around me start wondering just what the heck is The White Man doing.  So I point and say “Baghdad”. They ask me if that is where I’m going.  I say HELL NO!  They all have a good laugh as they turn their fingers into guns and laugh as they shoot them all over the place.  Apparently it is a real funny topic, Americans getting shot in Iraq.
I guess this is just one of those hidden benefits of traveling around the world.  You get to experience all the great interactions with other cultures.  In America we talk about celebrating diversity and people strap a rainbow sticker on the back of their car.  Outside America I don't see much celebrating of diversity and we certainly have our critics.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Training with No Excuses

Training while traveling can be a little tough at times but if you are creative and dedicated, it can be done.  Sometimes there are only basic tools available and many times you can’t safely leave the property on your own. 
Even a walk down the beach can turn into a problem if a local person gets angry or if you get in bad location.  Many people don’t have anything to lose and everything to gain.  You gotta be careful, that’s for sure.
On this trip, although the hotel is more of a beach resort and is really quite nice, the gym is really minimal with just some dumbbells, antique treadmills and bikes, and an old Cybex Universal machine.  You actually have to go down to the reception area to get a key just to get in the room.  The room is also about 80 degrees and 90% humidity which means it is a sweaty mess for a guy like me.
The alternative is to use my room and do a stability ball workout, or yoga, or just basic calisthenics.  Sometimes all you need is just a clear space on a floor and it’s amazing how good of a workout you can get.
The problem is that you have to fit it into an already packed schedule.  In my case this week I may leave the hotel at 7:30 AM and not get home until 9 PM.  That means you have to get up early to get it done.   You have to put it into your schedule and make yourself do the work. 
I don’t know if I’ll get faster or stronger this year, but it won’t be because I didn’t try.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

First Day in Sri Lanka

I arrived into the airport at about 2:20 AM which was about 25 minutes late.  No big deal when you consider it was over 20 hours of flight total.  I made it through customs with no issues at all; there was a huge sign that said being caught with illegal drugs was punishable by death.  Good thing I’m clean.  One thing I thought was funny was that many people put their hands up when they go through the metal detector.  I wonder exactly what that does…

They had some very strange things in the Duty Free area.  I’m not exactly sure why someone would by a washer and dryer in an airport.
I ran the gauntlet of money exchange booths that literally yell at you as you go by.  Then I found my driver amid a large group of sleepy eyed locals who would prefer to still be in bed at 3 AM obviously.
When I exited the terminal, I was hit with a wave of humidity and was instantly wet.  We made our way to the car and off we went on a 45 minute ride.  About 30 minutes in, he started drinking a mysterious liquid from a green glass bottle; I didn’t dare to ask what it might be.  Shortly thereafter he decided to take a “short cut” through some back alleys that had me a little nervous but soon enough we popped out back on a major road.
Let me just say that clearly there are no rules on how to drive in this area, markings in the road are not even considered.  They just do whatever they want.
Checking in at any hotel at 4 in the morning is guaranteed to be an odd experience.  This one was no different; I just wanted to get to my room.  The bellboy showed me the way to the elevator which required that we walk through a courtyard with a fountain.  I arrive at my room #414 and find the door open.  So I pretended to be James Bond as I systematically “cleared” each room to make sure there was no one hiding on me.  Ok, so being up for way too long made me a little wacky.

I used the bathroom, showered, shaved and laid down only to find that there were no blankets. WTF?  So being too lazy and tired to call to have some delivered, I froze my ass off all night.  I was pretty curious what I would find for accommodations when the sun came up.
When I my alarm went off I looked out the window to see the ocean waves crashing like mad, I guess there is some storm surge in the Indian Ocean right now.  I got dressed and went down to find where ever breakfast was.  It turned out to be a pretty large buffet with eastern and western options.  I chose some “chicken” sausage, Swedish potatoes, toast, bacon, curried chicken, coffee, and a pastry.  I have to say that it was all pretty good.  About ¾ of the way through a wave of rain came through forcing me inside to finish. 
Yes, another "table for one".

After breakfast I explored the property to see what was going on.  I found a nice stretch of beach with some grass hut type restaurants that I guess open later in the day.  There was a tower with a dining table on the top, I guess that is for VIP diners so they can look down on everyone else.

I was stopped by a couple men trying to sell sea shells, sorry guys, no luck.

The hotel was nice enough to post a sign telling people when it was safe to swim.

Then, as you can see the flag was red = no swimming.  Then you can also see the two guys getting smashed by waves.  I guess the rules don't apply to these guys.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Where am I?

As I've mentioned before, I will be traveling quite a bit this year.  This should give me a chance to see many new things that many people don't get to experience.  Hopefully I don't recreate any episodes from the TV show Locked up Abroad
Just to give an idea of the mileage I'm talking about, this is a map of my current travels.  This is just the beginning. 

I don't get much time to do tourist type things but I'll do as much as I can.  I'll try to take some interesting photos and tell about the local culture and cuisine.  Hopefully I stay out of trouble in the process.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Do you want your eyebrows threaded?

My selection of cloths in my closet is getting a little weak.  I am down to one pair of jeans that isn't completely trashed.  So, with a little spare time today I headed to the mall. 

Let me just say right off the bat that I am not cut out for shopping.  There are only a couple stores at the mall that interest me even slightly.  So I don't make it there very often. 

Today, I was walking along headed to the next store on the quest for a pair of jeans that actually fit and I see an entire store dedicated to "Eyebrow Threading".  I stopped in my tracks, made a scruntched up face, and stared into the open doorway.  Clearly I have lost touch with what people are doing, because I have no idea what Eyebrow Threading is.

Apparently I'm not alone because they had a video playing outside the salon showing just what they do.  They basically use a technique of manipulating two strings to rip the hair out of your face. 
So I'm left wondering, how can you justify an entire salon only dedicated to ripping hair from peoples faces? 

Clearly it is an art form and much cooler than using tweezers to do the task.  Obviously string is less dangerous than putting hot wax on your eye.  What I'm really wondering is when they are going to shift this to other areas.  Underarm Threading or Bikini Threading anyone???

By the way, practically every pair of jeans I tried on felt like this but the waist was still too big.  It sucks having big legs with a small waist.

For my next post maybe I'll comment on how the sweater vest is back in style.  Wow, I have been living under a rock apparently.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Adapt and Overcome

I really enjoy the sport of Triathlon and over the past couple years it has become the main focus of my physical training.  I have spent quite a lot of time either training, or reading about training, or dreaming of fast bikes and light shoes.  I'm also an engineer at heart so I analyze the hell out of everything and like to have a plan.

I've been working with a great trainer named Martha Grinnell who not only has proven that she can kick ass in the sport (at the pro level) but also has an uncanny ability to understand the needs of an athlete.

Over the past couple years we have been able to use a pretty much traditional triathlon training regimen and it has worked really well.  I'm so much better than I was when I first started out.

Now we have a new challenge.  Because I am traveling quite a bit, I don't always have access to a bike, a pool, or an open road that is safe to run.  I was left wondering how in the world am I going to train and compete under the circumstances.  I didn't have to wonder long because Martha had more ideas than I could wrap my head around.  Put it this way, I won't have any excuses for not getting in a workout.

So now, possible workout locations include stairwells, hallways, and I'm pretty sure I'll be doing some type of airport terminal workout.  Of course sometimes I'll have access to a good gym or pool, but now that isn't mandatory.  The true test will be if I can improve my race times over last year.  Time will tell.

So stay tuned, I'll do my best to post some unique workouts. 

Today, I joined Katie for a Crossfit workout.  I only did the fitness evaluation and I was completely wiped out.  I totally hit the wall and it didn't take long.  I'd love to find a way to fit their workouts into my program as we go forward. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Contageous Accents

What is a contagious accent?  Well, basically it is what happens when you talk with someone who has a strong accent and it starts to rub off on you.   It could be the always awesome Austrailian with shrimp on the barbie, a slight drawl when you are around someone from the south, or the smart English accent of a Brit.

Particularly during this past trip down south, I noticed that when I talked to people for an extended amount of time I started up a little southern drawl of my own.  I was getting a little worried that I would still have it when I got home.

I happen to know a couple people who truly enjoy catching the British accent.  They could go on for hours and hours talking about tea and crumpets and such.  You would think they were getting ready for dinner with the Queen. 

One of my favorite accents is the Maine accent.  I often get requests to perform my Maine accent which usually I try to turn down.  But if I have a couple beers in me, you better watch out because I turn into a regular Mainah.  The problem is that it’s hard to turn off. 

So if you are talking to someone “from away”, or you are traveling, please be careful. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Public appology to the woman at Anytime Fitness

I belong to a gym in Btown called Anytime Fitness.  If you aren’t familiar with it, basically it is a fully equipped fitness facility that may or may not be staffed at the front desk.  They give you a RFID key tag that allows you entry to the building “anytime” hence the name.
So sometime I go there at odd hours like early on a weekend morning or late at night.  They have an upper parking lot and a back parking lot.  Pretty much everyone parks in the upper lot in front of the building.

I don’t mind working out alone, I really don’t do anything too dangerous or risky and I like the peace and quiet.   There is this odd thing that keeps happening though…  I pull in to the building, there are no cars out front.  I look through the window and there are no cars out back.  So I figure I have the whole place to myself.  I’ll tell you why this is important.

1.)    I like to point all the fans at myself
2.)    I like to do circuit training which could use most of the weight machines at the same time
3.)    Running on a treadmill gives me gas

Ok so that 3rd one is a little revealing, but I’m sure I’m not the only one that gets gas, so no big deal.

So here’s the story.  I’m in the gym; it’s early on a Sunday morning.  No cars in the parking lot.  I’m on the treadmill.  I figure it’s pretty safe to let one rip.  So I do.

I look up from my treadmill mounted TV screen and who walks up the stairs but some old lady!  Awww crap, and she’s walking right through my cloud of doom!  There is no one else to blame it on!   What was I supposed to do now?

So I just said good morning and pretended like nothing happened.  Sorry lady, I didn’t know you were there.