All I want to do is drink beer and train like an animal.
- Rod Dixon

I'm feeling rough. I'm feeling raw. I'm in the prime of my life.
- MGMT


Ars Longa, Vita Brevis

We all could be great, but we have to open our mind to the way in which we could.
- Kenny Florian


Ὁ βίος βραχύς
ἡ δὲ τέχνη μακρή
ὁ δὲ καιρὸς ὀξύς
ἡ δὲ πεῖρα σφαλερή
ἡ δὲ κρίσις χαλεπή

- Hippocrates


"Life is short" - so begins the Greek quotation by Hippocrates at the start of this post. I came upon this quotation in it's latin which begins: "Ars longa, vita bervis ...".  Digging around for it's meaning led me to an idiomatic translation of the Greek goes like this:

Life is [too] short
And the task is huge
The right time is like a razor blade
The road to experience is fraught with hazards
To continuously accept reality and critical thought over hope and prejudice is taxing

Since then I've been thinking a lot, almost obsessively, about this quote. I don't think any athlete needs me to explain why.

Coincidentally, at the same time Malcolm Gladwell's "10,000 hour rule" popped up in two different texts I was reading: Sam Sheridan's "A Fighter's Mind" and "How to become a programmer in 10 years" by Peter Norvig (the source of the "Ars Longa" quote). I haven't read Gladwell's book but the rough idea is that if you want to be great at something you need 10,000 hours of practice - everything else will follow.

For reference, that's about 3 hours a day, everyday, for 10 years.

I could write pages and pages about this idea, but in the interest of actually finishing a post let me say this; I'm 26. I'm not an old man but the clock is ticking and I do, very much, want to master something athletic in my lifetime.

But, life is short; we move, we burn out, we get injured. And the task is huge; we become complacent, plans change, goals change, needs change. The right time is like a razor blade; we invest too little, or too much. The road to experience is fraught with hazards; we get frustrated with ourselves, the culture, or the group. To continuously accept reality and critical thought over hope and prejudice is taxing; we have our expectations, and everyone else's expectations.

So yeah, I'm thinking a lot about this.

Jiujitsu As Art

“A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways they're capable of understanding.” 
Steve Prefontaine

I always love it when someone creates something that captures the spirit of a sport. I'm pretty hooked on jiujitsu right now and this teaser for a DVD of the 2008 world championships captures the sport as I see it: complex, elegant, and dynamic. Enjoy!

March Training Update

This is a long overdue update on my 2011 cycling training and where I think my season is going. Before I start, I want to say that in general I'm having a good year and I'm in a positive mood. Cycling, on the other hand, is not going well.

I started training a little late because I had a goal of competing in Brazilian Jiujitsu in early winter. I consciously decided to follow through with that goal even though it meant pushing back the start of my season a few weeks.

But once things got rolling in mid-January, well, they never really got rolling. I had knee issues that got pretty bad before I was through my 2nd week of training. It was very touch-and-go and it took a few weeks for me to narrow down my symptoms and figure out the causes. Yoga, Ibuprofen, stretching, research, cleat and position adjustments, ice; I was trying everything. In the end I required some professional attention to my fit from Gehling to (mostly) address the problem.

But just as I was starting to get back into the swing of training again I tried to address some of the mechanical issues I was having on my road bike. As I investigated I realized something was seriously wrong. I took it in to my local bike shop and found out that I had cracked a lock ring on my bottom bracket. It was a Specialized brand part that needed to be shipped in from California.

Between me trying to figure out the problem, taking it to the shop, them figuring out the problem, sending for the part, it arriving, installing it, and me driving down to North Carolina for my annual spring training camp I had lost another 2 weeks of training.

Coming off that (abbreviated) trip I've taken stock of where things stand.

It's almost the end of March. Road racing has already started last weekend. I've had about 4 good weeks of training all winter with no workouts. My knee is ridable but still only feels 80-90% on longer rides. I'm far from the shape I need to be in to finish, let alone be competitive, in Cat3 races. I would guess that I would not be in shape to race on the road till early June and the season ends in late July.

In short, I'm honestly not motivated right now.

My season thus far has zapped a lot of my enthusiasm. Instead of putting energy into things like gut-busting workouts and tuning up my bikes, I've just been trying to ride for a week without interruption while everyone around me is getting stronger. While riding is still fun, putting it in the context of training to race has just been a source of frustration this year.

Racing, especially on the road, is unforgivingly competitive. More than any other racing discipline I've done, including all other forms of running, triathlons, and other kinds of bike racing, road riding is all-or-nothing. There are no finishers' medals, there are no T-shirts. You put you money down and if you're not with the winners they will pull you off the course.

So for me personally, I think I'm reaching a critical point of diminishing returns on my 2011 road season. I'm not sure what I'm going to do at this point. But, unlike years past, this hasn't made me a crabby bitch and I can at least say I'm happy with that.

More later.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet

If you spend enough time on the internet and computers you've probably come across a phrase that starts out like this:


"Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet ..."


It's a standard placeholder used in documents and webpages as dummy text. It turns out the text was lifted from a work by Cicero written in 45 BC. Oddly, enough the text is pretty relevant: 


"But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of denouncing pleasure and praising pain was born and I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness. No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?"


So yeah, I'm basically blogging about the same stuff 2,000 years later. Funny.

Canadian Snow Bikes

Every now and then I see something that makes me stop and go " ... maybe I'm doing it wrong."



Bikes for life.

(via Geocycle)

Copa NoVa White Belt Middleweight

This was my 2nd match of the day. There were an odd number of guys in my bracket so by luck of the draw I got a by out of the first round. If I won my first match I would have had been in the top 4 with 2 more matches and a shot at a metal.

Unfortunately, I lost the match. I'm pretty sure I failed to even score an advantage, meaning I had 0 points for the entire tournament. But, as far as losses go, I was OK with this one. I stuck to my game so now I know what I need to improve. Below is the match video with comments. I'm in all white, he's in blue. The guy you can hear yelling on camera is directing my opponent. My teammate in gray right in front of the camera is doing the same to me. You can't hear him in the video, but I could during the match.


  • 0:00 - I work my standing guard break but I fail to transition into as pass.
  • 0:20 - Repeat.
  • 0:40 - He takes my back in the scramble and tries to choke me with the collar of my gi. 
  • 1:15 - There's a lot of foot fighting going on here. I'm trying to hook his feet away from my legs and body so I can twist around to face him again. He's still trying to choke me.
  • 1:50 - Get my guard back but I can't sit up ("posture up"). I was thinking "this is bad".
  • 2:10 - He lands a triangle choke. I try to stand up to stack him and break the choke but he pulls my leg out from under me. I eventually tap.
Like I said, my guard break and my defense when he took my back were both pretty good. I've been practicing transitioning from my guard break to my pass this week and I think that's going to lead to some very different matches this weekend.

Copa NoVa No-Gi Middleweight Beginner

This was my 1st BJJ match ever. Given 5 months of training I was happy enough with it. I didn't do anything too stupid and tried the stuff I hoped to try. I came away with somethings to work on.

In short my opponent got a take down on me (2 points) and then played a conservative game, mostly just using arm strength to lock me down in my guard.  I tried to play some armbars and kimuras but I couldn't quite set anything up. I tried to hit a hip-bump sweep a couple of times but his base was too good. In opening up my guard for these sub/sweep attempts I opened up some passing opportunities. At once point he was able to scramble into side control which got him 2 more points though I was able to get my guard back. In the end he won 4-0.

Here is a video of the end of the match. I'm in the black tights with the white "Wisconsin" lettering on the side. I've provided some narration below for those who have no idea what's going on:



  • 0:00 to 0:05 - He has side control and I shrimp out and get to my knees
  • 0:05 to 0:20 - I try to land a guillotine choke but I didn't get my legs around him and he defended with his chin. He used my lack of a closed guard to try to jump to side control.
  • 0:20 to 0:30 - I get him in something like turtle (on your hands and knees with you head tucked) and try to spin around to attack his back but he grabs my leg and we end up falling into my guard.
  • 0:30 to end - He clamps down in my guard. I try to work his arms out for a triangle or and arm bar but I can't get my body off-center enough to pull it off. I pull faux rubber guard because I run out of things to try.
In watching the video I noticed that I tend to hold on to guillotine chokes long after they've been neutralized as a way of controlling the head and body and chilling out for a second when really I should just move on to something else. I have plenty to work on but really enjoying myself!

More on my Gi match later this week.

Preview: My First BJJ Tournament


Tomorrow I'm going to get up before the sun and drive out past DC to Western NoVa. There I'll weigh in and be assigned a weight class. I'll spending a couple of boring hours eating PB&J's, reading a book, and listening to some music. Eventually, I'll go into the locker room and slip on a groin protector and a thick white judo gi (uniform). I'll tie a white belt around my waist and slip in my mouth guard.  After a last-minute word of encouragement from a teammate who will be cornering me I'll walk on to the mat and shake hands with a stranger.

Then, we'll try to beat the crap out of each other.

Well, I'm exaggerating a bit but "grapple the crap out of each other" just doesn't have the same ring to it. It's unlikely anyone will get hurt because there is no striking in Brazilian Jiujitsu and many of the more dangerous moves (neck cranks, knee bars, heel hooks) are illegal.

But there are still plenty of brutal things we can do to impose our will on the other peson.

For starters we are going to try and throw each other to the ground by grabbing each other's uniform to drag the other person around for a huge judo throw or by diving at each other's legs for a wrestling take down. Once on the ground we'll scramble for a variety of dominant positions like knee on belly, side control, or full mount; all of which use your full body weight to pin your opponent to the ground. And while you can't hit each other there is a lot you can do to hold onto, or get out of, a dominant position. You can grind their face with your hand, forearm, or shoulder. You can kneel on them. You can squeeze their abdomen with your legs like an anaconda. You can smother them.

Once one of us has a dominant position we'll go for a submission. A submission can be an air or blood choke done with your arms, legs, forearms, or even their own uniform. Or it can be a done by threatening to hyperextend any of their joints except for their fingers or toes. With some restrictions you can evan attck their knees, ankles, and neck. Again, this can be done with any number pretzel-like manipulations of your arms and legs. Once a person feels the pressure of a submission being applied it is their responsibility to "tap out" for their own safety, signaling that they submit and thereby allowing their opponent to release the submission.

At the end of 5 minutes if no one was submitted the winner will be decided on points awarded for establishing and escaping dominant positions. If I win I'll move up the bracket and fight again in a few minutes. One way or another I'll repeat the whole thing in a few hours in the no-gi division where you wear whatever athletic clothes you like and it's illegal to use the other person's clothes to grip and choke.

So that's how my first BJJ tournament will go (I think).

As much as my brown belt test in aikido in early December, this is one of the capstones of my "fighting" half of 2010. It will be the first time I've ever competed head-to-head against another person like this and the first time I've ever had the chance to "test" my proficiency in a martial art.

Since I made it through tryouts in November, I've been practicing with the competition team at my gym to get ready for this. For the first time in my life I've been doing conditioning (pushups, situps, medicine ball and drills) 2 or 3 times a week for about 6 months. In the last month I've found that I'm finally competitive with the other white belts, landing multiple types of submissions and generally holding my opponents to 1 submission (In practice, unlike a tournament, we just start over if you are submitted so you can get multiple submissions in a round). I'm about as ready as a new white belt can be.

Thinking about tomorrow, I guess I should be excited or nervous; but mostly I'm just happy. I've wanted this for a while and now I'm actually doing it.

I am becoming who I want to be.

Winter Trail Running Video

Even though I'm not much of a runner anymore (I have no running races planned this year for the first time since 1999) I do still love running. Of all the types of training I used to do trail running was my favorite. And the best time to run on the trail was in the winter after a snowfall. I got this video from Alyssa's blog (where you can see her own parody). I think it's just gorgeous full of shots of Colorado mountain running in the snow - so I had to reshare.

[I originally embedded the video but the embedding triggers an auto-play and it was messing with the rest of the site. Follow the link here. ]

Can't want to get out there myself on the MTB in a few weeks!

My 1st Degree Brown Belt Test in Aikido

In early December I tested for my 1st degree brown belt (also called 3rd kyu or sankyu) in the Japanese martial art of Aikido. This test was one of my big goals during my 6-month break from cycling. You can watch the test below (it picks up after the first 3 minutes). Below the video I copied an email I sent to my friends who were coming to watch the test that explained what was going on. 




So what's this test?

I've been practicing aikido for 2.5 years now.  This test will be for a 1st degree brown belt (my first non-white belt rank). It is the 4th test out of the 7 needed to get a black belt. 

What's on the test?

The test will consist of demonstrating techniques chosen from a predetermined list against a variety of attacks. However, each test will always contain some "surprise" techniques from higher level test to push the student. These can include ground techniques, knife and weapon techniques or multiple attackers. 

How do you know when you are ready test?

Testing is really just the culmination of a process a couple of months long involving training time requirements, a formal mentorship by a senior student, a practice test and the approval of the senior dojo members.  Because of all these requirements the "test" you are seeing is really more of a showcase of the training level the student has already demonstrated.

How will we know if you are doing well?

When aikido is done right it is easy to appreciate. It looks very flowing and natural. I should look relaxed and comfortable; even if I fumble a technique and need to recover I should visibly be in control of both myself and my attacker at all times. 

Some of this stuff looks ... weird

The techniques on the test are called kihon-waza, classical techniques. They make up the testing curriculum for historical reasons and some of them look far removed from what you would see in a real fight. Really, Kihon-waza is not all we do in aikido nor is it the ultimate demonstration of aikido. But to paraphrase one my sensei's "these are 'just dumb exercises' but we can still learn a lot from them if we do them right.". 

Kihon-waza is better thought of as a set of tools we use to study and develop aikido. To that end it's helpful to think of aikido as less of a set of fighting techniques (3 different kicks, 4 different punches, etc.) and more of a way of fighting (calm, composed, flowing and spontaneous). 

"So do you both always know the attack and defense beforehand?"

This is a question Jen asked me at my test last year and I've been thinking about it since then. The short answer I gave her was "yes". Now I don't know what was going through Jen's head but it got me thinking about how I could convince people that this isn't just a dance recital. 

Here is my answer a year later:

I've heard a quote that goes "great music shouldn't predictable but it should be inevitable.". I think the same thing is true of great aikido

Everything should be an inevitable sequence of events you set up. Their attack should come because you've left an opening for them to attack. All the techniques that occur should be the result of your redirecting their attacks into an inevitable result. So while in general they might know what's coming (there are lots of variations within one technique so you can always mix things up) the person executing the technique should still be in control at all times. This control is can not be faked.

It's a hard effect to pull off, it's not an easy way to train, and it can easily degenerate into a dance recital. 

But when it's done right it's both real and powerful.

More Writing in 2011

For the past few years I've taken a step back in the beginning of the new year to kind of "clean house" around this blog. Mostly, I work on the design and layout but I also stop and think about the content of the site. I've gone in a lot of different directions in the past and I'm particularly excited about what I'm thinking for 2011.

When I first started this blog as an injury-plagued 21-year-old college student and runner about to undergo surgery I was focused on "logging". I logged miles and workouts and tucked in little observations and notes about the day. While this works for some people, I found it monotonous and had trouble keeping up the consistency.

Eventually, I found other ways to log my training (Dailymile) and, aside from monthly training updates, I moved on to "sharing". I posted media: movies, music, pictures, and news articles until I created something like a (very) poor mans cross between BikesnobPezCycling and Pitchfork. It was fun and worked on some levels but in the end it was too scatterbrained and not a good fit for Blogger's interface. 

Once this ran it's course I started doing a lot of "reporting". I had always written race/training reports as a central part of this blog's content but this really took off in 2010 when I had 17 races and 6 months of training to write about. I had a lot of fun writing these since I had lot of good results and stories to share. But, by the end they were mostly page-long variations on "I sat in the pack, weaker people got dropped, I moved up on the last lap, I sprinted hard, got a top 10, I'm happy". While this the part of my blog I've been most consistently happy with I think in 2011 I can condense and continue to improve my race reports with more pictures and less filler.

But, that brings me to my goal for 2011 in this blog: more "writing". I want to start writing more about my ideas, goals, thoughts and experiences as they manifest themselves in sports. I don't want to go all "LiveJournal" on you guys and get all weepy and weird but I do want to start putting more of my thoughts on here beyond just "Today's race was, like, really hard".

Part of doing this is condensing. When I have an idea I can go to town and write for pages. That's great for journaling or drafting but not for a blog post. This year, when I have an idea, I want to express it as simply as possible till I run out of steam, attach a picture, and then share it on here.

Like this. 

The Lifestyle: My Winter Biking Clothing Guide

For those of you who don't know I'm pretty active on the social training website Dailymile (founded by a fellow UW Triathlon and Cycling Team alumnus). It's a great way to keep track of your training and stay motivated. I would recommend giving it a try to stick to your 2011 goals.

The website also has a blog and today's post is one I wrote called "A Crash Course in Winter Cycling". It's basically a how-to guide to dress for winter riding. You can check it out here.

Thanks to Geo for consulting and letting me use his crazy picture..

Got My Creative Commons License!

If you scroll to the bottom of your site you'll notice I now have a neat little badge for my Creative Commons license. This little guy basically serves as a copywrite on my blog. Not that anyone would want to steal the gibberish I toss up here but it does give the place a nice professional touch.

Plus, it's kinda fun to say I have one.

For those who don't know Creative Commons is a nonprofit that helps people license their work in the public domain. Rather than registering my blog with them, or anything formal like that, Creative Commons instead provides a general set of guidelines for different levels of using your work. You pick the one you want and then link to the document as an explicit guideline.

If you want to do this for your own blog head over to the creative commons site and fill out a simple anonymous form. It takes about 2 min.

The Lifestlye: 2011 Cyclocross Nationals

The USAC 2012* Cyclocross Nationals will be held in Madison, WI, my alma mater's hometown. I still have tons of friends in Madison, almost all of who race bikes. I love to visit there and I love a good adventure so this 2011 goal was minted as soon as I heard about the venue even though I've only done 1 XC race.

But, in order to better fit the international cyclocross schedule (and those american riders hoping to compete at worlds) USAC as move the US championships from the 2nd week in December (2011) to ... the 1st weekend in January (2012). I don't know if you've ever been to Madison in January but the average high ... is 26 degrees.

Damn.

Not to mention I'll have to peak while traveling to Chicago over Christmas and New Years (definitely no champagne at midnight).

But then I look at this picture of my buddy B-foz doing a little winter CX racing in Madison last winter and I get equal parts scared and excited.



Well, I've got a year. Let's see what happens.


*Technically there will be no 2011 US CX Championships because the championships after the 2010 edition will be held in 2012 because of the change in date.

Odds and Ends: The 2011 Face of .CS.

Every year around this time I give my blog a little face lift. I mix up the color palate, swap the images and dump/add some sidebar gadgets. This year Blogger has rolled out some pretty sweet features that make it easy to customize things the site is looking pretty slick already.

It's still under construction but it already feels like a breath of fresh air and it's got me excited to start posting again. That's right, it's 2011 kids and I'm back on the blogsphere! I've got some pretty sweet adventures lined up for this year so stay tuned for anther year of great posts.

Just to give you some teasers:

  • My first Brazilian Jiujitsu tournaments
  • My 4th training trip to the mountains of N.C.
  • My first race in a Cat3 field
  • My first road race(s) against pros
  • Races in DC, Baltimore, Philly, NYC, VA
  • Maybe some travel races as far as Chicago, WI, and Boston.
  • More MTB races
  • More XC races?
  • New Bikes?
  • Race wheels?
  • A national championship race?

Oh man, it's going to be a great year!