Monday, September 15, 2014

Scratching Post

On Friday I went to the local ASPCA to play with the animals.  Someone told me there are just rooms of animals roaming relatively free that you can play with - and it's true!

When I got there I was a little grumpy.

I looked around a little bit.

I was very suspicious for a while.

I stiff-armed a lot because I wasn't sure of my surroundings.

I wanted to watch rather than interact.

Eventually I got a bit more comfortable.

Soon I wore myself out and needed to sit down.

Which was a bad idea because then I was covered with animals and stuck sitting on a concrete floor for an hour and a half.

Being a pillow (and a scratching post to a 2-month-old kitten aptly named Freddie Krueger who climbs you like a tree) is tough work.

Sadly I didn't see these two there.

PS - Mr. Haugh, if you are reading this, I totally had permission to take that sweatshirt off of school property....

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Step Right Up

Two experiences this past weekend starkly highlighted what has been a developing anecdotal observation since I started swimming with my age-group team here.

The seed was planted when my first couple of weeks of practice contained more all-out swimming (or all-out of any physical activity) than my entire previous swimming experience combined.  Most of it was off the blocks, meaning the diving start of real swim races, and all of it was supposed to be as intense and focused as real swim races.  I was nearly overwhelmed with the anxiety of it - the anticipation, the pressure, the pain - and all were (seemed to be) totally at ease.   In fact, all they wanted to do was 100s all-out off the blocks and all I wanted to do was vomit.

Several months later I'm all "you want me to do x, y, z all-out?  ok, lets's go on the next top."

But the funny thing is that the (slow) change didn't even occur to me.  Not once.  Until this weekend.

On Sunday I "watched" the Ironman 70.3 World Championships and putting myself in their shoes, vividly remembered the gut-wrenching anxiety of triathlon race starts.

Except that on Saturday I did 12 (!) race-simulation repeats without much hesitation.

Setting aside the different physiological demands of triathlon versus pool swimming that determine their ultimate repeatability, the practice of swim starts and damn-near-close-to-race-intensity swimming is intentional.  A swimmer could start 6 events in one day of a three-day meet in a season of at least 1 meet/month.  Balking really isn't an option.  You need to step right up - and go.

In that moment - and swim starts, it truly is only a moment - you don't want to think.  You want your body to act, almost in reflex, for the entirety of the race.  Therefore, swimmers practice starts, all-out swimming, and get comfortable with approaching each, a lot.

In triathlon, it's not a moment, it's a week, and all you do that week is think.

All that thinking drives some people batty.  {raises hand}

All you do that week is think because you have never practiced or prepared to do anything else.  The reason I was freaking out so much this summer is because in all my years of cross country, soccer, and triathlon, I had never practiced with any real repetition or dedication, the mental and/or physical start of any event.

Sure, a triathlete may only start 6 events all season, compared to the swimmer's 6 per day.  But that only expands the gap between the number of opportunities that type of athlete has to practice starts - a lot vs. six - and the number of those opportunities they make use of to practice starts - a lot vs. none.  And I can't really blame triathletes for not using those fews races to practice because in that moment you aren't thinking "oh, let me practice my mental and physical approach to starting a race."  Most likely because you are too busy thinking "I am so scared and nervous and afraid, what the hell did I get myself into?"

Swimming is preparing me to be fearless in a way I never have been before.

Monday, August 25, 2014

You May Now Address Me As Professor Beebe


Today I taught my first class.  Of all the physical activities classes that I would actually be qualified to teach, I am teaching a class in basketball.  Thirty undergraduates are relying on me to teach them the basics and intricacies of basketball twice a week, for the next ~16 weeks.

Basketball is the game on ice they play with sticks, right?

Kidding!  I do know more about basketball than that.  There is no ice, there is a ball, and it's white and made up of stitched panels.

Wait, there aren't stitched panels?  That's soccer you say?  I do vaguely recall that from when I played in college 10+ years ago.  If that's the case, then I'm not remembering back far enough.

Oh, there it is.  The last memory I have of playing competitive basketball.  In it I'm not much shorter than I am now, but I am much younger than I am now.  That would be because this memory is from 1995.

Clearly I am ready to knock this curriculum out of the park.

Huh?  That metaphor alludes to baseball you say?

Ok, then I'm fully prepared to knock this curriculum down.

Hmmm, I think that's boxing...

Someone corrected it to Professor BeeBall.

And thus, my rapper name was chosen.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Chocolate Pudding and Mermaids

Yesterday was my first swim practice in almost three weeks, and of the fall short course season.  The thing I find most interesting about the return from long breaks is that water only feels like water after you have been away from it for a while.  Otherwise, it feels like chocolate pudding.  Or better yet, sand.

Water that feels like water is thin.  You push against it, it lets your arm slip right through.

Water that feels like chocolate pudding is thick.  You push against it, it pushes back.

The ideal feel of swimming was once described to me as similar to elbow-crawling through sand, like you see on military obstacle courses.  No wonder swimming is such a lat-focused movement.

I celebrated the return to swimming and thin water with several much needed new suits.  One is a metallic turquoise mermaid print suit lined in pink - so not me and I love it!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Bring It Home Fellas

And with that The Best Of The West Tour: Summer 2014 comes to an end.

The last two days have been steady driving across half each of Colorado and Indiana, and all of Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois.  These finals days bring the total trip mileage to 6,633 miles, or more than twice across the continental United States, and the total hours of driving to ~131.

It was one hell of a whirlwind of a sampler platter of the Western United States.  But now I know what I want to see again and in more depth.  Highlights include:

I hope you enjoyed the pictures.  I sure enjoyed taking them and think I did pretty good job considering that at least 80% of them were taken from a moving vehicle.  I guess that is what happens when you travel for two weeks (plus 6 hours) and of the 342 hours in those weeks, 131 were spent driving.

Now back to our more regularly scheduled programming: grad school.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Golden Arches ™

Our probably last national park visit is Arches, just outside of Moab, UT.  Unfortunately it was a bummer of a day to visit: we watched the sun rise on The Windows and then never saw it again.

My own geology lesson for the day was the difference between a natural arch and a natural bridge.  A bridge is formed by a running water, so the rock spans the water and the water eats away at the bases of the sides, while an arch is more traditional erosion of frost, wind, and occasional water separating softer, less stable materials, from harder materials.  In Arches' case, this is salt and sandstone.

Rain finally drove us out of the park and town so we headed east along a scenic route to Colorado Springs.  At Frisco we turned south toward Breckenridge.  With a different tour bus, I would have gone over the unpaved Boreas Pass to Como, the route of an old narrow gauge railroad, but instead we took Hoosier Pass to Alma, the highest incorporated town in the country at 10,578.  [Leadville is the highest incorporated city.  Details details.]

Standing on an ironic mountain in pouring rain

Turning north at Fairplay, passing Como and the Boreas Pass road, we headed to Jefferson, and a right turn onto Tarryall Road (Hwy 77).  Tarryall Reservoir is like the Garden of Eden hidden among the high desert.  Eventually we joined the more traditional highway into Colorado Springs and bombed down past Pikes Peak.  What a final exclamation point on our time in the mountains.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bulk Driving

Today was all about getting from Bishop, CA, to Moab, UT, in as expedient fashion as possible.  We averaged 68 mph for 10:10 of driving, including in and out of towns, with 2 stops.  We might have stopped more had we not had two stretches of 163 miles and 108 miles each with no services, no towns, no nothing.

There is little out there, except for road signs with bullet holes in them and salt.

O El Capitan! My El Capitan!

I couldn't not use this post title because we visited Yosemite the day Robin Williams died.

Granite is to California what sandstone is to Utah and Arizona.  The Sierra Nevada push out of the ground as massive pieces of granite along the California/Nevada border and although they are nice and jagged looking from the surrounding flats, most of the treasures are hidden away in the valleys.

On the left is El Capitan, the largest single piece of granite in the world.  To provide a sense of scale, the cliff face is 3,000 feet tall from valley floor to the top of The Nose.  The first people to climb it needed a strategized assault over 18 months; now people climb it in a single day.

There should be a waterfall, called Horse Tail Fall, along the right edge of this picture, but the drought + a late summer visit = no waterfalls in the park.

In the back center of the first picture is Half Dome.

Half Dome is kind of a recluse, positioned at the far far east end of the valley, and better seen from the back.  Cloud's Rest is on the left, with the backside of Half Dome in the distance.

This is Cloud's Rest in the late day sun.  That is just so much freaking granite.

The valley that leads from Tenaya Lake down past Cloud's Rest to Half Dome shows exactly what all the glaciers did to this part of the country: carved a path right through whatever was in their way.

On the right in the first picture is supposed to be Bridalveil Fall, a 652-foot waterfall that gets so whipped by the wind that it looks more like a mist falling to the valley floor than a stream of water.  Sadly, again no water right now.  The only thing you see is the dark lichen down the 62-story-tall-wall.

Out of sight of the first picture, on the back side of El Capitan and the Three Brothers, is Yosemite Falls, one fall that falls into a second fall.  Hypothetically.

And of course, a river runs through it.

This is Yosemite Valley in the late afternoon sun, and really the Valley is but a drop of Yosemite.  There are groves of sequoias, and meadows of wild flowers, and hikes that take you to the top of El Capitan, Half Dome, the Cathedral Spires, and all of the Falls, without having to hang by your finger tips off Salathe Wall.  Not to mention the entire northern and southern parts of the park.

When I go back, I'm taking a pair of boots and tent and even after a week they are going to have to drag me out.
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