Sunday, June 29, 2014

Catastrophic Disruption Of Homeostasis

A newer-fangled idea in exercise physiology is the Central Governor Theory.  Literally your relatively sub-conscious brain will stop your body from going past your established physical limits.  The time frame of interference on the part of the central governor is a short one, not the slow build of physical erosion and stress associated with over-training.

This isn't "don't jump off that cliff," it's "taking the next stride any faster will pop your hamstring" or "stop immediately or you're going to pass out."  Or quite memorably, an example of trying to ignore your gov-nah, The Welch-Ingraham Crawl-Off.

On Monday, my professor described the center governor theory as "protecting against catastrophic disruption of homeostasis." (Homeostasis being when the variables in a system are regulated so that internal conditions remain stable and constant.)

When you think about it, the theory doesn't have to only apply to the regulation of physical status and output.  It can easily apply to changes in circumstances, schedules, and environment.  The governor (I *always* visualize this alien, albeit a little more robust, from Men In Black) could stand up and say "whoa, too many changes in too short a time, stop now or suffer immediate and deleterious consequences."

Hello, my name is Kelzie and my central governor has been hard at work.

When I got my student ID and saw it expired in 2019, I realized that until that moment I had been operating a little under the mind-set that I was just here on vacation.  My vacation mind-set made it seem like I wasn't experiencing as catastrophic a disruption of homeostasis as I actually was.

What I didn't explain at the outset is that sometimes, to experience a massive, physical break-through performance, you have to disregard and push past your governor.  For example, someone thinks their absolutely fastest mile time is 6:00 and then goes and smashes a 5:30 and realizes the barrier was all in their head....because often times it is.

Some people are better at this than others, not surprisingly.  Actually, I think some people are better at doing the smashing and some people are better at reestablishing homeostasis.  I'm probably more in the second group, but either way, both had to happen.  I had to come to grips with the big change, and then I had to get on getting on.

I guess that's a long way of saying that the last 12 days have been a long string of coming to grips and getting on getting on.  I am a good ways towards reestablishing homeostasis and shutting up the gov-nah.

Monday, June 23, 2014

3,678 Days

This morning at 8 AM I slid into a classroom desk for the first time in 3,678 days.  That's 10 years and roughly a month.  It turns out that during that time the external view hadn't changed that much.




The interval view, however, is considerably different.

The Support Staffers have been pushing for me to attend grad school since oh, about midway through middle school.  I understand why: their graduate degrees changed the entire trajectory of their lives (and only slightly less directly, mine).  But every time I considered where and what, nothing specific (or interesting) came to mind and so for years I resisted going to grad school simply to learn something or get letters after my name.

Now I'm sitting in a little white desk because I am ready to appreciate the experience.  The time and process can help me do what I really want to do, rather than just land me a degree, which is how I would have been approaching it if I had matriculated straight out of undergrad.

Let's just hope it doesn't take me 3,678 days to finish.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"Put It On The List"

Several months before I left Austin I started compiling a list of things I wanted to do before leaving.  Originally, it was only things I knew about, but over time it came to contain suggestions from The Texan and others, things I didn't even know to know about.  A familiar refrain became "I've never even heard of that.  Put it on the list."

Over time the list was these items, meals, and activities.  Not everything listed here was completed, and not everything completed was photographed.

* Float a river
* Curra's for the avocado margarita
* Chi'Lantro, the Korean food trailer
* Austin Land and Cattle
* Hamilton Pool
* Lockhart for Blacks BBQ
* Franklin's BBQ
* Lucky's Puccia trailer
* Threadgills North for brunch
* see Lake Travis
* SUP with The Texan
* The Oasis on Lake Travis
* Broken Spoke and/or Luchenbach
* top of Mount Bonnell
* Torchy's Tacos t-shirt
* Keep Austin Weird t-shirt
* Bucee's
* San Antonio/Alamo
* Chicken Shit Bingo
* Kolaches at Hruska's in Ellinger
* Llano for Cooper's BBQ
* Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch in New Braunfels
* Allen's for boots

I crossed things off as chances popped up and time came available, sometimes in the spur of the moment and sometimes planned in advance.  See if you can match the photo to the activity.









Saturday, June 14, 2014

Reasons To Wear Sunglasses, or The Things I Will Miss

After my admittedly scathing previous post, I wanted to come back and list some positives about Austin.  They are largely intangible, of course, because each person develops their own life and community that has to outweigh the tangible facts of life, like morale-crushing traffic and heat.

Longhorn Aquatics

I think this group was a cornerstone of my life here long before I realized just how much it meant to me.  It is the closest I will ever get to "swimming in college" and the only team atmosphere I have been in since college, and the only really emotionally/socially-engaged team atmosphere since high school.  Again, as before and always, getting up early and suffering with a group of people (and then sometimes gathering for breakfast after) coalesces those people unlike nearly anything else.  I'm sure the Marines would disagree, but the little smile on Whitney's face before she unleashes a particularly fearsome set rivals the sick enjoyment shown by any drill sergeant.     

Harvard Club of Austin

In October 2011 nine people stood up in a meeting room full of people and collectively said they would be responsible for rebuilding the Club from the ashes of dormancy.  I stood because I realized that the farther in time I got away from Harvard, the more connected I wanted to feel to it.  At first I was the person who filled the gaps, connecting with grads fresh from Cambridge and wielding my Costco card with aplomb.  Eventually I got to take notes and spend money.  I joke that one of the reasons I have to leave Austin is because I am next in line to be President, except that no one on the Board laughs when I make that joke.

The Texan(s)

I'm offering this as a group, but there is really just one.  I met hunters-who-are-vegan, good-ol'-boys-who-set-the-standard-in-their-field-of-engineering, men-who-wear-suits-and-drive-dualies and more 'Horns than I can count, and they all helped ease the stereotypes of "Texas" most people from "The Northern 49" hold.  Yet only one of them really helped define my time here, and unfortunately it was closer to the end than to the beginning, for both of us actually.  Still, you can be from Texas no matter where you live and sometimes an end can be a beginning.

The Not Texans

Austin is nothing if not a magnet for awesome people, and I met many here from all over the country and world.  Some organized Wisconsin Badger and Green Bay Packer viewing parties.  Some answered inane questions with me several times a week and found my movie and TV trivia knowledge impressive instead of nerdy.  Some formed my Austin branch of "where the bodies are buried."  Some let me vent, and vented in return, about triathlon and life.  Some of them no longer live in Texas, simply passing through like I am ultimately doing.  But for a short time, we all gathered far away from our places of origin and meant a lot to each other.

Food

I might never eat tacos, TexMex or Mexican food again.  BBQ might also need to go.  Texas is the only place where I had to make my meal plans based on how much food the restaurant had available that day, rather than the other way around.  Because here, when a BBQ place runs out of food shortly after opening for business, that's a sign the food is really rather good.  Avocados and fresh corn tortillas literally changed the way I eat.  On top of that, nearly every other type of cuisine is represented.  I survived the Austin ramen explosion, taste-tested ices and gelatos, and developed a sophisticated palette for breakfast tacos.   The only two things I never found in decent enough quality were pizza and empanadas.  Oh well, I can forgive them, the closest Lou Malnati's and Julia's Empanadas are 1,000+ miles away.

Aviators

So, I'm a crier.  I know that I will spend most of my last week here tearing up at random and inopportune moments, and my plan is simply to hide behind sunglasses the entire time.  Please don't be offended.  If I'm wearing sunglasses and saying goodbye to you, it is because I like you so much.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Austin Of Futures Past, or The Roller Coaster To "Anywhereville"

I have an impressive track-record of leaving places just as they change for the worse.  My newest accomplishment is Austin, sadly.  Like the places before it, I am not leaving because it changed; the changes makes it easier to decide to leave.

There are two shirts, each a variation of the other, that were jokingly witty about 5 years ago.  Now they are straight up honest.  One says "Welcome to Austin.  Please don't move here."  The other: "Welcome to Austin.  I hear Dallas is nice."

I live exactly where someone who wants to take full advantage of all Austin has (had) to offer would want to live.  Since Austin is the #1 fastest growing city in the country, many people want to live in my parking lot.  They obviously can't, so instead developers are building new places to live immediately next to my parking lot.  Case in point: within a mile of my apartment, there are 3,000- 3,500 new units of housing being built.

These developments would be fine, if they were simply a human filing system: if people moved in and never left their condos and apartments.  But sadly these new residents want to come and go, to places like, say, work, or The Mothership (aka Whole Foods), or the new Trader Joes going in down the block from The Mothership.  The traffic is only going to get worse.  Roads built back when "if we don't build the infrastructure, they won't come" can't handle the "they" that came anyway. 

I'm not the only one who notices.  Many times I have been told "you would have loved Austin 15 years ago," but what I hear is "I have lived here for a long time and am noticing that it is changing for the worse."  Yesterday a long-time resident told me Austin was now "Anywhereville".

The Chronicle articles about the myriad music, movie, and food festivals all seem to have an unwritten underpinning: this city is on that part of a roller coaster ride where the cars are inching up the incline before a huge drop-off, and even though the cars are getting higher and higher and higher, their speed is getting slower and slower and slower.  Eventually...WHOOSH! the bottom falls out and there's vomit everywhere.

There are things, places, and people in Austin that I ADORE.  But on the increasingly frequent days when all of the things that I have to put up with to live here, significantly outweigh the positives of living here, I want to turn to my 3,500 new neighbors and their 3,500 cars, and yell "SUCKAS, you would have loved Austin 3 years ago."

Monday, June 9, 2014

Where The Bodies Are Buried

Last weekend, I went back to the place where many of the bodies are buried, to attend my 10th college reunion.  I missed my 5th because I was racing Eagleman 70.3, and ultimately qualifying for the 70.3 world championships, so in retrospect my decision was a good one.  But the day I had to choose, I promised myself I would attend my 10th come hell or high-water.

Do NOT touch his foot

I think my experience was made even more positive by skipping five because I had really been deprived of, and wondering about, everyone and thus I wholly invested myself.  Hook, line, and hangover.

To start I flew in a day early and spent a night with my college roommate, Mel, whom I hadn't seen since April 2007, I thought.  She corrected me - November 2008 - and thus one theme was set: Cambridge is where the bodies are buried, and Mel remembers them all, even the ones I have long since forgotten putting in the ground.  Remind me never to piss her off.



We stayed up until 2 am doing all the things long-time friends do when they haven't seen each other in a long time and I was up at 7 am and thus another theme was set: barely adequate sleep. 

Thursday was Commencement and the official beginning of reunion weekend.  While everyone was occupied in the Yard, I took the opportunity to wander the halls of buildings I used to haunt.  A theater where I practically lived on occasion, physics labs, restaurants, freshman dorms, and many of the cobble-stoned sidewalks of the Square.





How many late nights did I spend in Jefferson finishing problem sets?

I also met some fiesty characters that I can only hope to be like some day.  These guys are Class of 1954, and first met in elementary school in 1944, so they have been friends for 70 years.  Their '54 graduating class had 1500 students, 300 of whom have died, and 400 of whom attended reunion.  The pull is so strong 400 81-year-olds make the trip.

Don, Peter, Arnie, and I

That night I moved into the dorms, where many reunion attendees stay over the weekend.  Yes, we go back and pay money to willingly sleep where we slept as teenagers.  The brainwashing was thorough and complete.

Friday I visited the physics lab where I worked the summer after freshman year, and then I commenced breaking and entering into places along Memory Lane.  My favorite sandwich shop, another theater where I practically lived on occasion, my upperclassman house and all my dorm rooms, and the headquarters of the best job I've ever had: research-writing for Let's Go.





Getting Quaded is NOT the worst thing in the world

Top, Center: Southern Africa, India/Nepal, Southeast Asia

Unfortunately, Let's Go is but a shadow of its former self, currently employing fewer total RWs than I had on my India/Nepal book alone in 2003.  The new direction and format have allowed them to do many things I wish we could have done, but it's sad to know that I provided the last update of every single country I covered, and then those books were retired when the coverage became too out-dated.  Not enough Americans travel to Burma on vacation, apparently.

Friday night is when everyone really started rolling in and our event was just one joyous one-on-one reunion after another.  The official event led to pizza at the pizza place which led to scorpion bowl races ("they sting you in the end") at the gross Chinese food place, which led to classy drinks at the classy "we're-seniors-and-have-real-IDs" place and last call didn't stop us.  I went to bed after I would have been up to swim in Austin.

I hadn't seen this character in 10 years and 2 weeks



Some of the Cabot Crew

"I'm at the Kong with rowers and scorpion bowls, send help"

Construction on a dorm next door to where I was staying woke me at 9:04.  It was fine though, I was only hungover when I stood up.  I was revived by grease and Thomas.



Some idyllic strolling by the river drove home an interesting dichotomy.  Most of my classmates were thinking "great, I'm on vacation and have a leisurely Saturday morning for the first time in ten years so I'll go for a run."  I was thinking "great, I'm on vacation and don't have to get up to go run or swim or ride for the first time in ten years."




After two more food based events (I feel like we were herded from food source to food source the whole weekend, around the tables of which we were supposed to reunite; we had many ideas how future reunions could be better) I found myself at the Hasty Pudding Theatricals event.  Sadly, the event was a letdown because the Pudding Theatricals was truly a cross-class endeavor and not enough of us from any one show were in any one class year.  Plus there are literally no pictures or stories of the Pudding that I can post without increasing the rating of this website and the old Pudding theater has been renovated and turned into a boring University theater and building.  Those ancient and disgusting and hallowed and unsafe halls, I will only ever be able to walk again in my memories.  The Institute's new club house is pretty cool, except for the fact that the Club produces nothing of its own and just decorates with all of the Theatricals memorabilia but only vaguely involves itself with the Theatrical's arm of the Institute.  The Kroks didn't even show up.


Hasty Pudding Institute's new club house

That night was the capstone event, the Soiree.  The fact that many people expressed their surprise that the dress code wasn't black tie is telling about undergraduate life.  My record was 15 black tie events in one semester, half of which were theater openings.  However, most of the women were later wishing it was black tie because long dresses and full skirts would have helped significantly in the shocking low temps.


Soccer mini-reunion in the bathroom line

I'm wearing high high-heels in this picture...rowers, gah

The class split between pizza, scorpion bowls, and classy drinks, instead of doing the rotation like the night before, so I was in bed by 3.  And slept a full 6 hours!…before the construction started…

A totally typical Sunday brunch in an undergraduate dining hall - literally the exact spread we ate with gusto every week - and people scattered.  We rarely had that much concentrated face-to-face time when we were actually in school and 3 full days of it 10 years later was a bit much.


I still had 18 hours in town and ended up dining and desserting in the North End.  The Big Dig routinely altered much of downtown Boston during my time in college, but now it's finished and the result is gorgeous.  Austin needs to bite the bullet and bury I-35.





I am incredibly glad I took the time (and more) to go back and see everyone, visit the bodies, and bury a few more.  Since I'm not on The Book Face, I am even more out of touch with people not immediately in my friend circle, than most people.  Plus I hadn't been back on campus since 2005, and even now, the difference in feel (just buildings etc, separate from people) between Harvard and other campuses I have been on, is affecting.  I inadequately summed it up in a text: "Man, this place."


And these people (even the bodies).  ♥

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

When Humans Molt

I've had a few questions and conversations about how my body has responded to my return to the life of a recreational athlete.  The best analogy I can come up with is that it is simultaneously molting like a snake and rearranging itself like a Mr. Potato Head.

What I think I never realized was how much chronic edema I was carrying.  Whether it was proper hydration or interstitial waste, it is gone, like somebody opened the drain spigot on a water cooler.  I have my abs back.  My biceps back.  My cheek and collar bones back.  My back back.  Finally I look like somebody who is really fit.  Ironic, really.

Of course what I did realize I was carrying was muscle.  Some of that is gone (who needs quads when you're riding only 2 hours a week) and some of it has relocated due to my increase in swimming (hello, serratus anteriors and lats).  I have entire drawers of clothing that now fit properly after years of just (or not) fitting.  About six weeks ago I swam in my tri speed suit and it fit like it had been purchased for a completely different person.  It kinda had been.

The combination is a 10 pound drop in weight since October 2013.  I am now sitting comfortably at my former race weight (and still dropping very slowly) when before I would have had to stretch to reach it.

And this despite the single most offered piece of advice over the last six months: be careful about your appetite continuing to match your former activity level.  Honestly, to quote the warden in Shawshank Redemption, my appetite has up and vanished like a fart in the wind.  If I didn't need to support so much swimming, I don't think I could be bothered to eat real meals.  I often eat whatever food provides the most calories in the least bulk, which amounts to a lot of avocados. Also a lot of BBQ and fudge as I try to squeeze in the last few "typical Austin activities" before I leave.

Let's be honest: what I was doing before wasn't close to healthy.  The edema alone is indicative of that, but also some thyroid markers I won't go into but are being expressed somewhat through the weight loss.  And neither really is living on avocado, BBQ, fudge, and swim practices, but my body now is a heck of a lot closer to the one I was supposed to have from birth than any version of it from the last six or seven years.

I'm admittedly interested to see the havoc to be wreaked on it by civilian and grad school life.   
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