Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Truth About Cats & Dogs, Part 1

Number 1 is true. This picture is a very young and very lucky greyhound, 23 years old, standing outside Carnegie Hall in New York City in December, 1989. Later that night, I got to sit on the stage and play Beethoven Symphony No. 7 with the New World Symphony of Miami Florida, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, our music director. That orchestra was the highlight of my musical life and I was lucky to be in it. As far as I know, I played only one good audition in my entire life, and it happened to be that one.

I prepared for the audition by traveling several times to Chicago to take extra coaching from Dale Clevenger, the principal horn of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Dale has a personality so huge it sucks the air out of the room when he enters, but I managed to improve during the first lesson, and he consented to another. At the second lesson Dale beckoned me into a room where he was not alone. The room was filled with students from his studio and the Chicago Civic Orchestra, training ground for the Chicago Symphony. They did not have their horns. They would be listening, not playing.
OH . . . . SNAP. I think I just pee’d . . . just a little.‘
Kind of like plunging in the water for that first open water race, I had to just take a deep breath and go. I managed not only to survive playing the excerpts in front of all these horn studs while Dale conducted and sang the orchestra parts, Dale actually banged his fist down a couple of times and bellowed, “now that’s the way I want to hear you guys play that.”
The day before the audition, however, I thought it was all for naught. Fever. Chills. Vomiting. Swollen glands. Classic flu. But some friends persuaded me to go take the audition with them “for the experience.” With absolutely nothing in my tank, I entered the hotel conference room where the audition was being held, and I played . . .
better than I ever had before and better than I had a right to expect. I slept on the floorboard of the car all the way back to Madison.
I made the call list, but there was no opening. So, I prepared to go to Northwestern to get my masters degree with Dale, accompanied by my new bride, Mrs. Greyhound. That summer, however, I received a letter. I had a job with the NWS and my job would include playing with the best young musicians in the country (aged 21-30), performing with the best conductors and the best soloists on the planet, and playing in Carnegie Hall.
My parents got to come--including my mother who passed on a piano scholarship at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia because sheltered, Baptist girls from Oklahoma did not pursue such ambitions back in the 1950s. They got to go to the “big city” and see me perform, but I got something even better. I got to go back stage and see pictures of those who had gone before me--Toscanini, Furtwangler, Solti, Karjan, Casals, Stern, Rubenstein, Horowitz. . . . . wow, and I get to walk out there too?? What a charmed life.
Little did Mom and Dad know, but this was the second time I had taken an unchaperoned trip to New York City with the girl who became Mrs. Greyhound. . . .*gasp* . . . but that’s another story.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Fun & Games: Update

Hmmmmmmm. There are some very clever people out there; but, remember, greyhound is exceedingly crafty--dare we even say, deceptive. There is still plenty of greyhound schwag available, so those of you who have not guessed the lie from the truth . . . .


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

IRL: Fun and Games

Trisaratops, in addition to being a wonderful writer, is the teacher that we all wish we had. (Unlike my history teachers, I bet Trisaratops manages not to get bogged down in the age of European exploration, forges past the Stamp Act, and manages to connect historical events to ideas and critical thinking that are vital to her students. But I'm not bitter. Really. I'm.Not.)

In order to break the ice in her new class, Trisaratops played the game where you list two truths and a lie about yourself, and your colleagues try to identify the lie. Inspired by her example, I thought it would be fun to play two truths and a lie in the blogosphere. Here's how it works.
I will list two truths and a lie about myself. You can guess in the comment section; BUT, there is a catch. If you guess, list two truths and a lie on your own blog, so that the game goes on and on, potentially taking the entire backbone of the world wide web offline. AND there is one more catch. I am a tricky little bastard. If you guess at a lie, identify the facts you think are false, and if you correctly do so, you will be entitled to receive astounding greyhound schwag (while supplies last).
So here goes. Identify the lie:
1. I played Carnegie Hall before I was 25 years old.
2. I have been married to Mrs. Greyhound, my highschool sweetheart, since 1989.
3. I argued a supreme court case before I was 35 years old.
Good luck.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Spirit of Triathlon: Friendship

What is it about this triathlon? Swimmers can be elitist and standoffish. Road cyclists can be really elitist and standoffish. Runners, especially the fast ones, can be darn intimidating. Yet, what happens when you squash all these prickly disciplines together?
Oddly enough, this "individual" sport of triathlon creates a really cool and welcoming community that is fertile for friendships. Some of those friendships are just people you greet from the handlebars. Sometimes it is the friendly assistance in setting up transition or figuring out that wetsuit for the first time. Sometimes it is nothing more earth shattering than post-race libations. But some of our friendships transcend this hobby or sport that we share. Why is that?
I am sure that I have neither the complete answer nor a corner on the market for insight, but I have a theory. Perhaps nothing is quite so toxic to community as pride. This sport will humble the proud. The swim champ is likely to get smoked by the cyclist. The uber roadie will leave his legs in T2, only to get smoked by every runner in his age group. The road racing champion first must avoid drowning and remember how to clip out before falling on his bike. All three of these might get smoked by the nutritionist who is smart enough to stay hydrated and fueled on the day.
At this stage in our sport's devleopment, none of us (or practically none of us) comes to triathlon having lettered in "triathlon." Many of us (especially us guys for some reason) come to the sport relatively late in life, as full grown adults. We don't come as "triathletes" per se, but maybe as runners, or swimmers, or cyclists, often having only recreational ability. We don't come because of our strengths; we come in spite of our weaknesses. None of us has it all together. Indeed, I bet if you interviewed the best professional triathletes, precious few of them would feel like they had it all together.
So what happens when you have a group of individuals that recognize their own shortcomings and the strengths to be gleaned from someone else? You have a community that creates friendships. Our tri club meetings are probably much like yours. The 30 something females, the 40 something males, the grandmas and grandpas, and the teens and twenties are all on the same footing. All share the fellowship of stupid mistakes, limited abilities, starting from wherever they are and moving onward and upward. After all, the ironman was the sprint tri newbie, not that long ago.
If it is true, as Saint Thomas Aquinas said, that "[t]here is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship," then it is also true in my case that there is no passtime on earth more to be prized than my sport, triathlon.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Breaking Up

Dear _______:
There comes a time in every relationship, when choices have to be made. I think that time is now. I think we should stop seeing each other. It’s not just a matter that you’re not meeting my needs, it’s just that we’ve grown apart.
I mean, when we started seeing each other, back in 1999, I was a completely different person. I was needy. I lacked confidence. I was unathletic. You held out promises, hope even. I took the bait. I committed to you. But nothing changed. It was empty. It wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be.
So I started running outside, in the park, seeing other people. I even made some friends. You didn’t seem to mind. You seemed to know that I would always return when things got too hot or too cold. I’d call on you in the dark. There would be indoor cardio again.
But the hope you offered for me was false hope. You just took and took and took. Whether it was charges for supplements, charges for drinks, charges for group exercise, it was always about you. You were a charge on my credit card every month.
But then I met the new gym. She was beautiful and new of course, but there was more. The people actually knew my name, and I learned theirs. They were happy to see me. They cheered for me--literally cheered when the marathon went right by their building. They stood on the sidewalk and cheered. They cheered for my marathon. They cheered for my increasingly leaner body. They cheered from my first triathlon all the way through my first season. Even the people who were not my trainers cheered for me.
You never cheered for me.
Yet you seemed so cocky. “She hasn’t got a pool,” I heard you say once. So, you knew that I’d come calling those dark mornings to get from you what you thought I could get nowhere else. I avoided you when I could swim anywhere else. But I’d always make the aquatic call eventually. You thought it would always be that way.
Yesterday, however, you decided that the pool is going to be closed every week, exactly when I need it for my mid-week swim. We just can’t go on like this. So, as of now, you are the health club that dare not speak its name. I wish you well, but you will never see me again. Don’t call.
Tomorrow morning, I am joining a master’s swim group. I just don’t need you anymore.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Few Of My Favorite Things (NOT!)

This is the part of the show where you come to realize how whiny, petty, and judgmental Greyhound can be. But, it's my blog, and if you don't like it, then there is a little box with an "x" in the upper right hand corner that will solve our problem. If, however, you are inspired to vent your own little list of not-so-favorite things, that is what we have comments for.

NOT my favorite things:

1. Waking up at 2:15, 3:15 and 3:45 during a recovery week when I get to "sleep in" until quarter past four.

2. The smell of bacon wafting on the air when I know I will be eating oatmeal.

3. Humidity so stifling at 0500 that I need a shower after just walking out on my porch.

4. Sitting at my desk while a bead of perspiration rolls down my spine.

5. The phalanx of smokers outside the entrance to every downtown office building.

6. Knowing my health insurance rates include the mortality and disease data of the regiment of smokers waddling to and from their offices so they can pay for cable TV and a couch.

7. The phone ringing, again, and . . . again . . . . (wait for it) . . . . and again.

8. Stale coffee.

9. Smelling red beans and rice (with huge sausage link, cheese and onions) when I know I will be eating salad.

10. Houston in August (a sweating, smoking, cholesterol ingesting, incessant ringing, tepid stale coffee, inner ring of normality hell).

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Spirit of Triathlon: No Beige Allowed

• verb 1 have the courage to do. 2 defy or challenge to do.
From the Old English: durran "to brave danger,"
When was the last time you confronted a choice between courage and cowardice? Our kids probably encounter it with some regularity, at least in its most basic form. Everyone is taller than they are, they cannot get from place to place without help, every year they are put into a new classroom with new teachers and new information to master, and several times each day they have to go onto a playground. On the playground someone may ask them point blank, "whatsa matter? Are you chicken?" They might even get the "bock bock" clucking sound to go along with it. Someone may challenge them with "I dare you," or even break out the "double dog dare."
The average grownup, with a little forethought, can structure a life to avoid that kind of direct challenge. If you want, especially in America, you can live beige. You can get a reasonable education and a reasonable job with reasonable expectations and predictable scheduling, resulting in a predictable career, and predictable retirement and a predictable decline. You won't risk much failure, but how much victory will you taste? Life becomes sort of like bathwater that is too tepid to be hot, and way too short of cold to be felt.
Kids don't live beige, and neither do triathletes. It is impossible to live beige before a training session that is longer or more intense than you have ever done before. Dare you start, not knowing whether you can finish? It is impossible to live beige on the shoreline before the gun goes off. Some of us are standing there knowing that, in the near past, we could not swim with our faces in the water. Dare you cast yourself into this kicking, seething foreign environment?
No matter who the athlete is or how many races he or she has done, triathlon is a daily "double dog dare." The water, or the distance, or the weather, or our own physical limitations cast down the same kind of challenge, no matter who you are. "Are you chicken? Do you dare?"
We do dare. We loathe beige. Tepid sucks. An anesthetized march to dust is unacceptable. For us, like Teddy Roosevelt, it is "Far better . . . to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure . . . than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."
Dare. Win. Triumph. Fail. Enjoy. Suffer. Shun beige. I double dog dare you.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Hmmm. Let's see. Time to research the competition a little bit. "Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, war, the arts, industry, justice and skill." Ok. . . . Nytro . . . wisdom . . . skill . . . . arts . . . yeah, not so much.

"Spung fully formed from the head of her father Zeus." Basically split him open because of the noise and pain caused by forging battle armor, helmet, breastplate and shield. Dad swallowed mom shortly after a round of supernatural copulation. Hmmm.. . . . Loud . . . brash . . . sometimes gives you a splitting headache. OK, now that's starting to sound like Nytro. Plus, if she tries to swim, bike and run with all that armor and whole Aegis and flowing robes thing, she's dead meat. I can do this.

"Her constant companion is Nike, the goddess of victory." OK that's not good. I'm definitely going have to find this Nike broad and take her out. I'm going to have to carry my old OLY pace over the length of a half-iron to have any chance of winning this bet. I don't need some skinny little type A tri-chica coming in and making this any harder. One girl with a weapon is quite enough.

I drank water and juice last night instead of having a beer or a glass of wine. I did not want to, but I'm being chased by an Athena.

I rolled out this morning at 0345 to have breakfast before my swim workout. I did not want to, but I'm being chased by an Athena.

I did my first hard swim workout since my "A" race last June. My lats, tris and delts were burning but I kept on. I did not want to, but I'm being chased by an Athena.

I ate oatmeal for breakfast instead of bacon egg and cheese breakfast tacos. I didn't want to, but I'm being chased by an Athena.

I will eat the healthy food I brought from home today instead of going for red beans and rice with a sausage link and cheese and. . . . . I don't want to, but I'm being chased by a potentially very angry Athena.

I'm running an hour this afternoon. I'm running like I'm being chased . . . by an Athena.

This can only end badly.

Monday, August 14, 2006

SOMA Celebrity Race

Nytro and Benny are very persuasive. Well, actually Nytro is. Benny is the governor that keeps persuasion from becoming coercion--most of the time.

Benny and Nytro told me they were doing "SOMA," and after explaining to me what it was, they encouraged me to come on out. So, the last weekend in October, Mrs. Greyhound and I will take the blog on the road and do the SOMA Half-Iron triathlon. I'll primarily be using the event as a long training day toward the end of my base period, but I know a lot of you will cap your seasons with this event.

I say "primarily" a training race because--if you haven't noticed--Nytro can be just a teeensy weeensy bit competitive. I dare not tug on Superman's cape, but we need to liven up the training. I think we need some type of "gentleman's wager" between Nytro and me--although admittedly no one would confuse Nytro for a gentleman. (OMG, did I say that out loud?) Of course the wager would have to be creative because young, healthy, strong and athletic Nytro is signed up for a mere quarter iron--unlike the short, middle-aged, band geek (and yet oddly Sean-Connery-like) Greyhound.

So, I put it to you Tri-bloggers. What should the wager be? Enter your suggestions in the comments, and be sure and tell me if you're coming to the race, if you're participating, and if you have any good race experiences to share.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Spirit of Triathlon: Get Off The Beach

Inspire: • verb 1 fill with the urge or ability to do or feel something. 2 create (a feeling) in a person. 3 give rise to. 4 inhale.

— ORIGIN Latin inspirare ‘breathe or blow into’.
--Oxford English Dictionary
Inspiration. The word has been used to describe weighty and mystical happenings, like when people are touched by God--when the Spirit of God is "breathed into" a person who is regenerated to new life. The word has also been trivialized, used to describe what people feel like after seeing a touching film or beautiful sunset. It temporarily gives the warm fuzzies but effects no real change.
We in the tri-blogosphere often use it to describe our effect on each other, as in, "Wil, you're so inspiring." Whether or not you and I share the same spiritual convictions, I am coming to the firm conclusion that we are using that word in that life-changing sort of way. Our sport and our participation in it "breathes" life into ourselves and our community.
Look around the blogosphere posts for this week alone. Jessi's post leaves no doubt that triathlon has changed who she is, from the inside out. The Jessi pictured in her mind is a different person from the Jessi of only a short time ago, and she attributes it to triathlon.
The Kahuna wrote about how an open water swim breathed life into an otherwise soul-sucking day. His reservations as he hit the Pacific Ocean made him observe, "You can't decide if that bit of fear makes you feel like a coward or that you are alive for the first time today. Probably both."
Iron Wil went on a mission to find her life, and she has succeeded through triathlon. She observed, "Most things I went looking for I discovered I already had. And simple things captivate me once again. My life is where I want it. And I'm who I want to be."
That pre-blogger, Henry David Thoreau, observed, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." (Walden, Ch. 1, Economy (1854)). Are we not doing somewhat the same thing? Do we not find life in the "deliberate" tempo we set in the water or over the land? Do we not breathe life from the "essential facts" of reaching for something we cannot yet do and then working until we do it? I think so.
Nytro would probably find it odd to be juxtaposed with Thoreau, but she went to her own "woods" and fronted "the essential facts of life" in her first olympic distance triathlon. Like each of us, she kept going when it would have been more comfortable to stop. Perhaps, like Thoreau, she did not want to discover that "she had not lived." She put it this way: "[I] kept telling myself that even if I was the last one out of the water, the beach was full of people who hadn't even tried."
This life is a beach full of people who may one day discover at the end of their lives that, by staying on the beach, they have not really lived. We are the happy few who have ventured off the beach and have inhaled deeply of life so we can breathe it into each other.
Hey! You there . . . on the beach. It doesn't have to be triathlon, but get off the beach. Do something hard. Do something simple. Try. Live.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Spirit of Triathlon: Manna from Heaven

According to Bolder from Boulder, it's all about the bike. He did not even know how right he was, and the bike doesn't need to be nearly as fancy as his beloved Cervelo. Second hand mountain bikes or hybrids will do.

A man from Namibia, where poverty and the AIDS pandemic rage, told me the other day that his second hand bicycle was "Manna from Heaven." Actually, he did not tell me, he told the world. His words were featured in the first of a series of stories on the BBC Radio archive entitled, "The Fall And Rise Of The Bicycle."

His bicycle had first been owned by someone in the UK or perhaps America who no longer had use for it. It had been donated through any number of bicycle charities who provided the bicycle to the Bicycle Empowerment Network--Namibia (BEN-Namibia), which refurbishes and repairs the bicycles, and then gives them to people who need them. Listen here.

Big deal? Actually, in places like Namibia it is. A child with a bicycle can make it to school on time, getting an education and remaining safe in the schoolhouse. An medical worker with a bicycle can travel the distances necessary to care for the appalling numbers of people in Namibia suffering from AIDS, making sure that they take their medications and are cared for with dignity. A farmer or artisan or small business person with a bicycle can travel and do commerce with others. Check out BEN-Namibia and their partner charities, including Bicycles for Humanity. You'll be astounded what a cheap mountain bike can become in the third world.

How many of us started our own triathlon journeys on mountain bikes or hybrids that we no longer have use for? The spirit of triathlon is the handshake in the transition area before the race, the encouragement on the course, and the slap on the back after the race. That spirit applied to our old bicycles means they no longer gather the dust of idleness in our garages, but gather the dust of use by people for whom they are "Manna from Heaven."

Friday, August 04, 2006

All You Need is . . .

"All you neeed ees . . (pause) . . . kettel bell . . . (smirk)"

That is what MIKI said near the end of our session. Sweat was dripping from every pore, I was drenched as thoroughly as if I had been dumped in a pond, and every muscle in my body was trembling. In fact, if there are typos in this post, blame it on the convulsions in my delts, pecs, biceps, hips, core, back, quads, ass, and pretty much everywhere except my metatarsals.

A kettel bell is the medieval torture device pictured above. It is manufactured still by the Chinese communists, and apparently is useful for training olympic athletes or tormenting political prisoners. It was the featured item for our circuit workout this morning.

I arrived early, did a little aerobic work to raise my core temperature and stretched before MIKI arrived. When he got there I proudly announced that I had warmed up and stretched. "Eees gooot. (shrug). Vee do special warmup. I'll get my toyssss . . (pause) . . . und vee begin."

The "special" warmup was a dumbell-enhanced core routine that might have been devised if Mark Verstegen had been fond of hurting small, furry animals. After 15, sweat popping minutes of that, the workout began.

MIKI broke out the cattle bells and proceeded to break out a circuit workout calculated to humble the proud and crumble the humble. Multimovement strength and power exercises involving arms, legs, back, core, chest . . . dang near everything else. Three sets. The first set was hard. The second was a lactic acid-dropping burn fest. The third . . . I have no clear memory of the third set.

Apprently, this was followed by an ab routine and some coach-assisted stretching. At least that is what I'm told. Someone may have to tell me about Greyhound 2.0--citius, altius, fortius. I may not live to see it.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Miki i Ja (Miki and Me)

I cannot predict the future. Normally. But I know something for certain. Tomorrow, I am going hurt. My quads will hurt. My chest will hurt. My abs will hurt. My back will hurt. Why? Because today I met


“Awwwwwww,” you say. “How cute. Who is she? What breed? Pomeranian? Shitzu?”

No, MIKI is Serbian. HE is married to a former pro triathlete and swim coach. It is said he used to train the Spetsnaz. I, for one, believe it.

MIKI tested my VO2 max. MIKI tested my percentage body fat. MIKI tested my upper body endurance. MIKI tested core endurance. MIKI tested max bench press. MIKI tested max leg press. Miki tested how many pullups, dips and pushups I could do until exhaustion. The body fat calipers kind of tickled. Nothing else did.

MIKI is super qualified and very nice, but he talks like that big Russian Rocky had to fight in Rocky IV. Get used to his voice, because you will hear him regularly on the blog. He has accepted the mission to create Greyhound 2.0--citius, altius, fortius. In MIKI’s words:

(**begin Eastern European accent**)

“Vee test, und see your veekneesses, yesss? . . . .Then, I make plan. Not just triathlon plan. I make special.

“Test show you need powah. Vee make powah.

“You need . . . muhskoolah . . . endoorahnce . . . Vee make muhskoolah endoorahnce.

“Upper bahdeee endoorahnce . . . ees (shrug) pretty goooot.

“Max pull ups, und dips . . . ees not too goooooot. With short bahdee, und light veyt, should be much more.

“Vee check dee V-O-too maxeemum . . . ees (shrug) OK. Vee make bettah.

“Yore bahdee fat. 9%. Eees Excellent . . . .”

(I smile)

“BAHT, . . . . ees NOT . . . COM-PET-IT-TIVE.

(I cease smiling)

“Vee make you . . . TOTAL . . . ATHLETE.”

We begin 0500 this Friday. This is gonna leave a mark.