Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I spent Thanksgiving day in New Jersey with my flatmate and novice crew teammate, Sydney, as well as her family. The ten-hour drive to her relatives' place took us through the flat farmlands of Ohio and the Allegheny mountains of Pennsylvania. I don't really appreciate long periods of time cooped up in a moving vehicle, but at least Syd's family had a Durango which meant that it wasn't as cramped as a normal sedan would have been. Thanksgiving was fantastic, as usual- all the eating can't be a bad thing, right? Roast turkey (flesh of dead bird, as Syd's father put it, albeit in a rather unsavoury manner), mashed potatoes, two kinds of sweet potatoes -unabashed glee-, stuffing, Waldorf salad drenched in whipped cream and mayonnaise (a true artery-blocker), rolls and gravy. Cheesecake, pecan, and pumpkin pie with ice cream for dessert. This is an awesome tradition.

We spent the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, in New York City. It was a 40-minute train ride from New Jersey to Penn Station in downtown Manhattan, pretty uneventful- the train passes under the Hudson River en route to Manhattan. Everyone was out in full force on the streets of downtown NYC, perhaps in attempt to walk off the pounds gained from stuffing their faces the nights before, and probably more due to the fact that it was Black Friday, when there are crazy markdowns and sales in just about every store in the US. We visited the famed department store, Macy's- I found it fascinating how there were wooden escalators in many parts of the building, opposed to the steel ones we see everywhere else. God, was it crowded. I had to emerge to the streets for air after a bit. I'm really not a fan of big crowds, the shoving and such. And I didn't really have much in mind to buy, anyway. The rest of the day saw us roaming Times Square, Bryant Park where there was a quaint art fair, and later Central Park where we got a taste of the ghetto hip-hop culture, thanks to a couple of talented breakdancers who were busking there. In the evening we went down to Greenwich Village for dinner and passed by the NYU campus- I'm so thankful I didn't pick NYU over UMich, it reminds me of SMU, only even more dreary-looking, and I really don't think I'd thrive in a city campus. Where's the greenery? Where's the open spaces? And to top it off, NYU's a Div III school in the NCAA- man I'd take the Big Ten and Div I intercollegiate sports any time.

On Saturday we stopped by Princeton University before leaving New Jersey. Now, that campus is simply amazing- it's basically just all Law Quad-esque buildings, splendid architecture and great photo opportunities. Suits the profile of an esteemed educational institution.

Time really flies after Thanksgiving- the end of term is rapidly approaching, to think classes end in 2 weeks and then it's finals time! Not particularly looking forward to that, though. Oh well. My online enrollment appointment for next semester's classes is later this afternoon- taking three Political Science classes (to think, after next semester I'll only need 5 more credits of Polsci, or 2 classes, to graduate with my bachelor's degree!), an Econ class just in case I decide to take Econ 401 during Spring and somehow squeeze a BA in Econ into my 3 years here (anyway Econ classes are a great cognate for Polsci), and a Biology class about AIDS and other health crises, to fulfill my natural science requirement. 17 credits, as has been the norm for the past 2 terms. I'm pretty happy that I got accepted into the Honors program for Political Science, which means that I'll be spending my senior year writing an Honors thesis on a topic of my choice, in conjunction with a faculty advisor. Tentatively I'll be focusing on the SEA region, probably in the area of security challenges or the economy. Tough, but I think it'll be rewarding, ultimately.

Just started running again on Sunday after taking a whole month off, tried the Arb route. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and yesterday Syd asked if I wanted to go for a "canter" (haha!) in the Arb. It turned out to be more of a "gallop", and it was even better than Sunday's run by myself, I hope I find my mojo for running again pretty soon. On a side note, I've just started erging (rowing on the ergometer) again, will be erging three times a week at 6.30 am with one of the novice rowers, my teammate from last year. I resumed erging just last week after a couple months off, working out with the varsity rowers since they didn't have organized practice during the Thanksgiving week. Surprisingly my times were not as bad as I had imagined they would be after such a prolonged time away from the dratted erg. I think I will have to stand by my assertion that erging is, beyond any shred of doubt, the superior activity when it comes to cardio. It's a non-impact exercise, dramatically reducing the chances of injury, you can do it indoors at any time, it doesn't require any form of power supply besides 2 AA batteries for the monitor, you work all the major (and minor, come to think about it) muscle groups of the body, it really brings your heart rate up for a sustained period of time if you're doing it right, you can train both explosiveness and endurance by changing the flywheel setting, and it's a machine that possesses the ability to let you get in an extremely good workout even if you are short in time. Awesome stuff.

Okay I suppose I ought to get ready for class now. Hopefully I'll have more chances to blog again!

just another day and then I'll hold you tight

Sunday, November 26, 2006

My life will never be the same
'Cause girl, you came and changed
The way I walk, the way I talk
Now I cannot explain
These things I feel for you
But girl you know it's true
So stay with me, fulfill my dreams
I'll be all you need

It feels so right
I've searched for the perfect love all my life
It feels like
I have finally found a perfect love this time

You rocked my world, you know you did
And everything I own I give
The rarest love, who'd think I'd find
Someone like you to call mine
You rocked my world, you know you did
And everything I own I give
The rarest love, who'd think I'd find
Someone like you to call mine

In time, I knew that love would bring
Such happiness to me
I tried to keep my sanity
I've waited patiently
And, girl, you know it seems
My life is so complete
A love that's true, because of you
Keep doing what you do

It feels so right
I've searched for the perfect love all my life
Who'd think I'd find
Such a perfect love that's awesomely so right

Michael Jackson You Rock My World

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Chris Lieto's sweet Trek bike at 2006 Vineman Ironman 70.3
This is where you wanna be: first to T2.

Thursdays are rest days which means that I get to kick back and generally be lazy before things return to full swing. The notion of a "rest day" has always been somewhat alien to me, but after reading literature from various sources that rest and recovery should be perceived as part of, not a departure from, a training program, I've decided that Thursday will be my de facto rest day for the winter off-season. Actually after you get past that awful mental hurdle of the crazy conviction that your fitness will plummet after not doing anything relatively taxing for a day, it starts to feel quite good. But of course that stupid fear always occupies the back of my mind, which is why I have yet to go more than a day without working out.

It's also a good time to start planning for the year ahead, working my races into my schedule, counting backwards to determine the start of my proper training program, and factoring in preparatory races along the way. Right now it's the off-season and so training volume ought to be reduced to around 70-80% of training season amounts, and intensity scaled back slightly, but not too much or you'll just undo all the gains over the past year. I really need to check out Ann Arbor Masters Swimming, just that I hate being overtaken in the pool by portly old men who look unimpressive on land but are surprisingly speedy in the water. Now, that is a real bummer for me, because swimming is my weakest link (having learnt freestyle for the first time only this summer), and it's probably the most frustrating out of the three components of triathlon because it's considerably far more skills-based than either cycling or running. I should really get over to the Masters swim sessions or I'll just become a very "fit, slow swimmer", according to an article I read which says that skills and technique are far more important than volume when it comes to swimming, and you can be really fit and swim bloody slow due to great shortcomings in efficiency. Shit, I don't want to be fit and slow.

Okay I've got a driving lesson in about ten minutes' time. Driving is amazing, need my license soon so races in the vicinity will be far more accessible!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

It's the start of November and that just about marks the halfway point of the fall term, Thanksgiving's coming and the weather's beginning to show the first signs of turning dreary. In fact I hope the cold stays away as long as possible- I'll really miss fall weather when it entirely disappears! But I don't think it'll remain much longer, the trees have already shed most of their leaves and it's already snowed twice here.

This term has been great so far. The classes I'm taking are pretty interesting, but some are definitely not easy to score in, like one of my political science classes titled "Modeling Political Processes", which is crazy abstract and fundamentally mathematical and therefore not exactly my cup of tea. Though it is intriguing.

I thought I'd have a difficult time adjusting to life without rowing, but in fact the transition has been surprisingly painless and I actually relish my newfound freedom in scheduling my own training and workouts, rather than be restricted to a team schedule. Honestly I think my not rowing this year turned out really well, because I've got far more flexibility especially when it comes to planning my new and subsequent goals. I've come to another phase in my life where I think it's time to shift my focus to other areas and sporting goals. I don't think I could go back to kayaking or rowing or even dragonboating anymore, somehow I just don't feel the affinity for those sports anymore. Though they were a huge and fundamentally important portion of my life for a substantial period of time- but I don't think they are sports which are compatible with my ideals and dreams anymore, so it's time to move on. Though I'd love to paddle a K2 any time for fun, or perhaps dragonboat for SAFSA just for kicks, they're no longer the mainstays of my sporting life.

I think this year marked my gradual shift towards more individual sporting goals. I guess it all started on a whim really, by signing up for the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon, which I ran 2 weeks ago on the cold, rainy, blustery morning of October 22nd. I don't think I had much of an idea of what I was getting into when I first signed up, it was more of a I-figure-I-can-somehow-plod-through-26.2-miles-given-that-we-did-12-km-runs-in-OCS sort of thing. And I've never been much of a endurance runner, which most of you can testify to. In fact, that is an understatement in itself. Haha. Anyway somehow I just grew into running and cross-training in the form of cycling, erging and swimming helped tons too, and the 10k runs and army half-marathon during summer break in Singapore were good primers for Chicago.

Chicago was an awesome first marathon for me, hands down. The atmosphere was electric and apparently it's one of the marathons with the best sideshows. Everyone says that the only goal you should have for your virgin marathon attempt is just to finish. I had no doubts I'd finish (how could I ever let myself down?) but a nagging twinge in my right calf forced me to re-evaluate my initial hopes of running 4:00 hours. No choice but to dose myself with ibuprofen on race day and hope to goodness nothing bad would happen. Thank God, I had a superb run and managed to come in at 3:59:15 which surpassed my expectations (even when injury-free), and I'm definitely going to run more marathons in the future, and hope they only go better from now on!

I've charted new goals for the coming year and I am forced to admit that they are, beyond a shred of a doubt, ambitious ones. Well, but I suppose nothing's impossible, given that only 8 months ago a marathon looked like the pinnacle of madness. It'll be a tough road ahead, though- in terms of nature of training- since I'll have to pick up new skills and then hone them.

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When your face is before me
I can only imagine

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine when that day comes
And I find myself standing in the Son
I can only imagine when all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you
I can only imagine
I can only imagine