James can be reached at TwinFreaks CrossFit, where he is an owner and trainer. James coaches barbell lifting classes and CrossFit classes. Contact him by email at james@twinfreakscrossfit.com or by phone at 720-204-2631.

Monday, October 31, 2011

500 Meters

Probably I talk too much.  One of my ideas was to never talk to anyone, and to let myself be known through the blog, but I found I can blog and still talk too much.

It's been noted lately that I don't just talk the talk but walk the walk, and I deeply appreciate that observation.  That's a large part of why I ever do anything, and having one person notice is more than enough motivation to keep trying.  Of course by nature I'd keep trying anyway until I find myself dying alone of hypothermia.

And so since I tell everyone it's always possible to train, I thought I better back it up and I found myself lifting Sunday at 9am.  That's definitely not a good time, but it was the only time, and I worked up to 2 x 3 x 195 on the bench and 6 x 4 x 275 on the squat.

I then went to work because that's the kind of shit I do to avoid hypothermia.

By mid-afternoon I went to Dave's house to watch the Broncos play, and like last time I was there, I cooked an obscene amount of food, all Paleo of course.

I went to TwinFreaks CrossFit at about 4:30 since I was supposed to row a 2 x 8 minute piece, but I was full of food and devoid of motivation.  I ended up playing guitar until 5 when people came in.

About 5:45 I decided it was time to do something or concede that I was doing nothing, so I warmed up with a 5 minute row and decided to try my first real 500 meter piece of the year.  I did a 1:33.3 earlier in the week, but that was after doing a 6 x 500.  I thought that despite squatting earlier in the day I should be able to break 1:30.

I placed the erg facing the whiteboard where I wrote in large hand "1:28." 

During a 500 I am conscious of the monitor, but I am not capable of any complex thought.  All I can report is that I was rowing way too fast, and while I was aware of it, I was unable to back down.  I did the "fly and die."  While the last 100 meters was torturous, I finished in 1:27.5, a huge 1.9 second PR over last year's best.  Now that I know how to pace a 500 in 2011, I think it won't be too hard for me to get under 1:26.

Possibly my near perfect diet and my increased CrossFit accounts for such a huge PR so early in the season.


It's like this guys: before I started I emptied all the barbell clips out of the puke bucket and placed the bucket on my right, dominant, side so that if needed I could grab it without thinking.

That and lately I've been in love with an ancient general's quote in Seneca which I'll paraphrase, "it's necessary to go.  It's not necessary to return."

Yes I felt the burn.

That's Flamethrower Love.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

30 Hours with James

10/26 2:45 am - Wake up unhappy again.  I've had terminal insomnia since late last spring or early summer.  Usually if it's before 3 am, I will try to go back to sleep, but 2:45 is close enough.

2:46 - Notice the clock flashing and conclude that power has been out.  Take care of bodily functions and slam a cold coffee.

2:50 - Sit down at the chess board with "the Final Countdown," a cogent introduction to the theory of conjugate squares in King and Pawn endgames.  I'm not sure if I'll ever play a serious game of tournament chess again, but I still get a considerable aesthetic effect from studying chess.  I'm a geek, but the complexity of apparently simple reduced material endgames can be devastating in its beauty.

4:00 - Hit the wall staring at oddly shaped plastic figures on 32 green and 32 cream squares.  Decide it's time to play on the Internet.  I'm not sure exactly what sites I was on, but probabal candidates were EliteFTS, T-Nation, Derby City CrossFit, CrossFit Balboa, CrossFit main site, and I'm sure I had my Internet Chess Club client open in the background playing a game of 1 minute chess between each article I read.

4:20 - No change.

4:30 - Breakfast - one fist full of hamburger, and I'll bet you as much as you want this is between 140 and 160 grams, and two eggs scrambled and doused in hot sauce.

4:55 - I realize I'm probably going to be shovelling snow, so I head out to TwinFreaks CrossFit.

5:00 - Assess conditions at TFCF.  I decide the snow will probably melt quickly and my claim that I shovelled snow will be irrefutable.

5:35 - Strip down to shorts and do a hand stand push-up outside in the snow.

5:40 - Assess the small but motivated 5:30 am class and decide they don't need me to babysit them during the WOD.  Lament that I stopped cheating on the programming; this is supposed to be a rest day for me, but how can I justify missing a mercifully short WOD of pull-ups and hand stand push ups?  Fuck it, I'm in.

6:30 - Teach the awesome October On-Ramp class.

7:40 - Realize nobody is coming to the 7:30 class.  Consider shooting myself but decide instead to pay some bills so that we can stay open for the people who do come.  Realize again that my love for the people who show up outweighs my disdain for the people who don't.

8:00 - Go home and find out that the power is out again.  Without the ability to cook anything, I decide to drink four eggs.  If you die from salmonella, you're supposed to be dead.

8:30 - Go to bed.  This is a tough one.  I try to avoid sleeping during the day because it's associated with continued horrid insomnia, but I actually have an afternoon of work to do at work, and it's going to be living Hell without a nap.

Before 9, I think - Flanked by my two warm cats I go to sleep.

11ish - Wake up and find power is still out.  With no ability to cook, I drink a can of coconut milk.  Drink more coffee.  This again is tough because excessive or late caffeine consumption is associated with continued insomnia, but my choice here is to be either hyper or a vegetable at work.

12pm-5pm -  Go to work and actually work.

5:15 - Somehow I know that I still won't have power at work.  Inform Dave B. that if I don't have power I'm texting him inviting myself to his house.

5:30 - Go home where I find I do not have power.  With no ability to cook, I drink four eggs.  They're semi-refrigerated so I decide there is no salmonella risk above background.  I begin to wonder if it will drop below freezing during the night.  I get this brilliant idea that the easy way to clean my toilet would be to let it freeze and then use a corkscrew to remove and discard the ice plug - no brushing, no harsh chemicals - completely Paleo.

6:00 - Roll up at Dave's.  One of the few good things about me is that I'm extremely conscious of imposing on people, so I inform Dave that I am not imposing but rather I've arrived to give him a Paleo cooking lesson.  Dave does some foraging in various refrigerators and cupboards and we find: hamburger, eggs, yams, canned pumpkin, coconut oil, cinnamon, and some fucking excellent habanero sauce - essentially everything anyone could ever want.

6:20-7:00 - I make yamburger v1, and dessert v3.  This is all available in the JamesD Big Fucking Book of Cooking which exists entirely in my head.  I make enough for 36 dieting women or 2.25 adult males.  Dave is already fading and thinking about going to bed, so I eat about 60% of this stuff.

7:30  - Dave invites me to sleep on the couch, and I get another invite to sleep on a futon.  The futon is tempting because it probably comes with a dog.  I haven't slept with a dog in years but I really like it.  They're big enough to be warm yet unlike Humans they're not big enough to displace me during the night. I also receive a suggestion that I should sleep in the Ice Rink at Roosevelt Park.  Two fantastic offers and one entirely Paleo suggestion, but I decide to assess the conditions at home.

7:45 - Return to dark and cold home.  Take a shower in the dark.  Put on indispensable hoodie and awesome flannel pants thing that someone gave me for Christmas many years ago.

8ish - Get into dark and cold bed regretting deeply that at 5:30 I lacked the foresight to use the dim light to find my awesome wool blanket.  In the dark it will be impossible to find it.

Later8ish - Conceive a nightmare scenario where the day-time nap and the late coffee leave me sleeping fitfully, waking up every hour and finding I have no power and thus can not take solace in studying K+P endgames or web surfing.

Lateryet8ish - Flanked by my two warm cats I fall asleep.

Sometime between lateryet8ish and 4:45am -  I might wake up and feel like I want to vomit from either being too full and having an acidic stomach or perhaps salmonella, or I might dream the whole thing.  I do dream that it's Thursday, I'm talking to Dave, and I ask him if he ate too much and vomited.

4:45am - I wake up and find I have no power, but I know it's 4:45 because I have my Paleo Blackberry.  I take care of bodily functions, and without power to enable me to screw around, I decide I will be like Paleo man and go back to bed.

4:47ish-unbelievably after 6am - I fucking sleep!

Unbelievably after 6am - I get up feeling better than I have in my entire life, and I decide to augment this feeling with coffee.

7am - I stop by TFCF because I thought, correctly, that I had fucked up the blog and I wanted to fix it.  I also decide I will annoy everyone there by proclaiming how great I feel.

8 am - I go to work.  I'm unsure what I will do, but being there early will greatly enhance my reputation, and the common if erroneous assumption will be that I am doing terribly important stuff.

8-9 - I realize that my IQ is temporarily 218.  This is much too good to last more than a few hours so I decide to update my blog..

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Twelve Week Transformation

I have been CrossFitting for over three years now and most of that time I've been on some form of Paleo diet.  At times I have been in stellar condition and able to perform at a high level.  I am, however, a guy which means that I love to lift heavy, and I have a tendency to become obsessed with the slow barbell lifts at the expense of everything else.  I rarely eat junk, but I do have a near weekly cheat day, and at times I have drunk a pint of heavy whipping cream on a daily basis.  I tend to cut CrossFit down to about two work outs a week, and I often cherry-pick those; they're going to be short, heavy, and quite likely barbell-centric.  None of this is really bad, but all of it is far short of perfect.  It makes me strong, people ask me where I work out, and while no-one says, "dude, you're jacked," no-one says I'm fat.

In early July, 2011 I decided to enter the July 31st USAPL power lifting meet at the Colorado State Games at 181.75 pounds. I usually walk around at 185 pounds, and I was shocked to find that I had crept up to 194.  It's not hard to take off 13 pounds in three or four weeks, but I am much more accustomed to take off 5 pounds in a week.  There was, coincidentally, a twelve week fat loss contest at work purportedly with a more than $1,000 prize to the winner, so I thought I had adequate incentive to hone my diet for three months and see how much fat I could strip.  Additionally, the inaugural Colorado CrossFit Master's Open competition would occur immediately after the fat loss contest, so I thought I might as well go all in and see how much I could improve my conditioning in the same three months.

Here is where I started:

7/10/11 Powerlifting Faileo James - those could be abs
Weight: 194
Body fat by four site pinch test: 17.5%
Body fat by consensus: 12-13%
"Cindy" score: 14.433 rounds
2,000 meter row: 7:26.0
mustache: perfect

What I attempted to do for three months:
1) Follow John Welbourn's dietary recommendations for fat loss - strict Paleo diet, no fruit, no dairy, 15 calories per day per pound body weight, 25% protein, 25% carbohydrate, 50% fat. 
2) Lift four days a week hitting the squat, dead lift, bench press, and press.
3) CrossFit four times a week with two entirely random WODs and two cherry-picked WODs designed to hit my weaknesses, notably all body weight movements and time domains exceeding 15 minutes.
4) Do a second work out on the C2 erg.

What I actually did for three months:
I ate absolutely nothing forbidden.  If I want to seriously do anything, I have to make it very easy on myself, so I ate only the following foods: ground beef; chicken; yams; squash; eggs, sardines; coconut oil; various green leafy vegetables.  I entered the nutritional data for all of these into a spreadsheet and tracked my daily intake of macro nutrients and calories.  In ninety days, I never got this absolutely right.  I tended to do okay on the fat, but usually had too much protein at the expense of carbohydrates.  I never had less than my body weight in grams in protein, as I made absolutely sure to hit this number every day no matter what else happened.  When I started, I noticed my calories were way too low, and over time I moved them to the target number and eventually beyond.  I chose not to be hungry.  Often on Thursday, dead lift day, I would program a met con involving high-rep, medium weight dead lifts after my lifting, and I would develop a ravenous appetite.  By the time I gave up tracking calories on Thursdays, I was well over 3,000 while my target was around 2,500.

I was perfect with my lifting.  It's easy to do what you're already good at.

I started out hitting four WODs a week, but after several weeks it was becoming clear to me that I was not recovering.  I was at least smart enough to realize continued pushing would make me regress, so I backed down to three a week.

Over time, my second rowing work out degenerated into a very low intensity affair due to my inadequate recovery.  I love the erg, but here again I realized I over-reached and entirely quit the attempt at a second work out.

To summarize, I did a fantastic if overly ambitious job of planning, and while I fought to the best of my ability, I fell well short of what I targeted as perfection.  Now of course this is subjective, but I honestly believe I came very close to doing my best.  Yes there were days when I could have pushed the WOD harder or passed up the extra 150 grams of ground beef and I failed to do so, but there were not many of those.  To be honest and not merely ego saving, I think I did an excellent job of adjusting my programming and eating on the fly.  My over-riding principal was to listen to my body and quash all the attempts, which I damn well knew I'd make, to be an idiot and push too hard.

Here is what happened in twelve weeks and a few days:

10/16/11 CrossFitting Paleo James - six evident

10/16/11 CrossFitting Paleo James - twin pythons and who knew the trapezius has striations?

Weight dehydrated: 174.5
Walking around weight: 180
Body fat by four site pinch test: 12%
Body fat by consensus: 7% (when building a consensus, find people who already like and support you.)
Body fat by hydrostatic test: 8.1%
"Cindy" score: 16.756 rounds
2,000 meter row: 7:08.4
mustache: still perfect but now seductively lustrous probably from the dietary fat

Twelve weeks is really not a long time to make such a dramatic change.  I had fun the entire time and enjoyed my self imposed discipline.  I did have a very high motivation level for various reasons.  I wanted to win the fat loss contest and the money, I wanted to have a respectable showing at the Master's Open, and as a CrossFit trainer and affiliate owner I though it was time to quit being lazy, practice what I preach, and show my clients the synergistic power of CrossFit and Paleo.

It can be seen that all those are external motivations, and I think that it was critical that I also had a high degree of internal motivation.  To be succinct, I was disgusted with my previous half-hearted efforts at everything besides lifting, and I wanted to quit effing around.

I did what I set out to do, and it was Awesomeness cubed.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday: Searching for Redemption and What's Next

Saturday's DNF was ugly, and while the ground to overhead ladder was good, I finished the day in the cellar..  At the end of the day, my left shoulder was fried, the rest of my body felt bad, and I was pretty sure Sunday's WODs were not designed for me.

But you do what you can.

I was lucky to make it back to Front Range CrossFit today as I started the day by tripping down the stairs before 6 am, but no damage was done.  Absolutely everything hurt today with the worst spots being again the left shoulder, and also the left hip flexors, and the traps.

WOD 3:
5 Rounds for Time
5 Dead Lifts 185 pounds
10 KB Thrusters 24 Kg
150 meter Run

I finished this in 7:48 but realized I fucked up.  I thought I was doing my best, but when I went for my last run I heard somebody yell, "catch him."  I turned around and saw two guys behind me, and I was able to finally find high gear and keep them behind.  I realized I probably could have done that on the first four runs.

I was absolutely dreading WOD 4:
Power Snatch 95 pounds
Side-to Side Jumps 12"

I thought if my shoulder held up I would be fine on the power snatches, but my body is not made for jumping.  No, it's made for heavy squatting and powering the erg.  By this time I felt so bad everywhere that I started warming up an hour early in hopes that I'd be able to move.  I did a very slow paced warm up with rowing and I did a total of maybe five power snatches as I didn't know how many I had left in me for the WOD.  Towards the end of the warm up I started cramping up mainly in the foot and hamstring.  I figured I was fucked, but I took the floor and left matters to fate.

I finished in 7:54, a perfectly respectable time, and it was pretty fucking funny.  During the WODs I had tunnel vision and couldn't hear anything.  Because I had it in my head that this was going to be a battle to the death, anything the announcer said through the microphone I interpreted as an update on the approaching cut off time of 10 minutes.  Everytime that guy said anything I thought the cut off must be getting closer and I tried to move faster.

After I finished and was walking off the new pain, several people told me I did great and I asked them, more or less, "what the fuck are you talking about?"  This happened enough times that eventually I realized maybe I did do okay, and in fact I did.

In all it was a fun week end.  I avoided ignomy in a very competitive group.  Even the last place finisher there could hardly be said to be unfit.

I'd like to thank:

MG - advil and advice after doing all this before me
VP - driving and somehow coming up with salt water when I was cramping
DB1 - pre-competition massage
DB2 - megatons of laughs and co-conspiring Operation Golden Tomb
EW - E-coaching
ACW - E-cheering
D&B - coming down before heading out
JS and the Defy crew - reminding me that power lifting is still there when the circus tricks are over

Quickly now, as I'm more than ready for an early bed time, I've had three great days on the Faleo diet.  I haven't eaten anything forbidden, just way too much of the more questionable stuff.

Monday I'll be back to Paleo and I'll be happily training for the Known and Knowable which involves a lot of squatting and rowing.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ammonia for Breakfast, Medicine Ball for Lunch

Evidently the last time I used my gym bag was at the USAPL power lifting meet.  I know this because when it rolled off the pile of junk in my closet this morning and I stepped on it, I heard a, "pop,pop."  I must have already had a coffee because my brain was working quickly enough to surmise that I had just inadvertently broken two ammonia caps.

I pulled out the box of caps, and sure enough, two of those beauties were pink and leaking into the atmosphere.  I couldn't bear the though of losing that ammonia.

I hit that shit.

I had thought that ammonia was losing its effectiveness on me, but a double dose concentrated in the box was like a knee to the face.

I thought that in some form it was going to be a good day.

I proceeded to Front Range CrossFit and day one of the Master's Open.  The first event was:
1,000 Meter Row
75 Wall Ball Shots
500 Meter Row
25 Pull-Ups

I thought this would be a 15 minute work out for me, and had I not DNF'ed I'd have finished in 15:03.  At the 15 minute cut-off, I had one pull-up left.  In reality I did about 100 wall balls and 30 pull-ups, but I had way too many no-reps.  The wall ball was quite a battle as the Front Range wall ball target stands out a few inches from the wall, and the ball has to hit it.  My shots were going above, below, and sometimes in front.

What I did right: I kept my head in the game.  I was not flustered by the endless no-reps and just kept pushing.  I got some extra focus when for the first time in my life, in front of a hundred people of course, I caught a wall ball with my face hard enough to be knocked back two steps.  As far as I can tell, that actually helped me.

What I did wrong: I was struggling badly with the second row.  Probably I should have rowed half or three quarter slide, dropped my power and upped my rating.  That supposedly is the way to do a recovery row, and while I know that, my pain addled mind couldn't pull it out.

Event two was a ground to overhead ladder starting with 135 pounds and going up 5 pounds every twenty seconds.  I haven't attempted a serious clean and jerk in well over a year now, and back when I was doing it, my max was 215.  Complicating matters, I think I fucked my left shoulder doing the first WOD pull-ups.  I was scared to put anything over head, so I warmed up with front squats and trusted that when the time came I could still jerk anything I can clean.  This event turned out to be a study in joy.  I danced my way to 215 pounds where I made the world's ugliest power clean and was saddened to find that, no, I couldn't jerk it.

Tomorrow's events are:

5 rounds for time of:
5 deadlifts 225 pounds
10 kettlebell thrusters 24 Kg
150 meter run


10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps for time of:
power snatch 95 pounds
stick jump, 12 inches

Both of these will be gassers and do not favor me.  With my left shoulder fucked, I'll try doing all the thrusters right-handed.

Of the two, the dead lifts, thrusters, and runs seems a little more palatable to me, so I'm going to go hard there and try to move up a few places in the rankings.

Fuck it.  I have two arms, and I already ruined my face today.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Twelve Weeks and Two Days

And so the fat loss contest ends.

The guy who took our initial pinch tests three months ago quit, and the guy who did our final pinch test measured everybody about 4% high.  I know because the tank put me at 8% and I had him measure me the same day; he came up with 12%.

This means, among other things, that some of the people who didn't try very hard and lost 1 or 2 percent body fat appear to have gained.  Because they know they have lost weight, they're unhappy with the measurement.  Because so many people are unhappy, the contest was called off.  Everybody get $100 back, and I don't get the $1,200.

Of course a few people, those who have lost the most muscle from fasting, are claiming that they won based on how much weight they lost.

I'm going to make my own claim: I got jacked.

No way in Hell am I not staying Paleo, but I relaxed and enjoyed a pound of almond butter and a pint of honey, way too many dates, a pint of cream, and two cups of almond milk.  All very awesome and arguably Paleo, but I'll stay on the ground beef and yams starting again tomorrow.  Why not, it works for me.

Twelve weeks of Paleo and serious CrossFit has been good for me.  I have a lot, I think, to pass on via my blog, but it's going to come in pieces and take time.

First I have this matter of the Master's Open this weekend.  I don't think the first two events favor me at all.

The second event is a ground to overhead ladder starting at 135 pounds and going up 10 pounds every twenty seconds until failure.  I haven't done a serious Olympic lift in over a year.

I'm going to put on wrist wraps and O shoes, engage the bar and see what it wants to do.

The first event is a 1,000 meter row, 75 wall ball shots, 500 meter row, and 25 pull-ups.  Rowing is good, 25 pull-ups can be gutted out with the broken butterfly, but 75 wall ball shots is a lot for me.

It occurs to me that nobody really gives a fuck how I do.

The crux of this is the wall ball shots.  When it really sucks, I'm projecting about 25 in, I'm going to remember that one legendary figure once walked a barbell mile with me. 

I'm going to say to myself, "the target is ten feet high."

If anybody gave a fuck, they'd see some exquisitely beautiful wall ball shots.

For what I damn well hope is less than 15 minutes tomorrow, CrossFit will be life.  Sometimes that's all you get, but it's invariably enough.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Paleo Counter-Point

The scales fell from my eyes, the weight fell from the scale, and I am now a prophet of Paleo.

But the thing in itself is Awesomeness.  In my continued quest for Awesome, I've found Paleo to be a powerful tool.  I realize it may be possible to be Awesome without Paleo, and if you can do so, have at it.

Awesome non-Paleo

This guy has a bagel and a twenty ounce Pepsi and is still awesome.  Stuff like this makes me happy I didn't die fifteen years ago.  It reminds me a bit of my younger self.  I remember at the University of Iowa, we'd walk to Coralville directly next to Iowa City and be so hungry we'd throw down whatever we could afford at Taco Bell and then go to the doughnut shop next door for a dessert of blueberry doughnuts.  We didn't die; we never even puked.

If you're going this route, be careful.  The only reason this guy and a younger me got away with this is that Punk's not gonna die.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I'm a Ho

If you look here you'll perhaps be as surprised as I was today to learn that I am a yoga instructor.

I wasn't sure how I became a yoga instructor, so I dedicated 15 minutes to figuring it out.  Probably last summer I was walking around Longmont with my braided mustache at clavicle length, and probably I was wearing not just dirty shorts, but dirty, torn shorts.  I must have passed a coffee shop with two women inside, serious of course about fitness results, sipping soy chai lattes and asking each other about the hardcore yoga studios.

I'm not really in tune with the Lululemon crowd, but reasonably only one thing could happen when they saw me.

One pointed at me and said to the other, "that motherfucker must have spent some serious time on a Nepalese mountain top."

They followed me, at a safe distance, to TwinFreaks CrossFit and were scared to go inside while still on contract to their current studio but got me a listing.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do when my disciples start showing up.  I do have a world class pigeon pose, but I got that from Brazilian jiu-jitsu, not yoga.  In BJJ, I like to play guard, the bottom position which is by definition defensive but from which an array of submission attacks can be launched.  This, I learned during my time in San Fransisco, is called "topping from bottom," and aside from the applications it has in grappling, it's probably a good skill to have if you're a ho.

Don't ask me why, but recently I've been in a commercial gym.  Among other things, I saw a spherical woman doing seated calf raises.  I recognized this as a spot reduction strategy; I thought spot reduction would be fine for her as long as the spot was her body, and I realized this could only be the work of a personal trainer.

Clearly in this foreign place money was changing hands for questionable physical services and I felt debased.  I wondered, though, what a ho would do, and I decided to display my wares.  With my whorish instincts apparently intact, I approached the weakest prey, two inexperienced underweight high school boys who will be underweight until they go to college, drink beer seven days a week instead of two, and begin a lifelong journey of being overweight.  I pulled up my shirt, flexed my abs and said, "what do you think? Is this okay?"

I had to run the hell out of there before anything could be consummated.

So when the disciples show up, I'm going to rip the "$135 a month" sign off the wall.  I'll tell them I can see they're serious about results, and that I can infallibly deliver for $50 an hour.

I'll show them the pigeon pose, and for $50 an hour, especially if I get a group, I'm whorish enough to tell them I got like this by eating tofu.