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.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Challenges and Driving Adaptation

And if one day you do get into erging, you'll want to use the C2 online logbook.  It's clearly the best tool for logging erg work outs, but it can suck you in too far.  Every year C2 has a Holiday Challenge where one tries to row 100,000 or more meters between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and by virtue of using the log book, you're automatically entered.  The choices then are to row over 100,000 meters, or to row less than 100,000 meters; there really is no "I'm not doing the challenge because I should be doing intervals" option.

I'm sucked in.  C2 is a great company, and at least publicly Pete Dreissigacker is a great guy.  For every meter you go over 100k, Dreissigacker and C2 give actual real money to actual real charities.

So I'm trying to row a half-marathon on Thanksgiving, one on Christmas, and get my other 50k + meters in between with high-quality interval work.

Here's my problem.  On a good day I can row a 7:08 2,000 which is a 1:47/500 pace.  It's not easy, and it's not repeatable on demand, so it can be said that for me rowing a 7:08 2000 still disrupts homeostasis and forces my body to get better at rowing 2,000 meters.

From my experience, and more importantly at my experience level - the experience of vastly more experienced rowers, there are a few key work outs for improving the 2k.  Probably foremost among them is 3 x 1,000 meters / 2:00 minute rest.  As much as I hate those, I do them, and I try to do them around a 1:42/500 pace.

Yes, I improve my 2,000 by rowing intervals at a pace faster than my 2k pace thus definitely disrupting homeostasis.

There is also a too common idea circulated which maintains the way to improve the 2k is something like this:

2,000m Row
100 Pull-Ups
200 Push-Ups
300 Squats
2,000m Row

Actually this is not a bad idea.  I can post it to facebook, and it only costs me two or three weeks of training time to recover from.  If I do adopt this approach, I'll have to forget that my first 2k will come in around 7:40, and my second will be over 8:00, neither of which stresses my body enough to make it get better at the 2,000.

I do the half-marathons because I want to be a good citizen and support Dreissigacker's good citizenship.  They do look great on facebook, and they do give a training adaptation.

Yes, my sitz bones are tougher than your sitz bones.

Another thing I'll have to forget along the way is that erg races are decided on time, not on sitz bone density.

Now, read this whole thing again and remember it has nothing to do with rowing.

This is all about scaling those CrossFit WODs that beat you down and make you regress.

Yes, I'll allow that sometimes you have to do epic shit and post to facebook.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I've been staring at the white space too long, so I'm going to try to keep this short and to the point and just do it.  I'm sure all my stuff is less than than perfect, and if this is even worse, well I've had a lot of sugar today.  Yes, gluten too.

Probably somewhere I've alluded to the fact that November has been busy for me.  I don't have the time or inclination for a lot of erging, and I metcon even less.  But I have been lifting seriously and I have been eating seriously.  Usually I just have copious amounts of good food.  Today was the one and only day for months I'll have copious amounts of admittedly delicious but obviously lethal food.

I'm already fatter than I was in October.  But here's the thing: my lifts are going up, even those aggravating hard to progress upper body lifts and I feel great.  Clog the almond butter aisle in the supermarket with as many obese people with carts full of vanilla wafers as you want, and I'll walk through them like so many 135 pound bars waiting to be power cleaned.  That is functional fitness in the contemporary world.

December and January should be much better for me.  I'll pick up the erging with ferocity, and I'll keep lifting in preparation for a meet in March.  After some consideration, I think I'll go up to the 198 pound weight class, hit all the numbers I want, then see if I can back down to 181 and keep my strength.  I also really want a sub 1:25 500 meter row.

I may or may not hit my lifting and erging goals, but March 5th I'll look like a guy who either succeeded or made a serious effort to row fast and lift heavy.  If that doesn't describe an underwear model, and I'm pretty sure it doesn't, I don't care.

But I'm a guy, and I acknowledge that I have it easy compared to women.  I like a lot of the stuff that's posted about strong women being hot, but I usually refrain from commenting.  As a man, I don't understand this, but I know it's possible to fuck up a woman just by expressing an opinion that some body type is or is not hot.

I think one time, I'll say that I'm into those women about whom Walt Whitman said:

They are not one jot less than I am, 
They are tann’d in the face by shining suns and blowing winds, 
Their flesh has the old divine suppleness and strength, 
They know how to swim, row, ride, wrestle, shoot, run, strike, retreat, advance, resist, defend themselves, 
They are ultimate in their own right—they are calm, clear, well-possess’d of themselves.

Hopefully I won't fuck anybody up by suggesting they form their own opinions about how skinny Walt's women were.

Monday, November 21, 2011

If You Squat in the Woods

It would take me more time than I'll allow to search through my C2 logbook and figure out what my 500m row was last year, but 1:29.4 sounds about right.

I was trying to figure out why I'm 2.5 seconds faster so far this year, because while my erging has been serious, it hasn't been frequent.  Nor have I grown taller which would be the easy way to get faster.

I've been doing this all long enough to know that unless you're fortunate, most of the hard stuff is going to be done alone.  Sunday, with no-one in attendance, I squatted 300 x 5 x 5.  That's probably why I can cover 150 meters in ten strokes.

Probably the 2012 Mile High Sprints will be like the 2011 Mile High Sprints.  I'll get done and the CSU guys will say both that they like my mustache and that I row fast.

I'd rather it was the CSU women of course, but whatever.

I'll keep doing the important work alone.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Mid-N.O.V.ember & 533.3 watts

Once upon a time, somebody asked Don Shula, legendary head coach of the formerly legendary Miami Dolphins, what the difference was between his two star running backs, Larry Csonka and Lydell Mitchell.  Possibly I've forgotten the exact quote, but Shula responded something like this, "if I tell Larry Csonka to run through a brick wall, he says, 'okay, coach, let's go,' and if I tell Lydell Mitchell to run through a brick wall, he walks to the wall, counts the bricks, walks back and says, 'okay, coach, let's go.'"

And while I like Csonka, I'm becoming ever more like Mitchell.

I now have serious doubts about the N.O.V. muscle-up project.  I have significant shoulder pain, probably from all the pressing I do, and now instead of doing as many muscle-up progressions as I must, I only do as many as I can.  I'm not conceding the project until midnight, December 1st, but I rather doubt it's going to happen in November.

On the good side, I'm becoming better acquainted with the rings and with shoulder pre-hab.  I'm getting much better at ring push-ups and ring dips, and even if that's all that ever happens, it's a good thing.

Somehow, and without much work at all, I can do a pistol on both legs again.  I missed that pistol, and I think this time I'll keep it oiled.

November brought one of my best conversations as a coach ever.  Incredibly Determined and Mentally Tough Woman [IDMTW] and I were talking about the 1,000 meter relay row, and it ended something like this:

IDMTW: "what's a good time for a 1,000 for a woman?"

Me: "3:45"

Me: "3:44"

Me "3:43, I don't like even numbers."

IDMTW: incredibly determined smile

I bet she'll do a 3:47 in training and surprise both of us on race day.

And then I still have my Larry Csonka days.  Maybe it's only because I know this particular brick wall so well, but I can always turn on the animal for a 500 meter row.  I decided a few days ago that as part of my rowing clinic, I'd do a max effort 500 to make sure everybody there knew what rowing looks like.

After a great start I found myself rowing a 1:20/500.  I knew very well that I had to back down somewhere south of 1:25, but it was fascinating to see 1:20 on the monitor, and I wanted to see how long I could sustain it.  I was done at 300 meters, but limped in with a time of 1:26.9 for an average power output of 533.3 watts, tantalizingly close to a triple bodyweight in watts 500.

I'm sure now that if I force myself to row a 1:24-1:25, I can break 1:25.

The readers are aware, doubtless, that a triple bodyweight in watts 500 is both rarer and cooler than a muscle-up anyway, right?

If you don't believe me, ask me.

Of course the wattage is only one variable, and probably I should be more concerned about my floating bodyweight.  November is cooler, and I've been spending more time in the kitchen.  Normally I consider that slightly dangerous.  Directly over the stove, one acclimates to the increasing smoke quickly and may fail to notice its increasing volume and take decisive action to prevent the smoke detector from going off.  Actually playing 1 minute chess in the adjoining room, I notice the smoke sooner.  But cooking is basically taking something that's edible, possibly adding a few more edible compounds, and applying heat, and sometimes it's more entertaining to see how various compounds react to heat than to play yet another 1 minute game.

I've been watching this stuff.

I'm pretty sure I know how to make an obscenely large yet cohesive paleo pancake, and if I can in fact do that I'll have to find three more watts for every new pound I gain.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Undulating Waves & Christmas Denied

November is, unfortunately, insanely busy.  I've been over-working and under-sleeping and largely unmotivated to erg like I should.

Like I preach though, I am not denied my one thing, and predictably I've chosen lifting.  I squat and bench twice weekly and pull deads and press once weekly.  I'm getting fairly high volume at high-moderate intensity as in squatting 6x6x275 and pulling 6x6x300.  The bench is on a six week peaking cycle, and lately I've been topping out with doubles around 235.

Pressing doesn't really fit into my current plan, but I can't leave the press out, so I've put in a max effort press day.  If I feel like crap, I work up to a 3rm, and if I feel good, I'll try a 1rm.  Last week, feeling like crap, I failed to triple 135.  Today feeling way too good for the amount of sleep I got, I singled 170, a new PR.

And that's how it works.  It's a journey, and when you have a shitty day, remember that tomorrow is also a day.  After time these days add up.

I decided a long time ago to compete in the USAPL meet 12/4, but I hadn't decided in which division to compete.  I finally decided to compete raw, which in the USAPL means no knee wraps.  It will be nice not to worry about who is wrapping my knees, but I'll probably take a third attempt squat around 375 pounds.  400ish to me is scary without wraps.

I thought I could weigh in the day of the meet and compete in whatever class that put me in, but I found out I had to declare that in advance, so I registered as a 181.  That all means I should have a fun meet, but I have to stop my uncontrolled free-range eating now, just in time for the holiday season.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

a Bad Day and Consolation Eating

It's fun to PR everything, but it's only possible if you're de-trained, and it can actually be a sign of progress when the PRs slow to a trickle.  I was hoping but certainly not expecting a PR 2k time trial today, but I was unprepared to finish only a half-second faster than my slowest time from last year.

Something that bad can be a shock to my fragile psyche, and I've learned to mitigate the damage by realizing I am still alive and that I don't always suck at everything.  As soon as possible I like to do a failure analysis.  I'm beginning to think that I should recalibrate my damper setting.  I'm almost completely certain that 7 was right last year, but evidence keeps mounting that I can and should row with a lower setting this year. 

But the real problem, I think, was what I didn't eat yesterday and the day before.   I've been insanely busy the last two days, and with limited time I've neglected those beautiful slow baking glycogen bombs, yams.

And thinking about eating reminded me of Jen Comas Keck's blog at EliteFTS which had a recipe for dirty cauli-rice.  I thought this looked intriguing, but I was aware that I couldn't make it.  Firstly there are way too many ingredients, and secondly, I don't understand soup stock.

I've seen soup stock, and from what I can gather it's a liquidized mess of shit that should have been thrown in the garbage.  I believe this because the same people who pull a container of it out of the refrigerator to show me also ask me, "aren't you going to save that for soup stock?" whenever I have shit that needs to be thrown in the garbage.

While on the surface cooking looks impossible, I've learned that problems like this can usually be solved by rational analysis; look, soup stock is some kind of semi-liquid that's heavier than water and lighter than used motor oil.  Yeah, coconut milk is also in that category.  With that in mind I invented:

Awesome Indian Shit #1 aka "Yak Curry"

curry powder
coconut milk

1)  Make your cauli-rice just like Jen says.  I of course don't have a food processor, but improbably I have a cheese grater.  I recommend using a cheese grater, and despite Jen's advice, don't be careful with your fingers.  If you don't have the balls to play cheese grater roulette, you probably shouldn't be in the kitchen, and you should leave the cooking to your "little woman," tough guy.

2) As far as I can tell there are two kinds of canned coconut milk.  Kind one contains some kind of chemical that probably gives you testicular cancer, and kind two contains guar gum which probably at worst give you hemorrhoids or something.  But fuck health considerations.  Kind two becomes solid at a higher temperature than kind one, and that's what we're after here.

3) Open the coconut milk.  Get a fork and eat those 55 heavenly grams of fat occupying the top two-thirds of the can.  The bottom one third is your soup stock.  Pour that over the cauli-rice which should be in a skillet.

4) I forgot Jen's instructions.  I heated this mixture until it was bubbling, then I covered it and turned the heat on low.  I sprinkled some, but probably not enough, curry powder over it.  This gave my kitchen a lovely aroma, which to be honest was not at all like this stuff tasted, so enjoy this part.

5) I think according to Jen this should simmer for 20 minutes.  I played three games of Internet chess and decided it must be done.

6) Brown a 170 gram fistful of hamburger and put some curry over it.  Use more curry than I did.  I thought I used a lot, so once you get to a lot, maybe try half again as much.

7) (Optional) pretend that the hamburger is really lamb.  I tried this, but I realized I could have simply bought lamb, so I decided instead to pretend that I was destitute and that I was cooking up the remains of the beloved family yak I had been forced to slaughter.

8) Put the yak [lamb, hamburger] over the rice and enjoy.

I thought this was actually pretty good if clearly not up to fake Indian American cuisine standards.

I could try tweaking the recipe, but I think next time I'll provide authenticity by just prefacing cooking with a couple Taj Mahal beers and putting up some posters of Himalayan mountainscapes.

Fuck yeah, I'll cater your shit.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


It is often thought, and I can understand why, that all I do is squat and row.  People who know me better are also aware that I find time to be a culinary wizard, provided I restrict myself to eight ingredients and one knife - no confusing utensils, and that I can play non-stop one minute chess on the Internet.  And then people who know me extremely well are aware that I sometimes go to work and that I read.

I'm currently reading the excellent "Fit" by Lon Kilgore et. al., and like most excellent books, it has excellent appendices.  One of those appendices is a chart of performance standards for various bodyweight movements, barbell lifts, and oddly the 1,000 meter row, with metrics ranging from beginner through advanced and on to elite based on age, weight, and gender.

I've been doing all of this long enough for me to score advanced in enough movements that I would probably be believed if I claimed to be advanced in all.  ("Oh, power snatch?  Well I did 750 of those in yesterday's work out; I'm a little bit sore today.")

I'm almost elite in the squat.  I'm close enough that I could load the elite weight on the bar, and on a perfect day, I'd squat it.  On a good day I'd take it low enough to fool the head judge if not the sides.  On an average day, I'd walk it out and decide I had better re-rack it, and for the sake of completeness, on a bad day I'd be headed to the hospital.

I'm so close to elite on the 1,000 meter row that I'm sure I could go in this afternoon, this being a non-lifting day, and do it without extreme exertion.  But I'm also so close here that I want to keep it in reserve for when I need an ego boost, like the next time some hottie shoots me down.  ("Look bitch, you wouldn't know what to do with my Elite ass anyway.")

To sum, I'm good at the stuff I'm serious enough about being good at to actually work on.

And that is what is meant by Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand [SAID.]

I think my favorite John Welbourn quote is still, "I never randomly got good at anything."  John worked very hard on being strong and being able to sprint 40 yards as fast as possible, and his work eventually got him a job in the NFL. 

I admit that being really good at something is an arbitrary decision, and that it's going to detract from something else; John Welbourn is not a marathoner, and I have some of the world's slowest recorded times on bodyweight movements.  Ideas of what constitutes really good or elite or whatever are also arbitrary of course.

In any event, if you're looking for a specific adaptation, be it your first pull-up, a sub-20:00 5 k, or whatever, you might well start by asking yourself where your imposed demand is.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Since the Masters Open, I've mostly been doing the stuff that I do - lifting and rowing.  That's probably the stuff I should be doing because that's the stuff I'm going to do.  I lift again 12/3, the Mile High Sprints are 01/29, and the Denver Indoor Rowing Championships are 02/04.

I also do some serious fucking free range eating, and while I expect to get fluffier, nothing horrible should happen since I restrict myself to the Paleo pasture.

Lifting three times a week and rowing four times a weeks keeps me happy, but me, me, I want more.

It's not just N.O.V.(ember), but also New Skill November.

I've decided I'm doing a muscle up this month.  If I were slightly more suicidal, I'd probably have done one last Sunday.  I was screwing around between sets of squats, and I came within millimeters of turning over a MU.  While I was poised in space between a pull-up and a dip, I had an anti-rowing moment; if I were in an analogous position on the erg, I'd pull harder and trust but not care that I would get through the hard part and live to erg again.  On the rings I had visions of my shoulders dislocating, I did care, I did not trust, and I dropped off.

I hate that, but it was probably the smart and correct thing to do, and I can still retain my masculinity since I remain so good at being stupid and incorrect on the erg and under the bar.

It's N.O.V.(ember.)  I'm doing a muscle-up.