Tag Archives: offseason

This post probably belongs on LinkedIn

So on Monday I left my most recent day job.

Basically, the company (under wraps for confidentiality but they do retail distribution; I processed and reported retail orders) is under new leadership as of last month. The new leadership all but made clear their plan is to either assimilate with their current properties or to liquidate, despite official “business as usual” claims (and others at work had corroborated these suspicions). Actions speaks louder than words.

With the writing having been on the wall for the last month, my mounting workload and day to day complications there were no longer worth the stress, trouble, or what I was being paid. It was negatively affecting my personal life outside of work, even when I was working from home.

So I said enough, and turned my equipment in for good Monday morning. Even though this was a job that to some degree I liked, walking away felt like being paroled from prison. It had gotten that bad, and rather quickly.

Even with the specter of needing to secure another job and its income, I have felt a substantial positive difference. I’m a lot less on edge. Yes, being able to take afternoon naps and not having to commute right now certainly helps.

Of course, now I’m applying for other jobs, and while updating my resume and completing applications hasn’t been that big a challengeā€¦ I’ve once again entered that job hunter’s internal conversation of adding value and being an employer’s best choice for a suitable role, balanced against finding a position that meets my salary and lifestyle needs.

I don’t worry. I’ve done this before. Like apartment hunting, doing personal business, my own health, and many other personal matters, I’ve learned how to handle the process of job hunting better than most.

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Once I’ve Had My Coffee, I Can’t Go Back. Or, How French Press coffee has ruined me

Me, in colder times, with a hot cup of coffee during a cold morning at Dollop Coffee in Chicago back around 2018 or so.

I’ve been as avid a coffee drinker as anyone since about 1999, early in my college days. I quickly transitioned to black coffee at some point around 1999-2000 and I’ve drank it that way since. If black coffee’s an acquired taste, I acquired it rather quickly.

In Vegas I hung out almost religiously at the infamous underground hub Cafe Espresso Roma, at least until it closed for good in 2002-2003 or so. This indirectly got me hooked on the habit of visiting and hanging out at coffeehouses. I got to know Seattle’s coffeehouses during my 10+ years there, and after moving to Chicago in 2014 I got to know a good deal of theirs as well.

After returning to Vegas, I had found a few decent coffee hangouts before Coronavirus struck and closed everything for several months.

When working, I typically drank whatever black coffee the office made available, though in my later Chicago years I bought and started using a French Press to prepare coffee at home. It certainly helped me during the extreme sub-zero days in January 2019 when we worked from home and couldn’t really go outside without risking death. The French Press followed me to Vegas, and once I resumed working I began bringing my French Pressed coffee to work in a sealed ceramic cup.

It’s worth noting that when I prepare my coffee, I technically water it down. I press with 3 scoops of coarse ground coffee, as that equals a 12 oz serving of most coffee. This means to fill a 17 oz ceramic cup I’m adding more water than is needed, effectively watering down my coffee.

When I briefly experimented last month with drinking a nootropic blend from Vitacup, I only used two scoops (equal to 8oz) to press because it had a higher caffeine content. This meant the coffee was even more watered down, though the coffee used was so strong I didn’t notice any negative difference.

In any case, Coronavirus lockdowns struck down all coffeehouse visits for several months, so I drank my French Pressed coffee at home every single morning. It certainly saved me a lot of money each month, as these coffeehouse visits (while inexpensive per visit) did add up over the months.

But when coffeehouses re-opened, and I started visiting these coffee places againā€¦ I found the coffee at my Vegas hangouts not just strong, but at most I found the taste surprisingly unpleasant. On Tuesday in fact I bought a cup of coffee while I was out since I couldn’t press a cup that morning. I ended up throwing out half of that 12oz cup. I couldn’t stand what was skunky taste to me, and this was a place whose coffee I previously liked.

Other than possibly the beans sitting for months (which honestly is not unusual), I couldn’t figure out why suddenly I didn’t like coffeeshop coffee anymore.

It has now occurred to me what changed: The months of drinking my watered down French Press coffee soured me on the taste of coffeehouse coffee for these reasons:

1) I use purified water from a closed source, and French Pressing always allows you to be selective with the water source. Coffeehouses will just use heated tap water to brew. Sometimes they might use an osmosis filter, but that’s basically tap. The tap water in Vegas is pretty bad quality, and because the water quality is bad, it diminishes my relative taste of the coffee brewed with it.

2) As mentioned, my French Press coffee is watered down. This thins and isolates the taste of the pressed coffee. Plus, again, I only use enough ground for myself to have one large cup. Regular drip meanwhile is brewed with a lot more coffee grounds, and they’re often more finely ground, which effectively gets more coffee into more of the water. This is going to thicken the taste of the coffee for me. When the coffee is good, this is great. When the coffee is not so great, the saturation exaggerates any badness of the coffee for me.

3) Since my coffee is French Pressed with hot water and carried in a sealed ceramic cup, it retains its heat and I always drink my coffee rather hot. Regular drip coffee is great when it’s brewed fresh and very hot. But drip coffee quickly loses quality once it has sat for more than an hour. This is actually why Starbucks as a policy dumps whatever drip coffee they have every two hours. Most coffeehouses don’t have a dump schedule, and often (as I did two days ago) if you get it later in the morning that coffee has been sitting for several hours. Skunked.


Because I’m now accustomed to drinking fresh, hot coffee out of a French Press, I now more than ever definitely notice the skunky taste of regular drip coffee that is not fresh.

It’s not that the quality of coffeehouse coffee has gone down or has always been bad. It’s that, unless it’s impeccably prepared (which outside of an expensive pour-over, Aeropress, French Press or other personally prepared cups, it’s not going to be impeccably prepared), I’m going to notice the badness in any cup of coffee.

It’s nothing against these places. It’s just the way my palate evolved as a result of drinking my own French Press coffee every day for months.

The only takeaway from this is not to never go drink coffee at coffeehouses again, but just to either spend extra for pour-over or similarly custom-made coffee when it’s available, or to go to these places first thing in the morning when I know the drip’s going to be freshly prepared.

(Or you could say “Just go to Starbucks” and sure that’s probably a better option after the early morning. But, as many know, their bean roasts are also over-burned and the taste while consistently palatable is always over-burned. Given the option, I’ll pass.)

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Bulking up in Vegas

After a somewhat surprising three weeks in Vegas (my employer and I expected to deploy me sooner, but fate intervened)… I fly out tomorrow on assignment to Michigan for a few weeks.

Much of the last three weeks were spent waiting for the other shoe to drop, so I didn’t really settle into a desired routine, knowing it would be completely disrupted once I was deployed.

Instead, I ended up inadvertently settling into a “routine” of eating a lot of good home cooked food, and sitting around when not at the gym cross training or outside at 6am for a hot desert, brief-out-of-necessity run.

I gained a somewhat astonishing 10 pounds. Granted, the stress of my move led to losing a few pounds right before I left Chicago, so I had some weight to gain back. But I rocketed past my previous 167-168 pound baseline within days, and spent much of my Vegas time in the 173-174 pound range. This despite a couple hours in the gym doing various moderate aerobic cross training and strength exercises most days of the week.

I imagine some of this is water weight from the new food, plus restocked muscle and glycogen lost during the Chicago move. But calorie wise it hasn’t been all that different from living in Chicago. But consider the dramatic (expected) shift in my lifestyle once I arrived in Vegas:

In Chicago (according to my Fitbit data) I averaged anywhere from 650-900 minutes per week of tracked physical activity (anything from 10+ minutes of walking on up), plus about 3000-3500 calories burned per day. Rarely did I finish a day having burned fewer than 3000 calories. Often I burned in excess of 3400-3500.

In Vegas I’ve averaged 500-550 minutes of trackable exercise activity per week, and maybe 2600-2700 calories burned per day. I’ve had perhaps 3 days total where I burned more than 3000 calories since arriving on August 26. That’s a substantial drop in burned calories.

The difference as expected was the amount of walking. Chicago required no less than several minutes of walking to get basically anywhere. In Vegas, you need to drive doorstep to doorstep since very little of the city is walkable in general, not just from sprawl but the extreme summer heat.

I’ve technically exercised more here in Vegas than I did in Chicago. The big difference that produced my weight gain has been the vastly diminished everyday activity.


I’m not terribly worried about losing the weight back. Once I’m on the ground in Michigan, have to walk facility floors for work everyday, and get more chances to run (the Michigan suburbs have decent sidewalks, plus the warm humidity, is far better for daytime running than the extremely hot Vegas desert)… my excess fat and water weight should peel right off. Plus, without home cooking, I’ll regain full control of my diet and be eating cleaner.

Was it okay to bulk up like that? Of course. Especially considering that the summer basically became my offseason. I’ve decided I prefer winter and spring running, and my primary goal race for 2020 is at the end of spring anyway. It wasn’t imperative that I begin training before January. I’ve remained however active I could.

The key is that I restored some lost glycogen and muscle mass. The latter is very important as you age, and having trained as a runner regularly for the last few years I haven’t really given my muscles a chance to regain much lost mass. This was probably the first serious chance I’ve had to do so. Plus I’ve gotten to do more strength training than I could in Chicago: Along with more available time, the gyms in Vegas are bigger and strength machines aren’t busy all the time as they were in Chicago.

Even though I haven’t run as much, I’ve maintained much of my aerobic conditioning with several hours of easy to moderate cross training each week, using not just the ARC Trainer but the new gym’s rowing machines, plus Joe LoGalbo’s Anabolic aerobic approach on the spin bike to get more bang for the buck out of the typically too-easy stationary bike. Occasionally, I’ve used the treadmill, though since the recent hamstring injury I’ve been careful about doing that too much.

So, I’m looking forward to not just the new job assignment but a chance to run regularly in a new place. More to come on that.

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How long will the offseason last?

So, two weeks after arriving in Las Vegas, it’s clear to me that finding time to run more than 10-15 miles a week will be tough until the temperature comes down.

Before beginning remote work duties this past week (I had the previous week off to move), I had no problem getting outside at 6am and getting at least 3-4 miles in before 7am.

However, most of my colleagues are 2-3 hours ahead in the Eastern US, and that requires I work an earlier shift. I get up at 6am PDT every day and starting work at 7am isn’t a problem. But it means that 6am runs are somewhat impractical. I did sneak out for a run during this past week, but I couldn’t go too far since I needed to be ready to work by 7.

Even though (for now) I usually finish up work around 4pm local time, by that point the Vegas heat has reached its peak. Running outside at all in those conditions is probably a suicide attempt.

Never mind the perceived heat index of the 105-115’F, 10-20% humidity conditions is around 120 degrees, akin to running in 75’F weather with 70% humidity. The mere temperature and abundant sunshine alone makes running outside at midday in Vegas very dangerous. The city has a handful of short, weekly 6pm fun runs, but even at that hour temperatures are over 100 degrees, and the sun will not go down for a couple hours. Even if do-able in short doses, it doesn’t lend itself to extended aerobic training.

Even the treadmill becomes difficult after about 10-20 minutes, and after my recent injury I’m looking to avoid using the treadmill for anything more than brief warmup runs or run/walking.

So this means:

  • More consistent strength training. Since my current gym now has a lot more space, a lot more machines, and is not nearly as crowded, I can fully strength train whenever I like rather than have to work around a crowd of Wrigleybros. I have settled into a pattern of doing a full strength workout every 2-3 days. Most work out on certain days of the week, but I prefer to space my workouts out by days-between.
  • A variety of cross training. I still have the ARC Trainer available, which is the best and closest approximation to running available. This new gym also has rowing machines and aerobic hand crank machines, allowing for extended aerobic upper body training that will leave my legs along while also giving my upper body a lot more dynamic exercise. We forget how much the upper body needs to work during running, so this is very helpful.
  • Extra time on the spin bike. I can either take a “rest day” by riding easy on the spin bike, or do some aggressive Anabolic Training intervals, a form of high intensity interval training similar to Daniels style repetitions: You go all out for 30 seconds, then ride easy for 2-3 minutes, repeat about 4-6 times. This form of HIIT is supposed to help generate helpful muscle-building hormones as well as test and improve your anaerobic capacity.
  • An offseason. I will still run at least a couple times a week, but I’m going to focus much more so on my cross training and strength training in the interim. I have and probably will gain a bit of weight, which is hopefully mostly added muscle mass. The cross training will help maintain general aerobic capacity and help maintain some fat burning normalcy.

I don’t need to begin training for Vancouver before January, and could begin some form of ramped up training as soon as early November. Since my new job poses enough of a challenge and adjustment in the short term, this is clearly not a problem.

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Do I ever take an offseason?

My final shakeout run is in the books and I feel ready to go for tomorrow’s Chicago Marathon. I definitely feel way better and a lot more physically/mentally ready for tomorrow than I did while ill and sleeping poorly right before Vancouver.

Tomorrow, effective no later than 2pm CDT, I begin an imposed two week minimum hiatus from running. This is a rule created by the Hanson Brothers that bookends their training plans in Hanson Marathon Method. While I don’t necessarily train their way, it is a rule I plan to follow.

Never mind how much damage I’ll have to heal from. From a pure healing standpoint, you could easily begin easy running in as little as the next day, provided the running is easy and brief enough. I can do recovery runs after 20 milers with little problem.

Hal Higdon recommends you take about 3 days off after a marathon before trying any running. Even then he recommends you take it very easy and ease back into a regular schedule.

The real reason to take a break, along with physical recovery, is to take a mental break, free up those hours I’d otherwise devote to running and do some other stuff with my evenings. I definitely have some other projects and work I’m looking forward to doing during the break.

The most obvious time to take an offseason is right after a marathon, where a runner needs the recovery time anyway. The famous Kenyan runners actually will sit around and not run at all for as much as two months before resuming training. Frank Shorter’s famous quote goes, “You have to forget your last marathon before you try another.” The offseason is meant for many to re-set the mind before committing to train again.

During an offseason a runner might run some, but nothing resembling training for particular fitness let alone a race. Week One for that can begin down the road.

Once I got serious about running again, I’ve definitely taken breaks. I don’t know if I’d full out call them offseasons, as when I take them fluctuates depending on various factors.

For one, I began serious training in a traditional spring-to-fall schedule, and eventually decided I wanted to run in winter. At that time I took a break in late summer in 2017, then resumed training in the autumn as others were running their marathons and wrapping up their training. I also took another break, after weeks of general training, before beginning training in January for Vancouver this past year.

For there to be an offseason, however, there has to be a defined season to train. And in my case, winter is my favorite time of year to train, but I don’t know if November to May would be considered my “season” just yet.

This time around, obviously, I’m going to take a way more conventional break following the Chicago Marathon, which I suppose you can call an offseason. I not only will take a two week break from running, but I want to focus primarily on other physical training during November and December.

After light strength training during this training cycle, I would like to improve my upper body strength, core strength, overall flexibility and conditioning ahead of resuming training in winter. I’ve got a strength and conditioning program or two that I’ve previously worked with and think will serve me well with two months of daily committed effort. I’ll get more into this once I’m at that point and knee deep into it.


 

Meanwhile, for this training cycle, there’s one more important task remaining at hand. I will talk with you again following the Chicago Marathon.

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