Tuesday, June 30, 2009

VRAA Sixteen

Round 16 will play from Friday, July 3 through Thursday, July 30. Please sign up no later than 12:00pm EST on Wednesday, July 1. Teams will be announced on Thursday, July 2

To sign up, please indicate:

1. Badassery Level (Titanium, Super Mega, Mega, Badass, or BAIT) - don't know what kind of badass you are? Based on our points scoring system, you can figure out approximately how many points per week you'll be earning, and from there, your level. Don't forget, cross-training counts! While the game has a tendency to motivate people to do a little more (which is what it's here for!), please don't purposely sandbag. We try to make the teams as even as possible so that the game is actually fun & competitive!

2. Are you willing to be Captain? Teams need captains, but the job is very simple - just check to make sure everyone's inputting their points in the VRAA Database correctly and answer any questions for your teammates.

We will have some ways to earn bonus points this round, which will be announced when I announce teams.

Please see the VRAA Information Central thread for any questions (and post your questions there, so others in future rounds can see them).



VRAA scoring categories:

I. Running/Walking: 4 pts for every mile (1 pt for every 1/4 mile). Includes outdoor running/walking and, if you choose, treadmill.

II. Swimming: 1 pt for every 100 yards (indoor or outdoor)

III. Cycling: 1.5 pt for every mile (includes outdoor cycling and, if you choose, trainers that give accurate mileage readings)

IV. In-line skating (the APRR Chuck rule): 2 pts for every mile

V. The Race Premium: Add 5 pts. for a race to the points you'd get for the distance. Applies once per race, whether it's a 5K or an Ironman tri.

VI. General Cardio*: 1 pt for every 3 minutes

VII. Alternate workouts**: 1 pt for every 5 minutes (maximum of 60 minutes, or 12 points, per day; we do not intend to turn this race into Yoga Your Ass Across America)

* General Cardio includes: Stationary bike/Elliptical/Stair-stepper/Rowing, etc. The basic requirement for this category is an activity that produces a sustained, elevated and/or aerobic heart rate. Use this for any aerobic activity that you can't readily measure in miles.

** Alternate workouts: This category is open to interpretation. To a point. Below are the suggested activities. The guidance with this category is to count time spent working and not rest time.

- Yoga/Pilates

- Weighlifting/Circuit training

- Core/Abdominal work

- Team sports

At some point, we must draw the line. The Alternate workout category is capped at 60 minutes, or 12 points per day.


VRAA levels of Badassery

When you sign up, please place yourself in one of the following categories. Make your best guess about what you'll average over the course of the next several weeks and categorize yourself accordingly. You won't be punished if you end up doing more or less (do keep in mind that all the non-running points add up; a lot of cross-trainers and multi-sporters tend to underestimate their productivity).

(1) Titanium Badass: A cut above the rest. Your teammates love you, you opponents plan extra workouts because of you. You average earning 280+ VRAA points per week. That's 2 hours on the elliptical trainer, every day. Or, you go to Pilates class for 60 excruciating minutes 3 times a week, bike 50 miles a week, and still find time to run an additional 40 miles.

(2) Super Mega Badass: You're a sizzling chunk of aerobic machinery, earning roughly 200-280 points per week or more. You run 40+ miles per week plus bike 25ish miles per week, or bike 135 miles per week, or walk a 9.5 mile mail delivery route every day plus run like a beast in your free time, etc.

(3) Mega Badass: You're hot & sassy. You're scoring constantly, garnering 120-200 VRAA points per week. Maybe you churn up the pool for 2000 yards in a week and then run 20 miles a week. But not content with that, you then do your cross-training (alt. workouts) because every Mega Badass just knows they should.

(4) Badass: You are the backbone of the VRAA. No team can win without a solid core of Badassery. You rack up 60-120 VRAA points per week. Cycle for 40 miles in a week and you've done it. In-line skate for 30 miles, same thing. Or you could just run for 15 miles in a week. Or mix it up a little. A Badass like you has options!

(5) Badass in Training: Maybe you're in one of them long tapers, or you're aspiring to badassery, or you're really busy right now, or you're crosstraining through an injury. We love you for who you are, and respect you for what you do. And what you do is this: earn 0-60 VRAA points weekly for your team. That's up to 15 mpw running, or 40 mpw on a bike, or 6000 yards of swimming, or a few good days at the gym lifting weights and/or tooling around on them machines. To get closer to the low end up the point range, simply up the Cheetos consumption.


La Mega por favor ... ├ęsta es mi primera vez, sea apacible, por favor [Mega, please … this is my first time, be gentle, please]”


Whoa!!! What did I just DO???

Apparently, I’m ready to expand my horizons. I’m tracking my mileage far more consistently than ever [although I still haven’t used to the rest-day thing and run or ride, what I feel, when I feel like it] so why not put it to good use?

And show off a little, for those who don’t know me yet, since the field draws from all corners of Kick.

I like virtual comps for a bunch of reasons:

You can engage with people across the country, without travelling.
You don’t have to deal with pre- or post-race logistics.
You can run, ride or whatever, when it suits YOU.
They’re free!!!

Sure, you don’t get a medal or a t-shirt or a swag bag, but they’re free!!! Bragging rights fade kinda quickly and unless you’re chatting with someone in the comp, they’re not gonna know about it, and probably couldn’t care less. Yeah, who’s gonna be interested to know that I finished 3rd in the
Slowtwitch Turkeyman Virtual Duathlon in 2007? Heck, I’m surprised that I remembered. Huh? It was 2006? Oh … That proves my point, I s’pose.

This one lasts a month … and I have
Midnight Madness smack in the middle of it. My training schedule for the Distance Run starts the Tuesday right after. It’s actually pretty good timing: I can finish up my training for MM [even though it’s not a “real” race, but more of a “running event”] then get on with PDR without the post-race let down, like I’ve gotten before … Because I’d hate to let my team down … I hope they come up with a cool name!!!*

Since I’m the virgin, it looks like I’m going into the volcano.

* As of 7/12, still no progress on the name, even though I’m made plenty of suggestions [we’re Team 2 of three participating]:

Team "The Deuce You Say?"
Team Whatever We Come Up With
Team Undecided
Team Name TBD
2 Hot 2 Handle
Guaranteed Bronze

** On 7/13 we were assigned “Hawt & Hairy” in recognition of our Team Captain – “Hairy Trotter” Being a small mammal, and therefore more “furry” than “hairy” [and not even very furry at that!!!] I guess that puts me in the “Hawt” category

*** We won

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

I though to myself, 'Self. This is your ninth Father's Day. You should do nine."

Not having the mileage base to do nine miles, I settled on 9K. I have a mark that's about 2¾ miles out, which would be close enough. It was breezy and cloudy but dry ... for the time being.

I looked up when I got to the field at Mariel's school, for a weather check and saw glimpses of blue sky above the rush of grey and white clouds passing overhead. A darting shape caught to my right my eye, which I recognized as a bluebird ... no a pair of bluebirds, happily playing on a Sunday morning.

I crossed over the railroad tracks just as the bells and lights started flashing. Somehow, I spotted a quarter in a puddle at the bottom of a pothole.

'I've always wanted to do this!'

Quickly, I grabbed it and set it on the rail [don't worry, I knew I had plenty of time, before it arrived], and continued along. I'd look for it on the way back.

I made the two mile marker in a shade over seventeen minutes. It started sprinkling. No surprise ... it's been raining for about a week and a half now.

'What do you expect for June-tober?'

I trotted past the ducks, goats, sheep, chickens and geese to the turnaround. There were no stray peacocks to chase me around today; no JYDs lurking in the woods.

I recognized many expired Yard Sale signs on the way back.

'Kelly should come down here'

The wild geese and swans in the pond said hello as I went by again, although one swan did moon me ... Yeah, I'm sure she'd say "I just was diving for my breakfast," butt I know better, Missy!

I returned to the train tracks and looked for the quarter. No sign of it.

'It could have been blown up by the train's wake and be anywhere' one side of my brain said; the analytical Eeyore side.
'Or ... it could be right where you left it?' the other side commented; the dim-witted Pooh.

I went with Pooh. I've had enough of Eeyores, lately.

There it was ... a beautiful silver oval, pressure welded to the rail. No way was I bringing that home.

I turned and ran down the road that parallels the NJ Transit tracks. Over the past week, the NJDOT had cleaned up a bit. They have a machine they use to "tidy" up the right-of-way ... it's a big spinning blade, like on a riding-mower, but it's on a swing-arm; so it can cut down the turf, horizontally, or the over-growth on the chain-link fence, vertically.

The bastards cut all the honeysuckle down.

The sprinkle turned to drizzle, the stopped as I finished the last mile. I stopped my watch, then thought ... 'Y'know, you could go another minute or so and have 47 ... one minute for each year he was your Dad'

I started my jog around the block. I heard a voice.

"I'll NEVER stop being your DAD. I Always will be, and I'll always be proud of you"

'Huh? Proud of me? For what? You never saw me do anything?'

At his funeral, a woman Dad worked with said to me, "I never knew your Dad played golf"
"That's okay," I replied rather off-handedly, "He never knew I surfed"

'I don't think he saw me run, either' I recalled this morning, as I took off my shoes and began my cool down walk around the block.

Then, it occurred to me ... When I set my 5K v1.0 PR [in Haddonfield, all those years ago] he called out my first mile split.

"Five-twenty-five!" ... The fastest mile I've ever run.

Thanks, Dad. I mean it. Miss you.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Career Opportunities

As I’ve said, surfers and runners are among the biggest weather-geeks you’re ever going to find. In fact, I am teaching Mariel the age old skills of reading the weather by sight, sound, smell, taste and feel. She has a knack for it.

"I don't smell the rain yet, Daddy, and the wind is going the wrong way still."

Even so, my holistic forecasting methods, however accurate, could never get me a job on The Weather Channel. I did, however, find one postion I am perfectly suited to, that wouldn’t require any meteorological background; in fact no advanced education whatsoever. I wouldn’t even have to relocate, either [alas, I wouldn’t be hanging out with Jim Cantore, Stephanie Abrams, et al.]

The Weather Channel Music: 'Local on the 8s' Forecast Music
The music that is played during the 'Local on the 8s' Forecast changes every month. Find out what's playing this month or during a previous month.

June 2009 Playlist

The Smiths "Oscillate Wildly" - The Sound of the Smiths
DEVO "Gut Feeling" - The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
The Allman Brothers Band "Blue Sky" - The Allman Brothers Band: A Decade of Hits 1969-1979
The Rolling Stones "Can't you Hear me Knocking" - Sticky Fingers
The Clash "Time is Tight" - Super Black Market Clash

Yeah, I could do that.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Bike Shop Gets a Visitor

As I rolled my bike into the garage on Sunday evening, I noticed that somehow I had left an inner-tube in the middle of the floor. I didn’t remember changing a tire, but then it could have been a spare that had fallen off of one of the hooks. However, as I approached, the “inner-tube” got spooked and slithered across the cement and under the shelves I use as a pantry.

I had a 3½ foot long snake loose in my second favorite room in the house.

Quickly I snatched my LED headlight off The Tick and used it as a flashlight. I soon found out the no matter how hard you try, you can never get your head low enough to see under a stack of shelves. I moved all the boxes I could from the space I’d seen him crawl into and slid the empty coolers across the floor from their usual storage places. No luck … I could not locate my little friend.

Later that night and Monday morning still no sign of him. I moved things around at random, and listened for movement … Silence.

Then, I remembered that behind the shelves was a small hole in the garage wall where the condenser drainage hose exits the house. I figured he’d slipped out that way, which is why I couldn’t find him.

Live and let live.

“Rand, your little friend is still in the garage,” D’Wife told me, about noon on Tuesday, “But he’s not moving. I hope he’s dead and not just sleeping”

“Snakes don’t sleep, hon,” I assured her, “They’re like sharks; they’re always moving. He must be dead, since we haven’t seen him for two days.”

This wasn’t entirely true; they do sleep actually.

“I’ll take him out when I get home.”

Poor little guy.


“Oh, Rand … he wasn’t dead,” D’Wife informed me just as I was on my way out from work, “I asked Brian [our neighbor] to take him out, and he crawled back under the shelves.”


“Okay,” I reasoned, “Just leave the door open, and he’ll leave on his own accord”

“I’M NOT LEAVING THE DOOR OPEN!!! The kids will go in and out, I don’t want them getting hurt.”

“Okay, then. Close the door, and I’ll track him down when I get home.”

After changing out of my work outfit when I arrived home, I set to work calmly and methodically exposing every nook cranny and hiding space Mr. Squirmy could be in.

After shuffling 75% of the garage contents and just about to give up, I looked in one more place. There he was, coiled around the handle of my CD player in an alcove by my shelf of paints and gardening supplies. I made two quick and relieving observations. I noticed at our first encounter that he had no rattle and his skin was not “argyle” mean this wasn’t a rattler. My other two fears were that he was all black [a water moccasin] or brown and orange [a copperhead]. Nope, he was black and dark brown with a reddish orange belly. Also, his head was smooth and round, not angular, like a venomous species would be.

Fourth-grade reptile-geekishness came in handy.

Brian had returned to help out and grabbed a trash can to deposit my friend into. I tried to hook my reptilian pal with a rake, but he slid under this stack of shelves, much like he had done the other one. One by one, I removed paint cans, hoping to get close enough to grab for him, but he had settled too far back for me to reach. I slipped a broom towards him, hoping to scare him out of his cubby and into the open. I had moderate success … he moved out of the space, but could quite find his way to freedom.

When he stopped for a moment, either out of fear or confusion, I swiftly made a grab for him, catching him right behind his head

“Crikey!!!” I got him!!!

He quickly wrapped his tail around my arm, but there was no way I was letting go. Snakes are weird to handle, because their center of gravity is constantly changing.


Of course I had to show of my bravery and skill to D’Kid’s little friends, but soon the time can to release him once and for all. There was no way in hell D’Wife would let me just let him crawl under the chain link fence in the backyard. So, as much as it pained me to do so, I took a grip on his head and tail and chucked him as far as I could over the fence. He flew about 20’ towards the middle of the stand of cat-tails that used to be our pond and fell 12’ or so into the reeds. Hopefully, they gave away just enough to slow his impact with whatever water, mud or dirt lay below.



To the Native Americans, the snake is a symbol of transformation and healing. Snake ceremonies involved learning to transmute the poisons within the body after being bitten multiple times. These activated the energy of kill or cure, ultimately leading to dramatic healings.

In the Meso-American societies, the serpent or snake was depicted as feathered and flying, a symbol of their greatest god and hero, Quetsalcoatl, the embodiment of the dying god who would someday return. In many ways he was the patron of the Toltecs, and it was said that the heavens and stars and all the motions of the universe were under his dominion.

In Greece the snake was also a symbol of alchemy and healing. The god Hermes carried a staff upon which were entwined two snakes. This caduceus symbol is the primary symbol of western medicine and doctors. It is the symbol of wisdom expressed through healing.

In India the Goddess Vinata was the mother of snakes and a symbol of water and the underworld. Also in India were the demigods, Naga and their beautiful wives Naginis, who were usually depicted as half cobra and half deity. The god Vishnu is often depicted sleeping on the serpent of eternity call Ananta. Shiva wears snakes for bracelets and necklaces, representing sexuality.

The serpent has long been a symbol of sexual/creative life force within humans as is taught in eastern traditions. The kundalini or serpent fire lies coiled at the base of the spine. As we grow and develop, the primal energy is released, rising up the spine. This in turn activates energy centers in the body and mind, opening new dimensions and levels of awareness, health and creativity.

In Chinese astrology, one of the twelve years is named for the snake. Those born within that year are believed to have the qualities of compassion, clairvoyance and charm. They usually need to learn lessons associated with forgiveness, superstitiousness and possessiveness as well.

In Egypt the snake has also has mystical significance. The uraeus is a head band in the shape of the snake. The head of the snake rests and sticks out at the brow area. It was believed to represent a state of inner sight and control of the universe. It was a symbol worn by those who were initiated. Some believe it to be variations of the eye of Horus, while others see it as the sacred eye of Ra. It represents a certain degree of wisdom and understanding.

Because it sheds its skin, the snake has long been a symbol of death and rebirth. Before the snake begins to shed its skin, its eyes will begin to cloud over. It gives the snake a trancelike appearance. To many mystics and shamans this indicated the ability of the snake to move between the realms of the living and the dead, of crossing over from life to death and then back to life again.

The snake has often been depicted along with its relatives, the serpent and the dragon as a guardian. It is found in myth and lore guarding treasures, the springs of life or sacred places.

Anytime a snake shows up as a totem, you can expect death and rebirth to occur in some area of your life. It can also reflect that your own creative forces are awakening. Physiologically, it can activate the sexual drive, bring more energy, etc. Spiritually it can stimulate greater perception of how to apply your insight and intuition. Your own vision and intuition will become more accurate. Learning opportunities, formal and informal will surface frequently. You will be able to swallow and digest whatever you take in.

Learning to use the eyes to mesmerize and look into the hearts and souls of others directly is part of what traditional snake medicine can teach. It may even indicate a need to look more closely into your own heart and soul.

Individuals with the snake totem will find themselves extremely sensitive to smells and fragrances.... the sense of smell is linked to higher forms of discrimination and spiritual idealism.

Snakes are symbols of change and healing. They have speed and agility, so those who have snakes come into their life will usually find changes and shifts occur quickly and are soon recognized and defined. When snake comes into your life you can look for a rebirth into new powers of creativity and wisdom.


Hmmm, “change, healing, and rebirth.” I could use a little of those, these days.