The Weakest Guy In The Weight Room

I lift weights two times a week; as a result, I’ve progressed from pathetically weak to just merely weak.

My primary motivation is to strengthen my legs for cycling, but I do dabble with the bench press, doing 25 reps of 135 pounds in 3-5 rep sets. See, I told you.

Earlier this week another grey hair dude, who I estimated to be very close to my age, also put two 45 pound weights on the 45 pound bar. Because I’m a pea-brained male, I thought to myself, “I wonder how many he can do at 135 pounds?” Granted, he had actual muscles and was probably 30-40 pounds heavier than me, so I wasn’t too surprised when he quickly ripped off a set of 8.

Then he got up and stretched his shoulders on a nearby machine. Next, he added 45 pound weights on each side, and like a NFL rookie at the draft combine, ripped off more reps at 225 pounds.

Then he got up and stretched his shoulders on a nearby machine. Next, he added 25 pound weights on each side and ripped off more reps at 275.

Then he got up and stretched his shoulders on a nearby machine. Next, he added 10 pound weights on each side and ripped off a few reps at 295.

Figuring I’d be very little help, he didn’t even bother to ask me to spot him.

Imagine If

The doctor says it’s terminal and you only get one more walk or run. Where and when? I’d be torn between these beauts.

The Arb, Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota. Miles of incredible, meandering trails. Some by a river, some surrounded by head high grasses, often accompanied by deer. I always get lost and never sweat it. More miles, more better. Great anytime, but especially primo in the fall.

Bodega Head Trail, Bodega Bay, California. What it lacks in distance, it more than makes up in natural beauty. 1.9 miles of exquisite Bodega Bay and greater Pacific Ocean views. Stop anywhere, lay down, and soak up the Vitamin D. The ice plant makes great cushioning for a mid-day nap. An all-time great spring run.

Oak Bay Loop, Victoria, British Columbia. From the Hotel Grand Pacific to Dallas Road around Ross Cemetery and back. ANY sunny morning, but especially nice in the summer. If those coastal views don’t lift your spirit, you really are terminal.

Sunriver, Oregon, Benham Falls Deschutes River Trail. Another summer gem. Beautiful green grasses, a calm river mixed in other places with beautiful water falls, all framed by high desert pines. Full disclosure, since it’s my last run, I’ll be shirtless on this one.

Lastly, if the diagnosis comes in winter, really anyplace with two inches of fresh snow will suffice, but it’s tough to beat Hamar, Norway and Olympia, Washington.

What am I missing?

A Swim To Remember—60th Birthday Edition

It’s hard to believe, given my good looks, but as of today I have completed my sixth decade on Planet Earth. Yesterday I “celebrated” the big 6-0 by heading to the local YMCA to attempt 60×100 yards, and although some spectators might claim to have seen me miss the send off on a couple of the later 100s, there are no official reports supporting this.

Given that I’m clearly starting to lose it (What other evidence does one need to prove that “it” is being lost than thinking 60×100 constitutes a birthday celebration? None, in my book.) I’m passing the baton for today’s birthday post to the two best writers in the family – my incredible daughters who are always right about everything, A and J.
“Hello, loyal readers of Pressing Pause! We are pleased that you read our dad’s blog – it makes him happy, so it makes us happy. But we can’t give him too big of a head (it’s important to stay vigilant about this) so please don’t encourage him too much.

In honor of our dad’s 60th, we’d like to share a few fond memories from over the years. Before we were old enough to really know how lucky we were, his job gave our family the chance to live in China and see pandas, play elaborate hide and seek games, get pneumonia, make friends, and learn tai-chi. Five years later, we got lucky again, and his job took us all to Norway. There, we did very little except go on walks, because it’s an expensive country and if you know our dad then we don’t need to elaborate any further. We’ve also had a blast cheering for our dad at countless races – running races, biking races, swimming races, and, believe it or not, races that combine running, biking, and swimming. His interests really are inspiringly varied!

And he’s been there for some of the most important moments of our life, like when he took our whole family to see Tears of a Camel, a movie that featured an excruciatingly long shot of a camel’s eye and marked the first time both of us fell asleep during a movie. He has also been there cheering us on for some of the other most important moments of our life, like graduations, violin recitals, swim meets, business ventures, cross-country moves and new jobs. We think he’s been the best dad we could have asked for, and for his birthday, we wanted to make sure that everyone else knew it, too.

We can’t believe we get to say that the author of Pressing Pause is our dad, and we’re thrilled to wish him a happy 60th birthday. To sixty more!

Love,A and J

P.S. He doesn’t love boats, just in case that’s a useful piece of information for any of his friends out there that like to prank him.”

A Trail Run To Remember

I don’t write as much about my athletic exploits as I once did. Probably, as I fast approach my sixth decade, because I’m not competing anymore. I should probably stop referring to myself as a triathlete. Rest assured though, I’m still swimming, cycling, and running. And now that I’m healthier than a year ago, hitting it a little harder.

Take yesterday’s Capitol Forest run for example. Mid-day I started to think about doing the 13ish mile Mima Falls loop. The weather was ideal, 50 degrees, sunny, still. So I texted The Good Wife my route—Mima East, Mima West, McKenny, Campground—and probable timeline just in case I was mauled by a bear or something—and headed to the trailhead.

Cap Forest is LARGE and apart from my loop, I don’t know it well. I was never a Boy Scout, so I began the run with shit preparation. I suppose I get a few points for alerting the The Gal Pal of my plans, but I headed out at 2:45p without calories, phone, jacket, or a map of the forest. I was carrying 4 ounces of Gatorade.

After Mima Falls (mile 2), there’s a sign that says, “Steep, remote trails from this point.” It was a mix of slow running and hiking to the high point around mile 5+. I saw a fair number of people on the way to the falls, but afterwards NO ONE. I felt like I was the only person in the forest. Not even any animal life, no birds, no rodents, no nuthin’.

I was trying to keep my average pace under 10 minutes/mile and didn’t appreciate it when Siri would announce via my 🍎 watch , “Mile 6, total time 63 minutes, last mile, 10:21.” I was looking forward to the second half being much flatter and even losing the hard-earned earlier elevation.

At mile 8, I was feeling fatigued, walking every riser, but confident I could grind out the last 5. When suddenly I came to a supe-depressing sign, “Trail Closed—Falling Trees.” SHIT. I climbed over the signed fence wondering just how bad could it be. Only to find out 100 meters later that it couldn’t have been worse. I was met by several giant pines whose downed branches rose about 30 feet above like a green tsunami.

Wut do I do now? Travis would’ve known which fire trails to take back as a shortcut, keeping the distance to the planned 13, but I was without my wingman. The safest and only option I could think of was to back track the whole way.

I didn’t want to run 8.4 more miles, but that’s what I did. We’ll, kinda ran. More of a hike-run or run-hike. I didn’t enjoy the return because I was too busy calculating things. “Okay, at this pace, I get back right after sunset. If I slow too much, it will be dark, meaning cold and because the trail is muddy and rocky in places, footing will be dicey.” I had already rolled my ankle twice. I would’ve been in trouble if I had broken my ankle or gone down on some of the muddy descents. Needless to say I was solely focused on my pace and footing, pretty much blanking on the beautiful surroundings and sunset.

I survived the return, arriving at the car a little past sunset. Weirdly, in the last few miles I came across two different pairs of mountain bikers and one young female runner heading outbound into the dark. She smiled and waved at me like it was no big deal, “I trail run in the forest, in the dark, by myself, all the time.”

Adventurers often say a good plan should make you nervous about whether you can pull it off or not. My plan didn’t make me nervous, but the unexpected tweak most definitely did. I felt vulnerable in the middle of the forest, by myself, very late in the day, far from civilization.

Thankfully though I survived to swim, cycle, and run another day, or God willing, decade.

For those keeping score at home, 16.8 miles, average pace 10:38, total elevation, 1,975’.

2021 Sportsperson Of The Year

This morning I asked the GalPal if she wanted to say anything on behalf of her candidacy for 2021 Sportsperson of the Year. But instead of touting her 2021 athletic greatest hits, she declined, saying, “I’m not into competition anymore.” 

How ironic because that’s exactly what this year’s winner says in the middle of this short documentary about what I’m deeming 2021’s Athletic Accomplishment of the Year. 

I present to you, the 2021 Sportsperson of the Year, Lachlan Morton and the 2021 Athletic Accomplishment of the Year, The Alt Tour.

What is there not to love about Morton? Among other attributes that tipped the scale his way was his self-awareness, his social conscience, his sense of humor, his commitment to fun, and his utter lack of ego. 

Sportsperson of the Year honorable mention goes to two athletes who, like Lachy, also inspire lots of other people without much media coverage at all (not counting Strava and Insta).   

Jeanette Byrnes for her commitment to open water swimming and monthly open water plunges sans wetsuit. #nails 

Dan, Dan, the Former Transportation Man for sticking like velcro for another year to the Boon Running Team, of which I am a proud member, despite giving up 2-13 years to the youngish, handsome “legends in their own minds” that make up the team. #nails

Sports Accomplishment of the Year honorable mention. M.A.’s inaugural marathon at 62 years young. Way to go rook.

The best of the rest: Tom Brady. 

Netflix’s ‘The Harder They Fall’

Real cyclists Zwift. In contrast, I soft-pedal while watching Netflix.

Full disclosure. In keeping with the times, an unnecessarily, over-the-top amount of gun violence. If you can stomach that, a great cast, the best ‘Western’ movie soundtrack of all-time, and a really excellent ending. Not proud of the fact that I stomached the gun violence.

Forgive Me, For I Have Sinned

On Sunday I was fine cycling up Mount Saint Helen’s until I wasn’t. My legs mutinied during the last few miles before the top, cramping so badly that any pedaling was tough. Five salt tablets, gels packed with more sodium, a protein bar, and four bottles of gatorade weren’t enough when the cramping went from bad to worse on the return. 

From the top of the volcano you descend very quickly for about 6 miles and then climb about 8 more before descending another 23 to the start (74 miles total, 6,900′ of elevation). For the first time in 15-20 years I had to stop on a mountain climb about 3-4 miles from the last top at Elk Rock. I found some shade on the other side of Spirit Hwy and attempted to sit down on the shoulder and I don’t know what, stretch I guess. Problem was my knees wouldn’t bend so I basically fell over while holding my bike which end up resting on my shoulder and neck. 

A car stopped. It was the Park Ranger/Angel who topped off our water bottles at the closed Visitor’s Center at the top 45 minutes earlier. “Are you alright?!” “Yes,” I lied, “but I have 3-4 miles to go to meet up with my friends and I’m a little worried they’re gonna wonder what happened to me.” He took off and informed them that I was near dead on the shoulder 3.5 miles below, but would be along eventually. 

Time will tell what the Cosmos will extract from me for lying to the best Park Ranger ever. In my defense, he was driving a Honda Civic, so it wasn’t like he could transport Blanca and me to the top of the climb. He did ask if I had water though and although I had one bottle left at that point, it was dumb (even by my standards) not to take him up on the offer of more. 

Without my friends shepherding me down the mountain, I would’ve been in trouble because I would’ve been in the hot sun another 20 minutes without enough liquid. Pro-tip, if you ever SLAM into the wall on your bike in the mountains, do it in the company of Mark, Allen, and Dennis. 

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How many salt tablets does a guy need to take?