Thursday, October 30

Food imagery

Visualize a large block of butter.  Not right out of the refrigerator, but a bit softer, as if it had been taken out a couple of hours ago to soften at room temperature.  Got it?  Okay, hold that image for a while, we’ll be getting back to it.  The shuttle was three or four minutes late at Medford this morning, not very long in the grand scheme of things but almost interminable when waiting on the cold exposed platform in the predawn darkness.  Next week’s end of Daylight Savings Time can’t come soon enough for me.  In any event, I got the 6:56 Flatbush Avenue train at Ronkonkoma, and soon noticed that it wasn’t quite as crowded as usual.  Hey, maybe no one would sit next to me.  I was reading, and listening to music on my iPod, and basically paying little attention to my surroundings until reality reared its ugly head at Farmingdale.   Reality took the form of a soft marshmallow-like (but non-SCA) man who plopped next to me.  He wasn’t actually fat, but had that disturbingly common puffy soft build.  As he sat to my right, my right elbow poked into his side – not deliberately, just a consequence of the angle at which my right arm was bent.  How did this feel?  Refer back to the softened-butter imagery.  It felt just like my elbow was thrust into a big block of softened butter.  The thick layer of suet padding his ribcage had precisely that consistency, and the mere thought that people can let their bodies deteriorate to such a point almost nauseated me.  Not that I had any sympathy for him, as of course his bulk made the ride miserable for me.  Thankfully, he moved to another seat a few minutes later when some people got off at Hicksville, and a tall but much narrower young man took his place. I was able to ride the rest of the way to Flatbush Avenue in (relative) comfort, and in a very unusual turn of events actually got a seat on a 4 train to Fulton Street.

Getting home turned out quite well.  I waited only a couple of minutes for a C train at Broadway-Nassau and once again found a seat right away.  And then, in a really lucky turn of events, no one sat next to me for the entire trip on the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma.  It’s a very rare and very nice treat.  So happy was I that I didn’t even mind that the Medford shuttle was a few minutes late getting into Ronkonkoma.

Gym: Tonight was a shorter session than yesterday, which sort of went without saying, but reasonably productive.  I started out with 15 minutes on the double-end bag, and then ran 1.5 miles on the treadmill at 5.6 mph.  This made a very decent eight miles for the week ending tonight.  I then did some neutral grip pull-ups, 1 x 8, 3 x 6.  I had done some just yesterday, but this is the sort of exercise that can be done on successive days without much risk of overtraining.

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Published in: on October 31, 2008 at 2:48 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, October 29

Day off work today.  With plenty of time to spare I was able to have a long and productive gym session.  It started out with bench presses, and a new rep-count record for me: 6 x 135, 4 x 195, 2 x 205, 1 x 245, 2 x 7 x 225, 4 x 6 x 225.  That’s 38 reps in six sets at 225, not counting the 245 warmup, which is up four from my last time.  The two sets of seven is also a record, I believe.  When I finished the benching it was off to the treadmill for a 1.5-mile run at 5.6 mph.  This made 6.5 miles for the week, over my 6-mile quota, with one day left.  Next, I got another record on neutral grip pull-ups, 1 x 10, 2 x 6.  That’s right, I finally got ten reps, not without a struggle on the final rep to be sure.  I then did 20 minutes on the stationary cycle at just over 19 mph, and with the resistance up one notch from last time.  Still being quite energetic I did some more neutral grip pull-ups, 2 x 6, and for a little extra chest work some cable crossovers, 8 x 50/50, 2 x 8 x 60/60. Finally, I ended the whole session with ten minutes on the heavy bag, while I usually like to do 15 minutes the long session finally caught up with me.

Published in: on October 29, 2008 at 10:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tuesday, October 28

Rain and commuting patterns

Today it was back to working regular hours, which translated into more-crowded trains. It was raining heavily when I left the house, which made me really appreciate the small scale of Medford station. It took only about 20 seconds to get to my car to the platform shelter, though even that short time was enough to get my jacket quite wet. At Ronkonkoma the car-platform journey would have taken several times as long. Speaking of Ronkonkoma, more people than usual seemed to be taking the 6:56 to Flatbush Avenue rather than waiting for the 7:04 to Penn, presumably because of the weather. While most of the platforms have canopies, the rain protection is less than perfect, especially when it’s windy. Moreover, the idea of waiting on a rainy platform when it’s still mostly dark out just isn’t pleasant even if one is standing in a dry spot. So it’s not surprising that some people decided to take the Flatbush Avenue train and change at Jamaica, rather than wait longer for a direct Penn Station train. I was riding near the middle of the consist, and the car was over half-full even before we left, which is unusual for that train. There also seemed to be more noisy cell phone talkers than usual, which reinforced my suspicion that the train was carrying some people who normally would be going to Penn. My iPod got quite a workout trying to drown out the endless chatter. I knew that the seat next to me would get taken in short order, and sure enough a woman in her early 20’s took it at Central Islip. She wasn’t really overweight but had that broad-beamed physique found in many younger woman. It made for a slightly tight but overall tolerable fit. She got off at Mineola and a slightly older but similarly wide-hipped woman took her place. The second woman was wearing a thick cloth coat that made the fit even tighter, something I’ve noticed before. Still, it could have been worse, much worse, and I had an empty seat next to me for the Jamaica-Flatbush stretch. The very high number of people getting off at Jamaica was confirmation that my guess was correct, and that the morning’s rain caused a shift in normal commuting patterns. We arrived in Brooklyn on time and the wait for a 4 express to Fulton was a longer-than-usual but still sort of acceptable six or seven minutes.

Oh – an update on the disability retirement fiasco, it’s now come out that some LIRR managers may have advised workers on the best way to get disability pensions from the federal retirement board.  If proven, this might mean that some LIRR management heads will roll, even though the federal government actually granted these dubious pensions.  How sweet that would be.

Once again the Eighth Avenue line was behaving quite well in the afternoon. I waited less than a minute for an A train at Broadway-Nassau, found a seat right away, and the car was skell-free. Surely, this good behavior isn’t going to last. I made it to Penn in time to catch the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma, or what should have been in time to catch that train. A walk along the platform for more than half the length of the train looking in the windows – also known as the External Baby Elephant Walk – made it clear that the train was a complete cattle train. Three or four minutes before departure, when I first got to the platform and started looking, nothing was left except middle seats and the occasional aisle seat next to an elephantine SCA. I made it almost to the end of the train by the time the door-closing beeps began, still no luck. At the last minute I decided to do something unusual and got the 5:23 Long Beach train on the adjacent track. I rode this nicely uncrowded train to Jamaica, where I changed to the also nicely uncrowded Ronkonkoma train that originates in Hunter’s Point Avenue. It’s been weeks or months since I’ve taken these trains, I don’t know why. Both are far less crowded than direct train to Ronkonkoma, indeed no one sat next to me on either one, and the transfer at Jamaica is a complete no-brainer using the same platform. I’ll have to try this more often.

Gym: a rest day today.

Published in: on October 29, 2008 at 2:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, October 27

Am I lucky, or what?

I was able to work somewhat shorter hours today, and it really worked out fine.  Couldn’t have been better, in fact. I drove to Ronkonkoma and got the 7:40 to Flatbush Avenue.  As noted before, this train is a gem (so to speak) because it’s far less of a cattle train than most other Ronkonkoma trains.  In fact, my main fear is that LIRR management will catch on and cancel it, though fortunately their incompetence has prevented that from happening.  Management is currently caught up in a pension scandal, as it’s come out that – brace yourself for this statistic – 97% of retired LIRR employees claim to be “disabled” and therefore collect extra-high pensions and get tax breaks.  Which isn’t to mention the fact that employees are allowed to retire at obscenely young ages, as young as 50 in some cases.  True, LIRR management is not directly responsible for granting these absurd disability pensions, that being handled by the federal Railroad Retirement Board, but they’re nonetheless in such damage-control mode that they’re not likely to be making any major operational decisions anytime soon.  Hence, the 7:40 should be safe, for the time being.  All this is a roundabout way of getting to the point that no one sat next to me on the 7:40 this morning.  I had a scare at Mineola, when an SCA stopped right next to where I was sitting and looked like he was going to take the empty seat next to me, but at the last minutes he changed his mind and went elsewhere.  Must’ve been all those “don’t sit here!” telepathic messages I was sending him.  I actually was able to enjoy the ride into Brooklyn, spending much of the time reading (The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene, one of my favorite authors; last week I gave up on Henry James’ The Bostonians halfway through, I just couldn’t get into it).  I missed a 4 train by a few seconds, but a 5 came along in a few minutes and I was at Fulton Street pretty quickly.  There was a noisy skell panhandling for the fake charity United Homeless Organization, I recall seeing him a week or so ago.  I wasn’t so much annoyed at him, as at two shabbily dressed women in late middle age who gave him a couple bucks each.  Appearances can be deceiving, but it’s a reasonable guess that these women didn’t have much money to spare.  If people didn’t give skells money, there’d be less begging.

I bit the bullet after work, so to speak, and took my chances on the Eighth Avenue line.  It worked out okay, as a C train arrived after just a couple minutes’ wait at Broadway-Nassau and it made its way to Penn without any significant delays or excessive dwell times.  Of course, one swallow does not a spring make, and one decent performance on the Eighth Avenue line doesn’t mean that it isn’t a wretched unreliable line. I had been planning to take the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma but actually made it just in time to catch the 5:01.  When I boarded it a couple minutes before departure I thought it was being taken out of service, it was so uncrowded.  But no, it really was far less busy than the 5:22 or 5:41.  I’ve taken it so rarely I really can’t recall whether this is the normal state of affairs.  Whatever the case, it was a very easy ride to Ronkonkoma, which of course means that no one sat next to me the whole way.  Two trains today, two empty seats.  It doesn’t get much finer than that.

Gym: No weights tonight.  I started out with a one-mile run on the treadmill, not much distance but okay as tonight was my fourth treadmill session in a row.  I then did 30 minutes on the stationary cycle at a very nice pace of 19.5 mph and mid-level resistance.

Published in: on October 28, 2008 at 2:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Sunday, October 26

I went to the gym today not knowing what to do after yesterday’s deadlifting fiasco.  It was leg day, actually yesterday should have been, but the idea of squats or trap bar deadlifts was anything but enticing.  As a result, after about 10 minutes on the double end bag and then a 1.5-mile run on the treadmill at 5.6 mph, I decided to use some of the machines for leg work.  No, that’s not ideal, but it was that or, well, nothing.  So I did, in order, 3 x 8 x 200 on the Precor leg extension machine, 3 x 8 x 185 on the Life Fitness leg curl machine, 3 x 15 x 160 of seated calf raises, and finally 3 x 10 x 395 on the Life Fitness seated leg press.  All this leg work was actually quite draining.  I finished with another 15 minutes on the double end bag.

Published in: on October 27, 2008 at 3:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, October 25

Oh, no.  Today was my delayed start to the next week of my deadlift routine, when I kept the power rack bars at the same setting but stood on a 100-pound plate to increase the range of motion.  Unfortunately, it did not go well, in fact it didn’t go, period.  What might have contributed to my woes was that I did other things before deadlifting.  After a few minutes’ warming up on the double-end bag, I did some bench presses: 6 x 135, 4 x 185, 2 x 205, 1 x 245, 4 x 6 x 225, 2 x 5 x 225, 2 x 4 x 225.  Last bench session I believe I set a record of sorts, with 33 reps at 225 in six sets (1 x 8, 5 x 5).  Today, like last week not counting the warmup single at 245, I got 34 reps in the first six sets.  Plus, I went on to do eight more reps for a total rep count of 42.  I’ve gotten more than 42 reps at 225 before, but that was with a much higher set count, doing triples and doubles.  So, I consider today’s benching a bit of progress.  Following the benching I ran one mile on the treadmill at 5.6 mph.

And then the “fun” began.  I got the power rack set up, loaded the barbell to make a total weight of 385, got the 100-pound plate in place to stand on, put on my wrist wraps, got into position …. and nothing.  The barbell wasn’t moving, not at all. I gave it a few more tries, bringing in a second 100-pound plate so I could take a wider stance with one foot on each plate, and tried different grip widths.  Nothing worked.  I have no idea why I failed so miserably.  I managed two sets of five last time, and the extra couple inches in my range of motion today shouldn’t have made such a big difference.  The bar was at about knee height today, which is a very awkward position, much more so than the mid-shin position you get when deadlifting off the floor.  The routine calls for this type of position, however, so that can’t be the answer.  Perhaps doing all the benching and running drained me just enough to make deadlifting a non-starter.  I really don’t know, and furthermore don’t know what to do with this routine.

Despite my deadlift flop I managed to salvage something from the session.  In addition to the highly satisfactory benching I also did very well on neutral grip pull-ups, 1 x 9, 1 x 7, 2 x 6.  Getting the nine reps is significant because if I can do just one more with good form, to make ten, I’ll be ready to start adding weight.  You don’t see too many people doing pull-ups of any variety with added weight.  Finally, I went back to the double-end bag and did a solid 15 minutes.  Partway through I began counting punches and reached a total of 300.

Published in: on October 26, 2008 at 4:45 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, October 24

A very short day

Today might be one of my shortest workdays on record. I had an 8:00 dentist appointment in Patchogue for a crown. What I figured was that the dentist would do some prep work and take a mold, with the crown then to be prepared in a lab for fitting at a later date. Given the early time of the appointment I figured I’d make the 9:41 from Ronkonkoma with no trouble. What I did not realize was that crowns are now made on-site and all the work can be done in just one visit. I didn’t leave the office until 10:30, though with much of that time spent in the waiting room reading Sports Illustrated while the crown was being prepared, and of course I was too late for the 10:41 train, let alone the 9:41. This meant that I had to wait around in the bleak surroundings of Ronkonkoma station for over 45 minutes, waiting for the 11:41. These once-an-hour schedules are most annoying. At least I was able to find a close-in parking spot in a lot on the north side of the platforms, obviously someone must have pulled out right before I arrived, and the 11:41 was pleasantly uncrowded. In fact, no one sat next to me for the whole ride into Jamaica. On the downside, we were about ten minutes late thanks to mid-day trackwork near the Nassau-Queens line. I switched to a Flatbush Avenue train at Jamaica, and once at Flatbush waited only a couple of minutes for a 4 train to Fulton. Not that the subway ride was pleasant, however, as we absolutely crawled through the river tunnel, to the point that the trip to Fulton took at least twice as long as it should have. Trackwork was once again the likely culprit, as I heard the train’s horn blowing on a few occasions; this is the standard procedure for warning track workers. I ended up arriving at work around 1:45, what’s more with quite a bit of work facing me. Not that more frequent mid-day trains out of Ronkonkoma would’ve made a huge difference, but still, having to wait an hour is too long.

I walked a bit farther after work and got a 3 train from Fulton to Penn. It was less crowded than I would have expected and I actually had a seat the whole way. I got the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma, which once again didn’t seem particularly crowded. I was hoping that the seat next to me would be vacant, just as it had been in the morning, but alas an SCA took it right before departure. At least he wasn’t large, though he was a bit on the squirmy side.

Gym: I should have deadlifted tonight, but some lingering soreness from the morning’s dentistry led me to decide against it. Waiting one more day shouldn’t matter. I ran 1.5 miles on the treadmill at 5.6 mph, and then did 20 minutes on the stationary cycle at a 19 mph pace.

Published in: on October 25, 2008 at 4:39 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, October 23

SCA courtesy on display.

An easy, unremarkable day today.  I got the shuttle from Medford as usual, which in contrast to yesterday was a few minutes behind schedule, and then took the 6:52 Flatbush Avenue train from Ronkonkoma.  I was playing cell phone Tetris as usual, and in what first appeared to be a strange repeat of yesterday the woman who sat next to me at Deer Park turned to look at what I was doing.  Would I have an audience once again?  That was not to happen, as she made only a quick glance and then never looked again.  In fact she quickly conked out and didn’t wake up until we approached Jamaica.  It wasn’t the same woman as yesterday, I should point out.  I stayed on the train until Flatbush, got a hugely crowded 2 train one stop to Nevins, and then switched to a only moderately crowded 5 for the rest of the trip to Fulton.

After yesterday’s miserable ride on the A train I decided to steer well clear of the Eighth Avenue line today, and therefore walked a bit farther to get a 2 train to Penn.  A woman who must’ve been well past 80 boarded at the same stop.  You don’t often see people that age riding the subway, what with all the stairs and long walks. While the car wasn’t all that full, there were no seats available and she had to stand.  Not a good thing, as she looked a bit unsteady on her feet and the ride on this line is anything but smooth. Two 50ish SCA’s sat nearby and both clearly saw the older woman’s predicament.  Did either one offer her his seat?  Of course not!  Both remained plunked in place as if they were sitting in pools of Krazy Glue.  I was standing myself, so I couldn’t offer her a seat.  Finally, a girl in her late teens, part of a group of several young people who were talking in French, offered the older woman her seat.  I would like to say that she gave the SCA’s a dirty look as she stood up to give the woman her seat, but I couldn’t see her face from where I was standing.  Still, it’s nice to think that she gave them a nice condescending Gallic sneer. The ride to Penn otherwise went by uneventfully, as did the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma.  I did get the Look of Love from a 25ish blonde woman, and sure enough an SCA sat next to me, but things didn’t work out as badly as expected – the SCA was quite slim, and in any event he got off at Hicksville. Between more Tetris and some reading, the trip to Ronkonkoma and the shuttle went by reasonably fast.

Gym: a much-needed rest day today.

Published in: on October 24, 2008 at 3:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, October 22

An audience? No thanks.

Playing cell phone Tetris has become one of my favorite LIRR time-killers. Few if any other riders notice my playing, as best I can tell, in part because the game’s sound is shut off and in part because most riders are in a sort of bubble and oblivious to their surroundings. Today, however, was a rare exception. The shuttle was actually three or four minutes early at Medford, which resulting in a mad dash from my car up the stairs to the platform. Unnecessary, as it turned out, because the train waited at the platform until the scheduled departure time. Once at Ronkonkoma I got the 6:52 to Flatbush Avenue as usual. A woman in her mid- to late-20’s sat next to me at Central Islip. She had a somewhat odd build, broad-beamed and with an incipient double chin, but not actually overweight, just somewhat chubby. She also was an inquisitive sort, because she kept looking at my game of cell phone Tetris. I don’t mean occasional furtive glances. She’d look intently for 15 or 20 seconds, look away for a minute or two, and then start looking at the game again. I had no idea why she was so intrigued with a game that doesn’t have particularly interesting graphics and appears on a tiny phone screen. After a while I started thinking that maybe I should say something to her (“Cool game, huh?”), but couldn’t figure out how to phrase it properly. Besides, she was wearing earphones, as was I. The thought also occurred to me that perhaps she was flirting with me, but I quickly discarded that notion: she must’ve seen my wedding band (she had one too), and if that were her motive she wouldn’t have been wearing the earphones. Finally, after about 15 minutes, she lost interest in my games and began fiddling with her Black Berry. Whether it was the unusual scrutiny or just a regression to the mean after my recent record score, but none of my games this morning were any good. We got to Flatbush on time, though the wait for a 5 train to Fulton was rather longer than usual for that line, close to five minutes, and then we were delayed for a while (no announcement, of course) outside Borough Hall station.

Whatever subway annoyances the morning presented were nothing compared to the idiocy I had to face in the afternoon. While I waited only a few minutes for an A train at Broadway-Nassau, the heavy crowding on the platform made it clear that considerable time had elapsed since the prior train. It should go without saying that the train was monstrously crowded. I spent much of the time with someone’s backpack jammed into my side, a backpack that contained hard-cornered objects (probably books) that dug right into me. On my other side, a man’s hideously distended, LIRR-style abdomen was squished up against me with a Santa Claus bowlful-of-jelly consistency. To make matters worse, the train crawled along at a very slow speed for much of the way to Penn, and the dwell times were endless. I wasn’t timing the ride, but my guess is that it took more than twice the usual time. About the only saving grace was that the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma was delay-free, and the average-sized older man who sat next to me got off at Hicksville. Oh, one more thing, my games of cell phone Tetris weren’t any better than they’d been in the morning. But at least no one was watching.

Gym: a quick session, just a 2-mile run on the treadmill at 5.6 mph. This gave me 6.5 miles for the week, plus anything I might do tomorrow, meeting my 6-mile weekly quota.

Published in: on October 23, 2008 at 3:44 am  Comments (3)  

Tuesday, October 21

Did she think it was morning or something?

Among the (very) many behavioral quirks I witness on the LIRR are women who mistake morning trains for mobile cosmetics studios.  They’ll spend 20 minutes or a half-hour or even longer slathering on massive quantities of makeup as if they’re preparing for the Barnum & Bailey Clown College’s entrance examination. Note, I said morning trains.  Of course it happens in the morning … usually, but not always.  Speaking of the morning, today’s trip into work was as easy as I could have hoped for, the shuttle from Medford followed by the 6:52 from Ronkonkoma to Flatbush Avenue.  In what seems to be my new normal pattern I stayed on the train into Flatbush Avenue rather than changing at Jamaica.  Getting to my workplace from Flatbush Avenue takes about the same amount of time as does getting there from Penn, but it tends to be less annoying.  Those long waits and endless dwell times on the Eighth Avenue line are really getting to me.  Anyway, the 6:52 was more crowded than usual, perhaps because I was sitting in a car closer to the head (west) end than I normally do, however I didn’t have to deal with annoying people next to me.  The young man who sat there from Farmingdale to Jamaica was slightly on the chubby side but within tolerability limits, while the 30ish woman who occupied the seat from Jamaica to Flatbush Avenue was one of those tiny Asian women who can’t weigh more than 95 pounds.  I scarcely noticed her presence at all.  In a slight change from the usual subway pattern, I got a 2 train from Atlantic one stop to Nevins, and then switched to a 5 for the rest of the trip to Fulton.  I had exited the LIRR portion of the station onto the 2/3 platform, a result of having sat near the head of the train.  Of course I could have stayed on the 2 all the way to Fulton, but the 5 was right there across the platform at Nevins.

Speaking of the 2, I got one to Penn after work, not having wanted to deal with the Eighth Avenue line.  It was a quick if relatively crowded ride, and I got to Penn a few minutes before the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma was about to leave.  A quick check showed that it was a cattle train, so I decided to wait a bit longer at Penn and take the 5:41.  I would have had to wait at Ronkonkoma for the shuttle if I’d taken the 5:22, so the overall commuting time wasn’t affected.  Once I took my seat on the 5:41 a blonde woman of about 40 sat next to me.  Even before the train got underway she took out a cosmetics bag and began applying copious amounts of makeup.  Not quite at Clown College levels, but close, very close.  What puzzled me was why she was doing this in the evening.  Isn’t she supposed to be doing in, like, the morning or something?  I figured that maybe she was meeting her husband or someone else for dinner at a nice place, but then I heard her saying “I’ll be home soon,” or something to that effect, on her cell phone.  I really, really couldn’t imagine what she was doing.  Chalk up another example for my endless long list of Strange LIRR Stuff.  She got off at Hicksville, so I had an empty seat next to me the rest of the way to Ronkonkoma and the shuttle.  Oh, I also managed to set a new high score on cell phone Tetris, just under 79,000, which is almost 9,000 more than my previous high.

Gym: Some pretty good benching tonight.  6 x 135, 4 x 185, 2 x 205, 1 x 235, 8 x 225, 5 x 5 x 225.  The single at 235 was a way of warming up for multiple reps at 225, an interesting technique I recently read about.  Doing your target weight is supposed to be easier after just one rep at a higher weight.  Must’ve worked for me, as while I’ve gotten eight reps at 225 before I’ve never been able to follow it up with as much as a  5 x 5.  All in all it was 33 total reps at 225, plus of course one at 235.  After the benching, I did about 15 minutes on the heavy bag.

Published in: on October 22, 2008 at 3:27 am  Leave a Comment