Monday, October 20

I broke a solemn vow

It wasn’t long after I began commuting on the LIRR eleven years ago that I made a solemn vow to myself that I would never run to catch a train.  It had quickly become evident that running for trains was largely an SCA habit, even though at the time I hadn’t actually come up with that term.  Running on the treadmill is fine, running for trains is not.  While I’ve been remarkably good about adhering to this vow, rare exceptions have occurred from time to time, and today was one of those times.  I had a dentist appointment at 9:30 in Patchogue, and figured out that I’d leave in plenty of time to get the 10:41 from Ronkonkoma.  The appointment took longer than expected, however, and it was about 10:20 when I finally left.  I knew I’d be cutting it very very close because Ronkonkoma station is about a 15-minute drive from the dentist’s office and once at Ronkonkoma I’d certainly have to park a long way from the platform.  Sure enough, I had to park in a rutted dirt lot almost a third of a mile west of the platforms, and my car clock read 10:36 when I left the car.  Uh-oh, it was going to be a very close call.  I walked very rapidly toward the long-distant platform and the waiting train.  It wasn’t possible for me to know the precise time because I’d have to put on my glasses to read the time on my cell phone, and that would be too difficult to do while walking so quickly.  When I was about 250 feet away I saw the conductor gesturing in what I thought was an “all aboard” motion.  It looked as if I’d miss the 10:41, and for a variety of reasons waiting an hour for the next train would be a poor option.  So hey, I had to break my vow … just this once, okay?  I ran the last 250 feet, trying to fight back an overwhelming sense of guilt, not to mention the fact that I’d still end up missing the danged train.  There was a happy ending, so to speak.  I made the train, with about a minute to spare.  It was an easy enough ride into Jamaica, though being an off-hour train it made all the stops.  An older woman, probably in her 70’s, sat next to me.  She was no bother, which of course was no surprise as people that age grew up in an era when courtesy and politeness were more than just obsolete terms.  The same cannot be said for the 30ish man in the seat in front of me, who clipped his fingernails, a particularly annoying sound.  I changed to a Flatbush Avenue train at Jamaica, and then got a 5 express to Fulton.  There was a skell loudly panhandling on the 5, ostensible soliciting donations for the United Homeless Organization, a fake charity.  I didn’t know who was more obnoxious, the skell himself or the idiots who gave him money.

I waited only a couple minutes for an A train at Broadway-Nassau after work.  No UHO panhandlers on this train, instead there were two young men playing bongo drums, of all things, as a third one (literally) passed the hat … okay, a baseball cap, close enough.  The train made had long dwell times at both West 4th and 14th, with the conductor berating people for door-holding at the latter stop.  I got the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma, sitting in the next-to-last car because that would be closer to where I was parked.  It was sort of a cattle train, close but not quite.  A woman in her 40’s sat next to me and spent much of the trip talking on her cell phone.  It was more intriguing than annoying, however, as she kept switching between English and Spanish, sometimes actually in mid-sentence.  I’ve heard conversations of that sort before, but never with quite that much language-switching. It was an easy enough ride to Ronkonkoma, and then of course I had a long trudge to my car.

Gym: I did the second installment of this week’s deadlift routine, 2 x 5 x 385 from the second-to-lowest setting on the power rack.  As with previous weeks, it was a bit easier than the week’s first installment.  For my next deadlift session I’ll be keeping the rack on the same session, but standing on a couple of plates to increase the range of motion.  I then did neutral-grip pullups, 1 x 8, 3 x 6, 3 x 4.  Oddly enough these seeemd a little tougher than usual.  I then ran one mile on the treadmill at 5.6 mph, not a whole lot but okay after yesterday’s 2.5 miles, and finished up with ten minutes on the double end bag.

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Published in: on October 21, 2008 at 2:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Sunday, October 19

No weights today, but I did a solid 15 to 20 minutes on my new favorite, the double end bag, and then ran 2.5 miles on the treadmill at 5.6 mph.

Published in: on October 19, 2008 at 7:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, October 18

Leg day today, and like the last couple of times I did trap bar deadlifts as an alternative to conventional squats. Before starting with them, I spent almost 20 minutes working the double end bag, managing to increase my connect rate a bit.  I also did some work on the speed bag.  Finally the time came for the trap bar deadlifts.  Last week I did 40 of them, today I scaled things back a bit while still having a reasonably tough session: 8 x 225, 6 x 255, 6 x 275, 4 x 285, 4 x 295, 3 x 305. That’s 30 total reps, still a lot for a full-body exercise.  Then I did seated calf raises, 3 x 15 x 165.  I finished the session with SLDL’s, 8 x 195, 2 x 8 x 205.

Published in: on October 19, 2008 at 3:27 am  Comments (8)  

Friday, October 17

Heh, good timing for once

Really, it’s hard to imagine. In over a decade of commuting on the LIRR my timing with respect to service delays has generally been wretched. If there’s a one-hour delay in service it always seems to occur precisely during the hour that I’m traveling. Today, however, was a happy exception. I got the shuttle from Medford, and then the 7:04 from Ronkonkoma to Penn. I just wasn’t in the mood for going to Brooklyn after yesterday’s subway fiasco. No sooner did I take a seat on the 7:04 when I thought I had encountered the Look of Love for the first time in weeks. A young woman sat next to me, started to take a book out of her bag, and then suddenly got up and went elsewhere. Did she recoil in horror at the sight of me? Not this time; for one thing, she never actually looked at me, and went she got up it was apparent that she had spotted a woman she knew and went to sit next to her. Moments later a reasonably sized, non-SCA man took the seat, and I had a decent enough ride into Penn. No subway woes, as I waited only a couple of minutes for an A train to Broadway-Nassau and it didn’t experience any of the way-too-long dwell times that plague the Eighth Avenue line.

I found out during the afternoon that “power supply problems” in Queens had shut down all LIRR service in and out of Penn for over an hour. By the time I heard the news service had resumed, but with long delays. Oh, wonderful. I’ll probably be getting home at least an hour or two late, and on a Friday afternoon to boot. It was with a sensation of dread that I made my way to Penn, once again via a well-behaved A train. To my pleasant surprise, when I arrived the electronic message signs were announcing only “residual delays of up to 20 minutes.” That didn’t sound too bad, and it appeared that trains were leaving about on time. Still, I decided not to take the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma and wait for the 5:41, as the latter is an “official” connection for the Medford shuttle, in other words the shuttle would be held in Ronkonkoma if the 5:41 were delayed. That is not the case with the 5:22, however. The 5:41 left right on time. It was a fairly decent ride, though the woman who sat next to me as far as Hicksville bore an odd physical resemblance to the typical NFL middle linebacker. But hey, getting to Ronkonkoma and then Medford right on time was a major relief, considering how late I could have been.

Gym: There’s a new double-end bag in the boxing area, properly inflated for a change, and I spent a good 15 minutes on it. Working that bag is quite draining, probably equivalent to running on the treadmill for an equivalent period of time. I was using a pair of 8-ounce gloves, which is good because those gloves don’t provide quite enough protection for working the heavy bag (for which I use a 12-ounce pair) and otherwise would go to waste. Next, I did some benching, even though it was only two days since my last bench session. I did a double pyramid: 6 x 135, 4 x 185, 2 x 205, 4 x 225, 3 x 235, 2 x 245, 1 x 255, 1 x 255, 2 x 245, 3 x 235, 4 x 225, 8 x 185. It amounted to 20 reps at 225 or better, not bad. I finished with a one-mile run on the treadmill at 5.6 mph.

Published in: on October 18, 2008 at 3:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, October 16

SCA stereotypes, subway idiocy, and deja vu all over again

Quite a mixed bag of stuff today, both good and bad … well, mostly bad.  You were expecting good?  Now really.  I was able to go in a bit later today and therefore drove to Ronkonkoma and got the 7:40 to Flatbush Avenue.  While waiting on the platform, a man in a safety vest (there were others similarly attired on the platform) asked if I would like to take a short survey.  Usually I’m not interested in such things, but I had a few minutes to spare and said yes.  It was a 10 or so question survey about perceptions of safety in Ronkonkoma station – do you ever feel unsafe, do you often see MTA police patrolling the station, questions like that.  It didn’t ask about the not entirely uncommon piles of broken safety glass seen in the parking lot, which obviously arise when people smash car windows.  It dawned on me later that while police occasionally can be seen patrolling the platforms and the ticketing area, I cannot remember the last time I’ve ever seen them patrolling the parking area.  Guess they’re too busy figuring how they’ll spend their gargantuan taxpayer-funded pensions after they retire at disgustingly young ages.  As for the 7:40, it went okay, with the seat next to me staying vacant until an SCA snagged it at Hicksville.  Though he wasn’t elephantine, he otherwise conformed 100% to the SCA stereotype.  He spent most of the time into Jamaica reading some work-related papers and sending messages on his Black Berry.  Just as we approached Jamaica, however, he put away the work stuff and took out a how-to guide on a sport.  What sport, you ask?  It was, needless to say, cartball – also known as The Sole Athletic Activity for 90% of Men after Age 35.  By the way, I managed to set a new high score on cell phone Tetris.  Yay.

While the train ride into Flatbush was easy enough, the same cannot be said for the subsequent subway ride to Fulton Street.  I thought I’d hit the jackpot when I went up the platform stairs at Atlantic Avenue and walked right into a 5 train without even breaking stride.  The “jackpot” quickly emptied, however, when the conductor announced that the train was being taken out of service due to a “passenger needing medical attention” (translation: either a very minor illness, or dead; there’s hardly ever anything in between) at Borough Hall.  Passengers were advised to take the 2 or 3 train as an alternative.  Okay, so I trudged over to the 2/3 platform … along with hundreds of other people, joining those already waiting for a 2/3.  Crowding on the platform was monstrous.  It was obvious that when the next train arrived – not that anything arrived in the five or so minutes I spent waiting on the platform – it would be nearly impossible to board.  I finally made my way through the crowd to the nearest staircase, a very difficult struggle given the huge mass of humanity, and went to the nearby Pacific Avenue station (the passageway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific avenue station is smarmily called the “Panama Canal”) in the hopes of getting an M train to Fulton.  After about a 5-minute wait on yet another increasingly crowded platform, I gave up on the idea of taking an M and instead took an R, the next train to come along.  Taking the R to City Hall would be a reasonable alternative.  As I was riding the R, I figured that the probably was an M not far behind, and that I’d rather ride the M as it has nice new high-tech cars, plus Fulton is more convenient than City Hall.  So I got off the R at Court Street, and sure enough an M was just a couple minutes behind.  I took it to Fulton, riding in reasonable style in the new consist.  All in all, my subway trek from Flatbush Avenue to Fulton Street took over 40 minutes, in other words about four times as long as it should have taken.

Fortunately, there were no subway disasters after work.  While I just missed an A train at Broadway-Nassau, a C came along in just a couple of minutes, and I was able to get a seat right away.  It got me to Penn in time to catch the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma.  I noted yesterday that a woman who resembled a former co-worker, and whom I’ve seen on the 5:22 on many occasions, had sat next to me.  It turns out that today she sat next to me once again.  She gave no flicker of recognition, indeed she didn’t seem to notice me at all.  I thought of saying something (“So, we meet again!”) but figured she might take it wrong, like I was accusing her of stalking me or something, so I kept silent.  It was an easy enough ride to Ronkonkoma and my car, except that my cell phone Tetris games were mediocre at best.  I guess I’d exhausted my share of luck in the morning.

Gym: A much better session tonight after yesterday’s slight disappointment.  I started out with a solid 15 minutes on the heavy bag, working on combinations and speed rather than power.  Next came some quite satisfactory neutral grip pull-ups, 1 x 8, 3 x 6, 2 x 4.  All were full range of motion. At the rate I’m going I might be able to start adding some weight via the dip belt soon.  It was then time to hit the power rack for the start of Week Three of the deadlift routine.  I lowered the bars in the rack one notch, increasing the range of motion about three inches over last week’s, and did 2 x 5 x 385 (the rep count drops by one this week).  It felt much harder than last time, apparently the extra three inches in the ROM make quite a difference.  In fact, the ROM was almost, if not quite, as much as if I’d done sumo-style deadlifts off the floor.  After finishing the deadlifts it was off to the treadmill, for a one-mile run at 5.5 mph.  This made 6.5 miles for the week ending tonight, fulfilling my quota.  I was still energetic and decided to do some more neutral grip pull-ups.  I did 4 x 4, which added to the earlier 34 reps made a total of 50 reps for today.  That’s pretty decent by any standards.

Published in: on October 17, 2008 at 3:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, October 15

Team allegiances

There’s very little to say about today’s train riding per se because it was an almost entirely uneventful day.  I did, however, make a somewhat puzzling observation about sports team allegiances.  In the morning, I got the shuttle from Medford, followed at Ronkonkoma by the 6:56 to Flatbush Avenue.  After more than two months of commuting to my workplace’s new location I’ve come to the conclusion that Penn Station and Flatbush Avenue are the proverbial six of one/half-dozen of the other.  Both seem to work equally well (or, more likely, equally poorly) in terms of commuting times.  The train got quite full, with the seat next to me being taken at Bethpage by a woman in her 40’s who was no bother.  Women seem to get quieter and less squirmy and generally less annoying after the age or 35 or 40.  There is, however, no such age effect with men.  I got to Flatbush on time and then waited less than a minute for a 5 train to Fulton.  It was mobbed, but I somehow was able to find a reasonbly decent standing spot near one of the doors and passed the ride to Fulton not in comfort, but in not-too-bad discomfort.  Guess that’s progress.

The Eighth Avenue line was behaving remarkably well after work, as I waited only about two or three minutes for an A train at Broadway-Nassau and then it made its way to Penn without untoward delays.  It got me to Penn in time to catch the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma, which like the morning’s train was an easy enough ride.  Once again a non-annoying 40-something woman sat next to me; I’ve noticed her before, as she looks something like a former co-worker of mine.  One interesting thing happened just past the Nassau line.  About 40 people were waiting on the Bellerose platform for a Penn Station train, and most of them were wearing Rangers fan jerseys.  Obviously they were heading to the Rangers’ game with the Sabres at Madison Square Garden.  The jersey-wearers did not appear to be traveling as a group, as they were spread out all along the platform in small clusters.  What is strange is that as we passed the Floral Park platform, just a short distance away, there were about as many people waiting for a Penn Station train … and none of them, as far as I could tell, were wearing Rangers jerseys.  Why would the team have so many fans at Bellerose and none (at least none so avid as to be wearing jerseys) at Floral Park, which can’t be even a mile away and seems pretty much the same demographically? I had and have no idea, despite pondering the issue the rest of the way to Ronkonkoma and the shuttle.  It may be that my puzzlement is why I just couldn’t get any decent scores on cell phone Tetris.

Gym: A somewhat disappointing session tonight.  I started out with bench pressing, hoping to get at least eight reps on the first set at 225, but it was not to be: 6 x 135, 4 x 185, 2 x 205, 7 x 225, 5 x 225, 5 x 4 x 225, 2 x 3 x 225, 2 x 225, 8 x 185.  For some reason I weakened so much on the seventh rep I decided it had to be my last.  It wasn’t a total disaster, as I ended up doing 40 total reps at 225, but I really wanted more on the first set.  Next it was the treadmill, and another disappointment.  All it would have taken is a 1.5-mile run to meet my weekly 6-mile quota.  But no, I was so achy and weary that I did only one mile, at 5.5 mph.  As my week for quota purposes runs Friday-Thurday, however, I have tomorrow to pick up just a half-mile (I’ll try for much more, of course) to meet the quota.

Published in: on October 16, 2008 at 3:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tuesday, October 14

Fitting into available space

Today was nearly a repeat of yesterday in one important respect.  Not ridership levels, as they were noticeably higher now that it’s a regular workday.  No, it’s in the way large-ish men did a much better job than usual in fitting into available space without tormenting my miserable existence.  I got the shuttle from Medford, right on time as usual, and then got the 6:56 from Ronkonkoma to Flatbush Avenue.  The car in which I was riding, toward the middle of the consist, began filling up quite quickly.  By Deer Park it was crowded enough that I knew it would be a cattle train by Jamaica.  Sure enough, at Farmingdale a portly SCA of about 45 sat next to me.  When I was him starting to sit down Idid a quick mathematical equation in my head: tiny M-7 seats + his portly nature = a horrible time for me.  Math mustn’t have been his strong suit, as the equation did not come true.  He situated himself so that I had enough room to breathe if not necessarily move.  It’s extraordinarily rare for an SCA to show even the slightest iota of coutesy.  For it to happen two days in a row would be like flipping a coin 100 times and having it land on its edge each time.  Probability theory cannot even concieve of such scenarios.  I ended up riding into Flatbush Avenue, and waited not even 30 seconds for a 4 express to Fulton Street.  Not a bad start to the morning, I’d have to say.

After work, I decided to try a new entrance to the Fulton/Broadway-Nassau station complex. There must be at least ten seperate entrances, but this one – through a fairly new building at Maiden Lane and Nassau Street – was new to me.  It entered into the south end of the southbound J/M/Z platform.  Quite a few people were on the platform, presumably waiting for an M train to Brooklyn.  It would be pointless to get a southbound J/Z as they run only a few blocks to their final stop at Broad Street.  A nearby passageway lead to the rest of the station complex, and I made my way to the 2/3 platform.  After a wait of two or three minutes I got a 2 to Penn Station, to my slight surprise finding a seat right away.  Penn seemed more crowded than usual, which got me thinking that there must have been some delays, but nothing of the sort was being announced.  Can’t explain the crowding.  I got the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma, which was moderately crowded, though for a change I sat much nearer the head (east) end of the consist than usual.  No space problems, as a relatively slender woman of about 40 sat next to me and was no bother.  More reading and more cell phone Tetris playing (not too much luck today) made the trip to Ronkonkoma and the shuttle go by relatively quickly.

Gym: I started out with a 2-mile run on the treadmill, increasing my speed slightly to (a still poky) 5.5 mph.  After the run I did the second installment of Week 2 of my deadlift routine, doing 2 x 6 x 385 using the same power rack setting as in the first week but, like last session, standing on a 45-pound plate to increase the range of motion.  Next time will be the start of Week 3, and I’ll lower the bars on the power rack one notch to further increase the ROM.  I then did neutral grip pull-ups, 4 x 6.

Published in: on October 15, 2008 at 2:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, October 13

I guessed half-right, sort of

Today being Columbus Day, a quasi-holiday, I figured that LIRR ridership would be lighter than usual. Well, maybe. When I arrived at Ronkonkoma station at about 7:20 the south side parking lot was much less crowded than on a normal workday at the same time. I was able to park about four rows closer to the platform than usually would be the case. To my surprise, however, ridership on the 7:32 to Penn seemed pretty close to normal levels. In the car where I was riding, around the middle of the consist, perhaps half of the middle seats (and of course all other seats) were taken by the last pre-Jamaica stop at Farmingdale. The fact that some middle seats stayed empty, as well as the lack of standees, meant that ridership wasn’t quite up to nonholiday levels, but the comparative emptiness of the Ronkonkoma lot had led me to expect much less ridership. A 50ish woman took the seat next to me at Wyandanch, and actually said “Sorry” when she slightly bumped into me while sitting down. It should go without saying that an SCA wouldn’t have been quite so polite. We arrived at Penn on time, and I waited only a couple of minutes for an A train to Broadway-Nassau. No signs of any holiday on the A, as it was jammed.

Subway ridership after work gave signs that it wasn’t a normal workday. I got a C train after about five minutes, and while it would be an exaggeration to say it was empty, it certainly wasn’t like a typical rush hour train. I had my choice of seats right from the start. I got the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma, which in keeping with the morning’s theme was at or near normal ridership levels. The 30ish man who sat next to me had the classic SCA physique, soft and heading toward fat-dom if not quite obese yet. Give him another few years and he’ll be elephantine. Fortunately, he was pretty good about not infringing on my space, and I had a decent enough ride to Ronkonkoma. It helped that I actually had a couple very good games of cell phone Tetris for a change.

Gym: Tonight was a much-needed rest day.

Published in: on October 14, 2008 at 1:43 am  Leave a Comment  

Sunday, October 12

No weights today, after all I did yesterday, but a very good session nonetheless.  I started with 20 minutes on the heavy bag, actually it might’ve been more like 22 or 23 minutes.  On a couple of occasions I went to the uppercut bag about 20 feet away and banged that for a bit.  The double-end bag was too deflated to use, and naturally the gym’s hand pump is nowhere to be seen.  Next, I ran one mile on the treadmill, at my admittedly non-word-class pace of 5.4 mph, and finally ellipted (a manual course) for 30 minutes.

Published in: on October 12, 2008 at 9:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, October 11

“Brutal” is a rather overused adjective, yet it’s perfectly appropriate to describe today’s gym session.  It was Leg Day, and like last time I decided to do trap bar deadlifts (“reverse squats”) instead of normal squats.  Last week I had very little of the soreness that always seems to crop up after squats.  While the trap bar’s deep knurling practically abraded the skin off of my hands last week, I bought a pair of lifting gloves earlier in the day today to avoid that issue.  As I went through the sets today I started getting more and more energetic and ended up doing a full pyramid: 6 x 225, 4 x 245, 4 x 265, 2 x 285, 2 x 305, 2 x 315, 1 x 325, 1 x 325, 2 x 315, 2 x 305, 2 x 285, 4 x 265, 4 x 245, 6 x 225. Whew.  Fourteen sets and a total of 42 reps.  That is a lot for a full-body exercise like trap bar deadlifts.  I scaled back a bit on SLDL’s, doing only two sets instead of my usual three: 8 x 195, 8 x 205.  After all the trap bar deadlifts, this scaling-back was quite reasonable.  I skipped doing calf raises, as the arch of my left foot was a bit sore, probably from yesterday’s treadmill running, and calf raises put a great deal of stress on the arches.  Another day or two and I should be able to manage them.  I finished with some upper body work.  First came neutral grip pull-ups, 3 x 6.  I finished the whole brutal session with cable crossovers, 8 x 50/50, 3 x 8 x 60/60.  This was a different cable station than the one on which I’d been using 30 pounds, but the resistance felt about the same.

Published in: on October 11, 2008 at 9:54 pm  Leave a Comment