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Showing posts from August, 2010

World class mind in an average man's body

The headline above tells the struggle of master competitor in all walks of life.  Whether it's trail running, riding my Felt, banging off rocks on my Gary Fisher 29er, or attempting to write music that moves the masses, I'm an average dude with big time brain waves.

It feels good to be fit. But there's always more, a bigger workout, another mountain to climb.  Of course all of those aspirations have to be filtered through pulled muscles in my back, an arthritic hand and tinging in my knee I can't quite figure out.

My mind says graceful elk bounding in the woods.  Reality instead sites a lumbering ox trudging over the horizon.

But let's remember that we're outliers who need to strive for the next rung on the ladder.  Endurance sport isn't for the timid and many will opt to head for the golf course.  That's OK, it's another perspective on life.  But in our case, we want to push the envelope just a bit further, feel the pain just a bit longer, get a l…

Music for master competitors

Here's master competitor in his first jam session since high school...I was encouraged to pull out the old Taylor 310 cutaway for a mountain music day with Steve and Ruth Smith and fellow Appalachian State cohort Carl Tyrie.

I was intimidated at first, but the improv assemble created a great playing environment.  Steve and Ruth rolled out a couple of tunes from their upcoming CD, including "Along This Old Crooked Road" which has become one of my new favorites.

This crowd can bring music to life and it motivated me to put more time into playing and writing songs.  I'll call my new band "run Tommy run" and the lyrics will be based on the life and experiences of endurance sport athletes.  Steve and Ruth have a recording studio at home, so when the goods are ready I'll ask if they might be able to lay down the tracks and burn the discs.  Who knows, I may have a few songs available via podcast.

Funny, but my athletics and guitar playing fall side by side.  I…

I'm in the news!

Master competitor is making headlines on some of the top endurance sport podcasts.  My question is featured on the latest Ben Greenfield (photo at left) podcast, which asks about fruit and vegetable supplements and the difference between whey and soy protein.

Ben offers a protracted response, so instead of highlighting his complete answer, check it out; based on Ben's advice I'm ready to make a big shift in my foundational diet planning:

I'll be checking out new hiking areas off the Blue Ridge Parkway this weekend.  Stay tuned for reports and photos.

Journey on...and build the temple along the path you travel.

PowerBar = "Power to Push"

That's the new tag line for the ever expanding line of PowerBar products. I remember when the original bar (now modified, shown at left) was the staple product in the triathlon scene; athletes would take chunks of the stuff, treat it like Silly Putty, and goob it onto their top tubes and handlebars for the bike split.

Hard to believe we all lived through it...that was in a world without hand sanitizer.

Anyhow, I ripped into my latest issue of Bicycling and PowerBar had opted for a slick insert section.  FYI, there's a $1 coupon built into the last page, so make sure you tear it out for a great deal on a bar.

The brochure stated some intake parameters for hammer head athletes like all master competitors most assuredly are:


2.3 - 3.2 grams/per pound of weight for low intensity
3.2 - 4.5 grams/per pound of weight for moderate intensity
4.5 - 5.5 grams/per pound of weight for extreme heavy intensity (get 'er done crowd)


.6 - .8 grams/per pound of body weight (…

Jumbled up stuff

My head is full of things I need to tell master competitor readers, so here comes a brain dump:

I carry a tenseness in my body when running.  There is a need to feel loose, letting each foot easily drop to the ground.  Staying tense sucks a bunch of energy out of your body and it has nothing to do with forward motion.  Recognize it, modify it, alleviate it.

Never did receive the photo from Saturday's Blowing Rock charity foundation ride. Fun group of about 12 people, a nice ride southwest on 221, then back on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Drizzle turned to rain and we got drenched the last few miles. That's the mountain bike life.  Nice feed afterwards at the country club but a) I don't eat meat and that all they had and b) I was wet and had a chill and needed to blast the heat in my car.

Went on the Bistro Roca ride Monday night.  About 5 miles out hit something, then flatted - with my new flat proof Serfas Seca tires!  The group left me; this is no Howdy Doody ride and unless…

Riding the 29er

Had a big cycling weekend.  Benefit ride for Blowing Rock Foundation on Saturday...waiting for photo from group organizer before I post that report.

Today was the usual mountain bike ride after church, 17 miles on the Overmountain Trail and Shiner's Gap run. I was rather proud of myself mechanically; I'm not the best at working on equipment, but last night researched on the Internet and learned how to remove and clean the brake pads on my Avid BB5 units.  Also adjusted and reset the front caliper for proper clearance on the disc.  I also dialed back the rebound on my Rock Shox Tora 318's.

All that said, the bike felt the best it has to date.  Trails were muddy due to heavy rain so there was wheelspin and more resistance.  I felt on top of the ride, in control, more confident that usual off road, and the engine was strong.

I noted that my riding style leads to ample impact with the rocks and roots.  Since I don't ride fast, my wheels have a tendency to fall into each di…

Thumb struck

Thanks to for this shared clip art of  "thumbs up."

Master competitor is going to adopt this icon as its universal sign of acknowledgement for all training and racing activities.  There's no better way to tell those who cut you some slack you appreciate the attitude.

So I'm asking all master competitors to use the thumbs up openly and with gusto.  Add a nod of the head and make eye contact when you deliver it.  A few examples of application:

Oncoming car stops to let group of cyclists make a left turn. Thumbs up.

Oncoming car offers wide berth when you're running along the shoulder of the road.  Thumbs up.

Pedestrian waves you through crosswalk when cycling.  Thumbs up.

Young kids wave when you spin past their front yard.  Thumbs up.

Law enforcement officer nods when you run or cycle past his/her car. Thumbs up.

Aid station personnel at run or cycling events cater to your needs.  Thumbs up.

These are only a few examples of this master competi…

Fuel the machine

Spent a bit of time reading an article on the UltraRunning Magazine site re: diet basics for endurance athletics:

As the title of this article suggests, it's a refresher course on food intake for ultrarunners.  Good basic info, which heightens my interest in food modification for best performance.

I haven't pulled any punches on this site, no sugar coating the facts.  And at this point the fact is, I'm deep tired and wondering if I'm getting enough fuel into the engine.  My runs are lethargic and my legs are stumps.  So it's time to alter some intake.

As all master competitor readers know, it's never about the training.  What ever we're accomplishing, it's not enough and there's always room for more.  So please don't suggest a reduction in aerobics. They rest of the civilized world is giving me that sales pitch.  Instead, there has to be a mix of foods that makes for high tes…

Trail "running"

Went to the Great Falls, MD wilderness area off the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal area.  The towpath walking was fun, checking out the locks and seeing the water elevation rise and fall, through rather primitive technology.  The C&O is 184.5 miles long, contains 75 locks, and was completed in 1850.

We opted for a "short" hike on one of the trails off the towpath, the Billy Goat Trails section A. This little gem was only 1.7 miles in length, and we were told it was treacherous footing.  Big ego master competitor though ya sure, I'll skip and run through how bad can it be?

It was bad, at least for my skill set, and put me in an environment where performance meant sliding my butt down rock outcroppings, then scrambling up the next climb.  It was well over two hours before we hooked back onto the towpath for a two mile walk back to the Great Falls Tavern Visitors Center.  I did a ten mile walk/run this morning and it was a more than full day.

I was tired and a bit cranky whe…


The Bethesda, MD area was hammered by a huge storm last night.  I was partially asleep but training in my sports law class bubbled to the surface..."get the kids off the field if lightning and subsequent thunder strikes are less that three seconds apart."  The stuff last night was simultaneous so I knew it was all on us at once.

Went out this morning and rushing water was everywhere.  My beloved Rock Creek Trails were submerged and adjoining roadways parallel to the trail were also closed and under water.  Crazy day took me through neighborhoods and city parks, just enough to get my 90 minute run.  Don't know when the H2O will subside but it sure puts a cramp in my daily running rituals.

Was reading a bit yesterday on proper protein consumption.  A good rule of thumb is .5 - .8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, leaning towards the .8 for athletic types.  I weigh around 170 so I'm looking at 56 grams a day.  Right now I'm doing Premium Protein Bars (excel…

Barefoot running revisited

I taught COM 1200 over the second summer session - Foundations of Human Communication.  We used Cass Sunstein's book " 2.0" for class discussion. The premise of his book is that the Internet has led many citizens to filter news to suit their personal preferences, which leads to polarization.  Instead of clustering out at the far left or far right, Sunstein suggests that we need "town square" style public debate, where unplanned encounters with various points of view occur.

So in that ilk, I'm going to revisit the barefoot running debate here within the master competitor forum, where debate is open and discourse runs rampant.  A regular reader, Susan Kilroy, from, contacted me. She'd like to throw the door open with so I said what the hay, let's do it!

This piece comes with ample advice on how to slam your feet…

Masters madness

I listened to Dara Torres' book "Age is Just a Number" while driving to DC last night and while running on the Rock Creek Trail this morning.

Torres is world class, can't stand second place, and had performed at world record pace, including a trip to the 2008 Olympics. She's a figurehead for master's age performance, showing the kids how it's done at 40+ years old.

As most of us well know, this sort of output comes with a price.  Two failed marriages, a five year battle with bulimia, and rampant emotional swings accompany Dara's resilient efforts to be #1 when most shunned her numerous comeback attempts.

There are some issues to address.  First, this author's perspective comes from one who was the best, then attempts to return to the pinnacle.  That's great for her, but what about the other 99 and some-odd-percent of us?  I don't know about you but I never won anything.  Think I got second in an age group one time, but that's it.  So w…

Retro man

Does anyone remember these old clunkers?  I found this image on cool site to peruse sometime.

They're some of the original Shimano SPD pedals and they're now doing the job on my 29er.

I'm an old pack rat who doesn't throw too many things away.  I take good care of my equipment and it lasts forever, so I store old bike parts in a plastic bin I now keep in my guest bedroom.  I mentioned in a post that I was having trouble clipping on my mountain bike, so had reverted to old school pedals and toe clips. Couldn't stand to be seen as the dork that I am, so wanted to find a way to get back to the SPD world without fear of not being able to twist out when needed.

I dragged these old soldiers out of the bin.  Can remember buying then in the early 90's, along with a pair of clunky Shimano shoes with ample neon purple on them.  Those are long gone but the pedals remained.  Now, I noted the sturdy platforms built into the clips, so I screwed…

The good life

Had a mix of really fine master competitor activities yesterday.

Met the Watagua Leisure Cycling group for what turned out to be a not so leisure ride.  Gwen was the ride leader, hosted a 10 mile out and back on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We left from the Moses Cone Memorial Mansion and rode over the viaduct before making the return leg.

The parkway is beautiful, but incorporates major climbs and descents.  Think the entire crew was ready to finish when we did, as traffic was getting congested and that's not good for cyclists.  Met several new friends, including Alfredo, who lives in Miami but takes three months out of the year to vacation.  He spent a month in Montana and now a month in the NC mountains.  Rents a house and lives the master competitor lifestyle.  How good can it get?

After the ride, a major festival was underway at the Moses Cone Mansion.  Steve Smith, a professor in my department, was one of the performers.  He plays wonderful music on the banjo and guitar, while h…


Remember Matt Jenkins, the barefoot runner I spotted on the parkway a week ago? There's good news and bad.  Matt posted a comment on the master competitor site, gave me a shout out for mentioning him and noted that he remembers the church van rolling for the not-so-good news.

Matt was nearing the end of his epic fundraising journey when he was bit by a snake and sidelined.  Check out this report from; there's also a TV video report embedded if you'd like to watch:

29-year-old Matt Jenkins is running barefoot across the state to raise awareness about state spending cuts. He is in Macon County and ended up in the hospital when the snake bit him yesterday. A nearby couple helped get him to the emergency room. Jenkins was planning to end his journey near Murphy, North Carolina on Saturday but he may have to put that on hold for a while to rest. He tweets every day and here is what…

Thinking big

"If you're training, you're ascending." Trail Slammer, in his latest 100 mile ultrarunning podcast 

Here's a guy who's going for the 2010 ultrarunning grand slam.  The website defines this feat: "The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning award is recognition for those who complete four of the oldest 100 mile trail runs in the U.S. The "Slam" consists of officially finishing the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run, the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Run and the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run all in the same year. The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning Award was established in 1986, when Tom Green was the first finisher."

Trail slammer posits that as athletes, we're constantly growing and improving and climbing to another level.  I'd buy onto that theory, so let's get better each day.

"Riding here (in the NC mountains) is different.  You have to take s…

Blind riding

Fog rolled in thick and dense at last night's Bistro Roca ride.  It was so intense that it sat on my helmet and apparel like rain.  About ten hardy souls turned out and we opted to ride an alternate loop that would hopefully take us out of the bad conditions.

It was a humiliating, shameful night for master competitor.  I didn't have the courage to keep up in zero visibility and needed to pack up my pea sized cajones and head for home.  I was consistently falling off the back of the group; when I did catch up I was living in fear.  At one point we were doing a descent on the Blue Ridge Parkway, tucked into a pace line, pushing the big chainring.  I looked down and saw 39 mph on my bike computer.  I couldn't see three feet ahead.  Then I realized that if I crashed, it wouldn't even hurt. I would just wake up in heaven.

We went on and off the parkway.  At one point we climbed a section that almost exploded my heart.  Ride leader Cobb told me it was an 11% grade.  Guess th…

Count on the crew?

Had a good run on a misty, cool morning. Listened to Dirt Dawg's podcast just prior to his Burning River 100 attempt in Ohio.  Dawg talked quite a bit about his extensive crew for the effort - technology guy for web  posting, nutrition crew chief, etc. Yikes.  My best 100 mile runs were totally solo.  I used to arrive at the Mohican 100, leave one drop bag at Covered Bridge and another at Rock Point, and run.  Crews can be good, but they can also create a dangerous dependence for the runner.

I can recall the Superior Trail 100 in 1993.  I went to that race fat, and dropped at 45. Had no business being there. My brother (pictured above, after finishing the Mohican 100 in 2002) on the other hand, was well trained.  He relied on a couple to help him crew, and they eventually got tired and went back to the motel to sleep! Left my brother hanging at the 80+ mile aid station.  No crew and he ran out of gas.  To this day I blame his DNF on the breakdown in crew/runner dynamics.  If you …

The day the music died

I randomly came across Michael Jackson's "This is it" last night on Netflix instant view, so I gave it a try.  The one hour, 51 minute documentary on Jackson's prep, for what was to be his 50 sold out shows in London, was an eye opener.

Most important was the lesson I learned.  I was judgmental regarding Jackson's ability to perform and I was wrong. Instead of a washed-up star from yesteryear, Jackson was motivated, in shape, perfectionistic, and completely on top of his game when it came to dance, vocals and entertainment. The supporting cast and crew adored him and were living out their dreams by being on stage with one who inspired them.

How can we isolate this performer on stage, from the one who met a shady demise only weeks later?  Jackson is a lightning rod when it comes to opinions on his lifestyle and accusations from his past.  But in this captured moment, he was ready to set the world on fire on more time.

What does this have to do with the master comp…