Triumphal Entry….

Entry_Into_Jerusalem1It wasn’t.

It wasn’t triumphal, not in anyway we mean the word.

Jesus came in to town riding on the back of a donkey with coats and cloaks for a seat and palm fronds on the road.

People shouted.

People sang.

Cheers rang out.

I wonder how far they cheered him in. Or what the crowds expected or who made up the crowd. Did he make it to the temple? Did they turn on him early in the week? Did they turn on him by the end of the parade? Did they even know who he was?

Was it a ploy contra Ceasar? Contra empire?

Did Jesus just waltz in on from the opposite side of the city to steal the thunder of Pilate and Herod?

The thing is, Jesus like just about any leader or person we’ve ever met – doesn’t live up to expectations. The hype get’s in the way. Our perspective get’s warped. We get wrapped up in our own heads and cannot see past it.

It’s sort of like picking up a good novel and obsessing over it and forgetting the real world.

Except, in this case, and in many others, it turns violent.

Jesus, our neighbors, our families, our selves – our perspectives should not be the governing reality of who and what we are. We twist up our smiles and get excited when we live into those perspectives those idea-worlds and dream-images we’ve crafted for ourselves, and we twist those smiles even more when we fail or they fail, or Jesus fails to fit the mold.

It happened in Jerusalem.

It went pretty quickly from Hosannah to Crucify him.

The encounter of grace we may need is to help us see where we do this to ourselves, our neighbors, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to our own vision of salvation in Christ. God’s grace shatters the dream-image of life to show us the grace-gift of life, of neighbor, of friend, and of Jesus – of our Lord.

Consider it all grace when we encounter the real and learn to love the real-self, the real-neighbor, and (above all) the real-God.

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Disappointed in Jeremy Clarkson

I’m a pretty avid fan of Top Gear. The last weeks news that the BBC has found Clarkson “guilty” or at least dismissible is a pretty big blow. It’s hardly important news with everything from a pilot taking down a plane to Iranian peace talks and Israel being pressured to put taxes collected for Palestinians into the hands of Palestinians…

Even this morning, I got to listen to two young people in Glasgow interviewed and conversing intelligently about their domestic politics. Given that they were about to turn 18 and some where in their 16th year, that was impressive. Sure the younger one said “stuff” more than strictly necessary, but the inbetween bits were competent and thoughtful and delivered in a delightful Scottish accent.

But I’m still fixated on Jeremy Clarkson smacking someone over not getting a hot meal on set after an argument.

It was completely inappropriate, and I get why the BBC would do it. Honestly, given his behavior in the past, it really wasn’t only a matter of time. While self reporting it was a good move, it still doesn’t clear him from the unnecessary use of violence.

But I’m still disappointed: disappointed that Clarkson hit someone, disappointed he got fired, disappointed that the BBC couldn’t find another solution. More than anything, I’m disappointed the show is basically over. It may be able to come back with Cougan like people think will work on twitter.

We’ll have to see what Clarkson do.

We’ll have to see what happens to Top Gear.

It might actually get better… Probably not. The 22 seasons was a good run.

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Good Work Out Week

For the first week in forever, I feel I’ve actually made progress in my swimming.

Writing? Well that’s another subject.

But for swimming, this week has gone exceptionally well. I’ve backed off of my normal high handed approach and started back small hoping to build up the yardage. The longest day so far was 3 miles. Normally, I’ll just jump in at 4 miles and go from there or I’ll struggle to get 1 mile in.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons I keep getting sick and frustrated.

This time I’m also taking to the pool trying to help or train with people as often as I can. The three mile day I ended up with four practice partners.

Now I’m sitting back and checking up on the NCAA Tournament for Basketball and watching the video footage from the NCAA Men’s Swimming Prelims.

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Teaching Plato

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Plato taught me much through high school. My first encounter was the “Allegory of the Cave” in world history as a sophomore in high school. The teacher lent me the Republic, and I read it. Most notably, I read it in my chemistry class causing more than one problem for myself.

When teaching youth at Taos, we acted out the story of the Allegory of the Cave.

Plato’s idea of the forms and the mind of God along with the state of man is expressed most concisely in the Allegory of the Cave. Well, maybe there’s somewhere else, but I haven’t found it. It is also one of the stories that invites us to look beyond our perspective, to allow that what we see and comprehend are not completely true.

To understand or explore something as complex as the incarnation, the allegory offers a way of understanding the condition of humanity that Christ enters to heal and rescue.

Perhaps it’s not an orthodox way of teaching youth, but I hope it helps them understand a more complete story of salvation and truth seeking. It still fascinates me and captures my imagination even now.

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How Hot is Too Hot to Swim?

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This article feels a bit of a validation to me. I’ve been claiming for years that it is dangerous to swim long distances fast above 86 F. While Fina seems to think we can hold on until it hits about 87.8 degrees (31 F), Dr. Mullen disagrees.

It may sound strange to non-swimmers that think it’s chilly to hit the water around 84 degrees that it can be dangerous to swim in hot water. My wife tells me the kiddy pool is cold when it’s around 84. Many triathletes seem to think cold water is unbearable, and while the 5% body fat crowd may have a point, the rest aren’t willing to deal with the cold.

Some of my best work outs were outside on days around 25 F in the air and 75 F in the water. It felt like I could push my body to it’s limits and then keep going.

Either way as open water swimming and pool swimming grow as sports and more information is gathered the more we will refine our understanding of the effects of water temperature. I truly hope more people don’t die as part of the process, and I hope that Fina lowers this upper limit.

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Test Sets: How Far and How Fast?

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This is technically the second part of a two part series, but it’ll stand alone.

A lactate threshold is not your peak intensity. If you imagine lactic acid being produce like water coming out of a faucet, then the lactate threshold is where your biological “drain” can’t keep up with the water coming out of the “faucet”. If you push yourself past that threshold, say towards VO2 max, you produce more lactic acid than your body can break down. Below that rate you still produce lactic acid, but it get’s broken down by your body.

Cyclists and runners use this to gage their work outs and to tailor them to more direct improvement.

Unsurprisingly, swimmers have been giving this a go as well.

Tradition calls this the T30, or a timed 30 minute swim. Several swim coaching guidebooks actually have tables to figure out from a distance the exact pace over 100 yards that corresponds to the lactate threshold. A T60 gives you the same sort of information. Some coaches use set distances (I like this approach) such as a 3000 yard swim and measure time.

Either way the magic number they are looking for is the average time it takes to go 100 yards.

Recently, there has been a move towards using repeated 300s or shorter distances to determine the lactate threshold. The idea runs something like this: over long distances you tend to average a slower pace. Intensity of effort more closely matches the lactate threshold for faster swimmers swimming shorter distances in competition.

USRPT as a method attempts to ignore this whole process and just train at perceived race pace. No, that’s not fair. It is less worried about lactate threshold than others, but it still is very conscious of pace.

So my own theory is this – the lactate threshold is specific to race distance and intensity, but for the most part swimming workouts runs between 45 minutes – 2 hour or just over. That means in terms of work out lactate threshold 30 minutes – 40 minutes measurement period is great. That means you guess close to your pace and shoot for that distance in a given period.

Honestly, how often you test is up to you. If you want to do weekly tests, I recommend rotating through 2 or 3 tests with one test per week. You can see progress every three weeks in a particular test. If you aren’t seeing progress, you can reevaluate your method or your madness.

If you are cruising somewhere near 2 minutes + or – 5 seconds per 100. Test sets should probably be 500 to 1000 yards. Odds are you are only swimming 2-3 times a week and only for 30 minutes to 45. If you want to improve your best bet is to swim more often (4-5 days a week). At this pace and slower, consider increasing your swim volume and more specifically getting coaching.

I could make some arbitrary judgements about age at this point saying that 2 minutes per 100 is perfectly alright if you are older than such and such, but I know several septuagenarians that hold faster and I know plenty of people in their thirties that are slower. No such generalizations work.

Once you get past that 2 minute mark, then you can really use test sets.

I recommend for most people the T30. It’s a classic for a reason. Measure the distance you can swim at a slightly uncomfortable pace for 30 minutes. Take the 30 minutes and convert it to seconds – 1800 sec – divide it by distance and multiply this number by 100. The result? This is your pace (in seconds) per 100 yards.

For example: If you swam 1500 yards in half an hour:

1800 sec/ 1500 yards = 6/5   X 100 = 120 seconds or 2 minutes per 100 yards

For say 3000 yards in half an hour

1800 sec/ 3000 yards = 6/10  X 100 = 60 seconds or 1 minute per 100 yards

There are people who are even faster than that.

Importantly, this is really only useful if you are swimming more than 3 times a week for an hour or more. If you are swimming less, use your good sense. Swim a 1000 yard test set or a 500 yard test set. Or two 500 yard test sets and average your results.

Ok, you have your pace per 100 yards, what do you do with it now?

When you pass this pace – your building up lactic acid. When you go this pace your body is “draining” the lactic acid as it builds up. You can now design your work outs to push part of the time beyond this level or even up to VO2 Max (max intensity), and allows you to know that you have to ease it back off to let your body recover. It also gives you a measuring point to chart improvement.

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Test Sets, Metabolic States, and Lactate Threshold for Swimmers

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When I first read “Swim Coach’s Bible” volume one, I got lost when they started talking about things like VO2 Max and Lactate Thresholds -1 or +1 sets. When I got to volume 2, well that didn’t clear things up either. Application was fairly easy, but I wasn’t sure what theory or premise they were working from.

So, if you are in a similar boat this might be a good place for you. After getting started, I realized that it might take more than one post.

Ok, the chemistry for beginners:

Your body burns ATP –  adenosine triphosphate – because when you break off one of those three phosphates it releases the energy needed to contract your muscles or do any one of a jillion (technical term meaning a lot) of chemical processes in your body. But you can only store a limited concentration of ATP in your blood/muscles/fluids.

So, it’s too bulky for long term storage.

Sugar (glucose) works better.

Glycogen (chains of glucose) work better.

Fat (chains of hydrogen and carbon) can be used to make both sugar and glycogen.

All of these require some break down in order to produce ATP, and all of them are being broken down constantly in our body to keep things running. Depending on the type and duration of any given activity, what gets broken down or used in what quantity all changes.

ATP concentration tries to stay level, but you will burn through strictly ATP in ~10 seconds. After that it goes to sugar, then glycogen, and after an hour and a half fat becomes dominant. Of course all of them are going on all the time, it’s just a matter of which one is dominant and how much of any fuel is getting burned.

Now, here’s the important bit: when processing sugar to make it ATP there are a ton of pathways. Google krebs cycle or citric acid cycle if you want to see some of them. One produces lactate which forms lactic acid.

Why?

Well because you need oxygen to break down glucose all the way and get the most ATP out of it. When you don’t have oxygen – jumping to lactate produces extra ATP while waiting for enough oxygen to get there. Lactate offers a few metabolic helps along the way – but that is really a distraction from the main point.

All of this I learned in Biochemistry 101 (it was not a 101 level course).

What it meant for swimming, I couldn’t have told you then. I had to read about what it means not in the swimming books. Instead, why this matters I found on various cycling and running websites. Mostly, I found it on cycling sites.

What it boils down down to is this: your lactate threshold is where you are working so hard you are burning ATP so fast that your body has to create lactate faster than it can be burned off. With regular training, the pace that you go when this happens changes. Pushing past this point is what gets you there – pushing past in measured amounts.

Next time, I’ll offer a couple of my theories regarding test sets (ways to figure out what pace this happens at for you), and why continuing to measure where your lactate threshold is over the course of training is important (one of my college coaches missed this memo).

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