Apr 042017
 

Time for the annual fantasy baseball draft recap.  This marks my 17th year in the league, running a standard 5×5 15-team mixed format with a snake draft.MyPicks2017  I was assigned the sixth pick in the draft, and came in with a strategy of trying to build a batting average cushion early, allowing me to take lower-average high-power batters later in the draft.  I also wanted to pick up a couple closers during the closer runs, even if it was a reach, as I hate chasing saves throughout the year and am quite terrible at it, as I head to bed too early to watch the results of the late-night games.

I had anticipated the first five picks going Trout, Betts, Altuve, Goldschmidt, and Arenado, leaving me to choose among Kris Bryant (not quite as proven as I would like this early with a hitter) or Clayton Kershaw, which is a wise pick, though I abhor taking a pitcher in the first round.  Secretly, I hoped the first five might shift a bit and give me a shot at Arenado (preferably) or Goldschmidt, though I’m worried Goldy won’t run as much this year with a new manager in Arizona.  To my surprise, however, the actual first five picks were Trout, Betts, Bryant, Goldschmidt, and Arenado.  That made it easy for me — Altuve’s fantastic average coupled with speed and a bit of power was too good to pass up, and it aligned perfectly with my preferred strategy.

Having gone with Altuve early, I definitely wanted a power first baseman in round two, and after watching Rizzo, E3, Votto and Miggy go off the board, was starting to get nervous I’d be shut out of that tier.  However, Freddie Freeman was still available at my turn, and I gladly picked him up.  I’ve been a FF fan for several years now, as I think he’s significant undervalued and compares favorably with Anthony Rizzo, and he also helps with my batting average early strategy.  No hitters were jumping out at me in round 3, so I went with the best available pitcher, Jon Lester, though I’m always concerned about his ability to hold runners, as well as the switch from his personal catcher, David Ross, to Willson Contreras.  On the way back in round 4, I saw an opportunity to grab another solid SP to help mitigate the Lester pick, and my target player, Chris Archer, went a few picks earlier.  I grabbed Justin Verlander at that point, figuring I was set on SP for the next couple rounds.

In round 5 my “value chart” showed Billy Hamilton was by far the most valuable commodity on the board, and I decided to take another risk and pick him… I’ve come in fairly high in the final league standings most years, but I haven’t won, and to take a real shot at a league win, I think you need to take some risks.  Hamilton has the potential to steal 90 bases… if only he could steal first base!

Round 6 saw the run of closers begin, and I grabbed Mark Melancon as the best of the available arms, knowing full well that was a bit of a reach.  Much as I’d like to punt saves, having picked two starters in rounds 3 and 4, I didn’t think I could afford to punt any category.  And of course, Melancon got lit up in his first appearance of the season.  Go figure.

Round 7 I was thrown off my game as I had been eyeing Justin Upton for another power bat, and thinking I could accomplish quite the steal here.  He was taken in the pick before mine, eliciting a groan and a bit of anxiety.  The last catcher in the next available tier was still available, though, and I went with Willson Contreras.  In Round 8 my initial strategy of building a batting average cushion started to pay off, as I was able to roster Khris Davis as one of the biggest power bats left on the board.  I picked up another starter at what I consider a great ‘price’ in round 9 in Kenta Made, then picked up my second closer, David Robertson, in round 10 on the return.  I’m not a huge Robertson fan by any stretch, and will have to hope he retains his role as opposed to moving into setup when he’s traded mid-season, but he appears to be by far the best closer available at that point, and they were running off the board quickly.

The next few rounds I used to shore up my positions, focusing on reasonable power and counting stats without taking too large a batting average hit.  That led to Jake Lamb in 11, Tim Anderson in 12, Kole Calhoun in 13, and Neil Walker as my middle infielder in 14 (though I was debating Walker vs. Schoop, Walker plays for the Mets, and they’re a local team that’s easy to catch on TV here, so I figured he’d be a bit more fun to roster as I could root for him live more often.)  Next up I noted that my list of ‘barely acceptable’ catchers was rapidly dwindling, and picked the last of that tier in Matt Wieters in round 15.  Wieters has yet to fulfill his perceived potential due to injuries and various setbacks, so I drafted him expecting an injury or two and depressed stats, but with the potential upside of the vaunted prospect of several years back.

In round 16 I took my third closer, Ryan Madson, hoping he would hold the job long enough for me to basically “rent” 15-20 saves to get me to my target, though recent news has Oakland in a committee-of-three setup, and Madson’s first outing was ugly.  Oops.

Returning to my goal of drafting cheap power late, I picked up Max Kepler in round 17, then grabbed Lance Lynn in round 18, hoping for a nice recovery from Tommy John Surgery last season and perhaps a late-round steal.  Getting back to position filling and power searching, I grabbed Justin Four in round 19 and Eugenio Suarez as my DH in round 20.  I needed a few more starters, so I took Hisashi Iwakuma in 21 hoping for a stable if not stellar innings eater to pick up some wins, and then Sonny Gray in 22.  My top starters should help balance them out early, coupled with a middle reliever corps to assist with ERA and WHIP.  I just have to remember this season not to compromise ERA and WHIP for higher-risk innings from marginal starters.

Finally, I picked up Denard Span as my final outfielder in round 23, providing the best balance of counting stats and power left on the board.  For my reserves, I grabbed Matt Bush as an ERA/WHIP guy who could slide into a closer role later in the year, Matt Andriese and Alex Wood as potential starters (though I dropped Wood shortly after hearing he was relegated to bullpen duty), Jurickson Profar as my “play anywhere” fill-in injury reserve, and Chris Carter as another fallback power option given the likelihood of Greg Bird faltering in his currently role with the Yanks.

Overall I’m reasonably happy with the draft.  I like my first two picks, and though I assumed some risk in Hamilton in round 5, it seemed a reasonable risk.  I’m not thrilled with my closers by any stretch, and I’m uncomfortable with Bour as my corner infielder, though the numbers say he’s a reasonable pick.  Now I just need to luck into some of my borderline starters exceeding expectations, have Lester keep it together without David Ross behind the plate, and hope a couple other details fall in place.  Regardless, another fun draft!

 

Feb 132017
 

Not long ago I acquired a Playstation VR (PSVR) which I set up in my basement office, and was asked to evaluate the system for potential educational applications.  Beyond that, my scope was wide open, though I was provided the opportunity to sample a variety of games on the system to get a feel for the potential of the system.  What follows are some general ramblings and thoughts about the system.

The Hardware

Playstation VR Headset and Camera

Playstation VR Headset and Camera

The tested system included a Playstation Pro console, a PSVR Launch Bundle (headset, two move controllers, camera, and appropriate cables), and external Playstation Gold headphones in place of the standard earbuds.  Included software included a Demo Disk, and Playstation VR Worlds Disk, and I utilized a store credit to try out several system games of my choosing.

First Impressions

Initially, I was somewhat disappointed in the resolution of the headset.  Though I had been forewarned that resolution wouldn’t be as sharp as an HD monitor, I was initially taken aback at the poor quality of the Playstation’s Main Menu rendering and the level of color aliasing I was seeing, especially in white text.  With 20/20 vision following Laser PRK corrective eye surgery nearly 20 years ago, this was a bit of a shock to the system that provided some initial disappointment.  I quickly found out, however, that this effect is especially bad in the Playstation Main Menu, and is not indicative of the system’s performance as a whole.  Further, with some time in the system, I found that placing the headset a touch lower over my nose (lower PSVR screens, higher eyes) improved sharpness considerably.  Still, though, after nearly 20 hours using the system, I would say the resolution of the system is adequate, but with substantial room for improvement in the future.

From an immersion standpoint, however, I was blown away.  After about two minutes in my first simulation, the VR Worlds “Ocean Descent” program, I was having a blast descending in a shark cage through the ocean.  It’s hard to convey just how immersive it is, as I swiveled my head back and forth, leaned forward over the bars of the cage to look down, and eventually jumped through my seat when a shark ran into the cage.  Further, the resolution concern quickly evaporates in actual gameplay.

From a comfort standpoint, I found the headband that holds the PSVR a bit tight, but fairly well balanced.  You don’t feel as though there is a weight on your head, and the over-the-ear headphones are a huge improvement over the included earbuds, though it is a bit of a trick to figure out how to put the PSVR headset on, followed by the earmuff-like headphones.  The cabling is a bit tricky to figure out while you are looking into the VR headset, but after a couple tries, you get a system down pretty easily.  The only lingering concern I had with the headset involved rubber nose flaps that push against the outside of your nose.  Try as I might, I couldn’t find a way to make them comfortable, and they pushed just enough on the outside of my nose that breathing was slightly impeded.  Just recently I finally decided to cut them off altogether with scissors, and am absolutely thrilled with the improvement in comfort.

One of the primary concerns with VR systems is the potential for nausea / motion sickness.  VR systems are so immersive that they trick your brain into thinking it’s moving, which may be in opposition to your other senses, leading to motion sickness.  I didn’t have any trouble with the Ocean Descent demo, though the first time I tried the “London Heist” demo, also on the Playstation VR Worlds Disk, a car chase scene had me feeling a little bit ‘off.’  I never became overly ill, but I was also careful to discontinue use of the PSVR anytime I began to feel the least bit queasy.  Other activities that led to queasiness included Driveclub VR (regular driving was OK, but spinning out upon collision forced me to quit immediately), and a few circumstances when the dog came between me and the camera during a game, in which tracking was lost and the PSVR displayed weird motions that weren’t accompanied by my head movements.  It has been reported by many that over time the motion sickness effect lessens as your brain becomes accustomed to the VR system.  My experience was consistent with these reports.  Finally, I found upon removing the nose flaps my breathing improves, I remained cooler during use of the system, and that also appears to have contributed to reduced nausea.  I should note here that another ‘trick’ to improving comfort levels is to have a fan blowing on your face while using the PSVR system.  I tried this recently as well and found it a nice enhancement.

Immersion

The immersion level in PSVR, from my standpoint, is amazing.  After you get over the “wow” factor in a game or simulation, you quickly begin to feel as if you are really there.  The surround sound headphones coupled with the extremely smooth tracking truly give you the feeling of being there.  The PSVR does appear to have an issue with drift over time, where the center focus area of your screen can lead you to looking off-center.  A button on the controller can be held to re-center the system, an act that becomes second nature over time, and at regular intervals I find myself closing my eyes and relaxing for a second while pressing the button, then re-opening my eyes to a fully re-centered view.

My most-recent PSVR expedition found me attempting the first AAA game release, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, completely in VR.  To begin with, the shortcomings of the graphics system previously detailed is nearly non-existent in this game, which leads me to believe many of my graphics concerns can be mitigated by software.  I should also note that I’m not typically a horror fan, though I do recall playing a Resident Evil game on a Playstation some 20-ish years ago.  To say this game induced an emotional response is an extreme understatement.  Though there are several “jump scares” throughout the game, this title doesn’t rely on them, and instead does a fantastic job of creating an environment of suspense and foreboding using the PSVR hardware.  You truly feel like you’re there, and I’m not ashamed to admit I nearly had to purchase new drawers when I was playing the game one evening and the dog jumped on my lap at an inopportune time.

With the goal of finishing a report on immersion by the end of February, I wanted to work through this entire game by mid-February, which totaled roughly 10 hours of in-game time.  Though I experienced one technical hiccup which required a reboot of the entire system, I completed the adventure yesterday.  I could continue talking about my thoughts on immersion, but I believe my habits around using the PSVR to play RE7 tell it all… after the first night, I told my wife I couldn’t play this after the kids went to bed… it was too creepy.  Instead I tried to sneak in an hour after dinner, or on weekend afternoons.  The immersion level is just that high.

Implications

Following this trial (which I’ll be continuing for some time), I’m now a believer that there are tremendous opportunities for the use of VR in education.  Though I don’t see this as a popular “in-class” tool in standard high school settings due to the cost/complexity/infrastructure required, I do think as an individual tool some amazing things could be accomplished.

Imagine a history class in which students don’t just read about the Battle of Gettysburg, but actually get to “live it” from various perspectives.  Envision a biology lesson in which you are miniaturized and travel through the bloodstream to various organs, seeing the operation of the heart from the inside (remember Inner Space, anyone?)  Or a virtual dissection for biology and anatomy classes.  Picture the ability to explore a nuclear reactor from the inside, with the ability to zoom in and ‘view’ the actual chemical and physical reactions as they occur, or traveling through a circuit as an electron.  Imagine viewing a surgical procedure from the standpoint of the operating physician!  You could explore the universe at will, or dive into the geology of the Earth from the inside.  The possibilities are limitless, though I imagine tools to build such simulations must evolve to the point that content instructors have content creation and distribution tools that will make the learning curve for such projects reasonably accessible.  I haven’t investigated this in-depth, but I would believe that such accessibility is a ways off, but getting closer every day.

Though not quite as immersive, I can also envision the use of this technology for distance learning courses, though there are challenges for this as well.  I imagine streaming or recording classes in a VR-friendly format may not be way off, but appropriate application will take significant further thought.  “Sitting in” on an MIT lecture and demonstration may be possible, but is it a significantly more engaging experience than a two-dimensional video cast of the course?  Would the VR technology and headset make note-taking and student work while participating in the class too restrictive?  What tools and interactivity would make this a positive leap in learning vs. a play area where the complexity overcomes the educational benefits?  It is extremely early, but I look forward to seeing how such amazing technology is utilized for purposes beyond just standard gaming.  And in the meantime, I’m having a blast not only trying out the technology, but envisioning potential applications for the future.

Jun 072016
 

So it’s been a few months, and I still miss my dog, but things are getting back to normal.  So much so, in fact, that a week ago we picked up our new family addition, a GoldenDoodle our 4-year-old has named “Casper.”  Not sure I was completely ready yet, but I think kids need a dog, and the two little ones are doing a great job of taking care of him so far.  Each day after school they go out back and run and play with the dog, the six-year-old will take him out to go potty, and they’re doing pretty well at helping with the things we ask them.  We’ll see how things go when I show them how to clean up the yard.  Might be a little pushback there.  🙂

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 10.42.44 AM

And so far, all things considered, the pup is doing well.  Has a penchant for getting messy and then hopping on furniture, but that’s part of being a puppy.

Anyhow, woke up early the other day and thought I’d mess around on my iPad for awhile when I couldn’t get back to sleep.  No masterpiece by any stretch, but it made me smile (though it’s mighty hard to draw a dog and make it look like it’s smiling, at least with my very meager skills.)  Make it a great day!

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Mar 162016
 

Last night I had to put my best friend down. Cricket, my 12-pound Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, has been my best friend for 13 years. She was the sweetest pup, was constantly by my side, slept with her head on my neck every night, and very, very rarely caused any trouble. Well, she did bite my mother-in-law once, but only because she was aiming for a English Bulldog that was harassing her and missed. Saying goodbye may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I think God will have prepared everything for our perfect happiness. If it takes my dog being there [in Heaven], I believe he’ll be there. — Rev. Billy Graham

I YngCricketfinished my master’s degree in the spring of 2003, which is when I bought Cricket from a breeder. I’d researched what kind of dog I wanted for years, and then saved for years, so that when I finished my thesis I could buy the perfect puppy, and that’s just what I got.

Cricket had to travel by plane to get to me, and I remember vividly going to the airport to pick her up from the special shipments office. I thought it funny that she arrived with a “Parcel Post” sticker. When I went to pick her up, I pulled her out of her crate in the airport and the poor dog was in miserable shape. She was supposed to have been let out for a walk between connections, which I don’t think happened, and she was smelly, filthy, and flea-ridden. The breeder, who I had researched fairly extensively as best I could and even checked references, had done a poor job. Further, Cricket had some other physical issues. She had a split lower jaw, and her eyes didn’t line up quite right.

I wasn’t sure what to think, but she needed love, and we got her home by holding our noses, opening the sun roof on my Honda Civic (in a freezing rain, but still better than dealing with the smell), got her home, and she immediately got a bath. Got her out of the tub, dried her off, and she still smelled. Bath #2. Now my poor little four-pound friend was just scared. I was sick with a fever, she couldn’t stop shaking, and the two of us just cuddled together on the couch for the weekend after a trip to the vet to check her out and get her all set up with shots and other necessities.

Our first year was a rough one. She was a bit of a challenge to house train — Rochester winters are mighty cold, and despite lots of shoveling, any amount of snow is rather unpleasant when you live that close to the ground. With a year of hard work and tethering (she stayed leashed to my belt at all times when I was home so I could get her outside fast if she had to go), she finally got the idea, and was uber-reliable ever since.

You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us. —Robert Louis Stevenson

As 05290001a puppy, she had some funny ideas about what was play and what was unpleasant. For her entire life, she was always scared of balls. Tennis balls, large balls, bouncy balls — she’d growl at them, glare at them, run from them, but had no use for them whatsoever. Her little squeaky cow toy, however, was her favorite object for fetch. I had hardwood floors in my townhouse, and she absolutely loved screaming down the hallway after that cow, skidding along the floor, and scrambling back. Even better, during the summer months, we’d go out back and run in the grass. Cricket would start sitting with me, I’d tell her to go, and she’d make a speedy lap around the back yard, jumping back into my arms at the end of every lap. Though I had a leash for her, it was never needed — she never wanted to be very far away.

Another favorite pastime was chasing ducks along the canal. We’d go for walks early on Saturday mornings, and many of the ducks sat and walked on the ground at the edge of the canal. Cricket seemed to think rather highly of herself (many of the ducks were roughly twice her size) by running through them and seeing them hop into the water out of her reach. Good man/dog bonding time there.

Geese, however, were another story. During our last few hours of bachelor hood, the day I got married, we went up to the lake to chase some ducks. She bit off a bit more than she could chew, though, as she tried to get a goose to jump into the water. The goose turned around, squawked, and ran a few steps at her. Cricket’s “fierce” evaporated as she turned tail and fled toward me, jumping from the ground directly into my chest in one giant leap. I’d never seen hops like that on a dog. The rest of the day went much smoother for both of us.

When 12070008I got married, Cricket quickly acclimated to my wife, and eventually to our two young daughters, but she was always my dog. I was the one who took her out the moment I got home each day, in the middle of the night, and early every morning, as dogs just don’t seem to understand weekends. I was the one she slept on each evening, though she did seem to love sleeping on my wife’s pillow when it was unoccupied.

And for a tiny little dog, she packed a ton of personality. Her favorite word was pizza, and I clearly remember working on a paper while eating pizza one evening and hearing the doorbell ring. I left Cricket on the bed several feet away from the pizza with a stern “stay,” thinking this would be a good test of her training. I ran downstairs, took care of the doorbell, and returned to see my very good dog exactly where I had left her. It was only on closer inspection I noticed the ring of red sauce around her mouth. She thought she’d pulled quite the fast one.

If there is a heaven, it’s certain our animals are to be there. Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them. — Pam Brown

She never barked for someone at the door, typically only barking (a single yip) when she wanted out or up on a lap and couldn’t reach on her own, though as she got older, she did delight in barking at my wife to go out, realizing she’d get a treat when she got back in. As Cricket trained my wife, the pup soon realized that more barks meant more trips outside which meant more treats. It led to a little friction and feuding between my wife and the pup. Occasional yips during dinner when Cricket thought she deserved a plate led to her occasionally getting a timeout (just as our girls received for misbehaving). She was a member of the family.

Cavalier 07270009King Charles Spaniels are sometimes known as comforter spaniels, and Cricket was also a comfort-loving spaniel. Another of her favorite toys was her teddy bear. She would drag her teddy bear all over the house, to wherever I was, so she could cuddle with the bear and I together. Likewise, she loved her (my) flannel sheet. As she got a bit older, and grew out of her puppy phase, games like fetch became less enticing, but pulling my flannel sheet off the bed and dragging it to a sunny spot on the floor so she could cuddle up on it with the sun beating down on her was a favorite activity.

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went. ― Will Rogers

Cricket holds a special place in my heart that grew and grew over the years, and I can’t imagine a more loyal or loving friend. She was what I needed when I was happy, sad, frustrated, despairing, scared, uncertain, disappointed, and confused. And she could always tell when she was needed. Never before (or since) have I met a dog that liked to give hugs. Cricket would quite regularly climb up on my chest, put a paw on either side of my neck and snuggle in. And her method for waking me up or letting me know she wanted something was unique too. Instead of barking or pawing at me, she’d climb up and lay her neck across my mouth so I couldn’t breath. Not sure where she learned it, but effective.

She IMG_0020_2lived a solid 13 years, and though she slowed down as she got older, her quality of life was fantastic for most of those 13 years. Only the in past month to six weeks did I really notice a sharp degradation in her mobility, her appetite, and her wakefulness. She moved more slowly, slept more, and ate less. The past week was especially tough. Sleeping most of the day, little eating, not wanting to go out, and she was extra special clingy. I think she knew it was coming, and I did too.

For those who love dogs, it would be the worst form of a lie to call any place where dogs were banned “Paradise.”  Certainly no loving God would separate people from their canine friends for eternity. — Stanley Coren, dog psychologist

This past week my wife had to go out of town for work, leaving me at home with Cricket and our daughters. Cricket had been taking a turn for the worse, but started degrading very quickly on Sunday evening. That night she slept with me in our bed, and not only did she sleep on my neck like normal, she constantly snuggled in all evening and kept giving me hugs. Anytime I rolled or moved even an inch, she resnuggled in to get as close as possible. It was my last night to snuggle with her, and in hindsight I think it was quite a blessing.

The IMG_0589next evening I’d picked her up some baby food for dinner — she hadn’t been eating her regular food, and I hoped one of her favorite treats would get her going again. She wouldn’t touch it. After dinner, she started vomiting, shaking, and didn’t even have the energy to move away from the mess. I called the vet and despite not having any openings, they said I could bring her in right away. I think I knew what the answer would be, but I couldn’t let her stay in pain that way.

My two little ones were very good about it, and we went to the vet’s office with them in their pajamas. I can’t say enough great things about how Clark Animal Care Center in Penfield dealt with the situation. My little girls were able to play and read in the kids area, while Cricket and I entered an exam room a few feet away, with the door cracked so I could hear my kids while one of the office workers helped keep an eye on them.

The doc and her assistant were very gentle and understanding with both Cricket and myself, and after an examination, the doc said what I already knew was coming… it was time. I brought Cricket out to say goodbye to the girls, telling them that Cricket was going to have to stay at the vet’s office. They both had an opportunity to pet and kiss Cricket, then I took her back into the exam room where they gave her a sedative. I laid on the floor and held her like we normally went to sleep for five minutes or so, when the doctor returned and asked if I was ready. I gently laid Cricket on the table and nuzzled her head while they administered the final drug. Thirty seconds later, it was done.

She died as she had been born and as she had lived, in my care, and surrounded by those who loved her. — Vicki W. Fowler

It took a few minutes to compose myself, as I really couldn’t speak or do anything but nod my head. The doc told me I could leave whenever I wanted, they’d take care of everything, and we’d handle any further paperwork later. The girls and I went home, and after I got them to bed, it was a very long night.

I’m still not sure quite how to process all this, and I know there aren’t really any good methods other than to realize it’s just going to take some time. In the meantime, it helps a bit to recognize how Cricket was an amazing part of my life, how lucky I was to have the time that I did with her, and how much of that unconditional love I carry with me.

For the soul of every living thing is in the hand of God. — Job 12:10

I’m 100_0048sure this is a corny post to many, but somehow I felt I needed to write down and share some of this, even if no one ever reads it. Some self therapy, perhaps, that maybe could help someone else someday. Or maybe it just helps me for today. I’m really not up for too much deep thinking or profundity right now. There’s a hole inside, and I think it’s OK that it’s there. I’m not really ready for it to go away just yet. What I do know is that Heaven’s population just gained the sweetest dog ever, and I know someday, hopefully far into the future, there’ll be a bouncy 12-pound Cavalier waiting to give me a doggy hug when I step through the gates. Thank you Cricket. I’ll miss you.

Apr 102015
 

So, I recently finished my fantasy baseball draft in my 15th year in the league.  It’s a 14-team 5×5 mixed league snake draft, where I ended up with the number one pick.

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Of course, I had to take Mike Trout #1.  He’s the industry consensus, and he brings a great mix of speed, power, average, run scoring, and RBIs, coupled with consistency.

My strategy from there was to then pick up a starting pitcher somewhere else with my next three picks, and also thought I could steal Carlos Santana as a catcher (10-game eligibility in our league) at the end of the 4th/start of the 5th rounds.  Past that, going into the draft I wanted to keep my average high early, pick up a few power bats, and make sure I grabbed two solid closers, as I hate chasing saves throughout the year.  I also wanted to grab my catchers fairly early and get some real production, at the expense of waiting until late for my middle infielders, where I believe there are a large quantity of similar quality players late in the draft.  However, a few minutes into the draft, that general plan went kablooey.

It then was a long wait to my second pick.  I had hoped to pick up Adrian Beltre, Buster Posey, or any of a number of players, but when I saw Ellsbury still on the board, as well as Chris Sale, I switched strategies.  Ellsbury and Trout gave me two outfielders early, but should put me in a great place with a combination of speed and power.  Put them together and you’re looking at two .290, 20 HR, 30 steal guys who also deliver in terms of runs and RBIs.  And with Chris Sale still on the board, my pick as the #2 pitcher in the AL, I picked him as well.

Waiting for my next picks, Carlos Santana was next off the board (shucks, that was quick!), then Adrian Gonzalez and Freddie Freeman followed shortly thereafter, somewhat as expected.  By the time my pick came around again, I was amazed to see V-Mart still on the board, so I grabbed him as another BA guy with some power, and then with Cole Hamels on the board, a seemingly perennial pick on my team, I couldn’t let him get past.  Two starters early, sure, but Sale and Hamels sure makes a great quality combo, and with a strong possibility for Hamels to land on a contender sometime this year (BoSox anyone?), he could be a great value.

Next, closers started flying off the board, but I restrained myself, so that when my pick at the end of round 6 came up, Pablo Sandoval, another favorite of mine, was still on the board.  Given the Red Sox lineup, I think Sandoval is a fairly safe bet for a .280 average, 20-ish home runs, and decent run production, but with significant upside in the batting average department given his supporting cast and home park.  Another favorite of mine, Hisashi Iwakuma, is highly underrated as a starter in my opinion, and though I could have perhaps waited another round to get him, I knew of at least two other team owners in our league who are fans of his, and they each had TWO more opportunities after this round to pick him up, so I grabbed him when I could.

Coming up to my round 8/9 picks, it looked like time to start picking up my catchers.  I ranked Sal Perez, Yan Gomes, and Devin Mesoraco all fairly evenly, but believe Perez would likely get the most at bats and have the highest upside, so he was my pick in round 8.  Next, I wanted to grab another power bat, and J.D. Martinez of the Tigers looked like quite a bargain at the top of round 9.  Coming back around, the closer ranks were thinning quickly, so I grabbed Glen Perkins of Minnesota as a “safe” closer, coupled with my second catcher, Brian McCann, whom I expect to have a reasonable comeback season.

At this point, I really needed a bit more power out of my CI spot, and Adam LaRoche was the best bat available according to my predictions.  Phil Hughes was also on the board as a starter, and though I don’t expect a ton of wins with the anemic Twins offense, his solid ratio contributions are great filler here (I hope!).  At the next turn I saw closers were rapidly depleting, so I grabbed Koji Uehara as a slight injury risk with high skills, and coupled that with Santiago Casilla, recognizing I’d have to handcuff Casilla with Sergio Romo a bit later.

Aramis Ramirez was my next pick, providing a reasonable average and counting stats batting cleanup out of Milwaukee.  He’s also expected to get a few more days off this year, which may actually improve his fantasy value.  Carl Crawford was still on the board here as well, and I like his opportunity to rebound a bit with a few more at-bats this season.  He’s still a young guy!

Still light on speed, I grabbed Emilio Bonifacio in the next round, providing some general backup for injuries across the middle infield and outfield, coupled Alex Cobb as the best starter still on the board.  Yes, Cobb’s hurt, but I’m hopeful he’ll be back on the mound by May, which should coincide with about the time Brett Anderson typically gets hurt.  So I planned to pick up Anderson to cover April in the reserve rounds, and drop him once Cobb comes back.

Now, it’s time to fix up that middle infield stuff.  Bradley Miller became my shortstop, and I picked up Marcus Semien as an upside play in round 22, recognizing Semien would be eligible at 3B, 2B, and SS after the season starts.  Now I have a team that is fairly flexible in terms of injury management with backups available across a variety of positions.  In round 23 I grabbed Kevin Kiermaier as my last outfielder — yes, he’s mostly known for his defense, but I still needed speed, and with reasonable playing time he could provide some solid contributions out of the final draft slot.

Next, reserve time.  I picked up a couple starters to cover for the injured Sale, Uehara, and Cobb picks with CC Sabathia, Clay Buchholz (who it turns out is the BoSox opening day starter) and Bud Norris.  Luis Valbuena from Houston was also a late pick, providing some potential power from the infield spots and more flexibility, even if I don’t expect much from his average.

Looking back, I’m most concerned about the round 3 pick of Ellsbury.  I was thinking strongly of taking Adrian Gonzalez there, but saw an opportunity to pick up a player I could see on TV quite regularly (the Yankees’ YES network is available from our cable provider) and picked him more out of “fun” than strategy.  Getting VMart right after him was great, but a combo of Gonzalez and V-Mart together could have been quite the pick.  Uehara is a risky closer pick, which could be terrific, or a complete waste in round 14.  I expect he’ll hit the DL a couple times during the season, but I like his skill set and he’s fun to watch.

I’ve placed in the upper spots in this league fairly regularly over the past 10 seasons or so, but haven’t won yet.  This year I decided it was worth taking some risks and shooting for #1, even if it meant some bad luck would drop me way out of contention.  I think I’ve put myself in a position where the team could excel, but it also comes with risk.  Three top pitchers are injury risks before the season even begins, and I gambled on pushing off middle infield until late in the draft, instead picking up catchers (who tend to be inherently risky) fairly early.  Time will tell!

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Aug 212014
 

I just recently passed my one year anniversary at Crossfit Recourse, and thought it worthwhile to take a few minutes to share my thoughts on the ongoing adventure.  Amazing how things have changed in one year (142 crossfit workouts).

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So… to begin, following the onramp last fall, I slowly fell into the swing of the regular crossfit workouts.  As I look back at my journal of the WODs, it’s rather apparent to me that even the regular classes were slowly ramping up throughout the year, as all of the members were fairly new.  As we progressed into the winter, my fitness got better and better, and I was able to deal with heavier weights, higher boxes, etc., to the point that I was able to Rx some of the workouts in the winter (Rx is crossfit lingo for doing them as prescribed, at the “big boy” weights.)

I was also slowly getting to the point where upcoming workouts weren’t a focus.  I’d go to bed at night and wouldn’t worry all night about what the next morning would bring, and I didn’t worry nearly as much about getting to bed extra special early, avoiding all food after 6 pm in fear of throwing up the next day, etc.  Crossfit instead was becoming a part of my day instead of a focus of the day.

As we progressed, Chris also began adding additional classes.  The incorporation of a 4:15 pm class made things MUCH easier for me, as I wasn’t having to get up at 4:40 in the morning to make the 5:15 am class, which meant I was around to help get the kids ready for school in the morning, and it was very convenient to leave school at 3:40 in the afternoon, get my crossfit workout in, pick up my girls from school, and head home to get cleaned up and have dinner.  It just fit into the routine much better.

And month by month, I was feeling stronger, better, more confident… but it couldn’t just be that easy.

Around November I started having a lot of trouble with my shoulder again.  It’s never been good — I had rotator cuff surgery (with some extra “features”) in late ’99 and it had never been the same, but now I was having even more trouble — every now and then my shoulder would lock up or for a short period becoming exceedingly painful.  But it was intermittent.  Volleyball on Thursday nights was getting tougher and tougher, and I was getting gun shy at crossfit about lifting heavier weights, nervous that my shoulder might lock up at the wrong time and I’d drop something heavy on myself or someone else.

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A trip to the orthopod wasn’t overly helpful either.  I was sent to physical therapy for a few weeks, with a follow-up appointment scheduled.  I did my PT, though the therapist even said surgery was required, this wasn’t going to fix anything.  I got the MRI — the doc was much friendlier after seeing the pictures.  And shortly thereafter I was scheduled for surgery in April — hopefully just clean things up in the shoulder, as the previous damage was significant and not everything could be fixed.

Surgery was pretty straightforward.  I even snuck in a crossfit workout the morning before I had to go in to the hospital.  Doc said everything worked out, they were able to pull out a bunch of scar tissue and old sutures that should eliminate the “catching” issue in my shoulder.  Based on what he found, however, he wasn’t sure I’d play volleyball again, or do crossfit… only time would tell.

I started back at PT a few days later with a wonderful therapist who worked me hard, realizing I had pretty lofty goals.  After a couple weeks she even allowed me to go back to crossfit, though I was limited to one arm for a couple weeks, then light weights on the arm for a couple weeks, etc.  At least I was able to keep doing something, in an effort not to regress too far.  After a while she kicked me out, said we’d done what we needed to as far as strengthening that shoulder, and I could get back to crossfit and continue my PT exercises on my own.

The next trip back to the doctor wasn’t as promising, however.  Following a brief observation, the doc said all was going as expected, and that I could begin to do a few crossfit exercises (things I’d been doing for weeks at this point).  Also I could start playing volleyball – I wasn’t going to do any more damage to my shoulder, though things might be uncomfortable, and I’d have to see whether I’d be able to play anymore.

So, a few days later I had my first volleyball tournament of the year.  I didn’t hit the ball much, and the few times I tried to stretch were pretty painful, but I made it to the day in a limited capacity.  When we got to playoffs, however, my arm was shot.  Could barely get it above my head.  Shucks.

Since then I’ve subbed on our volleyball team twice, and each time I’ve been left in pretty rough shape the couple days after.  I’m going to try it once more tonight, but if things continue the way they have, I might need to take the next session off as well to see what I can do.

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I have been getting back to crossfit, however, and have started working back to higher weights again.  Hand Stand Push-Ups will never be on the docket again, I’ve been told, due to a missing rotator cuff muscle from the ’99 surgery, and snatches / overhead squats will have to be very light weights, but at least I’m back in the gym.  And Tuesday I matched my previous personal record clean of 185 pounds.  And in all honesty, thought I failed at my 190 pound attempt, it wasn’t due to lack of strength, but rather lack of form.  I’m looking forward to crushing that PR again sometime in the near future.

So some things are working, and some aren’t.  Plank holds the other day were excruciating (we modified them to V-holds), yet push-ups, man-makers, and overhead DB lunges worked today (I was weak, but it wasn’t painful).  Thankfully, the instructor has been exceedingly helpful in providing modifications to exercises to allow me to continue to push myself without fear of injury.

Since then, I’ve been working on getting back up to speed, even attending a couple extra classes per week.  It’s been a bit frustrating, especially as I notice that outside of just shoulder strength, I’ve been struggling more and more with the cardio/endurance aspect of workouts.  I’m not sure if that’s due to the forced slowdown after surgery, being worn out in the summer months with all our activities and shifting schedules, or maybe even just an aspect of getting older.  Regardless, I’ve now made it through 142 crossfit workouts, and each and every one challenges me both mentally and physically.  I still can’t say as I find the workouts themselves fun (well, at least not most of them), but every time I finish I feel a sense of accomplishment, having completed something I didn’t think I could do.  There’s a moment in every workout when I think to myself how easy it would be to quit now, that I’m “toasted,” that I’ve got nothing left.  And every time the coaching and the community around me convinces me I can give just a little bit more.

So what’s it all mean?  I really can’t say as I’ve figured it out yet.  I’d love to be able to say that I love crossfit.  But I’m not sure that’s accurate.  The workouts are varied, and challenging, and good for me… but I don’t really find them “fun” as a whole.  I find the coaches fun.  I find the other members fun and supportive.  I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when I’ve completed a workout, the slow ache all day that tells me I did something great early that morning.  

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I do find some of the exercises fun.  I love doing cleans — not sure why, but it seems to have just the right mix of strength and form, and I can easily observe that I have significant room to improve in both areas that I’ll be able to see as I improve my personal records.  I used to enjoy the kipping pull-ups, though at the moment my shoulder isn’t ready to do them, so I’m relegated to the modified ring rows.  Those are frustrating, but they’re my path back to the regular pull-ups, so they have a purpose, so I’ll keep at it.  Thrusters make me sad.  Dumbbell thrusters are just plain evil.  But they’re good for me.

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And I can tell I’m getting back in shape.  I lost close to 30 pounds last fall.  I put close to 20 pounds back on (though I think it’s muscle, and in different places).  My shirts fit differently.  My pants are harder to buy… though my waist size has come down, my legs don’t fit in my drawers in a comfortable way anymore — may have to start paying more attention to the “fit” as I buy jeans and dockers.

I love how the community is so supportive.  I appreciate how the instructor coaches and cares about each individual member, tailoring our work to our needs.  I enjoy pushing myself and challenging myself each and every time I walk in.  And I know this is what is going to help make sure I can stick around to be with my girls as long as I can.  So I’ll keep going, keep working, keep sweating, bleeding and crying.  Because it’s good for me.

 

Jul 182014
 

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It’s my last day on the west coast following two weeks of recording at the Educator.com studios in Los Angeles.  I’ve completed filming of the AP Physics C: Mechanics and the AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism courses, and roughly 18 months ago finished recording the AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 course sequences.  At the conclusion of this massive effort, I thought it fitting to take a few minutes and summarize what I’ve learned from the experience.

First, I’m amazed at the total amount of content involved in these projects when all was said and done.  The AP Physics 1/2 course includes more than 930 slides, and the AP Physics C total is up over 950.  Coupled with diagrams, formulas, and illustrations, these represent roughly a year’s worth of full-time effort, squeezed in to an already busy schedule with early morning work, weekends, and middle-of-the-night can’t sleep sessions.

Second, I’ve recognized how challenging the content truly is for the AP-C course.  I had some of the content prepared already from my APlusPhysics videos, yet it still took me more than 5 months to create the more-detailed Educator.com lessons.  I designed each lesson in detail, and even made notes on what I would discuss, derive, and explain on each individual slide.  When I reached the studios in LA, however, I still had tons of preparation work to do.  Each day I rehearsed every lesson three times before filming.  I’d go over the lessons in detail (including solving all problems and writing out all derivations in my notebook) over an extended dinner each night in the hotel, then go back to my hotel room and do it all again while listening to a baseball game before bed.  Early the following morning, I’d get up around 5 am and go through it once more before our 9- or 10-am filming session would begin.  Once filming for the day was complete, I’d do it all again in preparation for the next set of lessons.  I wonder if I didn’t do more physics homework in my two weeks of filming in LA than my students do in an entire year.

I found as I went through this that every time I solved a free response problem or walked through a derivation, I found slightly different methods of solving the problem.  Some were smoother than others; some were longer than others.  Even though my final passes were usually “cleaner” than my initial solutions, I tried to stick with my initial solutions in the videos to better mirror the approach students might take.

Even with all that preparation, the recording sessions were still quite stressful.  In walking through the lessons, there were technical components to the presentation that were fairly unforgiving.  Hit the wrong button in the wrong order and you’d have to start all over again.  Switch colors and then switch slides before writing and you’d have to do it all over again. Cough, sneeze, or forget where you are in a lecture or stump yourself — you got it, do it all again.  Thankfully, I’d had quite a bit of experience in this sort of thing from my previous trip out to LA to record the AP-1/2 series, so the amount of “re-do” work was kept to a minimum due to all that preparation.  But recording four hours of video lessons sure felt like a 12+ hour day.

In addition, I still found the AP-C material challenging.  In my classroom, I prepare with 42-minute lessons, and the longest I ever lecture in a row is one entire 42-minute period (and I try to avoid that like the plague).  Here, the lessons are straight lecture, with no breaks, no edits, no room for error.  That leaves a lot of material to have down cold while also dealing with technical concerns.  My detailed noted were invaluable, and I referred to them throughout my lectures to make sure I covered all the salient points in each slide, as well as having calculations pre-solved, as opposed to making viewers wait while I punched numbed into my calculator.  With my preparation, my time between lessons was approximately 10 minutes or so to get a quick drink, review the slides for the next lesson for any last-minute issues, and allow the technical folks to prepare the studio for the next round.  Others in the studio, however, would take extended time between recording lessons in order to prepare.  They had the luxury as they were fairly local to the studios, and could spread their recording work out over months.

Working through these courses from start to finish in such a detailed manner in such a compressed time span provides a unique perspective on the course.  Each lesson is designed to present a concept as simply as possible, illustrate that concept, and then demonstrate its application in a variety of scenarios.  In creating these courses I solved every released AP-C free response problem going back to 1998, as well as a scattering of earlier problems.  With the entire breadth of the course fresh in my mind, I’m confident the foundational principles emphasized in the course provide excellent preparation for students taking the AP Physics C exams.  

One of my goals in creating these courses was to provide a much more streamlined video series than their previous video series.  Their previous courses totaled 48 hours for mechanics, and 41 hours for electricity and magnetism.  My goal was to cut each of those at least in half, allowing students to minimize their time watching videos, and instead maximize their time actively working with the material.  I haven’t seen the final count for the new courses, but I’m confident we’ll be close, if not under, our target.

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I’m also excited that the College Board will be allowing students the use of formula sheets and calculators throughout the entire exam next year.  Even after studying and preparing all day every day for weeks, I still referenced my formula sheets and notes in solving problems and preparing.  Memorizing formulas does not constitute learning or understanding, and removing the requirement to have all these formulas memorized will allow students to better focus on what is important.

Finally, I knew being gone from my family for two weeks would be difficult.  I have a two-year-old and a four-year-old daughter at home, and they are already growing up way too fast.  I treasure my time with them, especially our time in the summer when Daddy-Daughter Day Care includes swimming, playing around out back in the sandbox and water table, riding bikes, playground time, and so on.  But it’s been even tougher than I expected.  I’m so thankful for modern technology which allows me to see them and talk to them each day, but when your little girls says all she wants is you to curl up in bed with her after story time at night, it tugs on your heart strings something fierce.

I’m proud of what we’ve put together here at Educator.com through these efforts, and hopeful that students across the world will find these videos helpful in their studies.  I’m also excited to know that I will be able to use these resources with my students in the coming years.  I’m relieved to have finished this project, eager to refocus my efforts on other projects such as revisions to AP Physics 1 Essentials and completing AP Physics 2 Essentials, but most importantly, I can’t wait to get home and hug my girls.

Mar 272014
 

So I’ve been extremely lacking in updating this blog, but it seems like it’s time you got an update.  The last update was my first real “big league” crossfit workout.  This update comes the morning after I finished my 90th workout.

Since last fall, I’ve continued with crossfit three days a week at Crossfit Recourse.  Many days have started out with the alarm going off at 4:30 am to make it to the 5:15 am class.  Many others have been the newer 4:15 p.m. class.  And, on those nifty teacher-days-off when the rest of the world is working, the 9:30 am class has been fun.  I’ve enjoyed hitting the various classes as it gives me a chance to meet a bunch of folks I might not otherwise have a chance of connecting with.

So, I can definitely see a difference from when I started.  Six weeks after I began crossfit I was down 25 pounds, a weight I have pretty much maintained, though I can feel a consistent migration from flab to muscle at the same weights.  I’ve also seen the weights I work with during the workouts consistently increase, to the point now where I have a reasonable shot at doing a good number of the workouts “as prescribed” (Rx).  Not all, mind you, but it’s at least a point of consideration each time I walk into the gym.

I feel better in general, and a number of my regular aches and pains have definitely improved.  Prior to starting crossfit I was having regular problems with my right knee, but have been doing MUCH better since getting in shape.  My right shoulder underwent a substantial surgery 15 years ago that has left me sore and in pain for years.  Since I started crossfit the regular dull ache has subsided considerably.  Unfortunately, I now have acute intermittent pain in that shoulder attributed to something floating around in the shoulder capsule that will need to be removed, but that looks like an artifact of the surgery 15 years ago, not related to my new fitness habit.  Two days ago we did a workout where I ended up doing 95 pull-ups, 190 push-ups, and 270 air squats.  Shoulder was fine.  Yesterday the workout involved push pressing 145 pounds overhead, as well as a bunch of 135-pound cleans.  No problem.  This morning zipping up my coat on the way to work left my shoulder in agony.  So it’s time to get it fixed, surgery is scheduled, and I’m most concerned about backtracking after working so hard the past months to get back in shape.

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The workouts have also started to become fun.  OK, not thrilling, not “look forward to it all day” fun, but sense of accomplishment-fun.  And the community of athletes in the gym is outstanding.  We have young’ins.  We have senior citizens.  We have teachers.  We have cops.  We have bartenders.  We have laborers.  We have bosses, and we have bossees. It doesn’t matter — the entire group, every single person I’ve met, is supportive of everyone else.  It’s a highly differentiated group all with the same goal — to improve ourselves and help each other.  And that makes it fun.

And the instructor, Chris, continues to amaze me with his individual attention to helping everyone achieve their goals.  He shares in our goals through each and every workout, helping push us where needed, pull us back when we’re about to do something less than brilliant, and providing general direction as we set goals and then work to achieve them.

What I’m most amazed at is the ongoing level of challenge.  Yesterday was my 90th workout.  Every single workout has pushed me to the point where, at some point in the workout, I think to myself “I can’t do this, it’s time to stop and take a break.”  And every single time, I’ve found a way to push through.  Crossfit is a physical endeavor, yes, but the major challenge each day is mental.  Finding a way to keep going when the rest of your body has long since passed its comfort zone.  And so far, I’ve been able to make it through. Every.  Single.  Time.  That’s not to say you want to push yourself through to the point of doing something dumb and hurting yourself, but there’s a difference between moving past what you think you can do, and moving past what is safe.  And our instructor keeps a very careful eye to help us make sure we keep safety a top priority.

I have two more weeks before I undergo shoulder surgery which will pull me out of crossfit for several months.  I’m dreading the backward slide I know I’ll have to work through, and all the work I’ll have to repeat to get back to where I was before.  That will be another challenge.  Finding the motivation to push through to get back to where I was, when I know how tough it was the first time, and how hard I worked.  But I’ve gone 90 workouts so far where I’ve given everything I had, to the point where I’m nearly dragging myself off the floor as I leave the gym.  I can’t see stopping now, and I’m counting on that great community surrounding me to help keep me focused and on track!

Sep 022013
 

So, my first “real” Crossfit workout, having graduated to the big leagues.  It was a pretty busy gym, as there was only one workout for the day at 9 am due to the holiday.  Everybody was very friendly on their way in, introducing themselves and smiling.  Now on to the workout.

Our warm-up consisted of three consecutive rounds of:

  • 10 tuck jumps
  • 10 KB swings
  • 5 burpees
  • 5 plank walks
  • 20 jumping jacks

This was a fairly challenging warm-up.  The tuck jumps weren’t too bad to begin with, and the kettle bell swings are still kind of fun, even if I’m pretty pooped with 10 of them at the higher weights I’ve been moving up to.  I still hate burpees, and the push-ups incorporated in those combined with the push-ups in the middle of the plank walks had me struggling by round 3.  Twenty jumping jacks sound pretty easy, but this was the first time I was struggling to finish those instead of using those as in-workout rest.  I wasn’t the last one done with the warm-up, but was pretty close.  But, it got done.

Our “sermon” for the day was five sets of 3 back squats at roughly 70% of our max weight, but doing them slowly.  Moving down at a 2-second pace, with a 1-second hold at the bottom, then a 2-second push back up.  My partner and I used 135 pounds, which wasn’t quite 70% of my max, but was a touch more than his, so it worked out pretty well.  Working hard, but survived.  On to the WOD (Workout of the Day).

Today’s WOD was a partner workout, with a list that seemed to go on and on.  The goal was to have one partner always working, the other resting, and switching off as needed when one became pooped.  Here’s the list:

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  • 50 box jumps @ 24″
  • 50 pull-ups (jumping pull-ups after my first 2 strict)
  • 50 35?-lb KB swings
  • 50 step walking lunge (45 lbs then 35 lbs)
  • 50 knees to elbows
  • 50 push-presses @65 lbs then 45 lbs.
  • 50 wall-ball shots @ 14/10 lbs
  • 50 burpees
  • 50 side jumps (or double-unders)
  • 400m carry run (or both could run but carry 3 tires)

I started with the box jumps, and my partner, Rich, swapped off with me every 10.  That 24″ height is a bit daunting (Rx was 30″) but we made it.  The 50 pull-ups was a nice switch as my legs were beat, but, as usual, I was definitely struggling by the end.  Rich was having more trouble, so I pulled a couple extra here, then we moved into the KB swings.  Here we went in batches of 15 first, then down to 10s.  Next was the walking lunge.  We began with 35 lbs, but had to switch to 25 partway through.  I lasted two sets of 10 with 35, and finished up with 10 at 25.  On to the knees-to-elbows.  I really hate these, though I know they’re good for me.  Rich really picked it up here, though, and we continued through alternating in sets of 10.  I led off the push-presses with 10 @ 65 lbs, which was pretty challenging.  Rich followed and made it through 8.  I pulled the third round and pushed out 10, then we pulled the weights off the bar.  Rich pushed out another 10, and I finished up with 12 as we moved to the wall ball.  Here Rich was still struggling again, whereas I do OK with the wall-ball (probably due to the volleyball background), so I picked up the slack here a bit before we moved into burpees.  Rich managed to do six in his first round, and I followed up with 10, but was wicked gassed.  Back to Rich, and he eeked out another 10, and I followed with another 10.  Rich managed 6 in the next round, and I finished us up to get to 50, but was starting to get pretty dizzy/nauseous by this point.  Moving into side jumps, Rich led off with 10, then I pulled 20 (again, volleyball training probably helping my legs, but still dizzy).  We finished up each with 10 and 10, then on to the 400m carry run.  At this point, carrying each other probably wasn’t the greatest idea (I was dizzy and nauseous, Rich thought he might pass out).  Here Rich really shined and made up ground, though.  I started with one tire and he took two for the first 100m (which was a LONG 100 m).  When I went to switch with him, he kept going.  When we hit the 200m mark, I took both tires and he took one.  By now everyone else had finished, and many of them were running with us, encouraging us to keep going.  I made it about 100m before I had to start walking (though my jog was nearly a walk previously).  Rich grabbed the extra tire on his way past, and he and I managed to jog the last 100m in, Rich with both tires, while I carried 1.  Total time: 30:59.  I was absolutely soaked, covered in filth, complete exhausted, and glad to be done!

Sep 012013
 

Walked into today’s session fairly excited about the “Total” workout, in which we would determine my maximum lifting weights.

We started out with a short “dynamic” warm-up, which included a jog back and forth across the gym, high knees back and forth across the gym, kick backs, bear crawl, skipping, Russian march, etc., by far the easiest warm-up, all designed to stretch me out.

Our workout consisted of three phases.  Finding my one-rep max on back squats, dead lifts, and strict press.  For each exercise we had 15 minutes.

Beginning with back squats, we started with just the bar, where I did five or six reps, then as the weight went up, slowly decreased the reps.  Between each set of weights we weighted 60 to 90 seconds.  Maximum weight was 215, though it took us close to 20 minutes to get to that weight.  This was pretty close to Chris’s prediction, as he figured I would be able to back squat my weight, dead lift about 1.5x my weight, and strict press half my weight.

The dead lift went a bit more quickly.  I finished up at 345, though with the last few weights I could feel as though I was using my back more than I should, which made 345 a great place to stop.  It took us about 15 minutes to work up to this one.

The strict press went much more quickly.  I started out with just the bar, then we slowly added weights up to 115.  I took a shot at 120, but the bar just refused to make it all the way up, so I dropped it and we called today a success.

Total Workout Score: 215+345+115 = 675.  It’ll be interesting to see how this changes in the coming months!  At the end of this workout, Chris explained that I had graduated from the OnRamp program, and was now eligible to join the regular Crossfit workouts.  This is good news, but also a bit scary… time will tell!

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