Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I take requests

New program. Working on maximal strength in this phase.

5 min. treadmill
Foam Roll
3 sets of jump rope



Barbell Good Mornings

Weighted Dips

Met with the wife and kiddo and worked on my open stone for a little bit. I have a very small coach:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I bought some tights

Working out is just an excuse to use caffeine.

Push Press
Didn't really warm up properly, just did 3 sets at 65 lb.
205x2 - Just for fun

I messed around a little trying to figure out where I stand in terms of push press strength. 205 was a little tough after the work sets, but still easy enough.

1-arm DB press

Chins (multiple grips) Superset with Cable Curl
5x5 / 5x12

Weighted Dips
25x10, 10, 8, 6

Worked on open stone footwork. Matt Vincent had a really great blog post where he broke down specific positions in the spin, and I spent about 30 minutes working on hitting those at progressively faster speeds. Matso owns.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Goals and Turkey

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. I sure did.

As badly as I wanted to get my keg of cranberry blonde to the UT-Kansas State tailgate extravaganza, it just hadn't conditioned well enough to share with the masses. A couple of days after, I force-carbonated it again while my little boy played with Hot Wheels in the garage:

After this round it really came together and has become more and more enjoyable every day. It was ready for Thanksgiving, and it was cool to be able to share my hobby with the family. Of course, I drank most of it myself but that's the beauty of brewing your own. I still have a few pints left, so of course I am pushing the beer on everyone that comes over so they can bask in my brewing genius.

I am considering throwing together a Great Lakes Christmas Ale clone this weekend. All grain, baby. If you've never had this stuff, I highly recommend it.

Early in the week, Ashley's family was in town. Her dad is a brilliant guy, and I always like getting to spend time with him. He is a wine and coffee-lover, and shockingly I didn't get any time to discuss brewing with him. Nonetheless, he made his famous gravy and there was much rejoicing. We went out to eat most nights other than Thanksgiving, and the first night out was family-style Chinese. I consider family-style dining to be a competition, FYI.

My brother and his girlfriend came in late Tuesday night. He brought some early birthday presents for his nephew, and oh man did he make an impression: tee-ball set, baseball glove, soccer goal, soccer ball, football, basketball hoop and plenty more small gifts. I think he sees being an uncle as a competition, and who are we to argue?

We actually had our Turkey Day on Wednesday since Ashley was scheduled to work on Thanksgiving day. Thursday was tons of outdoor fun with my brother and little guy. We even went to a park and I took some highland games implements to show off with. Actually, I wanted to get my brother's input on my throwing since he has a unique perspective. While he has never done highland games, he did play three years in the Major Leagues as a starting pitcher. He is one of the best natural athletes I have ever known, and I think it's safe to say he knows a thing or two about rotational power. Unsurprisingly, he had some good insight. I hope I can translate some of that into more distance.

Everyone headed home on Friday. The only problem I was left with was cleaning up leftovers and finishing off a keg of cranberry blonde. First world problems.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Scavenging for Gains

Before I trained today I drove about 10 miles north of my house to the San Gabriel River. I parked illegally by the shore and walked out into a dried up portion with a bathroom scale under my arm. I was looking for stones. Not just any stones - stones that I could balance in my hand and throw. I have an obsession, I admit it. Found a decent 22 lb. stone and a few good open stone candidates. I love Texas, but it's not the best destination for finding suitable stones for highland games. Any piece of limestone that weighs over 10 lb. is approximately the size of a basketball.

Slammed my energy drink and headed to Lord's Gym.

Warm up 135x10x2

Felt a little stiff-legged from squats earlier this week, but good overall. Bar was moving quickly enough.

High Pulls

Felt a little uncomfortable with these. Honestly can't remember the last time I ever did them. Started clicking by the last set, which was the one I filmed.

DB Swings (no KBs at this gym)

100-Foot Carry Medley - Farmer's Walk / Hydrant Carry
4 trips

Threw my new 22 lb. stone a little. The handle is a little strange, and the wrist wrap exacerbates that problem. I had decent tosses with a couple of different hand positions though.

Cale, the owner of Lord's stopped by right as I was finishing up. We had a great conversation about the future of the place and what we want to do there. A lot of potential and a big gaping hole in terms of strength facilities around here.

I really want to take my cranberry ale to my buddy's tailgate for the UT Football game tomorrow morning, but it still tastes so flat and thin. Gonna try to force carbonate it one more time tonight and see what I get.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Salado Tossing

Saturday was my 2nd ever Highland Games, which took place at the 50th Annual Salado Gathering of the Clans. It was a really impressive event and you could really learn a ton about the amazing amount of Scottish tradition in Central Texas. Great shops too - I took the opportunity to upgrade my highland games outfit with a little Longhorn flair.

Since I wear the tartan of my wife's clan on my kilt, I felt compelled to stop by their tent as well:

The competition itself was very well-run. The field and the crowd were both great as well. Dave Boyens was the Athletic Director for these games, and he did a stellar job. He was a genuinely fun guy to hang out with and his whole team really seem to love what they do. I will spoil the ending and say that I performed much better than I was expecting. I am very pleased with my finish. Before I get into the particulars, though, I feel like I should address something that my brilliant wife pointed out:

Not everyone reading this blog really knows what the heck Highland Games are.

Even if you do know what they are, odds are that unless you have competed you don't know the ins and outs. It's okay; this is called "being a normal person." I will take this opportunity to give a quick 1-sentence description of each event so when I blabber on about them at least you can get a mental picture. If that sounds unbearable, I don't blame you. For that reason I will also provide you a link to the official rules of North American Scottish Games Athletics. That way, if you want more information on how it works, you can get it from people that know what the hell they are talking about. There's also Wikipedia.

Highland Games, or Scottish Heavy Athletics is a thousands-of-years-old sport that is the result of Scotsmen daring each other to throw heavy things to see who could fling it the farthest. It has an amazingly rich tradition and was even a precursor and inspiration to the modern Olympics.

Braemar Stone: A stone of 20-26 lb. is "put" from a standing position like a modern shot put for distance; no run up or spinning allowed.

Open Stone: Even more like the modern shot put, a stone of 16-22 lb. is thrown in any style desired so long as the stone is "put" i.e., kept against the neck until release.

Light Weight/Heavy Weight For Distance: A 28 lb. or 56 lb. weight, usually attached to a metal handle with a chance, is thrown using any technique desired.

Weight Over Bar: A 56 lb. weight is thrown over a high-jump style bar that can be raised as the attempts get higher.

Sheaf Toss: An implement meant to approximate a bale of hay is thrown for height using a pitchfork.

Hammer Toss: A 16 lb. or 22 lb. hammer is thrown from a standing position for distance.

Caber: A log or pole that is wider on one end than the other is hoisted by the competitor and tossed; scoring is done by relating the landing position of the turned caber to a clock, with 12 o'clock being perfect. If the caber isn't turned, the angle the caber reached in the attempt is judged (but turning it always outscores not turning it).

Got all that? Great job, everyone. Here's how I did in Salado (the order of the events is just as it was on Saturday):

Weight Over Bar - 10 feet
First time I had thrown the 56 lb. weight for this event. I was just happy to get into double digits to be honest. I had the height on 2 of my 3 attempts at 11 feet, but I just couldn't line them up right.

Sheaf - 22 feet
Incredibly happy with this result. The best throws of the day were 24 and 26 feet, and to come in as a newbie who had never even attempted the sheaf toss before, I was really amazed with how well I did.

Braemar (24#) - 27 feet, 5.5" inches
Another result I was happy with. 2nd best throw of the day. While not technically a PR, the stone was 3 pounds heavier than the stone I threw 28'1" last week.

LWFD - 47 feet, 1 inch (PR)
It's a PR, yeah, but still a lot of work to do on this event.

HWFD - 16 feet, 5 inches
Both weight for distance events are still a glaring weakness, but the heavy weight really gives me problems

Hammer (22#) - 54 feet
First time throwing a real hammer, but I have practiced the movement. I managed 3rd place with this throw somehow, but I was throwing 65 feet in practice consistently right before we started. Damn it.

Caber (16'6", 120 lb.) - 70 degrees
No one turned this caber. It wasn't really the weight or the height that made it hard, but the way the taper was cut at the bottom. I picked it well twice, but it was hard to keep it solidly planted in your hands. I threw it to 70 degrees twice, but honestly I think I had a little more than that on the second one. Bonus phallic imagery (yes that's me):

When it was all said and done, I came in 3rd place in the Open class! I'm not gonna lie, I was pretty excited about that. This isnt like a powerlifting trophy that I got because I was the only one with my weight class, age range, division, veteran status, blood type and eye color - I actually won it against serious competition. Oh, and I got the requisite nerdy, strength sports hardware to prove it too:

Kevin, our 1st place winner, is an awesome guy I met at the Austin Celtic Festival. He is over 40 and was really thrilled to win 1st in an open. The guy that edged me out for 2nd place was a 6'11" monster by the name of Rebel. Here he is tossing the weight over bar:

After the games finished up, I hit the up the refreshment stand...

...and took some pictures with the other winners. Please note the enormousness of the man next to me:

Friday, November 11, 2011

oh, stone!

Wrapping up a pretty cool week here, not gonna lie to you.

After the Austin Celtic Festival last week I kept training like a madman all week. I am obsessed with learning these throws. I lifted three times this week and threw four times, and I am definitely feeling it today. I am debating whether or not I am going to compete at the Salado Gathering of the Clans tomorrow. It certainly couldn't hurt to get more experience in real games, but I also have a ton of work to do in order to be any good at this sport. My weight for distance throws are pretty dismal, and I'm still underweight from powerlifting at 198 lb. Plus, I just decided to start using the spin to throw the open stone, so I have to figure that out before the distance really comes.

I finally took the plunge on getting set up to keg my home brew. Stopped by the best homebrew supply store on the planet and picked up a 5 gal. cornelius keg, a 5 lb. CO2 tank and a regulator. I had them walk me through the entire kegging process there in the store. I told them "explain it to me like an idiot." I said this because I am actually an idiot.

Hopefully I can get my cranberry blonde ale in the keg today. I pulled out a sample of it for a gravity reading and a taste a couple days ago, and overall it's drinkable. The cranberry hasn't come through exactly how I wanted - more of the bitter skin taste and not as much of the tart fruitiness. I a hoping a little acid blend and a touch of corn sugar in the keg will help to even it out. As always, time is usually what settles out any weird flavors, but I really wanted this to be ready for tailgating the UT-Kansas State game on November 19. At the very least I hope it's good to go by Thanksgiving.

The most important thing that happened this week though? My wonderful wife Ashley's birthday! Since I have known her, every time we have seen one of those inflatable bouncy castles she has said something like "It would be so fun to rent one of those! I love them!" So, I obliged:

Someone else had a pretty good time too:

Ashley had a great time and really loved her gifts. The one I was most apprehensive about was the shoe rack I built. She had some terrible, crappy shoe rack for ages that fell apart every time she touched it, so I knew I had to do something. I figured I would try my hand at carpentry, and it actually turned out okay. Because all of her shoes don't quite fit on it, we decided I could get some more practice by building another one; maybe combined with some more shelving. MAYBE IT COULD HAVE A KEG AND TAP HANDLES AND....oh.

Anyway - if you read this, honey: I love you and will build you all the shoe racks your heart desires until death do us part.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

and now i'm eating twice as much

Saturday was my first Highland/Scottish Heavy Games at the Austin Celtic Festival. As I have been telling anyone that will listen, I am completely hooked now and this will be my focus in training. The idea of throwing heavy things clicked with me as soon as I tried it, and some of the techniques felt natural right off the bat.

I got to practice for a couple of hours last week with Mike Baab, the organizer and host of the games and one hell of an athlete himself. If you didn't already know, Mike was an outstanding center for the Texas Longhorns and had a long NFL career as well. He is also an incredibly nice guy and a great ambassador for the heavy games.

By the time the real thing came around, I was very happy that I had taken the time to handle some of the implements and learn the rules. It could have been pretty embarrassing to step out there completely unprepared, although we did have a guy do that and he turned out alright. I had also spent a great deal of my spare time in the last week building my own implements and practicing at Lord's Gym up the street from me; I really didn't want to fall on my face my first time out.

We started at 9:00 AM with a rules primer and we were throwing the braemar by 10:00. The stone they used was 21 pounds, and I had been practicing with 24, so lucky me. My first attempt ended up being my best, and even though I tried to crank it up for the third attempt my form just fell apart. Oh well.

Braemar - 28 feet, 1 inch

Next up was open stone. I decided to take a conservative shuffle on my first attempt, glide on the second, then go for broke with a full spin on the last. Again, my first attempt was solid, then I proceeded to throw about 3 feet shorter with a glide. I decided to forgo the spin and just try to shuffle again with more "umph," but it fell short. First throw was a winner again.

Open Stone - 36 feet, 2 inches

While I was comfortable with the stone puts, I haven't really mastered the weight-for-distance throws yet. It showed. First of these two throws was heavy weight for distance. Since I was in the novice class I got to throw the 42 lb. weight instead of the normal 56 lb. It didn't honestly make that much difference though.

HWFD - 17 feet, 7 inches

Light weight for distance I could obviously muscle a little further, but it was still ugly. Just went with a single spin, same as HWFD.

LWFD - 36 feet, 8.5 inches

Here is Mike Baab throwing the LWFD the correct way:

After LWFD we took a long break during which we got lunch and Mike did the kid's games. Extremely cute. Can't wait until my little man is old enough to try. After the break was the caber, which is always a crowd favorite. A group of at least a few hundred was on hand to witness the log-flipping madness. I fueled up with a sheperd's pie and hit the field.

There were four cabers on hand, each increasing in difficulty. Our group only got to 3 of them, and only the strongest guys turned the 3rd. My results were pretty unexpected considering I had never turned the 2nd one in practice.

Caber Toss
1st caber - 12:00
2nd caber - 11:55 (only novice to turn it)
3rd caber - hahaha no

I was fired up when I turned that 2nd caber. The crowd was into it as well since Mike told them this was my first games. Big roar from me, big cheer from everyone. Awesome. As if I needed more ego stroking. Best part though? My 2-year old boy and my wife got to see me do it.

Final event of the day was weight over bar. I felt really good about this event after practicing only a couple of times before we started. I didn't practice it all before the games, but I think it plays into some of my strengths. Plus, I was again throwing the 42 lb. instead of the 56 lb. weight. Here is some video of my successful 10-foot attempt (make sure sound is on for maximum adorable levels):

The biggest mistake I made was not listening to Mike and coming in too fast. I started at 9 feet, which meant I would have to attempt every height afterwards until I failed. I realized the wisdom of Mike's advice when I threw the damn thing 14 feet high on my 9-foot attempt. I finished with a best of 13 feet, but I know I could have had 14 if I paced myself and actually learned how to set up for the event.

Weight Over Bar - 13 feet

The games took place over two days, and as it turns out a lot of the big throwers came on Sunday. The biggest was Andy Vincent, a pro strongman and a buddy of mine from back when I was running a fitness competition website called Now You Try. We had never gotten to meet in person so I took the opportunity to shake hands and chat for a bit. Awesome guy, great athlete and extremely fun to watch. Andy also has pro football experience, so his feet move amazingly quick for such a big man. Check it:

As I sit here typing, I don't know the results of the games but Andy looked like he was on a good pace to win. I am definitely pulling for him. Andy's attitude and everyone else's at these games typifies exactly what I love about strength sports, especially highland and strongman. At the end of the day, we are really competing against our own best performances. We may win prizes based on how the numbers play out, but we aren't usually "gunning" for each other (unless it gets tight or the stakes are high). All the guys this weekend were incredibly supportive, willing to help the newbies and overall were light-hearted and genuinely enjoyed themselves. Powerlifting has a lot this too, but also it has a little bit of a problem with taking itself to seriously. Conversely, that's pretty much impossible to do when you are wearing a kilt and throwing rocks someone found while bagpipes are playing.

That, among many reasons is why I think I have finally found a real home with the heavy games. I will keep competing in anything that comes my way, but I have a burning desire to get very, very good at this.

I came away with a few notes for myself after the experience:

- Need cooler socks.
- Need tacky (sticky tar, basically) to train with on caber.
- Time to gain weight back. Get to 225 lb. at least. Grub time.
- Gotta incorporate more olympic lifting.
- Must master the spin for weight for distance. Stepping stone to a lot of the other events.

Not much in beer news this week. I wanted to bottle my cranberry ale today but I was A) sore as hell and B) thinking I don't want to bottle it at all and just take the plunge into kegging. Added to all of that, my son was sick for the past couple of days. With Ashley working today I wasn't about to leave him alone to run to the brew store. Probably the coolest thing beer-related this week was my buddy Aaron sending me some beer nerd log books by 33 beers.

Life is pretty neat. What cabers do to my lilly-white, crepe paper skin is not so neat. I look like a raccoon attacked my neck and shoulder.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

stick flippah

Oh yeah, I also trained today.


Kettlebell Swings (with a dumbbell)

5 caber flips with 16' 4x4

5 open stone throws with 16 lb.
With a shuffle step I hit 31 feet. I spun for 33 feet. Not a lot of difference yet, really.

5 braemar throws with 24 lb.
Didn't measure

3 hammer throws with 20 lb. hammer
41, 41, and 45 feet

Tasting Tuesday - Raison D'Etre

Dogfish Head is one of my favorite craft brewers, and I know this doesn't make me exactly unique. No matter how much you try to deny it, Sam Calagione is the perfect poster boy for craft beer: handsome, knows beer, sharp, well-spoken and truly passionate about the industry. Beyond Sam's charm though, Dogfish Head make some damn fine beer. They certainly don't aim for the mainstream in any way, shape or form and some of their beers are better left in the brewpub for the hardcore beer nerds. Their classics, like Raison D'Etre however, are a great blend of unique flavors that still make for a drinkable ale.

Raison D'etre
Style: Belgian Strong Ale
ABV: 8.0%
IBUs: 25

Appearance: Pours a reddish mahogany with a thin off-white head. The head was never more than a finger and receded rather quickly.

Aroma: Suprisingly light aroma for such a strong beer. Slight hints of raisin, cherry and malt. Little to no hops.

Taste: Slightly tart with an almost oak character immediately following. Very balanced hop characteristics; have to hand it to them for nailing that. The sweetness is on display the most thanks to the raisins and beet sugar, but that could be considered a blessing with the higher alcohol content. None of the sweet flavors really "cross the line" but they could be a little louder I suppose.

Mouthfeel: Rich and sugary, but not quite syrupy. Raisin becomes more apparent the more you drink. Again, the hops are balanced in such a way as to keep the sweetness in check throughout several rounds.

Overall: If I were judging this beer in a vacuum I would say without hesitation that it is well-executed and drinkable with some great notes of unique flavors. My one gripe might be that I was expecting something a little more "off-center" from Dogfish Head - especially with such wacky ingredients. As I mentioned, the hops work overtime to keep everything in check in Raison D'Etre, but I do find myself wondering what would happen if some of those unique notes got louder and more pronounced. Nonetheless, you can't go wrong with this beer. It is expertly crafted and better than a great deal of the "experimental" craft you might try.

Thanks for reading everyone! As always, hit me up on Twitter to chat about this beer or any other. Cheers!