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Stage 18 of the Tour de France on Thursday, July 20 -- The Alps

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Thursday's stage is expected to be pivotal in deciding the overall winner of this year's Tour de France. Stage 18 will include three HC climbs, or "hors categorie". These are climbs that are "beyond categorization", even tougher than Category 1 climbs. The highest climb of the day rises up to 2,774 meters. The stage will end with a climb up to 2,645 meters on the Galibier pass. Among the contenders are Cadel Evans, defending champion Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck and his brother Frank Schleck. Olympic gold medalist Sammy Sanchez is also in contention. The current yellow jersey-wearer, Thomas Voeckler of France, is doing far better than expected, but he is not considered one of the favorites to win. It would be a major upset for him to hold on and maintain his lead through the incredibly difficult Alpine stage tomorrow. The climbs are extremely steep, requiring massive power output from the cyclists. The descents are equally steep, requiring top bike handling skills and fearlessness. Some of the top descenders can reach speeds of nearly 70 mph! Thor Hushovd was clocked on an earlier stage at 69 mph. Friday's stage will be another Alpine climbing stage. On Saturday, the riders compete in an individual time trial, with each cyclist riding alone against the clock. The final stage on Sunday is a largely ceremonial ride into Paris. By tradition, the leaders do not race hard that day (unless the race were somehow tied going into that day). But there are other side competitions. The sprinters compete for the green jersey, which is based on winning stages and intermediate sprints. They will probably compete for the stage win on Sunday. The King of the Mountains competition is associated with the polka dot jersey. The best young rider earns the white jersey. In the U.S., the Versus channel broadcasts each stage, first with a live broadcast in the morning, then with repeats in the afternoon, in primetime and in the overnight hours. Since Comcast now owns NBC as well as Versus, the online coverage can be found on the NBC Sports website: http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/42363489/ns/sports-cycling/

TV.com survey: How would you feel if you could no longer use TV.com?

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This was going to be my first forum post on the site in probably two years. But then I couldn't think of the proper forum. I also thought that one of the moderators would suspend me for posting something like this, even though I'm not insulting anyone or attacking anyone. (This is related to the situation where I was basically forced away from the site. More details below.) So this will be my first blog post in about a year. I felt the need to post after seeing the survey link on the upper right corner of every page of the site. The bright orange banner is persistent, meaning that it doesn't disappear after refreshing the page or even after one fills out the survey. I was surprised to see a focus on the following question and topic: "How would you feel if you could no longer use TV.com?" It makes sense to wonder if CBS Interactive is putting out feelers about possibly jettisoning the database section of the site, yet again. Why else would they be asking such a question, and asking about alternative sites? Are other people seeing the survey link? Thoughts about these types of questions? I've been assuming that activity on the guides, submission queues and forums has been down for the past two years, partly because I haven't spent much time on the site over that period myself (for various reasons). (I still check my submission queue a couple times a week, but that's about it.) I think it would be a shame and a waste for CBS to even think about discarding all of the work that so many people put into the site for all these years. If that's the plan, then I guess they only wanted to buy the TV.com domain name and little else. I don't know why they would pay money for the TV.com name just to turn it into a duplicate of CBS.com along with minor coverage of non-CBS shows. I continue to think that inconsistencies with policing the contribution system were a drag on the site and dampened the enthusiasm and participation of many members. Gaming was always a problem with the points system. It still is, as can be seen with the informal list of the top 200 highest point totals/user levels on someone's blog. And I don't think mentioning this problem should be a reason to be censured and penalized (as I was multiple times a couple years ago, when I brought up the problem of gaming -- without naming any specific persons). That situation was a major reason why I stopped participating on this site. I like to think that I was a positive contributor on the site, through guides, forums and blogs. But apparently we're not allowed to talk about some of the major issues of the old site like gaming. Doing so is grounds for getting forced off of the site, at least in my case. In any case, it seems like the focus is now on the video clips, though I haven't been following up on whether Hulu has changed its arrangement with CBS and TV.com. I have no idea how many guides on the site include full-length episodes. I know there used to be many shows with such videos, particularly CBS shows. Do non-CBS shows still have full episodes on the site? Would you be disappointed if CBS went ahead and turned this site into a mirror video site of CBS.com, instead of the database/video site it is today? I know I'd be disappointed, despite my minimal involvement for the last two years. Before then, I spent a fair amount of time and attention on some guides and forums. I was editor for the Battlestar Galactica guide during its final seasons. I took an active interest in the forum by creating episode discussion threads and trying to keep things under control when personal battles broke out. I chose not to go for many editorships of currently airing shows so that I would have more time to devote to the forum. Anyway, I hope the site doesn't go under a major overhaul. P.S. Maybe I'll post another blog item soon, one unrelated to the state of TV.com. I have a few things that I could talk about from the past two years.

National Running Day - Wed. June 2, 2010

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This Wednesday will be the 2nd annual National Running Day. It's an informal day meant to encourage everyone to run, walk or do some other exercise. No registration is required. Just lace up your shoes and get some exercise. Many towns and cities across the U.S. and in some other countries will be hosting special events related to National Running Day. Some have short races. Others have fun runs, group runs or other social events. The day is not focused on racing and elite runners. It is focused on widespread participation in exercise, particularly in the form of running, which is a relatively simple and accessible form of exercise. The U.S. currently spends hundreds of billions of dollars a year on avoidable healthcare related to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. I say "avoidable" because many of those problems arise or occur decades sooner in people because of inactivity, poor diet and smoking. National Running Day is just one small part of an ongoing attempt to have everyone live healthier lives (and save the country from getting bankrupted by Social Security, Medicare and other medical expenditures that should not be nearly as high as they are). Type II diabetes (the most prevalent form) has a genetic component but its onset is largely related to obesity, usually caused by inactivity and poor nutritional habits. The risk of heart disease and early onset of heart disease skyrockets when one is obese and inactive. If you have been looking for motivation to get started with a regular exercise program, you can use National Running Day as a starting point. If you don't want to run or walk by yourself, ask some friends or relatives to go for a walk or easy jog. Or visit the official website of National Running Day for an event in your area. I generally follow an annual training plan for my triathlon racing. I normally don't alter the daily plans except for races, weather and important personal events. Fortunately I have an appropriate workout scheduled for Wednesday, a bike/run brick workout. A brick workout is simply two different activities done back-to-back on very short rest. The usual triathlete brick is a bike/run workout, to simulate the stress of the transition from the bike to the run during a triathlon race. I plan to do a shorter brick on Wednesday, probably one hour on the bike (including some time at tempo or race pace) followed as soon as possible by a 15-minute run. (I'll do a longer brick on the weekend.) I won't be running too much on Wednesday but I'll be doing some running. I hope you can find the time to do the same. Or at least find the time to walk or swim or bike.

May is National Bike Month

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NATIONAL BIKE MONTH and BIKE TO WORK DAY The weather has become nicer across much of the U.S. and Northern Hemisphere (not counting various rainstorms, flash floods, pollen and the ongoing volcanic eruptions in Iceland) so it's a good time to have another National Bike Month. The League of American Bicyclists helps promote this month as a good time to begin exercising and improving one's health through bike riding. Cycling is a low-impact activity so it doesn't come with the same overuse injury risk that can accompany running. It's a little more complex than running because of the extra equipment concerns but other than the cost of purchasing a bike, it's just as accessible. Unlike football, cycling does not require one to be a certain size or strength. Unlike baseball, cycling doesn't require a specific unusual skill (hitting a round ball with a cylindrical bat) though there definitely is skill involved with professional cycling. But National Bike Month is about participation, not elite pro racing. Almost anyone can ride a bike, for commuting, for recreation, for touring and yes, for racing. Even someone without legs. Yes, that was a serious statement. Rudy Garcia-Tolson broke new ground in late 2009 by becoming the first double-amputee to finish an Ironman triathlon (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run). His legs were amputated above the knees when he was a child. He used prosthetic legs on a regular bike at Ironman Arizona. He also competed in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, but he wasn't able to finish the bike before the cutoff time. Many less intense individuals commute to work on bicycle, from people in their 20s to riders in their 50s, 60s and 70s. National Bike Month is intended to promote general participation in cycling. The key date is Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 21. Many cities and states across the U.S. and Canada are organizing local events for Bike to Work Day. It's a great way to get started with cycling, whether for fitness, for commuting or just for fun. National Bike Month at the League of American Bicyclists website Bike to Work Day *** TRIATHLONS On a related note, I kicked off my amateur triathlon career last year by successfully completing the Nation's Triathlon in September. The race took place in and around Washington, D.C. It was an Olympic-distance triathlon: 1500m swim, 40K (24.8 miles) bike, 10K (6.2 miles) run. It was challenging and difficult but I made it across the finish line in decent shape. My times weren't that great but it was my first triathlon ever, so I made some rookie mistakes. (I went too hard on the bike and ran out of energy for the run.) I had completed a couple 5Ks earlier in the year. I also raced in a short bike time-trial sprint in October. That race was sponsored by a charity that promotes heart health among women across the country. There were a few different bike-related events that day, including a casual ride on the streets of Washington, D.C., which were closed to automobile traffic during the event. The time trial race had far fewer participants because it was more competitive. The organizers brought in some impressive cyclists to spice things up. Among the group of riders was the 2007 Marine Corps athlete of the year, the mayor of Washington, D.C. (an avid marathoner and triathlete), the mayor's brother (a very competitive amateur cycling specialist), one of the up-and-coming cyclists in women's U.S. pro cycling, and a few members of one of the amateur bike teams in the area. Needless to say, I lost to all of those riders, but I think I did OK in the race. Though I used to ride bikes a lot in grade school, I hadn't been on a bike for many years until last summer. I did some prep work on the stationary bike over the winter of 2008-2009, which helped my bike fitness a lot. I have a very busy racing schedule this year. I've only done a couple 5K run races so far but I have a 10K coming up this month. Then in June, I have my first target "A" race of the year, the Eagleman Ironman 70.3. Ironman 70.3 is the official way of saying a Half Ironman. As the name suggests, a HIM race is half the distance of a full Ironman race. HIM: 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run IM: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run I've been training since December for Eagleman so I should be ready. My swimming has lagged a bit even though I've been swimming for many years. I only swam recreationally until the summer of 2008 though. I didn't start focusing on the front crawl (freestyle) until August 2008. My bike times should be decent. Not spectacular but OK for my age group. My running is OK but there's room for improvement there as well. One week after Eagleman, I will be racing in the inaugural Washington DC Triathlon, at the Olympic distance. (There's also a sprint-distance race that same day.) I'll probably still be tired from Eagleman but I should be able to get through the Olympic tri. After that double, I'll take a couple weeks at an easier pace. I won't rest completely but I won't do much structured training until July. That's when I'll pick it up again and focus on my fall races. Those will include the Nation's Triathlon (Oly) and the new Half Full Triathlon (almost a HIM but the swim is 1500m or 0.9 mile instead of the usual 1.2 miles for a HIM swim). Both the Nation's Triathlon and the Half Full Triathlon benefit cancer research with the Nation's Tri focusing on leukemia and lymphoma and the Half Full focusing on young adult cancer victims. Triathlon is a demanding sport that requires a fair amount of commitment and training. But it also tries to be accessible. There are many sprint triathlons held throughout the country and the world all the time. Many local sprint triathlons are held inside, in the pool, on stationary bikes and even on treadmills. Or they may combine a pool swim with an outdoor bike and run. Longer triathlons tend to have open water swims, in rivers, lakes or oceans. I saw a blind competitor during last year's Nation's Triathlon. He was racing in tandem with a helper who guided him on the course. For the bike, they rode a special tandem bike that the assistant steered. I remember passing those two on the run. When I realized that one of the guys was blind, I shouted out "Good job!" because I genuinely thought it was a great accomplishment to be racing in a triathlon while blind. Triathlon tends to draw an older crowd. In many races, the largest age groups are athletes in their 30s and 40s, not in their 20s. There are also some older competitors. The most famous is Sister Madonna Buder, a nun who had never raced before she started running in her early 40s. She struggled with it at first but found that she liked it. She also combined her running with charitable work and fundraising for her spiritual mission. She has gone on to finish dozens of marathons. She also took up triathlon and has finished dozens of triathlons too. She finished the Ironman World Championship race twice while in her 70s. And last year, she became the oldest person to finish any Ironman race by doing so at the age of 79! Though not everyone can finish an Ironman, most people can compete in shorter triathlons. Even a casual recreational athlete can finish a sprint tri in about two hours. (There's no standard distance for a sprint triathlon so it's not possible to cite exact median times.) Olympic-distance triathlons are the next step up. They require more serious training. While the pros can finish in less than two hours, most amateurs require 2 1/2 to 3 hours. (My time was a little above 3 hours so I have room to improve.) Marathons attract people of many different fitness levels so you'll often see many relative beginners at those races, along with the pros and experienced amateurs. But at the Half Ironman and Ironman distances in triathlon, it's really not possible to compete as a casual untrained athlete. The first hurdle is the long swim. Since HIM and IM races are held in open water, every competitor needs to be able to finish the long swim, and do so under the cutoff mark, which varies from race to race. You can't just show up at a HIM or IM without doing some swim training whereas some people actually show up at marathons with the intention to walk almost the entire distance. The bike for a HIM and IM is no joke either. Though most people can ride for 5-10 miles on little training, it's a different matter to RACE for 56 miles or 112 miles, right after doing a long swim. And then saving up enough energy to finish a long run right after that. *** It goes without saying that I haven't had much time to watch television over the past year. Triathlon training requires a significant amount of hours every week, especially on the weekends. Right now I'm not following any TV shows at all. I do try to watch a few innings of the local baseball broadcasts when I can. I also check on some of the basketball playoff games although I'm not a huge basketball fan.

NCAA men's basketball tournament picks

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If you're interested in posting your picks as part of the TV.com Sports forum, go to the tournament thread in the Sports forum for info on how to join in. We are using Yahoo Sports Tourney Pick 'Em to do the heavy lifting of figuring out who got which picks correct. Yahoo automatically keeps track of everyone's point totals. I believe it's just a straight 1 pt. per game system, with a tie breaker for guessing the exact score of the championship game. No money is involved. No entry fee but no prize money either. Yahoo Sports does offer a special $1,000,000 bonus to the person who gets every single pick in the entire tournament correct. No one has ever done that in all the years that Yahoo has offered this prize. You have to register your bracket with your name and phone number to be eligible for that bonus prize. No fee is required. The first games begin on Thursday so you will need to be quick and post your picks today. Not much notice but I just found out about this yesterday.

Vancouver Winter Olympic Games are on

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Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few months, you know that the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games have started. These Games got off to a rough start when a Georgian luger died during a practice run on the luge track. The Olympic cauldron sculpture also malfunctioned at the end of the Opening Ceremony. But Day 2 has helped these Olympics to gain their footing. Apolo Ohno seeks to become the most decorated American athlete in Winter Olympic Games history. He needs to win two more medals to pass Bonnie Blair. Lindsey Vonn has benefited from the weather, which has forced organizers to postpone her Alpine skiing events. She suffered a deeply bruised shin a couple weeks ago. At first, she thought she wouldn't be able to compete in Vancouver. But with treatment and rest, she has been more optimistic. Every day that the Olympic events are delayed, the more time her shin has to heal. She is considered to be one of the medal favorites. Personally I'm looking forward to the downhill skiing, the halfpipe snowboarding, speed skating, short track speed skating, luge and skeleton competitions. I'll watch the ladies' figure skating too since it's such a central part of the Winter Olympics. The editor for the guide should at least watch one of the premiere sports of the Games. Oh yeah, I picked up the editorship for the 2010 Winter Olympics guide, to continue my tradition of editing Olympics guides on this site. I haven't been that active around here in several months although I continue to monitor my submission queue on a regular basis. I've always been an Olympics fan and even more so this year since I have become more serious about my own triathlon training. I successfully finished the Olympic-distance Nation's Triathlon in Washington, D.C., last September. It was my first triathlon ever. My time wasn't that great but I did do pretty well on the bike. In case you're not familiar with the sport of triathlon, it's a combination of swimming, cycling and running, back to back to back. It's also much more than just a combination of those separate sports. Runners always go into their endurance races on fresh legs. A triathlete in the longer races will always be going into the run on tired legs. That is part of the unique challenge of the triathlon. The Olympic-distance triathlon involves a 1500m swim (usually open water), a 40K (24.8 mile) bike and a 10K (6.2 mile) run. I'm currently training for a Half Ironman race in June, the Eagleman Ironman 70.3. The 70.3 refers to the total distance of that race: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run (a half marathon at the end). I should be able to finish the distance. I've been doing most of my bike training on the stationary bike because of all the snow around here. We've had a record-setting winter in the mid-Atlantic. Baltimore has been the snowiest city in the entire U.S. this winter. Northern Virginia (as measured at Dulles Airport) would be 3rd snowiest. Washington, D.C., is 10th snowiest. (They measure at National Airport, which gets much less snow than the actual city does. Most communities in this area received much more snow than National Airport did this month.) Most locations here received 3 to 4 feet of snow over the course of six days. We're not nearly prepared to handle snow totals like that. Back to the Olympics, feel free to comment on the forum for the guide and rate the episodes. I'd like to see more reviews for the guide too. Last time around in 2008, we only had one guy who reviewed most of the episodes. Most of those reviews expressed disappointment that the Olympic Games were not exactly like professional wrestling. (Go figure.) I tried to balance out those reviews but it still made the guide look awfully strange. A technical question: Does the "pre" XHTML tag no longer work on guides? I use it to set up spacing in lists for notes and trivia. It doesn't seem to be working now. I've had some activity on some of my guides recently. In early January, I had new episodes for two of my guides. "Women of Ninja Warrior" returned after a 2-year hiatus. It's the women's competition in the "Ninja Warrior" show, which is a repackaging of the Japanese obstacle course/athletic contest show "Sasuke". On the same weekend, "Battlestar Galactica" ended its run with the prequel TV movie "The Plan". The movie had been released on DVD a couple months earlier. The prequel series "Caprica" has begun its run on the Syfy Channel. I didn't see all of the new episodes but I managed to see parts of them all during a marathon last week. From what I saw, I was impressed. The show has the same dramatic punch that made "Battlestar Galactica" so good. AOL and Time Magazine both named "Battlestar Galactica" one of the 10 best television shows of the entire decade (2000-2009). Time Magazine was also noted for naming BSG the best show on all of television back in 2005. I thought that with the end of BSG, that I wouldn't have much to do with any of my guides. But I guess I was wrong. "Ninja Warrior" will continue on with the two most recent competitions, to be aired on consecutive weekends in April on G4. And I guess I'll continue to pick up Olympics guides every two years. I don't think I'll pick up any additional guides for regular TV shows since I haven't watched many scripted series since the end of BSG. I'll follow "Caprica" but that may be it. I'll be plenty busy with the triathlon training, which usually takes up more than 10 hours a week, and up to 16 or 17 hours in some weeks. Perhaps I'll post about some of my other races from last year. I met the D.C. mayor and an Olympic gold medalist in cycling at one small bike race. I also won $400 toward a bike, so I picked up a 2nd bike, a mountain bike to go with my triathlon bike.

Ninja Warrior 22 this Sunday

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The G4 cable channel is airing all of the previous Ninja Warrior tournaments this weekend. The episodes will air all day today, Saturday and Sunday. Then on Sunday evening at 5:30 pm ET, "American Ninja Challenge 4" will air. That hour-long special will cover the latest competition among G4's viewers to get a chance to compete in the main Ninja Warrior (Sasuke, in the original Japanese) tournament. Then the channel will premiere the 22nd tournament of Ninja Warrior/Sasuke in the U.S. The tournament will be broken up into five half-hour episodes. A recap episode will follow later that night. I wrote about Ninja Warrior a few weeks ago. It's a demanding obstacle course that requires a great deal of agility, body control and upper-body bodyweight strength. Many of the 100 contestants are primarily there for entertainment purposes but the top competitors are incredibly fit athletes. In previous tournaments, elite athletes from around the world have competed too, including Olympic medalists from the U.S. in gymnastics and wrestling. Gold-medal gymnast Paul Hamm was among the most well-known of these competitors. The recent hit, "Wipeout", is largely inspired by Ninja Warrior but it's missing some of the key elements of Ninja Warrior. In Ninja Warrior, if you fall off an obstacle, you are out of the tournament. The live crowd gives the competition a better atmosphere. And there is a growing history and tradition with Ninja Warrior, as well as a worldwide fanbase, including the U.S., the UK and Latin America as well as Japan and East Asia. For some examples of the toughest obstacles, run an Internet search for "ninja warrior salmon ladder", "ninja warrior body prop", "ninja warrior devil steps" and so on. Or just watch the episodes this weekend. *** By the way, I ran 5.15 miles on National Running Day a couple weeks ago. I hope everyone else was able to do something to help improve their fitness.

Today is National Running Day

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009 is the first annual [color=#3366FF]National Running Day[/color]. It's an informal but national attempt to get more people involved in fitness activities. Running is one of the easiest sports to join. You don't need an enclosed field, pool or court. A park, bike/run trail, sidewalk or empty road will do. You don't need a lot of specialized equipment although it's highly recommended that you get fitted for proper running shoes at a specialty running store (local running store or LRS). You don't need to find teammates or opponents to run but if you do enjoy the company, you can run with one or several other people. National Running Day doesn't involve road or track races. If you want to participate, just lace up your shoes and run. If you are overweight and out of shape, it might be better to walk today but it's still helpful to just get out there and get moving. There's an "official" site, www.runningday.org, for reference purposes but you don't need to look at anything on the site to participate. Just run. I think you can download some sort of virtual badge, kind of like those "I voted" stickers. You can post them on your profile or on various web forums to show that you participated in National Running Day. As I mentioned in the previous blog post, many more people could stand to get more involved with fitness activities. Even walking can help. If you are new to fitness or you haven't done any sports in a long time, just start by walking on 3 nonconsecutive days a week. Try walking for 20-30 minutes each time. The following week, add 5 minutes to each walk and continue until you can walk for 45 to 60 minutes without becoming exhausted. At that point, you could decide to start running by following a walk/run "Couch to 5K" program. If you are a beginner, it's important not to try to do too much, too soon. This is how many beginners get injured. Then they get discouraged and give up altogether. It's far better to increase the time of the workouts gradually and to keep the speed slow. This will allow your legs to adjust to the impact stress of running and you will avoid most injuries. Your cardiovascular fitness generally develops faster than your leg strength does so you might be tempted to increase the time or mileage of your runs too soon. Don't do this. Just follow the program and soon enough, you will be able to run a 5K (about 3.1 miles) after just a few months. One more note about running shoes: It's very important to get fitted for the right running shoes, for you. There are many companies that make quality running shoes (Asics, New Balance, Nike, Mizuno, Brooks, Saucony and so on) but you need to find the specific model that works for you. Only a minority of people can handle a neutral/cushioned shoe. Most people tend to overpronate somewhat. If you are among this group, you will probably need to get a little more support from your running shoe and/or insoles. Stability shoes are usually the right choice although some people may need motion-control shoes. Some people supinate (underpronate) instead of overpronate. Regardless, you can't really tell if you are neutral, an overpronator or an underpronator until a trained salesperson watches you when you run. Most employees at general sporting goods stores are not specifically trained to analyze your running gait. This is why it's a good idea to get your first pair of real running shoes at a specialty running store. You will also find that "technical"/synthetic-fiber clothing works much better than cotton clothing does. Synthetics wick moisture (sweat) away from your skin, leaving you drier and making it much less likely that you'll experience chafing problems. Cotton is almost guaranteed to cause chafing problems once you start to run for significant distances. So avoid cotton clothing. This includes socks, shorts, pants and shirts. *** [color=#3366FF]RUNNING AND TRIATHLON TRAINING[/color] I started running outdoors in recent weeks after struggling with various injuries over the winter due to an improper shoe fit. I ended up solving my problems by getting Superfeet Green insoles, which are much harder than the typical Dr. Scholl's insoles that you find at drugstores. The Superfeet insoles provide significant lateral support for your feet and ankles. They solved my issues with knee pain almost right away. (I had to take 8 weeks off from running over the winter because of a severe case of runner's knee. I still did a lot of swimming, strength training and some stationary bike workouts though.) Anyway, I'm now running about 3 times a week, always taking about 48 hours off between runs. I usually swim on the other days. I'm finding that it's better to add bike workouts on the same days as my run workouts. You might think that it would be tougher on the legs but actually it works better that way. I get in all of my leg endurance workouts on one day and then I get the following day off from lower-body specific workouts. However, I don't always follow this schedule and I sometimes do run and bike workouts on separate days. I did a lot of strength training over the winter too. I'm not doing as much now since I've ramped up the run and bike workouts and continued with the swimming but I still try to get in at least 1 or 2 strength workouts a week. I should clarify that strength workouts for endurance athletes and most other athletes do not resemble the weight sessions that bodybuilders do. Bodybuilders are concerned with muscle size, muscle definition and aesthetics. Functional strength, agility and muscular endurance are not as important for bodybuilders but they are very important for most athletes. I'll post more about this topic in a later blog entry. Running outdoors is a liberating feeling. It's great to be able to roam about and see the sights outside without driving around in a car or taxi or taking the Metro (subway). I've mapped out a few different routes, including some that take me on the National Mall, around the Tidal Basin (where the famous cherry trees are located), past the Washington Monument and around the Jefferson, WWII and Lincoln Memorials. I bumped up my mileage gradually to the point where I'm now running about 4.5 to 8 miles for each run. I plan to increase my "long" run a mile a week until I get to about 12 miles or so. I'm also doing speedwork or tempo runs on one of my running days. This helps me to get used to running at faster paces, which will be helpful in races. I'm still saving up money for a road bike. Hopefully I'll be able to get one within the next month. I only have 3 1/2 more months before the Olympic-distance triathlon. I'm doing a lot of work on the stationary bike but it's not quite the same as a regular road bike. I'm not going to get a BMX or mountain bike because they are just too slow. They are more rugged than a road bike but they just can't reach the speeds that a good road bike can. And when I talk about speed, I'm really talking about speed. Some of those cyclists can go fast, as in 35-40 mph or more! For intermediate races, it seems that I would have to average about 23-25 mph to be in the middle of the pack. I'll have to try to find some to serve as my own personal triathlon sponsor or something. That would make it much easier to get a really good road bike or even a triathlon bike. Those can get quite pricey. While mountain bikes often sell for under $300 and commuter bicycles can sell from $150-$400, a road bike suitable for racing will usually cost more than $1000 although there are entry-level models that cost a bit less. Triathlon bikes tend not to sell in the same volume that road bikes do and they also feature expensive carbon-fiber tubing. I don't think it's easy to find new tri bikes for less than $1500 while many cost between $2500 and $3500. Some models are priced at $5000 and above while I saw one custom set-up at the bike store with a receipt of $10,000! That would be quite a bit over my limited budget. I've taken a look at eBay but the problem is that I might not get the right fit. If the size is just a little off, you can put your knee or back in an uncomfortable position. That could cause overuse injuries in the long run, so I might stick with the local bike store. I saw at least a couple road bikes that I could probably afford. I'll also have to get a bike helmet and bike shoes. Bike shoes tend to last a long time, several years, but they do have a significant upfront cost. There are some models at around $100 while others have carbon-fiber soles and resulting carbon-fiber prices, over $300. They are really light though. I picked up a pair at a store just to see what the difference is. The soles are very stiff but the entire shoe seemed to weigh just a couple ounces. I'm open to any ideas about sponsors. Unfortunately I am not an elite racer (yet?) so this idea might not get me anywhere. In that case, I'd just get an entry-level road bike and add clip-on aerobars. What's an aerobar? That's another topic I'll get to in a later blog entry, but basically it's a set of bars or a single curved bar that lets you lean your torso down in an aerodynamic position while your hands and forearms are pointed forward. Instead of sitting upright and presenting a large profile against the wind resistance, you can lean forward on the aerobars so that a much smaller area is facing the wind. This cuts down on the wind resistance dramatically. You won't see aerobars in most road cycling races because it's difficult to steer with them. That makes them dangerous in group riding (the peloton). But in most triathlons, drafting (riding behind another rider to minimize wind resistance) is illegal in the bike portion so it's more feasible to use aerobars. *** But enough about triathlons for now. Today is National Running Day so do your heart and yourself a favor and get out and walk or run. It doesn't matter how long or how far you go. If you aren't used to exercise, you don't need to walk or run for too long. Just get started on the road to better health. Since I'm up early today, I might go for a run right now. Today is my speedwork day. We're supposed to have scattered but strong thunderstorms this afternoon and evening so it might not be a good idea for me to run home from work today. That's about all for now but I'll have plenty more to say about triathlons, running, swimming, cycling and fitness in the coming months.

National Bike to Work Day this Friday, May 15

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Tomorrow, Friday, May 15, is National Bike to Work Day. People all across the country are encouraged to ride a bicycle to work instead of driving. Part of the motivation is to promote a more environmentally friendly lifesty1e but perhaps the most important reason is to get more people to incorporate exercise into their lives. It's no secret that the majority of American adults are overweight, and a steadily increasing percentage of adults are categorized as obese. In some cases, this is the result of specific conditions or diseases but in the majority of cases the problem is caused by a combination of poor eating habits and lack of exercise. Cycling to work won't take care of the poor eating habits (though it may encourage people to eat better, to be able to handle the extra physical activity) but it would serve to increase the exercise that bike commuters get on a regular basis. (Decreasing gasoline use has another benefit: Less money for President Ahmadinejad of Iran and "President for Life" Chavez of Venezuela. Both of those guys get money from oil revenue as a result of petroleum product consumption worldwide, even when we don't buy petroleum directly from those countries. So there is a national security component to energy conservation too.) Many cities across the U.S. are hosting local activities on Friday morning. These include gathering spots near work centers where bike commuters can get water, healthy breakfast snacks and live entertainment. Some locations are also holding raffles where you can win various prizes including a new bicycle. Run an Internet search to find out whether there are organized activities in your area. Even if there aren't, consider taking part in the day anyway and ride your bike to work (or to school, if you are a college or high school student). May is also National Bike Month in the U.S. Regular exercise and good eating habits are essential to maintain a healthy weight and body composition (muscle and body fat percentages). They will also result in a better outlook and a longer life for most people. (Exercise can't prevent car accidents, unfortunately.) Don't be one of those people who puts themselves into a Type II diabetic state because of all the potato chips, high-fat fast food, sugary soda (or worse, high-fructose corn syrup) and couch sitting. If you have children, be a good example for them by getting into better shape. You don't have to be a champion cyclist, just someone who incorporates moderate exercise and healthy dietary practices into your day-to-day life. I do have to admit that I won't be biking to work but that's because I'm still saving up the money to get a decent road bike. But I have been doing plenty of work on the stationary bike along with regular swim and run workouts (and strength training) in preparation for the Olympic-distance triathlon this fall. I'm also entering a few road-running races this spring and summer to get my feet wet into the world of competitive athletic events, including my first 5K race this weekend. I'll post more about that in a few days. One more note: June 3 is National Running Day. Everyone is encouraged to run (or walk) that day as part of another effort to promote healthier lifesty1es across the country. If you have never run consistently before, it may be better to walk on that day. I'll write up a blog post about some basic running tips for beginners before that date. Stay fit and healthy and enjoy the warm weather (at least those of you in the Northern hemisphere).

The final day of Battlestar Galactica, sort of

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As fans already know, the Sci Fi Channel series Battlestar Galactica ends its run tomorrow night with a two-hour series finale, starting at 9 pm ET. The channel will devote the entire day of programming to BSG, beginning with "The Hub" at 8 am ET. Sci Fi will continue to air episodes from this final season, Season 4, until 7 pm ET. At that point, they will air "BSG: The Last Frakkin' Special", an hour-long look at the series that features interviews with cast members, producers and others. At 8 pm, the channel will air "Daybreak Part 1", the episode that aired last week. It is considered to be the first part of the three-part series finale. The next two parts will debut at 9 pm and 10 pm. As you may have heard, the series has garnered many accolades over the past 5 1/2 years, picking up Emmy Awards and nominations, and a Peabody Award. The American Film Institute named BSG one of the ten best shows on television. Time Magazine named it the best show on all of television in 2005. Entertainment Weekly called it the 2nd most significant TV show or movie in science fiction over the past 25 years. BSG had a special showing at the UN this month as part of a cultural program examining the way BSG has dealt with issues of war, politics and governance. I said that this is the end, "sort of," because BSG will not be disappearing off into the sunset after tomorrow night. There will be another BSG TV movie, "The Plan", which will air later this year. The DVD of the Caprica pilot will be released next month (on April 21). The pilot will debut on television in 2010 as part of a BSG prequel series that takes a look at the development of the Cylons, human cloning, corporate intrigue and a struggle between two families -- the Adamas and the Graystones. *** BSG on TV.com after the series finale Many of us always knew that BSG was not the type of series that could be extended indefinitely. The episodes were too tightly interconnected and there weren't as many "standalone" episodes as one normally finds with most television shows. So we knew BSG would end sooner rather than later. But it's still sad to see this remarkable creative achievement coming to an end. It's been interesting to serve as the editor for the BSG guide on TV.com for the last 3 years. I've learned a lot about what goes into the creation of a television series from reading various articles, analyzing episodes, discussing the show on the forum and even interviewing a couple of BSG insiders a couple years ago. The forum has been lively and one of the most intellectual ones on the site. That's not to say that we didn't have a couple problems with trolls in 2005 and 2006 but overall it has been a positive experience. I'd hope that BSG fans continue to post on the forum with their thoughts, observances and opinions about the series even after it ends. I myself intend to start working on my "BSG novel" this spring after a lengthy hiatus. (Hey, if the Sci Fi Channel can take a 12-month hiatus between seasons of BSG, then I can too.) I haven't done much work on the novel in about a year but I have written down some ideas about key scenes, locales and themes that I want to cover in the last half(?) of the novel. I'll try to post another blog entry about BSG next week, maybe a summary of my thoughts about the entire series (without getting into specifics about story lines). And what's up with the Sci Fi Channel renaming itself Syfy? That's not a joke. People are going to call it /see-fee/ or /siffy/. Ugh. *** As for other topics, I continue to be puzzled, frustrated and yes, upset, about what has been going on around this site over the winter. I won't get into specifics (for fear of getting censured, again) but I will say that the situations have not been handled properly at all. And that's all I'll say about that (as Forrest Gump might have said). Exercise and fitness I've kept up with the swimming and strength training this year although I ran into another problem with my knee, this time my right one. I'll post more about this next time but I'm convinced that I injured the knee doing a stretch common in yoga, where you lie on a mat, bend one leg at the knee and bring it up under your torso, and lie on top of the leg to stretch your hamstring and hip. The problem with this stretch/pose is the sideways torque on your knee. My knee problems started at about the same time I did this stretch. I took two weeks off from exercise last month but that didn't help at all. I started up with swimming and strength training again this month but I continued to experience pain on the medial condyle (inner protuberance of the bone) of my right tibia (the primary bone of the lower leg). One day, I was running out of time at the gym so I couldn't do my usual post-workout stretching routine. That night was the first in about 5 or 6 weeks where my knee did not hurt. My knee was pain-free the following day too. I didn't do any stretching after the next workout and I continued to be pain-free. Though a regular program of careful post-workout stretching is a good idea in general, if you have a ligament or tendon injury, it could actually exacerbate the problem. I've now been pain-free for almost a week since I stopped stretching. I'll incorporate upper-body stretches again because that doesn't affect my knee, but I'll stay away from lower-body stretches for another week or two. Keep in mind that static stretching, which is intended to increase flexibility and range of motion, should be done after a workout, not before. Before you exercise, it's more important to warm-up. I combine walking, slow jogging and dynamic warm-ups. Some call this "dynamic stretching" but it's really not intended to stretch out your muscles. It just gets your muscles used to moving in a slow, controlled manner. Along with a general warm-up, it will help your workout go much better. Some examples of dynamic warm-ups are alternating "hugs" and behind-the-back hand claps, slow arm rolls, slow torso twisting, and one-leg swings (forward, backward and each side), always in a controlled fashion. These are NOT ballistic stretches, the old-fashioned fast stretches like high leg kicks that were intended to extend your range of motion during a warm-up. Ballistic stretches are about the worst thing you can do in a warm-up. Because of financial concerns, I may be scaling back my racing plans this year. I don't think I can afford to enter any triathlons. The entry fees are significantly more expensive than shorter running road races and the gear costs quite a bit too. Triathlon and road bikes are rather expensive and the costs don't stop there. You need to get the bike adjusted properly. A bike helmet is a safety requirement. Bike shoes are another mandatory item. For the time being, I'll stick to running races but I'll continue to do a lot of cross-training (swimming, stationary bikes, spin bikes, elliptical machine) along with strength training (which is not the same as bodybuilding). I'm going to ease into racing with a 5K this spring. I'm also looking at a 10K in the early summer. There are many running races in this area throughout the entire year. The National Marathon is taking place this Saturday. I'm not nearly ready for a marathon but I might go downtown to watch. (There's also some sort of antiwar rally going on the same day, which could make things quite tricky. I really hope we don't get any of the hooligans that showed up in Seattle during one of those anti-globalization protests some years back.) Most races around here draw big crowds so it's not easy to win. I'm not expecting to win any of these races. An age-group award is probably out of reach at this point too. But I think I can get a "respectable" time in the 5K, especially now that I've figured out the problem with my right knee. I still have time to get in some tempo runs and interval training. I already know I can run at least 6 miles without getting tired, but I'll need to be able to run the 3.1 miles (the approximate equivalent of 5 kilometers) at a fast pace without crashing before the finish line. I've kept up my stamina with the swimming and biking. I try to include sprint intervals and tempo workouts to maintain and develop my fitness but I'll need to get some run-specific fitness too. I'll post the results if and when I finish the races. (That's if I'm still around on the site at that time. Unfortunately, that may not entirely be up to me.) For those of you who have let yourselves go a bit, I have updated my "About Me" section to include a URL for a beginners' running site. It includes a "Couch to 5K" program to help you go from being a couch potato to someone capable of finishing a 5K run, thus the name. Though people occasionally lose weight just by modifying and overhauling their dietary practices, it's rare for those people to keep that weight off unless they include a program of regular exercise. Running is a relatively inexpensive way to start exercising. Beginners only need to buy a decent pair of running shoes (not "sneakers", which are designed more for their looks than for serious athletic activity). It's best to start out by walking, interspersed with brief periods of running if you aren't used to regular exercise. As you build up the time of your workouts, you should invest in some proper exercise clothing. Cotton socks, shorts and shirts are not recommended because cotton soaks up moisture. Sweat-soaked cotton clothing is heavy and it can cause chafing problems. Synthetic-fabric clothing (often called "technical" clothing) wicks sweat away from your skin, keeping you drier and safer from chafing problems. It's important to avoid the common problems of beginning runners: going too fast, too far, too soon. Running involves a great deal of impact stress on your lower body. It is generally safe but you have to build up the strength gradually. If you don't, you are almost guaranteed to develop runner's knee, ankle problems, shin splints or hip problems. But if you build up your time gradually, you will develop stronger legs, stronger bones, stronger ligaments and a healthier heart. *** I won't include any original pictures this time since the post is already long enough. I have a few picture blog entries in the works that I planned a while back. I never posted them because of my dissatisfaction with the problems on the site. We'll see if I find the motivation to start posting those types of blog entries again. I think it's a shame to see what has happened in recent months, with long-time editors and active users leaving the site or even getting forced off while other problems were never properly addressed. (They still really haven't been.) I'm also disappointed in the decision to crack down on the NFL Picks contest on the Sports forum. Though I understand the need to prohibit "mindless" forum games where people "hurt and heal" by posting "+1" or "-1" over and over again, the picks contests involve actual conversations and extended discussions relating to sports. I don't see what is wrong with that. These are not "content-free" posts. Moreover, the very idea to have an NFL picks contest on this site originated with the staff themselves. I would think that the staff would welcome activities that increase community participation on the site through substantive interaction that is not based on deceit. I'll leave it at that, before I pick up another "official" warning. The vernal equinox will occur on Friday shortly before noon. This signals the "official" start of spring although many consider spring to begin at the start of March or mid March when average temperatures are a bit higher. In either case, spring seems to be here. Let's hope that springtime brings a "rebirth" all around, of the site, of the economy and of many other things. By the way, I will become an uncle for the second time this spring. At the same time, a close relative will be having a "minor" surgery this month. Though the procedure shouldn't include any complications, it's always a little worrisome when someone has any type of surgery. Hopefully there won't be any problems. I won't post any more details than that since I know some people around here know my real identity. I don't care too much but I think that knowledge has resulted in some minor issues for me. Maybe if my novel gets a good reception, I'll be welcoming publicity. So long for now.