Back in the Swing

This post is more of a placeholder than anything else. The week of July 26-31st was an active one for me. The surf was mellow, and the winds even more so, especially in the mornings. We were being visited by Kelley Droege and Sophie Beckham with their kids, so we were pretty busy with friends and beach living. But there was time for surfing, and for running. I got five extended sessions in, and a long run with Kelley. I can rest later, I guess. Or does two hours of surfing count as a rest day?

Surfing 24: Tuesday Mid-Day July 27th at Indian Beach

On Tuesday Kelley was again not ready to join me, since his parents were in town. After spending the morning low tide with the families, beach-combing, at about 11:00 am it was my time to surf again. I went back to Indian Beach, and had fun chasing the 3-4 footers on the rising tide.

Surfing 25: Wednesday Afternoon July 28th with K. Droege at Short Sand Beach

Finally on Wednesday Kelley joined me. We had fun on the small mellow waves at Shorties. The afternoon waters were a little bit blown out, but it was nothing like the week before. I caught a lot of fun rides on the mini-big wave at the southern end of the beach.

Five Mile Run: Thursday Afternoon July 29th with K. Droege in Arch Cape

I took Kelley out on the loop that I do from time to time here, on the logging company roads in the hills behind Arch Cape. We did the reverse direction (counter clockwise), climbing the steep southern end first. For the route see my previous post from June 14th. I was sick during the last run, and I stopped at the top of the 500 foot climb for a rest. On that occasion my time was 60:00. This time, it was 48:00.

Surfing 26: Friday Mid-Morning July 30th with K. Droege at Indian Beach

Kelley and I paddled south at Indian Beach and chased some of the 4 foot swells in the center of the break. It was fun, really fun.

Surfing 27: Saturday Early Morning July 31st with K.D. and Brad Hunter at Short Sand Beach

Kelley’s friend Brad Hunter joined us, driving down from Portland, and meeting up with us at 7:00 am at Oswald. It was a small morning, with 2-3 foot waves, and cold waters, but light winds, so, a semi-glassy surface. There were way too many people out, even on a small Saturday. But we had fun anyway! We got lots of rides. And we worked ourselves over nicely, spending about two hours in the water. I was pretty damn tired after this week. So, of course, instead of resting, I planned another week just like this one!

Antepenultimations

Feeling almost whole again, just in time for summer’s end, went surfing on Saturday, warmed up and lifted on Sunday, surfed on Monday and have plans for the week. The surf is up, the winds are down, and I’ll be taking advantage every day. It’s the next to last week, and these are the next to next to last sessions of the summer.

I notice I’m weaker and deconditioned, but my system is starting to ramp up. Although I’ve probably lost some power capacity and overall strength in the past few weeks, I can tell that all I need to do to get it back is eat right, sleep, and hit it!

Future Plans

I’ll be back to CrossFit in two and a half weeks. (Probably I’ll get my first WOD in on Friday, Aug. 13th. Which should be unlucky.) “Work” re-enters my life on Monday, Aug 16th. Then, starting August 22nd, I’m doing 30 days of strict Paleo. Resolution for first month of school: clean eating, sleeping seven to eight hours a night, parenting, making house, working, and working out.

Surfing 22: Saturday Hard Paddling Outgoing Tide at Short Sand Beach

Saturday Arch Cape was socked in by fog but a quick recon run to the store in Manzanita revealed sunny weather south of Cape Falcon. So I hit the afternoon session at Short Sand, arriving during the middle of the outgoing tide. Nearly every spot in all three parking lots was full, although I managed to find a free space near my favorite parking spot. I could not believe what I saw: it seemed like every damn surfer within 100 miles of Oswald had brought out the family for a sunny Saturday on the waters.

But! Conditions were crazy. The swell was NW, at five feet, with a six to seven second period… and winds were high, straight north, not great conditions for Shorties. But at least it was sunny! Furthermore, high winds on Friday had kicked up an incredible chop. Wind wave and swell combined, the southernmost waves reached about head high, when they cooperated.

The northern end of Short Sand Beach was not looking particularly cleaner than the south. It appeared to be smaller too, and with danger of having to fight my way back out against the shore break. Also: it was crowded with surfers.

So I went out on the south end, along the channel. Paddling out, it felt more like a wild river than the surface of the ocean. The north winds and an outgoing tide combined produced a river of surface waters flowing south and out. At least that made the the south end a speedy, if roller-coastering paddle out. But then, I spent an hour constantly paddling towards shore in order to stay in the river like current that wanted to take me out of Smuggler Cove, around the southern cape.

I maneuvered over to the big pile up that occurs at the southernmost and outermost breaking spot at Shorties, out by the rocks. I have never seen the waters of Smuggler Cove so wind-tossed, white-capped, and crazy as they were on this occasion. and paddled out to where an outer break was mimicking a “big wave” reef break. The swell was humping up in one place, breaking both left and right, then surging and returning to swell. A perfect short ride, like a mini-big wave.

But the crazy battle to stay in position against the rock! I paddled against the current constantly — I could hardly remain in the area where the wave was breaking. Though I did. I rode that wave (pretty badly, but I rode it) a few times. I was trying to practice my left. It was a wildly unstable surface, but for some reason, probably the slightly offshore angle of the wind, and the river-like current of the water, the messy surface rose up in a rolling swell every 8 seconds or so. The angle was perfect for practicing take offs. Getting caught in the break caused only temporary distress. So I played.

After a while this exercise wore me out and I basically decided to go home. So I looked toward shore and paddled harder. For a long time. A really long time. Whereas it had taken perhaps forty strokes to get out, it took me hundreds of strokes to get back in to shore. In the end I had to paddle northward in order to get out of the flow.

If you think too much about that it is kinda scary. I loved being out there. Know before you go.

Lift Heavy Things: Sunday 5/3/1 Cycle II Phase i part B

Sunday afternoon I got my act together and did Deadlifts and Shoulder Press at Arch Cape Lift (aka Grass and Gravel Driveway Gym).

Warm-Up

Ran 1/4 mile, sprinted 1/4 mile, 2 min jump rope, stretching, shoulder dislocates, 10 burpees, 10 push ups, 10 sit ups, 10 squats, 8 x 45# deadlifts, 8 x 45# shoulder press.

Shoulder Press

5 x 80 / 5 x 90 / 13 x 100

I think this is my record for 100.

Deadlift

5 x 200 / 5 x 225 / 8 x 255

I wish I had a coach here to help me see my form better. But I think I did well. These numbers are nothing impressive. And the session left me feeling weak.

Kipping Pull Ups

Set of 8. Not up to more. My hands are soft again.

Surfing 23: Gray Monday Morning Bigger and Cleaner Low Incoming Tide at Indian Beach

So yes. My workout on Sunday left me feeling deconditioned, indeed. But I’ve been keeping my nutrition pretty darn clean. And my recovery was good. Monday, there was a spring in my step, and the forecasts were for clean and big NW waves. I had to go surfing.

The only trouble was, the tide was way out during my window of opportunity. I arrived at Indian Beach at 8:40 am. I was in the water at 9:00, and back at my car at 10:05 am. There was a negative low tide, and it was coming in slowly. So I surfed about a solid hour, chasing these nice head high swells in the incoming low tide. The waves had a rideable shape, but if you got too far inside the breaking face it might as well have been a close out — down you go! I actually had a few great rides, all rights. I got pitched off a few funny waves, got rolled a few times, and did a lot of paddling After riding one wave a bit too far to the inside, I found myself fighting through the shore break. While I was going over a big wall of white water on my way out I realized that taking a long board through a breaker is like doing a burpee to muscle-up. I was feeling stronger today.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Review)

Reviewed in this post: Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (New York: Penguin, 2006; imprint 2007).

My first complete read of the summer; in fact, the first book I have started and finished reading, for pleasure, in many months.

FOOD is mysterious. It is both intensely personal and ultimately social, a matter of private taste and of public life. It is not enough to point out that food (along with air, water, clothing and shelter) is absolutely necessary for our animal life. Human beings, unlike other animals, are uniquely obsessed by their own symbolic relations with food. For us, food is as much about culture and identity as it is about nutrition and survival.

In Michael Pollan’s convincing account of our evolution and biology, human beings are omnivores. We are beings who have evolved with a capacity for eating just about anything. But more than this, we have also developed the capacity to control our own food supply. We human omnivores have arranged entire economies of food in order to allow for the satisfaction of almost any and every whim. Our dilemma is therefore the omnivore’s dilemma quintessentially: when you really can eat almost anything you choose, what should you choose to eat?

The Omnivore’s Dilemma combines economics, botany, gastronomy and anthropology, weaving a journalistic critical investigation of the problems inherent in the food chains that sustain us modern Americans, into a very personal exploration of the methods and meanings of our eating. It’s an elegant book. The title is drawn from the work of psychologist Paul Rozin, best known for his work on the (very physical) emotion “disgust.” In a 1976 paper Rozin sought to investigate how “food is recognized and how choices are made” among omnivores (his subjects were humans and rats). In Rozin’s words:

Omnivores … faced with an enormous number of potential foods, must choose wisely. They are always in danger of eating something harmful or eating too much of a good thing.

Rozin argued that successful omnivores develop and exploit two conflicting impulses, one pushing us to explore new possible foods, and the other to avoid novelty. He was interested in the physical and psychic structures employed by omnivores who are torn between their drive for “exploration” and their risk averse “neophobia.”

Rozin’s biological and evolutionary puzzle of omnivore behavior seems, for Pollan, to intimate a larger puzzle, one I would not hesitate to call existential and philosophical. Eating is not just a mechanism for the sustenance of life. It is rather a way of life. It raises the question of our relation to the environment and to other species, especially those we consume. Done well, eating could offer abundant life to persons or even entire peoples; or so we suspect and hope. Done less well, it could bring death, not only to individuals but to our own world. Enough individuals eating poorly could greatly harm the life of our own species, not to mention the lives of the species we eat or displace in our cultivation of land. And indeed, when it is examined on the broad and economic scale appropriate to it, human eating can be seen to be directly or indirectly related to some of the greatest health and environmental problems of modern civilization: water pollution, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, extinction, climate change, antibiotic resistant disease, and among those eaters who enjoy the modern western diet: rampant obesity and metabolic derangement.

To explore these themes, perhaps in search of a solution to our dilemma, Pollan offers, as the subtitle suggests, a “natural history of four meals.” These he acquires or prepares for himself from sources available to modern humans. The first is a meal dependent on the food chain we have created with modern conventional industrial-agriculture, a meal heavily dependent on corn and petroleum. The second is a meal of industrial-scale organic produce and meats. The third, a meal from a small-scale biologically and ecologically sophisticated conscious “beyond organic” local farm. The fourth, a meal scavenged, gathered, and hunted from the environs of Pollan’s home base in northern California.

But the subtitle is a subtle piece of misdirection. In truth, the book concerns human personality, not natural history. The meals themselves recede in the face of the “natural history” that stands behind them, and in truth “history,” natural or otherwise, plays at best a secondary role to the force of human personality. At the heart is of course the personality of Pollan himself; the book is a story of his journey of personal discovery. The course of research and reporting is driven by his appetite for understanding, and his desire for knowledge sets the table for these four meals. This highly personal structure gives the book literary depth and serves to highlight the central fact of the science of gastronomy: we cannot be in any sense objective about the subject of eating. It is necessarily personal.

But the Omnivore’s Dilemma is not a private, individualistic journey into food and eating. Pollan is intent from the beginning to expose the inherently cultural, social, and economic dimensions of eating; and his journey is by no means a solitary adventure. His natural histories rely heavily on the strength of remarkable human individuals who serve as Pollan’s informants, guides, and fellow eaters. The people in this book give personality and spiritual depth to the eating of the food they have a part in creating or acquiring.

Four individuals stand out from the rest.

The first is George Naylor, who makes his appearance beginning in the second chapter of the book. Naylor is a cynical and salty tongued industrial corn farmer and expert in the corn market, and his story and insight help Pollan flesh out the complex economics, ecology, and biochemistry of corn and corn-based processed foods. Pollan entertains a creative fiction that he can somehow follow Naylor’s corn from cornfield to feed-lot to the processed endproduct: a corn-fueled dinner of McDonald’s eaten in a moving car on the freeway, a meal symbolic of an entire system of globalized industrial agriculture.

The second individual is one of the pioneers of industrial-scale organic farming, Gene Kahn of Cascadian Farms, who makes his appearance in the ninth chapter. The story of Khan’s journey from hippie-entrepreneur farmer to capitalist giant helps Pollan tell the cold hard truth about the industrial scale and economic and environmental trade-offs involved in mass-produced and internationally distributed organic vegetables and meats. The story Pollan tells basically ruins the idea of “organic” for me… especially with regards to the term’s use in marketing meat and eggs… the only remaining reason to choose organic appears to be concern with the health of local soils and watersheds. But it appears that big agricultural industry has completely co-opted the term, philosophy and practice of organic agriculture.

The third figure, Joel Salatin of Polyface farms, becomes a driving force in the center of the book. Joel, the “Grass Farmer,” raises Rabbits, Chickens, Cows, and Pigs, producing as much protein as he can per acre of a small family farm. Salatin’s methods are described as “beyond organic.” His methods are relentlessly biological, local and sustainable. Salatin’s farm ultimately relies on a solar harvest: everything begins with the power of the sun being captured by plant photosynthesis in grass. Through the magic of the cycle of living beings eating and making waste, and trying to reproduce themselves on the earth, his farm operates at a high but sustainable level of productivity. Salatin, who opens his dinner table to Pollan, and lets him serve a brief stint as a farmhand, seems to make a profound impact on Pollan, before supplying him with some roaster Chickens and eggs which become the centerpiece of Pollan’s third meal, of local, “beyond organic” produce.

The final guide, Pollan’s real “Virgil” as he repeatedly names him, is a larger than life figure who is both overtly and implicitly held up to the classic renaissance man model established by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin: outdoorsman, gentleman life of the party, chef, and general advocate of audacious living and eating. Angelo Garro, who makes his appearance in chapter fifteen, seems to become Pollan’s food muse. Pollan is immediately taken by Garro’s personality and relation to food; when he is eating, he is “always intimately involved in the story of the meal” (283). Garro leads Pollan into killing his first game animal, a massive wild boar in northern California, and also introduces him to the world of extreme mushroom gathering (Garro also makes wine, cures meats, etc.; he is an amazing and compelling personality). There is an ancient, somewhat pagan vitality to this type of individual; literarily speaking, he resembles the Biblical Esau or the Mesopotamian Enkidu: a hairy man, a man of the wilds: “a stout burly Italian with a five-day beard, sleepy brown eyes, and a passion verging on obsession about the getting and preparing of food” (282-283). It is evident that the friendship of Garro leaves indelible marks on Pollan. But Pollan does not even seem to believe in his own transformation. The encounter is sometimes painful to read, as Pollan self-consciously censures and second-guesses his writing on hunting and gathering. His account writhes with an unbecoming self-loathing that does a disservice to the literature of hunting and to his own experience, although I think Pollan may be forgiven his eccentricities since he is a Yankee. In my view, Pollan’s chapters on hunting are some of the most tedious and self-indulgent pages in the book. The account fails, in that Pollan remains so defensive about his own process of acquiescence to the pleasure of hunting and killing game. Pollan wants us to know how embarrassed he is by his enthusiasm. In these chapters he writes as if the moral objections of vegans to hunting were something to take seriously, he writes as if he is unable to let go of his self-identification with a too-effete ideal of liberalism, one that equates justice with the total elimination of violence, including all violence against animals… even those we plan on eating. But I digress.

In the end, Pollan’s book becomes a chronicle of the effect these men had on his thinking about and understanding of his own omnivore’s dilemma, as an eater. The effect is profound. Pollan emerges from the experience of researching and writing the book a changed eater, surrounded by a circle of passionate and dedicated fellow omnivores.

Ultimately, what is Pollan’s proposal for a resolution of the omnivore’s dilemma, as we have constructed it in our modern food economy?

Pollan stops just short of advocating a kind of paleolithic, hunter-gatherer philosophy of gastronomy and health. He takes seriously the possibility that our food should be evolutionarily appropriate for us. (But this is, of course, uh, like, no duh.) But he doesn’t really embrace this philosophy. And he outright rejects some of its more extreme versions, such as the low-carb Atkins/Paleo culture that is recently resurgen. (Pollan sometimes mocks the low-carb school of thought as “carbophobic,” apparently without concern or full understanding of the theory… or even a recognition of the theory’s role in his beloved Brillat-Savarin’s genius.) Instead of embracing a radical or revolutionary approach to eating, Pollan emerges as a realist who has had a vision of an ideal world.

As a realist, he knows that multiple food economies will continue to operate — industrial processed agriculture will not go away any time soon. The righteous omnivore can occasionally, perhaps as needed, continue to participate in the larger economic system, even though participation in this system leaves us fraught with dangers of disease and looming environmental disaster.

But in an ideal world, food would be all local, sustainable, whole, and real; it would be gathered, or raised and taken by, a known hand or by the eater himself. It would be processed only minimally, and its provenance would always be known and explicit. Food is natural, and its producers would rely on nature to the greatest possible extent.

For Pollan, all is not lost; far from it. Pollan’s own experience suggests that the individual, the person, has the power, perhaps resident in the force of personality itself, to shape his or her own local culture or society of food and eating. It all begins with our choices about what to eat, or not, and how to eat it, and who to eat it with. As Brillat-Savarin said, “tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are.”

Junky Junk

Surfing 21: Thursday Lunchtime at Indian Beach

In a gray drizzle, on a day with middling winds and ugly, junky surf, I returned to Indian Beach for yet another mediocre surfing session. The tide was very gradually falling towards a mid-day low that would come in the late afternoon. But there was plenty of water. And Indian Beach was crowded with newbies and others playing in the slop zone inside the breakers.

The buoy data said the main waves were coming from the northwest, at five feet plus, at 7 seconds. Waves with short periods like that are called wind waves, and are driven by local weather systems. They can be unpredictable, ill-shaped, and difficult to ride, and this day was no exception. These kinds of local wind waves also lose energy quite rapidly. Between the Columbia River Bar buoy, 20 miles off-shore, and the cove at Indian Beach, the waves had lost at least a foot in height. Swimming out among them, I could see: they just weren’t that big.

Confirming my observations, the much close Clatsop Spit buoy had been reporting four foot waves at 7 seconds. Also, the Spit buoy reported a SSW cross-swell of two feet at 17 seconds. These waves I didn’t see at all.

Long period swells are generated by distant storm systems, have traveled many hundreds of miles across the ocean, and are called groundswells. They can be great surfing; they make the water look flat when they are the only waves. But today, the groundswell was swallowed up and undetectable by the wind waves. Together, the bad weather, rising winds, and mixed direction ground and wind swell meant that the waves were junky junk.

But it was still fun. Isn’t that crazy? I am tempted to complain, because this entire summer has been so messed up, combining often crappy surf conditions and a really lousy series of unfortunate health events for me. But I really can’t complain about having the privilege to just suit up, paddle out, and match my wits and skills against the random energies of the Pacific Ocean shore. I got in some rides, I got some exercise, and I felt like things might be returning to normal for me, physically speaking. We shall see.

Cold Small Funky Fun

Surfing 20: With Sean at Indian Beach

Tuesday morning Sean McEnroe and I headed out to Indian Beach for a nice little session. Sean had been down at the beach and surfing, since Friday, and I hadn’t been able to go with him at all (on that, see below). But Tuesday morning there was no getting around it. The weather was mild, the wind had been mellow for several days, and the swell had died down to about three feet. I went in spite of my slightly painful, ahem, condition. And I was glad I did. A glassy surface and easy paddle out ensured fun times in the water. We caught a lot of mellow waves, and had a lot of fun. It was a regular length session, of average difficulty and effort, and it left me totally spent. It took a full forty eight hours to recover from. More signs that I’m just not at 100%.

Current Health Status: 90%

It shouldn’t be as embarrassing as it is. But really, it is. I was sick for days after Joel left on Thursday, July 8th. I lifted according to a normal schedule on Friday, July 9th, but then during the days that followed I’d had unnatural soreness in the muscles of my trunk and groin and legs and hips, followed by a fever that lasted several days. By Wednesday, July 14th, it had been about a week since I had surfed. I mean, I can see the waves from my living room! This was the torture of Tantalus for me. But Wednesday the 14th, things seemed to have gotten better for me — the weather was fine, my energy was back on line, I thought — and so I went back to lifting weights, and later went surfing in the afternoon. It felt great to be back in action, but my reprieve from illness was short lived.

But by Thursday morning the 15th of July, I was feeling really down. Really down. A low grade fever had returned, and I had an unexplainable pain in my balls. I thought I’d been kicked in the nuts or something. My wife joked that she punched me during the night. Ha ha. I tried to think of some trauma during the previous day. It had been an active day. But nothing had happened involving my balls. I decided to hope that things would just return to normal with time. So, Thursday I hobbled around and tried to stay comfortable with the help of yoga, ice, and rest. To no avail.

By Friday morning I was MUCH worse. Pain. Fever. Swelling. I had one ball twice the size of the other. So, I called up my dad, and with his help, I went back to Portland, saw a doctor, had an ultrasound, etc. The diagnosis was an infection of my right testicle (epididymitis/orchitis). Beyond what I’ve already said, I am not going to describe this illness in detail. We don’t know what caused the epididymitis, but it’s probably important to state that in my case it was not caused by any sexually transmitted pathogen. Personally, I believe that all my illnesses this summer are related, from Giardia on down to the epididymitis. I.E. complications of a weakened immune system and so on. It’s also possible that my persistent open wound (on my knee… yes, the surface is still open five months after my surgery) created a pathway for something to get inside me. It’s hard to say exactly.

Illness-Related Training Problems

Whatever it was, Cipro started to make me feel better after only a couple of days.

But again, fatigue, pain, etc., it had kept me down. Nearly a week went by before I got back in the water on Tuesday, July 20th. I still haven’t gone back to weight lifting, going on ten days now. Running is a distant memory. Met-cons are nowhere in sight. I am feeling bloated, weak, and out of sorts.

I need a complete restart. A new plan. A new food journal. New objectives in CrossFit, running, and weight training. A new cycle of work and rest weeks. I need some kind of a sense of order, purpose, and direction. This summer drifting is killing me.

Sunny Rows

Surfing 19: Indian Beach

Wednesday afternoon I broke away from the house for a surfing session at Indian Beach. It had been almost a full week since my last outing. In the meantime I’d been laid low by soreness and a need for rest, and then by a crazy flu-like 50 hour fever — which was not as bad as it could have been since, as I thought, I was probably wasn’t going to be surfing anyway in the apparently fershit conditions. The surf on Monday and Tuesday was 3 meters plus, with huge wind chop. And the wind had been very high indeed most days of the previous week. The ocean was chaos. My life and health was chaos. Ok.

Nothing much had changed on Wednesday, but I was feeling better, and itching to stoke up my inner surf fire.

From Arch Cape, conditions looked rough as they had for days. Although it was sunny, the wind was whipping and the sea was a raging froth. Buoy data from Wednesday afternoon suggests that waves were a stunning 2.3 meters high… but with a 10 second period. Borderline groundswell and head high! Sounded promising, if a bit scary. Also, the reports were that wind chop was severe, as a glance at the water easily confirmed. The entire coast looked like a turbulent mess along the beach breaks.

Securing a “hall pass” from wife and kids, I drove north with mixed emotions. I actually took my running gear to Ecola State Park, figuring I’d get a 40 minute trail run in, if the surf proved to be impassable.

But something happened, something magic, on my way into Indian Beach.

Indian Beach at High Tide, Wednesday July 14th

When I arrived, one of the best parking spots was open. I took it, and looked out, and was amazed to see what looked to be brilliant green swells approaching the break zone in rows that were almost neat. I couldn’t believe how well the geography of Indian Beach had cleaned up all the chop from the north wind and the NW swells. It was sunny, beautiful, and there were a number of surfers out… and a boogie boarder, and two kayakers too. Almost too many people. It was just high tide, and it was a big one, filling the cove at the north end, where a clear pathway out past the breakers was still there, undisturbed by the heavy surf. The sunny weather was like icing on the cake. Hallelujah. “I’m going surfing,” I quickly texted my wife, and snapped a picture because it was too good to be true.

When I first arrived I thought I’d forgotten my surf wax. I needed some because, last Wednesday, day of my last session with Joel, a day which was so frackin’ hot I literally could not stop making remarks about record books and such, I had left my board lying face up in the sun for around 10 minutes, and then when my wax melted everywhere I decided to just scrape it down and add a fresh coat later. Now, I was thinking that had been a big mistake. But I spotted a fellow surfer dude, drying his wetsuit on a bush. So I made bold to ask him if I could bum one… and he let me! More good omens, I thought. To make things even better, it turned out I had brought my wax. I had an unopened bar of Frigid Water Sex Wax in my backpack. Almost perfect for that 57 degree water. So I returned my enabler’s stub with many thanks for his generosity. “See you in the water,” he said.

As it turned out I would not be there that long.

This was one of the most punishing 40 minutes I had spent in the water in ages. I suited up quickly, got my gear to the beach, waxed my board, and, the smell of root-beer flavored surf wax in my nostrils, headed out for my lesson. From above, the waves had looked well formed, and they would have been, but for the residual chop of many days of wind. Everything looked beautiful, but the surface and set-up was so unstable that the riding proved too difficult for me, on most of my attempts.

Initially, I used the channel in the north, which was effortless. And after my first near miss of a ride, I used it again. But after that, I was more in the middle. Maybe six times I paddled all the way out from the break zone to past the farthest row of cresting green swells, rested, and then carefully hunted and sought opportunities to ride the swell. I got very close many times, paddling back and forth in the outer swells. But when my best opportunities came, only once was I in that perfect location to get a stable launch onto the rolling green. So, diving pitching perling into the washing machine, I got my clean clocked about a dozen times, and half the time got washed clear into the breakers. On one spectacular occasion, I must have taken 150 strong and long strokes, fording over wave after oncoming wave, I have no idea how many, just to make it back out of the break zone. My shoulders and triceps and forearms and lats and lower back and abs were all burning from strain, eyes asquint and burning with salt, I looked up towards the slowly decaying sun.

The bright sun wasn’t icing, it was consolation, or even a mild rebuke.

I checked. All too quickly my watch read 4:40, and it was time to head home.

In the end, I came in on a pretty nice ride. Not my best, and definitely a “bummer” as the only real ride of the day, but all in all, this session was fun all the same.

And if that’s the case, maybe that’s why I love surfing.

Second Cycle

Feeling weak and feeble after a full week (!) of being under the weather, with aches and fever, unable to surf or work out, I started the second cycle of my summer 5/3/1 today. Phase I is 5 x 65%, 5 x 75%, 5 x 85% (of 90% of 1 RM +10 lbs for lower body and +5 lbs for upper body). Today was back squat and clean and jerk. I maxed out with 150×12 for back squat and 130×7 for clean and jerk. Then a set of 12 kipping pull-ups as a warm down. Am I weak? Or is it all in my head?

Warm-Up

Yoga stretching indoors. Jump rope (100 revolutions and a couple of double unders). Shoulder dislocates. Various broomstick Olympic- and Power-lifting motions, multiple reps. Push-ups (10). Sit-ups (10). Overhead squats (10). Movement specific warm-ups.

Back Squat

Result: 5 x 115 / 5 x 130 / 12 x 150

Analysis: compare to June 12th, where it was 5 x 110, 5 x 125, 12 x 140. Improvement, I guess.

Clean and Jerk

Result: 5 x 100 / 5 x 115 / 7 x 130

Analysis: during the last session (link above) I did the same numbers but got 8 clean and jerks. I attribute this to my general sense of malaise. DAMN.

Kipping Pull-Ups

To prove to myself that all is not lost I did one set of max reps kipping pull-ups. Result: 12.

Health Status: 75%

I estimate my current health status at 75%. I feel weak, tired, feeble.

So why do I feel so feeble? Must be the fact that in the ensuing month I’ve had two significant illnesses! First there was Giardia and then, this past week, aches, pains, and fever. Plus I notice in the posts from the last month that undue amounts of soreness, fatigue, etc., has been my constant complaint. Something is obviously wrong with me. But what? Could it just be that I haven’t been doing my met-cons? I need some advice. Professional or amateur. I don’t care. Readers?

Deloading Day

5/3/1, Phase IV (deload), 5×40%, 5×50%, 5×60%

I combined all my phase IV lifts into one day’s work. I did a quick warm-up and then did the various lifts in the sequence of weights, which meant that I did some shoulder press sets, then alternated press, clean and jerk, and squats, and finished up with deadlifts.

Warm-Up

Jump Rope, 100 revolutions. Shoulder dislocates. Broomstick Overhead Squats (10); Push-Ups (10); Sit-Ups (10); Burpees (10); Kipping Pull-Ups (10, one set); “No-Feet” Surfer Get-Ups (4 — these are VERY HARD). Broomstick motion specific warm-up: 10 x shoulder press, 10 x back squat, 10 x clean and jerk, 10 x deadlift.

The Lifting

Result:
Shoulder Press 5 x 45 / 5 x 55
Clean and Jerk 5 x 60
Shoulder Press 5 x 70
Squat 5 x 70 (no rack, snatched the weight and push-pressed it off)
Clean and Jerk 5 x 75
Squat 5 x 85 (no rack, snatched the weight and push-pressed it off)
Squat 5 x 90 (this was a mistake… oops! meant to do clean and jerk; no rack, snatched and push-pressed it)
Clean and Jerk 5 x 90
Squat 5 x 100 (no rack, snatch and push-press)
Deadlift 5 x 120 / 5 x 145 / 5 x 175

I performed these lifts without deliberate rest; I took the time to change the weights, but did not dally. It was a quick and sweaty, fun workout. Then I had a beer.

Three Sessions with Joel

What a great visit from Joel Barron. It was great to hang out with him for the first time in seven years. For me, an “old guy” whose obsession with surfing began later in life, it’s especially gratifying to have old friends who have also come to share my passion. Thanks, Joel, for taking the time to leave your perfect and warm California waves for our choppy cold business.

Surfing 16 (7/6): Junky Running — Tuesday AM at Indian Beach

For our second session I took Joel to Indian Beach on Tuesday morning, close to high tide again. The conditions were not perfect, as the wind had started to come up. But there was some fun riding to be had. After paddling in along the customary route on the north end, we had to move pretty far south to find the breaking peaks. But the 4-5 foot waves were completely inconsistent in their breaking pattern, and we soon got tired chasing after the breaking peaks in the middle. Those several times we got caught inside forced us to battle back out through the beach break, spending precious energy. It was hard to wind up in the right place, along a breaking corner or wedge of the steep waves. On days like this, you have to have perfect timing and position unless you want to get pounded by the central, close-out section of the wave, or miss it altogether. For me this happened a few times, though, before the end, and I can say it was pretty fun. We surfed for about 90 minutes.

Surfing 17 (7/6): More Shape than Substance — Tuesday PM at Oswald

Tuesday afternoon, the weather could not have been more sunny and beautiful (or so we thought until we got to Wednesday!). We played on the beach and bided our time until the evening, and then we went back to Oswald. It was a blast to be back there for an evening session on a second day in a row. It was smaller, and, if anything, smoother and glassier than the first night. We went into the middle, and chased a bunch of waves, catching a few. The shape was brilliant, and the beauty of the moment was extreme. But the size was small, and the waves failed to set up fully where they would have produced a really exciting ride. Most breaks had multiple breaking humps and quickly closed out. And there were a lot of people out. So we got our selves tuckered out. At the end of the session we again paddled down to the south end and I found that the same conditions applied as the previous night. The south end was more choppy, but also bigger, steeper, and, once you had found your position, better surfing overall. So the night ended up with quite a few exciting and gratifying rides.

Surfing 18 (7/7): Sunny North End Playtime — Wednesday AM at Oswald

Twelve hours later we again hiked down to Short Sand, starting to really feel the pain from pushing our 40+ year old bodies as we had been doing. Wednesday would shape up into a really gorgeous day. It was super hot by mid morning, over 75 degrees on the beach, and everybody was out and sunbathing or setting up for a full day of fun at Smuggler Cove. The waves, such as they were (kinda junky and disorganized, and small, but pretty glassy in spite of 10 knot winds, because the wind was ENE) ended up being crowded by thrill seekers. We went north on the beach to suit up, and ended up paddling all the way north. We did find some ridable waves but the conditions, aside from the weather, weren’t the best. We had fun chasing those waves but both complained of lacking full strength for paddling, etc.

Not-Surfing (7/8): Too Sore, Too Tired, Too Picky — Thursday AM Non-Session at Indian Beach

Thursday morning we were dragging. And the weather, after such a beautiful day on Wednesday, seemed grim and foreboding. We nevertheless motivated ourselves to get up and drive to Indian Beach. Once there, our sore and tired bodies spoke much more loudly than the feeble stoke in our hearts. Looking out, nothing about the surfing appealed to us. The tide was semi-out. Slate sky. Water ashen clay and splashed with foam. Nobody surfing, but two guys just finishing up. We watched for a while and talked about all the reasons not to surf it. The wind chop was as big as the waves, which looked to be 2-3 feet at max. Together, wind and swell turned the beach break into swirling froth of barely surfable closeouts. We were so sore (and I would become more and more sore over the next several days). And so tired. So we went to Pig N’ Pancake in Cannon Beach instead and talked about how good the waves are in California, and why.

Next time, I’ll come visit you, Joel!

Oswald Gloaming

For days, Oregon had been threatening to put on its worst summer storm weather for the occasion of the surfing visit of my friend Joel Barron. Joel’s an old buddy from college who, having moved to southern California for work in mid-lift, has taken up surfing. I had convinced him to come up and surf a couple of days with me this summer in the cold waters of North Coast Oregon. But as his arrival approached the winds, and the forecast surf, were looking sketchier and sketchier. Big swell with a long period, which sounded ok, but with huge winds, wind-waves that threatened to swamp the swell, etc. The waters at Arch Cape (which I am learning are not a reliable indicator of conditions elsewhere, but still) looked terrible. Impassible whitewater. And gray skies everywhere.

Surfing 15: Oswald West Evening Session

Joel arrived at our house Monday just before the dinner hour, just in time to make an evening session at Oswald. He took a look at the sea, as I had, and just let out a little “that’s how it goes” sort of laugh. The waters really did look unattractive: cold, turbulent, chaotic, green gray on black gray on white spray. But we got our gear together, and made our way to Oswald by about 7 pm, maybe an hour before high tide would peak. Amazingly, it was sunny. The wind was dying down. And the waters in the middle looked… very surfable.

When Oswald works, it works. The southeast facing beach is sheltered from evil northerly winds and the channel-like cove protects the waters from chop and incoherence. As we made our way out in the middle, we found it not too difficult to make it out into the four-foot swell, and were a bit surprised to find the shapes to be excellent for riding, and the surface was, in places, almost glassy. The sun played on the spray at the top of the waves, giving everything a kind of classic appearance and shape, almost like an off-shore wind. I was so pleased. Given the overall weather pattern and prevailing surf conditions, Oswald put on its best possible face for Joel. There weren’t too many people, the setting was beautiful, the waves were ride-able. We had many rides, and lots of fun. All in all, an awesome session. There is nothing like an evening surf at high-tide. We pushed it until the sun left the tallest trees, and the outer points were under the shadow of the horizon. We were among the last five surfers in the water. Having clambered back onto the rocks and logs at about 9:15 pm, just after sunset, we had hot tea, and made our way back to the car just before dark.

Epic.