Monthly Archives: January 2012

More Lifting, Some Travel, Etc

Yesterday I participated in something awesome. It’s known as the “CrossFit Total” and it’s a strength workout that CrossFit gyms do on occasion. The gym that I attend is called CrossFit Center City and they do the CrossFit Total every six months. The workout itself is very simple. You get three attempts at squat, deadlift and press to set your maximum successful lift in each discipline. Of course you also get to warm up and figure out what sort of attempts you’d like to make. I will list out my attempts in pounds because the workout was recorded in pounds — I usually lift in kilos though as they are the standard measurement in the lifting world as a whole.

We started off with squats. I did a few easy warmups with 0 (ie, air squat), bar, 135 and 185. By this point my motion felt good and I felt warmed up so I wanted to keep things low in volume from that point forward to not wear myself out at all. I did one rep at 245 then another rep at 275. Both felt pretty good. I decided to open at 298 (the weights were in kilos so it was 135kg with a 45lb bar). It felt pretty good but not easy. I then jumped to 307 (139kg with a 45lb bar) and made it but it required a fair bit of hyping myself up. This lift was just over my PR but I usually train in a slightly fatigued state because I lift every weekday. So my true PR is obviously higher than my training PR. Therefore I ended up going with 315 for my final attempt and it was a pretty epic struggle. It was very slow. But I ended up making it for a new PR. I was really happy with this result.

The next lift was the deadlift. I never really test my deadlift PR because it isn’t something that you can recover from as easily as squats. A few weeks ago (in December) I tried doing some pulls with lifting shoes on (ie, they have a heel so they make it harder to pick a bar up off of the ground) and I had no real trouble doing 165kg (363lb) outside of some grip issues. But I decided to deadlift in socks at the CrossFit Total to make it easier. I did three warmups with 185 then maybe a few more at like 205 or something. I can’t remember if I did a second set of warmups at a light weight. Then I did one rep at 255 and it was ridiculously easy. Like I didn’t even notice the bar. I knew it was going to be a good day. I did another easy warmup at 305 and then another one at 345. 345 started to feel like there was some weight on the bar but I knew I could open at 375 without much trouble. I ended up having to open at 365 because there was a long wait (like 15 minutes) to get to the area where we could actually take “official” attempts plus the right weight denominations weren’t available and we were running out of space on the bar because of the size of some of the bumper plates. 365 was easy. I did 385 next and it wasn’t bad at all. I decided to go for 405 for my third and I made it as well. It’s hard to say how a rep like that was because I was so focused that I wasn’t really paying attention to anything except for pulling. It’s hard to describe but on a near-max or max attempt, the lift itself is kind of a blur in your memory. Either way, 405 was a new PR and I was really happy with it. I can do more though so I’m excited to put at least 50lbs on that number by the next CrossFit Total in six months. Maybe 100lbs.

One factor is that I deadlift with “double overhand” which means that both of my palms are facing me. Most people pull their max deadlifts with a mixed grip where one palm faces away. The reason is that it’s easier to grip the bar with a mixed grip. For me, pulling 405 with a double overhand grip isn’t a problem at all. I never felt like I was in jeopardy of losing my grip because I was using a “hook” grip (ie, putting my thumb under my fingers). But it may become an issue once I get into the 450 or 500 area. We shall see.

Anyway, it was pretty forgettable, but I did a 130lb shoulder press (ie, a strict standing barbell overhead press) for my last lift. I don’t ever train this lift so I didn’t have particularly high hopes for it. It ended pretty much as I expected. I do want to train it more though so hopefully I can do a good amount more at the next CrossFit Total. Something to improve on. Here’s an image of the final scoreboard with a few of the other participants (click to enlarge):

In other news, I have some travel coming up. A few days ago I happened to be browsing the website of The Daily Show and I noticed they had two tickets for Feb 2nd. Easiest decision ever. I grabbed them without a plan for who to go with. Within about 5 minutes of posting on Facebook I’d found someone to go with. I’m going with my poker friend Roman Yitzhaki (aka Empire2000). I have no idea who the guest is going to be but I’m excited to go. I’ve actually been to a Daily Show taping before. It was back in September 2004 shortly after graduating college and just before I started my job with Deloitte & Touche. A lot has happened since then! It should be a great time although I’m hoping that waiting outside won’t be too cold. I’ll dress warm.

I’m also going to Florida for a few days in February. I’ll be staying at this place called Canyon Ranch which is some sort of yuppie-ish wellness hotel/spa/resort/etc. It isn’t exactly my choice. They claim to have free weights in the gym so I’m just really hoping for some sort of barbell that isn’t attached to a Smith press. If nothing else I’ll just relax like I did at the Grand Hyatt on my last day in Hawaii. I’m also currently contemplating adding on a trip to Grand Cayman at the end of my Florida trip. It’s really close to just fly down to Cayman from Miami and I also have some American Airlines miles that I can burn to get a first class trip home. So we’ll see.

Lastly, I wanted to give a plug to a great designer in case anyone out there is looking for some web design, branding, whatever. His name is Joseph Sorensen and he’s a Chicago-based creative. I’ve worked with him on a bunch of projects at this point and I can say with a high degree of certainty that he’s the best designer I’ve ever worked with. I don’t say that just because he’s got a great eye for design. I also say that because he’s available at all sorts of strange hours (he doesn’t sign off at 5pm local time and not show up until the next day), he is more than willing to get on Skype calls whenever, he has a great understanding of user friendliness, he’s got a great attitude about making changes, he doesn’t charge anything astronomical, etc. Joe is shockingly good at taking a vague idea with nonspecific descriptions and turning it into a great design with amazingly good details fleshed out in full. Anyway, I couldn’t recommend the guy higher and I told him I’d be more than happy to recommend him here. Although I am a little worried that he’ll have some trouble doing work for me if he gets too busy so hopefully not too many people contact him. You can get in contact with him via his website. One example of a site that he’s designed for us is IRA.com in case you’re looking for an example of his portfolio.

Back in the mainland

I got back a few days ago from a great ~11 day trip to Hawaii. I went with my family and we spent the first six days on the big island (also called Hawaii, hence the nickname) doing a biking trip with a company called Backroads. I’ve done a few of these “active” trips with my family before. One in the Canadian Rockies back in August 06. Then another one (with a company called VBT) in June 2007 in western Ireland. Then the most recent one was with Backroads in June 2010 to Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Park. The trips are always a lot of fun so I was looking forward to the Hawaii trip and it didn’t disappoint. I think it was actually my favorite active trip so far. Despite getting sick the first day, I really enjoyed it.

The trip was great for a few reasons. One, while it was a six day trip, we only stayed in three places. It’s really nice to not have to pack up every night like you have to with some of these types of tours. Second, the hotels that we stayed at were mostly really enjoyable. Pools, hot tubs, fun bar areas, nice rooms, etc. I remember in Canada and Ireland we were in some very “simple” hotels. And the reason is that you’re often out in the countryside when you’re biking and there simply aren’t high end hotels in the vicinity and it doesn’t make sense to shuttle an hour each way out of your way simply to have faster internet and better beds. But in the case of Hawaii, the hotels were pretty damn good. Third, the scenery was spectacular. Even the big island is quite small but it’s so diverse. You can go from being in a desert-like climate to a dense fog to a downpour to a jungle to whatever. In the span of a few miles. Apparently the island has something like 11 “climate zones”. Fourth, the people on the trip were great. It’s a group trip so you’re basically around 20-something other people for several days in a row. If some people are annoying, that can make the trip less pleasant. While we haven’t had unpleasant people on any of our trips, I’ve never enjoyed being around the rest of the group like I did in Hawaii. Pretty much every day we were hanging out in hot tubs, eating meals together (ones that weren’t group meals), chatting by the bar, etc. Everyone got along really really well and I’m Facebook friends with a good portion of the people on the trip so that’ll make it easy to keep in touch. That really put the trip over the top. So despite being sick and needing to sit out for a day of biking, I really loved it and I’m already looking forward to my next Backroads trip.

So anyway, after our bike trip ended and we said our sad goodbyes with the Backroads group, the family headed off to the airport to fly to Kauai (the oldest Hawaiian island, at the other end of the chain from the big island). We had to fly through Honolulu because there aren’t direct flights from every island to every island. Either way it was two easy/short flights and soon enough we were in Kauai for another five days or so. I stayed one extra day because I wanted to redeem miles for my flight so I could sit in first class for the long flights (12 hours in coach sounded pretty rough to me) — and the only available seats were one day after the rest of my family.

Anyway, Kauai was great. We did a helicopter tour the first day which consisted of 60 minutes of airtime basically flying around the island. It was an amazing experience. The headsets were playing music while the pilot gave us various facts about what we were looking at. As my sister said, it was like we were in an IMAX theater. But better obviously.

I did have a bit of a dilemma the last day. Everyone else flew out on an 11pm redeye last Saturday night. And I had to check out of our rented condo by 10am on Sunday and my flight didn’t leave until something like 9:40pm. That’s a lot of time to kill when most of the tours on the island don’t operate on Sundays. I could have sat on the beach but then I wouldn’t have been able to shower and clean up before the flights. Plus that was a lot of time on the beach for a (purposefully) pale guy like me. Luckily my dad had used the spa facilities at the nearby Grand Hyatt and he mentioned that I could probably spend all day there. It was a fantastic idea. I ended up going over there around 10:15, booking a massage for 3pm, going to the golf clubhouse bar for a few hours to watch NFL (the Atlanta-NYG game was on due to the time difference) then heading back to the spa around 12:30 or 1. Then I worked out in the gym for a few hours and watched the Tebow show as well. I attempted to do deadlifts but, as you can see in the picture below, it was a goofy setup. It felt pretty unsafe for my wrists to do them with a curl bar but I still managed to do 320+bar (which I’m assuming is 25 lbs so I guess 345 lbs) before I couldn’t hold onto it properly anymore. So I ended up doing a lot of singles and then headed to my massage at 3pm. The massage was fantastic. I killed the last few hours by rotating between the jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and pool. I walked out of there feeling amazingly relaxed. I should probably go do those sorts of things more often. That can be my NY resolution.

Here’s a very small selection of the pics that I took:

In other news, I think it’s really interesting what’s going on with the online poker stuff in the USA. I cracked up when I saw the DOJ wire act decision that was released the day after the NGC information. It’s pretty predictable how this whole thing is playing out. It does seem like at least some people will be able to play real money poker in the US sometimes in the next 12-18 months. That being said, I’m thinking that overall this is going to be a good thing for poker as a whole in the long run. Obviously it will hurt certain people. Like the 2+2 FPP grinder crowd that is currently up in arms over the rake calculation method change at Stars has probably seen the last of their style of moneymaking. I don’t see the US poker rooms making a dumb decision like using the dealt method. It’s obviously way better for the rooms to use contribution-based rake calculation models and it’s not close. And another group that will be hurt will be the people who want to play super high stakes. I’ve said for years that I don’t believe that regulated US poker rooms will be allowed to have things like player-to-player transfers, games like 200/400 NL, etc. I think it’s going to be a much more controlled and “reasonable” environment with a crap ton (well, if the casinos are smart about marketing…) of $20 to $300 tournaments. Or whatever the regulatory structure and political environment will allow. Which I don’t think will be what we’re used to seeing.

As I said back in late July, I won’t be working at a poker-related day job until the legal environment changes in the US. That being said, with the changes we’re seeing recently there could be some interesting possibilities. I could end up back at a poker forum like PocketFives. I could end up working in the online group at a casino company out in Vegas. I could get involved with a group applying for a license in some state or states. It’s really hard to say. But at the end of the day I really enjoy the online poker world, I feel like I have a lot to contribute and I’d love to get re-involved with the right situation. It doesn’t seem like the time is here quite yet but it could creep up really soon. So we’ll see if that situation comes up in the next year or two. It should be a really interesting time for online poker if things keep progressing in this direction.