How to find the time…

August 26, 2007

In a comment to Dr. Shellie on going running for “Balance“, Lab Lemming sez:

I used to do this, but it is harder now that I’m a parent…

A comment from Kevin Z on a post over at Cognitive Daily center punches a related issue:

I’ve been running every other day for the last 3.5 months. Its been great, I feel my energy level increased, my body getting into shape and my productivity increase as well. I will continue as much as I can. In the winter I cross-country ski every chance I can get.

Running is hard my knees and I know I probably don’t do it. I played soccer growing up and did short-distance (i.e. dashes & sprints) running, but I got sidetracked for oh, about 10 years and put on some weight. But I’m off the ciggies, off the junk food (though not entirely…), eating less more often and regularly running. Motivation mostly stems from wanting to be healthy to have fun with kids, and be around in good health for them as long as possible.

Who in this house holla back, aight? RealLife gets in the way of fitness and next thing you know it is TimeToMakeAChange.

Look not all of us can be professional (P.A.H.S. Bobcat harriers ruled Bishop Brady, yo!) runners like KemiboSabe who crazytalks:

I’ve run over 5,200 miles in a single calendar year and have raced about a dozen marathons. All I can say is that although I don’t think and better thanks to all this flailing around, I do think more. I’m often more focused, but with running, I can foster awful ideas with even greater clarity.

So we mortals need some strategies…

Commute: Totally efficient if your cage-commute is like mine. I can easily beat traffic on the way home which is conveniently a net downhill off the TP mesa. And hey, if you have enough, er, southern european male postdoc types around nobody will notice even if you can’t find the showers. Although come on, all science buildings have a shower somewhere. no excuse.

Lights: Gotta have decent ones, gotta do the night riding thing. Late at night or early in the morning. Look having infants and toddlers already screwed up your sleeping habits. You wake up at weird hours or take that 4pm coffee and forget to say “decaf”. Whatever. Don’t fire up the computer and work or read blogs, go for a ride! Okay, I got T-boned by one of PB’s traditional UnbelievablyDrunkChicks a couple of nights ago on the Sail Bay boardwalk but how often can that happen?

Multiple Bikes: Ok, we all know this is hard to get past the spouse unless yours happens to ride as much as you do. But you gotta. Bike geeks love to tinker around with the gear, fixing tires, cleaning, adjusting etc. This is OVER. Bike maintenance is now your hated enemy because you don’t get the extra 30 min prep time anymore to fix something you notice right at ride time. So you need as many options as possible, hopefully one of ’em is running! Me, I have a lot of stored investment in equipment not to mention the hardware from more recent prior attempts to get back to riding. But you may have to break out the cost of a heart attack or chronic blood thinner meds to get the spouse on board with that $5K rig you want… hey, all’s fair.

Motivation: This can take multiple posts but suffice it to say this is the biggie. Whatever it takes and I mean whatever. Are you a log junkie who wants to see that nice even graph of hours? Track your cumulative miles? Sign up for some crazy endurance race (like the bro just did). Tell yourself you are going to start racing again and re-license? Whatever, just do it. Whatever gets you out for a ride as often as possible.

A letter Dr. Scarpa, Director of the CSR, has been circulating to the heads of academic professional societies. I got ahold of this on a society email list. The Society president didn’t want to supply an official Society list and solicited volunteers from the membership.

Dear [SocietyPresident],

As you know, the quality of NIH's peer review process depends mightily on
the quality of the reviewers serving on our study sections. Several of your
fellow society presidents have sent us screened lists of volunteers from
their membership who they recommend as reviewers. We greatly appreciate
their help and are writing to ask for your assistance in identifying
senior, experienced members of your society willing to volunteer to serve
as NIH reviewers. 
 Read the rest of this entry »

The research fields we follow here at DrugMonkey have lost another tremendous contributor. Dr. Mendelson authored some 339+ articles with a focus on the human and nonhuman primate psychopharmacology of alcohol abuse. The notice from the Research Society on Alcoholism reads:

Jack H. Mendelson, MD (8/30/29 - 8/15/07)

Jack H. Mendelson MD, Professor of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical
School and Co-Director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Center  at
the McLean Hospital, died Wednesday, August 15th, 2007, after a  brief
illness. Dr. Mendelson received the Jellinek Memorial Award for  research
on alcoholism in 1978 and the Distinguished Research Award  from the
Research Society on Alcoholism in 1989. He was Editor of the  Journal of
Studies on Alcohol from 1984 to 1991. He leaves his wife  of 33 years,
Nancy K. Mello, Ph.D., two sons, John E. Mendelson, M.D.  and Adam
Mendelson, a daughter, Ellen Mendelson Maher, and four  grandchildren.

Condolences may be sent to his wife:
Dr. Nancy K. Mello
1010 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA   02138

A Memorial Service is being planned for late autumn.  Those wishing  to
contribute to the establishment of an award for innovative  research on
substance abuse in honor of his memory, may send  donations to the Jack
H. Mendelson Memorial Fund, McLean Hospital,  115 Mill Street, Belmont,
MA 02478.

We’ll start off our discussions on sports doping with the classic psychomotor stimulants, the amphetamines. You know, good old “speed”. A class of drugs primarily considered indirect dopamine agonists because they bind to the dopamine transporter with good affinity (dopamine reuptake inhibitor) and also act to facilitate dopamine release from the terminal. As with similar compounds they also tend to have some affinity for other monoaminergic transporters and will thus modulate norepinephrine and serotonin. Nevertheless, the major action usually under discussion is to increase dopamine levels in the synapse. Read the rest of this entry »

As I mentioned, some Uncertain Principles guestblogging on the fine old days of Usenet News inspired Drugmonkey’s big mistake.  Janet over at AdvEthSci made a relevant comment as follows:

Online, we don’t know who may be reading. There’s a way in which one’s blog persona is a very public thing (and, thanks to the Google cache, a very public thing that may be available for close inspection for a long time). This can make you pretty careful about how you present yourself. At the same time, especially for those blogging while pseudonymous, communication online can feel safer — you can put your ideas and arguments out there and let them sink or swim on their own merits, rather than having them tied up with preexisting impressions about what kind of person the author of those ideas and arguments is.

As it happens, one thing I had to do was to spend a little time Googling BikeMonkey (no dumbass, my real name, duh) and cycling and some other keywords. Just to see what sort of limb I was going to put DM out on and that sort of thing. It’s bad, but not too bad, so we went with the current scheme. But if Janet only knew. Imagine when your dirty laundry stretches ‘way back into youthful indiscretion territory (no, not of the Henry Hyde midlife crisis variety of “youthful”). It is going to be pretty funny in a decade or two when DM and his frequent commentors have gone to the dark side of “old established professordom” and have to defend these comments to new asst profs!  Oh, and also in the blog geekery file, look who I found here; note the page title and general area of endeavor and then page down for cycling interests!

Kitchen Sink

August 20, 2007

People are just desperate. That’s all there is to it. I’m looking over grants, of course, but this even goes beyond our load this time. The appendix rules have changed as most of you know. No more inclusion of published stuff for the most part, just keep it to those accepted manuscripts that haven’t appeared on pre-press sites yet, that sort of thing. I can see that a number of people don’t trust this. Probably the same who used to innundate with their opus, even though most of it was easily available and people had read anyway. But also all kinds of “supportive” stuff that is of various use. The point is that applicants seem to be in a fever because they just don’t know anymore what makes the difference. The perfectly good and perfectly well-revised app is getting hammered. So they (and let’s face it, “we”) flail around a bit with the old kitchen sink approach. Two words.

Learned Helplessness.

Have you stopped swimming yet?

The NYT had an article a month ago on the fact that in bike-speak “Fit” is not always equal to “Thin”, a fact which apparently confounds Wake-Forest “exercise physiologist” Michael Berry

But, Dr. Berry added, “I quickly learned that when I was riding with someone with a 36-inch waist, I could be looking at the back of their waist when they rode away from me.”

I gotta say runners crack me up. They have a pretty hard time getting cycling, mostly because it seems like a series of “cheats” compared to what they are used to. So when they blow out their knees, grind out their hips, get heel spurs, bang their big toes or whatever, they are forced to the OneTruePath of cycling for health reasons. This leads to much hilarity. To be fair though, I’ll point to two examples of cyclists-come-lately who didn’t have a running background to expand a bit on the NYT article.

First, check out the middle two pictures in the linked article, dude, this could be before/after on Bikemonkey! (Well, those legs are a little spindly for a real cyclist but focus on the equatorial regions if you will.) Suffice it to say I’m a good 40 pounds over racing weight. Most casual friends like spousal co-workers and neighbors kinda “heard” that I “used to ride” but see pretty much the “after” picture. And there is no doubt that my current job is pretty much limited to sitting in front of a computer writing papers and grants and running a lab.

Poor suckah number one was the guy who took up mountain biking to drop some weight in maybe his early thirties. He was a pretty obsessive type and was successful in dropping some weight, getting pretty good on the MTB and finally talked me into a ride. Of course we get back from the first ride and his mouth is pretty much on the ground, not from exertion but because he can’t believe this out of shape guy was putting the hurt on him like this. I am *not* braggin’ here, I peaked out as a sort-of competitive Sport MTB racer which is no great shakes. The point, however, is partially the one raised by the great Andy Hampsten in the NYT article that efficiency means a LOT in cycling. You have to learn to put down the power on a bike in an efficient manner, using as much of the non-physiologically-correct pedal circle as possible with as many muscle groups as possible. To achieve the most efficient pedaling cadence (crank rpm). Some people are going to be better than others, of course, but there is a massive training effect. Apparently this is one of the things that leaves you last and I can still pedal circles, good on me. Efficiency demands are trebled or quadrupled when you are talking off-road riding. Where to start? Everything requires efficiency because the more time you spend slowing down/speeding up because you don’t have the technical skill burns energy. Ditto bouncing up and down because you can’t read terrain. Etc. No, this guy’s full-suspendy bike didn’t help that much.

Second poor suckah was the neighbor, maybe 5-8 years older than me but rail thin, works for a living (i.e., ironworker; more on my formative years with similar working but real bike guys later) and came to cycling recently to keep fit with the rec-triath-wife. I think this episode was in the middle of one of my little motivational bursts where I actually dust off a bike and go for a ride or two. So we go for a nice little jaunt and he’s just killing me on the hills, up Mt. Soledad (the easy way, more on the infamous Via Capri in later posts no doubt) and up onto Torrey Pines Mesa (home of much bioscience for the nerds out there). Then we get up on the flats and crank out to the top of Torrey Pines (the park and popular intervals hill) and come back. The guy’s been killing me on the hills so, ok, I get out front in the big and cruise it a bit. After a while the guy’s dying and I’m getting the “How is this fat guy killing me?” look again. This is one of the points that runners miss, the NYT article overlooked and has a geeky component. Uphill riding is (mostly) about power to weight ratio which we’ve heard all about in Lance’s TdF conquests of the past decade or so. The NYT article talks about heavy people descending fast but this only brushes on the real point. Until the road is really going up, cycling is about power to frontal area because the cost of cutting through the air is so high. Naturally, the relationships of weight-to-power and frontal-area-to-power in cyclists are not directly related. It is no accident that real time trialists look like BigMig and Jan Ulrich (Ob: MDMA!) and guys like Pantani and Sastre have to “limit their losses”; in the TT it is all about raw power output. And fat guys who put on a big belly are probably actually improving their aerodynamics! Anyhoo, NYT missed this and it leads us to our next topic which mystifies me a bit, physiologically.


Another problem for cyclists-come-lately is that it seems to take something like 3 years of serious riding for a cyclist to start to asymptote. Now, this is complete seat-of-pants anecdote but comes from watching people “get serious about cycling” over the years. I’m sure the timecourse is modified by actual training regimen, some of this is tied up with development and there are exceptions. Whatever. There is, however, I think some thing physiological going on with leg musculature and the ability to really crank out the power on a bike. It doesn’t transfer for really fit/dedicated runners. I think the long timeline (years, not months) is really confusing to people who come from other sports, they just don’t think that it might be a 3 year process. So when after a summer of “getting serious about cycling” the fat, old, out-o-shape guy is still waxing them, well, I start getting that “look” again 🙂