AsiaFest Travel, Day 1

 The view from breakfast in Singapore this morning, or is it dinner...my body clock has no idea at the moment...

The view from breakfast in Singapore this morning, or is it dinner...my body clock has no idea at the moment...

One of the reasons I've been able to improve rather substantially the past few seasons of triathlon racing is because of a consistent training schedule.  I could almost always count on a steady two hours Monday through Friday, with a training day either on Saturday or Sunday. All the workouts added up, I got faster, times improved, and I found myself competing for age group podiums on occasion.

This year, specifically this summer, has been very different. June and July brought a vacation to Bali, a convention in San Diego, and bronchitis along with it. August brought a huge gaming convention called Gamescom, in Germany, and my reward for that trip was a second bout with bronchitis.  I've missed close to a full week of training to illness and almost two weeks to business travel.

Now, it's Saturday at 10 a.m....in Singapore. Here I begin a whirlwind tour taking me eventually to Seoul and Taipei to promote Sunset Overdrive, our game studio's Xbox One exclusive coming out this October.  If I'm lucky, I'll fit in roughly five training sessions over the nine days I'm gone. The optimist in me wants to focus on the quality Ironman Arizona prep workouts I'll manage despite a challenging schedule that includes 20,000 air miles.  The pessimist fights back hard, reminding me that's four lost opportunities, four lost chances to reach my goal of breaking 10 hours at IMAZ in November, let alone a sub-5 hour finish at Ironman 70.3 Silverman in a few weeks.

I suppose all I can do is my best, which will be begin immediately after this post. One workout at a time. I've only been off the plane six hours after my 18 hour odyssey. But don't feel bad for me.  I flew Singapore Airlines business class.

 Sure, I'll try the duck foie gras starter, but I can't quite choose between the Italian chianti or the French Bordeaux, so let's go with both.

Sure, I'll try the duck foie gras starter, but I can't quite choose between the Italian chianti or the French Bordeaux, so let's go with both.

I finally understand how folks like the President of the United States can look like they haven't missed a beat after a grueling travel day.  

Singapore Airlines is the best I've ever flown.  Huge seats. Amazing food. Courteous and helpful flight attendants.  And the flights across the ocean were largely empty on the expansive A-380, which featured an all-business class upper deck. 

Since arriving, I've tried to find a 10k or half-marathon to race. I came close, but the half marathon that begins tomorrow is reserved primarily for members of the Singapore Armed Forces, and the 10k that begins this afternoon (huh?) is about 25 minutes away and there are no age-group prizes. Meh. I'm going to run near the site of the Singapore Grand Prix on a beautiful garden path. Will share more with my next update.

 I should get some nice swim yardage in here, I think. Plus, good sighting chances to not go over the edge haha!

I should get some nice swim yardage in here, I think. Plus, good sighting chances to not go over the edge haha!

Ironman training isn't glamorous. It's not always fun. But it certainly can be exotic.

Let it Go, Man

As some of you may know, I was in Austin, Texas this weekend for South by Southwest, the annual music, film, tech and gaming mash-up that brings smarties and hipsters together from all over the country.  I spent my time trying to do three things there: 1) Get a sense of which way the marketing trend winds were blowing (answer: user experience is king)

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The Best Tribute I Can Offer

My grandmother is sick. In fact, she's dying after a frustrating, heartbreaking battle with Alzheimer's Disease.  She's suffered from it for a few years now, going from someone who didn't need a calculator to maintain the books at my family's business for 50-plus years to not knowing who any of us are. Of course, I remember many things about her, which I shared with her recently in a note I have no idea whether she understood let alone internalized. Yet we do these things not as much for the ill as for the living. Fortunately, my grandmother instilled in me her tough work ethic, never quit, never settle for anything less than the "A" mentality.  That's what leads me to this past Saturday's inaugural HITS series Olympic triathlon in La Quinta.

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Pilot Error

I raced at the San Dimas Turkey Tri yesterday, where I personally played the role of turkey.  I misunderstood a turn sign at the end of the first bike course loop, dropped from fourth place in my age group to fifth, and lost out on another chance to qualify for the Age Group National Championships -- by one place. I have a good reason though, I swear.

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Wedding, Coaching and Charity Oh My!

I've had SO much going on lately!  Thanks for being patient with me, not that you're waiting with bated breath for the next blog post. The big countdown right now isn't a triathlon but my wedding.  We're inside four weeks now.  The RSVPs are pouring in, last-minute decisions are being made almost every minute and the anticipation continues to build.  I'm really starting to get excited now.  Before, my wedding was just a date on the far horizon.  Almost like how Ironman Arizona was in 2010.  But it's finally here in the foreground.  The other night I was explaining to Steph that the feeling is very similar to an impending Ironman in that no matter what last-second mishap may occur, we're still "ready" for the wedding and it will be a great event no matter what. We've put in all the hard work and planning and that doesn't go away just because a new challenge may arise.  I was afraid to use an Ironman metaphor for the wedding but I actually think it helped us keep everything in perspective.

On the training front, I've installed my CompuTrainer.  Or rather, I had it installed for me by my buddy Pete, with support from Coach Gerardo.  I have to be honest and say that the set-up process is not the most intuitive.  The documentation feels outdated in an era where a set-up video would be practically expected.  Instead, you're looking at manuals that don't provide the best overall direction.  One example came in the form of installing the bike into the CompuTrainer mount.  The directions don't indicate that you need to use the load generator knob to help adjust where it sits on the back wheel.  This was frustrating because it seemed that the bike wasn't fitting in the mount.  All that said, now that I know how to use the machine and the software, I can tell how powerful a tool CompuTrainer can be.

When I wasn't learning how to use my CompuTrainer, I've been focusing on overhauling my swim technique.  You can see what I'm learning in this video:

As if that weren't enough, I'm dabbling in self-coaching for the next few months.  Just enough to keep me in shape.  I'm making my own training schedule via Training Peaks, reading about training with a power meter and signed up for a triathlon in Palm Springs this December to see how I do in training myself.  I can tell you that it's a lot harder to self-coach than I ever imagined.  All the reading, formulas, theories and time needed to craft a scientifically smart (and fun) schedule is quite the challenge.  But it makes me appreciate what Gerardo does day in, day out, week in, week out for our entire team.  The next time you get a schedule from your coach, make sure to thank him or her for their hard work on getting it just right.  I do really like the empowerment that comes with creating my own schedule.  I feel like I'm doing something important for myself and that if I perform well or don't perform well, it's nobody's fault but mine.  In other words, I like the accountability.

On the writing front, I'm working on turning my first year's worth of posts into a self-published book.  I think the lessons learned in there on what to expect mentally from training for your first Ironman may be valuable to others.  It's taking a lot longer than I expected reading through each month's worth of entries and taking notes about what to focus on for each chapter.  I'm thinking at this point I'll write an introduction summarizing that particular month of training and insights while including each individual entry after it.  Hopefully the power of the daily entries is what people find interesting. We'll see. I'm open to suggestions though if anyone has any.

Finally, I can't finish this post without mentioning the T-shirts I'm creaing to benefit Season 1 Racing and Cancer Hope Network.  I've gotten a pretty good response from folks who liked my "I may not be a runner...but I'm a runner today" mantra from Ironman Coeur d'Alene.  So, here's a T-shirt design I'm considering at the moment.  The shirt color will be a darker gray and the Season 1 Racing logo will be moved to the shirt sleeve.  But otherwise, what do you think???  I'll be taking orders soon and then buy the shirts after I assess demand.

So that's what's been keeping me busy lately, not to mention changing times at work.  And now, I embark on an even scarier mission...my bachelor party weekend!  Lord, help me.

Why Not What

Midway through my Sunday morning bike ride with my fellow Ironman Coeur d'Alene finisher Richard, I realized something pretty important: Two hours of road cycling is plenty! In my first outdoor ride since IMCDA, the biggest thing I noticed was how happy I was to enjoy the rest of my day AFTER my ride.  No bricks.  No pre-ride swims.  Just a nice bike ride, no Garmins attached.  Done by 1 p.m., not 5.

What does that mean?  Am I burnt out?  Do I need more rest?  Was it a bad idea to buy that Computrainer after all?

The answers: Maybe a little, I don't know, and I hope not!

The way I felt after my ride has started affecting my desire level to train more actively.  I'm starting to feel the onset of a rather satisfying laziness.  I've accomplished what I set out to do.  I hit my goals. In the process, I've deprived myself of my favorite foods, favorite drinks, sleep, time with friends and family.

I want a break!  I want more balance.  And I've been taking it, eating literally whatever I want, drinking some beers and generally becoming rather sloth-like while hanging out more with my crew.

At the same time, I hate how I feel!  I'm feeling my fitness melt away daily.  That sense of guilt is making it very hard to relax during what's supposed to be a recovery period.  It's almost like being on a treadmill at an uncomfortably high pace, yet unable to hit the "Stop" button to get off.

There's a fine line between a lifestyle and an obsession. Sometimes I can't tell which is which.  One person who does know the difference is pro triathlete Marino Vanhoenacker -- who recently broke the 14-year-old world record for fastest Ironman result with a 7:45:52 before Andreas Raelert beat that mark one week later by an astonishing four minutes.  While I won't go into details since I'm saving them for my upcoming Lava Magazine column, I will note that he believes age groupers have lost sight of how to enjoy the sport of triathlon -- instead focusing too much on attaining PRs.

I can't really argue with that.

In fact, for the rest of this week, I'm going to focus on WHY I'm continuing with triathlon.  What am I enjoying about this sport?  Why do I want to consider Ironman Canada next August?  Why am I going to keep pushing myself to my physical and mental limit?

This is a worthy challenge.  One I'm up for though.  Have you done the same lately?

I will write soon to let you know what I find out.

Standing at the Mountaintop...Again

Rejoice!  Ironman Coeur d'Alene taper has begun! After a Saturday of cycling and running seven hours and climbing 7,000-plus feet and a Sunday of running 13 miles and swimming close to 3,000 yards, I stand on the precipice of peak physical and mental fitness.

I am ready for Coeur d'Alene.

Earlier this week, I struggled with my personal trainer telling me I'm "just not cut out for running."  I've turned that into fuel for my fire, and a new mantra:

"I may not be a runner.  But I am a runner today."

That's how I felt as I ran the hills of Calabasas with my buddy Jason today.  I was planning on a mild, flat tempo run but Jason had other ideas.  He's gearing up for his first half marathon at Dirt Mulholland and wanted some climbing work.  I obliged, and I'm glad I did. While I think the workout was meant to be a confidence boost for him, it certainly turned out to be the same for me too.  We did some serious climbing today up Mulholland and some hilly neighborhoods near Calabasas High School.  My body held out just fine, as did my heart-rate.  Perhaps I pushed just a bit harder than I would have on my own, but having the company and the challenge of running with a friend made it more than worthwhile.

That's been the biggest difference between my final build phase for Ironman Arizona and Coeur d'Alene.  For my first Ironman, I trained at the same course (dreadful Fillmore), largely by myself.  This time, my big bike workouts have been at springtime century events, heavily supported by teammates and new friends I've met along the way.  My workouts have remained fun and challenging, not grueling and mind-grinding. The misery of peaking before IMAZ has been replaced by firm resolve to put my head down, shut up and simply get the work done.   To be fair, I also think it helps knowing what I'm up against in my second Ironman rather than staring into the darkness of potential failure and personal embarrassment of failing to finish my Ironman.

No such demons this time.

I have pretty pictures to support this blog entry, but alas I'm in the office at work now (10:30 p.m.)  preparing for tomorrow's epic E3 day of announcements.  So, those pretty pictures are going to have to wait until tomorrow.  In fact, this week is going to be a crapshoot on blog posts.  As I've mentioned before, this week is like the Super Bowl of the videogames industry, and our company is smack at the proverbial 50-yard line.

Thank goodness my build phase ended one-day before the madness. But where will I find time to rest?

Haven't figured that one out yet.

22 days and counting.

Sledgehammer

A lot happened this weekend, this epic weekend of Ironman Coeur d'Alene training. I was trying to make some sense of it Saturday afternoon, driving home from Frazier Park (an hour north of Los Angeles) after the Heartbreak 100 century ride.  See, I was feeling pretty damn good about my performance there.  Not because I was particularly fast on the bike, but because I had enough energy left AFTER the bike to run for 50 minutes at what would have been close to a 4:30 marathon time.  That doesn't seem like much, but A) it would be my marathon PR and B) that came after climbing nearly 10,000 feet on a chilly day.  Speaking of chilly, it was so freakin' cold that I bought an extra pair of arm warmers and used them as calf warmers! I rode the course with an undershirt, a jersey, a fleece jacket, a wind breaker, leg warmers, arm warmers and arm warmers on my legs.

Back to the ride itself. What changed for me? What worked? Why? The trick for me was actually listening to my coach and walking (GASP) for a full minute after every nine minutes of running.  Going slower to ultimately go faster. It never makes sense to me but yet it works. In fact it made a huge difference, especially on a run that featured nearly 500 feet of climbing in the first two miles.

I had broken with my tradition, finally, of hammering on a bike ride only to fade on the run.  Instead, I stayed within myself, tough as it was to be passed, and conserved energy.  Still, I managed just over seven hours on a tough course -- which really wouldn't have been too much slower than what I would have managed going a more aggressively.

Which brings me back to my car ride home.  I was flipping through radio stations, done reflecting on the day and needing a mental break.  Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" came on.  Huge smile. Radio dial cranked up.  I had my new mantra:

"I've kicked the habit Shed my skin This is the new stuff I go dancing in, we go dancing in Oh won't you show for me And I will show for you Show for me, I will show for you"

If you saw a dude screaming and dancing in his car on the 118 Freeway around 6 p.m., that was me. I know it's a little corny, and I know the reasons behind the actual lyrics (I think it's about drug addiction) are very serious.  But for me, on that drive home, I felt like I had finally kicked my own stupid racing habits and was ready to take the next step forward in my tri-career.  It felt really good.  Like if I take care of myself -- if I show for you -- then my body will show for me, and my results will be better come race day.

The rest of Saturday and into Sunday morning was spent recovering from the ride and run.  While Heartbreak 100 isn't nearly as difficult as the Mulholland Challenge, it still took its toll -- most notably on my outer right knee area.  I woke up stiff and sore, and definitely not feeling like running for 2.5 hours.  I texted Gerardo to ask if I could skip the run, as much because I liked the confident feeling I had from the day prior and didn't want to be dragged back to that dark place of self-doubt following another sloggy bonk-fest.

Coach wasn't having any of that.

"Push through" was essentially the only text I got back. A man of few words, Gerardo is. But he knows which are the most important words.

So push through is what I did.  For 2.5 hours exactly in the Calabasas area.  Granted, I only climbed roughly the same elevation as yesterday's 50-minute run.  But, once again the walk a minute every mile routine paid huge dividends. My heart-rate never felt out of hand and I'm confident that if I can stay within myself on the bike ride that I can enjoy a marathon PR by a long shot.

As we all know though, Ironman can throw anything at you on race day.  So, I'll be prepared for that.  But today, following the run AND a 3,000-yard swim immediately thereafter, I felt refreshed.  Not exhausted. But happy.  Almost joyous.  I got through the weekend.  I learned about myself.  I learned that if I hydrate constantly (five full bottles on the Saturday bike, two full bottles for today's run), stay cool (literally), pop lots of Endurolytes, and stay focused and measured on the bike, I can have a GREAT day at Coeur d'Alene.

I didn't feel this way at the peak of my training last year heading into IMAZ.  Granted, we still have one more giant training week left, but if I can maintain this outlook and simply smarter training then I'll be quite confident and prepared.

A wiser athlete.  More humble.  But I'm carrying a sledgehammer filled with confidence and experience.

29 days and counting.

What is Our Formula?

Today at work, I was analyzing what makes for an iconic enemy in video games?  Is it a signature trait? If so, what kind?  Does the enemy have to be conversation-worthy?  I think so.  How does perceived danger or threat play a role?  There's probably a direct ratio to the threat level and the iconic nature of that enemy. Then, I began to wonder if WE have a formula?  What makes us iconic as triathletes?  What makes us Ironmen and Ironwomen?  For starters, we'd have to include willpower.  Without willpower, there's no way any of us would be able to handle the training, and the sacrifices that come along with it.  Next, I'd say athleticism.  While we may not be the second coming of LeBron, Carl Lewis or Michael Phelps, we each exhibit athletic qualities that enable us to swim, bike and run for long distances.  We couldn't complete a triathlon without being athletic even at the most base levels.  Finally, I'd assert that being an Ironman or Ironwoman requires a sense of fearlessness.  We are unafraid to pursue our dreams.  We are unafraid of failure, though it may keep us all up at night or force us to question our sanity in the moments before a race starts.  Yet, despite that fear, we splash into the water with hundreds -- sometimes thousands -- of strangers.  Knowing that we will be kicked, grabbed, clawed and poked mercilessly for what feels like an eternity.  Fearlessness leads to signing up for a second Ironman event even before the first one is completed.  Or is that stupidity.  No, it's fearlessness.  I think.

But what do you think?  If someone were to break you down as a triathlete and try to isolate the essential qualities that make you a triathlete, what would those qualities be?  For now, I'll start the discussion off with the following theorem -- we'll call it Schneider's Law:  M-dot = W + A + F x 2.4 + 112 + 26.2.

What's your Law?

32 days and counting.