A New Way to Race?

OK, it's starting to sink in: After one Ironman and two Half-Ironmans, I'm learning the hard way that the key to a successful race is pacing towards the run and not trying to set PR's on the swim and bike. At least I think so?

I put this theory to practice today in a pedestrian 3.5 hour ride with my buddy Frank.  We twice replicated the Amgen Stage 8 route from last year, Agoura Road to Cornell to Mulholland up Rock Store and down Decker.  Our pace was slow (trust me), but I kept my heart rate mostly in zone 2 (typically south of 141 bpm).  This also was because I chucked up a fair amount of mucus from chest and nose through the first half of the ride.  But, by the end I felt pretty decent -- though my body was telling me a third loop would be a mistake.

The highlight of the ride was spotting Team HTC/Highroad (Cavendish, Martin, Renshaw, etc.) at Westlake Boulevard on its way presumably to Hidden Valley or up Decker.  Granted, the "big three" aren't with this particular team as they're at the Giro d'Italia according to the curt German team mechanics I quizzed as I visited the team's truck.  They're training in Southern California instead of Northern because, as the jerky bike tech said, "you want them to train in the snow?"

Gee, thanks dude.

After the ride, I did something I rarely get to do following a workout -- sleep!  Steph is trying on her wedding dress down south today and that meant I could take a nap that I desperately needed.  It's quite clear my body is still fighting infection as an alarm had to wake me up nearly two hours later.  But I still rallied to jump in the pool for 40 minutes and I'm glad I did.  My performance was much better today than yesterday, which is encouraging.

Maybe I haven't lost as much fitness as I thought.

That said, I probably couldn't have gone much harder on the bike today even if I tried. Which brings me back to my main point.  I may have to accept the realization that if I want a faster Ironman time, I need to hold back a bit on the bike and swim.  I simply need more energy to expend later in the day and can't get caught up in trying to PR any one particular area of my race. I did have that kind of mindset at Wildflower, as I feel like what's the point of racing if you're not trying to outdo yourself in each of the three sports every time?  But, ultimately it's how you finish the race -- not how you start or complete a particular segment.  The fact is that it's probably a lot easier to make up time on the run than anywhere else.  On a swim we're talking a matter of minutes between a PR performance while still turning in a respectable time.  On the bike, what's 15 more minutes on the road if it ultimately means saving 20-30 minutes on the run?

I need to focus on the long-term goal. Finishing the race in my goal time.  Not what split I've achieved.

Easier said than done, but today was a good lesson in that area.

Let's see if it sticks.


50 days and counting.

Overbiting, Overachieving

A couple nights ago, I was watching my Arizona Wildcats pummel Duke at a local taco shop, exhausted after a tough swim workout.  My Fortius friends were there too and just as they arrived, I took a giant bite of my taco, only to realize that I hadn't chewed enough. It slithered painfully slow down my esophagus.  And stayed there for about an hour and a half while I dry heaved and paced painfully in the hallway at home.  That was after my teammates and friends, Mike and Karen drove me home because I became pale and light-headed. This isn't the first time that's happened to me.

I have a habit of biting off more than I can chew, literally and metaphorically.

But I wonder is that a bad thing? Which leads me to my race report today from what was supposed to be the Cheseboro Half Marathon, as part of the Great Race of Agoura.  Instead, the trail race was cancelled and funneled into the Pacific Half Marathon road race -- which I completed two years ago to the tune of 1:50:19.

Honestly, I didn't want to run the Pacific Half.  I had run four times this week already, was experiencing mild discomfort in my calves and Achilles area, and generally didn't feel fresh or loose. But, Coach Gerardo said I should do it, and I knew I was slightly behind on the running aspect of my training.

So I ran.  And what was supposed to be a "training run" turned into a personal vendetta to not only beat my 2009 Pacific Half time, but also to see if I could break my previous best finish at a half marathon, 1:45:59 at Surf City last year.

I did it, by more than a minute -- 1:44:52 by the official chip time. An 8:01/mile pace.

I didn't expect to PR. Not today.  Not with weather in the mid 30's at race start.  Not after eating a bacon cheeseburger for dinner last night, and an ice cream sandwich for dessert after lunch.  And most definitely not because at first, I simply didn't believe I could do it.

Then, the race started.  And I stopped worrying about it.  I remembered my interview for Lava Magazine I had recently with Tim Bomba, who runs the LA Tri Club's "Ocean 101" circuit.  He told me the best race he ever had was when he stopped caring about the results, essentially turned off the watch, and just had fun.

So that's what I tried to do today, within reason.  I never knew what my actual race pace was. Instead, I focused on heart rate but didn't let myself care too much if it exceeded my pre-game mental threshold of approximately 155 bpm.  If I felt like running hard, I did.  If I felt like slowing down, I did that too. But the one thing I WOULD NOT DO was stop.  That was the only promise I made to myself, and of course, it wasn't a difficult promise to keep.  As you can see with the elevation profile on the course, it's not the flattest course around. Especially with a nearly one-mile climb at the three-mile mark.  But I know that based on my training, I recover well.  My heart-rate can drop pretty quick, so why not let it ride a bit?

It worked.  And so did the lessons I learned from my buddy Greg Moe, who coached me through a run workout last week where we focused on cadence, downhill running and arm movement.  I practiced all three today, with downhill running primarily being responsible for me hitting my new PR.  I used to brake on downhills, afraid that I'd be hurting my quad muscles or IT bands.  Since I now am better at forefoot striking, it's less of an issue.  Once I got to the top of the peak climb during the race, I leaned forward and simply let the hill carry me down -- to the tune of a 6:42 mile.  I would not have even attempted to go that fast in the past for fear of blowing up later in the run. Not caring as much if I did, while trusting that I'd recover quickly enough not to, were both key in ensuring that my heart-rate remained consistent throughout the race.

Until the final mile.

Then, I let it out.  My heart felt like it was cramping but I pushed forward as best I could, catching up to people in front of me who dogged me through the entire race.  All I saw was their sweaty backs throughout the morning, until the very end.  I can honestly say I didn't leave a thing extra from within on that course.  It was my best effort, and it feels good.

So much for a training run though.  Once again, I over-bit.  Once again though, I think I over-achieved beyond my expectations.  Sometimes biting off more than one can chew hurts.  Sometimes you have to cough it back up.  And sometimes when that happens, you have to clean up the vomit, wipe off your mouth, and ask for seconds.  I literally ate the meal I couldn't get down Thursday night for breakfast on Friday morning.  I had to finish what I started, I suppose.

Now, the question will be how well I recover, as tomorrow I do it all over again -- this time on the bike for a five-hour climb-fest with my buddy Caleb.  Then, I'll be swimming if I have anything extra left in the tank.  I'm not counting on it, but I will try.

For now, I'm still wearing my finisher's medal.  I'm going to savor today just a bit longer.

87 days and counting.

Back to Work

Today I hit the Refresh button, literally, on my Ironman training. After a brief moment of reflection, I reset my countdown clock on the blog to Ironman Coeur d'Alene.  It's time to look ahead and move forward.  I basked in the post-IMAZ glow for two weeks, and now it's time to get back to work. Of course, that's easier said than done -- especially after not exercising since the race.  So, I added a little motivation on my bathroom mirror.  Something I'll look at every morning when I get out of bed.  I still have "Remember THIS Day" and "It's the journey, not the destination" scrawled on notes stuck to my mirror as well.  But this note is smack-dab in the center.  Staring me in the face.

I know this Post-It might seem harsh.  But I need to kick-start myself emotionally as well as physically.

That's what I attempted to do this morning with my Fortius trail run in Agoura.  Several of the usual suspects (Richard, Ann, Mike, Karen, David) were running the CIM marathon in Sacramento. But we still had a solid turnout on this crisp, cloudy morning, including a new teammate, Chris.  He volunteered at IMAZ near the first aid station on the bike route.  I'll look forward to sharing what I know about the course with him as he begins his own journey towards Ironman Number One.

The plan was to run for two hours today, but my IT bands wouldn't cooperate.  As you can imagine, my legs started tightening up around the third or fourth mile.  We weren't even doing much elevation today (600 feet total).  My left leg really started acting up around the turnaround point for us (just shy of an hour), the same burning, tingling sensation around my lower kneecap I felt at IMAZ around the eighth mile of the run.

Something is definitely not right with my leg.  I mashed my way through the rest of the run, taking brief moments to stretch my left leg and then my right -- which started acting up around the seventh mile.  The only bit of good news I can take from this run is that I was never winded or overly tired.  Fitness-wise, I feel fine. Once again, like at IMAZ, my body betrayed me.  But I'm not sure I can really write that in good conscience since I didn't stretch in two weeks, gained five pounds and generally did nothing constructive for my training.

I'll be fixing that starting today.  I've applied ice bags, rubbed pain gel, stretched, and even howled in pain from being overly aggressive with the foam roller.

Yep, time to start training again.

I also ran with a new pair of shoes today, the Asics 2160 trail shoes.

I bought them last night from Road Runner in West Hills, in a half-size larger as often recommended for running shoes.  This is my third pair of Asics trail runners, the 2140 and 2150 being the previous versions of the 2160.  It's too early to offer a legitimate review, but I can say that my heels were a little sore after the run, which is unusual, and the shoe was tighter than I expected last night when I wore them to a dinner party to break them in.  I've had nothing but great luck with my Asics so I'm confident this pair will eventually work out well.  While the Asics 2150s were a little on the heavy side (around the 11.5+ oz mark), I rarely had fit-related issues and after IMAZ my feet weren't sore.

So, on two wobbly legs I managed to run just over 10 miles in just under 1:45:00.  Not my best run, but for my first run back, I'll take it.

And, as my Post-It note implies, I certainly won't basking in that "accomplishment" for very long.

After all, Ironman Coeur d'Alene is nearly seven months away.

198 days and counting.

PS: Here's my blog post from one year ago today.  It's interesting to me that one year ago today was apparently the first moment in my training where I realized I could truly become an Ironman.  I'm really glad I wrote this stuff down!

Ode to Joy

Finally, I enjoyed a workout that truly felt like a taper!  Thirty-eight miles of mild climbing (just shy of 3,000 feet) at a low heart-rate, complete with actual conversations with other human beings!  What a concept!  Fun! I started off the morning riding on my own in Agoura, but about a third of the way in, near Lake Sherwood, I ran into some Fortius teammates.  I immediately turned around to spend time with Joe and Kelly.  They're both in their off-season now, so we ambled along, chatting amongst ourselves and even some other cyclists.

Kelly and Joe turned back into the Starbucks parking lot but I needed another hour of pedal time.  That was fine by me, as I felt refreshed and eager.  I realized in typing this post that today's ride was the first time in months where cycling felt like a hobby -- something I love doing -- rather than a mind-numbing effort towards a particular goal.  I'm saddened by that epiphany somewhat but happy that at least I can sense it. Maybe that's what tapering is all about.  Rediscovering the joy for the sport, plain and simple.

My spirits lifted, I found myself galloping along for a brief 30 minute follow-up run at a faster pace.  This was further encouraging to me.  Maybe now I can start to gain energy over the next couple weeks. Looking at the training schedule more closely, tomorrow's brick is more or less the last "long" workout until the race.  I can dig that.

There was another force at play today.  Something I didn't expect.  One of the reasons I was able to ride with more joy was actually because of the relief and satisfaction of knowing I'm more adept at fixing flat tires.  I know it seems silly, but just knowing I'm not screwed if something "bad" happens to the bike during the race released a flood of pent-up anxiety should it actually happen.  Certainly, I hope I can stay on the bike and not have to dismount to fix a flat.  But if I have to, I'll be ready.  This means I'm instantly more comfortable and confident riding long distances on my own.  I can be my own mechanic now.  Seriously, what a relief.

For the past several weekends, I haven't really looked forward to any workout in particular.  I've just tried to get through them. Past them.  Over them.  Around them.  Tomorrow, I can honestly say I'm excited to get back on the road.  My bike got a thorough cleaning today at Helen's, thanks to Pete, and poppa's got a new pair of cycling shoes (Shimanos).  In addition, I'm now rockin' a Speedfill bottle that holds up to 40 ounces of liquid and lets me drink from a giant straw while maintaining my aero position.

Hanukkah arrived early!

Excitement.  Joy.  It's nice to reclaim these essential feelings.  It seems like they've been gone from my training for quite some time.

15 days and counting.

Ray to the Rescue

I haven't done a lot of cycling where the temperature matches and exceeds my cadence...when I'm pedaling flat or downhill. But that's what happened when LA Tri Clubber Cheryl pointed out that her computer watch indicated 104 degrees around 11:30 a.m. this morning on our approximately 60-mile ride from Agoura to Newbury Park and back.

Picture having a blow-driver blast you with hot air for 3.5 hours.  That's how our ride felt.  Shade was definitely our friend today during every rest stop -- which there were more of than usual.

Fortunately, we had none other than our dog-bark impersonating, recently USAT-certified coach, Ray, saving the day.  He drove a badly needed sag vehicle all over the Conejo Valley, keeping us hydrated with drinks paid for from his own pocket and entertained, as always.  Of course, Ray being the nice guy that he is, wouldn't even accept the contributions cup we offered him in return for going so far out of his way. On top of all that, Ray even found time to shoot some video of us in our various forms of agony or glory, depending on the time of day and the level of fluid in our water bottles. (You'll have to be Ray's buddy on Facebook to see them though!)

I fared well on the ride, especially since I had my road bike to everyone else's tri bikes.  I started to cramp around the last mile of the ride, using my elbows to power my legs up a final climb so I wouldn't over-exert with my hamstrings and quads.  I made it back to basecamp off Agoura Road and Las Virgenes without incident.

Perhaps the best part about today's ride is that I can finally put to bed my bonk-fest with Christina last month riding the Colnago.  Clearly that was a fluke.  We rode longer today, in much hotter conditions, and still managed some decent climbing.

Following the ride and a much-needed refueling session with the Fortius gang, I drew a cold bath at home and soaked with Epsom salt after icing my legs with frozen vegetable bags.  Then, it was nap time for nearly 1.5 hours.

Now that's what I recall a nice recovery.  My legs feel fairly fresh and I have no dehydration-related headache to report.  Which is good, because tomorrow morning Ray will be leading us on a 12-14 mile run through the Bulldog trail at Malibu Creek State Park -- near where the TV show M.A.S.H. was filmed many years ago.

There are days when I'm torn between being thrilled at having the opportunity to train to peak physical condition, and wondering what the hell I'm doing to myself.  Do you ever feel the same way? Seriously, it's Labor Day Weekend.  I should be sleeping in, lounging around at the beach, and sipping cocktails watching the sunset.  Instead, I'm getting up at 6, on the road or trail by 7 and training into the heat of the day.

This Ironman stuff sure feels nuts sometimes.

76 days and counting.

Hot Hot Heat

The line between training hard and being stupid is a fine one.  I think I walked it a little today. It wasn't supposed to go that way.  After touring the sun-splashed and wind-swept Santa Ynez Valley yesterday, Stephanie and crashed out pretty hard last night around 9:45 p.m.  Nearly 11 hours later, we awoke.  I suppose my body was trying to tell me something.

I eventually rallied this morning and drove to the Starbucks at Las Virgenes and Agoura Road for my brick workout -- which was a solo affair.  No sooner had I arrived than I had to turn around.  I left my helmet at home!  Arrrgh!  I did have that moment where I considered riding without it.  But I knew that was not a fine line between training and being stupid.  Plus, if I survived, Steph would have killed me anyways!

Once I eventually got started on my brick, it was 10:30 a.m.  In the span of driving home and returning to Agoura, the temperature went up five degrees to 80.  I was going to complete my brick during the hottest part of the day, from 10:30 through 2:30 p.m.

Wise or stupid?

On one hand, I'm a big believer in training in multiple weather conditions, especially with Vineman 70.3 looming.  It gets hot in Napa Valley in the middle of summer!  And my initial outing in heat, a week ago in Arizona, didn't go so great during the run.  I wanted to keep working at it.

On the other hand...dude, it's 93 degrees!  At least!  Coach Gerardo didn't say to train in the heat of the day, so why put myself through that?  Why not just do the workouts prescribed at the typical early hour?

Where's the fun in that?!

So, I trudged onward today.  Alone.  In the heat.  Talk about a mental exercise.  No music.  No conversation...just me, my thoughts, and beautiful scenery.  The highlights weren't even on the bike or the run, but the car rally fundraiser for the LA Sheriffs Department.  There were 100 exotic cars all revving up on Agoura Road, just waiting to blast and whine through the canyon roads.  Nice!

My pace on the bike and the run wasn't special.  However, I did see some progress on the run compared to Arizona.  I didn't lose as many calories, my average heart-rate was lower and my pace was only .1 mph off.  Yet I climbed 200 more feet.  The credit goes to better hydration -- I scheduled water refill stops at Peter Strauss Ranch and at the Sherwood fire station.  On the bike, I climbed Rock Store in just under 20 minutes while remaining largely in heart-rate zones 2-3 and not over-exerting except on a few steep grade turns.  I never really hammered on the ride, but it was still a respectable workout.

Following the full brick, after sitting in a heat-induced stupor at Sharkey's (top photo), I high-tailed it to Helen's Cycles in Santa Monica to pick up my new cleats and to quickly adjust the seat on my Colnago. Once again, Pete took great care of me.  With some very minor adjustments, like actually making my seat flat, I felt an immediate difference in comfort on the trainer.  I'm eager to see how Monica will feel back on the road for my next ride.  And seriously, people, if you need a new bike or a great place to get quality service, I can't recommend Helen's (and Pete) enough.  I've tried my luck at several bike shops and while I've had good results at others, Helen's is the best I've been to.  Hands down.  Simply a cut above the rest.  Like the advertisements say, ask for Pete, and tell him I sent ya!

Before signing off, I wanted to briefly reflect on the significance of today's date, June 6.  I believe it was 66 years ago when Allied Forces stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, Zero Hour.  This was the most pivotal moment of the 20th Century for America.  Had this battle been turned back, I fear the course of World, US and Jewish history would have taken a far worse turn.  I visited Normandy nine years ago today, and I can tell you that what those men fought through to get ashore is astounding and miraculous. And the rows upon rows of grave markers is something that sticks in my head and heart.  During my visit, I went out into the water at what would have approximately been Dog Sector and looked to the beach at the views and bluffs the Americans, Canadians and British had to scale.  I'm in awe of what those men accomplished that day, and when I compare my completely inane blog and its musings with the miraculous actions of that day...I am speechless and beyond humbled.

We are lucky to be free and alive, in good health no less.  We owe that at least partially to the veterans who fought on our behalf for generations, wherever duty called.  No matter how hot or cold it got.  Or wet.  Or worse.

164 days and counting.

1,000 Yard Stare Saturday

I've got the 1,000-yard stare down cold today.  That unmistakable look worn by those who have pushed themselves either to their physical or mental limits, or both. Four hours on the bike with a monster climb followed by an hour run can do that.  (Thank goodness I opted to bring the road bike today and not the tri bike!)  I haven't uploaded the Garmin data yet, but I think I burned north of 2,000 calories today.  The amazing thing to me is that I didn't even come all that close to completing a 70.3-mile distance and I'm pretty spent.  Granted, I dipped into heart-rate zone 5 on the bike and zone 4 on the run a little too.  But still, I didn't swim, biked two miles longer than the standard Half-Ironman 56 miles, and essentially ran half of a half-marathon.  Total time: roughly 4:50.

I know I'll be fine in less than two months when the starting gun at Vineman goes off.  But getting to that point now is harder than I realized.  I'm climbing a new fitness peak after plateau-ing the past few weeks.

Speaking of climbing, my Fortius teammates and I slogged our way up the big peak on Portrero Road.  Most people carefully steer down that road at very cautious speeds.  The climb was most certainly the steepest I've ever encountered, and it didn't help that I was accidentally in my big ring -- which I didn't realize until the peak when I started my descent and tried to switch into that gearing.  Darn it, I was already there!  That would explain the 35-45 rpms up the hill and feeling like I was going to tip over at any moment. The upside, of course, was the next big climb of the day -- "baby" Portrero hill by Sly Stallone's house -- was much, much easier.

The "toughest luck of the day" award went to none other than Fortius teammate and friend Mike.  He got a flat as we started our big Portrero climb... and then a bee flew into his helmet on the way down the hill and he got stung on the head!  As weird as that sounds, almost exactly the same thing happened to me in 2008 when I was a rookie rider with the San Fernando Valley Bike Club.  The only difference was that I got stung by a yellow jacket, and I was all alone.

For me, the best part of today's bike ride was cycling on some of the roads on tomorrow's final stage of the Amgen Tour of California.  The same streets I ride on regularly will now be considered holy as the likes of Cavendish, Shleck, Zebriskie, Leipheimer and all the other amazing pros blast through them.  I can't wait for them to show me how it's really supposed to look.

That's all I got for today.  I'm going to watch the Amgen Tour of California time trials on Versus, go to Fortius Coach Ray's house to try on our new K-Swiss sample racing team kits (woohoo!) and get ready for Stephanie to head back into town after a night out in Palm Springs with her best friend.  Go go go!

One last note.  I'm inside of six months until Ironman Arizona on November 21.  Yet my blog countdown is WAY off.  I'm nine days off.  So, I'm resetting my countdown clock to 179 days and counting with this post.

Wait for it...

179 DAYS AND COUNTING!!! Less than six months to go!


The Valley Coach group met this morning at 8 at the Cheseboro Park in Old Agoura, the site of my first trail run.

The first time I ran it this past November, my IT bands were bothering me around the 12th mile, I had succumbed to peer pressure by running more than I was assigned to, and I ultimately regretted it all day with soreness. In short, not a very fun run.
Not this time.
Decked out in my new Asics 2140GT trail runners and Amphipod running belt, I was ready to run. Perhaps part of the eagerness stemmed from the large contingent of Valley Coach athletes, LA Tri Clubbers and friends of the group who showed up. The energy level was high, as were the jokes and smiles. Even if it was chilly by my own weather-wuss standards, it was a great way to start the day.
The run itself was even more pleasant than expected. What I mean is that after last Sunday's depressing solo jog, I've concluded it's far more fun to chat with friends throughout the duration of the run. Keeps me from thinking about the run itself, or anything else remotely negative. Today, I got to know Lisa (now in her seventh triathlon season) and Paul (a former producer at Electronic Arts responsible for NBA Street, one of my favorite PlayStation 2 games).
Of course, it was still hard to watch most of the runners take off ahead of me from the start. Fortunately, Gerardo's brother Ray stayed with me and kept me company. I'm still confined to zones 1-2 on flat ground and zone 3 heart-rate on the hills, although I'm not sure it would have made much of a difference. Still, I know I'm hitting my goals from Coach Gerardo's workout plan. And I earned some validation from Christina, who said I should be stoked on my weekend performance considering I essentially cycled 60 miles and swam nearly two miles back-to-back, and followed that up today with what was probably at least a 13-mile run. She thinks I could be ready for an Ironman in four months if I wanted to, but that I'll be in spectacular shape by Ironman Arizona. Considering she's done two Ironmans, that praise was very flattering and encouraging.
As the run concluded, I realized that I hadn't bonked, my legs weren't tight or in pain, and that I was still hydrated (for the most part).
Progress! I felt much better than just a month or so ago doing the same run. What a feeling of accomplishment.
After the run, I had my bike tuned up at Bicycle John's in Agoura. If you are local and looking for a great cycling shop, Bicycle John's is my favorite. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly without being pushy. The shop has a nice frequent buyer's plan so you can earn discounts along the way, and the selection of parts, bikes and apparel is first-rate.
From there, I caught up with one of my closest friends, TJ, who was back in town from his Florida vacation. It was nice to reconnect again after two weeks.
Finally, the weekend wound down in what I think will become a new tradition: a "restorative yoga" session at Black Dog Yoga. If you haven't taken a restorative yoga class, especially on a Sunday night, it's the perfect way to segue from the weekend into the week ahead. Most of the poses are relaxing stretches held for long periods of time. The intensity is low, but the relaxation factor is very high, enhanced with aromatherapy oils by request.
The best part of the class is focusing on your inner intention for the moment, and if you'd like, the week ahead. I vowed to take it easy this week on myself in terms of letting go some of the angst from my last relationship, and to take it easy on others should I find my patience running low.
I will try to carry that intention out.
318 days and counting. Namaste.

Freshman, Triathlon Tech University

Waking up this morning sucked. And it wasn't even before 7!

Quick note: I've got the Upstairs Neighbors from Hell. You'll be hearing about the inconsiderate mother and her 3-year-old son from time-to-time, like now, for instance. I'll call the mom "Trudy" and the son "Bam-Bam." Imagine hearing an earthquake directly above your head any time between 5:30-7:30 a.m. and it continuing intermittently throughout the day until 9:30 p.m. 24/7/365. Yep, that's my life. Which is a blessing and a curse since A) it gets me out of bed early to train but B) I'm constantly suffering from a lack of quality rest, evidenced typically by puffy raccoon eyes.
This morning was no different, although I tried a new tactic where I slept on the couch in my living room to avoid the usual bedroom barrage. That bought me until 6:30...when Bam-Bam ran full-steam into the living room and sailed across the floor in his tricycle. "FML," as they say.
Needless to say, I wasn't my usual energetic self when I put my car in auto-pilot and headed to Old Agoura and the Cheseboro Park trails off, well, Cheseboro. I met up with my coach, Gerrardo (pictured), and my fellow teammates -- most of whom I was meeting for the first time. It felt like the first day of school, except for once I was starring as the strange new kid.
We were to run 10-12 miles, which I hadn't done since the Agoura Half-Marathon in March 2008. The most I had run since then was nine miles, and that was just last week in Central Park (Reservoir loop 4tw!). But here was the catch, we were going to run at a 10:00 pace and keep our heart rates below 150bpm. And, we were trail running, which I hadn't really done before to this degree. Nevertheless, it seemed easy enough, I figured, as I have been used to training the old-fashioned way: Progressively killing myself a bit more with each workout until my body demanded a rest day. Apparently, that's not the best way to train. Wish I had gotten that memo sooner.
I started off fine for the first few miles. Heart rate was low and I was keeping up with this seasoned group of triathletes that included prior Ironman finishers and a pair of speedy sprinting sisters. I even had the audacity to remark that this was the easiest run I had ever been on.
Gradually, Gerrardo and gang pulled away. It seems that their speed at 150bpm is slightly greater than mine. By a wide margin. But I kept at it, meandering alone (about a minute behind) through the cold, dusty hills that still manage to showcase their beauty despite being the highest brush fire hazard imaginable.
My tardiness turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I entered a creekbed to find a deer and her little Bambi grazing quietly about 20 yards away. Mama deer and I locked eyes and had a brief staring contest before Mama realized I wasn't worth paying further attention to. She went on with her meal and I continued my steady-as-she-goes jaunt.
While this was the high point of my morning, a moment of Zen amidst about two-and-a-half hours of peaceful contemplation, the low point occurred 80% through the run when I failed my first test administered by Professor Gerrardo. After 9.5 miles, we came to a literal fork in the road, at which point I was given the option of heading back to the car with a respectable 10 miles under my belt, or sucking it up for 2.5 more miles to make it an even 12.
I may have been sore, but my heart rate was holding between 149-152 and I had more in the tank. I wanted to show these folks they weren't dealing with a softie. I wasn't a total noob.
Wrong answer.
The final stretch was almost entirely uphill, to the point where I had to walk most of it to keep my HR in Zone 2. When we reached the top of the first crest, I called out to Gerrardo and playfully chided him for not telling me about the ascents. To which he responded, "that's because you failed your first test of triathlon training: peer pressure."
And so, on my first official run with the ValleyCoach.com crew, I was taken to school.
I'm now a true freshman at Triathlon Tech University, and a victim of some light-hearted hazing.
But I ran two more miles than expected, and although the back of my left knee is sore and I've got a blister or two on my toes, I'm in good spirits.
Hazing never felt better.
359 days and counting.