450th Blog Post

I wrote my 450th blog post last night. Surprisingly, I have little to say about it.  Today was an ordinary day of training. An hour of hilly interval running on a treadmill, followed later by an hour strength session with Shannan.  Followed by a massage tonight with David from LA Body Mechanics.

What started off as a bizarre, frustrating, confounding, taxing ritual has become routine for me.  An everyday habit.  A lifestyle.  I rarely think about it anymore, how what seems like an insane amount of training to most people has become "just another training day" for me.  And I don't mean that to sound boastful in any way.  It's just an observation.

I never thought the day would come when 2-3 hours a day of training during the week would just be normal.  But it is.  And yet in a month's time, it may come to an end.

I'm not sure I'm ready for that.  I've become wed to this lifestyle, some might say addicted.  I wake up every day with a sense of purpose and passion to take care of myself and push just a little harder to go faster, or be stronger than the day before.  Each day fuels the next.

Tomorrow morning, I'm getting up at 5 a.m. to do a three-hour brick before work.  I'm not looking forward to waking up early, but what really bums me out in a weird way is that on June 27, the day after Ironman Coeur d'Alene, I won't have any reason for the rest of the summer or fall to wake up early to train.  No races on the calendar.  Just me, my conditioning, and lots of time.

I'm worried my life is going to go from 90 miles an hour to what feels like 20. Of course, I'm definitely looking forward to spending a lot more time with Stephanie, my family and my friends.  I love that aspect of "Family and Friends First" that will become my mantra again at least through the fall. I just wonder if I'll hold out that long from resuming training.  I've adopted a lifestyle I truly love, yet it's not necessarily a balanced one.

Finding the point of harmony between two worlds may be my focus for the next 450 blog posts.  I'm sure that balance exists.  But this iron mad man hasn't found it yet.

After 450 blog posts, I'm definitely a work in progress.  But the person I was at Post 1 is far different than the person typing before you at this moment.

What would I tell my "Post 1" self if I could send him a note?

I think I would look at him, smile, and laugh just a little while shaking my head.

"Dude, you have no idea."

27 days and counting.

10 Years Ago

So often in my blogging, I tend to focus on how I've changed over the past year or so.  But today marks an even more substantial milestone in my life.  Ten years ago, I quit my job, car, apartment and all trappings of a "normal" life.  I took my life savings, crammed it all into a backpack, and jumped on a plane to Europe to live in hostels unknown for three months. What a risk!  What a thrill!

It was the best, most important decision I had ever made.  The decision that has led to so many other important decisions in my life.   That moment in life taught me that the unknown is a GOOD thing.  While the idea of the "bad" stuff can be scary, the risk of not knowing and missing something beautifully unforgettable is even worse.

I have no doubt that without taking this risk 10 years ago, I wouldn't have had the balls to fully commit in my relationship with Stephanie because of our cultural and religious differences.  I'm truly amazed at how life is like a giant dominoes experiment sometimes.

What's funny though is that in life, as in dominoes cascades, you can sometimes be lucky enough to arrange the tiles and tip them at just the right moment to get the result you want.  I was lucky enough to place the dominos to fall in my favor, and even luckier that my unintended Rube Goldberg experiment has gone off without too many hitches.  Though to be fair, when I came back from Europe, the job that was supposed to be waiting for me had vanished --victim to a merger.  I was jobless for six months, and showed up to my 10-year high school reunion living at home with my parents, with platinum-dyed hair, a bushy goatee, and driving my parents' beat-up Oldsmobile Cutlass.

I was voted Most Likely to Succeed in high school.  You can imagine the delicious irony showing up to my reunion in such style.

I'd still do it all over again, without changing a thing.

But what the hell does this have to do with triathlon?

Simple.  Triathlons are scary.  There's that whole open-water swimming thing.  And with sharks!?  Why would anybody want to do that???  And oy, the cycling!  You can fall and die or get paralyized so easily! (Heck, I almost did a few years ago.)  Don't even get me started on the running either.  You could fall over and die like all these other runners out there when they get heart attacks and keel over.

Ironman!?!?!  You can't be serious!!!???

Life is scary.  Expectations are scarier.  Pressure can be terrifying.

But the risk is worth the reward, in my opinion.  Whether deciding to buck what your parents want, or a lucrative job, or a nice car, -- or in our case what people think of our "lifestyle" -- what matters is getting the most out of life.

Ten years ago, I made a choice to do just that.

I haven't looked back since.

And if you're reading this blog, I suspect you're not either.

68 days and counting.

What He Said

My schedule has been a little hectic lately.  Last night, I worked late at a press event for two games I'm working on (by now I think you know where I work, so I think I can say Resistance 3 and Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One without much worry!).  And with training, column writing, wedding plans and upcoming game titles taking up much of my day and night, blogging has become more difficult. As a result, the videos from my Mulholland Challenge experience remain on my phone and not in my Macbook edit lab.

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Guest Blog: Jim Gourley

Today, for the first time (but probably not the last), I turn my blog over to a trusted fellow journalist and someone I now consider a friend.  Jim Gourley is the military athletes columnist for Lava Magazine, and contributes to other publications as well.  He's also got a successful blog, "Life Against the Clock" where he goes more in-depth on key topics within the triathlon space as well as life in general.  Jim is currently addressing gripes about the WTC, the corporation responsible for the Ironman brand. In his piece below, Jim calls upon his combat experience to explore why athletes such as myself use military metaphors to describe triathlon competition, and which warrior analogies may fit specific athlete archetypes.  I know you will enjoy it immensely.

Here's Jim!


"Ryan often refers in his columns on LAVA and on this blog to the mindset with which he approaches training. He recently asked me about a passage in an upcoming column in which he discusses feeling like a soldier in a war movie. He wanted to make sure the reference wouldn't be offensive to real soldiers. It reminded me of how, during my time in the Army, I and my comrades often made references to some of those same movies. As I recalled one instance after another, it struck me as funny how, in the middle of my most depressing or dangerous moments in Iraq, someone would pop off with a quote from a movie that was eerily appropriate to our situation.
But not films like Saving Private Ryan or The Hurt Locker. We mostly recited lines from flicks like Office Space or Groundhog Day. In case no one's let you in on the big secret yet, combat for most troops is more like the latter pair than the former. As the saying goes, it's endless days of utter boredom, broken up by five-second fits of sheer terror.
I've noticed an irony in that difference in perception. Ryan is one of probably thousands of athletes that psyches himself up to train or race by thinking of a warrior preparing to do battle. He's thinking of Russell Crowe wading through the carnage of the Germania battlefield as he comes out of the water and rushes through transition. He's Maverick on the bike. He's Private Gump coming down the chute on the run. A lot of athletes start their training each day by reciting the mantra of the Navy SEALs-- The only easy day was yesterday. Meanwhile, that warrior preparing to do combat is psyching himself up by thinking of things in terms of sports. "Get your game faces on," the sergeant tells his troops. "Pace yourselves. It's a marathon, not a sprint," the commander admonishes his lieutenants. "Your squad leader's been injured. I need you to carry the ball," the lieutenant tells the young corporal. If you only had their lingo to distinguish a competitor from a combatant, it's likely you'd get the two
confused in short order.
Within that confusion exists a misconception that may hinder the efforts of some "Iron-warriors" to get their heads in the game. Specifically, there's no such thing as "the warrior mentality." Like athletes, there are as many different warrior mentalities as there are warriors. Oddly enough, I see this misconception in both my military and civilian friends. Everyone has the same idea of what the "warrior mentality" is, and it's most strongly associated with the ancient Spartans. I assume it's a result of the highly stylized (and only marginally accurate) portrayal of the Battle of Thermopylae in the movie 300. The marketing push for that film included a lot of articles in the fitness press about the workout program Gerard Butler and other actors endured to get into shape for their parts.
Yet, as essential as the Spartan mentality was to Spartan victory in that battle, it could be as detrimental to another warrior or athlete in different circumstances. What if Leonidas and his Spartans hadn't found the narrow passage through the cliffs to act as a chokepoint for the approaching Persian forces? A "death before dishonor" attitude wouldn't have achieved much on an open field where they could have been surrounded. We've all been in situations where discretion was the better part of valor. A Spartan attitude on an out-and-back course would have you bonk from pushing against headwinds on the way out before you turn on the inbound leg where you could really make speed.
Perhaps you are the Spartan Warrior, the archetype that thinks pain is to an Ironman what a beer bong is to a frat party. The pain itself is what you're here for. The more you make it hurt for yourself, the more it hurts the competition. You can absorb as much punishment as it takes to watch the other guy crack and fade away. That's how you win.
Or maybe you're the Zen Warrior-- the Samurai of Japan or the Shaolin monks of China. The pain is not an end unto itself or even a means to victory. Rather, victory relies on achieving a state of mind free from being distracted by thoughts of pain, distance or time. When the mind knows only the instantaneous form and function of your body, then you have achieved what the famed swordsman Miyamoto Musashi called "the Void"-- a place of no thought, where the mind sees limitless possibilities and the body has infinite potential.
You might be the Revolutionary Warrior-- you run for a cause more dear to you than life itself. Nothing will stop you from reaching your goal. Neither pain nor peace motivate or detain you. You're the passionate fighter, the one who not only shows one can be a lover and a fighter, but that you only truly love something if you're willing to fight for it.
Sun Tzu, in his treatise The Art of War, said "If you know your enemy and not yourself, you will win a battle and lose a battle. If you know both your enemy and yourself, you will win a hundred battles without fail. If you know neither your enemy nor yourself, you cannot hope to win a single battle."
Before getting into your warrior mentality, ask yourself what kind of warrior you are. Like the man said-- knowing is half the battle."

84 days and counting.

Can Games Make You Fitter?

Today my normally scheduled blog post will be shown via my friend and fellow writing colleague Jim Gourley's site: Life Against the Clock.  Jim asked me for my thoughts about the fitness genre within the video games industry and whether such games might help America fight our collective obesity problem. In short, I think the games industry most definitely can and will help.  With the smashing success of Wii Fit, Dance Dance Revolution appearing  in schools as part of their phyisical eductation curricula, and the rise of Xbox Kinect or PlayStation Move, the games-as-fitness revolution is quickly gaining speed.

Click here to check out my blog post on Jim's site.  I put a lot of time into this one so I hope you find it provocative.  Let me know what you think!

Tomorrow, Jim appears as a guest blogger on my site, where he'll be writing about the "warrior" mentality of triathlon.  It's quite an insightful read, shared by an Iraq veteran and well-versed triathlete.  You are gonna love it.

I'll be back on Wednesday, and of course reading and responding to comments before then.

85 days and counting.

PS: Went to an ART appointment this morning to work out the creaky crinks in my calves, quads, adductors and IT bands.  I don't feel "great" today but I'm a LOT better than I was just a few hours ago.  Light recovery run and some yoga on the workout plate for whenever I can fit them in today.

400 Blog Posts

There's a lot I could write about over the past two days.  I had a solid run on the treadmill on Friday, amping up the intensity while picturing all my friends racing at Coeur d'Alene that I want to beat.  (Yes, I'm a tad competitive, in case you didn't know already.)  I could write about how my running is falling behind at the expense of cycling and swimming, causing Coach Gerardo to question whether I could run a half-marathon next weekend or how I'd even do at Wildflower in a few weeks.  (Totally reasonable on his part, so no disagreements there.) Instead, I'm going to write just a bit about hitting the 400th blog post of the site on Thursday night.

I never expected I'd still be writing almost every day when I first created the site in 2009.  But here we are.  Honestly, I can't imagine not writing here!  The blog is as much a part of my training as my bike.  It helps me sort through the madness and monotony of Ironman training.  While I'm admittedly facing burnout issues at the moment, I think they would have occurred far sooner had it not been for being able to find something unique in almost every workout I complete.

What's especially interesting to me is what the next 400 posts might look like.  I think my full Ironman days will be behind me.  But I'll be attacking half-Ironman distance events and Olympics as fiercely as ever.  Still, I wonder if there's something more.  In fact, I know there is.  I just have to figure out what that "it" is.  Is there a charitable angle I want to explore?  Maybe.  A self-published book?  Possibly.I dunno.

I do know it's late and raining, and I'm tired.  Frank, Chris, Murray and I climbed 5,000 feet today and did close to 60 miles on the bike.  Then, I swam 2,500 yards, basically 50 minutes non-stop.  I'm mentally woozy and physically spent.

Back to the blogging thing for a moment.  If YOU were writing a blog, what would you be saying about your training right now?  What insights are you internalizing that could help you have a major breakthrough in your workouts? What's holding you back?  Why?  What's worth celebrating?  Why haven't you then?

If you haven't made one blog post there's never been a better time than right now.  Tri season is beginning.  It's just the start of something special for you.  Why not commemorate it with something that will last longer than the hat, T-shirt, visor or medal you'll receive after finishing the big race?  Remember, the process is just as important as the destination.

Perhaps the journey of 400 blog posts begins with a single word.

94 days and counting.

Enjoy it While it Lasts

I interviewed a pro triathlete today for my next Lava Magazine column.  No, I'm not saying who. What strikes me about my relatively short time in the world of triathlon is how accessible, humble and gracious professionals are in this sport.  I used to cover high school and college sports for a local newspaper as well as my college daily (Arizona Daily Wildcat).  The athletes were coddled and spoiled, treating us press-types as the scum of the earth.  Even when I was in college and interviewing my peers.  There were exceptions to my experience as a sports reporter (Phoenix Suns forward and Duke University graduate Grant Hill being most notable), but by and large, interviewing athletes ranked right up there with voluntary abuse.

Yes, I said voluntary abuse -- I went there.  I would know about it too, as one college basketball player tried choking me once after practice. (A story for another day.)

Anyway, my point is I feel like I'm on the ground floor of a sport that ought to explode onto the mainstream scene at any point.  The sport is growing exponentially.  People are taking notice.  But right now we're in the golden period where pros still appreciate any exposure they can get.  They seem to answer their own emails, tweet their own messages, return phone calls when you try to reach them, and even say thank you once an article has been published.  When I was a kid and thinking about being a sports columnist, these were the kinds of athletes I had always hoped I'd be able to interview.  Young, hungry, gracious.

I'd like to see triathlon gain the mainstream exposure it deserves. It's a healthy lifestyle that often employs a charitable angle at races.  And it's something one can do for many, many years.  Yet, I realize what a good thing we have going now.  I don't want to hold the sport back, but I will remember these days fondly.  When I can talk with champions without layers of middlemen.  When we can exchange restaurant recommendations via gmail.  When we can talk about friends in common without a PR person motioning me to hurry the conversation along.

I wonder how long we'll have left to enjoy these graceful champions before the next reality TV series,  action figure lineup or cheesy movie with d-level celebrities dilutes the magic we have now.

Until then, I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

147 days and counting.

Monday Blah

Short post tonight.  We've got company over and now Steph and her girlfriend are watching The Bachelor.  I have a few minutes to jot down some thoughts. Remember the other day when I said I enjoyed biting off more than I can chew?

That caught up with me today.

Long day of work.  Long hour of isolated leg training exercises on the stationary bike, and a lifting session at lunch.

Monday feels like Friday.  And to top matters off, I've got a meeting set up with Coach Gerardo  (at his suggestion) where we're going to revisit my training goals and workout priorities.  Apparently my last few blog posts have set off an alarm. I guess I understand why.  I know I'm overcompensating for my long recovery period by trying to get back into shape that much faster.  But I know it doesn't work that way.  Still, like always, I want it all now even though I know patience rules the day.

Sometimes we're our own worst enemies.  Heck, maybe not just sometimes, but perhaps more often than not.  Lately, maybe I've been just that.  I know I'm my own worst critic, that's for sure.

I've got a 6 a.m. swim tomorrow followed by a trail run.  Not much time to dwell on anything but putting today behind me and moving on to the next.

155 days and counting.

Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

So here's my first pass at a video blog.  Please excuse the loud gusts of wind, I'm not sure exactly what to do about that outside of telling The Man Upstairs to keep things quiet when I'm trying to record! I tried capture the emotion of the bike ride while it was happening, instead of writing about it after the fact.  I think I failed miserably but the bright side is I will get better.  Hope you enjoy it, if you can get through watching it!  The scenery is gorgeous, when I'm not screwing it up.

Today's training made me realize just how much more I bit off than I could chew this weekend.  I ran nearly eight miles and climbed about 900 feet in around 1:25:00 today in 75-degree weather.  The good news is that my knees felt fine the entire run, and I was able to remain (mostly) on my forefoot in my strides.  I think the key to forefoot striking that has really helped me is not the avoidance of heel striking, but rather placing more of an emphasis on the forefoot than usual.  This is allowing me to find an acceptable middle ground (no pun intended) while running instead of potentially shredding my knees and Achilles.

Yet, by the time the run was over, I was totally exhausted.  My run called for activity between zones 1-4 on the heart-rate monitor.  I took that to mean I could run for extended periods in zone 4 while climbing.  Having the UCLA men's and women's cross country team out on the course with me didn't help me keep my pace in check, nor did the Spanish female marathoner who ran a 2:09 at Big Sur.  Are you kidding me???  Well, I kept up with her on a few uphill climbs, but she revealed at the top that she had turned her ankle and was taking it easy.


Following the run, my day wasn't close to over.  I had promised Stephanie that we'd spend more time this year exercising together, which manifested itself in our first tennis outing in more than a year.  Surprisingly, it went well for both of us!  We had a few rallies, nobody pulled anything, and all tennis balls stayed on the court.  Win!

Then, following lunch together and a nap (in the middle of the Jets-Patriots game!) I tried to fit in yesterday's swim that I flaked on yesterday.

This time, instead of sitting in the parking lot I actually made it into the water.  What a mistake.  I was terrible! I felt like a boulder in the water, and couldn't even complete the full workout (10 minutes easy laps, 5x150 drills and 4x300 moderate pace).  After my second 300, I saw my scheduled workout time had come and gone and decided enough was enough.

So far, that's a big difference between this year and last year's training.  When I'm done, I'm done.  I'm not forcing things perhaps the way I did last year.

Except when I overdo it for hours on end beforehand.

Still, whether it's a video blog that didn't quite turn out as planned, a bike ride gone slightly awry, a run that got derailed by my own competitiveness, or a swim that didn't meet expectations due to exhaustion, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Isn't it great to overextend every once in a while?  To push beyond our comfort zones?  To try and fail?  It's weird, but I think there's pleasure in that. Stagnation is boring.  Following the plan all the time gets stale.

I hope you've been able to bite off more than you can chew a little bit too.

156 days and counting.