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.

I Love it When a Plan Comes Together

Today's swim workout almost didn't happen. I forgot the local pool was closed on Mondays and I rarely have Monday swims.  Fortunately, I had enough time to drive 20 minutes away to Calabasas, knowing it would be a super tight call if I'd make work on time.  I had to make a quick decision about whether I was going to skip the workout.  I could take the freeway and try to make a break for it, or I could admit defeat, go home, get my spin in on the bike and be content with that. I decided to go for it.

What a great lesson learned.

The freeway opened up, I made it to the pool on time.  And what would you know, I'm changing into my swim shorts when a friendly voice from the past calls out, "I know that dude!"  It was my buddy, Dustin, whom I haven't seen in months since he and his wife had their second child.  We caught up, realized we were both doing Wildflower long course, and even had the opportunity to share a lane for our morning swim.

Talk about fortune via misfortune!

Bumping into Dustin made my morning.  I felt so gratified that I put in the extra effort to make my swim workout because I wouldn't have run into my friend, and I knew that I really earned that swim.  Of course, I couldn't get my spin in tonight, as I had other things to do before I leave on another business trip tomorrow.  But, I'm going to be aggressive and try to cram three workouts in tomorrow before I get on the plane.  A spin early tomorrow at sunrise, followed by another swim, and a strength-training session with Shannan at lunch.

Both Dustin and I agreed that fitting workouts into our hectic lives is a real tough challenge, for our significant others and for ourselves. But fewer things are more gratifying than when it all comes together, like George Pappard used to say in the original A-Team show..."I love it when a plan comes together."

Or when you make up a new one on the fly.

113 days and counting.

PS: May not be able to blog much the next few nights, this time it's the Game Developer's Conference. Late nights. Early mornings.  Gonna do my best though to get some training in.  If you're in SF and want to run on Wednesday a.m., let me know.

The Music in My Head

Jane's Addiction - Three Days .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine
I've been toying with the idea of adding "soundtracks" to my blogs, to give the emotion behind them a little more dimension.  This is my first post where I'm going to try it out.  Please consider downloading the free tune and listening to it while  and after reading.  I hope it adds something to the experience.  Let me know what you think.
Today, members of the Fortius team (Richard, Paul, Mike, Cynthie and Coach Gerardo) ramped up our base cycling training with a 5.5-hour trek.  We pedaled from Calabasas Commons to the Pacific Ocean and back via Mulholland Road, climbing more than 4,200 feet along the way.  I burned 3,000 calories during the trip.
When you're cycling for that long, a lot can run through your head.  Sometimes, since I don't use an iPod while cycling, I play a mental soundtrack that keeps me fired up and going strong.  Today, I focused on my favorite song of all-time, "Three Days" by Jane's Addiction.  To me, it conveys such a wide range of emotions: Serenity, chaos, anger, exhilaration, bewilderment.  The energy in the music is infectious.  I dare you not to be ready to take on the world after listening to it.
"Three Days" matched how today's ride felt.  The climbs were persistent and intensity-filled.  The downhills were wild, occasionally hairy with traffic in Malibu Canyon, and the views were magnificent.  The weather really cooperated today,too, though I had to shed a thermal jacket, my headband and arm warmers along the way after a chilly start.
And, like the length of "Three Days", the ride was seemingly never-ending.  There's something about cycling for close to three hours and realizing you're only about halfway done.  And that's when you're staring at the glistening Pacific Ocean knowing you need to climb Mulholland Road all the way back to the Valley before the final stretch occurs.  It's hard to appreciate the beauty of the sea when all you can think of is a nine-mile climb that awaits.  But then, at the top of the mountain, the mood changes.  And the frantic downhill rocket ride ensues.
In my head, the song and the road were playing the same tune -- maddening, orchestrated chaos.  The beat served as both taskmaster and pacemaker, imploring me to pedal a little harder for a little longer.
And it worked.  I had a great ride, with enough left in my fuel tank to finish strong and avoid cramping up.
We'll see what pops into my head tomorrow for my 2.75-hour run and 3,200-yard swim that follows.
Hopefully not the theme from Titanic.
283 days and counting.

The Bar is Rising

Tomorrow, a new phase of training begins. It lurks in the form of a 5.5-hour bike ride starting in Calabasas at 8 a.m.  Hill climbs.  Lots of long hill climbs in the curvy backroads of Malibu Canyon.  And the intensity only rises further the next day.  Sunday calls for 2.75 hours of hilly trail running, followed by 3,200 yards of swimming.  That's close to two miles of swimming, for those keeping score.  By far the most I've ever swam in one session.

Hey, Coach, my Ironman isn't until November!  What's the deal, yo?  Is this your idea of a Valentine's Day gift?  (Good, because it's the only one I'm getting, apparently!)

Well, I suppose it's time.  I can tell I'm now comfortable at this current level of training intensity.  That's an accomplishment on its own since I recall just a few weeks ago how hard the transition was to this intensity level.  Blogging daily allows me to maintain this kind of perspective and celebrate a moment that otherwise might have gone unrealized.  So, I lift a virtual glass to, well, myself!



Now, there's only one thing left to do: Raise the bar higher.  Such is the life of an Ironman-in-training.

284 days and counting.

PS: I'd like to briefly comment on the death of the Georgian luge competitor at the Vancouver Winter Olympics this morning.  Putting the obvious negligent safety issues aside for a moment, this young man died doing what he loved.  Competing.  On a global stage.  Competing at something he trained his entire young life for. I am truly sad for him, his family, friends and countrymen.  Yet at the same time, I can think of no better way to have a life cut short if it must.

If something catastrophic ever happens to me while training for the Ironman, I will have gone out on my terms.  I can live with that.

Rest easy, Nodar.

Oh Dark Thirty

My body is adapting to Ironman training. I can workout hard during the day, go to sleep a little later at night, and wake up earlier the next day.  Take today, for instance.  I woke up at 5:20 a.m.  Well-rested.  Refreshed.  Not groggy.  On seven hours' sleep.  When my training ramped up in intensity last month, I was sleeping eight to nine hours a night.

Since I was awake so early, I decided to make a push for the pool and cram two workouts back-to-back.  Two brick days in a row.  The swim portion was pretty tough: 2,600 yards with 300 warm-up, 500 drills and then three sets of five 100-yard intervals at T-pace.  Throw in a 300-yard cooldown swim for good measure.  During the intervals, I established a new personal record for fastest 100, 1:48.  My T-pace is usually between 2-2:05.

My buddy Dustin showed up early too, which was nice.  He's been busy with work lately so we got to catch up for a few minutes prior to my workout.  One of my Fortius teammates, Lisa, was also swimming.  She's a rockstar though and had greater distances than me to cover.

After the swim, I quickly swapped clothes and bundled up for a 45-minute interval run.  The main portion consisted of five three-minute intervals keeping my heart-rate between zone 4-5a (up to around 168 bpm).  It took a few intervals to get there, but I did.

I also tried out a new product today: injinji's Performance series tetrasok.  My friend and training partner, Ann, swears by them. So I figured I'd give them a shot. Picture running on mittens for your feet.  The socks are designed to reduce blisters and enhance traction, best used for trail running.  Outside of a little awkwardness trying to fit my little toes into each individual opening, the socks performed fine.  I'll wear them again this Sunday on our group run and share my thoughts.

The best part of the day though, as usual, had nothing to do with the training.  For months, I've been frustrated by not finding a way into the beautiful man-made lake park behind the Calabasas Tennis & Swim Center.  It had what looked to be the perfect running path, but the gates are always locked.  What to do?

I found the entrance inadvertently, by running a much longer path around a block and a new stretch of road I hadn't explored before.  There, I saw the true entrance to the park, with no gates!  At last, I could run with a tranquil morning view of lakefront homes, geese, ducks, swans and the mist rising off the lake.  A beautiful sight indeed (pictured).

Sometimes it takes a roundabout journey down unexpected paths to find the view you've been seeking.

Seems like a running theme lately.

285 days and counting.

Easy Does It

Today's training session was a little easy, but I'm not complaining.

Fortunately, my friend from high school, Dustin, made my swim much more enjoyable. We met up at the Calabasas Tennis & Swim Center for his second swim since committing to his first triathlon this summer. It makes such a difference knowing there's a buddy in the swim lane next to you waking up early and going through the same training regimen.
My swim was supposed to be a recovery workout. Several long, easy sets with cadence between 45-55 strokes per minute, followed by five-100 yard sprints at 90% capacity with 30-second rest intervals between each 100.
Usually, I'm hitting 48-50 strokes per minute on my cadence. I was consistently 50-52 strokes today, most likely the result of this weekend's thrashing. But my 100 times were improving. I hit 1:53 (probably close to a personal best for me), followed by 2:00, 2:00, 2:03 and 1:59.
The rest of the day was as smooth outside the water as I felt in it. I finished a presentation for a big meeting tomorrow that I now feel well-prepared for, and my team is performing with good energy and focus.
In short, I feel good.
Tomorrow, I've got a power bike ride for an hour and 15 minutes. I need to figure out where I can get that ride in where it's not too busy at 7:30 a.m. Candidates at this point are Balboa Park, Balboa/Rinaldi/Valley Circle, San Fernando Road, or San Vicente in Brentwood.
But for now, I'm going to bask in being caught up with my personal business, my work business, and my training business. A whole hour of free time! What to do... what to do.
I stayed true to my vow in yoga yesterday...take it easy. And, so far, easy indeed does it.
317 days and counting.

Today Was a Good Day...

You know that Ice Cube rap tune where he talks about his "good day?" Momma cooked a breakfast with no hog and all that kind of stuff?

Today has not been the ideal good day, but it's been a much-needed "good day."
The only thing on my agenda today was a Valley Coach group swim at the Calabasas tennis and swim club. And since that swim was called for 8:30 a.m., I got to sleep in a little bit. And since there was no freeway traffic (another rarity), I arrived on time.
The swim was tough, but manageable, which I sense is a calculated scheme from Coach Gerardo. I completed my first set of interval training where the laps went from 100 to 400 yards and then back down to 100 yards, with the second set of intervals needing to be faster than the first. I wasn't quite able to go faster, but I hit the same 100 time on my closing set as my opening (two minutes) to feel good that I can shave time in the future.
Following the swim, I decided to visit my one of my favorite breakfast spots in all of Southern California: Joseph's Deli off Ventura Blvd. and Tampa. I've been going there with my family for as long as I can remember, so much so that I firmly recall the man who runs the deli today was working in the kitchen as a clean-up kid at least 20 years ago. After burning a ton of calories, nothing sounded (and tasted) better than Joseph's salami and eggs, with potatoes and an onion bagel. Unlike yesterday botched breakfast at Paty's, Joseph's got everything right the first time, and for $4 less too. Ahhhh, the little things.
From there, it was off to visit my grandmother at the Jewish Home for the Aging, just down the street. Once again, I had to fix the remote control so she could read the closed-captioning on the screen. Had I not gone, she would have just been staring at a blank TV screen all day. It's infuriating and frustrating that if someone in my family doesn't check on her, she may get a bit neglected. (C'mon people, go the extra mile!) But, my grandma was happy to see me and even able to communicate a little, which went a long way with me. I will remember that moment.
Finally, the rest of the day has been spent in the rarest of locations for me...the couch! I never have free-time. Time to just escape for a while and veg out. Time to not worry about working out, or work, or life, or a million other things that occupy my brain lately. It was even quiet enough for a nap since Trudy and Bam-Bam must not have been home. I avoided it though because I have a stack of videogames I need to play for work before I head back from break. Yes, I work in the videogames industry. Yes, I need to play games as part of my job, to stay current and all. You know, for research. On the docket today, FINALLY completing Uncharted 2, which truly lives up to the hype as Game of the Year in so many ways. The set pieces are stunning, the gameplay pacing is spot-on, and the camera angles fool you into thinking you're watching a movie. It's got everything you could ask for in a cinematic action experience.
I have a lot of stuff going on for the rest of the break. Some good, some not so good. Today, for just a few hours at least, I had a good day. My own day.
I didn't even have to use my AK!
337 days and counting.