Track Virgin

Today marked my first official workout on a track.  After 36 years, I guess it's about damn time. Psychologically, I felt faster just being on a track.  My timed 800s at 5k speed didn't reflect that because I missed my 2:55/800m pace.  But I felt faster thanks to all the energy and ambiance surrounding me.  The Fortius team meets at Harvard-Westlake High School in Studio City once a week for this coached workout, a very posh institution with a college-level track and football/soccer field.  Today, two large football squads from what appeared to be Santa Monica High School were working out, along with a club-level youth soccer team.  Fast, young athletic kids whooped and hollered everywhere, and it was almost impossible not to get caught up in the near-rambunctious vibe.

According to Coach Gerardo, I essentially made every mistake in the track workout book.  I paced myself when I should have been running all-out during my timed 800s.  I should have been reviewing each 800 lap on my Garmin watch to adjust my pace accordingly.  I should have been leaning forward while running, not backwards.  My arms needed to be striding forwards, propelling me further along with my pumping legs -- which needed to fire higher.

That's OK.  I didn't beat myself up.  Honestly, I had a great time tonight!  The experience took me back to what it must have been like to run on the track or cross-country team in high school.  And having my Fortius teammates all around me, flying by on the track, or leisurely jogging in between sets -- well, it was just plain motivating.  I got to see my friend Christina, whom I haven't visited with in person in what feels like months.  We ran together, joked together, and swam together in our evening Foritus-coached swim session at VNSO park.  Yep, I did a double workout.  Last night, I indicated I was getting up early in the morning for the early swim session.  I just couldn't do it.  The body wanted no part of that 5:40 a.m. wakeup call.  I know this because in is an all-to rare experience, I slept straight through from 10:15 p.m. through 4:15 a.m. I usually wake up a couple times a night for a quick bathroom break.  Fatigue was talking last night, and I listened. Really glad I did.  I made it through the track workout with enough energy to swim a 1:33 timed 100 at the end of a 2,450-yard session.

And I even had enough energy to let out a little primal yell on the way to my car, that's how good I felt.

Of course, that's because I saved a little energy on the track when I shouldn't have, but I'm no longer a track virgin.  I know what to expect now, and I'll do it better next time.

Now it's off to try and rinse the chlorine off me and jump into bed.  I've got a 6:15 wakeup call to get a 1.5 hour bike ride in at Griffith Park.  Zones 1-2 are the order tomorrow, sitting for most of the ride.  I can dig that.

Puttin' in the time.

140 days and counting.

Wiped Out

Never take a workout for granted. I packed my bag last night for two workouts: The usual 6 a.m. swim coached by Megan, followed by my first track workout.

And why not?  I haven't missed a workout due to being physically unable to complete it (outside of illness) since I first started training with Fortius last year.

That streak is now over.  Either because of the swim workout's intensity or because this past weekend's training caught up with me. Maybe a little bit of both.  Either way, I struggled mightily all day to find the energy to complete the second workout.  It never showed up.  I came home from work, tried to take a nap knowing full well that Bam-Bam would do everything possible to prevent that (he did so admirably, the little shit), and have basically remained planted on the couch since 5:30 p.m.

Instead of forcing the issue, I texted Coach Gerardo to tell him I'm skipping the track session.  We're adjusting my workout schedule to squeeze it in this Friday, my usual day off.  That's now been moved to this coming Monday.

So what caused my exhaustion today?  I slept well enough (seven hours), wasn't stressed out and even got a little yoga and stretching in before bedtime last night.

Hmm...let's take a look at the swim (55 minutes):

-- 300 warmup (I think, maybe more)

-- 100 kick, 50 any stroke x 2

-- 250 x 2 fast (1:00)

-- 500 race pace

-- 100 sprint x 5 (1:00)

-- 200 any stroke cooldown

It's not a ton of yards, but the intensity definitely took its toll.  I was in a faster lane than usual with Bob and Lisa, two much faster swimmers.  I was also bothered by my goggles today, which kept leaking water into my eyes and caused me to lose focus from concentrating on my stroke.  In the end, I just never quite felt right in the water, not until the final two sprints of the morning.  By then, I was pretty gassed.  Yet it was my turn to lead one of the last sprint 100s since there were four of us in a lane.  I poured everything I had into making sure I didn't slow down the group.  The good news is that nobody passed me.  The better news is that according to Bob, each of our 100s was in the low 1:30s, meaning I can hold that threshold for 500 yards if need-be.

The bad news is that I'm exhausted on a couch instead of logging my second workout.

Tomorrow's a new day though.  And a very exciting one at that.  I'll be taking out Charlie, my TT bike, for her maiden voyage.  This will be part of a morning brick instead of the usual Griffith Park LA Tri Club afternoon workout.  Stephanie and I have plans to attend the Ben Folds concert tomorrow night.

Now it's off to take a recovery bath and get some much needed rest.

198 days and counting.

The Natural

Among sports purists, there's often heated debate about the greatest sports movies of all time.  Some of my favorites include Field of Dreams, Remember the Titans, Rocky (all except Rocky V), and Hoosiers. None surpass Rudy though.

I realize I'm not listing many on the list.  Including the Robert Redford classic, The Natural.

What's this got to do with triathlons?

It's simple, really.  This past Sunday, my college friend and fraternity brother, Rusty,  completed his first triathlon.  It happened to be a Half-Ironman, in New Orleans.

His time? Six hours, two minutes.

The Natural. Enough said.

I saw what the man ate before the race.  Po Boys.  Fried alligator.  French fries.  If it looked unhealthy, Rusty took a photo and posted it on Facebook before devouring it.

And then he chewed up his first tri and spit it back out.  (While keeping the fried food down, miraculously.)

I'm about to participate in my 10th triathlon and I wonder if I can come close to breaking six hours at my first Half-Ironman this July, Vineman.  That is, if I make it into the race -- I'm currently on the wait list.

Aside from seemingly breaking every culinary pre-race rule, Rusty trained really hard right up until the final week of the race.  Taper?  Nah, not really. And Rusty did most of his training on his own.  No coach.  No team.  No tri club. Just him, basically.

I'm incredibly happy for my friend.  He has been on a similar journey as me, even blogging about his training experience.  And he designed a sweet race kit to match his blog brand, Season One Racing.  Yet, while Rusty is The Natural, I'm closer to Rudy.  As the movie quote goes, I'm "five-foot nothin'.  A hundred and nothin.  And not a spec of athletic ability."  I need the coach.  I need the team.  I need the help just to keep up with faster, stronger, bigger, badder athletes.  Always have.  And Lord knows what would happen to me if I ate a bunch of fried food in my first triathlon, let alone a Half-Ironman.

I'm in awe of Rusty's accomplishment.  Wondering if I can approximate his success.

I can tell you one thing, it serves as motivation.  Just like Rudy trained even harder in moments of doubt or failure, I will be using Rusty's performance as my own fuel.  If he can do it, I can do it.  It started this morning in the pool.  I missed a workout yesterday to attend the Dodgers game.  I could have skipped it since my training allows for one skipped workout per week.  But, that 6:02 is burned in my head.  And I know if I let up one bit on myself, the clock will continue to tick away. Mentally, I'll see myself getting slower right then and there. Can't do it.  Can't have it.  Won't accept it.

So tomorrow, at 6 a.m., you'll find me in Sherman Oaks at the local pool. Then, I'll be on the trainer for an hour-plus cycling session.

I may not be the fastest.  Or the strongest.  Or the biggest.  But I will work the hardest.

Rusty, I couldn't be more proud of you.  You have done something I can't wait to experience for myself and you absolutely crushed the time.

Not bad for your first time out!

I can't thank you enough for the added motivation, either.

219 days and counting.

Newport Beach Tri Race Report

Last night, I wrote about no longer needing sprint triathlons as part of my Ironman training.

Tonight, I write about why this morning's Newport Beach Triathlon was among the most important races I've completed.

Like my 20-mile Firecracker run in February, I proved something to myself this morning.  Perhaps more appropriate, I earned the validation I was seeking that my Fortius Coaching training is paying dividends.  After my LA Marathon debacle, I needed a proof point.  Moreover, was my Garmin speaking the truth lately?  Was I indeed getting slower?  These questions needed answers in the worst possible way, so the timing couldn't have been better to experience something tangible to compare year-to-year.

Fortunately, I did just that today, shaving off more than eight minutes from las year's 1:32:54 performance.

Eight minutes! I was hoping for improvement in the three-to-five minute range.  This year, I finished in 1:24:05, good for 11th place in my age group (top 20%) and top 20% among all men.

I cut 2:30 off last year's swim, nearly three minutes off last year's bike time and nearly :30 off my run.  The transitions were much faster too.  Moreover, my swim pace per 100 yards was by far my personal best -- 1:40.  My T-pace when I started training with Coach Gerardo was around 2:05.  I cannot believe the progress I've made.  Perhaps that is what I'm most proud of, given all the troubles I've been writing about lately regarding my swim technique.  And my 14:45 swim included a more brutal than usual opening 200 yards, with several people grabbing at my ankles and shoulders.  Not to mention slightly swimming off course after the first buoy.  In other words, I could've swam faster.  That's a great feeling.

Cycling the bike course several times yesterday paid off today too, though it was more than likely the lack of a cross-wind that put me over the top.  Yesterday, my Garmin indicated I averaged around 16.4 mph on my ride.  Today, I was .01 under a 20 mph average.  Of course, I was taking care yesterday to largely remain in heart-rate zone 2.  Today, while I could've dug a little harder, I was definitely in zone 3 for most of the ride.  Once again the only bikes beating me were guys on TT bikes.

I will be fixing that issue shortly.  I've got my eyes and heart set on a Cervelo P2 with upgraded wheels.

The run was about what I expected.  Were it not for the 7-8% grade hill at the 1.5 mile mark, I likely would have broken 21 minutes.  Instead, I paced myself to have a strong finishing kick.  I'm sure I negative split the latter 1.5, with a sprint on the last 150 yards.

There was also an intangible factor that helped fuel me this morning.  Stephanie, despite being sick, along with her dad came to support me.  This was the first triathlon that Steph's dad had ever seen, and I wanted to put on a show.  I wanted to let "Mr. V" know -- loud and clear -- what I was made of, and that the same kind of resolve and grit I demonstrate during a race is the same kind of attitude I will bring in taking care of his daughter.  As a result though, I was more nervous than I should have been.  Case in point: I put on my wetsuit backwards!

Fortunately, I overcame my nerves, along with a brief panic attack when I couldn't get my normal pre-race breakfast of oatmeal and banana until 40 minutes before the race.  Unlike the LA Marathon, the race itself was the highlight, instead of the pre- and post-event activities.

As I reflect on today's triumph, I no longer need to benchmark my training last year.  Fortius Coaching works.  My training is paying off.  I'm a better triathlete.  A more knowledgeable triathlete.

And tonight, a happier triathlete.

Next up: Wildflower!  But for just a little bit longer, I'll relish today's milestone. What was supposed to be a small event was a rather large confidence boost.

227 days and counting.

Let My Freedom Go!

Today is the second day of Passover, the Jewish holiday where we commemorate the Jews' exodus from Egypt and recall how special it is to be free of persecution.  We drink lots of wine (four glasses during the traditional Seder), sing songs, and offer prayers of gratitude.  Not to mention eat a metric ton of food and desserts that camp out in our bowels for about a week.  That may partially explain why the Seder mandates we recline more deeply during the service as a measure of our ability to enjoy ourselves to the fullest at that moment in time. We simply can't move after the meal!  So we might as well get comfortable!

Passover coincides nicely with my quick return to Ironman training.  Of course, this is ironic because I feel like I'm losing my freedom again just a bit, especially after my past week of decadence. My body is protesting ever so slightly too, as in refusing to wake up this morning in time for the Fortius team 6 a.m. swim.  I looked at the clock at 5:20, quickly deciding "uh-uh" before turning my alarm off for another hour's rest.  Going from eight to nine hours of sleep for a week back down to six just wasn't going to happen the morning after a massive food coma.

My extra snooze time paid off though, as I arrived to the pool around 7:45 a.m. to find Coach Gerardo along with swim instructor, neighbor and friend Megan training in a nearby lane.  OK, I didn't really see them at first and trained on my own for about 30 minutes with drills while racking up a pretty pedestrian 1,000 yards.

But the next 30 minutes, I was lucky enough to receive intensive instruction from Gerardo and Megan on all the things wrong with my swim technique.

Folks, there's a lot.  Too much to recite here.  Probably too much for a 30 minute session.  Let me put it to you this way, if I could start over and learn how to swim from scratch, I would.  I think I pretty much suck at swimming at this point.

Fortunately, Gerardo and Megan are not Egyptian taskmasters when it comes to their coaching.  They patiently showed me that once again, I'm not extending my arms fully before entering the water, and that I'm just not relaxed enough -- which translates to wasted energy.

It took several laps and frustration before I experienced any modicum of progress, but by the end of my workout Gerardo said I was getting the hang of it.  I was keeping my elbow higher longer through the stroke, dragging my fingertips out of the water longer before entering at the last possible point in the stroke. And I was shifting my weight from side to side better, using my hips more effectively.

I thought, "Cool, if you say so."

I'll just keep practicing.  Honestly, I've never felt more like a fish out of water in the water.  Swimming is practically like one of Pharaoh's 10 plagues at this point, as in people feel sick after watching me swim!

During lunch, I participated in a yoga class at our work gym.  One big thing I noticed during my practice was how tight I had become just with one week of inactivity.  The body really does operate like a well-oiled machine, and when that machine isn't being used -- rust sets in. Probably faster the older one gets.

Joy.  Not only am I a slave to a schedule, but I'm a slave to my own body.

Which makes me wonder: Am I my own worst taskmaster?

Wait, don't answer that.

238 days and counting.

7 Days til the Marathon and I'm Sick!

I've heard of this phenomenon and was hoping it wouldn't happen to me.  Coach Gerardo told me recently that coming down with an illness in the days leading to a big race typically happens about two weeks in advance.  And it's perfectly normal. Surprise!  I'm sick.  And a giant blitzkrieg at that.

But instead of a fortnight, I've got seven days to rest, hydrate and make sure I don't lose my physical or mental edge before the LA Marathon.


The achey body, sore throat, watery, itchy eyes and hot-to-the-touch skin all struck at once -- about five hours after an otherwise uneventful trail run at Chesebero Park around 9 this morning.  In fact, I did very well on the 30-minute tempo portion, clocking sub-8:00 miles and never exceeding an 8:15 pace.  That said, my plantar fasciitis is acting up on the arch of my left foot, to the point where I could barely walk the rest of the day.

I'm definitely getting worried.  I feel like I'm starting to fall apart.  I suppose it was bound to happen after pushing myself so hard the past few months. Or after a few days of shaking hands with all types of folks at the video games conference. (I even used Purell an ungodly amount of times, what gives!?) But one week before the race? Really?

(Fortunately, all this happened before our afternoon of engagement ring shopping, which went really well!  More details another time when I know she's not reading over my shoulder.)

As Stephanie can tell you though (or my parents), I'm a bit dramatic when I don't feel well.  In fact, can you feel Steph's eye-roll?  Perhaps it's because I'm so used to being in good health that it accentuates my pathetic-ness when those rare moments occur.  Maybe it's because I watched too much Ferris Bueller's Day Off and identified more with Cameron growing up.  Either way, thank goodness for Steph tonight.  She's taking good care of me with Canter's matzah ball soup, lots of herbal tea and cold medicine.  I'm a lucky dude.

To be safe tomorrow, I'm taking the day off work.  I need to rest and sleep as much as possible to beat this with enough time to resume my training pre-race.  It literally is a race against time, and I hope my body is up for the task.

Come on, Ry.  Don't fail me now.

And Ferris, wherever you are, don't even think of calling me.  I so will NOT pick up.

"When Ryan was in Egypt's land...LET MY RYAN GO!!!"

254 days and counting.

Home Again

TGIF Today that stands for Thank G-d It's Finished!  My convention is over.  Well, actually the show continues through tomorrow.  I wanted to get back early so I could continue my pre-marathon training.  Is that wrong?  I don't think so.  The panels were a success, I had time to attend a few sessions and bring back knowledge to the team, and even played a few games.  My favorite part of the conference was getting some hands-on time with the new PlayStation Move device.  The Move will probably get a bad rap because critics will likely say it's three years too late compared to the Nintendo Wii.  I say whatever.  It's cool!  It's fun to use and will bring PlayStation families closer together to enjoy more wide-ranging and accessible games.  Like ping-pong, for example.  The Move wand really makes you feel like you're holding a paddle, complete with very authentic response when it comes to grip and the resulting spin you can put on the ball.  I can't wait to challenge Stephanie with it!  She and I will probably get as competitive as when we play Wii Bowling.

The conference feels like a distant memory at the moment though.  I'm tucked into bed at Stephanie's place, ready to cram in some sleep before waking up early to resume my training featuring a three-hour bike ride with my cycling mentor, Frank.  He's finally healthy enough to ride after I contributed to his shoulder injury.  (I still feel awful about that!)  We're doing the old standby ride, Calabasas to Newbury Park via Portrero Road.  I'm eager to spend time with Frank on the road once again.  Hopefully he'll see some improvement in my riding.

After the way I ate in San Francisco though, I doubt it.  Man, I fell off the nutrition wagon for a couple days!  Buffalo burgers? Check.  Milkshakes?  With beer in them?  Yup, courtesy of the Burger Bar in Union Square.  Crispy tacos and fried Chinese food?  Been there, ate that.  Seconds?  Yes, please!

Ya know what?  I don't regret it one bit.  Ironman training needs to take a back seat to life every once in a while, and when it comes to good food and good company, it's as good an excuse as any.

I return from San Francisco amped up to resume my training.  The conference almost served as a mini vacation, shuffling up the routine a bit.  As much as I found it annoying by the trip's end, I'm sitting here relaxed and happy realizing it was probably the best thing for me after several weeks of intense workouts.

Granted, I ran two out of the three days I was at the conference.  But the scenery switched things up just enough, as did the conference schedule, to bring some freshness back into the daily monotony.  I needed that.

Which is good, since I have eight more months of this!  Not to mention a marathon in 10 days.  We'll be talking more about that in the coming days, I'm sure.

For now, good night!

256 days and counting.

Thank YOU For Your Support

One of my favorite TV commercials when I was a kid featured two old farmer-looking guys talking about their small wine cooler company, Bartles & Jaymes.  They always ended every ad the same way, "...and thank you for your support." It has stuck with me for some reason, beyond just being an advertising junkie.  These people (probably actors) were thanking me for supporting something that would have been illegal for me (I was 14!), yet they were "sincere" in making me feel like I was a part of their success.  I found that touching even though I couldn't articulate why at the time.

That is exactly how I feel about participating in the sport of triathlon.

While the journey to Ironman Arizona has been mine, it certainly hasn't been mine alone.  Family, friends both old and new (yay Fortius Coaching and Twitter!) and a fantastic girlfriend have enabled me to reach a new level of joy that simply wasn't attainable training alone.  This past weekend competing at the Desert Triathlon in Palm Desert exemplified what it means to have a deep and strong support network.  First, the outpouring of encouragement and understanding when I announced my relationship with Stephanie was deeply touching.  I've never received more comments on my Facebook page or my blog. Then, the on-site race support.  So inspiring given the tough weather.  People rallied even harder to cheer their friends on.  And of course, following the race at Las Casuelas Mexican restaurant.  What a great time!

Friends, new and old, in person or virtually speaking, thank you for your support.

Yesterday following the race, I wrote about my somewhat disappointing swim/bike times that were outweighed by the happiness I felt after my most enjoyable triathlon event in my nascent "career."  The volume of Twitter replies and explanations for what may have happened during the race and why was helpful.  For example, my new friend Dan told me to re-calibrate my times using a different triathlon pace converter.  Turns out I was only :10 off my new T-pace, much closer to my 2:05 original T-pace from a couple months ago.  Further, I was only 1 mph off my normal T-pace on the bike instead of 3 mph.  That makes a huge difference in my performance psyche.

Twitter friends, thank you for your support.

Tonight, I enjoyed a recovery yoga class with the Fortius Coaching team at Topham Street Gym in Reseda.  Despite our hectic work days, nearly all of us made it to the class. There's something special about knowing we're all in this together.  That no matter how busy we are in our "regular" lives, we depend on each other in an odd way to simply "be there" at events like this.  When it's a busy Monday night.  When we have other things to do, like packing for a four-day business trip that begins tomorrow, for example.  When it's easy to pack it in, in this case literally, and skip the workout.  We are accountable to each other, whether we know it or not.

Team Fortius, thank you for your support.

Tomorrow begins my longest business trip of the year.  I'll be gone starting tomorrow, returning Friday afternoon.  (I'm definitely blogging though, so stay tuned for the Ironmadman... LIVE from San Francisco!) Fortunately, I'm tapering for the LA Marathon so I won't miss that many workouts.  I'm even more fortunate though that I'll be meeting some friends for group runs during the mornings of the convention I'm attending.  Dedicated people like myself.  Eager to find time amidst the chaos to take care of themselves.  Helping me take care of myself.

Thank you for your support.

260 days and counting.