Discreet Progress

The Fortius-coached track workouts are starting to show dividends.  But in a way I wouldn't quite expect. After this morning's LA Tri Club "Chicken of the Sea" swim, I took off on a two-hour run where the goal was to negative split on an out-and-back course.  I managed to do so by seven minutes while maintaining a steady pace throughout the 12 miles from Marina del Rey to Playa del Rey and back.  My success didn't necessarily come from overdoing it on the latter part of the run.  Instead, I was able to cover a little more ground on the first half while at a slightly lower heart-rate than usual.  This seems to be where the weekly track workouts have started to pay off, though I would have expected to see an increase in speed rather than a decrease in heart rate-per-mile run.

Richard and Ann joined me this morning and both noted that I seemed to be moving at a more efficient, relaxed pace.  My arms were doing more work and propelling me forward while I wasn't exerting as much energy in the lower heart-rates to maintain a 9:00 pace.  This was encouraging news, and I wouldn't have noticed it had it not been for them.  That's one of the many perks of training with friends. I wouldn't be quite so lucky for the entire run as the couple had a different training schedule and turned back at the 45-minute mark.  That left me 1:15 to remain mentally occupied sans music.

To counter the solo Sunday doldrums, I chose to run a different route, past the bridge at Ballona Creek and onto the beach path in Playa.  At this point, I'll do just about anything to keep my brain occupied and not feeling like I'm on a mental hamster wheel where every training weekend starts to feel the same.

I suppose it's these very mental games in practice that allow me to persevere on race day -- when I need to coax myself forward instead of pausing for breaks.

The tempo part of my run started off great with a few sub 8:30 miles but once again I hit a wall just after the 10th mile where my pace dropped, my heart rate rose and my legs tightened.  I walked up the few (small) hills on the return trip to the marina.

Overall, the lesson I learned today was that progress doesn't always come from the expected or obvious source.  Sometimes it takes others to point it out to you.  Other times, the Garmin watch data can indicate momentum that might otherwise get missed.

Still, progress is progress, and I'm not complaining.

97 days and counting.

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.

They Can't Take That Away From Me...

What a blur. That's what today's Breath of Life Olympic distance triathlon felt like.

I remember the race in flashes.  The chaos of entering the water and literally grappling with several people through the first buoy.  Elbows over other competitors' shoulders.  Elbows in my head.  My foot buried in a competitor's torso who grabbed my leg for momentum at a buoy.  Bedlam in the water.  The only way I can describe it more visually is that swimming in this break felt like watching the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan when the soldiers are scrambling underwater to get their bearings while their heart-rate is going through the roof from the panic.

Of course, there were no machine gun nests and pissed off Nazis at this event.

On second thought, bad comparison.

Back to the swim.  The water in Ventura Harbor is putrid.  The kind where you truly regret gulping in your mouth.  I thought so much about how awful the water was that a few times I had to re-focus my concentration on my swim stroke.  The color was just as bad.  Brown, murky, muddy...only punctuated by moments of jolting warm or coldness determined by whether you swam through someone's pee stream.  The ocean water was so thick the pee seemed to pool together, almost like an oil spill.

It was that kind of swim.  But the worst part was the course map itself.  Nobody -- not even the lifeguards stationed on paddle boards in the marina -- had any idea where they were during the swim.  You just sort of followed the people around you and hoped you weren't going too far off course. I got lucky.  My Garmin watch data map revealed only a few spots where I needed to recalibrate direction.

The uncertainty of my bearings and my displeasure with the water actually worked in favor of a personal best time.  I just wanted to get the hell out of the water, and because I wasn't sure when the turnaround was coming back to shore, I maintained a stronger pace than usual.  Therefore, I was literally astonished to find the shore on my right and catching glimpses of a cheering crowd when I thought I was just getting to the turnaround buoy.  At first I thought it was a different crowd watching from a separate viewing area.  Then, my foggy goggles spied arched balloons.

"I'm here already!" I exclaimed internally.

I made it out of the water in 24:55, by my Garmin watch.  Nearly five minutes faster than my Wildflower swim.

After a fairly quick transition, it was time to get my bike on.  I was encouraged to see my friend Chris just leaving the transition area, for that meant my swim time was even more competitive as that's his specialty. (Later, Stephanie would tell me that I was among the last two-thirds out of the water, causing her worry.)  My Fortius teammate, David, was nowhere to be found though.  He was long gone, perhaps with him my only shot at qualifying for the age-group national championships I coveted.

I vowed to catch him and Chris, though in my head I figured they were as good as gone.  They're both strong cyclists and runners, and with a couple-minute lead I wasn't sure if I could close the gap. It took all three laps of the course, but I found them on my final lap, on Victoria Avenue just past Gonzales.  We exchanged some friendly banter and then it was back to the races.

I felt strong on the bike today. I was rarely passed and while my back ached, little else did.  The difference of racing on a tri bike compared to a roadie cannot be understated.  Proper equipment -- including an aero helmet and race wheels, definitely makes a difference.  And I was able to catch my breath more easily after a hard swim.

Whatever gains I made with my sturdy Cervelo were returned thanks to the USAT, the governing body of the sport that officially sanctioned this race as an age group national qualifier.  Apparently I did something wrong during the race that warranted a two-minute penalty.  I have no idea about the infraction (I'll find out Tuesday according to the website), but I do know when it occurred. I believe it was on my second or third lap off Fifth Street.  A motorcycle pace vehicle with two riders pulled up alongside another rider and me.  The motorbike hovered at our pace, with the person riding in the second seat scribbling furiously into a notebook and then speeding away.  I had a sinking feeling that "something bad" just happened, but I seriously don't know what.  The experience felt akin to getting a moving speeding ticket.  The only thing missing was the pink receipt telling me when to appear in court.  At least I'd know what I did though!  I do know I had someone on my right who was slower than me, which pushed me wider in the left lane.  I remained within the legal cones and I ultimately passed that cyclist.  Moreover, despite yesterday's blog post, I strictly avoided drafting because I knew there would be serious penalties for doing so.  I truly, in my eyes, was following the rules of the road today.

When I learned of this penalty after checking the results this afternoon, I filed an immediate protest.  The penalty would cost me my well-deserved spot as a qualifier.  By one minute.  Two people with slower times will go to Alabama and I most likely won't. Rubbish!  I hope they know their spots are tarnished.  They were not faster than me.

But I didn't know any of this as I jammed my bike into the rack and bolted out for my 10k run.  And bolt I did.  This was by far my best run in any race of any kind.  I felt light, strong and fast -- even letting out a primal yell in the T2 area about how goooood I felt!  This was compounded by my fantastic fiance greeting me halfway through the first mile.  She staked out a spot on the course where she could run beside me and offer support in an unobtrusive way.   I was running well before, but I picked up speed and confidence at this point.  It was good medicine.

The rest of the run comes back to me in flashes as well.  Rounding a corner on the pier after seeing my Fortius teammate Mike and giving him a forceful high-five. Entering the residential neighborhood for the first of my two laps.  Sipping a fraction of the water I grabbed from the first station realizing I wasn't thirsty -- that the three-fourths of the Perpetuem bottle consumed on the bike would be enough. Finally!  I've nailed race-day nutrition. Oatmeal two hours before.  Half a banana 30 minutes before.  A gel 15 minutes before.  Half a Clif bar on the bike.  And eating half of a Hammer gel at mile three realizing I wasn't hungry enough to need the rest and that screwing up my breathing pattern was a bigger risk. Seeing friends going out on the run as I was chugging hard at the fifth mile to find extra speed.  Confirming during that fifth mile with a hopeful glance at my watch that I was going to break 2:30:00 -- if I just held it together.  If I just continued to focus on my breathing and STAY IN THE MOMENT, like Coach Gerardo and Richard showed me this past Wednesday.  Oh, how important that workout had become!  Scorning a poor defenseless female runner who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, blocking my ability to pass on a sharp right turn at a narrow choke point. (Whomever you are, I'm sorry for yelling "c'mon c'mon!" to get you to clear space for me.  I know I startled you.)

And that final sixth mile.  Which seemed to go on forever.  One volunteer in a USC hat told me it was a quarter mile to go at what turned out to be a half-mile away.  Mike was at the restaurant perch again telling me another quarter mile to go.  That moment almost broke me as I had timed my finishing kick off the first man.  The toughest part was the final 150 yards, as the course made a sharp left turn that stripped momentum and my ability to figure out where the hell the finish line was. Of course, this prompted me to shout, "Where the fuck do I go!?" to the volunteers who pointed frantically at the right path.

Finally, mercifully, the finish line.  And it read 2:25:59 as I made my final desperate sprint down the chute.  Where I promptly grabbed a water bottle and doused myself with hit.  Elated.  Breathless.  Confident.

The closest I'd probably ever get to spraying champagne in a winners circle.  That's how that moment felt.  VICTORY!  Surprising victory...pushing through physical barriers and mental doubts.

I had qualified for nationals just now.  I competed among the best, and despite my lack of size or deep-dish wheels, I was equal to the task.

I did it!

Only to find out several hours later that no, apparently I had not.

But that is also rubbish.  I DID do it. I can hang with these bigger, stronger, tanned, buffed Adonis warriors.  And I will qualify at some point.  And there will be NOTHING the USAT will do about it.

And there is still plenty to celebrate.  Personal bests all over the place.  Friends completing their first Olympic distance triathlon.  Everyone competing together, supporting each other.

I love this sport.

Just not the suits who run it.

144 days and counting.

Race Ready

Namaste. My weekend began with a yoga session by myself at home.  As I've mentioned before, solitary yoga truly enables me to gain the mental benefits of yoga as much if not more than the physical.  It takes me to a very calm place that I rarely seem able to access.

I have no one to blame for that besides myself.

All the thinking, analyzing, and speculating never seem to stop unless I actively force the issue.

For 40 minutes tonight, I did.  And, like my Wednesday running lesson from Coach Gerardo, I simply focused on breathing.  As much as I could, at least.

More than the immediate physical and spiritual effects this opened up for me, it reinforced what I need to do this Sunday.  While I'll likely keep the heart rate monitor with me, it'll be more for timing checks on the bike and run, less on heart rate itself.  I'll focus on my breathing.  And hopefully go fast as hell.

For now, I declare myself race ready.

Tomorrow is a day of rest, and packet pickup.  Along with that comes a drive-through of the bike and run course.  After that it's all formulaic -- buy nutrition, lay out the transition bag, clean the bike, grab the necessary accessories (canola oil, anyone?).  Then, we wait.

146 days and counting.

Runnin' Fast is Fun!

I ran fast today.  And it felt goood. The Fortius team had its first coached track workout of the season tonight.  We were supposed to train at Harvard-Westlake high school but learned the hard way the school's commencement ceremonies were set up right on the track.  So returned to the scene of our 6 a.m. swim, VNSO park.  I've actually never participated in a track workout before.  Every drill is new, which is exciting.  At the same time, I wasn't the best at following directions tonight.

And I don't really care.

The culmination of our workout was supposed to be a paced, timed mile going at our highest sustainable pace.  Remove the "sustainable" part and that's exactly what I did.  I needed to know how fast I was capable of running, especially after all this training. I will pace myself better once I know what my threshold is. Besides, I haven't had a timed mile on a track since junior high school -- and I'm pretty sure I'm faster now.

Why?  Because depending who's watch you believe -- mine or our running coach, Ray -- I ran either a 6:08 or 6:19 mile.

I'm inclined to believe my Garmin, since I hit start immediately when Ray said "Go!" and stopped it when I hit the one-mile mark exactly.

The time makes sense too, since I held a 6:36 pace at the Desert Tri sprint event earlier this year.  Can I sustain that pace though?  No way!  According to Coach Gerardo though, he anticipates I'll be able to run around a 5:45-minute mile by the end of the season.  That sounds awesome!  And like a lot of work too.

Thus concludes a rather short work week of training for me, 6.75 hours.  I've got a 3.5-hour brick on Saturday and a 2.5-hour swim/run on Sunday.

Overall, this has been a week of self-imposed intensity, which I rather like. I feel like Breath of Life is so close that if I can eek out any more productivity or performance from any inch of my body, I'm willing to try and do it.  It also means I'll savor tomorrow's off day that much more.

160 days and counting.

Equipment Malfunction

What are some of the most annoying things that can happen to you in the sport of triathlon? Hmm, let's see. Here's a quick list below.

-- Flat tire (check)

-- Flat tire on downhill at 30+mph on your first group ride with a new cycling club (check)

-- Flat tire on downhill on a hot day and getting stung by a yellow-jacket while changing it (check)

-- Elbow/foot to face during swim (check)

-- Getting sick before or during training or a race (check)

-- Forgetting necessary equipment for a bike, swim or run (check)

As of this morning, I can now add one more:

-- Completing a time trial and realizing only at the end that your brake pad on the front wheel was rubbing ever-so-slightly.

Unfortunately, check.

The whole time on the bike, I couldn't quite figure out why my speed seemed less than awesome considering how hard I was working.  It was too loud to hear the telltale "thhppt...thppt...thppt" of the brake scraping the rim earlier in my TT because of the freeway traffic along the I-5 bike path.

On the upside, my heart-rate didn't cross into zone 3 until the final 10 minutes of my 45-minute sprint.  Why?  I'm having a very hard time getting my heart rate up while pedaling flat in the aero tuck.  is this normal?  What am I doing wrong?  How can I push harder?  How can I go a little faster?  Besides make sure my brakes aren't holding me back?  Maybe it was fatigue too, which is entirely possible.  I do know this, given my anticipated swim and run stats, cycling between 20-23 mph probably isn't going to get me to the national championships in Alabama.

On another note, I'm having a hard time keeping my front wheel straight when I place it in the skewers before rides.  This undoubtedly is contributing to the brake pad problems. I've tried putting the wheel on from the front of the bike so the alignment is straight.  I've tried from the top down.  I'm always pushing the wheel either to the left or right of the brake pads.  How can I be better about this?  Any tips/tricks?

I won't be getting back on the bike until Sunday.  And thankfully I only had one workout today to complete since my Fortius swim was optional.  Still, that's 8.5 hours of training since Monday.  And tomorrow, I've got a two hour trail run before volunteering at Coach Gerardo's middle school for a career fair.  I hope my legs will propel me through what has been one of the more challenging weeks of training in a long while.

And slightly annoying, too.

167 days and counting.

Freaky Friday

My morning workout went haywire today.  It went so far off the rails that even Amtrak would be like, "Damn!" It started innocently enough when my Garmin watch ran out of juice on the first lap of what was supposed to be my first track workout.  No problem. I'll work out later, I thought.  I went to go pick up the water bottle I stashed on the bleacher's at VNSO park...it was gone!  After one lap around the track!  Less than five minutes into my run.  Seriously?  Who steals a water bottle?  I looked around incredulously when I saw a parks and recreation golf cart riding away with the driver mimicking my "what in the world?!" gesture with my arms.  Wow. Whatever.

Then, on the way home, I turned right on Van Nuys near Ventura onto a street with a "no right turn on red" sign.  The light had turned green.  I got pulled over anyways...by a friggin' bike cop!  Seriously?  Is this really happening? I couldn't hide my contempt, shouting "You've got to be kidding me!" when the cop told me to pull to the right.  I gave this guy a ton of crap, until he pointed out that the sign was actually no right turns at all from 7 to 9 a.m.


Still though, with the California budget crisis, the police department has clearly turned to chickenshit tickets as a way to pay the bills.  Fortunately, after a raging outburst that evoked the scene in Shawshank Redemption with Morgan Freeman and the parole board, the cop let me go without a ticket.

Who said fighting against The Man doesn't pay off every once in a while?

I finally did get my workout in tonight at 5:30 p.m.  The session called for six, 400m sprints with 200m recovery intervals.  I held steady between 1:32-1:38 and 170-177 bpm.  I don't know if this is considered "good" since it was my first time out.  What I do know is that if I were to hold that pace for a mile I'd be able to roughly run a 6-minute mile. That would rock!  We'll see what Coach Gerardo says.

That wasn't even the highlight of the workout though.  The final 10 minutes called for running barefoot slowly in the grass.  It's amazing what a sensation can do to spark a hidden sense of nostalgia.  Almost immediately upon feeling the grass on my feet and toes, I was taken back to childhood and running in my front yard, playing in the sprinklers with my mom watching.  I couldn't stop thinking about childhood the entire time I was running barefoot.  It was nice to go back to that place. I didn't realize how easy it was to get there.

All in all, it was a great day. It just started off on very shaky ground.

195 days and counting.

Hammerin' the Conejo

This morning, Team Fortius participated in the 26th annual Cruisin' the Conejo bike ride across the Conejo Valley.

My ride was closer to "Hammerin' the Conejo."  The whole cruising part just didn't work out so well today.  Not that you're really surprised.

The ride was a last-minute (but very welcome) addition to our training schedule.  And to get it out of the way up front, I recommend this ride for anyone looking to see the Conejo Valley at its finest.  The route is fairly easy for riders of all levels. We didn't do a ton of climbing, most of the ride was flat, the wind was moderate and the temperature never got hire than the upper 70s. The rest stops, course marking and organizers are first-rate.  And as far as organized group rides in Southern California, I'd definitely put it ahead of the Cool Breeze Century in Ventura.

David, my teammate and friend (and sports massage therapist) and I chose the 68-mile "moderate" metric century, which would take us from Newbury Park to Westlake, into Oxnard, Camarillo, through Moorpark and my hometown of Simi Valley and back to Thousand Oaks/Newbury Park.  The climbing was moderate, but the pace was not.

We started the ride at 8 knowing we needed to be back in Los Angeles by 2 p.m. since David had a massage client at 3:30.  We knew we'd make our deadline if we were efficient on the bike.  Had we not had places to be and things to do, I think today's ride would have been a lot more mellow.  That, and David had a friend, John, who joined us.  John was a big guy who, in David's words, "liked to go fast."  I didn't realize how fast until we quickly lost at least three packs of riders on the course with us.

In fact, literally not one person passed all three of us for an extended period.  And, of course, my competitive side coming out BIG-TIME, absolutely nobody passed me on the course during my ride.  Once we realized we were among the best cyclists on the course, David, John and I made a friendly gentlemen's pact that nobody would pass us.  All day.  My kind of challenge.  Our piss-and-vinegar approach manifested itself the most during a roughly 10-mile stretch on Las Posas Road coming from Camarillo into Moorpark.  We formed a pace line and seriously hammered.  Coach Gerardo will see this soon enough via my Garmin 310x data, but let me just note up front I spent way more time than I should have in zone 5 on the heart-rate monitor.  I was in a cycling trance today.  That's the only way to describe it.  When I expressed my concern to David that maybe we were pushing too hard, he calmly noted that "it's good to get in a little speed work every once in a while."

Noted.  And check.

We took the pedal off the metal in Moorpark and into Simi Valley, where I had a visitor pop by to say hello: My father. He met us on the same road I used to bike as a kid with a Haro mountain bike when I'd gather the nerve to venture from Simi into the next time.  I remember vividly those afternoons with Frank and Jeremy, when we'd think we were practically like Magellan wondering if the world was indeed flat.  What's beyond the next town? What if we don't make it back by dark?  What if we get a flat tire?  Oh, the excitement!  Oh, how it was only 13 miles yet felt like 68.

Oh, how nice it was to ride on that road again for the first time in 20 years and think about how far I've come, and how lucky I was to be able to enjoy such a moment with my dad.

After Dad left, we ambled up Olsen Road and battled a headwind before rallying for the last stretch down Thousand Oaks Boulevard and onto Hillcrest Drive.  One rider in an Amgen kit tried to stay with John and me.  I was having none of it.  Not that far into the ride without having anyone pass.  This guy tried to pass me twice and on both occasions I floored it, the second time looking directly at him, smiling and saying "nice push" before dusting him the final two miles into the parking lot.

We rode 68 miles in just about 3:46, or an 18 mph pace.  We were on our road bikes since it was a group ride, so I'm very eager to give my TT bike a go and see if I can improve upon that, minus the elevated heart-rate.

I know I need to curb this competitive fire right now.  I've got so many more months of training and it's all about pacing and patience.

But I just couldn't help myself today.  Fortunately, there were some great recovery tools available at the end of the race...err...tour.  I was stretched out by a chiropractor truck and then David, John and I were treated to electro-therapy for 15 minutes to restore blood flow to our aching leg muscles.  What a trip!  My legs looked like they had a mind of their own the way they were dancing from all the electricity pulsating through them.  But I can say it worked.  My legs feel fine, and I can also partially attribute that to the 2XU compression calf sleeves I wore on the ride.  I can definitely tell a difference now when I wear them in terms of recovery and stability in my legs.  It might be a little mental (hey, so am I!), but I swear the compression tech works.

It had better.  I've got a swim with the LA Tri Club tomorrow along with a 1.75 hour running session.  I will have to take it a little easy on the run, I'm sure.

Unless someone faster tries to pass me.

Just kidding, Gerardo.  Kind of.

201 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.

Oh Garmin, My Garmin

I'm currently on the sneaky side of the double-mirrored glass at a focus group test in Northern California.  Ears glued to the discussion, eyes focused on uploading several days' worth of workouts on my Garmin 310x. Finally, I'm beginning to understand the wisdom contained in this supercomputer posing as a watch.

Sadly, I don't want to see some of the truths it contains.

My "controlled" tempo running pace is slower than I thought, to the tune of about 9:30.  I know I'm faster than that, but when instructed to keep my heart rate under control, more often than not 9:30 is where I live.  This would partially explain my demise at the LA Marathon to a degree.  I was pushing a faster controlled tempo pace than perhaps I should have while my immune system was having none of it.  That equals trouble, big-time.

I'm slower on the bike, too.  On road rides where I'm supposed to be cycling within the lower heart-rate zones, my pace is closer to 15.5 mph.  Yikes!  I can sustain 18-21 mph for sustained periods but on longer rides my pace drops.  I'm not sure what to make of that.  Am I a worse cyclist?  Smarter because I know how to pace myself?  Weaker because I need to?

One good bit of news is that my heart-rate rarely escalates above 90% of my max during any one workout.  So, I have plenty of fuel left in the tank during my training.  At least I know I'm capable of running faster and pedaling harder.  And, with two triathlon races coming up in the next three weeks, a mental confidence boost is just as valuable as a physical one.

Tomorrow I will approach my workouts not only a little more refreshed -- I had a training off-day due to my business trip -- but a little wiser about my capabilities.

Perception versus reality.  Friend or foe?

Both, I think.

230 days and counting.