What a Difference 6 Months Makes...

It's finally here. The final few weeks of demanding Ironman training.  The early mornings.  The late nights.  Cramming work, writing, wedding and family in between.  Twenty-one hours of training scheduled this week, and it's not even my biggest week yet.

Sorry, friends, see you at the end of June.

It sucks, but that's honestly what it takes at this point to finish the journey.  Focus.  Discipline.  Patience.  Resolve.  That applies to the workouts themselves.  No need to be a hero at this point in the training. If Coach Gerardo says to stay within zones 1-3 on a 2.5 hour run (like today), then that's exactly what I do. The result this morning meant a relatively pedestrian 2:13:04 half-marathon on the Griffith Park long course trails, with a couple golf course loops thrown in for good measure.  I know I can run faster, but not while keeping my heart rate down.

Welcome to my Ironman marathon pace.  Once again, physically I see I'm more than capable of a 4:15-4:20 marathon if I don't go crazy on the bike.  I ran 9:15 miles with 15 second walking rests at each mile marker.  Normally this would be a disappointment.  But since I know what to expect come race day, I would gladly GRATEFULLY take this pace.

All of this is besides the point though.  Race day is just outside of a month from now.  Last time at this point, I was practically panicked inside about possibly not finishing or disappointing myself, or even you Mr. and Ms. Blog Reader.  Not this time.  In fact, I'm honestly surprised how mellow I am about being in the final crunch right now.  It's seriously no big deal.  I remember, and I'm sure Coach G does too, that last year I was pretty much a whiny bitch about all the pain and suffering associated with the training. "Why are you trying to kill me???" was a common question I asked.

This year I'm not so cocky as to say "Bring it on!"; rather, my attitude is, "Oh, OK.  I've done this workout before.  Cool."

I truly didn't expect to be this relaxed.  Whatever I do in the coming weeks, the goal is to stay that way.

Chillin'. Sleepy.  Another brick workout at 7 a.m. tomorrow.  Bedtime.

33 days and counting.


Hard as it was, I held back the effort and kept the heart rate lower for the bike portion of my early morning brick workout.  On the hills I normally attack at Griffith Park, my heart rate can accelerate to the upper 150s, even low 160s if I'm pushing hard.  Then, I'll wonder why my trail runs are at a 9:00 pace at best. Today was different.

I never exceeded 152 bpm at the toughest point of my climbs, typically staying within the 130s and low-mid 140s.  I'll have to review the data from my ride when I eventually get home, but I don't think I was dramatically slower than if I had pushed harder.  Fortunately, Fortius teammate and buddy David was riding up the Griffith Park Observatory road as I was cruising towards it, so we shared part of our ride.  This further kept my heart-rate down and my effort level in check.

When it was time to part ways and head back to the car for my run workout, I felt fresh and energized.  I was eager to see if the "stored" energy as in fact ready for use on the run.

It was!  Granted, I only had time to run for 30 minutes instead of the full 60 thanks to my amended cycling route and pacing.  But, I averaged just over an 8:00 pace while keeping my heart-rate in the low zone 3 area or even zone 2.  This is huge news for me, and hopefully proof that saving myself for the run more effectively may just be the ticket to a better Ironman result.

I don't like the idea of sacrificing speed and power on the bike for the greater good.  Cycling is my favorite sport, as we all know by now.  BUT, if this is the best way to come close to breaking 12 hours in Coeur d'Alene I'm all for it.

I'll continue to put this theory to the test in the coming weeks and report the results.

The idea of slowing down to ultimately go faster fascinates me.  Perhaps this should apply to other areas of my life too?

46 days and counting.

PS: Fingers update: May be going to doctor's tomorrow after lifeguards at the pool and a teammate doctor indicated last night that there is an infection risk for the cuts I sustained.  I called the doctor's office today but they're closed on Wednesdays -- apparently the "urgent" message I left wasn't deemed important enough.  More to come.

The Little Engine Who Couldn't and Then Did

You know the story, "The Little Engine that Could?"  I used to love hearing it as a kid.  Over and over again.  Maybe it rubbed off a bit on my personality. Today on my long two-hour run for the week, I was The Little Engine Who Couldn't.  I couldn't motivate because I was running alone early in the morning on my normal day off from training.  I couldn't elevate my heart-rate to the usual zones based on the usual activity level -- I was off by at least 10 bpm.  I couldn't travel much faster than the walking horses on the dirt path, and my run quality smelled like them too.

And then, I saw one of the strangest things in all my time training.  As I passed the Los Angeles Zoo parking lot in Griffith Park around 8 a.m. on my first of two loops, a man in corporate attire was playing the bagpipes next to his Porsche Cayenne.

I can't make this stuff up.  I'd say only in LA, but really, maybe it's only in Scotland?

The man belted out "Amazing Grace" as a horde of high school cross-country runners jetted past, waving, laughing and saluting.

Perhaps the man was paying tribute to a fallen comrade, or even rehearsing to do that at a funeral at the nearby Forest Lawn Cemetary.  Maybe he was just inspired.  Either way, I found my lost stride, my passion, and ultimately my speed.  I ran the second loop seven-minutes faster.

This further proved to me how the mind affects the body in training and racing.  I didn't want to be outside this morning.  I wanted to be in bed and it showed in my performance.  But once I committed to the run, truly and fully, my performance soared.  Well, it soared compared to where it was when I started.  Anyway, you get the idea.

The next time your engine is running a little slow, consider why and what you can do to change that in your own mind.  You might be surprised at what happens.

60 days and counting (btw, I know this isn't true and that once again my numbers are off!  I'll change this tomorrow!)

PPS: Tomorrow I hope to review the Fuel Belt R-30 (three-bottle holder). In short, OK but not great.  I'll tell you why.


Some people listen to music when they run.   But you can't really do it in races, so I generally avoid it. Some people listen to the music in their heads, which can be helpful come race day.  In training, that often devolves into endless repeats of the most annoying music on earth.  Most recently, that has meant Ke$ha and The Addams Family theme song (thank you David Wachtel.)


So what do I do instead?  Lately, I've been counting silently, as in 1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2... for what seems like hours on end.  I'm sure you've done the same at some point, to keep that cadence high and your gait efficient.  Since my buddy Greg Moe taught me about the value of maintaining between 180-184 steps per minute when running, it's all I can think about on the course.  I've improved to where I can maintain a 90-92 left-foot steps per minute pace on a consistent basis, and now feel comfortable enough working with my buddy John to help him get there as well.

John and I met at Griffith Park this morning at 7 for a lightly-paced run focused on technical training and form.  When we started our first cadence drill, John was around 80 one-foot steps per minute.  However, I should first preface this by indicating that is working for John.  He placed second in his age group at a 10k in Encino last weekend, earning a handshake and a medal from none other than Rafer Johnson.  Yep, THAT Rafer Johnson (are there others though?).  So, John doesn't really need running tutelage per se.  We just wanted to experiment if we could make John run faster, with higher cadence, while keeping his heart-rate the same.

And we did.

By the end of our six-mile jog, John was running well ahead of me while maintaining a steady heart-rate...and his cadence jumped 10 steps per minute to a consistent 90.  Well done!

Though John went much faster than me, it was like I was running faster as well.  I'm not saying I've caught the coaching bug by any stretch.  But I admit to taking a certain amount of pride in watching John smile and enjoy his run just a bit more, and feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Maybe when all this training and racing subsides a bit, perhaps one day I will try to coach more.  If it's anything like what I felt today, then it just might be the best-kept secret of triathlon -- coaching is as good as racing.

69 days and counting.

Poopy Brick

My training mojo vanished this morning.  And I didn't even get a memo with a warning!  Nope, instead, I found out my morning brick was going to be terrible mid-way through my bike ride.  I couldn't figure out why my heart-rate was so low despite a strong effort on a long hill climb.  Typically, I hover in the 150-160 bpm range on this particular climb, but today I stayed in the 130s, reaching 150 only after a final futile push to reach the hill summit in time to make it back to the parking lot within the hour. Fail.

My legs felt like they were dipped in tar -- hot, sticky, burning, and painful.

That sensation continued on my poor excuse of a run.  My training instructions were to run easy in zones 1-2 for the first two miles, ramp up to zone 3 for the third mile and ramp up again to zone 4 for the final two miles.  I couldn't get my heart-rate past 145 for the entire duration of the run!  In fact, I had to stop halfway through the run for a bathroom break, which almost never happens.

Has this happened to you?  That awkward feeling part way through a workout where you're just dying to find a restroom in the middle of a trail run?  NOT good.

Fortunately, I was running parallel to a golf course.  I looked like I was streaking with my clothes on as I raced across the green -- hands covering my head to protect an errant drive.  That's how bad I had to go!  Once I felt better, I returned to my run.  Once again, I couldn't muster any real power or speed.  Though I ran steady 9 and 8:30 miles on the two miles back to the car, I would have preferred revving my intensity and trying to hit consistent 7-minute miles again.

Today was not that day.  I'm debating hitting the pool for a rare Wednesday evening swim, or just resting today altogether.  Maybe this morning was an aberration?

There's only one way to find out.  And in these final three months of Ironman training, that way is to suck it up and get back out there as best I can.  If I'm not feelin' it, I'll back out.  But unless I'm in a work meeting or injured, "not feelin' it" ain't good enough.

76 days and counting.

Inside the 84-Day Window

The critical stage of Ironman training has begun. According to author and Training Peaks co-founder Joe Friel, the final 84 days of Ironman training are the most important.  Workouts must be completed as prescribed as often as possible, with the goal being not to miss a single workout within this window. Last year, I completed 90% of my workouts en route to Ironman Arizona.  This year, it's more difficult. I'm going to have to be craftier and more flexible with my schedule to make Ironman training, work, and wedding planning equally important.  Some days, that's going to be easier than others.

Like today.  Following a successful Community Day event for our fans yesterday, there was going to be virtually no way I was going to awake myself earlier than 7 to do a two-hour brick.  So, instead I went into work a little earlier than normal, worked a full day, and left at 5 to complete my two-hour brick in the evening.  The bonus being that the Fortius/LA Tri Club Wednesday evening bricks have returned!  I haven't participated in one of these workouts since last September.  It felt like a reunion.  Except this reunion featured a lot more people than last year wearing Fortius kits.  I'm very happy for Coach Gerardo that his company is growing.  I'd say a full third of the athletes who showed up today were wearing Fortius gear.

I'm still feeling some of the effects of my Pacific Half Marathon on Saturday.  The legs are tight for sure, though my new-found running form carried me smoothly through a light three miles today after an hour bike ride.  Having conversation with actual people besides the voices in my head helped too.

Spring started more than a week ago officially, but for me, it began tonight.  With friends old and new, a little extra light at the end of the day, and the knowledge that where there's a will to find a way to complete Ironman training, I will be ready in 83 days to conquer another milestone.


83 days and counting.

Back on the Bike

Back to my normal training, starting today. I didn't do so well -- heavy legs, high heart rate -- but I saw this spectacular view of Los Angeles around 7:30 a.m.  That's Griffith Observatory in the upper left and downtown LA behind it.  The best thing I can say about today's workout is that I completed it.  And it was only 90 minutes.  It felt good to be back out on the road, especially on the road bike.  While my cycling may not be great, my descending skills are improving dramatically.  I'm much more confident on the bike now than ever before.  I'll take progress where I can get it.

I wish I had more energy to write.  But it's been a long, long day.  Meetings from 10-3:30 p.m. straight, another meeting until 4:30 and catch-up straight until 6:50 p.m.

I hope a pretty picture will substitute for my prose now.

More words tomorrow, I hope.

97 days and counting.

Lesson Learned, and Some Homework

Once again, I'm in bed, blogging. Unlike last night though, the lights are on, and my laptop is recharged.  As am I.  This time though, it's from you, my readers.  I got a couple great comments from yesterday's blog and I really appreciated the perspective. I will take each workout one day at a time.  I needed that reminder.

Today's workouts were meant to be one long workout, a three-hour bike ride.  But I couldn't get out of bed at 5:30 a.m. after a hard evening swim last night.  So, I rode for about 1.3 hours this morning with Bob, the same Griffith Park route. Today was absolutely gorgeous out.  You could see the ocean clear to Long Beach from the Hollywood sign lookout point near Griffith Observatory.  One funny thing that happened on our initial climb was the howl of a coyote directly behind me not more than 20 feet away.  I wish we had it on film, but I sped up so quick, my legs must have looked like Shaggy and Scooby-Doo when they encounter a ghost or monster!  I hauled ass outta there!

For the first time in my training, I climbed the Hollywood sign route twice, back-to-back.  It's not that bad considering the longer climbs I've been doing recently.  It was nice to find some progress in my training, along with improved handling skills on descents.  That's something that really has taken a lot of time, getting used to the feel of a tri bike on cornering compared to a road bike.  It's literally something I work on specifically for every workout.

Another gem worth sharing from my ride was this tidbit: Give yourself a specific goal to shoot for and achieving that goal is much easier. I made the mistake of telling Bob how hast I had ridden up to the Hollywood gate last week, speculating that he could beat me by at least a full minute.  Well, Bob needed to see for himself, and beat me by nearly two minutes.  He explained, while panting between breaths, that a specific goal helps him motivate more than something vague.  I took this to heart and am going to figure out how I can apply it to my own training behind the 12-hour IM CDA milestone.  Maybe you can use this advice too.

So how 'bout some late night homework then?  I'll think of a specific goal in the short-term for my training, and you do the same.  Feel free to let me know what you come up with!

104 days and counting.

A Little Extra Push

The idea of cycling in 40-degree weather this morning at 7 didn't thrill this California native.

But my buddy Bob made it a lot better.

Sometimes, I really enjoy training on my own.  I'm on my own schedule, can take as few breaks as possible and get done with my workout quicker.  However, what I make up for in efficiency can sometimes be lost with pacing, or in today's case, a little extra pushing.

As some of you know who have read the blog for a while now, Bob did Ironman Arizona with me last year.  He's a heck of a cyclist and has bursts of speed that leave my jaw dropped when he chooses to push it.  Today, he made me push it at the end of a two-hour ride at Griffith Park where my legs felt lactic, my climbing power lacked and my heart rate slacked.

And I couldn't be happier.  Bob yelled and paced me to climb a hill much faster than I anticipated or I even thought capable at this stage of my workout and after a nearly 13 hour training week (not including weekend activities yet).  More important, my heart rate didn't explode the way I thought it might, and I sustained the speed down the hill and in the flats for the remainder of what became a small 20-minute crit.  Granted, Bob absolutely destroyed me in speed and power. But I felt like my workout went from good to great thanks to the extra push.

That's also the real benefit of having a training partner who's a better athlete than you.  Learning by osmosis, you can't help but get better yourself.  Frank helped train me as a beginner cyclist, and if I can ride more with Bob, I'll get even better.

Now I just have to ask myself who will pace me tomorrow as I slosh through a rain storm for my first unofficial race of the year, a Pasadena 5k that serves as the tempo portion of a 1.75 hour run.  I hope I have enough energy to finish the race as I'm pretty worn out from an epic week of training and another swimming milestone.

I like my chances though if I can latch onto someone down the stretch.

Race report to follow tomorrow.

G'night all!

116 days and counting.

Blowin' Off Steam

My day started off super crappy.  But training saved it.  That's the benefit of all this crazy triathlon training we do -- the insanity of it all keeps us sane. Because a contractor tried to shirk responsibility for a poor installation of my washing machine (there's a longer story you can email me about if you want to hear what happened), I arrived to Griffith Park this morning late and pissy.  Further, my Garmin watch strap popped loose, so I couldn't wear my watch on my wrist.  After fiddling with it for five minutes unsuccessfully, I tucked it into my chest pocket on my fleece and took off.  My run called for an hour of "moderate" trail running between heart-rate zones 1-4, with some moments in zone 5 if called for on inclines.  I ran by feel instead, but I knew I was moving quicker than normal.  My teeth and jaw were a little clenched as I was thinking of all the things I would have liked to have said to the contractor if I was quicker on my feet in the heat of an argument and NOT trying to be as polite.  This guy really pissed me off because at the core, I think he thought he could push me around.

Anyway, I found that the longer I ran, the less frustrated I became.  Yet my pace remained the same.  And the same hills I had trouble running up just a couple weeks ago were a LOT easier today.  Again, I think my body is finally fully recovered from IMAZ and the gains of my consistent training since January are paying off.  As my dad put it tonight in conversation, perhaps I need a little less to get a lot farther.

This was no more evident than tonight's unexpected 1,000-yard time trial in the pool with my Fortius teammates.  Before the workout, I told Coach Gerardo that he should be on Bonk Watch for me, as once again this was my third workout for the second time this week.

Once again, at the brink of exhaustion, I swam faster for 1,000 yards than I ever have in the pool.  Thanks to healthy pacing from my teammate and friend Mike, I crushed my previous best time of 17:57 from about a month ago and sailed to a new best: 16:36!

Are you kidding me!!?!?!?

Honestly, I still can't believe it. I really owe that to Mike's strong pacing, which fueled my competitive instincts and forced me to swim a little more balls-out than I wanted to, but at the same time saving room for a surge in the final 200 yards.

Honestly, today was perhaps one of my all-time best days of training.

And I have a jerky contractor to thank for it.

Maybe I should ask more people to piss me off?

117 days and counting.