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.

2 Weeks!

Two weeks from tonight, I'll be collapsed in my hotel room, hopefully elated with the performance I worked for and (I believe) earned. Yet it still doesn't feel totally real. For instance, despite a year of training, I felt a pang of anxiety when I realized tonight that the next Ironman on the official schedule is...mine.  There's nothing else to look forward to.  No other friends to cheer on.  No other teammates to send off.

It's just me and a date that approaches more quickly every day.

If today's workout is any indication, I'm definitely close to being ready.  Bob, my fellow Fortius and IMAZ teammate, joined me this morning for a full tri-workout.  We swam at Zuma in clear, crisp 62-degree water for 45 minutes.  I experimented with compression shorts in the water instead of a swimsuit, as well as compression calf sleeves. I liked it overall.  The calf sleeves rolled up on my leg a bit but I think that was after I took off the wetsuit, not while wearing it.  I think I'll go with that strategy at Ironman.  Any edge I think I can get.  Following a fairly leisurely transition (what a gorgeous day out!), I did my very best to hold onto Bob's wheel as we hammered out to Big Rock and back.  I succeeded for the first half of the ride as we belted out several 21-plus mph miles, but the second half of the ride, Bob stopped toying with me and simply took off.  He very well may break five hours for his bike split at IMAZ if he wanted to.  Finally, we embarked on a 90-minute run while trying to stay in heart-rate zones 2-3.  We were successful, completing just around 9.6 miles in that span on a flat course.  I needed that run following last Sunday's blow-up in Calabasas.  I know I can hold my heart-rate steady for several miles but I'll need the weather and wind to cooperate, as well as my own ability to stick to my race plan.  Today, the wind was moderate and the temperature was around 70 when Bob and I started running at noon.

Now, it's getting late (for an old guy like me).  I'm typing, reflecting about the past week.  With the exception of a couple monster swims, this past week truly felt like what I expected a taper should be.  Relaxed.  Moderate.  Fun.

With the occasional balls-out bike sprint thrown in for good measure.

14 days and counting.

Week Done!

This week of training, while not particularly hard, left me slightly gasping for the finish.  Maybe it's the long weekend. Maybe it was waking up before 6:30 a.m. three out five weekdays.  Or that Trudy and Bam-Bam are back to wreak havoc on Stephanie's and my sleeping patterns. The more I think about it, I'm probably just a bit more tired than usual because of the mere 12 hours separating the track and swim workouts from this morning's 1.5-hour bike ride at Griffith Park.  I didn't really push it, but by the end of this morning's ride my legs were definitely glad it was time to call it quits.

I'm scheduled for some yoga now, which I'm going to our work gym to complete.  That'll probably restore and refresh me.  Tomorrow, I have an off-day as Steph and I are back on the wedding  venue scouting trail.  Ojai and Los Olivos are on the docket.

I'm looking for some highlights or superlatives to describe today's workout.  Not much comes to mind at all.  It was one of those rides where you find yourself looking at your watch more for a countdown to finishing as much to see how fast you're going or where your heart rate stands.  I know my calf compression sleeves came in handy and reduced what felt like sore and stiff legs when I woke up this morning.

What can I say...some workouts are just more enjoyable than others.  Then again, it was gorgeous out, without a cloud in the sky.  And in a few years, it will be a real privilege to be able to fit in a pre-work bike ride.  So I file this one away to, Don't Take It For Granted!

139 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.

Do the Work.

How I'm ending the day is pretty much how I started it.  Tired.  Lethargic.  Ready for bed. At least I can fulfill that desire instead of trudging out for an early morning brick.  Stephanie pretty much had to kick me out of bed this morning, literally.  She did so successfully, with the promises of making me oatmeal.  It helped.  My cycling felt about as slow as oatmeal transfers out from the ceramic bowl to the plastic one.  Please. Just. Go. A. Little. Faster.

For whatever reason, I just didn't sleep well last night.  I was ready to train at 4:30 in the morning, and since Trudy and Bam Bam have been making more regular early morning cameos lately, I figured what's the use of going back to sleep.  So I got caught in that "no doze zone" -- somewhere between being awake and drifting off to sleep.  It took me about a half-hour of cycling to wash the malaise off my body and generate some pedal power.

The run turned out much better.  The breakthrough from last Wednesday's Griffith Park brick with Coach Gerardo and Richard is really paying dividends now.  Despite my general tired state, running at tempo pace (heart-rate zone 3) felt surprisingly easy and relaxing.  My heart-rate never rose past 157 bpm but I was averaging what felt like an 8:30-mile pace -- and it was fairly effortless.  In the past, I would labor a lot more running at tempo.  Granted, I only ran a shade under 4.5 miles in just about 40 minutes.  But I felt like I could run another 4.5 or more at the same pace if not slightly better. Given my groggy frame of mind, I'll more than take it.

I suppose the real victory today was simply getting out of bed and doing the work. That's all you can do sometimes, as I've said before.  It's the difference between coming close to your race day goals and either meeting or exceeding your expectations.  You've got to put in the work, the time, the sweat and the effort -- whether you feel like it or not.

That's really all that today was about.  And at this point countless other training sessions I've written about. It's probably the theme of my Ironman training: Do the work. Period.

Speaking of, it's back to work tomorrow morning. At 6. In the pool.  Track session in the evening too.

Let's do this.

141 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.

An Informative Workout

Learning by doing is a lot more effective than learning by guessing.  That's how I'd sum up my nearly two-hour run workout this morning.  My assignment was to run the last five to eight miles at the goal pace I'd like to run a Vineman 70.3, with a goal heart-rate in mind as well.  I chose to target eight-minute miles at a 158-160 goal heart rate.

This may have been a tad aggressive.  I was working off less than six hours sleep, courtesy of a stellar engagement party last night for Stephanie and me.  About 50 of our closest friends and family gathered to help us celebrate something that was five-plus years in the making.  (Here's a photo of Steph and me with my future in-laws!) But I didn't let it stop me from getting up early to swim with the LA Tri Clubbers in Marina del Rey.  Even though I'm generally total crap with fewer than six hours sleep.

For the first 45 minutes of my solo run, my legs felt awful. I couldn't even elevate my heart rate to zone 2!  It was truly one of those days where quitting seemed the best option after my mile swim.  But, I knew this is probably how I'd feel during the Ironman, or perhaps even Vineman. Tired, defeated, sore, and alone.  I know that if I don't train to overcome these hurdles, I won't be mentally strong when it counts.

So I dug deep.

I realized that an eight-minute mile pace wasn't going to be feasible when my first mile clocked in at 8:05.  I felt like I was running much faster, but the clock indicated otherwise.  So, I changed my goal to reflect being as close as possible to 8:00.  That went out the window with an 8:10 at mile two, but I lowered back to an 8:09 for mile three.  The wheels started to come a little loose after that.  I went to 8:18 in mile four, 8:23 in mile five, and I essentially screeched to a halt with an 8:34 at mile six.  I stopped shortly after that because I was really trying to pace myself for a sub-50 minute 10k to emulate the Breath of Life Olympic triathlon coming up in a few weeks.  The good news is that I did break 50 minutes on less than optimal sleep and eating/drinking conditions.  The less-than-good news is that I can't hold an 8:00 pace.  I maintained my 160 bpm heart rate for the most part though, which was a success.  In fact, I dropped my heart-rate by a few percentage points compared to my last big tempo run of this type, which occurred about two weeks ago.  Progress.

Overall, I reinforced once again that I can tough out a good run when necessary.  I learned I'm not as fast as I'd like, but running faster than I used to be.  And my stamina is slowly improving.  I wouldn't have learned any of this had I not dragged myself out of bed, or chosen to push myself by ignoring my body's protests.

I'd say that's the makings of a great workout.

157 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.


I've written about my triathlon exploits after eating pizza. Now I can add red velvet cake to my growing list of Things That Are So Bad They Make Me Perform Better. My friend Jennie sent me a birthday cake today that must have come close to weighing 10-12 pounds.  As you can see, it was pure decadence.  Creamy, cold white frosting with rich red, chocolate goodness.  Each slice took up an entire paper plate!  I was very good, I "only" ate a full piece about two hours before my Wednesday evening Griffith Park brick with the LA Tri Club and Fortius team members.

And it seemed to have paid off!  I was afraid I'd (sugar) crash hard during a bike climb or certainly during the run portion. Or maybe I'd get sick like I had been lately. Nothing of the sort occurred.  I tore up Mount Hollywood on the bike feeling fresh and powerful, unchained by Coach Gerardo's note in my Training Peaks workout that I could play with some attacks and sprints while avoiding heart-rate zone 5.

Well, two out of three ain't bad, right?

Frank decided to join me for the brick today, which meant my cycling mentor had no problem encouraging me to dart up the hills and challenge him to some sprint duels.  I was so excited to finally speed past him on some climbs that I forgot to finish at the top of the hills, which would be when Frank would zip past me by the narrowest of margins. This was a good lesson for me as in each instance I was in the wrong gear to finish strong in the sprint.  Frank knew just when to attack, while I was ill-prepared to make a proper defense.

First, Frank taught me how to ride.  Now, he's teaching me the ins and outs of racing.  It's gonna be one fun ride!  My evening reading -- Mark Cavendish's autobiography -- is also inspiring me to push a little harder while riding. He eschews sports science in favor of simply riding a lot of hours, hard and fast.  He's constantly been told he performs poorly in the laboratory -- poor power output, too fat, etc. -- and he responds by saying that labs don't measure passion and perseverance.  That's my kind of guy.  So as I pushed hard today, even sustaining close to 25 mph in a pace line for a while at the end, I kept thinking of Mark Cavendish and his "old school" training style.  It was a liberating feeling.

Despite the effort on the bike, my run went well too.  It started off poorly, as the group was very fast and shot ahead of me from the start.  This was further complicated by having to pee only a half-mile in.  Eventually, I got my legs under me and caught up with most of the group during the trail run portion.  I kept my heart rate mostly in zone 3 and was very consistent during my finishing two-mile kick.  Though I need to pick that intensity up in preparation for the Breath of Life Olympic triathlon on June 27.  I'll really need to push hard that day!

I'll have an opportunity to hone my speed (or lack thereof?) tomorrow at our Fortius team's first coached track workout.  It's going to be held at Harvard-Westlake High School off Coldwater Canyon at 6 p.m.  But before that is my 6 a.m. coached swim workout.  Better get to bed.

161 days and counting.

Hot Hot Heat

The line between training hard and being stupid is a fine one.  I think I walked it a little today. It wasn't supposed to go that way.  After touring the sun-splashed and wind-swept Santa Ynez Valley yesterday, Stephanie and crashed out pretty hard last night around 9:45 p.m.  Nearly 11 hours later, we awoke.  I suppose my body was trying to tell me something.

I eventually rallied this morning and drove to the Starbucks at Las Virgenes and Agoura Road for my brick workout -- which was a solo affair.  No sooner had I arrived than I had to turn around.  I left my helmet at home!  Arrrgh!  I did have that moment where I considered riding without it.  But I knew that was not a fine line between training and being stupid.  Plus, if I survived, Steph would have killed me anyways!

Once I eventually got started on my brick, it was 10:30 a.m.  In the span of driving home and returning to Agoura, the temperature went up five degrees to 80.  I was going to complete my brick during the hottest part of the day, from 10:30 through 2:30 p.m.

Wise or stupid?

On one hand, I'm a big believer in training in multiple weather conditions, especially with Vineman 70.3 looming.  It gets hot in Napa Valley in the middle of summer!  And my initial outing in heat, a week ago in Arizona, didn't go so great during the run.  I wanted to keep working at it.

On the other hand...dude, it's 93 degrees!  At least!  Coach Gerardo didn't say to train in the heat of the day, so why put myself through that?  Why not just do the workouts prescribed at the typical early hour?

Where's the fun in that?!

So, I trudged onward today.  Alone.  In the heat.  Talk about a mental exercise.  No music.  No conversation...just me, my thoughts, and beautiful scenery.  The highlights weren't even on the bike or the run, but the car rally fundraiser for the LA Sheriffs Department.  There were 100 exotic cars all revving up on Agoura Road, just waiting to blast and whine through the canyon roads.  Nice!

My pace on the bike and the run wasn't special.  However, I did see some progress on the run compared to Arizona.  I didn't lose as many calories, my average heart-rate was lower and my pace was only .1 mph off.  Yet I climbed 200 more feet.  The credit goes to better hydration -- I scheduled water refill stops at Peter Strauss Ranch and at the Sherwood fire station.  On the bike, I climbed Rock Store in just under 20 minutes while remaining largely in heart-rate zones 2-3 and not over-exerting except on a few steep grade turns.  I never really hammered on the ride, but it was still a respectable workout.

Following the full brick, after sitting in a heat-induced stupor at Sharkey's (top photo), I high-tailed it to Helen's Cycles in Santa Monica to pick up my new cleats and to quickly adjust the seat on my Colnago. Once again, Pete took great care of me.  With some very minor adjustments, like actually making my seat flat, I felt an immediate difference in comfort on the trainer.  I'm eager to see how Monica will feel back on the road for my next ride.  And seriously, people, if you need a new bike or a great place to get quality service, I can't recommend Helen's (and Pete) enough.  I've tried my luck at several bike shops and while I've had good results at others, Helen's is the best I've been to.  Hands down.  Simply a cut above the rest.  Like the advertisements say, ask for Pete, and tell him I sent ya!

Before signing off, I wanted to briefly reflect on the significance of today's date, June 6.  I believe it was 66 years ago when Allied Forces stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, Zero Hour.  This was the most pivotal moment of the 20th Century for America.  Had this battle been turned back, I fear the course of World, US and Jewish history would have taken a far worse turn.  I visited Normandy nine years ago today, and I can tell you that what those men fought through to get ashore is astounding and miraculous. And the rows upon rows of grave markers is something that sticks in my head and heart.  During my visit, I went out into the water at what would have approximately been Dog Sector and looked to the beach at the views and bluffs the Americans, Canadians and British had to scale.  I'm in awe of what those men accomplished that day, and when I compare my completely inane blog and its musings with the miraculous actions of that day...I am speechless and beyond humbled.

We are lucky to be free and alive, in good health no less.  We owe that at least partially to the veterans who fought on our behalf for generations, wherever duty called.  No matter how hot or cold it got.  Or wet.  Or worse.

164 days and counting.