Just Another Manic Sunday

So how was my Sunday? Swimming and running and yoga, oh my!

Followed by a special dinner in Newport Beach with Stephanie's family celebrating Mr. Van Schaik's 63rd birthday.

Just got home. Absolutely exhausted! Non-stop action from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. will do that.

But it really was a great day. It started off with my longest ocean swim ever, a 1.5-plus mile jaunt in Marina del Rey with my Fortius Teammates and the LA Tri Club.  I was surprised at how easy the duration of the swim was, though I wasn't pushing hard.  Richard and I stopped a few times to chat, spot our pier marker and look or other swimmers around us.  Coach Gerardo even made a cameo swimming with us, still basking in his rightfully deserved glow of a 3:15 Boston Marathon time last Monday.

After the swim, it was time to run for an hour.  Most of the group was going to eat breakfast but I needed to fit my workout in since we had plans this evening.  My Fortius teammate, Paul, joined me for the run or I would have been on my own.  Paul is competing in his first full Ironman, St. George, this coming Saturday, along with our teammates Lisa and Christina.  We talked a lot about his thoughts going into St. George.  His preparation.  His mental state.  His goals.  What's next.

It's funny, but even though I'm not competing this coming weekend in St. George, a piece of me will be there.  Only I and and a few others really know the hard work that Paul, Lisa and Christina have invested in this massive achievement.  And while each of them fully deserve the accolades that come with competing an Ironman, a small part of me feels like I'm attached to the experience too.  Like a bench player on a basketball team that never sees actual game time but knows his contributions in practice make the starters -- those who do actually play -- better.

I capped off the training portion of my day with a 1.5 hour restorative yoga session at Black Dog.  The deep stretches, especially in my shoulders and hips, hurt and softened me in the best possible way.  I'm returning again tomorrow night for a 7 p.m. session, along with Steph.  The rest of my training week is quite light in preparation for Wildflower.  Ah, Wildflower...I had forgotten about you for a few days.  Let's hope this taper goes better than my LA Marathon training.

G'night all.

213 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.

The Luckiest

Yesterday, I mentioned that one of my favorite Ryan/Stephanie songs is "The Luckiest" by Ben Folds.  It's a song that only begins to describe how I feel about my journey with Stephanie.  There's so much emotion in the singer's voice and I really tap into that feeling. Tonight though, I have to say it means something a little different.

The 21st Century dictates that nothing is considered "official" if it isn't posted on Facebook, Twitter or even Foursquare these days.  So when Steph and I posted our engagement news on Facebook, I knew we'd both receive some congratulatory comments.

What I didn't expect was the near 100 comments and wishes from friends and family.  Many of whom I haven't spoken directly with in years.

I truly feel among the luckiest people to have such a loving and supportive group surrounding me in my life.  While it only takes literally 10 seconds or less to post a "Mazel Tov!" or "Congrats!" on someone's wall, it really makes a difference.  I felt truly flattered and humbled by all the sincere gestures.  I would say it even added some extra time on the after-glow of the celebration of our announcement.

So, thank you, everyone.  Thank you.

On to the rest of my day.  Besides starting my first day as Steph's fiance, I returned to the world of Ironman training. The workout was simple: 40 minutes of easy spinning and 40 minutes of easy running.  Emphasis on "easy."  However, I felt really good this morning!  It's amazing what a week of rest can do for your body.  I did my best to hold back on the bike, but it was hard not to crank up the gears on the trainer.  I remember just a couple weeks ago how hard it was to get out of just the first gear.  Today, I wanted to pedal in the big chain immediately. I hope I can maintain that energy level for longer moving forward.

I enjoyed the run even more. Not for the physical activity itself.  But rather the feeling of running again.  The way my warm sweat cooled instantly in the balmy morning air.  The gentleness of the very slight breeze glancing off my visor and glistening forehead.  The long-lost bounce in my steps.  My pace was less than stellar, roughly 9:45-10:00, but the gentle zone 2 heart-rate assured me I had a lot more fuel in the energy tank than just a few weeks ago.  It makes me wonder whether my new Garmin would have helped me run a smarter LA Marathon had I better understood my pacing levels by using it sooner.  But then again, I know the kind of half-marathon pace I ran, and today I was intentionally holding myself back.  I'll keep an eye on this budding hypothesis.

The evening concluded with a Passover Seder at my parents' house in Simi Valley. Long-standing family friends joined us, along with my sister and her boyfriend, and Stephanie, of course.  In the past, I used to be so stressed out about whether my family would accept Steph, what Steph was thinking and feeling, and what I could do to make the situation better.  I cannot express how grateful I am that I don't have to think like that anymore. We all felt like a true family tonight.  A different kind of family, since my grandparents are no longer an active part of our lives.  But I know they would have been so happy at the sight of seeing a new generation of soon-to-be Schneiders experience a traditional family Seder.  It may be a little frenetic, a little crazy and a little off-the-wall.  But our Seder is our Seder, and it's truly one-of-a-kind.

I can honestly say I look forward to family events so much more than I have in the past.  It's nice to share them with the person I had always wanted to.

I am indeed the luckiest.

239 days and counting.

Basking In Others' Achievements

It was so strange to sleep in this morning and to not be on the road, in the pool or on a trail. Most of my friends were, in fact. At big races, no less.  Richard did the Oceanside 70.3 Half-Ironman.  Anat, Ray and Gerardo ran the Cheseboro Half-Marathon.

Me?  I'm relishing the final moments of luxurious weekend free-time before jumping head-first into a hard-core training regimen.  The next big goal?  Vineman Half-Ironman.  July 18 is the target.

I'm currently on the wait list though, which adds a little bit of drama.  I should be able to get in though.  At least I'm planning for that.  The one big change I'll make for Vineman that I learned from my LA Marathon experience is to focus more about the event in front of me and less on the ultimate goal, Ironman Arizona. I need to respect each race on the calendar and not take anything for granted, the way perhaps I did with the marathon.  I assumed I'd be in great health and I'd hit my goals.  The actual race kind of snuck up on me since I was so focused on November 21 and not March 21.  You simply can't look ahead of any race, since the message I hear over and over from my training friends is that nothing matters except how you feel the morning of the race.  That's it.

Lesson learned.

One thing that I've also noticed throughout my weekend day of relaxation has been the joy I'm getting in hearing how my friends did at their races.  It's nice to sit back, not compare times, or be busy at the race myself.  I get to relax and celebrate others' accomplishments with them without a hint of competition or distraction.  I really like it!  I'm very happy for both Anat and Richard, who absolutely slayed their respective races.  It fuels my motivation to get back out there.  I needed that!

The rest of the day is going to be busy, which is why I'm writing now.  Steph and I have a family barbecue in Orange County, followed by a housewarming party for one of her closest friends, Lauren.  I'm excited to see everyone, and get my grub on!  Indonesian barbecue can't be beat!

One more day of non-training.  I'm right where I want to be: Eager. Energetic.  Excited.  MOTIVATED.


241 days and counting.

So That's What Happened

I went to the doctor's today. You know, about eight days too late. Turns out that while I indeed had a cold that definitely contributed to my demise at the LA Marathon, allergies played a big role too.

Allergies?  I haven't had allergy problems for years.

Think again.  My recent trail runs and bike rides to Hidden Valley came at the peak of spring, when all sorts of pollens were in full bloom.  As a result, my throat tightened, my glands hardened, my lungs overworked, and my breathing suffered.  This led, according to the doctor, to fatigue, which ultimately contributed to my body saying "enough is enough!" on Sunday.

So, as if I was 9 and getting allergy shots, I'm on medication again.  Flo-Nase and Allegra.

The good news is that I'm feeling better already.  My throat is starting to loosen and isn't quite as sore.  My eyes, while dry and droopy, feel a little lighter for getting so much sleep the past few days.

I'm going to take the rest of the week off from training, no matter how I feel. I think it's time for a little break.  Time to heal the muscles and just relax for a few days.  I'll get back to the training grind this Monday.

After all, I've got another triathlon coming up.  The next goal: Newport Beach triathlon on April 11.  Mark it down.  I will be ready. More than ready!  I'm getting fired up just typing about it.

But for now, I'm more fired up for a good night's sleep.  A full night's sleep with no training jolting me out of bed at the crack of dawn.  Yup, a mini-training vacation.


245 days and counting.

A Race About Friendship

The LA Marathon won't be remembered for my performance.

I finished in 5:11, nearly a full 1.5 hours slower than I had hoped.  Sickness and fatigue shut me down at mile 9, somewhere between the end of Los Angeles and beginning of West Hollywood.    I don't quite remember where, but I remember when.  I was running with my buddy Chris and we both were steadily maintaining a 9:00-mile pace after a quick opening sequence of 8:35-minute miles.  However, as I monitored my heart-rate during the first hour of the run, I realized I was high in zone 5, around 166 bpm.  Something was very wrong, considering I was running slower than anticipated and in a full two heart-rate zones higher.  At that point, we came to the 10-mile water stop and I told Chris to continue ahead without me.  I needed a break.  He said he'd wait, but I knew better.  The race was over for me.

Chris disappeared quickly into the sea of runners.

Even though I was surrounded by people, I felt totally alone.  Dejected.  Defeated.


I had trained so damn hard for this moment, nearly five months.  And it was gone in an hour.  Gone.

I tried to jog the next couple miles and watched as my pace slowly deterioriated.  Even with more effort, my times were slowing.  Ten-minute miles became 11.  Eleven minutes became 12.  With each step, I became angrier and more frustrated.

This wasn't fair!  I didn't deserve this!

Then, I remembered those poor kids from the Starlight Foundation.

THAT wasn't fair.

I started to pull it together around mile 13.  But then, I was rounding the corner onto La Cienega from Sunset when I ran into my Fortius teammate, Christina.  She was off to the side, walking.  I knew something terrible was wrong for her too.  Sadly I was right.  She pulled a quad muscle and was done for the day.  She couldn't bend her leg. Tears in her eyes, we hugged.  The day hadn't turned out the way either of has had imagined, and she's got an Ironman in six weeks!  I did my best to console her, and then she was gone.  Crossing the barricades to meet her husband for what must have been a sad ride home.

Again, I was alone.  Strangely, I had come to peace with the race by then.  I calmly resigned myself to two choices: Quit, or finish.

If I quit, nobody would blame me.  I was sick.  I was tired.  I hurt.  But, if I quit during the marathon, maybe I'd quit during the Ironman?

It's like cheating in a relationship.  If you do it once, you are capable of doing it multiple times.  That's not my style.

And there was more to it than that. Now that Stephanie and I are finally together, once and for all, I wanted to show her what I was made of.  What I really was made of.  That no matter how much the pain hurt.  Now matter how tired I was. No matter how I felt, I wouldn't EVER quit on her.   I would never quit on us.

From that moment on, at Santa Monica Boulevard and La Cienega, there was only one thing on my mind: Finish the damn marathon.

The next four miles were rough, but entertaining in a bizarre way.  West Hollywood was festive to say the least.  The crowds were boisterous and the street performances were lively.  The cross-dressing cheerleaders were definitely the highlight.

Then it was onto Beverly Hills.  Here I received a big boost from my friend and co-worker, Jason, and his wife, Jen.  They waited extra long for me to hit Wilshire and Rodeo Drive even though their friends had long past that checkpoint.  They walked a few blocks with me until I turned onto Santa Monica Boulevard again towards Westwood.  Their support and positive encouragement really made me feel good.  Despite my best efforts, I was still pretty dejected about my day.  But they helped put it in perspective that I was still going to finish something special.

Unfortunately, as much of a mental boost as that was, it quickly dissipated.  My body started to lock up and break down around mile 16.  I was walking almost full miles at this point.  I had no ability to run more than a few hundred yards before my heart rate would blow up again.

It was at this point that I saw the best familiar face possible: My longest-tenured friend, Kevin.  I've known Kevin since damn near pre-school. We've played soccer together.  We went to elementary school together.  We went to high school together.  We backpacked Europe together.  We've run half-marathons together.

And now, we've run the LA Marathon together.

Out of 25,000 runners, I literally had run into my best friend!

Kevin was having problems too with his marathon.  His knee was locking up.  And it was at this point I realized what the true point of my first marathon would be: It was a race about friendship.  Whether it was supporting my buddy Chris at the beginning, Christina in the middle, or Kevin in the end, this wasn't about performance.  It was about perspective.  About support.  About friendship.

The rest of the marathon was painful.  My feet felt broken.  My calves were incredibly tight despite wearing compression socks.  My IT band swelled.  But it was OK.  Friends such as Jennifer and Ryan showed their support near the Mormon Temple in Westwood.  Jason and Jen drove down to Brentwood to cheer me on and offer some refreshing coconut water at mile 22.  Stephanie kept me sane and motivated throughout the morning with text messages.  Corey and Maggie texted me telling me they were waiting at the finish line.

How lucky am I?

The final few miles couldn't have progressed more slowly.  My body was totally breaking down.  I'd shuffle a few yards, stop, wait for Kevin, or vice versa, and we'd continue walking. Cursing, but walking.  Questioning, but not quitting.  Never quitting.

FINALLY, the finish line was in sight.  Kevin and I tried to pick up the pace heroically, but all I was doing was searching for Stephanie, or listening for her.  That's all I wanted.  I just wanted to tell her that this race was for her.  That there was no quit in this body.  Not for the race, not for anything.

Kevin saw her first.  He pointed her out and I stopped everything to run across the packed street to give her a huge hug behind the barricade, just 10 yards from the finish.  Apparently my family and friends were right behind her, but honestly I only saw her.  It was a special moment.  All the pain and frustration was worth it.

I finished the LA Marathon, arm around Kevin.  We did it.

I will run better marathons.  I will set more personal bests.  But I don't know if I'll ever have an experience as special as my first marathon.  And I owe it to my friends.  To my family, including my parents who woke up so early after flying across the country the evening before.  To my sister and her boyfriend, who showed up just in time for the finish after having friends in town to entertain.

And, surprisingly, to the residents of Los Angeles, who lined the streets for nearly the entire route supporting us crazy marathoners.  I may not have acknowledged all of them, but I sure did hear them and appreciate their presence.  This city sure is beautiful when it wants to be.

Like the Randy Newman song, I love LA.

And today, I paid the price during recovery.  I left work early due to exhaustion even though I slept nearly 10 hours last night.  I'm still coughing up all sorts of stuff, and my legs are stiff and achey.

But it's a good kind of pain.

The kind associated with finishing something I started.

246 days and counting.

Back Tomorrow...Out Cold Tonight

Hi, you've reached Ryan's blog.  I'm not here right now because I ran the LA Marathon today and I'm in a lot of pain and extremely tired.

If you return tomorrow, I promise I'll post a full race report about everything that happened today.

Short version: I was still sick apparently.  I finished in 5:11, walking the majority of the final 17 miles.  I thought I'd finish between 3:42-3:55.  But despite the pain and disappointment, I will look back on this experience quite fondly because of all the support from my friends, family and random strangers throughout the greater Los Angeles area.

That's what I'll write about tomorrow.  Right now, it's all about an ice bath, Advil PM and a good night's sleep. I hope.

247 days and counting.

Calmness Pervades

I've spent so much time counting down to the Ironman that the LA Marathon snuck up on me.  Even with counting down every single day starting the beginning of the November. How'd that happen?

No matter, I'm glad it did.  As a result both of looking ahead to November 2010 and my current sickness, I find myself incredibly calm hours before the marathon.  I just returned from dinner with my friends from as far back as elementary school.  It was a pre-race carb-loading meal at Bucca di Beppo. (A small note on that: Do not go there when you want a quiet evening of conversation and reflection.  Bedlam!  Not good for a sore throat.)  Even my friends were surprised at how mellow I was at the meal.  I blame the meds.  I've been taking Sudafed nasal decongestant throughout the day, and was lucky enough to catch two naps in between meals.  More like I needed two naps due to the fatigue.  Even now, I feel a little spacey.

I'm tired.  If there wasn't a marathon to be run tomorrow, I'd probably take the day off from training.  No matter, especially after seeing those amazing children and teens last night at the Starlight Charity event.

I know I can finish the marathon tomorrow.  I've put in the training.  I've done the hill climbs.  I've ran in the rain and the mud.  I've run 14 miles before the start of a 10k race .

No matter how I feel when I wake up tomorrow, I am ready.

Ready for the pain.  The fatigue.  The crowds.  The elation.  The beauty of the city and support of its inhabitants.

I'm ready for all of it.

I'm ready to check off a lifelong goal -- to complete a marathon -- off my proverbial "Bucket List."  I never thought I'd see this day because of my asthma, IT band tightness, flat feet and bad back.  But here I am, ready to compete.  Ready to run. Ready to do my best.

And no matter what, it will be a personal best marathon time!  (Though, to be honest, I'm shooting for 3:45-3:55 as my goal timeframe.)


And now, ready to sleep.

When I write tomorrow, I will have completed my first marathon.  That's pretty damn cool.

1 day and counting, part of the journey towards 248 days and counting.

A Healthy Dose of Perspective

Y'all are probably as sick of hearing about me being sick as I am writing about it. Don't worry, I'm shutting my mouth...err... banning my fingers from typing anything to that effect.

Here's why. I had the true pleasure of attending a charity gala tonight with Stephanie and a few work colleagues on behalf of the Starlight Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping kids in hospitals with severe health issues.  The company I work for is a very proud sponsor of Starlight, donating NintendoWii Fun Centers to hospitals for kids to enjoy DVD and video games entertainment when they are confined to their rooms or beds.

After being reminded throughout the evening about the good work Starlight does, a head cold two days before a marathon means nothing by comparison.  I have functional legs.  I am grateful for that.  My organs work.  I am grateful for that.  My health issues are not life threatening.  I am grateful for that.

Normally, I'd say the highlight of any evening would be meeting Mr. T, which happened tonight along with my pal and colleague John (pictured).  For the record, Mr. T couldn't have been more gracious, considering I goaded him into his trademark phrases when I told him "You ain't so bad!"

What a dream come true for a life-long A-Team and Rocky fan!

But that really wasn't the highlight.  And I'm somewhat surprised to even admit that.  The real highlight came in the form of hearing a love-affair story of two kids in Starlight who met through their teen connect program, Starbright World.  Both kids had little to hold onto in terms of dealing with the difficulties of their situations.  Until they met each other. And befriended each other. Supported each other. Nurtured and nursed each other.  And ultimately began dating.  Now, a few years later, they got engaged.  Today.  Before the Starlight event.  It was such a touching story and moment.

Even before the gala I was planning to run on Sunday, no matter how I feel.  But now, I'm running not just for myself, but for the idea that so many other people -- kids especially -- suffer every day with so much more and have dreams even bigger than my own.  And my dreams are big!  I owe it to them to fulfill my own dreams because I have a healthy body and mind that allows me to do so.  No excuses.  I am grateful for everything I have in my life, everything around me, and grateful to even have the opportunity to run this marathon come Sunday.

I'm a very lucky guy.

249 days and counting.