Wedding, Coaching and Charity Oh My!

I've had SO much going on lately!  Thanks for being patient with me, not that you're waiting with bated breath for the next blog post. The big countdown right now isn't a triathlon but my wedding.  We're inside four weeks now.  The RSVPs are pouring in, last-minute decisions are being made almost every minute and the anticipation continues to build.  I'm really starting to get excited now.  Before, my wedding was just a date on the far horizon.  Almost like how Ironman Arizona was in 2010.  But it's finally here in the foreground.  The other night I was explaining to Steph that the feeling is very similar to an impending Ironman in that no matter what last-second mishap may occur, we're still "ready" for the wedding and it will be a great event no matter what. We've put in all the hard work and planning and that doesn't go away just because a new challenge may arise.  I was afraid to use an Ironman metaphor for the wedding but I actually think it helped us keep everything in perspective.

On the training front, I've installed my CompuTrainer.  Or rather, I had it installed for me by my buddy Pete, with support from Coach Gerardo.  I have to be honest and say that the set-up process is not the most intuitive.  The documentation feels outdated in an era where a set-up video would be practically expected.  Instead, you're looking at manuals that don't provide the best overall direction.  One example came in the form of installing the bike into the CompuTrainer mount.  The directions don't indicate that you need to use the load generator knob to help adjust where it sits on the back wheel.  This was frustrating because it seemed that the bike wasn't fitting in the mount.  All that said, now that I know how to use the machine and the software, I can tell how powerful a tool CompuTrainer can be.

When I wasn't learning how to use my CompuTrainer, I've been focusing on overhauling my swim technique.  You can see what I'm learning in this video:

As if that weren't enough, I'm dabbling in self-coaching for the next few months.  Just enough to keep me in shape.  I'm making my own training schedule via Training Peaks, reading about training with a power meter and signed up for a triathlon in Palm Springs this December to see how I do in training myself.  I can tell you that it's a lot harder to self-coach than I ever imagined.  All the reading, formulas, theories and time needed to craft a scientifically smart (and fun) schedule is quite the challenge.  But it makes me appreciate what Gerardo does day in, day out, week in, week out for our entire team.  The next time you get a schedule from your coach, make sure to thank him or her for their hard work on getting it just right.  I do really like the empowerment that comes with creating my own schedule.  I feel like I'm doing something important for myself and that if I perform well or don't perform well, it's nobody's fault but mine.  In other words, I like the accountability.

On the writing front, I'm working on turning my first year's worth of posts into a self-published book.  I think the lessons learned in there on what to expect mentally from training for your first Ironman may be valuable to others.  It's taking a lot longer than I expected reading through each month's worth of entries and taking notes about what to focus on for each chapter.  I'm thinking at this point I'll write an introduction summarizing that particular month of training and insights while including each individual entry after it.  Hopefully the power of the daily entries is what people find interesting. We'll see. I'm open to suggestions though if anyone has any.

Finally, I can't finish this post without mentioning the T-shirts I'm creaing to benefit Season 1 Racing and Cancer Hope Network.  I've gotten a pretty good response from folks who liked my "I may not be a runner...but I'm a runner today" mantra from Ironman Coeur d'Alene.  So, here's a T-shirt design I'm considering at the moment.  The shirt color will be a darker gray and the Season 1 Racing logo will be moved to the shirt sleeve.  But otherwise, what do you think???  I'll be taking orders soon and then buy the shirts after I assess demand.

So that's what's been keeping me busy lately, not to mention changing times at work.  And now, I embark on an even scarier bachelor party weekend!  Lord, help me.

Picking Me Up Out of the Can

Something happened after Wildflower Long Course that I've been meaning to mention but it's been swept up (along with my energy level) with getting sick. When I came home from the race late Saturday night/Sunday morning, I was exhausted and dejected.  I went into my bathroom to wash for bed and noticed my purple Post-It note in the mirror: "Break 12:00:00 at Coeur d'Alene."

We had a staring contest, the note and I.  The note won.  In that moment, my goal seemed farther away than ever.  Crushed, I removed the sticker and tossed it into the garbage.  Lights out.  Time for bed.  We'll find a new goal in the morning.  How about just finishing without being wrecked with muscle spasms in my legs?  Seems reasonable to me.

When I finally woke up later Sunday morning, around 11, I stumbled out of bed and wandered into the bathroom.  There, on the mirror, in the center, lay the purple Post-It.

I'm pretty sure it didn't sprout legs and climb up on its own.  Though I was so punchy I would have believed it if sold hard enough on the story. Stephanie had seen the note lying at the bottom of the can.

I had stopped believing in my own capabilities, especially not seeing any real performance improvement since last November.  She hasn't stopped believing.

I can't describe how important that is to me.  Right now, with honestly little left in the tank physically and motivationally, her faith is mostly all I have left to hold onto.

May we all be so blessed to have support like that, to help pull us out of the proverbial can when we need it most.  As a result, I got on the trainer bike last night before bed, just to spin the legs out.  Forty-five minutes of easy riding, enough to break a sweat while not straining my breathing or re-start that pesky sinus headache.  Tonight, it's swimming on the way home from work. One workout at a time.  One day at a time.

I'm not going to say that breaking 12 hours at CDA is possible at this point. But I still like looking at the note on the mirror, convincing myself that perhaps it's still within reach.  Just maybe.

Someone else in the household definitely thinks it is.

51 days and counting.

Shout Out to Tri-Widows

Sometimes Stephanie asks me how my day went and I don't know what to say.  It sounds so trivial, really.  I woke up early, ran for a while, maybe jumped in the pool for a bit and went to work.  I attended a bunch of meetings really about nothing important, did some other work too, and then after leaving the office I either came home or worked out some more.  Then I blog.  End of story. Meanwhile, Steph is up to her eyeballs in work, building a career, trying to juggle multiple wedding vendors and their tedious contracts, planning a close friend's bachelorette party and trying to help maintain a home for us both.  Her to-do list looks like my to-bring list for a race, just longer and without the butt-butter.

After spending two nights just trying to pick up a bit more of the household load, I realized while folding laundry and towels that I've got nothing on her!

So tonight, instead of spending a bunch of time reflecting on my hard swim workout, or watching Paris-Roubaix replay (again) while spinning, or the lifting I did at lunch with Shannan, I'm going to write about folding laundry. Cleaning out drawers. Hanging dresses. Doing dishes.  Picking up around the house.  Taking over some wedding planning duties.  Helping cook dinner last night.  This is the stuff that's really important.

We as triathletes have to remember that while we juggle three sports, our partners juggle our three sports (and hearing about them endlessly) AND their lives too.

I'm not sure which is more mentally taxing.  I may be the Ironman.  But Steph is no less an Iron Woman for enduring and being such a supportive partner.

61 days and counting.

Weekend Wrap

Saturday, February 19: It never fails.  The less motivated I am to train but actually get out and do it, the more I surprise myself.  That happened not once but twice today, during a 1.5 hour trail run off the dirt Mulholland trail (where I was rewarded with this spectacular view of Santa Monica) and, more surprisingly, during my afternoon swim at rainy VNSO Park.

For the latter, I sat in my car while the sky poured down for 15 minutes.  I had no energy, no motivation, to leave that warm heated space.  I was still cold with dried sweat from my Under Armour compression pants.  Tired from eight straight days of training and business travel.  But, I had a contractor at my condo due to a leaky upstairs washer thanks to my lovely neighbor, Trudy.  So, I couldn't go home and enjoy a restful afternoon with all the clanging and banging.  What was left to do?

It took me about 20 minutes to find my happy place in the water. The rain had subsided.  The sky opened up with a few rays of sunshine.  My attitude changed.  I was going to make the best of this.

And ya know what?  In the last of my timed 15:00 time trials, I was on track to PR my 1,000 TT.  By 27 seconds!

I think this is the biggest mystery of training:  Why do I perform better when I least expect it?

I'm not even sure it's a mystery worth solving. The result is what matters.  And it all starts with the initial effort of getting out of the car and into the pool on a rainy Saturday.

Sunday, February 20: A day off.  A much needed day of rest and recovery.

At first, I really didn't like the idea of switching my off days to Sunday.  I felt like I was going to lose out on precious long training hours to help me bounce back into shape.  But I was losing much more -- a sense of closeness with Steph brought about by a lack of perspective on free time.

While I will resume Sunday training in my final three months of Ironman training, I am a new man when I hit the road now on Mondays.  It's a welcome change.  I feel like I have a weekend again, as odd as it may seem.  Training for an Ironman can often feel like a job even though it's what we do for fun on a weekend. Now, with some true Sunday fun day back in the mix, my perspective has been restored.

Today, my parents, Steph and I took a day trip up to Los Olivos to visit the key sites for our upcoming August wedding.  I don't want to spoil any surprises, but we are going to have a memorable weekend.  I can finally picture the flow of events and am officially excited for the big day.  Steph and my mom came up with some ideas that I think will cause our wedding to be truly unforgettable.

Fortunately, my parents loved the wedding venue, Firestone Vineyards.  We took a tour of the winery today, where we learned more about how wine is made, stored and aged.  I also learned that wine should be stored at 55 degrees Farenheiht in a fridge, and that 90% of all red wine should be drank sooner rather than later.  In other words, all that you hear about storing wine for long periods doesn't hold true for most of the wine on today's market.

I wouldn't have learned these things had I not gotten off my bike and stripped myself of my workout clothes on a Sunday.

As important as tri-training is, family time is even more important.  Today was fantastic.

And now I'm looking even more forward to my 4.5 hours on the bike tomorrow, a President's Day treat.

121 days and counting.

Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

So here's my first pass at a video blog.  Please excuse the loud gusts of wind, I'm not sure exactly what to do about that outside of telling The Man Upstairs to keep things quiet when I'm trying to record! I tried capture the emotion of the bike ride while it was happening, instead of writing about it after the fact.  I think I failed miserably but the bright side is I will get better.  Hope you enjoy it, if you can get through watching it!  The scenery is gorgeous, when I'm not screwing it up.

Today's training made me realize just how much more I bit off than I could chew this weekend.  I ran nearly eight miles and climbed about 900 feet in around 1:25:00 today in 75-degree weather.  The good news is that my knees felt fine the entire run, and I was able to remain (mostly) on my forefoot in my strides.  I think the key to forefoot striking that has really helped me is not the avoidance of heel striking, but rather placing more of an emphasis on the forefoot than usual.  This is allowing me to find an acceptable middle ground (no pun intended) while running instead of potentially shredding my knees and Achilles.

Yet, by the time the run was over, I was totally exhausted.  My run called for activity between zones 1-4 on the heart-rate monitor.  I took that to mean I could run for extended periods in zone 4 while climbing.  Having the UCLA men's and women's cross country team out on the course with me didn't help me keep my pace in check, nor did the Spanish female marathoner who ran a 2:09 at Big Sur.  Are you kidding me???  Well, I kept up with her on a few uphill climbs, but she revealed at the top that she had turned her ankle and was taking it easy.


Following the run, my day wasn't close to over.  I had promised Stephanie that we'd spend more time this year exercising together, which manifested itself in our first tennis outing in more than a year.  Surprisingly, it went well for both of us!  We had a few rallies, nobody pulled anything, and all tennis balls stayed on the court.  Win!

Then, following lunch together and a nap (in the middle of the Jets-Patriots game!) I tried to fit in yesterday's swim that I flaked on yesterday.

This time, instead of sitting in the parking lot I actually made it into the water.  What a mistake.  I was terrible! I felt like a boulder in the water, and couldn't even complete the full workout (10 minutes easy laps, 5x150 drills and 4x300 moderate pace).  After my second 300, I saw my scheduled workout time had come and gone and decided enough was enough.

So far, that's a big difference between this year and last year's training.  When I'm done, I'm done.  I'm not forcing things perhaps the way I did last year.

Except when I overdo it for hours on end beforehand.

Still, whether it's a video blog that didn't quite turn out as planned, a bike ride gone slightly awry, a run that got derailed by my own competitiveness, or a swim that didn't meet expectations due to exhaustion, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Isn't it great to overextend every once in a while?  To push beyond our comfort zones?  To try and fail?  It's weird, but I think there's pleasure in that. Stagnation is boring.  Following the plan all the time gets stale.

I hope you've been able to bite off more than you can chew a little bit too.

156 days and counting.

Overcoming Excuses

It would have been so easy not to have worked out today.  So many excuses.  Bad weather (though improving finally!).  Injury (injuries?).  Stephanie's first day off work for the holidays.  Chili cheese dogs and frozen yogurt for lunch.  Apollo 13 on HBO for the umpteenth time. I could tell that for the first time in a long time, sloth, laziness and worse yet -- self-pity -- were starting to get a grip on me.  It would have been so easy to stay on the couch!  My mood reflected my outlook.  I was down, even edgy with Steph. As I told her, I just don't feel right lately.  Whether it's the accumulation of holiday junk food (I'm now up nine pounds from my race day weight) or that sinking feeling I've been dwelling on about not being able to train the way I'd like, I'm having a hard time staying motivated.

But I've realized that the only person who can change my outlook is me.  I can't rely on the Ironman Kona coverage on NBC.  I can't rely on my teammates to pick me up.  I can't wait for a feeling to wash over me like magic.  That's a victim's approach.  A passive approach.

If you want to change your mood, change it.  No excuses.

So I did.  I dragged myself off the couch at 5:30 p.m., drove in traffic to the local pool and plunged in the water for an hour set that felt a little more difficult than I remember similar workouts in the past.  But, 2,500 yards later, I got through it. Maybe not the best swim, but a completed swim. (Though my T-pace is pretty much the same as it was pre-Ironman.)  And with Christmas and New Year's hovering, one of the few workout activities I'll be able to fit in the next several days.

On the way home, I was smiling inwardly and on the outside.  I physically and mentally felt better.  Of course, this presented a bit of a challenge.  It's important our significant others know that when we come back in a great mood after a workout, it's a separate part of ourselves that's being enhanced.  It could easily get confusing for a partner to think that you need a work out to stay happy, not them.  I made sure to share that with Steph tonight as soon as I got home. Fortunately, she understood.  Steph knows that she's the foundation for making all of "This" work.  Without her, I can workout all I want, but it just wouldn't be the same.

So, I guess I reinforced two things today.  First, bad attitudes happen. It's how YOU respond with yourself that defines what happens next.  Second, in this holiday season, take extra time to honor your friends and family.  They all see the joy we experience from our triathlon training and racing.  But it's nice to remind them that our training and racing only works if they understand how important they are in our lives.

Now, I want to wish you a happy holiday season.  I never expected to make friends with people from all over the world who read this blog.  You've touched my life and held me accountable all at the same time.  That said, I hope we all unplug a bit during the next couple days. No Facebook. No Twitter. No blogs.  Let's just hang out with our families and loved ones.  Let's show them where our priorities really are.

With that in mind, I'll be offline the next couple days.  Probably blogging again on December 26 or 27.

Please have a Merry and Safe Christmas.  I will be thinking of you, as I consider those of you I've gotten to know as real friends.  And I hope those of you who read this blog without commenting will introduce yourselves soon.  I'm very much looking forward to that.

180 days and counting.

Benefits to a Late-Season Race

I am learning that the holidays are the perfect excuse for an extended hiatus from training. It's not that I don't want to train.  I do, legitimately.  In fact, I swam a whopping half-hour, ran three miles and spun for a little more than an hour this week.

Of course, I used to do that as a warm up in Ironman training, but hey, let's not be too harsh right now.  I have a delicate ego at the moment.  Steph teased this morning that she found lint in my belly button (TMI?), and the only thing that ran through my mind was, "That means there's a belly now large enough to have lint again!"

We triathletes are a messed up bunch, aren't we!?

But thank goodness for the holidays.  The timing for Ironman Arizona really couldn't be much better.  You run the race, you recover, you eat a lot of turkey, you catch your breath, light some Hanukkah candles, light some birthday candles (happy birthday, Stephanie!) and BAM!  Christmas is around the corner, along with all the year-end holiday parties.  So, with such a schedule to keep, it's easy to let training fall by the wayside a bit.  Could you ask for a better excuse?  Our significant others, friends and families have put up with so much crap from us for the rest of the year, a year-end race has a built-in recovery period that forces other priorities to take their rightful place atop the life podium.

The holidays also provide an opportunity to socialize with our spandex-clad warriors in arms sans swim, bike or run gear.  Last night, for example, Fortius teammate, friend and massage therapist David co-hosted a 1920's themed birthday party in Los Angeles.  Several teammates and LA Tri Club members showed up, the vast majority sporting period-appropriate costumes.  We looked uniform, as usual, but with a different flair and lighter attitude.  It was nice to unwind in a different setting, and it actually helped boost my training batteries indirectly since it's obvious other folks are going through a bit of the Winter Training Blues like me.

So, if you're considering which Ironman to sign up for, I'd definitely recommend a late-season race.  Don't make me cut you.

Trust me, you're going to need the recovery period no matter what.  Might as well make it a merry as can be.

192 days and counting...slowly.

PS: With two birthday parties, an awards show and a company holiday party, there's no working out today -- for two days in a row now.

What a Surprise!

Stephanie pulled one over on me last night. So did my family, my friends, and my Fortius teammates.

I thought I was going to dinner with a couple of Steph's friends.  This was technically true, though about 50 other people showed up for what certainly was a surprise Ironman Arizona send-off party.

To make it clear, months ago I specifically told Steph NOT to plan any kind of send-off party for me, though it's tradition on our team to have such events.  My belief was that I've been enough of a burden with this blog, constantly writing about my thoughts and feelings to the point of people probably rolling their eyes with each new post.  That's honestly how I've been thinking about the blog towards the end of this journey.  I didn't want to ask anyone to do anything for me since I believe my friends, family, teammates and co-workers has been more than accommodating with my schedule and my crazy neurosis.  It's one of the reasons why I stopped tweeting every post.  In the end, I simply felt that the people who want to follow this blog do, and those who don't, really don't want to hear about it anymore.

But last night showed me that my grouping of true friends and family don't see it that way.  Which is a relief to me.  A huge one at that.  I haven't made people sick of me or what I have to say after all.

I was truly touched to see so many people show up to wish me well.  I was especially touched by my teammates' turnout, since the vast majority of them raced this morning in Malibu or Calabasas and opted to celebrate with me instead of going to bed early for their pre-race rituals. And many of my friends showed up whom I haven't been able to see in months due to my crazy training schedule.  That's the ultimate form of love and friendship.  Even when I know I haven't been quite there for them, they were most certainly there for me.

Even though I essentially didn't train this weekend (one hour cycling and one hour of yoga...taper rocks!), I still feel like I got a performance boost.  First, I psyched myself up by writing the initials on my shoes of some important people in my life and then I had the ultimate benefit of being stunned and humbled by the outpouring of support I'll have going to Arizona in just a few short days.

My energy level is up. My spirits are up.  My body feels good.  The culmination of more than 600 hours of training is at hand.  Race week is here, and thanks to many important people in my life, I am ready.


Nothin' More to Say

Stephanie asked me on the way home from synagogue tonight what I was planning to blog about. After thinking about it for a moment, I realized the answer was simple:

"There's nothing more to say, really."

I think that's where I'm at with all this.  What else can I possibly say to describe going on this journey?  What new insight am I going to have at this point?  What else is there to learn that I haven't already uncovered?

Then again, maybe it's the reinforcement of the key lessons that matters most.  Take this morning, for example.  Once again, I jumped into the pool early.  Against my wishes.  It was so cold, my feet were numb on the pool deck.  I slogged through 3,150 yards going the long way (50 meters, not 25 yards).  My timed 500s were slower than usual.  I didn't want to be in the water.  At all. Especially for that distance.  I wanted to be in bed, enjoying some extra sleep.  I basically want to do as little as possible right now.

But I didn't quit. I gutted out the workout, despite not wanting any part of the experience.  Despite not having a very good swim.  I got through it.

That happens to all of us every day.  We just have to get through it. If you quit once, you can quit twice.  And then what?  Quitting can become the same habit as displaying grit and tenacity.

So, while I may not have more to say, I do have more to learn. More to remember.  More to internalize. More to project to the world.

I may not have more to say.  But there's still much to do.

9 days and counting.


All Blown Up

Forget the fact that I swam 4,000 yards this morning (T-pace looks firmly between 1:48-1:51/100 right now).  Or that I rallied on the bike trainer for an hour late tonight...while watching Glee with Stephanie. No, that's not what I'm proudest of.

I changed two fictional flat tires.

Well, OK.  I changed one.  Before I put too much pressure in the CO2 cartridge and blew up the tube.  I totally dazed myself too!  It felt like when you play Call of Duty and you've been hit with a flash-bang grenade.  I was momentarily stunned and spacey.  Steph rushed into the room to ask if I was OK.  I managed to say I was fine, but definitely felt a little loopy for a moment.

I think I pinched the tube while putting it in.

Maybe that is an understatement.

BUT...but, I rallied.  I got a new cartridge, gathered myself, and tried again.  This time, I got it right.  Even though it took a LONG time (14 minutes), I still took out the old tube, slightly inflated a new one, inserted it properly, encased it and didn't pop my eardrums.

Granted, I haven't yet taken the back tire off my bike and re-attached it.  That will come next.  For now, I just want to practice getting the flats fixed. Honestly, I can see that it's not hard.  I just need to do it more often and not stress out about it.  Both easier said than done.

I'm going to buy a bunch of cartridges tomorrow and practice every night from here until I leave for Arizona.  I may even ask my work buddy and cycling mentor, Frank, if he'll let me work with him all next week on honing my tire-changing technique.  Even if I can get down to 10 minutes for a rear tire, that would rock.

Wish me luck.  And that I don't go deaf between now and then from more unexpected bursts!

19 days and counting.