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  The documentation feels outdated in an era where a set-up video would be practically expected.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.

Enjoy Your Swim

"Enjoy your swim." That's what I was greeted with tonight at VNSO pool as a new pool locker room attendant took my GYST bag.  I'm not sure why, but it really hit me.  The ONLY reason I was at the pool was for exactly that reason, to enjoy the swim.  It was so simple!  Gone was the pressure of an Ironman.  Or a race of any kind.  I'm still in "recovery mode" so I wasn't planning to even push it hard tonight.  I just wanted to stay in my fitness routine and enjoy the swim.

Which I thoroughly did, and for crying out loud I did my fastest 100 of the entire year!  1:18. Where the hell did that come from?

I honestly think it had something to do with simply enjoying the swim and having no agenda or pressure.  That, and for the first time since I've been a part of Fortius Racing, I paid Gerardo in cash for a single workout.  I'm no longer on a monthly workout plan as I explained in yesterday's post.  I'm just paying as I go for swim sessions.  The simple act of taking cash from my wallet and handing it Gerardo meant something different to me tonight.  It was as if I was making a personal choice and investment of "real" time and money to be in the pool for the next hour. When the money isn't physically leaving your wallet, instead coming out of a Paypal account, credit card or check, I think perhaps it's easier to mail in a workout here and there.  But when you actually see that money exchanging hands, it's a little more real.  I don't want to waste that $10.  So I better bring it.  I'm paying for it right here and now, making a choice to be here in this moment.

Just some random observations after a hard swim workout.  Harder than I expected, that's for sure.  Gerardo gave me drills to do involving swim gloves (web-like paddles), a pull buoy and an ankle wrap that I'll becoming very familiar with over the next several months.  It certainly helped me go faster tonight for some reason.  I'm still mystified about that.

"Enjoy your swim."

I'll have to try that more often!


A lot happened this weekend, this epic weekend of Ironman Coeur d'Alene training. I was trying to make some sense of it Saturday afternoon, driving home from Frazier Park (an hour north of Los Angeles) after the Heartbreak 100 century ride.  See, I was feeling pretty damn good about my performance there.  Not because I was particularly fast on the bike, but because I had enough energy left AFTER the bike to run for 50 minutes at what would have been close to a 4:30 marathon time.  That doesn't seem like much, but A) it would be my marathon PR and B) that came after climbing nearly 10,000 feet on a chilly day.  Speaking of chilly, it was so freakin' cold that I bought an extra pair of arm warmers and used them as calf warmers! I rode the course with an undershirt, a jersey, a fleece jacket, a wind breaker, leg warmers, arm warmers and arm warmers on my legs.

Back to the ride itself. What changed for me? What worked? Why? The trick for me was actually listening to my coach and walking (GASP) for a full minute after every nine minutes of running.  Going slower to ultimately go faster. It never makes sense to me but yet it works. In fact it made a huge difference, especially on a run that featured nearly 500 feet of climbing in the first two miles.

I had broken with my tradition, finally, of hammering on a bike ride only to fade on the run.  Instead, I stayed within myself, tough as it was to be passed, and conserved energy.  Still, I managed just over seven hours on a tough course -- which really wouldn't have been too much slower than what I would have managed going a more aggressively.

Which brings me back to my car ride home.  I was flipping through radio stations, done reflecting on the day and needing a mental break.  Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" came on.  Huge smile. Radio dial cranked up.  I had my new mantra:

"I've kicked the habit Shed my skin This is the new stuff I go dancing in, we go dancing in Oh won't you show for me And I will show for you Show for me, I will show for you"

If you saw a dude screaming and dancing in his car on the 118 Freeway around 6 p.m., that was me. I know it's a little corny, and I know the reasons behind the actual lyrics (I think it's about drug addiction) are very serious.  But for me, on that drive home, I felt like I had finally kicked my own stupid racing habits and was ready to take the next step forward in my tri-career.  It felt really good.  Like if I take care of myself -- if I show for you -- then my body will show for me, and my results will be better come race day.

The rest of Saturday and into Sunday morning was spent recovering from the ride and run.  While Heartbreak 100 isn't nearly as difficult as the Mulholland Challenge, it still took its toll -- most notably on my outer right knee area.  I woke up stiff and sore, and definitely not feeling like running for 2.5 hours.  I texted Gerardo to ask if I could skip the run, as much because I liked the confident feeling I had from the day prior and didn't want to be dragged back to that dark place of self-doubt following another sloggy bonk-fest.

Coach wasn't having any of that.

"Push through" was essentially the only text I got back. A man of few words, Gerardo is. But he knows which are the most important words.

So push through is what I did.  For 2.5 hours exactly in the Calabasas area.  Granted, I only climbed roughly the same elevation as yesterday's 50-minute run.  But, once again the walk a minute every mile routine paid huge dividends. My heart-rate never felt out of hand and I'm confident that if I can stay within myself on the bike ride that I can enjoy a marathon PR by a long shot.

As we all know though, Ironman can throw anything at you on race day.  So, I'll be prepared for that.  But today, following the run AND a 3,000-yard swim immediately thereafter, I felt refreshed.  Not exhausted. But happy.  Almost joyous.  I got through the weekend.  I learned about myself.  I learned that if I hydrate constantly (five full bottles on the Saturday bike, two full bottles for today's run), stay cool (literally), pop lots of Endurolytes, and stay focused and measured on the bike, I can have a GREAT day at Coeur d'Alene.

I didn't feel this way at the peak of my training last year heading into IMAZ.  Granted, we still have one more giant training week left, but if I can maintain this outlook and simply smarter training then I'll be quite confident and prepared.

A wiser athlete.  More humble.  But I'm carrying a sledgehammer filled with confidence and experience.

29 days and counting.

A New Way to Race?

OK, it's starting to sink in: After one Ironman and two Half-Ironmans, I'm learning the hard way that the key to a successful race is pacing towards the run and not trying to set PR's on the swim and bike. At least I think so?

I put this theory to practice today in a pedestrian 3.5 hour ride with my buddy Frank.  We twice replicated the Amgen Stage 8 route from last year, Agoura Road to Cornell to Mulholland up Rock Store and down Decker.  Our pace was slow (trust me), but I kept my heart rate mostly in zone 2 (typically south of 141 bpm).  This also was because I chucked up a fair amount of mucus from chest and nose through the first half of the ride.  But, by the end I felt pretty decent -- though my body was telling me a third loop would be a mistake.

The highlight of the ride was spotting Team HTC/Highroad (Cavendish, Martin, Renshaw, etc.) at Westlake Boulevard on its way presumably to Hidden Valley or up Decker.  Granted, the "big three" aren't with this particular team as they're at the Giro d'Italia according to the curt German team mechanics I quizzed as I visited the team's truck.  They're training in Southern California instead of Northern because, as the jerky bike tech said, "you want them to train in the snow?"

Gee, thanks dude.

After the ride, I did something I rarely get to do following a workout -- sleep!  Steph is trying on her wedding dress down south today and that meant I could take a nap that I desperately needed.  It's quite clear my body is still fighting infection as an alarm had to wake me up nearly two hours later.  But I still rallied to jump in the pool for 40 minutes and I'm glad I did.  My performance was much better today than yesterday, which is encouraging.

Maybe I haven't lost as much fitness as I thought.

That said, I probably couldn't have gone much harder on the bike today even if I tried. Which brings me back to my main point.  I may have to accept the realization that if I want a faster Ironman time, I need to hold back a bit on the bike and swim.  I simply need more energy to expend later in the day and can't get caught up in trying to PR any one particular area of my race. I did have that kind of mindset at Wildflower, as I feel like what's the point of racing if you're not trying to outdo yourself in each of the three sports every time?  But, ultimately it's how you finish the race -- not how you start or complete a particular segment.  The fact is that it's probably a lot easier to make up time on the run than anywhere else.  On a swim we're talking a matter of minutes between a PR performance while still turning in a respectable time.  On the bike, what's 15 more minutes on the road if it ultimately means saving 20-30 minutes on the run?

I need to focus on the long-term goal. Finishing the race in my goal time.  Not what split I've achieved.

Easier said than done, but today was a good lesson in that area.

Let's see if it sticks.


50 days and counting.

Why I Almost Signed Up for IM St. George: Part 2

Upon entering VNSO pool yesterday morning for my 3,200 yard swim, I saw the following sign posted near the dressing room door: "Pool to be closed for maintenance for 3 WEEKS starting May 31."

I had to do a triple-take.  No, this can't be happening!  Seriously?  The final three weeks of IM Coeur d'Alene training?  When I'm in the pool for repeated 4,000-yard workouts and then running off to work, then more long-distance training after work?

Yes, there are other pools in the area.  But none are quite as convenient as VNSO, which is literally 5 minutes from my condo.  I can roll out of bed, put on my swimsuit, grab a banana to eat quickly, fill my water bottle and within 15 minutes I'm swimming laps.  It's fast, and most important, conveniently on my way to work.

Now, I'll need to head the opposite direction, to Calabasas, to fit in my morning swims.  Then, I'll need to fight traffic to get to work on time.  It's a hassle, and really the last thing I need or want at this point in my training.  Worse, I'm not sure what Coach Gerardo is going to do about coached swim workouts in the evening or mornings as those require permits.  Is it really worth the effort to secure those for three weeks?

This led me yesterday to make up my mind that I was going to go for Ironman St. George.  I'm sick of scheduling my life around training!  So the best way around that is to A) be done as quick as possible and take a longer break and B) IM St. G is on May 7, so the pool being closed May 31-June 24 won't really matter to me.

My mind was further made up after I spent time talking with Mark Allen, widely considered one of if not THE greatest triathlete of all time.  I'm interviewing Mark for my next "Mind Games" column with Lava Magazine Online.  I couldn't resist asking him about my "dilemma" at the end of our interview.  His advice? Why not do BOTH St. George and IM CDA?

My heart says YES!  My body says NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

Marks' feeling was that you should race at the races you want to race at.  If St. George is calling to me, which it is and will continue to, then I should do it.

Then, after a second Passover seder last night, I talked with Stephanie about it.

She thinks I likely won't be physically able to complete IM CDA if I do St. George, and if I don't do CDA then I've wasted a huge amount of money.  This is true.  And the race is largely non-refundable ($150 return for $575 registration, no thanks!).  So, in pragmatic terms, I'd be spending close to an extra $1,000 just to satisfy a deep primal urge to be an Ultimate Badass(TM).  And, if I tried to do CDA, I'd still need to find a friggin' pool for those three weeks!!!

So, after having some real sense talked into me, I'm back to my original plan.  I'm going for IM CDA, with all my might.

I really want to try St. George.  If I was made of money right now, didn't have two games shipping this fall, wasn't planning for a wedding and honeymoon or writing for Lava, I just might do it.

Instead, I'll think about St. George for next year, depending on the state of my mind, body and spirit. I know I've said CDA will be my last full-distance Ironman, but St. George is only six hours away!  It's so close, whispering to me.

If only Coeur d'Alene was whispering to me as loudly.  I think I need to work on that.  The Wildflower long-course next Saturday will help.

62 days and counting.

What, Me Worry?

In the span of a week here in Southern California, we've gone from the hypothermia-inducing cold of last Saturday's Mulholland Challenge to the sweltering heat yesterday from our five-hour brick session.  As a result of not being able to reach parts of my back to apply sunblock and being too stubborn to ask anyone, I earned my "tri-wings" -- the unmistakable sign of a sleeveless jersey-wearing triathlete.

Man, it stings too!

What also stings is knowing that if it's hot at the upcoming Wildflower long course triathlon, I may just melt.  Though my DeSoto arm coolers helped yesterday on the bike (I never felt too hot nor dehydrated), I cut my 60-minute run short because I felt myself overheating.  I shuffled/ran/walked while trying to keep my heart rate beneath 163 bpm and was largely successful. However, in just shy of 40 minutes I only managed 3.75 miles on hilly, dusty terrain.  The same terrain many of us will see at Wildflower.  I remember drenching myself in sponges last year that scantily clad college coeds gave me as my body temperature crept upward as morning turned into mid-day.

I wonder how it will be this year?

Moreover, this morning's 1,500-yard time trial swim in Calabasas with my Fortius buddies indicated that I didn't recover too well from yesterday's bake-fest.  Even if I did miscount a couple laps in the water (forgive me was 60 flip turns!), my T-pace sagged to 1:54-1:57.  I'm typically in the 1:41-1:48 range.

Should I be alarmed?  I don't think so.  It's hot, my body isn't used to the weather right now, and I have time to acclimate. Further, we all know it's possible to turn in a less-than-impressive workout from time to time.  The key is moving past it and looking forward to tomorrow's training. Which is exactly what I'm going to do, along with an ART session.

Part of my problem is that my body is wound tightly with inelastic fascial tissue in my back, and my calves/Achilles feel spring-loaded to the point where they could shoot arrows across a field.  I think to move forward in the next couple weeks, I need to take better care of myself, get plenty of rest, eat right, and stretch more.

So that's my plan as I head into the two-week window before my first real "race" of the season.

I find myself quite excited to get back out on a race course.  Though I may need to cram an open-water swim session in beforehand -- especially considering I just wrote about that topic last month in Lava!

Gotta practice what I preach.

66 days and counting.

Decisions, Decisions

My stomach rumbles.  It's 6:30 p.m.  I'm supposed to be leaving for swim class shortly.  I'm doing the Planet Ultra Mulholland Challenge on Saturday. 112 miles, 12,750 feet of climbing. I won't lie, I'm nervous.  What is this going to do to my Wildflower legs? Is this challenge worth it?  Why am I going to do this to myself?

Well, there's only one answer.  Because it's there!  Because I can.  Because Wildflower isn't a guarantee.  Really, what is?  Life, death and taxes, Mark Twain would say.

Some might argue that I'm hastening one of the three of those inevitabilities by torturing myself for eight hours Saturday morning.  I look at it slightly different.  If I can get through that kind of agony, then the hills and ensuing run both at Wildflower and Ironman Coeur d'Alene should feel comparably reasonable.  Notice I didn't say "easy." I wouldn't do that.  An Ironman is NOT easy.  But, when the sun starts to go down in Coeur d'Alene on June 26, when I'm at mile 16 and realize I've got another two hours of running, I'll remember the Mulholland Challenge.

How I remember it remains to be seen.  But, I'll at least give it my best shot instead of wondering what if.

So, the question remains...pool swim tonight or take some extra time off for added rest?

I'm going to let my car decide.  Wherever I end up is what I'm going to do.  And you'll have the answer tomorrow.

75 days and counting.

Confidence Boost

Tonight's Fortius swim was a good reminder that I'm a pretty competitive dude.  After placing me one lane over for warm-up and drills, Coach Gerardo moved me to the "fast" lane where there was a higher contingent of swift swimmers than usual. Then, we paired up into two's and raced 25 yards all-out with 20 seconds of rest between sets.  The winner of each set faced a faster swimmer until that person lost. Personally, I felt like I had no business beating anybody in that lane.  But I'm so paranoid about making a fool of myself or embarrassing myself that it propels me even faster.  I don't want anybody in the fast lane thinking I don't belong there, so I push harder to sort of justify my existence in that space.

I suppose it paid off tonight, as I beat two of the three people I faced in our sprint heats.  Now that's not saying much, as it's entirely possible they weren't pushing as hard, were recovering from weekend races or are better long-distance swimmers than sprinters.  But for me, it was still validation.

I belong in the fast lane.  I earned it.  And while I know that in the grand scheme of "fast" swimmers I'm really glacial, on our team filled with people who have become true friends, I know I can hang.  I remember when I first started training for my first triathlon with Fortius and was beyond intimidated by everyone's skills.

I feel like I've come a long way.   Through a lot of hard work, that is.  And a lot more hard work to go.

77 days and counting.

An Extra 10%

This morning, once again, I completed a back-to-back workout.  First, I spun easy for about 35 minutes (instead of 45) and then bolted to the pool to cram in another session of 10 x 100s, descending 100s for time and a 500 at T-pace (1:43/100).  I felt much better than Tuesday, when I was still recovering from the Pacific Half Marathon. Lately, I'm noticing I'm cutting roughly 10 minutes short of each scheduled workout. It's mainly because I'm busy and need the extra time to get ready and head to my next destination.  However, in my own subtle way, I think it's my small mini-rebellion against the heavily regimented nature of Ironman training.  Be here.  Do this exercise at this intensity for this amount of time.  Rest on this day.  Do this, don't do that.  Eat this, don't eat that.

It gets old after a while.

So perhaps this is my way of playing hooky while still getting credit for doing the homework.  Is that an oxymoron?

Whatever it is, I'm totally cool with it.  I'm getting the main thrust of the workout done and trying to do my best to keep my body and spirits fresh heading into the stretch run.  My hope is that the extra time off here and there will help me on IM CDA race day.  Maybe that extra 10% of extra overall energy can be the difference between being fresh and over-trained.  Doubtful, but I'm thinking in those terms at the moment.

Then again, on days like today, I didn't do much resting with that extra 10%.  Instead, I FINALLY got a strength training session in with Shannan.  Yoga and lifting have been the main casualties in this especially busy phase.  I'm hopeful in the coming weeks and months that I'll build back up on the strength and stretching to stay strong but limber.  Right now, I'm tight and tired!

I'm very much looking forward to my off-day tomorrow, that's for sure.  And it starts tonight, with Lakers tickets!  It's my first Lakers game of the season, and it couldn't come at a better time -- the biggest game of the season.  We've got to hold off Dallas for second place in the Western Conference.  I cannot wait.

Waking up early to get both main workouts done before work was entirely worth it.

Will try to upload images tomorrow morning before heading to work.  Go Lakers!

82 days and counting.