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

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

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

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

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

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

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

46 days and counting.

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

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 please...it 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.

Poopy Brick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

76 days and counting.

Inside the 84-Day Window

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

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

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

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


83 days and counting.


You know you've been away too long -- from anyplace -- when several people ask where in the world you've been.

That's what happened to me this morning when the Fortius gang got together at a new local bike shop for a repair clinic before hitting the Malibu Canyon hills for some sweet cycling torture. I've been training on a different schedule lately, and with the holidays thrown in, teammate time took a back seat.

It was great to see everyone. Lots of laughter and learning, including how to measure chain wear (with a digital monitor, no less) and how to become more efficient at back tire removals (roll the wheel backwards to get more room and separation from the chain).

The ride itself was very productive: 4,100-plus feet of climbing and a new record at 7-Mile Hill (9:56). Last year my PR was 11:00, I think, so definite progress with climbing. We followed the bike with a short brick, which further made me realize that A) running with a new stride may be more taxing at first, and B) I'm still nowhere near my pre-Ironman conditioning level. I eked out 8:30-9:00 miles but my heart-rate was in zone 3 most of the time (150s bpms).

Though the ride and run were confidence boosters, I'll remember today more for spending time with teammates and friends. It makes a huge difference in training as the hours on the clock rapidly vanish. It's like getting a play date when we were kids.

And just like childhood, I'm off to take a nap. The one thing about getting older...naps become more and more cherished when one can find the time to squeeze one in.

150 days and counting.


The good news first: I cycled 61 miles in three hours and then promptly ran 18.5 miles in three hours. The not-so-good news: I didn't need to, nor was I supposed to.

Today and tomorrow were supposed to be what I had called The Crucible.  I thought I was supposed to run three hours back-to-back as a final stamina test going into my taper.  I had visions of that scene in Full Metal Jacket where the recruits are running through mud as Private Joker talks about how they're all ready to eat guts and ask for seconds.  That's how I felt going into the weekend, but clearly I need to have my vision checked instead.

The intended workout? A five-hour bike ride followed by an hour run.

How did I confuse that?  I saw "brick" on my Training Peaks workout for today and had confused a prior conversation with Coach Gerardo about three hour-bricks.


Fortunately, Gerardo was cool about it.  He said the workout was still valuable and wouldn't throw off my schedule.  Tomorrow, instead of a three-hour run (which really was on the schedule) I now have another three-hour bike ride followed by a 30-minute run.  I still have my two-mile swim.

Indeed, the workout was valuable.  On the bike, the winds were a little more moderate and I maintained an 20 mph average.  A tailwind helped but the cross-winds probably helped balance things out a bit.  More important was the run.  I thought I was capable of running 16 miles in three hours after cycling three hours.  I managed 18.5 miles while largely maintaining my heart-rate in heart-rate zones 2-3 (142-152, 152-158).  By the end of the run I was definitely hurting, thinking how difficult an actual Ironman is going to be with an extra 50 miles on the bike and 7.5 miles on the run, not to mention swimming 2.4 miles.  Frankly, I know I'm going to be in a lot of pain, beyond what I experienced today.  That alone was a wake-up call, but luckily I felt that I could have continued on the run if need-be.  The main challenge was being able to lift my legs high enough off the ground to maintain a decent stride, but I'll have to improvise as best I can come race day.  I'll get through it, that much I know.

Despite my scheduling mistake today, mentally I'm thrilled.  I don't think I would have changed my workout even if I knew it was different.  Perhaps I needed that kind of long run after a long-ish bike, therefore willing it in my mind to happen. I was prepared to go aggro this weekend and give it everything I have.  That said, I wasn't sure how I'd fare with a back-to-back three-hour run and now I don't have to find out.  Even though I'm sore and barely mobile on the couch, I know I can handle tomorrow's training.  Which is kinda crazy in itself when I realize I essentially did more than a Half-Ironman today minus the swim portion.

Finally, when I got home and before I discovered the error of my workout ways, I was treated to a nice note from Stephanie congratulating me on my accomplishments.  Since I trained solo today (Caleb couldn't make it), it was nice to have someone else acknowledge what I went through.  I got that and more both from Steph and her mom. As I sat exhausted in Starbucks with instant cold med-packs applied to my legs, it was the perfect medicine.

So now, after the ice, after the Epsom salt bath, after the shower, after a third meal (protein shake), I'm concluding my evening.

The final push continues tomorrow, with Bob.  I'm tired, but I'm more than ready.

26 days and counting.


Pooped, as in I'm exhausted and needing sleep immediately.  Not pooped as in, well, you know. Thanks to the sporadic Southern California rains today, I completed my three-hour brick indoors at our office complex gym.  I cycled solo for 30 minutes on a spin bike and then joined Shannon's 5 p.m. spin class for the next hour.  I wore the wrong clothes, a long sleeve technical shirt meant for winter outdoor training, causing me to sweat even more than usual.  Then, I spent the next 1.5 hours on the treadmill running slower than normal. My workout called for heart-rate zones 2-3 only, so I opted to increase the incline to 2% and run a little slower instead of a higher pace.  By the end of the three hours, you could wring out my bike shorts and the second shirt I had changed into. I needed two towels to lay out on the stretching mat so as not to soak it.

I wish I could say it was a great workout.  But I can't.  It was one of those days you simply just get through.  Did I get any better?  Probably not.  Did I gain some crucial insight that will help me on race day?  Not really, other than further confirming my marathon time will likely be anywhere from 4:20-5 hours.  Nothing to write home about, that's for sure. This off-season and next year I really want to focus on improving my run mechanics.

I'm halfway through my big training peak week.  I'm taking it one day at a time right now, but am starting to feel the strain just a bit.  And getting up tomorrow at 5:30 a.m. isn't going to help for 3,000-plus yards in the pool.

So with that, I'm bidding you goodnight.  At least I have a massage tomorrow night with David from LA Body Mechanics to look forward to.  And one day closer to getting through the week.  Sometimes that's all the motivation I need.

29 days and counting.

Indoor Brick

You're looking at today's bike ride...all three hours of it. I borrowed one of the spin class bikes at our office complex gym and rode two hours solo before participating in a spin class led by one of my Shan Clan, personal trainer and friend, Shannon Flanagan.  I even adjusted the bike's positioning so it felt almost exactly like my tri bike, adding towels for padding at the base of the handle bars so I could ride in aero without discomfort.

I'm trying to figure out if riding on a trainer or spin bike is actually harder or more grueling than riding outdoors.  Obviously, it depends on the workout.  All I know is that today I went through three -- THREE -- shirts.  Each soaked to the core.  It was like a Chinese or Vietnamese wedding where the bride makes separate entrances to show off a new dress.  Except the bride isn't usually in the middle of a workout.  I was so drenched that by the end of my 30 minute follow-up run my feet were wet.  Even my shoes were soggy!  They still are, almost three hours later.  That just doesn't happen when I'm doing brick workouts outdoors.  Not even at the height of the summer in Malibu Creek State Park before Vineman 70.3.

When I told Stephanie tonight about my workout (I should note that I took a half-day off from work to complete it), she was puzzled about what I could possibly do to stay focused and entertained for that solo duration.  Having music now is such a luxury that listening to my iPod is more than enough to keep mentally occupied.  I can't tell if that's mental insanity or mental toughness.

Tonight was one of those times where I took to heart what Coach Gerardo told me a few weeks ago about embracing the duration of each workout and basking in the accomplishment of completing it.  The rain poured outside.  The final Griffith Park brick workout of the year may or may not have gone off without me.  Yet there I was, slogging through my own brick, using vacation time to get the job done.  I must admit, crazy as it may seem, I enjoyed today.  It was a different workout.  A new challenge.  And I'm glad I didn't just roll over and skip the workout altogether.  Believe me, I thought about it.  It would have been the rational thing to do.  Nobody could blame me. Except my coach.  But I know I would have been disappointed in myself.

Is there anything worse?

44 days and counting.

Change of Pace

Today went according to plan, right until it didn't. Sounds like a Yogi Berra-ism, right?  Well, it is.  I cycled to work from Sherman Oaks to Burbank using Chandler Blvd., which traverses a good chunk of the San Fernando Valley.  It was such a relief NOT to play vehicular dodgeball or Frogger for a change.  I could enjoy myself on the bike.  No heart-rate monitor.  No rush.  No worries!

I was on track to attend the 5:30 p.m. weekly Griffith Park brick workout, but a work emergency quashed any possibility of that happening.  Thank goodness!  I had a fantastic evening and still got my brick workout in.  I left the office around 6 and essentially time-trialed home in 34 minutes via Chandler and courtesy of a small paceline of speedy cycle-commuters.  Seriously, I think I'm going to invent a sport called Commuter-Cross!  But that's a different post for a different day.

I got home around 6:45 p.m., ditched my bike and called Steph to see where she was.  Unfortunately, the answer was about what I expected...stuck in traffic.  But, Steph wanted to join me for running!  This hasn't happened in months so I was thrilled. I circled the block a few times warming up until Steph was ready to join. I got my heart-rate zone 3 out of the way in the first half-hour so I could spend time running at Steph's pace.  We jogged for another 30 minutes together; of course, Steph wanted to push it on the last block.

Instead of showering and eating in, Steph and I walked immediately to the Blue Dog Tavern for burgers and beer.  A spontaneous date!  We laughed, caught up and just had a great time hanging out.

It's moments like that where I realize how regimented triathlon training is.  And how welcome a change of pace can be.  Both literally, as in changing the pace of the bike and run based on how I'm feeling and the situation in the moment.  And figuratively, as in rolling with the punches and actually having an even better evening than I would have expected.

I'll try to remember that throughout my training in the coming weeks and months.  Things may not always break my way.  Plans will change.  Especially next year when there's more going on at work than ever before.  But if I can realize that sometimes the unexpected just may be an enhancement, then I think I'll be in great shape.

79 days and counting.

Spinning Head

Usually, my body is sore and I'm physically spent after a Saturday brick workout. Despite the heat and a nearly three-hour time time trial, it's my brain that hurts the most right now.

Don't worry, mom, I didn't crash!

Following our weekly Fortius group training session, Coach Gerardo led a Vineman 70.3 pre-race preparation discussion with Richard, Ann, Mike, Karen and me.  He's a great resource considering he has completed the Vineman course four times, and Mike has done it before too.

I think my head is spinning even more than my legs did pedaling up Mulholland Drive this morning!

I came home and am blogging almost immediately to capture as much information as possible.  In fact, before the "pretty" form you see here and below, I literally brain-dumped out as much as I could remember.

I'm labeling it as Pre-Race, Transitions and Race for those of you also preparing for other Half-Ironman events -- at Vineman or elsewhere.


  • Bring a second pair of socks
  • On Friday, get to the beach by 4 p.m. before it closes.
  • Running bag needs to be delivered on Saturday and should contain salt tablets, fuel belt, extra gels and bars, hat, extra sunblock and extra pair of socks.
  • Bring bike to packet pick up to bike the run course.


  • Put baby powder in my shoes and on my feet, along with generous helpings of tri-glide to avoid blistering
  • There's apparently a 30% grade coming out of the T1 chute.  Gerardo is suggesting clipping the shoes on the bike to ensure a safer run up the hill and putting on the shoes either while moving on the bike or at the mount point. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about this since I haven't practiced those kinds of transitions.  That's something I need to do in the future.
  • Don't fill water in my fuel belt water bottles until the first aid station, where the water will be cold and help me avoid cramping.


  • Knock off a little of the pace on the bike to preserve for the run
  • Avoid people hosing you down during the run as much as possible.  Keep feet dry.
  • If warm out, wear arm coolers under wetsuit during swim.  If not, save for T1.
  • Eat breakfast at least 2 hours before your wave time.  Make sure you consume at least 600 calories.  Considering I burned 1,500 calories in just shy of three hours today in 80-something degree heat, I'm surprised it's not even higher.  Then again, we should be eating and drinking throughout the bike ride.
  • Red-tinted or clear-tinted sunglasses will be most effective dealing with the sun reflections on the bike at the race.  I have neither. Hmm.  Dark glasses will be the worst.  Those, I have.
  • Pace your own race.  Don't get caught up in competing with others.  This is going to be the most difficult thing for me to avoid.  I need to find a way to control my competitive urges.  I'll have to focus on looking at my watch, not others.
  • Watch the hills on the bike and don't be over-aggressive on climbing them.  Save your energy for the run.

Overall, the three most important tips are:

  • Knock a little off the bike race pace to conserve energy on the run.  Same goes for the swim.  It's better to lose a few minutes in the water and on the bike rather than up to an hour on the run due to dehydration.
  • Race nutrition is everything.  I should basically be drinking a full water bottle per hour on the bike, and possibly an added bottle if it's hot.
  • Run your own race.  Stay within yourself.  Pacing!  This is not a sprint or Olympic triathlon.  According to Gerardo, a Half-Ironman is the most difficult race to get right when it comes to pacing and proper nutrition.  It's a very fine balance between pushing too much and too little, and the consequences are severe when doing the latter.  Since this is my first Half-Ironman, I'm especially nervous about learning about this point the hard way.

I'm sure I forgot more than I remembered.  But this should help keep me on track during the race.  Not mentioned today but rather during my swim this past Thursday is to focus on flow and not mechanics in the water.  If I can keep my breathing in check, that should help a lot.  I found a real good breathing cadence during my 1,000 yard time trial, which netted me a personal-best 18:27.  My pace per 100 yards is now 1:52, down from 2:05 in the pool when I first started.  This also came less from worrying about my stroke and concentrating more on my breath.  My new swim PR time led Gerardo to predict it should take me roughly 37 minutes to swim 1.2 miles at Vineman.  We'll see how close he is.  So far, every time he's predicted a pace result for me, he's been pretty much right on the nose.

I hope he predicts a 5:30 Half-Ironman!  Though I suspect I'll be in the 6:00-6:30 range depending on the heat.

OK, I'm heading into the final week of Half-Ironman training.  I'm physically ready.  I'm mentally prepared.  The waiting game officially begins tomorrow, during my first weekend non- pre race off-day I can recall since joining Fortius.  I'll spend it with family, watching Le Tour and Spain vs. Netherlands (Espana wins 2-1, btw).  Along with sending Mike off in style for his first Ironman, Lake Placid.

Now, it's time to enjoy the rest of my day and night, which consists of today's Tour stage, burgers and beer with my buddy TJ and Predators.  My kind of night.

And a welcome distraction to take my mind off all these mental checklist items for next week!

133 days and counting.