An Informative Workout

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

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

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

So I dug deep.

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

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

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

157 days and counting.

Rest Day, Vacation Day

My training off-day felt almost like a vacation day. First it started with breakfast in bed at home. Stephanie surprised me with scrambled eggs, chicken sausage and wheat pancakes with strawberries.  That's pretty much the best wake-up one can have.  For the next several hours, Steph and I toured wedding venue locations in Los Olivos, Santa Ynez and Santa Barbara.  We even think we found a possible winner: Firestone Vineyards.  The destination is far enough away to feel like a weekend getaway, but close enough that it's actually not.  And the town of Los Olivos (population 1,000) itself is seriously charming and cozy.  Should we ultimately choose Firestone, the whole experience would feel a bit like a small town country wedding.  Relaxing and intimate.

We topped off our sunny day of exploring with a fantastic dinner at Tuscany in Westlake Village.  The food is outstanding; it's one of those "special occasion" places you go to a couple times a year yet wish you could visit more often.  I dined on the mustard and herb-crusted rack of lamb while Steph enjoyed the jumbo prawns and crab claws.  We split an apple tart for dessert.  Perfect portions, fantastic service, well worth the price.

Now, once again, the end of an evening finds me blogging on the couch.  The windows are open, the lights are low, and life is good.

Tomorrow brings another week of training.  But for now, I'm just going to savor my final few hours of rest before logging more hours on the bike, pool and road.

165 days and counting.

How I Met Your Mother Part 3: She Said YES!

I capped my week off from Ironman training the best way I knew how: I proposed to Stephanie.

Fortunately, she said YES.

We're engaged!  After five years and our share of ups and downs, we are finally going to get married!

(Yes, I know the first question you probably have now is, "When!?"  The answer is we're looking at February or July 2011.  Possibly May, but not likely.  We'll keep you posted, trust me.)

I'm guessing the second question is, "How did you propose???"

Well, here's the story.  For your reading pleasure, and our future kiddos, I give you: The Great Engagement Caper

Stephanie thought I couldn't surprise her.  She knows I'm a terrible liar and believed as a result that I was incapable of keeping a secret from her.

I took that as a personal challenge to prove her wrong.  And with help from her best friend, Annie, along with Steph's parents and a few other close friends, we conducted the ultimate shock and awe campaign.

First, the set-up.  Our first date was near Laguna Beach, at a restaurant called The Beach House.  Our first kiss was on Forest Street, just a couple blocks away.  As a result, I wanted to propose where it all started.  To do that though, I needed an excuse to get Stephanie down to Orange County without her suspecting anything.  Fortunately, she had family in town from Fresno and Hawaii, so that made yesterday an ideal opportunity.

Since Steph had a feeling I'd pick Orange County as the proposal site, I needed a secondary story to keep her guessing.  That's where Annie came in.  She and her husband of five months, David, married at the St. Regis Hotel in Lagnua Niguel.  So Annie and I made up a story that she and David were commemorating their marriage vows a little early at the hotel, and since we were down in the OC that she'd love to meet us for a celebratory drink.

Steph bought it without any hesitation.

The trap had been sprung.

The Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel is across the street from the St. Regis on Pacific Coast Highway.  The St. Regis is on the left side of the road, and Ritz is on the right.  Instead of turning left into the St. Regis to meet Annie and David, we'd veer right, check in, and arrive to an ocean-view room decorated with rose petals, chilled champagne (thanks TJ!), and chocolate-covered strawberries.  Then, I'd pull the pouch out of my pocket with the ring, and propose.

The tertiary story was the ring itself.  I bought it on March 14, and the jeweler told Steph and I it would be ready in a few weeks. I tried to confuse Steph about the exact pick-up date so she wouldn't be expecting a proposal within a certain timeframe.  She didn't really accept that premise but it clouded the situation enough to help me distract her a bit.  All that mattered was that Steph wasn't expecting a proposal last night.

The truth is that I've had the ring since this past Monday, but it was ready three days after I bought it (thank you, Mr. Gabay!).  This is notable since Steph kept warning me not to keep the ring anywhere near my home since she would sniff it out.  Of course, I knew she wouldn't sniff in my gym bag at the foot of my bed, which is exactly where the ring and the wedding band hid for an entire week, including days where Steph stayed home from work since she got sick.

Guess her nose was clogged.

Anyways, back to the Great Engagement Caper story.  Yesterday's events started perfectly.  Annie, with the help of Steph's roommate Lucy, packed an overnight bag for Steph and gave it to me at 11:30 a.m., on my way to a conveniently scheduled haircut.  After a few hours apart to run errands, I picked Steph up at 4 p.m. from her apartment, complete with my overnight bag to stay at Steph's in Los Angeles.  See, she thought we were coming back to LA after the family outing, her friend Lauren's housewarming party and we were supposed to have drinks at a new rum bar in downtown LA after that.  Annie threw her the St. Regis curveball though.  Still, to keep the ruse in place, I had to bring a dinner jacket for the rum bar we weren't going to check out and hiking clothes for the Sunday hike we weren't going to embark upon.

Lots of bases to cover!

We made it to Steph's grandmother's home ("Oma" in Dutch, which along with Indonesian is Steph's family background) on time for a fantastic afternoon barbecue.  There were several members of Steph's family present, including Emily, perhaps the most adorable little 4 3/4-year-old girl I've ever met.  And she plays one mean game of Rock Band on her own iPod Touch, no less.  Emily shredded on a 42-note streak to a Foo Fighters song.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the future of gaming.

The hours quickly melted away at Oma's and I realized there was no way we were going to leave by 7:45 to make Lauren's housewarming party.  I whispered in Steph's ear that she should tell Lauren she can't make it and to reschedule her visit if we wanted to meet up with Annie and David still.  Reluctantly, Steph agreed.


Eventually, we left Oma's around 9:10 p.m. after another 30-minute extension.  Considering I had the hotel booked five hours prior and the ice and chocolate were being set-up  in the room at 9, I was getting antsy. As we sped towards Laguna, Steph still had no idea what was about to transpire.  This was confirmed by her attitude when I exited the 73 Toll Road at El Toro Road instead of taking the tollway longer to make up time.

"You're going the wrong way! We're going to be another 25 minutes late now. I can't believe you're going this way.  This is so far out of the way"

Grumpy, grumpy, grumpy!

Of course, there was a method to my madness.  I wanted to take the long way so we could drive by The Beach House, drive by the site of our first kiss and generally stroll down memory lane.

Steph texted Annie that we were going to be late and huffed.  Of course, Annie immediately texted back telling Steph not to worry, that David and her were having a fabulous time and not to rush.  What a surprise.

Then, momentum turned in my favor.  We drove by our special sites, Steph relaxed and we cruised towards two separate destinations: The one in Steph's head and the actual goal.  As we approached both hotels, I switched my iPod from shuffle mode to a special mix of our favorite songs (see, '80s style tape mixes aren't dead after all!).  I knew I had two songs before she'd catch on that it was a music mix and not just a coincidental quirk.  The first song was "Married Life", the signature song from Pixar's UP, and the second was "The Luckiest," by Ben Folds.  Steph lightly protested when the second song came on, calling b.s. that the iPod could possibly match both songs back-to-back.  I kept my cool though, promising I had nothing to do with the anomoly and to just enjoy it.  She relented.


Before the song even ended though, we had arrived at our destination(s).  As we approached, I slowly veered right.

Steph: "Honey, the St. Regis is to the left."  "Babe, you're going the wrong way."  "Babe!  The left!"

I turned gently on to Ritz Carlton Drive.

Ryan: "Change of plans, babe."

What ensued for the next 10-15 minutes was a jubilee of shock, denial, joy and shouting.

We glided in to the Ritz valet and Steph simply couldn't believe we were checking in. "I don't even have an overnight bag!" she exclaimed.

My favorite line of the night, what I had been waiting to utter more than any other besides, "Marry me":

"Gotcha covered.  And you thought I couldn't surprise you, eh?"

Steph staggered behind me  as she followed to our room, Number 4514.  I think she was murmuring something about not believing I could pull off such an act for so long, but it was jumbled by her own shrieks of joy and excitement.  We opened the door to the room.  She saw the elaborate set-up.

I pulled the pouch from my pants pocket, no longer having to feel like Frodo.

Hands shaking, I produced the ring, reminded myself to get on one knee and said:

"I love you.  Be my wife.  Marry me."

I always figured Steph would cry and not even be able to get a "Yes" out of her mouth.  That was kind of true, but it was because of shock, not just the emotion of the situation.

Of course, Steph managed to find a way to say yes.  We spent an hour talking about all the details of the Great Engagement Caper, including how I raced down to Irvine this past Tuesday evening to meet with her parents to formally ask their permission.  I had told her that I was attending a Fortius team yoga session and belated birthday dinner for Coach Gerardo.  She bought that too, though Steph today admitted she had a fleeting feeling on Thursday that I was indeed with her family.  She quickly put it out of her head though after remembering that I brought my yoga mat and clothes into the house.

Gotcha again!

We've been celebrating ever since.  Twenty-four hours of celebrating, literally.  Breakfast in the hotel room on the balcony overlooking the Pacific.  Enjoying the hotel pool.  Brunch at The Beach House.  Hunting for the exact spot of our first kiss (and debating about it).  Dining with Steph's parents at their favorite family restaurant.

And now, 24 hours later, home.

As an engaged couple.  The first day of a new life together.  With all new adventures to come.

I can't wait.

And tomorrow begins my re-emergence into Ironman training. I can't wait for that either.

In some ways all this feels like a triathlon on its own. I'm transitioning from one big phase of my life to another.  It's exciting, a little hectic and really just a big blur.  You can plan all you want, but come race day, you just have to go with the flow a little and hope for the best.  And, if you're lucky, everything works out perfectly, like it did last night.

I completed a massive sprint after a long marathon, and am now looking ahead to the next big event.

Marriage.  The ultimate Ironman.

240 days and counting.

7 Days til the Marathon and I'm Sick!

I've heard of this phenomenon and was hoping it wouldn't happen to me.  Coach Gerardo told me recently that coming down with an illness in the days leading to a big race typically happens about two weeks in advance.  And it's perfectly normal. Surprise!  I'm sick.  And a giant blitzkrieg at that.

But instead of a fortnight, I've got seven days to rest, hydrate and make sure I don't lose my physical or mental edge before the LA Marathon.


The achey body, sore throat, watery, itchy eyes and hot-to-the-touch skin all struck at once -- about five hours after an otherwise uneventful trail run at Chesebero Park around 9 this morning.  In fact, I did very well on the 30-minute tempo portion, clocking sub-8:00 miles and never exceeding an 8:15 pace.  That said, my plantar fasciitis is acting up on the arch of my left foot, to the point where I could barely walk the rest of the day.

I'm definitely getting worried.  I feel like I'm starting to fall apart.  I suppose it was bound to happen after pushing myself so hard the past few months. Or after a few days of shaking hands with all types of folks at the video games conference. (I even used Purell an ungodly amount of times, what gives!?) But one week before the race? Really?

(Fortunately, all this happened before our afternoon of engagement ring shopping, which went really well!  More details another time when I know she's not reading over my shoulder.)

As Stephanie can tell you though (or my parents), I'm a bit dramatic when I don't feel well.  In fact, can you feel Steph's eye-roll?  Perhaps it's because I'm so used to being in good health that it accentuates my pathetic-ness when those rare moments occur.  Maybe it's because I watched too much Ferris Bueller's Day Off and identified more with Cameron growing up.  Either way, thank goodness for Steph tonight.  She's taking good care of me with Canter's matzah ball soup, lots of herbal tea and cold medicine.  I'm a lucky dude.

To be safe tomorrow, I'm taking the day off work.  I need to rest and sleep as much as possible to beat this with enough time to resume my training pre-race.  It literally is a race against time, and I hope my body is up for the task.

Come on, Ry.  Don't fail me now.

And Ferris, wherever you are, don't even think of calling me.  I so will NOT pick up.

"When Ryan was in Egypt's land...LET MY RYAN GO!!!"

254 days and counting.