Farewell Summer

Summer 2010, I hardly knew ye.  In fact, I think the span of our relationship lasted all of one week, this past one. You were like the friends I had in 6th Grade, the Bortz twins.  In my neighborhood for what seemed like a week, then gone.  Just like that.  No explanation.  Where did they go?

Judging by tonight's "early" sunset just shy of 7:30 p.m. and the slight chill that accompanied it, summer is definitely over. (Yes, I sound like a spoiled Southern Californian. Deal with it!) Did we even get a summer this year?  Not since college had I spent this much time outdoors in the sun.  And I simply don't recall very many days where the heat was stifling.  It felt like we've had one season all year, spring.

As I rode with my new LA Tri Club buddy Jon during our Griffith Park brick workout, I was thinking about this summer.  I was watching it end before my eyes, with dark gray skies creating an ominous atmosphere and perhaps nurturing a more reflective workout mood.

What would I remember about this summer?

Hours after that first thought occupied my mind, I'm still having trouble with that question.   And maybe this has nothing to do with the weather.  Maybe this is just about being tired and ready for bed.  After all, I did swim 2,600 yards this morning (300 easy, 5 x 200 drills with fins 5 x 200 split between catchup and swim without fins and a final 3 x 100 split between kicks and swimming), bike 20 and run four at tempo or race-pace this evening.  And I worked a full day in between, forgoing lunch to get more done.

OK, those last two sentences were fluff, allowing me to procrastinate more.

But seriously, check out what my car looked like at the end of the day from all this cross-training.  You can't even see the passenger seat!

What will I remember about this summer?

Honestly, it's all a blur.  Every weekend seems to have been spent training or racing. Vineman, both my race and Rusty's, will certainly rank as a major summer highlight.  The Breath of Life triathlon triumph and agony of losing my spot at Nationals will stay with me for a long time as well. Beyond that, things get muddier.  I spent a lot of time in the saddle, alone or with friends.  I'm a much better triathlete in September as I was in June.  There's no doubt about that.

But how much time did I spend goofing around with friends?  How much time did I spend with Steph just enjoying the weekend at our own pace?  Was it enough?  I know we had a LOT of good times this summer and I can rattle off a bunch of those special moments spent at concerts, weddings, family outings, nice dinners, and sports events.  But many of those special moments were built around training schedules.

Maybe I just need a little more time to step back and assess the summer. All the great times, both singular and taken as a whole.  Maybe I'm just bummed that the summer is over so quick.  It caught me off guard.  I had summer firmly in my grasp, and yet somehow it feels like it slipped right through my fingers.  What happened?

Sad to see you go, Summer 2010.

72 days and counting.

Why the Negativity?

Is it a full moon or something? Usually, the Griffith Park LA Tri Club brick is filled with positive energy and nothing but encouragement.  Maybe it was the 90-degree-plus heat at 5 p.m. Or the huge swells that hit Santa Monica this morning.  But something was different tonight.  Three different Tri Clubbers offered nothing but discouragement in three separate conversations.  Two of them didn't mean anything by it, both commenting either on their fatigue or a poor race performance at the Santa Barbara Triathlon.  The third (and his friend) flat out warned me about marriage and begged me to get a pre-nuptial agreement because he had just lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in a settlement.  Both friends chided me about being closer to the "unhappy 50%" who get divorced.

Gee, thanks guys.

The places where I go to train are equivalent to a spiritual and physical dojo. I expect negativity, like shoes at a martial arts studio, to be left at the door.

Today, the dojo was muddied.  Footprints stained the white canvas.  It's ugly.  And unappreciated. Ironically, this comes on the same day I interviewed a leading sports psychologist for a freelance magazine website story I'm writing.  We discussed the benefits to blogging or journal-keeping, along with the risks.  Without tipping my hand or my source's viewpoint, one of the risks associated with blogging or journal-keeping is reflecting on the negative so that it becomes self-destructive.  I'm going to take that feedback to heart tonight.  I'll clean up my mental dojo, sweep up the dirt and grime, and look forward to another day of training tomorrow.

Tonight reminded me of how powerful words can be.  Just a few poorly chosen ones can negatively color someone else's mood or general outlook.  I'm vowing right here to strengthen my resolve to encourage others, and if I have something to discuss that could be construed as negative, I'll think twice and ask myself if it's helpful, valuable and necessary information to share.

If it isn't, I'll keep my mouth shut.

Some nights, blogging is really hard.  I write words down almost just for the sake of keeping my ritual intact.  Tonight, it's as if I'm pouring back garbage into a wastebasket and rapidly jogging down the hall to throw it down the chute.  The process is short, messy, stinky and I want to get it over with quickly so the room the wastebasket sat in can return to its normal aroma.

And now the cleansing part:

-- Just because other people's relationships fall apart doesn't mean mine will.  I'm 100% confident of that.

-- What happened to other people at the Santa Barbara Triathlon in years past is their experience.  I'm about to define my own.

-- Yes, an Ironman will take a huge toll on my body and mind.  I should expect at least a month to fully recover, and that's totally OK.  I have no problem with that.

Good.  Got that over with.

And now, I return to my normal, happy outlook on life and training.

Good night, all.

87 days and counting.

Discreet Progress

The Fortius-coached track workouts are starting to show dividends.  But in a way I wouldn't quite expect. After this morning's LA Tri Club "Chicken of the Sea" swim, I took off on a two-hour run where the goal was to negative split on an out-and-back course.  I managed to do so by seven minutes while maintaining a steady pace throughout the 12 miles from Marina del Rey to Playa del Rey and back.  My success didn't necessarily come from overdoing it on the latter part of the run.  Instead, I was able to cover a little more ground on the first half while at a slightly lower heart-rate than usual.  This seems to be where the weekly track workouts have started to pay off, though I would have expected to see an increase in speed rather than a decrease in heart rate-per-mile run.

Richard and Ann joined me this morning and both noted that I seemed to be moving at a more efficient, relaxed pace.  My arms were doing more work and propelling me forward while I wasn't exerting as much energy in the lower heart-rates to maintain a 9:00 pace.  This was encouraging news, and I wouldn't have noticed it had it not been for them.  That's one of the many perks of training with friends. I wouldn't be quite so lucky for the entire run as the couple had a different training schedule and turned back at the 45-minute mark.  That left me 1:15 to remain mentally occupied sans music.

To counter the solo Sunday doldrums, I chose to run a different route, past the bridge at Ballona Creek and onto the beach path in Playa.  At this point, I'll do just about anything to keep my brain occupied and not feeling like I'm on a mental hamster wheel where every training weekend starts to feel the same.

I suppose it's these very mental games in practice that allow me to persevere on race day -- when I need to coax myself forward instead of pausing for breaks.

The tempo part of my run started off great with a few sub 8:30 miles but once again I hit a wall just after the 10th mile where my pace dropped, my heart rate rose and my legs tightened.  I walked up the few (small) hills on the return trip to the marina.

Overall, the lesson I learned today was that progress doesn't always come from the expected or obvious source.  Sometimes it takes others to point it out to you.  Other times, the Garmin watch data can indicate momentum that might otherwise get missed.

Still, progress is progress, and I'm not complaining.

97 days and counting.

Mulholland, Piuma & Rock Store OH MY!

The shininess of progress is sometimes obscured by what appears to be failure. But if you look a little deeper, the former often outweighs the latter.

Progress sure hurts sometimes too.  I ventured out to cycle with my Fortius teammate and friend Christina this morning.  It turned into the most challenging, most painful bike ride yet -- and hopefully with he biggest payoff down the line.

First let's rewind.

My schedule called for 2.5 hours at whatever pace "the group" chose -- hills or flats.  It was supposed to be a nice follow-up to yesterday's Santa Barbara Triathlon course preview ride and run.  That went out the window though once a LA Tri Club member whom I look up to showed up with his wife and served as the ride's pace leader.

I had to know if I could keep up.  I wanted to hold Jeff's wheel without wrecking myself.  I wanted to be with the "fast" group.  Maybe it's because I still remember all those rides where I'd get dropped with the San Fernando Valley Bicycle Club.  Maybe my competitive nature got the better of me once again.

Probably a little of Column A and a little of Column B.

The short version of the story is that for 50 miles, I did keep up.  Outside of popping briefly on the El Toro grade off Highway 150 and losing the other three fastest riders, I stayed right up front.  And damn it felt good!  Even better, the five-mile run felt just as a good. I snapped off a few 8:30s and sub-8:15s while helping pace a new friend on the Tri Club.

As much fun as practicing can be, sometimes being thanked for a helping hand in training or a compliment on speed can really make all the difference between a good workout and a great one.

So with all those good vibes swirling around in my head, I didn't think twice when Christina invited me to join her for four hours of climbing in the Malibu hills.  After all, I needed to fit in the extra cycling hours I missed last week at the Vineman Full course, and we were supposed to hit 70 on the bike yesterday.

Clearly, I wasn't thinking straight.  I failed to take into account that Christina is the "Queen of the Mountains" after crushing her competition at the Amgen Breakaway Ride -- which features four climbs of the Rock Store grade.  Four!  Christina also scales these hills at least once or twice a week as part of her training for larger bike rides and at least an Ironman a year.

Christina is a badass.  And until this ride, I had no real conception of what that actually meant.

And I had no idea AT ALL what climbing Mulholland Drive, Piuma Road, Rock Store and several other hills over a 55-mile span would do to me.

On a road bike with a full carbon seat I haven't ridden in weeks.

Simply put, the ride almost broke me.  Physically, it actually did break me.  Mentally, it came as close as anything ever had in the past.  I'm talkin' LA Marathon kind of pain.

By mile 25, at the intersection of Cornell Road and Mulholland, I had enough.  I was spent.  My cadence went from a steady 80-100 on flats and 60-70 on hills to roughly 53 on hills (even down in the 40s!) and well in the 70s on the flats.  After the Mulholland Piuma climbs and on the way to Rock Store, Christina's bike became harder and harder to spot.  Like a speck amidst the waves of heat rising from the freshly paved asphalt.

Honestly, I felt pathetic.  Hot.  Dry.  Heavy.  Hurting.

I wanted to quit.  I was about to quit.  I told Christina I wanted to quit.  I was ready to go home. The ride had beaten me. Shocked me, like a surprise left hook.  Staggered me.  Showed me I still had a lot to learn as an endurance athlete.  Just because I brought the noise on a Saturday didn't mean squat.  Back-to-back was not meant to be.

Is this what being an Ironman is really like?  Had I missed the point the entire time?  It's not about one sprint race, or a good Olympic distance time or even one Half-Ironman result.  What can you bring back-to-back?  How fast can you recover?

If those are the yardsticks, I had failed.  I knew it.  And the worst part was not having the defiant energy to swing back at those self-doubts in the cloudless Sunday sun.

Christina gave me some tough love though, coated in understanding and softness.  She coaxed me to stay, saying Rock Store would "only be 25 minutes of pain" (normally it takes me around 17-18 minutes!) and I'd be home free after that, feeling great about my accomplishment.

I couldn't argue.  I didn't even have the energy to do that!  Moreover, I didn't want to derail Christina's ride.  Or let her down.  Or quit.  Again, if I could quit now, what would happen in November if I had two flat tires, a cramp in the swim and a knot in my stomach during the run?  Worse yet, what would happen if nobody was nearby to goad me into sticking it out!?

This blog was conceived with my thought of it serving as a "big goal guide" for the kids I don't have yet.  Kids who hopefully will read this one day and if nothing else, they'll know their old man was never a quitter.  I may not have been the fastest, or kept the wheel of the best guy in the club all the time. But I show up the next day.

And I don't fucking quit.

I ventured on, accepting the pain. Realizing that once again, all my platitudes about overcoming suffering really didn't mean anything until that point.  There's discomfort (my Half Ironman), and there's suffering ... today.  Suffering occurs when there seems to be no reason to continue.  The Half-Ironman at least had a finish line.  The comfort zone in your training passed by 15 miles ago and there's easily another 20 miles still to go before returning home.  With at least four hill climbs.  The water bottles are low.  The Clif bars taste the same -- they have since last November -- and gross you out.  The Hammer gels taste like cake frosting that makes you want to barf.  And the Gu Chomps...well, there's small writing on the back of the packaging indicating you shouldn't eat more than six in a two hour period for a reason.

The ride sucked.  The ride taught.

I cracked.  And repatched.

I wilted. And am regenerating.

While tomorrow now features a rest day where one didn't exist a few hours ago, I'm feeling better already.  I learned something about myself again today.  Discomfort is a speed bump.  Pain is a choice.  The brain can propel the body forward even when it really doesn't want to -- provided there's enough fuel in the system to do so.

And sometimes, your best friends, your best teammates, are the ones who push you past your perceived breaking point to show you what lies beyond.

Thanks, Christina.

I'll be back on that course.  And I'll do better next time.

104 days and counting.

Ironman and Beyond

Somewhere amidst the craziness of the past few days, I'm still managing to fit in my Ironman training.  Today marked the annual LA Tri Club Wednesday Griffith Park brick, which was a welcome return to normalcy. I think the collective energy spent running around town and balancing the other important aspects of my life are taking a slight toll on me physically this week.  My bike ride was average at best, though to be fair a breezy cross-wind in the hills leading up to the Griffith Observatory slowed me down too.  The first 20 minutes of the ride were especially hard on my legs.  I couldn't tell if that's because I need more time to warm up or if I'm simply a little fatigued. It's probably a combination of both.

I picked it up on the run though, banging out 7:52, 7:38 and 7:24 miles to wrap up the day.  However, as a result of pushing it a bit I may sit out tomorrow evening's track workout depending on how I feel.  It's optional based on Coach Gerardo's schedule so we'll take it as it comes.

Let's focus on the big picture for the moment though.  Earlier today, I mentioned I signed up for my second Ironman Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. (This means I'll need to really remember how to spell this place properly!) June 2011.

Am I nuts!?  I haven't even completed my first Ironman! I have no idea what to expect or if my body can even handle it yet I'm going for it again.  Is that confidence or stupidity?  Both?  One thing it is for certain is an example of healthy peer pressure, as my Fortius buddies Richard and David are signed up as well.

Rationally speaking, the reason I signed up is that I figure I'll be in peak physical condition (knocks on wood) and want to take advantage of that as much as possible while I have the time and ability to stay that way.  Further, Stephanie and I will be married in September 2011 in all likelihood.  Completing my second Ironman at the end of June allows me to enjoy the rest of the summer, focus on wedding planning and generally relax instead of training myself into the ground right before The Big Day.  I envision that I'll still complete a couple Olympic-distance events before the wedding though and maybe one late in October just to keep me honest.  Then, my long-term goal is to focus on one more Ironman the following year, an international event in some exotic location.  After that, I'll likely switch to Half-Ironman events and ease back on the training intensity a little.

Of course, we all know that G-d laughs at those who make plans. Still, I like to hedge my bets. If I can pull it all off, it will be one heck of an adventure.

Actually, it already has been!  I can only hope and dream that the best is still left to come.

Still 136 days and counting.


I've written about my triathlon exploits after eating pizza. Now I can add red velvet cake to my growing list of Things That Are So Bad They Make Me Perform Better. My friend Jennie sent me a birthday cake today that must have come close to weighing 10-12 pounds.  As you can see, it was pure decadence.  Creamy, cold white frosting with rich red, chocolate goodness.  Each slice took up an entire paper plate!  I was very good, I "only" ate a full piece about two hours before my Wednesday evening Griffith Park brick with the LA Tri Club and Fortius team members.

And it seemed to have paid off!  I was afraid I'd (sugar) crash hard during a bike climb or certainly during the run portion. Or maybe I'd get sick like I had been lately. Nothing of the sort occurred.  I tore up Mount Hollywood on the bike feeling fresh and powerful, unchained by Coach Gerardo's note in my Training Peaks workout that I could play with some attacks and sprints while avoiding heart-rate zone 5.

Well, two out of three ain't bad, right?

Frank decided to join me for the brick today, which meant my cycling mentor had no problem encouraging me to dart up the hills and challenge him to some sprint duels.  I was so excited to finally speed past him on some climbs that I forgot to finish at the top of the hills, which would be when Frank would zip past me by the narrowest of margins. This was a good lesson for me as in each instance I was in the wrong gear to finish strong in the sprint.  Frank knew just when to attack, while I was ill-prepared to make a proper defense.

First, Frank taught me how to ride.  Now, he's teaching me the ins and outs of racing.  It's gonna be one fun ride!  My evening reading -- Mark Cavendish's autobiography -- is also inspiring me to push a little harder while riding. He eschews sports science in favor of simply riding a lot of hours, hard and fast.  He's constantly been told he performs poorly in the laboratory -- poor power output, too fat, etc. -- and he responds by saying that labs don't measure passion and perseverance.  That's my kind of guy.  So as I pushed hard today, even sustaining close to 25 mph in a pace line for a while at the end, I kept thinking of Mark Cavendish and his "old school" training style.  It was a liberating feeling.

Despite the effort on the bike, my run went well too.  It started off poorly, as the group was very fast and shot ahead of me from the start.  This was further complicated by having to pee only a half-mile in.  Eventually, I got my legs under me and caught up with most of the group during the trail run portion.  I kept my heart rate mostly in zone 3 and was very consistent during my finishing two-mile kick.  Though I need to pick that intensity up in preparation for the Breath of Life Olympic triathlon on June 27.  I'll really need to push hard that day!

I'll have an opportunity to hone my speed (or lack thereof?) tomorrow at our Fortius team's first coached track workout.  It's going to be held at Harvard-Westlake High School off Coldwater Canyon at 6 p.m.  But before that is my 6 a.m. coached swim workout.  Better get to bed.

161 days and counting.

From the Sea to the Mountains...

The late KABC-TV anchor, Jerry Dunphy, used to open his newscasts with a greeting along the lines of "From the desert to the sea, or wherever you may be, good evening."  (I know that's not exactly it.) That's what my day of training felt like today.  It started at 6:30 a.m. in Santa Monica for my first ocean speed circuit with the LA Tri Club.  We -- and by "we" I mean about 100 other folks -- met at Tower 26 off Ocean Park and Barnard Way, where we then swam out to a buoy about 250 yards offshore and triangulated back to the lifeguard tower.  We jogged the distance from the tower to the entry point, with the goal of completing at least three loops in the typical one hour allotment.

I was still feeling pretty crispy from the Fortius swim the evening prior, but had enough in the tank to complete three loops with fairly little effort.  The water was cold but manageable and especially salty.  I don't remember the water being as salty in Marina del Rey and Malibu. I'm not sure why that is.  I didn't really know too many people at the swim, but friendly faces Byron, Bob, Mo and Liana made my first experience pleasant.  Bob reminded me that some workouts just require you to show up and log the time.  This would be one of those days.

Of course, my training didn't stop there.  To conclude the day, I rejoined the LA Tri Clubbers at Griffith Park earlier this evening for our weekly brick.  We "only" had 1.75 hours instead of the usual 2.25, but it might as well have been that long based on how my legs felt and my heart-rate performed.  My bike ride was pretty pathetic, though I stayed mostly in heart-rate zone 2 on the climb up Mount Hollywood and managed to get out to the Griffith Observatory and back in just over an hour.  That's kind of encouraging since I didn't exert much effort but still got up the big hills without much trouble.  Still, I just didn't have much power in my legs and I have a 45-minute time trial tomorrow.  I need to find the extra power for that one.  Fortunately, my run was a pleasant surprise. Though I didn't feel great, I managed two sub-eight-minute miles at the end of he run, even getting down to around 7:30 without coming close to heart-rate zone 4.  I didn't expect to see that kind of progress after beating myself up the past few days.  I hope I can build on that moving forward.  We'll find out on Friday, when I have a tempo two-hour trail run with the last 5-8 miles in zone 3.  Wheee!

Perhaps the best part of the day came in the middle, when I visited the dermatologist.  A year ago at this time, I literally was receiving some very light radiation treatments on my face for some pre-cancerous growth on my nose.  Today, I received a 100% clean bill of health from the skin doctor, noting that I was progressing "perfectly."  Considering how often I'm outside, this was a huge relief.  I've been much better about using quality sunblock whenever I can, and it clearly has made a difference.  I can only urge my friends to please do the same, and PLEASE get checked out by a dermatologist.  Or at least have someone monitor your body for unusual moles and pigmentation.

We covered the sea.  We covered the Hollywood sign.  We covered Griffith Observatory.  We ran trails.  We ran on the road.

I think we did Jerry Dunphy justice today.

168 days and counting.

When Ya Gotta Go...

Warning: This is not one of my touchy-feely posts. In fact, it probably won't get much grosser than this.

Tune out now if you can't handle a little "dirty" humor.  And I mean yucky, not sexy.  Just to be clear.

Mom, I'm looking at you.

I never thought this would happen to me.  Before every race or even any training session, I get my bathroom breaks out of the way.  My innards "know" it's time to...ahem...release before I start training for an extended period.  This afternoon, at the weekly LA Tri Club Griffith Park brick, I got faked out by my digestive organs.

I'm sharing this because I think it's happened to all of us at some point.  Whether it's in a race or just practice...when ya gotta go...ya gotta go!  Usually we hope there's a port-o-potty nearby.  Sometimes, like during a trail run, there's just not.

The bike portion of the brick was just fine -- outside of what felt like a swirling headwind that kept our progress up Mt. Hollywood slow and steady.  It was the run that felt like it gave me the runs.

First off, it's a good thing I was running alone today.  (I had to leave early to attend a party with Steph's friends, which turned out to be a lot of fun.) Midway through the run, it was clear something wasn't agreeing with my stomach.  While my pace didn't really slow, let's just say I was re-enacting that famous scene from "Blazing Saddles" where everyone around the campfire is having a toot-fest.  Except I was alone, which meant I could kind of giggle a bit to myself. Jet power!  Because let's face it, no matter how old you are, farts are funny. They just are.  C'mon, you know it's true.

But what's less than funny is realizing that the next toot might not be so innocent.  And nobody wants to relive the movie scene from "Along Came Polly" with Phillip Seymour Hoffman realizing he just "sharted."  I don't think that word needs any explanation, by the way.

So, I had to find a quiet place to, well, uh, you know...poop.

Hey, everybody poops...sometime.

There are few things quite as embarrassing or demeaning than copping a squat in nature but feeling like the whole world is watching.  Whether they are or not doesn't matter, it's just that feeling of knowing you A) look pathetic B) couldn't hold it and C) don't have a magazine to read.

After covering up my creation, I continued my run issue-free. Yes, I felt a little lighter.  And if you know me really well, then you also know I may have had a bit of a guilty-silly grin the rest of the run.

Just don't tell anyone, OK?

Always a new adventure to be had in this sport, right?  This was the first time since junior high school a situation like this occurred.  I kinda hope its the last.

Now, I've got to be up in about six hours to jump in the pool.  Hopefully, issue-free there too. Good night!

175 days and counting.

Hammerin' the Conejo

This morning, Team Fortius participated in the 26th annual Cruisin' the Conejo bike ride across the Conejo Valley.

My ride was closer to "Hammerin' the Conejo."  The whole cruising part just didn't work out so well today.  Not that you're really surprised.

The ride was a last-minute (but very welcome) addition to our training schedule.  And to get it out of the way up front, I recommend this ride for anyone looking to see the Conejo Valley at its finest.  The route is fairly easy for riders of all levels. We didn't do a ton of climbing, most of the ride was flat, the wind was moderate and the temperature never got hire than the upper 70s. The rest stops, course marking and organizers are first-rate.  And as far as organized group rides in Southern California, I'd definitely put it ahead of the Cool Breeze Century in Ventura.

David, my teammate and friend (and sports massage therapist) and I chose the 68-mile "moderate" metric century, which would take us from Newbury Park to Westlake, into Oxnard, Camarillo, through Moorpark and my hometown of Simi Valley and back to Thousand Oaks/Newbury Park.  The climbing was moderate, but the pace was not.

We started the ride at 8 knowing we needed to be back in Los Angeles by 2 p.m. since David had a massage client at 3:30.  We knew we'd make our deadline if we were efficient on the bike.  Had we not had places to be and things to do, I think today's ride would have been a lot more mellow.  That, and David had a friend, John, who joined us.  John was a big guy who, in David's words, "liked to go fast."  I didn't realize how fast until we quickly lost at least three packs of riders on the course with us.

In fact, literally not one person passed all three of us for an extended period.  And, of course, my competitive side coming out BIG-TIME, absolutely nobody passed me on the course during my ride.  Once we realized we were among the best cyclists on the course, David, John and I made a friendly gentlemen's pact that nobody would pass us.  All day.  My kind of challenge.  Our piss-and-vinegar approach manifested itself the most during a roughly 10-mile stretch on Las Posas Road coming from Camarillo into Moorpark.  We formed a pace line and seriously hammered.  Coach Gerardo will see this soon enough via my Garmin 310x data, but let me just note up front I spent way more time than I should have in zone 5 on the heart-rate monitor.  I was in a cycling trance today.  That's the only way to describe it.  When I expressed my concern to David that maybe we were pushing too hard, he calmly noted that "it's good to get in a little speed work every once in a while."

Noted.  And check.

We took the pedal off the metal in Moorpark and into Simi Valley, where I had a visitor pop by to say hello: My father. He met us on the same road I used to bike as a kid with a Haro mountain bike when I'd gather the nerve to venture from Simi into the next time.  I remember vividly those afternoons with Frank and Jeremy, when we'd think we were practically like Magellan wondering if the world was indeed flat.  What's beyond the next town? What if we don't make it back by dark?  What if we get a flat tire?  Oh, the excitement!  Oh, how it was only 13 miles yet felt like 68.

Oh, how nice it was to ride on that road again for the first time in 20 years and think about how far I've come, and how lucky I was to be able to enjoy such a moment with my dad.

After Dad left, we ambled up Olsen Road and battled a headwind before rallying for the last stretch down Thousand Oaks Boulevard and onto Hillcrest Drive.  One rider in an Amgen kit tried to stay with John and me.  I was having none of it.  Not that far into the ride without having anyone pass.  This guy tried to pass me twice and on both occasions I floored it, the second time looking directly at him, smiling and saying "nice push" before dusting him the final two miles into the parking lot.

We rode 68 miles in just about 3:46, or an 18 mph pace.  We were on our road bikes since it was a group ride, so I'm very eager to give my TT bike a go and see if I can improve upon that, minus the elevated heart-rate.

I know I need to curb this competitive fire right now.  I've got so many more months of training and it's all about pacing and patience.

But I just couldn't help myself today.  Fortunately, there were some great recovery tools available at the end of the race...err...tour.  I was stretched out by a chiropractor truck and then David, John and I were treated to electro-therapy for 15 minutes to restore blood flow to our aching leg muscles.  What a trip!  My legs looked like they had a mind of their own the way they were dancing from all the electricity pulsating through them.  But I can say it worked.  My legs feel fine, and I can also partially attribute that to the 2XU compression calf sleeves I wore on the ride.  I can definitely tell a difference now when I wear them in terms of recovery and stability in my legs.  It might be a little mental (hey, so am I!), but I swear the compression tech works.

It had better.  I've got a swim with the LA Tri Club tomorrow along with a 1.75 hour running session.  I will have to take it a little easy on the run, I'm sure.

Unless someone faster tries to pass me.

Just kidding, Gerardo.  Kind of.

201 days and counting.

Inspired Exhaustion

I'm going on 11 hours of sleep spanning two-and-a-half days. I partied with my LA Tri Club and Fortius friends until 10 tonight.

I'm done. Tired.  Spent.  A short but hard work and training week is over.  Tomorrow I have the day off work for a company outing, which I can't wait for: Ironman 2!

Yep, that's how my company rolls!

I capped the week off in style though, taking Stephanie's and my friend Erin to the LA Tri Club's First Thursday event in Sherman Oaks.  It was a record crowd, close to 85 attended.  Watching a newcomer experience the LA Tri Club was a special treat for me.  Erin was truly inspired by everyone's enthusiasm, positive outlook and high energy.  She said the club represents the kind of people she would like to surround herself with, and I couldn't agree more.

I remember a few years ago after my first 5k race seeing an LA Tri Club tent and thinking, "Those guys are crazy!  Who has the time for that kind of training?!"

Now I know I've discovered a lifestyle for a lifetime.  Something that keeps me feeling younger and stronger as when I was in high school.

I'm eager for Erin to experience that same joy.

My evening revelry served as the perfect bookend for an equally inspiring morning.  After a strong swim with the Fortius team (including a 3:11 timed 200), I went home to ride on the bike trainer for 40 minutes.  One DVD made an ordinary ride anything but: The Ford Ironman Kona 2009 World Championships recap.  If you don't own this, buy it.  If you've seen it on YouTube, buy the real thing.

Watching the pros battle in the heat and learning about some of the other truly tear-jerking stories from random competitors swelled my heart with adrenaline and optimism.  I got the DVD as a consolation prize for not being selected to the 2010 Ironman Kona lottery, but I didn't realize how valuable a prize this video would be.  It will serve as my visual Bible for the next several months -- teaching, inspiring, illuminating in deeper and deeper ways every day.  I can relate to each athlete's struggle to overcome their own personal adversity to achieve something most other people will never comprehend.

Well, almost.  One athlete featured is a double-leg amputee who is a nationally recognized triathlete.

No matter how much I hurt or think I hurt, that guy has had it worse.  I will try to complain far less and always keep him in mind when I'm sore, frustrated or just not feelin' it.

So after a long string of days, after being so tired right now my 1,000-yard-stare has a 1,000-yard stare, I wish I could bottle up all the optimism and excitement blasting through my veins.  I know I'll need it for other days down the line.

Or maybe I can just resolve to have more optimistic and exciting days?

203 days and counting.