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.

A Near Podium Experience

So close, and yet so far.  Literally. That would describe my first near-podium experience at the Padres Stand For Hope 5k on a rainy, hail-infested Saturday.  The forecast called for near freezing temperatures and the possibility of snow at the 500-foot level.  No matter, as I had a 1.75 hour run to fit in, with the final 20 minutes being in zone 3.  Though Coach Gerardo gave me the green light to run as hard as I could if I felt up for it.  That's keeping in mind that I haven't run faster than a 7:30 mile in several months.

Normally, I wouldn't even bother with a 5k at this point in my Ironman training.  But my coach is allowing me to ramp up the speed work now as several of my teammates are training for sprint or Olympic-distance race.  This is as good as time as any for me to get that work in too before focusing on long-distance training the final few months.

Further, several co-workers at my company decided to run the race for charity and asked if I'd be interested in joining. I thought it would be good to run with my friends and cheer them on, and it was truly the best part of the race.  Seeing the looks of accomplishment (and exhaustion) on my friends' faces reminded me of my first 5k and my first few races.  I was truly happy for them.

Their successes ultimately were the highlight of the day.  The race itself was a disaster.  Total logistical nightmare. When I arrived at 6:30 a.m. to sign up early and begin my pre-race 1:20:00 run, volunteer crews were still trying to determine where to set up check-in and registration tents.  When it was my turn to register, the volunteers couldn't find bibs.  Now I don't want to sound like a race snob by any stretch.  I know most of these folks are volunteering for a great cause and have never participated in a race-like environment.  It just reminded me how grateful we should be for well-run races, where everything seemingly happens like clock-work yet there's a HUGE operation going on behind the scenes.

Not at this race though.

The starting gun blasted nearly an hour after it was supposed to.  I had already run 7.3 miles and was getting cold from waiting in the starting area for nearly 15 minutes after my warm-up run.  Once the run started, I had to quickly decide if I was going to push it or stick to a tempo-run finish.  As soon as I saw my Griffith Park running buddy and co-worker John dart ahead of me, I had my answer.

No way.  I'm not going to lose today.  It's in my nature.  No matter how painful the race may be, no matter if I'm unprepared to go that hard, I'm not going to lose without putting in my best effort.  I'm incapable.

Now I'm really glad I didn't sign up for Oceanside 70.3 recently.

I've attached my Garmin workout to show the progression of my run (though I forgot to click to "Other" instead of "cycling.")  You can see I had the best three running miles probably since the Nautica Malibu Triathlon last September: 7:07, 6:34, 6:13.

What propelled me?  Honestly, all I could think of was "PODIUM."  I kept repeating it in my head the whole time.  I knew that with poor weather -- it started hailing during the first mile of the race -- and with it being a slightly less competitive crowd than what I'm used to, I had a real chance to experience a top-five or better finish.  Every time my heart felt like it was going to give out, I reprimanded myself..."KEEP GOING!  PODIUM."




I started passing people.  John fell back.  My pace quickened. I kept trying to focus on form, but eventually I stopped thinking about that and focused on running as hard and fast as I could.  I'm convinced that if I had committed to the race even sooner - like right after the starting gun and not in the first quarter-mile, that perhaps I could have broken 20 minutes. That is my ultimate goal.

Well, I crossed the finish line at 20:29 by my watch, the same exact time and pace (6:36) I had at Desert Triathlon last year around the same time.  After staying around to congratulate my teammates and co-workers after they crossed the finish line, I went with John to see the posted results.

SECOND PLACE in age group!

I did it!!!!

FINALLY, a podium!  I was elated.  Even though it was a smaller race, I tasted my own sense of real victory for the first time. I called Steph immediately, and of course she was bummed because she wasn't there to witness it -- I made her stay home because of the weather and this not being an A-race by any stretch.

A while later, John and I went to collect our medals. That's when my elation turned to dejection.

Apparently, two other runners in my age group didn't have time chips but told race organizers they had run sub-20:00 times.  And for whatever reason, the race organizer gave them the second and third-place medals.

I had finished in fourth.


It was like the Breath of Life triathlon last June when I qualified for Nationals only to watch it fall away from a silly drafting penalty.

Can I catch a break?

Since this wasn't a huge deal to me and it's really about charity, I shrugged my shoulders, grumbled under my breath, and drove home.  As I have a day to think about it more, I realize how much I have to feel grateful for.  I'm no longer injured, quite clearly.  My training is paying off again, quite clearly. I equaled my 5k PR in my first real speed training of the year, and proved again to myself that if I work hard enough, I can run pretty fast.

It's not a medal, but it's close.

I'll take my near-podium experience and savor it just a bit.

114 days and counting.

Blowin' Off Steam

My day started off super crappy.  But training saved it.  That's the benefit of all this crazy triathlon training we do -- the insanity of it all keeps us sane. Because a contractor tried to shirk responsibility for a poor installation of my washing machine (there's a longer story you can email me about if you want to hear what happened), I arrived to Griffith Park this morning late and pissy.  Further, my Garmin watch strap popped loose, so I couldn't wear my watch on my wrist.  After fiddling with it for five minutes unsuccessfully, I tucked it into my chest pocket on my fleece and took off.  My run called for an hour of "moderate" trail running between heart-rate zones 1-4, with some moments in zone 5 if called for on inclines.  I ran by feel instead, but I knew I was moving quicker than normal.  My teeth and jaw were a little clenched as I was thinking of all the things I would have liked to have said to the contractor if I was quicker on my feet in the heat of an argument and NOT trying to be as polite.  This guy really pissed me off because at the core, I think he thought he could push me around.

Anyway, I found that the longer I ran, the less frustrated I became.  Yet my pace remained the same.  And the same hills I had trouble running up just a couple weeks ago were a LOT easier today.  Again, I think my body is finally fully recovered from IMAZ and the gains of my consistent training since January are paying off.  As my dad put it tonight in conversation, perhaps I need a little less to get a lot farther.

This was no more evident than tonight's unexpected 1,000-yard time trial in the pool with my Fortius teammates.  Before the workout, I told Coach Gerardo that he should be on Bonk Watch for me, as once again this was my third workout for the second time this week.

Once again, at the brink of exhaustion, I swam faster for 1,000 yards than I ever have in the pool.  Thanks to healthy pacing from my teammate and friend Mike, I crushed my previous best time of 17:57 from about a month ago and sailed to a new best: 16:36!

Are you kidding me!!?!?!?

Honestly, I still can't believe it. I really owe that to Mike's strong pacing, which fueled my competitive instincts and forced me to swim a little more balls-out than I wanted to, but at the same time saving room for a surge in the final 200 yards.

Honestly, today was perhaps one of my all-time best days of training.

And I have a jerky contractor to thank for it.

Maybe I should ask more people to piss me off?

117 days and counting.

Getting Better, All the Time

As I sit here writing my blog entry, I'm thinking of the classic song with the lyrics, "I've got to believe it's getting better, it's getting better...all the time." That's how I feel after my long bike ride on a sunny but chilly President's Day holiday.

Frank and I rode just shy of 64 miles and climbed roughly 3,700 feet over nearly four hours.  I'm excited to report that my ride included a successful 20 minute time trial in Simi Valley towards the beginning of the ride, with my average mph at 21.78 mph.  Granted, that's with a 1% downhilll most of the way, but there were uphills and a cross-wind, so I think it evens out a bit.

My reward was a brief visit at my dad's auto shop, where my mom promised me I wouldn't upload this photo.  Whoops!

While I pushed it on the bike for most of the remaining 50 miles, I still was able to run a few miles in zone 2 with my Newtons.  It was my third time out with them, and while I'll save the details for my actual Lava Magazine Online review, so far I like what I'm feeling.  Don't worry though, I'm taking every precaution to go slow for my first few runs.

Perhaps my favorite part of the ride is witnessing another strong effort from Frank. He's clearly regaining his power and stamina, which helped mold me into a better cyclist early in my training days.  Frank challenged me hard up Santa Susana Pass and through the first 45 miles of the ride.  I know we're not supposed to be competitive with our buddies, but for whatever reason, Frank forces me to bring out the best in my riding.  I can't help it.

I like where I'm at in my training now.  Like I've indicated recently, I can finally see strength and stamina gains.  Though I hate to jinx it -- the past several minutes have included an elevated body temperature and hotness behind the eye sockets.  Steph is sick at the moment...I hope I wasn't in the peak form that Mark Cavendish wrote about in his book -- which often led to immediate illness.  Fingers crossed!

Now it's time for stretching and chores.  But I'll be humming a certain song in my head while I do them.

120 days and counting.

PS: Here's my Garmin data from today's ride.  The pace is slower b/c I tacked on about 20 minutes of running while still on the "bike" setting.  But this is really where I'm at in my training from an overall viewpoint. Gotta regulate the HR a bit more on the bike but otherwise I'm feeling good!

Weekend Wrap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

121 days and counting.

New T-Pace

I have a new swimming T-pace.  It's eight seconds faster than the previous mark, 1:48/100 yards.  This has been confirmed after multiple sets of 500s at tonight's Fortius swim. My first indication of change in the water came during one of our early drills.  I was supposed to hit my T-pace in the third of five sets of 100 yards and go faster for the remaining two sets of 100s.  I started off way faster than anticipated, a brisk (for me) 1:37 without much effort.  Problem.  I was supposed to come in at 1:55, with the next set at 1:50. Problem again, as I "slowed" to 1:41.  Then 1:37, 1:33, 1:32.

This continued for the remaining two sets of 500.  More often than not, I came in at 1:40/100 with :20 rest, usually arriving closer to 1:37-1:39.

I suppose my real T-pace in the water in a non-stop 1,000 is still 1:48 as I'd imagine I'm slowing over the course of the TT.  But this still gives me hope of improvement on the horizon.  If I can maintain that 1:40 pace over longer distances, I'll really start saving some major time in events where I'm wearing a wetsuit.  And my swim times came after a fairly intense run early this morning at chilly Griffith Park.  I ran my first 7:30-ish mile pace in roughly six months.

My strength is coming back...nearly three months removed from Ironman Arizona.  I may have recovered physically a month ago, but I'm starting to see strength gains for the first time now.  Even my trainer, Shannan, indicated that "my nervous system is coming back online" based on the improvement in my coordination and agility in recent sessions.

Man, an Ironman sure takes a toll if I'm just starting to get my nervous system back in working athletic order now!

Anyway, it's really nice to see progress after being down in the dumps for so long.  If there's hope for me, there's hope for you too.  It just takes time.  And patience.  And a willingness to accept and trust the process of healing and rebuilding.

Not the easiest thing to do.

But certainly among the most worthwhile.

124 days and counting.

Swimming Breakthrough

It's late and I'm tired, but I'm still on a bit of a high after my first time-trial of the year.  It came in the pool, and though it was only 1,000 yards I'm very excited.  Maybe all this time off has actually paid off!? From a technique standpoint, it seems the breathing breakthrough from my Tuesday swim is paying immediate dividends.  I beat what I think was my previous best 1,000 in the pool by at least 23 seconds.  I accomplished this by breathing every four strokes instead of every two-three strokes, and generally from being more relaxed in the water.  Once I learned that I could swim more efficiently by holding more air in my lungs and letting it out gently, I realized how intensely I was swimming before -- and what that was doing to my oxygen intake and output.

If any of you are having a hard time swimming, I highly recommend this approach.  Though I think it's something you have to feel for yourself.  Trust yourself.  And I honestly think the more you enjoy being in the water, the easier it is to swim faster.  I know this because I used to fight the water, so to speak, and it showed in my splits.

I also think there's more going on here besides swim technique.  Perhaps it has something to do with nutrition and a new "super food" I've been experimenting with.  More on that tomorrow.

Right now I'm exhausted and need to go to bed.

166 days and counting.

Nine Hours of Awesome

I've trained nine hours this week, with another nine to go.  The last two days have been especially intense though.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.  I could have taken the easy way out. Coach Gerardo gave me only 16 hours originally but I asked/begged/demanded more work.  I'm so glad I did.  Finally, I can appreciate what he meant by embracing the challenge of the distances involved in my training.  Just getting through this week feels special. Today's workouts included a difficult 2,300-yard swim at 6 a.m. followed by cycling hill repeats and 20 minutes in zone three aero after that.  Two hours, 20 minutes of hard work.  My quads howled by the end of the bike workout, yet I felt so accomplished that I let out a primal yell to nobody in particular.  I didn't care if it startled people along the Griffith Park walkway or if people thought I was crazy.

We already know I am.  And by "we" I only mean you and me, not my "other" personalities.



Now I'm winding down for the evening, after a busy day of work.  A good day of work, I might add.  Despite my fatigue, I felt fresh in meetings and on my "A" game. My father shared an article with me about how a prominent business executive makes sure he's moving when he's thinking because it allows him to think better.  I believe there's something to that.  As long as I get enough rest and eat well, I definitely can see a connection between staying active and staying sharp.  I wonder if other people feel the same.  It's almost like fitness is the metaphorical equivalent of dressing up for work.  I used to find that if I dressed dapper in the office, my performance would follow suit. Now, toss out the tie, replace it with the bike shorts, and voila!

Tomorrow, we have a half-day off from work.  Despite my nine hours of torture -- training -- I'm inclined to work out some more.  I won't, because I can hear Gerardo from Texas telling me how bad of an idea that would be.

Can't peak too soon.

36 days and counting.

PS: I still need to compare my running threshold data from the last "official" test to yesterday's TT.  However, I think the last test measured a mile run and this was more about 20 minutes maintaining a certain heart rate and pace.  So it might be apples to oranges.  My first glance indicates I ran a mile 11 seconds faster yesterday and more miles in general.  Interestingly, my heart rate was roughly the same (high 160s).

Tri-Asshole Redux

Guess my Tri-Asshole blog post touched a nerve.  It was so nice to see y'all respond to the post, but to be honest, I'm fine about the whole episode.  At first, I'll admit my feelings were pretty hurt.  But I quickly realized that his comments reflected more on him than the race itself.  To be fair, I also know that Ironman Arizona is among the "easier" Ironman races. I picked it for a reason in that I wanted to enjoy my first Ironman and get my sea legs, so to speak.  And that's just what I'll do.  There's no shame in completing any Ironman of any kind.  Anyone who's ever embraced the spirit of the sport knows that. Back to spirit.  While Tri-Asshole and I interacted for only a few seconds on an elevator ride, that conversation has already yielded tangible gains in my training.  Tonight, I swam a 1:16/100, my new PR by a whopping SIX SECONDS.  I didn't know I had that in me at this stage of training. Coach Gerardo did, but I doubted him.  (When am I going to learn?) And that was after cycling 35 miles this morning that included a 75-minute zone-3 time trial.  AND, that swim PR came at the end of a 2,250-yard swim session with the Fortius gang tonight.

How did it happen?

It would certainly be more dramatic if I indicated that I had visions of smashing Tri-Asshole's face in while swimming to new heights (or is that lows, in this case).  But it's just not true. What Tri-Asshole did was simply motivate me to work harder the next few weeks.  To make sure I sweat just a bit more.  To not ease off on the gas pedal.  To not coast until after I cross the finish line.

I got a swift mental kick in the ass.  And I feel outstanding.

So, what I am saying is that I've turned a potentially mentally damaging situation into a healthy positive.  I'm not sure I would have reacted in quite that manner a year ago -- whether in the workplace or in the gym.  I do think endurance sports training has enabled me to find some mental and emotional padding that allows me to bounce back from stinging comments or even physical pain.  It is an invaluable asset in a chaotic world.

It just took a real jerk to remind me of that.

Before I finally go to sleep tonight, I'll be sure to think fondly of him.  I owe him one.

38 days and counting.

Flat But Functional

I'm procrastinating. In my office that serves as a bike garage (c'mon, you do it too!), there sits my tri bike.  She's got a flat front tire.  It will probably take me 30 minutes to change it, considering I haven't had a flat in a few months and I'm terribly slow when it comes to repairs.

While I may be physically tired from all the training, I am confident I will perform well in Arizona. I know the training will pay off.  What I don't know is how I'll respond if my bike has mechanical issues.  Actually, I do know that.  I'll respond poorly!

From here until Ironman, I need to force myself to change flats on my tri bike.  It could be the difference between a good race and a great one, or something far worse.

There may be a follow-up post tomorrow morning about my tube-changing adventure.

Fortunately, my patience is high after a great time-trial swim (1,500 yards, my longest pool TT yet) and a soothing lunchtime yoga session.  Today's training schedule was relatively light and the highlight -- besides my 1:40-1:48 T-pace (depending on how well I counted laps) -- was being able to leave work at 6:30 p.m. without thinking about another evening workout.  That's where I'm at in my training.  If I can grab free time that doesn't involve triathlon training, I'm happy.  It's so ironic that we do this for fun and yet sometimes it's the last thing we want to think or talk about.

Isn't this supposed to be a hobby!?

Anyways, since I felt smooth and efficient in the water despite my fatigue, it boosted my confidence for the remainder of the week.  I thought swimming 60 laps in the pool in one set would just be mental torture, but it wasn't too bad.  I broke it up mentally into 15x100 sets, which made the slog much more tolerable.  When it was all over, I was surprised I had room left for much more swimming.

That's how I know I'm getting in much better shape.  It takes a lot more to tire me out in one workout.  It's the cumulative effect I can't do much about.  That's why I'm having to be awakened by an alarm clock even with 8-9 hours sleep.

Tomorrow, it's time to revisit good ol' Griffith Park for 2.25 hours of trail running. Fortunately, I'll have my Fortius buddy Joe to keep me company.  He's faster than me so hopefully I'll be able to keep up, though the goal tomorrow is to keep my heart-rate in zones 1-3.  Easier said than done when I'm trying to catch a rabbit.

And so it goes. Another day of two-hour workouts down.  Another day of two-hour workouts to go.

And now, it's time to fix a flat tire.

I just realized that metaphorically speaking, I am that flat tire right now.  I can barely function in my current state.  I could use a little inflation.  I need to put in the extra time to get right, so to speak.

Heh, hopefully I'll be pumped tomorrow!

57 days and counting.