450th Blog Post

I wrote my 450th blog post last night. Surprisingly, I have little to say about it.  Today was an ordinary day of training. An hour of hilly interval running on a treadmill, followed later by an hour strength session with Shannan.  Followed by a massage tonight with David from LA Body Mechanics.

What started off as a bizarre, frustrating, confounding, taxing ritual has become routine for me.  An everyday habit.  A lifestyle.  I rarely think about it anymore, how what seems like an insane amount of training to most people has become "just another training day" for me.  And I don't mean that to sound boastful in any way.  It's just an observation.

I never thought the day would come when 2-3 hours a day of training during the week would just be normal.  But it is.  And yet in a month's time, it may come to an end.

I'm not sure I'm ready for that.  I've become wed to this lifestyle, some might say addicted.  I wake up every day with a sense of purpose and passion to take care of myself and push just a little harder to go faster, or be stronger than the day before.  Each day fuels the next.

Tomorrow morning, I'm getting up at 5 a.m. to do a three-hour brick before work.  I'm not looking forward to waking up early, but what really bums me out in a weird way is that on June 27, the day after Ironman Coeur d'Alene, I won't have any reason for the rest of the summer or fall to wake up early to train.  No races on the calendar.  Just me, my conditioning, and lots of time.

I'm worried my life is going to go from 90 miles an hour to what feels like 20. Of course, I'm definitely looking forward to spending a lot more time with Stephanie, my family and my friends.  I love that aspect of "Family and Friends First" that will become my mantra again at least through the fall. I just wonder if I'll hold out that long from resuming training.  I've adopted a lifestyle I truly love, yet it's not necessarily a balanced one.

Finding the point of harmony between two worlds may be my focus for the next 450 blog posts.  I'm sure that balance exists.  But this iron mad man hasn't found it yet.

After 450 blog posts, I'm definitely a work in progress.  But the person I was at Post 1 is far different than the person typing before you at this moment.

What would I tell my "Post 1" self if I could send him a note?

I think I would look at him, smile, and laugh just a little while shaking my head.

"Dude, you have no idea."

27 days and counting.

1 Month to Go!

Of course, you wouldn't know it's one month until IM CDA as once again my math skills are subpar.  My internal counting clock is off by a day. Let's hope I show up on time in Coeur d'Alene!

Today, Coach Gerardo shared the rest of my schedule with me leading up to the race.  This week is about 21 hours, next week is around 18 and the remainder of my training will hover in the 12-13-hour range.  So, two more big weeks and then we'll ease off the gas.  Then again, I've never quite felt my foot on the physical accelerator that much this season.  That's not to say I haven't been training hard -- I've given this everything I've got in the tank just to survive it all.  But it just goes to show the difference experience can make.  The stillness, relaxation and sense of confident purpose is having a real effect on my body, allowing me to keep weight on more easily this time around while remaining "dialed in" for race day.

If race day were tomorrow I'd welcome it with open arms.  Unlike last season towards the end of Ironman training, I don't feel like I'm cramming for a final exam with the last big training sessions.  Look, I've been on a performance plateau for around six months now.  An extra big bike ride or long swim won't make or break my Ironman, so I might as well chill out about the whole thing.

One month to go. What will I be feeling and thinking at this time in June?  Will I be celebrating finishing the race the way I intended, or will I be glad just to get to the finish line?  During my training workouts, when I have more time to let my mind wander, I think I'm going to visualize going through the entire race.  I keep reading and hearing pro athletes and coaches talk about the importance of visualization.  This Saturday, when I'm participating in the Heartbreak 100 ride in Lebec, will be a good time to start.

One month to go.  I'm savoring every moment.  Every memory.  Absorbing every detail of every workout I can.  These are likely the last real days of having the freedom to train like this for many years to come.  Sure, I'll do Olympic triathlons and 70.3 races, but maybe not an Ironman.  I've said that before.  So even the hard workouts are becoming more enjoyable.  Just for the sheer joy of having the free time to do them.  For doing something for myself.

One month to go.

31 days and counting.

10 Triathlete Plagues

In the spirit of Passover and my second Seder, here are what I consider to be the 10 Plagues of Triathlon. For those of you who don't know (which is totally OK), when Pharaoh in Egypt wouldn't let the Israelites go, G-d told Moses that 10 terrible plagues would haunt Egyptians until their leader decided to free the enslaved Jews.  They included gruesome stuff like blood, frogs, gnats, boils, locusts, darkness and the slaying of the first-born Egyptians.  Of course, this is where the term Passover comes from, since G-d also mentioned to the Israelites that they should sacrifice a lamb and spread the blood on their doorposts so G-d knew to "pass over" those homes when exacting the final plague.

Whether you believe this is up to you, obviously.  I'm merely relating the story as it's been relayed to me for the past 36 years!

Anyway, if G-d were to do that to triathletes, here's what would surely test our will:

-- Flat tires

-- Gale-force headwinds

-- Frigid cold

-- Oil slicks

-- Hurricanes

-- Sharks

-- Texting car drivers

-- Humidity

-- Bike thieves

And the 10th plague, the worst of all, would be...

Being unable to participate in this awesome sport.

What would your 10th plague be?

Happy Passover, or Easter!

64 days and counting.

10 Years Ago

So often in my blogging, I tend to focus on how I've changed over the past year or so.  But today marks an even more substantial milestone in my life.  Ten years ago, I quit my job, car, apartment and all trappings of a "normal" life.  I took my life savings, crammed it all into a backpack, and jumped on a plane to Europe to live in hostels unknown for three months. What a risk!  What a thrill!

It was the best, most important decision I had ever made.  The decision that has led to so many other important decisions in my life.   That moment in life taught me that the unknown is a GOOD thing.  While the idea of the "bad" stuff can be scary, the risk of not knowing and missing something beautifully unforgettable is even worse.

I have no doubt that without taking this risk 10 years ago, I wouldn't have had the balls to fully commit in my relationship with Stephanie because of our cultural and religious differences.  I'm truly amazed at how life is like a giant dominoes experiment sometimes.

What's funny though is that in life, as in dominoes cascades, you can sometimes be lucky enough to arrange the tiles and tip them at just the right moment to get the result you want.  I was lucky enough to place the dominos to fall in my favor, and even luckier that my unintended Rube Goldberg experiment has gone off without too many hitches.  Though to be fair, when I came back from Europe, the job that was supposed to be waiting for me had vanished --victim to a merger.  I was jobless for six months, and showed up to my 10-year high school reunion living at home with my parents, with platinum-dyed hair, a bushy goatee, and driving my parents' beat-up Oldsmobile Cutlass.

I was voted Most Likely to Succeed in high school.  You can imagine the delicious irony showing up to my reunion in such style.

I'd still do it all over again, without changing a thing.

But what the hell does this have to do with triathlon?

Simple.  Triathlons are scary.  There's that whole open-water swimming thing.  And with sharks!?  Why would anybody want to do that???  And oy, the cycling!  You can fall and die or get paralyized so easily! (Heck, I almost did a few years ago.)  Don't even get me started on the running either.  You could fall over and die like all these other runners out there when they get heart attacks and keel over.

Ironman!?!?!  You can't be serious!!!???

Life is scary.  Expectations are scarier.  Pressure can be terrifying.

But the risk is worth the reward, in my opinion.  Whether deciding to buck what your parents want, or a lucrative job, or a nice car, -- or in our case what people think of our "lifestyle" -- what matters is getting the most out of life.

Ten years ago, I made a choice to do just that.

I haven't looked back since.

And if you're reading this blog, I suspect you're not either.

68 days and counting.


Some people listen to music when they run.   But you can't really do it in races, so I generally avoid it. Some people listen to the music in their heads, which can be helpful come race day.  In training, that often devolves into endless repeats of the most annoying music on earth.  Most recently, that has meant Ke$ha and The Addams Family theme song (thank you David Wachtel.)


So what do I do instead?  Lately, I've been counting silently, as in 1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2... for what seems like hours on end.  I'm sure you've done the same at some point, to keep that cadence high and your gait efficient.  Since my buddy Greg Moe taught me about the value of maintaining between 180-184 steps per minute when running, it's all I can think about on the course.  I've improved to where I can maintain a 90-92 left-foot steps per minute pace on a consistent basis, and now feel comfortable enough working with my buddy John to help him get there as well.

John and I met at Griffith Park this morning at 7 for a lightly-paced run focused on technical training and form.  When we started our first cadence drill, John was around 80 one-foot steps per minute.  However, I should first preface this by indicating that is working for John.  He placed second in his age group at a 10k in Encino last weekend, earning a handshake and a medal from none other than Rafer Johnson.  Yep, THAT Rafer Johnson (are there others though?).  So, John doesn't really need running tutelage per se.  We just wanted to experiment if we could make John run faster, with higher cadence, while keeping his heart-rate the same.

And we did.

By the end of our six-mile jog, John was running well ahead of me while maintaining a steady heart-rate...and his cadence jumped 10 steps per minute to a consistent 90.  Well done!

Though John went much faster than me, it was like I was running faster as well.  I'm not saying I've caught the coaching bug by any stretch.  But I admit to taking a certain amount of pride in watching John smile and enjoy his run just a bit more, and feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Maybe when all this training and racing subsides a bit, perhaps one day I will try to coach more.  If it's anything like what I felt today, then it just might be the best-kept secret of triathlon -- coaching is as good as racing.

69 days and counting.

400 Blog Posts

There's a lot I could write about over the past two days.  I had a solid run on the treadmill on Friday, amping up the intensity while picturing all my friends racing at Coeur d'Alene that I want to beat.  (Yes, I'm a tad competitive, in case you didn't know already.)  I could write about how my running is falling behind at the expense of cycling and swimming, causing Coach Gerardo to question whether I could run a half-marathon next weekend or how I'd even do at Wildflower in a few weeks.  (Totally reasonable on his part, so no disagreements there.) Instead, I'm going to write just a bit about hitting the 400th blog post of the site on Thursday night.

I never expected I'd still be writing almost every day when I first created the site in 2009.  But here we are.  Honestly, I can't imagine not writing here!  The blog is as much a part of my training as my bike.  It helps me sort through the madness and monotony of Ironman training.  While I'm admittedly facing burnout issues at the moment, I think they would have occurred far sooner had it not been for being able to find something unique in almost every workout I complete.

What's especially interesting to me is what the next 400 posts might look like.  I think my full Ironman days will be behind me.  But I'll be attacking half-Ironman distance events and Olympics as fiercely as ever.  Still, I wonder if there's something more.  In fact, I know there is.  I just have to figure out what that "it" is.  Is there a charitable angle I want to explore?  Maybe.  A self-published book?  Possibly.I dunno.

I do know it's late and raining, and I'm tired.  Frank, Chris, Murray and I climbed 5,000 feet today and did close to 60 miles on the bike.  Then, I swam 2,500 yards, basically 50 minutes non-stop.  I'm mentally woozy and physically spent.

Back to the blogging thing for a moment.  If YOU were writing a blog, what would you be saying about your training right now?  What insights are you internalizing that could help you have a major breakthrough in your workouts? What's holding you back?  Why?  What's worth celebrating?  Why haven't you then?

If you haven't made one blog post there's never been a better time than right now.  Tri season is beginning.  It's just the start of something special for you.  Why not commemorate it with something that will last longer than the hat, T-shirt, visor or medal you'll receive after finishing the big race?  Remember, the process is just as important as the destination.

Perhaps the journey of 400 blog posts begins with a single word.

94 days and counting.

1 Step Backward, 1 Step Forward

I had to write my first "race exemption" email today, and I didn't like how it felt. The Los Angeles 13.1 Marathon is this Sunday.  I signed up shortly after completing Ironman Arizona, thinking that more running would equate to becoming a better runner.  I desperately wanted to improve my marathon time, and figured I'd be fine to resume training after about two weeks off. Unfortunately, while my heart has and continues to be willing, my body just hasn't quite cooperated.  That's not to say my recovery is going poorly.  Far from it, once I accepted and embraced that I needed a recovery period.  I'm feeling stronger every day now and my lingering leg pains are starting to subside.  But the point is that I don't really need this half-marathon, or my Surf City full marathon in a few weeks, to elevate my running.  I didn't know that at the time, though a few of you tried to warn me.  More running can equal more pain.

Still, the frustration at having to bow out of a race gnaws at me. On one hand, I know I'm doing the smart thing.  I keep telling myself, "follow the plan," repeating that mantra daily with each workout.  On the other hand, I feel like I've failed myself by not being able to perform.  It's like some joker pointing his finger at me and saying with a laugh, "You're getting older!"  What's more frustrating though is that I know I could have completed the half-marathon this Sunday.  I might have done it at my current Ironman pace, but I could have run it.  However, at what cost?  My psoas might have tightened up. Or my knee tightness may have increased.

Further, now I can continue to work on improving my new fore-foot strike running technique, which is much more valuable.  There's no pressure of an upcoming race to worry about to take me off my drill work, though I do plan to turn my Surf City marathon into a half-marathon run since I have so many friends doing it too.

So today is a bittersweet day for me as a triathlete.  By taking a step backward physically, I think I've taken a step forward mentally.  I'm practicing what I've been preaching lately.  I'm going to work on getting faster by forcing myself to go a little slower.

For us Type A personalities, that's about the hardest thing there is to do!  Outside of completing an Ironman.

162 days and counting.

2 Weeks!

Two weeks from tonight, I'll be collapsed in my hotel room, hopefully elated with the performance I worked for and (I believe) earned. Yet it still doesn't feel totally real. For instance, despite a year of training, I felt a pang of anxiety when I realized tonight that the next Ironman on the official schedule is...mine.  There's nothing else to look forward to.  No other friends to cheer on.  No other teammates to send off.

It's just me and a date that approaches more quickly every day.

If today's workout is any indication, I'm definitely close to being ready.  Bob, my fellow Fortius and IMAZ teammate, joined me this morning for a full tri-workout.  We swam at Zuma in clear, crisp 62-degree water for 45 minutes.  I experimented with compression shorts in the water instead of a swimsuit, as well as compression calf sleeves. I liked it overall.  The calf sleeves rolled up on my leg a bit but I think that was after I took off the wetsuit, not while wearing it.  I think I'll go with that strategy at Ironman.  Any edge I think I can get.  Following a fairly leisurely transition (what a gorgeous day out!), I did my very best to hold onto Bob's wheel as we hammered out to Big Rock and back.  I succeeded for the first half of the ride as we belted out several 21-plus mph miles, but the second half of the ride, Bob stopped toying with me and simply took off.  He very well may break five hours for his bike split at IMAZ if he wanted to.  Finally, we embarked on a 90-minute run while trying to stay in heart-rate zones 2-3.  We were successful, completing just around 9.6 miles in that span on a flat course.  I needed that run following last Sunday's blow-up in Calabasas.  I know I can hold my heart-rate steady for several miles but I'll need the weather and wind to cooperate, as well as my own ability to stick to my race plan.  Today, the wind was moderate and the temperature was around 70 when Bob and I started running at noon.

Now, it's getting late (for an old guy like me).  I'm typing, reflecting about the past week.  With the exception of a couple monster swims, this past week truly felt like what I expected a taper should be.  Relaxed.  Moderate.  Fun.

With the occasional balls-out bike sprint thrown in for good measure.

14 days and counting.

300 Posts

OK, this is my 301st blog post, for those of you keeping score. That's 300 times over the past year where I gathered my thoughts, positive or negative, and shared them in this space.  If roughly each post is around 250 words (probably more, but we'll play it conservative), that's around 75,000 words combined.

That's also a lot of time to spend dwelling on one goal.

So, what have I learned so far?

-- I've learned that Ironman is much more about mental toughness rather than physical toughness.

-- I've learned I really don't like getting meals from bars and gels.  But if ya gotta do it, Clif Bars and chocolate Hammer gel work just fine.

-- I've learned that the hardest workouts, not the best workouts, are the most gratifying.  Sometimes just getting by is all the accomplishment one needs.

-- I've learned that the body is a delicate machine that requires constant care and feeding (literally) to perform at optimum levels.

-- I've also learned that ice baths are worth the shocking pain a man can get in the worst of places while taking them.

-- I've learned that just when you think you've spent enough on all the triathlon gear you'll need, there's something new to buy.

-- I've learned that without a supportive partner, friends and family, triathlon is the loneliest of pursuits.  And without that same support on race day, completing a triathlon is among the emptiest of accomplishments.

-- I've learned that how far I can push myself is a moving target based on my conditioning and my mental state.  In other words, it is up to me.

-- I've learned that while you have to do the actual work, a coach will make that work count for more.  I can't say enough good things about Coach Gerardo.

-- I've also learned that having a group of training partners to help push you forward is unspeakably valuable.  I can't imagine having trained for nearly a year at this point without them.

-- I've learned that honesty and vulnerability regarding my feelings make me stronger, not weaker.

-- I've learned that blogging helps me gain perspective on my training that in turn combats burnout since I can learn to take a small nugget from practically every workout.

-- I've learned how to take care of myself for the rest of my life by leading a healthy lifestyle.

-- I've learned that consistent physical training can help me make better, more creative decisions in the workplace.

-- I've learned to appreciate my training off days.

-- I've learned to tolerate my upstairs neighbor.  That little bitch.

-- I've learned that chlorine is powerful stuff.  It corrodes swimsuits, hardens skin and lightens hair. Yikes!

-- I've learned I'm a much different person today than I was when I started Ironman training.  Perhaps I've seen more physical, spiritual and emotional growth over the past year than during any other point in my life.

-- I've learned that no matter what happens on November 21, I've done the work to be called an Ironman.

Thank you for sharing that journey with me.

20 days and counting.

2011 Goals

Over fatty muffins and sugary hot chocolate at Starbucks, Coach Gerardo and I plotted my goals for the 2011 triathlon season. To say they're ambitious would be accurate, and probably an understatement.  Especially since I haven't even completed my first Ironman yet!

In fact, my 2011 goals are so ambitious that Coach Gerardo indicated I shouldn't share them publicly as it may create undo pressure for myself.  I know this could be true since I've recently spoken two sport psychologists about blogging affecting triathlon performance.  So, I didn't argue.  As much as I'd like to share my goals with you, I'm not.  I will say this: I'm going to be training hard -- very hard -- for strong performances at the Cheseboro Half Marathon, Wildflower Long Course and Ironman Coeur d'Alene.  Between those events, you'll find me back at the Surf City Half Marathon and Desert Triathlon in Palm Desert.  I'm more excited about competing in my first cycling road race next year.  Stephanie and I are going to choose that race together, which will be fun.

Despite the excitement about looking ahead to next year, I'm feeling apprehensive about doing so.  It's like the feeling baseball players must have when a teammate is pitching a no-hitter.  I just want to focus on the batter at the plate -- in this instance the next day of training tomorrow -- and not the possibility of something so large and ominous.  Not when I can't even call myself a true Ironman yet.

So, for now, I'll continue training.  And dreaming just a little about next year too.

81 days and counting.

5 Day Energy Drink, Please

No blogging last night.  Got home at 1 a.m. after waiting 40 minutes to leave the bottom floor of the Hollywood & Highland parking garage following a stellar Dave Matthews Band concert.  I hadn't been much of a DMB fan since the late 90s, but that didn't matter last night.  My family convened to celebrate my dad's 64th birthday, though it was a surprise for him since he didn't know Steph, my sister Dana and her boyfriend Craig were also coming.  We bounced, clapped and swayed our way through the evening, laughing, singing and joking with one another.  Truly a memorable night -- except for the long wait to get home. Which leaves me scrambling for some energy tonight, despite still managing nearly eight hours of sleep by skipping my morning swim workout.  I'm heading to the pool in about 15 minutes, wondering where the energy to avoid sinking is going to come from.  The cumulative effects of a hard Saturday century ride followed by a long Sunday morning trail run, strength training, last night's concert, and today's 40-minute "slow" heart-rate zone 1 treadmill run have added up.  I really dislike admitting I'm tired, but I just am.  With a long-course triathlon race on Saturday (Santa Barbara Triathlon), I'm getting concerned that I won't have enough energy in the tank by week's end.  Coach Gerardo has assured me that tomorrow's tempo brick should further prepare me for Saturday, while if needed I can skip the Thursday evening track workout.

Honestly, that sounds quite appealing right about now.  I wish I had one of those 5 Hour Energy Drinks but instead could call it a 5 DAY Energy Drink to get me through the rest of the week!

It's only Tuesday?  Really???

88 days and counting.

100 Days & Counting

I can't believe it. Starting tomorrow, I will have crossed into a double-digits countdown until Ironman Arizona.  Nevermind that there's currently no place to swim for the event.  We won't concern ourselves with that trivial detail for the time being.

I've written approximately 230 blog posts to date on the Ironmadman website (plus dozens of other posts on the Blogspot site).  Each one trying to capture some nugget, some detail about my training that I can internalize for the future.  A mental file folder I can click open in my brain when I need it during a race.  When I pause to think about all those file folders I've accumulated during this now 10-month Ironman journey that began last fall, I recall one sentence that Coach Gerardo spoke very early into my training.

"By the time you get to your Ironman, you won't recognize yourself."

He's right, both physically and mentally.

Physically, I've lost close to 10 pounds (from where???). I have muscular definition for the first time in my life.  I can see what vaguely appears to be a six pack on my abs.  I can see the little veins on my biceps that I had wished showed up in high school.  For the longest time, I didn't even think I had veins there!  Like maybe I was a reverse genetic defect.  My quads are getting so big that certain pairs of pants are starting not to fit because my legs have no room to breathe.  Believe it or not, that used to be how my waistline felt when trying to squeeze into a pair of Diesels that Stephanie bought for me.  Now I can wear them without a belt.

Mentally, I've changed even more.  I've learned that toughness comes from within, not from how long I might last in a martial arts studio sparring session -- as was the case with my prior passion. I've also learned that my personality is uniquely suited for triathlon.  The sport rewards tenaciousness.  Grit.  Hard-work. Sacrifice.  Guile.  G-d given talent alone doesn't propel the best triathletes to the podium.  While innate skill certainly helps, in my opinion it's a triathlete's sense of will and want that determines wins on race day.

I won't necessarily be faster than the competition, but I can outwork them.  I can out-grind them.  I can out-will them.

Of course, this is my big-picture assessment so far.  I've got a lot more training to go.  Zooming back in to the past 100 days, here are my top 10 lessons learned.

1) Pain is on a sliding scale relative to rest, recovery and nutrition.

Pain can be managed and mitigated.  It can be compartmentalized too, but it requires training just like speed workouts at the track or five-hour marathon rides in the Malibu hills.  There are triggers for pain that can be neutralized with proper training as well.  That's where rest, recovery and nutrition come in.  I've definitely performed better when I have between 7-8 hours sleep over a few days, when I've been able to stretch in the morning and at night, and when I'm not eating fast food (which is rare now) or over-eating in general.

2) Know when to push and when to hold back.

This is critical for intensive training.  You can't go at Mach 5 every workout.  I've had to learn to prioritize.  For example, last night I ran with less intensity during the run portion of the Griffith Park brick knowing I had a 6 a.m. swim workout today and what would be a grueling speed session at the track (5x800s at 10k pace, one mile at 6:00 pace).  I didn't hit all my goals during this evening's track session, but I had enough energy to finish strong.  I've also learned when to push within workouts, whether it's that one hill I'm trying to climb faster than last week or saving myself for the inevitable timed 100 during the swim workout.  Practice pacing translates to proper race pacing.

3) Hard training pays off on race day.

While I've learned to pace myself better during training, I'm still going pretty hard every session.  I know I'll only get out of my workouts what I put into them.  So I generally put in everything I have.  What this has allowed me to do is find that extra reservoir of strength and power come race day.  I know what exhaustion feels like.   I know what my body can handle.  And I know when I can dig to find that precious extra energy at just the right moment when I need it most.  This has propelled me to strong finishes at Breath of Life and Wildflower, not to mention surviving the final three miles at the Vineman 70.3.

4) So does having the right equipment.

Of course, this past 100 days have been highlighted by the addition of my Charlie, my Cervelo P2 tri bike. Combined with the Bontrager/Hed Aeolus 5 race wheels, I've picked up about 2 mph on the bike.  As the great Ferris Bueller once said: "It is so choice.  If you have the means, I highly suggest picking one up." He was talking about a Ferrari, but you get the point.

5) In swimming, competitive fire can replace form when it comes to gaining speed.

Some swimmers are graceful and fast.  Others, like me, are ugly to watch.  When I'm sprinting, I'm splashing.  Flailing.  But I'm also hauling ass.  It may not be pretty to watch, but if I'm pitted against someone in a 50-yard sprint, I like my chances to win.  I simply hate losing, and I've learned through the Fortius-coached workouts that I'll do damn near anything to avoid it.  I treat every practice race like a real one, and honestly I think it translates when the real starting gun goes off.

6) I need to find a way to generate more income to help pay for this sport!

I recently got a credit card bill that dropped my jaw and bugged my eyes out.  I was reminded how expensive this sport can be, and that with a wedding coming up I really need to be more careful about which events I participate in, where are they located and whether I truly need that next "must-have" piece of equipment (current obsession is a power meter).

My solution: Returning to freelance writing.  For triathlon only.  So, if you know of any magazine, newsletter or blog site looking for experienced writers, please let me know!

7) 70.3 doesn’t feel that different than an Olympic tri if you train right...

With the exception of some dehydration issues, completing my first Half Ironman didn't feel that different from completing my first Olympic triathlon.  If you follow a training plan for a prescribed distance, that volume of work and effort should bring you to the finish line.  Now I won't say you'll get there pain-free, but with the right regimen it is a lot easier than you think.  Dedication and commitment can make all the difference.

8 ) ...Which is why having a coach makes a huge difference.

That said, my first Olympic triathlon was a solo effort.  I had no coach, no plan, and ultimately no clue.  I overate and drank on the bike and cramped on the run, finishing in three hours on the dot.  Now that I'm part of a coached team, I've never cramped in a race (knocks on couch) while knocking off more than 30 minutes from my Olympic triathlon PR.  Yesterday I detailed why coached swim workouts are so beneficial.  Multiply that times the bike and run, along with the intangibles associated with the camaraderie and it's easy to see why I'm feeling so good about my health and life outlook.

9) Supplements: Proceed at your own risk.

I tried beta alanine over the past few weeks and while I can feel the benefits during a workout (increased energy), I also have experienced negative side effects that affected my sleep patterns.  However, before I ingested my first beta alanine pill, I did research on it.  And made sure it wasn't an illegal performance enhancer (it's not).  I hope you'll do the same for any nutritional aid.  And don't just assume that because it works for your buddy, it'll work for you too.  Every body is different.  Every metabolism works differently.

10) Be a fan.

It's shocking to me that the biggest lesson I learned from my training the past 100 days came while watching other people race.  My experience at Vineman Full was so eye-opening.  It felt just as good as to cheer on others as it did to race myself.  I enjoyed witnessing the purity of the sport at its finest without worrying about all the anxiety associated with negative splits, quick transition times and proper pacing.  I will remember watching Rusty and my other friends finish their first 140.6 event much more than I'll recall most of the individual workouts I've logged the past few months. If you haven't supported someone by attending their race, DO IT.  Even if you're not a fan of the sport, I bet the life stories in motion will make you reassess your own goals and priorities.

I'd say the last 100 days have been quite fruitful.  In feeling stronger, I feel wiser.

In the next 100 days, I may or may not become an Ironman officially -- depending on the water situation in Tempe.  But no matter what, I feel like I've developed an Ironman mentality that will carry me through the rest of my days.

I can't believe I still have another 100 days to go though!

I wonder what's beyond the horizon.

100 days and counting

1,000 Yard Stare Saturday

I've got the 1,000-yard stare down cold today.  That unmistakable look worn by those who have pushed themselves either to their physical or mental limits, or both. Four hours on the bike with a monster climb followed by an hour run can do that.  (Thank goodness I opted to bring the road bike today and not the tri bike!)  I haven't uploaded the Garmin data yet, but I think I burned north of 2,000 calories today.  The amazing thing to me is that I didn't even come all that close to completing a 70.3-mile distance and I'm pretty spent.  Granted, I dipped into heart-rate zone 5 on the bike and zone 4 on the run a little too.  But still, I didn't swim, biked two miles longer than the standard Half-Ironman 56 miles, and essentially ran half of a half-marathon.  Total time: roughly 4:50.

I know I'll be fine in less than two months when the starting gun at Vineman goes off.  But getting to that point now is harder than I realized.  I'm climbing a new fitness peak after plateau-ing the past few weeks.

Speaking of climbing, my Fortius teammates and I slogged our way up the big peak on Portrero Road.  Most people carefully steer down that road at very cautious speeds.  The climb was most certainly the steepest I've ever encountered, and it didn't help that I was accidentally in my big ring -- which I didn't realize until the peak when I started my descent and tried to switch into that gearing.  Darn it, I was already there!  That would explain the 35-45 rpms up the hill and feeling like I was going to tip over at any moment. The upside, of course, was the next big climb of the day -- "baby" Portrero hill by Sly Stallone's house -- was much, much easier.

The "toughest luck of the day" award went to none other than Fortius teammate and friend Mike.  He got a flat as we started our big Portrero climb... and then a bee flew into his helmet on the way down the hill and he got stung on the head!  As weird as that sounds, almost exactly the same thing happened to me in 2008 when I was a rookie rider with the San Fernando Valley Bike Club.  The only difference was that I got stung by a yellow jacket, and I was all alone.

For me, the best part of today's bike ride was cycling on some of the roads on tomorrow's final stage of the Amgen Tour of California.  The same streets I ride on regularly will now be considered holy as the likes of Cavendish, Shleck, Zebriskie, Leipheimer and all the other amazing pros blast through them.  I can't wait for them to show me how it's really supposed to look.

That's all I got for today.  I'm going to watch the Amgen Tour of California time trials on Versus, go to Fortius Coach Ray's house to try on our new K-Swiss sample racing team kits (woohoo!) and get ready for Stephanie to head back into town after a night out in Palm Springs with her best friend.  Go go go!

One last note.  I'm inside of six months until Ironman Arizona on November 21.  Yet my blog countdown is WAY off.  I'm nine days off.  So, I'm resetting my countdown clock to 179 days and counting with this post.

Wait for it...

179 DAYS AND COUNTING!!! Less than six months to go!

200 Days to Go: What I've Learned So Far

OK, it's 196 days and counting, but I've been thinking about this post for four days now.  That counts for something, right? I've written 159 blog posts, not including this one.  Which means I've trained for Ironman Arizona slightly longer than that.  I had some basic observations at the 50 post mark that are pretty quaint.

One-hundred posts later, what have I learned?

Here's my updated Top 10 Things I've Learned About Ironman Training.  For those of you reading, I'd sure love to see your top 10!

10) Better equipment can make a difference.  See yesterday's blog post.

9) Triathlon is an f-ing expensive sport!  See yesterday's blog post.

8 Compression apparel works.  My calves feel more refreshed when I wear them.

7) Writing a blog post every day is a lot like training for a triathlon.  You have to pace yourself, realize that some days are better than others, and that it's a largely solitary endeavor.

6) Triathlon is much more enjoyable when it's a team effort.  Not just a triathlon team or club, but when you have a partner actively supporting and encouraging you. Thanks, Steph.

5) You get much more out of triathlon than what you put in in terms of caring and sharing.  But the latter feels better.  Wildflower taught me that.

4) The mind is so much more powerful than any muscle in the body.  I've overcome hunger, pain, and illness to finish what I've started.  My willpower has grown during this journey as much as my stamina or strength.

3) Increased intake of fruits and vegetables can replace multivitamins -- thanks to stuff I didn't previously like that I now crave (oranges, avocado, tomatoes).  I stopped taking a daily multivitamin weeks ago after increasing my berries and orange intake.  I haven't felt an energy dip.

2) I am really damn competitive.  I kinda knew that already, but this sport has shown me that I'm almost obsessive about it.  Can't tell yet if it's a positive or negative.  I suppose it depends on what my willpower is telling me.

1) Triathlon training or races cannot be taken for granted.  Anything can happen.  Bad weather.  Unexpected equipment malfunctions (not of the Janet Jackson variety).  Illness.  Injury.  Every opportunity to train is a gift.  I now treat it accordingly.

196 days and counting.

2 For 1 Special

Technology was not my friend last night.  But of course, it was my own doing.  I left my laptop at work and my back-up wasn't able to log-in to my blog site for some reason. Lucky for you, today is a two-for-one special!

As I may have mentioned, I tweaked my right inside knee slightly climbing all those hills at the Wildflower training camp.  So yesterday, I took it pretty easy outside of the pool for my hour tempo intervals run.  Inside the pool, well, that was another story.  My friend and Fortius swim coach, Megan, pushed us hard during our 6 a.m. practice.  Among several drills, we did 10, 100-yard sprints at race pace with 10 seconds to rest between each 100.  My approximate pace was between 1:50-1:55, which if accurate, represents a 10-15-second improvement from my early 2:05 T-pace.  Still, my stroke is a mess.  When I'm not crossing my body on the follow-through, my arms are entering the water too early.  If I'm doing those things correctly, then I'm not rotating enough or kicking from my hips and not my lower legs.  Or keeping my head down.  Or gliding enough.

I have so many things to think about during each stroke, it's amazing I don't drown under the weight and pressure of it all.

Now I know what it must feel like being a professional baseball player at the plate batting against a four-pitch hurler.  Too many things to consider besides just swinging the bat.

Of course, like that baseball player who plays for the love of the game, I drag myself out of bed at 5:30 in the morning because I've grown to love being in the water -- no matter how twisted my technique may be.

There would be no water for me today though.  Instead, I had a brick session.  This was made more complicated since my car is in my father's repair shop for normal maintenance, and my Colnago is in the shop for a tune-up.  The compromise was to ride on the trainer at varying degrees of difficulty for 90 minutes and then immediately running hills for the next 45 minutes.  All before 9 a.m., when I need to race the clock to make it in the office by 10.

The bike ride was largely uneventful, made more enjoyable by catching up on The Pacific on HBO.  (Side note: I feel silly complaining about swim technique after watching a mini-series about the inexplicable hardships the Marines endured during WWII in brutally inhospitable jungles throughout the South Pacific.)

My only real concern is the soreness in my right inside knee.  I've never had knee trouble in my life, but after all the climbing we did at Wildflower I think I strained a quad muscle or hamstring.  The tightness in either muscle is pinching the convergence point of three muscle groups on my knee, reducing my flexibility.  The more I pedaled, and climbed in a higher gear, the more my knee acted up.

What was strange though was that my knee didn't hurt as much when I ran perhaps my most challenging local hill not residing in Boney Mountain or Cheseboro Park.  From my condo on Dickens Street in Sherman Oaks, I climbed Woodcliff Road at Valley Vista all the way to Mulholland Drive.  This was literally 20 minutes straight of steep climbing, approximately 1,200 feet if Google Maps is correct. I don't even know why I chose that route this morning.  Especially with my knee feeling a little funky.  Guess I was bored of the usual 'round-the-block runs I've been doing for more than a year now.  It's great to know that I can make it to Mulholland and back home within 45 minutes at a fairly relaxed pace, especially with Wildflower looming.

The only downside of my training today came not frm the workouts but from the recovery.  I had Abby, our company massage therapist, work on my right leg for 30 minutes just after lunch.  Surprisingly, it felt worse after, tighter, than it did immediately after the run and throughout the morning.  Why is that?  Over the past several hours, my knee has remained tight though it's a little more relaxed now that I'm on the couch typing.

Tomorrow is my training off day instead of Friday. I have a business trip in Northern California. Perhaps the extra day's rest is coming at the perfect time?  I hope so.  I really want to avoid another LA Marathon scenario where I can't perform to my potential at races due to circumstances beyond my control.

I'll remain positive, for now.

232 and 231 days and counting.

4-Minute Blog Post

Instead of the Subway "$5 foot-long" jingle, I'm starting a new one: Four!  Four!  Four-Minute Blog Post!

Here we go!

6 a.m.:  swim with Fortius Coaching team.  Awesome. Fastest sustained 100 intervals yet.  1:52-1:55 pace, stroke cadence down to 20 per 25 yards. Thanks Gerardo and my lane partner, Dierdre!

Sadly, a high school swimmer from Van Nuys High seizured this morning.  Fortunately, he's OK.  His teammates were remarkably mature and supportive, for adults or kids.  I was humbled and happy for our future when I saw their display of sensitivity and compassion.

7:30 a.m.: I ran for an hour and 15 minutes doing six, three-minute intervals between heart-rate zones 4-5.  Using my new Garmin, I realized my mile time is decreasing. I'm on pace for 6:45-minute miles at this point.  Let's see how long I can sustain that though!

8:54 a.m.: On the move to the office to shower and change for work.

9:57 a.m.: At my desk, showered, breakfast in hand, with three minutes to spare.

1:26 p.m.: Returned from lunch after downing three tacos at Sharkey's and fueled up on GU and Hammer nutrition at Bicycle John's in Burbank.

6:18 p.m.: Left work to eat dinner and join the LA Tri Club at the Encino First Thursday social, sponsored by Fortius.  Nope, I didn't win anything in the raffle once again.  But, I loved seeing my fantastic teammates and friends looking their finest. They clean up nicely!

8:39 p.m.: Rushed home, dropped off my dirty gym bag, packed a new one, typed this blog, and am now back on the road for an evening out.  Gotta take advantage of my equivalent of Saturday night since there's no training planned tomorrow.

8:56 p.m.: Shutting down blog, changing clothes, rushing out the door!  Goodnight all!

PS: Thank goodness Ironman training gives you the ability to pack more into your day in a shorter amount of time...on less sleep. I'm living up to my company's studio name: I'm becoming an insomniac!

264 days and counting.

50 Posts...What I've Learned Since Day 1

Wow, I just noticed I've made 50 blog posts.

Thinking back, I've learned a lot in a pretty short amount of time. In fact, in the spirit of all the recent late night talk show drama, here's my Top 10 Things I've Learned About Ironman Training So Far:
10) Pack your car key securely in your runner's belt. Or, it may fall out. Like it did today.
9) Keep a spare car key in your glove compartment. Like I didn't today.
8) Slower eventually equals faster. I can especially see improvement on the bike hill climbs.
7) Kiss Saturdays goodbye. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. equals training.
6) A 9-hour training week (like what I have this week) is now considered easy!
5) Chlorine is not the latest Calvin Klein cologne. It just seems that way.
4) Swimming in the rain is delightful. Running, on the other hand, is not. Cycling is just plain crazy.
3) Triathlon training is expensive. Golf has nothing on this sport!
2) Training with a group like Fortius makes the hours pass quickly.
1) The long hours and sacrifice are totally worth it... I'm an Ironman addict!
Set a new personal best today with an approximate 14-mile run (no footpod to confirm though). The Fortius group ran all up and around Griffith Park just hours before the rain hit the Southland. Prior to meeting up with the group, I went on a 30-minute warmup jog and felt tight after yesterday's brick (go figure). Fortunately, teammate David is a sports massage therapist who runs his own practice. He offered to work on my IT bands for a few minutes and it made a huge difference for the remaining two hours, 15 minutes. If you're looking for a good sports massage, I suggest you give David a try. I will again soon.
The run ended uneventfully, until I realized that somewhere along the trail my car key popped out of my running belt holder. Total fail. Fortunately, Coach Gerardo dropped me off at home after breakfast and my buddy TJ brought me back to the car with my spare key. All's well that ends well.
I was then able to drop off some used shoes at Sports Chalet in support of its Soles 4 Souls effort for Haiti earthquake relief. Sports Chalet is accepting used shoe donations through tomorrow, so hurry over there if you have some extra footwear and want to make a difference.
That's it for now. Layin' low and stayin' dry for the rest of the night.
311 days and counting.