Saturday, September 27, 2008

New Bike Day!

I made the drive to Huntington Beach this morning and picked up my new (used) bike. I didn't get back until after noon and it's 90-ish outside so, of course, I took it for a spin (because I'm an idiot). Here is me right after its shakedown cruise:

It's a Centurion Diamond Back somethingorother. The bike guy, Mike, estimates that it is from the early 90s, which lines up with what I could find out about it on the net. It is much lighter than the bike I have been using, which is nice and disconcerting at the same time. It is a 14-speed with Shimano 105 shifting and the levers on the downtube, which isn't nearly as nice as those STI setups but it is better than the straight friction shifting that I had been using and for $280, I'm not complaining.

If you're looking for a used, not high-end bike in Southern California, drop Mike a line and see what he has in stock.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Flipper, I'm Not

Started the day off tired but went to swim anyway because it was Flip Turn Day! Turned out to be a total disaster. I didn't count on how much effort it would take to flip my much heavier legs over. Then I actually got dizzy (!) doing them, and dizzy, for me, is bad news. After 100 yards of warmup I did half a dozen flip turns (which, despite being a bit disoriented, I actually pulled off correctly) when I threw in the towel. I swam 400 more yards but I was feeling pretty funky from the dizziness and the fatigue so I wussed out and left early. I'm still kinda feeling it (like I said, bad news).

No more flip turns for quite a while and I may not swim next Tuesday. Depends on how tired I'm feeling. I hope to pick up a bike on Saturday, which means a bike ride on Sunday (at least) so we'll see.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Four Hundreds

Swimming workout of 1100 yards. I did four 100s in a row (with another one a couple hundred yards after that). That means this Thursday I will be trying flip turns (again, for the first time since 1979). Hope I don't drown.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Training Goals

Way back when I read a book on running by Jeff Galloway. In his training programs for marathons he said that people hit "the wall" at 20 miles because that's usually the farthest they trained so he had his long runs end up at 26 miles or longer to prevent hitting that wall. I don't know if that works or not but it struck me as making a lot of sense so I am going to put his idea to the test in my triathlon training.

The first triathlon I am training for is the Hansen Dam Triathlon. It isn't scheduled yet but I assume it will again be held in August 2009. The swim is 500 yards in a man-made lake, an 9mi bike ride, almost all of which I cover during my 10mi weekend loop (the page says the course is 11 miles but it isn't), and a 3mi run. A few weeks after that should be the Los Angeles Triathlon. The sprint consists of a 700-yard ocean swim, a 20mi bike ride, and a 5k run. I want to do both.

With those distances in mind, here are my training goals:


1000 yards non-stop in a pool with flip turns.
1/2 mile ocean swim.


30 mile rides.


No running until February so I can lose weight.
3.5 mile run with hill training (because of the CECS I can't go more than this).

Those 12-week triathlon training programs you see out there are to get you to finish. I actually want to finish strong. Not place or anything but do better than stagger through the finish line. Actually, I do have a goal of beating the winner of the 70-year-old category--don't laugh, that's actually a pretty healthy goal.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cheaper But Still...

Went to another bike store, this one aimed at the average person rather than the enthusiast. I eventually got to the Mongoose Sabrosa which, I must admit, is a pretty cool bike. More of a serious urban bike than a road racing bike, it was great. It was $735, which is cheaper than the Roubaix but still more than I want to spend now (a lesson I learned from trying to start a business: if you want to spend a bunch of money on something, you probably haven't thought hard enough about how to spend less money on it). There are a couple of interesting bikes on Craigslist that I want to check out next weekend (things aligned to prevent me from going this weekend) so I am hoping to be back on a bike by next Sunday.


A few years ago I had my first bad case of bronchitis. I was coughing so much and so hard that blood vessels were bursting in my eyes and I was not able to sleep for days in a row. Strong drugs let me sleep that time but the next time it happened I could not get in to see a doctor before it had run its course (and I had already lost sleep). Some internet research turned up that exercise can help turn a common cold into bronchitis. Thinking about it, I realized that this bronchitis did not show up until I had started jogging. So, the next time I had a cold I cut out jogging and no bronchitis...well, at least it wasn't as bad. So far so good until earlier this year when I caught another cold. I was cycling instead of jogging so I cut that out. The cold did turn into bronchitis (not so violent, though) but it stayed around for months. Sigh.

This is the other thing about my training that I worry about: that bronchitis will sideline me for two or even three months. A year is a long time to train and I should be able to absorb even a delay like that but my plan involves a lot of small increases in volume, which a long layoff would really mess with. We shall see.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome

The first time I took up running after college was around 1990. I bought a book by Jeff Galloway and was trying to follow its training program (which included long runs on the weekends). Things were going well for a while but then I had to stop. My calves were not recovering from the workouts. They weren't just sore, I couldn't flex them. It was like something had taken all the fuel out of my calves and they couldn't push anymore. I had to walk funny for a few weeks (stepping up onto a curb while not pushing off sure felt funny) and then they recovered. I ran again but the non-recovery happened again. This time I stopped working out for a few months but the same thing happened again. At the time (I was in my late twenties), I figured that I just could not jog anymore.

Fast forward to 2002 or 2003 and I decide to take up jogging again. I weigh more and am a lot slower but things go well. I can only jog once a week (due to my aforementioned time constraints) but I notice improvement each week. Excellent! I jog on the big street I live on, which includes a good hill at the turnaround for a 3.5 mile jog. I do that for some months and all is well; no problem with the calves (though sometimes I get what I call "floppy foot", which is a weird thing where one of my tibialis muscles wears out and I cannot lift my foot up so well). Then I decide that I am feeling good enough to push past 3.5 miles. As soon as I go past 4 miles, my calf problem comes back. I take a few weeks off and go back down to 3.5 miles and the problem goes away. Hmm. I try a 5k on my birthday in 2006 and, while my calves are just fine, I got floppy foot 2/3 of the way through. Sigh.

This time I do some research on the net and it looks like I have a name for my pain: Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome. In a nutshell, the fascia surrounding my calves is not as flexible as it should be, so when my calves try to fill up with blood during exercise the fascia keeps my calves from expanding, which restricts the blood flow to my calves, which keeps nutrients out and waste products in. Treatment? Surgery that slices open the fascia to relieve the pressure. I have not found much information on the downsides to such a surgery but my sister, who used to coach volleyball, said one of her athletes had the surgery done and it helped so much. We'll see.

A bit more digging told me that jogging was particularly hard on calves and that bicyling might be a better exercise. It seems to be so far, though I have yet to go bicycling much past 60 minutes (which was how long 3.5 miles was taking me--I said "a lot slower", remember?) so I don't know how far I can push myself yet (hence my hesitancy to lay out big $$ for a new bike). Now the episode in the nineties made sense because it wasn't until I started doing the much longer runs on weekends that this problem showed up.

In my training schedule for the upcoming year, I want to both bike and swim farther in training than I will in my races. I won't be able to do that with running, though, until I have surgery and I am not planning on looking into that until after the races to see if I am dedicated enough to make it worthwhile. So for now I am just going to deal with it the best I can. That means no running until February, when I have dropped a bit of weight (knock on wood). Then only running once or twice a month and no longer than 3.5 miles. Hopefully putting some hill training in there will make up for the lack of mileage. I do worry how a bike ride followed by a run will affect my calves but I won't be able to find out until I actually do it.

This thing with my calves is the most worrisome part of my training. I really have to monitor them carefully or my training will make them hit the wall. I hate hitting walls.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Swimming workout today was 1200 yards (I actually kept track this time--makes me wonder how much I under-counted my last workout). The big news, though, is that I did my first 100s! Two, back-to-back. Did them on the four minutes and the rest were 50s on the two minutes. Next time I need to remember to rest an extra minute when I'm done with my 100s because they really took a lot of breath out of me. I didn't take an extra minute until I was done with 800 yards and it made a big difference. If I can do four 100s next workout then I will start working on flip turns.

Went to a third bike shop after work. They recommended the exact same bike: a 58cm Specialized Roubaix. Nice bike and all but do I really want to be plunking down $1300 for a bike right now?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Second Swimming Workout

Had my second swimming workout today. Went about 800 yards (I keep forgetting to keep track). Almost all of it was 50s on the 2 minutes. Still sucking air but not as bad as last Thursday. I even went faster without trying (45 seconds instead of 50 seconds). I still seem to be the fastest person in the pool, which is so wrong, but today there were people with more endurance--flip turns, even. Give me another few months :-).

This Thursday I'm going to try a 75 or 100 without stopping. Once I reach 100, it's time to start the flip turns.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bike Shopping

Went bike shopping for the first time ever. Went to two shops and they both agreed that a grand is the price range I'm looking at for a bike that will handle my size on bumpy roads. Yikes. One more shop to go to but I doubt that figure will be changing. Hmm. I need to look around the house and see what I can sell...

What Am I Doing Here?

I will be heading out to check a couple bike shops later today. Window shopping for now but we'll see what I can find. Since I won't be doing my ride today, I thought I would write about me and my decision to train for a triathlon (or two).

Back in my youth, I was quite the active fellow. Not all-star material but average or above average in the sports I played (except basketball--I sucked at basketball). Sports that I played from Jr. High through High School included football, basketball, baseball, swimming, track, cross country, water polo, and volleyball. Active guy. I tried to stay active in college but I soon had to work to put myself through so that pretty much eliminated exercise...and the pounds started to slowly creep up.

Fast forward a few decades and here I am. The 45-year-old, 250#, father of two who sits on his butt and programs a computer all day. I took up jogging once or twice along the way but had to stop for one reason or another (more on that in another post). The last time was a few years ago but that time I stopped because my hips were complaining. My hips? I really need to lose weight.

How about bicycling? I had it in the back of my mind a couple of years ago when a neighbor offered me his junky mountain bike for free. Last year I took it in for a tune-up and started riding. I had to take several months off from riding this year (more on that in another post, too) but I started back up again this summer. This past August I went out for my ride and noticed traffic cones on the other side of the street. We have an annual run pass in front of our house but that's not until February. After a bit of digging I found that it was the bike portion of the Hansen Dam Triathlon. That meant that the next one was a year away. Hey, even I can train for a triathlon in a year. So, I decided to do just that.

I looked around the net and found some sites devoted to triathlons but all their training schedules were 12- or 20-week plans that assumed you could train multiple times a day and could jog multiple times a week. I can't do either of those things so I was going to have to come up with my own schedule. Plus, I was reading some articles by not-so-active people who followed those schedules and they barely finished. I wanted to do better than barely finish. I will publish my plans in another post but first I want to discuss things that I have to take into account when coming up with a training schedule.

First up, my home life. As I mentioned, I am a daddy. I really enjoy being a daddy and I'm good at it. I am also the family cook (no, my wife doesn't work but...there you go). Between daddying and cooking and my day job, I am busy from 6am to 9pm Monday through Friday. That's just the way it is. I have managed to find a way to squeeze in some swimming workouts during lunch time one or two days-a-week, though, so that is helpful. No bike rides or jogging a lunch time, though; I sweat like a pig and there are no showers at work. No early-morning workouts, either. I don't know about you but when I wake up I have to wait for my stomach to settle down before heading out for a workout. If I don't, well, let's just say that looking for a bathroom at 5:30am, five miles from home is not what I want to do. I don't want to be riding my bike late at night, either. There is enough debris to avoid during the day, much less hoping my light catches it.

So there you go. Not much time to train during the week. There are two more issues that affect my training schedule but I will write about them in future posts.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

It's Not Me, It's the Bike

Went for my ride this morning. Went up the last big hill when I felt that familiar thunk, pedal, pedal, thunk, pedal, pedal, thunk. It wasn't a flat tire, it was the chain again. I stopped, checked and, sure enough, the chain had screwed up (bent and frozen) links like the one it replaced just last week. The only things I did differently this week were not to use the smallest gear in front (there are three) with the smallest gear in back, and I shifted more throughout the ride. Piece of crap bike. I can't complain about it, though, since i was a freebie from a neighbor a couple of years ago. Too bad, too, because I was really flying today.

Looks like I will have to move up my plan to buy a new bike in November.

Friday, September 12, 2008


I woke up this morning to no soreness. No sore arms. No sore chest. Still tired but not sore. Where's the soreness?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Taking the Plunge

Today I did lap swimming for the first time in over 25 years. Afterwards I felt pretty good...and by "pretty good" I mean "thought I was going to be sick". I've taken up jogging after long layoffs before, so I know what that feels like. Same for cycling. This is my first time getting back into swimming. Back when I joined the swim team when I was 11 or 12, I barely even knew how to swim. I left competitive swimming with my last water polo season in the fall of 1979. Except for a few laps in college, I haven't swum laps since. Now you have some context.

It's a low-pressure pool. I mean, I was the fastest swimmer in the far. Low pressure. I started off doing a 50 in 50. Then another and another. I started doing them on the 2 minutes, then the 3, then the 4. After that I did some 25s on the minute. One more 50 and I was done. I was too tired to keep track of how much I swam but it was probably 600 yards. Not bad but man, do I feel funky. I expect my arms and chest to be sore tomorrow.

I think this set-up will work well. Take off from work at 12:30, hit the pool around 20 minutes later, swim until 1:30, get back to work and grab a quick lunch. I'll just swim once next week (unless Tuesday's workout doesn't wipe me out) and then, hopefully, I can do Tuesdays and Thursdays after that.

Funny observation is that I need to buy a new combination lock. The one I used I can't read the numbers on anymore. Ah, middle age.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Year Is Just About Right

Today at lunch I sketched out a rough training plan that will, I hope, take me to the Hansen Dam Triathlon in August 2009 and the Los Angeles Triathlon the following month. For what I have in mind, a year will be just about right. More on specifics later. I'm pooped.

First lap swim workout tomorrow. Now if I can just keep my wife and daughter from giving me their colds.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ready to Take the Plunge

Last night I ordered Bicycling Magazine's New Cyclist Handbook from Amazon so that should be arriving in a few days.

I went to the North Hollywood YMCA at lunchtime. The pool is too warm, of course (86 degrees!), but it will do for what I have in mind. Looking at the people swimming while I was there, I don't have to be worried about being too slow (and I haven't swum laps in 25 years). That's good.

After work I went to Sport Chalet and bought my first pair of goggles since the seventies. They're Speedos and they're the only Speedos I'll be using for another forty pounds or so :-). I should weigh myself.

Monday, September 8, 2008


I was reading up on bike gearing when I stumbled on the fact that you're not supposed to be in the small gear in front while in the small gear in back. Being diagonal like that is inefficient and can mess up your chain. Looks like I found out the reason why I had to replace my chain last weekend. I think I need a book on bicycling.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Clydesdales Welcome

Hey there. I'll explain what I'm up to in later posts but, for now, I'm going to jump into it.

I wanted to ride my bike yesterday but my wife flaked on taking it to the shop for a new chain during the week so I did that after I went to the farmer's market. By the time I got back and out to ride it was Southern California. Hot ride but I needed to do it.

Woke up this morning and decided to check out the Los Angeles Tri Club site and saw that the Los Angeles Triathlon was today. Checked out that site and what do I see: a Clydesdale Class. That's a class for guys over 200lbs, which is me. Now, I don't know if I would enter that class (which would end up with 6'6" totally buff guys) but it's the thought that counts. Anyway, I was sufficiently motivated to head out and do another ride today. Not only did I not die but I actually rode faster than yesterday. Who knew? Assuming my calves hold out (more on them later) I can count on training both weekend days when I can.

Next up: checking out the North Hollywood YMCA's pool to see if it will do as a workout pool.