Sunday, October 11, 2009

Measuring Progress

I purposely don't have a scale around. If I did I know I'd drive myself crazy by checking it more than I should. I can resist anything but temptation, the saying goes, so I don't have the temptation around. There are other ways to measure progress, though.

This morning's ride was to be an easy one. My go-to ride of 29-miles has a few hills but all nice and easy today. As I approach the long climb up Balboa I see some cyclists heading that way. I'm about halfway up that climb when I hear some more cyclists behind me. Why is it I only see cyclists going my way on easy days? I'm going easy so I can't use the ones in front of me as rabbits and I have to resist the urge to pedal away from the ones behind me (which isn't a sure thing for a clydesdale, let me tell you). I stick to my guns, though, and pedal lazily up Balboa. As I near the top they are right behind me but don't pass. Huh? Then I hear one of the cyclists say to another "Is this (pant) as hard (pant) as it (pant) gets?" The other cyclist told him it was, we crest the hill, and I lose them. Towards the bottom I turn right onto Foothill and look back to see them turning left. I'm pretty sure they were doing my 43-mile ride into Santa Clarita with the San Fernando Valley Bicycle Club (I call it "my" ride but I actually got the route from the club). I smiled and thought, "Boy, is that guy in for a life-changing surprise in about 30 seconds," knowing the hill he was about to encounter. That guy could have been me a year ago. First time I tried that hill after the Balboa climb I actually had to stop before I reached the top (not an easy decision to make on a two-lane road with no shoulder). Progress.

Eleven months ago, the first Pasadena Marathon was scheduled to happen. Last November a 26-mile ride was still a big deal for me so I signed up for the bike tour. At packet pickup the day before I saw that they had cycling jerseys for the event on sale. Being geeky I figured I'd buy one (I don't even know if I had any other jerseys at the time). I didn't know about jersey sizing at the time and when I got home and tried it on I was shocked to find out that an XL didn't fit. I recall not even being able to zip it up at the time. Yesterday I laundered my athletic apparel and as I was putting things away I came across that jersey. Out of curiosity I tried it on and not only can I zip it up but it actually fits. Progress.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Need for Speed

I had a profound revelation a couple of weeks ago: I am slow.

To anybody who has been following along or has talked to me about my running, this may not seem like news. Let me explain: I was walking behind some people to the train station and I noticed them walking faster than me so I, for no good reason, decided to walk faster and keep up with them (nobody I knew). However, they still kept pulling away. That's when the lightbulb went on.

I didn't used to be a slow walker. Or a slow runner. Truth be told, I was actually pretty fast. Of course, some of the slowness is due to weight and even age. However, I do remember deciding a number years ago that I didn't need to walk so fast anymore. Sauntering would be a nice change of pace. So I sauntered. Nothing wrong with sauntering, it just isn't fast.

So the revelation is that I am slow because my body hasn't been asked to be fast in quite a while so it has forgotten how to be fast. If I want to go fast, I need to practice going fast. Long runs are nice but they just train me to go far, not fast. With that in mind, I did my first fast workout last week. It was just two miles at lunch but it was faster than usual. There is a nearly straight one-mile out that I can do without having to worry about cars, intersections, or stop signs. I get over there and just start running as fast as I can for a mile. When I get to the end I can rest a few minutes then do it again on the way back. My run was at a pace that is still slow for the rest of the world but it was over a minute/mile faster than my fastest 5k pace.

I am taking this week off after last weekend's tri but I should be back to working out next week. Swimming is going on a longer hiatus because of my shoulder, though.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Report - Merced Gateway Triathlon (Long Course) 2009

(Here is my race report from over at BT.)

Total Time = 3:01:22
Overall Rank = 32/35
Age Group = 45-49
Age Group Rank = 6/7

Pre-race routine:

This race was scheduled to start at 8:30 with racks opening up at 7 so I got to sleep in 'til 6am! Woke up, drank some water, hung around 'til 7, then rode my bike to the event (I stayed with friends who live down the road).

Event warmup:

I had slightly dislocated my shoulder two weeks prior to the race but was not able to get in a swim beforehand so the big question was how was I going to swim with a messed up shoulder. The answer was "With some pain and difficulty". They allowed us in the water to warm up and I was really surprised at how much pain shot through my body when I tried to lift my right arm to take a stroke. After the initial shock I kept at it and figured out a way I could hobble through the swim.


I put myself in one of the slow lanes and started behind everybody else because I knew my shoulder was going to slow me down, and it did. However, after 100 yards I started passing people because they were even slower than me.

For someone with a trashed shoulder, I did okay. My breathing was fine. Doing a full stroke with the left arm and a half stroke with the right arm did get a bit tiring, though. I felt like Nemo with his "lucky fin". Still, I felt good about the swim, all things considered.

When I finished, I couldn't pull myself out of the water because of the shoulder so I had to duck under a couple of lanes to get to a ladder.

What would you do differently?

Not dislocate my shoulder in the weeks prior to the race.

Also, one of my gels came out of my pocket during the swim. Luckily it was the shallow end so it was easy to retrieve. Note to self: put gels in pocket in T1.


Even though it was a longer course than a sprint, I treated T1 as if it were a sprint, if nothing else than for the practice. I was initially a little foggy and I caught myself trying to unrack my bike before getting my helmet on. At that point I told myself to wake up and the fog was gone. I got into my shoes while riding better than at any previous race (last week's practice really helped). I lost two or three seconds to people I was riding with when I mounted my bike because of the shoes but that's okay because those people got out of the pool way before I did.

What would you do differently?

Snap myself out of my post-swim haze as soon as I get to my bike.


I did okay here. Once the rollers started I fell behind people I was with but that's the life of a clydesdale.

This was a draft-legal race, mainly because they don't have enough people to monitor the course. I didn't think much of this until a guy passed me but stayed in front of me instead of flying away. Not wanting to look a gift draft in the mouth I hung onto him for about a mile. It was good to be Lance and I got some energy back. I passed him and told him that I would take a turn pulling but I don't think he understood and fell behind me. Oh well.

What would you do differently?

My bum was getting sore because that little tri-suit chamois just didn't cut it for the longer distance. Next time I race much more than ten miles I am going to throw some bike shorts with a real chamois over my tri suit.

I think I may have gone out too fast. Need to do practice races and pay attention to pacing.


This would have been a pretty good T2 if I hadn't had to use the restroom. Oh well. That and one of my shoes came off the bike after I dismounted. It popped off as the cranks turned. Don't know what I can do about that in the future.

First time having to get into socks in T2. Six miles is too far for my feet to be sockless for now. The irony is that this was my first race with the Lock Laces, which worked great.

What would you do differently?

Wish I knew of a way to keep from having to use the restroom...other than going on the bike. Sorry but the time savings isn't worth it for me. The course wasn't that long anyway.

I'd like to toughen up my feet so I don't have to put on socks for this distance.


This was to be my longest run of the year. I knew that the trick was going to be not to go out too fast, which I caught myself doing right away. Slow and steady was going to get me through this and it did. At the turnaround they had a water station and I did walk it but it was because I hate drinking from a cup on the run.

At mile five I let myself run a bit faster, not than anybody watching would have noticed but I did. :-) As I turned the last corner I had some friends cheering for me so I went a little bit faster still. That was all I had, though, so I joked to them "Can you tell I'm sprinting?"

During the run, some kid told me I had nice hair. I don't know what that was about but I did thank him.

What would you do differently?

Gotta lose more weight. Gotta work on speed.

Post race

Warm down:

Walked around. I was pretty tired so I didn't even want water right away. When I was ready I attacked the fruit table.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Recovering dislocated shoulder did a number on my swim, of course.

It's the end of my first season so things are going to get better the longer I train. Plus, I was doing sprints all season and this was my first near-Olympic (except for the swim) distance race so the goal was pretty much to finish upright without walking (except for the water station).

Event comments:

Not using timing chips was lame. What were my splits? I don't know, they didn't use timing chips! Jack up the entry fee a couple of bucks next year and spring for the timing chips, gang. Do I really need to buy one of those Ironman watches?

For what it is, a small triathlon in a small city, it was okay. The mass pool swim was kinda lame but it's bearable (the race benefits the JC's water polo team).

After the race they had a raffle, using your race number as the ticket number...while people were still on the course. Yeah, that's smart.

On the plus side, the bike and the run were nice. Also, I got to see a some old friends. Yeah, I'll probably do it next year. I just wish they'd use timing chips.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Countdown to Merced

Normally I'd write this Friday night but I'll be traveling then so here we go:


I will be staying with friends about a mile from the race so I get to ride my bike again! This race starts at 8:30 and packet pickup doesn't start until 7 so no riding in the dark this time.

I hope the race turns out better than it's first impression on me because that has been amateur hour. No website so no course description. Packet pickup the morning of the race only. Welcome to the 80's.

My shoulder seems to be healing nicely. I expect to have full range of motion back by race morning, which also means I shouldn't have to take ibuprofen before the race, either. I went for a ride yesterday and a run today; my legs feel great (as they should, given that they've had a week-and-a-half off) so that's good.

The Swim

I sure hope we get some warm-up time so I can see how my shoulder handles swimming. My hunch is that it will start off tender but then warm up as we go. The race flyer mentions wave starts but I don't know how that works in a 50-meter pool. I'll guess 16 minutes for the 800 yard course but, really, I have no idea.


My usual sprint T1 here except, depending on the weather, I may spray some sunscreen on my shoulders before heading out. No socks. I did practice my shoe transitions yesterday so I'm hoping the post-swim haze that I have had the past few races will finally go away.


20 miles. Supposed to be flat. I'm just going to ride hard. I'll take a water bottle with me and down a gel 30 minutes into the ride.


I know I can't run six miles without socks so I'll spend a little time putting on a pair. I have Lock Laces this time so that should help some. Depending on the weather, another spray of sunscreen.


Do not go out fast. Take it nice and slow at the start or I will blow up towards the end of the run. Sometime after the first mile, as I approach the next water station I will down another gel and walk the water station so I get some water in me. Sorry but I can't get any liquids in me from a cup while running.

I'm downing the gels because I expect my race to take over two hours, so I want to make sure to keep my energy up. Last weekend we had a bit of a heat wave but it looks like we're going to have perfect weather for the race, which is good because I can cycle in the heat but six miles in the heat would have been bad.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Hug of Doom

Last Monday I bent down to hug my daughter good night. She's been doing this thing, lately, where she grabs onto me and won't let go until I pry her off (it's good to be the king). This time I felt...something in my shoulder. Not a pop, not a pull. Just something. I figured she'd somehow tweaked my rotator cuff injury a bit, which would have been a shame because it had just become pain-free.

The next morning I was a bit sore. By the afternoon I had to leave work a little early because it had gotten really sore. For the next few days I left work a little early so I could rest my very sore shoulder. Shifting my 5-speed car was not fun. I had to take three Ibuprofen an hour before bedtime to lessen the pain so I could get more than three hours of sleep a night. By the time the weekend rolls around, I decided to totally rest my shoulder so I laid in bed and watched the first season of "Kung Fu" and did very little else.

Things are a little better, but still not great, by Sunday night. Better enough to move my shoulder around a little so I could stretch it a tiny bit. That's when I felt a little pop and knew right away that that made my shoulder feel better. Suddenly I could move my shoulder a bit more, though it was still sore. Near as I can tell, my daughter dislocated my shoulder by grabbing me in a certain way on that Monday night. Not so unreasonable when you consider that I had previously dislocated that same shoulder back in college, so it would be prone to such things (that time in college was also a slight dislocation that hurt a lot).

Needless to say, training for this Sunday's triathlon has been right out since the injury. No swimming, running, or cycling. It turns out you use your shoulder in nearly every kind of movement and if I was going to make it to the triathlon, I had to rest that shoulder. Now that things are looking up, though, I need to get the cobwebs out. First up is an easy loop around Griffith Park on the bike tomorrow. Thursday will see me do my first 2-mile lunchtime run (more on that in another post). Friday, if at all possible, will be an extremely easy day in the pool so I can see what my range of motion is and figure out how to swim if it's still limited.

I've asked my daughter to go easy on me in the future.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thanks, Lance

Work on a hit movie...check
Pull someone from a burning car...check
Visit New York City...check
Ride with Lance Armstrong...check

You know that list of things you've done where you can look back and say, "Yeah, I did that." I guess they're calling them "bucket lists" these days. I can add riding with Lance Armstrong to mine. Perhaps you heard about Lance's ride around Griffith Park last week? Since Griffith Park is only a couple of miles from work, of course I had to go.

It started early last week when Lance tweeted that he was going to be doing a ride while he was in Los Angeles. Cool! Like a good geek I brought my bike to work, along with riding clothes, the next day. Then on Wednesday he set Thursday at 7:30 as the start time.

I got to my work's parking lot by 7 and rode to Griffith Park. There were already a couple of hundred people waiting when I arrived. So we waited. Finally, a few minutes past 7:30, Lance shows up. Five minutes later and we're off (I'm about 17 seconds in, white jersey and blue shorts).

By the time I get onto the road, Lance is already hauling ass quite a ways down the road...and there's still a heck of a hill to go! I do what I can but I don't even see him on that first lap. Starting the second lap I notice a bunch of cyclists on the side of the road. Looks like the idea is that we've been dropped by Lance, now we can get lapped by him, too. I pull off and wait. When I see them coming I hop on and pedal like crazy (but I don't see a lot of people from the roadside getting on their bikes--I guess they're just taking pictures?). I can tell they're getting close by the activity on the side of the road. Pretty soon there is Lance and the guy he's talking to right next to me. I'm pedaling like mad and they're just cruising. I didn't dare look back but if I had I would have seen a grand tour-size peloton swallow me up. I sure didn't feel the drafting helping me but I know it did because I was (almost) keeping up. Until we started hitting that hill, at which point I made a right turn, then a U-turn and headed back to work.

I got dropped then lapped by Lance Armstrong! Cool!

A side-effect of all this is that a friend replied to one of my tweets about going, saying that her hubby rides Griffith Park at lunch. Griffith Park at lunch, why didn't I think of that before!? So yesterday I took my bike into work and did Griffith Park at lunch. Two Trash Truck Hill loops and I was set. Since I can't ride to/from work during the school year (I'm my son's chauffeur), riding Griffith Park on Mondays and Wednesdays will be great. Hey, I'm 675 miles from hitting 3,000 miles for the year so I need the mileage. Another plus is that still I get my hill workouts but I don't have to get up at 5am to do it.

So now I have some more workouts on the schedule and it wouldn't have happened without Lance and his ride. Kooky.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Dramamine & Me vs. The Ocean

It's a week before the Malibu Triathlon and I needed to get in an ocean swim before the race. Mostly for practice but...well, it's hard to explain but I just really felt I needed to.

I got up early and headed out to beach (it's about 50 minutes from my house). I got there a bit early so I drove the bike course. Looks like fun! Back to the beach and I get into my wetsuit. Oh, I forgot to mention that I took two "Less Drowsy" Dramamine while on the drive. I had used these for a couple of boat tours on last year's vacation and they seemed to do the trick. I didn't feel like doing cartwheels but I wasn't feeding fishes, either.

It's time to get into the water and I now know what to expect: spending some time getting used to the cold, followed by un-freaking out about he scale of the ocean, then just putting my head down and swimming. After my prep the swim was coming along nicely. Then the nausea came at about the same place it did in my Oxnard race. *Sigh*

I think this was really why I needed to do the swim. My last ocean swim was 400 yards and this was going to be twice the distance. I had to be sure that the Dramamine worked. It didn't. At least I didn't have to push myself through a whole race this time. I simply stopped, gave it a few more tries, and then swam into shore before things got bad.

The bottom line is that I am going to DNS the Malibu Triathlon. I am just not able to handle ocean swims so it is going to be lakes, pools, and rivers from now on. On the plus side, my future in this sport is clearer. For instance, I don't have to worry about racing at Kona to make my life complete.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fire, Fire, Go Away

You know the Station Fire in Southern California that you've been hearing about so much in the news? It's a mile or two down the road from me. Can you guess what the largest fire in Southern California history does to the air? Can you guess what that air does to one's training? I have the Malibu Triathlon in less than two weeks and I haven't worked out in ten days. That can't be good.

What is good is that the fires nearby are pretty much out (the rest of it is still raging a bit farther away, though). I am hoping that means the air is going to clear up a bit. The plan now is to swim tomorrow (Thursday), ride my bike to work Friday, ride and bike Saturday, maybe ocean swim and ride in Malibu on Sunday, bike and run Monday, swim Tuesday, easy bike ride Wednesday morning, then rest until the tri. It's not ideal but it's making the best of a bad situation.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Four Is My Limit

Last weekend was quite the eventful weekend, as far as training goes.

First up was a planned 55-mile ride on Sierra Highway. The night before, I was out at a movie so I got a later start than usual, which usually wouldn't mean much but it would turn out to be a hot day. There is an In-N-Out Burger on the route that I hit right around lunch time, though I am becoming less convinced that consuming a Double-Double on a ride is a good idea. However, within sight of the In-N-Out, my rear tire went flat. I'm not the world's fastest tire changer so I sit on the sidewalk and get down to business. I swap the tube with the spare, reassemble the wheel and put it on the bike, then give the tire the CO2. I hop back on and head to burger heaven but, after a pedal stroke I notice that the rear tire is flat again. Sigh. I get the tube off and see what is probably a pinch flat but I've never seen one so vicious before. I don't want to patch that so I get the original tire and patch that. I put some air into the tube to make sure the patch is holding when I find another hole in the tube. Double sigh. I patch that one, too, it also holds, but I have to use my frame pump because I had only one CO2. Pump, pump, pump and I am back my way to a burger.

I place my order and find that I am way too thirsty. Note to self: don't let me get that thirsty on hot days again. Once done with lunch I rest a bit and drink some more lemonade. I realize that I am really tired, probably a combination of the heat and not drinking enough. That plus my bad luck with tires convinces me that I should cut my ride short and take a more direct route home. It won't make my remaining route short but it will be shorter and not so remote.

I finally get back in the saddle and head home. Tired, tired, hills, hills, and FLAT! Yes, my fourth puncture of the day. I still have one patch left but I decided that four punctures was my limit and call my wife and ask her to pick me up. Saturday night was a family birthday celebration for my son.

Sunday was my day for a long run, 54 minutes. This goes off well, albeit slower than the previous long run. I was still feeling the effects of the day before so that is not surprising. It is also the first run with my new Lock Laces. I end up with a couple of blisters (no socks) but that also is not surprising. I will adjust the laces the nail the shoe fit in the coming weeks and things will be fine. After that was a birthday party for my daughter. When it was all over Sunday night, I was feeling pretty spent, with some residual tightness in my left side from the run.

Or so I thought.

Monday I go to work and still feel that tightness. By that night I realize what is going on: I must have strained some muscles in my back and chest while lifting things for the party. Since it's one of those slow, insidious strains I knew sleeping was going to be difficult because of the pain. I was right. Tuesday I stay home from work, catch up on my TV shows on the DVR, and spend the day uncomfortable in nearly any position. As I tell people, it doesn't hurt all the time--just when I breathe.

I am feeling much better now but I'm pretty sure tonight's sleep will not be high quality. But I need to take it easy during the week (no swimming or cycling to work) because I have a big weekend planned. Ride on Saturday followed by a run, then an ocean swim on Sunday followed by a ride of the Malibu Triathlon bike course. I sure hope things are better by then.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Report: Hansen Dam Triathlon 2009

Total Time = 1:20:11.1
Overall Rank = 284/562
Age Group = 40-49
Age Group Rank = 58/82

Pre-race routine:

Woke up, drank some water, and waited for the digestive system to switch on. Then got dressed, put on the backpack I packed the night before, and hopped on my bike. I live about two miles away so I cycled to the race site, which was pretty cool.

Event warmup:

They did allow us into the lake beforehand, which was nice. Swam about 100 yards then waited for my wave to start.


Distance: 500 yards
Time: 12:02.4
Age Group: 34/82
Overall: 224/562

This was my first real mass start where I mixed it up with a bunch of people. Having a water polo background, this didn't freak me out but I have to admit I didn't like it very much. Too much time worrying about people when I would rather be worrying about my swim.

After the first buoy things started thinning out a bit so I could spend more time thinking about the swim. I was hoping to pick up the pace after the second buoy but mixing it up in the first hundred yards took a lot out of me and, thanks to my shoulder layoff, I didn't have the fitness to swim faster. Oh well. I can't say I'm very pleased with my swim but I will learn from the experience.

I was pretty pleased with my sighting until I headed back to the ramp. I ended up veering way off course. I got lined back up again but misjudged where I could stand up at the ramp and really sucked at getting out of the water.

What would I do differently?

Don't have a shoulder injury that makes me lose fitness.

Swim almost all the way into shore instead of trying to judge it.

I wish I could swim in that lake a few times a year for practice.


Time: 56.1

Because my run sucks so much, I need to get speed where I can and one of the easiest places to do that is in transition. This is my place to shine so, even though this wasn't a transitalon, I wanna brag: I had the fastest T1 in my age group, 16th male, and 19th overall.

Though I would like to declare myself Master of T1, I did have a problem getting into my shoes on the bike: I forgot how to do it! I am so not kidding, I was trying to slip my feet into my shoes and instead of grabbing the shoes from the front, I was grabbing them from the back. This is the second race where my brain had a post-swim fog that affected getting into my shoes. Crazy! I am just going to have to keep practicing that over and over and over.

What would I do differently?

Remember how to put my feet into my shoes. Oh, I also forgot to have the Garmin already on so I should turn it on as soon as I rack my bike instead of waiting for later. It's a sprint, the battery will last. Lost a couple of seconds there, like a dummy.


Distance: 11 miles
Time: 34:04.8
Age Group: 32/82
Overall: 204/562

This is my home course (literally--my house is on the route). I know the hills, the bumps, where to change gears, and things pretty much went according to plan. See my T1 comments for a small amount of time I lost because of shoes. I knew I was pushing myself because when we got to the Wentworth hill and turn, something I do two or three times a week, I did my usual pop out of the saddle and hustle. This time, though, I had to get back on the saddle just before the top. That's okay, though, because it meant I was pushing.

Things were going well when I got to the top of the dam but then I saw that it wasn't coned off, there were pedestrians on it, and they didn't open that first gate. WTF? This caused a few anxious moments but no disasters. I flew through that small gate because I have done that several times on weekends.

My finest moment was when I was passed by a guy on his aero bars wearing an aero helmet. The plan was to just go hard on the first half of the dam, then upshift and push it on the second half. That's when I passed Mr. Aero and he didn't catch me until the run. Did I mention that I ride an 18-year-old 14-speed road bike?

My next finest moment was my family cheering me when I passed our house. They even wrote notes on the course in chalk.

What would I do differently?

Lose weight, keep training, new bike next year. Going from not riding one year ago to how I did today, I'm very happy.


Time: 1:12.7

I passed one guy at the dismount line and another guy while I was running to the racks. No Lock Laces this race so I was slowed down by tying my shoes. I think I did a better job of running while putting the race belt on. 35th in my AG so a pretty average T2.

What would I do differently?

Lock Laces.


Time: 31:55.3
Distance: 3 miles
Age Group: 77/82
Overall: 461/562

My run is simply horrible. I know it and it is reflected in the results. It will get better the more I train (I've only been running since February) and the more weight I take off (230 but going down). For me, I was at a great pace so I am pleased with the run. I had shin problems that I had to work through after the first half but they did go away the last few hundred yards.

Funny (to me) story: towards the end there was a guy who had passed me but was walking before we hit the last hill. Looked like he was saving himself so he would have a strong finish in front of the crowd. Whatever. If I had anything left in the tank I would loved to have outrun him at the finish but I left it all on the course.

And I never stopped to walk.

What would I do differently?

Train more. Lose weight. It takes time but I am making progress (if you think this pace is slow, you should have seen what it was a couple of months ago).

Event comments:

The race organizers had a lot of amateur hour moments. My swim cap wasn't in my registration bag so I had to go back and get one. When I did I saw that by that point they only had shirts for the bags and they had run out of caps in the right color.

The bag was also missing helmet and bike numbers, which meant we had to spend race morning in a line to get them.

Then there was the top of the dam with pedestrians (no cones) and closed gates. Lame and potentially dangerous.

I'd rather not focus on that, though, because the course itself is wonderful. The lake was the perfect temperature. I love the bike course. The run course was a blast. My friend Lisa travelled from the San Joaquin Valley to try the race and she loved it so much she's coming back next year.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Countdown to Hansen Dam

This is, literally, the race I have been training for all year. It was August 17 last year when I took the mountain bike I had been given by a neighbor down the driveway to start riding again. I saw traffic cones on the other side of the street and, when I got back from the ride (probably a whopping ten miles) I searched the net and found out than the cones were there for the Hansen Dam Triathlon. Right then I decided I was going to train for next year's race. Here we are, one year later, and it's time to HTFU.

Swim: The swim is in a man-made lake and the water is warm so no wetsuit. The start is down a somewhat narrow ramp so I expect things to be crowded at the start. My plan is to start near the front and go out fairly hard the first 50 yards so I can get away from the pack. The next 200 yards should be a cruise, and the last 200 yards I hope to pick up the pace. Sighting is going to be an issue just because it takes a bit out of me to do it. Still, I hope to come out towards the front of my age group. If I do the swim in ten minutes, I'll be happy.

T1: No wetsuit, shoes on the bike, no eating or drinking anything, and I want to actually run in T1 rather than just a jog so T1 should be fast.

Bike: This is my home course so I'd love to say that I am going to be lightning fast on the bike but I know I'm not a lightning fast rider yet. Still, I know where to shift, and know where to push, I know where to redline, I know where the bumps are, I know when to get out of the saddle, and I will be riding in front of my house with my children cheering and messages to me written in chalk on the road. I should know the course better than anyone else in the race so no excuses. Let's see if I can go under 30 minutes.

T2: Unfortunately, my Lock Laces arrived this week so I have not had time to break them in. I will be tying my shoes but I'm leaning towards no socks again. Also, I will be running while putting on my race belt, instead of my lame jogging in Oxnard, so this shouldn't be so bad.

Run: The big question here is: socks or no socks. If this was a regular road race there would be no question: no socks. However, this is a trail run and I am thinking that socks are going to help keep small rocks out of my shoes better than no socks. I am leaning towards no socks because T2 will be faster but I still don't know. In any event, the run is only 2.6 miles so I am going to run harder than usual. 25 minutes would be nice but I don't think I am capable of that yet. We'll see.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Taking It Easy Before A Race

It's the week before my next triathlon and, after a hard workout weekend, it's time to take it easy. What does that mean, though? Well, what I did before my last tri worked out so well I am going to do it again. Here's the plan:

The Weekend Before: Short but hard workouts, preferably on the course itself. I couldn't go on the course for the last tri but since I live on the course this time, this was easy. I rode two loops around the course on Saturday and praticed getting in and out of my shoes while on the bike, too (you really do need to practice this). I made mental gearing notes and "where to push it" notes. On Sunday I ran the run course...for the most part. I went the wrong direction during one part and may have made a turn or two too early but I got the gist of it. I learned that the course isn't as long as the race organizers say it is, which means I can run just a little bit harder. I also found out that it is a total trail run, which doesn't make all that much difference but it's still good to know. As for the swim, swimming is actually prohibited in the (man-made) lake except for the race so this wasn't an option.

The Weekdays Before: I am still doing my bike commute to/from work on Mondays and Wednesdays but I am taking it easy, easy, easy. If I am going 20 mph, I better be coasting. Keeps things loose and it's fun. On Tuesday I am doing a swim where I am going to simulate my plan for the race to see how it goes (including sighting). No swim on Thursday, though, so plenty of time to recover. Friday is the usual rest day though I will be doing a super easy ride to (coincidentally) the race site to practice more getting in and out of shoes. We're talking three easy miles. Also, starting Thursday I make sure I'm drinking lots of water so that I'm topped off by race day.

The Day Before: Bike maintenance in the morning, which will pretty much consist of cleaning and lubing the chain and making sure that shifting is smooth. Then it's off to packet pick-up. After that I will be hanging around the house, doing grocery shopping and laundry, but mostly hanging around the house. Making sure I'm well-hydrated, keeping the feet up when I can, and watch a movie or two.

When I did this for the last race, the fatigue left my muscles just in time for race day. Let's see if it my bod follows the plan this time.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Difference Between "Going Hard" and "Pushing It"

In endurance sports, there is a difference between "going hard", whether it's training or in a race, and "pushing it". I didn't really understand it until after I left high school (and athletics). Looking back, I saw that I went hard plenty. I swam mainly shorter distances so going as hard as you could was easy. But longer distances and training, and even my short time on the cross country team, I saw that I didn't push it. It's not something you can necessarily do in something like an Ironman but sprint and even olympic triathlons are a great place to push it. That's my goal for my next triathlon: pushing it.

Imagine you're in a sprint triathlon. The bike course is ten miles and you're flying. You're passing people. You're pedaling at the right cadence and in the best gear for it. You are going hard and feel great. Tired but great.

Now go faster. That's pushing it.

Now you spin even faster or go up a gear and try to keep the same cadence. You now really feel it in your legs. Not like sprinting, where you know you can't keep it up for long. This is different. This is painful. Doable but it's going to hurt. Not so fun anymore, either. But you can do it.

I had forgotten all about this until recently. I was reflecting on my last triathlon. I was really happy about the bike but I started wondering, "Could I have gone faster if I had pushed it?" This past weekend I did my old faithful 29-mile loop but this time I wanted to push it--just a bit. Not really race pace but harder than usual and not always comfortable hard, either. The result was that I knocked four minutes off of my previous 110-minute PB on that route (and when I rode that I was trying to go fast). I even hit more stoplights than I usually do.

Of course I'm not planning on pushing it on every swim/bike/run workout. However, there are going to be workouts where I need to and the trick will be remembering to push it. And definitely during a race. Definitely on the 16th. At least on the swim and the bike. Just getting through the run at my current pace is all I can handle right now. The run, too, will come along in time. Then I will have to push it in all parts of the triathlon. Doesn't that sound like fun?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Report: Strawberry Fields Triathlon (Sprint) - 2009

You can read the detailed report with times here.

Pre-Race Routine: Woke up at 3:30am. Had a bowl of cheerios and a glass of orange juice to help the digestive system move along. My wave would not be starting for four hours so this would all be clear of the stomach by then (good thing, too). Everything was packed the night before so it was just a matter of getting dressed, hitting the bathroom, making sure the bike's tires were pumped up, racking the bike, and leaving at 4:30 so I could get to the race site by 5 (when we could start parking).

It was assigned parking in transition so I headed to my spot and set up my little area. Since my bike bag hindered un-racking last race, the bike would hang by its handlebars this time (a wise decision). My water bottle would just be needed for washing off my feet. Put the shoes on the bike and rubber band them up.

Around 6:30 it was time to get into the wetsuits because transition would be closing at 6:40. I tried Bodyglide on my legs to see if that would help getting the suit off. Time to head to the beach.

Warmup: The first wave started at 7:05. I watched that then headed into the ocean to get used to the cold. No run warm up, no bike warm up. All that would have been negated by the 61 degree water, IMHO. Did a little swimming and going under waves. By the time I got out of the water, I was okay with the cold.

Swim: The only way this could have been worse is if I had DNF'd.

I get in the water fine, the water isn't shocking me, and I start to swim. I'm not sighting so well but this is my first real ocean swim so that is to be expected. Then I notice I'm being passed by the rest of my wave. People, I'm a good swimmer. I'm probably faster in a pool than almost everybody else in my wave. Hmm. Then the motion sickness starts.

Before the race I had downed some candied ginger, as that was reported to work. I should have known it wouldn't work on me but you never know unless you try, right? So, I'm getting a bit seasick, which means my swim goes into survival mode: speed is no longer an option, I'm just trying to finish. I was actually swimming fairly well stroke-wise, I was just way slow. Rounding the second buoy and heading for the shore, I'm hating life. I actually heaved up twice on the way in but there was nothing in my stomach (my apologies to the fish for not feeding them). When I finally reached the shore where I could stand up, I saw a wave coming. I had no energy to catch it swimming or resist it standing so my attitude was, "Go ahead and knock me down, I can get back up." It did and I did.

The sad thing was, Dramamine and/or one ocean swim beforehand would likely have landed me on the podium.

T1: T1 started right after the water while on the beach. I was seasick and in no condition to try running in sand so it was a death march to a concrete walkway. Once I got there I did a little jog into transition. I was such a mess that I put my body into auto-pilot and hoped that it knew what to do. When I got into transition, most of my age group was already there. I got out of the wetsuit fairly quickly and squirted the sand off my feet quickly, too. Then it was glasses, helmet, unrack the bike and go. One of my shoes popped out of the pedals (?) so I had to reattach that. My jog with the bike was, as you might imagine, not so speedy, but I got out well before everybody else who was at my rack.

Oh, maybe Bodyglide helps get suits on but I don't think it did a thing to help me get it off.

Bike: I am so freaking pleased with my performance on the bike. I do need to mention, though, that my auto pilot didn't work so well getting into my shoes. I should have engaged my brain sooner. That said, once I was pedaling I was humming along. I was hoping to make it a 20 mph ride, because that sounds cool, but I didn't quite make it. I knew that I wouldn't get to ride a flatter course this year so the plan was to absolutely go for it, giving no thought to the run afterwards.

There was some residual seasickness to deal with but I soon got up to speed. I had the Garmin on the handlebars so I could make sure my gearing was just right. I was getting passed by the fast Olympic guys on their second loop but I was doing most of the passing, and I passed a lot of people.

One thing that amused me was cornering. For the tightest turns we had over a whole car lane to turn, yet people were staying off to the far right the whole time. Me, I looked over my left shoulder, saw that I didn't have anybody coming up, swung wide, and flew into the turns. Blasted by a few people that way.

There were two hills on the whole course and I was very happy with how I flew up them. Heading back into transition I got out of my shoes with plenty of time before the dismount line. I just wish people wouldn't keep telling me to slow down as I approached.

Not bad for a 230 pound guy on an 18-year-old, 14-speed Craigslist special, eh?

T2: This was okay. I didn't get Lock Laces in time to use them in this race so I'll see how they work at Hansen Dam. Other than that, things went well.

Run: The plan was to go out hard so that it hurt. Unfortunately, I could only go so hard before nausea made me back off. That meant I couldn't go as fast as I wanted to but, according to my time, I did hit my current goal pace (yes, I have a lot of room for improvement). My time was about 90 seconds faster than my last tri in March, too, so that's a good thing.

Overall: The conditions in the water were as good as one could hope for in an ocean swim. The bike course was flat with plenty of room (for the most part) to pass, and the run was flat, too. It was a day for speed.

One more thing: the day before the race I stepped on a scale for the first time since December and it looks like I've lost 25 pounds. If I keep up the weight loss, I may not be able to enter as a Clydesdale next year. I could live with that.

You can see other photos from the race here.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Countdown to Oxnard

No training since Wednesday's commute to/from work, fatigue has left my legs, I'm getting ready to do final maintenance on the bike, and I just need to pack. Things are winding down before I head out to Oxnard for packet pick-up and to (slowly) preview the course before tomorrow's race. Here are my plans:

Swim: My first ocean race and first mass start. First thing to do will be to go out into the ocean well before the start and get covered by the cold water until I get used to it and my breathing returns to normal. Then I'll be ready for the race. As for the start, it depends on how many people are in my wave. On the one hand I don't particularly want to get pummelled by all the bodies but on the other hand I will likely be faster than most of them. I suspect I'll take it easy at the start but then speed it up once I've convinced myself that I'm okay. I'm hoping those years of high school water polo will come in handy.

T1: I practiced getting in and out of my shoes yesterday and that's all still good. I have practiced getting out of my wetsuit so that should not be a problem. The shoes will be on the bike so it's just a matter of getting out of the wetsuit (halfway done as soon as I get out of the water), putting on my helmet, and going. I'll bring my sunglasses but I don't think I'll wear them. Should be fast. I'll have a water bottle handy in case I need to rinse my feet after the beach run.

Bike: The course is supposed to be "pancake flat", which is good news for a clydesdale like me. I will have the Garmin waiting for me on the bike so I can use that to gauge my speed. I'll find a speed that I want to be at and make sure I at least stay above that. Flat and only 7 or 8 turns (including one that's 180 degrees), I'm hoping to keep it somewhere above 20 mph. No holding back for the run.

T2: Make sure I'm out of my shoes well before T2. Then it's rack bike, helmet in backpack, put shoes on (no socks), grab race belt and go (putting belt on as I'm heading towards the exit).

Run: Ideally I'd leave T2 in first place in my division to balance out the run :-). My 5k at UCLA was just under 35 minutes so I do want to shave a few minutes off that. The plan here is just to find a hard pace, stick with it, and leave it all on the course. I won't be taking the Garmin with me from the bike so my pace will be based on pain. Sounds like fun!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dialed Up

I went to start this post and noticed that it has been a month since my last one! Ouchie.

The reason I have been absent is that I have upped the volume in my training. Then add in me watching the Tour de France each evening and I just haven't had the time. Now that the volume is coming back down, I can more easily find the time to post. Much to go over so I'll do it like a race.

Swim: Good news and bad news here. The good news is that my training is coming along very nicely. The stroke modifications have imprinted themselves firmly in my brain and I have been swimming without pain. My workouts have been over 1000 yards and I have been doing sets of 200 with the only problem being that I'm not in the shape I was before I took my layoff. That's to be expected, though, so not a problem. This week I want to get in a few fast 50s to feel how that affects my shoulder.

The bad news is today's ocean swim. I got up nice and early and practiced putting my wetsuit on and taking it off. This would be my first swim in a wetsuit so I wanted to make sure I could get in and out of it (it's a Rocket Science sleeveless wetsuit and they put out a great video showing how to do that). I get it on and meet up with the group from the Los Angeles Tri Club (they have a swim at Zuma each weekend), and we go out into the water and swim past the waves then swim back to shore, just to get used to things. The water's cold but the wetsuit is protecting me. I sure know I'm not in a pool anymore but I know I'll get used to it. I wasn't feeling seasick, which I was a bit worried about, so that was good. We get out of the water and walk quite a ways down the beach (1/2 - 1 mile) and go back in the ocean. Swim past the waves and gather the group together, ready to swim back. It is at this point that I have a minor panic attack and decide to bail on the a complete wuss. I used seasickness as an excuse so I saved a bit of face but still...

On the long walk back I spent time reflecting on what the heck just happened. I think it was a combination of things. First, I have swum in the ocean before but I have never really swum in THE FUCKING OCEAN before. Swimming in calm bays in warm Hawaiian water is nice but it's not swimming in THE FUCKING OCEAN, which is big and bouncy and huge and murky. What I think really set me off, though, was the combination of cold water and a wetsuit. It was my first time in a wetsuit and I was not used to the pressure on my chest and how it affected my breathing. Combine that with cold water, which always takes my breath away, and you have panic about finishing a longer swim than I would have liked. I am out there in the ocean and thoughts of DNS-ing next week's triathlon and quitting altogether are floating around in my head. And I have a long swimming background!

I would like to publicly apologize to all the people I have (privately) made fun of for wussing out of the ocean swim part of a triathlon for whatever reason.

What to do now? Well, I have a week until the tri, and its swim is only 440 yards so my thinking is that if I get used to the wetsuit, the rest should fall into place. That means I am getting up early on Tuesday and Thursday for a morning workout in my wetsuit--like a dork. I really didn't want to do a pool swim in a wetsuit (for the aforementioned dorkiness factor) but my back's against the wall on this one. If I get used to swimming and doing some fast sets in the wetsuit, which I am hoping will simulate the breathlessness from cold water, I should be okay for 440 yards. After that, the club has shorter ocean swims that I'll ease into. They're less convenient to get to but the alternative of continuing freak outs is not an option.

Bike: Now that I don't have to take my son to school in the mornings, I have more flexibility in my schedule. That has resulted in my being able to bike to work twice a week. Part of the commute is a suburban section with lots of stop signs, and I take that easy. However, most of it is on a road with a bike lane and just a few stop lights. This has been going well and I am seeing improvement.

I had upped the volume quite a bit on the bike so that last week's training was my highest training volume since high school. This week is less since I need to recover for next week's tri. Yesterday's ride was just 29 miles in race gears and I flew (except when I had to repair a flat).

Run: I am still doing just once a week here but I am making slow progress. I'm still slow but not as slow as I was a few months ago. I am still alternating a "speed" week with a distance week. The speed is getting speedier and the distance is getting longer (up to just over four miles). The speed goal for this year is to bring my 5k time down under 30 minutes. The distance goal is to reach a 10k. Slow but steady progress is being made towards each.

Race: The Strawberry Fields Triathlon in Oxnard next weekend was something I had originally wanted to put on my schedule several months ago but it had conflicted with a family event so I couldn't. A few weeks ago I found out that the conflict was gone so I signed up for it. It's a month before the Hansen Dam Tri and it's a short ocean swim of 440 yards, which will be a good intro to that. The bike course is supposed to be nice and flat, too, which a Clydesdale like me appreciates. I am reducing my training volume so I will be fresh for it. This will be my second tri and my first in a Clydesdale division.

The End: That's about it for now. I hope to not let so much time go between posts but I will probably be sufficiently distracted by the Tour de France that I just don't know.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Teaching An Old Dog New Paddles

Today I swam for the first time since April 21. Back then I had to stop because my shoulders were really sore and they were not getting any better. The pain got to be too much and I actually made myself go see a doctor (not an everyday occurrence for me, let me tell you). I went straight to a sports medicine clinic and saw a doctor who, himself, has competed in triathlons (including an Ironman). After an exam it was off to physical therapy for several weeks, then back to the doc, which leads us to me in the pool today.

The physical therapy, while I think it helped in some ways, in other ways it did not. I did get my range of motion back but my shoulders were getting sore from the strain of the therapy and I did not think all of the exercises were helping. After chatting with the doc we decided the lay off the PT, do a few of the exercises at home, and get back in the water with a modified stroke.

What was hurting my shoulders the most was the recovery part of the stroke, where your hand moves out of the water and back up to the front. How odd is it that the thing that caused me pain was the one part of the stroke doing the least amount of work? Basically, the angle my hand was at, together with lifting my arm straight out and to the back was messing things up. I had to avoid that.

Today's swim was all about focusing on technique so I would do just one lap at a time. I started out with form that I had in mind and adjusted it with each lap until I thought I was really onto something. It's not like any freestyle I've ever seen but it's getting me through pain-free, so I will stick with it and see how it goes. What I did was borrow the whole rotation thing from Total Immersion so my shoulder wouldn't be at such a severe angle during the recovery. Also, when I start the recovery I flick my wrist so as my arm is coming up, my palm is not perpendicular to the water's surface but parallel to it. Next, I flex at the elbow so just my forearm is moving (this is where it gets weird), and once that's about at ninety degrees to my upper arm I finally flex at the shoulder and finish the recovery. My hand enters the water not right in front of my head, like I had been doing, but more to the outside. I'm sure it looks a bit odd but, as I mentioned, it seems to be working. It's all designed to not do the things that cause my shoulders pain. If that means it looks odd, I can live with that.

The other bright spot is that I did about 1000 yards and was not the least bit tired, which means my lungs haven't completely left me. My swim will be fine when I start up the triathlons again in two months.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Ride of a(n Almost) Century

Eight gels, three bananas, an orange, 6:25 in the saddle, and almost two water bottles later, I finished my first (almost) century ride this past Sunday.

The weather had been weird up until ride day. I had checked the forecast, though, and a good day of 70 degress was predicted for the whole route so I was going to need normal gear--no layers.

First up, after the 7am start, was two loops through Griffith Park. It turns out that this included one pretty good hill, which also meant there was one pretty good descent. Since it was right after the start, though, I didn't appreciate the hills as a warm-up. On the bright side, the second loop was easier than the first.

Then it was off to the L.A. River...on a bike path...with hundreds of other riders. Worse, the century riders met up with the 70-mile riders at about the same time: just before entering the L.A. River bike path. That part could have been better organized.

Rode along the river for a few miles, then it was time to hit the city streets. Not as smooth as the bike path but not as rough as some of the places I ride on weekends. Couple that with the stoplights and I was right at home (though I'm sure a lot of people were not). We passed by Union Station, the Twin Towers, and a bunch of industrial property before re-joining the L.A. River for the rest of the trip down to Long Beach. This was nice because as we got closer to the ocean, the breeze got cooler. It also got stronger so there was a slight headwind but it felt good. I do not recall dripping sweat at all (though I was definitely sweating).

Something that amuses me is "skills" that I pick up on my weekly rides that are not really something I think about as cycling skills but turn out to come in really handy. For my first triathlon it was riding in cold weather. For this century ride it was the bunny hop. Now, granted, I don't get much air but I do get enough to go over wicked potholes and other obstacles on the road. I hopped several times during the ride.

Got to the (almost) halfway point for a rest stop. It was the halfway point for the 70-milers but the century riders would actually go past this stop and loop back to the rest stop before heading back. I did not stop at that rest stop again and just kept going.

Back on the bike path and the very slight incline on the way back was overcome by the tailwind, which surprised me. Things were going well until about mile 62 (I do not think it is a coincidence that my longest ride until that point was 60 miles). My feet had been getting numb but now that was becoming painful. Plus my left foot was getting a somewhat sharp pain in it. I knew a rest stop was coming up shortly and I kept looking for it but, finally, I could not wait any longer and pulled over onto one of the many benches (with bike racks!) dotting the bike path. I sat down, took off my shoes, and rested my tootsies. Sure, I was now being passed by people I had passed earlier but I needed to finish the ride. After some amount of time spent sitting, walking, and rubbing I got back on the bike and my feet were fine for the rest of the ride.

After a bit more riding I was starting to get pretty sore in the saddle so I was very much looking forward to a particular rest stop in a small park. Park means grass. I parked my bike, took off my shoes and helmet, and relaxed under a tree. Ah, that's the stuff. I was feeling like I could take a good nap, which I definitely did not want to do so after a nice rest, it was back on the path.

Got off the path and back in the industrial area. Then a funny thing happened around mile 81: I got my second wind. My legs felt fine and I was pedaling pretty well. I did find, though, that if I thought about being tired I suddenly felt tired so I had to not think about it and just pedal.

While my legs were fine I was getting really sore in the saddle. I stopped at the last rest stop, only five miles, or so, from the finish just so I could give my butt a rest. Then back on for the home stretch. It was at this point that I noticed that my Garmin was saying one thing about mileage and the route map was saying another. It looked like I forgot to turn it back on after one of the rest stops. Sigh.

Getting through those last miles was quite an exercise in determination because I just wanted off that bike. Finally, I got off the path, went over the last, small overpass (which I could do out of the saddle with ease--yay out of the saddle-training) and then I was done. The booths we could wander through were kind of a joke, the "special" jersey turned out to be one for the organization that put on the ride and not for the ride itself. Whatever. I grabbed something to eat (I was not as hungry or thirsty as I thought I would be) and then made my way home.

Nutrition went well. I happened to wake up at 3am on ride morning so I took that opportunity to have a bowl of cereal. On the ride I had gels every 45 minutes, just like in training. At one point I tried taking a gel every 30 minutes but that did not work out so well. It was too much and my stomach had just a slight bit of irritation. I took water with the gels and once or twice extra but I was so well-hydrated and the day so mild that, much to my surprise, I did not even go through my two water bottles. I took two bananas with me and I ate one more at the rest stops, along with an orange or two.

I was disappointed that I goofed up with the Garmin but then a read a post today where somebody else said that they recorded the century as being short, too. In fact, the same amount of short that I recorded (92.5 miles). During the ride I toyed with the idea of riding extra just so the Garmin would show 100 miles but I so wanted off my bike towards the end that that idea was thrown right out the window. That and I thought the problem was with me and that I really was doing 100 miles. On the bright side, I know what resources I need to do a century, in terms of time and nutrition, and that I can do it. Triathlons will be starting up again in two months so I will have to wait until November to do another one. I wonder if it gets easier.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Nice and Easy...Mostly

It's the week before my first attempt at a century ride so Saturday's ride was nice and easy. My usual 29-mile loop but easy, easy, easy (except Little Woodley, which you can't do easy because you'll fall over going up a steep hill too slowly). Even went up Balboa in the lowest gear. Interesting to note that the easy pace I was at is the same pace I was at when doing the route for the first few times back in December/January. Ah, progress.

Today's run was planned at a minimum 11:46 pace for 46 minutes. However, I ended up at an 11:15 pace so I shortened it to just a 5.25k (36.5 minutes). Looks like I can pick up the pace or go for distance, but not both.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Yesterday was my second ride with the San Fernando Bicycle Club: the 61-mile version of their "Sierra Highway History" ride (there are also 42- and 74-mile versions). When it was time to go it turned out that there was only one other person heading in my direction (there were two other groups of routes to choose from). I hung with the guy up over Balboa and out of the San Fernando Valley but it was clear that I would not be able to hang on once we got to the first big hill that would drop us into Santa Clarita. I bid the fellow farewell and did my second group ride solo. I can do hills, I just do them slower than most people.

I was humming along nicely when, several miles before the first scheduled rest stop, I was joined by someone (not from the club) who was just out for a ride. We chatted for a bit and he got me moving slightly faster than I normally would have been but it wasn't anything I couldn't handle. Once we hit some downhills on the way to the stop, he took off (I'm more of a "coast down the hills" kinda guy). I just picked up a Gatorade at the stop, figuring this would be a bad time to experiment with solid foods on a ride, though I did down the banana I took with me. As I was drinking I met someone who was from the club. He explained that he left with a group going on a different route and he didn't realize it for several miles. Since he was clearly faster than me I let him go ahead of me so we could avoid the inevitable dropping of me.

After the break, it was time to pedal some more. I should mention that this was a fairly nice route. Nice views, roads that aren't heavily travelled but are well-paved. I was enjoying myself. At the 40-mile mark I took a left and I made the momentous decision to break with the route slip and eat early rather than ride nine more miles to Carl's Jr. What caused me to make this rash decision? I rode right by an In-N-Out. Who's gonna pass by an In-N-Out at high noon in favor of a Carl's Jr. nine miles away? Not this cyclist.

One Double Double, fries, and a chocolate shake later (note to self: probably should have gotten a lemonade), I felt fueled up. I chatted a bit with some cyclists who arrived while I was eating outside (I spent a lot of time on this trip talking about my Craigslist Special, as I call my bike). I didn't know how long I should wait after a meal to start riding again but I gave myself some time and then got going once more. Twenty miles to go.

Pedal, pedal, pedal. More great views. Part of the ride was going the other way on a part of the Santa Clarita Century route, which I thought was fun. I had to stop and rest up one hill but, on the other hand, I hit over 42 mph at one point and that was with me hitting the brakes because of the gusty winds. Shortly after I hit that I was passed by another cyclist. Too funny.

I was really starting to get tired now. At 50 miles in, which was halfway up the last big hill, I had to take a break. Once I got up that last hill, it was pretty easy getting back (Balboa is much easier southbound than northbound). I did it, though. 60.81 miles and 4:49 of riding (not counting breaks). Today my belts are a half-notch looser.

I would also like to mention that my fueling and hydration plans seemed to hit the mark. I am neither ravenously hungry nor very thirsty, like I have been after other long rides. Gels every 45 minutes (they're 150 cal. gels rather than the usual 100) and water every 30 minutes as well as with each gel. That and the fuel at the rest stops saw me through in good shape. I like to think that I didn't run out of fuel, I ran out of legs. Still, I did make it.

The plan now is to take it easy until the L.A. River Ride in two weeks. Probably no hill workouts until then and just an easy 29-mile ride (emphasis on easy), a run tomorrow and next Sunday and that's it. I wasn't completely recovered from last week's workouts so I want to make sure I am completely rested so I can make that River Ride my first century.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Going out for my 5:15 hill workout the other day, I noticed it's pretty bright out that early in the morning. I'm not usually up that early so it's not something I would have noticed before. This has me thinking all kinds of thoughts about summer workouts. The one I think I'm settling on is having Tu-Th hill workouts and cycling to work on Wednesdays. The Wednesday ride could take the place of my Sunday ride on weeks I want to get yardwork done (I am tired of letting it go so much). Expanded daylight and not having to take my son to school gives me more training options. Mmm hmm.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Kick High. Look Funny.

Has it really been two weeks since my last post? It's been a busy two weeks and I'll post more about it soon.

This past Sunday I went for my 5k run early in the morning. It was the day after a 39-mile ride with a bike club and I had a 29-mile ride planned for right after the run. I used the Garmin's pace-alert feature for the first time while running. Things were going fine until just after 2 miles into the run when I felt my right tibialis flaking out on me. This had not happened for a while. I did not think my form was so great on this run and this soreness kinda confirmed it. I stopped, rubbed it a bit, and after a short rest I started up again but this time I really exaggerated my form. Soon, I kept saying to myself, "Kick high. Look funny." Over and over.

A bit of background: One of my earliest posts discussed a problem I had with my tibialis, which is the muscle by your shins. This is not shin splints. It's a burning feeling like I'm using the muscle too much, then the muscle gives out and I can't lift up my foot anymore. When I started running again this past February, the problem came back right away. After a few more sessions I got really frustrated and scoured the internet in earnest for a solution.

I looked and looked but could not find anything. This led me to the nearly-inescapable conclusion that it was just me. I had to do some thinking. If it was just me then it was something I was doing wrong. Well, if the muscle feels like it's been used to much then maybe, just maybe, I was using it too much. It's thinking like that that got me SAT scores higher than the previous President's (to be fair, they were also higher than Al Gore's).

How to stop using that muscle so much? Think. Well, in the few pictures of me running as an adult, I always looked like I was walking (alas, no pictures of me on the cross country team in high school). Perhaps if I put some spring in my step and kicked my heel up a bit after pushing off I wouldn't have to use the tibialis so much?

I put the plan in action and it did seem to work. In the pictures of me running at my first triathlon I actually looked like I was running instead of walking. However, it made running somewhat less fun because I had to think about form so much. Last Sunday showed me that I'm not out of the woods yet, though. In the future I am going to have to chant my mantra, "Kick high. Look funny." over and over until it becomes second nature. I may think I look funny (in truth I probably look less funny than before when I was shuffling along) but screw it. It's how I'm going to become (somewhat of) a runner again.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cycling Madera

This past weekend I traveled to my parents' house in Madera, CA to attend a dinner where my brother would be accepting an award. So, of course, I took my bike. I mean, Madera is in the San Joaquin Valley, which means flat. Lots of flat. Lots of flat in the country with very little in the way of stop signs. I don't get lots of that at home so, of course, I took my bike.

First up on Saturday morning is a trip to Chowchilla. I did some research and found a donut shop near the turnaround point. I woke up to ugly clouds and a chance of rain but the temperature was not cold so I packed the usual and a rain jacket in my jersey pocket and off I went. Routes don't get much simpler than this:

In short, ride down Howard Road until you get to Road 16. Make a right and don't stop until you get to Chowchilla. There are good shoulders for almost the whole way and these are country roads that are not heavily travelled, so when cars and semis pass you, they are able to give you plenty of room. I was not able to go as fast as I had hoped (there was an ever-so-slight incline) but I was able to keep my cadence in the 80-range and if that meant I had to do it in a lower gear, so be it. This was my first long, flat ride with few stops so keeping the motor spinning for over an hour straight was something new.

I made it to Chowchilla and Good Time Donuts was just where Google said it would be (gotta love Street View). I ordered a huge apple fritter (didn't finish) with a hot chocolate and sat down for a restful fuel break. After that, back on the bike for the trip home. This time I would be heading down the ever-so-slight decline (about 1 mph faster, it turned out). I did encounter a couple of loose dogs but, thankfully, they just wanted to pace me while barking.

This trip ended up being 46.39 miles and took 2:49:51. 16.2 mph and 79 rpm on the way out, 17.1 mph and 80 rpm on the way back. I can live with that. A good trip, though I was a bit sore in the saddle by the end. The thing with that is, it doesn't get better by the next day.

Because of the soreness (and, frankly, fatigue), I lowered my sights for Sunday (I'll save that ride for my next trip up) and set out on a 32 mile route suggested by my father.

It's possible my father is trying to kill me.

If you're familiar with the area, I took the 145 out to the 41. What should have been a beautiful ride out towards the foothills turned into a white knuckle-fest because the shoulder of the road disappeared. This meant I was riding on or just to the left of the while line of a two-lane, full-speed highway. Wonderful. I got to experience something completely new: riding in the lane as cars coming the other way pass the cars in front of them. Yes, they pull into my lane, and speed towards me. I don't really have time to stare at them because I have to focus on the white line so I stay on it. Do not take the 145 out to the 41. I know people ride out to Millerton Lake, which was just seven miles further from my turnaround point, but I can't imagine they took the route I did. Bad, scary ride.

An interesting observation about fatigue. On Saturday I was able to take a nap between my ride and the dinner. On Sunday I was not able to so I sat like a zombie in my parents' house. I was able to observe my energy level go down, down, down, then slowly come back up a few hours later. I had my usual recovery chocolate milks and a big breakfast after Sunday's ride so I don't know how much more I could have eaten to keep from having an energy crash. I'm thinking that maybe on these rides lasting longer than two hours I need to take a gel every 30 minutes instead of every 45. With the e-Gels I use that comes out to be 300 cal/hour. I will have to experiment with that.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

From a Lake Swim to a River Ride

Today I had my appointment at a sports medicine clinic for my shoulder. We started off with X-Rays but didn't see anything bad. Apparently I had a pretty good right shoulder injury "a long time ago" but the only one I can remember happened to my left shoulder. At least I think it was my left shoulder. Hmm. Anyway, I am going to do some physical therapy for my shoulders (one block from work--sweet!) and have a follow-up appointment in five weeks. The doctor also recommended that I check out Total Immersion to help me to change my stroke so it doesn't put so much stress on my shoulders. DVD is on the way.

So, with the rest I need to give my shoulders and the change to my stroke, I have decided to skip my planned (but not signed up for) June triathlon and, instead, do the Los Angeles River Ride for either 70 or 100 miles. The nice thing is that I will get to do it with a friend(s), which is a welcome change to my (always) solo rides.

Since I can't swim twice a week, I might as well get in two hill rides a week, right? This morning's was great! I left on time, for a change, so I was able to get in four laps instead of the usual three. Felt really strong, too. I do need to turn the cadence alarm back on, though, because I find myself slacking when I still have the energy to go faster.

My Blackburn Flea front light, the one that was replaced just a few weeks ago, is already showing signs of going bad. What the heck is up with these lights? The rear light is awesome. The front lights, though, have sucked. I am going to call the Blackburn folks tomorrow and see what's going on. I want a working light but I also don't want to lose another two weeks of hill workouts.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Creeping Decrepitude

Let's run down this week's list, shall we?:

On Tuesday, as I was walking on the pool deck and about to get in, I stepped on a bee and it stung me. I was actually surprised by how much it didn't hurt.

After a 300 warm up my right shoulder hurt so much that I had to stop and get out of the pool. I have an appointment at a sports medicine clinic this Tuesday. Since it was a gradual thing I am hoping that rest and some shoulder exercises will fix it up.

This week I have been having a weird, dull pain in my lower back. Last night I could tell it was bordering on being really painful. Also last night I somehow made my left knee sore. Must have twisted it the wrong way but I wasn't really doing anything last night. I any event, this morning's run has been cancelled.

Like I have taught my children, listen to your body. If your body is telling you to not run, listen to it. However, I have a 40-mile ride planned for tomorrow so my body better get with the program by then. ;-)

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Heat Is On

Without a doubt, that was the worst "run" of my life, and I use the term "run" loosely.

Had a great ride on Saturday. The weather is warming up so I got to shed all my layers at the halfway point, even the toe covers. Averaged 15mph on a 40-mile ride (that's with hills and stoplights). Had an okay ride on Sunday. My 29-mile loop but I could tell I was still tired from Saturday. The Woodley hills were no fun. I was passed by a runner going up Little Woodley but I passed some walkers right after that. Amusing.

I had the bright idea to do a 5k run after Sunday's ride. It turns out that that was a stupid idea. Sunday was even warmer than Saturday and I didn't start my run until around 11. It wasn't much of a run. More of a walk, actually. It was possibly the worst run in history.

I learned that I need to do some workouts in heat but they will be done on the bike. I learned that if I am going to bike and run on the same day (not in a race), the run must come first. I learned that I need to take hydration seriously because drinking water in the winter is not the same as drinking water in the summer. I also may need to re-think my not eating before longer rides.

It's days like Sunday that keep me humble about my training progress.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

My Recovery Is Complete

With today's two-hour ride, I pronounce myself cured of last week's cold. It was an easy but not too easy 29-mile ride. Felt good but I ended up taking two naps afterwards. These post-ride naps, while nice, are really trashing my post-workout productivity.

I did a run yesterday. I've decided that I really need to start aiming to run each week. Some weeks I won't be able to but better to miss a weekly run than a bi-weekly run, which is what's happening now. That and I am not making any progress so it's time to try something new.

So now that I'm cured it'll be back to the pool on Tuesday and Thursday. My light came back so I can do my hill workouts Wednesday mornings. Looks like I have sixty eight miles of rides planned for next weekend. Yep, back on track.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It Turns Out That I Was Sick

I went back into work Tuesday and found that three of my co-workers were sick over the weekend, one with my same symptoms. Looks like I was sick after all so no swim on Tuesday, no hill ride on Wednesday (too bad because I got my light back), probably no swim on Thursday, and a very easy bike ride on Friday (I have it off) and maybe Sunday, too. I don't think a run this weekend is such a smart idea, either. I'm big on giving illness plenty of rest.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I Don't Think I'm Sick

Yesterday's plan was simple: an easy two hour ride. Except for the two Woodleys, I did take it easy. I was even passed by a guy that normally wouldn't have caught me and, even if he did, I wouldn't have let him get away from me. But it was easy day so I let him go. I came in several minutes slower than usual. Easy day.

I quickly fueled up, showered and shaved, took my daughter to a concert, had some lunch, and came back home. I was pretty tired so I went to take a nap. I woke up some three hours later and I thought I had the flu. Funny thing, though: I had all the aches and fatigue of the flu but none of the other symptoms. No runny nose, coughing, or congestion. Just way tired. I spent much of the remainder of the day/evening in bed reading or sleeping.

I woke up today less tired and a bit less sore and still no other symptoms. Very odd. Perhaps I am fighting off some nasty cold. In any event, no run or bike today, that's for sure. Combine this with my lousy swim workout last Thursday and I am going to re-think what an "easy" swim workout is. I think it involves slow 100-200 yard sets, reduced yardage, and no sprint sets. Easy week in the pool this week.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Assault on Santa Clarita

The first time I made the ride into Santa Clarita it took me 3:39. The last time it took me 3:20. This time I wanted to come in under three hours. Not only that but I wanted to do it by taking a slightly shorter route which includes a steep hill up a narrow road that I actually couldn't make the first time I tried. I figured the shorter would be offset by the steeper. No breaks, except to strip off layers, and I would try to power up hills the best I could. Fueling up would happen while riding, every 45 minutes.

I woke up yesterday and it was still pretty cold-ish. Even though the forecast said it would reach 80, I decided to go with the long-sleeved jersey and arm warmers. Felt good as the ride started but I had to drop the arm warmers a half hour into the ride. The jersey was warmer than what I should have brought but it wasn't unbearable. Lesson learned: dress for the warmest it's going to get, add layers if you need to, and just put up with the cold for a little bit.

Because of the sunny weather I did see more cyclists on the road than usual but very few people going my way (and none of them passing me). At one and two hours into the ride I was on pace to come in under three hours. However, the last hour involves two big climbs and they slowed me down considerably. I was pleased that I could get out of the saddle as often as I did and it made the hills more interesting. I knew the roads better than before so I did not have to use the brakes going downhill as much as before (at all, for the most part).

I was pretty toasted by the time I was ready to cross back into the San Fernando Valley. That first steep hill I mentioned is on quite a narrow road and I'm not convinced it's such a smart route to bike. First thing in the morning is one thing, because of the lighter traffic, but it was after 9am and I thought it would be safer (and, to be honest, less brutal) if I skipped the hill and took the slightly longer way around. Looking at the clock it didn't look like I was going to make it back in time but better that than being run over.

Even though I wasn't going to make it back under three hours I still wanted to see how close to it I could get. As I got closer to home, though, I started doing calculations it looked like I actually still had a chance. I'd have to really hustle but I might be able to make it. So hustle I did. Bigger gears, faster turnover, and worry about being tired later. I pulled up in front of the house, stopped the timer, saw that I had made it, and sorta collapsed on my bike for a minute.

I then petted the dogs, went back into the house, and hooked up the Garmin to the iMac and saw a few interesting things. First, the trip came in at 2:59:45. Talk about cutting it close! Second, I hit 42.6 mph on one of the downhills! The last time I did this ride I hit 37.3 mph and I sure didn't plan on going 5 mph faster this time. Wowzers. Another thing I noticed was all the salt around my eyes from the tears as I'm flying downhill. Later I finally broke down and bought some sunglasses for riding.

While this isn't going to be my last ride into Santa Clarita, as I have mentioned before I feel I am ready to try something different so in a few weeks I am going to try rides with the San Fernando Valley Bicycle Club. I'm sure it will be a blast.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


And no, I don't mean the song by Celldweller (though it does rock mightily). I mean that thing you do going up a hill where you work your way up by going across.

I did my usual 29-mile ride today but also included another assault on "Big Woodley" (I really need to take a picture--next time). I start heading up and I think I'm farther than before but I know I'm not going to make it to the top so I'm thinking about how I want to bail. I turn to the left and go across to see if I really want to bail now or what. At some point I decide to switchback and go back to the right. I quickly find The Secret to Uphill Switchbacks(tm), which I will share with you. First, I'd like to mention that I did try switchbacks last week but they weren't as good as The Secret to Uphill Switchbacks(tm).

Okay, the way switchbacks are usually done is you ride across the hill, angling up slightly so you slowly make your way up. You can even ride straight across one way, then angle up coming back, then ride straight across again, etc. Slower but it works. However, none of that is The Secret to Uphill Switchbacks(tm). The secret is this: as you ride across, when you get near the end angle your bike down so you catch a bit of speed. Use that momentum as you turn up to get up the hill just a bit and even angling up. That's it: head down to go up. Sounds dumb, doesn't it? However, I made such progress and saved so much energy that as I got near the top of the hill I stopped switching back and rode straight up. I still want to ride "Big Woodley" straight up all the way but The Secret to Uphill Switchbacks(tm) will help me as I get stronger.

So I woke up this morning to rainfall, which meant I was going to get soaked. As you might imagine, rains in L.A. are usually not that big of a deal so this was going to be a fun ride. However, as I started the ride the rain had gone. About 2/3 of the way through the ride, though, the rain came back so I pulled over and put my rain jacket on. What fun! By the time I reached home I was completely soaked and didn't think I wanted to do my run in such soggy weather.

I fuel up, warm up, and shower off. Then I made breakfast for my daughter and notice that it's now sunny outside. Crazy spring weather. I decide that I will do a run so after serving breakfast I get my running gear on and head outside. Hey, where did my sun go? Dark clouds were working their way across the sky but I run anyway. A half-mile into the run and the rain starts again. This can only mean one thing: when I finish my run the sun is going to come back out. I get nice and soaked but I do finish my 3.5-mile run without stopping and, yes, when I get in the house the sun comes back out. Today, I was a rain magnet.

Next weekend is my 46-mile ride into Santa Clarita but this time I want to do it in under three hours. Not as easy as it sounds with the reasonably big hills so we'll see.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

From One End of the Valley to (Almost) the Other

Today's ride went from the far east end of the San Fernando Valley to, almost, the far west end for a total of just over 39 miles:

Not a bad ride and I kept nice and fueled up. It's funny riding places you've only driven to before.

It occurs to me, though, that I have reached a point where I need to learn more routes to keep things interesting. That's where the San Fernando Valley Bicycle Club comes in. Checking their ride calendar I see that their ride into Newhall is shorter than mine and they rate it as intermediate so it looks like I have reached the point where I can hang with them. They have introductory rides the first Saturday of each month, which is perfect because next weekend is my aforementioned ride into Newhall/Santa Clarita so I will be needing a shorter ride the following weekend. They have many interesting rides listed and, while I do not plan to make them all, this could be really helpful for me.

I will be visiting my parents in early May. They live, and I grew up, in the San Joaquin Valley where it is flat, flat, flat. I have plotted a couple of rides to neighboring towns which should make for an interesting weekend. One ride is 40 miles r/t and the other is 48 miles r/t. The plan is to leave early, ride into the town, eat some donuts, then come back to my parents' house for breakfast. I am curious to see how I perform on long, flat rides.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Endurance Nutrition

Been so busy this week. My bike light hasn't come back from Blackburn yet so no hill ride again this week. I'll make up for it on Sunday with another (futile) assault on "Big Woodley" this Sunday.

So last Saturday's ride was okay. The aforementioned "Big Woodley" is the second hill heading north on Woodley Ave., just past Rinaldi. I tried going up it but I didn't get very far. I'll try and get a little farther each week. When I reach the top of that, I'll know it's time to try an assault on the hill on Lopez Canyon. Anyway, after failing that I went hard up Balboa and did quite well. Made me tired for the rest of the day, though.

Later on Saturday I was reading and a bit about fueling up more often on long rides caught my eye. On Sunday I decided to down a gel every 45 minutes instead of every hour and even have one just before the ride, like I have seen recommended for race day. I was feeling pretty tired from the day before but ended up with my second fastest time on that route--and that's with doing one-legged drills. What's up with that? I will be keeping a closer eye on this fueling up stuff in the future. What occurred to me was that I have been thinking of fueling up in terms of my usual "endurance" workouts, which were usually runs of 30-60 minutes. When you do that you can get away with eating nothing during the workout. However, as Alberto Contador's bonk during Paris-Nice demonstrated, riding for two, three, or more hours is not the same thing and I need to put fuel in the tank.

Regarding the one-legged drills, near as I can tell they're both working equally. That was a disappointment...either that or I did them wrong.

Last week's swimming workouts were wonderful. This week I felt a bit more tired but still had decent workouts. I only have two swims a week but I really work myself. I am so tired today. On the bright side, I think my shoulders are getting bigger or maybe it's just fat loss. I am doing 500s as my long swim. I have this mental problem where I don't like distance swimming so even though I could go farther, I am working on the mental side of things by doing these long swims until I can get over my dread. I had actually forgotten about feeling that way in high school. I'm getting better, though. Once I'm done with the 500s I'll probably start breaking the distance into sets of 200 with short rests between just to break up the monotony.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

IronBruin Times and Photos

The times for the IronBruin Triathlon have been posted. They weren't broken out by age group so I did some calculations on my own. Plus, age groupers were broken out separately from collegiates so when I write "overall", I mean the age groupers.

My swim was 8:09, which is over a minute slower than it would be without other bodies in the water. However, it was those bodies that slowed me down. I should be able to get my 400 under six minutes for next year so I will be in a faster group that, ostensibly, won't get in my way as much. I got out of the water in 12th place in my age group.

T1 was my time to shine. I had the 13th fastest T1 overall and I can easily go faster. I left T1 in 6th place in my AG. It was all downhill after that (literally).

I did the bike in 59:55, averaging 13.4 mph which, for a course with a steep, long hill like that, is about right. A lot of people didn't have the bike times posted so I don't know how far down I fell in the AG.

T2 was 2:22, which is pretty bad. However, I purposely wasn't trying to blast through it so I'm okay with that. Next tri, though, will be screaming fast. Speed laces and running while putting on the race belt.

The 5k run was 34:53, which was dead last in my age group. I actually anticipated that and am plenty okay with it. In fact, I think that's my fastest 5k. I can only get faster, right? I ended up with a time of 1:46:35 which was 184/258 overall and about 30/36 in my AG. I can live with that.

The race photos have also been posted and I found three of me:

Do you have the courage to zoom around a college campus for almost two hours in spandex? I think I need to wear a shorter swim suit to do something about those tan lines on my legs. And what's up with my arms in the cycling photo?