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.