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?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Report: IronBruin Triathlon 2009

My first triathlon was a blast!


I left the house at 5am and got to UCLA in plenty of time. There wasn't anybody directing people to the right parking lot and the one we were supposed to use had a "Do Not Use" sign in front of it, so it was the blind leading the blind for a while. After I parked I took my backpack up to T2 but left my bike on the car since I didn't need my bike in T2, right? I get there and select a choice spot (3rd rack on the left, right on the aisle). With that out of the way and over two hours until I start the swim, things get a little boring. Something I'm noticing right away, though, is that I've lost enough weight that the shorts I have on over my tri suit are falling off all the time and I didn't bring a belt. I also notice that everyone is bringing their bikes into T2 so they have it handy when it's time to go to the pool. Sounds like a good idea so I get mine. There's still nothing to do until after 7 so I wait around.

About 7:10 I start getting serious about setting up T2 and packing for T1. I strip down to my tri suit and a t-shirt, no shoes, and walk my bike up the hill. On the way up a guy tells me about two people who have already crashed doing the left turn at the bottom of the big hill. Point taken.

The Swim

I get set up in T1. There aren't really any choice spots but I take one that is easy to find. It's a time trial swimming start in order of your number. I do a quick calculation and figure I have plenty of time so I head over to the warm up pool. I do my two 50s and one 100. Do I do another one? Nah, I'll down an energy gel then head over and wait for my turn. It turns out my turn is about 30 seconds after I get in line! Not such a great calculation.

The swim goes well. I get passed by a couple of guys (one of whom I catch later) but I'm the one that's doing most of the passing. Towards the end of the 400 meters the turns start getting crowded but that's okay (all that water polo in high school pays off here). At the end I walk up the steps and jog into transition.


I was expecting to have really heavy legs or something like that when I got out of the pool and started jogging. What I experienced was sort of surreal: I'm swimming then I'm running now I'm going to get on a bike and why is everybody so slow? It was all odd. I'm one of the very few with a tri suit and one of the even fewer who already has his shoes on the bike so my T1 is really fast. Should it be that fast? I'm looking around at how casually people are transitioning. What's up with that? Practice a few times in a parking lot and boom, you're faster in T1. It's like finding free money. My goggles and cap are off, I get to the bike and toss them in my bag. I put my helmet on, put my transition towel in the bag and close it, then grab the bike and I'm off. That's it!

The Bike

I hop on the bike while jogging and get in the first shoe before I have to make a turn to go downhill. At the bottom of the hill I get into the other shoe, just as planned, and I'm good to go. My legs take a little bit to warm up but just before the big hill I'm all set. I get passed while going uphill, which is to be expected, but I'm surprised that I'm passing people going downhill (I peaked at 33.2 mph). Guess all those downhills that have been getting faster and faster have paid off, too. And last week's ride where I practiced getting out of the saddle worked out well, too. On the fourth lap I notice that there are a lot fewer people on the road and I wonder if anybody cuts their ride short and only does three laps. Just a thought.


I forgot to get out of my shoes early but, thankfully, all that practice helped me get out of them in a hurry and I jogged barefoot into T2. I rack my bike and put the race belt on. Unfortunately, I should have pinned my race number on the race belt when it was stretched out on me instead of relaxed because when I put it on it pops when the belt is stretched. Lesson learned. I fiddle with it for a few seconds, take my helmet off, get my shoes on, and take a big breath because the run is the big question mark. I jog out of T2 and get some water from the helpful water girls (I'm surprisingly thirsty by this time).

The Run

I'm a slow runner right now. I'm big and this race is my fourth run of the year (fourth run in two years, actually) so I know I'm going to get passed. A lot. However my goal is not to run fast. My goal is to finish the 5K without walking because my calves seize up. All week they have been feeling worn out from last weekend's ride so I have been really nervous about the run. I practice good form, don't run too fast, suck it in for the photographers :-), and run my race. I am passed, to be sure, but it's not the torrent I was expecting. I reach the halfway point and all is well. I have one mile to go and I decide I can run a little bit faster. Gotta remember to keep my form up. 1K to go and I can run a little bit faster, which is about as fast as I can go at this point in my training. I finish not with a sprint (which I think is lame--if you can sprint at the end then you weren't running hard enough during the rest of the race) but I do finish strong, which I am happy about.

Overall and Lessons Learned

I was pleased with how well-prepared I was. I swam my own race, T1 was awesome, the bike went well, I thought, T2 was okay given my trepidation but will be even better next time, and I ran the whole 5K without stopping. The only way the race could have been better is if I placed in the top three (and well all knew that was not going to happen).

I always have to warm up on the swim. Always, always, always. It really helps.

Someday I'll get tri shoes for the bike but I'm doing great with what I have.

Remember that the end of the bike isn't just a relief, it means I have to get out of my shoes while still riding.

Put my race belt on, then pin my number to it, then take it off and set it up in T2.

Lose more weight to I can go faster up hills.

Lose more weight so I can go faster and train more on the run.

All in all, the event rocked and I can tell by the fatigue that is overtaking me while I write this that I gave it a good shot. I hope I can do it next year.

Photos and times will be available later this week so I will post about them in several days.

Friday, March 6, 2009


They posted the seeding for Sunday's triathlon and I don't start until 58 minutes after the first competitor. Yes, I'll be starting after other people have finished. The bad news is that the bike course might be a bit crowded. The good news is that since, this is my first tri, I'll be able to learn by watching people doing the swim, transitions, and cycling before I have to go, with plenty of time to warm up for everything.

With the time change the night before the race, it's going to be a bit chilly in the morning. This is making me re-think my decision to not wear a swim cap. I don't need one for swimming but I think I want one for cycling. What? Well, do I really want to be cycling down that first hill at 30mph in possibly forty-something degree weather with wet hair. I'm thinking maybe not.

Still feeling my calves. We'll see.

I'm going to start packing my transition bag tonight, following a checklist I have. I read a suggestion that you do that at least two days before the race so if you notice you've forgotten something you still have a day to pick it up.

Tomorrow is a nice, easy day. Go to a concert downtown with my daughter, then drive to Santa Monica to pick up my packet, then back home. Dinner is an easy one to make so I can relax for that, too. Feet up, read the newly-arrive Triathlete magazine, and rest up.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Countdown to UCLA

On Sunday I tried a short run to test out running without socks and to run in my tri-suit (hidden behind my regular running clothes because I'm a wuss). Problem was I was still exhausted from my four-hour ride the day before so it was a very short run(/walk). After that I did a quick 10-mile easy ride and practiced transitions. I think I'll do okay.

I'm really worried about my calves because I'm feeling 'em. Maybe a four-hour ride the week before was a stupid idea. I'll know more in a few days.

Today's swim was short and sweet. Warm up, 400 (in 7 minutes, again, even though I'm still tired), 2x50, 100, 2x50 fast, then a cool down. Short but intense with plenty of rest time.

Signups for the Malibu Triathlon started this week. I was hoping to sign up after this weekend but the buzz was that the Classic (i.e. sprint) would sell out in a week and I didn't want to take any chances. They have three Clydesdale divisions! I signed up for the 225+ group. It's possible I could actually drop below that by September but I'm not betting on it.

I have decided that after this weekend I am going to focus more on doing longer rides to get my weight down. 3+ hour rides seem to really work so I'm thinking I can alternate a weekend with two two-hour rides with a weekend of one 3-4-hour ride. How to squeeze in a run every other week? Before the Sunday two-hour ride? Hmm.