Wednesday, December 9, 2009

On Saving Gas


I'm not a crazy environmentalist, but I recycle - and I try to reduce the amount of driving I do. KT and I frequently plan our trips based on being able to drive together rather than separately, and minimizing the number of trips we make.

Today I decided to see how much gasoline I've been burning. My current car is a 2002 Acura RSX - a small vehicle very similar to the Honda Civic. It gets good gas mileage, around 24 MPG. I now have 81,000 miles on the car which is not a lot - only about 10K a year. In that time, I've burned 3375 gallons of gasoline. Holy hell that sounds like a lot. I've had to fill it up about 300 times, and at today's prices those fill-ups would cost about $10,000. Worse than that, it generated 33.75 tons of Carbon Dioxide when I burned it.
So I've decided to go with an electric car. My fascination with Electric Vehicles started a few years ago when I watched Who Killed the Electric Car, and it's been growing ever since. EV's pollute far less (even if your electricity comes from coal!) and they get their fuel from domestic sources. I don't like being dependent on foreign oil, and I don't trust OPEC. Plus, I love the idea of one day powering my car with solar panels or a wind turbine on my own property, I'll be my own energy supplier!

I'd love to have a Tesla Roadster (pictured next to me above), but don't have a spare $109,000 to spend an an impractical sports car. That means I have to wait, since the Roadster is the only production EV available right now. My options in the hopefully not-so-distant future are:
- The Chevy Volt. A weird series hybrid (Prius is a parallel hybrid) which GM calls an Extended Range Vehicle, or EREV. Looks like a great car (I spotted one of the 80 in existence on the road recently), but it's not for me. I want a fully electric vehicle.
- The Nissan Leaf. I got to take a look at this in person last month, and it's not nearly as ugly as the photos indicate. Not bad, I'm not sure about their on board navigation and communication center - looks too Microsoft-y.
- The Ford Focus BEV. A Battery EV from a major american car maker? Wow, that's impressive. I'm keeping my eye on this one, surprisingly not a lot of info on it, other than having celebrities drive a prototype around a silly track on the Jay Leno show.
- The Tesla Model S. This is a beautiful car that reminds me of an Astin Martin. It's the most expensive in my list, and also the most likely to be able to fit a bicycle in since despite it's sporty look, it's a hatchback.

Which one will I choose? I just don't know. I like Japanese cars and have owned two Honda's recently - but both Honda and Toyota are far behind when it comes to EV's. They have such a lead in parallel hybrids, that they just don't care. What I am certain of is that my next car will plug into a wall, and not an oil well. Or maybe I should just ride my bike :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A weekend in Utah


Me and JK from TCSD drove out to Utah this weekend to attend the Endurance Corner Ironman St. George training camp. This was organized by Gordo Byrne, a super nice guy, fantastic athlete, top tier triathlon coach, and co-author of the handbook for long distance triathlon. This was possibly the single most important thing I've ever done to improve my training. The weekend basically consisted of workouts, followed by meals, followed by meetings. The meetings were not your typical "guy with a powerpoint talking at you" coaching lectures. These were more like support group round tables where we broke down our days work, and discussed nearly anything with the coaches. The coaches consisted of Chris and Marilyn McDonald, Kevin Purcell, and of course Gordo. As an age group athlete, it was a privilege to train and learn from some of the best in the world.
On to the camp itself, which started thursday night with our first meeting. It was very introductory and got us acquainted with the coaches and each other, and laid out the plan for the weekend. Friday the real work began. 6am breakfast, 7am meeting, and a short drive to the aquatic center for a 9am swim. This was an endurance swim - nothing intense, but a LOT of distance. When coach KP gave us the warm-up (1400 yards!) we all sort of looked at each other and smiled. I swam in the 1:40 per 100yd lane, which was sheparded by Marilyn. She was nursing a hamstring injury and swam with a pull buoy and without kicking. It was impressive to watch her hit the 1:30 target each and every time (giving us 10 seconds rest) like clockwork. We ended up doing 4700 yards that morning, though many of the group called it quits a little early. An afternoon of rest, then we hopped on the bikes for a optional "fun ride". The route was up Snow Canyon, which is not part of the IM course. It was about a 5 mile slightly uphill warmup followed by a 5 mile climb. It wasn't impossibly steep, but it really got me a little nervous. I certainly couldn't do that for 112 miles! At the top of the hill Chris and Marilyn did a quick lecture on descending technique - which we used immediately to bomb down the hill. Chris (the course record holder at IM Wisconsin) was amazing to watch, he flew down the hill faster than anyone - not sure how he did it since gravity was pulling us all down the same! I brought up the rear, I'm still pretty squirrelly on descents. I can't tell if my bike is shimmying or if it's in my head - but I get real nervous these days at speeds above 35MPH. I used to hit 50MPH in my aerobars, but lately that's been too much for me. Anyway, after flying downhill for 10 miles it was out to dinner with the crew, and early to bed.

Saturday was the big day, 90 hilly miles on the bike course. The race course is lollipop shaped, with a 22 mile handle followed by two 45 mile loops around the "candy". We did the loop twice, but skipped the 22 mile prologue. It's basically uphill for 22 miles, but it's a false flat for most of the way. There are 3 or 4 spots that are steep enough to be out of the saddle, but mostly it's just a grind. The road is chip and seal, and it sucks. Not only is it bumpy and uncomfortable, but it also slows you down quite a bit - probably at least 1MPH. Also, you need to stay away from the edges of the road. There is gravel lining the sides that is the same color and consistency as the road, and there are no lines marking the edge. Stray too far over, and you've just sank your wheels into the gravel, and probably crashed. Once you reach the end of the last climb you are rewarded with - nothing. More flat for what seems like forever. Eventually the pavement returns to real blacktop, which is your indication that you've reached the downhill section. The downhill is screaming fast and straight - no switchbacks - and it's quite a nice respite. It doesn't last long though, and soon you're back to the loop start. For me, the first loop went surprisingly easily, and the second loop destroyed me. On top of that, the flat sections at the top of the course became windy as the day went on. Overall, this is a tough (but not impossibly so) bike course.
Sunday was 6am breakfast followed by a 13 mile run - one loop of the out and back marathon course. I am a weak runner, and was in the back from the start of the workout. The course starts out on a false flat, maybe 1 or 2 percent uphill grade. It then turns uphill and you climb for what seems like forever. Then you hit the 8% grade hills. Up and down. Repeat. It's mostly uphill during the first 6 miles, with plenty of up and down along the way. Then you turn around and do the same thing in reverse, which is brutal. You need to learn how to run downhill - I found it incredibly difficult, and was running very slowly even downhill once tired. The run course is extremely tough, and I expect almost everyone to have trouble with it - even the pros.
Here's what Chris had to say on his Twitter:

@Cobrada bike if wisco was a 8 St G would be 9 run if wisco was a 5 St G will be a 10 bike is challengeing run is hard about 9 hours ago from web in reply to Cobrada

I have raced IM wisco,france,placid,NZ,AUS,arizona,canada and many more and St george looks to be the toughest/slowest course so far 2:13 PM Nov 14th from web

great ride today on the St george course. that is one tough sun of a B!


He even went so far as to say that he would consider walking the steeper portions! Though, he also said he can walk at 10 min/mile pace.

Great experience learning the course, soaking up knowledge, and hanging out with some real Tri geeks. The course is scary, but I can't wait to race it! I'd recommend these training camps to anyone - but maybe not the Epic Camp!

The spirit of Ironman is about not quitting - at any speed, that is a lesson worth learning.

Gordo Byrne, from his blog 8/28/2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

2010 comes into focus


I had some free time finally to sit and work on my training plan, it's much tougher than I anticipated. When you're first starting out things are easy - you struggle just to do the bare minimum suggested training. You ignore all the "fine points" and advanced topics, and just focus on getting yourself to the start line prepared to finish the distance. I'm learning that as your expected performance increases, the amount of detailed planning required increases correspondingly.
Tonight I broke down IM St. George prep. Today was the first day of week 30, meaning I have 7 months of time to train, which should be plenty. Here is the rough breakdown of volume for that time:
Preparation:
Preparation: Weeks 30 through 25: 12 hours
Base Phase 1: Weeks 24 through 21: 16 hours
Base Phase 2: Weeks 20 through 17: 17 hours
Base Phase 3: Weeks 16 through 13: 18 hours
Build Phase 1: Weeks 12 through 9: 17 hours
Build Phase 2: Weeks 8 through 5: 16 hours
Peak Phase: Weeks 4 and 3: 12 hours
Race Phase (taper): Weeks 2 and 1: 10 hours

This is a slight increase over my volume from IMAZ in 2008, which is exactly what I want. However, it's a huge increase over the last 5 months - where I've been pretty lethargic. I'm having a hard time imagining how I'm going to fit 12 hours a week into my current schedule. I've started a new job recently, I'm addicted to the NFL (again), Curb Your Enthusiasm is back on the air, and I have an amazing girlfriend whom I'd love to not abandon. It will all work out, I'm just not sure how.
So now I know my overall volume, what's left to do? I need to:
- figure out how each weeks hours will be divided among the three disciplines (plus weights)
- figure out the intensities for each session
- identify the key workouts (Probably will include some races)
- identify my short term goal deadlines
- schedule my monthly test workouts
- somehow fit it all into my calendar

Anyway, today was the first day of my six week Prep phase. My main goal for this period is to get back into a regular routine, and to get my body ready for the wringer I'm about to put it through. This means some long/slow bike rides, working on cadence and some technique drills. It also means starting the process of re-learning to run, and building up some run endurance. I haven't run more than a few miles in months - and I'm just plain out of shape. So tomorrow morning will be a 30 minute jog, focusing on posture and using a metronome to keep my turnover high. How am I going to get 12 hours in this week when I have 0 on Monday and 0.5 on Tuesday? I don't know yet, but that's why it's a "prep" week!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

No Easy Way


Tomorrow I race for the first time in 3 months, a sprint race put on by my favorite crazy people - TCSD. After taking an unplanned sabbatical from training this July, I'm finally getting back to normal. I rode the bike today. It was only 50 miles, but that puts me at 90 for the last 8 weeks - so it was a big deal. The rest of the afternoon I spent re-reading Joe Friel's books, and creating the skeleton of a training plan for the first half of 2010.
I've tried to be positive about it, but the reality is that 2009 has been complete shit as far as my racing and training. 2010 will be about consistency for me. I'm going to create a schedule and stick to it, which is a plan that worked brilliantly for me in 2007. Why I ever went away from that formula I'll never know. Training by feel just doesn't work for me when the other two pillars of my life start demanding more attention. Training with a group worked exceptionally well in 2008 - but it's hard to assemble a group like that. So it's back to structure and discipline and long lonely training days. Not glamorous, but it works.
Five hours until I need to be up, eating my pre-race oatmeal and getting the race jitters out of my spine. I don't expect to be fast. In fact, I'm a little scared about how embarrassing it's going be - I've fallen a long way. But for the first time since July 19th I'll be swimming, biking and running - and that's step 1.

Monday, September 14, 2009

2010 Training


I signed the papers (technically I clicked on a LOT of liability waiver "I agree" buttons, and one "submit") and am scheduled for IM Wisconsin 2010. The date is in my calendar, I have a reservation for Jiminy with TriBike Transport, and I've got airline sites searching for plane tickets. I wish I had been there yesterday, but that's done and over with now - time to move forward. With most of the logistics taken care of for IMWI, at least for the next 10 months or so, moving forward means preparation for the inaugural Ironman St. George.
I've got a lot of ideas about how to prepare for St. George, in the next week or so I'm going to make them gel into an actual training plan. That's right, no more ad-hoc training - I'm going to follow an actual plan with regular workouts and meaningful milestones. That doesn't mean I won't do the occasional 200 mile bike ride to Arizona, just that if I do it there will be some method behind the madness.
For now this means I have a lot of reading to do. I've trained for two years now for Ironman races, so I know enough to get me through. This time however I'm not just going out to finish, hear Mike Riley call my name, smile for the photo and collect my medal. This time I'm going to race.
There's a whole mess of ideas on my whiteboard regarding how I'm going to do that, but it boils down to a few big points:

Nutrition: I'm going to hire a nutritionist to help me improve my diet. I eat poorly, and get away with it because IM training burns a lot of fuel. But if I used better fuel to begin with...

Swim: I need some coaching. I want to get more efficient, turn my 1:08 swim from IMAZ into a sub 1 hour swim, and do it without coming out of the lake exhausted.

Bike: My strong suit, but still plenty of room for improvement. I need to nail down calorie and fluid intake while riding, and improve my power. I'm shooting for a Watt/Kg ratio of 3.0 or higher. Lots of climbing - Utah and Wisconsin aren't flat!

Run: I'm a train wreck in racing flats. This is the area I need the most help with, and unfortunately also the area I have the least clue what to do about. I've read Chi Running, Evolution Running and Pose Method. They're all pretty much the same (good posture, lean forward, lift your heels, midfoot strike, fast turnover) which I guess is good - there's no "magic secret", you just have to do it. I plan on doing more technique work, as well as running with a metronome to help with cadence. There's plenty of time before my next race, so it's quality over quantity with the running.

In addition to the big ideas listed above, I'm also attending a course preview and training camp in St. George Utah this November. The camp is put on by Gordo Byrn's Endurance Corner and should be a great chance to see the course and soak in some interesting lectures from people who know IM well.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I've got a BUG


I'm in sunny San Diego today, but my heart is in Madison WI. Today is my first DNF, and boy is it a doozey. Not only did I not finish, I didn't even make it to the start line - I didn't even make it onto the plane. Tomorrow is registration for the 2010 Ironman Wisconsin, and I'm going to be clicking madly to get my spot. There is one race I need to take care of before I get a second swing at WI, but make no doubt about it - I'll be in Madison next September. I plan on washing this bitter taste out of my mouth with fine Wisconsin cheese curds in the finisher's tent.
Today is a tough day for me, my mind is full of all kinds of things I could - or should - be doing. I've got BUG's galore dancing through my mind - Gordo's Big Unreasonable Goals. I've been a little complacent in my training, partly due to things out of my control, and partly due to my own selfishness. Today I start back down the lonely road that defines being an endurance athlete. Today, my eyes shift focus squarely onto May 1st 2010 - but the back of my mind will be occupied with getting back to Madison - and finishing what I start.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Save the Landreth's!


When I started training for triathlon in the winter of 2006, I went to my local RoadRunner sports and hopped on their magic foot analyzing machine. I'm pretty sure I didn't run on it the way I normally run, but it spit out that I needed a "neutral" shoe, and the helpful sales girl put me in the 2007 Asics Landreth 3. I did not know it at the time, but this would end up being my favorite running shoe. I ran in the Landreth 3 all winter, and raced in it all through the 2007 season. I probably put 1000 miles on the shoes - which is NOT recommended by anyone who knows about running footwear. When they finally bit the bullet, I went back to RoadRunner to pick up a new pair. I was told that the shoe was discontinued, and that Asics was notorious for that, and they put me in the "replacement" shoe - the Asics Cumulus 10.
My first run in the Cumulus 10 was disappointing, the shoes felt clunky. Heavy. After three months of running in them I had shin splints, a severe ankle problem, and knee pain. I hated those f'ing shoes.
I decided that Asics wasn't going to work for me if they discontinue their shoes that often, and that RoadRunner maybe wasn't as trustworthy as I thought. I went to a local high end running "institute" and got an evaluation. They also determined that a neutral shoe is right for me, and put me into a pair of Brooks Ghost, which are strange. They have weird posts on the forefoot, but I ended up liking them. I did Ironman in them, and have probably put 1000 miles on those as well - they are completely worn out right now.
I was dreading finding a new shoe, and started doing some research. I discovered that the Landreth line of shoes had NOT been discontinued like RoadRunner had told me. In fact, there was a Landreth 4 that was created in 2008 and a Landreth 5 for 2009. Fantastic! I was floating on cloud 9.... for about 2 minutes. Then I read more about the Landreth series of shoes. It turns out that my favorite shoe, the Landreth 3, was a stark departure from the Landreth 2 - and was quite unpopular. L3 was 20% lighter than L2, and the thin cushioning made most people hate it. So L4 got more cushion, and a complete re-design of the upper part of the shoe - and it gained weight. L5 was another huge change from L4, and again it gained weight. The weights are hard to verify, but the best info I can get (from Asics web site) says:
Landreth 2: 10.6 oz
Landreth 3: 8.5 oz
Landreth 4: 11.3 oz
Landreth 5: 11.9 oz
Cumulus 10: 11.8 oz

So the light neutral shoe I loved in the L3, has morphed into the same nearly 12 oz piece of crap that I hated and injured me in the Landreth 5. Eff me!
I looked online, and while some stores showed the Landreth 3 in the catalog, none of them had them in stock. I finally ebay'd the last 3 pairs in my size on the planet (possibly exaggerating this) which you can see here - next to my original beloved pair.

Good news is that I have about 18 months of happy feet in the nearly extinct Landreth 3's! The bad news is that 18 months from now, you'll have to read about how miserable I am that I need to go shopping for running shoes again.

When is a good day a bad day?


Participated in the Carlsbad sprint triathlon this Sunday, and I'm having mixed feelings about it. First, the good stuff:
- It's a really well put on race in a beautiful city
- Lots of fans to cheer you on
- A good pro field, I've raced with Michellie Jones and Kate Major since 2007
- A flat bike course!
- A bike course that is two traffic lanes wide, making it MUCH safer with all the beginners that do sprint distance races. I'm looking at you Solana Beach triathlon - I won't be coming back until you take safety more seriously on your course.
- I beat my race time goal of 1 hour, 30 minutes!

And the bad stuff:
- I didn't do my 100 mile ride the day before the race. I've felt horrible on every run that I've done for two weeks, and woke up Saturday dehydrated and feeling awful. I took a Saturday off for the first time in what feels like 3 years.
- My pre-race jog didn't go well. I did one mile, and was dripping with sweat afterward. For some reason my sweat-rate has gone through the roof lately. I can't keep hydrated and I'm seeing spots/getting dizzy after less than 5 miles of running.
- I poked a hole in my wetsuit trying to pull it on over my sweat-drenched skin. Luckily the fantastic service at De Soto fixed it within hours.

So how'd the race go? Confusing. I started in the first wave, along with the Elite males and females. You kind of get intimidated when the woman in front of you at the starting line has finished in the top 10 in Kona 5 times. The swim was a little rough, I got punched in the goggles at the beginning, and several times had the guy swimming next to me run into me because he couldn't swim straight. There was a lot of kelp in the ocean, which was gross but didn't really slow us down much. I got clear of the main group, and had clear water for most of the swim. I could see the fast group in front of me (waaay in front of me) but nobody else - I wasn't able to draft at all. I hit the shore and glanced at my watch, I had done almost exactly what I had thought, around 15 minutes. I had forgotten to put my bike in an easy gear for the steep hill out of the bike transition, but it worked out for me OK. The guy in front of me wasn't so lucky and tumbled over as he tried to climb a 12% grade from a dead stop while in the big chainring. The bike course was fun. Being in the first wave I knew everyone I passed was a legit pass - and the same was true for anyone passing me. I did get passed by a few people, which I don't enjoy, but I let them go and instead focused on keeping my power at 200 to 250 watts. I had quite a bit of saddle pain during the race which is weird for a 15 mile ride, and after the race I was chaffed pretty badly. I only drank half a bottle of Accelerade (12 oz.) during the bike which was a little light, but not too bad. I couldn't choke any more down because I was breathing hard, and swallowing just made me breathe harder and my heart rate spike. Off the bike and into running shoes, then the race took a turn for the worse. The run begins by going along the beach seawall. I tried to focus on form and foot turnover, but it was a bit of a struggle. After about 1km you run up a very short steep hill to get from ocean level to street level, and that's when I decided I had nothing left. I never recovered and felt like I limped the rest of the way around the run. I couldn't even muster a sprint in the finish chute with all my TCSD friends cheering me on - it was pretty embarrassing. After crossing I nearly fell over as my vision narrowed and I got very dizzy. I had to find a chair quickly and took some rest. Things got better quickly, but how does a 3 mile run do this to me? How am I ever going to run 26 miles in September?!

Another great thing about Carlsbad is that I've done it every year since I started training, so it's a good way to check my progress. Take a look at how I've done:
YEARAG PLACEOVERALLSWIMT1BIKET2RUNFINISH
200732/8826918:23?47:44?26:241:32:31
200840/8930919:3502:5947:1601:1925:101:36:19
200924/9318014:5402:0843:3601:4624:281:26:52

Not bad! I met my goal of under 90 minutes, and I've improved greatly. If you compare 2009 to 2008 then I made up 04:41 on the swim! I also gained 1 minute in T1 - this is because I swam with my tri-top on in 2009 instead of trying to put a dry shirt on like I did the previous year. I also skipped putting on my heart rate strap this year. T2 I lost 30 seconds, probably because I had to tie my shoes this year - definitely need speed laces for these short races. I improved by 03:40 on the bike in 2009, but this is misleading. In 2008 I had to stop and get off my bike when the saddle bag fell off - so I think I'm about the same speed as I was last year. On the run, I improved by 42 seconds - but I don't believe this number. I ran really poorly this weekend, my guess is that they're measuring from a different spot this year.
My friend Rachel mentioned to me (and to my shock she is correct) that I'm a swimmer! In terms of how I do versus my peers, I'm a better swimmer than a cyclist! I'm not sure how I feel about that. I know I'm not the cyclist I want to be - but the reality is that I'm good enough that if I want to continue being a triathlete then I'm better off working on running.
So when is a good day a bad day? When you PR a course, beat your pre-race expectations, and still feel like you're nowhere near ready for your next event.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More racing - and SDIT recap


This weekend will mark my third time racing the Carlsbad Triathlon, which is my favorite local sprint race. I had some mechanical issues on the bike last year (again) which caused me to have to get off of the bike and re-adjust my seat. Combine that with my desire to completely hammer this bike course, and I should see some improvement in my T1-to-T2 time. Of course, I do plan to taper for this race by riding a 100 miles the day before - so maybe I won't have the best racing legs when I toe the line Sunday morning.

Last weekend was SDIT, which I really don't like - but will probably continue to do because it's one of the few local non-sprint races. I felt really bad on the bike, and didn't really attack on any of the hills. That was disappointing because this is my home turf - I know the course very well. Despite desire to vomit, I kept my speed relatively high and had a very respectable bike split. The run did not go well. I was no longer able to stave off vomiting, and I marked mile marker #2 with my breakfast. I tried to run properly, but I was suffering from nausea and breathing cramps. A friend of mine who passed me at mile 3 said I was "running with heavy feet" - which is my normal style, but something I need to fix. Somewhere around mile 4 KT came and ran with me, she was very kind saying things like "you look strong" and "you're pace is great". Despite the fact that those were overly kind exaggerations, I appreciated the help. Technically you're not allowed to be paced by someone outside the race - I even got a friendly "hey - no fair being paced by a hot girl!" comment - but I don't think anyone would object to a middle of the pack athlete running with someone for a half mile.
Below is the overview of my stats within the 30-34 Male age group the last two years at SDIT. I improved in 2009, but not as much as I should have. It's a grim reminder that I'm not in Ironman shape, and IMWI is right around the corner.




YEARPLACESWIM RANKSWIMBIKE RANKBIKERUN RANKRUNFINISH
200851/100400:15:32230:50:49770:54:312:05:12
200940/101210:14:29210:50:43590:52:252:02:29


I followed up the race with some of my worst workouts ever. My week was something like this:
- Sunday: SDIT swim OK, bike tough but OK, run miserable and slow
- Monday: Day off - went drinking with old co-workers from Chicago
- Tuesday: Run at track - ran my best 1 mile TT ever, 6:47. Rest of workout mediocre
- Wednesday: Swim went poorly, found out I'm back to dropping my elbows!
- Thursday: Trail run. Had to cut the planned 10 mile route short to 8, because I felt like death. Started to feel dehydrated.
- Friday: 1 mile ocean swim, goggles leaked and nearly blinded myself with saltwater.
- Saturday: 8 hour, 92 mile ride. That's 11.5 MPH. Ouch.
- Sunday: Long run. Oops, turned into a 60 minute, 6 mile sufferfest.

I'm running like crap right now, even by my own usually pathetic standards. I'm not going to let this continue, and I've told myself "no more bad workouts". If I feel too beat to do a workout, I'm just skipping it. During the workout, I'm going to do it properly - when/if I cannot do it properly, I'm cutting it short. Perfect practice makes perfect, and all that.
My plan of attack for the running is:
- buy new shoes. Not really going to make me faster, but I need them anyway.
- brick off of every bike ride, at least for a few miles
- run with (closer to) proper form, even if that means shorter distances.
- run with more structure. No more "go run x miles" workouts, I need to have some purpose to each run.
- continue trail running. The uneven steps help me to decouple my breathing from my stride
- continue running on the track once a week. I run with much better form when on the track, need to figure out how to transfer that over. Plus we do good drills there.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Locked and Loaded



I'm ready to race! It's been 8 weeks since Wildflower, and I'm getting anxious to race again. Ironman training has meant less races per season (but more miles per race!) for me. This weekend is the San Diego International Triathlon which I will be doing for the second time. It's not an 'A' race for me, but I'd still like to do well. I know my base fitness isn't where it should be, but for a short distance like this I should be able to push it a bit. Last year SDIT was my first race with the new bike (well... first race without mechanical trouble) and I was shocked at how fast I went from T1 to T2.



CATEGORYPLACEO'ALLSWIM RANKSWIMT1BIKE RANKBIKET2RUN RANKRUNFINISH
MALE 30-34513153000:15:320:02:551290:50:490:01:255410:54:312:05:12

Last year I lost my swim cap a few minutes before the start - I got in the water to warm up, and somehow I dropped it into the Bay. I ran to the registration table in my wetsuit and stole a new one out of the box, and sprinted back to the start line. My wave had already moved out into the water for the floating start, I arrived there just before the gun, panting frantically. I had a good swim, though it got tight at the buoys and I was beaten up a bit. According to the final results I did a 01:33 per 100m pace for the race (15:32 for 1000m) - but that's not right. I think the course is considerably shorter than 1000m, since 1:33 pace is about as fast as I can do a single 100m sprint. Out of the water and onto the bike with a 2:55 transition time. Wow! That's a pretty fast T1 for me. I expect to go slower than that this year, at SDIT last year I swam with my Tri jersey under my wetsuit. I decided not to do that anymore because the water dripped into my shoes and made the ride and run very unpleasant. Plus, the shirt never dried out - I was wet the whole way.
The bike portion really went well for me. I felt good, but I also pushed hard. This was my hometown race, with the bike course going past my bike shop (Moment Cycle) and I wanted it to be a good one. I averaged 22 MPH, but I don't remember much of it - though the 90 degree turn on the way back into town is in the back of my mind still. Another blazing transition in T2, 1 minute 25 seconds! Probably won't do that this year either - I've got laces on my shoes this time. I know, it's not very "Tri" of me. I purchased Yankz laces for the shoes, but never got around to installing them - and the shoes are about to be replaced anyway.

The run portion hurt. A lot. I left it all out on the bike course, and suffered through the run with a 9:15 min/mile pace and a 54 minute 10K. I'm hoping to improve on this, though I'm not running well right now so it will be a struggle. I'd love to be close to 50 minutes - we'll have to see how it goes.
I'm prepping for the race by doing the monthly TCSD Aquathon (Presented by Kashi!). It's approximately 1000m swim, followed by approximately 3 miles of beach running. I do the swim sans wetsuit, which slows me down quite a bit. However, since I also run barefoot in the sand, my transition time is zero! I'm not exactly in contention for winning, but the Aquathon is absolutely my most favoritest race - and we do it every month during the summer!
Racing is fun, and this one is looking to be fully loaded with merriment. I'm racing in my beautiful hometown, on a bike course I ride with Moment twice a week, with lots of friends, support from the spectacular TCSD, and my unbelievably patient girlfriend waiting for me at the finish.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bang Bang


Wildflower 2009 was an interesting race. I stayed in Atascadero the night before, which is about a 90 minute drive away from the race. That was due to poor planning, I waited too long and every hotel in Paso Robles filled up. This meant a 4:15AM wakeup call. Ouch.
Everything went fine in the morning, though we did get a little lost on the way to Lake San Antonio and wound up driving past Justin - one of my favorite vineyards. We got straightened out thanks to "Cathy", the voice of our GPS. I was getting nervous because registration was only open until 7AM, and it seemed like we weren't going to make it. In the end everything was fine, I made it to registration, put my numbers on and got ready to race.
The swim was uneventful. Wildflower is a wave start, with 5 mins between waves. It's also a very large race, so there are swimmers of all levels in each wave. I ended up passing a bunch of "grey" hats, which was the wave 5 minutes in front of me. That's pretty normal, I'm not a great swimmer but there's always some weak swimmers in every wave and I normally catch some of the stragglers. But then I spotted a green cap. Holy crap, that guy started 10 minutes ahead of me and I caught him before the half way point - he must be having a rough day. Eventually I even ran into some yellow caps, which means I was putting 15 minutes into them on the swim! Wow. Ultimately my swim time for 1.2 miles was 33:26, which was 7 minutes faster than last year. I'm pretty happy with that.
I raced up the boat ramp, into transition and got on the bike. T1 was very long (5:46) because I just couldn't get my clothes on. I need to work on that. Eventually I got going and turned on my borrowed Garmin 305 GPS device. I was using it because my PowerTap 2.4 SL is broken, hopefully being repaired by the manufacturer. I didn't like racing without my power meter, but what can I do? The bike was uneventful as well, I kept a moderate pace because I knew the second half of the course was tough. Somewhere between miles 34 and 35, my life changed. I ceased being one of the lucky cyclists who have never crashed. There was a sharp 90 degree turn at an intersection (corner of Jolon rd. and Nacimiento Lake Dr.), and I didn't make it. There were two volunteers standing in the intersection directing us to turn right. One of them was apparently bored, and decided to do right-handed cartwheels to spice up his motions. I guess I was paying more attention to that, I took the turn way too fast (25 MPH) and didn't approach it correctly. I ended up going wide, which was no big deal normally - except there was loose gravel which means the tires don't bite as much. Instead of trying to turn sharp and having the wheels slide out from under me, I made my turn even wider. Too wide. I hit the curb on the outside of the turn nearly head on, stopping my front wheel dead. I flipped over the handlebars and into the air - bike still clipped to my shoes - and landed on my shoulder in a ditch. Bang bang. I can't describe the terror I felt in that split second, or the pain (or anticipation of pain?) as I landed. I assumed the two volunteers at the corner would be there quickly, but I laid there and nothing happened. I crawled up the hill in the loose dirt, dragging my bike behind me, and collapsed into the road. I tried yelling for help, but my voice failed me. Eventually they spotted me and came over, and asked if I needed an ambulance. Until that point, I assumed my day was over. But I didn't want to ride in an ambulance, so my response was "give me a minute, I don't know if I'm hurt". I sat up, checked out my bleeding shoulders and my mangled bike - and decided to keep going. After putting the chain back on the bike seemed fine - though with carbon bikes you never know.

I got moving again (slowly) and fielded a lot of questions from other riders about the grass and blood all over my back. I never really questioned why I was continuing, my dad taught me that you finish what you start. Soon, at mile 40, we hit Nasty Grade - a 5 mile climb that is notorious for being tough. I climbed conservatively and didn't pass anyone. The hill wasn't as bad as I remembered from last year. But once at the top, you have to descend - and I must admit I was a bit gun shy to take the switchbacks after having just crashed. Last year I hit 50MPH while bombing down this hill. This time, I sat up and caught some wind, and I think maxed out around 43MPH, still with a lot of nerves. I finished the bike in 3:10:02, which was 15 minutes faster than last year. It's not a good comparison for a number of reasons, including:
- Last year I had serious mechanical trouble, and had to dismount and adjust the derailleurs 5 times.
- Last year the weather was much tougher, it was very hot
- This year I lost some time due to "extra curriculars" - e.g. laying in a ditch.
- This year my PowerTap was not functional, so I didn't pace myself the way I had trained.

The run portion was just what I expected - living hell. Nothing I've ever done hurts like the run course at WF, it's hilly and hot and just plain miserable. Plus, this year the course was marked wrong. The run was 13 miles in length, but the "Mile 8" marker was placed where the "Mile 7" should have been. When we got to "Mile 12" we actually had 2 miles to go - most people were not entertained by this trickery, though my watch had given me the heads up on the deception.
After the race I found KT and gave her a hug (trying not to get too much of my grossness on her), then went to medical to have them check out my bike wreck injuries. Turns out I was fine, just cuts and scratches which they put some alcohol on and kicked me out so they could attend to people who really needed it.
One race, one bike wreck, one hell of a weekend. I was about 40 minutes faster than last year, making up 7 minutes on the swim, 15 on the bike, and 17 on the run. Not bad, but I have a date with this course again next year - and I plan to smash the 6 hour mark.


"Shoot from the back,
take good aim,
Make sure I'm dead
Bang Bang"

Dead Confederate - "The Rat"

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Feed the Disease


I love racing. I haven't done it since IMAZ in November, and it's so much fun! The adrenaline gets you through the 4AM wakeup, then you go through your ritual gear prep, breakfast, and head to the venue. I train because it's fun, I truly enjoy the workouts and I don't think about the races that often. But when race day comes, it's like living someone elses life for a few hours. I feel alive. No more 3 month hiatus's from racing, I need to get out there more - even if they are just training prep for other races.
I participated in the Bulldog bike Race this weekend, and it was lots of fun. This was my first bike race, and quite a learning experience. Some things were expected: drafting, close quarters, accidents, and machismo. Some things were a surprise: all the trash talking, strategy, and d-baggery.
To my surprise, I did OK in the 26 mile race. The first 8 miles are flat, and the whole 100+ rider peleton stayed together and at an easy pace - I even found myself at the front at one point! It was cool to be "winning" a race, but it was really bad strategy - as everyone else was saving their legs for an attack on the upcoming climb. My friend Cory told me later - "If you're going to be dumb, you have to be strong". I agree, and I think that might be my racing style! Riding in the pack was easy (though a bit dangerous) and honestly it got boring. I was chatting with my adopted team (I have lots of friends from the Moment Cycle) and thought the whole race would be nothing but a group ride with a sprint at the end. Wrong. I got dropped like a bad habit on the first climb, which is where all the teams attacked. I lost sight of the leaders, and never saw them again. I hooked up with one of the chase groups and we went pretty hard - we picked up a lot of the stragglers who fell off the lead pack as the race went on. The chase pack was cool, but there were a couple of d-bags in with us. One guy who kept swerving wildly 10 feet or more to the left - he did it deliberately whenever he felt someone was crossing up his rear wheel. What an ass. There was one guy who kept taunting another rider about how poorly he climbed hills - apparently they had a verbal exchange early in the race, and kept jawing for the whole hour. Then there was a weak ass rider from some LA cycling team who kept trying to win with strategy. He would get to the front of the pack and pull for only about 10 seconds, then go hide back in the pack - sometimes skipping his turn up front all together. I decided to punish him a bit by getting behind him and forcing him to take a real pull - he got pissed, doing the roadie elbow wave, which I ignored, and it lead to him getting pretty pissed - which was the point. I kept trying to push the pace by attacking off the front, but even at 32 MPH on the flat stretches the group kept covering all my moves, and we all ended up finishing together.
I raced hard, but not all out. I knew I still had a short run, followed by another 60 minutes on the bike, and a second run scheduled for the day. After the race I put the bike in my car, put on my running shoes and took off. The d-bag cyclist attitude showed itself again, as several people gave me a hard time for running after the race - one guy yelled "if you can still run, then you didn't ride hard enough". It's not a particularly mean comment, it was the way he said it - like he was angry at me for not taking the bike race as seriously as I could have. Funny, I was running past him as he exited the finish chute, after having completed the race, checking the results, chatting with coach, packing my bike away, and changing into running gear. Maybe he's the one who didn't go hard enough?
My results were pretty good (I think). I was 4 minutes behind the winner, and placed 14th (of 24) in my age group, and 105th of 578 overall. If I had gone 2 minutes faster, which I think was easily doable, I would have been in the top 50. Wow, I've never been that high up on the list before - maybe cycling races aren't so bad :)
Bike racing seems much more social than triathlon, which was cool - unfortunately there seems to be a lot of a-holes in the bunch. I'm going to stick with being a triathlete (good people those tri geeks), and I'll venture over to road racing when I need an ego boost :)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Properly paced CP30 test


Earlier this month I did a CP30 test to help me determine my Functional Threshold Power. My average power was ok, but as I pointed out previously my pacing was pretty much shit. Coach scheduled a bunch of time trials this week, including a cycling test of CP30 so I headed back to Fiesta Island for a new CP30 test.
Last time I went out too hard on lap 1 (of 3) and was struggling by the end. My goal this time around was to negative split (get faster each lap) by hitting these wattage numbers for the three laps: 245, 250, 255.

First, here are the overall test numbers:
Duration: 32:28
Distance: 12.34 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 507 258 watts
Heart: 134 186 144 bpm
Cadence: 63 152 95 rpm
Speed: 14.3 29 22.8 mph

This is slightly faster than last time (33:33, 22.1 MPH) but that doesn't really mean anything since the wind conditions were horrible on the previous attempt. Wattage was increased from 245 to 258, now that's progress! In fact, it's a 5% improvement - and I'm certain that pacing is responsible for those results.
My lap wattages for this test were: 246, 251, 276
That is fantastic, I hit my target wattages on laps 1 and 2, and used up everything in my tank on the last lap. That's good pacing, and the results speak for themselves. I also felt better - my average heart rate was actually lower than the last time. Lower heart rate and 5% more power? Fantastic!

Finally, here's the FTP calculation, using the CP20 that WKO+ gives me (266 watts):
FTP = CP20 * 0.95 = 266 * 0.95 = 252.7 watts.

Wow, last month was 242 watts. Did I just have a good test, or am I really improving? It's hard to say, but I'm trying to be optimistic :)

If you'd like to see my data for yourself, here it is:
http://www.trainingpeaks.com/sw/M72323HSR3JR5YZWGTUFR6FLRE

Monday, February 16, 2009

If you need me...

... this is where to find me for the next couple of hours:


Update: It hurt.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Darwin's 200th

Sorry for the foray away from triathlon and training, but today is a big day for the "geek" side of my personality.
Today is the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, and this year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of his most famous work "On the Origin of Species". I'm a huge fan of Darwin, I am one of the many who count him as possibly the most important scientist in all of human history. I once heard the distinguished biologist Richard Dawkins speak about Darwin's idea of evolution through natural selection and he said something along the lines of: "it explains everything about the natural world, and requires almost no pre-supposition to do so". Natural selection is easy to understand - you don't need a degree in biology to grasp the idea. You could explain it in a few sentences to anyone and they would get the concept. Compare that with Einstein's theory of relativity, in which a great deal of knowledge is required before you can even begin!
Darwin's theory is so powerful because it explains who and what we are. There are literally millions of pieces of evidence corroborating the theory, and in 200 years not a single piece that disproves it. It's as close to fact as anything in science. In 1859, for the first time in human history, we knew our place in the universe. How glorious is that?! Of course natural selection blows all of the Creation Myths out of the water - including all three of the world's major religions - which I'm sure is unsettling for some. Especially for those who think of humans as elevated above other creatures in the world. They didn't want to hear that we as a species just got lucky and our naturally selected advantage was the ability to out-think our competition. This makes us unique, but not special - we play by the same rules as all of nature does. For the most part the world has gotten over their distaste for the world Darwin revealed, and even the Vatican has recognized evolution through natural selection as a scientific fact. Hell, if they can get over Copernicus and Galileo revealing that the Earth was not the center of the universe, then they can get over anything.
There are a handful of truly great scientists in western history: Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Watts and Crick, and in my opinion Hawking. For me, Darwin takes the prize as the most important. He took mankind off of it's pedestal, and placed it in it's proper place among all of it's cousins. He revealed the largest Truth ever unveiled to us - and that's pretty damned cool.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Suffer. Sacrifice.


When 1996 Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis was asked what the best advice he had ever been given, he replied: "Suffer. Sacrifice." I always liked that - and I thought of it often during my first season of training. As I was pushing up Torrey Pines for the 10th time one Sunday morning, as I took off into a 30 MPH headwind for the first half of a century ride, as I rode through the snow on Mt. Laguna in bike shorts. I liked the idea of suffering now, with the reward coming later. During that first year I woke up every day so sore that I didn't know if I could complete the 2 mile bike ride to the pool for Masters. After the swim I made myself breakfast, spent the day at the office, did my evening workout, packed my lunch for the next day, then went straight to sleep by 9pm. Often times I went to bed hungry, since I tracked my caloric intake closely and ate just enough to fuel my workouts. I had a ritual, and it worked for me. I enjoyed the spartan lifestyle, the simplicity of single-minded focus.

My second season of training was different. The distances were so huge, that I had no choice but to moderate my effort, and to rest before a big event. I learned to be efficient, and to exert measured effort over long periods. It was different, and the long periods of quiet caused me to lose some of my single-mindedness.

Lately I feel like my life has gotten complicated, and I've been getting soft. Sure I have tough days, but I still end each workout with a smile on my face. I go out each day and train because I choose to do so - because I'm having fun. I wake up every morning feeling refreshed. I'm training smarter now - I actually have "recovery workouts" which are good for recovering from a hard workout without getting too lazy. I'm seeing better results now as well. I certainly would not recommend my old "punish myself everyday" training philosophy to anyone looking to get faster - it's a horrible way to prepare for a race. But I liked it. I liked the simplicity of "do whatever I can today... and then a little bit more." I liked the suffering because I knew I had a higher tolerance for it than the guy next to me.

It occurred to me that I was getting soft a while back, when I realized I hadn't vomited during a workout in over a year. Not that I enjoy the taste of vomit, but I've found that if my breakfast isn't working it's way up my esophagus, then I'm probably not redlining. During this Sunday's ride I demonstrated my mental weakness. I cut the ride short due to rain. Rain?! Are you kidding me? What kind of f'ing pansy have I turned into? I can't believe how psychologically anemic that is - it's embarrassing, which is why I'm writing it down. I need to toughen up, and get back to where I was a year ago. I still want to train smart, and go easy on recovery days. But the intense days need to be more intense. I need to stop being polite during my group bike rides and staying with the group. I need to stop being a wuss when it comes to running hard. My hard days need to be hard. I need to finish workouts when they are uncomfortable, when they hurt, when I don't want to be there. I need to re-learn how to Suffer during a workout, and to Sacrifice the things that sabotage my plans.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Weekend Update

Friday:
  • work
  • swim
  • bars

Saturday:
  • sleep in! raining, so no cycling - trying to keep bike clean.
  • run
  • ice ankle
  • Ironman meetup
  • drinks at Blarney Stone

Sunday:
  • Bike/Run/Bike/Run on Fiesta. It rained - bike is filthy
  • ice ankle


My filthy bike


I am not going to have fun getting the sand out of there! Was I doing Xterra?

Weekly totals:
Volume: 11 hours
Swim Distance: 4.7 miles
Run Distance: 26 miles
Bike Distance: 63 miles

It seems pretty light on cycling to me, but then again I tend to over-train when left to my own decisions. I did mess up one bike workout this week and had to cut it short. Also, I didn't do a long ride on the weekend which has always been a staple of my training. However, 26 miles running is the longest I've done in any week since IMAZ - and I feel pretty good about it. Metronome running is very effective - too bad I can only keep it up for a few minutes at a time. I'm running well (for very short periods) and without injury. The ankle is still sore, but it's certainly not getting worse - it may even be improving.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Functional Threshold Power - February


A little over a month ago I did a 12 mile time trial in order to measure my CP30 and estimate my functional threshold power. Today I went back for my 30 day checkup. Once again I returned to Fiesta Island for a 3 loop, 12 mile TT which usually takes me just a shade over 30 minutes to finish. If you'd like to see the power data for my test, I think you can view it online with this URL.
I began with a 15 minute warmup loop - which was enough to realize that this was going to be a windy day. It was 12 to 15mph wind, which means half the loop is a strong headwind, and half is a tailwind. It's nice that it evens out like that, but it means that its more difficult to do a steady effort. Luckily and device like my PowerTap 2.4SL is exactly the right tool. If used properly I can just adjust my gearing and cadence to maintain a steady power reading, and ignore my speed completely for a nice smooth effort. Unfortunately I didn't do that.
I knew (or should have known) that I averaged 242 watts last time I did the test, and that my target power output should be somewhere in that ballpark. 245 would have been a good target. Unfortunately I started the first lap into the headwind, and took off like a bat out of hell. I felt good, my wattage was large and I was thinking quite highly of myself. I did 265 watts on the first lap, at 22.4 MPH - including a 5 minute stretch with a tailwind where I did 27.4 MPH!
But, the second loop bit me. Somewhere struggling along the long backstretch into the headwind the lactic acid started building up in my legs, and I knew I was in trouble. I fought hard on the second loop, but was angry at myself for f'ing up the pacing. Lap 2 was 239 watts, a drop of 10% over lap 1. Crap... this is supposed to be an even effort - or maybe even a slight negative split. The third lap I knew I was toast, but I left it all out on the island and ended up with a 230 watt average. Here's the final numbers:
Duration: 33:33
Distance: 12.37 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 464 245 watts
Heart: 118 153 146 bpm
Cadence: 56 141 92 rpm
Speed: 14.9 30.6 22.1 mph

245 watts and 22.1 MPH. Compared to last month (242 watts, 22.0 MPH) it seems almost identical. However, since I approached the pacing so badly this month, I really feel like I could have done better. If I had targeted 250 watts, and actually stayed there on the first loop instead of burning out, I feel like I could have held it the whole way. Next month my target wattage for the three loops will be 245, 250, 255.

For those of you doing the math, my FTP changed drastically this time. According to WKO+, my peak 20 minutes (CP20) were the first 20, where I held 255 watts.
FTP = CP20 * 0.95 = 255 * 0.95 = 242 watts.

Last month my FTP was 230 watts, so at first this seems like a great improvement. In reality it's just a side effect of my inconsistent pacing - I had 20 good minutes which make the CP20 artificially high, which I paid for with 10 lousy minutes that brought my CP30 back to almost exactly where it was last month. Pacing, pacing, pacing!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Happy 2^5nd!


Today I turned 32, and it's been pretty great so far. I'm kind of a numbers guy, and 32 is an important one for me. It's a power of 2, which is a big deal for us computer nerds. It was also my basketball jersey number - I was 14 years old when I began wearing that number, I don't think I could have imagined ever actually being that old! It is also exactly 2x16, and since I received my driver's license on my 16th birthday it means that today - and for today only - I have been driving for exactly one half of my life. I warned you I was a numbers geek, right?
I started the day with a bike ride from Fletcher Cove - another absolutely gorgeous day in Southern California, 75 degrees and sunshiny! I rode by myself up the coast to Oceanside pier, which is where my odometer hit 16 miles - I turned around so the round trip would end up being 32. My legs were a little sore from yesterday's ride, but I had enough in them to drop a "B" level roadie who decided to latch onto my wheel in Carlsbad. I toyed around with him a while - went just hard enough that I knew he was red lining, but not hard enough to drop him. After I knew he was good and fried, I put the hammer down and opened up a gap. I rocketed up one of the moderate climbs on the south end of cbad, and when I looked back he had cracked on the hill and was never seen again. It was good to be in the saddle today, there's no place I'd rather be.
Oceanside Pier - the bike turnaround. I love January in SD!

I finished the ride and took the half mile drive up the hill to the Solana Beach Boys and Girls Club to begin the swimming portion of my birthday workout. On the agenda: 32x 100 yards. I decided to do them on a 2:00 interval - which would make it easy to count, and I knew I would be done after 64 minutes. I normally swim in a 50 meter pool, this one is 25 yards long - it actually made a big difference. It turns out that with the extra kicking off the wall, 2:00 is pretty darn easy. I was hitting the wall at 1:35, and getting 25 seconds rest - which is an eternity. But I continued because it wasn't supposed to be a tough swim, plus being on even interval made it so easy to keep track of. It was nice and relaxing - I even struck up a conversation with the woman swimming in the next lane. Yes, she was crazy hot - abs of steel. Somewhere along the line I looked at my watch and saw I was at 24 minutes - which meant this was my 12th 100yd set. I started thinking about what I was doing when I was 12 years old - it was kind of fun to try to remember. I did that the rest of the way through - kind of reflecting on the milestones in my life and the ages where they occurred.
  • 13 - I made the basketball team. This was my exit from "everybody wins" community leagues and into competitive sports. Basketball would be my life from that day on.
  • 14 - my first real date, with Cindy. We watched Kevin Costner in "Robin Hood".
  • 16 - We all got our driver's licenses. How we are still alive is a mystery.
  • 17 - Dated a cheerleader who was much more than a cheerleader. My free-throw percentage fell dramatically that season, as she was always standing right in front of me while on the stripe. My friends thought she was crazy, but I didn't notice - I think I have a "type".
  • 18 - Graduated from high school and moved away from home. I was sad on the last day of school because I would never see those people again. Funny how important that stuff seems when you're young. I quit playing basketball competitively - thinking of it still makes my eyes water.
  • 20 - I pledged Triangle along with my soul brother Kevin. His wedding is in Austin TX in about 6 weeks - can't wait to see him again. Many of my closest friends are from the Dinger house in Terre Haute - I'm so proud to be a part of that organization.
  • 21 - Had the typical 21st birthday night of over drinking. Made my first trip to Vegas - lost my belt at the Crazy Horse.
  • 22 - Graduated from Rose-Hulman, which is to date the most difficult task I've ever accomplished. Posing with my father for the "legacy photo" was unexpectedly fantastic.
  • 23 - Hard living in Chicago - had the time of my life! Briefly long-distance-dated a friend from home whom I had been interested in for years. This was my first real heartbreak.
  • 27 - Received my graduate degree in Computer Science. I hated every f'ing minute of that curriculum - this might be where I learned the meaning of "endurance".
  • 28 - Moved to San Diego. Once again briefly dated same friend from home long distance, after 5 years of pining for her. Distance and my disinterest in "Sex and the City" doomed us. She's still one of my closest friends.
  • 29 - I re-discovered cycling, and later triathlon. I've been smiling ever since.
  • 31 - The year of Ironman. A good year, with some rough edges. Some really high highs, and a few very low lows - but it all worked out.
My friends and training partners from IMAZ - at least most of them

Anyway, I was swimming my 100's at the 1:35 pace until I pinched a muscle in my shoulder around number 27. I swam a 1:45 and was in pain - thought about quitting since this workout wasn't all that important. But quitting just didn't work for me - I'm an endurance athlete, so I worked through it. 2 more at 1:40 pace and the pain finally went away. I smoked number 32, 1:23.
Then it was off to the showers to trade my speedo for running shorts - a 3.2 mile run. It was surprisingly hot out there, the sun beat down more like a summer day than the dead of winter. I didn't bring my metronome, but I did focus on my running form - especially my cadence. I think it worked OK, I felt good and went pretty fast.
My "32" workout was pretty fun - I think I'll do it again next year. Now it's off for a nap, I've got a dinner and a party to get to tonight...

Friday, January 30, 2009

I HeArTE Running

I went on a fun bike ride today with coach BAM. Yes, it is a weekday - unplanned coastal bike rides along PCH are exactly what I've been saving my vacation days for. We rode about 50 miles, a lot of it at a conversational pace, which meant I got to pick his brain about a lot of training stuff. He came to the same conclusion today that he had in November when we first met, and that I had come to 15 months ago: I can't run, and I need to focus on it. So here's my embarrassing running situation.
  • I am insanely bow legged. See photo for evidence.
  • I ran my first half marathon in August of 2007, AFC which I completed in 2:25:46
  • I decided running was my limiter, so during the off season I focused on the run. It worked, by January I had PR'd at the Carlsbad half with at 1:53:52. That's more than 30 minutes!
  • I completed the La Jolla half in 2:01:24, which I was very happy with - it was extremely hot.
  • I returned to AFC in 2008 and did a 2:04:10. I was relatively happy with that, IM training had worn me down, and this was just another training day.
I made marked improvement in 2008 in my half marathons - however my runs during triathlons continued to be a problem. For example at Ironman 70.3 California there were 234 people in my age group. I placed 155th in the swim, 117th on the bike, and 202nd on the run. That translates to the top 66% swimming, top 50% cycling, and top 86% running. Ouch. At San Diego International things were worse, the number were 40% swim, 20% cycling, 70% run. If I could get to mediocre (top 50%) on the run I would have moved up more than 20 places in my age group!
I know what I need to concentrate on, now I need to find the willpower to follow through with it. Coach threw out a number for what he'd like to see me run at Oceanside, which is 60 days away. I don't want to publish it here (yet) but it would mean running my half marathon PR as part of a 70.3 race! The crazy thing is... I think I can do it. I'm at rock bottom right now in terms of my running having done a 5:18 marathon at IMAZ - I've got nothing but upside.
There's not much time before IM CA 70.3, so the plan is simple:
1. Eat better. I'd like to lose some weight before this race, especially since running gets WAAYY easier the lighter I get.
2. Work on my running cadence. My good friend (and fellow IMAZ '08 finisher) JC is a hell of a marathoner, and he told me once to focus on cadence. He said that fixing that would also solve most of the other problems with my stride. BAM reiterated that same idea to me recently. These guys know their shit - so that's what I'll do.

On JC's advice I bought a small metronome. I set it for 180bpm and try to match my footsteps to it, resulting in a cadence of 90. My past experience with this device is that I hate it - it's like water torture listening to the tick, especially if it's clipped to my hat. My "natural" cadence is about 65. When I try to run at 90 I feel like I'm just running in place - my steps have to be so short in order to get that kind of turnover that I'm dancing more than running. I stopped using the metronome because I just couldn't do it properly.
I'm going to make an honest effort to make use of it again. I know I won't be able to hit 90rpm for very long, but that's OK. I'm going to do some short runs correctly - instead of my current plan of long runs incorrectly. We'll see if it works in 60 days.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Playing the Lottery


As someone with a background in math, I don't play the lottery. I think most people know that the lottery is not a good bet - and I am very aware that the odds are so low that your chance of winning is essentially zero. If you'd like to gamble, you'll find much better odds in Vegas - though you're probably going to lose there as well. So why am I playing the lottery today?
Today I entered the 2009 Ironman World Championships Lottery. My odds are not good in this lottery (2.5%, or about 1 in 40) but that's orders of magnitude better than the California state lottery. Oddly, my motivation for signing up is the same that motivates millions of people who cannot really afford lottery tickets to spend their paychecks on scratch off tickets - desperation. The IMWC in Kona is the superbowl of long distance triathlon. There is only three ways to get there:
1. Get fast. The main field in Kona is made up of 1800 of the fastest IM athletes in the world - those who placed in the very top of their age group in qualifying races.
2. Get rich. You can get invited to the race if you are famous or interesting enough to make a good story for the television coverage. This includes the CEO Challenge, the charity eBay auctions, as well as just being a celebrity.
3. Get lucky. 200 people will win slots via the lottery - 150 from the US, and 50 more internationally.

Obviously my preferred method is to "get fast" - though "get rich" wouldn't be bad either. I'm trying to get fast, but realistically that's not likely. I did IMAZ in 12:29:11, in order to qualify for Kona I would have needed to go about 9:15:00. That's 25% faster, a total of more than 3 hours! I believe I can improve on my IMAZ time, but to get down near 9 hours is maybe not in the cards for me - those are some incredible athletes at that level. I sometimes forget it, but I'm a software engineer - not an athlete. I don't really have a time goal for IM Wisconsin yet - but I can safely state that it won't be anywhere near 9 hours.
So I'm in the lottery because it's the only choice I have. I'm still young, and I have a lot of years of entering the lottery ahead of me, which will increase my odds of making it to Kona someday. In the mean time I'll work on the other two options.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

And that my friends, is how it's done

Great workout tonight, about 90 minutes on the trainer with 60 of them being low cadence strength work. This workout involved six 10 minute intervals, which scared me a bit at first. I'm used to doing 2 to 5 minute intervals, and this seemed like a tall order. In fact, about 5 minutes into the first one I really started to doubt I could finish the set. I tried to distract myself with television, during the workout I watched the news, Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition, TMZ, and a little bit of Border Patrol. I mostly just left the sound off and listened to the Mouse, I really can't understand how all that drivel stays on the air while the greatest show in history got canceled after only one full season. Concentrating on controlling my breathing and moving my feet efficiently really went a long way. A little bit of vomit in the back of the throat slowed me down on the last interval, but I made up for it by finishing strong. I knew from my previous test that my Functional Threshold Power is 230 watts. My plan was put the bike in whatever gear got me 230 watts at 75 RPM and hold that. It worked pretty well, here's the numbers:
Interval 1: 234 watts, 136 BPM, 75 RPM
Interval 2: 228 watts, 135 BPM, 74 RPM
Interval 3: 222 watts, 135 BPM, 74 RPM
Interval 4: 222 watts, 134 BPM, 74 RPM
Interval 5: 227 watts, 138 BPM, 75 RPM
Interval 6: 226 watts, 139 BPM, 75 RPM

I know it looks like it was boring and easy to just do the same thing over and over - trust me each interval got progressively more painful. I was constantly negotiating with myself as to whether I would pansy out and shift to an easier gear - I never did.

The filthy residue of a workout well executed

Bike Racing

I'm not a fast person. I never have been. My family has a long running joke about an incident that happened to me in Tee Ball. I was on second base when the batter hit the ball straight up the middle, right past the pitcher. The shortstop ran over to second base and fielded the ball - at which point he decided it was too late to get the runner at first. So, he started running me down - and caught me before I reached third base. I had a 45 ft. head start in a 90 ft race, and lost. That was 20 years ago, and really not much has changed. I'm an endurance athlete, not a sprinter.
Next month, I'm planning on racing the Bulldog bike race. Actually, there's a good chance that I might skip it in favor of a more appropriate training opportunity - but I'm probably going to do another bike race at some point during this season. Regardless, I don't know how to race a bike. I don't really know how to race anything. Sure I watch the Tour every July - I know the concept, but to put it into practice is completely different.
My strategy on the bike has always been "push hard until I feel like puking, and hope everyone else cracks first". It works OK in triathlon and in time trials, but in a real bike race you need a more sophisticated race plan. I'm a Category 5 cyclist, which pretty much means I have a pulse. I think I could qualify for Cat 4 if I was interested - but I need that kind of validation about as much as I need another finishers medal. What this means is that I can expect all the cat 3, 2, 1 and dp/ip's to kick my face in. My hope is to hang on to their wheels as long as possible - and to finish up sometime before all the beer is gone. I don't know if I will have the patience for this though - in my rides with the roadie peleton I usually get antsy, and jump to the front or lead a breakaway. This never works out, as I wear down and then everyone passes me, and I have to spend enormous energy just to hang on. Plus, being in the back of the pack is dangerous - when there is a crash (there's always a crash) then everyone behind it gets involved. I'll be hanging on to the back, which means my odds of being in the crash are high. Roadies don't think anything of a crash, they pick up their bikes and hop back on and deal with the open wounds later. I don't like crashes. I'm pretty sure if my @ss ends up road rashed then my day is done.
My first bike race will be quite a learning experience - and quite humbling as well. I think my goal will be less "podium" and more "certificate of attendance".

Monday, January 26, 2009

Training Rut in January?


I had a pretty mild training weekend, as I'm starting to settle in to my schedule. Through some bad planning on my own I ended up on the bike trainer Friday night after work - and then out to the bars for a few drinks. This was bad because I started the Saturday ride with worn out legs. I had planned on riding the Great Western Loop (oh how I love that ride) but due to overnight rain I decided to do a more mundane route with friends. We decided to do the Elfin Forest/Del Dios (Swami's) route, since it had recently received a fresh coat of silky smooth blacktop. It was only 40 miles, plus we didn't hammer - and with a 30 minute stop in Rancho Santa Fe while we searched for Eric who had flatted and needed assistance. But my legs felt like crap - there just wasn't anything in them. I don't know if it was the trainer workout from the night before, or poor nutrition, or just one of those days - but rarely do I ask my legs for power and have them argue with me as fiercely as they did on Saturday. But the skies cleared, blessing us with another beautiful Southern California morning, and we really had a good time.
Here's the crew (minus me) at the church where Swami's regroups

After the ride I was scheduled for a 15 minute run. Nobody else wanted to run - except for Beth. Yes, 6 minute mile, sub 3 hour marathon Beth. Thankfully, she was planning on running a bit further than me and decided to run later in the day. I was happy to not be faced with the option of either completely blowing up trying to keep up, or by being the boat anchor that slows her down. I did my 15 minutes (1.75 miles) and to my surprise the crew was still mulling around the parking lot when I returned - it was going to be a Naked Cafe breakfast for us! I had ginormous bluberry-blackberry-banana pancakes and a mexican hot chocolate - pretty much destroying any fitness benefit from the mornings workout.
Some of the crew enjoying the view at Naked Cafe. Sorry for the crappy photo, still figuring out my camera!

Saturday night the old IMAZ crew went out for dinner and drinks in downtown SD. I made an early exit from the festivities, and got to bed at a decent hour. I knew Sunday's long run would be a tough one - I hadn't run more than five or six miles since IMAZ, and this one was going to be 10 miles. Plus emotionally Sunday was rough. I should have been racing the Carlsbad 1/2 marathon that day - and I am still /pissed/ that I gave up that race for BS reasons. Anyway, my good friend Don agreed to run with me early Sunday morning - despite his having been out all night drinking with the crew, and his kids waking up early for Sunday morning fun. We ran from Del Mar to Encinitas - a total of about 10 miles in 90 minutes. It was a comfortable pace, and a lot of fun. I like running with Don, he's a good balance for me. By necessity Don does his workouts slow and steady - he is the most consistent pacer I've ever met. I rode a century with him on Coronado last fall, and his speed never varied outside of 18-19 MPH the entire way, he was like clockwork. He helps me fight my tendency to go out fast, and crawl on the second half. We had several really good long runs during IMAZ training since we are about the same speed, and Sundays was yet another. Good pace, great weather, fantastic company - who needs Carlsbad? Thanks Don.
40 miles on the bike, 12 running - all at an easy pace. It doesn't sound like much for a weekend, but it's right where I want to be right now. I'm on target. I just need to stay there as the distance and intensity ramp up.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What the F is a CP30?


About a month ago, my teammate Rocket Pants and I did a bike time trial. I use a PowerTap on my race bike, so this was a great opportunity for me to calculate my CP30 as described in Training and Racing with a Power Meter by Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan. CP30 is your "30 minute Critical Power", or in english - how hard you can push your pedals for 30 minutes. Fair warning - triathlon is full of confusing jargon, and analyzing power data magnifies that problem. If your eyes gloss over at the thought of dealing with lactate threshold, anaerobic threshold, VO2Max, etc. then you may want to skip this one. If you're a data geek like me, however - you're in for a treat!
I'll work backwards from the workout, since that way I can avoid dealing with all the theory. What did RP and I actually do? We met at Fiesta Island in Mission Bay, and did a 12 mile time trial. Fiesta Island is San Diego's gift to runners, cyclists and dog owners. It's basically an undeveloped island with a 4 mile one way road around it's perimeter. In actuality it's not "land" so much as "landfill", but that's unimportant for now. The point is - it's a practically closed course bike track - the perfect place to do a time trial. So we did a bit of a warm-up, and then did our test set - 3 loops (12 miles) as hard as we could go. Simple enough.
Next, I took my powertap home and downloaded the workout data to my computer using the TrainingPeaks WKO+ software. I would highly recommend WKO+ over the software that comes with the PowerTap - especially for triathletes since WKO+ can handle run and swim workouts. The raw data looks something like this:
You'll notice I started with a warmup (grey area), going about 15MPH for a few loops. Then, around the 39 minute mark, I began my test (black area). Unfortunately my heart rate monitor went flakey on me (red line), and I don't have any HR data for the test period. You can see some summary data about my test on the left side of the image - here's the important parts of what it says:
Duration: 33:47 (33:50)
Distance: 12.373 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 34 682 242 watts
Cadence: 66 131 96 rpm
Speed: 14.7 25.8 22.0 mph

So, I did 3 loops of the island and averaged 22.0 MPH. Without a power meter, that's pretty much the extent of what you would know from having done this test - and while that's valuable information to have, the extra info is pretty damn cool.
First, the powertap records my cadence - it says I averaged 96 RPM for the 34 minute test. That's about right for me. I follow the conventional wisdom of the last few years that 90 RPM is the sweet spot for most cyclists - and when I race I end up being closer to 100. Of course there are those who argue that you should have a low cadence (Chrissie Wellington claimed hers was only 70 during the 2008 Ironman World Championships) - I really don't know what the "correct" approach to cadence is. But I do know exactly what my cadence was - which at the very least tells me if I'm doing what I intended to, and in this case I was. The PT also tells me that I averaged 242 watts during the test. Watts is the unit of measure used for power, the higher the better. 242 is a decent number, however a pro cyclist will average 350 or even 400 watts on a stage of one of the grand tours - so I'm not turning pro any time soon. You're absolute wattage isn't really that important, what you're trying to do is improve that number over time - so what I really want is for that number to go up the next time I do this test. I can also look at my power output for each lap, it was: 245, 241, 241. So I did go out a little hard on lap one - but overall I was very consistent with my pacing, which is an area I am focusing on because I suck at it.
OK, I did 242 watts over 12 miles and it took me 33:47 to do it. Now what? Well, CP30 is the wattage you can hold for 30 minutes - and that's pretty much what I just did (I went 3 minutes long, but that's no big deal). So my CP30 is equal to 242 watts, easy! But unfortunately CP30 isn't really the number we want to know. It turns out 30 minutes isn't a long enough test - you can push yourself too far anaerobic for that short a time, and so your power output will be higher than it would be for a long race. The number we really want is the CP60 - the 60 minute Critical Power threshold, also known as Functional Threshold Power (FTP). How do I calculate FTP using the CP30? Oddly, you don't. What you actually need is the CP20. I know at this point you think I'm just fucking with you, but believe me there is a method to the madness. If I wanted to find CP20, why not just do a 20 minute time trial instead of a 34 minute one? And why not just do a 60 minute TT and measure FTP directly?! Because if you just do 20 minutes on fresh legs, you're numbers are skewed to the high side - because you are well rested. You need to get a bit of a warm up, as well as a bit of hard effort behind you before you start taking data. Doing a 60 minute time trial would be great - but it really trashes you, and it takes a few days to recover. Luckily WKO+ will tell me what 20 minute period had my highest power output - it is minutes 51 through 71, consisting of most of laps 2 and 3 of my test, and my power output was 243 watts. So my CP20 and CP30 are nearly identical, at least I'm consistent. The rule of thumb is that your FTP is going to be 5% lower than your CP20: FTP = CP20 * 0.95 = 243 * 0.95 = 230 watts.
I know this is a long way to go to come up with a seemingly arbitrary number, but it's actually very important. Now that I know my FTP, I know exactly how many watts I should be able to put out in a 60 minute race - like the 26 mile Bulldog race I'm doing in February for example. Having that number is an invaluable pacing tool - it can help me prevent myself from going out too hard at the start, and dying at the end - which is my natural tendency. But most importantly, that's the metric I will work to improve over the course of the season. Doing these tests regularly will help me gauge whether I'm making progress as a cyclist, and how effective my training has been. Plus, there are lots of pretty graphs!

You'll notice my "Mean Maximal Power Curve" on there - I'll talk about that next time. Below is all the gory details from the test.

Time Trial:
Duration: 33:47 (33:50)
Work: 491 kJ
TSS: 67.6 (intensity factor 1.095)
Norm Power: 244
VI: 1.01
Pw:HR: n/a
Pa:HR: n/a
Distance: 12.373 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 34 682 242 watts
Heart Rate: n/a n/a n/a bpm
Cadence: 66 131 96 rpm
Speed: 14.7 25.8 22.0 mph
Pace 2:20 4:05 2:44 min/mi
Hub Torque: 10 234 73 lb-in
Crank Torque: 42 670 214 lb-in


Lap 1:
Duration: 11:17 (11:19)
Work: 166 kJ
TSS: 22.7 (intensity factor 1.099)
Norm Power: 245
VI: 1
Pw:HR: n/a
Pa:HR: n/a
Distance: 4.106 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 145 682 245 watts
Heart Rate: n/a n/a n/a bpm
Cadence: 68 122 96 rpm
Speed: 15.2 25.8 21.9 mph
Pace 2:20 3:57 2:45 min/mi
Hub Torque: 41 234 75 lb-in
Crank Torque: 129 670 218 lb-in

Lap 2:
Duration: 11:15 (11:16)
Work: 162 kJ
TSS: 22.6 (intensity factor 1.098)
Norm Power: 245
VI: 1.02
Pw:HR: n/a
Pa:HR: n/a
Distance: 4.102 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 161 403 241 watts
Heart Rate: n/a n/a n/a bpm
Cadence: 68 131 94 rpm
Speed: 19.1 25.4 21.9 mph
Pace 2:22 3:08 2:45 min/mi
Hub Torque: 43 129 73 lb-in
Crank Torque: 105 396 216 lb-in

Lap 3:
Duration: 11:09
Work: 161 kJ
TSS: 22.3 (intensity factor 1.096)
Norm Power: 244
VI: 1.02
Pw:HR: n/a
Pa:HR: n/a
Distance: 4.13 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 64 526 241 watts
Heart Rate: n/a n/a n/a bpm
Cadence: 66 128 98 rpm
Speed: 19.4 25.2 22.3 mph
Pace 2:23 3:05 2:41 min/mi
Hub Torque: 19 154 72 lb-in
Crank Torque: 58 523 209 lb-in

Peak 10s (501 watts):
Duration: 0:10
Work: 5 kJ
TSS: n/a
Norm Power: n/a
VI: n/a
Pw:HR: n/a
Pa:HR: n/a
Distance: 295 ft
Min Max Avg
Power: 328 682 501 watts
Heart Rate: n/a n/a n/a bpm
Cadence: 68 99 87 rpm
Speed: 15.2 23.4 19.7 mph
Pace 2:34 3:57 3:03 min/mi
Hub Torque: 125 234 170 lb-in
Crank Torque: 369 670 490 lb-in

Peak 30s (347 watts):
Duration: 0:30
Work: 10 kJ
TSS: 2 (intensity factor 1.557)
Norm Power: n/a
VI: n/a
Pw:HR: n/a
Pa:HR: n/a
Distance: 0.194 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 196 682 347 watts
Heart Rate: n/a n/a n/a bpm
Cadence: 68 103 96 rpm
Speed: 15.2 25.2 23.0 mph
Pace 2:23 3:57 2:36 min/mi
Hub Torque: 52 234 105 lb-in
Crank Torque: 162 670 314 lb-in

Peak 5min (259 watts):
Duration: 5:01 (5:02)
Work: 78 kJ
TSS: 11.1 (intensity factor 1.153)
Norm Power: 257
VI: 0.99
Pw:HR: n/a
Pa:HR: n/a
Distance: 1.816 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 161 343 259 watts
Heart Rate: n/a n/a n/a bpm
Cadence: 71 106 94 rpm
Speed: 19.7 23.9 21.7 mph
Pace 2:30 3:03 2:46 min/mi
Hub Torque: 48 111 79 lb-in
Crank Torque: 155 316 232 lb-in

Peak 10min (248 watts):
Duration: 10:01 (10:02)
Work: 149 kJ
TSS: 21 (intensity factor 1.121)
Norm Power: 250
VI: 1.01
Pw:HR: n/a
Pa:HR: n/a
Distance: 3.678 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 161 400 248 watts
Heart Rate: n/a n/a n/a bpm
Cadence: 71 128 95 rpm
Speed: 19.1 25.2 22.0 mph
Pace 2:23 3:08 2:43 min/mi
Hub Torque: 48 126 75 lb-in
Crank Torque: 123 364 220 lb-in

Peak 20min (243 watts):
Duration: 20:01 (20:02)
Work: 291 kJ
TSS: 40.4 (intensity factor 1.101)
Norm Power: 246
VI: 1.01
Pw:HR: n/a
Pa:HR: n/a
Distance: 7.368 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 64 526 243 watts
Heart Rate: n/a n/a n/a bpm
Cadence: 66 131 96 rpm
Speed: 19.1 25.4 22.1 mph
Pace 2:22 3:08 2:43 min/mi
Hub Torque: 19 154 73 lb-in
Crank Torque: 58 523 215 lb-in

Peak 30min (243 watts):
Duration: 30:01 (30:04)
Work: 437 kJ
TSS: 60 (intensity factor 1.095)
Norm Power: 244
VI: 1.01
Pw:HR: n/a
Pa:HR: n/a
Distance: 11.056 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 64 682 243 watts
Heart Rate: n/a n/a n/a bpm
Cadence: 68 131 96 rpm
Speed: 15.2 25.8 22.1 mph
Pace 2:20 3:57 2:43 min/mi
Hub Torque: 19 234 73 lb-in
Crank Torque: 58 670 215 lb-in