Archive for April, 2009

It took 6 months to put on paper, but finally:

What does an Ironman race and a marathoner add up to? Answer–a train wreck.

When my name was announced on TV in the list of Kona lottery winners, I had a monumental decision to make. Without much training in swimming and biking, it would have been easy to walk away with my self-image intact. Fortunately, I had met Felipe back in 2003 and knew his background as a elite triathlete and coach. My question for him that day was simply–“Will you help me prepare for this Ironman, given my lack of skills in triathlon?”. His fateful answer was “Yes”, and the race to train was on.

My triathlon training started in May 2008. I gave up most of my planned marathons at that point. I got fitted for my bike. I learned how to do transitions T1 and T2. I learned how to ride properly to save my legs for the run. I learned how to sight during the swim, plus entry and exit into open water. I got introduced to speed work in track workouts. I learned how nutrition is so important during all phases of the race. I learned to love and hate the hill repeats at Blacks Beach and Torrey Pines State Reserve. I learned to deal with the dynamics of group rides. I learned many many things from my teammates. In this team environment, I slowly gained the confidence in my triathlon skills.

Coach Felipe and I agreed that my first Ironman would be all about finishing. My training schedule was geared more for endurance than speed. We would problem-solve for those areas that require fixing. The coach would introduce me to good riding skills; this gave me the confidence to rely on some innate skills that I have on these two-wheeled contraptions–it made for fun training rides to Oceanside and back.

We also went on paced swims (wetsuits) at the La Jolla Cove from 1/4 mile to 1/2 mile to the buoys, and also to La Jolla Shores and back. Now if you have told me a year ago that I’d swim 1-1/2 miles at one time out in the ocean, I would have laughed hysterically and said NO WAY! In one of our paced swims to La Jolla Shores, we were caught in a strong current that tried to sweep us to Scripps Pier; it was a bit crazy to swim in place for a near ten minutes, but that was a great learning experience. The group swims and paced swims were sometimes accompanied by turtles and dolphins, which appealed to the tourist in me.

My first triathlon would be the Buckeye Challenge in Springfield, Ohio. I’ve had two months of training at that point. I went into the race full of confidence. I was near last coming out of the water, which made me burst into laughter as I went into T1. The bike was uneventful, except that I had to go a bit faster to beat the shortened road course closure deadline. I forgot to feed on the bike, which made my run out in the very humid 90-degree weather a struggle. But I got the HIM done.

The two months after the HIM would be full of longer training rides, longer swims, and plenty of variety. I enjoyed one training ride to Oceanside where I stayed with the lead group until mile 35. That was an amazing accomplishment in itself. Coach Felipe also arranged for a training ride out at Borrego Springs. That ride would become mythic, in the variety of issues that each athlete had to face out in the desert heat. I did a 21 mph ride to the Salton Sea, but had to cap my ride at the top of the climb back to assist one teammate. In the month prior to Kona, I had reached the endurance necessary to complete the race. The rest of the time, I was maintaining skills and obsessing over equipment. I knew at this point that the Kona race was on.

I invited Coach Felipe to watch the race in Kona. Together with Michelle, Mike, and Marty’s family, they would cheer for Marty and me out on the course. Perhaps because I didn’t have a pacer, I took to the water like it was a Sunday swim. A paddler had to remind me that I needed to keep going. The bonus would be that my name was announced prominently as I got out of the water. I got to the bike and began to make my way to Hawi; along the way, I would see the leaders come back including Chrissie Wellington. I also saw Marty come back at around mile 35. The fabled climb to and ride from Hawi was uneventful; the headwinds and crosswinds did become a major factor on the way back to Kona. I easily lost an hour riding against the winds.

The transition to the run was smooth. I hadn’t trained on running dismounts, but I picked Kona to do my very first. It was perfect and effortless! At this point, I knew that finishing the IM was simply a matter of a long run. I was determined to make it a celebration run through Kona, even if the run to the Energy Labs was done in near darkness. After a while, I decided to pick up the pace so as not to worry Coach Felipe any longer.

The picture of the finish line has been burned in my mind after hours of endless media coverage of past races. It is simply indescribable, wrapped in the envelope of well-wishers and spectators plus the feeling of accomplishment that overwhelm an athlete all at once. I would cross that line before 10PM, but not before receiving congratulations from Coach Felipe, Mike, Michelle, and Marty under that massive banyan tree on Ali’i Drive. The group would enjoy drinks and margaritas at a restaurant overlooking the finish line; we kept the tradition of waiting for the final athletes finish. There was no other place in the world we’d rather be that night in October 2008.

So looking back, a train-wreck it wasn’t. I had successfully met the challenge without making a fool of myself. I couldn’t get to this paragraph without describing the long road to get to where I’m at. I would not recommend this road to anyone, but I think the IM became possible only because of Coach Felipe’s steady guidance. Although I would still rather be known as a runner versus a triathlete, completing Kona makes my triathlon future bright indeed.

I highly recommend Coach Felipe and his team of coaches for all your triathlon training and run training needs. The Breakaway Training team is like family, and strong age-groupers and pros have benefited from the nurturing environment provided by group training. If you know you are ready to step up from the crowd and reach your potential, Breakaway Training is where you need to be.

Kona Ironman Finisher, # 857

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Great long run!

It was a thing of beauty.

I had expected wind gusts of 25-30 miles per hour with predicted winds of 12-13 miles per hour. Knowing this, I was prepared for a slower run. It was (or still is) very nice out, but I had to wear gloves to keep warm. I did focus on pace in the windy parts, but Mr. Wind today was content with just messing with my head. I had to pass one guy in one windy stretch, and I was surprised Mr. Wind let me get away with a 6:30.

When I ran the first two miles at an easy starting pace, another runner kinda played possum and suddenly was there. He was doing 7s. While I could have easily kept up with him, that wasn’t the intent so I let him go.

I ran past joggers, and also saw plenty of people doing crossfit at the park. There were several groups. I guess it’s real fun. They see me running pass each time so they must find me interesting as I do them. I dunno. My core is probably very weak, but my running systems are in top shape. Maybe some cross-envy going on?

I avoid the concrete bike paths. So bad for your bones and joints. When there is no easy way to avoid, I run them but probably at a slower pace. I try not to buzz the slower runners or surprise the walkers.

When I did get to Fiesta Island, the usual people were already there doing what they do on Saturdays. Always that one older gentleman who insists on riding his touring bike at 15 mph without a helmet. I wave at a few ultra-runners running the island in circles. They find my ramming speed a curious site. And of course, people with their dogs are always there; there is a dog-run on the west side, and they do obedience school at the field adjacent to it on weekends. Can’t forget the people fishing on the north side. Plenty of Asians with their fishing hats and boots. Nice way to spend each weekend, don’t you think? Few triathletes out; more roadies.

As I mentioned, the wind was pretty tame. I thought it would be a fight, but the one section on the east side where I usually get crosswinds was almost quiet. I took advantage of the shielded areas and gave my lungs an active break (slowing down the pace some), and then concentrated on the work to be done on the super-windy west side. Aack! It’s a love-hate affair on that side. You are getting a great workout running/cycling into the wind, but at that same time you can’t wait for it to be over. And I do it 3 times in one workout!

My energy didn’t sag, and my pace was pretty even. Got a 7:54 average over 18. Either the training is working or I just got lucky. I’d take whatever good result I can get. Did get to 13.1 in 1:43:30. Didn’t want to go too fast on account of the wind, but to arrive at 7:55 pace or so was great.

I didn’t get any snotty runners pass me in my 3 mile recovery run.  They must wonder why I’m running so slow.  Dude, I just smoked through 18, what have you done?  Anyway, I just laugh when I get that look.  I got some smiles from some cute women running when they saw me with my gloves on.  He he–gloves in San Diego!  I get cold easily…

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Here we go again!

Remember this image?  These guys at Beijing were simply awesome.  A Canadian won gold I think.

Can’t afford to keep it off any longer.  I’m back training for a few long-course triathlons down the road.  This week, I’m plunging back into the water and hitting the bike as well.  I still have a few weeks with the run as my main priority, but the build for the bike and swim will slowly take equal time into June.

My first one this year is a half ironman in good old Napa Valley, CA.  Yeah, the wine region.  The swim will be in the river somewhere.  We are staying in Santa Rosa, CA.  It promises to be scenic.  Anyway, what better excuse to visit that area.

So here we go again.  Back to much discomfort and little time for anything.  Back to a feeling of fatigue that never leaves.  Oh well, if life were less hectic and more giving–it wouldn’t be this much fun!

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I got a craving for orange juice recently. For a 10-day period, I couldn’t eat enough orange fruit and drink enough orange juice. I figure that craving was due to my state of health during a difficult stretch.

Quality workouts and long runs are punishing to the body. For anything over 20 miles, you need at least 2 days of rest or recovery to make sure you don’t get sick or injured.

Think about your nutrition too. While junk food is generally bad, watch what your body is craving for and give it a little rather than do without. Eat a balanced meal, and more protein soon after heavy workout days. Take your vitamins and drink your OJ.

On Monday, I was surprised how stiff I was. Last Sunday, on top of my marathon pace repeats I had decided to join a bike-to-run transition practice over at Fiesta Island. This practice involved speeds upwards of 20mph for 23 miles and then doing a total of 30 minutes running in two sections. Needless to say, I was pretty beat up that day.

It’s easy to follow plans to the letter without regard to one’s health. Runners are easily that kind of personality where if it’s on the plan, then it is done. You have to think for the long haul; make sure you stay healthy enough to keep running into your 70s.

Overall, I’m doing alright.  I’m doing heavier run quality workouts, and maintaining my tri fitness as well.  I make sure I get enough rest even if I have to give up miles or workouts.  I’m eating like an athlete now;  okay, balanced with having to maintain optimal weight for the things I do.  I’m also making sure that I don’t do anything that pushes me out of the training zone (such as unscheduled workouts, tougher paces,  unplanned races).

Hope your overall training picture is great or at least as good as mine!

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He he.  Check this out.  Lord of the Loops run, in North Vancouver, BC.  Super cool!

Max, the RD, is seven years old.  Yep!

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For some reason, we shared the track tonight with a group of high school kids practicing.  They were doing intervals of 200s and 400s.  I don’t know if they were doing ladders or not;  since our group was large, we had to keep warning the lane wanderers to watch out for the kids running the inner lanes really really fast.

One girl passed me when I was doing Z3s for a 400.  Since it was only 400, I gave chase and caught her.  I drafted until the end of my 400.  I looked at my GPS in disbelief; she was doing sub-5s and I caught her at sub-5.  It took my GPS watch a few seconds to calibrate down to 6 minute miles, but by then I had already stopped.  It was fun!

One other masters runner had the same idea.  I guess he used to be a XC guy in his high school days.  He just wanted to see if he still had a kick in his final 200.  It was fun to see him huffing and puffing to stay ahead of one of the girls.

These kids were definitely Varsity A.  Probably training for a meet or something.  They were track, definitely.  Not XC.  Their running form didn’t look like XC.  All of them did have the propensity to keep their bodies upright and rely on their young legs exclusively for propulsion.  One girl ran effortlessly, except that her back was arched backwards.  We looked at her running for a while and decided that she was compensating for her chest weight (you know what I mean).  It was just weird to see her running around with an arched back.

I wore my long run shoes tonight, to make sure that I didn’t run too fast.  I maintained 6:45 pace pretty much the entire night.  Even the Z4 1600, I ran at 6:45 pace.  Wasn’t the intent, but my long run shoes do keep me at a lower pace for some reason.  When I wear the Zoots which are closer to racing flats, I can hit a 6:15 mile no problem.

It was an interesting track workout, with so many things going on at the same time.

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UPDATE 4/30/2009 9:37AM Pacific: If you are on this list and don’t know who to turn to, consider Breakaway Training.  You can read my testimonial here.  Good Luck!

UPDATE 4/15/2009 1:06PM Pacific: Here is the definitive list!

Congratulations to everyone who won a slot. Someone from slowtwitch.com forums typed this in from the TV show today. You’d know that name is you if you got email confirmation, plus you also had to have entered the lottery. Just checking…

2009 Kona Lottery Winners (U.S. only)

  1. Charles Alvarez
  2. George Amundson
  3. Ron Anderson
  4. Beverly Atkins
  5. Ann Atkinson
  6. Ronald Bailey
  7. Robert Baker
  8. Kevin Balfe
  9. Teresa Balsley
  10. Kevin Barr
  11. Dale Bartfay
  12. Mark Bennington
  13. Michael Blair
  14. Sharon Boles
  15. James Bononno
  16. Eric Boswell
  17. Keith Bowersox
  18. Pamela Buderus
  19. RJ Burnes
  20. Ramon Cabrera
  21. Sam Cardona
  22. Ian Charles
  23. Cunil Chung
  24. Johnny Churillo
  25. Tim Connors
  26. Joseph cook
  27. Bryan Crosland
  28. Aaron Davidson
  29. Tom Davies
  30. Robert Dennen
  31. Mary Lou Dinardo
  32. David Dugan
  33. Dan Duval
  34. Rob Evans
  35. Chistopher Faklaris
  36. Lise Falskow
  37. Tressa Ferrel
  38. Mark Fischer-colbrie
  39. James Fix
  40. Suzanne Frantz
  41. Maggie Freeman
  42. Jonathon Friedland
  43. Terry Fuller
  44. Patricia Gabreski
  45. Donald Greer
  46. Bruce Geffen
  47. John George
  48. Robert Gibbons
  49. Larry Gibson
  50. Lindsey Hankus
  51. Kathleen Hannan
  52. Kurt Hansen
  53. Scott Harrison
  54. Justin Hart
  55. Mark Hassell
  56. Regan Heinrich
  57. Jay Heller
  58. Brendan Hemp
  59. Matt Henn
  60. Trent Hicks
  61. Robert Hillery
  62. Hunter Hobson
  63. Brian Holmes
  64. Bill Hoon
  65. Michael Howard
  66. Tom Hulick
  67. Richard Hyre
  68. T Dale Jackson
  69. John Jenkins
  70. George Jennings
  71. Emily Johnson
  72. Traci Johnson
  73. Andi Jones
  74. Michael Kane
  75. Regina Kavadias
  76. Brent Kay
  77. Tammy Kelly
  78. Cyril Khairallah
  79. Jeffrey Kramer
  80. Richard Krumreich
  81. Leann Kuebelbeck
  82. Greg Land
  83. Jonathan Larson
  84. Mark Lehberg
  85. Jonathon Loiselle
  86. Ken Lucchesi
  87. Greg Macklem
  88. Kristi Mahadocon
  89. Mark Mason
  90. Patrick Mauldin
  91. Daniel Mcdonald
  92. Michael Mcdonald
  93. Daniel Mcgovern
  94. Melanie Melocowsky
  95. Steve Moats
  96. Van Moffatt
  97. Julian Morais
  98. Mark O’Brien
  99. Larry O’Brien
  100. Matt Ochisner
  101. David Olichney
  102. Dave Olson
  103. Daniel Osterbaan
  104. Matthew Partain
  105. Greg Pelton
  106. Jose Pena
  107. Johnna Plaga
  108. Kevin Porter
  109. Karl Post
  110. Barrett Powers
  111. David Pruetz
  112. Eduardo Raudez
  113. Michael Reese
  114. Wayne Richey
  115. James Robesky
  116. Sharon Rodier
  117. Freddie Rodriguez
  118. Don Rogers
  119. David Ross
  120. Frederick Rothfuss
  121. Renee Rudd
  122. Greg Safko
  123. Dimas Salvia
  124. H. Scott Sarran
  125. Todd Sazenski
  126. Nick Scarcella
  127. Tim Scearce
  128. Kim Schaefer
  129. Chris Schilling
  130. Travis Schroll
  131. Robin Shedd
  132. Thomas Sibson
  133. Juliana Sproles
  134. Scott Stern
  135. Dennis Sullivan
  136. Clayton Tebbetts
  137. Joseph Turcotte
  138. Bill Ulmer
  139. Julia Van Cleave
  140. William Van Nostrand
  141. Jack Voth
  142. Kathy Watern
  143. Gretchen Weber
  144. Jason Weisberg
  145. Geoff Wieczynski
  146. Anne Wilden
  147. Matt Woleben
  148. Robert Wood
  149. William Zaccheo
  150. John Zerbe

“What’s past is prologue.”–William Shakespeare

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