January 31, 2006

Pushing Water

Morning Workout
RUN (treadmill)...
40 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

...SWIM
2600 yards
Main Set: 5 x 300 yards

Random Comments: When I don't run for a week or so, my next run is usually pretty exhilirating. There's something about taking the time off that breathes new life into the activity. With swimming, not so much. I find that if I don't swim for a few days, I almost forget how to do it. It's weird. This morning was the first swim I've had in about 5 days. There were times where I literally felt like I wasn't moving. My arms were rotating around my shoulder, but the water just wasn't pushing out of my way. I've really got to figure out how to attach propellers to my feet.

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January 30, 2006

Painfully Powered

Morning Workout
BIKE
90 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: 3 x 10 minutes at Steady State Threshold (Zone 4)

Random Comments: We are in the strength phase of our workout plan for the next 2 months. Building strength requires pushing your body to their limits. Welcome to my Monday mornings. I felt like I powered up the hill today. Painfully powered up, but powered up nonetheless. And had I anything more interesting to tell you, I probably would. But I don't. So good night.

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January 29, 2006

It Still Hurts

Morning Workout
RUN
1 hour 50 minutes [11.83 miles]
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1)

Random Comments: Sometimes everything can feel just fine. Your mind is relaxed. You're content. Body feels good, excited to go running. Then you get out there and....blech. I don't know if I'd go so far as to say our bodies felt good today, but we were definitely relaxed and ready to tackle the run. And then we started moving. The first five minutes were very painful. But, as they say, there's a point in running where it becomes very painful and then it doesn't get any better. We finished running 5 hours ago. It still hurts.

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January 28, 2006

Five Seconds Of Anxiety

Morning-Early Afternoon Workout
BIKE...
65 miles
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1) / Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

...RUN
22 minutes (2.8 miles)
Heart Rate Zone: Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

LIFT WEIGHTS
1 hour

Random Comments: You wake up at 6am, fiddle about on the bike, on the road, in the gym and next thing you know - whaa-PAMMM! - it's 3:30 in the afternoon. Where'd the day go? Wha' happen?
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I kept my cool today. I didn't yell. I didn't scream. I didn't throw my bike to the ground in childish abandon. Believe it or not, I didn't even let out one big sigh.

It started with six of us on the ride. It was a pretty morning, great day to be taking a spin up the beautiful coast of Southern California. Will and Brooklin were in the lead, Rich and I were tucked in right behind them. Very comfortable pace, everybody just rolling along talking amongst themselves. The road was a bit rough, but nothing unusual. Some rubble on the side - we rolled through that. Ain't nothin but a thang. All was good.

Then somewhere out of nowhere, this tomato size rock pops up in the middle of the road. I don't even know if Brooklin saw it, but he missed it. I know I didn't see it, but I felt it. Ka-THUMP! Ka-THUMP! I ran over it point blank with both of my tires. "SHIT!" Brooklin and Will looked back at me. We pedaled on slowly.

There are five seconds of anxiety that take place after such an incident. Five seconds in which tension fuels the air. Within that five second period after hitting a rock, a pothole or a large smattering of glass, you are left in wonder. Wondering if something is about to go drastically wrong. You feel every miniscule movement of your bike, every single cell throughout your body is listening, trying to sense anything that may have bent, punctured or slipped a millimeter out of place. You're helplessly awaiting your fate. A flat tire, a bent rim, a broken spoke. Anything. Those five seconds are dreadful.

So we pedaled slowly as Rich, Brooklin and Will looked on at me in tense desperation. Five seconds. I took a deep breath. All's good, I said.

Disaster avoided. The talking continued and we pedaled on.

About a mile later is when it hit. I'd never really heard of a time-release flat tire, but apparently I had one. THUMP-thump. THUMP-thump. My rear tire went flat. DAMN! Four of us stop by the side of the road as I begin to fix it. My tires are incredibly tough to remove from my rim. It's aggravating. It takes far too much time to pry them off, at which point I tear apart far too many knuckles. Only for it to take two of us to pry it back on. As I said, aggravating. I need to get new tires. After a bit of struggle though, we finally get it together. New tube. I'm ready. We jump on our bikes and roll again.

For about twenty yards.

THUMP-thump. THUMP-thump. Good Lord, this can't be happening. I look at Rich. He looks at me. You're joking, he leers. We pull to the side of the road again. Yep, flat tire. This time it is the front one. Double flat. It had to be from that damn rock. Arrrgh! Fortunately, the front tire is a bit easier to change so after another five or ten minutes, and another two or three frayed knuckles, I'm up and running again. So we roll.

At this point, most of the crew had to head back so it's just Cat, Rich and I rolling along. With both flats all fixed, we're rolling along knowing that the worst is behind us already. We get about a half mile up the road when I hear a rattling coming from somewhere on my bike. THWAK-um THWAK-um THWAK-um. With every turn of the tire, THWAK-um THWAK-um. What the...?! Cat and Rich look at me. What the hell is that? they say. I stop. They stop. I look. And I find a very large industrial staple sticking straight out of my rear tire. You've GOT to be kidding me. Check this out, I say as I turn my bike around for them to see. You've GOT to be kidding me, Rich says. I pull out the staple. Hisssssssssssssssssss. The air quickly deflates from my tire. Third flat in under a mile. This is a record for me.

I keep my cool, though. I don't yell. I don't scream. I don't throw my bike in anger. I don't even let out a big sigh. Somedays the five seconds doesn't roll in your favor.

January 27, 2006

There Are No Atheists In Triathlon

I am not a religious man. I don't go to temple or church. I don't own a star of David, a cross or any other similarly symbolic sacrosanct token. I've been to Jewish services, Christian, Catholic, Baptist, Buddhist and multi-denominational. I don't subscribe to any particular belief, but am accepting of all. I was raised a Jew, but no longer celebrate any of the holidays. I give gifts on Christmas, oftentimes even get a tree. I love the smell of pine, the expression of love through giving and the convivial feeling that immerses our culture throughout the month of December. I believe Jesus existed, but I'm not necessarily buying the rest of the story. I am not against religion in any way. It is just that I am not a religious man.

I own a Bible and have read through its many parts. It's a tough read. I've been Bar Mitzvah-ed and read from the Torah. It's a tougher read. I don't understand the least bit of Hebrew, I can barely even pronounce the words. I don't believe that there is an actual being overseeing; no mystical grand puppetteer playing with the marionette strings of our lives. We are what we are when we are where we are. If there is a God, it is us. I don't believe Heaven as an actual destination; heaven is right here, right now. I don't believe in Hell, it is just a state of mind.

I believe in the spirit and will of humanity. I believe in the goodness that lies within us. I believe in happiness and unity and love. I believe in the energy that surrounds us the energy that drives us the energy that connects us all. I believe we are all connected. I believe there is a reason, but we are looking outside when the answer lies within. I believe that when I die, there is a part of me that remains. I believe that what you do, affects what I do, affects what you do, affects the world. Whether I know you or not. I believe there is a magical mysterious part of each of us that creates each of us and molds each of us into each of us.

I am not against religion in any way. It's just that I'm not a religious man.

Yet whenever I get to the starting line, I pray. I pray for the energy to battle the unknown that lies before me and the power to survive. I pray for the strength to change the things I can change, the courage to deal with those things I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference. I pray for peace and patience and serenity. And then the starting gun goes off...

I struggle, I fight and battle my way through. I continually remind myself to stay calm and relaxed. Don't push it too hard, don't go over the edge. And the deeper I get into the race, the more difficult it becomes. My body begins to shut down. Every atom of every muscle screams at me to stop. To give up. But my mind pushes me forward. An epic battle plays over again between the phsyical and the spiritual. I have to dig deep and deeper to keep moving. To take another step. Yet I do. I always take another step. It is that magical mysterious part of me that drives me and keeps me moving towards the finish line. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil. For I am with me.

And miles upon miles later, the end is nigh. And as I make the final turn to the finish line, the skies open up. And if there is a God, if there is a being overseeing, He is always with me at the finish line. His hand is in mine driving me forward. His arms are around me, giving me strength. And if there is a God, we always finish together. If there is a God, I would bet all the money in all the world that he is an endurance athlete.

I am not a religious man.
But there are no atheists in long-distance triathlon.

January 26, 2006

The Pool Of Relaxation

Morning Workout
RUN (treadmill)
Heart Rate Zone: 10 x 3 minutes at Steady State Threshold (Zone 4, baby)

SWIM
1500 yards
Main Set: Was supposed to be 5 x 200 yards + 5 x 100 yards. It actually was 4 x 200y + 1 x 100y

Random Comments: I could feel myself impr
oving on the run this morning. I could actually feel myself getting faster. Imagine that. Imagine laying there on the ground, your chin resting lazily in your hands as you try to watch the grass grow. And then imagine that all of the sudden you actually see it sprout up a wee bit. Imagine your surprise. I sprouted today. I saw it. I felt it. I am triathlete, watch me sprout.
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Now that I resigned from my job, I'm trying to ease back on the stress throttle of my life. What with all the work I am still doing though, it ain't that easy. But as I always say, Life is a matter of inches. So I'm taking baby steps in the stress easing department. I don't want to say I'm cannonballing into the pool of relaxation, but I've stuck my toes in to test the waters and I'm wading around a bit. Relaxation, I'd say, is swooshing around somewhere at about ankle height.

Take my workout schedule for instance. For the past few months I'd wake up at 5:30 or 6 in the morning and be working out by no later than 6:30am. For the past couple of post-resignation days, I've really let it all hang loose. Get this... I'm now waking up at 6:00 and starting my workouts by 7. I know, I know... I'm crazy. Well, that's the way I roll. So get used to it.

Being at the YMCA a half hour later than usual really adds a new dimension to the workout experience. A very interesting one. Take this morning, for instance. I get to the gym and immediately hop on the treadmill. Well, maybe not exactly "hop", but more like "slowly, cautiously and carefully stepped on" the treadmill. Don't want to hurt myself, after all. The treadmills at the YMCA overlook the pool. So when I started my run I was looking down at all of the regulars I tend to swim with. There aren't many. Most are in the 30-40 year old range and are fairly serious swimmers - and I use that term very loosely. I don't mean serious as in Olympic quality serious. Or even serious as in fast and fancy free. No no, there's none of that at the YMCA. Instead I mean serious as in they make it a point to swim fairly regularly and usually are working out in the pool for at least 30-45 minutes. That's about as serious as you get at the Y.

So I'm running on the treadmill gazing down at these folks doing laps in the pool and I notice that there are only about 5 or 6 people in there. That's about the norm when I swim in the morning. I usually get my own lane. I love having my own lane. It's more peaceful that way. It's nice.

About a half hour later I finish my run, head into the locker room, change into my swimsuit and go on down to the pool. Well, when I get to poolside, I gaze across the lanes to notice that somehow, sometime between when I went into the locker room and when I came out of it, there was a mass influx of people. All of the sudden there are two people crowding every lane and a couple others standing on the side waiting for a spot to open up. How did this happen, I wondered. And then I remembered it was the same thing two days ago. Apparently the 8am swim time is quite popular. Apparently a half hour makes all the difference.

So I patiently sit at the edge of the pool waiting for somebody to finish their workout and empty part of a lane for me. A few minutes later, it happens. Mrs. Old Lady With The Shower Cap On finishes mussing around in the slow lane and waddles out of the pool. That's my cue. I scamper across the wet tiles and shimmy into the slow lane before anybody else notices it's free. Whew. I made it. I quickly start my workout, sharing the lane with Ms Middle-Age Asian Kickboard Queen.

So I'm going back and forth, following my schedule and everything is great. Warm-up of 100s, followed by sprints of 50s and onto the main set of 200s. Five sets of 200s and five sets of 100s, that's the main workout today. And I'm picking off these 200s like fish in a barrel. They are going so quickly, it's practically effortless (actually, it was quite effortful - I mean, it hurts like hell - but it goes by really quickly regardless). I finish one. Then two. Three. And four. And I'm halfway through my fifth when all of the sudden I see Mrs Jabba The Hut's Grandmother plop into our lane and start swimming (if you can call that swimming, which is arguable).

Now let me explain pool etiquette to you. When you have two people in a lane it's easy, you each swim on your own sides. If a third person wants to share the lane, it is their responsibility to let the other two know and request that everybody swim in circles instead of side-by-side. By just jumping into a lane and swimming without letting the other two people know, that's just a recipe for disaster. Eventually one person is going to swim head-on into another. And that hurts. A lot. I've seen it happen before and it's not fun. There's usually blood involved. And oftentimes concussions. I don't recommend it.

Yet somehow Mrs Gramma Hut decides it's time for her to swim, so dang-gummit nothing is going to stop her. I pass her by in shock and as I'm swimming I say, under the water, "What the hell is she doing?!" I get to the end of the lane and stop. The lifeguard is standing there. I look up at the lifeguard and say, "What the hell is she doing?!" The lifeguard looks down at me and, with a shrug of the shoulders and a semi-roll of the eyes, clearly has no clue herself. "I don't know what she's doing," the lifeguard says. "But those people are coming in too." She points to her right. I follow the direction of her finger across the room and to the stairs where, suddenly, my motivation drowns in the three foot pool. Coming down the stairs - creeping down the stairs - moving painfully slow down the stairs - is a mass of geriatrics. A stampede of really old, really decrepit cattle. What the....!?! This is ridiculous. Are they bussing them in now? Can this really be happening to me? I look out the window fully expecting to see a Greyhound parked on the street with an "Old People Inside" sign painted on the side. There is nothing. I look back at the mass descending the stairs. And then I look back at the lifeguard. There is fear in my eyes. There is apology in hers.

"You should probably move to this lane," the lifeguard says apologetically, pointing to the lane labeled "Fast." I look at the three people already in the lane and quickly calculate their average age to be somewhere in the ballpark of 126. Two of them are jogging in the water. The third looks like he is drowning.

"Umm, that's not going to work for me." I glance around at the other lanes. They are all packed with three or four people per lane. Moreso, it is filled entirely with old people. Everybody is old. Way old. Not 65 years old old. I mean O-L-D old. There are shower-caps bobbing, and breast strokes stroking, and water joggers jogging and.... I suddenly feel like I've been transported to the set of Cocoon.

I'm scared.

"I'm almost down with my workout anyway," I say. "I think I'll just leave."
I vault myself out of the pool, skittle across the tile floor, grab my towel and shimmy the hell out of Dodge before some anti-Fountain of Youth malady wraps it's tentacles around my youthfulness.

I mean, I said I want to relax. I didn't say anything about retirement.

It's settled, tomorrow I'm setting the alarm for 5:30.

January 25, 2006

A Walk Through Priority Park

Morning Workout
BIKE
1 hour 20 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

Random Comments: I’ve got weak quads. Quads are very important for endurance racing about as much as they are important for, say, standing. After 100 miles or so of exercise, it’s nice to have strong quads so you don’t trip on tired legs and smash your face on the concrete or suddenly crumple to a sad little ball, rolling about helplessly on the side of the road. I don’t want to end up as a sad little ball on the side of the road. The weak quads aren’t helping me. So Coach Gareth has me on this quad strengthening phase of my work
out program. This morning’s bike ride, though not overly speedy, had me bouncing back and forth between high and low cadences. The low cadences being the parts that are supposed to strengthen my legs. It made my quads tired. But that was the problem I had in the first place.
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A few people have come up to me and said, Hey there. Hey you! (Cause I was ignoring them, you see, they had to keep calling out to me.) I’ve got a question for you, they say once they finally grab my attention, usually by giving me a little shoulder shove. Tell me, how do you balance Ironman training with your job and everything else you have to do in life?

I usually let out a slight chuckle at this point. Sometimes I even throw in a snort for dramatic effect. [chuckle][snort][chuckle][snort], I reply. Actually it’s not that difficult as long as you get your priorities straight, I finally say nonchalantly (though the chuckles and snorts probably add a bit of cockiness to the whole nonchalantness. let's call it nonchacockiness)

You see, everybody is under the mistaken impression that training for an Ironman distance race is a forty-hour a week commitment. It isn’t. Not even close. Even more, it sometimes seems that people are under the impression that I’m the only person who’s ever tried to train for an Ironman race while maintaining a full-time, demanding career. I’m not. Not even close.

There are only a handful of professional triathletes in the world that can manage to make this sport a full-time activity. And they are a very sick, physically and mentally deranged group of people. I would not want to be a professional triathlete. Train for 8 hours a day? No thank you. I've got better things to do. Instead, the rest of us regular folk (and there are hundreds of thousands of us) have to work to make a living so we can afford the exorbitant costs required to participate in this godforsaken sport. Triathlon, to us, is a wonderful hobby. And though in the past, Ironman was viewed as an out-of-reach achievement only accomplished by the most elite athletes, the times they are a-changing. The reality is that anybody can complete an Ironman race and balance a full life with but a modicum of effort.

To complete an Ironman, you have to spend about 15-20 hours of training per week. It may sound like a lot to you, and perhaps it is a wee bit daunting compared to the amount of exercise you're doing now, you lazy such-and-such. But keep in mind that you're probably watching a helluva lot more TV than I am. And the fact is that a majority of the weekly training takes place on weekends. Which only leaves 10-ish hours of training during the week. Which, if my abacus is working correctly, comes to about 1-2 hours of training per day. Which all of the sudden sounds pretty darn reasonable. I mean, if you really think about it, you can probably find an extra hour or two each day to reallocate. Don’t get me wrong, the 20 hours per week of training can take its toll. I’ve seen a girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife or two feel pretty darn perturbed and neglected during training season. It causes stress and strain if you let it.

The fact is, in order to find that time all you’ve gottta do is be prepared to make a few sacrifices. I'm not talking human sacrifices like knife through the heart type stuff, but regular lifestyle type sacrifices. Which gets me to my main point: Ironman training is all about making sacrifices and balancing priorities.

I recently did a survey of some people training for Ironman races. Actually, it was a rather small sampling of people. Like....um.... a survey of one. Mostly just me. According to the survey results, some of the most popular sacrifices amongst Ironman racers include personal hobbies, personal relationships, extracurricular activities and, in very rare cases, overall sanity.

So Cat and I made a deal. We decided to set our priorities together cause Lord knows if we set different priorities in this whole Ironman training period, it'd be a recipe for disaster. There are three main priorities in our lives: work, training, each other. Pretty simple, huh? I thought so too.

Work: Even if we work 60 hours a week, there is still ample time to get all of our training done. Work only gets in the way of training - and training only gets in the way of work - if you let it. We don't let it. Now that I have resigned from my job, I am not sitting back and thinking, Whew, I finally have all of this time to train non-stop. As I already said, I don't want to be a professional triathlete. Training for 8 hours a day is just plain nutso. And I try to stear clear of nutso as much as possible. Two hours a day during the week is enough for me, thank you very much. Work is only a sacrifice if you want it to be. We don't want it to be.

Training: Cat and I are lucky in that we decided to tackle this Ironman together. Instead of losing 20 hours of together time, by training together we get to experience our relationship in a new and exciting way. Usually involving some sort of movement.

Each Other: Sure we train together as much as possible, but the real quality time together is spent with very little movement. So Cat and I try to spend as much non-training time together as possible - which doesn't really equate to a ton of time. This is where it gets sticky cause, you see, we are both close to our family and friends. That's the part that gets a bit of a hit. It’s tough to find the time you want to spend with friends when you are spending all the time training and being together. We love our families. We love our friends. And we trust in their love and understanding that Ironman training requires sacrifices.

Ironman is no longer a daunting task. When Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile, suddenly that wasn't a daunting task. Similarly, when tens of thousands of regular everyday people complete Ironman races every year - it is no longer daunting. All it takes is being honest with yourself and the sacrifices and priorities you need to make in life. After that, the race is just a walk through the park.

January 24, 2006

A Dream Of Napping

Morning Workout
RUN (treadmill)
40 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

Random Comments: I sometimes feel like Paul Newman's character in "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof". He talked about "the clicking." There's a clicking, he says... a clicking in his head that happens after so many drinks. And when that clicking occurs, everything is peaceful and easy and nothing in the world really matters. And so he keeps drinking and drinking until he feels that clicking. For me, it's not as much with the drinking as it is with the running. I run and run until I feel that clicking in my head. The clicking that makes everything good in this world. The clicking that makes everything easy, that lifts me up so my feet don't even touch the ground
. The clicking happened 30 minutes into my 40 minute run this morning. I could've gone on forever.

SWIM
2500 yards
Main Set: 10 x 50 yards (10 seconds rest between each) / 4 x 400 yards (20 sec rest)


Random Comments: I don't really feel the clicking so much during the swims. It's more about breaking through. For me, my swim workouts usually become mentally tougher for me as I go through them. With each set it becomes more and more challenging to concentrate or be excited about going back and forth in the pool ad nauseum. Then, all of the sudden, I break through the boredom. There's no clicking, but there's oftentimes smiling and laughing underwater. Even an underwater "yeah" every now and then. Today it happened right after I finished the main set. Yeah.

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You're probably wondering how my first post-resignation day was. I'd like to say that I went for a long bike ride, read my book on the beach, had a mindlessly extended lunch, a long relaxing massage and a late afternoon nap. Unfortunately, not an ounce of that would be true. Not even a smidge. Truth be told, I didn't even have lunch today, much less a bike ride or that ever elusive nap. I've got to admit, I love the concept of napping. It's a great idea. Just sprawling out on the couch in the middle of the afternoon and conking out for an hour or so. I mean, how wonderful is that?! It actually makes the entire day seem like it's been split in two. Pre-nap and post-nap. If you time it right, it feels like two full days. Imagine that, every weekend could feel like a four day weekend with but a couple of strategically placed naps. Yes, napping is a great concept. Too bad it doesn't really work. I mean, if you're 2 years old and there is milk and cookies involved, it probably works all nice and fine. But as an adult, the actual act of napping is far too difficult to execute. Even the times you decide to take a nap - where you actually turn out the lights, lay down on the couch and say to yourself, self, i'm going to take a nap now - it still doesn't work. In fact, those are the times it doesn't work the most. When you expect to take a nap is when all hell breaks loose. The moment your head hits the pillow, there's a switch in your brain that suddenly flips on and you become wide awake again. One moment your tired and nap-worthy, the next moment it's like somebody just piped caffeine into your well-being. What's that phenomenon about?

So I guess what this all really means is that even if I wanted to lay down and take a nap today, it wouldn't have worked. Worked being the operative word in that sentence. In fact, for someone who isn't officially working anymore, I sure did work a lot today.

There was the 7am conference call with the client. There was the 10am conference call with the new business team. There were the numerous calls throughout the day with other clients. There was the planning of my meetings for the next two weeks. There were the multitude of meetings, calls and e-mails with co-workers. And it didn't ever seem to stop. So far I'm probably just as productive as an ex-employee as I am a regular employee. I guess that's good. I guess that's just the type of guy I am.

Now, however, it is 8pm and I just finished whipping up a chicken salad dish that tastes really really good. I'm tired from the long day and want nothing more than to take a nap. If only it were humanly possible...

The Edge Of Tomorrow

You may have noticed that I haven't talked about work lately. You've noticed, right? I mean, tell me you've wondered at least a little bit...

The truth is that it has been a bit of a personally challenging month as it relates to work. And, hey, let's not beat around the bush on this one - I resigned from my job yesterday. Effective immediately, I will be consulting for the company over the next couple of months as we transition my responsibilities to their appropriate positions.

There are aspects of my job that have been very good. For instance, I have a tremendous amount of respect for my co-workers - for the most part they are all fun, intelligent and friendly people. Additionally, I think the company is really headed in a very positive direction; each new step opens up more opportunity for the company. Unfortunately, there have been a series of dramatic changes in my roles and responsibilities over the past six months. Changes that I have not entirely been a part of making. My job description now is quite different than what the job description was when I took the job. I actually printed the job descriptions out and put them side-by-side a few weeks ago. I diligently analyzed the differences, comparing every word in both columns and scrutinizing it's assumptions. I drew arrows and lines between the various job duties, I crossed out comments and circled others, I underlined, ex-ed out and notated - and then, a few minutes later, I stepped back and contemplated what my life had become. I tried to determine whether the new job description fit in with my personal strengths and overall goals in life. Clearly, I came to the conclusion that it does not. So I resigned.

And now here I am, awake at 4:45am. There is something very peaceful about this time of the morning. It seems like the entire world is asleep. The sun is still resting on the other side of the horizon and there is a quietness that descends on the world. In an hour the sun will rise, the world will open up and all will be reborn. Everyday is a new beginning, a new chapter in life. And so here I find myself once again, sitting on the edge of tomorrow, my legs dangling over the side, both excited and scared for the new beginnings of my life.

January 23, 2006

Steady State Of Pain

Morning Workout
BIKE
1 hour 40-ish minutes
Heart Rate Zone: 3 x 10 minutes at Steady State Threshold (Zone 4)

Random Comments: We rode up the hill by Schwarzenegger's house this morning. Well, more specifically, we rode up the hill by the gate by the communityby the street by Schwarzenegger's house. I try not to get bogged down with the technicalities. Either way, I didn't see him out there. Or Maria. I didn't see either of them. In LA everybody talks about the celebrities they see. I figure maybe I'll just start talking about the celebrities I don't see.

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Our bike ride this morning was 3 ten-minute intervals at Steady State Threshold (SST). Which would be Zone 4 of the 5 heart rate zone program. Zone 5 is called VO2 max. VO2 max represents the fastest your body could move without an engine lodged in your ass. Zone 6, to put it in perspecive, would be death - which I guess then leads you back to Zone 1.

The term Steady State Threshold is kind of a misnomer. Upon reading it, one would imply that Steady State Threshold is the top speed in which one could maintain a steady pace. One may even assume that this is the perfect pace to complete, say, a marathon, for it is the threshold of that steady state. Well, we all know what happens when you assume something. And this is no exception.

What Steady State Threshold doesn't say is that maintaining a steady pace at that heart rate only lasts for a limited amount of time. And then your body stops working. Oh, and it hurts. The words in SST neglect to mention the concept of "hurt". I'd call this false advertising.

Let's take this morning, for instance. My legs were a bit tired from the 5 1/2 hour hilly bike ride on Saturday. When I threw in Sunday's one hour swim and 13 mile run... yeah, that probably was the part that pushed me over the top. So when we got out there bright and early this morning, hell yeah my heart rate could go up to Steady State Threshold - if only my legs had the strength to push that hard. Which, by the way, they didn't.

On a good day, I'm pretty sure that I could maintain an SST heart rate for 30-40 minutes before I need to toss my cookies. It's a painful 30-40 minutes, but it is 30-40 minutes nonetheless. There is nothing steady nor stately about that.

I say we rename this zone. Steady State of Pain Threshold. That sounds much better.

Who's with me on this one?

January 22, 2006

The Pain

Morning Workout
RUN
13.6 miles
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1) / Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

Random Comments: Another beautiful day in paradise, another great run. Little tweaks here and there from the tired legs of yesterday's bike ride, but really hard to complain about anything on a 57 degree day, sun shining brightly, reflecting off the big blue ocean by our side.

SWIM
2400m
Main Set: 12 x 50m (sprint every 3rd) / 8 x 50m (sprint every other) / 4 x 50m (sprint all) [15 seconds rest between each]


Random Comments: I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love this workout. It's focused on building speed. And 50 meters is just the perfect sprint distance. 25s are too short and 100s are too long. 50s are perfect - long enough to tire you out when going full speed but not too long to make you feel completely incompetent. And the set of 24 has the sprints paced out perfectly to keep the mind focused and the body working. And then just a suddenly, it's all done and over.

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There's good pain and there's bad pain. Bad pain, for instance, is walking around barefoot and mistakenly kicking the corner of a metal bed frame. Bad pain is hammering nails into the wall and learning the hard way that your fingers are too close for your lack of hammering precision. Good pain, on the other hand, are the aches and tightness of a long, hilly bike ride as you try to walk down a short flight of stairs. Good pain is the creaking and moaning of your body as you stand up after devouring a big post-run lunch. Bad pain makes you wince. Good pain makes you smile.

We had a long hilly bike ride yesterday. We had a long run today. My legs are tired. Very tired. They are in pain - good pain. Tomorrow morning we do hill repeats on the bike. Ten minutes of all-out pain, over and over again. It'll definitely hurt.

I guess there's nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile...

January 21, 2006

Kapplooie!

Morning Workout
BIKE
5 hours 20 minutes of hills and winds and windy hills
71.5 miles
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1) / Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

Random Comments: Rich, Cat and I had a wonderful ride this morning. A bit hilly, but that's part of what made it wonderful. As for the wind, well, I think that's the part that made it challenging. It wasn't really the 20+mph headwind that we bore into while riding out. Nor was it the sudden gusts that we tucked ourselves through while riding up the hills. It was really the surprising, unpredictability of the sideways gusts that we got slammed with when riding downhill. And these are nice, long, fast, curving downhills. We'd be zipping around the corners like it ain't no thang when all of the sudden - KAPPLOOIE! - an enormous burst of wind would smack us from the side. We'd tense our bodies and grasp our handlebars with all of our mights, leaning into the wind so as not to blow right off the side of the street. Then, just as suddenly, the wind would be gone. And we'd relax, and speed up, and zip around those corners again until - THWAPPO! - another side-gust would jar our existence. Finally, only 15 miles from home, we descended the last, shorter hill. Cat was in front of me, tucked into her downhill position with her butt high in the air, head and hands as low as possible. She was building up speed in what seemed like a wind-free zone. And then it hit her. The biggest burst of the day slammed her from one side and pushed her to the left. Just as suddenly, it smacked her from the other side and pushed her right. It continued to give her the one-two punch, tossing her around like a dryer of lingerie. My heart skipped a beat as I watched her. Don't let her fall, I prayed as she swerved about the street. Please don't let her fall, was the thought I had when - POW! - I biked right into the fighting wind. I tensed, I held on tight, I did everything in my power to maintain my balance. And as I broke through the other side, I heard a slight howl from Rich as he too got wind wallopped. By the time we got to the bottom of the hill, our legs were shaking a bit more than normal. Enough with the wind already. Enough. Hey, whattaya say we take it a bit slower the rest of the way home?

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January 20, 2006

I Feel Wonderful

Evening Workout
BIKE (Lactate Threshold Test)
45 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: As high as I can get it without dying. Dying would be bad. Then again, it would definitely mark my upper threshold of pain.

Random Comments: Pain is temporary, pride lasts forever.

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Coach Gareth has this laminated card that he uses for Lactate Threshold testing. It's got numbers on it, from 1 to 20, and next to every other number is a word. It starts at the top, by the number 1, with the words "very very easy". Then it scrolls down through "very easy," "easy," "moderate," "hard," "very hard," and on through the chain until it finds itself at 20. I don't remember what the exact words are next to 20 because whenever I reach that stage, my eyesight is usually blurry from the pain of the testing. My guess is that it says something like "Stop! For the love of God, make the bad man stop!"

Every four minutes throughout the lactate threshold testing period, Gareth tosses that laminated card in front of your face and says, in his venerable English accent, "how you feelin' mate." And you're supposed to look at that list of 20 numbers and the accompanying statements and pick which one best represents how you feel at that moment. Then he pricks your finger, sucks some blood out and ups the intensity for another four minutes.

After about 4 or 5 of these, I'm pretty much wiped out. Blotto. I'm pushing myself with every ounce of strength and will I have left in my body. Every pedal stroke feels like I'm pushing a mac truck. Every second that ticks by on the clock moves so slowly it seems like time keeps pausing, like it is mocking me by saying "I can stop whenever I want. I can make you have to live with this pain forever. Look at me, I'm the clock. I own you. You are mine, bitch." And when I can barely stand it anymore, when my eyes have gone cross-eyed, my legs are burning in pain, my heart rate has reached it's limits, shot up and rung the carnival bell, Gareth slaps that card in front of my face and says "how you feelin', mate?"

I'll tell you how I'm feeling...mate. I'm feeling like crap. What number is "crap"?! What fucking number is "if I had the strength I'd reach out and strangle you for making me go through this pain." That's how I'm feeling, thank you very much.

Yet somehow I manage to select a number and continue on. He pricks my finger, sucks out the blood, increases the intensity and I pedal harder. And harder. And then, a few minutes later, my legs eventually give out and I can't push anymore.

I'm in a daze. Gareth usually shifts for me into a much easier gear until I feel my legs slowly circle around again. I pedal tediously on, until my heart rate drops back down to sane levels and my mind springs back to life. It's at this point that the endorphins start to flow. A smile creeps across my face as pride envelopes my body. I reached my limits and busted through to the other side. I survived.

"Good job, mate," he says. "How you feeling?"

Wonderful. I feel wonderful. Thank you.

I live for this.

January 19, 2006

A Mad Dash

Morning Workout
SWIM
2200 meters
Main Set: 15 x 100 meters (10-15 seconds rest between each)

Random Comments: Getting undressed poolside, outside, in 46 degree weather wasn't so bad. Cold standing there in my skimpy swim suit, but not bad. It made the jumping into the 79 degree pool water feel pretty darn good. In fact, the overall workout was great as well. None of those activities were a challenge. No, the real challenge was after I finished the work out, getting
out of the 79 degree water, sopping wet, back into the frigid 46 degree weather, headlong into the 17 mile per hour wind gusts and onto the ice cold concrete. I grabbed my towel and made a mad dash to the locker room. Love the winter morning swims in the great outdoors.
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January 18, 2006

A Cuppa Joe

Evening Workout
RUN
45 minutes
Lactate Threshold testing
Heart Rate Zone: As high as possible until it cain't go no high no more.

Random Comments: I was afflicted by the long-standing calf problems on the treadmill today. I haven't told you the details about my calf problems. Suffice to say, they've caused many problems, on and off, for the last 15 years of running. The good news is that I made it through the entire test today and the results look pretty promising. My fitness level hasn't dropped too much since this past June, when I supposedly was at my peak fitness. I think I'll go celebrate with a very large pizza. Actually, make it a lot of Thai food. I'll have the pizza tomorrow.
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So here's the catch: I'm not a coffee drinker. Yet I drink coffee once or twice a week. One might say, You are an imbecile, young man, apparently you are a coffee drinker and you just haven't accepted it. Well, if one said that, one would be drastically wrong. Because, you see, I'm not a coffee drinker. I thought we've already been over this.

I don't necessarily like the taste of coffee. I don't even feel joy at the smell of coffee. Even the texture....um.... actually, I've got no problems with the texture. The fact of the matter is, I just don't like coffee. That said, I really like coffee shops. There is something about a coffee shop that is very relaxing for me. I love getting a warm cup of something-or-other, and sitting outside in the just-short-of-brisk weather, sifting through the newspaper, doing a crossword puzzle or, even better, reading a good book.

The thing is, though, I feel guilty hanging out at coffee shops without buying something. So I've kanoodled around with water and tea. I even had a hot chocolate phase there for awhile. But then I decided enough is enough, this whole coffee-thing seems so popular, I might as well give it a shot. Lo and behold, I soon realized that I could almost get used to it. Not like it, mind you, but at least get used to it. I mean, what with all the new fangled concoctions they have these days, there's enough powder and syrup and sweetners and dairy pourings and other assorted products to swish around in the cup and make the whole coffee experience somewhat palatable.

You see, in my world, the coffee shop has replaced the warmth and comfort of the couch. I don't have a fireplace, so what's the point of laying on the couch. Besides, laying alone on the couch has no social factor whatsoever. At the coffee shop, at least there's people watching. I don't necessarily want to talk to anybody, but I sure can get in some great people watching. Especially here in the LA area - there are very few places in the world with better people watching than on the west side of Los Angeles. Between the stuck-up celebrities, the stuck-up non-celebrities, the doctored, lifted and tucked bodies, the overwhelming vanity and the people watching people watching people, it's a veritable alphabet soup of good times. I love people watching with a warm cup in my hand.

I used to go to the local Starbucks every Sunday morning and stay there reading the paper and doing the crossword puzzle for a couple of hours. By mid-morning my solitary reading phase would meld into the people watching phase. And there are some wonderful people to watch on Sunday mornings. Lately, though, my coffee shop habits have changed. I no longer have a regular schedule that I adhere to. Rather, I just take a stroll up to the Coffee Bean when the mood hits me - and usually the mood hits me when I don't have an extensive morning workout. Like today, for instance.

This morning was one of those in-the-mood-for-coffee-shop mornings. So at 7:30am I grabbed my book, my Wall Street Journal and my blackberry, and took a stroll up the block to the Coffee Bean. I ordered some powdered non-fat, decaf, latte type thing (I find that it keeps the cup warm for an exceptionally long period of time) and set my butt outside on one of the strategically placed sidewalk tables, whereby I stretched out my legs, let out a heaving satsified sigh, and opened up the paper to delve into the news of the day.

I didn't get but one section into the paper when I hear a couple of kids a few feet away talking to each other. And talking very loudly, may I add. Then they started jumping on their skateboards (which apparently every single kid has these days) and grinded their way up and down the sidewalk for no apparent reason whatsoever. I tried to ignore them, but then a few more of their friends showed up. And then their friends showed up. It was kind of like a scene from the Hitchcock movie "The Birds". But instead of birds, this one was "The Kids". They kept coming and flocking. And they kept getting louder and louder. And cell phones were ringing, and skateboards were grinding, and homework was being talked about, and pop songs were sung, and talking turned to yelling turned to screaming and....and.... it just kept getting louder and louder. I couldn't focus, I couldn't concentrate..

Hey wait a minute, I thought. Shouldn't these kids be in school? I looked at my watch - uh, I mean, blackberry. It suddenly hit me. Today is Wednesday. Classes at the local elementary school don't start until 10am on Wednesdays because the teachers can have all of their morning meetings on Wednesdays. With the extra couple of hours in the morning, parents drop off their kids on Coffee Shop row and let them kanoodle around with all their friends for the extra time. Wednesday mornings are mayhem at the coffee shops. Yet, for some reason, I tend to find myself here in front of the Coffee Bean on Wednesday mornings.

I think it's because I need the relaxation mid-week. Clearly that's not working out so well.

Thank God I don't like coffee.

January 17, 2006

My Science Threshold

Morning Workout
BIKE (on the trainer)
45 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

Random Comments: Riding a bike on a trainer can be a very tedious event. The only time the scenery changes is when you blink. I'm not sure if it's actually more difficult to pedal on the trainer than to ride outside, or if it's the boredom that makes it seem more difficult, either way, it ain't always easy. Which makes the trainer a really great reason to have TiVo. My workout this morning was 45 minutes. By fast forwarding through all of the commercials, West Wing lasts 42 minutes long. Which left 3 extra minutes of focused bike time. As it turns out, they were the most difficult 3 minutes of the workout.

Evening Workout

SWIM
2300m
Main Set: 1 x 250m / 2 x 200m / 3 x 150m / 4 x 100m / 5 x 50m

Random Comments: A funny thing happened at the pool tonight. I was swimming along in my lane when all of the sudden I started smelling cigarette smoke. There is no smoking allowed in the YMCA, much less in the pool area. And that's not even the thing. The thing is that I was swimming. You know, face in the water swimming, turning my head only slightly and inhaling through my mouth. And there's definitely no smoking allowed underwater in the pool. At first I thought I was imagining things. Then I swam another lap and still smelled the cigarettes. Next lap... same thing. It was really wierd. Well finally I finished my set and stopped at the end of the lane for a brief rest. In the lane on my left was a 20-something girl. In the lane on my right was a 40 something man. They were talking to each other - in French. They were French. You see where I'm going with this one?! French people smoke. It's what they do - like drinking wine and eating brie. They smoke. Yet when I stood between the two of them, I couldn't smell the cigarettes. It was only there when I swam. Is that the wierdest thing, or what.
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Tomorrow is test day for me. Tomorrow night I meet with the trainer (Coach Gareth, for those of you who forgot) and get my latest Lactate Threshold run testing done. Since the output on the run and the bike are different, I have two separate tests. As I just said, tomorrow is the run test. On Friday night I have the Lactate Threshold test for the bike. You excited? Yeah... me too. You know why? Because I love running faster than I knew my legs could move and pedaling harder than I thought is possible while having somebody stick a needle in my finger every four minutes to suck out more and more blood from my body, and continuing on until I've pushed myself beyond all possible limits and am somewhere past the point of hallucinating and just before the point of tossing my proverbial cookies. And, believe it or not, I pay to have this done. It's really a sick sport, this triathlon malarkey, and what better proof than Lactate Threshold testing.

Hey wait, do you know what the Lactate Threshold is? Honestly, I barely do. I just get the test done for the challenge of it all. Thing is, I never did very well in chemistry. Or biology, for that matter. I did so poorly, I don't even know if the Lactate Threshold conversation is a chemistry or biology subject. I was more of a physics guy. Come to think of it, I pretty much sucked at the electro-magnetic physics side of things. Couldn't figure out how a light bulb worked and really didn't seem to care. As long as it turned on when I flipped the switch, I was fine. Even if the bulb didn't turn on, I knew I could go down to the store and buy a new bulb. That was my expertise in electro-magnetic physics - a trip to the Rite-Aid. Truth be told, I was more of a mechanical physics type person. You know, which will freefall faster when dropped from the top of a tall building, a hard-boiled egg or Sarah Jessica Parker. That's the kind of problem I liked thinking about more. And even then I wasn't the brightest bulb in the Crayola container.

So when it comes to all of this Lactate Threshold testing, I mostly know that it helps me get a more personalized training schedule which helps me go faster in the long run. I leave the rest of the mumbo jumbo to Coach Gareth and his computer. I supply the blood, he supplies the training schedule. That said, I recently learned what the whole Lactate Threshold stuff means so let me impress you with a quick lesson before I forget... Please keep in mind that everything I'm about to say could be completely wrong.

The harder you work during exercise, the more lactic acid your body produces. In fact, lactic acid helps your body perform at high intensities. That's what it does. And that's good. High intensity is good. However, too much lactic acid for too long of a period, shuts down the muscles. That's bad. Muscles not working - bad. There is a point during exercise when your body starts producing lactic acid at a rate faster than it can process the damn stuff. Once you pass this point, you're workin' on borrowed time. That point is the Lactate Threshold. It used to be called the "Keep This Up And You're Really Going To Be In Big Trouble Threshold," but apparently they felt that name was too long. I don't know, it kinda flows to me.

You can probably imagine that ones ability to maintain an exercise level at the lactate threshold would increase their endurance abilities. Even more, the faster you can move and still maintain balanced levels of lactic acid in your body - well, that right there is a formula for success in endurance racing.

As you can see, this whole triathlon training stuff is quite the science. A fascinating one, even. Rather, I'm sure it'd be fascinating if I really paid more attention to it. As for me, I've always been more of a right-brained guy anyway.

January 15, 2006

Our First Half-Marathon Together

Morning Workout
RUN(Carlsbad Half-Marathon)
1 hour 53 minutes 12 seconds
Heart Rate Zone: Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)


Random Comments: The Carlsbad Half-Marathon is our first race of the season - and it's a beauty of a race as it winds and rolls along the gorgeous San Diego coastline. For the most part, Catherine and I had a wonderful run - and a fun one. We kept a steady pace that I think averaged somewhere in the 8:30 per mile range of life. Nothing overly strenuous or too easy. Unfortunately Cat's hamstring was really hurting throughout the run. We had to make a pit stop around mile 3 for her to stretch it out. But she's a trooper and didn't complain at all throughout the race. Around mile 11, it felt like somebody shoved an ice pick through my left achilles. I screamed a little bit in shock, and slowed down a tad for a couple of seconds until it faded away. In the end we finished together and we finished strong. Next on the list: the Palm Springs Century.
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January 14, 2006

A 60% Chance Of Rain

Morning Workout
BIKE
4 hours 20 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1) / Lactate Threshold (Zone 2) [all at a cadence of 90 rpm]

Random Comments: In retrospect, the ride went very quickly. In actuality, I think I blacked out for most of it. Shock does that to you.
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A marathon, they say, begins with one step. What they don't say is that the first step is really the easiest. In fact, the last step across the finish line is pretty damn simple as well. It's the steps you take in the middle, particularly between miles 18 and 22, that are significantly more challenging. I'd venture to say a better quote would be, "A marathon begins with one step and ends with one step. As far as the steps in the middle, well, you're on your own, bucko."

Similarly, today's bike ride started off very easy. That first proverbial step was a piece of cake. And the end, the last pedal stroke home, was also pretty exhilirating. It was really the four and a half hours in between that had me mumbling conversations with the Grim Reaper. I’ve been on a lot of painful and challenging bike rides before. I've been in bad bike accidents, been hit by cars, fallen over cliffs, injured my feet, legs, arms, hands, wrists, fingers and face. But I've had few biking experiences as painfully challenging as today. Which makes me believe that Ironman couldn't be all that bad after all.

When I left my house this morning, it was a nice, balmy 55 degrees outside with overcast skies and no winds. Wearing my shorts, jersey, arm warmers and gloves, I met up with Catherine and we jetted out onto our ride. It started off with overwhelming beauty, as the orange and yellow glow of the rising sun reflected off the ocean. I mean, it looked a bit apocalyptic, but in a beautiful sort of Armageddon way. We reveled in this beauty for the first thirty minutes of the ride. Then, of course, it started to rain. I had heard that there was a 60% chance of rain but...well... I live in Southern California. It doesn't rain in Southern California.

It began with a light drizzle. A few minutes later it started building ever so slightly until we found ourselves amidst a steady downfall that didn’t seem to let up for the rest of the four hours we were out there. It's like the frog in the pot of water. If you throw the frog in the lukewarm water, he does just fine. Then you slowly, ever so gradually, raise the temperature and the frog doesn't notice a thing. That is, until the water is a bubbling, brewing cauldron and the frog boils itself to death. Welcome to our ride.

It’s very exhilarating to exercise in the rain. I love running and biking in the rain. It’s so refreshing and mentally cleansing. It feels great. At least it feels great for the first two hours and fifteen minutes, as I learned today. Somewhere around two hours and sixteen minutes into the ride, things took a turn for the worse. Phase one of my demise began when we stopped for a quick pee break. It wasn't the stopping that was the problem, it was the starting up again. You see, my heart rate had dropped down while I was in the Porta-John. When I came back out and got on my bike, suddenly my body realized how drenched my clothes were. I was a walking waterfall - arm warmers were like wet noodles on my limbs, the jersey was sticking to my body in a bad polyester type of way, the socks were all but destroyed with water and mud, and the shorts were so damp that every time I made the slightest movement on the saddle, a puddle would engulf my privates. Still, I dealt with it, cracked a few jokes and continued our ride.

Shortly thereafter, Phase 2 set in when I lost all feeling in my feet. Ten minutes later, my hands went numb. Then, woops, there goes the arms. And the butt – can’t feel the butt anymore.

The truth is, the first few minutes of numbness were kind of good, in a way. I mean, I was so damp and squishy from the downfall, the numbness kind of negated it all in a “sweep it under the rug” type of way. Suddenly I forgot about the sponges in my shoes that once used to resemble socks. I even forgot about the super-soaked maxi-pad between my legs that used to be the padding in my biking shorts. In a way, my physical numbness really led to my mental numbness. At this point, it was nice. The bad side of this is that the numbness became a bit challenging when I had to stop at red lights. Without feeling in my feet, I had a tough time flipping my ankle out to unclip from the pedals. Each of the three times I had to stop were three times I came dangerously close to kissing concrete. As for Cat, she could unclip from her pedals, but her feet and legs were so numb she didn't have the strength to push her shoes back into the clips.

It was around three hours into the ride, with the wind blowing the rain into our faces, that things suddenly took a turn for the worse. I’m not sure what the actual stages of hypothermia are, but I’m fairly sure I hit an advanced stage somewhere around this three hour mark. Right after we stopped for more liquids, the shakes began to set in. It started with my hands. I still couldn’t feel them, but I could see them shaking. Then it worked itself up my arms. And descended down my legs. And in a flash it shot up my spine. My upper body looked like it was in anaphylactic shock as my teeth were chattering like a group of lonely old ninnies. I tried to maintain a firm grasp on the handlebars, though they had become soaked and uncomfortable. I didn’t think I could make it home. I just wanted to curl up on a couch somewhere – anywhere that had a fireplace would be fine. But as I surveyed my options, I realized there was only one: pedal myself back or freeze my ass off.

Through the rain, the wet, the numbness, the shakes, the pre-hypothermic pain, I focused on keeping my feet moving in circles until home was in my sights. I don’t even remember most of that last hour – I think I blacked out part of the way back.

The moment I got home, I ran into the shower. I turned the hot water up to the maximum. I could see the water beating on my body, but had no feeling. I could see the smoke rising from the shower, but couldn't tell the water temperature. And then slowly the blood started flowing back into my extremities as my hands, legs and feet began to thaw. Thawing, in case you don't know, is very painful. Surprisingly painful. It hurts. It itches like all hell. It’s really fucking annoying. I stood in the scalding shower shouting in anger and pain. With each thawing moment, it became more uncomfortable and my shouting became louder. "STOOOOOPPPP!" "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!" I tried to soap myself, but with no feeling in my fingers I coouldn't grasp the soap and continually dropped it each time I tried to lather. I tried to shampoo my hair, but couldn’t bend my fingers to open the shampoo bottle. So I stood there. For about ten minutes I stood in my lame paralysis, wondering if I was singing my skin from the heat of the water.

Ironman can’t be any worse than this, I thought. It can't possibly be worse than this. There isn’t a lot one can do in a day's exercise that is worse than this.

I got out of the shower, put on jeans, a long sleeve t-shirt, a sweatshirt and then wrapped my big warm robe around me. I sat on the couch shaking violently. I made soup to warm myself, and shakingly tried to bring the spoon to my lips.

A few minutes later the shaking subsided.
I survived.

Now here we are down in the San Diego area. Tomorrow we run the Carlsbad Half Marathon.
It’s supposed to be a cold morning with a 60% chance of rain.

January 12, 2006

How Do You Like Them Apples

Morning Workout
BIKE
(on the trainer)
1 hour 15-ish minutes

Heart Rate Zone: 25 minutes Lactate Threshold (Zone 2) / 20 minutes Aerobic Conditioning (Zone 3) / 15 minutes SST (Sustained something-or-other) (Zone 4)

Random Comments: I wanted to quit just 10 minutes into the workout this morning. But the thought of Cat kept me going. Catherine would motivate me to keep moving. So I told myself I would pedal for another 5 minutes. Then another 5. Then another. And next thing I knew, I was an hour and fifteen minutes into the workout and had watched one episode of The Daily Show and two episodes of The Office. I'd say it was a pretty good workout. In retrospect, at least.
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I’ve started eating apples. My sister eats a lot of apples, so does my dad. Yet I’ve never been an apple guy. I’ve tried - I really have - but I just never liked them that much. I don’t think it’s so much the flavor as it is a mixture of the consistency combined with the physical act of eating one. The dripping of juices, the sticky fingers, the rebellious pieces that get caught in my teeth or float on my cheek… It’s just not fun for me. It’s why I don’t eat oranges either. Too messy. Too high maintenance. Yet with all of this traveling I do, it is very difficult to maintain a healthy diet. I usually find myself unbearably hungry when I get to airports. I don’t know if it’s some sick Pavlovian response where the act of being in an airport triggers the hunger button in my brain, or if the stress of getting ready and getting to the airport suddenly dissipates once I’m there, at which point I suddenly realize that I haven’t eaten anything in hours, if not days. Once I pass through the security area at the airport, I usually end up mindlessly surveying my food choices as I stroll to the gate. Burger King, Chili’s Too, Starbucks… none of them are ever very appealing to me. Nor do I want yet another one of those prepackaged sandwiches where two thin strips of processed turkey are playing hide-and-seek with a head of wilted lettuce and crammed into what seems to be a half-loaf of two year old white bread. (I don’t like my bread aged. Or my lettuce wilted. While we’re at it, don’t process my Goddam turkey either.) And the thought of buying another over-priced “trail mix” turns my stomach. I’ve trail mixed myself to death lately. I’m one pecan away from going completely postal. Lately I’ve reverted back to the ole standby: Fig Newtons. But even those have approached the point of over-saturation. So I’m trying to be healthy. Which means when I’m hungry in the airports I’m opting for a banana or an apple. You can’t get much more healthy than that without tofu being involved somehow.

I bought some sort of greenish tinted apple when I flew to St. Louis the other day. I don’t know what came over me, what prompted me to buy it. I think I was just ruminating over the fact that apples are so healthy and so good for me. Or perhaps it’s the sense of nausea when thinking of my other airport food choices. At the very least, the fact that my sister and father love them so much, well, there’s GOT to be a way for me to start liking apples. Lo and behold, the apple was pretty good. I shockingly enjoyed the experience for the first time since I can remember. Not a lot of juice leakage, no sticky fingers, and a fairly satisfying taste. Have I picked up a new, healthy habit? One can only wait and see.

When I got to the St. Louis airport yesterday morning to catch my return flight to LA, I had reached my usual state of extremeairport hunger. I didn’t even bother to look at the so-called-sandwiches, and passed by the Panda Inn and Hot Dog Mania without even a glance. I walked right up to the food kiosk and grabbed myself a Red Delicious apple. It’s temptingly large, beautifully red and has got “delicious” right in the name – I mean, how much more obvious can you get.

I bit into the apple. Hmmm… tastes a bit sweet. A bit sandy, even. I tried another bite. Juice ran down my fingers. And another. I wiped the apple piece off my chin. It's definitely not the "delicious" that has been advertised. Three bites later I had had enough and threw it away in disgust.

Maybe I’ll start taking the train.
I wonder what my Pavlovia response will be to train stations.

I Don't Want To Bite It Like Goose

Morning Workout
RUN
(on the treadmill)
45 minutes

Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic Conditioning (Zone 3)

Random Comments: The Figure Skating National Championships are being held in St. Louis this week and apparently my hotel is the epicenter of activity. There are 10 year old girls running around with their families in tow as if this is the most important week of their lives. As it turns out, it might very well be. None of the figure skaters made it to the fitness room this morning. Their pudgy mothers were there in full force though.
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Ummmm…. does anybody see the plane out there? Isn’t it a bit too close?! Helloooo?!?! I look around. Nobody has noticed. In fact, most people are asleep, which is odd for an afternoon flight.

The meetings in St. Louis ended much earlier than expected. In fact, they started much earlier than expected. I originally booked my return travel on the 7:45pm flight back to LA. When I found out my meeting was moved from the afternoon to the morning, I looked at the flight schedule and realized that there is a 12:00 direct from St. Louis to LAX. In fact, that’s the only other flight direct to LA. If I don’t get on the stand-by list for that one, it’ll be a loooong stay in the airport.

The presentation went very well. We’ll need to go through a few more rounds but it looks like we have a great chance of getting the business. I worked on the presentation yesterday for the better part of seven hours. Of course, when the clients showed up to my hotel room at 9pm, halfway to sloshed, I’d say my productivity took a fairly rapid downturn. We sat around talking – or, rather, I was talking they were slurring - while I half-heartedly tried to finalize the changes to the presentation. Once the clock passed 11pm, I escorted their drunken asses out of my room. An hour later I was asleep… and five and a half hours after that I was up again. I didn’t get a chance to workout at all yesterday and there was no way I was going to miss it today. So with 5 ½ hours under my belt, I dragged myself out of bed and went down to the fitness room for an exhilarating 45 minute run on the treadmill.

My 8am meeting this morning started promptly at 8:40. When it finally ended, I looked at my watch and realized it was 10:45. Damn the two hours went by quickly. Not wanting to miss the noon flight, I hightailed it outta there and got to the airport lickety-split.

So here I am now, about one hour into the flight back to LA when I see the plane out there. Not but a few minutes ago I was calmly sitting here in my exit row window seat, happily playing Solitaire on my computer when I glanced out the window. In the distance I saw a plane heading towards us at an extremely rapid speed – as planes tend to go. My heart began to speed up a bit. I remember hearing something somewhere at some time that planes are supposed to stay two miles apart from each other. I don’t remember if I read it in a newspaper or heard it in that movie with Jon Cusack and Billy Bob Thorton, the one where they play air traffic controllers. Or maybe I’m just assuming it’s true after that whole Top Gun drama where Maverick and Goose get caught in the tailwind of another plane and spin out of control. Goose died; he broke his neck when he ejected from the plane. It was sad. I don’t want to go out like Goose did. Either way, I know for a fact that planes aren’t supposed to be flying close to each other. Regardless, there’s a plane heading towards us at an extremely rapid speed. I watch from right outside my window as it comes zooming in parallel to us. My head turns a full 180 as I watch it zip out of site behind us. This plane looks like it’s only, say, a quarter mile away from us. At the very most, a half of a mile. I can see the people through their windows. It sure ain’t no two miles apart. Was that a close call or is that normal? These are the types of questions I really don’t want the answers to.

January 10, 2006

Lose Yourself

Morning Workout
BIKE
1 hour 23 minutes
Hills
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1) + Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

Random Comments: I had a 6:30am conference call this morning, which means we didn't get out on the bikes until after 7am, which means there was a tremendous amount of commuter traffic when we rode, which means it was not only really dangerous out there but also really busy, which means our ride involved a lot of stopping and starting and going slow to avoid traffic, which means I didn't really stay within my heart rate zones at all, which means it didn't feel like a consistent ride, which means we didn't even get to the top of the main hill we were climbing, which means when I got back home I didn't feel like I had a good workout. And that just plain sucks.
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"No more games, I'm gonna change what you call rage...
I was playing in the beginning, but the moods all changed.."

Things are changing in my life. I can feel it. I've felt it for a few months now. There is a whole transition - a metamorphisis. It's been lurking around the corner, peeking it's head out when I'm not looking. I couldn't quite make it out in the past, but I've felt its tentacles in me. And while my back has been turned, it has been bleeding into different parts of my life.

It is in my Ironman dreams - after years of wanting, I am finally doing. And the road to Ironman success is not just a physical challenge, it is a mental and emotional feat that encompasses all parts of my being. It hasn't taken full control of me yet, but I feel it grabbing on and pulling. It keeps pulling and pulling.

The change is in my personal life - I am in love with an amazing woman. For years I've been searching for my match, my other. I've been looking for the one person that fits so boldly into my life, who I can grow with and learn with and build a world around. Catherine may very well be that woman; that woman to help me turn my life into all that I have dreamed.

The transition is in my work - after ten years of building successful companies, I boldly decided to take a job working for somebody else. In the past year that I've been at this job, my role has been changed, my expectations have been quelled, my drive has been mitigated. My eyes have been opened to the realities of corporate life, the challenges of senior management and the obstacles I encounter on my path of growth. It may be time for me to move on. It may be time for me to search for a new path; a path that more clearly leads to growth and personal development.

I have to get up at 4am tomorrow morning for my 6am flight to St. Louis. I come back on Thursday night. Catherine and I are then spending the weekend in San Diego, where we'll be running the Carlsbad Half-Marathon on Sunday morning.

There will be a lot of thinking this weekend. Thinking and planning. Thinking about the headhunters that have been calling me for the past few months. Thinking about the friends at senior level jobs who have inquired about my desires to change positions. Planning for my next moves. Planning for my life.

By Tuesday of next week, things will begin to be dramatically different. I've made that commitment to myself. My life begins again on Tuesday. No more games -- I was playing in the beginning, but the moods all changed...

January 09, 2006

The Eyes Have It

Morning Workout
Nothing

Random Comments: I’ve got to start work really early today and then fly to Seattle. I’m forced to take a rest day. It’s going to be a tough week of exercise.
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I went to Seattle today for a client meeting. In fact, I’m on the plane right now and it’s bouncing up and down like a yo-yo. The plane, that is. Not Seattle. There’s no bouncing in Seattle. I look out the window of the plane. It’s dark outside, I can’t see anything. Don’t know if we’re in the clouds or deep in outer space. Though with all of the bouncing, we may very well be going from clouds to space to clouds to space and back and forth again and again, over and over. It’s a lot of bouncing. I glance around the cabin and everybody seems calm and collected amidst this cosmic bounding. They’re just reading their books, typing on their laptops or munching on their nibblies (which smell curiously like burnt bagels with stale lox spread. I’m not sure if it’s the bouncing or that smell that is making me nauseous.) How can they be so calm with all this yoyoing? I look out the window of the airplane again to see if there is any light. Nothing. Nothing at all except the reflection of my face. I look into my eyes. I look calm. I don’t feel calm, but I look it. It’s a front. A fa├žade. I guess that explains it. Maybe everybody is putting on a front, like me. Come to think of it, that guy over there has had his laptop open for 10 minutes and hasn’t typed a single word. And the flaming fellow in front of me hasn’t turned but one page on his book since we took off. As for this smelly little fat lady next to me, well, she is shoveling those burnt lox bagel smelling snacks into her face so quickly she’d give the rolly-polly boy from Willy Wonka a run for his money in a food face shoveling contest.

But the truth is that I didn’t mean to start typing about this plane ride. I really wanted to talk about my week of travel. And, more importantly, my trip to Seattle. So that’s what I’m going to talk about now.

There’s been a bit of drama over the past couple of weeks surrounding this Seattle client. Specifically, we were supposed to win a piece of business and we didn’t. We came very close to winning – extremely close. But, as we all know, extremely close only counts in horseshoes and nuclear war (and something else, but I always forget the third one). So I flew up to Seattle on short notice to do my very best job of convincing them to give us the business anyway. Tough sell, trying to get a company to change their minds after making an announcement that they’ve selected a winning agency. I have to admit, though, I came up with a compelling offer. I don’t think it worked, but it sure was compelling. Offer aside, it’s really the travel to Seattle that I want to discuss.

The road to Seattle started at 5:15 this morning. I woke up to start working while Catherine went out to run and swim. This is one of those weeks heavy travel weeks for me - my training is really going to suffer. And the suffering started at 5:15. I got up and got ready to get on the phone with our east coast office so I could put together the aforementioned compelling deal before I went to the airport for my 10:30 flight. I went back and forth with the east coast team for a few hours. By the time I had most of it together, I looked at my watch and saw it was just short of 9am. With 90 minutes before my plane leaves, I decide to hightail it to Kinko’s in order to print out the deck for the client. Giving myself 10-15 minutes at Kinko’s would give me more than enough time to get to the airport for my plane. Of course, I always seem to forget how annoying Kinko’s really is. I mean, they really go out of their way to be a pain in the ass there. It’s quite impressive.

I walk into Kinko’s at 9am and begin to set up my computer. After 15 minutes, though, it doesn’t work. Surprise. I call the clueless Kinko’s customer service fool, and after he plays around with my computer for 2 minutes, he tells me to restart. Of course, whatever he did kinda screwed up my computer. It took a full 5 minutes to restart the damn thing. I finally get it up and running and send the files to the printer. I sit and wait, staring at the clock the entire time. It’s getting late – my plane is leaving soon and I’m still 30 minutes from the airport. I’m sweating. I wait a bit longer. What the hell is going on here? Suddenly I get a message on my computer… there’s been an error, the files won’t print. Damn! I look at my watch, its 9:35. Uh-oh. I’m in trouble.

I’ll find a Kinko’s in Seattle. I pack up my computer and rush to the airport. At LAX they don’t let you get a boarding pass if your flight is leaving in less than 30 minutes. That means I have 25 minutes to get to the terminal before they won’t let me past security. Twenty-five minutes on what is a thirty minute drive. Not good planning. Forty minutes later, I show up to the American Airlines terminal and try to check in. Of course, with my plane leaving in less than fifteen minutes, the automated computer won’t spit out a boarding pass. I rush to customer service and complain. My plane leaves in ten minutes, I say in frustration. I need a boarding pass. She looks at me with a pathetic, you-have-no-chance-in-hell type of stare. Where are you going, she asks. Seattle, I say as hurriedly as possible. Umm…we don’t fly to Seattle, she responds. Huh? I say in disbelief. What? We don’t fly to Seattle, she repeats herself a bit louder, as if I didn’t speak English and her volume may help me understand. Could you be on Horizon or Alaska? She asks in a way that mimics a rolling of the eyes. Shit shit shit shit.

I’m not flying American Airlines today. I’m flying American Airlines to St. Louis. That’s on Wednesday. Today is Monday. Today I’m flying Alaska Airlines. Shit shit shit shit. I look at my watch. It’s 10:15. My Alaska Airlines plane leaves in 15 minutes from Terminal 3. I’m standing in Terminal 4. Shit shit shit shit. I turn around and run outside without saying another word.

It’s a bit less than a half of a mile from Terminal 4 to Terminal 3. I sprinted as fast as I possibly could. I need to make this flight. I need to get to Seattle. I probably covered the distance in 4 minutes, in work shoes, wearing a suit and carrying a computer case. I was frustrated but not frustrated enough to pat myself on the back and thank myself for being a triathlete – fit enough to chase a plane without keeling over. I arrive at Terminal 3 and look at my watch: 10:20. My flight leaves in 10 minutes. I try to get an automated boarding pass but, of course, the computer won’t let me in. I rush to customer service and jump in front of the line. Please put me on the next flight, I demand. The ticket agent looks at me with the same eye roll I saw in Terminal 4. I wonder if they called over in advance. Regardless, the agent managed to get me on the 11:45 flight. I grabbed the boarding pass out of her hands and high-tailed it up the stairs and into security. I must do everything in my power to make it on the 10:30 flight, I tell myself. I’m now confirmed on the 11:45, but if I rush, I can get my seat back on the 10:30. I muscle my way to the front of the security line, my body in a full sweat, my face red in heat and frustration. I need to get to Seattle for this meeting. I must get there. I make it through security and sprint to the gate for the 10:30 flight. Of course, my gate is the last one in the terminal. My feet are hurting from the shoes, my shoulder is hurting from the computer bag, and my lungs are hurting from this unexpected workout. But I run. Ironman must be harder then this, I think. So I run faster. I see the gate in front of me. I turn the corner. And stop. There is nobody standing at the gate. There is nobody in line to get on the plane. Shit shit shit shit.

I look at my watch. 10:25. This can’t be happening. Where is the plane? What is going on?!?! I go to the gate next to mine. I need to get on that flight, I mutter out between breathes. Can you get me on that flight to Seattle?

Again, I get the eye roll attitude. What the hell is it with all the eye rolls today? Somebody will be back shortly to help you, he responds. Why don’t you just go back and wait at the gate.

Arrrrgh!

I walk back to the gate and stand there.
As I’m standing, I look at the sign.
Expected Departure: 10:50.
The flight has been delayed.

I step back to take a seat.
And roll my eyes.