February 28, 2006

Hundred Yard Sprints Are Muy Macho

Morning Workout
2000 yards
Main Set: 15 x 100 yard sprints (30 seconds rest between each)

Evening Workout
40 minutes

Random Comments: According to The Grand Plan, I was supposed to go for a 30 minute run prior to my swim sprints this morning. Which probably explains why I donned my running shorts and running shoes and went to the gym. Yet as I was walked up the stairs to the entrance I felt a wee bit of discomfort in the achilles. I had thought that if I just ignored my achilles injury over the past few days that it might just go away. Apparently that plan didn't work out so well. Back to the drawing board on that one, I guess. So as I walked up the stairs in discomfort, and realized that I probably shouldn't put undue pressure on the ole achilles, I decided to jog in the pool in its stead - always an embarrassingly boring time, the pool jogging alongside the blue-hairs. Yet when I got to the pool, the "slow and old" lane was coincidentally jam packed with slow and old people and, hence, there was no room left for me to water jog. Darn. So I did what any normal Ironman training fool would do and went right into my 100 yard sprints. After all, when compared to pool jogging, doing fifteen 100s is definitely muy macho. All that sprinting felt great. Although they were fairly tiring, I somehow managed to cut 5-8 seconds off my sprint times since the last time I did these darn things. So I've got that going for me. Which is nice. I love feeling like I'm not improving at all only to find a few weeks later that I've improved quite a bit.

Star Spotting Of The Day: Casey Kasem, Mr. Top 40 himself

: Colorado Ave and 23rd Street in Santa Monica

What He Was Doing
Cruising in his black Mercedes, lookin' like the pimp-daddy he is, driving down Colorado Ave in Santa Monica smack dab between the MTV offices and the Universal Music offices.


February 26, 2006

Even Fear Can't Keep Up With Them

Morning Workout
2 hours 47 minutes of hills, most of them going up
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1)

Random Comments: I know there are still five months until Ironman USA, but I've got to admit that I'm a bit nervous about my race nutrition. They say nutrition is the fourth discipline in triathlon and, to be completely honest with
you, its the one I suck at the most. I'm good at eating in general. I mean, I can chew, swallow and do all the other basic tasks of ingesting substances. It's just that I haven't figured out how to be smart about it while I'm exercising. I've tried fine tuning my race nutrition on all of the half-ironmans and century rides I've done, but apparently I haven't found the right balance to keep me energized. So I'm trying new things now, hoping that I'll stumble on the right mix of fuel that will keep me alive and somewhat coherent during the Ironman. I delved into the pretzel sampling on the ride today. I love pretzels. Besides, they're all carbs and salt, two things that I know I need when I'm riding. How bad can they really be? As it turns out, they tasted pretty good. Only problem is, I got full pretty quickly. It felt like all that pretzel eating added a few extra pounds of jiggly as I tried climbing the hills. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure I gained weight on the ride. Oops. Maybe I'll just bring a pizza with me. I'm not eating the right things, so I might as well eat the things that make me happy.
Star Spotting Of The Day: George Hincapie, Dave Zabriskie, Floyd Landis, Bobby Julich and all of today's superheroes of bike racing
Location: Redondo Beach, California
What They Were Doing: Riding their bikes really really fast. Specifically, they were racing the final stage of the Tour of California bike race. I'd show you my pictures, but they're all blurry. That's how fast they were going.

I remember seeing part of a bike race when I was a youngster, but about 6 or 7 years old. It was back in Washington DC and I was standing with my mother on a street corner in the city watching the bikers come screaming around the bend. I could still picture that weekend afternoon, it was a cool day, clouds overhead and trees lining the park on both sides of the street. There were hay bales on the corner to stop any rider from sliding all the way into Virginia. We stood behind those bales, mom and me. I guess if a rider did lose his edge, and actually slid right through the hay, they'd have to take out my mother and me before they road rashed themselves to Virginia. Fortunately, I don't remember seeing anybody fall. What I do remember is the feeling in my chest as they went by. It was a cross between my heart pounding against my rib cage and the butterflies fluttering inside my stomach. It'd be poetic for me to tell you that this was the moment when I decided to be a competitive racer. I take that back, it wouldn't be poetic at all. Actually, it'd be kinda lame. In order for it to be poetic I would've had to actually become a world class racer or something. I didn't. I'm just a schmo from California.

Today I lined up on the streets of Redondo Beach with all the other schmo's from California to watch the world's best bike riders blast by us. It was the inagural race of the Tour of California, an eight-stage event that started in San Francisco and culminated in this 7-mile, 9-lap monstrosity on the coast of beautiful Southern Cali. It was amazing watching these guys come by. I've been following them in the Tour d'France for the past few years and have actually come to the point where I didn't believe they existed; they were always just part of a cycling drama that unfolded every July on OLN TV. But I have proof positive today that they do exist and they are, in fact, the superheroes I imagined them to be. They climb mountains with such ease its as if they are being hoisted by a helicopter, and they descend the hills so quickly even fear can't keep up with them. Cat and I stood on the side of the road, just an arms reach from these paladins of pedaling, these demigods of speed. There were no hay bales needed to stop the pounding on my rib cage and the fluttering in my stomach this time around.

After the race Cat and I went over to the Herbalife booth to visit a few friends of hers. Herbalife was a sponsor of the Tour so they had a pretty darn big booth, which has diddly-squat to do with the story I'm about to tell you, but I needed a transition sentence, so there you have it.

As it turns out, one of Cat's friends is Michael Johnson, the CEO of the company and, according to MarketWatch, the CEO Of The Year, which I guess you can say is fairly impressive if that's the type of thing that impresses you. Michael and Cat met each other out on the road while they were both biking. Michael, as it so happens, is an avid bike rider and triathlete. In fact, he's a pretty darn good bike rider, as I was to soon discover.

What Herbalife did in their booth to attract crowds was get two bicycles and set them up as virtual trainers. There was an animated screen depicting two bike racers that the bicycles were connected to, and two people would pedal their butts off on the training bikes and essentially race against each other on this quarter mile course, with one animated figure representing the effort of each biker. So when Cat walked up to say hello to Michael, he immediately dragged her across the way and decided to virtually race her on these bikes. Michael, being the CEO that he is as well as leading the company that is a main sponsor of the Tour of California, he tended to have a lot of cameras circling around him. Kind of like flies on a horse, without the tail swatting. There were press people snapping shots with expensive 35mm jobbies and TV/video cameras circling and circling in some sort of artistic production-like fashion. I just stepped back and watching the show.

You can probably imagine the smile on my face as Michael and Catherine hopped on their bikes, a TV camera right in Catherine's face and crowds of people crammed all around. I stood in the back of the crowd, seven or eight people deep, as the announcer bellowed over the microphone about Michael and Catherine's head-to-head battle.

Suddenly the gun went off and they were racing. As Cat took an early lead my heart rose. Let her win, I said silently. Let her win. The announcer let it be known that Catherine was in the lead and a click seem to have clacked in Michael's head. He rose from the seat and pedaled like he's probably never pedaled before. He pulled ahead of Catherine and in a few brief seconds beat her to the virtual finish line. He maxed out at 550 watts of power - which means absolutely nothing to you if you aren't a geeky biker. But believe me when I say that 550 watts is impressive for the average schmo, especially for a CEO of a public company, who you'd imagine has a fairly hectic life. Catherine logged in the third fastest time of the day for women. It made me smile. And laugh a little. But in a good way.

She'll get him next year. My money is definitely on her - my real superhero.

February 25, 2006

Hell Hath Quite A Bit Of Fury

Morning Workout
1000 meters
Main Set: 16 x 25 meter sprints with 15 seconds rest in-betwixt each

30 minutes on the trainer
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic Conditioning (Zone 3) at a cadence of 80 rpm

1 hour-ish
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1)

Random Comments
: I've been concerned for the past two days about my achilles. Actually, it was my calf that started hurting from Thursday's workout, if you remember. But somehow the injury migrated south for the weekend. I've probably been standing up too much - the injury has succomb to the forces of gravity and turned into achilles pain. It was supposed to be a two hour run off the bike this morning, lingering somewhere in the Zone 1 to Zone 2 category. However, understanding the aforementioned discomfort I've been feeling, I decided to take it real slow and see what happens. Discomfort I can run with. It's when the discomfort turns to pain that I realize I need to watch out. The discomfort turned to pain after 25 minutes. So after a bout of stretching, I turned around and jogged very very slowly back to the car. I mean, I was going so slowly there were pigeons walking faster than me. Eventually I made it back alive though. And an hour later Catherine finished her two hour fun run. At that point we began eating. I'd imagine we'll stop chewing soon.
Star Spotting Of The Day: Rachel Griffiths aka that annoying character on Six Feet Under that made me stop watching the show
Location: The bluffs overlooking the beach in Santa Monica
What She Was Doing: Pushing her baby in a stroller. That is, her baby was in the stroller, not Rachel. Rachel was walking behind the stroller wearing dark sunglasses and a down coat. Yes, a down coat. This is Santa Monica, California. It's sixty four degrees and sunny outside. She's wearing a down coat. Guess she's trying to be inconspicuous. I wonder how that's working out for her.

I ran track when I was in school.... kind of. I mean, I was on the track team and I even showed up for all of the meets and competed in them. It's just that I sucked. Being bad had its advantages though. The track coach at my school, having realized how incredibly incompetent and completely untalented I was, didn't give a flying hoot what I did so he let me compete in any race I wanted. To him it just didn't matter. I wasn't going to be scoring any points for the team or winning any races, so who really cared. That was his attitude. Which is all nice and fine with me, cause it let me finish the races in peace as I stumbled across the finish line in dead last place each time. We're talking so far in last place that they had to hold up the next race in order to give me enough time to finish. People forgot I was actually racing, I was so far back. And the thing is, I didn't really compete in long races.

For some silly reason, I chose to run the 800 meters, arguably one of the most difficult and idiotic events in the track circuit. You really can't settle into a nice pace in the 800 meter race like you can for a longer distance, like the 1500 meter. Unfortunately, my legs couldn't stay upright for 1500 meters, so that wasn't even an option. At the same time, the 800 meters isn't an easy "sprint-and-your-done" dealio like the 100 meters or 400 meters. The 800 meter race is pure, unadulterated pain that I'd imagine really exemplifies the phrase "hell hath no fury" if I ever understood what that phrase meant. All I know is that it sounds really mean and painful - and that about sums up the race. The 800 meters is an all-out sprint that goes quite a bit longer than the point in which you've actually become all out. Clearly, though, I embraced that pain and convinced myself that it would help build that ever-so-elusive character everybody seemed to be talking about.

I think there was something about the track meet, though, that kept me running this Godforsaken race. There is an energy and anxiety at a track meet that is so viscous you could cut it with a spork. There is a lot that goes on at the meets: people are racing around the track while long jumpers are jumping, shot putters are putting and pole vaulters are either poling or vaulting, I'm not sure which. It always felt like a circus to me. I didn't know where to look first and I wanted to see it all at once. I wanted to follow the runners but didn't want to miss the graceful gallopping of the triple jumpers. And the thing about the track meet, with so much going on there were always people roaming about every which way you looked. It was tough to distinguish the competitors from the warmer-uppers from the innocent bystanders. I'd walk across the track trying not to cut off any sprinter, then meander through the infield events while I spun in circles watching the runners. Eventually I'd spin myself dizzy and find myself standing smack dab in the middle of the shot put field with some large Lurch-like character glaring at me with a cannonball in his hand. It was sensory overload, those track meets. I loved that energy.

That was what it felt like at the track today during our workout. As I entered the track area to end my run, I stepped into a virtual profusion of athletic madness. There were two soccer games being played on the football field. Two other soccer teams were waiting by the sidelines, a few members jogging around the track, while a third team was doing sprints up and down the bleachers. There was the local girls track team out for practice: a handful at the long-jump pit, a few brave ones motivating each other on the hurdles and three other groups alternating between stretching and jogging. The Santa Monica Police Department had their trainees out on the track, timing them for mile repeats. A local 10 year old boys basketball team was following their coach as they did drills up and down the field. And three middle-aged football players were doing fancy footwork football drills that made my ankles feel sore just watching them.

As I jogged around that track my eyes kept darting from one scene to another. And the energy of the circus-like trackmeet embraced me again. Suddenly it made me realize yet another reason I compete in triathlon. When I was a lad, those 800 meters were a big challenge for me. But I persisted. Today, I can eat up those 800 meters and spit them out before even thinking about my days workout. My challenge is the triathlon. And whenever I get to the starting line of a race, I can feel that energy and anxiety again. Racers are preparing their transition areas and squeezing into their wetsuits while other age group waves are in the water, immersed in their race. The early starters are exiting the water and weaving their way through transition as they hop on their bikes and begin the next stage. Meanwhile, spectators roam back and forth watching and cheering and standing in wonderous amazement. It's a three sport spectacle. A three ring circus. And I love it.

Let the games begin.

February 23, 2006

Cold and Painful

Morning Workout
17 minutes
2 miles
Heart Rate Zone: Theoretically, one mile of warm-up in Aerobic (Zone 1) then 3 x 2 kilometers in Steady State Threshold (Zone 4). In reality, not so much.

Evening Workout
2500 yards
Main Set: 24 x 50 yards, twelve of them being all out sprints

Random Comme
nts: This morning’s workout sucked, for lack of a better term. Come to think of it, “sucked” is a pretty good term to describe the sad excuse for a morning workout. The warm-up was all nice and fine as I piddled around the track for ten minutes, stopping for a nice good stretch after half a mile before I piddled around some more. When I started my first 2km repeat my legs were still feeling a wee tad heavy, but nothing was hurting. Then something started hurting around 1500 meters into the event and that something lies somewhere between my left calf and my left achilles. I hate stopping in the middle of a workout, but I’m really trying to be smart about my body. So I stopped and stretched. Then I tried to run again but that didn’t work out so well for me so I stretched some more. Tried to run once again. Nope, not working. So I walked. Well, that hurt too. And that’s about the time I realized that I won’t be running today. Which explains why I was only out there for 17 minutes and why I’ve been icing my leg on and off throughout the day and why I won’t be exercising tomorrow and why I’m going to be smelling a heckuva lot like Ben Gay come later this evening.

Star Spotting Of The Day: Paul Lieberstein, aka “Toby” on The Office

: Westwood Brewing Company in Westwood (duh!)

What He Was Doing
: Seems he was drinking some beverages with some friends from what I could gather from my vantage point.

Catherine started getting sick last night. Bit of a head cold, it appears. Seems this head cold is all the rage these days. I heard about quite a few folk today that have come down with the thing. Being how she wasn’t feeling so well, Catherine opted out of our workout today. Which I think may have gotten me injured. Funny how Cat’s cold makes me pull a muscle.

Let me try to explain myself a bit. As you know, all of this Ironman training malarkey can be a very time intensive activity. I would imagine that it would be a slow and painful path to becoming bonkers if you had to do the whole thing alone. Imagine twenty hours each week of painful solitude. Five hour bike rides with nobody to talk to except the pavement in front of you. Early morning swims with nobody to motivate you when you’re tired, your body hurts and it’s far too cold on the wrong side of your down comforter. Simply put, having a training partner makes it all the more bearable in a variety of ways. Fortunately, Catherine and I train together just about everyday of the week. We motivate each other and entertain each other and when we annoy each other we eventually end up consoling each other. A training partner definitely has its benefits.

This morning, I learned about one of the drawbacks that I experience with the whole training partner scenario. I’ve grown accustomed to having Cat nearby. Even when we’re not swimming at the same pace, she’s there in the pool with me going through the entire workout. When we’re not running at the same speed, she still somewhere on the track motivating me. I’d use the same wording with the bike part, but I’m gathering you can figure that out yourself.

So when I got to the track this morning and there was no Catherine there, well, it seemed like a piece of me was missing. Unfortunately, that piece of me had a little sprinkling of motivation attached to it. So as I slogged myself around that track, my legs felt about as heavy as my mind. And though I did everything right in terms of proper warm-up, stretching and all that maintenance malarkey (yes, I used the word malarkey twice in one story. So shoot me), I ended up writhing on the ground in pain. OK, maybe not so much with the writhing, but I cut my workout dramatically short because of the pain.

So, you see, I’m not blaming Catherine for my injury today, I’m just hoping that she feels better real soon. It hurts me when she’s sick.

February 22, 2006

Short And Slow, Like My School Bus

Morning Workout
1 hour 30 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1)

Random Comments: I always forget how much I love Wednesdays. I mean, I know for a fact that I love Fridays. Friday is my rest day, what's not to love about that? I sleep in, I laze around in the morning, I read the paper. And I eat and eat and eat, nonstop until Saturday morning. On the other hand, the rest of the week has its challenges. Tuesdays and Thursdays, for instance, are always strenuous workouts that involve a lot of pain and tire me out. Meanwhile, Saturdays and Sundays are always long workouts that involve a different kind of pain, but still tire me out. Mondays are kind of a grab bag, sometimes it's challenging, sometimes not, either way I'm pretty tired from Saturday and Sunday anyway so there's nothing easy about it. But Wednesdays... aaahh Wednesdays. I've finally realized that Wednesdays are active recovery days. Short and slow is what that means. Tired legs and tired minds like short and slow. I think I'm learning to love Wednesdays. Happy Wednesday.


I'd love to write something witty here but the fact is that I'm still laughing from the Starbucks episode yesterday. So you're on your own today.

Besides, I've got to start getting mentally prepared for my 2 kilometer repeats in the morning. Perhaps a big bowl of pasta and a few hours of Olympic watching will help mentally prepare me.

Hey, it's worth a shot.

February 21, 2006

Venti Returns

Morning Workout
2500 yards
Main Set: 5 x 300 yards with 30 seconds rest between each

Random Comments: Cat is a really fast swimmer. The only problem is that she’s got this buoyancy challenge. Basically, she hasn’t yet been able to easily keep her legs floating flat on the water. Instead, she’s got to kick too hard keep them afloat which affects her breathing which slows her down quite a bit. When she can get her legs up there effortlessly, mostly when she uses a pull buoy to keep those legs afloat, holy moley, she’s like Michaela Phelps. Add that to her biking and running talents and she starts to resemble a much prettier, much sexier Flash Gordon. No wonder she win
s all the age group medals.

So I head into Starbucks this afternoon to get a little pick-me-up to, you know, pick me up. I walk in and head straight back to the counter. There’s one fella ahead of me in line and he’s already carrying a Starbucks cup. Venti sized, it’d be. (“Venti” means “large” in Starbucks speak, by the by. Apparently the big green machine doesn’t like such pedantic terms as small, medium and large, but that’s another rambling entirely.) So this gentleman is standing in line in front of me and he’s fairly well dressed. I mean, it’s no black-tie affair or anything, but he’s looking very respectable for a Tuesday afternoon. I’d put him somewhere in the mid-50s range. Finely manicured, cleanly cut coif, definitely wearing fairly decent clothes for a day off. You know, nice slacks, comfortable sweater, button down shirt tucked underneath. All in all, you’d probably guess that this guy had retired at a young age after selling his company. He probably is one of those chaps that just does nothing all day. Perhaps he spends the days counting his money or learning how to play golf, or just chatting it up with his good ole boys. Whatever the hell those people do in their free time, I’m sure this guy is doing it.

Anyhow, as I said, this fine man is standing in line at Starbucks already holding a venti-sized Starbucks cup. The fact that he’s holding this venti cup got me intrigued from the get-go. So even through there are two order takers, and one of them beckons me to approach and place my order, I move very slowly so I can hear what this guy has to say to the other order taker. I approach the counter and inch ever so discreetly nearer to him so I can make sure to catch every syllable of the conversation. I guess you could say I was fairly surprised by what came out of his mouth. Yeah, you can definitely say I was surprised.

I bought this triple shot cappuccino yesterday, he said as he put the venti cup down on the counter. And it was really bad. I want to get my money back.

Remember that Bush term “shock and awe”? It was used to describe how our first night of bombing in Iraq was supposed to create such shock and awe that not just Iraq, but the entire world would surrender to us immediately. They’d be lining up at the border to surrender to us from the mere shock and awe they’d experience. In fact, there was supposed to be so much shock and awe, that even our allies would surrender to us, despite the fact that we’re on the same damn team. Well, let me tell you, you ain’t seen shock and awe until you saw the look on the face of the poor little Starbucks worker standing in front of the venti cup guy. Hell, I think a gasp even came out of my mouth as I glanced at this man in wonder – this clean cut, well-off looking chap carrying the venti cup.

Here is this man, this man who looks like he can buy a busload of venti decaf non-fat frappaccinos for the entire street, and he says he’s returning a three dollar cup of coffee from yesterday that he didn’t like. As if it took him a full day to fully realize that the cup of coffee tasted like crap. Hell, I coulda told him that long before he ordered the damn thing!

So the scared little Starbucks worker hesitantly takes the venti cup and looks inside. I’ve moved so close by this point, and leaned so far over the counter, that I can see quite clearly into the cup to notice that it is less than half full.

Let me repeat this scenario for the people who may have just tuned in… this finely dressed man is returning a day-old, half full cup of coffee to Starbucks and asking for a refund, as if there were some unlimited money-back guarantee on each cup of crap you get from this place.

The poor little Starbucks fella. I mean, this is probably his first job ever, and to be confronted today by the venti cup carrying man wanting a refund on day-old coffee. He looked at the manager across the room. No way, she nodded her head as she mouthed the words, He’s going to have to pay.

Oh, he’s going to have to pay alright, I thought.

The Starbucks worker turned back towards venti cup man who was standing there demandingly, awaiting for his coffee refund. Ummm….uhh….the Starbucks worker stuttered. Ummmm…I….uhhh… we…ummm… we can’t…..uhhh...

The manager walked over to save her flailing employee. We can give you a coupon for a drink the next time you come in, she said abruptly. That’s all we can do.

That’s fine, venti cup man said.
He got the coupon and, blam-o, he was off.

None of us could believe it. Has this ever happened, I asked the manager in bewilderment. No way, she said rolling her eyes in disbelief. I didn’t think anybody had the nerve, she continued. He must’ve grabbed the cup out of the garbage can and tried to get some money from us. That’s ridiculous.

Well, I thought, you certainly can’t judge a book by its cover. Thank God I stuck around to listen.

So what would you like, the Starbucks order taker asked me, suddenly jolting me back into realizing I had been standing silently in front of her for the past few minutes.

Ummm… I said. I had a cup of coffee here three weeks ago and it sucked. I’d like that replaced please.

February 19, 2006

Striving For Sanity

Afternoon Workout-ish
50 Minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Recovery (ummm... Zone Zero?) and Aerobic (Zone 1)

Random Comments: Cat thought I was joking this morning. All I said was How about we take the day off, stay in and watch movies? She chuckled. Then she said, Sure. But she was still chuckling. I'm serious, I said, let's take the day off and watch movies. I waited for her response, but I knew what it would be. No, she'd smile, we've got a two hour run and then have to go lift weights. You can imagine my surprise when she said, OK. I could barely believe my ears. How exciting. We rushed to the couch and started our DVD watching (
Good Night and Good Luck, Hustle & Flow...started Capote but the DVD wasn't working..) By 3:30 we had eaten ourselves comatose and semi-reluctantly decided to go for a run. But we made it a day-off run, which is good, because my legs were so tired they needed a day-off. I suppose a 50 minute run is as close to a day off as I'm gonna get.

Triathletes are crazy. Too many of them are obsessed. I used to make fun of the obsessed triathletes. I wondered what it takes to turn somebody into that type of monster. What does it take to lose such a grasp on reality. And then one day I read the crap I write in this blog. And as I looked into that mirror, I suddenly realized that they are me. I am them. Damn. I hate when that happens.

Cat and I weren't real excited to go on our run today so we did what any other overly obsessed triathlete would do in Los Angeles - we went house hunting. When I say that, you're probably thinking about us spending hours driving around from place to place, going in and out of open houses. Or maybe you're picturing us cruising through nice neighborhoods and drooling at the beautiful properties. Well, you clearly forgot that we are obsessed triathletes. Like our obsessed kinfolk, we had to blend our house hunting in with our workout. Yes, for the next hour and a half we ran from open house to open house, Brentwood to Santa Monica, walking through each available property before pounding the sidewalk and raising that heartrate once again. It was the most tiring house-hunting jaunt I've ever been on.

At the time, it seemed like a very efficient way to balance training with having a sane life. I suppose that's the irony of it all though, the simple act of striving for sanity becomes proof of insanity. In hindsight, I suppose when you start incorporating house hunting in with your running workout, you've truly gone too far. But it was fun. And I'd do it again.

I suppose I'm crazy like that.

[By the way...No, we're not looking to buy a house, just checking out the market. And, no, we have no plans to even live together now. I'll let you know when that happens.]

February 18, 2006

The Charlie Brown Effect

Morning (and early Afternoon) Workout
4 hours 30 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1)

22 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1) + Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

40 minutes

Random Comments: There are a lot of teenagers in the gym during the middle of the day on a Saturday. Teenagers and lonely adults. You can tell they are lonely by the way they plod along on the treadmills with that blank stare in their eyes that seems to scream out about how they wish they were somewhere else with somebody else but are desperately trying to convince themselves that the gym is where they want to be, plodding along on an endless treadmill and staring outside the window into the sunshine of the Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, the teenagers are running rambuctious, mindlessly playing with the exercise equipment as if it were the latest video game. They'd be happier outside too - they're just too young to know it. Of course I'm there in the gym on a Saturday afternoon too. But I'm not a teenager. Or a lonely adult. I'm just training for an Ironman. Which perhaps just makes me stupid.

Star Spotting Of The Day: Carson Daly, MTV host
Location: Highly expensive ocean front Santa Monica residential area.
What he was doing: Talking on the cell phone, standing next to his mountain bike in the driveway of his house. Just came back from a mountain bike ride. Or at least I assumed he just came back from a mountain bike ride. I also assumed it was his bike and his house. And his cellphone, for that matter.

Yeah, that's definitely the best way to describe the bike and run this morning.

Pouring rain, driving wind, frigid air and uphill climbs. Non-stop. Both ways. Or at least that's how it felt. I don't like riding in the rain. And I especially don't like riding in the rain in the freezing cold with the wind blowing every way but the direction I'm going. But that's what we did this morning. A rainy, wet, cold and windy, seemingly uphill, ride.

The rain started right as we began our jaunt, heading north out of Santa Monica, and it just kept coming down stronger as we pedaled into Malibu. We were bicycling, the rain was driving. There's an irony in that somewhere. I'll figure out the joke later.

Oddly enough, it was my shins that went numb first. Odd place to go numb, I know. That's exactly what I was thinking as I suddenly lost feeling in them. And as I was contemplating the peculiarity of the numbness of my shins, I felt the ice cold water drip into my socks and down my feet. And then the feet went numb. That's about the time when the fun started. And when I say "fun", I mean "miserable".

Over one hour into the ride the rain had let up and we were under blue skies and sunshine. I know what you're saying,That must've been nice, you're thinking. The warmth and beauty of a clear blue day in Malibu. Well, you're wrong. You see, we were already drenched, the wind was blowing and the temperature was probably in the low 40s what with the windchill factor. It just kept getting colder and body parts kept getting numb. Yet we rode on, heading north up the coast. Apparently we're crazy like that.

As we neared our 2 hour turn-around, I looked up from my bike and saw another rain cloud in front of us. We should turn back before we hit the rain, I said. Actually I don't think I said that out loud because nobody heard me, including me. So we rode right into the rain cloud and turned back just as the rain started coming down. Nice timing, but no surprise.

You know that episode of Charlie Brown where the raincloud is right above him and wherever Charlie Brown goes, that raincloud follows? Everywhere else there is sunshine and crystal clear blue skies, but right over Charlie Brown is a big dark cloud that is pounding down rain. That, my friend, sums up the ride back home. You see, we were heading south down the coast at, let's say, 17 miles per hour. The clouds were also heading south down the coast at about 18 miles per hour. If we had thirty five miles to ride and the cloud was one mile long, than x= us getting really wet the entire damn way. For the entire ride back we could see the blue skies right in front of us. And when we turned back, we could see the blue skies behind us. But this one cloud - this one damn rain cloud - was smack dab right above us, dang gummit. And that cloud was going at just about the same pace as we were riding, so no matter what we did, the rain done followed us. It was a classic case of the Charlie Brown Effect.

Good grief.
Tomorrow's another day, though.
I'm sure it will be better.

February 16, 2006

Footloose and Fancy Free My Ass

Morning Workout
45 minutes
Three 2-kilometer repeats on the track.
Heart Rate Zone: Steady State Threshold (Zone 4) for the 2km repeats with two minutes of easy running between each painfully fun set.

50 minutes
2000-ish yards
Main Set: 4 x 200 yards (about 25 seconds rest between each) + 3 x 150 yards (30 seconds rest between each)

Random Comments: I've never done 2km repeats before. I've run 400m repeats until my legs give out. I've run enough 800m repeats until my insides turned outside and back again. But these 2000m repeats are a different animal. It really starts hurting from the first step. By the 3rd lap of each repeat I was gasping so much I actually entered some altered state of peacefulness which somehow got relayed down to my legs who suddenly found the energy to speed up for the last 2 laps around the track. I'm not taking any responsibility over those actions. I was just an innocent bystander - my body was doing all the work.

I used to be a fast runner. I mean, I was no 4 minute miler or anything, but I could clock in a 5:15 here and there. Even on race day, I could maintain a fairly rapid pace that had me in the upper ranks of finishing times. I definitely could hold a sub-6 minute mile pace for at least 3 miles, if not 6.2. It was because of all those speed workouts that I did at the time. I speed workouted myself to oblivion and back. Basically every run was a speed workout for me back in my 20s. What I'd do everyday is go out and run as far as I could as fast as I could. And when I couldn't go any further, I'd turn around and run back home faster than when I left. I'd make it hurt as much as possible, and then increase it even more. You could say I was a bit like Rambo in that way. (You'd be completely wrong, but you're more than welcome to say it anyway.) I'd like to say all that painful - and stupid - working out built up a lot of character in me. But, nope. Didn't work out that way. Sorry.

I remember those fast years very fondly. But that was many moons ago. I was a younger lad back then. All footloose and fancy free, as they say. Today, well... I'm old. I don't have any feet that are loose, not to mention all the rest of my joints. And I am neither fancy nor free.

All this information really hit home this morning.

As I mentioned, this morning's workout consisted of three 2000m repeats on the track. I vividly remember every step of the first two repeats as if it just happened this morning. Which, coincidentally, it did. The third 2km repeat, on the other hand, is kind of a blur. Rather than focusing on my running, I spent most of the time on that last jaunt working the rusty abacus of my mind to try and figure out how fast I'd been running the mile. Cause I gotta say, it didn't feel like I was going that quickly. 2000 meters is the same as 1.25 miles, so you can probably imagine the calculus I had to pull out of the cobwebs of my mind to fully determine the time it took me to run 4 of those 5 laps. By the time I finished the third 2000 meter repeat, I had it all worked out. I was running 7 minute miles, I figured. Granted, on the first repeat I ran a 6:59 mile, but that's as good as 7 minutes anyway. And granted number two, I was not going at 100% the entire time. In fact, it was more like 94%. Maybe even 93%. Afterall, the workout said I had to keep my heartrate between 163 and 166 beats per minute, and surely that ain't 100% effort.

All this justification didn't really help me though. My legs didn't feel like they could've moved a heckuva lot faster and my body didn't feel like it could've gotten around the track any quicker without the help of, say, a Vespa. On top of that, I seemed to have grown blisters upon my blisters upon my feet. I'm not getting old, I realized, I've already gotten there.

The thing is, I know I'll never see the brighter side of 6 minute miles again, but I still want to dream about it. I still want to think fondly about those years. And I still want to think that if I put the energy into it, if I ran really fast around the track just enough times, maybe once - just once - I can hit that speed again.

But the thing is that I know (and I'm so close to accepting the fact) that I'm a middle of the packer. That's what I am and what I will always be. And I know that somewhere out there are a whole gaggle of young 20-somethings who are spitting out 5 and 6 minute miles right now as if it were child's play. And you know what? It is. It is child's play. And I'll tell you what... I'll see those damn whippersnappers in another 20 years. In fact, I'll stay right here and wait for them - right here firmly and proudly in the middle of the pack.

February 15, 2006

A Bit Of Energetic Ballyhoo

Morning Workout
2 hours (hill repeats, in case you were wondering. And I know y
ou were.)

Heart Rate Zone: 4 x 10 minutes at Steady State Threshold (Zone 4).

Random Comments: Did I mention these were hill repeats? I love hill repeats. Uh… most of the time. This morning was one of those times when, in fact, I did have the love feeling with them. I think it’s because Cat gave me a set of feet warmer thingies for Valentine’s Day last night. They strap over the front part of my biking shoes and keep my toes warm. And, woooooeeee, my toes were so warm. It was like a little fireplace was in each shoe, the logs
were a-burnin and a-cracklin. It was a cup o’ hot chocolate short of a toe party. My toes were so warm and comfy, I swear to the lord of hill repeats that it made me go faster. Honest Injun. It’s amazing what a warm toe can do these days.

Yes, we had a wonderful Valentine’s Day, thank you very much. That was nice of you to ask. I cooked Cat a Valentine’s dinner of parmesan stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, salad with a vanilla balsamic dressing, crunchy shrimp in a ginger orange sauce and a rhubarb crumble with vanilla ice cream. (Yeah, it sounds almost impressive but the fact is it's so easy a one-armed monkey can probably make it as well.) Mmm, mmm. I just needed to write that down because I’m really hungry right now and…. well, I was thinking about food. And, honestly, I was thinking that it’s too bad I don’t have any of that shrimp left over cause I sure could go for one right now.

But the truth is that you’re probably bored reading that. And, frankly, I’m already bored writing about it. Even more importantly, it’s not what I was going to talk about anyway. So why don’t we just drop the subject before I start chewing on this keyboard. Let’s discuss something a bit more fascinating, like the fact that my girlfriend is a walking electric power plant.

I swear she has the strongest electro-magnetic field known to mankind. It hasn’t been fully measured, but I think I want to get one of those magnetic radiation detector things to really determine the wattage and amperes and ohms and whatever other energetic ballyhoo is emitting from my girlfriend. I’d like the device that looks like the apparition finding thing-a-mabob they used in Ghostbusters. If I’m going to get a radiation detecting toy, I want to make sure it’s got all sorts of levers, monitors and cool moving parts. (Ummm, my birthday is rapidly approaching… nudge nudge hint hint wink wink)

Cat has this mysterious effect on electronics that I’ve only seen in movies about nuclear weaponry. I don’t know if she’s ever walked by anybody wearing a pacemaker, but I’d be weary. When her computer completely crashed for little-to-no apparent reason about six months ago and she lost all of her information, I didn’t think twice. That stuff happens. It’s unavoidable. Then, as it turns out, her Palm Pilot ceased its existence at just about the same time. Coincidence? Perhaps. She bought a new Palm Pilot and got a new computer. Guess what, she had trouble getting that Palm Pilot working as well. Interesting.

The fact that her heart rate monitor hadn’t been working properly since I’ve known her had me flummoxed. I figured it was an old heart rate monitor. Perhaps her heart beat is too light and tender for the monitor to monitor. It’s possible. So for Christmas, I bought her a brand new heart rate monitor to better guide her training. Yep, you guessed it, didn’t work. In the past 6 weeks, she’s gone through three of those monitors. Each and every one of them mysteriously and randomly stop working in ways mankind has never seen before. I’ve had four different heart rate monitors over the past 10 years. I haven’t had a problem with any of them. Cat has had four heart rate monitors over the past two months and they’ve all fallen off the deep end of electronic sanity. Could it be purely coincidence? Luck of the draw? Perhaps. Perhaps.

So riddle me this one, Batman. This morning Cat and I were heading out for our early morning bike ride. It was 6am and the sun had yet to rise. Being dark, Cat reached to turn on her headlight and, lo and behold, it didn’t work. New batteries, new light. The damn thing worked five days ago. Today, nothing. Nada. Zippo. Things that make you go, hmmmm… But that’s not it. We’re out on the bike ride (doing hill repeats, if I didn’t tell you that already) and suddenly her heart rate monitor stopped functioning. Why did it stop functioning? It stopped for absolutely no reason whatsoever, if you really need to know. It’s questionable if it was ever functioning in the first place. It’s crazy I tell you.

Another crazy thing I just realized is that my bedroom clock is ten minutes slow. My bedroom clock is one of those digital jobbies that plugs into the wall. No batteries, no winding up. I didn’t realize that digital clocks that plug into walls slow down. I mean, isn’t that the point of the whole plugging in the wall stuff, so it keeps accurate time? Yet, for some silly reason, the battery powered clocks in other parts of my place keep immaculate time. I mean, the folks over there in the Greenwich Mean area call me to check the time, that’s how accurate I like to think they are. Coincidentally, Cat stays closer to that clock in my bedroom than she does any other clock in my place.

I’m not saying she’s a walking electro magnetic conduction field. I’m not saying magnets randomly stick to her face. I’m not saying that she sets off detectors just by walking by them. And I’m definitely not saying that electric garage doors mysteriously open when she passes by. I’m just sayin..

Then again, I guess it’s just another reason to explain our magnetic attraction.

[You like how I brought that around to a happy, loving ending, don’t you? Oh, I know you do…]

February 14, 2006

Burned Out?! Pshaw!

Afternoon Workout
50 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

Random Comments: Yeah, yeah, I was burned out yesterday from all this exercise. I’d had enough. Couldn’t pedal another revolution, swim another stroke or run another step without wanting to kill somebody. Mostly myself. So you know what I did this morning? I’ll tell ya – I slept in. That’s right - no alarm, no early morning wake-up, no exercise. No nothin’. I decided I wasn’t going to workout today. Big executive decision that, fortunately, got passed by the Board of Directors of My Brain late last night (after a bit of lively discussion, I may add). What with no burned out workout in my early morning future, I was able to sleep all the way until 6:20am. I know, I know… I’m crazy. Loony. Livi
ng on the edge. Well, that’s the way I roll, yo. So I got up at the crack of 6:20 and had a nice relaxing morning. Read the paper, had a cuppa tea, a normal breakfast and casually started the day’s activities that I needed to accomplish. Well, as you can probably guess, come noon-thirty I couldn’t hack it anymore. I was going crazy from such a sedentary existence. How can I possibly last so long without doing anything? What am I – a fat pig? I could already feel obesity setting in while at the same time my muscles were atrophying. My life was going to hell, handbasket or not. So I strapped on my running shoes (well, strapped might be a bit of an exaggeration) and I galloped off into the mid-day smogset. Running along the beach in the middle of the day is an exhilarating experience. It was so fun, it plum wiped the burned out feeling right out of me. I felt much better after that run. And now, lookee here, I still have an extra “take a rest day” token to use in the future. I love when that happens. Can’t wait for tomorrow’s workout.

Star Spotting Of The Day: Madeline Stowe
Location: Peet’s Coffee House in Santa Monica
What she was doing: Umm…. getting coffee… What else does one do at a coffee shop? Silly question.

Yesterday’s Star Spotting Of The Day: Calista Flockhart
Location: San Vicente Blvd next to the Brentwood Country Club in Brentwood
What she was doing: Running. And she sure looked like hell. If she didn’t have plastic surgery, she needs it. If she did have plastic surgery, she should get her money back.

I’ve decided to add this Star Spotting Of The Day tidbit to the blog because, well, I like making fun of people. Granted, there might be weeks that go by without a significant star spotting, but I’ll try to keep my eyes open for you.

February 13, 2006

Happy McJolly

Morning Workout
1 hour 30 minutes (10 minutes at a 90 rpm cadence, 5 minutes at 70 rpm. rinse. repeat.)
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1)

Evening Workout
RUN (treadmill)
30 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

45 minutes

Random Comments: I'm feeling burnt out this week. Burnt out? Burned out? Either way, somethings burning and it smells coincidentally like my spirit. I think it was that Palm Springs 102 miler that did me in. Those 90 minutes between miles 70 and 95 weren't necessarily pure hell, but they definitely were not very diluted. It sucked the life right out of me. I wasn't yet delirious, but I could hear the pink and purple polka dot elephants approaching. I didn't hit the wall, but I could see the bullseye right smack dab in the middle and I was going fast, headed straight for it. It's tough for me to just bounce right back after that. I muddled through the run and swim yesterday because that felt like a recovery workout. I could justify a recovery workout. But how the hell do I justify todays workout? I mean, today required me to get right back into the training mindset and, good golly Happy McJolly, it just ain't workin'. I glanced at the training schedule for the rest of the week and, surprise surprise, it just gets more challenging. It's only February and already I'm wondering when this will ever stop. Somebody... somebody please.... make the bad man stop.


February 12, 2006

The Comforts Of Life

Morning Workout
1 hour (6.9 miles)
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1)

Main Set: 1400 meters of drills (ugh)

Random Commments: I've got to admit, I expected my legs to be really sore from the Palm Springs ride yesterday. They weren't. Sure they were a bit tired, in fact, my whole body was pretty darn pooped, but nothing hurt. So that's nice. All in all, it was a nice run today and what with the sun being out and the temperature hovering in the 70s, the swim outside at the pool was gorgeous. Exceptin' of course for the sunbather who periodically jumped into our lane and piddled about in her quasi-breast stroke, crossing our path every lap. She nearly kicked me in the privates once by mistake. Please tell me, who in their right mind sunbathes at a lap pool?! Silly silly people.


For the most part, I've always been a fairly thin person. I mean, I have the body given to me by my father's side of the family, which ain't the most chiseled looking thing in the world. But I also have the high metabolism of my family so I burn food practically before it's digested. I mean, sometimes I need to output the food before I'm even done inputting it, if you know what I mean. So, I've been lucky - I've always been fairly thin. But thin or not, I love food. More importantly, I love great food, whether it be the local deli or a five star extravaganza. Great food makes me happy. And so wanting to stay alive as long as possible, I tend to balance a fairly healthy daily diet with stints of great food outings. (I'm going to digress for a moment now, so keep this great food/healthy diet concept in mind. It'll help with the conversation later on.)

When I was a kid, I used to express my emotions through music. When I was angry, I played the piano. When I was happy, I played the piano. When I was bored... yeah... piano. Soon music took over my life. Then I started running and exercise slowly became my emotional release. First it was music and exercise. But as I realized I could get more of a physical reaction from exercise, thanks to my good friends the endorphins, music started to take more and more of a back seat. Suddenly one day I woke up and realized that exercising was my key to balance and sanity. Angry? I ran. Sad? I ran. Happy? I biked. And then ran.

Well now here I am, continuing to grow older, as it turns out. And as I grow and mature, I really think I may be beginning to see yet another shift in my emotional release. I'm not completely sure yet, but I think it's happening. I still love exercise with a passion. Running is my religion. Triathlon is my drive. But more and more, food has become a substitute.

When I found myself angry as a younger chap, I'd go out for a run and call it a day. Running would always quell my appetite, so food was never even a factor. Hell, I've been known to fast for an entire day by mistake. I'd actually forget to eat. Things have changed though. My how things have changed. Now, when I'm sad or bored or angry or melancholy... well, I must chew. So I start eating. And eating. And then if things get a little worse, I must delve into my comfort food. And let me tell you, Bob, my comfort food isn't that healthy crap - there is no chicken soup and hot tea to comfort me. No, no, you silly rabbit - I'll have none of that. When I want comfort, I want it big. Large pizza type big. With barbeque chicken and jalapeno. And pastrami rueben type big. And slap an extra helping of thousand island dressing on that sandwich, thank you very much. Oh, and make sure those fries are very well done. You don't want to give me under-done fries.

It's Sunday night now and I'm tired. Very content, but tired. Tomorrow starts a new day and a new week. I'm excited to resume my focus on figuring out what I want to do, searching for a job and creating new opportunity. But, alas, I've realized that I have work to do for the company tomorrow. Meetings, conference calls and other assorted tasks to eat up my time. Just the thought of it makes me feel a wee bit more stressed. It makes me want to eat.

Fortunately, Cat is in the kitchen cooking dinner now. Some type of apricot pork chop dish. It smells so very good already. With each whiff I can feel my troubles disappear into the distance. I don't want to play piano. And I don't want to run.

February 11, 2006

Flat Line

Morning Workout
Tour de Palm Springs (race)
101.8 miles
Heart Rate Zone: All over the board, from Aerobic (Zone 1) to VO2 Max (Zone 6ish), but mostly in Aerobic (Zone 1) and Lactate Threshold (Zone 2).

Random Comments: The thing about wearing a heart rate monitor is that you really start to rely on it. In fact, it isn't too uncommon to be looking at that thing every 2 or 3 minutes throughout a ride. Even if it's a 6 hour ride. That's a whole lotta lookin'. And everytime you look down at that little digital ball and chain, you adjust your cadence, or power, or comfort level, or something, to make sure you remain in the zone/cadence/power/whatever level that you wanted to be at in the first place. As we all know, the worse part about relying on technology so heavily is that eventually technology will fail you. I'm sure you've had a computer crash at one point in your life. Or maybe you've misplaced your cell phone. At the very least, you've had some car troubles at one point in your wonderful existence. So I'm sure you know what it's like to suddenly lack that device you've centered your life around. Well, when my heart rate monitor goes all kerflooie in the middle of a workout, I get really aggravated. So you can imagine my state of being when, 80 miles into the century ride, my monitor all of the sudden listed my heart rate at 233 beats per minute and my cadence at 168 revolutions per minute. To put it in perspective, I'd most likely have a heart attack if my heart rate hit 225, much less 233. And the only way I can pedal at 168 rpm is if I got a bionic leg like my six million dollar hero, Steve Austin. Of course, after a few minutes the digital moniter suddenly listed my heart rate as zero. Flat line. Apparently I was dead anyway, so I suppose none of it really mattered.


February 09, 2006

The Good, The Bad And The Rambling

Morning Workout
20 minutes
2 1/2 miles
Heart Rate Zone: Lactate Threshold (zone 2)

40 minutes
Main Set: 2000 meter time trial

Random Comments:I'm tempted to say that the run was fun. But I think I mostly just want to say that because it rhymes. The run was fun. It
's even a jiggle to say, ain't it? And it sounds so very Dr. Seuss-ish, might I add. The run was fun. But really, I wouldn't necessarily classify this mornings run as "fun". It was more.... well.... it just was. The run was. Very Tao of me, huh. The fact is, the run was just a warm up for the swim anyway, so I don't know why I'm spending all this time talking about it. I suppose it's probably because the swim was definitely not fun. Au contrare, mon ami, the swim sucked. I felt like I wasn't moving at all. As for my swimming form, well apparently I left that back home in bed. The more I tried to concentrate on maintaining proper form and just swimming easy, the more difficult and tiring it became. The counting of the laps went by so agonizingly slow, I almost started yelling at the walls each time I approached, hoping my anger would make me have swum more laps than I already did. Have you ever stared at a digital clock and waited for the number to change? I know you have. Admit it. Each minute seems to last an hour. The painfully slow transition from one to the next is enough to make you give up. But I didn't. I continued on. So did Cat. She made it through a terrible swim as well. Neither of us gave up. We're good like that.

I realized something interesting from today's swim. I realized that there are good days and there are bad days. That's what I realized.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking - for Godsakes Sammy Simpleton, did it really take you this long in life to realize that basic fact!? And for that matter, the thought is so damn fundamental I don't know if it even qualifies as a realization. You must be retarded.

Well, first of all, it's not nice to think that. Take it back. Second of all, you really are quite belligerent. You should see somebody about that. Third of all, let me explain.

Within this whole Ironman training tom-foolery there are, as you can imagine, some very long training sessions. Already we have 5-6 hour days of workouts, and we're still six months away from raceday. You can bet that we're going to be ramping up quite a bit more over the next few months. But looped into those long, grueling hours are also shorter workouts, whether they be recovery sessions or time trials. Take today, for instance. All we had was a 20 minute run followed by a 2km continuous swim. Piece of cake. These short workouts are practically as good as a rest day, when it comes right down to it.

And let me tell you, the short days are a god send. I love looking at the daily schedule and realizing that all I have is an hour or less of exercise to do. It's like a little vacation in the middle of a busy week. But, you see, vacation isn't always the perfect picture they show you in the magazine. Sometimes it rains when you're on vacation. And sometimes your flight is really bumpy. Sometimes you get so damn frustrated at the ineptitude of the hotel workers, you just wish vacation was over and you can get back home to the comfort of your messy place.

Which leads us right back to today's realization that there are good days and bad days. Those good and bad days, I realized, have absolutely positively nothing to do with the actual distance and time it takes for the workout. I went for a two-hour run on Saturday (preceeded by a swim and a bike) that was pure and utter joy. As for today's twenty minute jaunt? Ugh-Argh-Yech. Sometimes it is easier to get through a four hour workout than it is a forty-five minute workout. Because, as we agreed, there are good days and bad days. And all I can do is live for the moment. Bad days eventually end and eventually roll into good days. And I know I will survive the bad days to get to the next good day.

Of course, it sure would be nice for Ironman day to be a good one. Is that asking too much?

February 08, 2006

On The Short Bus

Morning Workout
BIKE (trainer)
55 minutes (with different cadences every 5 minutes, the details of which I won’t bore and confuse you with)
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1)

Afternoon Workout

45 minutes

Random Comments: I had a technology breakdown this morning. With nearly an hour of pedaling on the trainer, I was all set to catch up on my unwatched episodes of
Lost, The Office, West Wing and/or a host of other shows I haven’t seen in a week or so. An hour on the trainer, captive in front of the television. If I can’t get through at least two of those shows, I’d be a disgrace to every Nielson rater in America. So I jump on the trainer and start pedaling, all psyched to delve into the latest happenings on Lost. I turn on the TV and hit the TiVo button. Whaaaa?! My eyes can barely believe what they’re seeing: not only does my TiVo list no unwatched episodes of Lost, but there are no episodes of any TV show at all, short of last night’s Daily Show. I turn off the TiVo and turn it back on again. There must be some mistake. I can’t possibly have caught up on my TV watching for an entire week. I mean, I haven’t watched any shows in at least 5 or 6 days. I look at the TiVo listing again. Still, nothing to watch but the Daily Show. Needless to say, I reveled in every one of Jon Stewart's 22 minutes. As for the rest of my ride… well, let’s just say that Good Morning America is not exactly the most motivating programming to exercise to.

I’m retarded. You wouldn’t know it if you met me. I hide it well. In fact, you might think to yourself, Hmmm, he seems like a very intelligent chap. I would reckon his IQ is above normal. Listen to him, he’s very professional, fairly darn knowledgeable and seems to have his proverbial ducks all lined up in their silly little rows.

For the most part you’d be right in that thinking. Except, of course, for the part where I’m retarded.

I’m not perpetually retarded. Just periodically retarded. One could say that I’m simply absent-minded. But, no… I’m definitely retarded. The retardation comes in spurts. It usually hits when I least expect it. In fact, many of the times when I feel I’m acting in the professional ducks in a row manner, I do something so completely idiotic I sometimes feel I’m a direct descendent of Carl Spackler, Bill Murray’s character in Caddyshack. It’s that type of retarded.

Take the incident a few weeks ago, as a for instance. I came back from having lunch and had this funny feeling I had food in my teeth. I have that feeling often because, well, I often have food in my teeth after lunch. You see, my teeth are ever so slightly out of wack, leaving a small pocket or two here and there. Those pockets act like catchers mitts when I eat. Put ‘er right down the middle, they scream. Right in the pocket! And when I chew on that food, well, inevitably a little bit remains right there in the pocket. So anyway, I came back from lunch and felt I had food in my teeth so I snuck into the bathroom to look in the mirror and check it out. Alone in the bathroom, I stood in front of the mirror and opened my teeth in my best “I’m just checking out the health of the horse” pose. Lo and behold, a little bit of salad was awaiting me there. I looked around for something to pick it out with. No toothpick available. No business card. No nothing…I tried to dig it out with my fingernail. Didn't work, needed somethign sharper. A-ha.. I reached into my pocked and got my mechanical pencil, the one that I always carry with me in case I get hit by a flying crossword puzzle. I point the pencil at the hot spot and start picking away, trying to quickly dig the food out of my teeth before anybody walks in. After a minute or so of poking and prying, I finally get it out. Whew! I look in the mirror to make sure I got it all and… wait a minute…. What’s that? Huh?! More food? I look closer. No, it’s not food. I look back down at my pencil and see the lead peering out. I look in the mirror again. Though I got all the food out, in the process I wrote in pencil all over my teeth. The area that was once green with salad had become grey with pencil. Retarded.

Fast forward a few weeks and Cat and I are out for a weekend swim at the Culver City pool. It was a wonderful swim – challenging, exhilarating, you know, the usual. Well, we finish the swim and jump out of the water. I’ll meet you in the lobby, I say as we head into our respective locker rooms. Suddenly I remember, I forgot to bring a towel. Ummm… I think the short bus is waiting for me. I hop into the shower to wash the chlorine off of me as I try and think of what to do. Do I steal somebody else’s towel? No, not nice. Do I put on my clothes while my body is still sopping wet, in a drip n' dry sort of way? Nope, too ghetto. None of the options seemed really viable. So I did what any retarded boy would do. I got out of the shower and, wet and naked, walked over to the bathroom sink where I began pulling out paper towels, one after the other after the other. I used one to dry my right hand. Threw it away. Another for my left. Threw it away. Two more for the right arm and then the left. Then threw them away. And paper towel by paper towel I pulled out of the rack, dried myself and threw away until I managed to dry off my entire body. If I were normal, I’d be embarrassed. But I’m not normal. That’s the problem.

Today was another one of those days. I needed to go to the gym to lift weights and wanted to get it done quickly since I had a lot of other stuff to do during the day. I head into the locker room, change out of my work clothes and into my shorts, t-shirt, socks and…. no. You're kidding me. I grab my sneakers and look at them in disgust. You’re kidding me, I say out loud. In my hands sat two completely different shoes. The left was a size 8 Asics, the right a size 8 ½ Brooks. I'm such an idiot. I thought through my options. I could head back home and get a full set of shoes… but no, that would take too long and I’d lose my motivation to workout. I could sport my dress shoes as I work out. But no… that’s just plain embarrassing. Or I could suck it up and wear two different shoes. Which is what I did. So for the next 45 minutes I cruised around the gym, donning two separate, multi-colored shoes, as I went from one exercise to another. After about twenty minutes I was immersed in my workout. I even think I forgot how idiotic I looked. And then right there in the midst of the hamstring leg curl-y things, I looked down at my feet and saw a different shoe on each foot. I let out a slight chuckle and muttered to myself. Damn you’re retarded.

The good thing is that I’ve come to accept my retardation. I've become one with it. Hell, it helps define my humanity and individuality. Even my girlfriend seems to be fine with it. She says I’m retarded in a cute way. So I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.

February 07, 2006

Things To Do

Morning Workout
RUN (treadmill)
30 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: maintain Lactate Threshold (Zone 2) pace. Average heart rate was Aerobic (Zone 1)

Evening Workout
Main Set: 3 x 400m (1 minute rest betwixt each)

Random Comments: Like every third week of the training cycle, this is test/recovery week. Me likey recovery week - especially since there are only 3 or 4 challenging workouts but they're usually a lot shorter (as you can see from above) and are interspersed by easier workout days.


Let me just say that I'm really busy right now. It seems that I'm busier now with a consultancy and job search than I was working a full-time job. How could that be possible?! Having seen all the things I need to do now, I'm not quite sure how I kept my life together before. Today, for instance, started with the 5:20 am wake-up call, a stop at the bank and prompt arrival at the YMCA at 6 am. We ran and stretched for an hour and a half, at which point I hightailed it home for the 8am conference call I had with a client. I jumped in the shower for 6 minutes between conference calls but think I may have forgotten to comb my hair. I've been on the phone for the better part of the past 4 hours and have crammed through two presentations that I need to finish. It feels like 3 in the afteroon, but it's only 11:30 in the morning.

You'll notice that I already listed my evening workout above as if the swim has been swum. It clearly hasn't been, being how I just told you it's only 11:30 in the morning. I've decided to project into the future though and let you know what I'll be doing tonight. It's because I'm so busy now, I know that I won't be able to put it in there later. In fact, I'm too busy to be writing this nonsense. I've got better things to do.
No offense.

I've gotta go.
I'll fill you in later.
Stop bugging me.

February 05, 2006

The Fourth Sport

Morning Workout
1000 meters
Main Set: 16 x 25 meters (on 15 seconds rest)

...BIKE... (trainer)
30 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic Conditioning (Zone 3)

2 hours 9 minutes
14.75 miles
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1) / Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

Random Comments: What a great workout. The swim was too short. The bike went by too quickly. And the run... I felt like I could've run forever.


What a great workout today. I was smiling throughout the run. Smiling as I ran up the hill. Smiling as I ran down. I felt like I could've gone on and on. Granted, there were a few little tweaks in the system that caused some concern on and off throughout the run. There was the piercing achilles pain that came so suddenly and disappeared three minutes later. There was the anti-ankle pain - that mysterious spot right below the shin and above the foot - that baffled me. Didn't even know I had a muscle there to strain. But that too went away fairly quickly. Then there was the stomach. About halfway through the run I got hungry. Really really hungry. I needed solid food in my stomach more than anything else. I mean, the stomach was in such distress I was heading towards nausea. The Cliff Shot just didn't cut it. Neither did the Powerbar Endurance liquid. So you know what I did? I ran faster. Hell, I didn't have any food with me what else was I supposed to do except try to get back as quickly as possible.

Nutrition, they say, is the fourth sport in triathlon. As it turns out, it's my weakest event. I'm trying to get better though; reading books, asking questions, trying new things each time I'm out there. So far nobody has recommended that I bring pizza on the run. I'm not giving up hope yet. I still have some more researching to do.

February 04, 2006

The Other Side Of Pain

Morning Workout
4 hours 29 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1) / Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

1 hour

Random Comments: It was foggy and slightly cold this morning as we were riding up the coast. And then we got to the 9 mile climb. And as we climbed it got foggier and colder. And so we climbed some more. And the fog got thicker. And so we continued to climb. Until all of the sudden we broke through above the clouds. It was nothing but blue skies, sunshine and beauty as if God's hand had reached down and touched us. Or at least finished a helluva paint-by-numbers. As we looked at the road behind us, we saw it weave its way through the lush green mountains and disappear quietly and softly into the clouds below. (Now close your eyes and imagine I wrote that more eloquently.)


You know what gets me all excited? It's breaking through beyond the walls I thought were in front of me. It is assuming my limits and achieving results far beyond.

I love pushing myself hard. Because it hurts... sometimes physically sometimes mentally. I sometimes set goals for myself that seem beyond my reach and then use every ounce of energy in my body to get there. I enjoy that. I enjoy the pain of making that happen. I become a better person because of those accomplishments. The thing is, if you focus your mind, if you push through that pain and embrace the hurt, well.... hold it long enough and eventually it will disappear. You will emerge into a place of peace and beauty and serenity. That place lies on the other side of pain.

There is something very liberating about pain; about withstanding and fighting pain. About staring it right in the eyes and spitting down into its face as if it means nothing to you. Ccchat-ptewie! About swinging at pain - one-two, one-two - until it cowers in the corner in fear. Pain is temporary, pride lasts forever.

Lance Armstrong put it best - Someone once asked me what pleasure I get out of riding my bike for so long. Pleasure? I asked. I don't understand the question. I don't do it for the pleasure. I do it for the pain.... I become a happier man each time I suffer.

Rich, Cat and I did a long hill ride again today. The road just climbs up the mountain, weaving in and out of the canyon and going up and up and up for miles. It was cold and foggy for most of the ride. A long, dreary climb. Just one pedal stroke after another after another. And when you raise your eyes up to see what lies ahead, all you can see is that road climbing higher and higher until it fades out of sight. We climbed. And as we neared the top, suddenly we burst out of the clouds and into the warm sunshine and clear blue skies. It seemed so fitting. But I tell ya, the incomparable beauty on the top of the mountain, looking down at the road we traveled, is exactly what it looks like on the other side of pain.

February 03, 2006

TGIF, Motherf***er.

There are few axioms more tritely corny than Thank God It’s Friday. (Is that an axiom? Is that even a well constructed sentence?) I used to get offended when people said that to me. Thank God It's Friday, they'd say all smiling as if it were this big inside joke. You know, you’re riding down the elevator on a Friday afternoon minding your own beeswax, completely ignoring the one or two others sharing the elevator space with you, when all of the sudden the woman on the other side of the elevator looks at you with a glare in her eye and says “Thank God Its Friday, huh?”

I've managed to refrain myself from rolling my eyebrows at these moments. What I usually do is just look at her in silence, smile an ever-the-slightest grin and nod, while all the time thinking “you really don’t like your job at all, do you? You really can’t stand your daily existence, can you? You need to refocus your life, lady. You need to take a step back and look at it all. For Godsakes woman, you need to be happy every day, not just Fridays! For the love of God, do me at least the smallest of favors and smile on a Monday for once, wouldya!! Don't worry, be happy - why don't you try that worn out saying on for size instead!!” (Clearly I've become very bellicose in my happiness.) I’m not sure if that whole dialogue really gets relayed through my trivial grin and snobbish nod, I’m guessing – and probably hoping – that it doesn’t. Because if it did, I’d be sticking my foot in my mouth right about now.

You really learn how to understand the true meaning of TGIF when you train for Ironman or some other similarly ridiculously absurdly idiotically difficult event. Cause the training, though sublime in it's own unique way, gets to be very over-powering when trying to balance other things - like, for instance, a life.

Nobody trains seven days a week - it's not healthy. Training every day of the week is a one way ticket to injury. In fact, one of the most important parts of training is rest. Yes, rest. Everybody needs at least one day off to be at your best. Think of it like sleeping. You can't possibly stay awake all day every day and expect to perform at your peak. You need to sleep in order to revitalize your body and your mind. Exercizing is the same. Rest is where the rebuilding occurs and where the revitalization occurs. Rest is where growth happens. Friday, as I'm sure you guessed by now, is my rest day. After six days of non-stop run-swim-bike-lift-rinse-repeat, I can’t be more happy to have Friday peek it’s beautiful head through the clouds and softly tap its hand on my shoulder as it whispers lovingly in my ear, relax today, young man. Today is your day.

On Fridays, I get to sleep in. (Granted, I still wake up at 6am, but there's no alarm clock involved in this wake up call.) On Fridays I don't have to pile on my clothes, cram some food down my mouth and head out into the cold within 35 minutes of opening my eyes. On Fridays there is no bike to straddle, no cold water to jump into and no pavement to pound. On Fridays, there is only rest.

And so here I am on Friday afternoon. I’ve been running around like a madman for the past two weeks. I’ve been trying to close outstanding business, transitioning my job responsibilities and maintaining the level of involvement I need to keep my clients happy as I exit out of the company while at the same time getting my life together and focusing on the future, writing my resume, talking to headhunters, interviewing for jobs and escorting in the next chapter of my life. These past two weeks have been a whirlwind – until today. Today is Friday. Today I shall rest.

Rest is good. Friday is good.
Thank God.

February 02, 2006

A Balancing Act

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

1500 meters

Random Comments: There's a critical balancing point in sickness. If you exercise before you hit that balancing point, when you are still just a bit too sick to be moving, then the effort you put out will body slam any opportunity you had for recovery. It'll bottom you out and you'll end up more sick than you were at your sickiest, most feverish, most nose runny peak. However, if you exercise right after you hit that balancing point, well, the workout actually helps you get better. It's really a miracle. It's tough to find that exact point though. I've spent years searching, years of trial and error, of exercising at various levels of fever and runny nose-ishness, to try and scientifically pinpoint that right moment. I'd love to say that I've figured out when I'm at that magical point. But I haven't. So when I went on my high intensity run this morning, I was pretty darn sure it would leave me a sickly, flu-ridden fool. I had to run though. I was willing to sacrifice my health for that run. Having finished the r
un, I figured I was doomed anyway, what the hell I might as well go for a swim in the cold pool too. If I'm goin' down, I'm goin' down strong. And so I did. I swam. Lo and behold, here I am approaching the early evening and I feel much better than I did yesterday. I've improved dramatically. I think I actually exercised the sick demons right out of me without even trying. I found the balancing point.

Every job has it's drawbacks; every company its flaws. Even the most ideal job isn't perfect. People aren't perfect and so, adhering to your basic laws of deduction, neither are the companies they create. Life, then, becomes a balancing act; balancing what we can accept and what we can't.

Everybody is looking for the things that make them happy. We are searching for the ideal, whatever that may represent for each of us. It's like the hypothetical carrot dangling from a string. And that carrot.... that carrot is the most beautiful, absolutely perfect carrot that ever existed. It is the most perfect, infinitely conical ideal that has ever been created. And that carrot is hanging off this string and it is dangling in front of you. Not just right in front of you, the carrot is dangling exactly three inches beyond your grasp. No matter how far you reach out, you can't grab hold of that carrot. And, believe me, you're really friggin hungry. You want that damn carrot. But here's the catch: you're never going to get it. You know why? Because there is no such thing as the ideal carrot. There is no such thing as perfection.

Whether it be our friends, our lovers, homesteads or ourselves, everything has flaws. Nothing is perfect. In fact, the only thing perfect is imperfection. (Stew on that for a second, Socrates.) And so what we need to do is figure out our own personal balance; what flaws are acceptable and what ones are not. With everything we do and everyone we meet, we are continually molding and defining that balance. Even in examining our careers, we must always balance the positive aspects from the negatives. If the positive column is much longer and more robust, well then, it sounds like things are going just fine. But it isn't always that clear cut. There's always that fine line between good and bad. And figuring out that critical balancing point - well, that's the key.

I'm not sure what the whole moral of this conversation is. I believe it has something to do with the color of my parachute. Though I'm not positive I know the actual color of my parachute - in fact, I think I left the parachute in the plane by mistake. I vaguely remember it was the color of a carrot. Then again, maybe it's better to be freefalling without it.