May 31, 2006

Double Double

Morning Workout
2 hours 31 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1)

Evening Workout
BIKE (yeah, again..)
57 minutes on the trainer
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic Conditioning (Zone 3)

Random Comments: I remember back when I was young and stupid, how I'd wake up early in the morning and go for a really long, really challenging run. Then I'd go to work for the day, come home in the evening and go for another long, fairly challenging run. After that I'd go to sleep and wake up a few hours later only to go biking or running yet again. People thought I was crazy. In some ways, I s'pose I thought I was crazy too. But those silly, immature days are long behind me now. When I was a child, I trained like a child; but now that I am a man, I've put away those childish ways.

And if you buy that one, I've got some ocean front property to sell you...

May 30, 2006

Don't Forget The Bathroom Reading

Morning Workout
90 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

Random Comments: Mental Note: Remember not to eat spicy hot chicken wings plus a bbq chicken and jalapeno pizza the night before a big morning run unless I want to toss and turn in bed all evening as the spiciness plays whack-a-mole with my intestines, only to get up in the wee hours of the pre-dawn morning feeling very angry and quite a bit tired before I venture out into the morning air for my run, and realize thirty minutes later that taking a sip of my special carbo-drink concoction doesn't make me feel satiated as much as it awakens the demons in the pit of my stomach who proceed to play trampoline bouncing games on my bowels. Cause I know if this happens, I won't drink anything else on the run until well after an hour when I realize that the dehydration-fueled delusions have accomplished a successful coup d'etat on my brain leaving me speaking-in-tongues in tongues I shouldn't be speaking. And eventually I will take a few gulps of water from the passing fountain and continue on my way only to realize a few seconds later that the demons no likey the water and in retaliation decide to unharness their vengence with pointed pitchforks as they start poke poke poking away at my internal organs, turning the previous evenings gastronomic ecstasy into a pain-filled, leg crossing, burning, throbbing catastrophe.

On the other hand, I could also just make sure I've got something really good to read in the bathroom.
Star Spotting Of The Day: Cynthia Nixon. You know her, you love her from Sex & The City. Apparently she's in some Broadway show right now. Or at least I think I saw her in the New York Times' Arts & Leisure section yesterday. I'm pretty sure it was in the Theatre part too. Of course, I could be completely wrong. That's been known to happen. A lot.

Location: San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood

What She Was Doing: Walking down the street. She probably just came out of Whole Foods since she was walking away from the front door. Come to think of it, I'd say that's a pretty fair bet, if I were a betting man. Which, by the by, I am.

May 29, 2006

The Quote-Unquote Italics Of Masochistic Pain

Morning Workout
2 hours
Heart Rate Zone: 3 x 20 minutes at Steady State Threshold (Zone 4) with 10 minutes easy spinning in-between each set

21 minutes and 13 seconds
Heart Rate Zone: Lactate Threshold (Zone 2) + Aerobic Conditioning (Zone 3)

Random Comments: This was our first quote-unquote "real" day of training since that gloriously hellish Auburn race, eight days ago. (Yes, I said "quote-unquote" as well as used the actual quotations in both a repetitive and redundant fashion. Truth be told, I like saying quote-unquote because it adds such a great emphasis to the words you're speaking, and the fact is that its hard to show italics and bold when you speak without contorting your body into ways that are rather unnatural, if I do say so myself. I used to say things like, This was our first italic-nonitalic "real" day of training. But, as you can clearly see, that just sounds plain stupid and I got a whole bunch of "wow you're wierd" looks. So I've conformed to the "quote-unquote" quotes. I guess I'm just a conformist. Look at me, I'm a follower. But back to the training activities this morning...) The bike ride itself felt great. Nothing like taking a week off from training to make such a challenging workout feel so wonderful. The other nice thing is that, even though Cat and I had a full week of low intensity, relaxing nothingness, our injuries were patient enough to stay the course. How nice of them. So here we are, the evening of Memorial Day, Cat's got an ice pack on one knee and, if I can see across the room correctly, she may have another one on her hip and one on her back. I just removed the one from my achilles and the other one from my calf. As soon as I'm done typing this nonsense, I'll moan and groan my way onto the floor where I will proceed to stretch my back (that only hurts in three places now), whereby Cat and I will climb into bed all eager and willing to tackle our 90 minute run and 3500 meter swim in the morning. And the funny thing is, I'm happy about it all. It's like an old friend that's been on vacation for awhile. Granted, perhaps the friend can get annoying every now and then, but I've got to admit, if nothing else this friend is consistent. A pain in the leg, but consistent.

Welcome to Ironman training, where masochism is the barrier to entry. Now excuse me, I've got to lower myself onto the floor and start my evenings italic-nonitalic complaining.
Star Spotting Of The Day: Lily Tomlin, 9 to 5 actress extraordinaire and one of the best parts of the latter West Wing seasons

Location: Walking up the sidewalk right smack dab in front of my household.

What She Was Doing: Truth be told, I'm not quite sure. She may have come out of the house up the street and across the way. She walked down the sidewalk, across the street and back up the sidewalk from whence she came, albeit on the other side of the street. All the while she was carrying a couple of very large bags that looked kinda like baby car seats in garbage bags. It was a bit weird. I'm still not sure what it was all about. That Lily Tomlin, always the mysterious one.

May 26, 2006

Good - It Rhymes with "Holy Shit"

Coach Gareth just sent over our training schedule for June, the last full month of training before the Ironman extravaganza. It looks good. That is, it looks good if you consider "good" to be 20-30 hours per week of exercise. If you consider "good" to be a 2 1/2 hour ride and ninety minute run starting at 4:30 or 5am on a weekday then, yep, this is good. If when you hear the word "good" you immediately dream of six to seven hour bike rides followed by thirty to sixty minute runs, then this is the training schedule for you. If when you dream of "good" you have visions of high intensity 2 mile swims coinciding with one to two hour runs followed by an hour of weight lifting, then, by golly miss molly, have I got a training program for you.

As for me, well, I must say.... it looks good.

Star Spotting Of The Day: Al Teller, former Chairman and CEO of MCA Music, former President of Columbia and CBS records. (I'm not sure this one is actually a "star" but he's a recognizable figure in the business world. Well... recognizable in the entertainment world, at the very least. Ummm..... the music world?? OK, OK, maybe I'm stretching here... Maybe he's not recognizable at all. Jeez, why you gotta be so harsh today...)

: Whole Foods in Santa Monica

What He Was Doing
: Rifling through the bagel bin in his baseball cap and sunglasses. You can always tell somebody who is looking to get noticed - they're the ones wearing the sunglasses indoors. For all you people out there who think that wearing sunglasses inside will make you incognito, let me help bring you a little closer to reality: it doesn't work. You might want to wear a big chicken suit, that oughta have just about the same effect.

May 24, 2006

Happy Festivus!

Post Race Recovery Morning Workout
1 hour 15 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Recovery

Random Comments: Because of back-to-back races, our need to taper and a seemingly mis-timed training schedule, Cat and I are in our fifth straight "recovery" week. We started our Ironman training somewhere around Christmas time and have been pushing forward since then. Back around New Years Day everybody was telling us that we're so far ahead of schedule in terms of training so all seemed to be going fine. Until five weeks ago, that is. You see, aside from the two races over the past three weeks, we really haven't had much of a hard workout since somewhere around Tax Day and won't be having anything challenging to do until well after Memorial Day. I hope that means that we'll be pushing the limits of endurance far beyond Independence Day because we will probably have to start this damn tapering again on Argentina's Independence Day. For Godsakes, our bikes get shipped to Lake Placid on Puzzle Day, we get on a plane and fly east on Flitch Day and then it's only a few short days, if not hours, until there we are, smack dab in the middle of National Hot Dog Day, National Vanilla Ice Cream Day and, oh yeah, that Ironman race.

(As a side note, let me just make it clear that Flitch Day is one of my all-time favorite holidays. It stems from a long-ago custom whereby bacon was given to married couples who could prove they had lived in harmony and fidelity for one year. Flitch Day was, in essence, marriage judgement day. Very few, unfortunately, "took home the bacon.")

May 23, 2006

The Recovery Conundrum

Morning Post-Race Recovery Workout
1500 meters straight and slow

6 minutes

10 minutes

Random Comments: This is day three of our post-race recovery week and I already feel like I've gained five pounds. Apparently this morning's six minute aqua jog and ten minute jacuzzi didn't burn enough calories to negate the entire pizza and the half container of faux ice cream that I devoured last night as I lay lifeless on the couch. It's a catch 22 this recovery week malarkey. It's supposed to make you feel all good and relaxed when what it really does is make you want to go out and get your exercise on. Harumph. Oh look, it's almost dinner time.

May 22, 2006

Welcome To Auburn. Please Fasten Your Seatbelts, This'll Be A Bumpy Ride

There is a turning point in every race. Some people think it is a gradual turning point, like the frog in the boiling water, where the pain builds up to such a level that eventually you just can't stand it anymore. I disagree. I don't think it's gradual, I think that turning point happens all on its own. It becomes one singular moment in time that emerges as the defining moment of the race. And it is at that moment in which you are forced to confront the person you truly are.

For me, it is mile 11 of the Half Ironman run.

As you know, Cat and I raced the Auburn Triathlon this weekend. The race also goes by the name "World's Toughest Half Ironman" and, let me tell you, after having done raced the darn thing, I can attest to the validity of that moniker. In a nutshell, this race is a bitch. No, I take that back, it's not so much a bitch as it is a black widow. It's that gorgeous, seductively alluring nymphette that embraces you lovingly in her arms until she violently and unexpectedly disembowels you, leaving you lifeless and worn, stranded on the curbside as a protein enhancement for the circling vultures.

Other than that, it's a great race.

It starts with a swim in the pristine, 68 degree Folsom Lake that is nestled at the bottom of the surrounding mountains. The lake is as flat as a pancake and with only 300 people competing in the whole darn shebang, there is relatively little hitting, poking, smacking and jostling for position. Half Ironman swims really don't get much better than that. However, when you get out of the water and the announcer says “good luck, the easy part is over” you know you’re in trouble.

The bike started climbing from the moment my butt hit the saddle and it didn’t seem to let up for the next 56 miles. The first incredibly hard, out-of-the-saddle, 12% incline climb was at mile 3. Fortunately, since we'd already been climbing for three miles, I didn't have to tire my legs out on that one climb - they were tired already. How nice. But that was just a warm-up. You see, it got worse - much worse - with one climb leading to another and to another, and all leading up to arguably one of the most difficult climbs on the ride, strategically placed at mile 50 when your mind is saying to your legs "it's OK, there can't possibly be another steep climb in only 6 more miles of this godforsaken race".

Legend has it that multiple Tour De France winner Greg Lemond walked his bike up this hill – or at least the spray paint on the hill that says “Greg Lemond walked here” is proof enough. And reason enough for it to now be called “LemondWalked Hill”. Needless to say, I rode the entire short-but-steep way up, albeit at an excruciatingly slow pace – just short of losing my balance type pace.

The bike, though, was just a warm-up for the run, most of which took place on single-track and hiking trails, with a bit of gravel and shale thrown in for good measure, as well as a modicum of pavement. The first 2 miles of the run are downhill through the woods on a beautiful single-track trail. It feels great and it lulls you into that feeling of “wow, this run is a lot easier than they make it out to be”. That feeling quickly gets torn out of your head like a very large band-aid on a very hair chest.

The start of the run is at the “Overlook”, which is overlooking the river 2000 feet below. Essentially, you run down to the river and back up. Twice. Years ago they started building a dam on the river. At about mile 5 you run straight up the road that was part of the dam. It’s called the Dam Wall, for more than one reason. Most people walked (of course, Cat and I both ran it). It is incredibly steep for about a mile and a half at which point you’re at the top, pass by the finish line and head down to the bottom again. That is what we in the business call "adding insult to injury". This time around it’s a 2 mile gravel road that just goes down down down until you get to the sign that says “Turnaround," at which point you do, and you head back up up up. This is the hill that, for most people, seems to destroy what little ounce of hope they have left. As for me, having run up many a ski mountain (a hobby I've taken on over the years whenever I find myself in a ski resort during summer or fall), I’m used to just focusing my energy and pushing forward. That's what I did - head down, eyes ahead, one foot moving in front of the other, slowly increasing my speed inch by inch by inch.

Fortunately, you only had to run up one mile of this excruciatingly steep gravel road before you turn off into the woods at mile 11. Unfortunately, you turn off into the woods at mile 11 onto a trail called “Cardiac Bypass”.

As I mentioned previously, there is a defining moment in every race, and mine usually occurs around mile 11. This race was no different and the "Cardiac Bypass" sign surely didn't help matters. I tend to lose all hope at mile 11 and am brutally confronted with those self-defining choices. Do I stop and quit, and settle into the mediocrity of painlessness. Or am I a fighter. Do I stare this demon in the face and say something macho like "You wanna piece of this?! YOU WANNA PIECE OF THIS?!" Or maybe I pull out an old time classic like "Knock this battery off my shoulder.... I dare you, punk."

I face this choice every time I race a Half Ironman. And everytime, you know what I do? That's right, I put that battery on my shoulder. And instead of slowing down, I speed up. Instead of wincing in pain, I smile. And I go harder. And faster. You know why? F**k you, that's why. (See how macho I am?)**

So as I passed by the mile 12 aid station, continually picking up the pace, I asked them where Cat was (I knew she wasn’t too far in front of me). They told me she was about 1 minute ahead so I picked it up some more. In fact, I definitely ran in the 7:50ish zone for that last mile (which, by the by, paralleled a gorgeous mid-mountain stream the entire time) and finally caught her at the final hill on mile 13. We crossed the finish line together. Ain't that sweet? Yeah, I thought so too.

All in all, this was by far the prettiest race I’ve ever done. Beautiful swim in a calm lake at the base of the mountains. Incredibly gorgeous bike and run through forests, parks and rural areas. And since there were only 300-ish people doing the race, it was not uncommon to be completely alone out there – biking and running, completely surrounded by tall pine trees, with nobody else in sight, ahead or behind you, as far as the eyes can see. If it only weren't so goddam hilly.

That said, let me give a special shout-out to Brad Kearns, the ex-pro racer guy who puts on this classic event. Brad gives new meaning to race director, continuously going out of his way to help us (and others) out throughout the entire weekend. Thank you Brad for an incredible experience!

** What with all the charges of plagiarism abound in this world, I feel it necessary to cite the influence for my macho comments above. (Truth be told, I don't feel it's necessary at all, I just love this movie and love this quote.) My macho inspiration is from the timeless classic, Good Will Hunting. Here you go.

Will: My father was an alcoholic. Mean fuckin' drunk. Used to come home hammered, looking to whale on someone. So I had to provoke him, so he wouldn't go after my mother and little brother. Interesting nights were when he wore his rings...
He used to just put a belt, a stick, and a wrench on the kitchen table and say, "Choose."

: Well, I gotta go with the belt there.

: I used to go with the wrench.

: Why?

: Cause fuck him, that's why.

May 17, 2006

Workouts With A Cherry On Top

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

Random Comments: Sometimes it's the easiest workouts that are the most difficult to get motivated for. I mean, let's be real folks, a one hour easy spin?! For Godsakes, I'd probably be better off sleeping for an extra hour instead or, better yet, sitting at the local diner eating scrambled egg whites, a stack of potatoes (well-done, of course), a few links of sausage (turkey, please) and whole wheat toast (dry, thank you very much). You know what, while we're at it, why don't you throw in a tall stack of those chocolate chip, strawberry pancakes. They look really tasty. Feel free to be heavy on the syrup. Yeah, sure, throw some of that whip cream on top too - why not.

But the reality of it all is that I'm not at the diner and I'm not still in bed, I'm out on the bike for only one hour which, oddly enough, feels like it takes forever. These one hour easy spins are like purgatory. It's far from an excruciating workout and not quite a rest day. But it keeps the legs moving and the heart somewhere above comatose, which I guess is the point of it all. As for tomorrow, my workout consists of five 100 meter sprints in the pool with one minute of rest in-between. If I calculate correctly, which I do, the entire workout should take me a little less than 15 minutes. Of course, that doesn't count the 20 minutes of travel time.

Hmmm... maybe I'll find myself at the diner after all.

May 15, 2006

We're Goin To Auburn

Morning Workout
15 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1)

3000ish meters
Main Set: 3 x 600 meters off 30 seconds rest

Random Comments: It's an easy training week for us which, if I count correctly, is our 4th week of easy training in a row. Since next week is a recovery week, that'd be 5 straight weeks of easy training with less than two months to race day. Am I nervous about this? Hell yes I am! But the fact is that there are a few other things to be nervous about so that one will just have to wait in line. Cat and I are racing the Auburn Triathlon this weekend, a race that is also known by the somewhat daunting name: "World's Toughest Half." I'd imagine that one of the reasons they use this name is to instill fear in the race participants. I'd imagine another reason is that it looks good on t-shirts. I'm going to guess that both are true. All I know for sure is that there is a lot of uphill. A LOT of uphill. Which hurts almost as much as the downhill. And there's a lot of that too. Yep, this should be a nice, fun, relaxing weekend away with the girlfriend.

Star Spotting Of The Day: David Paymer. Also known as "Hey, don't I know you from somewhere?"

: Starbucks in Santa Monica

What He Was Doing
: Sitting at a table, enjoying a cuppa joe, reading some Robert Crais book and trying to ignore me as I kept looking at him every few seconds whilst I tried to figure out what the heck his name is. Finally, after an IMDB search for quite a few different movies and actors I had a hunch that I should look at the actors in City Slickers and - ba-da-bing - I figured it out. I found a David Paymer in a haystack. I'm proud of myself, thank you very much. And I was just a mere few seconds away from walking up to him and saying, "Hey, don't I know you from somewhere?"

May 14, 2006

I'm Going To Hell For This One

Morning Workout
2 hours
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1), or as best as I can do to keep it that high

1 hour
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1), or as best as I can do to keep it that low

Random Comments: My mother asked me how my workout went this morning. It went well, I said, it felt good. So that means your back is fine, your legs are fine? she inquired. That's about the point where I started stammering. Um......uh......

It's funny how one's standards become a bit askew after a few months of bodily destruction. For any normal person, a run that "felt good" might very well mean one where there was no pain or discomfort. I'd even go so far as to presume that a run that "felt good" would end with a sense of elation. Not so much for the first time Ironman-er. Yeah, my run today felt good, but that means it only took one mile for my shins to stop hurting, only three miles for my calves to loosen up, my tired quads slowed me down tremendously on the uphills but not enough for me to have to walk and the excruciating pain in my left leg didn't kick in until 7 minutes from the end of the workout. Oh, and when I finally finished, I was damn glad it was over. In a nutshell, that means there were no overall debilitating afflictions. I didn't fall to the ground, I didn't feel like giving up and didn't even have visions of the comfortable cots in the emergency room.

And that, my friends, is what I call a pretty good run.

I give to charity as much as the next guy. Arguably even more so. Alzheimer's, AIDS, cancer, Girl Scout cookies.... I've donated to many a good cause in my time and I do it quite regularly. Hell, I also give to the homeless if they look very destitute.

Over the years, though, my charitable donations have come more in the form of checks in the mail, time at the shelter or trips to the Salvation Army. There are now so many homeless in Los Angeles, I'd end up just like them if I decided to donate to each and every one that approached me on the street. Besides, it's getting tougher to tell the difference between the true homeless and the scam artists - they're all wearing pretty nice sneakers.

I guess you can say I've become a bit more jaded. I still feel guilty when I turn somebody down as they're asking for money but, goshdarnit, I worked for this money and am entitled to what I have. I'll still give away to charity, but it's just not right to give money to every single person that asks. Which brings me to last night...

Cat and I went to the movies in the busy part of town where all the tourists and panhandlers like to mingle. They sit on the edge of the sidewalk with their signs (the panhandlers, that is, not the tourists). With all the competition out there for spare change, the panhandling signage has become a bit more creative or, shall I say, the panhandler with the best marketing gimmick wins. There are the homeless vets, the guy who just needs to buy food for his dog, the mother with four children who mysteriously are never with her, the lady that only needs $20 for gas, the double amputee and on and on it goes. It's a tough market. But I'll bet you that even the guy with the sign that says, "Let's face it, I just want a beer," is bringing in some good change every day.

Over the years, I've almost gotten used to passing them all by, of just saying "not today, sorry" and moving on with but a slight twinge of guilt flowing through my bones. So when the fellow with the clipboard approached me yesterday I didn't even think twice, not even breaking stride in the midst of the conversation I was having with Cat.

Can you assist with a donation to help the homeless children with AIDS for Mother's Day, he asked, extending the clipboard to show the authenticity of the claim and the extended list of previous donors.

Not today, sorry, I said in my usual brush-off tone and kept walking, my hand lovingly around Cat's shoulder. Realizing I wasn't going to budge, he turned away. Cat and I continued our conversation as we walked up the street.

About two blocks later, I stopped talking. Honey, I said. Did I just give the brush off to homeless children with AIDS?

Yes you did, sweetie, she replied. It was to help them for Mother's Day, too.

So I didn't help the homeless children with AIDS for Mother's Day, huh?

Nope, she confirmed.

In some odd way I felt pretty low about that one even though there was a definite marketing angle behind it all. I mean, I'm sure there are homeless children with AIDS out there needing my money. But Mother's Day? What do homeless children with AIDS have to do with Mother's Day anyway? Whatever...I still felt bad. And so I started thinking about it some more.

Does it matter if I've helped each category separately on different occasions, I thought. I've given to the homeless, the children and the AIDS foundation. Oh, and I've given my mother a Mother's Day card as well. Does that add up to the same thing or have I just committed some grave, unforgiveable sin by passing this man by? Maybe I need to focus my charitable efforts on the specific sub-category of homeless children with AIDS for Mother's Day. Perhaps I should go home and do an online search for this charitable organization that provides to such a precise group of needy.

But wait, what happens to the homeless children with AIDS after Mother's Day? Do they suddenly become better? Maybe with all the money they get for Mother's Day, they are able to buy homes and get treatment. Would it have been appropriate for me to say something along the lines of, I'm sorry, not today. However, I'd be more than happy to make a charitable donation to homeless children with AIDS for Rosh Hashanah. I would be grateful if you would contact me as the high holidays approach.

Perhaps then I could not only take care of the homeless children with AIDS, but I could also fulfill my religious donation allocation. If I could do that, than maybe I could divert some of my Holocaust Fund donations to the living children of today, albeit the homeless ones with AIDS.

This whole charitable donation business has become so difficult to manage these days. Which reminds me, I oughta tell you sometime how I was hoodwinked by the Girl Scouts. It's organized crime in a little green dress, I tell ya...

May 13, 2006

I'm Just A Patsy

Morning Workout
2000 meters
Main Set: 2000 meters (that'd mean it was a non-stop swim, in case you was wondrin')

Heart Rate Zone: 15 minutes on bike at SST (Zone 4)/VO2 (Zone 5+), then a 2 kilometer run at SST (Zone 4) / VO2 (Zone 5+). Recover for 3 minutes. Rinse. Repeat. Then repeat again.

Random Comments: I've been having goggle problems lately. The problem is that they don't like my face. When I put the goggles on and get in the pool, everything is nice and fine. But the moment I start to swim they suddenly fill up about halfway with water. It's like they're mocking me. You want to swim underwater, they ask rhetorically in their best mob-tinged Guido-like accent. You gotta deal with me first, bucko. I control the water supply around here, the goggles mock in their derogatory tone.

Its funny how you can swim for months without a problem and then, [snap!] just like that, without any adjustments having been made, they suddenly don't stay on the face correctly. I tighten, I loosen - but mostly I just swear out loud and get frustrated. I aggressively slash the goggles off my face and shake them about the air in horror as if I could choke the frustration right out of these seemingly useless plastic annoyances. This morning it took four stops, 500 meters and a fair bit of goggle choking for me to finally get the darn things working correctly.

As for the rest of the swim, well, once I finally came to my understanding with the goggles, when we all realized who was boss, it went fairly well. That is, until I finally finished and hit the "stop" button on my watch. I looked at the watch in horror. Apparently, somewhere along the way the watch decided not to work as well.

I smell an accoutrement conspiracy brewing.

May 12, 2006

And Don't It Feel Good

There are certain understood rules of triathlon; certain things that triathletes know they should never – not ever - do before a race. Of course, the most common order is to not try anything new on race day for any reason whatsoever, even if the Lord God Herself and her harp-strumming naked cherubs appeared in some inspirational vision during your warm-up and told you otherwise. Just tell her no (Of course, you may go to hell, but I’m talking about race day here, not eternity. You’re on your own for eternity.) If you’ve been training effectively by eating cold pizza mid-way through your training rides and have a hankering to try out Gu during race day – don’t. Go find a pizza place. Want to adjust the saddle just a wee bit on race morning to make yourself more aerodynamic? Instead you might consider having a fellow triathlete take a baseball bat to your back. Oh, and here’s my tool kit, why don’t you saw out your pancreas while you’re in the mood to do stupid things.

Important Rule #2: Don’t listen to random radio stations on your drive to the race - you never know what song they will play right before you get out of the car. The Gods of Motivation don’t care how much you love or hate that song, they don’t even care if you listened to the entire song or just heard the first 8 bars, they are still going to imprint it on the forefront of your mind about 30 minutes into the race. You’ll be swimming along as calm, cool and collected as you can be on race day, focused on stroke after stroke when out of the blue it’ll hit you like the feet of that moron swimming two inches in front of your face. That song will suddenly pop right into your mind and you’ll immediately find yourself singing those lyrics. You may even start to smile and laugh for a little bit. Go ahead, amuse yourself. But know that the song ain’t leaving your brain for a long long time and four or five hours down the road when you’re still singing the same damn tune, that smile and laughter may be exchanged for something more on the angry and annoyed side of the emotional spectrum. Trust me, it is imperitive for your sanity and the potential physical health of those surrounding you that you listen to the right motivational songs before you begin your race.

Fortunately, we weren’t listening to the radio last week on our drive to St. Anthony’s. Unfortunately, my step-brother Craig didn’t need a radio.

Don't you hate when random songs pop into your mind and you can't let them go, Craig said to us. You know what song sometimes pops into my mind during a race? he asked in his rhetorical sort of way. And then he told us the song title. He didn't even need to sing it. The title was enough.

Aaaaawwwww shit, I thought. That’s it, I’m doomed. I don’t even need to hear the boppy beat of that timeless beauty for it to get lodged in my brain. Damn damn damn. The song title alone will have me humming it for far too long. Don’t think about it, I said. Everytime I started singing the song in my mind, I stopped myself. Don’t think about it. Don't think about it.

Lucky me, I must’ve figured out how to erase that part of my brain because I got through all of St. Anthony’s without the song piercing my consciousness. Whew, I thought after crossing the finish line. I'm free.

* * *
It was supposed to be an easy 90 minute spin on Wednesday morning. Sometimes there are so many signs telling me I shouldn’t be exercising, I wonder why I push forward. As for this quote-unquote easy spin, the omens began slapping me upside the head before I even really began:

• Woke up at Cat’s place and realized I forgot to bring my helmet (pre-ride)
• Flat tire (pre-ride) Stop and fix.
• Cadence sensor banging against pedal (30 seconds into ride) Stop and fix.
• Handlebars misaligned (60 seconds into ride) Stop and fix.
• Flat tire (yes, another one) (yes, the same tire) (5 minutes into ride) Stop and fix.
• Cat nearly getting clocked by a Subaru (20 minutes into ride). Shake and gasp.
• Both of us getting freaked out by a jerk in a pick-up truck (30 minutes into ride) Scream and yell.
• Me nearly getting flattened by a very large bus (40 minutes into ride). Clench and pray.

As you can imagine, I just wanted this ride to be over. In fact, I was unclear of why it began in the first place. I’d already had a crappy Lactate Threshold test the day before, I don’t know what I was trying to prove on this so-called easy spin. Truth be told, I could completely skip the workout and I’m sure my fitness level would not be affected in the slightest.

I was about an hour from home at this point when it happened. I didn't even see it coming. I mean, it was already 9 days after St. Anthony's, I thought I was free. Apparently I wasn't. Maybe it was the fear of the pending bus collision that knocked it out of me. Maybe it was the sheer annoyance of this ride and knowledge that I still had one more excruciatingly long hour to go. But I couldn't help myself. I smiled and laughed while I was riding along, singing the song. I silently cursed at Craig in my most sarcastic, light-hearted tone. I guess you just can't escape the power of pre-race suggestion.

So there I was, in the middle of my hellish bike ride, Walking On Sunshine, oh yeah. Walking on sunshine, oh oh.
And don’t it feel good!

May 11, 2006

Mama Never Told Me There'd Be Days Like These

Morning Workout
30 minutes in circles around the track
Heart Rate Zone: Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

Main Set: Supposed to be 4 x 400 meters but I only made it through 3 x 400 meters before the pool closed or I got frustrated enough to walk away - whichever came first.

Random Comments: This week sucks. I feel like I'm moving backwards in fitness with every workout I do. Honestly, I'm so frustrated I just want to quit all of this training. Screw the Auburn race next weekend. Forget Ironman. Forget it all. I'm done.

As you know, my Lactate Threshold testing on the bike earlier this week proved to me that after 5 months of training I've not improved at all. To the contrary, I've actually gone backwards in some areas. And then this morning's run, aside from the tremendous pain in the lower leg region, was so incredibly slow for such an incredibly high heart rate. In my better days, I'd run 7 minute miles for hours on end. Today, I'm struggling to hold 11 minute miles for 30 minutes. And then that leads to the swim, which this morning was more sink than swim. My arms weren't moving properly and it felt like I was flailing out there. Swimming is, by far, my least favorite of the three sports and unfortunately, by far, the one that I'm the best at. That in itself is annoying for a few reasons. First of all, I've been running for 25 years and biking for 12. I've only been swimming for 3 years. The numbers alone should indicate that I should be better at the other two. The fact is, I'm not even that good of a swimmer, I just have grown to suck at running and biking. As if that's not enough, the swim is such a minor part of Ironman (and triathlon in general). Of the 140-odd miles, I'm only swimming for 2.4 of them. Of the 13-15 hours I'll be out there, I'll only be swimming for 80 minutes. It means nothing. The fact that I'm a better swimmer than biker or runner makes me want to stop swimming altogether.

You must be in the best shape of your life, people say to me when they hear that Ironman is right around the corner.

No. I'm not. But thank you for reminding me.

The thing is, I know I'll have a workout sometime in the future that I'm going to feel great about. And my frustration will subside. But right now it hasn't. Right now I'm angry. And strike me down with lightning if that's what it'll take, but I just want to sit here and wallow alone in my discontent for a few minutes.

May 09, 2006

Wide Awake And Dreaming

Morning Workout
Lactate Threshold testing
Heart Rate Zone: By the end of the test the ole pumper was pounding high enough for Coach Gareth to say things like "Are you feeling OK?" and "You sure you're going to be fine? Do you need water?" if that gives you any indication of how high the heart rate was in relation to, say, being in cardiac arrest.

Random Comments: Lactate Threshold testing time is always a barrel of monkeys. I mean, here I am with the opportunity to pedal my bike until I am just short of puking, where my legs are burning like hot coals from within and my heart rate, quickly surpassing "pulse" and "chop" mode, begins to escalate far beyond "puree," at which point I can sense that my engine has clearly surpassed the "do not rev beyond this red line" point and I almost begin to smell smoke coming out of my pores as if my whole body were about to implode into a charred corpse, inevitably resulting in nothing but a lifeless lump of used flesh hanging from the soiled posts of my bike. And, as if that's not enough, I get to pay a lot of money for this enthralling experience. Yep, it's nothing but fun times over here.

The good news is that I was able to push for one minute longer and harder than I ever have before. The bad news is that little else has improved in my conditioning over the past 5 months. At the slow aerobic levels, all seems to be fine with me. It's just when I start getting the heart rate up a little higher that it all goes to hell.

What does this mean, you ask? Well, in a nutshell, it means that I need to go really really slow at all times for any endurance event. Even just a five minute burst of mid-race energy could result in a long-term meltdown. Fortunately for me, that's the goal with Ironman. "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast." That's what they say. Apparently it's some sort of mantra that I'm supposed to be repeating to myself over and over again. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

Yeah, well, we'll see how that one works out for us, won't we.

It was 12:42 in the morning when I woke up the first time. I could see the digital light of the alarm clock over Cat's sleeping shoulder. It doesn't feel like 12:42am, I thought. It feels more like 6am. You know those times when you suddenly open your eyes in the middle of the night and you are wide awake? That's exactly the state I was in at 12:42 this morning. Wide awake. Laying in bed, thinking.

It was the swim at Lake Placid that was in my head. Maybe it was there because Cat had sent over pictures of the mayhem that kicks off the Ironman USA race. I wasn't thinking of those exact photos as I lay in bed, but that's probably what initiated the thoughts in the first place. The subconscious works in mysterious ways. I suppose that's why it's called the subconscious.

I lay still just thinking about the swim. And then I caught myself and began thinking about me thinking about the swim. And that thinking led to me wondering why the heck I was staying awake thinking about it in the first place. For Godsakes, you fool, the race is still 2 months away, I said to myself. Stop thinking about the damn thing and go to sleep. On and on I kept telling myself that. But the images of the swim crept in through the cracks. So I lay there thinking.

I looked over at the clock. 1:48 am. I can't believe I've been awake for an hour already, I thought as I battled heavy lids. I must've fallen asleep shortly thereafter.

It was thoughts of the bike ride at Lake Placid that woke me up at 3:05. I was riding that course in my mind, imagining myself staying slow, keeping it easy. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. It's tough for me to keep my heart rate down all the time, I thought to myself. I know it's tough. I imagined me trying to ride unbearably slow. Unbearably smooth. And I lay there thinking.

I woke up again at 5:17am and my mind was running. It was running with thoughts of the marathon at Lake Placid. How will I survive that run, I asked myself. It's just two half-marathons, I kept justifying. It won't be a problem. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. But what will my legs feel like. Will my quads finally give out? Will my achilles hold up? And what about those calves? My calves are always minutes away from total breakdown. Will I have to crawl forward? Will my stomach be strong enough? I kept questioning my abilities and my mind kept churning as I lay there thinking, trapped in the confines of my mental Ironman.

Cat woke up just before 6am.
74 days and counting.

May 08, 2006

I'm Back (Pun Intended)

Morning Workout
1 mile (1600 meters)

Random Comments: As you probably know, my back has been in a tremendous amount of pain all week. It hurt when I sat, it hurt when I stood and laying down wasn't much better. As long as I was breathing, I had discomfort in the lower back. And knowing that "stop breathing" was one alternative to curing my annoying ailment, it wasn't necessarily my first choice of solutions. In fact, I wouldn't even put it in the top 10. Unfortunately, I didn't know what the other 9 options were.

Truth be told, it started getting me really nervous and depressed. I started having thoughts about my body not being able to withstand this sustained level of training. And since training is just going to increase for the next two months, I had fears of whether I'd even be able make it to the starting line of Lake Placid. And if I got to the starting line, how the heck would I find my way to the finish. Hell, I nearly got put out due to my back last year - and that was just for a half-Ironman. Now I've got to figure out how to make my body survive twice the distance without falling apart in my best post-wall Humpty Dumpty impression.

You can probably imagine how these thoughts just kepts swirling around in my brain. And that's just plain unhealthy.

So I went to the physical therapist a couple of times throughout the week and had my back prodded and stretched. I stood up more erect than I ever have in my life. My nose and toes were always pointing in the same direction. I sat with my feet directly in front of me and I got into my car without turning my back at all, quite the feet considering my compact car. (Yeah, I said quite the feet. And, yeah, that pun was intended too). The result of all this? More pain. I couldn't workout at all this week aside from that swim and sad-excuse-for-an-Aqua Jog on Thursday.

Then we get to Friday night. I had plans to go out for drinks and dinner with my friend Jay. So after surviving a pain-filled, good posture day, I met Jay at a local hip bar for a cocktail where I proceeded to have my standard vodka cocktail. Little did I know that vodka had somehow turned into a miracle cure.

The moment that vodka hit my lips, I could feel my body relax, just like Daffy Duck melting off the seat. It felt goooood. I sat there for a few minutes sipping on the drink and talking to Jay. And then a few minutes later I stopped myself mid-sentence. Wait a minute, I thought. Somethings missing. I turned my body around to the right. Then to the left. Nothing. No pain. No discomfort. Holy cow! I took another sip. No back pain! No back pain! I took another sip. This is amazing! I feel great! I took another sip.

I couldn't believe it. I was so excited, so revived. The next morning I woke up and, lo and behold, the pain was still gone. I'm cured! I'm cured! Alcohol is a relaxant, Cat said. That's normal.

Well, for goodness sakes, how come I didn't get this memo sooner?! Now excuse me, I've gotta run to the liquor store and get some more pain killers. I'll be right back. (Uh-huh... pun intended.)

May 05, 2006

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That...

I'm not saying they are exactly like Felix and Oscar, I'm just sayin' that my dentist and his hygenist are definitely an Odd Couple.

The dentist would be the Oscar one. He's very nice, fairly intelligent and extremely funny. And though he's no soiled slob, I've come to realize that he is smart enough to know that other people need to organize his life. He does his work and he does it very well, but the truth is that his success can be just as much attributed to his charm as his dentistrical talents.

He's very funny, my doctor. I'd reckon that he harbors a deep-seeded desire to be a stand-up comedian. I'd take him for a graduate from the Jerry Seinfeld school of everyday comedy. That said, my dentist could never do stand-up for one simple reason: there are heckler's in comedy clubs. He's no good with hecklers. That's not his schtick. As a dentist, on the other hand, his audience is completely captive. And I mean that literally. Not only are we practically locked into a monster-like chair where any thoughts of breakout quickly evoke images of The Great Escape, but with all the mirrors and sharp objects crammed into our mouths, any sudden movement may result in something more reminiscent of the bloodier moments in Nightmare on Elm Street. There leaves no alternative but to struggle out your best open mouth laugh, which usually leads to a fair bit of drool trickling down the chin, followed by a somewhat embarrassed, somewhat retarded feeling. But all in a good way.

On the other side of the fence, is the hygenist, heretofor referred to as Felix. She's the straight -laced one to Oscar's mayhem. I don't know if Felix has ever laughed in her life (except perhaps when she's feeling particularly sassy and Oscar makes a particularly funny joke. But those stars don't align very frequently.) Honestly, I'm glad Felix is the hygenist. What with all the sharp objects crammed into my mouth, I'd rather a detailed, highly attentive, uber-methodical person were on the other side of those objects than, say, a Jerry Seinfeld graduate.

Felix is a jogger and we talk about that whenever I'm in the shop for a clean-up. But she's a jogger in a sad sort of way. For instance, last year she had to take a few weeks off jogging due to a sore knee. You see, she was at the gym jogging on the treadmill when somehow she tripped or slipped or just plain stopped paying attention and - FFFWWWWITTT! - she got zipped, flipped and discarded off the back of the moving treadmill like a scraped off potato peel. There were sharp objects in my mouth when she first told me this. I tried not to laugh, but the drool trickled down my chin anyway.

Most recently Felix hasn't been able to run because of a liver problem. I don't know what the problem is, but it didn't sound good. And the more I think about it, the more I am not surprised she is having physical ailments like liver problems. She's very methodical in everything she does. Perhaps she oughta stay off the treadmill for a bit longer and spend some time watching the Seinfeld show.

Hmmm...Maybe Felix needs Oscar as much as he needs her.

May 04, 2006


Morning Workout
2700 yards
Main Set: 4 x 400 yards very fast with 30 seconds rest in between each fun-filled back-and-forth

AQUA JOG, ah yes, the Aqua Jog
20 minutes

Random Comments: The Physical Therapist told me that I shouldn't run on the road for a couple of days until my back feels a bit less out of whack. I've decided to listen to her for a change. And since I haven't yet been able to lift up my bike and put it together thanks to the aforementioned jolts of pain, I guess I won't be doing any bike riding either. Which, through process of elimination, pretty much leaves me hammin' it up in the pool.

Honestly, the swim felt pretty good today, as swims go. And the aqua jog was deathly boring but otherwise uneventful. Fortunately my large angry Russian lady lover was out there with me doing her poolstair pull-ups, which after all this time haven't seemed to lessen the flapping layers of flab that waddle from her arms like a giant turkey's wattle. As I was aqua jogging by I looked at her, flashed an ear to ear grin and wished her a good morning. She looked at me with her piercing eyes peaking out from behind those oversized, pinch-worthy cheeks and stared at me blankly in the way she does. Her lips moved in what I could only surmise was some random Bolshevik murmur that may escape the lips from the last breath of an escaped convict on a freezing Siberian night. I looked closely to see if I could sense a flicker in the frown upon her huffy face but, alas, I could sense not a noodge. As I aqua jogged on by, in a sudden spurt of inspiration, I decided to assign her the loving pet name, "Nyet". Ah, my dear Nyet.

BTW, the back is starting to feel a little better. If all goes well, I'll be able to put on my socks and tie my shoes tomorrow.

May 02, 2006

A Churning Cauldron Of Intimidation

Sunday's I mean Race
1500 meters
24.8 miles
6.2 miles
Pizza (3 slices), Doritos, 7 Ounce Steak (medium rare), Onion Rings, Baked Potato, Carrots, Zucchini, French Onion Soup, Salad and a Macadamia Nut Ice Cream Sundae to wash it all down

Random Comments: It's Tuesday now. If I weren't sitting in the chair typing this, I'd be laying on the floor on my back. My piercingly, punishingly, perpexlingly painful back. The back has been hurting steadily for about a week. The race didn't quite help. But it was really the point yesterday after Cat and I returned to Los Angeles, carried the bike box up the stairs and rested it on the ground. I stood up to turn around and walk back down the stairs but my back wasn't quite ready to stand and turn. The back fought back. I screamed. I winced. I uttered words that are not quite appropriate for young children. Ten minutes later I was laying down with an ice pack on my back. Three hours later I was in physical therapy. Today I'm still in pain and starting to get stressed again. Couldn't workout this morning. Hell, I can't even bend over and put on my socks. I probably won't be able to workout tomorrow and I'm praying that I'll be good enough for my 6 hour ride on Saturday and 2 1/2 hour run on Sunday. My physical therapist told me a couple of weeks ago that I need to focus all my energy on strengthening my core/trunk. Apparently she was right. Can I have a do-over?

Let me tell you about the St. Anthony's family fun extravaganza that I had this past weekend. Eight cheering family members descended upon the streets of St Petersburg, Florida to herald the achievements of the five of us triathlon competing masochists. And, like every family get together, there was a fair bit of sickness, a modicum of injury, a pinch of tension and a whole lot of happiness.

My step-brothers and I have all raced St. Anthony's (and other triathlons) before. However, this was Cat's first ever Olympic distance triathlon (she'd only done two sprints in the past) and my sister's first ever triathlon, period. Sure there was a bit of nervous energy floating around, as one would find before any race, but we definitely had enough of a support team and pit crew to help assuage any fears, not to mention to carry away our left-over flip-flops, body glide and anti-fog while hauling around an over-sized ice-filled cooler of Endurox bottles. (For the record, I've never used assuage in a sentence before. I'm pretty proud of myself right now.)

I was in one of the first waves at 7:20am, and family members kept starting periodically beyond that until we got to my sister's wave somewhere around the 9am hour. Needless to say, I was the first one to the experience the water - and what an experience it was. You see, the water on Sunday morning was a churning cauldron of intimidation that could set knees trembling to anyone who hadn't had ocean swimming experience. As for Cat, she had only done just enough ocean swimming to be scared of such reckless water activity. And my sister? Well she had never done any ocean swimming whatsoever, which may be good as she was left completely ignorant of the looming danger and frustrations. If you're wondering about those dangers and frustrations that were looming, why don't you ask the people who almost died.

So my gun went off at 7:20 and I jumped into what was the most challenging swim I've ever done in a race. The 20 mph-ish wind caused a choppiness that had seagulls getting seasick. Waves were about four feet high and smackin' around in every direction. I mean this was a "stick your head in the toilet bowl and flush" type of swim. Throw on top of that a whole bunch of people who aren't used to swimming in a volatile ocean and are kicking a bit more than usual, getting pulled by the current and consistently swimming off course, and flailing around in the water a bit harder than is recommended by four out of five doctors. And somehow I seemed to put myself right in harm's way at every move. It was a war zone out there from the moment the gun went off until the second I stepped out of that godforsaken water. I got punched in the jaw, kicked in the face, slapped in the head - and that was only the first minute of the race. I had four people swim right over me and one guy kick me so incredibly hard right square in the middle of the chest that it not only put an immediate halt to my swimming, but it knocked the wind out of me and actually pushed me backwards in the water, so much so that the guy stopped and turned around to make sure he didn't kill me. This is not a common event in triathlon, people turning around to make sure there isn't death and destruction in their path. That's how solid of a shot he landed on me.

The further I got into the swim the more frustrated I became and just spent most of my time trying to avoid all the other violently flailing racers scurrying about aimlessly. And all I could think about was how I wanted this swim to be over and, more importantly, how I was hoping my sister and Cat wouldn't strut any bravado and feel like they needed to start this dangerous excuse for a race. In fact, I actually spent a good 100 meters trying to figure out how I could turn around and send some message to them to stay on the comfort of land. Oh, and while they're at it, maybe throw me a life preserver and a spear gun. Then, just as another swimmer cold-cocked me in the jaw, I realized that there is no possible way they would get into this water anyway. I mean, they were scared just looking at it yesterday, there's no chance in hell that they would even think of swimming amidst the competition chaos.

Lo and behold, I not only survived the swim in one piece, but somehow I managed to eek out an even 27 minute PR. Go figure.

You are probably familiar with Murphy's Law, which states that if anything can go wrong, it will. You may even be familiar with some of the other Murphy's Laws, such as the Commerce Law (To err is human, to forgive is not company policy), the War Law (Friendly fire - isn't) and the Computer Law (Any given program, when running, is obsolete). You may, however, not be familiar with the Triathlon Law which clearly states:

Despite your contingency planning for any given race, all of the things you never think about will, at some point, end up going horribly wrong.

It started immediately as I got onto the bike and continued on through the run. First it was the gears not shifting into place. Then it was the rickety-rickety-rickety of my speed/distance sensor smacking on my spokes. Next it was a random thwackata, thwackata. It took me a good two miles at a slower-than-preferred pace to even figure that one out. What with the echoing thwackatas, I couldn't even tell which part of my bike it was coming from. As it turns out, my cadence monitor had somehow become dislodged. Not wanting to stop yet again, I spent a few minutes reaching down to jam it out of the way all the while trying not to fall off my bike and smash my face against the pavement. I'm not a big fan of pavement-smashed face.

When I finally finished the bike ride, with the back a little worse for wear, I started out on the run or, shall I say, the run-stop-run-walk-stop-walk-run, as I nursed what could've been an anatomy lesson of ailments. Calf, shin, achilles, foot, hip, back. You name the body part, it hurt.

As luck would have it, my body seemed to warm up around mile 30 of this 32 mile extravaganza. In fact, those last two miles of the race felt great, which seems to be par for the course for me. No matter the distance of the race, I usually feel my best on the last two miles. How sad. Anyhoo, I sprinted across that finish line with a smile on my face for the cameras, knowing that years down the road I'll forget about all my ailments, my technical glitches and the smackdown I had in the water.

But the smile of the finish line was just the beginning - it just kept growing as my family members came across the finish. My step-brothers came in, one by one, as strong as ever. And, lo and behold, both Cat and my sister had not only survived the swim, but thought it wasn't so bad. They both crossed the finish line in blazingly fast speeds.

People may laugh at us, the family that tri's. But I say, let them laugh. Let them mock. Let them make fun of us all they want. I'm proud of my family - each and every one of us. And it warms the cockles of my heart that we can all share this wonderful sport and bonding, borderline death-defying, experience together.