June 29, 2006

The Three Stages Of Ironman Response

Morning Workout
25ish miles
Heart Rate Zone: Not quite sure. Didn't wear the HR monitor again.

Random Comments: Tell a non-triathlete the distances of Ironman races and the response is pretty much the same. It's what I like to call the Three Stages Of Ironman Response. Catchy title, huh? Well, here's what it entails..

The first stage is AWE:

Wow! That's amazing, they say. You must really be in great shape.

Awe is a very short stage that quickly flows into Stage 2, DISBELIEF:

Do you really do it all in just one day? they ask in what I can only imagine is a rhetorical way.

After a few minutes, this Disbelief transforms into the final stage, JUSTIFICATION:

I guess it can be done, they realize.
And after a bit of thought they continue.. The bike is probably the easiest. I suppose the run wouldn't be so bad if you go slowly. But the swim. The swim would definitely be the hardest.

I tend to just stand there quietly at this point. Not saying anything and letting the people wallow in their thoughts of how tough a 2.4 mile swim would be. Well let me make sure this is clear for everybody... it's not the swim. The swim is tedious, but fairly easy. Nor is it the run for me. It's the bike. Yep, the one stage that you thought would be the easiest - and it probably is for most people - but not for me.

Why is the bike the most difficult? You probably think that it's due to my legs getting too tired. That'd be a great, logical thought. But you'd be wrong. It's not my legs. My legs can make it through the distance just fine, thank you very much. And before you say anything else, it's not my lower back either, despite me having to spend that time crouched over the bike for so long. No, no, it's neither of those. For me it's the upper back. Yep, that point right where the neck turns into the spine. It's a very defined point for me and it becomes incredibly painful. Like somebody is sticking a very sharp, very long knife into my neck and twisting it around so very slowly.

Why the upper back, you ask? You see, while you're hunched over the bike, you constantly have to lift your head up to see what's ahead of you. After so much time with your head in that position, it just plain kills. And there's nothing more I want to do than get the heck off the bike and flex my shoulders. And if all I have to do in order to get my aching body off the damn bike is complete a marathon then, hell, show me where I put my running shoes and I'll see you in 26.2.

You can't imagine what it feels like, can you. You can't imagine that it could possibly be so painful that I wouldn't want to ride again. Well, hows about I give you a little test. Stand up straight. Go ahead... do it. There you go. Now bend your head back and look at the ceiling. That's it...point your eyes straight up to the skies. Great.. great. Now keep your head in that position for the next seven and a half hours.

The defense rests it's case, your honor.
Star Spotting Of The Day: John Turturro, the actor that it seems people either love or hate. Or maybe, like me, you think he's good, you don't really have anything against him and when it comes right down to it, you don't necessarily love or hate him.

Location: Starbucks, Santa Monica. The epicenter of fun.

What He Was Doing: Absolutely nothing of great interest. Unless you call getting a drink and walking across the street to Wild Oats something of great interest. And if you do, you probably should maybe start reevaluating the quality of your life.

The Second Star Spotting Of The Day (actually the Third, but I'm not counting Eric Bogosian who I see around town so much I feel like we're practically related): Sam Elliott, oh so famous for his great moustache but probably more famous for that wonderful baritone voice that even makes Barry White a little jealous. I mean, if Barry White weren't dead.

Location: Starbucks, Santa Monica (I'm telling you... it's the epicenter of everything)

What He Was Doing: Just about the same exact thing that John Turturro was doing, but an hour later. And with a much better mustache.

June 27, 2006

The Flailers And The Geris

Morning Workout
40 minutes of never ending circles around the track
Heart Rate Zone: Beats me. I didn't wear my HR monitor.

3700 meters
Main Set: 3000 meter Time Trial

Random Comments: Seriously, though, it wasn't my fault. All I was doing was swimming in the slow lane, minding my own beeswax. Sure, I probably should I have been in the medium lane with the swimmers that are more my speed.. I'll give you that. But there were seven people in the medium lane and that is just plain crowded. There were only two people in the slow lane when I started and they were both going Sunday driver slow on their kickboards. No way would we get in each other's way. So I moved over. You can't blame a guy for that.

You really get two types of people in the slow lane of my pool. First, there are the Flailers. These are the folks that are either just learning to swim or haven't yet invested the few dollars for a swim lesson. Their movement in the water is less Michael Phelps and more, say, submerged Gorilla. The other type of people in the slow lane are the Geri's. The Geri's are usually women, usually on the northern side of 75 and usually moving a bit slower than an inverted sloth.

About halfway through my swim today a few more folks showed up in the slow lane, making the grand total three Flailers, three Geri's and me. A bit crowded, yes, but with everybody going at a pace far less than mine, I didn't have to do any sprinting to pass people and we didn't get in each other's way. All in all, there were no problems. We were living in harmony like all those animals in Zimbabwe that you see on the Discovery Channel... where, under the great shadow of the Ngoony-goo-goo Crater, Impala, Lions, Giraffe, Elephants, Ibex and Warthogs are all co-habitating peacefully. That is, they're co-habitating peacefully up until the point where a Cheetah decideds to tear the intestines out of a weak, crippled antelope.

Which brings me right back to this one Geri in particular, let's call her Martha. I'm not quite sure what Martha was doing in the pool in the first place. Her foot was all bandaged up in a way that looked like it was just healing from a broken ankle. There was a big dark stain on the side of the bandage from which I continually averted my eyes for fear of seeing a big bloody ankle protruding under the water. And this Martha, she was going up and down the lanes doing what I can only imagine was supposed to be the breast stroke. Except her leg - the one attached to the bandaged foot - would lash out at a right angle directly across the lane. Besides the fact that I'd imagine Martha's doctor probably wouldn't approve of that move, it made it tough to swim past her without her delivering me a swift kick in the bajumbas.

It required some pretty stealth timing to start my sprint past Martha at the exact moment that would allow me to avoid permanent damage to my unborn offspring. And this I did, time and again, lap after lap for about 30 minutes. I didn't touch Martha and, miraculously, she didn't touch me. All was well... or so I thought until I peeked my head up at the end of one lap to see her waiting there by the side of the pool. She was pointing her fingers at me with an expression on her face that I can only imagine involved some type of berating comments and perhaps a nasty word or two.

I've done nothing wrong, I said to myself quietly as I continued my swim. It's not my fault.
Meanwhile, maybe I'll just mosey on over here into the medium lane where it's safe and there are no intestine eating predators.


Star Spotting Of The Day: Debi Mazar, annoyingly refreshing publicist on Entourage, arguably the best show on TV this side of Jon Stewart.

Location: Corner of 15th & Montana in Santa Monica

What She Was Doing: Walking across the street and smiling at her friends behind her with whom she had just shared a cuppa somethin'-or-other. Not that exciting, I know, but what'd you expect, cartwheels in the street?

June 26, 2006

I Don't Remember How To Remember

[Yesterday] Afternoon + Evening's Workout
17.25 miles, at the very least
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1)

2200 yards
Main Set: Four...uh... I mean, two x 400 yards off 30 seconds rest

Random Comments: As you can imagine, I was very tired and quite a bit dehydrated after today's 17+ mile run. And knowing how finicky my body is, I grabbed a big bottle of Gatorade to take with me to the pool. Lord knows, if I don't take in some electrolytes during my swim, the aging body would inevitably cramp up. And that's bad. It hurts too.

Of course, after todays run, my brain had really changed format from a solid substance to something that more resembles Gerber's crushed peas. So somewhere between getting into the car and arriving at the pool five minutes later, I completely forgot about that Gatorade bottle that was sitting in the car's trunk. And I continued to forget about the Gatorade bottle when I started my swim. And halfway through my main set of 4 x 400 yards, when my foot cramped and hurt so much that I had to grab hold of the lane line just to stay afloat, I still didn't remember that Gatorade bottle. Even when my legs started cramping... completely no Gatorade recollection at all.

I ended my workout about 1000 yards short of what I intended to do. Feeling a bit melancholy (and a lot hungry), I walked back to my car. As I threw my swim gear in the trunk, I saw a large Gatorade bottle sitting there.

That's when I remembered.
Star Spotting Of The Day: Damon Wayans

: Ocean Blvd sidewalk, on a highly trafficked street in a bit of a seedy part of town

What He Was Doing
: Jogging. Wearing a white knit cap and a black velour sweatsuit, mind you. It was really that white knit cap that was the clincher. Nothin' like jogging through the seedy part of town in 70+ degree weather while wearing a white knit cap.

Three Things That Happened Within The Last 48 Hours That Nearly Made My Temporarily Non-Existent Ironman Career Permanently Non-Existent

1. The very large black SUV with the tinted windows that whiffed by me so closely at over 50mph while I was riding my bike. I could almost feel it brush by the hair on my arms.

2. Mile 16 of my run, about to make the final turn and head on the final mile back home. As I looked back to make sure there was no traffic coming, I stepped right into a big ditch.

3. There are two steps leading from the door of my masseuse's place. I twisted my ankle and nearly tripped off the first step.

June 24, 2006

A Study In Psychosis

Morning/Afternoon Workout
110 miles
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1) / Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

4 miles
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1) / Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

Random Comments: A key factor in completing an Ironman race is mental. That is, you need to be severely mental to want to do it in the first place. Truth be told, a dollop of psychosis is a pre-requisite to keep the body moving forward throughout the 140-odd Ironman miles. Though many feel that psychosis is genetic, I'm a firm believer that psychosis can be a learned trait. Nature/Nurture, you know the argument. Which brings us to today. Though I've been exercising my buttock off for the past 6-ish months, it was time I gave my mind a good workout to strengthen those psychotic muscles in my brain. So today I was committed to riding 100+ miles on my own, with nobody around to keep me sane. A confidence builder is what today's workout was billed as. Let's see how it went, shall we...

The ride started off great. I felt pretty confident from the get-go. Which is nice, but probably not the point. I mean, it ain't that hard to feel pretty confident at mile 1. But I guess I'll take what I can get. Still, there's a little thing that always gnaws at the back of my mind when I am really enjoying a workout. Specifically, it is the knowledge that at some point during my lengthy ride, run or what-have-you, I will reach a point where the enjoyment fades to black. Where I just want to stop and sit by the side of the road for the rest of eternity, or until the Tastee-Freeze truck drives by, whichever comes first. However, like the eventual fading of the joyous feelings, that defeated feeling also fades away in time and gets replaced with joy again. It's a goddam rollercoaster of emotion, is what it is.

So anyway, I really enjoyed the first 62 miles of my ride, right until the point where I started climbing the canyon. Something about the tired legs and the dreaded heat got me all in a tizzy. My stomach got so queasy that I couldn't ingest any food or liquid. And that's bad. But fear not, young maiden, that feeling eventually faded about 20 miles later. Right about the point where the psychosis kicked in.

It wasn't really an overwhelming delirium that embraced me, it was more subtle. It was like I was sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon with my feet dangling over the side. If I don't focus and pay close attention, I could easily fall into the abyss. I don't want to fall into the abyss. I want to live. So I tried with all my might to pay attention and not fall into the hands of total delirium. Focus. Focus. And my legs ploded along in their metronomic circular cadence for another 25 miles until somehow, someway, I found myself back at my home.

110 miles completed, I proverbialy patted myself on the back, hopped off the bike and began running. If I may say so - and I may - my run was amazing. It was one of those runs that reminded me how much I love running. Only 4 or 5 steps into the jog, I already knew how good it was going to be. The legs felt great and I had a smile stretching from ear to ear. That smile barely faded for the entire 4 mile extravaganza. I love when that happens.

So I did it. I supposedly strengthened my mind in a mere 114 miles. Maybe sometime in the future it'll actually start making me feel more confident.

June 22, 2006

Can I Borrow The Hubble Telescope Please.

Here's the thing about trying to fit the last months of Ironman training into a normal life: it's not normal. In fact, it's impossible. There's nothing normal about it. I'd even go as far to says as it's borderline cruel and unusual self-punishment. Sleep, for instance, is the dangling carrot that you can only see with a Hubble telescope. You can sense something dangling in front of you - and you know it's something you really really want - it's just so zip dang far away you can't quite make out what the heck it actually is, aside from the fact that if you squint your eyes you can tell it looks kinda orange. For all I know, it could be a prison jumpsuit. Either way, it doesn't really matter cause you'll never get it. There's just no catching up on sleep no matter how you slice the pizza. So you walk around consistently tired.

And then there are the legs. I come from a family of runners and athletes. We've got marathoners up the yin-yang in my clan. In fact, we're the type of annoying people that don't take escalators - we'd rather climb the steps, thank you very much. Truth be told, many of us would also opt-out of the elevator ride in exchange for a few calf-strengthening flights of stairs. You say the meeting is on the seventeenth floor? No problem... but I might be five minutes late. Oh, and if you can have a bottle of H2O and a towel waiting for me while you're up there, that'd be nifty.

But all that daily strengthening machismo gets thrown by the wayside around this stage of Ironman training. I remember earlier this year I'd walk up the 15 flights of stairs to my office every day without a thought. Now, however, my legs are so tired from the daily pounding that I take the wheelchair ramp just to get up on the curb. And that's a struggle. Hell, if I could get the padding correct, I'd go down stairs on my butt like I did as a wee laddie.

There's a part of me that wishes the Ironman race were this weekend. I just want to get it all over with and resume my (arguably) normal life. Please, somebody make the bad man stop.

But there's another part of me that is really a glutton for this punishment. There's that part of me that says, I missed two workouts this week, it's going to take me at least another three months before I'm really ready. Or maybe I didn't go quite far enough on my 6 hour ride - I'd feel a lot more confident if I had logged in another 30 miles.

But it never ends, the justification and self-questioning. So tomorrow I will run faster, stretch out my arms further…And one fine morning -
So I beat on, bike against the headwind, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

[I didn't quite know how to end this rambling, so I figured I'd just plagiarize F. Scott Fitzgerald instead.]

June 21, 2006

You Can Call Me James Dean If You Want.

I was supposed to have a 2 hour ride this morning and a 40 minute ride this evening. You wanna know what I did? I slept in until 7:30 this morning. And then I got up and ate breakfast. Didn't even look at my bike.

And tonight know what I did? I got a massage. Then I ate again.

That's right. I'm a rebel. I'm not sure I have a cause either.

June 20, 2006

Maybe I Should Start To Enjoy Swimming. Naahhh... Maybe Next Year.

Morning Workout
3300 meters
Main Set: 20 x 100 meter sprints, easy on the "sprint"

Evening Workout
90 minutes...no scratch that...I mean 50 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

Random Comments: The swim went well this morning. Swims always seem to go well these days. You know why? Cause I don't really give a flying crap about the swim, that's why. It'll all be over in a little over an hour anyway. I can go the distance and I won't be winning any Mark Spitz awards. I've come to terms with that and that's OK. As for the run, that's another story entirely.

I love running and am trying to get over the anger of being so piddlingly slow these days. At least tonight my legs are tired, so I have an excuse to go slow for the pre-scheduled 90 minute jog. In fact, though a bit uncomfortable, the first 50 minutes went by without much drama. Unfortunately, it was right there at 50 minutes that the drama started with somewhat of a Shakespearean attitude (I don't know what that means, but it sure sounds good). It was there at 50 minutes that the electric jolt of pain streamed through my body. It was kind of like somebody took a live battery, shoved it up my ass and flipped a rather over-sized switch that may have been sporting a bright red Warning sticker. The electricity surged down my quads, through my hamstrings, past my knees, scowering my calves, scorching my achilles and bolting from the bottom of my feet. In an instant, my legs said "that's it, we're done" and within that same instant I pretty much agreed with them.

I stood there on the side of the road for a few minutes screaming in tongues... AAAAARRRHHHHH!!! GARRRUMMMPAHPPPP!!! BLLLLLEEEEHHHHAAAARRR!! Shortly there after I started swearing.

Having gotten that out of my system, I turned around and started hobbling the 2 1/2 miles back home.

You know what, I probably shouldn't take the swimming for granted after all.

June 19, 2006

Has Anybody Seen My Quadriceps? I Seem To Have Misplaced Them.

Morning Workout
Two 20 kilometer time trials with lots of warm up, cool down and rest in-between, making it something like a two hour twenty minute ride.
Heart Rate Zone: It was supposed to be an all out VO2 ride (Zone 5+) but my legs didn't seem to want to move, so I was humbly huffing and puffing in Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

20 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: It was supposed to be a zippy AC run (Zone 3) but, again, the legs didn't want to cooperate. I had to stop and stretch out the calves three times, after the third I finally had it and just jogged my way back home, averaging a heart rate in the Aerobic (Zone 1) category. Lame-o.

Evening Workout
35 minutes

Random Comments: I woke up at 4am this morning, a whopping 5 hours of sleep, give or take something or other. I was out of bed by 5 am and got ready for my workout. My pathetic workout with my overly tired legs. Five hours later, I was finally getting on with my day. Three hours after that I really needed a nap in a big bad way. I didn't get one. I imagine I'll probably start hallucinating soon. That should be fun.

June 17, 2006

If You Can't Stand The Heat, Get Your Head Out Of The Oven

Morning Workout
78-ish miles
Heart Rate Zone: Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

13.2153 miles, give or take a hundredth of a mile
Heart Rate Zone: Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

Random Comments: It was a hundred and forty-five degrees outside during my workout today. I know.... I couldn't believe it either. People were dying from dehydration just by opening up their front doors. Squirrels were falling from the trees like snowflakes (except for snowflakes land daintily and these squirrels hit with a SPLATTT! and lay on the roadside like a rodent rendition of the Normandy invasion.) Even the rattlesnakes, the denizens of hellfire, couldn't handle the heat; they were slithering en masse out into the middle of the crowded roadway and committing suicide by Goodyear.

It was ugly.
Apocalyptic, one can even say.
In fact, I just did.

And through it all, I pedaled my bike and shuffled my feet for a good 7 hours of dehydrating pain. And when I say pain, I mean "really really tiring and very very hot". Dare I say, but today's workout may very well have been the most challenging training day I've had all year. And the irony of it all is that my body felt fine - no knee pain, no achilles pain, no calf pain, no upset stomach. OK, maybe that's not ironic, but it's good information to know anyway. And, sure, maybe it wasn't exactly a hunnerd forty five outside, but it damn sure felt like it. And maybe the squirrel fallings and snake suicide comments are a periwinkle short of the entire truth, but let me tell you, there were enough squished snakes and dismembered squirrels on the roadside to raise a few questions.

So anyway, it was really hot during my workout today.

Star Spotting Of The Day From Four Days Ago: Cameron Diaz

: American Airlines flight #3 from JFK to LAX, first class section

What She Was Doing
: I don't exactly know what she was doing, but I'll tell you what she was not doing, and that's eating a steak. She is so ridiculously, disgustingly thin, homegirl needs to EAT SOME FOOD - and a lot of it. I mean, somebody's gotta shove a few cheeseburgers down her face before she disintegrates - 0r ends up on the wrong side of a holocaust movie.

I've seen some funny things out on the road before, but this one's gotta take the cake.

I'm on my way back from my bike ride, somewhere around mile 65 and definitely not delirious. I know what I saw - there was no hallucinating. There's this bus stop in Malibu, right on the Pacific Coast Highway, that is somewhat in the middle of nowhere. The only things at the bus stop are a bench for people to sit on and a sign-post that I assume let's you know when the next bus is supposed to come by.

As I'm approaching this bus stop, I look up from my bike and see this Fabio looking guy standing there. Odd already, but it gets better. He's wearing nothing but a pair of jeans. No shirt, no shoes - no nothing. Just jeans. His body, as you can imagine, is chiseled like... well... like Fabio's. And this guy is leaning against the sign-post, with his arms crossed casually over his chest as if he were posing for a GQ photo. Keep in mind, this bus stop, as I mentioned, is in the middle of nowhere. There is absolutely nobody else around. But he's posing.

You've got to be kidding me, I thought as I got closer. Maybe this guy is a male prostitute and this is his proverbial corner where he picks up the wealthy, lonely Malibu-ettes. Interesting.

But that's not even the weird part of the story. You see, as I rode by this freak of a fella, I noticed a couple of things leaning against the bus stop bench; things that clearly belonged to him. When I saw them, I became baffled - and there were only two things. Just two things: a beach cruiser and a chainsaw.


What does somebody, much less this half-naked Fabio-looking fella, need in the middle of Malibu with a beach cruiser and a chainsaw. Beach cruiser I can understand.... but chainsaw?! Homeboy definitely ain't cutting down any forests looking like that. And while I'm at it, does he really carry the chainsaw when he's riding his beach cruiser? Isn't that dangerous? Can't you, like, lose an arm or something? Hell, I nearly fall when I reach down to grab a water bottle - and that's not even a deadly weapon.

As I saw the items, I took another quick look at Fabio in disbelief. He gave me a smirk.
I don't really need a smirk from this chap.

Needless to say, I kept on riding.

June 16, 2006

The Traffic, It Stops And Goes. Sometimes For No Reason Whatsoever

Morning Workout
1 hour 40 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1)

Afternoon / Evening Workout
30 minutes

3100 yards
Main Set: 5 x 400 yards off 20 seconds rest

1.32 miles

Random Comments: I hate traffic. With a passion. It is, without question, the single most annoying thing about Los Angeles. The fact is that the traffic doesn't stop in this city, it just varies in it's levels of absurdity. Sure it's slow going during the work week, that I can understand and effectively avoid. But what's with the bumper-to-bumper traffic every single weekend?! I mean, that's just not normal. And if that's not bad enough, there will be random days when, without warning and for no apparent reason whatsoever, traffic throughout the entire city will be at a dead standstill. It's like every single person in the city decided to drive at exactly the same precise moment. There's gotta be lottery winning odds for that one. The thing is, it happens time and again. Tonight was one of those nights.

I was supposed to meet friends for cocktails at 6:00 in Westwood. So, fresh off my abbreviated swim, I left Santa Monica at 5:45 to get to the restaurant. On any normal day, the fifteen minutes would've been more than sufficient time to make that drive. Today, however, was not any normal day. Traffic was at a complete stand-still. A ridiculous stand-still. I mean, sitting in the same place for ten minutes, not moving an inch type of stand-still. No matter which short cut I decided to take, nothing was moving. At some locations, it took me ten minutes to travel two blocks. Absurd. It makes me want to move to some remote town fifteen miles outside of Bumblef**k, Nowhere.

After over an hour of this nonsense, I was steaming. My mind was homicidal and I knew I was about to snap. Finally, 75 minutes and two miles after I started, I was still over a mile away and, following some quick calculations, I deduced that the mile would take me another 30 minutes to drive. I can't stand this, I thought. I want to kill somebody. Anybody will do.

Do I want to spend 30 minutes driving another mile? Hell no. For Godsakes, it'd be faster if I ran there.

That's about when the bells started going off in my head. And it was also about the time when I remembered that I was an Ironman athlete with a clean set of workout clothes in the trunk of my car. Within seconds I made a U-turn and jammed the car into the first parking spot I could find. I grabbed my workout clothes and did a Superman-like quick-o change-o in the front seat of my car. I shoved my dress clothes in the backpack, strapped that to my body and off I went. My fourth workout for the day.

Not but ten minutes later I was in the restaurant, a bit sweaty but much more relaxed from the run. I hopped into the men's room to change my sweaty body back into the dress clothes and just like that, I was sitting with my friends having a nice cold beer.

And somehow this all seemed normal to me.

June 14, 2006

Here's The Status Report

Morning Workout
BIKE... (on the trainer)
30 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Steady State Threshold (Zone 4)

15 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Steady State Threshold (Zone 4)

Random Comments: This morning's bike ride was pretty darn hard. As is standard, my legs got tired extremely quickly. Like usual, I was dripping sweat like a human spigot. And as is par for the course, I watched TV the entire time (the latest episode of Entourage, if you really want to know. Which, for the record, was as wonderful as always.) All in all the bike ride was pretty status quo.

Status quo.

Have you ever thought about that phrase, status quo? Or, more specifically, the word quo. Fun word, quo. I mean, I can do without status. I get a lot of status. What's the status of the project? Would you please write up a status report. Status is all over the place. It's overused, the status. But quo? Now there's a word you can wrap your arms around. It's a word you don't get to use every day. And quo is interesting. It can't really stand on it's own. It's not a loner, the quo.. To the contrary, it relies on status for it's very existence. In fact, quo owes it's life to status. Without status, there is no quo. Status is like the oxygen to quo's breathing. It is the blood that keeps quo's heart beating. Yet quo is so much more fun than status. Status is dull. Quo is exciting. Status stays home alone at night. Quo goes out on the town, rockin' it till the morning comes. Say it with me... quo. Again (and out loud this time, don't worry, nobody's listening).... quo. Quo. Isn't it great the way it takes control of your lips; the way it causes the mouth to pucker in a pre-kiss stance. Quo. Quo.

So anyway, my bike ride this morning was pretty darn hard.

June 13, 2006

Quite A Predicapickle

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

Random Comments: Here’s the problem… my body needs 8 hours of sleep. That’s just a fact. I’m much more alert and less of a jerk when I get 8 hours each night. However, I’m training so much that I have to wake up early and go to sleep late in order to cram it all in. As a result, I usually only get 6 or 7 hours of sleep each night. I’m constantly tired, continually struggling to keep up with my body's needs but never being able to reach that tryptophin-laced carrot. After a few days of this minimal sleep, I crave the Rest days – that one day of the week when there is no exercise; when I can get to sleep early and sleep on through the night. And that’s exactly where the problem lies…

Throughout the week, the training makes me tired. All of the running, biking and swimming allows me to sleep soundly at night. On the rest days when I don’t train, my body gets all confused. As a result, it becomes much harder to sleep on those night. So the one night each week that I should be able to get a good night’s sleep, is the one night that my body can’t get a good night sleep. And every week I fall further and further into the hole of sleep dep, never being able to get the rest I need.

And that, my friend, is quite a predica-pickle.

June 11, 2006

I Almost Went To Hell Today

Morning Workout
2 hours 20 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1) + Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

Afternoon Workout
1500 meters, pretty much straight through

Random Comments: I've got to admit, I had a pretty darn good run today (less the usual pain in the right calf and the ice pick that was apparently lodged in my right knee). I ran through the hills of Pennsylvania. Well, not all of the hills in Pennsylvania, just a few of them. Mostly just the ones surrounding my grandmother's house. Perhaps I'll run the rest of the Pennsylvania hills next year. But I wouldn't hold my breathe if I were you.

Speaking of holding my breathe, my sister and I went swimming at her local pool this afternoon. Specifically, her local outdoor, unheated pool in upstate New York. The ocean water in Los Angeles is about 65 degrees. This pool wasn't nearly that warm, just to put it in perspective for you. In fact, when we got there, we were the only ones in the water. There were six life guards around the pool and us - the silly people who were actually going swimming. However, truth be told, it's really the first 100 yards in that Polar Bear wonderland that has you dreaming of warm winter coats and evenings by the fire. After that, as long as you keep moving you're fine. And once the blood starts flowing, you start paying attention to your surroundings and recognizing all the creepy crawlies and hairy floaties throughout the pool. Though drowned crawlies are not uncommon for outdoor pools such as this one, it doesn't make it any less creepy when you look up and find yourself swimming right into something that at one time had the ability to fly away. Makes you just hold your breathe for an extra stroke as you try to push that dead little feller into the adjacent lane. I'll let that guy next to me deal with it.

I almost went to hell today.

I was leaving my sister's house, driving through the backroads of upstate New York. Yes, perhaps I was driving a bit too fast. I don't remember seeing a speed limit sign, but I'm fairly sure I wouldn't be within whatever number they would think to post. Truth be told, the area is chock full of beautiful windy, tree-lined roads that go on for miles with barely another car in sight. I mean, it practically begs you to speed. And how can I deny the road like that when it's practically begging.

So anyway, I'm zipping along through the turns when all of the sudden not but a few feet in front of me, out of the bushes comes a mother duck followed by, in incredibly precious single file, her seven little ducklings who may very well be the cutest things I've seen since I'd left my nieces ten minutes earlier. I inhaled immediately and held my breathe. This is going to be trouble, I thought. I was going too fast and was already far too close to stop in time. Immediately, I had visions of crushed duck sticking to the tires of this car. I was about one second away from being a duck home wrecker and there was nothing I could do.

As I approached rapidly, the mother duck sensed me and in a brilliantly instinctive reaction, flapped her wings and flew out of the way before she left her chil'in as orphans. With the mother out of the way, I was able to swerve to the right of the road, my left tire barely skimming the beaks of the newborns. I looked in my rear view mirror as I passed them by, heaving a hugh sigh of relief as I saw the seven little chickadees huddled in a big circle in the middle of the road - completely petrified from their near death experience. Then, just as quickly, the smart little feckers jumped back into their single file positions and widdle waddled themselves right off the road as their mother flew back down to join them.

I'm not sure, but as I was driving away, it sure looked like she flipped me the bird.

June 10, 2006

Lions And Tigers And Bears, Oh S**t!

Morning Workout
4 hours 40 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1) to Steady State Threshold (Zone 4) and all spots in between.

30 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

Random Comments: I could easily sit here and complain about my ride, about the headwind, the cold and the hills, about the pedals that didn't fit, the bike that didn't fit and the jacket that didn't fit. I could talk to you about how I've had enough with biking. Of how biking is my weakest sport and it's getting slower and weaker every single day. I could tell you that I hope the Ironman race comes around at least one day before I inevitably take the chainsaw to my two-wheeled nemesis. But I'm not going to talk about all of that stuff, cause, as it so happens, a bear walked in front of me during my run today. And, frankly, that's a helluva lot more interesting.

I was staying at my sisters house, just a few clicks to the west of absolutely nowhere. There's a lot of woods and open land here. In fact, we saw quite the variety of wildlife on our ride: deer, pheasant, cows, horses... there may even have been a turduckin or two in there as well, I'm not quite sure. But once you see a bear, the rest of the wildlife means nothing.

I was 20 minutes into what was only a 30 minute run, zipping along and feeling pretty darn good when all of the sudden the bear walked right out into the road, not but 30 feet in front of me. As you can imagine, I stopped pretty quickly and pretty quietly and started backing up with the hope that he wouldn't turn around and do something stupid. Like eat me. Or tear off my arm.

There was only one way back to my sister's place and the bear happened to be right in the middle of me and the finish line. So I waited for him to get off the road. And I waited some more. But he didn't move. He just roamed around on the side there, playing in the weeds and overgrown grass. I started whistling and yelling to let him know I was around - mostly cause I remember reading this in some book about "things you should do in order to avoid getting eaten by bears". He looked at me, the bear did, but he didn't move. Mental note, write to the author of that book and tell him his technique doesn't work.

As I stood there trying to think of a new angle to get past this bear, he disappeared behind a tree and out of my site. I inched closer, looking for him behind that tree to see if it was safe for me to pass or if he were merely waiting to pounce. I expected to see nothing as much as I expected him to be preparing his dental floss. Fortunately, I saw nothing. Closer and closer I came and still, nothing. Finally, when I was just about at the tree, I decided it was safe to start running, so I did. A few steps into my re-start, I glanced to my left only to see my new friend, the bear, this time about 100 feet away from me, galloping along at my same pace.

Needless to say, I picked up my pace and I did it fast. The bear headed off into the woods and I finished those last 10 mintues of my run in about 7 minutes.

You can call me Grizzlyman if you want. That'd be OK.

June 09, 2006

It Was A Cold And Rainy Night

Well, my relaxing rest week is over. It's 10:15 pm right now and I am going to wake up in 7 hours and embark on what is supposed to be a 6 hour ride and 30 minute run. Of course, it's supposed to rain tomorrow which is a fine how-dee-doo for my re-entry into the training world. Fortunately I have a great rain jacket that keeps me dry when I bike. Unfortunately, I left that jacket in California, 3000 miles away from where I'll be riding. Oh, and I just checked the weather - it's supposed to be 53 degrees in the morning. It should go without saying that I forgot to bring armies or any type of long sleeve jersey. That'll smart.

So this oughta be fun.
Perhaps I'll ride directly to the hospital in the morning, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars.

I wonder if I can call in advance and pre-order my pneumonia medicine.

Star Spotting Of The Day (specifically, yesterday): Mike White, who, believe it or not, I recognized as the actor from Chuck & Buck. When I looked into him a bit further, I realized he is oh so much more - like, for instance, the writer of that indie masterpiece and the guy who wrote such other classics as The School Of Rock, The Good Girl (with Jennifer Aniston) and Nacho Libre, not to mention some scribbling for Dawsons Creek, which come to think of it, I kinda wish I didn't mention.

Location: Walking down San Vicente Blvd in Brentwood with his dog

What He Was Doing: Walking down San Vicente Blvd in Brentwood with his dog

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Airport

Morning Workout
3100 meters, 3000 of which were done without stopping

Random Comments: As you know, I’ve been smack dab in the middle of the Suck phase of training. My bike rides have been horrendous and my runs have been painfully mediocre. As a result, I decided to play the sane card and take the rest of the week off from training. And when I say “take the week off” I mean it in the most triathlete-esque way. Which is to say that I’ve been working out for about one hour each day, an amount most normal people would consider pretty darn active, and one most triathletes consider just short of Crazy Glued to the couch with an IV of Pabst Blue Ribbon dripping into your veins and a continuous drizzle of potato chip crumbs dropping from your unshaven face. Not wanting to spend too much time on the bike during these so-called relaxing days, I’ve found myself splashing around in the pool a bit more than expected. And, slap-me-across-the-face-and-call-me-Mary, but all the swims I’ve been having this week have been pretty darn good. Or, as I like to say, they’re as good as swimming gets for me. Take today’s 3000 meters, for instance (which only got bumped up from my planned 2000 meters because Cat said she was going to swim 3000 and, well, that kinda motivated me). As you can imagine, swimming that long in a pool can get pretty challenging. In a nutshell, it’s hellishly boring. And the thing is, there isn’t even that much time to let your mind wander into nothingness, because you’ve got to keep counting your laps. If your mind wanders you lose count, and if you lose count, you have to go back to the last lap number you remember finishing, and when you do that you usually end up swimming a lot more laps than you are supposed to – or want to, for that matter – and your finishing time doesn’t reflect how fast it really takes you to swim 3000 meters in the first place. But today, my friend, everything was good. Consistently, unflailingly good. I like that in a workout. Dare I say, but perhaps I'm finally leaving the Suck phase...

Cat’s car has been rattling something fierce for the past few months. It seems to have been coming from the rear of the car but I haven’t been able to figure out the exact location. I’ve looked under the car a few times to examine it all because, well, I’m a man and that’s what we do. But, understanding that I barely know the difference between a distributor cap and a gas cap, my under-car kanoodling simply resulted in a few random harrumphs and mumblings. You definitely need to bring it in and get it checked out, I’d say in a definitive way, knowing very well that I could’ve said the same words with the same authority without having to first lay down on the dirty road and suck in the car’s exhaust.

Can you help me bring it in tomorrow? Cat would ask me
Tomorrows no good, I’d say. I’ve got a day of meetings. How about the next day?
Can’t do it then, she’d shake her head. Not enough time.
And so it would go, rattling on until we found ourselves right here, months later and nothing fixed.

I’m flying to New York today. In fact, I’m on the plane as I type this. Cat tried to drive me to the airport but that didn’t seem to work out so well. We hadn’t gotten but a few miles on our way when the normal rattling in Cat’s car suddenly escalated to an obscene clanking. Either somebody quickly tied a bunch of “Just Married” cans to the back of the car or we’re in deep trouble, I thought to myself. I looked back. Nope, no “Just Married” cans. We’re in trouble.

Has this crazy rattling been happening for long? I asked.
No, she said tensely. It just started right now.
Ah, that’s not good. Why don’t we pull to the side of the road and I’ll take a look, I said in my very manly way as I pointed towards the closest curb.

As she pulled to a stop I got out of the car and assumed my usual macho position, laying flat on my back under the tail of the automobile, gazing incredulously at the back of the wheel and all the rusted out parts under there. Nothing looked out of the ordinary to me. That is to say, I didn’t see any big arrows with flashing neon lights saying something like This Part Is Broken, Don’t Drive Any Further.

I got back in the car, harrumphed and mumbled. I couldn’t see anything, I said, why don’t we try driving slowly.

Not but a few feet down the road the rattling started again. After some quick thinking, we decided to take my car instead. Cat turned the rattling auto around and we started driving very slowly back to my place. I looked out the sideview mirror as we drove, nervous about that shaking, hoping I could sense anything happening back there. Lo and behold, I did. The rear tire was wobbling madly like a spinning plate on a bamboo stick that’s about to crash to the floor in a million little pieces (I just plagiarized those last four words from James Frey. That’ll show him, the little such and such)

Holy shit! I said staring more closely at the wheel gone wild.

It was about that time that I heard a very large CLANK! RATTLERATTLE and gazed behind the car to see a fairly significant looking bolt fall out and bounce it’s way down the street.

Uh, honey… why don’t we pull over. A big bolt just fell out from the car and that’s probably not that good.

I got out of the car and ran back down the road to pick up the bolt. After all, I thought, maybe I can jam it back into place and then, well, the car would be all nice and fine. I’d be the brilliant macho mechanic and we can drive calmly to the airport. Problem solved.

Unfortunately life is not that easy. I grabbed the bolt, then lay back down in my usual position underneath the back of the car. I gazed around looking for answers. The flashing neon sign was still not there but, almost by accident, I found out where the bolt had fallen from. It’s called the suspension. Now, thanks to my superior mechanical genius, I realized that this 3 inch bolt which fell off the car would probably create a lot safer ride if it were back in the car. In fact, it appears that the bolt was holding the rear wheel together. Through a very intricate process of deduction that could only be accurately explained to similarly mechanically inclined people as myself, I’d realized that it’s probably not good to drive this car any further. I climbed out from under the car and with nary a harrumph or mumble, heroically said, It’s not looking good, honey. The bolt fell from the thingy and it looks pretty serious. You need to get the car to your mechanic.

So as Cat called AAA to get her car towed, I pulled my suitcase out of the car and dragged it down the road to the closest hotel where I hopped in a taxi and high-tailed it to the airport.

I thank the Lord herself that Cat wasn’t driving down the highway when this happened. But fortunately, due to my unprecedented automotive know-how, I saved my girlfriends life. And now all is back to normal in Metropolis.

I guess now I’ll have to come up with a good superhero name for myself... Hmmm, Automaton. I like that one. Is that taken?

June 06, 2006

Now Entering The Suck Stage

Morning Workout
54 steps
Heart Rate Zone: Beating. But barely.

Main Set: 20 x 100 yards with 5-10 seconds rest in between, if you want to call that rest. I don't really think 5 seconds qualifies as "rest" but...whatever.

Random Comments: There are different stages in training. There's the Base Building stage, the Strength stage, the Speed stage, and on it goes. Right now I'm in the Suck stage. It's called the Suck stage for a couple of reasons. First, because there is so much high intensity exercise that it sucks the energy right out of you and doesn't bother to ever let you rest long enough to get it back. The second reason it's called the Suck stage is because, clearly, it sucks.

I went for an 85 mile ride this weekend with just short of 4000 feet of climbing. I was tired at the end. The funny thing is, though, that I couldn't get my heartrate beyond Aerobic - my legs wouldn't allow me too, even while trudging up that 7 mile hill. Then on Monday I went for what was supposed to be an hour long, very high intensity ride. Once again, my legs didn't really bother to show up. They could push my heart rate to Aerobic levels, but that's about the limit of what they would do. After that weak effort, they seem to just go on strike, holding up picket signs and chanting silly phrases like "hell no, we won't go" and "no more bikey, we don't likey". And they do it all in two-part harmony, which gets me even more riled up. My legs, it seems, are unionizing and, completely candid, I run a strictly non-union body. Clearly we've got problems.

It was all capped off with the disagreement the legs and I had this morning on my 54 step run. When I started the run, I had every intention of going much further than 54 steps. In fact, I had 90 minutes lodged into my mind. I kept this as a surprise to the legs, for fear of some sort of retaliation - a coup d'limb, if you will. Apparently, though, they've got an inside man on the job, because they found out my plans pretty darn quickly. The crumple-inducing leg cramp hit at step 48. I stopped and stretched, determined to not let them ruin my run. Then I took a big deep breath and began running again. That lasted a whopping 6 steps before the "holy shit this hurts" cramp came back again. Enough. Enough, already.

I gave in.
It's time to go to the negotiating table.

And that's what I'm doing this week, negotiating. Better yet, I'm holding out until they decide to work harder. Clearly my body is too tired, I don't have the energy to push myself forward. So this week, I sleep. And I wait. I wait until the legs are refreshed and ready to begin doing some work for me for a change. Cause I know, eventually this isn't gonna Suck anymore.

And then I'll show them who's boss.

June 03, 2006

The Creepy-Crawly Heebie-Jeebie Malibu Bike Ride Blues

Morning Workout
5 hours 41 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1). It was supposed to be Lactate Threshold (Zone 2), according to the Grand Plan but, alas, the legs just didn't want to move today. In fact, the whole ride was frustrating for a variety of reasons that I won't get into right now.

31 minutes and 47 seconds of unbridled excitement that I was finally off the damn bike
Heart Rate Zone: Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

Random Comments: There must've been a bug and snake convention in Malibu today because they were out in full force. Or maybe it was just the unbridled heat. Either way, it was a creepy crawly ride. It started about 1 hour in when we passed what looked eerily like a California Kingsnake just sunning himself right there on the side of the road. I nearly ran over the little fecker. Cat didn't notice him. But that would come back to haunt her later. Specifically, the haunting occured at about 3 hours into our ride. A three foot rattler was coiled up in the middle of the road, just about striking distance from Cat as she approached on her bike. She got freaked out a little. However, that "a little" turned into "freaked out a lot" when, as she got next to the mammoth-like snake, a fella on his motorcycle came blasting by. In a sudden echoing - CRUNCH! SPLAT! - he ran right smack-dab, point blank over that snake. Though I was too far back to witness it, it soon became clear that Cat has become permanently scarred from that sound, as images of projectile snake blood flooded her mind. Meanwhile, back where I was riding, some bubba-looking fellow stopped his white pick-up truck in the middle of the road, got out of the cab, walked over and picked up the run-over snake (which, for the record, was still moving). Holding the three foot rattling rattler in one hand, he climbed back into his truck and began driving, one-handed, off to someplace to do something that I'd rather not know about.

Those were the snakes. Now let's talk about the bugs.

There was the mosquito-like insect that flew into my mouth and got crushed into the Powerbar that I was chewing and was too tired and too hungry to spit out. Then there were the bugs that got lodged into Cat's gum (which she is usually chomping on as she rides and isn't going to let some imbedded bugs make her dispose of it). And of course there was the little fella that came buzzing out of nowhere and got so lodged between my lip and teeth that I had to literally reach up and slap it out. And supposedly there were four or five little black demons that kept circling my head in PigPen like fashion as I rode frustratingly up the canyon. I'm not sure if it was two of those little demons that got crushed on my glasses as we descended the white knuckle drop to the bottom. But it was definitely quite a few of their friends that ended their lives caught in the brambles of my forearm hair, forcing me to pick them out during our refueling stop. May they all rest in peace.

I suppose this one goes out to all the insects I've killed before.