Like any sane person I hate the early-morning workout. Until it's done. Then it's the best god-damned thing in the world. There's nothing like being all showered and shaved and sitting down to a fine fresh cup of coffee in the sunroom at 7:30 a.m. with a workout in the books. That's what I tell myself when NPR cozies up to me at 5 a.m. with the headlines. I tell myself, "Do it for that precious moment at 7:30, Pete. With the coffee. You know what I'm talking about." By the way—and this morning I told this to my friend Dan, who works for the public radio operation in the Bay Area, and it pains me to repeat it—but it might be time for Carl Kasell to hang it up. There's just something too unsettling about an old guy (Carl turns 75 on Thursday this week) flubbing up the newscast. An old guy doesn't glide through an error; he becomes engulfed by confusion and desperation. Listeners pick up on this. I do, and it degrades my morning. Why do I want to keep listening to a broadcast that is painful? Sure, if I were a better person I'd embrace Carl's age-encouraged imperfection, but I'm not, there you go. I say give us Shay Stevens in the morning. That's a voice a guy can get up to.
Now, the workout: 25 miles on the bike in the morning, a nice steady climb, nothing too taxing, a good sweat, done. Then later in the day, it was to the pool I went. First I did 10x100, with each 100 coming in around 1:40 and the next one starting on the 2:15. Yes, that's a lot of rest. Then I swam a straight 1000, followed by a couple of hundred yards to cool down.
I'm getting excited about doing the Race for the Roses half marathon this coming Sunday. I like this race because it all happens just a couple of public-transit miles from my house, so I can easily pick up my packet the day before, then on race morning zip on over on Max, arriving a half-hour before the start, warm up, and run. Also, the course through and around downtown PDX is interesting enough, with a long gentle climb in the early going, then a long gentle decline, followed by lots of flats with a ridiculously steep 50-foot gain to get onto the Steel Bridge and over the Willamette right before the finish. Last year I ran this race in 1:31:49, a PR. I wonder if I can beat that this year? I'd like to try. I'm not going to taper for it—there will still be long rides and runs, and hard rides and swims this week—but I will rearrange things a bit to try to be a little fresher come Sunday morning. Which is what led me to doing my high-intensity run—Yasso 800s—tonight instead of Thursday. Now I'll do my long bike ride Thursday evening instead of Saturday morning.
Yasso 800s? Oh, the runners out there know all about these. Bart Yasso is the guy they're named after. He noticed that the hours and minutes of his marathon time consistently coincided with the minutes and seconds of his 10x800 intervals. That is to say, he knew he could run a 2:40 marathon if he could run 800 meters in 2 minutes and 40 seconds 10 times with 2:40 seconds of restful jogging between each 800. Now, the part about this tidy story that a lot of people don't want to think about so much is that Yasso himself emphasizes the relationship only holds if you do all the other customary marathon prep—especially those weekly long runs (working into the 18-22 mile range).
Anyway, I did eight 800s at 3:12, on grass, with some very tight turns and a couple of tiny but vicious little climbs. I probably could have gutted out two more, but it would have taken more out of me at this point than needs to be taken out. Still nearly three months until the real race.
Today I did my every-other-week 2000-yard time trial, not all-out, but looking to maintain a steady pace. My 100s were all in the 1:53-1:55 range, which is pretty good for me. I felt like I was getting decent extension on the left side, where I tend to shorten up. Elbows seemed to be staying high, too. Of course, it's difficult to say with certainty what was going on, although I did have Coach Niko in the house. For a dollar he timed my splits and afterward offered feedback: (1) "Hmm, I don't know if your kick was weak, because I don't know what a kick is supposed to look like, but you definitely had a lot less turbulence than other people; (2) "No, your butt wasn't up above the water. Maybe a tiny, tiny bit a few times, but mostly it was underneath the water. But not very far. Just, like, maybe an inch." I had asked him about my kick because it's always sucked. I really have no idea how to kick, when to kick, or even if I need to kick. I've heard a few triathlon expert-types say your swim kick is the last thing you need to worry about, yet at the pool I see lots of swimmers kicking back and forth endlessly, often with flippers. And as for the butt, this is a key to better swimming, of course, reducing drag, and it's a challenge for me. I work hard at it but fear that in part I'm fighting nature. The great swimmers I knew in college had, like, no hips, very little ass and skinny legs. Me, I'm thickly muscled in the thighs and buttocks (well, I am, it's just true). I don't think my stuff floats so well.
Lastly, a fellow CDA blogger had asked about lane etiquette awhile back and I offered my two cents. My main point was that I'm not fond of the practice of asking to share a lane but I believe strongly that when you jump in a lane you are obliged to inform the present occupant(s) of your presence—and why not do so with a pleasant greeting, to set a friendly tone? So a couple of days ago I'm swimming alone in a lane, down the middle, and suddenly my left hand whacks into something. I stop and look up and it's this, like, 40-pound tyke of a girl in white-rimmed goggles and a pink bathing suit. I ask the kid if she's all right and she says, "Uh-huh." And off she went, butterflying. She was maybe 8 years old, so I didn't lecture her. Plus, she did take a whack to the noggin from me, so that was probably enough. Then today, I'm the first one in the pool, me in my lane and five empty ones around me. Gradually I notice swimmers in the lanes around me. Then suddenly, as I turn to breathe, a tsunami washes over me, sending a pint of Dishman's best down my windpipe, and some oil tanker of a dude continues by in my lane. He hadn't announced himself. So I guess anything goes, in fact.
With Niko home for spring break and Portland’s typically crappy springtime weather and my wimpiness in the face of it, it’s been all trainer recently (all year, really). But as I’ve said before, thanks to the Computrainer this is OK and, indeed, I'm confident I'm in better biking shape than ever at this point in the season. The big difference between the Computrainer and a mere trainer is in using the machine to motivate me to put in good work. There have been very few empty hours on the trainer for me this year. Today, I drafted off Robo Rider for the first couple of miles, then busted ahead of him and went at the course at a steady 80 RPM and 200+ watts. For the last 10 of the 30 miles, I cranked it up, staying around 240 watts and higher. I stayed focused on spinning smooth, powerful, fast circles. I was intent on finishing a mile ahead of Robo Rider. My legs were very tired toward the end, and there was a big pool of sweat on the mat beneath me, but I had indeed humiliated RR. That was a well-spent 90 minutes. (And no, you are not invited to critique my position. This isn’t Slowtwitch!)
Took the day off from work today, so I had to go big, with two workouts. That is, two movies with the Lad on Spring Break. Started off with 90 minutes of Monsters vs. Aliens, and even though it was 3D and there were explosions, wreckage and mayhem, this movie did not elevate my heart rate. Niko seemed pretty calm, too, as did most of the kids in the theater. (It was a competently done movie, no real complaints, but it seemed kind of paint-by-numbers and emotionally distant. Our Oregonian reviewer who (quite reasonably) hates everything mainstream gave it a B+, a rave by his standards, but it was nowhere near in the same league as recent animated greats like Wall-E or Ratatouille.) Later, we took on Madagascar 2. I might have gotten to Z2 here; it had more fun than Monsters vs. Aliens, which wanted to have fun but didn't. Niko, meanwhile, was in an uproar frequently, especially at the plane scenes. Those wacky penguins. In between the movies, there was some yard work—finally pruned the roses and cleaned up some plants that never got cut back during the winter. Daffodils are out in force in the front yard, suggesting spring. And indeed, it is spring in Portland: the forecast is for low- to mid-50s and showers for much of the weekend. I'll probably hit the trainer for a few hours—which is what I did today, somewhere in the cracks between all the aforementioned—and also get in a swim. There might be more movies, too, I suspect.
See yesterday's post for Part I
We weren't triathletes, we were a couple of gung-ho guys turning 40. If we were going to do a triathlon, of course we'd set out to do an Ironman. As with most non-triathletes, Ironman and triathlon were virtually interchangeable to us. Anyway, we had more than six months to prepare for the race—in the mountains of eastern France, in late June 2002—which seemed to be plenty of time.
I had a couple of mountain bikes and all those years' experience riding them—years ago. I had done a few 10Ks (slowly). I knew how to swim only in the sense that I would not drown soon if thrown overboard. I didn't consider these facts strong indicators of likely success, but neither was I fazed by them. The mindset was that we weren't exactly going to get into shape to do Ironman, we were simply going to get into good enough shape to gut out a brutal, just under the 17-hour wire, heroic race.
I started running, mostly—doing the thing I was already OK at, a common triathlete's predilection. Eventually I began riding my mountain bike, then got a trainer, then my Lemond Buenos Aires, a delightful steel bike that I continue to enjoy riding on "non-training" excursions. Swimming was my biggest challenge. Not only did I suck at it, but there was all manner of bureaucracy attached to it: finding a decent pool, getting there several times a week, being slower than 7-year-old girls. As I wrote in passing earlier this year, a Christmas gift certificate to the gym from my then-wife made all the difference. It was for a massage at the gym, but I needed to swim more than I needed to get a massage, and I needed to use the gift certificate—it would have been ungracious not to, and I wanted to—so off to the gym I went. I could barely swim a 50-yard lap. It took a few weeks to get to 500 yards.
I was fortunate to be working for a prince of a boss, Paul Wagner at Balzac Communications, and the then-wife was consistently gracious about me taking time to get in my workouts. Mostly, though, I did them apart from family time: swims were at lunch, runs were in the morning while everyone was still asleep and bike rides most often were on the trainer, in the garage, after everyone had gone to bed. (I wasn't sleeping much.)
But I was really enjoying triathlon. After a few months of running, biking and swimming my body was different and that was great. What I was especially fascinated by, however, was the vast world of triathlon knowledge and experience of which I had none. As many hours as I spent training I matched reading triathlon forums and blogs, as well as books and magazines. I remember reading Gordo, Gordon Byrn, who, among other things, said it takes years to develop a training base for going long. Well, yeah, I thought: If you want to live some kind of triathlon lifestyle, sure, that makes sense. But that wasn't what we were about. We were just on a crazy, one-time, "We're 40!" adventure. Right?
Part III in a couple of days.
Today's workouts: Spring break week and the pool was a zoo. At one point, there were five people in my lane swimming circle. I lasted 45 minutes, swimming a bit over 2000 yards. This came right after a one-hour, easy hill run at Tabor. I'll be complaining about Portland's crappy cloudy moldy spring weather before long no doubt, so I better give the city props for today's nice day. Nice by Portland standards, of course: A little sun, some clouds, calm, temps in the mid- to high-50s.
The first thought of doing a triathlon came in an email dialog with a friend of mine, Steve, who was living overseas. It was late in 2001 and in the following year both of us would turn 40. We weren't exactly looking for a way to mark this passage; rather, turning 40 was both motivator and excuse to think about something big or meaningful—or both. This was a compulsion that ran deep in Steve. I shared it, I guess, though prudence or maybe fear tended to temper my pursuits and I usually went along with the craziness rather than led it. For example, in college, Steve was in charge and I was a key player as a small cadre of us righteously dedicated to an immature but not unimpressive idea of journalism unsullied by politics broke away from the campus daily to start a competing newspaper.
Well, as we nudged 40, that glorious short-lived failure was well faded, of course, and many less ancient thrusts at Good Work That Mattered—this was what we really cherished—had likewise come and gone in the way they do in most lives.
We were both athletically inclined guys—Steve was a swimmer in high school, still swam from time to time, and loved to play pickup basketball, and I had spent much of my free time during the dozen years preceding my son's birth in 1999 mountain biking trails all over the West. Yes, that is how old I am: I began mountain biking in the days when no-suspension wasn't retro, it's just what was. Heavy steal frames, toe clips ... Ned Overend, you are still my hero! I raced a lot, in the NORBA Sport class, always cross-country, usually finishing in the upper half of my age group. There were some freaking epic rides and races along the way and I was ridiculously casual about taking on danger. I remember clocking 50 mph down a hard, deeply rutted dirt road in Riverside. Honestly, I doubt I'd crack 35 down it now. And often I'd go off into the backcountry by myself, deep into the woods, utterly unprepared for mechanical failure, injury or losing my bearings. I saw a grizzly bear in British Columbia. I came an inch or two from bouncing down a canyon wall and into the great beyond while riding a trail on a sheer precipice outside Moab. That was one of many pilgrimages to Moab. I did a hut-to-hut ride from Telluride to Moab solo. For a while, that experience loosened my grip on sanity. There were also a few 10ks and off-road duathlons along the way. I loved it all, loved challenging myself, loved competition, and being outside and feeling and appearing fit.
In September 1999, Niko was born. Looking back, it seems it should have been possible to work some exercise into the world-upending reality of having a newborn, but it didn't happen. Then three months after the blessed event we moved 400 miles and I started a new job. Having reached new heights of frazzlement, fitness disappeared. In your 20s you can get away with the Homer lifestyle, but not when you creep toward 40. I grew … not fat, exactly, but definitely soft. Instead of 172, I was 185. I couldn't fit into 33 jeans anymore. Once in a while I'd get out and run, like, three miles really slowly, which was just enough to remind me of how out of shape I was. And that was how things stood when this talk of triathlon came up.
Today's workout: Brutal intervals on the bike. Thirty seconds as hard as I could go—cranking it up toward 600 watts—followed by a minute of restful spinning. Times 15. They really weren't that bad until, like, the last … 12 of them.
This morning I did the most pointless (least pointful?) workout in the history of multisport. I got up at 5:30 intent on spending 90 minutes on the bike. And spend 90 minutes on the bike I did. Luckily, I didn't wear a heart rate monitor so there's no official record of the cycling atrocity I committed. The first 15 minutes, in the no-coffee fog, with wretched CNBC/Bloomberg/MSNBC/CNN/Fox stupidity assaulting me (why I went the TV route, I know not), were done at, like, 60 rpm in a very easy gear. I might have been generating 75 watts. Think, 11 miles per hour on flat ground. Then I cranked it up to 125 watts and finally, at the 45-minute mark—halfway into the alleged "ride"—I dialed up to 150 watts. There I stayed the rest of the way. I can't imagine that ride did anything to enhance my fitness. I don't even think it served "recovery" purposes. Probably, if I had slept another 90 minutes, I would have been better off. Doh! Meanwhile, yes, that is a cat picture.
The most psychologically daunting multiloop race I ever did was the 50-miler at Champoeg in October 2007, my first 50-miler. That was 10 times around a five-mile loop, and at the halfway point the knowledge that I had almost run a marathon but still had to go around the course five more times staggered my spirit. Not nearly as far but nearly as bad was the 10k I did on the track a couple of summers ago, essentially as a solo time trial: each of those 25 laps at high effort sure felt like a lot longer than 400 meters.
Today I ran a loop 20 times and the hardest part was making sure to avoid a pile of dog crap that was right in my path. This was at Normandale Park, where I can run the perimeter on mostly grass and soft dirt, with just five or six steps on asphalt where I cross walking paths. My plan—a shift from last night’s assertion that I would run for 90 minutes—was to run just an hour, then head to the pool ahead of the masses and have a relatively comfortable swim. Once I got started, however, it just felt like a day to run long. My legs were good, the day was fine, raining in that way it does in Portland, nonstop, but almost not at all. And though I’ve mostly resisted the urge during this Ironman Coeur d’Alene training season, it never takes too much rationalizing for me to extend a run and shitcan a swim.
So around and around I went. Each lap is .68 miles. I started slow, around 9:15 pace, then worked toward an 8-minute pace as I loosened up and fell into a rhythm. The last mile was done in 7:40, but was still nice and easy; I never felt stressed. Well, actually, there was one time when my stress level rose. That came when I lost track of whether I had safely made it past the pile of dog crap. Nearly every lap I had been prepared and on the lookout as I headed down the long stretch of grass upon which it sat. But on one lap my mind wandered. When I realized my peril, I freaked a bit, shooting my gaze downward and jumping into the air as I ran. Had I stepped in it? Where was it? How could I put myself in such danger?
I wasn’t going to stop and check my shoes. I figured, if I had stepped in it, I would soon enough pick up the odor while continuing my run. Still, it was comforting to see the pooch's work architecturally sound the next time I came around that stretch.
The 20 laps, plus the distance to and from the park and a little addendum, gave me 15 miles for the day. It was good.
This was the first Saturday morning of the run-up to Coeur d'Alene without a workout. That's because I was out planting trees, which was totally fun. In all, 186 trees were planted in three neighborhoods on the east side of Portland, 10 by our crew, including an akane apple in front of our house here on Hoyt Street. The young fella may not yield much fruit this first year, but we're looking forward to harvesting some delicious apples every September.
Later in the afternoon, I got on the trainer and rode steady for about 22 miles (an hour and 20 minutes). Then after a brief bathroom break, I got back on and did a series of hard efforts separated by one minute of easy pedaling: 5 minutes, then 6 minutes, and 7, and 8, then 5, 6 and 7 again. This added another 18 miles to the total, giving my 40 for the day. Tomorrow it's a morning run (90 minutes) followed by an hour in the pool.
200 yard warm-up.
10x100 in 1:40 with a :30 rest interval
5x200 in 3:40 with a :30 second rest interval
200 yard cool-down.
70 minutes at 8:15 pace, all on pavement. Note: Sticking with the racing flats, on my wacky podiatrist's recommendation, and the Achilles and joints and everything all felt great.
Tree planting in North Tabor with Friends of Trees.
Today started early, before it was light, with a rare early morning run. I say rare because my old joints don't take well to rolling out of bed and hitting the road. Almost always, if I'm doing something in the morning it's a ride, though I have been toying with the idea of predawn swimming. I am confident I will continue to toy with that idea.
I figured an early run would be OK on my legs today because it was a slow run. Ten slow miles. I've gotten the slow-run religion. For a long time, I had a hard time with this concept. I'd go out intending to run 9-minute miles, but before long they were 8:30 miles, then I was headed toward 8 minutes, then I was finishing hard at 7:30 and the whole thing added up to 8-minute miles. Probably three-quarters of my runs were doing sub-8 minute miles, which was OK, but didn't leave a lot of room for high-quality variety. I was usually just a little too tired. Anyway, today I ran 9:30 miles. Each and every one was 9:30. It took a long time to do 10 miles as that snail's pace, but it was good. I did loops at Normandale because I wanted to run on grass and I wanted to run flat. It was a lot of loops, 14 of 'em, but each one was a little different from the one that came before it as dawn broke and the city came alive. The park gradually went from dark, quiet and desolate to daylight, with noise from the of rush-hour traffic on the bordering thoroughfare NE Halsey Street, and dog owners bringing their pooches for play and workers at the nearby businesses parking alongside the park and heading into work.
That was the morning.
In the evening, I got on the bike. I decided to ride hard for an hour. I wasn't exactly trying to ride absolutely as far as I could in and hour, though I would like to try that sometime. Really, I just wanted to ride somewhere over 20 miles on a course that climbed very mildly and gradually from zero feet elevation to about 500 feet over the 20 miles. I ended up doing 21.2 miles and the last half was pretty tough. I rode hard. Easy run, hard ride.
Later, I cracked open a 2005 Argyle Pinot Noir Spirithouse. Rollin, my man: Brilliant stuff. Beautiful. It might be even better three or four years from now, too.
I had vowed that Coeur d’Alene this year would be my last official Ironman, that henceforth any iron-distance racing would be in lower-profile, lower-key and lower-cost races. But on May 1, 2010, there will be an Ironman in St. George, Utah. St. George, Utah! I love that part of the world, pine for it. I yearn for it. (Do you ever yearn?) When I lived in Riverside, St. George was just five or six hours away, over the Cajon Pass, through the Mojave, on by Vegas and into the red-rock country of southern Utah. Zion, Bryce, wacky Pah Tempe Hot Springs (now closed) on the Virgin River ... powerful memories. Should I do it? Tough, tough call. What I’m most apprehensive about, actually, is that the race is so early in the year. For a May 1 Ironman, your big training has to be in the books by early April. That means February and March are the long-ride months. I like the trainer fine, but six-hour trainer rides every weekend? Mercy.
Maybe by the time I wake up tomorrow morning the race will be sold out. Let’s hope so. Otherwise, I’m liable to sign up for the damn thing.
You wanna know how it went? I overslept and had to trim my ride to 20 miles when 40 was on the plan. Then the swim got waylaid by work. (You see, there’s this window of opportunity just after the lunch hour when I can get to the pool, swim and make it back home without missing a work beat. That window closes and everything goes to hell—too few lanes at the pool, freeway traffic, blah, blah, blah. Then the run ... oh, I don’t even want to get into it. It just all fell apart. It all sucked. And isn’t it funny, in an utterly not funny way, that characteristically I responded to this grand unraveling by wandering to the kitchen and snacking every 45 minutes, from the moment I got off the bike to the moment the workday ended? Thus, I was able to transform my day of ineffective training into a complete disaster. And that, friends, is called gettin’ it done.
What a sneaky day. Blowing and spitting one minute, bright sunshine another. I was lured out of my plan to do a swim by one of the sunny episodes, and by the time I hit the road it was hurricane time again. Then bright and calm. And so on. Fine by me. I put in a solid hour and 45 minutes, mostly on the trails at Tabor, and now move this run up to the top spot on my Enjoyable Jaunts list. Best part was this one downhill that is super-soft with mulch, so even when it’s soaked it’s not muddy; easy on the joints and not too treacherous. I took this plunge three or four times as I snaked around the old volcano, but the first time was the keeper. Just as I arrived the winds kicked up and were roaring through the Doug firs that line the broad gully the trail follows. I briefly unhooked myself from the Ipod music lifeline to take in the full experience; it was like being at sea. A small, needly branch drifted down right in front of me. Rain splattered through the canopy. All very dramatic. I was thinking I’d run 75 minutes, but this scene fired me up and I stuck around for more. Actually, I probably would have gone well past the two-hour mark had I not been having problems with my left shoe's insole. The thing kept sliding back in my shoe, leaving the metatarsal pad directly in the middle of my arch, instead of butting up against the ball of my foot. I stopped to fix it a few times, but it would just slide right back on the downhills. Damn you to hell, blasted insole! After I finish this post I’m going to glue it in place, teach it a lesson, un-huh.
I dragged the kid to the pool for my swim today, with the promise that we'd head over to the movies directly afterward to sample some locally produced fare, Coraline. I didn't want to keep him there forever, so I did a simple straight swim, aiming to do 2000 yards at a nice even pace, one minute per 50-yard lap. The kid offered to keep splits, which I find distracting to do myself while swimming. It was nice to have a little data. So the first list here is just that, my lap splits, five laps per line. I ended up doing 42 laps, 2100 yards, slow and pretty steady.
51.65, 58.38, 59.62, 1:00.68, 59.44
59.88, 59.87, 59.50, 59.83, 59.24
1:00.12, 1:01.01, 58.93, 1:00.06, 59.77
1:00.29, 59.44, 57.69, 58.56, 59.45
1:00.00, 1:00.93, 1:00.56, 58.75, 1:00.00
57.94, 57.63, 59.43, 58.12, 57.94
1:00.06, 58.40, 57.85, 59.95, 59.62
1:00.50, 1:00.91, 1:00.74 1:00.39, 1:01.31
Later, after the movie, we hit TJ's for provisions. We do other shopping, day-to-day, but TJ's is our "big shopping" each week. Here's what we got this week:
Organic spring salad $1.99
Organic spinach $1.99
Organic spinach $1.99
Organic spinach $1.99
Tahini sauce $2.49
Sweet Italian chicken sausage $3.99
Sweet apple chicken sausage $3.99
Blueberries wild organic $2.69
Pizza dough whole wheat $1.29
Blueberries wild organic $2.69
Sliced turkey low sodium $4.79
Sliced turkey low sodium $4.79
Meatless bkfst patties $2.69
Yellow orange bell peppers $3.49
Sliced black forest ham $3.49
Meat turkey kosher Empire ground $4.99
Meatless bkfst patties $2.69
Lasagna rst veg multi grain $5.49
Tarte d'Alsace lorraine w/ham $4.39
Tomato & spinach pizza $4.29
Omega seed bread $3.49
Eggs omega plus large AA $2.99
Red bell peppers $2..49
Red/yellow/orange bell peppers $3.69
Bananas 6 @ 0.29 $1.74
Dutch yellow potatoes $2.49
Medjool dates $3.69
Choc bar org x dark w/almonds $1.99
TJ's organic dark truffle bar $1.99
Orangic tomato paste $.89
Almonds reduced salt $4.69
TJ's honey wheat pretzel stick $1.69
Super nutty toffee clusters granola $4.29
Bev almond organic vanilla $1.69
Bev almond organic vanilla $1.69
Pacific organic original almond $1.69
Fish tuna in olive oil genoa $1.99
Sunflower seed nut butter $3.99
Oil olive evoo Spanish 1 liter $7.49
Warre's Altano Duoro red wine $7.99
La Ferme Julien Blanc $5.99
Is it wrong to enjoy riding on the trainer? I hear everyone despise the trainer, mock it, damn it to hell. Sure, I love long rides on quiet country roads on sunny days (and moonlit walks on the beach). But I also love the trainer.
Today, for the first time in five days, I was on it. Niko and I had plans to go see the National Money Show at the Convention Center, so it was just a 30-miler that included two small but steep hills and a long but mild climb. Ninety minutes for this. I took it fairly easy for the first two-thirds, with a couple of two-minute out-of-the-saddle hammerfests throw in. But the last 10 miles I went hard ceaselessly, keeping my average speed around 23 mph on a flat-to-slight-incline. Every time I'd hear myself saying, "I can't keep up this stupid pace," I'd answer, "You don't want to keep up this stupid pace, but you can." It's hokey, I know, but that stuff works on the trainer.
That and loud music. I've gotten away from TV and movies. Sports I'll occasionally watch, because I can dip in and out of the game, but even that can be too distracting. It's music I want: "Collecting Rocks" by Super XX Man; "Don't You Evah" by Spoon; Wilco's "War on War"; "A-Punk" by Vampire Weekend; Son Volt's "Windfall"; "Just Like Heaven" – yeah, "Just Like Heaven"! I was digging that song on the bike today. It's the perfect pop song and it takes me back to 1987, when I was driving into LA from Riverside to cover Lakers games courtside at the Forum, the Showtime Lakers, listening to KROQ, Jed the Fish at the helm. Or maybe it was Freddy Snakeskin. But wasn't he in the morning? Or was that Richard Blade. Or Rodney. Sifting through these lost nuggets, polishing them a bit, perhaps—on the trainer, somehow, that isn't a distraction, it's an inspiration, taking me deeper into my own head and the ride.
Somewhere in the neighborhood there's a really bad band playing. Weirdly, the sound is much louder in my house than outside. Since it is late at night, I'm not inclined to sit outside right now. And inside, the thumping of that uneven, amateurish beat, and the pathetic Morrissey-wannabe warbling of the singer, is driving me crazy. So crazy, I can't write a triathlon post. Besides, all I did today was my 10x30-second all-out run sprints. They were hellish. Compared to this band? Tough call.
When I fell into my torpor a few days ago I made a deal with myself: I can take it easy this week—I should take it easy this week—but I have to balance that reviving rest with a sane diet. That is to say, I need to eat a hell of a lot less, and I need to slash the wine consumption while I'm at it. And I have done so. No snacks between breakfast and lunch, or after dinner. Zero. And the deal now is that a bottle of wine lasts four nights—and that's how it'll go until CDA. Works out to 6.3 ounces a night. But who's counting. (Yeah, I drink alone. C'mon. Niko is only 9. Even in France he wouldn't be called on to contribute. Hey, funny story, almost related, from a friend: She says to her husband that they really ought to cut back on how much wine they drink. Husband says they don't drink that much, sharing a bottle a night. Friend points out to husband that, uhm, yeah, she has one glass a night.)
So this is the right thing to do. If I kept eating at my earlier, in-training pace I'd have gained five pounds this week already. But I must confess, the motivation to eat and drink less isn't only to keep from ballooning during a soft week of training. It's become clear to me, each time I turn away from a snack or another helping, that there's a moral component as well. See, the thing is, in taking a day off on Monday and then doing only one workout a day the next three days (including an easy one-hour run today), I'm sinning. I'm being a bad triathlete, absolutely; but moreover I'm being a bad person. My penance? Less food, less drink. And not just a little bit less. I've lost five pounds.
Each moment of denial, each pang of hunger, tells me I'm OK, despite my tri slackerdom.
This is what is meant, I'm sure, when they talk about finding that healthy balance in your life: You may drive yourself to exhaustion with triathlon training and eat and drink however much you can toss down the gullet in your waking hours. Or you can do you a mere single workout a day, as long as you suffer the appropriate deprivation.
Every time I stretch I ask myself why it's been so long since I stretched. It always feels good. And I'm pretty sure it's beneficial to my body. Feels good, good for me … one is tempted to use that phrase that got used to death. You know the one: What's not to like?
Well, there's been a fair bit of research into stretching and there's agreement that stretching as it is often employed can be harmful. Stretching before a workout, especially static stretching, can decrease muscle strength in the activity that follows. But I've never liked stretching before workouts as a warmup, anyway. A good warmup for me consists of 10-15 minutes of jogging, and maybe some very short, harder bursts. Even better is to start off with 10 minutes of easy spinning on the bike.
I do my stretching well after a workout, after my body has calmed down. A lot of it isn't even stretching. I lay on my back and pull my knees up to my chest, holding onto my shins and pulling down. I hold this position while rocking from side to side on my back. This really loosens up my hips, which in the last couple of years have become tighter and occasionally painful.
I do a lot of other stuff, but I'm pretty sure a blow-by-blow description wouldn't be thrilling reading. It takes 20 minutes to a half-hour in all. When I'm done, I breathe easier. I'm relaxed. It feels like the blood is flowing to the muscles and joints that got beat up during the workout or workouts that day.
Today, I did a lot of shoulder, back and neck stretching, because today was another swim. I wanted to run or bike, but the schedule just didn't allow for it. So I did my seventh swim in 10 days. Can you believe that? As a work associate said today, employing what I fear will be the next overused phrase, "That's crazy-talk." But I remember the Slowtwitch guy, the founder, whose name I can't recall right now, writing a piece a couple of years ago recommending occasional big weeks of swimming. His view was that it could result in real advances, even for triathletes who'd pretty much given up on becoming decent swimmers. Maybe, maybe not. I've got a very calm attitude about it. After all, I stretched.
Boy, it's almost scary what a couple of decent (not even great, just decent!) nights of sleep and a day off from working out can do for a guy. I'm back to normal, and even got in a good swim this afternoon. Sleep. It's the one vital thing I've never followed through on in my triathlon training. Until now.
Just this evening, in the last hour or so, I feel like I'm beginning to emerge from the giant pit of quicksand I stepped into a couple of days ago. What a strange episode. I haven't been sick, or at least, not sick in any way I've known before. No sore throat, congestion, stomach issues … none of that. I've just been bone tired, sleepy and a little weirdly jittery from time to time. I perked up a bit in the fresh air when Niko and I walked down to the neighborhood megamart, and was functional when I needed to be, though looking back the workday is a blur. Of course there were no workouts and there may not be any tomorrow. We'll see; as I said, there are hints, at least, that I'm getting back on firm ground. I'll take it day by day, get more sleep, and if there's any doubt, err on the side of rest.
I ran for an hour and swam for 40 minutes. Metatarsal pads in my running shoes seemed to take care of the suspected/feared budding neuroma, but that's about the only good thing that can be said about the day's activities. Well, that and the fact they got done. Mediocre run. Bad swim.
I felt very tired from the start today. Losing that hour didn't help, but this fatigue went deeper and I'm trying to figure out what led to it. I put in a pretty big week (my week runs Monday through Sunday), stepping it up a bit, but didn't think it was outlandish: 12 workouts—four runs, five swims, three bikes—totaling 14.5 hours. But I also finished last week with a race, and even though it was only five miles, I ran that sucker hard while being in no condition to do so. I think after you've done a few 50-milers and a bunch of marathons, you begin to think, if subconsciously, that a five-miler is never a big deal. Well, five easy isn't. Even five on the track isn't. But a race in February? The power of such intensity has to be respected. Then, too, several of my swims and bikes this week were challenging if short worouts. So all that might just explain my fatigue. That and, you guessed it, continued insufficient sleep—a perennial topic here.
OK. The six-hour nights must become seven. And the seven-hour nights must become eight. It's time to get serious.
Skipping back a day first, I did a 1,000-yard time trial on Friday. I did one of these six weeks ago or so, too—soon after I resumed swimming after the long layoff. Clocked in at over 22 minutes on that earlier go at it. Yes, 22 minutes. (If I posted that on Slowtwitch, the first post in response would say, "Why didn't you ask somebody to help you detach that anvil stuck on your back?")
Today I swam it in 19 minutes, still slow but a nice improvement and the best part was that my splits were 9:43 for the first 500 yards and 9:17 for the second 500. So my pace on the backside of the trial was around 1:51.5 per 100. I never looked at my watch during the swim but I knew I was getting faster as I went along. My feel for the water was improving. With each stroke, I felt like I was grabbing more water and pulling myself over my hand with better efficiency.
If I can do 1:51.5/100 yards at IMCDA, I’ll be out of the water in 1:18:30, eight and a half minutes faster than last year. That would be sweet, but realistically I’m just gunning for a five-minute improvement. That’s not a crazy goal. After all—and I often forget this myself—I did once do a 37-minute half-iron swim. And even though I haven’t yet obtained the services of a coach, I am being much smarter about my workouts. I’m doing intervals and really holding myself to my time goals. I’m concentrating on keeping my head down, reaching and making it from one end of the pool to the other in as few strokes as possible. It also doesn’t hurt simply to get thy ass into the pool. Tomorrow’s swim will give me five swims in a week.
Today's bike ride: 3.5 hours, 64 miles (average speed 18.3), 178 average watts. I was pretty beat when that thing was done.
I wasn't sure if I'd run today but it was so sunny, and the weekend forecast is for cold and rain and maybe even a little snow, so I got out around 5 p.m. It was just six miles, a half mile on roads and sidewalks to the park, five miles on grass and a little dirt, then a half mile back home. Everything was great. It was a great run, easy, smooth, steady, fine crisp air, chilly in the shade but some nice low-angle sun from time to time, good stuff. It was Friday evening. I was running. Life was good.
Then, somewhere along the way on the road back home, it began to feel as though my sock was bunched up on the ball of my right foot, below the second toe. I got home expecting to find some problem with the sock or maybe even foreign matter in the shoe. Nothing of the sort. Then, as I walked sockless, I realized the feeling was still there.
So I've spent much of the evening investigating Morton's neuroma. Google it. Tons of info out there.
I have a theory as to why this hit me today. See, the first few months with my new, virtually unpadded-heel shoes, I wore thin socks. The doc had said it was key that the foot not be squeezed. Well, over time the shoe stretched out from use, and I began to think thin socks were no longer the only way to go. And I have some very nice, thick, moisture-wicking socks that I happened to pay a lot of money for. I gravitated toward them and began wearing them this week.
Today the right shoe felt a little tight as I put it on. Slightly tight shoe, everything goes to hell. It's that simple.
But seriously: I have iced the area. I will ice it some more. I will take a few days off from running. I will wear thin socks when I return to running. And (fingers crossed) all will be well.
Well, I was going to talk about the 1,000-yard swim trial I did as part of my pool workout today, but that will wait until tomorrow.
Is "conversation" the appropriate term for a series of posts on a particular forum topic? Very well: Two Slowtwitch conversations caught my attention today: one short one in which $110 for a small-time Olympic distance triathlon was thought dubious, to which one commenter replied that the fee was "actually pretty good"; and a lengthy one about Nutella.
I talked about the price of triathlons in the early days of this blog and tried to make the point that organizers will charge whatever they want, and if they can stay in business doing so then they are de facto behaving rationally, but I no longer will pay high fees. More than $100 for an Oly? Outrageous. But the guy who thought it was "actually pretty good" was from San Luis Obispo, and that's Wildflower country, and the Oly there this year is $150. That explains his warped viewpoint. I'm looking forward to doing Blue Lake here the week before IMCDA and it's 70 bucks.
Now about Nutella. The prevailing view is that Nutella is the triathlete's crack. A little dab on a slice of apple leads to spreading it on a slice of bread and before you know it you're on the floor, a dirty spoon tossed aside, the jar pressed against your mug as you try to lick the last bits from inside the container. I suppose. But isn't it that way with a lot of things? With, like, all the things I'm not supposed to eat too much of? For instance: At Niko's behest this past Sunday we bought a box of granola at Trader Joe's. Now I checked the nutritional info and this was the lowest-sugar and lowest-fat granola in the joint. So it's not evil stuff. But except after a workout, I need to do better—a banana, a little almond milk, a plain whole-wheat piece of bread, maybe some cottage cheese. So as soon as we got the box home, practically, it was time for Niko to have his alternate week at his mother's. Leaving me with the box. All alone with the box of granola. The only shocking thing is that here it is, nearly Friday, and there's actually a little bit left. Of course, I probably won't go to bed for another half hour. And anything could happen.
So the lesson: Do not bring that shit into the house! The sack of pistachios, the box of granola, the Nutella. Because if you're going to—as I did today—swim 2,500 intense yards during lunch, and then ride 25 miles in big, hard gears after work, you're going to find yourself in hoovering mode. Your only hope? Surround yourself with good stuff.
Running today—nine miles, some of it quite steep, on Mount Tabor—a guy fairly skipped by in compression socks. I've been contemplating the goofy-looking hosiery since it started popping up in triathlon blogs and discussion forums more than a year ago. Running Times had a little article that dissected their purported benefits.
A study presented at the 2007 American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting in New Orleans suggested there were no statistically significant differences in maximal oxygen consumption, heart rate or minute ventilation between treadmill runners who wore compression socks and those who did not. According to the study, conducted at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, subjects did, however, show a faster lactate recovery rate after exercise when wearing the compression socks, suggesting that compression socks might speed recovery after a strenuous workout or a race.And yet, they do look stupid. On Slowtwitch recently, somebody asked whether he should put them on at T1 (for the bike) or wait until T2 and just wear them while running. One commenter said, "I say go full-retard and put them on at T1. I love riding in my compression socks. Why wouldn't you want to maximize the benefit?" But this was not the final word. Later, came this advice: "Go extra special retard and wear some of those compression calf sleeves without the socks, even in the swim."
I'm ordering some.
Are you struggling to get it done, get the workouts in, keep up with what's supposed to take you from where you are to Coeur d'Alene? (Really, it's not that far.) Well as a veteran of one whole Ironman but a hell of a lot of other races, including some pretty long ones, let me suggest that doing something is always better than doing nothing. Unless you're sick. Then doing nothing is OK. But day to day? Yeah, there's a plan you bought, or found on the Internet, or got from a certified coach or a guy on the corner in a De Soto wetsuit, wearing a Cervelo cap, who gave it to you in exchange for a cigarette. Whatever, man. When you're gunning for a Kona slot, your plan is going to matter. But right now? Just go do a workout. Find a crack in your schedule, a teeny-tiny little gap, and do a run (shit, I don't care what "Z" it's in, just run). Splash haplessly in the pool. Pedal aimlessly for 60 or 90 minutes. Do one or two of these workouts every day.
There, that's how I'm saying you get it done. Because if you want to do it—it being the IMCDA, and the fact that you're blogging about it suggests that it's pretty damn important that you do do it—then get to it. Get to it. Stop thinking about the perfect workout and work out.
Me? I did another 2000 at the Dish today (10x100, 10x50, 20x25), then a fun hour on the bike with some super-high-RPM (like, 110) intervals. Good stuff, good work, keeping it going, getting things done.
So I was into the middle of page 8 on the Word doc I was working up tonight's post on when I woke up. Seven and a half pages of the letter d. Sleeping like a blog indeed. But seriously, wow, talk about torpor. It was like being on a long lonely drive, late at night, and coming to that point where sleep is never more delicious. Just want to close my eyes…. It's that damn thing again about wanting what you can't have and what you can't have becoming more attractive by its unattainability. But sleep—the sleep I need to feel better, recover better, think better, etc.—is right there. I just need to wrap up this post, brush and floss, and climb into bed. But can I take a mere moment to say I swam 2000 today, in the manner of the old days, just jumping in and swimming lap after lap nonstop? And in the evening, with my legs a bit sore from yesterday's race, walked four miles? There.
When it rains it pours. No, not at the race today; although skies were threatening, not a drop fell during the Red Lizard Five Miler (at least, not while I was out there). No, I'm talking about my house. Couple of weeks ago it was the washing machine that died. Then last week we discovered the radon problem. Today? Furnace isn't working! Luckily, it's not too cold today and with a couple of electric space heaters and an extra sweater or two we're doing fine until we get a tech out here tomorrow. (It's 65 indoors, up from 63 earlier in the afternoon. Anyway, it could be -5 and I wouldn't pay Sunday emergency-call rates.)
Back to the race: the smell of rain in the air, temps in the low 40s, a tidy crowd of 300 or so runners of various shapes and sizes on hand, including what appeared to be a large contingent of serious racers. (You could tell by their skinniness and their long, speedy warmups. Me? Not skinny, and I didn't do a very good warmup. Maybe that's why my first mile was so painful.) We started near the Foot Traffic in Lake Oswego and in the first quarter mile dropped more than 100 feet down toward the Willamette, then leveled out. I hit the first mile marker in 6:26. Not a bad split, considering I hadn't done any sustained hard running in four months, and my long-shot goal for the day was to come close to my 10K PR pace of 6:41/mile. But I could feel this pace was definitely not going to be sustainable, not even close. (I wasn't the only one out too fast; it was painfully obvious that many people in front of me and around me had let enthusiasm or optimism supplant good sense. After the first quarter mile, nobody passed me, and I must have passed 25 runners.)
Mile 2 was a more realistic if disappointing 7:00. Well, you see the numbers up above. I'm fine with the time, but a little surprised at the hurt it took to get it done. I guess that's what happens when your heart rate is at 85-95% of max for a half-hour or so:
Not that it was an easy run. First the big plunge out of the chute, then pretty flat, then a gentle climb that regained most of the loss, then a downhill, then, at 3.3 miles, a very steep climb—kind of the reserve of that opening drop, more than 100 feet up in not even a quarter mile, then largely flat or slight decline to the finish. My quads were feeling pretty whipped that last couple tenths of the race. Of course, I did not taper at all for this race, and was probably still recovering from my sprints last week, or my bike rides the last few days. Nevertheless, it was great to race, and a nonfat chocolate milk and some Dave's Killer Bread with cream cheese immediately afterward had me feeling good. It didn't really fit into the Ironman training, except in one important way: It was fun. Gotta have some fun along the way.
Photo courtesy Red Lizard photographers.