Archive for the ‘Lessons Learned’ Category

Dear Ryan

Ryan | October 2nd, 2013 Leave a Comment

I promised my friend Ryan (not me, I promise) I’d send him an email about how I might prepare for Ironman Lake Tahoe based on completing the event.  For Ryan and the rest of you considering IMLT ‘14, here’s my advice.

Yup, I even ran with the mylar blanket the last few miles.


I think physically I was well-prepared to handle the rigors of the course.  Fortius Coaching played a big role in that.  Considering I was a live hood ornament last December and couldn’t run until May, there’s only so much leg strength and run endurance I could re-acquire prior to the September race start.  On the bike, I would focus on riding a Santa Monica Mountains course loop that included lots of Fernwood, Stunt, Piuma, Decker and Latigo Canyon climbs in some combination. The best combination is going to need to give you roughly 10-15 miles of climbing with a technical descent or two in the middle. (I have a specific training route devised using Strava that I can share with people who are interested.) My best advice though is to visit Lake Tahoe and preview the course itself.  I’d do it as soon as possible to experience the seasonal temperatures, which I was able to do last year. Another option would be to race the June Lake Triathlon next summer and spend a few extra days in Lake Tahoe afterwards.  Good elevation training combined with seeing what it’s like to race at altitude.

Of all the three disciplines this season, I focused on swimming the most. It paid off with a three-minute PR at Lake Tahoe and that was despite a lack of open-water swimming workouts this season (outside of racing). Because of how calm and quiet the lake typically is, I’d spend a lot of time in the pool and practice proper drafting technique. It will pay off on race day.

If you’re not already, I’d also incorporate strength training and possibly yoga if you have time into your existing training schedule.  I watched in awe as my coach ran right by me during the IMLT marathon this year. He attributed his strong performance to strength training with Corey Enman at Fitamorphosis.  I’m currently amending my training schedule to increase strength training to twice a week for the remainder of my preparation for Ironman Arizona next month.  With all the climbing both on the bike and the run, not to mention the altitude, the stronger you are the better.

Finally, if you’re prone to getting cold like I am, you may want to race with a couple extra pounds on your frame. All the weight I lost for my 70.3 events this year didn’t help me in near-freezing temperatures.  In hindsight, I would have heeded my coach Gerardo’s advice and put on five pounds with about six weeks prior to IMLT.  But, in the moment I didn’t want to pack on the pounds as it would affect my performance at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.

Plus, I like how I look in my tri kit now. What a vain bastard.

Race Day

Oh, where to begin.  How about starting the weekend before I left for Lake Tahoe?  I knew it was going to be cold, but didn’t fathom it would be so bad that I’d need cycling pants.  I certainly didn’t want to wear a bulky winter jacket that would flap in the wind. I was too obsessed with a quick T1.  Penny wise and pound foolish. I should have packed for the coldest conditions possible just in case.  I will do that for Ironman Arizona, especially since it rained and hailed the first time I raced that course.  Better to have it and not use it, right?

Next, race morning.  Bring shoes or slippers you don’t mind losing but can keep your feet warm prior to getting in the water.  Buy a cheap fleece blanket at a CVS too. I had two pair of socks on, a thermal top and a fleece blanket. But all are gone now since I had to ditch them.  I wore my neoprene swim cap not to keep me warm in the water, but to cover my ears in the chill.  Definitely worth purchasing.  Some people wore booties in the water but I’ve heard it can slow you down as water seeps in to them.  I didn’t need the booties while swimming, but it might have helped keep my feet warmer coming out of the water. Tough call there.

In T1, find a chair. That is, if the tent is packed.  Either way, I’d sit down even on the ground. As your muscles are cold, it might be wiser not to fight your body while holding an awkward standing pose as you layer up.  Further, you want to be near your gear bag in that frenzied chaos. There were so many people at my feet and around my shoulders that all the same black cycling apparel blended in into one giant clothes ball.  Consider being a fashion dork and using brighter cycling clothes in case your things get displaced. A friend of mine had a bright neon yellow cycling jacket…no way he was going to lose that in the scrum.

Back to the bike course.  Everyone is going to talk about Martis Camp and Brockway Summit. Both are tough and feature tricky descents, especially if it’s windy.  But you have to climb Dollar Hill three times if the course remains unchanged next year.  The climb is nearly a mile, I believe. It’s not hard, but it’s not easy either.  Don’t overlook it as if it were a dirty penny on the ground.  Leave some energy after descending Brockway the second time for one more big hill climb after that.

On to the run.  I’m convinced the course was changed after the initial map was sent out to everyone last year (even after the two-loop vs one-loop debate materialized).  There’s more climbing than advertised, especially a nasty twisty section behind a golf resort that parallels the bike path coming out of the Olympic Village.  When you do your brick workouts, I’d make sure you’re incorporating some tough hill climbs into them.  Griffith Park trail runs will help.  Bottom line: This isn’t the flat-ish course people anticipated.  One more thing, in T2, I’d strongly consider a full wardrobe change to remain dry and warm. My tri kit top and vest were slightly damp with sweat coming off the bike, so as the afternoon turned into dusk, I was back to shivering again. Thank goodness I packed a Nike Combat fleece top and running tights in my special needs bag.  Speaking of special needs, this year race officials wouldn’t return items left behind on the course. Fair enough.  But I’d still make sure that doesn’t totally affect what you decide to pack in each bag. Better to be warm on a cold day — it’s hard to be fast when you are shivering. Oh, and if you see a mylar blanket dangling from a volunteer’s hand near sunset, grab it. It gets cold fast and those blankets really do work to keep you insulated. Even if you look less sexy.

I swear I saw this guy at the top of Brockway Summit.

That’s the best advice I can think of sharing with someone considering Ironman Lake Tahoe in 2014.  I don’t think I’ll be back, mostly because I think I’m at an inherent disadvantage due to the altitude (drastically affects power to weight ratio on climbs) and because I’ve proven to myself I can handle that course in the roughest conditions.  I wish you well, and leave you with one more nugget.  Make sure you are 100% focused on completing this event NO MATTER WHAT.  If there’s a remote shred of doubt or apathy in your brain on race day, the course will grow tentacles and reach into your soul to expose them — ripping out your still-beating heart as if it were a bizarre sacrificial ritual from an Indiana Jones movie.  Ironman Lake Tahoe will require your full (training) attention and full (training) commitment for the next year.  If that sounds too daunting…don’t sign up.

There Are Two Kinds of Cyclists…

Ryan | December 30th, 2012 9 Comments

The center of the imploded windshield is where my helmet must have hit. It's cracked through the left temple.

If you’re an avid triathlete or cyclist, I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase at least once on a group ride: “There are two kinds of cyclists; those who have crashed…and those who haven’t crashed yet.”

I remember the first time I heard that phrase. It was a group ride with the San Fernando Valley Bike Club, a crusty group of veteran cyclists who didn’t have much interest in teaching a new kid like myself how to ride properly. I was mostly ignored…and dropped.

But, they were right about that phrase.  I’ve crashed twice now, the most recent being the result of a motorist either not paying attention to the road or on her cell phone.  We are still trying to sort out the details, but the short version is that my tri bike lost a fight with a Fiat, while I somehow managed to walk away — albeit with a bum knee and tight neck. (I won’t know the extent of damage done to my right knee until mid-next week, when the MRI results come in.)

I’m finding that the hardest part of a bike crash can often be the healing process. I should have known this considering my lengthy mental recovery from my tumble over Santa Susana Pass a couple years ago.  And it’s not even the physical part that sucks the most. It’s knowing that your fitness is leaking from your pores like a slow tire leak — only there’s nothing that can stop it except time itself.

What kind of sport is this where the majority of my cycling friends have been upended by vehicles, or stray pets?  Football players only have to deal with other people.  We have people, terrain, weather, vehicles and animals!!!  Oh my!!

It’s been just longer than a week since my accident.  I’m going stir crazy. I tried to hop back in the pool (moderate success) and on the bike trainer once (moderate failure).  I’m nowhere near ready to run yet — my body has flat-out said “NO!” to that in big capital letters after jogging a few steps.  I can now better imagine what my friend Caleb is going through after shattering a clavicle. He’s out for three months.  I expect I’ll be out six weeks with no activity based on the initial estimate given by the orthopedist at Southern California Orthopedic Institute this past Friday.

For now, I can only take the same advice I gave Caleb just a week ago. RELAX. It’s the off-season. There are no upcoming races. Enjoy sleeping in, staying up late, and drinking a bit more beer. Maybe I’ll go back to being “Two Beer” (my college nickname) instead of “One Beer” (my This is 40 nickname!).  This is the perfect time to get hit by a car, in other words — yep that’s gallows humor.  It’s probably good for me to have some time off to rest up in general. I’ve got 12 races next year and my triathlon season won’t start until May.  Though knowing me, I’ll probably wind up in LaQuinta for the Desert Triathlon in March.

For any of you out there enjoying a nice holiday break and thinking of a bike ride, please be careful.  Now is probably the worst time for motorists to spot us, as they’re minds are racing about New Year’s plans and getting to the mall before everyone else. And if you have any suggestions for how to cure the Winter Blues from sitting at home not being able to work out…I’m all ears.

Feelin’ You?

Ryan | May 14th, 2012 Leave a Comment

Vic the Brick Jacobs...FEELIN' YOU!

In LA sports broadcasting, there’s a laughable legend named Vic “The Brick” Jacobs.  Thick Noo Yawk accent.  Dresses in bizarre fashion.  Jewish Buddhist.  Laker fan for Life.

I love the guy.  I’ll admit it.

His catch phrase is “Feelin’ You!”  It’s what he practically yells into the radio mic when fans call in to his shows.  It’s his way of acknowledging his fans’ presence, energy, and support.

That phrase has been stuck in my head the past several nights.  Not because I’m feelin’ Vic or because he’s feelin’ me.  More to the point, it’s because I’m not feelin’ me.  Where did I go? I’ve had post Ironman depression in the past, but this is something different.  I’m more tired than I recall.  Lethargic.  Unmotivated.  And worst of all, that’s left my temper short.  I’ve had a shockingly short fuse the past few days, almost embarrassingly so.

What’s my deal?  I am most certainly NOT feelin’ me.

Part of the problem is that my next race is probably not for another three months.  Part of my problem is that I’ve gone from Ironman training to weekend spin class with Steph where I’m the only guy in the room, certainly the only avid cyclist, and certainly among the youngest.  ”Sweatin’ to the oldies” is a more appropriate phrase right now than I’d like.  Paging Richard Simmons.

I’m having a hard time adjusting back to “normal” life.  My dad has given me some really good advice though.  I need to watch out for “Adrenaline Junkie Complex,” that feeling where you go immediately from one giant goal to the next without taking adequate time to celebrate what just took place. Yep, that’s definitely me right now.  I’m working on it.  For that reason, I purposely haven’t scheduled another race in the next few days. I need to get better at managing the void.  Filling that void with more races isn’t the answer.  Being mature, reflecting, acknowledging, and evolving is the answer.

So, for the next few days and perhaps weeks, let’s just call this period “growing pains.”  Apologies in advance if you’re not feelin’ me.

Don’t worry.  I’m not feelin’ me either.

IM California 70.3 Recap Part II

Ryan | April 9th, 2012 1 Comment

Fueled by Stephanie's Support!

It took me about a week before I cut off the participants’ blue wristband from my right wrist.  I don’t have a set amount of time I wait before doing something like that — usually it depends on the race and my feelings about the experience.  For IM California 70.3, I really basked in the achievement.  Who knows how many races I have left?  Why not soak it all in a bit longer before setting ahead on the next big challenge?

Here’s my recap of the actual event, now that I’ve had PLENTY of time to absorb it


The water temperature was a chilly 58 degrees – though my Ironman Coeur d’Alene swim was colder by 4 degrees and felt much worse by comparison.  Still I broke out the neoprene cap for my first open-water swim of the year.  I was nervous getting into the harbor because of that fact – how much would the current and chop force me out of my rhythm?  I was slower than my goal of between 34-36 minutes (36:12, 1:54 pace) but I’m not sure if my lack of open-water swimming was the culprit.  Most likely it was a combination of usual poor sighting and a lack of swimmers I could manage to draft off.  It seemed once again that I’m faster than the middle-of-the pack swimmers but not as fast as the elites, so there I swam alone in no-man’s land, err water.  Once I exited the water, I realized my watch hadn’t started so I had no idea what my pace was.  Coach Gerardo saw me in the T1 chute though and told me I swam fast and great job, so it fueled me.  I wonder how my race would have been affected if I had known I was slower than I expected.  Before moving to the bike, I’d like to share a tip Rusty offered me before the swim started:  Vaseline on the underarms.  It helped him retain body heat as he used a sleeveless wetsuit and I adopted it to stay warm during the bike since I was wearing a sleeveless tri suit.  Despite rain, wind and low 50s temperatures, I never felt cold throughout the day.


My T1 goal was to remain under four minutes, which I managed to do thanks to not wearing socks on the bike (3:41).  See, I can never feel my feet after a swim so it makes putting those socks on even harder.  Why bother?  I decided to wait to put on socks for the run in T2.

Once on the bike, I quickly found Rusty, which was a surprise as he was in the M35-39 wave prior to mine.  But a pleasant surprise indeed as we shared some laughs and essentially rode together for the first 25 miles.  We were moving well, averaging between 20 and 22 mph just as my coach predicted.  My heart rate was steady and despite the poor conditions I felt extremely comfortable.  Rusty told me I was on pace for a 5:15 race and I put it out of my head.  That’s how I’ve gotten into trouble in the past, shooting for the finish too early.  The key is pacing, which is ironic given my most recent Lava Magazine column.

I remained focused, took it easy on the two big climbs inside Camp Pendleton and didn’t panic even when I realized that I had lost one of my two water bottles somewhere on the course. I was going to be without liquids for 10 miles, the toughest part of the course no less. Instead of freaking out, I simply checked my options and decided that an extra Gu Roctane would suffice and that if I started to feel poorly I’d ask fellow competitors if I could grab a swig.  I didn’t think it would come to that and fortunately it didn’t.

Plus, I had something else occupying my mind.  I had to pee.  Real bad.   Since I was feeling so good I didn’t want to get off the bike.  I was on track for a personal best performance if I could stay on the bike and avoid a restroom.  Which leads us to my  “proudest” moment yet as a triathlete.

I peed while cycling.  That’s right, I said it.  I stood out of the bike saddle on a long downhill and let loose.  Twice.  I made sure of course that there weren’t racers immediately behind me but, when ya gotta go ya gotta go.

Pause.  Yes, this sport is crazy.  Yes, I’m probably crazy too.

Peeing on the bike made me briefly think I was a Cirque du Soliel artist.  Which way do you lean? (Left, to avoid getting anything in your bike chain)  How do you avoid getting “runoff” in your shoes? (You don’t.)   How do you balance yourself so the bike doesn’t wobble all over the place? (I have no idea.)  I have a lot to learn in this area but for now, I’m just glad I didn’t waste time in a port-o-potty.

I cruised into T2 at 2:49:20, 40 seconds faster than my anticipated best-case scenario time.  I wanted to average 20 mph on the bike, but 19.87 mph is a close consolation on a hilly, rainy, windy course!


T2 went fast as planned.  Putting on my socks was MUCH easier when I was able to feel my toes.  Though I didn’t really want to touch them given what I did while on the bike.  In and out in 2:12.

The run is always the biggest question mark for me.  Coach Gerardo told me to stick with 8-minute miles until I felt comfortable turning up the speed.  I started with a 7:46 mile and quickly pulled back. I was worried about starting too fast and bonking later on the course.  In addition, I’ve been having a lot of problems with my orthotics and shoes in general.  My right foot is racked with blisters in the arch and running has become fairly painful.  I didn’t want to pound too hard, too quickly.  There are also some short, steep climbs on the course in the form of the ramps that take participants from the beachfront strand to the streets nearby.  I didn’t want to cramp up on the second loop.  This led to a conservative plan where I stuck with 8-minute miles through the eighth mile of the course (once all the hills were completed).  Even though I thought I’d ignore my heart-rate as I had at the Bandit Trail Race, I paid much more attention to it than I expected.  I was holding steady in a low-zone 3 heart rate, which meant I had a LOT more left in the tank.  Yet I was enjoying myself in the race and strangely OK with not going faster.  After all, I knew that Ironman St. George was the bigger fish here and only five weeks away.

That changed around mile 9, where I knew it was time to let it all out.  My feet were in pain and my adductors were getting a bit tighter.  It was now or never time to achieve my personal-best sub-1:44 half-marathon goal.  I dropped my miles gradually down to 7:30s in the final mile.  But this time, instead of a sprint finish in the finisher’s chute, I decided to savor the moment.

We work so hard training for these huge events.  Yet all we want to do at the end is get it over with.  It’s so weird!  Then, we spend the next few days and weeks trying to remember that “high” that comes with accomplishing our goals.  I wanted to line up the memory with the real-time experience – even if it meant a slower finish.  That realization led to some strutting, hand waving to rile up the crowd, and a skip-kick at the finish line for good measure.  The only thing missing was a moonwalk.

Even with my dorky finish dance, I crossed the line at 5:15:01.  And I PR’d my half-marathon by nearly a full minute (1:43:10).  I ranked 68 out of 299 in my age group who started the race (top 22%).  I also got faster as the day went on in my age group, ranking 92 out of the swim, 78 off the bike and passed another 10 of my age-groupers on the run.  I’m very proud of that.

When I saw my time, I couldn’t believe it.  The crazy part is that I think I could have gone faster.  I wasn’t fatigued as much as my feet were in pain.

So, what did I learn from all this?

This whole pacing thing seems to actually work!  I will continue to stick with a plan while being flexible enough to know when to modify it.  I will trust in myself (and my coach!) that just because everyone else seems to look faster or have better equipment, I’m not so bad myself.  I’ve been doing this a while now. And after what must be around 15 triathlons, I think I’m finally starting to get it.  My body knows how to move. My brain knows what to think.  My heart knows how not to panic.  And now my bladder knows how to unlearn 35 years of potty training.

Look out.  Up next, breaking 5 hours in a 70.3 race.  It can be done.

Celebrating post-race w/ Sub-5-hour finisher, teammate and friend Bodie.

Bandit Trail Run Race Report

Ryan | February 22nd, 2012 2 Comments

What does it mean to “get better” in triathlon?  Does it mean “go faster?”  I think that would be the obvious response.

But there’s something else, something deeper.

No, to me getting better in triathlon means being smarter.  By “smarter,” I mean developing an innate sense of body awareness that transcends the data we gather on our sophisticated training devices.

I believe this now more than ever, three days after participating in the Bandit Trail Run 30k in Simi Valley (my hometown).  The 30k race features 3,900 feet of climbing along some of the most treacherous paths I’ve ever run on.  If you’re not careful, you will get hurt.

I’m not the fastest of runners, nor one of the prettier-looking runners. I would describe my running style as “rumbling.”  My hips look like they’re bearing the weight of the world with every step I take. Some of my teammates look like gazelles on the track.  I envy them.  I probably look like a wildebeest.  Yet on race day, I tend to outperform my own expectations.  Why?  After analyzing Sunday’s run (which I’ve embedded here to check out) and past races I’ve competed in, I think there are two key factors.  First, I hate losing.  Whether that’s failing to meet my own expectations or losing even to my teammates who are good friends, it doesn’t matter.  If it’s a race and there’s a start and a finish, I want to win.  Which leads me to the second factor, and this is where I think I have a slight advantage: I’m willing to suffer to reach my goal.  For close to 3.5 hours on Sunday, my heart rate hovered in the mid-160s.  That’s high for me.  While it’s true I didn’t go anaerobic for long stretches (perhaps a better definition of suffering), I maintained a state of relative discomfort without any thought of slowing down or stopping.  I ran through annoying pebbles in my socks causing blisters on my left foot, and cramps in my calf muscles in the final two miles of the race.  If I saw someone in front of me on the course, I did everything possible to pass them.  I took offense to them even though they were total strangers.  Anger can be a powerful motivator.  Pain could wait.  I’d rather reach my goal and pay the physical price than coast and think about what could have been.

That’s what I enjoyed most about the Bandit Trail Run, along with spending a beautiful day with a throng of my Fortius teammates.  Rocky Peak Park gave me the perfect opportunity to see how hard I could push myself in hills I used to bike as a kid and come out victorious on the other side.  And instead of listening to my new Garmin Forerunner 910XT watch tell me that my heart-rate was too high, I ignored the data completely and just ran the race I wanted to run.  I ran as hard as I knew I was capable of running for 20 miles and left almost every ounce of energy I had on that course.  I ran hard, but never out of control of myself — and data never dictated my race strategy.

As a result, I beat my goal time by eight minutes and honestly think I couldn’t have run a better race.  There’s nothing I would have changed about that day.  I finished 18th out of 98 competitors, and fifth out of 17 in my age group. A couple years ago, I probably would have stared at my watch, panicked that my heart-rate was too high, slowed down or quit on myself all together.  That sums up my LA Marathon experience, in fact.  Now a couple years later, I know my body, what it’s capable of, shut out the pain, and just keep moving as fast as I can for as long as I can.

Smarter can sometimes outpace faster.  Combine that with sheer stubbornness and that’s what keeps me moving.

It ain’t pretty, but it’ll do.

There are always faster triathletes than me, no doubt.  But they’re beatable.  I think to be a better triathlete, sometimes you simply have to want it more than the other guy and have the guts to go after it — trusting that you know more about yourself than anything that overpriced racing watch can tell you.

Starting line at the Bandit Trail Run

Fortius represent! 18 team members raced the Bandit and all finished.

Reflections of IMAZ 2010

Ryan | November 17th, 2011 2 Comments

One year ago today, I arrived in Tempe, Arizona, scared and excited to reach a yearlong quest to become an Ironman.

My feelings then are still so vivid now.  The unabashed pride entering the Athlete Registration tent and Body Marking tent.  I never wanted that paint to wear off my arms and legs.  I remember how I knew I belonged in that tent and there was no place else on the planet I’d rather be in that moment.

I’m going back to that moment this weekend though.  Except I’ll be a volunteer and not a participant at Ironman Arizona. (I’ll be at Bike Special Needs Area 2, so say hi as you ride by!)

I have mixed feelings about traveling to Tempe this weekend. I’m ashamed to admit them though.  While I can’t wait to watch my friends cross the finish line and realize their dreams, I wish I could go back in time and recapture my own moment from last year.  Even though I didn’t quite hit the time I wanted, finishing the event was the single greatest physical achievement of my life. The sensations I experienced at Ironman Coeur d’Alene seven months later didn’t come close, even though I had a fantastic time there as well.  Everything in Idaho just felt expected (except losing my watch during the swim!), like it was so “been there, done that” even after just one Ironman.  The excitement was there, just not the flat-out giddyness that one can only achieve as a first-timer.

So, the more I think about IMAZ 2011, the more I miss 2010.

Over the course of 12 hours last November, the ground in Tempe became sacred to me.  A place where something special happened.  I stepped into the unknown of personal willpower and pain, defying my own expectations and persevering on a day fraught with terrible weather.  Now, as I return to such a special place, I’ll be cheering on my friends and hoping they reach their own goals.  Secretly (or not so secretly now) jealous that they’ll likely encounter none of the weather issues my friends and I endured and thus more likely to achieve their race goals.  I can’t help but wonder given my training last year, how well could I have done with near perfect conditions?

Yet when I type those last two sentences above, it doesn’t sit well with me. It’s not quite accurate.  Upon further reflection, here’s the real issue: Time marches on.  What once was MY MOMENT a year ago simply is last year’s race.  There’s another race happening in Tempe in just a couple days.  My accomplishment remains embedded in my mind, but it is long gone in terms of months passed.

So far it feels like being a graduating senior in high school one year and then going back the next year to visit campus, only to realize you’re simply last year’s news.

Now I know how a retired pro athlete must feel after walking away from the spotlight — only on a MUCH smaller scale.

Nothing would make me happier than if I could pack my gear tonight, drive to Tempe tomorrow, register for the race, and try again on Sunday.  Am I trying to recapture lost glory?  Yeah, a little.  Do I think I could do better even with less training?  Call me crazy, but yeah.  I’m a better, smarter triathlete now, as I should be.  But none of that matters.  I realize I have to “let go” of IMAZ 2010 and remember that while nobody can take that moment in time away from me, that first-timer Ironman experience can never be recaptured again.

In the end analysis though, the true victory is being able to say I’m an Ironman at all.  The achievement itself will live forever. Just like a pro athlete’s legacy lives on long after he or she leaves the sport. The record books log all the players who ever played the game, no matter how prolific their careers.  It’s official no matter what.

My friends’ achievements will live forever as they triumphantly run down Rio Salado waiting for Mike Reilly to call them an Ironman for the first time.  I will be right there for them in the finisher’s chute.

I hope they forgive me though if I get a little emotional at the end.  Those tears will be for them, and for me.

See, I left a part of my soul on that course.  Soon, they will too.

Losing My Fitness

Ryan | August 14th, 2011 7 Comments

So this is what it’s like to be a “retired” athlete.

Now that the Official Wedding Countdown Clock is ticking loudly, I’ve noticed that my workouts are becoming fewer and farther between.  What used to be a 1.5 hour trail run has become a 30-minute jog around the block.  A 1.5 hour bike ride at Griffith Park has become a one hour (albeit quite intense) session on my new CompuTrainer.  About the only thing I’ve kept up with is my swimming, on strict orders from Coach Gerardo that I get in the pool four times a week to work on improving technique.  I’ve even failed at that, hitting three swim sessions a week appears to be my ceiling at the moment.

I’m having a hard time watching my fitness vanish in front of my eyes.  I’ve gained a couple extra pounds — which is great for wedding photos but bad for my psyche.  I know this is the time where I’m supposed to be totally OK with letting go of training, but I just can’t quite do it.  Am I experiencing withdrawal?  What’s wrong with me?  Shouldn’t I be able to just relax a bit and “let go?”

I don’t think letting go is really in my nature.  Instead, I try to juggle everything equally.  It’s been pointed out to me that all my activities suffer equally when I don’t prioritize.  But at the same time, maybe it’s stupid pride or ego but I always think I can keep everything rolling just fine at once thankyouverymuch.

I’m not sure what to do next.  I still schedule and fill out my Training Peaks workouts even though my true goal is just to stay in shape through the honeymoon so I can resume my coached training full-throttle.  Yet the workouts get shorter and less intense.  I wonder if I should just let it all go for a bit and not worry?  How much base fitness would I really lose if I just started over in late September?  Even when I schedule the workouts, the high volume of red indicating my lack of completing them means my plans and reality just aren’t meshing at the moment.

I don’t think I’ll ever know if I can just let it all go.  Frankly, I’m feeling rather addicted to staying in shape, for better or worse.  I’m simply happier when I get a run, swim or bike ride in every day.  I suppose the real challenge then is managing the addiction.  There’s got to be a better way.  Either don’t train and don’t worry about it, do train and be happy with whatever workouts I can fit in, or rigidly schedule a rigorous schedule at all costs.  Currently, I’m in the middle situation, yet I still long for pushing myself harder.  At the same time, I love the free moments on a Saturday or Sunday where it’s the middle of the day and I can do pretty much whatever I want.  I’m not atop a hill in Malibu with another three hours of training.  If Steph wants to grab lunch or an early dinner, it’s no problem.   So I’m split between laziness and hunger.  I want the results without the high price that comes with achieving those results.

I suppose that’s not too different a feeling even when I am training!

Right now, I’m marveling at how I even found the time to complete two Ironman races.  When you’re in the moment doing it, it seems perfectly normal.  When you step away, the achievement becomes magnified.  Not because of the race, but because of everything that led to it.

Maybe that kind of context is necessary?  Maybe I have to lose some fitness to gain some perspective?

Why Not What

Ryan | July 11th, 2011 Leave a Comment

Midway through my Sunday morning bike ride with my fellow Ironman Coeur d’Alene finisher Richard, I realized something pretty important: Two hours of road cycling is plenty!

In my first outdoor ride since IMCDA, the biggest thing I noticed was how happy I was to enjoy the rest of my day AFTER my ride.  No bricks.  No pre-ride swims.  Just a nice bike ride, no Garmins attached.  Done by 1 p.m., not 5.

What does that mean?  Am I burnt out?  Do I need more rest?  Was it a bad idea to buy that Computrainer after all?

The answers: Maybe a little, I don’t know, and I hope not!

The way I felt after my ride has started affecting my desire level to train more actively.  I’m starting to feel the onset of a rather satisfying laziness.  I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.  I hit my goals. In the process, I’ve deprived myself of my favorite foods, favorite drinks, sleep, time with friends and family.

I want a break!  I want more balance.  And I’ve been taking it, eating literally whatever I want, drinking some beers and generally becoming rather sloth-like while hanging out more with my crew.

At the same time, I hate how I feel!  I’m feeling my fitness melt away daily.  That sense of guilt is making it very hard to relax during what’s supposed to be a recovery period.  It’s almost like being on a treadmill at an uncomfortably high pace, yet unable to hit the “Stop” button to get off.

There’s a fine line between a lifestyle and an obsession. Sometimes I can’t tell which is which.  One person who does know the difference is pro triathlete Marino Vanhoenacker — who recently broke the 14-year-old world record for fastest Ironman result with a 7:45:52 before Andreas Raelert beat that mark one week later by an astonishing four minutes.  While I won’t go into details since I’m saving them for my upcoming Lava Magazine column, I will note that he believes age groupers have lost sight of how to enjoy the sport of triathlon — instead focusing too much on attaining PRs.

I can’t really argue with that.

In fact, for the rest of this week, I’m going to focus on WHY I’m continuing with triathlon.  What am I enjoying about this sport?  Why do I want to consider Ironman Canada next August?  Why am I going to keep pushing myself to my physical and mental limit?

This is a worthy challenge.  One I’m up for though.  Have you done the same lately?

I will write soon to let you know what I find out.

Ironman 1 vs Ironman 2

Ryan | June 20th, 2011 Leave a Comment

There’s much to reflect upon in the final few days of Ironman Number 2.  Today, I think I’m going to write about the differences between training for my first and my second Ironman.

– During my first Ironman, I trained exactly to specifications prescribed by my coach.  During my second Ironman, I shaved roughly 10-15 minutes off many or even most workouts to preserve energy overall.  I also trained less in general due to injury and some illness.  In fact, I completed merely 76% of my workouts this time, compared to 90% for my first Ironman.

– During my first Ironman, I obsessed over my diet.  I avoided red meat.  I essentially counted calories.  In so doing, and through the very aspect of obsessing over food, I raced at 127 pounds — my lightest weight since college.  This time around, I ate what I wanted, when I wanted (within reason).  I’m eight pounds heavier, look better and think I’ll perform better with some extra fat to burn!  (At least I keep telling myself that.)

– During my first Ironman, I stressed about every detail of the race — yet didn’t prepare a mental plan going into it.  I freaked out all the time, pretty much about everything you can freak out over.  In case you don’t believe me, just pick a post from mid-2010 and read away!  This year, while I’ve certainly had my doubts and moments, I’m a lot more relaxed.  What will be will be.  However, I DID write a mental race strategy plan, as I noted in last night’s post.  So, perhaps the stress level is the same, but I’m managing it differently.

– During my first Ironman, I stayed awake at night thinking about crossing the finish line, but worse yet, what would happen if I didn’t cross the finish line!  This time, I’m not worried at all.  Even if I do DNF, I’m still an Ironman. It’s under my belt already.  However, I’ve prepared less for bike mechanical problems — which has me concerned.

– During my first Ironman, every workout was a challenge in its own way, simply because it was all new.   This meant I was whiny, grumpy and exhausted.  Oftentimes I’d complain to my coach or blog about my training misery. This time, I simply kept my head down, knew what to expect and did the work. As a result, mentally I’ve been much fresher overall.  GI Joe was wrong, “knowing” is way more than half the battle.

I think, in the end, that’s the best thing I can say about training for the second Ironman compared to the first: You know what you’re getting yourself into.  It’s immeasurably easier and more comforting as a result.  I don’t know how it will play out on race day, but getting to this day was nowhere near as stressful as my first Ironman.

The moral, of course, is this: Once you complete your first Ironman, don’t make it your last! There’s more magic around the next corner.  And it will get a little easier.

6 days and counting.

Dialing In…FINALLY

Ryan | June 19th, 2011 3 Comments

First things first, I’ve calmed back down and am back to my normal, relaxed self.  Sorry for the freak out the past couple days.

Work, life, wedding, taper all collided.  Steph and I had a great talk about how I can take control of my stress and figure out how to minimize it.  Simply focusing on the fact that I had control over my mood greatly helped.  I definitely will do that more in the future.

Today has been the first relaxing day I’ve had in the past couple weeks.  No big errands.  No big drives.  No huge training days.  No wedding stress.  That allowed me to sleep nine whole hours.  I woke up refreshed, and with enough time to participate in my first yoga class in several months.  Boy, am I rusty!  And creaky for that matter.  However, I willingly sacrificed flexibility for added power and weight.  I believe this was the best decision I could make given my limited training schedule, though it’s clear I’ve taken a step back with my flexibility compared to last year.  As my family likes to say though, “with one tush you can’t dance at everyone’s ball.”

This afternoon, I’m taking time to write a couple important documents that I recommend you do too.  First is a mental race strategy document.  I included things like my goals overall, but specifically how I want to feel at every stage of the race.  I’m really trying to put into practice what I’ve learned the past six months from the leading pros in the sport.  In other words, I’m beginning to dial in to the race in a relaxed, focused manner.

My second doc is just a checklist of what I plan to pack.  Coach Gerardo gave us a detailed sheet but it’s so huge that I wanted something more specific to me.  So, I’ll cross-reference the two but at least now I have a running start.

Overall, my goal for the next week (outside of a hectic work day tomorrow) is to stay calm, and have a plan for every day of the week in terms of race preparation.  Here’s mine so far:

Monday: Final day of work and tying loose project ends together.

Tuesday: Sleep in as late as possible.  Light training, packing, including pre-packing transition bags. Learn how to use new Kindle! Add more salt in diet.

Wednesday: Sleep in as late as possible. Add more salt in diet.  Begin carb-loading.  RELAX!!! No work. No stress.

Thursday: Travel!  Pick up bike.  Settle at hotel.  Meet teammates.

Friday: Bike/Run/drive course.  Begin to taper off carbs.  Hang out with team.  CHILL.

Saturday: Swim course.  Meet Steph when she arrives. Team lunch and dinner.  Early bed time.


I am rejuvenated. I am ready for the week ahead.  I am ready to run MY race.  I am ready to have a great time.

People, it’s go time.  Probably my last full-distance Ironman.  I’m going to soak it all in.

Now that my head is screwed back on straight.

7 days and counting.