Archive for the ‘Running’ Category

Rough-Fit Running Lesson

Ryan | March 20th, 2011 5 Comments

Greg Moe, friend and co-owner, Rough-Fit

Today I met with a high school friend of Stephanie’s, Greg Moe.  He and a partner run a fitness performance training company in Tustin called Rough-Fit.  Greg has qualified for the US triathlon team in his age group for the Olympic distance and considers running one of his specialties.

I recently did some website copywriting for Rough-Fit, which you can check out here:

In exchange, Greg was kind enough to offer me a coached running workout.  Since Steph and I were in the OC to visit some family friends, today was the day to take him up on it.  And I am so glad I did!

Riding alongside me in his Trek mountain bike, Greg counted my cadence, observed my foot striking, arm movement and body positioning.  It turns out I’m doing a lot more right than wrong.  My biggest accomplishment is that I’ve successfully transitioned to forefoot/mid-foot striking.  Greg mentioned that my feet are under my hips and that he even didn’t notice the fact that my left leg is longer than my right.  In other words, my running is pretty balanced even though my right leg swings outward a bit (a structural problem, not necessarily technique).

Where I needed the most work was increasing my cadence, going from 84-85 steps a minute to 92 — where Greg says most elite runners maintain their stride count.  I picked up the tip quickly without trying to raise my speed, which is a common mistake among runners playing with cadence.

Then, Greg worked with me on using my arms more to help drive movement.  He said that most runners think that swinging your arms forward makes you go forward faster.  But Greg argued that driving your elbows back, so your fingertips almost brush past your hips, is more effective.  The backwards drive of your elbows can help increase power and speed.  A great analogy he offered was that I could try to picture filing my fingernails on my hips to get my elbows back more.  I felt a difference most notably on some uphill drills we did in the Newport Beach back bay neighborhood.  Fortunately, Greg said my body positioning during these drills was upright, which further helped.

Finally, Greg gave me some pointers on how to run downhill more effectively.  In short, it’s good to give in to the downward slope of the hill.  Let the hill and gravity do the work, and do not use your legs as brakes if possible.  Greg said he can gain up to 20 seconds on his mph-pace going down hill by letting his cadence and strides increase while keeping his heart rate the same or decreasing.  I tried this on a few hills and went noticeably much faster than I ever have on downhills. Granted, my heart-rate didn’t subside during those intervals, but Greg said that would come in time with practice.

Despite some heavy winds, I ran at a low 7:00-7:15 pace for a few miles on the way back to my car, Greg pedaling casually beside me and both of us doing our best to beat the imminent rainstorm.  Today’s lesson was a huge confidence booster.  Greg validated that my running form is largely on track, and with some tweaks and practice, I’ll get faster.

I may not be the world’s fastest runner, but my form is improving, just like in the pool.  And despite the workouts I’ve missed lately that may be key to preparing for Wildflower, Greg thinks I can definitely run in this weekend’s Cheseboro Half Marathon trail run.

When I showed up to visit Greg I was on the fence. Coach Gerardo said I could do it but to see how I feel.  Now that I know I’m not a “running reject,” I think I’m ready to give it a shot. It only took two failed running events (LA 13.1 and Surf City Full Marathon) for me to participate in a half marathon this year.

It’s about time.

93 days and counting.

Enough’s Enough

Ryan | March 7th, 2011 Leave a Comment

First off, in case you haven’t read it yet, here’s my latest column for Lava Magazine Online.  This one’s on self-coaching, which I’m sure some of you can relate to.  It’s a common theme here for me on the blog, though I don’t consider myself to be self-coached.  I consider myself to be a solo trainer quite often though.  Let me know what you think!

On to today.  From sun-up to well past sundown, I worked. Non-stop. It took a lot of willpower just to fit in a 45 minute recovery run starting around 7 p.m., but I got through it on the treadmill — thanks to ESPN college hoops.  I was supposed to lift or practice yoga, but enough’s enough today.  I’ll have to save that for another time.  Some nights I realize that with one tush, I can’t dance at everyone’s ball.  Simple as that.

Not much more to say about today.  I’m really tired.  I’ve got wedding stuff to tackle (honeymoon work and wedding insurance research).  The night is not over yet.

But this blog post is.  More work to do.

106 days and counting.

A Near Podium Experience

Ryan | February 27th, 2011 2 Comments

So close, and yet so far.  Literally.

That would describe my first near-podium experience at the Padres Stand For Hope 5k on a rainy, hail-infested Saturday.  The forecast called for near freezing temperatures and the possibility of snow at the 500-foot level.  No matter, as I had a 1.75 hour run to fit in, with the final 20 minutes being in zone 3.  Though Coach Gerardo gave me the green light to run as hard as I could if I felt up for it.  That’s keeping in mind that I haven’t run faster than a 7:30 mile in several months.

Normally, I wouldn’t even bother with a 5k at this point in my Ironman training.  But my coach is allowing me to ramp up the speed work now as several of my teammates are training for sprint or Olympic-distance race.  This is as good as time as any for me to get that work in too before focusing on long-distance training the final few months.

Our "Q-Force" Insomniac Racing Team posing before the 5k.

Further, several co-workers at my company decided to run the race for charity and asked if I’d be interested in joining. I thought it would be good to run with my friends and cheer them on, and it was truly the best part of the race.  Seeing the looks of accomplishment (and exhaustion) on my friends’ faces reminded me of my first 5k and my first few races.  I was truly happy for them.

Their successes ultimately were the highlight of the day.  The race itself was a disaster.  Total logistical nightmare. When I arrived at 6:30 a.m. to sign up early and begin my pre-race 1:20:00 run, volunteer crews were still trying to determine where to set up check-in and registration tents.  When it was my turn to register, the volunteers couldn’t find bibs.  Now I don’t want to sound like a race snob by any stretch.  I know most of these folks are volunteering for a great cause and have never participated in a race-like environment.  It just reminded me how grateful we should be for well-run races, where everything seemingly happens like clock-work yet there’s a HUGE operation going on behind the scenes.

Not at this race though.

The starting gun blasted nearly an hour after it was supposed to.  I had already run 7.3 miles and was getting cold from waiting in the starting area for nearly 15 minutes after my warm-up run.  Once the run started, I had to quickly decide if I was going to push it or stick to a tempo-run finish.  As soon as I saw my Griffith Park running buddy and co-worker John dart ahead of me, I had my answer.

No way.  I’m not going to lose today.  It’s in my nature.  No matter how painful the race may be, no matter if I’m unprepared to go that hard, I’m not going to lose without putting in my best effort.  I’m incapable.

Now I’m really glad I didn’t sign up for Oceanside 70.3 recently.

I’ve attached my Garmin workout to show the progression of my run (though I forgot to click to “Other” instead of “cycling.”)  You can see I had the best three running miles probably since the Nautica Malibu Triathlon last September: 7:07, 6:34, 6:13.

What propelled me?  Honestly, all I could think of was “PODIUM.”  I kept repeating it in my head the whole time.  I knew that with poor weather — it started hailing during the first mile of the race — and with it being a slightly less competitive crowd than what I’m used to, I had a real chance to experience a top-five or better finish.  Every time my heart felt like it was going to give out, I reprimanded myself…”KEEP GOING!  PODIUM.”




I started passing people.  John fell back.  My pace quickened. I kept trying to focus on form, but eventually I stopped thinking about that and focused on running as hard and fast as I could.  I’m convinced that if I had committed to the race even sooner – like right after the starting gun and not in the first quarter-mile, that perhaps I could have broken 20 minutes. That is my ultimate goal.

Well, I crossed the finish line at 20:29 by my watch, the same exact time and pace (6:36) I had at Desert Triathlon last year around the same time.  After staying around to congratulate my teammates and co-workers after they crossed the finish line, I went with John to see the posted results.

SECOND PLACE in age group!

I did it!!!!

FINALLY, a podium!  I was elated.  Even though it was a smaller race, I tasted my own sense of real victory for the first time. I called Steph immediately, and of course she was bummed because she wasn’t there to witness it — I made her stay home because of the weather and this not being an A-race by any stretch.

A while later, John and I went to collect our medals. That’s when my elation turned to dejection.

Apparently, two other runners in my age group didn’t have time chips but told race organizers they had run sub-20:00 times.  And for whatever reason, the race organizer gave them the second and third-place medals.

I had finished in fourth.


It was like the Breath of Life triathlon last June when I qualified for Nationals only to watch it fall away from a silly drafting penalty.

Can I catch a break?

Since this wasn’t a huge deal to me and it’s really about charity, I shrugged my shoulders, grumbled under my breath, and drove home.  As I have a day to think about it more, I realize how much I have to feel grateful for.  I’m no longer injured, quite clearly.  My training is paying off again, quite clearly. I equaled my 5k PR in my first real speed training of the year, and proved again to myself that if I work hard enough, I can run pretty fast.

It’s not a medal, but it’s close.

I’ll take my near-podium experience and savor it just a bit.

114 days and counting.

Smarter, not Harder

Ryan | February 8th, 2011 Leave a Comment

Before I get started, my latest Lava Magazine Online column is now live.  It’s all about defining and overcoming the Off-Season Training Blues (OTSB).  Tried to have some fun with it.  Hope you enjoy, and if you do, please don’t be shy about passing it around the internet!  Here’s the link

Onto today.  Yesterday, I mentioned I was going to cram some killer workouts in today before my Las Vegas business trip.  Well, in baseball terms I was 2-3.  I ran for an hour on the treadmill at my office complex gym, slogging through 5×3 minute hill repeats in HR zone 5b.  That left me absolutely drenched in sweat, not to mention the treadmill.  It also served as a great warmup for my personal strength training session with Shannan.  She led me through a battery of agility drills designed to improve strength and flexibility in my hips and glutes.

At the end of both workouts this morning, I could feel myself getting stronger.  I feel like I’ve turned a corner in my training.  Despite my current hectic schedule, I do believe the worst is over in my recovery period — mentally and physically.  While my speed may not be what I’d like at the moment, my form is improving and my legs seem more resilient.  That is a great sign.

This form of progress also allowed me to be more pragmatic in my training approach for tonight’s scheduled Fortius swim.  After a long day of meetings — OK one meeting that lasted seven hours — I realized I just didn’t have much left in the tank for a grueling coached swim workout.  I spoke with Gerardo, and we both agreed I should postpone it until tomorrow, moving my cycling time trial to next week.

That’s the thing about training for a second Ironman though.  It’s not about training harder, as was the case in my first Ironman odyssey, it’s about training smarter.  I find that with the limited time I have now, I’m listening to my body even more.  If I don’t feel like training, I try to motivate and push myself to rally. But I can sense the difference between fatigue and exhaustion.  The former feels like laziness or a lack of enthusiasm to push myself. The latter feels like an inability to do so even if I wanted to.

That’s how tonight felt. So, I came home, packed my bags for another trip, and hung out with my lady.

Can't wait to try on my Newtons for the first time!

The night ended on another positive note.  My review Newtons finally arrived!  I’ve been looking forward to this day for weeks.  I’m going to try the Sir Isaacs stability line.  They’re pictured here.  What I immediately noticed was the increased rubber on the sole in the forefoot area, along with the…ahem…bold peach/orange colors.  Whether it’s from an awkward stride or the coloring of the shoes, people will see me rockin’ my Newtons from near or far.  I’ll be taking notes in the coming weeks and month and will share my impressions via Lava Magazine Online.  Of course, you’ll be the first to know when the story hits.

Off to bed, and another crazy day draws to a close.

133 days and counting.

A Tough Decision

Ryan | February 3rd, 2011 2 Comments

Tonight, with the advice and  help of my coach, I decided not to run the Surf City Half Marathon this weekend.

Could I run the 13.1 miles?  Yes.  Could I finish in two hours or less?  Probably.

Will this help propel  my training and boost my confidence?

Not really.

Moreover, I could re-aggravate the leg injuries that ART therapy has helped me restore.  There’s just not enough upside here, as Mel Kiper Jr. likes to say when evaluating NFL Draft prospects.  The funny thing is, I’ve known all along this is the right decision.  I signed up for Surf City without a clear head, still emotionally swelling from Ironman Arizona.  I had no business making such lofty plans mere days after such a big race. I know that now.

It could be worse though.  My buddy John, who has been pasting me in trail runs the past few Wednesday, felt a twinge in his leg this past week while I was in London.  He instantly knew it was serious.  IT band tightness.  John, too, is a scratch for this Sunday’s Race.

Not such a Super Sunday after all.

I’ve had the great fortune of participating in multiple races, injury free.  This was to be John’s first half marathon.  A big milestone in his life.  He worked very, very hard to get to this moment.  Perhaps too hard.  But this is just a heartbreaking turn of bad luck for him.  He told me that at first he almost wanted to cry he was so frustrated, the moment he knew his race was over before it started.

I’m sure we can all relate at some point.

For me, I’m reminded how blessed we are to arrive at the starting line ready to race.  Physically and mentally.  It’s a gift in itself to feel healthy, alive and proud just moments before the starting gun pops.

Keep that in mind the next time you toe the line.  We are very, very lucky when our plans align with reality.

138 days and counting.

Progress Report

Ryan | January 26th, 2011 Leave a Comment

There are positives and negatives when running with a friend who’s faster than you.  The conversation and camaraderie can’t be beat.  However, it’s very easy to beat yourself up — physically and emotionally.

John overlooking Griffith Park's golf course and the LA basin.

Both happened this morning when my buddy John and I ran a hilly trail course at Griffith Park.  I love having a friend run with me — it’s relaxing and borderline sacred in terms of being able to unwind without interruption.  And the views, as you can see in the image accompanying this post, are fantastic.  On the other hand, I totally ignored my scheduled workout (stay in heart rate zones 2-3) in the name of keeping up.

Here’s the frustrating part though.  I used to be able to tear through this particular trail last year during the height of my speed and Ironman training, notching off 7:30-9:30 miles with ease. Today, no such luck.  John’s watch data indicated we ran between 11:00-9:10 miles.  I was wheezing afterward.

What’s happened?  I do know this: I’m nowhere near being in Ironman shape.  But I won’t get down about it.  Rather, I’ll use today’s run as simply a benchmark in where I’m at from a fitness standpoint.  There’s a lot of training left to go before Ironman Coeur d’Alene.  And I’m really glad I barely have any races this season between here and June 26.

Somewhere between now and then, I hope to pick up the pace while carrying the same level of conversation as today.  Even though my workout wasn’t the best in terms of performance, I’ll remember it more for the progress report of where I’m at in my training physically, along with the laugh-out-loud moments John and I enjoyed.

Gotta keep the training fun, right?

146 days and counting.

Officially Recovered

Ryan | January 23rd, 2011 3 Comments

It didn’t occur to me until late this afternoon that I had run three days in a row, each without pain.  Nearly six miles with several climbs on Friday, three miles yesterday following a long pain-free bike ride and today, nearly eight miles of trail running in just shy of 1.5 hours.

Yeah, I’d say that marks a recovery or if nothing else, a significant improvement.

Duration: Two months exactly.  About one month longer than I ever expected.  But better late than never!

Now, what contributed to this recovery?  I think it’s a number of things that all blended together:

Accepting the need for recovery: This was definitely the most difficult part of the process.  I thought I could just leap back from my Ironman after a few weeks and start workout out again for the next event.  Not even close.  Once I realized that, my real recovery began.

– Listening to my body: I had twinges in my hips, knees and IT bands I wasn’t used to, and instead of ignoring the pain I did something about it.  I pulled back on races, consulted my coach, personal trainer and ultimately, my ART therapist.  There’s a time to ignore pain (perhaps in a race) and a time to acknowledge it (training, post-race).  I’m very grateful I chose the latter route.

– Taking time to recover: Once I accepted that I needed a recovery, I decided to let the process run its course.  I’m inpatient, so this step was especially difficult.  But it’s necessary because rushing through an injury will likely just make matters worse.

– Extensive stretching: Instead of workout out, I stretched.  And when I wasn’t stretching, I was trying to schedule a yoga class.  While it’s nowhere near as fun (for me) as cycling out on the open road, I’ve felt the differences from stretching and foam rolling more often.  Combined with the ART therapy (below), my body has felt fresher lately.  In addition to stretching though, I got back on a strength training regimen that has helped my muscles replenish themselves.  I’ve been careful to primarily rely on body weight, cables or light weights and met with my trainer to ensure that all exercises helped alleviate my leg problems, not contribute further to them.

– Active Release Technique therapy: ART therapy has made a huge difference, in my opinion.  I was skeptical at first but am now a believer.  My hips have experienced the biggest benefits so far from the gripping manipulation techniques, and my IT bands are no longer tight like they were in the weeks immediately following Ironman Arizona.

– Overhauling my running form: I’ve used the past few weeks to try and ditch my heel-striking ways once and for all.  The process has been long and slow, and at time frustrating. I’m slower than usual.  My calves have been sore, but the end-result should be more pain-free running and ultimately I should be faster by leaning forward and relying more on forefoot striking.  The key for me has been not to get frustrated, or be intimidated by any upcoming races.  My light racing calendar this year is helping me emotionally accept being slower and the moment and being more diligent about learning to run again.

– Re-emphasis on nutrition: The holidays added weight to my frame, but not the good kind. More like the chocolate kind.   There’s probably more of a connection between my lack of recovery and poor nutrition than I’d care to admit.  But once the New Year rolled around, I took a balanced and healthy diet more seriously.  Do I think nutrition was the primary factor in helping me repair myself?  No.  But I do believe in the “body in, body out” mantra, and it’s no coincidence that my recovery took a sharp turn for the better in January compared to December.

Will my recovery last?  Can I finally put Ironman Arizona in the rear-view mirror once and for all?  Time will tell.

But I’m finally ready to focus on on improvement, not recovery.  If you are recovering as well, I hope this primer helps you!

149 days and counting.


Ryan | January 22nd, 2011 Leave a Comment

You know you’ve been away too long — from anyplace — when several people ask where in the world you’ve been.

A rapt audience...

That’s what happened to me this morning when the Fortius gang got together at a new local bike shop for a repair clinic before hitting the Malibu Canyon hills for some sweet cycling torture. I’ve been training on a different schedule lately, and with the holidays thrown in, teammate time took a back seat.

It was great to see everyone. Lots of laughter and learning, including how to measure chain wear (with a digital monitor, no less) and how to become more efficient at back tire removals (roll the wheel backwards to get more room and separation from the chain).

The ride itself was very productive: 4,100-plus feet of climbing and a new record at 7-Mile Hill (9:56). Last year my PR was 11:00, I think, so definite progress with climbing. We followed the bike with a short brick, which further made me realize that A) running with a new stride may be more taxing at first, and B) I’m still nowhere near my pre-Ironman conditioning level. I eked out 8:30-9:00 miles but my heart-rate was in zone 3 most of the time (150s bpms).

Group photo overlooking the Conejo and San Fernando valleys.

Though the ride and run were confidence boosters, I’ll remember today more for spending time with teammates and friends. It makes a huge difference in training as the hours on the clock rapidly vanish. It’s like getting a play date when we were kids.

And just like childhood, I’m off to take a nap. The one thing about getting older…naps become more and more cherished when one can find the time to squeeze one in.

150 days and counting.

No Pain!

Ryan | January 21st, 2011 2 Comments

Two months to the day of Ironman Arizona, I enjoyed my first truly pain-free run.



This wasn’t any run either.  For those of you who live near Sherman Oaks, I climbed Woodcliff St. all the way to Mulholland Drive.  And ran back down, a beating on the quads.

Did I mention it was pain-free?

The best part? I re-discovered a near eight-minute mile, clocking an 8:20 with my new running form and what felt like minimal effort. Glutes were firing.  Legs were kicking. Forefoot was striking.


Here’s my Garmin run data below.  I know it’s not that impressive from a distance or speed perspective, but the progress alone was the best Friday gift I could get.

To top it off, I made it out of work early enough to attend the Black Dog Yoga deep stretch class tonight.  This opened my hips up wide, along with my smile as many of my Fortius teammates joined in the fun.  Some of whom I haven’t seen in weeks.

Now I’m going to take Steph out to dinner.

In short, this weekend is starting off just right.

151 days and counting.

Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

Ryan | January 16th, 2011 6 Comments

So here’s my first pass at a video blog.  Please excuse the loud gusts of wind, I’m not sure exactly what to do about that outside of telling The Man Upstairs to keep things quiet when I’m trying to record!

I tried capture the emotion of the bike ride while it was happening, instead of writing about it after the fact.  I think I failed miserably but the bright side is I will get better.  Hope you enjoy it, if you can get through watching it!  The scenery is gorgeous, when I’m not screwing it up.

Today’s training made me realize just how much more I bit off than I could chew this weekend.  I ran nearly eight miles and climbed about 900 feet in around 1:25:00 today in 75-degree weather.  The good news is that my knees felt fine the entire run, and I was able to remain (mostly) on my forefoot in my strides.  I think the key to forefoot striking that has really helped me is not the avoidance of heel striking, but rather placing more of an emphasis on the forefoot than usual.  This is allowing me to find an acceptable middle ground (no pun intended) while running instead of potentially shredding my knees and Achilles.

Yet, by the time the run was over, I was totally exhausted.  My run called for activity between zones 1-4 on the heart-rate monitor.  I took that to mean I could run for extended periods in zone 4 while climbing.  Having the UCLA men’s and women’s cross country team out on the course with me didn’t help me keep my pace in check, nor did the Spanish female marathoner who ran a 2:09 at Big Sur.  Are you kidding me???  Well, I kept up with her on a few uphill climbs, but she revealed at the top that she had turned her ankle and was taking it easy.


Steph shows her game face!

Following the run, my day wasn’t close to over.  I had promised Stephanie that we’d spend more time this year exercising together, which manifested itself in our first tennis outing in more than a year.  Surprisingly, it went well for both of us!  We had a few rallies, nobody pulled anything, and all tennis balls stayed on the court.  Win!

Then, following lunch together and a nap (in the middle of the Jets-Patriots game!) I tried to fit in yesterday’s swim that I flaked on yesterday.

This time, instead of sitting in the parking lot I actually made it into the water.  What a mistake.  I was terrible! I felt like a boulder in the water, and couldn’t even complete the full workout (10 minutes easy laps, 5×150 drills and 4×300 moderate pace).  After my second 300, I saw my scheduled workout time had come and gone and decided enough was enough.

So far, that’s a big difference between this year and last year’s training.  When I’m done, I’m done.  I’m not forcing things perhaps the way I did last year.

Except when I overdo it for hours on end beforehand.

Still, whether it’s a video blog that didn’t quite turn out as planned, a bike ride gone slightly awry, a run that got derailed by my own competitiveness, or a swim that didn’t meet expectations due to exhaustion, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Isn’t it great to overextend every once in a while?  To push beyond our comfort zones?  To try and fail?  It’s weird, but I think there’s pleasure in that. Stagnation is boring.  Following the plan all the time gets stale.

I hope you’ve been able to bite off more than you can chew a little bit too.

156 days and counting.