Archive for the ‘Swimming’ Category

Still Recovering

Ryan | March 27th, 2011 Leave a Comment

Yesterday’s Pacific Half Marathon took a lot out of me.  While I’m not in as much discomfort physically as I was after Ironman Arizona, I haven’t been this sore in a long time.  After IMAZ, I could barely sit on a toilet without pain, let alone a concerted effort to get that low.  Tonight, despite a recovery swim and spin, I’m close to the same territory.  Getting up and down out of a chair is tough at the moment.

I think that’s because I raced at a harder pace on a tougher course than what I had been training for.  This really breaks the rule of proper training when combining proper intensity and duration.  I’ve been training at a lower heart-rate and lower speed for much of the year so far, then went out and blew that pace and heart-rate out of the water.  My heart-rate averaged closer to the 160s for much of the race instead of the high 140s or low 150s.

I don’t regret it though.

I do regret that my brick was scratched today due to weather. It was just too wet and nasty outside to go for a five-hour ride/run fest.  Instead, Coach Gerardo, Ray and I met to swim at VNSO Park.  Honestly, it was one of my all-time favorite swims.  Gerardo and I shared a lane, basically swam however we felt for most of our 45 minutes and then challenged each other to a game of swimming H-O-R-S-E that I highly recommend others try too.  We’d take turns coming up with challenges to see who could complete them first. For example, fastest 25, fastest 50 with a pull buoy and flip turn, and my personal favorite, fastest 25 while wearing a swim fin on one hand.

It’s been so long since I’ve just had plain and simple fun while training.  Today was one of those days.  So while I regret not being able to get the intense training in, perhaps what I gained was even more important: Relaxation, rest, and some perspective.

86 days and counting.

Jack of All Trades…

Ryan | March 6th, 2011 2 Comments

My Garmin watch only shows 12 hours and 27 minutes of actual training this week, but I don’t care.  This week was about quality, not quantity.  Like today, for instance.  I struck out on my own this morning for a long day on the bike and in the pool.  All my teammates were at the Desert Tri event, which I mentioned was difficult for me not to attend.  I badly wanted to race, but I know I need to be disciplined right now both with my schedule and with wedding planning.

Today’s ride called for 4.5 hours in the saddle and 2,400 yards in the pool with 10 x 100s at an all-out pace.  For the latter, I knew I’d need to pace myself to even finish the workout, so I went “all-out” with “no cramps, no bonks” as my mantra.  I pulled through with an average pace of 1:44 on the 100s, ironically close to my T-pace.  That’s not bad considering my Garmin data transferred to Training Peaks conveyed I climbed 5,500 feet in my 64-mile ride.  (By the way, what’s the deal with Training Peaks adding elevation to each upload when the Garmin data is usually less?)

I rode a new road today, Yerba Buena, near Neptune’s Net (famous biker hangout) off Pacific Coast Highway. A cyclist I met and rode with for about 10 miles in Hidden Valley said I should give it a go if I needed a steady, long climb. Which I did (Coach Gerardo’s workout called for an hour climb or two 30-minute high-energy bursts).

Cycling companions made my ride enjoyable today.  It was all about meeting random people along the way.  The cyclist who recommended Yerba Buena has two kids and tries to juggle riding about 200 miles a week, five days a week.  He’s been riding for 25 years, evidenced by an effortless climb up the hill leading to Lake Sherwood that left me panting just a bit.  We joined two other cyclists and formed a pace line before heading up the hill near Sly Stallone’s house off Portrero Road. I gassed myself up front when it was my turn to lead, trying to keep the momentum of the ride going.  I hate being the guy that slows down the pack but I think I overdid it.  This cost me as I my new group of friends quickly became my old group of friends.  They sped away and I blew off the back.

3/4 of the way to the top of Yerba Buena. What a climb!

I was on my own for the next 20-25 miles until mid-way up Yerba Buena — which let me tell you is a steady, long climb that lasted about an hour and was pretty un-relenting. (But you get great views, like the one to my left!) At least Mulholland Drive and even Latigo Canyon have some downhills or flats interspersed. This was practically all uphill.  And just when you think you’re done, you reach Decker Canyon Road and have more climbing to do before a monster drop back down into the Valley. But, once again, my ride became interesting when I met a cyclist from Morocco who rides more than a 100 miles a day several days a week. Cycling is this guy’s life. He cycles to clients as a computer repair consultant.  He used to be a pro in his country years ago.  And he constantly tries to find new paths for each ride to keep things interesting — the more mountains, the better.  I kept up with this guy for two miles of the uphill slog before he grew tired of me, took my picture for his blog (which I never caught the name of), and never saw him again.  He stayed behind on the hill as I passed him and I think he may have dropped back to the bottom and then done a repeat.  This guy was hard core!

Here’s my Garmin watch data of the ride:

All this made me realize that we triathletes are truly like the “jack of all trades, master of none.”  We’re solid at any of the disciplines, if not good or maybe even great.  But there are specialists in each sport where cycling, swimming or running is all they do.  Andy they do it very well.  I realized this as I got passed all over the place today by many road cyclists, calves bulging, shiny bikes shimmering.  I’m proud of how I got through the day, but I know I’ve got a lot of work left to do if I ever want to be great at any one tri-sport.

107 days and counting.

I Love it When a Plan Comes Together

Ryan | February 28th, 2011 Leave a Comment

Today’s swim workout almost didn’t happen. I forgot the local pool was closed on Mondays and I rarely have Monday swims.  Fortunately, I had enough time to drive 20 minutes away to Calabasas, knowing it would be a super tight call if I’d make work on time.  I had to make a quick decision about whether I was going to skip the workout.  I could take the freeway and try to make a break for it, or I could admit defeat, go home, get my spin in on the bike and be content with that.

I decided to go for it.

What a great lesson learned.

The freeway opened up, I made it to the pool on time.  And what would you know, I’m changing into my swim shorts when a friendly voice from the past calls out, “I know that dude!”  It was my buddy, Dustin, whom I haven’t seen in months since he and his wife had their second child.  We caught up, realized we were both doing Wildflower long course, and even had the opportunity to share a lane for our morning swim.

Talk about fortune via misfortune!

Bumping into Dustin made my morning.  I felt so gratified that I put in the extra effort to make my swim workout because I wouldn’t have run into my friend, and I knew that I really earned that swim.  Of course, I couldn’t get my spin in tonight, as I had other things to do before I leave on another business trip tomorrow.  But, I’m going to be aggressive and try to cram three workouts in tomorrow before I get on the plane.  A spin early tomorrow at sunrise, followed by another swim, and a strength-training session with Shannan at lunch.

Both Dustin and I agreed that fitting workouts into our hectic lives is a real tough challenge, for our significant others and for ourselves. But fewer things are more gratifying than when it all comes together, like George Pappard used to say in the original A-Team show…”I love it when a plan comes together.”

Or when you make up a new one on the fly.

113 days and counting.

PS: May not be able to blog much the next few nights, this time it’s the Game Developer’s Conference. Late nights. Early mornings.  Gonna do my best though to get some training in.  If you’re in SF and want to run on Wednesday a.m., let me know.

Blowin’ Off Steam

Ryan | February 24th, 2011 Leave a Comment

My day started off super crappy.  But training saved it.  That’s the benefit of all this crazy triathlon training we do — the insanity of it all keeps us sane.

Because a contractor tried to shirk responsibility for a poor installation of my washing machine (there’s a longer story you can email me about if you want to hear what happened), I arrived to Griffith Park this morning late and pissy.  Further, my Garmin watch strap popped loose, so I couldn’t wear my watch on my wrist.  After fiddling with it for five minutes unsuccessfully, I tucked it into my chest pocket on my fleece and took off.  My run called for an hour of “moderate” trail running between heart-rate zones 1-4, with some moments in zone 5 if called for on inclines.  I ran by feel instead, but I knew I was moving quicker than normal.  My teeth and jaw were a little clenched as I was thinking of all the things I would have liked to have said to the contractor if I was quicker on my feet in the heat of an argument and NOT trying to be as polite.  This guy really pissed me off because at the core, I think he thought he could push me around.

Anyway, I found that the longer I ran, the less frustrated I became.  Yet my pace remained the same.  And the same hills I had trouble running up just a couple weeks ago were a LOT easier today.  Again, I think my body is finally fully recovered from IMAZ and the gains of my consistent training since January are paying off.  As my dad put it tonight in conversation, perhaps I need a little less to get a lot farther.

This was no more evident than tonight’s unexpected 1,000-yard time trial in the pool with my Fortius teammates.  Before the workout, I told Coach Gerardo that he should be on Bonk Watch for me, as once again this was my third workout for the second time this week.

Once again, at the brink of exhaustion, I swam faster for 1,000 yards than I ever have in the pool.  Thanks to healthy pacing from my teammate and friend Mike, I crushed my previous best time of 17:57 from about a month ago and sailed to a new best: 16:36!

Are you kidding me!!?!?!?

Honestly, I still can’t believe it. I really owe that to Mike’s strong pacing, which fueled my competitive instincts and forced me to swim a little more balls-out than I wanted to, but at the same time saving room for a surge in the final 200 yards.

Honestly, today was perhaps one of my all-time best days of training.

And I have a jerky contractor to thank for it.

Maybe I should ask more people to piss me off?

117 days and counting.

Weekend Wrap

Ryan | February 20th, 2011 Leave a Comment

View of Santa Monica between rain storms from Mandeville Canyon trail.

Saturday, February 19: It never fails.  The less motivated I am to train but actually get out and do it, the more I surprise myself.  That happened not once but twice today, during a 1.5 hour trail run off the dirt Mulholland trail (where I was rewarded with this spectacular view of Santa Monica) and, more surprisingly, during my afternoon swim at rainy VNSO Park.

For the latter, I sat in my car while the sky poured down for 15 minutes.  I had no energy, no motivation, to leave that warm heated space.  I was still cold with dried sweat from my Under Armour compression pants.  Tired from eight straight days of training and business travel.  But, I had a contractor at my condo due to a leaky upstairs washer thanks to my lovely neighbor, Trudy.  So, I couldn’t go home and enjoy a restful afternoon with all the clanging and banging.  What was left to do?

It took me about 20 minutes to find my happy place in the water. The rain had subsided.  The sky opened up with a few rays of sunshine.  My attitude changed.  I was going to make the best of this.

And ya know what?  In the last of my timed 15:00 time trials, I was on track to PR my 1,000 TT.  By 27 seconds!

I think this is the biggest mystery of training:  Why do I perform better when I least expect it?

I’m not even sure it’s a mystery worth solving. The result is what matters.  And it all starts with the initial effort of getting out of the car and into the pool on a rainy Saturday.

Sunday, February 20: A day off.  A much needed day of rest and recovery.

At first, I really didn’t like the idea of switching my off days to Sunday.  I felt like I was going to lose out on precious long training hours to help me bounce back into shape.  But I was losing much more — a sense of closeness with Steph brought about by a lack of perspective on free time.

While I will resume Sunday training in my final three months of Ironman training, I am a new man when I hit the road now on Mondays.  It’s a welcome change.  I feel like I have a weekend again, as odd as it may seem.  Training for an Ironman can often feel like a job even though it’s what we do for fun on a weekend. Now, with some true Sunday fun day back in the mix, my perspective has been restored.

Today, my parents, Steph and I took a day trip up to Los Olivos to visit the key sites for our upcoming August wedding.  I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but we are going to have a memorable weekend.  I can finally picture the flow of events and am officially excited for the big day.  Steph and my mom came up with some ideas that I think will cause our wedding to be truly unforgettable.

Fortunately, my parents loved the wedding venue, Firestone Vineyards.  We took a tour of the winery today, where we learned more about how wine is made, stored and aged.  I also learned that wine should be stored at 55 degrees Farenheiht in a fridge, and that 90% of all red wine should be drank sooner rather than later.  In other words, all that you hear about storing wine for long periods doesn’t hold true for most of the wine on today’s market.

Our tour guide explains the differences between French oak barrels and American oak barrels. Mostly cost!


I wouldn’t have learned these things had I not gotten off my bike and stripped myself of my workout clothes on a Sunday.

As important as tri-training is, family time is even more important.  Today was fantastic.

And now I’m looking even more forward to my 4.5 hours on the bike tomorrow, a President’s Day treat.

121 days and counting.

New T-Pace

Ryan | February 17th, 2011 4 Comments

I have a new swimming T-pace.  It’s eight seconds faster than the previous mark, 1:48/100 yards.  This has been confirmed after multiple sets of 500s at tonight’s Fortius swim.

My first indication of change in the water came during one of our early drills.  I was supposed to hit my T-pace in the third of five sets of 100 yards and go faster for the remaining two sets of 100s.  I started off way faster than anticipated, a brisk (for me) 1:37 without much effort.  Problem.  I was supposed to come in at 1:55, with the next set at 1:50. Problem again, as I “slowed” to 1:41.  Then 1:37, 1:33, 1:32.

This continued for the remaining two sets of 500.  More often than not, I came in at 1:40/100 with :20 rest, usually arriving closer to 1:37-1:39.

I suppose my real T-pace in the water in a non-stop 1,000 is still 1:48 as I’d imagine I’m slowing over the course of the TT.  But this still gives me hope of improvement on the horizon.  If I can maintain that 1:40 pace over longer distances, I’ll really start saving some major time in events where I’m wearing a wetsuit.  And my swim times came after a fairly intense run early this morning at chilly Griffith Park.  I ran my first 7:30-ish mile pace in roughly six months.

My strength is coming back…nearly three months removed from Ironman Arizona.  I may have recovered physically a month ago, but I’m starting to see strength gains for the first time now.  Even my trainer, Shannan, indicated that “my nervous system is coming back online” based on the improvement in my coordination and agility in recent sessions.

Man, an Ironman sure takes a toll if I’m just starting to get my nervous system back in working athletic order now!

Anyway, it’s really nice to see progress after being down in the dumps for so long.  If there’s hope for me, there’s hope for you too.  It just takes time.  And patience.  And a willingness to accept and trust the process of healing and rebuilding.

Not the easiest thing to do.

But certainly among the most worthwhile.

124 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.

Ouch.

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.

Pain in the Butt

Ryan | January 13th, 2011 1 Comment

So tired tonight.  The week has caught up with me.  Poor sleep the last couple nights has caught up with me.  Perhaps not eating enough has caught up with me.  The result was a slower than usual swim session tonight with the Fortius team.  I think I just bonked, but it’s also hard to go faster in the water when you’re trying to constantly implement all the feedback from each drill.  Flutter kick to avoid crazy legs.  Make sure you’re making a bow like an archer on your upstroke.  Keep your arm out wide enough so as not to cross over your body on the downstroke.  But not too wide!  Relax!  Your shoulders are tense.

Just listening sometimes is exhausting!

Is it possible for words to physically weigh you down in the water, like a rusty anchor?

The one buoyant bit of news today came from my ART guru, Dr. Ben Kleinbrodt. We’re getting close to isolating my leg problems.  It seems my right gluteus medius (not quite your butt, but the side part of your butt connecting hip to butt) is puffy and swollen.  It’s easy to see when I’m wearing tight shorts.  (Not sure it’s appropriate to share a photo, it’s not that kind of website haha!)  Dr. Ben thinks it’s because I lean to the left, and my skeletal structure forces extra pressure on the right side of the body.  This hip/butt pressure tightens my psoas, which tightens my hip flexor, which in turn can tighten the IT band.

It’s kind of a big deal.  Dr. Ben told me to focus on foam rolling my right hip/butt area for at least five minutes a night.  He also told me to increase my running mileage a bit, that my body is responding well to the treatments and exercises.

I’ll have plenty of time tomorrow to stretch.  I missed a cycling workout on the trainer today to accommodate my ART session.  And since I’m a bit overtired from the week, there’s no making that session up.  I can’t stand missing training sessions.

Ah well. In reading this post I sound a little cranky and whiny. Let’s call it a night.

Hope everyone’s training out there is going well.  Hang in there!  There are days like this that dot all of our training cycles.  It’s just part of the journey.  Part of the process.

159 days and counting.

Swimming Breakthrough

Ryan | January 6th, 2011 Leave a Comment

It’s late and I’m tired, but I’m still on a bit of a high after my first time-trial of the year.  It came in the pool, and though it was only 1,000 yards I’m very excited.  Maybe all this time off has actually paid off!?

From a technique standpoint, it seems the breathing breakthrough from my Tuesday swim is paying immediate dividends.  I beat what I think was my previous best 1,000 in the pool by at least 23 seconds.  I accomplished this by breathing every four strokes instead of every two-three strokes, and generally from being more relaxed in the water.  Once I learned that I could swim more efficiently by holding more air in my lungs and letting it out gently, I realized how intensely I was swimming before — and what that was doing to my oxygen intake and output.

If any of you are having a hard time swimming, I highly recommend this approach.  Though I think it’s something you have to feel for yourself.  Trust yourself.  And I honestly think the more you enjoy being in the water, the easier it is to swim faster.  I know this because I used to fight the water, so to speak, and it showed in my splits.

I also think there’s more going on here besides swim technique.  Perhaps it has something to do with nutrition and a new “super food” I’ve been experimenting with.  More on that tomorrow.

Right now I’m exhausted and need to go to bed.

166 days and counting.

Breathing Lesson

Ryan | January 4th, 2011 5 Comments

There are training breakthroughs that come through repetition. And there are those that come unexpectedly, just by watching someone else.

I experienced the latter tonight in the pool, and the “aha!” moment was truly profound.  During my Fortius-coached swim workout, Gerardo had us perform a drill where we could breathe three times per 25 yards, then five, then seven, then once and finally two 25s without a breath.  I thought the two 25s (not necessarily back-to-back) would be impossible.  I couldn’t do something like that when I was in far better shape than how I’ve felt lately — even though I felt particularly fresh tonight.

All that changed when I watched my teammate Mike glide across the pool almost effortlessly without taking a breath.  Honestly, it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed in the water.  Mike looked like he was going SLOW as he skimmed the pool surface.  Arms looping upward the way a steamboat might cross a river.  When he rejoined my lane mates, I had to ask him how he did that — the key was relaxation, he said.

It was my turn to try.  I decided to go slower than usual, which to me was seemingly paradoxical considering I wouldn’t be able to take a breath for the entire pool length.  While I’ve completed the exercise in the past (tense, hurried and anxious underwater), I had never done it so easily as I did tonight. I actually felt like I was gliding too! Were it not for watching Mike first, I’m not sure I’d have believed in myself to even think I could do it.  Then, I was able to outperform my own expectations further by only taking one breath for an entire 50, something I’ve never even come close to doing.

By relaxing more in the water, I actually got faster in my time trials tonight.  In fact, I was on pace for a 1:14 100 with my :37 50 at the end of the workout in a relay race.  Obviously, I realize I may have slowed on my second 50, but tonight was not only a huge lesson learned, it also will help my swimming immensely moving forward.  Perhaps all other aspects of my training.

Relax!  Let the speed come to me.  Form.  Technique.  Breathing.

Well, maybe not the last one.

168 days and counting.