Archive for the ‘Swimming’ Category

Overcoming Excuses

Ryan | December 23rd, 2010 7 Comments

It would have been so easy not to have worked out today.  So many excuses.  Bad weather (though improving finally!).  Injury (injuries?).  Stephanie’s first day off work for the holidays.  Chili cheese dogs and frozen yogurt for lunch.  Apollo 13 on HBO for the umpteenth time.

I could tell that for the first time in a long time, sloth, laziness and worse yet — self-pity — were starting to get a grip on me.  It would have been so easy to stay on the couch!  My mood reflected my outlook.  I was down, even edgy with Steph. As I told her, I just don’t feel right lately.  Whether it’s the accumulation of holiday junk food (I’m now up nine pounds from my race day weight) or that sinking feeling I’ve been dwelling on about not being able to train the way I’d like, I’m having a hard time staying motivated.

But I’ve realized that the only person who can change my outlook is me.  I can’t rely on the Ironman Kona coverage on NBC.  I can’t rely on my teammates to pick me up.  I can’t wait for a feeling to wash over me like magic.  That’s a victim’s approach.  A passive approach.

If you want to change your mood, change it.  No excuses.

So I did.  I dragged myself off the couch at 5:30 p.m., drove in traffic to the local pool and plunged in the water for an hour set that felt a little more difficult than I remember similar workouts in the past.  But, 2,500 yards later, I got through it. Maybe not the best swim, but a completed swim. (Though my T-pace is pretty much the same as it was pre-Ironman.)  And with Christmas and New Year’s hovering, one of the few workout activities I’ll be able to fit in the next several days.

On the way home, I was smiling inwardly and on the outside.  I physically and mentally felt better.  Of course, this presented a bit of a challenge.  It’s important our significant others know that when we come back in a great mood after a workout, it’s a separate part of ourselves that’s being enhanced.  It could easily get confusing for a partner to think that you need a work out to stay happy, not them.  I made sure to share that with Steph tonight as soon as I got home. Fortunately, she understood.  Steph knows that she’s the foundation for making all of “This” work.  Without her, I can workout all I want, but it just wouldn’t be the same.

So, I guess I reinforced two things today.  First, bad attitudes happen. It’s how YOU respond with yourself that defines what happens next.  Second, in this holiday season, take extra time to honor your friends and family.  They all see the joy we experience from our triathlon training and racing.  But it’s nice to remind them that our training and racing only works if they understand how important they are in our lives.

Now, I want to wish you a happy holiday season.  I never expected to make friends with people from all over the world who read this blog.  You’ve touched my life and held me accountable all at the same time.  That said, I hope we all unplug a bit during the next couple days. No Facebook. No Twitter. No blogs.  Let’s just hang out with our families and loved ones.  Let’s show them where our priorities really are.

With that in mind, I’ll be offline the next couple days.  Probably blogging again on December 26 or 27.

Please have a Merry and Safe Christmas.  I will be thinking of you, as I consider those of you I’ve gotten to know as real friends.  And I hope those of you who read this blog without commenting will introduce yourselves soon.  I’m very much looking forward to that.

180 days and counting.

Ironman Arizona Race Report Part I

Ryan | November 26th, 2010 2 Comments

“So, how was your Ironman?”

That was the question I was greeted with from our well-intentioned office administrator as I opened the door to the lobby this past Tuesday on my first day back from completing Ironman Arizona.

You’d think that 12.5 hours plus the ride home would have given me more than enough time to practice and rehearse my canned response to such a simple question.  Yet, upon being presented it, I could only muster an amused stare as my jaw dropped.

How could I possibly sum up an Ironman in quaint morning conversation?

Almost a week later, I’m still struggling to find the words, but I will try below.  From the comfort of my office den at home. In sweats.  Workout clothes and race kits neatly folded for the time being.  Wetsuit flopped over my rocking chair, apparently done for the winter.  Browned, dirt-stained running shoes placed in the closet. Tri bike still at Coach Gerardo’s house, waiting patiently for me to retrieve it (this weekend I swear!).

So far, the quiet is the strangest part.  No workouts to log.  No bottles to rinse or prepare.  No early morning or late evening workouts to schedule around. Nothing.  Swim, bike, run has been replaced — somewhat reluctantly — with eat, sleep, rest.

And plenty of time to reflect on a yearlong journey that ultimately was blessed with good luck, good health and plenty of good results. Culminating in my first Ironman, but certainly not my last.  Despite the commitment, the pain and the sacrifices, I can’t wait for my next M-dot race, Coeur d’Alene. The countdown is about to begin anew but before it does, here are my thoughts on Ironman #1.

I hope this helps a first-time Ironman competitor somewhere out there.  Also see this post for more basic tips and lessons learned


As I wrote in the days preceding the race, I was surprised at how calm and relaxed I felt. The best way to describe my emotional state is that I simply felt like I belonged at Ironman Arizona.  All the hours spent alone training, and with my AMAZING Fortius Racing team, had melded and forged my mind and body into something hard.  Not one part of me felt ill-prepared for the day and as a result, I could enjoy every moment going into race morning.

Around 6:40 a.m., after some photos with fellow IMAZ competitors, LA Tri Clubbers and teammates, I plopped into the chilly, murky lake water. The temperature was never a factor, as several ocean swims in Santa Monica, Marina del Rey and Malibu were actually colder than the announced 64 degrees.  Bob and I found a spot together towards the middle-left of the pack.  Upon seeing the massive volume of people in the water, we both realized the likelihood of swimming together was slim. We wished each other a great race, hugged, and treaded water silently for a few minutes absorbing the moment.

Then, Black Sabbath’s “Ironman” started blaring through the loudspeakers.


I whooped and hollered, dropping my rock horns in beat with the music.  This was it!  The moment was here, and it was perfect.  The bridge lights above us twinkled overhead, the moon was still out.  And then, the cannon blast signaling the race start.

All hell broke loose.

The lake simply erupted into mass chaos.  Arms churned and legs kicked.  Elbows struck, hands grabbed.  Those first 500-1,000 yards are a total blur.  I just kept my focus and surged forward as best I could without panicking.  Which is hard to do as competitors claw at you to find better position in the water.  I zig-zagged all over the place to find any opening I could for a few strokes without drinking water or being pelted by body parts.  Others weren’t so fortunate.  I remember seeing out the side of my right goggle lens a man floating on his back, appearing to hyperventilate.  I’m somewhat ashamed to admit I kept swimming forward.

It took around 30 minutes, by my estimation, before I found enough room in the water to swim at what felt like my race pace.  That would have been roughly 10 minutes before the 1.2 mile turnaround buoy.  I remember feeling incredibly relaxed at this point and somewhat surprised at how fast the morning was going.  After all the waiting, I was in the middle of an Ironman!

The rest of the swim was fairly uneventful.  I did veer off course, straying inward to where an official in a kayak had to gently corral a few of us stragglers back to the main route.  I probably lost 45 seconds correcting myself but wasn’t too rattled.  I’d prefer to veer inward anyway as I can track an inside line towards the final turn to the finish.  The only real dilemma at this point was whether I could coax my body to pee while I was swimming. I had to go for a second time even though I pee’ed prior to the race.  I was in such a swimming zone that I didn’t want to disrupt my cadence to stop.  This would turn out to be a mistake.

After essentially sprinting the final 500 yards of the swim to reach the stairs exit, I’ll never forget looking at the event timing clock while running to T1: 1:12:53. “ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!???” That’s all I could think to myself, I had shattered my best-case scenario swim goal by two full minutes.  I had swam at a 1:43 pace, a full :04-:08 faster than usual.

This was going to be a great day, I thought.

Part 2 tomorrow: The Windy Bike Ride From Hell

Embracing the Unknown

Ryan | November 16th, 2010 1 Comment

I remember when I first started swimming at Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks pool.  Almost a year-and-a-half ago it seems.  Back when a half-mile swim felt challenging (and satisfying), and all I did was swim back-and-forth without any direction, instruction, or a clue as to how to improve.

That’s what I thought about today as I blasted through a taper workout of 2,700 yards featuring two 500s and a 1,000 yards broken out by sprint 50s.

I also thought about how today marked my final VNSO swim until Ironman.

The next time I jump into that heated pool and feel the cold concrete sting my toes, I will be an Ironman.  Everything that I’ve worked for since 2008 will have come to fruition.

What a long, strange, trip it’s been.

That also got me thinking.  This journey has been a rite of passage.  I’ll be going from a world I knew nothing about — a Herculean fantasy — to having full experience and knowledge of it very soon.  It’s not unlike other rites of passage over the course of our lives.  Getting our driver’s license.  SAT’s.  The first day of high school and college.  Losing our virginity.  I don’t know about you, but I rushed through all those rites.  All I could ever think about was reaching those milestones, not the journey along the way.  Nor could I appreciate the nervous energy, apprehension and shear terror (at least with the sex part) prior to those gargantuan moments until long after.  When I was safe, comfortable and secure enough to look back at them.

But strangely enough, when I recall those life milestones, I’m surprised to find that I miss the giddyness, stress and anxiety of the unknown prior to”The Big Moment” as much as the moments themselves. As a result, I find myself slowing down more these past few days.  I’m not in a hurry to get to Sunday the way I thought I would be.  I’m truly living in the “Now.” I generally don’t hang out in that space for very long.  It’s the way I’m wired. But since this past weekend — since my surprise send-off party — I’m savoring the nerves, the excitement and the feelings of wonder.

I also know, based on all those other “firsts,” that this “pre” period just might be the best part.  Maybe the unknown is better than the real.  Maybe the build-up is better than the actual moment.  Either way, I’ll know on Sunday.   And then on Monday, it will all be over.  I’ll be driving home.  And the countdown to Coeur d’Alene will begin.  How strange indeed.  The countdown clock will reset.  The journey will begin anew, but I’ll know what to expect.  It may not be the same as the fabulous wonder of not knowing.

So why not enjoy every moment and sensation of these last few pre-Ironman days? I’ll never be quite the same person after the race, and I know that.

Like this morning’s swim, this is the end of my “first time” Ironman journey.

And for the first time in my life, I’m going to stop, smile, savor, and embrace the unknown.

Five days and counting.

Nothin’ More to Say

Ryan | November 12th, 2010 Leave a Comment

Stephanie asked me on the way home from synagogue tonight what I was planning to blog about.

After thinking about it for a moment, I realized the answer was simple:

“There’s nothing more to say, really.”

I think that’s where I’m at with all this.  What else can I possibly say to describe going on this journey?  What new insight am I going to have at this point?  What else is there to learn that I haven’t already uncovered?

Then again, maybe it’s the reinforcement of the key lessons that matters most.  Take this morning, for example.  Once again, I jumped into the pool early.  Against my wishes.  It was so cold, my feet were numb on the pool deck.  I slogged through 3,150 yards going the long way (50 meters, not 25 yards).  My timed 500s were slower than usual.  I didn’t want to be in the water.  At all. Especially for that distance.  I wanted to be in bed, enjoying some extra sleep.  I basically want to do as little as possible right now.

But I didn’t quit. I gutted out the workout, despite not wanting any part of the experience.  Despite not having a very good swim.  I got through it.

That happens to all of us every day.  We just have to get through it. If you quit once, you can quit twice.  And then what?  Quitting can become the same habit as displaying grit and tenacity.

So, while I may not have more to say, I do have more to learn. More to remember.  More to internalize. More to project to the world.

I may not have more to say.  But there’s still much to do.

9 days and counting.



Ryan | November 4th, 2010 Leave a Comment

I was a big grump today.  And tonight.


My swim sucked this morning.  I was lethargic in the water, almost a full 15 seconds slower in the same exact distance intervals I did on Tuesday.  The slower I got, the more frustrated I became.  The more frustrated I became, the worse my form became.  It was a downward spiral from there.  I just flat out didn’t want to be in the water.  I was angry because swimming the equivalent of 80 football fields this week didn’t exactly feel like a taper.  Then, fighting traffic to get to Griffith Park with enough time to cram in my hour bike made matters worse.  I honked my horn. Cursed slow drivers.  I was not pleasant.

Of course, my bike ride felt sluggish as well.  And, as you can imagine, I grew even more frustrated.  At least I fueled that negative energy into pedal power, hitting 25 mph a few times on the flats out of pure spite.

I think I greatly over-estimated what tapering for an Ironman would be like.

However, at the end of a long day and evening that continued to be stressful, I can hear my inner Coach Gerardo asking me one very important question: “How did you feel after the bike and swim this morning?”


Pretty good, actually.  Like I definitely could have kept going without any problem.  And the only way I would have experienced that feeling is by not quitting on myself today, which I avoided doing despite every ounce of me wanting to crawl out of the pool and go back to sleep.

Anyways, my point is this.  Even when a workout or two seems to fall apart. Even when training schedules throw you a curveball, you must keep going.  No matter how hard it is.  Now matter how much you want to quit.  Something good will come of it. Somehow. You won’t know how, or when you’ll even realize it. But it will come.

So even though today pretty much sucked all the way around, it was still a good day. I got through it.  I swam 8,000 yards in three hours over two days.  Not a lot of folks can say they did that.

Now leave me alone so I can go get some sleep.

17 days and counting.

Not Tapering Yet

Ryan | November 3rd, 2010 1 Comment

If this is tapering, I’m not feelin’ it yet.  I just got done with a yoga class that let out just after 9 p.m.  I ran about 8.5 miles this morning.

And just now, I packed a full bag for a 2.4 mile swim tomorrow morning and an hour of intervals cycling immediately after.

This is tapering?

Sure, I had a (well-deserved) day off from training on Monday.  And, yes, I’ll have this Friday off as well. Yet the intensity of the workouts still doesn’t quite feel like what I expected.  Maybe my expectations were off.  I figured we’d be doing general maintenance work at this point — just enough of a workout to keep my energy levels moderate so I’m not ready to tear the legs off a Cheetah barehanded.  After I catch up with it, of course.

Instead, I’ve got another 5:40 a.m. wakeup call tomorrow to plop into the pool.  I thought I was done with those for the immediate future.

Maybe the REAL taper starts next week when my training hours head closer into the single digits. I’m really looking forward to that.  What I’m going through right now feels closer to thinking you’ve finished a marathon and then the race organizers tell you, “Oh wait, it’s actually 27.2 miles now.  You’ve got one more mile to go!”


OK.  Off to bed.  More training beckons early in the morning.

18 days and counting.

All Blown Up

Ryan | November 2nd, 2010 Leave a Comment

Forget the fact that I swam 4,000 yards this morning (T-pace looks firmly between 1:48-1:51/100 right now).  Or that I rallied on the bike trainer for an hour late tonight…while watching Glee with Stephanie.

No, that’s not what I’m proudest of.

I changed two fictional flat tires.

Well, OK.  I changed one.  Before I put too much pressure in the CO2 cartridge and blew up the tube.  I totally dazed myself too!  It felt like when you play Call of Duty and you’ve been hit with a flash-bang grenade.  I was momentarily stunned and spacey.  Steph rushed into the room to ask if I was OK.  I managed to say I was fine, but definitely felt a little loopy for a moment.

I think I pinched the tube while putting it in.

Maybe that is an understatement.

BUT…but, I rallied.  I got a new cartridge, gathered myself, and tried again.  This time, I got it right.  Even though it took a LONG time (14 minutes), I still took out the old tube, slightly inflated a new one, inserted it properly, encased it and didn’t pop my eardrums.

Granted, I haven’t yet taken the back tire off my bike and re-attached it.  That will come next.  For now, I just want to practice getting the flats fixed. Honestly, I can see that it’s not hard.  I just need to do it more often and not stress out about it.  Both easier said than done.

I’m going to buy a bunch of cartridges tomorrow and practice every night from here until I leave for Arizona.  I may even ask my work buddy and cycling mentor, Frank, if he’ll let me work with him all next week on honing my tire-changing technique.  Even if I can get down to 10 minutes for a rear tire, that would rock.

Wish me luck.  And that I don’t go deaf between now and then from more unexpected bursts!

19 days and counting.

Nine Hours of Awesome

Ryan | October 14th, 2010 1 Comment

I’ve trained nine hours this week, with another nine to go.  The last two days have been especially intense though.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I could have taken the easy way out. Coach Gerardo gave me only 16 hours originally but I asked/begged/demanded more work.  I’m so glad I did.  Finally, I can appreciate what he meant by embracing the challenge of the distances involved in my training.  Just getting through this week feels special.

Today’s workouts included a difficult 2,300-yard swim at 6 a.m. followed by cycling hill repeats and 20 minutes in zone three aero after that.  Two hours, 20 minutes of hard work.  My quads howled by the end of the bike workout, yet I felt so accomplished that I let out a primal yell to nobody in particular.  I didn’t care if it startled people along the Griffith Park walkway or if people thought I was crazy.

We already know I am.  And by “we” I only mean you and me, not my “other” personalities.



Now I’m winding down for the evening, after a busy day of work.  A good day of work, I might add.  Despite my fatigue, I felt fresh in meetings and on my “A” game. My father shared an article with me about how a prominent business executive makes sure he’s moving when he’s thinking because it allows him to think better.  I believe there’s something to that.  As long as I get enough rest and eat well, I definitely can see a connection between staying active and staying sharp.  I wonder if other people feel the same.  It’s almost like fitness is the metaphorical equivalent of dressing up for work.  I used to find that if I dressed dapper in the office, my performance would follow suit. Now, toss out the tie, replace it with the bike shorts, and voila!

Tomorrow, we have a half-day off from work.  Despite my nine hours of torture — training — I’m inclined to work out some more.  I won’t, because I can hear Gerardo from Texas telling me how bad of an idea that would be.

Can’t peak too soon.

36 days and counting.

PS: I still need to compare my running threshold data from the last “official” test to yesterday’s TT.  However, I think the last test measured a mile run and this was more about 20 minutes maintaining a certain heart rate and pace.  So it might be apples to oranges.  My first glance indicates I ran a mile 11 seconds faster yesterday and more miles in general.  Interestingly, my heart rate was roughly the same (high 160s).

Tri-Asshole Redux

Ryan | October 12th, 2010 Leave a Comment

Guess my Tri-Asshole blog post touched a nerve.  It was so nice to see y’all respond to the post, but to be honest, I’m fine about the whole episode.  At first, I’ll admit my feelings were pretty hurt.  But I quickly realized that his comments reflected more on him than the race itself.  To be fair, I also know that Ironman Arizona is among the “easier” Ironman races. I picked it for a reason in that I wanted to enjoy my first Ironman and get my sea legs, so to speak.  And that’s just what I’ll do.  There’s no shame in completing any Ironman of any kind.  Anyone who’s ever embraced the spirit of the sport knows that.

Back to spirit.  While Tri-Asshole and I interacted for only a few seconds on an elevator ride, that conversation has already yielded tangible gains in my training.  Tonight, I swam a 1:16/100, my new PR by a whopping SIX SECONDS.  I didn’t know I had that in me at this stage of training. Coach Gerardo did, but I doubted him.  (When am I going to learn?) And that was after cycling 35 miles this morning that included a 75-minute zone-3 time trial.  AND, that swim PR came at the end of a 2,250-yard swim session with the Fortius gang tonight.

How did it happen?

It would certainly be more dramatic if I indicated that I had visions of smashing Tri-Asshole’s face in while swimming to new heights (or is that lows, in this case).  But it’s just not true. What Tri-Asshole did was simply motivate me to work harder the next few weeks.  To make sure I sweat just a bit more.  To not ease off on the gas pedal.  To not coast until after I cross the finish line.

I got a swift mental kick in the ass.  And I feel outstanding.

So, what I am saying is that I’ve turned a potentially mentally damaging situation into a healthy positive.  I’m not sure I would have reacted in quite that manner a year ago — whether in the workplace or in the gym.  I do think endurance sports training has enabled me to find some mental and emotional padding that allows me to bounce back from stinging comments or even physical pain.  It is an invaluable asset in a chaotic world.

It just took a real jerk to remind me of that.

Before I finally go to sleep tonight, I’ll be sure to think fondly of him.  I owe him one.

38 days and counting.

Forced Recovery

Ryan | October 7th, 2010 Leave a Comment

I’m off to Portland, Ore. tomorrow to witness the wedding of a couple Stephanie and I are friends with.  That has meant a (much) abbreviated training schedule this week.  To the tune of “only” 13 hours, the bulk of which have already been completed.  All that’s left is a three-hour run on Saturday followed by an optional 45 minute swim.

Speaking of swims, I had a rather long effort tonight with the Fortius gang: 1:20:00 straight. I warmed up with 20 minutes non-stop before the workout began, and then we proceeded to swim a series of 400s, each with descending times and drills.  Coach Gerardo estimated I probably swam around 4,000 yards.  More important, this was the first time in all my training where I basically swam the duration that will be required for the Ironman swim.  It’s a LONG time in the water!  And it’s amazing how easy it is for the mind to wander once you get in the Swim Trance.  There were periods of several minutes where I had the same sensation as when I’m driving long distances and I don’t remember the stretch of road I just passed through.  How odd, since I’m much more actively engaged in the swim than piloting an automatic drive vehicle.  Does that happen to anyone else? It must.

I’m not sure how I feel about such a light week as I’m close to peaking for Ironman.  On one hand, I’m eager for the time off, but I know there’s so much work left to be done before the big event. I was just starting to really ramp up, only to drop back down.  I’m not foolish enough to think this will affect my overall fitness level, but I can’t help but wonder just a little bit if it’s the difference between being 10-15 minutes faster during the actual race.

It’s moments like these though where I realize how lucky I’ve been with my training.  For the most part, I’ve been able to hit every workout as planned.  Weather has cooperated.  Circumstances have cooperated.  My body has cooperated. So I need to keep that kind of perspective, and just enjoy a rest week when I can get one — even if it’s inadvertent.

I will try to blog over the next few days, but it may be difficult to say the least.  Check this space again on Monday, just to be safe.  Or I’ll tweet if something interesting comes up.

Enjoy your training weekend, everyone!  It’ll be rainy up north…soak up the sun while you can and appreciate our good fortune to push ourselves to be the best we can be.

43 days and counting.