Archive for the ‘Triathlon’ Category

Let it Go, Man

Ryan | March 11th, 2012 Leave a Comment

As some of you may know, I was in Austin, Texas this weekend for South by Southwest, the annual music, film, tech and gaming mash-up that brings smarties and hipsters together from all over the country.  I spent my time trying to do three things there:

1) Get a sense of which way the marketing trend winds were blowing (answer: user experience is king)

2) Eat as much BBQ as possible (mission accomplished, Salt Lick brisket three out of four evenings)

3) Keep up with my Oceanside 70.3/Ironman St. George training (ugh)

Stormy weather, really good food, and an unpredictable schedule conspired against my training plans.  And what plans they were!  I purposely booked my SXSW hotel near the University of Texas campus so I could gain a weekend pass to the Gregory Gym Aquatic Center, which sports fast outdoor pools and a natatorium (I didn’t know that’s the proper term for an indoor pool).  I had visions of lap swimming only to be interrupted by Lance himself, asking if he could split a lane with me.

Longhorn Country

Uh...Fight On?

The lightning storms quashed any possibility of that happening.  That, and the fact that he left for Kona the day after I arrived.

A couple years ago and I would have freaked out.  Missing a 3,000 swim workout and staying indoors for both my weekend runs?  With less than two months to go until an Ironman?!  Oh, the humanity!  I’d obviously be 3% less ready for my race.  I still had those feelings at times throughout the weekend.  I tried to find any which way to make it to the pool when the weather started to clear.  But then I did something I usually didn’t or couldn’t do in the past…I simply breathed.

Dude, chill out.  It’s ONE workout.  It’s not the end of the world.  Let it go, man.

It’s easy to listen to your coach or articles that state missing a workout here or there won’t hurt your training.  It’s much harder to put that to practice when practice matters so much to a guy like me — this sport doesn’t come naturally and I have to work hard every workout to stay at the same level or incrementally improve.  So, missing a workout feels like missing an opportunity.

But there are other opportunities out there.  Like good BBQ, for instance.  Or a good seminar.  Or walking the streets of Austin with your wife.  And maybe sneaking in some ice cream too.

Pile o Meat

Salt Lick BBQ, the greatest of all time.

I’m no doubt a bit scared for my third Ironman race.  I might be as worried about this one as I was the first — the enormity of the challenge has definitely hit me.  But I vow to have more fun this time as I prepare.  To try and relax a bit more and keep a better perspective of it all.  To have a bit more fun with it.  To simply let go at times.

While I’ve had many goals for my races, I’ve really not had many goals for training.  This seems like a good place to start.

The Best Tribute I Can Offer

Ryan | December 6th, 2011 6 Comments

My grandmother is sick. In fact, she’s dying after a frustrating, heartbreaking battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.  She’s suffered from it for a few years now, going from someone who didn’t need a calculator to maintain the books at my family’s business for 50-plus years to not knowing who any of us are.

Of course, I remember many things about her, which I shared with her recently in a note I have no idea whether she understood let alone internalized. Yet we do these things not as much for the ill as for the living. Fortunately, my grandmother instilled in me her tough work ethic, never quit, never settle for anything less than the “A” mentality.  That’s what leads me to this past Saturday’s inaugural HITS series Olympic triathlon in La Quinta.

In the moment this race meant nothing. Ultimately though, it may come to mean everything.

For a week I teetered on whether I should race or stick around Los Angeles, waiting for the inevitable.  I visited my grandma during the week a couple times and saw that she was resting comfortably and without pain.  I made the hard choice to race knowing it was only a couple hours drive back to LA if things went south quickly.  Steph stayed at home for this race just to support the family in case that happened.

I drove down to La Quinta with mixed emotions.  It was selfish to race, yet I knew there was nothing else I could do but wring my hands.  In that regard, racing was the best thing I could do given the circumstances.  The one promise I made to myself driving down to the event was simple: This one was for Grandma.  That meant nothing but my absolute best effort, no excuses. No dumb errors.  Just me, the course, and a ton of fury.

RACE DAY RECAP

I almost broke my self-promise before the race ever started.  The night before I unexpectedly developed a stomach ache, an extreme rarity for me.  So much that I had to rush out from our Fortius pre-race team dinner to retrieve some Pepto Bismal from the store.  Minutes before getting ready to race, twinges of that ache returned, prompting me to pop some Pepto tablets I brought just in case.

Then, I went from stomach to headache, as the water temperature in Lake Cahuilla was a crisp 58 degrees.  Upon wading into the literally breath-taking water, my head froze and became tight at the temples.

Great, my Grandma is reaching me with guilt even from LA, I joked to myself.

Then the race director blew the whistle, and all aches and pains vanished.  I swam smoothly and confident, avoiding the mistakes I had made at the Turkey Tri with sighting and paced myself properly.  The water temp eventually felt terrific, and though there was chop on the return loop of the two-lap swim, I swam consistent and never without breath.  The result was a 1:36 pace, a full 10 seconds faster on a freshwater course than the Turkey Tri and my freshwater PR by 7 seconds (IMAZ ‘10, 1:43 pace).

BIKE

Since I’m still not wearing a race watch, I had no idea how my day was faring.  I didn’t know at the time I had just PR’d my swim, but I did know that I wasn’t swimming at the middle of the pack for a change.  I seemed to be out with the first 15 people, which was new for me.  Unfortunately, I left some time on the clock because my fingers and toes were so cold that I struggled with my new Rocket Science Carbon wetsuit and putting on my cycling shoes.  Still, I clocked out of T1 in 2:14. Not great, but not bad either.  I rocketed out of the transition area, pedaling past several people trying to catch their breath on the bike after a hard swim.

The first half of the bike course was with the wind, which was picking up to between 12-15 mph by my estimates.  Again, I didn’t have my watch so I had no idea of my pace.  All I knew was that I needed to pedal hard, DO NOT STOP PEDALING HARD.  This race was for Grandma, and it was the last race of the year.  I was going to leave everything I had on this course.  If I wasn’t absolutely exhausted and drained physically and mentally then I didn’t race hard enough. Then I started picking people off, one after another.  I must have passed about 10 people before someone passed me, a beefy guy in my age group. He rode alongside and I implored him to work together (not draft) to keep each other going strong.

He did that all right, passing by me and never looking back.

When I reached the bike turnaround, I realized why I had passed so many people: the tail wind.  As was the case at IMAZ last year, the turnaround was a rude awakening.  The wind slapped me in the face. Hard.  The next 12 miles were an exercise in sheer will as I became demoralized and contemplated quitting my frantic effort.  I was being blown all over the course, like a tiny paper boat on a lake in a windstorm.  Many of the people whom I passed on the way out to the turnaround passed me on the way back.  All seemed bigger, taller, more built, better bikes, better equipment.  Minutes before, I thought maybe I had a shot at my first podium.  Minutes later, I realized today would be the same race as all the others…just on the outside of the elites looking in.

At one point I screamed in frustration to nothing in particular.

Then I remembered Grandma, in that bed.  And all the lessons she had taught me.  She helped raise me to be better than this.  To study hard even when nobody is looking.  To always go for the “A”, no matter what.

I found my second wind in the headwind, and pushed onward back to T2. Again, at this point I thought my personal race for a USAT slot was over and had no idea once again I had PR’d on the bike, averaging 21.7 mph.  As I came out of T2 in 1:08, still not feeling my toes (no socks once again), I shouted at Coach Gerardo, “Am I still in the running?!”  He said definitely and that motivated me enough to make one last push for the 10k run.

RUN

Despite my feet feeling more like stumps, I felt fresh and focused on the run. Almost light on my feet.  Having no watch freed me to just run how I felt and as fast as I could sustain.  There were enough people in front of me to constantly have a “rabbit” to chase, which helped propel me forward.  The main rabbit was a 54-year-old guy whom I just couldn’t quite catch on the first 5k.  He constantly stayed about 15 yards ahead of me no matter what I tried.  Then, an even older guy whizzed by me. I tried to stay on his heels but he was just gone, blowing by the 54-year-old.  Another moment of deflation…geez I can’t even catch these guys more than 15 years older than me!  Still, I kept at it, focusing on my grandma and simply pushing myself to do this for her, and for me. It’s the last race, her last race, just keep going.

At the turnaround, I saw that I was ahead of the guy on the bike whom I was trying to work with before he left me.  How did that happen?  He must have had a slow T2.  Then, next thing I know he’s on me.  And ahead of me.  I’m on his heels.  I don’t want to lose this guy!  No age sticker on his calf, so he could very well be in my group.  I’m not going to let him beat me, no matter what.  I chase for a couple blocks, wondering if anybody on this street is in as much pain as I’m in.  My breathing is hard.  I can’t feel my toes.  My quads are begging me to stop the pounding.  Am I going to have a heart attack?  I have a secret fear about that during every run, that I’m going to drop dead on the spot. It scares me.  Does anyone else think that too?

It turns out the guy in front of me gave in to doubt and pain. He grabbed his calf and suddenly stopped, hobbling over to the side of the road to stretch.  I didn’t stop.  I didn’t even look at him.  I didn’t bother to ask if he was OK.  That’s not like me but I was in the heat of the moment and possessed.  Angry.  Defiant.  Motivated.  He didn’t work with me, I wasn’t working with him.  He went too hard on the bike, that’s his problem.  Next up was the 54-year old.  I drew closer, and closer, finally on his back.  I’m drafting and then realize he’s slowing and I’m gaining power and steam.  I’m 1.5 miles away from the finish.  It’s time to kick.  I pull alongside and told the man to get on my back and that we could pace each other to the finish.  I didn’t think I could sustain my pace, knowing I had two hills to climb, and wanted company to share in the misery.  I kept running, pushing.  Then after the first hill I turned slightly around to see who was chasing.  Was the older man with me?  Nobody.  I was on my own.

I ran as if I wasn’t alone.  There was no telling where I was ranked in terms of competitors.  I felt like I was in the top 5 in my age group but maybe I could pass more people. Besides, I wasn’t after Top 5 today.  I wanted more. So I kicked it up once more, with everything I had left.  All I could think about was both my grandparents and everything they had done for me.  Everything they had taught me.  The examples they had set.  I pounded through the final corner, up a hill, down a hill, a sharp left and a sharp right into the finisher’s chute. Gerardo, Mark and Caritta are there, along with Carly, to cheer me in.

I swear I hear the announcer call my name and say, “Ryan, from Sherman Oaks, finishing at 2:21.”

Here’s the thing though, my PR is 2:26:45.  There’s no way I beat my previous best when I was in Ironman shape by five minutes.

Right?  Seriously!?  I’m training half as much!

Well, I did.  And I had broken my personal best 10k time too with a 42:58 (previously 43:43).  That’s a sub-7:00/mi pace.

RECAP

As I write this final 2011 season recap, I can share that after reviewing the full results this morning, once again I’m on the outside looking in at a USAT Nationals slot.  Again, by one place (there’s a math error with the finisher in front of me as my time is faster than his but it still wouldn’t matter).  I finished top 10% overall among all finishers, but top 14% in my age group.  Fourth out of what appears to be 28 in my age group.  Maybe 29 with the leg cramp guy, who finished less than a minute behind me but still with no age attached to his results.

Instead of dwelling on what I missed out on again, I’m just so happy to have done my grandparents proud.  To have lived up to what they taught me.  To have showed them, and myself, that never giving up is the prize in itself.  This race changed me a lot.  I truly raced my heart out and nothing felt better even though I came short of my personal goal.  I can’t be upset if I PR’d by five minutes and it still wasn’t going to get me to Nationals.  I can live with that.  I ran unhinged and got faster as a result.

I’ll get faster next year.  I’m making progress every day.  And I’ve got great teachers, alive and gone, who inspire me.  I’m having more fun than ever too.

I’ll miss my grandmother so much.  But she’ll be with me.  She’ll be with me every time I want to stop short of reaching my potential.

Thank you, Grandma. I love you.

Pilot Error

Ryan | November 28th, 2011 1 Comment

I raced at the San Dimas Turkey Tri yesterday, where I personally played the role of turkey.  I misunderstood a turn sign at the end of the first bike course loop, dropped from fourth place in my age group to fifth, and lost out on another chance to qualify for the Age Group National Championships — by one place.

I have a good reason though, I swear.

"Ryan, mate, pay attention to the road signs!"

None other than Chris McCormack participated in the Turkey Tri.  And he rode up right behind me and then rocketed past.  All event racing tactics went out the window.  Like the dog from “Up” who sees a squirrel, I pretty much lost all sense of rational thought and wanted to chase Macca as far as I could handle.  You know, just to see where I stood.

Here’s the problem: He was finishing the second loop on the bike course and I was starting my second loop.  Here’s the other problem: Macca turned right toward the finisher’s chute, which is about 1/3 mile down a road that obscures the transition area.  I followed him until I banked left and saw the finisher’s chute and realized what I had done.  All I could exclaim was “Shit!” in front of rows of fans cheering for Macca as he dashed into T2.  I knew the race was over for me in that moment — and ultimately it was.

I should have known sooner that I had made a wrong turn because I was the only person behind Macca.

This is the only time in my life I’ll be able to write that in a race.  So even if I screwed up, I’ll savor it just for a moment.

Until I remember that finishing fifth out of 39 guys instead of fourth kept me from my goal of racing in Vermont next August at the USAT National Championships.  I can’t believe I did that, except I can.  Moreover, I still made a few “rookie” mistakes that hopefully others can avoid in the future.  Including:

ALWAYS drive the course before a race.  This is something I typically always do, except for this race.  Because of the 1 hour drive and the Thanksgiving weekend, I didn’t want to go to the race site the day prior to scope things out.  I paid the price.

Feeling like a superhero in my new Rocket Science wetsuit. Didn't swim like one though!

Keep practicing bi-lateral breathing when swimming. I’ve pretty much abandoned turning my head to the left when breathing in the water.  This is fine when the buoys for a race are on the right side and you can see them.  But when they’re on your left and there aren’t many to spot, you can spend way more time than necessary looking up out of the water to see where you should be heading.  My race pace (in my spanking new Rocket Science Carbon 2011 wetsuit!) was 1:46 but should have been closer to 1:42 were it not for frequent peek breaks.

Never take a race for granted. The premise of the San Dimas Turkey Tri is to give seasoned tri-vets and novices a chance to burn some holiday calories off in a festive way.  There are fun gimmicks like pumpkin pie for every finisher along with a medal that doubles as a bottle opener.  So the race course should be flat and fast, right?  Accessible at the very least.  Well, not exactly.  The San Dimas Bonelli Park bike course features rolling hills, sharp corners, rough pavement, and an annoying little headwind.  The run course, while scenic, is hilly — especially at the beginning.  Throughout the bike ride (when I wasn’t making wrong turns) and run, I kept thinking, “Damn, this course ain’t what I expected!”  That’s really not something you want to be thinking on race day and is totally avoidable (see mistake #1 above).

Despite this miscues, I am grateful for my finish and the race.  I did some things right too, such as a 1:58 T1 (2nd fastest in age group) and 1:05 T2 (third fastest in age group).  I also lived my own advice too from my last blog and smiled more during the race — even pausing to high-five Steph in the finisher’s chute before crossing the line.  Heck, I high-fived Macca as he approached the run finish and I was beginning my 4.5 mile jaunt.  Speaking of my run, despite the unexpectedly hilly course, I was pleased with my 7:18 pace.  I think I can drop down into the high 6:40s on a flatter course.  That’s my goal for this weekend’s HITS Triathlon Series race in Palm Springs.

My other goal is not to self destruct due to pilot error.  I’ve had enough of that by now.

Wedding, Coaching and Charity Oh My!

Ryan | July 29th, 2011 Leave a Comment

I’ve had SO much going on lately!  Thanks for being patient with me, not that you’re waiting with bated breath for the next blog post.

The big countdown right now isn’t a triathlon but my wedding.  We’re inside four weeks now.  The RSVPs are pouring in, last-minute decisions are being made almost every minute and the anticipation continues to build.  I’m really starting to get excited now.  Before, my wedding was just a date on the far horizon.  Almost like how Ironman Arizona was in 2010.  But it’s finally here in the foreground.  The other night I was explaining to Steph that the feeling is very similar to an impending Ironman in that no matter what last-second mishap may occur, we’re still “ready” for the wedding and it will be a great event no matter what. We’ve put in all the hard work and planning and that doesn’t go away just because a new challenge may arise.  I was afraid to use an Ironman metaphor for the wedding but I actually think it helped us keep everything in perspective.

On the training front, I’ve installed my CompuTrainer.  Or rather, I had it installed for me by my buddy Pete, with support from Coach Gerardo.  I have to be honest and say that the set-up process is not the most intuitive.  The documentation feels outdated in an era where a set-up video would be practically expected.  Instead, you’re looking at manuals that don’t provide the best overall direction.  One example came in the form of installing the bike into the CompuTrainer mount.  The directions don’t indicate that you need to use the load generator knob to help adjust where it sits on the back wheel.  This was frustrating because it seemed that the bike wasn’t fitting in the mount.  All that said, now that I know how to use the machine and the software, I can tell how powerful a tool CompuTrainer can be.

When I wasn’t learning how to use my CompuTrainer, I’ve been focusing on overhauling my swim technique.  You can see what I’m learning in this video:

As if that weren’t enough, I’m dabbling in self-coaching for the next few months.  Just enough to keep me in shape.  I’m making my own training schedule via Training Peaks, reading about training with a power meter and signed up for a triathlon in Palm Springs this December to see how I do in training myself.  I can tell you that it’s a lot harder to self-coach than I ever imagined.  All the reading, formulas, theories and time needed to craft a scientifically smart (and fun) schedule is quite the challenge.  But it makes me appreciate what Gerardo does day in, day out, week in, week out for our entire team.  The next time you get a schedule from your coach, make sure to thank him or her for their hard work on getting it just right.  I do really like the empowerment that comes with creating my own schedule.  I feel like I’m doing something important for myself and that if I perform well or don’t perform well, it’s nobody’s fault but mine.  In other words, I like the accountability.

On the writing front, I’m working on turning my first year’s worth of posts into a self-published book.  I think the lessons learned in there on what to expect mentally from training for your first Ironman may be valuable to others.  It’s taking a lot longer than I expected reading through each month’s worth of entries and taking notes about what to focus on for each chapter.  I’m thinking at this point I’ll write an introduction summarizing that particular month of training and insights while including each individual entry after it.  Hopefully the power of the daily entries is what people find interesting. We’ll see. I’m open to suggestions though if anyone has any.

All proceeds from this shirt will benefit Cancer Hope Network via Season 1 Racing. A very worthy cause!

Finally, I can’t finish this post without mentioning the T-shirts I’m creaing to benefit Season 1 Racing and Cancer Hope Network.  I’ve gotten a pretty good response from folks who liked my “I may not be a runner…but I’m a runner today” mantra from Ironman Coeur d’Alene.  So, here’s a T-shirt design I’m considering at the moment.  The shirt color will be a darker gray and the Season 1 Racing logo will be moved to the shirt sleeve.  But otherwise, what do you think???  I’ll be taking orders soon and then buy the shirts after I assess demand.

So that’s what’s been keeping me busy lately, not to mention changing times at work.  And now, I embark on an even scarier mission…my bachelor party weekend!  Lord, help me.

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.

Standing at the Mountaintop…Again

Ryan | June 5th, 2011 2 Comments

Rejoice!  Ironman Coeur d’Alene taper has begun!

After a Saturday of cycling and running seven hours and climbing 7,000-plus feet and a Sunday of running 13 miles and swimming close to 3,000 yards, I stand on the precipice of peak physical and mental fitness.

I am ready for Coeur d’Alene.

Earlier this week, I struggled with my personal trainer telling me I’m “just not cut out for running.”  I’ve turned that into fuel for my fire, and a new mantra:

“I may not be a runner.  But I am a runner today.”

That’s how I felt as I ran the hills of Calabasas with my buddy Jason today.  I was planning on a mild, flat tempo run but Jason had other ideas.  He’s gearing up for his first half marathon at Dirt Mulholland and wanted some climbing work.  I obliged, and I’m glad I did. While I think the workout was meant to be a confidence boost for him, it certainly turned out to be the same for me too.  We did some serious climbing today up Mulholland and some hilly neighborhoods near Calabasas High School.  My body held out just fine, as did my heart-rate.  Perhaps I pushed just a bit harder than I would have on my own, but having the company and the challenge of running with a friend made it more than worthwhile.

That’s been the biggest difference between my final build phase for Ironman Arizona and Coeur d’Alene.  For my first Ironman, I trained at the same course (dreadful Fillmore), largely by myself.  This time, my big bike workouts have been at springtime century events, heavily supported by teammates and new friends I’ve met along the way.  My workouts have remained fun and challenging, not grueling and mind-grinding. The misery of peaking before IMAZ has been replaced by firm resolve to put my head down, shut up and simply get the work done.   To be fair, I also think it helps knowing what I’m up against in my second Ironman rather than staring into the darkness of potential failure and personal embarrassment of failing to finish my Ironman.

No such demons this time.

I have pretty pictures to support this blog entry, but alas I’m in the office at work now (10:30 p.m.)  preparing for tomorrow’s epic E3 day of announcements.  So, those pretty pictures are going to have to wait until tomorrow.  In fact, this week is going to be a crapshoot on blog posts.  As I’ve mentioned before, this week is like the Super Bowl of the videogames industry, and our company is smack at the proverbial 50-yard line.

Thank goodness my build phase ended one-day before the madness. But where will I find time to rest?

Haven’t figured that one out yet.

22 days and counting.

Sledgehammer

Ryan | May 29th, 2011 Leave a Comment

Rejoicing at the finish of the Heartbreak 100. Notice the Planet Ultra arm warmers being used as leg warmers!

A lot happened this weekend, this epic weekend of Ironman Coeur d’Alene training.

I was trying to make some sense of it Saturday afternoon, driving home from Frazier Park (an hour north of Los Angeles) after the Heartbreak 100 century ride.  See, I was feeling pretty damn good about my performance there.  Not because I was particularly fast on the bike, but because I had enough energy left AFTER the bike to run for 50 minutes at what would have been close to a 4:30 marathon time.  That doesn’t seem like much, but A) it would be my marathon PR and B) that came after climbing nearly 10,000 feet on a chilly day.  Speaking of chilly, it was so freakin’ cold that I bought an extra pair of arm warmers and used them as calf warmers! I rode the course with an undershirt, a jersey, a fleece jacket, a wind breaker, leg warmers, arm warmers and arm warmers on my legs.

Back to the ride itself. What changed for me? What worked? Why? The trick for me was actually listening to my coach and walking (GASP) for a full minute after every nine minutes of running.  Going slower to ultimately go faster. It never makes sense to me but yet it works. In fact it made a huge difference, especially on a run that featured nearly 500 feet of climbing in the first two miles.

I had broken with my tradition, finally, of hammering on a bike ride only to fade on the run.  Instead, I stayed within myself, tough as it was to be passed, and conserved energy.  Still, I managed just over seven hours on a tough course — which really wouldn’t have been too much slower than what I would have managed going a more aggressively.

Which brings me back to my car ride home.  I was flipping through radio stations, done reflecting on the day and needing a mental break.  Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” came on.  Huge smile. Radio dial cranked up.  I had my new mantra:

“I’ve kicked the habit
Shed my skin
This is the new stuff
I go dancing in, we go dancing in
Oh won’t you show for me
And I will show for you
Show for me, I will show for you”

If you saw a dude screaming and dancing in his car on the 118 Freeway around 6 p.m., that was me. I know it’s a little corny, and I know the reasons behind the actual lyrics (I think it’s about drug addiction) are very serious.  But for me, on that drive home, I felt like I had finally kicked my own stupid racing habits and was ready to take the next step forward in my tri-career.  It felt really good.  Like if I take care of myself — if I show for you — then my body will show for me, and my results will be better come race day.

The rest of Saturday and into Sunday morning was spent recovering from the ride and run.  While Heartbreak 100 isn’t nearly as difficult as the Mulholland Challenge, it still took its toll — most notably on my outer right knee area.  I woke up stiff and sore, and definitely not feeling like running for 2.5 hours.  I texted Gerardo to ask if I could skip the run, as much because I liked the confident feeling I had from the day prior and didn’t want to be dragged back to that dark place of self-doubt following another sloggy bonk-fest.

Coach wasn’t having any of that.

“Push through” was essentially the only text I got back. A man of few words, Gerardo is. But he knows which are the most important words.

So push through is what I did.  For 2.5 hours exactly in the Calabasas area.  Granted, I only climbed roughly the same elevation as yesterday’s 50-minute run.  But, once again the walk a minute every mile routine paid huge dividends. My heart-rate never felt out of hand and I’m confident that if I can stay within myself on the bike ride that I can enjoy a marathon PR by a long shot.

As we all know though, Ironman can throw anything at you on race day.  So, I’ll be prepared for that.  But today, following the run AND a 3,000-yard swim immediately thereafter, I felt refreshed.  Not exhausted. But happy.  Almost joyous.  I got through the weekend.  I learned about myself.  I learned that if I hydrate constantly (five full bottles on the Saturday bike, two full bottles for today’s run), stay cool (literally), pop lots of Endurolytes, and stay focused and measured on the bike, I can have a GREAT day at Coeur d’Alene.

I didn’t feel this way at the peak of my training last year heading into IMAZ.  Granted, we still have one more giant training week left, but if I can maintain this outlook and simply smarter training then I’ll be quite confident and prepared.

A wiser athlete.  More humble.  But I’m carrying a sledgehammer filled with confidence and experience.

29 days and counting.

What is Our Formula?

Ryan | May 25th, 2011 1 Comment

Today at work, I was analyzing what makes for an iconic enemy in video games?  Is it a signature trait? If so, what kind?  Does the enemy have to be conversation-worthy?  I think so.  How does perceived danger or threat play a role?  There’s probably a direct ratio to the threat level and the iconic nature of that enemy.

Then, I began to wonder if WE have a formula?  What makes us iconic as triathletes?  What makes us Ironmen and Ironwomen?  For starters, we’d have to include willpower.  Without willpower, there’s no way any of us would be able to handle the training, and the sacrifices that come along with it.  Next, I’d say athleticism.  While we may not be the second coming of LeBron, Carl Lewis or Michael Phelps, we each exhibit athletic qualities that enable us to swim, bike and run for long distances.  We couldn’t complete a triathlon without being athletic even at the most base levels.  Finally, I’d assert that being an Ironman or Ironwoman requires a sense of fearlessness.  We are unafraid to pursue our dreams.  We are unafraid of failure, though it may keep us all up at night or force us to question our sanity in the moments before a race starts.  Yet, despite that fear, we splash into the water with hundreds — sometimes thousands — of strangers.  Knowing that we will be kicked, grabbed, clawed and poked mercilessly for what feels like an eternity.  Fearlessness leads to signing up for a second Ironman event even before the first one is completed.  Or is that stupidity.  No, it’s fearlessness.  I think.

But what do you think?  If someone were to break you down as a triathlete and try to isolate the essential qualities that make you a triathlete, what would those qualities be?  For now, I’ll start the discussion off with the following theorem — we’ll call it Schneider’s Law:  M-dot = W + A + F x 2.4 + 112 + 26.2.

What’s your Law?

32 days and counting.

Guilty, or Grateful?

Ryan | May 23rd, 2011 Leave a Comment

Should I feel guilty, or grateful?

Today I was supposed to swim for 45 minutes, easy laps, focus on cadence, yadda yadda yadda.  Then, I was supposed to spin easily for 45 minutes. I forgot my local pool is closed on Mondays, so that left me with a mere 45-minute workout day coming off a weekend where I missed a key long run due to a potential injury (more on that in a moment).

In other words, I didn’t need a recovery day from fatigue.

But perhaps I needed a genuine recovery day as a reward for my body putting up with me not permitting it to rest so much after Friday’s terrible leg cramps.

Fortunately, after my ART appointment this morning, I learned that my hip flexor/TFL strain was mild at best and I’d be fine.  My injury was essentially from overuse and probably an awkward position in one of my exercises (I’m thinking reverse situps or step ups with weights).  It stems from a weak psoas muscle (deep in the lower abs) that triggers overcompensation in my left hip muscles.

It’s so strange that in my second go around with Ironman training, mentally I’m in great shape five weeks out but physically I’m practically falling apart.  Some days I wonder if I’m going to sprint to the finish or stagger.  However it turns out, I will cross the finish line.  Walk, shuffle, jog, run or sprint, I will cross the finish line.  I feel like I’m too experienced not to, and I’ve made so many mistakes over the past couple years and months that I’m due for a “good” race.

But I don’t expect one either. I expect to do my best, try to be smart, listen to my body, and take what the day gives me.

If only I listened to my body a bit more in training.  I think I got lucky this weekend I didn’t tear something.  It could have been a lot worse, only missing one big workout — one I’ll make up tomorrow morning.

So, guilty or grateful?

GRATEFUL.

Most grateful.

34 days and counting.

Highs and Lows

Ryan | May 10th, 2011 Leave a Comment

I gave into the Z-Pack. (Thank you, Laura.)  Overnight, the Roto-Rooter Fairy must have visited my room and sucked all the mucus from my lungs.

Ahhhhhhhhh!

OK, well not all of it, but enough to notice I barely coughed anything up today.  AND I ran a fairly inspired 6 miles of rolling terrain in 55 minutes, complete with walk/jog warmup and interval recoveries.  Not too shabby,especially given the somewhat sore and road-rashed hip from yesterday’s bike spill.

Honestly, I’ve barely felt the stings and scratches today — though I’m sure that will change in the pool shortly.  Maybe I’m enjoying a bit of a training resurgence at the moment.  That’s partially because I spent 40 minutes with Coach Gerardo last night at his place, talking about where I’m at in my training, letting the Wildflower Bonk Run fade from memory and focusing on the last six-to-seven weeks of intense IM CDA training.

Maybe it’s the meds, but I feel a little reborn.

That’s the life of a triathlete.  It’s just like a run in hilly terrain.  Up-down-up-down-up-down, and up-down-up-down some more.  Some days are better than others, just like in life.  One day the confidence level is up, the next day I can’t run a decent mile no matter how hard I try.  But for some reason, the drama of it all, the tension of the goal and the struggle to achieve it, magnifies the highs and lows of everyday training.

I realize that keeping everything in check mentally means focusing on a level viewpoint but that’s just now how I like to … ahem… roll.  I want to soak in the highs and dwell in the lows just so I can understand them better.  The middle ground is like purgatory, endless brown, drab flats in a race, and it doesn’t excite me that much.

That said, it’s nice to be back on a high today, if only briefly.  Last week was one long low!  Too long.  We’re climbing again, the way I like it.

47 days and counting.