Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Setback #1 - Pulled Muscle

Some time last week, I tweaked a muscle in the middle of my back on the right side. I probably did it during one of those great swim practices I had, trying to flip-turn too aggressively for my own good. Anyway, it bothered me a bit through the weekend, but didn't necessarily hamper my training... until yesterday.

Last night, I went to swim practice as usual. The muscle pull hadn't been a terrible bother that day, so I figured I was safe to get in and do some cruising. Wrong. The second set was some IM work. I wisely bypassed the butterfly, but backstroke seemed to re-tweak/re-sprain/re-tear the muscle. Five minutes into the set, I could do little more than float, gasping in pain. Now it's worse than before. I can't twist or rotate my shoulders without feeling like there's a knife in my back.

This sucks.

I'm taking today off, and tomorrow, and very likely the weekend as well. NOT good. I need to get this fixed as soon as possible and get back to base training. This was not part of the plan, not even a little bit. I am ultra-pissed right now. Sigh.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hawk Hill Farewell

The powers that be have decided to close down one of the most beautiful (and most frequented) climbs in Marin, Hawk Hill, for six whole months. Anyone who's ever needed a short ride with a little bit of climbing or had a hankering for an unbelievable view of the city has scaled this wind-buffeted hillside. Heck, I even have the dubious honor of being the only person to have done it ten times in one day!

There were a bunch of pictures taken to document the occasion. Some of the good one's are here. If you want to peruse my smattering of views taken at different points in the year, check out my web album here.

I'm going to miss this view!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

New Perspective

On Tuesday, I went in to the shop to pick up some new shoes and have my fit on the bike fine-tuned. After two hours of laser beams and arch analysis, my seat was raised a full centimeter and pushed back even more. My feet are exceptionally flat, so we explored various insoles and shimming options to keep my knees tracking appropriately from the top of my pedal stroke to the bottom.

That's a lot of change!

I've been out on two rides since and the shoes are an absolute dream. The insoles are going to take some getting used to, but I already feel like I'm able to put a bit more power into the pedals. As my body becomes more familiar with the new position, that feeling should increase. I'm using different muscles (or different parts of the same muscles) so it may be weeks or even months before I'm totally settled in.

I do need to head back over there and have them take another look at the placement of my left cleat -- if there's any discomfort, it's centered around my left foot. But all-in-all, I'm excited to see what comes out of this new perspective.


I'm not sure if many have noticed, but is now! Also, if you're at all interested in knowing more about my rides than you could possibly care to know, you're welcome to check out my Strava profile.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

99 Problems

The main set at tonight's swim practice was simple. 1.5 miles for time. For those of you who don't have a background in swimming, the phrase "for time" really means "race." Now, I've never considered myself a distance freestyle swimmer (my background's in middle-distance breaststroke events), but I'm starting to love mental challenges like these more and more.

1.5 miles... that's 2,475 yards, or 99 lengths of a 25-yard pool. Timed. The goal was to pick a pace and hold that pace through the entire swim. We did some warm-up sets and based on my times there, I decided to shoot for a 1:10 pace per hundred (28:50 total time).

I was on point for the first six or eight hundred, peeking at the clock after every second 50 to track my pace... and then I started to build until the last 100 yards were nearly all-out. I hit the wall in 27:40, which is somewhere in the 1:07 range! For those of you who don't know what that means, THAT'S AWESOME! For me at least. I'm PSYCHED about it!

That's a bunch of good swims this week... I'm still leagues from the speeds I used to swim back at Lehigh, but I love marked improvements like this. 18 minutes per mile ain't too shabby. This is me patting myself on the back. w00t!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Quantity vs... Quantity?

I was flipping through one of my Joe Friel tomes last night and landed on a chapter about training to run. Interesting stuff there, for sure. When it comes to running, Friel actually encourages an increase in frequency above an increase in mileage - which is almost the exact opposite strategy than I've been following to date.

My legs usually break down when I run too often, so a co-worker of mine (and former collegiate cross-country runner) told me I could probably get by on two short runs and one long run per week. This means I run three days a week and I'm off four, which gives my body plenty of recovery time. It's been working well thus far. My shorter runs have been between 3.5 and 6 miles and my longer runs have been 12+ miles (and increasing about one mile weekly).

Joe, on the other hand, encourages short runs often. As in, run short two days with a day's rest, and repeat - without runs longer than 45 minutes. Oh, and he recommends following this plan for six months! Yikes! That's a long time to be going on short runs. Six months of short runs doesn't leave me a lot of time to really ramp up the mileage there.

[Granted, he does promote cycling as the best way to really improve aerobic fitness, so the ramp up to longer mileage for running would really fit nicely into the final three months of a nine-month block...]

Thoughts, anyone? Alex - lots of short runs could work well for you in the coming months, especially with that schedule you're trying to juggle.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I'll keep this short, but I wanted to write it down somewhere: I just had a great swim practice. My stroke is finally coming back after a month or two of weirdness. We mixed a sprints "for time" into the workout today - a 500 free early on, a 200 free in the middle, and a 100 free near the end. I posted a 5:34, a 2:06 and a :59, respectively, all from a push. w00t! That was my first sub-60-second 100 in years. It's all coming back!

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Today I set out to do what I've decided to call a Declining-distance Triathlon.

It started with a 2.4 mile swim: a 400 warm-up and a 400 warm-down with two 1650's (one swim @ 22:00, one pull @ 21:30) in between. All told, I think I was swimming for about 52 minutes.

Then I transitioned to the bike, meeting up with Mission Cycling's usual Saturday morning ride and logging a cool 56 (+3) miles. I'm trying to keep things pretty light on the bike, but I wind up tempted to pull out the stops. I definitely climbed Camino Alto faster than intended - dropping most of the bunch to post my second fasted time ever on that little hill. My heart rate was also entirely too high on Paradise Drive, but it's really hard to tackle those perfect curves without wanting to push things a bit. 3:30 rolling time thanks to Marin's hills, but there were a few group stops mixed in that made actual time much higher than that.

The last leg was a 10K run, which, as I've mentioned previously, I do not try to time... I stopped to talk to a friend for a while and still made it home in under an hour, so that's good. Super windy on the way out, but that means a tailwind on the way home. Highlight: narrowly avoiding decapitation at the hands of a massive kite on Chrissy Field.

There you have it: an Ironman swim, a Half Ironman ride and an Olympic run -- the DDT. Now I'm pretty beat and probably more than a little bit dehydrated!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Snack time

I woke up at 7:15 AM this morning and had two pieces of toast. Since then, I've eaten a granola bar every hour on the hour almost without realizing it. I am like a vacuum.

When is lunch? I'm starving.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nice 'n easy

I suppose it's time I explain the third piece in my injury-minimizing marathon training plan. The first one was going on run-walks and taking extra rest days as needed. The second was the slew of backup sneakers and post-compression gear I purchased last week.The third? Not timing myself.

Last time I embarked upon a marathon training regimen, I started to get caught up in pace and time. I felt "slow" and wanted to "run faster," so I pushed myself to do just that. I pushed and pushed and my hard work was rewarded with a very nasty and uncomfortable stress fracture in my right foot.

This time, I'm not even thinking about pace. In fact, I'm trying to make a marked effort to run slower than I feel like I should be running. Shorten my stride. Resist speeding up when someone faster blows by. I'll set a course and hit the road and that's that. If I run it at 9:30 per mile, so be it. If I run it at 7:30 per mile... well, I'll never know. I never wan to have to compare one run to another, or my pace to another's - not until I have a very, very solid base.

So far, it's working well. I actually start every run with a mantra, repeated under my breath for the duration of warm-up: "Slow and steady. Nice and easy."

You'd be surprised how easy it is to run slow!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mad Marchness Ride Report

Mission Cycling put together a spiffy semi-organized ride this weekend: 100 miles total from San Francisco to sunny Santa Cruz. The organizers put their heads together with the good folks over at Strava to do some fun things and try out the site's up-and-coming "Events" feature that will let clubs define segments, record riders' times and make it super easy to figure out the winner.

The Santa Cruz ride, dubbed "Mad Marchness," included three such segments - a 1.2 mile "sprint," a 3.3 mile climb up Old La Honda (7.9% grade), and a 7.0 mile "GC section" (rollers). Fastest times on each segment would win a prize, and fastest total time across all three would win prizes as well. Coolness.

The ride started bright and early from Bespoke Cycles in Noe Valley. Thanks to someone's sick sense of humor, the route began with a heart-busting jaunt up Clipper Street - which reaches 22% grade in places - and then out west to Skyline Boulevard and the ocean. From there, we turned south and opened it up a bit. Eventually, we hopped onto a multi-use trail, which turned out to be nightmarish: blind corners, high-contrast shadows, slippery-looking tar-filled cracks, slow-moving pedestrians...

Fortunately we were back on normal roads by mile 22. I was actually fairly impressed with myself to this point: I hadn't rested for the event at all, and it was the Queen stage of my most recent three-week training block. Some of the more competitive guys really put the hammer down going into the "sprint" segment, but I tried my best to keep my heart rate under control. There was no way I was going to be competitive in that category; I might as well conserve.

Next up was Old La Honda, a twisty, shaded climb that turned out to be quite enjoyable. Again, I hit the climb and settled into a comfortable rhythm, letting the aggressors head up the road and claim victory. I don't think I could've followed if I'd wanted to; I'm still a few weeks out of climbing shape, for sure.

The descent down to 84 and onto Pescadero Road was a blast, and then we turned up another, painfully unexpected climb. I was gapped on the following descent and wound up spending the next eight miles hammering in an attempt to bridge... if only the wind had cooperated!

In Pescadero, we turned south and hit the "GC section." Again, the hot-shots flew up the road and killed those seven miles. I cruised at 22-miles-per-hour (zone 3-4?), towing a few fatigued cyclists all the way. We regrouped at the end of the segment - a left-hand turn onto the glorious Pacific Coastal Highway, twenty-five miles from our destination.

We pulled away and I hopped onto the front, hoping to control the pace for as long as possible. Then I noticed a kick-ass tailwind... and suddenly we were flying. I wasn't pushing it - my heart rate was still around 150 - but we were definitely moving. A few of us on the front started to trade pulls, and before you knew it, we were pared to ten riders from twenty. With each PCH roller we crested, another one or two riders would drop off... until only four remained. Dan, Keith, Appel and I proceeded to take full advantage of that tailwind and the sweeping roller-descents.

After a few more miles, Keith and Dan peeled off, leaving Appel and myself. Our two-man time-trial managed to maintain a 27.9 mile-per-hour average over the final 20 miles of highway and pull into Seabright Brewery (our destination) a full ten minutes ahead of the next group. I can't tell you how good it felt to feel that good at the end of a long ride, or to just open it up like that on a long, tailwind-powered straightaway. I haven't had fun like that in a long, long time!

[For the record, Appel is probably one of the strongest riders in the club right now - he won the "segment overall" time by a mile, and won the GC section as well. The guy's an animal! By all accounts, I shouldn't have been off the front with him... but damn am I glad I was. We traded pulls well and really put the hammer down at the end. It was... awesome.]

Santa Cruz was warm and sunny, as predicted. The gang rolled up in waves until all 50 of us were sitting on the brewery's patio, swapping stories, downing calories and congratulating each other on a ride well-done!

Three hours later, we loaded our bikes onto a truck and loaded our exhausted bodies into a charter bus for the return trip powered by camaraderie and Top Gun on the entertainment system. Sorry, Goose, but it's time to buzz the tower!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Special Delivery

When it comes to conquering the third leg, my plan of attack is three-fold. In my last post, I wrote about forced recovery days and walking. The second prong of my running trident is equipment-related.

I need to invest in the health of my feet, calves and knees. Running doesn't require a whole lot of equipment. I already found a good pair of running shoes -- and bought three sets of 'em. As soon as one starts to wear, I'm moving on to the next set.

Recovery is going to be incredibly important over the next few months, especially after long runs. That's why I ordered these (see picture). Yep, compression tights, socks and calf guards. I already have a pair of full-length tights that I wear mostly to recover from long rides - this stuff is running-specific. Hope it works!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Slow and steady

I don't have a lot of self-control when it comes to training. I'll get excited about something and then I'll start hitting it (the pool, the pavement, the pedals) hard. One of the things I'm going to have to learn to do over these next nine months is pace myself.

With swimming and cycling, I can generally push as hard as I want to push without repercussion (other than the risk of overtraining, that is). With running, it's a different story. I have a short history with running and it's not a good one. Most, if not all, of my attempts to scale my mileage up over the past five years have ended in shin splints, stress fractures and loss of morale. And I'm doing it again.

I'm not putting in a lot of miles, but I am putting in one long run per week and my legs (shins, specifically) are starting to complain. In the past, I've tried to push through this kind of pain and it's only gotten worse. Today, I took the first step (no pun intended) in another direction. I decided to walk most of my scheduled run today, and jog the rest of it very easily

Yes, it was hard. Yes, it took just about every ounce of willpower in my body... but I did it.

I'm going to try and make myself continue this sort of preventative, triage-esque running/walking until the pain subsides. Hopefully that won't be longer than a week, and then I'll begin ramping the mileage back up again at a slower pace.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My thoughts exactly...

I wish I could wake up to the Versus Cyclysm Sunday theme.

Friday, March 5, 2010

I'm Pregnant

There are still a lot of days between now and December 5, but those days add up to months - nine of them.

Between then and now, I'm sure I'll have my fair share of discomfort. I'll be sore and tired. I'll get dizzy if I stand up too fast. The cravings have already started; I feel like I'm eating for two and I'm only a week into this whole ordeal.

I'm going to fret about my weight, have a short mental breakdown or two, [try to] limit my alcohol consumption, and just generally be miserable for three trimesters. In the end, there will be a lot of huffing, a lot of puffing, and a whole lot of searing pain, and then I probably won't be able to walk right for days... but it'll be worth it.

Oh man, will it be worth it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Book of Tri

This sucker came in the mail today. Can't wait to dive in (no pun intended)!

The "Uh Oh" Feeling

For even the most carefree person, when this arrives in your inbox, alarm bells start ringing and the "what did I just get myself into" feeling starts to sink in. It's incredibly exciting, exhilarating even, but when the euphoria starts to subside, the logistics of making this happen start to set in.

This is the first Triathlon I've ever signed up for. Go big right? Well, a lot of people would probably say it was unrealistic or unreasonable to sign up for an Ironman with no Tri experience, and the little voice in the back of my head was saying the same thing. As I looked at that registration email, a creeping sense of panic started to rise.

But you know what? That little voice in the back of my head is a jerk. Every single time I've ignored it, pushed past fear and uncertainty, I've had the best experiences of my life. Damn right "Go Big!" I'm not going to look back at my youth and wish I'd done more. I'm going to live strong, live big, and have adventures. Busselton here I come.

All right, now someone explain these Tri Suits to me.....

Monday, March 1, 2010

What are you doing in December?

Below is the email thread that started this whole ordeal. Note the fifteen minutes that passed between my first and second message. I was amped. w00t!


Date: Fri, 19 Feb 2010 21:31:35 -0800
Subject: Ironman
From: Andrew
To: Alex


What are you doing in December?

Want to do an Ironman?

In Australia?

Dead #$%&ing serious.



Date: Fri, 19 Feb 2010 21:48:20 -0800
Subject: Re: Ironman
From: Andrew
To: Alex





Holy. #$%&ing. SHIT. It would be the coolest thing ever, basically.


Date: Sat, 20 Feb 2010 11:15:05 -0500
Subject: Re: Re: Ironman
From: Alex
To: Andrew

Holy shit.

Really? I'm actually 100% totally up for it. LETS DO IT! Seriously! We need another kick ass adventure! I'M IN.


- Alex