Saturday, July 31, 2010

Quick Update: Vineman Relay

On Monday afternoon, I was put in touch with Oli Ryan and Kevin Weil, a cyclist and a runner in need of a swimmer to complete a three-man Vineman Ironman-distance triathlon relay. By Wednesday, we had registered. Today, we dominated.

The day started early, and by early, I actually mean "really, ridiculously early." My alarm was set for 3:40 AM. I woke up before it. Needless to say, I am wiped out and will post a full-on race report tomorrow.

Long story short, for those interested: we finished in roughly 9:10 and are awaiting official split confirmation. We were the first relay to finish by a longshot, and the fastest finisher overall by about ten minutes. Badass.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Random Notes

I hit the deck on Saturday morning. I'm not really sure how it happened - one second I'm riding comfortably toward the back of a large pack of cyclists and the next second the guy in front of me is on the ground and I've got no where to go but down with him. Our bikes tangled and my big chain ring dug into my leg a bit, but I was able to walk away relatively unscathed. It's a good thing we weren't going any faster than 15-18 miles per hour.

There's something badass about riding 80 miles with a rivulet of blood running down the front of your leg. Cleaned up, this actually doesn't look so bad. It didn't hurt either. In fact, the only bad thing about the crash was losing contact with the other guys I had been riding with!

Since the "dietary overhaul" I embarked upon last month, my breakfasts have been completely revolutionized. No starches and no dairy means none of my usual staples: pancakes, toast, oatmeal, cold cereal. I was forced to discover (yes, discover) eggs and most fruits. Yeah, you heard right: I never really ate eggs or strawberries or grapes or any of that stuff before this diet began. I know, I know - I was missing out.

Anyway, I'm now eating all of the above for breakfast every day - and you know what? Breakfast has become my absolute favorite meal. Check out what I had this morning: huge strawberries, fresh raspberries, delicious blueberries, a ton of diced pineapple and a few eggs scrambled.

Side note: I had also been lamenting a severe dietary lack of "things to put ketchup on." We just don't have burgers or french fries all that often around here and now fries are totally out of the equation. Fortunately, scrambled eggs nicely fill that vacancy and have become my primary vehicle for lycopene intake.

Update: I'm now being told my some that, "Ketchup on eggs is gross," and it's become quite the little mini-debate on Buzz. I didn't realize this was such a contentious issue!

I was at a stoplight in Corte Madera on Sunday afternoon and saw this tricked-out awesome-mobile idling at the light with me. CHECK OUT THAT SPOILER! Brings me back to high school, when my friend Ron would always talk about hand-building a spoiler for his car out of Bondo. It takes balls to ride around with a three-foot spoiler like that, especially on a 3.5 cylinder piece-of-crap from the mid-80's.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Man Down

I received some pretty serious news last week. Alex, my good friend and Ironman co-conspirator, is no longer able to make the journey. I would've let him tell you himself, but he only posted on this blog once (and probably doesn't even read it) - so why should he start now? Dudes get busy.

The "why" is no laughing matter; it has something to do with Visas and immigration documents and US-Bermuda relations and so forth. I'll be completely honest with you: this doesn't come as any huge surprise. I've been mentally preparing myself for the distinct possibility that this would be a solo mission since, well... since we signed up in March. And the legal back-and-forth leading up to this final "go/no-go" has been long and drawn out.

So there you have it. Man down. Suck.

Fittingly enough, I've decided on various separate occasions over the past few months that if I were a Top Gun-style fighter pilot, my call sign would be "Solo." I'm a fairly self-sufficient person. I'm not antisocial - I definitely enjoy the company of others. Maybe it's a trait I acquired during my consulting days - when my friends aren't around, interested or available for something on my itinerary, I have no problem going it alone. I guess this is no different from anything else, really - I'll just be going it alone down under.

Rest Week, Best Week

Last week was the fourth week in the first of six four-week cycles, and the fourth week of any cycle is always a rest week. Rest doesn't mean "off," but compared to the previous week's 26.5 hours, 14 hours felt like a vacation.

I was really starting to break down during that third week, so rest week was perfectly timed. Paring down from 3.5+ hours per day to 2 hours per day (or less) really allowed me to get my energy levels back up and mentally reset in advance of Base 2, which started on Sunday with a longer-than-normal run, hour-long swim and a 2-hour recovery ride.

That morning, I woke up extra early to run with a segment of the San Francisco Marathon as it passes quite close to where I live. I stuck with the flow of runners all the way up and onto the Golden Gate Bridge before turning around and heading home. It was so much fun to run with that many people, and to top that off, I felt pretty darn good too.

Now it's Tuesday, which means I'm two days into 21 before rest week #2. Lock and load.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Day to Enjoy

"For some, it was crazy, for others, it was stupid, for others, it was a day of courage and bravery. For me, it was just a day to enjoy being on the bike."
- Carlos Sastre, commenting on his solo breakaway attempt during the Queen Stage of the 97th Tour de France.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Trip Planning

Imagine you're headed to Australia. You've only got one real obligation: you've got to spend the first seven days of your trip out west, about three hours south of Perth. You won't see much, but you will get to enjoy some quiet, relaxing time on in the middle of nowhere. I hear toilet water flushes the opposite direction down there. Afterward, you're free to roam - on a budget, mind - where ever you please. Where do you go? What do you see?

That's what I'm currently trying to figure out. The more I read about Australia, the more I realize how enormous it is. Trying to see all of Australia in three weeks would be like trying to see all of the US in a month. It's impossible. Some prioritization will be necessary.

First thing's first: I've got to make peace with the fact that I'm going to have to come back to Australia some day. There will have to be another trip. I've also got to resign myself to making a trip to New Zealand into its own adventure and not trying to tack it on to this one. Once I'm okay with those two decisions, I can begin thinking about potential itineraries.

I feel somewhat obligated to visit Sydney - it feels iconic. I'd like to see the reef, and I'm being told Melbourne's nice. None of these places are close to each other. Road trip between them all? Perhaps, but then I may spend my whole vacation in a car.

I'd like to see some of the rainforest as well, and a bit of the outback. Uluru (Ayers Rock) looks absolutely epic. But a visit to the Northern Territory would preclude any city-slicking on the east coast.

The third option would be to remain in Western Australia for two weeks after the event and really dive deep into the sights and culture out there. I hear it's gorgeous out there, and that might be the best (and cheapest) use of my time. But will it be a let-down if I go all the way out to Australia and I don't see the Great Barrier Reef? The Sydney Opera House? Bondi Beach?

What would you do? Opinions and/or advice greatly appreciated.

A Kind of Farewell (to the Boss)

A few minutes ago, Lance Armstrong tweeted the following:
Tough day today. Last epic mtn stage of my life. Thanks to all who came out and braved the weather on the Tourmalet.
I know he's retired before and I know I've flip-flopped between skeptic and fan a few times, but I surprised myself today by actually being a little bit saddened by this statement. Like him or not, Lance is a legend - not just in cycling, but in all sport and what he's done for the sport of cycling, at least in the United States, cannot be ignored.

Lance is one of two people in this world who I can thank for my interest (obsession?) with cycling. The other's my dad. If it hadn't been for those sweltering summers in Bethlehem, PA, before the age of streaming video, following tour text updates on Velonews, I'm not sure I ever would've developed the passion I have now.

I didn't actually watch the team time trial in 2005 when Zabriskie crashed out of the yellow jersey ("ZABRISKIE CRASHES!!!"), but I remember it vividly. The same goes for that epic, rain-soaked time-trial at the end of the race's 2004 edition - Jan vs. Lance. "The Look," the musette bag, the Beloki crash... all of those epic moments stand out so vividly in my mind as text updates wrapped in snippets of college life.

To put a long story short, Lance is hanging up his cleats (again) and the world of cycling is watching one of its' greatest, most inspiring champions ride off into the sunset. Thanks for everything, Lance.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Finisher's Gear

In the last two weekends, I've seen the same guy at two separate parties thrown by two separate groups of friends. It's weird when social circles intersect like that. Anyway, he was wearing an Ironman Couer d'Alene finisher's cap on both occasions. It presents an interesting picture: dark jeans, collared shirt... and random, white-and-neon-green, running cap emblazoned with Ironman logos. I get the feeling he wears it where ever he goes, with whatever he's wearing.

Part of me thinks that's kinda lame. The other part of me can't wait to do it myself. It's 10 AM on July 18. 140.6 days.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Setting Goals

When I signed up for this Ironman, I had a very modest goal in mind: break the twelve-hour mark. After I finished the Auburn Triathlon in 5:45, I modified that goal a bit - if I can complete the "world's toughest" 70.3 in under six hours, I should definitely be able to finish a flatter 140.6 in under twelve. In fact, I bet I could do it in 11 hours or less.

I've been thinking more and more about this goal, and you know what? I may be under-estimating again. There's a chance - a good chance, depending on how training goes - that I could actually finish this sucker in under ten. Let's do the math. If the swim's 60 minutes (including transition) and the bike is 300 minutes, that leaves 240 minutes for the run. That, my friends, is 600 minutes - ten hours. Granted, the bike leg of that estimate equates to an average speed of over 20 miles per hour... but I have this time trial bike now, don't I?

So... an Ironman in sub-10? Hmm. If I'm going to shoot for sub-10, I'd be wrong not to at least think about the possibility of a Kona-qualifying time. Looking at past results, it seems like qualifiers in my age group vary from as fast as 9 hours to as slow as 9:40. That's a wide range, but never the less... it's something to shoot for. A marathon in 3:30 isn't out of the question, is it?

Something to think about...

[UPDATE July 16: I thought about this a bit more during this morning's 3.5 hour TT-bike cruise and in all honesty, I can't realistically hope for a Kona-qualifying sub 9:30 time. I just don't think it will happen. BUT I think sub-ten is attainable, so that's what I'm going to set my sights on.]

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ride Report: '10 Livestrong Challenge

I've been a reader of Elden "Fatty" Nelson's blog,, for a long while. It began as a satirical and self-effacing take on cycling at both the professional and club level, but morphed into the touching and heartfelt story of Elden's wife's battle with breast cancer. Last year, Fatty decided to mobilize his legions of followers and tackle all four editions of the 2009 Livestrong Challenge. I hopped aboard, participating in the San Jose challenge and was instantly hooked.

Yesterday, Team Fatty and I tackled the Livestrong Challenge San Jose for the second year running. As a team, we raised over $35,000. As an event, we raised over $1,000,000 for cancer research. Awe-inspiring.

Getting there was an adventure. I left the city with a friend, Kristine, via Caltrain. From the station in Mountain View, we biked to my car, installed my trunk hitch and drove to the packet pickup event in San Jose. We did the carbo-load thing at Buca di Beppo with a few members of the Google team (I was good: I only had a [chicken] salad!) and then, thanks to Kristine's sister, we snagged a killer deal at a local hotel where Kristine, her friend and teammate Andrew and I all stayed that evening.

The Ride
The best part about this Livestrong ride is the atmosphere. It's so undeniably positive. You are surrounded by thousands of other fundraisers who have had their lives touched by cancer in some way. Some of them are even survivors of the disease. And though our connections to cancer varied, our mindset was in sync. Everyone there wanted to do two things: have a great ride and kick cancer's ass.

The ride kicked off with a 10-mile rolling enclosure and police escort. Pretty cool stuff. I started in the middle of the pack and gradually worked my way up to the front. The lead pack was definitely larger (and moving faster) than it had last year and though I was fairly confident that I could've stayed with them for the entirety of the ride, I didn't want to "break" my base. I moved to the front - the very front of the entire race! - around mile 12 and took a long pull before backing off and trying to regulate my heart rate for the remaining 90+ miles.

It was cold, windy and overcast for most of the morning. I cruised by the first two rest stops and wound up riding solo most of the way to the third. The rest stops on this ride are phenomenal, by the way: well-stocked and delicious. I'm now addicted to nut/raisin/M&M trail mix on long rides. They were also supplying Honey Stinger products (which Lance has been shilling of late) - bars, gels, gummies. They were all delicious as well; there are a variety of flavors, but for the most part, they actually taste like honey - which is A-OK in my book.

I was on my own for another long while after that stop until a steam engine named Steve blew by me and I managed to snag his wheel. The guy was effortlessly pulling at 25+ miles per hour into the wind. I let him know right off that I was trying to keep my heart rate low and wouldn't be able to pull through. He was totally fine with that. So the middle forty miles went by pretty darn fast.

Once we got to the foothills near Metcalf, things started to seriously heat up. I hit the front and led the way up the climb. It was steeper (and warmer) than I remember, and my bottom bracket started making a cacophony of snapping and cracking sounds. It was borderline obnoxious, but otherwise superficial. I grinded my way up the hill, shouting words of encouragement to the folks from the 65-mile route who were wobbling up the road - and often walking - their way up.

After a longish stop at the Metcalf summit "power station," I really toned the ride down and added on a few 14-miles' worth of laps of a nice, straight, steady incline. As I got back on course, I conveniently crossed paths with some of my Team Fatty counterparts and paced them in for the big finish.

The Aftermath
After the finish, I spent a while snacking and catching up with the team riders I hadn't seen since the previous year while Kristine finished up the last few miles of her very first century. She made it in safely - scratch that one off the bucket-list! - and we packed up for the long journey back north. (After a day in the San Jose sun, I can't tell you how miserable it was to Caltrain in to the soupy, windy, foggy San Francisco mess. But that's another story.)

In short, this was a great ride for a greater cause and one that I will definitely do again next year. Team Fatty was third in the team fundraising competition this year and we know we can do better. I'll be my job to convince my Mission Cycling buddies and fellow Googlers to flock to Fatty's banner and be part something greater than the sum of our parts.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Special Delivery #1337

After more than a month of deliberation, I finally settled on a bike: a Cervelo P3. My LBS here in San Francisc, Bike Nut, gave me a "killer" deal on it because it's an '09 and it had been sitting on the showroom floor for a while. Fortunately, the size and price were both right and I brought it home yesterday. Behold!

So yeah, it's a 2009 Cervelo P3 with Dura-Ace 7900 components. I'm going to upgrade the wheels as soon as I can settle on the right rim depth. I spent a while at the shop working with Kevin, the fit guru there, on my position and saddle height before taking it out for it's maiden voyage this morning - a 25-miler out to (but not over) Camino Alto.

Riding in that aero position is fast, but it's not super fast. Hopefully that will change as I build up the muscle groups required for riding in the extensions. Kevin intentionally went with a more "relaxed" fit, with a higher stem height and such - I think I can go a bit lower without much discomfort, but this is the bike I'm going to spend 5+ hours on in my December Ironman; I want to make sure I get everything right!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hours and Sense

I just finished my Tuesday afternoon swim, meaning I'm done all of my scheduled workouts for the holiday weekend. I'm beat. Let's recap:
  • Saturday - 4.5 hour ride to Nicasio and Tiburon
  • Sunday - 1.5 hour swim, 1 hour run, 2.5 hour easy (but windy) ride
  • Monday - 5.5 hour ride
  • Tuesday - 2.5 hour recovery ride, 1 hour pace run, 1 hour recovery swim
So... that's 19 hours in four days. I guess my total mileage really won't be impressive because my time's split amongst three disciplines, but let's break it down for comparison. Let's say I spent all nineteen hours doing one discipline only. For you cyclists out there, let's say I average 17 miles per hour -- that's a 323-mile weekend. Runners, let's say I run 7 miles in an hour -- that'd be 133 miles since Saturday. Swimmers, hmm... 3,800 yards an hour? Yep, that'd be over 72,000 yards in four days.

In other news, I have no life!


The highlight of my four day holiday weekend was Monday's ride. I know, I'm a boring person. Typically, Monday would be my rest day, but thanks to next Sunday's Livestrong Challenge, I've had to reshuffle the week - moving Saturday's long ride to Monday so I can have a rest-day before the big event.

Anyway, I set out on Monday morning feeling fine. The weather in the city was terrible and that gray gloom seemed to hug the bridge and the descent into and out of Sausalito. It wasn't until I crested Camino Alto that the sun began to peak through the clouds. On a cold, foggy day in San Francisco, it was definitely warm and sunny a scant 15 miles to the north.

My bottles were full and I was still feeling fresh as I passed through Fairfax when it hit me: I'd managed the entire ride up to this point without clipping out. That's a rarity, especially considering all of the lights, intersections, stop signs and stupid tourists one must avoid/account on the way out of San Francisco and north. Fairfax is generally the last bit of suburban civilization before forty miles of rural countryside. Could I get out to Pt. Reyes and back (to Fairfax) without pause? Certainly.

I rolled through Pt. Reyes and onward. It was a challenge; I'm so used to stopping at Bovine Bakery or otherwise stretching my legs out-of-the-saddle around mile 40. There was a point on the way out from Nicasio where I decided it was time to remove my arm-warmers and vest -- and I managed to do that all while pedaling.

I'm pretty sure I could have continued past Fairfax without stopping had at least one of my bottles been full, but they weren't so I hopped off my bike and sprinted into the Roastery for a refill. I was rolling again in no time. From Fairfax, I followed the road back to Larkspur and then along Paradise Drive to Tiburon, where I followed the bay back to Sausalito, up over the bridge and home.

It was a long (5:30), pleasant, slightly windy solo ride, and trying to keep off my feet was what made it interesting. All-in-all, I managed to make it home without clipping out more than three times, and not for more than 88 seconds total across the entire duration.

I bet that'll never happen again.

Friday, July 2, 2010

So far, so good

Alright! I'm a few days into the training program and I don't feel too bad. The real key is being strict about keeping my tempo and effort-levels low. It's more important to end a workout with enough energy to recover in time for the next one than to really bust my ass up Camino Alto. This is Big Picture training right here.

Anyway, I'm 15.5 hours into a 19.5 hour week, meaning I've only got a 4 hour ride remaining - and that'll take place tomorrow. The next four days are actually fairly aggressive: I'm trying to make the week fairly top-heavy so my legs can be "fresh" for the Livestrong Challenge that following Sunday. It's going to be difficult, but I've got Monday and Tuesday off -- should leave plenty of time for bike riding.

I'm fairly comfortable with my diet shift now, too. The book was right: I did feel pretty poor for two weeks, but into the third and I'm starting to feel better and better. And I don't just feel "better" - I feel healthier all-around.

Anyway, I'm just about ready to wrap things up for the weekend. My bike's got a fresh tune-up, a new chain, and the forecast looks good. I'm ready to rock and roll.