Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Usual

I keep reading Sarah's blog, which tends to be about really scrumptious-looking baked goods and it makes me hungry every time a new post pops up in Reader. Unfortunately for me, when it comes to food, I'm not a very creative person. With a diet that precludes starch and dairy, I've settled into a very boring dinner routine. I'd guess I eat out two or there times a week. The other times, I'm either dining at work, scarfing down a bad-ass salad at Whole Foods, or eating The Usual™. You, too, can Eat Like A Champion™!

Warning! This is going to be the least-gourmet, least-revolutionary recipe ever.
Another warning! Do not consume if you have spend any time in close quarters with anyone the next day. You will be sweating garlic.

The Usual

1 pkg. - boneless chicken breasts
3 handfuls - green (string) beans
1 bulb - garlic
1/2 c. - chopped almonds
1/4 c. - raisins
1 can - tomato basil soup
1 tsp. - salt
1 tsp. - pepper
2 tbsp. - Frank's Red Hot
5 tbsp. - olive oil

Peel the garlic cloves until you are bored of peeling garlic cloves. Hopefully the result is a large pile of peeled garlic cloves - enough garlic to ward off fans of terrible vampire shows like True Blood. Now, I typically squish all of that garlic in a garlic press, but Alton Brown just did a show about garlic and apparently pressing it's just not a great idea. So instead, chop it into tiny, tiny bits.

Garlic for the win.

Wash the green beans and snap the ends off them all. DO NOT wash the chicken breasts. Washing chicken is actually bad - it is easy to splash salmonella all around your kitchen. The bacteria's going to die when you cook it, so just relax and let's move on.

I actually chopped up some leftover sausage for some added flavor.

Get a pot. Fill it mostly with water. Bring it to a boil. Add a pinch of salt. Add the green beans. Bring back to a boil for about 10 minutes.

Throw all of the chicken into a pan on medium heat on top of a teaspoon or two of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Dump in as much garlic as you think you can handle - but save some for the green beans! Sear either side, then cover the pan and reduce the head a little bit so the chicken can cook through. Mmm, garlic.

Beans in the pan. Chicken in the pan. Garlic everywhere!

Once the green beans have softened a bit, add them to a separate saucer/frying pan on medium heat. Add olive oil. Dump in chopped almonds, raisins, remaining chopped garlic. Sautee for 5-8 minutes. Toward the end of the 5-8, uncover the chicken and turn the heat up a bit to give it one last sear.

Quick! Pop the top on the tomato basil, put it in a bowl and microwave 'til warm. SECRET INGREDIENT: add 2 tablespoons (est.) of Frank's Red Hot.

Do not skip this step.

If you do it right, it'll all finish up at the same time. Plate and serve as soon as possible. Serves three, or one Ironman-in-training and one normal person. Yum. Congratulations, you now know how to make the simplest chicken-and-green-beans meal in the history of the modern era.

I think it took me less than four minutes to consume this.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Disclaimer

Dear social circle,

I value your friendship. I enjoy beer. Cheesesteaks. Loud music. Company. The works. Sadly, we may not seen a lot of each other recently. That's probably because I've spent the better part of five months training for an Ironman. It's kind of a big deal. It's also a race. I'm a competitive guy. Naturally, I want to do well.

Unfortunately for both of us, the race is in less than six weeks. (Holy crap.) I've entered into the most critical period of the entire training cycle. Because it's so critical, it also needs to be the most monastic. I need to be training my hardest, eating well and recovering even better. For this reason, please don't expect to see me:
  1. Eating unhealthily. Nutrition is important and the regimen I'm on is strict (read: boring). On the bright side, it's working, so as much as I'd like to wolf down an entire pepperoni pizza, I've got to pass.
  2. Out past ten. I get up early. I train twice a day. I did the same thing yesterday. I need to repeat the same cycle tomorrow, and the day after that. I need to sleep.
  3. Drinking. On this swim team, we called this the dry season. I can't afford to be dehydrated or hungover, or doing what drinking usually leads to: numbers 1 and 2 above.
When I get back from this trip, I promise to revert back to regular, normal Andrew. I'll eat all kinds of awesomely delicious foods. My fridge will be stocked with microbrews on a continuous basis. I might actually be able to keep my eyes open late enough to catch the Daily Show. Until then, it might help to think of me as if I'm the combination of the following three things:
  1. Allergic to everything but grilled chicken and steamed broccoli.
  2. Perpetually jet-lagged from trans-Atlantic travel.
  3. Recovering from a recent bout of alcoholism.
Does it kind of suck to live this way? Yeah, a bit. But when I cross that finish line in Australia, it'll all have been worth it. I've come a long way in five months and there's only a little bit more to go. I'm not a jerk, I'm just in the home stretch. Bear with me a little while longer!

kthxbai,
Andrew

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Foundation

All of this training has me thinking of how I got to this point. Athletically, I owe a lot to the various coaches I've had throughout the years. This post is the first in what will probably be a nostalgic, three-part miniseries of posts about the guys (other than my dad) (not being sexist here - coincidentally, all of my coaches have been men) who've had the most impact on my seemingly life-long path to Ironman craziness.

----

My family moved to Alaska in the early 90's. I was ten. I was into Marvel comics, Jurassic Park and Sega Genesis. The winters in Alaska can be long, cold, dark and boring - especially for the new kid on the block who doesn't know anyone in the neighborhood - so my parents set out to find something that would keep me busy.

They found Bob Solow. Bob was the head coach of the local swim club. He took me under his wing. He planted all the seeds. He taught me the fundamentals of being an athlete. He taught me how to set goals and work toward them.

I went from a scrawny, pale kid who could barely make it one length of the pool into a scrawny, pale kid with an extreme passion for the sport.

I went from having to be dragged to swim practice kicking-and-screaming to dragging my parents out of bed to drive me over to the pool for the first of two practices a day. Bob would drink coffee and read the paper. Ryan and I would spend the hour doing whatever "dryland" work was prescribed. I have a vivid memory of the two of us throwing a medicine ball back and forth each other's dead as hard as we could. It must have been pretty comical for Bob, watching two ten-year-olds try to decapitate each other with a 10-pound rubber sphere at 6 o'clock in the morning.

I went from needing a kickboard to complete my first race (two lengths of a 25-yard pool) as a ten year-old to breaking a minute in the 100-yard freestyle as a twelve year-old.

Every summer, the team would hold an awards banquet. These events are always awesome - a great way to recap a season and highlight the team's accomplishments. Bob would always time to present unique, often humorous gifts to each and every swimmer, with a few "usuals" toward the end: most improved, most valuable, etc. At the last banquet before before my family moved away, he gave me this:


Every Spring (in Alaska, we called this season "Break-Up"), Bob would pick dig up one or two nails from an old, abandoned set of railroad tracks just outside of town. He'd bring them home and spray them black. They'd become the Spike Award, and he'd go on to give them to the swimmer(s) with the most drive, the most discipline, the one who took all of the punishment without complaint. "Tougher than Nails," it'd say.

This might sound weird, but I think that nail was the most important object anyone ever gave me, except, perhaps, the blanket I was basically born with. It's what I have never been prouder of anything than I am of having earned that nail.

The criteria for that award became a kind of manifesto for me going forward. Years would pass and my goals would adjust (most young swimmers eventually realize they're probably not going to the Olympics), but that... "motto"? It stuck.

Maybe I'm not the fastest guy on the team. Maybe I don't have the most talent, or score the most points. But I can sure as hell take punishment whatever punishment you can deal, and I sure as hell won't complain about it. I'm not the most dedicated, disciplined, determined kid on your roster, you can have this nail back.

I don't stick to it consciously. I don't think about being disciplined, or whatever. I don't have to. It just happens. That's just how I'm wired. It's been with me so long, the award's in my bones.

Bob lives in Texas now and is an assistant coach at a local high school. We exchanged a few emails a year ago. If I'd never joined his swim team, I'm pretty sure that today I'd be an overweight computer nerd without even the smallest of athletic aspirations. I wonder if he has any idea how much impact he's had on my life? Crazy how that works.

Six-Week Freakout

There are now less than six weeks left to prepare for this Ironman and I'll be here in North America for less than five of them. Holy cow, the pressure's on. I've got to get my shit together. I feel like I don't have time to do all of the things I need to do.


I think I'm on track, training-wise. I need to get out for some long, long rides on the time-trial bike these next few weekends. If I could score a century each weekend for the next three, that would be pretty perfect. Swimming should fall into place provided I keep up my weekly VO2 set. If I can force myself to take a 30-minute dip in the bay once per week (wet suit optional), that would be sweet.

As far as running goes, I've reverted to "survival mode." I've run five times in ten days and will continue running 5-7K every other day for another week or two before I start trying to ramp up the mileage in any capacity. I definitely don't want to aggravate the PTT between now and December. Scary thought: I'm not planning a run longer than ten miles between now and the race.

Build phase is breaking me down; I'm not recovering very well right now. I'd like to start sleeping a bit more, but... wouldn't we all? I can't wait to taper.

IMPORTANT: I need to start incorporating some post-ride runs. Maybe I'll start working that in later this week, or early next week.

ALSO IMPORTANT: I need to put the Speedfil back on my bike and draft Kristine to help me do some aid-station drills - grabbing bottles on the go and filling the tank. Transition-area drills would be good, but I might be able to work on that during race-week out in Australia.

And some day, I'll have to give some thought to what happens after the triathlon. But... one thing at a time.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Precipitation

Meteorologists are forecasting the unthinkable: two consecutive days of rain this weekend. Both Saturday and Sunday look to be equally saturated. Rain is something I haven't had to deal with in a long while; one of the benefits of training here in the Bay Area is the long, dry span between May and (most of) October. But as we get closer to November and the weather starts to turn, dealing with the elements might become a recurring theme.


The problem is this: I'm looking for something like eight hours on the bike this weekend, two in the pool and one on the ground. The swims and runs won't be an issue, but the rides will be less than fun if the sky is falling. I hate riding in the rain.

I might be able to re-arrange a few things - maybe spin on Saturday morning in place of a ride, or ride on Friday instead of Saturday - but I know that I'm going to have to spend a lot of quality time in the saddle on Sunday no matter what the weather's like. Inconvenient!

Fortunately, I only have to deal with this for a few more weekends as we're less than 40 days 'til liftoff and only 44 days 'til race day.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Crunch Time

There are seven weeks 'til race day. Let's do a status-check.

Swimming
My regular lap pool's still undergoing repairs, so I took another dip in the bay this afternoon. That water's cold, but it really doesn't bother me until after the swim. Today, I got in without a wet suit and managed roughly two miles in just over thirty minutes before the temperature really started to get to me. This time, I found the water to be... strangely exhilarating. Perhaps I'm acclimating?

(For the record, I'm mostly useless after a swim like that. I think it took 30 minutes of shivering in a scalding-hot shower to bring my core temperature back up to normal. Even afterward, a nap is almost mandatory before I can resume normal function.)

Cycling
I feel strong on the bike and I'm posting times here and there that seem to confirm that. Yesterday, I decided to hit the gas three-quarters of the way through a conversational cruise up Camino Alto and stomped to the top. Despite the slow start, that turned out to be my third-best time up that hill ever. And last weekend's epic, 105-mile loop out to Marshall on my time-trial bike felt pretty darn good, too.

I was skeptical at first, but I'm really starting to love that bike. I think I've settled into the position well. It's really starting to feel... fast. 

Running
I actually went for a run today! It was slow and it was only three miles, but it counts. My foot didn't hurt, but I could still feel it. I don't know if that makes sense, but even walking around now, I can definitely tell that I went for a run today.

I've stopped wearing those custom orthodics and that seems to have helped matters a bit. I think this little three-miler is something I can build on. Positive thoughts.

Nutrition
My diet has slipped over the past few weeks, so I decided to just bag it this past week and enjoy good food during my parents' visit. But it's now time to hop back on the wagon. The next seven weeks will be hell bent on eating right, cutting excess and shaving down to race weight.

Looking Forward
Tomorrow's the start of the second and final three-week Build phase. After that, it'll be time to start thinking about taper.
  • October 18 through November 7 - Build
  • November 8 through November 21 - Peak
  • November 22 through December 5 - Taper & Travel
Welcome to crunch time.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Setting Goals (for 2011)


The problem with having your biggest event of the year at the end of the year is that you basically have to start setting your goals for the next year before you've even completed the current one(s) - because next year's right around the corner. And the problem with Ironman events is that you've got to commit to and register for any marquee event almost a full year in advance. So, despite not yet having actually completed my first Ironman race, I'm already trying to schedule my second.

I'm not going to have the budget or vacation time on-hand for my next go-round, so I'm looking to stay in North America. The options aren't super compelling. I'm strongly considering Canada at the end of August, but that feels somewhat aggressive in that I'd only have two months of "down time." Maybe that's enough, though? General entry for Canada is sold out, so I'd have to raise some dough for a charity to secure a spot on the start line. None of the U.S. races really excite me, but Arizona might make a good potential back-up option and it isn't until late November.

When scheduling a race like this, all I've really got to think about are the training requirements. Location really doesn't matter to me. I just want to be sure my quality of life doesn't totally suck for all of 2011. I won't try to log the same kind of training hours for Ironman 2.0 as I have for this one, but I'll still need to dedicate 24 weeks of near-monastic living to the cause.

If I choose to race in late August, that means I need to kick off "Base 1" at the beginning of March and "Build 1" at the beginning of June. The early part of the Base phase could be rainy and cold, but the latter half would take advantage of the nice weather we get in the spring. Build would be during the cold, foggy summer months, and my season would end just before San Francisco's Indian summer (a good thing, in a lot of ways).

If I choose to race in November, the start of training can be delayed by three months, starting in June. The schedule would be very similar to this year's - Base during the foggy months (though maximizing the longest days of the year) and Build during the warm, autumn months. On the plus side, I'd be able to reward myself with a massive, post-race Thanksgiving feast.

If you haven't already guessed, the foot injury's the primary reason why this is already on my mind. I'm adjusting my goals for this December's race with the provision that I'll take some time after to fix whatever's wrong with me and come back even better in 2011. Western Australia's going to be awesome - I fully expect to stomp the swim and do very well (for me) on the bike, but the run will be questionable. For Canada (or Arizona, or whichever one I settle on), I'm going to put all three disciplines together, add a dash of experience and really try to crush it.

More on my actual, modified Western Australia-specific goals, target finish times, etc., coming in another blog post some time over the next couple weeks.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Bay

My regular pool's chlorine pump kicked the bucket earlier this week, so today I was forced to wake up and head down to Aquatic Park for a colder, saltier version of my regular morning swim.


There are actually a surprising number of swimmers in the water at 7 o'clock in the morning, and very few of them choose to wear wet suits. I can partially see why: getting a wetsuit on, off, and clean takes a whole lot of time. I tried swimming without a wet suit on Sunday; it wasn't bad while I was moving, but I wouldn't have lasted longer than 30 minutes - and even so, I spent the next hour shivering.

I knew I wanted to swim at least two "coves" (each swim around the cove is roughly one mile), so I brought my wet suit along for the ride. Swimming encased in rubber is surprisingly comfortable. I don't know how everyone else was handling the temps without any insulation. Crazy.

The suit did feel a little bit tight today, but the swim overall wasn't bad thanks to the warm air and a beautiful sunrise. I think I'm going to make these bay swims - in the wet suit - a more regular thing until the race in December. Now if you'll excuse me, I need a nap.

Monday, October 11, 2010

One Last Bit About My Foot

Alright, I'm going to try and make this the last post I write about my foot issues, mainly because I'm tired of thinking about it. I went to another specialist last week and he gave me a second opinion... which pretty much confirmed the original opinion, which is/was something called posterior tibial tendonitis.

I know what you're probably thinking: "Tendonitis?! Is that it?" Well, thanks to an extensive collegiate swimming career, I've had tendonitis before, mostly in my knees, and this is worse than that. I'm trying to figure out if there's a direct correlation between the shoes I wear, the insoles I wear and the amount of pain I experience. So far, no luck - though I'm starting to believe the custom orthodics that were made for me in June are doing more harm than good.

As long as I'm not thinking about my foot, walking is fine. Standing hurts. Once my foot's on my mind, I find myself trying to adjust my stride in ways that might only be making things worse. I'm hesitant to put any weight on the inside of my right foot, so I wind up rolling far to the outside. I think that's putting additional strain on ligaments higher up on my ankle. It's a vicious cycle.

Anyway, here's the plan. On Friday, I'm going to start working in 2 or 3 runs per week of 2 or 3 miles each. No more, no less. That's just going to have to be enough. If, after a few weeks of this, my symptoms have subsided, I may ramp up and run a few slightly longer runs, but I imagine this pain is just going to be something I'll have to endure for a few hours come December.

The bottom line is this: my foot hurts, it's going to continue to hurt, and it's going to impact my run performance in Busselton, yadda yadda yadda. Now that we've got that out of the way, I can just accept that as fact and adjust my expectations and goals accordingly. Fun times.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Recurring Nightmare

I went for another low-gravity run today and the results were not nearly as encouraging as they were on Monday. My foot has flared up again, and while it's not as bad as it was before, I'm worried that this might not be something that just "goes away."

If running 5 miles at 80-percent of my body weight causes a flare up, how am I ever going to manage 26 miles at 100-percent? It's going to hurt. I'm going to have to greatly adjust my expectations and be okay with walking some segments.

My foot aside, I could definitely tell during today's run that I had run on Monday, in that, wow, my calves were pretty sore this morning. Five-ish weeks without running has definitely taken a toll on my stride and my comfort, especially as the run drones on.

I'm not really sure how to proceed now. I scheduled an appointment with another specialist tomorrow - I'm going to get a second opinion on this whole injury thing - and continue taking it easy on my feet. Maybe two 4+ mile runs is too much. Maybe I'm running too fast, despite the weightlessness. I don't know. I think I'll keep my runs down around three miles and at a slower pace and see how things feel.

LESS than two months. Yikes.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Moonwalking


Yesterday, I went for my first run in three weeks (and only my third run in five weeks). I was a bit of a basket case all day: I knew I wanted to run, but I had no idea how the run would go. This weird foot injury has been nagging me for a long while now and the last thing I wanted was another flare up.

Anyway, I went to M2 and zipped myself into the crazy machine pictured above. It's an Alter-G treadmill, and it's awesome. The lower half is essentially a pressurized air chamber, kind of like what you'd see on a hovercraft. Once you're all hooked in, the treadmill actually lets you add or subtract body weight my increasing or decreasing the air flow within that chamber.

It's very cool. You can actually adjust your perceived body weight on a single-percentage-point basis. I settled into an easy lope at around 88% and cruised for about forty minutes. It's like walking (or running) on the moon. It's amazing how much easier it is to run as someone ten or twenty pounds lighter!

I could feel some "strangeness" in my foot during the run, especially at above 90%, but no significant pain. Better yet, it's been about twelve hours and I haven't noticed any ill effects. This crazy treadmill might be the answer to my running/training problems - I can still work myself aerobically without having to worry so much about the injuries that seem to follow me where ever I go!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Ouch.

  • Mid-week intervals and intensity.
  • Hard, climb-filled rides on the weekends.
  • Lots of yardage in the pool.
  • A nominal social life?
Add those four things together, subtract sleep, and you've got yourself a sure-fire recipe for exhaustion. I struggled to lift myself up off of the sofa at six yesterday to cook myself dinner. Then, you know that feeling where you're so tired you think you might actually throw up? That's where I was around 7:30. (Having eaten a dinner large enough for three people probably did little to help my cause.) By 8:30, I was in bed.

Build phase is hard. Very hard.

Here's the plan. I swam this morning. I'm going to try to run tonight - my first run since Big Kahuna - and then I've got a swim and a spin tomorrow. Then a rest day. Then spins, swims and another run on Thursday and Friday. At least 100 miles with climbing on Saturday, another 50 and a swim on Sunday... and then a rest week. Sunday afternoon can't get here soon enough.

Exactly two months from 4 PM PST this afternoon, I will be on the start line in Busselton.