Sunday, December 25, 2011

Vacation!

Hanalei, Kaua'i
Aloha and greetings from the sunny shores of Hawai'i! Kristine and I hopped on a plane (or in Kristine's case, a few planes) for the island of Kaua'i last week to spend the holidays with her family. It's been an absolutely enjoyable and utterly relaxing trip so far. I had never been to Hawai'i before, and now I'm wondering why I waited so long!

My original plan was to start running again - I figured the warm weather and lightly rolling hills would the perfect medicine for my ailing achilles. Unfortunately, my first run out here on Wednesday wasn't as comfortable as I would've liked. As a result, I'm going to rest my legs for another week or two and just enjoy the simplicity of island life.

We've been to a handful of beaches, all of which have been gorgeous. I brought my goggles and a pair of training suits along, so I've logged a few 20-25 minute swims here or there. It feels good to be back in the water again; if my achilles keeps me off the road for much longer, I may have to fast-track my plan to re-join the local swim team.

Anyway, I've got to get back to my Mai Tais and pork spare ribs. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you all!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Almost, but not quite.

The view from my roadbike.

As promised, I've spent the past few months... not relaxing, per se, but definitely enjoying life without a big race looming over my head. I've spent those months riding and running, but more to spend time with friends and take Marin county's natural beauty than anything else. The off-season has been just what I wanted it to be: a break from the pressures of training for an Ironman-distance race.

That's not to say that these past few months haven't been without incident, though. I crashed in extremely stupid fashion back in September, but I've been riding very consistently since. My road bike and I have spent some time becoming reacquainted, and together we set personal-best times on many of my most frequently-climbed hills: Hawk Hill, Camino Alto (both ways), the Alpine segments, and so forth. I've recently started working my time-trial bike back into the mix, and I'm noticing the differences between the two bikes (the former's got a compact crank, and the latter, a standard) more than ever before.

The view from my time-trial bike.

I started running again in October thanks to Strava's 100-Mile Challenge. Over four weeks, I ramped up the mileage and kept it there for another three before triggering some kind of achilles/soleus strain. I had a good groove going - 8+ miles every other day for almost six weeks. I deserved the injury. Since that flare-up, I've been limping and hobbling, stretching and icing. I've got a few PT sessions scheduled, and I'm fairly confident that I'll get this all taken care of before real training begins again.

Speaking of real training, we're on-schedule to begin in early January with another grueling six-month regimen designed to bring me to Zurich with the best fitness of my life. But that's still another few weeks away, so I'll leave the details for another post. w00t!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Two Years Later

Birthday ride (Tam) in August 2009
In a way, my triathlon story truly began two years ago this month. I had spent the summer riding my heart out, but a crash in August sidelined me for several weeks. As soon as I could ride again, I tried to jump back in at the same intensity and that proved to be an enormous mistake. By the end of October, I was exhausted, over-trained and burnt out. I didn't think I'd ever want to ride a bike again. So what did I do?

Ahh, chlorine!
I joined  swim team!

As dull as swimming laps in a pool can be, it felt good to be back in the water. But it wasn't long before my swimming friends found out I liked to cycle, and my cycling friends found out I liked to swim. Before I knew it and despite my aversion to running, I found myself being prodded toward triathlon. At some point, my interest was piqued.

I was content to swim for a few months, but then, almost on impulse, I signed up for Ironman Western Australia in March of 2010 and set about learning to be a triathlete. That May, participated in my first real triathlon: the Auburn "World's Toughest" Half. After that, I was hooked.

Approaching the finish-line in Auburn
For the remainder of the year, I had a singular purpose, and that was to compete in and finish that Ironman in December. I only squeezed one race in between Auburn and the big event, and that was Santa Cruz' Big Kahuna.

Approaching the finish line in Santa Cruz
As for the Ironman, it couldn't have come soon enough. It's not easy to sustain such an intense training regimen for nine months straight and by the time taper rolled around, I was barely fending off another catastrophic burn-out. As we all know, the race went well. Kristine and I spent three incredible weeks touring Australia together and then I spent another two weeks in Ohio with my family.

At the finish line in Busselton
Not long after returning to San Francisco in January, I forced myself to get off the couch and re-find my focus by registering for the Full Vineman race in Santa Rosa in July. When I signed up, I could barely imagine finishing another Ironman, but I knew I'd regret it if I did not. Cue another training montage covering six months of intervals, long runs, ibuprofen, ice-packs and foam rollers.

At the finish line in Santa Rosa
Vineman came and went, and we celebrated, and then came the Big Kahuna again. I won't go into those recent races again here - for more! Now it's October and I'm able to look back and marvel at what I've managed to accomplish in those two short years.

Now it's October, and for what feels like the first time in forever, I don't have a race breathing down my neck. The weather is (mostly) sunny. The skies are (mostly) blue. The beers are (mostly) cold. Sounds like off-season to me!


Monday, October 3, 2011

Big Kahuna '11

I went for my first bike ride less than a week after Vineman, and my first run even sooner. My legs felt empty for a few days, but by the following Wednesday, they were starting to come around. By the second weekend, I felt phenomenal, both on the bike and on foot. Compared to Western Australia, my recovery from Vineman was over in a flash.

For that reason, it wasn't difficult to convince myself to sign up for one last season-ending race. I did all that work to get to that level of fitness; I might as well use it, right?

Unfortunately, that invincible feeling dissipated shortly after registering for the race. A week from race day, I was regretting my decision. Despite poor sensations on the bike, I had been running well so the plan was just to show up on race day and see what happened.

Kristine managed to score a well-situated hotel just across the street from the start of the race, so the morning was very relaxed. I woke up early and walked my bike down to the transition area before returning to close my eyes for a few extra minutes. Before long, though, it was time to suit up. Oddly enough, I was a bit nervous about the swim; I hadn't really spent much time in the water since Vineman, and I hadn't tested the ocean/bay cold since prior to Western Australia.

The organizers of the Big Kahuna prefer to split the race up into waves by age group. Each is separated by three minutes. I was assigned to the second wave. My fellow 25-29'ers and I watched the younger age group sprint from the beach to the water before taking our spots on the starting line. I wasn't sure what my strategy was going to be, but I knew I wanted to be close to the front. The gun sounded and we were off. Like last year, I quickly found myself in front of the main field by a body length. A large pack appeared to form to my left, but I quickly distanced them. Before long, I was on my own.

The morning was gray and the fog on the water made it very difficult to spot the marking buoys (there were only two!) beyond the pier. I took a tight angle along the dock, only to catch a flash of orange out of the corner of my eye. I had cut in too hard! Argh, I thought to myself, now I'm going to wind up swimming for two extra minutes! Frustrated, I cut back over toward the buoy I'd undercut, circled it and kept on going. To my surprise, I still seem to have hit the buoy well before the rest of my age group.

The remainder of the swim was alright. Visibility was certainly an issue - the second buoy felt like it was in the middle of nowhere, and without guide buoys or lifeguards helping to direct, I'm sure my line was less than efficient. And just like last year, sighting the finish on the shore proved to be nigh impossible. I basically just pointed myself at land and hoped I'd come out of the water in the right place.

Anyway, enough about the swim. After emerging from the water, I ran the 500 meters from the beach to the transition area, where I began what would wind up being the most God-awful transition of my entire life. Everything went wrong. The wire laces on my bike shoes came out of the grooves, my brake was rubbing, my feet were covered in sand and gravel... It was a disaster. I was glad to finally clip in and start riding.

The ride was also very reminescent of last year; I had a tailwind on the way out and a massive headwind on the way back. After last year's scare with the tour bus, I was extra cautious on the cross-windy descents. I definitely felt within my limits the whole ride, though I would've liked to have punched out a quicker average speed on the return leg. But - and I really shouldn't take this for granted - the bike segment was uneventful. I like uneventful bike segments.

The second transition was nearly as bad as the first, though I don't know why. All I really had to do was rack my bike and lace up my shoes, but that seemed to take longer than it should've. But finally I was running, and my run was really the highlight of my race.

I chose to run without my Garmin (mainly because I'd just shattered its' screen a few days prior) so this was my first run in a long, long time where I didn't have any kind of on-demand pace information. Instead, I just told myself to go steady and step lightly. I'd ask the occasional pedestrian for the time and used that to gauge my performance, though I realized after the race that botched math led believe I had been running slower than I actually was.

Much to my surprise, it wasn't until the sixth or seventh mile that my age group's faster runners started to catch me -- a huge improvement over last year! And even then, there weren't many. Mike Vulanich, who went on to place third in our age group (and post the fastest overall run split) blew by me with words of encouragement. I continued plodding along, though, and the miles melted away.

I felt surprisingly good going into miles ten and eleven, so somewhere in between those markers I decided to turn it up a notch. I set my sights on a runner in the distance and set about reeling him in. I upped my cadence and regulated my breathing and managed to make the catch just as we turned off of the Pacific walkway. I ran down the hill, turned left and then right onto the beach and then all that was left was 500 meters of sand and the finish line.

Running on sand is not cool, and running on sand at the end of a half-marathon is even less so. That final stretch definitely hurt more this year than last, but thankfully, it was over before my legs had too much time to complain. I crossed the line in 4:44 and change - improving on last year's effort by seven or eight minutes. And best of all, I felt... pretty damn good afterward! Go figure!

To recap: my lines during the swim were sub-par, my transitions were terrible, my ride was solid and my run was as good as I could've possibly hoped. And the result was way better than expected. Awesome. I'll take it! Other thoughts: wow, 70.3-mile races are so much easier than 140.6-mile races. And they're over before noon! Brilliant!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hello, blog!

I'm going to pretend that one of these guys is me.

I apologize to the four of you who read this blog -- I've had a new post on my to-do list time and time again over the past six weeks, but I've never actually forced myself to sit down and do any writing. I have updates stewing on a few subjects, so I'll try to have at least one ready for your enjoyment by the end of the weekend.

First off, I owe you all a recap of the Big Kahuna triathlon I competed in three weeks back. I wound up registering for that race at the last minute, and despite being rather unfocused in the weeks leading up to the event, I did surprisingly well!

In my second post, I'd like to talk "off-season" strategy a bit. I had originally planned some tough-but-fun weeks on the bike and on the pavement, but injuries have forced me to re-scope. More on this (and the injuries) later.

Finally, I need to put together a program of races for 2012. This year was odd - and somewhat boring - in that I only really raced twice. I'm registered for Ironman Zurich next July, but I'd like to try my hand at some other new races: Wildflower, the American Triple-T, and/or some Olympic-distance events. There's also a chance I pass on the Zurich trip in light of my August wedding, so I've got to keep my eyes and ears open for full-distance race alternatives.

More on all of the above in the next few days!

Vineman Thoughts and Reactions

This is old and probably unfinished, but I just realized I half-wrote it and left it in draft mode. Either way, here you go -- thoughts and reactions from a race I did six weeks ago! I know I intended to write more on this... hrmm. 



There a bunch of thoughts and reactions from Vineman that didn't really fit into the full-on race report. In fact, they don't really fit anywhere... so I'm going to lump them all together and stick 'em here.

The swim wasn't bad considering I spent about 66% less time training that discipline this year compared to last year. Sure, I could have probably gone another 1-2 minutes faster, but I think spending that extra time training the run (or resting) is a better use of my time.

The swim course did suck, though. Scraping the bottom of the river with every stroke is pretty crappy. And having to dodge around the slower swimmers from other waves as you lap them kinda sucks too. I spent most of the first lap at the front of a group - I wish I hadn't, but no one would come around and take a pull.

The entire race, starting with the swim, I was thinking to myself, "There's no rush. Just get to the finish line with enough energy to propose." As I was toweling off in the first transition area, I smiled good-naturedly at one of the guys next to me and said something along the lines of, "Oh man, this is gonna be a long day."

As I said before, the bike was mostly boring except for the turn at mile 58 where Kristine and my family were waiting to cheer me on.

The first lap of the run felt incredible. I felt like I was floating. The second lap was more down-to-earth, but the third lap was when it all came crashing down. I don't think it was the heat. My quads were just so sore, and my stomach was gurgling. 

The aid stations weren't serving cold, flat cola - they were serving warm, fizzy cola. Ugh. And they only seemed to have one flavor of Clif shot: lemon lime. I just literally gagged while typing that. I had 1.5 bars for breakfast that morning and only between 8 and 12 gel shots throughout the ten-hour race. That's not a whole lot of calories!

Proposing to Kristine on the finish line was the best thing I've ever done.

I don't remember mentioning this in my race recap, but I walked away from that course just fine. In fact, despite an upset stomach, I felt like a mostly normal person after finishing that race. Having friends and family there (and heading out to a brewpub with them after) was a blast. There's definitely something to be said for races you do that are close to home.

Thanks to everyone who came out, to my sisters and parents for supporting me through the years and through the race, and to Kristine who supports me every day - even when the alarm's set for 5:15am. You're all the best.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Boomer


Boomer was never the most obedient dog. He wasn't the most affectionate, either - he valued his alone time as much as anyone. It wasn't attention that Boomer demanded - it was cold, quiet room and a pile of dirty laundry to lay on.

He was never all that interested in fetching tennis balls or chasing squirrels, but he'd do his best make the mailman at the end of the driveway feel less than welcome. I wouldn't call him lazy... but Boomer certainly did his best to optimize.

When he was feeling especially mischevious, he'd sneak paper towels out of the trash or empty grocery bags from the foyer and shred them to bits behind a chair in the family room. Christmas was always the highlight of his year.

Boomer could recognize the rustle of a packet of Pop-tarts opening up from a mile away, and smell an open can of tunafish from two floors up. He wasn't a beggar, never in-your-face, but he knew how to stand in your peripheral vision until you noticed him and forked over something yummy.

I think Boomer was at his happiest when sitting, calm and content, on the front lawn on cool fall afternoons, vigilantly surveying his domain and waiting for Dad's car to come around the corner and into the driveway.

Boomer was my oldest best friend. He passed away on Monday night while doing what he does best: sleeping.

Well miss you, Boomer!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vineman Race Report - Part 1

Alright, here it is. I probably got halfway through writing this race report ten times before scrapping and starting anew. I'm not saying this is perfect, but it's as perfect as my fried brain's going to let me get it. Look for a follow-up post in the next few days to highlight some great memories from this race that didn't quite fit into the narrative. And as always, enjoy!



The morning of registration was chaos. My family had flown into San Francisco the night before, and thanks to flight delays, we weren't able to get to bed until well past 1am. As if cramming six people into a one-bedroom apartment wasn't enough, we found out early that morning that my car had been broken into. While I worked on filing a claim with my insurance, my family helped Kristine finish up the wrapper-counting.
Counting wrappers

Around eleven, we started to mobilize. Alex generously loaned me his truck for the weekend, so the six of us split into two vehicles (my parents had rented a car of their own) and set off for registration and packet pick-up in Windsor.

The drive/registration combo look a whole lot longer than expected. I had to attend a thirty-minute information session, talk to a few race officials and pick up my number. The family helped me unload the boxes of wrappers we'd collected - there were over 5,000! - and turn them in. Cross your fingers!

After registering, I had to take some time to set up my second transition (bike-to-run). I set out my running shoes, a plastic bag containing my Garmin, a small vial of sunscreen and some ibuprofen, my visor and race belt. Then I only had one more thing to do: scout out the finish-line for reasons that may become clearer as we get to the end of this story. Muahaha.

Approaching registration

By the time we were all set and back on the road, we'd missed lunch by a long-shot and were closing in on dinner time. My head was spinning with all I felt I needed to prepare for the next day, so we went straight up to Healdsburg, where we'd be staying that night, and stopped in at the Bear Republic brewhouse for a meal. I had a delicious salad - mixed greens, candied almonds, chicken and fruit - and a small plate of plain spaghetti noodles.

We ate quickly, checked into the hotel and I did some obsessive unpacking and repacking of my gear - laying out the next morning's necessities - until the pre-race pièce de résistance: the shave. I hadn't cut my hair in five months. I hadn't shaved in four weeks. The whole family crammed into the back of one of our two hotel rooms with cameras and big grins while Kristine and my dad took turns with the clippers. It only took twenty minutes, but the change was pretty darn significant!

Before
After

The excitement finally started to dwindle around bedtime. I had my gear set out and my alarm set. Kristine and I took a few minutes to review the course one last time and then it was lights-out before nine o'clock.

I barely slept. My brain was in overdrive thinking about the next day's race - and more importantly, the end of the next day's race. The week hadn't been kind to me from a stress perspective, so why should that last night have been any different? When the clock finally ticked over to 4:30, I rolled out of bed and got to it. Breakfast was a single Pro bar and a bottle of orange juice. We loaded the car back up and set out in the dark for the swim start at Guerneville.

On to part two.

Vineman Race Report - Part 2

It took about thirty-five minutes to get to Guerneville. It was dark and misting when we got there, but the tiny town was bustling with triathletes preparing for a very long day. Johnson's beach was definitely crowded with wetsuit-clad competitors and bundled-up spectators. The place was bustling.

Kristine and I had to separate while I set up my bike in the transition area. I racked the Rocket, hung my sunglasses and helmet from the bars and set my socks and cycling shoes on a small white towel.

It didn't take long, but when I emerged from the transition area, Kristine was nowhere to be found. We were only about twenty minutes from the start of the race and the clock was ticking. I became more and more agitated with every minute that passed. I found my parents, but that wasn't enough - Kristine had my wetsuit! I was freaking out, running through the crowd shouting her name: "KRISTINE! KRISTINE!"

After some frantic searching and a lot of that frantic shouting, we finally found each other - she had been waiting for me at an alternate exit from the transition area. I can't tell you how relieved I was to have found her, but with only five minutes until my swim wave was set to start, I didn't have time to express it. I frantically squeezed into my wetsuit. Seriously, no one has EVER jumped into a wetsuit that fast. The announcer was calling for athletes... I had no time! I jumped up as soon as my the suit was over my shoulders only to realize I had somehow misplaced both my wave cap and my timing chip during the crazy ordeal.

I sprinted - sprinted - from Kristine to the entry area and thankfully found someone with extra caps standing next to someone else with extra timing chips (such fortune)! I threw the cap on my head, strapped the chip around my ankle and dove into the water. My heart-rate was through the roof. I had about forty-five seconds to try to clear my head and regulate my breathing before the countdown began. I floated leisurely up toward the front of the pack and was in good position when the gun went off, but at that point, I already felt like I'd run a marathon. It was a stark contrast to the serene calm that I'd enjoyed at the start of Western Australia!

Swimmin'

The swim was... imperfect. One guy, a pro triathlete who went on to win the race by almost an hour, shot off like a missile. I found myself at the front of the first chase group. There were swimmers behind me and beside me, jockeying for position. It was frustrating. I had to keep reminding myself to race my own race, and several times I intentionally slowed down to leave the pace-making to some of the other guys. The middle half of each lap was incredibly shallow - so shallow that I was scraping the rocks and dirt on the bottom with every stroke.

Before the turn-around on the second lap, we started catching swimmers from the later waves, and swimming through that scrum made staying on the heels of the guy in front of me very difficult. Hell, even swimming in a straight line was difficult - there were people everywhere!

Fortunately, I was nearing the finish - after twelve or fifteen minutes of essentially swimming on top of other triathletes, I reached the shore, jumped up and jogged into the transition area. The best part about the entire swim? My family going absolutely nuts on the beach when I ran by!

Out of the water

Transition was painless. It could've been faster, but I decided to be slightly more deliberate. The day was going to be a long one whether I took thirty extra seconds to get my socks on right or not. So I made sure to get my socks on right. Before I knew it, I was on my bike and pedaling. I was one of the first five guys on the road.

Big smile in transition

As with Western Australia, the two-loop, 112-mile bike leg was rather dull. Sure, the scenery was nice, but I barely saw a soul the entire time. For the most part, it was just me, my bike and the whoosh-whoosh of my disc wheel. A couple things:
  • I noticed early on that I was riding faster than I had expected. The trend continued through to the finish. I averaged almost a full mile per hour faster than I had projected. (Thank you, disc wheel!)
  • The sun was hidden behind the clouds for 85% of the ride, meaning temperatures didn't start to rise until noon. Awesome.
  • I was hoping to see Kristine and my family at the end of the first lap and was sad when I passed by that corner early and they weren't there, but I was surprised and psyched to see them waiting for me at a fast corner, two miles further down the road. After almost three hours of solitude, their cheers really inspired me to hit that second lap hard.
Speeding along at mile 58
The second lap was a bit of a blur: I settled into a rhythm that remained unbroken until the end. And for the record, that's exactly how I want it to be, every single time. No flats, no fiascoes - just miles melting away. The end of the second lap was even better than the end of the first. By the time I came down the finishing straightaway toward the bike-to-run transition, the sun was shining and my family and friends were cheering in full-force around the dismount line. It doesn't get much better than that.

On to part three.

Vineman Race Report - Part 3

As I was running my bike into the transition area, all I could hear was my mom hooting and hollering. There weren't many other competitors around, and when I turned the corner, I was greeted by a sea of empty bike racks. There were only a handful of racked bikes in my age-group's section. "Good sign!" I thought to myself, "I must be in the top eight or ten!"

On to the run

I slipped into my sneakers, laced up started running. The sun had burned off the last of the fog and shone brightly above the course. Exiting the transition area was awesome - I passed by the crowd near the dismount line to another great chorus of "Go Valko!" Those words of encouragement followed me for much of the first straightaway. Then I turned the corner. Time to get down to business.

Feeling great

I'll be quite frank about the run course: it sucked. Participants were expected to do three laps out-and-back of an exposed, almost-nine-mile route. That would've been fine, except the "flat to lightly rolling" course was hardly flat at all. There were two or three nasty hills on the way out and those same hills on the way back. They weren't huge hills, but going up them hurt. And as much as going up them hurt, going down them hurt worse.

I haven't pulled any data on the run, but going off the elevation profile, I'd say each out-and-back lap included over 325 feet of climbing. That's like running up Camino Alto three times over twenty-six miles. Ouch.

Feeling okay

As in Australia, the first lap felt great. I was light on my feet, breezing up those hills. At the end of my first lap, I checked the clock - 7:32'ish, it said, and the first lap of my run had been faster than 1:15. I started to get excited. If I could keep up that pace, I could break the ten hour mark? "How cool would that be?" I thought.

Somewhere during that second lap, though, that invincible, weightless feeling started to wear off. My legs were growing sore and stiff thanks to those hills, and the heat was starting to get to me. Still, I pushed through, and it wasn't until the rest top at the end of the second lap that I allowed myself to walk.

It's amazing how quickly I went from race pace to survival mode. The first lap was great, the second lap was good, but the third lap was absolutely miserable. My legs and stomach just started to shut down on me. I alternated between walking and a shuffling run for what seemed like an eternity, using cola and energy gel to try to convince my legs to kick back into high gear. That only upset my stomach further. It was a vicious cycle.

Hurting

I gradually ate away at the distance remaining between myself and the finish line, and after a lot of walking and a great deal of agony, I found myself at the final rest-stop. I had some big plans for the finish line and didn't want to collapse immediately after crossing, so I let myself pause there for a few minutes. I chatted briefly with the women handing out water and sports drink, toweled off and downed a few cups of warm cola. But more importantly, I took that time to collect my thoughts and harden my resolve.

After four or five minutes, I was as ready as I'd ever be. I tossed one last cup of cola back and lurched into a painful jog. Less than a mile remained, and I wasn't going to walk a foot of it.

The final bit was slightly downhill for about four-hundred meters before turning left, flattening out a bit, and turning left again into the finishing chute. There were spectators lining the course, and as I made that second and final left-hand turn, all I could hear was Kathleen Ruffle and her friends cheering for me.

Almost there!

The first faces I saw after making that left were friendly ones - Kristine, Lauren and Brian - cheering me on as well. I grit my teeth - there was no roar or growl this time - and punched out the final 100 meters, crossing the line just a few minutes later than ten-and-a-half hours.

And now the real story begins.

On to part four.

Crossing the line
 

Vineman Race Report - Part 4

I crossed the finish line with only one thing on my mind. I needed to find my dad and I need to find Kristine. I scanned the crowd and didn't see either of them, so I made a beeline through the finisher's area to the nearest exit.

My family and friends quickly cluster around, with Kristine rushing in from where she had been watching at the beginning of the finishing straight. I gave her a hug a tight hug and held her there for a while - I had to buy time for my dad to make his way over.

After a few moments, he got there and swiftly handed me something very special behind Kristine's back: a ring.

The handoff

I broke the hug and started talking. Despite having had plenty of time (more than ten hours!) to go over what I wanted to say, I still forgot half of it. I was a bit lost in the moment, but what I said was something like:
"Kristine, ever since you walked me home after the race in Australia, I knew that where ever I walk would be home so long as I'm with you. I know we've taken some big steps in the past few months, and I've taken a whole lot of steps today, but I don't want to take another step without you by my side."
One knee

I don't think she really realized what was about to happen until I got down on one knee (no easy feat after an Ironman!) and held the ring up. Everyone around shouted happily; my sisters danced with excitement. I looked into her eyes and asked, "Kristine Marigomen, will you marry me?"

"YES!" she shouted, "Yes!" (Video.)

Disbelief

Then we hugged again, and the congratulations began. Mom had tears in her eyes. Kara and Lauren could hardly believe it. Kristine was beaming from ear to ear. It was absolutely perfect.

She said yes.

You can't ask for a better Ironman finish than that.

On to part five.

Vineman Race Report - Part 5

Hugs all around

Friends and family hung around for a little while after the race, sharing hugs and laughing and reveling in the joy of the moment. I tried to eat a little bit of the finisher's food and Kristine handed me a 100,000 Bar, but as hungry as I felt, my stomach was not ready to eat. I hadn't had solid food in eleven hours and I was starving, but I couldn't eat.

After a fashion, we agreed to move the party to a local brewhouse: Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, home of one of California's best beers - Pliny the Elder. There, we ordered beer and pizza and had a grand old time. I ate very little, but at least I ate something. And after half of a beer, I was buzzed, too.

The crew enjoying a pint

The entire family was completely spent from the long day, so we said our goodbyes, checked into a hotel in Napa and went to bed almost immediately. After all the stress of the week leading up to the race, not sleeping much, the insanity of race morning, the race itself, and the proposal, I was completely spent. I don't think any bed has felt more comfortable than that one did that night.

Ahh... so relaxing.

The next day began early - I raided the hotel breakfast around 7am and then rounded up the family for a big feast at the local IHOP. From there, we went exploring - and by exploring, I mean wine-tasting. It was a beautiful, sunny day of sipping wine, eating good food and celebrating together as a family. It was perfect.







I have a whole bunch of little notes and highlights I'd like to put into writing - hopefully I'll have time for that in the next few days. I also have a bunch of thank-you's and lessons learned - those'll be along soon, too!


But for now, my fingers are even more tired of typing as your eyes are probably of reading, so I'll wrap this one up. Finally. Thanks for reading, everyone

(If you're interested in viewing all of the photos from this album, follow this link.)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Quick Update!

The past few days have been crazy; I haven't had a whole lot of time to update. BUT... I'm alive! And I'm quite happy right now. (If you don't know why, you'll find out soon!)

Photos and a recap coming in the next few days!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Five days.

I just got back from M2 and a brief run - my final workout of any significant intensity before Vineman on Saturday. I can't believe I'm less than five days from my second Ironman-distance race.

I feel good. These next four days are going to be critical - I need to get as much rest as possible to prime myself for success this weekend.

Lots to do, lots to do. Thanks for following along!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Calibrating for Vineman

Here I sit, two weeks from race day, excited and ready. I feel freakishly good right now and taper isn't even in full swing yet. But as we move closer and closer to the event, I have to remember to keep my goals in mind and make sure I've got the right perspective.

Vineman is not as fast a course as Western Australia.
I've been reviewing past results and I've noticed two things: either the field at Vineman is not nearly as competitive as IMWA, or the course is considerably slower. I think it's a little bit of both. Why do I say this?
  1. My IMWA time of 10:07 would have put me second in my age group at last year's Vineman race and fifth overall (versus something like 25th/160th)!
  2. The winner of IMWA finished the race in under 8:20. It doesn't look like anyone has ever finished the Full Vineman course in under nine hours.
Knowing this, I can't really expect to post a better time at Vineman than I did in Australia - it just doesn't seem like a realistic goal. I have to adjust and re-calibrate my goals, targets and predictions to account for the course's increased difficulty. If the average competitive time at Vineman is a full hour slower than the average competitive time at IMWA, I will be thrilled just to break the eleven hour mark on race day.

I just want to do what I set out to do in the beginning.
Months ago, I wrote about my goals for this year. I wanted to do a few things differently and see how they'd play out. In that respect, I may have already won. In December, I felt like a guy playing at triathlon. Today, I feel like a triathlete. I feel stronger than I did in Australia, and I'm training a bit less. Intervals throughout the year have helped - I feel great on the bike. I'm also learning to run smarter, faster and longer, while staying (relatively) injury-free. I've even lost weight!

In January or February, I said that all I want to do is finish strong. That holds true. I want to finish this race with a solid run, and I want to come out of Vineman without feeling like the victim of a bullfight gone wrong. I'm going to take all of the learnings, the fitness, the strategies and the experience from this race and build on this for next year's big one.

I want to put on a good show.
Perspective aside, I want to put on a good show for everyone who's coming out to support me in two weeks. Just because the course is a little slower doesn't mean it won't be a close race! I've trained long and hard for this one, and my friends and family (and especially Kristine) have suffered through another five months of my complaints and early bedtimes. I owe it to them to make the race worth their while!

Edit 7:12 PM - Oh yeah, and HAVE FUN.
I forget about fun sometimes, but I'd like to have some at Vineman. And I think I'm primed to do just that. So... no pressure, no a whole lot of expectation. I'm just going to go out and have myself a good time!

Speaking of having fun and putting on a good show: let's say I do run well and I do come to the finish feeling strong. Touchdown dance down the final 100 meters? Maybe I should I cartwheel over the line? Hmm! I suppose there are a few fun possibilities - time for a brainstorm!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Routine and Ritual

Routine
Every night before I go to bed, I pack a bag for my workouts the next day. I throw a pair of bib shorts over the saddle of my bike, hang a jersey on the chair and tuck a pair of socks into my cycling shoes.

If I'm spinning indoors at M2, I like to make sure I have my spare pedals set aside, a water bottle in the refrigerator and a some chamois creme within reach.

On swim days, I pack a small blue bag. A swimsuit, a pair of goggles, a set of hand paddles and a waterproof watch go inside.

Run days are easy. I take that same blue bag and throw in a pair of shoes, a pair of shorts and a shirt. Socks in the shoes, of course. No more running in the same kind of crappy cotton socks I wear to work!

I count my vitamins and supplements out into a small container, and fill a small plastic bag with just the right mix of Recoverite and protein powder.

I do all of these things every night. Welcome to life as a a triathlete.

Ritual
Swimmers aren't a superstitious lot. They don't believe in jinxes. They don't wear the same shirt every day because the first time they wore it, they had a good day. (They probably wear the same shirt every day because they're just lazy.) But there are a few traditions I picked up during my days as a swimmer.

They all have to do with hair.

At some point during the season - usually at the hardest point - you stop cutting your hair. The chlorine's probably burned it to a crisp already anyway, so why waste time, effort, or cash on it? And you know it's all coming off at some point anyway, so why bother?

During the final few weeks of the season, you stop shaving, too. For a lot of guys, this is pretty awesome. They get to grow cool beards. It's not so awesome for me - I only grow a very slimy-looking mustache and goatee - but I do it anyway, because, well, that's what you're supposed to do.

All of this not-cutting builds and builds over the hardest weeks and months of training until you look like the world's most fit hobo... and then, the night before the race you've spent your entire season training for, you shave. Head, yes. Face, yes, thank God. Legs*? Yes. And you know what? It feels f---ing awesome

If you've done it right, you come out of that hotel bathroom looking like a completely different person. And that completely different person looks ready to crush.

Seventeen days.

* - Plenty of cyclists shave their legs on a regular basis. I don't. The swimmer in me won't let me -- you never shave your legs until the night before your big meet. Never, never, never!

Monday, July 11, 2011

2011 Livestrong Challenge (Davis)

This turned into a long post, so if you're lazy or just not really all that interested, here's the executive summary:
  1. The members of the Team Fatty Livestrong fundraising team are just about the best, most friendliest people you could ever ask to ride with.
  2. Davis is very flat and very hot.
  3. I almost caught Lance, so I'm pretty sure he's not doping. (I also solo'd off the front of the ride for almost 80 miles.)
  4. As promised, I rode 20 extra miles because I shattered my $1,000 fundraising goal!
  5. You should this ride with me (us) next year. It's flat, it's fast, it's fun, and it's for a great cause.


I've tackled the Livestrong Challenge every year since moving to California, and it has never failed to be a highlight on my ride calendar. Not because the course is ever anything surprising or out-of-the-ordinary, and not even because it raises money for a great cause, but because the Livestrong Challenge gives me the chance to ride with some of the nicest and most delightful folks ever to push pedals: the members of Team Fatty. This year's ride was no exception.
Team Fatty, if you didn't know, is a collection of fans of Elden Nelson and his blog, Fat Cyclist. It started as (and remains) a font of good-natured cycling satire, but a few years ago, things started to take on a more serious note. Elden's wife, Susan, struggled with and eventually lost the battle against breast cancer. In between posts that poked fun at Assos ads and Rock Racing team kits were heartfelt and truly touching updates on Susan's fight. Three years ago, Elden decided to start a Livestrong fundraising team in Susan's honor and that team has lived on ever since - raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Livestrong Foundation and the fight against cancer. 
This year, the race was moved from San Jose to Davis, which meant better roads, higher temperatures and fewer hills. And with only three weeks 'til Vineman, that sounded like perfect conditions for an awesome race rehearsal. I brought my time-trial bike along, and over the course of 125 miles, the two of us made some sweet, sweet music together.

On the starting line with Team Fatty
Having won every possible fundraising category, the hundred-or-so members of Team Fatty were awarded the privilege to gather on the starting line and be the first onto the course. First, besides Lance Armstrong and a few of his buddies, I mean. After a few words from the man himself and a stirring rendition of the national anthem (thankfully not from the man himself), Lance and company hopped on their bikes and set out. A few minutes later, the ride began with Team Fatty leading the way.

Lance gives a few opening remarks
The first five miles of the ride were relaxed. All I could see were the orange, black and pink jerseys of my team. We chatted idly and gave our legs the chance to warm up. It wasn't until the fifth mile that riders started to break through our ranks. One went by, then two, at a fast clip. Someone said, "Matt, chase 'em!" and Matt feigned catching their wheel. 

But the damage had already been done: the sanctity of our peaceful team roll-out had been disrupted. It was time for the rocket to launch. I leaned into the aero position and spun up from 20 to 28 miles per hour, zipping by the non-Fatty antagonists like they were standing still. Thirty seconds later, I had built up a substantial gap. Two minutes later, I turned my head to look back and didn't see a soul. That quick, it was just me, my bike and the open road.

The open flat road, I should say. Long, flat, well-paved roads aren't something you see often in or around San Francisco, so I decided to do my best impression of Fabian Cancellara by settling in and cranking. The miles flew by.

I made a right turn at one point and noticed something on the road a distance ahead of me. Cyclists? Yes! The Lance group! I turned it on for sure then, thinking I might be able to catch. I could see them, a ways in front of me. A mile went by and they seemed a little larger on the horizon. Another, and I was even closer. I was burning my legs out to catch them. Then, just as I started to pull within 200 yards of them, disaster struck: they made it through the light at a major intersection; I got stuck at the red! So close!

When the light finally turned green, they were long gone. Well, it was worth a try.

The next segment of a ride was actually a climb up to and past Lake Berryessa. The elevation gain wasn't trivial, but the pitches weren't steep. I climbed most of the way out on my aero bars. I was the first to reach the third rest stop by almost four minutes.

Ran into this cute girl at mile 80!
Next came the long, gradual descent followed by some back-country roads. It was nice to cross paths with members of Team Fatty as I was descending. After that, things got less interesting. Temperatures started to rise. I slapped on a ton of sunscreen at the fourth rest stop. I spent a lot of time trying to stay as aero as possible.

At mile 80, I pulled into a rest stop and ran into Kristine and Angie who were powering through their own 70-mile loop. Yay!

At mile 100, five miles from the finish, I turned around. You see, I'd promised to tack an extra 20 miles onto the ride if I hit my fundraising goal, and I guess I set that goal too low! So yeah, at mile 100 I turned around and rode backwards on the course for 10 miles, waving to teammates and roadies as they went by to the finish. At mile 110, I turned back around (the right way) and made my way across the final fifteen to finish with a total of 125.5 miles. (It would've been darn cool to be one of the first 105-milers to finish, but I think it's even cooler to finish with +20% more miles than anyone else in the race!)

Ride stats - 125.5 miles in 6h10 (20.3 mph avg.)
After the ride, Kristine and I kicked back our Team Fatty friends, had huge hamburgers and delicious pie. They're a great bunch, and it's so fun that these people, none of whom really know each other or ever ride with each other can come together for one single ride and get along so darn well. It's a testiment to just how friendly and good-natured these folks really are!

What does this mean for Vineman?

Well, if I learned one thing during this ride, it's that riding 112 miles in heat like that is going to be unpleasant. I took a few breaks during this long, hot day and even so, I felt pretty spent by the end of it. I'm going to have to be  really on top of my hydration and fuel the whole time.

Also, Vineman is going to have fewer flat sections than Livestrong. I'm predicting a 20.1 to 20.5 mph average over the full course, which will bring me in at just around 5h30. Less than three weeks 'til race day. Bring on taper!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Vineman Reconnaissance

Kristine and I celebrated the 4th of July by driving north to Healdsburg so I could do some important pre-race recon of the Vineman bike course. I'd been reading warnings and grumblings about some bad sections of pavement on-course, and with the day off, I figured now was as good a time as any to have a look for myself.

Even wore the tri-suit and TT helmet!
The Vineman course, if you're not familiar (which I assume you aren't!) starts in Guerneville and follows River Road to Westside Road for about eight miles before joining up with two 54-mile loops through Healdsburg, Geyserville and Windsor. I started in Healdsburg at roughly the halfway point of one of the loops, did an out-and-back to Guerneville and then came back to where I began. The entire ride was 78.8 miles, but only about 65 of those miles were actually part of the official course.

One thing I noticed: this time trial bike makes flat roads feel like downhills. It's a blast. Another thing I noticed: it was freakin' hot up there. The heat is definitely going to play a factor on race-day and I'm going to have to be sure to stay hydrated. I didn't think the heat was oppressive on the bike, but I was definitely parched and ran out of water at one point. The run will be a different story.

Anyway, on to some quick impressions on the course itself:
  1. The course is not as flat as I remember. In fact, it's downright roller-ish at times. It's nothing like the IMWA course, which was a pancake through and through.
  2. The shoulder of Dry Creek Road contains a lot of sand/grit/gravel. The road itself is clear.
  3. Stretches of Dry Creek Road and Canyon Road combine to create one long, painful false-flat.
  4. When the course turns onto CA-128, things speed up. I want to hit this section hard. The pavement definitely needs work: the middle of the lane seems okay but the edges are ugly.
  5. Pleasant Road is anything but - the road's bumpy as heck!
  6. The Chalk Hill climb, which is really not more than a large bump by Marin standards, is actually a series of bumps leading up to one big one. They can all be pretty easily stomped out in the big ring, except maybe the last one. (Though it might pay to play it conservative on the climbs.)
  7. Watch the pavement on the Chalk Hill descent.
  8. Riding through town is irritating - lots of stop signs and stoplights. Ideally, we'll be able to roll through these on race-day without touching the brakes.
  9. The "second half" of Eastside road, where it starts going downhill, is a bit rough. I don't remember all those short, steep "hills" either.
  10. Westside Road is a lot longer (and more rolling) than I remember!
  11. I must have passed two dozen vineyards. They sure are pretty.
I think my fitness is better (or more complete, at least) than it was in December, but this course (heat included) is more challenging than the one I tackled in Australia. It should be interesting to see how things play out come race day.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Then and now.

I ran twenty miles this morning. The first five miles (from Alamo Square to the ocean) served as a great warm-up for the final fifteen. I turned north just before the Panhandle and took Arguello up into the Presidio and then followed Lincoln down to (and eventually across) the Golden Gate Bridge before turning back and retracing my steps back home.

Around mile 17, I started musing to myself about the differences between this year's Ironman preparations versus last year's.

In the twelve weeks leading up to taper for Ironman Western Australia, I averaged 90 minutes running per week and six hours swimming. In the twelve weeks leading up to taper for Vineman, I've averaged five hours of running per week and 2 hours of swimming. I'm running more than three times as much. I'm swimming about a third as much. Perfect.

For kicks, let's compare total mileage. 12 weeks before taper, IMWA vs. Vineman? 70 miles vs. 360 miles. Big freakin' difference!

Let's hope it pays off! 

Livestrong, Moments, Wrapppers

Livestrong Challenge

You know what I'm about to do, so I'll keep this short and sweet. All of our lives have been touched in some way by cancer. Help fight it by contributing to my fundraising effort for this year's Livestrong Challenge. This year's event takes place next Sunday. I'm tackling the longest route - a 105-mile bike ride crisscrossing country roads under the blazing-hot sun in Davis, CA.

I'm getting a much later start on fundraising than usual, but even so: if you'll go the extra mile and help me hit my fundraising goal, I'll go the extra mile, too. The extra nineteen miles, to be exact -- I'll turn the 105 mile bike ride into a 200 kilometer epic!

If you're interested, click here to contribute.

You're all awesome, by the way.

BONUS - If I manage to hit 150% of my goal, I'll go even further -- as soon as I finish the extended, 200K ride, I'll throw on some running shoes and run a 10K. Ouch!


Meet the Moment

Back in April, I submitted an entry into Clif Bar's Meet the Moment contest. To my surprise and delight, that entry was selected as the contest's first "Moment of the Week"! The contest period is coming to and end here in the next few weeks, and I'd appreciate it if you'd head on over that way and give my submission a "thumbs up". In the end, votes count - and right now, I'm behind!

If you'd like to vote for my moment, click here.


Vineman Wrappers

With the race only four weeks away, it's time for me to start collecting and counting all of my wrappers. I have a massive box of 'em here at home, three huge bags filled to overflowing at work and lots of friends who've been stashing their own wrappers away for me over the past weeks and months.

If you don't live close by, it would be awesome if you could put your wrappers in the mail some time in the next week or two. Send them to me at Andrew Valko, 1600 Amphitheater Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043. Next time I see you, the first round's on me!

If you do live nearby, shoot me an email, comment on this post, @me on Twitter... Just get in touch with me somehow to remind me that you've been saving wrappers for me! Then we'll figure out how to coordinate an exchange. I don't need to have the wrappers until the final week of July, so keep on saving them!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Planning for 2012

We're only a few hour-hand rotations away from July, which means this year's half over. Time to start thinking about the next one.

I've complained about this before and I'll complain about it again: Ironman-distance races sell out way too fast. Vineman might still be a month away, but if I want to register for any races in July 2012, I need to decide in the next two weeks - because by the end of the month, they'll all be full!


I posted before about a few of the options I was juggling. At that point, Ironman France was the clear front-runner. That has changed - there's too much climbing (and descending) in IMFR. I'm now weighing Ironman Switzerland against Challenge-Roth. Both races take place on July 8, 2012. Both sound awesome.

The Ironman-series race takes place in and around Zurich. I hear the course is fast and the terrain is beautiful. The Challenge-series race takes place about an hour north of Munich and passes through a series of small but enthusiastic towns. It is said that 125,000 spectators came out to watch Challenge-Roth competitors race in 2010!

Thoughts? I'd love to hear what you think! (See also: the poll in the blog's right-nav.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Adjusting and Fine-tuning

This week's been rough. I'm at the end of the third week of a very tough training block on the bike, with one more to come. I'm also at the end of a my second big running week in a row. In the past ten days, I've run over 70 miles. That's a lot for me, and when you combine that with all the high-intensity riding I've been doing, you might be able to imagine just how broken down my legs feel right now.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"Go Long" Weekend

As you could have probably guessed, I spent the weekend doing the same things any other aspiring triathlete would be doing seven weeks from race day: riding and running. Ordinarily, I wouldn't have much to report, but these rides and runs had a slightly different to them. For the first time in my three years here in San Francisco, my weekend training sessions did not start from Russian Hill!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ride Report: Sequoia 200K '11

I don't do a whole lot of organized rides, but one of the highlights of every year is the Sequoia Double-Metric Century (200K). This year's edition took place yesterday, when cores of riders threw themselves against some of Santa Clara's toughest climbs despite a miserable forecast and ominous-looking clouds.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The heat is on.

Kristine and I spent the past weekend visiting with my parents in Ohio. It was nice to be home for a few days; we were able to enjoy levels of peace and quiet that simply aren't attainable here in San Francisco. And after three or four very strenuous weeks of training, it was nice to put a couple thousand miles between myself and my bike.

Ohio is calmer and quieter than San Francisco, hands down. It's also warmer. And on Monday, Ohio was much warmer.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wrapper Update!

As you probably already know, I am collecting silver-lined snack bar wrappers for a contest. It's pretty simple: I have between now and the end of July to collect as many wrappers as I can. Terracycle will recycle each wrapper I submit, and donate two cents to a local charity to boot. BONUS: If I collect the most wrappers of any Vineman competitor, I win back my entry fee!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The American Triple-T.

A super sprint triathlon on Friday. An Olympic distance race on Saturday morning. A reverse-Olympic on Saturday night. A Half-Ironman on Sunday. Add those times together and what do you get? One of triathlon's only stage races!

I'd been told about this race before, but I finally took a few seconds to look it up on my own this weekend and... holy crap, it sounds awesome! On one hand, it sounds like an incredible challenge. On the other... it's only about an hour from my parents' home in Ohio! It just doesn't get much more convenient than that.

Anyway, I wish I had thought to investigate the American Triple-T sooner - the 2011 edition actually takes place next weekend. If I'd known, I would have built it into my training schedule and planned a trip accordingly. As it stands now, I think I'm going to have to wait 'til next year and try to slot it in before Ironman France.

I'm really, really itching to get back to racing. I think next year, I'm going to try and fit in a few more events. Oceanside seems too good to pass up. Wildflower is definitely on the docket. Triple-T, then the big race. I can't wait.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ironman Plans.

I'd like to do another far-away Ironman race in 2012 and there are a bunch of interesting options on the table. My top two choices are both good ones, so as long as I get into one of the two (or decide to tackle a third option instead), I don't think I'll be disappointed.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Everything hurts.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: my body was not designed for running. I've been trying to pack in extra miles lately, and my legs are paying the price. Everything hurts. Not all at once, mind you, but if it's not one thing, it's another.

One day it'll be my ankle. The next day, I feel like I popped my hamstring. My hip flexors are still tighter than they've ever been. I get sporadic knee aches and arch pain. And sometimes I feel like my body is just coming up with random new hurts because it's bored of the options it already has available. Most recently, it's been my toes (or toenails). Seriously, toenails? Do you really have to turn black and start pretending to fall off?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mark your calendars!

86 days away!
Welcome to May, and welcome to less than three months until Vineman!

I know how calendars fill up, so I'm going to put this on yours early. If you're looking for a fun way to spend a Saturday in late July, hop in your car (or your friend's car, or a Zipcar) and come on up to Sonoma to cheer me through the heat and the hills as I tackle my second Ironman-distance triathlon.

Out-of-towners, come visit the left coast! San Franciscans, you have no excuse! The city will be cold and foggy in late July so this is your chance to escape! Heck, you could even ride your bike if you wanted.

The date is Saturday, July 30.

The forecast will probably be warm and sunny, and proximity to some of California's best wineries will be as good as it gets. Plan to make a day (or weekend) of it!



Side note #1 - Many of you have asked me where I am with the wrapper collection. The honest answer? I'm not sure! I think I'm hovering around 600 wrappers at this point. I've got to do a recount, so look for an update in the next few days!

Side note #2 - Longtime readers may remember that I tackled this very same race last year as part of a totally bad-ass three-man relay team. And we won!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Go hard or go home.

The plan for this year's race is simple: there is no plan. Last year, I followed a meticulously-crafted training program. Almost every workout was prescribed; almost every hour accounted for.

This year, not so much.

Because Ironman Western Australia was so late in the calendar year, I had to carefully regulate the intensity of my workouts. Most friends and fellow cyclists train to peak for events September or October at the latest and then take a breather. With my race scheduled for early December, I didn't have that luxury -- and while all of my friends were training to peak early, I had to keep my focus, exert some self-control, and avoid a late-season burnout.

Vineman is in late July, not December, so I'm not too worried about burnout. The theme for this year is last year's diametric opposite: go hard or go home.

I've been pushing pretty hard for almost two months now, with half of a light week in early April. Mileage has ramped up, hours have increased slightly, and I've (finally) managed to incorporate some swimming into the mix. This year, I'm not trying for long hours in the saddle: I'm looking for intensity. Intervals, faster runs, soreness and burn. It's going to be an interesting experiment.

Tomorrow, Kristine and I are going home for a nice, long weekend with family. My legs are going to enjoy a few much-needed off-days, and I'm going to see relatives who I haven't seen in a year or more!

When I get back, it's back to going hard. Until the end of May, when I'm going home again. And that'll be a fun (and well-timed) trip, too!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

False Positive

Who would've thought that "the last weekend in April" and "the first weekend in May" would be the same weekend? Apparently, I need to get more familiar with my calendar. I registered for Wildflower on Tuesday, only to realize just minutes after punching in my credit card that I'd be out of town the same weekend. Stupid!

Fortunately, I called up the folks at Tri-California immediately, explained the situation and they were kind enough to refund the entire $285 entry-fee.

Even so, I'm disappointed. For a few seconds there, I was totally psyched to test my mettle in three week's time. There's still Auburn, though I'm not totally sold on doing that one again, and Bay to Breakers. We'll see.

UPDATE: Well, I didn't win the Kona lottery. I had been keeping my fingers crossed that I'd somehow snag one of the 200 available lottery spots for a chance at tackling Ironman's biggest race. Alas, it was not meant to be. I'll try again next year!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sign me up!

I caught the end of the U.S. Half-Marathon today down by Aquatic Park here in San Francisco. Milling about the finish line and listening to the race emcee call out the names of the runners as they crossed the line seemed to jump-start my competitive juices. It's been four months since Western Australia; I think it's time I sign myself up for a race.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Once, Twice.

For a few brief moments on this morning's ride, I felt like an actual triathlete and not just a guy who trains a lot -- and not for any particular reason, either. I don't really consider myself a triathlete; I'm just a guy who likes a challenge and triathlon just happens to be the one that's caught my interest. I'm just a guy who can swim well, and ride a bike, and then grit through a slow run after.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Help! Save me your empty wrappers!

The organizers of Vineman, the triathlon I'm targeting this year, have recently announced a contest: the competitor who brings the most empty energy bar wrappers to the start line will win back their entry fee.

The wrappers will go to Terracycle, who have a unique way of recycling these otherwise un-recyclable bits of trash -- and they'll also donate two cents to charity for each and every wrapper returned.

Jackpot!

I might not be able to win the race itself, or even my age group, but I'll be damned if I can't win this contest. I will not, however, be able to do it alone.

I need your help!

And your friends' help!

And your family's help!

I need to collect as many granola, energy and protein bar wrappers* as I can between now and the end of July. 

Last year's winner amassed over 1,300. To equal that feat, I'm going to need to get my hands on more than 80 wrappers every week! It's doable, but again, I'm going to need your help. If you or one of your friends picks up Clif bar at the sporting goods store, don't chuck the wrapper - save it for me! If your family likes to eat granola bars for dessert every evening, grab those empty wrappers and set them aside. Know a guy at work who lives primarily on meal replacement bars? Ask him to save you his garbage!

Don't live in San Francisco? Collect as many as you can and then stick 'em into a San Francisco-bound envelope -- I'll definitely cover the postage. I'm going to need every wrapper I can get!

So do me (and the world!) a favor - help me recycle these wrappers, donate to charity, and win back some money by forwarding me your garbage. It's win-win-win!

* - Note: apparently only silver-lined wrappers count. Fortunately, this includes a whole lot of granola bars and protein bars, including most Clif products, Power bar products, Chewy and Nature Valley bars, and many more. If it's silver inside, save it for me!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The (F)AD Scale Addendum

I got a few good comments on my last post - some here on the blog and some via email - and would like to circle back quickly to amend what I wrote before based on what some folks have said. From an email I received:
With respect to measures and dimensions of an athlete/athleticism – I think attitude (“driver” behind motivation and drive) and aptitude, ability or one’s potential, be it natural or requiring hard work (achieved by +ve attitude) are paramount and result in a level of fitness the individual wants to achieve – I believe these two apply to all facets of life!
 I couldn't agree more. My original dimensions, drive and ability, have been abstracted just a bit more to apply to the much more broader field of, well... just about anything anyone would want (or not want) to do. Attitude is the parent of drive and Aptitude is a better measure of what I was calling ability or potential ability. And that's totally right - if you abstract it like that, you can apply this to just about anything. Music. Sports. Writing. Ordering food. Crossword puzzles. Yoga.

Unfortunately for Brian, I still don't exactly know where a 350-pound offensive tackle fits on the scale. Something tells me they, like competitive eaters, are probably exceptions to the rule.