Monday, March 29, 2010

Tri Not 2 Ralph 2010

My tri club puts on our own self imposed Half Ironman in the beginning of the year and we like to have fun doing goofy things to amuse ourselves as many triathletes do. The idea was born when a few members didn't want to blow the money to go all the way down to Oceanside for a "training" race on their way to an Ironman. Oceanside was sponsored by Ralph's at the time, so there's the name. This was the fifth installment and my first and once you see the route, and some of the pictures, you'll understand I was a bit scared. if you want the full story.

To start we had a normal Aquatic Park swim planned, followed with a ride to the top of Mt. Tam, and then a Double Dipsea run. All approximately the distance for a Half Iron. The first and most important park, as I was told, was the lingerie swim. Much in tune with the Underwear Run in Kona, just not quite as fit as they are, and half of us have wetsuits on. You got a bonus and only had to swim 200 meters if you were sans-wetsuit. The water is 55 degrees!

Next up was the bike to the top of Tam via Mill Valley and Stinson Breach. I've done this ride numerous times and it has some incredible portions including a super scenic rolling and winding part of Highway 1. Ripping through Stinson and making the right onto Tam for the hour-long climb is never fun, but we had a brief rest due to "challenges" laid out by our aid station volunteers. Writing Ad-Libs, hula-hooping, and a crude version of corn-hole with a toilet seat before we were allowed to proceed. Your brain does not work very well after climbing that hard to remember what an adverb is, ah!

Finally to the top of Tam, still feeling good and getting to fly down to Mill Valley to start the run.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mt Tam Group Ride

Finally we get a break in the weather and it was a glorious day of riding! My Ironman group was off to conquer Mt. Tam today, with some other adventures along the way. Starting off from just north of Mill Valley, it was not a long ride today, but we were in for some big hills.

Heading to the coast on Highway 1 is always fun, but a bit sticky at a few points. It is the main artery to get to a few tourist spots, but luckily we left early enough to avoid much of the traffic. We rode by the UC Berkeley tri team who were just all too happy to be riding, a bit chatty too which is a great sign. Top of the first hill and down we go on one of my favorite descents. Nice bends that aren't too sharp that allow you to lean into it without breaking. Felt great! One more hill and then the coastal ride into Stinson Beach that is just a beautiful ride.

A quick regroup and up to Bolinas in near Time Trial pace. I led a pack along the flat bendy road along the lagoon to Bolinas and we were flying. I took the full pull since the group doesn't ride quite as fast as I do, and to get the workout I needed for the day, any draft wasn't going to cut it. Finally through the flats, a steep grade and our turn to Bolinas. After some back road and a "bonus" detour from our coach, we run into this:

Bolinas is known for cutting down road signs to make sure people can't find them, but this is getting a bit absurd.

After our mini-cyclocross, we raced back south to Panoramic and our massive hour climb of Mt. Tam. I felt pretty good about an hour climb leading up to this, but the day before my Dad had to one up me with a three hour climb up Mt. Lemmon in Arizona with five feet of snow on each side of the road, show-off.

Grinding up the hill, our coach said it is a test to give the strength and confidence that your legs will be with you throughout any ride or race. I hope so. My legs were responding to the hill better than I had imagined after my race yesterday. Getting to the top of Tam was definitely a test. Keeping cadence and effort for such an extended time after softening up your legs with some intervals was a daunting task. Cresting the peak was the amazing reward!

Cycling can take you to some amazing places, this is one of them.

Training week of March 8-14
Monday - 5 minute warmup, 20 minute lift, 15 minute Vasa Trainer, 90 minute M2 Spin
Tuesday - Track, 2 mile warmup, 6x200 @ 38 sec 200 jog, 2 mile @ 6:40 pace, 6x200 @ 38 sec 200 jog
Wednesday - 60 minute M2 Spin, 10 minute brick, 20 minute lift, 15 minute Vasa Trainer
Thursday - 50 min swim, 8.5 mile run
Friday - Off?
Saturday - Angel Island 25k, 1:43:10, 3rd overall, 2nd male
Sunday - Ride - Climb Mt Tam

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Angel Island Trail Race - 25k

Payoff for the past week! Pushing through exhaustion paid dividends this week with an incredible result on Angel Island this past weekend. This 25k race tested me physically and mentally over the race as running with a lead pack is not something I'm used to, and it resulted in some head games going on.

After a quick ferry ride from Tiburon to Angel Island, the race was set to start. I could sense the field wasn't very deep, but I've never seen a lead runner after the first few minutes of a race and when the race began, everyone let me go out first!? It was a short parade around the picnic areas to thin the group due to the singletrack that awaited us in the hills. After a mile, three of us had escaped off the front, and were cruising up the hill. Jonas was a lean guy, but breathing heavy up the hill and the other guy I'll just have to call Diesel because he was just pure muscle and I couldn't hear anything from him on the way up. Very worried about Diesel.

After reaching the top, Jonas asked if we could keep the pace going in a way that sounded as if he would fold. Of course Diesel and I answered yes, but I looked at my watch and it said 172 bpm. Not good, but we were in the flats and I was certain it would come down and I could hold. Flowing along the mountain and hitting a downhill we stayed together, but on the last hill of the first loop, my legs couldn't hold and I was dropped, sitting in 3rd with nobody around. Every switchback and clearing of the loop I could still see the leaders, but the margin was unchanged no matter what I did.

Cresting the last hill and heading down the two mile descent I was glad to have time to recover. My running has vastly improved over the last two years, but I'm still a big guy at 198, and once a hill hits a certain grade, the speed just leaves me. Flying down the hill now, I can see I'm gaining again and my danger switch is turned off as I start to lean forward to help pull me down the hill. Its just a great feeling if you can keep good form downhill. Approaching the single track where the course is two-ways on singletrack, the leaders are getting closer. Finally at the turn point, I caught them! Turning back up the hill, they were gone and some chick (yes, I say chick) was flying down the hill and I fear she would catch me on the way up. Time to go for the big guns, Espresso Love!

My GU of choice is Espresso Love to jolt me into high gear with around an hour to go in a race. Climbing up the mountain on the second loop was a challenge. 1. I wasn't sure of the effort I could push and 2. the 12k'ers were coming down. Only had to yell once though, as it appears many are experienced trail runners, but I almost ran over someone trying to pass someone on their way down, that would have made me feel bad, but just for a second.

Reaching the top of the second loop climb, Diesel was alone and I was catching. Catching him we ran together for a bit and I find out that Jonas was sandbagging on the first lap and took off on the second, leaving us to fight for 2nd. At least I thought 2nd, until Carolyn (got the name afterwards) came roaring by us and all I could say is "watch out for us boulders on the downhill!" She laughed, but after a minute I had my goal, CATCH HER! Dropping diesel with newfound energy, I had two miles of rollers and two miles downhill to close the gap. I managed to stop her escape, but she had 200 yards on me leading to the downhill. Diving into the hill another obstacle stood in the way, lap traffic. Eyes had to move from trail to horizon to make insure a safe decent.

Moving down the hill was awesome and to my surprised, everyone was on the watch for us heading down and then it hit me, I'm running with the woman race leader, nobody wants to get in the leaders way. Getting to the last switchback I was on her heals yelling at her to keep the pace up and not let up. We raced to the bottom, and amazingly, my weight and legs couldn't push past her. Gravity is one of my friends, but it wasn't enough to overtake this speedy little chick. Cutting out of the trails as a sharp right turn that I couldn't make as well as Carolyn and my legs couldn't respond with enough power to sprint and regain the lost distance. Crossing the line 3rd Overall and 2nd Male was still a sweet surprise today!

Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Angel Island Trail Race - 25k 3/13/2010

Monday, March 8, 2010

Listen to your body or push through?

In any endurance athletes training there are always times when the workout just isn't going to feel good. Hopefully you have been paying enough attention to your body to know if you should take a day off, or push through. Its a tedious balance that everyone has to face and the payoff is reaching your goals. On one hand you face potential injury or losing an important workout. Both are important to consider.

Today was a day to push through. Hitting up M2's 90 minute spin massacre really wasn't the best way to push through, but it was on the schedule for the day. Starting off with a 5 minute warmup run felt good, and then a quick lift and Vasa trainer went well, but then jumping on the cyclops trainer I knew it wasn't going to be good. The only option was to figure out what effort I could hold for the 90 minutes and stick to it for better or worse. I'm used to pushing over 340-400 watts for intervals, today hoping for 280-320 was in order. My heart rate was pushing over 160 at times, but I could hold it for the interval sets, and I kept my form. Success!

Setting your goal, even if less than what you want, is a large part of the training process. Even if it doesn't seem like progress at the time, hopefully it pays dividends in giving the mental strength to keep the pace come race day.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Ironman Training Run

Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Mountain Home Inn Trail Run

Today was a crazy day up on Mt. Tam. We started at the Mountain Home Inn along Panoramic and headed up. As always, M2 was a little scetchy with details, and admitted he'd never done this exact route, so we were all a bit worried.

The course was the Matt Davis trail to Pantoll Ranger station to start. This was a nice single track with switchbacks and some nearly overhand crawling on a few sections. The heavy rains were still draining from the mountain, so a few steam and mud-bog crossings were in order. Once we got to Pantoll we regrouped and for good reason since the first off made an immediate wrong turn and would have ended up in Stinson Beach and about 10 extra miles. The Park Ranger was really nice in making sure we knew where we were going since our fearless leader is not quite as forthcoming with directions. An unexpected turn came when she told us a bridge crossing had washed out, so it paid off a little asking for directions.

Down the Dipsea we went for two miles to Muir Woods. Of course we missed the turn the Ranger told us about and we ended up having to scamper over a fallen tree to cross the river, but then back on solid ground to our next obstacle, Miwok Trail. This was a crazy trail, starting at 120 feet, and ending at around 800 over 1.7 miles. Tim and I were off and only a few down trees got in our way. Heading up the hill I saw a California Condor circling, hopefully I didn't look that bad I looked like a good lunch with my heart pounding. Top of the hill and Tim was waiting after I got in a little over 17 minutes.

Running along Panoramic, making our way back to our cars, there was just one more dip into the valley to take on Sun Trail. Sun Trail was a good stretch of slight downhill for a few miles, but then a hairpin up on Redwood Trail was waiting that absolutely put the screws to us. Tim raced ahead, but a bear jumped on his back until I caught up and yelled at him and he was off again. Probably the steepest piece to the entire run, and at mile 11, not very welcome. Finally to the top and a short run to the car, and some well deserved Muscle Milk. Over 2600 feet of elevation gain!

Awesome day, and it felt even better as the rest of our group came in, feeling stronger than ever given the brutal terrain we just conquered.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The good and bad

Training is getting easier and harder at the same time. Recovery from hard workouts is much faster than in previous weeks, but stamina at higher exertions does not last very long. Any time I exceeded my threshold, there was a very adverse reaction to it. I'm hoping it is just a result of missing my day off this week combined with some serious racing/training over the weekend along with a long day trip to LA for work. The Sequoia Trail run didn't hurt like Kaiser did, but I think it exhausted the legs a little more than I realized. Great race with a 2nd place AG. Sort of felt like Glengary moment where 1st place got a medal, 2nd place got a ribbon.

My weight is still floating around 200 lbs, so I'm still looking for it to start falling off me again in the near future. Next week I'll start noting my diet to make sure there is nothing suspect going on.

Week of March 1st
Monday - 10 min run, 20 minute weights, 20 min Vasa, 90 minute M2 Cycling class
Tuesday - Track, 2 mile warmup, 5x1600@5:50 with 200 rest, mile cool-down
Wednesday - 20 minute weights, 20 minute Vasa Trainer, 60 minute M2 Cycling class, 10 minute brick
Thursday - 45 min swim, 8 mile run
Friday - Off
Saturday - Long Ride (60-70 miles)
Sunday - Aquatic Park swim, Long Run (15 miles)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ironman Switzerland

Last year, my father and I decided to make a go at Ironman. This is my Dad's 4th Ironman, and my first. The idea of traveling halfway around the world may not have been the best one, but it will make for an epic trip. With our friends from Tri-Scottsdale tagging along, there will be more than enough fun and excitement to go around, I just hope my Mom can put up with all of us for two weeks.

Ironman Switzerland takes place in beautiful Zurich. You can see some great footage from last year as well as the "Most Attractive Finish" at The course features a two lap swim course, two lap bike course with a section called "Heartbreak Hill" (sounds like a Clint Eastwood movie), and a flat two lap run course.

So far the training has been going well, and with the help of my friends, family, and M2 I'll finish and feel great about it.

The last four years

About four years ago I realized there were a few things wrong in my life. 1. I was 40 pounds overweight, 2. No workout regimen, 3. Drinking and "other" things were what I looked forward to. You can ask what the "other" means, but I'm definitely not writing them down anywhere.

I don't know what happened, but there was a spark at just the right moment and my father intervened and signed me up for the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon and Training Camp. Training from near square one was one of the hardest things to do. I was a top track star in High School for Pete's sake! I couldn't run three miles without incredible pain in my back, or just screaming lungs the moment I hit a hill. I was no longer the college kid who could be out all night, get up for class, then run 10 miles. It was a humbling experience, but there was a drive it created in me I hadn't felt in a long time, and I liked it!

Fast forward to 2009....

My life had changed for the better and I completed and began to excel (personally) in numerous triathlons around the Bay Area and Arizona. It was time to up the ante and go for a Half Ironman! All my races were Olympic distance, and while I really enjoy the all out mayhem these bring, the longer distance is what I wanted to both challenge me as well as continue the progression to becoming fit again.

Joining my tri club was the best help for this. SF Tri Pep's were instant friends and we all helped each-other reach our goals. A great result at Wildflower, followed by Ironman Boise 70.3 and to cap off the year with an intense Clearwater 70.3 meant only 1 thing, doing a full Ironman in 2010.

While triathlon has changed my life for the past few years, and probably caused me to push off some personal and work interests, I can't say I regret any of it. 2010 is looking to be a great year and I mean to make the best of this second youth that has been granted to me.