Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The blog-o-sphere

I guess I really have turned into my dad, because I keep thinking of more and more things lately that have developed and become popular during my lifetime - CDs, DVDs, cell phones, the internet, etc., etc. An off-shoot of that technology is, of course, the blog-o-sphere. A year ago, I don't think I had ever read a blog, let alone maintain one of my own, although there are a couple of message boards that I keep up with on a regular basis (on one, believe it or not, I actually met my now-wife!).

I was thinking about this last night before my run, probably because I didn't really want to do it - I was up early to swim, had a pretty involved day at work, and the sofa was pleading with me to take a load off and relax a little. But I resisted, in part because I knew that somewhere, out there, bloggers I follow were no doubt leaving their sofas to get in a second workout of the day. They probably didn't feel any better than I did, but they'd be out there. And I'd read about it the next day. And it gave me a boost of motivation to get out there and get 'er done.

Perhaps it's a bit strange that people who I've never met - and will likely never meet - can provide inspiration just by documenting their triathlon or marathon journeys, but it also makes a ton of sense. Endurance sports are still not normal pastimes, despite the ever-increasing number of participants worldwide, and I think it's fair to say that most people I know think that training for an IM (especially after you've already done one) is just plain nuts. They don't understand why you'd ever devote this kind of time, effort, and expense to something so extreme and painful. Friends and family may be supportive, but, not being in it, their words can only bring so much comfort, especially when the Plan calls for yet another early morning swim session.

But there are people out there that understand. I read their blogs and post on the same message boards. And we appreciate each other's efforts, victories, and dissapointments in a way that others cannot. Because we've been there - the early mornings, the bricks, the intervals, the uncertainty, the pain, the joy. There's that shared body of human experience that creates a bond, despite never having shaken hands or said 'hello'.

So, I guess, even if other people think we're crazy, we can be crazy together. Out here on the internet.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The weakest link

So, I'm not a big fan of swimming. I think I've mentioned that before, and it's still true.
Despite many, many attempts to embrace the calm and zen-like nature of the act, I still can't say that the swim and I are on good terms. If not for triathlon, there's pretty much no way I would ever visit the pool (except on vacation, perhaps, and with a drink in my hand). I'm not good at it, which might be a chief contributor as to why I'm not a fan, but I'd like to think that it's more than just that. I can't quite put my finger on the reason(s), but I've never been able to move past the "just tolerating it" point of the swim.
The reason I mention this is because Tuesday morning is swim day, per the Plan, and I arrived at 6:30 a.m. to find a Masters class warming up in our outdoor pool. I've been out at this time a couple times before (the outdoor pool opened at the beginning of the month), and basically had the thing to myself (don't be jealous), so this was a bit of a shock. Luckily, they let me take a lane to myself along the wall, and we each did our own thing (me: 2500 = 4x500, 2x200, 1x100).
However, even clositered in my own little lane, let me just say that I have very rarely felt so inept and unskilled in my whole life. These kids were kicking my ass in eight different ways. And I mean all of them - underwater, I could see four or five lanes of swimmers all passing me. And the strangest thing is, I can't understand why they're so fast and I'm so slow - I swear I'm doing exactly what they're doing, just not moving as fast. Pfft.
So, yeah, good times. At least no one kicked sand in my face.
Needless to say, while I'm happy to have put in the yards, my confidence is a bit low and my feelings about swimming haven't changed.
It still sucks.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Marc Herremans

Ironman is such an incredible event, in large part because of all the amazing stories - almost the to the point of being unbelievable - that come from it.

I was watching an old NBC recap of the 2002 IM Championship over the weekend, and was reminded of Marc Herremans's story. Marc was a professional triathlete from Belgium, who finished sixth at the 2001 IM Championships, and had high hopes of someday winning the event (He had finished fourth at IM Australia earlier that year). Sadly, just three months after that race, while training in the Canary Islands, Marc crashed his bike and landed on some rocks, breaking his back. He was paralyzed from the chest down. Undaunted, Marc trained throughout 2002 for a return trip to Kona, this time to compete in the wheelchair division. He started that race, just 10 months after his accident, but was unable to finish. In 2006, Marc not only finished, but won the wheelchair division of that year's IM World Championship.

It's really an incredible story, and my re-telling of it here doesn't do it justice, but this is just one example of many where people have shown an incredible amount of resolve and determination in the context of an athletic event. There are, no doubt, similar stories throughout the world of sport, but considering how difficult an IM is for a Regular Joe, these stories always seem to put IM racing apart in my mind as something completely distinct from any other physical endeavor. If you've done one, you know this, and if you haven't yet, you will. It's truly something special.

Anywho, we had a great weekend of training:

- Saturday was a 90-minute run. I probably took it a little bit too hard (about an 8:15 pace for most of it), and it was warmer than I anticipated, so I was pretty tuckered out at the end.

- Sunday we rode 60 miles up to Highland Park and back. I put the new ride together, and, after making a few mechanical tweaks, everything felt great. Cath killed the pace on the way up, and I was hurting by the time we stopped for coffee, but felt great on the way back (even through the waves of thunderstorms that blew through). It felt nice to leave the trainer in the closet and get some "real" miles in. I need to work on the nutrition plan, though - I burned through my breakfast (PBJ on a wheat tortilla) well before we hit the turnaround, and the Infinit alone wasn't enough. I was way hungry by the time we stopped, but, luckily, the coffee and lemon loaf (thanks Starbucks!) totally did the trick. I either need a bigger brekky, or take in a gel or two earlier in the ride. Hmmm....

So, welcome to week 11 - today's a rest day, which I'm totally embracing. Hope everyone a great week of training.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A little food, a little wine...

Well, our plan for an early morning brick before work fell apart. I had family in town last night, and I think I knew that a morning session was doomed when I ordered that first gin and tonic. Two bottles of wine, a (fantastic) filet, and dessert later, meant that I'll be going into the gym after work instead. We had a great time, though, and I'm again reminded how fortunate I am to have such wonderful, loving people in my life.
On an unrelated note, I tried the other day to post a video from YouTube, but messed it up. (Stupid technology). It's here, and it's a great piece of inspiration for those days when my motivation is lagging:
Hope your week is going well.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Things are picking up

Whew, it's been a bit of a whirlwind, training-wise, this week.

Monday is actually took the prescribed rest day, mostly because I was a bit pooped after going a couple of weeks without one. Tuesday I swam 2500 yards in the morning before work (4 x 500, 5 x 100) and ran an hour after work (tempo, probably around 7:30 pace). This morning I did 50 minutes on the trainer before work, alternating between intervals of 100+ rpm, seated climbs, and standing climbs. Tomorrow, we plan on riding an hour before work, to be bricked with a short (15-20 minute) run.

This is the last week in the base phase of our training plan, and it starts to get hairier from this point on - 12+ hour weeks, with an increased emphasis on strength and speed. This next period (the build) goes for another 10 weeks, and includes an additional swim session (the third) and another brick (the second) per week. I'm excited to mix up the intensity a bit - so far, the plan has us training consistently at Zone 2, and, frankly, it gets a bit boring (hence today's mixed session and last night's tempo run). My only concern is the scheduling - it seems that IM training comes down to one part physical effort and one part time management, with the time part often being the harder of the two.

Anywho, my new ride is scheduled to arrive tomorrow, and I'll (hopefully) have it ready to go this weekend. Now, I just need the weather to cooperate...

Monday, April 20, 2009

You've gotta have Spring before Summer

The weekend was a bit of a mixed bag, weather-wise, and the training was both great and blah depending on the day. Saturday was glorious - the first shorts and a t-shirt day of the year - and we had an amazing run along the lake path (1 hour, 15 minutes). Absolutely fantastic running weather, with just a little bit of a chill in the air when we took off at 7:00 a.m., and no wind at all. Later on, Cath and I took our boys (a miniature pinscher and an Italian greyhound) to the dog park and loafed while they cavorted with their oh-so-happy-to-be-outside peers. Lovely.

Sunday was another story. The rains came in overnight and our plan to join a group ride in Barrington was unanimously scuttled at 5:00 a.m. Instead, Drew and I hit up the Keiser bikes at the gym for our 2:45 ride. Surprisingly, the time went by relatively quickly, with Drew and I chatting the time away about topics big and small. I am, however, hoping and praying that the weather improves enough this coming weekend that we can actually get outside - week 10 calls for three hours in the saddle this Sunday, and, despite the good company, I'm not sure I can handle it on a stationary bike.
The crap weather is still here today, but all I have on the agenda is a swim, so no worries there. And it's my mom's birthday today - happy b-day, Ma!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My pops

So, my father is a bit of an anamoly, as far as most/many dads go - he was never the "sitting-on-the-couch-drinking-a-beer-and-watching-football" kind of guy. He didn't get together with the boys to play poker on Friday nights. I don't recall him spending the weekend in the garage, puttering underneath the hood of a car. (Not that there's anything wrong with these activities or the people that do them).

No, my dad has always been very active - he was part of that first wave of running popularity in the late '70s and early '80s, and would regularly run at lunch with a regular group of guys in downtown Seattle. He completed three marathons - two in Seattle and one in NYC - each in less than three hours. When his running buddies started coming down with various (and dibilitating) overuse injuries, my dad saw the writing on the wall and switched over to cycling. In the years since, he's completed a variety of long-distance riding events, including RAMROD (which goes around Mt. Rainier National Park), Seattle-to-Portland, and at least a couple of two-day MS rides. He and I were also part of a cycling tour that twice went to follow stages of the Tour de France, and were lucky enough to ride some of the most noted (and difficult) climbs in professional cycling. Dad will be 62 this year, but he gets out most weekends to ride with his friends and hasn't slowed down a lick.

Needless to say, it's been a great and special gift to have a father who enjoys the outdoors and physical activity as much - or perhaps moreso - than I do. It has brought us closer and provided a great number of special memories that we often chat about, even years later. I recognize and appreciate these experiences because they belong just to us, our own shared memories of sweat, hard work and good times.

There's also another benefit of having a tough-guy dad - the killer hand be downs. Yes, my dad - like most men - likes his toys, and his cycling obsession has brought with it a garage-ful of really nice toys. Toys that I couldn't afford on my meager government salary. Luckily for me, dad and I share similar physiques, and I have been the happy recipient of more and one "pass-through" road bike. In fact, my very first "real" bike was a LandShark, an awesome steel-framed bike handmade in Oregon that dad passed down to me when his garage was getting a little too crowded. And I am currently riding a Look road bike that he sent my way just last year.

Well, apparently I am being rewarded for those annual Fathers Day cards once again, because my pops is giving me his 2006 Scott CR1 Team road bike, which I was lucky enough to ride when we went out there last Fall for the Western Washington MS ride. It's a great bike, top-of-the-line from the ground up, and I'm fortunate and grateful to be on the receiving end of it. I'll post a pic when it arrives and I get it set up. It should provide many, many hours of cycling enjoyment.

Anyway, thanks pop - not just for the new ride, but for always being an amazing and dependable teammate.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Well, we're one short month away from our first race of the season - an extended sprint in Galena, Illinois (northwest of Chicago) - which just also happens to be the first tri I ever...well, tried. This was back in 2003 (yikes, how time flies...). We were ready to do it again in 2004, but the race was cancelled on race morning due to bad weather. We haven't been back since, but it's a great start-of-the-year race - short, with a hilly bike course, and beautiful scenery.
Reading other blogs has got me itchy to start racing, and May 16 can't come fast enough.
This weekend's training was great, although the chilly temps and (relatively) short distances kept us from going out to the suburbs. Saturday we ran along the lakefront for an hour, and Sunday was a two-hour ride along the same (but windier) lake path. We're into week 9, and we gain an hour of training time. I'm swimming at lunch today.
Hope y'uns had a good weekend.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

IM nutrition

So, my bold new plan for IM WI 2009 is an (almost) entirely food-free nutrition plan. Or, rather, solid food-free. As the training distances/times increase, I'm going to experiment with an all-liquid fuel plan, which, given the proper mix of carbs and protein, should get me through the race with an adequate number of calories but without having to eat any bars, gels, pbjs, or other cumbersome solid food products.

The genesis for this idea is from the fact that I am notoriously bad at triathlon nutrition. Like, really bad. Like, I-just-don't-eat-during-a-race-bad. Which, of course, leads to bonking, stomach upset, and/or general unpleasantness. For example, during IM WI 2006, I probably ate a grand total of 300 calories during the ride. For some reason, I just wasn't hungry. I had programmed my watch to beep every 15 minutes indicating it was time to take in more calories, and I fell behind almost from the beginning. It wasn't intentional, I was just so into the experience, and the time just slipped by, and...well, I think the calorie deficit may have played a role in my having to walk a good portion of the marathon due to severe muscle cramps. Very Bad.

IM AZ in 2007 was much better - again, I was down on solid food (mostly because I don't like fumbling around on the bike with wrappers, baggies, etc.), so decided to go with the gel-and-gatorade-and-water nutrition plan. Sixteen gels, to be exact, divided into three flasks taken over the course of six hours. Yes, 16 gels. You can imagine how pleasant that was. But it worked, although I ran most of the marathon with a bloated belly (not sure if it was related to the gels or not). I took in enough calories, and generally felt much better all day.

Now, because I can't stomach - literally - the thought of another 16 gel afternoon, I'm going with Infinit ( If you don't know about Infinit, you should check out their website - they have pre-formulated blends of liquid nutrition, or you can create your own based on your body's particular needs during exercise. I've read many, many stories of people who have been unable to tolerate most of the popular brands of liquid nutrition, but love Infinit and sing its praises. Personally, I've just used it a few times so far this year, but it seems to sit fine with me, and I'm hoping I'll become one of those who think it's the cat's meow.

In a concentrated form, I should be able to sip on Infinit, chased with water, and take in enough calories to get me through the ride (I'll most likely feed/drink from the course during the run). Although, I'll probably have a few solid treats packed away in my special needs bag, just in case I'm dying for something to gnaw on, I'm hoping this will solve my race nutrition isssues. We'll see. I'm going to experiment with this scheme during our longer rides throughout the summer.

Training-wise, I biked an hour after work yesterday, and Cath and I are running together tonight. Tomorrow's a strength day, and this weekend we're (hopefully) invading the suburbs to run/ride.

Cheers all!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Running and riding in the suburbs

This is a peek at where we do our runs out in the suburbs, about 20 minutes outside of Chicago. Weather-permitting, we'll be out there this weekend. I think we're all dying for a little variety in our training, and getting out of the city for a bit might be just what the doctor ordered.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ah, Spring...not

Well, the crap weather just doesn't seem to want to move on yet - another weekend, and another snow day, means my weekly long ride was on the trainer. Again. This week, though, I busted out every distraction that I could find - magazine, iPhone, and television (hockey game) - and the time went by pretty quickly. Well, about as quickly as 2.5 hours can go on a stationary bike set up in your living room.

The weird thing about a trainer - and I don't know if I'm alone in this or not - but I'm never really sure if I'm getting a quality session in or just (literally) spinning my wheels. I'm not doing intervals or anything that would usually kick my ass, so it's kinda hard to tell if these are quality "miles" or not. I do try to mix up the shifting - typically settling in on repeats of 5 or 10 minutes per gear, within a three-gear range - and I'm usually fatigued at the end, but mostly bored and sporting a sore ass. I guess that's just another reason why I wish the weather would break and I could get some real miles in on the road. Although I'm told that trainer "miles" are actually tougher than road miles, I still don't think there's any comparison to the real thing, training-wise. Oh, well, that time will always does. Eventually.

So as to not be a total Debbie-downer, I should mention that our run on Saturday - one hour and 15 minutes along the lakefront with Cath and Drew - was beautiful (sadly, scheduling issues prevented us from riding that day), with clear skies and brisk, but not cold, temps. It was wonderful, and the company - as always - was terrific.

Today marks week 8 of The Plan, and get to back off an hour of training (yay!). I feel good today, so am (seriously this time) thinking of swimming at lunch so as to avoid the Tuesday double. We'll see. I'm always the most energentic when the morning coffee hits, but lunchtime is still a bit of a ways away still.

Hope everyone had a great weekend.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The week so far and beyond IM

Yikes, work has been a huge mental drain this week, so the workouts have actually been a refreshing respite from all the crazy.

- Monday was a rest day, and, no I didn't mess it up by swimming.

- Tuesday I swam 2100 yards before work (had the gym's outdoor pool all the myself for 90 percent of it, which was pure bliss) and ran for an hour after work at about an 8:30 pace.

- Wednesday I biked inside for 45 minutes and bricked it for 15 minutes on the treadmill.

- Today I'm back in the trainer for an hour, and tomorrow I'm doing my weekly strength session (and maybe a swim).

More exciting than the training, though, is this - we're fixing to hike the Grand Canyon from rim-to-rim-to-rim in mid-October! Almost 50 miles and 21,000 vertical feet of climbing. I haven't hiked/climbed anything since Mt. Rainier in '03, and I'm looking forward to once taking on a physical challenge that also includes amazing vistas and wide open spaces. I've never even been to the Grand Canyon, so I'm incredibly excited about this opportunity, even though it comes roughly a month after IM Wisconsin. (Oh, well, I figure we've got all winter to recover...).
Cath and I will be part of a large group of family and friends, several of whom did IM Arizona with us in '07 (and will be doing IM WI with us this year), and climbed Mt. Whitney last year. They're great people, and we're excited to be part of this latest adventure.
More later.
Hope your week is going well!