Saturday, July 30, 2005

Simon Says

Simon says touch your hip.
Simon says touch your shoulder.
Simon says touch your head.

HA! Simon didn't tell you to breathe!

That's pretty much how my "ocean swim clinic" felt last weekend. Undeterred, I went back to Zuma the day after the killer run-through. We floated out in the water a bit and the swim coach gave us a bunch of drills to work on. One of them involved swimming and literally tapping your hip, shoulder and head in sequence to get your arms in the proper positions. It sounds easy. The problem is that while you're doing this, you also have to be kicking properly. And lifting your head of the water to sight properly. And rotating your body in the water. And, hopefully, breathing. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to do all those things at the same time. I'm just not coordinated enough.

You know how a fish looks flopping around on dry land? That's how I must have looked flopping around in the water.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Stair Master

So we had our Brick workout today. Good bike ride, good run... When I got home there were a few firetrucks in front of my building. Not a big deal, fire alarms are not uncommon. The problem is that when there is an alarm, there's no elevator.

I live on the 16th floor.

Feel the burn.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Thar she blows!

I had a somewhat more pleasant marine encounter this weekend. I went back to Malibu for a "swim clinic" Sunday and while we were pretty far out we saw a fin. Somebody vocalized what we were all thinking: "That's a dolphin, right? It was. Then we saw another. And another. And another. And they were close. I'm guessing 30 feet, but they probably came even closer than that; the swim instructor said she could see them underwater with her goggles, and you know how murky the ocean is.

The best word I can use to describe them is... Big. We've all seen dolphins being tortured for our amusement in theme parks, but there is always some sort of barrier. It might be something physical like a railing or sheet of plexiglass, or intellectual like the knowledge that these are trained animals in a controlled (i.e. safe) environment. And I think we mentally shrink them down a bit. But seeing them up close, in the wild, they looked absolutely enormous.

They were in no hurry to get by us, they just leisurely strolled on by. Amazing.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Not Quite Ready for Prime Time

Well we had our run-through today. None of my fears came to pass (see previous entry) but there were other... complications.

First the swim. I tried the new long-sleeve shirt and I have to say, it didn't suck. (Thats high praise from me.) Actually, I didn't feel encumbered by it at all. I still feel I look a little silly in it, but as far as I know there aren't any fashion awards being given out, so it may be a keeper. I wasn't very tired, so I was feeling really good about the swim. Until I got home. I had never timed our swims before so I had no sense regarding how long they took. I timed it today, and we pretty much all finished between 16-20 minutes. That seemed very fast to me, and it turns out if those were are real times we all pretty much would have been in the Top Ten finishing times in last year's triathlon. I did some google mapping and it looks like we only did 3/10 - 4/10 of a mile, not the full half. Sorry guys.

Next up was the bike ride. As everyone was getting ready I realized that I was missing the bolt that holds the front tire to the bike. Now for those of you who are not cyclists, you should know that having the wheels stay attached to the bike is an important part of routine bicycle maintainence. The group rode off without me as I tore my car apart looking for the bolt. A few minutes later I discover that the bolt had rolled underneath my car, so I was able to do the ride. I never caught up with the group of course, but at least I got the biking in.

Then there was the run. Ah, the run. How can I put it... I had my ass handed to me. Well, not exactly "handed" - it was more like my ass was flung across the room and smacked me upside the head. It was awful. For starters, we began around 11:30, so it was hot. The first two miles were fair - I wasn't making great time but at least I was running. Then a little after that I got this message from my body:

"I don't have anything to give you."
"How about you start a tab for me? You know I'm good for it."
"Look, tell you what. Just get me back to the car. Then I'll give you any food you want. No matter how greasy or fatty or sugary, I'll supersize it for you."

And that was that. Just couldn't run any more. I obviously did make it back to the car with a bit of walking and jogging, but it was just miserable. For a while after the run, I thought I was going to throw up. Even on the drivve home I wasn't sure I was going to make it. I'm beginning to think that a "transition bag" is a tool to help transition the contents of your stomach from inside your body to the outside world.

So the day was more of a reality-check than a confidence booster. I thought I was ready to complete the tri, but I'm not quite there yet. It just really emphasizes the importance of doing the brick workouts.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Pre-training Jitters

Sometimes you just get frustrated or feel insecure about training for whatever reason. Then you get depressed and eat peanut butter and oreos (mmmmm... peanut butter and oreos...) which makes you sick and even less likely to exercise. I was in a funk this week and didn't train at all. But I got my head together and figured I would go to the swim in Santa Monica Saturday morning and get back on track. Today I found out the swim won't be in Santa Monica; it's in Malibu. Followed by a bike ride. Followed by a run. Yes, we're doing a full dress rehearsal.

Oh. Crap.

I bought a new swim-shirt to wear under my wetsuit. As I will complain often, I hate-hate-hate my sleeveless suit, and this shirt is supposed to keep me a bit warmer (I am always freezing going into the water) and maybe even block a jellyfish or two. I've tried it on with the suit and it just doesn't seem to make a good seal, so I have a feeling my suit is going to flood with water as soon as I get in. I would have liked to try swimming with the shirt on a less intensive day. Strike one.

I've changed the rear tire on my bike 4 times in 2 weeks, and the gears are starting to make noises they weren't making before. I had my bike in the car this morning so I could drop it off for a tune-up, but that will have to wait. I would have liked to get it fixed up of before such an intensive day. Strike Two.

I have a new pair of running shoes. I thought they were OK, but after my last run I discovered my pinky toe was completely black and blue. I don't know if the sneakers caused it or the open sandals I was wearing later that day, but I would have liked to try running in them again before such an intensive day. Strike Three. (OK, I'll wear my old shoes tomorrow. Make that Strike Two, Ball One.)

Other people from the tri team have said that the previous practice run of all 3 events was a big confidence booster. Everything could turn out just fine, but I have a bad feeling about this. I think I will be Mister Grumpy Pants by noon.

Saturday, July 16, 2005


I survived my first ocean attack today.

The sea was angry this morning my friends, like an old man trying to return soup at a deli. We were doing our weekly swim in Santa Monica and I had made it past the buoy and turned north for the voyage up the coast. Little did I know what was lurking in the depths below. The cold, murky waters obscured my vision so that by the time I finally saw the Savage Beast it was too late; this was his dominion, and I was an intruder. I tried to turn away from the demonic minion of Neptune but my fate was sealed.

And that's pretty much when the jellyfish stung me. It sort of felt like a pin cushion being thrown at my forearm, only with all the points sticking outward. It was not a terrible pain, but it did sting a bit. And then the itching started. Not severe, but constant and annoying. Staying in the water didn't help.

It's funny how your mind likes teasing you. As I noticed how far out I was from shore, in the back of my mind I was thinking "hmmm... now is a bad time to find out if I have allergic reactions to jellyfish stings." After a while, my arm started getting tired, and I wondered: is my arm weakening because of the poisonous toxins surging through my bloodstream? Or was it tired because, dude, you're swimming in the freaking ocean? I may never know.

I finished the swim (well, most of it, I cheated a bit and cut in a little early) and went to the lifeguard to get something for the itching. I was hoping he'd have some kind of emergency kit which he'd open up, pull out a special foil-wrapped cloth and tell me to rub briskly for 5 minutes. Instead, he grabbed a beat-up spray-bottle with a piece of masking tape that read "jellyfish" and squirted my arm. It's a diluted vinegar mixture. It did stop the itching for a bit, but it wasn't completely gone for about 2 hours.

My advice? Stay out of the ocean. The Beasts have sampled human flesh, and surely they will be coming for more.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Jason Lives

I think somebody on the Tri Team is trying to kill me.

First there was the mysterious flat tire coming down the hill, now this... This afternoon someone posted a note on our messageboard inviting us to a new swim workout in Pasadena. I thought I'd give it a try. Turns out, the swim was at Ambassador College. For the uninitiated, this place is also referred to as the "Haunted Campus". It's an abandoned college, and a private high school purchased the property. The place is creepy. It looks and feels like a college, yet there are no people anywhere. Nobody. The grounds are immaculate, the fountains are running, yet it is completely empty. It's like some strange force suddenly removed all the humans in an instant. Beyond that, even most signs are removed so you can't tell which buildings are what.

Fortunately I arrived extra early so I had plenty of time to try to find my way around. After about 15 minutes I was able to find the (unmarked) Athletic Center. It was empty, the lights were out, but the door was unlocked. I went in and wandered through the dark empty halls into the pool area. So there I was, alone, standing by a darkened pool, on a deserted haunted campus. This had teen-slasher-flick written all over it. Did somebody from the Tri Team secretly lure me to this isolated gymnasium to do me in where nobody would hear my screams of terror?!

No, 20 minutes later people showed up and the lights came on.

We had our instructional workout. Turns out I suck at kicking but I'm an excellent breather. I've been breathing most of my life so this was very reassuring.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Another week, another flat

I had flat tire #2 tonight, but this time it happened in the field. I was coming down the hill after visiting Mr. Griffith and I heard a loud, high-pitched pop/twang noise. Somebody said it sounded like a spoke snapped off, and that describes the noise perfectly. But it was another flat tire, rear wheel. A couple other people in our group stopped to assist me, which was great but it also made me nervous because now I had to change a tire with lots of pairs of eyes watching me. Fortunately, I had some experience from last week so although it wasn't a perfect pit-stop I don't think I embarrassed myself. The best thing was that Batman (aka Edwin) was there. I call him Batman because he reached into his Bat Utility Belt and pulled out a spare tube for me to use. That easily saved me 20 minutes or more of trying to find and patch the leak on the old tube.

It's odd that I would get two flats in one week on the same wheel, and somebody asked me if I had looked over the inside of the tire to see if maybe there was something caught inside which was popping the tubes. Huh. That would have been smart. I'll be sure to give it a good inspection next week during flat #3.

Monday, July 11, 2005

My new shoes are great... KNOT!

I bought a new pair of running shoes on Saturday. I went to a running store in Pasadena where I've bought my clothes and accessories in the past, and one of the salesguys helped me try on a bunch of shoes. I picked a pair, but when I went up to pay for them Superman rang me up. ("Superman" is my generic term for anyone you run into in these fitness-related areas who are obviously in 10-times better shape than you are and you just hate them.)

Superman put his hands on his hips, puffed out his chest and asked me "can I assist you with anything else, good citizen?" I told him that I wanted a way to keep my shoelaces from getting caught in the gears when I ride my bike, rather than just stuffing them under themselves like I do now. He handed me a small bag of clips and told me to use those. I stared at them, and for the life of me could not figure out how they would work. I told him "I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with these." He explained that you slip them over your laces, then you cut your shoelaces, and you're done. I looked at him like he had a hole in his head. "You... cut your shoelaces?" "Yeah, you slip the laces through this hole here and then cut off the excess and it holds your shoe tight." I still wasn't getting it. "But you cut your shoelaces?" Now he was looking at me like I had a hole in MY head.

There is a little spring in the clip that is supposed to keep your shoes tight without even tying the laces. Because you're not making a not, you don't need the excess length. I dunno about that. People have been tying their shoes for hundreds of years and it seems to work just fine; I don't think I need some new-fangled system for keeping my shoes attached to my feet.

The bag was only $3.99 so I took it, but I don't like the idea of cutting your shoelaces. It seems to me that buying shorter laces would do the same trick.

Friday, July 08, 2005

My first flat

I am now officially a bicyclist: I changed my first tire. I was very lucky that I noticed the flat while still at home and not in the middle of nowhere because it took me over an hour to change the tire, and that was with me going online to download owner's guides to figure out how to do it.

For starters, living in a condo means you can't just run out to the driveway to play mechanic. I had to rely on blankets in the living room to act as my garage.

It sounds simple to install an inner tube: wrap the tube around the wheel, stuff the tube in the tire, then slip the tire back on the rim. Doesn't work out that way. Turns out there is a definite art to working with rubber and I just wasn't getting the hang of it. The even bigger problem was trying to inflate the tire. My tires have "Presta Valves" on them, aka "French Valves". Stupid French. I'm calling them "Freedom Valves" from now on. It took me 20 minutes just to figure out that the valves actually have TWO caps on them. It seems that the inner cap needs to be loosened up before any air can get in. Good to know. I THINK I put the wheel back on properly and that the brakes will still work. We'll find out soon enough.

I don't think I'm quite ready to join a NASCAR pit crew.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Palisades K2

Today I ran the Palisades Will Rogers 10k with my friend Flash, aka Mark. Personally, I think the event should be renamed the Palisades K2. Not because the run was hilly, but because it was mountainous. Oh my it was teh suxor. The course description calls for a "steep one mile climb through Will Rogers State Historic Park" and they ain't kidding. It was a very nice course though- the neighborhood felt like a quaint New England village with lots of people sitting out of their front porches cheering the runners.

I can't say I'm happy with my time. It took me 30 seconds longer than the 10k I did last October. I realize this was a more difficult course, but shouldn't all this training be compensating for that? Flash (aka Mark) did very well and finished several minutes ahead of me- he spent a few years in Scotland and all those attacks by the Loch Ness Monster really built up his stamina.

Some logistical advice for next year: let people know the (non-existant) parking situation ahead of time. Many of us would have saved a lot of time trying to get around all the closed-down streets had we known it was just a free-for-all on the side streets. Also, and this is a biggie, put the water near the finish line. We're dying at the end, the last thing we want is to have to walk another couple hundred yards for a drink. Charge it to our bib numbers if you have to.