Monday, July 31, 2006

Walking on Air

I find I have far fewer foot injuries if I simply levitate an inch above the ground rather than letting my feet hit the actual pavement.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

What It Takes: The Triathlon Documentary

My Tri Team was fortunate enough to see a screening of "What It Takes", a new documentary that tracks four professional triathletes - Peter Reid, Lori Bowden, Heather Fuhr, Luke Bell - in the year leading up to the 2005 World Championship in Kona. Let me confirm what you can probably guess: if you do triathlons, you need to see this movie. Duh.

Although their mileage and hours are far beyond what most of us do, the film makes it very easy to relate to everything the athletes say about their training. One person refers to it as "the Fraternity of Suffering". Bad weather? Injuries? Not finding your groove for a race? Yup. Yup. Yup. And one thing I really like about the sport really hits home with this movie. If a football player talks about his Superbowl game, the best you can hope for is to say "I saw that game." But when these triathletes talk about their experience at Wildflower, you can say "yes, I ran that race too." (Well, I can't say that yet, but you get the idea.)

This may be more an observation than a criticism, but I think it's important to note that this is a movie about Ironman TRIATHLETES, and not the Ironman itself. I make that distinction because if you start watching Ironman videos, you begin to think that every race is nothing but people collapsing on the course and missing the cut-off times by 30-seconds. This makes for very emotional footage, not to mention all the ripping-out-your-heartstrings Physically Challenged stories out there. In "What It Takes", the athletes certainly have their own obstacles, but the footage isn't as dramatically camera-friendly as watching someone crawl over the finish line after 140 miles.

I'm not sure even the director knows yet how it will be released; possible theatrically through film festivals, maybe on TV, at some point on DVD for individual sale. But if you do get the chance to see it, go. The next morning you'll begin your Ironman training.

Official Movie Site, with trailer:

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Mister Mortified

Yesterday I was a tad upset that my artificially-created tri-hero was cancelling his appearance at our Triathlon Movie screening. (see next post.) But I still went to see the film. I was waiting in the lobby outside the screening room when Tri Team Leader Nabil showed up with the director of the movie. He introduced us: "Mister P., this is Peter Han. Peter, this is the guy with the blog."


Nabil showed the director my blog entry. The one where I called the star of his film "Peter the Not-So-Great". The one where I scribbled all over a photo of a 3-time Ironman Champion. The one where I said his rival Tim DeBoom wouldn't cancel on us.

You would think that pedalling is an important skill to have to be a successful triathlete. Trust me when I say that's nothing compared to being able to BACK-pedal. So I'm standing there like an idiot trying to tell this guy how it was all a big joke (false) and that I was still really looking forward to seeing his film (true). But most of all I was trying to convince him that I wasn't some sort of psycho. You can imagine how successful I was with that.

Of course I felt even worse during the movie. There on screen was this quiet, easy-going guy talking about the frustrations of the sport and I'm thinking "hmmm... maybe I shouldn't call him 'Stupid Peter Reid'". Bah.

The director was very, very cool about the whole thing, and he was the one apologizing to me that Peter Reid couldn't make it. I haven't received any restraining orders yet, so I think I'm OK. I can only hope that Peter Reid himself doesn't hear about it. (Peter, don't worry, you still rock!)

I'll review the film later, once my blood starts circulating again.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Peter The Not-So-Great

I'm very upset.

Tonight my Tri-Team is hosting an advance screening of the new triathlon documentary "What It Takes". The guest speaker was supposed to be Peter Weed - er, Reid, 3-Time Ironman World Champion. That's right: "was". He's a no-show.

Remember how excited I was?: Peter Weed announcement. Let me explain just how neurotically bad I am. Peter is on the cover of this month's Triathlete Magazine and I was going to have him autograph it for me. Last night I was trying to peel off my subscription label but I just couldn't get all the glue off. So at 10:00pm, I drove to Borders to pick up a fresh newstand copy. I picked the cleanest one I could find, and watched nervously as the cashier half-rolled it to slide it over the scanner. The cover is black with Peter wearing a black t-shirt; I planned on going to Staples during lunch to pick up one of those silver-ink pens so his autograph would show up better.

Now there's nothing. Well sure, there's still the movie, but it won't be the same. I bet Tim DeBoom wouldn't cancel.

Stupid Peter Reid.

Amazing Race

If you read any of the tri-mags you've probably heard of Sarah Reinertsen. Last year she became the first female above-the-knee amputee to finish the Ironman. I competed with her last week in the New York City Triathlon. (I just love being able to say that. We ran along 72nd street together but no, I didn't say anything.) Well now she's taking on a bigger challenge and will be on the next season of The Amazing Race!

The Amazing Race is the class act in the world of cheesey reality TV, and it's only going to be cooler to watch with Sarah in it.

More on Sarah: I Am Sarah
More on the Race:

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Less than a man

I admit it, I'm a little self-conscious about my weight. But with me it's because I am (arguably) underweight. If any of you are going to start saying "oh boo-hoo, I WISH I had that problem!", STFU; you don't know what you're talking about. Part of my insecurity may have to do with a co-worker who comes up to me once every 2 weeks and says "You weigh HOW much? That's not a man's weight! That's a teenage girl's weight!" (he has a flare for the dramatic.)

Brad is training for a triathlon in November; it's a 0-mile swim, a 0-mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run. He's tracking his weight loss and running progress with a nice little chart:

Since I am training for the same event, I thought I would superimpose my data on to his chart. Unfortunately, if I maintain the same scale my weight winds up here:

That's just not right.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

By the numbers

Dork that I am, I love cranking through race statistics when they post very detailed results online. It helps me put a little spin on things to create personal victories.

For my first Olympic Distance tri, I came in last in my age group. For New York, I was hoping to finish out of the bottom quarter. I came in 272nd out of 346 for Men 35-39. That's ahead of 22% of the group, just within the bottom quarter. But if I include all age-groupers, I came in at 1583 out of 2217. That's better than 29% of the field, so I'm going with those results.

OK, now it gets a little more analytical. Here's how I ranked for each leg within my age group:

Overall: 272
Swim: 281
Bike: 252
Run: 279

You could say that the bike was my "strongest" event. But note that all 3 of my placings are pretty close to the overall; the bike only deviates 7% from my overall placing. I think that means that regardless of my speed or lack thereof, I am a very "balanced" triathlete. In contrast, the guy who came in right in front of me for 271st place, came in 146th for the run: a deviation of 46%. So clearly he is a primarily a strong runner. The guy after me was 60th in the swim, a whopping 78% deviation from his 273rd overall placing. Obviously he's a ringer swimmer.

The math breaks down when you try analyzing people in the top 10% of the race or so. (If the overall winner places 2nd in the swim, that would give him a deviation of 50%, which is misleading.) But for middle-to-back-of-the-packers, I think it gives a good idea what areas you should work on. And since I'm so well-balanced, that means I need to work on everything. Crap.

Monday, July 17, 2006

New York City Triathlon Race Report

It isn't much fun getting up at 4 am to do a tri, but I managed. I met up with tri-teammates Shelley, Ariff, and Robert, The World's Greatest Triathlete, and we took the shuttle bus to the transition area. I only had about 20 minutes to set up my stuff before we had to clear the area. That should be plenty of time for normal people, but considering that in my last tri I had to go back to T1 twice, I would have liked a little more time to make sure everything was in order. Oh well.

Everybody wants to know what it's like swimming in the Hudson River. Yes, it really was pretty disgusting. Swimmers started from a small dock, and most of the shoreline along the course had been cleaned up pretty well. But just behind the dock was your typical NYC river garbage dump. Every now and then a boat would come up and its wake would pick up a random piece of trash and send it down along the swim course. I did not see it myself, but I heard a tire went down at one point.

My personal favorite item that made it to the other side of the dock was this piece of driftwood; note the rusty nails jabbing out of it.

The current was pretty strong so we could move quickly with very little effort. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a cross-current which pulled you into shore so I often felt like I swimming diagonally. At one point I looked up and saw a white swim cap ahead of me; I was in an orange cap, and the group after me was green, so I was very excited that I had managed to catch up to one of the slower swimmers in the wave before mine. Of course, that excitement quickly disappeared when I finally caught up to that person and realized he was just a tiny white buoy that the current knocked me into. Oops.

The finish was, by far, the most disgusting swim I have ever done. The water was so shallow that your hands scraped a thick layer of muck. But the muck was so deep that you couldn't stand up in it. The water was pitch black from all the dirt / oil / decomposing bodies, and you just sort of had to plow your face through it. People who did not run through the hose at the exit arrived in the transition area with black grimy faces. Gross.

The bike ride was pretty cool. We passed under the George Washington Bridge and over the Henry Hudson Bridge- we even rode through a toll booth! It was a great way to see a small part of The City. Over the past couple of months, I have mostly been focusing on improving my bike riding and I went out pretty hard for that leg. My "fantasy time" for the ride was ninety minutes; I did it in 1:27 so I was pretty happy about that.

I made one stupid mistake. New York is having a heat wave, it was pretty hot during the race, and when I got back from the bike ride I chugged a bottle of water. You're supposed to sip a little water very often rather than take it all at once, but the way I did it I felt bloated and a bit crampy for the run. It was in the 90s when I started running, but thankfully the course through Central Park was mostly shaded. However, I never realized how hilly Central Park was. At every turn I would hope that I would finally be at the top of the next hill, only to see yet another short hill to climb.

Up through mile 3, I was on track to finish the entire triathlon in 3 hours, which would have been spectacular for me. But with the heat and the extra effort I put out on the bike, I wasn't feeling too well so I dropped out a bit and walked for probably a half mile. You got a problem with that? Final time, 3:07:28.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

2006 New York City Triathlon

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Rough Before the Storm

OK, so this whole out-off-state racing is pretty stressful.

Every race I've ever been to has had some sort of pre-event briefing, but this is the first one I've seen with full powerpoint presentation. It was a little too structured and just gave an aura of seriousness to the whole thing. I don't want serious. I want fun. And it didn't help that everybody around me seemed to be in REALLY good shape. And way too many people wearing Ironman Finsiher shirts. (I'm sure the demographic was no different than any other event, but it's still intimidating.)

I'm staying at the official event hotel, but that's still 2 miles from the transition area. There was mandatory bike check-in tonight, and I wound up just walking my bike the entire way. (I didn't want to ride in Manhattan traffic, nor schlep it on a crowded subway. So that was kind of a pain.

I have to be at the transtion area by 5:15 or so, even though my wave doesn't start until 8:00. And because check-out is at noon, there is no way I'll be back in time so I have to be completely out of my room by 4:30.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

One Ring to Rule Them All

Crisis averted.

I shipped my bicycle to New Jersey, and it arrived just fine. Mostly. Four rings from the handlebars managed to slide off the rod and were floating loose in the shipping box. For some reason, I just couldn't figure out which order to slide them back together. It's too important to have my handlebars stay on my bike, so I thought I'd take it to a professional to have it done right. I brought it to the local bike shop and they said they'd have it ready for me in a week. Not good. I called two other places: ready by Wednesday. Ready by Tuesday. Yikes.

So what do I do whenever I have a bicycle emergency? I call Gerald! (if he wasn't so damn helpful maybe I'd stop bugging him.) I took photos of rings, planning to email them to Gerald and then call call him in a panic hoping he could talk me through the repair.

But then I decided I should be a grown-up for once and figure it out on my own. I went back to the bike, and eventually I think I got it put together. I took it out for a ride and nothing seemed to fall off so hopefully it's ok.

Bike rides out here are much better than in L.A. Note the lush greenery and the lack of traffic.

Doing the wave

Wave starts can be a wonderful thing. You might start a race 30 minutes or an hour before another group, so even if you wind up having the slowest time of the day you can still cross the finish line ahead of many other racers. It's just a nice psychological boost. At my last triathlon, I finished last in my age group and near last overall, but because I was in the first group that started there were still people behind me. (Well, not that many people... even with the head start I was still pretty slow.)

For the NYC Tri this weekend, my group will be the last to go. The elites will be starting TWO HOURS before I do; they'll be finishing just as I'm getting started. So now I have no safety net whatsoever. If I want to look good crossing the finish line, I HAVE to beat other people. "But Mister P., triathlons aren't about competing against other people, they're all about simply completing the race." Shut up you stupid hippies. Nobody wants to be the last one crossing the finish line. Actually, I take that back: it's cool to be the very last finisher because you get all of the spectator support; but being bottom 5 sucks.

All hope is not lost however. I do think I can improve upon my performance last time. A lot has happened in the past month:

1. I switched to the clipless pedals. I don't know what the actual power-ratio difference is, but let's just say I have "Go Faster Feet" now.

2. I had a bike fit. Sleek new aerodynamic position, more efficiency from the legs, and my back no longer kills me after the first mile.

3. I've done longer rides. At my last tri, the 25 mile bike was essentially the longest ride I had ever done. Now I have a few more 25 and 30-milers under my belt.

4. I've learned from my mistakes. Last time I went through the transition area 4 times. I believe I can eliminate at least one of those stops, possibly two.

I also like to make excuses whenever I can, so I've convinced myself that the age-groupers in the NYC Tri will be much more spread out than the San Dimas Tri. Last month, I was a beginner triathlete doing an intermediate-distance race; there was a sprint distance tri the same day, so maybe most of the beginners entered that race instead. In New York, it's all or nothing so I'm hoping there will be many more beginners racing along with the intermediates.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Keeping your head focused on your goals

One of my biggest goals for any race is to get the Perfect Race Photo. I've been tweaking things here and there, and I think my photos have improved. Getting rid of the knee braces was obviously a big help (not that I could afford to race without them at first.) I worked on my posing, trying to look determined without looking too staged, or just going for the full smile. And I added a hat to cover up my follicly challenged head.

Ever-supportive Travis saw some photos and told me I shouldn't wear the hat because I don't have the jawline for it. He says I have no chin and so the hat just makes my head look big. Ouch. But by crikey he's right. I figure I'd rather have a big head that looks like it might have hair on it, as opposed to exposing the rising hairline. So the hat stays.

Coach Stupid Dutch had a cap with him the other day and I tried it on. Travis said that it didn't look bad on me, and was trying to figure out why this hat worked and mine didn't. Being the fashion gurus they are, the two of them determined that I don't "roll" the visors on my caps. They're right. My hats have wide, flat visors on them which of course makes the hat look much larger. No jawline could compensate for that. Apparently you are supposed to roll up the cardboard to give the visor a nice curve to it. I've started rolling up my race visor and it should be ready for New York next week.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Runners are winners too!

It seems that a ruffled a few feathers yesterday when I posted the phrase "just a runner", implying that runners weren't as good as triathletes. I'm certainly not one to offend, so allow me to explain myself. I am fully aware that there are people out there who are too uncoordinated to ride a bicycle or who are too afraid to go into the water, and that's just fine. I think it's great that these people are able to look beyond their handicaps and go walking very quickly from time to time. And as triathletes, I think it's important that we don't think of runners as being lazy simply because they only train 3 or 4 times a week. Indeed, on their days off I'm sure they are very busy: perhaps they are working on their needlepoint. Or attending their Stamp Collector Club meetings. I don't know what they do while we're fighting the ocean currents but I'm sure runners get off the couch at some point.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that just because runners are lesser athletes, that doesn't necessarily make them lesser people. I hope that clears things up.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Good deed for the day

I went for a bike ride in Griffith Park today. About halfway through I stopped back at my car for a fuel break. A guy came up to me and asked if I had an extra Gu (energy packet); his running partner wasn't feeling well because of the heat and she needed to get some nutrients back in her. I was happy to give them a Gu and an extra Gatorade I had (warm, unfortunately). I offered to drive them back to their car but they said they didn't have much farther to go and they would be fine just walking it.

A little while later, I was still on my bike and they happened to drive past me. They waved and gave a "thanks again" shout out. Their rear license plate holder said "Swim. Bike. Run." and they had a USAT sticker on the rear window. Maybe I'm a snob, but for some reason I felt happier that I helped out a triathlete rather than "just a runner".

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Movie Review: On a Clear Day

Chariots of Fire is probably the definitive movie about Running. Cycling has Breaking Away. I was wondering where the great swimming movies were, and I think I found one: On a Clear Day. It's the story of an upper-middle-aged man in England who one day decides - almost on a whim - that he is going to swim the English Channel. He is helped in his training by his overly supportive if not-necessarily-too-bright friends. It's a funny movie without being a comedy; I guess I'd classify it as a light-hearted drama.

There are a couple things I really liked about it. With most underdog-athlete stories, the movie builds up to the championship game or the big race. Here, there is no competition. It's just about a man, and the water. It shares the spirit of the triathlon for most of us: it isn't about winning, it's about finishing. I also liked that it is a "small" story. He isn't swimming for Olympic glory or to rescue his kidnapped daughter; he's simply doing it because it's something he feels he needs to do.

My only complaint about the movie is that as an American, I have trouble understanding english. I had to turn the subtitles on to get through the thick accents and slang. Mister P. gives this film Three Wedgies out of four.

Don't judge the film too much by the trailer. It looks like they're trying to make the humor kind of slapsticky and that isn't the case at all.

On a Clear Day trailer