Monday, August 20, 2007

The Price of Training

This weekend, the company I work for aired a little made-for-TV movie called "High School Musical 2". And by little I mean big. As in huge. Bob Iger (who is part of our tri Team) came to our office for a celebration after work. There was champagne; I love champagne. There were cupcakes; I love cupcakes. There was lots of extra frosting; I LOVE extra frosting. But I had to do a 10-mile run tonight. That meant no champagne, no cupcakes, no extra frosting.

The sacrifices we make...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My Heart Will Go On

I did my first run with my heartrate monitor after getting my Lactate Threshold tested. I have to admit, it wasn't as bad as I feared. But first, a little more about the test day.

For starters, this whole Lactate Threshold thing is very confusing. I have several Triathlon books, I've looked at many online articles... none of them give a good definition of what the LT actually is. They say it's a "point", a "state", an "intensity"... but what IS it? I mean, I assume it's a number but what are the units? Is your LT measured in yards? Dollars? Jigawatts? None of my reading gave me a straight-forward answer. Even the data from Phase IV has several numbers listed under Lactate Threshold.

From what I gather, for all practical purposes the Lactate Threshold is a heart rate. My LT is 153. I'm still not sure if the proper grammar is to say "My lactate threshold is 153 beats per minute" or "My lactate threshold occurs at 153 beats per minute." Whatever. Bottom line, that is the pace I need to stay below for my endurance training. And how do I apply this?

This is what the Santa Monica Sadist told me: "You are over-training. You need to slow down your pace."
This is what I HEARD: "Listen, fatty, you're not in good enough shape to run with those other guys."

I know it sounds crazy and irrational, but hey, look who you're talking to. I was told that for my long runs, I should do maybe 12-minute miles. There's nothing wrong with that pace, but I was trying to crack the 9-minute barrier and it sounded like a big step back to go forward. It was frustrating to hear. But people far smarter and far faster than me swear by the science so I gave it an honest try.

I am pleased to report that I ran 8.3 miles tonight with an average heart rate of 150 at a 10.3 minute-per-mile pace. I'm thrilled. What this means is that yes, I have been running too fast but I don't have to slow down TOO much to run efficiently. I don't want to become a slave to the monitor, but I'll use it once or twice a week to keep myself honest.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Crossing the threshold

I went in for lactate threshold testing this weekend. I thought
lactate threshold measured how much ice cream you could eat in one
sitting; boy was I wrong.

I met with "Jennifer" from Phase IV. Sweet, cute little Jennifer. Or as I call her, the Santa Monica Sadist. This girl was out for blood. Literally. The
first thing she did was slash open my finger and make me bleed.

Jennifer had me take a nice leisurely stroll on a treadmill. Then
after 4 minutes, I had a 60-second break and SLASH! She ripped open
another finger. Then she pushed the Evil Button on the machine which
sped up the torture device another .5 mph. It was an endless cycle: run, bleed, speed up. Repeat. It would only end when I surrendered. In a twisted Pavlovian experiment, it wasn't long before I was begging her to cut me; if I was bleeding, at least it meant I wasn't running.

Truth be told, it wasn't really that bad. When I started, I wasn't
sure how or when it would end. But when I started the next interval
after 40 minutes I knew: yup, this is the last one. It was tough.

I don't fully understand all the data, but Jennifer reviewed it with
me. She told me that based upon my training paces, I'm probably
training too hard. For my longer runs, she says I should slow down my
pace by as much as 2 minutes per mile.

I accept the science that says you should stay aerobic if you want to
improve. But I am kinda bummed about her advice. For starters, slower
runs take longer. This could add 20 minutes to a weekend run. Also, I
don't care if I'm anaerobic; I like running with the Axis of Evil from
time to time.

The way I see it, I'm not training for the Olympics. I'll try some
slower runs from time to time. But I'm not going to give up having
some fun. If my training is not ideal, so be it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Brief Encounter

My awesome Tri Team... I love you guys!

Our Tri Team had another dress rehearsal for the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. I had a hard run to do Sunday, so I only did the swim and bike.

Stop reading now. We're getting into the Too Much Information department. After the workout we had a picnic on the beach so when I was done with the bike I went to get changed into something a little more appropriate (i.e. something other than sweaty spandex.) I went into the mens room and realized I didn't have my underwear. I thought I had packed a pair with my change-of-clothes in my duffel bag; maybe I didn't, or maybe it fell out in the trunk. No worries. I went Commando and walked back to my car.

As I approached my car, my tri-teammate parked next to me asked "are those your's?" and pointed to a pair of undies lying on the pavement. Now keep in mind, this was a crowded parking lot with many people setting up transition areas. I don't know how many people must have walked by and saw them. My gut reaction was to just deny ownership, but I figured I was probably already busted. I quickly and quietly swiped them up and slinked back to my car.

And if you must know: plain white Hanes.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Time to eat the donuts

I try to set a good example by sharing the benefits of an active lifestyle with others.

Our boss brought donuts into work. A friend/co-worker was eyeing them guiltily and finally said "well, I guess I'll just undo all the work I did at the gym last night." I told him he had it completely backwards: donuts do not undo workouts. Workouts ENTITLE you to donuts. It was like talking to a blank wall. He said "I'll just have to work out twice as hard tonight. Again, I had to correct him: "If you work out twice as hard tonight, then you get to eat twice as many donuts tomorrow."

I can't help people who don't want to be helped.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Swim or Die

Yesterday was the "Alcatraz Challenge Aquathlon" in San Francisco, whose motto is "Swim or Die." As it turns out, somebody took it a bit too literally. 51-year-old Sara Lowes died during the swim.

Link to article

Friday, August 03, 2007

Ironman USA

I was on vacation in upstate New York and went to Ironman Lake Placid. Gerald and Jon, two of the founding members of the Axis of Evil were running in the race so it was great having people to cheer for. I later found out that Gil, an honorary member of the Axis, was also running the race.

First, a little about Lake Placid: I lived in upstate New York for about 8 years and I know the Lake Placid area. To this day I can't believe it ever hosted the Olympics. It's in the middle of nowhere with no freeway access. But I suppose that remotenes makes for some right pretty countryside. And the small shops and dinettes along the course gave a small-town feel to a big-time race, so that was pretty cool.

Saturday night, I was staying 90 minutes from the race start so it didn't help that my flight was cancelled, then delayed, and I arrived at the hotel around 1:30 in the morning. After about 3 hours of sleep, I hopped in the car and raced to Lake Placid, hoping to get there before the one road into town was closed down for the race. Fortunately I made it and got the lakeside just after the swim started. Mirror Lake is beautiful, with lots of cool mist and clouds hanging over it. I was able to see both Gerald and Jon on the way to T1 and they were both looking strong.

I planted myself about a mile out of "downtown" (an overstatement) for the bike. They're both strong cyclists so I wisely waited at the top of a small hill, figuring that they would be slowed down a bit instead of wizzing by me. Yup, got good views of them both.

This is the 2nd Ironman I've attended. They can be exciting, and even inspiring. But something happens to Ironmen in T2. Their confident, determined faces turn into looks of suffering and despair. I saw more tortured souls that day than at an Ashlee Simpson concert.* Gerald and Jon (and later Gil when I saw him) had brave smiles on their faces, but I could tell they were hurting. Just like the hundreds of other people who staggered past me. Because the coure was 2 out-and-back loops, I saw people 4 times. It's kind of funny how you start recognizing total strangers, and noticing how their strides deteriorate over time.

After an exhausting day (it was probably a little more tiring for them than it was for me), I watched my tri-teammates cross the Ironman finish line. I think the event humanized them a bit in my eyes since I've never seen either of them in physical pain before, but they still totally rock.

Jon, Gerald, Gil: congratulations.

* Thanks to S. Dutch's Girlfriend for the zinger.