Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We Have Lift-Off

This week marks the start of my “official” Ironman training program. It may sound a little early, but the California 70.3 is in 5 months and the training plan incorporates that. Also, with the holidays and potential vacations I may lose a few weeks along the way. And most importantly, I just need to get into the routine of doing regular training.

I’m using Joe Friel’s “The Triathlete’s Training Bible” to form the basic framework of the program. I won’t be following it exactly however, for a couple of reasons. First, many people on my Tri Team will be doing a program for Ironman Brazil and I’d like to join them as much as possible. Second, and more importantly, I’ll be deviating from the written program because Joe Friel is Insane.

Oh don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of useful information in the Triathlete’s Bible. But when reading through it I quickly released this book was not written with me in mind. For example, Friel talks about setting goals. Good idea. Here’s a sample of some of the goals he gives: “Run 10km in less than 40 minutes in the Boulder Peak Triathlon”. “Qualify for Ironman
Hawaii with a sub-five-hour at Half Vineman”. You know what my goal was when I did my half-iron race? “Live to tell the tale”.

Joe Friel gives plenty of training details, including what he calls “Suggested Daily Routines”. They include a 30-minute noon-time nap, every day. I’m not sure where Mr. Friel thinks I work, but I don’t see how crawling under my desk for a snooze is going to help me. And if I DID have a place where I could sleep at work, you think I’d nap for only 30 minutes? Hell no, I’d be out like a light 2 hours every day.

Regardless of the details of the program, the important thing at this point is just to make sure I’m “getting out there”. Only 33 more weeks to go.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

It Just Isn't Right

Jon, Gil and I went for a ride today, and we met up with "Alan" from the Pasadena Tri Club. (I asked Alan if he knew Tri Team Tammy. He said "of course". Tammy is the Kevin Bacon of triathlon, although with far fewer degrees of freedom.)

We met where I have started many rides before: Encanto Park in a quaint little part of Duarte. It's a nice place for a ride; you leave the park and cross a little bridge to get to the San Gabriel River Trail. You have to choose if you want to turn left or right on to the Bike Path. The choice is basically something like this:

So where do we always go? To the right, of course, and we have lovely little rides along the river. Well today Jon was leading the ride, which meant we had to turn left.

We took a winding mountain road up. And up. And up. It was 11 miles of climbing with just enough downhill sections to lull you into a false sense of security. After about an hour we came to a bridge at East Fork Road. Oh, I've never been so happy to see a bridge. Why? Because this meant we were turning off of the mountain pass and leveling off.

I have to admit, I was feeling pretty good. It was a decent climb and I made it. Jon told me we were going to ride about 20 minutes along this road to get to a store and refuel (yay!) and then we had a very difficult 6-mile climb.

Woah woah woah. Wait a minute. The 10-mile climb we just did was only a WARM-UP for the climb we were about to do? He had to be joking.

Turns out, Norwegians don't joke about altitude. We went to the store (yummy Snickers & Gatorade) and then started going up yet again. This time, there were no downhill breaks. It was all up. But I persevered and made it.

Putting things into perspective: During the first 11 miles of the ride up to East Fork road, we had a net gain of about 900 feet. We then rode up another 400 feet to get to the BOTTOM of Glendora Mountain Road. Then we climbed up another 1500 feet. Total gain of about 2800 feet from Encanto Park. My previous highest climb was probably around 1200 feet. (The dreaded "Nasty Grade" at Wildflower is "only" 1,000 feet valley-to-peak, but was steeper and in the middle of an already difficult ride; I say WF was tougher.)

I like to whine and complain, and in all modesty I'm pretty good at it. This would be the perfect place to end the story, with me tired and sore and hating Jon for putting us through all that torture. However, in the interest of full disclosure I should probably continue. You see, after climbing up one side of the mountain, we had to ride down the other side. As Gil put it, "This is where we drop like a brick." Let me set the scene: It was a winding mountain road overlooking a deep valley with a river at the bottom. It was slightly breezy so the air was crystal clear. Perfect temperature. And here's the clincher: because of the severe fire dangers, both ends of the road were gated off. There were no cars at all. None. Zero. We had 10 miles of downhill scenic mountain highway all to ourselves. I'm not real comfortable going fast but there were a few times when even I let go of the brakes for a while. It was one of the most unique riding experiences I've ever had.

At the bottom of the hill there was a forest ranger who yelled at us for riding in a restricted area and warned us that we could be cited for going through the gates. But no matter, we were already done.

Jon was right; it was an amazing ride. But next time, I'm turning right to get on the bike path.

Here's a very crude map of the route we took. My browser crashed when I tried adding too many data points. Total length of the ride was about 40 miles.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The End of an Error

Truly it is a sad, sad day in the Triathlon World.

I went to go to the "Pacific Tri & Running" store in the Valley today. I had not been there in some time. I wasn't looking for anything in particular to buy, but sometimes it's fun just to ogle all the cool toys. You can imagine my surprise when I arrived and saw this sign:

Hook'd on Fish?!

Pacific Tri & Running is no more. Why is this significant? Well, this is the place where I received my neoprene wedgie, thus ushering in a new age of tri-blogging. Had I known the store was in trouble, I would have worked to have it declared a National Historic Landmark.

Once the restaurant opens, I think I'll go there and hang up a plaque that reads "On this site in 2005, Mister P. received a neoprene wedgie"

It seems the least I can do.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I've started having nightmares about Ironman. Last week, my Tri Team was in Lake Placid and I woke up (in dream) having completely forgotten I had signed up for the race. I had not packed any of my gear, nor had I trained for the race.

Last night I was doing "Ironman Wildflower" (whatever) which was a swim, bike 56, swim, bike 56, run triathlon. I finished the second swim leg at 4:30, and had to bike the next 56 miles before the cut-off time of 5:30. Couldn't make it.

It should be only a matter of time before I dream of showing up to the race naked.

Monday, October 22, 2007

War of the Roses

There's a civil war a-brewin' in my tri-team and lines are being drawn in the sand. There are two half-marathons in December, 1 week apart, within 10 miles of eachother: The City of Angels Half and the Rose Bowl Half. People need to choose which race to register for. The front-runner is the City of Angels; I volunteered for the race last year and rode the course on my bike to cheer people on. Many of my favorite people on the tri team are doing the race. Steve is dong it too. (See how I threw that little zing in there? I'll pay for that later.) But for some reason I just really want to do the Pasadena race. Maybe because it's an inaugural event. Maybe just because I like Pasadena. So I may be breaking ranks with my team and doing the Rose Bowl race.

And for those of you who think "hey, just do both!": the races cost $65 and $75. Even if I took it easy on my legs for one of the races, it wouldn't be easy on my wallet.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

More Than Meets The Eye

I had to do a 6-mile run today. There was a cool breeze sweeping through town so I originally planned on doing a nice mid-afternoon run through the park. Instead, Stupid Dutch and Smart Dutch's Girlfriend came over to watch Transformers. Fine, I simply postponed the run to the evening.

Here's the problem: Spending two hours on the couch eating Chex Mix and M&M's and Mountain Dew isn't exactly a good pre-workout warm-up. (We also had grapes, which are healthy and should have negated all the bad food, right?) I felt like Mr. Blobbo the entire run. I was doing a heartrate workout, and it seemed that as soon as I took 2 steps my heart started racing. My pace was way off, even compared with other monitored runs.

So here's Wedgie's Nutrition Advice for the week: Eat all of your pretzels and breadsticks and M&Ms and Mountain Dew AFTER your workout.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Making Molehills out of Mountains

I do a lot of workouts in Griffith Park. That's good: It is close to where I live and is very scenic. Jon and Gerald do a lot of workouts in Griffith Park. That's bad: Jon likes to take us biking up the hills and Gerald likes to take us running up the hills.

Remember the closed trails we ran on? It seems that they're spraying the hills with some magic chemical to create a moisture barrier so that water won't sink deep into the soil and cause landslides or something like that. The trails will be closed for a year. I don't quite understand it, but if you walk on the treated soil, it ruins the barrier and apparently they are handing out nasty fines to people running on the trails (they'd have to catch us first!) So we can't do those hill runs any more. Awe, pity.

During our Tuesday morning bike ride, when we tried to turn off of the main road to climb to the top of the mountain we were stopped by some worker who told us the access road was closed. We couldn't do the hill climb. Awe, pity.

Is Griffith Park undergoing a major renovation? Or are exhausted triathletes bribing park workers to make up stories and have them close down anything with an incline?

I'll never tell.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Santa Barbara or Bust

This weekend we did a long ride which counted towards my pre-pre-Ironman training. Me and Todd and Stuart 1 and Stuart 2 and Jose and Chris and Deb and Annie and Ben met at Oh-Dark-Thirty Saturday morning for an 83-mile ride up to Santa Barbara. We started at the Chatsworth Train Station in the San Fernando Valley, and the plan was to catch the 2:00 train in Santa Barbara. The expected rain never showed up, which made everything MUCH nicer.

Here's the route we took (Mac users will have to use Firefox; it won't load in Safari)

Chatsworth to Santa Barbara

Don't let the elevation map fool you: the big hill at the beginning isn't bad, but all the downhill stuff isn't all good. There were a few little climbers along the way. The great thing about the route is how diverse it was: We started out in The Valley, then climbed a desert mountain. We went through pristine southern California suburbs. We went through farm land with miles of strawberries and orange trees with sweet citrus scents filling the air, occasionally masked by the burning tar of the construction sites. We went through a Marina area, and marshlands, and rode a bike path with the ocean not 30 feet from us. Every hour we were in a completely different environment; it was like taking a stroll through Epcot's World Showcase.

As someone mentioned along the ride, it was a bad day to be named Stuart. Stuart 2 had a flat within the first 5 miles of the ride. Then he got another flat at mile 30. Then Stuart 1 got a flat around mile 40. Breaking away from the trend, Deb got the final flat at mile 60. There were 18 tires on the trip; 4 went flat, 3 were owned by someone named Stuart.

Stuart 2 flatting

Stuart 1 resting (long after his flat)

Much of the course follows the railroad line, and this has a couple of advantages. First of all, it means there are stopping points points a long the route. Annie "just wasn't feeling it" that day so when we got to Camarillo, she just hopped on the train and head back. Nothing could be simpler. The second cool thing about follow the tracks is that where there train tracks, there tend to be trains. Trains are cool. However, I was telling people all morning that I was disappointed that we hadn't seen any trains all day. I finally got my wish about 10 miles outside Santa Barbara when we saw a train whiz by. I was excited until Stuart 1 pointed out "that's OUR train." The 2:00. The one we were trying to catch. Oops.

Turns out, missing the train was the best thing that could have happened. Had we raced a bit, maybe we could have made it to Santa Barbara and rushed on to the train and eaten some stale sandwhich from the dinette car. Instead, we went out for pizza and beer. I am not a "beer person". I don't care for it. When I found out they ordered a couple of pitchers for the table, I was disappointed and went back to the counter to get myself a soda. By the time I got back to the table, they had already poured a glass of beer for me. Fine. I'll take a sip so we can have a celebratory toast. OHMYGOD it was The Yummy. Forget any of that Endurolyte recovery drink crap; the best possible thing you can have after a long workout is pizza and ice cold beer.

Todd takes a break

We caught the 4:30 train home, and that was a little complicated. The math gets tricky, so pay attention:

A southbound electric train has 6 cars. You have 8 bicycles. Each car has rack space for 3 bikes. 2 bikes are already on the train. 2 other people also want to bring their bikes on board. 2 of the cars on the train are closed. 2 wheelchairs are going on the train, which will take up space equal to 3 bicycles. Which direction will the smoke blow from the train?

It was pretty confusing finding space for our bikes, but finally they opened up another car and let our group put all our bikes together in the aisle on the lower level while we sat on top. This must have been a business class car or something, because we had about twice as much legroom as the people in the other cars. Maybe the conductors just wanted to hide all of the sweaty people in spandex from the other passengers, but it sure worked out for us.

The train ride home was fantastic. We had beer and wine and Mountain Dew and M&Ms. The ride was something like 2-2.5 hours and was just the perfect way to decompress and just plain relax. Well, most of us were pretty animated so maybe "relax" isn't the right word.

694 man-miles, 4 flats, 4 "crashes" (not being able to clip out at a stop light), 2 leg cramps. All in all a fantastic day and it looks like it will become a bi-monthly event.

Todd posted a bunch of shots of the day here:

Santa Barbara Ride

Friday, October 12, 2007

Leader of the Pack

Tomorrow we are doing an 84-mile one-way bike ride to Santa Barbara, and taking the train back. The weather report calls fro morning showers. Packing my bike for this ride is harder than packing for a trip to Europe. We'll be doing at least some walking around Santa Barbara which means I need to bring some form of alternate footwear with me. I'll be dressed in layers, but chances are I will have to remove them as the day goes on. Where do I put them?

It's gonna be a LOOOOOONG day.

New Manufactured Hero

After my... "indiscretion" with Peter Reid last year, I never came up with a replacement Manufactured Tri Hero. A Manufactured Hero is someone who you learn about so that you can create a connection with the races and make them more interesting. There have been several potential candidates:

The frontrunner was Tim DeBoom. I just think he has a great name. DeBoom. Very cool. But since he lives Down Under it would be harder to meet him some day. (For the record, I also love the name "Paula Newby Fraser". It rolls off the tongue like buttah.) UPDATE: I'm now told DeBoom lives in the States. Oops.

Then there's Olympic Triathlon hopeful Andy Potts. He'll certainly be getting a lot of press in the Tri magazines this year and probably in the mainstream media as well. But he named his kid Boston. Boston Potts. I mean, come on. Seriously? And this is totally unfair to him and I'll probably offend a bunch of people, but he's one of those Ayn Rand followers. I had some bad experiences with that group in college which sadly has tainted me.

Then there's Michael Lovato. I saw him at Ironman Arizona. This past weekend I watched the coverage from Coeur d'Alene where he placed a disappointing 3rd. He was interviewed after the race by Dennis Patchin:

Patchin: "You were way behind getting off the bike and in the run you made up a lot of ground; was it just too much to make up?'
Lovato: "Thank you very much for the reminder, yes I WAS way behind."

Video Clip

Here he is, just minutes after finishing an Ironman, and he still has the state-of-mind to take a light-hearted sarcastc jab at an interviewer. Now that's my kind of triathlete! Hilarious.

Michael did not win Coeur d'Alene. I'm racing in Coeur d'Alene next year, and rumor has it that I'm not one of the favorites to win. So we already have something in common.

For his sarcastic wit, I am declaring Michael Lovato as Neoprene Wedgie's Manufactured Triathlon Hero. Don't blow it, Lovato.

Michael Lovato's Blog (he's blogging from Kona this week, wish him luck!)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ironman 70.3: California

I signed up for Ironman 70.3 California. It's in March, about 12 weeks before Coeur d'Alene. It should be a good time to check on my training and practice nutrition a bit. It should be very doable; I did Wildflower, and this race is easier than that, right? I mean, Good Lord it HAS to be easier! California 70.3 has only 64 feet of elevation gain in the run. 64! Piece of cake, no? But here's the thing: I'm pretty nervous about it.

For starters, my big race for 2008 is 8 months away. Now I have a big race in 5 months. So suddenly eveything seems closer. Then there's the weather. Not only will the ocean be freezing in late March, but I'm going to have to do at least some ocean training in February. Crazy. And it has been known to rain on race day. It truly could be a miserable day.

There is a lot of pressure on this race, because it will set the entire mental tone leading up to Ironman. If I do well in California, then hopefully it will give me a good confidence boost during the final 12 weeks of training. But if anything goes wrong - I bonk the run or swallow some seawater or get sick along the course - then I'll be completely freaked out about doing a full Ironman.

Then again, with or without the 70.3 race, I'll be completely freaked out at Coeur d'Alene anyway.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

15 + 15 = 43

So I never thought I'd do a bike ride in my underwear. Oh, relax, it's not what you're thinking.

My tri-team is staying pretty active in the off-season, and as part of my early Ironman Training we went for a medium-length bike ride on Saturday. It was a very cold start. It had been a while since I'd done any really cold rides, so when I saw a pair of long black sport pants I just assumed they were my usual winter joggers. As was pointed out to me on the ride however, they were not. I was wearing the thermal underwear I use for skiing. Oops. It may have been a fashion faux pas but they did keep me warm.

We originally planned on doing 30 miles down the San Gabriel river trail; 15 miles down, 15 miles back. After about 12-13 miles, we were all feeling great and decided to ride another 8 miles down. Well of COURSE we were feeling great; when you ride DOWNstream along a river, you're going DOWN hill. We'd pay for it - only slightly - on the way back.

It was a little unsettling to ride over 20 miles and end at Wilderness Park in Downey, which is where we STARTED all of our multi-loop rides last year with IronmAnnie. But this time, my car wasn't there waiting for me with a cooler of Mountain Dew and cookies.

On the way back - a very slight incline all the way - the bridge got knocked out by floodwaters and I saved the day by jumping into a bulldozer and buiding a makeshift dam to cross.

OK, not exactly. We took a short break at a small construction area and since there were no benches around I took the only seat I could find. That's how I roll.

The 30-mile ride turned out to be 43 miles and I think we were all happy with it.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

"You'll be safer if you stay with us"

I met up with Jon, Gerald, and Tammy today for an early morning (6:40) bike ride in Griffith Park. Sunrise wasn't until 6:53, and it was about 55 degrees when we started. Oh, how I long for those sweltering summer rides. Tammy, recently recovered from an epic battle with a cabinet door, went off and did her own ride and the rest of us went up Trash Hill. (When you get to the top, ask your legs why they call it "Trash Hill".) The plan for the ride was to do several uphill Time Trials in the park. That sounded like a little more than I wanted to do, so I told Jon I would join them for the first hill and then work my way back to the car.

I made it to the top of Trash Hill, not too worse for wear, and started planning my route back. I would stay with Jon & Gerald for a bit going down the back of the mountain, then cut over to the cars while they went and did more hill climbs. I admit I don't know the back roads of Griffith Park very well, but I think I could find my way to the parking lot. Jon & Gerald tried giving me advice, and I still can't believe what they told me. They said, in all seriousness and with straight faces, "you'll be safer if you stay with us."

Safer. What planet are they on?!

My plan was to stay on the main road and pretty much coast back to my car. Their plan was to turn off and zoom down a steep, narrow, sharply winding mountain road down to the bottom, only to turn around and climb back up right to where we started. I would have to be an idiot to stay with them.

So what did I do? I followed them of course. I may be an idiot, but I'm an idiot who will have quads of steel.

Monday, October 08, 2007

What Time is it?

I don’t talk about it a lot, but truth be told my tri team is filled with lots of Hollywood insiders. So sometimes I get to share in some pretty exclusive perks. This weekend I was treated to a red-carpet gala premiere. There were TV cameras, celebrities, and a top-notch dinner reception preceding the biggest entertainment event in L.A. That’s right my friends, on Friday I went to Staples Center to see... High School Musical: The Ice Tour.

You may recall the High School Musical event we had at the Lake Arrowhead Triathlon. Well the 5 of us had a reunion of sorts with our special VIP passes to the ice show’s premiere. It was awesome. For starters, since this was a kid-friendly event, for dinner at the reception we had Macaroni & Cheese. Hot dogs. PB&J. Kool-Aid. And all the cookies you could eat. (I think they had a salad bar and some prime rib or something for the grown-ups but who cares, right?)

During the show itself, we were probably the loudest people over 4-feet tall in the entire arena. As part of my job I had to sit through many marketing and publicity meetings for HSM2 so yes, I do know all the words to “You Are the Music in Me.”

We had our photo taken with Troy & Gabriella cut-outs. No, we are not freakishly large people. The cut-outs were scaled down to be more kid-friendly.

High School Musical 3 will be coming to theaters in another year or so. I’m sure we’ll be getting together for that event as well.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Fast Friends

Congratulations to the dynamic duo of Brian & Leah, who completed their very first marathons in Portland this weekend. I am happy to say that their combined times were not faster than my marathon time, but they were still uber-fast.

(photo from last year's City of Angels half-marathon)

Friday, October 05, 2007

I'm a Fat Ugly Pig and No One Will Ever Love Me

When I signed up for Coeur d'Alene, I bought Joe Friel's Training Diary to track my workouts and progress. Since then, I have trained for and successfully completed two triathlons and a half marathon. I've also gained 3 pounds. I know, I know, maybe that doesn't sound like a lot, but I can see it and feel it. When I run, even if I maintain a decent pace I still FEEL sluggish and off. And truth be told, although I never had a good stomach my belly has been extra-squishy lately.

Every afternoon, I have a Mountain Dew and a small bag of pretzels. Been having them for years. OK, technically they're cheese-filled pretzel sandwiches but I deserve them. After I had my snack today, someone told me that there was chocolate cake in the kitchen. Now that's just not fair. If there is chocolate cake nearby, I'm going to have a piece. And not a small piece. Why? Because it's yummy, that's why. I was supposed to do a run after work tonight, but between the pretzels and the cake I just wasn't feeling very athletic.

I'm not quite sure where the extra weight is coming from. Some people might say it's related to the candy jars and cake at work and the margaritas in Vegas but that's just crazy talk. Between the weight gain and my slow race times this summer, I feel like I'm moving backwards in my training and it has me bummed. I think I'll go get some cake; that always makes me feel better.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Poor, Poor Gerald

Lately I've been telling a lot of people about the abuse I've been getting from Jon's bike rides and Leah's runs. Well, it seems that Gerald was a little bit jealous of all the attention they were going so he took 8 out of us out for a hill run through Griffith Park tonight.


I haven't run at night in a while, and I couldn't find my head lamp. When I finally found it after about 20 minutes, I admit I was a bit disappointed that I didn't have an excuse not to the join the run. Not that it helped me much during the first half; as the sun went down, I thought my batteries were dying because it didn't seem to light up the trail at all. I had to try to stay close to the group in front of me to take advantage of their lights. I then realized that I was wearing my lamp upside down and the lamp was shooting straight up into the air rather than where my feet were landing. Oops.

It has been quite some time since I've run hills with Gerald, and I forgot how steep those trails can get. And we certainly weren't deterred by the signs and barricades saying "WARNING: for your safety and protection this trail is closed. Do Not Enter." I guess the rangers wanted to protect us from the trails, but who was protecting us from Gerald? (And it was no help that Jon was out with us.) The run was supposed to be "a little more than 6 miles" but it was closer to 7.5. As Gerald explained afterwards, "well, anything less than 10 miles is 'a little more than 6'." This is the logic we have to put up with.

All whining aside, I think I kept up pretty well. I tried a new trick I learned listening to an old Simply Stu podcast this weekend. He played a clip of my tri-hero/tri-nemesis Peter Reid who was explaining what he does when he starts hitting the wall or losing focus. Peter counts footsteps. One... Two... Three... up to Twenty. Repeat as needed. As I started nearing the top of those steep climbs, I gave it a try. And goshdernit it works. It doesn't make you forget the pain by any means, but it gives you a short-term goal to strive for: "twenty more steps."

My apologies to Gerald if he felt I was neglecting his abuse lately. And to him and Jon and Leah and Andre and Steve... Don't worry. Triathlon is a big sport; there is plenty of room for all of you to inflict your pain.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Why October is Really Scary

I have an Ironman Calendar hanging on my wall at work. Each month brings a new inspirational photo from the sport of triathlon. This month it's Faris al-Sultan. 'nuf said.

UPDATE: After reading the first comment, I realize I may been too subtle. Although Faris al-Sultan is a fine triathlete, I do NOT find this to be an inspiring photograph. Hence the strategically placed post-it.