Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hot & Dirty

I reached a bit of a milestone with my Ironman training today. Over the past 18 months or so I've done a few half-marathons but have not run longer than 13.1 miles since the 2006 Santa Clarita Marathon. Today I ran 15 miles.

It was a rough run. It didn't help that it was 96 degrees by the time I finished. I used to think that the water fountains in Griffith Park were pretty convenient but they seemed awfully far apart today. And since it's been so dry, the path was extra dirty and dusty today. Very unpleasant. It took me almost 3 hours, which is slower than I would have liked. I think my legs felt pretty good, but I just couldn't stay hydrated so hopefully that was the only problem.

All the magazines show smiling triathletes in bright clean uniforms. But this is the TRUE look of Ironman training:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rules of the Game

I drive to Vegas about twice a year, and I do the same ritual every time. I burn a CD with the song "Blue Savannah" by Erasure. When I am 10 miles from the Nevada state line, I play the song. The 10 miles heading into Primm Nevada are the flattest, straightest, and fastest miles of the entire trip. About halfway through Blue Savannah are the lyrics "Racing across the desert, at a hundred miles an hour..." The game is to be driving 100 mph while those lyrics are playing. Sometimes traffic makes it difficult, and the rules of the game allow me to repeatedly rewind the CD (so to speak) 20 seconds until I can hit 100 mph. But I only have 10 miles to do it.

This song is not one of my running songs. But because I recently burned in to CD, it bubbled to the top of a playlist and wound up on my iPod. The rules say when I play that song I have to go 100 mph, and I can't run that fast. So I just used it as a little bit of interval training. The lyrics were more along the lines of "Running by the golf course, at 8 miles an hour..." but I think the rules of the game were satisfied.

(Do not drive 100mph going to Vegas. It can be dangerous, or at the very least you can get a ticket.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Getting to Know You

It's been a while since I went on one of our Tuesday morning bike rides. I was injured for a few weeks, then I was recovering from the Cali Half, then I was out of town. So finally this week I was going to get on board again.

Ride Leader Evil Jon sent an email out Monday afternoon saying that he couldn't make it in the morning, but would be riding after work instead. And other people also wanted to ride in the evening. I wanted to do a swim after work so i figured I would just do the morning ride by myself. Without Jon there, I knew it wouldn't hurt and I thought it would be a good time for a short brick; an easy ride followed by a 3 mile run.

I assumed I would be alone, but then I saw Greg's car (or rather his ugly rental). I had heard rumors that Greg had been doing the Tuesday rides but I had never seen him there before. I parked next to him, got out and then saw that Jon was also there. Apparently I missed the follow-up email with his change of plans. Surprised to see Jon, I blurted out to Greg "Is that Jon?!" Young, naive Greg, trying to be a good host, asked me "oh, do you know Jon?"


Do I know Jon? Does a triathlete pee in the woods?

Look here Buddy Boy... Jon was blasting my quads and making me rue the day I ever started up with this stupid sport back when you were putting aerobars on your tricycle. So don't YOU be asking ME if I know Jon. Every time we climb a hill and I blast past you like you're standing still? That's the Jon effect. (Of course, Jon never taught me how to ride DOWN the hill, which is one of the reasons why Greg has to wait 10-15 minutes for me to catch up at the end of every ride.)

Do I know Jon? Is Sister Madonna Buder Catholic?

I really did want to do the brick, so I only stayed with them about 30 minutes and then headed back for the run. It was not a strenuous morning, but it's what I needed.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mali-BLEW (sorry)

These bike rides are really starting to put a dent in my weekends. On Saturday we did 90 miles.

We met at Zuma Beach in Malibu and headed north up the Pacific Coast Highway. We did NOT stop at the glorious Gas Station Spa that we did last time, so I was highly disappointed. But we did go through a nice Harbor area on the way to Ventura.

We hit some pretty rough spots on the way back. We had to ride through - of all things - giant celery fields. When you have wide open spaces right off the shore, all those nice ocean breezes turn into hurricane-force winds. It was a VERY tiring few miles. And to top it all off, there's a bit of a stench. Celery might smell nice when there are just one or two stalks in a stew, but riding through a couple hundred acres of it becomes a bit overwhelming.

Speaking of food, my primary energy source during long rides are Shot Bloks. I have recently discovered their new Cola flavor, and it is yummy. Well, sort of. As with pretty much any of the Shot Bloks (or Gu), the first couple taste great but by the time you're on you're 6th or 7th they start getting a little gross. But I have to hand it to Iron Chef Greg who came up with a new recipe for the Bloks. He had a bag of Cherry Bloks, I had Cola. He suggested taking half a Blok of each, putting them together and voila! Cherry Coke. Brilliant! And delicious. It also opens up a world of possibilities: I think we're all disappointed with the Margarita Bloks, but what if we made Strawberry Margaritas? Or Cran Razz Pina Coladas? I need to publish a recipe book.

Ben was kind enough to hurt his knee AND get a flat, which meant Mike W. and I could actually catch up and ride with him for a while. So that was good. I'll have to injure him more often.

The Zuma Beach parking lot is 1.5 miles long and hugs the PCH, with the entrance on the South end. Since we all parked at the far north end, it meant that I came with 100 feet of my car, saw the fast group already back and packing up their bikes, and I still had 3 miles to go. Bollucks. I was riding at a pretty good pace though so I didn't think it would take me too long to finish up. I soon realized that the reason I was riding so fast was that I had a strong tailwind, which became painfully obvious when I made the 180 degree turn into the parking lot and now had to face the same headwind. I don't think I've ever fought such strong winds. I was tucked in my high-speed aero position, and was still crawling along at 9 mph. It was worse for the group who "only" rode 60 miles and then went back for a run on the beach; they had headwinds AND sand blasting them for 3 laps.

I've been riding with the Ironman Brazil group so this is a little early in my training for the really long rides. I'll probably scale back for the next week or two and then ramp up again.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Oh Shoet

OK, I'm having a teeny-tiny freakout here. But before I get to that, let me do a little rant which kind of ties in with it.

There are many magazines, websites, and blogs related to endurance sports. And in that huge journalistic world, the most useless articles are Running Shoe Reviews. Why? Because the absolute NUMBER ONE factor in choosing a running shoe is "does it fit my foot?" I happen to have narrow feet, and I find many shoes to be very uncomfortable. Unless the reviewer has feet the exact same shape as mine, his opinion doesn't matter. If Peter Reid says he owes all of his Ironman wins to his Buster Browns, that doesn't do me any bit of good. Yes, as a starting point it can be helpful to know which shoes are good for stability, but that's more of a Buyer's Guide data point than a subjective review. Shoe reviews: waste of time. End of rant.

My first pair of running shoes were New Balance 1221s. They were also my 2nd and 3rd pair. I probably had 6-7 pairs in all. I ran my first 5k in them, first 10k, first half marathon, first several triathlons, and 2 marathons. Basically, I was very happy with them. Then one day the nice lady at the running store told me "that shoe has been discontinued. This is the new version, but it's the same shoe." Well, no it wasn't. It didn't fit the same and I couldn't use it. I switched to a pair of Mizunos but didn't like them. Had a Saucony pair and didn't like them either. A few months ago I switched to Brooks Adrenaline and these I liked. Good. I found the shoes I would run my Ironman in.

My physical therapist suggested that my shoes were wearing out and it was time for a new pair. I agree. I went to the running store tonight with my old shoes and asked for "a new pair of these". The nice lady at the running store told me "that shoe has been discontinued. This is the new version, but it's the same shoe."

The lady kept telling me it was the same shoe, even as I was trying them on and telling her "no, it fits differently". I can't say it's a bad fit yet, and they have a 7-day return policy so I took them. I will try running in them this weekend, but if at all possible I'm going to try to find my old shoes. With the other shoes I had, it wasn't until I had been running in them for a couple weeks that I started to notice the problems.

My Ironman is in 9 weeks and I may have to switch shoes. Freak out.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Lucky Seven

Steve Stenzel tagged me. Now I have to list 7 random odd things about me:

1. Having to pick 7 other people to tag stresses me out, so I won't do it. If you are looking for something to blog about, feel free to say "Wedgie tagged me."

2. People are fascinated by my eating habits, and I don't understand why. Basically, I eat very plain food. That means no ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise; no gravy, salad dressing, sauces; dry cereal (no milk). I have eaten this way my entire life and it is very normal to me.

3. Upon meeting me for the first time, several people over the years have independently said that I sound just like James Woods. I don't hear it myself, although I concede we both talk kind of fast with a bit of a snarky tone. In my 20s, I had a "you look like Matthew Broderick" thing going.

4. People think I have OCD, but I don't. It's not that I HAVE to sort my m&ms by color, it's that I WANT to sort my m&ms by color. See the difference?

5. I totally buy into the cult mentality surrounding certain brands. Some products/companies truly bring me great joy and I feel a tremendous sense of loyalty to them. Specifically:

Apple Computer
Mountain Dew

(I may add Ironman(tm) to the list, but let's see how Coeur d'Alene works out first.)

6. Things were better in the 80s. The music, the movies, the TV shows... everything was more fun. I still have thin leather ties and still think they're cool.

7a. People who I describe as "being my girlfriend":
Shannon Doherty
Kate Mulgrew
Heather Locklear
Jennifer Garner

7b. People who I have never met:
Shannon Doherty
Kate Mulgrew
Heather Locklear
Jennifer Garner

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Mega Uber Marathon

Boy did I have a long workout... I ran from Paris to Rome, to New York, then on to Egypt. All before breakfast.

I was in Las Vegas this week for a convention for work and did an early morning run along the strip. It sounds cool (or maybe not) but it's not a very good run. For one thing, there are quite a few stairs to climb. You cross many of the streets with pedestrian bridges, and although you COULD take the escalators, that would be cheating. There is a lot of construction along the strip and all the dirt and dust that goes along with it. And although you get to run across the Brooklyn Bridge, you also have to run past quite a few T-shirt shops and liquor stores.

I was a little nervous about running in a desert. Yes, technically L.A. is a desert but Vegas is a REAL desert. I got out early enough, around 7:30am, and the weather was still very pleasant. I was surprised to see quite a few other runners out there doing their morning jogs. Maybe everyone was trying to burn off their hangovers.

I did about 5 miles, and I also did 30 minutes of laps in the hotel pool. I'm quite proud of the accomplishment. The distances are not impressive, but deciding NOT to go out to all the free vendor parties in Vegas because you need to get up early for a workout - THAT'S quite a challenge. (I did however make it to Quarks to get a "Warp Core Breach" on my last night... A man can only resist so much temptation.)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Let's talk about The Tattoo. I want one. I keep hearing people say things like "why would anyone pay to have a corporate logo permanently put on their body?" Those people are morons.

The first thing to figure out is the design. I love it when people do really creative tattoos, but since I have trouble making decisions I don't want to open that can of worms. I'm thinking I'll just go with the simple M-Dot. Originally I was thinking I would go with Ironman Red, but now I'm leaning more towards Coeur d'Alene green with a blue border.

The next question is where to place the tattoo. If I survive 140.6 miles, I want the world to know and I think I should put the tattoo right smack in the middle of my forehead. There's certainly enough room. But sanity will probably kick in and I'll realize that's not a great place for a tattoo.

You know who has a bad-ass Ironman tattoo? Tri Greyhound. His is on the upper-arm/shoulder. Unfortunately, I can't pull off that look. If I had an Ironman logo on my arm I would have to use a lowercase "m" to make it fit and it would lose something in the translation.

So basically the two remaining traditional locations are the ankle and the calf. The ankle is certainly more subtle, but maybe TOO subtle. I hardly ever go bare-footing, and call me vain but if I get a tattoo I want people to actually see it. Which leaves the calf. Then it's a question of which leg. If you get it on the right leg, when you pass people on the bike during a race, they will know they're being passed by an Ironman. If you get it on the left leg, when someone passes you they'll know they're passing an Ironman. I'm more of a passee than a passer, so I'm leaning towards the left leg. I don't mind people passing me, but I want them to respect me when they do!

Another huge decision is finding the right tattoo parlor to get the work done. That's incredibly scary, because how can you find a place you can trust that will be good and safe and clean? Surprisingly, I think I found the perfect place: Studio City Tattoo. (I'm hoping that any of my tri-teammates who work in licensing will look the other way if they visit the site.) It's 2.5 miles from work. I mean, seriously... this is the PERFECT place for me to go to, right?

I may very well chicken out. But for now, the plan is a green M-Dot on the left calf from a bunch of pirates.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Going Green for a Day

This morning was our early-morning bike ride. I was just feeling tired and didn't go. Turns out it was a mistake to sleep in.

When I finally went to leave for work at my regular time, I saw this in front of the parking garage:

Actually, there were two of them. Two giant cranes closing off the street. My condo is replacing the air conditioning units, and when you live in a twenty-story building I guess it's a pretty big deal. Had I gone on the morning bike ride I would have seen them setting up the cranes when I came back and parked down the street. Instead, my car was stuck in the garage for the entire day.

I decided I would try riding my bike to work. I live one block off the freeway, I work one block off the freeway and by car it's a very easy 5-mile drive. But when you have to take the back roads, it's a bit more frustrating. It's a lot of red lights and heavy traffic and some pot-holey sections of road. Still, I made it to the office in about a half-hour not too worse-for-wear.

I felt a little self-conscious wheeling my bike through the building lobby and then bringing it up to my desk (I took the freight elevator). And then it was weird having to get changed into more "professional" clothes once I got there. And then I had to reverse the process for the ride home.

You may ask, "well didn't the homeowner's association warn you that the street would be closed off today?" The answer is, they did. I just kind of forgot. When I got home I found the memo on my kitchen table from last week telling me we wouldn't have access to the parking garage. Oops.

The lesson learned: don't skip a workout.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Getting gas

You may recall a couple months ago I wound up getting lost on a freeway on a bike ride leaving Malibu. We did the same ride again this weekend, only this time I stayed on the right roads. It was just me, Steve, and Greg. Steve had just PR'd at the Agoura Hills Half Marathon the day before but was not as sore as I had hoped. Greg had just come back from a trip to Tokyo the day before but was not as jet-lagged as I had hoped. We kept a pretty good pace for the 75-mile ride. (Well, I clocked in at 74 miles but was fine with that.)

I never made it to the gas station last time, and I found out that I missed it by probably only a quarter-mile. I was glad to finally make it there; this is no ordinary gas station. It's more of a mini vacation resort. Big convenience store, gift shop, ice cream counter, clean restrooms... And of course a glorious candy aisle.

All-in-all it was a pretty good but uneventful ride. Sorry.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Ironman California 70.3: The Other Adventures

The California 70.3 Race story actually began Thursday night, when I went to the supermarket to buy supplies: Gatorade and a specific dinner roll to make a mini-ham sandwich for the bike. Well they were out of rolls, but they had a clearance sale on frosted novelty St. Patrick's Day cookies. $1 each. Of course I bought one. It was stale, but a cookie's a cookie, right? Wrong. Around midnight I suddenly got sick to my stomach. I like to purge before a race as much as the next guy but this was not in a good way. On Friday I didn't have much of an appetite which worried me because I wanted to get some calories in me. I had a very small lunch and left for Oceanside around 3. After 2.5 hours on the road I suddenly was starving and pulled over to the only place I could find, a Carl's Jr. and bought a chicken salad. Well THAT started making me feel sick so I threw out most of it.

I made it to packet-pick-up around 6:00, and then found a small pizza place nearby and got an order of spaghetti. Wolfed down maybe 1/3 plate of it and it made me feel better. Robert (the World's Greatest Triathlete) was a last-minute guest in my room. He wanted to come down to cheer us on but wanted to avoid leaving L.A. at 4:00 Saturday morning. The nice motel people switched me to a two-bed room for the same rate. We went out to find me a roll to make my ham sandwich, and wound up in some sort of hispanic supermarket where everything kind of looks normal, but isn't quite the same. Long story short, all the food looked too exotic for me so we had to find a Ralph's instead and got everything we needed.

Robert, who had a big day ahead of him standing around, fell asleep around 11:00 while I stayed up stressing until midnight. I woke up around 1:00, and 2:15, and 3:00. I woke up for good at 4:00, an hour before my alarm and just said "screw it" and got out of bed at 4:30. I had to ride my bike about 2 miles from the motel to the transition area in total darkness at times. Kind of creepy.

There was a girl wearing a moose hat doing body-marking, so of course I wanted to go to her. Until she asked me "is this your first race?" Ouch. Did I not look like a triathlete, or was it simply a matter that I didn't look like I knew what I was doing?

There were about 10 of us from my Tri Team doing the race and we were all in the same general area. I was stressing about putting the numbers on my jersey, because they gave us two bibs and said we needed it on the back for the bike and the front for the run. But I also had my own sign I wanted to wear on my back. Ben told me just to use my race belt. I looked at him like he was nuts. How could that POSSIBLY help? He explained: "put it on your back for the bike then just spin it around to the front for the run and everyone will still be able to see your CDA sign." You mean we don't need to have BOTH numbers on front and back at all times? NOOO!!!! Oh. Well that made things a whole lot easier.

I started to walk over to the swim start, made it about 10 feet when I realized I didn't have my goggles. I went back to my transition area and, much to the delight of Steve who was parked next to me, I couldn't find them. Total panic. I dug through my transition bag, looking in my sneakers, under towels, nothing. I was trying to think if it would be possible to do the swim without goggles. No. No way. Just when all hope was lost, I found them sitting in my bike helmet. Apparently Steve found watching me freak out to be quite entertaining. Oddly enough, at some point coming out of the water and running into T1 I dropped my goggles and I really did lose them.

As I headed out on the bike course, there was a big crowd along the road. In the distance I saw a giant inflatable fish. Kind of cool. As I got closer, I saw it was actually an inflatable killer whale. As I got even closer, I saw it was being carried by Ironmannie, Robert and Tri Team Tammy! Ironmannie bought a giant inflatable killer whale to match the squeaky horn I have on my bike and taped on it "Honk if you (heart) Wedgie".

How awesome is it that the 3 of them were there cheering us on, and how awesome is it that I had the coolest sign of the entire race? Ironmannie also had a tres chic jacket:

It's OK to be jealous.

I came into T2 after the bike, and who do I see INSIDE the transition area but none other than Ironmannie and Robert, wearing race shirts. Whaaaat?! Turns out, they went scoping for some food and came across a pizza table, They were told "this food is for volunteers only, but if you volunteer you can have some." Knowing a good deal when they saw one, they grabbed the shirts, grabbed some food, and badda-bing they had an all-access pass to the Transition area. (and yes, they did do their duties while there.) So that was pretty awesome.

I had quite a few people notice my "Next stop: Coeur d'Alene" shirt along the run. I had lots of "see you there!" and "you'll love it!" comments as people ran by me. We didn't know who we were at the time, but of them was Fe Lady! Very cool seeing other bloggers out there. At one point during the run (and I think I was still running at this point) I heard a spectator yell out "how's your knee?!" I was half delirious to begin with and couldn't really tell who was asking it, and I couldn't figure out how anybody would know I was having knee problems. But I yelled out something about "doing fine!". I ran into the same person around mile 11 or so, it was Monica! At this point I was doing a little bit of walking and she walked with me for a minute or two. Very cool. (By the way, she did a crazy 120 mile bike ride the next day to practice for IM Brazil.) On top of all that, Rocketpants was volunteering at one of the water stops. Tri Bloggers are everywhere!

Finished the race, went back to the motel. I had booked the room for 2 nights, but on Friday Robert and I agreed there really was no reason to stay in Oceanside Saturday night, since it was only a 90-mile ride home. I was still glad that I had the room so I could go back and shower, but I planned on driving back after dinner. We went to a restaurant, and sitting at the table it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks: "wow, I'm REALLY tired." Funny how a 70-mile race will do that to you. Robert went back to L.A. and I stayed behind, dreading the thought of sitting in traffic for 2-3 hours.

My legs were in a lot of pain Saturday night, but not really from the race itself. I was very good about putting sunscreen on my face and neck, but forgot to do my legs and they were turning bright red. I had to run out and buy some Aloe for them which helped a little bit, but it was still painful trying to get into bed.

I left at 9:00 Sunday morning, made it home in 1 hour 15 minutes. Perfect.