Sunday, August 30, 2009

OK, So NOW I Can Taper?

30 miles. That's all I wanted to ride today. We did 112 miles last week so I thought I was tapering and figured we'd do a nice easy 30-miler. But Coach Brandon (Steve's coach, not mine) spun the magic wheel and told Steve he had to ride: 3.5, 5, 2... 4.5 hours. So the Wisconsin Four (me, Steve, Greg, Ben) did a 75-mile ride from Zuma to Oxnard and back.

As we were leaving the parking lot, Steve noticed I wasn't wearing bike gloves. This was intentional: someone suggested to me to try racing without gloves because it saves time in transition (what, 10 seconds?) and also may make it easier to eat and drink along the ride. Steve pointed out something that I hadn't considered: there is a certain safety factor involved with wearing gloves. If you crash, gloves can providing some cushioning to protect your palms/wrists and protects your skin from abrasions. Good point.

We did our usual course up the Pacific Coast Highway and then crossed over on Hermione (Hueneme) Road. This is in the middle of farmland, and decades of heavy equipment riding up and down the road has made it a very rough, bumpy, rocky ride. But no more. They paved it in the past week, and it was like BUTTAH. Smoothest road I've ever been on. Some fresh pavement is all compressed-pebbles and you can still feel the texture of them, but this road was smooth as glass. A pleasure to ride on.

Oddly enough, about a mile after riding on "glass", I got a flat. I don't know what I hit, I couldn't find any punctures in the tire. It was a 10-minute pit stop, not exactly NASCAR-ready but at least I got rolling again.

On the way back, Steve decided to take a right turn where we always turned left, "just to see what was down there." The road headed to Port Hueneme Harbor where there were lots of warnings about "ID required" and "No Trespassing" and a small wooden security shack. There is a lot of Navy property in the area and I've seen enough episodes of "24" to know that when you have a wooden shack at a port there are lots of people with guns nearby. So while the other 3 rode up to the shack to find out what was on the other side, I stayed back 100 yards riding in very slow circles in the road. Apparently my circles were a little too slow, because I couldn't keep my balance. And with the rest of the group watching, I just sort of keeled over. I couldn't click out of my pedals, and as I was going down I was thinking "Steve was right - you should wear gloves for safety!"


Like an idiot, I broke my fall with my hand and it really hurt. Twelve hours later, I can still see the imprints of the rocks in my skin.

I did the liquid-only calories again with Carbo-Pro, and again felt great. I did discover one problem with the Carbo-Pro however: it's a pretty rough transition to solid food. Or at least junk food. I had a turkey sandwich and some Chips Ahoys on the drive home and they did not settle too well.

I have to ship my bike to Wisconsin on Thursday, so I don't have any more long rides to do. Well, except for that 112-miler on the 13th.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Holey Neoprene, Batman!

We tell newbies many things about swimming in the ocean, most of which is true. A common issue is letting them know that it's OK if a little water gets into your wetsuit: water in the suit can't make you sink. Your body will heat up the water and it will actually help insulate you. The water can help your suit shift a bit and fit better. This is all well and good for a little bit of water.

I found a small hole in my wetsuit under the arm last week. I didn't really worry about it, and figured "how much water can get into a little hole? Well the answer is quite a lot. We did an ocean swim today and I could feel the water sloshing across my back inside the suit. When I started walking out of the surf, I could actually feel myself getting lighter from all the water draining out. I was reminded of Woody Allen in Sleeper:

So obviously I'll get that patched up. The good news is that it was still a good swim. I'll almost say, a great swim. The water was pretty calm for a change, which helped a lot. And I finished towards the front of the middle of the intermediate group, maybe even the back of the front of the intermediates (not to put too fine a point it) when normally I finish in the back of the entire group. It was only a half-mile swim, 1/5 of Ironman, but I'll take it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Oh Carbo-Pro, where have you been my whole life?

They say that nutrition is the fourth discipline of triathlon. I wouldn't know, because I certainly haven't done much food training. (My pre-Ironman diet is supposed to be "no chocolate before noon" and I can't even do that.) I had a great day in Ironman Coeur D'Alene, but the weak link was definitely nutrition; I got bloated and crampy and sick during the run.

All of the cool kids have been using something called "Carbo Pro" lately. We did a 112-mile ride Sunday and I thought I'd give it a try. After all, it couldn't be worse than my usual ride nutrition of a ham sandwich, Snickers bars and Mountain Dew, right? Since I had stomach issues last year, I also thought I would try doing the ride with all-liquid calories. No candy bars, no crackers.

Carbo Pro comes in a powder that you mix in your water bottle. I was surprised how much I had to use: 10-12 scoops. Ben told me about 30 seconds too late that I should put the powder in my bottle first, THEN add water. It was a little messy. I was warned that Carbo Pro tasted like cardboard, so I brought some Kool Aid mix with me and poured in about 1/2 package. That was probably a bit much, but I have a strong sweet tooth and to be honest it wasn't that bad.

The basic plan was to sip some Carbo-Pro every 10-15 minutes, then have a gel pack every hour. And that worked pretty good for the first hour, until I had to pee. The Pacific Coast Highway is a lovely place to go for a ride, but there aren't many places where you can discreetly do your business. And when the bike course leaves the PCH, it takes you through wide-open celery fields which is even worse for privacy. So I didn't sip a thing for many many miles until we got to a gas station. Then things were much better.

We rode up into Ventura County, fairly uneventful and headed back. Around mile 80 or so we stopped at another gas station where I had a Mountain Dew. (Those are liquid calories and I plan of having Dew in Wisconsin in my Special Needs Bag so it is perfectly legal.)

It seemed like a was a little behind with my Carbo-Pro so instead of sipping I started gulping. After a while we got to "Big Rock" which is where I rode with George the day before. I knew I had 14 miles to go, and knew exactly what hills and flats were ahead of us. And something happened. Somehow the Mountain Dew and Carbo-Pro mixed together and I... felt... great. I don't know what it was but I just took off and didn't stop for those last 14 miles. I felt better at mile 105 than I did at mile 25; of course, mile 25 is when I REALLY had to pee so that probably isn't a fair comparison.

So I think I solved my nutrition issues for Wisconsin: Carbo-Pro, Gu, and Mountain Dew. And more importantly, it was good to have a confidence-boosting ride this close to the race.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Iron Squirrel

Stupid Dutch wrote a cool program that lets you add That Squirrel to any photo. Try it! It's easy and fun and a great time-waster:

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Back to the beach

After last week's aborted ocean swim, I went back to Zuma to try and clear out my bad mojo. I was a little nervous after taking a quick "warm up" dip; the water was VERY cold. The lifeguard told us the water was 61 degrees which is not quite Coeur D'Alene-cold but is getting close. So I was starting to worry not only about today's swim but also having to deal with the cold in Wisconsin. (Turns out, the current lake temperature in Madison is about 72 degrees. It's a freaking bath tub.)

The ocean was choppy again - a boat capsized later that morning - so it was not an easy swim. But I didn't freak out and I was zig-zagging through the water just like old times. I was still pretty slow though.

Mentee George wanted to do a 30-mile ride after the swim, instead of the normal 18-mile race course. I did a long run the day before and had a long run the following day so at first I said no way. But I figured the extra miles would do me good. The ride out was pleasant enough, but coming back we hit the wind. The typhoon that gave us the choppy swim and capsized the boat? Was doing the same thing to us on the bike. It's not a good feeling be blown into traffic lanes. Still, I'm glad we went for the longer ride, even if it makes me look bad because my mentee is the one pushing me to train harder.

Back in the parking lot, Steve noticed that I put my Flashpoint wheels on my new bike. I told him "oh, THAT was a problem!" Newbie Laura was there and was excited to hear a Wedgie story firsthand. I explained the complicated story and said that I wasn't sure how to blog about it. Disappointed Laura said "yeah... to be honest I was getting pretty bored." So suffice it to say I had an adventure swapping my wheels, but it's a little confusing and not very interesting.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Uh Oh

I had a minor... "incident" in the ocean today.

I was sick yesterday, took a half day off from work, but I thought I was feeling fine. My Tri-Team had a dress-rehearsal for next month's Nautica Malibu Tri. Malibu is on the same day as Ironman Wisconsin so I can't do the race this year, but I think that ocean swimming is excellent training so I wanted to join them.

The water was pretty cold. Not Coeur d'Alene cold, but enough to trigger my Idaho reflex and start thinking "oh no, what if Wisconsin is cold like this? I can't go through that again!" Although the surf itself was pretty calm, once we got past the breakers it was kind of choppy. Between the cold and the ocean swells and being sick, I was starting to feel a little light-headed and dizzy. I stopped swimming and took off my goggles; that was a mistake. By removing the lenses, the focus on my eyes changed suddenly and that made me even dizzier. It was like that dramatic film effect when they change the depth of field on the camera.

I just sat there in the water for a bit and watched the pack swim away from me. I was dizzy and thinking "oh my God, what am I doing here? I don't know how to swim, what if I black out in the middle of the ocean? What if I feel like this in Wisconsin?" It didn't take me too long to decide "I don't need this" and start heading back to shore. When we do large group swims, we have the L.A. County lifeguards come out and assist us and they are very, very good. Within about 10 seconds of me turning around a lifeguard on a surfboard came up to me and asked "are you OK?"

Now that's a pretty complicated question, isn't it? I'm doing an Ironman in a month and I can't swim 3 minutes without freaking out so no, Mr. Lifeguard, I am NOT OK. I may not be a great swimmer, but I am experienced enough to know that I wasn't in any real physical danger; I had a little mental breakdown but as soon as I decided to end the swim I felt much better.

So I'm really hoping my little issue was just a result of me being sick because it certainly wasn't much of a confidence boost..

Friday, August 14, 2009


One month before Ironman Coeur d'Alene, I predicted I would finish in 14:45; my actual time was 14:45:39. Part of my accuracy was a self-fulfilling-prophecy; I was able to adjust my race to meet my time goals. But I definitely did a pretty good darn-tootin job of predicting the race. It is now one month before Ironman Wisconsin, so I figured I should run the numbers again.

First, the fantasy:

Joe the Trainer had me do a lot of swim-specific exercises so my back/shoulders should be strong this year. And the water temperature will be 5-10 degrees warmer than it was in AntarcticaIdaho. I swam a slow 1:40 in Coeur d'Alene, so I think I could knock 10 minutes off the swim and go 1:30.

Joe the Trainer had me do a lot of leg work and I've noticed I am stronger on bike climbs than I have been. But my secret weapon is my new bike; it's 4-5 pounds lighter than my old one, and is just all-around more efficient than my old one. I did Idaho in 6:56; it's possible I could do 6:30 in Wisconsin (which is only a 5% improvement.)

For years I've had this dream of running 10-minute miles during an entire marathon and I just need to give that up. If I hold back, conserve my energy and shoot for 11.5-minute miles, that puts me at a 5-hour finish time. I did Coeur d'Alene in 6 hours, so that would be a HUGE improvement. But my stomach got sick during the marathon and that killed my run. If I had eaten better, I'm sure I could have done 5:30. SOMETHING will go wrong so I think 5:00 is unlikely, but I still think 5:30 is doable.

Let's just say 20 minutes for transitions. That puts me at a 13:50 finish time, 55 minutes faster than last year.

Now, the reality:

I haven't been swimming much. Leading up to Coeur d'Alene, I did a lot of ocean swimming which was great training. This year, not so much. I still can't swim in a straight line. Any strength advantages will be eaten away by the lack of hours I spent in the pool, and I suspect I will actually have a slower swim this time. 1:45.

Wisconsin is a much hillier course than Coeur d'Alene. I did a fair amount of mountain climbing this year, but most of that was months ago. I'm not sure how much of that I still have in me. I also don't know how much the new bike can compensate for the tougher course. I think 7 hours in Wisconsin would actually be quite an improvement over 7 hours in Idaho. So let's say 7:00.

I would really, really like to improve my run this time. And I have been pretty good with keeping up with my running schedule. So I'll stick with a 5:30 run.

That comes out to 14:35, ten minutes faster than Coeur d'Alene.

Ah, but here's the big X-factor. And this is not sandbagging, nor making excuses... but I'm just not in "The Zone" for Wisconsin. It's just not clicking. I fear that if I'm the bike and I realize I'm slowing down to a 7:30 or 8:00 pace, I might be like "eh, whatever." And that's a dangerous attitude when doing an Ironman. I think I may psyche myself down a bit, and it will cost me another half-hour.

So I'm saying a 15:15 finish time for Wisconsin. That isn't a goal, nor really a prediction even... It's just what my gut tells me.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


So at first Gabe was all "OMG! I did Ironman 70.3 Hawaii and we all hafta do it next year!" And I was like "nuh-huh... I'm tired of these long races and Hawaii's gonna be long and hot and humid." Then Heather was like "OMG! Hawaii 70.3 is on my birthday and we all hafta do it next year!" And I was like "nuh-huh... Hawaii is far and expensive and a logistical nightmare." So then like Jen and Robert were all "OMG! We're gonna do it!" OK, OK, I get it... I'm going to Hawaii.

I'm actually pretty excited about it, mostly for the vacation aspect. Growing up in New Jersey, Hawaii seemed to be on the other side of the world - and it was. But living in Los Angeles, it's often cheaper to book a flight to Hawaii than it is for me to fly back East. And yet I've flown to Newark a dozen times but never Hawaii. Go figure.

Part of me thinks this is the WORST possible way to visit Hawaii.
You're supposed to relax and take it easy during the days before a race, and I am TERRIBLE at relaxing. Especially if I'm in Hawaii where I'm going to want to run around and see everything I can. But my plan is that I'm going to train for the race just enough that I don't embarrass myself, and not turn it into a high-pressure "important" race.

Speaking of embarrassing myself, I'm more excited about Hawaii in 10 months than I am about Ironman Wisconsin in 6 weeks. I dunno... Wisconsin just isn't gelling for me. So I'm going to think of Wisconsin as a training race for Hawaii. OK, so it's 9 months out and twice as long as Hawaii, but at least it gives me some sort of excuse to pick up the training.

And the BEST thing of all? There are no snakes in Hawaii. (That's actually mostly a myth, but it's one I am willing to cling to.)