Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Well, this was certainly one of my more unusual rides.

I was supposed to do an easy brick tonight: 1 hour bike ride, 1 hour run. Simple. The rest of the Wednesday Night group was doing loops around Travel Town but I decided to go off on my own and do a few flat intervals. After about 45 minutes on the bike, I was heading back to my car and was about 2 miles down the bike path by Griffith Park when my chain popped off. (For those in L.A., I was just north of the bridge where the bike path crosses Los Feliz Boulevard.) Unfortunately, I thought that the chain was just slipping so I kept pedaling and WHAM! My pedals locked up.

I pulled over to put my chain back on. It was just about dusk, so there weren't too many bikers on the path but there were several groups. Cyclists are a friendly bunch and I was asked a few times if I was OK. I just waved them off because, after all, I can put a chain back on a bicycle.

Or so I thought. Somehow the chain jumped to the outside of the big ring, wrapped around the crank arm and then folded back to the inside of the ring. Worst of all it scratched the heck out of the crank. I tried tugging on the chain, poking it with some bike tools, it wouldn't budge.

I was getting a little frustrated, so I decided to give Gerald a call (he organized the ride.) I got his voicemail but didn't leave a message. I told myself, "well, I was supposed to do a brick tonight, I might as well start running." I took off my bike shoes and stuffed them in the back pockets of my jersey which is, not surprisingly, rather uncomfortable. I started running along the pavement in my socks which is also, not surprisingly, rather uncomfortable. The funny thing is that I realized that this was actually pretty good training for Transition areas: it can be tricky navigating your bike while pushing the seat and I was getting a lot of practice with it.

After a few minutes, Gerald called me. He saw that he had a missed call from me and was checking to make sure I was OK. My initial thought was that I was just going to tell them that I had some bike trouble but I was fine now. The truth however was that I really wasn't fine. Oh sure, I would have made it back to the car before the zombies came out, but I just wasn't having a good time. (Gerald said I sounded a bit frazzled.) I'm already on edge all the time just trying to get my training hours in every week, my feet were hurting from the pavement, and I just wanted to go home. So I asked him if he could come down and help me out.

A short while later Gerald showed up along the path. He fiddled with the chain a bit but without a full set of tools there really wasn't anything he could do to extract it. Frankly I was glad he didn't just pop the chain loose because that would have been embarrassing. I was still a mile away from the car, but I was feeling so much better just to see a friendly face that I told him I could make back on my own without any problems. Instead, Gerald told me he would tow me.

You're going to do what now?

I had no idea how the logistics or the physics of this was going to work, but Gerald had a plan. He had his bike lock chain in a loop; he would hold one end, I would hold the other and I'd get pulled along. The tricky part was getting started. My pedals could not move because the chain was jammed in them, and when I sit down on the bike I can barely touch the ground with my toes so it was very hard to get any initial momentum going. I sort of tried pulling myself along the railing a bit, pushed with my toes a bit and probably got up to a staggering 3 or 4 mph. Gerald rode past holding out the chain, I grabbed on and WHOOSH! we were off.

I felt very unstable during that initial tug but once we got a little bit of speed going it was the Best. Ride. Evar. Do you have any idea how cool it is to go for a bike ride and have somebody else do all the work for you? It's awesome. I don't know what our speed was but it was a lot faster than I expected, and when I think about how much longer it would have taken me running in my bare socks... well, I was very grateful.

Everything was going so smoothly, so I assumed that this was Gerald's standard practice for dealing with broken-down bikes. I asked him when was the last time he had to give someone a tow; he told me, "um.... not since I was about 10." So he was just winging it the whole time and I suddenly had a whole lot less confidence in his plan. But we were almost back to the cars so I can't really argue with success.

I know I can fix the chain. It will take me about an hour, I will cover both myself and my condo with grease, and at some point I will wind up bleeding on my bike. Or I can take it to Bicycle John's where they'll have it fixed in about 5 minutes. Guess what I'll be doing tomorrow during lunch.

I rode for 45 minutes and ran for 10; I think that counts as a brick. And I had a lot of fun being towed along the bike path. So I guess that means I had a good workout? Thanks Gerald for saving my butt yet again.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pretzel Hangover

My weekend runs are getting longer, and on Sunday I had to do 15 miles. Doable. Unfortunately, I spent all day Saturday at Disneyland. Left my home at 6:30am, didn't get back until after 1am. The long day of hiking around the park wasn't so bad, but around 10:00 I was getting a little hungry. I was going to get a small bag of Mickey Mouse pretzels, but then I figured I'd get a large bag to share.

Well, I did share a couple of pretzels. But not many. The rest I ate. And ate. And ate. I ate them in the park. I ate them on the ride home. I ate them after I got home.

Needless to say, I wasn't feeling too well when I woke up. In fact I was pretty sick. But I forced myself outside and did a late run, starting at 11:00am. Got up to about 85 degrees. The first 9 miles or so went OK, but then all those pretzels started looking for attention. I was getting rumblies in my tummy and did not think I would be able to finish the run.

I decided I would go to the nearest bathroom in Griffith Park to do some... "purging". There was a bathroom building about a half-mile down the trail so I planned on stopping in there. Now if triathlon has taught me anything, it's that I'll go to the bathroom in any smoldering, stinky port-a-potty or bathroom I can find. But I draw the line with doors: if I need to sit down, I need a door. Well this bathroom had stalls but no doors. And it wasn't even like the stalls were tucked away in the back; they were opposite the sinks. Ain't gonna happen.

Ironman is very much a mental game, and I was thinking to myself that I could very well get sick in Kona and I'll have to just deal with it, so I continued on with the run. I did a little bit of walking to settle my stomach and that helped a lot. The biggest test however was when I made it back to the car. The way I set up my running loops, my car was at mile 12. Which meant I still had 3 miles to go. It's one thing to be stuck out on the trail and you have no choice but to finish a run, but it's another ball game when you are faced with the option of just stepping in your car and calling it a day.

I am proud to say I trudged forward. My stomach was feeling OK for the time being, so I figured I would risk an extra half hour on the trail (although at the pace I was doing, it was a lot slower than that.) It took me 3 hours to do the distance and at this point in my training I really should be much faster than that for this distance. But I got my miles in for the day.

Oh and I went home, got a little sick, then felt a lot better.

Next week I have another 15-mile run to do. I'm expecting/hoping to improve upon this week's time a great deal.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Highway to Hell

A lot of people have been asking me how the following story could have possibly happened. Honestly, I'm not sure myself. All I can say is that I think all this training is getting to me.

A little background: I live in downtown Glendale. It is literally one mile as the crow files from my place to Griffith Park. But because there are 2 freeways and a river between me and the park, it's a little tricky to ride a bike home from Griffith. I have to take a bike trail along the L.A. River to some side streets and snake around Glendale to get home. When driving, I go through Griffith Park every day after work and pick up the freeway for one mile to get across the river. And on the weekends, I usually drive over there for a run. So I drive the same route an awful lot.

I am a little behind on my workout hours quota for the week, so this morning I used some vacation time to go out for a bike ride. Just a couple of hours. I took the side streets over to Griffith Park, did a few intervals on the river trail, did the Travel Town loop a couple times, then started to head home.

From the bridge crossing the 5 (opposite the L.A. Zoo) I can see my condo building. And I was thinking this morning how annoying it was that I was so close to home, yet I had to ride so far out of my way to get there. On the other side of the bridge, the entrance to the bike path was on my right, the freeway entrance was on my left and for some reason I turned left.

I rode for about a quarter-mile up the on-ramp (and beyond) then looked up and saw a sign that said "San Ferndando Road." I thought to myself, "that's funny, I ride in Griffith Park all the time and I don't remember ever seeing OH MY GOD I'M ON THE FREEWAY!" I was completely disoriented, and for a split second I had a panic attack where I worried "am I in the middle of traffic?!" Earlier in the day I was riding in the regular car lanes to get to the park, and I thought that maybe I was doing the same thing here. Fortunately, I was at least still on the shoulder.

In hindsight, I should have just kept on going and taken the next exit, which would have saved me a ton of time. But I was still pretty close to the on-ramp and I was worried that a cop would pull over. How could I explain that I accidentally rode on to the Freeway? I decided to walk my bike back down to the bike trail. This is the on-ramp for the 5-North interchange, so it was pretty busy and I didn't want to be riding my bike against traffic. Walking my bike, I was surprised just how far I rode without knowing I was getting on the freeway.

The big question for Hawaii is this: How far will I go before I realize I'm riding into a volcano?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sorry, Glendale (TMI)

I did something this weekend I vowed I would never do; I went running shirtless.

It was very hot this weekend, and after getting a nice sunburn during my Saturday bike ride, I was very smart and made sure I really lathered up my back and shoulders. Unfortunately I forgot to do anything about my neck.

I had to run 10 miles, and after just 2 miles my neck was already hurting. Griffith Park shade is sporadic at best, and I was struggling to find any shadows I could. If I saw a butterfly overhead, I tried to run underneath it just for the added shade. After 5 miles, it was beyond discomfort and was actually painful when I ran into sunlight.

I wasn't sure how to cover my neck. I tried flipping my cap around so the visor would provide shade but that didn't help- I had to use my shirt. At first I tried to figure out a way to wrap my shirt around my neck like a scarf but that just looked ridiculous. Instead, I went with the Lawrence of Arabia look.

Let me tell you, it felt great. For one thing, it was nice not having the sun scorching my neck anymore. But beyond that, my shirt was soaking wet with sweat (ewwww gross) and the moisture was incredibly soothing on my neck and back.

Fortunately, since it was so hot outside there were fewer than normal people along the trails. And I figured if people were stupid enough to be out in the heat they deserved to see my Mountain Dew belly coming at them. I did however take off my nip guards so nobody would have to see me wearing my pasties.

Overall, in spite of the heat, it turned out to be a decent and comfortable run. Next week: no shorts.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Triple Peaks

I wanted to get some longer hours on the bike this weekend, so planned on doing a 5-hour ride. Five hours is very easy to do along our normal Duarte river trail route, but it's a 20-mile drive each way and so there's a lot of overhead doing that. Instead, I thought I'd just ride locally, and coming up with 5-hours of riding in Glendale is tricky. There are some great 1-2 hour rides in Griffith Park, or in Pasadena, but you have to deal with actually getting to the nice sections which means lots of intersections and traffic lights and 4-wheeled vehicles.

Since I was going for time not distance, I figured the best way to slow me down would be to do some climbing. I came up with a route which I'm calling the "Triple Peaks" - here's the elevation:

I started in Glendale and went up to Montrose which is a nice steady climb to Peak 1 and you get a great downhill returning via La Tuna Canyon road. (Normally I climb up La Tuna Canyon and back the other side, but I reversed it this time.) The only problem is once you get to the bottom you pretty much have to cross downtown Burbank. There's just no easy way around it, and I snaked my way over to Griffith Park.

Peak 2 was the climb up to the Griffith Park Observatory (via Travel Town). You get some great views of the Hollywood sign along the way, and although I have seen a few snakes along this path all the reptiles were thankfully hiding this weekend. There are good restrooms and water fountains at the Observatory, so it's a good destination.

I tried some place new for Peak #3. Now I know what you're thinking, that third "peak" around mile 35 is nothing more than a bump, right? There's no climbing involved whatsoever. Well the chart doesn't tell the entire story because it's averaging out all the elevation data. Peak 3 is Dodger Stadium, which is surprisingly close to Griffith Park. Here is a close-up of the data entering Elysian Park, home of Dodger Stadium:

The stadium is on a plateau which is not very high but is surrounded by steep climbs from every angle. 20% climb in that one short section, not too shabby. And I did not just climb up to the stadium just once. I followed signs to what looked like the main entrance, where I was stopped by a very nice but passive-aggressive toll booth lady. I asked her if I could just ride up to do a loop around the stadium. She told me "well, a lot of the roads are closed because they're setting up for a flea market." I told her I didn't need to do a full loop, I could just go up to the stadium and back. "Well, there's a lot of construction going on, it's not really open." We went back and forth a few times, but eventually I just said "sounds like you'd rather I just turn around and leave." She smiled. (I crumble before any type of authority figure.)

I don't know the Dodger Stadium area at all, but I knew there were multiple entrances so I rode down the hill, then back up another road to try to get in. Fenced off. Back down, up another street, same blockade. These hills are not big but they are steep, especially if you've already been out in the heat for 3 hours.

I gave up trying to get into the actual stadium parking area, but I'm hoping to be able to get up there another time. It's only 3 miles from Griffith Park and would make for a great evening ride after work.

Have I mentioned L.A. has been going through a heat wave? The heat training is actually good preparation for Hawaii, but after 4 hours or so I was just "done." It was an interesting dilemma: I wanted to get home as soon as possible, but I wanted to make sure I got my time in on the bike. That's the problem with training for time rather than distance; there's little incentive to ride faster. And even heading back home at an easy pace I knew it was too early to finish up so I forced myself to do an extra 5-mile Travel-Town loop. Still wasn't enough, so when I got within 4 blocks of my condo I took a 2-mile detour just to pad the ride a bit. Miserable.

Later that afternoon I noticed this:

Yes, I DID put on sunscreen before I left. Not only that, but I brought extra sunscreen with me and re-applied at the observatory. Obviously it was not enough. I think I was able to get aloe on it quickly enough so I was spared most of the pain, but I suspect I'll be peeling and itching like crazy in a few days.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Mammoth Run

I learned some valuable lessons during my long run yesterday:

1. Just because it's July, that doesn't mean it's warm.
2. Just because air is clean, that doesn't mean it has oxygen.
3. Just because you're in the mountains, that doesn't mean there will be hills. (oh wait, I guess it does mean that.)

The Mammoth Mountain "ski resort" is having an exceptionally long season and is open through the July 4th weekend. (I put "ski resort" in quotes because I'm a Utah ski snob and I am contractually obligated to say Mammoth Sucks.) We know the conditions are terrible, but this is also my birthday weekend and I always thought it would be cool to ski on my birthday. So me, Stupid Dutch, Smart Dutch's girlfriend and Miles went on a road trip.

I still had to get an 11-mile run in this weekend, so I went out yesterday morning. Our condo is in the village, and it's about 5 miles to the Main Lodge at the "resort". I figured that would be a good run to do because there would be water fountains and bathrooms there at the turn-around. 

I've driven that route dozens of times. And in my mind, there was about a one-mile climb leaving the village, and then it flattened out as you cut over to the lodge. At least that's how it feels when you're driving it. In actuality, it's pretty much a 4-mile climb. To make matters worse, the village is at about 7500 feet elevation and the lodge is 9000 feet; so the air was a whole lot thinner than the near-sea-level runs we often do. And it was a lot chillier than I was expecting. So I was huffing and puffing quite a bit.

Stupid Dutch actually likes Mammoth for some reason and wanted to snowboard every day, so he hit the slopes while I went running. I left the condo before he did, and was thinking it would be really cool if I made it to the lodge running before he got there driving. (I'm petty that way.) But about a half mile from the lodge, he drove past me. Fine. But then once I made it to the parking lot, he was still getting his gear ready so I past him and made it to the slopes first. The best thing about this is that I was able to grab a snowball, start my run back and throw it at him. Pegging your buddy with a snowball while on a run in the mountains? It doesn't get better than that.

Later that afternoon we did a 5-mile hike to Rainbow Falls and Devil's Postpile. It was not a difficult hike, but I was definitely feeling it. And then skiing today was a bit rough on the legs as well. More skiing tomorrow, then back to L.A.