Thursday, April 30, 2009

Getting Better

It’s been 4 days now since I last rode the bike and 9 days since I last ran. I’ve kept my training to just swimming and have focused on resting this week. I now feel like I’m starting to recover both physically and mentally from the last few months of training. Just a recap…I put myself on a forced recovery week to get over a bit of hip flexor tendonitis. This was probably one of the smarter things I’ve done. My body really needed some rest. I was so exhausted that I was really grumpy at work and wanted to beat my boss up. I’m going to continue to recover for the rest of week and reassess whether I’m able to run again next week. I’ve been icing my leg every night, stretching, and taking some ibuprofen.

This week is the Tour of the Gila, a bike stage race in southern New Mexico. I’ve done this race a few times before. It’s by far my favorite bike race though it’s by far the hardest bike race I’ve ever done. I’m a bit sad I’m not doing it this year because Lance Armstrong, Levi Lepenheimer, Chris Horner and Floyd Landis are racing in the category 1 race. I’m a category 3 racer, so I wouldn’t race with them but it would be fun to see all the hype around these sports figures. My training right now is so different than what’s needed for the Gila. I wouldn’t even dare try…it would be too humiliating. I’ve learned that runners aren’t bike climbers, and this is a bike climbing race. I have a few friends driving down to the race to watch Lance. I’d rather spend the day with the family than in the car driving to and from Silver City.

This week I was able to do something I’ve not been able to do in years: I touched my toes while stretching. It’s silly but I’m so stiff I haven’t been able to touch the toes in years. I’m certain this is the primary reason I get hurt so much while running. My muscles/tendons are too rigid. I never stretch…it takes too much time. When you’re strapped for time and you have to make a choice between running for 45 minutes or running for 35 minutes and stretching for 10, the former generally wins. Bike racing doesn’t require much stretching. But, running necessitates stretching almost daily. I’m learning this lesson, so I’m trying to make a real effort to stretch. Stretching is so painful. Oh well….what ever it takes!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Forced Recovery

I've recently developed a small case of hip flexor tendonitis. It's nothing major, but, as these things go, you have to get a handle on them early or the minor injury can wreck a big portion of your season. I was scheduled to do a Duathlon in Los Alamos this weekend, but figured it would be smarter to not go. The last time I ran, was a week ago. I bumped my riding to cover my missed running time. I was able to put in the scheduled 18 hours of training I needed. Although on further research of hip flexor tendonitis, the biggest sports causes are running and biking--Doh! So this week I'm on a king of forced recovery week limited to swimming and yoga only. I'm sure this short time off will not affect me fitness-wise I'm already at the point where I'm running so ragged, training begins to be counter-productive.

This last weekend was probably the craziest of my life! Lots of things happened...too many to list. It's amazing how many things one can cram into a weekend. For this reason alone, I need a bit of recovery.

One of the biggest challenges I face is trying to train for these events and trying to juggle work demands. My co-workers and boss don't have the same goals I have. Much of their personal goals are tied to career performance. I envy them for that; my life would be so much more simple if my goals would be centered around my career. Unfortunately, I have too much physical energy. If I put off training for a period of time, I'm impossible to live with. Just ask my kids what I'm like during the off-season. My wife yells at me to go out and ride my bike. The training I do creates a balance that allows me to work (and live) productively. It's a yin and yang thing. I have to have a physical outlet...and why not let it be constructive? I've tried just lifting weights...it seemed so strange to spend countless hours trying build muscle. I tried golf--worst mistake ever! So far, endurance racing brings me the balance I need. Even so, my training hours and/or my working hours tend to get out of balance and I start to get mentally exhausted. Lately, I feel like I'm dealing with that with respect to my work. My boss wants me to work everyday until 7pm--at least. And that's doable...sometimes. But other times, it makes me want to find a new job...maybe puppetry or folk dancing. I, also, know that my attitude towards work if very cyclical, and when I'm on a down cycle (like now) I need to take some time off to recharge the batteries.

One thing I'm really looking forward to is spending the summer by the pool. During the summer, I usually spend the morning training and meet up with the family at the gym's pool for the afternoons every Saturday. We'll get a pizza or some sandwiches and just hang out for hours. Tanya hangs out with her friends. In the previous years, I've had to make sure Mia is OK in the pool and have to swim with her. She can now swim really well. So, I'm going to buy myself some books and spend the summer catching up on my reading. I'm going to spend as much time pool-side this summer as possible. Perhaps I can knock out Victor Hugo's complete works--especially now that the hoopla around Les Miserables has finally died down (a discussion for another day).

I feel like I'm rambling right now, so I'm going to go.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bring On The Pain

Sorry about the week's writing hiatus. The last week was hectic at work. We are updating the annual forecast with the first three months (jan-mar) of actual data to create what we call the Q1 Reforecast, in which we reforecast annual earnings.

Each day last week (except Friday) I worked until 8:30 PM. I’d come home and jump on my trainer for an hour-and-a-half, go to bed, and get up at 5:00 AM to swim. There wasn’t any time to update the blog.

A new wrinkle in my training this week is I’m starting to add intensity. The first few months are focused toward building endurance and preparing the body to be able to deal with intensity. As of the last training block, I completed that phase of training. I’m now in the building/intensity phase of training. The training volume decreases a bit and key interval workouts are added. I’ll also start to doing low-priority races (C ranked races) to build speed, get used to the race situation, and simulate race intensity.

This week called for an intense bike interval workout, which I did on the trainer (I had no choice because it was dark when I got home from work), and a 10K running race. This phase of training is psychologically challenging in that you’re supposed to not be concerned with race results. You’re supposed to keep up your regular training load and race. There’s no tapering to prepare for a race. If you’re tired, you still race. The point is to bring yourself to a peak for your “A” ranked races later in the year--my “A” ranked race is in mid-June. What’s so psychologically challenging about this is it’s hard to not care about race results regardless of the intent. I’ve seen people hit this phase of training, do poorly in a race, and alter their entire training schedule as a result. Additionally, racers risk getting into a funk—they lose their mental toughness—as a result of the build race.

For me intensity is very painful…I’m sure that’s a commonly expressed sentiment. I sometimes get lazy when it comes to intensity because it’s much less mentally demanding to punch out a longer less intense workout than to focus and push yourself harder during intervals. This is perhaps one of my biggest weaknesses. I sometimes fail to embrace the pain intensity brings and just do a long ride/run/swim instead. This is partially why I shifted my focus from road bike racing (very intense) to Iron Distance triathlons because Iron Distance triathlons require more endurance and much less intensity. None the less, intensity is crucial to get fast: no pain…no gain.

One other difficulty with the shift to intensity is the decrease of volume. This may seem counter intuitive. In the base period of training, it’s cool to put up the big numbers. It’s a quantifiable measure of your effort. You get a real sense of accomplishment. You have something to brag about. When you shift to intensity, your time decreases and there’s more time necessary for recovery both in training and resting. There’s a twofold decrease in your quantity. Your weekly totals in time and distance diminish significantly. Your overall workload may have increased, but there’s really no way to quantify that change and you’re left with less miles/hours at week’s end.
The weekdays were a blur of training and working. There’s not much to recount. Saturday and Sunday were eventful days packed with activities both training and family related.

My Saturday started with at 6AM with an hour Masters swim. I took it easy because after swimming, I had to rush across town to enter a 10K running race. I swam 2000 meters and didn’t use my legs. I jumped out the pool and changed into my running gear. I hurried across town trying to cram a little food down to have some energy for the race. I don’t eat before I swim—swimming with a full stomach is terrible. I ate a muffin and an Odwalla smoothie.

When I got to the race, I signed up and had 15 minutes to warm up. It had rained the night before and was a bit sloppy at the start line. 85 people signed up for the 10K. They started us in a narrow alley that was blocked by a large muddy puddle with about 5 feet on one side that wasn’t muddy. I had my new shoes and didn’t want to go running through the puddle, so I resolved to sprint for the hole shot. The organizer blew the whistle and I took off as fast as I could to keep the new shoes clean. I held the pace for a few minutes and realized I was leading the race. I turned around and the nearest person was 100 yards behind. I decided to roll with my pace. Every so often I’d check my HR and saw numbers anywhere from 181-176 BPM. Mile after mile ticked off and I was running paranoid that someone would pass me at any moment. Finally at mile marker 4, I was passed by the first person. I hung on to his pace as long as I could. I started to fade by mile marker 5 and was hanging on for life. I was passed 3 more times. The race finally ended and I posted a time of 40:06. My average HR was 176 BPM for the entire event. I was trashed.

I hurried to the car and went to my son’s basketball game. It was a great game and my son’s team lost by a single point that was almost overcome by Ethan’s half court shot. After the game, I came home and jumped on my bike for a recovery ride. There was nothing left after the running race; I just wanted to ensure the quickest recovery by spinning the legs. I rode for 1.5 hours. I then came home and took an ice bath, which really seems to help. It was my first ice bath ever. I’m certain there will be more.

The rest of the day was spent lounging around the house senselessly.

Sunday I got up and rode my TT bike for 4.5 hours. It was a waste of time though because I couldn’t even get my HR above 140 BPM. I probably would have been better served sleeping the entire day. After my ride, I met my wife at church. We then walked through our dream house—they were asking $700K—Doh! The rest of the evening was spent hanging out with friends and family.

I finished the week with 17 hours of training, a new 10K PR, some quality intensity, and a near comatose state of mind. Hopefully next week will be a bit better.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Last Week's Kids Triathlon

Two Saturdays ago, the three oldest kids participated in their first triathlon. The distances for the two oldest were as follows: run 1 mile, bike 3 miles, swim 200 yards. For Grace, it was a 100 yard run, 500 bike and 50 yard swim. I thought it would be a good idea to let the kids do their very first triathlon so they could get inspired to join the local swim team. Of course Ethan was already pumped. Elise was more nervous and tentative. Grace was oblivious. I didn't sign my youngest up because I wasn't sure whether she could swim the 50 yards alone.

Conceptually, having the kids do the triathlon seemed like such a fun idea. Little did I know how stressful it was going to be. Friday night was comprised of dashing across town to register the kids, picking up bike tubes to fix bike tires that hadn't been used much over the winter, and getting the kids' transition bags packed with swim suits, goggles, helmets, running shoes, and everything else they'd need to complete their first triathlon. I had to spend a lot of time assuring my oldest she'd be fine. She's very much a perfectionist and worried all night that she wouldn't finish. In the weeks leading up to the race, she wouldn't commit to doing the race. I lied and told her I already signed her up. She was partially mad and partially happy.

When we woke in the morning, it was raining. It had been raining since the wee hours of the morning and was quite cold. The kids were intimidated by the cold. I thought for sure, they'd either call the race or at least leave out the bike portion. We ate breakfast and loaded the bikes in the car. Mia (the youngest) kept crying because she wanted to do the triathlon like her older brother and sisters.

We got to the triathlon and I helped the kids set their bikes up in transition. They hung their transition backpacks from their bike handlebars. I carefully instructed them that they had to put their helmet on before they left transitions or they'd be DQed--not really but I want to instill the rules early.

Then we went to the race office where they got body marked. I pinned their numbers on their chests. Each kid had their swim suits under their sweats for a quick transition. We huddled and talked about race strategy in terms what they needed to do after each race segment. This was a run/bike/swim format triathlon. I assured them the most important thing was to finish. I told them to not think of it as a race. "Just finish and don't give up!"

While going through all the pre-race activities, it kept raining. Inside I hoped that they'd eliminate the bike portion of the race. I was very much stressed trying to make this a positive experience for them and managing each of their individual concerns. The race organizers called the pre-race meeting for the parents and announced that they were going to continue with the kids triathlon in spite of the rain...and, they were still going to have the bike portion. I watched my children's faces, and they seemed fine with the news.

The younger age group (Grace's group) started first. The kids lined up for the run and the organizers blew their whistle. Off they went. Both the run and the bike portion were in the parking lot. Grace ran with the lead group and had a smooth bike transition.

Grace During The Run

The parents were able to help and I helped her get her helmet on. She jumped on her bike and rode through the bike course. What was really amazing about Grace's event was she has only been riding a bike without training wheels for a month or so. What's more, she was riding the bike she purchased with money she saved.

Grace Off On Her Bike

As the younger kids were finishing the bike portion, the older group (Elise and Ethan) lined up to start their event. Tanya peeled off to usher Grace through the rest of her bike and swim segments of her event while I helped Elise and Ethan.

Grace During The Swim


Grace And Her Hardware

Shortly after Elise and Ethan lined up, the organizers blew the starting whistle. They were off for their 1 mile run. They headed off on bike trails away from the facility and out of site. I, along with other parents, waited with anxiety for our children to reappear for their next event. For what seemed like an hour (but was only 10 minutes), we waited. One by one each kid came into site over the hillside from their trail run. Ethan came running and I could tell he was giving every thing he had to the race. He's really funny because he smiles while he's physically exerting himself, so it looks like he's just messing around.

About 100 yard behind Ethan, Elise came following. Her cheeks were bright red. I helped both of them get their helmets on and sent them on to their respective bike sections. This time they were gone even longer and the level of anxiety was much greater. By this time, all the kids were much more spread out.

First Ethan came in from the bike leg, and I helped him rack his bike. He pulled off his sweats while it rained, jammed them in his backpack grabbed his goggles and ran to the pool.

Just as Ethan finished, Elise pulled into transition. I could tell she was winded but was pushing through. I racked her bike and helped her get her clothes in her backpack.

When Ethan started the swim, he started with a full-on sprint. He tried to use his freestyle stroke. By the time he finished the first length of the pool, he was exhausted. He finished the rest of the swim a better pace using a modified dog/breast stroke. As soon as he finished and climbed out of the pool, the race organizers put a metal around his neck. He was very happy and wanted to know how many people he passed.

Ethan With His Hardware

Elise took a much more conservative approach during the swim portion. She swam with her head above water and just focused on finishing. When she finished, she climbed out of the pool, got her metal, and collapsed on the ground to catch her breath.

Elise With Her Hardware

Elise was really tough and hung in there. The three girls that finished before her climbed out of the pool and started to cry because it was so hard. She took some time to catch her breath and was ready for the rest of the day.

Afterwards we went to Zios-a local Italian restaurant and celebrated the kids first triathlon. This was one of the first meals out we've had where the kids weren't going nuts. All of them were still wearing the metals and were excited to explain where the metals came from when asked. Ethan kept telling people he did his first IronMan.

When we got home, I was so tired I took an hour long nap. The day's event was stressful. I wanted everything to go just right. I wanted the kids to have an experience that they could remember for a long time--something they could build on. I think the event met that standard, but it just wiped me out mentally--more so than a full day of training. I'm glad we did it; and the kids keep asking when the next one is--next year please!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rest Week Activity

It's been fairly low key this week. It's amazing how much better I swim with a little rest. I guess I've officially taken the title of "lane leader". Some people just got tired of me swimming up on their legs. I figure now that I'm getting closer to my races, I need to start pushing the intensity. So, leading the lane will help with that.

I did the fingers with the team on Wednesday and really suffered. I can't climb worth beans right now. Running and bike climbing don't go together. It was good to ride with people though rather than going solo. Sometimes I need that human interaction.

Last night I ran 8.5 miles on the treadmill in 1:15. I felt pretty good. Based on the run training program I'm following, that's my "easy" pace. This is the longest run I've done this year. I'm trying to give myself plenty of build time. Ideally, I'd like to be able to do a 1.5 hour run each week.

Tomorrow I'm entering the three oldest kids in a mini-kid triathlon. They've been fairly excited aboout it. Elise has been fickle. When I first told her about it, she said she didn't want to do it. Now that it's the day before, she wants to do it.

Next week I have my first scheduled race; it's a duathlon that's a 10k run, 40k bike, and a 5k run. It's in Los Alamos, which is high attitude. The bike portion has lots of climbing. I've never done a duathlon and don't have any expectations. I figure it'll be a good building race for June.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Taco Contest

When Tanya left out of town, the kids and I renewed a competition we have every year: The Taco Eating Contest!

We headed to our local Taco Bell. This time it would a team contest; Elise/Ethan vs. Daddy/Grace/Mia. I ordered 20 of the $1 tacos. Ethan told the manager we were having a taco eating contest, and he got really excited. He told us he'd throw in an order of Cinnimon Twists for the winning team. I guess he figured we would be too full to take him up on his offer--wishul thinking!

When the order was filled, I put 10 tacos on 1 tray and gave it to Team Ethan/Elise. The remaining 10 tacos were on another tray for Team Daddy/Grace/Mia. Each team sat together at their respective fiberglass table with swiveling leg-less chair. The only rule was that if one team finished all 10 of their tacos, they could grab a taco from the other team; thereby, claiming victory. That is after the complete taco is consumed, of course.

Once the rules were in place and understood by all, I set my timer, and said, "mark, set, go!" The entire Taco Bell staff were watching in amusement.

Right off the bat, Ethan, grace, and I knocked our first off in less than a minute. This pace was a bit too much for Grace, and she puked a little. Living up to her name, she quietly rolled what came up in the taco wrapping and carried on to her next one. I'm glad no one from the opposing team noticed so this wouldn't become a point of contention during the final stretch. One-after-one Ethan and I inhaled our tacos. I started to worry that I didn't buy enough tacos. The Taco Bell staff were coming closer to our table to see how the competition wrapped up. After three tacos, Grace started to shut down. Elise hit three tacos and started yelling at Ethan to eat more. After 5 tacos, both Ethan and I were starting to slow down. Mia was finishing her second. I grabbed number 6 and Ethan followed my pace. This finished all of Team Daddy/Grace/Mia's 10 tacos and left one taco on Team Ethan/Elise's tray. Ethan and I were staring eye-to-eye chewing at the same pace. The tension was thick. I didn't know if I could finish and out grab from Ethan the last taco from Team Ethan/Elise's tray. And, just when Ethan and I were 3/4s through with our tacos and getting ready to reach, Mia grabbed the last taco from Team Ethan/Elise's tray. Ethan and Elise shouted in horror as Mia snatched victory right off their taco tray. She quietly opened the wrapping, and ate the taco bite-by-bite as Grace started to celebrate. The final taco was consumed precisely at 10:50. The Taco Bell staff clapped and handed a bag of cinnomon twists to our team. Grace snatched them up and shared them with Mia. Ethan and Elise pleaded for a few cinnomon twists, but Grace wouldn't have any of it. I'm not sure if the Taco Bell staff will encourage another taco eating contest based on mess we left.

One interesting note: as we were driving home, Mia asked what was for dinner.

Laundry List For Recovery Week

Over the stressful building training weeks, I make a mental note of all the things that need to get done around the house, and vow to get them done on my recovery week. During those three weeks, I pray nothing will be pressing enough that I can't defer it until recovery week. During this last three-week duration our washer started to die, I lost my wallet (i.e. drivers license, debit cards, other personal data), sprinklers needing to be started up again, and few other jobs reared their heads. I did my best to patch up the washer to get it to limp along until recovery week. Well, today's the first day of my recovery week, and I had to take the day off because Tanya's out of town for a distant family member's funeral. Today, I was able to knock out a few of my items. I pulled apart the washer and found a bunch of coins, rocks, a handful of lint, hair pins, stickers, and buttons clogging the water pump's flow. Afterwards, I got a new driver's license, and fired up the sprinklers. I "spring" cleaned the office. When the two oldest kids got home from school, I had them "spring" clean the kitchen. This included sweeping, mopping, reorganizing the cabinets, cleaning the hinder spaces on the counter (i.e. under the microwave and toaster), and finishing the dishes.

The two youngest got early by cleaning their room.

I'm now catching up on a few weeks of laundry. We're hoping to have the whole house done by the time Tanya gets home, which should be late-late tonight.

One of the things I was taking stock of today are all things that need to be replaced in our house. As mentioned in a previous post, we need a new dryer. We need a new vacuum cleaner--Tanya insists it has to be a Dyson. Our house phone just died this weekend. Our dishes, pots, and pans are, virtually, the same dishes we got for our wedding (15 years ago). My mobile phone is dying. The problem with all this stuff...there's nothing sexy about buying household goods! It's not like a new wheelset or even a pair of running shoes. The cost of all these items could easily buy a great little family vacation. Yet without fully functioning household goods, everything gets out of sync. Some things I refuse to buy with young kids, they'll just get trashed (i.e. nice dining flatware). It just seems like such a waste. Oh well...these are the perils of your average household.

Hopefully, I can spend the rest of the week "recovering" and anticipating anything that could possibly derail my next training block.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Saturday's Redemption

Still upset about my swimming workout, I decided to make Saturday a high-quality mega brick workout.

The alarm went off at 6:15AM, I was already up and ready to swim. I got to the pool and the lanes were switched from yards to meters. There were two workouts posted on the board: mid-distance and 5K, you pick. You guessed it, I picked the 5K. The sets were 800 meters pull/800 meters descending by 100. The next was 2 sets of 600 with the same instructions and continued with a double set of 400s and 200s. The final set was 10X100 meters.

I jumped in and tried to get as much of the workout done in the 1:15 allotted. When the time was up, I'd finished 4000 meters. I wasn't too disappointed about not getting the last 10X100s in because my arms were already tired.

I came home, ate my breakfast and changed into my riding clothes. I'd spent last night getting everything ready for a smoothe transition. This included updated the music on the Ipod. Last night, I downloaded the complete Prodigy library. So, that's what kind of workout I was planning. The weather was miserable:

Current conditions as of 1:53 pm MDT

Partly Cloudy/Windy
Feels Like:50°
Barometer:29.75 in and falling
Humidity:21%
Visibility:10 mi
Dewpoint:11°
Wind:WSW 25 mph
Sunrise:6:48 am
Sunset:7:29 pm
50°High: 47° Low: 23°

I copied these conditions from Yahoo Weather. The winds were fierce. I had a side wind the entire ride. There were a few times I felt like I was riding with my bike at a 45 degree angle just to stay upright. Wind is great for building mental toughness, and today was no exception. I covered 75 miles in 4:15.

As soon as I got home, I quickly changed into running clothes and fired up the treadmill. I ran for 20 minutes as fast as I could. I started at 8 MPH and pushed it up 10 MPH--that's as fast as my treadmill goes. The running legs felt really nice!

Now I'm doing what I can to recover for tomorrow's workout--the final workout of the week/month and recovery week starts.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Missed Work Out - Arg!

This is my big training week of the month, and everything was going as planned...that is until this morning. I use my cell phone for an alarm, and the cell phone is on the fritz. Needless to say, I missed my Masters Swim because I didn't wake up. That's annoying! I don't know if I should kill myself trying to make it up. I have a swim tomorrow morning. Do I try to make up the swim tonight with another lengthy swim 12 hours later or do I try to make it up Sunday on a day that's already full of events (2.5 hour bike/1 hour run)? Or do I just blow it off? In the grand scheme of things one missed swim workout is not a big deal, but I really want to go into my recovery week finishing all that I planned.

It's really interesting the emotional status one finds themself in after training between 18-26 hours a week for three months straight (excluding 3 recovery weeks of 10 hours each). The first two months, I'd find myself exhausted by my peak week. This peak week, I can best describe myself as being very punk rock (i.e. easily annoyyed, abrasive, confrontational, and reckless). It's actualy very liberating. I feel like a teenager again. At work, I've holed myself to my computer with my door shut, and music blaring; I don't answer the phone--let it roll to voice mail. I might call you back...and I might not. I logged on to my wife's FaceBook account and graffitied a bunch of people's wall. I've already responded adversley to 3 mass emails--and I replyed to all! Don't mess with me...I'm punk rock!

That co-worker that I put in the stretcher on Tuesday after our run, bailed on our Thursay run. That's right...you got schooled by someone ten years your senior. Next time you show up to the run, don't bring your ballet slippers!

A couple of days ago, my bike training buddy and I did a little team TT training on Tramway. We were able to hold a 31-32 MPH average for 5 miles. We did it twice. It was really fun trading pulls at such a fast speed. As we were humming along, little kids in the back of their mommy's hybrid Suburbans watched us keep up. They'd wave and giggle. We were slobbering like mud horses just trying to pull through. Afterwards, we were both exhausted and excited by the workout.