Friday, July 28, 2006

Longer and Longer

I swam with the LA Tri Club this morning in Pacific Palisades. We swam across the cove in front of Gladstone's restaurant. I was told the total distance is about 1.3 miles, but I only made it three quarters of the way before I saw everyone heading back so I think that I did just shy of a mile.

The conditions were pretty spectacular. The water was mostly warm with a few cold currents. There were a couple of dolphins that seemed to be enjoying themselves, and a seal came and checked me out while I was swimming. I noticed some dark movement on my right and thought it was another swimmer, so I lifted my head up to check it out. The seal was literally about four feet from me. He just peaked his head out of the water for a bit to check me out and then was off. I was startled at first, because I didn't expect it, but that was pretty cool.

After the swim we did a trail run. My legs were still sore from the long run on Wednesday and the bike ride on Thursday so I really had to push myself up the steep hills, and I had to slow down to a hike several times. The view at the top of the hill was incredible. I have to bring my camera one of these days.

I planned to go about 4.5 miles, so I turned around at 2.25 miles. But on the way back I missed one of the trail heads and basically got lost. I had to retrace my steps back up a steep fire road. That added another half a mile, so I did a total of 5 miles. I guess there is nothing like getting lost to add on the mileage.

So I had a longer swim and a longer run. Pretty intense. Tomorrow: Rest!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Back on the Bike

This morning I finally got a good bike ride in. It is about time. I have not ridden my bike since July 9th. I have been able to do a few spin classes, but that just is not the same.

I have figured that about 100 miles per week is a good goal for me and I have been averaging about 13-16 mph depending on how much climbing I am doing, so that would be about 7 hours of riding per week. If I spread that over three rides, I figured I would two shorter rides during the week at about 30 miles each and then a longer 40+ mile ride on the weekend. So today I had the goal of doing 30 miles in about two hours. I figured a trip up to the Rose Bowl and a few laps would do it.

It was just before 6:00am when I left the house. The sun wasn't up yet, so it was still a little dark out, so I was extra careful about cars and had all my lights on.

One of my favorite sites along the way is when I go under the Arroyo Bridge in Pasadena. You can see the beautiful arches in the photo.

Through the arch you can make out the old Hotel Vista de Arroyo, which is currently the Southern California home of the Nineth Circuit Court of Appeals. I always imagine what it must be like to work there as I ride by.

I did six laps around the Rose Bowl of which the last one was pretty painful. The thing is I never let myself recover on the downhills. I actually work harder. The grade is not that steep, but it is enough that on the downhills I move into my highest gear, lower down into my aero bars or drops and just pump the pedals as fast and as hard as I can, usually getting up to 27-30 mph. My heart rate goes through the roof, but it is just a blast. I can understand why cycling can be so addiciting, when you can have thrills like that. Then I have to go up again, which is not as fun, but I was able to leave it in the big ring today, which made it extra tough, but it hurt in a good way.

The best part is that I made my goal and in good time. I did a total of 30.5 miles, ascending 1040 feet, in two hours and seven minutes. According to my HRM I burned 1573 calories!


Monday, July 24, 2006

Week 23 Progress Report

Well, the bad news is that I did not get any training done over the weekend. This is especially troubling given the fact that I really needed a good long bike ride. I has just been too long since I have had a long spell on my bike.

On the other hand I did get to do some things this weekend that I just haven't done in a long time. I had the chance to watch a Sesame Street video with my daughter, and sleep in with my wife. These are truly special treats. Another thing that I haven't done in a long time is cook. I am usually too busy during the week to cook, but I try to cook at least a couple meals on the weekend. But the last few months I have been too busy to even go to the grocery store let alone whip up a meal. I have mostly resorted to sandwiches, canned soup, and take-out. Well, not this weekend. I used my barrel smoker to smoke 4 racks of spare ribs over hickory for 5 hours. My wife took the opportunity to invite a bunch of people, and we had a great big party. it was a lot of fun, but also meant that I spend the whole next day cleaning up. Oh well, it was worth it. But I made too much. I'm going to be eating ribs and bbq sauce all week.

Ok. So here is a breakdown of what I accomplished this week.
Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday: AM swim with LA Tri Club 1400 meters, PM Spin Class 1 hr. 20 min.
Wednesday: 20 min. run and Ocean Swim
Thursday: Rest Day
Friday: Swim 2000 meters
Saturday: Rest Day
Sunday: Rest Day

What can I say. It's pathetic. I got all the swimming done that I wanted, but only one short run and one spin class. Here is my plan for this week. Yes, today is a rest day too, due to the fact that I have a homeowners association meeting tonight. . .

Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday: AM swim with LA Tri Club, PM Spin Class
Wednesday: Run and Ocean Swim
Thursday: Bike Ride!
Friday: Swim/Run brick
Saturday: Long Bike
Sunday: Run

Now that is more like it. Here's to good intentions.

The results of my weighin this morning was 237.5 pounds and 32% body fat. I like the first number, but the second number is preposterous. I was reading 29% just a couple days ago. I'm going to chalk that one up to the fickleness of Tanita.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Inspiration from Thomas Jefferson

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.
--Thomas Jefferson

It has been a while since I have posted some inspiration so I thought a quote was due. Yesterday was an unplanned rest day. For some reason, when it comes to getting up early to go for a bike ride I have a hard time. Perhaps it's because I have been trying to go for longer rides, and it just becomes too daunting. Perhaps I should just scale back my expectations and then let myself go longer on the days that I feel good.

Up to this point in my training I have been doing spin classes during the week just because it is hard to schedule a 2-3 hour ride on my bike and still get to the office at a "reasonable" hour. But lately I have felt that the spin classes just aren't cutting it, and that I need more hours on my actual bike. To do this I just have to get up really early and just accept that I will be late for work. It's ok. I can be late for work once a week, right?

Today, I went to the Culver City Plunge again to work on my swimming. I have been told that my positioning in the water is ok, and I am rolling ok, but I need to work on my front quadrant swimming and on my hand positions. So that is what I did. I did a bunch of catch-up drills, some fist swimming, and focused my attention generally on my stroke. I am getting more comfortable with the timing clock and even did some intervals. Right now I am doing 100 meters in 2 minutes and 40 seconds. I hear that the cut off between a beginner and a good swimmer is around 2 minutes, so that is what I am working toward. Forty seconds is alot to shave off.

Total distance: 2000 meters

Tomorrow, I hope to get a 7.5 mile run in, and on Sunday, it is back on the bike.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Laps in the Ocean?

Today I tried the "Ocean Speed Circuit" with the LA Tri Club. Basically it involves starting at point A on the beach, swimming out to a buoy, turning around and swimming to the beach at point B and then running on the beach to back to point A. It is pretty popular with at least 50 people braving the waves.

I got to the beach a little early, so I decided to go for a jog. I had 20 minutes to kill, so I ran for ten minutes down to Venice Beach and then 10 minutes back. I tried to keep a nice tempo pace, and am happy to report that I did two miles in 20 minutes. That's 10 minute miles, folks! When I started training, I was doing 14 minute miles and just a couple months ago I was really happy with 12 minute miles. So I started out the day really happy.

Then I quickly had to head out to the beach to catch the other club members. Here is a photo of the group heading toward the water.

The waves were rather mild, but there were a few "big" ones to watch out for. Here we are, really getting into the thick of things.

The water was choppy, but I am learning to deal with that pretty well. What I really seem to have a problem with is sighting. I have a tendency to go left, probably because I am left handed and my left arm is stronger. I need to constantly correct my direction or will never make it to the buoy. Sighting, while coming back to the beach is easier because you can pick a building or tree or whatever and aim towards that object, but when you are going out you only have the buoy itself or other swimmers and these are often obscured by swells.

Here is a photo of me rounding the corner, ready for my second lap. This photo makes me cringe. But hey, I am out there doing it, and this photo proves it!

I did two laps. I probably had another one in me, but I had to feed the meter. Next time I will definitely do three laps.

Thanks to Liz Oakes for the photos.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Week 22 Progress Report

Week 22 was a full week, which I haven't had for a while. My only two disappointments are that I was too tired to do my weekend bike ride, and I let my nutrition get out of control on the weekend. Otherwise I would say that I did pretty well.

Monday: AM: 1 hour treadmill run, PM: Masters Session
Tuesday: Spin/Run Brick -- 45 minutes on the Spin bike followed by a 20 minute run.
Wednesday: Xterra Ocean 101 (practiced sighting and avoiding waves)
Thursday: 1.25 hours on a Spin bike
Friday: Swim/Run brick -- Ocean swim for an hour followed by a trail run for an hour.
Saturday: Run at the park for 30 minutes
Sunday: Rest day

Today I was 239 pounds and 30 percent body fat. My weight is coming down, but not as fast as I would like. That is mostly because I am simply eating too much. My goal is to eat 2400 calories plus whatever I am burning in training. That usually totals around 2800 to 3400 calories. But I am doing 3500 to 4000 calories. I will still lose weight eating that much, but very slowly.

So far this week has not started off well. I took another rest day on Monday, even though I didn't train on Sunday. I could feel it too. I was moody and grumpy all day. But today I am going to make up for it. I had a great swim at the Culver City Plunge with the LA Tri Club. The pool is 50 meters, which is so much nicer that the 25 meter pool i Have been using at my gym. The longer length allows you to focus on drills and doing your own thing, without running into other people or stopping at the walls. Training with the club is also great because I think it makes me push myself more. I don't use my HRM when I swim so I need other gauges to measure my progress and to motivate myself. I also got some tips on how to improve my stroke, which is exactly what I needed. So I am feeling that there is some hope with my swim now, and will definately train with them again.

Today I did:
1 x 200 warmup
1 x 100
3 x 100 50 fist 50 swim
4 x 100 decending intervals
1 x 100 recover
1 x 100 critiqued swim
2 x 100 cool down
Total: 1400 meters

Tonight, I hit the gym for a spin class to burn off the Double Quarter Pounder I had yesterday (oh the shame!).

Friday, July 14, 2006

Ocean Swim and Hill Run

Today I tried a real ocean swim with a wetsuit and all. I went with a group from the LA Tri Club, and was able to borrow a wetsuit from a generous club member. This was my first time with a wetsuit and I learned a few things, like how hard it can be to put one on. It was even more difficult to take it off and took what seemed like forever. I learned what chaffing from a wetsuit is (painful on my neck), and how a wetsuit can make your arms tired from being so tight around your shoulders. But I was warm and my legs floated very well.

I was also really humbled when I jumped into the ocean with the group and they just blasted away, leaving me far behind. I figured I was slow, but now I have a greater appreciation of just how slow. I got some great practice with sighting as I seemed to go left for some reason. I think part of the problem was that as swells passed me they would tend to turn me perpendicular to them. So I had to correct for this constantly. I went about half way and saw the main group coming back, so I figured I should turn around. Everyone passed me on the way back, and then I headed for the beach. Timing the waves was a bit tricky, but I managed to not get pounded.

After the swim a smaller group went for a short run up the Los Liones trial, a quick jog from the beach. The trail goes straight up into the hills so I had a hard time keeping my heart rate down, but it was fun to try trail running. It is a bit beyond my abilities, but it is always good to streach yourself. I ran for 4 miles and it took me just over an hour.

I had a great time, but I'm not sure I would do it again. The traffic coming back was brutal. It took about two hours to drive the 11.5 miles to my office. I could run faster than that, and I am a slow runner. Sometimes LA sucks!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bigger Quads, Smaller Waist

I went for an early spin class today, but the instructor never showed. That was probably for the best because I did not feel at all uncomfortable doing my own pace and my own distance. I have had some pretty intense training this week, and I know the rule of thumb is no more than five sessions of training that exceed 85% percent of your heart rate max per week, so I thought I would do long and moderate today. Of course, going long on a spin bike is just mind numbingly boring so I had to get off at and hour and a quarter, but all in all it was still a good solid session.

One thing I noticed is that my quads are getting huge. I have always had large upper legs, but they are starting to look like biker legs. Other parts of me are getting smaller. I still have a large gut, but when I press down on my stomach I can feel the hard abs underneath. That is kinda neat. I actually have something solid inside there! My arms are fairly lean and I can now wear a muscle shirt without embarrassment, and my neck has shrunk at least two inches.

This is all encouraging, but let's look at the numbers! At my peak I weighed roughly 280 lbs and according to the fickle Tanita I had 42% body fat. I did develop some better eating habits which helped to knock off a few pounds and I started on a diuretic for my blood pressure which knocked off another 7 pounds of water weight, pretty much instantly, which brought me down to 264 lbs and 39% body fat. That was were I was when I started this blog. Since then my weight has steadily dropped down to around 233 pounds. Three weeks ago I switched to a new blood pressure medication which made those seven pounds come back, so now I am at 240. I haven't been able to drop any more weight lately, which has been frustrating, but I think that the new blood pressure medication has actually helped with my training. Since it is not a diuretic I retain more water, my blood volume is up and I am better hydrated. I think this may be why I made a sudden .3 mph gain in my hour long runs.

But even though my weight has shot up, my fat percentage has dropped way down. The other day Tanita read 26%! Wow, that is just crazy talk. It seems slow close to breaking 20%. That would be incredible. But that reading seems to be a fluke. Normally I have been reading at around 29-30 percent, which is still great.

So what do all these numbers mean? At 280 pounds and 42% body fat I was at 162 pounds lean and 118 pounds fat. At 264 pounds and 39% body fat I was 161 pounds lean and 103 pounds fat. That is a 15 pound drop in fat, but with a one pound loss of lean. But now at 240 pounds and 30% body fat I am 168 pounds lean and 72 pounds fat. That is an incredible 46 pounds of fat lost, and a gain of 6 pounds lean mass. Probably most of that gain, if not all is water weight, because of the change in meds, but when you are losing that much weight and not losing muscle mass you know something is going right. So I may be plateauing at 240 pounds for now, but I know I am on the right path, and it can only get better so long as I keep it up.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

First Ocean Swim

Today was a blast. I attended a "introduction to the ocean" clinic hosted by the LA Tri Club and Acme Coaching. It took place at Ocean Park in Santa Monica. The conditions were rather mild, with small waves and warm water (around 70 degrees), perfect for an ocean swim.

Here is a photo of us as we proceed cautiously into the water. I'm the big flash of skin over on the right. I do not have a wetsuit, but I decided to go ahead and brave the elements anyways. Luckily it was not too bad. It was cold at first, but I quickly got used to the water. It also helped that I was pretty excited and was quickly thinking of other things like avoiding the waves and not how cold it was.

I was nver a surfer and never much of a beach person. It has probably been over twenty years since I have been in the ocean. I cannot remember ever actually swimming in the ocean, even as a kid, so this was all very new to me. I noticed that even without a wetsuit I was quite buoyant in the water, and I barely had to tread water at all. This is probably partly because of the salt content in the water. I was quickly reminded of the saltiness of seawater when I got hit with the first wave. But I admit my boyancy is also helped by the fact that I have a large belly and love handles to keep me afloat!

We did not do much actual swimming. Instead we first focused on how to approach the waves. We learned to time the waves and then dive under them when they crash. That was probably the most exciting part of the clinic. I did ok, but I did get hit pretty hard with one wave that almost removed my swimsuit!

After dealing with the waves we moved farther out and practiced sighting and swimming straight. The water was much less choppy than I was expecting, but then again the conditions were pretty mild, so it may not be very representative of what to expect in first Sprint in Santa Barbara. I did get a few mouthfulls of seawater, but nothing too bad.

After swimming around a bit we learned how to get back to the beach without getting crushed by the waves. It was the same basic deal of timing the waves and getting below them. We also practiced body surfing and letting the waves carry us in. That was great fun.

I think the clinic was a great experience. I never had a great fear of the ocean (more out of ignorance than anything else) but the strategies in dealing with the waves is something you might now learn on your own, or at least would have to the learn the hard way, so this was a great introduction.

The icing on the cake was that I won a raffle among the participants for $100 off an Xterra wetsuit. Seeing how I don't have a wetsuit and I have my first tri next month, it couldn't have come at a better time. Thanks to Xterra, Acme Coaching and the LA Tri CLub, you made my day!

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Masters Swim

Yesterday was pretty intense, which is exactly what I need at this stage in the game. My first tri is in August so I have just a few more weeks to kick the training up a notch and make some final performance gains. I did a treadmill run in the morning for an hour for a total distance of 5.3 miles. I wanted to go an hour and a quarter, but backed off from that because I need to leave something on the table for the masters swim in the afternoon.

The masters swim was at the Westwood Rec Center Pool which is not the greatest pool. It has plenty of lanes which is good, but they sure dump plenty of chlorine for an indoor pool. It started to make my skin burn after being in there for 45 minutes. Another thing that I noticed was that the pool is deep and that made following the lines on the bottom of the pool difficult. I keep bumping into the lane divider which was not fun.

This was my first masters swim ever, so I wasn't sure really what to expect. I have to say that something in me does respond rather well to having a coach. I think my natural tendency to try to please others gives me I higher level of motivation when the coach is giving out the routine and giving feedback. I worked really hard and was very tired, even though I did not do all that much meterage. I think I only completed around 1075 meters. At least 325 of that was with a kickboard without swim fins, so I was dying out there after having done the run in the morning. My kick has never been very good. I actually used to go backwards when I kicked with a kickboard. I am happy to report that now I actually do go forward, just very slowly.

Another good thing about the masters swim was that someone finally explained to me what some of the timing mumbo jumbo means. Now I kinda know what they are talking about and can read the clock. This is particularly important for me because I never had a way to time myself before, because I didn't really know how to use the clock.

All this being said, I'm not sure I will be going back. It is great to have someone give you a routine and to have the pacing of the other swimmers, but what I really need is some help with my technique. The coach didn't give any instruction at all on technique. Joining the masters club would be around 65 bucks a month, and I doubt I would be able to go more than twice a week. When you break that down to a per session rate it is expensive, especially when I am already paying for a gym membership (with a perfectly good pool), bike parts, etc. I really want to get a new bike next year, and 65 bucks a month for a year would really help towards a new bike. So I'm still trying to figure out what other options are out there.

I was pretty tired this morning, but still pulled though. I did a Spin/Run brick with 50 minutes on the spin bike with lots of hills and climbing and then followed it with a 30 minute run for 2.4 miles. I was soaking wet and oh so tired, but in a good way.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Week 21 Progress Update

I lost a few weeks in there that will never make it to the blog. Things have just been too crazy. But I'm looking forward now and will put out there what I can. It has been a struggle to keep up the training lately. There always seems to be something that comes out of the woodwork to keep me from training. I think it also appears that as I become more experienced, my requirements for training grow. I want to run outside and not on a treadmill. I don't want to swim in the middle of the day, when I will get burned. I won't ride my bike at night where I risk getting hit by cars. The list goes on and on. These all add up to make getting the time in even more difficult. Sometimes you just have to let go.

So the bottom line is I am not where I want to be. Psychologically sometimes this is hard to take. I am not a natural athlete, I have to make myself go out there and do it. Because it does not come naturally to me, I have this constant voice in the back of my head that gets on my case when I'm not training. It's probably a good thing, but when I can't train, for whatever reason, it also causes me a lot of distress. I become grumpy and irritable. It's probably too much. There needs to be a balance between training and the rest of my life, but when I try to relax I usally will relax too much, because my natural tendency is to go sit on the couch and watch the boob tube. So I'm fighting my natural tendencies and trying to instill in myself some new habits, and yet at the same time not go overboard. This is really hard. I'm more of an overboard type of guy.

Over the Independence Day holiday, I went up to San Jose to visit with my parents, brothers and their families. It was a good trip, but I did not get done anywhere near the amount of training that I wanted. From Friday the thirtieth to Tuesday the fourth I only trained twice.

I had a really good run on Saturday the July first. I ran from my parents house to Vasona Park and back for a total of 6 miles, and I did it in just over an hour (1:06) which is really fast for me. I was encouraged to see a bunch of runners out there and other triathletes. It feels good to get out there early in the morning and see the other sloggers out there with you.

On the Fourth I had a pool swim for around 40 minutes. I lost track of the number of laps (again!) so I have no idea of how I was doing. Part of the problem was that I was annoyed the whole time because some teenagers kept hanging on the lane dividers and strolling in and out between the lanes without any courtesy to the lap swimmers. The sun was also really hot and I was concerned about getting sunburned. I did apply some sunscreen, but I have a distrust of sunscreens after being in a pool for any length of time. I didn't want to get burned so I bailed early.

On the Wednesday the fifth I tried to get back on track with my training. I did a spin/run brick with 45 minutes on the spin bike and 30 minutes on the treadmill. I seem to be getting fast (ok, relatively speaking!) on the run which is encouraging. I don't have any problem keeping a 11 minute mile pace anymore.

Thursday and Friday were a bust. I had grand plans to ramp up the training, but just could not crawl out of bed early enough. I guess that I just had not recovered from the weekend of very little sleep.

Saturday I tried to get on my bike, but turns out I had a flat front tire. I have been very lucky so far and have never had a flat tire before. Yeah, yeah, I'm one of those guys who are totally unprepared for a flat. Luckily the tire was flat at home and not out on the road. I was bummed, but when life gives you lemons you make lemonade. I figured I should use this as a training exercise to practice fixing the flat. I did not have a replacement tube (like I said, I'm one of those guys...) so I tried to use this patch kit that I had. I would never go for a ride on one of these patches, but it may do in a pinch in some race, so I went for it. I had a little difficulty getting the tire off the rim, but was finally able to get it off using a tire lever. The tire didn't have any holes, but the tube had a small hole. What is strange is the hole was on the inside of the wheel. I have no idea what caused it. I patched it up, got everything back together and pumped it up. I was feeling really proud of myself when all of a sudden I could hear the air rushing out of the tube. Time to head to the bike shop.

So I strapped the bike to my car and took it to my LBS. I got a set of new tires and tubes and had some new pedals installed. My tires didn't have all that many miles on them, but they were around four years old, so I figured it was time. I went with Continental Ultra Gatorskins, because where I train there is usually uneven pavement and gravel. These tires are a little wider and this is supposed to provide for less rolling resistance for a larger guy like me, at least that is what the guy at the shop said. I took the bike for a spin the next day, and I did go faster. I went 31.4 miles in two hours and seven minutes, which averages about .6 mph faster over the entire distance. But then again it could also be that I had three days rest!

This week I have a masters team swim scheduled with the Southern California Aquatic Masters Swim Club. I'm looking forward to trying them out, but I doubt that I will join just because of the cost. It is sixty-five dollars a month which is very reasonable if you can swim 4-5 times a week, but I probably couldn't attend a masters session more than twice a week. I think my money would be better spent on individual or small group lessons.

I also plan on doing my first ocean swim this week, so I'm scrambling to find a wetsuit. I'm certainly excited about that. I guess this week is going to be a swim week. About time!