Saturday, February 17, 2007

My Biggest Challenge

The biggest triathlon challenge for me is training consistantly, and while there have been times where my training has lapsed from lagging motivation or work/family obligations these obsticles have usually only caused me to miss one or two days of training. Anyone who is familiar with my blog knows that my greatest barrier to consistent training has been frequent illness. Each time I come down with something it usually puts me out for at least a week.

Last week I thought I really had my act together and I put in a good solid week of training. I was on top of everthing, with my diet, taking my vitamins, getting rest and keeping my training moderate and within a well thought out plan . . . and yet I am sick again. It started out as a head cold and I trained through for two days. Then it moved down into my chest and have this horrid hacking cough. I'm finished for at least a few days, and frankly I'm pissed.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Inspiration from Harry S. Truman

In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves… self-discipline with all of them came first.

--Harry S. Truman

Another hump day, another struggle and another chance for success. I'm a bit tired, but also feeling pretty high in that I have just finished a whole week of training and didn't miss any workouts. I have this minor sinus thing going on that started yesterday afternoon, but it seems to be holding and not getting any worse so I am going to Press On!

It took me a while to come up with my new training schedule just because I was conflicted on whether I should use the spin bike at the gym or use my actual bike at home. I think using my actual bike prepares me better for an actual race where I will be using my bike, but it is difficult to come up with the time because of commuting issues. If I want to use my own bike I have to get up extra early. I am already getting up around five am, and would have to get up at least another extra half an hour earlier to fit in any decent time on my bike, and later in my training plan when I need more time on my bike I will need to probably get up at four in the morning. I don't really mind getting up that early. In fact I kind of like being up and about while everyone else is asleep. Everything is really calm and quiet and you get to see some beautiful sunrises.

But I am the type of person who really needs my sleep. I can survive on seven hours of sleep but I really need eight. During heavy weeks of training I could really use nine hours of sleep. When I don't get my sleep I am miserable the whole day and tend to come down with colds. The answer is to get to bed early, but of course, life being what it is, I can only go to bed so early. It is a struggle now to get to bed by nine and usually it is more like ten o'clock. But in the end I think I just plain enjoy being on my bike and am just going to have to suck it up, and just get used to being tired. I think this year it is all going to be about getting out side and try to avoid the gym with its treadmills, spin bikes and indoor pool as much as possible.

So here is the new schedule:
Monday: AM: Bike, PM: Swim
Tuesday: AM: Trail Run
Wednesday: AM: Long Swim
Thursday: AM: Bike, Transition Run
Friday: AM: Swim, PM: Run Track Work
Saturday: AM: Long Bike
Sunday: AM: Long Trail Run

I was happy with how everything is spread out during the week with recovery days between run and bike sessions, but you'll notice that I don't have a rest day. I think I'll try it out and see how it goes. I noticed that last year I would take a rest day and then one or two days later I would have to take a day off for one reason or another and then I really regretted taking the rest day. Rest days seem to happen magically one their own anyways regardless of our intentions. If I am actually able to complete a couple weeks of this schedule with no rest days then I'll allow myself to worry about it.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Trail Running in the Middle of Los Angeles

Los Angeles, it goes without saying, is a large city, and while it is not known for the dense urbanism of Manhattan, Los Angeles is a very urban place. Much of Los Angeles is covered with block after block of three to four level condos and apartment buildings, so it is an urban landscape after all. But surprisingly enough in the middle of all this development there are some pretty good running trails.

One of these wilderness spots is the Kenneth Hahn State Recreational Area, a park owned by the State of California but operated by the County of Los Angeles. I have been tired of the treadmill lately and loving my weekend trail runs, so I have been trying to figure out how to incorporate trail runs into the middle of the week, and I thought I would check this park out. The park is a large swath of land atop some rather tall and steep hills. I believe they are called the Baldwin Hills which also refers to the greater surrounding area. The ruggedness of the terrain is part of the reason the area has not yet been developed. The other reason is the longstanding oil development. I ran by several operating oil wells.

At the top of the hill is a really spectacular view of the entire city of Los Angeles from Downtown high rises to Hollywood and even to Santa Monica. The view was especially beautiful this morning as the sun had just risen and the recent winter rain has cleared the sky of all the smog. It was truly a great way to start the day.

The park has about seven miles of trails, some of them paved with concrete or asphalt and others are plain earth. All the trails curve and intersect with each other in a rather complicated maze so I never really knew where I was going. I really like this feature because it means it will take me a while to learn all the ins and outs of the place which keeps things interesting. The trails are rather short, but because they all connect you can do loops and combine them in all different ways. Most of the terrain is shrubs and there are few trees in the "natural" part of the park, but there is also a waterfall, lotus pond and green lawns in the "artificial" portion of the park, so there really is something for everyone.

As I have said in previous posts I am always coming across Olympic history here in Los Angeles, and the Kenneth Hahn SRA is no different. Apparently it was the site of the Olympic Village for the 10th Olympiad in 1932, and in 1984 140 trees where planted here in remembrance of the 140 countries that participated in the 1984 games. The park also happens to be the site of the ill fated Baldwin Hills reservoir that collapsed in 1963 destroying many homes and killing 5 people. The former reservoir is now a lush glen of trees with a walking path around it.

So now I have my new Tuesday morning trail run spot. If you live in LA, check it out!

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Monday, February 12, 2007

LA Times Article on Blood Lactate Testing

This morning I was looking at the health section of the LA Times and came across this article on the blood lactate testing being done at a local gym. The gym is called Phase IV and is a place I know pretty well as I just had some lactate testing done there a few weeks back, along with a gait analysis. Jennifer Ischayek is the technitian who ran me through my paces with my bike on a trainer. She took blood samples and then used an andvanced looking device to analyze it all. You can see pictures of the what it all looks like in the LA Times article.

Bob Forster is the founder of Phase IV and is also a sponsor if my triathlon club. He is a great guy, and offers other great services for the endurance athlete such as strength trainig programs, stretching clinics, running gait analysis and much more. I'll post the results of my latate test in a few days, and when I get the video of my gait analysis I'll post that as well so you can see what it is all about.

As for actual training, I didn't get in my trail run this weekend because it was raining. Instead I did an hour and fifteen minutes of intervals on a treadmill. I ran between 4 and 6.3 miles per hour with inclines ranging between 0 and 6 percent. These new treadmills are pretty cool in that they automatically adjust to your heart rate to get you in the right spot. Not as fun as running in the hills, but still cool nonetheless.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

A Cold and Gloomy River Ride

This morning I went on my first long ride of the year. I decided to start slow with my training and limit it to 30 miles of flats, which made a river trail ride the optimum choice. I choose the Rio Hondo is the closest to my home and has the advantage that I can spend more time on the trail and less on the street getting to the trail. The trail is in pretty good shape with very few potholes, but there are large cracks in the pavement which can rattle an aluminum frame pretty hard.

Today's ride was thirty miles, and while it was cold and dark, my spirits were up. I am excited about training again, and excited about trying out new things. The new thing to try out today was winter bike clothing.

I still have not got my wardrobe down for this kind of winter riding. I have tried different combinations of things over the last two months and have made improvements, but I still have much to learn. I wore some heavy weight cycling tights, but they have no wind resistance. At speed I am really cold, but while stopped at a light I warm up. On top I wore a long sleeve base layer, a short sleeve jersey and a wind breaker. It was probably too much, because I was soaked with sweat when I got home. I wonder if leaving off the short sleeve jersey would work better, or perhaps I need a windbreaker that breathes more.

On my head I wore a windtex headband, and a fleece muffler around my neck. The muffler works great because you can move it up or down to give you more or less ventilation as needed, but the headband did not work too well. It certainly is good when you start out the ride, because it protects my sensitive ears from the the wind, but halfway through the ride my head was starting to pound from the cold. I took the headband off, and I was actually warmer. I think the headband was causing my head to sweat and the sweat was causing my head to freeze. Ugh. It hurts just to think about it.

Here is a picture of the Rio Hondo. As you can see there is actual water in the river, which is only the case in the middle of winter. The rest of the time it is just a big concrete ditch.

The clouds were coming in and I thought it would rain, but then they broke and the sun finally came out. This picture was taken just as dark clouds were starting to break up. It is spooky in the gloom from the clouds, but the pond is the prettiest spot along the trail. The wildlife included some geese and a few homeless people. In the background you can see the outline of Mt. Wilson. That is where I am going next week.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

I've Finally Joined the iPod Nation

Over the holidays I got a little gift for myself -- a 2nd Gen iPod Nano. I resisted the idea of getting a music player because I just don't listen to that much music. I am more of a talk radio fan. I'm totally hooked on podcasts, and even before there was such a thing as podcasts I would record streaming audio on my PC and download it to my PDA. But I had my PDA that could play music and do all these other things, so why would I want to buy a separate device that only plays music. The trend is to combine the functionality of multiple devices into one. If anything, I should get a new cell phone that takes over the duties of my PDA and plays music. And that is what I looked for, but there just isn't a really good MP3/PDA phone out there that is a reasonable size, at least until the new iPhone comes out (drool).

My PDA is showing its age. It takes forever to sync audio files. Sometimes I will put it in the dock when I get home in the evening and by the next morning it still would not be finished syncing. The controls are also barely usable as they require the use of a stylus. It is certainly not something I can do while driving.

Enter the iPod. I was considering getting an iPod shuffle just because it is so small and cheap, but I finally decided that I wanted a screen to select what tracks to listen to, and that it was worth another sixty dollars, so I went with the 2Gb Nano.

Now what do I think about it after using it for over a month? Awesome. First of all the controls are great. That touch wheel is even better than I though it would be. All the options you might want are in one simple control. I can change tracks, fast forward and change volume, all without even looking at the device. It has plenty of memory for podcasts. People might want more if they want more music selection on their device, but if you are going to listen to something and then delete it, 2Gb is really more than you need.

Did I mention that it syncs really fast ... yessiree! Download the audio files themselves can take a minute or two, but putting them on the iPod literally takes seconds! I boggles my mind how fast it is after enduring the slow downloads to my PDA. The battery life also seems really good

The device is really small. Almost too small. it can easily fit into a pocket, but is slick and it is easy to drop because it is so small. So I tried to find a protective case for it and nothing is really exactly what I want. The silicon skins are great because they protect from abrasion and moisture and also have a nice feel in your hand, but their drawback is the slip cases are hard to get on and off. I also wanted an armband to use the Nano while running and none of the armbands will fit the Nano with the silicon case. I would have to take the device out of the silicone skin to put it in the armband, and that is just too much of a pain. I hope it is just a matter of time before someone comes out with something to solve this problem. In the meantime I'll just have to use my pocket.

On the training front I cannot help but get excited because it has been three days of solid traing. I think I'm finally serious about getting faster. Today was 1800 meters in the pool followed by a 4.8 mile run. My legs even feel sore, and it has only been 12 hours. Awesome.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Starting Up Again

I've been a very bad blogger. I gave myself the excuse that it was ok, becasue I was focusing more of my time on actual training, but I was just fooling myself. My training has been very inconsistent since November. I will do a good week and then not do any training at all for a week and a half. Repeat. I gained 10 lbs from my lowest weight in November, which would not be so bad except I was already trying to lose another 40 lbs by the end of this year. So I am basically starting from scratch.

This time it is going to be different. Why is that? Because I have Wildflower staring down at me at only 12 weeks away. Scary!

So this week I jumped back on the bandwagon. Gently. I did a spin/jog brick on wednesday and today I spent an hour and a half on the trainer at a moderate pace with a few drills thrown in. Tomorrow I plan on hitting the poll and running 4 miles. This weekend is a long bike and a trail run.

I have been doing some trail runs in the last two months, and I have to say that I really dig them. I probably look forward to them the most out of all the training I have been doing. I usually run on part of the Arroyo Trail that runs from South Pasadena up in to the Los Angeles National Forest. I don't run too far so I can vary the terran by just picking different locations to start from. the only problem is that it involves driving to the trail which costs time, a very precious commodity.

In other news, I was just informed that I was selected in the Escape to Alcatraz Triathlon lottery. I really want to do an event in the Bay Area and swiming the SF bay sounds really cool. I also don't know how hard it is to get a lottery spot. If I don't take this opportuntiy I'm not sure when it may come again, but I'm still not sure yet if I will do it or not. First there is the money. I think entry is almost three hundred right now. The second reason is also the money. A hotel room would probably cost another two hundred. The third reason is not money. It is the simple fact that I might not be able to make the cutoff time for the swim. The swim is 1.5 miles (2414 meters) in difficult conditions, and the cutoff time is at an hour. Right now I can swim about 2200 meters in the pool in an hour. I hopefully will get faster over the next couple months, but that is cutting it really close. It would be a real shame to go all that way, and spend all that money and not make the swim cutoff. I have until Feb. 28th to make up my mind.