Monday, June 30, 2008

Gladstone Swim

One of the great things about my tri club is large number of organized open water swims during the week. My two favorites are the "Speed Circuit" swim on Wednesday mornings in Ocean Park and the "Gladstone" swim on Friday mornings in Pacific Palisades. Last year I alternated between the two every other week. I'm going to be entering into a swim focus segment of my training so I probably will go back to doing that or maybe attend both every week. I think doing two open water swims would be fine so long as I do at least two pool sets during the week were I can do drills and intervals.

Last Friday was my first time at the Gladstone swim for the year. It's called Gladstone because we all meet in the parking lot next to the Gladstones For Fish restaurant. It is smaller group of people and more low key than the masses that show up for the Wednesday swim, but these guys are all really talented. It's actually pretty intimidating because I'm so slow compared to all these guys. Most of these guys regularly podium, in fact one of the guys I met at this particular swim was the silver medalist in his age group at ITU worlds. Pretty impressive.

Last year we would just jump in one side of the small "bay" and swim across to the other side, regroup and then swim back. At least that's what everyone else would do. I usually only made it halfway before I could see them coming back and so I would quickly turn around so that I could finish my swim in a reasonable time. This time was different. The workout leaders are trying to be more inclusive of differing abilities and also people who wish to train for different distances, so they set up buoys at various distances and we could do various courses depending on our goals. I went with the "Olympic Distance" group. Here is a Google Earth picture of the two loops we did.
The first loop is in red. We went out to the first buoy, around to the second buoy, swam back to the beach and then ran back to the start. The second time we went out around the two buoys and then back to the first and then in. You can see that the first loop I overshot the buoys and was farther out. The second time I was in the middle of the pack and was in a better position.

These tracks were recorded in an i-gotU GPS data logger. I have been playing with this thing for a while and enjoying the cool bike course profiles in can create, but it really shines when tracking open water swimming. The device is really tiny and light so it can easily fit under your swim cap. It has a one button operation so you can turn it on and off while it is under your cap and it is sealed and water proof. As far as I know it is the only way to get a good handle of your speed and distance while swimming in open water.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tools, Toys and Trash: Scott Hand Wipes

I want to start a new regular feature on this blog. I will review products that I think could be useful for a triathlete or other endurance athletes. Now I know that lots of blogs review products, and I'm not sure that we need another review of a tri bike, powermeter or the latest nutrition supplement. Perhaps I will review some of these types of items, but what I am really interested in are items that are not designed to serve the triathlete, and that these athletes might not know about, but still could be useful.

First off I want to say that unless otherwise stated I have not received any promotional consideration for any of the items I review unless I specifically state as such. I have purchased these items off the shelf just like anyone else.

My rating system will work like this. Every item is either ranked as a tool, toy or trash. Tools are useful items that help you get your workout done, help you get fitter, faster or more comfortable. These are the must have items.

The next rating is toy. These are the items that are fun, may have a motivational component and probably are all geeked up, but they won't get you across the finish line any faster.

The last rating is trash. This stuff is just no good or at least is not worth the price.

Ok. Simple enough. So what is the first item I am going to review . . . Scott Hand Wipes. What?! Hand wipes. Yes, hand wipes. These things rock!

If you work on your bike (and you should) you will get your hands greasy. It is just the reality of the triathlete's life that you are going to drop a chain or adjust that brake or derailer and get your hands covered in grease. Bike grease is usually horribly difficult to remove. With lots of scrubbing and ten minutes later you might get it all off in the sink. But Scotts Hand Wipes will take that grease off in seconds. It is amazing! These wipes are made for shop use and you can get them at your local hardware store in a tub of 30 pieces. Basically they are cloth wipes impregnated with what appears to be a citrus degreaser. It is mild on your hands but cuts through the grease immediately.

Another great use for these wipes is cleaning your handlebar tape. If you drop a chain during a ride or have to change a flat you probably will get grease on your hands and then get that grease onto your bar tape. If you have black tape you probably can't see it, but if you have a light colored bar tape like me then they don't stay light and quickly turn black. I have tried Simple Green and other degreasers on the bar tape and it works a bit, but not very well. The Scott Hand Wipes however takes it right off just like that.

Less time cleaning, more time riding. Definitely going to make you faster.

Scott Hand Wipes -- Rating: Tool


Epic Ride #1: Calabasas to Pacific Coast Highway via Mulholland

So I have been preparing for the LA Wheelmen Grand Tour Double Metric Century Challenge and have been doing some incredible rides. I don't have time to do a very long ride every weekend, but I have been able to negotiate with my wife to get some long days in. I probably have done about 6 rides over 4 hours and feel pretty comfortable with doing the 200k next week.
Most of these rides were LA Wheelmen trainer rides, which they start in the spring with a new one each week. These ride slips are a great resource because I have really wanted to expand my list of available rides from the usual trek up Angeles Crest. Sometimes I am able to go on the regularly scheduled day, but usually I just print out the route slip from the webpage and go on my own.
The first ride I did with the LA Wheelman was a ride from Calabasas to the Pacific Coast through the Santa Monica Mountains. It was only my second chance to through these mountains. If you look at the profile of the route below, you'll see that the ride starts with a very steep but short climb in the very beginning. The climb is not very tough when you are fresh, but on the way back I was dreading that climb the entire way.

The first quarter of the ride was just beautiful. It was pleasantly cool with penty of shade through rolling hills with farms and ranches along the route. The next quarter of the ride started to get tougher. You had to climb up over the mountains to get to the ocean. I got a flat because there was slash in the sidewall of my tire. I felt pretty stupid about it because I had gotten a flat in the last ride I did and forgot to check the tire. I first tried to patch the tube, but it didn't hold. Then I felt really stupid because I should have just replaced the tube since I had one with me and now I only had one C02 cartridge to do it. It seemed like it took me forever, but I finally got it fixed by putting some cardboard separating the inside the tire and tube and replacing the tube. Now I had no CO2 left so I just crossed my fingers that I would make it through the rest of the ride with no more flats.

The climb was beautiful and there was still cool temperatures, but descending down to the ocean was just fantastic. It was incredible. You had to be careful to avoid stones in the road, but the views were spectacular.

Down along PCH the group stopped at a fish and chips joint for lunch, but I decided to press on back. First, it was only 10am and too early for me to eat lunch, but also I am slow and I figured I really needed that time to get back over the mountains, so I gobbled down a Balance bar and some Clif Shot Bloks and was off.

The way back was rough. First, it really started to heat up. It was probably around 85 degrees and I was pouring out sweat. Secondly, my bike keep ghost shifting out of my 29 cog onto my 27 cog. It was incredibly annoying. The route slip showed a different route on the way back. It was very steep, but incredibly beautiful. I wish I had my camera, as there was some incredible red rock formations and wildflowers out there.

The last fourth of the ride was just terribly painful. The ride had an assigned stop at the Rock Shop, and I should have stopped, but I was too concerned about making it home in the time I had told my wife I would be back. So I just pressed on. I guess I just took off more than I could chew with this one. I was stopping under every shade tree I could find. There was another rider that looked to be about 80 riding a hybrid and wearing sandals and I was doing everything I could just to try and keep up with him. It was so hot, and I ran out of water. I thought I was going to die so I stopped at a house, and when no one answered the door I just used their hose. I think I drank a whole bottle's worth of water right there.

I keep grinding slowly on, just dreading that last final climb. I don't know how many times I just thought of throwing in the towel and calling my wife to come pick my ass up. I knew that damn climb was coming up, and I just dreaded it. But I didn't call for the SAG wagon because I knew it would take forever for her to come get me, and I didn't want to wake up my four year old daughter from her afternoon nap. So I just pushed on.

Pretty soon I ached all over. My feet hurt. My hamstrings ached. My quads burned. My hands and shoulders were numb. But then something happened. I realized that I was at the peak of that very first climb. I was there and I didn't even know I was doing that last climb. I was so shocked and happy that I just powered down the last descent to my car with just a huge grin on my face. Sixty-four and a half miles done (GPS battery died on me so the profile above has the last few miles cut off), but how in the world was I going to finish 126 miles? I had a lot of work ahead.

Next time. . . the Terrible Tujungas!

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Friday, June 13, 2008

2008 Redondo Beach Triathlon

So I finally did my first triathlon for the year. There aren't too many early season races in Southern California. So unless you are doing the California Half-Iron, June is about as early as it gets, and it is about time. I enjoyed the Redondo Beach Triathlon last year and so I was looking forward to doing it again. But I didn't really train for it, because I have been training for the upcoming LA Wheelmen Grand Tour Double Metric Century Challenge. But it was a sprint race and a C race on my race schedule, so I figured putting my run and swim training on maintenance would be ok.

The good news is that I finished higher in the rankings than last year, but the bad news is that I was nearly two minutes slower this year, which to be frank was disappointing. In the end the difference nearly all came down to the run, and reveals that my run needs alot of work.

The Swim

At 1000 meters, the swim is a little long for a sprint triathlon, so the event favors good swimmers. I'm not a good swimmer, but pathetically enough it is my fastest sport of the three. Last year I had a problem moving too far the the left and then swinging wide as I went around the final buoy. This caused me to get caught in some kind of rip current near the pier, and I made very slow progress in the final exit from the water. So this year I was determined to stay close to the buoy's even if it meant going through the inevitable crush zones where all the athletes are vieing for the same inside lane around the buoy.

I was feeling comfortable and confident and I was really surprised that I basically found a group of guys and stuck with them for the entire swim course. This has never actually happened to me before. I did swing a little too wide in the first half of the swim, but got back on course for the second half. The water was very calm so getting out was like a breeze.

My time was just a few seconds slower than last year at 22:57 for the 1000 meters. That is about a 2:18/100meters (not including the run up the beach) which seems pretty fast for me. I rarely go that fast in the pool, but maybe the course was measured short or my wetsuit made me faster. What I think is most likely is that I was probably swimming slightly slower than last year, but I swam a shorter course by staying closer to the buoys. My swim definitely needs lots of work, but it was about what I expected.


Going up that hill from the beach to the transition area is murder, and I had to walk at least half of it. The only problem I had in transition was getting my wetsuit off. I had a little difficulty, but did not sit down so I probably did better than last year at 1 minute and 56 seconds, but I really should be able to get that down to around a minute to a minute and a quarter. That will be a goal for me for my upcoming events.

The Bike

I put on my bike shoes during the bike leg. I did that last year and had issues because another guy closed my bike shoes. Why didn't I learn?! I closed them this year. I thought I was closing them in such a way that they would be wide open, but no such luck. I must have taken at least two minutes to finally get those damn shoes on. I probably should have practiced more, as I haven't practiced since last year.

After getting my shoes on I kept the bike at around 220 watts for nearly the entire course. My lactate threshold is around 190 so I figured for such a short course 220 would be a good pace. People were staying to the right more than last year, but there still were alot of kids, and they had a tendency to weave back and forth right in front of you.

The best part of the course is a fast downhill loop followed by a short but steep hill. I did my best to pass as many people as possible on that downhill because I know they were going to get some distance from me on that uphill. Actually I had an advantage in my road bike on that downhill because I could stay aero in the drops and still maintain good control going around the loop, whereas alot of the people on tri-bikes had to get up on the hoods and slowdown to maintain control.

I had no problem getting out of my tri shoes as I was coming into T2. Now if only I could do a flying dismount. . .

So I did the six miles in 20 minutes and 42 seconds, which averages out to about 17.4 miles per hour. With all the bike training I have been doing I was hoping for better. I guess this just goes to show that specificity is the name of the game. I have been doing lots of bike training, but it has nearly all been long distance endurance training. I need to do those intervals!


T2 was pretty fast at 1 minute and 24 seconds. I put on my running shoes without socks, which made it a bit easier. I was risking blisters, but I figured how could I possibly get blisters over only two miles. I also put on body Glide on my feed earlier, but I have no idea how much remained after the swim and running up the beach in bare feet. But it worked out ok, as I didn't get any blisters.

The Run

Here is where it gets ugly. My legs felt like lead. I haven't done a brick in several months. Boy, did it show. I was really working hard, but I was barely moving. My Polar RS800 was telling me that I was doing about a 12:30 pace. Ugh!

My legs started to feel a little better about a third of the way into the run, but by then my heart rate was really high. I'm not sure how high it was because my HRM lost the signal during the swim and so I didn't have any heart rate readings for the first half of the run. I finally remembered how to get it to find the signal later, but by that time the race was nearly over. I kinda miss my my S625x for races for this reason. It could keep the signal in the swim and I would have a heart rate for the entire event.

For the final hill I dug deep and ran the whole way with a final strong sprint at the end. I finished the two miles in 22 minutes and 7 seconds. That would be around an 11 minutes per miles pace, but probably the course was short. That was still nearly two minutes longer than last year, so my run has really slipped up.

My running has been really inconsistent since the LA Marathon. That's partly because I have been focused on my bike training, but also because I tend to want to run long and don't do much speed work or tempo running. This just trains you to run slow. So now I definitely know that I need to focus on short, fast running for the next few months.

My overall time was 1 hour, 9 minutes and 6 seconds placing 9th (out of 22) in the Clydesdale division (last year I was 22nd out of 41) so that was definitely an improvement.

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