Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What a Difference a Little Persistence Can Make

Wow!!! There is nothing like visual confirmation that something you've been working at for a very long time is coming to fruition. For me this year was really about doing some races and addressing the area of changing my body composition so that I could see some economy benefits in cycling and running. What a difference a year and three months, some exercise, more sleep and about 60 days of counting calories can make. Even I am shocked by these pictures. The cool thing is I haven't been training more than a few hours a week since Thanksgiving. And I haven't counted calories since then either. I've been taking things pretty easy, enjoying my unstructured training time and doing a little yoga here and there.

A little over a year ago, I started out with just a goal of becoming fitter and healthier, and maybe doing a few races. I can't begin to tell you how many times along the way I was sure nothing was happening or that I was sliding backwards instead of moving forward. So whatever your goals are for the coming year keep working at them and you will see results. Here's a bit of proof and hopefully some inspiration. Happy New Year everyone!

Photos on the left taken 08-17-07. Photos on the right taken 12-29-08

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Yoga, Strength Training, Running.... (and other random stuff)

So this week I taught my third yoga class. All I can say is the difference between "doing" yoga and "teaching" yoga is not to be underestimated. The drawback to teacher training courses I would suspect is that while you will get teaching time in front of a group of students in one form or another, most of the "students" you will be teaching are already familiar with yoga, if not aspiring yoga teachers themselves. Within five minutes, I realized this was not going to be the case with the class I was teaching. I was really excited about this because it meant I was going to have to really understand the poses I was presenting and be able to communicate this understanding clearly to others who quite possibly had never been to a yoga class before. I think for this reason alone, I'm so glad to have taken this route for my teaching journey instead of the more traditional one which would have had me teach at a yoga studio. Plus correct me if I'm wrong, but there are plenty of yoga teachers for traditional yoga students with an ongoing practice. I want to be someone who serves as a fun and non-threatening introduction to yoga.

I also started my preparation for winter training after a few weeks of completely non-structured training. My runs have been really good, including a 17:00 3 mile run about a week ago. I was really encouraged by this run. It means that the weight loss and the core work and everything else I've been doing are paying off even without structured workouts. I'm getting faster by just by being good to myself. Gotta love it when that happens. Sweet. And I'm seeing the same thing on the bike. Though I haven't been on the tri bike outside in a while, the Moots is putting up some pretty fast times in my informal time trials.

One thing I'm noticing on the bike and in my running (I don't time swims at this time of year so, I'm clueless here) is I'm conscious of engaging and using my core more and more. Again I'm going to have to give the credit to both yoga and the handstand push ups I've become obsessed about doing recently. Yep, you read that correctly. I am obsessed with doing handstand pushups. Honestly I have no idea why, and aside from the core muscles necessary to pull it off for the balance and stability, it is probably a bit of a stretch to make the case for this type of work in the context of triathlon training. But what the hey, that's just the way I roll. Check this out. See if it doesn't get to you just a little.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Beginning Of Things

Today's training was to be fairly straight forward, Yoga for an hour and a half, easy 30 minute run, followed by an easy 2.5 hour bike ride. It looked simple enough on paper. Too bad it didn't go that way. Yoga was about the only thing that did. On the run my pace didn't seem excessive, though in retrospect I'm either going to have to get a Garmin or start wearing the foot pod for my Polar again. My perceive effort was about a 3 or a 4 but at one point on the run I looked down and my heart rate was 181. What the hey??? And it wasn't a fluke. What was weird was the feeling of ease that I thought I had and yet my chest should have felt like it was going to explode. But it didn't. Weird.

So I finished the run and looked at the sky to attempt to gauge whether or not I should ride. It looked like rain. But then I thought about how great it was on Saturday while I was at work. I got angry and decided to ride rain or shine. I would just wrap my stuff up in baggies and go. While it didn't rain, a front blew in half way through the ride dropping temperatures about 10 to 15 degrees in a matter of minutes. That wasn't so bad but what was a problem was the wind. I'm not sure because I forgot to check when I got back in but I think at some points the gusts were up to 30 mph. Coming from the North. And I had ridden South. :( Needless to say going home wasn't very pleasant. And keeping my heart rate down again proved challenging.

When I got home I was spent. There was one point on the way back where I was going up hill into the wind and I swear I felt my leg muscles separate from the bone I was pushing so hard to keep the bike moving. This is not a feeling I would wish on anyone. And I for one hope never to experience it again.

But I got the work in. And there is always tomorrow which should be interesting. As I'm typing this blog, I see that it's snowing. In Austin, Tx. Wow. I suppose I should just be thankful it didn't happen while I was out on the bike.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bike Review 2008 Guru Praemio

(Post Sub Title: Jack Be Nimble)

So when I walked into Jack and Adam's the other day and said, "Hey Jack you got a bike I can ride?" I had no idea what I was in store for next. All I did know was Jack was smiling from ear to ear as he led me over to one of the coolest bikes I've ever laid eyes on.

"Wanna ride my new bike," he asked?

Needless to say after words like, "Wow!" and, "Jeez that is one sweet bike!" escaped from my lips, all that was left to say was, "YEAH!"

So the bike Jack pulled off the floor, his own personal ride, was the new Guru Praemio. Needless to say I was impressed. The lines of this bike were simple, yet compelling. White paint and the polished silver of titanium were complemented with white handle bar tape and white sidewall tires. This bike folks, was a thing of utter beauty. I couldn't wait to ride this bike but there was just one condition prior to my test. Because this was Jack's own bike, I would need some special equipment prior to taking his bike for a ride. Mind you this is Austin and on the day I was riding it was 85 degrees outside. But if this one small concession was all it took for a ride on this machine, I was willing to make the sacrifice.

But with all the aesthetic attention to detail, only one question remained. How would this beauty ride? Again I put the bike through my standard tests. There was climbing, turning, acceleration, descent, and plain old tooling around looking very, very cool.

The most noticeable thing I have to report about the Praemio is how quick and responsive this bike felt. It was almost as though my nervous system was hardwired into the frame itself. This bike seemed almost to anticipate my movements and put me where I wanted to go before I could even think about it. Amazing. I could slice through turns, leaning in deeply with confidence and bring the bike back upright without a second thought. On climbs it was as though the pedals danced underneath my feet as opposed to my mashing on them.

I think this bike is for someone who wants and likes to ride aggressively. The Praemio let me do that without question or thought. Because of the responsiveness, I think the Praemio will bring out the more aggressive side of any rider who chooses this bike for their training or racing. The bike is really light without the obvious extra steps that some manufacturers can take to make their bikes invisible to scales. The ride is solid and comfortable, though it wasn't the quietest or the most comfortable titanium I have been on. There was a bike more of the frame noise than I like that can be present when riding either aluminum or titanium, especially on bumpy roads. I can say this bike is a marked improvement over the Guru Tri Ti I tested last year in terms of temperment and agility. It also seems lighter.

The Praemio has four options for pricing(based on components) and two titanium gauges, straight and double butted. Double butted is more expensive. You can find detailed information and the specs here. Like all Guru's after you choose the basic options, you are free to customize the ride with everything from level of stiffness and paint to the extent your wallet will allow.

All I know is now that Jack has one of these and he's motivated to ride, you'd best be nimble, and you'd best be quick, otherwise Jack'll be beating you in next spring's crit.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fueling By The Numbers

This is day 47 of eating according to caloric necessity. I must say, I've marvelled at the changes in my body composition from the simple mathematics involved in eating only as much as necessary to reach a fitness goal. As I mentioned in my other post about the calorie counting, I arrived at the conclusion to start doing this because there was really no other alternative that I could see to get the results I wanted. My food choices were already almost totally organic. I'd adopted and adapted a vegetarian paleo diet with a Warrior diet schedule. I was sleeping more, and more consistently. And my training was good, my intensity varied. I did P90X for Pete's sake! But still my weight wasn't dropping below 156 pounds. And this was about 14 pounds heavier than my prior racing weight.

The idea formed slowly. It came almost as a whisper.

"What if you are eating too much food?"

There was only one way to find out. That was to do the math and look at the numbers. Then I could compare the numbers with what I was actually eating by keeping a food diary. Needless to say the numbers were depressing. But the information was valuable because it was the truth. I think as human beings and as athletes we all can have an enormous potential for self deceit. It isn't something to be ashamed of, but we need to be aware of it and face the consequences squarely if we are to grow both as human beings and as athletes. To me that is what the journey of triathlon is really all about. It is about coming to understand who we truly are in both success and failure.

So what did I find out about myself? I found that I was eating on average around 3500 to 4000 calories per day. This was way too much. For simple weight maintenance on with my normal workout volume 2500 should have been adequate. 3000 if my training became really intense. But not only did I need to reduce my caloric intake, I would also need to lose weight to get back to my ideal size to race well. The math basically says 3500 calories equals 1 pound. So in order to lose a pound a week, I could either work out more to burn an additional 3500 calories. This equates roughly into about an extra 7 hours of workout time per week. Or I could subtract 500 calories per day from my diet, also totalling 3500 calories. Naturally, I took the latter approach.

After 47 days, my results so far speak for themselves. I currently weigh 146.5 pounds. But what I was unprepared for was the incredible increase I've had in both stamina and energy. I'm actually sleeping about an hour less per day. I've also noticed increased flexibility without additional time spent practicing yoga. I noticed a similar increase in flexibility when I changed to a totally organic diet. I don't really have a scientific reason for this but I think our bodies are more flexible and energetic when they aren't burdened with the chore of having to digest the excess food we sometimes tend to consume. I'd also like to point out you don't even really need to drop the additional 500 calories per day if you felt you wanted to lose a pound or two. All that might be necessary would be to find out what the difference is between your current/normal food intake and the suggested caloric intake for your body type, weight and activity level. Just eating the proper amount of calories if you find you are eating to much will have the effect of normalizing your weight. But I will also say, don't do any of this without first consulting a dietitian or your health care provider.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Yoga For Triathletes - Pose Of The Week - Vajrasana

This week we are gonna show the cyclists out there some "Yoga Love" and focus on a pose that is primarily just for them. Though it isn't a bad pose for swimmers or runners either. For runners this is an excellent quad stretch, but is also a good compression for the achilles tendon providing and a good counter for the lower legs. For swimmers, the pose promotes ankle flexibilty. Personally I've found it good for developing a stronger kick.

But I've found Thunderbolt brings the most noticeable relief when I've come in from a long, hard bike ride. This pose is just so good for tired, overworked cycling legs. This is the reason Thunderbolt Pose, or Vajrasana, is one of my all time favorite poses ever. Mostly because it is easy, can be done almost anywhere, and provides instant verifiable relief for tired quads.

To get into the pose all you need to do is sit on your heels with the tops of your feet pressing into the floor. You want your knees to touch so that your legs are straight out in front of you lined up with your hips. In Yoga your hips are a key alignment point, and seated poses like Thunderbolt are no exception. You want your shoulders lined up with your hips to insure an upright posture. You can rest your hands on the tops of your thighs or on your knees. This can also help you position your torso properly. Once you have a sense of being centered, you can lean back a little and rest your hands on the floor slightly behind you to deepen the stretch. If you find your knees begin to lift off the ground position your torso more toward being upright. Your knees should always remain straight in front of you and in contact with the floor.

I also like to lean forward in this pose with my hands on the floor in front of me and gently rock my body from side to side on my shins. I find this also is very relaxing. I will point out, like most seated poses Vajrasana can be very intense for those who have sensitive knees and inflexible ankles. If you find this is an issue for you, you may want to try folding a blanket and placing it behind your knees so that you rest on that versus your heels. Here is a short video of the pose.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Yoga For Triathletes - Pose Of The Week - Ardha Chandrasana

This week I've been thinking about the moon. Not the one circling around the planet, but the one I struggle with in Yoga classes. Ardha Chandrasana, or Half Moon, is one of the most challenging, yet satisfying, poses I can think of. It requires a mixture of flexibility, balance, strength, and probably more than just a little courage to pull off properly. One of the reasons I'm fond of this pose is because it was one that I had a lot of early success with when I started taking Yoga classes. I think this is because as a cyclist and a runner, it is one of the few poses where leg strength and endurance is a plus.

Why do I feel this is a worthwhile pose for endurance athletes? Personally, I think this is a "must" pose for anyone who runs a lot. While Half Moon is an excellent pose for creating length and muscular integration of the whole body, it is also a great foot and lower leg strengthener. Because of the nature of balancing on a single foot, the muscles in the foot and around the ankles are constantly active getting an intense workout in just a few moments. From my own practice, I've come to believe this pose goes a long way toward building strong durable feet and lower legs which can help to prevent injuries such as Shin Splints, Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendonosis.

So how do we come into Half Moon? There are actually several different ways to do this but to me the easiest way to get into the pose is to start from a lunge (right foot forward with the foot in between the hands). From the lunge you will come up onto your fingertips and straighten the right leg which causes the left leg to naturally lift from the floor. At this point the left leg is extending straight back behind you with the toes pointing down toward the floor.

Leaving your left hand in contact with the floor move your right hand to a point on the floor just beneath your right shoulder. Your gaze can remain on the floor. Take your left hand off the floor and place it on your left hip. Now without taking your eyes off the floor or your left hand off of your hip, rotate your left hip up toward the ceiling. This should also rotate your left toes to the point where they are now at a 90 degree angle with the right leg (they are pointing out away from the mid-line of your body).

Now you're are essentially in Half Moon. Once you have your balance, you can add more challenge to the pose by taking the left arm from the hip and extending it straight up toward the ceiling. Perhaps if you feel stable here, you can try to lift your gaze from the floor to the ceiling following the left arm. Finally, with your gaze back on the floor, you can bring your right hand from the floor to your ankle to incorporate additional balance into the pose. Remember to only rotate your head at the neck so that your left hip remains pointed up toward the ceiling allowing you to keep both your balance and the integrity of the pose. You will want to stay in the pose for at least 10 breaths. After that you can try this again on the other leg.

If you are finding balance is an issue one thing that is possible is to practice the pose with the extended (in this case left foot) against a wall for additional support.

You can find a picture of the pose and additional guidance here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bike Review 2008 Moots Compact

Maybe you remember back in the day when Victor Kiam was all over the networks hawking Remington shavers with the slogan, "I liked it so much, I bought the company." Or maybe not. Well anyway take this as my full disclosure. I liked the Moots Compact so much I bought the bike. Over the course of my years as a cyclist and a triathlete, I've ridden a lot of bikes. Typically, with any bike purchase, I've ridden at least 6 bikes on route to a decision. And thanks to this blog, I've ridden a lot more bikes just to offer some perspective to someone else who might also be in the market for a new bike. So I've been on all types of frames from aluminum, to steel, to carbon fiber, to titanium. Personally, I like titanium's feel and durability the best. Especially given my heavy use of an indoor trainer in my workouts.

There is just no other way to say it. This was the hands down best bike I've ever ridden. Period. You know there are so many things that go into a good ride. And there are a lot of bikes out there that can provide that feeling. But what I experienced on this bike made me rethink some of the perceptions I had about every bike I'd been on before this. This bike was beyond good. In fact it was so far beyond good as to make "good" seem completely unacceptable.

The most noticeable thing right off the bat was the sense of ease I had pedalling. On most bikes I've tested or ridden, there is a distinct increase in effort when moving into the bigger gears. On the Moots, the increase is so slight as to be almost non-existent. (Hmmmm... Bigger gear, more speed, almost no effort??? Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!!! DING!!!!)

But it was more than speed, or the ability to move bigger gears with ease, or feeling as though the 15 mph headwind I was riding into that day was a joke. No, it was way more than that. During my standard tests the bike outperformed every road or Tri bike I've ever been on. With nothing more than a carbon fork, the Moots' ride is very, very plush without being squishy. In fact the ride feels both solid and swift without beating you up. The Moots hangs tight in the corners with a steady confidence that almost reminds me of riding on rails. The acceleration out the back side is immediate and sure. Climbs are can be taken on with such confidence that all but the most mountainous terrain seems flat. Wow. Wow! Wow!!! Don't believe me check this out.

"...The titanium is timeless. It's bomb-proof. It's quiet, comfortable, fast, understated, won't rust, won't corrode, it's light. It's a bike that is completely unfazed by hype and glam because it is plainly and simply an amazing bicycle...."

If you are interested you can find the whole review here. Check out the other bikes these guys sell day by day and then you'll understand why I'm raving about the Moots. Moots offers both stock frame and custom options. And they also offer Ti stems and seat posts and a host of other Ti accessories such as spacers to give your bike a unique finishing touch. Last year when I was looking for a Tri bike, I was told they would make one if requested. I'll have to check on that option now. Looking over the Moots website I do not show a link for them. Bummer. I bet that would be one epic Tri bike. At any rate, I'll update this post after I've contacted Moots about the Tri frame. If they don't still make them, that would be a shame. But all I can say is if you are in the market for a quality, higher end road bike, you owe it to yourself to consider Moots.

Monday, October 6, 2008

After a Week of Tracking Calories...

I only have one thing to say. OK. That first sentence is a lie. But if I could keep my comments about tracking calories down to a single item, I'd probably say I should have done this a long time ago. I know I should have done it while I was doing P90X last winter (so if you are going to be trying P90X, take the time, calculate the calories, and watch the new you emerge). And I certainly should have done it when I was transitioning from racing to off season training. Jeez. The funny thing of it was, I had an inkling the off season weight gain was the result of my appetite and my training being out of sync. Basically my food intake was still at summer/racing levels, but my activity had gone into recovery/off season mode. The big thing that I find so amazing is just how little food 2000 or even 2500 calories actually amounts to. With that information alone, I'm able to better assess portion sizes and make better judgements on how much food is needed to fuel my body appropriately without excess.

I'm not really sure why I never looked at the discrepancy between how much I was eating and how much I actually needed to eat more closely. Perhaps it was no big deal a few years ago to shed 8 pounds in a month and start racing. Now of course losing that last 8 pounds has been like pulling teeth. And since I've already eliminated most culprits for stubborn and unwanted weight like HFC's (high fructose corn syrup), junk food of all persuasions (chips, cookies, desserts, ect.), and any and all processed foods from my diet, there actually wasn't much else I could do other than quit my job and work out more.

After a week of limiting my caloric intake, one thing is blatantly obvious. I was just eating way too much food. Based on my estimates from what I'm eating now and my current activity level, I'm eating about half of what I was eating before on some days. Granted there is about a 500 calorie deficit in the equation for losing a pound a week for 8 weeks. But as near as I can figure based on the size and frequency of meals I was eating prior to this, I had to be consuming between 3000 and 4000 calories a day. That's great if triathlon is your day job and you work out over 20 hours a week. But not if you aren't. The net result of this has been I'm simply amazed at how little food 2000 calories is. I'm not starving mind you. But this has really opened my eyes to how much food is necessary versus how much I was habitually eating.

Fortunately, it wasn't always this way for me. I'm also feeling 2000 calories was probably about what I was eating per day when I was younger. This all changed with the advent of a live-in girlfriend. When she left unfortunately my eating habits didn't go with her. Oh well. Live and learn. Hopefully, none of you will have to learn this lesson the way I did. I definitely chose the "hard" way on this one.

Oh, in case you were wondering what 2000 calories looks like, here is a day from last week. Another thing this has brought to my attention is the invisible "liquid" calories I was consuming.

Lemonade 8oz 110
Super Protein Juice 45
mushrooms 100
4 baby carrots 16
3 strawberrries 6
½ banana 50
pineapple 15
hemp protien 30
green food 20
Super Protein 6oz 95
Super Food 2oz 42
Greens Bar 12:30pm 250
Lemonade 8oz 110
½ veggieburger 8:30pm 170
½ fries 200
Lemon/Chive Drsg 1tsp 25
Switch Soda 140
Grapefruit 10:00pm 62
Smoothie 11:30pm 394

Total Calories: 1880

Monday, September 29, 2008

Your Body Is Precision Instrument

I would be well advised to keep that sentiment in mind. For the last couple of weeks I've been attempting to deconstruct my body's apparent mutiny against all things training related. Honestly, it wasn't really all that difficult and it didn't take a PhD to figure it out. My work schedule at the latter part of the summer was abysmal. (You know, maybe there is something to my mom's assertion that the use of profanity is for those who lack the vocabulary to express themselves appropriately. (Did you notice my use of the word "abysmal?" If you did can you tell my mom?) At any rate if that wasn't enough, when both my Naturopath and Acupuncturist used the same phrase to describe my sudden onset of chronic fatigue, "Low Kidney Chi," I knew I wasn't gonig to like what came next. But don't ask me what the phrase means exactly. All I know is that in their traditions the kidneys are the energy stores that come into play AFTER the adrenals. So when you burn through the adrenals and deplete the kidneys, you've essentially dug through the bottom of the well. When they both looked at me with those, "You poor, poor dear" eyes, I knew my season was done. Crap.

But I digress. Looking back at my year, I can see that my training, when following a set pattern yields consistent fitness gains. What I can also see is that when my schedule is changed I begin to "wing" my training attempting to fit in the same number of workouts with less recovery and/or sleep. I also notice when this compression of my workouts comes into play, my carefully crafted diet also gets shot full of holes. It is just one short fast downward spiral from there. "Game over, player one."

But now after a couple of weeks of low intensity work, consistent rest and restoring my prior eating habits everything seems to be looking up. I've upped the intensity of my workouts recently but kept their duration modest. Nothing much over 2 hours and I've been consciously finishing my workouts with plenty of energy left.

This winter I want to spend some time addressing some things to get ready for next season. I'll have to deal with my job because this is be biggest challenge I face not only with regard to my training and racing, but simply with my overall health and well being. I also want to deal with my body composition. I made a lot of headway in this area over the last couple of years but I could still lose about 7 pounds. Losing this weight would go a long way to improving my running speed/economy. To do this I put some of that Personal Trainer knowledge I've acquired over the last couple of years and started some serious calorie counting. Don't worry, its all very scientific. I don't plan on losing more than a pound a week.

The next area I plan to address is my swimming. My swimming was affected by my decision early in the year to take the Yoga Teacher training class. This was followed by the 6 weeks of recovery and rehab after my bike wreck. For some reason I wasn't comfortable putting a lot of stress on the arm so, I pretty much babied my swims in races and in practice. Over the course of the winter I'll be doing a lot of long sets for base/strength to address my lack of actual time in the water this spring.

Last but not least my cycling has to get much better. I'd like it to be better than when I stopped racing 6 years ago, but at this point I'll settle for just as good. Thanks to aging, most guys in my age group can't ride as fast as I was riding so that's fine with me. :) This winter I'm going to focus on power more. My pedal stroke doesn't appear to break down so I'll spend less time on economy. I'll do more sets with turning over bigger gears faster now. We'll see what happens with that. As I get more specific I'll keep you up to date with what I'm seeing as far as results are concerned. Well, I'd better get back to work.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Yoga For Triathletes - Pose Of The Week - Kapotasana

This fall I'm going to start teaching Yoga. The class I'm envisioning will cater primarily to athletes -- triathletes, runners, and cyclists. Since it will be starting in the off season, it will probably focus on recovery and integration at first, then build into strength and balance as the season approaches. I don't have all of the details worked out just yet but I want to start thinking more about the poses I'll primarily incorporate into my classes.

I think all told I've been doing Yoga for about 5 years now. The first 3 were just to some DVD's I inherited. I remember the first time I did a 30 minute yoga session on one of those discs and thought "Man, this is pretty tough." But I kept at it because I liked the way I felt when I was done. In the beginning I didn't think I'd ever go to a yoga studio to take a class largely because I'm pretty highly self motivated when it comes to athletic stuff and don't really mind doing it by myself. Fortunately I have a pesky friend named K who kept at me to take a REAL yoga class. Because of K's persistence I finally gave REAL yoga a try. And I got hooked on that too. I now can honestly say for the most part they take it easy on you in those DVD's. For one thing, most of the classes in studios are an hour to an hour and a half long. For another, there are more challenging poses, more of them and the poses all seem to be held forever.

What I will point out is that Yoga is not necessarily the same as static stretching which typically involves isolating and lengthening muscles. Yoga poses are as a general rule more dynamic in nature calling for stretching, relaxing, balancing and coordinating muscle groups to achieve a desired result. Because of Yoga I've been able to find and access muscles I didn't realize I had. This has been most noticeable in my core. Enough said.

Anyway, the pose I'm studying today is called Eka Pada Kapotasana or One Legged Pigeon. Technically the pose I'll describe here is a more common variation of the pose that is more effective for the typical issues faced by endurance athletes. I've found this pose to be really helpful for accessing and releasing a notoriously tight muscle in many of the runners and cyclists I know, the piriformis. This asana is also beneficial because the piriformis crosses over the sciatic nerve. The lengthening in this area can create a great deal of relief if you are experiencing some issues with the area. Working with this asana can also be beneficial if you have lower back pain that is isolated to one side of the body just above the hips which can be sourced to a tight piriformis.

Starting in a low lunge with both hands on the floor the right foot is in between the hands, the thigh and the shin are at a right angle. Press into the floor and lift the right foot and rotate it over toward the left hand. Gently lower down on the bent right leg, using your arms for support. You may find as you lower onto the right leg you need to allow the foot to move in toward the left hip. The more open your hips are, the closer you can get your right leg to a 90 degree angle. Your left leg should shoot straight back from your left hip. The top of your left foot will be on the floor. In the this pose you don't want to just collapse. You want to keep isometric tension from both legs and radiate it up through your torso. At this point if it is available to your body you can begin to lower the torso forward over the front leg. For some simply bending forward slightly and keeping the support of the arms will be enough to engage and begin the release the piriformis. As you work with the pose you may eventually get to the point where the torso can come to rest over the front leg.

After you've found your body's point of expression in the pose, you will hold that position for about 60 seconds. To come out of the pose, you can simply plant the palms into the floor, lean forward, tuck under the toes and move back into a lunge over the right leg. You will then repeat the same sequence with the left leg.

You can find a picture and additional notes/instructions for entering the pose here.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Things Have Got To Change...

People who know me well know that I am not an angry person by nature. And when you race, sometimes a bit of the "red fuel" can be just what you need to kick a little azz, or shoot, just get out of bed for a key yet dreaded workout. Heck because of this added zing, my swim this morning had me cruising almost 8 seconds per hundred faster than normal. On the positive side this probably means I've been babying my swims this year because of the bike wreck I had in March. But when you begin to realize a consistent, slow, steady increase in the red fuel over time, its time to start asking some bigger questions.

I guess I could say I'm lucky. I know exactly where my frustration is coming from. For the better part of a year now things at my job have deteriorated to such a point that no amount of money could fix what's wrong. I could say its the people or the work or the conditions, or a combination of all these things but taking the time to consider the situation, I know the real problem isn't actually any one of these things or a combination thereof its me. I've changed so much in the last few years and what I want to do with my time and what I want from it are much different from when I started working with this company and these people almost 5 years ago.

Joe Friel's excellent book The Triathlete's Training Bible, provides an excellent introduction and discussion of the concept of limiters. Limiters are things which basically stunt performance and athletic development. They are the things that hold us back. For the most part they can be physical. Someone with less endurance will not do well at longer distance races so, their limiter is endurance. Someone without much strength or the ability to apply force continually will be limited in hilly, windy, or rough water races. If your diet isn't what it should be, this could limit both your training, racing and recovery. Other limiters can be purely psychological or emotional. If you feel you don't race well in cold or hot weather, or if "so and so" shows up, you probably won't. You get the picture. Limiters are things that keep us from having our best performances. And as such they potentially keep us from experiencing our best selves.

I've been seeing the same thing in a lot of different sources I've been reading lately. The gist of the idea that comes up over and over again is that if we aren't constantly growing, we are regressing. It is this sense of regression that causes the experience of "dis-ease" which can not only be applied to races and athletic performance but to other aspects of our lives as well.

So my job has to replaced with something that will support my life more fully and also my desire to train and race to my full potential -- whatever that potential may ultimately be. That is, I suppose, one of the gifts of racing and this sport in general. You get to look at your performances and your life and make informed adjustments that will bring you into a fuller alignment with your true goals. And you get a supportive group of folks to help and cheer you all along the way. A healthy analysis of your limiters will always lead to change. And change that leads to a greater experience of potential and self is always good.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008


"Holy Lightning Bolts, Batman!" Ok I'm just going to say it. The men's 100m sprint was nothing short of phenomenal. I have never seen a human being move so fast and make it look so EASY. Jeez. I'm still watching the clips over and I still can't seem to get my head around it.

I have seen the future of speed. and his name is Usain Bolt. That is all. Though you can find some info here in case you missed it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Thoughts About P90X 11 Months Later

So a lot of folks have been looking at my P90X posts this summer and for the most part I think if you take the time to look through them they speak for themselves but I thought I'd offer my take on the program now and give some input on which posts about my experience I thought might offer the most information.

I suppose one thing I'd want to know right off the bat is how is my weight/fitness now? When I started the P90X program in September 2007 I had already lost about 10 pounds and my weight at that point I was 164 pounds. Now I weigh 154 pounds. Aside from losing the weight and being able to keep it off, P90X allowed me to get back into triathlon training and racing faster than if I'd not used the program. I was not only able to build strength but I was also able to build my base endurance up in the process. P90X is also very, very core intensive. For this reason if you look around the internet you will see not only dramatic changes in weight but also huge changes in posture. Personally for the better posture alone P90X is more than worth the money and effort you will put into it if you chose to purchase the program and use it.

The nutrition plan that comes in the program is also very sound and well thought out. If you take the time to study it and adjust it to your personal needs and situation, you will find this is where your most visible results will come quickly. Without the diet you will get much stronger, but chances are you won't see the visual results P90X is so famous for. I also believe how we choose to eat affects not only how we look in the mirror, but how we ultimately think and behave. When we eat better, we are better.

Currently I still use the P90X workouts 2-3 times a week depending on time, timing (am I racing that weekend), and fitness goals. The workout is portable if you have a set of resistance bands. This summer I used P90X to stay in shape while on trips to California and Washington D.C. I plan to use the full 90 day program again during my off season. Where I decide to position it will depend on if I also plan to use the P90X + program in addition to P90X or not.

Finally, I found the results I got varied depending on whether I was using the resistance bands or the weights. The bands, I think give a type of strength that is present throughout the full range of motion of the exercise. You will look toned. The dumbbells will give you a higher top end strength wise and you will get more definition more quickly.

If you just want a quick overview of how the program is structured check out these two links:
Week 1

Week 1 Caveat

If you just want to know how the story ended, check out this link:
Final Thoughts on P90x

If you want to see pictures of what I look like now compared to what I looked like when I started, check out this link:What I look like now.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


So this week just can't get any worse can it??? You saw my previous post about my computer, the one that hooks up to my Tacx and has all of my photos on it. Well it still isn't working.

Then there are the $90.00 running shoes I just bought this week that I discovered I couldn't run in yesterday. Yep, 30 minutes into an hour run there was PAIN shooting up my right leg. I had to walk back to my car. If I had any wits about me I would have phoned in the rest of my planned workouts for this weekend. But no, I had a 5 hour hilly bike ride scheduled for today, the Dam Loop plus Limecreek road (home of the Triple Bitch climb - trust me you don't want to know) then back home on 360. Brutal, hilly and hot. But like some famous blogger named Chuck says, "Miles make champions."

Well 2:15 into the ride, right a the foot of said Triple Bitch the entire drive train on my road bike explodes into a gazillion pieces. I kid you not. My rear derailleur was in pieces all over the road. My front derailleur, what was left of it, was lodged in between my large and small chainrings. I had to call Du Shun for a ride home. Thank God I forgot to text him last night or he might have been on the ride with me. 40 miles is a long walk in cycling shoes... I thought about swimming later but decided to stay home in the house where I'm safe. Right now I don't think I should go anywhere near the water given the week I'm having.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

My Computer Is Dead.

So I raced this weekend. There are pictures. There is a story to be told. Why am I not telling it, you ask? Why are there no pictures? Well it is because of some freakish glitch in the video drivers on my desktop computer. The computer that has the nice monitor I use to view and choose the photos I post on this blog.

Somehow I've managed to corrupt the video drivers each time I've rebuilt the system from scratch and each time, I completely lose video output and wind up staring at a blank screen. So you might be asking yourself why is this on my blog? And you might also wonder why it matters and what it would have to do with my working out? So what if there are no pictures, you say. And indeed a good argument could be made that pictures on a blog devoted to training and triathlon aren't necessary.

But I have a reason to be at least somewhat concerned by this. Not only was this the computer that I kept my video and my blog pictures on. This was also the computer that I attach to my Tacx bike trainer. Not to mention it is the only Microsoft Windows system I have (everything else, including the homebrew PVR attached to the TV downstairs is some flavor of Linux or BSD). This means it also has all my iTunes music as well. Blah, blah, blah.... You get the picture. I sort of need to have this thing running.

Of course all the files are backed up and I do have access to the pictures, but that isn't the point. The point is I don't like it when something I built isn't working. Everything sort of stops for me until I get it working again. So today, instead of going to the gym and working out, what was I doing? I was trying to rebuild the desktop. Nothing worked. At least nothing that provided me with video output. So I'm stuck with having to work some major MS-fu to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Got all that? So anyway that's why I raced this weekend. And there are no pictures. And I haven't blogged.

Friday, August 1, 2008

So Today...

I'm back in Austin and working out. It doesn't get any better than this. I follow my routine no matter what so, today that meant a tempo ride on the bike at my planned 70.3 pace and effort. I was supposed to ride for an hour and a half but I don't think I'm fully recovered from my trip related stress so I stopped at an hour and five minutes. I didn't feel bad per se, but I could feel the stirrings of leg cramps which says to me my diet in D.C. was less than optimal. That is no surprise. While I was in the nation's capital I noticed that though there was an impressive array of restaurants, the quality of the food wasn't what I was used to finding at home or in the Bay Area. So I was forced to make some compromises concerning both the quality and the quantity of the food I chose to eat. Add to that the stress of air travel and you have a formula for an injury if you aren't careful. Plus I hadn't been on my bike in almost 10 days.

But while I was riding I felt stronger as far as the effort I was able to maintain. I think this was evidenced by the heart rate numbers I was seeing. I was able to keep an average pace of 20.5 mph with an average heart rate of 150. This is about 7 beats lower than the last time I did this tempo workout and it was about 5 degrees hotter. So I'm not complaining. I'm pretty sure it was all the walking and hills and in D.C. that did it. I guess I need to thank Marci and Ryan from Salt Lake City for running me into the pavement for this improved fitness. "Thanks guys. You rock!"

After my ride I made it down to Jack and Adams to pick up my packet for the race this weekend. I just want to say, when you have good swag, you almost assure yourself of your race filling up. Jack's Generic has good swag. Decent tee shirt, cool SweatVac running cap, and organic coffee. Sweet!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Home Is...?

For some who see these words the ending is obvious. But I've been rethinking this concept lately and asking myself "Where am I truly home?"

For the past week I've been in Washington D.C. I've really enjoyed being here. The area is a lot greener than I would have imagined. There are trees and rivers everywhere. And HUGE parks! But what I think I'm enjoying the most is seeing so many runners and cyclists everywhere. Now some of the reason for this could be because I'm staying in a hotel close to George Washington University. But for the most part the trails and bike paths seem to be almost endless. And because of this and the easy availability of mass transit, I've walked almost everywhere except from the airport.

What I'm also finding interesting is even with all of the traffic, there is very little evidence of the smog or air pollution that you can become quickly conscious of in some Texas cities while riding or running outdoors. I'm starting to believe the reason for this is wherever there is a high concentration of trees, the air is just cleaner. What I think is also necessary is the presence of mature, old growth forests. Makes you think twice about that rainforest someone is currently cutting down somewhere in the Amazon.

But I digress. D.C. aside from being quite forested is also very humid and very hilly. My runs here have been hour long sweat drenched, quad shredding affairs. The shortest run this week has been 45 minutes at an average pace of 7:20 per mile (this counts as a tempo run in my book). The longest run has been 1:30 which featured climbs of anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. And I thought I was getting a break after leaving the Bay Area last month. No such luck. It seems everywhere I want to travel these days has significant climbing involved.

I never really thought I'd find myself saying this, but I can't wait to get back home to some "flat and dry" training. All of this humidity and hill running is killing me. I forgot my cable so, I'll post some pictures after I get back tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Things That Make You Go "Hmmm...."

So here are the pertinent numbers. 04/22/08 - Time 22:16, Ave HR 167, 07/22/08 - Time 22:21, Ave HR 157. There are other numbers. But I think these pretty much say it all. Same course. Of course. Almost same conditions except it was about 5 degrees hotter yesterday.

And you know I was actually amazed at how good I felt while I was cycling yesterday. If I hadn't compared the two times I would have sworn to you I went faster yesterday. I was relaxed. I was spinning a good gear. A bigger gear. But I wasn't mashing. I remember the sense of "white, hot pain" from the effort in April. That was brutal. No this was nothing like that. I was attacking climbs, being aggressive with the course and my attitude. Wow. I felt fast. I felt... Alive. I was taking no prisoners and at the end of it all, right there in black and white, I was 5 seconds slower than before.

I've said before we all need a healthy dose of the truth every once and a while. And like the track, a time trial on a known course can be sobering. But at least now I know exactly where I stand. The possibility exists that could point to more efficiency in my cycling. I'm producing the same speed with much less effort. I'm done chasing speed for the year. My goal now is to create as much efficiency as possible so that I am capable of running a half marathon well after a 56 mile bike.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

This Week...

So this week I'm flying off to a conference in Washington DC. I wonder what awaits me there beyond a week of work related stuff. I'm sort of praying for a little synchronicity and and an equal helping of divine intervention. Otherwise I could be in for a long week. I've sort of figured out what types of workouts I'll do in place of my normal triathlon training. I'm going to primarily focus on strength and technique work while I'm away. This should keep me occupied and uninjured while I'm out of my normal routine. I spent this weekend loading videos of my planned strength workouts and some yoga routines on my Ipod. Yeah, I'm geeky like that. Truth is I probably won't need to watch the videos that much in order to work out. But if I get stuck, there they are. No excuses, you see.

Post race my training has gone well this last week. I'm moving with more and more ease each day and my endurance is really starting to come around. Both my running and swimming paces are starting to pick up and my cycling is definitely stronger. Since my schedule at work changed I've been able to do long rides of 4 or more hours at least once a week. This is one of the areas I had identified earlier as a problem with my cycling so, it feels good to address it consistently.

The first weekend I was able to do this Du Shun had to come back after 2 hours to get to work on time. I was really annoyed because it was technically too late to find anyone else to ride with by the time we got back. I had all but decided to ride the last 2 hours by myself when my buddy Jason called. Within a few minutes I was back out on the bike and got in another 2:30 to get 4:30 for the day. Luckily for me Jason had done Buffalo Springs the weekend before and was still recovering. That guy is a beast on the bike. All I know though is after the ride was over I was really tired but I had this sense of euphoria that seemed to last for days. I suppose long rides make me happy...

This past Saturday I spent another 4 plus hours on the bike. This too was a really good ride for me. We hooked up with a couple of other cyclists as we rode south toward San Marcos. These guys, both racers, one a Cat 1, were winding their way down to New Braunfels to enjoy some tubing, drink beer and chill out at the music festival. Thanks to their presence as we shared pacing duty, I was able to maintain a consistent heart rate similar to what I would sustain during a time trial effort. I was also able to get a good sense of my fluid and nutrient requirement during the effort.

The interesting thing about the ride from my perspective is that I had been out late the night before because I allowed someone to drive me to a concert. Because the person driving had a little too much to drink, I didn't get home when I had planned. As a result, and because I intended to ride no matter what, I drank lots of water. So much so that whatever meager amount of sleep I would get was interrupted about every 30 minutes for another jet to the bathroom.

The next morning, I was running late and forgot to bring some packets of electrolytes I intended to try out. I do tend to ride without "sports" drinks for most rides lasting less than 2 hours. But given all of the circumstances surrounding this ride, I made sure to stay well hydrated and even used Gatorade at the 1:30 and 3:00 hour marks. Because of this (I suspect) I actually experienced the sensation of getting stronger as the ride progressed and found myself taking longer pulls in the front as the ride wore on.

Unfortunately this would not be the experience my riding partner had. About 4 miles from home his legs would cramp up so severely, he would not be able to move and I would have to ride home and bring a car back for him. My point here is while I observed the circumstances of the ride and watched the dynamics change with the addition of two young (they were both 22) and highly fit cyclists to our ride, I was forced to reevaluate the situation and make some changes both in how I road and in what I drank. Those two bottles of Gatorade have to be the first time I've had anything I could buy in a convenience store in about a year. My partner chose to hydrate using straight water the whole way and I think it caught up with him. As a result I'll be paying even more attention to what I eat and drink while training.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Perfect Paces Make Perfect Races...

I only want to say, "Let it be known that I do on rare occasions actually race triathlons, versus simply writing about training and taking pictures."

So going into the first race of the season for me, I was thinking about the phrase "Perfect paces make perfect races" a lot. I decided I wanted this race to simply be a dress rehearsal for the pace I would like to hold for the 70.3 race I'm signed up to do in October. As such even though my first race of the season was a sprint which would normally be a license to push as hard as I possibly could, I decided I would work on a little self discipline and maintain more moderate intensity levels. I set some heart rate goals and wore a monitor to insure I stayed within my preset limits for each event. I also would not use the big ring on the bike unless my cadence got above 110 RPM. So basically no big ring, no mashing of gears, and no heart rate above 157. This heart rate is about 10 beats below aerobic threshold so I would be able to sing while racing if asked. Fortunately for all concerned, I wasn't asked.

What did happen however was that as I was stretching prior to my swim start one of the race volunteers saw me do a Deep Prayer Squat, which is basically squatting down between your knees, with the feet remaining flat on the ground and your bottom as close to the ground as it can go without falling over. You can bring your hands to a prayer position and use your elbows for some leverage against the shins to really open things up. So anyway, the volunteer came up to me and asked me about the stretch so, I explained its benefits of opening the hips, loosening the shins and ankles as well as being a nice stretch of the piriformis muscle. At which point, he proceeds to tell me, and I'm not kidding you, the stretch reminds him of a jingle on a kids TV show in the 50s that went something like, "Plunk your magic 'twanger' Froggy!"

Now I don't know about you, but that was probably the last sentence I expected to hear come out of his mouth. Now understanding the context of this reference, I can honestly say I find it a little bit funny. But I have to admit before learning of the phrase's meaning, I thought it was some sort of secret agent code signifying a shared agenda. You know like, "Don't eat the red strawberries." And then you respond, "Of course, everyone knows they taste better when they are blue."

And if that first meeting wasn't funny enough, this eager volunteer proceeded to greet me with said secret phrase each time I entered or left the transition area as well as at random spots on the race course if I happened to go by. I do have to admit it did help to break the single minded focus that can be a two edged sword on some multi loop courses.

So at any rate overall I think my race went pretty well. I maintained a very even effort from start to finish that felt "quick" though not fast, and gave me a sense of the type of pace I want to have in my first 70.3 attempt. The swim went really well for about the first 75 meters or so to the first turn. In fact I felt so good I actually sprinted out to the first buoy and backstroked around it in a flash. It was so quick and I saw so much open water in front of me I sort of freaked for a second. Then I settled into my stroke but for some reason I was having a really hard time sighting the buoys to the next turn so I had to breast stroke to get my bearing a lot more than I would have liked. (To be honest I would have liked to have not breast stroked at all). But it was what it was and after the awesome start I was a little disappointed with my swim time -- it was off by about a minute and a half of what I'd predicted. I pretty much assumed I was well behind everyone else in my age group at this point. But given my meager swimming this year, I was happy to be swimming at all.

My transition was uneventful, except for the volunteer screaming about "Froggy." I opted not to attach my shoes to my pedals so I didn't really have any issues mounting and riding. The ride was pretty flat but it was a little windy. I kept my cadence at about 100 and my heart rate as averaging 155. About a third of the way into the ride I started noticing I was riding my way up into the age group ahead of me. By the turn I had ridden well into the next age group also. I was feeling pretty good on the bike and it was cool passing all these folks even though I was also remaining deeply aerobic.

I came into the transition area with two guys in the age group just before mine. The bigger of the two took off like a rocket, while the other opened up a 30 meter gap which would hold to the turn around. Off the bike my legs felt OK but my turnover was a little slower than I would have expected. But I just kept telling myself that I wasn't running distressed and that soon that idea should creep into my legs. Just before the turn around it did. At this point the challenge became not speeding up but slowing down to keep my heart rate goal. I caught the first guy I left the transition with and then started passing anyone in sight at will. I came across the line with a lot left in the tank and feeling pretty good.

I have never done a race at completely aerobic pacing so the feeling of not being spent at the end of a race was new though not unwelcome. I must say it was really hard to let some folks go and stay focused on my larger goals. But I learned a lot from it and I do feel like the workout/race made me a stronger triathlete in a couple of ways. The biggest is the sense that I race for me and my own reasons. Not to prove anything, or beat someone. I can race just for me and that too is satisfying. And I did learn there is some truth in the whole "Perfect paces makes for perfect races" thing.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Just Funny How Things Work. The Rogue Training Store

So this morning I'm on my way home from work and things appear to just "NOT" be going my way. Twice cars on the freeway sort of managed to position themselves in such a way so that I was unable to take either of the normal exits I use to get home. This meant I had to go the long way around my house and drive back to it. But I suppose there really is a reason for everything.

Because I took this route home, I ran (literally - as she was out for her morning run) into an old friend of mine, a person who I probably went to more races with in my early triathlon days than anyone. Anyway, I drove ahead, parked and waited on her to run by, clapping and shouting encouragement as she passed. On her way up the street she called back, "We just opened a new store."

You see, my friend is none other than Ruth England, co-owner of Austin's Rogue Training Systems. If you don't know about Rogue, you should. They are a great group of folks offering all types of training services to the Austin fitness minded community. And now they have opened a retail store for your training equipment and gear as well. I think we should all take note. There's a new training store (read "sheriff") in town... Its gonna be interesting. For more info about Ruth and the Rogue Store look here.

For more on Rogue Training Systems look here.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Tao of Training: Fourth Insight

"...People usually fail when they are on the verge of success. So give as much care to the end as to the beginning;
Then there will be no failure..."

Of all the posts in this series, this has been the most difficult to write. Perhaps it is because this one hits so close to home for me personally.

I don't think any of us have a hard time dreaming big because as triathletes we all have some mountain to climb whether it be a goal race, or a finishing time, or place on a podium. Triathlon with its times and schedules and rankings can be very, very goal oriented. It is easy to lose sight of what attracted you to the sport in the first place. In an environment like this the actual "process of triathlon" can get overlooked. And as fitness increases it is so easy to start to believe it will continue to increase with more effort and less attention. If you fall into this pattern of belief, your behavior will soon follow and you could wind up undoing all the quality work you have done. This can signal the beginning of the end. Check out Brandon's post on a similar subject here.

The other day at the end of a solid three week block of training, feeling strong and satisfied, I picked up the phone and called a friend to see what he was up to. I hadn't talked to him in a while so, he was very excited to hear from me. He started suggesting we get together to either ride or run. As he talked a feeling of absolute dread came over me. There was a reason I hadn't talked to him in a while. Our life and training goals were very, very different. I experienced this first hand last year when I wound up on the verge of overtraining after agreeing to workout with him a few days a week. For him there was no "off" button. Sessions continued endlessly and without much purpose. It was easy to train too much and too hard when I was around him. Fortunately we both got busy and went our separate ways. And I eventually recovered.

What I have noticed in my own experience is the fitter and more confident I become, the more I think I can do both inside and outside triathlon. Ultimately time and time again this one small fallacy has wreaked havoc on my results. Calling my friend to see what was up is just one example of how a single act can have far reaching, entirely foreseeable consequences.

That experience made me sit down and consider the implications of my recent phone call. What was most troubling was the realization that I had done other things just as counterproductive before. There was the year I was tapering for a big race and had told my girlfriend I could not help her move and to either call her brother or hire movers. She did neither and I wound up spending two days, 12 hours each, lifting and moving furniture. I could feel myself actually using stores of energy and fitness in the process. I still raced but was sluggish the whole day. Needless to say my results that day were not what I was looking forward to.

The thing is decisions like this seem so small at the time. A phone call to a friend. Spending two days helping a girlfriend move. They don't seem like the end of the world or the reasons some of your personal goals are no closer now than when you first conceived of them. But if you take some time and look at your own life and find there are some phone calls you could have left unmade, or emails left unreturned, or that “can't miss” party that you could have skipped just to get a few extra hours of sleep, or taken more time to prepare better food versus grabbing something quick in a drive thru, or even just make a small adjustment to your training schedule because you sense a change is needed, then you might find that you are actually closer to realizing your goals than you think. It can be easy to forget that our goals matter to us and one of the ways we can remind ourselves is to acknowledge the larger picture in our lives and give it the attention it deserves. Of course becoming conscious of our patterns of limiting behavior and addressing them has implications that extend far outside the world of triathlon.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Week's Not Quite Over

But I'm having a really good training week. All of my workouts so far have been really productive. I had been thinking about something Lucho said/says about taking risks with your training and have tried to do some things differently -- especially with my cycling and strength work these last couple of weeks. I've added 3 strength workouts to the mix (each with a different emphasis) and do them only during the days I work following a 30 to 45 min warmup run or bike.

One of the challenges in training for me is to get all of the workouts I'd like to do in while still seeing a positive benefit from each session. But what can be most challenging for me is my work schedule and getting adequate recovery. Because I work overnight 3 days out of the week, my sleep patterns are irregular. The days I work I don't get as much sleep as the days I'm off. And the 4 days I'm off are also when I try to get in the bulk of my quality training. So I'm trying to train and recover during the same block of time.

In the past I made the mistake of attempting to stick a more "traditional" training schedule where my long rides and runs where done on the weekends. But getting off at 7AM after working for 12 hours and trying to run or ride was just too hard physically and mentally. I've since decided that just wasn't a good idea for a lot of reasons. The main one being I was having serious trouble with my weight while I was doing it. It was also ruining my training and recovery during my days off.

Because of the things I discovered going through my training logs last week I decided to do as much work on the weekdays as possible in a daily pattern consisting of swimming, yoga, riding, then running followed by more yoga targeting tight and/or tired muscles from the day's workouts. Since the last Time Trial I've shifted my week day workouts around to this new pattern and it seems to be working. I think I've come up with a workout schedule I can live with. By doing some things a little differently adding the strength work and a few relatively short but intense running and cycling sessions to the mix, I'm actually doing a few more hours of training a week and not feeling as wiped out overall. That is a good thing.

I'm not sure but I think simply because of the schedule change, I'm starting to see some more rapid gains in fitness than I'd been experiencing before. One thing I've noticed besides feeling more rested and stronger is that my resting heart rate has dropped from about 55 bpm to 42 bpm. My appetite has been really consistent lately and I think I'm seeing the benefit of eating pretty much the same stuff daily as long as it is healthy. I'm not sure what the percentages are but I know I've been getting lots of carbs, mainly from fruits and veggies. The biggest addition to my diet lately has to be my "rediscovery" that I LOVE grapefruit. Next to watermelon which is practically like eating a serving water and trace minerals, I think grapefruit is awesome. It so takes care of the hunger and the thirst at the same time. And I'm all about efficient fueling. I've also been drinking more organic fruit juices, especially cranberry juice. When I started drinking cranberry juice regularly a couple of months ago I noticed an immediate upswing in my day to day energy. Subsequent conversations with my Naturopath about this development seem to point to both the cleansing, alkaline promoting nature of the cranberry juice in the body as well as the possibility of my walking around with a low grade bladder infection.

On top of all that I went out and did another Time Trial this past Tuesday. This time I started thinking about all the cycling I'd been doing for the last few years with Du'Shun. The thing about my riding with him is that it is all about efficiency. If there is one thing I can say that I've learned from him is riding quickly with a super high cadence and saving big swings in power output for when they are really needed. This is big change from how I used to ride before when I raced. So when I went out to the Time Trial this week I decided to do the whole thing in my small chainring. What happened was that I rode entirely in my small ring and matched the speed of my previous best time. Oh and that was in conditions that were hotter and windier, and with a heart rate 10 beats lower than the prior best effort. So what I learned from that is I had been pushing too large a gear and need to maintain the efficiency as I build my strength.

Now I'm off to the gym. Cheers.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Why They Invented Training Logs...

So we could use them. After what happened at the time trial the week before, first I did some soul searching. Then I got down to business. I looked at my training log for the day of the time trial. Normally my workouts follow a similar pattern on Tuesdays. First I swim, then I do yoga, then I go home for a nap. In the afternoon I ride my bike. It is the same pattern every Tuesday since I got over my bike wreck. Every Tuesday except the one a couple of weeks ago. So that day according to my log I swam, went to yoga (there is a note about the air conditioning in the building being broken), and then I went for a 5 mile run. DING!!! Ok so I'm going to say this here more for my own sake than for anyone else's, changes like this need to be taken into account because there are so many things that need to be addressed. For one, there would be the additional calories and nutrients that would have to be replaced. Then there was the recovery period between yoga and my evening ride that got shortened due to the run. And it was hot. Plus it was hot in the yoga studio. So I think what happened is I just plain bonked on the time trial.

Now about my "weak ass" cycling. Yep I said it and I'm not gonna sugar coat it either. My cycling is weak. Anyway another trip through the training logs (going back as far as 10 years) yielded a lot of pertinent information. Basically my volume is way too low. I haven't spent nearly enough time on my bike. And logs going back all show the same thing, my mileage now is less than half what it had been at the same time of year. But what was also telling is how much time I spent and devoted just to overall leg strength. In the past I spent between 1 and a half to 2 hours a week just on leg strength. I was looking at the weights in the workouts and had to shake my head. 3 sets of 12 squats at 315lbs for example. And I only weighed around 142lbs at the time.

And that bought up another really good point to consider. Back then my power to weight ratio was a lot bigger. And it made up for the fact that I had absolutely no endurance when I think about it. But that is the kind of thing that can be gained from keeping a log. You can really see what was working and what wasn't and make adjustments. Now I've gotten to the point of keeping a sort of log/journal which besides workout specifics also highlights my state of mind and what I am learning from my training.

So things are better now. My advice to you? Keep a log. You never know when you are looking around for some answers, your own best advice might just come from you.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Sometimes all we can do is all we can do

This picture sums up how I've sort of been feeling the last couple of weeks. My swimming is practically nonexistent because of the sense of having to start from scratch after the bike wreck. Actually, I had sort of made peace with that by deciding to do some duathlons this year.

No what has me sort of upset is my cycling. Some things are just plain hard to take. And they can be even harder to explain. But for the sake of the blog I'll try. Last week I went out to the time trial and got completely obliterated. Not by other riders mind you. I sort of expect that at this juncture. I realize I have a 5 year fitness deficit to make up for. No what is bugging me is that 2/3 of the way through an 8 mile time trial I completely cracked. Tank empty. Game over. Completely spent. Then I caught a calf cramp and had to limp my way to the finish.

There were probably some things that were beyond, or seemingly beyond, my control like the cold front and the 40mph winds that kicked up just after I rolled across the starting mat. Winds that got worse as I rode to the turnaround. And maybe if it weren't so freaking windy, I'd have made it to the finish? I don't know. But it was that sense of my body saying "Enough!" That's what did it.

The next day I got about 2/3 of the way through my yoga class and couldn't finish that either. I got nauseous. I had to lay in corpse pose while everyone else got to do inversions. I love inversions. The yoga teacher theorized that perhaps I was still processing physical and emotional trauma from the bike accident. Perhaps?

Then the next day a planned 30 minute treadmill workout got cut to 15 minutes and I went home.

I got in some time on the bike at moderate intensity over the weekend without feeling too wiped out so Monday, I thought I'd get a baseline on the bike to set my training intensity for the month. What happened? I got crushed again! I made it about 2/3 through the workout when my heart rate monitor readings got jacked up. I still had a final max effort interval left. But I would be lying if I said I could have done it. I was already toast. The equipment malfunction was just foreshadowing. I had been crushed by yet another workout and left searching for answers.

But the reason I decided to do the bike test was to find out what happened on the time trial the week before. And even though I didn't finish the test, I already had enough information to get my answer. My cycling is weak. There I said it.

I know it isn't an general endurance/fitness issue because today I did a run test and my running is actually greatly improved. I did a 2.5 mile time trial in just over 16:05 on a hilly marked course in my neighborhood. This is down from 20:30 on the same course at the beginning of January this year. No, the problem is my cycling is just plain weak. Now I have to figure out what to do about it. I have some ideas. I think I'll write about those tomorrow. Right now I just want to go to bed...

Got Mud?

Just in case you ever wanted to see how the "other" half lives and wanted to check out a really cool mountain bike blog, check out I Faticus. This post will have resonance if you've ever raced anywhere and used a porta potty.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Cap Tex Tri Pictures

This past weekend I got off work late (around 7:30 AM -- due to someone not finishing their job, so I had to do it for them) but I still went down to the Cap Tex Tri. I've never done this race largely because of all the races I've been to, this one is the most fun to watch. It is a very, very spectator friendly course. One of the few I know of where the swim, bike and the run can be watched simultaneously from the bridges that cross Town Lake at either end of the swim course. This years' race was amazing with local favorite Brandon Marsh leading the race into the first 2.5 miles of the 10k run where he was caught by Mexico's Francisco Serrano. Brandon was able to hold on to second place though coming in about a minute behind Serrano.

Truth be told, I should never be allowed near any event with a camera. When I got home I had taken almost 700 photos. And I left long before it was over. So anyway here are a few of the more interesting pix...

Swimming in tandem.

Brandon Marsh cruising in the lead on the first lap. That speck over his right shoulder would be Francisco Serrano, the race's eventual winner.

'En masse' on the bike.

Drafting anyone?

Ladies with very bright futures!

Alone in a sea of bikes while the race goes on...

Somehow he swerved into her lane?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tao of Training: Third Insight

"Better to stop short than fill to the brim. Over sharpen the edge and the blade will soon blunt... Retire when work is done. This is the way of Heaven."
Know when to quit. Respect your limits. Understand when a workout stops being beneficial to you and end it there. No advice could be so simple and yet so ignored. One day as I was running around the lake, I had done about 5 of my planned 8 miles. The run felt really good. My heart rate was right where it should be, but there was a cold front coming in and the temperature had already dropped by about 20 degrees since I'd started running. To complete my workout I'd have to run by my car and come back to it. I opted to stop running while I still felt good and my clothing was still adequate. The additional 3 or 4 miles was not going to mean much fitness-wise if I wound up sick because of another 10 or 20 degree drop in temperature that could have occurred in the interim.

This advice is especially relevant if I am contemplating a speed phase. Before I might have a 6 week block of speed work scheduled and I might try to extend it to 8 weeks to see if I could eek out more from myself. In retrospect, not understanding and respecting this one insight is probably the reason for each and every injury I have ever had. Now I'm satisfied to complete 5 good weeks and wrap things up. Sometimes, especially in triathlon, less has to be more.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Tao of Training: Second Insight

...Magnify the small and increase the few... Achieve greatness in little things

There are three ways I see this idea influencing my training. First is by doing more frequent, but shorter duration workouts that emphasize technique. There were times in the past where I ran into scheduling conflicts that left large time gaps in my training log or I stopped training altogether because I couldn't find the large blocks of time I felt necessary to meet my goals. But five years away from doing something gives me a much different perspective. Instead of lamenting the 2, 3, or 4 hour blocks of time I don't have on a given day, I try to focus on the 15, 30, or 60 minute blocks of time I do have an make better use of those. I like to use these "mini" workouts to do those things I normally wouldn't because of my short attention span. 15 minutes in the pool working on my stroke/technique is way better than no time spent in the water at all. The same goes for 30 minute trainer sessions on the bike which emphasize pedal stroke and cadence, or my 15 minute treadmill runs which focus on leg turnover and speed at a low heart rate. They all count toward my goals and I do them to get me ready for those times when I can train in 4 or 5 hour blocks. I can also use these small blocks of time to do core work, mini yoga sessions targeting trouble spots, or body weight workouts. These are things which all contribute to my overall fitness and allow me to get and keep my body ready for the more time consuming work to come.

Second, I try to focus on the little things that get me ready to train. Now I spend time thinking about how I am going to eat and sleep leading up to key training sessions. I try to spend as much or more time planning my food and my recovery as I do my races and training. During my recovery days and weeks, I schedule massages, Rolfing, acupuncture, naturopathic and nutrition appointments to stay on top of my overall health and wellbeing. In one sense, I may not be a professional triathlete, but where ever possible, I really try to treat myself as if I were one. Where this is paying off is now I find myself better prepared to actually execute and achieve my goals. I am injured less, except for the bike wreck, and I'm generally pain free and rested prior to key workouts. This in turn sees me actually meeting more of my goals because now I am paying more attention to the things that actually make it possible for me to train and race well. And as a result I have a much more positive outlook.

Third, I try to remember to celebrate my small victories. Instead of focusing on race times, placings, or PR's, I focus on smaller triumphs like having my run stride feel fluid and effortless, or taking ten perfect strokes in the water, or pedalling so as to take full advantage of "power points" and floating up climbs. I focus on the things I am learning and make note of even the smallest improvement. I know triathletes who get discouraged after all the training, the time, and the sacrifices they've made and see no reward or payback on raceday because they didn't have the race they expected or didn't beat someone. I like to keep my triumphs small and personal. This way I always see constant improvement. I am discovering when I take care of the small things, the big things really do take care of themselves which is exactly what "magnify the small, increase the few" means.