Monday, June 30, 2008


I was attacked by a bee or a huge fly or something with 1 very large tooth on my bike ride yesterday. I'm sure the offender *thought* it was just defending itself, but it left a humongous angry welt on my leg and what I'm sure is a deadly poison coursing through my blood. I was sure my leg would most likely have to come off. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but it sure stung like mad all day yesterday. The poison must've worked its way out of my system overnight tho, as my leg is much better this morning, thank you very much.

Since my aunt has her first tri coming up (Go Pat! You'll do awesome!), and she asked, I've been contemplating some suggestions for a 'smoother' swim. Actually, I just don't want to have that panicked, breathless feeling again.

So, some thoughts of my own, and some stolen from other sources.....
  • Try and forget about the piranha, black lagoon creatures, and loch ness monsters that are most likely (NOT) circling below you. The fish are certainly more afraid of you than you are of them.
  • No, there are no sharks in fresh water lakes
  • Start to the outside of the pack, and towards the back. Yes, there will be some seconds lost as you watch the mad scrambling in front of you when the gun goes off. But I think the lack of panic and smoother stroke the space will allow more than makes up for that.
  • There is nothing wrong with taking a breath on every other stroke until you can settle into a nice rhythm of every third or fourth. Extra oxygen can only be a good thing....well, unless you're hyperventilating, but that's a different subject.
  • Practice breathing on both sides. That way if you encounter waves or the person next to you is very splashy (and this comes in handy at the crowded pool too), you can comfortably get a breath.
  • Don't crowd the turn buoys as you pass. That's where the swimmers will certainly bunch up as everyone tries to take the shortest route possible. Again, the extra seconds to swim a little further out can be mitigated by keeping a nice stroke and not fighting for position.
  • Try (altho I always fail at this) not to go out toooooo fast. I tend to sprint out of the 'gate' and end up gasping for breath and that leads to panic.
  • Practice, practice, practice.

Okay, now if I can only follow my own (and others) advice, maybe I'll be okay on my next open water swim. Wishing you all smooth waters and relaxed swims.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

No thanks, I don't smoke

Sadly, the last few days *everyone* in the bay area has been getting second hand smoke. Smoke from all the wildfires raging around the state is getting pushed over the bay area and just hovering. Today was the worst day so far, altho the winds are picking up, so hopefully this junk will get blown somewhere else. Yeah, a bit of NIMBY (not in my backyard) attitude there.

Trying to get my workouts done in this crappy air hasn't been all that fun either. In fact, I've been working on talking myself out of some of them. What? The weather man says stay indoors? Guess I can't do my bike ride. Oh yeah, we have a trainer. Darn. Well I certainly can't do my run out there. Oh, gym membership you say. Sheesh.

Today I made myself head out for some brick workouts. And altho I felt fairly good doing them, I was rewarded with the nastiest headache I've had in a while. Damn that crappy air.

So while my brain tries to make me a couch potato, my stomach growls away and so I *must* workout to combat the incessant eating. In fact, I think it's time for my evening snack. Three cheers for snacks! Hip hip hip hooray!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

One two three...breathe

I think things might be clicking for me in the pool. I've been doing some drills and working on my form. At this point I have to swim *very* slowly to keep nice form and have to remind myself of the things I'm supposed to work on, but I hope that in time those things will become second nature.

I had pulled a workout out of handy little waterproof swim workout book I bought, but sadly I woke up so late that I decided to just swim and swim and work on my biggest flaws. Start with the biggest ones and move on to the rest later. So , I did a lot of pulling with a buoy intermingled with a bunch of laps working on keeping the good and chucking the bad stuff. My main things for focus today....breathing and recovery.

Breathing ~ When breathing to the right, only the right goggle should be out of the water, and on the left only the left goggle. I'm much better on the right than the left so I did a bunch of drills only breathing to one side, then alternating. All the while trying to keep only one eye popping above the water line.

Recovery ~ Worked on high elbow, relaxed arm recovery. I tend to work way too hard on the recovery part of the stroke. Amazing how much less effort it seems to be when I let my arms relax for part of the time.

So I managed to put in a good effort with 3400 yards completed. So much for rest eh?

Hopefully some of it will stick when we do our next tri. Sadly, the pool is so much different than the open water situation that I tend to go back to my flail and gasp stroke as soon as the 'gun' goes off. Swimming sure seemed a lot easier when I was a kid. :-)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Fun in the Sun

The three week string of triathlons came to a close yesterday with the completion of the Tri for Fun sprint tri. T and I did this race last year, so again it was nice to know what to expect. Mostly we expected a warm run. However the last few days here have been extra toasty so it was even fairly warm when T picked me up at 5:45 to head out.

As we got close to the park, we remembered why we showed up so early last year (besides the all important score of a small t-shirt). The back up of cars trying to get into the park was crazy. Oh, and so much for a good transition spot. Ah well.

We hauled our gear thru the transition, but the racks were already pretty full, so we ended up staking a claim against one of the plastic 'fences' they had put up as a border for the transition area. At least it was close to the swim exit and easy to find.

It was so warm we contemplated swimming sans wetsuit, but opted to suit up for the extra buoyancy factor. We were the fourth wave to head out and it seemed to be the biggest wave. The swim went okay, but never really opened up. I kept feeling hands brush my feet, and my hands kept brushing other feet. About 8 or 9 minutes later and it was over and we were out onto the bike.

The bike course was also fairly crowded and there was quite a bit of passing and being passed going on. One lady kept passing me and slowing down. So I'd pass her, then she'd speed up to pass me again. I finally lost her for good on the one small hill on the course. Ruby is pretty good at getting me up those little hills. Zipped around the 11 mile bike course at an average of 18.5 mph and headed down the park entrance towards transition. I was out of my shoes in plenty of time and slipped my leg over the bike to hop off and run into transition with T right there with me. We heard a guy yell, "Yeah, nice dismount! That's how you do that!" That's right, we rock. :-)

On with the running gear and out onto the course. And yep, it was much warmer than I remembered. I opted not to carry a water bottle for the short 3.1 mile run and that was probably a mistake. There was water available on the course, iced water even. Which felt good when I dumped it on my head but kind of cramped my stomach when I drank too much. My Garmin was a bit whacky, so I'm not sure what my run time came out to be, but I crossed the finish line in about 1:13. Yeah, it's a "Tri for Fun" so there's no official times. I just left the stop watch on my watch run for the whole event.

And now for some much deserved rest time. Well, okay, not really. I'll still be training, but I won't have the self induced stress of competing to add to the every day exhaustion. Well, it's something. :-)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Looking for a light

There were some layoffs at my work a couple of weeks ago and altho I still have a job I've lost a bunch of other things.

  • My boss. He got laid off, which totally sucks. We've worked together for about 6 years and I'm really going to miss him. Not just as a boss, but as someone at work I could always talk to about anything.
  • Motivation. I just can't find any. I try to do my work, but feel like I'm wading thru mud. Not just regular mud either, but super thick, SF Bay mud.
  • Confidence. Not in myself, but in my company's upper management. I just feel like they don't really have a 'plan' to get us where we need to be.
  • Direction. My 'new' boss is so overloaded that I'm not getting any guidence. Not that I need it on a day to day basis, but it would be nice to have some idea about where I should focus my efforts (or lack thereof these days).

I do want to see the drug we're working on in leukemia succeed, and I think it could with the right guidance. I'm just not convinced we have the right team for that. So I'm looking for a light at the end of a very dark tunnel. I told some people at work today that I'm just not in a happy place and I think that about sums it up.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Losing it....again.....

After the Flying Pig 1/2 marathon (way back in early May) I felt pretty good and hatched a plan to get another 1/2 on the schedule this summer. Time passes, as it always does, and my running has really slacked off. Well, it's not like I'm sitting at home on the couch...not all the time anyway. I have been training for my tris, swimming, biking and ......running. Altho, not running nearly as much.

And now that there's a 'local' 1/2 marathon that I could do, I don't feel prepared. Now the decision has to be I skip this one and wait until I'm better prepared? Or go into this one with no expectations (RIIIIIIIIGHT, who am I kidding?), and just do it for the fun of it? *Sigh* Well, I still have some time to see if I've got any remnant of those Flying Pig running legs left.

So in that spirit, T and I went out for a 'long' run of 90 minutes yesterday. We did some of the hills at Coyote Hills, but not the monster Meadowlark. Part trail, part paved trail, this run reminded me how tough trails are on the ankles. And I have to say that I'm a bit sore in the quads as well today. Stupid hills. Or maybe it's from the tri on Saturday. Probably a combination of both.

Still not convinced that I'm ready to tackle a 1/2 in 4-ish weeks, but I have some time to figure it out. Another 90 minute run this weekend might help me decide. Or does anyone have a coin? :-D

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Back where it all began

Saturday T and I were able to sleep in a bit because our sprint tri was in our backyard! Woot! We decided to meet at Quarry Lake at 6:30. T offered to come pick me up, but I decided to bike over since it was all of 1/4-1/2 mile away from my house. I packed up my tri bag, strapped it on my back and pedaled over to the transition area.

The day started off gloomy and overcast, totally unlike the last couple of tri mornings, but completely like we remembered from this event last year. Speaking of which, we realized that the 2007 Mermaid Sprint Tri is what started this madness! Last year we were doing our first one and we proceeded to do 5 sprints that year. Now we've even got an Oly distance under our belts. Kuhl, no?

By 7:00 we were pretty much all set up in our respective 'age grouped' transition areas. Then the spectating could begin. The most bizarre thing we saw was a woman who set up her bicycle trainer in the transition area and used it to warm up. Really?!?! Why not just ride your bike around? Ah well, she must be a pro or something....but then why would she be doing Mermaid ?!?! Weird.

Soon enough the first waves (one of which was the duathlon participants) were coming through transition. And chaos reigned, I must say. There were people riding through the transition area (a DQ at any sanctioned tri), people riding OUT the bike IN area, and one person even riding out onto the bike course with her helmet still hanging from the handlebars of her bike! At a sanctioned event, they'll DQ you for riding to the event (before it even starts!) without your helmet. Funny how last year we didn't really notice any of this. Maybe it was better run last year, but I think it's because we've done some more serious events since then. At least we were being entertained while we waited for our waves to start. For some reason the waves were reverse aged, with oldest participants going out first. And I think because of that they decided to separate the waves by 15 minutes. So I'd been there about 2 hours before my wave even went off. And as we went down to the water to get ready to start, I realized I forgot to eat my pre-race snack and I was hungry. Sigh, great planning there.

This time it was my turn to take off first and leave T with her wave. The other age groups hadn't looked quite as big as my wave was, and I felt it in the early part of the swim. I again had the out of breath, slightly panicky feeling. Really, really need to work on getting that under control. I never really felt like I settled in to a groove so it's a good thing the swim was only about 400 yards. Exited the water peeling my wetsuit off as I went. Up the transition and onto the bike.

The bike course was 3 loops around, and we were to keep track of our own loops. Yeah, any wonder why this course wasn't sanctioned this year? T had told me that we finished the bike loop in about 37 minutes last year (ya' *had* to tell me ;-), so I definitely wanted to do better this year. Sadly, I just wasn't sure that was possible. Even with Ruby's help that's a pretty good clip. Also, the bike course seemed really crowded this year. I was trying to pass people, but having to slow down and wait on turns for folks to get out of the way. I finally completed my three loops and headed in to T2 and my run.

Off with the bike stuff, on with the run stuff and out onto the course. I remembered the route from last year, which is nice because it's great to know what to expect. I especially remembered the beach finish and seriously....who wants to finish up a tri with running through sand?!?! Ugh.

Turns out I actually have improved over one year ago today, despite how slow I still am:

2007 ~ 2008
20:22 ~ 9:43 swim
4:04 ~ 2:33 T1
37:24 ~ 35:08 Bike
1:55 ~ 1:14 T2
29:29 ~ 24:38 Run
1:33:15 ~ 1:13:18

On a parting note, I also have to mention that apparently the timing chip system wasn't working so well. They first listed my swim time as 1:09, yes one HOUR and nine minutes. T found that quite amusing, I think. :-) Also, a bunch of people are missing swim times, T1 times (including the person listed as first place overall), etc. I have to say that if I were person #2 overall, I might be *a little* upset that someone with no T1 time beat me. I know, I know, it's a 'fun' little event. But c'mon, we all know I have not established control over my competitive side just yet.

Next up: 6/21 Tri for Fun Sprint Tri
(And yes, I know that Fun is even in the name of this one and I'm working on it.)

Sunday, June 08, 2008



T and I went to pick up our race packets for the San Jose International Tri (which was today). We took our bikes along with the plan of riding the *run* course. We'd already ridden the bike course a couple of times, but wanted to see what the run course had in store for us. We later realized that if we had been smart we would have done a brick workout to get a real feel for what the course had in store for us. Ah well, live and learn. :-)

Packet pickup was scheduled to start at noon, and true to form so far (same organization that ran Uvas), they were behind schedule. I have to say, when you claim that you are the "best run" triathlon in the US, you might want to have things start on time and be a little better organized. Anyway, we gathered our goodies, which included all the free Gu and Gu20 we could grub. Then we hopped on our bikes and headed out to the run route. There were arrows on the ground and mile markers which we kind of followed to get an idea of the route. It was so toasty that I actually got a little burnt even tho we weren't out very long. We also took a peek at the buoy set up for the swim course and I freaked myself out with how far it looked. I had to remind myself that it wasn't too much further than Uvas, so I'd be fine. We were home by 1-ish to rest up, pack up and get to bed early for a *very* early start on Sunday.


Once again we were up before the sun for a drive down to San Jose. T picked me up at 4:30....yes, 4:30 AM...and we were in the parking lot by 5:00. We are definitely early birds, but I think standing/sitting around waiting beats rushing to find a spot and get set up. We were so early in fact, that there were less than a dozen people there and unlike Uvas, the transition here WAS first come first served. One of the guys setting up gave us the low down on how transition worked and we picked what we thought would be a great spot. And promptly changed our minds and moved. :-) Once we got our areas set up we had a bit over an hour to wait and worry. We walked down to the water to check out the swim buoys again and try to figure out the route. Then I made a final pit stop at the porta-potties and we suited up and headed down to the water. Soon enough the first group was off and T started warming up. She was in wave 5, while I was in wave 9, so I had plenty of time to warm up after cheering her off.

Pretty soon my wave of folks was sent on its way and I was pleased to note that I didn't feel anxious at all. I mean there was the usual anxiety about maintaining some space for myself and settling my breathing and stroke into a pattern, but there was no panic. The only time I felt a tiny bit of panic was when I accidentally inhaled a huge mouthful of water and starting choking while I was trying to keep swimming. The swim didn't feel too crowded and I tried to remember to keep good form and really extend my stroke, keep good body position, keep my head down, etc. It seemed long, but not horribly long. I swam until my hands brushed the bottom of the shore and then stood and started running for the transition. The transition area was quite a bit further away than at other tris I've done, so I expected some fairly long transition times. I had forgotten my watch, so I had no idea what my swim time was, but had predicted it would be around a half hour.

Into T1 to strip off my wet suit and pop on my bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses, bike top, grab my bike and run, run, run, out of the transition (not only was it far away, but it was a BIG area). Get to the mount area and hop on and start the almost 25 mile bike ride.

I felt pretty good heading out and was keeping a good pace, around 18-19 mph (I'm pretty sure it's slightly downhill at that part). About 6 miles into the ride I saw a lady on the side with her bike upside down (a sure sign of a flat) and she yelled out as I approached, "Do you have a spare tube?" I pulled off to the side and stopped to give her a spare tube (I was carrying 2 in my pack), as she apologized for asking me to stop and explained that she had blown-up her spare tube with her CO2 cartridge. I felt bad for her and was glad to help out. I'd sure want someone to do that for me if I was in her shoes. Of course, the devil on my shoulder was yelling at me that I was losing time and people were passing me by! Yeah, haven't quite shut that competitive little demon up yet. But, I did a good deed and hoped to get some karma kickback at some point. I figured with my luck I'd get two flats and be by the side of the road myself.

Luckily that didn't happen and although my pace slowed a bit, I was still keeping a good clip (for me). Sadly I was getting passed again and again. At least I could entertain myself with checking the ages of the super athletes flying by. At least until that started to just depress me. Hahaha. Somewhere around mile 14 I started onto Bailey road where *the* hill of the course awaited. It's around 1/2 mile long steady uphill and as I started up I did manage to pass several people, which made me feel better. I slightly underestimated where the final uphill push was, but I made it up without too much problem. Unlike the training ride we did here, I never felt the need to just pull over and stop. Maybe that competitive little guy isn't so bad after all. Zooooooom down the hill and back towards the transition area. Around mile 20 I really started feeling wiped out. I'm going to say this was partly from pushing hard, but I think it's mostly from lack of nutrition. I had a nutrition plan going into the race (which is a big change for me), but I just didn't execute it at all. I managed to take in a little food and a couple drinks of water/Cytomax, but that's it. Just sad when the calculation was that I had burned through at least 800 calories so far and still had 5 miles to bike and a 10k to run. My pace fell off to a disappointing level in those last few miles, but according to my Garmin I managed to average 15.8 mph for the route.

As I approached T2 and noticed that there wasn't anyone too close, I decided to try a new 'trick' I learned a couple of weeks ago. The trick is to reach down to one side, un-velcro the bike shoe strap, hold onto the back of the shoe and slide your foot out, then put your foot onto the top of the shoe and pedal. Repeat for the other side. The idea behind this is that you save a little time (probably not a big deal for someone of my 'caliber') in T2 by not having to pull off your shoes. You may not know, but I'm not *that* great of a cyclist and my control can be a little iffy when trying to multi-task (drink, eat, etc). So I was very excited to not only pull off the shoe trick, but also to be able to swing one leg over the bike and ride into transition and hop off just at the dismount line and go right into a run to my area to get ready for the 10k. So excited in fact that I totally blew my T2. Blew it in the sense that I forgot my water bottle and my Garmin. So now I was running out onto the nice toasty run course with no hydration (except what the course provided) and no idea what my pace was. Niiiiice. Definitely need to practice T2 a bit.

Well, as I mentioned, I had nothing to drink and no idea how fast I wasn't going. I could tell I was getting, or was already, dehydrated because I started to get chills. Awesome...6 miles to go and I'm already way behind the curve. I hit the first water stop and forced myself to down 2 cups of water. I was afraid to take too much and start cramping up. By mile 2 I noticed that I was bonking as well, and knew I'd have to shoot a Gu soon. Actually I probably should have eaten a Gu already, but I don't think I was thinking all *that* clearly. And because I wasn't carrying any water, I'd have to wait until I hit the next water stop. In my case bonking seems to be evidenced by SERIOUS negative thinking. It's not so much that I can't physically do the task, but my brain just starts to lose any hope and tries to take over my body and make it stop. As soon as I could see the next water stop, I pulled out a Gu and forced myself to swallow the whole thing. I don't have a great history with Gu type products, but I'm trying some different brands to find something I can tolerate. It's one of the easiest things to carry that packs about 100 calories per shot. I didn't notice an immediate improvement, like some folks claim they do, but within the next 10-15 minutes I was able to shut the little negative demon up for a while and tell myself, only X # of miles left, you can do this. Oh, and also about the time I hit the water stop, I realized that the course was *quite* different than the one we had ridden yesterday. Turns out the markings we were following on our ride were for the Mountain Bike Sprint Tri that had been held on Saturday. Damnit. So much for preparation. Ah well, nothing for it now but to finish up. It felt like the slowest 10k I've ever done. At somewhere around 5.75 miles my legs just stopped running. One second I was running, the next I was walking. What.The.Hell? I think the dehydration and lack of energy hit me all at once. I walked for a little bit then yelled at myself "What are you doing?!?! You're almost there!!!!" I managed to start running again and saw the playground where I knew the "6" was marked on the ground. Only a little more...keep running....around the final turn, where people were yelling out "100 yards to go"....Tina cheering for me.....I picked out a lady in front of me and told myself, "you are going to beat HER" and picked up the pace. Crossed the finish line (yes, in front of that lady), was handed a bottle of water, chip was pulled off my ankle, and I promptly wanted to puke. Walked around a little until T found me and I made her go down to the lake, take off our shoes, and go for a dip. The cool water felt *sooooo* good. A few minutes spent cooling down and bitching about how all the *ahem* larger and older athletes were kicking my butt, and how I felt like I was running thru molasses and then we went off to change before grabbing some food and scoring a couple of freebies.

All in all, it probably went better than I had hoped for (in retrospect). As I've mentioned in the past, I don't think my runners high hits until I've finished the event. THEN I get all happy and can look forward to the next event a little bit. :-) A little work on T2 is needed, and a LOT of work on nutrition strategy. But for my first International/Oly distance tri I think I did okay. I had hoped for something around a 3:15-3:30 finish time and manged to beat that, so I guess I shouldn't complain too much. Sadly, I think it's hard wired in me to expect more. :-)

projected: 30 min
actual: 28:57

3:39 (hey, I said it was far away, remember?)

projected: 1:40
actual: 1:27
(which works out to 17.1 mph average by my calculation. So much for Garmin's mph average!)


projected: 1 hr ?
actual: 1:04 (about 10:21 pace, a bit disappointed with that)


Upcoming events
6/14 Mermaid Sprint Tri (and only about 1/2 a mile from my house!)
6/21 Tri for Fun Sprint Tri (not officially timed, just a 'fun' event)