Monday, April 21, 2014

2014 Silicon Valley International Triathlon Race Report

This was my first triathlon of the year and I did it mostly on latent fitness. My training has been inconsistent and lacking in volume. I've also had a nagging injury from the KP San Francisco Half Marathon. My left hamstring tightens/cramps terribly when I push it on a run. I've rested it a lot, but I think I probably need to more aggressively stretch it out. Anyway, onto the race itself.

The race this year was moved from Almaden Lake to Half Moon Bay because of the drought. My very first triathlon was the Silicon Valley Sprint at Almaden Lake and I have to say Half Moon Bay is a much better venue. But there are complications. There are two separate transition areas and they're six miles apart. T1 gets broken down so you have to pack all of your stuff up before leaving on your bike. You can pack a bag for T2 and USA Productions has a numbered rack system so you can find your bag easily. Overall it worked okay. Vineman has a similar system and yes, I prefer one transition zone, but life just does not fulfill all my preferences.

The swim got off to a late start because the last shuttle from T2 to T1 was late. These types of things are normal. Of course the extra ten minutes allowed some fog to roll in. The swim course was in a sheltered harbor so chop was minimal. But the fog really shut down visibility. Though they had large buoys set up, I generally could not see from one to the next. So you navigate by feel, following other people and eventually finding the buoy. The swim went pretty smoothly for me. I ran into some traffic and got slapped once. I think I dished out a bit, too. I'm sure none of it was purposeful. The water temperature was probably around 58. My extra early season weight was not a problem in this area. Looking at my time, I finished at 36:05. This is about 6-8 minutes slower than normal, but considering I've swam four times this year, I'll take it.

T1 was mostly uneventful. I thought about putting on arm warmers and instead threw them in the bag. I did the same with my gloves. I got the bag packed and elected not to try a flying start on the bike. It was a slow transition, but not as slow as I feared. My official time for T1 was 4:44.

The bike started out really fast. Going south on Hwy 1, there's a nice tailwind and it's flat to slightly downhill. There were some problems with people drafting and not properly allowing passes. At about 7.5 miles a long climb starts. I looked up the route and this a Cat 3 climb. Unfortunately, I have my Quarq being worked on and I was riding my tri-bike with a 56/44 on front. On back, I have my new FLO 30mm wheels with a 12/25. So I had about the worst climbing setup you can imagine -- a tri-bike with 44/25 as the smallest gear. Without having a power meter, I can't tell you definitively, but I probably had to push at least 260 watts just to maintain 45 rpm. At my fittest, my functional threshold power was 230 watts. After a winter of sloth, I expect it's probably around 200 watts. It was sheer willpower that kept me from getting off the bike and walking. I lost at least ten minutes on the climb I think. Once the climb ended, things were pretty much back to normal. Oh, but the course had some sharp turns in store. On one descent, I was probably going 40 mph in full aero position when I saw the volunteer signalling a sharp left turn. I managed to come out of aero with only my left hand and break enough to make the turn with not too much space to spare. I passed an ambulance coming up a couple of minutes later so I presume someone else was not quite as lucky. Anyway, the climb shredded my legs and I knew my run was going to be terrible no matter what I did. So I pushed it a bit at the end of the ride on Hwy 1, at least as much my jelly legs allowed. I ended up with a 1:28:25 on the bike. This is a slower pace than I held for both Vineman and Big Kahuna last year. On the flats, I was pretty fast, holding over 20 mph on a couple of the five mile splits. But that climb was just awful.

T2 was almost completely uneventful. I changed my socks to Injinji socks with toes. I did some hiking in Yosemite last week and had a couple of hotspots between my toes. So I wanted some extra protection. My T2 was 3:02. This is slow, but I've been slower before. It's the first race of the year and I wasn't in a big hurry.

I came into the race expecting the run to go badly. I've run maybe 100 miles in 2014 so I had little hope for a strong run. I lived up to those expectations. I ran out of T2 looking for a porta potty and a volunteer told me it was well off the course. So about a kilometer in, I found a spot that was partially obscured and returned some nitrogen to the soil. I settled into very slow pace. I've done no bricks in training this year. I tried to pick it up a little each mile and I also tried to ingest some gel I had in a little squeeze bottle. I managed to only smear some of the gel on my arm and face. It was that kind of race. After mile three, I tried picking up the pace to about 9:30 and my left hamstring quickly let me know it was not going to allow that to happen. The KP Half Marathon taught me how uncooperatively mean my hamstring could be. I walked/limped/gimpily skipped the last three miles of that race with intense pain. I didn't want a repeat of that. So I slowed down. I found a pace with tolerable pain which at least for a little while was around 10:15 a mile. I pointedly stopped looking at my time. At that point, it was just a matter of willpower.

The race had a pretty tough finish on a fully sun-exposed incline. But there were people taking pictures there so I tried to put on a less pathetic face. I completed the run and immediately sat down. My hamstring was not happy I had mostly paid no heed to its petulant whining. So it threw a full-on tantrum. My run time ended up being 1:05:13. I was kind of expecting to run around 1:00 and have gone under 56:00 on an Oly course. If I can get this hamstring to heal, I should be under 55:00 this year.

So my total was 3:17:29. At the beginning of the race, I thought 3:15 would be about right. I was hoping for 3:00, but that climb on the bike and hamstring issues precluded that possibility. It's not a bad start for the year -- it clearly lays out what I need in training. Mostly it's volume, but I need to find a way to heal my hamstring, too. On a final note, I had to clumsily bike back to T1 carrying two bags. There was a lot of traffic on Hwy 1 and a triathlon bike is really not suited to carrying things. Still, it was a good race and I hope it's in Half Moon Bay again next year.

Here are some pictures my fellow SVTC members took (Thank you!):

 Can you tell I really need to pee?

 Here's me attempting to put on a not pathetic face.
 Looking for a semi-secluded spot.
I'm actually running here. It's just in slow-motion. And I'm not bloated like I usually am at the end of races. That's just fat.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sunnyvale Government -- the big picture financial environment

If you didn't know, I live in Sunnyvale, California.  I really have an enviable quality of life here and compared to almost any place else, there is nothing to complain about.  Complain we Sunnyvale residents do, though.

Let's look at the city's infrastructure.  We have a large number of parks that are decently maintained.  The bathrooms in the parks are functional though older.  The grounds are kept fairly well though not immaculately.  So I'd assess them as functioning, but nearing a time when they will need to be refreshed.  We have a small number of city pools.  The flagship pool, built in the late 1980s, is shared with Fremont High School and is in good shape.  The locker rooms for it could use investment as they break down fairly regularly.  The heater for it has broken down a number of times in the last year.  The other pools run very short hours and are suitable only for recreational swimming.  Some lack changing facilities.  They generally look to have been built in the 1960s and 1970s.  They show their age and are in need of investment.  In a city of 146,000, we have one library.  The building for it is well maintained and the offerings are decent.  But it, too, is showing its age.  A few years ago, a bond measure to replace it failed.  Really, for a city the size of Sunnyvale, I would expect a large main library and three or four branch libraries.  There is a large civic center with theater, athletic courts, senior activities, etc.  The bulk of it appears to have been built in the 1960s or 1970s with the senior-focused area perhaps built in the 1980s.  It is well maintained, but once again, could use investment.  City Hall also dates from the 1960s.  To sum it up, most of our city amenities are between 30 and 50 years old with most closer to 50.  These are not buildings of great architectural value or interest.  They are very plain and obviously designed for function, not beauty.  While they have been well maintained, they could all use updates that are more than incremental.

Sunnyvale sits in the middle of the most economically productive region in the country, Silicon Valley.  It's quite common to find neighbors who work at companies like Cisco, Google, Facebook, Apple and so on.  I believe something like 30% of the population has a graduate degree.  You can look it up, but average home prices in Sunnyvale make people in other parts of the country cry.  According to this link:, average household income is ~$94K.  In the southern part of the city, it is much higher.  As you can tell, this is not a remotely poor city.

Let's look at city revenue for Sunnyvale and its neighbors. The city budget shows me that the city expects to collect $31 million in sales tax revenue this year or $213 per resident and $49 million in property taxes or $339 per resident.  This compares favorably to Cupertino as they expect to collect $270 per resident in sales tax and $219 per resident in property tax.  Mountain View is our neighbor to the north and they expect $208 per resident in sales tax and a whopping $751 per resident in property tax.  I suspect the expansion of the Googleplex has led to a very large expansion in Mountain View property tax.  Santa Clara borders us to the east and they expect $356 per resident in sales tax and $239 per resident in property tax.  Los Altos expects $483 per resident in property taxes and $87 per resident in sales taxes.  But Los Altos is not a good comparison -- if you live here, you know why.  In summary, Sunnyvale tax revenues are lower than all of its neighbors except Cupertino.

While Sunnyvale tax receipts are lower than just about all of its neighbors, it's about to get worse.  Cupertino is looking at a large property tax increase from the new Apple campus.  Reports are that Apple will spend $5 billion on their new headquarters which would increase Cupertino property tax revenue by more than $140 per person. Just about every bit of Cupertino retail space is being renovated so they can expect sales tax increases as well.  Santa Clara will have the new 49ers stadium which won't boost property taxes since the city will own it.  But it will certainly boost sales taxes and profits from the stadium would go to the general fund.  So while Sunnyvale is currently second to last, it will soon be dead last.  Sunnyvale will still have more population than its neighbors.  But all of those neighbors will have the means to make improvements that will make Sunnyvale look substandard in comparison.  Although, in general, their facilities are already nicer than Sunnyvale's.

Before I go on, I need to point out the impact of Proposition 13.  Sunnyvale has a lot of residents who have been here a long time.  I met a man this weekend who told me he's lived here 67 years.  I went to a city council meeting and many of the residents who spoke pointed out their very long residence in the city.  believe it's good to have people of all generations in a community.  But Proposition 13, by limiting the property assessment increases to 2% per year, has institutionalized a tremendous financial privilege for long term residents.  On my street, there are two styles of houses.  One style has ~1350 square feet with a two car garage and the other ~1550 square feet with a one car garage.  Lot sizes range from 6000 square feet to 10,000 (weirdly shaped) square feet.  Tax values range from less than $80,000 to over $1 million.  I'm not kidding.  Some residents are paying more than 12 times the property taxes of other residents.

This is the reality Sunnyvale city council members are facing.  It's not clear that tax revenues are high enough to sustain what is already in the city.  Amenities are nearing their end of life dates and will need refurbishment or replacement soon.  They are likely more expensive to maintain already.  Neighboring cities already have nicer amenities and are looking at large revenue increases in the present or near future.  As a city council member, you have a responsibility to safeguard the future of the city.  And to do that, the city needs more revenue.

There are two ways to increase tax revenue for Sunnyvale.  One way is to increase the property tax base.  New housing is selling for ~$700 per square foot and developers will put it in densely.  So a spare five acre plot could add $120 million to the tax base.  New headquarters for a company like LinkedIn is likewise going to add several hundred million dollars to the tax base.  Do this half a dozen times and pretty soon you've added a couple of billion dollars to the property tax base and maybe $20-30 per resident in increased property tax.  The other way is to boost sales tax revenue.  I haven't studied it, but I imagine Sunnyvale sales tax looks less robust than it used to.  There are a couple of vacant car lots and the big box stores are not doing so well.  The downtown redevelopment is finally coming together, but that has been a real hairball.  Even though Sunnyvale has not been good at this, I think sales tax is where the city should be looking for growth.

There are a few reasons why I think this is the way to go.  First of all, new housing increases demand on city amenities.  In the tax per resident ratio, you're increasing the denominator and the numerator.  Also, if you consider the preponderance of people working in different municipalities than where they reside, new office space or housing will increase demand on transport resources at peak times.  New retail, however, increases transport demand more equally.  Furthermore, the city can get new sales tax revenue without new development.  There is lots of empty and underutilized space throughout the city.  The shopping center at the southeast corner of Fremont and Mary lacks an anchor tenant as does the center at the southwestern corner of El Camino Real and Bernardo.  The old Trader Joe's space on Sunnyvale near El Camino Real is vacant.  There are empty car lots.  Finally, the city can increase sales tax revenue by attracting retail that better matches the demographics of the city's new residents.

I'm not weird for Sunnyvale.  I moved here because of the schools and to be close to employers.  For five years, I both worked and lived in Sunnyvale.  I now work in Santa Clara.  But just about all of my shopping, from groceries to clothes, takes me out of the city.  I eat dinner in Cupertino and Santa Clara restaurants both more than in Sunnyvale.  About the only thing I don't leave Sunnyvale for is DIY home improvement supplies and Sports Basement.  This is happening because the retail in Santa Clara and Cupertino match me better.  If you did a poll to find the best restaurant in Sunnyvale, In 'n Out Burger would probably win.  I like In 'n Out and I like Five Guys.  And I might eat in either of those once, maybe twice a month.  When my wife and I hire a sitter and have a date night, we end up outside Sunnyvale.  Like I said, I'm not weird.  When I talk to the parents of my kids' classmates, we hear the same thing.  There is just little entertainment and non-fast food dining in the city.  Yes, there are lots of holes in the wall doing fish and chips or sushi.  On date night, I'm not looking to order my food from a formica counter.  Indian food in Sunnyvale is an exception to all this.  Too bad I'm not Indian.

So where does this all point?  I don't completely know.  I want the city to match me better in terms of entertainment and retail.  And I think it would be good for the city and its future.  But it may already match people who have been here longer than me.  I am aware that I'm kind of asking for gentrification.  But come on.  30% of the population has graduate degrees and average income is quite high.  Fine dining and shopping is completely appropriate for Sunnyvale.  I don't really want more housing, but it's not because I dislike density (I actually don't.)  I just don't want any more strain on the schools.  The school districts bet wrong on future demographics in the 1980s and sold off too much real estate.  So there's no place to add school capacity.  I suppose the school district could do a bond issue for buying up land, but that's another discussion.  Or maybe our schools have to get more dense with multiple floors.  I'm not too keen on that latter idea and would pay more taxes to avoid it.  But Prop 13 disallows that option.

I think more than anything else, I recognize that being a city council member is hard.  They're balancing a bunch of contradicting interests.  And I don't actually think the members are corrupt.  One is a troll.  And some more trolls are running to join him.  I don't vote for trolls, no matter how pure their motivations are.  The idea that the city has gone to hell and it's because the council is in the pocket of developers is just not supported by any evidence.  Maybe city salaries are higher than they need to be.  But the real culprit is that Prop 13 makes things more difficult for cities over time.  Inflation has averaged 3.7% since 1975.  Since 1975 consumer prices have quadrupled while Prop 13 has only allowed assessments to a little more than double.  Of course property values have increased more so turnover has made things not quite as dire.  But all that does is push the reckoning further out.  This is kind of hard to explain, but remember related rates from math class?  Ultimately, to keep what it has, Sunnyvale has to turn over its population and increase development or get Prop 13 reformed.  The latter is beyond the scope of Sunnyvale politicians and stopping the development will lead to a downward spiral.  I'm not asking anyone to move out of Sunnyvale, but you have to recognize that an $80,000 tax assessment when the city only gets 0.15% does not generate enough taxes to pay for itself.  The money has to come from somewhere and the city council members are responsible for figuring out where.  We can disagree with where they're trying to find it and hold them accountable on that.  But, once again, the money has to come from somewhere.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sandman 2013 Race Recap

This is the fourth consecutive year I've done this race.  Why do I keep going back?  Simply, because it's just a barrel full of fun.  It's completely old school with a spacious transition area and no chip timing.  You have a brisk 1000-1200m swim around the concrete boat.  Then a 13 mile bike that starts off with 6 miles of climbing.  You finish with a little more than 6 km run on the beach.  Simply put, it's a course that throws a deceptively large amount of intensity at you and provides a lot of challenges for pacing.  Don't let the short distance fool you.  You can't just hammer the course.  At least I can't.  Yet.

At the start of the swim, the tide was coming in and the seas were choppy.  Just eyeballing it, I think the waves were 3-5 feet.  The high tide was okay for the start -- I got to water deep enough to swim rather quickly.  But then about two strokes in a wave crested into me and literally threw me back onto my butt.  My butt literally hit the sand.  So I got back off, ran out a bit and managed to dive under the next wave.  Then I just tried to push the swim at a good pace.  Of course, sighting the buoys was a little more difficult with the swells.  But you have the ship and pier as easy landmarks.  I took the buoys pretty wide and generally avoided traffic.  I experimented with my Magellan on my wrist and it FUBARed the distance.  But judging by the charts, I got to T1 in 20:38.  Considering conditions and the fact that exiting the swim requires you to run across deep sand, I'm happy with that.

I didn't really rush in T1 and earlier I had decided to try a flying mount on the bike.  To be honest, I was a little disoriented.  I think the sloshing in the ocean threw my balance off.  The flying mount didn't go well.  I was trying to get my left foot into my shoe and crashed into the guard rail on the little pedestrian bridge linking Seacliff Beach to Rio del Mar Beach.  I managed to get my handlebar stuck in the rail and banged up my hand and foot as well.  It took some time to extricate myself from the guard rail and adjust my brakes.  Luckily, it was a low speed encounter.  But I got out and started motoring onto the course.  I don't quite understand how the multisport setting works on my Magellan so it was still saying I was swimming.  I was also wearing it on my wrist and couldn't really see it.  So the entire bike was a perceived effort undertaking.  I wasn't completely on fresh legs, but I feel like I maintained a pretty good effort.  I passed a lot of people and of course a few people passed me.  Towards the end, I made a stupid shifting mistake and managed to slip my chain.  I've now done that three out of four years.  Even with all the mishaps, I think my time was somewhere around 47 or 48 minutes.  This is the 16-17 mph range.  Take off the two or even four minutes I lost to mishaps and you have a really respectable bike ride.  Interestingly, I think basically biked the same time as the year before.

T2 went quite a bit better.  When I got out to the run, I noticed my left foot was throbbing a bit.  And the tide made things quite a bit harder by pushing the runners onto softer sand.  Nothing really to report about the run.  It was harder than the year before because of the tide, but interestingly, I ran almost exactly the same time -- 35:30.  I'll take it.  My family was waiting for me just before the finish so I grabbed my daughter and carried her across the finish line.  My son tried to run beside me there, but the sand was a little too thick for him to keep up.

Overall, my official time was 1:49:00 which was 1:47 faster than the year before.  Of course I was disappointed with the year before because I totally got the pace wrong.  But considering my mishaps on the bike and the more difficult conditions, I'm happy.  I've been focusing on longer races this year and by doing that, you lose some sharpness on the shorter ones.  Plus, my family was at the finish.  That always makes the races better.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

2013 Vineman 70.3 Recap

Short Version:  

After the disaster that was Wildflower, I needed an injury-free, mellow race to restore my confidence and sense of enjoyment.  I deliberately failed to set time goals, but figured I'd probably do around 6:30.  No goals meant I was just out there to enjoy the day.  I left the hotel at 5:25, deposited my gear at T2 and then drove to Guerneville.  5:25 was too late.  Setting up T1, getting body marked and into the water was a rushed, harrying experience.  I got into the water about 1 minute before the start.  So much for my normal routine of listening to music, meditating and setting myself mentally.  I took the swim at a very relaxed pace until it became too shallow for me to stroke.  Then I walked a bit.  Later, I had some problems with my goggles listening.  But I had no time goals and the water was shallow.  So I stood up and fixed it.  It was that kind of day.  My swim time was something like 41:58 -- about four or five minutes slower than a good, controlled effort.  T1 was pretty comical.  My setup was not well thought out and I had to pack my whole bag up.  I ended up spending more than eight minutes there.  I didn't feel like ruining another pair of cleats so I biked up the hill right after the mount point.  No time goals means taking it easy on the bike.  I stopped at the first aid station, used the restroom and topped off my fluids.  This bike course is really easy and I averaged 18.3 mph with almost no effort.  I couldn't find my T2 spot and was in no hurry.  I put on a knee brace and was disappointed to find the porta-potties occupied.  I took off at a really easy pace.  About three km in, I noticed some slight knee pain so I backed off.  I started walking intermittently and lost some mental discipline.  At about the 10 km mark I decided I did not want to be out there for another two hours and resolved to run more.  So I did.  My lack of fitness then made itself apparent.  But I finished decently and came in at something like 2:33.  That put my total time at 6:35, right around what I expected.  And I'm not injured and should be able to train properly for the rest of the season.  I know a 5:50 or better is well within reach for Big Kahuna.

Too Long (I warned you) version:

Wildflower was a bad experience for me -- I aggravated an injury and had inadequate fitness due to illness and travel.  I thought about not doing Vineman, but I knew that Wildflower would sit in my mind gnawing at my confidence and motivation.  I needed an experience that proved I was up to the Half Iron distance.  But I haven't been able to train at full intensity.  So I came to Wildflower with no time goals.  I was to just enjoy the day.  Being of a quantitative mindset, I did have an idea of how long it would take me.  I figured an easy effort would probably be around 6:30 -- 45 minutes on the swim, 3:10 on the bike, 2:25 on the run and 10 minutes in transition.

I left my house too late on Saturday.  I took the kids to lunch at King of Thai in San Francisco and got stuck in traffic getting to the Golden Gate Bridge.  All in all, I got into Windsor two hours later than I expected.  I never set up my T2 spot that day -- we had dinner with friends and I missed the 8 PM cutoff.  This tardiness bled into the next day with me leaving the hotel at 5:25.  I got T2 set up by 5:40 and was on my way to Guerneville.  My wave started at 6:48 and I did not enter T1 until just after 6:30.  The rest was a mad dash to get set up and into the water.  My normal routine is to listen to about thirty minutes of music and meditate for ten minutes after I set up my spot.  I make sure to hit the bathroom, too.  Not today, though.  I got into the water maybe two minutes before the start.  But this was to be a mellow race for me so I just took it easy.  I kept a relaxed pace from the start until the water became too shallow for my stroke.  Then I walked a bit.  That was annoying as the riverbed was uncomfortable on my feet.  After the turnaround, I noticed my goggles were leaking a bit.  So I stood up and fixed it.  Like I said, this was a mellow effort on my part.  I kept my easy pace and mostly stayed out of the way of the speedier women in the wave after me.  I ended up with a 41:58 on the swim.  I haven't done much open water swimming this year so my wetsuit form is not so good.  An in-form me with an aggressive mindset probably does this swim in 36.  But 41:58 is okay for this race.

T1 was comical.  I didn't run.  I got to my spot and got changed relatively quickly.  But I wasn't prepared to gather my gear up.  That took a few minutes for me to figure out and I put my own bag on the pile.  I still didn't run and exited T1 with my cleat covers still on.  If you couldn't tell, I was taking the idea of not caring about my time pretty seriously.  I mounted right at the exit of T1.  I actually don't mind starting on little hills and I already had my bike in the right gear.  Then it was off for the 56 mile bike.

My triathlon bike is still new to me.  I was most concerned about my neck and shoulders.  I haven't trained enough in the aero position to be confident of my neck holding up for hours.  Also, my front cogs on my triathlon bike are a 56/44 while I run a 53/39 on my road bike.  On the rear, I run a 12/27.  I was worried that climbs would be overtaxing.  There's a significant power differential pushing 39/27 versus 44/27.  I tried to compensate by taking it super easy and conserving as much energy as possible for the climbs.  My plan was to push 180-190 watts.  But very shortly into the ride, my cadence and power meter signals started dropping out.  I suspect that there was radio interference caused by my hydration system.  Consequently, I had to pace myself based on heart rate and perceived effort.  It's a good thing I wasn't concerned about my time.  I just took it easy.  I went to the bathroom at the first aid station and topped off my fluids.  Orange and lemon Gatorade don't mix together so well.  But Gatorade tastes better warm than just about every other sports drink.  I went to the bathroom again somewhere around mile 35.  I stayed extremely conservative with my effort and came onto Chalk Hill expecting a real climb.  I geared down to 44/27 before the climb got started and thought it would be really long.  Three curves and it's over.  There was a volunteer at the summit and I asked him if that was the top.  He told me it was and I thought he was bullshitting me.  I said something to the effect of "Is that it?"  The rest of the bike was uneventful.  I was bothered by some chafing.  I think I should just coat my entire body in three mm of Aquaphor before every race.  The last five miles I upped the effort slightly.  I ended up averaging 18.3 mph on the bike and finishing it in 3:03:53.  In hindsight, I took it too easy on the bike.  20 mph should be pretty easy on this course even with bathroom breaks.  I'm not skipping bio breaks until I'm threatening for a world championship slot.  20 mph results in a 2:48 split or basically 16 minutes faster.  So we're around 22 minutes faster entering T2 if I'm in form mentally and physically.  I ate a Nutrigo bar every 30 minutes starting fifteen minutes into the ride.  This worked well and I absolutely did not bonk.

I walked into T2.  If I'd given it even a moment's thought, I would have left my shoes on the bike and walked in my socks.  I couldn't find my spot.  I have to remember to bring a helium balloon.  I was wandering around and then just decided to rack my bike.  Then I found my shoes and put on my knee brace.  I put on a hydration belt as well.  Kathy Harris noticed me and said, "Hi."  Her wave was six minutes behind me and we're usually about the same speed swimming.  At least we were last year.  Anyway, I told her she must have had a good bike.  She nodded and got the hell out of transition.  She was actually racing, not looking for a mellow day.  At least my ego hopes she was.  I trotted to the porta-potties and found them occupied.  Bummer.  So I left T2 at a very easy jog.

I really did not know what to expect of the run.  My knee has kept me from really training full blast.  I haven't done any long bricks and my long runs have topped out at 13 miles at a very slow pace.  I did a little run the Thursday before and noticed my knee was still a little balky.  So I took it easy and resolved to back off even more at the first twinge I felt in my knee.  But first, I had to use the bathroom at the first aid station.  At about 3 km I noticed some twinges in my knee so I backed off and started walking the uphills.  My heart rate had been fine, though.  At the second aid station, I had to use the bathroom again -- this would have been avoided if I'd gotten to the race on time.  After I felt the balkiness in my knee I kind of lost it mentally.  I basically lost the will to run though I forced myself to run the flats and downhills.  In the winery, I got tired of being on the course and resolved to run again.  Making the resolution is easier than executing on it, though.

The rest of the race was a matter of me trying to muster the will to endure.  I mostly failed.  I would walk the aid stations and then run for maybe half a mile.  Then I'd walk a bit until my heart rate got down to 140 and then run to the next aid station.  I took the knee brace off because it was chafing.  This was mostly a lack of mental fitness.  My heart rate did not spike and frankly, my body did not hurt that much.  When the course came back into Windsor proper, I resolved to just run the rest of the way.  I joked with one guy that we had to run at the end because that's where the cameras were.  I expected my family would be there, too, and I did not want them to see me walking.  So I ran.  My family was waiting.  I gave my daughter a high five and my son took off running down the sidewalk.  He kept up with me for probably the last 300 meters.  I passed a few people who never should have been ahead of me.  My run split ended up being 2:33:57 -- just awful.  A bad time would have been 2:10.  My run was frustrating because that's where my mellow approach fell apart.  I didn't have enough physical fitness to run a mellow half marathon and I didn't have the right mental state to endure the discomfort.  Nonetheless, it was a good race.  It's unusual for the logistics to work out where my family is at the finish line.  Seeing them at the end is just an awesome feeling.

So back to the time accounting.  My total time was 6:35:33 and I was expecting around 6:30.  So I basically hit my mellow goal.  And I left a lot of time out there.  Let's say I do a 2:10 run split.  There's another 24 minutes to add to the 26 minutes from the bike and swim.  So there's 50 minutes.  I spent 15:45 in transition.  Let's say I knock that down to 10 minutes.  That totals to 55 minutes and change.  The rest of my races this year will have time goals.  So I'm thinking my goal for Big Kahuna is going to be 5:40.  Actually, when I set the goal around Labor Day, it will probably be lower than that.  I know that entire course well and I can nail it.

Overall, I accomplished my Vineman goal.  My knee actually feels better than it did the day before the race.  I know this distance is not bigger than me.  Yes, I need to adjust my training a bit.  For mental reasons I need to get in a couple of 18-20 mile runs.  I need to get out in my wetsuit and work on my form.  But I know what I need to do and I feel like my body is finally healed enough to absorb the training.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Wildflower 2013 -- My Health Was Not Right

Short Version:  Wildflower 2013 was my first long-course triathlon.  I aggravated a Baker's cyst in my right knee about 6 weeks earlier and 10 days prior I caught a respiratory infection.  That illness took five pounds off me in a week.  My swim was okay despite really poor sighting.  My bike was a disaster -- the injury was reaggravated and after about 30 miles, I had problems maintaining 60% of threshold power.  I decided to DNF after the bike, but couldn't find the medical tent.  I decided to just walk the run because I remembered Harriet Anderson's story of what she did when she was injured in Hawaii.  I walked the entire run course.  So I finished, but about three hours slower than I planned.


This story really starts earlier.  In February and March, my training was progressing nicely.  I was regularly climbing Redwood Gulch and Hwy 9 on my bike.  My long runs were going well, with me consistently hitting training PRs.  My swimming splits were improving and I was starting to "feel fast."  I switched saddles on my bike to an Adamo and that was a revelation in comfort.  I noticed some discomfort on my right calf and IT band, but I attributed that to the break-in period for the Adamo.  In hindsight, I see my bike fit is off somehow.  I entered the Santa Cruz Half Marathon and I almost instantly knew something was wrong.  My heart rate was not matched to my pace, even accounting for the race start surge in adrenaline.  I was having to labor to maintain my non-aggressive target pace.  At 10K, I recognized the Baker's cyst pain and started walking.  I ended up running a couple of km at the end simply because I just tired of being out there.  I first experienced the Baker's cyst in 2010 when I was very new to triathlon.  I got over it with rest and losing 30 pounds.  I've also tried to watch my biomechanics.  I think I got a little overconfident in terms of injury prevention.

April was a bad training month for me.  With the Baker's cyst, plus some travel and work, it's been very hard to follow a training regime.  But the big hitter was an illness.  I touched back in the US from Korea on April 20.  On April 22, I was felled by a tough respiratory illness.  Later that week, I traveled to San Diego for my brother-in-law's law school graduation.  I was still ill and as you can guess, a graduation is not good for maintaining your normal healthy diet.  Still on April 29, I weighed five pounds less than on April 21. My body fat was only 1% lower and I know I was very well hydrated.  I knew I was significantly weakened.

I thought about withdrawing from Wildflower and probably getting half my entry fee back.  But I was very busy at work and the deadline for that passed.  The illness had kept me from training so I didn't know the state of my knee (although Baker's cyst symptoms usually appear in the calf unless you have a truly severe one.)  During a couple of mountain runs in Korea, the injury had still been apparent though better.  So I knew Wildflower was going to be shaky.  I told myself that my only goal was to finish.  In mid-March, I felt like I was on pace for a 5:50 or maybe 6:00 time.  I had done races and or training sessions on much tougher courses with times that translated to well below those times.  But I knew was weakened from illness and possibly still injured.  I told myself I just needed to finish.  I didn't completely buy what I was saying, but I kept repeating it to myself.

I drove to King City the night before and stayed at the Motel 6.  I need to remember to pick a different place in the future.  The Motel 6 supposedly has non-smoking rooms, but it smells like that's regularly flouted.  The WiFi did not work and the TV reception was poor.  I bought some food at Safeway and that was my dinner.  I left around 5:40 and hit the Starbucks drivethrough.  After some English to Esperanto translation problems, I managed to get a medium black coffee.  I have no idea what that's called in Starbuckian Esperanto.

I got to Lake San Antonio unobtrusively and after some missteps found packet pickup.  I bought a new Bento box because I left mine at home.  Transition set-up, body marking, etc. was pretty routine.  Bathroom lines were not bad.  These Tri-California events are a bit annoying with the Christian religiosity they bring in, but it's not too hard to ignore.  Majority groups almost always act with privilege, usually unconsciously.  I got a quick warmup in the water and was all set to go for my 8:30 wave start.

The swim start was a bit of a washing machine, but not too bad really.  I placed myself in the very back which was probably a mistake as the starting area was pretty long and narrow.  I was swimming through traffic for quite a while.  The water was very warm and visibility was not good.  I couldn't see people's feet until I was almost up on them.  I ran into a few people inadvertently and took a kick to the neck.  No big deal there.  A bigger deal was when I was passing a guy on my left and took an elbow to my left goggle.  My left goggle started leaking slightly.  Maybe I should work on a shorter glide, higher turnover style of swimming for the start of races.  Anyway, that leaking goggle would torment me the rest of the swim.  I did stop at one point and try to reset the goggles to kill the leak, but to no avail.

I had problems sighting.  Actually, I was fine until I got off line and headed towards the wrong buoy.  I got so far offline that the event motorboat came by and told me.  My GPS says I swam 2764 meters.  With decent sighting, it probably would have been about 2000 meters.  I had an official swim time of 48:28 so I'm actually not disappointed with my swim performance in terms of  speed in the water.  My sighting was problematic, but some of that was lack of preparation -- not reading the map beforehand (doh!) -- and my goggles becoming damaged in a freak way.

Vision in my left eye was extremely blurry when I came out of the water and that eye stung badly.  But that all cleared by the time I got to my bike.  T1 was uneventful and I got out smoothly.  I knew we had a climb early on and I took it really easy.  My heart rate came down into the 140s and I actually felt confident.  People were passing me, but I always let people pass me up the first hills.  The topless girl cheering everyone was slightly entertaining and drove home the point that I was much too strait-laced in my youth.  This first climb was actually my only "normal" climb of the day.  My data shows a 229 Normalized Power on that stretch, a little below my late-March threshold of 235.  I peaked at 378 watts on the climb.  This is consistent with a normal me taking it easy up a relatively short climb.  But my heart rate peaked at 183 (which I remember seeing on my display.)  That was a bad omen.  For that effort, my heart rate should have stayed below 160.

Things started deteriorating pretty quickly for me.  Somewhere around mile 11 or 12 my IT band started aching and I noticed my right hamstring and upper right calf were working too hard.  This is consistent with my past Baker's cyst experience.  I had a hard time maintaining power at even 180 watts.  There were some downhills and I got more speed from gravity than I'm used to.  Upgrading my tires seems to have paid off there.  I ate my first Cliff Bar a half hour into the ride and every thirty minutes thereafter.  That proved to be a little late for starting my nutrition.  Next race, I need to prepare my own food.  All the pre-packaged options are too sweet.

A little over an hour into the bike, I started bonking.  It took me a minute or two to recognize this, but the recognition was reassuring.  I started perking back up about fifteen minutes later.  Things went fairly smoothly at this point, though I couldn't maintain much power.  My right buttock and hamstring started tightening up.  Around mile 25 I stopped at a porta-potty and my right hamstring cramped when I got off the bike.  That was the first time I thought about DNF-ing.  I decided to at least finish the bike.

Things got worse.  Looking at the data, I see a lot of flat miles at 150 Watts and my heart rate in the 170s.  I took a break a couple of miles before Nasty Grade just to get my heart rate down.  And then Nasty Grade came.  The thing is, Nasty Grade is really not that nasty.  It should just be a few miles of monotonous climbing.  It doesn't compare to Redwood Gulch or even Hwy 9.  But I was just wasted.  I bailed about a mile in and started walking.  I walked to the summit and mounted back up.  There's another short climb right after Nasty and I had enough to get through that.  I cramped a bit, but I knew dismounting would just hurt more.  After that, it was just survival.  My right leg became more useless with each mile and I got to where I could hardly push 120 Watts.  Luckily, there were some descents.  I made my way into T2 limping along side my bike.  I had decided to find the medical tent and DNF.

I asked the volunteers at the aid station in transition where the medical tent was.  They didn't really know, but thought it was up the stairs.  I limped up the stairs and found a tent I thought was the medical tent.  It wasn't. It was a taping and massage tent.  The person there thought that medical tent was by the finisher's chute, but didn't know how to get there.  I was kind of annoyed and frustrated with all this. Then for some reason, Harriet Anderson's story came into my head.  I remembered how she taped her arm to her body and finished at Kona.  It turned out she had a broken clavicle.  I thought, "She's twice as old as me.  I can be half as tough."  So I limped back down the stairs and walked onto the run course.

My right leg was still hurting, but not as bad.  About 500m in, I tried to run.  That was not a good idea.  So I walked.  I got annoyed by people passing me and wanted to run.  I kept on walking.  I was pissed off and frustrated.  The positivity of all the volunteers was grating.  I kept on walking.  I started feeling better.  I talked with some of the other contestants.  The pain in my right leg lowered to a level where I could just ignore it.  I walked up the hills and passed people.  They ran down the hills and passed me.  I wanted to run, but I kept walking.  About 6 miles in, I felt okay and was happy I did not DNF.  I walked with a guy on his 17th or 18th Wildflower.  This conversation made me want to turn the race into a personal tradition.  Then my feet started hurting.  Not too much at first, but I knew I was developing blisters.  At mile 10, my feet were hurting worse than my leg had been at T2.  At mile 11, I couldn't think of anything else but how my feet were hurting.  I kept walking because there was no way I would not finish.  I thought about running -- my feet weren't going to hurt worse.  I did not because I feared having to leave on a stretcher.  I tried to remember the Heart Sutra.  All I could think about was finishing and the pain in my feet.  I got pissed at myself because I had lost control of my mind.  I recognized getting pissed off was another example of losing control of my mind.  I was still pissed.  I kept walking.  I finished.

I went straight to the medical tent.  The blisters were as I expected.  About half of the balls of my feet were blistered.  My right foot was worse than my left.  They had not popped (that would have actually lessened the pain.)  In the medical tent, they cleaned, sterilized and bandaged the blisters.  There's just not much to do for blisters.  I went back to transition, packed up, waited for the shuttle, blah, blah, drove home that night.

All in all, a healthy me probably would have done the bike at least an hour faster and the run 90 minutes faster.  And then I was looking for the medical tent for about 15 minutes.  Take 15 minutes off my swim if I don't swim almost an extra half mile and I'm three hours faster.  My official time was 9:07.  I could have been right around 6:00 pretty reasonably.

I'm glad I finished.  I don't yet have enough self control to keep from beating myself up over quitting.  Also, I think what turned out to be a 13 mile hike was actually good rehab for my right leg.  During the event, I was thinking Vineman was off the table for me.  Now, I think I should still do it.  It is funny that I finished the race mostly because I couldn't figure out how to DNF.  And finishing actually hit my goal.

Finally, Harriet is undoubtedly more than twice as tough as me.  Maybe one day I'll be half as tough.  But honestly, I hope never have to be.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Santa Cruz Triathlon 2012 Race Report

This was my last triathlon of the 2012 season and an "A" race.  Consequently, I tapered for a few days and created a pretty detailed race plan in my mind.  In summary, it was basically go hard on the swim, rush through transition, go at 210 watts on the bike and negative split the run with a cadence over 85.  I thought that would get me a 28 minute swim, 5:30 T1 (there's a 1/4 mile run in that), 20-21 mph on the bike, around 1:30 on T2, and around 55:00 on the run.  The plan didn't happen.

The swim was delayed over an hour waiting for the fog to clear.  That wasn't a big deal really though it kind of threw me off mentally.  When I finally got in the water for the swim, it just never clicked.  I couldn't get my kick to feel comfortable and my catch was just ragged.  Then I had problems sighting once I got around the pier.  There were a couple of times I caught myself going directly at the pier and another time directly south.  I went six weeks without any open water swims and I have to conclude that was a mistake.  My time ended up being 33 and change.  This is pretty close to my floor of 1500m times -- I can easily go 10-20% faster.

T1 was basically smooth.  I think I'll cut an inch off my wetsuit limbs as I'm still having issues getting the suit off.  I mounted the bike smoothly, but didn't have my GPS set right.  I had to fiddle with it for a couple of minutes to switch it to bike which is absolutely necessary because I manage my effort by the power numbers.  Once I got that taken care of, I got into a decent rhythm and started passing people.  But I was having saddle comfort issues from the start.  I forgot to aquaphor the appropriate areas.  This bike course has more difficulty than I remembered.  The little rollers will really screw up your power pacing as it's easy to spike to 350-400 watts very quickly.  As the ride progressed I got more and more uncomfortable in the saddle.  Shortly after the Davenport turnaround, I basically gave up on the aero bars and stayed in the drops.  This was unfortunate as we were riding back into a headwind.  But I just couldn't handle the chafing.  With about five miles to go, some bladder discomfort set in.  Yeah, I had to pee, but it would have to wait for T2.  On the part I got measurements for, I ended up averaging 19 mph with normalized power of 227 watts.  My last functional threshold power measurement was 221 watts.  That measurement was on a flatter course, though and I did no coasting.  My expectation is that how I pushed up the ascents and coasted on the descents brought up the normalized power.  30 seconds of 375 watts will really make a difference on normalized power.  Still I pushed up above FTP for 80 minutes.  I went slower than expected, but I think that was really because of the headwinds.  Maybe next year, I'll have a fitted triathlon bike and 220 watts will get me a couple more mph.

T2 was smooth even with the porta-potty trip.  My time ended up being about 2:30 of which probably 75 seconds was the porta-potty.  I went out on the run with the express goal of taking it easy at the start.  I really just wanted to keep my cadence up.  I was slightly disappointed with my run on the same course 6 weeks earlier because I had a very slow cadence.  Anyway, on the first half of the run, I just focused on cadence and the data shows I did okay there.  I kept it 85 for pretty much the first 5 km.  After that, I focused more on pace.  This worked out well.  I averaged about 10 seconds a mile faster on the second half than the first.  There was one little thing at the end.  The finish line came faster than I expected and I heard Mrs. Kain (can't remember her first name) say that it was almost there.  So I looked up and it was maybe 150-200m away.  And I saw a couple of guys dragging to the end.  So I sprinted.  And I caught them.  And that felt good.  My run time ended up being 55:39 -- ~35 seconds faster than SC International after throwing down a lot more power on the bike (22 watts to be exact.)  I'm still a slow runner, but I've managed to improve from awfully slow.

On the race overall, I'll give myself a B.  My swim execution was bad.  T1 was good.  Bike execution was quite good though I paid for forgetting the aquaphor.  T2 was fine -- the urination need was just kind of random.  I did pretty much exactly what I wanted on the run.  My final time was 2:57 which is 16 minutes better than 2011.  A good swim and being able to stay aero might have given my 6-7 minutes.  I was 35th out of 54 finishers in my age group.  Last year I was next to last.  This race is more competitive than most.  There seem to be fewer novices and it's a destination race for several clubs.

I plan on doing Big Kahuna next year so I don't know if I'll race this one again.  If I do, it certainly won't be an A race.  I saw someone did the Big Kahuna bike at 20 mph with 200 watts.  That's got me pretty excited.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Santa Cruz International Triathlon Race Report

I've gotten out of the habit of writing race reports and though this is a month after the race, it's still soon enough to write a cogent report.

The Santa Cruz International Triathlon on August 12, 2012, was not on my original schedule for the year.  I usually try to avoid races that contain multiple laps and this one is all about the laps.  There are two laps on the swim and four laps on the bike.  Fortunately, the run is an out and back.  My reason for avoiding races with a bunch of laps is that, when there is a large field, it gets crowded and it's easy to get mixed up on placing, pace, etc.  But there was a special on the race where the entry fee was only $40 or $45 dollars.  Then after SF Triathlon at Alcatraz was canceled, I wanted another summer race.  So I signed up and slotted it as a B-/C+ race.  This means I would not taper for the race and use my results as a measure of fitness.  The point of the race was not to get a great result, but to measure my fitness and health levels.

On the morning of 8/12, I parked on West Cliff as suggested and rolled into transition about 90 minutes before my wave was set to start.  This was more time than I need, but about the right amount of time for me to feel comfortable.  I was glad to find that SVTC had two well-located racks and saw some familiar people.  A few SVTC members came just to cheer people on -- I have no idea how they have the energy to be so social, but they rocked.  I got set up, listened to the briefing, put on sunscreen,....  One of my pre-race routines is to listen to a few songs.  Specifically, I always listen to "Thieves" by Ministry a couple of times.  I may try to get a few Smiths tunes in as well.  But basically, I try to get my mind ready for relaxation, intensity and even whimsy.

I was ready to go, but the swim start was on the beach about 400m away.  So I walked with my wetsuit off from waist-up to the beach.  While there, the cheering section -- I remember Christen and Katherine, but I think there were a couple more people -- were taking pictures and just really lightening the mood.  I'm a very introverted person so I eventually just isolated myself and pulled my mind into a more deliberately meditative stance and went into the water to warm up.

My wave was called into the chute and I positioned myself in the back at the edge of the group.  I will stop doing this.  I'm not a slow swimmer anymore and I just set myself up for having to swim through more traffic.  I went into the water pretty strongly, even dolphining through the first couple of waves.  I started swimming a little early as I had to shorten my pull to keep my hands out of the sand.  I went out fairly easy, but found myself in a fair amount of traffic.  There was some bumping and I caught a kick in the side.  I think that led me to speed up because I was clear of the traffic pretty quickly.  I took pretty good lines on the buoys and was really surprised at how strong I felt when I exited the water for the first lap.  I took a couple of exploratory steps and then charged out in an almost sprint.  For some reason, I then decided to dive into the first wave over knee height and swim.  The second lap was swum in mostly sweet isolation and my sighting ended up being pretty good.  Looking at my data file, I came out of the water around 28:14.  That's basically a 30 minute mile.  I felt strong and ran to T1 at a fast jog.

I pulled into T1 and was shocked to see Bernardo's bike still there.  I haven't placed much focus on transitions and generally take them at a leisurely pace.  Bernardo came rolling in about 30 seconds after me and left about 30 seconds ahead of me.  I was really taken aback that I swam faster than him.  I figured I wouldn't see him again.  But apparently I am a better cyclist than I realized.

The bike course was four laps, pancake flat and super fast.  It was also about 4 km short of a normal triathlon course.  It starts on a hill so I decided against a flying start and ran my bike out with shoes on.  My first mile was by far the slowest, but I found a rhythm quickly with my power output leveling out roughly 1/3 mile in.  My normalized power for the whole course was 198 W and 201 W for my peak hour.  This was actually about 10 W more than I thought I could sustain, but since it was not an A-race, I let it go.  I ended up averaging 19.6 mph for the entire course and 19.8 mph on that peak power hour.  I have to say that riding down West Cliff at >20 mph is a great feeling.  There are a few curves to utilize your bike skills and the scenery is wondrous.  I passed Bernardo on either the second or third lap.  That was shocking to me.  But I ended up with the 7th fastest bike split in my age group.  Like I said earlier, I guess I'm a better cyclist than I realized.

In T2, I did my normal lackadaisical transition.  Bernardo came in a few seconds later and left about a minute earlier.  At this point, I knew for a fact I would not pass him again.  On a good day for me and a bad day for him, he's still more than a minute per km faster than me.  My legs really felt dead during the whole run and my cadences on all the splits show that.  At that point, my average cadence for easier runs was 166-168 (83-84 on the monitor).  I never got past 168 on any km.  Even on the last km when I did a 5:14, I ended up at 168.  My km laps ranged from 5:14 to 5:47 with my second fastest lap at 5:33.  I ended up running 56:15 and felt slow the whole way.  This works out to about a 9:01 mile pace.

Even though my transition and run times were slightly disappointing, I still had a great race.  2:41 was well ahead of my target.  I didn't realize the bike course would be 2.5 miles short.  My stretch goal for the race was 2:50 -- add 8 minutes for a shortened bike and I still beat that.  I ended up 15 out of 23 in my age group.  But I was just 84 seconds from finishing 10th.  And my fitness splits were all better (13th on swim, 7th on bike, 14th on run.)  I can easily take 84 seconds from transitions while still being very average at it.  There are other tactical, non-fitness things I can do that would probably take off some more time.  In other words, I didn't give a full racing effort.  I'm not finishing at the bottom of my age group anymore so I need to race more seriously.  It's just not a good feeling to finish lower because you farted around in transition.

Nonetheless, the goal of this race was to primarily get fitness feedback.  I got that.  Writing this report a month after is a bit misleading -- my current training numbers are so much better.  Next week, I will put together a race plan for my A race, the Santa Cruz Triathlon.  I'm thinking 26-27 minute swim, 1:15 bike and 54-55 minute run with 3:30 for transition is well within my capabilities.  This puts me around 2:40 without a shortened bike course.  This would be a >30 minute improvement over 2011.  Of course, I did 2011 after I had "finished" my season and certainly didn't train for that particular race.  So it's not strictly comparable.  Still, 30 minutes better is a big improvement....

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Some quick observations on my own weight loss

If you read this blog, you know I've developed a little triathlon habit.  Actually, it's a pretty big habit (six races in 2011.)  Anyway, this habit is still new to me -- I began training for my first triathlon in January 2010.

At that time, my weight at a minimum was around 208.  I say at a minimum because I was careful only to get on the scales completely naked and after a bowel movement.  So most of the time I was probably carrying more weight around.

Now I have a body composition monitor and a nifty little Google Docs set up where I smooth out the noise from my measurements.  My trend weight today is 180.8 and my body fat percentage trend is at 13.2%.  So I'm carrying around about 24 pounds of fat or a little less than one pound of fat for every three inches of height.  24 pounds sounds like a lot, but I'm a relatively tall dude.

I've lost at least 27 pounds.  For the sake of argument, let's assume I've only lost fat and not put on any muscle.  Of course, that's ridiculous, but we can establish a boundary.  I've lost more than half of the fat I was carrying around.  That's cool.  But I was carrying at least fifty pounds of fat.  Wow.  My body fat percentage was at least 25%.  If a surgeon had to work on one of my organs, they probably would have had to cut through more fat than the volume my organ occupied.

I'd like to lose another eight pounds of fat.  That would take me down to 9.2% fat if I also lost eight pounds of weight.  I don't know that I'll lose eight pounds of weight, though.  I want some more explosiveness so I'm going to start some strength training.  Assuming I gain a few pounds of muscle, this fat loss would probably take me down to about 8% fat.  So the carnivorous aliens won't want me for their dinner plates.

Anyway, this hasn't all been exercise.  I eat a fairly high-fiber diet that is mostly plant-based.  I have some chronic health issues that suggest I should limit my animal consumption.  I also try to limit my crap calorie consumption to immediately after a workout.  That way the extra calories are more likely to go to replenishing my glycogen stores rather than being converted for long term storage (i.e. fat.)  Of course, the weight loss and diet changes have basically made the health issues go away.  I'd like to keep it that way.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

SF Triathlon at Treasure Island Race Report

Just as a reminder, these were my time goals:

  • Total: 3:16:40 (oops Math mistake, these add up to 3:06:40)
  • Swim: 36:00
  • T1: 3:00
  • Bike: 1:25:40 (17.5 mph)
  • T2: 2:00
  • Run: 60:00
Here  are my actuals:
  • Total: 3:18:51
  • Swim: 43:00
  • T1: 4:31
  • Bike: 1:28:19 (16.8 mph)
  • T2: 2:17
  • Run: 60:44
A couple of notes first.  The run was actually 10.5 km.  So that's worth about 2:55 to add to my goal.  Also, I had a couple of racing mistakes.  First, on the bike I really had to use the bathroom.  There was a porta-potty on the course.  I stopped.  It was occupied.  A funny scene ensued where I asked if the occupant would be long who gave a response consistent with him either puking, shooting up or having just shot up.  San Francisco, you gotta love it.  So I held it and went to the bathroom after T2.  I don't know how much time I wasted, but I couldn't hold my bike pace much after that stop.  I hear in longer distances people just let go while still riding.  I'm just not that hard core.  The other racing mistake was I dismounted too early at the end of the bike course and had to get back on the bike.  No biggie, but it definitely cost me 30 seconds or so.

Anyway, I was really pleased with my performance.  I thought my goal was 3:16:40 and I'm pretty close to that.  In fact, with the extra half km of running, I beat it.  Of course, if I had added correctly, I would see that I missed my overall goal and basically the goals in each leg.  But, if I had added correctly, I would have adjusted the splits to give me a goal around 3:15.  3:06 was not a reasonable goal.

So how did the race itself go?  The swim went badly, but I did freestyle the whole way.  That was a first for me.  It was a two lap swim and the second lap went much better.  I just stopped kicking with a couple hundred meters left and sped up considerably.  Collin Mui and I came out of the water exactly together.  The first ever triathlon for both of us was SVST and he passed me right at the end there.  So Collin is a little bit of a barometer for me.  Maybe I am for him, too.  But anyway, we came out together, but it was obvious my legs were in better shape.  I ran off and left him.

I was really focused on transition and I think I did much better in T1.  4:31 is much better than 6 and 7 minutes I've done at other events.  Anyway, there's still some time to wring out, but until I switch to tri shoes and alter my wetsuit, I think there's not much more than a minute I can take off.

So I got out on the bike and things were going pretty well.  A woman was about the same speed as me and we passed each other a couple of times.  But my heart rate was a bit higher than I liked so I slowed down.  Then I had the bladder issues and a strong headwind developed on part of the course.  I think we had to do six laps and there was one little baby climb.  I always passed a lot of people on the climb.  I've decided I don't care much for courses where you have to do multiple laps.  So anyway, I finished the last lap and was heading to transition.  There was a volunteer waving a flag and I thought that was the dismount point.  So I hopped off and she yelled that I was too early.  So I hopped back on and rode for another 100 m or so.

T2 went well.  I have laced shoes so I had to tie them.  And my bladder was very near bursting.  I found relief in a porta potty.

Then I got out and started running.  I had to do three laps.  I got my heart rate where I wanted and really enjoyed myself here.  I lost focus a couple of times and found myself drifting off my pacing.  But I'm such a number hound that I glance at my Garmin habitually and correct myself pretty quickly.  On the last lap I tried to push it and just couldn't find the gear.  So while I was hoping to push my heart rate into the high 170s, I could only peak it out to 175.  I think part of it was mental -- there wasn't anyone for me to chase.  I guess I need to get more imaginative there.

I did see Collin again.  I think he was two laps behind me.  I ended up finishing fifteen minutes ahead of him.  I saw a coworker, Lito, on the run, but he was in a later wave.  Our final times were within a couple of minutes of each other.

So my swim time was really the only part I was unhappy with.  I did have something of a breakthrough mentally on the second lap.  I'm writing this report late, so I can tell you I have gotten much faster in the water since then.  I think if I were to swim that same course tomorrow, I'd finish at least ten minutes faster.

I'll probably do this race most years.  It's an easy course and it was well organized.  It really was a good race for my first Olympic distance tri.  Now if they could just measure the run distance correctly....

Alcatraz Race Plan

Date: August 21, 2011
Type: Slightly longer than Olympic Distance Triathlon
Goals (Time):

  • Total: 3:35:30
  • Swim: 40:00
  • T1: 7:00 (includes half mile run)
  • Bike: 1:23:30 (18 mph)
  • T2: 2:00
  • Run: 63:00 (9:00 pace)
Goals (Qualitative):
  • Enjoy yourself -- this is a beautiful course and you're doing the best thing possible to appreciate the beauty
  • Maintain a racing edge all the way through.  Stay mentally focused and in controlled collaboration with your body.
  • Use the terrain challenges to build confidence.  You've been training with difficult terrain and others have not.
  • Finish strong, but with nothing left.
  • Watch the heart rate and manage around lactate thresholds.  Remember around 162 on the bike and around 172 on the run.  Only exceed the thresholds when there will be a chance for recovery afterwards.
  • High cadence on the bike.  90-92 is the goal.  Don't be afraid to shift so you can maintain that.
  • If a woman passes you on the bike, do not try to keep up with her (you Neanderthal!)  If she can keep up with you on the bike, she probably runs at least a minute a mile faster than you on the run.  She is not that drill sergeant at Fort Bragg you had no respect for.
Actual race plan:
Leave at 3:10 AM to arrive around 4:00 AM.  Drink canned coffee and eat some carbs during the car ride.  Be quick about setting up transition and get on the first shuttle to the boat.  USE THE BATHROOM BEFORE YOU PUT ON YOUR WETSUIT!  Pack everything the day before and try to sleep by 8:30.  At wakeup put on sunscreen liberally.

After the shuttle ride, take it easy and try to find a spot where you can catch a few Z's.  Until the briefing you won't know how the swim start will work, but you're starting in the middle of the Bay.  You don't need to worry about positioning too much.

So you've jumped off the boat.  Just swim smoothly with a minimum of effort.  Once you've warmed up a bit, pick up the pace a little bit, but keep your form good.  The chop may keep you from breathing bilaterally.  If so, pay extra attention to sighting.  Kick as little as you can.  Your legs are for the other parts of the race.

When you come out of the water, your legs should be in great shape.  Get the suit off quickly, get it in the bag and get those shoes on.  Now you have a half mile run to your bike.  Don't hold back.  You want do that half mile in under four minutes.  When you get to the bike switch into the bike shoes and get going.

Now you're on the bike and it's time to get your heart rate down.  So take it easy.  Drink and eat.  The gummies will give you some caffeine so you should be eating some of those every 10 minutes or so.  Eat bars at 30 minutes and one hour depending on how you're stomach handles it.   If things go well, you'll get 5-600 calories and 30-40 mg caffeine on the bike.

Attack the hills.  Outbound, stand for up to one minute on ascents.  Inbound, limit it to thirty seconds.  Your descending skills are pretty good so you should be able to pass people both during climbs and descents.  But watch the heart rate.  Pedal to maintain a heart rate below 162.  You can go higher on climbs, but you want to bring it back down as quickly as possible.  On Great Highway, maintain a cadence of 90-92 rpm.  There will probably be some crosswinds.  Some people are going to gun it and burn themselves out on Great Highway.  Let them.  Some will just be faster than you.  That's okay; you'll get faster.  There are some hills right before you get back to transition.  Preserve energy here.

Handle T2 quickly.  When you get out on the run, first focus on getting your heart rate in the low 160s.  You want to keep your heart rate there except for climbs until the Sand Ladder.  Run the bottom third of the Sand Ladder.  Walk the middle third and run the last third.  Your heart rate will likely be in the high 170s at this point.  We want to bring that down to about 172.  Keep it there until you get to the Golden Gate Bridge (except for climbs.)  If you've fueled correctly, 172 is going to set your pace around 8:30 or even lower.  Now it's time to burn everything left in the tank.  Don't freak out if your heart rate climbs above 180.  Keep pushing it.  No one is going to pass you because you didn't realize you're almost done.  Just push it.  Don't worry about your slobber.  Don't worry about other people's slobber.  Push it.  Your body should feel miserable when you cross the finish line, but that's very temporary.  You will be all smiles after you complete this race.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

San Francisco Triathlon at Treasure Island 2011 Race Plan

Date: July 9, 2011
Type: Olympic Distance Triathlon
Goals (Time):

  • Total: 3:16:40
  • Swim: 36:00
  • T1: 3:00
  • Bike: 1:25:40 (17.5 mph)
  • T2: 2:00
  • Run: 60:00
Goals (Qualitative):
  • Nail transitions -- I've been giving up a lot of time on both T1 and T2
  • Relax in the water and swim mostly with my arms, not my legs.  I'm less interested in the time here and more interested in managing to freestyle the whole way.
  • High cadence on the bike.  This is a flat course and I will be tempted to lower the cadence in a higher gear.  Keep cadence above 85 and save my legs for the run.
  • Spend as much time on the bike in the drops as possible.
  • Finish with nothing left -- I've been training with 12-16 km runs.  I should have enough left to run negative splits on the last 5k.
  • Watch the heart rate.  My lactate threshold on the bike is around 162 and around 172 on the run.  Stay below it for the whole bike segment.  On the run, stay near, but not above until 2k to go.  Then blast it.
  • Stay calm and have fun.
Actual Race Plan:

I will leave the house at 5:15 AM to arrive around 6:00.  On the night before I'll set up the press pot and water boiler to get coffee ready.  I'll  make coffee first thing.  One cup before leaving and I'll drink the rest in a travel mug.  I'll eat lightly -- mostly carbs and fruit.  I'll have the van packed the night before.  I just have to load the bike and go.

Upon arrival at the race site, I'll pick a spot on a rack.  Then I'll Set up the spot with towels, equipment, etc.  I'll  make sure hydration gear and food  is all on the bike.  Then I'll check in, get body-marked, set up my race belt.  If possible, I'll lay down, take it easy and even nap.  I will apply sun-screen generously 45 minutes before the race starts.  15 minutes after sunscreen, I'll grease up my ankles generously and put on pantyhose to go under the wet suit.  I will immediately put on my wet suit.  Then it's time to get ready for Male 35-39 wave.  This is mostly about socializing and just before the start, quieting the mind almost entirely.

For the swim start, I will start wide right and towards the back.  The point is to avoid as much jostling as possible.  I will swim relaxed and keep my mind calm.  Some of the faster swimmers may lap me.  That's okay.  I am aiming to preserve my legs, so I want my swim to be dependent on my stroke.  I will enjoy how much easier it is to swim with a wetsuit on.  I will breathe bilaterally, taking a breath every fifth or seventh stroke.  If I'm not holding my mental line, I will occasionally breathe on the third stroke.

In transition, I will move with urgency.  The goal is to not give away any time.  I'll remember how I've been giving up 2-5 places with my transition time.  I will remember how, at Morro Bay, I did not pass the fat man until a mile into the run. I will get on the bike, follow the rules and peddle smoothly.  I have to do six laps.  I will eat 1/3 of the gummies every 10 km.  The Garmin will tell me when that is.  My  cadence will stay above 85 and I will stay aerodynamic in the drops.  There are no real climbs, so there shouldn't be much gear-shifting.  I will follow proper riding etiquette and rules (no drafting!), but I won't get stuck behind any slow-pokes.  I will finish both fluid bottles by the end of the bike ride.

In T2, I will maintain a sense of urgency.  I'll leave the bike gloves on.  I'll take most of the first running lap easy to test heart rate and pacing.  These should be around 6:00 km splits with a heart rate in the low 160s.  I will key on heart rate, not time.  After the third km, I will bring the heart rate to the high 160s and keep it there.  Hopefully, this will translate to 5:40 splits or so.  I will not force the pace, but watch the heart rate.  After 6 km, I will push the heart rate to the very low 170s.  I want to do the next two km right at threshold.  It would be great if this translated to 5:30 splits, but I will not watch that.  I will watch my heart rate.  Then with 2 km to go, I will forget about heart rate and just push it.  The goal here is to push beyond 5:15 splits for the last two km.  I will push it hard for these last two km, but I will push it hardest on the last km.  I should run the second km 2-5 seconds faster than the one before.

During the run, I will remember that the run is still a weak discipline for me.  I will run my pace and not get worried about people passing me.  I will remember that there are three laps and some of the people passing me are actually lapping me.  I will not chase anyone until the last two km.

I will smile.  Doing triathlons is expensive in terms of money, time, support and discipline.  The fact that I can do this indicates that I have a truly bounteous life.  It will perhaps not always be apparent, but being out there on Saturday is a celebration.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Updated Event Schedule

I mentioned in an earlier post that my endurance event schedule would have to change because I was abusing my family.  It really hit me when, after several rainy weekends, the sun came out and instead of spending the time with my family, I went for a six hour bike ride.  Yeah, that was really selfish.  Anyway, here goes the list for the rest of the year:

  • June 5: Morro Bay Triathlon; I'm probably going to have to drive back to Sunnyvale that day, so I'll stick to the Sprint distance.  It has a beach run and I don't have time to train for a 10K on the beach yet. 750m swim, 20.5 km bike, 5.4 km run
  • July 9: SF Triathlon at Treasure Island; This will be my first Olympic distance event.  1500 m swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run on an easy course
  • July 31: Santa Cruz Sandman; this one is just fun. 800m swim, 13 mile bike, 4.2 mile beach run
  • August 21: SF Triathlon at Alcatraz; this is my biggie event.  1.2 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 7 mile run
  • September 18: Catfish Crawl Open Water Swim South Bay 2: 2 mile swim
  • A Half Marathon in October or November
  • A couple of trail races in October or November
I've essentially set a four hour limit on events.  If I can't finish the event in four hours, I won't do it.  So no marathons until I'm sure I can finish in under four hours.  No centuries.  No 10 km swims.  No triathlons longer than Olympic distance.  It's less about the time of the event and more about the training demands.  If you do a four hour+ event, you need to go out for a few four hour+ training sessions.  I just don't have time for that.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Going to change Athletic Plan for this year

I got a little carried away with my plans so I'm going to dial them back a bit.  Basically, I couldn't go forward with these plans without damaging my overall quality of life.  My family needs me to be around and training for some of these events is not compatible with that.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

2011 Treeathlon Recap

It's been a colder than normal winter here in Northern California.  We've regularly gotten temperatures in the thirties and recently some of the local mountains got a little overnight snow dusting.  So training has been problematic.  It's just not much fun to run when the temperature drops; the early sunsets make most weekday bike rides unsafe; and it's always hard to make it to the pool.  I did buy a Kurt Kinetic bike trainer, though, and that has become my go-to workout.

I scheduled the Stanford Treeathlon, really as a training milestone.  It's a basic sprint tri and I felt like finishing would not be an issue no matter how poorly my training went.  Then the weather disrupted things.  The water in SF Bay near Redwood City has been in the high forties.  My understanding is that 55 degree water is the edge of safety for large events.  Most people are fine and handle it fine.  But when you're running an event, you have to consider the most marginal swimmers.  48 degree water would put some of those swimmers at risk.  The organizers rightfully canceled the swim portion and replaced it with a run, making the event a duathlon.  They considered making the event a 5-20-5 duathlon, but apparently got feedback that several participants lacked the fitness for such a challenge.  So they made it a 2-20-5 duathlon.

2-20-5 is a strange duathlon.  Two kilometers is such a short run that most participants probably wouldn't even start sweating.  I personally had no idea how fast I should run such a short distance.  My training has been pretty unstructured to this date -- I basically just go out and exercise without much thought.  I vary the route to affect the amount of climbing I do.  So, the day before the Treeathlon, I decided I would just simulate the whole race.  I reasoned that the Treeathlon was just a training event and if I cooked my legs, it didn't matter.  The terrain around my house is less flat than where the race would be, but I'd get an idea of how I should actually do the race.

I did the 2 km with an 8:36 pace.  This surprised the hell out of me.  I never try to run that fast.  When I do a 10 km training run, I'll run close to 9s at the end to get my overall pace below 10, but I didn't realize I could push out an 8:36 pace for more than a mile.  Then I hopped on my bike and went for 20 km around Sunnyvale and part of Cupertino.  I was warm so I didn't wear my jacket.  And I forgot my gloves.  That was a bad idea.  Anyway, the course I took has a pretty steady climb in the beginning.  I noticed that the spinning on the trainer really helped as I took this ascent pretty easily with a high cadence.  I got delayed for several minutes at Remington and Mary as a driver was on the far left side of the right turn lane when she wanted to go straight.  So the signal never changed until more cars came to go straight. (If you have to know it was an East Asian female driver whose looked only straight forward.  I tried to get her attention so she would move.)  Anyway, I ended up on the bike for 48 minutes with a lot of stopping for red lights.  So I got home, got back in the running shoes and went running for five kilometers.  The course I laid out starts out with about 200 feet of climbing over the first mile or so.  My legs were dead.  My pulse was good, though, as it stayed in the low 160s.  After I got through the first mile in something like 10:50, I decided to kick it up.  My legs were back under me and I thought I could push myself to maybe a 30:30 or 31:00 minute time.  I came in at 29:54.  I felt pretty good.  If I hadn't cooked my legs, I thought my times the next day would make me happy.

I got to the event later than planned, but was happy to see bike racks were assigned.  Of course, I had to squeeze in on my rack and as luck would have it, it was a short rack.  This would prove to be a big problem for me.  I couldn't get my bike on the rack without some vertical manipulation.  The top of the rack was lower than my seat and handle bars.  Anyway, I got settled in and got ready to go.  In my haste, I forgot my Garmin at home.  I felt a bit naked.

I met a couple of people I've met from other triathlons and waited for my wave to start.  My wave was supposed to start 10 minutes after the first wave, but that seemed off.  Also, the waves were too large for a narrow beginning run.  Anyway, my wave (under 39, non-college men) started.  I know my run times are slow so I put myself towards the back and just tried to run politely.  I probably went out a little too hard -- the adrenaline and seeing everyone else leaving you behind is a real test of discipline.  I never really settled into any kind of groove.  I did the leg in 9:24.  I think the distance was probably a little bit shy of 2 km, but that's still much faster than I anticipated.  I was planning on a 10:00 time.  Transition killed me as I had a hard time getting my bike off the rack.  I spent 2:08.7 in T1 meaning I was basically a minute slower than average.  Onto the bike and I found a comfort zone pretty quickly.  Since I lacked my Garmin, I don't know what my cadence was like.  I suspect it was a bit slower than ideal implying I was in the wrong gear.  Anyway, it was 3x lollipop course so it was pretty crowded the whole way.  I just tried to stay comfortable and keep a good cadence.  The course was very flat, so I did very little shifting.  My legs felt a little cooked -- I was definitely stronger on Saturday.  I came into T2 and that was a disaster.  I had a very difficult time securing my bike and I ended up spending 2:44 in T2.  I got onto the run and just tried to keep it together.  My legs were definitely in worse shape than Saturday.  The first mile was really hard, but it always is.  I got passed by a couple of guys there and I was tempted to chase them.  I just said to myself that I was here to run my own race.  I'm really not used to running without a heart rate monitor.  I have no idea what my exertion or pace was like at this point.  My legs were definitely feeling it, though.  The Saturday simulation certainly emptied my tank a bit.  I picked it up a little bit after the aid station and passed some of the slower college women.  The course was an out and back so I saw some people in pure misery once I made the turn.  I tried to give some encouragement.  I think I told one guy in obvious pain that there was glory at the end.  That's pretty silly now that I think about it.  But the last part of the race is about psyching yourself out.  When I got to maybe half or 3/4 a mile left I passed a really tall guy and there was no one else I'd be able to pass.  I thought about trying to kick it and made a half-hearted effort for maybe 200 m.  I had no idea on my metrics so I kind of gave up and just cruised in.  The guy I passed ended up finishing 18 seconds behind me, so I think he may have made an effort to catch me.  I was shocked to see I ran a 29:06 on the final leg.  I don't know if it was a true 5 km.  If so, my time is really shocking.

My transitions really killed my time.  If I had done them just average, I would have been probably 2:15 faster.  This would have put me basically even with the next guy in my wave.  Then the competitive aspect kicks in.  The next age group guy would have been about a minute ahead of me -- close enough for me to see and chase down in the last two miles.  I probably would have knocked another 60 to 120 seconds off my final run.  The time doesn't really matter to me.  This difference would have made the last two miles more fun.  After I chased the tall guy down without changing my pace, the finish was kind of boring.

Let's back up, though.  The Treeathlon was an event for me to measure my fitness.  I'm a little bit ahead of where I planned to be.  The Tierra Bella 200 km Bicycle Tour is six weeks from now.  I'm in a good position to be ready for that.  Mission accomplished.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

2011 Endurance Event Plan

Late February, early March, Stanford Treeathlon (Sprint distance)

April 16, Tierra Bella Tour, either 100 mile or 200 km

May 15, Morgan Hill Sprint Triathlon, 3/4 mile swim, 16 mile bike, 5 mile run

June 26, Golden Gate Triathlon, 0.9 mile swim, 26.82 mile bike, 5.94 mile run

No event in July unless my job changes so that my quarterly reporting duties diminish

Aug 4(?), Santa Cruz Sandman Triathlon, 1200 m swim, 13 mile bike, 4.2 mile beach run

Aug 21, San Francisco Triathlon at Alcatraz, 1900 m swim, 40.2 km bike, 11.3 km run

Sep 25 (?), Santa Cruz Triathlon, 1500 m swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run

October 15, PCTR Redwood Park, probably the 25 km

Saturday after Thanksgiving (if not at Disneyland) Quad Dipsea, 28.7 miles, 18000 feet of elevation change

December 18 (if no Quad Dipsea,) PCTR Rodeo Beach, 50 km

I will probably do one or two of the Catfish Crawl swims, too.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fitness Recap for 2010

This year I made a major lifestyle change. I got into shape. I was definitely sporting the middle aged office worker physique when the year started. I've trimmed down quite a bit in ten months.

Honestly, it wasn't vanity that caused me to start exercising. Well, not vanity of my physical appearance, at least. There were really three motivating factors. Last December, I was talking to one of my coworkers from Massachusetts who was an officer in the USMC. Him being a veteran of the wrong military branch notwithstanding, I respect and like this guy a lot. We were talking and he mentioned how he couldn't keep up with his old buddies though he still enjoyed visiting them and trying. It dawned on me that my own self-image was totally out of sync with reality. I view myself as a physically robust person who doesn't shy away from exertion. While I don't think I've ever really avoided physical exertion, my lifestyle had evolved into one almost devoid of it. I decided that 2010 would be the year I made my own self-view correspond closely to reality. I suppose I could have just changed my self-view, but I guess I'm just too vain to accept myself as your typical out of shape and overweight American.

Next, I'm not descended from people of great longevity. My ancestors have tended to die either at or younger than the average life expectancy. In my extended family, there are a number of chronic diseases that are heavily correlated with lifestyle choices. I have been diagnosed with one of those diseases. I'd already changed my diet pretty significantly to deemphasize meat and I've dived headfirst into the California mode of emphasizing fresh fruits and vegetables. I knew that becoming physically fit would improve my health and most likely increase my life span. I've got a good life going and I want it to last a long time. I don't believe in any kind of afterlife. Either I get it done in this lifetime or it doesn't happen. Sloth is just another word for decadence.

Finally, I've got two kids who are quite young. I am a very introspective, analytical person so I've noticed that I tend to follow the same micro-patterns my parents did. We ate a lot of fast food growing up and when I'm under stress I crave a hamburger and onion rings. I tend to gravitate towards sedentary leisure activities as my parents did. Consequently, I'm very conscious of the examples I'm setting for my kids. I want them to think it normal that people get out and physically exert themselves. I also want them to think it's normal that people set goals for themselves and then through disciplined effort over time, achieve those goals. As parents, we model "the normal way to live" with how we live. Your kids will pick up on what is important by watching what you actually spend time on. You can talk all you want, but seriously, you got to live it. Therefore, I consider showing my kids that fitness is important by making time for it and sticking to it to be an example of good parenting. I take nothing more seriously than my role as a father.

That's why I started exercising this year. I picked triathlons largely because it seemed cool and I like the idea of balanced fitness. I decided to enter events to anchor my fitness routine. I am a busy person. If I don't have actual events on my schedule the temptation to deprioritize exercise is very great. But, if I have a race I'm training for, the prospect of not finishing or performing poorly is a great disciplining agent. It injects accountability into my fitness regimen. It also makes for an easy, though flawed way to evaluate how much you exercised in a given period.

So, here's my event log for 2010, with a quick blurb on each:

  • June: Silicon Valley Sprint Triathlon in San Jose-- this was my first tri and my worst experience. I endured some minor injuries in training for this and was extra cautious in my training because of that. Still, I finished. Looking back it seems like such an easy event, but that first one was a bit intimidating. I may do this one again in 2011 just as a gauge on how much I've improved, but probably not. The course is very easy. 500 m swim, 10 mile bike (probably overstated actually) and 5k run
  • August 1: Sandman Triathlon in Aptos -- After the SVST I really increased my training intensity because of the difficulty built into this course. It's a 1200m ocean swim, 13 mile bike and 7 km beach run. I had a blast on this one. The scenery is beautiful, especially for the bike ride. I was very slow, but I finished strongly. The mechanics of my racing improved though I screwed up the nutrition horribly. My wife and kids were waiting for me at the finish. Finishing with them there was one of the most awesome things I've ever experienced.
  • Mid-August: Catfish Crawl -- a 1 mile swim. I missed a buoy and had to swim another 300 m at least. My time was disappointing and I ripped my wetsuit. Still, I swam a mile+ in open water. My performance was disappointing, but I still set new baselines in confidence and performance. Just finishing doesn't feel like an accomplishment any more.
  • Early September: Woodside Trail Run (10 Km) -- The organizers screwed this one up horribly as all the 10K runners got lost. Still, it was a good time. The scenery is very nice and at several points I got into a good running groove where I just enjoyed myself. I ran quite a bit further than 10K and climbed a lot more than I was supposed to.
  • Early October: Skyline Ridge 14K -- This was just a wonderful event. The marine layer cooperated beautifully and it would have been worth it to lug a tripod for photos. The beauty of the trail runs is that they're so steep at parts that you have to walk. So you quit worrying about your time. At least I do. Also, I was training for a half marathon at this point, so I was careful to not push too hard.
  • October 31: Silicon Valley Half Marathon. This is actually a pretty hard course for a road race. The finish is 500 feet higher than the start and the climb is pretty steady from about 5 km on. I had a plan to start kicking 5 km from the finish and I was doing just that, dropping people left and right. Then at 18 km my knee went and it became very painful to put any weight on my right leg. If I was younger with fewer responsibilities, I would have just grit my teeth, kept up my pace and risked injury. But if I'm incapacitated, I can't maintain my responsibilities to my family. So I slowed down and got across the finish largely intact. It probably cost me 7-8 minutes, but that's not important really. Overall, I really enjoyed the event. There was great scenery and until 18 km, I felt good.
All that adds up to six events this year. You'll perhaps notice that my last event, a straight run, was basically the same length as my first, a multi-sport event. That kind of puts things in perspective. I'm slow and I'm trying to be okay with that. The point of this is not to win, but to stay physically robust and set a lifestyle example for my kids. It's also to have fun, which I am.

I know there are two months left in 2010, but while I will train, this is the offseason for me. Frankly, my body needs to heal some. Next year, I'll up the distances and maybe do eight or nine events total. The only event I'm definite about repeating is Sandman. It really is that nice.