Getting Back Into The Swim/Bike/Run Routine

So on a whim I decided to try a swim/bike/run routine this morning. At first I thought that I’d only for a nice long swim, but figured that now was a good of time as any to take an assessment of where I’m at, physically, for the triathlon in November.

Let’s just say I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me!

I arrived at the pool at around 6:15am or so. It was so empty. The lanes were absolutely calm and there was no one in the water. I’ve historically had challenges with the pools at 24 Hour Fitness, especially in Hollywood. (I cancelled my all-club pass after I stopped working full-time, but I really enjoyed the pool in Northridge. So clean!!!) I rinsed off and hopped in. The water felt just right.

In my usual fashion I spent a good deal of my time just getting used to being in the water again. Swam mostly using the backstroke but after a short warmup I began transitioning halfway into the freestyle crawl. I really need to learn the breaststroke (who wants to teach me?!) so that I can use that stroke for resting during the triathlon. I came into a bit of trouble switching to the backstroke in open water during the LA Triathlon last September and was either kicked or swam in the wrong direction.

While swimming, I thought of the swim boot camp I had considered joining ( and even a masters swim program at Occidental College ( I am sure they are worth the price…and I’m sure with the right amount of scrimping and saving I can probably go for one or the other. The boot camp is much shorter commute but the cost of the masters swim program is just right. I wonder which will be a better investment based on my goals. (Hey, the program at Occidental is also through the CA Triathlon club…) On Sundays there’s an awesome meetup in the south bay for beginner ocean swimmers. I’ve attended a few of their meetups and it is really fun. Once I get some more work in maybe I can join them again!

After the short swim, I proceeded to the stationary bike. I totally felt cheated out of a cycling experience. There I was, riding a bike…going nowhere. Nothing like riding in the outdoors with the wind in your face and the sights and sounds of the city. Maybe next time I’ll just hit the road instead. It’s much, MUCH more gratifying. Anyways, it was a really boring hour unfortunately.

And, to top that off, the run wasn’t much better. Again, I should’ve just left and ran around the neighborhood. I hate treadmills and gyms but I really wanted to get everything timed on location. The run was harder than the bike ride. I was starting to huff and puff on the bike and I wasn’t even going that fast. I’ve definitely lost some conditioning in the time I’ve been gone (not to mention the slight weight gain) but I’m sure with a bit of work I’ll be back to where I was…if not, better.

I also can’t tell if my performance was lacking based on my level of deconditioning or if it was diet related. When I came back home I wasn’t even hungry for a couple of hours, but I forced some food into me. Then the fatigue set in like a brick wall. After waking up from my mid-day nap I can say that I probably need another one and will sleep quite well tonight.

All in all, I enjoyed the swim portion the most…and that’s saying something. I should hit the pool a bit more regularly and then consider joining one of the programs to keep me going. I can never tell if I should focus on one sport at a time, two, or just go nutty and do all three. I need to do some legitimate research on some half Ironman training plans or just find a reasonable coach that I can afford.

Also came across this nugget of inspiration. What an awesome guy!

Spring Cleaning: Paleo Diet and My Brand New Training Schedule

My last race left me a bit frustrated with how I’ve been trying to shove everything into my schedule…balancing school, freelancing, internship, and personal relationships left very little time for training the last few months, and I’m fed up! I’ve gained a bit of weight (SUPER SADFACE) and frankly, that’s not okay. I’m feeling less energetic and pretty snappy at everyone. They were right…no running makes me cranky and moody.

Yesterday I vented my frustration to my boyfriend. He kindly listened (like he always does) and helped me balance my schedule for the upcoming month. I was able to squeeze in my new training schedule and balance my design work with school hours appropriately. Here’s hoping I don’t end up derailing myself in the first week! I have a tendency to create schedules and then immediately break them.

I’ve included about 15 hours of design work (enough for me to survive), 4 days of school, 2 days of internship, and four days of training. I haven’t actually drilled down as far as to plan out my workouts quite yet…first step is to slate the time for them. For running, I plan on running slow on one day, fast on another, and long on the third. For my swim/run workout, the run and the swim will be rather short (probably 5K run + 1mile swim). On my solo swimming day, I plan on swimming long (1 mile or more). On my bike/run day I will bike for 10 miles + run 5K. For my second bike/run day I will bike for 15 miles + run 10K. As I get stronger and work up my endurance I will incrementally increase all of my distances until I reach my race distance goals.

This morning as Shant and I were eating breakfast, I brought up the idea of trying the Paleo diet together. A few friends on Twitter and Facebook are currently paleo so I figured that it was worth a try. The Paleo diet is more of a lifestyle than it is a diet…the idea is to eat more like our ancestors then our modern-day diseased fellow man. Can it be that hard to eat like a caveman? It all seems pretty reasonable — eat nuts, fruits, vegetables, and meats (including eggs). I went pescatarian in 2005 — meaning that the only meat I eat is fish. From time to time I still crave chicken but none have passed my lips since then. This seems like a great next step since I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go completely vegan.

This method of eating will give me some boundaries and keep me away from things like packaged foods, fast foods, and candy…all things I have in my possession right now. So far from my research, it seems like everyone has their own perspective and take on it (selected fasting, reintroduction of foods, etc.) but I am tailoring my consumption patterns for my lifestyle and training. Since Shant had been wanting to get healthier (and so have I), I figured that it would be easier if we tag-teamed and tried it for 30 days together, as some sort of challenge. We agreed to try it together, did some research, and went shopping! I spent about $80 at Costco and got the following items:

$6 – Medjool dates (3 lbs)
$5 – Raisins (5 lbs)
$10 – Almonds (3 lbs)
$7 – Oranges
$3 – Bananas
$7 – Red Potatoes (okay for endurance athletes!) (10 lbs)
$20 – Salmon (8 ct)
$15 – Cod (8 ct)
$7 – Eggs (60 ct)
$2 – Salad mix (3 lbs)

I also find that if I don’t plan my meals (similar to my training schedule) I go completely off kilter, so here’s the plan:

Breakfast: Scrambled egg whites and red potatoes
Lunch: Salad mix + Albacore (optional, since it’s canned and I don’t know how much I actually have)
Snacks: Oranges, bananas, almonds, raisins, medjool dates
Dinner: Broiled fish and veggies. Add red potatoes if it’s a training day.
……..and repeat until I run out of food!

Not quite sure how long the food will last me. Also not sure what to do about all the food I bought last week (25 ct. of croissants, Ezeikiel bread, 18 ct yogurt, frosted mini wheats, 12-pack of ramen) but I am sure they will manage in my fridge/pantry. So far I’ve tried to stick to this for lunch (no picture, but all I had was a chicken cesar salad without the chicken, without the cesar, without the croutons, and without the parmesan…so essentially all I had was tomatoes and lettuce!) and dinner — sauteed red bell pepper and onion with basil and oregano crusted salmon. So far so good!

Let’s see how long I can keep this up for. To keep ourselves accountable to each other, Shant and I have agreed to food-blog everything that passes our lips for the next 30 days! You can check it out at So far I’m the only one that’s posted my meal, since he’s preparing all of this food for the week right now.

For this new meal plan, my goal is to make this a permanent habit. I started off my now-running habit as a 21-day challenge one year ago, and it stuck pretty well. Will this finally be the year where I stop battling the same 10 pounds over and over again? Will I finally get my eating habits on track? I finally feel like this is a challenge I can survive and that I’m in control again. Hooray!

Coyote Encounter on Today's Long Run

I got home after a pretty late night of designing and working. (Hey, a girl’s gotta keep the lights on, you know?) At around 2am I finally stumbled into bed, but before that I figured that it was probably a good idea to just go ahead and get dressed in all of my running gear. That way, I could just get up and leave in the morning!

Even though I got up on time, I still managed to get to Griffith Park later than 8am. That officially makes me a bad team captain! I forgot to anticipate the 3/10ths mile walk to my car since I didn’t have a spot to park last night. After I got there, I stretched for about ten minutes while catching up with a few of the other teammates. It has been awhile since my last long run and I’ve been training very inconsistently, so I wanted to make sure to play it safe today.

I decided that I would aim for the target distance of 16 miles knowing that I probably wouldn’t be able to complete it. Then, about halfway, I just decided to go as far as I could for the day. Seemed like a healthier way to go about ramping up my mileage again.

Then, as I just started to pick up some steam, I was heading into the hills right behind Forest Lawn on the Burbank side of Griffith Park when I saw something a bit unexpected: a coyote. At first I thought it was an unleashed dog, but after it turned around, I could feel the blood draining out of my face. I’ve never come that close to a coyote before — there’d been a few of them up where my parents live, but I was always in my car — so this was a first. Even when I’ve gone hiking and camping I’ve never come that close.

I racked my brain and tried to remember. Was I supposed to get super loud? Was I supposed to withdraw quietly? Was I supposed to walk with my back to it or should I back away facing it? I immediately shut off my iPod and took out my earphones. I carefully turned around and walked calmly away, keeping my breath steady. (Most animals can sense fear, and the ones that are aggressive will definitely attack when they sense this!) I listened carefully for any rustling or motion but didn’t sense anything. I kept going for about 20 or so yards, and when I looked behind me, he was gone. When I felt like I was in a safety zone again, I ran as far as I could until I saw other runners, bikers, and riders.

It was a close encounter, but I definitely did the wrong thing. After doing some research online, the consensus is as follows:

  • Raise your arms or hold a jacket or backpack over your head to make yourself look bigger. (Nope, didn’t do that)
  • Make loud noises by yelling or by banging things together. (Hmm, didn’t do that either)
  • Back away slowly while facing the coyote if it doesn’t run away. Don’t turn your back or run away. (Major fail!)
  • Fight back if the coyote attacks you (Thank goodness it didn’t come to that)

Thank goodness the next run is at Lake Balboa, and the other runs will be on the LA River. No more trails for awhile. I’m spooked!

Staying Busy During The First Week of 2012

This first week of the new year is surely a sign of things to come.

I started my first week of massage therapy school and it was pretty intense. The day after Christmas, I drove over to Redondo Beach and enrolled at Alta Massage College. This week I clocked 21.5 hours of classroom instruction and that includes a day off. Next week I’ll probably be closer to around 30 hours, and the week or two after that I look forward to starting my internship! So far the program is better than expected. On the first day I spoke to Dr. Davis, the anatomy, physiology, and pathology teacher there, and told her about my plans to eventually segue into personal training and oriental medicine. Since that initial introduction I’ve felt that she’s pushed me a lot harder than the other students to answer questions during class and she seems to expect me to ask a lot too. Most of the time her lectures jog my memories of anatomy class (I’ve taken two in ten years) and my short stint in nursing school. In the first week I studied more reiki (I started my reiki studies right before the end of the year) and pregnancy massage. So far the instruction I’ve received has been well worth the money…I am happy I followed my doctor’s guidance and am now on this track.

Tomorrow morning I have an interview to become a personal trainer apprentice of sorts…I’ll still have to study towards certification, but I’ll actually get a chance to work directly with a gym for this. I’m super excited and hope things go well tomorrow, but it’s really more of an initial meet-and-greet to see if we’re a good fit. Fingers crossed! The company is based out of San Diego/OC but is opening up a studio here in west LA. I think it’d be a great thing to do in addition to massage therapy, but if it doesn’t work out I’ll still get to concentrate solely on massage therapy. Either way I think it’s a win-win situation.

Also hosted the first charity group run of the year! I had a 13.1 miler scheduled but I ended up running around 9.3 miles. Still not bad. I spent the afternoon getting my apartment tidy and my fridge stocked for the upcoming week. I did so much traveling at the end of last year — San Francisco, Europe, San Diego, my parents’ house, my boyfriend’s house — that I rarely got to pack and unpack. My stuff was piling up and it was pretty out of control! I’ve tamed it down a bit but still need to get rid of some books so I’ll figure something out. I also stock piled the fridge so that I’d be able to cook at home and pack all of my food for school so that I could save on costs. Finances are a bit slim right now since I’m really dead-set on not taking on any work unrelated to health and wellness, so I have to make the little bit that I do have go a long way.

I spent the month of December pretty lost and depressed, but January feels different. I feel like I’m taking steps in the right direction. I feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants instead of just coasting on cruise-control. I jotted down a ton of to-do lists at the beginning of December and without actively realizing it, I’ve pretty much put them all into motion or completed them. It feels good to feel like you’re on track, even if you don’t know what you’re doing. For now my training has taken a bit of a backseat, but with my schedule now almost set for the next few months I’ll be able to pencil in my swimming, biking, and running. Looking forward to getting back into a routine, even if it is short-lived!

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Fitness Friday: RunKeeper + GainFitness 1-2 Punch!

I’ve decided in the short amount of time that I’ve been working out that there are two iPhone apps that I could not live without.

One I’ve been using for almost a year now…the other, I’ve been using for just a few days. What’s great is that I think they really complement each other.

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I use RunKeeper to track all of my activities — swimming, biking, running, walking, hiking, etc. Its GPS tracker helps give me accurate measurements of distance and pace and gives me a really nice interface to view it all in. I’ve been an Elite member since February, which means I get detailed statistics and reports on my workouts. I’ve also enrolled in a few of their running classes, which are really helpful to get you across the finish line for your first 5K, 10K, half marathon, or full marathon.

But, as you probably already know, cardio is just one fraction of the entire picture.

I’ve recently started using GAIN Fitness to help me with resistance training. All you do is put in your height, weight, where you’re working out, what equipment you have, and they’ll come up with a workout for you! They take the guesswork out of everything by illustrating proper form via video or photo.

What’s also neat is that you don’t need to have an iPhone to use their services — the basics of what both services offer are also available as a web-only component to your health and wellness regimen.

What other apps do you find motivating and inspiring?

A Good Day of Training Deserves A Blog Post

After feeling like things were on the rocks for awhile with my training (and life, in general), I decided to make the most of my Saturday and celebrate the Ironman Championships the only way I knew how — by swimming, biking, and running.

The day started off with a Team Dress for Success run through Griffith Park. We had set the course for 9 miles and I think some of us achieved it…other people — like me — didn’t quite wrap the 9 miles but still put forth our best effort. It was really nice seeing my teammates again after being away for so long. I always wish I had pictures of us but alas I never quite remember to snap some while we’re together. Maybe next week! Anyways, one of the women has been training hard since day one on running. She had previously completed the Avon 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk, and was looking for another challenge. I can’t tell what’s more challenging — walking 20 miles a day for three days, or running 26.2 in one go. I was so happy to see her climbing the hills of Griffith Park with no issues. She had recently gone through quite a bit of family issues — a lot of deaths in her family these last few months, but after finishing the 9 miles her smile could light a room!

What I love most about the running trail at Griffith Park are the little signs along the way. They are remnants of other training groups and motivational coaches. There’s a sign that tells you when you’re one mile away from the finish, and then a very silly smiley face reserved for the finish.

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After the run, I headed home to pick up my iPod and settle in for a quick protein shake. I then headed to the gym near my boyfriend’s house and go to work. This was my first time biking at this 24 Hour Fitness but they had these really neat spinning machines that actually would set intervals and guide resistance and CPM for you while calculating mileage. It was really neat — different from the other stationary bikes I’ve used in the past — and was really fun. I’m hoping to be able to get a lot more miles in with this bike in the near future. I spent about an hour on it and the meter read 21 miles, so all in all it wasn’t bad. Unfortunately that’ll never be a distance I’ll be able to achieve on a road bike while training since I’ll have to deal with things like flat tires, traffic, and potholes. Eventually I’ll have to get back on my bike soon.

Then came the swim. Yes I took things in reverse — like the reverse triathlon I completed a few months ago — but I really wanted to relax into my swim. I have a tendency to tense up and get nervous in the water, even at 4 or 5 feet, but today I took it stroke by stroke. I swam for distance and not for time. Since it had been a very long while since I was in the water I wanted to take an easy day, so most of it was backstroke. About 2/3 of the way for each lane I’d switch over and practice getting my head in the water and alternating my stroke. I have to work on my breathing before I can work on technique. Most importantly I need to spend more time in the water.

I was famished by the time I had finished my workout. It was nearing 3pm by the time I stepped into the sauna to relax. I grabbed a lentil wrap and some sushi at the local Trader Joe’s and have been relaxing ever since! I’m glad to be back in the swing of things with my triathlon training. For awhile there I hadn’t done any biking or swimming, but I’m glad that my abilities are still there. (I guess they never quite go away, do they?) However, I think I feel more confident about the training season ahead now that I know I will have the time to devote to training.

How did you spend the weekend? Did you get any good training in?

Race Recap: The Athens Classic Marathon

Lets do this Memento style: start with the ending and then go from the beginning.

The giant marble stadium was overwhelming. As I neared it on the last of my energy reserves, I tried to pick up the pace but it was just unbearable. But, as my right foot landed on the soft track, I was somehow lifted by a spirit outside of me and began running towards the finish line. As I crossed the timing mat and archway I couldn’t help but think about the incredible journey I had just been on, both mentally and physically.

The morning of the marathon started as most other race mornings. I slept fitfully, waking up ten times in five hours. Most of my dreams were about the marathon, making mistakes, forgetting things, etc. I woke up sometime after 2:30am and couldn’t go back to bed so I began preparing for the race. I pulled on my running skirt, tech tank, arm warmers, socks. After that I began piling on the layers: long sleeved shirts, sweaters, scarves, anything that would shield me from the cold. I pulled my hair into a mid-ponytail, alternating between headbands before settling on the skinny one. (The other one I had was already immortalized in another race photo.)

I turned on my phone and called my boyfriend. We had said that we’d video chat before I left for the race since I wouldn’t be broadcasting my run live. A few quick exchanges were made and then I was off.

At five in the morning, the city of Athens is unseemingly quiet. The entire city was asleep. I neared the ticketing machines since I had misplaced my 7 day metro pass. As I fumbled with my 50 euro bill in between different machines that lacked change, I began to get worried that I might miss my shuttle to the city of Marathon. As I began punching buttons out of frustration, a kind British gentleman offered to pay the 2 euros or so for me since he was on his way to the marathon too.

We boarded the shuttle together among the hundreds of other runners. We talked about running, triathlons, work, traveling, global crises, the age skew in the shuttle. Eventually the conversation dwindled down to silence as we kept going on this windy road to Marathon. I muttered something about how far we had driven and he referenced something about not training enough for hills. The windshield wipers were clearing a thin layer of water from the morning’s drizzle and the driver kept pressing on.

We reached the stadium of Marathon and headed towards shelter. On our way there, I noted the rather large number of portapotties. As we tried to make headway, the wind was resisting us. Volunteers were passing out large plastic bags to help keep us warm. By the time we reached the waiting room, we made our way to the corner to take advantage of the body heat and to eat some breakfast.

I can never handle solid food before a race so I broke open some Clif gel blocks. We chatted a bit more when I asked him for some first timer tips. All he gave me was, “Don’t start off too fast.” Point taken. He asked me about some of the apps I had worked on at work so I pulled them up on my phone. Soon enough the girl next to us began joining in on the conversation. She was training for an ultramarathon and was currently working at the US embassy in England. The three of us eventually made our way to drop off our gear bags. In between trying to stay warm, we moved between different locations, eventually finding a nice hideaway with about a hundred other runners behind the torch.

We made it to our starting block. I marveled at the sheer numbers of the race. Next to me were two runners from California as well: San Francisco and San Diego. I thought back to the two other runners I had met at the Acropolis a few days before, Alexander from Ukraine and Andrew from the Philippines. They called the waves one by one, and before I knew it we were off.

The first few kilometers I had to get used to the fact that they were indeed going by kilometers. The marathon course is 26.2 miles, but when converted into metric measurements, it comes out to something more like 42.195 kilometers. Mile markers come less frequently than kilometer markers naturally, so it was important to do math on the go. As we circled the tomb of Marathon at around 5k, I was feeling good since the hard part was over…or so I thought.

As we entered small cities and villages, crowds were cheering us on. People of all ages were clapping, handing out olive branches, and taking photos. I saw a few warriors running in costume, some old, some young, some barefoot. Some power walkers were older than runners. Some looked like they were in agonizing pain and some looked lost in the moment.

There’s this thing I do when I run. I think of my swimming and my biking. When I swim, to help me count my laps, I think of the lap number and try to remember what happened to me when I was that old. I begin thinking of the people that entered my life and what I was doing. By the time I pass 27 I begin projecting into the future. So, naturally, I started down that rabbit hole. I began thinking of everything and everyone I had met and experience that led me up to this moment. I thought of all the good things that had happened to me. I thought of all the friends I had made over the years. I thought of all the times I was sad. I thought about the continuous abuse I had suffered at the hands of my brother 20 years ago and the violence I endured 10 years ago. I thought back to a time when I preferred to end it all, I thought of the time I felt like the people I loved most were turning their backs on me, and I started tearing up…and somewhere before the 20 kilometer mark I snapped out of it. Somewhere in my mind I had recounted events and people up to around age 23 or 24, and then things began looking up.

I thought about art school and my art school friends. I thought about how my parents finally came around during that time. I thought about how I began understanding the world a little differently after studying nursing and anthropology. I thought about how excited I was to begin working at the ad agency full time. I remembered how much I wanted to design for mobile. I remember getting filmed for my university, gushing about how much I wanted to start my own design business and travel the world with it. I began thinking of my friends, old and new. I thought of my supportive boyfriend, my gassy cat, the guy who sold me my running shoes. I thought of all the kind people I had met on this marathon and triathlon journey and about what cause I wanted to fundraise for when I begin my 70.3 training.

As the kilometers ticked off one by one, I was getting increasingly sore and tired. I thought of my fundraising efforts and all the women who needed the help of Dress for Success to transition from welfare to work. As the run got harder and harder — theres a 13 mile hill climb, if you didn’t know — I thought of those mornings where Shant would lead a run on his bike and I would try to keep up. I played that game a bit in my head. When I ran out, I switched it to my first 6 mile run around Lady Bird lake with my friend Barce. When that was over, I began thinking of my group training runs with my friends at work, who always managed to head out for a post-work jaunt around the neighborhood with me. I can remember days where I felt like slacking but everyone got me out of the door.

Somewhere along kilometer 35, it became quiet in my head. I had finally emptied it of all thought and ideas. It was just silence for awhile. I was actively ignoring the music blaring in my ears. I had passed a beautiful Greek countryside with rolling hills and small villages. I passed a small industrial area and now was in the suburbs. The buildings began getting closer together and the rain and wind became significantly stronger. I pulled out the plastic bag I had neatly tied away at kilometer 5. My fingers were tingling, my legs were numb, and I was shivering. Thinking it was dehydration I took some sips out of my hydration pack and concluded that it was really because I was cold. Running in 40 degree weather with wind chill, drizzling rain, and California summer weather running gear will do that to you.

At around kilometer 39 or 40, I was met with a foil blanket from a nice emergency guard who had lauded my accomplishment thus far. As he wrapped the shiny blanket around me, he looked me in the eyes and said, “Now, go finish the race you started.” I was finally in downtown Athens and it looked similar to the morning after a rainstorm in Bangkok. The roads were closed, and people were on the sidelines clapping their hands and yelling “Bravo!”. To my recollection, the only other person to have ever said that to me in that way was Shant’s mother.

I neared a familiar sight, the Syntagma Square and the House of Parliament. I ran under the first inflatable arch right after kilometer 42. I tried to pick up the pace as I saw the next arch and was only able to pull off a small trot. As I passed the second metal arch, what came into view was absolutely beautiful: the giant Panathenaikon Stadium, in full marble, in full glory. By that time, I could feel the pain leaving my body — if only temporarily — as I sped up to a run. Volunteers were cheering us on and as I crossed the finish line, I could not believe the journey I had just gone on. My energy was spent, I was shivering, but I finished the marathon with a smile on my face. After months of planning and training, it was all I could ask for.

Tools of the Trade

I should’ve listened to my friends Barce and Gabe a long time ago.

A few months after I started biking distances around the 10-mile range, they started asking me if I had the right tools around just in case something happened, like a flat tire.

Well, I remembered their surprised faces when I told them that I didn’t carry ANY tools with me at the exact same moment today that I noticed my front tire was flat, 14 miles in to a 20 mile ride. Unfortunately I had to cut it short and do the walk of shame all the way back to my car.

This flat tire incident was actually preceded by my rear brake falling off right before my ride. I drove around town for almost 45 minutes to find an allen wrench set so that I could get it snug again.

So, today, after my 1.5 mile walk of shame, I drove home, ate brunch, watched a little bit of the Ironman Championships, and then headed to a few local bike shops to stock up.

Some of the things I got:

  • Handheld pump by way of CO2 cartridges and nozzle
  • Tire patch kit (something I had and already bought to fix my wetsuit)
  • Tire levers (something I bought when I got my first flat tire)
  • Two spare tire tubes
  • A small seat post bag to store it all in
I figure that if I’m really going to give this half-Ironman thing an honest go, I’d better start acting like it. Being physically prepared is one thing, but mechanically prepared is another.  Now I’m planning on another long ride tomorrow, hopefully to the tune of 25 miles so that I could make up for the distance I didn’t do today.
In other news, I also got a new pair of Brooks running shoes! Finally got fitted by a running retailer shop called Arch & Sole here in LA. They’ve even agreed to set up my charity team with a purchase discount. I’m so excited to break them in!

Planning For My First 70.3

I’ve recently decided to pursue a 70.3, a half Ironman. (Well, technically the Ironman is a branded event and I am not actually attending an Ironman race, but it is the same race but from a different company. Sorry, that’s my marketing background talking.)

There’s going to be lots of planning involved. For me, that’s the fun part!

Some things I need to work on:

  • Swimming endurance: I have very little of it. To address this I will attend a swimming boot camp class 2-3x a week.
  • Swimming consistency: My swimming is quite irregular. To address this I will not only enroll in a swimming boot camp but also go to the pool 2x a week on weekday mornings, for a total of 4-5x per week swimming.
  • Open water swimming practice: I’ve only done this twice (once during my last sprint triathlon). To address this I will aim to substitute two weekly swim sessions at the pool with the beginning ocean swimmers meetup group here in LA.
  • Biking consistency: I need to ride more often and for longer periods of time. To address this I will bike at the gym during the weekdays when I can’t make it out too far. I’ll have one long ride on weekends, most likely after my group run on Saturday mornings.
  • Running: I’ve been sidelined with injuries and illness which have both prevented me from being consistent with my long weekend runs. I need to be more mindful of stretching, icing, cooling down, nutrition, and rest so that these problems do not become too large to handle.
I have 12 months to work on all of this. What I’m aiming for is to be as proficient in my swimming as I am in my biking. That’ll take a lot of work since I don’t deem myself a particularly strong swimmer. I have a few races coming up — Tri Carson on the 15th and the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon on the 30th — but the most pressing event is my marathon on November 13th. I’m running out of weekends to accomplish my long training runs so I may have to start sandwiching them into the week.
After my marathon, I will have to start working out twice a day: Start the morning off with a swim and run in the evenings, or vice versa. One evening a week my runs will be swapped with a long bike ride (either stationary or road). On one weekend day I will have a brick workout (long bike ride to be followed with a run) and on the other weekend day I will have a long run (10+ miles). For two weeks I will swap out a few morning swims with a bike ride so that I can take a few ocean swimming clinics on weekends.

  • Month 1: November 2011 – Swimming proficiency, run Athens Classic Marathon
  • Month 2: December 2011 – Swimming proficiency, cycling emphasis
  • Month 3: January 2012 – Swimming proficiency, running emphasis
  • Month 4: February 2012 – Swimming proficiency, running emphasis
  • Month 5: March 2012 – Swimming proficiency, run LA Marathon
  • Month 6: April 2012 – Swimming proficiency, cycling emphasis
  • Month 7: May 2012 – Compete in an Olympic-distance triathlon
  • Month 8: June 2012 – Open water swimming endurance emphasis, cycle, run
  • Month 9: July 2012 – Open water swimming endurance emphasis, cycle, run
  • Month 10: August 2012 – Open water swimming endurance emphasis, cycle, run
  • Month 11: September 2012 – Peak training month(s)
  • Month 12: October 2012 – Peak training month (s)
  • Month 13: November 2012 – Taper, Race
From a macro view that all seems very feasible. Now all I have to do is plan out what the day-to-day will look like. My short term goal is to get comfortable enough with my swimming where it’s the last thing that causes me pre-race anxiety. My long term goal is to work towards the full 140.6 distance. I’ve always enjoyed a good challenge and I feel that this is within reach if I plan for it and execute on that plan. I’ve been reading up on 8-12-16 week plans but they all seem so rushed and hurried. I need to be able to account for things like life getting in the way, getting sick, injured, family, friends, etc. I think a one-year plan gives me enough time to build endurance and proficiency in all three sports to perform well and race confidently on the big day. I hope that my friends and family will be patient with me as I slowly end up disappearing into my training…

My First Triathlon Experience: The 2011 LA Triathlon

Ah, the LA Triathlon. My very first triathlon experience is under my belt. I’m glad that the anxiety is all over and now I can focus on bigger and better things (to be announced at the end of the post…don’t skip down!).

Despite having shown up at the expo later than I wanted to, I sat through all of the course talks and newbie clinics. I felt a little less nervous but little did I know that the panic would set in at the 11th hour.

After leaving the expo with my new iFitness race/hydration belt and a shuttle ticket, I ran some errands before getting things set up at home. My wetsuit had a few tears in it already and I needed to grab some energy gels. I also had to test out my bike one last time before the race so I took it for a spin to the bike shop — who knew that bike patch glue works well for wetsuit repair? — and then to a friend’s house.

On my way back from her place, I began noticing a grinding sound. Something was amiss and my sanity was about to unravel for an hour. As I started inspecting my bike, my chain decided to jigger itself loose. Then I noticed that the gear was grinding near the deraileur. I took my allen wrench and went to town on my bike. I also looked up about 10 different YouTube videos to figure out how to fix the darn thing. By the end of an hour — and about a dozen expletives later — things were back to normal. I packed my T1 bag, double checked the glue on my wetsuit, laid out my trisuit and armwamers. I ate dinner and tried to go to bed.

Usually the night before a race is nervewrecking. I get nervous. I start overanalyzing whether or not I’ve trained enough or properly. I took solace in knowing that there were probably many hundreds of other newbie triathletes up at that very moment thinking the exact same thing. By the time I fell asleep it was 10pm (quite early on a pre-race night) and I awoke at 2:30am, 3:30am, 3:45am, and then again at 4:15am.

I got up and threw my clothes on. I packed my breakfast and headed out the door with all of my gear in one go. I’ve always been a fairly light packer. I sped to Downtown LA via 6th Street, which has always been my little secret. Very little traffic the morning of the race. I was pleasantly surprised. I couldn’t find a parking lot with an attendant so I went to the same one I parked at for the expo, put a $10 in an envelope, marked it with my license plate number, and tossed it into the kiosk hoping that I’d see my car again come that afternoon.

I rode down Figueroa to 12th Street, where the shuttles were lined up and ready to take athletes to Venice Beach. As I boarded the shuttle with about 50 or so more triathletes, it was slightly comforting. Nervous energy was in the air. Everyone was pretty quiet and focused. Some people put on headphones, others gazed out windows, and no one fell asleep. The energy was a little intense but I felt strangely at home. I was finally with my people — the Type A’er, the planning and rehearsing and thinking and reflecting types — and it felt nice. Our driver got lost a few times but we finally made it to Venice Beach. The guy next to me chucked and said that we probably could’ve biked there faster. (I kind of agree!)

T1 wasn’t too hectic. By the time I got there some of the other athletes were already set. I took awhile to get everything set up — bike on the stand, appropriately placed towels, socks, shoes, etc. When everything was done, I decided that it was finally time for breakfast. I was pretty nervous and I rarely have an appetite on race morning, but nonetheless I inhaled 6 or so bite sized brownies and a packet of PowerBar energy blasts. I downed some water and headed to the volunteer station to get myself marked up for the race ahead.

As the transition area closed, everyone was called out to the water for the morning remarks and the national anthem. They began to call the waves — all 16 of them — and it started off with the elites and pros first. It was inspirational seeing how laser focused they were and how they entered the water with such strength and purpose. Right at about that time I remembered that my open water swim coach had mentioned that it was best to get into the water prior to the start of the event to acclimate to the temperature. Even though the water was actually warmer than air temperature, it was probably a good idea anyways so I left the race area to join the other athletes who were doing the same thing.

I practiced a few dolphin dives as the waves began to pick up. I was feeling strong about my training at that time and ready to just get started. I still had about an hour to go before my wave would be called, so I did my best to stay warm. I jogged up and down the beach in my wetsuit, dunked myself into the water, swam a little bit, chatted with some of the other age groupers. It was fun connecting with others who had been training for months leading up to the event, just like me.

Before I knew it, we were up to the start line. We ran down the beach, into the water, and dove right in. Even though I had warmed up prior to this, the water temperature just sucked the air out of me. I was only completing the sprint distance (1/2 mile swim, 14 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) but about 0.1 mile in to the swim I was already panicking. It was partially because I had only truly been in the ocean once before. Another reason was that the wetsuit had settled into me a sense of claustrophobia. The people around me didn’t freak me out as much as I had anticipated, and there were lifeguards everywhere. It almost felt like the number of lifeguards outnumbered the number of athletes. One quickly paddled up to me to see if I needed help, but I turned it down and kept going. I tried to get into a rhythm and to put myself into a calmer mindset. I told myself that I had trained hard for this section. I tried to remember the words of encouragement I got from everyone. I told myself that I had finally committed to a goal and was in the process of achieving it if I could keep my bearing. My endurance needed some work so I flipped between freestyle and backstroke. I made it to buoy 1 just fine and had two more and a coastline to go. My Coney Island Crawl ended up leaving me with pretty bad chafing on my neck, days of neck cramps, a lot of spent energy, and bout so breathlessness. Having to switch to backstroke for about half of the swim meant that I ended up swimming in zig zags around the remaining two buoys and back towards the ocean. I honestly probably ended up swimming more like 0.6 miles.

I was swimming with all the energy I had. I felt pretty spent in the water. As much as I was reaching for the shoreline I felt like I was moving inches at a time. I kept trying to remember what my swim instructor told me — reach as far as you can with your fingers, push back with your arms, repeat — but each time it felt like the shoreline was barely moving. A lifeguard paddled to me and coached me back to the shoreline to keep me from zigzagging back towards buoy 3. I was incredibly grateful for them. I kept swimming and swimming as far as I could until someone told me to just stand and run out. (I had remembered hearing advice that I should swim until my fingers can hit the ground before getting up, since you swim faster than you walk. I suppose for me that was pretty arguable!)

I got out of the water and was pretty dizzy. From the race pictures my cheeks were rosy and I was looking down most of the time. Sounds about right. It was difficult getting my bearing, getting my wetsuit off, and getting my shoes on. My transition time was four and a half minutes long, which is a pretty long time. I walked my bike out of transition and got on to it and started enjoying the experience.

As I rode down Venice Blvd. I couldn’t help but think to myself that the hard part of the triathlon was over. Just a few short months before I was absolutely terrified of the water and signed up for lessons. Did I really just finish an ocean swim and NOT get plucked out by lifeguards or deemed unfit for participation? I guess in this case, you really need to fake it until you make it. If you had even looked like you were doubting yourself they’d pluck you out of the water. I was glad that they didn’t do that to me.

I kept riding, being very mindful of any sort of clicking in my bike. I was a bit scared that things were going to fall apart since I don’t really deem myself a bike handyman. I tried to shift gears but things felt awry, so I loosened them up and just rode on the 1-1. As the race director had said the day before, biking isn’t so much about the equipment as it was about the engine. I pedaled as hard as I could up the hills I never anticipated, tried to rest my numbing hands every mile or so, and kept focus on Downtown LA. The bike portion was definitely the most exhilarating part of the entire event, equipment withstanding. I rode through familiar parts of my city and hoped to see a few familiar faces out there but it wasn’t in the cards that day.

T2 was a piece of cake, mainly because I had nothing to change. I parked my bike, grabbed a drink, got my GU on, and started running. I had practiced this transition often at the gym, so the rubber legs were completely expected. Even though I am not a particularly fast runner I deemed this segment to be my strongest. I had been running the longest, after all, and it was the thing that got me into training for the triathlon in the first place. I enjoyed seeing all of the other athletes make the climb up to the Disney Concert Hall. On the way back down the hill, I was enjoying myself so much that I tried to crack a joke with an older man also running. He seemed like he was struggling and as I cracked my very silly joke, he seemed to just get angry with me, so I wished him a good run and kept pushing. By the time I made it down the hill the 3rd mile marker welcomed me home and it was a fairly strong finish. I tried not to sprint all the way down to the finish, only picking up my stride just a little bit. I had learned from my Disneyland Half Marathon that you definitely shouldn’t gun it at the end, especially if you had not trained at those speeds…it only leads to injury, something that I am unfortunately still dealing with to this day.

All in all, the LA Triathlon was a great experience. I learned a lot about myself in the process. I was kind of sad that it was all over! I tried to look at it like this: my training was the journey, and the event was the celebration of said journey. When I convinced myself of that, and the fact that training is never really over until you say it is, I felt a lot better.

My final times were pretty decent. I finished on 2:05:39. My swim took 28:39. My bike took 1:01:57. My run only took 27:48.

The night before, I had been eyeing a few different races…one was another local sprint triathlon in October, and one was a half/70.3 late next year (1.2 mile swim/56 mile bike/13.1 run). In the 7 days after the LA Triathlon I ended up treating myself and registering for both. I’m very excited about the prospect of doing the half. It’ll require lots of training. Lots and lots and lots of training!

I chose the HITS Half Triathlon in Lake Havasu for a number of reasons. It’s close enough to home that I could take vacation time and just drive myself out there (much cheaper than shipping my bike). I’ve also been to Lake Havasu City before so I know what to expect. Plus, I think it’s close enough where my family and friends can come out for it if they choose to. I’m excited about the adventure ahead. Partially terrified, but mostly excited. Reminds me of when I first decided to register for the LA Triathlon.

See you at the next finish line!