Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Long Run

It rained all day today, and after waiting for a long time I finally decided to do my long run indoors. Whenever I have to run on the treadmill, it feels like torture. Today's workout called for a 20 minute warm-up and then 60 minutes steady at my maximum aerobic pace, followed by a 10 minute cool down. Steady for me works out to about 20 beats below my lactic threshold heart rate (LT), or about 154 BPM. These workouts are hard enough, but doing them on the treadmill drives me crazy.

Most people when they walk into the gym to go for a run see this:

But I see this:

At any rate, I plugged in the iPod and surrendered to the machine. Despite the heat and absolutely still air in the gym, the workout went well to say the least. 20 minute warm-up and then 60 minutes steady at 9.3 mph... most likely a new record for me. I know comparing treadmill pace to real pace is like comparing the Canadian dollar to the US dollar, but still.... 9.3! I'm sure I'll be paying for that late in the week next week.

Long ride tomorrow, and hopefully again on Sunday. After that it's one more week before I rest and test and then Base 2 will be in the books. Hard to believe it's been 6 weeks already.

Next week will be a run "stretch" week due to some work commitments. Yes, I said "stretch".

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Setback: Get Ready to Ride the Emotional Roller Coaster

Fitting that the day after I post a "Breakthrough" note my very next one is about setback. Woke up this morning with some sharp pain in my Achilles or calf and I'm not sure why. Today's pic is me finishing the Chuncheon Marathon back in 2007. That's not a smile on my face, I assure you. I trained through a serious achilles issue and this was the consequence... barely crossing the line in and two months in a boot after the fact. I'm not going to repeat that mistake this time. Or will I?

Here's the thing: it doesn't matter that I'm injured, it only matters how I feel about it and what I do about it. Setback, or fear of setback is usually a constant state of being for me. If you always push your limits, and if you're easily swayed emotionally by whatever happens like I am, you're pretty much gauranteed to be stressing about something. So it's a balance... the fear of not healing with the fear of losing fitness.

Injuries are the rolling hills of an Iroman build... proper pacing will get you through quickly but overdo it and go over the top too soon and you'll be blown up by the halfway point. Over the course of 6 month build up to Ironman, I will test all kinds of physical limits and have incredible accomplishments and overcome big obstacles, but without the confidence in myself and the mental strength to stay focused, I won't achieve my goals. For those of you scoring at home, "Mental Strength" is one of my limiters for the 2009 season, and as an athlete who tries to train smart, I'm training that aspect too.

Injury prevention and recovery is a full time job for me, as it is for most long course endurance athletes. I'm also a frequent visitor to the local Physical Therapy clinic, and also have a local Sports Medicine guy I see for the hard stuff. They have an electro-shock thing that really works on the most stubborn injuries that just won't go away. Thankfully, there is a small group of ultra-runners in my area who have been very helpful teaching me the injury prevention/maintenance ropes. As I'm new to the sport and ramped up quickly, I have my fair share of nagging injures, so I listen closely to what these ultra-runners have had to say over the last two years. The Stick, TP Massage Ball, self massage, rolling, stretching, digging, pressing, ice, heat, ice baths.... using all sorts of local household implements like a healing McGuyver... it's torture. But you have to do it, or you won't last a month.

The brain is a muscle too. Physical fatigue and injuries are hard, but the mental energy required for six months of focus, six months of strain, six months of stress is much harder. You don't want to feel the kind of mental fatigue I know I'm going to experience in a few months. Trust me.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Just returned from a good swim workout. 400 units of warm-up and then 400-350-300-250-200-150-100 all at T-Pace w/ 50 units of easy kicking inbetween each interval, followed by a 700 unit cool down.

I say units because the pool I swim in is very "fast". Not fast like the pool in the water cube in Beijing with all the technological advances to make swim times faster, I mean "fast" as in short, so that's why I call them units. Nobody really knows how long the pool is, probably 23 yards. In other posts I'll probably talk about actions supporting short term goals supporting long term goals, and continuing to swim at this pool violates all of that, but I just can't bring myself to go to the other pool with the bad locker room.

Anyway, I'm not a good swimmer, so I try to swim frequently and mostly pay attention to deconstructing my stroke and getting it right before putting in long intense workouts. This year I knew that the # 1 thing I needed to do was get a coach, and while I still don't have one, I did get one "clinic" when I was in AZ.

One pointer cascaded into three or four things changing and suddenly I'm saving seconds per 100 units... like a puzzle falling into place. Still have lots of work to do, but it's good to finally start "feeling" the water and move at a decent 1:23/100 units pace.

In honor of finally improving, today's pic is from the swim start at the DMZ half Ironman, where if I hope to improve on last year's finish, I'm going to have to be able to swim with the lead pack.

One Year Ago Today

Hard to believe it's already been a year, but last year at this time I was in Guam for a long weekend Training Camp with my good friend and training partner Chris.

Chris was absolutely crushing, as he was two months out from his goal Ironman for the year. I was one month in to my "assault" on a sub 10 hour Ironman and qualifying for Kona... the Hawaii Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii in October. Well, here we are a year later and Chris is in his final death throes for Ironman New Zealand next month, and I'm just starting my 2009 quest for the Perfect Day. We were lucky enough to link up with the local Guam cycling and triathlon club, and they showed us a great 5.5 hour ride around the island. It's time for me to start thinking about cool places to go for a Training Camp.

Training Camps are something the highly motivated triathlete does routinely. Several times throughout the season we'll head to somewhere warm, somewhere w/ challenging terrain to ride and good open water to swim. It's like a migration really... we don't know why we do it, we just do. Of course, when presented to the girlfriend/wife/spouse/significant other it's really a "family vacation", but I just might bring the bike.

For me, I hope to hit the island of Jeju in South Korea two or three times for my build up to Ironman Japan. Our local training hot spot was crowded last year, as many world class athletes camped out for months in the build up to the Olympic Games in Beijing or the Ironman World Championships in October.

"Baby, want to go on vacation? It will be great! Warm sun, nice beaches, and oh by the way, it's a HUGE coincidence, but the terrain in Jeju is almost an exact replica of the terrain, weather, and humidity of the Ironman Hawaii bike course. Just a coincidence."

I'm wearing my bike box out!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Out of the Comfort Zone

Had to go on a business trip to the US for a few days... Arizona... and yes, I brought my bike. There is NO way I could go a week without riding my bike. It's way too important to hit the key workouts, maintain frequency and consistency, and keep a steady progression to my training load.

Flying with a bike is a hassle, but not so bad internationally. I have a wheeled hard case that stands by itself so I can stack my other bags on top and wheel it around pretty easily. Internationally they limit baggage by the kilogram, rather than number of bags or extra charges for certain kinds of baggage, ie. a bike like in the US. I load up the bike in the bike box with nothing else and barely squeeze in under the 25kg limit. Coming home is a crapshoot, but so far my passport and international return ticket have helped me avoid getting charged in the states.

So yes, it's a little extreme to lug a bike halfway around the world for a short business trip, but the quality riding I logged in Tucson was worth it. The picture above is from the climb to Mt. Lemmon, at about the 10 mile marker looking down on a switch back. Coming from cold and snow to 70 degrees and sunny was so nice. I was lucky enough to link up with some local triathletes and they showed me around, so I got in three long rides, and couple of quality runs, and a good swim in.

The Ironman lifestyle is a very controlled one.... life is one big routine. The pool, the indoor bike trainer in the living room, the run routes and treadmill. It is all very controllable and predictible. And while it is a huge time investment, you have it down to a science, so much so that it might even be transparent to your friends and loved ones. Remove me from the laboratory like settings and you remove the control. Every ski trip, every business trip, every weekend getaway, every wedding.... the control is gone, so the bike comes with, run routes are googled, pools are found in advance, training partners searched for online.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Seige Warfare

Here's the thing: In the war for the Perfect Day, I am the battering ram. I am also the fortress, and it's the utter suffering of ramming one against the other that is the Ironman Life.

Somewhere inside of me is the Perfect Day at Ironman and it's going to take a siege engine to find it. But it's not as if the Perfect Day will just happen, or even ever happen. By definition it can't happen, shouldn't happen, but the more it doesn't happen the more I want to achieve it. And with success on the race course defined as total self destruction 1 foot after the finish line, it's lose-lose either way.

The Ironman Life is not an easy one, so why do we do it? Why do we (or the smart ones anyway) give up television, food, sleep, friendships, social lives? Why do we count each hour of each day of each week (only an Ironman athlete can tell you how many hours are in a week of the top of his head) and block it off for one of only three purposes... work, sleep, or training? It's an obsession that is it's own reward: the more I suffer now, the more I will be able to suffer on race day. And so there it is... I'm suffering now for the privilege to suffer later.

And it IS a privilege. I don't know what you've heard, but finishing an Ironman is much easier than they make it seem, but racing it is much harder than people would like to admit. Imagine: investing 6 months of physical, mental and emotional energy... constantly feeling tired... shoving 5 or 6 thousand calories a day down your throat... night sweats... testosterone and other hormones out of control... meticulous attention to detail on every aspect of your training and race... all to have a bad stomach on race day and the hours and hours of sacrifice go for nothing.

So for me, finishing the Ironman without suffering means something went horribly wrong... I didn't race. Suffering without finishing is obviously worse. It's the delicate balance between the two that I'm searching for... getting the most out of my body while fighting the fear that I'm not getting enough.

And that's why I do it, why many of us do it. Fear. The fear of missing out on the perfect day. The fear of not getting the most out of ourselves, the most of our gift. The fear of floating at the start line, thinking about 6 months of training behind me and visualizing the 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, and 26.2 miles of running that lay ahead of me and wondering: Did I do enough?

Will I suffer? Yes. But will it count... we shall see.