Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Elevation Gain on Runs & Rides

Look at the first two miles of this trail run. XTERRA doesn't mess around. I signed up for this 15K race at El Moro in Crystal Cove State Park -- one of seven in XTERRA's current SoCal series -- before I had run the trail. Ha, that was smart. I have my work cut out for me if I intend to finish with a respectable time.

After "running" this loop for the first time, I declared I'd run it every weekend up until Dec. 14 -- race day! That's cause I had to slow down and walk some of the uphills, grrr. However, on round two, which I did last Sunday, I was able to run the whole thing (minus one trail detour I made on mistake). And that was after 52 hard miles (hill repeats) on the bike the day before. Making progress ... that's what matters.

Another thing about this trail that makes it amazing: It overlooks the Pacific Ocean, which not only offers breathtaking sights, there's a nice sea breeze as you run. ahhhhhh... Here's a photo of the scene (not my own; courtesy of mountainbikebill.com):

You can kind of get an idea of how high up you climb, given that you're looking at sea level -- where the run starts.

On that note, I've been going crazy wanting to know how much elevation I gain on my bikes and runs. I'm too poor at this point to run out and buy a GPS, so I searched the Internet hoping someone's created a site that I could map out my rides/runs and see the elevation, as well as check out future races that don't provide that info (i.e. Catalina Tri)!

Well I found that sight: HeyWhatsThat.com. You can personally map out your path of any ride in the world and it tells you your elevation gain, grade of the hills, distance, etc..... great for all us without GPS luxuries!

By the way, El Moro is very popular for mountain bikers, too!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Flip Turns and Santa Ana Winds

I was feeling sore early on in my swim class this morning. But, I caught a little break. My coach decided to hold "Doing a Flip Turn 101." The tradeoff was losing about 1,000 meters of the main set, but I can now do the twisty thing under water. Well, some of the time.

Initially, I told my coach I wasn't interested in learning flip turns. Don't have to use 'em in triathlon, so why bother. I know in the back of my head, however, I'm "cheating" with that breath/break I get by turning around sans flip turn -- that's not something you get during a tri swim. So, I figured losing the extra laps this morning were worth learning the flip-T. Check out this example.
We learned in steps (let me know if you want details), and I quickly singled myself out as a goof. Ass popping out of the water. Water up the nose. Missing the wall. Awkward last-second breaths. I could do all the elements separately just fine... but putting it together was the interesting (read: funny) part. What a Flip-T boils down to is: Swimming to the wall, taking the last breath at the right moment, doing the somersault motion using your arm to thrust you over (while blowing out the nose), pushing off upside down them flipping over while starting to streamline; my goal: get air! Whew. I'm sure my coached laughebotch the process. Which brings me to:

Screwing Up Flip Turns -- Learn From My Top 6 Mistakes:

1. Lifting my head to take an extra, and random, breath before the flip turn = kills the momentum.
2. Starting the flip turn too far from the wall = can't push off.
3. Not thrusting myself deep or fast enough = awkwardly moving slow-mo in water, the ass ventures out of the water into the air and precious breath is lost each millisecond.
4. Pushing off with one foot = you shoot off in wrong direction (potential to run into a lane mate)!
5. Not having the stroke/breath rhythm coordinate with flip time = just plain awkward, and potential for a long time w/o breathing.
6. Not streamlining after flip-T = Got to streamline according to coach. But, I just want that breath asap!
~~~Santa Ana Winds~~~
I was also going to write about my 22-mile bike ride yesterday through the Santa Ana winds, but I've been a bottomless pit today and food is my No. 1 priority, so I'm going to stick to that. Let's just say going against the winds sucked hardcore, but coming back, I was crusin' at an average of almost 40 mph. Overall, I say: take advantage of training in the wind when possible!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

OC Tri Club

Last night I went to the Orange County Triathlon Club's monthly meeting. I had been planning on joining once the knee was better... and I'm now officially a member!

The meeting was refreshing to say the least; I was surrounded by "crazy" people just like me. (I'm always told that I'm crazy for the workouts I do, not the case at tri club.)
The meeting was geared toward new members and covered training events, social gatherings, the logistics of the club, races, club gear and so on.

We scarfed pizza and salad in the beginning (free), which is when I realized I was in the right place! It wasn't just the pizza, it was the people I talked to. I can be shy around a new group, and maybe I was last night, but I definitely felt comfortable. (As a side note, I spent the better part of eight or so years partying my way through high school and college. I only graduated May 2007, so that life ain't so ancient in my book yet. But, I'm so over late-night drunken escapades. So over hangovers.)

...I'm onto having self-discipline. I'll squeeze in a bike ride after work before the sun sets or roll out of bed at 4:45 in the morning to swim outside in the dark. It's not easy, and never gets easier. But that's what it's going to take to get goooood.

Back to the Tri Club meeting. The point is: It's nice to hang out with people who share this "crazy" lifestyle -- whatever level they're at.

The OC Tri Club isn't new. It's been around since 1998. But it seems it's only exploded just in recent years. One stat read off last night said the club's grown by 29% just in the last six months (I think that' accurate). That's big. I did some stuff with the San Diego Tri Club when I was still living down there, and they have a giant group. But it seems the OC Club is on SD's heels. I'm glad to be a part of it.


I signed up for another race!! These days, I spend my money on races, not beers and cocktails :) Anyways, the race is a 15K trail run at El Moro (Crystal Cove area) and is December 14. Heard at the meeting last night that it's a popular one (there's also a 5K), and it usually sells out -- supposedly there's a mean post-run breakfast, maybe that's why??

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Kona Ironman World Championships

Well she did it again: Chrissie Wellington is amazing. What an athlete, what a great attitude, what an inspiration -- can I be her?? The girl got a flat, stopped to pee, etc., and still was the women's winner at 9:06.23, about 15 minutes ahead of second place (huge gap!). Not to mention, she finished less than an hour after men's champ Craig Alexander (8:17.45) and did it with a huge smile on her face.

I had planned on doing an a.m. ride Saturday, but live Kona coverage had me tied up until about 11 a.m. I had butterflies in my stomach watching everyone getting ready before the race. I can't believe Chrissie and Maca sat down for a quick prerace interview (poor Maca in the end, though).

The swim start of an Ironman is amazing. There's nothing like watching the water go from a calm sea of bobbing heads to a frenzy of thrashing white water. Andy Potts rocked that swim! Once he went into T1, I went on my ride, which ended up being the Santiago-Plus Loop, for a total of more than 40 miles and lots of hill work, including my beloved Modjeska Grade Road. Here I am at the top after my HR was back to normal:

Those pictures honestly don't do Modjeska justice. It's less than a mile, but it's crazy. Try it!!!

After chowing down a post-ride meal and letting that settle, I pushed myself to the gym for a swim. I hate the pool at 24-hour fitness (or any gross indoor pool for that matter), but I just wanted to knock out some laps ... I did about 2,200 meters (with a 14-minute 800). That's decent for me at this point.

Coming home for dinner and watching the Ironman finishes was a great treat after a hard day. And even as hard as I pushed myself, knowing they were working out all that time (with no lunch breaks, etc.), is truly inspiring!!


Got in an hour yoga session Sunday at 24 Hour Fitness. I need to do that more. Man, am I tight and not very flexible in yoga standards! That definitely should be in the routine for all triathletes. I also did a little weight-lifting, but the highlight of the day was my run:

I ran Whiting Ranch (about 7 miles of hills, hills and more hills, then downhills, yee-haw) in just over an hour. Then, the best part: I ran home (4 1/4 miles)! I only stopped when a stoplight stopped me. It felt good and definitely was a confidence booster considering I could barely run at all this whole year with the knee injury. On that note: If you can run on dirt/sand, do it. I ran on concrete and asphalt for so many years, I swear that contributed to my knee problem.

Iced both knees when I got home and enjoyed a classic steak-and-potato dinner. I was asleep by 9-something. What a weekend :)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

XTERRA Wetsuits & Swimming

I bought an XTERRA Wetsuit at 50 percent off last weekend during the Mission Bay Triathlon pre-race expo. Paying around $200 for a $400 wetsuit was so worth the drive to good ol' San Diego (amazing place for triathletes; I know, I've lived there). But it made me think about something that happened back in April: San Diego Tri Club member David Martin, 66, was on a training swim in Fletcher Cove at Solana Beach and was tragically attacked and killed by a shark. Wow. That's heavy. First off, I offer my condolences to his family. Second: A triathlete? Fletcher Cove? That hits home. I did my first triathlon ever at that location -- the Solana Beach Triathlon in 2007 -- and after this news, I think my reaction was, "OK, well I'm done with ocean swims."

But now, six months later, though I see it as a tragic event -- it's one that I refuse to let go to my head. I remember my first-ever ocean swim at
Main Beach in Laguna Beach -- it was a joke. I panicked, practically cried and refused to open my eyes under water! I've surfed for years, but something about being far out in the ocean minus a board scared the crap out of me. Eventually, I got over that with practice -- physically and mentally speaking -- and I won't let sharks prevent me from doing a tri. I tell people that I'm more afraid of a flat on the bike than any shark! But, ask my sister about that first ocean swim, she basically saved me! (P.S. The Catalina Island Triathlon is in an area where sharks have been spotted...check this out.)

Anyways, the point is: No. 1 - My new XTERRA wetsuit kicks ass; and No. 2 - Mind over matter. The chances of a shark gettin' you is unlikely. You're more likey to get killed on the way to your ocean swim!

Training Update

Good week so far: Got a 20-mile hilly bike in before the sunset last night. It will be a tragic day when daylight savings ends!! Rode up the lovely Modjeska Grade Road -- I plan to start hill repeats on that soon, considering the rumor of Oceanside's bike course. And this morning, the swim was great. It sucked getting out of bed at 4:30 a.m., but my swim endurance is significantly improving. Got in a little under 3,000 meters in a little over an hour. For me, that's legit.

Swim Workout:

200 m warmup (and coach telling me what to fix, haha)
10x50 @1:15
1x500 w/paddles, focus on stroke, faster on 2nd 200
5x150 descending w/ a 50 "chill lap" after each
5x75 of under/overs: 25 underwater, 50 freestyle
8x25 sprints at 100% effort
cooldown of about 100-200m

Swim tip of the day:

"Scoop sand," my
coach says. In your stroke, reach out as far as you can, then bend the elbow and "scoop" under your chest/abdomen and follow through at the side with a nice slighly pausing glide with each stroke.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sports Drinks: The Best?

I'm definitely taking my workouts up a notch. The last three days I've done an Olympic brick, weight-lifting, spin class, 3,000m pre-sunrise swim and I'll be running/strength-training later on. I'm looking into getting a better sports drink that will yield the maximum benefits: fuel my muscles, help my endurance, faster recovery, etc. I looked at a ton of options yesterday, and those giant tubs of powder mix aren't cheap considering how fast I'll use it, so I want to invest in a quality product. What's the best?

Sports Drinks -- What to Consider:

1. SUGARS: Different drinks use and combine different types of sugars. Get familiar with the GI Index if you're not already, then take a look at the types:

Fructose -- Low GI; preferred simple sugar to restore glycogen; slow absorption rate b/c metabolized by liver before going to muscles (gastrointestinal distress warning!!)
Sucrose (common table sugar) -- Mid-range GI; faster absorption than fructose; won't make you fat unless you over-do it :)
Maltodextrin -- Complete solubility (no gas-distress worries); instant energy; complex carb/polysaccharide
Dextrose -- High GI; simple sugar; stimulates sodium re-absorption (a good thing); no metabolizing in liver first (no gas worries)

Simple carb -- basic sugar, a monosaccharide or disaccharide
Complex carb -- polymer of simple sugars

2. ADD PROTEIN? Definitely key post-exercise, but what about during? I'm leaning toward a sports drinks that has some protein added with carbs -- a 4:1 C-P ratio. Research on C-P drinks (vs. just C drinks) shows (1) Increased endurance/enhance performance, (2) less muscle damage/soreness (3) faster recovery. However, C-Ps more often have higher calories, which could aid in higher endurance factor. Still, it seems clear that some protein is beneficial -- I'm convinced. Now what to buy??

Sports Drinks with Protein (for during exercise)

Accelerade or Accelerade Hydro
Champion Nutrition Revenge
Hammer Nutrition's Perpetuem or Sustained Energy

Also, as an aside, on lighter less-than-one-hour workouts, I'll just use an electrolyte tablet mixed into water. My favorites are Nuun and Zym. They're great to add to water just to get your electrolytes in! .

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Did a brick today ... "Oh, what a feelin!"

I just got back from doing a brick, the first I've done since last year. It was awesome. I did about 22 miles on the bike with lots of hill work and basically no flats. Anyone familiar with Orange County may know about Santiago Canyon, Modjeska Grade Road and the surrounding area (Cook's Corner too)...talk about quality hill training!!

Remember where the OC's fires were last year around this time? That's where I ride; there's still visible damage and some trails are still closed. Quite a sight. I recognized one lot where a house had burned down: I remember driving past it post-fire last year and seeing a lone man sitting in a lawn chair admist the smoldering ruins of his house. As of now, that same lot is just a vacant dirt field. Very sad; it's also very odd how some house burned and the next-door neighbors' house survived! Fires work in mysterious ways.

Anyways Modjeska is killer. I highly reccomend it for hill training. I keep hearing about these dreaded hills in the Oceanside IM bike, so I need all the steep shit I can get, and I need to do it over and over! Not to mention, the upcoming Catalina tri, although a sprint, is supposed to have some gnarly hills on the bike. Wow, I know how to pick 'em!

Back to the brick: During my bike-to-run transition, I scarfed a banana, peed, chugged Propel, changed and was off. I did a somewhat-hilly 6-mile run in 45 minutes. I must say, I was proud of myself. Especially since yesterday, I swam hard and did a 5K race-pace run later in the evening, as well as weight-lifting. I'm really trying to build that endurance. Tomorrow will likely be a recovery day.

Total time: 2 hrs/15 min. Max heart rate: 180; average: 135 (which includes a long post-workout stretch/yoga sess; so avg. workout HR may have been higher). Calorie burn: 1,350. Post-meal: Black bean mix (a Tawnee special), 2 pieces of toast, chicken, soy crisps, salsa, salad, fruit...and I'm still kind of hungry right now!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Toe cramps, potassium and a non-swimming background

I started triathlon with one big road block: I was not a swimmer. Even as far back as a kid taking swim lessons at the Y, swimming laps for fun just never turned me on. Over the years, surfing was my "swimming." Not until early 2007 did I get in the pool with the intent to swim laps, which was due to my interest in triathlon. I maybe went 500-700 meters at first and was spent. As I started going more, I realized I had a bigger problem: CRAMPS. My toes and/or calves would cringe with cramps at about 900 m, at least 70% of the time. I've always had poor circulation in my feet and toes, and cramps would end my workout on the spot. They became a good excuse to do short swims or not swim at all; in all of '07, I probably never swam more than 1,700 m in a session. It showed in my swim splits. They weren't so awful in sprint tris (well kinda), but I always felt awful. I was inefficient and panicky. It took me more than 25 minutes to make it through an Olympic-distance tri swim (1,000 m) in Oct '07 -- how awful!!

Fast-forward to Oct '08: I actually like swimming -- and I don't cramp! Part of my workout today was a 2,200 m swim at my alma mater, SDSU, and I did it like it was nothing. Why the drastic change? Mind over matter: Once me knee was better, I decided that if I want to do well in tri, I couldn't go on ignoring my swimming ineptness.

Here's what I've done to better my technique, increase my swimming endurance/session and not to prevent cramping:

No. 1: Take a Swim Class. Because of my job, I can only fit this in before work. So, I'm up at 4:40-ish a.m. Tues/Thurs and am in the pool at the local college at 5:45 a.m. (I plan to stick with this until next spring.) I have a great coach who dissected my stroke/breathing/etc., and told me how wrong I was doing it all (finally, my suckiness confirmed)! He's now trying to "fix" me. I think it surprises him how well I take the constant critiquing and being singled out in class, but I like it -- I need that nit-pickiness to get better! And so far, it's working, plus I don't mind getting up before the sun, honestly. I swim about 2,500-3,000 meters or more per class, do a lot of good drills and am doing a sub-10 min. 500. Here's an example of one of my swim sessions now (big change from '07):

10x50 @1:15 warm-up
2x400 with hand paddles
3x150 descending sets
1x500 negative splits
10x50 kicking w/ board and fins
8x25 sprints @:30 (ouch!)
2x100 cool-down
Total: 3,150 meters

No. 2 Strength-Train. More to come on this........but I am somewhat of a gym rat :)

No. 3: Enjoy PEP-C (Potassium, Electrolytes, Protein & Carbs). I have a banana and some turkey (random) or bread an hour before swimming. Immediately after swim, I have a protein shake and an electrolyte drink...all waiting for me in the locker room. Then, my real meal that follows is always full of those oh-so necessary carbs -- Kashi cereal, sandwich, etc. Can't prove it for sure, but this method leaves me cramp-free. Back to those bananas, though. Despite their reputation, they're not the greatest source of potassium; however, they're convenient, tasty and better than a potato at 5 a.m. Here's a breakdown of p-rich foods....

Potassium-Rich Foods
White beans -- 1,189 mg /for 1 cup
Potatoes -- 1,081 mg /per spud
Lima Beans -- 955 mg /cup
Winter squash -- 896 mg / cup
Soybeans -- 886 mg /cup
Spinach -- 839 mg /cup
Kidney beans -- 713 mg / cup
Artichoke -- 595 mg / cup
Avocado -- 540 mg /3 oz.
Sweet Potato -- 508 mg / cup
Banana -- 467mg /med-size

Friday, October 3, 2008

And I'm off and training ...

Last Monday, I sat there with the one more button to click. Good 'ol Active.com. I'd entered all the info and was ready to pay and go on with my day. But I was still a little apprehensive. I had knee surgery June 13, which was actually Friday the 13th, believe it or not. Great day for surgery, right? Anyways, that's a story for a future blog. Back to September 29: I was staring at the computer screen wondering if I was ready to select that button. I mean, I've had the itch to get back into triathlon, well, since June 14. Realistically, though, it took until the end of September to feel confident that I could actually train hard and consistently. So, I decided to go big. I clicked the button. Now, I'm signed up for Ironman 70.3 California in Oceanside April 4. My heart is in this. I'm ready...