Sunday, November 30, 2008

Back in the water

Another splendid day today. Even warmer than yesterday and quite a bit less windy. A great day for a dip in the pool. I just found out the people at the club will close the pool for 12 days starting Wednesday. They need to install some special valve because a new Federal safety law is taking effect soon. Never mind all the wasted water when they drain the pool. 

I decided to take everyone along. Surprisingly enough, we were almost all alone. I guess the other club members were all out shopping and consuming. It is really amazing to me how we live in this wonderful place, with scenic views, ample nature resources, and near perfect weather and yet everyone feels the need to drive to the mall to buy stuff or sit in a dark movie theater watching some boring predictable Hollywood feature.

I swam 1.5 miles today, all of it freestyle, and with only two short breaks. Once to clear my goggles and the other time to talk to the kids. The kids did a fair amount of swimming too. Alistair swam more than a mile and the little ones did half a mile each.

Today went so-so. Not very fast but not too slow either. I felt a little tired and my arm is hurting too (esp. the right elbow and shoulder with the AC separation). It is frustrating to think that swimming is what stands between me and a slot in Kona. There are an extra 20 minutes there that I can't get rid off. My swimming is totally out of whack compared to the other disciplines. Fitness wise I should be around 1:05 instead of 1:25.

I am sure muscle has a lot to do with it. When I compare myself to other triathletes, the lack of shoulder and arm muscle is very clear. Swimming is a power sport and recent research on dolphins has made that quite clear. Those findings have debunked older myths that ascribed dolphin speed to some elusive skin and hydrodynamic properties.

Never mind those books on technique. It is sad to see that nearly all books on sport are wide of the mark and full of errors. Just think of nutrition, hydration, and nearly any other "explanation" of human physiology. It is mostly garbage.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

27.5 miles mountain biking

The weather was great today. Quite windy but a northerly desert wind (similar to Santa Ana's) that brings dry hot weather. Alistair and I rode 27 miles on our mountain bikes. I think I rode pretty hard on those rollers yesterday, or else I have some residual effects from the Ironman, because I suffered a bit on the trail.

We rode out Redwood, then to Bort Meadow and up the grade to Grass Valley. Then we returned over Goldenrod, a short stretch on the road, and Redwood once again.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Rollers and post hoc explanations

I decided to ride rollers today. The weather wasn't great and Alistair went to ride with his Team Specialized group in Pleasanton. Barbara went shopping and so I was home alone. I rode for about an hour at a fairly steady pace. I burned a good 1,050 calories, averaging 225W for the duration. It felt pretty good. My right knee hurt a tiny bit in the same spots where it did during the Ironman, but it was quite manageable and I had no trouble spinning.

It looks like I will keep my right toe nail but the one on the left is shot for sure. Everybody is offering explanations and helpful hints for this condition. They are telling me my shoes were too tight, or this and that and the other thing, but the truth is that I had the same shoes for the past five years. I have four pairs of Nike Air Kukini's and they are all the same size. I alternate from one pair to the other so all wear evenly, but I usually keep the white ones for races. I have run many races with these white shoes and most often nothing happens. A few times I have had black toenails.

Sometimes my big toe was black, but on other occasions another toe got hit. Sometimes the left one ate it but other times it happened on the right foot. Most of the time, however, I am fine and nothing happens. And just in case you wonder, the course in Tempe is pretty flat. No real down hills in it and certainly no long down hills. So sorry, my friends, these simple explanations won't cut it. We need better data, not a few spurious coincidences.

The other good news is that all soreness is gone now (it was mostly gone yesterday). I feel fine and I also slept well last night.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Toe surgery and watts

First things first. If you look at yesterday's post you can see I banged my toenails pretty bad in the Ironman. But looks are deceptive. I think my right big toe is fine. I clipped the nail yesterday and some fluid came out but it immediately cleared the nail. I don't think it is separated so it will probably recover. The left one is different. That one is actually black (not so obvious in the shot), and was lifted up by a rather large hematoma. I punctured it yesterday and let out lots of fluid. But the nail did not clear, and the nail bed is still elevated. That one will go I think.

Next, some data. I downloaded the numbers from my Ergomo. I recorded 5:19:20 on the bike. The overall official time was 5:21:04. It took some time to get the device started. During those 5.33 hours I averaged 215W. Compare that to Landis' infamous "testosterone" ride in the Tour, where he averaged 280W for 5.5 hours. The difference between me and Landis is a 65W bulb for 5.5 hours.

However, Landis' 280 were worth quite a bit more. I weighed 172 lbs. and Floyd was probably more than 15 pounds lighter. Looking at the pictures you can see he is also a lot more aero. The picture you see is about the best I can do.

Other numbers: 75 RPM average, 20.7 speed average, 407 W max, and 101 max RPM. Top speed 32.8 mph. Estimated calorie loss 4,428. Altitude gain, 1,549 or about 500 per lap (which compares well to the published data). My normalized power was 225NP. If one thing, it showed I was very steady and did not do crazy stuff. The closer NP is to real average, the more "even" the ride was.

The official data reads: lap 1, 21.34 mph, lap 2, 20.5 mph, and lap 3, 20.97 mph, total 20.93 mph. That too compares well with my recordings. The bike leg moved me up from 1,518 to 533, meaning I passed almost 1,000 people on the bike. In my age group I moved from 85th to 20th or 65 places. I gained another 77 / 6 in the run.

Adding 4,000 calories for the swim and the run, I must have burned somewhere near 8,500 calories. I ate one bagel and some banana bread for breakfast, about 15 gels on the bike, and one powerbar. I estimate another 600 calories in sports drink on the bike, and 600 in Cola on the run. My total intake was close to 3,500 calories for the event. Net loss is somewhere around 5,000. I made up half of that with margaritas and drinks after the event. Cheers!

25 mile mountain bike ride today. Felt great and good fun too.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Stiff, sore, and black

One thing I have learned is that you can run a marathon with cramps but you will pay for it afterwards. Several times now I have been able to complete Ironman without any day-after pain or soreness. In all cases, I was able to exercise the next day. No, this is not due to some magical pill or potion, just good old training. It is also not due to lack of intensity. Those last Ironman races were new PR's and I made significant gains in both.

However, a few years ago I had very bad cramps on the bike in Wildflower. I ended up walking and jogging the entire half marathon (Wildflower is a half-ironman race). Afterwards I paid for it. I was sore for a whole week. Sore, stiff and almost unable to walk. It is the price you pay for continuing to race when your body tells you to stop.

As for cramps I also learned now that dehydration has little to do with it. I did not grab for salt tablets and did not start drinking excessively. That was good, because the cramps came and went as they always do with little or no difference. The key benefit was that I did not get an upset stomach on top of it as I had many times before when I tried to "cure" my cramps by guzzling water and eating salt.

Apart from the soreness, my blue toenails are the most painful memory. Ironically enough I never knew about the toe condition during the race. I only "discovered" it in the shower. It reminded me of all the shoulder bruises I discovered after I went skydiving a few years ago. There are some magical effects of adrenalin.

Yesterday I swam 1,500 meters. It felt good.

The ironman raised nearly $14,000 for the brain aneurysm foundation.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Five minutes

I almost broke 11. Missed it by less than five minutes! Here is what happened. It started out reasonably well although my stomach was a bit upset in the morning. I swam a 1:22:34, which may have been a tiny bit faster than before since I started out about 20 yards behind the line. My trusted goggles also leaked the whole way and I had to stop several times to clear them. I ended up with a bloodshot eye nevertheless.

My first transition was very slow. I was unsure as to whether to wear a jersey or not as I felt pretty cold. I fiddled around for too long with my arm warmers, and I took too long to find a seat in the tent. 

The bike leg was great and I rode my best time ever. The first loop had a headwind and things did not look good. But on the way back I cruised at 25-30 mph and so I was several minutes ahead of schedule at the first turnaround. Then the wind shifted and also died down a bit, and there wasn't such a big difference anymore between the out and back stretches. The second loop was OK too and now I was on track to break 5:15. But on the third leg my right knee started to hurt and I got some pretty bad cramps. I probably did not do enough long rides this time, and I also should have worn my race shoes before. There was a difference between the cleat positions and I am sure it affected how my knee felt.

Even so, I finished with a 5:21:04, a new PR for the course and averaging nearly 21. The run was another matter and it started out quite poorly. I had severe cramping and had to walk several stretches. It got a bit better as time went on but I knew I wasn't on pace for a four hour marathon. I also needed a potty break. On the last lap, I got on the Mill St. bridge, 51 minutes and a 10K to go, if I wanted to break 11. I knew it would be nearly impossible given my crampy legs, but I tried. I needed an extra 4:55. Marathon time, 4:10:10, definitely slow.

Total time: 11:04:55. 14/135, 456 overall.

As for Hawaii,  it took 36:21 minutes too long. I know can get half of that from the marathon and a bit more from the bike, but to get the rest I would have to learn how to swim faster. 

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Welcome to Tempe

It has always struck me that the organizers never miss an opportunity to make participants feel insignificant or get them to pay more money. They make millions of dollars on their races, merchandise, and sponsorships and yet they are after every penny they can get. You never get a break here. Everything is expensive and their exclusivity arrangements keep out any competitors that would force more reasonable prices.

They also make it plain that you are just a cog in their big machine. A replaceable cog too. They know thousands stand in line to get a shot at their races and the fabled Hawaii slots so they feel no obligation to treat you nicely. Quite to the contrary, you should be grateful that they let you in.

And at last nights welcome dinner that was once again clearly visible. The dinner was held at the Tempe Arts Center, a futuristic looking building along Rio Salado. Except that the dinner was outside on the grass and that non-VIP's were forced to park a quarter mile away in a makeshift dirt lot, and then walk through the center's large empty parking lot, and around the building to get there.

This year's welcome dinner was a spartan affair. No goodies on the table this time. No free anything, no gatorade, no fig newtons, no Erin's breakfast cereal, no powerbars. You get one drink and that's it.

Friday, November 21, 2008


The ugly desert wind is back. This morning there were whitecaps on the lake. There were waves it was hard to see the other people. I swam for half a mile, drinking a fair share of the fabled rio salado water. It did not taste salty.

Then I went on a short bike ride (13 miles). It took well over 250W to ride 20 mph into the wind, at times it took over 300W. That is not a pace I can hold for 5.5 hours. Let's hope the wind dies down. 

Unlike 2006, the wind was coming from the desert and blowing into town at an angle, giving one a headwind going out, and a headwind/tailwind on the way back. I rode out to the freeway underpass on McKellips Rd. but not past it onto beeline where the exposure is much greater. At times I got sandblasted and I wish I had goggles instead of glasses. In any case, I do not expect a 5:30 if this wind keeps up.

I guess I should not complain. If it were easy, everyone would be an ironman.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Weighing in

I swam in Tempe Town Lake today. First open water swim with a wetsuit since Ironman Canada last year in August. It actually felt good although I did not experience the swim nirvana that I attained a while ago. It was slow. The course looked endless, the buoys were too far away and they never really came closer.. Ok, I am exaggerating. But I fear my swim will be very similar, if not worse than last time.

I also registered. It took forever and it was quite disorganized. They started more than 15 minutes late and clearly the volunteers were still confused. I weighed in at 173.5 pounds, shoes and all, and that is pretty good. The woman who handled my application forgot everything she was supposed to do and I nearly walked off without my bags in all the mayhem. Sign of the times: no goodies this year. No free T-shirts, no free socks, no powerbars or anything. Even Gatorade was exceptionally stingy at the swim. But Tyr made up for it by giving me a bottle.

The whole village looks a bit leaner than last time. There are fewer tents and fewer goodies. No big Timex display, no Powerbar, only Ford pulled out all the stops. I guess they have to given how poorly they are doing.

In the afternoon I ran 5.25 miles. From my hotel to the lake and then along the lake to Priest drive (the far end of the course). Then back and at the bridge up Curry to the park (part of the first loop in reverse). Despite the warm weather it did feel a bit chilly at times, especially in the shade.

I also got my race suit with the BAF logos. 2 more days until showtime.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I arrived in Tempe around noon today. Turned out it was already 1 PM because of the time difference. Yesterday I left the house at noon and drove to LA. Nice smooth sailing and no problems until I hit Pasadena. Then suddenly I was going with the commute flow and everything slowed to a crawl. That lasted for a hour or more and I called Barbara to see if the Hampton in Colton was available. No luck. Keep driving.

I drove 210 to San Bernadino and got gas in a rather poor neighborhood. Two guys in a pickup were intent on hassling me but some other car pulled up and they left. Lucky me. Then I made a slight detour (210 goes to 10 as one would think, but I was not sure) and made it to 10 by cutting across the city instead. I ended up pulling over in Beaumont when I saw a Hampton Inn by the side of the road. I made a quick 180 and found a bed for the night. I was pretty tired and after dinner I went to bed and slept until my 7 AM wake-up call.

I left Beaumont around 8:30 and had an uneventful trip to the outskirts of Phoenix. There I may have tripped a photo speed trap. That would be a bummer. After that I took it easier and once again I missed the exit and ended up driving through Tempe on city streets to get to my hotel. By then it was 2:30 so I did not have to wait for the room. I ate lunch and slept.

I woke up at 4:15 about one hour before sunset and quickly grabbed my bike and went on a short ride. Tempe is a very bicycle-unfriendly city, especially for a college town. You have to ride on the side-walk in most places and traffic is pretty inconsiderate. Cars try to push you off the road, and the cycle repeats at every traffic light. There are enough of these, spaced closely enough that you can easily keep up with the drivers -although they sprint from one light to the next.

A 30 minute bike ride, about 10 miles, relatively fast. Weather feels good, warm, sunny and the air is pretty clean. Everywhere you look you can see that the lycra has descended on Tempe. What you see the most of are runners looking like triathletes -somehow they look different from other runners?- everywhere.

We passed 100 donors!! Way to go!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ironman week

The home stretch. Next Sunday is the big day. Tomorrow I leave for IM Arizona and hopefully I will get through the LA area without any major glitches. I will take two days to get there so there will be plenty of time to rest and get my brain in the right mood for the race. It has been more than one year since I last did a triathlon (2007 Ironman Canada). My only competitive event this year was the Boston Marathon in April.

Today I swam 1,000 yards or about a 1/4 of the IM distance. It went fine. Not the kind of "hyper" swim I did earlier but I did not feel like I was plodding either. Just an average day in the pool I guess. The weather is very nice but it is definitely getting cooler. 

I do have to take it easy now. I am also running on empty due to my low carb diet. I can't wait for Friday so I can start eating carbs again. Two more short runs and short ride should be enough to wrap it all up.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

8.5 mi run

Ran my double loop, Grandview, Grizzly, Skyline, Elverton today. Nice easy pace with some effort on the hilly parts. Weather was splendid. 72 degrees, sunny, a little breezy, absolutely clear view of the Bay and the City. Just super.

My shoulder hurt last night. Not sure why as I had not done anything in particular. It also hurt "in front," i.e. not over the AC joint but in the anterior part of the joint, right where the short head of the biceps attaches. I iced it, took some Ibuprofen, and supported my arm to sleep and it seems a bit better today.

I am keeping a close eye on the Tempe forecast. It looks pretty reasonable although I am a bit worried about the cooling trend for the weekend. These things can always speed up or slow down a bit. Slowing down would be better as the week forecast is solid 80s.

The current Sunday prediction (still a long range, less dependable forecast) is for cloudy AM with sun PM and a high around 77. Warmer would be better. What is really good is the early morning low to mid 50s. The average for November in Tempe is more like low to mid-40s and that is pretty chilly (esp. when you have to take a dip in the water at 7 AM.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I rode 36 miles today. I rode the HED trispoke real wheel with a new freewheel and a new chain. That was the good part. When it comes to logistics things did not go so well. First, we were going to join the Sproul ride at 8:30, but then Alistair told me Mike was riding at noon instead so that sounded better and we waited. In the end, Mike did not ride -at least not with us, and Freddie, who was going to go at 12:15 did not show. We ended up standing around for about 10-15 minutes before the two of us took off alone.

We rode up Tunnel to Redwood, over S. Pinehurst to Moraga. It was quite windy and we rode a good pace. Then we went to Orinda and over Wildcat. All of it pretty fast. I finished it off with a solid ride to the Centennial intersection. Then it was all agony. By now I was pretty tired, and probably out of glycogen/sugar. Since I am not eating carbs this part can be painful. The climb up Grizzly was no fun but once we got over the top it was only a short distance to home.

In summary: 36 miles, 200W average, 244NP W, 1,790 calories. Total time, including the wait at the bottom of Tunnel: 2:24.

Less than 10 days to the Ironman. That means there is a weather forecast. So far it looks reasonable although clouds are expected sometime around the weekend. Let's hope Sunday is warm and sunny. However, given the inaccuracies of long term forecasting, we will just keep our fingers crossed for now.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Great swim

Today I had a great swim. I don't know why but it all seemed to fall or rather float in place. I felt like gliding in the water. I was buoyant and fast. Unbelievable. Instead of plodding, it was as if I was propelled forward by some unseen force. I have had short episodes like this before and I am sure this is what swimming feels like to those who know how to swim, but it rarely happens to me.

The odd thing is that I do not even feel tired. It was such a trip to feel power in my shoulders and arms without tiring. Almost as good as a bike ride.

I swam 1.25 miles, alternating between breast stroke and freestyle but both felt good. Especially the freestyle. No leg issues, no cramps, no tightness there. The only blemish on my masterpiece was that my shoulder did hurt every once in a while. I am afraid that if I try to swim competitively (or what passes for competitively in my book) for 2.4 miles I could be in for a nasty surprise.

Now I am pain free but my arm does feel a bit unstable. It is hard to describe exactly but it somehow feels not as secure as the other one. It is not a muscle issue or a joint issue per se. It is more a holistic feeling of looseness or lack of support. It is not too bad though and if it just stays there I can live with it. Cross your fingers.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Carbo loading and ride

I started my carbo-loading cycle. I prefer to carbo-load the old-fashioned way. Although I realize that recent research has shown that one or two bouts of hard exercise followed by carb-rich meals can lead to equivalent loading, I do prefer the old-fashioned way of starving one self of carbs for a week, followed by two days of nothing but carbs.

The old-fashioned way has several advantages in addition to good loading. The most important ones are related to feeling hungry and keeping the weight off. Not surprisingly, after two weeks of very intense exercise and 4,000+ calorie days, I am tempted to eat too much during my taper. Now that I no longer burn 4-5,000 calories that means extra weight gain. In the past I found it was easy to gain as much as 5-10 pounds during those two to three weeks.

Not good before a long race. The other alternative is to restrain oneself and therefore constantly feel hungry, not fun!

The advantage of a low carb diet is that one does not feel hungry at all, and secondly, that one loses weight instead of gaining. Both of these are very helpful. The main disadvantage is a feeling of sluggishness, which may actually help prevent over-training, and a slight nausea from time to time. The latter is a small price to pay. I also tend to develop a craving for carbs but that does not come until the end of the week.

To start off my carb loading cycle and deplete my muscle, I rode a hard 40 miles today without eating or drinking sugary drinks. I rode a hilly course for 2:20, burning an estimated 1,940 calories, and working at an average of 220W or 258 NP W. The NP formula is an Ergomo proprietary algorithm that takes into account bouts of intense power output to give a better estimate of the difficulty of the workout. See previous posts.

I will probably do one more 40-50 mile ride and then a few short 10-20 mi rides once I get to Arizona.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


My calves were a bit sore from yesterday's running so I decided to take it easy today and go for a swim. On Wednesday's the kids are home early from school so I took everybody to the pool. We were pretty much the only people there and we all swam a good distance. We were at the pool for about an hour and a half.

I swam 144 laps or slightly more than 1.5 miles. My right shoulder -the one with the AC joint separation- hurt a bit and it felt a bit unstable but overall I had a good time and swam reasonably fast. When I concentrate I can almost keep up with Alistair who is by now a pretty fast swimmer.

The ironman is  1.5 weeks away. As of last count, I raised $12,000 from 92 donors. I would really like to get to more than a 100 donors and $15K , but time is running out. Next Wednesday I leave for Arizona and fundraising will be essentially over by then. Send in your contributions now. It is for a good cause!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A trip across country

I went to Philadelphia on Sunday. Then I spent all day Monday in business meetings. Two days of forced rest. That was good. I did swim a few laps on Monday night as the people I was staying with went to the Y for a workout. I had not packed any workout clothes so I would not be tempted -and besides I did not expect them to go work out- but I did have a swimsuit so I swam a little. They got me some goggles that did not work so well so I ended up doing only a dozen or so laps.

Today I woke up at 4:15 AM EST (1:15 PST) to catch my double layover trip back. From Philly to Pittsburgh to Las Vegas to Oakland. I arrived at 12:20 PM feeling like I just came back from Europe. So much for cheap travel. With no real food I munched on bagels, peanuts and chips the whole way here.

The only problem with traveling is that one ends up eating way too much. There is nothing to do and my appetite is enormous coming off several weeks of intense workouts. With no further workouts to burn those calories there is a real danger of putting on serious weight. 

Fortunately I can start my carbo-load soon. I carbo-load the old fashioned way, by eating an "Atkins" diet for a week and then nothing but carbs two days before the race. The Atkins is ideal since I always lose weight doing it and I never feel hungry. I also feel I can eat as much as I like and that is just great. The main drawbacks are a slight feeling of nausea, a general lack of energy, and -by the end- a rather intense craving for carbs. Other than that it works fine.

Today I ran a hard 5K on the treadmill and I swam 1/4 mile. A pretty light workout, but it works out fine since I am pretty beat from the travel.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Against my better judgement

Alistair was invited to ride with Marcus and the Junior team in Pleasanton this morning. Although I was determined to take it easy today, I ended up driving him there and then riding with the group. Needless to say, the junior team did not show, only Marcus did and we ended up riding with the Darryl's group and a few other Livermore Valley folks. We started the ride at Darryl's home on Foothill Oaks.

A flat 45 miler that took 2:30 to complete with two "hotspots." I did not intend to sprint and that was a good thing. At the first hotspot, which started at the junction of Greenville and Tesla in Livermore, a determined and anxious-to-win cyclist collided with me near the top of the short climb and almost took me out. I decided to hang back a little as the group was going to wait at the 580 underpass in any case. That went pretty well and I got some hard riding in -without the safety hazard of a nervous pack.

Then we went across Vasco to May School, North Livermore and Highland for another hotspot. Before we even got going on that one, on a straight flat stretch there was a major crash. I narrowly avoided mayhem but it was enough to convince me to sit out the second "sprint" of the day as well. Again some hard chasing at a safe distance. We stopped at the Firehouse on Tassajara and Alistair had a problem with his bottom bracket. Something "sticky" made it hard for him to pedal. It turned out to be temporary.

We rode back to Pleasanton, narrowly avoiding a third incident. The group stopped at the downtown coffee shop but I rode back to the start with Marcus and Alistair. It was 11:45 by then and we packed up the van and went home.

45 miles, 1,700 calories, 231W NP, 18.5 mph average. Tested my front HED trispoke wheel.

Friday, November 7, 2008

disk wheel

I pulled out my Renn disk wheel and rode 44 miles today. Not the best terrain for a disk as most of it is quite hilly, but both I and the wheel held up well. Unfortunately, the wheel is no longer really true and it has a slight wobble. I am not sure if this can be fixed. It isn't too bad and there is no rubbing -no brake adjustment needed. That is good because the Griffen frame is very tight and there is very little room in the back. The chainstays are almost as close as the brake pads.

It took me 2:44 to cover the distance. I rode out Redwood, to Moraga, to Lafayette (lots of traffic lights here) to Orinda over the St. Stephen's bike path, and then over Wildcat and Grizzly back home. I added a little detour on Grizzly to Skyline at the end. According to the Ergomo I burned 2,065 calories. My average power was 195W with a "normalized" average of 244W.

I felt a bit tired and think I will only do a short run tomorrow. Then I will be on travel for the next three days. That should give me plenty of opportunity to recover.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

10.5 mile run

Ran 10.5 miles in the hills today. A nice loop through Montclair and up Shepherd Canyon. A good 1,000 ft of climbing I would think.

Weather was fantastic, upper sixties to low seventies by the end. Sunshine, clear skies, great visibility, a perfect day. 

I believe my conditioning is very good now. I can run pretty hard and feel great afterwards. My only (very minor) complaint is some soreness in my right calf and achilles but it does not seem to be getting worse.

The key issue now is to stay healthy and avoid injury. That is easier said than done. For some mysterious reason, one of my kids always gets sick a week or so before my big races. Last night, my youngest had a mild stomach flu but it seems OK now. I am just keeping my fingers crossed.

The fundraiser is going pretty well too. We have 89 contributors so far and are close to $6.5K raised. I hope we can surpass a 100 and get to $10K before the race, but donations appear to have slowed considerably. Maybe the economy is getting to people? Or maybe everyone is holding of until the very end. Some people who pledged have not yet paid in so there is some more to come -at least in theory.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Went swimming twice today. In the morning I swam 1.5 miles, the first mile continuous and all freestyle. Then some kicking and some alternate breaststroke-freestyle laps. In the afternoon, after I picked up the kids I swam another 1.25 miles, alternating freestyle with breaststroke.

I think that finally -after all those years- my swim is getting (a bit) faster. I am not sure if it will hold for the entire 2.4 miles of the ironman, but I am cautiously optimistic. I do swim easier and faster at least over shorter distances. The big tossup in all this is my right shoulder with its AC separation. I am not sure how that hold out in the race. I have swum 2.4 miles in the pool since the incident but never all freestyle.

The other big unknown this year is that I have done zero open water swimming. I did not do a single triathlon all year and I did not swim the Del Valle or the Catfish competitions either. In short, I never even put on my wetsuit this year.

You may also wonder why I mention freestyle, but up until five years ago the only stroke I knew how to swim was breaststroke. It is not ideal for triathlons, although it is not all bad. The key advantage of breaststroke is that you can see where you are going, but that turns out to be a big win (at least among the slowpokes). I see triathletes zig-zagging all over the course and adding useless distance.

Freestyle does not come naturally to me. I really struggled with it. For some odd reason I always get cramps in my legs when I freestyle for a long time. That never happens when I breaststroke. 

Up until very recently my breaststroke was faster than my freestyle and I was a lot less tired on top of it. I have swum breaststroke in all my races, except for a few Olympic distances, and in some races I swam more than 3/4 of the distance that way. Needless to say, I am one of the last ones to exit the water. Swimming has kept me from qualifying for Hawaii more than once. 

While one can lose five minutes anywhere, my swim is just too slow to qualify. It is not on par with my other events. Not by a longshot.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

35 Mile Ride

No rain today, but rather cold, with a chilly wind and lots of debris on the road. Yesterday's rain storm brought down rocks, dirt, branches and even some trees. There were crews everywhere working on power lines, phone lines, and cleaning roads. There were also a lot of "Sunday" drivers, out to go voting no doubt. Met a lot of people holding up "NO ON 8" signs, even in the suburbs.

I rode 35 miles, out Redwood into Moraga to Orinda and back over Wildcat and Grizzly. I think I saw Freddie but I am not sure. There was a rider wearing a Mapei outfit coming to Pinehurst when I rode out to Moraga. I did some hard climbs and took it easy on the descents and flats. Burned 1,695 calories according to Ergomo and had a normalized power reading over 250W with an average around 210W. So far so good. Took a little over 2 hours to finish.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Monday Monday

Another very wet day. Started out relatively dry but then it came pouring down. Had to visit a client for lunch so I only had time for a short workout. Ran 6.5 miles on the treadmill at the club. Burned 777 calories in 46 minutes. Nice and smooth. I am tapering now and having other obligations is a good way to keep me from over-training.

You know there is always that temptation right before the race to do a little bit extra. Like studying a bit more before the test. But in racing, it is better to rest. So I need distractions. My visit to Fremont was an ideal distraction as it took up most of my day.

As for other news, a good article in the NY Times today about stretching. You may know I do not believe in stretching and I never stretch. Now there is evidence that stretching may actually harm you. I already told you it doesn't do anything, but this article says it is no good either. They suggest warming up instead.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Easy ride

Went on an easy 51 mile ride today with Alistair, Mike Audley from Team Specialized and Freddie Rodriguez from Rock Racing. I am sure it was easier for them than for me, but overall we took it easy, even on the down hills. 

Although there were plenty of clouds, at times very dark, it did not rain, and apart from some spray -I noticed that both Mike and Freddie had fenders on their bikes- I did not get wet. The temperature was nice too.

We rode out Redwood to Moraga and Lafayette and then back over the bike trail to Wildcat. There Freddie decided to climb while we went back over the flats. It had been a while since I last rode "flats" and Mike took us in a very tortuous path back to Tunnel. Then Alistair and I climbed Alvarado and Grandview.

About 1/2 from home Alistair got a flat going over the curb at Schooner Hill and he walked home. I rode up Sherwick and Bristol. Burned 1,944 calories according to my power meter. 21 days to go.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

On the treadmill

Another very wet day today. It was also time to see where I am at with my running. So I did a session on the treadmill and things look good. I was able to run 8.4 miles in one hour, which is just slightly better than my previous 1 hr "record"  of 8.3 on the machine. The distance includes warmup time. I just get on an run for an hour.

Given how hot I get and how much I sweat, a hour workout is pretty tough. Add to that that my treadmill is broken and I had to go to our club to run. 

The club has a great workout room but given the geriatric nature of its membership, the workout room is way too hot (>75F). A great place to train for Arizona, except that this year's Arizona Ironman is late in the year when temperatures are likely going to be much cooler.

Furthermore, the club people encased the thermostat so there is no way to adjust the setting. They don't have good fans either and the other members, whose workouts are limited to a 10 minute walk and a bit of weight lifting abhor fans or open windows.

After my run, which apparently burned 1,025 calories, I took a dip in the pool. That is just the best way to cool down.