Friday, January 30, 2009

Hot weather, ride and swim

Yesterday was another record breaking day, today will be no different. For anyone who doubts climate change, please come and visit us. This is our second week of new records here in Northern California. Every year we come closer to having a San Diego climate.

Once again, the heat came as a result of strong North-Easterly winds on Wednesday night. All night long winds were howling and thrashing everything in their path. I went on a 40 mile bike ride Thursday morning and for the first time in my life I thought the wind was actually going to blow me over. When I came down from Marlborough Terrace onto Norfolk I got hit by a strong side-blast that almost blew my bike from under me. The Griffen has two substantial "wing" surfaces and it is quite sensitive to such crosswinds, but this blast was stronger and more powerful than I had ever experienced.

Today it is warm but far less windy. I went swimming this morning and for the first time in my life I swam 4,000 yards, all free-style, non-stop. Furthermore, I felt fine afterwards. Earlier whenever I would swim 1.5 miles I would feel trashed. Clearly something is improving. These long swims do help and I should have known this. It is what I do in biking and running. Only it never occurred to me to try to swim long.

Sometimes it is difficult to see things that are too obvious. In previous years I would feel good when I swam 3/4 -1 1/4 miles freestyle, and many times I would take a break after every 1/2 a mile. No more. 

I am not sure if I swam faster, but I certainly swam easier. And I felt better too.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rules and recipes

I think it is useful to explore this topic some more. It is surprising how many people don't know the basics of training. Maybe that is another reason why recipes are so enticing. People don't know where to start. Yet the rules are quite simple, and the shorter the race the easier it is to prepare for it. Speaking of short races, one key mistake beginners make is not to warm up adequately beforehand. Short races are high intensity from start to finish. Unless you are properly warmed up, you may find that you get dropped near the start. You may then conclude that your training was inadequate. That is a mistake. Good diagnosis is needed before treatment starts.

Before training you need to ask yourself, where am I? What kind of shape am I in? Have I been sitting around, watching TV, or am I able to run a 5K or maybe a 10K without much preparation? How is my weight? Do I need to lose some pounds or am I fine? Knowing where you are and where you need to be is key. No good training program can be designed unless you know those pieces of information. Since everyone is different, there are tons of potential recipes to choose from and chances are none will fit very well.

It is just as easy to design your own program from scratch as it is to try to fit a ready-to-wear recipe that you found in a magazine. Divide your training into two phases: building a base, and adding intensity. It is best not to confuse these periods.

During period one you need to get several things accomplished but getting comfortable with the distance and the duration is the main goal. It is also the time to get your weight corrected if necessary. During the second period you need to focus on intensity and work very hard to get your physiology up a few notches. You also need to leave enough time to recover. For a short race a few days is fine, for endurance events, you may need to taper for two weeks or more.

It is always easier to work backwards from race day. It is also best to stay flexible and be ready to adjust your plan should you progress slower or faster than anticipated. You need to review your plan periodically and see where you are. Are you on track to reach your goals? If not, adjustments may be needed. More about that later.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The lure of recipes

People love recipes. Detailed, step by step recipes. Recipes to cook, to lose weight, to gain muscle mass, to get faster, to get more endurance, you name it. Recipes and lists of recipes. The seven habits of successful people, 10 things that will make you run faster, swim faster. These are the headlines that sell books, magazines, CD's and the like.

The ostensible reason is to save time. It is said that modern humans have precious little time. They are busy creatures, too busy really. Busy working their jobs or raising their families. Too busy to take time out and learn something new. Unless it is fed to them in bite-size, ready-to-consume pieces. Preferably illustrated with pictures, photographs, and diagrams. Not too much reading material because we don't have time for all that. Can't slow down now. Yup, there goes my cellphone! Got to take this call!

Lazy is perhaps a better word. Not one we like to hear but probably one that is closer to reality. Too lazy to read, we need a shortcut. Someone who read it for us and now feeds it to us step by step. Too lazy to try something new. God forbid that we would waste our time on something and not get results. Too lazy for hard work and always looking for a shortcut. A secret formula. A magic potion.

We are eager to believe that those who make it have some secret sauce. They know something we don't. There must be some ritual, some incantation, some drug, some gadget that these guys know about that I don't. Maybe it is the power meter?

Coaches often take advantage of these trends. They shroud themselves in secrecy. They adopt ritualistic routines. They force athletes to do bizarre drills. Much like doctors who prescribe special diets for some people. The magic of placebo is not to be underestimated. Drink 10 glasses of water a day. Eat five servings of fruit. Do this seven times, not six, not eight, seven! You got to do it right otherwise the magic won't work!

Today's workout: a 3,000 m swim. All freestyle, non-stop.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sunny and crisp

Yesterday was a photographer's dream. It was sunny and the Bay was so clear you felt like you could touch the city from the Oakland Hills. The kids were off from school, not sure why, but they were. Alistair and I went on a mountain bike ride in Redwood and Chabot. We rode a good 30 miles, going out Redwood east to Pinehurst and Bort. Then riding the single track on the Meadow to the Stone bridge and back. Then up on McDonald, Redwood west and on to Sibley.

We decided to go down Sibley to the other side of Old Tunnel. They recently opened the trail for bicycles and it is a nice bumpy descent. Near the bottom it was quite muddy and there were a few creek crossings filled with water. Quite fun. Then we noticed you could go up the old road into Sibley -no cars, but bikes and pedestrians are OK. Although I had never done it, it sounded better than riding Fish Ranch.

The road goes up for quite a while and then links to the trials that go to the mazes. So we added another 1.5-2.0 miles and a whole bunch of climbing that way.

Today, it was a bit warmer still so I decided to go for a long run. I ran to Montclair and then up Shepherd. I added a little extra at the end for a good 11 miles. I haven't done this run for a while and it showed. By the end of it my legs were quite tired. It is not just the distance, there is a serious amount of climbing too. And some of it is quite steep. It took me about 1.5 hrs. 

I will start working on my running more to prepare for Boston. I would love to run a 3:15 or better, but anything that qualifies me for next year is Ok with me. We'll see how it goes. I will probably go to Europe before Boston and in two weeks I am going to DC. The travel could mess up my schedule, but so could the weather for that matter. We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Clouds and sun

Yesterday was damp, cold and rainy. I went to the pool and swam 2.05 miles. I had to stop briefly around 1.75 mi because of a cramp in my foot, but it cleared up rather quickly. I swam for about 1:15 minutes in all. There was hardly anyone there.

Last night Barbara and I went to a party and we stayed up until midnight. I probably drank a bit too much while there and my stomach was a bit upset around 1:30 AM. I noticed Barb suffered too so maybe the food was the culprit? I am not sure. I seem to have very little alcohol tolerance these days. A drink or two and I am floored. More than that and I may lose my supper.

This morning I went on a 41 mile ride with Alistair. We rode to Castro Valley and stopped briefly at the golf course. We rode for 2:40 and took it easy on the down hills. It was pretty chilly going down Redwood and I was happy to be wearing a wind jacket, which I kept on throughout the ride. On the home stretch we encountered some drizzle but not enough to get wet. I burned over 2,000 calories on the ride according to Ergomo. My average power was 200W and my normalized power near 260.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Well we needed the rain. It also brought an end to a spectacular week of sunshine and warmth. Hopefully we won't have a repeat of a few years ago where January and February were warm and sunny, followed by non-stop rain in March and April.

Yesterday and today I did my standard 45/35 (yes it is now 35) workout. I "ride" 45 minutes on the stationary bike and run 35 on the treadmill. I have been riding harder than before, always covering 17 (imaginary) miles instead of 15 before. I also run harder and faster, and both yesterday and today I finished 4.0 miles in 30 minutes.

All of that has been going quite well with minimal residual problems.

Speaking of problems, yesterday Alistair was hit by a car and crashed on South Pinehurst road (South of Canyon Rd) at around 4:10 PM. It was a hit and run accident on the descent, and the driver of the black sedan never looked back or stopped. Alistair is an experienced rider and a fast down-hiller so the car must have been going at some crazily unsafe speed. It is pretty hard for a car to keep up with a cyclist on that twisty descent.  

Some apparently feel they have something to prove and they try at all costs to stay with cyclists or even pass them. We received several reports from other riders who have experienced problems on that road in the afternoon, when anxious commuters are dying to get home.

In general the whole Redwood-Pinehurst area is becoming quite dangerous and unsafe. During the week, motorists try to use these roads to avoid the congestion at the Caldecott tunnel, and on weekends, tens of motorcyclists turn the area into an ad hoc racetrack.

Apart from some minor damage to the bike, and several patches of road rash and torn clothing, Alistair was unharmed. We tried to file a police report but so far that has been mired in red tape. Without a good description of the car, there isn't much we can do.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

More swimming

Yesterday I swam two miles, all freestyle, non-stop. Not the fastest swim but a decent pace. Yesterday was another record setting day, although it was getting cooler than the week before. Today started overcast, with slight showers in the afternoon. It is definitely cooler now and we won't be setting any records today.

I took the kids to the pool and swam 1.5 miles non-stop but at a pretty fast pace. Although I did not time myself, I definitely swam harder and faster than yesterday. I mostly kept up with Alistair who is a faster swimmer than I am. (Once again) I feel like I am getting faster. I can surely swim faster over shorter distances, but the improvements never show at longer distances. Maybe this time it will be for real and hold up at Ironman distances.

I appear to have gained some weight over the holidays. Fewer hours and shorter rides do make a difference, and all the "partying" and lounging around at the JPMorgan meeting surely did not help.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ironman USA Lake Placid-TeamCindy

It's official. I am committed to compete in Ironman USA Lake Placid 2009 as part of Team Cindy. It will be my second fundraiser for the Brain Aneurysm Foundation (BAF), a charity in Hanover, MA. I just signed up and they already posted my picture on their site.

Today I swam 180 laps or slightly more than 2 miles freestyle, non-stop in the pool. I think I am getting better. Not faster perhaps, but better. An easier swim that is. And I can hold the freestyle for extended periods of time now. That is good.

Yesterday I tested Alistair's Tarmac and it feels really nice. We will cut the steering tube tomorrow and wrap the handlebars. I think it is pretty much ready for prime time. We rode 35 miles together and I burned in excess of 1,800 calories. My NP was 254 and the average close to 200W. The ride took 2:20, not including the stop at the bike store in Montclair. We climbed the Berkeley hills one extra time in this process.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Coyote Hills

Yesterday I went to a party and for some reason, I ended up with a pretty upset stomach last night. I suffered some mild emesis and lost quite a bit of sleep. Not good. Then I had to wake up early this morning to drive Alistair to the Early Bird Criterium Series in Fremont. When we left it was once again quite windy and we had to open the garage door for a very brief period and get everything squared away, lest it blew all around.

We arrived early. When Alistair left to warm up, I fell asleep in the car for about three quarters of an hour. It was not really comfortable and also a little cold but it worked. I wore shorts and a t-shirt and that was not enough for the chilly morning. Fortunately, it warmed up quite nicely and by 10 AM it was in the upper sixties again. Even though I forgot an undershirt and socks I was able to go on a run wearing just one layer. Without running socks, the shoe fit was a bit tight and that would come back to haunt me later.

I ran the same 12 miles I had run earlier and once again it was a magical experience. This time the Bay was filled with haze and one could not see across. But there were birds and a strong smell of salty water hung in the air. There were a few more bikers this time around, but they were hardly noticeable. Long stretches of silence with no one in sight.

When I got back to Coyote Hills I had to stop briefly because my right toenail was hurting badly. It is loose -courtesy of the Arizona ironman- and can be lifted up, but it remains attached on one side. It was bumping against my shoe and causing some damage and minor bleeding. I was not able to rip it off but I did manage to move it out of the way a bit so I could finish the run.

By the time I got back the pro-1-2-3 race was finishing and we got in the car and drove back. Alistair did well in his race, and he also got his team clothing while there so he was a happy camper. Feeling exhausted I fell asleep after lunch.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Record temperatures

I think Oakland set a new temperature record every day of the past week. We had temperatures that soared well into the mid-seventies, sometimes topping out at 75-76. That is 9-12 degrees warmer than our previous records. And I don't think we ever had a week of records before.

For anyone who is doubting that the climate is changing, I can put in my 2 cents worth. I have been an avid bike rider since the late 80s with only a few short breaks in between. I remember having an extensive collection of cold-weather gear, including neoprene booties, neoprene gloves, and several jackets and vests. Some of these are still with me, but others either fell apart of old age or were lost in the 1991 hills fire.

In any case, I remember buying neoprene booties every year during the early 90s. The booties are not that expensive and they usually do not last all that long because they tear easily. I remember always wearing them in winter and at times being very cold nonetheless. I also used to have several pairs of tights and a face mask. Towards the end of the decade I stopped buying booties, buying toe covers instead. I also stopped buying heavy tights. Now I find that with few exceptions I can get by with wool socks only (no toe covers) and I never need tights anymore, preferring knickers instead. I have not worn the face mask in over 10 years.

Throughout these years I have ridden consistently and always at the same time of day. Sure there are still chilly mornings when you can use booties and heavy tights, but I used to need them in the middle of the day. And although there has been an occasional cold year -like a few years ago when the citrus crop froze- the overall trend has been towards warmer weather. This is all the more remarkable because I am definitely more cold sensitive now than when I was younger.

I rode 2 hours on my mountain bike on Thursday and 2:40 on the road Friday. On Friday I totaled 2,065 calories and had an NP wattage of 254W with an average of 205. Not a bad ride. Today, 2:30 hours mountain biking, 32 miles with Alistair, a solid ride too.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I rode for an hour on the trainer today. Tightened up the wheel a bit and the tire did not slip so there was no jerky movement this time. Much better. I burned 925 calories according to the Ergomo. My average wattage was 235. Makes me wonder about the stationary bike at the club where I can burn 1,100 calories in 45 minutes. Something is not right. 

Yesterday was a very busy day. With the investor meeting in the city I had no time for exercise. Also had a mishap with a flat tire on the highway and that took up part of my morning. I took a day off--first day off this year. 

Meanwhile the weather is just superb. We are hitting new records and day time temperatures are in the upper sixties to low seventies. The only drawback here at the house is the gusty winds. Unlike earlier, the winds are warm now and they contribute to our dry and hot weather.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Heat wave

We hit 76 today. It must be a record. It was also windy as can be. Our garbage cans flew down the stairs, spilling garbage and recycling everywhere and breaking bottles and jars in the process. It was a glorious mess to wake up to.

I skipped making coffee and cleaned it up. Then moved them and they promptly flew down once again. That took all the time I had before driving the kids to school. So much for breakfast.

I secured the cans and put a bungee cord over the top so they would not spill. So far so good.I drove the kids to school and went for a brief swim and all was well. But when I was ready to leave for my meeting, another gust blew them down for a third time, making another fantastic mess. 

Overall this little game took over an hour and the upshot was that I had to move the cans away from the street. So no pickup. The good news? Most of the garbage was gone anyways, gone with the wind.

I will be in meetings all week so there won't be much time for exercise. Today I swam a mile in 35 minutes (not too good) and that was it. It was very windy in the pool too. Windy but warm.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


A warm day. Upper sixties to seventy with plenty of sunshine. Yesterday we hit 69, a record for Oakland. Today may be warmer.

I decided to test the new trainer I bought on eBay. It takes a bit of getting used to compared to rollers. Since the trainer clamps the rear wheel, all the movement is in front. That feels different from the rollers with fork stand because there, the front is immobile while the tail moves around gently from side to side.

I also noticed my Michelins slip on the roller. Maybe the adjustment is not tight enough? Or maybe I need another tire? The slip makes the pedal cycle jerky and strange. I am pretty sure it is the tire since it goes away when I pedal more gently. It also gets better once I am up to speed and the flywheel keeps things rolling.

I rode for 25 minutes at about 190W average, burning 313 calories. I put the bike outside because it was warm and I noticed that I sweat a whole lot less out there in the wind. Even a slight breeze makes an enormous difference. That despite the fact that my rollers have a wind machine that creates quite a concentrated blast. But I guess it is all pretty minor compared to real wind. It is also possible that the garage traps the heat.

Afterwards we went swimming and I swam about a mile. I had to stop because of leg cramps but I did swim a good pace while I was at it. Overall, about 45 minutes of swimming. A good day.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Banana bread and riding

The weekend forecast called for warmer than normal temperatures. Last night we had howling winds from the North-N-East, which surprisingly enough, means temperatures rise. Nearly everything in the Bay Area is funny that way. Nature turns green in winter, winds from the North bring hot air, etc. After a while you get used to it too.

I rode 33 miles today, burning 1,713 calories according to my Ergomo. I averaged a good 225W with a normalized power (NP) well above 250, meaning I worked quite hard. That was necessary because the winds are still here. They were gusting in various places, sometimes even making it difficult to stay upright. Although the winds feel cold, they bring in warmer air and today was a super day more typical for spring than the middle of winter. And speaking of winter, some deciduous trees still have bright fall color, while others are already starting to bud new leaves.

I baked another banana bread today. Ever since Cindy's mom showed up in Arizona with a loaf of banana bread for the Ironman, we have been baking away. The loaf was so good -I did not get to eat much of it by the way- we immediately asked for the recipe. Cindy's mom makes a mean banana bread loaded with chocolate, nuts, and bananas of course.

Personally I have been experimenting to see what I can do with 2 cups of flour, a teaspoon of baking powder and one of baking soda, 2 eggs, a cup of sugar, and oil or butter to suit. I started out following the recipe closely, but since then I have done everything from substituting cherries for the bananas, reducing the sugar, using maple syrup and/or molasses, adding protein rich flour, spicing things up with jalapenos, trying out every conceivable nut including almonds, etc. Most of the time, the recipe has worked out fine although there have been some touch and gos -when too many bananas made things gooey,  but the kids sure love the contraptions I come up with. (I do too).

The banana bread, which at times has no bananas (we do live in the Bay Area), makes a great breakfast and an ideal before or after ride snack. It is also a great source of inspiration for new recipes.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Bike duathlon

Today I did a bike duathlon of sorts. First I rode my mountain bike for almost two hours, going through Redwood park along the East trail and back; then I rode 22.5 miles on the road with Alistair on my tribike. I just finished putting the last touches on his new Specialized SL and I wanted to make sure he would not be stranded out there with a loose cable -or worse, a loose handlebar.

It was a great day, albeit a bit cold and windy. However, it was sunny all day and we got one of the most spectacular sunsets ever.  I was not alone in noticing this and several people were out taking pictures of the Bay at sunset.

Today was also the first time I tried the Roberts trail that goes down to the East tunnel entrance. It is really a two part trail along the "backside" from Roberts to Fish ranch, but only one part is bike legal. When you ride that part the only back is to turn around or ride up Fish Ranch Rd., a rather steep (and busy) climb. I guess you could also take the freeway to Orinda. It is one of the few bike-legal freeway rides in the area, but very few people actually ride it. It is no fun riding on a freeway with heavy traffic zooming by.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Two miles

Another swim day. This time I did 2 miles, all freestyle, non-stop. I don't think I have gone this far non-stop freestyle ever. It was pretty hard, esp. towards to the end. By around 160 laps (out of 180) I could definitely feel that my legs and feet were close to cramping up. Why it is always my calves and my feet, I don't know but that seems to be the rule.

I have noticed a funny synergy between my arms and legs, and sometimes when I am close to cramping and I "pull" hard with my upper limb, I can feel the tension in my contra-lateral leg. No doubt this is some nervous system mechanism similar to swinging your arms when you walk and it must have its origins in four-legged locomotion.

In any case, I avoided the cramp and swam a good pace too. Probably close to 2:00 per 100m. OK, I know that is nothing to write home about, but for me it is. If I could do that in an Ironman and all else fell into place, I would get my long coveted Hawaii slot for sure.

Another interesting observation is that I lost 2 pounds while in the pool. I weighed in beforehand at 174 and after I was at 172. The swim took a little over an hour and the pool is pretty warm. I am sure most competitive swimmers would say it is too hot.

I am glad to say though that swimming is a lot easier now. The long swims really do help.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More swimming

Yesterday, the weather was not great and I had lots of stuff to do so I went to the club and did my 45/30 routine. I actually ran an extra 5 minutes and finished 4.2 miles. I also worked out at a higher level on the stationary bike. The device lets you enter your weight and calculates calories burned, but my suspicion is that the numbers are too optimistic. I typically work out above 20 METs and burn nearly 1,200 calories in 45 minutes. 

I have to work really hard to burn 1,200 calories in one hour on my Griffen with the Ergomo power meter. Since the Ergomo measures power it can add calories burned. According to the documentation, Ergomo postulates a 25% muscular efficiency here. It seems the device at the club uses a much higher %.

Today started out pretty poor, but then it cleared up in the afternoon. Since it is Wednesday and school ends early, we all went to the pool. I swam 3,000 meters again, all freestyle and no stops. I think I am getting better. The long swims seem to help and I have two indicators that support this idea.

1. Part of the time, Alistair was swimming alongside and I found it much easier to keep up with him. He is always competitive and will try to swim faster than I do. Since we were the only two in the pool, that was easy to do. Under normal conditions, he gains one lap on me for every 5-7 laps I do, but now it was more like 1 lap every 10 or 12. Before I had been able to swim like that but never for longer than 10 laps. Now I can hold it.

2. I finished 3,000 meters in one hour so the 100m rate is 2 minutes even. In Arizona my 100m pace was 2:11. A 2:00 pace would result in an Ironman swim time of 1:15:47 or almost 7 minutes faster than what I did in Tempe. Seven minutes is a significant improvement.

We'll just keep hacking away at it. Eventually it will give.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Weather, gyms, swimming

The weather turned foul again. It is amazing how much difference a day makes. We are once again covered in wet and cold fog. Not the type of weather one would like to biking in. Fortunately the pool is always at the same temperature.

I swam 3,000 meters today, slightly more than 1.86 miles, all freestyle, no breaks, and keeping a good pace. It was faster than last time, taking just over one hour to do the distance.

There was a news report the other day on dropping gym memberships because of the poor economy. The newscast implied many people won't be able to keep to their New Year's resolution of working out more.

It is amazing to me how many people equate gyms with workouts. While I occasionally work out indoors at the club, I always try to avoid gyms. Gyms are not good places for cardiovascular exercise in my opinion. Stationary devices without adequate cooling induce unwanted stresses. Most people avoid these stresses by reducing their intensity, which defeats the purpose.

Commercial gyms are places where people socialize, consume energy bars and drinks, and watch TV or read magazines while moving their lower limbs. Sometimes, there are a few hardcore body builders to make things look good. Unless you are into body building, you don't belong here.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Alameda creek

Alameda creek is a flood control channel running through Fremont, Union City and Hayward. It is not, as the name implies a scenic little twisty brook lined with trees and brush. It is a rather wide and fairly straight channel that changes direction a few times, while running from the hills near Niles Canyon to the Bay. Most of the year, there is barely a trickle of water in it, except near the origin where a removable dam forms a small lake.

Near Niles, the channel is narrower and the straight sections shorter, but once you hit mile 4-5 the channel widens and the views are long. Alameda creek has two creek-side paths. The Southern path is 11 miles long, while the Northern one is a little more than a mile longer due to the width and the many left hand turns. Near the Bay, the channel runs close to a few small hills, called the Coyote Hills. All along the way there are flood-control ponds and near Coyote Hills, many ponds, marshes and swamps create a rather unique wildlife habitat.

I used to run the Alameda creek to prepare for marathons. It is a more or less straight, dead-flat (except for underpasses), 12 mile uninterrupted run. There are some bikers, and a few pedestrians, but overall, "traffic" is pretty light.

I hadn't gone to "the creek" for a while. It is a rather long drive and the return trip invariably gets stuck in commute traffic so I avoided it. Today was different. The Early Bird Criterium series is on, organized by one of Team Specialized's senior members and so Alistair is keen on attending. The EB's are held at Ardenwood, right next to Coyote Hills and the Creek. 

Furthermore, I do not have a road bike at this time, so participating was out of the question. What else could I do but run to the park? Once there I decided to run along the creek, and once there I decided to continue onto the bay. All in all I ran almost 12 miles. It was fantastic !

Nice weather, not too cold or too hot, no wind. No people either. Just a steel-blue sky, a few white cumulus, an absolutely crisp view, and tons of white pelicans gliding along. It was magic. I intercepted the Southern trail at mile 8, ran to the bay (mile 11), turned back to Coyote (at mile 9), ran along the hills for another mile and a half and then back.

I met maybe five runners and a handful of "sunday" cyclists. At various points, birders with binoculars were scanning the skies. When I first turned onto the trail I saw a big hawk sitting in a tree. The ponds were flush with colorful ducks. All I could hear was the sound of my own breathing, and the slight crunch of gravel under my feet. While I could see the Dumbarton bridge and the freeway, there was no sound. It was all too far away, too unreal.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Today I rode 25 miles on my mountain bike. The weather was nice but it was cold. Nevertheless I had a good time.

I also added up my workouts for 2008. In case you wonder, I spent 633 hours exercising, of which 99 hours swimming, 407 hours biking, and 127 hours running. In 2007, I spent 639 hours, of which 109 swim, 398 biking, and 132 running. Pretty consistent, wouldn't you say? All of that without a " master plan" or without an interim sneak peak. Just listening to the body.

I added up 2008 today. It was the first time I saw the totals or had any inkling of what they would be. Then I took a look at 2007 and found out exactly what I reported here. No sneak peaks, no previews, I did not even remember what I had done in 2007.

The 2007 numbers include 3 ironman races, and 1 marathon. I went on vacation to Europe that year too. 2008 had several short mountain bike races, one marathon, and one ironman, but no overseas trips. In the Spring of 2008 I got injured riding my mountain bike and was forced to greatly reduce my exercise load for several weeks.

Using reasonable averages for my fitness and where I live (in the hills) I would say I swam for about 150 miles (average 1.5 miles/hr), biked for 6,919 miles (average 17 mph) and ran for about 990 miles (average 7.5 mph). That adds up to a total distance of close to 8,059 miles.

I did not track my car mileage but I am sure it is quite a bit less. And that is the way it should be.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Rain and fog

Today started out pretty bad. Heavy fog and drizzle followed by rain. We need the water, but I would still prefer if it only fell at night. No such luck. It has cleared up a bit now but there is still a heavy cloud cover over 4/5 of the sky, and the ground is wet and soggy.

I went to the club and did a "45/30," workout. Even though I label them all 45/30, i.e. 45 minutes on the stationary bike and 30 on the treadmill, the more recent ones have been quite a bit more heavy duty than the first ones I did several weeks ago. I now routinely "bike" 17 miles, whereas before I barely reached 15, and I run almost 4 miles, whereas before I made it only up to 3 at the most (I was injured too).

The stationary bike reads 1,200+ calories, but I think it is way off. I have to work a lot harder to burn 1,000 on my Griffen (with Ergomo) and that takes more than one hour to do. Here I am supposedly burning 1,200 in 45 minutes. Clearly something is not right. Although I do work hard on the stationary bike and my heart rate is above 160 for the better part of the effort.

The treadmill is more accurate, although still optimistic. I should probably say it is  more in line with my expectations--and other treadmills.  It records an effort of about 500-600 calories for the 30 minutes. I seem to recall other treadmills read around 400 for a 3.1/5k run.

According to my Ergomo, I burn about 40-50 calories per mile, at cruising speed, on the bike -nothing on descents of course, and a bit more on the climbs. My healthrider treadmill, which is now broken, always put my running effort at about 120 calories per mile. Somewhere between 110-130 seems to be the treadmill "consensus."

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Happy New Year Everybody !

I finished the year with a non-stop, 1.75 mile freestyle swim at a good pace. By the end, my lower leg and foot were near cramping. Not sure why that happens as I do not use my legs all that much while freestyling. Probably need to swim a bit more and add in a bit more distance. These are some of the longest all-freestyle swims I have done, ever.

Not sure yet what I will do today. Unlike yesterday, the weather is a lot cooler and there is plenty of fog. We had some clearing earlier and some sun but it did not last. Tomorrow it may rain they say, but then the weather should improve. I may go to the club and run a bit on the treadmill later on.

Added later: I did run for about one hour on the treadmill. Covered 8.2 miles, not bad, but I had to work pretty hard to get there. To my credit, I can add that the exercise room at the club is quite hot and so running there is rather stressful. I think we will have to bite the bullet and buy a new treadmill for home.