Monday, August 24, 2009


I am done with Tribike Transport, never again. What good is a service if you can't count on them? I packed my bike and I am ready to roll. It wasn't so bad after all and it is cheaper and more convenient in some ways. At least this time, where there are scratches or scuff marks I will know who to blame.

On Wednesday I ran for an hour on the treadmill covering about 7.5 miles. I ran three intervals at 10 mph. First a mile and then two half miles. For me that is pretty hard running. My best mile time is just under 6 minutes, but somehow I find running outside on the track easier than running on the treadmill.

On Thursday I swam for 45 minutes, focusing all my energy on technique, but without much progress. I still can't breathe easily on the left and I still run out of breath when I breathe every other stroke. And that is in an empty pool, calm water... forget about the Ironman laundromat.

On Friday I rode on rollers for 1.2 hours and on Sat I swam once more (same end result). Yesterday I rode 30 miles to the top of Redwood. I went with Barbara and so I rode slow, except for the climbs where I hammered.

Alistair is coming back from Belgium tomorrow. He finally finished a race and placed in the middle of the pack. But overall, the trip was a mixed bag. He was just recovering from a nasty crash in Oregon before he left, and then on August 16, he crashed pretty hard again so that pretty much wrecked his program right there. We will see when he returns.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Ironman Canada is less than two weeks away. Time to taper. Yesterday I swam for 45 minutes and even that felt long. I must be tired. I slept a lot and today I felt better.

I have been doing a lot of "technique" swim sessions but I doubt that it will matter much. As for one I have not made much progress. I am still having trouble breathing every other stroke and when it comes to breathing on the "other" side, I am nowhere near comfortable there. So I guess I will be looking at another 1:20:00+ swim. Not much hope for Hawaii with swims like that.

I do hope however that the bike is better than Lake Placid. There I ran out of steam at mile 90 or so, right before the final climb. Canada has an equally hard bike leg but at least the last 10+ miles are downhill instead of up. If nothing else, some time to recover before the run.

I rode 10 intervals today. Without a speedometer it was difficult to judge how fast I went but I felt good and I rode hard. I am even a little tired now. Not tired as one is from riding long, but tired from a hard effort. I only rode 1:45 so I should recover quickly.

The thing to do now is to watch my diet. I don't want to gain weight during the taper. The best remedy is to follow an Atkins diet and then stock up on carbs in the last 2-3 days before the race (this is known as the conventional carbo-loading cycle), but I doubt that it will work well in my current conditions. It is hard to stick to a no carb diet when everyone else is eating as usual. So I will just try to avoid the most blatant carbs.

My attempt at carbo-loading prior to Lake Placid failed rather miserably and I suspect this time too it won't go very far, but we will try to do better, and see.

Monday, August 17, 2009

More bike riding

After the Lake Placid "disaster" I realized I need to put in more miles on the bike. So on Thursday I rode to the golf course and back (38 miles). I did the same on Saturday, and on Sunday I rode 90 miles to Livermore and back. On Friday I "rounded it all out" with a 14 mile run to "sprints" -if you live in Berkeley, you know where that is.

On Sunday I stopped at ExtraMile, a gas station in Danville where I often get a drink. Since I was quite thirsty and since I hadn't eaten lunch despite having ridden 70 miles, I went to the soda fountain and got the biggest drink they had, 52 oz to be exact! I filled it with a mixture of coke and gatorade.

The cup was interesting, it read: soda, the forgotten food group. Seriously! In America, soda is all but a forgotten food group. For most people it is a staple. I never drink soda (or energy drinks) unless I ride. That 52 ounces fueled my bike ride, but unfortunately, most people who stop at ExtraMile are driving cars. It is a gas station after all, and one that is not walk-up friendly. So you wonder what all these people do in their SUV's and pickup's, gulping down 52 ounces of sugar water. No surprise everyone is overweight or obese here.

Today I swam for 45 minutes, taking it easy. I worked on my technique and tried bilateral breathing. It was better than before but I still have trouble keeping it up for more than 50 yards.

I read an interview with Lance today where he indicated he may try ironman. When someone asked him if he was going to win it on the bike, he said: better to take it easy. You can ride your heart out and gain 10 minutes, but then lose 20-30 on the run. So now you hear it from someone else: ironman is about running. If you want to do well you need to focus on the run. If your goal is to finish, and you have never done it, focus on the bike. Although you can't gain much time here, the bike is easily the most demanding leg and it is the one that sets up the run.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I remember being a teenager and (attempting to) learn to dance. I was never very good at it. Back then, people still overwhelmingly danced ballroom dances (i.e. with steps that you had to learn and memorize). I could never do it. Within a few beats I would be hopelessly lost. I also failed miserably at keeping rhythms when I was playing a trumpet several years earlier.

Recently I saw a Michael Jackson interview where he said, "you can't think...thinking is bad." It simply doesn't work (or something to that effect) and he was right. I would always start thinking about my moves and voila, I would miss a step. And it would go downhill from there. The same happened when I tried to learn touch typing -another middle school activity that was popular in those days. I simply could not follow the rhythm the teacher would tap out. I ended up typing with two fingers for the longest time. Then one day, I just touch typed without ever practicing (or thinking about it--but that was fifteen years later).

Today I made another attempt at breathing every other stroke. Just as with dancing, my mind kept interfering and I could not get the rhythm straight. I would lose track and then be oxygen starved. The upshot of all that is that I consistently run out of breath within about 50 yards. I just can't seem to get the timing right. But I do admit that -while it works, however briefly- I do swim faster. I stroke faster and I can keep my momentum going.

For several days now I have felt nauseous and unable to eat much. Even after my 90 mile ride over the weekend, I could not eat. My stomach is constantly upset and I feel queasy as if I am going to throw up. It came to head yesterday evening and I think I may have caught some bug. (Other family members are having similar symptoms).

I tried to run on the treadmill yesterday but it was a miserable failure. I had to stop after 30 minutes and then again several times after that. All in all I ran 8 miles but it took 1:06 to do. I felt miserable. I could barely eat for dinner and it appears I lost weight too. Not good.

This morning was slightly better but I am still not 100%. Hope it clears soon. I need some long rides before Canada.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Back on the bike

Well, it took almost two weeks to get my bike back from Lake Placid. Furthermore, for some unknown reason -and despite a major overhaul at Placid- the stem and handlebars are creaking like crazy again.

On Friday I rode 30 miles to the top of Redwood and back. I felt pretty tired but OK. On Saturday I rode 90 miles to Livermore and that really got me wasted, but yesterday I managed to ride 40 and feel pretty good. Maybe I need more miles. Anyhow, I decided to take it easy today and swim for about an hour. Unlike other times, I did not swim continuously but instead focused on technique.

I am getting the hang of swimming while breathing every other stroke. As for left breathing, that still needs a lot work and I can't seem to get it right.

Alistair did his first race in Belgium on Sunday and although he got dropped and pulled at 9 laps out of 12, some friends said he did pretty well considering the circumstances. The field was 114 riders. I don't think he has ever ridden in a field like that before. Furthermore, they had to deal with a rather nasty 750 m cobblestone section -another first for him. I have ridden these Belgian cobbles and I can tell you, it ain't fun.

I couldn't resist the nice weather and so I ran a 10K in the hills. Feel fine. Lovely out there!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Swimming rhythms

Well, to be honest I am a bit disappointed with my swim time at Lake Placid. I had expected better. Although I was able to swim almost the entire distance freestyle, my time is stubbornly pegged at 1:22 plus or minus a few minutes. At LP it was 1:21:16. That, despite the fact that I know I can swim faster than a few years ago. And yet, my "best" time dates from 2005 in Florida at 1:20:23.

I went to the pool several times this week and it is clear I cannot get my breathing to where it needs to be. According to a friend I should be able to breathe at least every other stroke -he actually said every third stroke should work-. That way I should swim faster because I keep my forward momentum if I can keep my head still. While that is true I always run out of air after a lap or so. Even when I swim "easy" I run out of air. It is obvious that the timing is the issue. I can't seem to get it right.

I also fail miserably at breathing on the left. Not only does it mess up my stroke, I always run out of air in a few laps. Even when I breathe on every stroke. Left-breathing just doesn't work for me.

I want to keep trying on both counts for a while longer but it is getting to be quite frustrating. It appears the every-other stroke breathing may eventually work, because when I don't think about it, I am fine. It is just when I concentrate or focus on it that I run out of air because I screw up the timing. The left-breathing however, is more in doubt.

I noticed another thing. For the last two sessions there was a man in the pool who swims quite a bit faster than I do. I tried to stay with him but failed. Then I watched him and it occurred to me that he stroked faster than I did. I memorized his rhythm and tried it.

When I followed his rhythm the next time around I was able to keep up with him, without working too hard. It is just -you guessed it- that I ran out of breath, and this time clearly because I did not have enough time to breathe in between strokes. Or so it felt.

I know what you will say: one needs to exhale underwater so one only has to inhale when one's head is up. That way one has enough time to get all the air needed. I think I read that somewhere. In any case, when I try to follow this recipe, I always fail. I can't get it coordinated, and the more I think about it, the worse it gets. Either I forget to exhale on one stroke, or exhale too late or too long, or something else happens that messes everything up.

I guess you could say I am hopeless when it comes to swimming.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Junior Nationals in Bend, OR

No sooner did I arrive home from Lake Placid or I was on another flight to Bend, OR, where Alistair was competing in Junior National Championships. The trip from Lake Placid took almost 15 hours including a very long car ride back to Newark, where I almost missed my flight.

On Wednesday I flew to Oregon, where temperatures were soaring in the triple digits. First I flew to Portland and to my surprise Horizon Air actually served crackers and drinks (including beer and wine) free. How's that for service.

The flight to Bend was delayed but not by much. I arrived late at night and found some of the Team Specialized parents partying in the bar.

Nationals did not go well for Alistair. Before I arrived he had crashed in the road race was forced to abandon. When saw him he was full of bruises and his hip hurt rather badly. He limped when walking.

On Friday he had a time trial and not surprisingly, his performance was subpar. His hip bothered him and he had trouble maintaining a good cadence. He ended up in 48th place and behind people he had beaten earlier in the year in similar TT's.

To make matters worse, on Saturday in the criterium, he got caught behind a crash in the first turn and lost contact with the main group. He was pulled when the field lapped him. Fortunately he did not get hurt. And that was that for Nationals. Not good.

As far as vacations go, it was fun though. We went white water rafting, and explored a lava tube. We also went to the top of Lava Butte for a great view of the Oregon desert. We enjoyed a team barbecue one night, and there were lots of other fun things for the kids to do.

While in Oregon I ran twice on the treadmill. The first time I ran 55 minutes at an 8 mph pace and the day after I ran 7.5 miles at a slightly slower pace. Other than that, no exercise, but I need the recovery time. We got back home yesterday (Sunday) after an 8 hour drive.