Monthly Archives: January 2005

Cycling: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Today, I did a 6:20 bike ride, about 102 miles or so in preparation for my Ironman coming up in early March.
When I go for a ride, I usually see at least one thing that bugs me or pisses me off. BUT TODAY – being out there for 6+ hours, I think I just about saw it all.
So here it is: Cycling: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly…but in reverse.
The Ugly:
1. Pedestrians who walk on the wrong side of the road.
Cyclists ride with the flow of traffic, walkers/runners go against the flow of traffic. This is so walkers/runners can see oncoming traffic and react appropriately in case of trouble, versus walking with their back to traffic and risk being clipped by a stupid driver. Cyclists going faster and sometimes as fast as traffic have more time to be seen by traffic and thus can lower the risk of trouble. Also, a bicycle is a vehicle and should thus share the road as a vehicle, going with the flow of traffic.
I don’t know where people learn this but walking with their back to me as I’m going 10-20 MPH is really dumb. If I were walking on the road and tons of cyclists were blowing by me going at such speed, I would get nervous. Yet so many pedestrians are so oblivious to the danger they are in.
1a. Pedestrians who walk on the wrong side of the road AND can’t walk a straight line or are swinging their arms while strolling or during expressive talking.
As I come up to pedestrians, I always start observing how they walk. If they are weaving back and forth, then I yell really loud, “ON YOUR LEFT!!!!!” and prepare to brake as I pass.
1b. Pedestrians who walk on the wrong side of the road AND can’t walk a straight line or are swinging their arms while strolling or during expressive talking AND when I yell “ON YOUR LEFT!!!!” as I pass, they FREAKIN’ DODGE TO THE LEFT…right into yours truly.
Nuff said there.
2. Cyclists who hang out stopped in the bike lane.
Come on guys. Where is your courtesy? You stop at the side of the road to rest, chat, fix a flat,…whatever. Fine. BUT DON’T STAND WITH YOUR BUDDIES IN THE WHOLE FREAKIN’ BIKE LANE. I lost count of how many times I was forced into the traffic lane just to go around these idiots. Get further to the side and be aware that there are tons of cyclists trying to ride. Geez.
Earlier this year, a pro-triathlete was tossed from her bike, breaking her collarbone, because she was powering up a road and as she checked her back for traffic, she ran smack dab into two cyclists who decided to stop right in the middle of the bike lane to do something, and not move to the side.
Would you stop dead in a traffic lane on Highway 280 after going 65-80 MPH and then zero just because you felt like it?
3. Cyclists who can’t pedal in a straight line.
What happened to basic cycling skills? Passing people like these is an exercise in stress management. It is nerve racking to come up to their rear, yell “ON YOUR LEFT!!!!” and then watch them weave back and forth while you try to make your pass.
4. Cyclists who can’t pedal in a straight line AND weave to the LEFT as you try to pass on the LEFT, after yelling “ON YOUR LEFT!!!”
These people must have been born with the “dodge into danger when warning is signalled” gene. Too bad we as human beings have stopped evolution completely….
The Bad:
1. Feeling an impending cramp in your thigh when you’re miles from home.
Aw man…not now…not now….I was at about hour 5 going up a hill when my right thigh gets that familiar tightness. You never know if it’s going to subside or just knot up and you’ll be writhing in pain.
And you know you’ve got more hills, and one more hour to go….
2. Running out of fluids.
I was out there today, thinking that I timed my drinking and how much fluid I brought perfectly. But unfortunately, I ran out about 30 minutes from home. Man, seems like forever, when you want to take a sip of fluid but can’t….
3. Getting a flat.
At least it was my front tire. Changing the rear tire REALLY SUCKS.
It took my only spare about 2 hours in. I hate the feeling of not having another one. Gotta remember to bring another one next time.
4. Realizing that your bike is covered in mud after the ride.
…my beautiful shiny bike is all dirty….(sniff)….
And also because it takes an hour to clean everything, get all the gunk off metal parts so they don’t rust, and regrease the chain. I’d rather put my feet up in front of the TV and recharge….or spend time complaining on my blog…
The Good:
1. Going on the brick run afterwards and NOT CRAMPING UP.
At least my impending thigh cramp did not happen and I got a good brick run in afterwards.
2. Feeling energetic on the bike and run.
Sometimes you go out there and you feel totally abused by the time you get back. Especially in Bay Area winters, this happens a lot when you’re training in the cold weather and it just saps your energy so much. It is a joy to do all that and feel like you could keep going if you wanted to. But instead, you kick back and watch TV and complain on your blog…
3. Knowing you’re over your freakin’ cold so you can get back to training.
Always a positive thing.


…it’s the only sound I hear as I move through the water, my head completely submerged, cutting serenely like a needle through butter, my heartbeat climbing higher and higher. I force my body to rotate back and forth faster, which makes my arms stroke at a higher rate and press against the water harder. I feel a burn in my arms and shoulders as my breath quickens and I try to maintain my already high pace. In response to my coach yelling at the begining of the lap “Dave, swim faster…PUSH”, I ignore the discomfort in my lungs, the oxygen quickly draining from my system. My mind starts telling me to back off, but I quell the thought viciously as I quickly survey my condition and determine that it is only discomfort I feel and not a flame out. I calm down and relax more, which lowers my heart rate and I stroke even faster, striving for the end of the lap…or in my mind’s eye, the finish line….
Countdown to Ironman: 5.5 weeks….

Putting up with being sick

For a triathlete, being sick really sucks.
We have a race coming up and we can’t get out there to train. How will we know if we will be at our best if we don’t stick to the training plan and not miss a single workout?
So I managed to catch this cold/allergy thing that’s floating around. Great. No training until it blows over. And yes, I know that with me hacking up phlegm it’s probably not a good idea to workout, breathe heavily, and suck back into my lungs all that phlegm.
Ick. Makes me sick just thinking about it. Guess I’ll watch TV instead.

Triathlon, Fad or Something Else?

About a year before I started racing triathlons in May 2002 (with Team in Training), triathlon racing was already on the upswing especially in the Bay Area.
Why did this happen? My thought was that there were so many people out of work post-internet bubble and when you get a whole bunch of competitive, motivated people with nothing to do, you need to funnel that energy somewhere. At least, they picked something healthy to do like triathlons, versus drinking or partying all day and night. And then, once your friends start doing it, you naturally want to do whatever your friends are doing.
So here’s the kicker. Why do people really train triathlons? Probably the most ridiculous reason I found where some of these women who were only hanging out with the tri-clubs to get a boyfriend.
OK so finding a mate ain’t the easiest thing to do. At least a triathlon racing boyfriend or girlfriend would have an awesome bod so that’s cool. Not many fat people racing that’s for sure! But it also reminds me of so many instances that I’ve seen in the past where people used to work out intensely while they were single. This was an attempt to make themselves as attractive physically as possible so that the opposite sex would like what they saw. As soon as they met someone, the working out slacked off and stopped completely when marriage hit.
Shouldn’t we workout for the betterment of ourselves and to keep and lead healthy lifestyles? In satisfying externalities like “my girlfriend will leave me if I’m fat” is not a good way to go. In fact, driving a lot of your life by what other people think isn’t necessarily that healthy. You’ll always be trying to please someone else when the only person you should be pleasing is yourself. Driving by internal evaluation means you have a consistent person to please and that’s yourself. Trying to please others all the time is a moving target and might not be the best thing in the world for you.
So why do I race triathlons? I’d like to say I have tons of women jupming on me but I’m afraid that hasn’t happened yet… Actually, I train and race because:
1. It keeps me sane. I’ve been through a lot of things in my personal and professional life in recent years. The exercise, focus, and achievement has kept me motivated and not depressed. It is the one area of my life where I have been consistently growing and improving over the last few years.
2. It keeps me healthy. I used to lift weights but never seemed to be able to get those last pounds off. Training for Ironman basically wicked off the last bits of fat off my body like nothing else. Although, now I am a skinny little runt!
3. It keeps me learning. Swimming, biking, and running were more technical than I thought. There are so many details to each of these three disciplines that revamping and learning new actions has been a real joy. I love learning and definitely as I improve in each of these 3 areas, I feel that I am changing and growing as an individual.
These 3 reasons keep me training – I intend for it to become a lifelong pursuit…

Head Positioning

One more thing I neglected to mention about my head positioning. I try to look about a few degrees forward of the vertical, and press the head and chin down. In that way, I know the water is not flowing over the back of my head which creates drag. When the water hits my forehead, my head is cleanly cutting through the water which is optimal.
I also use my ears as feedback that my head is completely submerged in the water. If I hear water gurgling, then I am too much on the surface, or maybe even my ears are out of the water and then my butt is dragging. So I make sure that I hear no gurgling at all and then I know my head is deep enough.
Sprinted 1:40 for 100m today – got a sprinting test on Friday of 5x100m at 5 seconds rest…yikes!

Heavy Fog, Cold, Gotta Bike…

I just spent 5.5 hours on the bike. And it must have been 40 degrees when I started at 9am and by the time I was done I was pretty frozen. How dedicated I am! …Or crazy…
I was totally amazed at the number of runner out there wearing nothing but a t-shirt and shorts. There is absolutely no way I would have run in weather like that. My skinny little bod would have gone into hypothermia!
Countdown: 6 weeks to Ironman New Zealand!

Swim Secrets

These last two weeks I’ve been trying really hard to reinforce two things in my swimming.
1. The Catch
My coach tells me about 2 weeks ago that I drop my arm and I don’t catch before I stroke. So I start really relaxing my upper arm and make sure I bend at the elbow before my upper arm moves, feel pressure against my hand, and then stroke strongly through the movement. What a difference it made! Now my strokes generate more power and create propulsion for a longer period of time, versus catching later in the stroke and only creating propulsion about half the stroke of the arm.
2. Body position
I am what you would call a “butt dragger”. My body proportions don’t let me easily rest horizontally on the water. I tend to droop towards my legs and this creates tons of drag. So I did two things.
The first thing was to really use my head as the body positioner. Most of the coaches tell you to “press the buoy” or “press the armpit”. This didn’t work for me. I still dragged my butt. But I tried something else. I instead press my chin and extend my head. This action enabled me to move my butt higher and be more needle like and horizontal on the water, thus minimizing my drag.
The second thing was to really relax my entire body, instead of tensing, and just roll it back and forth while keeping it needle like. This conserved energy and allowed me to focus on body roll to create power in my stroke. Thus, I did not waste energy feeling nervous about sinking or going faster. I was smoother and devoted all energy to catching the water, stroking while body the rolled to increase power.
Before I did this, I was hard put to sprint 100m at 1:55. This morning I sprinted 1:44!

M2: My Ironman Coach

Mike McCormack has been instrumental in getting me to perform better than ever before. I highly recommend his training at M2:
His general philosophy is one of quality versus quantity, and judicious use of periodization and interval training to improve fitness and performance. Amazingly, most of his bike training is indoors on a computrainer which allows controlled and measurable improvement, versus junk miles on the road. Even the treadmill is a useful tool to train hills versus finding the exact right hills to run up and down outside.
Given that it’s winter in northern California, this is critical to have training resources indoors, especially given the monsoons that we’ve been experiencing lately.

Training Training Training

In 2002, I got into triathlons with Team in Training. Since then I have been racing continuously every year.
What a necessary component in my life! Going through all my life changes, I needed a way to release stress and to be able to “void” my brain for long periods of time.
Training was perfect for that. It let me blow off steam, keep healthy, and to rest my brain from all the crap that was going through it every day.
It also was very different than the weight lifting I used to do. Doing one type of training was getting monotonous, however much I did like weight training.
But getting into swimming, biking and running really allowed me to discover many new things about me and my body.
First, each one of these sports is highly technical…more technical than I thought. Yeah we can all go out there and thrash around in the water, pedal, or just jog. But what I didn’t know was that there are highly evolved ways of doing all three of these sports to maximize performance and minimize injury.
Learning these new skills has been a fantastic experience! It really stressed my brain and my nervous system in different ways! And it made a huge difference in how fast I was moving in all three sports! I was really impressed by how much science has gone into all of these.
Way back when I started running, I really messed up my knees. But now looking back, I could see how screwy my running was, and how the technology, ie. my sneakers, were so primitive compared to now.
Second, it really tested my body. Not having been athletic in my youth, I had to reactivate all these muscles that have lain dormant for..oh…about 30+ years now. Now they are getting awakened and I am doing things I never thought I could do physically.
But also, there have been many doubters in my life with respect to athletics. They have constantly said, “Don’t hurt yourself, you might get hurt, better not overdo it, you’re older now…gotta watch out…” I say “fuck em” because I’m swimming, biking, and running faster than ever before and I’m heading for Ironman New Zealand in March this year and with little or no injury at all.
Watch out world, countdown to Ironman T-7 weeks!