Monthly Archives: February 2005

Ironman NZ Monday 2-28-05 Arrival in Auckland and Taupo

It’s always interesting to board a flight to a famous triathlon or Ironman competition. As you check in, you always see others with huge bike boxes in line with you. Where else would they be going but to the Ironman you’re going to?
The plane ride was uneventful. I slept the whole way. An uncomfortable sleep at best, but better than nothing. Arrival in Auckland ran me through the typical international traveler passport check-in lines. What struck me next was the rather humid climate after getting my luggage. The temperature was fairly warm, maybe in the 70s and drizzling rain. I remember reading about all the microclimates in NZ. This will become more apparent during the drive to Taupo where the rain disappears, the sun emerges amidst beautiful partly cloudy skies, intensely warm while in the sun, but downright chilly in the shade. This should result in an interesting race temperature and weather-wise.
I ride on a smaller bus due to the fact that I booked my own motel. I am staying at the Le Chalet Suisse, which is right behidn the second transition area (bike to run transition, also known as T2 – T1 is the first transition of swim to bike). I have a room which overlooks Lake Taupo and you have a bird’s eye view of the swim and T2. This should be great for my friends staying with me and I am envious of the fact that they will be up there hanging out on the porch, sipping great New Zealand wine or beer, and watching all the Ironman competitors roll past them in the water first, and then in and out of T2. Me, I’ll be cruising along burning every last bit of calories left in my body – hmmm, the wine and hanging out doesn’t sound so bad…
On the smaller bus are 4 of us. 2 are Canucks and 1 is from Northern California. I am heartened by the cheerful and open banter that occurs between them. They remind me that there are only 10,000 people at most worldwide who compete and that once you get into racing you can’t help but bump into people you meet from races past. They tell me that they have the most amazing, friendly, down-to-earth people in the world at these races.
What is it about Ironman competitors then? Why are they open, friendly, and accepting of others?
Perhaps it is the comraderie of people with the same goal – to reach the finish line. There is more support in an Ironman than I’ve ever seen, whether it’s from friends and family or from other racers. One of them was telling me about Ironman Canada where the last racer to cross the finish line (before the 17 hour cutoff) gets an enormous crowd building behind him or her. Usually it’s close to midnight, and the race officials pretty much know who can or cannot finish. As the racer passes each aid station, the people in the aid station follow behind, jogging/walking and/or cheering. By the time the racer approaches the finish line, there is a huge crowd following behind. It is an emotional moment; the entire finish chute is cheering now, urging the racer to keep it up and the finish line is within grasp. Remember the racer who finishes last is a true Ironman in every sense of the word. This person has been going non-stop for 17 hours straight! Usually the racer is a wreck, every muscle is sore, feet aching to stop/stop/stop but can’t because the finish line is finally there, and the 17 hour ordeal is almost over, knowing that as soon as the finish line is crossed, another Ironman is born.
Or maybe it’s the similar stories of trials that many Ironman competitors face. Sometimes it’s a personal journey like myself, sometimes it’s facing incredible odds like emerging from rehab after being a drug user foryears and watching it destroy one’s life. Sometimes they are racing for others, like someone who has died from cancer, or perhaps another competitor whose dream wsa to race and finish Ironman but passed away before they could reach their race. The stories are endless, sometimes tragic, and infinitely bonding.
They give me tips, as I am the only Ir5nman virgin on the bus. Here are a few:
“You don’t need to swim train. I swam for the first time in months last week.” – From a sub-12 hour Ironman competitor! Wow, what great genetics!
“I took Red Bull for the whole bike. I was so wired it took an hour off my bike!”
“Gotta eat pizza the night before. Pasta is too heavy for me.”
“Snacking on Tim Bits is the best!” – Tim Bits are donut holes from a Canadian coffee house, started by some pro-hockey player.
“I read People magazine the night before the race. Otherwise I stress too much.”
“You gotta stay in the host motel to be able to pee in your own hotel room. All you gotta do is run out of transition, go up to your room, an dthen run back down and out.”
“Remember to pee. You should need to pee.” – From a Canuck, who managed to go through one of his entire Ironmans without the urge to pee – Amazing!
“Do what you can do for the moment – don’t worry about the whole race.” – On when the race gets monotonous, and you’re butt tired, and every fiber of your being is saying “why am I doing this?”
“Thank the people at every aid station.”
“Gotta keep your sense of humor.”
“Wax before the race.” – From a male competitor!
“Put on tanning color for great photos.” – Especially if you are a white anglo saxon and don’t want to have this ghostly white appearance in your race photos.
Very funny stuff – but I do agree with the last one. You gotta look good in your race photos.
If I see a camera guy on the bike, I will definitely go into aero position and have a smile on my face. But I DO NOT LOOK AT THE CAMERA. I did that once and looked like a dork. Hunker down in aero position, look cool, and smile like you’re out for another training ride.
If I see a camera guy on the run, I pick up my knees more and kick my legs back just a bit more also as I pass him, no matter how much it hurts. Usually this always happens when I am butt tired and my legs are dead, because I am part way through the run. But I don’t care. I make my legs look like I’m running instead of shuffling, which is probably what I was doing before I saw the camera guy. Again, no looking at the camera. Doesn’t look good later.
The ride to Taupo was filled with great conversation and funny anecdotes. I am amazed at all the stories. Some of them are scary, like the ones about NZ’s unpredictable weather in Taupo, and how years ago they were racing in rain, sun, and then rain again – all in one day. I get the willies thinking about my pretty steel Ritchey Breakaway with no defense against the elements….! I can only hope that someday I will buy the Titanium/Carbon Breakaway supposedly ni testing now. Many were stories of hardship during the races, some memorable, and some half forgotten. Many are of helping other competitors, some are of what goes through their minds at various stages in the race. I am wow-ed by the variety of their finish time, from 11 hours to 16. You can never tell by the way they look how fast they will go. And each Ironman is a different test for each competitor as well. Different weather, road, physical/health conditions exist for each race. One can only hope that the training and mental determination will carry them through the race.
I arrive in Taupo mid-afternoon. Taupo is a beautiful place. The wind had picked up and ws raising swells on the lake. We all hope that wind doesn’t come on race day as that will trash bike times for sure. The air is supremely fresh. It is very scenic and reinvigorating to be there. Taupo is a small town, somewhat like Kona, Hawaii. Somewhat quiet, but many decent restaurants and little shops. The sky is partly cloudy, and the sun is intense due to the elevation.
I quickly get to my room and put on some running shorts. There is a short run session with pro-Ironman Andrea Fisher. I have not been up close to many pros before, but for some reason I expected something different in Andrea. She is taller than me, about 5’9″ I think and supremely muscled without an ounce of fat. She is our tour guide for the course during pre-race week. Today, we run 30 min on the run course to shake out the tightness from the flight. She takes off at what is probably slower than her jog pace. I find that as we move, it slowly creeps up to my base pace and she is barely noticing the run! The others feel the same way. Some drop back or go back to their hotel. I stay with the group because it’s a nice day and it’s nice to keep up the positive sensations going (as my coach would say) of running fast. I’m only going 30 min so it’s no big deal. I do feel good that my body does feel fairly decent after the short run – a testament to my hard-won fitness in the months leading up to the race.
I get back to my room, shower, and go grocery shopping and get some dinner.
After dinner, I put together my bike and notice my rear derailleur is a bit out of whack. Ride-able for tomorrow’s short tour of the bike course, but definitely something to get checked out after we get back.
In my room, I am frustrated that I cannot dialup to the internet on the room phone. It may be my modem, but it is most likely the phone system is digital. So I type this in hopes that somehow I can post it at an internet cafe in town later in the day.
Time for bed.

Last Minute Checks

Hanging out here in my LA apartment and going through my stuff one last time.
Sunglasses, GU, water bottles, bike helmet, bike looks ok…
I always feel like I’ve forgotten something. I guess I’ll have a week to replace it in NZ if I did.
I did forget my bike helmet last year at Pacific Grove. Geez. Racing back to Cupertino the night before the race to get my helmet and race back down to my hotel room. That really sucked.
Checked out my Ritchey Breakaway again. Looks pretty good. I’ve been in contact with the PR firm for Ritchey as I told them that I was racing with their Breakaway. I will be taking some pictures of me racing on their bike and they’ll put me in their newsletter. COOL.
They also told me that they built a Titanium/Carbon Fiber Breakaway! I WANT THAT BIKE – it’s in testing now and I hope it goes into production soon. I may just sell this one after the race and get their new one. And the suitcase will have wheels too!
Went for a swim and run today. Feeling pretty good and less burned out. I know I’m less burned out when I can count laps while swimming. My mind doesn’t drift and I can pay attention. And counting in a 25m pool is REAL challenging if you’ve ever tried it. I hate doing more than 400m in one interval. But, for endurance events, you gotta workout at race pace for intervals up to 400m or more.
This should be interesting as I hang out more in NYC this year and will probably join the YMCA which has a 25m pool. I’ve never done 4000m in a 25m pool. Not sure if I’ll survive the monotony.
At least it’s a beautiful day in LA at the beach. About the only thing I do enjoy down here is the sun on the beach and a cooling breeze blowing from the ocean, and nothing is like a run in that kind of condition. Too bad the rest of LA sucks.
Leaving at 830p on Qantas. I hope to pass out as soon as it takes off. Next week is filled with activities as I joined the Premium Plus Sports Ironman Tour. You can see the activities at their website.

Reflections: Goals for 2005 and Beyond

As I come to my first Ironman, I reflect on the experience and think about triathlon goals I have for this coming year and beyond. Here they are:
To see how close I can get my fitness/strength/abilities to Lance Armstrong.
My coach laughed when I told him this, because it was exactly his goal too!
Lance is definitely a unique individual. Combination of determination/focus plus superior genetics and training has made him an incredible cycling powerhouse. It is reported that he could maintain 495 watts continuously for 30 min, during a time trial used to predict his Tour De France time.
Now you may not have context to understand what 495 watts means to a cyclist, but when I cycle on my Computrainer, I comfortably sustain about 170-180 watts for long periods, and I know I can get to 200-210 watts for high intensity intervals of 2-2.5 minutes.
So imagine I put out my measly 180 watts going up Mt. Eden, a climb in the foothills of Cupertino. I sustain this in my lowest gear to get up the hill and get to about 8.5 MPH. So here comes Lance. Let’s assume we’re both in the same gear and he’s putting out 495 to my 180 watts. That’s 2.75 times my power! So let’s do some back of the napkin calculations. When I’m doing 8.5 MPH, he’s zooming up at 23.375 MPH! And by the way, I’m generating 70 RPM in revolutions, so in theory he’ll probably be doing 192.5 RPM…? Now that calcuation doesn’t make sense as nobody can do 192 RPM on a bike. So now Lance decides to shift up gears and now he’s going further with every revolution than mine!
Imperfect and probably inaccurate calcuations at best but you get the gist of where Lance is versus me, an amateur intermediate cyclist….But nevertheless I told my coach that’s where I want to go. Check back in a few years!
ETA to Goal: Never (probably).
More Realistic: Do the 112 mile bike leg of an Ironman at average speed of 20 MPH.
ETA to Goal: ~2 years.
More Realistic: Generate 250 watts continuous power on 2-2.5 min intervals by end of 2005.
ETA to Goal: Let’s see by end of this year.
To run the NYC Marathon in 4 hours.
ETA to Goal: Potentially this year, more likely the next.
To run the marathon leg of an Ironman in under 4 hours.
This one depends on whether or not I will do another Ironman and whether or not I can tackle a straight marathon in under 4 hours.
ETA to Goal: 2-3 years.
To be able to sustain 1:35 400s, 3:30 800s, and 8 minute mile repeats.
Track workouts are key for me to gaining speed. I hope to get another 10 seconds for my 400s and I hope the rest of the intervals follow suit.
ETA to Goal: End of 2005, potentially 2006.
To swim and maintain a tempo pace of 1:45/100 meters.
Right now, this speed is at the hairy edge of my sprint pace. I can do it maybe once but I start fading quickly to 1:55/100 meters.
ETA to Goal: End of 2005, perhaps 2006.
To move another lane over in my Master’s swim group.
So far, I moved one lane this year and felt really good about it. It’s still challenging to keep up but that’s what I need to push myself.
ETA to Goal: By mid 2006.
To race my first Ironman in 13 hours or less.
Go Ironman NZ!
ETA to Goal: This year….maybe?
To race Pacific Grove Triathlon in 2:30.
Last year, I busted my butt to get 2:47. I think it may happen this year but more likely the next.
ETA to Goal: Pac Grove Tri 2006.
To race Half Vineman in 5:45.
Last year, I broke 6 hours by a hair. Could I gain a whopping 15 minutes this year…? We’ll see….
ETA to Goal: Most likely Half Vineman 2006.

ART and Feeling like Humpty Dumpty

ART stands for Active Release Techniques. It has been my savior over the last few months leading up to the NYC Marathon and Ironman NZ.
It is a unique massage technique which breaks down scar tissue, inducing recovery and healing, and also prevention/curing of scar tissue which is from muscle fibers breaking down and laying down in the wrong direction from normal healthy fibers.
It works great. It also hurts like hell!
I get it at Team Clinic in Santa Clara, CA. The guys there are fantastic and they love watching me scream and writhe in pain as Dr. Steve works on my legs and shoulders. It seems that only crazy triathletes like me go for the full-body ART – hurts so bad during treatment but hurts so good later on.
To think I pay for this….
I have to credit ART and Team Clinic for keeping my body together as the training got more intense. If there ever was someone who could put Humpty Dumpty back together again, these guys could and did with me.

Workout burnout

Man these last two weeks have been tough.
The long biking and running sessions over the many weeks has left me a bit burned out for training. My coach has reassured me that my fitness is more than adequate to cross the finish line, but I can’t help but wonder if I left anything out, or did I do enough miles, etc. etc.
Just get me to the race dang it!
The exceptionally rainy winter in Northern California has really made training a bear. I would much rather be outside than indoors training, but the unpredictable rain clouds has meant many long indoor sessions.
I am not sure I would train through a winter for an early spring event again.
But my coach has given some really good insight into long sessions indoors. He does not believe in 3, 4, 5 or 6 hour rides on the bike trainer, which I have done (rode 100 miles one day in my garage, going fast, going nowhere!). Although the short sessions never can truly replace the long sessions outdoors, there seem to be lots of fitness benefits that can be gained from focused interval workouts indoors of much shorter duration than I thought. This would also have the added benefit of reducing the risk of burnout, as the endless monotony of long indoors sessions wears on the brain and the desire to get back on the trainer or treadmill and do it yet again.
I will put this to the test on Saturday March 5. 1.5 weeks to go!

Preparing to go

Ugh. The worst part about triathlons is the packing beforehand. What to bring, or not to bring…and then worry about 2 weeks in New Zealand. I guess I’ll just have to consider everything as disposable!
I hope my ZIPP 404 race wheels survive. They are packed in along with my Ritchey Breakaway, a packable bike. Very cool. Highly recommend it for obsessive bikers like myself who like to train on vacation. It’s also a great way to visit a new place, seeing it from bike-eye view versus through the windows of a car.
Departing LAX on Saturday!

What does Ironman mean to me?

Well, it’s been a grueling but rewarding 4 months of hard training for Ironman New Zealand.
As I reflect on the experience over the last few months, I have thought deeply about what does finishing Ironman mean to me. These thoughts are:
1. The struggle for training was very high at times. My coach would give me workouts and urge me to push, using heart rate ranges to know when I have reached a certain effort level. Early on, reaching those ranges was fairly easy; my fitness was ok but not yet ready for the intensity that would follow. As I got stronger, my fitness would improve and it would be harder to hit the heart rate ranges. I needed to push even harder and definitely exit the comfort zone on workouts, needing to feel much more burn and discomfort in my muscles as I push more and more in my quest to grow and improve.
Exitting the comfort zone is crucial to increasing performance. When I think about exitting the comfort zone for muscular and aerobic fitness, I also think about exitting the comfort zone when facing the grim realities of life, the issues I have encountered with my personal and professional life, and the struggles to improve myself to better deal with these issues.
I could have retreated into myself, or ran away from my problems, or became frozen in the negativity confronting me. Instead, I chose to face these problems openly, enduring pain at times, and the incredibly uncomfortable feeling that there were things about me that were messed up, needed improving, or changing.
Ironman has come to symbolize the recent struggles I have faced, and my continuing quest to master and conquer these struggles. Although it pains me to say this (ha!), finishing Ironman isn’t important, but the journey for Ironman has been much more important to my psyche than I could have imagined.
2. Ironman has been about learning new skills. Continual learning has always been part of my psyche, and it is one of the reasons why I love triathlon. I have talked before about how I didn’t realize how technical swimming, biking, and running could be, and that there are tons of nuances to each sport and doing them the wrong way would lead to less than good performance to increasing injury risk. But, doing them the right way and reinforcing that through repetition and training leads to superior performance and much less injury risk.
At some point in my life, the learning slowed to a crawl. I acknowledged it but ignored it for a long time and I think it ultimately led to a lowering of self esteem and satisfaction in life. With my entry into triathlon, this learning part of me reawakened and I began to feel happier about myself again, as well as have a more positive state of mind, along with reaping the benefits of improved physical fitness.
3. Finishing Ironman has become a symbol for conquering my struggles. Even though I said in 1. that the journey was more important, I do acknowledge that finishing is also an important component. While not finishing will probably mean that I will just come back again (!), actually making to the finish line will have the added symbolism of winning the struggle against the negative influences within my mind and somehow mastering them.
Being in Ironman over the amount of time that I will take means that I will expend a tremendous amount of mental and physical energy to get to the end. I have encountered this in my two NYC Marathons where getting past mile 20 was a huge step; for some reason, this hits every marathoner sometime between mile 18-21 – your mind and body just starts getting into the point of wanting to slow down and quit. BUT, if you blast through this, the last 6 or so miles becomes incredibly straightforward and you never encounter this demon again.
Racing Ironman I suspect will be of a different flavor. How many times will I think of quitting in the 13 or so hours it will take me to finish? How disciplined and determined will I be to knock these negative feelings down and keep moving? (Important questions to ponder as I approach race day. I am sure I will have more to say on this topic in my post-race report.) Certainly throughout my recent life, I have at many times thought of quitting in some way, shape, or form and giving up. Breaking through these instances when not only your brain wants to give up but possibly your body running on fumes and your legs on the verge of cramping, muscles burning from lactic acid surely makes solving other life problems seem miniscule by comparison.
This is what Ironman means to me. Two weeks to Race Day.

Gonna Fly Now

“Gonna Fly Now…Gonna Fly Now….”
Yesterday, I ran a triple brick as part of my Ironman training. Basically, I ran almost a half ironman yesterday! Just thinking about that is amazing in the fact that I struggled to finish Vineman Half Ironman last year in a tad less than 6 hours. And now I run a half ironman just for a workout. Wow.
But let me tell you – towards the end of that mega workout I was losing steam. I was trying out my coach’s energy deprivation technique to help manage the craving for handouts along a race. Trying to adapt my body to being less dependent on carbo gels is tough. When you eat too much on an Ironman, you inevitably puke it out somewhere in the middle of the run – something I’d like to avoid. So anything to help it adapt to storing more energy, burning what’s stored inside, and to stop stuffing face at every aid station. Since I was just starting this adaptation, I think it drained my legs a little prematurely as I spaced out my gel intake.
So I start humming the Rocky theme, “Gonna Fly now” and it perks me up.
“It’s the…Eye of the Tiger, it’s the cream of the fight…”
I never run with music. I tried it once with my iPod, and it ended up skipping so I stopped that. Also, I don’t like being distracted out there. It can be dangerous! I’ve hit potholes and almost turned my ankle while daydreaming, or my form becomes really messy. I love to practice my focus on perfect running form and economy and thus, my concentration needs to be total.
In this month’s Runner’s World magazine (March 2005), there is an article about running with music. It extols the benefits of music and running, and how it can improve your running and/or make it less monotonous. I say, more power to you if you can do it. Whatever works.
For me, I enjoy the silence and focus of running as I arrow in on perfect running….Except when I start powering down…
Then I start humming Rocky movie music. “Gonna Fly Now” and “Eye of the Tiger” are my favorites. I continue to focus on my form, ignore the energy drained legs, and get pumped up from those songs. I envision Rocky Balboa in his quest to get himself out of the ghettos and nobody-life, and to win against all odds against his boxing opponents who of course come trained with 100X more resources than he does. I see myself during some of the more inspirational moments in the movies, the runs up the steps with the kids following behind, the snow running and working out in frozen conditions in Rocky IV… I force my legs to move faster despite them screaming, “stop Dave stop”.
Music doesn’t work for me, but Rocky does, especially when I most need it.