Monthly Archives: June 2007

Strongest Dad in the World

Forwarded to me by a buddy of mine. Truly inspirational. Like Rick Reilly says, compared to Dick Hoyt, I suck too.
Strongest Dad in the World
[From Sports Illustrated, By Rick Reilly]
I try to be a good father. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay for their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots. But compared with Dick Hoyt, I suck.
Eighty-five times he’s pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he’s not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars–all in the same day. Dick’s also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. on a bike. Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?
And what has Rick done for his father? Not much–except save his life.
This love story began in Winchester, Mass., 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs. “He’ll be a vegetable the rest of his life;” Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. “Put him in an institution.”
But the Hoyts weren’t buying it. They noticed the way Rick’s eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. “No way,” Dick says he was old. “There’s nothing going on in his brain.”
“Tell him a joke,” Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain.
Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? “Go Bruins!” And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, “Dad, I want to do that.”
Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described “porker” who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he tried. “Then it was me who was handicapped,” Dick says. “I was sore for two weeks.”
That day changed Rick’s life. “Dad,” he typed, “when we were running, it felt like I wasn’t disabled anymore!”
And that sentence changed Dick’s life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.
“No way,” Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren’t quite a single runner, and they weren’t quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway,
then they found a way to get into the race officially: In 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following year.
Then somebody said, “Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?”
How’s a guy who never learned to swim and hadn’t ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick tried.
Now they’ve done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii. It must be a buzzkill to be a 25-year-old stud getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don’t you think?
Hey, Dick, why not see how you’d do on your own? “No way,” he says. Dick does it purely for “the awesome feeling” he gets seeing Rick with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together.
This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best time? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992–only 35 minutes off the world record, which, in case you don’t keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a
wheelchair at the time.
“No question about it,” Rick types. “My dad is the Father of the Century.”
And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries was 95% clogged. “If you hadn’t been in such great shape,” one doctor told him, “you probably would’ve died 15 years ago.”
So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other’s life.
Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass., always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father’s Day.
That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy.
Watch the Video

No Ironman Training in Beijing

This week I was vacationing in Beijing. I was appalled by the amount of pollution in the air, which made me wonder if anyone trained Ironman here. My conclusion is that going outside in that soup they call atmosphere is not a healthy thing. Couple that with the possibility of theft, the crazy drivers in China, and you don’t have much cycling going on in the city itself.
A friend I met here said there was a big mountain biking community here. That surprised me. I wandered around looking for a good bike shop to buy a local bike jersey and shorts, maybe with some local brand on it and not the usual Tour De France teams on it. No dice. I saw some bike shops but they were devoted to keeping the millions of what seems to be 20-50 year old bikes working as a main means of cheap transport for the population. No high end carbon fiber bikes there! But maybe you have really have to look to find that elusive bike shop.
Swimming isn’t so bad. There are definitely gyms around with decent pools. Swimming is more popular in China.
Running wasn’t a problem. There were parks where I saw joggers. Tons of local brands abound, mimicking Western brands in logo design. I saw tons of running shoes too, but have no idea if their cushioning is as good or as durable as Western brands. But definitely the problem was braving the pollution which turned the skies a white/grey every day I was there. At first I thought it was fog, but the pollution here is much worse than the pollution was many years ago in LA. Only God knows what your lungs will look like after a few years of living here.
Perhaps this will all change with the Beijing Olympics next year in 2008. Already they are selling logo wear and souvenirs a year in advance of the Olympics. Supposedly they will find a way to lower the pollution by next summer – who knows for sure. Somehow, I am not sure I would want to be training and racing under those hazy, polluted skies even if it is for a short while.

Talking with the Pros and the Super-Fast: What They Don’t Teach You in Triathlon Books

This year at Ironman Brazil, I was fortunate enough to meet both Hillary Biscay and Nina Kraft, two incredibly talented pros on the Ironman circuit. It’s interesting to hear their banter about how they race and how often they race.
For example, Hillary raced 11 Ironmans last year. Incredible! And as a pro and talented athlete, she consistently placed either in the top 10 or just finished plain fast. How can that be? According to literature, it takes about 4 weeks on average for the body to recover from an Ironman. Is that claim false or misunderstood?
Another example: I talked to Nina Kraft. She was ready to hit one of the 101 triathlon series 2 weeks after IM Brazil. At her skill level, she could definitely place high, if not win the race. But to race 2 weeks after IM Brazil? Unheard of.
And then there are my triathlon buddies in the Bay area, one of which came to Brazil. He is also super-fast and races all the time. I asked him how he could race so much, and he replied that most of the races he goes to, he uses as training. So for him, many of these races he races at “low intensity” but against most measures, his race times are phenomenal for “just a training day”.
After my conversations in Brazil, I thought back to snippets of conversations with other people: my super-fast triathlon friends, my coach; readings from triathlon magazines like this pro’s favorite workout or published training programs for “advanced” athletes in magazines in books.
I would hear from my coach who has the unbelievable ability to race within 4 beats of his lactate threshold the whole way and just hold it there, on the hairy edge of flameout but maxing out his race effort in the bid to win. Any book would tell you that you should always keep your heart rate in the aerobic zone. Perhaps this is true, perhaps it is not the whole story…?
And then there are the training programs which show conflicting theories on quality versus quantity. Should you constantly do 6 hour bike rides on the weekends for weeks on end or should you train at high intensity for lower time, and then pop up your ride time length for about 3-4 weeks before tapering for a race? I just read in Running magazine an article about marathon training. They gave 3 training plans. The advanced training plan started at 18 mile runs at the beginning. Wow. That’s flirting with the wall on week one of the training program!
I was missing something. In reading a lot and now researching a lot through conversations, I have found that the story is much more complex. It would be nice to just follow training advice and programs in books forever, but I think that it only can get you so far. I think that the authors have a tough time to write about triathlon and have to equalize the theories so that the general population can benefit from them. But herein lies the problem, where the levelling of the information has also meant that you can’t give a piece of advice which is applicable to everyone, as everybody’s body responds differently to training. So books tend to be great for those starting out and into intermediate levels, but I think they’re not able to deliver specialized, individualized training advice for those who want to go beyond intermediate.
As I enter into my third year of Ironman, and my fifth in triathlon, I feel that I have crossed from beginner to intermediate, and now and touching on advanced. By advanced, I don’t necessarily mean that I have the skills and talent to become pro; I do mean that I am maximizing my potential as a triathlete.
But the crossing from intermediate to advanced is proving to be a mythical ground full of theories and varying bits of knowledge, sometimes contradicting each other. I have decided to blog about my journey from intermediate to advanced in this category called “Intermediate to Advanced” and publish my thoughts and findings.
So in this post, I set the stage because I believe that my background has a huge bearing on how I apply the knowledge I pick up. Here’s where I came from:
I am a big believer that one’s background in sports from their youth has a big effect on their success as a triathlete. In high school, I never played any sports. I studied a lot but did no sports at all. No track. No running or swimming for competition. I did biking for fun but I never trained cycling. When I hit college, I started lifting weights and did some martial arts. After a string of injuries to my knees, I moved from martial art to martial art and ended up in Aikido where I didn’t need to kick at all.
Summer after my freshman year, I did try to run. I actually enjoyed it a lot. However, I stupidly ran with tennis shoes and knew nothing about running form. My knees started to hurt from the stress and pounding and I gave up.
After college, I played team volleyball for a while. But one year, I went up for a block and when I landed, I managed to herniate 3 discs in my spine. That took me out of any sport for about 9 months.
Then when I went to work for Yahoo!, I entered startup mode and basically didn’t do anything but work for many years. I lifted weights inconsistently but that’s about it.
Until 2002, when I joined Team in Training and trained for my first triathlon in Pacific Grove.
Since I did not have a strong background in sports, I did not have the muscular base that others have. I could not believe how hard it was to advance in the 3 disciplines without that base. Lots of hits and misses along the way.
I believe age is certainly a factor in my triathlon success. I started triathlon in 2002 at the age of 37. At this age, you don’t make gains or recover in the same way as when you’re younger. I’ve had to adjust my training for both factors. You always want to get somewhere faster, and you can’t because your body just can’t grow in strength as fast as when you were younger.
Entering into triathlon relatively injury-free has also had an impact. Consider those athletes who have run for years and have really banged up their joints and muscles due to poor form and heel striking. They keep running despite the pain and have caused permanent damage to their bodies. Even though I had some injuries while younger, those have all healed relatively well and allowed me to start triathlon training without pains and problems. That’s not to say I didn’t get injured along the way. But more on this in a later post.
Lastly, I had no natural technique to draw from. In swimming, I did not have a natural feel for the water like some swimmers do, or have natural body position, meaning I’m a butt dragger by nature and it’s not natural for me to lay very horizontal just by lying on the water like other swimmers. My body composition and proportions naturally cause my butt to sink in the water a bit, which slows me down unless I focus on body position while I swim.
In cycling and running, I could not believe how much technique involved both sports. But yet I had no natural ability to draw from. I had to unlearn any old bad habits and learn all new ones.
And I started my triathlon training via a very generalized program with Team In Training. I then attempted to use some generalized programs found on my triathlon club website, as well as purchased through one half ironman race. I coupled that with training programs in some books I bought. All of them got me part way there and allowed me to finish races, but finishing races in pain and suffering was not what I was after. I saw friends and others finishing races as if they were just out having fun, and they still performed much better than I did. I knew there had to be something more. I crossed into intermediate status when I signed up my coach, M2, began a consistent program of physical therapy, researched technique and trained for it, and learned how to listen to my body and adjust my training program to my body’s needs, sometimes changing what my coach prescribed.
So, I started as basically a non-athlete old guy and became one over the space of 5 years. On this topic, many of my posts will probably have the most relevance to also a non-athlete wanting to become an athlete, but I’m sure they will be interesting to more natural athletes as well as those who come with great sports backgrounds. I will concentrate on my observations on moving from intermediate to advanced.

Attitude: Getting Up at 5am

One other note about getting up at 5am. If you have the right attitude, it’ll make gettnig up easier.
Every morning I pop out of bed knowing I’m on the journey to my next Ironman. I know that every workout I put in adds fuel to the tank and trains my body and I love the training so much that it makes me want to get up immediately and get to the workout.
It is with this energy that I wake every morning, and gives me the impetus to leap out of bed when it’s only 5am and dark outside.
On the flip side, having a poor attitude only makes it worse. Dreading every morning to get up and get to your workout will guarantee you will never ever get up easily at 5am.

Early to Rise: Getting Up at 5am

Sometimes, people ask me, “how the hell do you get up at 5am every day?”
Us triathletes usually do become morning people at some point, so that we can hit that 5:30a Masters swim class and/or get our workouts over with so that we have the rest of the day to do everything else. Originally, I was a night person. It took me 4 months to retrain my cycle to wake me up at 5am every day. But also, I find that working out in the morning gets my blood going for the rest of the day, and I find that working out around dinner time is tough because I get hungry, or I eat so late that it’s uncomfortable.
So here are my tips for waking up early:
1. Yes it took me 4 months to change my cycle. Like with many things, you gotta have patience and stamina to stick with it until your sleep cycle does switch over.
2. Light is important. When my alarm goes off, I turn on a light immediately. Light is a well-known signal to the human body that morning has come. When it’s dark, it’s incredibly harder to want to get up.
3. Warmth is important. I keep the heat in my house at night at 72 degrees. If it’s too cold, I just want to dig deeper into my covers. If I do get up, my body has not warmed up yet and when it’s cold, I can barely move and it keeps me groggy.
4. Go to sleep earlier. Don’t stay up late watching TV. I usually try to go to bed by 10pm. If you find that you have other distractions which keep you up, take one night a weekend to just sleep as long as you want to recover any lost sleep during the week. It’s one way I sometimes can go on for days on only 5-6 hours of sleep, is by taking an 8 hour Saturday night sleep and waking up whenever I feel like it on Sunday morning. By the way, napping during the day, if possible, works wonders too.
5. Consistency is key. Once I started getting up at 5am, I try never to stop. The worst thing you can do is to bounce back and forth between waking times. It just makes it that harder to get up at one time when your body’s cycle is being interfered with like that. Over the last few years of doing this, I now find that I wake up at 5am naturally and don’t need my alarm so much. My body has become set to getting up at 5am. It’s really a piece of cake.
6. Train your eyes to pop open wide as soon as the alarm goes off.
7. Train your body to begin moving off the bed as soon as the alarm goes off. The slower you are, the harder it is to get up.
8. Don’t hit the Snooze button on your alarm.
Within a few short weeks or months, you’ll be popping out of bed before the sun comes up.

Training the Ironman Shuffle Begins!

Running for the first time on Thursday morning, I decided to see how fast I would have to move my legs in order to achieve a certain pace. Given this was my first time running after Ironman Brazil, I was going to run a form run but at the end I usually do some fast running for 30 seconds with 30 seconds break.
After 10 minutes of drills, I made it to the second half of my 20 minute run at which time I began my fast short runs. I compacted my stride and proceeded to speed up, rest, speed up, rest. I made it all the way up to 9 MPH which is about a 6:20 min/mile. Boy did my legs cycle! Normally when I run track workouts on the treadmill, I can get almost up to 10 MPH (6:00 min/mile). But that is with my normal stride. Compacting my stride really made my legs churn FAST! I knew that I would have train this specifically to get my body accustomed to such a high cycle rate for my legs.
Then today, I went out for a 2 hour ride. Feeling good upon reaching home, I decided I would start shuffle training today. So I threw on my running shoes and then I shot out the door with two goals in mind. First, I really needed to get my body used to hitting the ground running after the bike so as not to lose time on the run. Second, I ran with the Ironman shuffle as fast as possible to see just how it would feel.
It was tough! My legs were tired from the ride, and I could not lengthen my stride at all. I was forced to run with the shuffle! So I just churned them as fast as I could. I went out into my neighborhood and then around and back for only about 7:30 minutes. I knew after this run that this would take some time and effort to train. Next time I will have to bring my GPS to see how fast I am actually running with the shuffle style.

The Spontaneous Formation of Adhesions

Ow ow…tight tight..ow ow…
Those were the words I expressed when I got up this last Thursday morning. My hamstrings were really tight, probably in part due to the strained poplitiuses (poplittii?) on both legs, with my left poplitius being the worst for wear. But having taken the day off on Wednesday, I knew it could not be tightness or soreness from a previous day’s workout. I knew it had to be the dreaded spontaneous formation of adhesions.
I got up and went downstairs and both hamstrings were not loosening up at all. I got into my running clothes and tried to stretch, but stretching could not make the tightness go away. I knew there was only one thing to do. And that was to RUN. I got on the treadmill and warmed up. Both hamstrings took a while to loosen up, but once I got going, things felt better. I did a form run on the treadmill and ending with some accelerations at the end. When I finished, I got off and stretched and felt much better.
I talked to my physical therapist about spontaenous adhesion formation. These adhesions seemingly come out of nowhere and most annoyingly when you’re either in taper or in recovery. You get these knots, tightness, and soreness just from sitting around doing nothing. Apparently, there is a natural shearing action of the muscles to break down adhesions as the muscle fibers are working and moving against each other. So when you’re working out a lot, adhesions form, but many of them get broken down by you working out. Once you stop working out, like during taper or recovery, your muscles seem to want to bunch up at times and sometimes you think you’ve really hurt yourself.
I joked with my physical therapist about the fact that once you start racing Ironman, you can’t stop ever racing Ironman if simply to avoid the soreness and tightness of spontaneous adhesion formation. It’s sometimes worse after a race because your muscles seem to knot up all by themselves in absence of hard work. The only way to get rid of this is to keep training. Race on!

145 LBS.!!! Part II: The Gap

Losing all this weight is a nice side benefit from training so much. But one downside is now all my pants don’t fit me! I dropped one more inch off my waist so I went over to Gap and bought a boatload of new pants from them.
I can only hope that I maintain this waist size throughout the year. I think during the off season I may go back an inch, so I won’t throw away my previous pants. But it is time to clean out my closet so many clothes need to leave and now it’s more easier motivation to get rid of all these pants that don’t fit no matter what!
It should be interesting to see if I’ve reached a new setpoint for my body in terms of its weight and overall size.

IM Brazil: Recovery +5, +6 Days

This year my recovery from Ironman is moving at a rapid pace. At my first Ironman (NZ), it took me 6 weeks to fully recover. Last year at IM Austria, it took me 4 weeks. And this time, I think it will be less than 4 weeks. On Friday, I went for a swim and only did 1600m, but I was able to swim with no aerobic problems. Only when I tried to do a fast set that I felt my body jump to LT only after the 3rd 50m of a 6×50 fast set. It was then I just decided to get out of the pool.
Yesterday the same thing happened on the bike. I went out for an hour ride on Foothill Expressway which is flat, gentle rolling terrain. While on that flat terrain, I didn’t feel any discomfort at all. Maybe my HR was a tiny bit higher than normal, but I felt pretty good. It was only when I tried to accelerate up a small hill when I jumped straight to LT and I felt like I was exerting much more than normal.
I want to change my recovery from previous years where I went international and basically did nothing for a full week afterwards. I recovered, but the inactivity made it really hard to get back into the activity after such a long layoff. So now I want to try keeping sessions short, but testing where the boundary is between my effort level and when I hit LT. I won’t push it too hard, but I want to keep my body stimulated so that it doesn’t fall into that area where I can’t really pick it up easiliy. I’ve got a longer season this year with IM WA at the end of the year and need to keep focus for many months after now. In previous years, it’s been really tough to rally after my single Ironman and I need to change that.

145 LBS.!!!

I just weighed myself this morning (Sunday after Ironman Brazil, one week later) and I’m a whopping 145 lbs.! At NYC Marathon last year, I weighed in at 147 lbs. And now with all this training, I’ve dropped another 2 lbs. at race time. Amazing! At least I don’t have to drag another 2 lbs with me while I run or bike. I wonder how much lower I will drop. It’s not like I’m trying to lose weight. It’s just happening naturally with all the training volume I’m experiencing.