Monday, April 28, 2008

No more Chipotle meals

I've posted to the right the nutrition of today's Chipotle order (Chicken burrito bol with rice, black beans, tomato salsa, corn salsa, cheese and lettuce).

I'm so very disappointed. I love getting lunch at Chioptle: fresh, tasty ingredients (they even sponsor a bicycle team!) that's served up to order.

I've been sticking to getting chicken burrito bols from Chipotle (cutting out the high-calorie tortilla) when I do go out to eat for lunch. And I thought this was a good thing.

You can futz around with your own order using this handy Chipotle Nutrition Facts Calculator.

I've seriously got to re-think my Chipotle affection altogether.

What gets me is the PDV of the cholesterol (from the chicken) and the SODIUM!!! (from the chicken, and, believe it or not, the salsas). Simply absurd how hight they are.

Grumble, grumble. Another food source drops off the list.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

running, donating blood and biking

I still haven't jumped back into the training regimen full-force, so I decided to do my own thing this weekend and went for a long run Saturday and a long ride today.

Yesterday morning, I went to my favorite run path, Sawyer Camp Trail, at dawn to get a nice long run in. I decided to do a timed run and, an hour after starting, I'd put in 7.5 miles. Wow. I remember when I'd huff and puff (and walk a bit) trying to struggle through a 10K. Now, I feel like if I'd had the time, I could've kept going a lot farther than the distance I did.

I guess, given the fact I raced for almost two hours in my first triathlon, I shouldn't marvel so much at running for an hour straight, but it was still a nice feeling.

When I showed up for my appointment to give blood a little later in the afternoon, my blood pressure was only 90/50 (pulse was 66 which is high for me, it's usually around 56). The nurse was a little surprised, and when I explained I'd just been on a long run, she reluctantly let me go ahead and give. Five minutes after the stick, I'd donated a pint and was sitting at the refreshment table waiting to make sure I was, indeed, feeling ok after the blood loss (I was).

After waiting the mandatory 24 hours of no exercise, I hopped on the bike this afternoon and rode the "VC loop" which is a 21-mile ride that cuts through Atherton, Portola Valley and Woodside. It's called the VC loop because it cuts through some of the richest neighborhoods on the peninsula, and the kinds of cars passing me (Ferraris, Maseratis and Benzes, oh my!) definitely lived up to the reputation. Even though I'd put on sunscreen, I still managed to burn my back a little (was wearing my sleeveless triathlon top) in the 91 degree heat.

I was rather tired by the time I got home, but that didn't stop me from taking the girls to the pool, and I have to admit the cool water felt good on my leg muscles. Even now, six hours later, I'm still feeling tight and hope I don't have a night full of muscle cramps ahead of me.

Now that I've got these workouts behind me, I think it's time to hop back on the scheduled workout wagon (at week 5). Only 8 weeks to go to my next triathlon!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

resources for the beginner triathlete

Can't believe I was blind to the web site until just this week. Now I can't get enough of it.

The site's aimed, of course, at the beginner triathlete, and it's chock full of good stuff like
I'm almost embarrassed at how much sleep I lost devouring the content on the site last night.

Tempted to add my own "first race" experience to their collection, but I'll leave it here on the blog (for now).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

what to do after my first triathlon?

So how to keep the training momentum up now that my first triathlon is over?

The answer is to sign up for other physical challenges, so now I've got a summer full of them. If you're going to be at any of these yourself, let me know!
Looks like there's a hole in my schedule in August... depending on how our vacation plans go, I might run a 10K up in Canada mid-August. But maybe I need to find another triathlon to compete in instead?

Regardless, the event that's got me worried and is pushing me to train better is the Alcatraz swim in September.

Starting in May, I'll be joining the PCA Masters swim program to get my swim groove on. Given how much trouble I had with the swim in my triathlon, I can only think this is going to be a good thing.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

my first triathlon - split times are in

So, the official results of my first triathlon are in. I've known for a week that I finished the race in 1:55:42, coming in 282nd of 385 racers. That felt pretty good, all things considered. Way above the last one in.

So, here are my splits (and how they rank among the 385 competitors):
  • 1/2 mile swim: 0:16:44 (279)
  • 13 mile bike: 0:55:17 (277)
  • 4 mile run: 0:43:41 (273)
  • Total: 1:55:42 (282)
In looking at the times, I'm assuming the transition times are included in the leg that follows, since by my bike computer, I know it only took me 48 minutes to ride the course, and it took a while to get from the lake to the transition area.

But when I'm stacked up against my age group, I came in 40th of 42. Meh.

I take comfort in the fact that guys from my age group placed 2, 3 and 5 in the overall race, so it's a competitive bracket. If I think it's going to get easier as I get older, I'm sorely mistaken, though. The 40-44 bracket is almost as big as my 35-39 group, and I'd have placed 32nd of 38 in with the same time in the older bracket. (It seems I'm not the only one discovering triathlons are a great way to get and stay in shape.)

At least now I've got my baseline from which to get better, no?

Oh, and I caught the Ford Ironman 70.3 Florida Triathlon on TV this week. Inspirational stuff, and I think I've set my sights on doing something that distance in a couple years :^).

Friday, April 18, 2008

my first triathlon - the run and the finish

This is the last post covering my experience actual doing my first triathlon race, the ICE Breaker Triathlon in Granite Bay, CA, on April 13, 2008. See setup to swim to T1 and the bike and T2 for the first two installments.

Turns out I'd bested Thom by three and a half minutes on the bike leg. By now, it was 82 degrees and sunny, and the heat really started to get to me. At the first aid station (just 100 yards out of the transition area), I stopped and took on Gatorade and water. No need to try to drink and run at the same time (and spill most of the cup's contents), I could pause, drink, then go.

As I started running again, my calves felt like they were trying to cramp up. This was a new sensation for me after a bike-to-run transition. In previous bricks, it'd always felt like my legs were made of rubber and my thighs somehow weren't functioning properly. Never a problem with the calves... until today. Likely, it was due to the heat and my fluid intake. I was hoping it wouldn't get worse as I kept going.

The run path exited the nice paved sidewalk and entered the dirt path (cross country, oh fun!). By now, I'd picked up a running partner. Actually, he'd picked me up, coming up from behind and then passing me (barely). By the number on his right calf, I could see he was a 58 year old guy. On his left calf was a big red Ironman M tattoo. Was he an Ironman? A wannabe? Much to distract me as we ran, up until he pulled away from me after a little uphill section on the run.

By the time I hit the first aid station at mile 1, I'd been able to run through the tight feeling in my calves and by the time I entered the second mile (fueled on a little more water and gatorade), I was feeling in the zone on the run.

I'd done all my run training on the road, and here this was a trail run with a lot of little up-n-down hills. I wasn't used to all the little up-and-down roller coaster hills, and they started taking their toll, especially as we were running on what I assume used to be lake bed. In other words: no shade, hot sun, misery.

I started walking the up-hills because I could feel my temperature rising as my energy drained. Yes, I was getting passed by stronger runners (the top women racers were now catching up from their wave start). Every time I was passed, I tried to same something encouraging to the passer ("go go go!" or "nice running" or "keep it up!"). I figured I'd appreciate the same treatment if/when I passed anyone, and by now I knew I was going to finish this race, my first triathlon was almost over!

After the turnaround, I managed to keep in a pack of guys that took the same walk-the-uphills-run-elsewhere approach to the running leg with me, and we held together through the biggest hill just before mile 3 and through to the last aid station at mile 3.

Truth be told, the run went so much faster than I thought it would (in my mind at least, don't know about the actual time on the clock). Before I knew it, I had gotten to the end of the parking lot opposite the transition area with about 300 yards to run to the finish line. Lots of folks in their portable chairs along the course watching us sweat it out. More than one person said "I don't know how they do it!" as I ran past them... a nice pick-me-up as I knew exactly how I'd done it: months and months of training.

To motivate me to go a bit faster, when I saw the finish line and the clock above it still 200 yards away, I set my sights on the guy 50 yards in front of me as the one to pass before we finished. At almost a sprint, I pulled ahead of him with barely 20 yards to go.

As I ran across the finish line (hearing the announcer say "here's number 141, Thomas Kriese!") I looked up at the clock to see I'd managed to pull it all in under two hours. Soon I heard the screams of "Daddy! Daddy!" as my daughters caught sight of me crossing the finish line.

They weren't too crazy about hugging me as the sweat poured off, but they seemed happy to dance around (the long wait for daddy to finish was over). My lovely wife wasn't so bashful about the sweat and gave me a great hug and kiss. She told me how proud of me she was, and I can't even begin to tell her just how important her support of me has been these last months. Her making the space for me to train (I tried my best to do things early in the morning while they all slept) allowed me to be fully prepared for the race. I couldn't have done it without her.

And as I looked around to see where Thom might be, there he was, right beside me grinning ear to ear. We exchanged congrats as I began to wonder, did he pass me on the run? How could I have missed him? Maybe when I stopped at the aid station at mile 3?

Turns out I'd beaten Thom by 30 seconds. I'd put enough distance between us on the bike to squeak out a win overall. It was a bit of a hollow victory though, as Thom had muscled through whatever had ailed him during the swim and was hampered by an inability to catch his breath the rest of the race (Thom got checked out by a doc, and we suspect he had a swim-induced pulmonary edema - SIPE). I know if he hadn't been hampered with SIPE, he'd have beaten me easily. Still, I appreciate him letting me best him in my first triathlon (this was his fifth).

So, I've done it. My first triathlon is in the bag. I can call myself a triathlete.

And just like Joe Friel had promised in his Your First Triathlon book, by following his training program, I'd finished with a smile.

It's still just sinking in that I finally did it. Wow, my first triathlon. After six months of training, it's done.

Before I do my next one, I really have to work on my swim. Time to start training again.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

my first triathlon - the bike and T2

Now that I can call myself a triathlete, I'm sharing the details of my first race with you so you can learn from what went well and what didn't as I completed my race. This post picks up where my previous post on setup to swim to T1 left off.

After clipping into my pedals, I started working my way up the gears on my hybrid K2 Astral 4.0 bike. While in college, I did a lot of bike riding, so this leg felt the strongest for me.

The course for the ICE Breaker Triathlon was two laps on twisty, rolling terrain with a lot of little 5% grade hills. The biggest challenge (as we'd all been warned) was that our cornering skills would be tested, and boy was that advice dead-on.

However, before getting into the twisty rolling portion of the ride, there was a flat straightaway that stretched out for about 3/4 of a mile. Perfect for a high gear push to get up to 24mph. As I was heading out and into my first mile of riding, there were already guys from the first wave of swimmers returning to start their second lap on the course.

I made sure to focus on keeping my own cadence and not get caught up on being passed by guys on tri bikes leaning over onto their aero bars. I set my sights on reeling in the bikers in front of me. By the time I'd reached the far end of the course, I'd managed to pass up a half dozen folks which was harder than it should have been due to all the twists in the road.

Shortly after the first turnaround, I passed Thom while he was still outbound (he did the race on a mountain bike... what a trooper!). After that, it was focusing on the road ahead of me while still noticing there were a lot more bikes on the road as the waves of racers entered into the bike course.

By the time I was on the straightaway heading back to the start of my second lap, the road was full of people racing their hearts out.

While drafting was forbidden per the race officials, it seemed there were a lot of loose interpretations as to how close one could follow without technically "drafting." Since there was no one looking out to make sure the no drafting rule was being adhered to, there were clumps of cyclists moving their way around the course. I guess if folks really were that set on getting a better time, they'll just have to live with themselves.

As I came around the bike lap turn around, I looked down to see that my bicycle computer was registering 80 degrees out on the blacktop.

The second lap was similar to the first in that I continued to get passed by folks on road bikes and tri bikes. The folks hunkered over their aero bars as they passed didn't bother me so much (they should have been passing me, no?), the ones on their road bikes bothered me a little.

As Thom put it, "if I hear 'on your left' one more time, I'm gonna scream." I still took solace in the fact I was continuing to pass others, both male and female as I made my way around the course on my last lap. So I got my share of saying "on your left" in, too.

While I worried a little bit about getting a flat, I wasn't so unfortunate as the four folks I saw cursing their luck as they peeled their tires off rims on the side of the road.

The only bad thing I saw was out towards the turnaround at the far end of the course, one of the volunteers was at the side of the road hovering over a racer who'd either crashed or collapsed on the side of the road (nowhere near a turn, tho). By the time I passed the spot on my return leg, the EMTs were on site checking her out more thoroughly. Thom told me that by the time he passed the scene, she was on a stretcher. Here's hoping she's ok.

After 47 minutes or so on the road, I sped back into the transition area to hear a very sweet observation: "and we have our first hybrid bike finishing!" (yay me!)

I coasted to a stop at my towel, threw off my helmet, changed into my running shoes (more Gu, more carbo-water) and exited through the run-out chute feeling pretty good. My T2 felt really fast.

The swim leg was long behind me, though not forgotten. The bike leg went well, and now just one leg was in the way of me finishing the race. I could walk from here and be able to call myself a triathlete, but I was going to run as far and as fast as I could. After all, Thom is a much stronger runner, and I'd hoped I'd put in enough of a gap between us on the bikes that he wouldn't catch me out on the run course.

I said I hoped, right?

Next post: the run and the finish.

my first triathlon - setup to swim to T1

Now that I can call myself a triathlete, I'm sharing the experience of my first race (ICE Breaker Triathlon at Granite Bay, CA on April 13, 2008) so maybe you, the reader, can learn from what went right and what didn't go so well in my race.

Today, I cover my experience all the way from checking in at the registration table through the first transition (T1). (see also: the bike and T2 and the run and the finish)

All the advanced preparation for the race went as well as could be expected.

My friend Thom and I got to the registration at just about 7am. Upon picking up my race packet, I was reminded that I'm 38 years old by the woman verifying my registration (thanks), and I was assigned number 141 for my first triathlon. Thom got number 140, so I think there's something about alphabetical order in the number assignments (our names are similar through the first two letters of the last name).

We were in the transition area well ahead of most folks, so much so that we had our pick of the transition area to set up our stuff. Of course, the best racks -- closest to the bike in/out chutes and in the middle of it all -- were reserved for tri club members. It pays to pay for membership, so it seems. Of the unreserved racks, we chose a rack that was close to the Run exit thinking that our ability to ride bikes in the transition area made sense to be as far from the bike in/bike out chutes without suffering much of a time penalty for doing so.

Time to set up my transition area: I hung my bike by its seat, spread out a towel and laid out my bike shoes (and socks) by my running shoes (and socks), and put my sun glasses inside my bike helmet. Last thing to arrange: two packets of Gu and a water bottle full of Power Bar replenishment drink. Because I didn't have a number belt (will get one before the next race), I pinned my bib to my tri top and laid it across my bike's handlebars to change into after the swim.

With my transition areas set up to my liking, we still had over 90 minutes to wait around for the start. I took my bike out for a spin to make sure all was working okay (it was) and to burn off some of the nervous energy that had filled me up since waking up early this morning. Once I'd returned from my short two-mile ride, I walked the transition area looking at people's bikes and setups to get a glimpse of what might come if I decide to keep doing this.

There was a "Baby ICE Breaker" race (basically, half the distance of ours) that started at 8am, so I watched all the racers work through their swim and then run the third of a mile from the lake up to the transition area.

It would seem the smart peeps brought flip-flops to stage by the shore of the lake so they could run up the shore without the jagged-rock-to-the-sole problem. Needless to say, I wasn't one of these planful people. In any case, there were still lots of bare-footed folks running up, so I took heart that it'd be okay for me.

What surprised me watching the Baby ICE Breaker was how many folks were still completely in their wet suits (farmer johns or full suits) as they entered the transition area. Granted, these were newbies (like me), but, as was confirmed for me later, taking your suit off while you're still in the water is the way to go. The last thing you want to do is run up the beach, legs pumping and expanding in the wet suit, while the suit dries to your skin. Yes, these folks struggled mightily in T1 to get out of their wet suits and into their bike gear.

So, once the Baby ICE Breaker racers were out on the bike course, I put my wet suit half way on (legs only) and walked the third-of-a-mile to the lake shore to get ready to race.

By now my nerves were in high gear. The markers delineating the triangular half-mile course looked VERY far out in the water from shore. I waded in and started swimming around to get acclimated. After swimming in the Bay last weekend, the water in Folsom Lake felt positively warm (63 degrees).

It was just a matter of waiting for my wave to take off at 9:14am.

The first wave (29 years old and younger) took off at 9am, providing me an opportunity to see how far out folks ran before starting to swim (about 75 feet). The second wave (30-34 years old) took off at 9:07am and my heart was now in my throat knowing I was next.

As we milled about the start area (you had to be standing on shore), the first swimmers started climbing out of the water after just 9 minutes to do the swim (wow!). I knew I'd take a lot longer, and kind of got lost in thought about my own swim and didn't pay attention to where I was standing in my own wave's staging for the race.

When the countdown from 10 started, I realized I was not in the best position on shore: in the middle of the course, up front, with racers four deep behind me. Oops.

The starter yelled GO! and we were off, running into the water. I think I ran in a little farther than I should have before diving forward, but nerves and adrenaline were in high gear. When I finally dove in, I started to freestyle as best I could, considering I was surrounded by flailing hands and feet and arms and legs.

That's when things got dicey for me. If I wasn't swimming up and over the guys in front of me (heels to the face and shoulder), there was some guy swimming up on top of me from behind. I couldn't seem to get to an outside lane to get clear of traffic, and I wasn't relaxing (by any means) into my strong. Truth be told, I was a little panicked, and doubt flashed through my mind whether I was doing the right thing.

The first 200 yards of the swim were miserable going.

Then, our pack of swimmers strung out a bit and a gap opened up. I was able to make it to the outside of the pack and start to focus on relaxing during my stroke. I kept stroking and breathing, breathing and stroking, crawling through the water on the way to the first turn marker.

Because the level of the lake was so low, the first marker was in shallow (thigh-deep) water. Everyone took the liberty of standing up on bottom and running/wading around the marker. This change of posture was a nice respite from swimming for me, and when I dove into the water on the far side of the marker, I was getting more confident in my swimming, but GEEZ, it was a long swim. I'd only really done pool swimming, and since I'm not an expert at the flip turn, there's breaks built into my swimming.

Not out here in the lake. I did a little bit of backstroking to get a handle on my breathing. I never was able to get better than breathing every stroke. It was a tough slog.

By the time I was on the leg leading into shore, I was more than ready to get the hell out of the water. I was just so over the swim. My motivation for swimming the last 200 yards was "this is the only leg you can die on (by drowning) so just get it over with!" It was so inspirational to see the guys ahead of me pop up in the shallows that I got a burst of energy and swam quickly to where I could touch bottom with my hands. As I ran up the shore, I stopped and sat down in ankle-deep water to peel off my wet suit. It was a little bit of a struggle to get it off my legs (I'd put Body Glide on my calves to help with the process), and yes, it added time to my swim leg, but I more than made up for the delay via a quick T1 to the bike.

Wet suit in hand, I bade good riddance to the swim. My worst leg was over, now on to the fun stuff.

But before that could start, I had to run up the third-of-a-mile across the sandy shore to the transition area. During my run, I passed a couple folks who were faster swimmers than me, and huffing and puffing, I made it to my towel. Hey, Thom's bike was still in the transition area... I coulda sworn he'd be a better swimmer than me.

I rinsed off my feet, slipped into my shirt and put on my helmet/glasses/shoes before downing a Gu and drinking some carbo-water.

As I was about to grab my bike, Thom made it into T1. Turns out during the swim he started coughing up blood and had to grab onto a boat and get help. That explains why I was out of the water first.

I wished him luck and clipped into my bike to start my favorite leg of the race.

And I'll tell you about that leg in my next post.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I can now call myself a triathlete

I've completed my first triathlon, the 7th Annual ICE Breaker Triathlon at Granite Bay, CA.

I survived, and I'm not nearly as wiped out as I thought I'd be. I trained for the last twelve weeks using Joel Frie's training program designed to let you "finish with a smile," and I'd have to say the program delivered on its promise.

While the final results haven't yet been posted, the executive summary of the race:
  • it was already warm (low 70s) by the time the race started
  • my swim leg was my worst (I knew this going in)
  • my bike leg was the most enjoyable (my strongest suit)
  • my run leg seemed to go faster than I expected (we'll see what the results tell me about my time, tho)
  • I finished in under two hours, and by that time, it was in the mid 80s. hot!
Over the next couple days, I'll go into detail on the experience during each stage in separate posts. From what I've written up already, there's a lot to share. (update: see setup to swim to T1 and the bike and T2 and the run and the finish)

Would I do another triathlon? Hell, yes, I'll do it again. This is good stuff.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

race day is finally here

Is today really the day? I can't believe this goal I set for myself six months ago is mere hours away from being achieved.

I'm wide awake and have been for about half an hour, well before my alarm was set to go off at 6am. The family's still sleeping and will stay that way (I hope) as I slip out the door to go to the course with a friend who's staying at the same hotel.

I've already fueled up by drinking a can of Ensure and eating a Power Bar. Now I'm drinking a bottle of water while blogging this last entry before the race. A couple observations from the last 24 hours of getting here and riding the road course:
  • NEVER let race day be the first time you go to the course. We got misdirected yesterday on our trip to the lake (4 miles from the hotel) and spent an extra 30 minutes finding the right entrance to the park. I'd have been more than a little pissed if we'd done the same dumb thing this morning.
  • My swim time's going to suck today: the level of the lake is really low, so the transition area (in the parking lot) is .32 miles from the shore. At normal levels, it looks like it'd only be a 100 yards from the shore. So, there's quite a bit of jogging in the wetsuit to be done today.
  • The bike course is very twisty. Looks like it's been swept recently, but still, I can imagine more than one person's going down as they try to navigate the corners.
  • I'm so glad I slept last night. Haven't slept well all this week, but last night, even in an unfamiliar bed, got a good 8 hours in and I'm ready to go.
Ok, time to post this and get on over to the transition area and check-in. Will blog my post-race experience later today.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

the week of the race - 3 days to go

I did my last pre-race run this morning, an easy 2.5 miles in twenty minutes around the neighborhood.

I wore my tri shorts and tri top underneath a warmer layer both for comfort's sake (was all of 39 degrees at dawn) and for modesty's sake. I'm fine wearing the skin tight outfit amongst a bunch of other folks doing the same, but I don't want anyone gagging on their breakfast as they see me flying by their kitchen window on a training run. According to my wife, I look quite nice in the triathlon outfit (thanks, hon), and I'm still a little giddy at having shed 35 pounds since I started this health kick last summer.

As I ran today, I visualized how I'm going to set up my transition area at the race Sunday. I've got a good idea how I'll be organizing my equipment on the towel and what should and shouldn't be there.

But where in the transition area should I set up? Checking in with Dan (my triathlon mentor), he says I should try to get a spot on the end of the racks, ideally toward the edge of the transition area. No matter what, though, remember where my stuff is... the last thing I want to be doing is burning T1 or T2 time looking for my bike or my shoes.

The transition area opens at 6:30am Sunday. Depending on how the rest of the family does in waking up early with me, I hope to get there no later than 7am so I can get a good spot.

Just two more workouts to go: one more swim tomorrow, and then riding the course Saturday to familiarize myself with it.

Have I really done over 60 workouts to get to this point? Yes, I guess I have. Can't wait to do the race!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

the week of the race - 5 days to go

I did my penultimate swim workout this morning, spending just 15 minutes in the pool concentrating on my form as I put in a leisurely 450 meters with rest breaks in between laps. I really want to do more, but I know I've got to taper this week as I get ready for Sunday's race.

Looking ahead to Sunday, it's definitely looking like it'll be warm, so my never-used sleeveless triathlon top will finally come in handy! This is good, and bad as, in order to abide by the advice I've heard from three different triathletes, I'm going to have to wear my tri shorts and tri top for my next three workouts (bike, run, swim).

Everything else I plan to wear/use has been put through its paces (except the actual wetsuit I'll rent), so I'm already envisioning how it's going to be laid out on the towel in the transition area.

Dan says it'll be a good idea to actually put all my gear on a towel at home as if I were in the transition area so I can make sure it's all packed and ready to go. I think I'll do this Saturday morning, I have to go to Sports Basement anyway to pick up the wetsuit, so I'll practice setting up my transition area before I go to SB.

Looking at the logistics for Sunday, registration opens at 6:30am while my wave starts at 9:14am. What am I going to do for three hours? It'll either crawl by or fly by. Once it's over, I'll let you know which it was.

Monday, April 7, 2008

the week of the race - 6 days to go

I finished my last big workout yesterday in preparation for the ICE Breaker triathlon this coming Sunday. I did my biggest brick so far: a 22 mile ride followed by a two mile run, and I have to admit, I felt pretty good afterwards.

Now, it's just a week of decreased activity, good nutrition and as much sleep as I can fit into the schedule as I prepare for Sunday. Now's the time to concentrate on all the little logistics of getting there and being prepared.

Oh, and any fears that I'd be racing in the wind and rain are now greatly diminished: the forecast for Roseville (the site of the race) is calling for 83 degrees and partly cloudy on Sunday.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

first experience with open water swim

My first triathlon, with its half-mile open water swim, is one week from today. I needed to get a practice in open water under my belt, so I entrusted Dan (three time finisher at the Iron Man distance) to help me with my first open water swim.

Dan picked the Aquatic Park in San Francisco as the site of the swim. Yep, chilly San Francisco Bay. Gulp.

Truth be told, I was nervous about the swim. This was to be my first time out in the open water swimming with purpose since I was a little kid (meaning: not just horsing around jumping off a boat offshore or snorkeling around). I knew the water was going to be frigid, and I don't like cold water much. I also didn't relish the thought of being such a newbie in front of Dan (there's that darn ego getting in the way).

I tried to sleep as best I could, but still was a bit fretful and restless in bed. Even so, I woke up at 6:30a to eat some oatmeal and gather my gear together: swim suit, swim cap, goggles, sweats, towels, body glide and an energy drink and Clif bar for post-workout. As I drove north to San Francisco, I felt a certain twinge of anxiety, but I knew I'd be in good hands.

Dan and I met up at 8am at the Sports Basement at Crissy Field so I could pick up my rental wet suit and also to buy some wax ear plugs, at Dan's suggestion. I'd discounted the effect that frigid water on the eardrums can have on one's sense of balance, so I appreciated the tip (the first of many to come) coming from Dan's many years of experience.

By 8:30am, we'd found parking spots at the Aquatic Park and were walking toward the big amphitheater of concrete seats above the small beach.

I don't think we could've picked a better day to swim. The sky was clear, the wind was calm and the temperatures weren't too bad. Air temperature was 47 degrees and the water temperature was 52 degrees. Thank goodness for wetsuits! There were already several folks from a Team in Training group in the water swimming along the buoy line, so we plunked our stuff down on the steps near their stuff (safety in numbers?) and proceeded to change into our wet suits for the swim.

As we were changing, Dan gave me the rundown of things to do to prep for the swim:
  • Apply Bodyglide to your calves (ease of suit removal) and your neck area (cut down on chafing) before putting the suit on. DON'T get Bodyglide on your goggles... it's a mess if you do.
  • When you put your wet suit on, make sure there's no gap below the crotch before slipping into the sleeves... you don't want a big gap for water to pool between your legs.
  • Always wear a brightly colored swim cap in open water so it's easy to be seen. I have a dark grey one and planned to buy a bright cap until Dan told me I'd get them at the races I enter and would soon have too many.
  • Put your ear plugs in before getting your ears wet so they stick in place better
After donning our wet suits, we ran down the beach a hundred yards or so to get the blood flowing and then waded into the water up to our knees. My feet went numb rather quickly, but my calves felt nice and warm thanks to the wet suit.

Then we walked in up to our chests, and I was doing ok until the cold water leaked into my suit via the zipper line up my back, and WOW was that a shocker. Not quite take-your-breath-away cold, but a stark reminder that I was going to be suffering with my face in this chilly stuff.

Dan suggested we just try and swim 20 yards or so to ease into things and pop back up to reassess our progress. He recommended we do some crawl, some breast stroke and even float on our backs as our faces got used to the water temperature.

Then the magic moment: I put my face down in the water and swam a bit. Shocking cold aside, I was kind of pleased that these first strokes in the Bay went pretty smoothly. Sure, I couldn't see more than two feet due to the cloudy water, and instead of chlorine, all I could taste was salt, but the experience wasn't as frightful as I imagined it could be.

By the end of the 20 yards, my face really hurt due to the cold water. We treaded water a bit and talked the how-tos of sighting in open water (big landmarks, sneak the peek at them into your stroke, adjust as necessary) and then swam a stretch again.

Over the next half hour, we swam back and forth along the shore line enough for me to realize this whole sighting thing can really mess with your stroke efficiency. I found I most enjoyed the swimming when I was able to track alongside Dan and not sight at all. Only once did I mis-time a breath and take in a mouthful of water, but I didn't gag like I thought I would, I simply spit it out and kept going.

By the time our swim was done, I was feeling pretty satisfied with how well the session had gone... even though I couldn't really feel my toes or fingers.

Dan gave me some last instructions on exiting the swim and starting the first transition in a race:
  • don't stand up too early too deep and judge this by touching the bottom three times with your hands during your swim stroke before popping onto your feet.
  • Begin to disrobe the wet suit ASAP because it's easier to take off when it's wet.
  • Get your feet as clean as possible before donning your socks/shoes for the next leg.
  • Wear synthetic socks on the bike leg so as to avoid blisters from wet feet in cotton socks.
And by 9:30am, my first open water swim experience was done, and we were drying off and putting on our warm layers. While we were dressing, Dan gave some tips for the race next weekend along the lines of getting into the water before other folks do to make sure my goggles are working, the wet suit feels right, pick a spot on the edge of the masses so that I can duck in and out of the crowd as I need to, etc.

As I listened to him, I marveled at how warm the sun felt in the 47 degree air in comparison to the water we were just in. That didn't stop me from hurrying to get my sweats on, and I cranked up the heated seats in my car on my way back to Sports Basement to drop off my wet suit.

I really appreciate Dan guiding me through my first open water swim. He was a good teacher, and I know I'll be able to use his tips next week at the race. Although the water won't be so cold at any of my triathlons I enter this summer, our swim from Alcatraz is just five months away, so I know I'll be back at the Aquatic Park many more times as I get ready to swim the distance this fall.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Tri Essentials for the Triathlete

As luck would have it, I happened to stop in at the Sports Basement in Sunnyvale tonight just as a special guest speaker, Dr Jennifer L. Forster, was beginning her talk on "Tri" Essentials in triathlon training.

I'd stopped in to rent a wetsuit for my race on April 13 (successful!!), and once I'd made the reservation, I stepped over to hear Dr Forster speak.

While she spoke to many topics around physical, nutritional and emotional support for triathletes, I was most interested in what she had to say about physical and nutritional topics.

According to Dr. Forster:
  • It takes three times as long to gain endurance as it does to lose it. Very much "use it or lose it" and this fact should be kept in mind if you're thinking about taking the winter off from training. It only takes a little bit of activity to maintain your endurance level, so don't just stop once the triathlon season's over.
  • Your aerobic fitness level is lost at a rate of 9% per week. So, what's taken you six months to build up can be lost in just ten weeks of stasis. Don't get injured!
  • If you try to start a triathlon exercise program AND start a diet at the same time, you'll fail at both. You can't starve yourself and try to build muscle at the same time. There's a reason the word "DIET" starts with the three letters D-I-E.
  • Building a strong immune system is the goal of any endurance athlete's (triathlete's) training program. It's built through Nutrition, Exercise, Chiropractics and Massage.
  • Rule of thumb on deciding what to eat: if it doesn't mold or go bad, don't eat it. Heck, if mold or bacteria won't eat it, why should you?
  • Instead of supplementing your diet with vitamins, etc, look into whole food supplements instead. You get all the nutrients without the sugar, salt, water or carbs.
  • Check out the site to find out which food is most nutritious.
And, in regards to nutrition, Dr Forster gave some good tips on before, during and after the race.

Before the race (or long workout):
  • Eat nutritious food in the days leading up to the race (not just night before or day of)
  • Eat at least one hour before the even begins
  • Avoid rich, seasoned, fatty foods the day and night before
  • Best day-of meal: liquid carbohydrate-protein-based meal (liquid is absorbed easier)
  • IMPORTANT: test food products while training, not the day of the race.
During the race (or long workout):
  • Eat at intervals and eat the riht type of food
  • Maintain your energy stores -- the body has about one hour of energy stores
  • Food choices recommended: GU, energy bars, peanut butter pretzels, dried fruits
  • Find what food works for you during workouts and stick with it
  • Carry your own food. Don't rely on the race-provided food as it might disagree with you and hamper your performance. It's worth it to have to carry your own stuff to avoid accidentally consuming that disagrees with your system.
After the race (or long workout):
  • Eat small amounts of carbs, fruit, fruit juices in the 15 minutes just following the race.
  • Eat a meal with protein no more than two hours after the race is over
  • REST, RELAX, REJUVENATE after the race... your body needs it
  • If possible, take an ice bath to help speed up your recovery (get in a cool water bath and add ice, soak for 10 minutes, get out)
Above all else: hydrate all the time.

Unfortunately, I had to leave early, but the above advice was priceless for me. It's given me a lot to consider over the next ten days as I get ready for my first race.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

runner's high is the real thing

Great story in the fitness and nutrition section about runner's high: experiments proving that euphoric feeling we get after hard exercise (not just running) is the real deal.

The runner’s-high hypothesis proposed that there were real biochemical effects of exercise on the brain. Chemicals were released that could change an athlete’s mood, and those chemicals were endorphins, the brain’s naturally occurring opiates. Running was not the only way to get the feeling; it could also occur with most intense or endurance exercise.

The problem with the hypothesis was that it was not feasible to do a spinal tap before and after someone exercised to look for a flood of endorphins in the brain. Researchers could detect endorphins in people’s blood after a run, but those endorphins were part of the body’s stress response and could not travel from the blood to the brain. They were not responsible for elevating one’s mood. So for more than 30 years, the runner’s high remained an unproved hypothesis.

But now medical technology has caught up with exercise lore. Researchers in Germany, using advances in neuroscience, report in the current issue of the journal Cerebral Cortex that the folk belief is true: Running does elicit a flood of endorphins in the brain. The endorphins are associated with mood changes, and the more endorphins a runner’s body pumps out, the greater the effect.

Now, having just recently involuntarily taken eight days away from training while suffering the flu, I know that it doesn't take enormous amounts of endorphins to boost the mood after exercise. Just doing the "easing back in" workouts this week has definitely contributed to my feeling happier. Not just the "thank goodness I'm no longer sick" happiness, but "wow, it's good to get out and on the road again!" happiness.

And we're just ten days from the race before the real high hits.