Here we go again…



Today, I completed my longest ride in nearly five years.  60 miles over some rollers with a ridiculous headwind on the way back.  And it felt good.  Yeah, I can do this again.

I’ve been back at training for a few months now, but I’ve been waiting to make sure that I was fully committed before I started posting again.  I’m signed up for Levi’s Gran Fondo next month.  I’m not sure if I’ll be entirely ready for the ride, but I’m sure as hell going to try.

It’s been a little over two years since I posted.  In that time, my daughter has grown up a bit (she’s 2 1/2 now) and I now have a four-month-old son.  My job has continued to get crazier and crazier, but my amazing wife is good about supporting my training.  I’ve gone from drinking beer on a daily basis and weighing in at a hefty 225 lbs (when I started training) to 200 lbs and dropping fast.  I regularly complete Category 1 climbs near my house and my cycling endurance gets better every day.

Regardless of what happens next month, completing an Ironman is still on my mind.  It’s never left.  When I met my wife in 2009, I weighed 170, regularly completed 50-60 mile rides and 14 mile long runs at a 7:20/min pace.  That’s what I want to get back to.  I have no idea yet how I’m going to find the time to train for an Ironman, but Why Not Tri?


September 1, 2013 at 10:14 pm Leave a comment

Going Compact (Revisited)

In an earlier post, I discussed the virtues of going compact.  At the time, I had primarily ridden compact cranks  and hadn’t spent any significant amount of time on a standard crank.

However, all of this changed when I purchased my (now destroyed) Specialized Tarmac SL3.  The Tarmac came stock with standard 53-39 crank and I found myself enjoying the feel of the new crank for one reason: the small chain ring.  A compact crank typically comes with a 50-34 setup on the chain rings, and I often found that the 34 was simply too small for my preference.  I found that I would rarely use the small chain ring on my Pinarello unless I was going up a major hill because it was simply too dramatic of a shift from the large chain ring for me.  With the 53-39 setup, however, I felt that the transition between the two chain rings was easier to make.  Maybe it’s just me, but I know I preferred it more.

With this experience, I decided to go with a standard crank on my Serotta and I’m loving it so far.  Based on my experience using both cranks, I’d like to re-visit some of the points I raised in the earlier post regarding benefits of going compact:

  1. Easier climbing.  [Original post text: The smaller gear ratios make it easier to climb.]  While the gear ratios may be smaller with a compact crank, I have actually found that my climbing has improved since I started using a standard crank.  Why?  I have no idea.  All I can tell you is that I’m pushing up hills better now (at 210lbs) than I was when I was in shape (and weighed 170).
  2. Reduced weight.  [Original post text: The compact crank weighs less than the standard crank and you can get maintain similar climbing with a smaller, lighter cassette (e.g. an 11-23) versus needing to carry a 12-25 or a 12-27 with a standard crank.]  One word for this insight: stupid.  The weight difference is so minuscule that I can’t believe I even raised this point.  This comment belonged on the Weight Weenies blog.
  3. Closer gear ratios.  [Original post text: Closely related to the previous two items, the larger your cassette span is the more your gears are spaced out.  A standard 12-25, for instance, has a gear ratio of: 12-13-14-15-16-17-19-21-23-25.  A 12-23, on the other hand, has a gear ratio of 12-13-14-15-16-17-18-19-21-23.  On the 12-25 cassette you are skipping the 18 cog in exchange for the 25 with the result that the biggest 5 cogs in the cassette all skip at least one tooth.  Not that big of a deal except when you’re looking for a very minor change in gearing. ]  Again: stupid. Although there is some merit to the discussion (particularly where you’re talking about a very hilly course), I just don’t think this is a big enough issue to dictate which crank you choose.
  4. Reduced knee stress.  [Original post text:  Pushing the big crank is hard on knees, but the compact crank reduces this stress a bit.  This was one of the biggest reasons I chose the Pinarello over the Cervelo P3: my knees (old football/wrestling injuries) hurt on the P3 from about two minutes into the ride whereas they rarely hurt on my compact.]  This is probably the most valid point from the slowtwitch article.  I did feel knee pain when I test rode the P3.  I also had some knee pain when I rented a Look 585 (with standard crank) in Kona to ride the Queen K.  However, I’ve yet to feel any knee pain on either my Specialized or my Serotta.  Whether this has more to do with the fact that I’m not running right now or the fact that these bikes were dialed-in for me, I can’t tell you.  All I know is that I’m as comfortable on these bikes as my Pinarello.
In summary, I guess the point of this post is to say that cranks are all a matter of personal preference.  I think both have their own merits, but personally, I’ll be sticking with a standard crank from here on out unless injury or pain dictates otherwise.

June 1, 2011 at 11:48 am 1 comment

3 days down; 63 to go

I’m three days in to my 66 day re-commitment to training at least 30 minutes a day for 66 days.  They say it takes 66 days to form a habit, so I’m looking to re-form mine one day at a time.

This past holiday weekend was a good start to the training: 3 rides, over 4.5 hours of ride time and approximately 76 miles logged.  I tackled some pretty decent hills, enjoyed the weather and, overall, simply enjoyed being outside again.  My legs are definitely nowhere near where they were back in late 2008 / early 2009, but I’ll get back there.  My hope is to utilize my extra weight right now to build up the power in my legs and then maintain that power once the pounds fall off.  Fat has to be good for something, right?

This week, I’m continuing the trend of staying active by taking my bike to work.  I bought a used Serotta Legend TI a few weeks back and just finished the build on Saturday morning.  I have to say, the bike rides like a dream.  It’s not quite as snappy as the Specialized Tarmac S-Works SL3 that I had before (until it met an untimely death on my roof rack), but it’s as comfortable as any bike I’ve ever ridden and is definitely more responsive than bikes that use a lower-grade carbon weave.  For commuting purposes, the titanium is perfect – there’s no way I would have put my Tarmac on a train, but the titanium is indestructible, so it works great as a dual-purpose bike.

Commuting by bike is definitely a freeing experience.  I can categorically say that I hope that I never, ever, have to ride the bus again.  I’ll take the rain/elements over being treated like cattle any day of the week.  It definitely makes the office a little more bearable, too!

Here’s to a great (short) week for everyone!

May 31, 2011 at 11:34 am Leave a comment

Missing in Action: My Departure and Planned Return to My Journey

It has been over two years since I stopped actively training for triathlons.  January 2009, to be exact.  Prior to that I was actively working with a coach, Jim Vance in San Diego, was logging plenty of hours in the three disciplines, and was in the best shape of my life.  I was weighing in at about 170 pounds and had 8% body fat.  I had a plan worked out for the 2009 season, which included a few 70.3 races and a full Ironman at the end of the season that I had already paid for.

Then, January 2009 came around, and I met the woman that I fell in love with immediately and end up marrying the following year.  Now, just over two years later, my wife and I have a beautiful baby girl and I’m happier than I’ve ever been.

The only areas of my life that I’m not completely happy with right now are my physical fitness and this lingering feeling that I failed myself by giving up on my dreams of completing an Ironman.  Meeting my wife pushed training down on my list of priorities.  In the evening, all I wanted to do was spend time with her, so I would skip a training session.  Then, we’d end up staying up late and I’d be too tired to make my training session in the morning before work.  I was completely consumed and, in retrospect, although I could have done it differently, I wouldn’t trade that time with her for anything in the world.

And so was the downfall of my training.  By the time the I fell victim to the Great Recession, I had lost most of my fitness gains and put on 15-20 pounds.  I truly regret not using the extra time on my hands during this period of unemployment to pick the sport back up, as the training would have done wonders for me mentally, but I was too depressed to do anything that reminded me of my former life.  Triathlon was one of those things.

After losing my job, we moved to San Jose and spent the next several months travelling and lounging around the house while we looked for jobs.  I eventually found a job in San Francisco the following year, and I’ve been with my current firm ever since.  That brings us to today.  .   I commute to San Francisco each day from San Jose (about 1.5 hours RT) and my wife and I have been married for a little over a year.  My daughter has made me happier than I thought I ever could be and most every aspect of my life – personally and professionally – is going amazing for me right now.

It’s my fitness that needs improvement.  I’m now 30 and have only worked out sporadically over the past two years.  The last time I jumped on the scale, I thundered in at about 215.   And every time I see a story about triathlon, watch a cycling event on television,  or even see a weekend warrior riding a bike with aero bars, all I can think of is that I need to get back into the sport.   Get back into fitness.

So, today, I’m announcing my renewed commitment to triathlon.  Only, this time, I’m going to try to think about it a bit differently.

Last time around, my training almost felt like a second job.  I was a slave to it and every day felt the same.  I’d wake up early to go for a swim or run before I had to get ready for work, I’d go to work for 10-12 hours (I’m an attorney with a large law firm), commute home and immediately do a second workout (typically bike or run), then eat dinner.  By the time my day was done, it would usually be around 9p, and I’d only have an hour or two to unwind before I had to go to sleep so that I could wake up early the next day and start the whole thing over again.

This schedule, quite frankly, will not work for me this time around.  My wife and my daughter mean too much to me for me to spend this much time out of the house, so I’m going to have to figure out a way to squeeze everything in.  Further, even though I was happy with my progress and felt good after the training sessions, I wasn’t having fun.  I realize now that I was training angry and that I was out to prove something.  I’m not quite sure what I was trying to prove or why i was trying to prove it, but that anger and burning fire inside of me went away when I met my wife – nothing else mattered to me when I met her.

This time around, I’m going to do it for the right reasons:

– My health.  I want to grow old enough to watch my grandchildren start their own families – something my grandparents never got the chance to do.  I know that both my physical and mental health will improve significantly once I start training again.

– My daughter.  I want her to know that anything is possible when you commit yourself to it.  I want her to dream big and to want more out of life than what many people settle for.

– My wife.  I want to be an even better husband to her than I am now (and she’ll tell you I’m pretty amazing..haha) and I know this is the only aspect of my life that I’m not happy with at the moment.

– Me.  I want to do this because I want to do it.  Everyone has that bucket list of things they want to do in their life.  I put my list down on paper a few years back and completing an Ironman is right at the top of that list.  Bucket lists aside, I want to do it because it is fun.  I don’t really have any hobbies to speak of at the moment (other than making goofy faces at my daughter) and I’ve yet to make a single friend outside of work (that my wife wasn’t already friends with) since I moved to the bay area 1.5 years ago.  I want to start training again, join some clubs and make some new friends.  I want to start building my life in the Bay Area because I don’t see myself ever leaving it.

Now, the tricky part is figuring out how to make this all work together.  My initial plan is to start small and keep it fun.  So, with this, my first phase plan is as follows:

1)  Focus on Cycling.  My comeback is focused on fun, not pain, and cycling is the discipline I enjoy the most.  I’ll expand once my fitness expands (and my weight decreases).

2)  Focus on Fun.  New routes.  Riding my bike to work.  Day trips with a training ride mixed in.  Anything to get me moving on a consistent basis that I’ll enjoy.

3)  Focus on Consistency.  They say it takes about 66 days to fully form a habit.  Starting tomorrow, I’ll put in at least 30 minutes each day for the next 66 days.

4)  Focus on Life Balance.  Scheduling and creativity will be key to this, but I need to balance my life in such a way that I can continue to be a great father and attorney, while at the same time not neglecting myself.

I’ll be setting up my schedule in TrainingPeaks with these four points in mind.  I’m going to try to use this blog to help keep me accountable to myself.  If anyone out there is actually reading this, I hope you’ll hold me accountable as well.  66 days starts tomorrow.  Phase 1 here I come.  Wish me luck.

May 27, 2011 at 10:56 am 1 comment

Post-It Wars and the Importance of Accountability in Training


The Great Post-It War of 2008-2009 was set off by a single act last week shortly after I arrived to work when I decided to have a little fun with one of my co-workers by posting my workout from the previous day.  Two simple entries, Swim-1:15/Bike:1:00, set three grown men into a training competition that has been played out via post-it notes and blackberry messages ever since.

I guess I should give some context to this story:  Throughout the firm I work for, there are four triathletes, including myself.  One of these individuals resides on the fourth floor and isn’t too serious about it due to injuries.  The other three, including myself, are within a twenty foot radius of each other on the second floor and we’re all in training for IM’s in 2009 (they’re both doing Coeur d’Alene).  One of them, Bob, hasn’t done an IM for several years but has done several before, and the other, Tim, did his first last year, but wasn’t happy with the result due to his run.

We had been going back and forth for the past month in pretty much the same manner: I talk about what I’ve been doing (i.e. training quite a bit) and they both talk about how they wish they had the time to train like that.  Admittedly, they both have families with small children and I’m single and have none, so I have an unfair advantage in the free time category, but I’d still been having fun razzing them (particularly Bob because he was pretty serious about it for a number of years and his dad was a pro at one point) about not being on the horse yet.  Even after Tim had started training a little more consistently, he couldn’t convince Bob to jump on the horse (more excuses).

In the end, all it took was a single post-it note from me to awaken the “Tri-Bear” within Bob.  Since that single posting we’ve been going back and forth with the post-it notes outside Bob’s office and, on the weekends or when we’re out of the office, via blackberry messages.  It has been fun going back and forth trading barbs with each other about what we did the night before even though I know that this is a competition that I’m not going to lose (I already do virtual post-it notes with my coach every day…only those post-it notes can’t inflate the volume or increase the speed with which the activities were done).

The moral of the story is that having some type of accountability to someone else will help dramatically with your consistency in training.  For me, having a coach not only helps me with scheduling my training, but it also helps inspire me get out there on those days when I’d really rather just lie in bed in the morning or grab a beer after work rather than diving into the pool  or pounding the pavement.  For Bob and Tim, it was a little intra-office competition that is bringing out the best in both of them, even over the holidays.  No matter how you choose to do it, finding a way to make yourself accountable will go a long way to improving the consistency in your training and keep you from making those little, silent bargains with yourself when the alarm goes off at 5:00 a.m. (e.g. I’ll sleep in today and I’ll do double in the pool tomorrow!  Yeah, right….)

Happy Holidays and Happy Training!

December 24, 2008 at 4:35 pm Leave a comment

And….We’re Back….


Wow…I am such a slacker.  My last post was over three months ago but this coincided with both a trip out of town and starting my job, so I guess I have a semi-plausible excuse for having been such a slacker.  I’m going to try to post a little more consistently from here on out, but it probably won’t be with the same frequency that I was posting before I went on hiatus.  

So, what’s new on the quest to the 70.3 and beyond, you ask?  Well, I guess that question assumes anyone actually reads this blog.  That point aside, I’ll indulge myself and answer:

I’ve been working with my coach, Jim Vance, since the beginning of October and I’m currently in week three of my second base cycle (we had a couple of prep periods).  Working with Jim has been fantastic and he has made my life so much easier.  No longer do I spend hours looking over my training schedule trying to figure out if I’m doing it right or if I’m scheduling things properly.  Now, I simply log on to a website to find my workouts for the day and then upload my data after I’m done with it.

In addition to weekly scheduling, Jim has helped me set up my race schedule for next season.  Here’s the list of events I’ll be doing, with the corresponding priority of the race in parenthesis next to it (A-Most important, leave everything on the table; B-important but meant to help you build to an A; C-least important, treat as a training day)(NOTE: dates listed are the Sunday of the week of the race, not necessarily the race date…I’m just too lazy to look it up):

3.23.09     Superseal Olympic (C)

3.30.09     Oceanside 70.3 (A)

5.04.09     Lake Perris “Big Rock” Olympic(B)

6.22.09     San Diego Intl. Olympic (B)

7.13.09     Vineman 70.3 (B)

8.31.09     LA Olympic (B)

10.12.09   Austin Longhorn 70.3 (B)

11.23.09   Ironman Cozumel (A)

Quite the schedule, but I’m looking forward to it.  My running, which was one of my weaknesses last year, has improved dramatically under Jim.  Whereas last year I was going all out to post 7:30 miles, I’m currently putting up those times on my long runs in zone 2, with my fastest 5K times coming in around the 20 minute mark.  

Well I don’t want to toss out all my material in the first post back, so I’ll save a little for later.  I’m back and you can be looking forward to some more training tips in future posts.  I thought I knew quite a bit before but Jim has taught me a few things that are surprisingly simple, but highly effective.

December 23, 2008 at 9:43 am Leave a comment

Catching up (and a couple of race reports)

I’ve been pretty busy over the last couple of weeks and, as such, I’ve been slacking on my posts.  Since my last post, I’ve had two races, so without further ado…

Imperial Beach

The only way I can describe this race is to say that it was eerily similar to my Santa Cruz race experience, only with warmer water.  The swim started out horribly again and I couldn’t breathe (again).  I’ve decided that my wetsuit is just a bit too small in the chest area but I don’t need to address this issue until next year.

The bike leg was short, but I managed to avoid getting passed by anyone again and put up a pretty good bike time.  Nothing special, but it was much better than my swim and run times.  

I spent the first half of the run cramping (again).  I still don’t know what’s causing it, but I’m guessing I may be going to hard on the bike.  I need to work on hard bike to run transitions a bit more and hopefully this will subside.  

Overall, I finished in 1:03:53 which put me 15th out of 50 in my age group with the 8th fastest bike split in my age group.  Nothing great, but I’ll take it.

Los Angeles

After two smaller sprint races, the sheer size of this race was breathtaking.  Huge, absolutely huge, and run fantastically.

After my two sprint experiences, I decided to go without a wetsuit on the swim in the hopes that I would be able to breathe.  It worked…too bad I couldn’t swim straight.  Again, mediocre swim.

The bike leg is where I came to life on this one.  It was a 40K bike, so I had plenty of time to make up what I lost on the swim.  The course was much more difficult than I thought it would be, with a couple of pretty big hills and a few significant rolling hills.  I knew I had a bad swim, so I started to crank it on the bike.  From the beginning I was passing people and I kept doing so pretty consistently.  Again, nobody passed me on the bike.  I knew I was doing well when I started to pass quite a few people that started in wave that started ten minutes before mine.  I also passed a fellow tri club member that I knew probably had a good swim since that was his strongest event (I ended up beating him by 10 minutes on the bike).  

I was staying strong on the flats and powering up the rollers.  I can’t tell you how many people I passed on these small hills because the other people just didn’t ride them the right way.  Coming down the hill leading up to the rollers, I was popping it all the way down into my smallest cog and cranking it as hard as I could on the downhill and then slowly shifted up as I went up the hill.  I was absolutely blasting by people.

I put up a 1:08:38 on the bike which was good for 15/105 in my age group and 64th overall out of just over 800 male competitors.  The course was very fun and I wish I would have had some more time to take in the sights…it’s not every day when you get to ride down a street in Los Angeles with a street all to yourself.

The run…what can I say about the run?  Cramps?  Check.  Big f’n hill (twice)?  Check.  Not running nearly as fast as I wanted because I’ve been slacking on my run training?  Check.  It was an uneventful 10K that was very unimpressive.  I put up a 50:30 time, or about 8:10 a mile which is about 40 seconds/mile slower than I know I can average over a 10K.  I had been seriously slacking in my run training, so this isn’t really that surprising.  I’m hoping I can improve on this in OC in a few weeks.

Overall I finished 36/105 in my age group with a time of 2:36:32.  For my first olympic race, I’m pretty happy, but I know I could have done better.  If I would have run the times I know I can, I would have shaved at least five minutes off right there.  My open water swimming needs to improve as well.  Oh well, only one more event left in this season.

September 8, 2008 at 3:40 pm Leave a comment

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