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Year 2 – 1,000 Yards

Last year, I didn’t hit 1,000 yards until mid-February. Around this time, the team had their 1k marker set, but I was still in my “special” lane still learning how to swim. If I remember correctly, I was still using the paddle board. I was still taking private lessons at UCLA, learning how to breath, learning how to FLOAT. I was “at risk” of not completing the swim portion of our triathlons. Coaches were baffled and worried, but were always there to help. Just a few months after, I completed my first triathlon, then a half Ironman, then a full Ironman. Milestones for sure in swim, but milestones overall. I love the challenge.

So yesterday, at our Tuesday coached swim, we had to do a 1,000 yard, “physical recommitment” to see where we’re at. I was already so excited to do this because I’m actually DOING the sets this time around! We started off with a 200 yard warmup, or keep going until we hit the 7:45pm mark to start the timers. Coach Jason was keeping track of our lane, the Intermediate lane. They kept track of the laps, which was such a HUGE help because I didn’t have to worry about anything else but SWIM. During the swim, I had a lot of the drills in my head, to pay attention to my technique, and also I could hear all the coaches voices on correcting my form. Jason would yell out how many yards left, and once I heard him say “300 left!” a huge rush came over me and was feeling strong and ready to finish the swim! Final 1k time: 23:58!!!!!!!! What?!?! I was expecting over 30 minutes! Whew! Oh but wait! The set wasn’t over. We had to do timed 100s. At first it was supposed to be 2:15 but he changed it to 2:30. If I came in before that, then that’s the rest interval. Not sure how many I did, but I always ended up doing 2:15 so I still had time to rest. This session was awesome! Felt great the whole time, muscles didn’t feel very fatigued, but mainly just out of breath. This was a game-changer for me, as I’m actually VERY excited to step it up in the swim this year!

Boot & Rally

So Saturday was a huge day, woke up early then a 2.5 hour practice, took down the course IronTEAM signs, then immediately rush home to get ready for my bar crawl fundraiser MAN v BAR 7. The fundraiser lasted from 2pm-9pm officially, but stayed a few more hours until midnight. That’s 10 hours of drinking! Ok ok, my nutrition plan is waaaaay off here, but it was considered a miracle if I even showed up to the early Sunday run practice!

The route? Met at Ocean and San Vicente, run up San Vicente, Brentwood Golf Course loop and back, then an out and back towards the Santa Monica Pier if time permits. Yes, so many surprised faces when I showed up… but also surprised at other people that were at MAN v BAR too. So we did a warmup to 4th St up San Vicente, then back to stretch. The goal was to do a 7 mile minimum in 80 minutes for Intermediate, or 90 minutes for advanced. Started off thinking I’ll do the intermediate set, because in no way I consider myself advanced, but a funny thing happened to me halfway through the run – I actually felt great! Runner’s high? Maybe. It was also downhill for the second half. Not going to complain! I ended up continuing the run towards the Pier, and once it hit my turnaround for the 80, I figured, what’s 10 minutes more? I ran to the Pier, and by the time I came back, it was around 90 minutes for 10 miles! Much faster and further than I originally planned! Maybe I should do a 10 hour drinking binge before a timed run like this more! (Just kidding, coaches!)

Griffith Park Time Trial

Saturday was a pretty busy day for me in terms of training & fundraising. In the morning, the team headed to Griffith Park, met at Lot C of the LA Zoo bright and early 7:30am. Immediately after was our semi-annual pub crawl fundraiser, MANvBAR7 (I’ll blog about that one later).

So for the bike ride, as you can see above, I was greeted by a nice sunrise to start my morning. A lovely sight as simple as that is a sign for a wonderful day ahead! By the time I got to the parking lot, it seemed like the weather dropped 10 degrees from West LA to Griffith Park! COLD! Most of us stayed inside our cars for warmth until more people popped up. The morning’s Mission Moment was led by our South Bay Training Captain, “El Capitan”, Scott, who told us his connection with TNT and why he joined. I’ve known Scott since last season, but didn’t know his story until now. It was both motivational & inspirational. He really captured the moments when training was tough, and digging deep to get through the challenges with a matter of perspective shifts. It was a nice reminder why we fight, why we do this.

The bike ride was split into two groups, A-M and M-Z, to break up the large group we have. The course was very similar to our GP Ride a few weeks ago, but with the addition of the large hill in the middle of it. It was 2 loops of 12.5, and our timed marker set had a requirement of 25 mile minimum in 2 hours. If we finish the 25 miles, then we have to keep moving (do an out and back) until we reach 25 miles. The hill was challenging, but luckily it wasn’t that long. I’m still pretty paranoid of the downhills, so I proceeded with caution in the curvy descent. In the end, I logged about 33 miles for 2 hours.

Southbay Sunset Run

Ain’t gonna lie, what brought me out to do the run last Sunday in the South Bay (17 miles away) instead of Santa Monica (3 miles away) was because of the post-run food – tacos! A later start time was a treat too because I could sleep in plus I had some family stuff in the morning carrying over to lunch anyway. I was running a little late, so I thought I’ll be running this alone until taco time, but luckily, they were still waiting for the whole gang to arrive.

The course was south on The Strand until “The Wall” in Redondo Beach. From there, we headed east on that main road, slightly uphill, until the start of the Wood Chip Trail. The Wood Chips are nice and flat with a soft ground. We took it all the way to Manhattan Beach Blvd and headed back to the beach.

It was a lovely recovery downhill to The Stand, and from there we headed back to Hermosa Beach. The timing near the end of the run and the sunset was nearly perfect. It might of been the plan the whole time from our El Capitan Scott, but it was a nice surprise to all of us! We ran to the end of the Pier to catch the sunset. Check it out… so beautiful!

Then, when you turn around, there it was a full moon rising along the same horizon. What timing! We we all in awe. We took several photos, Twitter & Facebook updates as usual. We took in this beautiful sight, so amazed that it’s only January too!

This… is… life. Also, check out the view with the fisherman below. I hope to one day grow old and just chill like that, looking back and how beautiful life is and the memories we had.

Unfortunately, the run wasn’t over, so we finished it with another out and back to the Redondo Beach Wall. Oh yeah, almost forgot about some sexy sax (not Careless Whisper, but close) soundtrack for a bit of the run. The whole time we were still amazed at what we had witnessed, a true runner’s high, completely unrelated to the actual “run” itself. The fun didn’t stop when we got back to Hermosa Pier. We continued at Hot’s Kitchen a few blocks away to try some of their delicious tacos, over 50 varieties to choose from! Oh you know we devoured those tacos with a quickness!

PCH Redemption

Even though last week’s ride was rough because of NYE, I was still able to make that first step to get out of the house and actually do it. Don’t get me wrong, last week’s ride was an absolute best way to start off the year, especially in great company.

Last night, I avoided all chances of a Friday night out with alcohol. Hungover riding? Never again! I laid low after our Friday night swim at my friend’s place in Playa Vista. This morning the Team met at Zuma beach, and tackled the more challenging parts of PCH. I had a good amount of sleep, had breakfast, it was definitely night & day how I was feeling today versus last week!

The team was split into beginner/intermediate and advanced riding groups. You can choose to your liking, but majority chose the beg/int to be on the safe side. The difference between the two were longer PCH loops and larger hills. I chose the advanced because PCH, like what I said last week, was our old stomping ground so nothing new here. What’s new is that it’s been since July since I’ve seen these hills, so yes, they were not as “easy” as I thought they were at the peak of my last season. After the beg/int group started their warmup, El Capitan Scott led the rest further south on PCH, with the large hill to start. I pulled my friend Rommel along to the advanced group because I knew he was fully capable of it, plus he’s a very eager one to get some really good riding in. Oh man, did I miss these hills! Climbing them sure wasn’t fun, but it actually felt great to tackle them! Total ride time – 2 hours. Total mileage, 34.

Oh, but we weren’t done at that point. We had a mini-brick scheduled, so it was another 20 minutes of running immediately after the bike. Wow, I forgot that feeling! My legs were heavy, but the weird thing that happens to me all the time for the first few minutes is that my pace drops a few minutes, and this time it was around a 7:30/min mile! What the! It eventually stabilized to my normal 9:15-9:30, then 10, then 11… yes, I was that tired. I gotta get used to all this again! Overall, a really great practice!

Birthday Swim

Monday was the last day of the long New Year holiday weekend, so yesterday, it was back to work I go on my birthday. Luckily, it wasn’t too busy at work, and everyone were slowly getting back into the grind. It was relaxing actually. During lunch, had lunch with coworkers at La Sirena Grille in El Segundo. Even one coworker thought I was 25. Sweet! I’ll take that. At night, I got to spend the rest of my birthday with my closest friends… in the pool. I really needed that dip in the pool, which turned out to be very refreshing. I was actually “feeling” some improvement in my technique, with Coach Catherine from the Tri team was instructing our lane. I really like how she explains the drills and why it’s helpful. She told me things I wasn’t aware of (or keep forgetting about), especially my left hand opening during my pull, and my early hand exit after the pool. It was great too because everyone in our lane was about the same exact pace. I really enjoyed the fingertip and catch up drills because it slowed my stroke down to really focus on my technique, because I tend to rush things and not use the glide to my advantage. Overall, it was a productive swim. I think we swam a little over a mile, and I’m feeling my swim fitness level slowly getting back to what it used to be ear the end of last season!

Post-swim activities included heading to City Tavern in Culver City where the beer taps were AT the booths. Dangerous! Their Brew Burger, which was on a pretzel bun, and beef & chorizo patty was delish! Got to know a few more teammates there, then we continued the night at Bigfoot West not too far away.

As far as feeling older. I actually feel better than I have ever before in my life! Mentally and physically. I think it’s because I’m surrounded by fabulous people who continue to inspire me day in and day out. We really have to live life to its fullest!

“Today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll ever be again”

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! Here’s my attempt to post more frequently for 2012… here we go! So NYE was a bit of a blur, partied a little TOO much to celebrate in the new year. So crazy that I don’t even remember the countdown! Rough (but oh so fun) night, didn’t sleep until 4:30am, stayed overnight at my friend’s place where we celebrated. Surprisingly, I got up around 8am, got home to change, pack up all my bike gear, and made it to our IronTEAM practice at San Vicente & Ocean in Santa Monica this morning by 9am! Hungover? YES. Dragging along at the meeting spot, I was greeted by other teammates feeling my pain. Some had the same alcohol breath problem I was having, definitely partied hard for NYE. For a few minutes of gathering everyone, we all shared stories of the night.

Coach Brad rounded the troops (both Tri and Iron teams) and explained the routes. The group was split into two – Local Ride where the team rode through Santa Monica flats, considered the easier route for newbies and the hungover, and the PCH ride, for the more advanced. I chose the PCH one because there’s less stops, and I if anything, in the tired state I was, I could just lay low. As a warmup, we all went up San Vicente to the Brentwood Golf Course and back. I was actually feeling A LOT better after that warmup, so I was pumped for PCH. It was a beautiful day out, I’d say 70ish and clear. I wasn’t really paying attention to how fast I was going, but I was just enjoying the sights and sounds of PCH. I really love riding because of all the scenery we can take in, get into deep thought, and really appreciate how lucky we are to be doing this. I was seriously loving life.

This PCH out and back took a total of 2 hours, and I’ve missed it so. It was a regular stomping ground for us last year, and I’m excited to do it again. Checking out Facebook afterward, and everyone LOVED this ride. As crazy as it sounded the day before, considering that I was going to party hard for NYE, I was really glad I did this. Super thankful for my morning wake up call & motivation to ride. 2012 is looking to be an amazing year!

Thankful 2011, Cheers to 2012

I thought 2010 was crazy with 5 full marathons and 6 half marathons, but 2011 topped that tenfold as my year of the triathlon. Never have done one before, it was the year I did 2 olympics, 1 half Iron, 1 full Iron. Oh yeah, I JUST learned how to swim too. Also, because of all that tri training I was able to set my Half Marathon PR (2:01) AND Full Marathon PR (4:29) in between! I could not be so excited and happy to have accomplished what I thought was IMPOSSIBLE one year ago. Yes, all this sounds crazy, but I owe a lot of credit for my coaches, mentors, teammates, and Honored Teammates Laura Maloney and Anabel Holland to help me push my limits and bring out my potential I didn’t realize I have. Not only that, they are a daily inspiration of why I do the things I do. TNT never ceases to amaze me. I’m also thankful for my friends & family for being so supportive through this journey.

Now for 2012, as far as training, sure I have my fundraising event, Ironman Canada, at the end of the TNT season, but my goal isn’t a PR at that race. What? More Ironman Triathlons? Who knows? I’m looking to “build a strong foundation” out of this season for greater things in the future. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. I want to improve my running form and fitness so I could one day tackle an Ultra Marathon. I want to improve my swimming technique so that I can actually enjoy it during triathlons (it’s still pretty difficult for me). I want to improve my bike strength and technique to tackle whatever hill and turns I may encounter. The ultimate goal out of this is to stay healthy and not get injured.

I’m so ready to take on 2012. I’m so excited, words can’t really explain. The season just begun, and I can’t wait to see my teammates grow and improve like they’ve never before.

Rock N Roll Las Vegas Marathon 2012

Whenever I sign up for a marathon, I look for the overall trip experience, not just the race. Yeah, of course I’ll train for it, but there’s more to it than a PR. I try to look at possible food & drink venues, what kind of excursions I could take, what kind of parties or concerts I may go to, or who I’d be hanging out with. Days before Vegas, I didn’t really have any plans except the race and afterparty.

I already knew what kind of weekend it will be when my friend Scott and I had a few beers at the airport while we waited for our flight. We even got called out by the stewardess in the plane when we tried to order water = “C’mon… it’s VEGAS!”. So we were peer pressured into another beer! Our friend Rachel already arrived in Vegas an hour before us so she saved us a spot in the taxi line. We were at the back of the line, took a pause to text/call her, let a few people go ahead of us, but once we started moving again, we were hassled by security for cutting in line! What the! We ignored her and proceeded to the line until we saw Rachel. We didn’t let that ruin our weekend!

We proceeded to the Expo at the Sands Convention Center, with 2 hours to spare until it closes. My friend Scott’s primary source of nutrition was taken by TSA, I think it were the EFS shots, so we did a few rounds to look for it, but no luck! He had to resort to some other Gu. Once we got back to Aria, our hotel, we immediately got ready for Tao, since there was a complimentary open bar for all race registrants! Yes, I know, not a recommended thing to do the night before a race, but hey, it’s VEGAS! We found something to eat real quick at the Venetian, got in line, then all of a sudden we were IN. I won’t go into details of the night, but we were out til 4:30AM. Yes, A.M.. Looking back, I’m glad we partied it up… it was such a fun night, I’ll trade that for a P.R. any day!

Woke up around 11:30… 7 hours of sleep. Still not bad! A little slow, but functional. Did my marathon rituals of getting ready for a race around noon, but this was all too weird since I’m using to doing this at 5 or 6am. We had to go eat, so we returned to the cafe that ended the party night for us. Got to the shuttle buses after lunch, and it looked like the driver took a few wrong turns, did a lot of backtracking, and we were ALMOST late to the start! We got there with 10 minutes before gun time, so we rushed to the gear drop off, and made it JUST in time!

As far as the course goes, I already knew I wasn’t going to like it just by looking at the race map. It went through some undesirable parts of Vegas, there were A LOT of quick 90 degree turns in a short distance, and the possible bottlenecks were pretty obvious that they were going to happen. The beginning was cool going through a part of the strip, then it literally went through the strip club and warehouse areas. I don’t remember much of the middle except that it was cold, with a bunch of spotlights lining up the streets (better than complete darkness because I didn’t have a headlamp). By the halfway point, I reached the tail end of the half marathoners. Not going to hate on how slow it was because I know exactly how it feels to start off in this sport. What I didn’t like was how the halfers were walking on the full marathon side of the course. A big part of it was the event planner’s fault because the only division were these small orange cones with an 8×11 paper pointing where runners should go. Of course, it was too small to even notice. At some parts, they had bikers splitting the course up, yelling at people to stay in their lanes. It was complete madness at one point. My pace went down to a crawl, I had to zig zag a bunch. I tried not to be rude and just went along my business and didn’t let it get to me.

By the end, like mile 21, I was about near my max. It was definitely mental from here on out. Luckily for me, my saviors, Holly & Marisela were there to the rescue! I was so happy to see them because I was seriously about to just walk because I was in so much pain. They kept me on my toes and I tried to pace them. Looking at my watch constantly, calculating if I’d make the 4:30 cutoff, I realized that there really wasn’t going to be a cutoff for the full because there’s thousands of half marathoners behind me on that same course! I was going to still try anyway. My pace was so slow at the end, but when I saw the finish line, I dug up everything inside of me to finish. Holly, Mari & I held hands and did a pseudo Flying-V through the chute. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the 4:30, but it ended up being 4:35, which was still pretty good considering the course setbacks. I was still happy though! Finishing with two of my favorite friends, a second place to my PR, I’ll take it!

My saviors:

The finish video:

A few days later, I got this in my email inbox, looks like Rock N Roll recognizes their fault.

“Though many of you who participated in the Zappos.com Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon & ½ Marathon on Sunday night had a great race, there were many runners whose experience failed to meet expectations and we sincerely apologize. We’ve taken the past 48 hours to analyze, identify major problems and plan for future improvements. Congestion in the start area caused difficulties accessing the runner corrals in a timely fashion, which led to overcrowding on the course, through the finish line and inside the gear check area.”

The Infamous Shark Fin

We all know swim drills are tough. I’d rather much be doing long sets, but I know it’s very important to help with our swimming technique. As we enter our 4th week with the team, I went to the 8:30 late session at the Culver City Plunge last night, and we’re still doing drills.. and oh man, I’m struggling so much, especially the Shark Fin (see the video above). I end up sinking so much! Tri Coach Jake pointed out my kicks are at the knees where they should be at the hips, plus I should be just rotating to breathe instead of lifting it up so much. I guess my body is in survival mode because that drill feels so awkward, and I tend to lose breath so easily. We did a lot of skate and one-arm drills as well with some quick 50 swims in between. I do feel some slight improvement in my skating drills though, so that’s a plus. One step at a time, one step at a time, I always tell myself.