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So Fresh, So Clean

After practice on Saturday, I dropped off my bike for a tune up at Performance Bicycles in Santa Monica. When I purchased the bike almost 2 years ago, it included 2 tune ups and drive train cleaning services. I already did one before Wildflower, but it was due for another one especially for Ironman Canada. So tonight, I picked it up – it was so fresh and so clean clean!

Anaheim to San Diego Ride

Last Saturday the team did our annual San Diego ride, which I looked forward to every time. We met at the usual Anaheim Stadium Amtrak station parking lot where we came back to after a train ride back up. Less than a year has past and I felt nothing but excitement leading up to it. It was a major contrast from last year where I honestly felt scared. Just the sound of it sounded daunting – “We’re biking to San Diego.” What?!?

We started to ride towards the coast by using the river path. It was nice and smooth with rollers under bridges all throughout. I remember last year I was pretty nervous because there was no fence dividing us and the descent into a dry concrete river. It wasn’t much of a concern this year, so I enjoyed the whole bit!
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Build 2 – Loads of Miles, and Time Travel

Last weekend was my first appearance of a Build #2 workout with the team. I’ve always somehow managed to be out of town since the first of it this season – Monterey for a company party, and also Texas for the Austin Marathon. A quick rundown of what happened – Friday, met up with teammates Jeff and Val at the Equinox down the street from work, 3,800 yards. Whew! Saturday a minimum 4 hour bike ride & 30 minute run. Sunday, run another 11 hilly miles, then more swimming.

We met up at our usual spot in Santa Monica spot, Ocean/San Vicente, and our route was simple – head north on PCH for 2 hours, then head back. Since it’s a build week, this was my opportunity to push it and see where I compare to last year. Alumni was supposed to spin up and add 2mph for 15 minutes, then back to normal pace, but after a few hours I lost track. Out of the gate, we did a fairly high cadence but high speed warmup for 30 minutes. Took a while to get into rhythm, but eventually averaged out to a 25mph range. Attacked the flats, and was smart going uphill. At one point, my teammate Donovan, Jasmine, and I hit about 43mph on a downhill! A new PR! (42 was last year). I made it out to Las Posas, pretty much where the regular roadway of PCH ends and becomes a full on highway, so I took the exit and headed east. I even saw At the 2 hour mark, I was near the Camarillo area. On the way back though, there were some MAJOR headwinds, and my speed was about 14-16mph. Legs were burning by the time I hit “Big Rock”, a part on PCH where you bike in between two large cliff-like rocks. The headwinds were so strong that the second half ran 20 minutes more. I was looking at my GPS watch near the end and really wanted to get to 80, but 79.82 at 4:22 was the final tally. A teammate who did the exact same route as me said he did 80.1, so I’ll take take that! Oh, but the workout wasn’t over. Out to a hilly Amalfi to do 15 minutes out and back.

Not to get into details, but I was invited out Saturday night to go have a beer. Oh, sure, I’ll come hang out for ONE beer, then head home early to sleep. Ummm… that always never happens, and didn’t end up getting home until 2am! Woke up at around 7:30 for an 9am run. Leisurely got out of bed, wanting to make a big breakfast, looked at my phone… NOOOOOOO it was 8:30am!! Did I just time travel?!? We had to Spring Forward an hour and I totally forgot about it!! Good thing I live pretty close to practice, but I didn’t have breakfast. A big no-no! Got some Gu and headed out the door.

The route was our infamous Amalfi Loop, which takes us around the Palasades and Santa Monica. 3/4 uphill, but after one loop reverse it. It actually became my new favorite run route because it’s a great variety of hills, flats, and terrain. Score! I hope we get to do this again! I was so spent by the time I got home, became super lazy on the couch, but I really needed to get a swim in. I was on a time crunch because I had to make it to a Drag Queen Bingo Fundraiser in WeHo’s Hamburger Mary. I swam for an hour, so I ended up doing 2,200 out of the scheduled 3,800. Better than nothing, but my shoulder was feeling a little sore, so I needed to lay low on that a little.

Overall, probably one of the toughest IronTEAM weekend workouts to date, and it brings back memories of last year’s hard workouts. Very challenging, but feels very rewarding. It made my recovery week so much sweeter though… love those!

Desert Triathlon 2012: More Than a Race

photo by Holly Meyer

I have to admit, coming into the weekend, I wasn’t 100%. Less than a handfull of people knew about my situation, but the Thursday before Desert Tri, I was visiting my uncle (dad’s brother) in the hospital. It was an intense emotional roller coaster of a day. I’m going to spare the details, but unfortunately he passed away that afternoon. The family was there to say our goodbyes, and we’re glad we did, but still, no one should go through this, or witness it. Took the day off on Friday to reset and collect my thoughts (and have Scoops Ice Cream), but if I was a little weird or distracted last weekend, now you know why. I tried to stay strong all weekend. I came at peace of the whole situation on our drive to the desert, because my overall outlook on someone passing is more of celebration of their life and how they influenced family & friends, how great of an impact they had, rather than sit in infinite sadness and dwell on it. I like to see the positive in things. We all know he’s in a better place, and all I could do coming into the weekend was to dedicate my race to my uncle. It was more than a race. It was more than “my revenge” to finally complete a race I was disqualified the year before. It was about overcoming life’s challenges, and how we deal with it. So the amazing sunrise photo above was a reminder that it was a new day, a new day to create new experiences. Time is precious, and we better make the most of it.

So they morning started with a 4:00am alarm… snooze… 4:15, 4:30… ok ok… 4:45. Got ready in a quickness and our room was out the door by 5:00am. I wasn’t nervous about the race, but more excited about how most of my teammates will be newly crowned triathletes. If anything, I was looking forward to the finish line experience with everyone. We arrived at Lake Cahuilla in La Quinta around 5:45am and was able to park the Triathlon War Machine nearby. We set up our transition areas, and I was glad to have shared the space side by side with my close friends Rommel Calderon, Mike Ngim, and Donovan Batiste. 7:00am, the team gathered to do a 5 minute warm-up jog nearby, then we were off to suit up for a warm-up swim!

The event: 0.75 mile swim, 24 mile bike, 6 mile run.

This race was supposed to be “just another day at the office,” and I treated it as so. It was another practice for our team, so we shouldn’t let it get to us. Since we did pretty much the same distance the previous day before, I wasn’t sure how I’d hold up on Sunday. I was just to go out there and have fun with it. 7:33am was my wave start time, and just like all the other triathlons, I stayed in the back of the pack and calmly went from buoy to buoy (in a zig zag fashion, I bet). Didn’t get hit or kicked in the face, which is always a good thing. Took longer than usual at T1, but I made sure I applied the right amount of sunscreen and wiped away all the excess dirt from the lake.

Throughout the bike, I felt fresh. I learned from Ironman Champion Chris McCormack’s book “I’m Here to Win” the concept of pacing, not drafting. It’s where you find someone to match your target speed, and try to keep up. Whenever someone would pass me on my left, I would take the opportunity to follow (within a safe distance, of course). I wouldn’t pace the same person all the time, as it was a trial and error from time to time to see who was right my liking. This allowed me to move ahead, catching up to my age group offsetting my slower swim time. It’s actually a strategy I used at Vineman 140.6 last year. From time to time, I would think about my late uncle, and think about the happy memories we had. He definitely gave me the strength to push my limits here. Towards the end, I pulled back my effort, to recover and save my legs for the run.

It was a quick T2, but by the time the run started, I could definitely feel the heat. By the first water stop, not even a mile into it, I splashed two cups of water over my head. “Oh, that’s why visors are better for triathlons!” It was the same run as the day before, so it was no surprise here. Flat, boring, and hot. I splashed water at every aid station as much as I could, and tried to keep a decent pace throughout. As long as I was faster than Saturday’s stomach disaster, I was happy. I’m not sure what the difference is between an Olympic and International distance is, but compared to my 3:37 Carpinteria Olympic, and getting DQ’ed last year at Desert, this was definitely a PR at 2:50:29!

By the end, always the best part of any of the races we do as a team, was cheering on everyone coming in through the finish line. We stay til the end, leaving no man behind. Hugs all around, high-fives, cheers everywhere. IronTEAM “Tunnel of Love”. It’s tough to explain, but it’s a tear jerking moment. That’s why I seriously love this IronFamily. The support we have for each other, the bond that we have is stronger than anything I’ve ever experienced. We endure through many challenges, we witness the transformations, we witness greatness. Much props to our coaches for guiding us through this journey. This is only the beginning too. There’s many more months to come and many more “tune-up” races to do this all over again. I’m already having my IronTEAM withdrawals. When am I going to see everyone again? Oh yeah, swim is tonight… so it will be soon enough. Go TEAM!

Race Stats
Overall: 02:50:29
Swim: 00:34:52
T1: 00:04:12
Bike: 01:12:34 (19.8mph pace)
T2: 00:02:17
Run: 00:56:34 (9:25/mile pace)

Oh, and check out this amazing highlight video captured by Rommel Calderon
and Carlos Pineda:

Desert Triathlon 2012: Saturday Practice

Saturday, the team did a 2 hour bike ride, 1 hour run, and a quick swim in the lake (in that order). It was pretty much the same (actually more) than the Desert Tri on Sunday. Initially it was difficult to get to the meeting spot because the Sprint Distance of the Desert Tri was still in session. Rommel’s Triathlon War Machine (pictured above), had to navigate through poorly coned areas, being yelled at military wearing camouflage that blended in with the road (they should’ve at least wore neon vests!). We pretty much rode through the same race course, with bonus routes. What was funny was that from time to time, we would get chased down by dogs, sometimes even small brave tiny ones like below:

The course was super flat, so our group rode in aero most of the time, pushing our limits since it is a build week, after all. We finished the route early, and when we got back to homebase, coach Brad said “What are you guys doing? A 2 hour ride, is a 2 hour ride. Get back out there!” Oops! We had about 15 minutes to go, so we did an out and back. Stats for the ride: 36.51 miles, 17.8 mph average.

Immediately after the ride, it was a run (no surprise here). We did the same run course that was scheduled for the race – super flat, but super hot at the same time. No shade, and by this time of the day, it was high noon, so we were getting the worst of it. Super HOT! I felt fine for the first loop (3 miles), but once I completed that, I had major stomach issues. Was it the heat? Was it exhaustion? Was it harder for me to digest? Was it the hotel breakfast? I seriously didn’t feel right. There were times I thought of turning back to camp, but I ended up walking it off. For the next 2 miles, actually, I walked most of it. Glad my teammates Holly kept me company for a mile, then Kevin joined us the next mile. We did learn a bit of trivia from Kevin though that the bumpy surfaces in the gravel area was made by the oscillations of the shock absorbers from the cars driving through it over time. *Insert NBC’s “The More You Know” PSA commercial outtro here* The final mile we ran it home. Whew! What a day! Stats for the run: 5:80 miles, 11:07/min pace.

Oh, but training wasn’t over then! After lunch at our area, we rested up a bit, got our race packets at the nearby expo area. We suited up in our wetsuits, started with a warm up swim to a buoy, and when we returned our coaches made us line up to do a mass start simulating how the race start would be. We did that twice (2 loops!). I was actually surprised I was pretty calm from the start to finish. I guess repetition does make things better! After, the team took this kick-ass group photo:

The rest of the day consisted of a team dinner at a a Mexican Restaurant called Las Casuelas Nuevas. Fun games & raffles ensued, with some beer & margaritas (and also cups of NUUN-filled waters), our recipe for possible PRs. Before our coaches tucked us into bed, they went over all the details of the course, calmed us all down a bit, then it was off to our rooms to make final preparations for the race!

Part 2 coming soon…

The Hills Are Alive…

I’m in the middle of reading “I’m Here To Win: A World Champion’s Advice for Peak Performance” by Chris “Macca” McCormack, and coincidentally, I read this excerpt Friday night, after a big swim, and before our big weekend workout:

Every triathlete, pro or amateur, no matter how fit reaches a point in every race where he has to decide whether or not he will endure more suffering. It’s very simple. Either he will or he won’t. You will get there. The only question is how you’ll handle it.

It’s that simple. Whenever I do these races I always come to that point where my self-doubt kicks in and guess if I’m hitting The Wall. It usually wasn’t The Wall, but I still think, “I’m still running, this hurts… should I keep going?” I always kept going.

Saturday challenge: VERY hilly 9 miles in the South Bay. I’ve never been to this running route before, so I was pretty excited and scared at the same time. I know for sure this wasn’t a flat beach run. As expected, we were introduced to some pretty nasty hills, equivalent to a Category 5 on the bike (the hardest of them all). Immediately out of the meeting spot was uphill… and up, and up, and up. It just wouldn’t stop! See below (and that’s not a forced perspective shot, camera is looking straight ahead):

Sunday challenge: 50 mile minimum, or 3.5 hours + 2 mile run in Santa Monica/Malibu. It was nicknamed “Mari & Luke’s Revenge,” as the team returned to the mean streets of Malibu. The alumni had a modified course, with the return to the infamous hill on John Tyler Road. One experienced rider even said “That was the f*ckin HARDEST hill I’ve ever done!”. Alumni route had to do a few hill loops around Pepperdine with a total of 2 x JohnT + 2 x Rest-of-Team Hill in that day. It was madness I tell ya! Second time around wasn’t any easier. Imagine putting your bike to the easiest gears, having to stand up and pedal, still having the hardest time trying to climb. You know what though? We did it. I didn’t have to zig zag up, nor unclip, nor stop. As hard as it was, it felt amazing to conquer it. I made John Tyler my bitch that morning. Take that! As a reward each time, we were blessed with this beautiful view:

Griffith Park Grand Prix

This morning we were back at Griffith Park, where we were to do the infamous “Grand Prix”, which meant a triple mini-brick. What? Yes, a bike-run 3x. Loops on the bike, out and backs on the run. In between bike rides, the staffers who stayed back had to deflate tires for participants and staff, for all to force-learn how to change their tires. Even worse, they were back-flats, the more tedious of the two because of the chain and drivetrain.

My Garmin wasn’t cooperating with me so I don’t know my exact stats, but for the first 2 bike loops we had to climb a pretty considerable hill twice, then on the last loop we were to do that same hill three times. On one of the descents of the first hill, a crazy driver decided to make a U-turn on a rather narrow road near a blind curve and almost had a teammate crash into her! Some people! My teammate Tushar had to act quickly, brake, was fishtailing, but luckily he avoided what would’ve been a nasty crash! The final loop with the 3 hill repeats were tough, but was manageable. It looked like everyone finished strong, and it’s inspiring to see everyone on the team keep working at it!

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!

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!

Week 3 – Griffith Park Ride

It was the 2nd bike practice of the season, and we met at the LA Zoo Parking Lot C over in Griffith Park. We initially started with a warm up through the park, then some cadence drills to follow (low gear, high cadence, left leg, right leg). For those who didn’t have a bike, they did a quick run around the area. After our bike drills, we did loops surrounding the park, all focusing on technique, not speed. At one point on the course, a chark marking called for 100 rpm on until the turnaround. Once we get back to the parking lot, it was drills again, then repeat. I was able to do 2 loops with the drills (super fast people did 3), but overall it was a fun practice, TNT IronTEAM and Tri teams combined.

After practice, we met up at House Restaurant over in Echo Park, where about 30+ teammates took over a good portion of the room. It was awesome because I got to know some of Tri teammates who I probably normally wouldn’t meet outside the team, especially once we split off into our own groups later.