Saturday, December 25, 2010

Heartrate Monitor

The heart rate monitor is supposed to give you interesting insights into how you are performing, but today all I learned is I am in some stage of freaking out. I ran the usual Golden Gate Park loop and I was basically incapable of keeping my heartrate below 150, even when going downhill. Physically I have felt fine with no signs of overtraining or sickness.

I'm not sure what affect emotions have on heartrate or training but I am not exactly firing on all biorythyms. Maybe it is emotional stress but I need to address it pronto. Maybe the famous Dr. Scott.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I know the treadmill is monotonous and avoiding running outside on extreme weather days makes me soft but:

1) I can listen to music on it but can't outside because it throws off my rhythm - there is no rhythm when you are on a treadmill because pace is constant.

2) The weather is always perfect except at Holiday Inn in Kingston in the summer when its 110 degrees and 90 percent humidity. Running is hard enough that I don't need weather to be a factor.

3) Pace is completely in my control, satisfying my OCD. I don't have to worry about how fast or slow I am going.

4) I can meticulously measure miles, again satisfying my OCD.

5) I don't need to pack as much on trips during the winter, although I still tend to overpack.

I know I need to start running, biking and swimming more outside as I target Boston and sub 12. Plus that will give me opportunity to buy more gear. But first one last run on Holiday Inn treadmill.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Going Long Scientifically

I am thinking it might make sense to buy Going Long, a somewhat scientific book about how to train for long distance endurance events. My approach of doing an assortment of runs, bikes and swims got me to a 13.28 Ironman but I don't think they will get me to sub-12. Without major structure I always gravitate to the comfortable burn (7 mile run, one hour ride or 1 mile swim). Hopefully this book isn't too scientific (e.g., percent exertion, workout zones) as those make me nuts.

I might also sign up for Pacific Masters, an organized swim team that meets at Koret Center. I swam half a mile on Saturday and my form is a joke. It would be seriously fun to be able to flip turn. I am going to try that this weekend with Ben and Sam.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Baby Steps

So I have taken baby steps towards triathlon training although I am still confining the majority of my workouts to treadmills and Lifecycles which is very bizarre when you live in San Francisco. Everyday is a good running day and there are very few times when it is too cold to ride. But I still have vestiges of mental softness.

I plan on running, lifting, biking, swimming until I can't anymore but I do have a few goals I want to hit if I am going to consider myself a legitimate athlete. They are break 3.30 and qualify for Boston, break 12 hours for an Ironman and qualify for Hawaii Ironman. All while trying to maintain or attain a normal social and family life. I don't think this is impossible and unlike some pretentious authors , I don't think I need to break the bank to accomplish these goals. Given that I am at best a mediocre biker and swimmer, I figure I need 18 months minimum to try and improve these skills if I have a shot. And I will still nail 20 pullups by December 31.

Thursday, Dec 2 - 7 mile treadmill in 53.36

Friday, Dec 3 - weights in AM; 45 minute Lifecycle at Planet Fitness in PM (480 cals; heartrate 140-145 bpm)

Saturday, Dec 4 - 7 mile treadmill in 54.09 in AM; .5 mile swim in 18.59 at Koret (embarassment)

Sunday, Dec 5 - 60 minute Lifecycle at Koret Center in AM (810 cals; heartrate 120-125)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The NY Marathon

To appreciate success you need to suffer and I have done lots of the latter the two times I have run the New York Marathon. Both times the same predictable thing happened. I had my usual melt and cramp down between miles and 20 and 22, making what should be a triumphant run up Fifth Avenue and through Central Park a death march. It’s kind of hard to look cool and fit when you are walking and there is nothing worse than acknowledging people who treat you like a member of the Achilles Track Club with sympathetic support. So I don’t acknowledge – I silently redirect my self loathing at my mental and physical weakness by cursing them in my head and refusing to look at them. Of course they have 35,000 other chances to cheer better people than I on.

Despite the race being an overall awesome experience, I was left with bitterness, anger and disappointment when I ran the race in 2005 and 2007. It wasn’t my times that killed me (3.51 and 3.41); it was the fact that I didn’t accomplish my bare minimum – run the entire race. Time is important but so is the general goal of the race – run the whole goddamn thing. No one sets out to run 22 and walk 4.2 No one. So I cautiously approached the 2010 with hope but fear.

The first 22 miles were an afterthought, an obvious. With little training I could do 22 miles. But not the point. So when I started feeling the first calf cramp (ironic that I have virtually no calves but they are always the first to go). In the Bronx I assumed I was back in my usual home of misery. My hope was that meeting Mike at mile 21 for the final run in might prompt my ego to override the faulty wiring.

And it worked. At the risk of being dramatic, the last five miles of the race are as enjoyable a run as I have ever had. It hurt, it wasn’t fast (8.15/mile or so pace) but I ran every step of it. The cheers along 5th Avenue and in the Park weren’t transcending but this time they weren’t annoying. And when I turned the corner from Central Park South to go back into the Park, I knew I had done it. The time (3.37) was satisfying but not the promised land. That’s for next year. Because I have entered the gates, now I aim for the prize.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


I typically haven't planned out races or goals a year in advance. My rough plans usually consist of doing one marathon and a bunch of other to be determined races. I am going to try a different approach in 2011, as I want to move from participating to amping up my performance. I still have the goal in my head of doing a sub 12 hour Ironman but not next year. First I have to learn how to swim rather than my current approach of dragging as much water behind me.

So my preliminary 2011 schedule:

April Black Butte Olympic Triathlon - sub 2.45
Half marathon in June/July time frame - sub 1.33
Vineman or Big Kahuna Half Ironman - sub 5.4o
Grand Fondo - finish under 8 hours
Fall marathon (NY or CIM) - sub 3.30

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Comfort Zones

177.8 pounds

48 mile Paradise Loop Ride in a.m.

Frangie CrossFit WOD in 14 min 10 sec
Rounds of 21, 15, 9, 6, 3 for time of thrusters, pullups, pushups, air squats and situps

One of my exercise goals was to get to the point that I could do a decent workout everyday, but get in such good shape that it wouldn't really hurt. I'd push myself enough initially so I wouldn't have to push myself in the long run. Benching 200 pounds 10 times would seem easy and the seven-to-eight mile run would seem like two. After 12 years of basically uninterrupted workouts, I am at that point. I don't think the workouts are easy but I don't have the nervousness going into a workout that it will be super hard and there is no doubt as to whether I'll complete it. I know pretty much to the second how far I'll run and how many times I'll squat 122 pounds.

There is comfort in this approach. I'm keeping myself in decent shape and I'm relatively serene, but it really isn't taking my mind anywhere. After 29 years of exercise, I'm finally to the point where I'm ready to fully admit that it's my passion and hobby, and status quo isn't the way you should ever describe your passion. I say it all the time, and I have written it here countless times, but it really is time to get out of my comfort zone and start pushing myself.

So that's the general plan. I love my balance between lifting and endurance sports so I am not going to be branching too far from that gravitational pull. The idea is to start shocking the mind and body by walking out on the limb a little and do things like Levi's Grand Fondo and other 100 mile rides. Long rides definitely take me out of my mental comfort zone because it forces me to think for five hours with no Blackberry distractions.

Today is an example of what I am talking about. Weekends usually call for an 8 mile run but not today. I'm about to head out for a 45 mile ride, my longest in about three years, followed by a Cross Fit workout at Borders Gym. And to complete the triathlon, the third event will be remaining awake beyond 10:00 p.m. tonight to try and add an actual life to the back half of all these workouts. That could be the biggest challenge.

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Treadmill

Weights and 175.4 pounds

I am developing an unhealthy obsession with the treadmill. I used to do all of my runs outside in Golden Gate Park, but am now doing the majority of them at Planet Fitness or the Holiday Inn in Kingston, NY. What is my problem?

I have no issue with running outside - I ran twice in Central Park when I was in New York a few weeks ago and loved it even though it was 20 degrees. But I had no treadmill option which I am sure I would have taken. My list of why I like the treadmill includes:

1) Predictability. Even though I run at virtually the same pace when I am outside, I know exactly how I am going to feel on the treadmill every time. My runs in Golden Gate Park can be painfully unpredictable, especially at night when I tend to have less energy than the morning (see reason four).

2) Weather. It is always 65-70 degrees with no rain or wind at Planet Fitness so I can run in shorts and T-shirts all the time.

3) Music. I hate using an iPod outside because it screws up my rhythm and pace. On a treadmill that is not an issue because you can run a constant pace no matter what the beat to the Madonna song.

4) No traffic. I am doing more of my runs after work in an attempt to live on the same time cycle as most adults. When I run downtown I have to run about a mile on the city streets and I am either going to die of a heart attack from waiting for red lights or get hit by a truck while jay walking. All green lights on the treadmill.

5) Vanity. As a vain person, part of what motivates me is checking out the shape and fitness level of other people which is much easier to do at the gym, particularly when you run on the only treadmill in the gym in front of a mirror.

6) Rainman. I have a border line obsession with numbers and while Gmaps is good for measuring the distance of running loops, it is not 100% accurate. On the treadmill I know I ran 7.61 miles in 60 minutes last night.

For the sake of my sanity, I can't do more than an hour on gym machines so I am going to go outside to do a 45 mile ride tomorrow. 3 hours or so on the Lifecycle would crush even my OCD spirit.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Blood Sport

7.61 miles in 60 minutes (treadmill) and 175.2 pounds

Last night I went to Emily's house and hung out with her, Dave and Elena. While the general purpose of the night was to see Emily and Dave's awesome new house, it was a transparent excuse for me to dominate at ping pong. Other than running, I have spent more time playing ping pong than any other sport, although that is mostly from childhood when I used to play my dad every night after dinner. I have also been passing down the skills from this most intellectual of sports to Ben and Sam during our weekends at the Holiday Inn which has helped me rebuild and rediscover my game.

I was definitely on last night, and skillfully played the role of the guy at the party who takes the geeky sport a little too seriously, and crosses the line between admirable to weird.. It confirmed my conviction that if I had to pick a blood sport, a physical activity in which to play to save my life, it would definitely be ping pong. This doesn't mean that I consider ping pong to be the sport at which I am the best. It means that, if forced to play a random person off the street in a match for the prize of life, ping pong would be my best shot. I am good at endurance sports and I have a decent maximum bench press but a lot of people focus on these relatively mainstream activities. However, ping pong is kind of fringe. More people play beer pong than regular pong.

So I will keep nailing the daily workouts but when I am at the gates of purgatory, I'm whipping out my racket and we are going two out of three to determine my place in eternity.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

What I eat

7 miles in 55.19 (treadmill) and 173.6 pounds

It started innocently enough when I watched Food, Inc., Robert Kenner's awesome movie on the American food industrial complex. I know that I totally ignore the nutritional aspect of fitness. I don't have a horrible diet compared to most people but that isn't saying much. My usual weekly diet consists of burritos, pizza, chocolate chip cookies and bagels. Since I work out a lot, it hasn't affected my health but I am pretty sure I would be a faster athlete if I ate better and didn't exist in a constant state of dehydration.

Last night I went to an informational meeting on a cleansing diet, which is essentially three weeks of abstaining from meat, processed foods, sugars, wheat, coffee (no chance), alcohol, glutton, milk, etc. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to do it because it seems a little bit extreme but I am going to make a conscious effort to go organic, and try to avoid the cookie and ice cream fest. This might mean that I don't go to the diner for the usual omelets with Ben and Sam in Kingston, NY but there are worse tragedies in life.

One small reason I have refrained from these type of diets is the same reason why I have always avoided taking Ritalin. I might be borderline ADD but it is part of who I am and I have a fear of altering my personality (unless it is borderline destructive). I am the guy who loves french fries and pizza and I am OK with that image. Except maybe I don't need to be the one who subsists solely on that food from the back of the race.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The FitBut

179.6 pounds
Weight lifting workout in the a.m.
45 minute Life Fitness Cycle - 577 calories at Planet Fitness

Part of the allure of exercise is that it feeds my Rainman obsession with number. I meticulously track each workout and record miles biked or ridden in not just once but multiple online and paper-based systems. It harkens back to my early fascination with bowling where the score was more interesting than the actual activity. I've only increased the fuel for the fire recently by buying a scale to add yet another statistic to track.

As if that weren't enough, I am seriously thinking of getting the FitBit, a new gadget to monitor and measure sleep patterns, calories burned, etc. This level of tracking might require a three dimensional spread sheet on Google Docs which could take my level of analness to entirely new level.

One side issue to the scale is that the correlation between weight and exercise seems unrelated. My weight fluctuates between 175 and 179 pounds and the amount I work out in the preceding day seems to have no effect on the number. It could just be related to how many grains of creatine I had that day.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Cycle of Soloism

7 miles in 54.08 at Kezar Stadium

My philosophy towards religion and endurance sports is a combination of Marx's (Groucho, not Karl) maxim that I would never join a club that would have me as a member and the fear of feeling like a sheep. Hence I do not go to organized religious services (throw in the agnosticism as another reason) and I do all of my workouts alone. By running, cycling and lifting solo, I am also ensuring that I don't push myself beyond or below my comfort level. Of course it also guarantees that I won't improve or discover workouts beyond my basic few staples.

One of the reasons I signed up for the Grand Fondo 103 mile bike ride in October is to end this cycle of soloism. Several people I know are doing it so I'll have steady training partners for the next nine months. And if I can convince myself to make it to the Borders new Cross Fit gym (see above), I'll have yet another vehicle for endurance bonding. If I even rejoined one of the local triathlon clubs I would be in danger of being labeled a social animal and that would be crazy.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Good New Years Signs

Maybe this is the start of pulling myself out of class A rut. In the last two days, I:

  • Did a CrossFit workout, nailing 19 sets for the Cindy workout;
  • Went on a 24 mile bike ride in 50 degrees and fog to boot and didn't do it solo;
  • Stayed up until 1:00 a.m. on NYE, and was even with people;
  • Signed up for the 103 mile leg of the Grand Fondo bike ride.
This does not represent a major break in my personality but it is a step away from the droning of the same workouts that I have been doing for the last six months. And there have been real signs of the hermit period coming to an end. If I can cure my whining, that will be real sign of progress