Friday, August 26, 2011

I missed you, Amelia...

3 days. 3 days I was away.

Away from you.

My precious Amelia.

But no more. We had to be reunited. I had to be with you, Amelia.

The ride we shared yesterday was wonderful. I couldn't think of anyone else I would rather have been with.

And I love the way you look. All those curves. All those angles. I love the way you feel. Your Colnago carbon fork and Shimano R500 wheels absorbing the road and allowing me to enjoy the feel of the wind rather than the bumps in the asphalt.

Oh, I didn't mention my bike's name is Amelia?

Anyway.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were tough. I was resting a sprained foot (doctor's orders) and I can't go running for a few weeks (also doctor's orders). He said cycling might be ok, though, as long as it didn't hurt. After resting for 3 days, I really couldn't take it anymore. I wanted my legs to hurt (in a good way), I wanted my lungs to burn (in a good way), I wanted to go for a bike ride (in a bad way).

My foot wasn't hurting (as bad as before), and so I went. I didn't push very hard, considering I hadn't ridden for the past 3 days, but even taking it easy was great. Actually, I didn't take it easy for the whole ride. During an early part of the ride I managed to hit a new top speed of 36.3 mph. As a proud member of Team "Slow as F**k" it was quite the accomplishment. (Note: Not an actual team. Yet.)

I took my time, practicing staying in aero and standing on the pedals during climbs. I still need to work on pedaling while in aero, and I couldn't stand on the pedals during the climb for long, but it was still good practice.

Right now, I really just need to start putting in the miles to get ready for October. My Las Vegas Century is going to be the last major thing I really train for all year. Do I plan on still swimming/riding/running? Yes/HELL YES/maybe. I wanted to try endurance running again, but my foot may prevent that from happening anytime soon. I figure, I won't do any running until October, and then I will start running again. Until then, I will continue to stretch/massage/ice my foot.

And, of course, keep riding Amelia.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Faster, thinner people have prettier bikes (Race Report!!!)

Oh man, am I tired. And sore. Oh, and I sprained my foot.

But the Hansen Dam Triathlon was way too much fun. Of course, I don't know if I was thinking that during the swim. Or the run. I wouldn't have minded another bike loop, though.

Anyway.

I had a bit of trouble getting to sleep the night before. Then again, I think everyone does the day before a big race. So I stayed up for a bit, wasting time on the internet, and once midnight hit, I wished my brother a happy birthday on facebook. Then I went to bed.

The day started well. I woke up at 4:45 AM, had breakfast (a Mint Chocolate Chip Clif Bar and an Orange FRS), got dressed, woke up my lovely fiancee (Thanks, Love!) and off we went. She dropped me off at the transition area, and she went back home and back to bed. I was the first one in my wave to show up, so I picked a prime spot and set up my area. Bike racked? Check. Water bottles filled? Helmet and sunglasses sitting on the bike? Check. Clif shot blocks taped to the bike? Tires pumped to proper PSI? Check. Shoes set up and ready? Check.

Groovy. I was ready. I just chilled near my stuff, waiting for the event to start. I looked at the other competitors in my age group, and realized I really was going to get last place. Not so good for my self esteem or confidence going into competition. I chatted for a bit, and eventually Manny showed up. We greeted each other, and I helped him figure out where he needed to go so he could set up his stuff. At 6:45, 15 minutes before the event started, I downed another Clif Bar with some water, put on my swim cap and goggles, and headed down to the lake.

While I was there, I started looking at the spectators, hoping to see my parents or my fiancee. Time was short. I wanted to say a quick hello before the start. Right before the National Anthem, I saw my dad, looking for me. I walked behind him and waited. Then the National Anthem started. After the anthem, he noticed I was right behind him. We hugged, and he took a picture of my mother and me. After we departed, I walked back to my wave, and waited for the start.

As they counted down the seconds before my wave went into the water, I started concentrating on technique, and hoping that the turtles wouldn't bite me (I was told there are turtles in the lake at Hansen Dam, and considering that I was seriously concerned about piranhas in Redondo Beach, its no surprise this popped into my head, too). And then we all ran/hopped into the water. It was so nice and warm! I wasn't in my wetsuit, since that would slow me down significantly during T1, and I seriously wanted to beat 2 hours (but I really wanted to beat 1:45, and the night before, I decided I was going to try to beat my Redondo Beach Tri time of 1:39). I got kicked a couple of times, and somewhere in between everything, my stopwatch stopped. Once again, I had trouble swimming in a straight line, and the lifeguards had to yell at me every now and then to swim TOWARDS the buoy, instead of away from it. Taking their advice to heart, I eventually made it out of the water. Thinking I had had a great swim time, I ran into the transition area. Helmet first, then shoes. My fiancee was waiting for me in the spectator area of the transition area (she was within 3 ft of me and my bike, I told you it was a prime spot!) and she was asking me brief, one answer questions like "How did the swim go?" (Nice) and "How are you feeling?" (Good). I grabbed my bike, and clopped out of transition (I completely forgot my slow pwny strategy). I then mounted my trusty steed and headed off. I immediately passed someone who I think was wearing an LA Tri Club shirt, but I could be wrong. Either way, he looked like he hit the wall. HARD. I shouted words of encouragement as I passed him. I then arrived at the first hill. As I climbed, I started passing people on REALLY nice bikes. And then different people on REALLY REALLY nice bikes started passing me. I tried not to think about it too hard when that happened.

Anyway.

During the course, every time someone would pass me, I would shout "Keep it up!" or other such words of encouragement. I knew I had no chance of winning the thing, so I may as well be a nice guy about it, right? Eventually, they started replying with their own words of encouragement. Which I thought was pretty cool.

As I arrived at the hill before the really awesome downhill, I downshifted, and started climbing. When I noticed my cadence slowing, I downshifted again.

And then my chain dropped.

Meaning, it fell off the chainring.

$@#^!!

I dismounted, reset the chain, and then struggled to get enough momentum to keep turning the cranks. It took me about 3 tries (I kept stalling out) but eventually I was able to finish the climb. On the downhill, I shifted to a harder gear, and as my cadence went up, I went to harder gears. I was flying. Descending is the best thing about hills. I started passing people on the fancier, more expensive bikes (some were wearing aero helmets, too) and I tried to just enjoy the descent as much as possible (upon further consideration, I feel it is safe to say that my cycling specialty is descending, since people kept passing me on the climbs and the flats but I was the one doing the passing on the downhills). Throughout the ride I was chomping on Orange Clif Shot Blocks, and drinking water from the Aerodrink I had attached to my aero bars. Before I knew it, I was coming back towards the transition area, and I saw my fiancee shouting words of encouragement at me (At least I thought they were words of encouragement, she may have been mad at me for having had to wake up at 5 to drive me to the event). I rolled to the stop point, dismounted, and trotted back to the transition area where I parked my bike, took off my helmet, changed shoes, and ran off.

After a few short minutes on the run course, I realized I should have worn my trail running shoes instead of my Newtons. Or at least some socks. The mesh was allowing pebbles and dust to get into the shoe, which was started to get annoying (obviously). I eventually ran into a mud puddle too (yuck, wet running shoe and no socks). After the halfway point, I was feeling beat. This was the hardest I had ever gone in a race. I resigned myself to start doing 2 minute runs, 1 minute walks. Further along into the run, I saw a familiar figure running towards me. It was Manny! Surprised and happy to see him (I knew he had come to keep me going strong), I just kept running (by this point it looked more like a trot again). He started running next to me, slowly speeding me up, coaching me on my form and my breathing. He didn't let me stop to walk. I am so grateful to him for that. I would not have had the time I did without his help.

He got me through the hills, and eventually, we approached the finish line. With instructions to sprint once I turned the final corner, he let me go off on my own. With the finish line right in front of me, I sprinted as hard as my already exhausted body could.

I never saw the time.

The officials took my timing chip, gave me a finisher's medal, and let me on my way.

I gave my fiancee and big hug, told her I was exhausted, and walked towards the pull to soak my feet. Manny came by with some food and chocolate milk-flavored coconut water (seriously, it tasted like chocolate milk) and we stood in line to have our picture taken together. Manny left shortly after that since he was having breakfast with his family. After packing up my stuff, I was walking out of transition when I saw another cyclist running his bike into transition. Was someone still running the race? I then overheard one of the race officials asking where the final cyclist was. I told him someone had just run in to transition. He then advised me that the last cyclist has an LA County Lifeguard escort so they know who the last person on the road is. Damn, there was still someone out there. I never found out what happened to that person, either.

My fiancee and I stayed for the awards presentation and the raffle (I didn't win anything). On our way out, we chatted for a bit with someone in my age group who ABSOLUTELY DOMINATED the event. He dominated at the Redondo Tri, too. We then walked to the car, and went to her house, where her mother made us omelettes with bacon and hash browns. BEST MEAL EVER. I was so hungry. But excited. My fiancee had told me my times. And she had a huge smile on her face when she told me my completion time. I had beaten my Redondo Beach Tri time! I had a new PR!

For the record, both races had different conditions. Redondo had an ocean swim that was half a mile. Hansen Dam had a 500yd swim in a lake. But, the bike leg of Hansen Dam was 5 miles longer and the run leg was a mile longer.

After breakfast, I started making mental notes of what I needed to do to improve my times for next year.

Swim: I need to practice more. I need to learn bilateral breathing. I need do to more ocean swimming and drag training. And I need to lose weight.

Bike: I need to learn more bike maintenance stuff. I need to become a stronger climber. And I need to lose weight.

Run: I need to improve my endurance. I need to be able to push myself when I think I don't have anything else in the tank. And I need to lose weight.

Figured out the pattern?

Anyway, it was another great learning experience. Another great event. I am done with triathlons for the rest of year, which is definitely a good thing, since I sprained my foot. I went to the doctor yesterday, and bam, sprained plantar fascia. No running for a few weeks.

And he said cycling might be ok, as long as it didn't hurt. I certainly hope it doesn't, considering I am riding a century in October.

Oh well.

In summary, good times were had. Great event, gonna do it again next year.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pre-race post. The keys to faster triathlons!

Sunday August 21, 2011 is my brother's 27th birthday. I love the guy. He's been my best friend (and worst enemy, sibling rivalry and all that) for as long as I can remember, and I hope he has a great day. And here's the thing. I already gave him his birthday present (stuff from comic-con). On Sunday, I am giving something to myself instead: another triathlon (I enjoy suffering, apparently, and have chosen to give myself the gift of being sore for a week).

The Hansen Dam Triathlon is located at Hansen Dam (duh) in beautiful, scenic (pffft) Lakeview Terrace, CA. It consists of a 500yd swim, followed by an 11 mi bike leg, ending with a 3 mi run. Me being me, I am totally confident that I will win this thing with flying colors.

Who am I kidding, I'll be lucky not to get last place. Just like Redondo Beach, I will probably be Mr. 2nd to last. Which is only slightly better than last. To make things worse, they do not offer the "Clydesdale" category. Meaning I have to race against people the same age as me instead of the same weight as me. But still! I wanna win! And knowing that I won't, I will just have to settle for doing pretty good, or even just ok. Which I don't mind, by the way. You see, I have a tendency to overestimate my abilities. For example, I wanted to finish the Redondo Beach Triathlon in 90 minutes. Didn't happen. Almost happened, but not quite (99 minutes, so close!).

Anyway, I hope to finish the Hansen Dam Tri in 2 hours (But I REALLY wanna finish it in 1 hour 45 minutes). Do I think I can do it? I hope so. If I take 20 minutes on the swim (hoping for 15), 40 minutes on the bike (hoping for 35), and 45 minutes on the run (hoping for 40), then that leaves me with 15 minutes for transition time and any mechanical issues or flats I may encounter during the bike leg (or 0 minutes if I REALLY wanna finish in 1:45). I plan on finishing under 400th place (Really. No joke). I compared my estimated time to last year's results. Out of 424 finishers, those who finished with a time of 1 Hour 45 minutes (1:45) placed 394th-396th in the overall. Finishing at 2 hours would land me at 419th place. Which was 5 spots away from last place, 424th. This year they hope to have 700 athletes compete. So, I hope for a "middle of the pack" kind of day. But if the times are any indication, I will probably be 2nd slowest man again (yay me, writing does wonders for my self esteem).

The good thing about having done a triathlon before is the new things I learned about triathlons and tricks to reduce time. For example, don't wear a wetsuit. The water shouldn't be cold this time of year in the middle of the valley. Besides, even if the water is a bit chilly, I am sure all the sweat and spit from the other athletes (I'm in wave#4) will warm the water a couple of degrees, right?

That's the issue with non-ocean swim legs. You're gonna be swimming in saltwater anyway. But hey, as long as everyone took a shower the morning of, it shouldn't be too bad, right? And I shouldn't worry about cramping in the middle of the swim, since I would be taking in a lot of salt (ok, that's just gross).

So there. Time saving tip for the swim to bike transition. No wetsuit.

Now, what about saving time during the swim? The only thing I can think of is actually getting better at swimming. At least my fat makes me buoyant.

OK, saving time during the bike ride?

Many triathletes (at least the good ones) leave their bike shoes clipped into the pedals, and they don't put on the shoes until later during the ride. That helps reduce the transition time since they don't need to put on the shoes, then clop like a pony with new horseshoes out of transition. As for me, I'm not a good triathlete, so I'm going pony-style. BUT!!! I thought of a way to get in between the "shoes already clipped" method and the "slow pony" style. I will simply have to carry my bike shoes with my bike, then once I step out of transition I will put on the shoes and be on my way. I call it, "Slow Pwny." Catchy, no? Also, I put aero bars and new tires (the tires were an early birthday gift from the my fiance. Thanks, love!) onto my bike, which should help reduce rolling friction and help with being more aerodynamic. That should shave a few minutes off my time, right?

To summarize, reduce weight and improve aerodynamics to save time on the bike.

Now, for the run. What have I learned?

Absolutely nothing. No tricks. Park your bike, change shoes, and go (and I guess remove your helmet, if you don't want to look like an idiot).

You can't learn to run fast. It comes from training. It comes from being more efficient. It comes from (gasp!) losing weight. The only real strategy I have for the run is to do just that. Keep running. No run/walk like I've always done. Just keep running. And don't stop until I cross the finish line (immediately afterwards I will find the nearest soft looking patch of asphalt and proceed to crumple onto it).

So, to recap: Less clothes, less weight, more moving. Bam. I got this triathlon thing down.

Race report next week.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I feel the need...the need for speed...(and nachos)

So in my last post, I talked about how I ran once in San Diego at the hotel, and then during the convention my friends totally abandoned me, allowing me to show off my massive and powerful (or powerfully massive, you choose) quads in a sprint to catch up to them. Which I did. Because I have massive and powerful (or powerfully massive, you choose) quads. Massive and powerful (powerfully massive) quads equals speed and strength.

Now, you may be asking, how can I, someone with tiny and weak (weakly tiny?) quads develop my quads into becoming massive and powerful (powerfully massive)?

The answer is simple. YOU CAN'T.

You must start at an early age! If you can read this post, then that means you can read, and are therefore too young to start this revolutionary new training program to help develop massive and powerful (powerfully massive) quads (apparently, I've also developed delusions of grandeur).

You see, I was lucky. I was always tubby, so my legs naturally had to carry more weight than everyone else, allowing for them to grow more massive and powerful (ok, this joke's getting old, I'll stop now) year after year.

I now submit to you, a true story: Back in high school, when I was a part of the football team, we were all stretching before practice. A friend of mine was going to help me stretch out my legs. Upon lifting one (just one!) of my legs, he let out an audible "huffghghfh" and angrily yelled, Damn, your legs must weight like 100 million lbs!" And he was pretty close. You see, having the naturally developed quads (and delusions of grandeur) that I have, they will naturally be heavier, due to the density of the muscles (and the delusions of grandeur).

And so, having these naturally massive and powerful quads (and by quads, I mean delusions of grandeur) allowed me to close a near impossible gap (it was about 2 city blocks) and reach my friends in time so that I too could get a gold bar (it was cardboard, and a promo for Cowboys and Aliens).

So in conclusion, I'm totally sure that all the cycling, running, and swimming I've been doing this year and the weight loss have had zero impact on my speed and strength. Because my quads are naturally like this.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hooray! I didn't bite off more than I could chew! (at least until October)

I didn't post at all last week after the race report because I was in San Diego for Comic Con. I am a huge nerd. Fortunately, the hotel I was staying at had a treadmill, which I used once. And during the Con, I was able to sprint and catch up to a group of friends who had tried to ditch me for some gold bars (buts thats a different story for a different time). Anyway, now to today's scheduled post.

Bike riding is fun. Plain and simple. I don't think I've ever gotten as much joy out of any exercise as I do riding my bike.

Saying that, I've been doing weekly rides with the San Fernando Valley Bicycle Club, chatting it up with the members (I plan on joining soon) and having a good time on two wheels. Its pretty cool. A weekly ride, with a bunch of people who also enjoy riding bikes (Albeit their bikes are much, MUCH nicer and they have full pro team kits, while I have a Chinese mail-order bike and a jersey and bibs I got from the clearance rack from Performance Bike and Helen's Cycles, so they don't even have the same logos on them) This past weekend was a bit different, though.

It started simply enough. The night before, I decided to go on the 25 mile ride, which is the easiest one they were offering. I had considered the 41 mile ride, but since I was helping my friend move right afterwards and had only ridden once that week (lots of mechanical and tire issues, but thats a different story for a different time) I went with the safer option.

Oh, how wrong I was.

I meet up with the club, and before everyone heads out, they do a (kinda-sorta) roll call where people raise their hands to show which ride they will go on. When they ask who will go on the easy ride, I raise my hand. While the leaders of the club were talking aloud, I heard someone behind me call my name.

"Chris!"

I figure they must be talking to another Chris. It IS a common name, after all.

"Chris!!"

I turn around, and its someone I had met on a previous ride.

He smiled and made eye contact. "Do the 40 mile ride with us!"

"I dunno, I have to help a friend move later today," was my response.

Not feeling discouraged at all by my valid and reasonable excuse, he exclaims, "But Jill's doing the 40 miler too!"

I look over at Jill, a thin woman with gray hair who rides a bike with toe clips. She's a super-nice and awesome person, but not exactly the world's strongest rider. She had even come up to me earlier, with doubts of riding the 40 miler.

Dammit, if she's doing it, I'm doing it.

I turn to my friend and say, "Alright, fine."

Satisfied with my answer, he clips in and rides off, expecting me to follow.

Unfortunately, I lose him in the crowd. And then the crowd splits into 3 main groups.

Oh hell. Where do I go now?

You see, I had printed out the directions for the 25 mile ride, not the 40.

I follow one group, and someone rides by me, asking "which ride you going on?"

I reply, "Number 2."

He responds, "Oh. I'm going on the number 3 ride."

Crap, I'm with the wrong group.

So I turn around a follow a different group. And then I realize I was in the right group in the first place.

By now, I've gone too far to try to retrace my steps (figuratively speaking) so I keep riding with the group I was with. Then, using my knowledge of intersections and the neighborhood, I make a left and see the group I am supposed to be riding with. I start to chase.

By then, the 40 miler group had split into two groups. The lead group had all the stronger riders, my buddy included. I never caught up to them. I didn't have the turn list, and I lost sight of them.

I caught up to the slower, easier group. Which I didn't mind, by the way. Since everyone was super nice.

And I was the only dude.

Since I didn't have the turn list, I just followed them, but I used this time to practice one handed riding, standing on the pedals, and reaching for my water bottle. All of which, I was able to do. Yay me.

During the ride, I felt something strange when I used my rear brake. I thought nothing of it, figuring it would go away eventually, or I would check it out once we got to the rest stop. More on this later.

As we neared the halfway point, we went past Lake Balboa, and rather than riding on the bike lane (separated from Burbank Blvd by trees and dirt and a lack of concrete) we road on Burbank Blvd. I rode as far away from cars as possible while staying on road, meaning I was as far right as possible. Meaning that the little seeds pebbles or whatever was falling off of trees and onto the roads, I was riding in.

You see where I'm going with this?

As we approach a park away from the trees and further down the road, I feel/see something weird from/on my bike. I yell out to the person ahead of me, "Go on ahead, I think something is wrong with my front wheel."

She stops, and walks back to me as I get my bike onto the sidewalk. I prop it up against a fire hydrant, and immediately notice a white seed/pebble looking thing stuck on my front tire. It was rubbing against my front brake, so I decide to pull it out.

Then I heard the hissing.

Dammit.

At least I have a spare tube and patch kit.

Then I look at my rear tire and see many more of the white seed/pebble thingies.

Dammit.

Then I look at my rear tire again. Or rather, the rear brake. It would seem that during the ride, one of the brake pads fell off. All of it. The rubber, the plastic part that holds it, and the screw that was supposed to keep it in place.

Lose/Lose/Lose situation. The minute I pull out the seed pebbles, I will have more holes in my tire. But if I try to remove the tire without pulling the seed pebbles out, they will deflate anyway. AND I DON'T HAVE A REAR BRAKE.

Then, acting as a guardian angel, one of the riders comes up to me with HER spare tube. I try to decline, but she insisted. I accepted her tube, and told her that I owed her one at the next ride (its already been purchased and it sits in my garage, anxiously anticipating meeting its new owner on Saturday).

A few members tried to stay behind while I changed the tubes, but I insisted they go on ahead to the rest stop. They went on ahead once they realized I knew what I was doing (Me knowing what I was doing is directly related to the mechanical/tire issues I had during the week, but thats a different story for a different time).Ugh, 4 tubes in 2 days. (Different story as mentioned above, yadda yadda yadda)

After I got to the rest stop and met up with the group I was riding with, I refilled my water bottle and sat down to eat a Clif Bar. As I got there, though, a few people from the group went on ahead, without me and three others who chose to stay with me and keep me company. Seriously, after they tried to wait for me to change my tubes (I gave them the OK to head off without me, remember?) they decided to wait for me to finish eating. I wolfed it down. I wasn't starving, but I felt bad that their muscles would get cold waiting for me. After that, we headed off.

And that's when things started going downhill (and uphill).

As I exited the parking lot, I was braking as a car was speeding past me. While I was mid-brake, I was mid-turn. While I was mid-turn, I went over some water. Low speed + turn + water + a fat mass = my front tire sliding out from under me and I fall to my side.

Don't worry, the bike was fine.

I get up, dust off the bike, and continue on with the ride. Flat for a bit, then we start climbing.

I would just like to say a giant THANK YOU to my friend Manny. After only having ONE ride/coaching session my climbing has significantly improved. So much so that I never dropped down to my granny gear (except for one time, but more on that later).

So yeah, I'm climbing, and feeling good. Well, I was hurting, but feeling good that I was climbing. And, we eventually caught up to the people who went on ahead.

As we rode on, one of the ladies, Fran, had asked if I had gone on the ride before. I told her I had not. She then advised me to prepare for some climbing.

Which I did. By going into a smaller gear on the rear cassette while staying in the middle ring on the chainring.

Clearly, I was trying to channel Jens Voigt.

As we climbed, we started coming up to a stoplight. It was still green. I immediately started pedaling harder, trying to beat the light.

I didn't.

As I realized I wasn't going to make it, I started trying to clip out from the pedals.

I couldn't.

As I flailed on my bike, trying to avoid the inevitable, I started thinking maybe I should just have kept riding. I mean, cyclists have the right of way, right? (Only a joke, don't run red lights or you will end up as a hood ornament)

Once I accepted my fate, I said aloud so all the ladies could hear, "This won't end well."

If memory serves me right, a few of them were laughing while they tried to help me up.

I was bleeding a bit, but fortunately, none of it got on the bike!

I got off to the side of the road, making sure my bike was ok. After I was sure it was, I waited for the light to turn green again. Since we were still uphill, I had to drop down to the granny gear (I"M SO ASHAMED) to get rolling again. Once I started rolling again, I went back up to the middle ring, and finished the ride.

There were more climbs, sure. But all of that is boring compared to my amazing uncontrollable superpower of fusing my shoes to the pedals and falling.

I was able to finish my first 40 mile bike ride. I didn't bite of more than I could chew. I don't think I WILL bite off more than I can chew.

At least until October, because I signed up for a century ride in Las Vegas. http://www.rtcsnv.com/vivabikevegas/

OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE