Push Through It!


If working out was easy, everyone would be a triathlete.  Heck, the world would be a much better place as the food industry wouldn’t be trying to cram sugar laden food down our throats. But this isn’t a post about the sins of the major food processors.

No, this post is about the transformation and journey one will experience as they move off the couch and into the gym, outdoors on the jogging path, and/or on the saddle of your bike.  This is also a good time to disclaim the concept of seeing your doctor before doing any rigorous exercise.

Reflecting on the Painful Past

As I reflect on the past few days and the agony of sore quads, a bit of dehydration, and stomach discomfort, I look back to my first journey and the pain, the emotions, and the experience I had when I was in much worse shape.  It was not a walk in the park.  In fact, I was moody, in pain, couldn’t catch my breathe, and wanted to walk away from it all so many times.  But I didn’t.

This time, I know what is ahead.  Right now, it hurts.  Right now, I lose my breathe easily.  Right now, my heart rate peaks very quickly.  Right now, my muscles are fighting to stay in bed.  Right now, I am thirsty and hungry.  Right now, I am drenched in sweat.

But tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that, I will experience these things a bit less.  Pretty soon, I can climb a flight of stairs with vigor without losing my breathe.  Pretty soon, my muscles will be upset when I DON’T exercise.

Don’t Be One of the 95%

As we embark on our fitness journeys, we will go through stages.  I understand why a lot of people go to the gym and give up after three sessions.  In fact, one of my personal trainers told me once that if he could one client through six sessions, they would be a client for over a year!  That conversion rate, less than 5%.  Yup, less than 5% of clients go beyond six sessions.  That’s a lot of people saying goodbye to their fit future.

Take My Advice

Just push through it
from Brainy Quote

For anyone who is new to this and just embarking on their fitness journey, my advice is this:  “Just push through it! The reward at the end is far sweeter than you think.”  It is true.  Becoming a triathlete saved my life and it gave me a life I never thought possible growing up.  Being fit makes it super easy to do things.  Being fit makes you look different walking down the street. Being fit gives you confidence.

While the first few sessions will suck and that voice in your head will try to convince you to go back to the couch, don’t listen to it.  Listen to me, “push through it” because you will thank yourself later.

Let’s do this together.  Subscribe to my Blog, join me on Twitter. Leave a comment, share your goals. Let’s create a community.

On Becoming a Race Director…


Giving back to the community can take many forms.  From donations to local charities to adopting a highway, there is more than one way to give back.  How one gives back often depends on their beliefs and passions.

Being a triathlete convert from an office potato, I understand the impact of fitness on improving one’s quality of life.  So, for my philanthropic project for 2012, I decided to do something so outside my box, that I downright frightened myself.

Combining my passion for competition and the local need for a new type of sporting event, I created the concept of the Goleta Duathlon.   A run-bike-run event that is structured as a “B” race, good for seasoned athletes as a warm-up, and a great first race for beginners, that will double as a fundraiser for the Foundation for Girsh Park.

For the first time in my life, I set the bar so high, it drowns me with fear.  Being Race Director is a huge responsibility as the success of the event and the safety of all participants lie on my shoulders.  This event will sink or swim because of me.

Luckily, some of the same principles I learned in triathlon competition apply to my Race Directorship.  In no particular order:

  • Perseverance – Just don’t give up.  Like a triathlon, the mind plays games and tries to get you to stop pushing the edge.  When you get a flat tire, you either continue riding or you change it fast and double your effort to make up time.  As a Race Director, you must keep moving toward the larger goal, even with “No” thrown at you.  If one thing doesn’t work, get feedback and try another angle.
  • Flexibility – Triathlon requires a large amount of flexibility, particularly when dealing with race day conditions.  You can’t let the snow stop you, just adjust your game.  As a Race Director, listening to my community leaders and peers has lead to a very different event that I envisioned last summer when I came up with the idea.   Instead of being stuck on the original event, I rode along for the ride and adjusted where I needed to.
  • Attitude is everything – Sure the rain sucks and makes you cold.  But the cool thing is that you are doing a triathlon in the rain!  Not a lot of people would be bragging about such a thing, but it makes a great story for the grandkids and your friends will respect you a lot more smiling as you cross the finish line in the rain.  Race Director’s have to smile a lot too.  During my first meeting with the city, my event was rejected.  As crushed as I was, I listened to why they rejected it and worked with them.  While the smile did disappear for a moment or two, when the smile came back, I knew this event was going to happen.
  • Enjoy the Journey – Life is not about the destination (death) and neither is the finish line.  In fact, I find finish lines quite boring.  The action is out on the course with every step.  So, every interaction, every sponsor I speak to, and every athlete that contacts me is going to make the journey what it is.  I will be focusing less on race day, and more on how to make race day hugely successful.  Of course, a week before race day, the Race Director seldom sleeps, something that sweetens the journey.

While the daunting task of making the Goleta Duathlon & Fitness Expo a huge success has just began, I know I will be learning a lot along the way.  I know I will also be doing a great thing for my local community.  If there is one thing that keeps me going on this project, is knowing that this event will have a positive impact on a lot of people and be the reason for their smiles at the finish.

Looking to be a Race Director yourself, checkout this inspiring post.

Reflecting: What an Awesome Year 2011 Was!


On this New Year’s Eve, I can’t help but reflect on how much I’ve grown in 2011 and how awesome the year was.   While 2009 was the year of firsts and 2010 was the year of obsessive burnout, 2011 was the year of balance.  Here are some of my best, and not so best, moments.

September 2011 – Carpinteria Triathlon Sprint

The Carpinteria Triathlon is my favorite triathlon.  Period.  It was very fitting that this year was the first year that I swam the entire ocean swim freestyle.  No more side stroke and kicking with my legs.  This translated to more energy and a much improved run time.  While still not a PR, my finish time proved that swimming efficiently has a great impact on the other two sports!  Read my race report here.

Camarillo Duathlon – August 2011

The Camarillo Duathlon was the event that I’ve been eying since I set my goal to complete my first triathlon a few years ago.  Whether it was cancellations or my travel schedule, I was never able to make it to the event.  Feeling the need to reconnect with myself, I got myself down to Camarillo and had a great time.  Even though I did the sprint, this event drove home how much I love competing and no matter how busy the schedule gets, I must make time to compete and keep up with my training. Read my race report here.

Santa Barbara Triathlon – August 2011

The home town event was a wake up call.  Having come off the Camarillo Duathlon, it was time to get back in the water and finish my first tri of the season.  At the Santa Barbara Triathlon, wasn’t prepared for the embarrassment, a product of my lack of training (particularly ocean swims), poor dietary choices, and busy schedule.  Seeing the pictures of me with a farmer’s tan wearing a race jersey two sizes too small is highly motivating to get back to my 2009 level of fitness.  Read my race report here.

Next Generation Fitness Analytics: TrainingMetrix, LLC

2011 was also the year that I turned my passion for data, analytics, and fitness into a reality.  By forming an LLC dedicated to helping athletes of all types leverage workout data with analytics, I found my calling.  TrainingMetrix is the product of what I couldn’t find. Over the past few years I had struggled to find an analytic solution that worked for me, so I built one using Excel.  I am now in the process of turning this into a marketable Excel template and web app.  Check out TrainingMetrix.

2012 and Beyond

I am looking toward 2012 with great inspiration.  I see the next year as a blank slate for some pretty awesome things to happen on.  From expanding TrainingMetrix to completing my first long course triathlon (yep, I am going long!), to even holding my own duathlon as race director, I am planning to reach high and never look back.

I hope all of my readers can look back on 2011 and come away with some awesome moments.  If you have some less than awesome moments you can’t shake, leverage them for the better and look forward.

Happy New Year to all!  Let’s make 2012 the best year ever!

How Important Is The Workout Gear?


In this installment of milestones along my journey from office potato to triathlete, I wanted to point out just how important having the right gear for your workout really is.

When I started my journey at 60 pounds heavier, I really had no clue what it meant to truly workout.  Sure, I knew what if felt like to sweat, dripping my saltiness everywhere I went, how it soaked my clothes and even how much bad it made me feel.

During those first few months of workouts, I was so new to this that I didn’t even own a real t-shirt. Shortly before my first workout with my new trainer, I remember scrambling through my closet, looking for something to wear.  I had shorts, albeit more leisurely shorts made of cotton.  So, my first workout gear was nothing more than a cotton t-shirt and cotton shorts.

view more milestones and tips along my journey

You know what happens to cotton when it gets wet?  It sucks up moisture and hangs on to it as long as it can.  When it does this during an hour long workout, your clothes not only get heavier and heavier, but your body is then wrapped up in a wet “towel”, preventing it from cooling off, so it sweats even more.

Aric in Training April to November
Comfortable running in lightweight clothing.

At the end of the workout, you must then extract the soaked clothing from the body.  With a sweating body and sweat soaked clothing, there almost seemed to be a glue that was keeping them together.  No amount of heaving and hoeing would make the clothing give.  Already exhausted from the hellish workout, one must contort in ways never thought of.  I quickly nicknamed this the “sweat dance.”

While my trainer and I had a rather amusing conversation around this topic, he suggested buying some actual workout clothes.   While, I wasn’t wild about investing even more money into this fitness thing at that moment (joining the gym hurt the pocket book enough), fifty dollars for a set of actual workout gear (shirt and shorts) really was small potatoes in the grand scheme of things to come.

After making my purchase and proudly strutting through the gym wearing my new clothes that said “Champion” on them (a champion would settle for nothing less!), I immediately felt a difference. The difference wasn’t just about showing off the new clothes, the clothes made me feel different, especially after my first workout in the new gear.

First and foremost, I felt how much lighter the polyester based fabric was.  By comparison, the heavy cotton felt like wearing a lead vest, whereas the polyester was almost like running around naked.  This translated to even more of a weight difference during and after the workout.  The polyester didn’t absorb the sweat nearly as much and it didn’t stick as badly to my body.  The “sweat dance” quickly became a thing of the past in the locker room afterward.

Next, during the workout, I felt significantly cooler. The heavy, sweat soaked cotton was acting like a blanket, keeping heat in.  The lightweight polyester by contrast, was light and airy, allowing the air to reach my skin and heat to be released.   In fact on cool mornings, the amount of steam coming off my body is sorta like San Francisco in a fog. The fabric also dried very quickly. With improved body temperature regulation, my body could better handle the tough workouts.

view more milestones and tips along my journey

After a few workouts, there was no going back to cotton.  The freedom that well designed, lightweight fabrics can give the triathlete is a huge reason to say bye-bye to cotton.  Sure, the investment is a little more than cheaper cotton, but performance always comes at a price.

This was the first of many gear purchases that would make my workouts more comfortable and, in turn, help me achieve my goals. Having the right workout gear is hugely important.

Tips for Ocean Swimming


Swimming in the ocean is a really difficult thing for a lot of people.  As a triathlete, it is my least favorite sport to do and something I’ve struggled with for many years. Fear of death, discomfort in cold water, and nausea from rolling waves, it all adds up to a nightmare.

This weekend’s Carpinteria Triathlon represents a milestone in my journey of ocean swimming. This weekend’s event was the first event where I swam freestyle for 99% of the course. In celebration of my milestone, I thought I would share a few tips for ocean swimming that I’ve picked up over my journey:

  • Relax!  Sure there are sea monsters that might eat you and you might actually get caught in seaweed and drowned, but you are far more likely to get run over by a truck crossing the street.  Take a deep breathe and visualize calming thoughts and focus.
  • Time you entry with the waves!  If you can, time your entry just after a large wave.  Waves come in cycles with a few smaller ones and one big one.  If you wait until just after the big one to enter, you can clear the wave break before the next big one hits.
  • Focus on your stroke! Feel the water move around your body, watch your arms move in front and below you.  Make sure to rotate fully on each side.
  • Reach wide for stability! I learned this from a swim clinic I took a while back, in rough water, instead of reaching your hand to the center of the body line, let the hand reach out from the shoulder. The wider stroke will help stabilize.
  • Sight frequently! Especially if you are new to this.  I tend to swim in circles, so I need to make sure I am heading in the right direction. Sighting frequently (every dozen strokes or so) allows me to correct.
  • Roll to your back! If you need a break for a moment to refocus or catch your breathe, its okay, do it!  Rolling to your back and taking a moment to regroup is much better than panicking and dropping out of the race.
  • It’s okay to hit someone (accidentally)!  Swimming in a triathlon, particularly in a group can mean full contact.  You will be punched and you will punch someone by mistake.  Don’t panic, just refocus and keep going.
  • Bi-lateral breathing is best!  Breathing strictly to one side can be problematic if waves are crashing into your face, so learn to breathe on both sides so you can adjust.  Bi-lateral breathing will also help you fully rotate and help you swim straighter.
  • Swim as long as you can before standing up! Many people tend to stand up in water that is waist high or so when exiting the water.  It is far more efficient to swim onto your belly, so get as close to shore as you can before standing up.

With these tips you will be swimming better than ever in the ocean and you might actually look forward to it.  Relaxing, focusing, and breathing will help you get through your next oceanic adventure!

< for more swimming tips, checkout my other swimming posts >

Wet, Dreary, But Awesome: 2011 Carpinteria Triathlon


The Carpinteria Triathlon Sprint is the best triathlon on the central coast of California (at least according to me).  Despite heavy mist that slowly soaked everything to the core, cold air and an otherwise dreary day, the 2011 Carpinteria Triathlon is in the history books.  It is a triathlon I will be talking about for a while to come.

Here are the highlights:

Pre-Race

  • Arriving at 5:45am and getting stuck in the queue waiting for transition to open was a little insane given an 8:20 start time.
  • My transition was at the far end of the transition area, meaning I had a looonngg sprint with the bike to the bike out, but a brief sprint to the run out.
  • Despite the cold, wet weather everyone was in good spirits and I quickly setup my transition using my Gyst bag.
  • The practice went well with the water not too cold (around 62) and not very clear.
  • The GPS went dead. The old, data-geek Aric would have panicked, but the new Aric thought this was a sign from above to just trust the body and let go.

Swim (19:39)

  • Horn blew and I found myself in the pack!  Oh boy, I was actually keeping up with other athletes for a change.
  • Getting to the first buoy felt like swimming up a hill. What?
  • Rounding the first buoy, sighting was an issue, so I just followed the pack. You’d be amazed how far off course people swim, so don’t trust the legs in front of you!
  • Rounding the last buoy, the swim in took forever as my technique got so bad that I was swimming in circles.  I think I swam twice the distance.

T1 (03:21)

  • Finding transition was easy, just a few rows to the right.
  • It was hard getting the wetsuit off, it kept getting caught on my ankle and binding up.  Spent a little too much time fiddling with it.
  • The bike gear went on quickly, so off I went on my run to bike out.
  • Consistent, slow pace was the strategy running through transition.

Bike (32:22)

  • At the mount/dismount line, the first big problem.  I dropped my chain. It only took a second to get it back on, but I sliced open my thumb on the crank while doing so.  The first two miles was gushing blood.
  • Despite the blood and cold air, I settled into a pace behind another cyclist.
  • It was uphill for the first half of the course and the quads knew it.
  • I’ve mastered the art of opening sealed packages with my teeth and manipulating food one handed while cruising.  A Clif Bar was the fuel needed for the run.
  • It is amazing how much dirt one collects on their body riding down a dirty, wet road.
  • Do they make windshield wipers for sunglasses?
  • Getting passed was a regular thing, but I managed to pass a few people.
  • Getting back to T1, I felt great and was ready to take on the run.

T2 (02:26)

  • I have to run alllll the way down there?  Yep.
  • After arriving at my spot, it was a matter of racking the bike, switching shoes and grabbing the hat.
  • Out onto the run course I went.

Run (33:58)

  • I have no idea what pace I settled into, but it felt slow. Happy the GPS was dead!
  • Getting passed on both the right and left at the exact same time is a little psychologically messed up.
  • Consistent… be in the moment… the finish line isn’t going anywhere so why worry about it?
  • While I wanted to see my heart rate data and pace, I was glad the GPS died, because the body was feeling good.  I pushed it a little harder.
  • Whoa! Who put the run turn-around at City Hall?  I have to run 0.11 mile farther this year?  ugh!
  • Turning around, it was mostly down hill from here.
  • The residents are out in their lawn chairs, cheering us on! How cool is that?
  • Turning into the finish chute, I felt done.  Still, I picked up the pace for a modest finish.
  • I hope my gut isn’t hanging out in my finish line photo…  that jersey is like two sizes too small for me.

Overall, it was a really fun, exciting race.   It reminded me why I speak so fondly of the Carpinteria Triathlon.  With a final result of 1:31:46, I was pleased.  (results are posted here) From a numbers perspective, that is roughly five minutes faster than last year’s result, but still about 45 seconds away from a PR.

So, did my strategy work?  Once the GPS died and I decided to focus on relaxation and being in the moment, I think it payed off with dividends.  Not having the distraction of the data and not having to fiddle with the GPS during T1/T2 freed my mind and let me focus on what mattered.  It took me three years to figure this out, but it is a strategy to use going forward.

I am also going to spend a little time developing my tan for the next triathlon.  The combination of a pale farmer’s tan with a two sizes too small tri club jersey makes me a candidate for a triathlete make over.   In order to save myself the embarrassment of laughing grandkids, I’ll put this one near the top.

Since the Carpinteria Triathlon Sprint was my last scheduled tri of the season, I will start focusing on what my 2012 goals should be.  While I hope to better my time at both Santa Barbara and Carpinteria next year, I am also hoping to be a race director and hold a duathlon or two in 2012.

Stay tuned… things are just starting to get exciting.

Camarillo Duathlon: A Race to Never Forget


For the past three years, since the very first Camarillo Duathlon was publicized, I have had the goal of completing the course. Due to cancellations, scheduling conflicts, and even injury, I couldn’t quite get my butt down to Camarillo at the right time to get it done!  This race turned into one of those long-term achievements that happen later for a reason.

Back in early 2009 when I set the goal, the race was just an Olympic event (5k run, 20mi bike, 5k run), but today it offers a sprint (1.5mi run, 10mi bike, 1.5mi run).   So, when I arrived at Freedom Park in the wee hours of August 14, 2011, I was feeling a little like I had taken the easy road with the sprint.  Little did I know that in a matter hours, I would be on cloud 9.

Before I go too much further, I would like to commend Bill Escobar for creating this awesome event for us.  Hearing his announcements that morning, watching him interact with the public and volunteers, he demonstrated a passion for multi-sport and a level of hospitality that I haven’t seen before.  Clearly he loves what he does and I am honored to be a participant in his events.

Without further ado, here are my highlights from the event.  I will spare you the novel that I wrote earlier (you know that blow by blow narrative that is a tad long to post here, but if you want a copy of it, please email me armh31″at”gmail.com).

Run #1

Of course the start was pretty melodramatic.  We lined up and the horn blew.  The pack ran off ahead and instead of following the speedy types, I settled into my groove.  By the first turn, I was at the back of the pack, but I didn’t care.  There were plenty of aircraft to admire along the route. As long as I wasn’t last, I was doing well…. observing, strategizing, and plane spotting!

T1 & Bike

Heading into transition I felt winded and one glance at my heart rate said I had pushed the run a tad hard.  Mounting the bike, I sailed out onto the streets amongst the fields of Camarillo.  With authorities keeping those pesky cars at bay, I settled into a decent pace for the 10 mile loop.

That is until the dude in the yellow jersey passed me.  I don’t know why, but having HIM pass me turned a switch and the game was on! As hard as I tried to keep up with him, I couldn’t quite catch him… until nearly the end of the course.  Things got really interesting as I saw him up ahead and slowing down.  I easily passed him and we exchanged glances.

I thought I had him when, all of the sudden, a half mile later he goes whizzing passed me.  I turn up the speed and start chasing him down, but the zigzags back to dismount kept me from catching him.

Then he made a mistake.  He stopped a good 15 feet from the actual dismount line and I went sailing passed him again only to brake hard and stop right on the dismount line itself (a little trick I learned from an experienced triathlete).  I had 15 feet on him and I ran hard with the bike to the transition.  I still had him!

Run #2 & Finish

The Author Following the Race

With a quick switch of gear, I headed out on the run, not even looking back to see where the mister yellow jersey was. I didn’t care, I had a lead to maintain, so I kept a fast (for me) but steady pace that I was certain I could handle all the way back to the finish.  Since I had just run the same course, I knew what to expect and knew that once I was half way down the dirt road, turn on the sprint to finish.

But at the turn around, I saw that my competition had ditched the yellow jersey and wasn’t that far behind me.  I was nervous so I picked up the pace just a bit more.  Passing him, I could see in his eye that he already gave it his all.  I had won… unless I screwed up.

Hitting the dirt road was when the legs seriously started to protest. Just as I considered my options, I was passed by an older guy whom I knew was a sprint participant.  He was moving fast for his build and age, so I wasn’t about to give up my spot to him.  A little earlier than I wanted, I went into sprint mode and ran him down.

Luckily, there was a curb to run around to the finish chute, which he negotiated rather slowly compared to my more flexible maneuver.  Then it was a sprint to the finish and I beat him by two seconds.

And that was the end of a race I will never forget.

Sprint Results Plotted (courtesy TrainingMetrix)

With my overall time of 1:09:31, I was happy to see myself just ahead of the Sprint race average of 1:10:33.   That was good for 32nd place of 69 competitors.  Camarillo Duathlon Sprint Race results were plotted by TrainingMetrix (graph above is reproduced with their permission) and you can see I am just ahead of average (the red dot).

So, have I achieved that goal I set years ago?  As much as I want to say yes, I still have to finish the Olympic course and we might save that for 2012.  But with the third race of 2011 coming up on Sept. 4th, I might just give the sprint one more try in 2011!

Note: I am working compiling some video of the race (the Olympic start) and will post a video post here when it is complete.