Invest in Winter Training

Yeah, winter training is hard.  Its cold, dark, wet, and miserable outside.  Our daylight hours are reduced, making it difficult to be safe and get workouts in before and after work.  We have to buy expensive winter gear to stay warm, which eats into our holiday funds.  Yep, winter training is nothing like the paradise of summer training.

But there are numerous advantages for braving the miseries of winter training:

  1. Winter training provides a higher foundation heading into the the new racing season.  Come March, when your competitors will be dusting off their running shoes, you would have already gained an advantage.
  2. Provides an opportunity to train in conditions that are not so perfect.  Hey, race day conditions are seldom ideal and getting practice in in less than ideal conditions prepares you for the worst.
  3. It’ll provide stress relief during the holidays.  With countless social occasions on your calendar, the stress of shopping in crowded stores, squeezing in extra end of the year projects at work, etc, the holidays can stress us all out. Getting a good run, bike, swim in will help relieve the stress.
  4. Triathlons are mental events.  I know the physical side of triathlons are just a small part of the picture, based on personal experience (I’ve seen very strong athletes crumble during the swim).  Getting yourself mentally prepared by running through a blizzard is just part of the journey.
  5. It “separates the men from the boys.”  Yes, the weak will hang up their running shoes and take a nice comfy arm chair next to the warm fireplace.  The strong will be running/swimming/biking in the freezing temperatures.  Just think, when you meet that fellow runner by the coffee maker at work one afternoon and their chin drops to the floor when you tell them you ran 6 miles through that icing storm last night, you will be gloating for the rest of the day.

What ever reason you use to maintain a proper training schedule during the winter, just know that it is truly worth investing in winter training.  Whether your are preparing for a triathlon, an ironman, or a marathon in 2011, get a head start on your competition this winter.

2010 Ventura Triathlon Sprint… Done!

After an early start this morning and pushing my body to new limits, I completed the 12th Annual Ventura Breathe of Life Triathlon sprint in 1:37:47.   I placed 270 (of 363) overall and 20 of 24 in my age group (M30-34).

So what was it like?  It was satisfyingly hard.  From the 8am start of the 400m swim to the somewhat confusing 13.3mile bike course, to the left sided 5k run, each sport presented its challenges and I met them head on!

(note, a link to the official results appears at the end of this post)

SWIM: I stepped on a fish!

The swim was 400m, just inside the breakwaters of the Ventura Harbor.  The water was warm at 66 degrees, calm and quite pool like. This was going to be a little easier than I thought.

Heading out for the practice swim, I was surprised to feel how uneven the sand was walking out into the water.  It was like hiking along an old road full of potholes and bumps.   But that wasn’t the real surprise.   As I took another step, I felt sand being pushed against my leg.  It wasn’t sand being moved by the wave, it was too concentrated and seemed to be coming up from the bottom.  Then I put my foot down and felt the fish fluttering.  As I started to panic, it swam off.  Oh boy… swimming with the fishies…  this was going to be interesting.

The horn blows and I hit the water just behind the group.  I started out side stroke and was keeping up.  I switched briefly to forward crawl with my head in the water.  Only got in two strokes before I realized I had a breathing problem.  Back to side stroke… “just keep moving and breathe” is what I reminded myself.

Half way to the first buoy, the happened.  My arms and legs hurt like no tomorrow.  Every stroke was painful.  Slow down, breathe and glide was the best move. But then, I was swimming in a pack, which made it difficult to relax.  Every time I stroked, I hit someone.  I was not used to swimming in such a crowd, so that added to my anxiety.

To make a long story short, I settle into an alternating left/right side stroke and got through the swim.  As I noticed people starting to stand up in waist high water, I took advantage of the footing and did two dolphins to avoid having to run through knee deep water.

Running up the beach to the transition area sucked.  It was a very long (0.15 mile) beach run which drained me even more.  I was so happy to step onto pavement and cross the timing pads!

T1 – Remember the Sequence

Transitioning to the bike, it was all about going through the steps.  Unfortunately, my transition area was setup opposite as it had been in the past (stuff to the left of the bike, before it was right).  It took a little getting used to.   I didn’t have the GPS out, so I didn’t turn it on until after I was ready to put on my shoes.  Putting on my left shoe, I found my right glove riding glove. ugh!

Eventually I got everything together, but I forgot the bib.  While this wasn’t mandatory for the bike (both the bike and helmet had my athlete number) it was something that I missed.  The sequence of T1 was out of order, but I got 99% covered

This points out that I need to practice my transitions more.  I hadn’t practiced them since the UCSB Triathlon in March, perhaps I dropped the ball.

Bike – Just Keep Cranking

The bike course was a little odd and required a turn around on Harbor Blvd followed by a right hand turn onto Gonzales Rd. The turn around isn’t so bad, but the right hand turn could be missed.  I personally didn’t miss it, but I heard that a number of riders in the event did and were disqualified.

Heading east on Gonzales Rd, I just kept cranking.  The course is fairly flat and there isn’t much time to relax on a downhill.  Just keep cranking isn’t hard, until you try and eat something.  Fuel for this event was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I had in a ziplock bag in my jersey.  I clearly wasn’t thinking about how I was going to open it while riding, so I did caveman… tore open the bag with my teeth enough that I could bite a piece off and suck it through the hole.  It worked, but the peanut butter… well you know what happens when you eat peanut butter.  I never tried eating one before while on the move, now I know!

The bike itself was really good, fast and fun.   I settled in behind #45 for a bit and just cranked.  I eventually passed him and found myself back at Ventura Harbor for T2.

T2 – Grab the Droid, stupid. Don’t Forget the Bib!

T2 was pretty fast.  All I had to do was put the bike away, strip the helmet and gloves, put on the running shoes, and go.  Unfortunately, I was a little concerned about finishing the race without my Droid.  I wanted to take pictures and video of a friend of mine finishing after me.  In a last minute decision, I grabbed my water belt and crammed the Droid into it.

I started off and suddenly realized that I sill didn’t have my bib!  Ugh.  Run back, where is it?  Its under the shirt that I didn’t put on as I decided at the last minute just wear the jersey.   With the bib on, it was time to run.

Run – The Pain and the Surprise!

Starting the run, I quickly learned that grabbing the water belt was a huge mistake.  My Carpinteria Triathlon water bottle kept bouncing out of the holder.  I had to stop multiple times in the first quarter mile to stop and grab it.  After the third time, I just held it in my hand.  Annoying, but better than stopping.

After the bike, it is always the first half mile that is the worst.  Unfortunately, this run never improved.  I was tired, my muscles sore and I was mentally drained.  Still, I had a goal, to beat my 2009 time of 35 minutes and finish this 5k with a sub 11:00 pace.  I pushed on.

Then I saw my friend, passing me on her way BACK to the finish.  H0ly moly, she was kicking my butt, how did that happen?  I had to catch her, despite the pain.  At this point, my mental ability took a downfall.  The person that I thought I would beat was ahead of me and it really made me think about the pain, the pace, and the humiliation of defeat.

I think too much.  I pushed on, inspired by fellow Olympic triathletes and the fact it was only another mile.  I can do this!  Then I saw her.  I caught up…  but my legs weren’t going faster.  Strategy, sometimes, is more powerful than mightiness.  I decided to follow her to the finish and pass her in the last few hundred feet.   It worked well, I surprised her, she took off sprinting, I took off sprinting and I passed her just in time to beat her across the finish.

As it turns out, she was one of the ones that missed the turn and was dq’d.  Figures, as glorious as I was about the win, I was a little embarrassed too

The Results

I finished the triathlon in 1:37:47:  12:37 swim, 52:14 bike, 32:56 run.  Placing 20 of 24 in my division and 270th overall.  I know this is a repeat of the beginning of this post, but let’s look at what happened last year.

Last year I placed 24 of 25 in my division and 312th overall.   The 2010 results definitely show improvement… and I am happy!


If you are looking for your results, follow this link to Prime Time’ website.


For an interesting account from an Olympic triathlete’s perspective, read: They Can’t Take That Away From Me…

When All Else Fails, Just Run

This morning, I met my trainer at the local community college track only to find that it was closed for renovation for the next FOUR months!  Seriously?  Four months to repave the track?  Wow…  SBCC must be getting scammed!

While my already sore legs were quite happy to hear that they weren’t going to be climbing bleachers for the next hour, I was a little disappointed as I wanted to try something new. After discussing the options, we decided a quick run along the waterfront would suffice.

So, we started running.  Now, my trainer is very fit and recently finished the LA Marathon.  The guy runs fast and can run fast for a distance.  While we started out together at 9:30 pace (he was holding back), I knew I couldn’t hold it, so I backed off to a more comfortable 10:15 pace and watched him walk away from me.  I wonder how long he was talking to me before he realized I was out of ear shot range??  hehehehe…

The usual soreness, the usual windedness, and the usual aches and pains through the first mile reminded me that today was Monday.  It wasn’t until the end of the waterfront at our turn-around that I realized that he was having issues with his left leg. Seemed like a tight muscle, so after a few minutes, we headed back.

Not quite, while I managed to maintain a solid pace for much of the return leg, I did require a momentary break to let the blood, lungs, and muscles catch up to each before continuing.

In the end, I covered 3.42 miles at 10:00 pace, which for a Monday is really, really good!

Goes to show that when the normally scheduled workout falls through, there is nothing like a good run as a backup.

One Picture, Seven Months of Training

For those of you who have been watching my journey from office potato to triathlete, the following picture shouldn’t surprise you.  You already know how far I’ve come.  In fact, the picture below really, really inspires to make 2010 the best year ever, better than 2009!

Aric in Training April to November
April on the left, November on the right

On the left, April 2009 was the Chardonnay 5k.  On the right was the NewsPress Half Marathon 5k. For more comparison on the two races, read Tale of Two 5k Competitions.

7 months of training in between.  You can see:

1) I’ve slimmed down, a lot.  Lost about 25 pounds from left to right.

2) My posture is better and my muscles are more built.  Thanks to lots of strength workouts, including plyometrics.

3) I’ve embraced technology!  Gone is the polar HR on the left, replaced with a Garmin 305 GPS hr monitor on the left.

4) I dress better.  Having a decent body makes me want to show it off more.  Wearing clothes that fit is awesome!

5) I shunned the shoes!  On the left, I am wearing FiveFingers.  In fact, I’ve now completed two 5k’s and numerous running workouts wearing FiveFingers. I love ’em!

6) I am far more confident in my abilities.  I look so much more relaxed on the right compared to the left.  The right was my first competition ever and you can see it on my face.

At the end of 2010, I hope to have a similar picture that shows my progress.  I definitely have some inspiration to make it happen!

The Welcome Home 5k

Spending the last five days in Texas, celebrating Thanksgiving with the family, I am happy to be back in California.   Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where all diets and common dietary sense goes out the window. In fact, the triathlon training comes to a halt for 48 hours as well.

So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I enjoyed a lot of turkey, mash potatoes, green beans, cranberries, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and ice cream.   Yep, I had many plates of luscious edible goodness. As did my brother, my aunt, my grandmother, and my uncle.

Even with all of the family love and food, I am still quite happy to be back in California.  Where else can you train for triathlons year round in 65 degree, sunny weather under the breathetaking palm trees, bright sun with the sweet smell of ocean?  Only in Santa Barbara, California you can!

The Santa Barbara waterfront near East Beach
The Santa Barbar Harbor
The Santa Barbar Harbor

It wasn’t long after I got off the plane that I threw on my running shorts, FiveFingers, and favorite hat to head down to Santa Barbara’s waterfront for a run.  Coming off a long weekend of fun, excessive food consumption and treats, my trainer recommended taking it slow and enjoying it. So, I did.  I decided to concentrate on a pace no faster than 10:00 and without regard for heart rate.

Click image for interactive data

In the end, I finished 3.11 miles at 11:24 pace and with an average heart rate of 160 bpm.  Not my fastest run, but certainly one of my most enjoyable:

1) I like how smooth the heart rate line is, very consistent but building endurance.
2) The only stops were for stoplights or picture taking.
3) Pace was more sporadic as I caught myself running too fast, then slowing down.  Consistent pace requires concentration and I was enjoying the scenery a bit too much.
4) Using the spring type form of running with my FiveFingers barefoot running shoes was exhilarating as I could feel the power of each stride!

As a kick-off to my holiday triathlon training schedule, I am excited.  This 5k run was smooth, leisurely and enjoyable.

What run is your favorite to date?  Where was it and what did you enjoy most about it?

Tale of Two 5K Competitions

2009 has been an exciting year.  It was my year of firsts:

First year of competition.

First triathlon.

First duathlon.

First did not finish (dnf).

First year living fit with routine exercise and healthy diet.

I also started off the year running my first 5K.

After some consideration and mulling about, I decided to enter my second 5K competition, the NewsPress Half Marathon and 5K Fun Run.  Not only would this give me something to do while I was waiting for my trainer to complete the half marathon (yep I was there to cheer him on for a change!), but it would also allow me to show the world how much I improved my running ability since April’s Chardonnay 10-miler/5K (my first 5K).  In addition, this would also be another first, the first competition completed wearing my Vibram FiveFingers (barefoot running “shoes”).

Note that the race courses are exactly the same, starting at Leadbetter Beach and running east, looping back to the beach.

The 5K Results

To make a long story short, below is the data from April’s Chardonnay 5K (results):

Time: 33:04   Pace: 10:39
Place: 114/182 (top 63%)

And, Nov 7th’s NewsPress 5K Fun Run (results):

Time: 30:39   Pace: 09:48
Place: 91/250 (top 36%)

There is no question about it, I have really improved my running ability. I shaved two minutes, twenty five seconds (02:25) off my overall time and 49 seconds off my pace. I also placed in the top 36% of the group, compared to 63% in April.

More Data

Below is the data that I recorded during the NewsPress 5K. (click here for interactive chart)

Heart Rate, Speed, and Map of Aric's 5k run.

Notice how smooth the heart rate and pace is.  I was surprised to see this as earlier this year, my runs were plagued by heart rate spikes, a really fast pace followed by really slow walking recovery driven by horrible form.  It wasn’t pretty. (I don’t have a similar data set for back then since it was before my GPS heart rate monitor)

So to see such a flat heart rate line means a few things:

1) My muscles have become stronger and able to sustain longer runs.
2) My run form has improved, making me more efficient.
3) I am able to control my heart rate while keeping a fairly consistent pace.
4) Running barefoot probably helped my form and efficiency too.

Looking at the graph, you can even see my mad sprint to the end as I out sprinted another participant to the finish (right side of graph). You can also see at the left side of the graph that my pace started out quite fast and I started slowing down to a more manageable pace.  Nice to see the speed at the start and the finish!

Wow!  Such a great way to end the year.

The tale of two 5K’s is really about showing you that all of that hard work and training does pay off.  In fact seeing these results makes every minute of pain and suffering during the last two years worth it.  Now I want to know what 2010 is going to bring.  I certainly am not going to settle for a year of seconds and I hope 2010 will be a year of more firsts!