The Next Challenge


Coming off the heels of my February Challenge with mixed results, I am struggling to find another challenge.  I have to say, my diet seems to be a bigger hurdle in my fitness rather than getting the workouts in.   But then, focusing on diet seems rather boring compared to cycling miles, especially when it comes to data visualization.

The Ultimate Challenge

Then, this evening I stumbled upon Outside magazine’s online site.  A headline in particular caught my attention for a couple of reasons.  First, it included a drive I have on my bucket list, a drive I would love to do in a 67 Hurst equipped Pontiac GTO, dark blue. Second, I have been reading a touching book by Bruce Weber called Life is a Wheel. And, third, I am desperate to do something insanely huge with my life to solve this midlife crisis I seem to be in.  You can see where this is going??

The headline was simple, profound, and eye catching.  Whoever wrote it knew what they were doing.  The headline was a simple question: “Why Drive Route 66 When You Can Bike It?

OMG! Its perfect!  The article was announcing the latest adventure documented and mapped by the Adventure Cycling Association.  The 2,493 mile route cover Los Angeles (well, Santa Monica) to Chicago.   I never knew there was a AAA-like Trip Tik for cyclists!!  Sell everything and let’s hit the road!

After spending a fair amount of time looking at the remarkable cross country routes, I am jazzed.  The TransAmerica Trail is very similar to the route Weber covers in his book. It was his story of life, the open road, and the spontaneous experiences combined with the pain of an insane challenge which intrigued me.   To do something similar is a personal accomplishment, something which I can only experience in my own way and own in my own way. The only question is, which do I do first, Route 66 or TransAmerica?

Coming Back to Reality

With my longest ride in over a year being 16.5 miles, suddenly 4,228 miles seems a bit of a stretch. Even the 400 mile average daily ride might push me farther than expected, even if it was all flat.

Coming back to reality and a challenge appropriate for the next two weeks (3.15), the diet challenge is more realistic.  In researching potential products for TrainingMetrix, I came across an article which discusses how to measure food quality.  They do this by assigning a weighting to each of the macro-nutrients, such as fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, etc.  The product is a food score, positive for good, negative is bad.   The staff at TrainingMetrix modified this theory and improved upon it in a product we call the Yum Score. You can test the food you eat by visiting the Yum Score Calculator (TMX has closed) at the corporate website.

But, this post isn’t about shameless self promotion of my company’s products.  Rather it is about my own journey of life, fitness, triathlon and everything in between.  Back to the challenge.  Using the Yum Score, I would like to challenge myself to eating better by maintaining a Yum Score of 4 or greater from 3/3 to 3/15.   This means low saturated, low sugar, and lots of fiber.

Well, I better go eat the last of that chocolate cake tonight.  The challenge begins tomorrow.

February Cycling Challenge Results


February Cycling Challenge Results

Fitness challenges serve an important purpose.  First they help the athlete focus on a specific part of their training.  Second, they provide a measurable milestone which provide feedback.  Third, if the athlete has taken the challenge seriously, it will result in improvements, regardless of whether the ultimate challenge was met.

The Challenge

A month ago I created a personal cycling challenge to help get myself moving more consistently and lose a bit of weight.  The challenge was to cycle every other day, increasing mileage as I went and cover 230 miles by March 1st, culminating with a 20 mile ride. This seemed challenging, but I knew if I could stick to it and put in the mileage, I could get close.

Reality Sets In

The first three rides were fairly easy, but aggressive.  I didn’t stick to the planned mileage, riding a mile or more than planned for the first two rides.  The third ride was a bit of a stretch and fell just short of the planned goal.  Then I started missing rides.  Two days passed before I rode again. The body was realizing and feeling how aggressive it was to go from riding 8 miles to 11+ miles in no time flat.

This was the start of riding whenever I could while not pushing my body too far. It was also difficult to get rides in during the week of the 18th when an important client was in town for a project.  While catching up to the plan was nearly impossible, I kept riding, trying to get a decent amount of miles in.  It is more important to listen to your body and skip a ride for recovery than to push too hard and injure myself.

The Results

I completed the challenge with 144.4 miles compared with the 230 planned challenge miles.  While this is only 63% of the distance, I still feel great about the challenge.  Yes, I missed the ultimate goal, but my average ride went from 8 miles to 12 miles.  I feel great and am quite happy to be spending more time on the saddle.  Time in the saddle is a spiritual place where I spend the miles brainstorming and solving problems.  The challenge was a success.

Cycling Challenge Actual vs Plan
blue bars represent actual rides with green being planned. Actual falls a bit short

Did I lose weight?  No.  Starting weight was 229.8 with the final weight at 230.6.  The change is statistically insignificant was the deviation across the month was 2+ pounds.  After all of those miles sure would have been nice to be slipping into a smaller sized short.  But at the end of the day, body weight ins’t necessarily an indicator of fitness.  I feel and look more muscular than when I started the challenge.  As an athlete works out, they build muscle, which is heavier than fat. So, a change in weight can be delayed as the body burns more fat than the muscle in builds.  A better measure would be waist and wrist size.

The Next Challenge

With March 1st nearly here, I am thinking about my next challenge.  I like the idea of doing another cycling challenge, but would also like to incorporate a dietary challenge.  Cutting flour and sugar from my diet completely worked extremely well in 2008 and 2009 during my racing best. So stay tuned…  a new challenge is coming.

A February Cycling Challenge


I’ve been so far away from a regular exercise routine, I see death coming for me and he’s across the street. It’s time to get back into a routine and put a little more distance between myself and death. Just the fact that he is so close and I let him get so close is just shameful, but that is a topic of another post. This post is about the new beginning and a new personal challenge.

A Proud Triathlete

In 2009, I was a proud sprint triathlete who worked his way up from finishing at the back of the age group to the middle. I could run a mile and not even get tired. I could cycle 30 miles and call it satisfying, 40 miles would be a workout. I also almost lived at the gym. I had an awesome trainer, participated in the local triathlon club, and enjoyed every minute of it.

Until the day in early 2010 it all came crashing down. I was insanely sick with a nasty cold for 2 plus weeks and lost my fire. I just couldn’t live at the gym anymore. It seemed life had gotten the best of me. And so, I started a slow, long digression back to a state somewhere between office potato and triathlete. I wasn’t exactly not exercising and I wasn’t exactly eating healthy, but I wasn’t “training” either.

Getting Started Again

So today, as the scales push 230 pounds and I feel the fat accumulating on my skeletal frame, I am making “training” a priority. Training means I have a goal in mind, milestones to measure against and I will eat the best food I can. I already have an awesome food log setup in Excel using the TMX Yum Score. I even have an awesome training log setup in Excel thanks to TrainingMetrix (disclaimer, it is my company). I am lacking a trainer, but in the beginning that is fine. I have also decided to focus on hiking and cycling until I lose a few pounds.

What is the challenge? The challenge is to drop at least 10 pounds and cycle 230 miles by March 1st. Yep, riding every other day, starting at 8.5 miles, I will cover 230 miles and an average of 7.4 miles per day. Along the way, I will shed at least 10 pounds. If I can do this, I will not only be ready to start running, but also be able to squeeze into my tri shorts without looking like a muffin top in the pool. hehehe

The First Challenge Ride

I got started early with a ride yesterday covering 9.3 miles. The ride was along Mountain Drive in Santa Barbara and the weather was nearly perfect. The rolling hills and meandering canyon road was certainly challenging with acceleration, braking, and dodging cars on blind curves.  Certainly a bit sore this morning, but it is great to get a solid start. Many more exciting miles to go.

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/685701361

Check back for the next update.  A 9.5 mile ride has been scheduled for 1/31!

So, You Fell Off Your Bike?


You are cruising along with the wind in your hair, enjoying the beautiful world around you, when, suddenly, you fall off your bike and come crashing to the ground.

“Ouch!” you scream as the other cyclists in your group either swerve to avoid you or stop to look back at the scene which just unfolded.

You lay there momentarily stunned at what just occured.  “Am I okay? Anything broken or missing?”, you ask.

As the pain makes it way from the nerves to the brain, you realize you can still move and begin to unclip from the pedals and stand up.  Realizing you are okay, you survey the bike, hoping nothing has been scared from contact with the road.  Nothing has.

You realize the pothole was hidden and you were the only lucky one to take that particular path along the road.  You stand, making sense of what happened as your cycle partners help to get you going again.

Falling off your bike is synonymous with the sudden, life changing moments life throws our way.  Losing a job, a friend to suicide, or even just moving to a new, strange place for a fresh start, a shock to the system and normal pace is what makes us better people and triathletes in the end.

2014 for AricInTraining has been a year chocked full of these events.  In the end, after every punch has been thrown by life, I am still breathing and still a triathlete.  As hard as it is at times to get back on the bike and start pedaling again, it is the way forward.  The finish line is waiting and so are my dreams.

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.

The First Ride of 2011!


First, Happy New Year!  What better way to welcome the new year, than with an awesome bike ride through Goleta, Ca.  While the weather was a tad on the chilly side, the brilliant, bright sun and clear weather made for a refreshing ride.

My goal for this ride was simply to take it easy, go the distance and feel my muscles out for what they can put out.  I was nervous that I lost some strength over the past few weeks since I haven’t been riding near as much as I’ve been running.

What I discovered is that my muscles are doing just fine.  While I did feel drained earlier than expected, I am quite happy with the outcome.  The ride lasted 01:08:34 and covered 17.8 miles at an average speed of 15.6 mph.  Not my fastest performance for the Goleta Loop, but I’ll take it.

Averages per Mile

The above chart shows the mile split times for average speed (column: blue), average cadence (line: red), and average heart rate (line: tan).   The reason why I built this chart was to see what cycling looks like compared to running.  Here are some highlights:

  1. It took me about four miles before I got warmed up.
  2. I have no idea why I don’t have data for miles 6 and 8.
  3. The cadence and heart rate remains fairly consistent, with speed having the most deviation.  I think this means I maintaining effort on hills and letting the speed slow down, where I should be trying harder to maintain speed with more effort.
  4. You can see that I cranked it up for the last two miles as the heart rate climbed steadily.
  5. Mile 16 is the fastest at nearly 20mph average thanks to a steady, downward slope.  You can see the cadence is significantly lower as well since I didn’t maintain effort during this split.

The point of this is to say that as I continue to train in 2011, I need to be fully aware of my body, my effort and what is happening around me.  It is fine tuning the “mental edge” and putting mind over body (to a point!).

The first ride of 2011 is in the history books.  Not only did I get to enjoy some beautiful weather, but I learned a lot about how I ride…  something to improve upon in 2011.

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.