My Race Report: UCSB Triathlon

UCSB Campus Point

The UCSB Triathlon has been one of those important races that every triathlete, athlete, and runner must encounter at one point in their racing careers.  Setting the goal to compete in it last November, I knew I had a lot of work to do over the winter off-season.

Before I knew it, November 2009 became February 2010 and life events really started to pile up and I hadn’t sufficient time to improve where I really needed to improve, the ocean swim.  Not only were things at work getting hectic, but the weather prevented me from getting proper practice time in the ocean up until a week before the event.  To make matters worse, I was coming off a month long burn out and was not psychology ready for the first big challenge of 2010.

I stayed on the fence of whether or not to compete up until the last few days.  My trainer told me I was backing out and not participating in the event clearly disappointed many more.  Even with a few ocean swims during the final week, I was no where prepared for this event.  However, life is not always a walk through a field of wildflowers, so I bit the bullet and went for it, nervous, exhausted, and scared to death of the swim.

Here are some highlights.


The day before I picked up my packet.  I took this opportunity to get one last practice swim in.  While the advantage of this was to get familiar with the conditions, I ended up wearing myself out and even hurt my right knee.

Continue reading “My Race Report: UCSB Triathlon”

Consider Barefooting the Triathlon

The concept of barefoot running has been around for a while.  Interest in it increased dramatically in September 2009 when Vibram launched their new FiveFingers footwear.  Marketed as the “barefooting alternative” to more traditional shoes, they have developed a cult following.

Needless to say, I have a pair of FiveFingers, the KSO model to be specific.  I love them.  I wear them often, run in them often, and have seen the benefits of wearing them.  Yes, in the beginning I discovered I had muscles that I never knew I had as my body started adjusting to them.  My glutes and calves in particular were most bothersome.  But after a few weeks and many miles running, I discovered that barefoot running is the only way to go.

FiveFinger Issues

The reality is that I am a triathlete at heart, not a runner.  I love my FiveFingers so much, I really, really want to wear them during my next triahlon.  Sure, I can put them on after cycling, but I wonder if they would take too long to put on.  Maybe wearing them throughout the entire triathlon is best?  But what to consider?  Here is what is on my mind:

  1. How can you ride the bike in them?  Clips? Cages?
  2. Can I wear them during the swim portion of the triathlon?
  3. How long does it take to put them on?
  4. Are there any rules that preclude me from barefoot running in a triathlon?

They seem like simple questions, but let’s take a look at how the FiveFingers will look at each stage of the triathlon.

Swimming in FiveFingers?

Seems a little odd wearing an Xterra wetsuit with FiveFingers, but not really different than wearing booties and a wetsuit when you think about it. Black KSOs might blend better than the cool blue camouflage color.

The USAT rules state that one cannot wear any devices that aid in propulsion.  FiveFingers definitely do not aid in propulsion.  I would have to argue that, if anything, the FiveFingers will cause more drag since they have an open mesh top, a contrast to a solid neoprene bootie.  On the plus side, they might actually keep your feet a little warm?? hmmm…

Cycling in your FiveFingers?

Cycling presents the biggest stumbling block to this issue.  The way I am looking at it, there are two ways to do this.

1) Wear the FiveFIngers and replace my clipless, snap-in pedals with cages.   Why don’t I like this idea?  I really don’t want to replace my pedals with cages since I don’t like how they look so amatuerish.  Second, cages don’t give you the same efficiency as clipless pedals do.  Nothing like being physically attached to your bike.

2) Wear the FiveFingers inside the cycling shoes.  Seems crazy, but when you think about it, this might be the fastest solution. Coming in from the swim, you can simply slide them into the shoes.  When cycling is done, simply pull your foot out and start running.  Yes, this could actually REDUCE TRANSITION TIME.  Exciting thought.  What’s the downside?  I need to buy a much larger pair of cycling shoes, assuming they make a pair big enough.  This is going to require a trip to the cycling store and a follow-up post.

Running in the FiveFingers

This is the best part and does not require much explanation other than barefoot running is the only way to go.  Running in my FiveFingers feels natural, powerful, free, and light.  for more information on the health benefits of FiveFingers, checkout Vibrams’ Health/Wellness page.  What more is there to say?

The Barefoot Triathlon

Whether or not my next triathlon is my first barefoot triathlon, the thought is exciting.  Worse case scenario, I can put the FiverFIngers on after cycling, but wearing them for the WHOLE triathlon means a lot more than, “I wore my FiveFingers for the run portion of triathlon.” Why not?

Have you considered barefooting your next triathlon?

Are We Really Born to Run?

Are we really born to run?

I don’t know.  Wish I knew the answer, but after reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, I think I will be a lot closer to the answer.  You see, McDougall’s book is about the quest to find the answer to the question.  He ironically states:

“These were very good questions.  But as I was about to discover, the only ones who knew the answers – the only ones who lived the answers – weren’t talking.  Especially not to someone like me”.  – Christopher McDougall, Born to Run, p 13

Clearly I am only thirteen pages into this book and I am captivated.  Whether it was chapter one’s tail of find “El Caballo Blanco” or the strange commonality to my own quest for the same answers, I really can’t wait to see how this book unfolds.

Before I go, let me leave you all, my loyal readers, with one last quote from the book.  I found this to be very motivating and might blow it up really big and hang it in my cubicle for inspiration:

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.  It knows that it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed.  Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve.  It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle – when the sun comes up, you better be running.” – Christopher McDougall, Born to Run, p 13

With that said, more to come as I explore the world of Born to Run.

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!

When the Dork Run Becomes a Short Run

My last post, When Something Is Wrong, discussed the circumstances around a less than enjoyable endurance run that I have come to nickname the dork run for its awkward pace. In that post, my weekend activities created a chemical imbalance in my body that caused my heart rate to spike easily and my mood to be not so gracious. I also suggested that training with metrics was a great way to keep you focused on your fitness and triathlon training goals.

My most recent dork run on Thursday morning was quite the opposite experience.  In fact, it went so smoothly and at fast enough pace that this dork run became more a Short Run (endurance run but over short distance).  The comfortable pace I found was between 11:30 and 12:00, which produced a heart rate of 149 on the flat surface.  It was so comfortable that it felt like a run and not a dork moment. I was also back in my FiveFingers barefoot running shoes for this run. Data set is below:

Training with Metrics
Much smoother Heart Rate and Pace

If you recall, November 9th’s dork run was plagued with heart rate spikes with a wide range of pace.  It felt far from relaxed and felt more like a burden to maintain.   All of this was caused by my body being out of balance.

On Wednesday, I payed particular attention to detoxification, rest and having fun at the new job.  I ate a very healthy breakfast, had an amazing salad for lunch, and a simple dinner.  No coffee, no sweets, no alcohol, and a good night’s rest prior to Thursday’s run.

There is one additional difference between the two runs that I need to point out.  Stress.  Last week and early this week, I was caught up in changing jobs and my stress level was quite high.  This likely made the weekend’s exhaustion worse.   On Wednesday, after starting the new job, I felt like a ton of weight had been lifted, allowing my body to be in a very relaxed state for Thursday’s run.

Going forward, I will incorporate a stress variable in my training with metrics dashboard.  As much as it is important to track the hard data, there is soft data that surrounds your emotional state that should also be recorded.  Fitness and peak triathlon performance requires not only physical readiness, but mental as well.  If you are stressed out, find a way to de-stress before you workout. Otherwise you are just taxing your body and making yourself suffer.


How Many Fingers Are On My Feet?

Ah…  primal running has come to Aric In Training!

Vibram FiveFingers and barefoot running have become the latest fad.  A fad it might be for the time being, but I firmly believe this primal footwear will be as popular as those strange Uggs.

After reading all of the information published about the benefits of barefoot running, I decided that I must have a pair.  Unfortunately, my first experience with FiveFingers was somewhat limited due to availability.   However confident I was, the tight fit and my fat, deformed toes presented a problem that I worried about, but felt that the size 41 was the best solution.

BUT, today was the moment of truth.  I received a call from a saleswoman at Santa Barbara Outfitters informing me that my size 41, FiveFingers KSO had arrived!  Woohoo!  This city slicker just got a lot closer to primal, barefoot running.

I hurried downtown after work and there they were; perfectly pretty black KSO’s.  Didn’t even bother to put them on, I just grabbed the box, paid and high tailed it home. At home, though, I spent about ten minutes getting the left one on (the left is the funkiest of the two feet), but only about one minute getting the right one on.

Ah...  primal shoes for the outlier!
Ah... primal shoes for the outlier!

My feet are in a paradise that they have never felt before!  Oh my…. the breath-ability, the room, the flexibility, and even the power!   My feet, for so long, have been trapped inside shoes that were designed for normal people.  As you all should know by now, I am not normal… I am a very happy outlier living amongst normals.

The openness of the design, the toe sockets, and the heel cup are just perfect.  My arch can do what it wants and my toes can flex as they please.

The next big test, besides getting them off, is going for a run!  Tomorrow…  tomorrow I will be like a kid in a candy store.

More to come!

First Experience with FiveFingers

I have been hearing a lot about the next generation in running gear, Vibram FiveFingers.  FiveFingers are simplified shoes that are designed to allow a runner to run “barefoot” but with protection and traction of a shoe.  Having a high arc, I need shoes that are highly flexible to allow my foot’s complexities to work properly.  My goal was to try them out for few months to help develop stronger feet… and maybe a faster 5k time!

So, I stopped by Santa Barbara Outfitters this afternoon to check them out in person.  They look a lot like my Teva Watershoes, only they have toes!   Unfortunately, all they had in my size (M_40) was the Flow model, which has more insulation and neoprene that aids in crossing streams. I really want the KSO model.

Trying the M_40 on was like sitting in a big rig for the first time.  You know how to drive, although you don’t really know how to get it moving.  The salesman suggested slipping the front over the toes and then using your fingers to guide the toes in each “socket” or else the toes curl under and you can’t walk worth beans.  So, I spent the next five minutes realizing how strange of shape my feet are compared the FiveFingers, not to mention, how fat my toes are.   I managed to wrangle the big toe and the next toe into the socket before realizing that the big toe was being deprived of blood…  there was no way I would even remotely get the pinky toe in the socket at this point.

The obvious next step was to try a larger size.  Well, not so fast their city slicker… its seems Vibram is struggling to keep up with demand (the sign of a great product!) and this particular store had sold out of the sizes I needed.  You see, the W_42 is the same size as the M_41.  I have problem with buying a woman’s FiveFinger as long as it fits and is not pink!  Anyway, the nice saleswoman (the salesman ditched me for greener pastures) tried hard to help, but we did not succeed. They will call me when they get the next shipment in, so this city slicker’s saga will continue!

So, what do I think of FiveFingers so far?  Well, they look promising. They are nice & light, well put together, and the quality of the material seemed top notch.   I worry that the grooves on the bottom of the ball area might collect dirt over time and become a hindrance, but that is just my crazy mind thinking outside the box.  Overall, I can’t wait to try on a larger size and give them a full workout.

In the meantime, I found this cool blog, My FiveFingers, that shares the experience of Daniel getting to know his FiveFingers.