Getting Back onto the Triathlon Start Line: The Interval Run


Being outside of true triathlon performance for so long is a heart wrenching thought.  From my prime in 2009, I have seriously degraded in my ability to run, bike, and swim.  It makes me sad, but the thought of recapturing my prime drives me on.

Getting Back Into Running

I recently restarted my run workouts after focusing solely on bike workouts.  After cycling religiously three times a week for the past few weeks, it felt great this week to get off the bike and back on my own two feet.

The Interval Workout

This week focused on three run workouts.  While they were short, they are the beginning of a new chapter.  The first two runs were really walks, two miles long and at roughly 18:00 pace each.  Not blistering speed by any means, but even the Road Runner started slow…  I hope.

The third run was the most interesting.  While the SmartCoach app suggested a slightly faster pace, I decided to shake it up with a much faster paced, interval run.  I ran quarter mile (0.25mi) segments, alternating running and walking.  The first interval felt great.  The second, a little worse, and the final two challenging.

Running Form is Important

During the last two intervals, I focused not on run pace but run technique.  I remember an old coach who told me to run from the hip.  Run the hip???  Yep.  Running from the hip means you straighten your back and lean forward to the point you have to take a step or fall forward. You basically let gravity help move you forward as you step and push off the pavement with the ball of the foot.   Once you lean forward and get your feet in sync, the speed comes on fast and you really feel more like gliding as opposed to doing squats every time you step.

Even Slow Can Feel Awesome

At the end of the two mile workout, I managed to shave about three minutes off my pace, down to about 15:00 pace for the combined workout.  It felt great to get the blood moving along with the knees and feet.  While few people would every brag about a 15:00 pace run at two miles, when you have been away for so long, even slow feels awesome.

Running to a Clear Mind


Way back when I started my journey to triathlete, I would hear people say, “I think best when I am running.” My response was to roll my eyes and mutter to myself, “yeah, right” as all I ever felt when I was running was pain and lack of oxygen.

But as my body got used to running, developed stronger muscles, and an improved mental attitude, running became a much more peaceful, sublime experience. I was able to cover new ground with my increased endurance and go exploring new areas of town, noticing things that one would never see in a car. My community came alive as I ran by.

I also started to notice that my thoughts shifted from my body and surroundings to concepts that have been at the top of my mind. By focusing on these thoughts, time and distance went by faster. I also returned to work with new perspectives and…. A fresh mind.

Running had come full circle. The truth is, I really do do my best thinking while I am running. Instead of sitting at my desk to work through a problem, I’ll go out for a short or long run (if it is a big problem) and think it through. Running had gone from something horrible to an essential part of life.

Get out there, run, clear your mind and make the world a better place, one thought and one mile at a time.

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.

A Brilliant August It Will Be


Goleta Beach Triathlon2011 is sprinting by faster than any other year of my life.  Perhaps I am having way too much fun, or my life is full of activities, hobbies, and other responsibilities.  Regardless, when I look at the calendar and realize that 2011 is far more than half way through, I have to look back and realize that I have not competed once so far this year.

Since I am now feeling the benefit of focusing on stress relief in my life, I am now able to look competition as say, “bring it on!”  It just so happens that August has some awesome events for me to compete in!  (It is amazing how these things happen!)

Camarillo Duathlon – August 14

First up, the Camarillo Duathlon on August 14th.  The Camarillo Duathlon and I go way back to the beginning of my journey for the CamDua as I call it because it was going to be one of my first events. Unfortunately, the event kept getting rescheduled to dates that conflicted with other events and I never got to do it.  Well, on August 14th, rain or shine, nothing will stop me from completing the sprint.

McConnell’s 5k/10k – August 21

Second, a good old fashion 5k.  And a local favorite event at that, the McConnell’s 5k on August 21st.  With a simple out and back sprint along the bike path between Goleta Beach Park and Patterson Avenue, this is going to be a fast, but fun event that will test my ability to control pace.

Santa Barbara Triathlon Sprint – August 28

Third, ending August with an event close to home, the Santa Barbara Triathlon Sprint on August 28th.  The year was 2008 and this was going to be my first triathlon sprint ever, but I never made it that morning.  It wasn’t until a full year later that I kicked my trainer’s butt on the sprint (he had some issues with the swim) and finished this course.  With 2011 being my third year for this event, I am looking to just have fun and maybe better my time from last year.

If you are in Camarillo or Santa Barbara on the respective dates, please come on out and cheer me and the other athletes on.  While athletes are great to compete against, it is the cheering spectators that take the event to a new level.

I am seriously looking forward to these events and can’t wait to redeem myself and have one brilliant August.  Sadly, it will likely go by fast, but I know I will enjoy every minute of it!

Running in the Oven


Summer is here!  Today, Santa Barbara is having the perfect Fourth of July weekend weather with brilliant sunshine, perfect 74 degree temperature and access to parks, waterfront and shopping.

As I was reminded during this morning’s run, running in warmer temperatures can be a challenge.  In fact, running along the waterfront this morning in direct sunlight and light humidity, I really felt like I was running in an oven.

So, I would like to offer some tips to help running in the oven a bit more fun and less likely to do you in.  Here we go:

  • Wear breathable, light colored clothing

    • I would not recommend wearing a black, cotton t-shirt, but I would recommend wearing a moisture wicking white t-shirt and grey shorts.  The idea is to wear clothes that will keep you cool through wicking sweat away from your skin while being light in color to reflect the sun’s rays.  I am a huge fan of Champion’s line of active gear.
  • Drink lots of water

    •  This is a no brainer.  If you dehydrate, your body will shut down and you could probably die.  In addition, the body dehydrates a lot quicker the higher temperature.  So, bring plenty of water with you and consume it regularly.  I run with an Ultimate Direction waist pack which is enough for shorter runs (6k).
  • Don’t over do it!

    • Be realistic, especially for the first few runs of the summer. When running in higher temperatures, run at a slightly slower pace.  This will prevent your body from overheating prematurely and requires less water. The slower pace might mean a longer run, but you will be building endurance as well as giving yourself time to enjoy the summer scenery!
  • Wear sunblock and a light colored hat.

    • Skin cancer sucks.  Avoid it by using a good quality sunscreen of SPF 45+.  You should also wear a light colored hat with a wide brim to keep the sun off your face and neck.  A baseball cap might be preferable by most runners, but it leaves your neck exposed, so use an extender with the baseball cap to protect your neck.

Follow these simple tips and you will be enjoying summer time running without the feeling of running through an oven.   What are you waiting for?  Go for it!

My Day of Enlightenment


Over the next few weeks, I will be bringing you snippets of some of the more memorable moments during my 18 month journey from office potato to triathlete.   These snippets aren’t currently included in the AricInTraining archives and more dear to my heart.  They will be a part of the book I am writing about my journey, yet to be named.  So here is the first snippet:

Workouts can be great.  Workouts can also be miserable.  For the past few months I had dedicated myself to strength and cross training workouts.  I was feeling pretty good, although the “struggle” seemed to be at a stalemate.  As you workout, you build aerobic capacity, strength, and improve your metabolism.   This is progress in the world of fitness.

So why was I struggling so much to run to a stop sign?  A day in March 2009 proved to be one of those “gotcha” days where suddenly things make a lot more sense.   My trainer had this ability to shake up the workouts and surprise me with some new and obscene way to torture my body.

On this particular day in March, the torture test consisted of a brief strength workout, followed by an outdoor run to the stop sign at the end of the block and back.  This wasn’t the first time and I hated how I felt when I ran this course, a 1/8th mile out in an increasing slope uphill, followed by a downhill sprint back.  Running at this point was very painful, my legs easily cramped up, with my muscles so tight, I couldn’t walk, my breathe so short that I was gasping for air, and my blood boiled to the point I thought my skin was going to melt write off.

And that day in March was no better, in fact it was worse and I was pissed.  Running the first 1/16th of the mile pretty much brought my immediate demise, yet I still had an increasingly slope to the stop sign.  My trainer was yelling at me to get moving and all I could feel was my body rejecting.  Reluctantly, I pushed on to the stop sign doing the obese shuffle and walked a significant portion of the return leg, bringing home a run for the finish.  It was horrible, I couldn’t breathe, my muscles ached, and I felt like getting hit by a Mack truck might actually make me feel better.

For some reason, I looked to my trainer, who had that annoyed look, for sympathy The dialogue went something like this (I don’t remember the exact dialogue):

Me: “I thought it gets easier with time.  That sucked!”
Trainer:  Looks at me dumb-founded
Me: Staring at him, looking for any shred of sympathy, but couldn’t find any.
Trainer: “What did you have for lunch today?” smirking.
Me: “A hamburger, some fries, and an iced tea. I was running late and had to grab something.”
Trainer: Looking at me as if I was a dumb ass “Well there you go…  eat crap like that to perform like crap.  You need to start eating salads. Now, go to the stop sign and back.”
Me: I just look at him as if I was just slapped hard across the face and then tossed into a pit of piranas.

And that was the day I gave up fast food.  My brain finally correlated diet with my poor fitness and realized that workouts were just a small piece of the entire journey to triathlon.   If I wanted to progress and enjoy my workouts, shedding the pain and building fitness, I had to get my diet in order.  Once I did, I quickly lost weight and busted through plateaus over the next year.  Before I knew it, I lost 60 pounds and was actually under 200 pounds.

Despite the enormous accomplishment, I struggle even today with my diet, which influences my workout enjoyment.  If I step off the deep end too far and for too long, eating treats, refined foods and not drinking enough water, I can feel that day in March creeping back into my body and it quickly reminds me of how important eating right is to consistent progress and feeling great.