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.

The New Year Brings New Goals!


Resolutions 5k Run kicks off 2012

As we begin flying through the new 2012 calendar and say “whew” after running my first event of the new year, it is time to outline my goals for the year.  Instead of doing a half dozen events, I feel like 2012 should be the year of simple and calculated performance.  Let’s focus on one or two larger goals and let the rest fall in as they come.

Choose Your Distance!

Recognizing the diversity of the triathlon sport, 2012 will be the year to step up.  First, I will complete my first “long” course triathlon.  This means swimming a mile in the ocean (really?), biking fives time longer than a sprint, and running more than 3x’s the distance.  But, that’s how we roll and continually improve our performance.

The event of choice for my first long course triathlon is none other than my home town event, the Santa Barbara Triathlon on August 25th.  Why travel when you can roll out of bed 45 minutes before start and still wait for horn?    To read more about the daunting 1-mile swim, 34-mile bike, and 10-mile run ahead, check out the course description.

After surviving my first long course, I thought it would be an excellent recovery opportunity to finish the Carpinteria Triathlon Sprint in the fastest time possible on September 30th.  After going long, the shorter distances are going to be a breeze (I say that now!).   The Carp Tri is my favorite and I can’t think of any better way to end the season with a solid showing on a course that I love so much.

Host Your Own Event When You Can’t Find It

But, my biggest goal yet, which is not necessarily directly related to training, but is fitness oriented, is going to be awesomer.  I am directing the Goleta Duathlon, held on May 20, 2012 in the “Good Land” of Goleta, California. The best part about a duathlon (run-bike-run) is the lack of swimming with the sharks! I am still in the process of obtaining permits, I can’t wait to share a bit of California’s Central Coast with other athletes and allow them to share in this memorable event.  From now to May 21st, life is going to be interesting.

Cooking Paleo, Cover to Cover

Of course, an individual needs their “fun” goals as well.  Life can’t be all training and race directing.  This year I decided to get back in the kitchen and cook!  The goal is to make every recipe (minus recipes with allergies) in a paleo cookbook from cover to cover.

The book for 2012 is Paleo Comfort Food by the Mayfields. I’ve owned this book for a while, but haven’t had a chance to really dive into the scrumptious recipes inside.  By the end of this year, though, I will be a paleo comfort food master!

Wish me luck!  I set the bar extremely high, but I know I can achieve!

What are your goals for 2012?

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 >

Survey: Triathlon Training Solutions


One thing that is near and dear to my heart is analytics.  The second thing that is near and dear to my heart is triathlon.  What happens when you put the two together?  Triathlon analytics that can be applied to race results, triathlon training and nutrition.

It is such a fascinating topic to me that I recently created a solution called TrainingMetrix, which is still under development.  One of the goals of TrainingMetrix is to produce the best triathlon training analysis solution that gives you the feedback to perform.  I call it focused performance.

If you currently track workouts and nutrition via a 3rd party online solution, Excel, or just a simple notebook, please take the following survey (via SurveyMonkey): Triathlon Workout Tracking Survey.  The information will help me create the next generation solution that will help you perform your best.

Cheers!

Workout Update – Life’s Obligations


Sunset at Butterfly Beach

It has been quiet around here lately and that means life is in full swing.  So a few quick updates from my realm of the triathlon universe:

  1. Shoulders and neck continue to be sore.  A few weeks back, moving furniture I pulled a muscle in my back and shoulder that is causing discomfort throughout my upper back, neck and arms.   It is gradually getting better, but is still quite bothersome.  Maybe I am just getting old?
  2. Workouts themselves have been light lately as I let my shoulders recover.  I’ve mainly been focusing on Yoga, foam rolling, and stretches, but did get back to the gym for a workout.
  3. Today’s gym workout was pretty cool with a combination of jump rope, squat and press, and push-ups.  The shoulders are a little more sore than they were before, unfortunately.
  4. The Paleo/Primal diet has taken a bit of a back seat lately.  This week bagels and bread seemed to creep back in, as did Oreos (Oh no!).  Focus this next week is to get back to a diet with far less processed foods.
  5. My hope of competing in the Greeley Triathlon in June were dashed as life prevents me from leaving Santa Barbara at that time.  I am feeling a bit bummed about it, but I will find other events to do at more opportune times.
  6. I am continuing my own custom fitness tracking solution that I’ve been calling TrainingMetrix.  Help me out and take a look at the blog or the forums.

While I still struggle to return back down to my racing weight and let my shoulders mend, I keep reflecting back on my awesome 2009 season.  Using 2009 as my inspiration for 2011, that little thing called life keeps reminding me of how complex things can get.  Still, triathlons are awesome and they will always be in my daydreams.

So, what strategies do you use to balance triathlon with the rest of life’s obligations?

Remembering Why


As life goes on, training gets tough and the weather turns gloomy, it is important to focus on what matters.   It is important to the success of one’s goals, whether fitness they are fitness goals or business goals, to remember why you set them in the first place.

Reminding yourself of why you set your goals not only provides an amazing amount of inspiration, but provides a check for your own actions.  Are you doing things that are not helping you attain your goal?  Are your actions appropriate for the expected outcome?  If not, look at your goals and make changes to redirect yourself.

Case in point, I have allowed my day job to take over my life, which is hindering my personal goals, including my triathlon goals.  This scares me as I can see the digression in my training dashboard.   I have rechecked my goals and want to make them clear here:

  1. Finish in the top 70% at Ventura Tri in June.
  2. Finish a half marathon in 2011
  3. Going long at Carpinteria Triathlon in 2011, finishing my first Olympic course
  4. Enjoying the freedom of training and how awesome it is exercise.

No time for digression.  Time to bring back balance, priorities and my awesome goals.

Triathlon Training Update – January 2011


It has been a while since I gave an update on my triathlon training.  Seems like after last year’s Carpinteria Triathlon, I went into hibernation.  For one reason or another, it was simply time to slow down, deal with life and do some regrouping.  So, the winter months were not exactly the most productive in terms of triathlon training.

But, it wasn’t like I spent the winter in bed.  In contrast to last winter where I spent quite a bit of time improving my physical side, this winter I focused more on the mental side.  I spent time reflecting on 2009 and 2010 triathlon seasons, studying “the mental edge” and positive visualization.  I learned a lot about what it meant to perform mentally whether during training or during a race.

Studying the Mental Edge

Two books helped me focus and provided some surprise inspiration.  Two of the books, “Zero Regrets” and “Spirit of the Dancing Warrior” are summarized in my post, Some Inspiration: Apolo and a Warrior.  The third book, Dan Millman’s Way of the Peaceful Warrior, is an interesting tale that parallels the other two.  Simply by being focused, in control, and breathing calmly, one can become a warrior at everything they do.

All three books have made me reconsider my approach to everything, but I am learning that becoming a warrior requires discipline, practice and even more discipline.  However, when I achieve the warrior state whether swimming, biking or running, the results are fantastic.  It is like I am transported to a land where gravity works with me, not against me and every step or stroke is pure bliss.  The hard part is getting to that state, which requires one’s mind to let go of all thoughts, step above any muscle pain and focus on breathing.  It takes practice.

C is for Consistency

Speaking of practice, my physical workouts have been sporadic.  Like I said before, life can be quite busy at times, especially during the holidays and end of year.

Daily workout score with moving average.

As you can see in the chart above, my triathlon training is rather inconsistent.  Each marker represents a workout with the value being a function of time and intensity.  Not only has the frequency of workouts dropped off, but also the intensity, starting in mid-January.  In fact, February has been dismal with more zero intensity days since I was an office potato.

The primary workout each week has been a cross training workout that combines strength with cardio training. The workout starts with intervals on the treadmill, then two circuits of strength and usually ending with more intervals on the bike or elliptical.

Weekends would include a long bike, run, swim or combination of the three.  I also started attending a group swim workout at the local pool, which proved to be highly beneficial.  Not only is it a longer pool, at 50m, but very motivational as swimming with other more competent athletes really makes me push harder.  My swim workouts have gone from 500-600 meters to well over 1 kilometer.

Going Forward

So, what’s next? Keep moving forward.  My first triathlon is the Ventura Triathlon at the end of June.  This gives me plenty of time to build my competitive spirit and get back into shape.  With the goal of completing the olympic course at the Carpinteria Triathlon in September, it is clearly time to come of hibernation and get going.  Bears can spend an entire year in their caves!