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.

A New Milestone: 6-mile Run

On Tuesday night, I reached another milestone in my training by running a full six miles, non-stop!  I even did it wearing my FiveFingers!

This week, instead of doing another strength workout with my trainer, I decided that it would be good to try something new, so we went out for a run instead.   While I initially balked at a six mile run, I knew that I could do it if we kept the pace to 11:00 or slower.

Well, we ended up running a little faster than that in the end.

Aric's 6-mile Run Milestone
3-miles out, 3-miles back, nice and smooth!


Distance: 6.03 miles ~ Time: 1:03:43 ~ Pace: 10:34 ~ Avg Hr: 170

While the next day, I felt quite fatigued, knowing that I can go the distance is awesome.  6.03 miles is not that far off of a 10K run and the 10:34 pace is not bad at all.

So, what’s next for me?  You are just going to have to stay tuned.

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!

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!