Thursday, February 19, 2009

The President's Challenge

Do you remember this from school? I found it kind of fun, but for a lot of kids it was a nightmare. I don't recall much of what it entailed, but it involved push ups, sit ups, pull ups, and running.

It looks like it's still around, and now, not just for kids. At anyone can sign up to take the challenge. The goal is to get people active. You earn points for each workout you do and work towards awards. They have also built in a social aspect, using groups and comparisons to motivate you. I've signed up to see what it's like. I'll make sure to post with updates.

I think this is a great idea. The more ways to motivate people to become active, the better. 

Do you have any memories (good or bad!) of the presidential challenge? If I start a group on the site, would anyone join? What motivates to you get active?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I declare today...

...a recovery day.  Tomorrow shall resume with a 40 minute fartlek and a visit to the pool.

Pearl Izumi AmFib Shoe Covers [Gear Wednesdays]

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was in need of some shoe covers.  My ankles and feet were getting really cold!  I searched a bit on the web and found that people seemed to like the Pearl Izumi AmFib shoe covers. I made a trip to REI, and after some confusion over a mislabeled pair of Pearly Izumi Cyclone shoe covers we found the AmFibs.  I considered for a bit getting the Cyclones as I have the Cyclone gloves and couldn't be happier with them.  But the AmFibs were rated slightly better on both warmth and water protection and were the same price.

The first thing I noticed when I put them on, was how tight they are over the shoe.  Cyclists like to think that being perfectly aerodynamic will help them shave off a few extra seconds.  So, I guess this didn't really surprise me.

The next thing I realized was that I might have to have my wife (who has mad sewing skills!) make some adjustments to the cleat opening on the bottom.  A month or two ago, I was having some numbness in my toes during longer rides.  I found out that can be caused by a saddle that isn't high enough, or having the cleats too far forward.  I already had the saddle as high as I wanted it to go, so I decided to move the cleats on the shoes.  This was the perfect move.  I feel I have more power when pedaling now, and no more numbness.  The only side effect was I had to watch my toes when turning as they now ran into the front wheel.

Where was I?  Right, moving the cleats back put them in a position when the shoe cover sole was close to obstructing them from clipping to the pedals.  I managed to put on the covers just right so there is no problem.  No sewing for now!

It wasn't nearly as cold this morning as some of the other rides I've done, but even so, my feet and ankles were warm and ready to ride.  I haven't had these out in the rain yet, but Saturday's commute into work looks like it could be wet.  I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Running again and defining a swim plan

I got out running this morning for the first time in a week.  It felt good.  The goal was 30 minutes at 10 min/mi pace.  In the end I went a little faster, and the legs are still feeling good tonight.  I was doing pretty good with the running until recently.  I'm in the second week of the marathon training program and need to get my game on.  The countdown until race time is around 18 1/2 weeks (I'm guessing, but I think it's close).  That means the triathlon is around 14 1/2 weeks out and the Seattle-to-Portland is 20 1/2.  Is it just me, or does that sound really close?  Of course that also means it's almost summer time!

Today's pool session was good in a couple of ways.  I came up with a new training method for the pool and will try it out over the next few weeks.  With every workout I will increase the distance I swim just using freestyle, and the distance I can swim overall.  Today I swam 50m then 75m just freestyle.  (by just freestyle I do allow myself to stop and take at most 4 side strokes to catch my breath before continuing).  My plan is to increase the freestyle distance every week by at least 25 meters.  Then increase the overall distance (without stopping) by at least 50 meters each workout.

It's not very scientific.  It probably isn't even what I need, but I am feeling stronger in the water than 2 months ago.  I know I don't have good form.  That is something I'll have to work on over the summer, fall, and winter as I get ready for a half-ironman (more on that to come!).

Any swimming tips you can offer up?

2009 Seattle to Portland

Other than the triathlon, the Seattle-to-Portland bike ride was next on my list of events I wanted to try.  This year marks the 30th anniversary of the event that raises money for group health.  For most of the 10,000 that do this ride, it is a 2 day event spanning over 200 miles between the University of Washington campus in Seattle to downtown Portland.  I will be making the journey in one day.  What a way to get started in biking!

I'm really looking forward to doing this ride, but of the events I'm getting ready for this year it's the event I'm most worried about.  A triathlon, you can always rest and keep going (especially if it's short like the one I'm doing).  A marathon, you just walk a bit and keep going.  But when you are on your bike and need to take a break, your only option is to walk which doesn't help much when you have that many miles to cover.  

The training started yesterday.  The STP website has a training schedule listed that I plan on following.  It's not an in depth program.  It just lists miles you should ride for any given day. I'll be adding hills and intervals so I can get the speed work needed for the triathlon.

The other part I'm worried about is covering that many miles in less than 16 hours.  The one-day riders start between 4 and 5 in the morning, and have to finish by 9 pm.  I'm looking at averaging 15 mph for the trip to end up which will get me there in about 14 hours.  Here's hoping. A friend of mine has said that if you can do the 100 mile route for the 7 hills of Kirkland ride then doing the STP in one day is doable.  Maybe I'll sign up for the event (I hear there is strawberry shortcake after the event!) or ride the route on my own before July.

So, if any one else is planning on signing up, better get on it.  This event sells out every year.  Is anyone else going to be there?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Today's bike ride and other ramblings

Let me start off by saying how great it feels to be able to get outside and go for a ride.  I really enjoy the freedom of road cycling.  It's been especially nice recently as I've got enough cold weather gear to get out and not freeze.  So this morning a got out a little after 4 for a 10 mile ride.  The roads were pretty slick due to some rain during the night.  I headed out onto the nearest through road to my neighborhood and found my back wheel sliding around all over the place.  They still haven't managed to clean the shoulders since sanding after the last snow.  Between sliding all over the place and not being able to see the debris in front of me, I decided to hit some safer roads in my neighborhood.

I rode one of my running routes and did a few laps.  It was a different experience than riding busy roads.  I only saw one car and the streets have great pavement.  Anyway, 10 miles in 40 minutes.

Since we're talking bike - the Tour of California is going on, and it's been great to follow so far.  We're only two stages in and there has been drama, heroic all-stage breaks, and great chases. Lance Armstrong and teammates had a few bikes stolen the other (which was a really dumb move. If you haven't seen Lance's bike, it's kinda one of a kind - not a good move.).  Lance's teammate Levi Leipheimer has taken over the yellow jersey and is looking to win the tour for the third year in a row. It all makes me want to get out and ride.

When not training is a good thing

For those of you who have trained for anything before, you might be thinking, "This post is how to adequately recover from hard workouts so I can be faster."  Sorry, my friend you are wrong.

Recovery is an important part of training, no doubt about it.  But this week's missed training days were on purpose and not for that reason.  My good wife puts up with a lot.  We have two beautiful daughters who, when cooped up for just long enough, can wreak havoc her nervous system.  She need some time away.  So on Wednesday of this week she joined some ladies from church for some talk about dried fruit.  Thursday was yet another outing for her and time for some quiet alone time.  I got some studying done after the girls were down, and all was good.  

This week's training schedule might make my body pay for the time off last week, but I wouldn't do it any other way.

The stats for last week
Swim: 1 workout, 700m
Bike: 3 workouts, 22.6 miles
Run: 1 workout, 1.8 miles

Next week looks like this
     Bike - 10 miles
     Run - 30 min @ 10 min/mi pace;
     Swim - 900m
     Run - 40 min fartlek (see this definition for you non-runners)
     Run - 30 min @ 11 min/mi pace; 
     Swim - 900m
     Run - 30 min & 10 min/mi pace;
     Bike into work; 
     Run - long run with Dan @ work; 
     Bike home (total of 20 miles on bike for the day)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Sometimes you find motivation in the strangest places. I recently came across the This is why you're fat blog. In a sick and nauseating way, these pictures keep me going. Above, you can find a fine 7-pound breakfast burrito. Below, a deep fried peanut butter-covered brownie wrapped in a cookie. I can't think of a better way to start or end my day!

So how is this motivation? 2 ways: burn enough calories to be able to justify eating this stuff, or be completely grossed out by it. Either way works. Go visit the blog and get your motivation on.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Swim and a Run

This afternoon I headed to the pool and had a new distance PR. I started off with 2x50m freestyle. Then a 150m doing freestyle as much as possible. Then I thought I'd just swim.  So, 450m later I've gone farther than I have before in one go. The good news is, that I can make the entire way on the swim portion of the upcoming triathlon, the bad news is that I will be run over by 2 heats of swimmers! Now we work on getting faster.

Day 2 of the marathon training brought a nice easy 20 minute jog. I was aiming for 11 minute miles, but without having mapped out a route, I had to guess. I ended up pretty close at 11:07/mile pace. I had a hard time keeping the pace down, but I kept reminding myself that as the miles increase, it'll be important to know how to stay slow on some days.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Week in review and here we go!

So last week was...  well let's just call it a rest week!  Saturday I got some biking and a bit of running.  I biked in to work (About 8 miles each way).  As usual I took it easy on the way in, then on the way back I try to push it a bit more.  Last summer my record for biking home was 34 minutes.  I would usually start the clock running once I got through all the lights downtown.  Yesterday, I managed to clock 33:15 over 8.6 miles, and that included the stop-and-go downtown section.  Figure 2 minutes (moving time) to get through the lights and I beat last year's record by almost 3 minutes.  There is a mile long hill on the way home that is getting easier to tackle.  It makes me feel better about the time I'm putting in on the trainer.  At least it's doing something!

When I got home I traded shoes and went out for a run.  I tried to run hard right out of the chute to simulate race situations.  My legs had a hard time with the transition.  I set out thinking I would do 3 miles, but the fact that I'd gunned it early, and hadn't run all week got the better of me.  By the time I got home 9.5 minutes later I thought I'd only gone 1 mile.  My legs felt like lead and I didn't think I was moving all that fast.  Turns out, I'd covered 1.4 miles and averaged 7 min/mile.  Hurray for base training.

Today also marks the start of my marathon training plan.  Expect a post about that sometime this week.  Tonight was 15 minutes of cross training.  So I hopped on the trainer for some pedaling.  Nothing exciting.  Tomorrow just 20 minutes of running. Not much, but I have to convince myself to follow it now, if I'm ever going to be able to follow it in the coming weeks/months.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lack of sleep and lack of water

I woke up this morning absolutely exhausted.  I got 8 hours of sleep, which for me is 2 (sometimes 3) hours more than I usually get.  I assumed since I woke up so tired that I must not have slept well, but my wife thinks otherwise.  Apparently our 5 month old woke up at 11:30, 1:30, 3:30, and 5:30 to nurse (in our bed) and I didn't even move (yes I was still breathing...).  So what I thought was poor sleep appears to actually be an accumulation of not enough sleep.  I thought I was being so good, but my eyelids and body say otherwise.

On top of that, it appears I have a hard time drinking enough fluids at home.  When I'm at the office, I don't have a problem - every 2 hours I'm up getting another glass of water.  I don't know why it's different at home.

So, I've taken today off, and likely tomorrow too, from any training to try and get my muscles some rest.  I can't guarantee enough sleep until Saturday, but it'll have to do.  Oh, and I'm getting up right now to get a glass of water.

Well, I'll be....

A few months back I was stopped at a light while riding home from work.  A truck pulled up in the next lane over and an older man opened his window and the conversation went something like this:
Man: What's that thing by the wheel on your bike?
Me: That's a computer.
Man: Huh, what's it do?
Me: It tells me how fast I'm going and how far I've been.
Man: Huh, where do you read it?
Me: On this screen on the handlebars.
Man: Well, I'll be darned! (spoken animatedly with a slightly southern drawl)
The light turned green and I rode away with a smile.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

2/4 - pool day

I had a respectable (for me) day in the pool today.  I did a ladder set 50m/100/150/200 then back down for a total of 800m, which is the most I have ever swum in one day.  Another landmark was that about half of the distance today was freestyle.  Up until now, I've been doing more back and side strokes to catch my breath.  Breathing is still a struggle for now, but it seems to be getting better.  I've yet to find the perfect rhythm.  800m in about 24mins of swim time.

As an aside, Saturday is supposed to be sunny and 45.  Looks like a good day for biking into work.  I hope I haven't jinxed it!

What doesn't a cyclist need? [Gear Wednesdays]

My wife recently introduced me to the Fat Cyclist blog.  Fatty, as he loving calls himself, is a cyclist and an excellent writer.  When he is not cycling, you can find him conducting groundbreaking science experiments, eating burritos, or having good old fashioned fun by shocking his buddies (literally!).

So what does this have to with gear? One of his posts that grabbed my attention was one titled So You Want to be a Cyclist, Part I: Choosing Your Equipment. Every week I think about what piece of gear I should write about, mostly to amuse myself as my wife is probably the only regular reader and has to hear me talk about this gear and that gear daily.  Fatty does one better by listing the only piece of equipment you don't need - a recumbent bike.  Got your road bike? check. Got your mountain bike? check. Fixie, single speed, hard-tail, and tri bikes? check, check, check, and check.

After shoes, helmets, layers and layers of clothes, repair equipment, and a second mortgage on your house you are just getting the hang of what it means to be a true cyclist.

I jest (sort of!), and next week, on to more gear.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Me, Coldplay, and burning quads

Another 30min high gear interval session tonight.  This time seems easier than last, but my legs were still screaming on the highest gear.  Nothing special, but hopefully climbing will be easier.  Saturday is supposed to be sunny, so hopefully I can commute to and from work and put the training to the test.

My mother-in-law is quite the rocker.  She recently lent me Coldplay's 2003 live album which has been an excellent soundtrack for the last few trainer workouts.

Why am I doing this again?

This thought crosses my mind every once and a while.  By day I'm a tax accountant, which means that right about now I'm working 55-60 hour weeks.  On top of that I have yet to pass the CPA exam, so that keeps me pretty busy.  Most importantly I have a wonderful wife and two beautiful daughters.  With all of this going on, why do I try to make time?

I often run through the reasons in my head, but it always comes down to a select few:
1. I think better when I've exercised.  My mind is more alert and ready for new challenges.  Work seems a bit easier to get through, and what I've studied sticks around a bit longer.
2. I was getting incredibly out of shape, and had to turn that around.  I feel healthy again.  No more sluggish days spent yawning away the poor sleep.  I've got more energy and I am generally happier than I have been.
3. What I consider the best reason, is that I hope my kids can see what I do and get excited about exercising and taking care of themselves.  I don't care what sport they do.  I don't even care if they don't like sports.  If they stay active and eat right I'll be happy.

I read a post recently from a blog I follow called Diary of an amateur triathlete.  Her 6-year-old son just ran a 1-mile race.  It was fun to read how they trained together and are planning for their next race.  My 3-year-old always asks me if I've ridden my bike or run today.  Then she starts mimicking my running (I hope I really don't look like that when I run) as she zooms around the house.

There are a lot of things in this world that can take up our time.  My hope is that I can make sure I spend my time on worthwhile endeavours

Monday, February 2, 2009

Recovery and the wrap-up

I'm finally over the head cold I had for most of last week.  I never came close to making my goals for last week.  No worries.  I'm not in this to beat myself up, it's just nice to have goals to push me along.

Last Thursday I hopped on the trainer for a 30min workout.  It turned out to be quite enjoyable, and difficult at the same time.  After a 5 min warm up I put it in the highest gear on front and the lowest gear on back and put the trainer on the hardest resistance.  I pedaled hard for 30 secs then moved the back gear up one, kept that going until I'd hit the top.  1 min on the highest gear, then 30 secs each on the way down.  Take about 5 minutes to recover while pedaling easy then do it again.  This could be just what I need to get my legs going.  I might just have to tackle the hill again.

Saturday found me in the pool again.  2x50m, then 2x150m, then 1x350m... what?!  For someone who had never swam (swum? I can never remember) more than 100m before this was quite the accomplishment.  Granted most of it was easy backstroke or sidestroke.  I finally decided to see how far I could go.  Not only that, but I even managed it in close to the time I have set for my triathlon goal.   Now that I know I can go that far swimming should be easier, right?

Not so fast.  Back in the pool this afternoon, but with much different results.  I think I psyched myself out.  I did 1x50, 2x75, 1x150.  That was all I could muster.  It wasn't that I was exhausted, but I was having a much harder time breathing today (more on that in another post).  I think I tried to push myself too hard and ended up exhausting myself.  Oh well...

This morning I squeezed in 2.75 miles of very easy jogging.  Legs were a bit groggy still.

Last week's stats:
Swim: 750m
Bike: 9.2 mi
Run: 3.68mi

And now that January's come to a close, here is the monthly mileage: 114.09 miles.  I use MapMyFitness to keep track of everything, and it's great.  The only downfall is that you have to pay a yearly fee to see all the stats broken down by sport.  I'll figure out a way to break them down for next month.

Goals for this week:
Swim: 1500m
Bike: 20 mi
Run: 15 mi