Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Trouble

Normal people make the winter the off-season for training for a very good reason.

We are not normal people, apparently. We sign up for events in the winter or early spring that require us to train through the short days, the cold weather, and the holidays.

We're not very smart. I remember last year saying, 'never again in the winter.' Then I signed up for the same danged marathon in February and added that half Ironman in early April.

Not very smart.

So I have these aggressive training schedules made for both of us. We're plugging along, doing our best to put in the hours. Basta is doing a lot better at it than I am. He's much like a machine that way. You tell him do x at y intensity for z duration on this day and he does it. It takes a lot for him to miss a scheduled workout.

But me? I am missing workouts.

Not for lack of discipline. No, I have a problem. An odd problem. It's taken me quite a while to figure it out but I think I now know what it is.

It started Thanksgiving weekend. Training was going pretty well up to that point. We were back from vacation in Holland. My fitness was improving. The runs were going pretty well, the swims very well, and the bike was the bike. Normal training. I was upping the hours slowly but surely and trying to push the pace at times. Good.

Then, Thanksgiving. Much food and festivity. We had a huge turkey feast at Basta's sister's place. Basta likes to cook and is quite the home chef, so he made another turkey feast for just us two days later. That resulted in a lot of leftovers.

And my training went to hell. It hurt to run. Not just the normal, 'oh ow ache here twinge there' stuff that you get in the first couple of miles. No. This felt like a thousand little razors were embedded in my leg muscles, sawing back and forth as I ran. Hurt. Ache. Pain. Hurt.

Along with that came a hugely elevated heart rate and the feeling that my eyeballs were being pressed out from the inside. I checked my blood pressure and it was high. 120/79. Normal according to the standard charts, but that's quite high for me. Usually it is around 90/60.

I had no energy on the bike or the swim, either. As soon as I'd start a workout my heart rate would take off like a jackhammer and my ability to perform or continue for very long would plummet.

I assumed overtraining at first. Seems most likely, no? I'd increased my workout volume by a good jump. My last good long run was 14 miles. I didn't think I'd increased my training volume by an excessive amount, but maybe my body just couldn't handle. It could be overtraining. That's what all of my fellow athletes thought it was, too.

So I took a few days off. Didn't really feel any different. I started to think maybe I was dehydrated. Realized I hadn't been consuming much besides coffee or wine lately. Started sucking down the water and the electrolyte drinks. Didn't make much of a difference.

By now I was really worried. My training was going to hell. It just hurt too much. I couldn't actually run, so I tried run/walking. 5 minutes of running followed by a minute or so of walking. That really didn't help, either. It just hurt to run.

Then I had a burst of insight. This all started around Thanksgiving. That's when my diet changed pretty radically. I was eating things that I don't normally eat. I know that I am sensitive to a lot of foods. Maybe this was a food intolerance problem.

Common symptoms of food intolerance are nausea, indigestion, diarrhea . . . Gastrointestinal complaints. I wasn't experiencing any of that. But a little research showed that other common symptoms are fatigue, muscle pain, joint aches, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, headache, and itchy skin, among others. I was having all of those. While those same symptoms can be caused by a whole world of things, I think I was on to something.

But what could it be? Something that I'd been eating a lot of starting on Thanksgiving day and continuing for several days thereafter. Something I don't usually eat . . .

I started eliminating foods and trying to isolate what it was. That isn't easy, especially this time of year with all of the parties and potlucks that one must attend. Who knows what is in that stuffing, after all?

Well, to cut to the chase of a long story, I think I know what it is: Turkey. I think I have poultry allergy. It's not all that common but it does exist. Google it if you don't believe me. I never eat chicken because it causes my throat to swell and my face and neck to turn red and itch. Turkey hasn't bothered me in the past, but apparently now, all of the sudden, it does.

It takes several days for the symptoms to abate after consuming something your body doesn't like. I was both turkey and pork-free for about a week and things were improving nicely. I did a 10K last weekend and felt pretty good. Like I'd missed some training and wasn't in the best shape, but not like my heart was going to explode. Then we had a department potluck at work. Several turkeys were cooked. I had a few pieces, just to test my theory. Could I really be allergic or intolerant to turkey?

Yes, I absolutely can. Within moments of eating the turkey my skin began itching all over. Face, neck, stomach, back, legs. Whole body itching. Plus my heart took off and I timed it at 95bpm while just sitting at my desk at work later that day.

I tried to run the next day, which was yesterday, and it was a disaster. Every step hurt. Not typical muscle pain, but the same feeling of stabbing knives as before. I had to cut the run short and walk home.

Today I tried to ride the bike and had a very similar experience. That doesn't cause the pain so much but it shoots my heart rate through the absolute roof. I can't push out more than about 100watts or I feel like I'm going to die. That didn't make for such a good bike this morning.

So, here I am. I need to avoid all poultry if I ever plan to complete the events I'm signed up for. The marathon in Feb is already looking really iffy, given my lack of ability to train. I still have 13 weeks to go until Oceanside so I'm hoping to still get plenty ready for that.

Come the new year, I'm going on a complete detox program. All vegetarian, no booze, serious workouts for the entire month. See if I can truly clear out my body of whatever is bothering it and actually feel good during a workout again.

Looking forward to that.

First, though, we're headed up to see my parents for Christmas. Cold, snowy, fun. Will try to ski a time or two while there. I found a gym nearby and we will try to do some guest workouts while we're there. If my theory is correct I should feel normal by then and can get some good workouts done.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Plan

Ok, ok. I realize some of you haven't read The Triathlon Training Bible and so that annual hours question wouldn't really mean anything to you. Also, it's Thanksgiving. The hit count on this site is way, way down. Y'all are off happily stuffing yourselves with holiday food and then burning it off with long workouts, I know.

So I'm on my own with this workout decision. To help with that, I took a good long look at how those annual hours translate into weekly workouts. If we went middle of the road and chose 900 hours, Basta's longest week would be 26 hours. He'd have a few 23-24 hour weeks, a lot of 21-22 hour weeks, and smattering of weeks in the teens.

20+ hours per week is a lot of working out. Getting it done around work, eating, sleeping, and all of life's other obligations is a challenge. It leaves you time for little else.

Basta has been averaging around 10-12 hours per week for a while now. He is going to fuss, big-time, about nearly doubling that. But he's the one who chose Ironman. Despite what some of you may think, I didn't push him into this. He chose this on his own. My job is to develop his workouts and to coach him along the way.

He chose Ironman, he has to do the time. But I think 900 hours is too much. 800 is more realistic. We can always adjust as time goes on, but I think 800 is a good starting point for him. That means his longest week is 21.5 hours. The bulk is in the 17-19 range.

Making this schedule, according to the Joe Friel Triathlon Bible method, is a challenge but it's also kind of fun. It starts with the annual hours. Once I make that decision, based on Basta's goals and his planned events, I go to a chart in the book that lays out the weekly hours. These vary by week following the periodization plan: Prep, Base, Build, Peak, Race. I adjust for his geezerly state so that he gets a recovery week every 3 weeks instead of every 4.

Then I take Basta's race calendar and apply those periods to the time he has available. Key to that is which events he wants to peak for. I make note of our vacations and holidays because they will screw up a schedule, big time. Then lay in the periods to get him from start to peak. Adjusting for current fitness level may mean more or less Base or Build.

Now I know what phase and what period each week is in, so I know how many hours Basta needs to do in a given week. I'm ready to schedule a specific week.

This is where it gets really hard. Let's say he's in the second week of the Base 1 period. That's a 19 hour week. I need to spread those hours across the 3 disciplines, swim/bike/run. The bike is his weak sport at this point so I'm planning more rides than anything else. He's doing that marathon in Feb so training for that is a strong sub-note in this vast scheme. Swimming can't be ignored. Neither can the extremely important yoga. At least a couple days a week of core muscle work is useful, too. All of those workout minutes must add to 19 hours total workout time.

In Base we work on endurance and technique. Not a lot of intensity at this point. Long Slow Distance workouts and technique drills. For all 3 sports. Scheduled for gym hours, pool hours, weather forecast, social obligations, working around the various aches and pains, etc. I don't do the detailed weeks more than a week in advance because a lot of these things change too rapidly.

So for his 19 hour week, he's doing 15 mins of yoga every day, running 3x (intervals, tempo, long slow distance), swimming 2x (200m & 300m repeats), biking 4x (spinning 2x, intervals 1x, long distance 1x), and doing core+shoulder weights twice. I give him the specifics of the intervals and the pace he should strive for on the tempos.

Then I email it to him. It's his job to do as much of that as he can, and he usually does a very good job of doing the workouts as prescribed. He should tell me if it's too much or too little, or if I scheduled him to do a long bike on a day he's travelling for work, for instance. I do my part, he does his. It works.

The especially fun part of right now is that I'm now doing this for myself, too. As mentioned, I'm doing Oceanside, my first half. I need this kind of detailed training, too. Just putting in the time will only get me so far, I need the specific workouts, too. So I do his schedule, then I do mine. Since our work hours are very different they end up being quite different schedules, but the principles and the process are the same.

As of today I have his and my annual plans done, the weekly phases set, and next's weeks detailed schedule done. I feel good about this.

Time to have some turkey leftovers. Then I need to read some more specifics and get more ideas for Base 1 workouts in all 3 sports.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Yes, we're back. Been back for a while. Had a lovely time, thanks.

Basta has begun his Ironman training, sort of. I have begun training for my Half in earnest, and therein lies the problem.

Did I tell you that I signed up for Oceanside? I don't remember. Well it's in early April. Why did I sign up to do to this? Me who teaches but can't necessarily do? Because I'm tired of not necessarily doing, I guess.

I'm also tired of not being as fit as I want to be, of carrying around these 20 extra pounds that I just can't shake, and of watching from the sidelines. Yes, I do the occasional sprint. I run the occasional half marathon. But I'm not really into this. I read about it, write about, coach it, and admire it when Basta does it. But I don't actually do much of it myself.

It's high time to do it on my own. So, I signed up. I gave credit card number to website and thus obligated myself to 20 weeks of swim/bike/run/repeat. Ignoring the fact that I really don't like to swim or bike that much. Yes, ignoring that with my head turned fully away and my jaw set stubbornly. That is irrelevant at this point.

Then I sketched out my training program. I'm in Week 3 right now. My goal is to not get pulled from the course. To beat the 8-hour time limit. If I had to do the event today I don't think I'd make that time, so I have much work to do.

So far I've done every workout that I've scheduled for myself. Go me. But I'm pooped. Tired. Exhausted. My legs are lead and it makes me weary just to trudge up a flight of stairs. I knew this would happen. I expected this. I saw it in Basta and I know that's how this game works. You are tired and weary and sore and miserable for a while, then it gets better. Then it gets much better.

It will take a while before it gets better, though. Probably quite a while. Right now I'm riding that fine line between sticking to my workouts and keeping from overtraining. It's hard.

It's hard on the rest of the things I do, too. This blog, for instance. A pooped Ana is not a prolific Ana.

Nor is she a particularly good coach. I need to re-read Friel's Training Bible with specific attention to Ironman training this time. I need to develop Basta's overall plan with ideas for each phase, then specifics for at least a few weeks in advance. I just haven't had the energy to do it. I've been faking it with giving him essentially the same workouts as he's done all along, throwing in some bricks and a bit longer times. I need to do better than that. It's early yet, and he really doesn't need to start serious training for a couple of weeks. I'm calling this, 'prelude to seriousness' and hoping to get a respectable plan together for him soon.

I will. This being a holiday weekend I'll have some extra time to focus on the training and the writing along with the festivities and the planned long workouts. Plus the guilt is getting to me so I must do it, no matter how tired I am.

As for this blog, I may have run out of fascinating things to say about Basta's training. Ironman will be more of the same, just longer and longer. I'll write about him and his training if something interesting arises, of course. I can't let his legions of (largely non-commenting) fans down, after all. But I think I'll branch out and write about my own training struggles a bit. Maybe. So long as it doesn't start to sound like whining.

But before we do any of that, help me with his schedule. The first step and most important aspect of building his training schedule is to choose his annual hours. For Ironman, Joe Friel suggests between 600-1200 hours, depending on a number of factors, such as your age, time available to train, how competitive you want to be, and your fitness starting point.

For the half-ironman he suggests between 500-700 hours spent training per year. I initially chose 600 but found that was too much and backed down to 500. 500 was good for Basta and he took to that training program well.

Now he's ready for more. He's ready for Ironman. His fitness base is very, very good. He can do more hours.

He has as much training time available as he wants. His work schedule is flexible, we have no kids, the dog takes up little time, and the spouse (me) is busy with her own workouts and so isn't giving him grief about missed home time.

But he is 54 years old. He's healthy and strong but it will take him longer to recover than it will a younger man.

And does he want Ironman to be his entire life? Or just the vast majority of it for the next 5 months? That's a big unknown at this point.

So what do you think? What should his annual hours be? I'll post a poll, I think. The lowest -- 600 hours? That's not much more than he's doing now. The highest -- really push him to train as much as he can possibly train? Or somewhere in between. Voice an opinion if you have one.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Random Bits

Some random bits of things I've been wanting to say, none of which makes a complete post but all told might make for a mish-mash post. Good enough.

First off, The Long Beach Half Marathon was amazing.

We have this weather condition here in Southern California called the Santa Ana winds. That means a hot, powerful wind blows hard from the wrong direction (offshore as opposed to the prevailing onshore) for several days. These winds are what usually drive the devastating fires we experience in the fall. These conditions take a typical fall day of 68F/20C and make it like summer, 85F/30C. The day prior to the event, the Santa Ana winds set up. It was warm and the palm trees were whipping in the wind. It was a mild Santa Ana, so it wasn't horrific wind or heat, but it was windy and warm. This didn't bode well.

The expo was well organized and we got some good swag. They gave very nice technical t-shirts to everyone who signed up within a certain time frame. We got ours, and mine fits beautifully. It's a feminine shirt, which is much appreciated. They also printed your name on your bib so spectators can cheer you on as if they know you.

The day of the event broke to no wind. Hallelujah for that. The winds of the day before had cleared the air and it was a sparkling crystal blue sky. Beautiful. Not hot. The run itself was absolutely gorgeous. Downtown Long Beach is a pretty city with a lovely harbor area. We ran around that, then down the beach boardwalk for many miles. Sandy beach, rolling waves, sparkling ocean, beautiful sunny day, not too hot, not too cold, and you simply couldn't ask for a better day, better scenery, or a better event.

They said that this year was their largest event to date: 18,000 people across the Half, the full Marathon, a 5k, a bike tour, and a kid's run. It's grown each year, but after a day like this I expect it to have significantly more entrants next year.

Basta ran well. No foot pain. He didn't put any effort into a PR and just ran easily. He finished in 1:50:31. 42nd out of 259 in his age group. 8:26/mi ( 5:14/km). He ran the half marathon, and they detected by his chip, no doubt, that he'd switched to the half and just automatically moved him from the full to the half in the results. I like that.

Me? I have been suffering with a hamstring strain and wasn't sure I could even do this event. But the hamstring held out and I finished it, albeit not quickly. Finish time 2:31. The leg actually feels much better now and I'm hoping & planning to post a more interesting time for my full marathon in Feb. I had a very nice time at this event, though. This is the 3rd year we've done it and it's definitely on the recurring calendar.

That afternoon, after the event was over, the wind kicked up again. It howled through the night and all the next day, too. We just had a perfect weather window for the run.


Foot update: It's fine. Basta can run again. Yoga must be a part of his daily routine (and mine) to keep the injuries at bay.


Basta's friend Randy came down for a visit and they rode Santiago Canyon together. He commented on how much Basta has improved since their trial ride of the Vineman course back in December. "Amazing difference," he said. Back then Basta had just started training on the bike. Now he has a lot of bike miles on his legs, a lot of hard hill workouts, and a lot of rides with people who can push him. Training works.


I've figured out how to make him take some time off. Don't give him a workout schedule. Normally, I plan his upcoming week and give it to him on Sunday night. I just stopped doing that. He took a few days off, thinking I had just forgotten. Then he started to ask me, "shouldn't I be training?"

"No, take it easy. It's your break."

"But I don't want to lose my fitness!"

"Of course you don't. What do you feel like doing today?"

"Um. . . Swim. A swim sounds good."

"Ok, then swim."

"What kind of workout should I do?"

"Which one did you enjoy most? Do that one. Or just swim for fun. Enjoy the water. Enjoy the day. Enjoy the feeling of sliding effortlessly through the water. Don't train. Just swim. However long and hard you want to."

And that actually worked. He's still working out every day, and he's doing it because he wants to. He runs, he bikes, he swims. Workouts, for the most part, are easy and not more than an hour or so. He's maintaining his fitness, enjoying it, and looking forward to beginning his Ironman training in earnest.


Speaking of which, he did it. He committed. He registered for Ironman Brasil. May 31, 2009. I suppose we ought to learn a phrase or two in Portuguese between now and then.


I decided on a 28 week training program for him. That will begin November 10.


On that date there are 12 weeks until the Surf City Marathon, so he'll begin training for his BQ then, too. Perfect.


Because that's the week we return from Holland. We return the 12th, actually, so he'll miss his first two days of training (oh no!). Then, right back into it.

We leave for Holland in a week and half. I really don't see any maintenance training happening while we're there. It's likely to rain and be quite chilly the entire time (but there should be no tourists and no lines). We'll have to suffice with loads of walking every day to maintain some level of fitness. And walk we will. We're spending a few days in Amsterdam and a few days in Paris, along with seeing Basta's various relatives that live throughout the country.


Yes, we have our absentee ballots in hand and will mail them off before we go. The election will take place while we're away.


After following the Ironman Championship this past weekend and reading a lot of info posts and blogs thereon, I now know that yes, the humidity and heat is just as bad there as it is in Cancun, if not worse. People deal with it by either coming to Kona a week or more in advance or training in a similar climate. It is a hot, humid race and a significant challenge, even for an Ironman, no matter how you prepare for it.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Half or Full?

Long Beach Marathon this Sunday.

The potential Boston Qualifier, right? Except that the pain in the heel has prevented Basta from doing proper marathon training, so he's not ready.


He ran 13 in Cancun pain-free. He was slow and miserable, but he was pain-free. That's important. I think we've truly figured out this problem (sciatica) and how to solve it (yoga).

But not soon enough. He needs a lot more long-distance runs on his body before he can hope to do a marathon in BQ time. Cross-training is lovely for keeping the cardiovascular system primed, but you need sport-specific workouts to perform well in a certain sport.

Or does he? He surprises me with his physical abilities at times. His ability to just keep going and going when a normal person would stop. Maybe he could manage to do this marathon after all.

To find out, I sent him on a 16-mile long run. If he did ok on that, maybe he could go ahead and try the marathon.

Off he went. When he returned, the verdict was clear. No marathon for him.

It wasn't his foot. It started to feel a little twinge towards the end of the run but wasn't painful during and disappeared again after the next yoga session. No, his foot is ok. It was his ankles. His calves. His back. His shoulders, even. He hurt all over.

He didn't plan his route very well and ended up running over 17 miles. His body just isn't ready for this kind of running distance. He hasn't done the time. Hasn't built up the endurance his muscles and ligaments need. He's not too far off. Maybe even 5 more weeks of training could have gotten him a lot closer. But that's 5 weeks we don't have.

The next day he awoke to a swollen lower back. Right around the base of his spine was a pad of fluid. Seriously not good. That convinced me, if there was any doubt, that he shouldn't be doing this marathon. It dissipated throughout the next two days and he is now fine there. The rest of his body has recovered, too.

I have convinced him that doing this marathon is dumb. He has no prayer of doing a BQ time. But more importantly, he risks getting hurt, setting back his training, and maybe making him come to hate the long-distance running. There's no need for that. Train properly and really do the event, don't just suffer through it.

So he's going to do the Half. Shoot for a PR, maybe. He did an 8 mile long run today, the final long before the event. He did ok and felt fine.

We'll set our sights on the backup marathon, the Surf City Marathon, the first weekend in February. We have time to train for that. Both of us, since I'm doing it too.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cancun 70.3, Part 2

The Event

Basta always sleeps well the night before events. He has an untroubled mind, I guess. He bounded out of bed at 4:45, had his pre-race nutrition, and headed out the door.The plan was to meet Vicki and Michelle in the lobby at 5:15 and they'd all take a cab to the event. I have spectated enough of these events and I knew it would be a long day. I saw no reason to go down that early and add another hour and a half to the experience. There was nothing to do that early but watch them futz with their gear and stress about the start. I went back to sleep. This was Michelle's first triathlon and she wanted to see everything, so she took the taxi with them.

Around 6:15 I headed out of the hotel towards the event. Walking. I figured I would either catch a bus if they started running early because of the event, or I'd just walk the whole 3 miles. I could use the exercise.

I walked and walked. Wow, it was hot. The sun was up and the heat of the day had already set in. I'm not sure if the heat ever really leaves, actually. Maybe walking this wasn't the best idea I'd ever had.

Really, I thought I'd be able to catch a bus. Or something. I didn't expect to walk the whole way. Hundreds of athletes plus hordes of spectators all headed the same way usually makes for plenty of transportation options.

Loads of cars full of triathletes passed me. A bus full of military personnel passed me. The shuttle from the host hotel passed me twice. The regular bus passed me and I tried to flag it down but it did not stop. There were no turnouts in the road at this point. A taxi paused and inquired if I wanted a ride, but I declined.

I saw a bus drop off a few military personnel at an intersection, then move down the road and drop off a few more at the next one. These military men and women were working the event, directing traffic and keeping the cars off the closed roads. Interesting.

At last a bus stopped just up ahead of me, opened the door, and waited for me to jog up to it. This was the military transport bus, now empty. The young man driving it asked (in spanish) if I was going to the triathlon and offered me a ride. Fantastico! I climbed aboard and he drove me the remaining 2 miles or so to the event. Muchas gracias, amigo!!

Ok, so that was a story of little interest to anyone but me. Too bad, my blog. My friends had said I'd never catch a bus and would have to walk the whole way. While that was a distinct possibility, I figured chances were high I'd catch a ride somehow. Something usually works out like that. And it did this time, too.

Once at the event, I found my party very easily. They were on the beach, waiting for their start. Shortly after I arrived the pro men were started. Excellent timing on my part, I might add. Then wave after wave were started, like clockwork.

I normally kick off a timer on my watch when Basta starts, but my watch didn't survive the humidity and had no display this morning (it recovered the day after we got home and is fine now, btw). I had no way to tell how his swim was going, other than to look for other men in yellow caps and get an idea of how many finished before him.
I also looked for caps from waves that started later that were finishing before him. By these indicators it looked like a slow swim for him. Choppy water, no wetsuit, some current, to be expected.

Official swim results: 44:13. 2:21/100m. 16th out of 30 in his age group.
Then they trotted up the beach 250 meters, into the park where the event was held, and out to transition. This long jog made for a long T1, 5:25. But it moved him up to 12th in his age group.

Vicki came out of the water, too. She was worried about making the cutoff time, hers being the last wave to start and thus getting the least amount of available time to swim. But she made it without problem.

3 hours to wait until Basta might finish the bike. I had a 7 mile run planned for the day and brought my running stuff so I could do it then. I decided to run the event run course. It's a flat road in very good condition, closed to cars, 6.5 miles long, perfect! I headed out.

It was hot and my body was already coated in a light sheen of moisture from sweat and humidity, but it was ok. I ran. It felt pretty good. I reminded myself that I do ok in heat, usually, and ran happily. The kids volunteering at the water stations were getting set up and marveled at my presence. "Who are you? What are you doing running on the course?" their quizzical faces said. I waved and called, "Hola, Buenos Dias!" to them. They waved and said, 'buenos dias' back.

At mile 2 a volunteer boy offered me a cup of Gatorade. Aahhh, that was good. Cold, sweet, and salty. Very welcome at that point. I was carrying my own water but it was tap water from the hotel and it had a gawd-awful flavor. Distilled, sterilized, and chemical-treated. Bleah.

I walked for a bit every mile. This was just a vacation stay-fit run, no reason to push it. Drank, tried to cool down a bit, then ran on. There were water stops every kilometer, so I got to greet volunteer kids about every 6 minutes. One offered me a pouch of water, again very welcome.

They do water in plastic pouches instead of cups. That's a much better idea. You bite off a corner of the pouch and squirt water into your mouth. Then you can carry the pouch with you until it is empty. Far more useful and less wasteful than paper cups. The pouch that I received was ice cold and wonderful.

At 3.3 miles I reached the turnaround. A small black cloud passed over head and produced a downpour of rain for a few minutes. Aaahhhh, that felt good too. But then the sun appeared again and it seemed hotter than ever. I was soaked. Normally, when hot, this is a good thing. But here, it's so humid that evaporation doesn't seem to take place. There is no cooling effect from being wet. It's just clingy.

My 'run for a mile then you can walk' mantra became 'run for a half mile, then oh hooray we can walk.' That deteriorated into, 'run to that tree up there' which eventually became, 'that rock up there. The cute little one. I have to run to that.' The walks got longer and the run portions got shorter. Have I mentioned it was hot? And humid? I could feel the blood in my temples throbbing.

Another sweet volunteer girl tossed a water packet to me and I put the coolness of it on the back of my neck. That didn't help much so I moved it to the front, right on top of the veins leading to my brain. Cool them down, at least. It felt good but didn't help my running much.

At the next aid station I dipped my hand into a bucket of Gatorade bottles and took a piece of ice. I rubbed that on my neck for a while and then put it down my jog bra. Anything for some cool.

I don't know what I would have done if these aid stations weren't willing to give their stuff to me. The water I had brought with me was woefully inadequate. Unlike Chicago, this event had plenty of supplies on hand. Even the very last people on the course had cold water and ice available to them.

But even with plenty of ice, water, Gatorade, and Powerbar gels, I felt for the competitors out there. How were they going to be able to do this run after riding for 3+ hours? I couldn't imagine.

Finally, I finished my so-called run. I found Michelle, then found a grassy knoll underneath some shady trees right by the Bike In arch. Perfect. Cooler. We headed over there and settled in for the duration.

I'd brought along some clothes to change in to. Good thing, since my running duds were soaked through and through with no hope of them drying out, ever.

We watched bike after bike finish. Many finished in groups. Basta said that the drafting rule was never enforced. Officials rode by on scooters and said, 'break it up,' but never made sure they were obeyed and didn't issue a single drafting penalty. This course is pancake flat and the benefit of riding in a peloton is vast. So many, many people did. Can't this problem be fixed? Either enforce the rule or eliminate the rule. Why should those who follow the rules be at a disadvantage? It's frustrating.
There was a stiff wind today, as is typical in this area. It pulled loose a tie holding a big Gatorade bottle in place and it tipped over, blocking the course. A guy running in to finish had to push it up and run underneath it. But a group of event staff rushed onto the scene and got it back upright. Basta finally finished the ride. He didn't even see us as he got off his bike and trotted in to transition. Official bike: 3:03:44. 29.39kph. 18.28mph. That's about a minute slower than Vineman. Headwind. But he's now in 9th place in his age group.

T2 was fast and then he was off on the run.

Vicki finished the bike much later. As she finished she saw us and came over to the fence. She'd had 3 flats. The first one she changed herself. She didn't have a second tube so had to wait for the roving mecanico for the second one. That guy changed her flat, but he pinched the tube and it flatted again almost immediately. She had to wait again for a second roving mecanico. She was quite pragmatic about the whole thing and just said she wouldn't be able to do all of the run now. Not enough time left. Too bad.

She also said that she saw lots and lots of barfing as she was waiting. People pulled over to the side of the road, yacking their guts up, then continuing.

Michelle and I moved over to the grandstand at the finish. There we watched athlete after athlete finish. More and more, on and on, athletes finished. Time came and went for Basta to appear, yet he did not appear.

I waited quite a bit longer than should have been necessary, at least half an hour, then decided to walk up the run course and try to find him. I expected to find him limping and hobbling, his foot in agony. That was the most likely reason for the slow run.

An ambulance had its lights flashing and was rushing down the run course towards transition. Uh oh. Luckily for me, they stopped right beside me, popped open the door, and pushed out a guy on a stretcher. It wasn't Basta. Whoever it was looked to be very overheated. He had an IV in his arm and ice packs on his neck.

I saw Basta shortly after this. He was running normally on both legs, so no foot pain, but he looked terrible. Hot. Miserable. Spent. Slow. He was actually running, so this was a good thing, but it wasn't a very fast run. We shouted encouragement to him but he just rolled his head, groaned, and ran on.

Basta finished, then went straight to the bucket of Gatorade bottles, fished out a big chunk of ice, and put it on top of his head. He saw me and said, 'wait a minute.' He stood there and breathed heavily for many minutes, letting the ice melt down his head and face.

When he could move again he came over to me at the fence and said something along the lines of, 'Effing hell.' Then, 'hot. So hot. Just too hot. Couldn't run . . .' A volunteer steered him towards a chair and took off his chip. Then he stumbled over to the food and took a cold can of Coke.

As he slowly regained some energy and cooled down somewhat in the shade of the finisher's tent, he moved a little better. He got some pizza. A Gatorade. They had showers with chairs under them with athletes parked there, just getting showered upon and not moving.Mmmm. Pizza in the shower. Tasty.

They had to turn off the water every few minutes to get the athletes to budge and allow new ones to sit down and get soaked. He sat there for his entire allotted amount of time, as did everyone.

I noticed the medical tent, just past the finish line. It was packed full of athletes, all receiving IV's and ice packs. Hot and humid, baby. Hot and humid. There are no other words to describe this event. As the Mexicans that Basta talked to at Vineman had said, 'Bien event. Mucho calor."

Official run: 2:34:46. 7:20 mins/kilo. 11:48 min/mile. Ouch. But he passed one guy in his age group and finished in 8th place.

He said he walked through every water stop and took in as much coolness as he could. Volunteer kids sprayed all comers with cold water and Aa asked them to spray him every time. He put ice on his head and down his singlet. He poured cold water over his head. He drank plenty of cold water and Gatorade. But he just couldn't cool down. He couldn't keep a pace higher than a slow Ironman Shuffle most of the time.

He said he nearly barfed many times during the first two miles. He thought about just moving to the side and doing it, thinking he'd probably feel better after he did. Many people did just that. But the feeling passed and he felt better. Just hot. Very hot.

I told him I could empathize, based on my run earlier in the day.

His finish time was 6:29:30. Slower than Oceanside. Slowest 70.3 to date. Yet the best finish place: 8th out of 30. He was the highest placing gringo in his group by far. Those who beat him were Mexican, Argentinean, Venezuelan, or Guatemalan. Used to this climate and able to train in it, in other words. The next American in his group placed 18th.

Plus, we'd done this for fun, remember. For FUN! Not time. I didn't peak him for this event and time was unimportant. This was just a vacation event. But of course, you always care about your performance. He was very pleased to be first gringo, and by such a wide margin.After that an evening in the pool bar at the hotel was ideal. We floated in the cool & shallow pool, we drank margaritas, we talked to others that had done the event. We talked to admirers who were curious about triathlon and thought they might want to give it a try, too.Basta now wants to move down there and train in the heat and humidity. We just don't have humidity around here and he thinks if he could train in it he'd have done a lot better. He would, too. I recently read a thesis about adaptation to climate and learned that the average body adapts its sweat rate and temperature regulation quite quickly, making dramatic changes even within a week.

We wonder how similar this climate is to Kona. It's hot and humid there, too. Is it this hot and humid? This windy? Probably. Just like other tropical parts of the world where triathlons are held. St. Croix. Thailand. Many others. How do athletes prepare for that? Athletes with real jobs, that is. Age groupers.

No doubt we'll learn as we continue with this sport.

Cancun 70.3, Part 1

The Day Before

Cancun is a beautiful place. There is no doubt about that. Gorgeous turquoise water. Soft sandy beaches. Warm tropical breezes that help with the heat and humidity. Huge, luxurious hotels right on these beautiful beaches. Truly a tropical paradise.

We are not much ones for luxury hotels where the highlight of the trip is sitting on the beach getting a sunburn or hanging out at a pool bar. We'd rather be staying in a more rustic setting, roaming around on Mayan ruins, eating local food from an open-air roadside restaurant, snorkeling cenotes and coral reefs. But we're here for the event, so resort hotel it is.

And a fine hotel it was. The Westin, at the quiet end of the hotel zone, 3 miles from the actual event. The nearest hotel to the event, too. Our room was quite large and had a stunning view of the beach and that amazingly blue ocean. Our amigas, Vicki and Michelle, had another room nearby.
The first order of business on this day-before day was to do the practice swim. At 7am we took a taxi to the beach where the event swim would take place. A fair-sized crowd of athletes was there, along with the race director and the spokeswoman for the event. The swim buoys were all set up and they explained the course to us. First the race director spoke in Spanish, then the spokeswoman repeated it in English.

The course is a big half-mile rectangle. In the event you swim two loops. They had jet skis on the water and lifeguards on the beach this morning to assist us if needed. We could swim as much of the course as we wanted to.
Basta and I both swam one loop. Even though I wasn't doing the event, this was my workout for the day. The water was around 78F (26C), so very pleasant. No wetsuits allowed. The constant wind keeps the water always a little choppy, but it's small chop. A slight current pushed us gently towards the shore.

I found myself swimming next to a 45ish latino man. We bumped into each other and veered off. He'd swim past me, furiously kicking and thrashing, then have to stop to breaststroke and breathe. I just kept swimming, plugging along, sighting well, swimming around him when I caught him. He'd get behind me and then take off swimming furiously again. Once he smacked me in the leg with his thrashing. That surprised both of us. You expect some contact in an event with a bunch of people around you, but this was just a practice swim. With nobody else anywhere near us. Dude. Get your own bit of ocean. I looked back at him. He'd stopped and with a very chagrined look on his face waved his arms at me and said, 'Sorry! Sorry!' I smiled at him. He was cute. He could stand to pay a wee bit more attention to his swimming skills, but he was cute.

It was a nice swim. They had water and Gatorade for us afterwards. Vicki had just wanted to feel the water and stretch her arms a bit so she swam to the first buoy and back. Michelle, who had knee surgery not long ago, stayed on the beach and tended our bags.

After a shower and breakfast we headed up to the host hotel for the expo. There all was well-organized. Basta and Vicki got their packets, along with a very nice fleece jacket (why a fleece jacket in a place that is always 85F/30C with 90% humidity? I don't know. But it's a nice jacket and we can use it at home.) They also got tickets to the pasta dinner. We bought some expo stuff. All very typical there.

We learned that there were athletes from 30 countries competing tomorrow. The highest percentage of athletes are from Mexico. Next biggest group are from the US. After that are smaller numbers of people from around the world. Plenty of Central and South American countries were represented, like Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, and Brazil. Also Europeans, a handful of Australians, and a few Brits and Canadians. The event did not sell out, but had close to 900 competitors. I think this is the 3rd year it's been in existence. I suspect it will sell out in future years as triathlon grows and people learn about this beautiful venue and the high-quality event organization.

The competitors had to take their bikes to transition and leave them there overnight. Bikes only. No helmets, shoes, bags, pumps, anything. They recommended taking off any saddle bags and bento boxes, too. Basta didn't hear that part about removing everything and left his bento box, saddle bag, and pump attached to his bike. We hoped they'd still be there tomorrow.

Bike checked in, body marked, ready for tomorrow.
The pasta dinner was a little bit of a bust. Far too many people for this restaurant to handle and then the pasta wasn't very good and there wasn’t much of it (and no, I'm not Jewish). But we had arrived early and got seated easily, so that was a plus. When we left there was a long line of disgruntled athletes stretched out the door waiting to be seated.

At last, back to the hotel for a fine pre-event sleep.

Cancun 70.3, Part 0

This could become an epic tale so I'm splitting it into parts. I'm writing this in case anyone has ever wondered about the logistics of taking a bike on an airplane like I have. If that topic holds no interest for you, there's no need to read this post. I'll get to the actual race report eventually.

On Transporting a Bike

I admit that I didn't think this event was a good idea. It's his third 70.3 this year, for starters. He can do the distance. That's not an issue.

He met his time goal at Vineman. The heat and humidity in Cancun would ensure that he'd have a slow event, so he wasn’t going to do it for time.

He's decided to do two marathons this winter, so his focus was supposed to be on running. Swim and bike just to keep the skills up but no serious training until the push for full Ironman begins.

So why do it? For fun, he says.

A big expense and hassle for fun, I say. We have to get the bike down there. A week of event plus vacation in Cancun is not cheap.

We'll get to see how transporting a bike goes, he says. Plus, it'll be fun! He really wanted to do it.

Ok, we'll do it. A group of friends from work who also do triathlons also said, 'yeah! It'll be fun! We'll do it, too!' Two of them actually did, too. One to compete and one to spectate along with me.

So the four of us made plans for Cancun. Figured out the logistics of getting a bike there. In the Continental US you can ship your bike to events and that may be the way to go sometimes. But when going to an international destination, really the only way to do it is to take it on the airplane with you as luggage. Otherwise it is extremely expensive, plus your bike may get hung up in customs and not even be cleared by the time of your event. Flying with it is by far the better way to go.

Basta borrowed a bike box from the bike store and they showed him what to disassemble on the bike to get it to fit in there. I point out to Basta that you must reassemble it before you can ride it again. We booked our flight on Alaska and confirmed that they charge $50 each way for an oversized box such as this.

The day came and we headed off to the airport. No trouble with the bike box on the shuttle bus. They just put it in the aisle along with all the other extra luggage. It's light, so it's easy to get up the steps of the bus. Bueno.

Checking in and paying the extra for the oversized box was no big deal. I'd read somewhere that it's a good idea to print out the airline's policy regarding bike boxes in case the counter personnel tries to charge anything other than the defined cost. Sometimes the staffer isn't aware of the company's set charge for bikes or sporting equipment and tries to charge more. But at Alaska, the attendant asked if it was a bike, nodded, and said he was sorry but it'd be $50 extra. No hassle there.

The 4ish-hour flight to Cancun was uneventful and our bike boxes came out of the baggage chute intact. There were two other bike boxes besides ours on this plane. They belonged to a couple from Seattle who were doing this event for the first time, too. We chatted with them as we waited for the rest of our bags.

We'd been advised that TSA always opens the bike box and rarely bothers to put it back together correctly and the bike may get damaged in the process. So one should open the bike box as soon as it comes off the conveyor and check it. If damage exists, file a claim right away. We did check both bikes and they had been inspected by TSA and the lids weren't on quite right any more, but the bikes were ok.

Through customs without a hitch and then off to find a shuttle to take us to the hotel. September is the off-season in Cancun and the airport was far quieter than last time we were here. Instead of the typical chaos and hordes of taxi drivers outside yelling for your attention and trying to take your bags, there were uniformed representatives asking, 'do you need a shuttle or taxi today?' The taxis and vans were lined up in an orderly fashion. Shocking.

Here we are at the airport. The humidity fogged the lense of my camera instantly.
I inquired as to price for a van from several representatives and all said $14/person. No bartering to be done today. Everyone had the same price. Ah well. I chose a polite and non-aggressive young man who was managing a fleet of vans. $14, 4 people, $56 total he said. Ok. A taxi might have been cheaper but the bikes don't fit in the trunk of a car.

The bike boxes filled the back of the van. They had to wedge the rest of our luggage in around them. The young man frowned, talked on his radio a bit, then explained to me that because of the bikes this would have to be a private van. There was no room for any more luggage and yet the back seat could still fit four more people. Total cost would be $60. 4 whole dollars more than the shared-van price.

Fair enough. 6 miles to the hotel and then vacation began.
Transporting a bike does add some expense to a trip but is not nearly the hassle I was anticipating.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Malibu Update

Ok, more Malibu info with metric conversions!

The swim was .5 miles (.8k) in the cold ocean in a wetsuit. Basta swam it in 17:17, which is a 1:57/100m pace.

The bike was 18 miles (29k) of rolling hills. He did that in 55:13, a 31.5kph pace.

Finally, the run was 4 miles (6.4k), completely flat. He completed the run in 31:14, a 4:53 min/km pace. First time he's been able to run pain-free in many weeks.

So yes, you were correct in your conversions, Crister. You'll be happy that the results from Cancun are posted all in kilometers, since that's what they use in Mexico.

We are back from that adventure. I'll put up a full race report with pictures soon. In the meantime, he had a good event, the heat and humidity was definitely a feature of this race, and he did well. Results are posted if you want to peruse there while I work on the gory details of how those numbers came to be.

His bib # was 339. If you click on his name you get more numeric details and pictures of him, too.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Malibu Tri

Did the Malibu Tri on Sunday. Fun event, well run. Basta and I both did well. I did it in around 5 minutes faster than last year and felt much more fit the whole way. Happy about both of those things.

Basta rode his tri bike and rode it hard. He averaged 19.58mph, a new record for him. The course was 18 miles of rolling hills.

Then he flew off the bike, his leg/foot completely pain-free. He had a 7:48 pace on the run, faster than he's been able to run in many months. He was very, very happy with that.

He placed 17th out of 63 in his age group. Good.

His foot pain is in the coming and going state. Sometimes he's pain-free, sometimes it comes back. The daily yoga is making a difference. If that has to be part of his life forever that's not such a bad thing. Far better than drugs or surgery or quitting triathlon.

Now our sights are on Cancun. Hurricane Ike passed it by and it doesn't look like anything is forming out in the Atlantic right now, so we should be ok there. We leave in 3 days.

Crister --- thanks for your thoughtful comments. I am taking time for myself and my training, thanks. I was just tired. Overtraining, perhaps. I feel much better, both physically and mentally, now.

As for Basta's training, I have him on a 3-week cycle. Build 2 weeks, recover 1. Still essentially following what I wrote about back when:
That really works. Push, push, recover. In the beginning he really looked forward to his recovery weeks. Now, he feels like he's not training enough during them and I have to remind him to ease off with a purpose.

We hope your hip pain stays at bay. Pain like that is so frustrating. Similar to what Basta is experiencing. It's not an injury, per se, that will heal with time. That makes it so hard to diagnose and resolve.

You should come to California to do triathlon, I think. There were bunches of men in the 60-64 age group. Several in 65-69, some in their 70's, and even two men in their 80's who completed the event. Some of them are quite fast, too.

We can do Kalmar as a relay?? Is that option hidden in the Swedish words somewhere? That would be perfect if we could be a team while Basta does the event by himself. Ironman doesn’t do relays. I'd have to stay marathon-fit . . . And probably would want a respectable finish time (4:30?). That would be a challenge for me.

You might decide you want to do the whole thing yourself, too.

We have time to figure this out. First, Cancun. Then Basta needs to make up his mind for sure and commit to an event. We really appreciate your flexibility on Kalmar.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


Yeah, it's been a while. Just haven't felt like writing.

Don't have anything to say, for starters. No pearls of newfound knowledge, nothing of real interest to report.

And I'm feeling cranky these days. Mildly irritated, most of the time. Apathetic. Listless. Bored. Cranky. I'm not entirely sure why. But it's been going on for a while now and I'm very tired of it. I have nothing to complain about, after all.

Yet here we are. I feel quite good after a run or a good workout, but it doesn't last.

I've stepped up my own training program, trying to get the health, fitness, and low bodyfat that Basta is enjoying now. Maybe that's my problem. I know he went through a very cranky phase that lasted a good long time, back last winter before Oceanside. He was tired all the time, very, very cranky, and pretty much irritated with everything. He got through that, he's working out more than ever, and he's a happy boy again. Yes, it could well be that this is my problem.

Anyway. Basta originally wanted to run the Long Beach Marathon with an eye on qualifying for Boston, remember? Well, the pain in his foot is a continuing problem and it's preventing him from doing the training he needs to make that goal. The kinesiologist is good, but he hasn't solved the entire problem yet. Basta can go into the guy's office, limping with the pain of a hot poker shooting through his heel, and come out completely pain-free. But it doesn't last. A few hours later, a day later, or a few days later, it's back. Running always makes it come back.

He's seen the kinesiologist 11 times now. Each time the guy says he thinks he has the problem solved and the pain won't return, but 11 times it has. Each time it's a little different, and the pain shifts around, but it's always back. This isn't covered by insurance, either, so it's starting to get expensive. Basta is going to cancel his next appointment and give up on this course of treatment. Maybe.

We've come back around to believing this is a pinched nerve. It's not plantar fasciitis. I don't think it is, anyway. If the pain can be released with muscle manipulation, it's not an injury or an inflammation. It's his sciatic nerve. It has to be. He's agreed to do yoga every night for two weeks, just to see if that will provide the solution.

In the meantime, his running has understandably suffered. He still runs, but sometimes the pain is so much that he gets down to 12 minute miles, hobbling and shuffling instead of really running. He's taking this week off of running to see if that'll help at all. There is an answer somewhere, we just haven't found it yet.

He's still biking and swimming. Doing really well with both of those. No breakthroughs or interesting words on that. Just steady training. Swims in the pool, weekend long rides. We should be doing the occasional open water swim but neither of us can seem to summon the ambition to get over to the ocean to do it.

We are doing the Malibu Tri in two weeks. I'm doing this one, too. It's a sprint. It's a 'for fun' event that we're doing with friends but it'll be the first event where Basta actually gets to use his new tri-bike. So he's looking forward to that.

Right after that we're headed down to Cancun for his final Half Ironman of the year. We'll get to experience the joys of shipping a bike to a foreign country. We'll be keeping a close eye on the hurricane situation, too. Cancun lies on a vulnerable and often-hit peninsula, after all.

Then, he needs a break. He doesn't think he needs a break but as his coach I know he does. He'll do maintenance training, that's all. He'll run his marathons if his foot problem allows. But no super-hard workouts. No super-long workouts. What do triathletes do in the off-season? We'll have to find out. Because he'll burn out if he keeps up this pace. We'll start training for full Ironman when the time comes. Brasil. Kalmar. Both? Could be.

Thank you for the brochure on Kalmar, Connie & Crister. It looks lovely. We very much appreciate the offer of a cabin near there for the event, too. That would be most convenient. I'd like to go. Perfect time of year, beautiful place, and a mostly flat course.

I've been looking on the internet for information on the event and it's a little bit hard to find. In English, that is. The website is all in Swedish. There is an English link but once you get there most pages say, 'this is not available in English.'

I perused the athlete's list from this past year and saw lots of Swedes, Norwegians, Fins, and Danes, as expected. 3 Americans. A few Germans. 1 Brit. So a very Scandinavian event. We'd have to depend heavily on you two for translation services.

Aa has his heart set on Ironman Brasil. It's in Florianopolis, which is a resort island just off of Brazil. He wants to do the event and then spend 2 more weeks in Brazil, seeing Rio, Sao Paolo, Iguazu Falls, etc. He's always wanted to see those things, so he figures this is a good way to do it. The pathetic dollar is doing much better against the Latin American currencies than it is against the Euro, too. It'd be a much cheaper trip for us. The event is May 31st, and it's an Ironman event.

Kalmar being in August makes it possible to do both, if the first one doesn't cause Basta to say, 'enough is enough.' It'd be a much different event, I think. Smaller. Calmer. Perhaps more efficiently organized, although Ironman does do these events very well. But I can just imagine the difference between the fiery, flambouyant latino event and the quietly efficient Swedish one. Plus, Ironman does things in a certain way that you can count on from event to event across the world. I'm sure the Kalmar club handles everything well, just differently. I'd very much enjoy seeing the differences.

If you were to do Kalmar with him, Crister, that would inspire him to do it for sure. What do you think?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Vineman Analysis

The most interesting part of this whole event, to me, was how much more time can be shaved off of Basta's overall time. Even though he took 32 minutes off his Oceanside time, there's at least another half hour or so to be saved before he 'peaks' at this.


Well, not on the swim. He swam 1.2 in 37:20. That's a 1:46 pace. In Oceanside his pace was 2:12, so I'm very pleased with this improvement. It helped, certainly, that this was a quiet river as opposed to a somewhat rough ocean, but still. That's a fine pace. Maybe he'll get a little faster as he continues putting in the laps in the pool, but there's no need to work on this further. He said he felt great in the water the whole time and felt fresh when he got out. That's just what we wanted.

T1 was nice and fast. No room for improvement there.

The bike. He averaged 18mph on this course, as opposed to 16mph in Oceanside. They are different courses, but probably comparable. Vineman is a lot of rolling hills, Oceanside is a lot of flat with a few big hills. Vineman roads were poor -- rough with a lot of potholes. Oceanside roads were smooth and beautiful. Vineman was colder and everyone had numb fingers and toes the whole way. So I'd say his biking has improved quite a bit. He's certainly ridden a lot more, and a lot more difficult terrain these past few months.

But the winner in his age group did 21mph. The top 5 all did 20+. He can get another 20 minutes off the bike by increasing his speed, which means more time on the bike, working those hills, honing that technique. He'll get there.

It also means better nutrition. If you read the race report you'll remember that he shouted, 'I'm hungry!' as he was leaving T1. Well, we'd made peanut butter and honey sandwiches for the pre-swim morning, but he didn't eat his. He'd had a protein shake at 4am, then a Gu just prior to his 7:26am start. That was it for pre-race calories.

Then, on the bike, he didn't eat hardly at all. It being cold was a big part of that. He'd brought along 3 mini Clif bars but ate just one during the course of the whole 3 hour ride. The cold also meant that he didn't drink much of his water or electrolytes, either. He had another Gu about 10 minutes before dismounting the bike and starting his run. Seriously -- not enough calories! If he had fueled himself properly he no doubt could have pushed the bike a little harder.

A bit of drama in T2. He couldn't find his shoes. He knew his rack because he'd committed it to memory well beforehand. This was his rack, but it was packed with bikes and he didn't see his transition towel or shoes. He searched a couple other racks, but no. This was his rack. It looked like a bunch of guys had just dumped their bikes there, taking advantage of it being an end spot, even though this wasn't where they'd laid out their shoes.

At last, Basta saw the corner of his transition towel peeking out from under some guy's aero helmet. He lifted the helmet, and sure enough, there were his running shoes, visor, and transition towel wadded up under there. Intentional sabotage or just a guy being a self-centered jerk? We'll never know. Basta had to push a bunch of bikes down the rack to make room for his, taking care not to tip over the whole rack. Then he was able to rack his bike, put on his running shoes and visor, give the aero helmet a strong kick and send it skittering away, then take off running. T2 time, 4:51. A good 3 minutes wasted there, but what can you do? Things happen in events.

Basta's toes were numb and his feet felt like cement for the first three miles. Everyone was complaining about their numb feet as they headed out on the run. The tri bike might have made his legs feel less heavy, but they wouldn't have prevented the numbness from the cold.

By now he was really hungry. Really hungry. He was stopping at aid stations and taking in Gatorade, but he soon realized they were offering more than just liquids. After that, he ate what he could at each pause. Pretzels. Oranges. More Gatorade. But he was still hungry. No wonder with as little food as he'd eaten.

He said he felt like he could run faster, and he knew he should try to push it harder, but he just couldn't summon the energy to do it. That's simple lack of energy. His body was fit enough to run much faster, but he just didn't have the calories on board to do it. Not smart.

At the turnaround point he saw that they were handing out cookies. He ran past that, thinking, "I don't eat cookies," then turned around and said, "I need the calories!" He stopped, took a big cookie, and ate the whole thing while standing still. He said he was famished at this point and all he could think was, "'Hungry! Hungry! Hungry!"

That gave him enough energy to finish the run, but it wasn't a good run. 9:15 pace. He did 9:31 in Oceanside, so it's better, but still. I was hoping he'd do more like 8-8:30 pace. I know he could have if he'd been properly fueled.

So there it is. More time to be gained on the bike, lots of time to be gained on the run. The tri bike should give him some more time in both. We'll focus a lot more on nutrition. He understands that, conceptually, but in the passion of the event he threw all of that out the window and went by how he felt until it was too late.

But even under-nourished as he was, he finished a lot stronger. Not just in time-savings, but in how his body felt. At Oceanside, as he crossed the finish line he was huffing, puffing, gasping, and exhausted. He staggered off to Athlete Food with me supporting him, and there he sat on a bench for a good long time. Afterwards we went home and he went to bed. The next day his right leg was locked up and it took about 3 days before he loosened up and could walk normally. He was tired for a good two weeks after Oceanside.

At Vineman, he crossed the finish line looking fresh as a daisy. No disorientation at all. After chowing down on two full plates of food and chatting with other finishers for a while, we went wine tasting. Our hosts had a dinner party that night and Basta was up as late as all of us. The next day he felt fine. A little stiffness that went away once he got moving.

Training. It's a good thing.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Vineman 70.3 2008

Sonoma County, California. Wine country. Hence the name of the event -- Vineman.

480 miles (780k) from home, it is. There's no good way to get from here to there other than to drive, so drive we did. Beloved European friends who haven't been to California yet, please note: We never left the state. We didn't even get near the top of the state. Italy can fit comfortably inside the borders of California with room to spare on all sides.

Anyway. We left home at 6:30 Friday morning, freshly cleaned and tuned Roubaix on the roof rack, and arrived there 7.5 hours later. Not a bad drive, really. Most of it through the Central Valley where California grows most of its produce. We passed truck after truck loaded with tomatoes, garlic, onions, or turnips.

We were lucky enough to stay with friends that Basta has known since college who live about a half hour from the event. The husband, Randy, is his friend the very good cyclist who took him on the trial ride of the course last year. Randy has also been giving Basta tips on how to be a better rider via email and phone calls throughout the year.

Saturday morning it was off to do packet pickup at Windsor High School. While Basta got his race stuff, I went expo-shopping. Alcis was a big sponsor and I got a tube of their Alcis cream at half price. That stuff is wonderful, I tell you. Pricey, so I was happy to pay half. But really works. Eases aches and pains, has a faint but pleasant aroma, doesn't sting, isn't hot. It just kills pain. Love it. I've been rubbing it into my bruised hand every few hours.

Basta got his packet, wristband, race numbers, and a very nice technical event shirt. Then we headed over to T2 and he set up his running stuff. This is a point to point event, so they start at the river about 15 miles away, swim there, ride the bikes into the hills and then down to the school for T2. So athletes leave the shoes and whatever else they need for the run there overnight.

Basta was there early and was able to lay out his shoes and visor on a towel under one of the end racks that wasn't full yet. 8 shoes per rack, the packet said. More than that and the rack is too full.

His shoes are upside down on the orange and brown towel, row 15. Note the Looney Toons dude is taking up far more than his fair share of space. Mr. White Towel is pushing it, too.

It was hot. Once the morning fog burned off the sun came out and it was quite hot there at the high school. Randy and I found shade under an awning while we waited for Basta to finish his futzing with his transition area. We weren't allowed in there -- athletes only. Basta futzed for a while. He likes to futz. Once he had placed his shoes and visor just so on his towel several times, he stepped back to memorize his rack location. The number, the landmarks around it, what it might look like on race day full of bikes. This is important. Nothing worse than not being able to find your stuff as you're racing into transition.

The rest of the day we relaxed. Had the obligatory pasta dinner. No wine for Basta. I finally got an expert opinion on the alcohol question: One shouldn't have any alcohol (or junk food, for that matter) 3 days prior to the event. Basta had his last glass of wine with dinner on Wednesday.

I had volunteered to do Bodymarking, mainly because as a volunteer I can get into the transition areas and move around like spectators cannot. Plus, volunteering is fun. As a Bodymarker I needed to be at the start at 5am. Basta's wave went off at 7:26, so he'd have quite a bit of time beforehand. But he likes to arrive at events very early, so that was fine.

The alarms went off at 4am. By 4:30, we were headed off to the cute little town of Guerneville. There was a dense fog the entire 30 mile drive between bed and race. That's common in this area.

Basta dropped me off at the corner where the Bodymarkers were stationed. There I received my volunteer t-shirt and Sharpie pen. It was quite chilly -- 45F (7C).

Bodymarking. Race number down both upper arms, towards the front so that the number can be read from face-on. The number again on both hands, so that the athlete can still be identified while wearing a wetsuit. One more number on the right thigh just above the knee. Finally, the athlete's age on their left calf.

The bodymarking is all about the photos, you know. The photographers need to identify the person in each photo so that they can make it available to admire and buy. They need as much help as they can get in figuring out who you are via your race number, hence the numbers all over the body. The age on the left calf is so that you can tell if the person in front of you is in your age group.

And srsly, now I understand some of the male fascination with Asian women. It's the skin. Smooth and silky. Writing on them is like writing on a whiteboard, they are so smooth. Asian men and women both. Latinos are pretty silky, too.

Basta got his bike situated then came to me to be bodymarked. #912. Can you tell? His portion of Indonesian blood makes him pretty easy to write upon. Still, it helps to stretch the skin taut as you write. Another volunteer passed along the tip that if you have the athlete make a closed fist and then angle their hands down it stretches the skin on the back of the hand smooth, thus making it much easier to write upon. Good tip.

And there he is showing off his age group.

In this event they use age on race day, not the typical USAT rule of age on Dec. 31 this year. He's used to racing as 54 this year and thought I had written the wrong number on his leg. Trust me, honey. I read the race packet.

He went down to the beach to get his transition fully set up and I went back to work. Soon a flood of people came pouring through, all looking to be marked. There were at least 10 of us armed with Sharpies and we were all kept non-stop busy for over an hour. I had a good time with it. Chatting briefly with the athletes. Wishing them luck. Admiring their muscular arms and thighs as I wrote on them. My but triathletes develop nice bodies.

The sun came up and the fog lifted to high grey cloud cover. But it was still quite chilly.

Official water temp was announced: 72F (22C). Wetsuits were allowed and almost everyone wore one.

I was still in the thick of bodies to be marked when a horn sounded, a cheer went up, and off the pros went. Every 8 minutes after that they sent off another wave. Basta's start was 56 minutes after the pros.

As things started to slow down a little bit up in the bodymarking area, a nice-looking young man with his arm around an older woman walked up. "Hello," he said, with a strong Latin American accent. "I'm looking for some way to transport my mother to the finish line. Is there a bus or a shuttle?" I noticed that his jacket said "Team Brasilia." Other volunteers told him that there was no bus, but maybe she could catch a ride with someone as lots of people would be driving to the start. Trouble is, Mama speaks no English.

I said that if she spoke Spanish we might get by, but I knew no Portuguese. He said, 'oh, she speaks Spanish!' Basta is seriously considering making Ironman Brasil as his first Ironman (sorry, Crister. We'll get into why later), so I thought it might be interesting to talk to her. I said I'd give her a ride. They were very appreciative and sweet. We introduced ourselves. She is Lilia, her son Cristiano. We made arrangements to meet back at the same corner at 9am, then they headed off to get Cristiano ready to race.

Eventually most of the bodies had been marked. When a bunch of us had been standing around for a while with no new athletes to mark, I headed down to the beach to check out the proceedings.

The swim start is at Johnson's Beach in Guerneville. You swim upstream up the Russian River, round a buoy, and swim back. There is a barely noticeable current. Water depth is reported to be 4-7 feet, so yes, you can run parts of it instead of swimming if you so desire. But then you'd risk cutting your feet on the rocks or what-have-you on the river floor, so I don't see much point in doing that. Especially since almost everyone swims faster than they can run in chest-high water.

T1 was on the beach in a nice fenced-off area. The spectators could stand outside the fence right in line with their favorite athlete and see the transition up close.

Basta, having gotten there so early, once again scored an end spot on the rack. He marked it with his sweatshirt so he could find it easily.

By the time I got down there Basta was in the water, waiting for his wave to start. This is a tread-water start as opposed to a run-from-the-beach start. Or, really, a stand-up-and-wait start, if you find a shallow spot towards the side of the river and would rather stand than tread water. In either case, Boom, off they went at the appointed time. All the 50+ men in their purple caps.

The Press-Democrat, the local newspaper, was on hand covering the event. They took great pictures. One similar to mine, though much closer-up, appeared on the front page of their Empire section the next day. In the big blown-up picture you can quite clearly pick out Basta. He has a copy of it framed along with his finisher's medal on our workout room wall now.

Their picture is here: Vineman Ironman Picture 16

And here is mine.

The purple-capped men started trotting up the beach out of the water and into transition less than a half hour later. I was inside the fence, camera poised, just beyond Basta's rack, staying out of everyone's way.

He did the swim in good time: 37:20, officially. That's 6:34 faster than Oceanside.

Transition was speedy. 2:51 versus 4:32 at Oceanside. He's gotten a lot better at ripping that wetsuit off and getting it off his feet without drama.

As Basta approached the rack, he shouted, "I'm hungry!" at me. Uh oh. That's not good. Well, he had a good amount of calories onboard the bike, and time to eat. I hoped he'd take advantage of that.

When he was ready to ride he took his bike and started trotting off back the way he'd come, towards the swim-out flags. He quickly realized that wasn't the right way and looked back at me, shouting, 'where do I go?' Twenty spectators lining the fence and I simultaneously pointed him towards the bike-out arch. He saw it, turned, and headed off on his bike adventure.

The main point of me being down inside of T1, and indeed volunteering at all, was so that I could have access to his stuff. To get your stuff over to the finish line, they gave you a plastic bag in your race packet. You are to put your race number on that bag, close it tight when it contains everything you want back, leave it under the rack, and it would be transported to T2 by volunteers. While that no doubt works just fine, it was easier for me to gather up all of his stuff and put it in the car.

I waited until most of the rack was clear and I wouldn't be getting in anyone's way, then I went over and started collecting Basta's gear. As I was gathering, a man came up to the rack next door and started trying to pull his wetsuit off. He had trouble. "I hate this," he said. "This is the worst part of triathlon. I HATE this! " He moaned and groaned as he tugged and pulled on his wetsuit. He had an entourage on the other side of the fence shouting advice to him, too. "Pull down!" "Pull out!" "Stand up, step on it, and pull your foot out!!" None of it was working for him.

I took pity on him and pulled his wetsuit off. First, off the hand. He was trying to get it off his feet with only one hand free, the other still trapped in wetsuit at the wrist. Dude. Give yourself a chance. Once I had his wrist free I yanked the wetsuit quickly off both feet. He said, 'oh thank you, you're a sweetheart, thank you so much!" over and over again. His entourage called thanks to me, too.

Before I'd finished with him another guy plopped down on the carpet by us and asked if I'd strip him, too. I said sure, grabbed his suit at the armpits and pulled it all the way down off his legs in one big swoop. He thanked me profusely and trotted off with his suit over his shoulder. Fortunately, these were the last few guys at the tail-end of the pack and I hadn't inadvertently started my own one-woman stripping service.

I took Basta's stuff to the car, then watched the bikes go off for a while. The clouds didn't look like they were going to clear and it was nowhere near warm enough to take off my jacket. I worried about Basta not having arm warmers with him. Big difference from the 86F (30C) that was forecast. But as they rode more inland it was sure to get much warmer.

Lilia found me at the appointed time and we headed over to the high school. Now, my Spanish is not great. I can hold a very basic conversation that includes a fair amount of charades. I wouldn't call myself fluent.

But we managed. Lilia has two sons. One is a professor who teaches in Japan. The other one, Cristiano, does the triathlons. He's done full Ironmans. She expected him to finish this event in 4 hours. That's really fast. I was sure I was misunderstanding her and asked her about that in a few different ways. Finish the bike in 4? No, the whole thing. 4 hours then you see him in transition before he starts to run? No, 4 hours for the whole thing. Ok. Sure enough, his official time was 4:36.

I told her that Basta was thinking about doing Ironman Brasil in Florianopolis. She said that Cristiano has done that event and enjoyed it very much. She said it's a beautiful island where a lot of ex-pat Europeans live.

She said a whole lot of things I didn't understand, too. I think she forgot and slipped into Portuguese rather often. And she gave me a quizzical look now and then, like "what the heck are you trying to say to me?" But we did ok.

We made it to the high school and were guided into a close parking lot. Lilia came with me to find where the entrance to T2 was, then landed herself there, camera ready, waiting for Cristiano to come through. She'd be there a while.

The hours went by and the sun still did not make it through the clouds. I still had my coat on. Perfect weather for biking and running, though.

When my elasped-time watch hit 3 hours exactly, I saw Basta round the bend.

I don't think he saw me as he went past and I yelled, 'great bike time!' Official bike: 3:02:59. Oceanside was 3:26:17, so that was 23:18 faster. 23 minutes faster! All of time and effort he's put in the bike has really paid off.

I went over to the Run Out area and caught Basta on the way out.

His goal, as we all know, was to beat 6 hours. He had about 2:30 hours left to make that goal. Plenty of time to do this run. Heck, even I can run a half marathon in less than 2:30.

About 1 hour into Basta's run the sun broke through the cloud cover and the temperature shot up to the forecasted 86F (30C). I was able to take off my jacket and change into shorts for the first time.

I went back to the actual finish line and found the whole expo set up there. I ran into Randy. He'd ridden his bike from home, following much of the race course. He'd had a good 53-mile training ride. He and his buddy stopped at a porta-potty along the course and found Basta in line for it, too. Good timing!

We took up station at the finish line and waited for Basta to come through. Given his 56 minute offset from the first start, he'd need to cross the line with the official clock showing less than 6:56 to beat his goal.

Yes, he did it. By a long shot (click on the picture to see it bigger). His official finish time: 5:49:13. He made his goal by 11 minutes. He beat his Oceanside time of 6:21:56 by 32:45. Fantastic.

He was thrilled, I was thrilled, Randy was thrilled. He was a lot more coherent when he stopped running than he was at Oceanside, too. He said, 'thanks to my coach!' many times, which made me happy. He called Randy his bike coach and thanked him, too. He was very, very happy.

We went off to athlete food right away because Basta said he was starving. Basta got a full plate of food and ate his chicken breast while waiting in line for drinks. He went back and got another one while I got his drink. He was really hungry.

We ran into Lilia and the much cherished Cristiano at the picnic tables. Basta and Cristiano talked about their day. Lilia told him that Basta was going to do Ironman in Florianopolis. Cristiano said we must keep in touch so they can help us out in Brasil. He took Basta's cell phone number and we got their home address and phone number. He thanked me again for taking care of his mother.I hope it works out that we can meet them in Brasil.

Eventually we left the event, loaded up the bikes onto the car, and toasted a fine day with champagne on the tailgate.

Then we headed out to do a little wine-tasting. We managed to see three wineries before they all closed at 4:30. We bought some wine to have with dinner that night. Basta was still wearing his triathlon outfit so of course everyone asked him all about it. They all raved at his accomplishment, and he loved the attention.

So if you made it this far, leave him a 'congratulations' comment, eh? He worked hard for this.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Off to Sonoma

We leave tomorrow morning, early. Early enough to beat the LA morning traffic and early enough that we'll make it through the SF Bay Area afternoon traffic, too.

Basta went to see the kinesiologist for his plantar fasciitis. The guy said there is a lot of scar tissue in there and just rest won't cure it. He's done 3 sessions of deep-tissue massage on his feet and legs. The results are dramatic. Less pain with hope of healing. He recommends ice after every run and stretching exercises. Far, far better than the doctor's recommenation to stop running, have a cortisone shot and take naproxin for two weeks. Why oh why are they so stupid? There's a place for drugs and surgery, certainly, but it's not the answer for everything.

So the bike is ready, the foot is better, the fires have diminished and the air might be a little clearer up there. Forecast is for a high of 86F (30C). Hot but not as hot as it can often get up there. Water temp is right on the edge of wetsuits being allowed.

No idea on the forecast time now. He did Oceanside in just under 6:30. That was a cold water swim and a cool day. This will be a warm swim and a hot day. He's using the same bike. His swimming has improved somewhat and he's that much more fit from continued training. But the heat really slows a person down. So who knows if he'll post a better time.

We'll have a good weekend regardless.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


So next time I post such a pollyanna-ish la la la everything is wonderful entry, please smack me upside the head. Or remind me that I'm tempting fate.

Fate doesn't care for being tempted, apparently.

For starters, Basta drove his bike into the house.

Specifically, he forgot that the bike was on the roof and drove the car into the garage. Crossbars on the roof rack of the cool new car broke, cool new bike rack, with cool new bike still attached, came crashing to the ground.


To put it gently.

The car wasn't badly hurt. A scratch on the roof that you can't see. A couple hundred bucks to replace the crossbars. The bike rack is fine. The bike, though . . . totalled. Bend front wheel. Shattered frame. Fuck.

He took it to the bike shop and they commiserated, but said there was no hope. He'd need a new frame. They sent it off to Kuota who will do some analysis on it and let him know what was broken and what can be saved. They have a 'crash warranty' which they will apply towards this wreck, maybe. That will allow him to buy a new frame at a discount. No idea what the final bill for the bike will be, but $2,000 seems to be realistic.

The bike shop doesn't have a frame in his size in stock, either, so he can't buy one and get it built in time for Vineman. So he'll be doing Vineman on his old Roubaix. No tri-bike benefit.

He rode the Roubaix yesterday and found the gears were shifting erratically. He dropped it off at the bike shop where he bought it -- a different one than where he bought the tri bike -- and they will give it a tune-up and have it ready by Thurs. We leave Fri.

The next thing is his foot. He has plantar fasciitis. Very common runner's injury. He's had it for some time and I've prescribed ice, stretching, and wearing supportive shoes at all times. Well, he ices it sometimes, stretches it rarely, and walks around wearing flip-flops most of the time. So it's gotten worse. It's gotten to the point to where he dreads running and he's screaming in pain after every run.

So no more running for him. These past two weeks I've had him doing pool running. He's fit, he can run the distance, he doesn’t need more miles. He needs to keep what he has and also let that foot heal. So, pool running it is. I've done it with him and it's kind of fun. Definitely works the leg muscles.

He's still not stretching, icing, or wearing anything but flip-flops, so I don't expect this to heal any time soon. He's seeing a kinesiologist this week who will probably tell him to ice it, stretch it, and wear supportive shoes. Maybe he'll do it then. I hope the guy also does some deep tissue massage or something that will be helpful.

He can run on it, and he will do the event. He'll be in pain afterwards, but fortunately he won't be doing any long-term damage to himself.

Then there's the fires. They've been burning for weeks in California and the air quality is terrible. The Western States 100 mile event was cancelled because of very poor air quality, as was the Donner Triathlon and probably many others. Sonoma isn't as bad off as those places and the event will probably go on, but air quality is 'the worst they've ever seen,' the newspapers say. Lovely. It's still a week away and we can hope the fires will go out and the air will clear. But it doesn't look likely.

Finally, I fell, tried to catch myself, and broke my hand. Well, it's probably not really broken but it's swollen and hurts like hell. I'm typing to you using just my left hand. Not so speedy, that is. This doesn't affect him or his event but still. It hurts. Woe is me.

Crister -- your estimate of 12-13 hours for a full is right in line with mine. Maybe a little more optimistic.

We leave for Sonoma in 5 days.