31 January 2010

Feeling like an Ironman

I met Manuel at the gym today for a little LSD—NO, not the trippy 1970's hallucinogenic drug made popular by such psychedelic rock bands as The Greatful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, but rather some Long Steady Distance. We averaged just under 8 minute miles on our hour run. We were not pushing it at all,  but I still felt incredibly strong today. We opted to run inside today on the treadmill. Although it was a blistering 12 degrees out, and the wind was whipping pretty fierce, we decided that our lungs and nerve endings would thank us in the long run (no pun intended,) if we ran inside on the treadmills. I always put the treadmill on an incline of one to one and half degrees, as I am told that this will more accurately simulate running outside (sans -5 degree wind chill.)  It is amazing how much more energized I felt with a little rest and some quality tunes rocking out on my iPod. I also did a little bit of daydreaming/visualization on my run today. I don't know if any of you have ever done this—and I embarrassed to admit this—but I often think of me racing while I am out training. I get these images in my head of me on the bike passing by onlookers—and other bikers—and running strong the last 10K of a race to while listening the music and excitement at the finish line. I might sound lame, but it is that little psychological espresso that I need to keep motivated. This week was pretty hectic with a lot of time spent writing music, and a heavy swimming volume. By Friday evening, I was pretty spent, but I managed to find a second wind Saturday morning for my run/bike. I can not believe that I am already entering week 5. Here are the number comparisons between weeks:

WEEK #4 - 2nd Week of 1st Pre-Season Cycle
Swim 2:30 - Bike 4:30 - Run 2:20 -- Total: 9:20

WEEK #5 - 3rd Week of 1st Pre-Season Cycle
Swim 2:30 - Bike 5:30 - Run 2:50 -- Total: 10:50

The bike is not daunting to me at all—boring as hell sometimes—but never daunting. Actually, for the first time since I have started training  for triathlons, I am actually really excited to get out there and perform whatever discipline is on the docket. I use to dread swimming, but I enjoy it once I am there. The hardest part is waking up at that scorchingly obscene hour—4:45 a.m.—to get to the gym.  The long steady swims are still difficult, especially when it comes to keeping my technique solid on long swim, but when I can break up the workout with different drills and strokes, it makes it a lot of enjoyable and manageable. 

Running is extremely contagious. Once I get bit, I want to continue piling on the volume. For some reason, I noticed last season that I perform better as the running miles increased (with the notable exception of the Cats Half Marathon Course, which was ridiculously difficult. Adam, Vanessa, and I counted fifty hills. My hamstrings were pretty much ripped to shreds by mile 10.  So, say if I were out for a 13 or 14 mile run; I would start to really get into a rhythm—and start to run negative splits—at mile 8 or 9. Crazy, right? That high is so intoxicating when you know you feel strong at the end of a fairly long run, and you allow yourself to use that adrenaline to motor the rest of the way. 

The Team:
I have wanted to introduce the team for some time. For some strange reason, we either never had a camera around, or we are never all in the same place for very long. I mean, let's get real, you can not have all the Superfriends in the Hall of Justice at one time for very long. Who would be out there fighting crime?

From front to back: Me, Scott, Adam, and Manuel.

A big thank you to my Spinning instructor (that's Lori in the pink,) who kicked our tails so hard Saturday morning that I thought oxygen masks were  going to deploy from the ceiling.

Left to Right: Me, Jodi, Lori, Adam (training partner.) I have to use that caveat, because we spend so much time together outside of the gym, there are some who think that we must be domestic partners.

Giveaway: Don't forget, I am giving away one (1) Ironman Race Trainer Kit  (courtesy of Timex) on my blog. I own one. I love it. You are automatically entered if you are a follower, but you could increase your chances by following the directions here.

Good luck everyone, and happy training!

29 January 2010

Timex Triathlon Race Trainer Kit Giveaway!

Guess what folks?  The fine folks at Timex have agreed to send me another Timex Triathlon Race Trainer Kit to giveaway on my blog. I have enjoyed my Timex Triathlon Race Trainer watch, and it has helped me make some pretty substantial gains in my training. Who knew monitoring your heart rate would help you control your pace? Good thing I have my wife to continually remind me that, despite my "rarified air" level of education, that I am essentially, an incredible moron. Or as she sometimes puts it, "You are the dumbest smart guy I know." 

The Race Trainer Kit  retails for approximately $230 and it could be yours!  So, in the manner of other blog giveaways I have seen, here is how we are going to go about it. You have an opportunity to have up to four entries into the drawing depending on how much you you desire this cool piece of gear:

1. Go to the Timex website and then come back and leave a comment
telling me which products you like AND when you would wear it. (1 entry) 

2. Be a follower of my blog, leave a separate comment letting me know
who you are. (1 entry) 

3. Become a fan of Timex Sports on Facebook. Leave a seperate
comment letting me know. (1 entry) 

4. Post this contest on your blog, leave a separate comment letting me
know you've done so. (1 entry) 

So, you will have as many as four chances to win the Ironman Race Trainer Kit. The contest will  end on 14 February. Nothing like telling the love of your life that you just won a Timex Race Trainer Kit to monitor your heart. Ah... love!

Good luck everyone!

28 January 2010

Watches, Aquaman and Race Entry Fees

Holy Awesomeness Batman! What's this? Timex is introducing a GPS enabled watch to hit stores in September 2010. And what's more, it actually resembles a watch, and not a small hand held Star Wars pod racer. Don't get me wrong, I like pod racers, I just do not necessarily want to wear on on my wrist. A friend of mine recently purchased a Garmin 310 XT. It's neat-o to be sure, but he does not want to wear that puppy on his wrist 24/7. I wear my Timex Ironman Race Trainer watch everyday. It is comfortable enough to even play piano with it on. I can not tell you how many watches I use to take off to play piano and leave inside the well of a grand, only to never be found again. They are now in watch purgatory.

Okay, okay... I know what you're thinking. Given the choice, wouldn't you want to wear one of those pod racers?  No way man. I guess I am just incredibly loyal to my gear. My Timex watches have had a track record of performing well, so I can not part with them. I can honestly say that I see more people with Timex race watches on than any other watch. What's the reason? Dependability and affordability. Kudos to Timex for taking the time to introduce a sleek new design and "get it right!"

Training: I got in the pool this morning for my swim: a 600 yard warm up followed by 10x100. Doug led the way pacing me this morning and we motored (for me anyway.) We averaged about 1:50, which I am okay with. Last season, I had trouble keeping my 1000 yards under 20 minutes. What a difference a year makes! My team has decided that those of us training for Ironman should just be able to go into the Y and show our imaginary "Training for Ironman" superhero cards, so that we can commandeer any piece of equipment that we need, or tell the water walkers that we have important Ironman business to do. We can then suggest they should consider doing needlepoint for an hour while we do our best Aquaman impersonation.

One the docket: I am currently investigating race entry fees. About three months ago I wrote a post about the prohibitive cost of the sport of triathlon. I love triathlon. I love training, but you have to go out there and race during the season, otherwise you do not get to reap the rewards from all the hard work you put in during the off season. The satisfaction you receive from seeing improvement in your racing is quite gratifying.

The only problem is that the sport is really expensive. The Rev3 Ironman Cedar Point is five hundred dollars. That is a lot of dough for most mortals, especially during this economic climate. Somehow, triathlons seems to be gaining popularity and races continue to sell out as more and more people are getting turned on to the sport. Among the folks I will be interviewing are Jeff Henderson—race director for the Musselman Half Ironman. He has some opinions why races are so expensive. Jeff wrote me an email recently telling me that this is definitely a hot topic of discussion in the triathlon world.

25 January 2010

Post-Bedtime Traumatic Caveman Disorder

Phew! We had a pretty nice Monday morning swim. After an 800 warm up, we did 5x300 with 20 seconds rest in between. We finished with a 200 warm down. The swim stroke is feeling a bit better these days and my swimming endurance has improved tremendously, but I am still not, nor do I think I will I ever be, a swimmer. When I started all this triathlon nonsense—as my wife sometimes affectionately refers to it—I really could not swim a lick. I don't even think I swam a thousand yards in preparation for my first sprint triathlon. I underestimated how difficult the run was going to be. I was running six miles two or three times a week, thinking "...heck, the run will be cake." Not after a 24 minute swim and a 17-mile trek on a mountain bike with a front suspension fork. Although, now that bike ride would would be excellent training. The most difficult part of training is still the hidden variable of being a father. By the time we get all the kiddies in bed—sometimes it is real work—it is approaching nine o'clock. Alaina and I are usually spent and need time to unwind. Most times we will recharge with one another, but we have been known to go into our individual caves and get the fuzziness out of heads for a half hour before we can even begin to communicate using things other than grunts and moans. This "fuzziness" is something that I like to refer to as "Post-Bedtime Traumatic Caveman Disorder." This is a serious and common affliction that should not be taken lightly. As many as... every parent suffers from this disorder, whether they know it, or believe it. Seriously, the kiddies can really tap you. My theory is that our kids have so much energy because they steal it from us.

Generally, parents embrace that time with their partners. As humans, we need that time. That is why I am still getting in bed a bit later than I would like. I like to pretend I am still marginally connected with the outside world when I am done wrestling all five of my kids. Coincidentally, the boys might be bigger, but those girls are pretty squirrely and have no fear. They also think nothing of it running full speed and crashing their knees down in your stomach after dinner. Lovely. A premature post-bedtime traumatic caveman syndrome (PBTCD) sound is usually uttered: "Huuuuaaaaggghh!" Good thing I have been working those core muscles. If only getting punched in the gut without warning were part of the transition process, I would be completely prepared for it.

I am already looking forward to Friday when we have a tough 3200 swim again. What make this one especially tough is the main set is 2x1000. Dreary folks, dreary. My form starts to slip a tad (by a tad, I mean, it starts to look like I may be in need of some assistance from the lifeguards) after the first thousand and I have to be conscious of it, otherwise I start slowing down, and it just takes that much longer. Okay, off to battle. Happy Training everyone!

24 January 2010

Some thoughts on Cowboys, Luke Skywalker and Parenting

Ready for an hour run this morning with the team: Manuel, Scott and Adam. It should be great fun. Then we have a 35 minute spin to shake out those muscles. The rest of my day will be consumed with rehearsals and writing music. 

I am loving my Timex Ironman Race Trainer Kit more and more. You can not really cheat with a heart rate monitor on. There is no "dogging" it. You cannot estimate your exertion with the HRM on—it lets you know. You know exactly what intensity you're putting out. The best part about the watch is that it actually logs all of your heart rate date for you  online.

Alaina decided that we should go out this afternoon and get one of those Wild West type pictures taken because some local place is offering one free 16X20. You know,  you get dressed up in cowboy gear. Dad gets to hold an old musket with a coon cap while sporting some old tattered long leather deer-skin coat. The boys will wear some caps and vests and the girls will all be wear little gowns with gloves on and flowers on their hats. Invariably, no one is smiling in these pictures, because apparently in the Wild West, no one was ever happy. Alaina spent about five minutes explaining to the kids how everything was going to unfold when we go to take the picture. When she finished Luca said, "Cool, I want to be Luke Skywalker," and Amalia said she wanted to be a "butterfly." I don't think they quite understood the concept.

My wife and I are often amazed how we can both work out really hard and feel like we have more left in the tank, only to leave the gym and be mentally exhausted in less than three minutes in the car on the way home with the children. 

I have to admit, I am feeling unusually stressed out right now. I am pretty laid back (for a Jack Russell Terrier,) but I have some looming writing deadlines that I have to wrap up, all while I am preparing for a sleuth of concerts in the spring. I am also doing quite a bit of traveling this spring out of town for gigs and guest lecturing. I love it—it is great fun—but trying to work out child care for five children when Alaina and I have to be in two different places can be really stressful. I get especially stressed out when I know it is going to impede on my normal workout routine. As selfish as that sounds, I am a much nicer human being when I don't miss a workout. I have been known to get kind of crabby. 

Okay, more soon. Happy Training!

21 January 2010

Iron Reflections: 3 Weeks In

Who the hell knew training for Ironman was going to be this difficult? Someone forgot to tell me just how grueling this training volume actually is... and I am barely getting my feet wet. Well, it seems like I have been getting my feet a lot more wet than usual as of late. The swim workouts are not feeling quite as difficult as they once did. I remember when a 2200 yard swim workout use to be excruciatingly long and difficult. Now, it is only sometimes, excruciatingly boring. Although, I have to say that Wednesday's swim workout was actually a lot of fun. Today I swam 3200 yards. Last year, the longest swim Adam and I had in preparation for the Half Iron was 3000 yards. It took us nearly an hour and some change. We swam the 3200 yards today in approximately 45 minutes. I don't believe I am actually going to say this, but.... I think, rather, yes, I know I actually like swimming now. It pains me to say it. It took me four years to come around. Swimming is no longer this thing that I have to do to train for triathlons, but something I enjoy doing as part of my training.

The most difficult part of training, still, is getting my butt out of bed at 4:45. That hour still seems scorchingly obscene for some reason. I feel great once I get my first hundred or so in at around 6:00 a.m., but even walking into the Y at 5:55, I am still barely awake. At the end of each week I have been pretty fatigued from the workouts, managing five kids, and composing. I have managed to hold up to my end of the bargain with the wifey and have all of my workouts finished before 8:00 a.m. Of course, like I've said before, Alaina understands that I can not really go out for long rides and be home before 8:00 a.m. unless I leave by 4:00 a.m. That is certainly not going to happen!

I missed one day this week because I came down with the stomach bug. I could always use my rest day—tomorrow—to catch up on that workout, but I have heard that is not a good idea. I will use the time off to rest, write music, and spend some extra time with the kiddies. Wow, I love rest days.

My training group's morale is still very high. We are all pretty excited to be training, but we'll need each other to keep our spirits high throughout the season when we are out there suffering, er... enjoying our 5 hour bike rides, three hour runs, and trying to work out our nutritional needs.

More soon. Happy Training!

19 January 2010

Seven for Seven and Saying No to Sponsorship

Well, as much as I like to think I am invincible, I was unable to stave off the stomach flu. It started with Luca and worked its way through the family. A perfect seven for seven. I thought I was good. I woke up yesterday morning, got to the gym and did 2200 yards in the pool. The night before, Luca accompanied me on a 10K loop. When I got home from the pool yesterday, I sat at the piano and was writing some music when all of a sudden I started feeling terrible. I will spare you the details, but the whole ordeal lasted about 12 hours. I went to bed at 7:30 p.m. last night and slept 12 hours. Wow!  I have not done that since the fourth grade. Even today, I was a bit tired and had to lie down for a couple of hours. No training today. As I laid in bed rehydrating with some Gatorade, a terrifying thought came over me:

What if I get this sick right before the Ironman?  An acquaintance of mine was on his flight over to Ironman World Championships in Kona when he came down with the stomach flu. He said he had to walk the first nine miles of the marathon. Of course, I will just be thankful if I could walk at all after that bike. What if I trained all summer, ran a bunch of half, sprint, and olympic distance events leading up to Ironman, and at the last minute I fell really ill? I mean, it could happen, right? Better not to think about it perhaps.

Saying No to Sponsorship:

A few days ago I was contacted by a marketing firm who does work for a sleuth of different companies. I applied for sponsorship with one brand that I could have endorsed whole-heartedly, but they asked me if I might be interested in considering sponsorship with another one of their clients, because I fit their demographic and I lived too far out of the main market area to be considered for the sponsorship I was after. The sponsorship they offered would have been with a large domestic beer company. I was flattered that they they said they liked my sponsorship letter, but after giving it some time, I just decided I could not do it. Here's the skinny:

If I receive sponsorship from a product, I have to believe in the product. It is not like I do not imbibe from time to time in the occasional beer, quite the contrary. When I do, I prefer hand-crafted beers, rather than your grandaddy's pilsner, regardless of how many carbs they have, or the alcohol content. The truth is, I can drink a beer. Two, and I am ready for bed. More, I just think the whole idea of triathlon and beer seems a bit, I don't know, incongruous. Yes, triathletes drink beer and wine (and I have met a few that could put Norm to shame,) but I cannot personally drink more than one when I have a heavy volume of training to do the next morning. It makes me feel sluggish. Maybe it is psychosomatic. I also think it might send the wrong message to my children. I can just hear my children at school "My daddy is sponsored by BEER!" Wonderful.

Beers I drink: Young's Double Chocolate Stout, Sierra Nevada Kellerweis, Lion's Stout, Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout

17 January 2010

Stomach Bug and Numbers

Last night I called my Crankskins team members; Manuel, Scott and Adam and made plans to meet them at the Y at 11:00 for our  thirty five minute bike ride followed by an hour run outside. Things don't always go according to plan. Last night Julian came down with the stomach bug and was up all night. I am the only one in the family who has managed to somehow miraculously escaped the stomach bug. Still, I am keeping my fingers crossed the next couple of days.

Alaina had a three hour rehearsal today, so I called up everyone this morning and told them I was not going to be able to make it. I was especially bummed out because it would have the first time we have all ran together since training for the Musselman Half Ironman last season. After July, we were all busy training for different races, except for Adam and I who ran the same triathlon to end our seasons. This year, we are all training for the Rev3 Iron Distance Triathlon at Cedar Point. Needless to say, I spent the day at home hanging out with the kids, playing games and making sure Julian felt better. It ended up being a great morning and afternoon. I spent the morning and early afternoon playing Spiderman Memory, building a LEGO AT Walker, and making some pretty delicious penne with shrimp if I do say so myself. Adam came by after his workout at the Y and brought me some nutrition for my run later (what a great training partner.)

After putting all the kids down for their naps, Luca accompanied me on his bike for my hour run. It was great fun for both of us! Early on, he kept asking me "Daddy, are you okay?  Do you need some of my water from my water bottle?" This was after I had only run a mile. Missing the training run with my teammates stunk at first, but I let me spend some time with Luca getting some exercise.

A 6:00 a.m. swim scheduled tomorrow to begin week three, then off to the office to write some music.

And now, some numbers: 

Number of yards I could swim without stopping four years ago:    75
Number of yards I've swam since 3 January 2010: 12,800

Number of children I had when I started my PhD: 1
Number of children I had when I finished my course work: 5

Number of times daily someone calls for "Daddy:"  175
Number of times daily someone calls for "Mommy:"  6 billion

Number of CD's I own: 300
Number of CD's I've purchased since 2007: 10

Number of times I've watched Star Wars: 20+
Number of times I've seen Godfather: 0

Number of Ironman Races I have attempted: 0
Number of days until my first Ironman: 237


I was tagged by my friend Kelly over at trimommylife.blogspot.com, to write a "Ten Things That Make Me Happy list. Here it goes:

1) Writing a double bar line and sending a piece off to the printer.

2) When all five of my children rush to the door when I get home from work to greet me with hugs and kisses.

3) Sleeping in late

4) Going out to dinner with Alaina (rarely happens these days, that is why it makes me especially happy
    when it occurs)

5) Picking fresh vegetables out of our garden during the summer with my kids and making a salad with
    them for dinner that evening.

6) Watching Alaina do crafts with the kids.

7) Sitting down and reading a book for enjoyment, rather than reading to prepare a scholarly essay.

8) Going out for a long run by myself and that euphoric feeling that comes when I imagine
   myself finishing strong at the end of a race.

9) Visiting friends places I have never been.

10) Pasta, c'mon... goes without saying really. A nice dish of penne with sauce, pesto, or aglio olio. Amen.

Now I am suppose to tag 10 of my fellow blogger friends to do the same. You're it!

Johan at Tri-Stemmet (He ran Ironman South Africa 70.3 yesterday! Congratulations Johan. Can not wait to hear how it went)


Vanessa at Medievalist Running In circles

Fred at Triathlon Training Frenzy

Scott at Tri To Do It All

KC at 140 Point 6 Miles

Anne at Irondreams (I think she was already tagged by Kelly, but I have not been blogging long enough to know eleven people.

Julie at The Salt Lake City Project

Nicholas at Easternclimber.com 

Pete at NJ Endurance Addict

You're it! Happy training and blogging!

15 January 2010

I Drank What? Socrates, Nutrition, and Enurance

A family member who is hoping to take off a little weight recently asked me this question regarding nutrition: "Will I lose weight if I limit my daily caloric intake to just 1500 calories?" She continued "I have a coworker that said in order to lose weight, I should limit the number of calories I eat in a day to just 1500. That does not seem reasonable to me, I like to eat." First, I always have to preface these types of posts by submitting the disclaimer—I am not a nutritionist. As far as exercise and nutrition go, I am largely an autodidactic. I think someone once told me—or perhaps I am coining this myself—that the only real learning we do is what we figure out on our own. Like composing, I learned a lot about what works with my own musical rhetoric by trial and error. In the pool, I get several tips about my swimming technique (both encouraged and completely unsolicited.) I could have Michael Phelps coaching me, but unless I have that "aha!" moment myself moving across the pool, all that coaching will only encourage me to be more aware about said technique. Socrates was one wise dude when he said "I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think, or who more famously said—according to actor Val Kilmer in his portrayal of Chris Knight in the greatest film ever made about lasers liquidating human
targets from outer space, Real Genius—"I drank what?"  But I digress.  I am, however, passionate about inspiring and motivating people to make healthier decisions about their nutrition, and encourage them to maintain an active lifestyle. Secondly, as someone who has been known to scarf down two pounds of cavatelli and broccoli for lunch,  I am not an authority on how to limit your daily caloric intake to a mere 1500 calories. My life revolves around my next meal. Terrible, right?  I love to eat. However, I have noticed a symbiotic relationship regarding the volume of training that I engage in and my appetite. Sure, initially I eat much more as the volume increases. I have to. Eventually, my intake regulates itself and I maintain a lower, leaner overall body weight. In other words, I eat a lot more initially, but then my body learns to regulate its appetite so I don't eat butter at four in the morning. 

You can and should eat more after hard workouts. There are days after a long bike, or hard swim that I spend the rest of the day grazing and drinking enough water to qualify as genus Camelus dromedarius (thanks Wikipedia!) As for my relative, she goes out for brisk half hour walks most days during her lunch break, and during the summer months—rides her bike and continues her walking. She is active, but her workout intensity is moderate at best. What that means is that she is not going to burn the same amount of calories during her workouts as someone who works out a a higher intensity.  Case in point: I met this guy at the gym in his mid 30's who said he had recently taken off more than one hundred pounds. I 
told him that was amazing and asked him how he did it. In a very matter-of-fact sort of way, he responded "Eat less, work out more," and then followed it up with a "duh!" I later discovered that not only did this guy work out, but he had become a hardcore cardio junkie, hitting the elliptical machine, treadmill, or stationary bike hard for a half hour to fourty-five minutes until he was red in the face and sweating from head to toe. 

When my cousin lived with us for the summer and took off 72 pounds, I had to totally revamp the way he thought about food and exercise. Exercise does not have to be this thing that we "do," but a way of life. More, when you exercise, and you are trying to lose weight or maintain some type of athletic performance, it is suppose to be tough, so that you can work out your heart and be more fit. You have to start somewhere, but at some point, I encourage people wanting to lose weight to ramp up the intensity of their exercise and stop ordering dessert. Calories are calories, but what types of foods you get them from and what types of nutrients they have are important as well. For instance, a half cup of broccoli has 12 calories and 0.2 grams of fat compared to one square of your average brownie that has 200 calories and 3 grams of fat. Have you ever eaten just one brownie? Puuuleeeasse!   

The body does burn a higher percentage of calories from fat in the 'fat burning zone' or at lower intensities.  But, at higher intensities, you burn a greater number of overall calories which is what you should be concerned about when trying to lose weight. The chart below details the fat calories expended by a 130-pound woman during cardio exercise:

The following table was taken from  The 24/5 Complete Personal Training Manual, 24 Hour Fitness, 2000:

Low Intensity - 60-65% MHR
High Intensity - 80-85% MHR
Total Calories expended per min.
Fat Calories expended per min.
Total Calories expended in 30 min.
Total Fat calories expended in 30 min.
Percentage of fat calories burned
In the above table, the woman will not only burn more total calories, but more fat calories at a higher level of intensity. Should you only do high intensity workouts? NO Endurance workouts should be a staple of your fitness training, along with shorter, higher intensity workouts, or interval training—toggling back and forth between low intensity endurance and fast paced sprints—which are a great way to burn calories and build endurance.  

14 January 2010

Iron Training Week 2: Reflection

Wow, am I tired! I have to start going to bed much earlier. Seriously, training for an Ironman is no joke. It has me  waking up every morning by 4:45 a.m. or shortly thereafter to get to the gym and get in my workouts. I admit, I do like getting the workouts done, but I also like my sleep. I have been teaching a winter sessions class every day over the break. It meets four hours every day for two weeks, with an hour break for lunch. That is a huge chunk out of my  day and leaves me pretty fatigued by mid-afternoon when it is all said and done. Then, I take a break—if you can call it that—for an hour to recharge my batteries, catch up on emails, and grade papers. After that, I write music for three hours. Every day. I get home after 7:00 p.m., help get the kiddies in bed and then have an hour and a half to unwind before I have to get ready for bed. Crazy.

In an attempt to fit more things in my day, I have come up with three possible solutions: 1) Quit training for Ironman altogether  2) Slow down the Earth's rotation by by placing planetary sized magnets at either end of the poles   3) Deal with the fact that my new part-time job—Ironman—is going to demand a lot of time, and that I am somehow going to have to manage it while not forgetting my first responsibility—my family. Oh, and no one—least of which my wife—wants to hear any whining about training!

So far, so good, but I need to get some serious Zzzzz's at some point, because it will start to adversely affect my training if I don't. On average, I am getting about five and a half to six hours of sleep, and that is just not going to get it done. I do not know how much sleep human beings are "suppose" to get, but I do know that it makes swimming at 6:00 a.m. a bit more difficult on six hours, coupled with the fact that the pool feels like it is about 150 degrees in the morning. Maybe I could start napping during my lunch hour? If I did that, I am afraid I would never get up. You say Einstein, one of the greatest minds of the twentieth, century only operated on four hours of sleep?  Smart dude, to be sure, but as far as being an endurance athlete, I am confident I have him beat.

12 January 2010

1.21 Gigawatts and a t-shirt

Every once in a while, I like to entertain the thought of outfitting my bike, or the family minivan with either a flux capacitor, or the famed Battlestar Galactica FTL drive. I do have several debates in my mind, and with my dorky science fiction friends over which would be more useful. I mean, take the FTL—faster than light—drive. This handy item will allow any space traveling vehicle to effectively  travel from one end of the universe to the other in the blink of an eye without hitting an asteroid belt, planet, or Sputnik. Not sure what this puppy is? Think Han Solo and 'Chewy' pushing the hyperdrive levers together to outrun their Millennium Falcon from Vader's Star Dreadnought Executor—very convenient. The downside is setting a course is tedious and time consuming, albeit necessary. One miscalculation and you're space dust. Also, FTL's are relatively large, and thus, are usually equipped on larger ships: the Battlestar Galactica, Millenium Falcon, and yes, the NCC-1701. I would have the fastest bike split in Kona if I could equip my bike with one of these, but unfortunately, the FTL has not streamlined down over the years like the newest generation of iPod's from their prehistoric predecessors, ill-equipped for today's wifi world and handicapped with those outdated flywheels. Those early models are surely ready for the Smithsonian. The FTL drive continues to make advances to be sure, but economy of size is not one of them. Outfitting my ride with one might warrant some pretty beefy tires, which would of course, make me less aero. Plus, I am not sure that even my carbon fiber bike frame could withstand the heat generated from traveling at such great speeds.

On to the flux capacitor—now that is a real work of beauty. Fairly compact, simple—and with a little knowhow—can be outfitted to almost any vehicle, space-bound or not. You don't really need the DeLorean, that was just optional. Traveling back and forth through time could be pretty useful. I would have invested heavily in Apple Computer Company, McDonalds and Coca Cola thirty years ago. 

Through the years, it seems like I must have spoken about my fascination with the flux capacitor so much that it recently prompted my good friend C.R. to send me a flux capacitor  t-shirt in the mail. When C.R. lived near us, he would call me and ask what our family's plans were for the weekend. I would often respond with something along this lines like "I just need to reconfigure the molecular proton generator on the flux capacitor this weekend." He would then say "You idiot, the flux capacitor does not pair with a molecular proton generator, you're trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. No wonder no one likes you"

I am just thankful to have a friend like C.R. who—although lives further away then our family would like—is still one of the nerdiest and greatest guys I know. Your family is always welcome at our table for dinner. P.S. Thanks for the great t-shirt!

10 January 2010

Crankskins.com: Dear Gearheads, Runners, Bikers, Swimmers and Wannabe's

My race sponsor at team crankskins.com are letting me share the team discount with my blog followers for the GARMIN Forerunner 310XT with heart rate monitor and optional cadence. If  any of you have been in the market to get the current "holy grail" of running/cycling gear for yourself or your favorite gear-head that must own every toy on Earth, now is the time. This is a great deal. Stop by my team member site to order four or five of these for your favorite loved ones. They make great stocking stuffers!

Surely you know someone in the market for a new crank. This shiny, pretty new Dura-Ace crank is on sale for $405. Stop by my crankskins.com team member site and check out all the specs. 

Timex Ironman Race Trainer Kit Review

A couple of weeks ago I submitted an email on the Timex website asking if they would send me their Ironman Race Trainer Kit to review on my blog. With all the watch manufacturers on Earth, what made me want to review Timex first?  As a child, growing up in the 70's, I remember the infamous Timex slogan "It takes a licking and keeps on ticking," and I always wanted a Timex watch to put through an airplane propeller, trample with a bulldozer, or submerge in a vat of  molten lava to test that theory. The first watch I ever bought when I started running was a Timex. Ten years later, it also turned out to be the last watch I would ever need. Two years ago, I handed that one down to  my oldest son and bought a new 30 Lap Ironman race watch.

About a week after I submitted my request, I received a personal email from the director of Catalyst—a public relations firm that works with Timex. He told me that Timex would be happy to supply the watch  to review—per FTC regulations. Ah, building brand loyalty starts with great customer relations. Even if they had responded with "Hi Mark, thanks for your interest, but due to the enormous amounts of requests we get similar to this, we are unable to provide you with our product," I would have been disappointed but impressed that a human being actually took the time to respond. Here is what was in the box:

Okay, let's get down to it, shall we. Here are the pros and cons of the Ironman Race Trainer Kit:


Cost: At $220 USD, the Ironman Race Trainer Kit it competitive with all the other leading heart rate monitor watches.

Ease of Use: For me, I could end the review right here. I like things simple. No one with a busy life—i.e. everyone—has the time or energy to sit with an instruction manual for an afternoon figuring out how to operate a television, computer, or watch—let alone someone with five children. The watch came with a pretty beefy instruction manual. If you are like me, and like to read instruction manuals as much as dinner-time calls from telemarketers, you're in luck. With as little as a second grade education, you can operate this watch with ease. How do I know? I asked my second grader, Luca, if he could figure out how the heart rate monitor system worked without the instructions. I then asked him to repeat it twice more. I am embarrassed to admit that he figured it out quicker than I did. The steps getting the actual heart rate monitor to sync to my watch was simple. That took about five minutes, but I actually had to read the instruction manual for that one. You can upload all your information to your computer wirelessly via the usb antennae , or what Timex fancifully dubs the "Timex Data Xchanger," pictured in the foreground. The process took seconds, not minutes, to upload my workout details. You can then store all of your data, say for an entire Ironman training season, to document your progress. Your information is stored on the Timex Training Peaks sight. Not only will it document all of your data (i.e. heart rate, calorie expenditure, favorite color,) but it allows you to see elevation profiles of routes that you've created. I imagine that you can sync miles and eleveation changes with their GPS watches. Hmmm, might have to check that out.

Reliability: The watch seems durable enough. You know, the usual water resistant up to 100 M, and according to the company slogan, it can "take a licking." I personally do not feel that you can call it a race watch until you get a couple of battle scars in it. Judging by my previous two Timex watches, I can vouch that the battery life is pretty good. I've only changed the battery on my first watch once in the ten years that I've owned it. The heart rate monitor was very accurate, supplying new data to the watch every two seconds.

Comfort: Honestly, I do not know the exact weight of this watch, but I can tell you that you will forget you are wearing it. One very simple feature that the watch employs is a breathable rubber strap. It seems like a little thing, but the last thing you want is your wrist to start itching midway through a race because the sweat is causing an reaction with your strap. I've been there, not fun. The heart rate monitor is comfortable to me. I am very particular—some might say 'compulsive'—when it comes to comfort. I am the kind of person that will adjust his shorts to the left or right, or pull his shirt back an inch from where it is sitting on his shoulder in order to be completely comfortable running or biking. The heart rate monitor is  comfortable and lightweight. The sensors are curved to match the physiognomy of the body and it sit just below your sternum. You know you are wearing it because it needs to be snug against your body, but the strap did not chafe at all, although I did not run more than 7 miles with it on.

Features: The watch does everything you might suspect: chronometer to track splits, three alarms, timer, interval and recovery functions, and review your HR workouts. One pleasantly convenient feature of the Timex Ironman Training watch, is that, well... it's a watch! Believe it or not, there are companies that make heart rate monitor and GPS "watches" that do not actually tell time. Anyone who has run a half or full iron distance event knows that it is nearly impossible to figure math in your head when you have been racing an entire morning and well into an afternoon. Unless they start building sun dials through my town, I am happy with the clock feature on my watch.

Style: Here is a picture of my previous watch on the left and my new Timex on the right. The bigger face makes it easier to read while racing. It will display the time, date and HR simultaneously as well. It is a pretty sleek design. I tell all my friends that I will be much more 'aero' this season because of the lower profile on my watch.

Cons: Presently, this watch can not do my taxes or operate as an ice cream maker, and as such, I am not sure should cost $220. I think if you take full advantage of the Training Peaks software, it might be worth it. The problem is that most serious, dedicated athletes are already tracking their miles, routes, and HR data somewhere else already, and unless they can easily export all of their data, it might not be worth it to start tracking that data elsewhere. 

Overall, I like the watch and the HR system a lot. Adam and I were keenly aware of our running and biking tempos this week because of the HR monitoring. It allowed us to push it, but still feel like we could have gone a little extra if we needed to at the end of our runs. Last season, we pushed every single run and had no idea, nor did we care if our HR was near or above threshold. 

06 January 2010

IRON TRAINING: Some Perspective Three Days In

I wanted to title this post something dramatic, like... "It Has Begun," or "250 Days to 140.6," but I decided that would make the author sound a bit like a megalomanic. Admittedly, I did scour the internet  trying to find a James Earl Jones voice emulator and have it read back my post. That would have been cool. A close second would have been  to hire that guy who use to do all the old NFL films with that epic music playing in the background that sounded like it was right out some Greek or Roman epic with swords abound. It would be even cooler if I had Adam take video clips of me in the first few days of training and I could play them back in slow motion, watching the sweat drip off my brow as it were being read. I guess that is kind of how I am feeling as I start out my training this week—like an indestructible, pain-free, injury-free athlete. You know.. like some sort of gladiator.

Adam and I are officially on day three of training for the Rev3 iron distance triathlon at Cedar Point on 12 September, 2010—my birthday. Already, this plan has been much more intense than the half-iron training last summer—duh!  Day two already had us doing a 50 minute bike workout followed by a half hour run. I know, pretty low volume compared to what we are going to be doing, but way more than we did by the third week of training for our half. My legs felt pretty decent during that  initial workout, and I got to try out my new Timex Race Trainer watch and heart rate monitor. I am digging the watch big time, but I will share my thoughts on that in a separate post.

Our swim workouts Monday and today were pretty fun, if you consider a lot of one arm crawl fun. I had not swam with one arm since the months following my shoulder dislocation last March, even then it was mostly breast stroke. Pulling with just my left arm on the first full day of training was brutal. When I was not stopping half way through the pool because I was drowning, and my heart rate had exceeded my threshold limit, I would hit the hall sucking in air as quickly as possible.  Luckily, Adam and I have been swimming with Vanessa's father, Doug, a one-time—and not too shabby now—competitive swimmer. In case you need any reminding, Vanessa is my running buddy who trained a group of us triathletes for our half-iron run. Doug has shown up to our workouts and has given us some pretty knowledgeable feedback on how to make those pulls more efficient. Today was much easier. I was much more relaxed in the pool and let those left armed pulls happen. Although, apparently I did acquire the nickname "Lucky Fin" from the guards on duty this morning as I was later told. Apparently the similarities are striking.

The hardest part of training thus far has been remembering to go to bed early enough to wake up at 4:45 and get my butt to the gym by 6:00 a.m. to start training. It is difficult at first, but necessary, and after just a couple of weeks it becomes a pretty welcome routine. It is necessary because if I would like to stay married, I really need to get all my training done before 8:00 a.m. The wifey is great though, I have to admit. As the summer creeps up, she allows/tolerates the occasional mid-morning/afternoon bike ride.

Much more soon. Happy Training!

05 January 2010

Born to Run, Part II

Whether you agree with Christopher McDougall's assertion that the modern running shoe is solely (pun intended) born out of corporate greed, increase running related injuries, and will lead inevitably to the downfall of western civilization—I personally believe it will be the world's steadily growing addiction to social networking sites—you should consider the main premise of the book to be worthwhile, i.e. human beings are  physiologically 'hardwired' to run. Not only are humans decent runners, but no other mammal on the planet is equipped with the long-term endurance capacity that we have inherited from our primordial ancestors. Okay, the running shoes will long be debated. I know runners who love their shoes, have run tens of thousands of miles in them, and have gone their entire lives without ever sustaining an injury. Of course, for me, it is very convincing that some of the greatest track coaches in the United States make their athletes practice barefooted at least part of the time. What I am convinced with—wholeheartedly—is that we are all born to run. 

The proof came to me fairly early in life. While I was a 25-year old graduate student at Ithaca College, I would ride my canary yellow Giant ATX 760 up South Hill to the music department. It was a good 2 mile climb. It wasn't Boulder, Colorado, but it was still a nice little ride that accelerated my heart rate and woke me up on many frosty fall and winter mornings. I had a lot of energy to burn. Most of my time was spent in front of a piano either writing or learning music. One time, I walked outside the music department on a unusually warm October afternoon and just had this overwhelming urge to run. I had just finished practicing and was on my way across the quad to grab some lunch when I broke into a little trot. Perhaps I am just an impatient human being, but I just want to get places quickly. When I started teaching at the university, I would run everywhere I need to go. 
I could be sporting khakis and dress shoes with back pack in tow, and I would still run just about everywhere. It always made me feel great to just go! Even now, if I go to the grocery store, I will park a little further away so that I can run. Crazy, right?  These days, I almost invariably wear my New Balance running shoes everywhere I go. I think it is pretty normal to want to run. Wouldn't it be cool if everyone just started running more often—to work,  the grocery store, school, away from five children. Kidding. What is interesting, and telling, is that my kids all run around during the summer like Kenyan runners on Red Bull. Why is that? I think humans do not learn how to run, they learn how to slow down and walk. We tell our children to slow down. Well, I seldom do, unless they are running around the house threatening to break any of the luxury items that we might own, you know piano, okay... piano. 

Timex Triathlon Race Trainer Kit: I will be writing an extensive review of the Time Triathlon Race Trainer Kit. I want to thank the nice people at Timex and Tristan Panasik who sent me the kit—per FTC regulations—to review on my blog. Adam and I are still doing some tests that we will finish up this morning with our 1:30 brick workout (50 minute bike, 30 minute run.) Did I mention we are in day two of Ironman training? Wahoo! 

Get out there!

02 January 2010

Born to Run, Part I

Few books have left a profound and lasting influence on my life. If I were to list those that have, and place them on a shelf in my library effectively dubbed "Life Changers," it would seem that the curator would be suffering from a severe case of attention deficit—if you believe in ADD (but that is a topic for another post)—and/or multi-personality disorder. Among the few that I would list as having left an indelible impact are The Little Engine That Could, Moby Dick, Morton Feldman Says, The Giving Tree and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I can now certainly add Christopher McDougall's book, Born to Run to that short list.

When I was doing my course work for my PhD, a composition professor of mine once asked "can you think about all the musical compositions that you like, from different historical eras, that represent disparate musical vocabularies [a la Josquin des Prez to Radiohead] that you think work—for whatever reason—and find similarities between these?" I think the question he was was really asking is 'Why do you like what you like?' There are chord progressions in Handel that remind me of Jamaroqui. The descending chromatic figure (passacaglia) in "Dido's Lament" from Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas and the one in  Radiohead's Exit Music (For A Film), are both filled with a barren, austere, gut-wrenching sense of loss I find honest and sincere. Coincidentally, the latter was heavily inspired by Frédéric Chopin's Prelude No. 4 in E MinorStill, that does not really explain what I like about the music. It only explains that I like two different pieces that share a common musical parameter, the passacaglia: a bass line that continually pervades the entire fabric of the composition; think Freddy Mercury and David Bowie's Under Pressure (or the later bastardized Vanilla Ice rip off Ice Ice Baby.

Now, If I think what I like about all my favorite aforementioned texts, it is that there are some deep philosophical, and moral questions at work. Every one of the texts, from The Little Engine That Could to Born to Run are more than stories. Much more. They examine life, question objectivity, and make us vulnerable in ways that leave us to confront  our own transgressions. 

Look, I am not one for hero-worship, or discussing something using glowing , or panegyric rhetoric in order to convince anyone to read a book. Well, that is not entirely true. When I feel passionate about something, I usually pester the hell out of everyone I know before they read, eat, drink, participate in something that I think is wonderful, and I want them to experience for themselves. Pushy? A tad, perhaps. I blame it on my Italian upbringing.  I am a first generation Italian-American and grew up in a family where my  mother was always feeding every friend who came over to the house, despite the fact many times we were returning to my house at dinner time  just after having eaten a bucket of chicken wings, and a large pizza.

McDougall's writing, walks the incredibly magical line of being both incredibly entertaining and unbelievably informative—not surprising considering he served as a war correspondent for the Associated Press.  He writes in an unassuming, humble way, using  both common-man colloquialisms and an Ivy League caliber vocabulary to a share a story one of the most unique underground cultures that I have ever read about—the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico. But the book does not start and end there. Along the way, McDougall takes you on a journey that investigates the genesis of  "running shoes" in America by Bill Bowerman, Pat Knight and the Nike machine and the ultrarunning phenomenon. 

Ironically, about a year ago, I got into a pretty heated debate with my nephew Nicholas—a 26 year old climber who like me, documents his psychosis for all to scrutinize—about the relatively "fringe" trend of barefoot running that has been cropping up since around 2002. He argued that running with running shoes with arch support, 'shocks,' pronation support, and all the other bells and whistles are actually causing injury from weakening the foot and causing human beings to run heel to toe, instead of the way that nature intended—from the fleshy part of the ball of our feet. His evidence? Watch your kids run outside without shoes during the summer. Do they run on their heels or on the balls of their feet?  McDougall brings some other inconvenient truths to light as well. One that we all know. I don't recall where I read it now, but "In order for an object to retain currency, [it]—the commodity in question—must remain current." Ah, yes, corporate greed again. And yet, we the masses go out in droves to purchase bottled water, and expensive running shoes. Odd. My take in part deux.

Coming Up: Born to Run, Part II

Review: Timex Ironman Race Trainer Kit with Heart Monitor

Happy Training Friends!