Sunday, May 31, 2009

Day off

The only triathlon-related thing I have to do today is put my pedals back on my bike and pump up the tires so that I have no excuse not to go for a ride in the afternoon tomorrow!

In the meantime, a book recommendation: I really enjoyed Christopher McDougall's Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. It is not, perhaps, quite as insanely compelling a book as Richard Askwith's Feet in the Clouds: A Tale of Fell Running and Obsession, but it is wonderfully good nonetheless - I couldn't put it down.

(I bought it, sight unseen, on Amby Burfoot's recommendation at the Runners World site, and was not disappointed.)

It is full of good things, including some fascinating and funny reflections on barefoot running and the Vibram five-fingers toe shoes. Here is a bit I especially liked, though it does not necessarily give the feel of the book as a whole, which is a sort of gonzo journalism-style excursion (think Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe) into the dangerous terrain of Mexico's Copper Canyons):
[Dr. Bramble] discovered that when many quadrupeds run, their internal organs slosh back and forth like water in a bathtub. Every time a cheetah's front feet hit the ground, its guts slam forward into the lungs, forcing out air. When it reaches out for the next stride, its innards slide rearward, sucking air back in. Adding that extra punch to their lung power, though, comes at a cost: it limits cheetahs to just one breath per stride.

Actually, Dr. Bramble was surprised to find that all running mammals are restricted to the same cycle of take-a-step, take-a-breath. In the entire world, he and David could only find one exception:


"When quadrupeds run, they get stuck in a one-breath-per-locomotion cycle," Dr. Bramble said. "But the human runners we tested never went one to one. They could pick from a number of different ratios, and generally preferred two to one." The reason we're free to pant to our heart's content is the same reason you need a shower on a summer day: we're the only mammals that shed most of our heat by sweating. All the pelt-covered creatures int he world cool off primarily by breathing, which locks their entire heat-regulating system to their lungs. But humans, with our millions of sweat glands, are the best air-cooled engine that evolution has ever put on the market.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Teeny-tiny Saturday run

Two miles only, to get myself into a really good mood (have to go to a party now, I would rather have had a longer run though!) and to get my week's mileage up to 20 before the new week starts on the log - bit of a mental adjustment going from a week that ends on Sunday to a week that ends on Saturday, but Buckeye Outdoors is wedded to the former notion...

I ran one bit hard, the little straight avenue in my bit of Riverside Park, timed it at 3:40 (I am thinking it is around half a mile, maybe a bit less) - I want to use it for an interval workout, jog down to the bottom of the park (96th St., a bit less than a mile in this case, I am guessing), then run hard for that stretch partway back up, jog back down, run back up - starting with 2x, then adding in to x3 and x4 - think of it as half-mile repeats without the hamsterish drudgery of going round a track.

ED. ARGHHHH, I forgot I only had 17 rather than 18, I am still only at 19! Ah well, it is foolish to worry about these details - it is still a good thing that I got out there...

Saturday swim practice

A very enjoyable one - I really miss it when I can't do it regularly, and still like the thought of having a spell where I swim 6-8 times/week and really see if I can get my swimming to improve - I fear I am still at the stage where technique rather than fitness is my limiter.

Various bits were truncated, not just by me but because we never have quite enough time!

1/2 hr. pilates-based stretching beforehand

Warmup: 400 choice (I did every fourth length as back or breast - none of us had time to get started on the 200 kick that theoretically would have followed)

5 x 150 free-kick-free by 50 on 3:20

5 x 200, can't remember interval, as (1) 25 fly, 175 free (2) 100 free, 50 back, 50 free (3) 50 free, 50 breast, 100 free (4) 175 free, 25 fly, then rest, then (5) 200 free all out

6 x 75: 4 x fly-back-breast by 25 on 1:40, 2 x fast free on 1:20 (would have been four of these, then four easy 75s of free, but time was up)

A good swim, anyway. 2450 yards total

I really would have loved to do a long run later, but I MUST get some work done this afternoon, and I have an early evening social obligation - but perhaps I will just run 4 or so, with some faster intervals. It is the pure arbitrary tyranny of counting, but I would prefer to have this week's run mileage in the low 20s rather than the high teens!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday run

A good one, too - I ran a bit faster than I meant to, as I was late leaving the house and had made the unorthodox choice to run downtown for a meeting rather than running earlier (and cutting into work time - or perhaps procrastination time is a better name for it...) and then having to shower at home and take the subway downtown. It turned into a warmer evening than I expected, and I was dripping with sweat when I arrived at the rendezvous I had proposed - those in the bar were looking at me with horror as I peered in to see if my friend had arrived yet! Fortunately he had not, and we wandered elsewhere, to a diner on Hudson St. where we could sit outside. I first got to know T. by way of this project, which was frazzle-inducing at the time due to other work commitments but extremely rewarding in all sorts of ways; I have now agreed to take part in his next New York show, which will be at the Guggenheim in February and March of next year...

(Wondering: hmmmm, are there showers at the Guggenheim, could I run over there? It is a very slow bus ride from where I live, and a bit longer of a walk than is really desirable - probably about 3 miles...)

Thursday, May 28, 2009


My intellectual hero Helen DeWitt has a very good post about engineering one's life to promote exercise!

Very good lunchtime swim

Not at all crowded - I do not have a sense of the lunch swim demographic, but I am possibly benefiting from the intersession dynamic (i.e. summer students not really yet on campus, regular students either off campus or betwixt and between?).

Warmup: 900 as 3 x 100 as 75 free, 25 stroke (breast, back, fly)

4 x 100 back, 100 free drill-swim by 50 (catch-up, fists, finger-drag, thumbs-and-salute - the last one always reminds me of my late and much lamented swim teacher Doug Stern!)

4 x 50 fly down, breast back

100 easy swim down

2000 yards total

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wednesday run

6 miles easy - very nice, too - you could not have a better evening for it, sixty degrees and a bit of a breeze and the sun setting over the Hudson. Very good Tennis Court Calico sighting, too - now I really know where to look out for her, she can often be spotted...

(There is still something amiss with my calf muscle - I am going to STRETCH it now and give it a go over with the foam roller, but there is no point doing any running of any intensity till it is really better - alas, because what I am really wanting to do is HILL WORKOUTS - but it is noticeably more problematic on uphills than on level ground, so that is out for now...)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

In which I am THWARTED!

ARGHHHHHH! I knew the CU gym was closed all last week and opened up again today on the summer schedule, but it did not occur to me to look up pool hours - alas, the evening lane swim closes at NINE PM rather than NINE THIRTY during the summer. I should not grumble - twenty-five minutes of swimming is much better than NO SWIMMING AT ALL - though my heart PLUMMETED when I heard the lifeguard call out "five minutes!" just as I was finishing my warmup...

200 free, 100 IM kick, 200 free, 100 IM drill, 200 free, 100 IM swim

50 back

950 yards total

Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday run

5 miles easy - the Disneyan interlude was lovely, but I am delighted to be back on a regular exercise schedule!

In fact there is nothing like Disney for prompting a true embrace, subsequently, of healthy eating (in a slightly over-the-top development spearheaded by Antarctic instigator J., we had Friday dinner at the restaurant at the Morocco pavilion at Epcot [I had beef shish kebab, with surplus baklava skimmed off the other diners' prix fixe menu], Saturday lunch at the Hollywood Brown Derby [mussels, seared tuna with greens, grapefruit cake with cream cheese frosting] and Saturday dinner at Jiko [cheese and dips for the table, plus some very delicious South African wines, then seared scallops and for dessert lemon curd with blueberry compote and sour cream ice-cream])...

The Columbia gym opens up again tomorrow, though the morning lane swim class doesn't start until next Monday. I'm here in NY through the first half of the June, with a 2-mile open-water swim on June 14, then off later that week (oh, dear, I have to laugh, my life sounds more glamorous than it possibly actually is!) to Cayman and London for a few weeks, then back here at the end of the first week of July with three weeks more to train for the NYC Triathlon on July 26 (there's a nice little tune-up race the week before, a 1.5K swim and 5K run - I did both these races last year also).

So I need to bike a lot between now and June 18 or so, since there will be two and a half weeks of no bike access in the middle of that training stint - I will probably try and go to the gym spinning classes in Cayman (they don't have a schedule of classes up on the website, but I believe they are offered fairly frequently).

Goal for the week: just get back on a steady run and swim schedule, pick up my bike tomorrow afternoon and get out a few times later this week, and also try out the boot camp class at Bodystrength to see if I like it or not. If I do, I think I'll go to that on Tuesday and Thursday mornings before swimming, just for the next couple weeks. I had my eye on Crossfit, but it is expensive and logistically more complicated, so that I think I will leave it to try at some later date when I am more leisurely and richer...

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Just a very brief post for now, I think - I had a lovely day out there, in a hot, uncomfortable, slightly painful triathlonish way. I learned a number of things, I finished in a slightly faster time than last year (the number began with a seven rather than an eight, that is good, even if it was a pretty near thing!) and I will write a lavishly long analysis of the numbers later this week when the results are up online.

I yet again was pretty much walking most of the run, but I actually felt pretty fresh (my bike time was considerably faster than last year) - I was exiting from the swim and my right calf seized up in a huge cramp that just wouldn't go away. I need to stretch that muscle more regularly - I've been having minor problems with it while running, but this definitely makes it a priority (I am pretty certain it was a biomechanical rather than primarily metabolic cramp, if that makes sense - I had a lovely effortless easy swim, the time was slower than last year but it felt excellent - it may be that the course was a little long). Discretion was the better part of valor - I moved as fast as I thought sensible, but it was not very fast.

Best remark overheard on the course, from one of the 10-year-old boys at an aid station on the EXTREMELY HOT Bataan-Death-March-style run course, while looking at faces of oncoming runners: "Right now this is DEFINITELY not the happiest place on earth!"


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pre-race post

I picked up the bike without incident on Friday, had a good little test ride around Disney service roads and a very warm 2-mile run just to remind myself what it's like running in the heat - racked my bike in transition this morning under a very good shady tree and with a small white pony looking at me over the fence from the Tri-Circle D Ranch.

All packed up and ready to go now - the alarm is set for 3:45am...

This race last year was the first triathlon I ever did (here was my report). I was undertrained last year, and the same goes for this year, as far as biking in particular and long workouts more generally are concerned - I think I did more trainer hours last year, but on the other hand I feel mildly more calm about cycling this year and certainly life these days is considerably less anxious for me than it was this time last year. Run fitness as such is perhaps slightly worse, but I've got another year of swimming under my belt, and have now done a few triathlons and a couple marathons - so I think it should not be worse than last year, barring unforeseen calamity...

I am frustrated to find myself still so resolutely back of the pack at this distance - my only goal last year was to finish (my time in the end was 8+ hours - I walked the whole run, though it is really my strongest discipline of the three, because it was in the mid-90s and blazingly sunny and humid and I had used up all my fortitude on the bike. I'm toying with the idea of an October half-iron-distance race where I might actually be able to have a time goal - if I can jog 12-minute miles tomorrow rather than walking 15+ ones, I could actually take a good chunk off my time and finish in a number of hours starting with a seven rather than an eight, so that is what I will try and do in the meantime, but I will undoubtedly be one of the slowest finishers.

My goal for the New York City Triathlon, which was my second triathlon ever and which I'm doing again this year, is to finish around the 50th percentile in my age group (I think this past year I was something like 90/140, which is not terrible) - though as Brent points out, "middle of the pack" might be construed as the whole middle third!

Today was mostly pretty quiet, but we have been having very good Disneyan interludes amidst bike pickup, race registration, etc. (including eating delicious chocolates out of the chocolate canoe that we found in our room when we arrived!), and hope to see some local tri-bloggers once the race is over...

(You may be able to track me here - my swim wave leaves at 7:03, so with luck I will be finishing around 3! I think my bike time will be very similar, unless some mechanical difficulty slows me down; my swim might be a hair faster [I never got into the groove last year - it was very crowded and chaotic, and I felt inexperienced]; the 'run' time was 3:19:46 (15:15/mile), so if I can jog instead of walking, I might well be able to lower my time by more than half an hour. We will see.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wednesday run/swim

Only time for a brief post - the cost of leaving town very promptly at the end of the semester (i.e. tomorrow morning) is that tonight is going to be a VERY LATE NIGHT! Several hours of grading, significant laundry and tidying and packing remain...

The clinic was very interesting - I am now in possession of an ingenious metronome-like device called a Tempo Trainer - for working on stroke count/distance per stroke - obviously it is going to be a really good way of doing mindful swimming in open water practices - the beep is an annoying noise - you tuck the device under your swim cap - it is a sort of substitute for the pace clock - you do a set in the pool like 7 x (3 x 25) setting the beep frequency at 1.15, 1.20, 1.25, 1.20, 1.15, 1.10 for each set of three successively - it is easier to hold the count steady or reduce it as the interval gets longer, and then you try and keep the number of beeps (i.e. strokes) the same as you reduce the interval again. We did some lovely slow-motion lengths to begin with on 1.40...

I ran over to the lecture before the clinic, it was the only way of fitting in a run - v. sweaty, and with funny bulging pockets in my jacket where I had stuffed the goggles, etc. so that I did not have to carry a bag! But it is an efficient way of getting over to that part of town - if I am going to start going now and again to evening practices at John Jay, in warmish weather it makes a lot of sense to run down there in triathlonish garb....

The next post I write will be from FLORIDA!

4 miles run, c. 800 yards swim

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Strangely blissful Tuesday swim practice

It really was super-enjoyable - I have hardly been able to go to practice over the last few weeks, mostly because of work stuff (season of evening work commitments, ugh!) - and when I'm so undertrained for a long-distance triathlon, swim practice is often a luxury I cannot afford - but also, I think, I had developed a mild aversion after a couple bad swim practices (the one where I decided to swim in the super-slow lane but everyone else was wearing fins and there was a lot of kick and I needed a slow lane from the slow lane; and the even more demoralizing one where a couple fast guys came in our lane and there were 7-8 swimmers and I was getting lapped in the 200)...

In fact, when the intervals are right and it is a suitable lane makeup and I am swimming 3 times per week, it should always be an enjoyable swim - I was the slowest of 5 today, but same ballpark, and was comfortably able to make the appropriate intervals (or uncomfortably, in the couple cases where that was what was appropriate!).

300 free, first 1/2 of 300 reverse IM drill-kick-stroke by 75 (only had time for free, breast)

16 x 50 IM transitions on 1:10: 4 x fly-back, 4 x back-breast, 4 x breast-free, 4 x free-fly

5 x 150 free on 3:00 descending by :05

10 x 50 as 5 stroke non-free on 1:10 (I did fly, back, fly, back, breast), 5 free on 1:00

50 easy

2550 yards total

Bad news, though: Columbia has taken back the Tuesday-Thursday pool time for the summer, and until September the only TNYA practice will be on Saturday morning at 11! Obviously I can perfectly well go to the practices at other locations, but it is a real pity. I had just signed up for the phys. ed. morning lap swim (you pay quite a bit, but it is much less crowded), M-Thurs. 8:30-9:30am, and had thought of trying for 2-a-day swims on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but clearly that will not happen now! I will aim to make the Saturday one and perhaps just choose another John Jay one for during the week that will suit me...

Interesting swim event tomorrow evening - through TNYA, we're getting a great deal (like $25 instead of the hundreds one would usually pay) on a lecture and open-water swim clinic by Terry Laughlin of Total Immersion! Full report to follow, though I will not be able to write the lavish post I envisage unless I finish all of my grading during the day tomorrow...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday (short) bike-run

My day moved from a feeling of incompetence to a feeling of reasonable competence, so that was good...

I had to drop off my bike and gear back at Cadence in Tribeca, Tribike Transport's local affiliate - distracting moment this morning when I realized that Cadence has just announced that their NY store is closing on May 17! - Tribike Transport has yet to announce new pick-up location - no point worrying - fortunately I do not have the kind of relationship with my bicycle where this would make me fret, I trust they will have sorted it out by the time I get back from Florida...


... Hmmmm, haven't cleaned and lubed my chain since last season, better do something about that - haven't wiped any of the mud off the bike either - wait a minute, why isn't the chain lube and rags in the 'triathlon closet'? - Oh, wait, I MOVED TO A NEW APARTMENT since I last used that stuff...

ONE HOUR LATER - an hour of increasingly frantic searching...

... OK, let me move the ottoman again and stand on it to get that box back from the top shelf and see if maybe I missed it the first time - oh wait... - yeah, I guess there is a strange logic to having put the bike stuff at the back of the kitchen drawer that has my large collection of water bottles in it...

It was a similar saga with the pedal wrench (you have to take off the pedals for shipping). I laid hands on the wrench itself pretty quickly, an 8mm hex wrench with a yellow handle that was in fact in the TOOL DRAWER in the kitchen. I spent some minutes perplexedly pondering the fact that the hexagonal thing on the pedals was at least 2mm larger than the wrench before it dimly dawned on me that, yes, I had had new pedals put on in July, and that there was a good chance they used the regular kind of pedal wrench (which I do fortunately have one of, since I bought it before I realized the old pedals needed the other kind - I had opened the plastic wrapper, and the obnoxious fellow at the UWS bike shop would not take it back as a return!)...

Packed up my bag full of various triathlon kit and rode downtown, for the first time ever not feeling as thought the backpack was going to tip me over - I think I am making mild progress (though also I realize it is better to use my moderate-sized cycling backpack than the utterly huge Tyr transition bag, which would topple over a better cyclist than I). Had pleasant conversation with the fellow at Cadence - they are incomparably better-organized than the SBR folks were last year! - I am sorry they're closing - took off pedals in FULLY COMPETENT MANNER and tucked 'em with wrench in bag, so I really feel ON TOP OF THINGS NOW - and then ran back home.

Call it 6.5 miles bike, 6.5 miles run - a mini-brick. I am THOROUGHLY dehydrated and underfueled at this point - I meant to have done this all more like in the early afternoon, only everything bicycle-related takes longer than one might rationally think possible...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Saturday swim

Warmup: 200 free, 100 IM kick, 200 free, 100 IM drill, 200 free, 100 IM

3 x 100 as 25 stroke + 75 free (fly, breast, back)

1200 yards total

I really wanted to do more like 2000, but the lane became intolerably crowded as I finished the warmup and started doing the 100s, so I figured I'd better avoid high irk by getting out of the pool. It was a pity, though, as I couldn't seem to settle in to my projected gym bike workout - couldn't get HR high enough, got off after about 15 minutes and came home to eat dinner instead. (A good choice.)

I am trying not to be too hard on myself about the lack of progress thus far on biking - it's really a summer-length project (at least!) rather than something I was going to be able to squeeze in at the end of the semester. I obviously didn't get out on the bike today - in fact I took another 3-hour nap, I am really feeling like an invalid! I know what I need to do, though, and hopefully in June I'll be able to dig in and make a little more progress.


Much fuss on the triathlon blogs about a former Biggest Loser contestant having been given a Kona slot - but I defy you to read Matt Hoover's own blog post about being invited to participate in the race without wanting to wish him the best of luck...

Saturday run

I am now on a 3am-11am sleeping schedule, and could not rouse myself from bed in time to go to TNYA practice - I am going to have to wrench myself back off this mid-week so as to have an early race next weekend...

Just ran 4.5 miles easy - it is absurdly humid outside, only about seventy degrees so not what you would really call hot, but 80% humidity - I am tired of this very moist weather!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday swim

A really good one, too - I desperately wanted a swim yesterday, but I was thwarted by a combination of an evening work obligation plus the fact that (now that my very busy schedule has let up for a couple days) I am sleeping like an invalid in a 1930s sanatorium - I wake up incredibly groggily, I drop off to sleep again mid-morning and then wake up again too late and too hungry to go for my run! (Happened both yesterday and today, ugh...)

I am consoling myself that the sleep is clearly desperately needed and that it means there's a good chance that for once I won't get sick when I travel on Thursday...

900 free, every 4th stroke (back, breast, fly drill x 3)

Modified version of Wendy's IM ladder, with 10 seconds rest: 200 IM, 150 IM no free, 100 back, 50 breast, 25 free build, and back up the ladder

1950 yards total

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

(No swim, arghhhhh!)

The spirit was very willing but the flesh was weak - I had some GI distress in the last couple miles of my run, and my stomach just hasn't settled down enough - I even walked out of the house and over towards the pool, but realized that it was not sensible! It may be that I can fit in a swim at lunchtime tomorrow - I have a work-related social event that conflicts with evening lane swim...

Day of triathlon, PART ONE!

I got home yesterday after teaching my last class for the semester and though it was not premeditated it suddenly struck me that I could TAKE THE ENTIRE EVENING OFF - AND TODAY ALSO - and devote the day entirely to triathlon training! I have quite a lot to do in the next week before I leave for Florida on the 14th, but I felt more than due for a real day off...

Alas, my projected long bike ride was severely truncated. I was irked to wake up at 7 (I am in a state of utter exhaustion, I needed more sleep!), but breakfasted and caffeinated and then lay back down around 8 to see if I might sleep a bit more. Next thing I knew, it was almost one o'clock...

15 miles bike

6 miles run with Triathlete L. in Central Park

Will swim anon...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Monday run

5 demoralizingly slow but on the whole pretty pleasant miles - there was a lull in the rain while I was out there, it was virtually deserted but not excessively drenching, that was good...

Monday frivolity

A preferred use for heart-rate monitors

(Via Paul Collins.)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunday gym triathlon!

a.k.a. endorphins are making me feel great right now - too bad I am not training for a sprint triathlon...

Have felt super-tired all weekend, despite naps and catching-up sleep time - I went to a (very athletic - it was a pleasure to watch the thigh muscles in action!) ballet this afternoon - have been cold and damp and yawning all day - thought I would run at least 6 miles in the early evening, but it was one excuse after another (5pm yogurt insufficiently digested! rainy and cold! puddles!) - shifted to notion of gym run-swim, only then I left it too late even for that - left the house around 8pm with realization that I should swim first (lane swim closes 9pm on Sunday rather than 9:30) and then try for a bike-run combo of some sort.

And that is what I did - a short one - (seemed long enough at the time)! Now I have to eat some dinner, it is 10pm, that is too late!

Swim: 2 x (200 free, 100 back, 100 breast), 4 x (50 drill, 50 free) (catch-up, front scull, fists, finger-drag) = 1200 yards total

Bike: 30 mins. (8 miles)

Run: 1 mile

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Saturday bike

I did make it out. After some days of chilly/wintry/rainy weather, it turned into a beautiful afternoon here. It was a pity - much too crowded!

15 miles (Riverside Park/West Side bike path)

Saturday swim practice

I almost talked myself out of going, but I am glad I did not - it was very enjoyable. Both my running and swimming feel slow but strong recently - it is a good base, anyway.

Warmup: 200 free, 100 back, 100 kick

First set: 12 x 50 (first 4 on 1:00, second 4 on :55, last 4 on :50 - I cannot make that last interval, I did them on :55)

We renegotiated intervals for the next set - Coach E. wanted 1:55 and descending, but lanemates and I were in agreement that it was considerably too fast! In fact one reason our Saturday swims are often chaotic is that even the faster swimmers have trouble making the intervals - this was perhaps a bit slow for the ocuple fastest guys, but it had a much smoother and better-organized feel than usual as we all stayed at the right places on the clock...

Second set: 12 x 100 as 3 sets, descending 1-4 on 2:05, 2:00, 1:55, 1:50, with 1:00 rest between sets

Easy 200 swim down

2400 yards total