Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Made it here safely, but with no vim left to fit in a swim - slightly devastating double whammy of very early morning departure Monday from Grand Cayman plus overnight flight from Miami....

Am instead having triathlon-related pondering (I think the number of hours per day that I spend thinking about triathlon would strike most people as singularly bizarre and counterproductive): it might be that I should sign up for one of these rides. I am tempted by the century, since I would like to get one under my belt this season before tackling Iron-distance training next year, but the 75-mile route could work also - it's three weeks before my early October race, so it would be a very good long ride, and a relatively manageable and safe way for me to get a bit more comfortable riding around New York.

Any thoughts? (Unfortunately I can't do the NYCC Escape New York ride, as it's the same day as the Little Red Lighthouse swim. I think I will be out of town for various August ride possibilities - the other thing I see, alas, is the same day as the Bassman race - a traffic-free century ride in NYC (the NYC MS fund-raiser) - almost too good to be true, I really wish I could do it! I do not like asking people for money, but on the other hand you only have to raise $250, I can always just write a check myself, and it is in a very good cause - might be I can do it next year...)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Social triathlon of bliss!

Today I worshipped at the altar of triathlon!

I have really been looking forward to the Cayman Islands Triathlon Association Social Triathlon - it is a modest little local race, but of a peculiarly lovely kind, and at this point it has now added 33% to my triathlon racing experience (counting in terms of total races if not time spent). It was fortuitous that it was happening while I'm here - a great workout in preparation for the NYC Triathlon in four weeks.

(I was here and volunteered last year, but had neither the nerve nor the bicycle to compete - this year, I have at least a bit more nerve and Brent was kind enough to loan me the Poor Little Blue Cannondale - so named, I am told, because its precursor was the Poor Little Red Mazda - and also his bike shoes, as it turns out the shoes I brought have different cleats and I was too lazy to switch the pedals out - also, the shoes he has are better! Bigger, but better!)

Anyway the alarm was set for 5, but I woke up at three with an utter fit of bicycling-related nerves, couldn't get back to sleep - in fact, though, it was all good. Perhaps 30 people racing, and I have pasted in some pictures below (thanks, Brent!) to give you the feel for the situation.

The course obviously isn't closed to traffic, but it was done as a loop (left-hand-side driving here) with all left-hand easy turns except for the final turn back into the parking lot for the transition to the run, so very manageable...

It is certainly a very warm race, which is one reason that it is probably for the best that there are no pictures of me on the run! I am in the orange bathing cap (a trophy from the Park-to-Park swim the other week), and there is a very good shot of me on the Poor Little Blue Cannondale coming out of the transition area into the road. Sprint distance, in theory exactly half of Olympic distance but in practice perhaps approximate: 800 yards swim, 12.4 miles bike, 3.1 miles run. My time was 1:37 and change, not speedy but not bad considering the heat (which makes running more of a trudge-type situation!).

(Brent did not race - he was a course marshal, in a very good luridly colored shirt from the DHL Duathlon earlier this year.)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday treadmill

6 miles (6.0mph, 0.5 incline, avg HR 146) - there is nothing like warm pavement miles for making the treadmill seem easy as pie!

(I regret to observe that though I have been fantasizing about breezy runs next week in Regent's Park, I see that London is expecting a heatwave that will start just as I arrive!)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday gym

40 min. gym bike (intervals) + 20 min. core

(Very pleasant, too!)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


earlier pm: 20 mins. sea swim (lots of waves - got out after it started to seem like I wasn't going anywhere!)

pm: 6 very warm pavement miles (almost gave up at the 40 min. mark, but a short walk break and some water gave me a second wind)

Not a bad workout day, in the end, though it did not seem very promising for a while back there!


Fitness in six minutes a week?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday bits

am: .5hr. early warm pavement run (I am optimistically calling it 3 miles in my log, but I am sure it was rather less than that!)

pm: 40 mins. gym bike plus 25 mins. core/upper body

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sea swim!

It will seem an ungrateful complaint to those in northern climes, but the water is almost too warm! I must either swim further out or earlier in the day or perhaps both. I want to scope out a 200-yard "course" to use for the kind of open-water swim workouts that Terry Laughlin was outlining for use with the "tempo trainer" metronome - really it doesn't matter exactly what length it is (he is using a rope-measured bit in a lake), I should be able to figure out some good little stretch with not a ton of wave action that I can use. More on this later in the week.

20 minutes (c. 1000 yards)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday run

1.75hr. (zone 2)

Yes, it is treadmill territory - it was very good, too - I naturally prefer counting by distance, but I think that to make the best of the necessity for indoor running, one really must do it by time and HR. I am going to try and be very disciplined about it, which means swallowing my pride and admitting that I have to set the speeds pretty slow if I want to keep my HR down!

It was actually FASCINATING - I have been reading all this Friel and other stuff, and thinking quite a bit about things I can work on - and one real place for improvement concerns running economy. My stride naturally falls out longer and slower than is ideal, but I have been strongly suspecting I would benefit from consciously shifting to a quicker shorter stride, and I now have the striking visual evidence of it.

I was wearing my HR monitor - for those who are not in the way of doing these things, it usually transmits HR from the little unit on your chest strap to the wristwatch, but most gym treadmills also receive the data and display it in large numbers next to the other pace etc. info. So when I consciously ran with quicker/shorter strides, my HR literally went down 4-5 beats - I could get it to go from 148 or 149 to 143 or 144 just by picking up the foot turnover, with the treadmill running at the exact same speed. It was ENTHRALLING...

In the second hour, my HR really was starting to drift up - I was solidly in the 140s for the whole first hour, but mostly 150s for the rest. I am not heat-acclimated. I should just stay at this speed until I can do the whole two hours in the 140s...

1.75hr. (zone 2)
5.4mph, 0.5 incline, avg HR 147
c. 9 miles

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Delightful sea swim

It was lovely! A very nice combination of local and international flavor - also, it is a treat to swim in water that is so clear and pristine, and after last week's swim, one mile seemed luxuriously short...

(I warmed up this morning in the condo pool - 100 free, 100 catch-up/swim by 25, 100 breast, 50 free - call it 500 total, with the odd distance factored in - count as if it's regular pool length, then add on another third.)

Time: 38 minutes and change, finisher #277 out of over 700 - front of the middle, that is good!

1 mile sea swim!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thursday run

3 warm but lovely pavement miles with Brent along West Bay Road! Breezier than I was expecting, very pleasant, but undoubtedly warm...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


The Flowers Sea Swim can be followed on the air! Hmmm, this should be pretty fun...

(Via SCAQ.)


And you could not have a more lovely day for it - mid-60s, sunny and breezy and nary a hint of humidity in the air - delightful!

There is still one twisty-turny downhill at the top end of the park that makes me a bit nervous, but I am growing accustomed - it was good and windy today, too, which I like because it makes it harder work without me having to go faster! When I get back from my next trip I am going to have some rides where I do hill repeats - more concentrated hill workout, more practice cornering as I come back north after the 102nd St. transverse...

25 miles

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday "boot camp"

That is a high-quality class - about half the stuff I can do quite well, but the other half leaves me dripping in a puddle of sweat after only a small number of repetitions! Also, the locker room at Chelsea Piers (in particular the showers) is truly a lovely sight to behold...

Tuesday swim

Very good, too...

Warmup: 3 x (200 free, 50 drill-swim stroke [back, breast, fly])

Wendy's IM ladder: 200 IM, 150 IM no free, 100 back, 50 breast, 25 fly and reverse (10 seconds rest)

250 free as easy down strong back

2050 yards total

No bike ride for me this morning, I think - I have written most of my talk for this conference in my head, but that is not the same thing as having it on paper!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday run

3.5 miles, mostly easy with .5 mile harder effort near the end. An authentic swim-bike-run day, that is good! (If I am not careful, I will lose all my hard-won run fitness...)

One more post!

Race results are up - I came in 126 out of the 157 swimmers who finished, which seems to me entirely respectable (a lot of pretty experienced swimmers do these races!), and my time was 1:19:56. The winning time was in the 42-minute range, with only the first ten finishers under 50 minutes - clearly nothing like the tidal assist projected...

And now I have a treat for you - a race report from Sara Murphy, a graduate student in my department - a marathoner! - who took up swimming last year after being hit by a seriously problematic case of compartment syndrome and who boldly undertook to do this as her first swim race, at the urging of Columbia coach and swim teacher Abby Brethauer. Congratulations to Sara, and thanks to her for letting me post her e-mailed report!
I had to email you after reading your race report. I'm sorry that I missed you, too -- I was a little dazed and confused after exiting the water, and didn't stay very long. It was my first open water swim, and twice as long as I've ever swum; My friend Abby (who I swim with in the mornings) convinced me to do it. I'm SO glad that I did, and Abby deserves 17 gold stars for staying with me the whole time. (She's an excellent swimmer, so she could have blown by me at anytime.) She even shut me up when I would pause on occasion to moan, "but I'm already past the time limit! I'm going to be DQ'ed and refused a medal! Wahhhhh!"

Since they clearly disregarded the time limit, I think you're right on the tidal assist: it just wasn't there, which only means we are much better swimmers than we knew.

For me, the mental side was the toughest. I got over the fear/shock/surprise of seeing only murky green when I put my head in the water quickly enough, but I really felt at sea (literally) with how spread out we were allowed to be. The buoys were not really helpful markers, and I should have listened to Abby more when she said to aim for the pillar of the GWB. Physically, I felt no exhaustion, so I didn't fear getting into trouble and needing to be pulled out. Without Abby, though, I think I would have felt too mentally down (and convinced that I had DQ'ed) to finish. Then, I would have pulled some glorious strop when I discovered at the finish line that the time limit didn't apply.

Most hilariously/frustratingly, however, was learning that I zig-zag like a herringbone pattern in the water. I would literally take 20 strokes and be facing Manhattan, and then face New Jersey after the next 20. (Abby thinks I actually did closer to 4000 yds, given how much back-and-forth I went. Way to make a hard task harder.)

So, I think I'm going to sign up for the swim part of the Aquathlon so that I can practice sighting over a smaller distance. My first open water swim was definitely a baptism by fire, but I think that's kind of how I roll with these things. Swimming 2000 yards today, though, was probably not the best recovery plan. :-)

I'm so impressed that you're doing the Red Lighthouse swim! I might shoot for the Governor's Island swim in September, although I balk at the prices.

Anyway, sorry for the ramble. Still riding a bit of the high -- I'd forgotten how much fun it is to race something, even when the race itself has its moments of absolute mental meltdown. I really enjoyed reading your report, and I'm obsessively refreshing the NYC Swim page to see when the results will be up.



Race results from yesterday still aren't posted - I will do some pondering once they are up (I am prepared to find out that I was one of the slowest finishers - really I have no idea!). But in the meantime I thought I would just post a picture of the contents of what was truly by far the best goody bag I have ever received after a race - it is true, the registration fees are high, but this is above and beyond!

(The most charming inclusion is a key chain with a miniature fin/flipper on it! And the most immediately useful is a one-wash load envelope of Sport-Wash which I am about to use on the disgusting pile of wet gear on the bathroom floor...)

Bonus link (PDF alert): an 1878 piece from the NYT archive on a girls' swimming school in Central Park shows that "one need neither be old, strong, or masculine to be an expert swimmer."


Three Central Park loops (20 miles total)

Best sight: a cyclist, dismounted, standing protectively in front of something that I first assumed must be a pothole and then saw, as I approached, was a turtle crossing the road! Kindness to animals + attentiveness to road safety = Triaspirational seal of approval...

Monday swim

Really I wouldn't have minded staying in bed, but I had to go to swimming so that I could tell M. about yesterday's race and hear about his long-course meters meet this weekend! Just swam short - gotta ride that bike this morning, before the inevitable downpour begins...

200 free, 100 breast, 200 free, 100 back

Backstroke drills! M. gave me a good one which I have never tried before, but which I will definitely keep in the active repertoire: kick on side, then three strokes, then kick on other side - my backstroke gets very flat if I do not keep an eye on it, and this is an excellent drill for rotation.

Let us say 10 x 50 (mix of drill, pull and full backstroke)

1100 yards total

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Race report - Park to Park Swim (2009)

Well, first of all I must just say that I awfully enjoyed it - I feel open-water swimming is my true metier, and of all the different components of triathlon the one that really suits me the best. I love running, but swimming in open water is playful and unpredictable in a way that is more like how training runs feel to me than road races (that said, I think I should be doing more of my running on trails and more of my run races in smaller races, because it would be more like this).

But it was not at all what I expected! That is the lesson, I suppose, of open-water swimming - I hope there were not too many newer or less fit swimmers in utter horror at how the race actually played out...

I had made a rash move which I will not repeat - non-negotiatiable social obligation c. 3pm in midtown which seemed tightish, timing-wise, but should have been perfectly doable. The race start was 11:45, and the time limit (i.e. time after which slower swimmers will be pulled) was an hour and fifteen minutes (thus, notionally, 1pm) - the race website said "Timed for a tidal assist, the swim should take about 5 to 10 minutes more than past years' 1-mile course," and this is what one would extrapolate from the time limit - an unassisted 2-mile river swim might easily take me, say, 90 minutes, and though I am not fast, I am not in the very slowest group of swimmers either. Clearly they were counting on a huge assist.

And then, of course, it was 11:40 and 11:45 and 11:50 and the poor race director was muttering about the unpredictability of the ebb...

Finally we got started around 12:20, but as far as I can tell, there was really not much of an assist at all! Race results are not yet up (and I am afraid mine may appear slightly anomalous, as about 5 minutes before the finish I felt the velcro strap holding my chip to my ankle finally unloose itself and drift down into the vasty deep! - I think the results were documented in any case, but it may not come right up on the computer!), so I can't say - I don't remember exactly when we started - but I was staggering up the beach and looking at my watch at the number 1:47 and making a calm but desperate set of mental calculations about how to execute the next hour in the most efficient possible manner...

(NB I did make it to where I had to be on time, but only by dint of being longtime master of the Fastest Shower in the East - even though I washed my hair two times just to make sure the Hudson was all out of it)

I felt very strong in the water throughout, with a good stroke and good sighting (EXCEPT - minor rant - for the fact that the final buoy, which we were conjecturally using to sight for a LONG time, was INVISIBLE from where I was swimming! I caught a couple glimpses, and then it would be lost again - it was more or less clear where we were all going anyway, I had been told by a nearby swimmer that I could sight off the little red lighthouse and I could always see swimmers on either side of me and ahead in a fan in front of me, so I was under no real apprehension as to where I was going - but of course as a person with no sense of direction I am all too familiar with this feeling!). But I would have to call it pretty much a straight-up real 2-mile swim - I will hope to get my exact time from the website, but it must have been 90+ minutes.

I will hope to go faster in another one sometime, but in fact I am very delighted to have had a real longer-distance open-water workout - I have my eye on iron-distance, a race like this is nicer than an Ironman swim (no crowding, not so much to worry about in the long rest of the day) but it is still a good way of thinking about building confidence and experience on different legs of the journey. I was not wearing my wetsuit - the water was in the mid-60s (not sure of exact temperature), pretty much perfect for a long swim...

Swim race

V. fun, but MUCH longer and later than expected - must RUSH off now - more later!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

No run after all...

Executive decision - I am starving and sleepy (out late last night to see a friend's new apt. in Brooklyn - takes an hour to get home on the subway, it was after midnight by the time I walked in the door, and late-night travel is not conducive to sleep!), I will skip the run. Instead of wearing my regular bathing suit tomorrow, I will try out my new tri top and then run home from the race finish, so that I at least get a few miles in!

Brief swim

Didn't want to do too much, not least because really I still need to do some kind of run later this afternoon, but equally didn't want to plunge into the Hudson tomorrow without having had a swim since Thursday morning! Very nice, anyway - not at ALL crowded, that was a bit of a surprise...

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

3 x (50 drill, 50 swim) (catch-up, thumbs-and-salute, finger-drag)

4 x 50 free: first two build by quarters, 3rd easy, 4th hard

100 easy back

1200 yards total

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday TOB

I just had an excellent bike ride - it was non-blissful, in fact in every respect it seemed thoroughly ordinary - but I feel like I'm on top of the world - I now really and truly believe that I am in a position to train properly for long-course triathlon.

I am still at fairly infantile levels of confidence on the road! I did not succeed in riding the whole way over to Central Park on the street - I had several minor moments of discombobulation that caused me to have recourse to sidewalk (why, oh why do the buses have to park over the cycling lane on 106th St.?!?). But I did 4 very pleasant loops in Central Park, and rode back on a safe, sensible and non-evil-to-pedestrians mix of sidewalks and streets, and the park loop is hilly enough that I really can do quite a bit of training there and it will have good benefits...

I realize that the couple really awful and off-putting rides I had there last summer were partly harrowing because I was in a STATE but also harrowing because inexperience led me to choose terrible times, i.e. crowded sunny weekend afternoons. But the park is closed to traffic (except for a slightly awful bit at the south end where horse-drawn carriages of evilness and bicycle pedicabs of mischief vie with reckless cab-drivers for right-of-way, and cyclists and runners get squashed into one little side path) from 10-3 on weekdays, and in fact I have a HUGE GIFT that I really haven't taken advantage of - especially during the summer, but really during the school year also, as long as I work ENOUGH it often does not matter WHEN I work, and I can easily go during those weekday hours...

In fact this ride was successful enough that I think I will let myself off the hook for proposed GWB/Palidades weekend ride. I'll just do a long run tomorrow, my swim race on Sunday morning, then do Central Park loops immediately following post-swim breakfast on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday I'm going to Cayman, where I can swim a lot but where it is too hot to run much (still working out bike details); I'll be there for a week and a half, then for a week in London during which it will be relatively difficult to eat healthily and exercise properly, and no bicycle access whatsoever - but I will have a couple shortish morning runs in Regent's Park, and also intend to swim at least once (twice if I can manage it) here! Unfortunately the NYC triathlon is exactly three weeks after the day I get back, so there is no magical scenario in which I build such good bike fitness that I CRUSH THE COURSE - but I still should be able to do this race rather faster than last year, and mentally much more happily, which I think will let me have a better run too - last year I had water in my Camelbak rather than Gatorade, and was too nervous to drink much of it anyway, so even just the change to sport drink plus determination to drink it all should allow me to take 4-5 minutes off the run time...

25 miles bike

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Friel's Bible

I had a glorious reading session last night, during which I devoured most of the new edition of Joe Friel's Triathlete's Training Bible (3rd edition; thanks to the excellent Dave Trendler at the also excellent Velo Press for sending me a copy for review). I have just polished the rest of it off, and am basking in the lovely afterglow of a demented triathlon-related reading binge...

I have a copy of the 2nd edition, and while I can't remember exactly when I bought and read it, I'm pretty sure it was before I ever did a triathlon, which is to say I read it as some people read cookbooks by four-star chefs - in a spirit of saucer-eyed aspirationality rather than anything approaching realistic emulation. I have a year of experience in triathlon now, and have certainly read a larger number of books about training and racing, so I think I'm better equipped to evaluate it.

It's a very strong book - if you like books of this sort (it is an important proviso, because I think some people buy 'em out of guilt but don't actually enjoy reading 'em - I utterly love anything along these lines, being bookish and triathlon-obsessed and also a professional educator with an onlooker's interest in what does and doesn't cross over to the science of coaching), you will want to own a copy and read it. The emphasis is very much on elite age-groupers, and the person whose training will most immediately benefit from Friel's suggestions is probably a man in his thirties or forties who cares about "podium" placement (this word makes me laugh, it is comically technical!) at his A-priority races (and I could not tell you whether the A-, B- and C- distinction is Friel's invention or just associated with him, but I have the impression that the first edition of this book was the great original popularizer of the practice of prioritizing races in this way, as well as explaining to an American multi-sport audience what a home-grown version of the former Eastern Bloc periodization strategy might look like - if you're a triathlete using terms like Prep, Base 1, Build as you contemplate your training, I would guess it's probably coming from Friel originally, even if you got it somewhere else - and focusing on directing training towards one's "limiters").

It is not, really, a fantastic book for novice triathletes, though I think the third edition is stronger in this respect than the second; it is geared towards the faster among us. It is also less oriented towards the full Ironman distance than I had initially expected, though this is also somewhat countered in the new edition (Going Long will probably be a more engaging read if you have the gleam of iron in your eye and are not unduly interested in accessible but relatively technical discussions of training issues).

I would rank it also slightly below what I still think of as the one truly indispensable training book for triathletes, which is to say Gale Bernhardt's Training Plans for Multisport Athletes. That is a wonderful book - it was put into my hands by Brent when a murmur first issued from my mouth, in January 2008, along the lines that it might be more enjoyable to participate in May 2008 Florida 70.3 than just to spectate, and the "13 Weeks to a Half-Ironman for Athletes with Limited Time" was a magical one-page confidence-builder! I have since bought several copies of Bernhardt's book for myself - I keep giving them away, and the chapter on nutrition for endurance athletes is perhaps the most sensible and useful thing I've read on those lines - it is really a great book.

Friel's book tries to do more than Bernhardt's, and yet it is not, I would say, a book in the august company of what I think of as the two best books I have ever read of this type, namely Jack Daniels' Daniels' Running Formula, which I think every athlete or coach should read regardless of whether or not he/she is a runner, and 'Doc' Counsilman's The Science of Swimming, which I would not recommend to everybody but which is truly one of my favorite books ever! But this, too, may be a matter of personal preference - Friel falls between Bernhardt's more strictly practical approach on the one hand and the more philosophical Daniels-Counsilman on the other, so that the ways in which the book falls slightly short are mostly a function of its breadth and ambition.

The chapter that may cause those who own the previous edition to feel the need to add this one to their library is chapter four, on intensity of training; it is certainly the most significant philosophical and practical difference I noticed from the recommendations of the previous edition. Friel here far more strongly emphasizes the limits of heart rate as a measure of intensity - obviously, he has been dealing with the consequences of the very widespread adoption of a tool (the heart rate monitor) that initially was viewed as for extremists and techies only! Here is Friel in the third edition: "The beating of the heart is merely one way to peek into the body to see what is happening. At best, heart rate is an indirect measure of intensity, and not a very sensitive one. There are others that should also be used whenever possible to quantify how intensely you are swimming, biking or running."

He reminds the reader that pace is actually extremely useful in this respect, and I am happy to report that he gives really wonderful pace and intensity charts for different swimming and running speeds - they go all the way to the slower ranges, unlike my memory of the previous edition, when even the slowest numbers for hundreds in the pool were faster than I could then swim!.

So that, for instance, I can find my spot on the swim chart at (I'm guessing, I haven't measured it recently) 18:49-19:26 for a 1000-yard time, and then learn that my Zone 1 pace would be 2:21+/100, Zone 2 2:13-2:20, Zone 3 2:04-2:12, Zone 4 1:57-2:03 and Zone 5 a, b and c as 1:53-1:56, 1:44-1:52 and 1:43-max.

Ditto for running: let's say that if I were in slightly better condition than I probably actually am right now, I could do a 52:00 10K (I have done faster than that on a hilly course on a cool day). Zone 1 pace is therefore 10:54+ minutes/mile, Zone 2 is 9:38-10:53, zone 3 is 8:57-9:37, Zone 4 as 8:27-8:56 and Zone 5 a, b and c 8:11-8:26, 7:35-8:10 and 7:34 max.

(NB header on p. 49 needs to be fixed in future reprintings! But the table of cycling and running HR zones is also invaluable - I like this very much...)

In both of these cases, the numbers he gives really fit right with my sense from using the pool pace clock and the Polar footpod for pace measurements in running - Daniels' numbers on training paces are excellent too, and provide a more detailed rationale, but this is a very good rule of thumb (especially for those of us reluctant to wear the HR monitor strap because of chafing issues!).

Friel goes on to observe "that heart rate-based training has become so pervasive that athletes too often believe that heart rate is the determining factor in how they train and race. Too many have become slaves to their heart rate monitors and do not use other tools for measuring intensity as much as they could." It is not relevant at my stage of development, but the case he makes for cycling with a power meter is pretty irrefutable - if I am still doing this serious long-course stuff in a couple years, that is what I would be inclined to adopt...

A few other thoughts:

The sentences that most made me laugh in self-recognition: "HP's mental skills, especially his motivation to excel, are excellent. Sometimes such enthusiasm can lead to obsessive training, but he has a good working knowledge of the science of training from years of reading, which serves as a moderating factor."

Best tip: the cadence meter I bought from Terry Laughlin for swimming can be used to work on run cadence drills also! If there is one improvement well within my immediate power to make, it concerns run cadence - I am definitely with too much of a lope, a long stride and what Friel (it is characteristic of his tone, it is not really a book with a sense of humor, that is part of its charm!) calls "excessive vertical oscillation" - a quicker stride rate will be just the ticket, and the device will be very helpful...

Most striking insight: on the basis of a table headed "Strategies to Address Limiters," I really did have one of those moments of self-revelation that does not come too often. I knew this already - BUT - Friel lists six or seven things (what he calls "'nontraining' suggestions) that one might do to address one's weaknesses in each of the three triathlon disciplines.

I have done all six of the things he suggests for running ("Run with a group occasionally"; "Have your running gait analyzed by a coach").

I have done all seven of the things he suggests for swimming, and in fact my relationship with swimming is an interesting thing to contemplate, because the only gift I brought to the table was the gift of intense enthusiasm and motivation - I really had to start from scratch, it was intensive and expensive and troublesome and frustrating. (If you are curious, here are the seven things: "Train with a masters swim team"; "Take swimming lessons"; "Focus on form, not fitness, in workouts"; "Attend a swimming camp" [well, not exactly, but lots of clinics]; "Swim shorter workouts more frequently"; "Videotape your swim stroke and analyze it"; "Videotape a proficient swimmer and study his or her mechanics".)

I have done pretty much none of the seven things he recommends for cycling! So I will henceforth stop describing myself as a TERRIBLE cyclist - I will redescribe as a NOVICE cyclist, or an IMPROVING cyclist - and I will embrace the prospect of being a beginner in a new sport, because that is where one sees the most striking improvements...

I am not the type to want to fill out the elaborate training schedules here, but I did get a kick out of answering some of the little self-diagnosis questionnaires and confirming what I knew already (strong on endurance and force, weak on speed, for instance). I especially enjoyed making a list of my season's three training goals, according to the principles he lays out (goals must be under your control, they must challenge you, they must be positive, etc.). So I'll just leave you with those...

Goal #1: 'middle of the pack' finish in the W35-39 division at the New York City triathlon (preferably 50th percentile, but I will take anything in the middle third!)

Goal #2: run the run (12:00 pace or better) in the late-season half-Ironman that I've pretty much decided to do this year (only way of making myself keep cycling all the way through the season!)

Goal #3: Sub-4:00 in my November marathon, or die trying!

Musical interlude

Frank Zappa plays the bicycle on a 1965 episode of the Steve Allen Show. (Via The Rumpus.)


D. just called to cancel our appointment, I am disappointed! I won't see him Tuesday, either, as L. has kindly invited me to join her again for boot camp class at Chelsea Piers (she gets a free guest now and again!). I was going to write down exactly what we did today so that I could remember and reproduce - happily he tells me that there is a near approximation on Youtube which will slightly give you the flavor of our workouts!

(Only ours are in the basement of the slightly dingy and poorly ventilated CU gym!)

(NB re: differences between video and my actuality: we were not doing the initial one-leg jump up onto the step, we haven't used the stretchy cord [can't remember proper name for those!] and we also didn't do the hands-straight body-raising thing at the end, though I will certainly try it. And we had some other little things that are not represented there but which I will endeavor to recall below.)

The version we did goes like this, more or less, and it should be I could do it a few times on my own over the next few weeks (2 x 10 of each, or 3 x 10 if I have the patience, and then self-exile from Caymanian central air-conditioning and just do a very small number of sprints in my Vibram five-fingers shoes on the beach at Brent's!):

Start with active isolated stretching: inner thigh, glutes, calves and hamstrings, a bit of straight-leg jumping to activate fast-twitch muscles in calves.


"yoga swing" (he does them with one leg in the video, but I did it with two legs staying on ground - rest on fists by hips, then swing body from initial straight-leg "dip" position up into a bridge)
"superman" (with legs and arms joining in middle)
side plank (on elbow or straight arm, with other arm in air), raising and lowering hips
start facing down and resting on hands and feet, then raise left arm and right leg, then alternate (variant of M.'s "quadruped", only on feet instead of knees!)
plank into downward dog with leg raise
lie on back with feet in air, "touch toes"
ditto, but arms and legs on floor, then swinging up left arm and right leg, then vice versa
double side leg raise (i.e. legs together)
one-legged squat

I think that's about it - it is a nice little rotation, and I also have M.'s core strength routine if I want to mix it up. Not sure if I am going to make it over there this evening for a workout on my own - I exercised a lot yesterday, today might be better thought of as a recovery day, and there is a lot of work I would like to do!

Thursday swim

Hmmmm, learning and workout are slightly at odds with each other, but learning is more valuable...

Warmup: 300 swim, 200 IM drill

5 x 100 on 2:30: first three build by 25, fourth easy, fifth all out

12 x 25 dolphin kick with fins

100 as right-arm, left-arm, then 50 full stroke

Tried it all sorts of ways - on back - on stomach - underwater (this is good, definitely more forward propulsion - and then took off my little zoomers, at M.'s suggestion, and dug a bigger pair of fins out of the bin. Work in progress...

1400 yards total

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Short Wednesday run

A swim-bike-run day, that is good...

Nice meet-up with Triathlete L. for a run in the park - my hip flexors (not the same ones that were sore yesterday, some other ones) were so sore from yesterday's workout that I was doubtful that I even could run, only strangely and miraculously as soon as I actually started running, my legs felt great! (Different muscles!)

We were notionally pondering 6 or 5, depending on how we felt, but lack of foresight meant that we ran into first the harbingers and then the full hordes of the Chase Corporate Challenge - we beat a hasty retreat onto the bridle path, which meant running round the north end of the reservoir since we were cut off by opposing throngs from the road that goes all the way to the north end of the park. I optimistically suggested 4.2 miles, but L. more honestly appraised it at 4 - last mile slightly brisker, I was ready to be done!

Amazingly my legs still feel much better - looser, suppler, no sore hip flexors - than they did before I ran!

Some good consultation afterwards, too, on bicycle-related issues - I am pondering matters of bicycling complexity involving the possible acquisition of a second bike for Caymanian use, only it is so complex that the ramifications are busting my brain! L. nicely clarified several points, so I think I am making progress...

4 miles of varying speed


15 miles bike (West Side path)

A good day for it - not actually raining, but overcast and damp and in the low 60s, bad enough to keep the crowds at home!

I am making modest progress on this bike thing, but I realize the extent to which I just haven't built time for cycling into my summer exercise schedule (partly it takes longer than the other things, partly I just still haven't got my head fully round the idea!) - so while this is a pretty timid little bike ride, I am figuring much better than nothing - I am running with Triathlete L. at 7, so had neither time nor vim for a long one.

So, the mantra: Time On Bike!

Wednesday swim

Lost a lot of time at the beginning of the hour due to chat! However, it was warranted rather than unwarranted chat, concerning the course for Sunday's race, and I guess the truth of the matter is that I believe swim frequency is more valuable to me than counting minutes in the water per se - I will be swimming 4-5 times/week this summer, for the most part, so I can afford to lose the ten minutes for sociability!

Along these lines:

Warmup: 400 with every 4th length stroke (alternating back and breast)

8 x 25 dolphin kick with fins, really concentrating on abs and on feeling the movement of the hips (noticeable improvement by last couple lengths)

2 x 25 dolphin kick with fins mostly underwater

4 x 25 alternating right arm, left arm fly drill with fins

2 x 75 right arm, left arm, full stroke fly with fins

2 x 75 right arm, left arm, full stroke fly with NO fins

50 easy free

5 x 50 fly down, free back on 1:20

50 back

50 breast

1450 yards total

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tuesday gym

Solid session with D. - we lost a bit of time looking for a spot to use outside (really the grass was too wet and slippery, though, and after one round of stuff on a bumpy yoga mat placed over hillocks of tufty grass, we moved back inside!), and then I had some kind of muscle twinges that made me think sprinting today would not be wise - ARGHHHHHH! I am suspecting it is some set of muscles (it is symmetrical, whereas actual injuries are almost always on one side!) that I worked out heavily during my hilly bike ride on Saturday - will hope it is better before Thursday's session, though there always are lots of other useful things to do too. It is not sore, just that feeling when I do certain things as though I can feel the rubber bands straining inside!

Tuesday swim

Insane thunderstorms overnight, and truly torrential rain still when the moment came to drag myself out of bed to swimming - I had five minutes of thinking I might be able to justify not going because of weather, and then I was, like, Hmmmm, I swim in an indoor pool; and I like running in the rain; the only sport that rain gives me an out on is CYCLING!

We played around with some bits and pieces from the earlier-morning workout that M. had swum with the triathlete group. At the end I did just a tiny bit of fly kick with fins which thoroughly showed me, if I did not already know, how incorrectly I have been doing it (I really have a hard time not leading from the legs, whereas all the momentum should come from that little push in the chest - this is a huge thing to work on...).

Warmup: 200 free, 150 kick (50 each of flutter, dolphin, whip), 150 pull (50 each of free, back, breast)

Main set: 2 x (3 x [4 x 25 free (drill, drill, kick, fast)], 100 free, 100 IM), all on 5-10 seconds rest

100 dolphin kick with fins

1600 yards total

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday swim

Very nice - we dallied for fifteen minutes of chat at the beginning, to hear a fuller report on Saturday's Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (here is Swimming World's coverage, courtesy of Wendy). Two TNYA swimmers were in the race, both women; only one of the two finished, as a number of swimmers were pulled from the course. It is truly an extraordinary endeavour - a 28.5-mile swim, a full counterclockwise circumnavigation of the island of Manhattan!

On a more mundane note:

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

2 x 100 free, drill-swim by 50 (finger-drag, catch-up)

6 x 50 free on 1:20, first four build by quarters, #5 easy, #6 all out

2 x 100 as 50 fly drill, 25 fly, 25 free

50 easy back

M. says to bring fins and use 'em for fly drill, it is a good idea; he also points out that I should be swimming further up in our lane, which is true, only it drives me crazy to have people on my feet all the time, so I have taken to swimming at the back! Our lane is a bit crowded recently, that's the truth...

1650 yards total

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday run

Very nice, too - 8 miles easy (only a little too warm - now it has started to seem like actual summer, I must switch my long run back to Central Park rather than the unshaded Hudson River path!).

Quick stop this afternoon at SBR - got a miracle shirt (not exactly like that one, but similar) that seems to have solved the underarm chafing situation - and also a tri top (again, not exactly that, but similar - the black one with blue piping), having realized that I have a couple races this summer where I probably won't be wearing a wetsuit and it really is wrong both aesthetically and from a modesty POV for me to be rushing around in just a swim top and tri shorts! I prefer sleeves to singlet-style shirts, but if one desires a single top-half garment in which to swim, bike and run without worrying about changing, it pretty much has to be sleeveless...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Bike ride of mentally epic but physically diminutive proportions


On the bright side, the actual real bike ride part of the ride was TRULY LOVELY. I am growing accustomed to the bucolic precipice - it is nothing compared to the bridge kind. But it was even worse than I expected getting there...

(What I am calling the real ride was the 15-mile out-and-back in the Palisades Park from Edgewater to Alpine - this page has a good description. It was genuinely enjoyable, and though the next project will be to figure out how to have a longer ride along 9W to Nyack, I am also certain that this loop itself would be - if I did not mind the repetition - sufficient as a training piece - i.e. doing multiples of 15, i.e. x5=75 plus another 10 or so required to get there and back - honestly, if I am doing Ironman training I do not need a regular ride longer than that, other than making sure I get in a couple 100+ ones, and the hills would be very beneficial.)*

And the ride back over the George Washington Bridge was unpleasant but tolerable, so I trust that in time and with sufficient repetitions I will be able to do it without having a nervous breakdown. It took FOREVER to get back home after that, I was riding on a mix of streets and sidewalks and couldn't figure out how to get back down to the Hudson path without back-tracking - but it was non-traumatic, just slow, and I will gradually accustom myself to riding in the street up there where there is not a lot of traffic.

But getting over the bridge the first time was pretty much the worst thing I have had to do, EVER, in my ENTIRE LIFE! I walked my bike over, I was too scared to ride (it turned out to be a long and complicated bike-walking endeavor already to get from the greenway path up to the ramp onto the pedestrian-bike path, and it is always when I have been OFF the bike that I get really nervous about getting back onto it - on the NJ side, one really can ride more directly from sidewalk onto bridge path, so it is considerably less of a problem). UGH! I was whimpering in terror - clearly I must ride, it would be over a lot more quickly - it is c. 1500 meters, ALL TOO LONG A WALK!

At several points I nearly burst into tears, but I managed to restrain myself, and then afterwards it was all fine - I had a false turn into a different park entrance, but got good instructions how to find the south end of the road I wanted, and then I had a real treat - about a mile in to the "real" ride, I crossed paths with Triathlete L., who was on her way back from a 56-mile ride. It was delightful - she is a very good cycling mentor, she assured me that the GW Bridge is genuinely scary (low guardrail, ugh!) and that it was very good that I had actually made it out there! A good reward for EPIC MENTAL STRUGGLE....

*Fifteen miles total for the loop, not fifteen miles each way...

Saturday swim practice

Hmmmm, some frustrations there - partly I am a slow swimmer, too slow a swimmer (I train at steady paces rather than doing sprint efforts with rest, when I'm swimming on my own, and also I just might be slower anyway!), but also there was wild neglect of clock and lane etiquette! At one point the three of us who really care about such things were staring at each other, bemused, at the end of the lane - I could not stop laughing, I was shouting "CHAOS AND DISARRAY!" and shaking my head! It was out of control!


Warmup (truncated): 200 swim, 200 IM drill

First set (I cannot make these intervals - I would need to start on 2:05 to do a good job with it, or might just about manage it starting on 2:00): 12 x 100, descending by 3s: 1:55, 1:50, 1:45, 1:40 (I skipped a 50 of #9 to try and get a breath and was swimming on 1:50 again for the last three) - 1150 total

Second set, on 15 seconds rest or 4:00: 200 IM, 200 back-breast by 50 (this was where things fell apart - I only did 50 back, it was impossible to figure out how to arrange anything sensibly!), 200 reverse IM - 450 total

4 x 50 choice (I did back, free, fly, back)

2200 yards total

Two TNYA teammates are swimming the 28.5-mile Manhattan Island Marathon Swim today as solo swimmers, and I believe there is a TNYA relay team also - it is exciting to contemplate! I am thinking that the full marathon swim is only for considerably faster swimmers than I will ever be (ditto the Channel, though can you imagine, would that not be the most wonderful thing?!?), but I wonder whether I might one day be the slow and steady member of a relay team...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thursday swim

Very groggy this morning - could not wake up properly, and in fact even now post-swim and post-coffee I still feel very bleary-eyed! Just had an easy swim this morning - partly mental fog, partly pleasantly sore muscles from yesterday afternoon's workout. At a guess, something like this:

200 free, 100 breast, 200 free, 150 back (50 swim, 50 kick, 50 swim), 100 back misc. drill (wave hand in air when arm is vertical, to keep extension and slow down stroke!)

2 x (100 catch-up, 100 free)

M. offered me his tempo trainer metronome device, and I did some stroke count work: 100 on 1.40, 100 on 1.35, 100 on 1.30, 100 on 1.25, 100 on 1.20, trying to hold stroke count and concentrate on power in stroke. My natural stroke count is pretty high (20-21), I would like to take off a stroke or two but I do not think it is realistic to think of getting down to a very low count - but I am going to do some "splash" drills next week to concentrate on getting more power at the back end of my stroke, I think that is a place where there is lots of room for easy and substantive improvement...

1650 yards total

I gotta bike, but I am sleepy and it is rainy! It might be a west side path one again today, I will see how it looks. As long as I get out today for some kind of ride, I am thinking I will take tomorrow off, then swim and run on Saturday, bike on Sunday. I am very happy to be back in a good exercise routine, it is soothing to me...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


First session with trainer D. exceeded even my already high expectations - this is going to be very good! Some interesting stretching, a bunch of core stuff that bears a family resemblance to trainer M.'s core routine but with much more of an emphasis on things for runners, some sprints and work on arm positioning - I am suddenly convinced that I am going to be able to run fast (or at least fastish) this fall, it is very good...

Ran about 3 miles beforehand on the indoor track, as I otherwise won't have time to run till Friday. Just got back from a very good talk at the CU medical campus - my absolute hero Oliver Sacks, on visual hallucinations - it has been a good day, only slightly short on ACTUAL WORK!

(I did write a couple paragraphs, and do a bit of pondering, but that is it - the next couple days have a bunch of stuff involving HUMAN CONTACT that will cut into work time, so I will have to try and keep my cool about this in the meantime...)

Wednesday swim

I am in an absurdly good mood this morning, full of vim and vigor and the conviction that I can and will do a full Ironman in 2010 - I cannot explain why it is so much my heart's desire, but it is - the magical allure of triathlon!

Good swim, including some coaching on fly from aquatics staff member and sometime TNYA lanemate M. He suggests that next time insomnia strikes, I should just come and swim anyway - it may be true, there was the special case yesterday of knowing I really needed to do a bike ride but swimming certainly has unique physiological benefits...

Warmup: 200 free, 100 back, 200 free, 100 breast, 200 free, 100 fly drill

Then (cannot remember exactly):

6 x 50 kick on back - flutter down, dolphin back - with underwater pushoffs (WHICH I have never tried before, but which strike me as magical and effective, why did I not try that sooner? It is like being behind the looking-glass to look up and see the backstroke flags shimmering through water!)

6 x 50 fly drill (one-armed, 3 on each side, 3 - 2 - 1 kick, etc.)

4 x 75 fly as kick-drill-swim

c. 1800 yards total

I have decided to have a splurge with some of my federal tax refund - I have just purchased ten sessions with a trainer at the Columbia gym whose bio caused my eyes to pop out of my head with excitement! I gave up my appointments with M. in November due to general brokeness, but I certainly noticed the difference without them - I'm going to use these ones to jump-start a good summer fitness regimen, but if it goes well, it might be that I should try and economize elsewhere and stay with a once-a-week strength-training session with a trainer - it is mighty good for accountability, in a way that signing up for a class is not quite...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tuesday bike

At first I felt it was a ride of partial failure, but as I rode on I realized that really any bike ride I go on and actually enjoy should be counted a considerable success! I rode down to 96th St. and then up the west side path all the way to the bridge (you would think it is just a straight run up, but in fact I made several wrong turns and had to retrace!). It was quite rainy, and I contemplated the steep path up to the bridge and the horror of the bridge itself with my heart in my mouth - I decided that actually I could not face a hilly rainy ride in New Jersey, let alone a slippery bridge crossing, and rode south again instead of going over the bridge. The rain happened to let up then for about five minutes - it was only drizzling, and I thought, "Oh, dear, really that was just rationalization, I should have gone over the bridge to New Jersey!" But shortly thereafter it was pouring again, not quite torrential but closer than not - it is good practice for me to ride in the rain, but better for now to have a flat rainy ride in reach of subway in case of disaster! I rode down to Chambers St. and then home again - last few miles very nice, as it had mostly stopped raining but was still almost deserted, which is very unusual for what is mostly a very crowded shared-use path.

I have to ride over the bridge ASAP and through the Palisades park by myself, or else it will assume monumental proportions; I won't have time tomorrow, but I think I can do it on Thursday morning, weather permitting. Novel-revising is more important, but I have to wrestle this bike thing into submission!

c. 20 miles

Tour de Cure

My high-school friend Sara Sklaroff has a very nice piece in the Washington Post about learning to ride a bike as an adult so that she can ride in this year's Tour de Cure (Sara has adult-onset diabetes, and works at the American Diabetes Foundation).

Foiled again!

No swim this morning - I was still tossing and turning after 3:30, and when the alarm went off at 7:45 I regretfully decided that there was no point swimming when I had clearly not yet had recovery from yesterday! Sleep is by far the most intractable part of the training equation for me - even worse, the back-of-the-head knowledge that the water in my building will be shut off from 9am-3pm today due to work on the pipes prevented me from going back to sleep (it would have added insult to injury to have to go and shower at the gym without being able to swim)! I was gnashing my teeth like a cartoon villain...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Blissful Monday run

(And yes, I should have had a bike ride, but I procrastinated until it was no longer possible - I had a lot of good excuses, all with the strong flavor of rationalization!)

5 great miles - over to the park and 2 x round the Harlem Hill loop. I cannot explain why it was so good - beautiful weather, of course, sunny and breezy and low 60s and not a hint of humidity in the air - I had a useful work day, in the end, once I got down to business and stopped wasting time, and thought of all sorts of delightfully implausible plot twists for the novel rewrite - and it may also be a factor that school is over, I had a week plus of vacation and have had another week now of what amounts of almost-like-a-regular-person sleep! Now that is an amazing thing - I am going to see if I can make it stick...

Monday swim

Morning lane swim started today - I forgot what a good way it is to begin the day...

2 projects for this summer: the dreary one is to start working on flip turns again; the interesting one is to improve my butterfly, which is so poor it hardly deserves the name! It is sort of my favorite stroke, so it will behoove me to have a better version of it...

Warmup: 900 with every fourth length stroke (back, breast, fly drill x 3)

On 10 seconds rest:

4 x 150 as odds IM no free, evens free
4 x 100 as odds IM, evens free
4 x 50 as fly-back, back, back-breast, breast
4 x 25 free: first two build, third easy, fourth all out

50 one-armed fly, 50 back

2500 yards total