Thursday, September 22, 2011

Arrival in Spain!

The Mrs. and I touched down in Madrid early Monday morning. Despite two LONG flights east, we were determined to stay up and acclimate to the time change as soon as possible. We stayed with friends in Salamanca, right in the heart of Madrid and since we only had two days here, we wanted to hit the ground running!

We dropped our bags and bike box (sigh of relief) and headed around the corner to a coffee shop for a quick croissant and cappuccino. I NEVER drink coffee (this was in fact my first cappuccino) and for some reason, after having drunk most of that cup all I wanted to do was lie down! What?! So, we weighed our options and decided to head back, get an hour of shut-eye and THEN hit the ground running… An hour of shut-eye turned into 2.5 and we didn’t get out the door until 2 at which point we deliriously shuffled over to the Thyssen museum. I have yet to look at the pictures we took on our stroll to the museum, but I have to assume they were pretty amusing because I don’t remember much of that part of the walk!

Happily, that 2-hour nap was all we needed to get us on Spain-time. We enjoyed some Paella with our hosts the first night and then the following day some botanical gardens, more croissants, the Palacio Real, more gardens, the Palacio Cristal (pictured) and a great inter-continental dinner again with our hosts to complete our trip in Madrid (another sigh of relief). I may be able to race triathlons full-time, but being a tourist for the better part of a day is EXHAUSTING. Before we knew it, we were headed to Gijon, Spain! USAT chartered a couple of buses to take their athletes from the Madrid airport to the northern coastal town of Gijon – about a 6 hour bus ride. Our bus route was as if we were driving through rural parts of the U.S. It started with open agricultural plains, followed by rolling hills, and then a mean, winding dissent to the coast. During this dissent, we hit a 5-minute tunnel that ventured through the base of a mountain and it spit us out into an entirely different climate. We went from dry, sunny and hi-80s to wet, socked-in fog and hi-50s!

We arrived in Gijon around 7:30pm, dropped our bags and immediately got some food. While Spain’s schedule normally consists of 9:30-10:00 dinners, today, mine did not! I wanted some food and then sleep! I woke up this morning, met with the USAT coach and a few other elite athletes and headed out for a little course inspection.

The course: 10km run, 43.2km bike, 5km run. Being an ITU-style (draft legal) race, the course’s main focus is being spectator-friendly. With that, there are 4 – 2.5km loops for the first run; 8 – 5.4km loops for the bike; 2 – 2.5km loops for the final run. Talk about being dizzy after all those loops! On top of that, the transition area is on a 400m outdoor velodrome track where the race starts, continues through, and ends!

The specifics: The runs will be flat and fast with only one out-and-back per lap. The only variable is that the out-and-back will be on 50 meters of cobblestones! The bike is slightly long but also flat and fast. What will make this portion of the race interesting is whether it rains Friday night, and how much?! There are a few technical turns and one out-and-back each lap so with a little added water to the course, this could make for an interesting ride..! If you're interested in more info regarding the Duathlon World Championships, click here.

I’m feeling good about the course and about my fitness. Barring any disaster, I’m ready to have a big race! Most of all, I’m proud to be wearing red, white and blue this weekend!

Thanks for checking in, talk soon.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Road to DuaWorld: Series Finale, Part 4

Hey All,

With much anticipation, this is the final chapter of the The Road to DuaWorlds mini series! Thank you all for bearing these LONG entries! Enjoy and I'll see you on the other side!

The Road to DuaWorlds, Series Finale Part 4

My road to DuaWorlds continued this past week with a few solid training sessions, followed by my last road race before I took off for Europe. Again, my emphasis was on fine-tuning my run fitness, in addition to maximizing my level of comfort in an aggressive bike pack.

I’m no stranger to pack riding, as I’ve included these types of rides in my overall training regimen since the beginning. This type of riding can be like a game of Chess: each rider having to predict another riders’ tactics in addition to using tactics of their own. In order to be in a position to both predict and execute, one must ride towards the front, always aware, putting out a solid effort the entire time. In draft-legal races, like DuaWorlds, there are constant attacks and attempted break-aways. At this race in particular, preventing this from happening is crucial because it’s only a 5k run, not a 10k off the bike. As such, I’ve become a student of group riding as of late, so there won’t be any surprises come Saturday.

On Wednesday, I had my last solid track session before heading to Europe. It was another track-trainer BRICK: 3k run @ sub-5:10 pace; 16 minute TT with 4x30 second pick-ups during the TT; off and run 1,500 at 5k race pace. I felt smooth and comfortable during the 3k, knocking off 74-76’s per lap. I jumped on the bike and was able to locate that rhythm, even despite the 4x30 second pickups which jacked my heart rate. I got off the bike and powered through the 1,500. I hit the tape at 4:29, more or less the pace I want to be hitting come DuaWorlds! This was yet another confidence building speed-work session, just ahead of my Huntington Beach 10k.

Saturday rolled around and I was ready for a race! My legs felt OK and I was looking forward to putting up a good 10k effort. The gun went off and once again, I found myself racing the lead biker along PCH. I hit the 5k turn-around point at 16:00 and wasn’t too pleased with that time. Heading back against traffic, I decided to put in some consistent surges to keep the pace honest. I hit the tape around 31:30, negative splitting the 5k’s – 16:00 to 15:30. I felt better after the race than I did prior and better after this race than I had after any of my previous four races! And if that wasn’t enough, I won a nice little $150 prize, which subsequently helped fund my taking out the in-laws for a pancake breakfast.

Looking back on the last 5 or so weeks of training, I can come away with a few thoughts. For one, I stuck to the program my coach and I created and I feel great. I feel ready to take on the world’s best duathletes and ready to even surprise of few! Two, reconnecting with regular road races has been quite beneficial, not only physically but also mentally. Physically because I feel my running is at a place where it used to be and where I want it to be going forward. Mentally because it is what I used to do and what I used to love by itself before triathlons. With adding the swimming and biking, I lost touch with my original passion, but having found it again over the last several weeks, I feel rejuvenated and back to my old self! On the 24th, I’m going to give them hell in Gijon and I dare any of them to step up!

Thanks for all the support, as usual. I will check in with you all once I touch down in Gijon! Talk soon.


Friday, September 16, 2011

The Road to DuaWorlds Mini Series: Part 3

We meet again!

I have for your enjoyment the 3rd of 4 installments of the mini series - The Road to DuaWorlds! I've had a lot of fun producing these entries and hope you all enjoy them as well! Without further adieu..

The Road to DuaWorlds, Part 3

This past week I started off with a Labor Day race in San Pedro called Conquer the Bridge 3. It was a 5.3 mile out-and-back race over the Vincent-Thomas Bridge. For those who are unaware of this bridge, the center point is much higher than either ends, making it a very interesting location at which to hold a race!

Considering I had raced a fast 3-miler two days prior, I wasn’t looking to necessarily blitz this run, but rather see what I could do on tired legs. During warm-up I recognized a guy whom I had raced against earlier this summer. In our previous race, I was able to out-sprint Juan and he was not happy about it. Based on the looks he was giving me during warm-up, he clearly wanted to return the favor. Coincidentally enough, he was also last year’s champion and the course record holder for this race!

The gun went off and we found each other at the front in no time. Going up and over the bridge on the way out, every time I attempted to run on his shoulder, he proceeded to slowly veer in my direction, eventually pinning me up against the cones or the side of the bridge. I would then have to stutter step and bounce around him to his other side. Sure enough, he would veer in that direction! After experiencing this three or four times I said to him, “Juan, you’re swerving, pal!” He responded with a grunt and continued on with a little less swerving.

We reached the turn-around point and headed back up and over the bridge. At this point, I didn’t want him to think that I was a one-dimensional, “sit and kick” runner, based on our last encounter. At about 200 meters from the tallest point of the bridge, I put-on an enormous surge and he covered NONE of it. It was so big in fact that I quickly thought I may have bitten off more than I could chew! The top couldn’t come fast enough but once I got there, I glanced back and saw that I had opened up a 50 meter lead. I experienced a brief sigh of relief as I hit the downward section of the bridge. From there the race was in the bag and I wound up crossing the line in 28:09, a 30 second margin of victory over the swerving Juan. As if this victory wasn’t sweet enough, I also broke Juan’s course record by 13 seconds! This race was yet another confidence building, run-sharpening feat that is setting me up nicely for DuaWorlds.

After this run I had a solid week of training and followed it up with a 10k race in Studio City on Sunday. I didn’t know what to expect for this race as far as competition or the course was concerned. When I got my hands on a map on race morning, I was amazed! This course was like a pinball machine – riddled with 180 degree turns! I stuck with my plan to race nonetheless. The gun went off and I was immediately alone, trying to keep pace with the Mini Cooper leading us out. The victory was in the bag but I wasn’t here for the victory. I didn’t care about winning this race; I cared about the workout and using this race as a sharpening tool for DuaWorlds. With that, I pressed on as if someone was hot on my heels. I lost count but I believe there were 8 or 10, 180 degree turns which took the wind out of my sail every time. I crossed the line 33-mid, pleased with the solo-effort I put forth, despite a slower than normal time. A race official approached me after the race and mentioned that in respect to “normal” 10k’s, this race was about 3 minutes longer due to the myriad turn-around’s. Good news!

I have one more race – a 10k in Huntington Beach – the day before I head to Spain. This one is supposed to be fast and full of competition! It will be a great send off!

There was a piece written about my win at the Conquer the Bridge 3 run in the Daily Breeze. It's equipped with a few pics as well. If you're interested, check out the Daily Breeze article here. The FINAL CHAPTER of this riveting mini series will be posted Saturday night, maybe Sunday morning! I know I know, you're on the edge of your seat.. Only a few days away!

Thank you all for checking in. Talk soon!


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Road to DuaWorlds Mini Series: Part 2

Hello again!

Below is the second installment in my 4-Part Mini Series, The Road to DuaWorlds. Again, disregard any and all dates, for these are entries over the last several weeks. Enjoy!

The Road to DuaWorlds, Part 2

Over the last several days, I have really shelved the swim and have focused much more on cycling and running. On Tuesday, I found myself setting up my bike trainer at the UCLA track in preparation for a multiple-round BRICK workout. The workout: 3 x (12min bike, off and run 1,200 for time) - descend the 1,200s. Each 12 minute bike session consisted of a variation of hard-effort intervals. For example, 6 min strong, 1 min easy, 5 min strong. The purpose was to try and simulate the volatile pacing that goes on in a pack in a draft-legal race.

Amidst the fellow track goers, there were the entire UCLA cross country team and home run king, Barry Bonds. Particularly due to the presence of the X-country team, I really had to show them what this veteran could do, and that I did!

I popped off a 3:32 for the first 1,200 (just outside of 4:40 mile pace) and felt pretty good despite some tight calves from the 5k two days prior. Because this was a workout for a duathlon, I hopped right back on the bike and into round 2. On the next 1,200 I hit 3:30 (right on 4:40 mile pace) and still felt good. By this time, I had the attention of not only the cross country team but also Mr. Bonds. Onto the final round, I was starting to feel the late morning heat and the pressure of trying to descend lower than 3:30! I hit the last 1,200 surprisingly fresh and with about 200 to go, I received some words of encouragement from BLB himself - "come on now, push it! Pick it up!" I stopped the watch at 3:26, right in front of the Bruins. While they couldn't see the time on my watch, they knew I was moving and frankly, I saw a little intimidation in their eyes...not really, but maybe...!

I was really pleased at the result of this workout because that's about as close to a duathlon as I can get and even on the third 1,200 I still had some juice in the ol' pistons!

Today, I found myself in the Orange County Great Park for the Kevin Cook "5k". Quotations are needed because it was more in the range of 2.93 to 2.99 miles, as opposed to 3.1, according to the race director. The gun went off and immediately a three-man group was formed up front. The mile markers were a bit ambiguous so we didn't exactly know quite how fast we were going. With about a half-mile to go, the pace picked up significantly and before I knew it we were into our final sprint in what was a very odd, S-bend finishing shoot - a sharp turn to the right and then a sharp turn to the left.. They could've just gone straight. Seriously, the grounds permitted it! In any event, I was able to out-kick one guy and narrowly missed the other. I think the biggest thing was that he got around the last turn first and therefore had the upper hand. He and I crossed the line within the same second, 13:53. Because the course fell in the 2.95 mile range, the mileage averaged out to about 4:43s! I knew we were rolling but not quite that fast!

My running legs are slowly starting to appear..! Looking forward to continued progress on the Road to DuaWorlds!

Part 3 will come some time in the next couple of days and the final Part of this mini series will follow my last tune-up race in Huntington Beach on Saturday.

Thanks for checking in, talk soon!


Monday, September 12, 2011

4 Part Series: The Road to DuaWorlds

Hey Everyone!

Over the last three weeks or so, I have completely dropped the ball on keeping you all up to date on my training and racing. Many apologies! I am currently in a training block in preparation for the Duathlon World Championships on Sept. 25 in Gijon, Spain. As a result, I have lessened my swimming to 2 or 3 times per week and have mainly focused on fine-tuning my run and bike. The biking has consisted of some quality workouts, tempo efforts and various group rides. The running has consisted of numerous BRICKs, tempo runs, and a bunch of road races. During this time, I have kept a log or a journal if you will of my workouts and races. Why I didn't do this on my blog evades me..! In the following entries, please disregard the dates, for they are inaccurate since these sessions may or may not have occurred a few weeks ago. Enjoy!

The Road to DuaWorlds, Part 1

Yesterday I went to do my ride with fellow triathletes, Sean Jefferson and Omar Nour on PCH starting out at the parking lot at Malibu Canyon and PCH. What I thought was plenty of time to arrive (supposed to meet at 3pm, left house at 2:15) clearly wasn't as I spent the next hour in bumper to bumper traffic!

Sean and Omar were traveling back from Oceanside having swum in an open water race and they too were caught in the Saturday afternoon traffic though about a 1/2 mile ahead of me coincidentally enough. The traffic was so bad - multiple car accidents coupled with beautiful beach weather - we decided to pull over and park at the 22000 "block" of PCH, about 1 mile South of La Salsa.

We rode north from there and I was anticipating a moderate 2-hour ride with wattage in the mid-2's and cadence above 90. Oh was I wrong. They wanted to do a pace-line workout that their coach had given them which entailed: 20min warmup - 3 x (20min pace-line @ 300+ watts, 10min recover) - 20min cool down. While they didn't want to ride that hard and we therefore all agreed NOT to ride that hard, we rode that hard, and then some! The warmup turned into 30 minutes, the wind began to howl, and I definitely did not bring enough nutrition for a ride like this! To add insult to injury, we finished our final 20min pace-line heading South, just North of Zuma beach, which meant our cool down was a lot longer than 20min and not flat by any means! At the very least, we had the wind at our backs which was a big plus. To give you an idea of the intensity of this wind, heading North in our pace-line we averaged 18-20mph. Heading South in our pace-line we averaged 29-31mph!!

Needless to say, my legs were shot by the time we got back to the cars, a good 2 1/2 hours and 45 miles later! As a result, I had an early dinner and hit the pillow at 9ish in prep for my 4:30 wake up time to head out to Ventura for the first of 5 road races in what I like to call The Road to Duathlon Worlds.
The 5k race started at 7:15 but I had to register the morning of, which meant I needed to be there by 6am in order to beat the line of other 'registration slackers'. As expected, the race wasn't anything special and the field consisted of a few hundred moms and grandmas. By my speculation, the course was a little long and absolutely terrible footing. The first 2k was two loops around a landfill which was used as the parking lot. I stumbled twice and quasi-rolled ankles twice but to no avail pressed on and hit the tape at 15:27 - 4:57s (by my watch).

I'm feeling pretty good right now, despite yesterday's painful ride. I also ran the race in trainers. For the first time in a while I felt good getting out there and naturally pushing myself to try and keep pace with the bike leader. Quite a nostalgic feeling dating back to my Cate School days.

I will post the other parts of this series over the next couple of days. I don't want to flood the internet with such good stuff..I want to space it out..! Ha!

Thanks for checking in, talk soon!