Saturday, December 30, 2006

training round-up, week ending 12-30-06

so this was recovery week, and a 10-day trip to visit the folks. i pretty much did piddly-doo. which was expected and planned. i needed a rest, even though i'm still having anxiety attacks wondering if i'm losing all the conditioning i worked so hard to get (yeah, you get this all the time once you go Ironman).

for a couple of days my diet went to all hell, with mostly fried food and fat-rich cakes and desserts. but as is always the case whenever i visit my parents, my overall caloric intake went down, so i probably ended up losing some weight. so maybe it'll be all right in the end. we'll see.

sunday, dec. 17

  • brick: stationary bike, 30 minutes + treadmill, 30 minutes (easy), aerobic conditioning (zone 2)
  • weight training (chest, shoulders, abs), 20 minutes, immediately following

monday, dec. 18

rest day

tuesday, dec. 19

  • treadmill (easy), 45 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 2)
  • weight training (back, abs), 30 minutes, immediately following

wednesday, dec. 20

rest day

thursday, dec. 21

rest day

friday, dec. 22

rest day

saturday, dec. 23

rest day

Friday, December 29, 2006

too much exercise? over-reaching and over-training

these people have no idea:

basically, the gist of the article is that too much exercise results in injuries and that researchers argue because of this exercise should be limited to 12 hours per week.

12 hours per week.

that's all?!?!

they sure haven't been talking to any triathletes i know. or, for that matter, any athletes in general i know.

i'd be ecstatic if i could get my coach to let me go with 12 hours per week.

i don't know anybody in sports who's working with a limit of 12 hours per week. in fact, i'd guarantee that 12 hours is a minimum, and that if they went under 12 they'd be suffering major losses in conditioning and health.

this article is one of those health & fitness pieces that drives me nuts, and which i find in equal parts humorous, frustrating, and disappointing.

it's humorous because a few years ago i probably would have accepted it as gospel, and with everybody else who read the article i would have run off and adjusted my workout routine to match it without questioning its reasoning or premise. more than this, i would have cited it as authoritative fact to every random stranger, friend, or relative within earshot. after all, like everybody else, i look at it as a product of a reputable and well-known news source (CNN), and so view it as having legitimacy (or at least more legitimacy than some other sources you might find on the internet).

it's frustrating, because the article greatly over-simplifies a very complex issue, and because of the over-simplification ends up issuing a broad solution that is excessively general. the article introduces an apparent trend of increasing injuries from people who are engaged in exercise, and then refers to sources that indicate most of the injuries occurring with people who engage in exercise above a certain time period (12 hours), and that there's diminishing fitness returns beyond 12 hours per week because of such injuries. based on this apparently simple connection, it construes the basic logical conclusion that (voila!) the injuries will be reduced if people kept to a general limit of exercise under 12 hours.

while logical, it's an over-simplified distortion. just because there's a correlation between the level of exercise and the number of injuries does not mean there's a direct relationship (i.e., it does not mean that exercise causes injuries). this is because there may be other conceivable variables at play in determining the relationship between extended exercise and injuries. what about subjects' age? background in physical activity? understanding of exercise and training? current level of health? history of health and injuries? nature of exercise? these are all potentially influential variables that are readily apparent on a superficial introductory survey of the article and exercise science in general. they're what researchers would label as alternative causal factors--alternative causes of the results in question (injuries).

as a result, the edict of a 12-hour weekly limit on exercise is excessively general. while it may certainly address the problem of injury, it may not really address the true cause of the problem, such as improper training methods, mistakes in exercise, pre-exisiting health problems, endemic vulnerability to injury, etc. more than this, it denies the possibility that more specific and appropriate solutions to injury exist that allow people to adjust the benefit incurred vs. time exercising balance enough to justify exceeding the 12-hour time limit. in other words, that with solutions targeting the actual problems of injury, it eliminates the diminishing returns over the 12-hour ceiling produced by those injuries, and hence makes it easier to justify pursuit of added fitness gains found by training more.

the article is also disappointing, because it is actually partially right. too much exercise in too little time with too little preparation and too little recovery will definitely result in injury. but this doesn't mean that people should stop exercising, or that they should ever limit themselves. what the article should have done is to recommend that people get better educated about how to take on more exercise over a proper period of time using proper preparation with proper recovery.

every seriously dedicated athlete i know follows a very clear, specific, and organized training schedule that sets workouts with definitive purposes on a plan that recognizes each athlete's background, goals, current level of fitness, and current need for building conditioning or skills or taking time for rest. almost every one of those plans regularly rises to more than 12 hours per week in a way that avoids injury. and every athlete--and every sport--recognizes that there are worthwhile (and in some ways necessary) fitness gains to be found in training more than 12 hours per week. in Ironman, for example, triathletes regularly put in 20-24 hour training weeks just to improve their chances of finishing the 140.6 mile distance of the race (professionals who actually compete in Ironmans for time actually put in more).

there are fitness gains worth having that can be obtained beyond the 12-hour per week barrier, and that can be had without injury. rather than issuing an over-generalized 12-hour limit, the article should have focused on 2 more useful concepts related to injury risk that are more widely accepted within the sports medicine and exercise science community of research: over-reaching and over-training.
  • over-reaching: over-reaching is the condition where a person attempts to perform workouts that are beyond the body's current ability to accomplish them. done properly, over-reaching is part of every workout, in the sense that a person improves by engaging in activity greater than what their body is used to, pushing the body to adapt by improving its capacities. however, done improperly, over-reaching exposes the body to risk of injury, in that it will induce serious tears or ruptures in muscles, tendons, ligaments, or bone.
  • over-training: over-training is the state where a person is pushing their body so hard (either in volume or intensity) in training that they have overwhelmed their body's ability to recover. biologically, this causes a deterioration in the body at the cellular level, with mitochondria in the body's cells literally distintegrating, reducing the ability to produce energy or repair cellular decay. the result is chronic fatigue, weakness, or even systemic failure. it also leaves the body susceptible to over-reaching and concomitant risk of injury.
these are actually medically recognized and researched subjects that have become pretty big topics as athletes have continued to push the boundaries of what has been previously perceived notions of human physical limits. some useful (and more basic) references are:
what's important to observe about over-reaching and over-training is that they are not inevitable. they can be managed. they can be treated. more importantly, they can be prevented and avoided. all it takes is knowledge, sensitivity to body signals, diligence in following training guidelines, careful scheduling of workout and recovery, and proper nutrition. if dealt with properly, sports medicine has shown that risk of injury can be reduced, and that people can thereby pursue exercise to achieve greater fitness goals.

this makes the 12-hour limit posited by the CNN piece needlessly arbitrary, and in many ways a disservice to audience members who could benefit from more exercise. the danger is not from exercise done excessively; the danger is from exercise done improperly. a more nuanced approach would have provided CNN readers with a better grasp as to the factors that are involved in injury during exercise, a better explanation as how injuries arise, and a thereby better way of dealing with the risk that is more accurate and beneficial to physical fitness.

lord knows, looking around at all the bellies and rear ends jiggling on the streets, this society sure could use it.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

the ironman card

contrary to what some people might think, being an athlete doesn't really score much points with the opposite sex.

seriously, it doesn't.

oh sure, yeah, you see football players and basketball players and some athletes from some select random sports rolling in groupies and flesh and bodies just being thrown at them in every conceivable manner of bacchanalia.

but those guys aren't getting action simply because they're just athletes. they're getting play because they're affiliated with big-time big-name big-profile programs, which means that they're benefiting from a halo of something so many people desire most: g-l-a-m-o-u-r. the sense of being around someone (or something) famous, meaning you're famous just being around that someone (or something) famous, meaning you're the epicenter of attention, meaning you're as important as your secret inner megalomaniac really desires to be.

athletes who aren't tied to big-time big-name big-profile programs are in another class. in a way, given the nature of glamour, they might as well be in another country. in some ways, it even feels like another another another life...with nobody around.

it's funny to me, because like most other men one of the reasons i got into sport was for girls.

i'm not alone. ask any man. we all want that aura of physical superiority, that air that we're somehow different and better, that vibe that yes, we are that good and that baaaaaaad. and we want this for one main reason: girls. to impress them. to get them. to get them to like us. and if we're really lucky, to do a little more than just like us.

it's funny, because it's ended up not being the case.

it's funny, because there are no girls.

get it?

ha ha ha. quite a joke, yeah? guess who the joke's on? ha ha ha!

you see, i happen to be in a sport that gets absolutely no attention and has absolutely no profile and offers absolutely no name-brand recognition and features absolutely no publicly identifiable heroes. in fact, most people don't even know it exists. and if they do, they couldn't even identify what it involves or who is involved in it. i chose a sport called triathlon.

so guess what this means when me and the guys stroll around trolling for girls?

nothing. nada. zip. zilch. zero.

we get a lot of blank stares, quizzical looks, polite smiles. sometimes we don't even get that. sometimes we get the "i'm ignoring you...and if i ignore you long enough, you'll go away."

and you'd think that by joining the ranks of the one segment of triathlon that does have some level of name awareness--Ironman--that this might change. after all, for most people Ironman is the first thing that comes into their minds when you mention triathlon. and most athletes (and most of the people who follow athletics) know and recognize Ironman. and anybody who knows anything about sports in general concedes about the level of difficulty and hardship involved with Ironman. meaning, you'd think that as an Ironman i'd be the man. the player. just overwhelmed with the ladies.

but it's not that way. it's not what you'd think.

in fact, it's quite the opposite.

most of a triathlete's life--especially an Ironman's life--is in a near-perpetual state that is best described as ascetic. if you're training, and training seriously, and particularly if you're training seriously for competition, your life as a triathlete is one of rigid schedules, fixed times, filled hours, and austere time management. as a triathlete, each day you wake up before the sun to get your workout, you chase some time to get your meals, you obsess over training volume and intensity, you become neurotic over recovery and nutrition, you become hypersensitive to scheduling work and school and training sessions (and not in that order), you hurry to cram in a second afternoon or evening workout, and then you religiously crawl into bed as early as possible to get your required sleep, to begin it all again the very next day.

there's not much time in there for hanging out, chilling with friends, or chasing after girls and getting digits and e-mail and photos and Facebook profiles. which means there's not much action, and there's very little play.

if anything, being an Ironman is in all truth a very lonely, very quiet, very strenuous life confined by the necessity, discipline, and desire to commit to doing things most other people would not do, to sacrificing things most other people would not surrender, for a goal that most other people do not have.

and you might think that maybe by being an athlete--even an Ironman--you get to meet girls who are also athletes--and even Ironwomen. and you might think that if the guys are amazing physical specimens, then we can only imagine what the girls are like.

but that's not the case either.

because there, you see, is the fact that most triathletes, particular those involved with Ironman, are men. there just aren't that many women in the sport. you can just see it at the races. it's mostly guys. it's just not something that seems to appeal to girls.

so again, we're left out by ourselves.

i'm afraid the truth of the matter is that girls tend to view us as an oddity. you might even use the word curiousity. you can definitely use the word weird. but then beyond this they'll just stop, and just move on to someone else. and even if they do come around to being with us, they'll eventually leave because they just can't believe how consuming our lives really are.

a buddy of mine who used to be on the swim team and is now a world-class Ironman tells me i have it all wrong. he says the word isn't "oddity," but rather "studly." it's not "curiousity" but "awe-inspiring." it's not "weird" but "overwhelming." he insists that the girls are just intimidated by us and are therefore scared into hanging out with us. he says i'm presenting us all wrong. he says i need to use "the card."

ah yes, the card.

evidently, on the swim team they have something called "the swimmer's card." basically, all that a swimmer has to do to impress a girl is to casually bring up in conversation that they're on the swim team and they'll suddenly find themselves magically elevated to an exalted status of a god. need to make yourself stand out from a group of schmoes glomming onto a potential hottie? tell her you're a swimmer. need to make break that layer of ice and soften things up for conversation? tell her you're a swimmer. need to get yourself a date and moving beyond just this awkward moment of silence? tell her you're a swimmer.

my buddy tells me it's because girls know a swimmer is a very, very, very special physical specimen. they're lean. they're ripped. they can last all night in bed. they're smooth-shaven to the point of kinky. they have a body that looks great in speedos. they are, in short, hot. it doesn't matter how ugly a swimmer is, or how lame their jokes are, or how ugly their face is. if all a girl knows is that a guy's a swimmer, then he's automatically better than anything else she's going to meet tonight, next weekend, or the rest of her life.

the swimmer's card. bring it out for a hook-up near you.

my buddy, who has also become an Ironman, extends this logic to make "the Ironman card."

he tells me that if girls are doing this anytime they know a guy's a swimmer, then imagine what they'll do if they know he's an Ironman. i mean, an Ironman does oodles and oodles more swimming than a typical swimmer, and he does it in conjunction with oodles and oodles more of cycling and running too. and an Ironman is even more lean, and even more ripped. and if a swimmer can go all night, then an Ironman can go all night, all day, through tomorrow, and until the end of the week. and (somehow) an Ironman is even more smooth-shaven, and (somehow) looks better in a whole lot less than speedos. all of which means we're beyond hot. we're freakin' on fire (or, since he's mexican, we're freakin' en fuego).

all we need to do is just to bring out the Ironman card. casually. with aplomb. right in front of her eyes. and then just stand back and let the fireworks begin.

of course, this is about the time i tell my buddy that the reason the swimmer's card works so well at our school is because our university has a world-class swim program, and is world-famous for consistently producing professional and Olympic-caliber swimmers on a yearly basis. it is, in other words, famous. meaning it has g-l-a-m-o-u-r. which goes back to what i said at the start of this post (reference: the start of this post). meaning that girls aren't loving him because of the swimmer's card, they're loving him because he's affiliated with a program that's big-time, big-name, big-profile, and therefore they're bound to be just as big being next to someone like him (reference: the start of this post).

my buddy usually responds to this with a quizzical look, a moment of silence, a little bit of thinking, and then a few muttered words of frustration. after some head-scratching, he'll frown, look down on the ground, hunch over, and then wander away.


because you see, he lost his NCAA eligibility, and is now no longer on the swim team. he's no longer big. now he's just an Ironman. with his Ironman card.

and no girls.

and that's when i shrug, run after him, pat him on the back, and join him as we saunter on down the sidewalk.

it's okay, dude, i always say. there's gots to be some hot chicks around here somewhere. and sooner or later, some of them are actually going to check us out and give us the time of their day.

and yeah, it sucks, don't it?

because you see, contrary to what some people might think, being an Ironman really doesn't score much points with the opposite sex.

Friday, December 22, 2006

training round-up, week ending 12-23-06

this week was a near fiasco.

i'd wanted this to be a final build week that culminated a 4-week cycle heading into a 10-day recovery period over the holidays (coinciding, conveniently enough, with a visit to my parents for Christmas and New Years Day). to that end, i'd wanted to hit 3 "key" or "break-through" workouts: a 3600 meter swim, an 80 mile bike ride, and a fast 10 mile run.

but the following issues occurred:
  • pool closure. they closed lap swimming at MacDonald's stadium because they couldn't find any lifeguards. boooooooooooo!!! this put a MAJOR hole in my training schedule. i managed to get the swim in at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center, but that was after paying $10 for a visit...meaning i paid money for a long swim, since it gave me my money's worth, but i didn't get in the recovery swims, which i just couldn't justify $10 on.
  • track closure. they're resurfacing Loker Track Stadium. double boooooooooooo!!! this freakin' SANK my training schedule, since i'd been planning to use the track for recovery runs and some technique work. i thought about using the Rose Bowl fields as a substitute, but their conditions are HORRIBLE. os basically i lost 2 run workouts. not major. but important.
  • lingering soreness and exhaustion. i am a little puzzled on this. my body periodically does this. i take it as a sign of either over-reaching or over-training. if i push through it or ignore it, i risk going into over-training syndrome--and i've done this and i've been there, and it takes months to get out. i suspect the prior weeks were a little tougher than i thought--or more than i can handle at this point in the training schedule. as a result, i scaled back my plans and nixed the run to rest up for the bike ride...and ended up almost nixing the bike ride too.
  • rain. making the trails muddy. meaning i got an additional excuse not to run. yeah, i know, this is lame. but i figured it wasn't really about rain making the trails too muddy, but really rather about the Ironman gods saying NO RUNNING.
sunday, dec. 17

rest day

monday, dec. 18


  • brick: stationary bike, 30 minutes + treadmill, 15 minutes (recovery), aerobic conditioning (zone 2), lyons center, start time 7am
  • weight training (chest, abs), 45 minutes, immediately following

tuesday, dec. 19

  • long swim (intervals, 3x400m swim, 3x400m pull), 3600 meters, aerobic conditioning & muscular endurance (zone 3), Rose Bowl Aquatic Center, start time 10:30 am

wednesday, dec. 20

rest day

thursday, dec. 21

  • long bike ride (build), 80 miles, muscular endurance (zone 3 & zone 4), Irwindale to Newport Beach and back, start time 9am


  • kung fu (recovery), 30 minutes, Garfield Park, start time 4pm
friday, dec. 22

rest day

saturday, dec. 23

rest day

80-mile bike ride

yesterday was the 80-mile bike ride.

i used a portion of a route i normally follow for a 100-mile bike ride. you can see it at:

if i wanted to go a 100 miles, the route goes from Irwindale (with the start point at the Santa Fe Dam Recreational Area) down to Newport Beach (with the midway point at the Jetty View Park), and then back again. for the 80-mile ride, i ended up just using a turn-around point at Bolsa Chica State Beach. i had an alum who is also training for Ironman as a ride buddy.

originally, i'd intended this ride to be a solid training session focusing on muscular endurance, with a goal of holding an average speed of 18-19 mph over 4-5 hours. essentially, the goal in these kinds of workouts is to develop your muscles' abilities to maintain a certain level of power output (measurable in watts) for a sustained period of time. the specified target numbers reflect steps towards desired performance level over the 112-mile bike leg of an Ironman race. long bike rides later in the training schedule will be longer and faster, but at this stage things are still early enough (14 weeks out) that the training plan is still building distance and speed.

leading into it i'd gotten a little apprehensive, as i was still feeling a certain amount of residual soreness from workouts in previous weeks. it's something that happens to me periodically, and tells me that i've either been over-reaching in training (i.e., doing workouts beyond what my body is capable of at a particular moment in the training cycle) or allowing insufficient recovery time (i.e., not giving my body adequate time or nutrition to rest, rebuild, and grow). my fear was that as a result of the state of my legs i would 1) not get in the desired level of effort i wanted to maximize the training benefits, and 2) push myself into an overtraining state (i.e., working my body or depriving it of rest to an extent that i enter a state of chronic degeneration--literally have the cells in my body start to fall apart).

for all that, i really wanted to stick to my training schedule and i was loathe to cancel a ride that other people were counting on (and had planned around). that, and this is what's considered a "key" or "break-through" workout in the sense that is a crucial turning point (or key point, technically called an "inflection point") in the conditioning curve where an athlete is supposed to enter (or break through) a higher plateau of capability, and so is a workout that CANNOT be missed.

the ride down to the beach wasn't bad. it was hard, but not excruciating, and i was holding to the aerobic/anaerobic barrier involved in muscle endurance workouts. we held to about 20-21 mph. although, it should be made clear, this was on a very long gradual downhill from the foothills in Irwindale to the shoreline at Seal Beach.

the trail itself is good. from Irwindale to Long Beach (Belmont Shores) it follows the San Gabriel River Trail, and so stays off roads and traffic. from there, it follows Pacific Coast Highway, which has a wide shoulder that easily accommodates cyclists. the only issues are: strong winds at the shoreline (always, there is never a flat wind day, meaning strong headwinds and tailwinds), monotonous riding (the San Gabriel River Trail has some of the most boring scenery you'll ever see), and questionable neighborhoods (the San Gabriel River Trail goes through some seedy areas of town). you don't want to do this ride alone, because it's entirely possible for things to happen to you on this route and that nobody will ever know. i've done it solo, multiple times...but i don't recommend it.

the ride back, however, was tough. very tough. we encountered light gusty headwinds, which are no big deal, but are demoralizing when combined with the long gradual uphill back to the start point. we held to about 17-18 mph. although, by the last 10-15 miles i was doing everything i could just to stay about 16 mph.

i attribute my performance to my residual sore state going into the ride, as well as the fact that this is the first really long ride i've had in the training schedule. i expect things to get better...they have to, or i'm going to be in BIG trouble.

it's some consolation that my riding buddy was equally fatigued as i was, and made a pointed comment to me at the end of the ride that he thought "it's a little too early to be riding this long in the training schedule...but that's just my opinion." for all that, he pretty much killed me at the end, pulling away over the last hour to finish 5-10 minutes ahead of me.

i had a total time of 4:45 to cover the 80 miles, although my riding buddy said he had it as 4:28, since we'd stopped several times to hit the toilets. we took his time, since it 1) meant that i pretty much hit my target numbers, and 2) made us feel better about ourselves.

i'm going to monitor my recovery from this ride. i felt pretty weak last night, but that's to be expected. today i felt remarkably better, and a lot of the residual soreness i had going into the ride now seems to be gone. although, having said that, my legs are still weak. given my experiences training for last year's Ironman, i'm going to take a lot more care to avoid the overtraining zone and make sure i allow the recovery time to lock in the training gains from these kinds of key workouts.

from here on out, it's only faster and farther.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

the holiday spirit

Modified from original written for the USC Triathlon Newsletter 12-16-06:

We hope you're all having fun as you head off for the winter break. We may be hard. Airport lines, traffic jams, shopping chaos. Irate air travel, boiling road rage, seething mall crawls. And the obligatory stare-downs, shoulder jostles, and muttered cursing. It's enough to ruin a holiday meant for good spirits and relaxation. It's a wonder you don't spend your days wishing everyone the Hawaiian good luck sign (you know, the one known to the ancient Romans as digitus impudicus).

As tempting as it may be to show everyone your personal expression of the holiday aloha spirit, you should know that it probably won't change anything--or make anything better. Sure, it'll make you feel better NOW...up until the point the confrontation escalates and you find yourself in a fistfight for a parking spot at the Glendale Galleria (Editor's Note: this was seen between 2 women on the 2nd level off the Brand Blvd. entrance, one a driver of a Mercedes, the other the driver of a Lexus...go figure...).

Truth of the matter is, you have little ability to control the actions of strangers, particularly ones you only see in passing. The only thing you can really do is control yourself. You can control your own behavior; you can control your actions--hopefully in ways that better the lives of the people around you, particularly those closest to your life.

And in part, this is probably what this time of year is supposed to be about.
Bringing the spirit of ohana to strengthen and tie together our respective families, sharing our hearts so that we confirm the relationships that mean the most to us, and never forgetting the things that are most important in this universe. In furtherance of these goals, we take stock of things at the end of one year as we face another, take quiet time to reflect in the long darkness of the winter nights, take remembrance of the souls most dear to us, and take once more our commitment to make a better world... even if it is just our own.

In the spirit of the holiday season, check out some links:

Baby, It's Cold Outside:
My Best Friend:
Auld Lang Syne:
Love Train:
My Heart Will Go On:
Burning Love:
My Name is Inigo Montoya:

Saturday, December 16, 2006

training round-up, week ending 12-16-06

this week was continuing the build into the winter break. i skipped the long weekend run to fit in a long swim. thank god, they had the olympic pool set up to 50 meter long-course (you have no idea how mind-numbingly insane it is to crank out long swim sets in a 25 yard pool).

my legs were still a little sore from the prior week. i'm having to manage this situation, since i have some pretty big breakthrough workouts planned for next week.

there were 2 issues this week:
  • reduced hours at the lyons center for winter break (opening at 7am instead of 6am), which eliminated an hour's worth of training time each morning. that's a lot. but since the semester was over, i was able to finish later without having to worry too much about getting anywhere in the mornings
  • the closing of the track, which eliminated the track workouts i'd been hoping to get in. this was somewhat manageable, since i didn't really have a track workout scheduled, and i was able to do a maintenance run on a treadmill, but it does make for some concerns regarding loss in conditioning
sunday, dec. 10


  • long swim (descending long intervals), 3600 meters, aerobic conditioning & muscular endurance (zone 3 & zone 4), macdonald's swim stadium, start time 11am

monday, dec. 11


  • elliptical trainer (recovery), 15 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 2), lyons center, start time 7am
  • weight training (chest, abs), 45 minutes, immediately following


  • kung fu (active rest), 60 minutes, cromwell field, start time 5pm

tuesday, dec. 12

rest day

wednesday, dec. 13


  • stationary bike (build ride), 45 minutes, muscular endurance (zone 3 & zone 4), lyons center, start time 7am
  • weight training (abs), 30 minutes, immediately following
  • kung fu (cool-down), 30 minutes, immediately following


  • swim (intervals), 1200 yards, technique (zone 3 & zone 4), macdonald's swim stadium, start time 2:30pm

thursday, dec. 14


  • treadmill (intervals), 30 minutes, anaerobic conditioning (zone 3 & zone 4), lyons center, start time 7am
  • weight training (legs, lower back), 60 minutes, immediately following

friday, dec. 15


  • elliptical trainer (recovery), 15 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 2), lyons center, start time 7am
  • weight training (chest, shoulders, abs), 30 minutes, immediately following

saturday, dec. 16


  • kung fu (active rest, some anaerobic conditioning), casuda canyon park, start time 10:30 am

Monday, December 11, 2006

training round-up, week ending 12-09-06

so things continue to pick up. the trail run this week was a lot faster than i'd planned, and just about damn near killed me. joy.

there was a slight hitch with the pool being closed in the mornings. this put a rather sizable hole into my workout schedule, since i'd planning on this being a swim week...which means i'm going to have to make up for it later. joy.

sunday, dec. 3


  • trail run (weekly long run), 10 miles, muscular endurance (zone 3 & zone 4), rose bowl arroyo trail, start time 8:30 am

monday, dec. 4


  • stationary bike (recovery ride), 30 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 2), lyons center, start time 6am
  • weight training (abs, back), 45 minutes, immediately following


  • kung fu (active rest), 60 minutes, cromwell field, start time 5pm

tuesday, dec. 5

rest day

wednesday, dec. 6


  • stationary bike (build ride), 60 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 2 & zone 3), lyons center, start time 6am
  • weight training (abs), 30 minutes, immediately following


  • swim (continuous), 3000 yards, muscular endurance (zone 3 & zone 4), macdonald's swim stadium, start time 2:30pm

thursday, dec. 7


  • elliptical trainer (recovery), 30 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 2), lyons center, start time 6am
  • weight training (chest, legs, lower back), 60 minutes, immediately following

friday, dec. 8


  • stationary bike (build ride), 100 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 2 & zone 3), lyons center, start time 6am
  • weight training (abs), 30 minutes, immediately following


  • run (recovery), 15 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 2), cromwell field, start time 5pm
  • kung fu (active rest), 30 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 2), immediately following

saturday, dec. 9


  • kung fu (active rest), casuda canyon park, start time 10:30 am

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Santa Lucia

Written for the USC Triathlon Newsletter 12-07-06:

We live in a world seemingly driven by competition. We compete for grades. We compete for jobs. We compete for pay. We compete on the road in rush hour traffic, we compete for dates for a night on the town. We compete to get benefits, entitlements, the attention of loved ones, recognition and rewards. We even compete in sports.

And with competition comes the primal emotions of the human struggle: aggression, ruthlessness, malice, rage, ferocity, pride, vanity, ambition, obsession, brutality. The darkest aspects of our psyche, evolved through the millenia in the ultimate competition for survival. And in the chaotic milieu of the human race, they often grow to consume us, until our lives seem to be nothing more than our most primitive selves.

The Vikings thought this way once. They lived it. For theirs was a worldview driven by the maxim: "The gods are doomed and the end is death." Given the promised apocalypse of Ragnarok, the only life was the life lived now, the only rewards were the rewards taken now, the only treasures were the treasures seized now. They lived their lives as the supreme competition for survival. And their brutality and ferocity were renowned.

Somewhere along the way, however, they changed. Sometime after their conversion to Christianity, their worldview gradually shifted to one of hope, and to a promise of better things. Part of this was the adoption of a peculiarly Sicilian tradition of Santa Lucia. In the Scandinavian permutation of Santa Lucia, girls dressed in white and wearing crowns of lit candles arose in the darkness on December 13 to deliver food to friends and families as well as the starving and the poor. In Sweden, the festival of Santa Lucia was (and still is) taken as an expression of charity and compassion. Symbolically, it is also meant to be the act of bringing light to the earth upon the darkest day of the year.

In many ways, on so many levels, Santa Lucia is entirely antithetical to the ancient Viking way. But this is perhaps by design. Because the Vikings realized that the only thing competition had gotten them was blood and death. They realized that life had to be more than just primal emotions and primitive psyche. They realized that it had to be about other things, like dignity and compassion. Because a life lived by words such as aggression, ruthlessness, or brutality is a life lived in darkness, and a life lived in darkness is pointless. Because what people need during the darkest times in our lives isn't more blood and death and promises of destruction, but a sense that things can get better--not to deny the reality of this world as it is, but to show the potential of the world as it can be. In short, what people need is hope.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

training round-up, week ending 12-02-06

still a little sick from last week, but definitely feeling a whole lot better. i don't even want to talk about what i was coughing up. and my voice sounded like the ghost of puberty all over again.

but i felt good enough to step things up a little:

sunday, nov. 26

  • trail run (weekly long run), 9 miles, aerobic conditioning (zone 2 & zone 3), rose bowl arroyo trail, start time 9 am
monday, nov. 27

  • weight training (abs), 30 minutes
tuesday, nov. 28

  • track workout (intervals, 6x800s), anaerobic conditioning (zone 3 & zone 4), cromwell field, start time 6pm
  • weight training (chest), 15 minutes, cromwell field, immediately following
wednesday, nov. 29

  • stationary bike (build ride), 60 minutes, muscular endurance (zone & zone 3), lyons center, start time 6am
  • weight training (legs & abs), 30 minutes, immediately following
  • kung fu (active rest), 60 minutes, cromwell
thursday, nov. 30

  • swim (intervals, 8x200s), 2800 yards, aerobic & anaerobic conditioning (zone 3 & zone 4), macdonald's swim stadium, start time 6am
  • weight training (chest & shoulders), 30 minutes, lyons center, immediately following
friday, dec. 1

  • stationary bike (build ride), 80 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 2), lyons center, start time 6am
  • weight training (abs), 30 minutes, immediately following
  • run (recovery), 15 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 2), cromwell field, start time 6pm
  • kung fu (active rest), 45 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 2), immediately following

saturday, dec. 2

  • kung fu (active rest), casuda canyon park, start time 10:30 am

Thursday, November 30, 2006

sometimes people change

Written for the USC Triathlon Newsletter 11-30-06:

Sometimes people change.

Oh, we know. Your parents told you people never change. They said so very clearly when you started hanging out with the "bad boy" down the street (or *became* the bad boy down the street...but that's another story). They even told you the fables--the ones about leopards not changing their spots and scorpions not changing their nature.

But sometimes people change.

They change because of things that happen in their lives. Because of days that pass, people they lose, things that happen. Because of years lived, relationships endured, lessons learned. They change because of the journey that is life and living and wear and tear of mileage run beneath their feet. They change because the distance leaves a mark and memory of age and sight and sound and emotion stretching as long as the evening shadows of the longest day of the longest trail of the greatest vistas spread out beneath creation's great sky extending beyond reason into infinite. They change, because underneath the eye of heaven, they can do nothing else but change.

And your parents then gave you the caveat that people can only change when they want to change.

Well, you chose to start a journey. You chose to enter a race. You chose to go to practice and train. You chose to find others like you. You chose to listen to a coach. You chose to suffer and hurt and suffer again. You chose to live outdoors or in a gym, by seasons alternating freezing in the wind or baking beneath the sun. You chose to change.

And you chose all this because deep down, in places that we label in varying degrees your mind, your heart, or your soul, you wanted to change.

And you have changed. You know it. You know you've changed when your coach tells you to run 5 miles and you say "That's all?" You know you've changed when you're looking at a 4-hour hole in your schedule and wondering if you can fit in a 50-mile bike ride. You know you've changed when a 3,000 meter descending swim set in the pool sounds like Sunday recreation. You know you've changed when you look around and look back, and wonder how you ever were the person you were then, and realize that you can't--or don't want--to be that person ever again.

Sometimes, people change.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

training round-up, week ending 11-25-06

i was sick most of this week. boooooooooooo!!!

i ended up taking some more rest days than i would have liked, but i just wasn't feeling well. i missed a long run (i had to cut the sunday trail run short because of headache and fever), and i missed a long swim (i had wanted to get in a continuous 3000 yards, but had to swap it out due to continuing headache and fever).

having said that, i did get in the 60 mile bike ride i'd wanted to get in--and which was by far the most crucial workout this week:

sunday, nov. 19

  • trail run (weekly long run), 5.5 miles, aerobic conditioning (zone 2 & zone 3), Rose Bowl arroyo trail, start time 8 am
monday, nov. 20

  • swim (intervals, 4x400s), 2200 yards, muscular endurance (zone 2 & zone 3), macdonald's swim stadium, start time 6 am
tuesday, nov. 21

sick day (i slept in)

wednesday, nov. 22

sick day

thursday, nov. 23

  • bike ride (long ride), 62 miles, aerobic conditioning (zone 2 & zone 3), santa ana river trail, start time 9 am
friday, nov. 24

sick day

saturday, nov. 25

  • kung fu (active rest), garfield park, start time 9:30 am

Friday, November 24, 2006

getting away on thanksgiving

Written for the USC Triathlon Newsletter 11-24-06:

Yeah, it's Thanksgiving. Yeah, it's Turkey Day. Yeah, your local granola is yelling "meat is murder!" Yeah, it's munch time. Yeah, by now you're stomaches are full, you're sitting languoriously on a couch, you've got leftovers rotting on the counter and a turkey-and-ham sandwich calling your name, and the you never ever want to take a physical movement on this earth again.

Great, isn't it?

Hangin' with the friends and relatives. Sharin' some love at the table. Throwin' victuals to the holiday spirit. And opening up the season for the drive to the end of the year. It's all good and fun and righteous and in some ways downright sanctified, by golly!

But admit it. There's some things about it you just can't stand. The obnoxious relatives. The annoying friends. The bratty kids. The smelly babies. The tensions over cooking food and setting tables and making sure everybody's happy (because, *after all*, we're all going to be HAPPY, even if it means making ourselves miserable doing it)...and God forbid anybody isn't happy....ooooooooh noooooooo, we wouldn't, couldn't, *will not* accept that. Even if the reward for making it through the big meal was a distended abdomen, gastric distress, and the misfortune of being dragged out into the rampage and melee of the Friday holiday shopping spree.

Ah yes, nothing like having a meaningful, spiritual, and deeply reflective time of year anointed and blessed by crass commercialism, obscene gluttony, superficial obsession, and passive-aggressive pathology.

It's enough to make you want to shut everything out and seek some privacy.

You know, solitude. Like the kind you sometimes dread during those early morning and late evening training sessions, but now suddenly find yourself secretly, compulsively, longingly thinking about. Swim, bike, run. With nobody around to bother you.

And all those times you hated being alone. It's all you want now. To get away. Just like you did when you were a kid. Except then it was outside or a playhouse or a treehouse or a shed or a wood or a street or a path, anywhere but somewhere, just someplace, very very...very...far away.... And now it's become a favorite swimming hole or a favorite route or a favorite trail. Miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles from here and today, leading anywhere but somewhere, just someplace, very very...very...far away...

If you're looking for some places to go, these might help:

60 mile bike ride

yesterday was the annual Thanksgiving Day Bike Ride with friends and alumni.

well, actually, it's not quite annual. truth be told, this was the inaugural year. but that's just a minor detail. i figure it'll become annual as long as i'm in Southern California. i figure it's a good way to burn some calories, work up an appetite, and have an excuse to go pig out at the Big Meal later in the day. that, and it was a beautiful day for cycling (72 degree temps, hazy sky, little glare from the sun, and dry).

the plan was to ride 60 miles through some nice cities (at least, nicer than around campus), going from Long Beach down to Huntington Beach and then up to Yorba Linda. you can check out the route at MapMyRun:

there were supposed to be 5 of us. but 1 overslept, and the other couldn't make it because of car trouble. so the remaining 3 of us took off on our own. i almost missed it myself--i got sick a few days ago, and i was NOT feeling this ride, but i figured i'd planned it, organized it, and people were expecting me, so i'd suck it up and go anyway. that, and i'm starting up Ironman training and i can't really afford to postpone bike riding any more.

originally, i had planned on going at a leisurely pace of 16-17 mph. basically, a steady aerobic session. but one my buddies evidently had some place to be and plans with his wife and family, so he ended up pushing the pace and we found ourselves cranking along at 21 mph...that was until we hit the headwinds and found ourselves struggling to maintain 18 mph.

which is fine, except for the winds. the beach communities of Surfside, Bolsa Chica, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach always seem to have a pretty healthy supply of coastal winds. it's a constant breeze blowing either offshore on onshore. given the orientation of the beach, it makes for a constant headwind or tailwind, depending on which way you go. while the terrain is relatively flat, the breeze (sometimes it feels like a gale) makes up for it with a steady dose of slow agony. if you're unfortunate enough to be facing the headwind, you'll find yourself pedaling harder while going slower.

the winds provided a steady tailwind as we turned up the Santa River Trail at the border of Huntington and Newport Beach and started up towards Yorba Linda. of course, this meant that the return ride flew right into the teeth of the onshore breeze, making for some miserable riding until we managed to hit it crosswise making the turn back onto Pacific Coast Highway.

for all that, i kind of enjoy this trail. the Santa Ana River Trail gets you off the road and away from vehicle traffic. It goes through some pretty ritzy beach communities, and even the trip inland goes through decent middle class neighborhoods. this means you get decent sights and a decent ride and a measure of a feeling of safety. this is in stark contrast to some other rides i've taken--like the San Gabriel River Trail and Los Angeles River Trail, which take you through some of the poorest, dirtiest, grimiest, crime-infested neighborhoods you've ever seen, and which leave you with a distinct flavor of depression, grit, and residue of nasty smells.

we rode until we hit the 30 mile mark somewhere past Anaheim Stadium and the Arrowhead Pond, and then turned around. it appears the trail keeps going on out to Corona, and so it probably has some potential as a century ride path for the future. i'll have to keep this in mind for the future (probably very near future). the guy who'd been pushing the pace peeled off to wherever he had to go for Thanksgiving, leaving 2 of us to go back.

i was in zone 2 and zone 3 most of the ride--zone 2 for the stretch where we had tailwind, zone 3 for the stretch where we hit the headwind. i'd originally meant for this to be an aerobic ride, but it ended up becoming a muscular endurance workout. by the time we hit the end of the headwinds on the return ride, my legs were starting to feel weak. i was, as much as i hate to admit it, more than happy to get the tailwind back up to through Bolsa Chica State Beach, and secretly elated to finish the ride.

i haven't done a bike ride this long in a while--apart from the 40 miler a few weeks ago. but it's time to commence training for Ironman, and i needed a quality ride at distance. my condition on this ride kind of highlights where i'm at right now.

we got back with our odometers showing a total distance of 62 miles and total time of 3:20. which means we were averaging around 18 mph. faster than i'd wanted, but good enough for a aerobic/anaerobic threshold workout focusing on muscle endurance, and so still useful in terms of an early-stage Ironman training schedule. as much as i'd been relieved to finish the ride, my body (apart from my butt) wasn't too sore, suggesting i'm not in as bad as shape as i thought i was.

i'm going to see about trying to get in a 70 or 80 miler in a few weeks before the winter break. but for now, i'll work on the weaknesses i felt on this ride, and try to consolidate the training schedule. more importantly, i'm going to make it a point to stick to it this time. at this stage in the training cycle, there's no way i can hold a 20 mph pace over 80 miles, let alone 112.

but i will by the time Ironman Arizona comes around.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

training round-up, week ending 11-18-06

and now for a really dry posting...the training round-up for this week:

sunday, nov. 12


  • trail run (weekly long run), 8 miles, aerobic conditioning (zone 2 & zone 3), rose bowl arroyo trail, start time 8 am
monday, nov. 13

rest day

tuesday, nov. 14


  • stationary bike (build ride), 80 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 2 & zone 3), lyons center, start time 6:30 am
  • weight training (chest), 30 minutes, immediately following
  • kung fu (recovery workout), 60 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 2), cromwell field, start time 6 pm
  • weight training (abs), 20 minutes, immediately following
wednesday, nov. 15


  • swim (intervals), 2200 yards, muscular endurance (zone 3), macdonald's stadium, start time 6 am
  • weight training (upper & lower back), 30 minutes, immediately following
  • track workout (intervals), 5 miles, anaerobic conditioning (zone 3 & zone 4), cromwell field, start time 6:30 pm
thursday, nov. 16


  • stationary bike (recovery ride), 30 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 2), lyons center, start time 6:30 am
  • weight training (legs & abs), 45 minutes, lyons center, immediately following

friday, nov. 17

  • swim (intervals), 3000 yards, muscular endurance (zone 2 & zone 3), macdonald's stadium, start time 6 am
  • weight training (chest & shoulders), 30 minutes, immediately following
  • barefoot run (recovery run), 20 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 2), cromwell field, start time 6 pm
saturday, nov. 18


  • kung fu (active rest), casuda canyon park, start time 10:30 am

Thursday, November 16, 2006

chief joseph

Written for the USC Triathlon Newsletter 11-16-06:

The Nez Perce Indians of the Pacific Northwest had a reputation as being among the most friendly and welcoming to the arrival of the white man to the North American continent. They granted shelter to the Lewis and Clark expedition, freely traded with early trappers and traders, and gave free range to incoming settlers. They welcomed Christian missionaries, going so far as to convert and adopt Christian names, schooling, and culture.

However, as the demands of white settlers for exclusive land ownership increased, the Nez Perce became increasingly disenchanted by their experiences with the U.S. government. Insisting that land was something that could not be owned, bought, or sold, the Nez Perce resisted U.S. government plans for removal and segregation onto reservations. Despite this tension, the Nez Perce were reluctant to engage in open hostilities, and instead tried for peace via land concessions to white settlers.

Unfortunately, conditions erupted into violence in 1877, when Nez Perce Chief Joseph refused U.S. government orders to move his people from their ancestral lands in Oregon. The U.S. government took this refusal as an act of war, and organized a military solution to force the Nez Perce to relocate and surrender their lands.

In response, in an attempt to find freedom for his people, Chief Joseph initiated what has become known as one of the greatest retreats in military history. Leading a force of approximately 200 warriors and 600 women and children, Chief Joseph outmaneuvered and outfought 2,000 U.S. soldiers over 3 months across 1,700 miles of wilderness in hopes of crossing the Canadian border.

His hopes, however, were not to be. Within 40 miles of Canada, the Nez Perce were ambushed by U.S. cavalry in the midst of an autumn blizzard. Besieged, unable to reach Sioux Chief Sitting Bull for help, his people sick and starving, Chief Joseph was forced to surrender and accept the forcible relocation of his people to what eventually became Oklahoma.

It can be argued that Chief Joseph's attempt to reach Canada was an act of despair by a man who reasoned that a U.S. government so intent on relocating his tribe would accept such tribe's departure. But this would only have magnified his anguish when he was confronted by U.S. military forces blocking his path to the border, and suddenly realized that the U.S. government wanted to do more than relocate his tribe, but actually sought to break its spirit and control it.

For Chief Joseph, surrender must have been a supreme act of sorrow. But his options were few. Maintain hostilities, and his people were sure to face utter extermination, either from U.S. soldiers or a deepening winter. With surrender, his people's spirit would be broken, but they would at least have life and that most precious of commodities: hope in another day. He knew that his life, and his people's, would be one of humiliation, disrespect, and utter subjugation--and this was proven true as every legal recourse was exhausted and denied to the Nez Perce. But Chief Joseph believed that as a people the Nez Perce could endure, and that so long as they endured there could be a better tomorrow. All they had to do was to hold out for one day more. A day at a time. An hour at a time. A second at a time.

And so when you are at the lowest point of the deepest depths of the most horrific race, when you are on a hill and seeing only yet another curve up a steeper slope, when you are at mile 130 and realizing you have another 10 to go, whenever your world is nothing but the mother and offspring of all sorrows and all despair, just remember that life is about hope, and hope is found in reaching tomorrow, and that reaching tomorrow is about the power to endure. No matter how bad things are. There is hope so long as you endure. All you have to do is to hold out for one...second...more...

Monday, November 13, 2006

saturdays in autumn

autumn always seems to have a certain aura about the season. it's something about the air: the crisp morning chill, the whisper of winter wind, the long early evening sun. and there's the change in atmosphere, bridging the void from the last bright months of august and september to the twilight eves of december and january.

for me, autumn always brings certain memories. especially the weekends. and especially saturdays.

autumn saturdays meant several things to my childhood: involvement in kid sports leagues, a chance to catch up on errands, an opportunity to do chores, and a ritual of watching college football. not always in that particular order, since different activities would be allotted different priorities at different times. but the piece-de-resistance, the highlight of the day, would always be college football.

my grandmother loved college football. loved it. she sometimes pretended not to. but she did. she confided to me that when my grandfather was alive they'd made a deal to sacrifice something for each other--he'd go to operas and symphonies with her, if she would go to college football games with him. thing is, she never told him she loved college football. so all those years he thought he'd been getting a great deal, never knowing that she relished the best of both sides of the bargain.

after my grandfather died, and her saturday chores had lightened to the load connected with a single person, i'd spend the autumn saturdays with her, and we'd watch every college football game on television. she had a particular fondness for midwestern teams (Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa), since that was where she'd spent so much of her youth. but she also had a taste for rivalries, with the big ones being Notre Dame v. USC, Texas v. Texas A&M, Penn v. Ohio State, Minnesota v. Wisconsin, and UW v. Washington State.

funny thing was, it wasn't always about the football.

a lot of it was about things that had absolutely nothing to do with football, or college, or saturdays in autumn. a lot of the time, we actually spent talking. about things in life. about politics, art, culture, traveling, family gossip, paying bills, taking care of pets, fixing houses and cars, classes in school, going to church, babysitting, attending marriages and funerals, planning holiday meals, sharing memories and wishes. we'd cheer, we'd talk, we'd laugh, we'd cry. and then we'd check the score...and if we didn't like it, we'd change the channel.

those saturdays meant a lot to me. they marked a regular, devoted, exclusive, committed, and virtually sacrosanct time in which i and my grandmother were able to connect and communicate and share our lives with each other--in ways in which so many families have forgotten or given up or abandoned. ways which carry a significance reaching far beyond a single day, and that seem to make the biggest difference when things seem to matter most.

i never understood it then, when i was a child. i realized it only after i moved out and started living on my own. but i consider it fortunate that i managed to know their meaning early enough that i could cherish the autumn saturdays with my grandmother before she died. they marked a time when i was able to talk to someone the way we all should count ourselves so lucky to talk to just once in our lives--openly, freely, without expectation or judgement, limitation or lies, just talking about all the things mundane and sacred that we experience with the deepening of the shadows and the passing of the seasons.

my autumn saturdays now aren't so much about college football.

i have no one to share them with.

instead, now, my autumn saturdays are taken by pursuits of my own choosing. often, the mornings--and sometimes entire days--are spent on a bike out on a lonely road, focused on purposes with arcane labels like aerobic conditioning, anaerobic threshold, muscular endurance, and recovery ride. lately, the hours have been spent in cross-training, experimenting with tai chi and bagua training in a park. occasionally, they'll be devoted to solo swims battling chilling currents in ocean surf. sometimes, i'll even schedule a solitary long-distance run on a secluded favorite trail.

and there's always the mundane tasks that should have been done during the week but which invariably get pushed back to the 2 days we afford ourselves to ourselves: the bills, the groceries, the errands, the car, the dusting, the cleaning, the chores of everyday living that reserve their eternal slots in our lives.

but sometimes, when i take a saturday off, i'll find myself in front of the television watching college football, and i'll think of my grandmother, and all the days we spent watching the games and talking about life and living and our place in it, and the many things that went so far beyond the trivial confines of a field marked by a gridiron and tabbed by a score.

and other times, when i'm out on an open road and i'm all alone and there's nothing around me save the crisp air of morning chill and the whispering winds of winter and the lengthening shadows of evening sun, when all i feel is the atmosphere and the aura and the age of the season, i'll find myself deep in memories, thinking of my grandmother, and all the days we spent watching the games, and remembering all the many meanings of all the saturdays in autumn.

it's then that i miss her.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

one, but not ever alone

Written for the USC Triathlon Newsletter 11-09-06:

There are those times in life when we seek the company of others. You know what I am talking about...those times in life when we find ourselves in moments of extreme uncertainty and danger, when our lives lie teetering on a metaphorical precipice, caught in times of change and environments of chaos, whipped by winds and blinded by the darkness, and with nothing more than the silence of a yawning abyss waiting to receive us in the raging of its storm.

It's times like these we wish for a voice to guide us through the void.

It's times like these that we find ourselves wishing--and often looking--for someone else to lead us from the edge. Or if nothing else, to proffer even sympathy and the assurance that we are not alone.

It's times like these that we realize the value of the others we have around us. Friends, families, acquaintances, colleagues, confidants. People we hold close and cherish in the innermost depths of our minds, recall with the truest murmurings of our hearts. Even if we don't admit to them. We love them still.

And it's in times like these we come to understand the meanings of kinship, loyalty, and faith. Because it's then we know the comfort that comes from given empathy, the warmth that arises from shared emotion, and the strength that appears from unconditional acknowledgement.

And it's then we know what it means to be but one among many, one gathered with a legion, one woven into a network of people stretching across place and time unto infinite, all together facing the abyss and confronting the void. One, but many, and not ever truly alone.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

little steps

Written for the USC Triathlon Newsletter 11-02-06:

Little things. Little steps. Little victories. Everything starts with little things, little steps, little victories.

Yeah, sure, you dream big. Everybody does. Dreams of glory, dreams of wins, dreams of adulation, dreams of joy and perfection, dreams of hope fulfilled and faith requited and experiences of ecstasy that are meant to last forever. Dreams that you hold close and bring out in those quiet moments of solitude and supreme self-reflection.

But the danger is that sometimes those dreams remain just dreams. And they never go farther than the unconscious confines of your forgotten sleep.

Dreams sometimes deserve a life. Sometimes, they deserve to be more than just spectral whispers in your slumbers. Sometimes, they deserve to be real.

And they can be real. Even the big ones.

They just need a little help. Help that comes from you. Help in the form of a little time, a little work, a little thought, a little observation and learning, a little planning and foresight, a little discipline and patience, a little hope and little faith. Little things. Not always all at once. Little steps. Not always together. Little victories. Not always celebrated. Little things, little steps, little victories. One right after another. Until they all add together and you find yourself somewhere very far and very different from where you began but very close and very similar to where you want to be.

And it can be a whole lot easier than you think.

Imagine this: 2 college students. Art school majors in sculpture. Bored out of their minds and sick of school. Making lip-synch videos on the internet. Pretty soon they start to become popular. Pretty soon they start making more videos. Pretty soon they start getting more viewers and more support. Pretty soon they're on national television. And all of a sudden, they find themselves signed to contracts to make commercials for Motorola and Pepsi, with the commercials being nothing more than the same videos they made in school. Not bad for 2 art school graduates fresh out of school.

Who are they? Check it out for yourself:

You can also check out their live performance on Chinese national television ( ), their commercial for Motorola China ( ), and Pepsi China ( ).

Little things. Little steps. Little victories. They add up.

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
--Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Written for the USC Triathlon Newsletter 10-26-06:

You've been getting so many directions from so many people on so many things for so many years. What to do, how to dress, what classes to take, what major to choose, what job to work, what vacations to reserve, what bills to pay, what things to buy, what goals to set, what what what what what what...*what*. Directions, telling you what way to go in your life.

And it didn't get any easier when you got into this thing called triathlon: what schedule to follow, what workouts to do, what routes to stay on, what times to fill, what distances to go, what intensities to hit, what food to eat, what calories to burn, what races to enter, what goals to set, what what what what what what...*what*. Directions, telling you what way to go in your sport.

All of this...and *what*. And never any wondering as to *why*.


The Inuit peoples of the North American Arctic were known for culturally unique practices. Among them was a habit of erecting stone cairns across their lands. Invariably built to roughly approximate standing humans, these stone edifices were placed in remote locations as varied as waterways, open tundra, barren glacial fields, and empty rock flats. Early European explorers, mystified by the human-shaped stone formations spread across the barren permafrost, referred to them by the Anglicized term "inukshuk."

Subsequent cultural education and anthropological research revealed that the inukshuks were built as directional markers conveying ulterior meanings of hope, friendship, safe passage, good shelter, available food and water, and remembrance of the supernatural. The stones, in short, gave directions to traveling Inuit peoples about where to live, sleep, eat, drink, travel, congregate, and worship.

One question, however, that persisted among researchers was why the stones were placed in the shape of humans. Scholars know that stone cairns are prevalent throughout human culture and history around the world, but the use of human-shaped cairns was unique to the peoples of the North American Arctic. Academics spent years speculating as to the question of why they were the way they were.

The answer, ironically enough, came from direct conversations with the Inuit tribes of northern Canada. Their reply was that theirs was a world of overwhelming isolation, of endless sky and roaring winds, vast fields and barren glaciers, blinding snow and frozen earth, stretching as far as the eye could see and the soul could hold, and empty of everything save the awesome realization of utter desolation that consumed the insignificance of a solitary human heart in the great expanse of the void of deep eternity. It was because of this, they said, that the inukshuks were shaped as humans. It was because, they said, so that the universe would know that "we were here."

All of this...and what...and then the wondering of why.

So the universe will know that we were here.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

40 mile bike ride

40 mile bike ride today.


only 3rd time on a bike since IMAZ last April.


long and slow.


no problems. no worries. nobody to ride with, other than 1 other rider. but no big deal.

we took the usual team bike route from the USC campus to the Ballona Creek Path and on to Marina Del Rey. from there were rode down the boardwalk to the Redondo (or is it Hermosa?) Beach Pier--the one that has Sharkey's on it.

i don't particularly like this route. it goes through some gang-infested territory in South Central, and the Ballona Creek Path has gotten some notoriety recently as a place where robbers hang out and hold up cyclists going by. and the boardwalk, while definitely winding through nicer areas, is full of sand that clogs gears and brakes and wheels, is sometimes washed out by large surf, and is frequented by heavy pedestrian traffic (especially once you head south of the pier).

for all that, it does have its advantages. it's relatively flat (meaning easy). there's very little time on the road (meaning less danger of car accidents). the bike route is relatively decent quality (no potholes or flat-tire-inducing trash). and on warm, clear days, it takes you past beaches full of AMAZING eye candy.

i treated this as an aerobic ride. didn't ride any faster than 18 miles an hour the entire time. we covered 42 miles, but factoring in the stoplights, stop signs, and bathroom breaks, it took us around 3:30.

it was pleasant more than anything else. just checking on things and making sure my legs weren't shot. and to start that capillary development that coaches and athletic medicine says is a crucial benefit of aerobic workouts--and the critical component in developing base.

i'll be riding a whole lot farther and longer here soon.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Beat up, Tired, and Cross-training

sometimes i find myself asking myself "just what in the world i am doing?"

it's usually in the early morning, just after the alarm goes off and i'm staring bleary-eyed at the clock that says 5:15 am. it's also usually just after i get into the gym, just before it opens, and stand hunched over staring at my shoes in abject misery in the lobby, waiting for the 6 am opening. occasionally (on really persistently groggy starts to the days), it'll happen just when i get to my locker, and i'm staring at the contents with a blank, empty, utterly confused gaze of utter dejection.

and when it's really bad, it'll happen in the afternoon, just after lunch, as i lay in a spot taking an afternoon snooze, and i stretch a very sore, very tired, very stiff, and very unhappy body into a teasing snippet of a long languorious sojourn in the neverending comforting land known as sleep that i did not get enough of the night before and that i so desperately wish i could have lingered just a little longer in. yeah.

invariably, this question is accompanied by a moan. not for any reason. i just find moaning seems to be a very good, very succinct, very easy, and very comforting answer that i can give myself to the existential angst of the morning training schedule. besides, it pretty much expresses what i'm feeling, making it mildly cathartic that way.

of course, i don't really know if it's a moan. sometimes it's more a whimper.

so just what am i doing?



i tell myself that the alternative is to sleep in and then wake up and face the daunting prospect of driving to school in rush hour traffic...and in LA, that's just not even something a person ever wants to think about.

i tell myself that it's the only time i have to train, given that i'm working 2 jobs (3, if you count this other pesky annoying irritating one), taking classes, and trying to finish my PhD dissertation. all of which leaves my days full. so it's the 6am morning workouts and 6pm evening workouts, or nothing at all.

i tell myself that it's the best quality time in the gym. it's practically empty at that time, and there's more than enough space to get in the swimming pool, stationary bike, treadmill, weights, or exotic mixture of all things without having to worry about waiting in lines, asking if equipment is available, engaging in conversations, or avoiding poor behavior and manners. by the afternoon, it's a raging meat market and cattle call perfectly suited for zero training and zero development.

still, for all that, sometimes i find myself staring off into space, wondering just exactly

i suppose it's the burnout factor. you know, the state you get into when you've had too much of something and not enough of nothing. when you've gotten to the point that training has become more breaking and less recovery and no building.

part of it is the body being overworked by workouts with inadequate rest time in between. part of it is the mind being drained by the focus and concentration needed to push through fatigue and exhaustion. a lot of it is the monotony of doing the same things over and over again, with everything it entails--overtraining, repetitive motion injuries, boredom, muscular and mental imbalance, distraction, loss in enthusiasm, loss of interest, loss in dedication, loss of motivation, loss in a general desire to do much of anything even remotely connected to following anything even remotely resembling a training schedule.

at points like this you're supposed to back off. rest. chill out. and if anything at all, maybe do something different. work out different parts of your body and your mind, give yourself a chance to get refreshed and renewed.

that's why the prescription--if it isn't rest--is almost always cross-training. technically, triathlon is cross-training, since it encompasses 3 other disciplines: swimming, biking, and running. which is why the sport is seen as giving the body a balance and variety between the training for each event.

but sometimes you're so beat up that so tired from the same damn things that you need something way different...and i mean WAY different.

following my own advice, i've recently picked up some activities that are pretty different--or at least, different enough.

what have i chosen, you may ask? well...believe it or not: kung fu and surfing.


that's right.

kung fu.

and surfing.

and if i get adventurous enough, maybe kung fu surfing.

the kung fu i've kind of always had an interest in since i was a kid, but i never seemed to have the time or energy or money to take classes. i also see it as being useful in terms of self-defense (although, it's becoming very clear to me that it takes a little time before you get good enough to actually use it effectively as self-defense). more than that, i can see how it relates to improving my performance, since it seems to incorporate development of breathing, energy generation, efficiency, and recuperation--all things that i need more of.

you can read about it. i started a blog, since it seemed appropriate:

the surfing is another thing i've always had an interest in. it just looks cool. and i figure that there is absolutely no excuse for anyone to be living in a place like Southern California and not know how to surf. seriously. and i figure it's a rough equivalent of a "light" swim workout, still gets me out in the ocean, and helps me work on my core muscles, sense of balance, and overall physical coordination.

although, i'm finding surfing is a lot harder to pick up than it looks. i've only been out once, but i wiped out a whole lot more than i managed to catch waves...this is going to take some bit of practice to get used to.

i'll have to let you stay tuned.

i'm not stopping the triathlon training--dude, i'm too neurotic and obsessive compulsive to do that (i mean, after you've worked your ass off to get into shape, there is no way you ever want to have to go through that kind of suffering you find yourself unable to go a day without wondering if you're missing out on some training you need to be doing or losing some conditioning that you do not want to be letting go). but i am probably going to cut back on the triathlon training volume a least until it starts time for the next Ironman (which is IMAZ next April).

regardless, i needed the change. i needed the break. and i'm just going to chalk it up as cross-training.

of course, i'm still asking myself "just what am i doing?" every morning.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

because you're different

You chose triathlon as your recreational pastime out of a slew (legion!!!) of extra-curricular options available from our fine university (dear old USC!!!). You chose early mornings and late evenings (all day, EVERY day!!!) bathed in sweat (shivering in hoodies and sweats!!!) and baked in sun (freezing cold!!!), over sleeping in and partying late. You chose loooooooong weekend excursions leading to godforsaken places (out of the ghetto!!!), when you could have been clinging to University Park or a fashionable off-campus cozy love-nest (West-SIIIIIIIIIIIIDE!!!).

And you know why...

You could have done Competition Cheer and been sampling the latest micro-fiber technology in cheerleading shorts and mini-skirts, but NOOOOOOOOO, you chose Triathlon. You could have done Ping Pong Posse and hung around a dinky cardboard table debating the merits of rubber paddles, but NOOOOOOOOO, you chose Triathlon. You could have done Undergraduate Student Government and been the BIG MAN/WOMAN ON CAMPUS and gotten berated by Vice President Michael Jackson every week, but NOOOOOOOOO, you chose Triathlon.

And you could (coulda woulda shoulda? maybe? heh? no regrets? sure? ha ha ha!!!) have pursued the big 900-pound gorilla that everyone KNOWS is on this campus but nobody EVER talks about (because, after all, anyone who EVER talks about it is know...*loser*): GREEEEEEEEEEEK!!! But NOOOOOOOOO, you chose Triathlon.

And why? Why did you give up on bacchanalia? Who did you give up on decadence? Why did you give up on the chance (no! the opportunity!) to stand around and listen to lines like: "If they're walking alone, it means they're not popular--and we don't want anybody who's not popular!" or "Prada is sooooooooo last year! This year we only wear Fendi!" or "They have to be pretty and their friends have to be pretty, or they're not worth talking to!" [NOTE: these are actual lines overheard during Rush Week]. Why did you give up on so much FUN?

Why? Because you're different, that's why!

You want to get outside of campus. You want to try things new. You want to get out of your shell. You want to do more than think outside of the box. You want to grow beyond the confines of your ordinary world with its ordinary people living ordinary lives thinking ordinary things doing ordinary shopping eating ordinary food listening to ordinary music watching ordinary television pursuing ordinary activities and dissing everybody and anything who is not

Every day.

And the rest of the whole wide world spins on, even though so many people don't know it.

But not you. You want to explore. You want to see what there is to be seen. You want to meet whoever there is to meet. You want to learn whatever there is to learn. You want to free your mind. And you want to experience what there is to experience. As much as you can pack into the limits of your life. Even if it means studying the arcane arts of swim technique (sculling!!! finger-tip drag!!! catch-up drill!!!), cycling (clinchers!!! wheel true-ing!!! seatpost angle!!!), and running (intervals!!! plyometrics!!! ascending sets!!!). Even if it means doing a workout at 6am in the morning, and then turning around and doing another workout at 7pm at night. Even if it means an entire weekend on the bike rolling out on Pacific Coast Highway to F-O-R-E-V-E-R. Even if it means getting far, far, far, far, far---FAR---away from campus.

Monday, October 09, 2006

injury report

i'm injured.

and i'm a somewhat irritated and annoyed. mostly at myself.

it's not bad bad. but it's bad.

i strained my lower back doing plyometric drills with the rest of the team. in the muscle on the right side of the spine next to the tailbone.

it's a pulled muscle. nothing permanently debilitating, nothing long-term serious. but definitely something that's knocked me out of commission for awhile, and definitely something excruciating.

i never realized just how crucial the tailbone area was. it hurts right now to walk. it hurts to stand. it hurts to sit. it hurts to lie down. it pretty much hurts doing everything.

and not just a little.

i figure i'm out of any exercise for a week. which is driving me nuts. i'm used to following my training schedule, and i'm used to having a certain level of conditioning. and now i'm going to have to deal with the a week's loss.


i hate injuries. just hate them.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

cadence and love songs

something funny happened at the Nautica Malibu Triathlon a couple of weeks ago.

so much of this sport is driven by cadence. swim stroke, pedal rate, stride turnover. all of it driven by cadence counted by the number of repetitions of per minute of perfect form executed in perfect time in perfect repeat of each repetition completed before.

the cadence is determined by a person's heart rate, overall level of physical conditioning, body mass index, aerobic and anaerobic capacity, muscular endurance, and target race goals. it's superficially a complex formula, but in reality is made remarkably simple when treated less as science and more as art.

or at least, it's supposed to be.

determining cadence is one thing. keeping it is another. invariably, with all the distractions on race day, amidst the traffic and rush to the setup, under the physicality of the mass swim starts and navigational intricacies of the bike and run, along the confusion and dangers of course conditions and weather changes, beneath the noise of the crowd and chaos of the aid stations, against the struggle of exhaustion and suffering, keeping steady to a cadence becomes a perilous exercise in concentration. many times, cadence just becomes an afterthought.

people deal with it in different ways. some count. literally. from 1 to infinite, or in an endless loop from 1 to a finite number utterable in a single breath. others recite mantras, prayers, rosaries, poems. some try to focus on the natural rhythm of their heart and pulse rates. a few take to singing songs silently as they roll along the race course.

i've tried all of these things. all with varying degrees of success.

but something funny happened at Nautica.

ordinarily, if you're using a song, the theory goes that you're supposed to have something that keeps you on a target turnover rate. usually, the ideal turnover rate is pretty constant for bike and run, with whatever target cadence you have on the run being the same on the bike. given that the ideal cadence on the bike is around 90 rpm, that means the target cadence for the run is also around 90 rpm. since a turnover is taken as the equivalent of 2 strides (1 turnover=1 step with left leg+1step with right leg), that generally means a cadence of 180 steps per minute. all this means that if you're running to a beat, you're going to want a song with 180 bpm.

if you know anything about music, 180 bpm is pretty steady. it's also pretty frisky. not too slow. but not hyperkinetic either. still, it's moving.

as a result, i'm invariably aiming to get some up-tempo music in my head, and find myself locking in some corresponding songs. hip hop is good. pop music sometimes works. punk also works. whatever it is, it just needs to 1) keep the 180 bpm, and 2) be loud and hard enough to be sustained over race day distractions. simple, direct, energetic, quick.

but something funny happened at Nautica.

it started in the transition area prior to the starter's announcements.

i didn't hear any uptempo music in my head. i didn't hear anything loud and energetic. for sure, i didn't hear anything resembling 180 bpm.

what i heard instead was love songs.

slow ones.

bittersweet ones.

sad ones.

you know the kind. the ones that kind of slow your day down. make you think. give you those pangs of anguish and confusion. the ones that make you wonder about the way things have been going in your life...and the way things have gone with other people...or with one other particular person...

this is what i was hearing:

i could not get them out of my head. the entire race. even through the sound of the starting gun. even through the rushing of the waves. even after i got out of the water and got on the bike and the run. even above the roar of the crowd and the chaos of the race course. the entire race seemed to go silent, with the exception of the solitary songs in my head.

i dunno.

it was maddening.

i like those songs.

and they're helping work through some things.

but on a race day?

that's never happened before.

they say that race day reveals certain truths that are subconsciously left hidden.

maybe this is what happened to me.

oh i know what the songs are about. and i know whom they're about. but i guess the fact that they surfaced and clung to me on a day and an event that i ordinarily would have not recalled them is a sign of just how much things have been bothering me.

but the funny thing is (and this is why it's funny) is that i didn't mind.

in fact, i enjoyed it. it actually seemed to help. it actually seemed to bring my heart rate under control and focus my mind on the race.

almost like thinking about something that's bothering me (more than i care to admit) actually somehow made me feel better.

funny, yeah?

i guess what it was (or is...cuz i'm still hearing those songs even now) is the feeling of release and relief that comes from letting emotions loose that have been kept inside for too long, and the sense of freedom that comes from accepting thoughts as something conscious (even though not real) rather than suppressing them and hoping they'd just go away.

that, and there's also the understanding that comes from the realization that perhaps things are affecting me more than i thought they would, more than i'd care to admit, and more that i had hoped...the understanding that she probably meant that much to me.

she meant enough that thoughts of her bring these songs to my mind at times when they shouldn't. she meant enough that memories of her bring emotions that can only be described by words like bittersweet and sad. she meant enough that the thoughts i think of her, when wrapped in memories and song, actually seem to help me work things out beyond just my relationship with her--like the chaos and complexities of a race day.

i've written about her already, so there's not much point in going over facts and what i've been going through. you can read it at:

but i guess the fact that songs i connect to her stuck with me all the way through a race day shows just how much she affected me...and just how much she affects me still.

and i thought i'd let her go.

sometimes you have to wonder about the absurdity of life. about finding someone who you could actually imagine being with (as in a long time...maybe forever), and then finding out she has a something else, somewhere else, and even a someone else. the paroxysm of confusion and disappointment and frustration and bitterness and absurdity and sorrow and depression and wistfulness and loss and anguish and helplessness and unrequited emotions and uncertainty and insignificance and plaintive songs playing over and over and over and over and over and over even though you are sick of them but really really deep down inside you want to hear them more just like the memories of her...the memories of someone you don't want to remember but you really really want to hold close and dear and never never ever want to forget.

the memories you wish could be real.

something funny happened at Nautica.

the cadence came from love songs.

and it was not the cadence of artifice, a product of production, made by machine or man or otherwise. it was not the cadence of the real, existent in a natural world.

it was the cadence deeper to the human heart, the cadence underlying the world and conscious mind, farther inward than even the subconscious spirit of the human soul. it was the cadence driven by the rhythm of the truth that comes from the emotions and memories of that which we hold most dear. it was the cadence of the only fundamental truth that holds fast in the unending infinite void that extends beyond the unfathomed reaches of this universe and the insignificant confines of human loneliness and loss.

it was the cadence that came from love songs.

it's continuing still.

and i don't want it to stop, because it's all i have.