Saturday, March 31, 2007

training round-up, week ending 03-31-07

deep in the taper. i actually took things up a slight notch from last week, but definitely kept it in mind not to do anything too strenuous and to work things just enough to hit the edges of my physical limit bordering the territory of exhaustion. that means higher intensity, shorter duration, more recovery. the rule, i'm starting to suspect, is to work just hard enough that you feel like you accomplished something, but to finish thinking that you definitely could have done more.

i should note, however, that i did modify things in response to the news of a possible no-wetsuit swim for IMAZ. this is something i haven't done before--at least not in a race setting. just to assuage my anxiety, and figuring that my body recovers quicker from swims than biking or running, i decided to fit in a full 2.4 mile (4400 yards) swim in the pool. not too fun. but i did feel a whole lot better after i did it. if nothing else, to instill some confidence in me that i could get through it pretty readily if called upon.

apart from that, just having some fun. and focusing on recovering and getting all systems charged for race day. only 15 more days at this point. oooooooooo-rah!!!

sunday, mar. 25

rest day

monday, mar. 26

  • weight training (chest, legs, abs), 90 minutes, lyons center, 6am
tuesday, mar. 27

  • swim (long swim), 4400 yards, aerobic conditioning (zone 3 & zone 4), mcdonald's swim stadium, start time 6am
wednesday, mar. 28

  • weight training (abs), 30 minutes, lyons center, start time 6am
thursday, mar. 29

  • brick: stationary bike (build) + run (tempo), 90 minutes bike + 30 minutes run, aerobic & anaerobic conditioning conditioning (zone 3 & zone 4), lyons center, start time 6am
  • run (maintenance), 15 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 3), loker track stadium, start time 6:30pm
  • kung fu (active rest), 30 minutes, immediately following
friday, mar. 30


  • swim (technique), 1400 yards, aerobic conditioning (zone 3), mcdonald's swim stadium, start time 6am
  • weight training (chest, shoulders, upper back, abs), 60 minutes, immediately following
  • kung fu (active rest), 60 minutes, loker track stadium, start time 5pm
saturday, mar. 31


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

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Great Adventure

When you were a kid, the world was a whole lot smaller. It looked big, but it was really small. The backyard was a country, the tree with a swing was a forest. The street where you lived was a freeway, the neighborhood was a continent. And the rest of the world might as well have been the imagination of a deranged madman writing textbooks saying he was right.

And so, back then, everything was an adventure. Your first swim was in a pool 3 feet deep. Your first bike ride was to the stop sign on the corner and back. Your first run was to meet your dog as you jumped off the schoolbus. Not really much, but to you, back then, it seemed to be all of the ocean and earth and sky and heaven, and you journeyed upon and within and through it with all the courage and fear and awe and wonder of someone facing the greatest mysteries of the greatest unknown for the very first time.

And now? All these years later?

It's still there. It never went away. The flurry of your heart, the surge of your senses, the spark in the eye and the thoughts in the mind and the spirit that rises in expectation of discovering the new. It's all still the same. The pause and then the rush that comes with the beginning of the quest into the mysterious and the unknown. The first time, every time. It's still the same.

Except now, the swim is in an ocean, the bike ride is over the earth, the run is beneath an infinite blue sky. And you see a world next to all of heaven.

It's all still the same.

Except now, you're just swimming a little longer, riding a little farther, and running a little bit more. And always, it's your great adventure.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

training round-up, week ending 03-24-07

nothing exciting this week. took a scheduled rest week. which is fine. because i wasn't feeling so great after last week, and the easy workouts out this week didn't exactly feel so easy.

funny. sure hope it's not like this on race day.

speaking of my connections out in Tempe (Arizona) are telling me temps have been in the high 80s-low 90s, and that the water in Tempe Town Lake has been unusually warm. apparently race organizers are discussing making it a no-wetsuit swim.

how lovely.

this is going to be interesting.

sunday, mar. 18

rest day

monday, mar. 19

  • swim (technique), 2200 yards, aerobic conditioning (zone 2 & 3), mcdonald's swim stadium, start time 6am
  • weight training (chest & abs), 30 minutes, immediately following
  • kung fu (active rest), 45 minutes, loker track stadium, start time 6:30pm
tuesday, mar. 20

  • stationary bike (recovery), 60 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 2 & 3), lyons center, start time 6am
  • weight training (legs & lower back), 45 minutes, immediately following
wednesday, mar. 21

  • weight training (abs), 30 minutes, immediately following
thursday, mar. 22

  • swim (technique), 1200 yards, aerobic conditioning (zone 2 & 3), mcdonald's swim stadium, start time 6am
  • weight training (shoulders & lower back), 15 minutes, immediately following
  • run (maintenance), 30 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 3), loker track stadium, start time 6:30pm
friday, mar. 23


  • stationary bike (maintenance), 30 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 2), lyons center, start time 6am
  • weight training (chest, shoulders, abs), 45 minutes, immediately following
saturday, mar. 24


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

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What Is Ironman

so Ironman and YouTube just announced the formation of a new IronmanTriathlon channel.

it has 17 videos so far. let's hope for some more.

for those of you who don't know what Ironman is about, it's very difficult to describe.

the numbers are simple: swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, run 26.2 miles. all in 1 day. all as fast as you can. automatic disqualification for accepting help, drafting on the bike, and exceeding 17 hours.

the race itself, however, is very complex. things happen during an Ironman that cannot be explained.

words, thoughts, deeds. the depths of darkness, the heights of ecstasy.

things just happen.

cruelty, brutality, compassion, kindness. chaos and serenity. rage and love. lies and truths. suffering and joy.

things just happen.

you'll swear there is no god, and then swear there is. you'll swear for death, and then pray for life. you'll swear for relief, and then refuse it when it is offered.

and always, always, always, there is the whisper of temptation to quit...answered by the roar of your heart saying never.

things just happen.

and they cannot be explained.

for those uninitiated into Ironman, i recommend you start with the following:

Sunday, March 18, 2007


I sing the body electric...
Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?
--Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

I hadn't meant to write such an squeamishly touchy-feely granola post, particularly one so long. I don't consider myself a very touchy-feely person. But damn if sometimes there are things of value that cross the border of touchy-feely, and this is one of them. So here goes:

One of the many things that gets glossed over in this sport is need for self-awareness. Not in terms of being alive and knowing that you are (i.e., cogito ergo sum), but in terms of holding a connection with your mental and physical states, to the extent that you can 1) receive the signals they are giving you, and 2) understand the signals so that you can respond appropriately.

I'm starting to be of the opinion that this connection is a lot more important than people seem to realize. It's not a trivial thing. As an athlete, your performance is predicated on being able to maximize all available resources for peak output. The resources available to you are your body, your mind, and your sense of self (or, depending on who you talk to, your soul). Your body is the instrument of physical performance engaged in effort and undergoing stress, your mind is the agent directing your body's physical performance and measuring its effort and interpreting its stress, and your sense of self (conscious, unconscious, ego, id, soul, whatever you will) is the element deciding the why, what, where, when, and how the body and the mind are supposed to be applied.

Maximizing these resources involves regular sustenance, repair if necessary, and constant monitoring of status to gauge if each of these elements is functioning properly for peak performance. In essence, they require fine-tuning to operate at their best.

This is not possible if you do not have an awareness and sensitivity of them individually or as a whole. By not understanding their signals, you ignore their messages as to effort and stress levels on your overall person. This is important information, because different levels of effort have very different purposes in training, different levels of stress call for very specific forms of treatment, and both entail very significant issues for your well-being.

This is in part why some athletes spend so much time involved in mental exercises, working with sports psychologists, doing visualization drills, and seeking positive reinforcement; they're trying to accentuate physical output by changing mental signals to the body. It's also in part why sports medicine has emphasized the need for drill work in developing what is known as "muscle memory," which is the ingraining of sport-appropriate neuro-muscular patterns by repeating movement that develops desired (i.e., "good form") neural pathway firing in conjunction with muscle contraction or expansion--in essence, using the body to develop the mind.

I believe that experienced athletes, whether they know it or not, possess or have developed a very high level of sensitivity to their body's signals and refined a degree of skill in their minds to use those signals to maximize performance, enabling a greater capacity to express themselves in athletic competition. I've frequently heard advanced athletes saying things like "I can sense I need some extra salt" or "I can sense I should get eat some more protein" or "I can feel something is not right" or "I can feel I better cut back today" or "This [training] is good suffering," all of which reflects an understanding of the sensations of training and the messages those sensations are giving, so that the athlete can then respond appropriately.

The problem, however, that I've encountered on a far too frequent a basis in triathlon is the relatively low level of priority given to these concepts, particularly among newbies, specifically those with no history of physical activity. This is an issue, since it entails entirely avoidable consequences, frustrates entirely accessibly benefits, allows entirely insufficient justifications, and could be easily remedied.


Too often, I've run across people who seem to have no clue as to the significance of these ideas, or the magnitude of the role they play in training or on race day. As a result, they are left to face the consequences of inadequate preparation. From the stories I've accumulated (as well as from hard-learned personal experience), the consequences I've encountered include poor training gains, overtraining, injury, and burn-out.

Ironically enough, for all the ignorance of the mind-body-self connection, there is often (even with newbies) a good grasp of major training concepts, such as:
  • sports science espouses breaking training into zones measured by effort level marked in units of heart rate (where Zone 1 is resting up to 120 bpm, Zone 2 is easy effort with heart rate of 120-130 bpm, etc.)
  • different training zones produce different results (Zone 2 and Zone 3 work aerobic systems, Zone 4 works aerobic threshold, Zone 5 works lactic acid threshold)
  • for endurance sports, it is imperative to develop an aerobic base, meaning by proportion the bulk of workouts should be in Zone 2 or Zone 3, and fewer workouts should be Zone 5
  • different zones and different volumes require different modes of recovery, with Zone 5 workouts or workouts of longer duration frequently calling for longer periods of recovery before the next training session
  • nutrition must provide the correct nutrients in adequate supply, so that there is fuel to finish workouts and building materials to build athletic capability
Unfortunately, this conceptual understanding seems to be thrown out the window in practical application (for reasons I'll get to later in this post). Often, particularly with newbies, this is because people take their training to faith, blindly following a training plan, the directions of their coach, or the peer pressure of their team-mates without ever stopping to evaluate if what they are doing is appropriate for their current physical capabilities. They never realize what I have found to be several fundamental truths of sports training:
  • for reasons of genetics or upbringing, not everyone starts at the same level (e.g., some people start triathlon with previous extensive athletic backgrounds in other sports, while others enter triathlon with absolutely athletic background whatsoever)
  • someone at a lower level will not have the same physical conditioning or abilities as someone at a higher level (i.e., a person with no history of physical activity is likely to find a 10-minute mile run pace a high-intensity effort involving a heart rate of 175 bpm, while an NCAA Division I track star will manage an 8-minute mile run pace as a low-intensity session with a heart rate of only 100 bpm)
  • people starting at different levels must follow different paths to higher training levels (e.g., someone coming to triathlon with no athletic background cannot start or conduct track workouts at the same speed, same distance, same time, and same effort as an experienced NCAA Division I scholarship track star)
  • before you can train at a high level, you have to get there (i.e., you have to train to get to a base level of fitness that is necessary so that you can then actually begin to really train at the same levels as other, more experienced or better conditioned athletes)
  • training is as much about recovery as it is about workouts for your body and mind--the process of physical training is a process of adaptation, whereby workouts break down tissue and the body then rebuilds the tissue to withstand the workouts; similarly, the process of mental training is also a process of adaptation, wherein the mind is gradually acclimated to holding greater periods of focus and concentration to hold form and persevere through workouts; together, both require recovery to grant both body and mind time to rebuild, and thereby reinvigorate your total person
  • there are no workouts and no recovery if there is no nutrition
Rather than being mindful of these truths, people tend to push themselves through workouts they are not ready for, whether in terms of volume (distance or time) or intensity (training zones), inducing effort and stress levels that exceed the capabilities of their body, mind, and spirit to recover. Frequently, you'll see newbies and overly-aggressive (or perhaps neurotic) athletes pushing themselves all-out through every workout, sometimes as much as twice (or more) per day, 6 days per week. Commonly, they'll fail to comprehend that:
  1. a Zone 3 workout for a professional athlete is often a Zone 5 workout for an amateur
  2. a 3-hour aerobic workout may be easy for an Olympic-caliber athlete but a death march for a beginner
  3. a single day may be adequate recovery time for an advanced athlete but entirely inadequate for a newbie, particularly those who have no history of physical activity
  4. extra calories does not always mean additional nutrients, nutrient supplements do not always mean sufficient calories, and junk food is not always nutrition
Invariably, you'll see people ignore the effort and stress levels they are experiencing and continuing doggedly on. This leads to the following litany of consequences:

Poor gains
An inability to recognize and understand the signals between the body-mind-self (or body-mind-soul, if that makes you feel better) connection serves as an impediment to fully realizing the potential gains of proper training. From what I've seen, this is because
  • you don't sense that you are in need of a particular type of workout, or that given a limited amount of time you would obtain better gains (and hence greater efficiency) from a specific session targeting particular objectives (i.e., a late-season long Zone 2-3 session to restore the aerobic base lost during a slate of races, or a dedicated technique session to maintain proper form that has deteriorated from fatigue or distraction)
  • you don't sense that you are in need of time to heal and incorporate the conditioning and fitness gains from training, but instead suppress your need for recovery and continue workouts that tax your depleted glycogen stores, unrepaired muscle tissue, exhausted mental acuity, and faded spiritual vigor
  • you don't realize that you need very specific types and quantities of nutrients to finish workouts and rebuild capabilities, with the nutrients replenishing glycogen, repairing tissue, restoring the mind, and reinvigorating the spirit
If the lack of self-awareness persists, and the short-shrifting of recovery and nutrition bad enough, the result of is the inevitable descent into the overtraining state. In overtraining, the body simply breaks down because it has not been given neither adequate time to recover nor proper nutrition to heal. The mitochondria in the cells literally lose their ability to produce energy or rebuild tissue. In mild cases, the person is left with persistent fatigue, sluggishness, irratibility, mood swings, and decreased physical ability. In severe cases, they are left with an inability to sleep, inability to absorb nutrients, inability to perform even basic daily physical activity (like walk, talk, sit, eat, drive, etc.), and with what can only be described as a state of near catatonia (not good for them, their family, their friends, or their job). Basically, rather than building the body, they are destroying it.

In extreme cases, where the lack of sensitivity to the body-mind-self system is acute, you'll over-ride or be oblivious to signals of extreme duress--signals that may mark not just the pain that comes from exhaustion, but the pain that comes from injury. I have known athletes who have trained and raced with conditions as extreme as broken bones, torn cartilage and muscles, and ruptured tendons and ligaments. In most cases, they knew something was wrong but didn't (or refused to believe) the problems were that severe. While admirable, this is dangerous, because in such cases you may find yourself with problems that are more than annoying, but actually debilitating or (even worse) chronic (as in permanent).

Even without the above consequences (or maybe because of them), people tend to eventually burn-out, overwhelmed with frustration, disappointment, or resentment over their inability to improve and advance in capabilities. Rather than taking the state of their bodies and minds as temporary conditions indicative of underlying (and treatable) issues, they view them as the nature of the sport and themselves as not good enough to deal with it. They don't understand the feelings of fatigue, exhaustion, or soreness are not permanent fixtures in triathlon, but are signals that if understood correctly can be used to improve training (via changes in workouts, recovery, or nutrition) and produce superior race day performance. Too often, however, I've seen people never learn this lesson, and instead give up on the sport, never to return.


What bothers me the most is that there are major benefits to be derived from developing a body-mind-self connection, benefits to performance that any triathlete (or athlete) would otherwise more than welcome. These include:

Workout maximization
An awareness of the mental impressions of the body's signals enables you to gauge what training zone you are in during your workouts--not just in the effort and heart rate levels during the workout, but also in the stress states following the workouts. This allows you to determine if you are holding workouts that will fulfill the purpose you need from them, or if you are undertraining (with workouts that are too easy) or overtraining (with workouts that are too hard). From there, you can then adjust your workout intensities and duration to match the required purpose (e.g., if you are trying to build your aerobic base, but can sense that your heart rate has consistently been 160+ bpm, then you know that you have not been getting an aerobic-focused session and should scale back the effort level to a more aerobic level).

Priority status
Sensitivity to the body-mind-self relationship can also help you distinguish between messages of genuine importance about the body versus messages related to the body but distorted by the mind. You can use this to develop an intuitive feel about your physical and mental status. This is, in effect, the heightened awareness so common to advanced athletes that allows them to determine if the pain they are experiencing is a temporary sensation of hurt or a more dangerous threat of injury, or if the fatigue they suffer is a simple attack of laziness or a symptom of overtraining. This can help you assess the priority level of your physical and mental status, and from there exercise your judgment to adjust your training accordingly.

Recognizing and knowing the nature of the body, the mind, and yourself allows you to maintain more responsive and reflexive nutrition habits. Much like the intuitive sense to adjust training to match physical and mental status, you can develop an intuitive sense of what nutrients your body and mind need. You can see that certain food cravings are your mind's interpretation of your body's signals of needed nutrients, with your mind recalling memories of food containing the nutrients your body is needing to finish workouts and rebuild in recovery. Understanding this allows you to recognize nutrient shortfalls, and make the necessary decisions regarding what you need to eat to mitigate these shortfalls.

Race day
Race day is the penultimate objective of all the time and energy of training, and presumably the reason anyone enters the sport of triathlon (or any sport in general). On race day, professionals and elites strive for victory, and amateurs at all levels aim for personal bests (or to finish). Regardless, the underlying theme is one of attaining something greater than what you've accomplished before or greater than you thought possible. Achieving this, however, relies in part on being able to deal the hardships you will feel to your body and your mind, requiring that you are able to identify your sense of self and recognize and respond to the signals of effort and stress your body and mind send you. In doing so, you can more easily determine how to face and ultimately overcome the challenges you experience within the course of a race.

To some degree, you may even be able to direct the body and mind as subjects to your self-control. Advanced athletes often talk of being "in the zone," where their senses become heightened, and they are able to engage their physical and mental resources in a way that amplifies their capabilities to the point that athletic activities suddenly become detached and effortless, even easy. Some athletes have even claimed they could consciously put themselves "in the zone" by exercising their will to set their bodies and minds in specific states of awareness.


I don't think the lack of attention given to the concepts of self-awareness is something intentional. Nor do I see it as a by-product of a ideological conflict in training methodology between practical realists and "touch-feely" romantics. The are several other, more significant reasons why I think it gets glossed over:
  • People have never developed it--The body-mind-spirit connection is not something endemic to everyday life growing up as children, particularly in Western societies. For most of us, our youth is spent being indoctrinated into a merit-driven, results-oriented, physically-measurable culture. There is little education in abstract concepts that don't have a clear, direct effect on desired results. Something as ethereal and reflective as reading and dealing with physical and mental signals is not very clear and not very direct, and so is given short shrift outside of those arenas that have conceded some application for it (such as sports, dance, martial arts, etc.). As a result, newbies with little or no history of physical activity have never been introduced to the concepts of self-awareness, and so have never been asked to develop it or been given cause to develop it.
  • Coaches skip it--I suspect that many coaches place the idea of self-awareness low on the priority of coaching items, and instead focus on physical aspects like training schedules, workout volume, intensity level, and recovery periods. This may be out of a desire to please their customers (their clients) with quick, directly observable results in performance. The body-mind-self relationship is one that takes time to develop (particularly for novices with no background in physical activity who have never been asked to do so), and that involves a lot of abstract, non-empirical effort that is difficult to measure. Hence, for clients impatient to get their money's worth, coaches are under pressure to target other, more physically identifiable aspects of their clients' athletic experience.
  • Athletes don't even realize they have it--Most athletes (at least, the ones advanced enough to utilize it) are not even conscious of their sensitivity to the body-mind-self relationship. They've been involved in sports for so long and to such a degree that it has become ingrained into their lives to an extent that they are not even conscious of the constant measuring, assessment, response, or direction they are making to their physical and mental status. As a result, they tend to not mention it in discussing training, and so when asked by neophytes about their methods they tend to completely omit it from conversation.
  • Impatience--Many neophytes are too impatient to devote space in their training for developing self-awareness. Frequently, they are anxious to see positive performance gains as quick as possible, and insist on following the principle of "more and harder is better" on the belief that it will lead to results faster. This proscribes any attraction for the idea of improving awareness of physical and mental signals, which takes time and attention to develop.
  • Ego--A lot of beginners commence their training with a group (usually triathlon clubs or charity organizations). This invariably leads to self-comparison with others, and a desire to not appear slow or "bring up the rear." This peer pressure (whether intentional or unintentional) leads to a competitive training environment with beginners driving themselves to training volumes and intensities matching their peers as quickly as possible, suppressing any interest in time-consuming activities that appear "remedial" or "weak"--including activities related to improving sensitivity to body-mind-self relationships. In addition, they tend to emulate their coaches and more advanced athletes, and if these models don't talk about the value of self-awareness, then beginners will perceive no need for it.

I don't think the situation is inflexible. I think it can be remedied. I think that people, either by diligent investigation or lessons learned first-hand the hard way, eventually do see the value of self-awareness for training and racing. But I think more can be done to improve the continuing prevalence of obliviousness. In particular, I think the situation can be ameliorated by:
  • Emphasis by coaches--As much as coaches may be pressured by market forces to concentrate on the quick results to be obtained from the physical side of training, they should also be cognizant of the longer-term rewards their clients will find from other, more internal aspects of training. By exclusively emphasizing concrete aspects like workout schedules, volume, intensity, recovery, and nutrition, newbies run the risks of under-realized potential training gains, overtraining, injury, or burn-out. Coaches can help prevent this by encouraging novices (especially those with no history of physical activity) to become more familiar and more responsive to the signals of the body and mind, as well as more cognizant of their abilities to direct both.
  • Patience and self-education by newbies--While learning a sport is in many ways an act of receiving information and guidance from coaches and senior athletes, newbies should also know that education is a 2-way process wherein students have as much responsibility to study and utilize knowledge just as much as teachers have responsibility to teach it. In which case, people just entering triathlon (or any sport in general) should take more heed to the comments and observations of coaches and senior athletes regarding training and racing, even ones dealing with concepts as abstract as self-awareness.
  • Cross-training--Self-awareness can be developed over time, simply by continuous and diligent participation and development in a given sport. The body-mind-self sensitivity, however, can be accelerated by engaging in additional activities asking for different movements that are unfamiliar, and which force you to engage your mind to involve the body in new ways. I've known professional athletes and elite amateurs who've tried to do exactly this by cross-training in alternative activities such as ballet, yoga, martial arts, and even Buddhist meditation. This results in greater coordination between mental and physical sides of yourself, expanding your awareness of the relationship between the body, the mind, and your person.
Triathlon, just like other sports, is in many ways a personal quest of self-improvement and self-development, with the hope of becoming a better human being than you were before. This presumably means seeking progress in all aspects of human existence: physical, mental, spiritual. In which case, if we really are engaging in sports to maximize our total state of being, then we need to do more than just individually increase physical fitness or mental faculties or spiritual well-being independent of each other, but should instead work to expand all of them together in unison. Doing this calls for a greater level of recognition and understanding of how the body, mind, and self interact, and the potential this has to multiply our abilities and elevate our performance. In short, it calls for greater self-awareness.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

training round-up, week ending 03-17-07

well, it appears i'm back. i actually managed to get through a week of heavy mileage without too much trouble.

i'd committed myself to hitting 2 major breakthrough workouts this week: a run of 150 minutes (yeah, i know, a little short, but i've come to the belief that those long 3-hour runs just take so much recovery time that you lose whatever conditioning benefits you get from them) and a bike workout for sustained wattage of 160-170 watts, which courtesy of limited time, got pushed once again to the stationary bike for a total cycling ride of 245 minutes (i know, i know, i'm praying the conversion formula of stationary bike time to road bike time of 1:1.5 is true). i managed to make it through both in their entirety feeling good.

thank god. i was starting to get worried. the previous 2 weeks had been major disappointments in terms of following the training schedule, and i was pretty much running out of space for a last build phase--and a crucial one, at that--before tapering into Ironman. i was seriously starting to wonder if i, despite all my care and efforts this year, was in the overtraining valley once again.

while i know i'd committed to devoting more attention to recovery during training for this year's Ironman, i still had some doubts, particularly in terms of getting in at least some race-distance mileage. i just didn't feel (and in some ways still am not sure i feel) entirely confident with the quantity of mileage i've gotten in this year, particularly long mileage. i honestly don't feel i've really done an adequate number of long workouts to this date.

but last year it had been clear i'd overtrained for IMAZ by a lot, particularly after conversations with coaches and friends. last year my workouts had been too long, the mileage too heavy, and the recovery too meager, especially considering my relative lack of experience at the distance (it had been my first). this year, i'd taken people's advice and limited the long workouts, restricted the mileage, and upped the recovery into more disciplined, purpose-driven packets connected together in series of build and rest weeks...and i'd promised myself to listen to my body, and if i genuinely felt fatigued (as opposed to just lazy), i'd give my body more time to recuperate.

my coaches and friends had also advised me to ignore target times for now. given that it was only my second Ironman, they suggested i focus more on just enjoying the experience and concentrating on holding form and focus during the race. race-day Ironman performance, they tell me, is something that improves with time, and doesn't happen at the first Ironman for everyone but rather takes several Ironmans to really come together--the body just needs the experience to adjust and grow.

so that's what i'm doing.

but still, it is a relief that i was able to get through a scheduled heavy week and actually finish it feeling strong (as opposed to the previous 2 weeks...or even last year, when i staggered through the mileage and finished weeks like this near catatonic). let's just say i don't feel as neurotic as i did before.

now, keeping with the plan, i have to ignore the obsessive-compulsive urge to train even harder, and bear down and exercise some self-discipline and give myself the long taper into IMAZ. i have one more break-through workout scheduled (a 3-mile ocean swim), but everything else is reduced mileage and recovery.

sunday, mar. 11

rest day

monday, mar. 12


  • trail run (weekly long run), 150 minutes (approx. 15 miles), aerobic & anaerobic conditioning (zone 3 & zone 4), rose bowl arroyo trail, start time 8:30am
  • weight training (chest & abs), 45 minutes, home, start time 6:30pm
tuesday, mar. 13

rest day

wednesday, mar. 14

  • swim (maintenance & pull), 3000 meters, aerobic & anaerobic conditioning (zone 3), mcdonald's swim stadium, start time 11am
  • weight training (chest, upper back, abs), 60 minutes, immediately following
  • kung fu (active rest), 45 minutes, rose bowl park, start time 5:30pm
thursday, mar. 15

  • kung fu (active rest), 60 minutes, rose bowl park, start time 4pm
friday, mar. 16


  • brick: stationary bike (muscular endurance) + run (easy), 245 minutes bike + 20 minutes run, aerobic & anaerobic conditioning conditioning (zone 3 & zone 4), lyons center, start time 7am
  • weight training (abs), 30 minutes, immediately following
saturday, mar. 17


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

Sunday, March 11, 2007

training round-up, week ending 03-10-07

my training plan just pretty much went to hell this week.

it started off bad. i had a monday morning swim scheduled, but arrived to find that pool was closed because there was no life guard (WTF?!?! undergrad lifeguards oversleeping during midterms?!?! phooey!!!).

it didn't get much better from there. for some reason, i had so much residual soreness in my legs that pretty much any thought of entering a build phase went right out the window.

not because i didn't want to, but because i pretty much knew there'd nothing constructive achieved by trying to do so.

i'd promised myself this year that i'd really commit to the concept that recovery is as much a part of training as workouts, and in some ways is actually more important. training is about building your body, not about tearing it down. and i'd learned last year just how much lack of recovery can tear a body down.

but still, it's frustrating to not feel your body recovering the way you'd like it to. and this week was supposed to have been a build week following last week's placement as a recovery week.

it took a real bit of effort to adjust the training schedule and give myself some more time to recover and feel better. which is why my tuesday and wednesday pretty much got completely knocked out. i found myself sleeping in and logging 9-10 hours of sleep each day.

i am really wondering just what i did that is giving my body so much could be the kung fu lessons, which is the only new element in the training that i installed. but i view it as a low-intensity exercise, and the saturday class only runs 3 hours at the longest. still, it must be throwing a wrench into the training cycle.

whatever, next week is big. whatever i am going to do at IMAZ is going to have to happen next week. it's that important.

sunday, mar. 4

rest day

monday, mar. 5

  • weight training (chest, shoulders, abs), 60 minutes, lyons center, start time 6am
  • kung fu (active rest), 45 minutes, loker track stadium, start time 6:30pm
tuesday, mar. 6

rest day

wednesday, mar. 7

rest day

thursday, mar. 8

  • brick: stationary bike (maintenance) + run (easy), 120 minutes bike + 20 minutes run, aerobic conditioning (zone 3), lyons center, start time 6am
  • weight training (abs), 30 minutes, immediately following
  • kung fu (active rest), 45 minutes, loker track stadium, start time 6:30pm
friday, mar. 9


  • swim (maintenance), 2400 yards, muscular endurance (zone 3), mcdonald's swim stadium, start time 6am
  • weight training (chest, shoulders, upper & lower back), 30 minutes, immediately following
saturday, mar. 10


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

endurance sports and kung fu (part 2) - center of gravity

i'd mentioned in a previous post about my decision to take kung fu lessons, and about my belief that there was some symbiotic connections between the 2 that i think people may have overlooked.

i'd said that there were a number of things relative to sports (and triathlon) i'd found in the short time i've been doing martial arts. among them is the notion of the center of gravity, and the manipulation of it.

i think most athletes are aware of it, if not consciously then unconsciously, and use it naturally as a component of their athletic abilities. i mean, being an athlete is about developing and possessing skills like mind-body awareness, mental concentration and visualization, physical strength and speed, as well as physical coordination, all of which relates in some way to utilization of the body's properties, which include the center of gravity.

but what i don't think most athletes are aware of is the way other activities such as kung fu (or even outside of kung fu, like ballet, yoga, etc.) perceive it. and i think to really get a good grasp of something, you need to get some perspective on it in terms of its context to other things, since this allows you to really understand the full potential, value, and need for it towards the purpose you use it. the center of gravity is a major part of each of the 3 individual disciplines within triathlon, but i didn't really become aware of just how much until i saw how it was used in kung fu.

granted, there are differences in how the 2 subjects deal with center of gravity. but there are also similarities--similarities which i think help to gain a better sensitivity and better use of the concept.

to see what i mean in detail, reference the cross-posting from my kung fu blog: jonathan on a path: center of gravity

Friday, March 09, 2007


There is a great deal of uncertainty involved in this sport. Uncertainty as to wave sets, water temperature, pollution. Uncertainty over road conditions, potholes, traffic. Uncertainty in regards to bad weather, rough trails, random animals. Never mind your equipment, and the uncertainty of corroded wetsuits, leaky goggles, flat tires, snapped chains, locked brakes, chafing clothes, defective shoes, and broken water bottles. So many much so as to be overwhelming.

For all this, however, you can't allow yourself to dwell on these things. It's pointless. You don't control them. You can't change them. You won't make a difference. The universe will move on its own way in its own time on its own path for its own purpose, regardless of what you do. Uncertainties will happen, and will always happen. And not just in a race, but in all of life.

Because all of life is chaos.

Ultimately, all you can do is to control the one thing you can control: yourself. You can control when you sleep, you can control when you eat, you can control when you study, you can control when you work. You can control when you train, how hard you train, how far you train, how well you train. You can control your thoughts, your words, your actions. You can control everything you do.

And when something doesn't go the way you want or plan, just accept it for what it is, and then make your adjustments and just move on.

You may not control the events in the world around you, but you can control how you respond. And you want to respond in a way that is helpful to you and people around you. Getting angry won't help. Being sad won't help. Feeling sorry for yourself won't help. Giving in to fear won't help. Because the universe just...does. not. care.

Oh, you can allow yourself a moment to feel these emotions. You can stop and allow yourself to wallow in them. Just enough to remind yourself of their futility. Then you need to recognize the only reason they stay is because you make them stay, and then calm your mind and let...them...go...

And just move on.

Because you can.

All of life is uncertainty. All of life is chaos. And you are the master of uncertainty. You are the lord of chaos.

You just have to find it all within you.

Monday, March 05, 2007

endurance sports and kung fu (part 1) - bridges

when i first made the decision to begin kung fu lessons, i knew that as an athlete i was heading into some relatively unknown territory.

not unknown in terms of kung fu or sports individually; i knew i wanted to learn kung fu as a matter of (hopefully) acquiring some skill in self-defense and also intellectual curiousity about its nature, and sports i was already somewhat acquainted with as an athlete (albeit marginal). but definitely unknown in terms of combination; it was entirely unclear to me or to anyone i asked if there was any complementary or mutual elements between the 2 subjects, or if one could help with the other.

kung fu and sports--and endurance sports in particular--are disparate communities, with little association between the 2. from what i can tell, they are 2 worlds operating in very different orbits. i have not encountered very many people who can offer much in the way of connections between them. while there has been the occasional athlete who has participated in martial arts at some point in their past, i have found that they did so as recreation and not as part of an integrated athletic sports-related regimen. moreover, i have yet to find any institutional interaction between kung fu and sports, with little awareness of ideas, concepts, methods, or applications between sifus (i.e., "instructors" or "masters") and coaching staff.

this situation is not aided by the opinions the 2 communities have of each other, which are a mixture of ignorance, confusion, skepticism, and sometimes even friends in the athletic community have proffered a certain level of doubt (as in: "uh, dude, seriously, kung fu?"), joking (imagine the song sung as "oh, everybody is kung fu racing!"), reservation (delivered with "hmmmmm...okay"), and self-restrained courtesy (with the words "sounds interesting"). the one exception, to my surprise, has been my coach, who has adopted an air of aplomb and on a few occasions said to me: "let me know how it goes. who knows? maybe you're on to something." on the whole, however, the overall opinion has been one of uncertainty.

the people i have met in kung fu have been somewhat more reticent in their comments, but no less questioning regarding the possibility of relations with the sporting world. i suspect that there's a belief in incompatibilities or incongruities with athletics (i.e., sports is merely recreational competition, whereas kung fu is a way of life as well as a way of defending life), along with a bit of stereotyping of athletes in general (i.e., athletes are high-profile attention-getting testosterone-driven meatheads and not capable of understanding much outside of wins, losses, and groupies). i also think there's an undercurrent that kung fu, being a martial art, is serious stuff, while sports is just recreation.

i don't think this is all intentional from either side. a lot of it is just lack of communication, and the conclusions that inevitably arise from the lack of communication. because there's so much distance between the 2 communities, there is very little (if any) interaction, and hence no shared knowledge. the result is a lack of awareness as to what the other party knows. this produces an intellectual gulf that i believe to be a self-sustaining, self-realizing quandary, in that each side doesn't know what the other party knows and invariably interprets this as a sign that the other side doesn't know anything, rather than taking it as a suggestion that maybe they themselves don't know anything about the other side. of course, this leads right back to even less communication, which starts the entire cycle all over again.

examples of this have been easy to find. professional triathletes i've spoken to have laughed when i asked about the possibilities of martial arts training to sports--even though some of them have cross-trained in similarly disparate fields like ballet or yoga. when pressed, they've conceded they don't know much, but responded that they doubt it could be much. similarly, my fellow kung fu students have shrugged in puzzlement when i've posed questions about connections between kung fu and sports.

the result, i think, has been the disjuncture i have observed between the 2 groups. in a way, based on what i have experienced, i feel like i'm in between 2 different worlds.

admittedly, i kind of expected this when i began. i am what my coach dryly observed as "the experiment." since nobody seems to know about the connections between kung fu and endurance sports, it appears that i am going to be the one person to find out...and to find out empirically. with me as the test subject, observer, and analyst rolled into one.

so apart from self-defense and personal development, is there any purpose for an athlete (or triathlete) to learn kung fu?

i don't know yet. but i'm starting to see some connections. and i'm starting to believe the distance between the 2 worlds is not as great as either side might think. it's only been a relatively short time that i've been learning kung fu (try a few months), but what i've seen so far is encouraging. enough that i am interested in seeing more. i can tell you it's been one of the most interesting, and very much rewarding, experiences i've done--and not just physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. let's just say it's expanded my horizons somewhat.

hopefully, given more time, i'll be able to compile things together in a way which bridges the 2 communities. for now, i'll have to do it in increments.

i'll let you know.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

training round-up, week ending 03-04-07

this was a recovery week.

at least, it was supposed to be. following the rule i'd made this year of "3 weeks build, 1 week recovery," i'd scheduled this as an easy week.

but one of the hard parts about training--and i think it's not just for triathlon, but for all sports in general--is that when you're really in it, and i mean really in the middle of the training cycle and going hard, it's really hard to not go gangbusters all-out all the time. you develop a certain level of paranoia, neurosis, and obsessive-compulsive disorder that just drives you to (and through) workouts, even ones you shouldn't be doing. it's accompanied by waves of guilt, worry, anxiety, and uncertainty over whether you're training enough, or training right, or that you're becoming underprepared, or worse, that you're losing all the conditioning that you've worked so hard to attain.

it's weird. people had warned me about this when i first started. i'd read about it often. and i'd taken to heart all the things that you're supposed to do to avoid it (or deal with it)--basically, ignore it, have faith in the training and yourself, and just let things go. that, and remember that the other part of training is recovery--with recovery being just as important as building.

but dealing with it is entirely different. you just...have. to. train. and if you miss a workout, it's the second coming of sherman's march to the sea. and if you find yourself unable to finish a workout, it's the arrival of armageddon and the final judgement of humanity.

i think i kind of overdid things this week. and a lot of it was because of the trepidation i got from my struggles in february. i probably should have just allowed my body to recover and rest.

as it was, i took 2 days off, and then felt so bad (hey, i had the mindset it was 5 days of easy workouts, if you consider the days at the end of the previous week) that i went in on thursday and did a hard 3-hour session on the stationary bike (which would have meant a 4-1/2 hour road ride, if the conversion formula from triathlon mag is right). that left my legs sore. and me very tired. and most definitely in the overtraining fog (figuratively--i was just out of it and not thinking very clearly) for the next 2 days.

i'm on the edge of overtraining, and maybe a little bit over. i'm going to have to modify my training schedule a bit, even if it means going in to Ironman with whatever it is i've got. because i don't want to repeat my experience at IMAZ last year ever again. i went into that race feeling tired. this year, i want to go into Ironman feeling rested, and restless. as in ready to go.

i'm going to have to watch it for the next few weeks, even if they are build weeks.

sunday, feb. 25

rest day

monday, feb. 26

  • swim (intervals, 8x200), 2600 yards, aerobic & anaerobic conditioning (zone 3 & zone 4), mcdonald's swim stadium, start time 6am
  • weight training (chest, abs), 30 minutes, immediately following
  • kung fu (active rest), 60 minutes, loker track stadium, start time 6:30pm
tuesday, feb. 27

rest day

wednesday, feb. 28

rest day

thursday, mar. 1

  • stationary bike (build), 180 minutes, muscular endurance (zone 3 & zone 4), lyons center, start time 6am
  • run (maintenance), 45 minutes, aerobic conditioning (zone 3), loker track stadium, start time 5:30pm
  • weight training (abs), 20 minutes, immediately following
friday, mar. 2


  • swim (technique & pull), 2800 yards, muscular endurance (zone 3), mcdonald's swim stadium, start time 6am
  • weight training (chest, shoulders, & lower back), 30 minutes, immediately following
saturday, mar. 3


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

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Meaning of Virtue

You should reach the limits of virtue
before you cross the border of death.
--Tyrtaios, Frontiers

By now the bulk of you have experienced your first race, and discovered the thrill and challenge of triathlon. Some of you may have found it everything you wanted. Some of you, however, may have found it quite a bit more, and are now daunted by what has happened and are now waivering in your resolve.

To you we take this time to ask: Do you want to quit? Do you wish to surrender? Do you desire to abandon the decision you made to enter this sport? Having tried it, do you now hope to leave this world of water, wheels, and shoes in endless motion beneath wind and cold and cloud and rain and heat and sun? Well, do you?

To you we give this answer: NO!

Now is the time for you to hold strong to your resolve. Now is the time to stand undaunted. Now is the time when you check your heart and soul, and remember the reasons that--deep down inside, in places you have only begun to explore--you sought out this sport and the challenges it promised you: to find the meaning of your strength, your courage, your beliefs, and most of all, yourself. So that you could make of yourself a better person than you were before, and fulfill the full potential of the human being you were meant to be.

So gather your equipment, strap on your shoes, fix your sunglasses, honor the virtues you hold most dear, and then steel your mind and join your comrades. It’s time for us to march on.

Still need inspiration? Still want something to lift your spirits? Your timing is fortuitous, for there is indeed now something that will help you (admittedly, it's probably one of the biggest testosterone-filled hyper-masculinized man-films EVER made, but what the hell, it looks good...):

Ah yes, the Spartans, and their stand at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. A band of 300 against an army rumored to have numbered close to a million. According to historians, it was perhaps Sparta's finest hour and the pinnacle of their civilization’s ideals. At this battle, they put on full display the greatest of Spartan virtues: courage, skill, guile, discipline, determination, resourcefulness, self-reliance, loyalty, sacrifice.

They did this not for just for the sake of victory, but to also let the world know that this is who they were...That this. Is. Sparta.

Oh my, oh me. Why, it's enough to bring tears to this Viking's eye. They are truly worthy of a place of Valhalla!