Saturday, October 27, 2007

salvaged smithereens (training notes 10/26/07)

training this week was almost shot to smithereens. and that may be putting it kindly.

it wasn't laziness.

as the previous posts this week indicate, the wildfires pretty knocked all the build workouts i had planned this week. not because i'm living in a fire area--South Pasadena and Los Angeles are not the same places as Malibu, Lake Arrowhead, Orange County, San Diego, etc. but more because the smoke and ash produced from the wildfires made the almost unbreathable.

and if it wasn't unbreathable, it was still dangerous. using the U.S. government air quality website for L.A. (reference: Los Angeles Metro & Inland Orange County) the air quality forecast most of this week has been rated "unhealthy."

i did manage to get in a long swim Monday morning (before the fires erupted). and i got so frustrated Friday that i went ahead and put in a 140 minute ride on a stationary bike in the school gym. probably not a good idea, since the air didn't feel any better inside than it did outside. but at least i assuaged my paranoia...hopefully not at the expense of too much danger to my health.

you can see my workouts this week on my Google calendar (click on the "Google Training" button to the right, or reference:

the bigger concern is the coming weeks. the news says the smoke and ash is so fine that it is likely to linger for weeks. rains may help to filter it down, and there was a little rain this morning, but it's going to take some time. which means that this puts my build workouts for the foreseeable future into jeopardy...serious jeopardy.

we'll see. i'm going to cross my fingers and keep an eye on the air quality forecast. and hope.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

california wildfires - (still) poisonous air

so things are supposedly least, the fires are better up in the mountains. but the smoke is sort of worse down in the Los Angeles basin.

if you look at the real-time Google map of the burn areas on my previous post (reference: wildfire california - (more) poisonous air), you'll see that many of the wildfires are under control.

thing is, i woke up this morning, and found i couldn't breath. i was wheezing just to get from the bed to the bathroom. my nose has been bleeding constantly. i've still got a headache, and i've been feeling lightheaded to boot. and all this was before i even got out of my apartment to go to class.

the air smells of ash. it's that distinct pungent odor of soot mixed with burned-out dirt and dead wood. and it's everywhere.

it's also thick: normally you can see all the way to the mountains from campus, which is about 12-15 miles, but today you couldn't even see the skyline, which is only 1 mile away.

i don't even want to know what it's doing to my lungs. i decided to go to the gym and get some training in, figuring a workout indoors would be safe...wrong. the tightness in my chest stayed with me through the entire workout, and i noticed that my breath had the distinct smell of smoker's mouth (you know, cigarettes)--and i don't smoke.

a friend of mine decided to do the big F-U to the fires, and went out for bike ride yesterday afternoon. he had to stop 12 miles in because of chest pains. by evening he was coughing up black stuff. today, he's still hacking and suffering just to make it through class. just peachy.

i was going to stay on campus and try to do some work, but i figured enough was enough and decided to go home. not that it's an improvement, but at least i can get more comfortable.

and at least i've got a place to stay. i pity all the people who don't even have that.

not that it helps, but here's a series of satellite images over the past few days.

this is today:compare it to yesterday:and then check out the day before, yeah. things are improving. maybe? somewhere? somehow?

well, somebody tell when they do. cuz right now, things are still pretty miserable.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

wildfire california - (more) poisonous air

okay, this is to follow up my post from yesterday (reference: poisonous air).

it's amazing how fast things can change...for the worse.

so this was the satellite image of the fires yesterday:compare this to the satellite image today:ummmmmmmm...yeah. fires seem a little worse, yeah? smoke and ash ditto, yeah? and they're saying that it actually could have been worse, since they were originally expecting winds as strong as those from the past 2 days (as much as 75-100 mph) but instead got winds of only 15-30 mph.

as a matter of timeliness, i'll embed a live Google map of the fires created by the LA Times:

View Larger Map

and the stuff i wrote yesterday about the health dangers from the smoke and ash is now confirmed by news reports. CNN posted an article about the dangers of inhalation from wildfires, even for people in areas not immediately affected by them. the link to the article is: but i'll excerpt the relevant part here:
...the real concerns are the particles and gases in the smoke. When a fire burns it generates carbon dioxide, water vapor, carbon monoxide, particulate matter and other chemicals.

And the wind can carry those particles to areas far from the fires. See the NASA photograph of smoke from the fires

When you breathe the smoke, the tiny particles burrow deep into the lungs, causing serious irritation, mucous build-up and breathing problems.

Most masks don't really help, because the particles are so tiny they pass through the filters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC said that people with heart and lung disease, children and older adults are most vulnerable, but even healthy adults can suffer symptoms when smoke levels are high enough.

It said smoke can cause:

• Coughing
• A scratchy throat
• Irritated sinuses
• Shortness of breath
• Chest pain
• Headaches
• Stinging eyes
• A runny nose
• Asthma exacerbations

The government's Air Quality Index shows "unhealthy" pollution levels in much of Southern California. That means that people may experience these symptoms.

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said those problems can last for weeks after the fire.

He said the best thing to do if you smell smoke is to stay inside.
yeah, i live in South Pasadena and my school is USC (down by downtown), meaning that i'm not anywhere near the burn areas. but we are most definitely directly in the smoke plume from the fires to the north and east (depends on the direction of the winds, but we're getting it either way). and i--and all my friends--are pretty much getting all the symptoms given in the article.


that's kind of an afterthought at this stage. i can get stuff in at the gym, but beyond that there's pretty much nothing that's going to go on. not at least while things are the way they are. that, and it seems kind of ludicrous to go for a bike or run (or even swim) with all the toxic material in the air and with people streaming down to the city to get away from the fire.

if there's more to post, i'll post.

Monday, October 22, 2007

poisonous air

oh how lovely...

air quality is lovely across the nation. except the little corner in the lower left--the one marked in bright red.

the color legend marks "good quality" as being green, "moderate" as yellow, "unhealthy for sensitive people" as orange, and "unhealthy" as red. this, of course, is the current state of Southern California.

contrary to popular stereotype, the cause is not smog (even though current temps of around 90 certainly exacerbate this). rather, it's a sudden onslaught of wildfires. and i mean sudden--as in the space of a few hours.

check out the following satellite images for October 22, and note the time stamps on each:
note: no major indications of fires, apart from the areas in Malibu (the white tracers coming off the shore). incidentally, the Malibu fires came Saturday night and erupted by Sunday morning, shutting down the entire community.

note: that's right, 2:50 pm. only a little over 3 hours later. it was an eruption across major stretches of the outlying suburbs in the foothills and mountains.

this isn't the half of it. there's apparently also fires raging east of LA and south towards Orange County and San Diego. meaning there's flames all around the city. i tried to find satellite image showing these, but the fires have only occurred in the past few hours, and so i'm guessing satellite imagery hasn't quite caught up yet. the point is that--while not evident from the above photos--this entire region is now afloat in a ring of wildfires being carried towards the city regardless of which direction the wind is blowing.

you can sort of see it in this satellite image:
note: the white tracers are plumes of smoke and ash. the red dots are computer-generated indicators of fires.

it's not helpful that the city of Los Angeles and its related metropolitan communities all sit in a basin facing the ocean and surrounded by foothills and mountains. because all the fires are in the foothills and mountains, this means that the heavier particulate matter rising from the flames are being blown down into the basin, where they settle out of the higher winds and sink into the relatively still air within the local neighborhoods.

isn't that nice?

those of you familiar with this kind of thing know what i'm getting at: smoke and ash.

lots of it.

bad enough that you can feel it in your lungs. i kind of knew something was up, since my nostrils started burning around lunchtime and i've become a non-stop snot factory since then. which is odd, seeing i have no allergies during this time of year. i also now have a major headache, a sore throat, and tightness in the chest. it doesn't help that the level of pollution in the soil around here makes all the smoke and ash toxic.

i'm not the only one. everyone else i've spoken to around campus is saying the same (or similar) things, with the same (or similar) symptoms. and they all noticed around the same time i did.

as athletes, you also know the consequence of this: no training.


oh you could go out and get a workout in. but based on the particulate matter readings, you'd be inhaling enough material that you'd end up doing long-term damage to your lungs. this would effectively negate any benefits from training in terms of increased conditioning, and very likely actually incur costs from decreased conditioning. working out in these conditions--hell, just breathing in these conditions--is tantamount to sucking in poisonous air. who knows what it's doing to your insides.

i'm not particularly happy. this was supposed to be a build week. an important one. now it may not be anything.

and i feel particularly bad for all communities getting torched (literally) by this. i've got friends from communities in the affected areas, and they're freaking out. tough situation. they've got my sympathies.

i guess on a morbidly (and perhaps inappropriately poor taste) positive note, i suppose this means more time for me to work on my dissertation and hunt down a post-doc. yippee!

hey, you have to be as constructive as you can, right?

i'm really worried this may go on for awhile. Southern California is in the worst drought it's had in the past 50 years, and everybody is talking about how dry everything is--trees, shrubs, grass, weeds, dirt. dry dry dry. parched to a crispy crumbly crackly goodness. just perfect to serve as...tinder.

yeah, this is going to go on for awhile. and that's not good. not for me, and not for anybody.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

dissertation acclimation expectation paranoia (training notes 10/20/07)

one of the hardest parts about training is holding back. it sounds odd, but a driving rule in training (or so i've been told) is to stick to a plan of building up to race day, and to rein yourself in even thought the temptation is sometimes really strong to ramp up intensity and volume. i've had several coaches stress to me that training is like building a house: the higher you want the house to go (i.e., the greater the performance), the bigger the foundation that has to be laid (i.e., the more expansive the base and build periods).

for me, it's always a struggle with paranoia and expectations. paranoia that i'm not training hard enough, and expectations that i should be meeting or exceeding the physical capabilities i had before. i'm having to constantly remind myself of several things:
  • this is the beginning of the training cycle for Ironman, and that i'm building the groundwork for higher intensity and volume later. which means the workouts shouldn't be brutal. they should just be pushing the envelope a little bit to alert the body's systems that they need to adapt to a higher workload.
  • supposedly, because this stage of training is initiating the body's adaptive mechanisms, it's really an acclimation phase to let you get used to a higher stage in training.
  • acclimation, by definition, involves recovery. without recovery, there's no adaptation...there's just destruction. which is not what you want.
and i think that's what makes it so difficult. because i'm dealing with 2 conflicting things:
  • in the back of my mind i'm very much aware of the big numbers of Ironman: 2.4 + 112 + 26.2 = 140.6 freakin' miles. and i subconsciously (or consciously) compare that to what i'm doing now...which this week, was at best an 8 mile run and 2 hr. stationary bike ride and a modest 2600 yds swim. pitiful.
  • training is telling me to focus on recovery, not just the workout numbers. meaning that even as my mind is racing with anxiety to get those numbers up, the training plan is asking me to hold back and allow rest time. which means inactivity. ugh!
it doesn't help that my stress levels are somewhat elevated right now because of this freakin' doctoral dissertation. not all of you are PhD graduate students, but the way it works is that as a doctoral student you're supposed to spend a number of years creating a mammoth work of research that presumably contributes to human knowledge, and you finish by presenting the research to a committee of professors who then get to pepper you with questions to test your knowledge in something called a "defense"...and for my field (international politics), the dissertations are usually 200-400 pages long and the defenses are generally 2-3 hours.

i'm not running up the walls (yet), but i can still tell this dissertation is weighing on me mentally, and it's already taking time away from training. i'm working on a deadline to finish by the end of October and defend by the end of December. both of which are real soon. meaning hours and hours of time in front of this computer.

i'd call it part of recovery time, but i really wonder.

you see? dissertation. acclimation. expectation. paranoia!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

who i am

well, this blog has been around a while in one form or another, and i've been pretty much anonymous during that time.

but seeing that i've been doing this seriously within the past year, and seeing the Google Analytics data on this blog, i figure it's time to finally get around to introducing myself. i'm trying to get a writing career going, and the material on this blog seems to be the area that i want to go in--you know, stuff on life using triathlon and sports as a vehicle to deal with deeper issues (or not). that, and the data on this blog shows that i appear to be building up a regular following, with people from around the world. i've got pageviews--and i'm having pages quoted--from places like Brazil, Japan, Taiwan, Russia, Israel, South Africa, Germany, and (of course) my original place of Sweden (heja, svenska allihopa!). hey everybody, and thanks for reading...hope you keep coming back!

so to help everyone out, and to answer your potential questions as to "just who is this guy?!?!" i'd like to offer up this brief run-down.

my Trifuel bio probably gives the most succinct and best introduction:
Jonathan is finishing a dual-degree PhD/JD program at the University of Southern California. He does Ironmans for several self-delusional reasons: health, fitness, fun, boredom, vicarious suffering, existentialist crises, spiritual angst, conversations with god(s), and the meaning of life, the universe, and things in general. He likes to write about all these things in relation to Ironman, and hopes that people like reading what he writes about all these things in relation to Ironman.
of course, i should add by also stating a few more salient points:
  • as an Ironman, i suck. really suck. my 1st Ironman i had heat issues and ended up on the side of the road getting watered down by volunteers (yeah, i was one of those guys), and struggled to just get across the finish. the 2nd Ironman i got to learn the meaning of cycling, when i found out what it really feels like to have to pedal courtesy of sustained 30-40 mph winds (strong enough to blow the port-a-potties lovely). i'm hoping my 3rd Ironman is a break-through performance, but who knows. nobody ever knows.
  • i'm in the last year of graduate school. so i won't be a grad student much longer. i'm actually defending my dissertation soon, very soon. which means i'm looking for a job...which means that if any of you have a heads up on a job that's interested in somebody with a PhD/JD focusing on international politics who likes to write and (oh by the way) also does Ironmans, have them contact me. OR, if you know of any post-doctoral programs or schools looking to hire faculty (note: i really prefer places that have a climate accommodating Ironman training and--oh yeah--surfing), then have them contact me.
  • i'm (obviously) living in Southern California. South Pasadena area to be exact. it's a small suburb, not as famous as its bigger (and more famous) neighbor Pasadena, but it's quaint and has a certain charm. as a grad student, i'm scraping money to make rent payments here, and i'm sure i'll never to be able to afford to buy a house in this town (average house price here: approx. $850,000), but it works until i graduate and get a job.
  • i'm your average single guy. i like to think i'm funny, down-to-earth, and accessible. i've been told that girls think of me as like their "best friend's edgy older brother." no idea what that means...i suspect they're saying they see me as that slightly older, slightly mature, slightly world-wise, smart-ass a-t-t-i-t-u-d-e (but still approachable) college guy they always kinda sorta maybe perhaps one-day-but-oh-uh-i-dunno were really curious about but just couldn't dare to make a step to hang out with. yeah, that guy.
  • whatever.
  • i live in Southern California, but i'm originally from Sweden. go figure. but my family moved over here when i was so young that i've forgotten most of my Swedish and really consider myself as SoCal. parents really want to see me go back to Europe for at least a little while re-connect with my Swedish roots and (just maybe) get married with a decent Swedish girl.
  • whatever
  • i may originally be Swedish, but NO, i am NOT blonde or blue-eyed. i'm EURASIAN. as in a skinny half-breed eurasian. i'm so far from the stereotype of Swedes that people don't even believe i'm Swedish--including most swedes. i think people have a hard time getting their head around the fact that Sweden is increasinly a multi-cultural country, and there are now Swedes of all different kinds of ethnicities. but as i once read in a New Zealand travel brochure: "race relations always end up being resolved in the bedroom." i guess that applied in my parents' case. go figure.
  • whatever
  • triathlon isn't my only interest. obviously, i surf. not regularly, but enough to enjoy it and to know i need to do it more. i also snowboard. ditto. i've been doing kung fu lately, and have gotten serious enough about it that i actually have a blog about it (reference: i also like things like art, poetry, opera, ballet, and getting to know other cultures...which means eating all kinds of food, checking out all kinds of events, meeting different kinds of people, and traveling when i get the chance. call it a way of retaining my sanity in a world of utter insanity
  • thing i live by: to learn about yourself, you have to learn about the world; to understand the world, you have to understand yourself.
  • another thing i live by: all the world is suffering; the question is: what do you do about it?
  • yet another thing i live by: we all live, we all die. so what do you with the time you have left?
  • yet one more thing i live by: damn, would everybody just chill out?
  • and oh yeah: whatever
well, that's about it. hope that satisfies your curiousity...and didn't repel you away.

thanks for reading, and all your comments! please feel welcome to check this blog out anytime.

Monday, October 15, 2007

blog action day 2007: race day trash

i'm writing this on behalf of Blog Action Day (reference: it's being promoted by Blogger, and it seems like the kind of thing that i'm interested in supporting, so i figured i'd go ahead and participate. Blog Action Day is an annual event, and is hopes to bring global attention to a specific issue (a new one chosen each year) by having all participating bloggers write a post on their blog on the selected topic on the same day. for this year, it's the environment.

for my part, i was originally planning to write about "zero carbon footprint" or "carbon neutral" triathlon races (for carbon neutral in general, reference: Wikipedia: Carbon Neutral). this involves reducing the amount of carbon-related wastes produced by triathlon races (including greenhouse-increasing emissions). but this is a topic that seems to be generating momentum on its own, with a lot of impetus coming from Clif Bar (reference: Clif Bar: Our Story, Environment) through its affiliation with a growing number of races.

as a result, i figured to focus on something that was getting less attention, but which was 1) equally as reprehensible and in need of mitigation, and 2) within the immediate sphere of action for most of us as athletes. i'm pretty you sure you can deduce this from the picture at the top: trash. specifically, trash at races.

i used to think that the trash that piles up at races was just a part of racing, that the act of dropping used cups, empty gels, consumed fruit, and random equipment was an endemic part of competition on race courses extending over public waterways and streets. it seemed reasonable--the entire point of racing was to compete, meaning go as fast as you can, which in turn meant that there wasn't time to look for trash cans and then make the concentrated effort to stop and drop garbage off in them.

but lately, i've started to think otherwise.

it wasn't an overnight decision. it was more just a gradual sense of discomfort over seeing the raw quantity of trash that piled up at each race i entered, particularly as i started to stay the day after each race and got to see the amount of work involved in cleaning everything up. the amount of garbage was profound. and it wasn't just in readily accessible urban streets, but also on rural roads and country trails, in locations that were ostensibly parks or even protected natural lands.

a number of things began to bother me:
  • the level of waste is completely out of proportion to the level of competition. by this, i mean that it seems the only people who could be excused for throwing trash on the race course would be professionals and some elites whose livelihoods depended on their velocity and finishing time. for the rest of us, there just isn't that much at stake to justify defacing public property (i.e., if the only thing at stake is your own ego, then how does that weigh against the money that has to be spent to clean things up?)
  • if you're going to walk (or run) through an aid station to get energy drink, water, gels, fruit, etc., then it shouldn't be too hard to walk (or run) to the trash can at the aid station to drop off the garbage. seriously, it's only a few meters. it's not that hard. and even if you're on a bike, it's not that hard to slow down to drop your refuse at the trash bin. it's only a few seconds, and the vast majority of competitors are not going to have their livelihoods threatened by losing a few seconds to maintain a clean environment (i.e., again, if the only thing at stake is your own ego, then it's immaterial compared to the few seconds it will take to properly dispose the refuse you are holding in your hands)
  • even if race fees go towards cleaning up garbage, and hence offset the public taxes expended on the problem, this still creates the subsequent issue of race organizers increasing race fees...just like any business, they're going to pass on the costs (race day trash collection) onto their consumers (competitors). in which case, as a consumer, i'd prefer to save some money and try to see if costs (trash) could be decreased
  • it doesn't seem limited to race day. i'm seriously starting to suspect that competitors who are lackadaisical about throwing trash on the course during a race are also people who are just as lackadaisical about throwing trash on the streets on normal days...their carelessness seems habit-forming
  • it seems entirely contrary to the notion of athletics to be so careless about garbage. athletics is supposedly about values like commitment and discipline. but there's not much commitment and discipline in simply dumping garbage on the race course
  • this was (and is) the kind of behavior that on normal days would be considered littering, which in most places is a crime involving a fine (and in some extreme cases, more)
  • it's ugly. it's nasty. it's disgusting
it's because of this that in recent years i've started to make a more concerted effort in how i deal with my trash during races. i've begun to follow 2 strategies:
  • pack-in-pack-out: this is a hiker's rule held by backpackers camping in the wilderness. it's a general principle meant to preserve the natural world in a pristine state so that its ecology can continue without any more human disruption than necessary. it's also meant to keep things in a way that other people can enjoy it after you've left.
  • aim for the trash can: i figure i can hold on to my trash until i spot a trash can, and which point i can save other people's energy by being responsible and disposing my own garbage into the trash bin. it's not that hard, and i figure it's the least i can do for all the work that race organizers, volunteers, and local communities do in hosting me.
i know i'm just 1 person doing this, but it always makes me feel better to know that i'm doing something constructive. and i always get seem to get confirmation from a race volunteer, a race organizer, a city official, or even public service worker who invariably thank me for my efforts.

i don't proselytize to anybody else. i figure it'd just be 1) annoying, and 2) make me out to be some kind of arrogant holier-than-thou lunatic. besides, i'm usually too tired to even talk. still, i hope that it sets an example, and that maybe somebody else in the race might see me and be inspired to follow my lead.

somebody like you.
Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Sunday, October 14, 2007

initial rest (training notes 10/12/07)

well, there should have been training notes for each of the past 3 weeks, since i'd technically started training for IMNZ 2008 then. but it's been busy, so i kind of slacked on the training notes part.

besides, it's not there was a lot to say--i mean, all i had was "workouts started, i'm tired, i'm sore, i'm hungry, and i'm huffing and puffing like a fat overweight cow lumbering up the hill to get back to the barn." what else is there to add?

this past week was a recovery week, with reduced training volume and reduced intensities. i'd almost forgotten to take it, but then courtesy of my increasingly trusty Google Training google calendar, i suddenly realized that i was starting to stretch the build cycle--and in any training plan, this is not a good idea. it certainly explains why i'd been feeling so beat down.

of course, i had to fight the urges to continue ramping up the workouts. they always warn you about this in training. your mindset tends to keep driving for increased workouts, because of neurosis or paranoia or endorphic addiction (or maybe all 3), even though you're feeling exhausted and you're well aware your body needs to rest.

but i forced myself to take some extra time this past week to ease off. which was just as well, since i used that time to make some progress on my dissertation (the deadline to submit to my advisor is fast approaching), and i could tell that my lower back muscles were in dire need of recovery (you ever get that feeling that your muscles are on the verge of breaking down? yeah, it was just like that).

i wanted to take time yesterday (Saturday) to watch the Ironman World Championships in Kona, especially since i know 2 people who were there. but i had kung fu, and then i had chores (groceries, gas, etc.). so i have no idea what happened. i'm waiting until they show it on repeat.

but all things good. still a little sore. but i guess that's to be expected. i start build weeks again, so fun fun fun.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Message for Kona

I wrote something about this some time ago (reference: eddie would go), but I feel compelled to re-write it again for matters of pressing relevance.

This post is directed for those competitors presently preparing for the Ironman World Championships in Kona. I know at least 2 of them well, 1 a pro and another a freakish elite age grouper (names are withheld to protect their innocence...but good luck, guys!).

I myself am not doing Kona--I'm not that good, and likely never will be. But I do know something about Hawaii, and about Asian-Pacific-Islander traditions, enough to be sensitive to cultural issues. After hearing about some of the controversial cultural faux pas that have occurred at Kona in recent years, I figured I should do my part and try to offer anyone there something to help ease over any possible unintended offenses to native traditions and sensibilities.

There are many important aspects of native Hawaiian culture that are relevant to competitors going to Kona. But rather than devolve into a cursory overview of a random selection of them, I figure it'd be more in keeping with Hawaiian tradition to focus instead on providing something that would convey a sense of the Hawaiian spirit, and the mana (or spiritual power, reference: Wikipedia: Mana) that is so central to it.

One of the best--or at least most popular--stories demonstrating the Hawaiian spirit is the story of Eddie Aikau. It's become a special part of Hawaiian lore, because it's real, and occurred within the living memory of most islanders. It's also special because it resonates with ancient traditions, and so reminds many Hawaiians of the continuing relevance of their past.

Eddie Aikau was not originally a particularly auspicious personality. Born in 1946 on the island of Maui, he grew to become a high school dropout, and developed a dubious reputation of being an aimless slacker. Apart from an interest in surfing acquired from his father, he had no apparent ambition and no apparent motivation to improve himself.

Everything changed, however, in the winter of 1967. That winter, the legendary North Shore of Waimea Bay experienced one of the greatest seasons in big wave surfing. At the start of the annual big wave season, Eddie appeared as an unknown visitor, and proceeded to stun the assembled crowd of professionals by charging fearlessly down waves measuring as much as 40 feet.

That day, the Eddie's life seemed to finally begin. He went on to win a string of big wave championships, including the prestigious Duke Kahanamoku Invitational in 1977, earning a reputation of being among the hardest chargers the world of big wave surfing had ever seen.
His courage carried him to also become the first lifeguard of Hawaii's North Shore--one of the most dangerous surf spots in the world--where in 1971 he was honored as Lifeguard of the Year.

As Eddie advanced professionally, he also began to mature personally. In an effort to rise above the personal demons of his youth and resolve what he felt were lingering issues in his life, he sought to explore his native Hawaiian heritage. This exploration intensified following the death of his brother Gerald in Vietnam. In time, he became a leader in the Hawaiian Renaissance movement (reference: Wikipedia: Hawaiian Renaissance), which sought to restore genuine Hawaiian culture in the face of dilution from modern society and "tourist" marketing.

In 1978, Eddie joined the Polynesian Voyaging Society expedition (reference: Wikipedia: Polynesian Voyaging Society), which sought to confirm and re-establish Hawaii's heritage of seafaring navigation by launching a traditional 2-hull canoe and sailing 2,500 miles to Tahiti using traditional Hawaiian navigation techniques and ancient Polynesian sailing routes. However, roughly 12 miles south of Molokai, the boat became caught in a freak storm and capsized, miles from any traffic lanes.

Eddie, in response to the situation, repeatedly volunteered to unleash his surfboard from the canoe and paddle to Lanai to find help. He believed that he had the strength to make the distance, and that he had a spiritual connection to the ocean that would protect him. The expedition's leader denied his requests. Finally, on Eddie's 3rd request, he relented. Eddie promptly mounted his surfboard and began paddling through the storm.

He was never seen again.

Hours later, the boat crew was rescued when a passing plane spotted them in the water. Immediately after, Hawaii launched the largest air and sea rescue effort in its history to find Eddie.

But he had been lost to the sea.

His family, along with the native Hawaiian community, later said that consistent with his spiritual beliefs, Eddie had been called by elements of nature, and his heart had been returned to the sea and his soul restored to the mana of the earth.

In the years since his disappearance, the story of Eddie Aikau has become a legend, and the legend a modern myth. His name is now a part of Hawaiian lore, and is used as a mantra for courage and power by islanders from all walks of life. Now, throughout Hawaii, whenever a challenge arises, whenever someone finds themself facing dire conditions, whenever a person is seized by the sudden paroxysm of fear produced by the sight of the awesome face of danger, people will look at each other, and nod in determination, and say: "Eddie would go."

Triathlon, particularly Ironman, traces part of its origins to Hawaii. Ironman began in Oahu, and grew into international prominence on the Kona Coast of the island of Hawai'i. In honor of Ironman's Hawaiian roots, competitors to Kona would do well call upon Eddie's memory.

Eddie's story reflects Hawaii's culture of spiritual reverence, and his life holds lessons for anyone regarding Hawaiian values for living. Eddie, in other words, is Hawaii. Eddie was about faith in the divine and devotion to heritage. He was also about courage and a connection to the mana of the natural world. These are the kind of things of particular relevance for anyone doing Ironman, especially in Hawaii.

So to those of you at Kona, remember that whenever you're seized by fear at the start of a swim wave, reflect on the meaning of the words: Eddie would go.

Whenever you're numb pondering the prospect of the bike ride, remind yourself: Eddie would go.

Whenever you're staggering, and wondering if you should even begin the run, tell yourself: Eddie would go.

No matter what the conditions, no matter how tough the terrain, no matter how tough things get, no matter the challenge, commit it to yourself: Eddie would go.

In the nam
e of Ironman, just remember: EDDIE WOULD GO.

Friday, October 05, 2007

the training log

i used to think that a training log was something reserved for professional or elite athletes. since i was neither, i figured that a training log represented an exorbitant amount of record-keeping out of proportion to any value gained from knowing workout patterns. if anything, it seemed more like an act of obsessive-compulsive neurosis.

to me, i always trusted to simply find and follow whatever available training schedules were available (or that i could find). to that end, i borrowed plans from sources like Slowtwitch, Trifuel, Joe Friel's Going Long, or Gail Bernhardt's Training Plans for Multi-Sport Athletes (all of which, by the way, i highly recommend, not just for training plans, but for training and racing in general).

but as went further into this sport, i ran across a number of issues:
  • lifestyle--training plans assume a certain allocation of time, and my lifestyle just simply did not allow for those kinds of allocations. specifically, i found myself juggling doctoral research, teaching classes, working 2 on-campus jobs, sitting on university committees, holding a leadership position with USC Triathlon, and pursuing my own writing career (of which, by the way, this blog is a part). between all this, i found it difficult to find the blocks of time prescribed by the training plans i was finding.
  • body--my body just simply did not respond to training plans. training plans are meant to be universal. but people's bodies are not. i'd received warnings from coaches and fellow athletes about the nature of following generic plans made without any personal (i.e., individual) athlete-coach interaction, but i'd ignored them. i ended up learning the hard way that my body doesn't recover or progress in ways compatible with so many training plans on the market.
  • interests--triathlon was never my only physical avocation. swimming, biking, and running may seem like a full plate of physical activity for most people, but there were other things i wanted to do. in particular, i enjoy surfing, and i also enjoy kung fu. yeah, i know, they're the kind of activities that most people would snigger about as being a California thing. but whatever. they were things i wanted to give time to, and that meant taking time away from triathlon.
because of these problems, i've ended up having to abandon any notion of following generic training plans, instead tailoring my own. i've cobbled together schedules using input from coaches, athletes, books, videos, magazines, and websites. i've also had to do quite a bit of experimentation, trying to figure out just how i can fit in triathlon training with everything in my life.

i have to say it's been quite an adventure, and i'm still in the process of figuring it out. the results so far have been mixed--i've accomplished my goal of becoming an Ironman, but not with the times i had hoped for...or which other people had predicted for me based on my training. in addition, training isn't quite as smooth as it is for so many other people i talk to, and it seems that i have to struggle quite a bit more than most with issues of soreness and exhaustion.

designing your own training plan requires a lot of work. sure, you can know principles about training (periodization, base v build, recovery, nutrition, etc.), but it's another thing entirely trying to incorporate everything into a logical schedule progressing to Ironman performance. it requires diligence, and so mandates use of a detailed training log to lay out--and then track--workouts to ensure that the training is fulfills its objectives...and avoids mistakes.

to this end, i've become quite a bit more dedicated to maintaining a training log than i did just a few years ago. i'm putting in more detail, putting in time, intensity, nature of terrain (i.e., pool v ocean, road v path, track v trail) and specific workout plan (i.e., steady v intervals, what kind of steady, what kind of intervals, etc.), whereas before i would have just put in time and intensity.

i'm using Google Calendar. there are alternatives, but they either didn't have the flexibility i was seeking or they charged money that i don't have as a student. Google Calendar isn't fancy, but it lets me do what i want: mark out my workouts in a quick, easy-to-read format, with the option of readily accessible details for further information.

i haven't gotten so far as to inputting calories and nutritional breakdown, or creating graphs, but i figured that (so far) i don't really need them--although i know that if i do, i'll have to find another method.

you can see my training log by clicking on the "Google Training" button--there is no such thing, but i "modified" the Google Calendar button to better reflect that i'm using it as a training log. you can also reference:

you can see how i'm integrating all my physical avocations. i haven't been doing much surfing lately (i hate to go surfing alone, but so far just haven't been able to find anybody else to go with me at the times i have available). but you can see my training plan, complete with swim, bike, and run workouts fitted in with kung fu classes and practice sessions.

not that this will be anybody's motivation for checking in this blog. but at least you can follow along with my training, and see how the posts relate to my training schedule.

in addition, i've "officially" (at least in my own training calendar) started training for Ironman New Zealand 2008 as of October 1, so you can now see how i'm progressing from the very beginning. the plan, as it is with every Ironman i do, is to write up a weekly report (usually every weekend) of notes and thoughts about training over the previous week. you can reference the Google Training calendar to match up my weekly reports with the workouts in my training log.

feel free to offer up comments or advice.