Ironmaz - Training Log

Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Everybody wants to be like Michael...
In the summer, the USC pools are a nice place to swim—especially at 7am. There are always plenty of open lanes and you rarely have to share one with someone. Once the academic semesters begin, the pool begins to fill up, but never too bad. That was not the case today.

Even at 7am all the lanes were full. I was fortunate that someone left just as I arrived, but I was still sharing a lane. As the morning progressed, more and more people showed up to the pool. And all I could think was “Everybody wants to be Michael Phelps.” After his inspiring performance at the Olympics, everyone wants to be a swim star. They all have high hopes and have rushed to the pool. Sadly, the pool will be back to normal in a few weeks as all the hopefuls realize that it takes a lot more effort than they expected.

Michael makes it look easy, but it’s not. Even with his physiological advantages, he still has to get up every morning and swim for hours. Then he takes a break. Then he swims more hours. In the course of a day, he probably swims more miles than most of us walk. He’s worked hard and sacrificed a lot for his 8 gold medals.

Unless you’re out there every day, you’ll never really understand. You can work out for 30 minutes 3 times a week, but it’s not the same. You’re not training. When you start putting long miles on your body day after day you begin to experience something beyond tired. It’s a dull pain all over your body that only seems to go away when you sleep. You discover that 7 hours of sleep a night is about 3 hours too short. You find yourself waking up in the morning so tired that sitting up makes you dizzy. The first 15 minutes of your day are slower than usual because you have to convince your body that moving is a good thing, no matter how stiff and sore you are.

From the outside, it looks easy. And no matter how much I train, I know that I don’t even come close to Michael’s day. But I’d like to think that I have some understanding.

As for all the hopefuls in the water today, don’t give up so easily. As much as I can’t wait for most of you to give up after a couple of weeks so that I can have my lane back, it is far better for you in the long run if you don’t quit.

Because once you stop moving, getting started is even harder than it was the day before.

That’s why I still got up today and jumped in the water in spite of the fact that getting out of bed made me dizzy.

Like Michael, I just want to get across the finish line.

He just happened to get there before everyone else did.

Saturday, August 09, 2008
The price of speed

There is a delicate balance between aerodymanics, comfort, power, and speed. The more aero you are, they faster you can go; provided you are comfortable enough to produce the power needed to go fast. Sometimes being comfortable means losing some aerodymanics and thus losing a little speed. But if your power output increases by being comfortable, you can make up the changes in aerodynamics. It's complicated enough without using math to find the right balance.

Early this spring, I opted to change my aerobars to the T2+ Cobra bars by Profile Design. They had the new s-bend shape, which meant less frontal drag. They were lower, which made the rider more aero. And they looked cool. I knew their width was less than my ever reliable Carbon Stryke bars, but I figured I could get used to them. This is what the bike looked like with the new bars.

Now I'm not going to lie. The bars looked cool and when you dropped down into them you went fast. Very fast. The bike sliced through the wind as if it wasn't there. The problem was that I couldn't stay in the bar for more than 15 minutes at a time. My arms would hurt, my neck would hurt, and no matter what I did, my heart rate always went up.

Of the 56 miles in Vineman, I spent about 15 of those in the aerobars.

Thinking ahead to Ironman Arizona, I decided that comfort was more important than being aero. I need to find a way to stay in the aerobars for as much of the 112 miles as possible. And so I opted to put the Carbon Stryke bars back on the bike. No they are not as aero and they weigh 5 ounces more than the other bars. But open putting them on, I hopped on the bike and immediately felt at home on them. My back was flat, my arms well supported, and my neck relaxed. I even felt more aero for some reason.

In the coming weeks, I will take the P2 out and see how the bars perform. But they seem better already. And the bike still looks cool.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Growing old
I never thought I’d be old. When I was 20, 40 seemed very far away. Even at 30, 40 was still far away. I had all the time in the world. But I never thought about. I never planned for the future or thought about the future. After all, I had all the time in the world.

And it’s not so much the number that gets you, it’s the physiological changes that you start to notice. Sure there are a few gray hairs here and there and maybe some worn edges on your face. But you put that in the “character” side, a symbol of pride, you’ve earned that. But it things like realizing that 6 hours of sleep every night really isn’t enough. Or that you must look at the steps when walking downstairs because if you look at anything else your eyes can’t focus fast enough and you miss a step and almost fall. Or that 1981 seems really far away now.

My back and shoulders were hair free until I turned 30. And then one day I woke up covered in hair. It almost felt like it happened overnight. But by that point I didn’t care about much either.

I stepped into the weight room this morning and lifted for the first time in 5 weeks. I expected to be a little weaker than I was then. Instead, I was stronger, much stronger. Stronger than last year. Much stronger. Weights like the shoulder press, which felt impossible a year ago and I could only push 20 pounds at best, suddenly felt easy at 50 pounds. The fly weights were easy at 70, which was once a struggle. Biceps were up to 50 from 20. Triceps at 90 from 40. I would leave a machine and watch the person after me lower the weight.

I’m strong. I haven’t been this strong since I was 18. Since I stopped caring about the future and myself.

I cared about a lot of things my senior year of high school. I had dreams. I had plans. I knew that the people around me were all going to different places. We were all heading our separate ways. So we made the best of our time together. Every moment counted. We didn’t drink. We didn’t party. We didn’t hang out. No we rode, we climbed, we hiked, we ran, we swam. We travelled to the edges of Orange County on steel frames and tennis shoes. We would siphon water out of sprinklers for our water bottles. We went until we were tired and then turned around. Every hill was a challenge, not an obstacle.

Indiana Jones once said “it’s not the years, it’s the mileage.” I still stand by that line. I used to say “the years have not been good to so-and-so.” But it’s not the years that treated us poorly, it’s how we treated the years.

And perhaps the hardest thing about being 40 is that I haven’t been is this kind of shape since I was 18. I should have been in this shape at 30. I should have never stopped caring.

When I’m on a long ride and staring to feel tired, I tell myself “just keep pedaling Andrew, and everything will be fine.”

Never ever stop. If you’re tired, get some sleep, eat some healthy food, and rest a little. But then get up and keep going.

Be good to the years and they shall be good to you. And don’t worry so much about reliving old glories. Make new ones.

11/23/2008 – my next one…

Sunday, August 03, 2008
Two weeks later
Even though it’s only been 2 weeks since the race, I decided to pull out the road bike today and see how I really felt. The road bike felt strange at first and unstable. It took a few miles for me to begin to understand how the bike responded. I also had changed the gearing to a compact crankset so that I could climb hills easier. As a result, I found myself fumbling through gears until I found the best range for the ride. So by mile 6 I finally found my place on the bike.

The purpose of the ride was to discover how tired I might be and also to determine a starting point for all future rides. The 25-mile ride went quickly and effortlessly. It seems that I am better shape than I thought I was. Next weekend I will try to break 40 miles or so and start working my way up over the next 16 weeks to 120 miles.

I put together my workout schedule today, which I will post as well for those wondering how far I have to go over the next 16 weeks. It’s a little daunting for now, but hopefully, it will become more tangible over the next few weeks. We shall see.


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