Monday, January 31, 2005

Triathlon Camps

Well, now I’ve been training for a couple of weeks—had two triathlon camp sessions. Fairly fun! The first was spent in a diagnostic kind of way: everyone swam (8 X 25 meters), biked (stationary, 20 min.) and ran (1 mile). I got through pretty well, well enough to finish strong in the run. Enjoyable. My swim speed—surprisingly—was only 20 seconds off the top time I heard of, and my run was definitely strong. Biking on a stationary bike was pretty easy. Lots of people were having a hard time with the swim. Lots of people signed up for the camp in pairs or groups; I felt a little lonely…a little joking around with a few people, but basically I was the lonely guy. Overall it was quite enjoyable, though…liked being a part of a group, with a common goal. Immediately I kind of felt like one of the people in better shape—which made me feel good, but also increased my loneliness in a way. Went away from that first weekend happy and focused, with fantasies of a good finish—even winning!—the sprint distance.

The next week was spent in a medium-hard training schedule: swim Monday, lift Tuesday, spinning class Wednesday, Swim and lift Friday, Triathlon camp (run) Saturday. Right now I’m taking Thursday and Sunday off. Felt pretty good…I took it a little easier on my long swim, focusing on technique, which I’m learning from Eric Harr’s Triathlon Training in Four Hours a Week. Technique is definitely the key in swimming—in all the events, actually. Spinning class on Wednesday, my second class ever, I was up front, in front of the instructor, and I cheated less (perhaps as a result of that?) on my resistance levels. I’m thinking that spinning will be good prep—we go anaerobic a few times, but we also stand up in the saddle a lot—not the best for bike training, where you should sit as much as possible. Lifting was good—easier weights than I’m used to, focusing on form. I don’t know how much lifting I really should be doing, so I’m sticking to twice a week for now…the event is awhile away yet.

Swam last Friday: 5X100 meters. Easier! Some drills “fisting”, “push the bouy”, and, the hardest, “catch-up”, where you hold one arm extended till the other rotates around and catches it, are paying some dividends. Shoulder pain abating…I think it’s a flexibility/warmup thing. Then I lifted, again, abbreviated. Must not be vain here, lift for function only.

Black ModelTriathlon Camp #2 was a 5 mile run or so. I was ahead in the pack, wanting to hear the coach’s instructions (he’s very “up”, a cheerful fitness guy), when we started, and he said that the people who expected to do 8 minute miles should come to the front. That sounded about right, so I got in front, trying to remind myself not to be too competitive, to keep to my own pace. Of course, that fell by the wayside rather quickly: four guys got ahead of me and I endeavored to keep them in my sights, which required a fairly fast pace from me. One guy, a tall, handsome modelly-looking black guy with a bodybuilder physique who seemed to mean business, passed me at about a third of the way through the run. Shortly before him, an Asian guy took off at a blistering pace, outdistancing everyone easily. I had spoken with him the previous week—Robert, I think his name was, and he was clearly a running ringer (actually, it was Joseph, ed. note). I made no effort to keep up with him. The other guys, a tall, blond guy in a ski cap and a more compact guy in a white shirt, as well as the black guy, were moving at about my pace, just a few yards ahead. I resolved to stay with the pack.

We ran along the beach, and even at my good clip I was able to see what a lovely day it was: big waves crashing along the shore, lovely sunlight, great energy. Lots of people out. At our turnaround point, however, I noticed that the run out had been bolstered by a nice tailwind, which was now a strong headwind. Wow. But I kept strong, and stayed competitive. Soon the shorter guy flagged, and the three of us were left (Joseph was no where to be seen). About a mile before the end, the blond guy tired out a little, feeling winded, and it was down to me and the model-type guy (name: Peter). I was proud that I was doing so well, but was also a little mad at myself for letting my competitive spirit get the better of me: here I was trying to ENJOY myself and getting all caught up in the competition of this leisurely run! Never underestimate weird guys and their competitiveness. Anyway, I wound up finishing about 100 feet behind Peter (though we were both smoked by Joseph, who ran an additional mile or so, at a much faster pace. Goes to show that I might do decently overall, but I won’t be a match in ANY event for the people who really know their sports. Especially not swimming, but clearly running won’t be a cakewalk either.

Anyway, I finished, did some stretching, and again felt a little on the lonely side: here were all these guys laughing and joking at the finishline—no one really cared, frankly, that I’d put in a damn good run for a guy who hadn’t run more than a couple miles with any regularity in YEARS. But that’s part of the lesson, I guess—my own satisfaction and happiness will probably have to stead me in this event. It’s my OWN journey, as much as it is for the people who come in heaving after just one mile, or the frontrunners. Can’t do this to impress anyone, just to participate. Of course, it’s hard, even as I write that, not to WANT to impress people, for people to wonder, hey, who’s the GOOD guy?

My fitness level does surprise me—even though I’ve been working out for so long. The fact that my endurance is good, and I can keep a strong pace for a fairly long stretch—is a welcome surprise. In a sense, I’ve cross-trained for a long time; now I’ve just got to learn these skills.

Maybe this week, rather than being such a competitive prick, I’ll take it slow and chat with some people along the way. The run is going to be an hour plus this time! That’s longer than I’ve ever run. May take some breaks, go easy, chat, enjoy the scenery. There’s no rush in getting speed, here. This morning (Monday) I paid for my testosterone-induced frenzy with some nice knee pain (Left knee, weirdly). But it worked itself out when I swam this morning—clearly therapeutic.

Took Sunday off. Decided to go for 200-yard swims this time, double what I did the previous week, and try to do four of them. I wound up doing four plus another 150 or 200 yards of drills. Not bad! There’s an older, probably gay guy who always sees me there and has some remark to make: “there he is, in all his glory!” was his quote today. I responded, “And you in yours!” to which he said, “Thank you.”

Anyway, was happy with the swim. 1000 yards isn’t bad—it’s more than 2 and 1/2 times the length I’ll have to do (I think) in the sprint distance (though if I decide to go longer, it’s not AS long). Still, I felt good. Of course, that will be in open water (which scares me), with waves to contend with, but greater buoyancy from the salt water and wetsuit. So hopefully there will be a clear tradeoff…of course, there will be no 25-yard increment to show me how far I’ve gone or to give me a break every 13 strokes or so…that DOES make it easier and keeps you oriented, as does that handy black line at the bottom of the pool. But hey, baby steps. As the event approaches, I’m going to have to swim in open water once a week, I think. Don’t know how I’ll manage that, but I’ll try. In Santa Monica, maybe? Afternoons, not mornings? In a place where there’s a lifeguard, yes, please. Or bring Heidi and Kate and make a day of it, or at least an afternoon…

Regardless, swimming feels good—clearly a new skill that’s fun to do.

Thinking of keeping the running to once a week. It’s so tough on the joints. And swimming is NOT, and biking (spinning, anyway) so far, seems NOT. And the former is really great CV workout. So I’ll probably stick to that for awhile, especially if the runs are tough, like the last one…need new shoes, btw.

The triath camp seems a little unorganized…they meet a few extra times a week all together and do extra workouts, which I obviously can’t do but would like to very much, just for the camaraderie and boost, as well as technical expertise. I’d also like to act like—and be seen as—one of the competitive ones, and then I’ll become one. This is a sport where I feel I can excel, and hey, no one’s hitting me in the face, either, as in my boxing and martial arts days! It’s all about my own training! So I’m sorry to be missing all those workouts. But I’m doing my OWN workouts, and swimming is definitely important in those—to get my distances up—and spinning seems to be working well as a bike substitute for now…hope my legs get some more muscle to them! Maybe I need to bike twice a week and swim twice, running with the group on Saturdays, no lifting. Hmmm…that’s an idea…have to consider that one.

Anyway, clearly this is something fun for me...glad I discovered it. Will have to keep track of what I'm doing pretty carefully here! It feels good to do!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

A New Year and A Triathlon

Well. It’s today Wednesday, January 18, 2005, and I decided on SUNDAY, just four days ago, to participate in a triathlon. I’m not really sure which one—I think it will be a sprint distance, but perhaps and Olympic distance before the end of the year. What got me started? I don’ t know, the new year, a desire for a new goal, a direction to my exercise life rather than the endless weight training to nowhere stuff I’ve been doing lately.

I went to a party the night I decided to entertain the idea for the first time. I was asked what I was up to by an acquaintance, Will. He asked what I was up to, and having no real answer, as my acting career is practically nil at this point, I told him that I was considering doing a triathlon this year. A woman who was standing there said, “Excellent idea!” It turned out she had done several. Will was an avid cyclist, and had cycled and then walked the LA marathon a few times. On one occasion, mile 22 of the marathon actually went by my house, and I joined him for the final six miles. Anyway, Will and Robin—the woman—both told me, yes, do it, it will be fun, and great, and wonderful. I was directed to another guy at the party: “See that guy?” said Will. “That’s Jeff. He used to work at a bike store. Ask him about bikes."

Bad idea. When I asked him, he initially said he didn’t know very much. 45 minutes later my head was spinning. Christ, shut up, I thought. He was talking shear forces and wind noise, and helmets that protected the C vertebrae. Jesus. He told me so many things I remember almost nothing of what he said.

The next morning, bright and early at 5:30, I struck out for the 24 hour FITNESS facility a couple of mile form where I live. I’d never been there, but I have an all-gym pass to 24 hour fitness, and I knew this place had a pool, which my local gym does not. Taking the program from a Fitness Guide as a guideline on how to train, I dutifully performed what the book suggested for day one of triathlon training: 16 50-meter laps, done with 15 seconds between reps and a 90 second break between sets of four. Sounded easy enough.

I nearly died. An old shoulder injury started bugging me; I mixed up when to inhale and exhale and wound up sucking up a bunch of pool water with my head in the water. I was sucking wind after the first two and that continued until the workout ended. Needless to say, I didn’t do the 25-minute run after that which the Fitness book had recommened. I simply staggered home. O my god, swimming is so hard!