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Date: Saturday, May 22, 2010

Location: Fiesta Island

Course: ½ mile swim, 12.5 mile bike, 3.9 mile run

Bike course consisted of 5 laps around the south portion of the island.

Run course consisted of two laps around the north portion of the island.

The club races put on by the Triathlon Club of San Diego are some of my favorite races. They remind me of many of the races I did when I first started doing triathlons. Having a smaller field (around 200), there is a single start. Many of the races I did from 1986-1989 had about 300-350 people in them, and they would have single starts. The larger races, such as the Bud Light US Triathlon Series races would have wave starts for safety concerns during the swim and on the bike course. I did a lot of races during this time that opted for a swim-run-bike to reduce congestion (and drafting) on the bike. There was actually a fair amount of discussion for a few years on whether the triathlon, including Ironman, should switch to a swim-run-bike order. The argument for it was that it would be easier to complete the distance because with the run being the most stressful event on the body, you would have it done before the additional stress of biking. During the last hours of the triathlon you could continue to propel the bike forward with less effort than a slow run. One concern against the change was that if people collapse on the bike during the final miles they were much more likely to suffer traumatic injury than if they collapsed during the run. Then of course there was tradition, which was probably the biggest argument for not changing from swim-bike-run. Tradition is huge, and even now a lot of triathlon veterans are displeased with the ITU style of draft legal racing because.

It is great to see so many people take part in the club races. Unfortunately there are now fewer races than there used to be because they have become so large, which makes it more difficult to conduct a safe event.

One of the reasons why I enjoy these events so much is that you end up seeing a lot of familiar faces at the race. You get to race head to head with some of the same people at each race, and doing an event multiple times a year on the same course allows you to compare your progress easily. This time though I knew my fitness was still way down from where it should be, but it’s good to face reality and get on with it. I should probably write about other people’s performances than my own, but instead I’ll do a comparison of some of the more recent bike files I have of previous races on Fiesta Island.

9/27/2009: Although this wasn’t my best performance, it represents a pretty good baseline of where I was most of last year, and where I was at the first club race this year (3/20, see below). This is about where I should be getting back to within a month or so.

10/17/2009: This was my PR bike split on the island. I know, only a second faster from the one above, but a better performance overall with a higher average power and normalized power.

3/20/2010: First race this year, and pretty much where I was in the two races above.

5/22/2010: This past race. The power difference was only a little over 10 watts lower than the above races. This one I rode my road bike. I did stay in the drops with my elbows at or below knee level the entire way, and you can see the average speed was 2.3 mph slower than the 3/20 race, and 3.3 mph slower than my fastest on 10/17. Another interesting thing to note is my max speed and max power were considerably higher on this race. I find the road bike a lot easier than a tri-bike to surge to build momentum (max power) and to rip through turns (max speed). On the road bike I can hammer into the turn on the south-west corner of the island where you get the downhill section.

Overall, it is pretty clear the benefits of the tri-bike. Many people wonder how much benefit there is, and I’ve generally told people that it should increase their speed by about 1 mph, but in a fairly fast race such as this it can be 2-3 mph.

There is no need to analyze my run performance. It was pathetic, partially due to my recent training, and largely due to my weight being up. I’ve read a few coaches claim that for each pound of excess body weight you carry, your lose about 2 seconds per mile. Estimates like this are similar to the one I just made above regarding speed difference with an aerodynamic bike. They must be dependent on other things, such as the skill and fitness of the athlete. But I do find that the 2 sec/mile/pound is fairly accurate for me. I ran this race (and Encinitas last week) about 1 min/mile slower than normal. My weight is up about 30 lbs, so that is about right.

My exercise routine is pretty much getting back on track, as well as my eating. It is never easy getting the ball rolling, but once things get heading in the right direction I think I’ll be back to where I was pretty quickly.


The news today about Floyd Landis clearing his conscious so he can sleep at night… Should we be shocked? Should we even care?

This is becoming an all too familiar story, not just amongst pro-cyclists, but with a lot of professional athletes. Years of denying doping, sometimes even after positive drug tests, and then lo and behold, they actually were doping. Professional athletes may argue that it is their job to outperform, but despite the challenges of their profession, they are often doing something that many of us love to do despite not getting paid. Although they may not aspire to being role models, they become role models for their fans and other athletes that try to approach their greatness. This is why advertising and marketing works so well with professional athletes. If they weren’t idolized by their fans, then sponsorship and advertising would be defunct and a poor investment. When a pro uses a particular product, amateur athletes start to think that if it works so well for them, then it must be worth the expense. When they use banned substances for performance enhancement, amateurs and other pros alike start thinking that they had better use them too. Many pro-athletes that finally admit their doping state that one reason why they did so was because they felt the other guy probably was and would have an advantage.

When Mark McGwire admitted his doping habits, he told his athletes that it didn’t help, it was just psychological. Well, his athletes and many others probably dream of having results similar to McGwire. His claim that it wasn’t helpful probably didn’t make anybody considering doping to change their mind.

The prevalence of doping just gives professional sports an all around bad image. Many of us just like to go out and compete against ourselves, others in our age group, and against some of our friends and training partners. The professional athlete isn’t somebody most of us compete against. Instead we are just in awe of their athleticism because we know how hard we work to not even get close to them. I think it is great for races to showcase their pros because they show us what is humanly possible. If there is doubt though that what is “possible” is not through genetic gifts and good training but due to doping, then their performances are not nearly as impressive. This really hurts the sport and the pro-athletes that are not doping.

So, Landis… He has refuted his doping accusations for so long, and now admitted his wrong-doings. And with that he is trying to take some other pros down with him. This comes at a time when he isn’t performing that well. I have to wonder if he is starting to feel bad for himself that he isn’t doing as well now because he’s not doping and that the people that are beating him are. That’s possible, since other athletes have expressed their concern that they weren’t on an even playing field with athletes that may be doping. Pure here say from Landis is a rather gutsy move. I’m not sure what that is going to get him unless he has some proof. He already has established poor credibility, and then to go up against big names like this without any proof is more than just trying to clear his conscious.

The graphs below is from an article in The Science of Sport (an outstanding blog by the way), written last year. In the article Dr. Ross Tucker points out the estimated normalized power-weight ratio for the tour winners has risen drastically since the Lemond years. The article is worth reading, but he does mention a good point of what is physiologically possible, and does such a rapid growth in power-weight ratio imply doping. The implication is definitely there, even without this analysis.

Anabolic steroid use isn’t just popular amongst pro-athletes either. There have been prevalence studies of anabolic steroid use amongst students. Surveys may not be very accurate, but from the studies I looked at there is about 1-2% prevalence amongst high school and college athletes. That may not seem very high, and I’ve definitely seen claims that are much higher, but the fact that there is any is a bit outrageous. I was on the swim team and cross country team in high school, and never witnessed any steroid use amongst athletes. I suppose other sports may be bigger targets for steroid use than swimming and running. If student athletes are doping, then certainly there are probably some amateur athletes (weekend warriors) that are looking for an upgrade or a podium finish and are doping. There are many people striving to qualify for Kona, for example. I wonder how many amateurs are doping to give them the edge to get that spot. Even the thought about it takes away from the sport.

What do you think about the doping craze in sports? Do you think it’s a problem in amateur sports, and does it matter since we aren’t getting sponsorship and a paycheck?

Usually doing a workout is the easiest thing for me to do. It’s finding time for everything else that is the challenge. With a fairly big change in my schedule and routine a couple months ago I had a difficult time finding a good routine where I was able to get my usual workouts in. On top of that, I had more work to do, extra commuting time, and a few other stressors which just added up to a disaster. Of course the disaster is easy to see in hind sight. Initially the challenges just seemed to be that, and the actual disaster that was happening wasn’t clear. Well, eventually it comes time to actually do something about it. Unfortunately I still don’t have a good exercise routine, so that is the first thing to tackle.

I often tell patients and friends that are looking to start exercise, and I tell them the same thing I am telling myself now. The actual exercise, the quantity and the quality of the exercise is not as important as establishing a routine (initially). This is why it is so hard for people that want to exercise 2 or 3 times a week to actually make it a habit. It has to be a nearly daily thing, preferably during the same time of day. This works really well if the weekday work schedule and routine is the same every day. My work schedule is different every day, so it is a bit more of a challenge. Anyway, having a set routine where you go through the ritual of setting the alarm earlier, putting on the workout clothes, going to the gym or hitting the streets, or whatever the exercise requires, is essential. From this consistency quantity can be built, and as you adapt to the quantity you can start focusing on quality.

I am back to the consistency or routine building phase. Although keeping a routine is usually pretty easy for me, I’ve had to deal with changing routines quite a bit over the past 4 years. Medical training involves “rotating”, where the student, intern or resident rotates to a different service. The typical rotation is about a month long. In my case I am currently changing schedules every 3 months or so, but it involves doing something different almost every day. The challenge is to integrate a new exercise routine into the new work routine.

The last two days I actually didn’t work out at all. When I’m in a good routine, I usually will only take one or two days off per month. Monday I had to go to Los Angeles. I took the train, but even then the commute added over 6 hours to my day. I probably should have gone for a run when I got home, but because I’ve become accustomed to relaxing I just sat around. I’ve had some cold symptoms creeping up on me since last week, and Tuesday I was rather wiped out and coughing a lot, so I didn’t work out at all. Today I started off feeling even worse than yesterday, but was able to get a 1 ½ hour ride in and a 1 hour run. Both were pretty low intensity, but I just need to start doing something.

Tomorrow I have clinic, and I’m going to try to squeeze in some good workouts. I can get an hour swim and 30 min run in before I drive up to Irvine. Depending on what time I get out of clinic I should be able to get another workout in. Last week I didn’t get out until after 6, so I just drove home. Since it was about 8 pm when I got home I just ate dinner and relaxed. Tomorrow I have some deadlines planned. Clinic is scheduled until 5. If I get done early, by 4 pm, I will go to the TCSD Aquathlon. I love those events, and this is the first one this year. Even leaving by 4 I would be pressed to make it there in time, but I figure I would at least be able to do the run. If I get out after 4, but by 5, I will go to the Great Park in Irvine for a 60 minute crit. The Great Park is Irvine’s plan for the old El Toro Marine Air Station. There are plans to convert the closed base into a huge community recreation area. Right now there are some crits going on, put on by California Bicycle Racing. The crits are 60 minutes and are on a 2.5 mile course along the tarmac. It is rather interesting because of strong winds and a rather wide course allows riders to take quite a few different lines through the turns. They have cat 4-5, cat 1-3 and masters races all on the same course at the same time. If one group overtakes another, the overtaken group slows to let them pass and cannot start drafting the faster group. This doesn’t happen very often though because the course is so long.

The crazy thing is that I am at a point where I actually have to make myself go out and exercise. I know though that within a week or so the routine will not have to be forced.

The next phase will be building quantity, which is something I think I’ll be focusing on for a couple months. We’ll see how it goes.

Do you have a difficult time getting into an exercise routine? What obstacles do you face or have overcome to exercise consistently?

For the past year I have been using a power meter and gps unit for nearly every bike ride and run. There are a lot of coaches and experts that advocate the use of these gadgets, and if you read enough articles you might start to believe that if you aren’t using them you are at a huge disadvantage. I was rather hesitant initially to get a power meter because of the investment. When you add on the Garmin devices, and want multiple power meters for additional bikes or wheels, the expense can be rather significant. Now that I’ve been using the devices for some time I realize that there is a lot to learn to maximize their benefits. I have been reading forums recently with coaches and athletes arguing about a lot of minutia and details that I think the average consumer of such devices has no knowledge of. And from what I can tell, ignorance may be a good thing. These devices, although praised highly, are far from perfect.

I had somebody ask me recently about some of the power data that I had posted on my blog. There is an interesting phenomenon in racing. Many triathletes started in order to challenge themselves in completing such an event. Somewhere along the line though it seems that most people find competition within themselves, and strive to at least improve their own fitness as measured by faster times. The question a lot of people have is, do they need the device to see the improvement that they desire. This is an interesting question, and I have a few comments to what I have seen, experienced, and learned in the past year. Granted, in another year as I continue to learn more about these devices and about my own strengths and weaknesses, my perspective may change in one direction or another. Instead of listing all the pros and cons, I’ll give an example of a strong rider that does not use any such device.

I have a friend, Jeff Radan, who has given me some perspective on riding that is quite different than I would get from a bike shop or magazine. Jeff and I met during my first brevet with DC Randonneurs in December 2006. I had never done a 200K ride before, and doing one in December in Maryland and Pennsylvania was quite an experience. The ride started early in the morning, when it was still dark, and after the first control I was chasing down a rider on a small bike. Latter I realized that he had just let me catch him for some company, and as we rode the next 100 miles together I got to learn what an extraordinary rider he was. Jeff’s bike was a Bike Friday, a travel bike, and it was a fixed gear model. Also, Jeff didn’t ride with a cyclometer of any sorts. He explained that he was pretty good at estimating distances while riding. Although I had a cyclometer, I would miss turn much easier than he would not using any such device. Later I found out that Jeff had also ridden about 30 miles to the start of the ride, and rode another 30 miles home from the finish. He admits that at one time he used cyclometers, but now he knows that such extra stuff isn’t necessary.

Here are some pictures I found of that brevet.

Bill Beck’s recording of the profile from the ride. This is something that you get from devices. Interesting, but is it necessary?

My friend John Laird and I checking in for our first brevet.

Here is Jeff prior to the start. Notice the cold weather gear he has on. You don’t see that kind of stuff being worn in California. Jeff had left his house on his bike a couple hours before this.

Here is Jeff on his Bike Friday. A single fixed gear, a single brake, no computers.

This was the first control point. In a ride like this the group ends up pretty spread out, and you end up riding with the same few people the entire way.

Another control point, and then we were on our way again.

Here we are at the finish, getting some snacks and signing our control cards. Jeff continued on his bike back home. Where’s John? Actually he wasn’t too much further behind.

Computers, GPS devices, power meters, they are all fun, just like your smart phone is. Are they necessary? Not really. Getting out and riding the bike is what you need. I’ll continue to use my computers and post some charts, and try to extract something useful from them, but getting out there and working is the bottom line.

Date: May 16, 2010

Location: Encinitas, CA

Course: 750 meter swim, 20 Km bike, 5 Km run

A race report sure isn’t as much fun to write about when your fitness is sub-par. I went into this race pretty much knowing how it was going to go. Since Oceanside my fitness has gradually declined, and my weight has rapidly gone up. It’s no surprise. That’s what happens when you work out less and eat and drink more. It’d be great to remain in top shape year round, but I usually find that about twice a year I go through a cycle like this. I find that when everything is going well, that it seems as if everything will continue to go well. Nobody certainly wants to get fat and out of shape, but it happens.

Anyway, I had originally registered to race in the elite division, and good thing I switched out. If I was still in as good of shape as I was 2 ½ months ago I would have had a great placing. Instead I didn’t even have a podium finish in my age group.

Okay, with my groveling behind me, it was a great race. I had never done this race before. For a fairly crowded sprint race I found it to be a pretty good course.

The swim was a beach start, surf entry and exit. I thought the waves and current were pretty strong when I had warmed up, so I ran way way South at the start. I actually got through the surf rather quickly, but I had ran so far South that it took me quite a while to get back to where everyone was swimming. When I reached the crowd I saw a lot of caps from my wave start, and I was swimming faster than all of them, so I knew I had messed up. It was a chance I took, that didn’t work out too well. I had expected to be pushed further North by the current and end up in front of everyone. My swim exit was okay, but I never caught a good wave, so I knew that was going to hurt me as well. The run to the transition area was pretty interesting in that you had to run up a rather long and steep ramp.

I rode my road bike for this race, just as I had for the time trial I had done earlier in the week. I felt rather comfortable in the drops. I did feel a little edgy in that I wished I was powering by everyone on my tri-bike. Here is the power vs. altitude chart from WKO+:

It is rather comparable to the time trial I had done four days prior.

Here are some histograms, showing the distribution of my power, speed, and cadence:

Here is the quadrant analysis:

The run was probably the most disappointing, and probably most affected by the weight gain I’ve seen over the past 10 weeks. I would usually run about a minute faster/mile.

After the race I went for a 29 mile ride back home. In addition to just working out more consistently, I need to get into the habit of doing a ride or run following a short race like this. I ended up having a great ride, meeting a Navy Captain that has been a SEAL for 37 years and is less than a month from retirement. We had a good chat about the Navy, and he told me how he is getting ready for a the Great Divide Mountain Bike Ride, from Canada to Mexico. You never know who you’ll run into on bike ride.

Anyway, I guess it’s time to get back on the wagon. Here is my weight chart over the past 90 days, with a range of 179-209:

Date: Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Time: 6:15 PM

This month’s time trial was conducted by Andy Conors again. There was a great turnout again. The weather was good, but a bit windier this month than last. Although we are getting closer to Summer, the traffic on the island was much less than last month.

Instead of riding the tri-bike this month, Molly and I both decided to ride our road bikes and practice staying in the drops. We were both notified recently that we’ve been selected for the All Navy Triathlon Team, and will compete in the invitation only Armed Forces Championship event at Point Mugu on June 5. This race is a draft legal Olympic distance race. Since it is draft legal, tri-bikes are not allowed, hence the reason we used our road bikes for the time trial. We are also riding our road bikes for the Encinitas Sprint Triathlon and TCSD Club Race coming up before Armed Forces Triathlon.

There have been some questions on the TCSD list serve regarding how much of a benefit is there between riding a tri-bike and a road bike. My trial run says it is probably pretty significant. First of all, I rode in the drops, and tried to keep my elbows below my knees. In order to do that you have to bring you body down very low. This is a pretty aero position, but there were several people that beat me during the time trial that had never beaten my bike split before. It wasn’t necessarily my best performance, but my power was not too different than other time trials of the same distance, so it is likely aerodynamics that explains the difference. I could use previous times to compare, but because the wind conditions can vary quite a bit and have a significant effect on the overall time, I think comparison against competitors is sufficient enough to say that the tri-bike is a lot faster. Also, riding in the drops is rather difficult. If you think riding in the aero bars is tough on your core, rind in the drops is much more difficult. I found it interesting to see some fairly fast people that couldn’t even stay in the aero bars for 30 minutes. One person in particular that had started right behind me passed me at half way through the time trial. When we turned into the wind, he actually sat up, probably because he felt that it would be easier to fight the extra resistance. Well, when he did that I flew by him and never saw him again.

Here is my power file for the Time Trial. The first is from WKO+, the second from Golden Cheetah, the third is from SportTracks.

I had my cool down on this file as well, but was able to isolate the time trial portion for the charts above. There are some other interesting charts on Golden Cheetah, but I won’t post them this time because they include the cool down data.

Here is the summary data from this month’s time trial on the left, compared to last month’s on right.

Date: MOTHER’s Day, Sunday, May 9, 2010

Start Time: 0600

Finish Time: 1607

Route: Old Town San Diego to Laguna Niguel and back, 141 miles

Molly and I headed out yesterday for a great ride up the coast, completing our 6th monthly consecutive 200+ Km ride.

One of my neighbors told me once, “a couple that bikes together, stays together.” I think it’s more accurate to say that a couple that does stuff together stays together. Molly used to not be an athletic person at all, but over the years has taken up running, then triathlons, and now long distance cycling. I am grateful because I really enjoy long rides, and used to see amazing places that I wish I could share with Molly. I guess I could have taken up shopping or visiting craft fairs to spend time with Molly, but I don’t think that was ever going to happen. Now, on the tandem, we ride together all day long and are enjoying scenery and stops together. Of course, there are times on a long ride that one or both of us are miserable. We are getting better at keeping our misery to ourselves than sharing it because the misery is usually fairly short lived but can be a lot longer if it brings the other person down. “Positive thoughts” are our mantra. We were both doing great on this ride, but at around 90 miles I started to fade and Molly did a great job keeping me focused. Then at around 130 miles Molly was falling apart, but I was able to keep her on track.

We are hoping to do Paris-Brest-Paris in August 2011. PBP is to randonneuring what Kona is to triathlons. Molly likes to say that the only way I’ll take her to Paris (a place she’s always wanted to visit) is by riding 750 miles. Pretty much true, but I don’ think there is a better way to see France than on a bike.

Here we are at the start in Old Town, before Molly realized she had left her race number on her helmet from the Spring Sprint Triathlon last weekend.

The day started off with a heavy marine layer, which unfortunately never really burned off. It was fairly cool all day long, which I don’t mind too much, but our stops were downright cold. It was especially cold in San Clemente, both northbound and southbound. Here are a few shots from along the route.

Our first stop was at the Bagel Shack in San Clemente. They have some of the best bagels I’ve ever had. We were 3 ½ hours into our ride by that point, so it was a great place to have a bagel sandwich. I have never seen this place so empty. Usually you can’t find a seat here. I guess people were sleeping in for Mother’s Day, or going other places for brunch.

This was the first permanent we have done in the past few months where we didn’t start off exhausted. Molly had run a 5K race the day before, but nothing that brought a lot of fatigue into our ride. Here are some more photos. These are on our way to Laguna Niguel.

We stopped here at Laguna Cyclery. Next door is a great natural foods snack bar. Next time I come up I’ll have to have the veggie burger, because it looked amazing!

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