Week 27 – Done with the training…

After what feels like an eternity, I am done with my last heavy week of training.

One light week, then taper crazies, and then the race.

To celebrate I am drinking some rum and coke – dark koloa rum from kauai, lemon juice from the lemons in my front yard, and coke from mexico – the stuff with sugar not the high fructose crap…

Because there is nothing like saying Cuba Libra after finishing your last 2 hour bike ride on a trainer late at night…


Week 26 – I love my wetsuit

Last week I swam in the cold waters of Santa Cruz in my new wet suit.2013-07-25_0821

And boy was that fun.

One of the core challenges in swimming is keeping your posture correct. In particular, keeping those damn legs above your chest.


If the legs are below your chest, then they act as a water break.


So we have the endless drills where you push the buoy (your chest) down and try to keep those legs up…

But with the wet suit you get automatic correct posture. The buoyancy of the suit keeps your legs up, and your body floating on the top of the water… just right. And all you have to do is roll and pull…

And maybe it’s just the posture, but it feels like with every pull your body is moving faster than it ever did before…

In fact it’s so easy that I almost red-lined in the swim drill because I was pushing so hard…

Then later in the week I did my 2200 yard swim. And while I was dragging my sorry fat ass through the last 500 yards, I kept thing that this is sooooo much easier with a wet suit. And man, I want my wet suit. And can I please have my wet suit?


I love this sport

Over the last month I’ve become increasingly tired of the training.

Last week I swam for 2200 yards in a pool. Backwards and forwards did I go. Like a goldfish encumbered with memory.

The experience was painful. And then there was the run. And the bike ride. And the strength exercises. And the… And man this video was too painful … Especially the parts about time and being full of energy and not knowing what body glide is…


The whole adventure had this aura of pointlessness to it. I was almost ready to give up.

Today, I attended a triathlon clinic that included an outdoor swim at the venue.

And then I went for a swim, and I was like – woah… this is fun. And then we did a whole bunch of transition training with warnings about being *that* triathlete… And I was like … I can do this… I CAN do this…

And then when I swam… It was like… wow this whole swimming in open water is easy. A lifetime of swimming in Santorini means that sighting is easy, and dealing with people bumping into you is … easy.

The whole experience was exhilarating. I was bouncing off of walls because it was so much fun. There is this moment when you realize that you’re going through water,faster than you ever did before and then you’re going to be going on a bike, and you’re actually able to do this thing. And then there is this run, and all you can think about is when does the damn race start.

All this training makes it possible for me to do this insanely fun thing… How super-cool is that?


Week 25 – Left and then Right and then Left and then…

One of the weirdest things about training is the asymmetry of technique.

First your entire technique is a mess. You’re doing everything wrong. And you’re too clueless to understand how wrong everything is.

Then you build up a certain amount of aerobic and technical base, and you become aware of flaws in your technique, so you start to work on improving them.

First you notice how you don’t breathe on your left side when you swim, so you work to fix that. And by the time you are done, you realize you breathe better on your left side than your right side, so you work on your right side and then you suddenly realize that your left side breathing is a mess… You’re like: woah I am out of balance, my head’s in the wrong position, my arm is flopping like a banana peel and…

So you start working on the left side again. And you know that you’ll be back to the right side.

And the same process holds true for both running and biking.


The net effect is that I am feeling like an awkward teenager with a body he has no control over that I am just barely able to move the way I want.

What’s really interesting in all of this process, is that every time I focus on improving technique on the offside, the offside overshoots the improvement. My theory is the following: At time T, because of my overall skill level I am able to affect an improvement of F, at time T+1, because of improvements in fitness and skill, I  am able to affect an improvement of 2F and as a result overshoot my desired improvement. I suspect at some point in time as my fitness level plateaus, my ability to get incremental improvements will diminish, but I am a long way from that point in time.


The Kamari to Perissa Swim


A view from the balcony of my home in Santorini

My dad is from an Island in Greece called Santorini. And in particular from a small village on that island called Mesa Gonia. After the earthquake of 1956, the village of Mesa Gonia moved to Kamari. As a child and an adult I spent most of my summers on the island swimming in the sea, drinking at the clubs, relaxing under the hot sun.

One of the peculiarities of Greece is that poor roads magnify distances. For example, 10km  in the US tends to be a 10 minute drive whereas in Santorini it’s about 30 minutes. So everything about the island in particular and Greece in general feels bigger than it really is.

For example, in Santorini the town of Kamari is, as the crow flies, very close to the town of Perissa


But the road to get to Perissa from Kamari goes up and down mountains and twists and turns and takes about an hour .. So Kamari is very far from Perissa.

Ever since I could swim, I’ve always wanted to swim from Kamari to Perissa. That distance felt mythic. During the summer, there are small boats that for a nominal fee will take you between the two beaches. This is not the kind of distance you think about as being short and easy…

So last night, out of sheer curiosity, I decided to find out how far it was.


I was expecting to see something in the 5-8 km range.


The distance is less than 1500m. Put differently, my Olympic triathlon is a longer distance.


I always imagined the distance of Kamari – Perissa to be mythic, and now I intend to swim further, and then go for a bike ride and a run?

For the first time, the task at hand is terrifying me. And this whole Iron Man swim? Well it would be from Kamari to Perissa and back… edit: And after I wrote this I realized that I had underestimated the swim again… an ironman swim is from Kamari to Perissa and back again to Perissa…I’m starting to feel like Michael Phelps in the Visa Ad for the Greek Olympic games…


Week 24 – Ouchie and secrets for the noob

PfeifferCatwomanWith a little bit over a month left to go before my first Olympic Triathlon, I decided that the time had come to buy the last bit of equipment.

1. The Wet Suit

When you see the wet suit on people, it feels like something cat woman would wear. Not something an athlete would wear. And yet it works, does it ever work well. I was actually shocked after I put it on, how much flexibility I had while wearing the suit. I was wearing an entry-level suit. Which makes me think that the high-end suits flexibility exceeds my flexibility…

One thing about the wet suit, you really need to have no shame wearing this thing because it does look like you escaped some rubber fetishist party.

2. The triathlon bib

One thing I love about triathletes is that they fail to explain some very basic pieces of information that are super critical. Kind of like what the hell the base is.

When you are doing an Olympic Triathlon distance you are not changing out of your clothes. Pretty important piece of information because it determines what you swim in and what you cycle in and what you run in.

And if you’re a fat middle-aged dude like myself, the most important piece of clothing is what you cycle in.

The problem with a bicycle if you are overweight is the painful seat. A well established solution to the painful seat is the chamois. The problem with the chamois is that the more chamois you have, the worse the clothing is for running and swimming.

For cycling shorts, this is not an issue, you’re not expected to run or swim in them. But in a triathlon you are expected to run and swim … And so the chamois is less cushy. In fact, you can get triathlon clothing that has no chamois – which I find an unbelievably painful thing to contemplate.

And here is where the ouchie arises. If you’ve trained your ass on a cushy chamois and then switch to the triathlon chamois, man does your ass hurt. Well at least mine did during my 2 hour bike ride.

Word to the wise – if you are training for a triathlon ditch the cushy chamois, and get several pairs of triathlon shorts and train your ass early.


The Training is All Wrong!



Turns out I entered an Iron Man competition not the Ironman race… Seems there is a difference between the two events. One is about pleasing your spouse, and the other pushing their willingness to tolerate your training to the screaming edge…

Now I understand why all my Iron Man friends were talking about how happy their spouses are, and all my Ironman friends were talking about how unhappy their spouses are… The confusion that existed in my head was excruciating…


One little bit of white space, turns out, to make all the difference…

Week 23 – Big Data and Weight Loss

One of the more interesting problems in any kind of training regime is controlling your weight. The problem with controlling your weight is that you are unbelievably hungry almost all of the time.

If your like Lance Armstrong, then maybe it’s about how much discipline you have.

If your like me, it’s a painful personal struggle.

With this triathlon training, I thought it would be relatively easy to lose weight, but it has not been. In fact, it’s been very, very, very difficult.

One of the challenges is figuring out why. For me personally, food is like an addiction. I will eat ungodly amounts of food and not even remember that I ate them. I can convince myself of all sorts of delusions and illusions that explain my weight none of which have any bearing on fact.

For example, I tend to weigh less at the end of the week rather than at the beginning. This is a surprising result, because I thought my weight control problems were related to my eating habits at work. Because the mental model I had been that I was eating a lot at work, not over the weekend, I explained away my weight variation in a variety of ways. My favorite was that my long bike ride on Sundays was impacting my digestion…

In fact, the idea that the problem was the bike ride was so embedded in my head that I worked really hard to deal with the issue, eating even less during the week to combat this bike digestive problem.

And what made this worse was that I lacked the personal discipline to enter my weight data in a computer on a daily basis so I could track things  more carefully.

So I bought a new scale (withings) that automatically uploads my weight data to the cloud. Big data to the weight loss rescue! 

And lo and behold, after two months it was clear that my weight increased on Friday and Saturday and started to decline on Monday. And it was a pretty consistent pattern …

Well if the problem was my biking then that did not explain the gain on Saturday and it certainly did not explain the gain on Friday  – a day I typically did a long run of about 1->2 hours.

Confronted with this data I was able to examine my eating patterns and realized I was doing a bunch of things that were making weight loss hard. The first was that I was snacking on a lot of bad things on the weekend. The second was that to deal with the excessive eating on the weekend I was eating too little during the week and as a result snacking even more on the weekend.

Now with the data, I can at least start to figure out how to stop the snacking, increase the midweek eating and continue to lose weight.