Extra Life Triathlon Fitness

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Out of Time

"I don't have time for that."

That statement is the perfect embodiment of a self fulfilling prophesy; the mantra by which many of us live by to justify how we prioritize our lives, often in stressful and unhealthy ways. It is a statement which may be used to demonstrate one's importance and status in some area, such as work, yet it is what enables us to shelf lofty and otherwise fulfilling ventures which may provide us greater joy, peace, happiness, and health. It may too even be a statement used as a comfy blanket to shield us from our fear of change or taking a leap of faith.

What this process of self improvement has taught me is that the statement is a big, fat, stinking bowl of malarkey.

I know that I was on that boat for a long time, truly believing that I didn't have enough time in the day to do "X", whether it be volunteering at a local charity, getting more exercise, going back to school, being of service to others, or just getting into a new hobby. I felt like work and family dominated my life, with little time for myself (yeah, poor me! The guy with no time for himself somehow learned to play the tiniest violin). But let's consider what the average day looked like for me back when I had "no time". It typically consisted of me waking up at around 6 am (often hungover) and not wanting to get out of bed (sign of depression). I would reluctantly go to work where I would be tired all day. I would come home at around 5 pm and have dinner with the family, and finish the night off by sitting zombie-like in front of the TV absorbing radiation and colors for the last two hours of the day before I hit the pillow to complete the cycle (often this was passing out after copious quantities of wine and/or beer). You can see how happiness fitted into this.

How did I seek my happiness? Typically it was through my paycheck. I sought fulfillment and happiness through my employment, and was constantly working toward, and anticipating, the next merit pay increase or promotion which would grant me brief euphoria, which quickly faded into insignificance. Not that employment shouldn't make one happy, but I was seeking it as the only source of fulfillment. When it didn't give me what I wanted, I sought joy from alcohol. And the result was destructive.

One of the first excuses I used as I attempted recovery was that "I don't have time to do the work." It was already ingrained in my psyche. What I quickly learned was that it is entirely possible to make time for anything which you choose to make a priority. I made sobriety my priority, and the world did not come crashing down. I was able to still effectively do my job, and spend quality time with my family. The benefit was that I began seeing dramatic improvement both spiritually and mentally. I then found time for meditation and prayer.

After about a year, it became apparent to me that I could make time for anything with which I believed I could find fulfillment. That's when I felt the urge to test this to the extreme by training for multisports.

Is it possible to find significant time for the things you enjoy? I believe it is, and it is about changing our perspective. Time is relative. Albert Einstein famously said “When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That's relativity.” Even if this is a bit tongue in cheek, it certainly holds some truth. To put it another way, when we spend a lot of time doing something we don't enjoy, it may seem like we don't have time for anything else. Our perception is that it consumes all our time and energy, thus we don't have time for anything else. In reality, we can create time for what gives us energy and gives us fulfillment. 

My day is a lot more filled now, but it's fulfilled. I start my day a lot earlier now, at times around 4 am, but because I practice healthier habits and look forward to the day, it's not hard to get up. I start the day out with a run, bike, or swim, which gives me energy for the day. I still commute an hour each way to work and work a full day, but can often take my lunch break and do more for myself. I find time for prayer and meditation, and time to focus on my recovery. My family and I find time to grow our own vegetables, and cook healthy meals. I even find time to write about my experience. The best part about this is, while I am busier now than ever, I am more joyous and free. And I am confident I can find time for other things if necessary.

The aforementioned Albert Einstein was even able to find time to play the violin and take sailboats out on the lake while writing his special theory of relativity. 

Even the leader of the free world can find a little free time... 

President Bush and friends being chased by mean ol' Mr. Cheney and his high pressure hose

Wearing hot pants and sweating profusely, the VP shows a poor (pre-PowerPoint) representation of global warming on his T-shirt

So when you find yourself presented with a situation where the spirit moves you, and you say "I would love to do that!", let there be no "buts." And certainly, don't deprive yourself because you think you can't find the time. If you look hard enough, you will find it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Carlsbad Triathlon 2013 - Break On Through

Carlsbad Triathlon

The Carlsbad Triathlon hails itself as one of the longest running triathlons in the nation, in its 31st year. For me it was the first of many. A fitting choice, I thought, due to the fact that it was relatively short, close to home, and flat. It didn't hint at any significant obstacles for the newbie, and it didn't disappoint. In a nutshell, everything came together as well as it possibly could for this event. For the few races I have been in, this was the most well organized, with plenty of friendly volunteers and positive vibes.

I was able to get a few pictures as we were setting up in the transition area. It was a beautiful morning, with no wind and swells in the 3 ft. range.

Transition area with bike and gear - Viva Slice!

Expanded view of the transition area

Swim exit into transition

What were my expectations coming into the race? Well, I had lowered them significantly after my recent accident and injury. It was initially my ideal goal to finish the race in 1 hour 30 minutes. Again, this was ideal as it would have assumed quick transitions, a middle of the pack swim, a 20 mph avg. bike, and a nearly 7 minute/mile run. Pretty optimistic for a first time race. A few weeks ago I figured that would have been pushing it. After injuring my knee and damaging my bike, I figured I might miss this one, and if I raced, only do it for the experience without regard to time.

Official race result: 1:29:05. There's something to be said for the healing power of aerobic training and healthy diet. I felt great during the whole race, with no pain, and surprisingly no soreness afterward. Below is my race report for this awesome race.

The Swim:

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I have been most apprehensive about the swim. While I had the opportunity to do some open water swims in previous weeks, I still didn't know what to expect from a mass start. My fears had me lagging so far behind that the field of 35-40 year olds would start overtaking me. Fortunately we had arrived early and I had an opportunity to warm up swim around some of the buoys, which proved beneficial. I swam to the farthest buoy and was able to get my sighting for the turn, and was very comfortable in the water.

Lining up for the start, my fears were replaced with prayers and meditation. A feeling of calm came over me as I realized that this was a celebration of all the work I had put in, and that I should just enjoy the experience. At this time I had my earplugs in, so there was an ominous quiet, which was quickly interrupted by the sound of the blow horn, signaling the start of the race for my wave.

But was it my wave? I had a strange sensation at this moment that I was following the wrong group into the water. While I knew they all had purple caps, as did I (an indicator of age group and wave), that weird feeling had come over me. How embarrassing if I had actually run into the water with the wrong wave! But it just so happened that this was an irrational anxiety fueled by the excitement of the moment. I was right where I needed to be.

And right where I needed to be was at the back of this competitive group of athletes, which included elites (professionals), firefighter olympians and 30-34 year old experienced triathletes. While they sprinted to the sea, I followed most of them into the water at a brisk jog, not wanting to get caught up in the melee. As soon as we all hit the water, though, a sizable set of waves started coming in and I ran straight into a wall neoprene and flailing appendages. Fortunately I am no stranger to the chaos of shorebreak, and took advantage of the opportunity to dive under the walls of water and begin the swim. Past the breakers, I looked to my front and back and noticed I was no longer trailing the masses, but probably at about the front third of the pack. So began my swim leg.

My pace felt strong (for me) and I was very comfortable, in fact at peace swimming in the ocean. I had found a nice little pocket which I had to myself following a few better swimmers. I experience very little contact, except for one person who seemed to be grabbing at my legs, but I started kicking and didn't hear from him again.

Rounding the final buoy toward shore was a very eerie experience. We were going into the sun, so I saw silhouettes of other swimmers, and brief glimpses of cheering spectators separated by moments of quiet peace under the surface of the water. I exited the water and looked at my watch and was surprised to see 17:30 staring back at me. That was the fastest I'd ever swam 1 km.

Swim Time: 
- Garmin - 17:37, 1:45/100 (this was cheating a little bit, as I started my timer late as I entered the water, not when the horn went off. I also hit stop too soon, as I still had to run to the timing mat at transition - a couple hundred yards off)
- Official Time - 18:37

Transition 1

Transition went as well as it could, I got my wetsuit off very quickly, and was able to get out fast enough. There were lots of bikes still present, which told me I was still in good shape. However, as I took off my wetsuit, I also removed my timing chip (I didn't realize this until halfway into the bike). Fortunately, you only hit the timing mat exiting the water and exiting T2, so I was able to pick it back up after the bike.

Transition time:
- Not sure, I was not very good with hitting my watch on time, but best estimate is about 2 minutes from mat to exit.


I've never rode a bike soaking wet before after having just exited the ocean, so that was new to me. The bike portion was really great. Once I was up the hill and into aero position, I truly begain to recognize the benefit of being within the first wave, as we had the streets all to ourselves. The elite athletes were already well ahead of the pack, and the rest of us were scattered within our own little pockets. No real chance at accidental drafting here. 

My goal was to ride above 20 mph, and I didn't have much trouble doing so as I tried to settle my heart rate. I was trying to bring it down to the high 140's, but it was still maintaining within the 150's. However, I was feeling good so I didn't back off too much. I was passed by about 4 or 5 riders who were clearly in it to win it, so I let them go, but I was also able to pass a few riders myself, so I felt good about the ride.I probably could have pushed harder, but I'm not really training to sprint, I'm training for distance, so why risk injury? Expectations met. I finished the bike without a flat, without falling off, and without going the wrong way.

Bike Time:
- Garmin - 45:22, 21 mph avg.
- Official Time - 48:21 (this includes both T1 and T2, as they don't split these separately - as you will read shortly, I inadvertently spent too much time in T2)

Transition 2

I was as quick as I could be getting off my bike and getting my running shoes on (and reattaching my timing chip), but I made a couple silly errors which cost me a lot of time. First off, after I was ready to go I struggled with putting me bib number on before I realized that I could actually start running while putting it on! Second, and far more costly, I started running the wrong way. Fortunately, nobody really noticed as I began trotting up the bike exit. It somehow came to me that the exit needed to be marked "Run Exit", so I began looking frantically for where it was (something I probably should have done while I was wasting time taking pictures before the race). 

I finally got my bearings and ran out the correct exit. I'm not sure what the transition time was, but as you can see, both transitions added about three minutes to my bike time. Ouch!


My directional trouble didn't end in transition, as it was already in my head that I had gone the wrong way. Within a hundred yards of exiting transition, I noticed that nobody was in front of me (typically a good thing!), and it made me question my direction. I saw what I thought was a racer walking up a steep hill toward the main street. This forced me to pause for about 20 seconds while I considered which way to go. A kind onlooker told me which way to go and I started back out. Fortunately, nobody had passed me at this point, so I was still in good shape, but there was a runner very close on my heels (as you can see in the video above - eventually he fell back). 

What you don't see in the video above is me being an idiot. Just as I leave the frame, I decide to do an Air Jordan flying leap in an effort to high-five Sarah (who is sitting right next to her Mommy). It probably looked much prettier in my head, but at least I landed okay and was able to continue racing. I was surprised with how high I got off the ground!

I felt very strong in the run, and I let my heart rate go into the 160's. I would finish the race with my heart rate maxing out at about 178. I passed about three racers in the first mile and a half, and then settled in behind a runner, number 165, for a good part of the run. I have to say this guy was a class act, as he was cheering everyone on that was heading the opposite direction (after the turnaround on the way to the finish). He would not let me pass until about a half mile to the end when I hit the gas. I was able to pass him and another racer toward the end, but right at the final chute #165 passed me again, and I just couldn't keep pace. Well played, sir!

Run Time:
- Garmin - 22:26, 7:10/mile (again, I hit the stop button a little late)
- Official Time - 22:05

Carlsbad Triathlon
Me running through the finish line

Final Thoughts

My finish time of 1:29:05 put me at 18th in my age group (out of 71 athletes), and 128th overall (out of 737 athletes). For a first triathlon, that makes me very happy, as I exceeded all my expectations and finished near the front of the pack. There is only room to improve from here, and I have reinforced that I really enjoy racing. Furthermore, I really enjoy training for these races.

Kudos to the city of Carlsbad for putting on such a tremendous event, and being so well organized

Next stop: Camp Pendleton, August 3, 2013.

Carlsbad Triathlon

Carlsbad Triathlon

Carlsbad Triathlon

Friday, July 12, 2013


In case you're wondering, that is my first official bib number for a triathlon. When I read the email from the officials at the Carlsbad Triathlon, I looked for any radical significance to the number aside from the obvious sequential nature, but of course I could find none. The only result I could find was that it happens to be the area code to the Cayman Islands, so I imagine that number is used pretty heavily during crackdowns by the Securities and Exchange Commission. There is also a Biblical reference, Lamentations 3:45 - "You have made us scum and refuse among the nations". Nice.

I guess the best significance I can draw from the number 345 is that it happens to represent the place in order where my name alphabetically falls on the participant list for the Carlsbad Triathlon. I think that's a pretty worthwhile significance. Why? Because I earned my spot at this premier race. Yes, technically anyone can register for a fee, but I worked hard, and this race represents a celebration for the work I put in to improving myself. I look forward to wearing 345, and I will own it.

Preparation for this race couldn't be going any better in my opinion. Despite the obvious speed bumps (in the form of bike and knee crushing automobiles), my swim is getting pretty strong, my bike is pretty fast, and my run feels good. The doctor has given me an all clear, officially diagnosing the injury as a sprained MCL, which should heal fully in 8 weeks.

I look at this next Sunday, July 14th, as another milestone to cross before going to Cabo to compete in an Ironman. Over a year and a half ago I was unhealthy, depressed, and dependent on alcohol to ease my pain and boredom with life. Since then I have crossed many milestones - becoming sober, improving my perspective, finding my spiritual path, repairing and healing from injuries, learning to eat clean and healthy, improving my physical condition, becoming competent at the bike and the swim, the list goes on - and along that path I have conquered many fears. It is amazing how much fear prevents us from doing things from which we can thrive. But I have committed to charge through them and have found grace in the process. My one true hope is that others begin to believe they can too.

This weekend I approach the milestone of competing in my first sprint distance triathlon. While that may not be much, it is a step in the direction of greater things.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Terrors of the Deep

When I was in high school, our marine ecology class took a field trip halfway down the Baja peninsula on the Sea of Cortez to an isolated bay called Bahia de las Animas. During the trip, a number of the students from the swim team, showing much more backbone than I, dared to swim around the two small islets located about a half mile from our shore camp. Surely, I thought, the population of hungry beasts would be dense between the shore and the two islands, waiting for some dumb gringo to flail aimlessly into their element. Whether it be a stingray hitting them on their first step into the sea, a school of hammerheads, or perhaps they would meet their demise from the wayward fluke of a fin whale. Regardless, the outcome was the same, and it wasn't pretty. So I didn't want any part of it.

"You only see what you know."

Wise words from a wise biology teacher, Marv Sherrill. Of course, what I knew at that time was what I learned from TV and movies, such as Jaws; that blood thirsty man eaters were hunting humans and attacking at every opportunity. So naturally that's what I saw as reality. That's also part of my self centered nature, that somehow all sea creatures would be interested in ME, when in reality they can probably take me or leave me, as long as I don't harsh their mellow. What I learned from our Baja trip is that a little knowledge about our environment goes a long way in shaping our reality.

I have still hung onto some of those fears of swimming in the open water since that time. However, it is less about the creatures, and more about the nature of the ocean and my own self confidence that straddles the line between respect and fear. Most of that fear stems from the fact that I've never actually swam in the open water. Sure, I've surfed since I was very young, I've braved shore break for hours on end, and I even scuba dive on occasion with no problem. But there at least I have the safety of a surfboard, the shore, or a buoyancy control device close by should something go wrong. But a half mile off shore with nothing but my swim trunks? That's where the fear of panic sets in. "What if I can't swim back? What if I get too tired? What if I'm in over my head?" 

Being that I would have to get over these concerns in very short order, I decided to meet up with a group of open water swimmers this past weekend at Corona Del Mar beach for an open water swim around a number of buoys. I was quite intimidated at first. The fears listed above came to mind, not so much that I would drown, but that I would make a fool out of myself eventually having to be dragged back to shore defeated and humiliated. But these fears are rooted in unknowns. While we only see what we know, we also tend to fear what we don't know. One of the main purposes of this experience is to overcome my fears and experience more out of life, lest I miss out on something that could have been.

Contrary to my fears, the group was very welcoming, and I was able to keep up with them, logging about a mile and a half. The wetsuit I wore easily kept me buoyant, and nary a man eater in sight. This was huge in building my self confidence, and I feel like one of my last hurdles has been crossed. I also feel that many fears are exaggerated, and they can be overcome by taking the next logical step to building respect and understanding for what is feared. In this case it was getting in the water with others who had the experience.

I find it fitting that I am conquering my fear of open water swimming while preparing for a 2.4 mile swim in the Sea of Cortez, the same sea I once looked upon with trepidation back in high school. Now I look upon it with respect, eagerness, and excitement.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Recipe of the Day - Before the Dawn Shake

... Because it is the "darkest" shake I've ever seen. And it's a great start to the day. It has a boost of protein (in the form of spirulina, Greek yogurt, and almond milk) if you are having it after a workout, which will help you recover. With fruits, oats, and kale, it is also a great source of energy. To make it a balanced breakfast, you can also add flax or chia seed for a source of healthy fat. This is how I start my morning every day.

Handful of kale and/or spinach
1/2 to 1 cup of oats
1/2 to 1 cup of Fage Greek Yogurt
1/2 to 1 cup blueberries and/or mixed berries
1 banana
1 tbsp flax or chia seed
1 tbsp spirulina (optional - if you can handle the somewhat "fishy" taste)
1 cup almond milk

- In a food processor, add kale and/or spinach, oats, and seeds. Mix together until finely chopped.
- Add yogurt, banana, blueberries, spirulina, and almond milk.
- Blend together, serve in a goblet of your choice, and enjoy!