Category Archives: Physical Performance

Unarmed Self-Defense Training

Last weekend I attended an Unarmed Self Defense workshop, conducted by Insights Training. The last time I hit anyone was in tae kwon do class when I was 10 years old. I figured it would be a good idea to learn how to hit and defend myself at a basic level. I also heard great things about the training and figured it would be a good use of a weekend. I was right.

The workshop was two full days and was mostly drill-focused with partners. Hardly any time was spent sitting in chairs. We would learn a technique for defending/attacking and then carry it out multiple times with multiple opponents. We covered a variety of grabs and attacks – both standing and on the ground. We also learned how to de-escalate verbally and through body language. The culmination of the day was a full force attack against a trainer in a specially designed attack suit. During breaks the trainer would tell stories and answer questions to teach new material.

The most important learning  for me was a new mindset (one of preparedness and a desire to protect what matters most) and a firm understanding of my rights to protect what is important to me. Mindset is even more critical than fitness, equipment or skill. Personal safety is not something I have spent much time thinking about so this weekend definitely opened my mind to a whole new world and how to deal with it effectively. If you are in the Seattle area I highly recommend taking this training.


Me telling my attacker who is boss!


Geoff Roes’ 2012 Iditorad Trail Victory – a lesson in endurance potential

Geoff Roes – an elite American ultra-marathon runner – won an incredible race in the rugged Alaskan outback last week. Though, instead of saying he ‘won,’ it would be better to say he ‘survived the fastest.’

The 350 mile foot-race took a full week to complete in absolutely insane conditions. He pulled all his own gear in a sled behind him, often breaking trail through fresh snowfall and dragging himself up and over hills. It is worth reading his race report. To me it was a good reminder of what we are really capable of as humans from an endurance perspective.

Check out his race report at

How to Wake Up Early

Go to bed early.


Try it.

It works!

Morning hike near Estes Park, CO before the Yoga Journal Conference last week.

Improve Your Recovery to Get Stronger

Growth happens when you rest, not when you are training. If you just train constantly with little rest you will slow down, weaken and eventually get injured. Rest is the key.

Many athletes (like me!) spend a ton of money on gadgets like heart rate monitors, power meters, GPS devices and fancy training programs, but in the end you will improve just as much by optimizing your rest and recovery as you will from optimizing your workouts. Good coaches focus on this – which is partly why I think the best money you can spend to improve your performance in a sport is on a coach.

How to optimize your rest?

  • Get quality sleep in a dark room with no noise
  • Take ice baths after exercising
  • Alternate warm and cool showers in the morning to flush stale fluid from your muscles
  • Use a foam roller and do self-massage
  • Take in high quality nutrition immediately after finishing workouts (200-400 calories with a blend of sugar and protein – I like a dozen raw almonds and 4-5 dates with some water, or a smoothie made with Vega and fruit)
  • Give your nervous system a rest by not watching too much TV or using the computer a ton
  • Stay off your feet when don’t need to be on them
  • Cut back on stimulants like caffeine and sugar, especially in the evening
  • Learn yoga, develop a home practice and do it regularly (focus on your known tight/bound muscles)
  • SLEEP!!!! Go to bed early and wake up early!

How do you optimize your rest and recovery?

A view of Copper Lake, taken during a long day hike a few weeks ago near Snohomish, WA on the West Fork trail.

Talent vs. Skill

Talent is something that is innate. You are born with it and if lucky enough to notice and nurture it during your formative years, can achieve some level of success.

Skill, on the other hand, is developed through practice. Practice that can take result in massive capacity for achievement, as a result of months or even years of steady and consistent work.

For any endeavor there is a combination of talent and skill that come to bear in order to determine the final outcome.

A highly talented person with a very poor work ethic will not achieve success over the long-term, though some “lucky” moments of short-term success are bound to occur. Think about the students who seem to get A’s without studying, or the high school swimmers who crush school records with poor physical shape and a lazy attitude in practice.

However, someone with a dedicated focus on cultivating skill will slowly – and inevitably – become successful over the long-term, even if the gains take a while to show up.

If I had to choose between being innately talented – or highly skilled – I’ll take the latter any day, even it requires some hard work on my part to develop.

Skill, once developed, is enduring. The trick is to not give up too soon.

The Tour de France!

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I’m a huge fan of the TDF. There is nothing more incredible than watching the world’s longest endurance event. Any single stage would be epic enough but racing for three weeks like that through the heat and mountains is crazy and so fun to watch. Since I don’t own a TV, for the past three years I’ve purchased access to the online video streams (this year available for $30 from NBC).

I’m rooting for:

  • Andy Schleck. He’s been a solid contender for several years and I hope he can take the overall win this year! I like the way he rides and he’s young, strong and doesn’t show-boat…he just races hard and excels in the mountains.
  • Tyler Farrar. From Washington (state) and an up and coming one day racer and sprinter. He’s already won a stage in this year’s tour and I’m rooting for him to win a few stages and potentially take the green sprinter’s jersey.
  • I’m also a a fan of Tyler’s team Garmin-Cervelo. I ride a Cervelo and really like the company :) and also like the way the team rides in races….they are have several amazing time trialists and tend to ride hard tempo on the front of the peloton which is a gutsy (albeit risky) way to ride.
  • Levi Leipheimer. He’s one of the older guys in the tour, but I would really like to see him win a stage.

Who are you rooting for?

A pack of riders climbing a small hill during the 2008 TDF. Source: Reuters/

Ironman CDA: Done!

It’s done!

I really had to dig deep this time. The swim went well and I didn’t push too hard given the length of the day ahead. With almost 2,500 athletes in the water it was VERY aggressive and I was getting punched, kicked and dunked every few minutes. I came out of the water 5-10 minutes slower than expected.

The bike ride was OK, and again had to keep the pace slow to keep my knee from flaring up. I was really concerned about even being able to finish the race. After 50 miles on the bike I really didn’t think I would finish, as my knee was really hurting and I just focused on pedaling with my right (pain-free) leg.

Since there was nothing I could do about in the moment, I just stopped thinking about it and after another 20 miles it sorta became numb and the pain was just a dull ache instead of a short-stabbing pain that usually happens, totally bearable.

The run was humbling. Normally my strong suit, after having not put in many miles running or biking in the past 10 weeks on account of injury, I was only able to slowly jog the first 13 miles (around 9:30 min/mile pace) before walking/shuffling the last 13 miles. My knee didn’t cause me too much trouble during the run, my legs were just totally dead overall.

Finishing, however, made me happy and accomplished my goal!

I can’t believe that not even 6 weeks ago I wrote this, essentially giving up all hope of being able to race. At the time it was painful to walk and the thought of doing an Ironman was laughable. My lesson in all this is that sometimes listening to your body’s aches and pains and giving yourself a total rest is the right thing, and other times it’s about getting the FULL STORY on what is actually going on.

In my case, some amazing doctors, a great coach and knowledgeable friends helped me pin-point the issue, treat it and come up with a plan that had a good chance of working…and it did work!

More detailed race report to come later.

Ironman CDA: One Day to Go!

Today featured a morning “race rehearsal” swim (10mins) / bike (15 mins) / run (10 mins) followed by copious amounts of sitting around and not doing much. At an Ironman race, you also drop off all your gear the day before the race, including your bike and both transition bags with bike/run gear. I did that between naps.

For fun, I also drove the “Hayden Loop” of the bike course. This route is fairly technical with plenty of short climbs, sharp turns and some curved roads that you can cruise through with plenty of speed  if you are aware of how the road carries through the corners.

As per my race plan I had a pasta dinner (at 6pm) and will be up at 4:30 for breakfast and down at the race site before 6am. We enter the beach at 6:30am and the cannon (or gun or horn or whatever they use) goes off at 7am. Over 2,500 athletes are here. The swim start will be EPIC!

My spot in T1

Bike to run gear bags for T2

Some new device they are marketing to speed recovery. It is a set of pressurized leg covers that expand and contract to help move fluid through the legs. It feels AWESOME. The contraption costs $1,200.

Ironman Coeur d’Alene Race Plan

If you are not a tri-geek like me…you might not want to bother reading any more of this post :)

Here is my detailed race plan for Ironman CDA. It helps to write things down, even if in these types of races NOTHING seems to go as planned! The act of writing at least gives the illusion of control and some peace of mind. It also gives me a chance to make sure my fueling and pacing strategies are right.

Leaving tomorrow for Idaho.


IMCDA Race Plan. Ravi Raman. 6/26/2011

Overall goal  = FINISH! Anticipated pacing as follows:

·       Swim: 1:10 relaxed and easy, focus on drafting and conserving energy

·       T1: 4 mins

·       Bike: 7hrs with focus on nutrition and keeping knee under control

·       T2: 4 mins

·       Run: 4:30 with focus on a stronger second half of the marathon

·       Estimate time: 12:50

·       The time goals provided are simply for pacing purposes. Until I hit half-way in the marathon I will not be pushing even if I feel great. My singular goal is to finish this race and enjoy the experience.


·       5am: Wake up, Yoga in my trailer (yes, I’m staying in a trailer down by the lake!).

·       9am: PT and foam roller, stretching

·       Before Noon: Treatment at ART booth

·       Noon: Lunch – sandwich and fruit

·       Afternoon: Athlete Check-in

·       7pm: Dinner at Macaroni grill (pasta and plain salad)

·       10pm: Bed


·       5am: Cliff bar

·       7am: Mini race rehearsal of swim 15min followed by 20min bike and 15min run. A accelerations during each.

·       Recovery drink

·       9am: PT and foam roller, stretching

·       Before Noon: Treatment at ART booth, KT Tape application

·       Noon: Lunch – sandwich and fruit

·       Afternoon: Bike and gear check-in

·       6pm: Dinner at Macaroni grill (pasta – low fiber)

·       9pm: Bed

Sunday: RACE DAY!

·       4am: 1 Cliff Bar + 1 Banana + Coffee (350 cal)  + 24 oz water w/ Nuun

·       7am: Race!

·       Before Midnight: Finish!

Gear T1 Bag (Transition Area)

·       KT Tape

·       2 GU

·       GU Flask

·       Water bottle

Gear T2 Bag (Transition Area)

·       KT Tape

·       2 GU  w/ Caffeine

·       Water bottle

Gear Bike Special Needs

·       Hammer Gel Flask

·       10 Endurolytes

Gear Run Special needs

·       Hammer Gel Flask

·       10 Endurolytes

Morning Nutrition Before the Race

·       Early Pre-Race: 1 Cliff Bar + 1 Banana + Coffee (350 cal)  + 24 oz water w/ Nuun

·       Just Before Swim: 1 GU + Bottle Nuun  (100 cal)

Pre-Race Warm Up and Swim

·       Light yoga/stretching

·       200 yards easy warm up

·       Swim goal is to finish in 1:10 and feel well rested for the bike/run

T1 approach

·       Grab T bag

·       Put on socks, shoes, glasses, helmet

·       Put gel flask in pocket (only drink and eat after 15 minutes of riding)

·       T1 time <4 minutes

Bike strategy

·       Goal is to finish :) in 7 hours and keep under control

·       Watts Avg 122-30 (FTP 175 @70-5%)

·       Nutrition of 300 cal/hr (Hammer Gel + Gu Chomps) + Nuun

·       2 gel + 1/2 chomps pack per hour + 2 endurolytes tab

T2 approach

·       Grab T bag

·       Rack bike and take off helmet

·       Put on visor and shoes  and bodyglide

·       Grab Hammer Gel flask + water bottle

·       T2 time <4 minutes

Run strategy

·       Goal is to finish :) in under 4.5 hours and have an awesome time

·       Strategy to walk every aid station no matter what (until halfway point)

·       Run at 10 min/miles through halfway including walking aid stations (~ 30 seconds/mile)

·       Run at 9 min/miles for last half if feeling great

·       Run: 250 cal/hr (Hammer Gel, cola  & sports drink)

·       First 5 miles: 2 gel + 1 cola/sports drink per hour

·       After 5 miles: switch to all cola + sports drink

Lake Meridan 2.4 Mile Swim Race 2011

Post race at Lake Meridian.

Last night I hit up the Friday Night Swim Race at Lake Meridian. It was a great event. Pretty low-key with a nice BBQ after (just like Hagg Lake, swimmers know how to do it right).

This event was fun since about a dozen VO2 Multisport athletes (my team) also raced, with many of doing Ironman CDA next week. This was a great race prep session.

My goal was to finish in 1:05. Logic being I did a 1:09 at Hagg Lake and during that race:

  • I sighted very poorly
  • I wore an older wetsuit (that is slower and leaks water)
  • I have had a few extra weeks of training, with lots of open water sessions
  • Know it’s possible for me to swim faster (my last Ironman swim was 1:01)

Well, that didn’t happen, I finished in 1:10.

I’m still happy with the time as the true goal is to make it out of the swim at CDA in around 70 minutes without being super tired. I am confident I can achieve that goal (especially with the massive drafting that happens with 2000 swimmers in an Ironman). However I was really expecting to swim faster so I’ll need to reflect on what I can improve.

Here’s how it all went down:

  • Pre-race: I ended up getting to the race site early. Good idea as there was epic traffic for folks getting there from Seattle (Kent, WA is about 25 miles south of the city). Several athletes got there just minutes before the start.
  • Warm-up: Swam about 5 minutes. The water was not too cold (probably mid 60’s).
  • Course: Two clockwise loops of a large rectangular route. They had multicolored buoy’s (orange, yellow and green). The yellow buoys were furthest away and also the toughest to see. If it wasn’t for the setting sun, signting wouldn’t have been an issue. Definitely a good race for mirrorized goggles to eliminate glare.
  • Start: The field wasn’t that big, I guesstimate 80 people in a deep water start.
  • 1/4 mile: I start at the front and cruise to the first buoy, with some jostling around with others. Nothing violent like an Ironman start, folks were pretty civil.
  • 1/2 mile: Doing a good job drafting. it’s tough to see the buoy’s with the sun directly in line with them. I just follow the feet in front of me and stay relaxed.
  • 1 .2 mile: Rounding a few more buoy’s and complete the first lap, I lose the draft and from here on out pretty must swim alone, with the occasional pass-by that I draft from. Sighting is going pretty well. Feeling good.
  • 1.5 mile: I notice someone drafting behind me for a few hundred yards, I round a buoy and get really disoriented and end up pointing in the wrong direction towards the wrong buoy. Before I go far the person behind me point me in the right direction (thanks David!) and I continue on my way.
  • 1.6 mile: I start feeling cramps in my right calf and also in my right ribs and back! This rarely happens for me. I end up swimming with my right foot flexed from here on out to keep the cramps from coming on full strength.
  • 2.4 mile: I come onto shore and run across the timing mat. Seeing the time, 1:10 I almost don’t believe it. Seems way too slow given my past times and I didn’t feel like I was swimming slow compared to Hagg Lake.

Full results posted here.

Pre-Rae Glamour Shot

Lessons learned:

  • Hydrate well during the day for a night race. I have no doubt this was the cause for my cramps.
  • Fight to stay in the draft, it’s worth a little extra energy early to save a lot later.
  • Swim more. I’ve been swimming for less than 3 months after a 7 year hiatus. I can’t expect to return to my old form without putting in some time.
  • Strength work. After IMCDA I definitely need to put in some more swim-strength specific work with paddles, stretch cords and pull ups along with core work. My aerobic fitness felt fine during the race but arms sure were tired.

One week to Ironman!

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