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 聽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.聽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 iRunFar.com.

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!

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 馃檪 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/Boston.com

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聽 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 馃檪

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聽 = FINISH! Anticipated pacing as follows:

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

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 T1: 4 mins

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

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 T2: 4 mins

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

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Estimate time: 12:50

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 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.


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

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 9am: PT and foam roller, stretching

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Before Noon: Treatment at ART booth

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Noon: Lunch – sandwich and fruit

路聽 聽聽聽聽聽Afternoon: Athlete Check-in

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

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 10pm: Bed


路聽聽聽聽聽聽 5am: Cliff bar

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

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Recovery drink

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 9am: PT and foam roller, stretching

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Before Noon: Treatment at ART booth, KT Tape application

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Noon: Lunch – sandwich and fruit

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Afternoon: Bike and gear check-in

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

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 9pm: Bed

Sunday: RACE DAY!

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

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 7am: Race!

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Before Midnight: Finish!

Gear T1 Bag (Transition Area)

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 KT Tape

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 2 GU

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 GU Flask

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Water bottle

Gear T2 Bag (Transition Area)

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 KT Tape

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 2 GU聽 w/ Caffeine

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Water bottle

Gear Bike Special Needs

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Hammer Gel Flask

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 10 Endurolytes

Gear Run Special needs

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Hammer Gel Flask

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 10 Endurolytes

Morning Nutrition Before the Race

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

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Just Before Swim: 1 GU + Bottle Nuun聽 (100 cal)

Pre-Race Warm Up and Swim

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Light yoga/stretching

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 200 yards easy warm up

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

T1 approach

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Grab T bag

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Put on socks, shoes, glasses, helmet

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

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 T1 time <4 minutes

Bike strategy

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Goal is to finish 馃檪 in 7 hours and keep under control

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

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

路聽聽聽聽聽 聽2 gel + 1/2 chomps pack per hour + 2 endurolytes tab

T2 approach

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Grab T bag

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Rack bike and take off helmet

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Put on visor and shoes聽 and bodyglide

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Grab Hammer Gel flask + water bottle

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 T2 time <4 minutes

Run strategy

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Goal is to finish 馃檪 in under 4.5 hours and have an awesome time

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

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

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

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Run: 250 cal/hr (Hammer Gel, cola聽 & sports drink)

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

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 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!

Hagg Lake Open Water Swim 2011 Race Report

Swimmers 'warming up' at Hagg Lake.

Yesterday, I played hooky from the World Domination Summit to visit Hagg Lake for an open water swim race. The place was awesome. It’s a big lake in the middle of pretty epic farm country and rolling hills less than 1 hour west of Portland. The roads near the lake are smooth, with big shoulders and not a lot of traffic. I saw a TON of triathletes with fancy bikes and wheels using the parking lots around the lake as staging areas for a long day of training.

The swim featured a few events. 1/2 mile, 1.2 mile (2000 meters) and 2.4 mile (4000 meters and Ironman swim distance). A lot of people did both the 1/2 and the 1.2 mile races. A few did all three. I was contemplating it but in the end just did the 2.4 miler as a test run leading up to Ironman CDA. Even though my knee is still not totally healed, I am going to toe the line at CDA and at least do the swim portion. Maybe more if it heals fast enough.

The 2.4 mile race was the last to go. We started at 10:30am, which was nice not to be half-asleep when the race started. My goal for the swim was to have a solid day of training at hit expected IM pace or faster. I thought a sub 65 minute time would be nice (my last two Ironman swims were right around 60 minutes, but I’m not in that kind of shape yet). My new super hero outfit didn’t arrive in time so I used an old costume (from Quintana Roo).

Waiting to get in the water for the start. There was no beach so we all started from the water.

The course was two ginormous loops (1.2 miles each) around a rhomboidal course (really…it definitely wasn’t a rectangle, don’t know why they didn’t make it a rectangle). It was all left turns and counter-clockwise in direction which suits me fine as I breath on my left so navigating would be easier.

Here’s how it went down

  • 1 hour before swim start: a large number of people are milling about while wearing their wetsuits. I assume they are racing the 1.2 mile event and think nothing of it. I don’t know how big the field is…maybe a 150 or so in the 2.4 mile race? I’m guessing.
  • 50 minutes before swim start: there are still quite a few people wearing wetsuits, but the 1.2 mile event already started and we have a crazy long time before the 2.4 mile start! I guess they just like the way they look in neoprene. I’m half-asleep in the grass listening to my iPod.
  • 30 minutes before swim start: contemplate putting on my wetsuit, as most of the other racers are doing warm ups. I quickly squash the idea and go back to napping.
  • 20 minutes before start: boy, people really take their warm up seriously! Some people are swimming like a mile before the race even starts! I find swimming in cold water as a means of warming a complete oxymoron. The first 500 meters of the race will be my warm up. I go back to napping.
  • 15 minutes before start: I put on my wetsuit.
  • 5 minutes before start: I get in the water. It’s brown near the shore and dark emerald-green elsewhere. Not clear at all, but super clean otherwise. There are almost no waves and temps are not bad at all. It felt like 62 degrees. The sun starts shining!
  • Start: I pretty much start in the front, and 100 people pass me in the first 100 meters. People are sprinting like they are going for an Olympic 100 meter gold medal. Typical.
  • 200 meters: a girl motors by me WITHOUT A WETSUIT! I can’t believe it. She’s the only person I saw without a wetsuit out there. There was a non-wetsuit division for awards but most folks were sane and wore some neoprene.
  • 500 meters: We pass the second buoy and turn hard left. I start passing a crap-load of people who went out way too hard.
  • 800 meters: By this time there are only a couple of people near me and drafting is really tough. The water is so dark and can’t really see their feet to stay close and we keep drifting apart.
  • 1000 meters: By now we are on the far side of the course and the waves are kicking it. Gentle rollers really. Nothing too bad but definitely need to kick harder and work at it to get a clear breath in. Notice I tend to swimming slightly askew. In fact, for the whole race I tended to veer to the right a little between buoys instead of swimming a straight line.
  • 1200 meters: Hit some random piece of wood floating in the water. A branch or something. No big deal.
  • 1400 meters: Realize I’m swimming at a complete tangent from where I should be swimming to. Damn, this is gonna be a long swim.
  • 2000 meters (first loop done): Settle into a rhythm.
  • 2500 meters: my goggle fills up a tiny bit each time I pick my head up to sight. That sucks.
  • 3000 meters: Feel like my wetsuit is waterlogged and bogging me down a little. Arms feel fine. A bit tired but not too bad. Not cold at all.
  • 3500 meters: Clearly see the finish line and attempt to push hard the last 500 meters, but my arms really only have 1 gear at this point, so I stick with it. I’m pretty much swimming alone. In fact, for the entire race I only drafted about 10% of the time (most of it in the first 500 meters).
  • 4000 meters & FINISH:聽 Get out of the water and run across the little finish line. Felt pretty good. A little whoosy as is normal after swimming hard. Didn’t feel totally dead though. Within a few minutes I felt totally fine.
  • MY TIME = 69 minutes (I don’t know how many seconds, the results aren’t posted online yet). I think I was like 12/25 in my 30-39 age group. Scanning the results that were posted after the race, a sub-hour finish time in the 4000 meter race would be a very respectable time, and would place you well in most age groups.

For reference, the overall men’s winner was a teenager who swam 50 minutes flat (fast!) and the women’s winner did something like 56-57 minutes.

A couple of things that I learned for my next swim race (I’m doing another 2.4 mile race in a couple of weeks).

  1. Make sure goggles have good suction. Mine were too lose to start and filled up a little.
  2. Get a better fitting wetsuit. Done! My TYR Hurricane C5 suite arrived today!
  3. Work on sighting. This includes practicing not sighting too often. I sight every 12 strokes or so. Each time I look up it slows me down, so I need to train to sight less, but more accurately. I also veer slightly to the right as I swim over long distances, not sure why but need to fix it.
  4. Work on drafting. You save a ton of energy drafting. With a small field, it’s tough to hang on a set of legs (unlike Ironman where there are a couple thousand feet to draft from!). However, there is probably some better strategy for drafting in small races that I can employ.

Post race, they had an awesome BBQ, with all swimmers getting free burgers (and veggie burgers) and other food items to go long with the post-race awards ceremony.The sun was shining and everyone was happy.

I highly recommend this race. There were a ton of people there who seemed to be doing their first open water race, and a lot of triathletes prepping for summer race season. The scenery is amazing too. Next year, I’m going to take my bike and follow-up the swim with some riding in the country roads and hills.

Dealing with Setbacks: Part II

Pictograms of Olympic sports - Cycling (mounta...
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This past weekend was not a good one for my knee. After encountering a strange injury a few weeks ago, I took it really easy for two weeks. I swam and didn’t run or ride my bike. Elliptical machine, as boring as it is, didn’t cause pain so I hit that quite a bit.

Last week I felt great, totally pain-free, so started riding my road bike. Did an hour on Monday and then again on Tuesday. Zero pain.

I pedaled hard up a few hills and could not feel any pain no matter how hard I tried.

Went for a couple runs (both less than 30 minutes), and only felt a little residual tightness in my knee towards the final minutes of the runs. Nothing major and it went away quickly.

Saturday, I felt 100% so decided to go for a spin on my time trial bike, the rocketship. It was a 50 mile ride, about 3 hours long at an easy pace but up and down some good hills.

After an hour I felt a little discomfort and after 90 minutes it was clear something was not right. I made it to the end of the ride, futzing around with my bike a couple of times to see if the position change would help. Nothing did.

At the end of my ride, I headed into VO2 Multisport for a bike fit. When I got home I also changed out my pedals, as I think my new Speedplay Zero pedals are the cause of this whole knee issue. Speedplay pedals are known for being GOOD for people with knee problems, but I’ve since learned that in many cases they cause knee issues in some people.

I rode Shimano Dura-Ace pedals for years, and those pedals are what I have on my rode bike (which I rode earlier in the week pain-free) but this year I decided to switch. Even after trying to narrow in the float on my Speedplay’s (which I thought would solve the problem prior to my 50 mile ride on Saturday), I think they are just causing too much lower-leg movement which aggravates my knee. A few epic long rides on those pedals did some damage that is healing very slowly.

So the day after my 50 mile ride my knee was in awful shape. It was painful to walk and going down stairs was impossible. Now, a couple of days later, I can walk fine, but there is a lot of soreness still.

Visiting my doctor today, he still doesn’t think XRAY/MRI is needed. The prognosis is that I have bruised some fatty tissue in the knee, and I need to give it another three weeks to heal completely. Then I can, assuming I have fixed the root-cause problem of bike fit and pedals, slowly build back into my running and riding.

So there you have it, the setbacks continue. On the positive side, I’ve been swimming more and after coming out of this whole process and healing I’ll know a heck of a lot more about how to build a strong and injury proof human endurance machine!

Dealing With Setbacks

I’m dropping out of Ironman Coeur D Alene.

It’s a really tough thing to say and harder to write out. Many months of training are already in the bank. However, after attempting to ride and run over the past few days, my knee pain has returned in full force.

Walking is painful, biking is uncomfortable and running is impossible right now.

I am going to work with my coach to sort out the right racing plan for later in the summer and fall. For now, my number one priority is to get healthy and build strength and appropriate flexibility to keep my body that way.

The right thing to do is to allow 4-6wks for my knee to heal. I’ll聽be swimming聽up a storm in the meantime.

Below is a pic from the ferry聽as I type this post on聽the聽way to聽Whidbey Island.聽

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The peas knees!

The best laid plans can and often do go astray, but that doesn’t mean goals need to be thrown out the window.

I’ve been dealing with a few aches and pains. Plantar Fascia issues that have kept my running mileage terribly low (almost non-existent) since Copper Canyon, and recently a knee strain that has kept me off the bike for the better part of a week. It hurts pretty bad to walk down stairs, but walking flat ground or up stairs is almost pain free (just a little uncomfortable).

With Ironman under 8 weeks out, this is not the time to be backing off training, but a broken body doesn’t race well either. As a compromise, I’ve been swimming up a storm and even hit the elliptical machine (I avoid normally avoid “fitness equipment” like the plague) since it is one thing I can do pretty much pain-free.

I think the trick to achieving any kind of goal is being willing to adapt along the way to what life throws at you. That’s the spirit of what I’m doing right now. Keeping my overall fitness up any way I can, and getting my body back down to a healthier racing weight (about 8 pounds under where I am right now).


We learn in learn in high school physics that it is easier to maintain momentum than it is to聽 re-capture it once lost.

In life, the longer you follow a new routine (e.g. dietary, waking up early, exercising more, etc.) the better chance it has at sticking (40 days is a magic number).

Likewise, in business, besting a competitor requires not just delivering a competitive product with solid features, but doing so consistently and over long enough time to re-gain momentum in your favor. Markets and customers don’t shift on a dime.

Boston Marathon 2011

Boston Marathon
Image via Wikipedia

Perhaps one day I’ll have the speed and luck to qualify and compete in the Boston Marathon. Today there were epic performances. A new world-best time and American-best time. It’s only a matter of time before we see a sub 2-hour marathon.

The pace is crazy fast. The men are running sub 4:45 miles continuously for 26.2 miles! Also, watch at how light and smooth their form is. Landing on their fore and mid-foot and the top of their heads are barely moving up and down (no wasted energy). Watch the men’s winner Geoffrey Mutai from Kenya, he is even more light and smooth than the others.

Here is a highlight clip of the race:


How to Run 50 Miles: Part III – Muscular Strength

Read Part I and Part II first.

The second principle I mentioned in my first post is that aerobic fitness is rarely the limiter of speed. Again, I’m not a scientist but just stating what I learn through my own experience. If you happen to know of scientific evidence for anything I’m talking about (refuting or confirming) make note in the comments. Aerobic fitness does matter, it is just isn’t the be all end all.

In the past few months I’ve run the Portland Marathon (flat and on paved roads) and two 50K ultra-marathons (hilly and mostly off road). In these three outings, despite running them after just a few months of training after a long hiatus from running, I was never out of breath. There were a few times during the 50K’s when I was breathing super hard during steep climbs, but those were just a few isolated incidents. The majority of the time my lungs were not the limiter in any way. I was breathing fine, but still my perceived exertion was very high.

In the case of my Portland Marathon experience, after about 16 miles my legs just stopped working normally. I wasn’t aerobically fatigued in any way, but it felt like I just finished a billion reps of squats and my leg muscles just wouldn’t fire. During my 50K’s, I had a similar experience. My muscles were just exhausted, as if I finished a really demanding weight workout, but my cardiovascular system and lungs seemed fine. During The North Face 50K, there were plenty of long climbs on single-track trails. They took a lot of power to muscle up.

I wish I had worn a heart rate monitor during my races to prove this point. I bet my heart rate was right around 140 or so. Not super high. What also happened later in the races was that my form went to hell. I would slouch over and everything would just sag. My core and low back would tire. This would affect my stride and breathing.

My take away from these events is that muscular strength (across the whole body, not just legs) plays a massive part in endurance events. When I say strength I really mean power/weight ratio. Strength with a fairly lean overall mass. Strong core and strong back to support proper form over long distances. Strong posterior chain (calves, hamstrings, glutes, low-back) to support overall running form and power. Once a reasonable aerobic base is developed, it makes intuitive sense that working the other energetic and power-building pathways in the body is a smart thing to do.

How to Run 50 Miles: Part II – Beyond Pure Fitness

Read Part I Here.

I’m going to expand on the first principle I stated in Part I, that I think the outcome for endurance events are more driven by factors beyond raw fitness than of fitness itself. Nutrition, mental focus, pacing, gear and other factors are just as (if not more important) than how high your VO2 max or lactate threshold is.

Let me explain. In my last 50K race, The North Face Endurance Challenge in Marin Headlands, I was never once out of breath on the course. However, I clearly suffered greatly and my result did not reflect my fitness. How could this be? Simple. I did the following things:

  • I went out way too fast, running the first 8-10 miles about 10-15% faster than I should have. It didn’t feel that way during the run, but in hindsight this was the case.
  • I bonked hardcore after 16 miles. I hit mile 16 having consumed a couple gels and a few pieces of banana and boiled potato. This might seem enough calories, but given the course severity it took almost 3 hours to get this far and that was way too few calories. Also, given I was running faster than normal my caloric burn rate was far higher than normal training.
  • I had terrible shoes for this course. I wore Mizuno Waverider running shoes. They are lightweight training shoes, meant for smooth pavement. I also wore them for the Ron Herzog 50K and realized they weren’t great on trails, but I didn’t remedy the problem. I was slipping and sliding all over, given how wet and muddy the North Face course was. Footing was a real issue during the race.聽 I would slow down my pace at times and it just took way too much mental energy to focus on where my feet were going.
  • I ran carrying a single water bottle. Big mistake, as I slowed down in the second half of the race, I would run out of water/calories between aid stations and just suffer. Rookie mistake. I should have carried two bottles or used a hipflask system. Had I not bonked I would have been fine with 1 bottle, but the slower pace after mile 16 meant I was running/walking slow and needed more fuel between aid stations.
  • I wore a great Gore-Tex running jacked which kept my upper body warm, but my legs were freezing cold given the rain and the fact that I slowed so much. Studies show that cold muscled perform worse – far worse – than warm muscles. My legs were frozen for most of the race. This was of course exacerbated by my bonking and slower pace after mile 16.

Had I addressed these things by wearing appropriate clothing, using proper trail shoes, carrying more fuel and starting out more slowly (and using walk breaks early on); the result surely would have been very different! Live and learn! Addressing the non-fitness related variables has a big impact on race day. The longer you plan to go, my opinion is the more these other things count. Especially, bad footwear can easily take someone out of commission in an ultra-marathon (a bad blister or foot issue can bring down the toughest runner!). Same goes with an incorrect fueling strategy.

Will continue this multi-part post later.


Going for a 90 minute run on some flat dirt trails today. I trail tested my new Inov-8 Roclite 295’s yesterday. They are too small…back to the store they go!

How to Run 50 Miles: Part I

I’ve never ran 50 miles in one go before, but will at the Copper Canyon Ultra a little over a month from now. The approach I’ve taken to building up to this race is very unconventional. Most running programs are linear in nature. With base miles building and long runs (bi-weekly) building up to a considerable sum every week, then a multi-week taper.

There are clear rules around not increasing long runs more than 10% each time, and in building up to a steady weekly mileage base (that can push 50-60+ miles per week for an ultra runner – with elite runners getting well over 100mpw).

I’m following a different approach because I have other things I chose to do with my time besides run, and I also want to avoid injury. The principles I’m following in my training include the following ideas that I’ve made up based on my own past experience doing marathons, Ironmans and a couple 50Ks:

  • Outcomes for endurance events are more due to mental, nutrition and pacing factors than they are of raw fitness. Therefore, focusing on training the non-fitness aspects will have material value on race day.
  • The limiter of speed in an endurance event is rarely aerobic fitness, it is usually muscular strength and power related (or mental strength related). Training strength and power (mental and physical) is therefore the key once you are reasonably fit aerobically.
  • Biomechanical efficiency is key, the lack of which can result in injury and/or inefficiency that throws any nutrition and racing plan out the window…the longer the event, the more important this become. Learning and using proper technique is critical.
  • If you are too tired from training to enjoy your life and all it has to offer, then you either aren’t training properly or don’t have your priorities in the right spot 馃檪


Gotta run right now (to the Grand Opening of Shakti Redmond, woo hoo!) but will post next some more details of my specific training for the upcoming 50 miler.

2011 Race Calendar

This year I am getting back in racing. It’s been a number of years (since 2003 in fact!) since I’ve trained with any kind of regularity and raced while caring about place/time. It’s motivating to have clear goals again, and I’m looking forward to learning from many years of mistakes (I guess we call that experience?) and making this a fun and productive year training-wise and racing-wise.

Here are the primary events I have in the plan for 2011. IMCDA and the Portland Marathon are the major races. Aside from these events I might jump into a few Olympic distance triathlons or some 5K to half-marathon races as part of training efforts.

3/6 Copper Canyon 50 Mile Ultra Marathon (Goal = finish!)
4/30 Wildflower Half-Ironman Triathlon (Goal = finish and test race strategy for IMCDA, <6hours time)
6/26 Ironman Coeur d Alene MAJOR RACE (Goal =聽 <11 hrs = <1:05 swim <5:45 bike <4:00 run)
7/30 White River 50 Mile Endurance Run (Goal = finish in top half of the field, <10 hours)
9/24 Black Diamond Half Ironman (Goal = top 5 in age group, <5:20 time would be nice!)
10/6 Portland Marathon MAJOR RACE (Goal = <3 hours and qualify for Boston Marathon)
11/5 Ron Herzog 50K (Goal = top 10 finish, <5:30 time)
12/3 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler (Goal = finish in top half of field, <10 hours)

I know many of you who read my blog also race…I’m interested to hear what you have on tap! Leave a note in the comments with your plans for 2011.


I’m super slow in sorting through all the wonderful pics and vids from my trip to the Galapagos and Ecuador. Hope to get a post up before the end of the year with a recap 馃檪 .

Starting to do more strength training and speed-work; on the track, on the bike trainer and in the gym. It feels good! In my longer runs last fall (the Portland Marathon and both 50K races) it was clearly muscular strength holding me back not aerobic fitness, so I hope the heavy squats, deadlifts and track repeats will eliminate the bottleneck.