Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Training Gets Shakey--California Quake

Coachubby and I had an 11:45am track work-out lunch date yesterday at our local high school. Arriving a few minutes early, I watched pint-sized flag-football players line up for Subway sandwiches, then migrate to a shady spot on the bleachers. Then, when the sandwich delivery van (aka a mom-mobile) drove by, the ground shook. Like in a sea-sickening wavy motion.


"Geez," I thought to myself, "these bleachers aren't engineered very well if they shake whenever a car drives by."

Then I overheard a teenager talk to her boyfriend. "I am not crazy!" she said. "It wasn't just me!"

"Did you just feel the ground shake?" I asked.


"Me too, you're not crazy."

Finally, coachubby shows up, unaware that we were all just in an earthquake. My first. At least, the first I really noticed without being told by the media that I should've noticed it. Coachubby missed it entirely, since he was already bobbing up and down as he ran over.

The quake was officially measured at a magnitude of 5.4 on the Richter Scale, and lasted only 30 seconds. The epicenter was apparently 29 miles east, southeast of Los Angeles and 7.6 miles underground.

Technically, it was kind of a baby. But it gave the media something to talk about around here besides Brangelina's twins. In fact, ABC even interrupted Oprah to show still camera shots of toiletries on the floors of Wal-Marts, and off-kilter photos on the walls of the homes of random Los Angeles families.

Los Angeles Earthquake

The moral of the story is, if you ever want to surf on land right before you do a big, painful track workout, move to Los Angeles.

And that is today's word.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Irvine to San Diego--A Birthday Cycling Extravaganza

When you're a triathlete, "best days ever" are usually described in terms of massive mileage, gallons of sweat lost, and a ridiculous amount of calories consumed.

Enter the birthday ride: a hundred mile social ride with several friends who also happen to have their birthdays within a few weeks of your own. There is no better way to celebrate. And absolutely no other reason to average 9.5 miles an hour on a century ride.

Here's how to make your own birthday ride:


10 crazy people, half with birthdays within 2 weeks of each other

birthday cycling girls

(ex: 2 bday girls above)

10 bikes

Tons of water

50+ of either PowerBars or Cliff Bars

50+ of either PowerGels, Shot Blocks, Gus, Hammer Gels

Tons of Gatorade, Cytomax, or other powder carbs may be substituted

5 PB & Js

100s of salt pills


10 valid driver's licenses

10 changes of clothes

10 good attitudes

10 excellently padded cycling shorts

TIME NEEDED: 5-12 hours, depending on the number and skill of aforementioned crazy people involved.


  • Make plans to arrive before 7:30am at Irvine Amtrak station for a 7:30am clip-in time

  • Clip in a little after 8am

  • Ride 4 miles out in the wrong direction

  • Ride 4 miles back to start

  • Ride approximately 20 minutes

  • Stop at Starbucks to commandeer the 1 restroom available

  • Ride approximately 20 more minutes, generously add Gatorade and PowerBars to riders

  • Puncture one rider's tire with large nail & washer

  • Hang around in shade for 40 minutes, keeping riders' core body temperatures at a comfortable degree

  • Ride to a beach town. Revel in gorgeousness and wonder why the beach 60 miles south of you has pretty blue water when your ocean is black. Decide not to think about it because that's nasty. Remind self that down here, people get eaten by sharks because even the sharks don't want to swim where you do.

  • Stop for 40 minutes at local bike shop so unfortunate rider #6 can get new tire. Drink more Gatorade and water.

  • Ride to the entrance of Camp Pendleton. Get excited to see men in uniform.

  • Get unexcited when man in uniform tells you the bike path is closed for military exercises.

  • Get excited again realizing that even though you have to ride on the shoulder of the I-5, you'll be riding faster than the current traffic thanks to a strategically placed accident.

  • Stop at overlook to check out "military exercises". Remark that it would be cool to see something explode. After nothing explodes, decide it would be cool to ram the port-a-potties with a military Hummer.

  • Continue down freeway with your stomach in your throat. Dodge debris. Pretend to be in the Tour de France, and that the cars now whizzing by each carry your very own Johan Bruyneel and support crew.

  • Arrive in Oceanside. Prepare for massive lunch break. Call husband to relay the information that you have ridden 50 miles in 5.5 hours. You are awesome. Lunch in Oceanside

  • Split group into two groups: one of 4, one of 6.

  • Send group of 4 onward while letting group of 6 simmer a little longer in Oceanside.

  • Every 2-5 miles, make group of 3 stop for 20-40 minutes to wait for straggler.

  • Have enraged roadie yell at group of 3 for stopping in his way on the bike path.

  • Regroup, then blast by roadie shouting "on your left!" and giving an ironically friendly wave.

  • Wonder exactly where Solana Beach is and if you'll see a shark there.

  • Remark that Nytro, the triathlon shop you have heard of that is along your route, is a lot dinkier than you thought it'd be.

  • Somehow miss Solana Beach entirely, feeling relieved that you went by and lived to tell the tale...even when not swimming.

  • Balk at the huge 1.5ish mile climb into Torrey Pines.

  • Decide Mission Bay is super cool.

  • Decide riding by the San Diego Airport is the most opposite of super cool.

  • Celebrate making it downtown to the Amtrak station by adding a 4 mile loop by creepy airport to make it an even 100.

  • Feel befuddled that Group of 6 arrives only 10 minutes after you.

  • Miss the 6:20pm train back. Acknowledge that you have officially been in the same bike shorts for 10.5 hours--without doing an Ironman. Realize nobody will want to be in your 8pm train car with you.

  • Take Amtrak back to Irvine. Watch ticket puncher man hit on your friend.

Cyclist Amtrak to Irvine

Happy Social Riding!

PS. On the next page are directions for the Irvine to San Diego ride, should you feel like doing it. If you do it right, it's 88 miles. Mostly good roads. A few sketchy parts through downtown beach town areas (like Oceanside) where there is no bike lane and there are quite a few stop lights. Gorgeous along the coast!

PPS. If you have a large group, make sure to ask for a group discount for the train ride. Our tickets were only $13 per person!

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Mountain Man Triathlon Relay--How Big Are Your Lungs?

Flagstaff is up there. Really high. Like high enough to make training in the city of Boulder look like the sissiest thing to do as a triathlete just after drafting. So what better place to have a triathlon?

Mountain Man Triathlon logo

Mountain Man Events had that idea 24 years ago when they held the first Mountain Man triathlon at Lake Mary, just south-east of Flagstaff, at a whopping 6, 910 feet. If you've ever felt breathless during the swim, try racing in Lake Mary. Its calm waters and absolutely gorgeous, pristine (minus the fire that must've burned across the lake recently) surroundings will make you forget there is no air to breathe. Well, there is some, you just have to have lungs the size of Macca's to get enough in. That's why my dad and I made coachubby swim.

Waiting in T1

I hung around with my bike sitting pretty in the grass, chatting with my dad while waiting for coachubby to run up to me and transfer the timing chip. There was absolutely no rack space for Stealth Pinky (my bike). This triathlon seems to have exploded a bit more than the friendly race director imagined it would.

Suddenly, coachubby came running up right beside another relay swimmer. He executed the timing chip ankle-off and I charged up the hill out of the parking lot to begin the 40K time trial.

The Mountain Man bike course is probably one of the most gorgeous in existence. There is nothing out there. Just forest, a few camp grounds, and miles of relatively traffic-free road. Going out is mostly uphill, though you may not realize it, so coming back is quite a treat--until the last 4 miles heading west around Lake Mary. A killer headwind will fry your quads if the absence of oxygen hasn't already.

Volunteers and cheer squads are scarce; everyone who makes it that far down the two-lane road to Lake Mary is probably there to be in the race. It is a pure endurance race situation--just you vs. yourself vs. the people around you. Grandma and your neighbors probably haven't parked themselves along the highway to cheer.

I made the return of the out-and-back Olympic distance ride about 8 minutes faster than the ride out, dumping myself into transition, unaware of any dismount line that might have been in place (I don't think they remembered one.). Padre took the chip off of my ankle, slapped it on his, then took off through transition--but not before noting that he had to run half a mile farther than planned because had I entered on the east side of the long and skinny transition area and he had to run all the way out the west side.

Lake mary sign

Coachubby and I felt confident padre could hold off the other rabid relay members. We walked down the road, hoping to catch him at the bottom of the killer 1.5ish mile uphill switchback that makes the run most painful. (Thanks for doing it, dad!)

Then...there he was! Padre was still running! And at a most excellent pace. He couldn't talk, though, so I wasn't sure if he'd mind my running the last mile with him. So I did, because he couldn't tell me otherwise. When we got close, I ran behind, screaming as he crossed the finish line and received his first triathlon medal. It was awesome.

Winning Legs

We changed clothes then eagerly checked out the results...WE WON! WOO HOO! Co-ed relay #1! Shortly thereafter, padre received his 1st place triathlon plaque. Not bad for his first race.

The moral of this story? DO A RELAY! They are awesome, and totally revamp your view of triathlon...should you have needed some revamping...what, with Ironman entry fees making women consider selling their eggs, and total burnout from months of non-stop training encouraged by living in a place with eternal spring.

We win!

Plus, it's a killer way to get friends and family involved who otherwise couldn't, if they don't swim, for instance, or can't run because of an injury. It was way more gratifying to watch my dad cross the finish line at Mountain Man than do it myself. And more fun to make him run up the gigantor hill at killer altitude than do it myself. :)

Happy relay racing!


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Beware the Ring of Fire!

I've discussed the unfortunate back burn pattern known as the smiley, but now there is a new burn design on the rise among triathletes and cyclists alike: the Ring of Fire!

Ring of Fire

This strange and painful burn occurs when you put spray sunscreen on after you've already suited up in your jersey, then go for a long ride. As you pedal, your jersey sleeves sneak up a little bit, exposing your virgin skin to the hot sun, toasting a ring around your bicep.

Tips for Ring of Fire avoidance: Roll your sleeves up before you spray sunscreen on. OR put sunscreen on naked, let dry, proceed to dress. (Of course, if you like to draw attention to your biceps, the Ring of Fire is an excellent way to do so.)

Happy summer training!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Johan Bruyneel Talks to Triathlete Diva

...and 200+ other people...


(Coachubby, Bruyneel, and me.)

Johan Bruyneel, the mastermind behind Lance's 7 Tour de France wins and Alberto Contador's 2007 Tour win (and a gagillion other wins at every major cycling race in the world), was at the Bicycle Superstore in San Diego yesterday to promote his new book, "We Might as Well Win."

Johan Bruyneel's Book Bicycle Superstore

The book is a very quick read. It's only about 200 pages, and takes you along in the race director's car with Bruyneel at Lance's and Contador's races. He speaks about team dynamics, his ground breaking Tour strategies, and about his life as a pro cyclist in the Tour. (Incredible cliff crash sequence included.) In short, if you love a bike, you'll love this book.

The only quip I had with it was the ending. The way the story is told, Bruyneel had to prove to himself that he could win the Tour without Lance, then he would walk away from it all and retire happy. So when he won with Contador last year, according to the book, he was content and ready to spend time with his family.

Perhaps this is the state of mind he was in when the book was completed, but it seems to be a kind of cop out from speaking against Tour organizers (the ASO) for treating Bruyneel and his team unfairly. It's no secret that Bruyneel was going to return to the Tour this year with Astana and Contador--with a team favored to win. When his team was not invited, he point blank asked organizers if it was because of him that Astana would not be allowed to race, because if that were the case, he'd retire then and there.

August's Bicycling Magazine states that their editors spoke to European insiders who "agreed that ASO excluded Astana mainly as retribution against Bruyneel, but did not want to be publicly identified with such a statement." Thereby confirming Bobke's sentiment that French people are babies. If they can't beat Bruyneel's team, they'll take it out of contention to give themselves a better chance of finally winning their own race.

Marc Peruzzi said the scandal was like "if the NCAA simply couldn't accept John Wooden's domination as the coach of UCLA's basketball team--seven national championships in a row and an astonishing 88-game win streak--and sat him down so someone else could win one." (See the August issue of Bicycling Magazine for a great article on the Tour, Bruyneel, Astana, and the riders kept out of contention for the Tour win this year.)

None of these controversial topics are covered by Bruyneel in any detail.

He did, however, answer a question I found interesting: What does he think of Rock Racing?

Rock Racing logo

For anyone who witnessed the over-the-top, ridiculous spread they had at the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix a few weeks ago, this would be a topic of interest. They're obnoxious, loud, rude, and their owner, Michael Ball, is all of these things and then some. His actions have been described by the Fat Cyclist as "hilariously insane".

So while most people would relish their quick demise, and to write them off as nothing but a freak show, Bruyneel brought a little perspective to the cycling game: Rock Racing is getting people talking about cycling. Period. Not only that, they're getting Americans to talk about cycling, and that's something that's very hard to do! (I added that part.)

Basically, Bruyneel's take on the team was that any press is good press. Even horrifically bad press, like the kind that Michael Ball and his racers have garnered over the entire single year they've been a team.

Ball has made a lot of mistakes, said Bruyneel, but so does everyone when starting out. The key, now, is to learn from them and really step up to the plate in the next few years, stop being an ass-wipe to race organizers (my words, not Bruyneel's), and get it in gear, because his team does have the chance to compete at an international level.

So there you have it. In a very diplomatic way, Bruyneel voiced his opinion on the one team several Americans are now familiar with, because as a country, we like to buy ridiculously expensive jeans more than we like to ride our bikes.

Happy cycling! (And obsessive Tour de France tracking!)


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Road Rage Leaves Local Cyclists Mangled in Mandeville Canyon

If you live in Southern California, you've probably already heard of this incident that has the active community in a rage.

Apparently 59 year old ER physician, Christopher Thompson, hasn't seen enough action lately, so he decided to get himself a few more patients by slamming on his brakes in front of two cyclists descending Mandeville Canyon at 30 mph as a part of a 4th of July celebratory ride.

Then to make matters worse, he jumped out of his car and continued on a verbal tirade, while cyclist Ron Peterson removed his face from the a-hole's back window.

I think purposefully sending a respectful, CAT1 cyclist through the back window of your status car is in direct opposition to the Hippocratic Oath. Particularly to this part: "I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone."

Bloody car

Being a 58 year-old, my guess is he did, in fact, take this oath while in medical school, since he graduated before the practice was largely abandoned by schools at graduation.

LAPD arrested the man and will be filing the incident as a felony criminal assault. Surely, after trying to kill people, he will not be allowed to practice medicine any longer? RIGHT? And then he'll have to move out of his Mandeville Canyon home, where several uphill time trials are conducted by various cycling groups every week.

He should have to register like a sex offender in some kind of cyclist-offender registry, which would make it impossible for him to live within a 20 mile radius of anywhere frequented by cyclists. A-hole. And to make matters worse, this man was previously involved in an a-hole-cyclist road rage incident. He's a repeat offender! Next time he's allowed to drive, he'll probably kill someone.

Smashed cyclist face

By now you non SoCal residents probably want to hop on a plane to mangle this so-called "Doctor". Here's your next best option for retribution: A meeting called by LA Council member, Bill Rosendahl, about improving safety on Mandeville Canyon for cyclists and drivers, and discussing ways to get the word out about sharing the road.

My guess is people like this disturbed Mr. Thompson would only get more enraged by "Share the Road" signs, but it all helps. The actual incident, stresses Rosendahl, will not be discussed at the meeting.

Who: Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl

Los Angeles Police Department

Los Angeles Department of Transportation

Homeowners Association representatives

Bicycle Activists

When: Monday, July 14, 2008 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: West Los Angeles Municipal Building - 2nd floor Hearing Room

1645 Corinth Avenue (between Iowa and Santa Monica Blvd.)

Los Angeles, CA 90025

(Automobile Parking available behind the Municipal Building)

(Bicycle Parking at bike racks and allowed in the building lobby)

Here's to hoping the people driving around you actually do drive AROUND you and have enough sanity to not WANT to kill you.

UPDATE: According to this website, Thompson now runs a Woodland Hills medical documentation company called Touch Medix and is no longer a practicing doctor. Hence why he felt it was ok to send people to the ER? Because he wouldn't have to heal them?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Female Triathlete? You Need Birth Control!

Female runner

Ok, so maybe you don't if, say, you're trying to get pregnant. But there are two very important reasons you should be on birth control if you're a competitive female triathlete (this means you Ironwomen!):

1. You can pretty much guarantee Mother Nature won't be delivering an unwanted gift right before your "A" race...or any other races you have this year.


2. Your bones need the estrogen.

osteoporotic bone

If reason number one doesn't already have you signing up for The Pill, reason number 2 should get your attention.

If you're a competitive athlete, chances are you're training a lot. Like up to 20 hours a week during your peak phase of Ironman training. And chances are your affinity for chocolate cake and anything else densely calorific just won't keep enough body fat on your seemingly strong, lean, athlete's body to ensure you have the ideal estrogen levels to keep a regular period. In fact, a Stanford study states that "healthy women who began training for a marathon reduced their estrogen levels by over 50%"!

Without estrogen, your bones will rapidly deteriorate. And no amount of weight training, an activity routinely suggested to up your bone density, can fix it.

If you're already experienced the loss of some bone density, don't panic! The sooner you detect it, the sooner you can take steps to halt the deterioration. In fact, if it hasn't been too long, you may even be able to build your bones back up--with birth control pills! The pills contain that bone-loving hormone your ridiculous training has sucked from your body: estrogen.

girl power swim cap

So if you've been without your female friend for a little while now, and have probably been thinking it's a blessing it went away, think again and see your doctor ASAP. Discuss hormone therapy with her, because stopping your training (the other option) probably isn't really an option to you.


BONUS: Pills like Seasonale allow you to take pills for 3 months straight, so you only have a period 4x/year, and they also come in generic options.

Happy non-osteoporotic training!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

How Long is Too Long to Wear Your Ironman Wristband?


This question is more complicated than it seems, as there is no concrete answer. Sure, pros might tell you it's ridiculous to wear the little plastic thing a day after the race is over. But those guys are just going to get another wristband in a few months, and probably already have an arsenal of M-Dot glory in the form of giant paychecks, and trophies. Age groupers can keep the wristband on to prolong their Ironman experience, which more than likely only comes once a year, or once in a lifetime.

Ironman wristband

Many factors contribute to the final decision to remove the wristband, including, but not limited to:

Ironman Tattoo

  • M-Dot tattoos. If you already have one, the wristband is overkill. Unless it's a pretty color and you're keeping it on for fashion reasons, in which case don't be surprised if Stacy and Clinton from TLC's What Not To Wear show up at your door uninvited and ream you for more than just your wristband transgression. They might even slay you for your Crocs.

  • Size. If the kind volunteer who put yours on made it too loose, it's bound to get all wrinkly and warped faster than if it fits nice and snug. When it looks like a piece of trash is on your left wrist, it's time to let it go.

  • Color. This year's sparkly silver bands look much more like jewelry than IMAZ's hot green one from '07, making it easier to slip by your boss, clients, wife, etc...

  • Meaning. If the Ironman's over but you still can't let it go, and don't want to commit to a tattoo, keep the bracelet on for a while. After about a week, it'll loose the writing, and become a personal symbol of triumph. Of course, if your motivation in keeping the thing on is to brag, you probably felt blessed to get the hot green wristband. However, after a few weeks, people will start asking what club was so cool that getting in warranted wearing the wristband for weeks--or even months. To which you can reply, "Ironman, baby!" (If you haven't already read the 6-step guide "How to Brag About Doing an Ironman, read it here.")

  • IM quantity. A newly anointed Ironman will be more apt to wear the bracelet longer, get the tattoo, and wear all of his finisher gear every day. This fact is based on no scientific data whatsoever, just pure observation and experience. I kept my first IM bracelet on, in all of its hot green glory, from the day of the race until I had to cut it off for engagement photos or forever endure the wrath of my very fashionable mother. That was an entire 6 months. And to go completely "Clarissa Explains it All", I didn't take any race bracelets off for the entire year. (She had at least 3 large watches on her wrist in every episode. I thought she was so cool.) My left wrist was entirely impenetrable to the sun and looked like another person's skin when they all came off, making some interesting formal photos.

So to wear your wristband or to not wear your wristband? It's a very personal decision that cannot be taken lightly. Once you cut that sucker off, there's no getting it back.

Are you wearing it to brag? Alternatives to keeping your wristband on for bragging purposes are stocking up on temporary M-Dot tattoos (then putting them in very obvious places), wearing finisher stuff everywhere, or getting inked.

Ironman socks

If you're just keeping it on for self-empowerment purposes, you could consider getting some temporary tattoos, and putting them in places only you see (oh la la!), drawing a little M-Dot on yourself somewhere with a Sharpie, wearing M-Dot socks, or not-so-subtly uploading your finisher photos to Facebook and setting the IM album to allow anybody and everyone on the net see it. For indirect bragging, Facebook's where it's at.

Happy training!



PS. Mine's still on from June...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

How to Go from Ironman to Sad, Squishy Psychomaniac in One Week

No previous depressive experience required.

How is it possible to go from this feeling:

Ironman Coeur D'Alene Finish(Yea! I finished! I rock! And yes, that is the TriathleteDiva jersey, now available at TriathlonLAB!)

To this feeling:

Pull hair out mad(Ahhhhhhh!)

in only one week? (With a 2 year build up.)

By studying these simple steps, perhaps you'll be able to avoid any/all of them altogether to maintain the unflappable emotional levels of a happy-pill addict.

Or, perhaps, if you're like a certain someone around here, you'll follow them exactly because you enjoy life in all of its extremes. Even if the lows bring on an unending need for chocolate and a subsequent ballooning tummy squish.

1. Sign up for an Ironman. Spend one year training. Feel ripped.

2. Get engaged. Become obsessed with wedding TV programming.

3. Complete 1st Ironman. Feel like most bodacious person on planet.

4. Buy wedding dress. Attend many subsequent fittings. Feel like princess.

5. Sign up for Ironman #2. Begin plan to cut previous IM time to shreds.

6. Get married. Feel like most bodacious person on planet.

7. Go on honeymoon. Feel like only and hottest woman on planet.

8. Return to fabulous gifts with a glow.

9. Compete in Ironman #2. Revel in new PR. Feel like most bodacious person on planet.

10. Flatline one week later.

Why flatline? This is not an inevitable reaction to the end of 2 years dominated by monumental goals involving loads of planning and selfishness. However, final ginormous goal completion leaves a gaping void in the future called the “unknown” that has been proven to cause anxiety, which cannot currently be blasted away with training, as the recent Ironman’s body is broken, so it has chosen the next-best anxiety-busting remedy, as proven by the ancient Aztecs: chocolate. In all of its glorious forms.

And when said Ironman comes to think of it, becoming a chocolate connoisseur is not really a bad side goal for training downtime. Another Ironman will pop up soon, again becoming a shield for any unpleasantness thrown her way in the year leading up to it.

Maybe Ironman is my happy pill.

For more on post-Ironman depression, a condition that actually exists and that this Ironman did not, in fact, make up, even though she realizes she makes up a lot of things, go to this article at And for an article on post Ironman blues by pro triathlete, Jason Shortis, go here.