Conquering the Stairs

Gyms are great for focused workouts.  Races are challenging and enable one to prove their mettle and tell some good war stories.  But nothing soothes the soul so much as getting a good workout in nature.

 

Few people know that, in the heart of LA, surrounded by millions of people, is a California State Park that offers a challenging hill climb with a breathtaking scenic reward.  That would be the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, located in Culver City at Jefferson and Hetzler Road.

The 58 acres that make up this park were reclaimed from its oil rig drilling days and saved from becoming yet another housing development.  It’s now home to a number of native plants and animals, and has a very nice nature center and picnic area for public enjoyment.

But the real reason to go there is The Stairs. Over 300 steps take you straight up the 511 foot peak.

These aren’t nice, polite stadium steps.  They’re high, rustic, deeply inset and set at difference distances.  How high?  Some as high as my kneecap – which means you’re not just climbing but tugging up your own weight.  Coming down can be a jarring experience – especially on the knees.

Some folks choose instead the mile-plus long trail that zig-zags its way to the summit.  And still other prefer the smooth payment of Hetzler Road that is open to automotive traffic.  But bragging rights come with conquering the stairs.

All along the way you meet other climbers who’ve stepped aside to catch their breadth.  Besides a rest, it gives you an opportunity to look around and notice how much more you see with every step.   Near the summit is a marker that states with each step your view of the city increases a hundred-fold, and at the top, you’ll find the city, surrounded by cement and sky.

And what a reward when you reach the top!  A 360o view of the LA Basin – Palos Verdes, the San Gabriel Mountains, downtown LA, Hollywood, Malibu, Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean.  You take in all in and decide you’re coming back tomorrow to see it all again.

 

Business Travel and Triathlon Training: Denver

Last week, I hit the road again, this time for the Planningness conference in Denver, CO. Finding time to train, regardless of how busy I am while traveling is becoming critical as Ironman Arizona draws closer and the time left to prepare gets tighter. From all I’ve heard about Colorado, I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult a place to accomplish this. The only challenge I thought might present itself would be the fact that I would be staying in Downtown and wouldn’t have access to a car.

I arrived at the Denver airport at around 3:00 p.m. and caught a cab from the airport to downtown, driving across some surprisingly flat terrain and recall quoting Lloyd Christmas to myself, saying “that John Denver’s full of shit, man.” Where were all the mountains?

Arriving at the Sheraton downtown, I checked into my room and asked the front desk for the best running routes around town. I was told to make my way over to the Cherry Creek Trail right next to the Denver Convention Center where I would find miles of trail following Cherry Creek.

I started my run out of the hotel lobby and made it to the trail in just a few minutes. When I got to it, I was pleasantly surprised with a creek just below street level that had a nice bike/pedestrian path with ample room for runners, walkers and cyclists… and there were plenty. The people of Denver were out in full force exercising, commuting, and just enjoying the nice Fall weather. Heading Southeast on the trail took me upstream and I continued on the trail for 4 miles until I arrived at a Whole Foods.

I decided to stop into the Whole Foods for a gel and a water bottle that I could carry with me because seriously, Denver is DRY, my throat was parched. Another thing about Whole Foods in Denver is that I discovered my people. If I cruise the Whole Foods in Irvine, CA near my home, I feel out of place because my car, clothes, cosmetic surgery experience, and Whole Foods bill itself just don’t matchup to those around me. But in Denver, this didn’t feel like the case, the guy behind me in line had ridden his bike to the store and had just purchased the largest bag of granola I have ever seen.

After paying for my goods, I ran out the door and headed back downstream and back to my hotel. In total I got in a 9 mile run and really enjoyed the whole experience. Were I to have had a car, I would have tried to head out of town for a trail run in the closest mountains 10 or 20 miles away.

The next day I was fully engaged in the Planningness conference (which if you happen to be a strategist, digital strategist, or just love to learn and do cool stuff, is the best conference you could possibly attend) so I didn’t have time to train. After enjoying an amazing dinner after the conference, I headed back to my hotel room and logged into USMS.org (United States Masters Swim) and checked out the “Places to Swim” link for pools and Masters teams in Denver. I found the University of Denver pool on the list and checked their schedule to make sure I would be able to get a lane at the times I was available.

After day two of the conference, I caught a cab to the University of Denver, paid a $10 guest fee to get into the fitness center and found my way to the pool. It is a great looking Olympic 50 meter by 25 yard indoor pool that is part of the same building housing a bunch of other sporting facilities, including a hockey arena, full gym, basketball courts, volleyball courts, and with soccer and lacrosse fields just outside… very cool.

Once I made my way to the pool, I jumped in, only had to share a lane with one other guy and managed to get in 4,000 yards before needing to had back into Downtown Denver to grab my bags and head for the airport.

Training in a place far away is never quite as convenient as home, and there always seem to be distractions, but Denver is definitely a place that you can pull it off.

The next installment of Business Travel and Triathlon Training should be about Chicago in a couple weeks. That should be a fun one, as I will have to train extra hard to make up for all of the food I am gonna eat in that town.

Sufferfest 2010: 24 Hours of Adrenalin, 8 Hour Solo

Last Fall my friend Jeff and I participated in an 8 Hour Duo race at the 24 Hours of Adrenalin at Hurkey Creek near Idyllwild, CA. In that race, Jeff and I took turns making laps around the 9.75 mile course before the 8 hour time limit ran out. Between the two of us, we made 8 laps on the 1,320′ gain course and came in 9th place.

Well this year, as I am in preparation for Ironman Arizona, I have been looking for fun ways to mix up my long distance training, because lets be honest… sometimes it can get boring, so I decided to head back up to Hurkey Creek for this year’s race but decided to do the 8 hour solo instead.

This year, myself, and two teammates, Jeff and Travis from Team Poseidon all decided to do the 8 Hour solo race, assisted by our canine mascot, Pumpkin, and crew chief and wife, Elise Wallace. The race started at Noon and then we would proceed to race the 9.75 mile loop as fast as we could until the eight hour time limit ran out. Technically the time limit is at 8:30, allowing you to start your last lap any time before 8:00 p.m. but you must be able to finish before 8:30.

The night before the race, I prepared my gear, my lights, and my nutrition. Check out this spread… and that doesn’t even include the real food, consisting of a two PB&Js, a turkey sandwich, salt & vinegar potato chips, and mini Cokes.

At noon on the dot, the race started with a LeMans-style start with all racers on foot. The run course did a 600 meter loop through the campground and then ended back through the timing tent where we mounted our bikes. Last year, I did the Lemans start for my two man team with Jeff, and had the not-so-bright idea to run it barefoot. I thought to myself, “I’m a triathlete, I can run barefoot into transition, and crush all of these cyclists.” I did have a lightning fast run, but it was longer than I thought, ran partly on rough asphalt and gave me the gnarliest blisters on my feet for the next couple of weeks that were so bad I could barely walk… lesson learned, I wore shoes this year. I made quick work of this year’s run and got onto my bike.

The course winds through campgrounds for a quarter mile before hitting single track and then quickly getting into a two mile long climb. This climb is toughest on the first lap because there are so many racers all starting at the same time. Getting stuck in a long line of climbers doesn’t help. Once through the first climb, I was able to pick up the pace. I was trying to be conservative on the first few laps to make sure I left enough in the tank to handle the 8 hour long race, but still managed to put down a 56 minute first lap.

Laps one through three were all pretty similar, and I was making great time. About half way through the third lap is when my teammate, Travis caught up with me. He was looking strong and slowly pedaled away from me as I was starting to have some breathing trouble and was fading a bit. I made it through lap three and stopped briefly at my pit where crew chief Elise hooked me up with necessary hydration and food. She told me then that I was looking a little shaky and maybe needed to rest for a bit, but I didn’t listen and headed back out onto the course.

By the end of lap 4, I wasn’t breathing well, and took her advice to take a rest. I decided to rest as long as necessary for the ibuprofen to kick in for my lungs and for my stomach to settle. About ten minutes after I sat down, my teammate Jeff came into the pit. He said he was having some cramping issues and was planning on chillin’ for a little while… fine with me.

We hung out for another 30 minutes or so and then decided to head out and do our fifth lap together. We rode it together and kept an easy to moderate pace. Jeff was having some trouble with the small ring on his crankset, forcing him to spend more time in the middle ring, further aggravating his cramps so he never fully looked as strong as we knew he could be. Towards the end of the fifth lap, his cramping came back and I left him to work out his cramps. I came through my pit without stopping, just slowing down enough to trade a bottle and grab a gel and a Clif bar.

At this point I was really starting to feel my second wind coming on.  I got it in my head that if I rode hard and consistent enough, I could probably get two more laps in and salvage some of the time lost during the long break after lap 4. I was feeling great, motoring over all of the tough technical climbs and making pretty good work of the descents.

When I came through my pit after lap 6, I yelled to Elise to grab a me a bottle and a Livewire caffeinated energy chew and meet me on the other side of the timing tent. If I was going to make a 7th lap before the time cutoff, I couldn’t afford to waste any time. By this point it was totally dark out so I was grateful I had taken the time to throw on my light before I started lap 5 and didn’t have to worry about it now.

I went as hard as was necessary for lap 7, made all of the tough climbs, descended well in

the dark, and then with about 2.5 miles to go, I was taking a sandy corner as hard as I could and washed out into the sand. Luckily the fall wasn’t bad and it only wasted a few seconds but it was enough to worry me just a tad. I didn’t want to trust my watch so I just assumed I had to go fast as hell from there on out to complete my seventh lap before the time cut off.

I ended up coming across the line with 5 minutes to spare to an awaiting wife/crew chief, dog, and a couple of great teammates. It was a great day. If I had to do it over again, I probably wouldn’t have changed a thing… except for maybe how long I took during my break after lap four. But even still, that rest was pretty beneficial.

My final result was a 6th place finish, completing seven laps in 8 hours and 25 minutes. That made for 68 miles and 9,240 feet of pretty technical climbing.

My official splits were:

Skyler Wallace

Lap 1   :56

Lap 2   1:01

Lap 3   1:05

Lap 4   1:57   (this lap includes the 40 minute rest)

Lap 5   1:10

Lap 6   1:06

Lap 7   1:08

I had a blast at this race and look forward to doing it again. My team, Team Poseidon had a great showing in the 8 hour solo category as well. Travis Clater was on the podium in third place with 7 laps in 7:27, and Jeff Lewis made the top ten with 6 laps in 7:29. I’ll definitely be back next year to improve my time or maybe even try my legs at the 24 hour solo division. I’m inspired now after watching the movie 24 Solo fifteen times and by fellow Orange County man and Troupe Racing team member, Mykyta Yurtyn who took first place with 16 laps at this year’s race.

I wasn’t the only one worn out from the race:

P90x Training

When it comes to exercise, I haven’t always been motivated to hit the gym or even run a 5k for that matter. Enter Saatchi LA. When your boss comes to work wearing tennis shoes because he plans to go for a 20 mile run later, and your cube mate is bringing his bike to work because he plans to do a triathlon afterwards, you can’t help but wonder…”What am I missing?”

At the beginning of the year I got motivated to do a 5K…then a 10K…then before I knew it I worked my way up to doing 12 mile hill runs at Griffith Park. I started to realize what the “runners high” was all about. I got more brave and decided to train for the LA Marathon.

I started to come to terms with the fact that until I get the metal plate taken out of my foot, that Marathon I was training for was just not going to happen. Anything after 12 miles, my foot would give out and every step after that was a nightmare. So, foot surgery is going to happen this winter, but I am just not happy with doing nothing in the meantime. I started to realize not only do you get gratification with your results but you become part of a community, a community of athletes, a community of motivation and support.

So, what can I do in the meantime to stay physically fit, yet not be torturous on my foot? My uncle started doing the P90x program about 3 months ago. I have been tracking his progress as he updates on Facebook. I couldn’t help but be stunned (and inspired) by his final results of the 90 day program. He lost SIXTY pounds in 3 months and exchanged his “6 pack of beer belly” into a “6 pack of abs”. He was so impressed with the program he became a coach. The second I expressed interest at giving it a whirl, he told me all about the program.

Basically, the program is all about “muscle confusion”. By providing an extensive variety of different moves that take time to master, P90x is continually challenging the body’s muscle into new growth. The more you confuse the muscle, the harder your body has to work to keep it up. The more variety you put into your workout, the better and faster your results will be.

Ok, I can do this (hey, I can do anything for 90 days…I think).

Step one – set up profile.

Name: Regan

Gender: Female

Age: 25

Fitness Goal: Look like this…

Ok, let’s get started!

I must admit, the hardest part was actually pushing play. I have heard horror stories of people losing their lunch from working so hard, etc.

Day 1) Arms & Back + Ab Ripper

180 push ups (of multiple kinds) and 200 or so situps (some I didn’t even know existed and/or that your body could actually do), and an hour and a half later I’m done.

Lessons Learned:

1) I’m way more out of shape than I thought 2) don’t try to keep up with the super buff guys in the video, they’ve already been doing this awhile 3) clear out the dogs beforehand (rolling around the floor = play time to the pups) I spent most of my 60 second “breaks” trying to get the dogs to stop licking my face and off my back. 4) The “x” stands for “xausted”.

I felt pretty good afterwards I must say. Well, that was yesterday…

As the day goes on today, I am getting progressively more sore. Thank you Skyler for the 3 ibuprofen (I think I need one more?). Unfortunately this program takes a lot of dedication. 6 days a week and one day off. Tonight I have to accomplish plyometrics (hoping that does not involve your arms!) So you ask, why are you doing this then? It all comes back to the motivating team and support system that comes with being active. A wise man once told me (and just happens to be my boss) “pain is weakness leaving the body”… how’s that for motivating?

Dear pain, please leave soon, thanks!

Not sure if I’d make it without these words of encouragement.

Fitness goal for tonight: Just push “play”…

Business Travel and Triathlon Training: Manhattan and Houston

One of the perks of the job in advertising is the ability to travel. I have traveled across the country for focus groups, in-home interviews, ethnographies, concept testing, meetings, and conferences and love to check out new places and especially the food. One of my other favorite things to do is train in a new city as well. I love waking up early, lacing up my runners, and getting lost for an hour or two in a new place. Training for endurance sports is a tough thing to work into any schedule, but it becomes even more difficult when you are on the road.

I have spent the last two weekends in New York and Houston and worked hard to still find time to train. I have decided to share a little bit about how I go about finding places to train and even people to train with.

As a member of USMS (United States Masters Swimming), I always go to the “places to swim” link on the USMS website and see if there is a Master’s program I can workout with and at the very least, find a nearby pool to go pay for lap swim time.

The next thing I do is search for a triathlon club in the area and find out their training schedule. If there is a big group run, track workout, or road ride on any of the days that I am around, I try to join along. Almost every club is happy to have a visitor for a day as long as you are respectful and don’t make bonehead moves in the peloton.

If there isn’t a tri club, I’ll look online for a running club, and I always look up local bike shops that might be able to rent me a bike or give me info on a group ride taking place while I am in town. If you are anything like me, you like just being in bike shops and looking at new gear, so finding a good local shop is hardly a burden.

My latest thing is to pick up a water bottle or two from the shops I visit when I am out of town so I can bring home a local souvenir. When recently visiting New York, I brought home a couple of SBR bottles and while in Texas, picked up a couple bottles from a shop in Houston called Bike Barn. The 160 mile drive to Austin was very tempting in order to visit Mellow Johnny’s and pick up a souvenir or two, but our hectic work schedule was enough for me to resist the temptation.

On the New York trip, I made sure I was able to go for a run in Central Park. Central park is surrounded by a winding, undulating road roughly 10 kilometers long that is sprawling with runners and cyclists getting a workout in before heading to work. I took a cab to the South end of the park, did the 6.2 mile loop around the park and then took a second loop that wound in and out of the various trails and bridle paths that snake throughout the park.

I didn’t get the chance to swim while in New York but if I go back, I will definitely go for a swim at the pool in Central Park or the pool on the Hudson River at the Chelsea Piers Sports Center. I have heard the view through the floor to ceiling windows surrounding the pool is amazing.

Off to Texas.

Were I to visit Houston again, I would be sure to stay at the Houstonian which has a world-class fitness club including anoutdoor olympic pool. The beef I have with the Houstonian is that they wouldn’t let me in! I tried to go there for a 3,000 yard swim and a spin class but I was stopped at the front desk and told “MEMBERS ONLY!”

As annoyed as I was with that treatment, I will stay make sure I stay there next time because I REALLY want to use that pool. Luckily I had a backup plan and headed to FIT Athletic Club just a few miles away. For 20 bucks they let me use all the facilities for as long as I wanted. While there I took a 2 mile warmup run on a treadmill, a one hour spin class, and followed it up with a 2 mile transition run on the treadmill at a torturous 6:15/mile pace. The FIT Athletic Club was actually very nice with the exception that it didn’t have a pool, but the spin class instructor (I believe her name was mary) was one of the best I have ever had, and the place had fresh towels which is more than I can say for my local 24 Hour Fitness.

Here is a quick list of my must haves for any business trip. And remember, you can pack light, you aren’t going to race a triathlon, just looking for quick efficient and fun ways to workout.

Swim: swimsuit, goggles, cap (leave your paddles, fins, and other junk at home

Bike: Helmet, Glasses, Gloves, Shoes, pedals, bottle, and spandex (if you plan on attending a spin class, remember that most spin bikes only accept the small SPD mountain bike cleats… unless you are at the almighty Equinox Gym pedals that accept both). Also, remember to contact bike shops ahead of time about renting or demoing a bike as they often may not be able to help you out on very short notice.

Run: Running shoes, shorts, shirt/tank

And for all three: sunscreen and your watch (Garmin preferred ;)) so your not lost or late for business (the real reason you are there!)

Working out while traveling is tough but very doable, so get out there and explore a new place, meet new people, and be energized for whatever kind of boring conference or trade show it is that you might have to attend.

Race Report: Harding Hustle 30k Trail Run

After listening to an ultra marathon podcast on a flight to Dallas for focus groups, I decided to look online when I got to my hotel for some trail races to try out to see if doing a 50 miler or 100 miler some day might be something I could tolerate or even enjoy.

To my surprise, when I began looking for races on Trailrunnermag.com’s race calendar I found the inaugural Harding Hustle 30 kilometer (18.5 mile) trail race taking place just 20 minutes from my house in the Santa Ana Mountains of the Cleveland National Forest. The only problem with this race was that the day I was looking at the computer, it was Wednesday, July 7th and the race was taking place in just three days on Saturday, July 10th! Not much time to prepare… mentally or physically.

After having done a decent amount of trail running in the 7 to 10 mile range the week prior in Kauai, 18.5 miles didn’t seem like too big of a deal although if the distance didn’t kill me, the nearly 4,000 feet of climbing might. So I decided that when I returned home from Dallas, I would prepare myself to run the race on Saturday morning.

Saturday came and I woke up at 5 a.m. to drive out to the Oakley headquarters in Foothill Ranch, CA where a shuttle picked me and a bus load of ultra runners up to take us to the race start at the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary in Modjeska Canyon. The first thing I noticed was that these were no ordinary runners, they were trail runners, ultra marathoners, the true hippies of the endurance sports world and I loved the vibe I got from them. Most of them trained for longer distances so the Harding Hustle would be more of a training race for them, to test their fitness as they prepare for bigger events.

I registered, got my race number, and paid the $60 entry fee. Yes, I paid 60 bucks to suffer up and down a big ass mountain for 30 kilometers. After paying up I was lined up at the start line and then the race began. The race was an out-and-back (or up-and-down) course meaning that you run 9.25 miles up and then turn around and run 9.25 miles down, so in theory, the way down should be much faster than the way up.

When the course climbed over 500 feet in elevation within the very first mile it became clear that this was not going to be an easy day. On the way up I just tried to keep an easy pace and never stop running. There were two small descents on the way to the top but they were hardly noticeable at the time. I made the turn around at the top of Four Corners on Main Divide at 1 hour and 43 minutes. Happy with my time to the top, I began my descent but couldn’t go nearly as fast as I had planned. It turns out it is hard to descend at my desired 6:30/mile pace after I had just ran uphill for 9 miles.

Happy to be running downhill, I just tried to maintain good form, lean forward, and not strike with my heels. It was still exhausting and my knees, hips, and internal organs were nagging me to take it easier on the descent. Hands down, the toughest part of the day was climbing up two short climbs that came on the way down. I had hardly noticed them as a benefit on the way up but sure didn’t have any problems noticing them on the way down as they drastically slowed my pace and put the hurt on me when I had to climb them.

With two miles to go, I noticed there was a chance I could break the 3 hour mark so I decided to step on it a little harder. I didn’t quite make that new goal and crossed the finish line in 3 hours 1 minute and 39 seconds. The good news about this time was that it was much faster than I had anticipated going, the bad news was that since I was ahead of schedule, I finished before my wife ever got there to see me finish. Oh well, I was glad to be done.

The post race massage was provided by a local massage therapy school and was seriously the best one I have had, and the post race food and snacks were pretty good too. All in all, Dirty Feet Productions put on a great race.

My results were a final finishing time of 3:01:39 putting me in 4th place in my age group, the 27th male, 32nd overall, and I made a bunch of great new friends. It was a great day and I definitely plan to do more trail races and maybe even consider an ultra someday.

FIFA World Cup Conditioning

With the FIFA World Cup drawing near to its grand finale this Sunday, I thought it would be appropriate to share a few facts about soccer players and their conditioning. It’s not all about looking good with their shirts off. It has long been said that they are great at putting on a show with all the diving and rolling around on the floor that you see during each game. Despite that, they are incredibly well conditioned athletes, so much so that some people would go as far as to say that on the elite stage they are probably at the top of the list.

Few sports are played on as large a playing field, lasting as long and without regular rest periods. Players cover 5-7.5miles during a match, consisting of 24% walking, 36% jogging, 20% coursing, 11% sprinting, 7% moving backwards and 2% moving whilst in possession of the ball. The game is played at an average intensity close to the lactate threshold – approximately 80-90% of maximum heart rate. Soccer players posses excellent endurance with VO2 max(is the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and utilize oxygen during incremental exercise, which reflects the physical fitness of the individual) reported to range between 55 and 70 ml/kg/min in elite performers. To help you better understand what that means, here is an example, for a male age 30-39, an excellent VO2 max is 35.7 – 40.0 ml/kg/min and for a male age 20-29 an excellent VO2 max is 37.0 – 41.0 ml/kg/min .  Lance Armstrong’s VO2 max has been measured at a whopping 84 ml/kg/min, more than twice that of an individual male in the above normal category. Based on that evidence it is not hard to see how you can come to that conclusion. This Sunday will showcase some of the best talent the world of soccer has to offer and I have no doubt that every player that takes the pitch will exceed his physical limitations to ensure their team goes home for the first time with the title World Champions.

I hope this gives you a little more insight in to exactly what these athletes are capable of and that the FIFA World Cup that has captivated the world over the last few weeks has showcased amazing athletes with extraordinary talents both in their conditioning and their control of the Jabulani soccer ball.