Hollywood’s Tri: The 2010 Malibu International Triathlon

The Nautica Malibu Triathlon is considered to be THE L.A. race to attend. Each year, dozens of celebrities come out to show their athletic prowess and commitment to fitness by racing the short course, sprint distance race on Sunday. David Duchovny, Terri Hatcher, J-Lo, Matthew Mcconaughey and countless others have been seen at the event over the years. So many celebrities come out in fact, that the organizers have established a celebrity-specific division.

Because of its popularity and offering both sprint and olympic distance races, then event takes place over an entire weekend, Saturday being the Olympic distance and Sunday being the sprint. This year was my first time attending the Malibu Nautica Triathlon and I opted to participate in the Olympic distance race on Saturday. An Olympic consists of a 1.5k swim, a 40k bike ride, and a 10k run. My goal going into this race was to get a new personal best at that distance and finish with a total time of around 2 hours and 22 minutes.

The day started off with a Lemans-style start from the sand, sprinting into the water, then turning North around a buoy a couple hundred yards out, and then swimming nearly a mile along the coastline before rounding the last buoy and heading to shore. I got a solid start as well as a good line to the first buoy. After that, I quickly found a rhythm that worked for me. I stayed on a pretty straight line and never strayed too far from the buoys (a problem I have lost time from in the past). I came out of the water in just under 30 minutes, not an amazing time by any stretch but I wasn’t terribly disappointed.

From there, I made quick work of the transition area. If there is one thing I have gotten pretty good at in triathlon over the last 5 years, it has been transitioning. This is a skill I have been trying to pass on to my wife as well but it is not going as well. This is ok though because whatever she lacked in transition speed this last weekend, she more than made up for with a lightning fast run.

The bike course turns out of the Zuma Beach parking lot and heads North on PCH. The undulating hills are just mellow enough to allow one to keep a good pace, and just steep enough to make sure your legs still sting a bit. About 9 miles into the ride, Jeff, a good friend and teammate of mine came speeding up from behind so I picked up my pace and we paced each other for 5 or 6 miles before I watched him slowly drift ahead. After he got a short lead out in front of me, I came up on another rider named Sean. Sean is a guy I continue to see every time I race in Southern California. He is a phenomenal swimmer but I seem to be a stronger cyclist, so I am always catching him at about half way through the bike on every race. While there are thousands of triathletes in Southern California, the community of racers is still pretty tight, so these kinds of run ins and development of friendly rivals are not uncommon.

I came in off of the bike, made quick work of T2, and then got out onto the run in hopes of chasing down, passing, and putting timebetween my friend Jeff and I before the finish. The run course is very flat and with the exception of one or two 10 to 20 foot climbs, it should have been a course I could have really laid down the hammer. The first mile did not feel good. I was hoping to consistently run 6:35 minutes/mile but just couldn’t get my heavy feeling legs to turn over that kind of pace. I followed Jeff’s grey and orange Team Poseidon tri kit as long as I could, but he was on fire and no matter how much I tried to tell my legs to make chase, they just didn’t want to do it.

At around mile four, my legs started to feel a little better and I felt like I could have kept getting faster and kept running for another ten miles. I guess that is just my body getting more conditioned for Ironman Arizona than it is for shorter distance races right now. As with any race that I don’t meet my goals, I constantly analyze why things happened and how I could have made a difference, and the days following Malibu have been no different.

I crossed the finish line with a final time of 2:31:18. This wasn’t near my goal time but I was still happy with the performance on the day given where I am at with my Ironman training. My wife, Elise had a good day as well and in spite of having a small mechanical incident on the bike, she managed to PR at the olympic distance by 30 seconds, get 7th in her age group, and had her fastest 10k split ever, averaging 7:20/minute miles.

I would definitely recommend the Malibu Nautica Triathlon for either the sprint or the Olympic distance. The event was well organized, the course was well equipped and stocked at aid stations, the schwag bag was well stocked, the course is pretty fast, and there was a good community of racers in attendance.

Lake Stevens 70.3

The story of this race started last year as I crossed the finish line of the 2009 Vineman 70.3 in triple digit temperatures.  Never again did I want to run a Half Marathon in that kind of strength sapping speed killing heat.  So when it came to planning my race season for 2010 I flipped open “The Road to Clearwater” guide to the 70.3 series and started scanning for a late season, West Coast based temperate race.  Ah ha!! There it was, Lake Stevens Ironman 70.3, in Everett, north of Seattle Washington, where highs average in the low 70’s.  This would be perfect, with a fast run I could be done by one o’clock, long before it heated up to even a cool mid 70.

Of course nothing in life actually goes to plan.  I arrive the Friday before the race in temps in the high 80’s, and forecast to climb steadily to a peak on race day.  Rats!!  Bike drop off at the transition area the afternoon before the race…92 degrees.  More Rats!!!!  Oh well nothing can be done about the weather, its just one more variable and it’s the same temperature for all of us, so drink up, stay hydrated, put your head down and go.

Race Morning. Up at 4:00, eat some breakfast, load the car and head to the race.  There by 5.30, transition set up by 6:15 and off to watch the Pro’s start at 6:30.  The lake is beautiful, picturesque and warm.  72.6 degrees which means no wetsuits for the pros but age-groupers are good.  That’s a relief, not that I am a bad swimmer, but when your’re swimming 1.2 miles the extra buoyancy and warmth of the suit sure helps.  The swim was great, plenty of room in the lake for each wave to start and swim in clean water, and thanks to the local rowing club it is the first time ever I have swam open water with lane lines!!  The buoys they use to mark the course are attached to bright white cables you can see running in arrow straight lines along the bottom of the lake.

Out of the water, a short run through the parking lot and onto the bike. I had driven the course the day before and I knew it would be hilly, but oh boy! Seemed like I was either climbing or descending the whole time, always changing gears.  The tough going was at least made enjoyable by the beautiful surroundings and some great aid stations handing out icy cold water.  Still it was a hard ride, two loops of constant hills, never really able to relax into a steady rhythm.  And oh, did I mention the heat?  It’s something you don’t really feel when riding unless its super hot, and for the last half hour of the ride I got the distinct sense that things were warming up.

Off the bike and quickly onto the run.  No shade.  More hills.  Darn hot.  Oh boy not again.  The run was also a two loop course and I soon found a steady pace, and with an aid station at every mile I could dump two full cups of icy water on my head to stay cool, and gulp down two to stay hydrated.  That kinda worked for the first 6 miles but with temperatures’ climbing into the 90’s even that wasn’t enough to keep me cooled down.  So here I am again running a half marathon in brutal heat with no shade, and so on the second loop my run splits got progressively slower and slower.

Finally I crossed the finish line, sat my butt in the first aid tent where they dumped yet more water on me and put a grocery bag full of ice on my neck and shoulders.  That did the trick and 10 mins later I was up and about reflecting on the race.  So, I could be disappointed in the time.  It wasn’t my fastest, not by a long way. And I was overheated and hurting.   I am however a great believer in the saying that there is no such thing as a bad race.  The ride was really hard…but it was the kind of riding that would make me stronger for my next race.  The run was brutal, hot and tiring for sure, but it also made me mentally tougher and a tad less intimidated by high temperatures next time around.  It was also a beautiful part of the world, a great course, and a really well organized race with great volunteers and well stocked aid stations and I still smiled the whole way.  Will I be back for more?  Maybe, maybe not.  Would I recommend it to anyone wanting to have fun on doing a 70.3?  Absolutely!!!

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”…

A Walk in the Sky: Climbing Mt. Whitney

“Expeditions are born in the minds of men and more of them die there
than are defeated by avalanches, bad weather, and misfortune combined.”
(Nicholas Clinch)

I’ve gone days without showering before.  I sometimes watch “Man vs. Wild” on The Discovery Channel.  I’ll take a hike when a girl tells me to.  But that’s not enough to call myself a true adventurer.

Earlier this year, a few of my friends proposed a mission, which I unadvisedly accepted, to climb Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states.  It didn’t appeal or even occur to us to simply take the Main Trail to the top.  That’s for wimps.  We had to go the Mountaineer’s Route.

During the months leading up to the hike, I attended a Mt. Whitney workshop, became a member of REI, and purchased all the necessary gear bankrupting myself in the process.  But I was determined to conquer this mountain.

Summer flew by and before we knew it, it was time for the long drive to the Sierra Nevada mountain range.  The first thing we did when we got to the trailhead was to weigh our packs.  Mine came out to 30 lbs.  I had a tent, a sleeping bag, a change of clothes, a daypack, a 3-liter water bladder, snacks and a bunch of freeze-dried meals (which by the way are the most awful things I’ve ever eaten).  I was about to show myself just how much I hated myself.  Sorry, self.

Day one involved a 3.5-mile hike up to Upper Boy Scout Lake where we made camp.  After hours of hiking, hand and knee scraping scrambling, and some rock-climbing, we set up our tents in what seemed like force ten gales. In fact, I awoke in the middle of the night and found that the wind had blown my tent zippers open.  No wonder it was so cold.

Day two started when the sun rose. We only had to hike 2.5 miles to the summit, take pictures, and then traverse all the way down.  At least that was the plan.  We were all a little sore from the day before, but our logic told us that 2.5 miles would be easier than the 3.5 miles of ground we just covered.  Not only was the final push to summit harder and more dangerous, but the air was thin, and we were essentially stepping across steep gravel slopes for nearly twice as long as the day before.

Bodies started to break down so we all hiked at our own pace.  By the time I reached the top, I was emotionally and physically spent.  I remember nearly breaking down in tears. There is a guestbook to sign at the summit, but instead of writing something clever next to my name, I wrote the first thing that popped into my head: “Oh Lord, that was hard.” (Peter Min, 8/22/2010)

The hike back to base camp was excruciating.  When we finally returned, it was already 7pm and the sun was setting fast, and we still had to climb all the way down.  So on went the headlamp, the 30 lbs pack, and the treacherous journey down the rest of the mountain.

Two of my friends had to stay behind and camp another night.  They were in no condition to continue in the dark.  I, on the other hand, had no more food, no more clean clothes, and no more patience for all this misery.  By some miracle, I made it to the bottom with only minor scraps and bruises, though I did lose a hiking pole and left depleted of all water.

I met Mt. Whitney rock face-to-face and she almost broke me.  It was the greatest test of physical and mental fortitude I ever experienced.  Yes, I climbed to the top, but that was only halfway.  I felt accomplished when I reached the bottom.  I was safe, I was still alive, and I was going home.

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.

The Toughest Race in the Most Beautiful Place

My first Tri of 2010, usually by July I have got a good couple of races under my belt but this year is different.  Completing Ironman Arizona last year in late November followed by a training break thru the Holidays gave me a late start to training for the 2010 season.  Then earlier in the year I spent more time than normal Mountain Bike Racing, so hello transition area, hello wetsuit….it’s been a while.

I chose the June Lake triathlon for a change of pace.  For the last two years I have done the Vineman 70.3 up in Sonoma in mid July, so this year I fancied something different, and with June Lake I got it!  Billed as “the toughest race in the most beautiful place”.  Crystal clear lake water, surrounded by pine trees, with snow capped mountains and cascading waterfalls as a backdrop…this was going to be fun.

Race morning, got to the transition area with just over an hour to spare.  The vibe was very mellow and easy going, plenty of room for set up, not too crowded and everyone just hanging listening to music or chatting to each other.  None of the focused intensity and seriousness of the big Ironman races.

After a quick warm up in the water, (a lake fed by snow melt at elevation is a little cooler than the local lap pool!), the gun goes off and in one wave all the men for the Olympic distance go off together.  With about 200 participants there was plenty of room with none of the washing machine turbulence of bigger races, I quickly find clean water and settle in.  I had expected some breathing problems with the altitude so started a little slower, but with no apparent distress started slowly building my pace.  Loved the swim, it felt quick, the water was sparkling clear and fresh, and I was out, up the beach and quickly onto my bike.

The bike route was the June Lake loop, which was awesome, a little hilly and a little twisty but nothing too difficult.  The biggest challenge was staying focused on my effort and pushing hard.  I often caught myself looking around at the Lakes, the Mountains, the general scenery and getting distracted. Stop it.  Keep pushing, keep pedaling.  Well yea…but I did enjoy the views too.

The Run!  Hahahaha!  We had been warned.  I had been told about it.  It was duly noted on the course profile on the website.  A steep climb at about mile 2.5, with a steep descent at about mile 4, how bad can it be?  Get to the hill, head down and attack it for half a mile then flat and downhill all the way to the finish. Piece of cake.

So what the course profile doesn’t show.

Beach deep sand and major hands on knees rock steps going up, not to mention the elevation. Attack the hill!  No way.  Beg it for forgiveness.  Promise it you will never cheat on another hill repeat workout if you could just get to the top.  That’s more like it.

Anyway, I get to the top to be rewarded with 1.5 miles of awesome single track, slightly rolling hills trail running. Distant figures ahead of and behind me but feels like I have the whole place to myself.  Loving it.  Then I come to the sign.  A cartoon graphic of a person falling off a cliff and a kindly volunteer warning me of a steep descent.  Really?  Surely the sign is an exaggeration.  Something to keep the insurance company happy.  That is until I start the controlled fall that is the descent.  Jumping off rocks, scrambling through loose rock and generally right on the edge of my pace exceeding my leg turnover.  So so much fun!!!  Over too soon.  Onto the flat trails, couple of miles to the finish line and a really cool hand crafted finishers medal.

Overall, my fastest swim split for an Olympic distance Tri, second fastest bike split and a 10K so slow I think it was closer to my half marathon PR than my 10k PR.  Loved it.  Highly recommend it.  “Toughest race in the most beautiful place?”  Absolutely.

Plotting a return next year with some like minded crazies for maybe a couple of days of heavy duty training in Mammoth topped off by the race and another very slow 10k run split.  You in?

Happy Gym

It was time for a day of group bonding. And what better place to do this, than at the gym.  Yes you heard correctly, at the gym.  As it happens I like the gym.  I know it is odd to hear, but I like feeling better when I am done, it makes the food and wine enjoyed after a good workout that much more enjoyable (yeah, I know it is supposed to be skinless chicken breasts and protein shakes, but that is not going to happen).

When I say at the gym, I should clarify and say this was going to be at any ole gym – we were going to Equinox. I had never been to an “uber gym”, I was used to the “people’s” gym, with the masses.  You know the place I am sure, it is where the crazy, loud and smelly people gather to share far too much about themselves. Where you are as likely to see a pool of sweat on a machine as you are to hear some horrific song ringing at deafening volumes from the earphones of the person running next to you.  And we can’t forget about my favorite gym phenomenon, the guy that works the room, hitting on the girls while talking trash with the guys and generally driving everyone crazy (all while wearing something straight from 1986).

Well, in the world of Equinox these things do not exist.  It is a magical place.  More spa, meets gym, meets W hotel.  I was in heaven.  Towel service, polite gym goers, every product you could imagine in the locker room (and no off brand labels here – they carry Kielh’s instead of that toxic neon pink substance those others try to pass off as soap).

I took classes, sat in the steam, lifted a few heavy things and finished each session with a delectable bite from the café. If they offered rooms for rent, I would likely get one.  I never knew that going to the gym could make me this happy.

But now I am sad, the gym is too far from my house and I am back at that other place now. The one with the old men who refuse to wear towels in the locker room.  The place wear smells are not those of the eucalyptus infused towels that Equinox offers.  Yes, I am sad. All that I can do is continue to go and dream of the day I can return to Equinox.