America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride

A lot has happened in the last two months!  Wildflower came and went pretty well.  I had some bad cramps from drinking too much of the lake but things went well overall.  I broke 8 hours and achieved all the goals I set for myself so I’m thrilled about that.

We’ve been building mileage and adding hill climbing over the last month or so and I’m up to an 80 mile ride.  We’ve been climbing hills like King’s Mountain and Tunitas Creek in order to get ready for the hills we’re going to find at Ironman Tahoe.

This weekend is a big weekend for me:  The team is heading to Lake Tahoe for an around-the-lake ride called America’s Best Bike Ride.   The ride goes all the way around Lake Tahoe, plus some extra mileage to make it an even century.  (100 miles)  This will be my first century, plus my first time biking up at Lake Tahoe.

Ironman is all about pacing, especially on the bike, so I’m going to use this weekend to test out a race-day pace based on my power.  “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” suggests targeting 68-78% of FTP (Functional Threshold Power) with an Intensity Factor of .70 – .76.  I’m not actually planning on running after the ride so I’m going to target the higher end of those ranges.  This will be the farthest I’ve ever ridden so it will be a nice milestone.   I hope to finish strong and I’ll be collecting a lot of data to see how I perform at altitude.

Fundraising is going well, with over $5,500 raised to help cure blood cancers and provide for patient care.  I’m hoping to hit $8,000 and you can track my fundraising and make a donation here:

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Wilflower Practice Weekend Review

This weekend was a big weekend for the Ironteam – Wildflower Practice weekend.  We’re all training for an Ironman in the Fall and registered for the Wildflower Half-Ironman in May as a practice race, so this was a practice race for the practice race.   I’m a huge Wildflower fan so I was really looking forward to this.  I did the half-Ironman course three times 10 year ago and was curious to see how my performance now compares to back then.

I took Friday off from work and headed down at noon.  We hit no troubles on the drive and got to camp around 4:00 which gives plenty of time for a leisurely set up.  Dinner was a bit scattered and random, and probably not the best it could have been for a pre-race dinner.

I went to bed around 10:00 and for some reason couple not fall asleep no matter what.  I was warm and comfortable but just could not drift off.  I wasn’t nervous or anxious or cold or hungry or dehydrated or anything else I could think of – The only problem I could think of was that I wasn’t very flat.

The loud wakeup siren came early at 5:00 am and I was more than happy to get up, mostly because I was bored of lying there doing nothing.  I got up, had some cereal, got the bike ready and headed down the hill in the dark for a 6:30 setup time and ready to hit the water at 7:00 am.   The transition area was laid back and I did my normal routine of laying out my towel and making two piles:  one for T1 and one for T2.

I just bought a new wetsuit last week and was excited to try it out.  It fits pretty well!  It’s definitely the right size, but it’s a little on the thick side which makes it slightly restrictive.  Hopefully it’ll loosen a touch over time.   The swim went really well, taking 42 minutes.  I had some shoulder trouble leftover from skiing but it didn’t affect me at all and the swim went really well.

T1 was pretty laid back.  I felt awesome coming out of the water and ran up the dirt road through the parking lot and started changing.   Since this was just practice I kept it super laid back and ended up taking 14 minutes which is about 3 times what I normally take.   One key to a good T1 is putting on enough sunscreen and I did very well at that, then headed of to my bicycle adventure.

The bike at WiIdflower is something special.   The first mile out to Beach City is a series of little whoop-de-dos that never let you get settled.   Then you hit the steepest hill of the day getting out of Beach City.   Then 10 miles of big rollers.   Then somewhat flat, then Nasty Grade and the last 10 miles of hills.

This year I’m training with a power meter on the bike and looking to it to help me with my pacing.  My Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is around 186 Watts right now and the book says a half Ironman should be biked at around 80% – 85% of that in order to   I aimed for 160 Watts which is just on the high side of that range.

The problem with Wildflower is the hills are so steep that I can’t make it up them in my lowest gear without busting through my power budget, and these hills start right at the beginning with no chance to really warm up at all.   I have a power alarm set at about 220 Watts and it goes off quite a bit on the hills.  The good news is that I can stay under budget for most of the ride, including most of Nasty Grade and the hills after that.

I was worried about not taking in enough nutrition on the ride and so I over-compensated.   I ate about 6 or 7 Gus on the bike – about one every 40 minutes or so – plus a few bottles of Fluid and a couple of Chomps.  Probably more than 1,200 calories of sugar which is too much.   Around mile 50 I started feeling sore in my back and neck, and I kept eating more Gu in anticipation of the hard run.  I was hoping for well under 4 hours but he bike took me 4:06.

I hit T2 not feeling great but not really knowing why.  I figured I would start to feel a little better after some coconut water and a slow mile shuffle but things did not get better.  I assumed that I was going to need a ton of energy so I kept eating Gu!   (bad idea)  The last one I ate was a real chore with my body not wanting it but my brain forcing me to finish it.  This was just compounding a bad situation.

I’ve become a fan of a 6/1 run/walk strategy but the hills are placed in such a way that you can’t really force that schedule onto the course.  Instead I try to walk/jog up the hills and run on the flats and downhills.  I got some good distraction from Matt F. from SF Ironteam and kept jog-walking the best I could.  By mile 4.5 (on the big hill) I was feeling pretty bad and feeling a little woozy.  I hadn’t seen anyone in while and I decided to just sit down before I fell down, and that’s when Cornell and an SF girl passed me.

After a minute I felt a little better and decided to just shuffle on to the aid station at the front gate.   That’s where I started to drink some plain water and immediately started to feel better.  In hindsight I realize this water was diluting the mass of sugar sitting in my stomach.   After a couple minutes I started to feel better and even started to jog a little bit.  I started to feel good after turning into the Redondo Vista campground and I actually jogged most of the way to the turnaround in the pit.

I was doing some math and realized that I wasn’t going to hit my goal of 8:00 overall.  Even worse, I wasn’t able to keep the minimum Ironman pace of 14:40 per mile, which means I wasn’t on track for making the cutoff in an Ironman.


The swim was great and I think I’ll be able to double my endurance and make my personal goal of 1:45 for an Iron-distance swim.   Aside from that it was a bad performance.  My main problem was ill effects from the over-nutrition, but even disregarding that my time was slightly below minimum required Iron pace even though I held my power, or even exceeded it.   That’s a big red flag for my bike capability.

The run was a disaster, as it always is.  I’m not a strong runner and I’m no good at hills, which makes Wildflower a tough course for me every year.  Luckily the run course at Tahoe is much flatter and I’m going to rely on that fact in order to finish.  My pace when I was able to run was worse than 10:30, and I could only do that less than half the time.  Iron pace for the run is 14:45 and I need to be able to hold that for hours.

If there’s a silver lining to this performance it would be my post-race recovery.  By the end of the run I was actually feeling pretty good, and after I stood in the lake and got some food in me I felt pretty good.  I was in a great mood Saturday evening and woke up feeling great on Sunday and Monday.   I had very little post-race soreness or fatigue and I attribute that to the training I’ve been doing with Ironteam.


- used sunscreen well
- wore bike jersey on run (as always) for sun protection
- new jogging belt with two bottles worked well
- should start with one bottle of coconut water and one bottle of fluid
- held to bike power budget as well as possible given the hills
- excellent recovery resilience


- ate way too much and got a bad stomach on the run
- forgot sunscreen chap stick
- could use new tri shorts – mine are worn out
- missed my time goals for bike and run
- need better efficiency on the bike to extend endurance
- best run pace was still slower than 10:30/mile

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Greg liked Wildflower

Wildflower Time Again!

The Ironteam season is coming along nicely and this weekend is going to be a big one:  A half-Ironman practice race down at Lake San Antonio, which is the site of the Wildflower triathlons every year.   Many of us on the team will be doing the half-Ironman race at Wildflower this year as a practice race for Ironman Tahoe, so this weekend is like a practice-for-the-practice-for-the-real-race.   Very meta…

Wildflower holds a special place in my heart and it’s the only race I do every year, without fail.  My interest in triathlons has wavered over the years but I always do Wildflower.   I started volunteering for the race in 1996 and after two years of that I was hooked and I had to try competing.   I’ve competed every year for the last 15 years, doing the sprint course once, the Olympic course 11 times, and the half Ironman 3 times.   I still volunteer every year.

The last time I did the half Ironman distance was in 2003, and my times were usually around 7:30.  (seven and a half hours, which was 45 minutes swimming, 3:50 biking, and about 3:00 running)  My shoulder is not is full race form for swimming this weekend but I’m hoping that by the time the real event comes around in May I’ll be able to match or even beat my times from 10 years ago.   I’m 10 years older but I’m WAY better trained than I ever was!

They say “Plan the race and then race the plan”.  The key points of my plan for this weekend are:

  • Swim easy.   Don’t aggravate the shoulder.  Does my new-to-me (heavily used) wetsuit fit well enough?   Will it last until Tahoe?
  • Bike smart.  Aim for 80% – 85% of Functional Threshold Power, just like the book says.  Test out the new bike/gears on Nasty Grade.
  • Run/Walk strong.  I’ve never felt comfortable with my run at Wildflower and I’m in better run shape than ever before.  Test the 6 minute/ 1 minute run/walk strategy.
  • Eat and hydrate.  A lot.   Nice thing about Wildflower is you can pee wherever you want.  :-)
  • Collect Data.   Collect power/heartrate/pacing data for the bike and run.   Real Wildflower is only 7 weeks away.
  • Take In The View.  Visit the lawn at the Visitor’s Center and catch at least one sunrise and sunset each.   Because I do it every year.

Greg liked Wildflower

Wildflower is extra-special to me this year because there’s a strong Team In Training tie-in for me, because of my honoree, Greg Junell.

Back in 2002 I was living the dream in San Luis Obispo – beautiful town, beautiful people, perfect training conditions, at the top of my form in my late 20′s.   I got to see Greg on a regular basis and he was pretty heavily into massage therapy.  His partner Dorene is a massage therapist too, and they were part of the volunteer massage team that went to Wildflower to rub down athletes before and after their races.

After my half-Ironman I paid my $20 and waited specifically for Greg to be available and lay down for a great 20 minute recovery massage.  Half way through Dorene saw me there and so she joined in for a few minutes and I got the elusive four-handed massage for a while.

Those of you who knew Greg know that a massage from Greg isn’t just about flushing toxins out of muscles and soothing sore legs – When Greg gets into a massage it’s about connecting your energy with his and really experiencing recovery at a a deeper level.  On this beautiful afternoon on the grass in the festival area, in the middle of everything that makes Wildflower such an interesting little temporary community, I got one of the best recovery massages of my life.

I talked to Greg later about what he thought about his Wildflower experience and he was really thrilled about it.  He was affected by the same things I was 15 years ago – the huge gathering of healthy, fit, like-minded people focusing all their energy on something positive for the weekend.   This was before smartphones and 3G and wireless Internet, so Wildflower was really a way to get away from your normal life for a few days, go camping, and immerse yourself in the lifestyle.   You could go the whole weekend without seeing anyone smoking, or being negative, or talking about politics, or over-commercialized sports, etc.  It was a weekend of pure existential triathlon bliss.

Greg was stoked by that, and I was stoked by it too.  We all had a great time and no matter how many times I do Wildflower I’ll always have that memory of that afternoon and that conversation afterward.  Greg liked Wildflower and I like Wildflower too.

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Major fundraising milestone reached!

Below is an email I just sent out to all of the people who have donated to me, in order to celebrate passing the half-way point on my fundraising journey.  If you’re sad that you didn’t get a copy of this email delivered straight to your inbox, take a look at this link:

Hello Supporters!

Thanks to each of you for supporting me in my effort to to run Ironman Tahoe and raise money to fight blood cancers. Thanks to your support I’ve raised over $4,200 which puts me over half way to my fundraising goal of $8,000.   Our Ironteam group has raised over $110,000 so far, which is wonderful.

Remember that a small portion of that money goes to pay for my training and for the overhead of running the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society but most of it (more than 75%) goes directly to cancer research and patient services.

Our group has been training for 3 months and things are looking great so far.   We’re building up our distances and working on adjusting to working out 4 – 6 times a week.   I’m swimming about a mile and a half at a time, biking about 30 – 40 miles, and running up to 9 miles.  Soon we’ll be training harder than I’ve ever trained before.

There are about 6 months of training left and we’re going to be raising the mileage numbers significantly and doing a series of practice races to get ready for the big event.  The workouts will progress until September when all of this hard work will pay off in Tahoe, but LLS is already making good use of your donations now.

Thanks again to each of you – this is shaping up to be a really monumental year!

– brian

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Checked out the Ironman Tahoe course this weekend

I just got back from a scouting trip to Tahoe to check on the various parts of the course.  In reality, I went on a ski trip.  But I took the opportunity to scope out as much of the course as possible.

I was able to drive most of the course, besides the closed off Martis Camp roads and the various surface streets in Truckee.  I collected GPS tracks for the legs from Northstar over Brockway Pass down to King’s Beach, as well as from King’s Beach through Tahoe City, past Squaw Valley, to Truckee.

I even took a minute to stand calf-deep in the water at King’s Beach in an attempt to familiarize myself with the swim course.  At close to 40 degrees, I didn’t stay for long.

And you could even say that by skiing for two solid days I was experimenting with my body’s reaction to exercise at altitude.   But really it was just a ski trip.   But it was nice to see so much of the course and mentally get psyched about seeing it again 7 months from now.   This is going to be a big 7 months!

In terms of fundraising, things are going well.  I’m around half way to my goal.  The sushi fundraiser was incredibly successful and a few people have asked me to do another one in a couple months.   It wasn’t very hard to put together so I may do that this Summer.  You can check my progress on my fundraising website.

We’re now entering the “build” phase of training, so we’ll be raising the mileage and the pace of our workouts.  So far we’ve been concentrating on the swim and the run and I’m up to 3,400 yards in the pool (race-day is 4,400 yards) and 9 miles on a training run.  (race day is 26 miles.)   The cycling mileage is still pretty light but I think/hope that’s going to start building soon.  I’m loving the power meter and all the biking data that gives me.

Thanks for checking in!

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Sushi Fundraiser!

I’m doing my first organized fundraiser and it’s going to be FUN: All-you-can-eat sushi along with a guided sake tasting!

We’ll be meeting at Truya Sushi in Santa Clara at 7:00 pm on Sunday, February 27th for a guided sake tasting, accompanied by all-you-can-eat sushi and other food. This includes Nigiri sushi, fancy rolls, etc. The cost is $100, payable to me directly. Erin and I have been eating at Truya for years and the owner is a great guy, so I’m happy to be able to put this together.

Monday is a rest day in our training calendar so I’ll have a day to recover from all the sushi before spinning and core strength sessions on Tuesday night. :-)

As you can see from my fundraising webpage, fundraising is going well. I’m at $2,740, which puts me over a third of the way to my goal of $8,000. Thanks to all of my supporters for their generous donations, large and small. Every little bit helps. The entire Ironteam has raised over $60,000 so far this season, which has a big impact on the fight against cancer. (That’s $60,000 in only two months!)

There’s some prep involved at the restaurant so I need RSVPs by Wednesday the latest. Please let me know if you have any questions or are interested in attending.

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My 2013 Calendar is filling up fast!

2013 is certainly going to be the most active year I’ve ever had, in terms of registering for events.  Here we are in January and already my calendar is getting full and I’m having to look out for conflicts and events that are too close to each other.  Here’s what I’ve already signed up for:

Feb. 2:  Louie Bonpua tri at Pacific Grove – Not sure if this is open to the public or a private Team In Training thing.

April 7th: SLO half marathon (possible)

April 13th: Wildflower practice weekend with TNT

May 4th: Wildflower Long course (half Ironman)

June 2nd: America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride (around Lake Tahoe, out to Truckee)

June 21st: Tahoe training weekend with TNT

August 4th: SF Giants Race (half marathon)

September 22nd: Ironman Lake Tahoe

So that’s where I stand so far, in terms of events worthy of putting on the calendar.  This is going to be a great year, but a lot of travel…

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New Year update

Happy 2013 everyone!   I hope the new year finds you well – it certainly has found me well.  2012 was a pretty good year overall, but was mostly a year to catch my breath and get my bearings.  (The new house, the toddler, etc.)  After a year like that I’m ready to hit the ground running and make 2013 a great year.

2013 brings the next phase of the house remodel, an Ironman, and who knows what else.  I started the year off right with a great bike ride this morning up Mt. Hamilton, and the day was perfectly beautiful, if a bit cold.  The last quarter mile of the ride had pretty solid snow covering both sides of the road.

Speaking of training, December was a great pretty good for exercise.  My Team in Training effort started off with a swim workout cancelled due to a storm, and I skipped a workout due to cold and rain, and missed some “On Your Own” workouts, but overall it was a strong month.  Here’s a picture of my training calendar from last month:

December 2012 Training calendar

December 2012 Training calendar

As you can see, it was a busy month.

Fundraising also goes well, with over $2,700 raised against my goal of $8,000.  That includes five people (or couples) that have donated $200 or more!  Thanks to everyone who has donated any amount towards my effort to help find a cure for blood cancers.

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Rolling with Power

Training starts this weekend and been taking it easy, in preparation for the work I am about to do.  I’ve been spending the time since the Giants Race resting up, working on the house, being a parent, etc.  Things that I won’t be able to do as much after 4-a-week workouts start next week.  (OK, really 6 a week workouts if you count the “homework” we’re supposed to do on our own.)

I’ve also been studying a lot about endurance racing physiology, diet philosophy, and training strategies, as well as making a few investments in equipment.  The main book I have embraced is “Going Long” by Joe Friel, which talks about every aspect of training for an Ironman, with much of it specific to the first-timer like myself.  One of the main thrusts is to train smarter, AND harder.  (but foremost, smarter)

Part of that is pacing and balance of training load, and one large component of that is learning to use a power meter during training and racing.  The power meter lets you measure your cycling performance much closer to the muscular chemistry than Heart Rate does, and is a MUCH better guide than “Relative Perceived Exertion”, otherwise known as “How You Feel”.

Craigslist came through with a PowerTap last week, just in time for my training effort.   Thanks to the all the fitness lost to 3 months of downtime away from cycling I’m almost back at square one.  That means that I’ll be able to track my training and improvements right from the beginning all the way through race day.  (After which I’ll probably be so sick of all this I’ll be ready to hang up the bike forever…)

I picked up a bike trainer as well since there’s a weekly spin workout every Tuesday night for the next forever.  Using a trainer with the power meter is a great combination because otherwise, how do you really know how much of a workout you’re getting in?   Since the resistance of the trainer is so arbitrary and you’re not actually going anywhere, the only thing you have to gauge your performance is heart rate.  Using power zones is a much better way to get exactly the workout you’re looking for, and track the results much more precisely.

So that’s the summary from the last month.  Not too much going on on the triathlon front, just preparing for the impending storm.  Fundraising has completely stalled at 25% but you can expect me to pick that up once things get going again as well.

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Kona Ironman on TV today

Sorry for the late notice about this, but the annual NBC coverage of Ironman from Kona airs this afternoon on NBC. (Check local listings, as they say.)

The show is 2 hours instead of 1.5 hours this year because NBC thought that Lance Armstrong was going to be racing back when they scheduled this.  Doing the TV show in October instead of later in the year was also because they thought Lance was going to be racing.  Of course, after his doping problems he wasn’t part of the race but we still get the longer, more timely tv show because of him.

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