Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Official Race Results, Analysis, Future Plans

Thanks for all the great comments and support! It's very motivating. The official results are in. Pics are coming very soon!

Swim: 0:23:48 (1000 m) (2:35/100 m)
T1: 0:04:03
Bike: 0:59:27 (23 mi) (23.5 mph)
(Note--this seems way off. I've never gone that fast in my life. My computer registered 18 miles by the end, which would make my average speed more like 18.4 mph--much more on par with what I would expect).
T2: 0:04:39
Run: 0:55:23 (6.2 mi) (6.7 mph or about 9 min/mile)
Total: 2:27:20

I'm actually pretty happy overall. It was a short Olympic, but my first one nonetheless, and I did my best. It'll be a good benchmark.
Swim--I normally swim much faster. In training, at a steady-state pace, I normally clock 2 minutes per 100 m. It seems weird that I swam 30 seconds slower per 100m on race day. The swim felt very hard. I felt like I was going slower. Could there have been a deceptive current? Also, the course felt really long. I heard a lot of people say it was the longest 1000m they'd ever seen/swam. I'm going to chock this up as a fluke.
Bike--Couldn't have gone any better. I was really happy with it. Much faster than I normally train at, even if you account for the short course.
Run--I ran about as well as I could have expected. Especially considering my fatigue. I used to be faster though so I'd like to build my endurance up and practice more long, run-focused bricks to work on the fatigue and the pace a little. However, the pace I put in was about the pace at which I've been training so you can't really ask for any more than that.
Transitions--Definitely needs work here. I'm a little embarrassed. Then, I remembered that my spot was realllly far from everything. About as far away as you could get. Lots of people in my wave had 4 min transition times. However, there's no excuse for 30 extra seconds in T2. This should have been 30 seconds faster, considering all I have to do is put on my shoes and go! Quick-tie laces are definitely a must. I'll have to start using them. Other than that, I just need to practice going quickly. I think I was too calm in the transitions.
Summary of things to work on:
  • Mostly, keep doing what I've been doing--consisent training and having fun with it.
  • Work on swimming endurance.
  • Work on running endurance and speed, especially running off the bike when legs are fatigued.
  • Practice faster transitions.
  • Biking--keep on truckin'.

Future goals:
Besides do as many races as I can manage this year? I'd love to get faster and stronger in the sprints and Olympics. I love the Olympic distance because you can really enjoy yourself and relax a bit more but it's still not impossible.

There are too many races to do! My next 2 races are the Carlsbad Sprint Tri July 9th and Camp Pendleton International Tri the week after. After that, I was thinking of doing the Imperial Beach Sprint Tri at the end of August as well as America's Finest City 1/2 marathon August 20th. September brings about the La Jolla Rough Water Swim and the Rosarita to Ensenada bike ride. October is Reebok's women's tri in Mission Beach. Other possibilities include the Solana Beach Tri in July and the Mission Beach Sprint Tri in Oct but the bikes on these seem really short (9 miles or so) so I haven't decided. I have to see how I feel so I don't over-race. Is there such a thing?

However, half-IM is defintely in the future. I'm thinking of commiting to one next season (gulp!). Maybe Ralph's half-IM (Oceanside) at the end of March? I'm already doing some 1/2 marathons late summer/early fall, and I'm hoping to do the 50-mile Rosarita to Ensenada bike ride in the fall as well as the La Jolla Rough Water Swim (1-mile) in September so it seems like all that's left after that, is putting those phases together. I want to be over-ready for my first 1/2 IM so I know going in that I can do it. I want to feel "good" (as good as you can feel after such a thing) at the end.
I have so many questions to ask in preparing for this future race. How much do you need to train? How far should you be able to bike and run (more than what's called for on race-day)? How do you hydrate and replenish glycogen before, during, and after? Do I need to get a tri-bike? I definitely think I will at least get some aero bars for my current bike (short ones so as not to mess with the geometry too much). As usual, I have lots of psychoanalyzing, planning, stragezing, note-taking, chart-plotting, etc... to do before I do this.

Monday, June 26, 2006

I Survived!

Detailed Race Report--San Diego International Triathlon
Pre-Race Prep:
Alarm went off at 4:00 am, only 5.5 hours after going to sleep. Adrenaline began pumping right away. Had no difficulty getting out of bed and even actually slept well the night before. Jumped in the shower to try and wake up. Must not have worked because it took me 15 minutes of fooling with my contacts before I realized I was putting 2 contacts in the same eye. Hmmm. That could be a problem.
Got to the race site in plenty of time. Felt relatively at ease since bike was already set up in transition area. Plus, I had memorized every intimate detail of the transition area, course, and lay-out the day before, which helped immensely. I had diagrams mapped out and lists and schedules. I had driven the bike course and measured the distances of every turn and hill. I had studied them and practiced mental imagery, picturing everything in my head. I knew everything by heart:
"Pink towel on bike. All the way in back on left by water, 2nd row of my wave, by "No Parking" sign. If reach blue trash can, have gone 2 rows too far. Swim course was 6 buoys on right shoulder going out, turn, swim 50m, 5 buoys on right coming back, last buoy on left as turn towards shore (mentally altered this to 4 buoys out and 3 back on race-day since race organizers diagrammed more buoys than they set out. Boo!). Bike course was a hard left turn, 1 mile straight, left turn, 0.2 miles, right turn, 0.2 miles left turn, immediate right turn, 1.2 miles up worst hill on course, left turn, rolling hills 6 miles, turn-around, 3 miles, turn-around, 3 miles-turn around, then back." And so on...
Needless to say, I was ready. Even though I got to the race site in plenty of time, time flew. Before I knew it, I was in the water, warming up. Ready to go. The water felt good. 68 degrees. Calm. Ear plugs in? Check. Swim cap on? Check. Goggles? Check. Wetsuit? Check. All systems go. At this point, I began to relax. I realized there was nothing more I could do. It was time.
I started out very calmly and found my rhythm. I swam on the outside, preferring to have space rather than get run over. I soon found myself in the back of my wave. "Oh, well. Just go my own pace," I told myself. My rhythm and breathing were even and steady but my shoulders began to get sore very quickly. At 500m, they had begun to ache. I felt like I was swimming through molasses. Was there a current? The guys on the boat had said something about starting upstream. That confused me. The water looked so calm. "Just keep swimming," I sang to myself in Finding Nemo fashion. I began breathing on my left side to alleviate the ache in my shoulders. Aaah. Much better. Unfortunately, since I was not swimming in a crowd like usual, I had to rely on sighting the buoys to swim straight, which I still don't trust myself to do. Since the buoys were on my right, I kept having to switch sides to make sure I was on course. Outcome? I stayed on course but probably sighted too much out of anxiety.
Turned at the yellow buoys. Finally. That took a long time. Okay. Halfway done. I could see little fishies and saltwater grass growing underneath. Cool. The fast swimmers in the wave behind me surged ahead, knocking me aside very aggressively. No worries. Just keep swimming. Sighting became very challenging as the sun came out from behind the clouds, blinding me as I looked right. Sore shoulders. No matter. Only need them for the swim. Finally, I reached the yellow buoy and turned left. Wow. That last buoy came up fast! I hit sand once. Twice. Three times. Stood up and groggily ran onto the shore.
Wetsuit zipper undone. Get top half off. Run at same time. Kind of like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time. Goggles off, cap off, ear plugs out, good. Still jogging. And jogging, and jogging, and jogging. Jeez my bike was a long ways away. All the way at the end. Dodging other competitors in the transition area as I weaved my way to the bike. Okay. Rest of wetsuit off. Stomp on towel while putting sunglasses on, helmet on, then socks, then shoes. Grab bike and trot towards mounting area. Trotting and trotting and trotting. And trotting. Mounting area a long way away. Very proud for being able to run so far in my bike shoes. Clip in and I'm off.
The bike felt great. Simply awesome. I was flying. Knew exactly what to expect and anticipate from my detailed course overview the day before. I had been so freaked by the "hilly" course. Everyone said how hilly it was. It wasn't bad at all, which pleasantly surprised me. The nice part about hills is that after going up, you get to go down! Going out to the Cabrillo National Monument (which was beautiful, by the way) was all uphill. Coming back was all doooown. Awesome. Hit 35 mph at one point. This was the best part of the entire race. Only funny thing is that the course was supposed to be 23 miles and my cyclometer only registered 18. Hmmm. Odd.
T2: Popped on shoes, and I'm off!
My legs had that familiar dead feeling so I was mentally prepared. I have been upping my mileage lately so that helped also. It was all on sidewalks so my knees took a beating. Everything ached. Good thing I had my new orthotics. I started to feel better and better. I felt more "warmed up" after the first mile and found my stride. However, I could definitely feel fatigue setting in. It took me more effort and focus to stay in my zone and maintain good running form.
Hit my high between mile 2-4. A blister set in on my right arch. Dammit! Wet feet, plus worn socks, plus new orthotics = new hole ripped in foot. Guess that CoolMax stuff does wear out eventually. "Focus, focus. I can do this. Running's my thing." I shifted my attention away from my burning foot and listened to my footfalls. Aaah. That's better. Breathing slow and even? Check. Stride rhythmic, even tempo? Check. Head up, shoulders down, feet under me? Check. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. Just keep moving forward. Every step forward counts. Left foot, right foot, left foot right foot.
Mile 4. I felt the urge to walk but I knew if I did it would only make it harder. Psychologically, I was verrry tired. I kept pushing. I just knew I could do it physically. My stomach started cramping up. Every time I would feel "perky" and pick up the pace, my stomach complained. Then I would slow down a bit. My stomach calmed down. I picked up the pace. We fought back and forth like that for the last 2 miles.
"You're going too fast."
"No, I'm not. My breathing is nice and slow. My legs are turning over faster and they don't burn. I can go faster."
"No, you can't."
"Yes, I can!"
"Well, actually, nuh-ah. You can't."
"Dammit! Why do you always ruin everything?"
At mile 5, I perked up. The woman next to me urged me on, "C'mon. Only 1 more mile. We can do more mile." She was great. "Yeah. I can do 1 more mile." I picked up the pace. It seemed to get very hot right about then. Why did the breeze have to stop just then? Okay, where's the finish? Where IS IT? That last 1/2 mile is always the longest. Suddenly I was running down the chute with everyone cheering me on. I crossed the finish line and completed my first Olympic distance triathlon.
The Aftermath:
I felt surprisingly okay as I walked around. I glanced at the red ambulance and smiled. I don't need you today! I was thirsty and sipped on some water. My stomach kept cramping up. I had to sip soooo slowly. This isn't a new thing for my stomach. It's a whiny, complaining, brat. It always cramps up. I'm pretty lucky if that's all it does. I envy people with iron guts. Hunger began to set in. I salivated over the freshly cut oranges. There was a whole smorgasboard of post-race food but I only wanted oranges. Funny how your body's needs just take over after such a physically demanding event. Again, I had to nibble very slowly in between stomach cramps. Within the hour, my stomach calmed down and fatigue set in.
Spent the rest of the day napping, relaxing, eating, and stretching. I could only eat little bits at a time all day. I would be famished, eat a little something and then be full. 30 minutes later, repeat. Weird. I thought I would be extremely sore today but I'm just achy. A little tired. That's about it. All I can say is, when's the next one?
Official split times are coming later. Swim took about 20 minutes or so, bike about 1 hr, and run about 55 minutes. Overall, I finished in about 2.5 hours, a whole 30 minutes less than I anticipated (even though it was about 30 minutes slower than 2/3 of the competitors there--How do they do that?!). I am verry happy with how it went. It couldn't have really gone any better. I just focused on myself and nothing else. My goal was to go out and do my best, have fun with it, and finish feeling good. Mission accomplished. Sure, I need to work on lots of things but right now, what I need most is experience. And that can only come with time, patience, and more of what I'm doing. I can do that.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Major pre-race anxiety

This week has not been going as planned. I've missed a lot of workouts I was planning on. Okay, I know I have a big race on Sunday and I need to taper but this is ridiculous.

How do you taper?

Ideally, I like to do my biggest workouts in the beginning of the week and wind down towards the end of the week. I don't do any weight-lifting and I scratch one of my runs since it's so hard on my knees. I don't run for 3 days before race day, and I do a short bike 2-3 days before. The day before, I either do a relaxing swim or take off completely. Sometimes I take 2 days off beforehand. Basically, it ends up being a 3-day taper with 1-2 days off. This has worked well for me so far in sprint to mid-distance races.

How's it's really been: I've taken Mon., Tues., Wed., and Thurs. completely off!!! Ack! I'm having a nervous breakdown right now. I know that a workout takes 10 days for your body to appreciate and that you can only hurt yourself (not help) by working out too much during race week. But I feel that maintaining a consistent but reduced volume of training the week of a race really helps in keeping the blood flowing, muscles limber, mind at ease, as well as getting the muscle memory going. So it's a good thing.

Monday, okay, I was tired from the 8-mile race the day before. Plus, I had a deep tissue massage, which always makes me sore afterwards. Fine. Legitimate day off. Tuesday, I was going to bike especially since I've been slacking in this area and wanted to give myself confidence. But one thing led to another, and then it was bedtime. How many times has this happened to you? Wed. I was going to meet with the club after work to preview the bike course and do a brick workout. I was raring to go when my stomach started bothering me around 4:30 p.m. I popped an antacid and tried eating some gentle foods--yogurt and a granola bar. Nothing. My stomach churned and burned for hours, forcing me to give up and go home. I ended up taking an early evening nap, waking up to eat and sloth on the couch, and going back to bed for a good night's rest. Okay, not so bad since a good night's sleep is valuable, and I can't help being sick. Plus, the club workouts are usually too intense for me, and I may have done more harm than good by doing a hard brick. I have resolved to do my own bike at a lower mileage and preview the course by driving it Friday or Saturday. And tonight? No excuse, whatsoever. I came home with good intentions and promptly fell asleep for 2 hours before I could get on the bike. The rest of the night has been a complete waste.

I feel like complete sh*t right now but I need to focus on salvaging the rest of the week and gearing up for this race on Sunday. Tomorrow, I plan on doing a short brick, focused on the bike. A simple up-and-back coastal ride for 45 minutes followed by an easy, flat 3-mile run. I'll ride to work so I have no temptations to skip. I should feel refreshed afterwards. Must remember to stretch. Saturday, I will hop in the pool and swim for 45 minutes, focusing on drills, technique, and form. This will also help me get to sleep Sunday night since swimming always makes me tired. Then, I will have gone through the motions before Sunday but should still feel fresh. That's the new and not-so-improved plan. Ugh.

Meanhwhile, in addition to feeling like a sloth, I haven't been eating as well. I feel like a pig. I need to start making healthier choices, eating small frequent meals througout the day, and planning what I'm going to eat the day before so it's easy to make the right choices. I'm starting to feel bad about my weight again because I've gained a few pounds but I know I'm at a healthy weight. I think if I just start eating healthier and sticking to my workout plan, I'll feel better.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Learning How to Rest

Why is it we triathletes have such a hard time taking time off? I think I enjoy the feeling of being sore and tired. I get so restless when I take a few days off. However, our bodies become stronger and heal when we rest. Then, we can come back and work even harder during training.

As mid-season approaches, I have noticed several symptoms of "overreaching" which is the phase that occurs before "overtraining." It's a good sign that I need some good rest. Not only that, but with some important races coming up (clears throat) e.g. San Diego International--this weekend (Ack!), it's also important to taper before a big race. I have linked some good articles on overtraining, overreaching, rest and recovery, and tapering since I feel I am trying to deal with this stuff right now. Now if I could just take my own advice...

Overloading & Overreaching--Basically, overloading is what you normally do--stress your body out and then let it recover and come back stronger. Overreaching is when you do too much at once and then don't allow your body to recover adequately. Over longer periods, this becomes overtraining.
"Overloading is the normal training process. It simply means increasing the stress on your body to
cause adaptation to the stress. It is typical to feel short term fatigue with overload. Overreaching
occurs when you continue to train at abnormally high loads, or increase them for about 2 weeks."
--from Transition Times

Overtraining--You probably know it's happening and are in denial. You are pushing your body past its limits. It's screaming at you to rest, and you ignore it. Injury, burnout, and other bad things are usually a result.
"Overtraining can best be defined as the state where the athlete has been repeatedly stressed by
training to the point where rest is no longer adequate to allow for recovery. Overtraining is
characterized by a collection of emotional, behavioral and physical symptoms and is also known as
"burnout" or "staleness."
--from Triathlete Magazine--

Common Symptoms of Overtraining:
abnormal heart rate, especially when working out
exhaustion/fatigue that won't go away
persistant muscle soreness
change in appetite
lack of motivation
decreased performance

Usually, you know when you have overtrained. It's a matter of listening to your body. The hard part is that sometimes we overestimate how hard we can train. However, other life stresses can lower our tolerance to the amount of training we can handle. For instance, long hours at the office, kids, family pressures, etc., all these things can add extra stress on our bodies. Be realistic. If you're body is telling you to rest, you probably need to rest, even if you think you haven't been working that hard.

Preventing Overtraining:

  • Keep a training log.
  • look back and make sure you're taking enough days off
  • schedule in days off, and R&R weeks
  • Adequate sleep.
  • 8-10 hours a night--workouts make our bodies require more sleep
  • sometimes naps too
  • Adequate Nutrition
  • don't skimp on calories!
  • Rest Days
  • I like to take 1 day completely off per week.
  • This also gives me time to get caught up on other life requirements.
  • R&R Weeks
  • Every 4th week in training, schedule a reduction in training volume by about 50% or so.
  • Take more days off than you usually would.
  • Use these weeks to do something entire different.
  • Go for a hike with the family, play beach volleyball, or even just sit and watch the B-ball game!
  • You'll feel much better when you return to training the following week.
  • Taper
  • Before a big race, reduce training and take the few days before off.
  • Do a few short, intense workouts to jog your muscle memory and relieve anxiety.
  • Your body will reward you on race day!
  • Recovery Workouts
  • Don't go all out on every work out.
  • Include weekly easy rides, runs, and swims.
  • Leave the heart rate monitor and computers at home and go out and have fun!
  • Race Schedule
  • Are you racing too much?
  • Are you taking enough time off between races?
  • Plan on taking at least a week off after a big race.
  • Periodization
  • Alter your training schedule so you don't go all out all the time. (see below)
  • Off Season
  • At the end of the season, take a month off to have fun and reflect back on your awesome season.
  • Don't go all out all the time!

More Good Terms/Definitions and Links Related to Overtraining:

R&R--"Rest & Recovery"--scheduling a week every 4th week of training to cut back on the workouts, rest up, and allow your body to recover. When you return to training, you should feel fresh and ready to go.

Periodization Training--Scheduling training so that you do different phases every 6 weeks or so. This prevents overtraining because you're not doing the same workouts at the same volume from week to week. Some periods, you will work on your endurance (base training) and train long hours at low intensity, while other periods you work on your strength and train shorter hours at higher intensity (build period). R&R weeks should be interpersed throughout. The periodization revolves around your race season and should include a reduction in training at the end of the season.

"Previously, the training was to maintain the same constant stresses year round. Could you imagine doing the same workouts week in and week out? The new method was to create some periods of training that were easier then the others to promote rest and to let the body grow stronger. ..Periodization involves many variables including frequency (how ‘often’ you train), duration (how ‘long’ you train for one session), volume (how ‘much’ you train in a given week or cycle) and intensity (how ‘hard’ you train at any given time). From these variables a recipe is created that will hopefully help you reach your peak for the key race(s) you are targeting." --from Tri Fuel--

Taper--What you do before an important race to "peak" so you have a stellar performance. Your body is fully recovered on race day so you can reap the rewards of all your training.

"What is a “taper?” Tapering means reducing training volume prior to a goal race in order to facilitate total and complete recovery. You should incorporate a taper a week or two prior to A race(s). The length of the taper will depend on the length of your event; the longer the event the longer the taper length. From a training stand point there is nothing you can do the week of a goal race to physiologically increase performance but there are many opportunities to reduce it. " from--Tri Fuel (

Peaking--Before your biggest race of the year, taper so that you "peak" on race day. The goal is to have your best performance when it counts.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Aquathlon "Official" Race Results

Photos from TCSD Aquathlon: (Left) Shuffling into the ocean to start.
(Right) Eating a banana afterwards.

I just found the official results from last week's club aquathlon. Turns out, I did lots better than I thought! Must have been the currents or something.

Swim=15:36 Run=25:27 (Pace--8:29) Total Time--42:53

Low Tide Ride 'N Stride

Sunday morning if my alarm went off, I didn't hear it. I woke up at 7 a.m., realizing the race started in an hour. Jason groaned and rolled over. Not much help. I prodded him with my elbow. "C'mon. We can still make it!" More groaning and grunting. I threw on some race clothes and washed my face. We slapped some sunscreen on and rushed around, looking for directions to the race site. We rushed out the door, leaving 3 hungry bunnies with bewildered looks on their faces. I figured they could wait for their greens until afterwards. Afterall, I didn't get breakfast until after.

The race directions printed on the entry form were poor at best. Note to self: always Google or MapQuest race directions the night before. I zipped down I-5, figuring we could get there at least 15 minutes ahead of time. We were pre-registered so all we needed to do was pick up our race numbers. Since it was such a long run, I was planning on warming up during the first mile or so.

The race directions said to exit on Hwy 75, or Palm Ave. Unfortunately, the Coronado Bridge is also Hwy 75, and I didn't realize Hwy 75 had 2 I-5 exits. I took the first one. I knew we would have to get into Imperial Beach but I also knew the race was on the Silver Strand between Coronado and Imperial Beach so I figured this was the right way. I drove through Coronado and through the desolate Silver Strand highway. Then, we were in Imperial Beach but the directions were all backwards by then. When we reached the interstate again, we realized what had happened. I turned around, and we made our way to the race site...5 minutes before race start. Oops.

I was just glad we had made it. Afterall, I was just using this as a training run. We grabbed our numbers and strapped them to our race belt and took one last turn at the Port 'O Potty (a pre-race necessity for me). We lined up on the beach, and the gun went off.

The weather couldn't have been more perfect. 70s and overcast. It was so relaxing to run and watch the waves. It's hypnotic. Every wave is different and a snowflake. I ran at a comfortable pace. At mile 3, I began to lose some energy. It's very psychological. I begin to focus on the mile markers and how far I have to go instead of staying in the moment and enjoying the run itself. It took more effort to go to that "happy place." I had my iShuffle so that helped. Then, my 2nd wind hit about a half mile later, and I was fine. My legs disappeared from under me and carried me along effortlesslsy. I felt like I was being carried along for the ride, floating on top. Around mile 5.5, I began to fight to keep that feeling. My hips started to ache, and I could feel blisters developing on my feet and toes. Then, at mile 6.5, I hit another (3rd) wind, and glided along. There were so many cool shells on the beach. I wanted to stop and collect them (the gatherer in me), especially the perfectly intact, fragile sandollars, but I resisted. The sand was a sparkly silver (obviously that's why it's called the Silver Strand). It was beautiful. I don't know what's in the sediment to make it sparkle like that but I was captivated. When I passed mile 7, I knew I was in the home stretch. I focused on picking my feet up, keeping my legs centered under me, and keeping my upper body relaxed. Even though I ran on the wet, packed sand, it felt very soft beneath my feet, which was nice for my joints but also slightly difficult to run through. The finish line was visible for over 1/2 mile away, which was very deceiving. It's almost better if I can't see it until the end.

I finished and walked along the beach, watching the waves, feeling very satisfied. 8 miles was definitely pushing it for me, but I did it! It was a great training run. I am working on the callouses on the balls of my feet again, which have softened from lack of mileage. I have some tenderness around that area, and I have a great big nasty blister between my 4th toe on my right foot. It gets squished between my pinky toe and 3rd toe, causing friction and a huge blister. I have weird feet. Guess my toe's getting moleskin next time. I was a little sore in my hips the rest of the day but nothing too bad. All in all, a very good run. Plus, my time was not too shabby:

(Place AG/OA) Time Pace
27/117 1:13:14 8:56

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Vanquishing Sea Sickness

I went back down to the Shores today for a swim. God, it was so gorgeous. Sunny, clear, 70s. I've never seen anything so perfect. I used only ear plugs and swam for about an hour at a very relaxing pace. No meds. No seasickness! At all! I felt great. I was even able to rest and look around or do the breaststroke for awhile if I got tired. It was awesome. Phew! So nice not to have to worry about medicating and side effects. All it took was some ear plugs. Weird. I'm getting a lot more comfortable with sighting and getting out past the breakers. I saw a ton of fish and a ton of stingrays. It wasn't a problem because I swam over all of them. It was also nice to get used to swimming with and against currents. I feel very good about my swimming this week.

I took it easy yesterday. I'm behind on my biking for the week so far but my body felt very tired. I did some light weight lifting for about 40 minutes last night but nothing that made me too sore. I scratched the practice club sprint triathlon this morning. I just didn't feel up to it. Tomorrow, Jason and I are running in the Low Tide Ride 'N Stride, which is about 8 miles. Next weekend is the International Tri so I want to make sure I'm nice and fresh. I figured I owed it to myself to take it a little easy.

Friday, June 16, 2006


That's such a cool word. "Aquathlon." Only in San Diego. I went to an Aquathlon last night, put on by the tri club. We did a 1000 meter swim followed by a 3.1 mile beach run. I got to La Jolla Shores early, determined to fight seasickness. I took Zantac (acid reducer) and Bonine (meclazine; non-drowsy seasickness med) 2 hours before-hand and used ear plugs. I had enough time to put on my wetsuit, get my transition area laid out, and wade out past the breakers. I wanted to test my goggles and ear plugs before the actual race started. Everything worked like a charm although I did swallow some seawater. However, my tummy felt fine (well armed with all the meds).

The waves were pretty big for the shores. Even the race director was a bit concerned. Apparently, there were sting rays everywhere. We were instructed on doing the "sting ray shuffle" to avoid getting stung. Basically, you take baby steps and walk like a penguin to stir up the sand when you're going out and coming in to scare off the sting rays. I hung out in the back of the pack to let all the hard-core racers go first. This was just a workout for me.

Everyone took off, and I took my time getting out past the breakers. Then, I started swimming. It was nice to have a bunch of people around. Definitely made me more comfortable. The swells were very choppy. A couple of times, I swallowed a nice dose of seawater. "Crap," I thought. "I just know I'm going to get seasick." Funny thing happened then. I didn't! I felt great! Everything seemed clear, and I just started swimming. I even saw little fishies swim under me! I felt calm and didn't want to come in. The 3rd buoy had been ripped off of its tie and washed ashore so I just kept swimming. Finally, a kayaker directed me to shore. It was a bit tricky coming in with the waves, pushing me in and pulling me back out, but I figured it out. I was careful to go over a little sting ray (he swam right under me!).

I got to shore and made my way back to the transition area. Calmly put my shoes on and started my run. I was among the last group to get out of the water so I felt like I was going extremely slow. I glanced at my watch, and it read 17:47. That's a ton faster than I swim at the pool (we were going with the current so that was probably why)! Anyway, after I saw that, I relaxed and felt happy to go at my own pace.

The beach run was nice. I love running on packed sand! I get a little bit of a harder workout while giving your legs a bit of a rest since it's a softer surface. Only thing is, I hate the popping sound seaweed makes when stepping on their air bladders. It's kind of gross for some reason. Again, I was running in the back of the pack and felt really slow. Glanced at my watch and realized I was hitting solid 8-8:30 min/miles (very good for me). So I was happy.

I felt very good aftewards. Refreshed and relaxed. Not too tired. Lots of good food and good people. I even got to watch the sunset, which was amazing. I also was happy that I was able to be proud of my own accomplishment, without feeling overwhelmed by how fast everyone else was. Of course, when I got home, it didn't take long for me to crash and crawl into bed early. I slept like a rock.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Great Pool Swim

I've been taking some good advice and taking it a little more slowly. Each workout I've been doing feels like higher quality. Last night, I jumped in the pool for a workout. I felt strong and solid. I swam for an hour, which is 15 minutes longer for me, and I could have gone longer! Total workout was 2000 meters, also a bit longer than normal.

I started with a nice warm-up: alternating breast stroke, free, and back--1 lap each--3 sets. Then I did a solid, endurance pace set of 500 meters free. Following this, I worked on my stroke length by counting the number of strokes to swim a length. Down breathing on the right, back breathing on the left. 1st lap, just observe, 2nd lap take off 1 stroke, 3rd lap, take off another stroke. Rest 1 minute and repeat for a total of 3x. I only count the number of times my "breathing" arm (right when breathing right, left when breathing left) enters the water. It was 10.5 the first lap, 10 the 2nd, and I got it down to 9 or 8.5 by the end. Very happy. (25m pool). I then worked on a speed a bit, one of my major limiters. I can go forever but I have a hard time going fast. Again, I swam in sets of 150m (I like 3's; can you tell?), timing the amount it took me to complete the entire 3 laps. First lap, normal pace, 2nd lap a little faster, 3rd lap, all out (descending set). I rested and repeated for a total of 3x. I was definitely getting tired because each set was slightly slower than the last. However, even the slowest (last) set was faster than it's been in the past! Normally, it would take me 3 minutes to swim 150m. Yesterday, I swam the first set in 2:47, the 2nd in 2:50, and the 3rd in 2:56. Even though each set should have been the same or faster, at least I've shaved off time!

I got out feeling refreshed, ate a large dinner and slept like a baby. I'm not too sore...yet...which I take as a good sign.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Good training run

I had a great training run yesterday. I've been needing lots of naps lately. Maybe because I'm waking up earlier. Anyway, I was able to get a nice nap in, wake up and have a snack, digest and then get ready to run. Jason came with me, which was awesome. We did a simple 4 mile total, out-and-back trail run in the Rose Canyon, next to our apt. The canyon can be very hot but the sun was going down (6 pm) so the weather was perfect. I love the desert/beach weather around here. It cools off so nicely! I felt sore at the beginning but loosened up as we ran. I maintained a nice, comfortable pace the whole way and felt strong and pain-free. It's mostly uphill the whole way back but I actually felt strong and peppy the entire way back too. First time that's happened. I was able to maintain good form going uphill, arms swinging loosely, legs up, back and head up, good tempo. I'm definitely getting stronger. Afterwards, I was going to do weights but scratched a 2nd workout b/c I still felt significantly sore from Sunday's weight-lifting session. I eliminated this work-out guilt-free b/c I knew it was the right thing for my body. Instead, I went to bed early and got some extra sleep. It's all good.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Slow and Steady

Last night, I had an awesome ride on the trainer. I missed my pool swim but I was tired and very sore from the weights on Sunday. I think it's more important to have 1 solid workout than 2 half-ass ones. I rode for over an hour doing power intervals, spinning, and pushing in a higher gear. I worked on form, keeping my feet parallel to the ground (not pointing my toes) and pulling up at the back of the spin cycle. I got in the groove, found my "happy place" and was able to really focus. It felt so good.

I'm starting to realize that I need to be patient. Endurance athletes don't make gains overnight. I'm chipping away at things. Slow and steady, right? Hence the turtle. The fact is...I AM getting stronger. It's just that my expectations (like usual) have been unrealistic.

In addition, it's been hard for me to gauge how my training has been going. I design my own plans and listen to my body. Then, I re-evaluate and adjust accordingly. In my gut, I know this is the right thing to do. But I also read a lot. There are so many training plans out there. I've read many of them. Some of them are much less vigorous than mine. Some are much more. I guess it's good I fall somewhere in the middle.

Right now, I'm focusing on middle distance tris (Olympic). I'm in Base 2 phase (I've decided not to really start "Building" until I've done some solid base training for awhile). I know I'm past Base 1 because I actually have a base now! I feel stronger and I know I can train at a certain level without injury. Yea! My goal is to train somewhere between 5-10 hours a week (5 min and 10 max with 8 hours being the average). I would like to swim 2-3x, run 3x, and bike 3-4x. In addition, I would like to throw some weights in there 30-45 minutes, 2x a week. I think that is a reasonable goal. It seems attainable. So that's what I'm working with.

I've thought about what kind of workouts I want to do as well. The important workouts are: for running and biking: long run/ride, brick workouts, hills (for power--my biggest limiter); for swimming: open water swims/endurance swims and intervals to build speed and strength. Weights are straightforward--I focus on my core, quads and abductors, and upper body with particular attention to back, chest, shoulders, and triceps.

I think I'll feel better after I do a few more races. They give me a good read-out to indicate how the training is going. The San Diego International Tri is 2 weeks away (June 25th). That'll be my first International distance. I'm excited/nervous. I know I can do it as long as I take it slow and don't pressure myself. This weekend, the club is having a practice sprint tri on Saturday that would be good for me. On Sunday, there is an 8.2 mile run on the beach during low tide. I'm going to do that to up the distance for my long run. That will also help prepare me for America's Finest City 1/2 Marathon in August.

I also am planning on re-joining the club for more group workouts since I definitely feed off of other people and can learn tons of information and tips from other experienced tri-geeks. I also love meeting new people so it's perfect. Jason has been starting to rejoin me in my workouts again so, in addition, I may get my old training partner back!

Monday, June 12, 2006


Thanks, everyone for all your supportive comments. I had a much better day on Sunday. I woke up extra early and went grocery shopping so I could give the buns fresh greens before going on my run. Then, I met a group of girls in the Penasquitos Canyon for a 6 mile trail run. It was SO awesome. Everyone was very nice, and we ran at a comfortable pace, which was good b/c the trail was very hilly. We were able to hold a conversation most of the way. Everything was so beautiful--flowers blooming, bunny rabbits, a waterfall, cute mountain bikers... It was also nice and overcast so it wasn't too hot. It put me in such an awesome mood.

I love group workouts. I love getting up early in the morning and getting my workouts over with. The only thing is that I hate when I feel guilty for sleeping in on the days I decide to skip an a.m. workout. But I'm learning. I need to learn how to be consistent and not be so hard on myself. My endurance is definitely improving and I'm coming along nicely. I'm finally training injury-free and building onto my base. God, does that mean I've graduated to "build" phase?

It's hard to know where I stand b/c I always feel like I could be doing more and doing better. I have a hard time following my training plan b/c I usually make it too aggressive. The overtraining suggestion some of you had really hit home. Even though I don't feel like I'm training too much, I know if I don't take time to rest that I will fall into that gray area. Maybe the time off I spend feeling guilty is just that. But the symptoms--mild depression, lethargy, insomnia--all those really hit home. Something to consider. I guess now is when many triathletes start experiencing overtraining since it's about mid-season. I got my Triathlete magazine on Saturday, and it had an awesome article on overtraining. It really spoke to me. So I'm trying to be more forgiving.

The rest of my day was nice too. I got the apartment totally cleaned up and interviewed pet sitter #3. (I'm having a hard time deciding who is the best one.) Jason and I spent most of the day together just talking. We went to the park by our apartment in the evening and played basketball. He spotted me on the monkey bars while I pathetically tried to do pull-ups. Then, I totally freaked him out by flipping off the monkey bars like I used to on the playground as a kid. We walked around the park before coming home and having dinner together. I ended the evening with some weight-lifting before hitting the sack. I slept like a baby for the first time in days. I'm sore today, and it feels good.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


Been feeling kind of depressed lately. No real reason why. Just don't feel like doing anything and feel guilty for doing nothing. I got nothing done today. I meant to do so much more. I hate this. What is wrong with me?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Learning how to dial it down

I think things are getting back on track. I've been pretty productive at work, despite the fact that I'm in the middle of starting up a bunch of projects and sitting back and waiting for them to come to fruition. I'm watching mice breed and other mice get fat. Yup. It's kind of like watching paint dry. I'm reading papers, going to seminars, and I even signed up for a much-needed Biostats course for the summer. I'm trying to be professional. Even though I still feel like a kid.

Training is going pretty well. Except I feel like I should be farther along by now. I guess my expectations are a little unrealistic. The San Diego International Tri is 2 weeks away, and I'm terrified. It's a short International--only 1000m swim, 23 mi bike, and 6 mi run. I know I can do all the distances separately, but I freak out about wondering if my body can do them all together. I'm just going to take it slow and focus on having a good time and finishing.

I went on a bike ride last night. I didn't feel very into it. Biking is hard for me because I have difficulty relaxing. Cars everywhere, bumps in the road, and I never quite know where I'm going. I think I need more group rides when I don't have to worry as much about all that stuff. Especially about getting lost or thinking about where to go. All you have to do is show up. I started out yesterday around 6:30 and decided to go exploring. It was kind of fun. I headed south by the coast, instead of north and ended up going around La Jolla Shores, the Cove, and Wind and Sea. I followed the bike route signs to Pacific Beach. Then to Mission Beach. I decided to loop around Mission Bay and take the Rose Canyon Bike Path home so as to avoid the gruesome, all uphill battle on the way back.

I had the hardest time finding it because I normally ride the Bay on the east side. I was all turned around. I finally figured it out and got home. By that time, my "easy" ride had turned into a very stressful 26 mile, 2 hour ride, where I ended up riding the last leg in the dark (w/o lights). I was exhasuted when I got home. That stressed me out even more b/c I need to be able to go that distance and still have enough left for a 6 mile run afterwards in only 2 weeks! Why was I so exhausted? I hope it was because I hadn't planned on going that far and was stressed out the whole time. I really could have used a granola bar towards the end too b/c I was starving! So much to think about (worry about).

After taking care of the buns, showering, and having a much-needed enchilada, topped off with some chocolate, cookies, and milk, I was ready for bed. Then, I couldn't sleep. What the f*#k? Funny thing is, this has happened to me before. Often, in fact. I feel completely wiped after a long ride, run, or race, and all I want to do is nap. I get all ready and lay down, and my mind starts racing while my body aches. Then, I feel wired. It's this weird, automatic, chemical thing. Does physical exhaustion ever cause your mind to race? Has this happened to any of you? This seems very counter-intuitive to me.

I wish I was in better shape. I just feel like every workout exhasuts me. I haven't figured out how to have an easy workout yet. I know you're supposed to mix hard and easy but I just tend to go all out, all the time. It feels so good. I love the speed, the intensity, pouring every inch of you out there until there is nothing left. It's the ultimate escape from the stress of daily life. But I know this is not good for training.

Maybe I should start wearing a heart-rate monitor and be more disciplined. Argh. I hate those things. Plus, mine interferes with my wireless bike computer. I've been contemplating purchasing a GPS for running, and then I can set my pace very accurately.

Another thing I have been missing is the group workouts offered by the club. It's such a great opportunity to meet people. Of course, I end up pushing myself even more b/c the workouts are tough (for me). I guess I need to pick which workouts are going to be hard (and with the group) and which will be easier (and solo). I want to be able to train 10 hours a week without being exhausted all the time. I want to do 2 workouts a day. My goal is to bike 4x/week (trainer--tempo sets/drills; long ride; hill ride; tempo ride), run 3x/week (long, track, tempo), swim 3x/week (masters, sets in pool, open water), and do weights 2x/week. Oh, and I want to take 1 day off a week. Hmmm. I think I need more time.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Updates--crazy lady, airhorns, fire alarms, and more

Just thought I'd update everyone on things I mentioned in previous posts. Remember crazy lady who screamed obscenities day and night, keeping everyone awake? (Hence, crazy cat lady pic from the Simpsons). After many complaints, management finally evicted her. Turns out, she actually was crazy, not just going through a bad break-up or something. She had been living in an institution, which her parents had financed. I guess living in an apartment (by herself) was the next step. Seems kind of stupid to me. I'm glad she's gone but I get the creeps just thinking about it. We all thought she was just blithering on the phone to someone but now that we know she was legitmately crazy, I get the shivers every time I think about because...just who was she talking to?

You'd think things would be quieter but now we have some asshole blowing an airhorn every half-hour after 11 p.m. because he thinks it's funny, I guess. To make matters worse, the fire alarm has gone off at least once a day for the past week. Seriously. I'm going to literally get a shot-gun and blow these idiots away. Then I 'll be the crazy one. I can't wait till the college kids go home for the summer. It's like living in a dorm or something here. The poor buns.

Training has been going well. I looked over my stats again and realized I was being kind of hard on myself. Some of those dips and valleys are also due to a strained rib muscle and knee and foot problems. I had forgotten that. I am feeling great lately during my workouts. Strong and injury-free. It's funny how I used to take that for granted.

I finally got my orthotics yesterday and tried them out on the treadmill today. The Super Feet (OTC) orthotics had helped a lot but I knew I was still supinating. I love the orthotics. I feel much more stable in them! The guy who made them was really great. He used to be a runner so he totally understands the importance of good biomechanics. I feel like everything is a go with the running.

I have a new running partner! A girl about my age from the tri club was looking for someone to train with for an upcoming half-marathon at the end of August (Ameria's Finest City Half Marathon). I had been thinking about it anyway, and since Bay to Breakers had gone so well and that had been 7.4 miles, I figured, what the hey. She was nice enough to meet me at the apartment last weekend and we went for a 5.5 mile trail canyon run. It was fantastic to have the motivation to wake up early on a Saturday! We went at 8, and we both admitted we would have never done it so early without having someone to hold us accountable. It was HOT too (for San Diego) so it was nice to get it over with. We live in the same area, run about the same frequency, volume, and mileage, are about the same age, and even get similar injuries when we overdo it. How rare is that? I'm totally psyched. We're trying to make it a routine weekend thing.

The half-marathons are addictive. After watching the San Diego Rock 'N Roll Marathon this past weekend, I totally want it to be my first next year. I want to build up my base and get some more halves under my belt this fall. Plus, I want to do a half-IM next year (gulp) so it'll be good for tri training too. There's the San Jose Half Marathon in October, near where my folks live and also the Silver Strand Half Marathon in November right here in my own neighborhood. Of course, there's also some half marathons in April in La Jolla and Carlsbad so there's tons of options.

I totally revamped my bike. I'm so proud of myself. Although I'm still having a hard time getting all the dirt and grease out from under my fingernails, I did everything myself. I got new fancy-schmancy racing tires (Vittoria Diamente, or something. Hey, it's Italian, so it's gotta be good, right?). They were so much easier to get on than my old tires! It was luxury. Plus, I didn't need tire levers, nor did I rip my tubes! That's a step up for me. I felt like a pro. I noticed the rim tape on my bike tire looked a little worn. I'm going to have to keep an eye on it. Next flat I get, I'm putting new tape in. (I just pray it's not during a race.) The really creepy thing is--the tube in the front tire is the original tube that came with the bike--3 years ago! How weird is that? I kept it in. Maybe I should have retired it but it's lasted that long. I figured it deserves to die on the battlefield. I also put on new bar tape with a luxurious gel pad underneath and totally cleaned the chain with a brush and cleanser before putting new dry lube on. It was way fun. I like playing with the bike.

As far as seasickness goes, I'm going to brave the ocean (well, okay, the cove) again this Friday with the club. I've asked around and by far, the most common answer to my seasickness question has been--earplugs. So I'll return to the cove again, this time armed with earplugs. I'm very determined. Never give up!

As far as not swimming enough? Well, I've been working on that too. I swam on Monday in the pool and was amazed at how sore my shoulders were from Sunday's ocean swim. It was weird because when I was in the ocean, I didn't feel like I was working at all, even though I had to swim agains tthe current and fight the swells (and seasickness). But I was definitely feeling it Monday, especially in the pool. I'm determined to start getting into the pool more. My endurance is definitely getting better so it's getting more fun. I've looked into convenient pools where I can easily swim in the area. The Shiley Health Center has a decent lap pool within walking distance of where I work so I'm going to check it out. They open very early in the morning. I could easily swim before, during, or after work, which would be a HUGE plus. I could even do a lunchtime swim, which has always been my dream. I could even do my own practice makeshift triathlon, right from work. Swim in the pool, bike up the coast, and run at Torrey Pines. Okay. I'm getting ahead of myself.

I ended the day with a backwards brick: run on the treadmill 4 miles and short bike on the trainer 35 minutes. Every bit counts. Plus, the trainer is like bad medicine. It improves my form and makes me stronger on the road. However, going outside is always more fun.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Seasickness Advice?

"My experience with seasickness is that at first you are afraid you will die, then after a few hours you are afraid you will not. "
--G. Yancey Mebane, M.D.

I'm so embarrassed to admit this but it seems like whenever I get into the ocean, and there are waves and currents, I get seasick. Help! This is not encouraging. I have no problem swimming in a pool, a lake, or a calm bay but in the ocean, when the swells start picking me up and throwing me everywhere, I want to hurl.

Question of the Day:
How do you prevent sea sickness when swimming in very choppy ocean water?

Yesterday, I went for an evening swim in La Jolla Cove. When I got in the water, it was calm, sunny, and warm. There were tons of people in the water--kids, snorkelers, divers, kayakers, other open water swimmers, etc. Of course, it seemed like as soon as I got in the water, everyone got out. It was, afterall, 6 pm on a Sunday.

I started on my swim and was having a great time. I felt strong, my stroke felt smooth, I was calm, and, most importantly, not sick. At the turn around point, about 0.6 miles out, the sun went behind the clouds and the wind picked up. I was then swimming against a strong current and there were swells coming under me from 2 directions. The current didn't bother me but the swells, throwing me up and down, did. My arm would come up over my head and go into the water for entry at a different point on each stroke, sometimes below, sometimes above. I had a hard time sighting because the swells were like mountains in front of me, blocking the sight of the shore.

Stopping to rest was out of the question. My body suddenly became aware of all the bobbing, making me feel even worse. I felt like I had to keep going or risk becoming very sick. Luckily, the buoyancy of the wetsuit and salt water made it very easy to slow down my pace to catch my breath when I needed. I had been trying to alternate breathing sides, which I normally do to prevent fatigue and make it easier to swim straight, but this compounded my seasickness. I found that if I put my head down, breathed on one side, and focused on my stroke, the seasickness went away. When I turned to breathe, I looked up at the sky, which helped, since the sky wasn't moving. The only time it would surge up again was when I would sight. However, I got very good at sighting without having to disrupt my stroke, peering out of the corner of my eye as my head lowered back into the water.

As I approached shore, I was able to see the bottom, which I normally enjoy. I love watching all the little fishies swimming around. But instead, it only reminded me of how much everything was bobbing, bouncing, and rolling around. I could see the seaweed going in one direction with the fish, back-and-forth, as the water carried me forward, then back, then forward with the waves, as I continuously swam forward. That continuous rocking back and forth brought back the seasickness with full force. I finally staggered onto land and pulled myself onto the grass. Jason asked how it went. "Seasick," I groaned, collapsing onto the grass beside his chair. I stared up at the sky, which was spinning round and round my head. It took awhile for everything to settle down. It seemed like the swimmer's ear drops I use after each swim to dry out my ears helped a lot. However, I couldn't even look at the ocean the rest of the evening. Just looking at the constantly moving water reminded my body of how badly I had felt earlier.

Obviously, since this is the first phase of the triathlon, this is a problem. I can't collapse at T1 and wait for the world to stop spinning. Although lots of triathlons are in very calm waters, some of my upcoming races are up at Carlsbad and Oceanside, where the surf is rough (surfing is very popular there--big waves=Rachel seasick).

Some thoughts:
  • I used to swim in the ocean as a kid, and I never had this problem. Could it be hormones? Also, I'm tapering off some medication I have been on for awhile. I suspect this may add to/worsen the seasickness since one of the side effects is dizziness. Hmmm.
  • Also, I'm still getting used to swimming in a wetsuit. I love how it keeps me warm but I actually hate the extra buoyancy. It makes me bob like a cork on top of the water, adding to my nasuea.
  • I've heard feeling anxious or scared in the water can add to the seasickness but I felt incredibly calm. I just felt like I was fighting it the whole time.
  • I've even been experimenting with OTC seasickness meds--Meclazine, the less-drowsy form of Dramamine. I took 2 this time before I got in the water. I didn't have any adverse side effects, which is good, but I still felt got seasick (although I didn't throw up, and I was mostly able to control it on the swim). Could I not be taking enough? Are there other drugs out there? Imagine how bad it could be without the Mecalzine!
  • I've heard ear plugs work wonders when it comes to seasickness. I haven't been wearing any. Maybe I should start. It did help me back on land when I dried out my ears with the drops.
  • Will this go away with experience? Does your body eventually "get over" seasickness?
  • Would accupressure bracelets help?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Fitness Stats

As you can tell, I've had some free time. I calculated how I've been doing, based on time and distance for each activity over the last 21 weeks, which is when I started "getting back into it." Actually, I'm kind of disappointed. I feel like I've been working so hard, and I don't have very much to show for it. Maybe I should log this in terms of %body fat lost (4%) or bpm at rest. Both of those make me feel better. But, it's good to evaluate your training log from time to time. Otherwise, what good is a training log? Overall, I found total weekly time helpful. It shows I'm putting in a generally consistent effort with regular R&R weeks, where I take a dip in training to heal. I think I'd rather it look like the plateau between weeks 13 to 15, rather than the plunge at week 21 (oops). My average distance/time per sport helps a lot too. It looks like the proportions are correct, at least, for triathlon. Biking is the most, then running, then swimming. So that's good. However, I need A LOT more swimming. Part of the reason I've been so bad is belonging to a pool with poor/inconvenient lap swimming times. I'm looking to fix that...stat.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

How to Fix a Flat--Diagrammed

How to Fix a Flat

After my recent adventure, I wanted to try to use it as a learning experience. If you ride, you will eventually fix a flat. However, if you're prepared, it doesn't have to be a harrowing experience.

Before you flat:
In an ideal world, you will know how to fix the flat before you're out there alone. If you can take one evening, and practice changing the tube in your tire, it helps A LOT. Especially b/c, if you've never flatted or changed a tube on your bike, your tired may be incredibly stiff and hard to work with. (They loosen up after several flats). In addition, the practice is invaluable for when it really happens.

Ride prepared:
Some tools to always carry:
1. tire levers
2. spare pump
3. spare tube (or 2)
4. patch kit
5. Allen wrench (especially if your tires aren't quick-release).
6. cell phone (in case you give up and need to call for a ride)

1. Stop screaming profanities. Take a deep breath. Identify the tire that has the flat.
2. Pull off to the side of the road or trail.
3. Flip the bike over.
Remember to remove your water bottle from the cage first or you'll have a wet, flat bike.
4. Get out your tire levers, spare tube, and pump.
5. For bike tire, shift up on the back derailer until the chain is on the outermost gear (it will make it easier to
put the wheel back on).
For front tires, it's much easier to take off the wheel.
6. Let any remaining air out of the tire.
7. Flip up the brake lever.
8. Loosen the quick release lever and unscrew.
Be careful not to lose any parts.
9. Carefully remove the tire.
Take care when setting it on the ground to have the gears facing up and away from debris.
10. Visually inspect tire for obvious offending penetrating objects.
Most times, you won't see anything.
11. Remove the tire from the wheel.
Much easier said then done.
Tire levers help for this but be careful not to puncture the tube. Use only fingers if you can (usually,
you can't). Try to only hook the tire, NOT the tube, or your tube will be permanently damaged (keep
the lever on the very edge). Once you get the first part off the rim, the rest usually pops right off.
Remove one side at a time.
12. Remove the tube from the tire.
Make sure you maintain the orientation of the tube to tire so you can find the location of where the
penetrating object entered the tire later.
13. Identify the location of the hole.
Partially inflate and squeeze to find where the air is coming out.
If it's a slow leak, you might have to use more air and listen for a hissing sound. If you were at home,
you could dunk the tube in a bucket of water and look for the air bubbles but you're not at home, you're
stranded on the side of the g*d*mned road, aren't you?
14. Once you identify the leak, trace it back to the location on the tire. (see step 12).
15. Analyze tire CAREFULLY to identify whether offensive, penetrating object is still present.
This step is VERY important. Failure to remove objects from the tires will only cause future flats to
your new tubes and lots of frustration (coming from personal experience. 3 flats in a row....cough,
Don't just look at the inside of the tire. Run your fingers along the interior. Turn it inside out if you have
to. I'd rather cut my fingers than get a new flat (personally).
16. Remove object (if still present).
17. Decide whether to patch or use new tube.
Personally, I've always just used a new tube and carried the old tube home with me to decide whether
it could be salvaged later.
If the hole is too big, you won't be able to patch it.
I just don't want to have to worry about good patch jobs. However, this is purely a personal
18. Partially inflate new tube and insert into tire as best you can.
This will allow the tube to get up inside the tire, avoiding the sides; and therefore, preventing a pinch
flat when you reinflate the tube.
19. Begin putting tire (with tube well up inside) back onto the wheel.
Gently push between the rims, pushing the tube up as best you can as you go. Some people like to do
one side of the tire at a time, but I find it works best pushing both sides in and working a few inches at a
Start with the valve. This is the stiffest part of the tube and most likely to be "pinched".
Note: the valve will not go fully into the tire until you have everything on. This is good; it will prevent
As you put the tire on the wheel and you feel tension, let the rest of the air out of the tube.
20. Put the rest of the tire on the wheel.
Try to use finesse and avoid the tire levers. This is sometimes impossible.
I usually put as much of the tire I can on, working in both directions away from the valve.
The last inch or two is the most difficult.
If you have to use tire levers, be very careful. Don't slide.
Keep at it. It will pop on eventually.
21. Put tire back on bike.
Tighten the quick release skewer until it is "finger" tight. Avoid over-tightening.
22. Wiggle the valve out of the tire, gently.
23. Inflate the tube part-way.
24. Spin the tire to see if it spins "true". Is there any obvious wobble or irregularities as it spins?
25. If there is a problem spot, let air out of tire and gently adjust this section of the tube. Usually, it is not seated properly up inside the tire.
26. Once the tire is seated properly, reinflate to proper psi.
Do this slowly, checking the tire as you go to make sure the tube is still seated properly. Otherwise,
you may get a new flat.
You may not be able to get it to reinflate to the full 120 psi easily with your spare tube but you will
be able to reinflate enough to get home.
27. Remember to close your brake levers and change the gears on your bike to a comfortable riding position.
28. Put tools away, flip bike back over, and get ready to ride off into the sunset.
29. As you ride off, ride slowly to evaluate any differences in how the bike feels.
I usually stop again after going a little ways just to make sure the tires feel okay and everything is
still a "go".

Dos & Donts:
Don't curse at your bike. You will only offend it.
Do stay calm.
Don't accept help from weirdos (strange guys in cars). Use your street-smarts.
Don't leave trash around. Tubes with small holes can often be patched up at home. I stuffed my tube in my jersey so as not to litter.
Do take your time.
Do move off to the side of the road and avoid traffic.
Do accept that you might get a little greasy. Hey! Tires are dirty.
Don't roll around in the chain unless you want to get really dirty.

I Flatted---and Triumphed

Yesterday, I came equipped for a late afternoon bike ride. I planned to be home by 7, just in time to meet one of the new, potential pet sitters for an interview. I decided to go out 10 miles along the coast, turn around and come home to keep it simple. I felt very good. For some reason, my morning dead legs and blah feelings had dissipated, and I felt fresh and zippy. Plenty of other cyclists passed me but I was very happy with my 17 mph on the flats.

On the way back, I geared down and psyched myself up for the large Torrey Pines Hill. I was kind of in a hurry because the lure of biking had caused me to override a bit, and now I was in a hurry to get home in time. However, it was about 6:20, and I was only 6 miles from home. Plenty of time to get home for the sitter. About 1/3 of the way up the hill, I felt the dreaded, "thump, thump, thump, thump" as the back tire went round and round. "No, please, God, no," I begged. I went through the five stages of grieving--denial (kept pedaling), anger (I can't believe it!), bargaining (I promise I'll take better care of you, Bluebell), depression, and finally acceptance (I stopped and got off the bike).

I evaluated. Yup. It was flat. Always the back tire. Actually, I've never had a front flat but I've had several rear flats. However, this (of course, Murphy's law) was the 1st flat of the season. Had to happen sometime. Better now than race season. Luckily, I always travel with a patch kit, spare tube, tire levers, small pump, and cell phone (in case the rest fails) so I was prepared. I proceeded to fix the flat (see post below). By the way, I've decided the mosquitoes have followed me to San Diego. They all swarmed in as I worked on the roadside (of course, it was dusk). For some reason, every single one of them bypassed my legs (the usual site of entry) and went straight for my ass. Guess the thin layer of spandex wasn't a problem for them. Number of bites on my legs? O. Number of bites on my ass? 6! Should I be flattered?

Several people passed by and offered to help. At least 7. I was very impressed. I was stubborn and wanted to fix it myself. Usually, when I've flatted in the past, someone has always been around to help me change it. I knew how but I wanted to do it myself. I noticed a small hole in the tire itself as I was inspecting it for debris. Hmmm. Time for new tires?

20 minutes later, Whallah! New tube inside tire on rim and back on bike. I wasn't able to get the air pressure up to 120 psi but it was enough to get me home. I was 15 minutes late for the sitter. She was SO nice and waited for me (definite brownie points for her). Anyway, I was ecstatic! I fixed the flat by myself! Ah, the glorious feeling of freedom and independence.

Per Request--Bike Porn


For those of you into bike porn (albeit mine aren't as high-class as you can get).