2010 Year In Review

I’ll never have another year like 2010 in many respects.  It was a year I’ll never forget–the good, the bad and the miserable .  I took a new job at my company this year that led to traveling 250,000 miles in nine  months–China, Brazil, Netherlands, even Bahrain, and many trips to India.  I knew my training and racing would take a hit this year with all the travel.  I shipped a road bike and trainer to Bangalore, India just so I could train for Ironman Couer d’Alene during my many trips to India.

Training in India was not fun at all.  The pools at the hotels were always too hot, too cold, or over-chlorinated. I could only ride my bike on my trainer in my hotel room, and I ran through human feces on trail runs.  I saw some very cool things along the way but it’s not something I ever care to repeat.  In Chongqing, China, all I had time to do was run the treadmill at the hotel gym but even if I stepped outside the hotel there was nowhere to run.  In Bahrain, I managed a good swim in the hotel pool.  I also swam a mile in the ocean at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro but only did it for the novelty of it.  The locals don’t even swim in that filthy water. The Netherlands was quite nice for running, mainly because I was staying at the popular resort town of Noordwijk on the North Sea. Yes, I was actually there on business.

In the end, my best moments were not my own races but the people I met and the events that transpired in between my races.  While training in India for my Ironman in June, I was introduced to Samim Rizvi, India’s Lance Armstrong.  Cisco sponsored Sam as the first person from India to qualify for the Race Across America (RAAM) and I was asked to lead the charge.  In June, I found myself leading a small crew from India on an insane bicycle race from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD, chasing India’s biggest hope for a a finish at RAAM.  I had to pull my rider in Durango, CO after he contracted influenza Type A pneumonia.  But the friendships I created along the way were diverse and unexpected, and the RAAM experience significantly expanded my understanding of endurance sports.

Just ten days later I was in Couer d’Alene, Idaho for my Ironman.  I had a miserable day as I never had a chance to train in the heat, but while sitting outside the massage tent at the finish line, I met Pam Reed, a legend in the ultra running community.  We immediately struck up a conversation and we’ve had a great business relationship ever since that day.  For all the training, expense and time I spent preparing for an Ironman, my first Ironman finish was completely overshadowed by my chance meeting with Pam. In September, we hired Luis Escobar–also an elite ultra runner–to do a photoshoot of Pam.  I spent my Labor Day weekend with Luis and Pam in the Grand Tetons of Wyoming running and taking photos, all the while amazed at my good fortune.

The last few months of the year were marked by nagging injuries.  I developed plica syndrome in my right knee in Aug. and ended up getting three cortisone shots for it.  Then the over-compensating that comes with an injury led to a bruised left foot and then on New Year’s Eve, a pulled hamstring.  Nice way to end the year, Lynn.

A real highlight of the year was using my Ironman event as a fundraiser for the National MS Society in honor of my youngest sister who suffers from progressive MS.  I have now raised over $23,000 for a good cause, and the emotional lift it gave my sister was more than worth it.  I hope to continue to use a major event every year as a fund raising opportunity.

At the end of a tumultuous year, I am still grateful that I can swim, bike and run, and pursue my passion for endurance sports.  I’m beginning to wonder if I have any more PRs in me.  I’m having to re-think my training methods for more quality than quantity workouts, and I’m finding I need more variety in my training regimen just to keep my body balanced and tuned.  I say that like I’m some kind of finely crafted piece of machinery, but this engine has been training for 35 years and it needs more attention.  These days there is nothing I value more than a good massage.

2009 Transrockies Run

August 15, 2009
Once a year, I pick a race to support a worthy cause.  This year, I am dedicating the Transrockies Run to raise money for the National MS Society in honor of my sister Julie Buckbee in Port Huron, Michigan who suffers from relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis.  She is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments. I created an online Tributes Fund and encourage anyone to visit my web page. You can sign my guest book, learn about the courageous people facing this devastating disease and contribute to the fight against Multiple Sclerosis.
http://main.nationalmssociety.org/site/TR/Events/CANChapter?pg=fund&fr_id=7361&pxfid=175859&JServSessionIdr011=7pmljp3vd1.app326a

So far I have raised almost $3000 but I’m well short of my $10,000 goal.  Please support the National MS Society by pledging. Your donations will help empower people with MS to live independently, enhance their health and improve their knowledge.  The National MS Society is dedicated to ending the devastating effects of MS. They simultaneously fund research for a cure while also helping people who currently live with Multiple Sclerosis lead more fulfilling lives. I believe in the work they do, and I invite you to see for yourself all the good they’ve done for the MS community.

Thanks for your support!

Official song of the GORE-TEX™ TransRockies Run
Keep On Running

June 27, 2009
Training Run at Yosemite
Take a couple of flatlanders, drive to Yosemite early Sat. morning, start running at 4,000 ft. and go to 8,000 ft.  This training run was a good reality check for running at altitude.  I didn’t feel well at altitude and Kevin struggled a bit at 8,000 ft. as well.  Took us almost 5.5 hours to run a 16-mile loop.  But the location is nothing short of spectacular.

chilnualna fallsWe started near Wawona at the south entrance to the park.  The key landmark would be 690-ft. Chilnualna Falls, a lesser known waterfall at Yosemite, mainly because it’s a series of five cascades and hides behind twists and turns in the rock.  It can’t be seen from a road and it’s impossible to see the entire fall at the same time.C'mere + C'mon Chilnualna Falls June 2009

It was a very tough day at the office as the temps soared into the 90s, but a good reminder of what we face at the Tahoe Rim 50K next month and a gut check on Transrockies.  Numerous times during the run we remarked, “We are so f’ed for Transrockies” but took some strange solace in the fact that there were a whole bunch of people suffering the same conditions at Western States on this day.

June 21, 2009 (Happy Father’s Day!)
New Gear for Transrockies!
I’m having a blast buying new gear that, well, I simply must have for TRR.  I’ll be writing gear reviews for this stuff as I start using it.

wasp_back07The most important item might be the hydration pack.  Get this part wrong and you’ll have a lousy week in the Rockies.  I chose the Wasp from Ultimate Direction.  It has the extra storage capacity for all the mandatory gear, medical kit, blanket, camera, nutrition, even the trekking poles if I decide to carry them.  The Nathan HPL 020 I use for normal trail running just isn’t enough.

Leki polesI’ve never used trekking poles, so I sent a note to famed ultra runner “Speedgoat” Karl Meltzer for advice.  He recommended the Wasp hydration pack but suggested poles are just extra baggage for TRR.  His running buddies Erik Skaggs (who won the inaugural TRR with his brother Kyle) and Team USA Cross Country star Max King tell Karl it’s mostly “runnable terrain.”  OK, except that “runnable” to the rest of us mere mortals might not be the same thing.  So I bought the Summit Antishock poles from Leki, the official trekking pole company for TRR.  I’ll take the poles and decide when I get there if I’m going to take them with me.  Kevin and I are guessing we might only need them on one or two days.

Olympus Stylus Tough 6000I did more research on a camera than any other item, simply because there is an endless array of options.  I settled on the Olympus Stylus Tough 6000.  This camera is made for the outdoors.  Encased in a durable metal body, it’s a bit heavy but it’s shock proof, water proof, freeze proof, and features dual image stabilization for taking photos on the move.  I’m hoping it’s also idiot proof and can’t wait to see what I can capture of the spectacular scenery we will encounter.

vasque celeratorI’ve been wearing Vasque trail shoes for several years but had worn through two pair of the AMP model which was discontinued last year.  So I chose the Celerator, a much narrower shoe.  I’ve already put a bunch of miles on them, but I also ordered a new pair of custom orthotics just for my trail shoes, which I order a half size larger than my road running shoes.

Sleeping padKevin and I decided to upgrade to the comfort of cabins on a few nights, but for those nights in a tent, I ordered the Goassmer NightLight™ sleeping pad.  I rolled it out onto the tile in my office and couldn’t believe how comfortable it felt.  I should be able to sleep like a rock.  My only concern is space in the duffel bag.  If things start to look crowded, I may need to ditch this item.

bamboo running sleevesI’ve only worn arm sleeves when I’m on the bike, but with the big temperature swings in the Rockies, I decided to get some running sleeves from Moeben.  And I went eco-friendly and ordered bamboo, which has natural UV, a wicking and anti microbial features.

May 25, 2009
Team Name–C’mere & C’mon
After an endless debate over countless choices and understanding from the beginning that it really isn’t important, we have a name: C’mere & C’mon.  Kevin is C’mere…”C’mere, wait for me!”  I am C’mon…”C’mon, get the lead out!”  We’re looking forward to meeting everyone and finding out who is behind some of the team names.  I’m also interested in meeting the three runners from Japan.  I’m born and raised in Tokyo and have a ton of questions about how they train and race in Japan.

Naturally, our training has not gone quite like we thought it would when we first starting thinking about this event.  What started as a plan to run three 50Ks has been reduced to two, maybe even one for me.  Kevin and I just started training together since I spent most of the winter and spring months tri training while Kevin was focused primarily on Boston.  Our main concern is not training, but avoiding injury.  We’re both having issues with our right knee.  I have set 7 PRs this year so I’m feeling very good about my conditioning and racing, but it’s time to get serious about running long.

Jan. 8, 2009
The Teamvineman-20082

My running partner is Dr. Kevin Stuart, a leading gastroenterologist in the San Francisco Bay Area.  He lives with his wife (also a physician) and two children in San Martin, CA.  He has completed the California Ironman, the multi stage Race Across California, numerous marathons and ultramarathons, and 50 triathlons.  We have done many events together, including The Relay, Way Too Cool 50K and AR50, but this will be our first time as a team.  I only hope I am not the boat anchor as I’m about 70 pounds heavier than Kevin.  My wife takes some comfort in knowing I am scaling the Rockies with a doctor, although I’m not sure he can do anything for me when I’m gasping for air at 12,000 ft.

Jan. 1, 2009
Training Program
We’ve read many of the blogs and recommended training programs for this event.  We’re prepared to try anything, including me jogging in a sauna for heat training.   Kevin is a better runner than me so I’m prepared to train harder than Kevin.  I’m doing the Napa Marathon as a training run for my first ultra this year in April.  Kevin earned his spot at Boston by running an impressive 3:22 at CIM a year ago, so he’ll be running Boston in April while I’ll do Skyline to Sea.

I’ll do three ultras before the Transrockies and we’ll do two of them together; both are run near 8,000 ft. and within a 3 – 4 hr. drive from where we live.  The timing seems pretty good so we’re hoping the two ultras at elevation is sufficient training for altitude.  Here are some of the events we chose specifically to train for Transrockies:

02/07 :: PCT Woodside 33K Lynn & Kevin
03/01 :: Napa Valley Marathon Lynn
04/20 :: Boston Marathon Kevin
06/30 :: Ohlone 50K Kevin
07/18 :: Tahoe Rim Trail 50K Lynn & Kevin
08/02 :: Skyline 50K Lynn

Nov. 21, 2008
We’re In!

Last week, my training partner Kevin and I signed up for the 2009 Transrockies Run – 125 miles over 6 days in the Colorado Rockies. What were we thinking?

At this month’s meeting of our running club, Kevin asked if anyone else was interested in running across the Rocky Mountains next summer. I wasn’t there, but I imagined most people didn’t quite understand what he was proposing, and our club treasurer simply replied, “what the hell?!”

transrockies3When I considered this event many months ago, I felt a bit out of my league. Any athletic endeavor spanning six days and rewarded with $20,000 in prize money should be restricted to well-trained athletes who don’t have real jobs. I pictured myself lining up at the start line with other adventure racers, fast packers and ultra marathoners, all entering the event not just to complete it, but to race and win. I could imagine the looks as they sized me up and wondered, “what the hell is he doing here?”

Then I made the mistake of checking out the web site. Suddenly, the event seemed manageable, and enticing. Fully catered meals, massage service, and a staff who tears down and sets up camp for you each day. I checked out the elevation maps for each day. It is designed carefully to let you acclimate to running long distances…with very litte oxygen. I fear we have woefully underestimated the hardship of actually running at an elevation of 8,000 – 13,000 feet.

transrockiesBut there comes a point when deciding on any event where you just know if you’re going to do it. For me, it is not normally a series of logical choices that lead to the decision. I often back into it by removing the impediments. Float it out to my wife a couple times very innocuously to test the waters. Make sure I can do it with my work schedule. Fill the race schedule with other events that lead up to the main event. Make the decision, figure out later how to train for it. I always ask myself, “if you don’t do it, will you wish you did?” Consider the people you will meet, the scenery you will take in, the experience you will always remember.

Today, I flew over the Rocky Mountains on a flight from Chicago. Talk about delusional. From 39,000 feet, anything seems possible. So, what were we thinking when we signed up? An epic adventure.

San Mateo Masters 1-Mile Openwater Swim

Well, let me just say I won my age group!  That doesn’t happen very often…like never.  With just a week away from my half ironman, this openwater swim was a great reminder of what it’s like to not hit the wall every 25 meters.  I had tried to do an openwater swim a couple times earlier in the month, but weather and my son’s weekend sports schedule conspired against me. 

I arrived way too early at the Parkside Aquatic Park in San Mateo but was relieved to discover we were swimming in the marina lagoon.  The water was calm, no currents and a comfortable 65°.  This was going to be far more comfortable than I had imagined, except that my last openwater swim was last September at the Sentinel Triathlon.  I stood in line at registration behind two swimmers sporting that greenish swimmer’s hair and “STANFORD SWIMMING” emblazoned across the back of their overcoat-like jackets that real swimmers wear and felt very inadequate.

I was amazed how many people chose to swim without a wetsuit.  Had to be more than half but I realize swimming events are not like triathlons.  Most of these people are real swimmers and real swimmers don’t wear wetsuits.  Most are also way faster than me in my sleeveless wetsuit.

I tucked in behind the pack that crowded the start line.  I just wanted to swim a controlled race, focus on my stroke, and swim in a straight line.  Staying comfortable and efficient would be very important next weekend to come out of the swim feeling good.

The only challenge was not being able to see some of the bouys to get a good sighting.  I managed to swim straight but mostly by following swimmers ahead of me.  I finished in 31:13, a PR for me and a confidence builder for next weekend.  Kudos to the sponsors, the San Mateo Master Marlins for a very well run event.

Flight of The Monarch Butterfly

After being pelted by thousands of migrating monarch butterflies during a 60-mile ride this week, I knew there must be an explanation for this fascinating phenomenon.  Why are they all flying north and where are they going?  It was kind of cool when I was also riding north as I almost felt like I was participating in their private ritual, but as I turned south, the dance turned to combat as I felt monarchs hitting my helmet, arms, and sunglasses.  I was hoping a wayward monarch would not fly straight into my mouth.

flying_butterfliesThe monarch butterfly is the only insect known to migrate annually over major continental distances. There are two basic migrating groups in the North America. The Eastern population is based east of the Rockies; some 300 million of these butterflies migrate from as far north as northern Nova Scotia.  In the east, the Monarchs migrate to Mexico, then leave their Mexican roosts during the second week of March, flying east and north. 

They’re looking for milkweed plants on which to lay their eggs.  These Monarchs have already survived a long southward flight in the fall and winter’s cold; they have escaped predatory birds and other hazards along the way, and they are the only Monarchs left that can produce a new generation.  If they return too early, before the milkweed is up in the spring, they will not be able to lay their eggs and continue the cycle. 

The Monarchs we see in Northern California have come from the Rocky Mountains.  After three generations migrate the fourth generation returns to winter over.  The ones who return are the children’s grandchildren of the ones there now.  That explains why I haven’t seen these Monarchs at least the last couple of years.  The ones who spread out all summer only live six weeks or so.  I think I saw lots of these Monarchs…they looked very tired.  The ones who migrate back in the fall live about five months to start the process again.  

Monarch butterflies arrive in California in October and hang in the eucalyptus trees through February. November through late January are ideal times to see these creatures, especially in the Montery area.  November is great as they are still arriving and more active.  In the spring they start spreading out again into California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and other areas.

Over the summer there are three or four generations of Monarchs, depending on the length of the growing season.  Since each female lays hundreds of eggs, the total number of Monarch butterflies increases throughout the summer.  Before the summer ends, there are once again millions of Monarchs all over the U.S. and southern Canada.

OK, there you have it–Monarch mystery solved.  Now get back on your bike and ride!

Racing and Training in a Bad Economy

Let’s face it.  We’re all trying to be frugal this year.  Working out on a budget is the second biggest fitness trend this year (after bootcamp-style workouts), according to the American Council on Exercise and reported in Suite101.com.  Lots of people will probably opt to cancel their gym memberships and simply cut some things right out.  Here’s what I’m doing or have done to try and keep the schedule I want while trimming costs.  The secret sauce is point #6, so skip or read to the end for the important stuff.

bay-area-map1.  Stay local.  I’m trying to do fewer out of town tris, ultras and marathons.  It’s fun to travel to cool places and do some big name events I’ve always wanted to do, but I decided not to do the Way Too Cool 50K this year when there are perfectly good 50Ks and trail races in the Bay Area.  Add to your race fees a cheap motel, meals, gas, too many trips to Starbucks, and an out of town race can easily cost $400 – $500.

running-shoes2.  Find the right shoes — Recently, I went to a local running shop where they have a sort of scale you stand on that measures the distribution of your weight on your feet, which provides information on what kind of shoe you require.  Based on this information, I was encouraged to switch from a stability shoe to a neutral shoe.  I ended up in a much better road running shoe for me but I also saved 25 – 30% of my investment in shoes because the new shoes last that much longer.

running-club3.  Join a club.  Almost any local running store or bike shop will give club members a 20% discount.  Local race organizers also give my running club an additional discount to enter races.  My running club membership is $30/year.  I get that back in spades just by using my 20% discount.  You don’t have to be an active member to join a club but you’re leaving money on the table by not joining.

piggy-bank24.  Find the deals.  I’ll always go to a store and talk to an expert to get fitted for shoes.  Once I’ve selected the correct shoe, I always buy the first pair from that store, usually at 20% discount for club members.  After that, I always buy my running shoes online, usually 30 – 40% less than what you would pay in a store.  Sometimes it can be hard to find half sizes online, and sometimes I need to buy last year’s model, but what do I care?  And I can usually find free shipping.  I don’t know why anyone would pay a 30 – 40% premium to buy shoes in a store.  Same goes for tri equipment.  I buy a lot of my gear and apparel from the sale and closeout sections of web sites.  Selections are more limited, but if you hunt and peck enough, you can find some sweet deals.  These days, there are also plenty of stores going out of business holding clearance sales.  Find them.

trail-running5.  Don’t pay to run.  I’m not suggesting being a “bandit.”  You should always pay to enter a race.  But you certainly don’t need to pay to run trails, even the exact same course of any given race (just not on race day).  Many trails are marked and county parks and recreation departments often post maps at the trail head.  You won’t get the aid stations but get a small group together to do a long trail run and be well prepared with nutrition and hydration.

happy-mom6.  KEEP MOMMA HAPPY.  This is the secret sauce.  If I had the recipe for how to succeed with this critical item, I would sell it on the internet instead of blogging about it’s importance.  The multi-sport lifestyle simply costs money, regardless of how much you can save.  None of it works very well if your spouse isn’t on board with it.  Listen to your inner voice on this one.  Do what you need to do, but don’t forget this pivotal item.

OK, so I sort of blew it with the Transrockies Run in August.  It’s a hefty $2700 entry fee for each 2-person team.  But I just couldn’t say no.  That one will be an adventure I will never forget.  I bet five years from now I won’t regret having spent the money.

Rest Days

restToday is a rest day, one of the hardest days of the week.  I have learned to take my rest days as seriously as the long run or the long intervals or the brick.  That means not heading to the pool for an easy swim or going to the gym to flex my muscles, or spinning in my office even for 30 minutes.  It means doing nothing (well, I worked a 13-hr. day, but no workouts).  I hate days like today.  I feel like a slug.  But I need the rest.  I’ll be glad I rested today when I’m doing a double tomorrow (swim/bike) and running a hard tempo the next day.

I ran 32 miles this past weekend.  Most of it was on trails and hills.  Most days I feel like I need three hours of workouts.  Anything less than 2.5 hours doesn’t feel like a workout.  Two days a week I’ll do a double workout (morning and afternoon).  So on rest days, I rest, eat well, sleep eight hours.  If I’m not going to work out, I had better really rest.  The rest of the week will be plenty hard.  Today, a good friend suggested I see a nutritionist due to my rigorous training regimen.  Good idea.

runner-resting(Thought this guy sort of looks like me…maybe not so much.)  I reflect on my home and family responsibilities.  I spend lots of time in training and racing just about every other weekend throughout the year.  The only reason I can train the way I do is because I work from home 70 – 80% of the time.  This week, it looks like I don’t need to go in to the office at all.  Lucky me!  So I can usually take the kids to school, these days play football or basketball with my son in the afternoon, and hang with them in the evenings.  The past 3 years I have coached my son’s basketball and flag football teams.  I’m trying not to get drafted this year but don’t think I’ll be so fortunate.  Winter football league starts this weekend.

I always think I’ll catch up on miscellaneous chores, phone calls, defrag the hard drive, house cleaning, on my rest days.  I could even power wash the roof and clean the gutters!  By the end of the day I have given up on such lofty ideas, and my IP phone the company gave me still sits in my office a year later because I can’t figure out how to set it up.  Somehow the stupid IP phone isn’t anywhere near the top of the list of things I need to get done.

old-shoes1I took my son to another bike shop today to find a new bike for his birthday.  He turns 8 tomorrow.  We’ve been to four shops in the last week looking for the right bike.  Wish I wasn’t so picky…wonder where I developed that penchant for good equipment.   I wonder if we’ll train and race together some day.  Better get some sleep.

Curing Cholesterol Without Medication

While we’re on the recent topic of heart health, I thought I’d share the fix I have found for high cholesterol.  Two years ago, my doctor wanted to prescribe Lipitor for my high cholesterol (was 214).  I told him I wanted to try a different approach before going on statin drugs that have side effects, so he gave me 90 days to lower my numbers.  My in-laws turned me on to red yeast rice (RYR) and it has made all the difference.  I’ll preface the following by stating I’m not a doctor, medical professional or a nutritionist.  I’m just passing on my own research and what has worked for me and many family members.  Some of my research is taken from mayoclinic.com but this is largely a formula derived through lots of experimentation on my wife’s side of the family.

Red yeast rice is the product of yeast grown on rice, and is served as a dietary staple in some Asian countries. The use of RYR in China was first documented in the Tang Dynasty in 800 A.D.  It contains several compounds collectively known as monacolins, substances known to inhibit cholesterol synthesis.  Since the 1970s, human studies have reported that red yeast lowers blood levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein/LDL (“bad cholesterol”), and triglyceride levels.   Now here’s the rub. 

The drug companies don’t want people to take RYR as it replaces their statin drugs.  I used to buy RYR from Swanson’s but the FDA made them change their formulation to significantly reduce the amount of natural statin, rendering it ineffective in reducing cholesterol.  The new formula from Swanson’s is called “Traditional RYR.”  Nature’s Way RYR sold by Swanson’s hasn’t been forced to change their formula yet, so that’s what I take now.  In California, prop 65 prevents selling RYR with the higher concentrations of statin.  That’s why you can’t buy effective RYR at your local health food store in California.  Naturally, we’re the only state to have this restriction.

I also take policosanol with the red yeast rice.  Policosanol is a supplement that is made up of fatty alcohol derived from plant waxes.  Several studies from a manufacturer of the supplement in Cuba have shown that it can lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) and can increase HDL cholesterol (“high” cholesterol).  Policosanol tends to improve HDL numbers but doesn’t do as much to reduce the overall cholesterol number, so I take it as an additional help in improving the cholesterol/HDL ration.  It might not be necessary but I started taking it when Swanson’s sold RYR combined with policosanol so I continue taking it separately now.

I add Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) to this mix.  CoQ10 is a naturally occurring enzyme in the body and is necessary for the basic functioning of cells.  RYR tends to reduce the availability of CoQ10 and CoQ10 levels are reported to decrease with age, so taking an additional 100mg/day doesn’t seem to be dangerous.

Finally, I take a multivitamin and vitamin C just because it seems like a good idead.  I take all these supplements at night before I go to bed as it’s supposed to work better while you’re resting. 

Here is a summary of what I take every night for cholesterol:
Nature’s Way Red Yeast Rice :: 1200 mg capsules
Swanson Ultra Policosanol :: 20mg capsules
Swanson Ultra CoQ10 :: 120 mg capsules

Results: my numbers from December 2008
Total cholesterol — 189 (target <200)
HDL — 66 (target >39)
LDL — 101 (target 0 – 99)