GET INTO IT

Last night I went swimming at the UCSF rooftop pool, which is as two faced as Regina George. I ‘walk shivered’ onto the pool deck, as not-so-distant memories of ‘swim tanning’ under the clear blue sky seemed like a past never to be relived again. The wind asserted its’ authority and whipped helpless lane line flags around…and I considered ditching. I heard my childhood swim coach’s voice tell me to ‘shut up and swim’. I walk over to the lane and stare down at the water, almost at the point of no return. In my head I hear AJ saying, “C’mon dood it’s not that bad.” 
 
Ugh, fine. You’re right. I’ll do it. 
 
After the feeling of cold left my body (it was no where NEAR as cold as the Bay…I was really just being a baby) I was able to settle into a rhythm and become aware of the good things the cold air provided: a lane. all. to. my.self. 
 
For the first time in a long time, I did sprints. I timed myself. I did breaststroke drills, which meant I was going really really really slow. I concentrated on technique, speed, power, breathing. I was fast, slow, smooth, and ugly. 
 
I was free to be in my own head, and not worry about kicking someone or sideswiping an unsuspecting pool patron. It was totally worth it, and the ‘pain’ was actually only a few seconds. I don’t know why I try to fight it, I don’t know why I dread it, but I do. Regardless, pushing through is SO worth it. Every time. 
 
So, thanks to Ed Nessel for telling me to ‘shut up and swim’, to AJ for inspiring me to be better every single day, to this guy for making me want to live 24/7 in beast mode, and to Kimmy Schmidt, for telling me to hang in there. 
 

What do you tell yourself when your mind is acting a fool? How do you get amped? Inspired? In the zone? Share your secrets, I promise I’ll tell everyone.

 

Kezar Track – OPEN. Reinvigorating the love of track running for real world athletes.

Kezar track is FINALLY reopening after extensive renovations. It’s been a long wait since last summer to get back to one of the most popular (and only) tracks in San Francisco.  Perhaps most importantly, it’s great to be back at the track closest to Kezar Pub (ask for our favorite server, Sinead).

I happened to be listening to a Freakonomics podcast, “What’s the ‘Best’ Exercise,” when I heard the official news that Kezar track was back in business. As is my wont (whether it be The Simpsons, South Park, Game of Thrones, or whatever else I get into), I intertwined my thinking between the two, and started making conclusions for one based on the other. (BTW, all problems in life can be solved by closely watching King of the Hill).

oneyMqo

I must admit, I love track. So I’m biased. But the podcast really highlighted several things about why I love track. The host interviewed a doctor who is often asked what is the best exercise that can get the most for the least effort. He said that he responds to this question by asking people what they really want. He listed a bunch of real-life reasons that he often hears:

  • Run my first marathon or triathlon
  • Take my game to the highest level
  • Get a little better
  • Look better in a bathing suit
  • To not get tired when playing with my kids

Real-life reasons are exactly why we started Rare Birds — Athletics for the rest of us. For the vast majority, real-life reasons do not include gold medals, sponsorship, and the glamour life — some of us, yes.  But all of us CAN define a “highest level” that fits ourselves, whatever goal that may be.

The podcast summarizes the expert feedback into the “Three I’s”, which really connects to my own track philosophy.

  • Intensity – Work very hard for a brief period of time. Take a break. Go hard again. Many studies have shown that high intensity interval training can get the same physiological benefits as long, consistent endurance training. … Many run experts are adopting this quality-over-quantity run philosophy as a core of training; see, Run Less, Run Faster. It’s a perfect fit for real-life athletes.
  • Individualization – Know what you like. You need to pick what suits you. … Track gives lots of opportunities to fit a workout to you. You are only ever at most 400 meters from your coach and teammates. Easy to check in and socialize as needed. Easy to control your pace and run as hard as you like (or not, as the case may be).
  • I like to do it – The best exercise is the one that you will do. … You can have more fun at track with different workouts than anywhere else. Beautiful scenic views are awesome out on the trail or open road, but for a sheer playground of run fun, you can’t beat a track.

COME JOIN US AT KEZAR TRACK!!! (Usually Wed night 6:45p – Ask for Asics Joe.)

My Tri Swim Coach – Your Own Swim Instructor Conveniently Within Your Smartphone

unnamedHow many times have you gone to the pool after struggling to come up with a workout and defaulted to the same old repeating 300 meter intervals? Better yet, how many times have you just opted out of your pool day because you’re tired of the same old collection of workouts?

I struggled with these kinds of issues in the past. If I’m being honest with myself I was probably looking for an excuse to cut my swim workout short or avoid it all together. As someone who grew up running the pool has always been somewhat uncharted territory for me. That was until I stumbled upon My Tri Swim Coach. This handy app is available for iOS and Droid platforms and contains hundreds of workouts for 25yd,  25m and 50m pool lengths. Just enter what distance race you’re training for, where you are in the season, pool length and you 100m split, click “Create Workout” and My Tri Swim Coach does the rest.

unnamed (1)unnamed (2)In addition to giving you a warm up, main set and cool down, My Tri Swim Coach will provide you with a drill set for every workout. Unfamiliar with a particular drill? Not to worry, each drill is linked to a YouTube video illustrating what  you’re supposed to do.

Since getting the app I’ve had productive sessions in the pool and dare I say…am starting to enjoy swimming?*

The app runs for $2.99 – small price for what you’re getting. Definitely cheaper than a masters class and available for anytime during the day, not just 6am.

*Author never thought he’d say this. Subject to editorial update.

 

 

Gwen Jorgensen: If You Don’t Know, Now You Know

All right, my triathlon-tribalist friends.  Some of you surprised me recently.  Despite the fact that you’re dyed-in-the-wool triathletes, you seemed to know little about the pros at the top of the sport.  For instance, in my first blog I mentioned Sebastian Kienle, the new Ironman world champ.  You admitted to me that you had no clue who the German cycling juggernaut was until you read my blog and Googled him.  That shocked me.  How could you not know who the new King of Kona is when you’re clearly devoted triathletes who spend more hours training than my kids spend watching the movie “Frozen”? *

 

But I’ve now begun to learn that you’re not unique.  Like the triathlon nerd that I am, during some recent training runs, I threw around names like Jan Frodeno and Craig Alexander in an attempt to pass the time.  Without fail, at least one person would ask me who the heck I was talking about, even though “Frodissimo” is an Olympic gold-medalist and “Crowie” is a three-time Ironman world champ and Kona course record holder.

That probably says more about the uninspired marketing efforts of triathlon’s governing bodies than the celebrity-triathlete IQs of you all.  But whether that’s true or not, as a fan of triathlon – as I know you are, too – I feel it’s my responsibility to offer up some education.

From this point forward, I intend to showcase a top triathlon pro in every couple of blogs.  These men and women are the finest and most inspiring athletes in the sport we love. 

And if that sport is to ever grow beyond its niche-sport status, you and every other fan of triathlon need to know and support these folks.

There’s no one better to start off with than American Gwen Jorgensen.  I can already hear the chorus of voices:  Nordic surname who?  Well, with all due respect to the likes of Andy Potts and Tim O’Donnell – don’t worry, I’ll explain who those two are in later blogs – Gwen Jorgensen is the greatest American triathlete in the game today.

gwen

Gwen stands at the pinnacle of ITU racing (you probably know it better as Olympic-distance racing) as the reigning 2014 world champion.  In reaching that top spot, she became the first woman in history to win five ITU races in a row, with her streak culminating with a win at the season-ending ITU Grand Championship in Edmonton, Alberta.  This makes Gwen America’s best hope for its first triathlon gold medal by a man or a woman in next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Gwen’s also a marketer’s dream.  To begin with, she’s got an appealing background story.  Like many other pro triathletes, she sacrificed a well-paying career for triathlon’s relatively paltry prize purses:  she was an accountant at Ernst & Young before chasing her triathlon dreams.  Of course, she didn’t abandon her plush white-collar gig without good reason.  Gwen had a distinguished athletic background before ditching her bean-counter colleagues, having been a swimmer and All-American runner at the University of Wisconsin.  It’s because of that background in both swimming and running that USA Triathlon, in its eternal search for Olympic-quality triathletes, first recruited Gwen in 2010 to give triathlon a shot.  She immediately proved them right to do so, qualifying for an elite card in her first triathlon ever.  From there, she racked up a couple of decent accolades – you know, just becoming the 2010 USAT Rookie of the Year and the 2011 USAT Elite Race Series Champion – before qualifying for the Olympics in her first attempt in 2012, at which she finished a disappointing 38th in London because of a flat tire.  Three years later, though, and she’s the undisputed queen bee of triathlon and the gold medal favorite for Rio.

What makes Gwen special is her run leg.  She’s the Olympic-distance version of Ironman world champ Mirinda Carfrae – if you haven’t built a hefty lead over her across the swim and bike legs, you’re screwed.  Because of her unmatched run speed, like me and the last bottle of beer in the house, Gwen will inevitably hunt you down before the finish line.  Her race at the ITU Grand Championship is a great example.  In Edmonton, Gwen was a minute and ten-seconds behind the leaders after the swim and bike legs, a good chunk of time in an Olympic-distance race.  But since we’re talking about a former Big Ten champion in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters, it wasn’t nearly enough of a head start.  On the 10K run she quickly rallied, ending with the fastest run split of the day at 33:24 and crossing the finish line a comfortable sixteen seconds ahead of her closest competitor.

A few months after Edmonton, Gwen emphatically showed off her pure running speed by winning the Dash to the Finish Line 5K, a respected road race held the day before the New York City Marathon that’s littered with pro runners.  Her winning time was 16:03, a tad over a five-minute average-mile pace to us mortals.  Among the over 4,000 women (and countless men) she outpaced was a British Olympic 1,500-meter runner.  The best way to describe that kind of speed is holy-sh*t fast.

Gwen will also do an excellent job of selling the sport of triathlon and the products of its major sponsors because, in my humble opinion, she’s got super-model looks.  So with Gwen, a sponsor could have the best of both worlds, an athlete who’s stunning but is more importantly a proven winner.  The USAT would be foolish if they didn’t take advantage of Gwen’s sky’s-the-limit marketing potential when the Rio Olympics come around.  With the USAT’s support (and maybe a talented agent) Gwen could become the face of triathlon, and possibly take the sport to new heights of popularity, expanding it into demographics beyond the ancient forty-year-old dudes like me who presently dominate the sport.

So please, if you’re passionate about triathlon – and you’re an American – remember the name Gwen Jorgensen.  She’s deserving of your attention.

* True story:  at my eldest son’s preschool, they’ve banned the kids from singing any of the songs from “Frozen” or bringing any “Frozen”-inspired toys to Share Day because of how disruptive to the classroom that movie has proven to be.