Presidio Aquatic & Fitness Center: A New Multisport Mecca in the Bay?

Near the end of last year, I found myself browsing bikes at Roaring Mouse Cycles, a small but well-loved independent bike shop on Crissy Field’s west end.

Roaring Mouse Cycles
Roaring Mouse Cycles

While gazing at a gorgeous Specialized Shiv that was unquestionably beyond my riding capabilities, I was approached by a shop employee who noticed my interest. We got to talking and I learned she was a triathlete too, newly hired to expand Roaring Mouse’s burgeoning triathlon business. After talking about our favorite California races, she asked me if I’d heard about the new triathlon center planned for next door. I certainly had not and, like any good Rare Bird, was thrilled and intrigued to hear the news.

I can now confirm that there are indeed plans to open a 24,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art swimming and fitness facility in the former airplane hangars next door to Roaring Mouse. The facility, to be developed by the Presidio Trust in partnership with an anonymous donor, will be eponymously named the “Presidio Aquatic & Fitness Center.” More newsworthy to you Rare Birds, the Center’s anchor business will be the “California Triathlon Center,” San Francisco’s first triathlon-specific training facility for professional and amateur triathletes. Matt Dixon and his Purple Patch fitness company will manage the CTC.

If Matt’s name doesn’t ring a bell, the long list of professional triathletes that he coaches might. The list includes San Francisco’s own Meredith Kessler, Ironman Arizona’s defending champion and a four-time winner of Ironman New Zealand; Tim Reed, winner of this year’s Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship; and Jesse Thomas, the four-time defending champion of Wildflower’s famous long course. Matt’s also helped dozens of amateur age-group triathletes snag coveted Kona slots for the Ironman World Championships. So it’s no exaggeration to say that Matt’s one of the leading triathlon coaches in the country.


The planned features for the Presidio Aquatic & Fitness Center should be tantalizing to every triathlete. I know of no single facility in the Bay Area that can match them. According to Presidio Trust documents, the Center’s features will include:

  • a pool with enough 25-meter swim lanes to run two training programs at once, and that will have access to the outdoors to allow triathletes to practice their transitions between the swim, bike, and run segments of a triathlon race;
  • a flume that will allow Matt and his team to analyze individual triathlete’s swimming technique;
  • a cycling studio large enough to accommodate 30 people and that will include up to 25 computer-controlled power trainers;
  • a strength-and-conditioning gym and yoga studio, with accompanying amenities like lockers, showers, a sauna, and steam and massage rooms;
  • bike storage for up to 50 bikes and additional space for bike fittings; and
  • a running studio with an AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill for training and rehabilitation work.

While the Presidio Aquatic & Fitness Center might not be the triathlon playland in the works near Wilmington, North Carolina – whose plans incredibly include a 25-acre lake specifically for open water swimming and a 14-mile paved bike loop closed to cars – the Center sounds like the dream home for any Bay Area triathlete.

TriHabitat Facility Plans

The only bad news is that there’s been no news about the Center’s progress since last summer, even though the Presidio Trust has said that they intend for the Center to be open by 2016. If anyone out there knows more about the Center’s status, please fill in the Rare Bird flock on the details in the comment section below.

30 days. 30 steaks. Multiple PRs.

Let’s start with a very important disclaimer: I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not advocating any diet changes for anyone. This is just a little account about how a (odd? actually, most definitely yes, odd!) change in my eating habits led me to multiple marathon successes. You should see your doctor before making any diet changes. But I didn’t. Oh well.

For all of you who hung onto my every word from part 1 of this blog series (Twinkies, Steaks, and Marathon PRs), I ask for your patience as I re-hash bits of it. Below is a graph of my marathon times, with highlights of my major successes (see steaks).



There’s a blog entry to be written about the first steak marker in 2010, but I’ll focus on the two most recent marathons (sequential personal records).


Over a period of a few years (2010-2013), my marathon times hit a plateau.  My fastest was around 3 hours and 15 minutes, and I could do no better.  I did what had led to earlier success: I did my speed work and I dominated my long runs.  I truly thought I was getting stronger and faster, yet with each new marathon, I simply couldn’t break through.  It was frustrating, and I was about to accept that I did what I could do in marathoning.

At the beginning of 2014, I came back from a South American trip with some awesome memories, cool souvenirs, and … a few pounds tucked into my midsection (damn you, empanadas, damn you).  So I figured I’d try some diet to trim up, and decided to dust off this book, The Four Hour Body, I had sitting around.  It’s a diet / lifestyle “guidebook” written by Tim Ferriss, the man who brought us The Four Hour Workweek.  I’m a huge fan of his work, although many complain he’s a self-absorbed douchebag.


In the book, there’s a diet plan that can be summed up as “Atkins (kinda) with a cheat day”.  Six days a week, you eat nothing but protein, vegetables, and legumes (lots of black beans).  On day seven, aka Cheat Day (aka heaven?), you go ape-$#iT.  Dozen donuts?  Sure.  Whole pizza?  Game on.  Pint of ice cream?  Just stick it into my vein.  I’ll spare you the nuances, but I can say that I would eat lots of red meat (which is allowed) on non-cheat days.  There was a streak where I ate 30 steaks in 30 days.  And yes, I documented this on Facebook and developed a mass of steak followers.  The diet (now my lifestyle) worked.  I lost 15 pounds, felt great, and I even lowered my cholesterol.


And what does this have to do with running?  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t even taking running seriously at the time.  I started the diet in January and had a race in May.  I kinda went through the motions and my mid-week runs were *awful*.  Having limited carbohydrates during the week was tough on my runs, and they often were well above 8 minutes per mile (I usually did these in the mid to lower 7’s).

But something happened on my long runs. 

I timed these runs after my cheat (high carbohydrate) days.  And my body responded really, really well.  While I couldn’t really run quickly mid-week, my long runs were the exact opposite: extremely fast.  Armed with boat-loads of sugar from the day before, I felt like a god out there.  I tore up my long runs (faster than I had ever run them before), and set personal records in my next two races (went from 3:15, to 3:11, to 3:07).

This isn’t science.  It’s my n = 1 data point.  But I can say being lighter helped me tremendously.  Having a diet that facilitated this was key.  I also believe the carbohydrate depletion effect helped as well — and there are many that will back up this theory.

All of this typing has made me hungry.  Gonna fire up myself a juicy ribeye.

Happy running (and eating!).


[Many steaks were eaten in the course of this writing. Please eat responsibly. But not birds. Thank you, the management.]