Month: February 2016

Running, Patience and Progress

Last year one of my goals was to run a sub-40min 10KM off the bike at an Olympic distance triathlon. Even though I didn’t accomplish that goal, I did reach many other running milestones that I didn’t fully appreciate. For example, I ran a 1:24:45 for my first open half marathon in March, had my fastest 10K at an Olympic distance in September and posted an open 10K PR in November.

As it relates to my general triathlon improvement, the run has been the discipline that has required the most patience. It took me almost a year and a half to fully appreciate Coach Greg’s “wax-on/wax-off” approach to triathlon-specific running. My thinking then was, well if I have the cardiovascular capacity to run fast, why can’t I just run fast?! After a few months of waking up to moderate foot pain, I finally understood the importance of getting my running legs’ muscles, tendons, and bones ready before we could add some minimal doses of speed and threshold stimulus. Just like Mr. Miyagi, Coach Greg helped me understand the principle of slowing down in order to go fast. Last year I definitely learned a lot about my running capacities. It also became my first full year of true running training where I was able to grasp what it meant to run consistently (30-35miles/wk) and lay a solid muscular foundation while staying healthy and injury free.

Going into this season I am feeling more confident about the progress of my run but at the same time I am constantly humbled and reminded that I should not get ahead of myself. For instance, just this past Sunday I raced a local 10 miler. The course for this 10 miler is very hilly, especially the last 4 miles. Even though many people warned me how tough the course was, I kept focusing on an ambitious goal to finish near the 60 minute mark. The first 2 miles for this course are at a net negative elevation and I made the mistake of taking those two miles way too fast. By mile 6 I was already spent, suffering from intense stomach cramps and barely keeping my pace and form together. I finished really exhausted but learned two important lessons learned here: pacing myself even when going downhill and paying more attention to the timing and amount of my pre race nutrition. It appears I might need more calories going into longer running races.

Next stop is the DC Rock n’ Roll half marathon in two weeks (March 12). Stayed tuned as I will certainly make sure to put together a race report.

Our Isa getting a head start with her running skills.


Finding Solace: my swimming story

I’ve been swimming competitively since I was 6 years old. By age 12 I was one of the fastest kids for my age group in Puerto Rico and at that point many thought I could make it far in the sport. But the following year I had a terrible accident driving a go-kart and broke two of my toes. It took 6 months and three surgeries later to fix my toes and be able to comeback to swimming. I can still remember the frustration of trying to make my body slice through the water the same way I used to but everything felt different with my foot packed with screws and a metal plate. In the years between the accident and prior to leaving for college, I worked very hard during practices. I remember one particular practice doing a set of 4x400s freestyle (lcm) making 4:35’s and thinking to myself, I still got it! But through my senior year in high school I had only been able to drop 10 seconds off my fastest time from when I was 12. I knew then that I needed to come to terms with the limits of my talents and my hopes for a bigger future in the sport.

Once I knew I was going to attend Villanova University, I reached out to the swim team coach there and asked him if I could be a walk-on for the team. I remember feeling really excited about the opportunity to continue training and competing at a high level and in a team environment. Despite the excitement I underestimated the cultural and language challenges I would face by moving to the U.S. I struggled that first year to find a good rhythm to the college life. Too many times I found myself giving up and not caring about putting my best effort in practice and yet, somehow, I managed to survive that first year. Just like my high school days, by the time I swam in my last senior meet, my swimming times had only improved slightly from 4:39 to 4:36 in the 500 yards freestyle. Maybe it was a case of misplaced expectations, but looking back at those college swimming days, it always felt like I could’ve practiced harder or done something better to at least break 4:30 which was my personal goal at the time.

After battling two other bouts of knee and shoulder injuries and surgeries, the path towards finding solace with my swimming past began when I decided to train for Masters swim meets. At the Masters’ meets I gained a better appreciation for racing and having fun at the same time. Once I started doing triathlons, it truly felt like I had finally made peace. In a sport where the biggest hurdle for many triathletes is the swim, I am now more than grateful for my swimming past as it is now a big competitive advantage – so I can’t really complaint there! And whenever I am having a tough week keeping up with my bike or run workouts I know that I can almost always rely on a swim workout to make me feel better.

Swimming a 200  short course meters freestyle at a local masters meet.


Amor (Love) & Control

Amor y Control” by Rubén Blades became my favorite song ever since I first heard it in 1992. The song offers so many important lessons about family and life but, to me, for some reason the song translated into having the courage to pursue a goal relentlessly and not giving up on it despite adversity. Ironically, in the past two years of triathlon training, I’ve never used the song as inspiration during any of my workouts. Yet, as I started to think about my ambitious goals for this coming season, the song immediately became my mantra: love and control.

Heading into my third racing season, my goals at this point are still broad but certainly more defined than in the past. On the broader side, I need to become a better student of the sport, especially during the execution of training workouts and racing plans. Also, continue the bike strength development and, most importantly, patiently build on my running progress. On the structured side, I’ve already committed to racing more 70.3 (Half-Ironman) races such as Knoxville Half (May), Eagleman (June), and SavageMan (Sept). If I’m honest with my personal ambitions, I should share then that I’m hoping for a breakthrough performance at Eagleman but learning from previous mistakes about getting too ahead of myself, I think is best for now to simply continue putting one training day after another, and worry about performances later.

One thing that is markedly different going into this season that any previous, is the amount of consistent training I’ve put in already. Two weeks ago, I had what felt like a breakthrough workout on the CompuTrainer (indoor trainer). The main set consisted of a ladder of 20-15-10-5 mins hard efforts at various FTP percent ranges with 5 mins recovery in between. Here are the numbers from that set:

FTP Range (%) Duration (min) Watts (ave)
100% 20min 292w
103-105% 15min 299w
108-112% 10min 315w
115-120% 5min 333w

Since I’ve never done a Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test, whenever Coach Greg puts a set like this on my training calendar, he gives me enough guidance and discretion to choose my power target numbers. In this set I pretty much nailed the numbers I was aiming for and it felt like the toughest bike set I’ve ever done not only physically but also mentally. In the end, I was very satisfied with having met my power numbers’ goals, building on a solid week of training.

This being my first blog post, I want to thank my wife Irma, for her amor (love) and understanding; to Isa, our daughter, who keeps me in check by asking “How many miles, Papi?” every time I come through the door after a workout. And Coach Greg for working with me to keep my triathlon development under control.

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