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Retirement From Triathlon, goodbye my love

When I raced Wildflower in 2011 for the first time, it was certainly the deepest I've ever gone. The amount of pain, and agony, and the amount of effort that was needed to fight off all the thoughts that told me to stop were simply excruciatingly monumental. During the half marathon, every step I took felt like I was going to fall on my face.

I somehow got through that...

It was two years before I was able to go that deep again in 2013, at the same race, Wildflower, in lovely Lake San Antonio, where I again felt like I was going to fall on my face, every step I took.

And I somehow got through that too. And managed to turn pro. 

But I've always wondered: how many times can I go that deep without hurting myself?

not physically, but mentally. Because those experiences are not healthy by any means....in my humble opinion.

They are quite traumatic though I must confess I do not know what real trauma is. But as an average human being, those two races were as traumatic as it will ever get for me. 

For the people that know me, I've always pushed myself. I push myself hard. But like an artist, I am always trying to find perfection. For an endurance athlete, that's not just perfecting technique, perfecting training, nor perfecting nutrition.

It's being able squeeze yourself into a pulp during a race, and feel like you're about to fall on your face every step you take. But without overdoing it that you blow up and jeopardize your race.

It's finding that sweet spot, the mount everest of all endurance athlete's goal. Pushing oneself to the absolute limit, while getting to the finish line as fast as possible. 

And over the last 3 years racing pro, I have probably only gone there once. And it was at Ironman Arizona. 

For my whole triathlon career, I have only done it 3 times. Wildflower '11, and Wildflower '12. Lastly, Ironman Arizona 2016. They say 3 times is a charm and I think there is some truth to that. Because I have to sadly admit, I think I have nothing else left to give.

I can still race, and train, but I don't think I have enough to go that far, to feel like I would fall on my face, every step I take. 

And when an artist can no longer paint or loses the ability and inspiration to create works of art that he/she would be proud of, it's time to stop. 

 

And I believe, now is a good time for me to stop. I wish with all my heart and might that I can be out there again this year, on the circuit doing what I love. But the fun and passion for me has always been chasing perfection. And I don't think I have the fire to chase after my definition of perfection anymore. 

Many, many thanks to:
Brady O'Bryan
Bradley Jacobs
Henry Szeto
Joey Bianchi, David K. Kernan, Thomas Curran, Daniel Smith, Ryan Lenart
Matthew Paquet
Nicholas Thompson
Jay Ridgeway and Pacwest Athletics
Pedro Dungo and Fitted by Pedro
Bizlink Technology, Annie Kuo
Kelly Brooks
Keith McDonald
Tim Sheeper
Nicole Cadman
Jason Campbell
John Murphy
Shane Arters, Jim Atkinson, Duncan Seay,
Zoot Sports, and Team Zoot
Mom and Dad, and Anna

 

It has been quite the ride. 
Yu Hsiao, SEG, Yu Hsiao Express, America's fastest Asian, signing out.  3/16/2017


 

 

 

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8:49:00 Ironman Arizona, I did my first Ironman last weekend

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8:49:00 Ironman Arizona, I did my first Ironman last weekend

I think all endurance athletes, cross country runners, cyclists, swimmers, think about doing an ironman at some point in their life. I've certainly thought about it for 10 years. I always felt that I needed be ready when I do one, and do one well. When I did 4:00:51 at Victoria 70.3 this year, and also 4:03:04 at Vineman 70.3 last year, I knew I was pretty ready to tackle the full ironman distance. It wasn't quite the sub 4 hour half ironman milestone I set for myself, but I was ready for a new challenge. I also thought doing the ironman training will benefit my 70.3 racing as well. 

Race Morning:

Things got complicated when I got a flat before the race, setting up my transition. My friend Colin Laughery was kind enough to give me a spare tube so I can keep my spare on my bike. The mechanic at Ironman Arizona, I don't know your name, but you are the man!!

Unfortunately that threw me off and I forgot to put my sunglasses in my bike gear bag. I also forgot to put any body glide on me, which really made the race that much harder for me in my crotch area. But thanks to my dad for dropping off my special needs bag. If you didn't, i would have bonked like a motherf***er.

SWIM: 56:58
I rushed to the swim start like usual, because a swim warm up never seem to do me any good anyways. I got in about maybe 200 yards of swimming, and decided to chill because i have to swim 2.4 miles. It was still dark and none of my goggles were clear lense, which is something I need to have in the future. It was still dark when the gun went off so just had to follow bubbles and feet right?

Photo Courtesy of Josh Terwoord

Photo Courtesy of Josh Terwoord

 

After racing in the pro field for 3 years, I'm kinda used to the hectic starts. A lot of fighting for feet and position, and just trying to also find a rhythm while going as hard as possible for the first 400m. Llike usual there were a lot of surges in the group, and I also lost contact a few times. Per usual, the guy in front of me lost contact, and I was stuck with a group about 4-5 swimmers for the rest of the swim after 1500m of swimming. I was happy with my feel for the water. I've changed my stroke since summer, and really focus on long, smooth, powerful stroke while keeping the turn over high. And everytime I needed to close a gap, I seem to be able to.  I stayed with the group all the way back to swim exit, and was very surprised with my sub 1 hour swim.

mentally stoked and ready to ride....wait what? 112 miles?

 

BIKE: 4:38:02, 24.17mph
As I started the bike, and checked my average speed, 21mph, I was puzzled. I realized it was false flat up hill out, with a stiff headwind all the way to the turn around of each of the 3 laps.
The long hill just didnt let up til mile 19. Which seemed to go on and on, aannnnd it's only the first lap. My heart rate was 5-8 beats higher than my target heart rate but I was feeling good perceived effort wise, so I decided to go with it. The way back down was sick! average speed was 30mph lol. At the turn around for the start of second lap My average speed was 24.2 mph, and decided to hold that average speed for the rest of the ride. Fellow pro Anthony Toth came around and did some work for 10-20 min while I had a bit of a break and got some nutrition in.  We rode together for the 2nd lap. I had a bit of a bonk coming back the downhill of second lap, and got my special needs and chow down a clifbar. If I didn't, I would have bonked like a squirrel running into a wall. Anthony dropped off at the beginning of third lap and I was on my own first the third lap. I kept the same pace throughout, holding 143-148 BPM. The rest of the bike ride was a lot of "On your left!" when passing fellow athletes and "WATER WATER WATER WATER".  By 100 miles, I was pretty tired just mentally, but physically felt pretty good. I almost wanted to take a nap. What's coming up is the hardest of them all, 26 miles on my feet.

Photo Courtesy of April and Christian

Photo Courtesy of April and Christian

 

Things and Calories Consumed:
3x 24 oz bottle with 270 calories in each, 810 calories
6x Boom Nutrition gels 100 calories each, 600 calories
2x Clifbars,250 calories each,  250 calories total
1x Clif Builder Bar, protein bar, 270 calories
1x Pickbar, 200 calories, 
2x Gatorade ~300 calories
1 serving of Base Electrolyte Salt. 
~6-8 bottles of 20z water

Total Calories: ~2400-2600 calories
Total Fluid: ~210+ oz of fluid
Total times peed: 3 times, duration: 90 seconds... 
Total Protein consumed: 2x10 from Clifbar, 1x20 from Builder bar, 1x7 from Pickbar, 47g total
Number of times urinated: 3 times
Number of times my charfing burnt by me piss: excruciatingly twice.

*Note my calorie intake is on the higher side. I can take in 600 calories per hour with no problem. For 70.3, half ironman races I take in 1100-1200 on the bike. For the Ironman I can take in a little more because my heart rate is lower. For anyone trying to figure out their nutrition, it is important to always remember you have to find what's right for yourself. For me, I've tried lowering my calorie intake, all liquid route and it doesn't work for me. It has worked for other pros/age groupers but for me, I need solids and a protein bar to keep my stomach full and not hungry. The hunger usually causes me to bonk. 

RUN: 3:09:35

Photo Courtesy of my old man

Photo Courtesy of my old man


I'm not going to lie. For the first 6-8 miles I thought I was going to run a 2:55-2:59 marathon easy. But when I got to mile 7, it felt like half my muscle went and took a PTO. Why Paid time off instead of just a vacation for a metaphor. Because I was still paying them in good calories, coke, water, and gel, and I'm sure they were getting it, but they (my muscles) did not want to move. I clipped 6:40s even for the first 12-13 miles and the wheels started falling off. And the thought of, "I still have like, 13 miles more to go" hit me like a brick and mentally I could not handle it. Mentally I almost surrendered. Under all the pain and doubt, I didn't know if I was going to even finish.

Did I think of something inspiring like "omg, i put in all this hard work, I gotta leave it all out there!". ? No hahaha. Did I try to pump myself up by saying "pain is temporary, quitting is forever!?" No. 

What I did tell myself was "My dad's flight is at 8:55pm, so I HAVE TO FINISH ASAP SO I CAN GET HIM TO THE AIRPORT IN TIME". And that's what kept me going. Eventually a slow run became the ironman shuffle. Every step hurt, and every aid station was a chance to rejoice the opportunity to walk and relax for a bit before another 1260 steps of agony til the next aid station. My left IT Band acted up and it was painful bending my knees. My plantar on my left side also flared up. And my hamstring was almost locking up everytime I try to extend my stride. It was the hardest 13 miles I've ever run in my whole life. 

Doug McLean caught me with about 1.5 miles to go and sprinted pass me. Surprisingly I had enough to go with him. I was running 6:40s again for just a short period of time. As I came across the finish line, I wanted to cry, but I think I either peed it all out or I was too tired to even shed a tear. 

I AM AN IRONMAN! 8:49:00

Calories and things consumed:
lots of coke in copious amounts, maybe 200-300calories of coke?
lots of water in copious amounts
8 gels? , 800 calories
a pickbar, 200 calories
a few sip of redbull, 50 calories
caffeine -> off the charts

total calories : 1200-1500 calories consumed on the run
number of times urinated: twice
number of times my urine burnt my crotch chafings: twice
number of times I took walk breaks: 15-20, each 15-20 second duration
number of times I wanted to quit: 10^3
number of times I heard people shout my name Yu! : 30-40
number of times I realize my name is written on my bib so in reality no one really knows me: 25.
 

Post Race

Photo Courtesy of Khem!

Photo Courtesy of Khem!

Final Thoughts:
So after week of reflecting, I'd have to say I'm extremely happy with how the race turned out. I was pretty depressed for 3-4 days because the marathon was so long, and 75% of it awful and made me feel like my whole race was awful. In reality, only the last 13 miles did my wheels come off. Though to be 65 min behind the winner Lionel Sanders, and 30 second behind women's winner MBK is slightly embarrassing, I had to remind myself how far I've come. My first 70.3 half ironman as a pro, my placing was in the 30s. I got beaten by 5+ age gruopers, and 2 pro women(including Meredith Kesseler), and was 31 minutes behind the winner. So for my first ironman race as a pro, I didn't do too bad, 28th overall.  And to put things in perspective,8:49 is two 4:24:30 halves back to back. That's insane to think about.

My coach Nick also reminded me that we didn't train specifically for this race. We rode 200 miles max for the bike, vs the required 300-400 to be competitive. And we were definitely more focused on Austin 70.3 than Ironman Arizona. To have a sub 9 and sub 8:50 finish on my first attempt was a cherry on top for this long but great season.

I think I'll for sure do more ironmans in the future, as it will probably my best distance eventually. It will benefit my half ironman endurance and speed and let's face it, ironmans are kinda fun1 (except the last 13 miles).  I believe I have potential to do better, as my mileage across all distances were basically half ironman training mileage, maxing out at 22 hours a week. As I've gotten better with the rhythm of my job, I believe I can squeeze in slightly more training to be better prepared for the muscular endurance required to fight off fatigue for the last 13 miles of the run. And more training is just more cycling. To be able to ride 112 miles like it's not that big of a deal. Which to me right now, it still kinda is a decently sized deal. I just gotta ride a lot to make it a smaller, Starbucks tall, deal.  At least it's good to know that i have a 3:10 marathon in me even when it's going really bad.

Special Shout out to my friend Josh Terwoord, for all his pointers throughout the year and the weekend, and also asking me how I was doing when he passed me like I was standing still at mile 15. I will never forget when you came by and you said "how are you doing?" and I replied "not good at all" and you chuckled a bit evilly and moved on. And I thought what a dick. Just kidding I knew you probably didnt know whats the best thing to say when you're that far into the race. it was a really funny moment. But you had a phenomenal race man, 8:37, massive PR, and a 2:48 marathon, you're the man. Hope you race you again soon.

Special shout out to my homestay host from Austin, Elizabeth Johnston for finishing her first ironman. Listening to all the adversity you have to fight through, and your mental toughness/ determination, it's extremely inspiring. Keep it on Elizabeth!

Special shout out to Bryan Lam, who also had a PR day and awesome performance after coming back from quite a few months from hiatus. Thanks for the company last weekend and always appreciate your support!

I'd like to thank all my supports and sponsors

Team Zoot, Shane, Duncan, and Jim, you guys have been super supportive and I cannot thank you enough. Thanks for the shout out on facebook!
Boom Nutrition, your gel is the best, can't go back to any other
Zealios, for keeping my skin not sunburnt for 8+ hours
P-Fits: Pedro for working my position to today. I have the most aero position and most comfortable one for me. Hopefully we can get better
Tim Sheeper, Jess Smith, and Menlo Master friends, especially Nicole for all the company during these long swim sessions, from 100x100s, to 6000 yard sessions, you guys have helped me with sub 1 hour ironman swim!
Tridot, and Nicholas my coach for the guidance, and dealing with my sh*T. I know I can be hard to deal with so I appreciate your patience. I've learned a ton from you this year and hope we have continued success.

my mom for having my dinner ready every night, and making the most nutritious meals ever while keeping my weight down :D

my dad for massaging me, and helping me out whenever I need it

all my friends, who reached out and supported me throughout this year and this whole journey. Hope better things are to come!

For now, I'm not going to do any swimming, biking, or running for 2 weeks. And going to focus on work, and enjoy the holidays for once! 

happy holidays everyone, see you in 2017

 

Yu

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Top 10 at IM Austin 70.3

If you told me that I would have been top 10 at Austin 70.3, I would have laughed at you because there were about 40 pros on the start list and at least 20 of them you've heard of them. Most of the time, that means they're f***ing fast. My own expectations were just to have a good race and put out what my training has done for me. Also, to not get a flat. Because I flew all the way here last year in real good shape, and my tire decided to go psssssss

All that kinda went sideways when I got sick Sunday before the race. I have to admit, with the full time job, and training like a pro triathlete, it was getting to me. In my defense, 5 co-workers that I work with were all sick and I couldn't really do anything to avoid it. I took some Umcka coldcare, and quickly got over the cold in 2 days. I have to tell you, getting 10+ hours of sleep because of my early bedtime 9-9:30pm, is AWESOME. and taking 2 days off was also a blessing for me to refresh mentally and physically.

My race week training prep was kind of a joke:

monday : nothing except running around work to get stuff done and fixed

tuesday: nothing except running aroud work to get more stuff done and fixed

wednesday: 25 min super easy run 8:30 pace

thursday: 30 min swim at my local YMCA.

And then Friday came, and it was an epic day. 60min into the flight, the captain said "uhm ladies and gentleman, unfortunately, we're not making it to Austin today. *long pause*"

my mind: "shit, what the hell does that mean?"

captain continues "we're having problems with our navigational system. we will have to make a detour landing in phoenix, we'll update you on the latest"

my mind: "phew, that's good"

Most people were pissed off that things were going to get delayed. Obviously I'm not too thrilled but it could have been a lot worse. Having watched nearly all the Air Crash Investigation episodes, I'm well aware of the risks everytime I board a plane. And because I'm a fan of Louis CK, and his bit shown below, I'm not going to sit around and complain about my flight getting delayed...because we're f***king FLYING FOR GOD'S SAKE!

Anyways, I got in about 2-3 hours later. Somehow found my rental car, and picked up my bike at the last minute from Tribike Transport. They're the best. Try them out, pays for itself.

Funnily enough as I was going to go out for an easy ride from packet pick up, I ran into my good friend Brian Hrynkow. We decided to go for a swim with my homestay host Elizabeth and grab dinner afterwards. 

Saturday: pretty routine, ate my oatmeal, 3 slices of bread, 2 eggs, soymilk, felt like a champ. The cold was still around which kept me pretty uneased. Went for an easy ride and still felt kinda weird. Did cupping therapy on myself and realized I was suffering from heat stress in Austin. hot + humid doesn't go well for a California boy. Check out my aero position though, thanks to Pedro at P fits, I  save some watts and I stay comfortable. 

Should have taken pictures but all my friends that know me know that I like my fried rice. Not just any fried rice. Thai fried rice. I got them pineaaple fried rice at nice Thai joint in Austin, and some dumplings. Some people like pasta, some people like hamburgers, I like my fried rice. I am Asian after all. 

Saturday easy spin

Saturday easy spin

Race day:

Swim: The fog was so bad that they had to cancel the swim. We sat in the swim start area for about 60min before they finally decided to cancel the swim. I had mixed feeling about the cancellation of the swim. It was non-wetsuit legal and that usually hurts me more than it helps. But without the swim, athletes are sent off in 30 second intervals, which complicates things. 30 second might not sound like a lot but it's not exactly like a group ride either. 30 seconds is a ton of time. There were about 34 pros that started, and by the time the 15th guy went off, the first guy is already 7 min down the road. 

It changed the whole dynamic of the race. As you couldn't really work with anybody in the legal draft distance 12 meters. A lot of people like to get all offended that the pros talk about drafting. I just like to clear up some stuff here. Age groupers in theory draft more than the pros. Age groupers get 10m draft distance instead of 12. And most of the time there aren't even enough refs to police the massive group drafting that goes on. Just go on the internet and you'll know what i'm talking about. It's an unfortunate part of the sport as with the number of participants, it's simply impossible to have a single file with everyone being 10-12m apart. I get that. We all have to follow the rules and make the most of it.

Now with the pros "Drafting" legally. When we draft, we are 12 meters apart. We are following the rules. Does that make things easier? hell yeah. probably 12-20 watts. But those people that like to get offended would say "but you shouldn't draft". It's like if on a test the teacher said you can bring a calculator, and everyone else brings a calculator, but you don't because you have some strong moral compass about not "cheating", then that doesnt make a whole lot of sense now does it. We pros follow the rules, and make sure we have a level playing field. Now would I prefer that there was a 20 meter draft zone? hell yea, being a weaker swimmer, it makes my life easier knowing that the pros up front aren't all working together in a group and pulling away for me, pushing less watts than me. 

Anyhow, had to get that off my chest, back to the race

Bike:

Without coming out of the water with a group of athletes to work with, it makes things awkward. As the people you catch are a little too slow to keep up and the people that catch you are too fast. Which is exactly what happened to me. I caught 2 pros 5 min into the bike. After 10 min I was caught by Sam Long, a talented stud from Boulder. I was surprised he caught me so fast as he started about 5 minutes behind. My avg speed for the first 15 min was about 25.8mph. After Sam caught me and I tried to go with him for just 5 min, my average went up to 26.2 mph. HOLY S*IT! after 10 min of trying, I decided to slow down and settle in my own pace. In hindsight, that 15 min of trying to hold on to Sam probably hurt my run, but these are the decisions that I have to learn how to make as I race more and more in the pro circuit. 

Surprisingly, I felt really good throughout the bike. In all previous 70.3s this year, I've always died after 35 miles and not really feel like I can still keep pushing. This race, I felt like I was in control the whole time. It was a good sign.

Run: 
I seriously thought coming off the bike that I'd run a 1:18. But that de-escalated quickly. I went through the first lap in just under 6 min pace feeling alright. But as I went, I kept fading. Not sure if it was the heat and humidity, but other competitors up front looked like sh*t too. (turns out, they looked like sh*t but ran like Kenyans). Like always, I kept pushing as hard as I could and finished with a respectable time of 1:21. 

City of Austin, you need to repave that park. It was like mountain biking for running. 

Most importantly, I made it to the slowtwitch result list for the race! I've gotten top 10s, 2 10 place finishes at Vineman 70.3, 7th place at Lake Stevens, and 9th at Victoria 70.3 this year, and never got a mention. It never hurts to have a tiny bit of publicity.

I couldn't have made this happen without the help of Elizabeth, thanks so much again for letting me stay at your beautiful place.  Hearing how you deal with your adversity with training and balancing life has really inspired me. It was nice to catch up with you again and I look forward to seeing you in IMAZ!

Thanks to my coach Nick for all the wise advice. I know that run is still a little disappointing but I'll keep going after it. 

Thanks to my UCLA friends, Cameron, Dylan, Kyle, and Andrew for helping me out with my stuff and also hanging out with me. It made my weekend that much better. 

Thanks to my sponsors Zoot and my captain Shane for making sure I have all the gears I need on race day. Everyone knows about my famous bike fitter Pedro at P-fits and what he has done for me. Can't thank you enough. Zealios Skincare for providing me 1st class sunscreen. Boom Nutrition with the best gels. And my mom for all the meals. My dad for all the coffee.

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Build up to Ironman Arizona, Balancing New Job

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Build up to Ironman Arizona, Balancing New Job

Fremont is my new hood.

Fremont is my new hood.

I wanted to write a blog about my lead up to Ironman Arizona. Honestly, we never were building up for Arizona. My coach Nick and I decided to supplement Ironman training with Half Ironman training which we believe I still haven't gotten to my full potential. Or maybe I have if you're a hater.

In this build, we used 1 Olympic distance race (SF Alcatraz), 2 70.3 races (IM Santa Cruz 70.3, and IM Austin 70.3). So basically, we had 4 week block build toward SC 70.3, then another 4 week build toward Austin 70.3, and a maybe a 5-10 day block + taper leading into IM Arizona 3 weeks between Austin 70.3 and Arizona.

As I've decided to start my career in engineering, I had to make sure I can still excel, improve and most importantly stay healthy working 40-50 hours a week while training 18-22 hours a week. After 3 weeks of working pretty fast faced, and stressful environment, I can say that I've achieved the goal. What happens down the road with work load at work is yet to be determined, but I've held it together pretty well.

Here's a weekly schedule of what I do to fit everything in

Monday
5:45 am, 1:10 master swim, 3500-4000 yards
7:10 am, 1:05 easy aerobic ride
9-6 (more like 7) work

Tuesday
5:30am, 2:00 trainer bike ride, with about 20-30 min of z4 intervals, 20-30 min z3 effort
7:30am, 20-30min brick run, 5-10min at race pace effort
9-6 (more like 7) work

Wednesday
5:30am, 1:40-2:20 run, 20 miles with intervals, 15-20min at marathon or threshold
9-6 (more like 7) work
8:30pm, 15min tubing, swim strength training

Thursday
7:00am, 1:30 swim, 5000-6000 yards of endurance swimming
9-6 (more like 7) work
6:30pm, 1:00-1:30 of easy aerobic riding

Friday
7:00 am, 1:05 swim, 3500-4000 yards
12pm, 30-45 min easy running
9-6 (more like 7) work

Saturday
9am (I should probably start earlier), 4-5:30 bike ride, 75-122 miles, with lots of intervals usually 30-45 min z4, and 1-2 hour z3

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Whenever I'm off the bike....20-50min brick run, with efforts in there

Sunday
7am, 1-1:15 swim, 3000-4000 yards
9:30am, 1:10-1:20 run, speed threshold interval day, 10-12 miles
Whenever, either rest, or 30-60min of easy spinning to flush out the legs

Weekly training time, 17-23 hours excluding taper weeks
Weekly swim mileage, 12000-16000 yards (3-5.5 hours)
Weekly bike mileage,  130-220 miles (8-12 hours)
Weekly run mileage, 20-46 miles  (3-5 hours)

The biggest thing I've changed is taking my easy work outs easier than easy. Which means my heart rate doesn't go above 130-135 for easy runs (where before I'd hit my limit 144 for z2). My heart rate doesn't go above 110 for easy ride (less than 140 watts, sometimes less than 100 watts, for reference I push about 275-290 watts during a half ironman race, and I weigh about 147 pounds(67kg) when I'm fit). 

The other thing I've changed is, making sure I hit my hard days hard. Meaning my main sets of key work outs, I do them 100% as prescribed. With a full time job i sometimes have to cut things short, but at least I make sure to hit the heart rate instead of trying to "get in the work" without actually hitting those heart rate targets and underperforming. 

The result is pretty telling, as in SC 70.3, I basically matched all my best performances across 3 disciplines. Swam 2nd pack, rode okay, and ran basically 1:21, pretty Yu Hsiao peak fitness run speed. With only 3-4 weeks of minimal training. I've stuck by that, and trusted my coach, trusted my training. Before I'd let my insecurities get to me and I'd do extra, and be chronically overtrained. Which is why I think I've been underperforming in races. Or not, if you're a hater.

As for the job, I think it brought balance and stability to my life. It's no secret that I've struggled to find confidence and self esteem racing against the best guys in the world. I improve by a lot but still come home feeling pretty defeated every time. It's hard to feel happy when your whole life is focused on triathlon and it's a struggle. With a job, kinda takes my mind off of triathlon and I actually enjoy my time training. And it's about time that I put my knowledge to good use. Most of all, having some money takes the stress off.

Not that I don't like tutoring, but ....that's for another blog post. 

So Austin 70.3 next week will be interesting. Hopefully the work will pay off, no flats, stay on my bike, and run my ass off.

Wish me luck.

Until then, traffic sucks. And amen to expressos and lungos.

 

your local struggling pro, Yu signing off.

 

 

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IM Santa Cruz 70.3 Race Report, First Ironman: IMAZ, and I got a job!

So after a long season that started in March, with some good races but mostly average and bad ones, I decided to take a break in the summer for 3 weeks to refresh. When Trical announced they were doing their version of Alcatraz Triathlon at San Francisco I jumped on the opportunity. After 3 weeks completely off, I was pleased with my performance at the race. I survived the choppy swim in the bay, had a great bike, and ran solid with a sprint finish to tie for 5th/6th place. My run pace was on par with the winner, which was pleasantly surprising given I could barely run 6 miles without walk breaks 6 days ago. And lessons learned, I'm a pretty good swimmer comparatively speaking. I should aim straight for the swim exit since the current doesn't affect as much. Darren Mounts from EMJ and I ended up swimming too far left against the current that we ended up having to swim extra. Anyhow I appreciated his company because I was scared shitless jumping off the boat. 

IM Santa Cruz 70.3

I spent the next two weeks just getting the training done. After Alcatraz, I realize I don't have to train that hard .I've always been a meticulous trainer in terms of preparation and almost too meticulous. Would hit the wattages to the dot. Would hit the time duration to the dot. WOuld never miss any session. And I think I was literally chronically overtrained without realizing it. So with adjustments in training made by my coach Ninja Nick (because with his resume, everyone should know who he is as a triathlete in the bay area), I feel much more rested and refreshed, only hitting my hard sessions hard, and doing my easy sessions easy. Sounds stupid right? well, come ride with my on my easy ride and you won't believe how easy I'm going.

And when I had to hang out with a friend or do something with the family, I'd just skip a session if it wasn't key. And if I didn't want to swim 5000 yards, which is always, I just didn't do it. Because honestly I knew it wasn't going to make or break my race. 

And it didn't. Well at least that's what i think

Swim: 27:20
I came out with a pack the size of a first grade class! not the size of a 2 person lab group! It was great. I hung on to the group I was with, with all the familiar faces. There was this one dude that wouldn't stop pushing me out of the way for the pair of feet I was following. And he was losing the draft. So after about 20 times of fighting with him back and forth, I just decided to whack him. So I punched him and swam on top of him. And I had a nice draft all the way back to shore. Sometimes violence is the answer kids.

If you wanna judge me, I won't stop you. But I wasn't losing that draft or the group.

Bike: 2:17:$$
The pace was hot from the beginning as all of us were trying to catch the chase group or the A+ pros up front. I got settled in a group with Chris Baird, Alistair Eeckman. Michael Weiss flew by us like a motorbike with 8 cylinder so we said goodbye to him real fast. I decided to make a surge myself and got to the front. Kenneth Peterson, an uberbiker in his own right came around me and set a blistering pace. I eventually had to let him go which was a fatal mistake that ended my chances of placing high. But with only 4 weeks of training, I wasn't going to take anymore risks. I waited for Chris to come around so we can work together but he ended up dropping out. So I was in no man's land. My favorite place. not.

My legs actually felt pretty good. There wasn't the fade I felt earlier in the year. The 3 week off to refresh and recharge paid off I think. I held good watts all the way back to town.

Run: 1:21:19, one twenty motherf***ing one again
As I began running, I felt like shit. Took me about 3 miles to finally feel comfortable. I was able to catch two dudes which happens less and less these days as no body messes around anymore on the pro circuit. I felt strong all the way til mile 9 when the lack of training was starting to show. Ninja Scott Defillipis came out of no where and passed me with 2 miles to go. That bad man ran a 1:14. And after the race he said he raced like a donkey. Thanks Scotty no offense taken. 

4:10:50 16th place. 
I was disappointed with my performance at first but after looking at the results: a lot of good guys showed up. I had a pretty strong race in my own right, given the amount of prep coming in. It was also just a special race with some many friends racing, and my coach Nick showed up with his family. Thank you coach

Training for IM Arizona, Ironman is no joke and new job

So I got two races left Austin 70.3 ,and Ironman Arizona, and I'm most likely going to stop racing, for ....4-5 months. After 7 years of racing triathlon, and 3 years racing at a high level, I think I need a break mentally. Some of you might have seen the post I posted on Instagram about what triathlon's meant to me: here it is again

Over the last 8 years I've dedicated my whole life to triathlon. It's no secret. Because I loved it so much. I also hated it a lot at times. But I wanted to be great. Nobody forced me to sacrifice anything.
It was a lifestyle I chose. Because I was happy chasing after this moving goal post I had for myself. because I wanted to be like my mentor at @uclatri Brady. I wanted to win races. I wanted to be a pro. And I wanted to be a really fast triathlete. I've put a lot of things outside of triathlon on hold so I can pursue this dream. Maybe I was foolish(very dumb) when I marched full speed ahead doing this triathlon thing for so long. When people ask me to tell them about triathlon, I don't even know where to begin. Getting top 10 at 70.3 races alongside my idols and past Olympians. Running 10 miles under 6 min pace after 50 miles of riding when I'm so tired that all I can think of is pie. When I swam til my arm fell off and finally kept up with ex-collegiate distance swimmers. The time when my dad told me that I won't get top 10 at vineman 70.3 but I did anyways. At the end of the day, wherever I may find myself, I feel most at home on my TT bike, tucked in my aero position. I feel most at home doing repeat 400s in the pool and catching my breath in between sets. I feel most at home alone, out in the woods somewhere running like Forrest Gump, sweating and huffing for air. Some of you will never understand. But maybe you will one day.

Because triathlon has been good to me. It will be good to you.

So after 7 years of every weekend going for a long bike ride, then run. Then sunday backing it up with more training, I think i've had enough triathlon for a while. It's not to say that I won't come back and race but I really need a break. I have had nail infection on my hand for a while now and it's a condition I'd like to get rid of. Also being constantly tired, physically and mentally, with all the exertion, and training, I'd also like a break from that.

So to go out with a bang, I'm going to do an Ironman before I stop. Mostly because I won't be in this good of a shape in the future, and I've already spent 3-4 years doing intense conditioning. 

And Nick keeps telling me that an Ironman is no joke! My initial reaction in my head was nobody said it was. But I know Nick has subtle ways of telling me things without directly telling it to me. Nick's a very indirect coach in that he won't order you to do something. He'll often tell you a side story and let you think about what he's trying to make you do. So him telling me that Ironman is no joke, is probably his way of saying, respect the distance, don't underestimate it. And I admit, initially I did underestimate the demands.

After my long run today, which was 2 hours and 10 minutes, sounds a lot right? well I only ran 17.66 miles. I still have 9 miles to run in the real thing and I didn't even bike today. So going in to Ironman Arizona I don't know what to expect. But I guess that's what everyone feels before their first Ironman and that's why it's so special.

After two years away from the engineering industry I've decided to take on a full time job and start being a responsible adult. I've seen people with full time jobs make it work on the age group circuit as well as the pro circuit so I'm excited for a change and the new challenge. 

 

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Summer Update, Vineman Shaqtin' a Fool, Toughman win, Utah, My friend got married.

This picture sums up Vineman pretty well. A full day of fighting, and not really going anywhere. From my perspective anyways. 

Going into this race, I was mentally and physically prepared as I've ever been. I've had good races here in Vineman 3 years with improving times every year (6min + each year) and this year I wanted to just go under 4 hours. It's been the project for the last year or two and I came very close the last race, at Victoria 70.3, where I was 51 seconds away from breaking the 4 hour barrier.

My swim was probably the best I've felt in month. The bike is there. And the run was also there. I did overdo my training 2 weeks before, but with some rest, lots of massage, lots of elevated legs, I felt very ready to go.

yes, I got hypothermia, im not exaggerating. 
I did my swim warm up routine that worked well last time. Knowing that it was non wetsuit legal. I got in water 5 min before instead of 10 min before. But it was still too along. From the get go, I just couldn't get going. I got dropped right away and was pretty puzzled with how I couldn't push myself. On the way back, expectedly, I was passed by the women's leaders. Adding more insult to the already bad swim. And it was cold. My hands were frozen. I just told myself to keep going.

and just to be clear, the water temp was like 72 degrees, and air temp was 52 degrees. So biking half naked, at 25mph in 52 temp with wind chill is supposedly normal. And we're not allowed wet suits. I'll just leave it at that. Because apparently, that's supposed to be normal.

I wish there was a video of my transition one video. It would have made the nominee or finalist for Shaqtin' a Fool's MVP. For those of you who don't watch TNT basketball. You should check out that segment. It's gold on youtube. 

I could barely unzip my speedsuit and I ended up taking my race suit off as well. So I had to put my race suit back on while my body was wet and it was hard to put it back on. It was a fun mess. 

I was glad I finished. And my mom was there to see me. Definitely a race I don't want to remember. 

The positive from the race? my time is still 4:15, which is 1 minute faster than my time here 3 years ago, first time as a pro. So at least, on a tougher day, with no wetsuit, dealing with frozen hypothermia, I was still better than my 23 year old self. 

And I can't really write how disappointed I was. Because then I'm too emotional, and have no perspective.

But...

What could I have done better?
1. I could have been more aggressive at the swim start. Which is something that I'll do next time. I've never gotten over being kicked and knocked around. But I think it's just in my own head. I do lift some weights, and I am kinda swole. So maybe next time, I'll be much more aggressive, via advice of Dylan.

2. And being more prepared for the cold air temps early on would have been a smart choice. Putting newspaper in my chest, or having a vest, toe cover, gloves, etc. may have helped the issue.

But honestly, I think the hypothermia just took it out of me. 

BUT HEY, LET'S DO ANOTHER ONE SIX DAYS LATER.
So my friend and I decided to go to Utah, to be a tourist. And do this half ironman. Long story short, the swim was canceled due to algae bloom. So no issues of hypothermia. And I won! I got lost a couple times because my dumbass didn't read the course map. And did an extra 0.6 miles on the run. I was ecstatic when I was told that after doing the extra loop, I was still in first. And I kinda just enjoyed myself rest of the way, and enjoyed the rest of the run rather than balls to the walling it.

  But averaged 26.2 mph on the bike, and ran a 1:26-ish without the extra 0.6 miles. A win is a win And ill take it. 3:47 time, with the swim, it would have probably put me at around 4:05-4:00. But the chase for sub 4 continues.

If you're interested in this race and checking out Utah, I highly recommend it, http://www.racetri.com/the-utah-half/

The finisher's medal is like 3 times larger than the first place medal. And they gave me a burger king crown. can you say grass root racing is awesome?

thanks to the race director Aaron for a unique event.

So Ive taken about 3 weeks off completely. What did I do in those times? job hunted, and caught up on the whole Harry Potter Series because I've never seen one. And Attended my college roommates wedding. It was my first friend's wedding that I attended. So that was pretty cool.

But my body has enjoyed this long overdue complete break. I'm completely out of shape and I have a race in 2 weeks, San Francisco triathlon at Alcatraz hosted by Trical. Not sure how that is going to go. But hopefully I can get my ass in shape in the next 14 days somehow.

oh and some pictures from the Utah trip

In closing, I would like to say thank you to Pedro at P-fits who continued support. And Shane from team Zoot as well. I can't say enough about what you've done to help me. thank you. Nick for all the guidance. 

And also, i just want to say, post script. P.S.

i do have fun with triathlon. Your fun might be different from my kind of fun. My kind of fun is pushing limits and getting better everyday. And breaking through my own limits that I mentally put on myself. And competing against the best in the world. That is fun. Just because I bitch about a bad race, and all the hard things about racing pro doesn't mean I don't love it. And to be clear fun to me is not standing on the top of the podium and "winning" races. I race pro because I get to race the best in the world. How many people get that kind of opportunity? There's hard times and tough times that comes with this pursuit. If I don't upset after a really really bad race, then I probably shouldn't be a pro. You don't have to tell me how to live my life differently. Because I never told you how to live yours. 

Here's to being more open minded thank you. Cheers.

Happy summer.

 

 

 

 

 

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Training Camp with Bay Club SF in Wine Country

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Training Camp with Bay Club SF in Wine Country

I've always wanted to check out the Vineman course before the race in the past but never had the chance. Bay Club hosted a 2 days training camp so I thought I'd jump in! They were gracious enough to have me and put up with my odd jokes and comments. 

Saturday: 74 mile ride, 5 mile brick run

The crew:

The ride:
I don't know this course at all! I took the wrong turn so many times. Good thing I always had a decent gut feeling of what felt right and wrong and checked my phone. 

Two of the crew, David and Vlad did the 120 miler. Hats off, Chapeau to them. They're warriors.

I never had the chance to really enjoy the course whenever I raced here because I had level 10 tunnel vision. Guernerville, Healdsburg, and Windsor are amazing. Beautiful back drop and endless roads with no stops and almost no cars. Love it.

The run: Bonk fest

I've been experimenting with fasting, and cutting down calories for certain work outs. Let's just say I miscalculated my dosage and got a huge under-dose of calories. All I could think about was sushi on this run.

Dinner

I guess none of us are foodies with foodie pictures but I regret deeply that I didn't take pictures of the taco we had on Saturday night. They were absolutely delightful. Chris is is the man making it happen. He made the best taco of all time. I'm not a big mexican-food person but I'm a fan now.

Sunday: 1.25 hour swim (4k open water), 51 min bike (16 miles), 1 hour run (10 miles!)

We started out the swim at 10 am. Classic Euro-style

Did not take any pictures here. But had some major loner-training syndrome. Classic LTS. 
Rest of the crew didn't want to swim anything longer which I completely understand. I didn't have a watch or anything and felt like I didn't go anywhere. But I'm glad I swam in the river and enjoyed the nature a little bit. Honestly I was just trying to convince myself it's so nice out there, so many times, that I eventually believed it.

The bike:
It was real nice chill ride. The riding here is amazing.

"Big Knife Coming Through..."
The run: 
While cleaning the kitchen Sunday morning, Chris walked over to put a big knife away and he said "big knife coming through". It was a funny moment and we joked that instead of saying on your left, we should say big knife coming through. 
And I had that stuck in my head during the run. Even though I didn't pass nobody out there, I was in big knife mode. 
I have lost a lot of weight in the last couple of weeks after changing my diet and training routine. I haven't been this light since high school and I think my running legs are back and they've never been better. After 5-6 years of running on 147-152 lb body, my muscles are much stronger, and I retained that strength while propelling a 140-143 pound body. I was pretty hungry and tired but ran the first 20 min at 6:10 pace and didn't push it. I thought this could be good. Did the main set of intervals 8x3min at threshold with 1min rest and ended up the run at 6:05 pace! prolly my fastest run for this distance in a long long time.

The training was amazing. But the people from Bay Club that I trained with were more amazing.

Everyone had pretty great stories, triathlon related, and life in general, and I think all of us learned a lot from each other over the weekend. Jesse wins with his story telling for sure.  

What I got most out of this camp was the positive energy and drive from the group. Though we all train at different levels, have different physical abilities, I felt that all of us all share one thing in common, incredible resilience and mental toughness. 

Emily coming back from a freak-accident in Wildflower, and always smiling and encouraging others

Fiona training through pain this weekend with back troubles from recent injury

Julie having a bit of knee pain, but always having a smile on her face on the bike

Vlad told me a story about his first Ironman last year and how it was so hot the last aid stations on the bike ran out of water. He could barely pedal and made it to T2 not even knowing if he could run. He was under so much heat stress that his fingers on his left hand couldn't move and couldn't tie his shoes. But he told himself to just run 4 miles and see what happens. Long story short, he took it one step at a time and finished. It's incredible.

I'm very inspired and refreshed by the positive vibe and energy of everyone. to that i say,

woop woop!

until next time, 

Yu

 

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Victoria 70.3 Finding myself again

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Victoria 70.3 Finding myself again

So it's been about 7 months since I've written anything and it's mostly because my season has been pretty tough up until this point. I've put in a ton of work during winter for the swim, and bike, and run but burnt myself out a little bit in Feb. Then got sick.

 I started out the season 0-2. with me getting sick 3 times before Oceanside 70.3. And getting sick again before Wildflower Long Course. 

It was pretty much a repeat of last year. First being injured during November, and then being ill the whole winter. I had to build my fitness slowly through May and June.

There were positives to take away from my first two bad races

Oceanside, i had one of my best swims ever despite the officials messing up the start. With a big pack moving forward due to current while the others followed orders to move back before they sounded off the gun without warning. Typical. I might sound like a b****, but that's what blogs are for right? little details that never get talked about

Anyways, I swam a 26:53, which was only 3 minute down from the first leaders. Where I used to be 5-7 minutes down. I'm definitely making progress in the swim.

Wildflower,  let's just say it's a race that i would like to forget. But i went away knowing that I need to learn how to start better during the swim consistently. And i also went away knowing that I need to put in good work and get in good shape.

1. All the work I put in for the swim was worth it. All the strength work, band work, stretch band work, etc. Extra mileage. Form. I just need to execute

2. I need to warm up properly for the swim. Fast twitch muscles need to be turned on.

3. I need to start the swim without getting strangled and stuck behind slower swimmers. Finding the right feet, and making the right decision at the right time is crucial. Also losing a good draft, without fighting for hell fro it, will lose me 2-3 minutes if I dont fight for it at the moment.

4. I need to be lighter to run fast.

For some odd reason, After Wildflower, I became extremely motivated. My mom called me fat after she came back from Taiwan and was like "what have you been eating? you're looking a bit chubby". And also the fact that I got my ass handed to me again at Wildflower was no fun at all. I knew I needed to step everything up to another level.

With the help of my coach Nicholas Thompson from Tridot, we came up with a plan and made numerous changes to my training. We changed my diet. We lengthened our runs and are doing a lot of double runs now to split up the wear and tear. And we make sure I'm having fun. And I have to admit, the last 6 weeks have been the most fun I've had in a long time. 

I swim with an awesome group of ladies and gentleman at Menlo Masters. We put in the work day in and day out. I explored new roads on my road bike. I started running my old cross country trains again. I'm enjoying everyday of training. 

Monte Rio went super well despite the heavy training load leading in. My bike was on, and my running legs were there. I averaged 5:29 for the slightly long 10k run. Without the data, the feelings in my legs told me that I was going in the right direction.

Victoria 70.3

I flew into Victoria Canada on Wednesday, to stay at my friends Carlos' house, a fellow pro on the ITU circuit. I immediately fell in love with the town with quick access to the race venue and a ton of trails, great thai restaurant, and grocery store. The weather was cold but nothing colder than California's rainy spring and winter this year. So I felt right at home. Played a couple of X Box Call of Duty killing zombies was also pretty awesome. I was relaxed and felt good and quietly confident before the race. So I told myself, let the games begin.

Endless trails for running in Victoria.

Endless trails for running in Victoria.

The race:

Swim: 20:09
The swim was cut short due to weeds in the lake. The volunteers did the best they could to drag out as much as possible but we had to swim just over 1.5k. I had a decent start and was able to hang on to the second pack but gradually I lost touch during the last 300m. I kept myself in it, and got to work.

Bike: 2:16:55 24.5mph

The bike was amazingly beautiful but also quite technical with a ton of turns, ups and downs, rollers. I've not been running power meter this year on my bike and it seems to work pretty well. Going off of RPE and heart rate, I paced myself well, catching 4-5 racers before dying a little during mile 40. Luckily, Jonathon Shearon took up the lead and I followed him all the way back into T2. The weight loss the last couple of weeks really helped me going up all the hills. Victoria is anything but flat!

The run: 1:20:56

Right as I got off the bike and took my first 5 steps. I knew I was going to have a good half marathon. I felt strong throughout the first lap. I was caught by Adam O'meara who was absolutely pushing it. I was able to hang with him and we caught Jonathon as well. I started dying during the second lap, and after dropping my drinks at an aid station, Jonathon and Adam put 10 seconds on me and I wasn't able to catch them.

As I began to fade and was in survival mode, I kept fighting. Thoughts of, "this is happening again" crept in. Bonk fest alert. For two years I never had a half marathon run I was proud of. The last one was December of 2013 where I ran a 1:17 at HITS Series Palm Springs. I thought maybe I really just don't have it. But as second loop comes to 3 miles to go. I saw Adam and Derek Garcia, also a fellow competitor not far up ahead. I got a second wind, and passed Derek forcibly, old school cross country style, 10 seconds sprint, to make sure he doesn't latch on to me. I caught Adam at the out and back hill and during the downhill, just ran for my life like I stole something. 

I sprinted down the finishing shoot with a total times of 4:00:51. My best half ironman time ever.  *I know the swim was a bit short, but the run was a little long according to my garmin, so I'm gonna call it a fair race. Either way, I was ecstatic and finally have a breakthrough race. And 51 seconds from breaking 4 hours!!!!

Taylor Reid won the race in 3:49:10, which puts me just 10 minutes + behind him. Not saying I'm proud to be 10 minutes behind, but it's the closest I've come to the winning time at any half ironman(I was 15 minutes behind at my best performance last year) And I was 2.5 minutes outside of the money. I'm just grateful and happy that things are coming together for me and all the hard work hasn't gone to waste.

I'd have to be honest and say that I've thought about quitting racing professional numerous times the last couple of months. For 5-6 races I've been always 15-20 minutes behind the winner and never seem to make any real significant progress forward. There's signs of improvement from training but I was never able to put it together in a race. Triathlon is really really freaking hard. And Victoria at least, extended my expiration date by another year. 

I realize that I was caught up in things that don't matter.  I was comparing myself to other competitors. Comparing my results. Comparing my age and their results during the same age. All this comparing made me feel very down and just unhappy everyday. I realize most of it was just myself, my self doubt, my pride, keep feeding me with negative thoughts "maybe you're just not good enough", "you should probably get a real job and focus on that".  I was taking myself too seriously.

I was also scared of my health. I've never been sick back to back to back 3 times. And then a 4th time. within 2 months. I was worried that maybe my body was just empty and had nothing else left to give. You hear horror stories of athletes never being able to come back to where they were. And I was really afraid that I might not have it anymore.

I began to just let it all go, and say look, I'm lucky to be doing this. I have great sponsors, Zoot that provides me with everything I need for racing, from wetsuits to racing flats to aero racing kits. I got Boom! Nutrition who has the best gels in the business. I got my family supporting me and my mom cooking me great meals, accommodating my weird diet. I got my dad. No matter where he is, what time zone he's in, always giving me a text of good luck before my race. I'm healthy, and still improving. I have seen friends and competitors who are injured, or have health problems that impede their triathlon career. I'm extremely fortunate to be doing what I love with all the support I have. 

So whatever happens in the next couple of months, whatever results, if you see me out there, remind me why I'm doing this. I'm doing this because it's my passion. It's my dream. I'm out here because this is fun. Slap me in the face if you need to. Because honestly, that's what all of us are doing this for. It's not for the finishers medal. It's not for the prize money. It's not for the sponsorships. It's not for the t shirt. It's not for the socks. We're out here because we are crazy, and we love doing triathlons, and it's fun. This is how we play. This is how we do it. So Relish every moment. Like my mentor Brady says, every moment is like a lemon, and "squeeze the living shit out of it" and enjoy every moment, because you never know if it's going to be taken away from you.

If you've made it this far, thank you for reading. And hope you've enjoyed my race report. And hopefully you have fun out there as much as I do! 

happy training and racing!

I couldn't have done this without my coach Nicholas Thompson. From day one he believed in me and never lost faith. Always willing to look for solutions and always willing to talk to me whenever I need a chat. thank you! let's keep working!

I have to thank Team Zoot! Shane, Jim, and Duncan have gone above and beyond to help me out, and promote me with Zoot. I really appreciate what you guys do for me! 

My sponsors, Zoot, (amazing wetsuit, race suit, and running shoes) 
Boom! Nutrition gel that doesn't bonk
Zealios skin care, sunscreen made for athletes
Pedro at P-Fits for dialing in my fit

Carlos for showing me Victoria
Ed for your hospitality
Chris Bowen, for giving me a lift, and chat about England! good job on the 15min PR you rocked it.

My mom, sister, and my dad for putting up with me. 

Yu

 

 

 

 

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Final Blog Post of 2015, Silverman 70.3, Austin 70.3, the good and bad

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Final Blog Post of 2015, Silverman 70.3, Austin 70.3, the good and bad

I want to start off by saying, I'm bummed that I couldn't end 2015 with a bang, but at least I ran my fastest half marathon in a long time. 1:19:21. That's 6:03 pace folks! Crazy

I got a flat tire at Austin 70.3, sat on the side of the road for 20min  before a fellow competitor, Jean-Philipe gave me his front wheel so I can continue. He had to wait on the side of the road for 3 hours before someone handed him a flat kit so he can repair MY flat and ride back to the transition. I went on to run my best half marathon of the year.

And not sure if I'm more mature in dealing with disappointments and flat tires, or just getting used to having a lot of average/bad races, I feel super upbeat and just happy about this year. If I was 21 years old I might be pissed off that I got a flat tire, and couldn't pull off the race that I have been hoping for the whole year.

But let's back up. Silverman 70.3, the good and bad
Silverman 70.3 was a pretty good race for me, but not the best race. I did my "Best" through out the race but after the race, I just didn't feel happy or satisfied. I felt like though I tried my best, and collapsed at the finish, there was something in my head that just wasn't right.

I felt like I ran scared. I biked scared, and I swam scared. The swim was the choppiest swim I've ever been in, and talking to fellow pros, it was pretty hard. I was in survival mode. So I had a fairly good reason to say I swam scared lol.

The bike, was super windy, and I almost got knocked off the bike several times. After being knocked out of my mind in the swim by the chops, the bike was a similar affair. It was quite hard just to ride in a straight line at times, and entering into some of the gullies, the the gusts of wind were just insane.  But I soldiered on like usual. I know this is TMI, but I peed on the bike for the first time!! 

Now the run. I have no excuse. During the run, I just didn't feel like myself. And frankly, it felt like all the half marathon runs I've done in the past 6-7 races. I didn't run with guts like I used to. I was looking at my GPS watch half the time. I was looking up the road at turn-arounds counting my placing. I was thinking about how I can't catch the front group. I was thinking about how all these guys are better runners than me. And I wasn't thinking about the one thing that mattered the most, just run. 

My coach and I had a talk after the race. And Nick mentioned a treadmill test that he'd done where they didn't allow him to monitor his pace, distance, or effort. He had to run blind on a treadmill. He ended up running 5:30(or something absurd) for 50 minutes. Something that he probably didn't think he could do. It was proof that when you don't put limitations on your run, and run pure, you will run really freaking fast. I realized that I haven't been able to get into my "suffer zen" state during my half marathon runs. I was thinking about all these things that didn't really matter, and only made me slower. 

I always thought that people talked about it's all mental. I thought that was a bunch of crap. If you physically can't do something, you just can't do it. But I was wrong. I found a research article on competitor.com saying if you don't embrace the pain of an effort, the effort will feel much harder than it actually is. That's exactly what I was doing at all my races. Every race I would go into it thinking that I've tapered, and I'm fit, so the effort should feel "easy". That mind set led my body to self-preservation mode and it would make my efforts feel much harder then they really are. 6:11 feels like 5:55. And that's why I've only been running 1:21s. 

I spent the lead up to Austin 70.3 not looking at my watch and just tuning in to my zen state so I can just run. And the results were pretty astounding.  Most my training runs just went up a level. Finally getting to the point where I felt comfortable with my run. I had a long run in Los Gatos Creek Trail where I averaged 6:18 over 14+ miles. It was probably my fastest long run ever. 

Flying into Austin, I felt very confident. Everything felt great. I had dialed in my travel routine, wearing sweat pants instead of jeans. Wearing tennis shoes instead of flip flops. Overall just trying to relax as much as possible, not spending any extra mental energy. Staying calm to conserve energy. I was very fortunate to have a homestay in Austin at Elizabeth's place. She was a triathlete herself so it was fun to hear about her experiences and her aspirations to complete an ironman. I settled in nicely at her place and also got to know Austin bit by bit the days leading up to the race. BTW, Wholefoods at austin is absolutely amazing. I wonder why? maybe it started in Austin? 

Race day: 
Swim: I really need to work on my top end speed. I just don't have the explosiveness in the very beginning to go with these guys and get in a pack. Usually the pack slows down. But by the time it slows down, im long gone.

Bike: Flat city. Coming into Austin, I kept hearing how rough the roads are. I reconned part of the course but not the whole course (big mistake). At mile 33 maybe, there was a section that was completely washed out. I took it slow out of my aerobars and the next thing I knew I heard, psst, psst, psst, psst. 

I quickly tried to fix my front wheel with vittoria pitstop. It didn't work. I lost count, but probably 10-20 athletes passed me, and I decided to just keep on running with my bike. I kept looking at the sky and just said there's nothing I can do. After 5-10 or so minutes. I didnt even want to look at my garmin anymore. I bumped into another pro Jean whose aerobar had broken off. We chatted a bit. I asked him, when the tech guys come, will they give me a front wheel, or are they going to change my flat? And he just said, you have a flat? you want my front wheel?

So I took it, thanked him and just rode. I got off bike feeling really tired but somewhat excited to run. I told myself "let's just see what we can do". So I just ran. I had a watch but I didn't start it so I wouldn't know my splits or pace. It was demoralizing seeing how far ahead the leaders were. Also the fact that I had to pass all the lead women one by one. But I just ignored all that negativity. And just ran as hard as I could. Things began to sting a lot by the start of the second lap (total of 3 laps). And I kind of just said screw it, and I ran at the same pace. I didn't back down. There were moments were I was sure I would fall over if I went any faster. I just kept myself on that limit and kept going. Drank coke at every aid station (thankfully there were many). It was so painful but I just got into the zone and got comfortable with the discomfort. 

I crossed the line. Everyone congratulating me. I didn't feel there was anything to celebrate or be congratulated. I was pretty pissed. They had beer at the refreshments and I drank them. You know, end of the season. I somehow made it back to T2 and checked some text. My dad was in Asia, and had been staying up all night tracking me online. He wrote "1:19:21! great run!" another text from a dear friend, Yau, said the same thing. I was pretty happy about that. I finally broke 1:20 after 2 years of trying!

Cool View of Austin City

Cool View of Austin City

Graffiti Park

Graffiti Park

I had quite a lot of time to visit Austin. It's definitely a very hip and cool city. Right after the race, my off season started. So first thing I got was a hamburger with sweet potato fries. Then ice cream. I thoroughly enjoyed myself before heading home. 

I learned a lot this year, I usually like sharing what I learned so here's a list
1. Drive the  bike course. And bring flat kits. ALWAYS. Traveling and training for races, and signing up for races cost a lot of money. Don't let a flat ruin your day. Oh, and VITTORIA PITSTOP DOESN'T WORK!

2. Travel in comfortable clothes and shoes. Wear super lose clothing and relax as much as possible. If you can sit, sit. If you can lay down lay down. If you have to stand up, make sure you're not carrying any weight.

3. Always expect something to go wrong. Be mellow about things. Such as delays, and rental car company taking forever. Don't let any of that waste your mental and physical energy.

4. All liquid nutrition is the way to go if you race at a high intensity. My heart rate basically averages out at my threshold heart rate throughout the race, (or just below) and there ain't that much blood volume for your gut. Solid food and no blood don't go together. So I've switched to purely liquid fuel, with a ton more hydration. I drink twice as much h2o as I do now compared to last year. 

5. Laying down  for 8 hours, even if you're not asleep, helps the day before a race.

6. As a pro, if I can't swim 60 second 100s, then I basically can't make the packs that form in swimming and I basically can't get a draft. Something that I have to work on in the off season.

7. Running without a watch for me, makes me faster. Suffering takes a lot of mental energy to focus. Watching the pace, distance, and duration, is just extra distraction for me.

8. Daily nutrition makes a huge difference in the long run. Having proper vitamins, immune support, and protein intake (100g for 150 lb athlete a day) are vital. 

9. Investing in massage, and physical therapy is absolutely worth it.

10. Never give up hope. If I hadn't kept running with my bike after my failed flat fix attempt. I would have been stuck on the road for 3 hours and never been able to even finish or find out about my run fitness. I was lucky to bump into Jean-Philipe and he gave me his front wheel, which was a total act of kindness and class. Thank you Jean!

That's about it. This post took about 3 weeks to write. Thanks for reading. Thanks to my sponsors Bizlink Tech and Accell. And P-fits. Tribike transport for hassle free bike transportation. Thanks to my homestay hosts, Doug and Stephanie, and Elizabeth. Learned so much from each one of you. Wish you guys the best next season. Thanks to my mom, and dad, and sister for putting up with me. Lastly I would like to thank my coach Nick Thompson for his guidance throughout the last 5 months and helping me grow during this process. I've learned and grown a lot and looking forward to us tackling next year together. Cheers!

Compared to 12 months ago I feel really happy with where I'm at. I'm not injured. I feel pretty healthy and I'm happy with my season. And I look forward to next season. It's a good sign. I'm extremely thankful, which is appropriate because tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

Happy offseason, see you in 2016.

Yu





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Timberman 70.3, and Finding Inspiration in NYC

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Timberman 70.3, and Finding Inspiration in NYC

I would be lying if I said I'm not disappointed with Timberman 70.3, I'm disappointed but I'm not terribly upset. I think for any triathlete in the business, if you've been around for more than 5 years, you know that you have more a lot of ok/bad races than good races. I have some friends that travel across the country just to get a mechanical issue on their bike. And It's even rarer that you have a "great" race. So I wasn't too down when I finished. I was just unsatisfied because I've put a lot of work in the last 9 months to hopefully have the break out race I was looking for. 

But at the end of the day, you can only keep your chin high, and look to do better at the next race. 

SWIM: 29:40 :[

I was hoping to swim at least a 27-28 but 29:40 isn't too terrible for my first non-wet suit swim ever. I lined up behind some second pack swimmers and swam the first 400m as fast as I can. I latched on to a draft and realized the swimmer ahead of me if the only swimmer ahead of me. We've lost the pack. I swam back to shore as best as I can. 

BIKE: 2:12:50

10 minutes into the bike I knew something was wrong. The weather was really warm and humid that day and I could feel it already 10 min in. I've suffered a lot from heat sickness before so I know the feeling. I noticed my power was 5-10 watts lower than at Vineman and just decided to go by feel. I caught up to a group of riders by mile 12 and it was a long downhill. The group wasn't making up any grounds to the athletes up front so I decided to move to the front and see if anyone comes. No one came...

I knew the rest of the bike ride was going to be lonely like a lot of bike rides from last year. I soldiered on, keeping my efforts steady, and managing the sufferfest in the heat, drinking extra fluids, etc. Rolled into transition ready to run my hearts out.

RUN: 1:25:29 (btw, course was long by 0.2miles, and major sad face)

I feel pretty good the first half of first of two laps. I held 6 minutes pace all the way til the turn around when things began to unwind. It wasn't really bonking, or fatigue. I just didn't have it. It was just hard to suffer and stay in that pain cave. It was damage control til the finish so I did the best I could, even managing to pass net 2 pros (passed 3, got passed by 1). 

It was just really hot. I tried drinking coke, water, gatorade, gels, nothing really worked. It was a depressing 2-3 miles mid race thinking that my race is basically over. But I hung in there to finish in a decent time of 4:10:43. Basically as fast as my best 70.3 time from last year. 

After dissecting what could have gone wrong, my coach Nick and I pointed to a couple of things: fatigue/stress of traveling, time zone, humidity, and mainly dehydration. Not to make a bunch of excuses, but from the last couple races including last year, we've seen a continuing trend of great 3-4 miles of running at 6 min or even sub 6 min per mile pace, before a steady linear decline and sometimes even worse like this race. with the heart rate slowly rising even though the effort is the same (or less). At Vineman a month ago where I had the best race of my life, there was still a decline from 5:55 to 6:20s by the end of the race. We're thinking that I'm probably dehydrated starting the run, and after running 20-30 min, the body is even more dehydrated

I also realize that I've been doing less mileage after my knee injury from last year. But even last year when I was doing more mileage I've observed the same thing.  I've also run a lot less hills due to fear of reinjuring my IT band again. The next 8 weeks we're going to experiment more and try to fix the problems. 

Also, here's some notes more for myself for the next race:
1. Bring more clifbars and food like bagels, nuts, and granola with you at all times. And don't be afraid to eat them. Since I tapered a lot for this race, I was afraid of over consuming calories. But in hindsight I should have kept my glycogen stores steady and not have long bouts where I have no real access to food because of logistics and hectic traveling schedule.

2. Don't overpack your carry ons. My dumbass realized that my backpack was really heavy on the way home when I was REALLY tired. Next time I'm only bringing my laptop, and essentials so I don't have to log around 20 pounds worth of stuff. Probably going to invest in a bigger suitcase.

3. If you're not flying southwest, and have assigned seats, wait until everyone has boarded, and the last possible moment to get on the plane. The tunnel down to the plane has a line. And that line takes forever. You can't control the line in the TSA security, but you CAN control this one. Sit down, relax as much as possible before you gotta do in to the plane. Go as far as being the last person to sit down so you can stand minimally on your feet. I've yet to figure out what to do with Southwest's seating system so I'm gonna raincheck on that.

That concludes my Timberman blog. Would like to thank:
Casandra and Juli for cheering me on in a foreign city! and taking great pictures. I really enjoyed your company

Bizlink Tech and Accell for sponsoring me. Traveling is expensive, and thanks to these two great companies I'm able to do what I love.

Nicholas from Tridot for guiding me the past 8 weeks!

My family. My Mama's cooking beats wholefoods

Wholefoods for lunch. those spring rolls and chicken...that place is alive.

P-fits for the adjustment. Super aero. Super comfy.

*Visting New York City*

I visited New York City after my race to see my roommates and buddy from college Alec, and also Ginny. It was great seeing good friends in an iconic city.

I had great time hanging out with Alec, also jammed a bit in the NYU med school music room! It was good old times like in college when we used to jam together as a band. And saw a live show with Husky playing. 

I really needed a break from training, working, and just everything. Seeing the live show and hanging out with Alec, weirdly really inspired me more to pursue my dreams in triathlon. Most of the bands that play nightly in small lounges are very little known and independent. They don't have the most beautiful voices, or evolutionary sound. They're just doing it. Rocking it. Doing what they love. Jammin'.  Even though there were only 10-15 people watching them, those bands would still jam out like there were thousands of people. Maybe one day they will play in front of thousands of people. And maybe one day I will be at the more pointy end of a triathlon. 

For now, it's back to training and working in September. I will be racing Silverman 70.3 in Oct 4th and Austin 70.3 on Nov 8th. 

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Vineman 70.3, '15: Personal Best 4:03:43, Repeat 10th place in crazy competitive field!

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Vineman 70.3, '15: Personal Best 4:03:43, Repeat 10th place in crazy competitive field!

STOKED! that's all I can say about last Sunday. Coming into this race, the pro start list was so stacked that I thought placing anywhere 15th would be a good day. Sometimes pros sign up but don't show up because of various reasons and at the Pro meeting is where you get to see who showed up to the party. As far as I could tell, no one wanted to be a square (be there or be square), and everybody showed up! 

I came into this race having done a heavy block of work right after Boulder 70.3. I also started working with Nicholas Thompson from Tridot. Nicholas was someone that I looked up to when I was in college, a local legend, and a consistent top 10 guy on the 70.3 circuit over the last 5 years. Nick has been instrumental in tweaking my training and my mentality of the last couple of weeks to be ready for Vineman 70.3. Combined with Tridot's science based training program, I really felt I did the right amount of intensity, and felt amazing days before the race. Though always nervous because of the competition, I had a quiet confidence that kept me calm. I was actually excited to start the race and see what I can do. 

SWIM: 26:57 (40 SECOND IMPROVEMENT!)
I had a plan of swimming with my buddy Dylan from UCLA. He's a strong swimmer and I knew he was going to swim in the low 26s. I started next to him but he was like a torpedo at the start. He pulled away from me and I never got a taste of his draft. As the first and second group got away from me, I knew I was stuck in a group that would probably end up swimming 27s high. I sighted ahead and saw a group of 4-5 guys in front. That was the train I needed to get on, and I told myself, I need to swim as hard as I can before that train leaves my "Drafting station" forever. So I booked it like crazy. I focused on my breathing, exhaling and not holding my breath underwater, and really focus on catching the water with my high elbows and pulling through. After about 2-3 minutes of hard work, I latched on to the back of the wagon and hitched a ride. This group was a bit sporadic as they would drift left and right, and surge and slow. I almost lost the draft a couple times, but managed to hang on with surges of my own. All the work I've been doing in the pool with Tim Sheeper and tubing work have paid off I told myself. I'm able to respond to these surges and stay with the group.

On the way back, the group dramatically slowed and was still surging left and right. I didn't want to risk attempting overtaking the group because sometimes I end up losing ground on the group b/c of lack of draft. So I told myself to just be patient and stay with the group. We got out of the water and I realized I was in good company, with Chris Baird who's a killer on the bike and even more deadly on the run (He has the run course record 1:11). I knew I had to hang on to Chris Baird if I want to have any shot at placing in the top 15. 

BIKE 2:11:05 (4 min + improvement from last year)
Chris set a blistering pace right out of the gate and luckily I was able to stay with him. As my heart rate came down to 157-158, and my power was around 270s-280s, I knew I was in good shape. I told myself to be patient and not push hard until half way, 1:20 into the bike.  We caught a ton of guys, and ended up forming a group of 6-7 guys, including Olympian Matt Reed and my friend Dylan. 

It was maybe the dynamics of the group, but there was a lot of surging in group riding. Because it's hard to keep the 12m draft legal distance consistent with changes in grades, (usually the rider in front of you will come closer to you when he hits a hill, and you have to slow down, and then speed up again). I kept things in control as much as I can and kept my heart rate low.

After the second aid station, at the time it was Chris leading the group, with Dylan, me, and Matt Reed. Normally this is where I fade in the past but I was feeling good this time around. We also weren't catching anymore guys up front. I thought if we're gonna have any chance in the front coming off for the run I gotta do something even if it fails. It was time to make a move. I surged and started pushing hard for a good 10 min. I passed Chris and went to the front of the group and drilled it. Only Chris was able to come with me, and we took turns in the front a couple times. We rode hard back into town and finished in 2:11s, my fastest 70.3 bike ride ever on a challenging course.

RUN: 1:21:20 (10 SECOND IMPROVEMENT)
The run wasn't as dramatic as the bike. I ran alone for the whole 13.1 miles, only passing Luke Bell who was having a bad day. The first 4 miles I was running 5:55s per mile and was feeling awesome. But as the rollers came my pace slowed to 6:00 flat, then to 6:05, then 6:09 progressively. However For the first time in about a year and a half, I feel like my half ironman marathon legs are back. I didn't feel like I was going to pass out or fall over. Though I faded toward the end, I still felt like I was in control. I was just loving it on the run. Until I saw Matt Reed at the mile 8 turn around and almost shat my pants. Matt Reed ran a ninja 1:15 at Wildflower and for the whole run, he doesn't mess around. I was scared that he was gonna roar past me. But I picked up my pace, held my form, and ran like a I stole something all the way back into town. A lady on the side of the road was kind enough to say "You're looking strong! no one in sight". Only then I was able to relax and cruise back into Windsor high school at the finish.

Not sure what that is. 

Not sure what that is. 

As I approached the finish line, I knew I was gonna PR with the time on the clock. I was so happy. I couldn't help but think about all the tough times I've been through the last 12 months, and how lucky I am to place 10th again and have a good race. I took in the moment as much as I can before I came crashing down from my failed gymnastic move shown above. 

FINISH 4:03:43, 70.3 PR

There have been more tough times in the past 12 months than good times for sure. There have been times when I literally got off my bike, unclipped, and threw it into the bushes on the side of the road because I was feeling so bad and so down. I've been told to "just race as an age grouper because you ain't making any money being a pro, there's no point". There was November and December where I couldn't run more than 200m without pain in my IT band. There was that DNF at Oceanside when I was flu-ridden. Every other weekend I was tempted to quit and not commit myself to compete at such a high level. But they always say in endurance sports, you win once and maybe lose 100 times to get that one win, and it's true. On last Sunday, I felt truly happy and just glad I stuck with it all these months. I didn't win Vineman 70.3 2015, but it was a victory for me to get 10th again this year in a deeper, world-caliber field. So I'll take it.

I know I didn't make any money at this race. I probably won't make any money this year. But I'm chasing my  dream and money isn't everything to me. If I do the right thing, train right, eat right, recover right and compete with the best in the world, the results will come, and the money will come. I'm not in the sport for money. I'm in the sport to race and compete with the best professional triathletes in the world. That's why I signed up to be a pro.

The support from the friends and family have been incredible. Thanks to everyone who's dropped a message the last couple of months. I really appreciate it.

-Shout out to Loc Le from SF State University Tri Club who showed me around transition and gave me very kind and encouraging words. I admire and respect his enthusiasm for triathlon, and SF bay area's triathlon community is lucky to have him around for sure. Also shout out to Courtney who had a great race with a 1 hour + PR, amazing!

-Shout out to Yau, for always checking up on how i'm doing through the last couple of tough months. Really appreciate it and great job on the race! 

-Shout out to my homestay host Kurt: i really appreciate you letting me stay at the comfort of your home!

-Shout out to my UCLA alumni teammates Liz, Dylan, Ella, and Emma, it was fun racing and hanging out with you guys! 

-Shout out to Pedro at p-fits.com for your bike fit. I can't say enough about that fit. You have a big piece in shaving 4 minutes off my bike time!

-Shout out to my sponsors, Bizlink Tech, Accell Cables, Polar, Wattie Ink, and Tridot 

-Shout out to my coach Nicholas Thompson- your guidance and advice have been so valuable. I appreciate you believing in me. Upwards and onwards!

-Shout out to my dad- he left a message right before my swim start. Though I didn't get it in time, it meant a lot to me post race, knowing that he's on the other side of the world and still paying attention to my race. thank you dad! My mom and sister as well, for their constant support. Mom's cooking is always better than my own cooking that's for sure. 

 

Great job to everyone who raced. I have Timberman 70.3 in a month in New Hampshire. hashtag #eastcoast 

happy racing, and thanks for reading!

 

 

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Personal Best! 4:04:03 Ironman Boulder 70.3

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Personal Best! 4:04:03 Ironman Boulder 70.3

I got into Boulder on Wednesday afternoon. I was very anxious about the altitude because that's what everyone talked about. Basically 3 weeks leading up to the race, anybody that knows triathlon I talked to, told me that it's gonna suck. While there were some people said that it wasn't going to too bad.

So being a trained engineer, I did a bunch of research and here were what I knew going in:

-aerobic power will drop by 9%. (aerobic power will be 3% lower compared to those who live there)
-air density is lower, so as speed pick up, the gain in speed is greater.

The 2 extra days that I spent in Boulder really helped as I knew what to expect and also things weren't as bad as people said. My bike and run weren't affected that much. But my swim, oh boy, I had to take a break after 100 yards. Seriously. Going into the race, my plan was to limit my damage on the swim and not start out too fast that would mess me up for the rest of the day. Bike negative splits ideally, and run like Forrest Gump but breathing really hard. 

SWIM: 28:42
I was kinda happy that I didn't swim a 30 minute 1.2 miler because that's like my worst fear lol. I also wasn't too happy with the swim because I may have picked the wrong group to swim with. I knew a couple guys that I was gonna key off during the swim and during the last minute, for whatever reason the pro men split in to two packs. One on the very left and one on the very right. I, like many other pros, I followed like sheep and went to the one on the far right. I was so fixated on keying off the guys that I should draft off of that I did not realize that all the heavy hitters were in the left pack...which ended up all swimming 24s and 25.s 

As we got 400m into the race,  I realized that we were probably swimming too slowly. So I made a surge to get past the group I was with. Once past, I realized that I was going to be in no man's land for the whole day. The whole swim I tried to catch another ronery (lonely) swimmer ahead of me but we were literally swimming the same speed the whole time. So two kinda cringy moments right here:

1. To the lonely man: bro, if you just slowed down a bit, and we could have worked together, we would have swum 30 seconds faster man. We can both get a beer afterwards. Think about the possibilities...

2. To myself and that right pack on the swim: if we stayed together as a pack to the top swimmers, there won't be a huge split between the 24-25s and then 27-28 swimmers. and the second group wouldn't be as slow. We won't be barbecue chicken..no body wants to be BBQ chicken. 

Cool thing about having Polar's V800 watch is I can check out my effort during the swim. As you can see, I was very conservative in my pacing, my heart rate started off at 156 bpm(????? it should have been at 170+) and my highest heart rate was 168 bpm toward the end. I think I made the right overall decision to back off during the swim, since it's my first time racing at altitude not being acclimatized. But had I gone a bit harder, I may have gotten in the 27s and save a minute.

BIKE: 2:09:49, that bike course is fast.

After the swim, I quickly got on my bike after a smooth transition, and instantly felt good. It wasn't long before Matthew Russell, a top American cycled past me like a motor bike. His pace was way too strong.  Normally I would BBQ chicken myself and go with him but decided to hold back and go at my own pace, applying lessons learned from previous races of me fading toward the end of the long 56 mile bike leg. Two more cyclist came through and their pace wasn't as bad so I decided to try to stick with them. I stuck with them for about 10 miles but their pace was just a tad too strong again. I fell back and started holding my own pace again. The bike course was really beautiful and I really enjoyed myself out there. Before the race my friend Bryan just told me to enjoy myself because that's why I got in the sport in the first place. 

I had around 10 minutes of "fade" during the 75min mark but stayed calm and got in my grubs (clifbars and gels) and the power  came back about 5 min later and I was able to push all the way til the run. I was able to catch a couple dudes toward the end and was half excited and half petrified to run.

RUN: 1:22:50, getting back on track with my half ironman run shape.

I know I've mentioned it before, but I haven't had a good, or even decent half ironman run since Lake Stevens 70.3. That run I actually bonked in the middle and ended up running a 1:22. So coming into this race, with the extra stress of everyone telling me how much it's going to suck at Altitude, I wasn't particularly not-sh*tting my pants about the run. But I marched on, and got in a good rhythm. I was able to pass two dudes in the first 3 miles of the first of two 6 mile loops. The rest of a mix of pain, lack of oxygen, trying to save enough energy to yell for coke and water at aid stations, and passing 2 more dudes toward the end. I was able to hold on during the second lap, fading a bit, to complete the whole race in 4:04:03. My best Half Ironman time.

One funny thing about running at altitude is the discrepancy in how you're feeling and what you're actually doing. The run started off fine, my heart rate was 156s, and my pace was 6:10s. But as you can see from the chart, toward the end my pace dropped to 6:30s, and even 7:00s, and my heart rate climbed all the way to 168 toward the end. A complete dis-coupling. 

Though my result wasn't that impressive in a stacked field (pro and amateur alike), I placed 12th in the pros, and got beat by three age groupers, one of whom was the collegiate national champ back when I was racing. Honestly for myself, I think it's a great result and I can build on it for the rest of the season. I was at a disadvantage racing against the best guys in the world who all lives in Boulder, and I held my own pretty well. So I'm stoked. What did I do to celebrate? I watched Jurassic World by myself! it was a great movie.

I would like to thank my big main sponsors, Bizlink Technology and Accell. As you all know, triathlon is an expensive sport, and this trip wouldn't have been possible without my sponsors' help. P-fits, and Pedro for the bike fit, what can I say, I feel so comfortable in the aero position that I PRed! 2:09:49 baby! Polar as always for the heart rate and great watch. Wattie Ink for the great kit. Enduropacks for the support, your supplements keep me healthy!

I would also like to thank Keith, for coaching me in the past 12 months. I've learned a lot under you and this result wouldn't have been possible without your help. 

I would like to thank my Air BnB host Jeremy, your cat Max was very friendly. I never liked cats until I met Max so it was fun staying at your place!.

My mom and dad, and sister for their unconditional support. They texted me right after the race and were like "You PRed!! 4:04 fastest time ever!"

Nicholas Thompson, for helping me out before the race, and letting me know that there's nothing wrong with what I'm doing pursuing my dream in this sport. Really appreciate it and looking forward to working with you and Tridot!

My next race in Vineman 70.3, so see you all there!

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Vineman Monte Rio Olympic Triathlon Recap. First win in a long time!

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Vineman Monte Rio Olympic Triathlon Recap. First win in a long time!

I haven't won a race in one and a half years. Last race I won the overall was HITS Series Palm Springs Half where I set the course record. I got third in Monte Rio last year and I came in this year really wanting to win. Though this race isn't a major event that attracts deep competition, being able to win is still a important step, no matter how small, toward building my confidence and ability to go into bigger races to execute what I want to do. Like I've mentioned in my previous blogs, I haven't had a good race since August of last year, having struggled with illness and injury for over 6 months. So to the outside looking in, this race may not be a big deal at all, but for me I really needed to do well here. A win was a cherry on top. 

IMG_0706.JPG

 

I stayed at a beautiful organic farm with Meredith, Tahra who both are old teammates from PacWest Athletics and Dana and Ben. They were kind enough for me to squeeze in with them last minute. But the stay was so beautiful, hidden in a lonely road of Guerneville. It was a organic farm with a big pond filled with ducks running around. It was a nice change from the usual motel 6 that I roll with. It was also nice to chat with everyone which helped me stay relaxed.

SWIM:

I wasn't sure who was a good person to draft off of. I certainly didn't think I could keep up with Eric Clarkson who started next to me. But I gave it a shot? And it didn't work. He said see ya pretty fast along with 3 other shark-like swimmers. So I did the usual tornado chaos at the start, got in a good position, settled in my pace, suffered a bit. I ended up swimming with Kurt Holt and Nate Dressel for a while and formed a second pack. When the first shallow section came we had to stand up to run, and skip through the water. I was so tired that I lost my position in the front and I lost some more yardage on Nate and Kurt. But I just continued to find my rhythm and was able to keep them in sight. Another shallow section came around and I stood up and my legs were awake this time. I was able to run well and somehow got away from the other two. I proceeded to do dolphin dives for the next 200m and actually caught up to 4th place swimmer. I did a horrible job swimming in a straight line but got out of the water in 21:17. All the work with technique and quality mileage(17,000-21,000 a week) with Tim Sheeper at Menlo Swim are paying off. I can feel I'm moving through the water with more ease. If I did a better job with sighting and swimming in a straight line I could have done better. But a 50 second PR on this course (assuming its the same distance) is a great indicator nonethless. 
 

BIKE 58:47: I remember last year my legs were really bad from all the running from swimming in the shallow water that I didn't find my bike legs til half way through. Luckily this time I felt good right away but kept myself patient and kept my power/heart rate down. I let my heart rate dropped from 167 out T1 to 156s during the first half of the bike. I was hoping to catch Eric and Ted (who were hammering it up front) by half way but realized that wasn't going to happen. So I steadily upped my power expecting to catch them any moment. But reality hit me that I may not catch them at all. I kept myself patient and didn't let my power go above 320 watts for any extended period of time. At the turn around I saw Eric and Ted being pretty close to me and was relieved. Though after the turn around I still couldn't see them. At this point, I felt rushed and decided to just hammer it. I held around 290-300 the whole way back, keeping my new aero position in check, tucking my chest down, and keeping my head low looking forward. I realized I look down a lot and the aero helmet isn't most efficient when I'm looking down like this: 

ERR, STOP LOOKING AT YOUR WATTS BROTHA

ERR, STOP LOOKING AT YOUR WATTS BROTHA

I've been much better with that so it helped me save a couple of seconds. I miraculously caught Ted and Eric just before the transition. I passed Ted and was able to slot between him and Eric right before the dismount line. It was pretty lucky timing. I got off the bike feeling good and ready to duke it out with Eric on the run. 

RUN 34:27
Eric set a blistering pace on the run. I barely made up any ground on him on the first mile but he seemed to be getting bigger in my vision slowly as two mile mark approached. He gave me a pat on the back of encouragement as I moved in to first, and I cranked it up and bit to put some distance on him. I kept my foot on the gas and felt great, holding 5:30 pace consistently, and keeping my heart rate below 170 bpm. I looked back to see if Eric and anyone else was creeping up on me and I didn't see anyone in the distance. I brought it home and held my victory banner for the first time in a while. I was stoked!

P.S. I did a better pacing myself on the bike. I averaged 273 watts in the first half and 290 watts in the second half. Ever since I've gotten stronger in strength on the bike I've been pacing myself quite poorly throughout all my races. Because before I used to be able to ride only so fast since I didn't have the strength, and actually paced better. Now that I'm able to push bigger watts without realizing how much glycogen I'm using up, it's become something that kills my second half of the bike, and my run. This year I made a conscious effort to hold back and then ramp it up the second half. I was able to ride a good bike split and have plenty left for the run.

I've been watching Alex Dowsett's hour record attempt where he went 52.937 km, almost 33 miles an hour! What was interesting was that his first half pace was way slower than his second half pace. Through half way his average speed was in the 52.4kph and 52.5kph but he negative splitted quite dramatically and was able to go up to 52.9kph in the scond half. It's definitely something I'm going to experiment with my next half ironman in Boulder. I know that the race will be at altitude and I probably won't be able to have a great performance but it'd be a good dress rehearsal for the rest of the 70.3s I've got coming up.
 

If you've gotten this far, thanks for reading! I highly recommend this race for anyone interested in a nice, flat, fast, beautiful Olympic distance event. It also has a sprint. Did I mention that if you podium in your age group, you get wine? And everybody including spectators get free pancake breakfast with scrambled eggs and sausage. Recipe for a great weekend. It was also awesome to race Eric this weekend. He's been super supportive of me and gave me a lot of helpful advice that I really appreciate. He's had late season health troubles like myself last year, so I'm glad to see him back racing strong.

Lastly I would like to thank my network of support in the San Jose area. The crew at Menlo Masters Program at 7am and 12pms probably will never read this, but they're the nicest people, just looking to work hard in the pool. They help push me to the next level and keep swimming fun. Dr. Qin and Dr. Na at Qin Acupuncture and Herb Center for keeping my body in check, and in balance. Dr. Zhang and Masseur Zhang Jiang at MWM Acupuncture. I'll check back in with you after Boulder 70.3! thanks for reading!

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Top 10 Running Tips that helped me become a 1:17 Half Marathoner in Half Ironman Triathlon

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Top 10 Running Tips that helped me become a 1:17 Half Marathoner in Half Ironman Triathlon

Running, like the other three sports, presents its unique challenge. It's the sport that people have most challenge staying healthy in, from my observation. I do acknowledge that swimming(shoulder injuries), and cycling (knee, hip, etc), but most of the time people swim and bike because they can't run. Shin splints, bad knee, IT band, hip issues, are all common household names amongst endurance runners. And while some people do successfully get to peak shape, they fail to hold it for long due to injury or fatigue.

I've seen a lot of my good friends that are extremely talented thwarted with injuries. I've also made some mistakes of my own (IT band injury last year resulted  from complication of bad bike crash at Vineman 70.3 '15), but I stayed relatively healthy compared to my competitors and friends that I trained with over the years. I've taken lessons learned from my friend and by observing what works for people that do stay healthy and competitive consistently over the years. 

Part I Preventing Injury

1. Never Shock the Body. Your body is very much like you. You don't like surprises. Sudden stressful situations makes us uncomfortable and distressed. The same with your body. Sudden increase in your mileage ( you ran 20 miles last week, and this week you suddenly ran 35 miles) is often what causes most people to be sidelined. 

2. If you're just getting back into running, avoid running with people that are in shape or much faster than you at the moment. I often disappear for 3 months when I'm just getting back into shape. I don't want to be pressured into running fast or keeping up with people or running as far as them. If 4 miles feels exhausting to me, I'm gonna stop and take a nap. Once I get into shape, that's when I show up and push myself with people again. Take it slow, be patient, the fitness will come!

Here's an example for what I did to get back in shape after my injury:
First week, couple of 6x(2 minute easy running (9min pace) 1 minute walk.)
Second week, 6x(3min easy running, 1 minute walk)
Third week, 6x(4min easy running, 1 minute walk)

After I felt that there was no pain, I started running a couple of 40 minute runs on grass super easy. But see how I was extremely patient to get back into shape, taking no risk at all. You never want to take 2 steps forward and 1 step back. 2 weeks later I was running 5 mile runs at 6 minute pace. The fitness WILL COME!

3. Take care of small pains before they become big ones. Get a massage at least once or twice a month. It's hard to spend money on yourself for massages, chiropractic session, or physical therapy. It's a lot of money and most of the time, we feel like we're fine without it. But our muscles work quite hard and over time any imbalance can snowball into really bad biomechanical behavior. So at least once (ideally twice a month) get a massage to loosen up tight muscles, and get checked up. 

IMG_0469.JPG

4. Dedicate 20 min of everyday to stretching, foam rolling, and bit of self massage. Over the past 5 years, I've always dedicated at least 20min a day to stretching (my hips, quads, hamstrings). Here are the 5 main stretches I do before bedtime. Why do I do these stretches? You have to remember that each movement you produce is a result of contraction of a muscle. There's always a counter movement to that motion. Therefore there's another muscle on the other side that does the contraction which undo the first movement. Essentially whenever a muscle's contracting to move a limb, it is also pulling on the resistance of the relaxed muscle on the other side. The loser that muscle is, the less energy you use. Using smallest amount of energy possible to achieve the most work is the name of the game! Efficiency!

Part II Training

5. Mileage. This is HOTLY debated but general consensus is that without decent volume, you cannot become a great runner. Unless you're Jesse Thomas or someone who has a running background, or you're just a natural gazelle. What has worked best for me has been consistent miles for 4-5 days a week. They don't have to be crazy. For me personally they're 5-10 mile runs on average with a long run thrown in there. But I've seen competitive runners run 5-7 miles 4 times a week also with great success. The key is frequency and consistency over 2-3 months period of non stop running. If that means staying conservative and running 2-3 miles some days then do it. I do it just to stay in rhythm. Rhythm with running is also very important. The body gets in a groove where it knows how to use all your muscles in harmony to run the best. Once you take 3 or 4 days off it's when things go out of whack. Find out how much mileage you can handle without injuring yourself, and be consistent with it. That number for most people in school or a job or other commitments, is 25-50 miles a week from my observation.

6. Long Run. This like the long ride in cycling CANNOT BE SKIPPED. It can be skipped during taper weeks or when you absolutely can't run it. But during a build phase, you need at least 2-3 of these in order to build a foundation for all your other work outs (track, tempo, etc). The long run teaches your body how to run when tired and also use fat as fuel. We all burn a mixture of fat and carbs during activities. The goal with the long run is to increase fat in that mixture. In other words, also raise your aerobic threshold so you can stay aerobic for higher intensities down the road.

7. Variation of Pace. I have to credit my coach Keith McDonald for introducing this into my program. We have a lot of change of pace where we do (4min steady, 6 min hard, 4min steady) to make the body uncomfortable and become powerful at controlling and maintaining pace. Before I'd train hard at one or two zones (easy and hard lol), and I only got so fast through that type of monotonous training. The body needs stimulus like how some of us (like me) prefer to watch movies than read a script of the movie. Training needs to be interested and surprising sometimes in order for the body to adapt and get better.

8. Hill Running. I grew up around hills so I'm a little bias but hills are great for building strength (resistance training) and also improving your top end fitness without the stress of a track work out. Track work outs are high intensity and high impact on joints, muscles, etc. Where as hills can give you the same cardiovascular benefit but less harsh impact on the track. Do be careful with going downhill. Take downhills slow or walk them if you have to. The heavy impact of going downhill is something that you don't want excessively in your routine. 
Some example of hill work outs I've done : 5-6x 3min hard (zone3-zone 4) up a 5% grade.
You can also find a route that has a total of 700-800 ft of climbing or less. When it gets more than 800 its when it becomes not beneficial in my opinion.

9. Biomechanics: Through trial and error I've studied, researched, experimented and learned a lot about running mechanics. I had a couple evolution of my running technique and each phase got me faster and closer and better. I've dropped times in all distances, (1 minute in 5k, 3 minutes in 10k, 9 minutes in half marathon). Here are the 4 most important things I've learned.

i. Good posture, forward lean. You want upper body to be tall and taut. There shouldn't much side to side movement. You want your upper body to be stiff and transfer all the energy from your push off into pushing you forward. Having a forward lean utilizes gravity to pull your forward as well and maintain your forward momentum.
ii. Arm Swing. When your legs swing back and forth to keep you moving, a lot of angular momentum is created. This means that your legs are trying to make your body rotate back and forth, side to side (with an axis that goes straight through top of your head down your spine). To counter balance this, your arm's there to create a counter angular motion that opposes your leg motion and keep your motion forward. 

iii. Heel Lift. All elite runners have this quality. Shown below in the picture. All except your slowest pace, you should actively try to pick up your heels with your hamstring. This enables your leg swing to be more of a cycle and also prevents you from being quad dominant and encourages you to use your glutes (more on that below). The heel lift helps push your body forward and afterwards also bring your leg back so your hip flexors don't have to do any work to bring them back. More energy saved. Points. 

iv. The push off motion should use the same muscle as the ones used for lunges, that is GLUTE DOMINANT RUNNING. This is my biggest breakthrough over the last year. I always tweak my technique every year and this is the one that had the most bang for the buck. A lot people are quad dominant runners (here in the states anyways). They push off by doing a firing action similar to that of knee extension. They're extending their legs straight and using their knee as a stress pivot point instead of driving from their hip and core, which has all the strong muscles, your a$$. And yes, your butt is money because it is very strong and doesn't get tired or injured as easily. Quad dominant running can lead to muscle imbalances and knee problems. I was a victim of IT band from quad dominant running and cycling. How do you fire your glutes? There are various exercises you can do, this one below is how I learned it:

Try "squeezing" your butt cheeks together. It will fire your glutes.

Try "squeezing" your butt cheeks together. It will fire your glutes.

Once you learn how to control your glutes together, try to separate them with exercises like step ups and backward lunges. 


10. Nutrition! You lose the most amount of fluids during running. I typically lose 2-3 pounds during an hour run depending on how hot it is. That's as lot of fluids (1 pound is 15 fluid oz approxmiately, that's a full water bottle dude). So if you can, replace fluids on the run, or drink lots of water with electrolytes afterwards. Preferably, they should also have calories (1-2 scoops of carbo pro to replenish glycogen storage). Also before runs, figure out your stomach and your meal schedule. If your run is 6+hours from your last feeding session, then have a small snack (clif bar with banana) 1 hour before the run for example. Some people can't handle that, so they need to eat far before and eat a lot. A lot of people suffer on runs just because their blood sugar and glycogen is running low. So feed yourself and be a happy runner!

Again, that's it, long article. hope it helps. If you have any input please feel free to comment (no that anyone has done that yet lol) but I appreciate you reading this is you made it this far. If you let me know I might just buy your coffee or hot chocolate. Any shoot if you have any questions about anything. I'm here to help and happy to help. 

Spread the love for swimming, biking and running people! Until next time!


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How I improved by 15minute+(2.4mph increase!) for 56 mile cycling leg in 4 years.

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How I improved by 15minute+(2.4mph increase!) for 56 mile cycling leg in 4 years.

I'm known for my cycling skills on the race course as I've shown during my pro debut season, I'm able to ride as fast as the top guys (2:15 @ Vineman 70.3 with a crash, 2:21 at Lake Stevens 70.3, and 2:13 at Rancho Cordova). But it did not come easy as there's a ton of work that goes into getting cycling fitness.

To give you some background, my first 70.3 bike split was 2:29 on Vineman 70.3 which is a honest and challenging course. I did that race on a tri-bike set up but without aero frame. My bike split 4 years later was 2:15 on the same course with a bike crash. So technically it's around 2:13. so a 15 minute + improvement. That's also an increase of 2.4 mph, which is pretty huge. Granted my equipment has improved over the years, from a Cannondale aluminum frame to Cervelo p2 carbon, to an Argon 18 E 118 frame, but trust me, what matters the most is the person that's doing the pedaling. 

So here are the 10 things I learned over the past 5 years. I also studied a lot of biomechanical engineering classes at Stanford so I've provided a lot of science behind what's going on. My goal is for you to speed up your progress to success as I've made a ton of mistakes that hopefully you will not make! 

1. Make sure that your fit on your bike is proper. Approach a trusted local bike fitter. Slowtiwtch.com has a list of trusted fitters. I'm sponsored by the number 1 fitter on slowtwitch, Pedro, and he can be reached at p-fits.com. Proper fit is essential in avoiding injury and maximizing your performance. If you're worried about the price, a proper fit cost around 175 dollars or less for tri bikes and around 75 bucks for road bikes. It's a much smaller investment compared to everything else you have to buy. So do it!

 2. Long Rides cannot be skipped or substituted. There are a lot of talks about replacing long slow rides with shorter high intensity interval sessions. While I understand that many people don't have the luxury to ride long everyday (I don't personally), having one weekly long ride is a must. 

Long rides forces your body to go into energy-deprived state and forces it to adapt and use fat as fuel. 2.5 hour-3 hour is a minimum in gaining any marginal fitness. To go to the next level, try riding 3.5-4 hours for your weekly long ride during your base period. You will get stronger and build a solid base for the upcoming season.  *Try going with a friend or two. Excessive 4 hour solo rides is not recommended for mental wellness(personal experience :P)

And don't just ride long and slow for 4 hours. More and more studies have shown that slow, long, steady miles actually don't benefit as much as conventional wisdom has suggested. It is the variation of training, and stimulus that improves fitness the most. So try breaking up the 4 hour ride into:
30 minute warm up, build from easy to steady, then 10 minute steady in TT position or in the drops, 10x(30 seconds fast, 30 seconds slow), 5 minutes build from steady to tempo. 5 minutes easy.
40 minute easy-steady(90rpm), 20 minute steady-tempo (big gear, 60-75rpm)
20 minute easy-steady(90rpm), 10 minute steady-tempo (big gear, 60-75rpm)
2x(10 minute easy-steady(90rpm), 5 minute steady-tempo(big gear, 60-75 rpm))
3x(6minute sit up (70rpm)z2 2 minute stand up (60rpm)z3, 6 minute (progress from 80rpm to 90rpm) z2)
Cool Down til you hit 4 hours. 

3. Eat and Drink on all rides. It is important to practice and adapt eating and drinking during riding because that's what you'll be doing in a race. For any ride with intensity, per hour I drink 24oz of 180-200 calories(2 scoops of CarboPro) with electrolytes (nuun tablet). If the ride is longer than 1 hour, than I eat a gel per hour (100 calories) or eat part of a clifbar. Rule of thumb is 2 calories per pound of body weight per hour. 

Helps with recovery, keeps you fresh for your next session and tomorrow, and adapts your digestive system to work while exercising. Remember triathlon is all about consistency, being able to repeat the training and keep up that work load. Replacing carbohydrate/Electrolytes is extremely helpful to combat fatigue.

4. Find your natural cadence, but also ride all variety of cadences. Your natural cadence the cadence that is most efficient for your body. Everyone has a different composition of muscle types (slowtwitch type I, and fast twitch type IIA, type IIB). Type 1 or slowtwtich is more suited for high cadence, low force, less torque, high use of oxygen (higher heart rate) because your muscles are working less hard but it's working more frequently.  Type 2A is more suited for stronger cyclists that like the push the big gears (70-80rpm). In general bigger guys (160-170 pound and muscular) will want to take advantage of their strength and push a lower gear (80-85rpm) while skinnier guys (maybe myself) would like to push a higher gear so use our aerobic system more and stress our muscles less.  (*Type 2B is reserved for high power sprints that triathletes dont really do).  So everyone's own natural cadence is unique. The 90rpm rule is a good rule of thumb, but I've seen people pedal at 100rpm(Ironman World Champ Sebastian Kienle) and as low as 85 rpm(Multiple Ironman Champ, Jordan Rapp).

Efficiency comes from utilizing and maximizing the amount of the pedal stroke where you produce power. The higher the cadence, the more "empty" pedaling you're doing, which means you're spending more energy moving your legs than actually pedaling. Lowering the cadence can help find a sweet spot where you can produce torque throughout the stroke. But lowering it too much, you start pushing the boundary of your muscular efficiency. Your muscles are built to contract at certain velocities. The amount of force your muscle fibers can produce peaks at a certain velocity (hence your natural cadence) and it drops off when contraction is too fast and too slow. Pushing bigger gears also eats into your glycogen storage in your muscles which may lead you to bonk (no one wants that)

I've found that it's usually an iterative process to find that sweet spot cadence. I used to mash gears (75-80rpm) because that's what my mentor Brady rode at and some other pros were doing. I then started spinning a lot (95-100rpm) to see if that works better for me. I've found that my natural cadence is around 92-90 rpm and it slowly drops off to 87rpm as I fatigue.  So it's important for you to find out what that cadence is for you. Which cadence gives you a reasonable heart rate, reasonable perceived effort while putting out watts, and which is most comfortable? 

5. Incorporate big gear work outs. Big gear work outs (z3-z4 intensity done at 60rpm or lower) is a must to gain strength. I just read that Sebastian Kinele (2014 Ironman World Champ and a bike monster) does work outs at 40rpm (INSANE!). Some works that I do are 5x4min big gear with 3 min rest, or 3x15min at 60rpm at threshold. Also do this in your aero position. You will get really comfortable and strong. I've avoided doing these work outs because they're extremely uncomfortable but once I started doing them, I made a sudden jump to the next level.  

6. Spend time in the aero position(A LOT). I've seen triathletes (myself included) ride 3 hours and spent less than 30 minutes in the aero position. The only race that only requires you to be in the aero position for only half an hour is a sprint distance event. Olympic is at least 60 min ish, Half Ironman is 2.25 hr to 3-4 hr. It's VITAL to practice producing power and exerting big effort for extended periods of time in the aero position. After I started working with my coach Keith, we spent a ton of time in the aero position.  Some example work outs:

2-3x20min, 10 minute easy in between, at threshold.
4x15min, 5 min easy in between, intensity is moderate-hard 
5x8min, with 2min easy in between, intensity is moderate-hard

7. Race Intensity. The previous point leads me nicely to my next point. Race intensity at race position. Again, when I first started I rode a lot. I did not realize that there were a lot of stoplights, and downhills where I don't pedal. The fluctuation in heart rate is crazy and nothing like race conditions. Not to say that you should train AT race pace all the time, but it's important to have structured intervals of close to race intensity in order for your body to adapt. So when I went to races, I just got destroyed, because my body's never really done intervals longer than 15 minutes before.

If you have a heart rate monitor, or power meter, use them! Try doing one of the work outs shown above (4x15min, etc) and hold your heart rate at race intensity (generally zone 3 to zone 4). If you don't have a HRM, or power meter, then find a nice long hill, and try to keep your perceived effort constant and steady. 

8. Equipment Choices. Smart decisions can save you a couple seconds here and there and all together, they can add up to minutes.

a. Between the arm water bottle mount is a popular one that's very easy to accomplish with zip ties.
b. Behind the seat water bottle is also doable with zip ties. But Practice putting water bottle back in, it's hard!
c. Make sure you tri-kit is tight, and nothing lose is flapping around. It slows you down more than you think.
d. GET A DISC WHEEL. i can't afford one so i got the next best thing, a disc cover . If you happen to have an zipp 808 rear, it's actually faster than zipp's own disc. Having a covered back wheel is dramatically faster. High recommend it./
e. Tire Choice. Clinchers have been shown to be faster than tubulars which is great b/c tubulars are a bit of a pain to deal with. The fastest tire in the industry is Continental Grand Prix 4000s II. (most pros ride 700x23c, some ride 24s, and very few ride 25s. If you're a heavy rider, 25c would be great, otherwise, as of now, 23c is the best option for general public) Puncture resistant and low rolling resistance. And most aero. Best of all worlds. 

If you're not a fan of continentals or high quality German craftsmanship, then visit http://www.slowtwitch.com/Products/Things_that_Roll/Tires/Fast_Tires_2013_3787.html
for more tire choices.
f. Gearing choice. This is from my personal experience, but most bikes sold have compact nowadays (50 teeth big ring, and 34 small bring in the front). This is definitely not enough when downhills come around. The minimum you should have is 52 teeth.

if you only had to buy one cassette, I recommend 11-28 combination. It gives you best of both worlds with good climbing ratio and a fast small cog. It does suffer a bit on gear difference between gears. 11-25 is also popular. But 11-28 will cover all tough courses including Wildflower. 
g. Aero helmet has been shown to save a ton of time. There are also hybrid road-aero helmet now so you only have to buy one!

9. Ride hard up hill, ride easy downhill. From physics, drag is increased by factor of (speed) squared. Drag is directly correlated with amount of energy you need to spend. This means as speed get higher and higher on a downhill, power output has diminished returns, meaning if you push 20-30 more watts you're only going slightly faster (0.5 mph). So pedal easier downhills.

On the other hand, riding uphill, there is less drag, and most of your power goes into overcoming your weight, which is correlated with force of gravity. Gravity does not increase or decrease with your speed. It is constant. Therefore, you get more bang for your buck if you push more power. Your speed will increase much more. 

So ride slightly harder on the uphills (10-15 watts above your target power, or 2-4bpm higher for heart rate). Keep in mind that you can only increase your power for so often. From Powermeter handbook , if your target zone is zone3, and you're going into zone4, you're burning "matches". For a 70.3, you have around 10 minutes or less worth of total duration where you can increase you power on uphills in such a fashion. I overdid it recently at Wildflwoer and paid for it on the run. So ration your efforts and go fast!

10. Nailing your taper. I've taken tapers too easy in the past and ended up having a terrible bike on race day. I've read similar stories with Pete Jacobs (2012 Ironman World champ). The key is maintaining strength. Do one or two work out race week where you remind your body the race intensity (3-4x6min at race pace, regular cadence), and another shorter work out (4x90 seconds at or above race pace, big gear) to maintain your strength muscles. 

That was longer than I expected, but I think that is all for now. I have much more to share so stay tuned! Please email me or contact me if you find anything confusing or would like to discuss about anything. Also I don't have answers to everything. This is what I think has worked best for me personally. I'm constantly learning and improving my own training methods so if you have any inputs please let me know!

Thanks for reading if you made it this far! 

 

Yu

 

 

 

 

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Wildflower 2015. Learning to Race with Confidence Again

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Wildflower 2015. Learning to Race with Confidence Again

When I finished the race yesterday, people asked me "how'd you do??, how was it??" and I would repeatedly say "I finished!". People would look at me puzzled but that was honestly my biggest goal coming in.

Going back 7th months, last year in October, I ended my 2014 season with a bad race in Challenge Rancho Cordova. I got sick a week before the race and still raced and finished 11th with a time of 4:11. I definitely wanted to get under 4 hours for that race and be up there with the top pros but it wasn't meant to be. Thinking that ending my season with a bad race was bad enough, my IT band decided to flare up right when I started back training again. All in all, I basically had to take 2 months off running (a lot of trying to run a bit, then messing it up again cycle). My confidence fell way low and I was scared about my athletic dreams and longevity. 

But training in swimming and cycling were looking good. Without much conditioning I was doing the things I was doing last year, mileage and intensity wise. And I took the time off running to do a lot of strength training and also learned about glute dominant running/cycling which is much more efficient than what i was doing before(i will blog about it soon). There were a ton of positives and my confidence grew a bit. I was running faster than ever my second week back, being able to hold 6 minute pace for long duration without trouble. I knew if I can put it together, things could be good.

However things took a turn for the worse when I caught the flu that was going around this year 2 weeks before Oceanside. This virus didn't mess around. It screwed me up big time. I got well enough to attempt Oceanside 70.3 on March 29th but when the run came I had 0 energy left and spent 5 miles deciding whether or not to DNF and drop out. It was the toughest decision in my life as my dad drove all the way down with me (8 hour trip) and I felt terrible for letting people down. I ultimately dropped out because I didn't want to jeopardize my health. 

So long story short, I came into this Wildflower with 0 confidence. No matter how well I was training and no matter what my power meter or run split says, I was scared. I've never been so doubtful about myself in my whole life. The whole week before the race was extremely stressful. I was constantly thinking about what ifs, and the possibility of another DNF. It took a of energy out of me but I dealt with it as best as I could. It didn't help that I've had a good consistent record here at Wildflower. I didn't want to let the course down. 

When the gun went off I kind of relieved that I can let all this nervous energy out. My whole body was kind of weak and numb of being stressed and scared but I knew if i relaxed and got in a good rhythm things could be alright. I made a smart move this time around positioning myself with the right swimmers in front of me at the start. As many of you may know I just don't have the blistering swim speed because of my size so it's impossible for me to get clean water. Positioning myself behind the right swimmer at the start set me up a good swim. I chose swimmers that were slightly faster than me, meaning who on average swims about 1-2 minutes faster than my average times. I was able to draft off of 2 swimmers that were very chill, polite, and swam in a straight line most of the time. I didn't know who they were but I was kind of hoping that this was the 26 minute ish swim group. I focused on my technique and made sure I was doing everything right. I kept up with these two swimmers and when I finally finished the swim, my watch said 26:33! My fastest swim by a minute ever anywhere. I was so stoked. 

The 2.2 mile run was challenging as expected but I stayed close with the people that I came out the water with. Easier said than done because they were definitely all in a rush. I got on my bike and felt amazing right away so I knew I was going to have a decent bike ride. The more guys that I passed, the more my confidence grew. I caught up to John Dahlz (local bay area legend) and Matt Reed ( Olympian and one of the best pros out there) and we started riding together after the big hills. I was feeling pretty good about myself until I got over nasty grade. Nasty grade's cousins(additional hills) that followed after that did NOT  help at all. The downhill did NOT help at all. My gel did NOT help at all. It's like your iphone had 20% of battery left and you're like I'll be fine! but 5 minutes later it's at 2% and you're like oh crap! Nasty grade family got me again! I tried my best to relax and get in whatever calories I had left and crawled back to transition with the guys I was with.

You can literally see me melting from the heat :P

You can literally see me melting from the heat :P

Sometimes you just know that when you get off a bike ride and you try to run, you're gonna have a crappy run. And yeah I had a crappy run. My slowest half ironman time since I started doing half ironmans 5 years ago. I thought I was going to fall on my face because my legs were so feeble but I was determined to finish. I took extra gels, drank gatorade at every station. I regained some momentum after 5 miles of hellish hills. I got passed by Scott Defilippis and Chad Hall. The morale kinda went down but at this point, I'm just trying to get to the finish line. I kept them in sight until with 3 miles to ago. I somehow crawled in 15th place in a pretty deep men's field behind some world class racers and a really really hot day. I finished and I'm stoked! triple smiley face!

I knew that was a hella long post. So I'll end by saying thank you to everyone who read my story in the Wildflower Magazine and said hello to me and wished me good luck before the race. I really appreciate the support! I was so stressed and wired that every good luck I heard from you really helped kept myself out of that big hole. I hope everyone had a great time at Wildflower. Hopefully we'll all be back to support this iconic race!

I want to thank all my friends who wished my luck and supported me throughout the last tough couple of months. Pedro for the bike fit. I never felt uncomfortable in the aero position and wanted to sit up, thank you! My coach Keith for the amount of faith he has in me, and the all the guidance he's provided throughout one of the most difficult times of my athletic life. My dad who road tripped with me. Brice and Carlos who provided the best company that I could ever ask for. My sponsors, Polar USA, Bizlink Tech, and Accell

I also want to take a moment to thank every single volunteers (must be hundreds of you) who makes this race so great. I befriended a volunteer who told me the amount of training that all volunteers go through. It's not very surprising because TriCal volunteers are 1st class. You ask a question, it gets answered. You have a concern, it is addressed. In spite of the fact that most of them probably didn't sleep much and have to be out there for hours to make sure the race runs smoothly, I did not witness any volunteer being grumpy or unhappy. Every volunteer was positive and enthusiastic. I also appreciate the run course volunteers who make sure you get what you want. They run after you if you missed your cup. I just can't say enough about this race. So thank you thank you thank you to the volunteers, and TriCal for your effort to put on such a well organized race once again. 

I want to end by saying that Wildflower is a must do event and I hope I can do this race every year for the rest of my life. The organizers really care about all the athletes and make sure each athlete have a good experience. Many people might find the current format for the last 2 years (1.2 mile swim, 2.2 mile run (boat ramps, sandy, etc) 56 mile bike, 10.9 mile) awkward and different. But personally, I think that's why we do triathlons because triathletes wanted to do something different. No one's ever swam, biked and ran before. So why can't we swim, run, bike run? The water will come back hopefully, but if it doesn't the different format shouldn't hold you back from doing the race! come out and have an awesome and unique experience. You won't regret it! 

That's it for now. My next race is Monte Rio in Santa Rosa. It's an Olympic Distance Triathlon so if you're looking for a great fast, and beautiful course, come on out!

See you then!

Thanks to Kaori for all the awesome photos!

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Part I. How I shaved 5+ minutes off my 1.2 mile swim(15+ seconds per 100m) since 2010

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Part I. How I shaved 5+ minutes off my 1.2 mile swim(15+ seconds per 100m) since 2010

It's no secret that swimming is my slowest leg and it's something that I try to improve each and everyday. For someone with my original ability and swimming background(virtually none), it's modestly impressive I'd say, that I managed to improve my swim pace by 15 seconds per 100m, that's 5 minutes over 1.2 miles in 4 years.  

I always want to share what I learned with the world so I have organized tips in order of difficulty. So as things go down, it becomes exponentially harder to grasp and understand. And you should also be getting faster and faster as you go down the list. Take it one step at a time! 

1. Don't spend too much time trying to swim with perfect technique. I spent about 1 year swimming alone because I thought technique trumps everything else. In swimming that's not the case. Technique is important but you can only have good technique if you have the strength and fitness to hold it. Gaining fitness through bad technique is not breaking the law. So it's okay. All of us swim badly at least 30%+ of the time when we get tired anyways. Our technique holds together for maybe 25yards, then maybe 50yards, then eventually 400 yards. With some rest, you can do 400 yards great again. And the continuous improvement will get you to where you want. 

2. Swim with other swimmers (slightly faster than you)  at least 75% of the time. Swimming by yourself is hard even for fishes. That's why they swim in schools. (HA!) Seriously, swimming can be very lonely and a bit daunting at times (10x400s anybody?) So share your pain with others and pain will become joy.

A.  I've come to the conclusion that swimming with people lowers the perceived level of exertion and also peer pressure keeps you honest and working hard. Whenever I swim with a group, leading a lane, or following a lead swimmer (even swimming 5 seconds behind someone will give you drafting effects), I always swim 2-3 seconds per 100yard faster than alone.

B. It's also helpful to watch other people swim and learn their technique. Visualization is key for athletic movements.

C. Good options are local master swim groups with swimmers of all speeds.

3. Kicking should be the least of your worries. Not to say that you don't need to kick. But I've been to programs that make me kick a quarter of a 60 minute session. That's way too much. Majority of your propulsion comes from your pull. You only have so much time to swim, make most of it by actually swimming. 

4. Head position: stare straight down with your neck straight. There's many theories, but through my observation with top swimmers in Olympics as well as triathlon, they all stare straight down with their neck straight and taut. Keeping your head down enables you to have a good body position where your hip is allowed to rise a bit  as opposed to sink a bit. 

5. Consistency is KeySwim at least 3 times a week, every week, all year. Athletes that didn't grow up swimming lose the feel of the water or their swimming shape really fast. it's important that you keep a consistent amount of swimming going every week, all year long if you're committed to becoming a better swimmer. I swam 4-5 times a week for 2 years.

6. Try using a tempo trainer, to control cadence of your stroke. The best open water swimming technique is a constant pulling motion with no dead spots, no gliding. As your right hand is finished with its pull, you should begin your catch for your left hand. Start with 60 strokes per minute. Then increase it incrementally. Really great swimmers swim at 80-100 strokes per minute. So aim for 60+. 

7. Trying swimming with a band around your ankle, No BuoysAnkle band ties your ankles together so you can't kick. Therefore you have to swim really fast in order to stay afloat. It is analogous to swimming uphill, where any little deficiency in your stroke is amplified. When I first started I couldn't swim past 5 yards. Now I can swim 50 yards-100 yards with it. The really good swimmers can do 3000 yards. @_@. 

Start with 4x25 yards with 45 seconds rest. Keep your head down, press on your chest, and taut body. And pull with high cadence and hope you make it to the other side. Overtime you will get stronger. 

8. Pull your body forward, not pull water back. Mentally, you shouldn't think of your hands and arms as propellers of boat that's forcing water back. Your forearm is an anchor that holds the water, and once you engage the water, you want to pull your body forward instead of push water back.

What's the difference? For me, this thought process enabled me to keep my body stiff and strong which helps move my body forward. They always talk about how bike frames should be stiff because bending of the frame while pedaling results in loss of power. Similar theme here where your body is the frame while swimming, and you want to keep that as stiff as possible so all the power is used to move you forward instead of deforming your body. 

9. Tubing, using Resistance Bands. Halo makes great rubber resistance bands for swim training. There are no exercise machine or free body weight exercise that emulates the motion and muscle movement of the swim pull. The only thing that comes close is pulling with resistant bands.  Here's a video of how to properly use bands, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sr570KZvyBQ

1. Straight Wrist.
2. Point forearm down toward floor
3. Keeping that high elbow high.

If your deltoids are burning then you're doing it right!
Start with 7x1min on, 1 min rest. or 5x90 seconds on, 90 seconds rest. 
Halo Bands purchase link

10. Having the correct pulling mechanics. This one is the hardest one to nail. There are two main components, which is the high elbow that's covered in previous (9th) point. This one is tough to achieve but with practice and persistence you will be able to keep your elbow high and engage your lats, muscles on your back, and your chest, instead of your shoulder muscle which is much weaker compared to the three mentioned. Having a knowledgeable swim coach to watch you and give you advice is the best way to go.

The second component is often hotly debated but this is what has worked best for me in the last couple of years of trying many different things. The pulling motion is not the classic s motion that people talk about. It's also not a straight pull back. It's somewhere in between. In general the path of your hand should lie within a space 3-4 inches inline with your shoulder.  There is only slight inward motion as you begin you pull. Your hand pitches slightly inward. As your pull progresses past your upper abdomen and chest, the hand pitch changes and point slightly outward. Somehow this enabled me to grab the most amount of water and my stroke rate is dropped by 2 strokes per length. 

That's it for now. Again to reiterate, this has been the 10 most helpful things to me in the past couple of years and it may be helpful to some of you and it may not. I'm always open to new ideas and discussion so if you have any input or feedback please comment and we can have an open conversation! 

Likewise, if you have questions, please contact me through the contact page, or email me directly at yuxsjao@gmail.com

Hope you found this article helpful

P.S. There will be a more detailed, and illustrated (video perhaps) in the future. So stay tuned!

 

Yu

 

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The Day I Turned Pro At Wildflower

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The Day I Turned Pro At Wildflower

Since Wildflower is just about less than 4 weeks away, I thought I'd share how I turned pro at Wildflower since it's a very special race for me: 

Wildflower is the race where I fell in love with triathlon and has been The Holy Grail throughout my journey in the sport. It is the only race that has the terrains of the hilly trails from my home town Cupertino’s Fremont Older Preserve, and an energizer bunny waiting on top of a hill to scream and cheer you on.

It is also the race where I turned professional in 2013, and have won the same age group category three times in a row!

My excitement for Wildflower began when my mentor in triathlon and coach at UCLA, Brady O’Bryan, obtained his professional license in the year 2010 at this very race, where he won the 20-24 age-group and was 2nd overall amateur in the Long Course distance. He has always been someone I’ve admired, and I’ve been chasing him throughout my college years during our grueling training sessions. I was inspired by his performance to one day also get my pro card at Wildflower. I entered the race in 2011, expecting a tough day, and boy was I right. I didn’t feel 100% on that day but I soldiered on throughout the whole thing, despite being blown sideways on the bike by cross winds and getting hammered by all the hills. In the midst of my daze, I thought about all the hard bike rides I did with my friends, and all the hard runs in the trails with my buddies back at home. There was something about the atmosphere, the trails and people by the camp sides cheering you on with cow bells that inspired me. It was one of those rare races where you get in a zone and trance; you’re in so much pain, but you’re enjoying the experience so much that you’re able to keep going. Every step felt like I was about to fall over, but I was able to hold it to the finish line. I finished 6th overall, 2 minutes away from qualifying from my pro card, but I was really proud of myself. Despite how I felt, and the tough course, I was able to suffer and go to a place where I never went before. I was inspired by the whole experience. The best part of the day was the boat ride across the lake with my Dad. It was one of those moments that I would cherish forever. Sitting on a boat, soaking in the sun, I was already planning on doing this epic race again, and what I could do better next year.

I continued pursuing my dream of becoming a professional triathlete for the next two years. 2012 was a similarly epic and tough experience that only Wildflower has but it wasn’t the best year of preparation and health. Although I won my age group again, I finished 11th overall and wasn’t able to qualify for the pro card with a top 3 finish. After learning from a lot of the mistakes I made in 2011 and 2012, I put a plan together for 2013 and was more focused than ever to try again at Wildflower. As the gun went off for the 2013 edition of Wildflower, however, I did not get off to a great start. I had my poorest swim in the three years I had done this race, and wasn’t feeling great on the bike either. Doubts crept into my head, telling me that I would never turn pro. To be honest, the fear of not being good enough has always haunted me. I have my supportive friends but the few people that say “it’s too hard, you can’t do it,” always sound louder to me. Those voices would constantly come in and out during the bike but I was able to block it out as the race still had a long way to go. Once I got off the bike, I did some calculations and I knew my projected time was probably not going to be good enough. The pessimistic little voice in my head shouting “you’ll never get your pro card” got louder and louder. I was struggling big time on the run, but a hill came up in the trail, and something inside me just said “Forget those doubters, and forget the pro card, just own this hill, own this race, at least give your absolute best and just shut up and run!” So that’s what I did. I went into a different zip code of the pain cave and I stayed there. I was so exhausted that I could barely shout “Gatorade” or “water” as I passed through aid stations. The 13.1 miles finally came to an end as I collapsed through the finish line. I had never pushed myself that hard.

To my surprise, I finished 3rd in the Open Category and I miraculously qualified for my pro card. I couldn’t believe it! Turns out, it was record hot that day with slower times than usual. As I sat on that boat ride again with my Dad, realizing that I finally accomplished my goal, I told my dad, “This is just the beginning”. And it was. Since then, I graduated from UCLA and have also completed a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford, but I’ve delayed leaping immediately into the corporate world to pursue my dream job as a professional triathlete. I’ve been racing professionally now for just over a year, and have gotten top 10 results at a number of 70.3 races, something that I never thought would be possible just three years ago. I truly believe that had I chosen a different race in 2011 other than Wildflower, I wouldn’t be the same triathlete and person that I am today. I don’t know where my triathlon journey will take me, but I’m excited for the future. One thing for sure is that I will always return to Wildflower in the first weekend of May, as the race holds a special place in my heart.

To many more epic races, Vive Le Wildflower Triathlon!

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