PART 1. 1952-1960. FRANCE/MILWAUKEE
PART 2. 1961-1965. FRANCE
PART 3. 1966-1976. HOLLYWOOD/SAN FERNANDO VALLEY
PART 4. 1976-1979. 82ND AIRBORNE
PART 5. 1980-2002. TRIATHLONS
PART 6. 2004-2014. SAN FRANCISCO
PART 7. 2015 . SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
PART 8. 2018 (JOURNEY UPDATE)
PART 1. 1952-1960. FRANCE/MILWAUKEE
The 1st 7 years of my life were all but typical. I was born in Paris, France; and acquired a gastronomic predilection and caught the travel/adventure bug early on. Surrounded by many aunts, uncles, and cousins, my childhood years were regularly dotted with sumptuous and lengthy family dinners.
Christmas, Easter, weddings, baptisms, birthdays, or just simple reunions were occasions to celebrate around those legendary French meals.
Usually starting at 12noon, these special occasion multi-course meals would progress into early evening. As the impatient children went out to play (me), the adults engrossed in discussions would commandeer the afternoon into the ‘4 heure’, (the equivalent of British tea time) when the espressos, delicate pastries, and butter cookies would make their appearance. After another hour or so of adult conversation, it would be time to say farewell in order to go home and eat dinner at 8 pm.
This happened frequently in my early years of childhood. This also was a fairly standard and secure upbringing for a Parisian toddler in the stable post war era of the 1950’s.
In 1957, my parents boldly headed to the colonies in the true spirit of the pioneers. I loved the plane ride, all 19 hours of it with a stop in Reykjavik, Iceland for refueling. We flew the majestic 4 engine turbo-prop ‘Constellation’ with the distinctive 3 rudder tail section. It was truly the lap of luxury in flight travel at the time. It left an indelible and exotic image on me of planes, travel to far away lands, and a budding spirit 4 adventure.
I immediately embraced the American lifestyle, and within 3 months was speaking like a true native. Here I discovered my affinity for athletics. Swimming in lake Michigan, ice skating when the ponds froze over, learning to ride a bicycle, throwing a football, or just having room to explore and run in parks and playgrounds.
I had never experienced the bounty of Thanksgiving, or the massive BBQ’s of the 4th of July, Memorial and Labor days. For that matter, I had never had a hamburger, a hotdog, or ever tasted ketchup!
These, among many other first time exposures, were responsible for a 2nd childhood of sorts. A repeat journey of entirely new discoveries and foreign sensations. Score another point for the developing spirit of adventure! My world was about to change once again. In 1961, my Father heeded the call to ‘Go West young man, go West’, and so my parents would leave frigid Milwaukee for sunny Hollywood, California.
PART 2. 1961-1965. FRANCE
But first, I would head back to France with my Mother. It is here that I fell in love with the Ocean and Big ships.
We sailed the Atlantic ocean in style on one of the last Transatlantic liners, the ‘SS United States’. A 6 day crossing on a floating city! The finest food, the most elegant furnishings, pools, theaters, and a huge ship to explore! We even got to sail through a Typhoon, that was so much fun!
Back in France, the Family had gotten even bigger, the cousins were now in school, and those multi-course dinners were even more numerous to celebrate first communions and graduations. Being older, I had also acquired an appetite that fully took advantage of these meals.
The rigors of attending French schools was a very demanding and all consuming task. For the 3rd time in my short 8 years of childhood, I would readapt to a totally foreign environment. I had forgotten French entirely, as well as all the aunts, uncles, and cousins. Being so resilient, it took no time to drop back into French lifestyle and culture, and in the process forget about Milwaukee, Thanksgiving, ketchup, and English.
In the summer of 1963, I made my first trip to paradise. I spent an endless summer with my parents in sunny Hollywood, California. Again, the trip there was all the rage. The jet age had arrived and was well established by now. The trip only took 12 hours (non-stop) on a Boeing 707. Truly amazing this was! Once again, it was a deluge of everything new. Marvels just waiting to be discovered. Ocean, sun, surf, swimming, pools, palm trees, Disneyland, and a beautiful place I didn’t know could be so hot- Palm Springs. Too bad I had forgotten all my English. As a matter of fact, I was very reluctant to speak any of it.
Once again though, I was presented with the opportunity to swim nearly everyday in the blue Pacific getting hammered by the huge waves at Zuma beach in Malibu. Needless to say, Ocean swimming was a favorite that summer, and I developed a quite fearless attitude in the raging surf. I was caught many times in rip tides with my Father who repeatedly called on the Life guards for assistance. Well, it was over way too soon. Summer was over and it was time to leave.
Back in Paris, school had now become extremely demanding. At 12, I was solving math problems of the time and distance variety more suited to an algebraic formula: Train A starts at 8am traveling at 25 mph, Train B starts at 9am traveling at 35mph; At what time does B overtake A, and how far have they traveled?
Well, it took 2 years just to figure that one out. Had I stayed in France, I would have started Latin the following year at the tender age of 13. As fate would have it, in the summer of 1965, I was back in Hollywood, and this time stayed for good. It was 1963 all over again, only better.
I didn’t know it; but all this fun, adventure, travel, and fledgling athleticism, were contributing to shaping me for the sporting penchant, and the fearless (nearly daredevil) attitude I would develop in my future years in the USA. This would also coincidentally push me towards a sports and fitness career.
PART 3. 1966-1976. HOLLYWOOD/SAN FERNANDO VALLEY
I started Jr. HS, and within weeks was speaking English almost without an accent. This of course, because I had already been there before, (an important concept we will revisit). I now had access to a variety of sports. Baseball, football, basketball; but in PE class, it was in pure and simple running that I had the most success and pleasure in.
I just liked to run around that 1/8 mile white painted circle on the blacktop of the school grounds.
Then, for that first Christmas, I got a bicycle. It was just fine with me that it was a hassle for my Mom to drive me to school. Since we lived in an apartment complex with a pool suitable for swimming, I now had the 3 sports that would be so central in molding me. I biked everyday to school of necessity, I ran continuously in PE class, and I swam regularly in our near-olympic sized swimming pool with the tiles imported from Italy. Of note, is that the movie star Johnny Weissmuler (the original Tarzan) used to train there in the heyday of Hollywood! Life went on like this for the 3 years of Jr HS. It was pretty much fun, maybe a bit too much fun as the grades were not quite there.
Then came Hollywood HS, where dozens upon dozens of TV and Movie stars had graduated from. It no longer was cool to ride your bicycle, so befitting my constantly evolving need for speed, it was replaced with a Triumph 650 Tiger. Maybe I should have started with cars as I promptly proceeded to lay it down in the hair pin turns of the Hollywood Hills within a week! Little did I know this wipe out would portend the bloody carnage in my life to come!
Fortunately, I survived all my accidents and motorcycle years. Anyway, I could walk to school. To make up for the bicycle, I now found myself on the swim team and track team. This was my first introduction to organized sport, and the training to get faster and stronger. In competition, I found I no longer was at the top of the food chain like in Jr HS. But that was ok, I acquired the discipline to train and improve. Besides, I relished any opportunity to test myself.
After HS, I attended 2 Jr colleges. The 2nd of these was an agricultural/husbandry college located on an extensive property with horses, cows, hogs, orchards, and wheat tracts (how weird I should be attending this college again 45 years in the future). We had moved to the San Fernando Valley, where citrus fruit reigned king. Anyway, it was here on the dirt switchbacks of Los Angeles Pierce College that I discovered Cross county running.
It made running around a track seem like child’s play. It was so difficult and seemed insurmountable. I was still under my High School track mentality that running any more than 1 mile was long distance and should be avoided at all costs. These trails, switchbacks they called them, went on forever it seemed, and they also went up and down really steep hills. Even though I preferred the beautiful tartan track facility available there, I felt compelled to run the trails every now and then just to remind myself how difficult this was.
In 1972, I attended California State University, Northridge. There, my athletic focus acquired a broader scope. The school offered a sizable variety of elective classes I was itching to try. They offered new experiences as well as an element of danger that appealed to my sense of living on the edge.
Scuba diving taught by an ex-NavySeal, sailing, archery, mountain climbing, and survival training taught by a Green Beret were some of the activities offered. I was in a mountaineering class taught by Mr. Mountain, I kid you not! At this time, I was also taking flying lessons and in the process of acquiring my private pilot’s license.
The physiology training I was exposed to in scuba diving and flight training led me to seek more classes dealing with the response of the human body to extremes of environment. CSUN also offered classes such as advanced lifesaving and first aid, managing athletic injuries, and courses of that nature.
I had taken a somewhat easy course of study, majoring in French literature. While the academics made me appreciate my native language more; it was really with sports and athletics that my heart lay. I continually needed more of a rush. Indeed, when graduation came around in June of 1976, I quickly missed the physical demands and adrenaline rush of the classes offered at CSUN.
I realized that at CSUN, my scope of athletic endeavor had been tweaked several notches beyond traditional sports and activities as a means to spend all the energy a 24 year old daredevil had. Life quickly became a bit too boring, partly because I still had no idea about what I wanted to do, and also because of the revulsion I had at the thought of working at ‘just another boring JOB’. In retrospect, I was still more than 25 years away from the entrepreneurial spirit that would slowly materialize in my life.
PART 4. 1976-1979. 82ND AIRBORNE
Since I enjoyed flying airplanes so much, and I was now advanced enough to fly solo, I decided to go in the military to learn about helicopters and later perhaps fly them. Yes, I wanted to fly; but I was always mechanically inclined and couldn’t resist finding out what made a jet turbine tic? It always fascinated me how such a small package as a jet turbine put out so much HorsePower? So I joined Army aviation as a Crewchief on Huey helicopters to find out!
It must have been fate; but instead of going to a facility in Washington on the West coast, I was offered the same specialty on the East coast at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, home of the 82nd Airborne. One look at paratroopers jumping out of airplanes, and I realized I had found my next adrenaline fix.
It would be physically demanding, psychologically intimidating, and quite frankly, it scared the hell out of me; but I’ve always been about stepping out of my comfort zone and pushing the envelope. And yes, I would be flying in planes and helicopters all day long.
Jump school was the first time I realized the human body’s unlimited potential for food intake and physical exertion. Training was harsh, demanding, and so unrelenting in the hot sun, that no amount of eating replenished my body. No matter how much I stuffed myself, I was always hungry with not a gram of fat on my body. I could never drink enough water either. I remember thinking how ironic this was: I eat and drink as much as I can hold, yet I’m always hungry and thirsty. If I don’t pig out enough, I actually lose weight!
Anyway, I survived jump school and earned my wings. Yes, for me, there has been no bigger thrill than jumping out of a jet plane and rushing towards earth in free fall at 125 mph. Bungee jumping comes close; but that’s another story for another day. After 2 more years of various forms of fun and training, I finished my tour of duty at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
PART 5. 1980-2002. TRIATHLONS
I really enjoyed my time in the military; but I still drove back to California as fast as I could. With my honorable discharge came the benefits of the GI bill. So while I was enjoying my new found freedom, I decided to go back to CSUN, take a few fun classes, and get paid by the government for doing so. It was here that I read an article in the school newspaper about a student who was in training for a competition in Hawaii called the – Ironman Triathlon-.
What sort of competition can that be, I asked myself? I never heard of such a thing! Well, when I found out it was a new type of competition that comprised a 2.4 mile swim in the ocean, followed by a 112 mile bike race, and then a 26.2 mile marathon, it was more than I could stand. Right then and there, I committed that the following year, 1981, I would be at the starting line in Hawaii.
It also occurred to me that I knew nothing about how the human body really worked. Since I was embarking to complete a race of epic proportions, and Uncle Sam and the GI bill would pay my way, I enrolled to study physiology of Exercise at CSUN. So began my triathlon training that lasted for the next 22 years.
I completed 6 Ironman distance triathlons that took me to continents I would never have visited otherwise. In the process, I lost count of the dozens upon dozens of other triathlons, ocean swims, running, and biking races I competed in. Somewhere in there, I also managed to compete in Eco-challenge, an Adventure race in British Columbia in 1997. However much fun all this competing and travel around the world might have been, it was the decision to study the human body and what made it tick that would cement my calling in life!
I was a pioneer of sorts in the fledgling sport of Triathlons, but another novel approach in the Fitness world was brewing. Private training was emerging into mainstream as an off shoot of the Hollywood stars who had physical trainers help them get lean and mean for movie roles. This caught on like wildfire, and everyone was clamoring for ‘Private trainers’.
In 1984, I worked as a contractor to provide ‘private training’ for another trainer who billed himself as the ‘Trainer to the Stars”. With time, I gained a clientele of my own, and expanded into training athletes coming into the sport as well. On June 30th, 2002, I competed in a half Ironman distance triathlon, capping off a very long racing career.
PART 6. 2004-2014. SAN FRANCISCO
I was happy to take a break from 22 years of triathlon training. Although I like to have too much fun, I did have many adventures in far flung places of the globe. I now spent more time on developing my business.
In the mid 1990’s, I had become a massage therapist, and now had time to expand in that direction. I was always fascinated with the idea of accelerating recovery of the physical body, and anything that banishes aches and pains and promotes quality of life and longevity. Now that I no longer was training 30 hours a week for Triathlons, I added massage to my budding private training practice.
It was actually working on other people’s bodies that taught me the most about massage’s healing and restorative properties, something that had escaped me during my Triathlon career.
In both private setting, and working with Chiropractors, I couldn’t help but notice the therapeutic stress release in patients following massage. Not lost on me was the calming effect giving massages had on me. I remember observing I wish I had known this when I was training so heavily for Triathlons!
In 1999, I also became a varsity swim coach at the high school level. I had to learn basic computer skills, I had never paid attention to this technology before. Having to be on computers, it was at this time that I took notice of a fairly new phenomenon called the ‘Internet’.
As I became more intrigued with this emerging technology, I realized this to be the perfect vehicle to spread the message of fitness. I enjoyed private training; but always felt the built in limitation of working 1 on 1; not an efficient way to reach the masses. Computers and the Internet were the perfect solution to reaching a wider audience. Trouble was, I knew next to nothing of computers or the internet.
In 2004, I relocated to San Francisco because of health issues with my Parents. I would end up spending an entire decade there. In 2008, I made the decision to study computers and how to use the internet as a means to deliver Fitness on a grand scale. Thus began in earnest, a very long, arduous, and sometimes frustrating journey to understand this digital world. I started at ground zero.
Little did I know at the time, what a slave I would become to make this technology give up its secrets. Unwillingly, I would become tethered to my computer like a skeleton to a ball and chain.
When I started studying the internet, my already haphazard training suffered even more. As I spent time sitting at the computer, sometimes for hours at a time, I started noticing emerging aches and pains. Nothing of any significance; but irritations that would materialize out of nowhere. Fleeting back aches, a general tightness, loss of flexibility, carpal tunnel, etc. I realized that I was becoming (dare I say it) SEDENTARY!
I noticed as well that though I no longer trained as I did several years before, I kept eating just the same, and my weight showed it. Just because I had been in awesome shape, I was not immune to the ravages of a sedentary lifestyle. I could get fat just like anyone else. I was slowly becoming detuned. It was a rude awakening!
Over the years, I made multiple attempts to regain a semblance of the conditioning I enjoyed back in the 80s and 90’s. I would start training and make great progress, only to be sidelined by some injury after one or two months. Most bothersome was an Achilles issue on my right leg. This routine went on for the better part of a decade, and although I suspected there was a fundamental flaw in my approach back to the level of fitness I once enjoyed; I just didn’t know what to do. Sometimes, it takes the longest time to figure the obvious.
When I came to the conclusion I would have to let go of my Ego and adopt an entirely different approach to fitness in my 50’s than in my 30’s, progress showed. Many aches, pains, and injuries went away; but not all, most notably the persistent right Achilles tendon. I was on the right track; but it would be a long road to get back to triathlons. During this time as well, my Dad passed away and several years later, the Dog he had rescued before his long illness. There were several years that training and the internet were put on the back burner.
On December 28, 2012, I turned the big 6-0.Yep, that time had come. Athletically, I was but a mere shadow of my former self, I was about 30 pounds heavy, and I had a host of irritating (not debilitating) aches and pains. I likely carried more fat than the scale indicated because I had lost much muscle too. This I suspected all along, but I would be horrified 4 years down the road when I would find out precisely how much fat I had gained, and how much muscle I had lost!
For years now, I knew the internet was the next business step in my life; but I didn’t want to be just another private trainer yelling in your face like ‘Tony Little’ or ‘The biggest loser’ trainers. I also couldn’t figure who I wanted to appeal to. The light bulb went off when I turned 60. It would be the BabyBoomers and anyone who is getting older, that pretty much covers everyone reading this about page. The vehicle would be getting back in shape to do Ironman triathlons once more, and PR faster than I had 30 years before. That would be my goal, that would be my motivation.
My Mom wanted to sell the family home and size-down in a year or two, and in the end the decision was made to move back to Los Angeles. The house had been built in 1965, and to be advantageously competitive on the market by 2014, it needed a lot of work to get prepped to sell. Prepping the house took a staggering 2 years; I did most of the work myself. Needless to say, training and the internet went out the window, and I only ended up with more aches, pains and fat. GoingON30 would have to wait.
PART 7. 2015 . SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
I’m so happy to be back in SoCal, the beaches, the sun, the surf. San Francisco was behind me and so was the house. I now had no worries, only time to finally devote to taking my business to the internet and getting back in shape.
After settling in, I started training in view of going back to Ironman triathlons sometime in the future. I will start with the ‘Baby’ triathlons this time however. In fact, I won’t even start with triathlons; but a break in period for each sport which will likely take the better part of a year. No Ironmans for at least 2 years.
Perhaps, if I train with a bit more intelligence and patience in view of being injury-free, as opposed to going ‘balls to the wall’, I may find myself healthier than I’ve ever been and at the starting line of past Ironmans:
- New Zealand
Wishing you a happy Journey, Claude
PART 8. 2018 (JOURNEY UPDATE)
The above part 7 paragraph, Southern California, was written sometime in early 2015. There are now only 9 days left in 2017, 2 days until Christmas and 10 days until next year. Not only that, in 6 days, I’ll be 65 years old. It’s been the blink of an eye! Yes, it really happens that way! One day I was 20 and no longer a teenager, then the next I’m starring at 65. It’s just like PinkFloyd sings in the epic Album ‘DarkSideOfTheMoon’:
“And then one day you find ten years have got behind you”
Actually, I’m happy as hell that I’m turning 65. I’ve learned and experienced a lot in the past 3.5+ years, and while my progress back to Ironman shape is on track, my expectations were quite unrealistic in the time frame I had initially allowed. There have been many road blocks, disappointments, injuries, and dark times to contend with since my return to LosAngeles.
Fortunately, the Human Spirit always triumphs in the end because there is ALWAYS a way! This is mostly what GoingOn30 will concern itself with going forward. What are the things I’ve learned and experienced starting on the road to get fit (again!) at 61 years of age! You’ll find my road to progress through my weekly posts and many articles to come. So depending on when you read this, 2018 can be an anchor for you to situate my progression in the grand scheme of things.
I sincerely hope that, through my trials, tribulations, and eventual triumphs, I can contribute tactics and motivation that may in some small way contribute to enhancing your daily life and lifestyle. However, to succinctly sum up the last 3.5+ years since embarking on this fitness Journey, the few paragraphs below will update my status. In fact, it has been precisely 1284 days since I started training, meaning Saturday July 19th 2014 was the 1st day of my Journey.
So looking back on things since coming back to Los Angeles in July 2014, this is how my training progressed on a yearly basis:
2014 and what was left of it was a time in which I barely figured out my Journey to come. I had really no idea of how I wanted to get in shape, I just knew I needed to start somewhere. Stressed and sleep deprived since the move to LosAngeles a mere 4 days before, I drove to a local park by my house called ‘Chatsworth Oaks Park’ and ran a measly 1.01Miles. It was miserable, it was all I could do, it was 101 degrees Fahrenheit, hot as hell, and my throat was parched. I was definitely back in Southern California!
I ran that 1.01Mile in 14:21, and I couldn’t have run any faster to save my life. I ran hesitantly to shield knees and Achilles tendons, yet I still felt twinges and some pain. Fortunately, even before I finished, my mind was already racing ahead with visions of training, racing, fitness, agility, and limitless energy. The trouble was that being so detuned, running was not the most desirable sport to get back in shape starting out. I had intermittent issues with my right achilles tendon and left knee, and the repetitive pounding of running would likely complicate the situation.
I needed to get back to an environment of structured training in order to jump start my Journey. Fortunately again, I was to find that at Pierce junior college, the agricultural school I had mentioned in Part3 above and attended in 1972 . It turns out that the swim coach there was none other than a star swimmer from my Cal State Northridge days, the University I had graduated from in 1976 and ’85. Funny how life has a habit of coming back around!
Coach Judy, a star butterflier, was on the swim team at CSUN in 1984. In 2014, she still had some records standing. She in turn, was coached by Pete Accardy who led both Men’s and Women’s swim teams to numerous State and National titles in the decades of the 80s and 90s. I had swum with her at various pools back then. I knew the caliber of her training. I was very fortunate to find her at Pierce and started training with her and the kids on the swim team.
This then, was my main focus for the rest of 2014, just to get back to a semblance of structured training. Progress showed quickly, and I was training my mind and body at the same time. Swimming was easy on my body, I could train without the specter of injury. Still, I was itching to start running!
Too much, too soon! That was how my progression went in 2015. In my exuberance to run, I managed to train badly enough to race my 1st 5k on March 15th, Saint Patrick’s day. I promptly injured both Achilles tendons, which of course caused various gait compensations, which in turn resulted in more knee issues! I didn’t run for the next 2 months.
I turned of course to cycling. Biking has always been my weakest sport, so being forced into the bike was a good move for me. Like swimming, the bike is a non impact activity as you’re supported by the saddle and cranks. While my running injuries were mending and couldn’t run, I could bike and feel just fine, AMAZING!
I trained well enough, but I felt something was missing. I biked haphazardly 3-4X/week, but my progress was slow to negligible. I started cycling with a friend who introduced me to ‘The Rose Bowl ride’. The Rose Bowl is the famous stadium in Pasadena that hosts the yearly Rose Bowl parade each New Year in January. I was totally outclassed for this ride, a very humbling experience that shook me to the depths of my athletic soul.
The Rose Bowl ride consists of about 50-80 ‘roadies’, riding a 3.1Mile perimeter on the streets around the Stadium. Nothing spectacular about that, except they ride at anywhere from 20-35 miles per hour. My first day, I stayed with the pack for maybe a few 100 yards before being dropped on the first acceleration. Three months later, I could barely last 1/2 lap.
This had a profound effect on me. While I’ve had formal training in swimming and running, cycling has always been a self coached endeavor. Maybe it would be a smart idea to train for cycling systematically as I did for the other two sports?
During this time, I had started to run ever so cautiously, and while I was mending with various self applied therapies, I just felt, that overall, I was going nowhere fast. I could run, but only with caution; I could bike but was totally outclassed; I could swim but fell off training after Judy’s pre season swim training ended in Spring. I had a lot of energy, but it was just bouncing off the walls, there was no focus to that output.
Then, in the fall I swam with Coach Judy again in an extra curricular class for the swim team. What bliss, how heavenly! I just show up to practice and swim my brains out. No need to dream up a training session, no need to think about what to do; just show up and do it! And I know Judy will build the workouts to tap the maximum from her swimmers as they get fitter and fitter. Likewise, I’m progressing to extract the maximum performance I am capable of.
Then it hit me, an epiphany of gargantuan proportion! Just as the human body does, I THRIVE ON STRUCTURED TRAINING! No thought process, it’s all designed ahead of time; all I need to do is extract every ounce of energy I’m able to muster. To boot, I’m swimming with 20 year olds who are currently on the swim team and I’m doing their training, very empowering at 62 years old!
Towards the end of Fall training, an opportunity presented itself. I had the opportunity to become a LosAngeles county Lake lifeguard the following summer. But first, I would have to qualify in December by swimming 1000 meters in 18 minutes or less. This would definitely boot me out of my comfort zone, I would be competing against teen age and 20 year old team swimmers for a spot. This was the real world calling!
It was now or never, I had come back to great swimming shape, I did it on a dare to myself. If I earned a spot, what a motivation that would be for my future training ability. I could also get some specific open water training in the lake, in preparation for Ocean racing later on, with Ironman being the ultimate goal.
So on May 22nd of 2017, I would become the oldest LACounty lifeguard to complete the Academy at 62 years of age (I know, I’m getting ahead of myself).
So the takeaways for 2015 were the following:
- Structured training is great
- My cycling ability sucks
- Running must be pain free
- I have too much energy; but it’s not focused
That was the takeaway for 2015. The learning curve is much more than physical ability alone!
My body responded to structured training so well, I signed up for the spring session of swim training with Judy again. I was making great progress in regaining my fitness from the 1980s. I felt it was all coming together finally, at least in the swimming department. Besides, the LA County Lifeguard Academy was coming up in late Spring and I wanted to be ready for 6 weeks of swimming, running, push ups, sit ups, burpees, and whatever other torture the Instructors could dream up.
While the harsh physical aspect of the Academy was going to be a challenge for sure, I had the psychological aspect in the bag. Having been through the US Marines’ and US Army’s boot camps, as well as the brutality of 82ND Airborne Jump School, I was looking forward to the abuse. This would be fun, I couldn’t wait:)
Then, disaster struck:( Just 5 weeks prior to the start of Lifeguard Academy, I blew my right knee out practicing Triathlon surf entries at the beach. The pain was excruciating, it took me 35 minutes to hobble back to my car which was only 4 blocks away! I really should have been on crutches that day. The pain was so intense, I spent the next couple weeks being woken by it at all hours of the night. The days of course, were miserable.
I went into overdrive with therapy and it worked. After having an MRI to make sure the basic integrity of the knee was not compromised and nothing was torn (beyond mild degeneration due to age), I applied all my knowledge to making me whole again in time for the Academy. It worked flawlessly. While I struggled with injuries all through the Academy (even a short flu), the Lifeguard Academy didn’t test my body or mind to its limits by any means (what a relief!). That will come with an Ironman Triathlon sometime in the future.
Working at the lake was a blast that summer. Surrounded and interacting with kids 40 years my junior was humbling and motivational. I reconnected with the spirit that life lies ahead of you and anything is possible if you just do it. This is the year I realized and made the connection that indeed, I could become physically and mentally what I had been 30 years prior, at the height of my budding Triathlon adventure.
Since I had the entirety of lake Castaic to myself (close to Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita, CA), I did a lot of open water swimming those 3 months. No flip turns, no lane lines, no interruptions, it was just swimming for 30-60 minutes straight. It brought back the art of navigation and sighting, the other unsung crucial aspect to open water swimming.
I was on such a swimming kick that year, I signed up for coach Judy once more in the fall. That brought a conclusion to the year 2016 in which I totally reconnected to the water medium. I had found once more the technique of swimming like a fish, being slippery through the water, not fighting it.
In the midst of this liquid reawakening, I knew however that my running and biking ability lagged very far behind. I didn’t do this on purpose, but blowing out my right knee at the beach on March 13th didn’t allow for either biking or running. That I managed to start the Lifeguard Academy just 5 weeks later and graduate is a testament to my healing ability.
So for 2016, the takeaways were:
- I’m a swimmer
- My running and biking still suck
- I’m still learning how to manage my injuries
- I have the power to heal my body of anything thrown its way
I had a bit of homework in 2017.
After 2016 Fall training with Judy, it was time to reflect and critically analyze where my efforts were leading me in the realm of Triathlons. So on December 28th 2016, Day975 of training, my 63rd birthday, I sat down with myself and had a conversation. That conversation lasted all the way to New Year’s day 2017. On January 22nd, 2017, I reached Day1000 of this training Journey. That in itself was an accomplishment, training 1000 days toward a specific goal.
Due to life getting in the way, I wasn’t able to train with Judy and the swim team this Spring. Now that I had swum for the past year and had been off of running for so long, I planned to ease back into running for the 1st few months of the year. My aim was to replicate my swimming success in running. I planned to join the ‘Basin Blues’, the running club which had been responsible for my 5k PR of 17:12 in 1987. Coach Connely was still coaching, I had it made!
Well, it didn’t go that way at all. For the better part of 2017, I fought multiple injuries, managed them, made running comebacks, only to get injured again and repeat the cycle. I never made it to the Basin Blues, I never ran more than 3 Miles without pain of some type. This cycle of injury and comebacks persisted until September when I came to my senses. Frustrated to no end, I again turned my attention to cycling.
Through all the injuries, I was biking here and there. I didn’t dare go back to the Rose Bowl ride and humiliate myself so, yet I always deep down knew I needed to be in that kind of shape to do Ironman Triathlons some time in the future. It was about this time I picked up an old cycling training book I had kept around since 1987. The title is the ‘Complete book of Bicycling’, by none other than Greg LeMond, the 1st American to win the Tour de France. He actually won it 3 times, so I guess he knows what he’s talking about.
As I reread the book, it dawned on me how training on the bike was so similar to the structured training I’ve had with swimming and running. Reading the book also brought to mind that all Triathlons are skewed in favor of the cycle leg. In an Ironman, the cycle leg of 112Miles is 79.6% of the overall distance of 140.6Miles. Shorter distance Triathlons have that same handicap. The more I thought about this point, the more urgent and critical the necessity of being an outstanding biker became to me. So that’s exactly what I did!
On September 11th 2017, day 1238 of training, I set aside an entire year of training dedicated solely to cycling. I sat down with pen and paper an mapped out an entire year of training, with my racing season being the Rose Bowl rides from March to September 2018. I patterned this training directly from the program Greg LeMond designed for himself through his professional cycling career.
In order to dedicate myself and energies solely to cycling, I elected not to swim with coach Judy during this fall and winter. While my year long cycling program is in it’s infancy, I really enjoyed and welcomed the structured training I designed for myself. Progress has come very fast, both in speed and endurance.
In fact, my 2017 gains in cycling were spot on and simply amazing. I could predict what stage of fitness I would reach as long as I did the training called for. I felt I finally had a handle on how my body best responded to cycling. Most important though, I understood my limits of adaptation per unit time, I didn’t attempt to rush into what I could do. I didn’t progress before being ready, I was allowing my body to adapt to training at its own pace. I was adapting organically, not forcing adaptation on a body not ready to accept it.
So for 2017, the takeaways were:
- For now I’m no longer in swimming shape, but I’m a swimmer
- My running still sucks
- I’ve figured out cycling, and my biking is absolutely phenomenal
- I’m successfully managing and ridding myself of many injuries that have plagued me for years
- I have the power to heal my body of anything thrown its way
Today as I write this, it is ‘DK339’ of training. D stands for Day, K stands for 1000. In other words, it’s been 1339 days since I started training on (INSERT DATE). Five months into training, my biking is nothing short of phenomenal. I would never have dreamed of having the results I have been observing on a weekly basis. Regular ‘HIIT’ and ‘Anaerobic Threshold’ training days have yielded constant progression. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome, I’m impatiently looking forward to my racing season at the ‘Rose Bowl’.
However, I need to regress a bit to December of 2017 to shed more perspective on my current exuberance. While my cycling gains make me a happy man, I had been quite dejected with the running arena. This always frustrated and perplexed me, and while I always knew there was an answer, I suspected it lay outside any considerations I had entertained recently.
So in December 2017, I decided that the cause of my recurrent knee and achilles issues were not lack of muscular strength, soft tissue degeneration, accumulation of scar tissue due to old injuries, or just plain old age as many tried to convince me of. No, it was something much more elemental, and I’d had this problem before, I had just forgotten how I had solved it!
Way back in late 1974, both knees were suffering the ravages of many years of Judo, Karate, Track, handball, racquetball, and all manner of such abuse. Planting, twisting, torquing, and plain bad mechanics had contributed to chronically inflamed knees that left me hobbling shortly after any athletic activity. Doctors couldn’t tell me what was wrong, but exploratory reconstructive knee surgery was very popular then, and usually involved some degree of cartilage removal. I vowed this would never happen to me. Arthroscopic surgery was years away.
At the time, I was only 21, and with the prospect of being sidelined all my life, I decided to take my rehabilitation in my own hands. I did this because I had not experienced a traumatic event like the terrible triad my friend experienced that day we went skiing. I heard the ‘snap, crackle, pop’ of his knee 10 yards away. Ski patrol did a great job of stabilizing him and whisking him off the hill.
In any case, I rehabilitated my knees well enough, so that a short 2 years later, I was jumping out of planes with the 82nd Airborne, landing on hard packed earth at 15mile per hour, more if the wind was blowing!
I had rehabilitated my knees with biomechanical reeducation and heavy doses of various therapies. Somewhere along the way, I had come to the conclusion that how my feet contacted the earth with each step had been my problem. Over the next 8-10 months, I relearned how to walk properly, then how to run properly, then how to do it with every step without thinking about it. Whether I was reaching for soap in the shower, or donning scuba tanks, there was a right and wrong way to plant my feet. There was also a right and wrong way to move my body over my planted feet. When I did it wrong, I would feel twinges and pain.
Reflecting on this process in December 2017, I once again became convinced I should explore this avenue again. It had been occurring to me lately that if all the interventions I had been trying since day one of training back in July 2014 had not really worked on a permanent basis, it was not because these had no merit, it was because I was looking for the answer where it didn’t exist.
So on December 5th 2017, I went on a run with a different mindset. The focus was to not feel any pain, twinges, or other negative feedback in Achilles tendons, Knees, or hips. It was only 1.2 miles, but it was painless:) I had found the answer, but it wasn’t instinctive by any means, I regress into old movement patterns repeatedly and suffer the consequences. I’m currently going through the process of making it intuitive, and it is taking a lot of focus and dedication.
So this is where I am currently on February 15th (DK339), and I’m now running 3.5 miles at an easy pace of 9:10 minutes per mile, 2-3 times per week. Most important though, is that I am totally pain free because of my new running mechanics. I essentially run with a mid to forefoot foot strike. I also walk this way now as well, and for me it has solved a long persisting problem.
I’m tempted but won’t go into the details of my revelations here. In GoingOn30, you will read about my continuing progress, and the nuts and bolts of my method in my coming blog posts. Suffice it to say that I am overjoyed with my running progress and results so far in 2018. I’m making steady progress running and am encouraged with the blueprint I’ve laid out. On an equal footing (pun intended) with cycling, running has come to benefit from a revised biomechanical analysis of movement as well as from a structured approach to training.
Will this last?