Craig Wisner

Archive for February, 2011

Outlaw Ironman?

I’m completely enamored with the thought of a full Ironman distance triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 bike, 26.2 run).  As opposed to simply ultrarunning, I’m impressed by the fact that it requires competence in a variety of disciplines, especially as learning to swim better and further is currently fascinating to me.  I can ride 100+ miles and I can run a marathon…but linking them is a wild idea.  I like the concept of essentially being an all-terrain, multi-sport athlete.  However, I’m not real savvy on the race fees and what I see of the general commercial culture surrounding triathlon, especially the bigger ones.  No disrespect to the athletes whatsoever, I’m simply not sure it’s my style.

So should the goal be to do an Outlaw Ironman:  solo, unsupported (at least not in an official sense), and unsponsored?

So how do I go about linking up a swim, bike, and run of this size?

I don’t see the bike and run as being an issue; finding a 112 mile route followed by a marathon isn’t hard.  I know I can carry all the food and water I need for the cycling without support.  I could likely do the same for the marathon portion, using my car as the transition/resupply point and running with a race vest and perhaps one water drop.

The swim is the most daunting task to do solo, and to do solo safely. As my swimming stands now, 2.4 miles of open water isn’t something I’m confident enough to do yet, let alone solo.  I’m certainly not swimming 2.4 miles in a swimming pool; I believe it has to be open water for the purity of it.  The most likely way to do this would be with someone that could provide a kayak escort.

The advantage of the solo Ironman (which will certainly have to be renamed if I do it…hell, they’ll probably sue me for trademark infringement if I don’t) is that I can do it anywhere, in any terrain that suits my interest, in any style I please.

While I’ve still never done an official triathlon of any length, through my training and research I’m very put off by the membership fees, race fees, bizarre regulations (no sleeveless jerseys in some areas???), and general locations of many of the events.  By going solo, I could do the marathon 100% on trail if I choose, the ride on/off road or in an area I personally enjoy.  It’s simply a matter of doing it somewhere that the swimming component will be close enough to not lose time transitioning to the ride.

Which has me wondering if starting at the Salton Sea could be an option.  Start the swim there with a kayak escort (if they even permit swimming), cycle to Joshua Tree and vicinity, and finish with a  run across the CRHT or similar.

Could this crazy scheme work?  Of course it can.

It all hinges on training, timing, friends that are willing to crew, and finally…simply being able to swim 2.4 miles, ride 112, and then run a marathon.

This is bananas!

Bok Choy!!!

We’ve got a huge crop going in the beds out front, it’s a really easy, hearty winter plant.

Here’s a quick, mean, green, easy dish  (I don’t measure anything):

a mess of bok choy, chopped

4 cloves crushed garlic

minced ginger

splash of low sodium soy sauce

sesame oil

Heat the skillet/wok with sesame oil, add garlic and ginger.  Next add soy sauce and bok choy.  Wait.

I like the stalks in mine, served on jasmine rice.  And don’t forget the Sriracha chili sauce.


Tri Training, Week 2

Not much training this week as I rested for the Super Spartan Race in Temecula, CA on Saturday, 2/26.

Monday:  Cycling, 13 miles.  Wrecked derailleur/hanger.

Tuesday:  1800 meters freestyle…4×50, 4×100, 1×200, 1×800, 2×100

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Rest

Friday:  800 meters freestyle…4×100, 2×200

Saturday:  Super Spartan Race, Temecula, CA.  8 miles trail with obstacles, 1:33:28.  Finished overall #311/935.   Race report to follow soon.

Sunday: Cycling, 13 miles


Running: 8 miles

Cycling: 26 miles

Swimming: 2600 meters

Now that the race is done, I’m looking forward to a good week of multisport, looking to get in 7-9 workouts.


Out for my first lycra-clad ride in months.  Overall, a great ride, about 13 miles all in big gears, some great twisting downhill.

About a mile from home I round a corner fast, downshift, and begin hammering uphill.  KERCHUUUNKK!

I throw my chain up front, somehow causing it to bind in the rear as well.  My rear wheel is screeching to a halt, locked up with smoking rubber.  I fishtail, get it under control, and pull over.

You know you’re walking home when….



Nothing makes a man feel more vulnerable than walking through the bad part of town barefoot (why wreck my cleats?), wearing spandex, and carrying a bike.

The derailleur was sucked into my spoke, completely twisting the hanger, breaking a pulley,  and bending the derailleur.  It also pulled the wheel out of the dropouts.   I was worried that it bent my frame, but after removing the hanger and derailleur and remounting my wheel, everything looks straight.

Oh well….looks like I’ll have to go buy some Dura-Ace and a hanger tonight….

Tri Training, Week 1 Summary

I’m omitting times as I’m logging full stats at

Monday: Run, 3 miles track

Tuesday: Swim, 8×50, 1×400, 2×200 freestyle  Total 1200 meters

Wednesday: Run, 3.2 miles trail

Thursday: Run, 5.7 miles trail

Friday:  Swim, 1000 meters freestyle (mixed)

Saturday:  Swim, 4×50, 3×100, 2×200, 1×400, 3×100 freestyle.  1600 meters total

Sunday: Run, 12 miles trail

Total Run:  23.9 miles

Total Swim: 3800 meters

Total Bike: 0 ( I decided to omit cycling this week for two reasons: 1. Rain, as I do a large chunk of my riding to work and was too busy this week.  2.  I’m running the Super Spartan race next Saturday and wanted to focus a little more on getting at least 1 good run in.  I hope to pick up on cycling this week as part of a run taper for the race.

Overall, happy with the week, taking the swimming slow.

3X (3 runs, 3 swims, 3 bikes) workouts are no joke.  I did 7 workouts this week, 2 short of a 3X.  Successful tri training will certainly require some serious time management skills.  Considering an Ironman will  need 9-12 workouts/week, all of longer duration, it sure looks daunting just from a scheduling perspective.

A Perfect Sunday Run

It rained for the latter half of the week…I wake up Sunday morning to spot this above my house; there is only one thing you can do in a situation like this…

Looking up Fair Oaks

Running out my front door and into the snow is a rare treat in Altadena, days like this being few and far between.  These trails have been my backyard for well over two decades and yet I can probably count how many times I’ve run them in the snow, especially the lower peaks like Echo Mountain.

Amazing scenery given I ran the same trail last Thursday and it was completely dry.

The crowds were out in full force today, a steady stream of North Face jackets, large loads, Trango boots, and the occasional pack with ice axe and crampons affixed.  Apparently climbing a trail to the summit of a 3000-5000 foot peak in the snow is quite an auspicious task.

Las Flores Canyon

I ran the Sam Merrill to Echo Mountain, went out to the ruins and snapped a few pictures, then continued up Castle Canyon to Inspiration Lookout.  I was pondering going all the way up to Mt. Lowe but the ultra sloppy conditions of Castle Canyon had me thinking otherwise.  It was a frozen rainforest, the snow in the trees melting at an alarming rate and raining down continuously.  There were also tons of blown down trees and bushes, requiring scrambles on all fours to get under or over them, coming 0ut the other side completely soaked from snow.  Given I had a single water bottle, no spare clothes, and I was soaked head to toe with ice water, I figured I’d use a bit of better judgment and call it quits at the lookout.

Echo Mountain

Castle Canyon rainforest

Higher in Castle Canyon

The cluster of white buildings is JPL

Inspiration Lookout

Mount Wilson

Inspiration Peak

Apparently I made quite a sight running shirtless and in little shorts up there, given the overabundance of preparation most hikers had gone through.  I was actually warmer without the wet shirt on, completely enjoying the sun and the cold air.  Surprisingly, people seemed to have no problem stepping aside for me.

The hairless white primate of the San Gabriel Mountains. Notice the colorful markings used to attract the opposite sex. Or was it to ward them off? A strange creature indeed.

I decided to take the Sam Merrill back down, wanting to avoid all the blow downs and see the back side of the mountains.  This is where I was truly surprised, running through a nice base of packed powder for the next mile until I came back out on the front.  The north slopes were absolutely amazing, very rare snowpack for our location and elevation.

Descending Upper Sam Merrill.

On the way back to Echo the clouds had rolled in, spurring me to pick up the pace before getting caught shirtless in a storm.  More sloppy, sloppy, sloppy ice and mud, now working its way into my shoes.  In no time I was back down to Echo, dodging the crowds and making a quick descent to the bottom.

Burn in the snow.

Sloppy sloppy. And cold.

Cyclopean Monolith of The Elder Gods. An octopus-headed figure carved of an uncertain greenish stone stood in the nook.

I knew the water and grit was rubbing pretty good in my left shoe, then I went ahead and tripped and kicked a gash in my Achilles to boot…got home to discover some pretty good carnage.  This is the second time…Will I ever learn that runs of this type require socks?  Go ahead, call me stupid or stubborn.  Blood only makes me run harder.

Delightful Carnage.

A perfect Sunday.  I believe the grand total was roughly 12 miles and +/- 7000-8000 feet cumulative.

If you live in the area, get up there while you still have time.

Touring Bike Build

It’s been a while since I’ve built a bike for myself but a recent acquisition has me tinkering in the workshop once again.  I’ve always had a passion for restoring bikes, bringing old, semi-functional creatures back to life.  It’s amazing how many bikes are in this world, rusting on the sides of houses, accumulating dust in garages, stolen and re-stolen to be left abandoned somewhere in the city.  I marvel at how often a bike can look destroyed, but once one scrapes past the dirt and rust, you find a beautiful machine that has probably never seen 1000 miles despite being 15 years old.

I’ve built many new bikes as well, but the process doesn’t have the same appeal as reviving a dead one.  While I’ve done it, geeking out on components and dropping big wads of money are not how I care to do things anymore.  It’s a never ending process of consumerism, name brand envy, and expense that really has no place in my life at this time.

I’ve been fortunate to be the sponsor and head mechanic of the cycling club at my high school, a walk-in student-run bike shop devoted to helping students/community members repair bikes for free, promote cycling, and organize rides.  I’ve always been disgusted by the thought that a shop charges a teenager/kid $30 to true a wheel when I can lend them a truing stand and teach them to do it themselves in 10 minutes.  I’ve built and repaired countless bikes and wheels for students and faculty and have developed a passion for the functional, daily beater-bikes of the world.  Not bikes with logos and expensive parts, but bikes with big rear racks and front baskets, worn-out grips, and tape holding reflectors on.  Bikes with kickstands and locks that are wound around the frame and have never come off.  Bikes that get used in simple ways by people that do not worship them or the labels on their parts.

So I’m excited about the most recent addition to my stable, what will be my third bike- I already own a road bike and a mountain bike.  It’s a Nishiki Manitoba mountain bike, probably early to mid-nineties.  It’s all Cro-Mo, made in the USA,  with entry-level Shimano parts and happens to fit me rather well.  Best of all, it was free.

So the process begins as it always has, with a full strip-down, cleaning, and daydreams of how I’m going to make it mine.  I’m looking to build a no-frills, functional bike and spend little or no money doing it.  I want an on-road/off-road touring rig, a bike built to do everything, the sort of bike a Cormac McCarthy character would be completely stoked to find in The Road. The type of bike you’d want to have when civilization collapses and bands of roving cannibals appear…when you find yourself having to ride 200 miles of broken freeway to escape the city or 10 miles into the mountains to haul back fresh water.  A bike that can jump curbs but is comfortable for distance.  A bike that I can comfortably leave outside a Los Angeles liquor store without it screaming “Free Money!”.

Guidelines for this build:

  • NO geeking out on components!
  • Spending as little money as possible.
  • Simple, functional, practical, multi-use.  Beer run or double-century capable.
  • Aesthetics go out the window- no paint jobs, matching parts, or other fashion nonsense.
  • Reuse as many spare/free parts as I can find

I’ve got a good plan in my head and will post pictures as it nears completion.

Here’s what I’m staring with.

Cheers!  To everyday bikes used by everyday people!

First Swim…

…in about two months and it felt absolutely great.  Had a lane to myself, great weather…staring at the clouds on my cool down doing backstroke.

My main focus was just getting back into the routine, going as slow and as smooth as possible, focusing on good two beat kick timing.  Something must be clicking well right now as I was swimming faster with fewer strokes than I last remember.  I kept it slow and easy, doing the following (freestyle):

8 x 50 meters

1 x 400 meters

2 x 200 meters

Total: 1200 meters

Total Time: 30:34 including rests (roughly 30 seconds between sets).

Hope to look like this soon:

Is he even working?

Here’s Michael Phelps swimming easy two beat:

So smooth and easy, I’m sure they could just go…and go…and go…and go….and go….

Tri Training, Week 1, Planned

Week 1

Monday:  24 run, 48 bike

Tuesday: 24 swim

Wednesday: 64 bike

Thursday:  32 run

Friday:  82 bike, 40 swim

Saturday: 40 run

Sunday: 32 swim

Total: 6 hours, 24 minutes

Tri Training, Revisited

I’ve been thinking long and hard on triathlon training again, recommitting without any particular race in mind, though targeting an Olympic (.93 swim, 24.8 bike, 6.2 run)  to start.  The full Ironman (2.4 swim, 112 bike, 26.2 run)  has been haunting me for some time, both horrifying and exciting, and I’m now fairly convinced a need to make a go at one in the coming year(s).  I think starting with Olympic distance will help with time organization and adjustment.  None of the distances in and of themselves are daunting, but sticking to a 3x schedule (3 runs, 3 rides, 3 swims per week) is harder than it sounds between working full time, family, commuting, etc.  I want to become accustomed to a higher frequency schedule before adding greater distance into it.

Tri training was going well in the beginning, then some doubts and issues started creeping in.  I’d like to make another go at it, hopefully working out the negatives and finding my groove in all the scheduling madness..

Tri Cons, as I see them:

  • This is an expensive sport.  Between race fees, pool memberships, and equipment costs, the costs add up quickly.   I’ve yet to purchase a tri-suit, wetsuit, or tri-specific bike.
  • I began to get a little bored of swimming laps in the pool, as I feared.  I was up to swimming roughly 2000 meters at a time, a huge gain over where I started, but the monotony of lap swimming and the artificial environment began to take their toll.  Smelly locker rooms, chlorine, waiting for a lane to open…these things began to wear on me.
  • Lack of a natural environment: riding road, swimming in pools, and running laps, all with necessary attention to time and distance.  I began to feel a little disconnected, wanted to get off roads and out of pools, back onto the trail, and away from counting laps and watching minutes.
  • I’ll likely have to shave my beard as they don’t go too well with lycra and wetsuits.

Tri Pros- what I can do to make it better:

  • Don’t focus on any races yet.  Commit to 4-6 months of training, then find a race.  This would allow me to delay race fees and save some money.  A wetsuit is needed, but I can skip the tri-suit for now and get by with some tri shorts.  As for cycling, I’ll focus on riding in my drops as much as possible and skip the aero bars/tri setup.
  • I also miss swimming laps in the pool and despite the drawbacks, I miss the full-body, low-impact feel of a long swim.  I think to remedy the ills of swimming, I simply have to get my head out of it.  Finding a partner/group to swim with could help to; another session with a coach would probably be called for now.
  • I can focus on doing my workouts, with the exception of swimming, in the mountains as much as possible.  While doing some road runs will be important as the races are on road, 75% of my mileage can be on trail; this worked fine for me in marathon training, especially for long slow runs.  Tempo on road, long on trail.  As for cycling, I should simply make an effort to do all my riding while commuting to work.  This feels less contrived (I haven’t been too into biking just for biking’s sake lately) and will save large amounts of time for the other training.  This strategy worked well a few months ago.  As for tracking stats, I’m often stubborn on this.  I should simply stop being such a purist, wear a watch, track my distances, and stop thinking about it.
  • I miss working hard.  I’ve found no combination of endurance activities that compliment each other so well in my life.  Bike to work and back, then swim that evening.  Long runs on the trails, followed by swim session when the legs are battered.  With discipline, a nice synchronicity between the three sports is achieved.
  • Tri training seems to work well with my short attention span.  While I burned out on my last go at it (primarily from swimming and not being able to afford my pool membership), I think it has the potential to hold my interest for a while…tired of running, then bike.  Tired of biking, then swim…
  • I’ll finally have an excuse to get an aero helmet and shave my legs.

I’ll be starting tomorrow, logging weekly schedules and stats here.