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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Intensity: It’s Working For Me

emphasize the “for me” part of that post title. Far too many people, it seems, make the assumption that what works for them works for everyone else. I’ve had some success and so perhaps so will you. But then again, perhaps not.

 

Prior to starting with my coach at the start of this calendar year, I had effectively been following a volume based philosophy. I knew there was some value in things like intervals but I also assumed that such work was not especially valuable for long course events. The only way to get good at going long was to go long. As a result, training sessions leading up to longer events (particularly 70.3 events) were characterized by long runs and rides. I just kept swimming at around the same 1500 to 2000 yards a week because I never seemed to have too much trouble on the swim.

 

All of this is not to say that I was training wrong. At least I was not per se. While I don’t think the run at Ironman 70.3 Boulder went all that well, the bike did and after stumbling a bit late season, I had a PR inAustin last October. There may have been short bursts of intensity on some of the 10 mile training runs I did leading up to that race, but nothing specific or calculated.

 

That brings us to the philosophy my coach has when it comes to training which, in oversimplified terms is train harder, not longer. As a result, nearly all of my training has been characterized by shorter, but much more intense workouts. The exception is the pool where I am not only swimming more often per week (almost always twice and quite often three times a week) but for longer periods. Even then, however, the workouts are focused around period of intensity.

 

Like a lot of people, one of my greatest concerns about training this way was the increased risk of injury. Using muscles harder naturally means that there is a greater risk of over extension and injury. Having dealt with an especially nasty injury in 2013, I was especially concerned.

 

The counter to this problem is rest. My routine has consistently been two weeks of intensity followed by a recovery week where the overall volume is less and the difficulty (in terms of Intensity Factor for example) is lower. Additionally, the swim is often itself a recovery workout since it gives legs tired and sore from running a riding a break while my arms do most of the work.

 

That’s the high level summary of what my training is like. So why do I say it’s working for me? For starters there are the results. Like most triathletes, I keep fairly close track of my training. Besides uploading all of my workouts to Training Peaks for my coach to review, I continue to keep a basic spreadsheet summarizing my activity. As a result, I have details on the distance and duration of each workout.

 

In the case of the bike, the farthest I rode prior to the recent MTCC Experience Ride was just over 47 miles on a single ride. That was a trainer ride last winter that was also lasted the longest at three hours. The longest mileage for a given week was 95 which I did the week after Memorial Day.

 

Most rides, by contrast, were shorter but consisted of periods where I was going very hard as measured both by my power output and by my heart rate. Many was the time when I left the trainer soaking wet and fully exhausted. Not infrequently, I was getting off the bike only to get on the treadmill and add 15 to 45 minutes of running to the end of the workout. Those runs were sometimes nice and easy HR Zone 2 events, but some were full on brick runs where I had to do the first five minutes in HR Zone 5.

 

When I competed in the Summer Open Sprint in mid-May, I was, of course, ready for the kind of distances a sprint triathlon presents. The only thing for which I was not entirely prepared was the frigid water and even then I swam faster than I had been in the pool albeit below my goal pace. Pushing the bike hard through the paces was tiring (especially on the more uphill outbound stretch of that course) but manageable. Coming back, I was pushing in the mid 30 mph range. The story was much the same on the run where I was tired, but I was also faster than I had been in years past.

 

On June 21, however, I was facing a much different challenge. A 106 mile bike ride with significant climbs in the mountains was going to be both further and longer than any single training day I had. It was truly the first test of the effectiveness of my coach’s philosophy.

 

I don’t know that I would say I was overly surprised with the results, but perhaps a little bit. Make no mistake, I finished that day absolutely exhausted. My legs were tired, my mind was tired and lots of things just hurt. The pain didn’t last especially long, but I more or less left everything out on the course. That said, I never faced a hill I could not climb without too much difficulty. Of course some had me tired and glad to be at the top. I did stop and rest multiple times (and not just at rest stops) but I did get through the event and never had any doubts that I would.

 

Running has not been put to quite as much of a test, though there is one example that suggests the training has been effective there as well.

 

In the first week of June, I had a work out that was an advanced aerobic running test. While I have never had my lactate threshold measured in a lab, we determined that it was roughly 157 bpm. I have a bit lower of a max heart rate number (165 by my latest measurement) so that’s pushing pretty far into Z5. My test involved doing four 17 minute intervals at just 2 to 5 bpm below the LT rate. The first two minutes were just to build up to the right HR and then do a full 15 minutes in that range. Each set had a five minute recovery between. I slowed down to walking pace for some of these just to give myself enough of a recovery to be able to do the next set. Despite the walks and slow recovery, I still completed the two hour workout with 13.3 miles. Not my fastest half marathon time, but not too far off either.

Of course, the real test of the running will be in September when I compete in the Harvest Moon 70.3 race. I have a self-supported 70.3 and an Olympic distance race between now and then which will also be decent gauges of my performance.

 

It would not be honest of me to say that this training has been easy. I’ve often been so thoroughly exhausted that I want to just lie and down and sleep for about a week. The last three days featured not a brick but two bricks (Sunday and then Tuesday) both characterized by a run that involved going into Z5 multiple times. It’s the kind of pain and suffering that is difficult to ignore. Driving me on however, is both my belief and the tangible proof that all of this is working. I’ve lost a lot of weight in the last year (about 14 pounds compared to this date in 2013) and I’m swimming biking and running faster than I ever have. At 44 years old, that’s pretty encouraging!

 

Each of us has to walk our own path so I again want to emphasize that my sharing of the experiences I’ve had is not necessarily advocacy. If you are one who is finding that their training plan (despite having faithfully executed it) is not creating desired results, you might want to try this method. If you do so, don’t forget, plenty of rest and recovery is key. My recovery weeks are roughly 2/3 the intensity and length of the other weeks. Trust me, I don’t lose any conditioning in that time!

 

Thanks for reading and have a great July 4weekend!

 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Ride Report: Mountain Top Cycling Club Experience Ride

When you ride a Century, there's a lot of story to tell. Hence, this may end up being a bit of a long post. However, I think it's a pretty good story. Unlike a triathlon race report, there's only one event here: a very long bike ride. Given it's length, I'm organizing it into multiple parts with plenty of pictures and maps along the way.

Part 1: Pre-ride
You'll note that I'm not calling this a race. I was out here merely to get it done with no real consideration for time, placement or any other achievement. Given not only the length, but also the difficulty, I think that was a good goal.

My day started at 4:30 in the morning since the town of Florissant is about 90 miles from my home. I was on the road at 4:45 and made good time, even after a stop at McDonald's. I was soon parked outside the local Grange hall and after saying hello to my brother who was riding with me, I was  ready to pick up my packet.


Not unlike a triathlon, this consisted of a number for my bike and bib for my jersey which went on the back. I had arrived with enough time to get everything ready including donning some cool weather clothing--it was still in the low 50* range when we started. Having never ridden this far and considering how hard the climbing was going to be, I was a little intimidated. It meant a less than confident look in this selfie:


All races have to do their preliminary announcements and this one was no different, but they kept it brief and in time we were on our way. 

Part 2: The "Warm-Up" and the Climb to the High Point

The first section of the race consisted of a steady but not overly steep climb toward the first aid station. We hit a couple of short sections where the grade hit 3% or so, but it was no big deal. The second half of this opening stretch had quite a bit of down hill too.

I stopped briefly at the first aid station to drop my jacket and gloves. It was still cool, so I kept my arm warmers on and then we proceeded to make the big climb into the old mining town of Cripple Creek. This was where the real work began. Sometimes things were not to hard with some flat sections and even the occasional down-sloping hill. Most of it, though, was hard climbing including a long section a 8% + grade and even some short sections at 9%. Our legs were still pretty fresh at this point so while not easy, conquering these hills was not overwhelming. Once we reached the top of a big hill, it was usually followed by a stretch of down which made for a good recovery.

Hitting the outskirts of Cripple Creek, we were immediately directed to a road that ran along the outside edge of the city. I'm told that the town is not particularly bike-friendly and that the local police have been known to wait for a cyclist to run a stop sign so they can ticket them. Probably just as well that we stayed off the main drag. Cripple Creek is one of three towns in Colorado with legalized gambling so I was also happy to avoid the casinos, even though I suspect they were not all that busy early on Saturday morning.

There was no aid station there so we made our way up the hill again toward the nearby town of Victor. Most of the modern-day mining operations are in this area so we got pretty good view of how a mountain in the area was being slowly taken down. Seriously, they were stripping it away, layer by layer. I have no idea if there includes a process to "put back" the tailing once the gold has been extracted from the ore. Fortunately, it was just the one (rather large) mountain. 

We crossed a high bridge (about 100 feet in my estimation) and then had to haul up a short but very steep hill before hitting the town limits. Victor is not home to any casinos so it kept some of the old, small town mining charm that you just can't get from a big parking garage or garish gambling hall. Of course, it was also much smaller. 

We stopped at the aid station here where I enjoyed a half peanut butter sandwich, a cookie and an orange wedge. Within five minutes, were underway again with another couple of big climbs that would see us to the high point on the course.

First was the climb out of town. This was only a couple of miles but the last half of that included hills that graded as high as 9% in a couple of sections. It was still cool and overcast, but with my arm warmers still on, I began to feel the sweat building. That was immediately relived when we cruised down into a valley ahead of the second hill. This was the view right before I started that descent:




You can see the bare mountain tops in the background. We were now approaching timberline. If you're not familiar with that term, it essentially is the point at which it is too high for trees to grow. In Colorado, that's somewhere between 9000 and 10000 feet above sea level.

The downhill was one of the steepest sections we had done to this point and brief glance down at my Garmin indicated that I was going 42 mph at one point. Then it was time to slow down make a left turn and begin another long climb.

It was not quite as steep as the climb that preceded it, but it was a bit longer--closer to three miles. We were on the back side of the mountain that was being taken down and there were huge dump trucks (the kind with 12 foot tires) dropping something like 25,000 tons of rocks back onto the mountain. Perhaps they really do rebuild it. 

Nearing the top of the hill, we reached the high point on the whole course, nearly 10,400 feet above the sea level. Looking toward the northwest, there was not a higher point around. It was like being on the roof of the world. I wish I could have gotten a picture, but I did not want to stop (I was headed down hill now) and trying to get the phone out of my back jersey pocket while working the breaks, negotiating a 9% downhill grade and steering didn't seem like the best of ideas. In truth, I don't think that a photo could really capture the magnificence. I grew up and have spent most of my life in Colorado, but I was still awestruck at what lay before me. You really have to experience it yourself to know what I mean.

After making my way back down to timberline, the road passed through a thick aspen grove that I found picture-worthy:


Shortly after this, we began a long, steep descent, back into Cripple Creek. It was taking us sometimes 12 or even 15 minutes to cover a mile before. The next couple went by in less than five. 

As soon as you hit the edge of town, you're greeted by a short but unbelievably steep hill. I measured this online and no joke, parts of it were 26% grade. Overall, this less than 0.1 mile section averaged 16%! I was out of the saddle swinging my bike from side to side doing my best just to keep moving forward and not fall over. It was that hard. Fortunately, after the crest, the downhill side was just a steep and I got a sustained rest.

Then it was back out of town and on the way to the second section of the race. Most of the way back was down and it gave my legs some time to recover, but it was still hard when the occasional climb presented itself. Back at the same aid station we passed earlier, I parted with my arm warmers and enjoyed a PBJ, some trail mix and an orange. I also refilled a water bottle since I had consumed about 1.5 bottles worth at this point. Here's the map of that first section:


Part 2: The Big Rollers on CR 11

We left the aid station and started rolling down toward what would become High Park Road/Teller County Road 11. The first section was fairly easy with a couple of small hills but a lot of easy downhill coasting which I managed in the middle ring of my road bike (tri bikes are definitely not advisable for this ride).

A t-intersection saw us moving to the left/south and southwest. The road here was mostly chip-seal which while not ideal, proved not to be too rough either. It was mostly uninterrupted by crack seals. Around five miles after the aid station, I encountered what I think was one of the toughest hills on the ride. It was one of only a handful of times I found myself out of my seat. I kept riding and riding hoping to crest it and even though the distance was only about a half mile, I was incredibly spent by the time I hit the top and then started cruising down hill again. It took several minutes to recover from that one.

Roughly 12 miles in, we hit a rest stop which my brother wisely suggested we use. He wanted to part with some of his warm clothing and he also noted that some really big climbs lay ahead. We spent a bit longer here which turned out to be wise. I had some more PB sandwich and oranges and again topped off my water. I was drinking to thirst and consuming a quite a bit, but the only time I actually had to stop and use the porta-potty was back in Victor.

We climbed out of the rest stop and the rest of the way on this section was one really big hill followed by another big down hill, a relatively flat section and then the same thing all over again. I don't know how many times we did this, but it felt like a lot. 

Here's the view near the crest of one of those hills.


You can see that there were some high clouds and the sun was out but filtered which mean that even though we had probably pushed into the low 70* range, heat was really not a factor. There had been a few head and cross-winds, but I hardly noticed. Another factor was that some hills were so steep, we were often in the lee of the wind!

The last section of this part of the ride was a fairly sustained downhill where I was cruising around the 30 mph range and resting my legs. A good thing, too. It was about to get rough. 

The section 2 map:



Part 3: The Long Hard Slog up Highway 9

As soon as you make the right turn from County Road 11 onto Colorado Highway 9, you see a sign indicating the town of Guffey is 14 miles away. Normally, 14 miles does not sound like all that much on a bike. However, I had done some fairly extensive map-study of the course and I knew that it also meant a lot of climbing. It totaled about 1480 of net gain which is as much as your find in some half iron man bike sections.

There was an aid station about two miles up the highway and it was preceded by a fairly flat section. I again refilled my water and had a couple of orange wedges. I also consumed some of my own nutrition in the from of a Honey Stinger waffle and it was pretty good.

Then it was time to start climbing. And climbing. And climbing some more. About 10 miles in, after a very long and sustained climb, we hit the first of two steep downhills where you could rack up more miles quickly. Of course, this also meant that you had to climb again immediately afterward.



After one last enjoyable downhill, it was time to climb a couple of miles into the tiny little town of Guffey. This would be the last rest stop before the meanest hill on the whole ride. I was very tired and sore at this point and upon resting a couple of times, I actually felt light headed for some reason. I had some pretzels, a PB sandwich, plenty of water and more oranges and even enjoyed a few minutes in a camp chair. Then it was time to go face the mountain. No, not this guy:



That would have been preferable.

Here's the Part 3 map:



Part 4: Hell Hill

Leaving Guffey, we went by a group of small cabins. They looked to small for a person and too big to be dog houses. There was a corrugated metal sign stating "No Trespass" without the "ing." In truth, they looked like the log cabin version of a crypt. Creepy. There's is something about small, high altitude towns that brings out the crazy hill billy in people. Back water swamps in Louisiana have nothing on us!

Putting that aside, it was time to face the big hill. The hill truly starts about a half mile after the aid station. It's just under 1.7 miles long and the average grade is 7.5%, but there are long sections of 9% and 10%. As I approached the first of these, I passed a guy walking his tri bike. I saw another guy ahead who had been walking but re-mounted and continued on before I caught him.

This is a case where the most you can do is just concentrate on going one more foot forward. I tried not to look up too often and just mashed my pedals in my lowest gear. Again, I had familiarized myself with the map and I knew the last and worst section was a question-mark like curve. Once the curve was done, the hill would be crested and I would have it topped. 

Once done, I won't say that it was easy. It was incredibly hard, but I had done some much climbing, there was a sense, of yeah, I've been doing this all day, so what? Nevertheless, I was glad to be done and on my way down for a long section.

Part 5: Finishing Up

For the next several miles, it was just down down down. Nothing especially steep, but the kind of section where you can stay at or near 20 mph with minimal pedaling. I did make a short stop at an aid station to top off my water and eat a couple more cookies which were quite good. Then it was back to Teller County Road 11, our big loop complete. The remainder would be a couple of hills that probably felt steeper than they really were due to fatigue and a lot of down hill.

Once we got back to Teller County Road 1, the same road on which we started, I just had to keep pedaling and get done as soon as I could. I wanted off that bike something terrible and focused on making as good of time as I could. There were a couple of short but steep hills in my way,and I keep watching the tenth of miles tick off. Soon, I could see the town of Florrisant and shortly thereafter, I was riding up to the Grange hall, happy to be done. Oh was I happy!

Part 6: Post Race

I was really wiped out for about 10 minutes after the race. I sat at a picnic table outside the Grange Hall, ate a brat, drank a sprite and finished off another water bottle. It took me a few minutes to get my bike, load it and then head down the hill. I had a clean t-shirt in the car, but I could muster the energy to change.

On the way down, my brother and I stopped at the Paradox Brewery in Woodland Park for a couple of bottles to go. I had my first pee since that morning in Victor despite consuming around 168 oz of water during the day. It just goes to show, it's no just the perspiration but the respiration that dries you out, especially in the high mountains.

There's a lot more I could say, but this has turned into a monster of a post that's taken around 90 minutes to write and illustrate. Suffice it to say that this was a well-organized, well-supported event that was challenging as it was rewarding. I'm pleased with my ability to have handled the hills. I also think this is fairly substantial proof that my coaches training philosophy of intensity over volume is a correct one. I don't know that I had very many more miles in me that day, but I accomplished the task without ever being concerned about my ability to finish.

Of all times, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Race Report: 2014 BolderBoulder

There are times to go hard and chase after your PR like my dog chasing a rabbit in the back yard. Then there are times to be a good husband and put someone else’s goals ahead of your own. Yesterday’s race was a case of the latter.

Some months ago after perhaps one too many glasses of wine, my wife floated the idea of running this year’s race. It was really a question of, do you think I can do it. With the exception of people with serious health concerns (none of which she has) I think anyone can complete the race. Obviously my answer was an enthusiastic yes.

While she came to regret that question at times, between me, her sister and her trainer, she was not given the opportunity to back out. We badgered her and pestered her until she gave in, registered and trained.


Hence, yesterday morning at a time much later than usual, we found ourselves at the start line, ready to go.





One thing I noticed, especially as we moved past the two mile mark, was how much more there was to see at a slower speed. Residents out on their lawns or driveways were more than just blurs. Parks and open spaces that I had never been aware of before were suddenly apparent. It was a unique view.

Tisha, my wife, had been doing some good training runs, but the initial stages of the race proved to kind of hard for her. First off, the day was warmer than any of us expected. According to Garmin Connect, our start time temperature was 63*. However, humidity at 52% and no real breeze to speak of, it felt warmer. Of course, I’m sure we also went up from there. As a result, she found herself much warmer and dehydrated than on the training runs. Making matters worse, the first aid station did not have enough cups for all of the runners going by and we actually had to wait in line for water.

We ran flat and downhill sections and took adequate walk breaks in between and she continued to push on, even though it was getting to be more and more difficult.

Before too long, however, we were headed up Folsom Street and toward the stadium. Soon it was entry. Given the slower pace, I was able to shoot the following video as we entered. It’s not the greatest quality, but I think it conveys what finishing this race looks and sounds like:


video


And here’s a shot taken by our friend who had already finished.




 With the fun of Memorial Day now behind us, it’s back to the hard training for me. My coach gave me a bit of a break last week with travel and race recovery, but now it’s back to some pretty hard and long training. There’s much preparation still needed for the Mountain Top Experience Ride which is just 3 ½ weeks away!

More updates to come.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Race Report: MHM Swim Challenge #1

After struggling in the water a week earlier at the Summer Open Sprint, I was a bit concerned about an open water swim race of 2.5 miles. In addition to be the longest s swim I've ever done, it was also in water far colder than anything I to which I had been accustomed.

My brother joined me for this one after having ridden his bike from Pueblo to Parker the day before. I had a much shorter workout!

We arrived at Grant Ranch at 7:00 which gave us about 30 minutes to get settled in, into our suits and time to warm up.

I would not call the water temperature at the lake exactly warm, but it was clearly warmer than what I had experienced last week. Some time with my face in the water blowing bubbles accomplished just what it should; I was not hyperventilating and I could swim comfortably.

The field of participants doing the 2.5 mile swim was not especially large. In the end there were 48 finishers most of whom opted for a wet suit but a few who did not. Brrr!

This saved me from having quite the same crowd at the start and made it easier to get in the groove. That still proved to be a bit of a challenge and for the first half of the first lap (this was a five lap event in deference to safety) I struggled to breathe comfortably.

By the time I was approaching the end of that lap, however, I had relaxed a little and I was moving comfortably and my form was back to what it's been in the pool. The kick was a little weak, but at least I was kicking.

There's not a lot of a story to tell with a swim. The process is repetitive and the scenery really does not change. I will say that each lap seemed to be faster and easier than the on before it and I still had some matches to burn as I came around the last buoy for the finish.

Once I was out of the water it was a short rub up the grass where a timing chip captured my official finish time of 1:18:06 which was good for 22nd in the 2.5 mile division and 7th in the division of men over 36 with a wetsuit. It's not an epic result, but I was pleased with it and it bodes well for future open water swimming. If this were a full Ironman, I would be very happy with that swim split.



This was only the first event in which I was a participant this weekend, but more on that later.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 19, 2014

SOST Debrief

With the race now done, it’s now time to break it down and see how I did vs. what I planned to do. You can read the race report for more details about the overall race. This post is really just a comparison of the strategy vs. what actually happened.

Pre-Race


Due to his family commitments, my brother and I left at different times, but I still was rolling out of the house at 5:15. I ate a banana after getting up and drank a bottle of Starbuck’s Frappuccino in the car. I would estimate I had just under 400 calories.

The transition set up was just as planned. Both sets of shoes, visor and race belt all fit on a small towel. I forgot, however, to unbuckle my bike shoes. I didn’t check it, but my bike was already in low gear.

It was a cool morning. I figure about 50* or less. What’s more, there was a breeze blowing off the cold lake so I zipped up the wetsuit early and was still a little chilled.

The lake was cold as in 57* so that meant I had to get in and try and get adapted. I was about 75% successful at that. I got in, managed to swim and stop hyperventilating, but I still struggled to put together ten minutes of smooth stroking. Just the cold shot my heart rate way up.

The Swim


Of course, any warm-up is followed by the inevitable waiting period for your wave to start. I was luck enough to be in the first wave so I was swimming at 7:39; just six minutes after the first wave went off.

 Had the water been warmer, I think I would have felt confident enough to be near the front of the pack and get out in front of them. I do fast 50’s and 100’s all the time at the pool. However, the paralyzing cold really shook my confidence so I just moved in the middle of the pack and fought through the washing machine. The first buoy came up at about 100 yards and that was where I got out of the worst of the crowd.

I did my best to keep my face down and breathe bilaterally, but there was a lot of head-out swimming. I also did a poor job of kicking. Nevertheless, I swam faster than I thought I would at about 1:35/100 which is faster than the 1:36 goal. The course ended up being pretty short (0.35 mile vs 0.50). Still, I would have hit my goal either way. In fact, the last 150 yards were probably my best swimming of the whole event.
Time: 9:29 (on pace for 12:59 for 0.5 mile)

T1


I did my best to run in from the shore and I did okay, I guess since I made it to my bike in 46 seconds more or less in line with the plan of 45 seconds. My time in transition was longer than expected however. As I mentioned, I had to unbuckle both bike shoes (not a huge loss but seconds count) and it was not easy to roll on my socks. I have terrible balance and I probably wasted 30 seconds just doing that. I almost wonder if I should have sat down!

I really did hustle out of transition. I don’t recall running through an area at such a good clip but I did this time. I also was already moving on the bike before I hit the lap button on the Garmin so that probably stretched the time out a bit too.
Time: 4:28 (1:35 longer than the 2:53 goal)

The Bike


I got going with a fair amount of ease and was moving down County Road 26 away from the reservoir without difficulty and at a decent pace. Turning north onto County Line road, I felt like I was executing my race plan well. However, one factor that I could not predict was wind. As a result, I was going slower than expected even though I was still cranking out roughly 200 watts.

Wind combined with the hill just made me slower than I thought I would be during this section. I still was passing more than I was being passed and as the big hill started to level out, my pace picked up.

I have to say, the value of using power to measure effort really became apparent here. As I started to crest a hill, my power meter made it clear when I needed to shift up. The only time I let it drop down was during the big drop to the turn around. I probably could have pushed into the big ring, but since I was going to have to come to something near a dead-stop to make the 180* turn, I just coasted in. I was still pushing nearly 30 mph at this point.

The fortunate part about reversing direction halfway through a race is that what was harder than expected becomes easier than expected. Such was the case as I rolled back down the hill. Now I was in the big ring and pushing speeds up to 37 mph without too much effort. I felt good and I knew I’d be ready to run.
Time: 38:24 (2:20 longer than the goal of 36:24)

T2


I hit my lap button the moment I stopped moving even though the timing chip sensors are located at the transition area entrance. I made good time back there and ran nearly as fast back in as I did out on the run.

I found my spot, racked my bike and was in my running shoes in just a few seconds.  Since I was so close to the Run Out arch, I was out of the area a few seconds after I left my bike.
Time: 1:37 (0:08 faster than my goal time of 1:45)

The Run


As I mentioned in my race report, leaving the transition area at a sub 8:00 pace felt fine. I kept this pace heading out toward the big hill. Once I hit that hill I slowed as expected, but made a conscious effort to keep that pace in the low 8:00 range.

Once I started moving down the long hill to the turnaround, my pace got gradually faster and I still felt okay. My heart rate was over 140 bpm but I kept at it and was still not feeling overly fatigued.

The greatest challenge of this run is the return up the long hill to the 2 mile point. It’s not all that steep, but it’s long. Nevertheless, it went by quickly for me and I stayed under my 8:00 goal pace and started to catch a few people who had been ahead of me the whole time until that point.

I did not pour on the speed heading down the steep hill since there was still nearly a mile to go, but gravity helped spike me up to sub 7:00 at this point. This may not have been what you would call “free speed” but it was close. Even though I went faster, my HR actually dropped back down from its peak rate of 156 which is 92% of my max.

I kept the pace in the low 7:00 range for the flat section that makes up the last 0.6 mile or so even though a couple of times I started to slow down a little. There was really no question of catching anyone ahead of me. With my HR now up to 157 and holding right around that point, it was all I could do to just stay on pace and finish strong.
Time: 23:29 (0:59 fast than my goal of 24:20).

Overall Race Time (1:17:26, adjusting for the full swim distance, it would have been 1:21:43 which is 2:30 slower than my goal).

Placing is not really a concern at a race like this, especially since it is in Boulder County and draws out some of the best age groupers in the state. However, here’s how it worked out for me:

Age Group (45-49) 13/28
Overall: 113/359
Swim 9th in AG
Bike 13th in AG
Run 13th in AG

I was also in the 77th percentile of all swimmers which confirms it’s still my strongest event.


Areas for Improvement


Cold Water Swimming: This will be less urgent as the summer goes on, but I definitely need to get used to dealing with the cold. My hope is to practice this at an upcoming swim race out at Grant Ranch. I still hope it warms up just a little bit out there!

T1: Transitions are as variable as any other factor on the race course, but the time I spend getting out of the wetsuit and into my cycling gear has got to get shorter. Odd as it sounds, I may have to practice rolling my socks over wet feet while standing on one foot!


Bike speed: There’s nothing more to do other than just keep doing the workouts my coach gives me as best I can. I’ve improved a fair amount from where I was last fall, but clearly I need to find a way to get faster up hills or into the wind.

Of course, with a century ride coming up in about a month, I'll have plenty of time to practice riding!

Thanks for reading. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Summer Open Sprint Triathlon

Three events on as scheduled.

No inclimate weather.

No high bacteria levels in the lake.

Is this really the Summer Open Sprint?

Okay, it was not a perfect day, but in four years of doing this race, this was the closest it's ever come. God knows, the good folks at Without Limits Productions deserved a break after the rough time this race has had in 2011-2013. Probably the only real concerning factor yesterday was the water temperature but I'll get to that in a moment.

Pre-Race:

I usually don't get any extra sleep simply by going to bed early, but Friday night was an exception. I turned in a little after 9:00 and I was asleep before 10:00. When the alarm went off at five, I was ready to roll out and get going. My normal pre-race breakfast of a Starbuck's bottle Frappuccino and a banana ensued and I was on my up north.

While better than a lot of other parts of the country, Colorado has still be trying to shake off a cold winter and spring and it was in the upper forty degree range as I rolled out of Parker. I was somewhat hopeful of warmer weather as I went through downtown Denver and we climbed to 50*, but that changed as I got north of the city and a misty fog settled in. Fortunately, things were dry and clear as I arrived at the Union Reservoir.

Packet pick-up was easy and body marking went quickly. In a few minutes, I was racked into my spot in transition, closer to the run exit, but still with plenty of space:


You'll note that this was on of the saw-horse type racks of which I am normally not very fond. However, in this case, there was plenty of clearance so that I did not need to lean my bike to a 45* angle just to get it free of the rack. Just pull it off and roll it out!  Please note my small and simple transition towel. No picnic for me. Just what a need and not a thing more.

Once this was done and my obligatory trip to the porta-john was completed, it was time to don the wetsuit which was fine with me because while not freezing, it was a bit chilly out.

My biggest concern going into this race was the water temp. I have not been in exceptionally cold water since my very first open water swim way back in 2011. The pre-race announcements said that the temperature that morning had been recorded at 57*.

I procrastinated a bit but finally got in the water and--DAMN THAT"S COLD! It's easy to forget how paralytic cold water can be. I found myself gasping, nearly unable to breathe. I swam a few strokes and then looked up only to breath in some water and start coughing. As best I could, I tried to swim a few strokes but putting my face in the water made it hard to breath. After a few minutes, I made my way back to the shore. This was pretty serious. I ran around the shore a little and then decided I had better make one more attempt attempt at warming up. The second go was a little better but not nearly what I had hoped for. By now, I was very concerned about sapping to much of my energy so I swam in and got ready for the start.

The Swim
Things got a little better as I got going. This was now my third foray into the lake, so I knew what to expect. It got a bit colder as I headed out, but I was managing and actually moving forward the whole time. There were a few unintended grabs of legs and arms as I made my way though the pack. My normally smooth bilateral breathing gave way to a lot of stroking with my head out of the water trying to get more oxygen.

Fortunately, a sprint is a short course and the first buoy came up quickly and I was now on the long side of the rectangular course. I swam a bit more efficiently through here though not anything that you would call pretty in terms of form or technique. That section too went by quickly and now I was headed toward the big red arch that marked the swim exit. It made an easy target for sighting so I just kept plugging along until my hand hit the bottom of the lake and I stood up.

Then I nearly fell over with a loss of balance. It's not the first time I've felt a little off-kilter when leaving open water, but it is the closest I've come to actually keeling over. I don't think there was anyone around me and I recovered fast enough to start moving forward and getting through the arch on my way back to the transition area.


My Time: 9:46
Official Time: 10:18
The swim course was short. My Garmin measured it at 0.35 mile.

T1
I've not been particularly good at my T1 transitions so I was trying to hurry through this one, but it just was not happening. My hands were too cold to very effectively grab anything and I was just going slow, deeply chilled from the swim. I got myself ready to ride and was headed out of the area at a good run and a true sense of urgency, but I also lost a lot of time getting out of the wet suit and into my socks and bike shoes.
My Time: 4:28
Official Time: 3:32

The Bike
By now, there was a real sense of relief on my part to be out of the water. While not the warmest of days, there was nothing that was going to make riding especially difficult or unpleasant. I got mounted quickly and had not trouble clipping in.





The first part of the ride takes you away from the reservoir on county road 26. It's a bit rough but a short part of the ride. Indeed, I was on the main part of the ride course, County Line Road (separating Boulder and Weld Counties) in less than 2 minutes.

Two factors came into play on the outbound. First, a decent hill begins just north of Colorado Highway 66. It's about a 1.9% grade over the span of 2 miles. That's not terrible, but then there is the second factor; wind. It was not a strong gale or powerful gust, but a steady flow at around 7-8 mph judging by the flags. It was just enough to make you feel it and crank up the power out put. As a result, while I had hoped to tackle the hill at around 16 mph, I was often much slower.

Things did pick up as I crested the hill and there were a couple of other short down hills and the a big one before the turn around. Anticipating the climb back up out of the turnaround, I shifted into my lowest gear and had no problem moving forward back up. The climb out of the turn was slower, but now the wind was at my back and while steeper, it was a much shorter hill.

The great thing about an out-and-back course where the out is harder and slower is that the back is easier and faster. Much faster as it turned out. I hoped to be clocking about 25 mph but it turned out to be more like 34 for large sections. I got dropped by a few younger guys on bikes with race wheels, but mostly I was passing.

The road was mostly but not entirely closed to traffic. They must have been letting locals in and out. At one point, I was behind a box truck and I cruised down hill, I realized that I was gaining on it! I began to wonder what the drafting rules were for vehicular traffic. That said, I really did not want to be right behind a truck that could slam on the breaks without warning. I thought I might have to pass him which was also not my first choice. Fortunately, just as I was about to ease left and try it, he turned off the road and I was able to open up again without any worries of bike vs. truck.

Though things flattened out during the last 3 miles or so of the bike course, I managed to stay at or above 24 mph even though my power was not dropping back below 200 watts. I kept going hard until there was about a tenth of a mile left and cruised easy to the crash line and dismounted easily. Then it was another fast run into the transition area.


My Time: 38:34
Official Time: 39:13

T2
My rack space was at the far end of the area so I ran quickly and benefited from not having to maneuver around anyone else. Everything got done quickly and efficiently here, my chill from the swim long gone. I had my helmet off, bike shoes off, run shoes and visor on and I was rolling out. I put my watch back on it's band and my race belt on as I ran out.

My Time: 1:37
Official Time: 1:23

The Run
Like all tris, the real test is the run. In a sprint, it's a question of how long can you maintain a very intense effort. I was pleased to see my time out of the finish area was sub 8:00 and I felt okay. I've done enough suffering during training over the winter that I hardly notice it.

This is an unpaved section of the previously mentioned County Road 26 and during the first mile, the surface is a little rough. There had been rain in the area the night before so while I did not have any mud puddles, there were plenty of small divots and other ankle-twisting hazards along the way. I kept an eye on someone a ways ahead of me and moved where she did.

The courses biggest challenge is a hill leading up to the first mile. I knew my pace would slack going up it but I pushed to stay in the low 8:00 range and did a pretty good job. My Garmin notified me that the first mile split was 8:02 which was slower than my goal pace. However, there were going to be plenty of opportunities to pick it up.

Just after the one mile marker, I was headed down hill and was clocking a speed of around 7:20 per mile which, for me, is pretty fast. I kept that up all the way to the turn around and then did my best to stay below 8:00 pace on the way back up the hill. It's not especially steep, just long. I kept my eyes on the top and just kept pushing.

The reward was going down the hill that marks the end of the first mile. I actually got under a 7:00 pace a few times here and then stayed in the low 7:00 range for the remaining section of the run. This is a fairly flat area but I again had to navigate the rough road. Fortunately, that did not prove to be too difficult and soon I was happily approaching the finish.

It's safe to say I left all of my effort on the course so there was no sprint to the line, but then none was needed.



My Time: 23:29
Official Time: 23:26

My Overall Time: 1:17:54
Official Overall Time: 1:17:55

I've done enough race reviewing (especially of this one) over the years that I think I'll abstain this year. Suffice it to say that I recommend the SOST to anyone who is either a first timer or to any veteran who wants to get their season started a little early without having to travel. I suspect that I'd enjoy doing the HITS race in Grand Junction, but that is clear across the state so not high on my list. This sprint is a good way to tune up for the upcoming season.

My main focus now will be on the Mountain Top Experience Ride on June 21. This is a 106 mile ride with over 10,000 feet of elevation gain. Much to do between now and then and I'll do my best to document those efforts here.

Thanks for reading and whenever and wherever you are racing, Good Luck!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

SOST Race Plan

I’ve never posted a race plan on this site. Ever. I’ve spoken generally about what I want to do but never the details. At Austin last year I actually put together a fairly detailed narrative about how I wanted the race to go, but that was more for me.

 

Today, I’m going to share my plans for this Saturday’s Summer Open Sprint Triathlon (SOST) and I’ll follow that up later with how it went. That will be a different post than the actual race report, however.

 

Pre-Race

I’m going with my brother who is volunteering so I expect to be there very early. That might mean a little less sleep, but for a short race like this, I’m not worried. I can always grab a nap later in the day.

 

I’ll get enough fuel in the morning to make sure I’m feeling ready but not loaded down either. I usually do okay on relatively light meals and more so since this is a sprint. In truth, I’d probably be having just as many calories for an Oly. The difference is that in an Oly, I would take nutrition during the race. Not true here.

 

Simple set ups for transition are always best. Not only does it make it easier for you, it’s thoughtful to those around you. My small towel will have my two sets of shoes (running and cycling) a rolled pair of socks, and my visor for the run. The will be on the straw of my aero bottle on the handle bars and will contain my beanie (which keeps sweat out of my eyes) and sunglasses.

 

Of particular importance will be making sure that my bike shoes are unbuckled and that my bike is in the lowest gear.

 

Current forecasts call for a nice day so while I’ll done my wet suit eventually, I expect I’ll wait until some time after 7:00 to put it on. Colder temperatures will dictate if that changes. I plan on getting about 10 minutes of easy swimming in before the start. I’ve typically done a lot less than that, but I want to make sure I can bring my heart rate up a little. It will make the start easier.

 

The Swim

 

A lot of this plan is based on guidance I got from my coach. It’s a little different than how I would have done things, but not a lot.

 

While I tend to go easy on the start of the swim, he wants me go out at my best 100 yard pace and get into the clear water. That makes some sense. Even last year (hardly a banner year for conditioning and preparation) I was in the top 3rd of swimmers both in terms of age group and overall. Putting the slower, more insecure group behind me makes sense. I’m not going to try and go head to head with anyone, but I am going to go at my best and work around people. It’s 100 yards and should be over in slight more than 1.5 minutes.

 

Then, as I work toward the first turn, I’ll ease it back a little but not much. This will allow me to find a rhythm and make a good foundation for speeding up to the finish.

 

After the first turn, about halfway down the back stretch, I’ll kick back up to my best pace for a 500 yard swim. It’s likely to be a little further than 500 yards, but I’m pretty sure I can handle that. This will be my pace all the way until my hand hits the water and I start running into T1.

Goal Time: 13:11

 

T1

 

The run-in from the shoreline is only about 0.1 mile and I’m going to try and do that at more than a jog. My plan is to twist the Garmin off the wrist band and place it on the bike as soon as I arrive. This should make it possible to remove that sleeve of my wetsuit without removing the band. The other sleeve will be removed on the run-in.

 

I know a lot of folks who skip the socks but I really need them for the run so I’ll roll them on my feet now and save time in T2. This should not take more than 15 seconds and hopefully less.

 

Shoes on and buckled, sunglasses on, beanie on, and helmet on in that order. Run out as fast as possible without falling or colliding with anyone and mount quickly after the crash line. I’ll be in low gear so starting off should be easy.

Goal Time: 2:53


The Bike

 

My coach has me easing into the first two miles when my HR is likely to be spiked from the transition running. Nevertheless, I should be in power zone 4 (about 183 – 213 watts for me). This will continue until my HR comes back a little bit and then between 1.5 and 2 miles, I’ll start a gradual build up into power zone 5 (213 -242 watts). I expect the ride out to be in the small ring since there is something of a hill after about 2.5 miles.

 

The turn around is 180* so that will necessitate slowing (preceded by down shifting) and then I’ll work right back into PZ5 and then push into PZ6 (probably 275+ watts) and once I hit the same hill going down, I’ll kick it into the big ring the rest of the way. I’ve been advised to stop taking water with 3 miles left so my guess is that I’ll just kill off what’s in my aero bottle before I get to that point. Upon approaching the crash line, I’ll slow down enough that I don’t have to skid in or really crash to finish. I don’t think I’ll pull my feet out of my shoes, but I’ll definitely unclip the right in preparation to swing off.

 

T2

 

This is definitely my better transition. On a short run-in (like the Rattlesnake Tri) I’ve done it in less than 2 minutes. This is comparable so I’ll just run hard, get out of the helmet, and shoes, lose the beanie and replace it with the visor, slip on my running shoes (they are already laced with Yankz) take the Garmin from the bike and start heading out.

Goal Time: 1:45

 

The Run

 

Like any triathlon, this is the real test. Sure, I could under do it on the bike but I’ll be looking at my watts speed and HR the whole time so it should be easy to stay with it. I’m not overly concerned about my conditioning. If I have not gotten in good enough shape for this strategy by now, then something will be seriously wrong!

 

Any run-out of T1, at least for me, is accompanied by an almost overwhelming sense of exhaustion. I’ve done a pretty good job over the years of putting that out of my mind knowing that the feeling goes away after a short while. To help, my goal pace out of the staging area on to the main road for the race is around 8:15which is slower than I plan on for the run average.

 

Upon hitting the road, I plan on a gradual build from HR zone 4 (around 143 bpm) into Z5 (151 -159). Just shy of a mile is a decent sized hill. It’s likely to slow me, but I will make that up when I go down the longer back side. I’m not going to tear it up just yet since the bottom of the hill is the turn around and half way point.

 

It’s a climb back up, but not a terrible one and certainly not as steep as some of what I run around home. I’ll be well into my HR zone 5 and probably feeling a fair amount of pain. That should get better when I crest the hill and basically get to run down or flat all the way in. I’ll be pushing hard at this point and will do my best to kick it into a sprint at the finish (nice to have a good picture). No, I won’t clip anyone just for the sake of clipping them—that’s lame.

Goal Time: 24:20


Race Goal Time: 1:18:13

 

 

No plan is perfect and it is exceedingly rare for one to be executed flawlessly. I’m not going to be looking at my watch in the water, for example. But I’ll just have to trust that I can do the swim by feel. It’s worked pretty well in the pool. I have no idea how it will feel in the open in a wetsuit.

A great bike ride could be stymied by wind or an unexpectedly crowded field. Despite all the running I’ve done, I could have a bad day. These are not excuses: just an acknowledgement that even best of plans can go astray.

 

One way or another, though, I’m getting very anxious to go out and see what all of these months of training have wrought.

 

Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Playing With Power


The combination of buying a Wahoo KICKR trainer along with a winter that was bad enough to ensure that every ride this winter was an indoor ride resulted in me getting pretty familiar with power.


I also took some steps to better educate myself such as reading Joe Friel’s “Power Meter Handbook” so that I could better understand concepts like Functional Threshold Power (FTP) Intensity Factor, (IF) and Training Stress Score (TSS). The book is good but very technical and for someone with my background, a bit difficult to absorb.


Nevertheless, I was able to complete a test for my FTP back in March. It turned out to be a fairly paltry 202 watts. This is basically saying that’s the power I can hold for an hour ride. From that, my coach was able to set up a series of Power Zones for me from 1 (easy, active recovery) to 5 (VO2 Max).


That was great for several workouts but the thing that happened in the last few weeks is that the weather got good enough to start actually riding outdoors—you know, like you’re supposed to.


Until a couple of weeks ago, that meant no power data. All I had was HR and Cadence through my Garmin sensors.


That changed when (after a five week wait) Stages Cycling in Boulder shipped me my new crankset, complete with their crank-arm-based power meter. I won’t rehash all of that technology here but if you are interested, you can check out the technical section of their website, or better still, this DC Rainmaker product review.


The most important thing to understand about this meter is that it measures power only from the left side—specifically from the strain being put on the left crank arm. Doing so allows them to offer products starting from an incredibly low $699.99 which is quite competitive in the market. The nearest competitors (using hub or spider-based systems) are around $100 more. I had to spend a little more to get an entirely new crankset but my guess is that a lot of folks will be able to swap out just the existing arm. They also appear to be adding additional brands and models on a regular, albeit slow, basis.



Like anything new, there is always a concern about whether or not it will work. I was quite pleased to discover early on that I started getting readings right away. The workout I had for the day of my first ride involved a series of intervals into my top Power/HR Zone for declining periods of time.



A couple of big spikes are probably related to starting up a hill in higher gear and not really indicative of any actual work. Nevertheless, it provided me with a good read on just how hard I was working.


In fact, it also helped negate the effects of bad HR data. Like a lot of people (especially those in drier climates like Colorado) HR meters are notoriously susceptible to spikes due to static electricity. That can be created just by riding or (as was the case on the day of my workout) by high wind. As a result, I know I can’t trust the data I’m seeing about my heart rate. Power, however, does not care. You are either working or not and the results are immediate.



This is not to say that I don’t see some value in HR data. Indeed, I’m waiting for a couple of optically based systems to come on the market and buy one. However, when it comes to the ride, there’s really no better way to evaluate how hard you are working.


One controversy around Stages is the question of whether or not you’re getting reliable data by measuring just from the left side and then multiplying that number by 2. The DC Rainmaker article addresses this better than I could. That said, I believe I’m getting the data I need. Is it possible it’s off? Sure. Does it matter that much to someone of my ability level? No, not really.


Of course, in a sport where it seems like there is always some new expense, $700 is still nothing to sneeze at. Despite several new entrants, power meters have not come down in price to something more reasonable like say $300 - $400. Perhaps that will change. They used to go for no less than $1500 (and often times more).


This was a decision I put off multiple times, but now that I actually have the new cranks installed and working as they are supposed to, I’m really happy with the results. The new feature serves the dual purpose of providing me with better performance data as well as being able to do the workouts assigned to me by my coach.



As always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Suffering

I’ve lately begun to openly discuss my desire (probably) to compete in Ironman Boulder in 2015. I’ve even gone so far as to volunteer at this year’s race and get a higher priority registration slot.

My mention of this usually draws a reaction of either you’re crazy (or something to that effect) or merely the question of “Why?”

It’s not an easy question to answer but a quote from the book Iron War probably sums up why I want to complete the 140.6 distance in particular and why do triathlons in general:

“…it can be better to feel anything—even pain—than to feel nothing. Sometimes pleasure and pain are derived from the same source. There is no pleasure in doing triathlon, but it metes out a kind of suffering that is satisfying in the context of our soporific modern existence with its all infernal conveniences.”

Until recently reading that book, I’ve had a hard time articulating why I do what I do. Before I started training for triathlons, soporific was probably as good an adjective as any to describe my life. I had run and trained, but it had fallen off and I was more or less sedentary.

Of course, while suffering has its utility, it can also be destructive. Indeed, for most people, using the term positively probably seems odd if not completely masochistic.

My own recent training experiences have helped me find a way to suffer, but to manage it in a way analogous to the way one manages their intake of hydration and nutrition during a race.

About a month ago my coach “bumped” (his word) both the volume and intensity of my weekly training. Two weekly swims have become three, 20 miles running have become over 25 and cycling has been based on power zones. In a non-recovery week, training hours are around 12. That eases back to 8 every third week when I get to recover. In short, I’ve had ample opportunity to suffer.

Last week, I was assigned a series of interval workouts in which the distance descended and the pace ascended. The last interval in each of the two sets was 200 meters at a more or less all out speed (or what I could manage by that point). A day later, I was riding my bike up a hill for over a mile to push my heart rate into Z5. I had to do that five more times before getting to warm down.

Like anyone who has committed to train, I’ve accepted a certain level of suffering as part of the price to be ready come race day. Each of us has variation on the mantra “It’s worth it” that helps us get through the tough workouts.

What seemed different about these most recent efforts, however, was my ability to keep the suffering of my body separate from the suffering of my mind. While I knew I was hurting, my brain was really showing no more emotion about it than the needles on a dashboard that tell you your engine is getting too hot or that you’re running low on fuel. That’s not to say that I didn't feel mentally miserable at times as well, just not all the time.

When I did my first multi-sport event (a triathlon turned duathlon) the most significant memory I took away was how miserable I was as I moved from bike to run. Leaving the transition area, I felt almost overwhelmed by my high heart rate and shortness of breath. This despite multiple bricks in practice. That feeling crept in a few times during my track and bike workouts, but it never really took hold.

Have I discovered a secret to training and racing even when my body feels terrible? Probably not. More likely it’s one more tool in the belt.

More to come on training and the specific steps I’m taking to prepare for the first race of the season.

In the meantime, have a great week and thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Arizona

 While I’m based in the Denver area, my boss and several colleagues are in Phoenix which means I go down there at least once a year. In 2014, I’ve actually made two trips to the desert with a third coming up in May.

In year’s past, I usually got a single run in around the posh homes in the neighborhood adjacent to the Arizona Biltmore hotel. Of course, this year, I’m under a formally coached plan so that meant multiple workouts including the challenge of finding a 4% grade hill.

Last Wednesday the first order was the bike which was a fairly easy 45 minute, high spin, low resistance event. Much as I would have liked to get on a bike that actually measured and captured my performance, no such options were available at the resort fitness center. No matter, I was able to watch RPM and track my heart rate (though I forgot to pack my monitor –doh!)

During my ride, I asked the fitness center manager which of the various pools on property would be best for lap swimming and he referred me to one used by Biltmore club members just on the corner. Sure enough, there was a nice, straight 25 yard-ish pool that had the look of a place not likely to be of use early in the morning.


Should you ever find yourself at the Arizona Biltmore and looking for the pool, here’s a shot from Google maps:


I know, it’s a stunning visual.

Pre-dawn I was there swimming my 3100 multi-set workout and despite being down at lower altitude, suffering a little bit. Not sure what it was exactly, but it was one of the more difficult swims I had. Fortunately, swims have the benefit of affording a quick recovery and I felt fine by the time I left the hotel for work.

Of course, my day was not over. That afternoon, I was assigned five 1 kilometer hill repeats on a grade of 4% - 5%. The thing about Phoenix is that most of it is pretty flat. The exception being the mountains located right in the middle of the city. These, of course are much steeper than 5%.

After some online research, I determined the best place to do the run is on the road that leads to the Piestewa Peak trail head. It worked out to around 4.2% and while I knew there would be some traffic, I also knew it would be slow moving.

A fairly easy but warm 20 minute warm-up run had me at the start of the hill and I headed up for the first. No natural hill is perfectly even all the way up so while there were a couple of short sections that were flat over even slightly down, most of it was a steep climb and I was pushed all the way up into my Z5 heart rate.


I took it easy going back down and recovered pretty well but by the time I finished the fifth repeat, I was more than a little happy to be done with the workout. It was also starting to get dark.




As always, thanks for reading and have a great upcoming weekend!