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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Catching Up

It’s been a while since I posted and there are few things to catch up on. Here’s the latest with me

Tri Camp

Yep. I’m going camping. Well sort of. My coach and a friend of his are putting on a training camp in Steamboat Springs over a three-day weekend at the end of June. They’ve apparently gotten a deal on some decent looking condo space and there are plans for running up Steamboat Mountain, swimming at the local hot springs and pool (I don’t believe we’ll actually be doing laps in the springs) and a long bike ride including some hill work. It ought to be very beneficial and I’m all for nearly anything that can help me prepare. More on this as we get closer to the date.

Wheels

I took the plunge and ordered a pair of Flo 90’s. They are slated to ship around May 1 and I expect to have them within a week or so of that. While they are not pure carbon (the rims are aluminum, the faring is carbon) I was also able to buy two aerodynamic wheels for less than the cost most companies want for just one. They certainly were not cheap, but they were not more than the bike. I’ve been impressed with the company for some time and I’m happy to finally be a customer. I’ll post more on how they perform (yeah and how they look) after they are installed.

Boulder Bike Course

After much delay, this was announced this week. I don’t want this whole post to be about the course, but I do have both good and bad things to say about it.

The worst of the bad is that it is short. I may end up being happy about that 100 miles in, but it is not even 110 miles. I am aware that this is often the case for Ironman course to come up shorter than the typical 112 and I know that no one is going to put an asterisk next to my finish, but I still wish they could have found those extra two miles.

Being two laps is not necessarily a bad thing, but I noticed that the entries seem to be as high as last year with something just under 2800 athletes. Last year that was on a big ol’ single loop course that spread the field out pretty quickly. Maybe this one will do the same but I’m not sure. I guess we will see.

On the plus side, it does appear to be an interesting course. There are familiar stretches such as along Highway 36 rolling north out of town and a segment along the Boulder-Longmont Diagonal Highway where you can actually pick up some decent speed on a calm day. There are a lot of sections on the back roads north of town and the scenery out there can be fairly spectacular.

I had spent some time guessing where the course would be and I struggled with how you can cross that highway without creating some fairly major traffic nightmares. The decision to use a bike path tunnel actually makes a lot of sense. It’s late in the race (over 85 miles) and it connects directly to the highway which means no riding over unpaved sections of road.

It would not be fair to criticize the two big hills that occur late in the course, but I am a little daunted by them.  The first of these goes east up Highway 52 and by my estimates is about a 3.5% grade and just over a mile long. I know this hill well since I often drove it heading to and from college in Boulder back in the day. I’m not looking to win any KOM awards here; just getting to the top without totally frying my legs is reward enough.  Despite these concerns, I don’t think any of the climbs will compare to what I did last summer on the MTCC Experience Ride. Nevertheless, I’ll be happy to hit all of my difficult training rides between now and August if it means I get through this without too much pain.

Training

Speaking of training, I’ve been doing that at intensity levels I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced before. A recent bike ride had a set of 5X5 minute intervals in power zone 5 and I had to skip the last one because I was getting sloppy. It was a trainer ride so no harm done, but I’m sure I looked pretty pathetic. I keep telling myself that all of this pain and suffering will pay off.

Less intense, but very successful has been the running strategy of 10 minutes on at easy pace (around 10 minute miles) and one minute of walking at around 16 to 17 minutes per mile. Last weekend I was able to nine of these repeats and including my warm-up and cool-down, I logged just under 12 miles in two hours. Better still, I felt tired but not totally exhausted at the end of this. While I doubt I could keep it up for the full 26.2 miles, I feel confident I could have extended that distance out to 16 miles before needing to take longer walk breaks and run for shorter intervals. Of course it will be harder after riding 112 miles, but for the first time, I’m feeling just a little bit confident about the run. I expect my coach will continue to increase the number or intervals on this workout (we’ve already gone from four to seven to nine) and that will continue to inform me on how ready I am to go the full 26.2 mile distance of the run leg.

That about sums it up for now. I am hoping to do some training on both the bike and run courses in Boulder as the weather gets better and if I do, I’ll do my best to take a few pictures to post.

For now, thanks for reading!

 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Two Weeks of Assessment

If I’m being honest, this is going to be a post where I do a lot of patting myself on the back. In truth, blogging about my triathlon experiences is a fairly self-indulgent exercise.

However, I also think that there is something of value to share with others: If I can do this, so can you.

My coach is a rocket scientist. I mean that literally. That’s his day job. As such, he has mind for data and information that is incorporated into my annual plan, my workouts and the feedback with which he provides me. Of course, in order to have something to analyze, he needs input. As Sherlock Holmes quipped in The Adventure of the Copper Beeches,“Data! Data! Data! I can’t make bricks without clay.” Hence, several of my workouts during the last two weeks have been tests.

Swimming

Coming off a recovery week is a good place to start these because quite frankly, they are very demanding. First up was a swimming test used to determine my baseline paces at various distances from 50 to 1600 yards. Future workouts will be based on the paces derived from the test. The test itself was simple in format: warm up for 1500 yards, rest one minute, swim 200 at all-out effort, rest for one minute, swim 800 as fast as possible and then cool down for about 1500 yards or until reaching one hour and fifteen minutes. 

A week later, I was given another test to see how much I regressed in speed as distances increased. This consisted of an easy, short warm-up, 50 yards all out, rest for one minute, 100 yards all out, rest for two minutes and then 400 yards as fast as possible. Swimming for 550 yards is not such a challenge, but I was completely fried when it was over.

Biking

The standard measure for a bike is, of course, Functional Threshold Power. There a lot of ways to measure this such as just finding the highest wattage you can sustain for an hour. To be a little more practical and beat up my body a little less, I was tested in the following way: Warm up for 30 minutes at an easy spin, ride hard a best possible wattage for ten minutes and then continue at best possible wattage for another 20. By taking 92% of the average power output during that last 20, you have a reasonably good estimate of your FTP.

Running

Like swimming, running consisted of tests on back to back Saturdays. The first was again simple in format but demanding in execution. At a track, I did my warm-up and then ran four 1600 meter (basically mile) repeats at my estimated effort for a 5k race. In between were recovery intervals of 90 seconds. Ideally, there would be less than a 3 percent slowdown from the first to the fourth set.

A week later, my coach actually met me at the track along with another one of his athletes. This was to conduct a run regression test where we see how much speed I would lose between an 800 and a 1600 twice with some exhausting inducing sets in between. He also took this opportunity to shoot some video of me running by on the track and analyze my form. In this test, the goal was to regress by no more than 6.5%. The 800 and 1600 were run twice for purposes of normalization. In between, we did some 400 and 800 meter runs with sprints at various places along the way. There was not a lot of distance, but the intensity of doing things like running 400 meters at all out pace made up for that.

Results

Of course, the purpose about all of this is to learn about my current state of conditioning and preparedness for the rigors of a full Ironman race. Overall, I was very pleased with the way things are shaping up but that’s not to say that there aren’t areas for improvement.

Swim

I did my 200 at just a fraction over 3 minutes and the 800 in 13:09. Those represent improvements of 6.7% and 7.1% respectively. I also just felt generally better. For the regression test, we discovered that I regress at a rate of 7.35% which is a little high but there is still a lot of time to work on that. If you were to take my fastest predicted 1600 time and extrapolate that out to the 2.4 mile swim distance, I would finish in about 1:17 and change. Factor in a wetsuit and I suspect I could do it less than 1:15 depending on how accurate the course is. I’ll keep working hard on the swim, but it is the area in which I am most confident at this point.

Bike

I’ve struggled a lot on my bike. Despite all my hard work last year, I felt like I had to give up too much during Harvest Moon and it left me pretty fried when the run started. I’ve spent a lot of time in the off season working diligently to improve and it looks like it’s starting to pay off. I managed to bring my FTP up to 213 watts which is still pretty week but almost 14% better than where it was tested back in September as part of my lactate threshold test. I still need to do a lot more on the bike, but the progress is encouraging.

Run

For me, the great thing about running is that hard work seems to yield results. That’s been true going all the way back to high school cross-country and track. Since my first set of tests eight weeks ago, I’ve been working very hard at hitting specified paces and heart-rate levels on my runs and it paid off in a big way during my trips to the track. The first 4 X 1600 test had me averaging about 8:15 per and I had knocked that down to 7:49 on the second test. My regression rate was 6.8% on the first test to 3.72% most recently which means that aerobically, I’m right where I should be.

My form is not bad, according to my coach which is great to here because for most of my life, I’ve been hearing about how terrible it is. He noted that when my front foot is going forward, it needs to be a little more perpendicular to the ground rather than closer to straight-out from my knee. He also noted that I tend to “backseat” or lean back as I run so he’s had me trying to lean forward at the ankles (not the hips). Doing all of this while just trying to run is really tricky but I’m going to focus on it. If I can gain greater economy, then I’ll take it. Any efficiency I can gain on race day will be essential.

The Future…

All of this great information is a kind of road-map to a successful race in August. Taking that out of the metaphorical, it will mean focusing on form when I get tired during runs and swims. A mind set of “keep going and get through this” is great, but remembering to be efficient and economical with limited energy is more effective. I can only imagine that workouts will become longer and more demanding now that there are less than four months until race day. I’m happy to take on all of that if it means I’ll be as prepared as I can be.  

Finally, as I mentioned at the start of this post, if I can do this so can you. I am not blessed with any particular athletic talents. I started doing triathlons at a time when I could not complete a three mile run and a mere twenty minutes of swimming seemed like a long workout. Success—however you define it—in triathlon is ultimately about mental discipline. Persuading yourself to keep going when your heart is beating out of your chest and you’re sucking wind is about putting that suffering in perspective. It’s not about some gene that allows you to endure it. Committing to the long game, meaning years to accomplish some goals is about mental stamina. 

I know a lot of readers find this site via Google search (I’m currently coming up on the second page when you enter the blog name as the search term). You can read through other posts but I’ll save you some time and tell you that when I first got into this I was doubtful and before my first meet, even a little scared. I’ll also tell you I got over it and have never once regretted my decision to train for and compete in triathlons. Nothing else I’ve done compares.

As always, thank for reading.

Have a great week!

Monday, March 2, 2015

5 Months Out

First things first, I readily acknowledge that I have been absent from these pages for quite a while. Right or wrong, I just have not felt like I’ve had much of interest to share. However, I also recalled that my purpose was to share most of my experiences since they might be of benefit to someone else. Even if the post is read years later, it still might contain a nugget or two of information that helps out. In that spirit, I’m back and ready to share some more.

By mere coincidence, today happens to mark 5 months until Ironman Boulder. As I have noted in previous posts, it’s my only race this year (aside from a few just-for-fun events). This has allowed me to be very focused on this one race with no worry about how I will perform in other events or how those events will affect the Ironman.

What I’ve been doing…

 

Eight weeks of my training are now in the book and they’ve been productive and—if I’m being completely honest here—a little hard. Much of that difficulty can be attributed to the new baselines I established for myself in all three disciplines.

In late January, I did my swim test which establishes my effective pace per 100. I won’t detail the specifics other than to say it’s a thoroughly exhausting workout. The result was a standard pace per 100 yards of 1:43 which is six seconds ahead of last year. That also means that all of my other paces have upped and hitting some of my targets on various sets has proven elusive, especially later in the workout.

At the end of that same week, I found myself on the local track doing 4 X 1 mile repeats to get a sense of my aerobic fitness level. The idea was to pace myself at such a level that my fourth mile was no more than 3% slower than my first.

A few more days off and then it was time for the FTP test. If you’ve not done one, this is one of the more difficult times you’ll spend in the saddle. While the whole time on the bike was only 1:15, a full 30 minutes was dedicated to pushing myself to high HR levels at more watts than I normally sustain during a workout. Using a formula or 92% of my average power during the last 20 minutes of the 30 minute time trial, I hit an FTP of 198. It’s not a terribly impressive number compared to a lot of folks out there, but I know it’s also me pushing as hard as my muscular and cardiovascular system will carry me.

But wait! There’s more! A week after the 4 X 1 mile test, I was back at the track, this time to do a regression test which measured how much speed I lose when the distance is doubled. It consists of a half mile and a mile at the start, a whole bunch of 400, 800 and 1000 meter repeats and then the half mile and mile at the end. When it was over, I had run almost thirteen miles and had clocked over two hours (that included some walk breaks between the test sets). This provided me with some baseline numbers for running and predicted a marathon time of 4:11:31 which I highly doubt is accurate but interesting all the same.

The more important outcome of the testing was my regression rate which was 6.8% which suggests that I have better aerobic conditioning than I did a year ago. Considering the hours I’ll be spending on the IM course, this is good news.

Much to my relief, these two weeks were followed by a recovery week. Better still I spent most of that week in Kauai! My coach went easy on me that week assigning only three easy runs and an open water swim that I did here:



While that water looks calm, there was a bit of a current that actually made swimming more difficult than my usual foray into a lake somewhere!

Like all good vacations, that one ended quickly and I found myself back in cold snowy Colorado. That’s probably just as well. I was growing a little too fond Pupus and Hula Pie!

What I’m going to do…

 

Now in my second week back from vacation my training schedule has ramped up and I suspect it to stay that way for quite a while (with the exception of recovery weeks). Swimming will continue to be a focus because at these new paces I often find myself gasping for breath when I’m not feeling the burn in my arms. I thought I swam hard last year, but the fast sets and short recovery times have seen me leaving the pool thoroughly exhausted.

While intensity has and will continue to be the way I work with my coach, volume increases are inevitable. I expect to see mileage in the mid to upper twenties for the duration. Some of my run workouts have included short walk breaks and that’s good in terms of my anticipated run strategy. I have no illusions about being able to run non-stop during the race. My ideal situation would be to have a nice balance of running and walking that I can keep consistent through at least 20 miles. If I get that far, I’ll crawl the last six miles if I have to!

Likewise, I’ll be doing a lot of cycling and if the weather ever improves here, hopefully I’ll be seeing some outside! A five hour ride is promised as part of my training and while I’m sure that is still several weeks out, I’ll be anxious to see how it goes and how I feel afterward. A new bike course is pending for IM Boulder and hopefully will be available soon. While I doubt I can do all 112 miles on a long training ride, I could easily cover that over two rides.

Equipment plans are in the works as well. I’ve signed up for Order 19 on Flo Cycling and that begins in April so hopefully soon after my TT bike will be sporting a new set of carbon wheels. Flo makes wheels that comparable to better-known brands and they do it at a much lower price.

Additionally, my venerable Zoot Flash wetsuit is looking pretty tattered so it’s time to replace it. I’m leaning toward a sleeveless version since I’m not seeing much benefit in sleeves and I do not plan on getting into the open water until it has warmed up.

That’s all for now. More updates will follow as training progresses!



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My 2015 Training Season is Underway!

This is recovery week so it seemed like as good a time as any to post on how the new year is shaping up for me. And I’m pleased to say “so far so good.”

I’m Officially Back on the Training Schedule


My coach actually gave me the week of New Year’s off which was good because like so many others I was fighting a really bad virus that was probably bronchitis though I never got an official diagnosis. Suffice it to say, I felt pretty terrible and the prospect of swimming and running outside were intimidating.

By the week starting January 5, I had largely kicked and now after several workouts, it’s gone. I rarely get sick and I don’t deal with it well when I do.

While this is my Ironman year, it’s not next week so he’s eased me back into a training routine and for that I am especially grateful. It’s not as though I didn’t swim or run during the off-season, but it was a period that was dominated by the bike. 

A real benefit has been the variety after having spent so much time in the saddle. My first few pool workouts were a bit difficult both due to still shaking whatever was ailing me and just not being used to spending much time in the water. Running was not quite as tough since all of the cardio was there, but it was not especially easy either.

Equipment


From an equipment standpoint, my only new addition is a Scosche RHYTHM Plus optical heart rate monitor. There are several out there right now, but DC Rainmaker seemed to rate this one the highest. So far, I have no complaints. It’s a vast improvement over the Garmin chest strap I had been wearing up to this point. That one was starting to show far too many spikes due to static electricity or even worse, not providing a reading at all. I’ll probably keep it as a back-up but the Scosche is definitely my new primary for workouts.

Practice Races


Early on this year, my coach asked what other races I was doing in addition to IM Boulder. My answer was of course, none. I want all of my focus to be on what is easily the biggest race of my life. He understood and appreciated that focus but said he would put some “Olympic” like events on the calendar so that I don’t get burnt out. I’ll see what I can do about doing some posts related specifically to them. Since they are not real races, I’ll feel a little bit better about stopping to get some pictures along the way. I had wanted to do a self-supported race last year but the timing never quite worked out.

Hawaii


My vacation is now only three weeks away and I’ve done a little recon via Google of the area on Kauai where I’ll be staying. I’ve also rented a road bike for a few days while I’m there which will allow me to keep training on my weaker discipline. We haven’t had a terrible winter here, but outdoor riding has been off the table for me since November. In addition to riding and running, there appears to be a decent open-water swimming venue just a short walk from my billet. Being on the leeward side of the island means calmer surf and it should be a good location in which to fit in 30 minutes or so.

The Blog


Posts have obviously gotten a bit sparse lately and that’s mainly a product of not having much new to say. A side effect of that is not doing some basic house-keeping on the site but I expect that to be done before the month is out.


Thanks for reading and best of luck to anyone who is training and preparing for their upcoming season!

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Christmas Day Run – 2014


The tradition is now five years strong! Despite having a bike work out set for later in the day, I could not let Christmas Day go by without getting some kind of a run in.

Once presents were opened and breakfast was settled, my sister-in-law and I headed out for an easy three miles down the Sulfur Gulch bike path. This was before the snow and colder weather blew in so while there were some icy spots on the trail, mostly it was like this:





Of course, I still had an hour and twenty-five minutes on the trainer later on, but alas, my tradition of running on Christmas day remains intact!

 

Thanks for reading and I hope you had a great holiday!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

No Really, I’m Still Here!

It has been quite a while since I’ve posted anything. In truth, there has not been that much to discuss lately. Nevertheless, the passage of time gives me a few items so here they are in particular order of importance:

 

The 920 XT seems to be having an Inauspicious Start

There was a lot of buzz regarding the new Garmin Multisport watch. So far, I’m hearing more negative than positive. Personally, it seems like it’s trying to be everything to everyone; part multi-sport device, part activity tracker, part daily-use time piece. At something around $600, I think this would be the near gold-standard. Given the less than spectacular results and Garmin’s continuing problems with their Connect site and Express software, I think I’m going to stick to my 910 for at least another year. 

The Real Starky Podcast is Pretty Good

I’ve been familiar with TRS since it was just a parody Twitter account and followed him a little more closely during IM Lake Placid last year. I caught my first TRS podcast when he was interviewing Ray Maker a few weeks ago and have been a dedicated listener ever since. In addition to being very funny (and I’m sure offensive to some) I’ve found the interviews to be compelling. Don’t let the irreverence and antics fool you; he’s actually producing a quality show.

IM Boulder Bike Rumors

There was a small thread on Slowtwitch.comsuggesting that IM Boulder may see a change to its bike course. Like any race, I heard some complaining (most notably that no part of the course hit the mountains) but I did not hear anything to suggest that it was terrible either. I’ll be interested to see if this is just a tweak or radical change.

Without Limits launches another Race

Too bad it’s just another sprint. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a place for Sprints, but I also think a new race ought to offer something more. A festival event with say a Sprint, Oly and Half-Iron would be better. Personally, I’m not affected because I’m not doing any of their races this year (but I hope to do some in 2016).

Ironman Arizona Sold Out in Record Time

Huh. I have to say I’m a little surprise that an event that late in the season with a three loop bike course and an okay but not great location has sold out while Boulder remains open. That’s not to say that the Boulder event is the crown jewel of WTC but I’m a bit surprise that more people wouldn’t opt for that one. 

Off-Season is coming to an End!

Hard to believe, but my easier time is nearly over. I’ve done some running, some swimming and a crap-ton of cycling. I’ve done well over a thousand miles and sixty-three hours of riding since my regular season ended and I do truly hope it will position me to be a better rider next year. And of course, by better, I mean able to ride long distances and not feel terrible afterward. I could be wrong, but it seems like I ought to feel still reasonably strong before I go run a marathon. I have no doubt that I’ll still be logging a lot of riding miles but it will be nice to actually do some swimming and running during the week as well. Crazy as it sounds, my coached workouts resume on Monday!

 

Finally, I want to say thanks as always for reading. It’s humbling that anyone would ever read this self-indulgence I call a blog. Best of luck in your 2015 goals and Merry/Happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Festivus, etc!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Thinking About Hiring a Coach?

It’s been about a year since I signed the contract and hired my coach and it’s been a good decision. Given the struggles I had in 2013, I think I would have still had a better 2014, but I also think that the guided and structured workout I’ve been doing since January have made more than an incremental difference.

With that in mind, you yourself might be at that time of year when you are thinking about hiring a coach. I have to preface this by saying that I don’t have any specific advice. Each person is different and there are a lot of reasons not to hire a professional to help you in your training and racing, not the least of which is cost. While I find the fee I’m paying my coach to be pretty reasonable (and I don’t pay it in the off –season) that’s relative.

However, if you are on the fence or just seeking more information, this post is to convey my experience with a coach in an overall sense. Perhaps you’ll glean a useful nugget of information from what I’ve said. So here goes; these are the benefits I’ve perceived from working with a coach:

Accountability

 

Prior to working with a coach, I used to spend a fair amount of time preparing my training plans. I typically would schedule all of the workouts for a season months in advance. I did so knowing that none of what I wrote on an Excel spreadsheet was set in stone. Plenty can happen that requires you to be flexible. When I failed to complete a workout, I changed the font to strike-through like this. For a while, that motivated me because, for me at least, it’s always more fun to record the details of what I accomplished than to note that I didn’t accomplish anything.

However, over time that started to fail. Worse, sometimes I would just delete a workout as if it had never been on the schedule. True, I suffered on race day but prior to that, there was no one there to keep me accountable.

One of the advantages of Training Peaks (which is how my coach and I respectively assign and show completion of workouts) is that there’s a clear indicator that a workout has been done. The date square on the application’s calendar turns green when I upload a completed workout. If it’s partially completed the square turns yellow and if it is incomplete, the square turns red. I know it seems simplistic, but those red squares are sort of badges of shame. Green squares show I’m doing what’s been assigned. 

Expertise

 

Experience is a great teacher and I’ve learned a lot of things about improving my swim, bike and run. What’s more, trial and error has shown me which workouts were effective and which were a waste of time. However, experience is not precisely the same thing as expertise. Additionally, my sample size of experience consists of one person—me. My coach on the other hand has not only me but all of the other athletes he coaches in his database. While I’m sure each of us in unique, there are some general rules related to performance that better inform his decision on which work outs to assign me. Additionally, as a USAT Level 2 Certified coach, he’s required to complete continuing education ensuring I’m being guided by the latest science and information. Comparatively speaking, doing this on my own seems a bit like I’m feeling around in the dark for the right combination or workouts and rest.

Collaboration

 

Often times, I have to explain the coach-athlete relationship to people who have a more conventional understanding of who a coach is. Unlike the head of a sports team (even one for a triathlon discipline) my relationship with my coach is really not a leader-subordinate dynamic. While it’s true that he assigns me workout and I do them, there is definitely a back and forth. Not only do I upload what I’ve done from my Garmin, but I also provide commentary. Short notes tell him if a particular set was especially difficult or if I’m having a bad week. 

We also strategize on race plans. I did my first such plan for IM Austin 70.3 but since then, he and I have come up with more tactically sound approaches. This has resulted in more than a marginal difference on results.

Have you already decided?

 

If you have already made the decision to hire a coach and are in the selection process, here a few steps and guidelines I followed when I made my choice:

·         Be confident in the coach’s enthusiasm for what they are doing. Get a sense of passion and engagement. Most coaches do this as second occupation to their main career. I made sure mine was really into what he was doing.

·         Don’t let proximity be a barrier. I was fortunate to have a coach who lives just a few miles away from me, but in truth, he could live on the other side of the planet and it would not have that much impact. In age of Face Time, Skype, E-mail , Google Documents, etc., there are plenty of ways for you to communicate and collaborate effectively with your coach

·         Don’t pay too much. I got a reasonable rate. While there are some big-name former pros who run programs for age groupers, I was hesitant to pay a lot of money for brand premium.

·         Talk to several. I formally interviewed three people and I probably should have spoken to twice that number. Time was a factor. A broader pool is always better. I took lots of notes to keep everyone straight.

·         Get a written contract and keep a copy. At the end of the day, this is a business transaction and a written agreement makes sure everyone is on the same page as to what is expected.

Thanks for reading and have a great week ahead.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Reminiscing About the Start

Today is not an anniversary of any sort. It just happens to be the day I recalled my initial foray into the sport of triathlon. While my first race was not until the spring of 2011, I started training in earnest in October of 2010.

I’ve been good about saving every workout to Garmin Connect ever since so when I want to see what was going on, I can.

For example, on this date (November 10) in 2010, I ran for 3 miles which took me 32:43 or 10:54 per mile. My heart rate averaged 147 BPM and maxed at 158! I did not keep any notes (as I do now in Training Peaks) but I recall how hard these runs were. In fact, when I started, I did a few of only 2 miles because I was just too gassed to do much else.

If nothing else, looking back at those early workouts gave me some good perspective on how far I’ve come. Perspective can be easy to lose when you’re thinking about how much needs to be done in order to be Ironman-ready.

Anyone who might be reading this wondering whether or not they can enter the sport might take some motivation from it. While my first advice to anyone (especially if you’re over 40 or have had any health problems) would be to check with your doctor first, this sport can become not just something you do but a lifestyle. It helped me lose over 40 pounds and has me looking and feeling better at 45 than I did through all of my 30s.

Thanks for reading and have a great week of training ahead!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

My 2015 Race Schedule

It’s early but this year’s schedule was easy. Here it is:


August 2

 

Yep. That’s it. Much as I love doing (and more specifically finishing a race) this will be the only triathlon I’m doing next year. All that said, it’s more miles than the combined total of the three I did last year.

I had considered doing the 70.3 race in Boulder in June as a big training day, but ultimately decided that the best way to train for the race is to train for the race. I had also toyed with doing an Olympic distance such as the Boulder Sunrise or even HITS Grand Junction but my feelings on doing those were not especially strong and in the case of the latter, driving across the state for a two and a half hour race did not seem worth it.

One regrettable item is not doing the Summer Open Sprint in May. Being the site of my first ever multi-sport event and my most often repeated event, it has a special place in my heart. True, it probably would not mess up my training to go do that race, but there are few reasons to avoid it this year. First, the swim was cold. I mean a miserable cold. I’m getting to old to be swimming around in fifty-some degree water. Second, racing opens up more distinct possibilities for injury. A more crowded bike field means better chances for a wreck and being a sprint, I’ll naturally go a little harder which naturally increases the chances of a pulled muscle.

There will be, of course, some fun races that I’m not listing here. I plan on doing the BolderBoulder as always, but that’s become more of a fun run for me as I go along to support my wife. Just like last year, I may also do a July 4 run, also for fun and depending upon what my coach thinks, maybe one of the open water swim races at Grant Ranch.

A full Ironman race sits there in August like Mount Everest. Even from this far out, I can see it and the tremendous challenge it represents. To successfully meet that challenge, all of my focus has to be on it and not distracted in any way anywhere else. 

There’s plenty more to blog about in the coming weeks including some travel and more updates on my training (it’s going pretty well).

For now, thanks for reading and have a great upcoming weekend!


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Training My Limiter


Train Your Limiter is the name my coach gave to his off-season promotion. In essence, the idea is to focus on that event that might have held you back from having a better race. Few of us age groupers truly excel at all three sports so it only makes sense to focus on the weakest one and seek to make improvements.

If you read my race report from the Harvest Moon, you’ll know that I truly struggled on the run—specifically the last three or four miles of the run. Despite having spent so much quality training time running, I clearly had struggles as the long-course event wound down. Based on that account, you might expect me to say that my off-season training focus would be on more running. However, looking more deeply into the root-cause of my late-race fatigue persuaded me that the real focus needs to be the bike.

Not everything about my ride is negative. The consistency of my ten second power average was impressive enough to my coach that he used it as an example at an Interbike symposium! Additionally, I was pleased with my ability to ride hard and fast on the back stretch of the course. That indicates that I put more effort into that section than I might have in years past. 

Ultimately, though, the level of fatigue I felt in my legs as I started the run was too high. It did not keep me from running consistently for over eight miles before taking a walk-break, but it did lead to my eventual slow down during the last three or four miles.

Instinctively, I feel that there’s not a lot more that can be done to improve my running performance. Much of last season was spent doing some very demanding drills at both long and short distances and it resulted in me being a faster overall runner. It also helped me to develop a level of cardiovascular conditioning I’ve not had for years and indeed that benefitted me greatly at Harvest Moon. Muscle fatigue was a factor but being winded was not. Spending my off-season doing more intense running work would undoubtedly make me marginally better, but it’s unlikely to have a significant impact.

Swimming is also an area in which any gains from off-season work would also be minimal. In addition to the fact that I’m usually within the top half of my age group out of the water, the swim is relatively short part of any triathlon. I hope to make some slight improvements in my swim, but there’s probably not room for much more than that.

Therefore, the bike is the only event remaining. If I had the same feeling of nearing my potential on it that I do in the water or on foot, then I might be inclined to just focus on staying in shape during the off-season. Fortunately, this is an area in which I still see considerable room for improvement.

My last post discussed the process of testing my lactate threshold (LT). The results show that threshold to be around 125 BPM and that my Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is about 187 watts. To be perfectly candid, I was both surprised and disappointed that the latter number was so low. After some consideration, however, I think my expectations may have been unduly influenced by some of the talk I hear from athletes who are simply better than me. Expecting an FTP in the upper 200 watt range from a middle of the pack age-grouper (and one who is 45 no less) isn’t very realistic. Besides, they don’t conclude a race by looking at the power readings of the participants. The point of the metric is to have a basis upon which workouts can be built. What’s more, I expect I’ll do another FTP test in six months or so and would expect to see improvement at that time. Here is the graphical representation of my test:



As I mentioned last time, for reasons that are not at all clear, I tend to run with a much lower heart rate on the bike, even when my perceived exertion rate is high. That’s not a limiter per se, just a curiosity. 

With this information in hand, my coach has been writing cycling workouts for me that will help not only help me stay well-conditioned during the off-season, but that will also position me to make definitive and significant strides in the upcoming year.

I have no illusions about completing the bike stage at Ironman Boulder and feeling fresh and ready to run a marathon as if it were a stand-alone event. I try to be optimistic, but not to the point of naiveté. That said I do hope to be able to dismount in T2 and start running without any acute fatigue. At some point during that 26 mile trek, I have no doubt that it will become exceedingly difficult to keep going. A realistic and sound race plan requires anticipating pain and suffering. In my own, very amateur opinion, the key to success lies in pushing that point as far back into the run as possible. Should I start to feel a bit overwhelmed at mile 16, I’m reasonably confident in my ability to get myself over the finish line by sheer force of will. Doing so at mile 6 would be monumentally more difficult.

Of course, all of this is just the first brick in a foundation that will support me on that quest. In a very real sense, I am merely preparing to prepare. Like any foundation, however, the presence of a single weak spot can cause the entire structure to crumble. Relatively speaking, an Ironman needs to be approached slowly and methodically. Training for the race needs to be approached in a similar manner.


More updates on the success of these efforts in future posts. Thanks for reading!