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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!


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lactate Threshold Testing

For some time, I’ve been interested in testing my Lactate Threshold (LT) but have generally shied away due to cost and inconvenience. While it is true that CU Sports Medicine has a facility in Lone Tree, they also get a hefty fee for testing. I’m sure it is of high quality but it’s also probably way more than I need.  It’s kind of like buying a big four bedroom house. It might come with some nice amenities but for me, most of what I bought would go unused.


All of that changed with my coach’s recent announcement of an off-season training program designed to help improve one’s weakest event. Included in this three month package is an LT test which he does himself. The test and the training were available to me at the cost of one-month’s in-season fee which is a fantastic bargain. Better still, he lives just three miles away. I think the bike is where I need the most improvement, so last night; I rode over to his house.

Set Up

Upon arrival, he set got my bike hooked up to his CompuTrainer. Like my Wahoo KICKR, this is a bike trainer that electronically controls resistance on the back wheel. Most folks know the name as they were the first, and for a long time only, entrant in the computerized trainer market. In addition to using the metrics from the trainer, we also kept my Garmin paired to the Stages crank-arm power meter on my tri-bike.  The CompuTrainer was the more accurate reading since it was inputting the wattage resistance, but when I’m training on my own, I won’t have that data. Seeing the difference between power ratings on the two units provides us with a baseline for training.


While I’m very interested in science and things-scientific, it’s not my strongest area of intellect. My coach, an engineer (i.e.: scientist) by trade definitely understands this better than I do. That said, the high level summary is that lactic acid is a by-product of the consumption of glycogen. Glycogen is the chemical form of carbohydrate that your body uses when you’re performing at aerobic levels. As lactic acid is produced, some of it can actually be converted back into fuel. For some athletes, this can be utilized with great efficiency. For us mere mortals however, there comes a point at which the muscles can no longer take it and we’re forced to slow down or even stop.


There is a persistent misconception that lactic acid is the cause of muscle fatigue during and after exercise. This is not entirely accurate. The actual cause is the release of hydrogen ions into the body as lactic acid seeps out the muscle during hard efforts.

The Test

Once everything was explained to me it was time to start the test. Like any workout, this began with a warm-up which we did for a little over ten minutes. It took me a little longer than an expected to really get warmed up causing a bit of a spike on the first read. Once things settled in a little bit, my coach was able to start getting better readings.


While folks often visualize athletic testing involving an oxygen mask and a bunch of sensors all over the body, this was far less dramatic. My own heart rate monitor provided the HR data and no mask was involved.


Instead, every four minutes, he would stick my finger and then allow the blood to drip into a tiny little trough on a metal strip. That strip, in turn, was inserted into a blood monitor not unlike the testing devices used by Type I diabetics. Granted, this one was not measuring blood glucose, but rather lactate levels.


The progression involved increasing the power resistance by 20 watts every four minutes. During that interval, a new finger was stuck and blood drawn. He also recorded my heart rate at the time. So it went for over forty minutes. Normally the test would involve eight data points but he wanted to do a ninth. The reason being is that I apparently have a fairly low heart rate for the work I’m putting out. He had noted the same thing when we did my functional threshold power (FTP) test back in March. I can assure you by the end of the test I was working a very high effort levels but my HR was only about 147 BPM. I don’t have any heart condition or abnormality to explain this. It’s an interesting phenomenon and it will be interesting to see how persistent it is as we start the off-season bike workouts.


Finally, after hitting more than 260 watts 

of power (the max reading) and having the fingers on my left hand stuck a total of nine times, it was time to cool down. Of course, I still had to ride home, but that was a fairly easy ride!

Results

Sometime later today or maybe tomorrow, I’ll have the full profile sent to me by my coach. He’ll use that to set up power-based workouts I’ll have during my off-season training. Considering that Ironman will involve more than six hours of riding, I’m glad to be getting this early jump on my training.


More posts on the results and the upcoming training will be coming soon.


Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Harvest Moon Triathlon: Post Mortem

I had originally not planned to do any post-race analysis outside of my race report. However, as I look forward to next year’s Ironman Boulder, I found that a look back at my most recent and most successful race could be instructive. While what works for me is not universally applicable to everyone, perhaps anyone who stumbles across this blog might glean a nugget or two of useful information.
Unlike the race report, this post will be mostly focused on my own individual performance and how I can and might react differently in a future race.

PRE-RACE

Nutritionally, I did not do too badly, but I may have been a little light. The fact that I felt enough of a hunger pang to have two gels while setting up transition suggests that I probably needed a bigger breakfast. Without question, I’ll need to do more before spending 13 to 15 hours on a full 140.6 mile race. On the positive side, I never blew up nutritionally. Unlike last year in Austin, there was no bonk nor was there a sick full feeling that I experienced at Ironman 70.3 Boulder.
Arriving early also seems to be a virtue I’ve picked up. While not the first in line, I was probably among the first 50 percent to show up at both Steamboat and Harvest Moon. While I expect to be assigned a space for Ironman next year, it still is beneficial to have some time to set up the transition area slowly and methodically. Next year that will also involve making sure my special needs bag is properly stocked with whatever I think will help me keep going on the bike.
I actually slept reasonably well in the week leading up to Harvest Moon and while I was a bit groggy at 4:30 in the morning (who isn’t?) I woke up pretty fast after arriving. Next year, I’ll most likely be on one of my sabbaticals my company offers every five years so I’ll have plenty of time to rest leading up to race day.
Overall, I think I dialed in pre-race pretty well during the entire season. I may not race again before Ironman so the biggest challenge going into next year will be to remember all of my good habits.

THE SWIM

Harvest Moon was probably the best execution of the swim in any race. There’s almost no virtue in being the first person out of the water. Indeed, there’s more benefit from not feeling exhausted during those initial strokes as you work through the washing machine. Staying focused on being calm and establishing a good rhythm left me with some space to surge on the second half.
There’s nothing I would do differently. In the off-season, my swim workouts will be based on the ones my coach gave me and I’ll continue to work with fins and paddles because the truth is, at 45 years old I’m swimming better than I ever have in my life.

THE BIKE


My bike split was 2:57:11, officially, faster by far than my previous 70.3 races:


This chart is a little misleading because I had issues starting the bike in each (thank you very not, Garmin). However, the average speed is a fairly consistent measure across the board and as you can see, the 18.9 MPH average for Harvest was faster than even Boulder. That’s more important when you consider that there was much more climbing at Harvest and it happened later in the race. On balance, my weakest event, cycling, has improved greatly in the last year.
However, I think there’s more I could be doing. It’s not that I’m particularly competitive with everyone else on the course, but I did get dropped a lot at my most recent race, sometimes on folks in my age group riding road bikes. The other fault I found in my performance was that while my legs were not shot, they were pretty tired and that in turn led to me not having the capacity to keep up my sub 10:00 pace past eight miles in the run. I suspect my bike improvement is still a work in progress so I’ll continue to work on it during the off-season and focus hard when the new season starts in January. It will be also be interesting to re-test my FTP because I’m sure it has increased since March.

THE RUN

The final event is really two stories. For the first eight miles, it was, to me, fairly impressive. In past races, I was taking a break by the third or fourth mile. That I got to over 8 miles before walking is a fairly significant accomplishment in itself. That really is what made this a faster run than other events. However, those walking breaks did not have nearly the restorative effect for which I had hoped. In fact, as each mile progressed, the benefit of walking seemed to deliver diminishing returns to the point that when I reached mile 11, I was having to take them more often after shorter running intervals.
All of this said I can’t really fault my strategy in the race of going as long as I could. In Austin, I took planned breaks during the early part of the run but that did not provide a particular benefit. Indeed, I ran at a slower average pace and slower overall time despite that run being a half mile short of the official 13.1 distance.



Obviously, since I finished, I had the endurance to complete the race, but not the stamina to maintain a “running” pace.
Of course, the approach to a full marathon is going to be much different. The strategy I employed at the 2013 Colorado Marathon may come into play at Ironman. In that race, I ran four miles and then walked for one. I succeeded in that strategy through 18 miles at an average pace of 10:29. If I could replicate that at Ironman (a big if, I realize) I could actually walk the last 8.2 miles at 15 minute pace and still finish the run in 5:11:49 which would not be terrible.
I think a lot of my stamina this year came from some of the long and intense intervals I did in training. For example, one workout involved 6 X 1K repeats at my Z4 heart rate with fairly short recoveries in between. I anticipate workouts like that (with more intervals) when training starts in earnest early next year.
In looking back at Harvest Moon, I doubt there was much I could have done to improve my run. I never missed an assigned running workout and the only time I fell short of the designated time was to get out of the rain and hail. In other words, it was more of a safety issue than not being able to do the workout. While I wish I could have been a little faster (four minutes and change to be precise), I also think I put every last effort into the race.

OTHER FACTORS

Nutrition, while not perfect, was much improved. Even when I did not particularly want a gel, I had one. I also made sure to consume nearly my entire bottle of concentrated GU Brew. Neither made me sick or bloated meaning my body was accepting the input. It’s true that I started to feel a little sick at the end of the run, but I’m sure that had to do more with the metabolic havoc going on inside me. By that point, it had been hours since I took any new calories.

Transitions have also improved. Granted, this venue lent itself to making that easier, but I also have found a couple of tricks to save time such as not wearing socks on the bike. Even at T2, while not as fast as my previous two races this year, I moved with purpose and lost minimal time at the rack. It seems to make sense to treat a long-course transition with the same sense of urgency one brings to a short-course event. Granted, my body may not move as quickly, but the urgency seems to drive a faster overall change between legs.
Perhaps best of all, I suffered no injuries this season. That was despite training six days most weeks at intense levels. A nightly stretching routine helped me considerably as well as being disciplined about getting warmed up at the start of each workout. Overall, I’ve been pretty fortunate on the injury front but I do believe that fortune favors the prepared!
Thanks for reading and if you’ve gained nothing else from this post consider the following: the charts above represent races done at ages 42, 43, 44 and 45 and I’ve gotten faster as I’ve gone along. So despite getting further into my forties, I’m actually performing better!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Race Report: Harvest Moon Triathlon

I began working with my coach during the last week of December last year. While I had several goals, none was more important than improving my time on the 70.3 distance to under six hours and more ideally, to 5:50:00 or better.

The ultimate test of that came yesterday at the 15th Annual Harvest Moon Triathlon, which, like my other two races this year was produced by Without Limits. I've found them to be a very good production company and was pleased to participate in three of their races this year. I hope I'll be back for others in the years to come.

Packet pick up was  in the town of Sheridan, a small Denver suburb to the south and west of the city proper. Kompetitive Edge is a triathlon store located there and they have been associated with several Without Limits events. It was their support vehicle that fixed my flat at Steamboat.

The drive out there took longer than the time I spent picking up a packet and buying a new spare tube. Unlike other companies, most notably Ironman, the packet is a fairly simple affair with just one number for the run, one for the bike and then the usual ads and sample items in the goodie bag. 

I spent the rest of the day just relaxing and watching a little college football. I did take some time to mount a third cage to the Hydrotail on my TT bike and to clean the bike up a bit, but otherwise, that was it.

My brother, also doing the race, spent the night with us Saturday and after a dinner of spaghetti and salad, I packed my bag and not too long afterward, it was off to bed. I knew I would not get a lot of sleep, but I believe I got about six hours which is not bad. 

At 4:30 the following morning I was up to have a breakfast consisting of a bagel and cream cheese and a bottle of Odwalla superfood. Probably a little under 500 calories. By 5:30 we were on our way to the race venue at Aurora Reservoir. We were there before the gates opened at 6:00 so there was a brief wait but then we were moving and were able to park right next to the transition area. 

Getting bikes unloaded, picking up chips and racking in all took minimal time. I've found from my first two races that I prefer a slot near the Swim In/Run Out arch and we had our pick of these. In fact, it was near the Without Limits truck and a light pole so finding the spot during T1 and T2 would prove to be easy. I've gone hunting for my bike at previous events and it's not a good feeling!

Arriving early gave me plenty of time to slowly set up my area. As I always due, I set up a very minimal space. 



I supplemented my breakfast with a couple of Honey Stinger gels and a little water to wash them down. Time was actually going by fairly quickly so before long, I was pulling on the wetsuit and heading down to the swim warm-up area.

Unlike Steamboat and Summer Open, the swim area is a roped off section that gets a little crowded. I managed to get about five quality minutes of warming up but I had to be wary of not colliding with others. The water was a bit cool and it took me the better part of a minute to adapt. 

THE SWIM

With minimal fanfare and delay, I was soon waiting in the start coral. While there is a coral line-up, the actual start is in thigh deep-water. I prefer that because all those feet running into even the cleanest of lakes (like this one) churns so much dust that seeing anything is nearly impossible. This one started clean.

Most races would have you looking down the buoy line from the start, but in this case, you actually had to swim slight to the left and then sight down the line. Not easy since the sun was pretty much in our faces. However, it all worked out and in short order, I was moving down the line.

I did not go out overly hard to start but I was also not short of breath which was a problem at the start of Steamboat. I know several people out there who talk about the swim as their least favorite part of triathlon racing. I'm not overly enamoured with it myself. It is however, my strongest event and I found myself at a good steady pace on the back half. With the sun behind me know, sighting was easy and I always found the big red exit arch. I got out of the water and was running under it. The distance showed 1.12 miles which is about 140 yards short of 1.2 miles but I was not complaining. 



My Time: 31:49 (short course)

Official Time: 33:03 (including the run up the beach to the transition area)


T1

I was out of the top half of my wetsuit as I entered the transition area. I struggled a little bit to get all the way out but then I was quickly donning my helmet and slipping on my shoes. It did not feel like an overly long period of time. I had to round a couple of corners to leave the area so I was not going a at a dead sprint, but I was not wasting any time either.

My Time: 4:04
Official Time: 2:50 (the difference represents the time it took me to run from the swim exit to the TA)

THE BIKE

Garmin continues to find ways to make me buy someone else's watch the next time I'm in the market. Not sure how, but I guess the lap button on my 910 got bumped a couple of times so when I hit the Lap button, it started the run section. I reset everything and got into bike mode in about a minute.

The ride out of the reservoir park was much like I expected with a lot cruising and negotiating turns. Then I was on Quincy and headed east up the first of a few hills. None of the hills are actually rated and the wind was at our backs so knocking out the first ten miles went well. I had hoped to get to the first turnaround within 30 minutes and actually did it in 28. The wind was clearly factoring in as we rode back east. There were more downhill sections than up which helped but I knew I'd be going faster without it.

The next section of the course had you headed north on what is called the Watkins Road, so named because of the town that lies at its end. There are some climbs, but it's a net drop in elevation and I spent nearly all my time here in the big ring making some pretty good time.

Then you make a right turn now headed east toward the town of Bennett. A few years ago, I did some training rides that started in Bennett and I was familiar with this section of road. The one time I rode it east-bound however, I was at the end of a ride and I found it difficult.

Not true on this day. The wind was at my back and I was flying. I purposely did not have my MPH displayed but I now see I spent most of it in the upper 20 mph zone with only a couple of dips for one hill and when I rolled through the aid station and got some water. During this section, I noted my half way split was an impressive 1:15:00. I did not get overly excited about that however since I knew the back-half would be characterized by lots of climbing and the wind in my face.

Just east of Bennett, there's another right turn now on what is called the Kiowa Bennett road since it connects the two towns. The net climb through this section is only about 300 feet, but most of that is accomplished on only a handful of hills. I was not overly exhausted by this section, but I was working harder for less distance gained.

The final right turn is back onto Quincy, now headed west. As expected the wind was full on into my face and even steeper downhills felt like slow motion. I did my best to tuck down tight and take advantage of gravity when it was on my side.

Not long after the first down hill, there are two climbs (like big steps) that take you to the highest point on the course. I don't know what the official name of this hill is--or if it even has one--but I've always though of it as the Tom Bay hill since that's the name of the road that runs along its ridge. While the summit of this hill looks fairly sharp on an elevation profile, it's actually quite rounded and getting to the true summit drags on and on. Of course, the wind was there to greet me when I crested it.

Fortunately, the ride back down the hill is nearly as steep as the ride up and even with the wind, I made good time. I did not pour on speed here. Rather, I opted to use the section to recover a little and preserve my legs. As others went charging up the remaining hills, I kept reminding myself that there was still a lot of race left. The run, for me anyway, is the most challenging.

I rode back up the hill into the reservoir park at a high cadence and made sure I was not mashing the pedals. My legs and glutes were sore already and I saw no value in making that worse.




My Time: 2:56:08
Official Time: 2:57:11 (this is closer to accurate due to my watch issues)


T2

I had planned to run quickly through T2, but I had to slow that to a jog. The legs were a little wobbly as I tried to pull on my socks but the spot next to me was empty since that person was not yet back from the bike so I used the rack for support. Despite feeling pokey, I guess I actually made good time and was out of there in short order.

My Time: ??? No idea. The Garmin really screwed this up.
Official Time: 2:42 (sound about right)


THE RUN


To say that I've ever started the run portion of any event enthusiastically take a few too many liberties with the truth. In point of fact, I felt a little sluggish at the beginning of this one and initially committed the cardinal sin of thinking about how much lay ahead. I got that out of my mind and looked to see how far until the first mile.

Upon arriving at the first aid station/mile marker, I took two cups of water. The first I consumed and the second I dumped on my head. It was a shock, but a pleasant one and I felt better as I started into my second mile.

This process continued all along the course. Though I was making good time--my first 8 miles were all sub 10:00, thing were getting progressively more difficult. My heart rate was steadily in the low 140s but my the sides of my ribs felt tight and my legs were very sore. By just after mile 8, I had to take a walk break. It was less than 3 minutes then I ran on until reaching mile 9 where I did the same.

This continued all the way to mile 11 and then I began taking shorter runs and shorter walk breaks. I was hurting a lot at this point and even starting to feel a little sick. It wa difficult going during those last two miles and, in truth, I was not overly concerned with my time. I figured it would be a PR and if it was more like 6:00:00 or even 6:05:00, well that would still be a big improvement.

I ran in the last .3 miles or so and was probably never more grateful to have reached a finish line. I also took advantage of the big slip and slide at the end:


You can see the op of my head as I slide down

I only slid about half way and had to walk the rest!






My Time: 2:18:35
Official Time: 2:18:21

Overall Official Time:  5:54:08



THE AFTERMATH

This was my fourth attempt at this distance. While I remember feeling tired and worn out after each, this was by far the most exhausted I've ever felt. Regardless of what is said about sitting right after a workout, I was on the grass next to the finish line within a minute and stayed there for several more.

When I got back home, I took a two hour nap but slept fitfully because my glutes were so sore. Today, as I write this, my back is still stiff from all the aero riding. I definitely need a break.

While my coach was nice enough to provide me with a short workout this week, I've asked him to push it back. I really do want to do some good off season work, but I also really want a week off to just relax both body and mind.

Then I'll slowly ramp up duration and intensity and hit the new season with a full head of steam.

Thanks for reading and worry not, more posts re: the off season will follow!