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!