Tuesday, April 29, 2008

So Much To Blog, So Little Time....

I honestly have a lot of stuff to write about. You would think that last week would have been a good week for it -- being a recovery week and all. But as I've mentioned before, recovery is hard work. These are typically lighter weeks in terms of volume, but they tend to have some intense workouts scheduled for benchmark purposes. Last week was really important because it was the first time I would be able to really assess my current "level of fitness" and make some decisions about what direction I would take my training given my bike accident and the unexpected time and energy commitment involved in becoming a certified Yoga Instructor.

I sort of highlight the term "level of fitness" because as I'm writing this, just as I was deciding to bench mark it last week, I sort of have to laugh. I'm laughing because when I decided to do the testing I still hadn't seen the last, and probably most important, person on my wellness team (more on this later). So basically what I'm saying is my arm still hurt. But in order to move forward I needed to know exactly where I was -- the good, the bad, and the ugly. So to speak.

This meant testing in each of the 3 sports. The run was easy. Just run and hold my arm at an angle that didn't involve it hurting. Sometimes I do this type of test on the track. But that is more important with actual speed assessment. Since I'm not fast at the moment both due to 3 months of nonstop Yoga and the bike accident, I decided the "truth" of the track wasn't necessary. This time I did a run test similar to a T-30min in the pool. Except my run test had a heart rate ceiling of 154 which is approximately 15 beats below my aerobic threshold. The point of the work out was to see how far I could run at that pace in exactly 1 hour. I ran about (I was on the trail without the footpod - my shoes fit better without it) 7.5 miles with an average heart rate of 148. This averages out to about 8:00 per mile pace.

There were actually two bike tests. One with a heart rate ceiling of 150 and one with a higher ceiling done 3 days later. Both test were done on the same 8 mile course. This is the same loop that is used by the RunFar Time Trial folks. My average heart rate for the test was 146 and I completed the 8 miles in 23:42. This gave me an average speed of 20.25 mph. The second test was done with a heart rate ceiling of 165, or 5 beats below aerobic threshold. My average heart rate was 162 with a time of 22:15. My average speed was 21.56 mph. The coolest thing about the bike though was discovering aerobars hold my arm in a completely pain-free position!

Last was the swim test. Though I had regained the ability to bend at the elbow, it was still too painful to swim for any amount of time over 3 minutes. As such, I opted out of the planned swim test.

Conclusions from last week: 1. Aerobically running and biking I'm ok. 2. I need to do more power sets on the bike for some speed and efficiency. 3. I can't swim yet. And 4. For the time being, I suppose I'll be a duathlete.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bike Review 2008 Felt S22

"You can win Ironman on this bike," Jack over at Jack and Adam's said as he fitted me on the Felt S22. Trust me, I was a little skeptical. I knew Paula Newby-Fraser raced Felts back in the day. But that was ancient history. The bikes now are like rockets or time machines, they are made of the newest and lightest materials then shaped so that when you stare at them from front or back you do not see them. Jack went on to say what I already knew. He basically said that to win races you need to train smart and pick your tools wisely. Good, sound advice.

Then I went right out and road the bike. HOLY SMOKES! Let it be said right up front the Felt S22 is one F. A. S. T. machine! I should know better than to doubt Jack. If he says someone could win Kona on this bike, then someone could win Kona on this bike.

So what I noticed first about the Felt S22, aside from the immediate sense of speed, was the ride. It was silky smooth. A lot smoother than I expected from an aluminum frame. But I'm sure you can attribute that to having some nice carbon components in all the right places. The Felt S22 comes with an aero carbon seat post, carbon fork, and carbon seat stays.

As usual I put the bike through my normal tests which includes climbs, cornering, braking, acceleration, and some heart rate and gear controlled time trialing. The S22 climbed really well, the rear triangle proving to be both stiff and responsive going uphill without being abusive when the road got a little bumpy. This is good news. As I've said before, while tri bikes aren't really designed for climbing, they shouldn't leave you feeling like you'd be better off walking your bike up an incline than riding it. But what was really impressive was how tight you could take corners and how fast the S22 accelerated coming out of them. I literally felt as if I was shot out of a cannon on the back side of the turns. I can see some major time gains for you on this bike on more technical courses with lots of turns and short steep climbs.

I tend to like bikes that give you the confidence to ride aggressively. The S22 certainly meets this criteria given its snappy and responsive handling. Combined with the smooth ride, I don't think it will beat you up even at the Ironman distance. This is also a bike I think will appeal to both larger and smaller riders because it does offer both stiffness and a comfortable ride. This is a rare combination in the tri bikes I've tested which seem to serve one type of rider better than another. Given my tests I feel comfortable recommending the S22 for both large and small riders equally.

There were only two things I didn't like about the Felt S22. One was the seat. I've never had seat issues and have always just ridden whatever seat came on the bike I was buying at the time. When these wore out, I usually went for firmer, stiffer seats with minimal cushioning. The seat on the S22 felt like riding on a sofa and caused some pain because I could never get quite balanced on it. I know I lost some power as a result. The other thing was the S22 is a little on the heavy side. Looking on the Felt web site the bike weighs in at a shade under 19 pounds. Personally, given the speed in and out of the corners and the acceleration over the tops of climbs, the weight probably won't be that big a deal. If I were looking at bikes in this price range, neither of these two minor issues would stop me from strongly considering it.

The S22 is very competitively priced at $1999.00 making it a bike which can go a long way with the athlete that chooses it either for a first bike or an upgrade from a road bike. The components are actually quite good primarily being Shimano Ultegra except for the FSA Crankset. The S22 is also very aero and quite stylish looking. You won't be ashamed to rack the bike in any transition area in the world. And who knows, like Jack says, if you buy one of these a podium spot in Kona could be in your future. However that prediction ultimately plays out, this bike won't be the reason keeping you from making it come true....

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Tao of Training: First Insight

Two years ago, as I recovered from a severely pulled hamstring, a very simple, yet profound, thought occurred to me. For the greater part of my adult life I have found wisdom within the pages of Tao Te Ching and used it to guide me personally and professionally. But it wasn't until I had attempted to race again and failed because of the injury the thought, "Why not use the Tao to guide your training and racing?" came.

In training and in life in general, the "why" or reason for for doing something is usually, at least on some basic level, understood. But ironically the "Way" or how we choose to go about carrying out our chosen mission can be clouded in superstition and mystery and heresay. How we often go about our training is often shrouded in a series of complex equations with variables including things such as nutrition, heart rates, volume, power, recovery, duration, and motivation.

Loosely translated the word Tao simply means " The Way." But as with most of the wisdom in the Tao Te Ching, there is more too it. The mind we come to the words with usually provides a framework for any insights we are able to draw from the book. Just as the mind we come into each training session will say a great deal about what we ultimately take from it whether the transformation that results is physical, emotional, mental, or some combination of the three. Over the next few weeks I'll share a few of the insights that I've taken and used to form the pillars of my training and return to racing. Here is the first insight:

"...A journey of a thousand miles starts under one's feet.."

In most translations it is probably more common to see this idea expressed this way: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Scholars routinely split hairs over which translation is in keeping with the spirit of the original sentiment, but I don't really think it matters. They both say the same thing. Wherever you are, "begin at the beginning." For me a couple of years ago it meant walking all winter to restore leg and tendon strength. At first walking 2 miles was a challenge. By spring walking 10 miles two to three times a week was routine. And by early summer I was able to run again. Sometimes we let the enormousness of the task at hand prevent us from even attempting to begin. As a result we don't do anything and our goals and aspirations never come to fruition.

But now I'm also trying to follow a sequential pattern of training moving from recovery, to strength, to flexibility, to endurance, to race prep, to racing each year. In the past, I might have been tempted to skip some prep work thinking my past fitness made some portion of a current phase unnecessary. I might have also tried to jump into race prep type work just because people was I training with were working on speed or were just training haphazardly. In retrospect, in looking through the lens of The Tao, I understand the problem with this pattern of behavior. When dealing with fitness, especially race fitness, it is best to respect where you currently are. Not respecting where I was in my training is probably how I wound up with a pulled hamstring in the first place. No bit of wisdom could be more simple or more clear:

"Start wherever you are and build from there."

Monday, April 14, 2008

I Just Discovered A New Tri Blog!!

So, I'm surfing the web looking for pictures of Dave Scott (aka The Man) while he is running. I can find video on YouTube, but I want pictures. Specifically I want pictures of his feet. I'm writing a blog post about running form and choosing shoes.

Anyway, somehow I run across this blog I've never seen before and the next thing I know an entire hour is magically disappeared (I love the internets). At any rate, if you haven't done so, check this guy out. I'm not really sure why but I found his blog really exciting. Sort of like the Real World of Tri Blogging. He provides an a very intriguing glimpse into the world and work of an elite professional triathlete, complete with song lyrics and cd covers. Priceless.

"And in this corner!!!! BOY-SPANDEX!!!!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

We Roll Real Fast...

Every spring here in Austin, Tx Raul Najera and the folks at RunFar Racing Services are kind enough to set up some timing mats down on S. Mopac, hand out some timing chips and let the speed obsessed cyclists in the area see how fast they roll. Everyone is welcome and the results are posted on the web later in the evening. Depending on who you ask the course is somewhere just over 8 miles (13 kilometers) long and "mostly" flat. I say "mostly" because this is Austin and "flat" is a pretty rare description for the local terrain.

The time trials are free providing you supply your own chip, or costs $5.00 to borrow one. The RunFar Time Trials are held twice monthly on Tuesdays starting at 6:00 PM and go on through September.

If you aren't inspired yet, here are some pictures. Because I don't know about you but I'm thinking "It's GO time!"

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

This Is My Arm After A Bike Accident

The good news (sort of) is it isn't broken. But it will be some time before I can swim or ride or do Yoga. Oh well looks like a lot more running and plyometrics for a while. Also if I owe you money, I won't be writing any checks for a while.