Sunday, August 30, 2009

What We Have Here...

Is yet another equipment failure.  If you saw my last post, you'll know what I'm talking about.  This time out, it was my front derailleur clamp that broke.  And I was fortunate.  1) I was watching this happen so I stopped pedaling before doing even more damage, and 2) I had stopped pedaling so I didn't lose control of the bike when the chain seized.  

And I suppose I can count myself lucky that I was on my road bike at the time and this was a recovery week so the ride was only supposed to be 2 hours (it wound up being 1:15).  

The repairs will probably take about 2 weeks because the hanger is probably still under warranty.  But we have to ship it to them so they can look at it before sending out a replacement.  I don't know why we can't just send photos?  This is 2009.  But whatever.  

So for the rest of the week it has been back on my tri bike on the trainer.  Not a bad thing really.  I'm considering training up to about 80 percent of my weekly milage on the trainer versus on the roads.  What this will mean is that I will have more of an opportunity to focus on growing stronger under more controlled conditions.

I've been putting in more work in the pool this week as well and turning my attention to doing long sets for endurance as well as a bit more pace based work in the medium length sets.   All in all I'm feeling pretty good with my strength and fitness right now.  As for the bike and the other malfunctions, I guess its just all part of the process.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

And Sometimes Things Go Wrong

I find it amazing how committed to training you can get when there is an Ironman staring you in the face.  Images of athletes reduced to crawling to the finish come to mind quite easily.  Once I rode with a woman training for her first Ironman who said her only goal was to "Finish upright and unassisted."  I like that goal.  It is succinct and to the point.  So as I've realized my first Ironman is around the corner, I've come to terms with a day long event filled with some suffering.  What I haven't come to terms with is the idea of crawling to the finish so, I've been more focused on my training than ever.  

As I've become more diligent and showed up for my key workouts, I've been more aware of the need to plan ahead in case of some sort of "gotcha."  When I did tech support for my friends' computers as I quoted them a price for the work, I always gave them this disclaimer, "This is how much it will be to fix your computer as long as there isn't a 'gotcha' -- and there is always a 'gotcha'."  

I'm going to have to keep this in mind as I get closer and closer to my race.  The picture above shows just a couple of things I've had to deal with in the last few weeks.  All equipment failures.  First is the broken pair of googles.  This happened 2/3 of the way through the main set on my key swim workout during the week.  The interesting thing is these goggles are brand new.  They are my racing goggles.  So before this swim I'd only worn them twice, in the two races I've done this year.  Ironically my training goggles are 3 years old and I had just ordered their replacements.  I was only swimming in the racing goggles in the interim until my new pair arrived.  I guess I should consider myself fortunate because if I hadn't used them, the next time I had them on would have been an olympic distance tri in the middle of a lake.  

Behind the swim goggles, is the former rear brake cable for my tri bike.  It is totally rusted.  So the story here is I was getting ready to go to do a practice ride with some new equipment I had just bought the day before a time trial.  Took the bike out to the Veloway, got it set up and "look ma, no brakes..."  That weekend I was racing.  Fortunately, I was able to get ALL the cables on the bike replaced because they were all rusted through.  Oh yeah and had to get new cable housing too.  Apparently according to my mechanic, the cabling was cheap and had oxidized because of the humidity.  He was surprised that my bike had been built with it.  As was I.  But again, I was saved from racing without brakes or faulty goggles because of some seemingly random decision.

The last item is a Fistglove.  I use this to further isolate the hand from the nervous system while swimming to learn the proper use of the rest of the arm.  It broke in the beginning of the workout.  Not a big deal, I just took it off and swam with my fists the rest of the practice.  But given everything else, it was just one more thing to go wrong and, with the wrong mindset, could have wound up being an excuse not to train.   And that's the point of this post I suppose.  We all have things get in the way of our training.  Sometimes they are show stoppers and other times they are just merely tests of our resolve.  Doesn't matter in the end I suppose as long as you have a clearly stated goal and keep moving for it.  Mine is to finish my first Ironman "Upright and unassisted."  

Saturday, August 15, 2009

P90X And Triathlon

I get a large number of visits on this blog daily because of my experiences with the P90X work out program. And a few of these are from triathletes who are considering whether or not the program can help them with reach their multisport goals. I've tried to be as detailed as possible about my take on P90X and its benefits. For someone who doesn't have a lot of time and wants a strength program that is varied and well structured, I'd say it is well worth the investment of about $130 to $300 to assemble all the necessary equipment. If you want to know what I think about P90X then read the weekly posts. Sure you can look at the end result, but that won't give you the information you need about what it was like trying to do the program and maintain some semblance of triathlon specific work.  That, in a nutshell, was hard. Very hard.

But here's the thing. What I found doing P90X, and I'd wager you'd find this doing any coherent, focused functional strength program, is my endurance increased along with my strength. Translation, I was able to work longer, at a faster rate, more efficiently when it was all said and done. Did I look like the folks on TV? Nope. But honestly, I really didn't care about that. What I got from doing P90X for 90 days was a faster return to the level of fitness I enjoyed prior to my 5 year hiatus.

I've had quite a bit of time to consider to effects of P90X on Triathlon training having almost 2 years since I did my first workout pass. First I will say I do believe it is possible to do both P90X and Tri training. I've said that all along. But what I've also said is there are caveats. The main one being the results you are looking for from the program. If those results are more on the appearance side, then I'd definitely tone down the tri specific work until I "looked" the way I wanted.

On the other hand if you wanted to use P90X as a basis for enhancing tri performance, then I think with some modification to the routine it could be done with great success for all distances. 

Why do I say this? I say this because many athletes tend to overlook the importance of basic strength in triathlon and focus an overly large amount of time on endurance. And when I speak of strength I'm talking about a concept beyond lifting weights in the gym a couple of hours a week in the midst of swimming, biking and running throughout the week. When I speak of strength, I'm speaking about things like range of motion, connective tissue, power, balance, coordination, muscular access, and muscular endurance. 

The more I consider the way time is or can be spent preparing for Triathlon of any distance, the more I feel that each of the three sports are techniques to be learned and mastered, and the results you see on race day are from the successful integration and application of full bodied strength and technique work. P90X can certainly assist in creating that. You simply need to know when, where, and how to apply it in the scheme of your other tri specific training.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

When It Rains... We Still Train!

Actually, it has been raining a bit more lately in Austin giving us a welcome break from the seasonally early and hot weather.  I for one am quite thankful for this.  Rain doesn't really affect my training much.  I ride or run indoors and use the time for either more specificity in my workouts or get my testing done to actually "plan" my workouts.  A win, win really.  

 This week I got to the track to get some testing done so I could try to dial in my running a bit more.  For the most part all of my running so far this year has been unstructured.   Some of this was by design, some of it wasn't.  At any rate I went to the track.   The thing about going to the track was I thought I was getting faster.  How I felt in my last race pointed to this but courses and conditions can easily change.  The only way to really know how fast you are running in my opinion is to go to the track.  That's what they are made for.  And that's probably why I hadn't stepped on one in over a year.  But I digress.  

 The workout was simple.  Warm up with some plyometric work, then get things going with 8 400 meter intervals.  Next would be the 1 mile time trial that I would be basing my steady state work on for the next block of training.  This would be capped off with a 1.5 mile run to a flight of stairs.  At the stairs there would be 15 min solid of stair running followed by a 1.5 mile "jog" back to the track for a 1 mile barefoot cooldown.  The whole workout was slated for about an hour and 30 minutes.  I clocked in at about 1:27 (1 hour 27 min).  


The intervals went well and looked like this: 

 1:21 HR 156

1:21 HR 158

1:23 HR 160

1:23 HR 160

1:19 HR 162

1:19 HR 162

1:17 HR 164

1:16 HR 166

The mile TT was done in 6:22.9 with splits of:

1:35 HR 155

1:36 HR 160

1:36 HR 163

1:35 HR 163


For some reason (basically my endurance sucks) I've always found intervals much easier than steady state work.  But that's why we train weaknesses.  And why I’m going to work on this now.  But I also find this type of work gives me a more fine tuned sense of pace which helps when it comes to measuring out efforts for longer distances.  What I will do is take the time of 6:23 and add 1:15 to it and this will be my threshold for steady state track work for the next 3 weeks until my next test.  Each mile of the workout will be done at between 7:28 to 7:30 pace per mile.  This means each lap on the track will be done at about 1:52 per 403m.   My goal here isn’t to get “faster”.  It is to build endurance for longer events maintaining an even, efficient pace.  I’ll start out with 3miles and work up from there eventually getting up to 10 miles on the track or 40 laps.  I’ll know I’m doing what I’ve planned when each 400m lap is almost identical.  And that is both the beauty and the challenge in this type of work but over time my body should run this pace no matter what and for as long as necessary if properly fueled.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Race Report - August 2, 2009

This weekend I did Jack's Generic Triathlon in Austin, Tx.  This is one of the best small venue races I can think of.  Okay, so technically you will probably hear tell about the swim that takes place in a "pond" about the size of someone's backyard.  But aside from that, personally I feel Jack's does all of the little things right.  There are a gazillion volunteers who all know what's going on and are ready to help.  The food and drink post race are abundant.  The course is well marked and everything starts on time.  I've done this race twice and it ranks up there as one of my all time favorites.  

So about my race.  Well, first off I feel much better writing this race report than the last one.  But I suppose any race result would have been better than what happened my last time out.  If you haven't read about it and want to see a post about my worst race experience ever, look here.  

Ironically, I wasn't sure race morning I would participate.  I had spent most of my time between the last race and this one trying to figure out what went wrong on my first outing.  To be honest, I got a lot of theories about what could have happened but nothing concrete.  So I was left with a huge sense of uncertainty about my training methods, my body, and at some points my decision to race again in the first place.  Also leading up to this race I didn't feel I had put in adequate training between seeking an array of medical opinions, to just feeling off, and meeting work and social obligations.  Add to this my fear of a repeat episode in the water where there would be nausea, dizziness, and sudden unexplained muscle fatigue, you can understand why I was not overly anxious to race.  

In a way this was just like starting something for the first time again.  I had to just put one foot in front of the other, get out of the house and see what happened.  Because I didn't know what to expect in the water, I babied the swim, and sighted minimally, rounding the course by feel.  About half way through, I knew I was okay and was able to relax.  One positive sign was I was never concerned about where aid was in the water.  As I said in the beginning, if there is a knock on this race, it has to be the "pond" it takes place in.  Because the water area is so small and there are ski ramps in it that funnel swimmers together on the long straight sections, unless you  are a very, very fast swimmer, you really never find clear water.  Basically swimming in this pond feels like one big swimmer's mosh pit.  Aside from that, though my swim was slow it went well and I was comfortable the entire time.

Once on the bike, I got up the first climb right out of transition and then settled in.  This section of the bike is mostly flat or downhill and seemed wind aided.  Again because my swim was not stellar, I had the enjoyable sensation of passing people the entire ride.  My pace, I felt was good but not blistering and I could tell this was because I hadn't been riding as consistently since my last outing.  Though overall I felt better on the bike than I had a few weeks earlier, I didn't have the leg turnover I like and I found myself easing up a bit on the climbs.  I will note, after the first 1/4 of the course, the going got much more difficult.  There are several good long gradual ascents and the wind was either a headwind or frontal crosswind the rest of the way.  So not your standard "flatish" timetrial bike.  

With about 2 miles to go, my bladder started to complain.  Depending on how you look at signals like that you can either be happy you got the urge before the run, or you can wish you got the urge about half way through the run to help you push a little toward the finish.  Unfortunately for me I got mine on the bike and it was a strong one.  I don't like to run uncomfortably for long periods of time because it is distracting so, I transitioned and headed out onto the run course which fortunately passed right in front of the Porta Potties, I ducked in and took care of things and ducked out.  So here's the thing.  That quick stop, somewhere between 30 and 45 seconds by my estimate slowed my run time average by 10 to 15 seconds per mile.  I'd never thought of it that way until I was calculating it out on the run in my head.  But at least now I was comfortable.  Surprisingly it felt really good on the run, I wasn't pushing things but I knew my pace was solid because it felt good and I caught and passed quite a few guys in my age group.  The run course at Jack's Generic is a straight out and back affair.  The going out being a bit tougher due to the gradual climb for a mile and a half.  Coming back of course is a bit easier so my goal was to keep it steady going out and open my stride a bit coming back in.  This seemed to work well and my legs didn't feel bad at all and my heart rate stayed low (relatively speaking) going out and coming back.  I think the highest I saw it was 160, the average was 154.  This was probably the best feedback I think I've gotten this year because that's the lowest heart rate I've ever had in any race.  My pace, adjusted for the pit stop wound up being about a 7:30 mile.  Last year on the same course I ran an 8:00 mile pace with an average HR of 172.  So this was progress.  I crossed the finish line feeling as though I put in a solid effort but like I could have kept going like that all day.  I'm happy with that because the day is coming soon when I'll have to be able to keep that up all day.

I wound up finishing 9th in my AG which had almost 60 guys in it.  This was an improvement from last year where I finished 13 in the AG out of about 35 guys.  So I'll take that.