Sunday, January 31, 2010

Swim test and video

Continuing a week of testing, today I did a swim test: 1000 long course meters. Time: 17:20. That works out to 1:44/100 lcm. Not exactly blazing fast. Converting my time to short course meters for more accurate comparison with my past tests yields 1:40/100 scm. Not much improvement since my last test. Maybe I can give myself 1-2 seconds per 100m due to altitute...

My pacing wasn't fantastic. I did the first 500m in 8:30 and the second 500m in 8:50. I peaked at the clock after my first 100m and saw that I went out too fast, 1:33 for the first 100m.

Chuckie sent me a technique video that was very helpful. The video inspired me to get some additional footage of my technique.

For this video I was really focusing on having high elbows. Also, I had a band around my ankles holding a pull buoy there, if that matters. My first thought is that I don't look very fluid. That may partially be because my focus on having high elbows altered my stroke a bit.

More importantly, at the beginning of my stroke my elbow is too low. I think that's because my hand is too high in the water -- it's right near the surface. The last frame of the video shows this pretty well. My hand being right near the surface means my hand is higher than my elbow when I start my stroke. If my hand were a bit lower, I could get my elbow into a high position immediately when starting my catch. Once I get the catch over with, my elbows appear plenty high. My shoulders fatigued after only 700 or 800m of holding this form.

Finally, I have an odd hand movement right at before starting my catch. I've always done that and am not too worried about fixing it.

Other workouts of note for the week:
(1) Long ride from Boulder to Lyons to Raymond and back. This ride includes a nice climb from Lyons to Raymond. I considered continuing on to Ward to do a loop instead of an out-and-back, but my fear was I'd get too cold as I climbed to 9,500 ft but would be stuck continuing that was to avoid turning the ride into a seven hour affair.

I did a few 6 minute or so intervals at 160 bpm on the way up. Climbing is a good time for hard effort.

Descending was a bit chilly. My hands were nearly numb by the time I finished the descent, despite two pairs of gloves. I think the key would be to keep my arms warm, as my theory is that blood flowing to my hands is cold by the time it gets to my hands.

Still, it was a beautiful January day.

There was only one sketchy section. I did a loop around Raymond and took Riverside Rd., which is a bit too shaded for the sun to take care of the sun and ice on the road. While it's not apparent from the image, this is a downhill section:

(2) After my swim test today I did an 1:10 run including five 6 minute tempo efforts. My average HR was 160-162 bpm and my pace was 6:11 to 6:18. Not bad.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

FTP Test

I just did my first FTP test. It was not the most fun I've ever had on my bike, that's for sure. The test is a similar effort to running a 5k, except without the excitement and adrenaline of actually being in a race. At the end of test, I stepped off my bike to relax for a moment before beginning a cool-down. Both my ears were ringing from the effort, and I kind of felt like throwing up.

Test protocol:
20 minutes at 120-125 bpm.
3 x [1 minute hard (~300 W), 1 minute easy]
5 minutes at 120-125 bpm
5 minutes all-out
10 minutes at 120-125 bpm
10 minute cool-down

Test conditions:
Power measurement device - Computrainer calibrated to 2.42
Freshness - I did two moderately tough workouts yesterday and have some residual fatigue, but nothing out of the ordinary during training.
Temperature - I opened some windows (it's ~40 degrees outside) and put a fan two feet in front of me. As a result, it was nice and cool, perhaps 60 degrees.
Music - Volume blasting; short and up-beat songs selected:

My average power for the 20 minute effort was 282 W. That puts my FTP at 268 W using the 95% rule (FTP being approximately equal to 95% of the power one can hold for 20 minutes). A bit more pathetic than I'd hoped. At roughly 73 kg, my threshold power is just under 3.7 W/kg. Based on what I've read on slowtwitch, I'm surprised that's enough to have the fastest bike split in my AG at an IM. Or, more likely, it's just evidence that people on slowtwitch are full of it. I'll take good race results over an impressive FTP any day.

The lack of importance of one's FTP notwithstanding, I had hoped I'd hold about 310 W for the test, which would result in an FTP of about 295 W using the 95% rule. Why did I expect that? Well, my best HIM wattage was 246 W in June of 2009. My FTP would have to be about 290 W for the general rule of pacing a HIM (i.e., hold 80-85% of FTP for a HIM) to hold true. On the other hand, I averaged just 200 W for both IMs I did this year. Using the rule of IM wattage equaling about 73-75% of FTP for a front of the packer, my FTP would be 267 W. That's right on par with my current test result, assuming no improvement (or improvement that is countered by the change to altitude). Of course, those power numbers were measured with a different device, which makes any comparison between my FTP and prior races of dubious value. Maybe my power meter was not properly calibrated for the HIM. Note to self: do not target 250 W for Cali 70.3.

My average power for the 5 minute effort was 315 W, or about 4.3 W/kg. Looking at Andrew Coggan's power profile (pg. 69 of coach Chuckie's favorite book, Training and Racing with a Power Meter), my FTP is near average for a CAT 3 cyclist, while my 5 minute power is slightly worse (near the bottom for CAT 3 or top for CAT 4). The discrepancy between my FTP and 5 minute max power doesn't come as any surprise given my focus on long races.

One thing the test result may be useful for is establishing different training zones. Using Coggan's chart (pgs. 53-54 of Training and Racing with a Power Meter), my zones are as follows:
Recovery: < 150 W
Endurance: 150 to 200 W
Tempo: 200-240 W
Lactate Threshold: 240 W to 280 W

Despite not having performed an FTP test before, those results come as no surprise. The only thing I might do is adjust my recovery workouts down a bit from time to time. Sometimes I can hold 170 W at 115 bpm, a HR I had considered solidly in the recovery zone.

My HR was typically in the high 160s during the 20 minute effort and low 170s during the 5 minute effort. I've loaned out my copy Going Long, which I used for determining HR zones three years ago when I first started trying to train methodically. Regardless, I can probably accurately estimate my HR zones based on training experience.

Regarding cadences, for some reason my averages are not listed in the reports I saved using Computrainer's software. However, I'd guess my cadence was 85-90 rpm for the 20 minute effort and 90-95 for the 5 minute effort. I'm a bit of a grinder, especially having spent so much time around 80 rpm for IM.

What to take away from this test? Um, not much. I can measure improvement by doing future FTP tests. I think I'll continue to race predominantly by feel with cross reference to HR and power (with special attention given to power at the start of the bike leg and on hills). My FTP is just a number, and I do not worry that some folks may have a higher number. Triathlon is not an FTP contest. More importantly than an increase in FTP, I'd like an increase in the power I can hold at 145-155 bpm (though that may be very closely related to FTP).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Yet another solid week and MAF run test

Here are the totals for the week:
9:50 biking
6:30 swimming
4:20 running
1:30 cross training
Total: 22 hours and 10 minutes.

For IM training, I think the big days (5+ hours) are the most beneficial. Right now my big day each week is 4 to 5 hours broken between a swim and ride, which is fine since my next IM isn't until August. After Cali 70.3, however, the weather should be consistently nice enough to start those long days again.

I'm planning on doing a few tests this week. I'll do my first ever FTP test on the bike, probably on Wednesday. The test scares me a bit since going all out on the trainer is not easy. I'll have to create a good playlist and get mentally prepared beforehand. Maybe I'll start at 280 or 290 W, depending on how the all-out 5 minute "warm-up" before the test goes. I'd rather start low and increase my wattage than start too high and die. Other tests include a 6 mile MAF run that I did yesterday and 400 and 1000 all-out swims. I'll probably also throw in a 1.5 to 2 hour IM intensity (i.e., ~145 bpm) trainer ride to see what wattage I get.

This week's key workouts:
(1) Run test: 2 mile warm-up, 6 miles at 150 bpm, 1-2 mile cool-down. I conducted this test at a dirt track at Denver South High School. The track was slightly muddy, which probably doesn't do much for my speed, and also potentially too long (based on my Garmin's measurement). It was ~45 degrees and partly sunny. The wind was strong enough that I had to modulate my stride depending on which direction I was headed. Results:
1 - 6:58
2 - 6:59
3 - 7:08
4 - 7:11
5 - 7:14
6 - 7:10

(2) This week's long ride was on the trainer. Long trainer rides built mental toughness, and I believe they've contributed significantly to my IM success. One way to make long trainer rides go by a bit faster is to create sets. I broke this session up into half hour sets commencing after a 15 minute warm-up and succeeded by a 15 minute cool-down. In graphic form:

20 min at 140-145 bpm (235 W)
1 min easy
8 min at 150-155 bpm (260 W)
1 min easy

5 x [4 min at 60 rpm, 1 min easy] plus another 4 min at 100 rpm. I rotate my position between standing, being seated upright, and in the aerobars. Typically performed at 150 bpm and 260 W, with the high-rpm set at 210 W.

same as 1/6 but with 5 W fewer for each effort

15 x [1 min hard, 1 min easy]
First 5 at 275 W, second 5 at 280 W, final 5 at 285 W. Next time maybe I'll start at 300 W.

same as 2/6

Simple: 130 bpm (~175-180 W). I spent this time explaining the rules of football to Stacey, as she was doing the ride, too.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Another solid week

Last week's totals: 19h25min as 4h45min swimming, 9h15min cycling, 3h55min running, and 1h30min cross training. I've got to swim a bit more than that, but otherwise the week went well. I nailed my long run and long ride.

A few workouts of note:
(1) Masters swimming included twenty 50s (short course yards) on 45 seconds with a 45 second break after every fourth 50. This set was tough but doable. I'm still getting a grasp on short course yard times, so I use a converter to estimate my time in short course meters, which I am more familiar with. I was coming in on about 40 seconds, which the converter says is 45 seconds in SCM. Not bad, but there's still lots and lots of room for improvement.

(2) I completed a 2:30 trainer ride with 40 minutes of big gear work at 145-150 bpm and 20 minutes straight at 155 bpm. I was able to do the big gear work at 260 W, though that occasionally bumped my HR just above 150 bpm. Better yet, I was able to keep my HR at 155 bpm while holding 265 W for the 20 minute effort. Without looking through my blog archives, I think that may be my best output at 155 bpm. Still, I try not to trust any single workout; I'll have to emulate that effort before I consider it my current capability. 155 bpm is right around or slightly above my HIM effort. Holding 265 W for a half would be a nice improvement over last year.

(3) My long run this week was 2:00 with 30 minutes at each of 140 bpm, 145 bpm, and 150 bpm. I was 2 bpm too high for each of the efforts, but that's close enough. My average paces were 8:21, 8:03, and 7:15, for whatever that's worth. I should note that those times are a bit misleading because the entire first half of the run was slightly uphill (about 1%) and the second half was slightly downhill.

Stacey and I did the run at Waterton Canyon, which is about as nice a running spot as it gets. Our route is along a dirt road adjacent to a river. I elected to forgo my iPod and listen to the flowing water. Here are a few pictures snapped while running:

Stacey running so fast that she's a blur:

The highest peak in the background is Goat Mountain, which Stacey and I have twice unsuccessfully attempted to hike up to.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Party in the USA

On our drive over to Boulder for today's ride, Stacey and I were listening to a recent This American Life podcast called "#1 Party School". At one point during the show there is a short clip of Miley Cyrus' ubiquitous hit "Party in the USA", and Ira Glass mentions that the song was played at every college party he attended while producing the episode.

Well wouldn't you know it, the song was stuck in my head for the first two hours of my ride. I only know two or three lines in the song, so my internal voice was quite repititive: "Waving my hips like yeah," "And the Britney song was on, and the Britney song was on," or "Yeaeaeaheah it's a Party in the USA" over and over again. Every time I'd turn around and meet up with Stacey, I'd try get it stuck in her head by singing "Yeaeaeaheah it's a Party in the USA".

I tried everything I could think of to get the song out of my head. The Jim Halpert method (see "Lovefool" by the Cardigans) was moderately successful, and at one point I even resorted to "Mmmbop". Still, no luck.

Anyhow, other than my internal soundtrack it was a gorgeous day in along the Front Range. We rode out to Lyons and then headed up Hwy 7 through the national forest in the direction of Peak to Peak. We only made it about 50 minutes past Lyons before we had to turn around, but I think that may be the most scenic road I've ever ridden down. I tried snapping a few pictures with the cellphone:

Of course, the pictures don't do the scenery justice.

The return trip to Boulder along Hwy 36 was interesting. The Hwy was jam packed with cyclists. Not only that, but they're nearly all friendly. I rarely passed a rider heading in the other direction that didn't at least give a head-nod. I think that's especially impressive because someone rides by every 30 seconds or so -- it's not as if as a rider you encounter only one or two people per hour.

Anyhow, here's the ride in graph form:

My average HR was 126 bpm. I don't feel like I'm in great long ride shape at the moment. Even with a HR average as low as 126 bpm, my legs are a moderately tired after 3:30. A few more weeks with a 3-4 hr ride per week should change that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Solid Run

Today's run included heading up and back a trail on Lookout Mountain, and then running along the road to the top of the mountain. Stacey picked me up at the top so I didn't have to kill my legs running down. The run in graph form:

My average HR was 146 bpm for an hour and a half with over 2400 feet of climbing in nine miles. The initial HR spikes are my glitches in my HR monitor.

Stacey snapped two photos as she drove past me on the way up:

A final image at the top:

Now it's swim time.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Movin' On Up

I was promoted a lane at masters today, at least on freestyle days. Have fun down there in the slow lane, Stacey! (But please keep going with me!) The main set included 11 x 150y on 2:30 with the goal of even pacing throughout. With the exception of one rep in which I swam 2:13, I did the remainder of the reps at 2:08 to 2:10 without any trend. Since I'm more familiar with meter pacing, I used an online pace converter to estimate my average time at 1:35/100m. That's pretty good since my effort level was about IM or HIM. Now I've just got to cut 20 seconds off, and I'll but up in the fast lane...

Today's other workout was an easy spin. Just over an hour averaging 109 bpm. It was a beautiful day, sunny and about 50 degree. Take that, Florida.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

An Unflattering Picture

First up is a summary of my past two weeks of training. Last week I logged 19 hours and 15 minutes, broken up as 6h35m swimming (34%), 7h30m cycling (39%), 3h40m running (19%) and 1h30m cross training (8%). The main thing I missed was a long ride. On Saturday, my first long ride attempt, I bailed because getting nailed in the face with hail at 30mph didn't make for a pleasant time. No problem, I figured, I'd just do a long ride Sunday. On Sunday, I rode outside for a bit over two hours then decided to finish the ride up on the trainer because I kept having to slow down due to snow on the bike path. Once on the trainer, I rode for about 10 minutes before realizing my trainer wheel had a flat tire. That was enough for me to bail on that ride, too. That won't happen again before Oceanside.

This week went well. About 21 hours (I say about because I'm off to the pool right after writing this for an easy swim) broke down as 6h swimming, 9h5m cycling, 3h25m running, and 2h30m cross training. Solid, I'd say.

Two workouts of note this week: First up, a treadmill run yesterday. I decided to do 5 x 1 mile intervals. For the first two I set the treadmill to 6:30/mile pace and to a 1% incline to more accurately mirror outdoor conditions. My HR averaged 155 bpm for each of those two miles. That's a good pace to HR ratio, but I've got to make sure it's repeatable.

Second, a long ride in Boulder today. Boulder sure is pretty:

The ride did not include much climbing due to snow/ice in the mountains, but I did make it over Old Stage Coach coming from Lee Hill. I think Old Stage Coach may be part of one of the races I'm doing this summer (Boulder Peak?). If so, I expect a record 5 minute wattage. That climb is brutal! I snapped a few pictures, but they don't do it justice.

Here's a shot of the climb from near the top:

Stacey making her way up (and riding a bit side to side to effectively decrease the road's gradient, at least that's my take judging by the angle of her bike relative to the road...I've been meaning to put a cassette with a 27 or 28 on her bike for these types of rides):

Finally, here I am:

A shave is in order, as is a Kleenex. I took this picture while riding down St. Vrain, and I was trying to get a shot of the mountains in the background with myself in the foreground. Turns out, I just got myself. In what must have been an attempt to prevent itself from ever again being subject to such a horrid image, the camera promptly ran out of batteries after I took this picture.

Four hours at 127 bpm. Good base work.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

An Unplanned Off Day

I contribute much of my modest triathlon success to consistency -- it's rare that I take an unscheduled day off without a reason such as lingering fatigue or sickness. Snow, cold weather, whatever...I'll still head out for a run. Yesterday, however, I decided to bail on my planned workout. Instead of riding the trainer or heading off to the pool, I asked Stacey to think of something fun to do. She decided on beer and pizza, and afterwards she settled for Dairy Queen once we discovered that the local ice cream place was closed. (See, Broccoli Man can be fun every once in a while!)

Much of my consistency has been made possible by Stacey. Last year she did the vast majority of household chores to enable me to train up to 20 hrs/week. Hopefully days like yesterday buy me some more leeway during my next big training block!