Friday, May 28, 2010

Two days training

With IMLou fast approaching (13 weeks!), it's time to get a bit more focused with training. From now until that race, I'll likely be updating the blog more often and including summaries of my daily training. If you like numbers and are curious to see what type of training it takes to be toward the front of the amateur group at an IM, you may find this interesting. Otherwise, it'll mostly be boring.

My goal is to go under 9 hours, assuming good weather. Last year's weather at IMLou was ideal, so that will be tough to top. Still, I think if conditions are good and I continue to make progress, sub 9 hours is a realistic goal. Potentially the biggest obstacle for me is ensuring I can get enough training time in over the summer. In the past I've been able do 20+ hour weeks in my IM build ups, but I might not be able to do that this summer. We'll see...

May 26
(1) 1:30 run w/ 70 minutes at 145 bpm
With that introduction now behind us, on Wed. I did a 1:30 run around Wash Park. I selected Wash Park because the goal was to use a repeatable route, and it's (1) not too far from my apt., (2) dirt surfaced, (3) not completely flat (though some bigger hills would be appreciated), and (4) stocked with porta-pots, drinking fountains, etc.

The "meat" of the workout was 70 minutes at 145 bpm. I made it about three and a half 2.6 mile loops. Here's the stats:
Loop 1: 19:44; 7:41/mile; 146 bpm
Loop 2: 20:06; 7:53/mile; 147 bpm
Loop 3: 20:31; 7:60/mile (yes, that's what Garmin says); 147 bpm
Loop 4: 10:01; 8:19/mile; 148 bpm

The weather was great -- high 70s and overcast with a very brief thunder storm with a bit of hail. Perceived exertion was low, maybe 6 out of 10. I have trouble slowing down to 145 bpm. My tendancy is to run at 150 bpm or so, as that pace is easy yet natural feeling. I've got to watch it up hills, as that's where my HR pops up. I cannot maintain my stride, and instead must consciously drop the pace a notch to keep the HR down when heading uphill.

(2) 1 hour spin
No data. Just an hour easy. I rode at night and it was fun, even though my headlight was dead from the get go. There were lots of other riders out, which is great to see. My pictures turned out very poorly:

(The pictures make it look darker than it really was. Don't worry, mom, I could see fine and was not in any danger.)

May 27
(1) 2 hour spin w/ Tabata sprints and 6 x 1 min one-leg drills (per leg)
It was very hot here -- 100 degrees according to my computer. Here's the stats for the Tabata sprints:
500 W
438 W
418 W
432 W
437 W
517 W (computer froze after the prior effort; I took a minute or two break to reset it)
396 W
408 W
374 W (d'oh! one too many)

I think in the future I'll stick to the trainer for these, unless I am in Boulder and can do the whole set uphill. It's too difficult to get in a good sprint on level ground on a tri bike because of location of the shifters. Plus inside I can work a bit harder without worrying about crashing. My wattage isn't good for this set (compared to this random set performed inside last year).

(2) 1 hour swim (~3000 hards)
Pull focused swim. 1500y of pulling. I focused on keeping my head down and rotating my hand relative to my elbow the entire stroke, as that is the sensation required for me to avoid pulled backward with my elbow when my hand isn't yet vertical.

I felt best when I did a very deep pull -- I tried to push my hand nearly straight down in front of me, windmill style. I'll try to get some video of this so I can ensure that my stroke is okay when I do this. I have a bit of a bent elbow at the beginning to try to get an okay catch.

Oh, and I worked on keeping my head down and feeling my bum and heels out of the water. That's the feeling I'll keep in mind for body positioning.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cycles workouts

The first update is that Chuckie is now in Boulder, so I finally met him in person on Saturday. We were planning on riding, but the wind was so strong that riding wasn't an option (unfortunately, this sort of wind has been prevalent as of late -- yesterday the wind was projected at 45 mph, and gusts up to 70 mph were reported). Still, I got in a hard swim led by Jane Scott at a masters program in Boulder, then managed a 1:45 run. I'm told I need to keep my head down in swimming to get my feet a bit higher. I've been swimming uphill.

The next day Stacey and I volunteered at the Summer Open tri in Longmont. This was my first time volunteering at a race, and I intend to continue volunteering because without volunteers I would not be able to race. Stacey and I were each assigned an intersection to guard, and Stacey had the added duty of signaling for riders to make a turn. My day was very uneventful -- I only got to tell two drivers to turn around and neither one cussed me out. Stacey, however, got to deal with a minor medical emergency. This should come as no surprise, she is kind of like Hurley from Lost -- accidents seem to happen with far greater frequency when she is around. Apparently, some fast older lady was passing a slow mtn bike rider and the older lady didn't give herself enough room to make the pass. Instead, she clipped the mtn bike's rear wheel and both riders went down pretty hard. Headaches, minor scrapes, and an ambulance ensued. Not fun.

Anyhow, after volunteering I did a 3:30 ride. My orders were to include 10 x 5 min at 260-285 W at a low cadence of 65-70 rpm. I took about 2 minutes rest between sets. For whatever reason, my Garmin recorded the whole ride and it will display the results under its History, but I can't get the stupid thing to upload the ride. (That's the second time this has happened, but every other ride is fine!) I did the odd reps seated and the evens in the aero position. Here's the stats:

(1) 297 W; 59 rpm; 150 bpm -- this was up Old Stage Coach and I couldn't go easier with my 12-15 cassette.
(2) 272 W; 68 rpm; 145 bpm
(3) 280 W; 63 rpm; 148 bpm
(4) 277 W; 67 rpm; 150 bpm
(5) 276 W; 65 rpm; 149 bpm (elevation is probably around 7,000 ft here)
(6) 278 W; 68 bpm; 147 bpm
(7) 272 W; 65 bpm; 149 bpm
(8) 273 W; 66 rpm; 147 bpm
(9) 276 W; 64 rpm; 149 bpm (elevation is probably around 8,000 ft here)
(10) 274 W; 65 rpm; 151 bpm

Those numbers look great. I'm happy that my power to HR ratio barely varied even as I passed 8,000 ft. My HR looks great - riding at 270+ W at a HR of about 150 bpm is excellent. I could absolutely crush an Ironman ride if I could hold 270 W at 150 bpm for hours on end. (150 bpm is only a few bpm above my avg. Ironman HR for the past two IMs.)

Unfortunately, those HRs are averages, and since I started each interval with a HR of 120-130 bpm the averages are not too representative. Still, my HR peaked at 154 bpm during the intervals. That's good, but I bet it would continue to rise if I held 270 W for longer than 5 minutes. Oh, and I don't think I'm physically strong enough to sustain 270 W for hours on end. My legs get too tired.

At the end of the set I had a nearly 4,000 foot descent to tackle. I am a giant chicken going downhill. I don't know why I can ride 30+ mph on the flats (e.g., when the wind is at my back) and not worry at all, but put me on a downhill and I ride the brakes. This time, however, some kid that appeared to be on Garmin's U-23 team (does Garmin have such a team?) was descending at the same time as me. I copied his lines for a while before using my aero advantage to pass him on a straight-away. We swapped positions a few more times, and then I was in the lead heading into a turn with a "Warning, 20 mph" sign. I tapped my brakes to slow for the turn and the Garmin kid was instantly 100 feet ahead of me. I watched in awe as he took the turn at 30 mph or so.

The descent was a blast and hopefully will change my attitude about descending. I tapped the brakes three times during my descent, which is a lot less than normal. (Okay, there was a headwind, but it was still my best descent yet.) I've got to become a more confident bike handler to enjoy descending more.

Oh, and yesterday I did an easy run around Wash. Park. I tracked my pace for one mile: 8:24/mile with a pretty strong headwind at 128 bpm avg. That leads me to believe that either my HR was suppressed or my economy is excellent.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Colfax Half-marathon -- Race Report

As I explained in my last post, following perhaps too long of a run on Thursday my goal for Friday and yesterday (Saturday) was simply to recover in time to race this morning. Yesterday I was still sore from the long run, but decided to go for a long ride with Stacey instead of doing a double swim day as I had initially planned. We don't ride together too often, so when it fits my training schedule I try to take advantage of riding together. I went really easy and ended up riding 3:20 with a HR of 115-120 bpm, and then followed that up with a 30 minute "flop". Despite putting in a nearly four hour day, the intensity was low enough that my recovery was not hindered.

Anyhow, I made it to the race with enough time to get in two five minute warm-ups spaced apart by about twenty minutes. My legs felt okay during the warm-ups, reaffirming that my recovery was pretty good. The race was pretty crowded -- I heard that around 3,500 people were entered in the half -- but I was still able to walk in at the last minute and get a great starting spot right up front.

Pre-race (it was a bit chilly at 6:15 AM):

The plan was to race completely by feel and to take miles 1 and 2 at a moderate pace before picking the effort up a notch to race pace. Looking at my data (shown below), I think I was successful because my HR climbed to 168 bpm or so within a few minutes and then stayed there until twelve minutes into the race. At that point I picked the effort up and my HR went to the mid 170s, where it remained until a final push in the last half mile.

Between miles 1 and 2 (Stacey made it over from the start just in time to see me passing):

The first 7 miles seemed to be either flat or slightly uphill. I was ticking them off at 6:00/mile on the dot through 7 miles, which I know because there was a nice digital clock every two miles. Not quite as fast as I'd hoped, but I was feeling good and was optimistic that the last 6 miles would be faster because they'd all be either flat or downhill. To my surprise, the last 6 miles seemed almost all downhill with very few flat sections. It was just a gradual downhill, but a downhill nonetheless. I just couldn't get in a good rhythm, though; the timing of my stride felt off. I noticed a few times in the last 6 miles that I was very upright, with my head back a bit further than normal, instead of leaning slightly forward. At 10 miles I noticed my pace dropped down to about 6:10/mile. Hmm...runners aren't supposed to be faster uphill than downhill!

Race data:

The downhill running was surprisingly tough. My legs were taking a bit of a beating, but around mile 11 I caught up with a guy that had been 50-100 feet in front of me the entire race. We exchanged a few pleasantries, and then I pulled ahead a bit. Around mile 12.5 I caught another guy whose pace must have slowed drastically, as he came out of nowhere. I crossed the line in 1:19:05 (unofficially) and in 6th place, or so Stacey tells me.

Just before the finish:

Immediately post race:

An okay shot of City Park, the start and finish location of the race and one of Denver's many fine parks:

Overall a good workout and a decent run. I don't have much experience racing at elevation, and my predicted time was way, way off. This tells me perhaps two things: (1) training specifically for a race and resting greatly improves race results and (2) racing at altitude is slower than nearer to sea level. Regarding the first point, for my first few years running and doing tris every race was a PR, whether or not I tapered. Now a bit more planning is required to have a PR performance. This is likely one reason that I ran faster at Cali 70.3 than either of my past two races, which were much shorter.

Regarding the second point, here's a table I found that shows my predicted paces at other elevations based on today's race:

Not that it matters, but it's interesting to see the difference elevation makes. I should consider elevation when making race predictions -- my prediction of 1:14-1:15 wouldn't have been off by so much had I raced at the elevation I'm used to, at least according to the chart. Also, considering elevation may provide a better comparison to my past results. FYI, my PR stand-alone half marathon is 1:17:XX, IIRC, and I ran 1:18:08 at Cali 70.3 two months ago. The chart shows that perhaps today's run was faster than my Cali run with elevation factored in.

Now it's time to relax for a while and rest my quads -- they're quite sore. Thanks Stacey for waking up early to drive me to the race, taking my jacket, snapping a few photos, etc.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Half-marathon this weekend

A week or two ago CV emailed and told me to jump into a running race. After procrastinating a week or so, I pulled up an online running calendar and discovered the Colfax Marathon, which takes place this Sunday. The start and finish are at City Park, just a few miles down Colorado Blvd from my place -- nice. The biggest downside is the 6:45 AM start -- yuck.

I'm not going to taper for the race, but I am going to try to be at least semi-rested so that my time is reflective of my fitness. Here's the problem, though: yesterday I decided to head out for a run and simply go by feel. I had no notion of how long to go or where to run, and I didn't use a HR monitor or GPS. In fact, I didn't even look at my watch the entire run. My run ended up lasting a bit over two horus and ten minutes, which needless to say left me a bit sore.

That leaves me with today and tomorrow to recovery. Today I did an easy 1 hour swim and was fairly exhausted. In the evening I added some active recovery, a 45 minute spin in a nice light rain (I stayed warm though!). I was considering a second swim, but I feel tired and just want to close my eyes. I'll take that as a sign to lounge on the couch the rest of the evening. Hmm...time to catch up on Lost episodes, I guess. The show has been pretty bad the past few seasons, and I have very low expectations for the finale. But I digress.

Tomorrow I'm thinking I will do a double swim day with a ride in the middle. I'll keep the intensity moderate at most for both swims, and I will shoot for 6-7k. The ride might be an issue fatigue wise, so I'll start with a readiness test to see how my recovery is going. (Incidentally, implementing a test like this is a great way to see if you're ready for intensity or whether you should take easy.) If things aren't looking good, I'll either do more active recovery or get off the bike altogether.

The goal is to get some hours in while ensuring that I'm at least moderately rested for the race, and I think my plan should work. I'm at 13 hours so far this week, and I'm thinking if I do 3.5 hours tomorrow and another 4 hours on Sunday (the race plus an easy spin and easy swim) I'll have put in a solid week with a slight run focus.

Prior to this week I've averaged about 22 hours the last four weeks. Even if the hours aren't huge this week (e.g., if I go really easy tomorrow because I'm still not recovered), I'll still be well positioned to begin IM specific prep very soon.

On another subject, on a ride earlier this week I picked a route from, but for whatever reason didn't take the directions out of my pocket and instead just headed in the general direction of the mountains. After an hour and a half I wasn't sure where I was, but it there was a nice view:

I continued on, figuring I could always backtrack if I got totally lost. A few miles later I figured out where I was:

You may be able to figure it out from this one if you've been there before:

I liked this part:

If you haven't yet figured out where I was, here ya go:

Definitely a ride I'll do again. From Red Rocks I can head up 93 to Golden, where I can then climb Lookout Mountain, head over to Golden Gate Canyon (haven't ridden that one yet, only been up in a car), or head back to Denver, among other options.

Finally, a shout-out (yeah, that's right, I said "shout-out") to Gu for this recent shipment:

I love vanilla Gu and if I had a bit less self-discipline I'd eat 'em for dessert.

Oh, goal half-marathon time: 1:14 or 1:15. Who knows, though.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Barkin' Dog Duathlon - Race Report

This past Saturday Stacey and I raced the Barkin' Dog Duathlon at Cherry Creek State Park just outside of Denver. (Don't ask me where that name came from -- I did not see or hear a single barking dog.) The race was my first duathlon and the shortest multisport event I've ever done, excluding the prologue at the American Triple T. The race venue is near our apartment, and I do a lot of training rides there. Stacey and I were able to ride over to the start of the race, which provided a nice warm-up.

Stacey's race highlight occurred before the race even started. She was following me as we entered the park and rolled into the race area. We needed to pick up our race packets, so I was riding straight toward the registration tent. About 50 feet away from the tent, I unclipped my right foot and swung my leg over my saddle, then glided toward the tent with just my left foot clipped in. Yes, I am extremely smooth. As I approached the tent through a moderate sized crowd, I swiveled my left foot to try to separate myself from my bike. Unfortunately, I forgot that I had recently installed new cleats on my shoes, and my attempt to clip out failed. I bit it, though luckily into a patch of grass next to the road.

I stood up and very loudly told Stacey and anyone else that may have witnessed my fall, "Oops, forgot about those new cleats." Stacey particularly appreciated my fall for two reasons: (1) I was decked out head-to-toe in Zoot stuff, with my team jersey and what not, looking very PRO and (2) when I stood up I had grass all over my butt that I was not aware of as I continued toward the registration tent.

Not a good start to the day, but not quite this bad (skip ahead to 1m05s if you want):

Anyhow, my nice ride all decked out for the race:

I am glad to be riding the carbon Ordu instead of my old aluminum frame, as the course at Cherry Creek is VERY rough. There are a lot of bumps that can throw a rider out of his aerobars if not careful.

The race format is a 5k run, 34k ride, and another 5k run. This short stuff doesn't suit me too well, as I don't go much faster for 5k run than a half marathon. Still it's a solid workout and a good opportunity to get out of my comfort zone.

I registered for the elite wave -- my first time ever -- and knew there'd be some guys I wouldn't be able to run with. I thought perhaps I would try to stay with them for the first 5k, but I wasn't up to it. A few of the faster guys pulled away pretty quickly, and by the two mile marker my primary concern was avoiding puking. I never got going too well, and ran the first 5k in 17:27. My average HR was 162 bpm for the first 5k, while I would have expected to average well into the 170s.

In a typical triathlon, I start to move up on the bike because I'm a poor swimmer relative to my biking ability. However, since this race started with a run, I was toward the front from the get-go. The bike was very uneventful: I only passed one guy and I was only passed once, though by a guy on his first loop while I was on my second. I didn't look at my wattage much, and I somehow ended up not recording it. Still, my average HR was 161 bpm. That's a solid effort for me, but I expected 5 bpm higher or so. I completed the bike portion in just over 53 minutes with an average speed of 23.2 mph. Not great since I road the course earlier in the week at HIM intensity and averaged 25 mph.

By the final 5k I was in cruise mode. Not that I went extremely easy, but I was around 10th place and wasn't going to move up. As I approached the first mile marker, I saw that the top two guys were a bit over a mile ahead of me. Ouch. I continued pushing a bit and finished the second 5k in 18:30 or so. My average HR for this last leg was 166 bpm.

Even though I wasn't able to push myself quite as hard as I would have anticipated (juding by my HR anyhow), I was still pretty beat after the race. I ended up 9th out of 13 elites, and I was beat by a few non-elites as well.

The race made for a fun yet tough workout. I've got another duathlon coming up in a few weeks, and I've got to change my breakfast so that I don't spend the first 5k worrying about throwing up. Maybe these short races will help my high-end speed a bit. As a long course guy, I'm not too concerned with high end speed, but perhaps the gains would translate to lower effort levels, too.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I need some hard training

First up, I raced the Barkin' Dog Duathlon this past weekend. The race went pretty poorly; I'll have a more detailed race report posted in the next day or two once race photos are uploaded. I didn't rest ahead of the race, so that's probably why I wasn't fast. Still, it's a bit of a confidence drainer to have such a poor performance. I look forward to gaining more experience in the sport so that I do not get discouraged by poor performances at "C" races. Last year, for example, I raced an early season open marathon and ran 1:23 -- an awful performance -- feeling horrible the entire race. A few months later I ran sub-3 hours at Louisville -- a performance that surpassed my highest expectations. Experiences like that are what I need to be able to brush off bad races. I know that it's stupid to get discouraged by a race that I didn't care much about and treated as a tough training day. Greater confidence will come with another year or two of doing endurance sports, and this is the type of performance that will ultimately enhance my confidence by teaching me not to worry about a single bad race or bad workout.

Anyhow, it seems like I haven't had a killer workout in a while. My next Ironman isn't for several months still, but the time is here to begin the 5, 6 or 7 hour workouts that are so great at preparing me for racing well at long distances. Plus, those are the workouts provide a great sense of satisfaction. I don't know why, but the feeling of having put in a solid training day is extremely satisfying, and that's one of the things that keeps me excited about the sport.

Yesterday I took it easy to recover from the race on Saturday so that I can start this week off with some quality sessions. Stacey and I rode around town for almost two hours, checking out a few neighborhoods we're interested in eventually living in and just enjoying the beautiful sunny 75 degree day. Denver has a lot to offer.

Here is a nice shot of the kayak area at Confluence Park:

I want to see some kayakers head down the rapids, but instead I've only seen them start from the bottom and head up the first rapid:

As you can see from this video, the kayakers basically tread the rapids like a treadmill, venturing into the flow of water and then holding their position:

It's not too exciting.

Nonetheless, Confluence Park is a great hang-out spot, and it was crowded yesterday:

We also made our way over to Sloan Lake. It's just a few miles from downtown Denver and offers great views of the city and the mountains:

Lastly, we did a quick loop through Washington Park. I run at this fantastic park several times a week, but the bike path isn't for serious cycling. The park was extremely crowded, and I couldn't get a good photo for fear of running a pedestrian over. It's great to see so many people out and about and utilizing such a nice resource:

Saturday, May 1, 2010

This is not a workout...

...this is a revolution. It's SCIENCE FACT! It burns MUSCLE ENERGY! Forget riding the trainer for four hours tomorrow, I'm going to SHAKE WEIGHT!

(On a more serious note, congrats to everyone that completed IM St George yesterday, especially Heather Wurtele -- one of CV's athlete's -- that destroyed the women's field for her second IM win.)

(Oh, and I changed up my links. Slate, Pitchfork, The Onion, and other websites that update regularly are no longer listed because there's not much point. I added a few sites; be sure to check out for some interesting reading.)