Going for a walk on a bike

Hawrelak Park

GPS data from wednesday’s stress reliever ride: Two hours of podcasts. 101bpm average heart rate.

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The last big one

Split speeds and HR

Gotta post the “lows” as well as the “highs”. I set out today to run 3 hours, the second hour at goal pace and the third hour was supposed to be faster than goal pace. I tried to do it when it was hot out. It was really hot out. I made a route that looped past my house twice so I could drink and reload on fuel, and I selected a course that was hilly for the middle third, just like the race-course in Penticton. There were some successes despite the obvious discrepancy between reality and where the “goal line” is indicating what my average pace should have done if I would have been running exactly 5:00min/kms after the first hour.

Successes on an unsuccessful day:

  • I ran my second longest run of my life. (34.3kms)
  • I had zero cramping whatsoever.
  • I had a totally overwhelming urge to quit and lay down at 26.5kms. I had been really pushing it for the first 20 minutes of that third hour and was holding my splits under a 5:10 pace, which was already not on track for what I was supposed to be doing, but was at least relatively close. My HR was rising though and I was getting pretty close to total detonation. I am pretty proud to announce that I didn’t stop and lay down under a tree. I was able to negotiate myself into slowing down a bit, getting my HR back down closer to 160bpm for 2kms and feeling much better about my situation. The miracle here was that even though I felt like I was totally throwing the run out the window it was only costing me about 10 seconds per 500m split. From there I got back on track a bit better and did what I’d consider acceptable running through to the end. Giving up some time during that mini recovery section made all the difference and I got back on the bandwagon before the end of the run.
  • DeSoto Coolwings work well when you can keep them wet, especially with cool water. They are a liability if you can’t keep them wet. And they’re about equivalent to having nothing if you’re pouring warm water on them. Luckily in the race, I have essentially unlimited access to water and ice to tuck into them.
  • I was able to tell my body to run fast on the downhills during the middle hilly section. Despite not hitting pace on the uphills I was making up for it by cruising the downhills with good speed, these sections of the run probably are contributing the most to my post-run aches and pains, but I have the confidence to run fast downhill when I can, I don’t think I need to prove this to myself anymore before the race, but it was good to do so today. I suffer a lot lugging my 85kgs up the hills so I need to capitalize where I can use that weight to my advantage. I attribute this to putting a lot of focus on fast turnover this past year and often brick running at 0% gradient on the treadmill during the winter when I was forced to be inside.
  • I could eat whatever I wanted despite the hot temperatures and high heart rates. I also noted that I can drink about 500mls in one go without making the stomach contents slosh beyond what is an acceptable level of uncomfortable. I didn’t run out of energy at all, or at least I was so preoccupied with being hot, and the high effort level to keep going that I felt like I had lots of energy.
  • My hip flexors and quads were not phased at all by this run… historically they did the most complaining when I did big runs. This time it was the hamstrings that led the revolt after I wrapped it up.
  • My racing shoes felt good up to 34kms so I’ll use them at Ironman instead of my more robust daily training shoes to loose a hundred grams off each foot. The longest I’d run in them had been 21kms previously so I wasn’t sure if I’d want the extra padding or not: I don’t.
  • My chin wasn’t hot at all and I’m not cutting my goatee. I do need a haircut because my head was baking though.
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4000yard test

Triathlon Photo

65:10 for 4000yds. This is pace for a 68:49 IM swim. This leaves a sizeable gap between here and my PR over 4000yards of 61:47 set back in April when I put together a really good swim that I was super proud of, a real personal best. I got in the pool and was not feeling energetic or fast or anything, even if I was super fast I knew it wouldn’t be a best effort even before I started, maybe that was part of the problem. I was taking my own splits for the duration so only took them on 500yard intervals so I could focus on swimming, thus the choppy graph. I mostly just swam instead of really being able to try and swim fast. I don’t know exactly what it was but I couldn’t swim hard for more than about 100 yards before I was back at a steady swim pace, zoned out, technique reduced to mediocre. My brain was shutting off and going into cruise-control mode way too easily. I swam the entire thing without accumulating any lactic acid in my shoulders or arms, there was no burn, which is basically like saying I didn’t try… which in retrospect is kinda embarrassing to say because I didn’t want to not try, I just couldn’t “try”.

I was way quicker at Great White North where I also didn’t feel like I swam very hard, the wetsuit probably helps a bit, as well as a draft that helps a lot while I’ve got it. I’m also not a fast turner in the pool so these things stack up against me, 68:49 minutes should be a “floor” for my swim time in the open water at a race. No-one transitioned at IMC in less than 1:11 so I’m not going to be out the door aboard the rocket ship if I swim this fast in less than 70 minutes. 70minutes was the goal set back in November last year for Swim+T1. In 2009 there were 175 people out of the water in less than an hour… and another 300 made it out of the water an through transition within the next 10 minutes. I figured that I didn’t want more than 500 people up the road from me to have to pass on the bike so I’d need to swim and transition faster than 1:10:20 for that to happen. Let’s just say I can’t waffle in Lake Okanagan if I want to meet the goal, I need to swim well, not crazy hard or make any big gains in swimming in the next month, I also don’t need a life best swim as that’ll knock me back on my heels for the rest of the race, but I do need a good swim, better than this.

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Making myself tired

I booked a week off work at the lab last week with the sole purpose of giving myself an opportunity to give my body a massive aerobic overload while at the same time removing all of the rest of life’s stress to give myself the best chance of absorbing as much of the training effect from all the exercise as possible. I located myself at Crimson Lake near Rocky Mountain House for the week as it afforded a few important things:

  • No internet connection
  • A lake that would be warm enough to swim in with a wetsuit at any time of day or night without getting swimmers itch
  • Good roads for cycling with some real hills when compared to the ‘fake hills’ around Edmonton
  • Trails to run that would be easy on my feet and knees compared to running on asphalt
  • No need to drive for hours on end to get there and back

I planned to station myself at the lake from Sunday afternoon through ’till Friday evening and basically do five things… swim, bike, run, eat and sleep. It worked pretty good. I led into it with one of the toughest rides of the year so far, an overdistance ride with Stefan at approximately race effort on Saturday followed by a brick run. Sunday morning I snuck in another easy 3.5 hours ride and then headed to the lake where I rode again and ran for an hour. Monday I logged an hour in the lake, four and half on the bike including quite a bit of IMeffort intensity, and a brick run. Tuesday kicked off with another hour in the lake, six on the bike and an hour transition run. Wednesday I took easy in the lake with a half hour splash, then ran a challenging 3×10km workout aiming to run race-pace for the final 10kms and see how it felt. I had been pretty scared of doing this workout while tired during my rides and runs on Monday and Tuesday and had gotten nice and nervous about it while I anticipated it and while I ran the first two 10km loops getting ready to unleash “IMpace” at the end of it. In the end it felt great and so did the 2hours aboard the bike afterwards to loosen up the running muscles. I had crossed halfway mentally in the week and had a couple tough rides left before I’d have to tackle another IMpace run on Friday. Thursday was to be a big day, I logged an hour of IMeffort swimming, hopped aboard the bike quickly and logged an hour of IMeffort riding and then continued on to net 190kms on the day including a little race against an impending thunderstorm placing another hour of IMeffort in at the end between 4.5 and 5.5 hours as though I were finishing off my ride into Penticton in four weeks time. I finished the day off off with an easy half hour jog after supper to make sure I hit all three sports in the day. Friday started out in the lake for an hour and then I netted four and a half pretty hilly hours on the bike with the last two at IMeffort where I racked up a total of 74.8kms when riding my rather tired body down the road. My heart rate wouldn’t come up like it should, an indicator that I had successfully tired myself out, but the speed was still good so I kept at it and hyped myself up on cola to keep trucking along. When I hit the transition run I sucked back some more coke for another caffeine boost and ran 12.4 kms in 60 minutes, a goal IM effort brick to wrap up the week. Pheuff, it’s tiring just typing it!

The effect of all these shenanigans was that I reached the highest Acute Training Load I’ve ever done in my life (50 units). I also got my 7day volume up to 45.5 hours at one point (shy of my 51.5 hour record). I also got my 7day bike distance over 1000kms which is a good confidence booster as well, I managed to ride my rear tyre all the way down through the rubber to the bare casing while I was at it. Somewhere along the way, I’m not certain exactly where, I acquired the confidence that I’m getting ready to race in Penticton and I think that’s really the main point of this blog post. I’ve got another couple weeks of working hard but I feel like I’m ready for them and then things are starting to back off as I taper for race-day.

Here are some cool graphs – the first is a meteoric rise in training stress (purple-acute, red-chronic) indicating I will race in Penticton in the best racing shape of my entire life (green-race readiness):

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

Thursday’s ride: (T=(0->1hour and 4.5->5.5hours at IMeffort)

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

Friday’s confidence boosting 1 hour brick run at IMpace after 2 hours IMeffort on bike:

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

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Race Recovery

The Great White North took a lot out of me. A lot. Compared with two weeks ago, Chinook amounted to one day of lethargy and a few days of feeling less than ideal with the muscles and strength. Following this most recent race, I had three solid days of somnolence and today I was onto my fifth day of my body still remembering that it raced hard on Sunday. This state of affairs isn’t really a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just what is. I feel like racing drained every drop of adrenaline out of my body, and now it’s taking a few days to get rebalanced.

Monday was scratched as I spent a solid 16 hours at the lab… well it included a break at dinner to write up a blog entry about the race. Tuesday morning I got in an easy spin on the road bike for an our and by late afternoon I could find absolutely no motivation to try and go swim so I didn’t and instead rolled over on my ‘cross bike to the Hardcore Fat Tire Tuesday race where I tried to count laps for the racers and get times. I only screwed up a bit but because everyone got a burger no-one complained that I botched all the ranks outside the top ten. Then I took a round-about way home and racked up another hour of touring the trails. Wednesday evening it was absolutely beautiful and felt that as I’d felt OK after my three short rides the day prior I would be OK to head out for a bit longer of an easy ride in the countryside. Well, I had no trouble doing so, and doing so with some serious speed. My HR was responding just as I would have anticipated it should and I pegged it in where I normally would expect to ride on a steady cruising along going no-where fast but not-lollygagging either kind of pace. Well after 2 hours of that I was totally cooked, and rather accidentally still an hour from home, I had only intended to ride for 2-2.5 hours. So, I went and got a sub sandwich and sat in a park in Spruce grove for half an hour and then mustered up my motivation to ride home with a rather beautiful sunset reflecting on the clouds ahead of me. Thursday I knew better than to kick myself in the head and took another self-imposed and partially coach sanctioned rest-day.

Friday was to be another crack at a bike ride, I recruited some company and headed out of town. We knew there was a giant storm blowing across the prairie but we all kinda resigned ourselves to the fact that we might get wet and headed out anyways. We could see the storm from even before we started moving and basically rode straight for it, and had the illusion in our heads that we might be able to skirt around it to the north as it approached us and then be able to let it pass us by and then roll nicely back into town after it having avoided all the wetness. Well, as we stood at the side of the road deciding on this plan of action we looked up at the bottom of the giant cloud which was right on top of us and it was thoroughly dimpled and had some very noticeable circulation. I’m no pro meteorologist but I’ve watched enough Discovery channel to know that circulation like that is certainly a warning sign for a tornado.

No. Sorry. This blog entry doesn’t wind up with us out-riding a tornado as no funnel cloud developed but very shortly after that quick confernce of “what should we do” at the side of the road we started to get wet, really wet. And the sidewind was nuts. I was doing my best with all 86 kg of myself to barely hold my bike in a straight line. And then without much warning it was suddenly impossible to ride. We dismounted and found ourselves standing at the roadside holding onto our bikes like they were kites as we scrambled into the ditch to get at least a bit out of the wind. The cut hay in the field across from us was rolling along in big chunks, suitcase size balls of hay and then sofa size heaps of straw… this was a serious storm. We also got ourselves a bit of hail, not much volume wise, but they were big, more than 1cm across for sure. Then almost as suddenly as it started it was over… and we found ourselves soaked to the bone, the wind having changed direction to ensure a headwind for the return trip and about 40kms from home.

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010
Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

The photos are a bit lousy but I think they still communicate the idea. Thanks to Darren for snapping them! All in all I’m actually really happy I rode this evening, it was a good time and it makes for an even better story. I’ll wrap up with posting this video. It’s kinda relevant to the sentiment I had at about 5pm before we got on our bikes when we knew with full certainty that there was a storm coming and there wasn’t anything to do about it, just decide what we were going to make of the situation.

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Great White North 2010

Today’s post in three acts. There was also a prequel to this blog entry available here, which has all the graphy goodness so you don’t want to miss it.

Act 1 – A Story

Bring a steak knife to the carbo-dinner for Great White North 2011! The steak was great, but the flimsy knife given to cut it was not.

Simmon and I rolled out of Edmonton shortly before six with a mostly blue sky greeting us as we headed west towards the lake. Between the time we arrived and pumped up my tyres (running new tires on both front and back now… conti-podium on front conti-sprinter on rear) the cloud cover came in and by the time the race started it was a grey day. The weather was fantastically forgiving, not punishing you for making small errors in early pace judgement and inadequate fueling/drinking in the same way that blast furnace heat would.

Prior to the start I did my best to stay away from the large crowds of stressed out triathletes and was able to stay calm while 750 other people managed to seem to do everything but. No real start line was drawn but the waters edge was what I believed to be implied. With the 10 second warning there were people up to knee deep in the lake and arranged myself into what was a third row kind of position. The start was quick but not crazy and a general desire to not get punched in the face seemed to prevail amongst the melee of arms and legs so despite looking like an absolute washing machine every time I lifted my eyes to sight there was minimal actually hitting and kicking going on. The 400 meters to the first turn went by quickly with mostly 2 stroke breathing and the occasional 3 stroke to change sides with hopes of avoiding breathing in big splashes of water. Then we hit the brakes… and we hit the brakes HARD. 750 people all needed to make the turn at the first buoy and to do so people were slowing so quickly that I slid right up someone’s back as I was trying to glide coast into the traffic jam. Then zoom, sprinting out of the corner to clear the bunch. The drafting opportunities were fantastic and I took advantage of many of them as we progressed in to the beach and I was back to bilateral breathing for the rest of the way. The approaching shallows of the lake-shore were tasted before they were seen or felt. All the muck (muck is just a nice way of saying goose poo I’m sure) was churned up and I had a good laugh as I stood up and jogged around the buoy for lap 2. I hoped to swim the same perceived pace as the previous lap but this was easier said than done. Getting through a thick pack of swimmers is no easy thing, especially when there’s the occasional person swimming perpendicular to the generally perceived direction of flow. I had a good laugh inside on more than one occasion and placed myself in some very excellent drafts… but the effort level on lap 2 was lower than I would have liked, there wasn’t much I could do. I can’t really complain about the clowns swimming zig-zag all the way along the course, if I was a faster swimmer I wouldn’t have to deal with it… and that’s no-ones fault but my own.

T2 was pretty quick, I heard Steve King announce my name as I headed out of the lake and also heard him mention Travis Anderson at about the same time so I hoped to see him on the bike and wish him a good race. Tough luck, Travis’ transition was slower than mine and I wouldn’t see him until well into the run. I gave Glenn a big high five and he stripped my wetsuit like a real champion, one swoop and it was off, and then so was I. Helmet, shoes, number. Go! No fancy ITU mount for me today, the bike course started on an uphill with no room to coast so I put my shoes on at the bike rack and the executed a mount that any cyclocrosser could have been proud of. I think I probably passed 30 athletes in transition and another 5 at the mount line while I flew through the air before landing on my seat. Good thing too as I had been the 99th swimmer out of the water and I wanted as little traffic ahead of me as possible.

When I saw my HR for the first time on the bike it registered at 175bpm… which was only 2 bpm shy of the maximum it would see for the day which occurred somewhere in the process of my heroically fast transition and mount. I took it almost silly-easy as we rolled down the long gradual hill away from the lake towards town with a tailwind, I followed another dude at a legal distance as he did the job of shouting at everyone else that he was passing them on their left and I could just follow suit. This was nice and it saved me adrenaline, stress and lots of breaths. Once we turned south my HR had recovered back to a level were I felt like I should be allowed to start turning the pedals with any effort I passed the shouter as he had served my purpose and drove off. My HR was too high through town, 160bpm or thereabouts, and kept it easy as I waited for it to come down. Was it taking this long to recover from a hard swim? Was it just taking time to redistribute the blood through my body to the big movers in my legs? No stress, just keep riding easy, I unintentionally jettisoned a bottle of gatorade as we crossed the railway. I was evidently not the only person to loose stuff there as there were bottles aplenty lying in the curb. I didn’t really care about getting those calories or picking up other drink on the course as there were so many aid stations. Off I rolled.

By the time I passed Mike Downey (the fastest UofA Tri-club swimmer of the day @ 28:58 – huge props!) my HR had settled down to 155 with me starting to pedal with any effort. I wished him luck as I was now able to start riding a steady pace. I continued on at the steady pace adding in periods of moderate effort when we went up slight inclines through first a long crosswind and then a headwind section. I rolled through 40kms at 60:48 ride time and calculated myself to have an average speed of ~39.5kph. This was pretty slow but considering I’d basically coasted down the hill away from the lake and hadn’t done any work yet I wasn’t worried. It would pick up as I had now started to get into a groove and could ride as I felt I wanted to and had planned to. I soon saw Dave sporting his compression socks and saw he was riding with Kelly and Annette, whom I presumed to be the leading females. I chatted with Annette and then set off. I calculated Dave’s average speed through 40kms to have been between 38 and 38.5 kph presuming he swam 2 minutes faster than me, I figured he was having a good day and was happy for him as I started to enter lonely territory in the race. There was no-one around, more motorbikes than cyclists! I suppose that the marshals want to make sure that the leaders aren’t cheating, but the real issues are back in the packs, which would inevitably be forming without enforcement from officials. When I caught the next cyclist I realized why, it was the lead female, Kristina, to whom I relayed the info that Annette and Kelly appeared to be riding with eachother quite a ways back.

I eventually caught another mini-group of three cyclists just at the top of the hill near Genesee and was getting water and a banana as the leaders started to go the other way and I missed seeing who was who. I wasn’t planning on trying to take a split at the turnaround but I was interested to know which place Stefan was in, and where sat overall. I made the turn and rolled off back down the hill through the valley. Big gears, huge speed, then suddenly not enough gears and just coasting. I was focused on getting another banana eaten in the aero position on the descent, so I didn’t get to see where all my friends were ranked in the field. I noticed a couple as they whipped by my peripheral vision. I climbed the second time out of the river valley very reserved even though the plan had been to start picking up the effort here to moderate or even somewhat hard on the return. I was rolling well off the top of the hill with the sidewind and was going quick, I could feel the sidewind harder than it was before and was getting excited to drill it with the tailwind as soon as we turned right. Schooler passed me as I slowed for a bottle of water in the aid station, but I took some energy from the big crowd at the only reasonably spectator vantage point on the bike course and got up and put in a minute of hard effort to catch back up to Schooler (he was racing for a team so he was irrelevant but I was interested to see what kind of pace he would ride). I rolled along near him for a while and then took over in front when my steady effort was bringing me near to the end of his draft zone, eventually he would re-assume the pace setting. But when he slowed again and I went by I realized why he was no longer maintaining his speed. He couldn’t ride the aerobars anymore! I joked that if you want to race like a triathlete you’ve got to train like a triathlete. He smiled and complained about not being able to sit down anymore. When I went around the corner back into the sidewind I thought I could hear his carbon wheels behind me, perhaps though it was just the deafening sound of my disc going around the corner at 35kph. Off I shot into the sidewind. I waited until there were some trees along the road to lessen the sidewind so I could relieve myself into the ditch while coasting without getting blown over. I then set a new PR, for the fastest speed grass watering job I’d ever done. 40kph. By the end of the bike I’d consumed 1200 calories, although the number is a bit vague because I have to estimate how much HEED I took from the aid station to drink instead of the planned gatorade which got dropped. All in all this was a good amount and I was happy and confident with how it felt (well, the fact that it didn’t feel like anything!)

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010

I coasted into T2 quite happy with my ride knowing that I’d kept it conserved enough to run fast but had still put down a satisfactorily quick ride, I waved to the crowd which gave me a great cheer and hopped off my bike. I had my bike racked and my socks and shoes put on quite efficiently and then was off.

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010
Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010

Almost immediately I could tell that the muscles in my lower legs were tight. The most concerning spot was just on the outside of my right shin, Extensor Digitorum Longus, and it wasn’t happy. (Thanks to this great resource for the muscle ID and treatment suggestions: Athletes Treating Athletes) It wasn’t classic shin splits but it wasn’t nice. My goal was to try to just run at a 1:30 half marathon pace until 8kms and if my HR was low then it was just effort in the bank that I could spend on the second chunk of the run. I could see Cal Zaryski ahead and knew that he would be running closer to a 1:22-1:25 pace, so I told myself if he wasn’t putting time into me then I was going too fast. This likely sounds like a counterproductive racing strategy, but my goal is to make it to the finish line as fast as I possibly can, not to compete and so this wasn’t a hard pill to swallow at all. I was largely concentrating on trying to be able to run at all with the frustration of my lower legs and didn’t control my pace as well as I could have or should have. It took until about 4kms at which point I had finally got my pace dialed back. It was partly the fact that my HR had come up that helped slow me back down to goal pace, this is something that continues to need practice, not necessarily in general, but specifically in brick workouts: running patiently slowly with a low HR.

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010

Pace/HR Chart

From 4kms through to 8kms I felt fine. I was increasingly frustrated as I passed through successive aid stations that did not have any gels on hand for me. This was frustrating and I tried to figure out how I was going to make up for the calories I’d planned to down from the gels which I had understood by the emails to have been promised at the aid stations. I tried drinking the flat coke, but it was flatter at some aid stations than it was at others. After a couple tries of that I wasn’t happy and switched to drinking HEED at each of the aid stations, this turned out OK. It meant that I missed the opportunity to try and feed on the run as I would have liked to have practiced for Penticton. Such is life.

At around 8kms I was hoping to switch to HR based running and lift it up to 162 bpm. It took me a while of just observing the HR before I decided I had actually better close the gap between the HR I was running and the target I had set. I came across an intersection where Ben and Lindsay were volunteering and they gave me the extra boost to make the change. Ben’s voice sounded really encouraging when I saw him and I believed him when he said I was running well, from there on I ran well, then a long stretch of tailwind pushed me along for a while and I kinda tricked myself by thinking the wind would push me like it does on a bike… it doesn’t really, but it makes you feel better about your running and I ran well. Then into the headwind I paid the price for cheating my brain into thinking the headwind had previously helped and was now hurting. I ran hard into that headwind, and when I got out of the wind I ran even harder. Once I was within 5kms of the finish I made the dangerous calculation of how fast I’d have to run to still meet the goal of a sub 1:30 run. The answer was 4.8 minutes (That information is dangerous, it could have slowed me down if I was not feeling good) but the motivation continued as I was quite regularly seeing other members of our club. The traffic on the path through the one final stretch and I had to do some cross country to get around the big clumps. With a mile left I broke out into an uphill headwind section and things weren’t pretty but I stuck with it, and then inside the last kilometer there were people watching… you have to run fast when people are watching!

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010

I didn’t realize that there was a clock for me to see at the finish line until I was almost under it at which point I had to make a mad dash to get in under 4:14, which I did. Not that I had to sprint the last 10 meters, because I’d beaten sixth place by more than 6 minutes! After the finish I was really dizzy just like Chinook two weeks prior. This time it lasted an uncomfortably long time and I just lay on the pavement waiting for it to go away. Once I got up and walked over to sit in the golf cart and drank a bunch of calories was able to stand up again without feeling so bad, I’m not sure what to make of it.

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010

Act 2 – Race Plan Execution

Stay calm at the start, stay away from groups of over-stressed people. Permission to be nervous but stay calm.

Just an on-shore warmup like I normally do before getting into the pool. Line up near the front, second row in center for the beach start. Run in to get going quick, don’t spike HR with a sprint.

Go hard for up to 200m if I can tell that there are feet around I should be catching. Hopefully something is found and I’ll settle into a moderately hard effort on someone’s feet or the same thing if I have to swim on my own. Hopefully I’m ahead of people who will be swimming faster than me so I can pick up some feet as they come around. Don’t redline for too long.

Keys to swimming well: long strokes, quick transition from hand entry to vertical forearm, don’t let legs snake after the torso through the water. Finish the strokes.

Aim to swim the second lap at same perceived pace as the first. If I’m alone, key is to find a rhythm and sight well to stay on course.

Goal: No specific goal set for swim other than to do my best. Aim for a slightly higher effort level than Chinook, anticipate that with an accurate course a 32-33 minute swim is possible.

Not able to go too hard off the start due to immediate congestion. Probably wasn’t close enough to the front, the wide start also meant that fast people were likely spread very widely. The bottleneck was going to happen anyways though. Did same or lower effort than Chinook Half and hence the reason I was a tad off my target time with the swim.

Bike General Strategy: Reserved effort on the flats to start, settle in and ride fast and efficient. Work harder through the rolling hills by the bacon farm and the two climbs in the middle of the course, maintain harder effort on the way back. Sight off of the remaining cyclists ahead of me and reel them in, don’t race to T2, but begin racing for the finish line with about 40km to go on the bike, meaning ~2.5 hours left in the race. Stay on track for ~1100 calories minimum.

Total food: 2×24oz bottles of Gatorade = 350 calories. three half bananas = 180 calories. 2 tube shot bloks = 400 calories, 3 gels 3×110 = 330 calories. If I want bananas then I don’t eat the gels, grab water along the way, ensure I drink minimum 1 bottle, 2 if hot.

Do not pace off of other cyclists, they are likely going too slow. Enjoy the ride, say hello to team-mates that I see while on course. . When passing stronger cyclists especially near the front of the race, take a drink first as a regulatory measure so that I know I’m not breathing that hard and then go past with sufficient speed that they’re not generally going to feel confident to come with me.

Let HR gradually rise towards 150bpm rather than hammering to get it up there. Fast cadence in headwind, run the big gears in tailwind with slower cadence, keep the power output smooth and my body aerodynamic. Aim to conserve momentum.

Once back into the smaller streets on the way back into town remain cautious, sprinting corners is only going to induce cramping so might as well be gentle here.

Goal: Average HR > 150bpm. Mentally pace bike to begin racing home from Genesee.

Incorrectly anticipated I’d be starting the bike with a HR that was going to need to come up to 150bpm instead of a HR that needed to come down to 150bpm. I think I made the right decision taking it so easy on the bike, if I were to have raced with no HRM I definitely would have been faster through this stretch, whether or not it would have cost me though is an open question… My heart rate wouldn’t have come down unless I took it easy, so I would have been faster but it would have been at the expense of doing it… and then likely the rest of the bike at an even higher effort. Nailed the goal with 152bpm on the bike, able to ride aero the whole time without any issues of muscular discomfort in glute-med or lumbar back, although I did find the shorts less comfortable today than at Chinook, likely because this course is only out of aero position for a grand total of 11 corners and optionally on two hills. Whereas Chinook has bum-shifting opportunities at less corners but more climbs are relatively notable durations out of the saddle. At the end of the race I thought about switching shorts for IM but on sober second thought IMC has a course with more opportunities for ass-relief than GWN so I’ll stick with what I’ve got.

Run General Strategy: Gradual start to the run, reserved on first out and back, 4:16 pace cap until the school, then with about 2/3 of the run remaining aim to pick it up through final hour, building pace.

first 8kms: focus on breathing, want feeling like I’m running easier than during a MAF test, notably short of breakpoint of deep breathing. Keep it capped at 1:30 half marathon pace, MAF HR cap. Let people get away from me if they are going to get away from me, self control.

On the way to turnaround, Run efficiently. Picking up pace from first 8kms slightly, goal to run 4:10kms or MAF HR whichever is faster. HR cap at 172bpm.

On the way back from turnaround Go Hard! MAF Pace is target, MAF HR is the absolute floor of acceptable effort. Keep lifting knees and picking up my heels, maintain proper running stride even if tired

Final mile back from junction: keep it flying! No need to sprint unless I’m contesting a position as this will exasperate recovery.

Nutrition: Gels at the aid stations, 3 miles, 6miles, 9miles. HEED at all aid stations. Water on body and ice if available and heat warrants it.

Goal: Run sub 1:30

As discussed in Act 1, I struggled with quite a bit of discomfort and then was focused on doing what it took to run and experimentation with how that felt, it meant that I didn’t have the mental focus on getting the pace quite right. I was able to dial it back as I was aware that I was going too fast but it took a while to reel myself back sufficiently. Picked up to MAF HR nicely once I tried and got in a groove, I found the pace feedback every 500m to be variable due to aid stations etc so paid less and less attention to it as I went because I knew that it was acceptable. Ran harder in the last mile than I needed to but I was seizing the opportunity and having a blast doing it, so if it means I hurt more the day after then that’s fine.

Act 3 – The Club

Stefan put in a good effort on the day, he really pushed it on the bike hoping that he could win the “fastest bike” prime which he did and then still managed to run well. Dave also had a great performance, he didn’t look like a champion when he rounded the last bend and came into view but, with 100 meters to go he pulled his form back together and ran across the finish nicely inside 4:30 which is really a great performance. Darren passed Andrea on the run which I wasn’t totally sure if he’d manage when I saw them go by in the other direction, but I’m sure makes him secretly super happy! The womens team wrapped up a win in their division with a swim that was more anticipated than any other swim in the history of triathlon, a bike ride from Shari that showed everyone who was boss with the 6th fastest female bike split of the day, and a personal best half marathon to wrap it up. Travis rounded out a great swim and frustrating bike ride where he struggled to feel good about putting food down with a run that is much more respectable than he gives himself credit for. Then came two big surprises. Or perhaps they weren’t surprises, just well guarded secrets regarding the performances that they knew they had it store but weren’t willing to divulge? Mike Downey made his HIM debut in 5 hours (if we give him the 30 second benefit of the doubt just like the Boston Marathon, which of course, we will) with the aforementioned swim a quick bike and a good run. The rumour from the spectators is that he needs to work on his transition though! Then Lesley cruised across the finish line with a mighty fine “crash course in last minute training” performance, breaking her PR from last year on this course with a notably improved bike leg. While she seemed to be chalking it up to “I don’t know how”, I think the consistency of training through ‘cross season and through the early winter when the majority of people do nothing of substance, and she maintained consistency did a wonder of good, combined of course with chasing Travis around on some challenging bike rides. Michele cruised across the finish in her debut performance having suffered a rather lengthy flat tire pit-stop on the bike putting together a run within only a couple minutes of her open half marathon performance in April, which has got to make her happy. Not far behind, Jen Moroz cruised in with a full trio of times that I believe she will be happy with, having also made her debut at the distance. Anita chopped an enormous 23 minutes off her time from last year, greatly improving both her ride and her run. Aisling also scored her first finish at the HIM distance and was quite pleased with it all things considered at the finish.

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010
Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010
Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010
Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010

Thanks to Becky for not getting mad at me when I stole some photos of the race from Facebook without asking her

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GWN Success!

I’ll recount the day shortly… but ’till then here’s some statistics of my race:

Run Splits and HR: [Click for larger]

Run Splits

  • Swim 33:29
  • T1+Bike+T2 2:12:59 (Map & HR Data Link)
  • Run 1:27:31 (Map & HR Data Link)
  • 99th fastest swim (includes some teams), 2nd fastest bike, 5th person to T2, 8th fastest run
  • Overall: 2nd M18-29 and 5th Overall

There is also a sequel to this blog post as promised.

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Chinook 2010

Race Report 2010

  • No HRM… I’m stupid and left it at home
  • No spare tubular… I’m stupid and left it at home
  • Swim. COLD!
  • Bike. No fun
  • Run. Totally incredible

There’s basically all you need to know… but I’ll record the day for posterity sake, I’m sure one day someone will want to remember it even though today I don’t really.

Tapered my running after completing 40 runs in 40 days on June 9th, big bike weekend prior and consistent swimming during race-week. Rested up enough to get TSB back definitively on positive side for the first time in 36 days. Still tired on Thursday, felt good Friday and felt physically great on Saturday morning despite being mentally not so great… impacted by some forgetfulness (see preamble).

Swim: Goal was to practice drafting in the open water as much as I could but keep to a moderate effort. Started front row and with a little beach run I was way off in front of the pack, got off to a moderate effort start, no need to hammer as people were just gingerly getting going due to the cold this all seemed really weird to me, then things started to pick up at maybe 300m, at which point people started to pass me, I tried a few sets of feet as they went past and held some for a while each but eventually lost them all. By 500m I had picked up a good draft and held it until maybe 800 feeling just steady. At this point I got pretty dizzy, not because of waves I don’t think, probably a cold head, but I just grimaced and dealt with it, trying to focus on three stroke breathing until the end of the first lap. I passed 5 people on the beach run and caught some feet upon re-entry but quickly lost them and swam by myself at a steady pace till 1500. At this point I got a draft and held it to the finish again. Got a bit dizzy through the same section, this was the shaded part of the lake so that’s why I’m pretty sure it was a cold-induced dizziness. 19th/120 on the swim.

35:48 – distance was supposed to be 2km but everyone seemed to think it was a bit long. I swam totally within myself but did think that I had swum a very straight line and had kept the pressure on. I thought for sure this was going to be closer to a 33min swim until the results went up. Disappointed but not surprised based on a recent 1 hour swim TT last week where I managed only about this pace.

T1: Hands were a wreck in T1, luckily the strippers got me out of my suit and I was on my way. I decided to run hard to try and warm up at least a bit before mounting the bike. In retrospect I do think this was a good decision, I did get on the bike relatively quite a bit warmer than leaving the lake.

Bike: Race plan was to average 150bpm, having no HRM (see preamble) I was going to just try and average an RPE of 14/20 and 16/20 on the big hills, which would likely get me around 150bpm under race circumstances. Out the start I felt like the bike was all a strange muscular effort and breathing/HR was low… Did not feel like I was strong on this bike at all… I’m strong on the road bike right now, the TT bike was not feeling great. Eating and drinking got underway and was doing OK, pulling in lots of people and I’d worked my way into fourth. I was certainly not feeling strong on the bike, searching around through different cadences and not able to find something that felt good and strong and fast. Similar trouble to early May on the TT bike for the first time in the season, just couldn’t get in a powerful groove.

Flatted my rear tyre at about 30kms. Very frustrated with myself and had a big internal debate about what to do, kept riding while I would decide but focus was lost. Dad was parked maybe 5km up the road and I opted to stop, and put my training wheel on the rear at 35kms and accept a DQ for the race for accepting outside help and then get going. Did the swap, and spent the next 10miles not focusing well, not riding hard, not doing anything right. Got more frustrated with myself, sad, angry… etc. At halfway I tried to turn things around a bit but struggled to do so. Average pace picked up due to general downhill and sections of tailwind, this was probably deceiving as I felt a bit better about it but wasn’t really making up as much time as I could have been. I caught myself dropping into easier gears when I probably shouldn’t have been, certainly not having fun at this point. Then started to get an achy lower back… race plan was to avoid having this happen as I anticipated it meant I was going too hard. When it happened I backed off the intensity, this was the wrong choice as I was already going too slow, I was likely just out of practice on the aeros and should have kept pushing. Wrapped up the effort with 1km to go and rolled into transition in third place off the bike.

Last minute announcement that they’d be serving HEED instead of gatorade despite posting otherwise on the website. I had tried HEED before and know that I do like it so this wasn’t going to be an issue except that they’re slightly less calorie dense and I didn’t know what size bottles we’d get. (Aside: Oh well, this is what athletes deal with when corporate multinationals decide to adopt targeted marketing campaigns… do you think this makes me want to buy more Gatorade now? Honestly, what kind of marketing genius thought this policy up?) 340 calories gatorade. 300 calories HEED. 260 calories powerbar and a banana ~120calories. No gels. = 1020 calories. Ate two hammergels, raspberry was nice, and drank HEED on the run at every aid station where I could get a volunteer to pay any attention to me, this was not a majority of aid stations unfortunately.

2:38:10 96 km. Second overall, 7 minutes slower than last year. 6 minutes slower than fastest cyclist on the day. Map (started at about 2.5 km into ride).

Run: My plan was to run a strategic combination of MAF heart rate governed pace and tested MAF pace from two weeks ago. This was ambitious, and became more ambitious when the heart rate strap was left at home and I was now basically going to have to run purely according to pace and RPE (goal 16/20 – cap 17/20). Brick was super and I felt great going out onto the run, felt fresher than in any transition run in training, highly motivated to try and redeem my day with a good run split as I had done a lousy job on the bike and was going to get DQ’d after the race anyways due to the wheel change and I knew it (because I planned to request it). Split the first 500m in 2:02 (exactly MAF pace) and was mighty proud of myself. Ran through to 4kms basically all at MAF pace except for the aid station where congestion (with Olympic race) caused trouble with me trying to get what I wanted, ran myself into second place, soon caught by Jeremy in third, we ran together from 5km through until 10.55km (halfway). I felt like I was taking it easy here and just cruising along next to him despite logging a couple splits below 4:00 pace here. As we passed transition I ducked in where I took a quick pee and he got maybe 80m up the road. I subsequently lost a bit of time to him through kms 11-16 despite lifting the effort level. I struggled to run 4:15-4:20 pace and got a bit worried when I split one at 4:30 pace. I pulled my socks up then and started to focus on the finish line and my pace improved. I actually started to gain back on Jeremy through the fourth quarter of the run meaning he faded even harder than me, which is what I anticipated based on his breathing when running side by side, but his fade started quite a bit later and in the end he ran the fastest split of the day so who am I to suggest otherwise. Kudos to Stefan for the win, good bike ride and good run, when you get both right you typically have a good day, and he got both done quite nicely indeed.

Splits: Green is up heartbreak hill, which has been re-landscaped and re-paved and is nowhere as steep as it was last year. Blue is the pee break.

Photo from gallery: Weblog Photos

1:30:09 Placed second overall in run, goal was to run within 2% of my open half marathon PR, which I certainly did, only 22 seconds slower that my PR, and considering a porta-potty break, this is totally impressive.Map.

Overall: 4:44:06. A hair over 2 minutes off my time last year. Similar swim, 7min slower on bike, 9 min faster on run. I went and talked to the race director afterward and told him that he needed to DQ me for outside help, he wasn’t really sure that he wanted to do that but in the end that’s what he and the other official decided. This was a very costly mistake, mentally it cost me on the ride a lot, and cost me some really good data from the run, what was my HR actually doing during the third quarter of the race?

Lessons learned:

  • I need to log a lot of time on the TT bike in the next 2 weeks, even if it’s all easy, riding that bike allows me to feel powerful on that bike and that’s what’s necessary for me to ride to my potential. I also think I’m going to experiment with raising the seat up a bit to de-stress the quads slightly. I also think I should probably try to almost ride in the aerobars by a large majority until Ironman, or at least never go a week where I’m not logging at least some serious time on it.
  • Swim frequency needs to stay higher than it has been. 4 day weekends between Thursday nights and Tuesday nights have caused some trouble I think, it means the Tuesday swim is almost always a write-off in terms of getting in some quality swimming as it’s hampered by re-familiarization with the water.
  • Run – I’m doing well. Hopes are high for continued development, but some tougher run sessions lie ahead, when I lifted the effort level in the third quarter I actually dropped in speed slightly. Negative splitting my longer runs should become a strategic plan.
  • I discussed how to avoid costly mistakes like forgetting gear with my mom, there is no easy answer. I had everything packed, and then double checked, and then left one bag on my bed when loading the car. I have a checklist, but these things only work when things go according to your plan. The best laid plans are only plans. What do you do?

Chinook is behind me for 2010, and I’m looking forward: two weeks until the GWN. I will be mentally stronger on July 4 than I was on Saturday, I’ll also be considerably less rested, faster? who knows, but it will be fun to mark myself up against Paul Tichelaar’s anticipated sub 4 hour time. To wrap up I’ll re-post a quote that I scooped from the EnduranceCorner website today:

“Feelings are a choice.” – Scott Molina

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Canmore Bike Binge 2010

Friday (Map)

Saturday (Map)

Sunday (Map)

Full gallery available: here

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Input vs. Output

While I like to say that my triathlon racing strategy is “Swim, Fly, Run”, in reality it’s quite a bit more complicated, it’s terribly hard to output “fly” quality cycling at a moment’s notice, especially when you’re out there in variable weather conditions on variable road surfaces and most importantly on varied terrain. Unless you’ve got the dough to throw around for a power-measuring widget for your bike you’re stuck measuring an unreliable output: speed. The alternative to measuring output is to measure input, and I think that learning the difference between the two took quite a while for me to really learn. It might actually be the case that I only when started to track outputs (pace) vs. inputs (effort) in the pool, where things are very standardized, that I got to really learn the difference between inputs and outputs on the bike.

So, to introduce, I’ll start by sticking with the input/output comparison in the pool. I’ve learned pretty well how hard I can go for a 25m sprint, a 50m sprint, a 100m sprint, a 200m sprint, a 400m swim, a 750m swim, a 2000m swim and a 4000m swim. The keen observer here will note that along the way I switched from sprint to swim, that’s a mental input. Do I think I’m sprinting or do I think I’m swimming? I also have a pretty good idea of how fast I can go for each one of these efforts… read the other blog posts on swimming if you’re keen to find that out. The result in swimming is that the inputs are tied to the outputs. In basically all circumstances with a few exceptions, really choppy water, really cold water, wearing a wetsuit, etc. I know what effort-input it takes to result in what kind of pace-output.

In cycling the effort levels are generally not tied to the outputs via much of any calculation. For example. I did a 20km TT two weeks ago during training at an average HR of 154bpm (input) and netted an average speed of 40.94 kph (output). The next weekend I did a 40kmTT, and for the sake of comparison, I’ll just compare the halves, also each 20km efforts. I averaged a HR of 173bpm (input) and only netted myself 31.76 kph (output). In the second half. I netted myself 46.01kph (output) for 169bpm (input) during the second half. Now, there’s a few things to note here:

  1. The wind was headwind for the first half and tailwind for the second half, lending to the obvious discrepancy between speeds. The input was similar on both halves of the ride but the output was very different.
  2. The net result of the 40kmTT was a 171 bpm average giving me only ~37.6 kph. Does that seem right? Well, maybe the hills make me work harder and the wind makes me go slower. But really? an extra 15bpm of input and I get a massive 4kph slash in output? Something is wrong… it’s called riding with a flat tyre. Once again, inputs are not tied to outputs.
  3. Both of these inputs come in the thick of training. The resulting output is less than it would be if I were to apply the same input when freshened up. Arguably this is a modification of input levels between heavy training and fresh racing, I’ll accept that, but when the indicators of effort are generally perceived with the exception of heart-rate (which is only an indicative variable), then you’re best to work with the shifting perceptions as your inputs.

All this being said, the point isn’t really so much that I could have been a lot faster in the 40kmTT as it is that how fast you go in a 40kmTT is unfortunately pretty arbitrary. The inputs and outputs in cycling are kinda bunk, but that’s OK so long as you don’t use outputs all the time to train and race. If we go back to the “Swim, Fly, Run” strategy for triathlon, there’s still a matter of how hard you’re flying, and that should be something that’s dependent on distance and the demands of the race. So here’s my breakdown, perhaps you find the markers to be similar, perhaps you find them to be different:

  • Racing cyclocross I often could average 176-178 bpm for a 40-55 minute race. Cyclocross is a rather full-body version of cycling with lots of punchy-climbs out of the saddle and run ups off the bike etc. Doing that kind of HR on the bike when just using legs is more like a 5-10 minute best effort. If I can average above 170bpm while on a bike, I’m likely climbing out of the saddle at a HARD pace or really killing myself on the bike in an interval set, or drilling myself into oblivion in a TT. I usually can get it to spike up to there on almost any given day if I decide I really need to. I basically never can get it above 185bpm, although when doing VO2 testing I have managed to break 200bpm each time I’m on the bike, and have two people yelling in each ear not to quit yet.
  • The following are Triathlon specific intensity zones. What’s appropriate for road racing is generally what it takes to do what you want to do with the peloton. You don’t get to decide, and as such I don’t need to describe.
  • I treat Olympic effort as, mouth open breathing hard, need mental reminders more than every minute to keep the pace up. I also feel like I can taste it when I’m going hard enough. Perhaps this is psychosomatic, it might also be that once the blood lactate level gets up your taste and smell receptors do indeed start to pick up on it. It could also be that you’re breathing out a high concentration of CO2 and somehow you pick that up. In any case, I do use that taste marker as well. When TTing at that kind of effort it’s all upper leg limited strength it seems, and glutes, if I really go hard towards the end of the hour I can get a bit tight in my lower back. Calves always feel like they’re getting a free ride when going this hard. Observed HRs are 160-165bpm.
  • Half Ironman effort is basically where I’m at if I decide to go hard but don’t feed myself those mental reminders every 30seconds to keep pushing the pace. It’s a focused effort, I like to mentally focus on trying to ride as though I’m trying to maintain momentum at this pace. Keep the hard pressure on the pedals so there are no lapses in putting out the good power but I don’t need to be trying to incessantly accelerate. Last summer during my HIM races I made a point of taking note of how I felt at halfway, if I was on schedule with nutrition I gave myself permission to work a bit harder on the second half so long as I didn’t get a sore back. HIM effort for me is an eating threshold: meaning I can put stuff down my esophagus and it gets digested, or at least it definitely doesn’t come back up. I could maybe eat stuff when going at Oly effort if chewing it didn’t disrupt my breathing ability. When at the training camp in Penticton this spring I was often heckled for getting to the top of a climb and starting to peel a banana or open a bar to eat before we went down the other side. They thought I was showing off that I wasn’t going hard, I was just generally hungry. Some people will put their eating threshold down at a lower effort level than this, but this is where mine is. Just like the taste marker I use for Olympic type effort, the eating threshold is a personal preference of mine for Half Ironman effort. It works well for me so I use it. Observed HRs are usually around 150, capped at 155. (20kmTT average HR was 154bpm, came after 90kms into the ride. the output here – although I just told you not to use it – of ~41kph is an approximate Half IM bike pace, and being at the top end of the spectrum it would be a fast one!)
  • Ironman effort. This seems like a full balanced leg effort, upper and lower legs, little to no strain through my lower back. Try to stay relaxed in my oblique abs and disconnect the upper body from the lower body to stay calm. I’d characterize the effort level as what I could chat with someone with one sentence at a time. Not a full discussion. Can close my mouth and breath through my nose if I’m chewing for a while without getting out of breath. Maintaining enough mental focus to keep the pressure on the pedals at all times but devoting mental attention to peripheral details like staying relaxed through my shoulders and upper arms, keeping my head in an aerodynamic position (I basically never ride with my aero helmet on but I often pretend like I am so that when I do put it on it doesn’t go sideways into the wind.) HR 135-140. I can’t climb a hill out of the saddle at this HR. It’s impossible unless I get a triple chainring. If I’m going up a considerable hill the HR comes up, guaranteed into mid 140’s. The physicist in me says it’s OK to work a bit harder on the uphills than on the flats. The extra effort is more favorably being translated into moving me forward faster rather than pushing air harder, so the return on investment is favorable.
  • Long ride average HRs wind up around 115-130bpm. 130bpm only if I’m by myself and not sucking a draft at all. Minimum HRs while riding my bike (should probably call it sitting on my bike and turning pedals… hardly call it riding) is 100bpm. I’ve scored a couple rides below 100bpm this year already, they’re not useless, they’re enjoyable, and when the primary goal is to have fun I find it ridiculous to say that I shouldn’t do them.

There’s 5 inputs here, and that’s enough for triathlon in my opinion. There are a couple more input levels necessary to race well at cyclocross and race well in road racing, both of them are on the top end, they’re needed to train for the start in ‘cross, mashing gears to climb the barely climbable, running the sandpit, and for periods of the road race where a selection is being made. None of these things happen in a traditional non drafting on the road triathlon, and aren’t so necessary to distinguish, not that they don’t happen during training, for example on group rides, but they are used sparingly.

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