Coaching Update #5

Weekly Updates:

2011-03-21 to 2011-03-27

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 85 km 2:50:00 30 30 30 kph
Run 85.08 km 7:22:25 5:34 5:12 4:27 min per km
Swim 7350 m 2:55:00 2:26 2:23 2:20 min per 100 meters
Yoga 0 mi 0:50:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 13 hrs 57min One Day Off

2011-03-28 to 2011-04-03

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 90 km 3:00:00 30 30 30 kph
Run 85.41 km 7:04:32 6:00 4:58 4:04 min per km
Swim 7000 m 2:40:00 2:30 2:17 2:06 min per 100 meters
Yoga 0 mi 0:40:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 13 hrs 24min One Day Off

2011-04-04 to 2011-04-10

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 90 km 3:00:00 30 30 30 kph
Run 75.49 km 6:35:22 8:48 5:14 4:08 min per km
Swim 1500 m 0:25:00 1:40 1:40 1:40 min per 100 meters
Yoga 0 mi 0:50:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 10 hrs 50min One Day Off

2011-04-11 to 2011-04-17

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 128 km 4:20:00 24 29.54 30 kph
Run 50.71 km 3:58:41 6:07 4:42 4:01 min per km
Swim 1000 m 0:20:00 2:00 2:00 2:00 min per 100 meters
Yoga 0 mi 0:10:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 8 hrs 48min One Day Off

This was a big run training block. In fact it was huge. Together, these four weeks represent 25 hours spent running and 184 miles covered. They brought my run fitness from nothing special in early March after a few disrupted weeks of very poor training (no excuses, but also no regrets about that – details were in Update #4). I put together a series of workouts with great focus, good nutrition, and rather careful attention to not overdo anything. A big help to motivation was that everything had a purpose. I was clear on why I had added everything to my plate regarding training and so when I was out there running I knew what kind of training stimulus I was hoping to apply to my body. Sometimes it was simple, “another 40 minutes of forefoot running in the ecco biom shoes”, which I’m confident has been contributing to greater efficiency and much stronger lower legs. Other times workouts were race specific, training my ability to run marathon pace at the point in my long run where my stored glycogen was on the edge of being depleted. This knowledge of why I was doing things helped get me out the door. And getting out the door and training is an absolute prerequisite to getting to the start line and being ready to race.

The body has responded. In discussion with my coach after that inopportune gap in my training he encouraged me to not completely rule out the option of an aggressive return to training. If you listen to how you feel and are careful not to stretch yourself to the point of destruction, it’s possible not to start from square one. It wasn’t reckless advice, it was actually exactly the opposite. It was a reminder to be careful about both what I was asking myself to do and how I was responding to it on a daily basis, not just on a week-by-week time horizon. I jumped back into training, and my training stress balance (TSB) on the run went negative (green line at left). Last season when focused on progressing my running but also doing a lot of cycling and swimming I was able to handle with no problems a TSB of -2. I could handle without any extended recovery, dips to -3 during the early season, but later in the year found that I was limited by general fatigue from doing enough to reach those deep depths of TSB. So, I figured that -3 would be a good general target and that I’d see if I could handle dips to -4.

I’ve mentioned before that I like to use different units than the conventional TSS, if you want to compare, one of my units is 1 hour of aerobic activity per week, at mid to high zone 2, which amounts to around 50 TSS, and one hour at threshold amounts to two units, or 100 TSS.

That’s generally how things went, I maintained a stress balance with my running of a bit below -3 for a whole month and I’d stretch it past -4 with my key sessions of the week. There were a couple occasions where I just ignored the extra interval-section of my shorter runs, but I did strides frequently and never compromised on the plans around the long run sessions of the week. Overall, for this period of time, my weekly hours were nothing spectacularly high, in fact they trailed off a bit, as I chopped a bit of swimming out to make sure I could do the running. I was also running a bit faster as the weeks progressed during aerobic conditioning runs and so the total time it took to get the weekly mileage targets was reduced. As a whole, my net TSB was never more than -1 below my run TSB alone. That’s the benefit of doing a lot of aerobic development on the skis over the course of the winter. I was capable of training the run harder by shifting focus without having to add a whole bunch of focus. That strategy was a good one.

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts

The current chronic load at 6.4 hours/week is the same as a CTL of 46 TSS/day. I’ll try to taper my TSB to about 12-18 TSS/day which amounts to getting around 1.5-2.0 on my scale. That’s where I was when I ran well at Ironman, when I ran well at Great White North, and when I ran well at Chinook in 2011. It’s also the same runTSB from Calgary 70.3 in 2009 when I had a dismal performance, but I’ll attribute that to heat and over-reaching rather than poor prep. I can get into that range without much difficulty in the next two weeks, which is exactly what a taper should be:

Expected metrics for race-day:
CTL=6.0hrs and TSB=+2.0hrs
(CTL=43TSS/day and TSB=14TSS/day)

This week:
Photo from gallery: Spring 2011
Next Week:
Photo from gallery: Spring 2011

So, what are the markers of progression?

First, I got my chronic training stress from running higher than it has ever been in my life. That’s the red line above, it’s not ahead of last June by much, only a half percentage, but it’s ahead none the less. That stat is a tough one to move, and it’s not a random fluctuation that I’m at last season’s run fitness. I’ll go back to the beginning of this post: 184 miles in four weeks – that’s why I’m back in ready-to-race fitness.

Secondly and more in depth: Back in mid-February I had my VO2max tested as a part of a research study and found I scored 61.2 L/kg/min. That was alright, I thought it was pretty good for early season actually. That same week I tested my MAF fitness with a 5km TT at 160 bpm which I botched up a bit and ran it with an average HR of 164. In any case, the tested pace of 4:28/km resulted in an estimate of my VO2score of 61.29 on the run. (The formulae for calculating these scores is from Alan Couzens of Endurance corner and the details are here: That nicely matched the recorded actual VO2max and so I’m working directly with an unmodified formulation of the measurements. This weekend at the St Albert 10 Miler, I averaged a HR of 167 and thus scored a VO2score of 66.3 which indicates I’ve made a fitness improvement of a bit more than 8% over the course of the past two months. That’s indicative of real progress!

One of the things that I think is a bit hokey about trying to measure these things quantitatively is that if you train with a lot of specificity for your testing protocol, then your performance at the testing protocol is going to be skewed in favour of showing that you are better than you might be in reality. There are studies out there that show that your performance in power output over a 1 hour max effort is a good guide for what your performance could be over an ultra-distance triathlon. There’s also studies that show you can estimate your 1 hour max effort quite well by doing only a 20 minute max effort and then adjusting the result slightly. Well, if you start training specifically to perform well at the 20min TT, you might improve your result, but by doing so you are probably also reducing the effectiveness of the estimation that it is for your performance at the much longer race. If you can improve 11% at your 20min speed, 8% of that could be attributed to fitness, and 3% could be attributed to the skill of performing the 20 min test. Only the 8% is going to translate to other measures of athletic capability, your skill for 20min TTing is good if your race is a 20min test.

I made the long explanation as a round-about way of saying. I was doing everything in training that I know how to do that will get me specificity at the marathon test (which is the race). Meaning that when on the weekend I measure that I think I’m in 8% better shape at the moment based on a few numbers, maybe I have also got 3% of marathon skills improvement that doesn’t show up in the fitness testing protocol because I wasn’t practicing to be tested at anything other than the marathon. We’ll see how this works out. I can’t say that I know what my marathon readiness was like in February because I couldn’t test it, and so I can’t tell you after the race in two weeks if I was 7% better or 10 % better, or even 25% better. I do think there’s something to that though. We watched Ryan Hall run a crazy fast marathon in Boston yesterday, but a few weeks ago he wasn’t ready to put together a fast half marathon. Why’s that? He’s got the fitness plus the skills for marathoning. He might have more skills than anyone on the planet, because he coached himself to do it. He attributed it to being strong, and in the post race interview I heard someone asking if he was going to get fast at some short distance stuff so he could be faster in the marathon. His response was a round-about way of saying “no”, maybe he’ll do some faster stuff because he’s interested in seeing how fast he can run 5000m on the track, but to be fast at the marathon he said he needed to be strong. That was encouraging. I wasn’t “fast enough” to be “fast” at the 10 miler this past weekend, that was my limiter on the flats and on the descents. But I was definitely strong enough to keep going, I have power in my legs even when they’re tired. I think that means I’m even more ready for a marathon than I am for 10 miles, that’s my 3%.

In two weeks we will see!

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St. Albert 10 Miler Race Results 2011

Pat, Erin and I represented the UofA Triathlon Club at the St. Albert 10 miler this morning. Becky was along as a cheering squad, and remarked that I did a better job of Pat than smiling on course, I’ll let her come cheer for us any day. That’s more encouraging than the typical “Wow Josh, you really looked like shit out there” that is typical of some other support crews (I love you too!). Pat was wearing his Fiera gear and no Tri-club gear, I didn’t have any Fiera gear that was weather appropriate, nor did I have and Triathlon Club gear that was weather appropriate. I don’t think Erin has any notion of trying to wear a certain outfit to intimidate the competition, she’ll learn eventually.

The race starts out fast with a nice little downhill to get the leg turnover high and the speed up. I tried to start slow, and I failed, splitting my first mile in about 6:07. That’s a recipe not to negative split your race when your best case scenario is 20 seconds slower per mile. I’d now need to negative split the rest of the race by 20 seconds just to even split the race. These are the kinds of calculations I do in my head when I’m trying to slow myself down. It worked, and I got back down to the 4:10/km pace that I knew was safe and allowed myself to come back “under control” I had turned off the display on HR on my watch because I didn’t want to see it, but retrospectively I had climbed to 170 and this was just pulling it back below there by a small margin. I then started to feel really good, and started to slowly pick up the pace.

Photo from gallery: Spring 2011

I gradually sped up all the way to the top of the hill and then remembered Pat’s advice, don’t go too hard on that downhill or you’ll really struggle on the uphill at mile 7. I kept the effort in check down that hill but the pace was still high. I cruised past the 10 km mark at 40:06 which was a nice treat, I picked up a 10km PR en-route. Problem is I’ve never run a standalone 10km race so my 10km PR is pretty weak. I won’t complain though. I thought for a bit that if the race really goes pear shaped in the final 6kms, do I tell people that I got a PR at 10km or do I keep it a secret that I did some bad pacing along the way.

Negotiations inside my head ended as I encountered the long gradual uphill at 7 miles. I reminded myself that it was probably going to really feel bad somewhere near the top but that I just had to get through it because it would inevitably feel better again between there and the finish. It was a good strategy and kept me from checking the GPS unit for my pace along the way. From there I was surprised by a couple rolly hills where I though things would be relatively flat. The HR was now way up and I was in “hold it together mode”, but I was holding a constant gap to the next guy up the road. He had passed me on the previous downhill so with a downhill finish I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to reel in the 10 seconds he had on me but maintaining the gap was good motivation. Turning north I knew it was less than 8 minutes to go, then into the last mile and it was all downhill. I ran about as fast as my legs could go on the downhill at this point, which isn’t very fast as I haven’t done a whole ton of speed-work. That’s alright though, I was still picking up the pace and was happy about how things had progressed. Corner through to the finish line and could see the clock, I’d be under 65 minutes for sure. Good news.

Photo from gallery: Spring 2011

I may have been more than 10 minutes behind the winner, but I was still first to the massage table. Free massages are a great thing, got the right calf worked on a little bit as it had felt pretty knarly on Tuesday. It felt fine during the race though and it feels fine now. No worries.

Final result: 64:41. That’s a 10 second positive split, which means after my lightning first mile I managed to negative split “the rest of the race” which is good news. Vancouver starts flat, which is a bonus, hopefully I’m no faster than about 7 minutes for the first mile in two weeks. Based on my performance for my 10km split, the reigel formula predicts a marathon time of 3h04m28s and the cameron formula predicts a marathon time of 3h07m52m. Based on my 10mile time, the reigel formula predicts a marathon time of 2h59m43s and the cameron formula predicts a marathon time of 3h03m31s. Those are very encouraging results, considering I will be tapering for the marathon and was not heavily tapered for this race, granted it was a light week.

Full results are here

This profile is why I was surprised to find the south (second) loop to be more rolling than the north (first). Maybe it wasn’t in so bad in reality but it felt awfully up and down as I was nearing an hour of ~threshold HR.

Photo from gallery: Spring 2011
Photo from gallery: Spring 2011

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Coaching Update #4.5

One weekly update:

2011-03-21 to 2011-03-27

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 85 km 2:50:00 30 30 30 kph
Run 85.08 km 7:22:25 5:34 5:12 4:27 min per km
Swim 7350 m 2:55:00 2:26 2:23 2:20 min per 100 meters
Yoga 0 mi 0:50:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 13 hrs 57min One Day Off

I’ll post another full update in a few weeks when the big push for marathon fitness is over. I’ve got some solid work to do this week including a 10km race simulation on Saturday that I hope to run right around 40-41 minutes, and that is backed up with a no-pressure-on-pace long run on Sunday. It’ll be my one kick at a long aerobic run with sore muscles during the buildup. I’ve done a lot of running like that in past, but have really made an effort in scheduling to not require that I do it very often this time around, this is the one situation where I am going to tackle it. It will probably be a relatively easy long run considering I am a lot stronger at this point in the season than I have been previously, I still want to do it though as it will have some training effect in adding some robustness to muscle durability. The alternative – trying to run a blazing 10kms the day after a long easy run doesn’t really achieve either of the training effects. The easy long run is going to be pretty superfluous as far as race specificity goes because I’d probably feel fresh the whole way, and the 10km race simulation will probably have me feeling a bit flat and not likely to boost capacity for dealing with lactate. The weekend after that is my toughest long run of the buildup, 20 miles with 10 of them at marathon effort, I’m hoping I can bring them in below 4:30 pace again, and if so I will declare myself to have a realistic hope of qualifying for Boston.

To compare with a week of my previous marathon build (March 2009) I’ll post some stats from a week that totally knocked me on my ass:

2009-03-09 to 2009-03-15

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 90 km 3:00:00 30 30 30 kph
Fixie 25.1 km 1:12:00 18 20.92 22.8 kph
Run 87.49 km 7:25:50 5:28 5:06 4:32 min per km
Swim 2700 m 1:30:00 3:20 3:20 3:20 min per 100 meters
Yoga 0 mi 1:00:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 14 hrs 7min Two days off

Oddly enough, it looks just about the same! ~85kms in 7.5 hours accounting for about 55% of my weekly activity. If you look closely you’ll see that my fastest run pace this past week was barely faster than my fastest run pace that week, my average run pace is actually a bit slower than it was that week, and my slowest run pace was actually slower last week than it was in 2009. What these stats don’t show is that… my fastest run pace during that week in 2011 occurred during the 12.5km marathon effort interval during the second half of my long run. Also, that my slowest pace occurred on a recovery run instead of on my long run where I was hurting, and that the average pace for my long run in the 2011 week was actually considerably faster than my average pace for the week. It also doesn’t show that I backed up this week with a Monday night workout over 2.5 hours in duration of running to the pool, swimming for an hour twenty, and then running a round-about-way home with zero calorie consumption across the whole thing. In 2009 I backed up that week with three days off and a weekly mileage of 16 kms. The fitness is in how things are put together, not purely in the generic stats, but I have faith that it’s there.

Some other cool stuff from the long run this weekend:

Photo from gallery: Winter 2011
Photo from gallery: Winter 2011

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Track Split Lookup Tables

It’s getting close to the season when lots of people are starting to throw down a weekly workout on the track instead of navigating the snowbanks and icy-sidewalks focused on aerobic conditioning. The easiest way to do the math is usually to run in the inside lane, but I really don’t like running the sharpest corners unless I have to. Instead I’d rather do the workout on one of the more outside lanes on the track… If possible it’s usually nice to run intervals on an increment of 10 seconds because it’s then pretty straightforward to keep track of the incremental time. The same idea as using a pace-clock in the pool, you graduate from swimming your 100’s on 1:35 straight to swimming your 100’s on 1:30 without going through a phase in between, keeping track is not worth the mental effort. If you can choose the lane so that the extra distance brings you across the line at the right time you can really save yourself a headache.

Unfortunately, that math is generally too hard to do accurately enough on the fly in my head. It generally requires some relatively difficult pace to calculate and some weird distance. I cobbled together a set of lap splits for track workouts that will tell you the splits required to run certain paces in different lanes on the track. The general method for using this would be to look up the pace you hope to run in the left columns (both per kilometer and per mile are listed) and then run your finger across that row to find a lap split that is the closest to an increment of 10 seconds, choose that lane and get running.

Photo from gallery: Weblog Photos

Doing this can increase your interval distance by up to 13% on an 8 lane 400m track or up to 19% on an 6 lane 200m track. So, if you’re dead-set on doing a certain distance interval, then use the inside lane. But let’s remember that those intervals are chosen to try and get a certain physiological response from the average person. I can personally guarantee that the physiological response of the average person varies by a lot more than 13%, and physiology probably varies more by time and speed than by distance. At least in my opinion, the benefit of running the wider corners of lanes 6-8 outweighs the insignificant benefit of running the inside lane to make an interval of a very specific length. It will probably also help you shy away from setting a new 800m personal record each time you show up to the track. You’ll pick the lane that corresponds to the pace you want to run, and then you’ll run the pace you wanted to run. This neatly evades the racing that can otherwise happen, between other athletes at the track, and with your former self, that can often happen when you get into your racing flats and start running in circles.

I’ve got these tables in my smartphone so they’re always accessible and I think I will print one out on cardstock and laminate it in to keep in my gym locker which has a 200m indoor track. Do what you want with them, hopefully it’ll improve your training – Enjoy!

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Coaching Update #4

The weekly updates:

2011-02-14 to 2011-02-20

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 90 km 2:45:00 30 32.73 40 kph
Run 18.31 km 1:56:10 7:39 6:21 5:08 min per km
Swim 2400 m 1:00:00 2:30 2:30 2:30 min per 100 meters
Telemark 145 km 14:00:00 10.23 10.36 10.5 kph
Yoga 0 mi 0:45:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 20 hrs 26min One Day Off

2011-02-21 to 2011-02-27

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 65 km 2:10:00 30 30 30 kph
Run 27.5 km 2:31:30 6:07 5:31 5:09 min per km
Swim 2800 m 1:05:00 2:19 2:19 2:19 min per 100 meters
Weights 0 mi 0:10:00 na na na no pace units
XC 12 km 1:20:00 9 9 9 kph
Yoga 0 mi 0:40:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 7 hrs 56min One Day Off

2011-02-28 to 2011-03-06

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 60 km 2:00:00 30 30 30 kph
Run 6.5 km 0:43:30 6:42 6:42 6:42 min per km
Swim 1750 m 0:30:00 1:43 1:43 1:43 min per 100 meters
XC 14 km 1:25:00 9.88 9.88 9.88 kph
Total Time 4 hrs 38min Four Days Off

2011-03-07 to 2011-03-13

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 96 km 3:12:00 30 30 30 kph
Run 50.96 km 4:30:07 5:36 5:18 5:00 min per km
Swim 6450 m 2:09:00 2:06 2:00 1:41 min per 100 meters
XC 10.22 km 0:48:40 12.6 12.6 12.6 kph
Total Time 10 hrs 39min One Day Off

2011-03-14 to 2011-03-20

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 90 km 3:00:00 30 30 30 kph
Run 85.9 km 7:28:26 5:31 5:13 4:34 min per km
Swim 5500 m 2:10:31 3:00 2:22 1:33 min per 100 meters
Yoga 0 mi 0:40:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 13 hrs 18min One Day Off

I had a bit of a washout for the first week of this period, it could have been good training but then I went Telemarking for two days. It was fun, but it killed three planned runs. Sure I logged lots of hours but Telemarking is pretty non-specific preparation for a marathon, at least it uses your legs I guess. That trip also hampered the next week because I should have been working on the revisions on my thesis demanded by the examining committee that weekend, but I went skiing instead. They needed to be done the next week and so I botched another opportunity to do some high quality consistent running in alright conditions. The next week I travelled to Calgary to attend the funeral of my Grandfather, and then started work. While that didn’t force me to take 4 days off, run once and really come off the rails with training, I don’t see that I necessarily should have done otherwise. Death is a motivation sucker, it always will be and that’s just how it’s going to be. I actually don’t really care that that week was a write-off, but I am frustrated that I started to slide in the two weeks previous. It’s a good thing Dave demanded that I come out and go skiing the following Sunday or I would have skipped out and taken another zero.

The next week back took some getting used to, I had slipped a fair amount in my consistency with everything and it really felt like I was trying to get a heavy locomotive rolling again. It seemed that the whole metabolism managed to slow itself down and needed some time for the pressure in the steam chambers to build up before I could roll out of the station. I did get moving by the end of the week but was frustrated by the fact that my well laid plans for preparation for this upcoming marathon had been all-but destroyed. Part of me wanted to give up, it was a large part. I asked Dave what I was supposed to do when I just didn’t care about a race anymore. It wasn’t like I was asking if it was OK to switch to the half-marathon, I was wondering about quitting all together. Maybe I’d go to Vancouver and just be a tourist for the weekend with that plane ticket I now wished I hadn’t bought, maybe bring a bike and write off the whole idea of running a marathon.

Then I got roped into a long run that evening by Keegan and went along with it. I stand by the statement that I’ve been making quite a bit recently. “If you’re smart about who you choose to surround yourself with, peer pressure only does good things.” I tapped out a 1h49 half marathon and stayed strictly aerobic for the whole thing. Decked out in full tights and jacket, running in loose snow and doing some single-track trails… that’s a totally amazing time. It was at this point that I drew the analogy that I was the big locomotive that was taking a while to get going after a lousy three weeks of training. Hindsight helps. I figured that my best bet was to try and put together a good week of training, keep it mostly aerobic and then see where I was at before I made any drastic changes of plans.

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts

The last week of training went well. I didn’t roll over 20 hours or anything that would have seemed super impressive last year during the Ironman build, but I did run with good consistency and put together some pretty good runs, nothing junky. Everything had a purpose and I was happy about it. It wrapped up Saturday afternoon with a good long run of 30kms with a 5 mile section thrown in after 30kms where I was able to maintain a 7:22 pace in variable snow conditions. I got home feeling beat up, but happy. I think it’s a real positive sign to feel like the marathon training plan is back on track. Unfortunately it’s not really, there is a pretty significant hole in the middle of my buildup (as evidenced by the falling CTL [red] on the chart at right). I have modified the plan from here on out to account for this. I’m cutting the amount of running above aerobic threshold scheduled for this coming week in half. I’m also cutting out all of the VO2 focussed intervals that the Pfitzinger plan has scheduled in favour of strides and some running just slightly above marathon pace. I’m trying to be conservative with what I can ask my body to do without as extensive a base-buildup as I should have done. I’m then paring back the total volume anticipated by 10-15%, slicing it off of most of the runs with the exception of my long runs which need to stay at the higher durations as they are needed for focus on duration. The marathon on May 1 didn’t get 10-15% shorter.

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts

I’m posting the planned weekly schedule from here to the race [here]. It’s accurate for running, and if the weather co-operates I’ll be adding some aerobic cycling to the mix once the roads are clear. There’s not going to be stress on the muscles in my legs for that kind of stuff so I’ll sprinkle in what I have time for. For completeness sake I’ve included the PMCs for all three sports and my total at the left here as well, click on the mini-picture to expand.

Finally, I have one other stat to note… I swam a 15:31 for 1000 yards on Friday. I went out pretty conservative in the first half. I think that partly had to do with me not really wanting to suffer as much as I could have suffered for 15 minutes but also a bit of disillusionment with the purpose of doing this when Keegan had opened up with a 1:15 1000yds next to me and I was feeling super slow. I did turn it around in the second half which is nice and it made for a good workout even though it’s evidence that it wasn’t the best test of my actual 1000yd TT speed. Despite being a long ways off how well I was swimming last march at this time this is a huge improvement in my swimming since Christmas when I was struggling to come in with 50 second laps on only 100 and 200 yard intervals in a workout. I’m also happy to report that I’m actually tackling flip turns with some regularity. The immediacy of the Spring Thaw Triathlon, where successfully doing flip turns could amount to a full 0.5% improvement of my finish time has convinced me that it is worthwhile. Buying carbon aero widgets to do that would cost me between $1000 and $1500.

1000yd TT

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Hardcore TT bike

I updated the graphics on my disc and TT helmet for the 2011 season (and beyond) with the logo from the Hardcore bike shop in Edmonton.

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2011

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2011

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2011 Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2011

< rant >

Before you comment telling me that I need to angle my aerobars down a bit more to get my forearms to be level because you think it is more aerodynamic please look here & here & here & here & here & here & here & here & here and observe that my forearms are level which is actually more important than the angle that the aerobars point when you look at them when the bike is standing still. You don’t usually tell someone that their seat is the wrong height when they’re not on their bike so you’d be wise not to make comments about my handlebars when I’m not riding it.

< / rant >

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VO2max testing and metabolic games

I’m in another research study, this one is testing the acute effects of L-arginine ingestion on exercise. They’re looking at the growth hormone levels in the blood during submaximal exertion in endurance trained athletes and so need to have a good idea where anaerobic threshold is. This means that they need to know quite a bit about my physiology to determine what normal is before they can do the double-blind test on what L-arganine will do to my two one hour riding sessions, which are to be done at 80% of my anaerobic threshold power. All that just to say that I could get a free VO2-max test out of the deal which, if you ask me, is always a good trade!

This also required body composition testing done by underwater weighing and I scored 7.2 % body fat which I think was probably reasonably accurate and also pretty acceptable for the base-season of my year. 7.2% fat means I’ve got about 14 lbs of fat on me which either sounds like a lot, or it doesn’t sound like much, depending on who you are. I take this to mean the following: If I think I can lean up to about 6% fat by race-day I have to loose a whole kilogram of fat. That also means I only have a kilogram of fat to loose. If you’re a calorie counter that’s a matter of coming up short on average 100 calories per day from here until race day, which is silly-easy if you adopt that method of body-composition control. I’ll reference you to a recent pair of blog posts written by my coach Steven Lord entitled “Calorie Counting Futility” and “More on Calorie Counting Futility” which very specifically address the issue of leaning-up as an athlete. I think you can probably tell by their titles what his opinion is! I never have been a long term calorie counter and I don’t intend on being one.

I have previously had both great success and negligible success adopting a simple strategy of shifting towards “lean protein and more salad vegetables” during lead-ups to a couple races in the previous few seasons. The philosophical strategy behind that was to phrase the choices positively so that I am trying to get satiated on those fuel sources and then will naturally reduce the component that processed carbohydrates plays in my diet. I’m currently modifying the method to incorporate a bit of a negative statement which I’m not totally certain about, as I don’t like the idea of not eating things, I think it’s more mentally healthy to phrase this stuff in the positive. For now the strategy is again a shift towards incorporating “lean protein and more salad vegetables” as well as “minimizing consumption of processed carbohydrates outside a window of 2 hours before and 2 hours after exercise”. Interestingly, that means if I’m doing a double workout in the day it doesn’t really apply. I am not monitoring my weight too closely these days and I am certainly not monitoring my body composition frequently even though I have access to a four-point electrical impedance tool which has proven reliable in the past. As I’ve written before in this blog, I found that doing so had me miss the forest for the trees.

Now that I sound like I’ve got an eating disorder I’ll get back to the VO2-max test.

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts

This first figure shows my oxygen consumption with increasing wattage. It shows that I maxed out with one minute at 540 Watts (on an average of 60kms, and strictly less than 100kms, per week on the bike since October – not bad!) and had a peak oxygen uptake of 5.4 L/min which is a pretty good absolute score. I have scored as high as 5.7 L/min previously but that was following the Sea-to-Sea bike tour where I absolutely loaded my body with aerobic work and rode 6 days a week for 9 weeks, a far cry from the point in my season where I’m at right now. My relative score is good but not great. It definitely qualifies me for the study, but it also shows I’m not yet race-ready.

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts

This second chart shows the results of gas-analysis. I crossed over to anaerobic work at 4 L/min with an estimated power output of between 320 and 360 Watts. The corresponding HR to this crossover occurred in the range of 165-170 bpm. Previously, I had been treating my threshold HR on the bike to be around 176 bpm which is a slight overestimate. The results of the test give me an indication that in future I need to down-estimate my cycling threshold HR by a few bpm to the high 160’s rather than the mid 170’s. A more accurate measure is unnecessary (as HR will vary day to day) and unavailable because the step-test protocol goes in 40 Watt increments and lets your HR settle intermittently rather than gradually ramping through all of the different power-outputs. Interestingly I only reached a max-HR of 196 bpm during the test. I have always cracked 200 bpm during previous tests. It’s possible that I am dealing with a tiny bit of residual fatigue from the race this past weekend which could have made a bit of difference.

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts

This figure is the one that I find the most interesting but it’s also the most inaccurate as it’s based on a hack calculation I did of substrate consumption during exercise. I used the table of “Thermal Equivalents of Oxygen for the non-protein respiratory quotient” from “Essentials of exercise physiology, Volume 1 By William D. McArdle, Frank I. Katch, Victor L. Katch” and directly substituted my respiratory exchange ratio (RER) during the test for the respiratory quotient (RQ) quoted from the table. This is a poor assumption and I know it. The testing protocol recording this data was also rather rapid and so it means that I didn’t have the opportunity to settle in to a nice and calm fat burning metabolic state during the early part of the test. This is seen by a low fat consumption in the early stages which is almost certainly false. Then as the test progresses towards anaerobic threshold my fat consumption trails off and so when I hit anaerobic threshold I am by definition exhibiting an exchange ratio of one. This is where the assumption that RER=RQ is obviously problematic. It’s almost guaranteed that I am still metabolizing some fat at this workload but the assumption implies that I cannot be.

RER – the Respiratory Exchange Ratio is the ratio of expired CO2 to the inspired O2 during exercise and it is measured at the mouth by the gas analysis machine.

RQ – the Respiratory Quotient is the ratio of CO2 produced by cellular respiration to the quantity of O2 consumed during cellular respiration. Burning carbohydrates produced 6x CO2 molecules for each 6x O2 molecules consumed giving an RQ of 1.0 Burning lipids which are a more energy dense molecule requires more O2 to metabolize the fuel for the same amount of CO2 produced.

Over a long period of time when the body functions at a constant exertion (or rest) the time average of RER is equal to the time average of RQ.

One other thing that’s interesting to do is calculate my efficiency in converting chemical energy to mechanical energy. If we look at threshold power and say that I was at 340 Watts (estimate) and I was metabolizing 20 calories per minute that means I was consuming 1394 Watts of chemical energy and exhibiting a conversion ratio of 24.4%. OK, for those of you in the know you’re very aware that 24% conversion efficiency is pretty much the gold standard in cycling so I’ll admit I cherry picked my estimate to put me there. If you look at the results over the sub-threshold exertions (below) you’ll see that there is a trend that shows me displaying a false peak in efficiency while the metabolic process RQ is translated through my blood and lungs to display itself as an RER measured at my mouth. Where the gross efficiency settles before the next incremental increase would be the true measure of my conversion ratio. As shown in the little table I do exhibit excellent conversion factors but I’m not a world record breaker.

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts

Gross cycling efficiency at subthreshold exertion
160 W 200 W 240 W 280 W 320 W
19.5% 20.1% 23.2% 22.3% 23.4%

OK, one final calculation for the nerds who read all the way to the end:

I know that the result is going to turn out poorly because as I already discussed there’s lots of evidence to believe that fat burning has been underestimated by the testing protocol and my lack of comprehensive skills in doing the calculations. But, I figure I should run the calculation anyways. I finished at 240 Watts with a HR that was settled right around my Ironman HR last year when all prepped up for the race in Penticton. I was significantly more aerobically fit at that point than I am now so I should have tested with a higher fat burning capacity at that HR than I did during the test, but let’s presume I’m the same. Over all of the records at 240 Watts I averaged a caloric expenditure of 14.3 calories per minute. The average percentage of that that came from fat was 21% or 3.0 calories per minute. That means I burned 858 calories per hour while riding the bike at Ironman, which totals a caloric burn of 4476 calories (5:13 bike split) and I will have been able to process 939 calories of my fat reserves on the bike. I have already well documented my nutrition strategy for Ironman on the blog so I won’t reiterate all the points here except to say that I ingested 2500 calories while on the bike. This calculation means I could have had a bike-leg caloric deficit of 1037 calories. Considering that I can EASILY burn 1000 calories per hour swimming (I’ll tell you right now I swam way harder than I biked) then I should have reached T2 having burned through more than 2000 calories of stored glycogen… (average adult’s stored glycogen is 2000 calories) and while I may be able to load myself up on a bit more than that because I’m a big person and because I employed some caloric storage training and because I did pre-race carbo fueling and the pre-race banana that entered my bloodstream during the swim for ~100 calories) these estimates show that I would have been starting the marathon with nothing in the tank, or at least with less than ~20% of my glycogen reserves.

Like I said, the calculation wasn’t going to work. I was burning more fat than this estimate leaves us to believe. I’m pretty sure that I did the bike glycogen neutral or perhaps even glycogen positive to restore some reserves lost on the swim. The deficit by these estimates would have required me to have burned 6.3 calories per minute of fat on the bike. That estimate is probably a lot closer to the truth and it’s not unreasonable to believe that I could have done that, it only amounts to 44% of my calories from fat at that workload. Considering I was riding a mix of easy and steady, that’s not an unreasonable thing to expect of my body. I’ve seen metabolic testing profiles elsewhere online with ironman exertion fat consumption ratios both at and above this 45% range.

I’ll conclude this post with one final thought. Going faster at Ironman doesn’t require that you burn as much fat as you can on the bike. Going faster at Ironman requires you doing the bike split as quickly as you can and still deliver yourself to the beginning of the run capable of running your best marathon. That probably doesn’t mean that you need to have your glycogen stores full if you’re reasonably capable of consuming calories while running and run with any sort of reasonable efficiency. If we look at how much professional ironman athletes eat (or Kona qualifying AG athletes in the M25-39 AGs) during the run portion of the event compared to athletes who are running standalone marathons in comparable times (2:40-3:00) we see a big discrepancy. Clearly the professional ironman athletes are not arriving in T2 with full glycogen stores or they wouldn’t have to eat like that. I know it’s dangerous to compare yourself to the pros to learn how to go faster (Scott Molina on IMTalk last week had excellent stuff to say on this topic – listen if you’re interested) but I think it is indicative of the fastest strategy on the bike leg NOT being anywhere close to 100% conservative.

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Four months of AWESOME!

The racing schedules for this summer have just been posted and it looks like everything stacks up almost perfectly for me!

When I say perfectly I mean that there is very little conflict of interest in where I intend to direct my attention each weekend for basically every weekend of the summer. It’s simple, choose what you love doing and then love doing it. I’m not signed up for everything listed here, or at least not yet!

  • May 1 – Vancouver Marathon
  • May 8 – Spring Thaw (Sprint) Triathlon
  • May 14-15 – Velocity Stage Race
  • May 21-22 – Bikes on Broadway Stage Race
  • May 28 – Crewing for Aaron at Blackfoot 100km
  • May 29 – Pigeon Lake Road Race
  • June 5 – Oliver (Half Ironman) Triathlon
  • June 11 – Half Moon Lake – Mission3 (SuperSprint) Triathlon
  • June 18-19 -Banff Bike Fest Stage Race
    • or June 18 – Chinook (Olympic or Half Ironman) Triathlon
  • June 25-26 – Devon Stage Race
  • July 1 – Canada Day Crit
  • July 10 – Edmonton ITU (Olympic) Triathlon
    • I think this will have slots for Worlds but they are in New Zealand in October 2012 so taking a slot is a rather outrageous proposition.
  • July 16-17 – Perhaps run the Skyline Trail with Aaron?
  • July 23-24 – Perhaps a backpacking weekend in Wilmore Wilderness?
    • Sylvan Lake (Half Ironman) Triathlon is on the 24th and is likely the spot that I’d need to race to qualify for the ITU Long Distance World Championships that are going to be held in Spain in 2012. Doing this is an attractive alternative to chasing a Kona slot in 2012 as this is a true world championship, not a corporate world championship.
  • July 29-30 – Tour de Bowness Stage Race
  • August 6-7 – Jason Lapierre Stage Race
  • August 14 – Bicisport Road Race
    • or August 14 – XTerra Canmore (Offroad) Triathlon – rumour is that this will have slots for Maui in 2012, so racing on the course the year before is an advantage if I want to try and qualify for worlds in 2012.
  • August 20 – Headwinds Provincial Road Race
  • August 27 – Recovery Weekend
  • September 1 – It’s September – time to start riding the ‘cross bike!

Two or three weekends out of the whole four months with conflicting interests is a pretty slim number. I’m happy to have a couple weeks in July without much potential distraction which I can either use for relaxation if I’m running on fumes or use for hard training to prep myself up for the upcoming stage racing. I’m really hoping to be able to bring my A-game to the criteriums in Calgary, the infamous Tour de Bowness “Bownesian Pavement” Crit and the soon to become infamous Jason Lapierre “Speedfest” crit that was run downtown last year, rumour is that it will be downtown again in 2011. That means big base in May and June and serious sharpening efforts in June and July. Lots of bike riding!

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Want to TT well?

Over the last couple years I’ve had plenty of people ask me how to TT well in a triathlon. Recently I’ve had a bunch of these requests and so I’m slapping this on the blog. Being able to execute the bike split well requires fitness, but similarly importantly it requires that you have practiced the specific skill of doing it. That means you need to have a decent idea of how fast you can be going to gauge your effort (let’s presume we’re not working with power).

Note that this isn’t a cycling program. It’s a component of a cycling program that you’d implement as a part of your training during the specific buildup to your race. Alongside it there would be perhaps some intervals or hill repeats and maybe some middle distance rides and some easy rides to the coffee shop and back.

This plan makes use of two workouts and only two workouts. It’s simple but at the same time, what we’re trying to do is in some sense pretty simple as well. We’re trying to ride our bikes as fast as we can. The workouts are as follows: “Ride your bike” and “Ride your bike faster”. If you spend a while executing the progression inherent in this plan it will be able to tell you how fast you should try to ride at your upcoming race.

Workout: Ride your bike

Endurance Focus

Total Time: Rough estimate of total bike and run duration of planned race plus 1 hour. (Longest race of your season)

Get on your bike.
Ride X hours, take breaks in the first half if necessary and at half-way. When you are riding your bike you should always be doing the same effort. Minimum standard deviation across the full ride is the goal.
No breaks allowed during final half. Ideally this includes no stoplights etc. Leave town during the first half and complete the duration of the ride when you get back to city limits. Then take it easy on the way back through town. If your technology is capable of it take splits so you know your average speed during different portions of the ride you’ll need it for the next workout.
Note how much of the ride you are able to complete in the aerobars. Do not exceed riding the same fraction during your race bike split. The fastest bike split is to ride 100% on the aerobars, thus, try to do this during training.
The entire ride should be at a pace at which you would slow down significantly if you stopped pedaling. The interpretation of this varies from person to person based on fitness. The emphasis is that you are pedaling your bike for this duration, not sitting on your bike and just riding it along the road. The goal is to develop race-duration endurance.
Completing this workout should be a confidence booster for your ability to complete the race.

    For a sprint distance, this ride should total around 2-2.5 hours.
    For an Olympic distance this ride should total around 3-4 hours.
    For a Half Ironman this ride should total 5.5-6.5 hours.
    For an Ironman this ride should total ~8-10 hours… more than this is likely not beneficial, you need to eat too differently during such a ride that it’s similarity to racing reduces effectiveness.

Workout: Ride your bike faster

Time Trial Specificity Focus

Total Time: Total bike-segment duration plus 1 hour. (Longest race of your season)

Get on your bike.
Ride until you are warmed up and have an uninterrupted stretch of highway ahead of you. (ie. ride out of the city)
Begin the workout by choosing one of the following methods (based on if your pace is likely going to be wonky due to wind)
Pace is based on that of the second half of a recent successful completion of “Ride your bike” where you didn’t fade off into oblivion. Target pace is 25% faster than that.

    endurance ride at 25 kph, interval pace: 32kph
    endurance ride at 28 kph, interval pace: 35kph
    endurance ride at 30 kph, interval pace: 38kph
    endurance ride at 32 kph, interval pace: 40kph

If it’s windy, note which gear you would be riding in for the workout “Ride your bike”, select a gear that is 3-4 teeth smaller in the back. (This means shift up 2-3 gears depending where you are on your cassette).
Ride at your normal cadence for “Ride your bike” or slightly lower. Ride on the aerobars for the full interval, you are allowed to sit up on breaks (best to do initial recovery following intervals in the aero position).
Interval duration: first time doing this try intervals of 20 minutes. If successful do future workouts at 30min (then maybe 40) duration. The duration of your rest between intervals should be equal to or more than approximately 25% the duration of the interval completed. This isn’t a rule, but it’s a guideline that is supported by exercise physiologists. Don’t be a slave to the clock, for example, if you’re approaching a stoplight don’t start your timer to start the next interval until you know you will make it through. Ride your recovery intervals at “Ride your bike” pace or slightly slower, this isn’t supposed to be 10+ minutes of just coasting along the road. Eat and drink, keep pedaling and psyche yourself up for the next one.
Completing this workout should be a confidence booster for your ability to pace the race appropriately.

    For a sprint distance, this ride should total around ~1.5 hours including 2 intervals (20 min intervals).
    For an Olympic distance this ride should total around ~2.5 hours including 2 intervals (20 or 30 min intervals).
    For a Half Ironman this ride should total ~4 hours including 2 or 3 intervals completed (30min intervals).
    For an Ironman this ride should total ~6 hours… more than this is likely not beneficial, it will reduce your intensity on the intervals too significantly. Ride includes 4 intervals completed (Perhaps mix of 30 40 and 60 min intervals). Suggestion: start at beginning of 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th hours.

Progression and estimating race pace

The fastest pace that you can manage on average without fading on the intervals in “Ride your bike faster” during your biggest volume weeks of training is likely a good target race pace (if done on similar terrain) once tapered, rested, and mentally prepared for your race. Think about this as a two stage qualification: you need to complete the workout “Ride your bike” without drafting someone and without doing an out and back with a tailwind on the second half and actually record your average speed for the second half… no exaggerating allowed. Then you need to calculate the goal pace for the workout “Ride your bike faster” and ride all of the intervals at this pace without a fade-off at the end. It could take a while to develop the strength to actually do this as fast as suggested, keep at it. Once successful, “Ride your bike” again, you’ll likely be faster and have a new target to work on for a “Ride your bike faster” workout. Targets for race pace should be based on what you have proven yourself to be capable of during a successful long interval workout not an extrapolation of 25% speed on some endurance ride which may or may not have been impacted by the weather.

Disclaimer: You are hereby deemed incapable of riding any pace you may interpret that these workouts to have suggested for you until you have proven yourself to be able to do it. If you blow yourself up on the bike leg of a race based on this, you probably screwed up the math, or interpreted it to mean something that it doesn’t suggest. This is a conservative estimate of pacing the bike leg and you are almost guaranteed to run well off the bike. Remember that you’re supposed to be basing this off of an execution of the “Ride your bike faster” workout where you evenly paced all of your intervals and did it amongst other training without specifically resting up to do it.

Note that the 25% speed increase between “Ride your bike” and the intervals in “Ride your bike faster” is something I found to work for myself to compare appropriate speeds for the two workouts. If you’ve been riding for a long time you can probably estimate the appropriate interval intensity just based on what the interval set’s duration is supposed to be, use that rather than simply my estimates of speed. Relative intensities on what you would call an endurance ride, HR zones, current fitness, history in the sport etc are going to impact this. Use these numbers (and all numbers) as a guide, if your body was designed to operate strictly with numbers it would have a built in speedometer.

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The new shoes

I need to be writing thesis and not blog.

Thesis makes me go crazy.

Blog lets me be a bit crazy.

Since Ironman I haven’t been running tired and sore very often. It’s been revolutionary! I’m definitely not as fast or as fit, but when running I feel like I’ve become a runner. It’s not such a crazy thing, perhaps even expected, that a year of focus on becoming a better runner turned me into a better runner.

But! – you say – you’re not as fit and not as fast, how are you more of a runner now than you were in 2009?

I feel like a runner. That’s enough, and if you’re going to measure it, then I’d contend that this’s all that matters. Let’s just cross my fingers that I still feel like a cyclist next spring. With a beautiful new chariot to ride around the countryside I can hardly imagine that being a problem and I’m not worried at all.

How can I tell I’m a runner? My shoes just aren’t quite right anymore. I’ve spent coming up on 5 years running in Asics GT 2110s, then 2120s and then 2130s an 2140s. Asics changed the name and charged me more money every few months along the way but because they were working for me I stuck with the motto, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. They didn’t really break, but since I’ve been running fresh and relaxed I’ve started to realize that they’re old fashioned. I’ve evolved to a higher life form over the course of the past year with my running, I’m more centered over my feet, I no longer brake against my momentum during my stride, and my leg carriage while still low and somewhat lousy compared to how I’d like it to look, is significantly higher and more efficient. I poured over a lot of research during the past couple weeks during bits and pieces of spare time and concluded that basically all of the research out there is a form of marketing. I suppose my research is a form of marketing too, it’s how we think. Someone can have a conniption about how thoroughly capitalism has ingrained itself in our social structure here, I’m not going to complain, I’m just going to observe. So, I decided that I’d listen to marketing that sounded like someone was thinking instead of deciding that I needed to find real bonified and impartial research. I’m not convinced you can buy shoes without being sold something. I’m pretty sure you can’t buy anything without being sold something for that matter.

This wasn’t meant to be philosphical, it just turned out that way. It was meant to be short because every sentence typed here isn’t being typed and added to the massive tome I’m scribing like a monk. Maybe if I build up a ton of momentum typing about shoes I can maintain that momentum in my fingers and crank out another chapter before I fall asleep tonight?

Ecco’s biom project sounded like people were thinking. I wanted to give them a shot, but I also wanted to let Jack Cook from Fast Trax help me to decide what he believed were important features of a shoe based on my running stride. I showed up, bag of shoes in hand, and we did some video and some running. We watched me run barefoot, in racing flats, in my normal trainers and then in three different styles of natural motion shoes. We did try the Biom shoes, and the same natural motion shoes that my friend Stefan started using mid-summer, substantial padding without the support.

We observed that the alignment through my heel and knee was the worst out of ALL the shoes sampled… in the Asics that I do the vast majority of my running in. We noted that as expected, running in Piranhas (racing flats) was very similar to barefoot and if anything it was assisting me in landing in more natural alignment compared with running barefoot. Perhaps it’s a confidence thing, running barefoot forces you to tread gingerly, and to an extent this is a good thing. It could be however, that the best tracking of your foot through a stride is achieved using something to boost your confidence. Confidence that isn’t there, nor is it ever going to be there despite how much running that you ever do barefoot that you’re certain you won’t step on a sharp rock, piece of glass or get jabbed by a stick. The best stride is a confident one, not a sissy one that’s nimbly picking it’s way along the road. The caveman analogy that says we’re best evolved to run barefoot has some things right. Human beings haven’t “exercised” though until very recently in our evolution. When the caveman is chasing his dinner he’s running with confidence in his stride even if he is barefoot. If I am racing, perhaps I can run with confidence and throw caution to the wind that I won’t step on a nail. In 95% of the other situations though when us humans are exercising we’re not using our running gait “as it was evolved to be used” and so the addition of a shoe, if it adds confidence to your stride could bring you close to running as nature intended.

OK, now it’s really philosophical. And you love it, keep reading.

So, the solution should be to get a closet full of racing flats, as many as you can get for as cheap as you can get? No. Running in racing flats all the time though will make your feet really tired. Jack admitted he’s tried this, it makes your feet sore and generally tired. No wonder, you’re slamming them on the ground with no help or relief. This is where the natural motion shoe fits in the equation. Let’s put a shoe around that natural stride to help it out with the things that it can’t do on its own, that being to (aside from staying warm in Edmonton’s winters) provide a platform that provides enough feedback that you know you’re running in your natural stride with good alignment, and to surround the foot in that position so the forces of doing all the running aren’t going to kill your feet. Cavemen couldn’t run on concrete, it wasn’t invented yet. But me, I have to run on that crap all the time.

Cease philosophy and give an objective review.

  • Biom B at slower speeds really felt like I had a lot of shoe underfoot. This is perhaps due to me being familiar to running on a super thin sole (Piranha) when running in a shoe that provided no support. As I sped up this shoe seemed to disappear from underfoot. It was possible to run with a flat footed stride in this shoe but it definitely encouraged a mid-footed stride. It definitely wasn’t rolling you forwards to try and run forefoot like a Newton. Heel-striking in this shoe was just not going to happen. As I sped up the treadmill the sensation of being on thick shoes disappeared, it wasn’t me getting used to it as the sensation returned as I slowed down.
  • Biom A at slower speeds and faster speeds never felt cumbersome or thick, it is a much thinner soled shoe to begin with. Running flat footed was really discouraged by this shoe in the same way that heel-striking in the B felt like it was just impossible. Yet, it did this without creating the sensation of being encouraged to run up onto my forefoot. As I sped up, the shoe seemed to be able to keep up, it’s performance was uniform all the way across almost all the speeds I use during training. I think I’ll still be sticking to flats for track work and short intervals though. There isn’t arch support in this or the Biom B but there is a stiff section of the midsole near your instep. It’s almost like your heel is on a bit of a shelf above the front of the shoe. This is not the shape of the interior of the shoe, it’s just the best way I think I can describe the sensation. When running the shoe encourages you to step over this part of the shoe onto your midfoot with each footstrike. It’s stiffness also encourages you to use the outside of your foot and not to land on the instep. In the Biom B it’s noticeable but totally tolerable to run with heavy weight of your feet right on that part of the shoe if you want, but you’re encouraged not to. The Biom A is a bit firmer (excuse the pun) in making that suggestion.
  • Saucony Kinvara – A significant amount of padding compared to the Biom A and B. I didn’t feel a lack of padding in Ecco’s so I wasn’t craving a cushy shoe when Jack suggested I try this one for a bit more padding, the padding “just was”. It seemed good, and I fell into the midfoot strike rather readily. Standing still this shoe felt like it had a ton of arch support, but as soon as I started running I realized this was a fake support. It wasn’t actually supporting the foot there it wasn’t actually providing any feedback during the footstrike as to whether or not I had my alignment right. It was giving the foot a nudge from the instep as well as another one from the outstep and gently suggesting you find a comfortable middle ground with your alignment. At slow speeds this all felt fantastic but as I sped up the shoe seemed to be deceiving me into a sense of helping me out and then underperforming. It might be a habit from running in motion control shoes, that when I want the shoe to help it usually does, but the Kinvara didn’t. My guess is that if you’ve got a good natural footstrike, this shoe is probably going to just feel good and it’s going to let you keep running well. If you’re in the process of letting your running stride evolve I think this could be a bit of a messy shoe, it feels like there’s a lot there but when push comes to shove there just isn’t much underfoot. Additionally I wasn’t a fan of the pressure on the outstep, I think that’s a personal preference though.

So, I left FastTrax with pair of the Biom As and while the price is high it was hardly a tough pill to swallow after nearly an hour of opportunity to try on the shoes, run in them and almost a full half hour of Jack’s attention in investigating via video some of these things. With Gordo’s comments about seeking the best mentors and consulting advice fresh in my mind I am quietly confident that this is a very good first step in a slightly new direction. If I can wear them out I’ll be back for an updated diagnosis with the video-cam and another pair at full retail price without complaining. A big plus is that these shoes are leather and polyurethane instead of some silly mesh which always seems to rip on my Asics, and EVA foam which gets crushed within a couple hundred kms of use. I’m guessing that the dollars per mile for this shoe might be nearly equivalent to most other shoes that I’d be in the market for.

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

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