Catching Up & Tallies

It’s been a couple of weeks since the last update, but that’s OK. One of my overarching annual goals is to remain balanced between family, training and work. Some things have to give.

It’s spring break here. And spring sprung with a vengeance. After being spoiled the last couple of weeks with lows of 60 and highs of 80, it’s now 30/45. Just in time for me to take some time off and enjoy myself. But instead of waking up early to get my rides, runs and swims in, I’m now sleeping in to let it warm up. Seems like a fair trade to me; I’m done with winter.

One thing I’ve been enjoying is that I’m noticeably getting stronger. That’s the idea, right? Faster is another story, but I’m not worried about that. After doing a bit of research and discussion with other folks, I rebuilt my training plan for the year to take out my build periods and focus on more base.

Last week was my first week of my build phase toward my first 1/2 Iron-distance race, but the switch from endurance to speed work was taking a toll. And not necessarily in a good way. For the second time this year (let’s not talk about the first), I was concerned about hurting myself. Even with that, I was enjoying the change in workout types; the speed pain felt good! But speed isn’t my focus for my two big races this year, finishing is. And that’s where the base training comes in to play. So back to base it is.

After a solid run through the hills yesterday, I was feeling great about where I am. Out of curiousity I looked back at what I’ve done in the past month and so far this year. The numbers look something like this:

March

Swim= 35,227 yards (20.02 miles) / 16 hours, 55 minutes
Bike = 270.35 miles / 18 hours
Run = 104.96 miles / 15 hours, 45 minutes
Strength = 3 hours (typically one session a week)

2007

Swim= 59,993 yards (34.09 miles) / 32 hours, 20 minutes
Bike = 515 miles / 37 hours
Run = 191.99 miles / 32 hours, 35 minutes
Strength = 13 hours, 20 minutes (early on it was two sessions a week)

For me, the most interesting thing is realizing that March’s volume for each discipline (except strength) is more than the volume for January and February combined.

As if that wasn’t enough of a confidence builder, my brick this past weekend really did it for me. After a very comfortable 58 mile ride in just under three hours, I felt great on my 5 mile run. That bodes well for my 1/2 Iron-distance race that’s coming in just six short weeks.

On another note, I cannot praise Pearl Izumi’s Ultrasensor Race Lid enough. For me, there’s only two states of being – completely dry and dripping sweat. 100 yards into a brisk walk and I’m already sweating. Nothing I can do about it. I’ve inherited the condition.

On rides and runs, sunglasses are completely useless to me after about 15 minutes. So I suffer with the bugs and sun in my eyes.

I picked up the hat at my local running shop this past weekend. My lovely bride balked at the price ($22 for a hat you’ll only wear while running?) but she knows of my sweat issues.

Anyway, yesterday, at about the 5 mile point, I noticed that I hadn’t had to wipe the sweat from my eyes not a single time. I grabbed the bill of the cap and it was sopping wet. It had done a great job of wicking the sweat away from my head. Another mile or so into the run and I turned so that the wind was a quartering head wind. At that point, the hat became a hydration-recycle system, with the sweat dripping off of the bill and straight on to my lips.

I got home and told my lovely bride that I’m going back to buy more!

Anyway, enough of the update. Time to turn some laps in the water. Water that’s a good 40 degrees warmer than the air outside.

Damn Weather

No update last week due to some work issues. Then on Sunday (the day I typically update this), I was on a plane to the East Coast for a week of meetings. A week of business meetings attended by colleagues, many of whom I hadn’t seen in a few years, some as much as fifteen.

So this week was a challenge, being that it was week three of my third Base period in this year’s training plan, a plan that follows the concept of periodization. In layman’s terms, a Base period is when I put in a lot of time building up a solid fitness base from which to start my intense training and preparing for racing. Each Base period (there are three in all) lasts four weeks. The fourth week of each period is a “rest” week.

Week three of Base Three is the longest training week of the year. I was scheduled for 16 hours and 2 minutes of training. Even with the meetings, I was able to maintain my schedule with two workouts a day through Thursday. And running along the coast line, smelling the salt water, was a nice change from Kentucky. But I was looking forward to getting back to Kentucky to my family and spending some long quality hours on the bike this weekend.

But the weather had different plans.

Friday I started my travels home. My flight was delayed two hours due to a developing Nor’easter dumping quite a bit of snow on New York (I was much further south). I finally got off the ground and landed in Washington, D.C. just as the snow began to fall. Several delays and eight hours later, they finally cancelled almost all of the flights leaving that night. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

So I got in line with everyone else and worked to get a new flight. Lucky me, they couldn’t find anything until Sunday morning. So, along with everyone else, I started scrambling to figure out where to stay for the next 36 hours. My lovely bride was kind enough to let me pull her out of class so she could get me some phone numbers. So I ended up spending the lion’s share of the weekend with friends who lived in the outskirts of D.C. It was a pleasant surprise for all of us, especially them since I called at 9:15pm on Friday night and asked if I could crash there for a couple of nights.

My bag made it home a full day before I did. Kids, that’s why you pack extra underwear in your carry-on.

So although I didn’t get my training in (only 7 hours and 25 minutes for the week), I was able to reconnect with many friends.

And that’s a good thing.

Free Speed for the Dumb

That’s what I am. Dumb. And free speed is what I got.

It just took a couple of nudges to remind me of things I already knew. And free speed was the result. How so?

Bike – flipped my stem over. Sure it was comfortable with the higher rise, but that meant that I caught more much wind with my chest and slowed me down. So after rest week last week, I flipped it, just like the picture to the right.

So what did that do for me? Well, during my “test” last week, I rode hard around a certain loop near my house, averaging 20.2mph. After the stem flip, I rode the same course averaging 22.3mph with an average heart rate 10 beats per minute lower. Faster with less effort. Gotta love it!

Since I showed you the stem, I guess it would nice to show the rest of my ride. My sweet ride.

This is what it looks like, except mine is bright red instead of silver. Gotta love that carbon fiber beam, especially on these farm roads, since it acts as a huge shock absorber. After years of riding Cannondale, I absolutely love aluminum since it’s stiff enough for my big ass and doesn’t flex too much. But a few hours of riding and having that stiff frame jam the seat up my butt got quite tiresome, especially during ultra-marathon (12 and 24-hour) races. Now I have the stiffness of that aluminum, but the comfort of the carbon fiber. Now I’m not afraid to ride straight through potholes, railroad tracks, rumble strips or any other bumps. I feel the jar on my forearms when I’m down in my aero bars, but my butt stays smooth as butter.

It’s a wonderful thing!

And for some odd reason, especially since I’m not a Brit nor an Aussie, I kept wanting to type aluminium. Go figure.

The other free speed was in the water.

As you can see to the right, I watch a few other triathlete blogs. One guy posted a video that reminded me how to swim properly. Mind you, I’m no slouch at swimming. Never have been. Basically, I’m part fish; I just need gills.

So what’s the video? Here it is:

That’s Ian Thorpe on the right. See his flow through the water. Especially the glide as his lead hand hits the water and sits for a second before he strokes. The glide is the key. And it’s something that I knew at one time but managed to forget about in the past year or two during my infrequent swims.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not comparing myself to Ian. Not even close. Hell, his shoe size is literally twice mine! And who can compete against such flippers? But watching this video was a forehead slapper for me. How could I be so foolish?

So yesterday, after a session of “pyramid” intervals (100yd, 200yd, 300yd, 400yd, 500yd, 400yd, 300yd, 200yd, 100yd), I did some 100yd repeats. Every single one was significantly faster than my average 100yd speed during my 1000yd test last week. My first few were even 20 seconds faster than that average 100yd time! My last one (#10), when I was pretty much knackered, was still 8 seconds faster than my average 100yd time. And I wasn’t breathing anywhere near as hard as I was when I did my 1000yd test. Gotta love it.

Well, spring is here. Tornado watches here on Thursday with some pretty strong storms. Luckily we didn’t get anything here other than heavy rain and some wind. Since then, the wind has been howling. This morning saw 90 minutes of my 2.5 hour ride slogging straight into a 25-40mph headwind at 44F.

At one point, going downhill, fully exposed to the wind, tucked as small as I could get, in my lowest gear, I still could only manage 9mph! But the best part of heading into the wind like that is turning around. What took me 90 minutes to cover going out took only 50 minutes coming back.

The daffodils are in bloom, the birds are starting their spring migration north, the bucks have dropped their antlers and the bullfrogs are croaking in the bottoms. So things are looking up.

Speaking of deer, on two separate occasions this week the bastages almost took me out while I was out for a ride. For some reason, they decide that they must always flee to the right side of the road, even if they’re 50 yards off the left side of the road. On Monday night a herd of about 30 decided to take that track when I spooked them; Wednesday morning it was only four, but they were big and fast.

Jen’s been instructed to engrave on my headstone: “Here lies Bill, out for a ride, greased by a deer. Poor Bill, no more beer.”

“Rest” Week

Those two words are a wonderful sight. “Rest Week”. The phase of the training program, every third or fourth week, when total hours working out for a week drops from the mid-teens to about seven and a half. A nice respite, a chance to rejuvenate, a chance to take stock, a chance to spend an hour with Fran, who teaches massage at the local technical college.

If only it was all good. In the last column, the one on the far right of the annual training plan, is a small letter “t”. Slowly pulsing, black, blue and red; oozing pain. Because that one small letter, which always coincides with a rest week, means “test”.

Testing to evaluate progress. Testing to set baselines for the coming three weeks. Testing to make sure all is on track.

And it happened to coincide with a very busy week at work. A few 12 hour days, which mean late evening efforts. Very hard efforts. Efforts which make it hard to fall asleep. And I’m someone who can fall asleep anywhere, in any position, at any time of day. So “rest” becomes a relative word.

The basic structure of the week is to spend the first few days in “active rest”, which means I continue to work out, but slow and easy, keeping the muscles moving but not stressing them. It’s much better than just taking the entire day off. After those active rest days, the tests begin. One test in each of the three triathlon disciplines; swimming, biking and running.

Swimming – a short 400m warm-up, then 1000m at 1000m race pace, which is quite fast. And for someone like me, who has dealt with sinus issues for the past 15 years, trying to suck air in while gagging is always an adventure. Much like trying to take in a deep breath after gulping down a big piece of ice cream (not that I know what that’s like). This test is usually frustrating for me, since I can swim like a fish; but gagging, choking and sputtering have a tendency to slow things down. But the total time, divided by 10 to determine my average 100m time, is the baseline for my intense workouts in the weeks to come. In other words, I swim real hard for 15 minutes to figure out how to swim harder for 90 seconds over then next three weeks. Capisce? And in the interest of full-disclosure, that is not me in the photo, although some days I feel like that!

Bike – a short 15-20 minute warm-up, then all out for 30 minutes. Ideally one would use a flat course on a calm day, with no traffic, no stop signs and no distractions. Then there’s the real world. The one where I live in a non-flat part of the country (although I certainly wouldn’t consider it hilly either). One where the surrounding farm roads have stop signs and other obstacles every few miles. Luckily, very little traffic. The purpose of the 30 minutes is to figure out where one’s lactic acid threshold lies; at what point can I maintain the most amount of effort to get through the 30 minutes, without pushing so hard that I can no longer flush the lactic acid (burning sensation) out of my legs. Basically, finding the threshold is similar to finding the red-line on an automobile; it’s different with everyone. I actually like this test. If I push harder, I start to look like a rabid dog, foaming at the mouth, gasping and dazed.

Run – Complete warm-up of about 10-15 minutes, with several surges into hard race pace. Then a test similar to the bike test, but instead of time, it’s measured. One mile, flat out in a sustainable pace. Really takes me back to my track days as a teen; too bad the times aren’t similar, but that was over half a lifetime ago.

Each of these tests are on different days, but they’re sequential days. So at the end of my “rest” week, I feel as if I’ve worked myself to the bone.

And it’s a great feeling.

Hope all is well with you!

Srick, Snow, Brick, Glass

What’s with the title? Well, that’s my weekend boiled down to four words.

What’s Srick? Well, it sounds much better than Sick and more accurately represents what I did. Srick is a swim and run combination workout. Friday made for a 3500 yard interval/pyramid speed workout, a quick liquid lunch (no, not the alcoholic kind) and then a 5.6 mile run. Learned quite a bit about timing my food that day. Luckily it was minor gastro-intenstinal (GI) gurgling, not anything involving backflow.

Saturday was a planned Brick, which is a bike and run combination workout. A brick is the normal transition during a triathlon of any length, running right after the bike. The purpose of a brick is to get the legs used to the quick change in types of leg muscle used between the two activities. Well, the weather changed that plan, with an inch or so of snow on the ground when I woke up, more coming in and icy roads. No sense in getting out with the stupid people.

Forget trainers or rollers. Those are a last resort. I can’t stand riding inside for much more than one hour and even that’s a stretch. Same thing with running. Boring. You can stick forks in my eyes and I’d find that more entertaining and worthwhile than riding or running inside.

So I flip-flopped my weekend workouts and Saturday became a rest day. Which I was ready for.

Sunday was the Brick. Nothing like slogging into a stiff, cold headwind for an hour with snotcicles freezing on your cheeks. But the beauty of that is turning around and getting that stiff, warm tailwind. Flying through the sunny countryside with a strong tailwind really makes for an enjoyable ride, except for dodging the ice patches that are hidden in the shade while flying through a curve at 25 mph.

That covers the first three words. The fourth was a very pleasant surprise, sprung on me by my lovely bride.

We had the immense pleasure of 9th row seats, front and slightly off-center, for a wonderful retrospective performance by the Philip Glass Ensemble (PGE). For those of you who don’t know who Philip Glass is, you’ll likely be familiar with his works. I was first introduced to him, as a teenager, when I saw a screening of the first of Godfrey Reggio‘s “-qatsi” movies, Koyaanisqatsi.

For those of you that know me well, you’ll know that Koyaanisqatsi is one of my all-time favorite movies and consequently, Philip Glass has been my all-time favorite musician/composer. So it was definitely a great thrill to be able to see him in person, playing his selections of music through his 40-year career. We were even amazed at how good he looks at 70 years old. I can only wish I’m doing half as good.

The performance was held in Nashville’s beautiful Schermerhorn Symphony Center, which is home to the (of all things) Nashville Symphony Orchestra. You can read the Wikipedia page on the center, which is quite amazing in and of itself. But musically, one of the more interesting aspects of this beautiful hall is that it’s across from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, two blocks from the Ryman Auditorium and right around the corner from Broadway Avenue, home to many of classic country bars and music shops, including Ernest Tubb‘s Record Store.

The audience at PGE performance was quite eclectic, to say the least. From typical symphony-goer attire as dress suits and gowns to flannel pants, sweatshirts and knit beanies. In other words, a few folks didn’t get the word that Bonnaroo isn’t for a few more months.

Speaking of Bonnaroo, we’re disappointed that we won’t be going this year. It’s being held just 90 minutes down the road, but it falls right in the middle of recovering from my 1/2 Ironman and building my base for my full Ironman later in the year. That, and with tickets running $200 each for the weekend, the family/race budget would take quite a hit. So it fell off the priority plate pretty quick.

But with acts such as The Police, Tool, Wilco, The Flaming Lips, The String Cheese Incident, etc., it’ll definitely be quite a show.

I just hope someone takes some soap.