Overreaching Taper

What’s that? Exactly…

The taper has begun. R-13. It’ll be interesting to get through the next two weeks with my sanity. 😉

Overreaching was achieved this week. It took some suffering spread over the past couple of days to come to that realization. Not that I significantly increased my volume, but a slight increase in volume and overall intensity did it for me. Plus, the way I’ve had the last two weeks scheduled out, I put in my 10.5 mile runs in the morning and then a pretty intense swim workout at lunch just a few hours later.

And with the humidity this week, I pretty much ran myself right into the ground. That’s what I get for leaving my Fuel Belt at home and not taking any fluids with me for the 10.5 miles. Pretty stupid move. That’s what pushed me over the edge.

I was able to get in a decent swim that lunch hour, but that was the last decent workout of the week. And it was only Wednesday. An easy run Thursday morning, then having to reschedule my Thursday afternoon ride due to thunderstorms. Friday morning’s run was easy, but not comfortable. The heavy rain felt good, but the legs just weren’t there. And that feeling continued into the swim that afternoon. Matter of fact, even though I was plugging along at my normal pace, I just couldn’t finish the workout. And it wasn’t anything overly strenuous. My wife and I figured it was either my sinuses (long story there) or lack of caffeine, since I hadn’t had my normal pot of coffee that morning. So we chalked it up to caffeine deprivation and I did my best to rectify that “problem”.

Saturday scheduled workout was a 5-hour brick. No problem. Done plenty of them. But for the first 30 minutes, my quads felt as if I had done a 40K TT the day before. They weren’t sore, just that deep-down tiredness. I figured that it would work itself out, but even an hour into it and the legs still felt the same.

Two hours into it and they still felt the same. I kept pushing the legs as hard as they would go, but my HR hovered right around 120, even on the climbs, while my speed kept dropping. When I was struggling to maintain 14.5 mph on the flats with a quartering 10mph tailwind, it finally dawned on me what was going on.

At this point I was three hours into my ride. So after some quick calculations on how far I had to get back home and whether or not it was worth it to dig myself deeper in the hole, I called my wife to meet me at the intersection of two nearby highways.

While pedaling toward the intersection, the skies opened up. And I actually started feeling better, but knew it wouldn’t last (the showers or me).  The rain dropped the visibility down to a couple of hundred yards, which made me a bit nervous since I was on a two-lane highway with no shoulder.  But the cars weren’t the problem, it was the constant stream of water off the front of my helmet and into my eyes.

Sitting at the intersection, under the edge of a tree to give some shelter from the rain, I waited for my wife. The shelter didn’t matter, since I was beyond soaked. And the rain felt good. But I had a good laugh at the carload of way-overweight teenagers that rode by, pointing and laughing at me. I laughed because no matter what my legs felt like, they wouldn’t know, nor understand, that feeling. And even though I had to bag the session, I was still doing better than they could imagine.

A few minutes later, my lovely bride “rescued” me just as the rain quit.

And like any good experience, I learned a lot after looking back at the past few weeks.  And that’s the whole idea.

Catching up…

Well, it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve updated. Not on purpose, but it just worked that way.

My recovery week went well. Almost too well. I had a three day business trip during the last half of the week. I even took my running shoes to be good. But too many old friends and co-workers were there, so I did my best to eat my weight in hot wings and beer. So it wasn’t a total loss. But it meant too many days off from any exercise. Which burnt me in the end.

At the start of this week, my first workout was a simple 4.5 mile run. Nothing hard. But my legs hurt afterwards as if I had gone a hard 10. And they hurt that way for two days. That was my payback for the wings and beer. Karma’s a bitch.

Otherwise a good training week. Lots of hours, ramping up to my peak before my 1/2 Iron on May 19th.

In other news, we’ve got our hummingbird feeders up. They are a never-ending source of entertainment in our house. We never realized how territorial they were until we hung the feeders up in front of the window last year. Nothing like watching them dance around each other like something out of the Matrix movies. Something like this:

Last night we had up to seven flitting about the two feeders on the front porch at one time. Quite a sight.

Sixteen hours this coming week, including a looooooooooong brick, then it’s time for the taper. Definitely time to get the affairs in order and trust in the training.

Cujo, Bewildered Moos and Ft13

What a day.

Looking at Saturday’s weather, with a 100% chance of rain/thunderstorms, I decided to move my 5 hour brick to today. I have a very understanding boss, who allowed me to take the day off. He’s very understanding, but he doesn’t understand why I like to do what I do; he just knows I like to do it and that I’m “crazy”. That and the fact that I have plenty of vacation time built up helps.

The downside to moving it to today was that I had a breakthrough bike session scheduled for Thursday evening, which went on as scheduled. Instead of the long hills that the workout called for (few of them to be had here in southern Kentucky), it was a overgeared slog-fest into the 15-20mph headwinds. It did its job – I was knackered by the time I got home. Absolutely thrashed.

So I fueled and slept to get ready for today’s brick.

Wouldn’t you know it, it was raining (lightly) when I woke up. And I still felt beat up. After putting the brick off long enough, I got rolling at 9am. The rain was light and luckily ended after about 15 minutes, while the temp remained anchored in the low 40’s. But my legs were gone. Absolutely gone.

Is it possible to bonk before even starting?

I thought long and hard about that for the first hour. At the end of the first hour, I seriously thought about turning around, calling it a two hour ride and then trying the brick again on Sunday.

But Sunday is family day. So far this year, I’ve always kept Sunday as my rest day. One of the things that I must do to keep balanced. The “downside” is that I must get my hours in during the week, with Saturday being my only long day. But the time spent with family is priceless and I won’t change that.

So I kept the pedals turning. Some times they felt like squares, some times they actually felt like circles. Grinding into the 10-15mph headwind that we weren’t supposed to have today (just like the rain). And I slowly felt the energy returning. But I still wasn’t feeling the run.

So I started making deals with myself. You know the drill.

“Since my brick is scheduled for 5 hours, if I ride 4:45, the 15 minute run is more than sufficient to get me ready for the transition and pain of a 1/2 Iron”, which turns into “You know, if I ride for the full 5 hours, then I can tack on extra time to my run tomorrow”.

I turned around at 2:20. Now that’s not cheating, trying to get in only a 20 minute run. That’s my analytical mind, realizing that if I turned around any earlier (e.g. 2 hours), with the new tailwind, I’d make it home at about 3:45, which would give me a 1:15 run. And I didn’t think the legs had that kind of run in them.

So with the tailwind, increasing energy and a slight downhill, I discovered that I can go from fully tucked in the aero position at 35 mph to a dead stop in about 50 feet.

That’s when Cujo appeared.

I’m glad I missed him the first time around, when I was headed into the wind and going up the hill, although stopping would have been easier. And I’m glad that he barked as he was sprinting across the yard, which gave me enough time to un-tuck, brake and unclip. He crossed the yard and the highway, stopping right in front of me. I would have T-boned him at 35 mph. That would’ve been ugly.

He wasn’t going to let me get by without extracting a pound of my flesh. “Lucky” for me, I had an encounter with a few other dogs earlier in the ride, so I had a few extra rocks in my Bento Box. The first one bounced off his head and didn’t phase him. This was going to be fun. Luckily there was a steady supply right at my feet. A shot to the haunch got him moving back across the street, which is where I wanted him. Then I started pedaling. So he came after me, then thought the better of it when he heard the car coming (I heard it.  Tthat’s why I started pedaling). After the car passed, he started after me.

You know how hard it is to sprint, shift and hurl a rock on a tri bike?

He kept up for a good quarter mile. Cujo had some legs. But I had gears.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with dogs barking and chasing after me; most time’s it’s fun. But once they cross their owner’s property line, the dog transitions from defending territory to attacking. And I’ll protect myself accordingly.

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. I was pleased to see that my fueling strategy was working and that I was feeling much better than I was at the start. I was actually starting to look forward to the run.

The tough part of the fueling strategy is that I’m choking down the rest of my can of Perpeteum Vanilla-Orange, which to me is about as unpalatable as a drink can get. But it works. In the 75 miles of today’s ride, the three bottles of Perpeteum, along with six servings of the Espresso Hammer Gel and two Endurolyte capsules every hour and I was raring for the run.

So you think I like Hammer products? I have since I got my first order of Hammer Gel back in 1996. This is the first year I’ve used their other products in conjunction with the Gel. I am impressed. But they gotta do something about that Perpeteum “Dreamsicle” flavor.

So after covering the 75 miles in 4:14, that meant that I had a 46 minute run to round out the five hours. Having fueled heavily the last hour of the ride, I popped a Nuun in a water bottle and got going. Turned out I’d need more than that.

Right off the bat, the run felt great. I started off at a 9 minute pace and was able to ramp it up throughout the run. As I approached the 20 minute point, I decided I was going to go for another 10 and make it a full hour run. Right after that, the bewildered moos appeared.

Ever run past a dairy farm? Along a field with 60-80 cows all watching you as you go by? It made me think that I was being watched by 60-80 Nancy Pelosi‘s.

I turned around at 30 minutes and kept focusing on form. Right about when I got back to the cows, the whole road shifted. Not really, it was just my eyes. If you’ve ever worked the graveyard shift, you know the feeling; right about 3am when everything in sight shifts really fast, even though nothing has moved.

What was that about bonk? That’s when I realized I should’ve brought some fuel.

I made it home with no problems, save the occasional shift. And I was able to maintain my pace. Luckily I was just in the first stages of a bonk. It had been quite a while since I felt that sensation. Not something I want to experience again.

But it was another good experience, to let myself drift just inside the dark cavern and then work through it.

Back home and refueling, I hooked my Suunto T6 up to the computer to download my files. That’s when Friday the 13th came into play. Not that I’m a superstitious person, but it fit in this instance.

For my entire ride, all four hours and 14 minutes of it, I was apparently dead and going nowhere. Flat lines for both fields. So no useful data at all for the entire time, even though the display showed my heart rate and speed as I was riding. At least I keep a bike computer mounted as a backup.

It would have been interesting to see how slow I was for the first hour, what my heart rate reached when Cujo charged and how I was able to pick up the pace through the latter half of the ride. Gotta hate glitches. But they are very rare with the Suunto.
Luckily I stopped the watch and started a new session for the run, so at least that data was there.

In hindsight, I realized about a mile into my ride that I hadn’t “connected” my HR belt. With Suunto, for some reason you have to “connect” each of the sensors in order for it to register the signal. When I realized that I hadn’t “connected” the belt, I did so immediately and it showed. But apparently if it’s not “connected” before the session starts, it doesn’t record the data. Another lesson learned.

Ah well, enough rambling. Good luck to those racing in IM Arizona and the Boston Marathon this weekend.

And if you aren’t racing, hopefully the weather cooperates with whatever you have scheduled.

Winter Begone!

We’ve had enough of you. Especially after the summer tease over the past few weeks. The first few days of this cold snap weren’t too bad, needing just knickers for the ride. But yesterday and today was enough.

Friday saw flurries during my late afternoon run. A run that showed me signs that I was overreaching. I couldn’t buy a Zone 3 heart rate to save my life, no matter how much I ramped up the pace. I’d get right to the ceiling of Zone 2 and that would be it. So I made sure I rested 24 hours before I worked out Saturday.

The cold continued on Saturday, although luckily there were no flurries. Instead, there was a 25 mph headwind no matter what direction I turned (well, OK, I did have a tailwind for about five minutes of the 2:40 ride). It was one of those days. And the overreaching reared its ugly head throughout the ride. Same issue as yesterday. I seriously considered bagging the run portion of today’s brick, but figured I’d see how that went.

I’m glad I did.

Even though I was spinning squares on the ride, my feet were flying on the run. I couldn’t figure that out. I still had some issues with being able to force my heart rate to rise, but I was at least able to bust into Zone 3. And after 45 miles of spinning squares, I was still able to hold a very comfortable 7:35 pace for 40 minutes. Certainly not speedy, but still much quicker than my planned 10:00 pace during my Iron-distance race later this year.

Go figure.

And now for something completely different.

Now, I’m not a huge Alanis Morissette fan. But she made this crap song sound good. And the video really makes it!

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:


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)


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.

“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.