We now return you to your regularly scheduled program

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I started off writing this post yesterday.  A day where I showed up at the YMCA – at zero-dark AM – to swim indoors for the first time in weeks, only to find the pool closed for some maintenance issue, leading me to toss on my running clothes and do my hard run for the week, with the plan of finding a different pool to head to in the afternoon.  That run was a total fizzle, one of those workouts that leaves you questioning yourself.  “How could I not make this run today, when several weeks ago I ran the same target pace, for nearly twice as much cumulative time?”  Am I doing too much?  Am I sick?  Should I back off of some workouts?  All of those thoughts plowing through my head, triggering a massive FUD cycle, and the beginnings of a whiny, woe is me blog post full of the usual drivel:

  • My bike fit is pissing me off
  • My run form sucks, and my glutes aren’t engaging
  • My long rides have been sucking ass
  • I had a good race at CDA 70.3 but everthing else has been pretty crappy
  • Waaaaah
  • Waaaaah
  • Waaaaah

Real life (work) then kicked in and the day proceeded to keep me really busy. Once that business was done I dragged my sorry ass to the pool, where I proceeded to destroy the planned set for the day.  This being completely unexpected, I was smugly glad that I didn’t skip or shorten the swim, until I saw the text from my wife wondering if I was going to be home in time for her to make her PT appointment. 45 minutes after her appointment. Whoops.

I went home did my night time stuff, went to bed, woke up and proceeded to execute the planned workouts for today pretty much like I would have wanted to in a perfect world.

Which leaves me sitting here 36 hours after a fizzled workout realizing, what I’m not quite sure, but knowing that I narrowly averted an implosion of my confidence and a likely unneeded course correction just one month out from my target.  I know where that path goes and it’s pretty guaranteed to not get me where I want to go.  Back to your previously unfuckwithable program.

All that said – I did want to post a quick summary of the season to date.  I did a pretty miserable job of preparing myself for the Triple T this year, and I more or less made my way through it in training event and family vacation fashion.  This left me with a good deal of fitness and form a few weeks later at IM CDA 70.3, where I turned in a very solid performance.  A good swim, a solid run, and while a solid bike power wise, it was a pretty slow split.  I blame some unwise tweaks to my bike fit, which negatively impacted my aeroness. Being 10 pounds over a healthy race weight didn’t help me out at all, but it was a good race, and comparing it to IM Racine 70.3 the year prior with both having relatively close timing to the target race of the year things seemed to be good.

On to Racine, well that just a bad day.  While I had intended to do the race for a long period of time prior to the race, I didn’t register until only a week or three prior, putting me in the nose bleed bib numbers.  Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal.  Then they cancelled the swim and sent us out in time trial format on the bike.  By bib number.  I suspected it would be interesting, and it was.  In fact it was downright crazy and dangerous.  I checked out mentally around mile 8 or so (of 30) on the bike when I saw James Burke heading back towards transition, nearly done with the bike – completely by himself – safe with no congestion, while I weaved and dodged my way through 30 miles of oblivious riders.  I told myself that he and others in my age group were experiencing completely different races than I was and there was no way I would be able to have a level field against them.  Not only that, I wanted to survive the bike ride.  So I checked out.  Lesson learned – register for races you intend to do.  Early.

And that is pretty all that is worth mentioning about races.

The prep for Hawaii is going well.  While there have been a few exceptions things have been falling into place pretty well.  Swimming gets an A+.  Cycling is a solid B, and my run is probably a B+ right now, but each week things keep coming together and trending in the right direction, I’m confident that barring any set backs, I’ll arrive at Race Day with things being a A+, A-, A.  Pair that fitness and form with solid execution and the result should be grand.

Perfect is the enemy of good

Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well
-Duke of Albany (King Lear by William Shakespeare)

I started this post about two weeks before Ironman Arizona, then got distracted by life. After the race I wanted to make this post a mixture of a season review and a statement of the plan going forward into 2016.  To that end I went and wrote some notes and started reforming the post, but I struggled to find a theme and title for it.  Then a single sentence on slowtwitch was like a baseball bat to the back of my head: “Often on slowtwitch, perfect is the enemy of great.”  I realized that was the thought that tied everything together.

When the end of the season rolls around I often take stock of my results, set some intermediate goals to focus the next year on the larger goal, and finally create some benchmark targets based on both the longer term goal and the intermediate goal.  This usually results in some very detailed and objective plans laid out with the intention of getting me from point A (current me) to point B (ass kicking me).

Do you know how often I have successfully executed these painstakingly crafted progressions?  Zero.  This, despite having more or less followed this process almost yearly since 2005.  You can see tidbits of these plans scattered throughout my blog.  Inevitably what happens is that things don’t progress well, or I question the appropriateness of the plan based on a blog I read, or a post by the “short list” on slowtwitch, or a new study I read, and I change the plan.  Or as has happened twice (possibly thrice) – a full blown mental meltdown ensues and things get real ugly.  Despite knowing that amidst a constantly shifting plan or a mental meltdown the result is completely ineffective training. I bang my head against this approach time and time again.  Insanity.

To be clear, it’s not that I’m not training, just that I’m training ineffectively or perhaps aimlessly and with a lot of mental baggage and frustration.    I have periods where I am able to focus and bring it all together, which generally results in some good results, but it always leaves me asking the “what if” question.  What if I could string together 40 focused and constructive weeks of training instead of 7 to 12 weeks.  I don’t necessarily mean focused in high volume, or long rides, etc – but more in the way that I mindlessly execute training without bouncing around like a headless chicken.

In the vein of following my own advice, I’m going to try something new this winter. This approach also happens to be something I do with the athletes I work with.  I’m not going to create a highly detailed and complex plan.  Meaning that rather than focusing on creating and executing a perfect training plan designed to perfectly bridge the gap from where I am and where I want to be, I’m going to go in the complete opposite direction, because I’ve decided I don’t want to be insane.

To that end here is my plan for 2016.  Simple and focused on good, not perfect.


Race schedule:

  • 3/20/2016 – March Madness Half Marathon or
    4/02/2016 – South Shore Half Marathon
  • 5/01/2016 – J-hawk Earlybird
  • 5/20/2016 – Triple T
  • 6/11/2016 – Elkhart Lake
  • 6/26/2016 – CDA 70.3
  • 7/17/2016 – Racine 70.3 (maybe?)
  • 8/21/2016 – Pigman (maybe?)
  • 10/8/2016 – Kona

Writing this only a few days after Arizona – depending on the point of view, I am either at the tail end of my 2015 triathlon season, or at the very beginning of 2016.  I prefer to think of it as the beginning of 2016, starting off with 3 weeks of training that is going to range from nothing – to whatever I feel like.  Once I get through those three weeks it’s time to start the work again.

Having had a great race at Arizona, it brings the obvious focus of next season to the lingering goal that has been out there since this time in 2011.  The top age grouper at Kona.  This is a stretch goal, no question.  Stretch might even be stretching it a bit.  The difference between 8:49 at Arizona, and 8:49 (or faster) at Kona is pretty significant.

Previously, I’d dive into that 8:49 (or faster) statement and create some concrete targets for me to focus on.  I’m pretty sure that starts treading some dangerous water given my desire to approach 2016 in a new and completely different manner.  The facts are simple, given the desired outcome my swim is adequate, my bike and my run are not.

To bridge that gap, I need to stay focused on the process of improving, much like how I approached the day in Tempe:

My best results have happened when I’ve executed with the mindset of going through the day in a bubble separated from the world – don’t let anyone or anything cause me to execute a race that my training has indicated is not feasible.

At the end of the day remember, success or failure at this race is ultimately about having a positive experience during the race, and that choices that lead to that positive experience will lead to the fastest outcome.  Focus on making the small choices during the day that will lead to that positive experience.

I need to focus on the process and let the result happen by choosing to live the process and making the many thousands of small choices correctly over the next 11 months.  That means I’m not going to create any fancy plans or training blocks, I’m just going to focus on training and adjusting my training when I appear to hit a plateau or my race schedule demands race specific work.  What is important is the progressive and consistent nature of the work that I do, combined with a focus on nutrition, sleep, and overall life well-being.

It is inevitable that I will poke around at what type of a performance it will take to get the desired outcome, I’ve already done it, but I am not going to allow those benchmarks, or my current status relative to those benchmarks to influence my direction.  The process is important, not the outcome.

I will judge success  based on if I am including progressive quality workouts on a regular and appropriate basis.  Success here is judged by a periodization adjusted 2x key swims, 2x key bikes, 1x key run.  If I accomplish that – progress will come.

Some closing thoughts/action items:

  1. I need to continue to address and improve the situation with my adductors.  I have made great strides with them in the last couple months, but there is still work to do.
  2. Continue to evolve my bike fit.  Based on sensations in the race, I feel that my saddle position is good, my bullhorn reach is good, but I need more reach on my elbow pads, and possible a small amount more for my extensions.  I may want to slightly adjust my saddle pitch downward – only a very small amount.
  3. Continuing on from number two – I need to really focus on my posture while riding indoors.  When riding outside I am nearly 100% sure that I roll my hips open and sit a lot more forward then when inside – which I think is why I felt the need for additional reach during the race and probably why the saddle felt like it was digging into my crotch. I need to focus on sitting the same on the trainer as I do outside.
  4. Weight management. I did an excellent job in the final weeks of IMAZ managing my weight – after a brief carefree period I need to maintain that focus – so that I don’t refocus next fall only to end up treading water.
  5. Similar to number 4 – I need to make sure I stay focused on the “plan”and not get distracted by a lack of progress, a lack of motivation, shiny new studies, mental craziness, etc.  A solid and focused 13 weeks just before Kona will only do so much and won’t get me where I want to be without the focused foundation work prior.

Ironman Arizona 2015

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I am pretty wired after the day today, so I figured it may be an interesting thought experiment to capture my postrace thoughts before heading to bed tonight, especially since the plan is to try to unplug from triathlon and the world for the rest of the week while at the Grand Canyon.

There’s no need to dive into the goals or plan for the race, I covered that a couple days ago.

Pre-race:
I headed over to the race site solo, since Mary had the two kids to deal with today. Fortunately our hotel was situated within easy walking distance where she could watch the swim, bike, and the run – and only be a couple of minutes from the hotel. Plus, this would leave the car close to the race site, for my hopefully broken body postrace.

Getting everything prepared was pretty typical and normal. My front tire, whose valve core had been causing me some grief upon arriving in Arizona, behaved itself and inflated, and held pressure the way it was supposed to. After getting everything set, I visited the porta potties, and got my wetsuit on. The swim corral was pretty crowded and I had a bit of a tough time getting to the front row – I guess that’s to be expected when I didn’t head over until just when the pro women started, leaving me only 5 minutes.

Swim:
IM Arizona instituted a rolling start this year, but unlike my experiences at IMCDA – a controlled influx through an arch, and IMTX, a controlled entrance through a boat ramp – they had us “walk” down the exit steps. I was not a big fan of this entrance method, and actually felt like it was a bit on the risky/unsafe side. I felt that people were pretty pushy and in a rush, considering that I ended up being somewhere between 2nd and 5th out of the water, I wasn’t even able to get in the first group down the steps. I found it pretty interesting that Luis Alverez – who swam a 1:12 was in the first row – I mean WTF dude – are you looking to get swum over?

After the start it was the usual frantic craziness of people swimming all out the first couple hundred meters, I got smacked in the face once, by some idiot within the first 50 meters of swimming. While I had no real issues with the rolling start at IMCDA and IMTX, I think IM should reinstitute the mass start here – it’s obvious that there are some knuckle heads that don’t feel the need to appropriately self-seed based on expected time. And those steps are just plain stupid.

I digress though – I planned to swim and cut the tangent of the course, I’m not sure how much this reduces the distance based off of swimming the buoy line, but since the theme of the day was do what I need to do – I made it happen. A couple buoys in, one swimmer distanced himself from me, also following the tangent, off to my left there were two or three people swimming the buoy line – by the time we had reached the rural road bridge I thought I had separated myself from them, but towards the end of the swim one of them started to get real touchy feeling – so it turns out I just gave them a free tow.

I swam pretty easy and relaxed – I just focused on swimming a solid and steady pace. I exited the water and glanced at the clock and was really surprised to see it read 1:01 -which assuming it was the pro men’s clock – meant I had swum a 51 – my fastest IM swim in over a decade.

T1:
I used the wet suit strippers to get my suit off right away – and then moved through transition quickly. Nothing special happened, just got it done.

Bike:
Based on the weather forecast this morning, and my power target of 235 – my “expected” bike split was 4:37 and change. I left T1 and immediately my legs just didn’t seem happy about the power, mostly due to tightness in my adductors, which has been a theme for the past year or so. Given my mantra for the day of wanting a positive experience – I chose to trust my fitness, and road my plan. I decided that I would ride the target until I couldn’t and then I would reevaluate then. Not knowing exactly what my body was thinking – I made sure to focus on nutrition and hydration. Take in the planned calories, and make sure to wash it down with enough water to keep it moving through – which at the least would make sure I never became under fueled or bonkish – artificially affecting my mental state of mind.

Power wise the first loop went well – I was able to elevate my power to ~245-250 on the climb to the turn around. After the turn around I was able to hammer down the hill, even with the tailwind – holding around 235 – I think this was mostly due to the addition of a 55t large chainring to my bike – thanks to Rob Gray for the idea. Starting the second loop I hit a pretty dark spot physically that lasted about until we hit the Beeline, where suddenly things started firing smoothly, my adductors finally loosened up and I started to relax really well into my position. This lasted through about the end of the second loop – where my legs started not doing so hot holding steady state power. I found myself really only able to hold about 220 steady, but I had no issues elevating power when needed – for example I was again able to ride the “climb” to the turnaround in the 240s.

After the last turn around, the inconsistent power output continued, however I did not allow it to pierce my mental bubble. I was fueling well, and despite having the hint of some VMO/adductor cramping, I was making good time – and knew that I have run well at multiple races feeling worse then I felt today.

Around mile 90, the spitting that we were getting turned into a steady rain, which I actually found enjoyable. There are few things in life as pleasant as sailing along at 25 mph, with water spraying off your wheel into your legs.

Once the rain started, I approached all the turns with an extra level of caution, thinking that the last thing I needed was to wipe out. With about 5 miles left of the bike, I finally caught the last amateur riding ahead of me, putting me into T1 as the first age grouper. As I finished up the bike, I thought to myself – man that ramp is going to be slippery. As I slowed and rolled up to the ramp – a volunteer said – “Be careful, the ramp is really slippery”. What do I do, somehow I manage to hit the ramp not head on, my front wheel slides out, and down I go – bam – right on my left shoulder and hip.

I quickly popped back up, got back on the bike – only to find that the chain had dropped down past the small ring – thanks SRAM chain catcher….. so I just sort of skate biked the last 100/200 meters to the dismount line – which unfortunately resulted in my bike split being a high 4:39, instead of a 4:38 – always something.

T2:
Again uneventful. I took my time – got my socks and shoes situated well knowing that it would be really wet – perfect conditions for growing blisters, had a cup of water and then headed out onto the run. While I took my time in T2 – Adam Webber blazed through, apparently coming in off the bike just a few seconds behind me, and putting him out onto the run about 20 to 30 seconds in front of me.

Run:
At this point, I had become convinced that Steve Johnson was a DNS – having not seen any signs of him on the bike course, I figured I had a decision to make – assume there are no blazing fast runners behind me and go catch Adam quick like and put him out of his misery, or work the plan of doing what was right for me and simply bide my time.

I chose to bide my time, and headed out jogging – ticking off an endless string of 7:08 to 7:12 miles according to my GPS. I focused on running easy and fueling – ignoring my bladder telling me it was about to burst – I told it – let me know when you are willing to break the seal without causing me to break stride and we’ll talk.

About mile 6 Adam finally started to slow a bit, and I started to make up ground – making the pass at mile 8 or so. From there on I continued my focus on fueling – basically a shot from my gel flask every other aid station – and two cups of water at each.

Around mile 11, as we headed back down towards transition I hit a bit of a rough patch and slowed for a few miles, but I let it happen – getting passed pretty handily by Amanda Stevens at mile 13. By about mile 14, things were better and my pace came back down into the 7:teens and low 7:20s – and I was able to keep it there for the most part for the next 8 or so miles, with the exception of the few inclines on the course. Because of some confusion at run special needs I missed my bag, causing me to switch my aid station routine to a cup of water and a cup of coke to keep the calories flowing in.

Once I got to mile 20, I reminded myself that my plan was to run a strong final 10k – with strong having a loose definition. At that point I checked the time, and defined strong as being running the last 10k quick enough for a sub 8:50 finish. At each mile I would do the math of how much time I had left, how fast I had to average, and I simply plugged away.

This time as I ran down the last mile and a half to transition/the finish – I was strongly focused on staying on the pace and getting to the finish line under 8:50. In the end, I ended up at 8:49:04 – a course PR by 10 minutes and 57 seconds – on a day when the top pro went a very similar time to what Eneko did back in 2011 – indicating a pretty strong improvement over the last four years since I’ve raced here.

My run split was 3:12:02 – which is my second fastest split, but it is the fastest run split of the days where I have gunned it from the start on the bike.

I’m very happy with the result, and I ticked off all the goals I had set out for this race. I am a little bummed that Steve Johnson had some body issues that resulted in a DNS – as I am sure it would have been a great dual – I’m sure the day will come for a head to head match up.

Going into the race I had told my wife, that an absolutely perfect day would give me a time of about 8:45, with a finish time of 8:55 to 9:05 being the most likely. I’m really happy with an 8:49, telling me that today was about as perfect as the come.

I haven’t been able to download my run because I left my Ant+ stick at home, and while I also haven’t downloaded my bike, shortly before the dismount I recall that it was 220 AP/225 NP – which was a good deal lower than my target, and about 3 AP/5NP lower than my race here in 2011. I’m really not going to lose any sleep over the difference. My preparation indicated that 235 was realistic, so I guess that’s the way it rolls sometimes. On the bright side it bodes well for my CdA, and that coupled with my ability to elevate my output when needed is good – I just need to continue the progress I’ve made since Texas to help me return to a state where I am able to sustain my target power for the duration.

Closing out a few observations of people in general:
It seems like most people in the race over estimate what they can accomplish on race day – see my earlier mini-rant about swim seeding and people going out way to fast. Folks – there is no need to try and swim a 2:15 first 200 meters in an Ironman – particularly when your best time for a 100 meters is a 1:07. Slow down.

I was shocked on the second loop of the run at how “hard” it was to pass some of the first lappers. Here I am running 7:20-7:30 pace, and I decide I need to slow down because I’m unable to pass this dude who is running in a space blanket on his first lap. Guy – you are 3 miles into this thing and the race clock is at 7:40 – you are not going to be holding on for a 3:15 marathon. Slow. Down.

People do not pay attention to their surroundings on the bike. I was nearly pushed over the yellow line at least two times, by people swerving unexpectedly to the left. Countless times I had to slow and wait to pass while some person who felt it was his privilege to ride 18 mph down the center of the lane, forcing people to have to queue up to pass him.

People really appreciate it on the run when you cheer for them – no matter if you are passing them or running in the opposite direction. I got several thanks and one – “Man, I really needed that” as a result of my cheering/congratulating competitors throughout the day.

IMAZ Pre-race thoughts

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Up until the last couple of years prior to every big race, I would sit down and gather my thoughts into a “concrete” race plan.  This forced me to take some time and create an outline of how I want my day to unfold, and it also gives me something to compare the actual outcome of the race to, allowing me to review the race somewhat objectively.  For whatever reason I stopped doing this a couple years ago, but for whatever reason I felt the need to do it for Ironman Arizona this year.

I read through my plan from when I did IMAZ in 2011 and was not really surprised to see that the thoughts I had for execution then, still really apply today – a few minor changes in target paces, but otherwise not much.

Rather than just say this is the plan from 2011, I’m going to repeat it, I want to rehash it to make sure it’s set in my mind so I don’t just let it fly.

My goals for the day are tiered:

  1.  Goal #1 is to get a Hawaii spot
  2. Break 9
  3. Win my age group
  4. Be the top amateur

The more of those I achieve the “better” the outcome of the day, I want to execute a race that puts me in a position to accomplish all of those, and on paper to accomplish that I need to execute the race really well and put myself in a position to run a very strong last 10k of the marathon.

Swim:
Like usual, I just want to get through the swim without issue and not overexerting myself – this isn’t a mass start so it should be fairly easy to just roll at my pace. I want to swim mostly straight and not along the buoys to shorten the distance a bit.

T1:
Move with purpose – nothing special about this one. Get the wetsuit off, grab my bag, helmet on, glasses on, gel flask, and move

Bike:
The overall power target for the day is 235 watts – nice and relaxed, when appropriate I’ll push it up into the 240s to keep the speed going, but I will take a split every 20 minutes or so and I want to have NP/AP right around 235. Nutrition plan is 4 gels in a bottle with water to start, a flask of EFS, and then 10 gels in the aero bottle. Drink the first bottle and swap it out at aid station number 3. There will be a backup flask of 4 at special needs.

From that point do the normal thing of a hit from the gel bottles every 20 minutes followed by water, and plain water every 10 minutes. EFS first, then aero bottle.

When mixing the bottles cut back on the amount of caffeine in the early bottles, and no supplemental salt – I haven’t don’t the added salt in training, and it and the caffeine are suspects in recent poopy problems in races.

As tempting as it will be to worry about steve J and others – focus on my race, because of the rolling stat it’ll be hard to know where they are at relative to me. Focus on doing my job – staying fueled, staying hydrated and riding within yourself.

T2:
Hand the bike off, socks, shoes, go. 2x flasks

Run:
The goal for today is to have a decent run, not a crappy run like at Texas and Kona. At a minimum that means 3:15, but the bar is really ~3:10. The course has a couple of hills, but nothing major. Try to settle in right around 7:10 pace and then cruise.

Start the run with two gel flasks. Take a shot of one about every other mile, and then pick up a fresh one at special needs. If the stomach starts to get yucky, back off the gel and increase the water intake a bit, but stay on the fuel intake as a whole.

Just like the bike – don’t stress about where others are. At Texas, on an off day, you came off the bike #4 amateur, and moved up to 3 without too much problem before falling back again.

It will be the same on Sunday – let those behind you come to you. If they catch me, make decisions then, based on the current lay of the land, but don’t endanger my overall result by running or riding scared. I have put too much work in to have a bad race, and a bad race is ultimately only going to happen if I allow it to happen. I can choose to have a good race, or I can choose to have a bad race.

My best results have happened when I’ve executed with the mindset of going through the day in a bubble separated from the world – don’t let anyone or anything cause me to execute a race that my training has indicated is not feasible.

At the end of the day remember, success or failure at this race is ultimately about having a positive experience during the race, and that choices that lead to that positive experience will lead to the fastest outcome.  Focus on making the small choices during the day that will lead to that positive experience.

Some words, on a blog.

After Racine, I let myself dial back my training and overall focus on triathlon.  I had already dialed things back a fair bit after Texas, but I wanted to get myself in a situation where I was mentally and physically 100% ready to attack the block of training leading into Ironman Arizona.  I did not significantly change the structure of my training, but I stopped longer rides and runs for a few weeks to let me recharge.  Inadvertently, I let that apply to the good habit I had formed of posting things on my blog.

After Racine, I did both USAT nationals races, and finished 9th (in my age group) in the Olympic, and 2nd (again AG) in the sprint.  I was the third finisher in the sprint, but “2nd” got a penalty which moved me up.  I was very happy with my performances in both races.  It was the fastest I’ve gone on that course in the Olympic, and I was quite happy with how I felt during the Sprint.  I also did the last Milwaukee Aquathon of the year and had a great run, which was awesome seeing as the first two I did had really subpar runs.

I am now about half way through the block of training for IMAZ (mesocycle) and am very happy with where things have been.  I am doing a few things differently in this block than I have done in the past – the primary thing I have that for the first half of the training block I have executed all of my long runs as double runs.  I started with them dividing the desired run volume evenly into two, and then I gradually built the total duration.  As a general trend, I focused the first of the runs on including a progressive amount of Half Iron paced work, with the second run being more focused around Ironman paced work.  The amount of running I am able to get in on those days, and the high quality of them has been both exciting and enjoyable.

For the second half of the training block, I’m going to do the long runs as one run.  I’m doing this primarily for the mental aspect of it, even though I’m betting they will not be quite as high quality, nor will I recover from them as quickly.  I’m not going to worry too much about it, as I’ve done the single long run “thing” for years – and I wanted to do the double run thing as an experiment and a way to help drive up to some high run mileage.  If it pans out with good results, perhaps next time I’ll go a bit more all-in with it.

On the bike, the first half of the training block was focused on riding my long rides as hard time trial type efforts where I aimed for the highest possible average.  A couple of them went really well, one got cut short because I exploded, etc.  With the weekday bikes (two) focused on hard VO2max type efforts, though the Tuesday ride really suffered two of those weeks, I suspect due to me stacking my double run day on Friday, and the long bike on Saturday because of Sunday scheduling conflicts.

Swimming was hit or miss during these last five weeks – some days were really good – i.e. I did 14×100 @ 1:15 SCY without issue one Wednesday,  other days were not nearly as great.

Those inconsistencies in performance lead me to believe that I am on the border of overreaching and need to closely monitor things.  On the other hand, the last five or six days have show signs that I am creeping into “the magic happens here” phase.  This is definitely not a scientific term or phenomenon, but something I have observed about my training and performance over the years, which I first recall experiencing my senior year in college.  This “phenomenon” is more or less a feeling of making it happen.  Put a workout in front of me, and I execute it.  Again, and again, and again.  I can feel myself getting stronger.  Every. Single. Day.  I’m not sure if this is “triggered” by a mental state, a certain chronic training load, etc.  I also don’t know what triggers the flight of this state, but the few times I’ve been here I’ve cherished it and many much gnashing of teeth has occurred over the years on how can I get back here.

Through these ~5 and a half weeks of training, I’ve logged 250 miles running, 44 hours of cycling, and ~60,000 meters of swimming.  The swimming has been a bit light due to the need to drop one swim most weeks for scheduling.  The second half of this block will probably be about the same, plus some extra for the taper.

This coming weekend, I’m doing a sprint triathlon that I’m planning to leverage as a stand-in for power and pace testing and will server as a solid check point versus previous seasons at a similar point in training. After that the next race will be Ironman Arizona.

With Ironman CDA getting moved to August, Arizona will likely be my only shot at a Kona slot for 2016.  Which surprisingly doesn’t freak me out.  I’m actually really excited about the opportunity to race after a summer of increasingly solid performances since Ironman Texas.  I’m excited to go head to head with the field in both my AG and the rest of the race.

I think that on a good day, I can put together a performance that puts me in a position to net a top 15 OA finish and the overall amateur win – but most important about this race is that it’s a chance to make up for those 2 lousy seconds in 2011.  No matter what – the race will be just another day of training, just do the simple, known work, and force nothing.

Two Weeks Ending 2015-07-19

Well my writing time last week was devoted to documenting the results of my wetsuit testing, so I didn’t get around to doing the weekly update, so this one is a twofer.

While I seem to have solved the swim issue, my bike fit continues to be a work in progress, after playing around with shortening the reach and it feeling initially very good and giving me good results in a couple hard two plus hour time trial efforts, I was stymied two weeks in a row in attempting to do 20 minute best effort tests.  As a result of that, I dug around slowtwitch and found my 2011 Critique Me Thread, where none other than Paulo Sousa, gave me a lot of great advice.  I credit that advice and it’s bike fit as being a very strong contributor to my biking break through in 2011.  As I’ve documented quite well, since that bike was wrecked in late 2011, I have been more or less searching for that feeling on the bike.  I spent some time reviewing that thread, and comparing it to pictures of my bike, and did my best to recreate it last week – basically more forward, more reach, more drop then what I’ve been doing for a couple years – it was the position I race at Racine this weekend – and I was tickled with how I felt during the race.  It leaves me feeling like I finally got the position I’ve been searching for after a long search.  We’ll see over the next couple of weeks how it goes, but prior to Racine, I had the bike setup that way for exactly 45 minutes of riding, and I didn’t feel like I was losing power or sustainability in the position as the race progressed.

Week 1

Monday – The typical easy run, and a swim – mainset 12×200 SCM @ 2:55 pull – I held sub 2:45 for all of them

Tuesday – Easy ride, quality run with a mainset of 4×5′ @ Daniel’s I-pace, with a 4 minute jog

Wednesday – First wetsuit test session (Profile Design Wahoo) and an easy run

Thursday – 6×3′ @ 350 watts on the bike plus an easy run

Friday – Second wetsuit test (Xterra Vendetta SLO)  and a long run with 5×10′ @ HIM pace

Saturday – easy ride and easy run

Sunday – 2.5 hours on the bike with an aborted 20′ best effort – kind of a bleh ride, easy run

Week 2

Monday – Zero

Tuesday – Shorter than usual easy ride + a run with 3x{2×2′ HARD (1′ jog)} (2′ Jog)

Wednesday – Third wetsuit test session (ROKA Full), easy run

Thursday – shorter than normal easy ride, with some efforts at 95%, easy run

Friday – Final wetsuit test (ROKA Sleeveless + Vendetta Small) + shortened easy run

Saturday – 45 minute bike with some race pace efforts + 15′ run with 5′ race pace

Sunday – Racine 70.3

 

I’ll endeavor to write up my thoughts on Racine and the plans from here.

Wet Suit Testing

As I have mentioned in my last couple posts, I’ve spent some time since Ironman Texas pondering the impact of a wetsuit on my swim. I decided that rather than ponder about it and do nothing, I was going to take action and gather some data and based on that data I would be more informed about my options to improve my swim.

I have three wetsuits

  • Profile Design Wahoo, size Medium
  • Xterra Vendetta, size Small Long
  • Xterra Vendetta, size Smal

I reached out to a friend who I knew had a sleeveless ROKA, to see if I could borrow it for some testing.  Lucky enough for me, he not only had a Maverick Pro Sleeveless, but a Maverick Pro Full suit, both size Medium.

Some notes, background and caveats for the interests of disclosure.

I am 5 foot, 10.5 inches, and my weight ranges between 170 and 175 pounds.

For all three companies of wetsuits, I should be a size Medium, which happened to be the size of the Wahoo, and both Maverick’s.

The Small Long, and Small wetsuits are a legacy of me purchasing my first Xterra wetsuit back in late 2008. I was replacing my aging and worn Ironman (now b70) wetsuit, and was conversing back and forth with Xterra on sizing. I was displeased with the amount of water that the Ironman wetsuit let in, so expressed to Xterra, I didn’t want that problem. Based on their recommendation, I sized down, but got a long to give the chest and shoulders more material to work with. This seemed to work OK, but I noticed that there was a fair bit of looseness in the waist and upper legs where water would want to settle.

Later, in 2011, I contacted Xterra to get a support, because just like on my Ironman, the left armpit of the suit was wearing away – almost melted or rubbed apart – which to this day I’m not sure if it’s something I did in caring for the suits, or a product of my swimming style – interestingly my now 3.5 year old Small Vendetta shows no signs of this wear. My suit was out of warranty, but they offered to sell me a new suit at a steep discount.  I bought a small, the thinking being trying to resolve the water around the waist and legs issue for the Small Long.

So that’s the story on why I have a Small Long and Small of the Vendetta.

When I first started in on triathlon, in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 – I generally had very solid swims. I would swim hard and fast, my fastest IM swim is still my first in 2005.  With only a couple of exceptions go on to have very solid races.

This changed in 2009, where I began to have very inconsistent performances in races, and with a few exceptions generally had to simply loll through the swim in order to have a solid race. I still remember before IMWI in 2010 – that my mantra was – “One of these kids is doing his own thing” – after recalling feeling like my day was over about 800 meters into IMWI 2009.

And now I’ve finally arrived at today, having taken action to close the thought loop that started with the swim at IMTX.

The first thing I did was re-read the blog that Brian Stover posted back in 2009 about the protocol he followed for wetsuit testing. I closely approximated that protocol in my testing, the most notable change was that I was only going to test one wetsuit a day and do a baseline swim each day. I elected to do this on a couple of assumptions. First, my swim fitness isn’t going to change much at this point – it is what it is. Second, I have been known to have some really, really bad days in the pool so I wanted to identify those days, and not test if a day like that turned up.

The test protocol I used consisted of the following:
3×300 Swim/Kick/Swim for a warmup
2×400 @ 6:00 Swim (in speedo)
Put the wetsuit on
Do a 200 Easy to make sure it’s on right and help settle it
2×400 @ 6:00 Swim
Take the wetsuit off and cool down.

I timed all efforts with a wrist watch that I started when I submerged for my push off, and stopped after I touched. I wore the watch on my left wrist, and finished all swims with my right hand. So touch, reach over and stop watch.

I chose 6:00 for the send off because it would give me enough rest that I could swim hard enough that I couldn’t game the tests, but had enough time to get a very full recovery so that I would not have to deal with falling apart on the second swim.

My goal perceived effort was to swim these at around Half Ironman RPE. To help make sure that even if my RPE was off, I took a 10 second count of my heart rate starting 5 seconds after I finished a swim, with a goal of having it be 21 or 22.

Finally, all times are reported in short course meters.

Results
Average of all baseline swims: 5:16
Profile Design Wahoo: 4:57.5
Xterra Vendetta (Small Long): 4:59
Roka Full: 4:50
Roka Sleeveless: 4:52
Xterra Vendetta (Small): 5:07.5

Below are the results of each individual swim, times are in seconds. Because I paced very poorly on Baseline number 3 – I created columns that calculated the difference between all baselines, and adjusted to discard baseline number 3, which felt about right effort wise, but based on HR was a bit harder then the rest of the swims.

Swim One Swim Two Average Difference per 100 from Baseline Adjusted Baseline Difference per 100 Notes
Baseline 1 319 316 317.5 0.4 0.1
Baseline 2 316 315 315.5 -0.1 -0.4
Baseline 3 313 312 312.5 -0.9 Whoops, that was fast, HR 24
Baseline 4 318 319 318.5 0.6 0.3
Average of Baseline 316.5 315.5 316
Wahoo 296 299 297.5 -4.6 -4.9 Lots of water in the chest
Xterra (SLO) 298 300 299 -4.3 -4.5 Water in the hips and legs, not too much shoulder restriction
Roka Full 290 290 290 -6.5 -6.8 This did not feel like a wetsuit
Roka Sleeveless 292 292 292 -6.0 -6.3 Very similar feelign to the full, slightly less restrictive, but a bit more water
Xterra (S) 304 311 307.5 -2.1 -2.4 I just wanted these to be over.

The takeaways I have are is that like on the bike fit is really really important. I have impressions about each of the suits, and I’ll share them, but I think that especially regarding the Xterra suits, my feelings are very dependent upon the fact that I have suits that definitely are the wrong size for me.

Impressions

Wahoo – After swimming in the Wahoo, I knew that my Vendetta was causing me problems. I felt like I could kick, my body position felt good, and my arms didn’t feel like they were going to die. I was really pleased by the experience, and left the pool thinking to myself “It’s one thing to know a wetsuit makes you faster, it’s another to experience it.” I felt like the collar on the Wahoo did not seal well and it filled up with water a fair bit. By the end of the second 400 I could feel a small amount of fatigue in my shoulders, but not bad.

Vendetta (SLO) – I was surprised at how this suit felt compared to the Wahoo, and my recollection of how the Small Vendetta felt at Elkhart Lake. The shoulders felt pretty loose and relaxed, but it felt big around the waist and I felt like water wanted to gather there and in the upper legs. I also felt like my body position was off in this suit, way too much buoyancy in the chest, and not enough in the legs. It really felt like my hips were being driven down into the water, which made it really hard to kick effectively.

ROKA Full – This was simply incredible. When I jumped in for the easy 200 and the first 100 was a 1:15, I said whoa boy. The amount of freedom my shoulders felt was insane. I felt like my body position was really good, and I was able to kick and swim well. This was the first time I’ve swam in a wetsuit where I felt like I was actually able to control my speed, every other time I have always felt like my swim speed was simply determined by what my pull was doing, and I didn’t have a lot of conscious control over it. I could have swam that pace for 400s all day long.

ROKA Sleeveless – This felt very similar to the full, a little more freedom in the arms and shoulders, but it also let in the slightest amount of water compared to the full. Strong kick, good power through the pull. I did feel maybe just slightly overbalanced in my stroke, with just a little too much lift in the hips, but not enough in the arms. I can see a lot of value in the sleeveless for a race like the Triple T PM Olympic, where you want a wetsuit, but you are already hot and sweating. A sleeveless will help get your temperature down, is easier to get on, but still gives your legs the support and warmth to keep from getting shocked as you hit the water.

Vendetta (Small) – When I was a 100 through the easy 200 I seriously debated just stopping the test – as I knew it was going to be bad. As I was suiting up, I had “hope” that it wouldn’t be that bad, as compared to the ROKAs it was actually fairly easy to get on and in position, and a few arm swings and such felt pretty free. Once in the water though it was clear that my shoulders and arms were extremely restricted. Based on how it felt, I was surprised by how fast the first 400 was, and the second 400 was just a matter of me dreading it and feeling super tired and feeble. It felt like my stroke was getting slower and shorter with every few arm cycles. I had always thought that this suit was causing problems by having too much leg flotation, hindering my kick, however now I’m pretty sure that the kick is just a symptom. My kick slows down and gets weak in conjunction with my arms slowing down and getting weaker as I try to keep my stroke timing together.  The first rep was the slowest of any suited swims, and I lost 7 seconds on the second 400 – what does that translate to at 1500 meters, or 3000 meters?

Conclusions

I’m not sure what the next steps are from here. In a perfect world, with unlimited budget I would go buy both a sleeved and sleeveless ROKA, as they are clearly the fastest of the suits tested and I can see the utility of having both, but that’s a lot of money, even $800 for a sleeved ROKA is a tall order. Perhaps I could try a medium Vendetta or Xterra’s new Vengeance using their always circulating discount codes, coupled with their 30 money back guarantee to get a sweet deal, or maybe watch ebay or slowtwitch for a used ROKA. Or maybe I just man up and buy one.I’m not sure, but I do know that I won’t be wearing the small vendetta this weekend at Racine 70.3

Week Ending 2015-07-05

Barely made this update before the end of the week after it’s updating.  It’s been a busy week this week.  Between work and family activities, I haven’t had a lot of free time.  After pondering a lot last week about my swimming and the potential impact of a wetsuit I’ve decided that I’m going to do some testing.  I’m going to do a test protocol similar to what Brian Stover did in 2009.  I’m going to test out a Medium Profile Design Wahoo, my Small Long Xterra Vendetta, my Small Xterra Vendetta, a medium Roka Pro sleeveless, and a medium Roka Pro sleeved.  I may search out a few others if I can get access to them.  The goal of this process is to figure out which wetsuit fits me best, and then decide how much it will cost me to fix the problem, if there is one.

I had intended to do a 20 minute best effort on Sunday, but it was a bit subpar.  I woke up feeling a bit flat and the warmup didn’t make things better.  I think it was just the long holiday weekend.  If this weekend doesn’t prove to be as exhausting I’ll probably give it another shot before Racine.

Monday – A short easy run, and a swim with a main set of 10×200 @ 2:55 Pull.  Most of the 200s were 2:40 or 2:41

Tuesday – an easy ride, and a hard run with a main set of 5×4′ HARD on 3′ rest.

Wednesday – 40x50s @ :55 – other than the first couple I held all of them under 35, and the usual easy run

Thursday – A hard bike with 6×3′ HARD – with the first being best effort.  I averaged 403 watts, which isn’t my best ever, but it’s pretty decent and I did go out really hot.  I took some extra rest after, and then knocked out the other 5 – which went quite well.  Closed the day out with an easy run.

Friday – Got up nice and early and did a 90′ run with 2×10′ @ HIM pace, then a 20′ block at IM Pace.  Did a quick swim with a main set of 5×400 SCY when we went to the outdoor pool with Ethan later in the day.

Saturday – Easy bike early in the morning, and a later afternoon run in the afternoon that I followed up with a beer and sitting in a pool in our back yard.

Sunday – 2 and a hour hour bike with a sub-par 20′ best effort, followed by several 10 to 20 minute blocks at HIM race effort, followed with a short run afterwards.

The main focus of the week was to really slow down on my easy runs, I have a tendency to run too fast on them, so I really focused this week on keeping them easy – which translates into Daniels E-Pace being a speed limit as opposed to a target.

Week Ending 2015-06-28

 

This picture sums up pretty well how I feel right now. Strong and feeling in the chase.  The adjustments I’ve made to my fit appear to keep paying dividends, I’m feeling strong on both the bike and run (and the swim) – and the metrics agree with how I feel.  I’m happy to say that I’ve posted *something* to my blog six weeks in a row!  Hopefully in the near future I’ll have the desire to leverage that into something more interesting than just an update.

One thing I’ve found these last few weeks is that confidence results in good performances in training, which leads to good more confidence, which leads to good racing, which leads to more confidence, which leads to even performances in training.  Over the last few weeks of publicly documenting my training, I have found that I have been more consistent with my quality workouts and doing them well – which subsequently let’s me do things like TT my “favorite” training loop and turn in the best 2 hour mean maximal power I’ve seen in just shy of 3 years.  Small things like that put a smile on your face and make you eager to do the work and not question things.

Beyond that the positive reinforcement makes it easier to pay attention to the small details like diet and sleep – which for me are some of the first things to go to hell when things are struggling.

The real question is – will these trends and performances in training result in comparable performances in races this year?

This week’s training:

Monday – 3000 easy swim – nothing but putting in the meters, with a 30 minute easy run later on

Tuesday – easy bike, plus a hard run – 6×3′ @ Daniel’s I-Pace with 2 minutes easy in between

Wednesday – Lots of 25’s USRPT style at 200 pace and an easy run

Thursday – hard bike – 6×3′ @ ~110% FTP (3′) and the typical run at lunch time

Friday – No swim – I lost my YMCA card, so just a 90 minute run with 3×10′ @ HIM pace

Saturday – an easy bike and easy run

Sunday – Hard bike – 48 mile hilly course TT style, easy run off the bike, and a quick and dirty swim later in the day just to get 3 swim sessions this week.