Wednesday, December 21, 2011


I've been working on this off and on for a while, and with the end of the year it seems appropriate to touch on setting goals. Really, everyone sets goals all the time, but when it comes to pushing themselves in a new direction, setting goals becomes very hard and may even seem mysterious.

Here's the deal - there's nothing magical about setting goals. The key is understanding what your goal is and breaking it up into parts that you can achieve.

What is a goal
This may seem silly, but seriously, a goal has a formula: there's an acronym people use SMART
  • Specific - A goal is something concrete, easily defined with very little room for ambiguity
  • Measurable - A goal can easily be measured, it's easy to know when you've reached your goal.
  • Achievable - A good goal is one that you really think you can hit, not one that you you seriously doubt is possible
  • Realistic - A good goal is one that has basis in reality, a goal to get out and start running, so you can do your first marathon at the end of the week isn't.
  • Time bound - A good goal has a defined time limit
Many people seem to confuse goals with desires. A desire is usually very undefined and almost always lofty. For example, you may say your goal is to be skinny. That goal fails several of the SMART tests. You could rephrase that and say that your goal is to loose five founds in two months.That goal passes all of the SMART tests. I find that usually desires are made up of several goals. So you may desire to be skinny, and then you come up with several goals that will help you get there.

My Example Goal
I use goals to drive me all the time in almost all aspects of my life. So I figure I'll layout one of my goals for my next triathlon season and then break it down.

Goal - Finish one race in the top 5 in my age group at a sprint distance. Test it
  • Specific - Not really, top 5 depends on the race. If I define this no better I will have no idea how to get to this goal.
  • Measurable - Yes
  • Achievable - Maybe, depends on how much better I have to get
  • Realistic - Maybe, it depends on how close the goal I am already
  • Time Bound - This season, it's not very specific. Seriously, I'm already of thinking of putting off starting this till July. We'll say, not time bound enough :)
I'll call this one a dream for right now. First I need to get specific. The race that is closest to me, and the first triathlon I ever did is as good an option as any. So, I choose the Lakefront Days triathlon. It's not scheduled yet, but it's the same weekend as Lakefront days which is 8/4. I've chosen a race, and know exactly when I will need to be ready for it. There's still some room for specifics, as right now I have no idea how fast top 5 is.

This season I'll be in the 35 as far as USAT is concerned. Top 5 times in that age group: 1:16:16, 1:16:17, 1:17:36, 1:19:22, 1:19:37

So now I know exactly what my goal is. Finish the lakefront days triathlon in under 1:19:37. Now sure, that may not ensure a top 5 finish, but then again I don't have control over the other racers, so I will have to settle with a very concrete goal to shoot for.

Is this achievable? Last year I finished the race in 1:19:41. That's only 4 seconds, very achievable, this also makes this a realistic goal.

Re-evaluate your goals
So here's the deal, this goal has become too easy to get. I could pick up 5 seconds by just streamlining transition. Last year a got a little confused in the second transition, and I actually turned around and went back to my stuff to pick something up. If I only want to shave 5 seconds I could just skip that little step. So I'm going to say that my new goal is to win the age group. That's a 3:21 jump.

Is this goal achievable? Well I need to break it down a little more to see, I'm probably not going to pick it all up in the same place. Here are my detailed stats about this race from last year
Swim 1/4 mile - 6:41 that's 1:31 per hundred yards
T2 - 2:32. That includes a jog from the lake to the transition area
Bike 13.5 miles - 40:58 that's 19.8 miles per hour
T2 - 1:27
Run 3.3 miles - 28:06 that's 8:31 per mile

To drop 3:21 from that I'll have to pull from all segments
Swim - 1:25 pace. That puts me at 6:14, there's 27 seconds.
Bike - 20.75 mph. That puts the bike at 39:02, there's 1:56
Run - 8:20 mins/mile. That puts the run at 27:30, there's another 36 seconds

So that adds up to 2:59. I will need to make up 20 seconds on transitions. It is no exaggeration that if I drop 10 seconds in each transition I will still be slower than most people.

The swim - that's a very fast pace. But swimming is by far my strongest leg, I held that close to the old pace for just over a mile last year at Maple Grove, so if I can hold that pace for a mile, I can pick up the pace for a quarter of a mile without worrying about taking it out too fast.

The bike - that will be my fastest bike split to date. But this is near the end of the season, and I know I can ride that fast. I just need to transition that knowledge to a race. I am confident I can do this.

The run - again at Maple Grove I held that old pace for twice as long. Plus my fastest 5k time is a full three minutes faster than that, so I can gut it out.

I'm going to call this both achievable and realistic.

Some extra notes
When setting goals, don't go crazy. It is very easy to go nuts making goals for every single little thing in your life, or every tiny detail. I took a desire and turned it into 4 very specific goals, and it just so happens I need to chain those together in rapid succession. If you were doing your first duathlon, your goal may simply be to finish. But you still need to the do rest.
  • Specific - Choose a specific duathlon
  • Measurable - If you finish you will have met your goal
  • Achievable - Choose one that is in your ability level. Shy away from one that is longer than you like to drive per day
  • Realistic - A sprint distance duathlon, as long as you can walk and ride a bike, you'll be fine
  • Time bound - Sign up for that race, it puts an exact date you need to be done by
Re-evaluate your goals often. As you make progress toward your goal, you may realize that your goal needs to be adjusted. Perhaps finishing isn't the goal anymore, maybe now the goal is to jog instead of walk. Keeping your goals something you have to work toward, while still in the realms of possibilities, will keep you motivated.

Don't beat yourself up. Occasionally you will fail to meet your goal. Don't worry about it, last year I set several running goals that I totally biffed on, not even close. So I just set my eyes on the next one. It wouldn't be a goal if it was easy to do. Honestly, winning my age group on Lakefront days will be a huge accomplishment for me, there is a chance of failure, but that's what keeps me going.

Do it
We're about a week away from the new year. Make your resolutions, and then break them up in to goals. I'd say a year-long resolution probably has six to twelve intermediate goals. Keep focused on your goals, and when you look up at the end of the year, I'm betting you will have tackled that resolution head on. You can do it!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Impromptu 5k

Today my wife and I ran a 5k in St. Paul. This winter she's building a base for her first half marathon in Fargo, and a 5k now and then is helping her keep motivated and see the fruits of her labor. Now normally we don't run together, because in the past I've been training for running races too, and we just have different paces. But for this race she wasn't sure she wanted to run it because it was cold, and her running buddy from the last couple of races just wasn't up to it. But Friday I caller her up and said 'hey, let's do this, the weather will be fine and I'll run it with you.' So it was a done deal.

The race is the Dredel Dash put on by the St. Paul Jewish Community Center, since we decided to do the race on Friday, and the race is on Sunday, we did not pre-register :)

Race Morning
The plan had been to get up and go to church and then make our way to the race. Well, I stayed up 3 with our baby and some frustrating stuff I've been working on. The last thing I did though was send my wife and email and said "it's late, but wake me up anyway." But it turned out it didn't really matter, the kids slept in and my wife and sister-in-law didn't get up in time. So we didn't make it to church, and off to St. Paul for a quick run. The race started at 1, we got there at 11 to register. Registration went really well, my wife stayed in the car to feed our youngest, and I went in to register us both. I, probably predictably, went in the wrong door, but they had volunteers in the building guiding people to the right place. It was very cool. So I got us registered and it was 11:30 - that's way too much time to kill with 3 littles who are hungry. So we went to grab a bite to eat.

The Start
After we got some food, we found our way to the start line. A sort of unique feature of this 5k, at least as far as any 5k I've ever done is that it's point to point. There are actually three races going on, a 5k, a 10k, and a 1 mile fun run. The 10k is an out and back on the same course as the 5k, which is probably how they came up with the idea of the point to point. We lingered around the starting line, it was about 40 degrees with a slight breeze, talked to some people who were there, and watched some of the faster 10k runners run through. As is common with smaller races, when they finally started talking about the start I couldn't hear anything they were saying. But seriously, it was probably the normal, "everyone have a great race, remember to run between the people telling you to run between them :)" An unusual feature is that they sang the national anthem. At least I can't remember being at a race that did that, it was pretty cool.

Waiting for the start
The Run
The run was pretty good, there weren't a zillion people which I have found can be a double edged sword. On the one hand the race isn't mobbed, on the other hand they tend to be heavy with fast runners. Luckily this race wasn't like that. We settled into a good pace and just enjoyed the ride, some people in front, some people behind us. One cool thing about this run was that every single road was completely closed off. For a race this size I was surprised, there were some not-totally main streets, but also not side streets. I mean I think there were only like 300 racers, so that was a nice touch. One thing I did notice that struck me as odd was there was only one water stop, and it was for 10k runners. Now in all fairness I didn't notice until I finally got my paws on some water and noticed how thirsty I was, so it couldn't have been that bad.

About half way through - all smiles :)
The Finish
We knew we were pretty much on the pace we wanted to do. My wife was on her way to a new PR, and it was fun to be part of that. About 100 yards till the end we saw our kids and my sister-in-law on the side of the road cheering. Our oldest ran right out and headed toward the finish line, she didn't even pretend like she wanted to run with us. And she was booking, so I took off after her while my wife slowed down to run in with our son. Our best estimation about that is that he didn't know he would have the opportunity to run with mom or dad, but when his sister took off he felt left out :)

My wife and our son running across the finish
We finished, realized there was no finisher award and headed inside for the after race festivities. They had some good food, cookies, bananas, muffins and water. So we sat down, had some food and then headed home. There were supposed to be a lot of other stuff going on, but it was busy, and honestly I smelled like a locker room.

Enjoying some post-race snacks
Final Thoughts
This was a pretty good race. A good small race, and I had a great time running with my wife. She had a great run and was able to see that all of the running she's been doing is started to pay off. I'm very proud of her.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Getting out in the cold

It's starting to get cold out there. At our house we have three runners and two three kids under 5. So treadmill time is a premium. Also with the cold weather come fewer daylight running hours. It's dark when I get up, it's dark when I get home.

Considering last year I ran outside all year long, it's really tempting to let the cold weather and scheduling differences keep me from getting out there. But I've gone out for some runs anyway. Mostly now I'm doing my weekday runs over lunch at work, and the weekend runs during the day.

I read once that you should try to get out during inclement weather because it prepares you mentally for the future. I like that, a little cold weather won't kill me, and if I get a little exposure to sub-optimal weather, when I get great weather I'll be super happy, and when I get less desirable weather...meh :)

Honestly, if it's much above 30 it's a no brainier for me the cool weather means that I'm not sweating as much and as a result the run is pretty nice. I did have to convince myself to go out when it's colder. I did some reading, and the general consensus I ran into was, why not. It's not going to kill you.

So I went out for a cooler run the other day
At the start
At the end - it started warming up :)
Honestly except for about a half mile stretch I was fine. It wasn't uncomfortable at all. The half mile stretch was along a four lane road with no wind protection. And I swear, my nose got so cold that I had to stop and warm it up with my breath.

The wind was coming from the south, this loop is about three miles

The Getup

The gear
Here's my thinking
  • Hat to keep my head and ears warm
  • Gloves to keep my fingers warm
  • Tech tee as the bottom top layer - to keep my dry when I started sweating
  • Long sleeve T (cotton) on the top layer to provide some wind protection
  • Thermal tights - to keep me dry when sweating
  • Wind pants - more wind protection
Put a wicking layer of clothing next to your skin. It will help pull your sweat away from you (and you will be sweating) so it doesn't have time to get super cold.

On your torso, which isn't getting a huge amount of work, put a wind-breaking layer on top of your base. That will keep the wind from chilling you to the bone.

Same deal on the bottom, without the wind I would have gone without the wind-pants because your legs are doing all of the work, and can keep themselves pretty warm.

Hat and gloves are, in my opinion, a neccessity. Your hands and head aren't super great at keeping themselves warm, and the last thing you want is frozen fingers.

Choose a route that has decent wind protection. Usually I'd do that run with basically an out and back on the big road, but I know it's like a little prairie out there, so I tried to avoid it. It was basically an experiment, and now I know, avoid direct wind if you can.

There are a couple of things I would have changed.
  • Tuck in one of my shirts. When the wind would pick up I would get some super cold shots of air up my shirt. Not super awesome.
  • Wear my watch on the outside of my shirt. Wearing it against my skin left me with some undesirable exposed skin. It wasn't terrible, but easy to prevent.
  • Try harder to stay out of the wind. The coldest parts of the run were running directly into the wind, or letting it blow across me for a sustained period of time.
  • If it gets much colder than that, I'm going to invest in something to put on my face. The nose thing wasn't super terrible, but it was bad enough to make me stop for a few seconds.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Trinona 2012

Trinona 2011 was my first race last year in Minnesota, also my first Olympic distance race, so it has a special place in my heart.

I enjoy following the specticle that this race carries, they make commercials, they do fun little things that add a little spice to the race. This weekend during Kona coverage they will have a new commercial on TV (Saturday between 3:30 - 5:00 central on NBC and likely only locally)

I have to admit, the bluff destroyed me last year. It was very challenging, and not in that "this is too challenging way" because there are plenty of people who passed me on the way up. If you're looking for a fun race with a monster climb, hit it up.

I probably won't be doing this race this year, I am planning on having my first half iron distance on the same day. But I will enjoy following this race, and maybe I'll try to beat the hill next year.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New Terms

While preparing my training schedule this year I have pulled from a variety of sources and along the way have been picking up new terminology that is, apparently, used by other people to describe how they train.

First, let me review the terminology I used last year.
  • Race pace - The goal speed during the race
  • Run - Go for a run not quite as fast as race pace
  • Tempo - Go for a bike/run slightly faster than race pace but for less distance
  • Intervals - Go for a bike/run with high intensity parts mixed in with low intensity recovery parts
  • Hills - Go for a bike and spend most of the time going up and down a relatively steep grade hill
My understanding of these terms has not changed, and I think I, at least understood how to, use them correctly to make gains in my performance.

Some new terms I've picked up
  • RPE - Rating of Perceived Exertion. A method of planning that allows you to understand how hard you should be pushing yourself. There are a couple of scales, but the one I have adopted is 1-10 because it fits in my worldview, and a scale that starts at 6 is confusing. The following explanation is my paraphrasing of (
    • 0 is no effort
    • 2-3 normal training effort
    • 5 is a hard effort, likely race-pace
    • 7-8, interval effort
    • 10 is maximum effort, you cannot hold this pace for long at all, maybe a sprint at the end of a race
  • Strides - A gradual acceleration over a relatively short distance. For example, every five minutes you go from your normal training effort to close to max effort over the course of 20 seconds, then back to normal.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

This marketing worked - on me - sort of

Yesterday I ran across this video for SRAM RED. Now I'm no bike pro, and while I do know what components one of my bikes has on it, I am not totally sure what this is advertising.

However, I do like this ad. And it does make me want what they are selling - and not in that "Late night infomercial way"

Friday, December 2, 2011

November Training Notes

This month my totals look like this

Swim0 yards0 hours
Bike0 miles0 hours
Run17.22 miles3:00 hours

After 2.5 months off I am slowly getting back into the swing of things. There's still a little more than a month before I really start to apply some structure, so for now I'm just getting my legs under me and starting to try to cement my plans and goals for the year.

Zero - I'm planning on a January start

Zero - I cannot imagine riding my bike when it's only 25 degrees, and it's dark when I get up and come home from work. So... I'm thinking trainer, and I'm shooting for January start.

I'm just doing easy runs for 2-3 miles at a time. Actually I just go out for 30 minutes at a time and I go as far as my legs will take me in that time. Also, I've started doing my runs at work, the next step is to convince some of the people I work with to run with me. That will be fun.