Friday, March 30, 2012

SILA : 1


These are things I've seen recently that I thought were interesting

On Board Cam with Emma Moffatt - 2012 Mooloolaba World Cup - this is the first type of video like this I've seen.

This is an ITU race which means that it's draft legal which is why you see bikes around her all the time.

This is a running track that has a built in hill. That's a pretty neat idea. It came from this website (

The next two are a guy doing sort of funny Skittles ads.

A month or so ago there were videos going around about what people say - here's a video about what triathletes don't say. Personal favorite line "I've got so much time, I don't know what to do with it"

Monday, March 19, 2012

New Tips and Tricks

Today I attended a workshop put on by Gear Web Bike and Triathlon. It was good, I'm not down with all of who the people were but basically they get some local pro triathletes to talk about some stuff from their point of view.

It was setup it a way that lets you more or less choose what you want to learn about. I chose three fifty minute sessions and one twenty-five minute session. For $20, seems like a great deal. I'd definitely recommend this to someone.

Here's the stuff I think was interesting from the sessions.

Tri Hacks : Cheap and Aero
The basic idea behind this session was to identify some ways to go faster without running out and buying a new bike or some super awesome wheels. This was put on by David Thompson and his wife.

The main difference between a tri bike and a road bike is position. I've talked about that before. But not everyone can afford a new tri bike. So they talked about some things you can do to cut time off without running out and buying a new bike. They also mentioned that one of the first major races DKT won was on a road bike. They also said that most of their tips have been tested in a wind tunnel, but they didn't provide numbers. I trust them :)


  • Get some aero bars - but do not stop there. Many people do.
  • Get a forward seat position - you can use a fast forward seat by Profile Designs
  • Get fitted for your bike
  • Wear tight fitting clothing - a single piece tri suit works best. The idea is keep the flapping clothing down. Along this line, don't wear your running number if you can avoid it. If you must wear it, have someone put it on you when you're in aero so it's nice and smooth and flat when you're riding.
  • Put the bike number on the seat post, if it doesn't fit cut it so just the numbers are there. Don't ask permission. You want to be able to plead ignorance if someone tells you it's not allowed.
  • Simplify your setup. On a sprint, you only need probably one water bottle. Unless not finishing a race is of paramount performance, don't carry a repair kit (though they did mention Hutchinson Fast-Air which can fix a flat. You could just tape it to the bottom of your seat.)
  • The best place to put your water bottle is to put a regular bottle in a cage between your aero bars. It fills a void and actually makes you more aero. I looked it up, Profile Designs HC cage is basically exactly what they were talking about. The worst place is in the back on the seat - which I was pretty surprised about.
  • You can turn any helmut into an aero helmut by using window insulation, or even glad press-n-seal. It's not totally the same as buying a high end helmet, but they suggested it's probably 90% there. A word of warning, it's got no venting.


  • A hill doesn't end at the top, accelerate over the top and pick up speed. If you're on a big enough downhill hill, get up to speed and then tuck in
  • A good tuck on a steep enough downhill (i.e., you start your tuck and continue gaining speed) is going to be faster than pedaling. DKT says he starts his tuck at 30 mph - I might start before that.
  • Keep your knees in - you should be able to touch the inside of your elbows with your knees (not that you should do that, but that's a better leg position.)
  • Stay in aero - they had a small argument about the numbers, but the idea is if you stay in aero for some long amount of time, there is a much smaller amount of time you can come out of aero before you loose the benefit you gained in aero
Goal Setting
I didn't get a ton out of this. It basically boils down to what I wrote here, and then they talked about this race.

VO2-MAX Demo
It was basically just a demo of a V02-MAX test. It was sort of interesting, but I think everyone there would agree it wasn't that informative. The only thing I pulled from it was that you do this test to establish your HR or power zones.

Running Fast in a Triathlon
The basic idea here is that you long slow running / biking / swimming will not eventually result in getting faster. You must incorporate speed work. This talk mainly focused on running, but it applies to biking and swimming as well. This session was put on by DKT and Dan Hedgecock

  • Tempo - Run your 10k race pace for 30 minutes
  • Intervals - Sections of speed mixed with recovery sections where the speed is faster than tempo. Total distance is maybe two miles.
  • Speed Work - basically all out sprints for 1/2 mile mixed in with recovery sections
  • Threshold - You know you have hit your threshold when you want to slow down, but don't really have to (i.e., you can push through it, but it's no longer super comfortable)
When doing speed work, remember to keep good form. The idea is that you don't want your running to fall apart during a race, so if you practice these with good form you'll be more likely to hold that good form
  • Arms bent at 90 degrees at the elbow at all times. Swing from your shoulders
  • Relax your shoulders
  • Lean slightly forward
  • Forefoot strike
  • Try not to bounce, you can tell if your bouncing by paying attention to your head's up and down motion when running.
Running off the bike
I thought this little section was very informative, as I have basically been operating under the assumption that your legs were basically split between the bike and run
  • You can push hard on the bike and still run fast. They are dissimilar enough to be able to handle this
  • Know that your legs may feel like jelly or logs when you start to run, just know it and don't pay attention to it, it will pass
  • Run fast out of transition to set the pace. If you take it easy out of transition you will likely have trouble building back up to a faster pace.
  • The first mile always sucks, for everyone :)
  • Bricks are important, but tend to be overrated. You'll get more from focused work. Don't just not do them, but you don't need to do it every time you get on the bike.
General Ideas
  • Everyone feels like crap. The pro who is running 5 minute miles feels just as crappy as you do to hit ten minute miles.
  • Feeling like crap isn't bad. That nauseated feeling you get or the urge to use the bathroom are normal responses to high intensity work. It's a race, you'll live through it. The exception is some sort of sharp pain, don't ignore that. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Meet Review : Hopkins Spring Splash

This meet was the first swimming meet I've done since I was a senior in high school. I wish I knew my times from back then, but I don't. I know I was faster, but I'm not sure by how much.

The primary motivation for this meet was because my kids had recently done their first meet and my wife and I thought it would be fun for them to see me swim in a meet too.

I really had no idea what to expect. So I signed up for my two "go to" events, 50 free and 100 free and also signed up for 50 back so my daughter could see me doing backstroke (or painting the ceiling as they call it at her swimming lessons.)

I can only assume my wife thinks of this as the money shot. She was cat calling as I walked down the steps to warm up

Mens 50 Yard Backstroke
Seed - :30
Actual - :30.86

First in my age group
Second overall

Since I knew I'd be doing some backstroke I probably should have been doing more in practice, but I hadn't. So I did my practice in warm up. I figured I needed to flip about 2.5 strokes in from the flags. I did that, and it was too early. I flipped over and .... glide .... flip turn. Also, I'm not actually too sure how much faster I could have gone. Unlike freestyle I don't have a good feel for backstroke so I can't tell how efficient my stroke was. While I was going I felt like I was going along well, but when I finished I was disappointed with my time.

Top 5 Overall

You may think I'm in there alone, but there are actually two others in the pool with me - this is the first 25, so it wasn't a super close race

Mens 50 Yard Freestyle
Seed - :28
Actual: :24.85

Second in my age group
Third overall

My goggles came off - which was disorienting. Also it meant that I was basically blind. I had no idea where people were or a very good idea of where I was. I coasted in the first wall did a fairly gentle flip and sort of coasted into the second wall. I was disappointed. I probably could have shaved a quarter second off without all that hesitation.

Top 5 Overall
24.60 (Pro Triathlete)
24.86 <-- This guy was in my heat

Mens 100 Yard Freestyle
Seed - :58
Actual - :55.28

First in my age group
Second overall

In my heat I wasn't even seeded high, two or three guys ahead of me. When I hit the first wall I could see that I was clearly winning. Two thoughts ran through my head - first I had taken it out way too fast and I wasn't going to be able to hold it. Or two, I had clearly seed myself too slowly. To be honest though, a 100 is basically a sprint, so it shouldn't really be possible to take it out too fast, so that was fleeting.

The only downside to this race was the second wall, I came in way too close and wasn't able to ball up tight enough on the flip to get a good push. So I pushed super deep, and dolphin-kicked to the top.

Also of note about this race, my wife got a video of the entire thing. Believe it or not, this is actually the only video of me racing I can remember seeing. And only the second time I've seen video of me swimming at all. When I was in high school there was a kid who said he had video of me racing from many years prior (before we knew each other,) but I never got a chance to see it.

Top 5 Overall
It was fun to be at a swimming meet and do something where it's way easier to place top 10 than it is to place top 300.

The day of the meet my wife had asked about making sure to get some food. At that point it occurred to me that swimming isn't really an endurance sport. I mean it can be, but in general races are much shorter than in other sports.

Let's put this in context. We got there are 5ish, I got in the water to warm up probably around 5:30
This is apparently my pre-"get in the water" stance where I act like I'm about to do some sort of polar plunge.
 warmed up 5 or 10 minutes
If you look really closely you can see my little head down there. The kids are coming to say hello during warm-up

And then swam three races of the course of three hours. So, for me, total time in the water over the course of four hours - 10 minutes. Less than 2 minutes of racing.

On the other hand, the shortest triathlon I've ever done took just over an hour. The longest was pushing three hours, and this year I'll probably do one or two that will approach 6 hours. I have to admit though, after not really knowing what it meant for many years, I am a sprinter at heart, even 55 seconds seemed like too long on Saturday :)

Friday, March 9, 2012

The sickness

So I've been sort of sick for about a week now. Runny nose, headache, nothing super serious, I'm sort of confident that it's allergies due to the snow melt. I came to this conclusion because the littlest one and I got sick at the same time. For about two days it looked like she was perpetually crying, super watery eyes. I may be incorrect about the cause, but that's not the point of this story.

This week's training included some light biking, some light running, a day off. Then a 10 mile run on Thursday and tomorrow is a long bike and run.

Wednesday Night
Not feeling that great. There seems to be snot all up in my body. It's one of those things where when you turn your head when going to sleep it all drains from one side to the other. I am not sleeping well. I think I finally get to sleep around 1:30. -- Side note, my wife isn't fairing that much better. She's not sick, but the tiniest one is on a sort of sleep strike, at least on our schedule.

Thursday Morning
Rise and shine at 5ish. Head to swimming, overall it went well, but near the end I started to cough a lot. Basically anytime we were on the wall I was breath-coughing. Not super awesome, but not the end of the world either. Things head pretty much downhill the whole day, lots of coughing to clear mucus, lots of headache. When I got home I decided that perhaps a 10 mile run would do more harm than good. I headed to bed at 9:30ish

Friday Morning
Rise and shine at 5ish. I had slept well all night, my nose was dry, my chest didn't feel heavy so I was thinking a long night of sleep had done me well. As I walked around I could feel the mucus shifting, and started to cough some. Off to swimming anyway. That was a HUGE mistake. About half the way through I started to feel dizzy and nauseated. I tried to wait it off, but ended up just getting out early. As a sort of staggered back to the locker room, took a shower sat there in my towel for a while. I decided that this day was a miss. Called into work, went home, took a four hour nap, did some stuff with the family took another nap around dinner time.

We'll see what's in store tomorrow - right now I've got a sort of upset stomach, a headache, and whatever. But there's supposed to be a long bike tomorrow followed by a quick run. I'll play it by ear, but I do think that rest and recuperation is better than trying to work through it.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Time vs. Distance or Distance-Time

Something has been weighing on my mind recently, and it has to do with training. There seem to be two camps of training philosophies (at least as far as for beginner and intermediate levels.) The first is a distance based training program. Where you are given distances to accomplish. The second is a time based training program where you are given times to accomplish.

I think the appeal to distance is that it's very concrete. Go out and run three miles and everyone knows what that means. If you have a car or GPS watch or run on a marked trail, access to a computer and know how to use an online map to do it, or heck even just have a good feel for distances you can just plot that distance out and run it. Also people set goals with races, like I want to run a 5k. You don't ever hear anyone say I wan to run a 45m (minute). Apparently one of the drawbacks to setting distance goals is that not all three mile stretches are the same. If I say to someone at work that I'll be running three miles, those three miles are way different than the three miles around my house.

Let's take two very similar distanced runs
About three miles near my house

About three miles near where I work
At first these graphs look pretty similar, sort of hilly. The home one is more undulating where the work one seems to dip down into a valley and back up. But take a closer look at the scale.

The home run has a change in elevation of 45 feet the whole time. So when you look at that graph, if you change the numbers on the right side you could say I started at zero, over the next mile I climbed 20 feet, and then over the next 2 miles I descended 40 feet. Let's put that in context; a flight of stairs is about 15 feet of climbing. So over the course of 8 minutes I want you to climb one and a half flights of stairs, and then over the course of 16 minutes I want you to walk down two and half flights. Take note about how your feeling at the end.

The work run has a change in elevation of 72 feet the whole time. The deal here though is that it's basically done twice on the same run. So if we say I started at zero, I climb about 15 feet over about half a mile, then descend 72 feet over the next 1/2 mile. Then about 1 mile later I do it in reverse. Back to the stairs (you're going to need a taller building.) In four minutes I want you to climb one flight of stairs, in the next four minutes I want you to descend five flights. Take a 8 minute rest. In four minutes I want you to climb five flights of stairs and then immediately run around and descend one flight, take your time on that you have four minutes. Now compare how you're feeling to the first time.

So a popular answer to this seems to be time. If three miles one day is going to feel substantially different than three miles on another day due to terrain or weather or general body feelings, maybe it's better to set a time goal. I've heard a variety of explanations, but basically it comes down to the idea that 45 minute is 45 minutes. If you are feeling cruddy that might mean 2 miles, or if you're feeling great maybe it will mean 8 miles. The common concern I've heard about this is that if you're training for a marathon and you've never done one you might be concerned that you're not going to get the miles in. I think for most training plans though they are designed for a particular skill level and if they say run 30 minutes they know about how far you might cover on average.

My Take
Four years ago I started with couch to 5k. It's totally time based. If I remember correctly the longest amount of time you run is about 45 minutes, and that's 15 minutes per mile which should mean that at the end of that I should feel comfortable finishing a 5k. The main problem I had that year was that 20 minutes out was not the same distance as 20 minutes back. So I often ended up 5 minutes from my house.

Three years ago I just "did whatever" and it was all distance based. At this point we had two kids, and were living in Florida, and so I tried to make sure I was staying on a schedule. The problem I ran into then was 1.5 miles out was not the same time or effort as 1.5 miles back, so I often found myself disappointed with my performance.

Two years ago I took a slightly more methodical approach and had a more steady schedule, but again it was basically distance based. This time we were back in Minnesota, and our kids were a little older so my schedule was less rigid. I was also in better shape, so now 1.5 miles back is roughly the same time as 1.5 miles out.

This year I'm back to time based. Because my first big goal is to accomplish the longest race I've ever done I went out and found a training program and modified it slightly to fit my needs, but it's all time based. There are some very long times on there. And here's the rub, if you're going to be going for a long enough time even on a run, you need to have some sort of plan on where you're going. For instance near my house if I turn right at the end of my street and try to run for 30 minutes in one direction (60 minutes total,) after about 20 minutes I'd start running into dead-ends or highways. If I run around the lake, as long as I don't need to run longer than 90 minutes I can do that loop twice, but that's going to get boring. I mean I don't mind running for 45 minutes in one direction and then running back, but I'm not super excited about running a big loop twice, it'd be super tempting to stop as I passed my house.

So I've started mapping out my runs with an approximate distance. And that leads to the next problem - this year I'm gaining speed much faster than I have in previous years, and the times are getting longer. For a 30 or 40 minute run I can basically just go out and then turn around and come back half way through. For a 60 minute run though unless I start running into problems where I'd need to re-run portions of a course two or three times if just did that. Some of it is the area's I'm running in; the longest trail I can easily get my hands on is about 6 miles.

Back to the mapping. Let's take yesterday for example. The prescribed set was an hour and fifteen minutes, 20 minutes warm up, 35 minutes of 3 minutes hard, 2 minutes recovery, 20 minutes warm down. I figured about 8 miles would cover it assuming nine minute miles.

I potted a 8ish mile course
The results: Actual distance 7.75 miles in 1:07. I came within .25 miles of my goal (about 1:40 minutes at 9 minute miles) but came in 8 minutes under - because the reality was 8:35 average pace, which included walk breaks. This isn't a big deal really, I mean what's 8 minutes (about a mile ;) Except I'm consistently under, and what's worse is that because I keep needing to come up with new courses occasionally I'm getting lost, the other day I missed the goal time by almost 20%. I'm struggling with it, I will figure it out, but it's my concern of the week :)

So I get it, the time based thing has it's benefits. This is even more clear on a bicycle where environment can really wreak havoc. Try peddling into the wind for 10 miles one day and compare it to the same distance on the way back. I don't really have a problem with it, I'm just struggling with the logistics of it. In the end I suppose I could hop on a treadmill or track and do it, but seriously, an hour on a 400 meter track would be like 30 laps. I'm pretty sure I'd be dizzy :) I really want a hybrid model - similar to car warranties. Today's run is 7 miles or 60 minutes, whichever comes first. I think it would give some sort of scope so if I was feeling junky I'd just do 60 minutes, but if I was feeling great I could push for the seven miles and be happy with that.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

February Training Notes

This month my totals look like this

Swim35,000 yards11 hours
Bike175 miles13:30 hours
Run45 miles6:40 hours

Things are going pretty well. There was a pretty challenging week about a week ago, and then this week the intensity went down and distance is going up. Also my schedule is switching up a little which I appreciate.

Swimming is going well. I've sort of moved up a lane which I've decided adds about 300 yards per workout. And the last time I went I did the "fast" lane workout. The coach is trying to push me out of my comfort zone, and it was effective. I was looking longingly at the next lane down (which normally I would find challenging) wishing I could have just 5 more seconds of rest :)

HUGE ramp up on miles and time on the bike. But it's going well. I did have a small repair incident. I got on two days ago and my cleat was clicking annoyingly. I mean it's been doing that since last summer, but that night it was super annoying. I was convinced I needed new cleats or pedals, or something. But I took the pedal apart, and basically did nothing with it, and put it back together...viola! No noisy clicks. Yay!

The running is going well, I have run into a small problem though and that is that timed running also has an associated distance. So let's say my schedule says to run 60 minutes. Two months ago that meant 6 miles, then I started throwing in some interval work, then 6 miles turned into 55 minutes. So I'm grappling with how to add small amounts of distance onto routes that are easy to follow and make sure I get back to work at the right time. So far this has been challenging. The other day I meant to run 60 minutes with 10 or 11 intervals. So I figured I needed about 7 miles. I got lost, cut the route short and ended up running about 6 miles ... in, can you guess it? 52 minutes. *sigh* That's about a mile of time...

This month's resolution was to stretch every day. After some reading about the benefits of stretching I mentally switched that to only stretching after workouts. So that meant one day a week I wouldn't do any. The reality of it is that I probably only did this about 60% of the time. I would say though that really this is about an infinite amount more stretching that I normally do. So while I wouldn't say I hit this goal, I did do better than normal. So we'll see, I'll try to stick with this, it has to be better to do it than not :)