Saturday, May 16, 2009

Seeing the value in using a power meter

Beth, take note!

Nick - beware. The geekiness of all this might make you lust for one of these things...

****

As mentioned before during last thursday's hill repeats, I finally saw one of the real values of using a power meter. Now, in no way am I suggesting the purchase of a four-figure gadget as a necessary training tool, but I am glad that I can finally find some value in it, rather than just my coach saying "Send me the data".

Right at the start of my first interval, I could feel the previous nights workout in my legs, and I knew right then it was going to be a tough workout (more so than usual) because of residual fatigue. The first three intervals were especially tough, but I felt better (although, I'm not sure I'd say "good") as the workout progressed. Without a PM, I would have chalked up my workout as one where I kinda wasn't feeling it, but pushed through just to finish the damn thing (to get me to the beer at the end!)

Below is the data over the past 5 hill repeat workouts. Note the following:

* The first 2 days were done in San Elijo, but there are too many lights on that hill, so I switched to Torrey Pines
* All Torrey repeats are done in the big ring
* The first 4 times I did this workout, I didn't do a hard bike workout the day before
* All are done seated, standing, or aero, and are mixed up throughout the workout for (mental and physical) variety
* Screenshot images of excel tables are freakin' sexy, and you know it


The data is showing:

* There is no discernable drop in power output, even though my legs were more fatigued than past workouts (this obviously is good for me since I will never have fresh legs during RAAM after day 1. Nick B - thanks for the comment in the last post - I had the same thoughts!).
* The work done (power output), wasn't at a higher cost (HR)
* Even though the times were a little bit longer during last weeks' interval versus prior ones, this doesn't necessarily mean that speed took a hit. I start my interval when my HR hits a specific point, rather than at a certain point on the hill (ie. the stop sign at the bottom). Because all I have a .5 mile downhill and flat to get my HR up from about 130bpm (recovery) to 165bpm, it takes a lot of hurt to get it, uh, up. However, I do always stop the interval at the same spot on the hill. Ideally, I would have the same start HR at the same start point for every interval, but I'll deal with the nuances that real life throws me!

Basically, all this means is that the data is objectively showing me that the workout went better than how I would thought it went had I evaluated it subjectively.

I realize that if I didn't have a PM, that I could probably check distance, HR and speed data, but that's just way too much work...

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Honeymoon is over

Ok, so the wildflower honeymoon/day dreaming/lala land phase is over. It took me a week and a half to get back in the swing of things (work, personal, diet, school), but I am back on a routine, and ready to deal with whatever CV throws my way (I hope!).

Over the past week, I had a hard 75 mile ride with some RAAM teammates, doing a modified TdC stage 8. Without going into details, it was a huge confidence builder ride! Sunday AM was weights (for the first time in about 9 months), later followed by a hard 75 minute hard tempo ride around fiesta. This hurt - a lot. When I was finished with the ride, I could barely walk, sit, move, bend over - anything! It had definitely been a long time since I just hunkered down in aero and hammered for this long. My sit bones and hips felt like they got beat the f up! Monday and Tuesday were easy days (thankfully), but wednesday greeted me with an 1:45 hour straight sesh on the trainer. No intervals, no bullshit - just steady state. Here I am sweating it out at the pad:


Thursday was more gnarly hill repeats up TP. For the first time ever, I realized the value of a power meter, and I will save the elaboration for another post.

This sunday, I have repeats up palomar mountain! Should be a "Fun"!

I am really looking forward to the next 5 weeks. As much as I enjoyed the balanced triathlon training for the last 4 months, I am looking forward to (hopefully) seeing some nice performance gains by switching over to single sport...

**
I want to share my favorite quote from wildflower, overhead from the campsite next to us:

"Carb up at night, carb out in the morning!"
**

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Compression Recommendations?

I can't believe I am writing this (on the wide open internets no less), but...

I was thinking about it yesterday, with all the cycling I will be doing in RAAM (apx. 375 HARD miles in less than 6 days), and with the minimal ability to recover properly (ie. sitting in a car, sleeping 5 hours, maybe, in a hotel room, eating fast food), I think I wanna get some compression pants for the race/event/week. (Holy run on sentence).

I know about all the non-conclusive studies, but everyone I talk to says they feel better the next day after them, and its a "risk" I am willing to take. (However, please don't be concerned that I would wear them in public like others do - maybe in the comfort of my own friends).

With that written, does anyone have any recommendations? So far, I have received nods for zoot or SLS3. I am willing to listen to "Save your money" recommendations too.

Hit me!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wildflower Thoughts

I accidentally published the in process version of this last week, so check the new stuff!
++++

Friends


The same as it ever was, hanging out with 25+ of my friends in a camping & racing setting was incredible. Even the rain that happened Friday afternoon was nice as it forced me to relax and just chill (take a nap!), and brought back good memories for fellow IMLP'ers Dan and Jeff. It also made it better for Saturday where everyone could sit around, hang out and chat about an amazing day. Big props to Marty and Pat for coming into town from Chicago, and Rhode Island, respectively. Even though Paul and Damian had some mechanical difficulties, bad races become good races such that you always learn from them (as was the case with me last year). It also appears that Nick Brown and I may have sparked a little friendly competition, and I am looking forward to throwing down in the future.

My Damn Foot

Remember when I said my right foot hurt when I screwed up my bike mount? When I showered later that day, I looked at the bottom of my foot and found this:


Look a little like I stepped on my big chain ring during the bike mount melee? EESH!

Light on my damn feet


After suffering through the run course during recon, I realized that we needed to make some changes to the next few weeks of training. I briefly considered purchasing race flats, but thought they were too expensive (this was before I just bought a new bike - ha!), and worried that changing shoes shortly before a race might screw something up.

After discussions with Marty and Coach, I made a few tweaks to my diet
, and ended up losing a whopping 7 pounds in April to bring me down to my lightest weight in 10+ years . Yes, they were tweaks, legal (regardless of what Nick says) and hardly rocket science. I am actually in the process of writing a 6 part series on nutrition for endurance athletes for amateurendurance.com, where I touch upon a few things I did. The articles should be ready in the next few weeks, and are intended to be quite comprehensive (and debatable for some of you, I am sure).

Nutrition

For the first time I think EVER, I absolutely nailed my nutrition (except for the swim, when I took in a gulp or two!). I can't say enough about Infinit
. Actually, that's a lie. There really isn't much to say other than - it just works. Plain and simple.

Good Company


Shortly after I met Michelle, I told her "You need to come up to Wildflower", and I am glad she took my advice! It took me until my 3rd season to finally experience it, and I insisted that she come and join the fun - especially since she is new to the sport. I swear, experiencing wildflower should be about as mandatory as owning running shoes (and I bet she'd agree). Not to mention that in nearly exactly a year from now, she will be doing one very hilly triathlon that is Ironman St. George! Hill training starts NOW!


She made for a most excellent co-pilot to and fro, with a well strategized detour to Four Vines in Paso for a little wine tasting on our way up. I'll let the descriptions of the wine glasses tell it all...


Speaking of wine

HUGE props to Nikee for stopping by some yet-to-be-met relatives of mine and getting me a a kick ass gift...


As if the name of the winery isn't great enough, check the name of the wine!


Coach



I can't begin to describe how big having Chuckie as a coach has been for me this year. When I first asked him to coach me for RAAM, I figured I had all the time in the world to do this. Then I made things twice as hard for him a few months later when I told him that I was going to school, and would be in class every other Saturday, and also that I wanted to do Wildflower as well.

Unfortunately, the best I could do is about 10-12 hours/week - minimal by his standards. Yet, somehow, on this minimal training, and with most of my "running" being jogs (ie. at a much lower HR than you probably do your long runs at), I was able to take over 20 minutes off my previous half marathon time - stand alone or in a half ironman. Hell, I can honestly say that it was probably the most enjoyable run I have ever done. He even said himself that I might be the perfect 10-15 hour/week athlete.

People say "The key to a strong run is to have a strong bike". I used to halfway agree with that. The other half, I believed, was to be a strong runner in the first place. Well, either am I a strong runner, or I don't know what I am talking about (probably the latter!), but it's obvious that what "they" say, is correct. I still can't get over how fresh I felt getting off the bike. I definitely know that a lot had to do with these gnarly hill repeats Chuckie has had me do over the past month. Holding nearly or exactly 300W week after week, hill after hill after hill after hill after hill definitely paid dividends on race day.

All I gotta say is:

"4:51 on 10-12 hours a week? It's gotta be the coach!"

HOWEVER - he did get my mind wandering when he mentioned "I still think you need to do another Ironman"...

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

2009 Wildflower Long Course Race Report

I tried to keep it relatively short, but you know how that works :) This is just the RR, but I have plenty of thoughts I will dive into in my next post so reading it doesn't take as long as it did for me to do the race!

*****

The gun went off, and it was the usual chaotic swim start. We made the turn at the first buoy, and I had my obligatory goggle leak issues. Nothing to bad, but enough to annoy me, make me get vertical, and drain them. This lit a (waterproof) fire under me, and I finally hit my groove by about the quarter/third way point. I looked up once to make sure I was swimming straight, and realized I was in no man's land: not fast enough for the lead group, but ahead of "the pack". This turned out to be a recurring theme in the race.

The rest of the swim was the usual "get me out of here ASAP". As I surfaced, the swim exit was as glorious as ever. The confusion of a gurgly 30 minute horizontal, bilateral breathing exercise taken over immediately by hundreds of screaming people, transitioning to a vertical stance, and trying to run has always been one of my favorite parts of racing. I took my wetsuit off at the waters edge, charged the hill with a heart rate that rivals a boiling kettles temperature...


Swim: 30:36; 23/178 AG, 197/1883 OA

... and was ready to start my favorite part of the race with my new secret weapon:

The wheels aren't mine, but the new bike is. The boys at Trek made me an offer I couldn't refuse on the P2 a few weeks ago, and I could care less that this was going to be my second ride on "butter" (Yes, that is my bikes name because it is that smooth). Nothing new on race day? Whatever!

As I left transition, I quickly became that guy that didn't know what he was doing getting on a bike. Normally I can nail the landing onto the steed with shoes already on the pedals, but I didn't have it on race day. Cranks and shoes were spinning too much, and finally, a shoe clipped out by itself. After remounting the bike and getting situated, I realized that the bottom of my right foot was in some pain, and immediately hoped that it wouldn't come back to haunt me on the run.

The first 8 miles of the bike were spent with tight and uncomfortable lower back, glute and IT band muscles. I couldn't help but think that I should have stretched more and got more massages during training, but there was nothing I could do at this point. I made the right turn in lockwood to start mile 12-ish, and knew that it was time to throw down. Doing recon the previous month was huge since I knew that I could expect my average speed to creep up at least 2MPH between now and the bottom of nasty grade.

In the days leading up to the race, I thought my mantra on the bike was going to be "Triathlon is swimbikerun. Hold back a little on the bike so you don't suffer through the run". However, the new mantra was "Get Aero". "Get Aero" wasn't just keep the hands off the bars and stay in the aero, but get in and stay as aero as possible - full on tuck, head low, pedal hard. By about mile 15, I start seeing other cyclists, and passed them with ease until about mile 25 until I was pretty much by myself. Some dude ended up passing me and we played leapfrog until I dropped him at mile 33. As I hit mile 35, I was still reeling people in and shooting them out the back, and then I hit nasty grade. As Chuckie would say: "the same as it ever was" - if someone was ahead of me, I insisted on overtaking them. As I crested, I gave the energizer bunny a taste of his own medicine, and smacked his drum (literally).

As I took my second caffeinated gel at the top, I noticed "the suck" hadn't hit me yet. When I did this course last year, I noted that the bike course (really) sucks between mile 43 and the finish. Plenty of hills, nothing you can get in a groove on, and the general fatigue that was in the legs. I noted the same thing when I rode the course on Saturday the month previous, and the same thing the next day when I rode it again. I was pretty energized that the suck didn't hit me yet, and continued on. Nearing the last aid station at mile 49, I flew by about 6 cyclists with a ferocity and intent to make them realize they probably pushed the pace to hard early on, and they were paying for it now. Words from Chuckie were in my head - "Inflict pain on yourself in training, so you can inflict it on others in racing". I didn't care if they weren't in my AG or not - racing is war.

As I entered the park, I realized the suck still hadn't hit me. As I neared the cones before lynch hill, I got some screams of support from Michelle and Garuna.


As I descended lynch hill, I now came to realize that the suck did not hit me, and I was CHARGED UP. I screamed "Let's [expletive] do this!" shortly before dismounting the bike significantly more successfully than how I mounted.

Bike: 2:41:40 (20.78MPH avg); 13/178 AG, 68/1883 OA

My first few steps in running shoes amazed me. I have never felt more fresh coming off the bike. I literally felt like I just did a 30 minute easy spin up and down the PCH. My strategy going into the run was to warm up in the first 5 miles, stay strong and steady from 5-9, and then give it all I had from 9 on. That plan went out the window immediately as I fell into a very comfortable pace before I even left transition. I was amazed, but knew there was plenty of work to be had.

As the run went on, I continued to feel good, and sip on my infinit elixir. One thing I was very happy about is that I passed more people on the downhills than I did anywhere else. I owe a big thanks to Chuckie and Jesse (one of Chuckie's Athletes that I met last month) who mentioned being able to run downhills hard and fast will set you up nicely.

Coming towards the top of the hill of the TNT section...


Coming out of the trails, I saw Chuckie at mile 9 as he was staring off into space waiting for heather, and I said "Hey, you should pay attention because one of your athletes' is passing you". It was obvious that I took him by surprise, since the tone of his voice was of the "holy shit, why are you here so early?" variety. He continued to yell at me as I charged the hill. It wasn't just seeing him that was motivational, but hearing him as well.

I charged the downhill, hollered at Nick who was running with a pro, and charged the uphill. I gritted my teeth and pushed it until the very end, where I saw the finish chute clock that looked way wrong.

Run: 1:34:22 (7:12min/mile Avg Pace); 12/178 AG, 66/1883 OA

5:00:32? Something must have gone haywire. Come to find out, they reset it during the womens' elite wave, and I ended up with a 4:51:06. 3 days later, it still hasn't hit me on how I did it. I was expecting like 5:15. But finishing 24 minutes ahead of schedule with a 1:34 run on a very tough course? Really? I thought I was training for a bike race! This was way beyond what I thought I was capable of, even if the weather conditions were optimal.

Total: 4:51:06; 16/178 AG, 68/1883 OA

Live it! Love it!

Stay tuned for more soon...