Sunday, December 28, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone.

I just got back from visiting family in El Paso. The weather was really nice there compared to the cold, wet weather I missed in Phoenix. Good stuff. I've really turned into enjoy the Phoenix winter. In El Paso, I was able to get in a couple of rides, runs and strength/core workouts. I really wanted to hook up with some of El Paso's groups, but holiday training schedules and our travel schedule did jive.

After 450 miles in the car yesterday driving home, I hopped in the pool for 3000m of swimming followed by about an hour of strength/core work. It felt really good to get my body moving. I've really grown to like my neighborhood pool. It is one of those combo lap lane/play pools with two roped-off swim lanes. It is a slow, 25m pool, but the convenience and temperature make it a winner. I never have to wait for a lane, it is always open, it is outdoors and the heaters make swimming in any weather manageable. My other swimming option is just down the street from work. It too is outdoors, is heated and has a Masters group option. They just put in new heaters in the "work" pool, so it'll be nice all winter.

I am recovering from our El Paso trip today, but am about to head out for a MTB ride and then a run. Tomorrow I will get in a longer road ride, a swim and hit my strength/core program again. I am already seeing progress with my strength program in the form of being able to do more reps and more weight. Instead of one medium cord, I am using one light cord + one medium cord. Instead of 3x12 reps, I am able to do 3x14 reps of most things.

In just two weeks the AZ MTB race season starts. I will be doing all of the races except where there is a conflict with Xterra. I am excited to get out there and put in some quality suffering.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

First Endurance - A New Sponsor

I've been using First Endurance products for about one year now with great success. I started with Optygen HP. This supplement claims to do everything from increasing endurance to reducing lactic acid. I don't have a team of scientists looking over my training and administering my nutrition, but what I can say are these two things, 1) I achieved my highest power outputs over all durations when I used Optygen HP as suggested and 2) I was able to train with significantly more intensity and recover more quickly when I used Optygen HP as suggested. So, I say the stuff works and I will continue to use it. Next, I began using MultiV vitamin on a daily basis. Again, as with all of their products, First Endurance claims numerous performance enhancing benefits and supports the claims with fairly detailed and robust research. While I know there are numerous factors that go into getting and staying fit, the MultiV seemed to aide in keeping healthy and recovering quickly from high intensity and volume. Another win in my book.

Now, First Endurance is a new sponsor! I take sponsorship from the perspective of partnership. I am not a full time athlete and would still compete irrespective of outside support, so I only seek sponsorship from those companies whose business practices and products I have successfully used and I have had an exceptional experience with. I understand and appreciate the challenges that all businesses face related to maintaining and growing their market share and I truly want to make their commitment to me worth their while. Thank you First Endurance for your support. I will endorse and happily use your products as I feel they aide my success.

I have now branched out into other First Endurance's product lines including their Ultragen recovery mix, EFS Liquid Shot and EFS Sports Drink. While I haven't cracked open Ultragen yet, I have used the EFS products successfully on numerous types of workouts and have had both the proper energy and no digestion issues. Good stuff.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Week 2 Almost Done & Sore Legs

I really like my training plan so far. It is a nice mix of group bike rides, lots of short runs, a couple of swims and strength training. A nice, fun balance. I am really liking the bike. I know I need to focus on it, but I am not even really concerned with tri-specific stuff in the least right now. I am riding for fun, which is fun. I am following my plan, for the most part, but for the first time since I've been structured, I find myself easily exceeding my plan instead of doing the minimum/prescribed amount. I am not riding a lot in the first place, but I've been given the bandwidth to pretty much do what I want intensity wise. Last year, my intensity boundaries basically kept me riding on my own all the time. Not a fun or motivating atmosphere. There are plenty of fast guys and groups to hook up with and I am trying to take advantage of it. My lack of form makes it tough to hang on, but it'll come around.

I am running 5 days a week. Not a lot of volume, but consistent. My instructions most of the time are to JFR (Just Freaking Run). My last two 40min runs felt pretty good. I am not even concerned with speed in the least....JFR. I have some plantar faciatis in my left foot that I need to start looking after, but massage and stretching will sort it out soon.

Swims are the least of my concerns right now. Maintenance is the focus. I will be hooking up with Bill Daniell for some lessons soon. He was first overall out of the water in two Ironmans this year. He swims like 47min or something sick like that. My plan is to get a couple of sessions now, a couple in a couple months and then another set mid season. I want to see how fast I can get on pure form. Lots of free speed to be had.

I can already tell my strength training program is going to produce results. I previously said I was going to do a plan from Hagerman’s “Strength Training for Triathletes” book….but instead I am/will do a Coach Grasky Special. Grasky basically took the best of what’s out there and distilled it down to the best-of-the-best. Plus, I can do it all at home in about 40min. Sweet. I could barely function during the Friday morning group ride due to really sore hip/butt muscles from the strength program. Yeeeooouch.

Monday, December 08, 2008

D2D Race Report & Strength Training

The Dawn to Dusk 10hr MTB race was a blast.  Our Focus Cyclery, 4-man team took 2nd place on the day by completing 10x16 miles laps in roughly 9hrs 30min.  I was the slow guy on the team, which sucked, but fortunately my speediness didn't keep our team from winning.  Phew.  Big props to Lane, Travis and Dan, my teammates, for pushing hard and picking up the slack!  Our first two guys, Lane and Travis, did 3 laps each while Dan and I did 2 laps each.  For context, my teammates turned laps in the 54min - 57min range while I turned in 2x1:01 laps.  For only my 2nd day of riding with any intensity in the last month, I'll take it.  My lungs were searing from start to finish because of the effort and my cold, but the goal for the day was to have fun and I definitely did.  
One of my early season objectives is to really focus on the bike and nothing gets the body and, even more importantly, the mind ready like sport-specific racing.  I never, ever go as hard on the MTB portion of an Xterra as I did during this race.  There's no excuse why I shouldn't go just as hard in an Xterra.  It's not a matter of needing to pace during an Xterra to save energy for the run, it's simply a matter of me not pushing hard enough.  I am working on it now though!  Good things to come.
I want to send a shout-out to Coach Grasky for his fantastic solo effort at the race.  He did 128 miles on a mountain bike in one sitting over 9hrs.  Wow.  I can't imagine.  Great work! 
I started a formal strength training program today.  It is modeled after Patrick Hagerman's book, Strength Training for Triathletes.  I am focused on spending roughly 3-4hrs/week on strength for 12 weeks.  This does include flexibility and core work.  I anticipate having to slim this down a bit as my training hours ramp up.  Only so many hours in a day.           

Friday, December 05, 2008

Swim Test Update

**read below entry for full update**
Slow as suspected in the water this morning.  Since the last time I did the same exact 3x300 test 2mths ago, I am 8% slower.  Seeing as I've swam only 6k in the last month, I'm not suprised nor am I unconfident that my times will easily come down fast.  I have some abitious swim goals this year and althought I'm not doing any big swim blocks for a while, I confident that a significant focus on form and engine development form heavy bike and run will get me fast and on track to do well.  I've been consdering opening up my training stats and some details to the public.  It's not like my competition would use the info to race me differently.  So what if someone knows my bike ftp is, say 315 watts?  If you're there or beyond, good for you.  Not like you couldn't figure out where you stacked up by looking at race results anyhow. 

First Swim Test of the New Triathlon Season

My standard swim test is 3x300 and I get to do the first one of the season today, as soon as I finish this cup of coffee here. I get nervous about tests for some reason, probably b/c it's pretty black and white as to exactly where my fitness is for the sport being tested. I did peek at my watch the other day in the pool and I was pretty slow. It really doesn't matter, at all, how fast (or slow) I am today on Dec-5 when my first serious race of the year isn't for another 5mths. So, I will do the test and probably say "DOH!!" and then simply laugh, get out of the water and get into a warm shower.

I still have this cold hanging around, but I still don't feel all that bad. I am listening to it carefully and it should be just fine for Saturday's MTB race. I will likely only do 2, 1hr laps....not too taxing, although they will be all-out efforts course. Just like today's swim test is about to prove and like Wednesday's group road ride proved, my fitness is going to take a little time to return after my month-long, post-season hibernation, so I am not expecting to set any course records. Actually, I will probably be the slowest guy on my team.

Coach Grasky and one of my riding buds Clint Hosman are both doing the thing solo. 10hrs +/- on a MTB doesn't really sound that fun! I'll be content with nice long trainer warm-ups, a couple of fast-ish laps, nice long trainer cool-downs, lounging around in my Zoot compression pants and soaking in the 75 degree, sunny weather. Oh...and...maybe having a beer in there somewhere. The Focus Cyclery trailer has been outfitted with a couple of beer taps and will be stocked with Four Peaks Brewery kegs. Nice.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Day 1 of a New Triathlon Season

I am officially back at it as of today. Nothing major. An hour in the water and 40min of easy running. It feels good. In years past it seemed to be a big deal, but not this year. I think this feeling is positive. There is nothing to stress about and only good things to come. I've gotten out of the swing of training, but my routine will be fixed soon. I am getting about a 3wk later start at the season compared to last year....due to doing Xterra Worlds this year vs. not having done it last year.

I will be doing more group rides on the bike starting with tomorrow morning at 5am. Which reminds about how important the little things are like going to bed early in like...oops...5 minutes, get coffee and clothes ready the night before etc etc.

I am a little surprised how my fitness feels to have fallen off quite a bit over the last month, but I know it will come back. A couple weeks ago I was in the best tri-shape ever, so a drop should be expected. Good news is that my shoulder is feeling better. I still feel it, but it isn't a problem in the water as long as I don't yank on it and I haven't put it through anything close to a masters practice.

I am nursing a cold I picked up over the holiday weekend, but the symptoms aren't all that bad apart from keeping me awake all night last night. I expect to be better for the weekend's MTB race, Dawn to Dusk, where I will race the ~10hr race as a quad team. With 16 mile laps, pretty flat terrain and roughly 3hrs between efforts, I should be fine. I did the race last year as a duo in some of the worst weather ever, so I am looking forward to having a much different experience this year.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Options Define the Season

For many triathletes, this time of year presents a mixed bag of options.  There is an inevitable combination of returning to a more “normal” pattern of life, some exercise and time spent planning for 2009. 


I really want to focus on the options surrounding 2009 planning, but as I write this, I question why so many think the off-season is the time to resort back to a normal way of life.  I feel more lost now, in the off season, than ever.  My current pattern, that includes not sleeping well, is not normal.  Not watching my diet is not normal.  Not training regularly on a schedule is not normal.  Not holding myself accountable for the demands of training is not normal.  My life right now is not normal. 


What is off-season anyways?  When does it start?  What exactly does it constitute?  I think there needs to be a re-definition of the term…or perhaps a new term created altogether.  I don’t really ever feel “off” as I always feel like a triathlete.  I prefer it.  So, for now, I’m going with a new term to define my status as a triathlete:  I am in “seasonal transition”….


Seasonal – describes the time period between seasons, a period that I am clearly in

Transition – describes the action of passing from one place to another, an action that I am clearly, ever so impatiently doing


Let it be known that a) my normal life is the one I lead as a triathlete and b) until further notice from my coach, I am in the seasonal transition phase.


…oh yeah…the discussion on 2009 planning…I’ll save that for later.  


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Saturday, November 22, 2008

I'm Officially Off for the Season

It took a while to get into the mode of off-season...but I've arrived. I've stayed up late, ate bad food on numerous, back-to-back occasions, had plenty of -0- workout days, done a 10-min ride just to turn around b/c I "didn't feel like riding".....the list goes on. I've arrived. It's good to be here. We all have to get "here" so that we can successfully "there"....

In addition to these uncharacteristic activities, I've been riding for fun with no agenda, running for fun with no agenda, not swimming at all, doing some core/strength/flexibility stuff, and turbo hiking with my wife. Mandy is training for a 1/2 marathon and her motor is getting nicely tuned, so there is nothing leisurely about our hikes...they are "turbo." On swimming, while body surfing in Maui post-Xterra Worlds, the oh-so-powerful ocean smashed me shoulder first into the beach. Sprained it. What better time to get it back to 100% than right now.

Over the next couple of weeks I'll be diving into some more formal strength training, training in general and really start setting up the fun stuff....goals and the plan to achieve them.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Hard to Let Go

I am finding it very hard to let go of the 2008 Xterra season. I put everything into it and didn't end on a high note. I want a mulligan, a re-do, another shot...but, I have to wait for an entire year. Apart from the feeling, the mental side of things, it is hard to let off the pedal on my fitness.

I have to give my mind a break from both the intensity and focus needed to be successful and from on-calendar weeks training in 2008.

The triathlon press is definitely NOT short of articles and recommendations on what to during the off-season. One recommendation is to spend time on other interests....well....I think my "other interests" don't stray to far from swimming, biking and running. No....I'm not shallow, am I? Another thing about me is that I love routine and needless to say my routine is jacked.

I need to be shaken.

Understanding all of these recovery-related off season things, I have been doing what I can to unplug.

I been swim/bike/running barely and kicked off a strength/core/flexibility program modeled by the Core Performance folks. This program will evolve a bit of the upcoming weeks, but it's a good start.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Xterra Worlds Quick Race Report

The race didn't go as planned. Tough to say, but I got 12th in my age group. Ouch. 3hrs 20mins. My goal was 3hrs flat (or better).

Swim was good. 22:05....that was about it. From peddle stroke one, I didn't have any mojo on the bike. The only place I passed people was on the descents. Other than that, I was the one getting passed. It sucked. The run was a formality I suppose, although I pushed to the end. 7:54 miles. What's that about? The course was tough. The season is done. I am in Hawaii for the rest of the week with my family....and stoked about it.

I had a great season and this tough result won't ruin it.

Major props to James Walsh...I won't steal his thunder. Read about it here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Peak Mind - Peak Body

I am ready to race. My mind is calm, focused and confident. My body is rested and full of potential energy. I am ready to race.

Today I had an easy 2k swim with a little, short intensity and an easy 30min trail run. Tomorrow I have a 40min MTB/20min run brick, both with a couple of short, race pace pickups. Friday is a travel day with an easy, afternoon swim at the race course. Saturday will be a little of each sport at the race course. Sunday = show time.

I will be wearing Zoot's new CompressRx tights and short sleeved shirt for most of the travel. I've been a fan of compression gear all season and this is by far the best. I wish I could have all Zoot's CompressRx gear because it flat out works.

All my gear is ready roll.

What else is there to say?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cannondale Scalpel for Xterra Worlds

Once again the crew at Focus Cyclery has come up big!
The Xterra Worlds bike course is rocky, real rocky. To climb faster over rocky terrain, descend faster over rocky terrain and to be more fresh for the run, a full suspension bike would be an optimal solution, for me. One problem, I only have a hardtail. It's a very nice, 19lb Cannondale Taurine, but not the right tool for the job. Here is the Taurine looking pretty on one of my favorite trails here in NE Mesa, AZ.

This is where Focus Cyclery comes in....they hooked me up with this, a new, full XTR 2008 Cannondale Scalpel...SWEET!

I've personalized it a bit with some neon green ESI Grips, Stan's ZTR Race wheels and Maxxis Larsen TT tubeless tires. I've been riding the bike now for over a week with two really solid workouts on some very Maui-like terrain. Wow. The bike is great. I was concerned about loosing some climbing pace not using my hardtail, but totally not the case. The Scalpel has made me faster all-around over very rocky terrain. Goodie. The new bike has tons of variability with both front and rear shocks to dial in the perfect speed-to-handling ratio. I found the sweet spot today.

On a workout note, for the most part, the hard stuff is done. Let me say it another way, 11mths of focused working out is done. All that remains is to rest up and to then go nuts and leave it all on the course next Sunday. Being "done" is pretty motivating in and of itself. I feel extremely well prepared.

Swim - I did 6x300s and 6x100s earlier in the week...fastest splits ever for both distances.

Bike - I did 2x30min race pace efforts up a gnarly, rocky climb today...set a :30 PR on the first one and held the second one within 1:00 of the first. So, pace and endurance are where they need to be. (The PR I broke today had been set last week where I took 3:30 off of my pre-Tahoe/Xterra USA Championships PR).

Run - I hit the track for some 400s earlier in the week and was easily able to hit my target pace, a pace that took everything I had only a couple of weeks ago. Also in recent brick runs, I have been able to engage race-pace running speed much more quickly (unlike at Tahoe/Xterra USA Championships).

All systems GO.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Peak Workouts Gearing Up for Worlds

Not much time left until the big show. At first, I thought having Nationals and Worlds so close together was going tough on a number a levels. However, I am finding the alternate for two reasons...1) My body and mind are in full on race mode. Nothing gets both ready to race big like a big race and 2) I have a great coach. I have complete confidence in my plan and my about a mental load off and an enormous confidence boost!

To highlight both, over the weekend Coach Grasky was in Phoenix to get himself back into race-mode by doing some mountain bike and cyclocross racing. Although I didn't do the races with him even though they sounded like fun, after the races, I was sharing with him how I felt kind of crappy during a super tough mtb workout with 4.5k+ ft of climbing with 3x30min race pace intervals. He actually laughed at me and said that a) my fitness was/is "there" and b) I am pushing myself harder than I have all season because of my "big race mode" mentality, so the intervals will naturally feel harder. Yeah...nice positive talk, but I want to hard numbers/data. I looked back and he was right...the same interval took me 3.5min longer only a couple of weeks ago. Ok, he was right!

Training is tough to classify without spelling out each workout. What I can easily say is that volume has come way down, intensity is race pace or greater and after this Saturday I will be in full on taper mode. Rest is my best friend and I am stoked to see what I am capable of with it.

Hard to believe that the season, all this crazy hard work, is almost over. The best part about it is that the end is most exciting part with Worlds....and....I am super ready to crush it. Gives me chills even thinking about it.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Xterra USA Championship Race Report

2nd place 25-29 age group

8th place overall amateur

17min 43sec faster than 2007

I am satisfied with my year-over-year improvement. However, I didn't put a complete race together....definitely not down on myself....but certainly more fuel for the fire to keep me going until the Xterra World Championships in a couple of weeks. I am extremely motivated to get the most out of training between now and then and to work on a couple of deficiencies. I will not leave fitness on the table. No mas.

Modeling after my travel schedule from the Xterra Mountain Championship, we flew into Reno on Saturday, the day before the race, to limit my time at altitude. After grabbing lunch at Whole Foods and stocking up on some essentials to eat quality home cooked meals, we cruised up and over the mountains to Incline Village just in time to get my packet. #111. Nice. It was cold and wet and the Lake looked quite rough. Not exactly perfect triathlon weather.

Race morning was a little better. No rain and the water was calm. After setting up shop in transition, we headed to Starbucks and then back to the condo to stay warm and out of the pre-race buzz as long as possible. About 1hr before race time, I headed back to the venue to start my warm-up. After finalizing transition I headed out on my bike for about 15min. My legs felt great although I definitely felt the altitude. Nature of the Tahoe beast. Game face on, I suited up in my new buddy that I spent the past two week , my Zoot Zenith, and headed to 1/4+ miles down to the lake. In route, I positioned my running shoes just off the beach so I could comfortably and quickly run back to transition post-swim. I love swimming in Lake Tahoe and was really looking forward to having an exceptional swim as my training would suggest. After a 10ish minute warm-up in the water, I was feeling great and was ready to rock.

Boom! At the gun, unlike other races, I ran in the water for quite a while and then porpoised some prior to settling into my stroke. Wow. What a difference this made. Much less spastic of a start. Somewhere between the start and the 1st buoy I forgot that I had to work hard to swim fast. I lost a bunch of time and it took until the 2nd lap of the 1500m course to find my groove. Once I did, I felt great and swam pretty fast, I think. Looking at my was well below my target. Regardless, exiting the water and making the run to T1 was enough time to get my head ready for the bike.

T1 was a bit more complicated than normal this time around and it all had to do with staying warm. The additions to my normal set-up were 1) socks, 2) toe covers (already installed), 3) a jacket and 4) full finger gloves. I practiced plenty with these things, but it still made T1 complicated. Finally on the bike I knew I had some work to do.

On the road leading up to the first climb, Cody Waite came screaming by me. What better way to get into the bike than to hammer along with Cody, so I stuck with him as long as I could. With my legs and head now warmed up, I found a really solid cadence and began picking people off. I felt good and worked my way up into 3rd overall amateur and had a head full of steam....then....the trail flattened out and my head fell out of the game. Major bummer. I gave up some ground on the Flume Trail and the stretch around Marlette Lake. Not a fitness thing at all. I had worked specifically on keeping the power going on terrain like this leading up to the race, but didn't put it together. Finally at the top of the course, it was time to bomb the descent. I definitely went faster than in years past, but could have used a full suspension and would have benefited from pre-riding.

Let's run. It took too long for me to get into to my stride...about 1.75 miles. It took Branden Rakita (finished 5th overall - Pro) to blast by me/lap me to get me moving. I stuck on his heels for the remainder of the 1st lap and then kept the pace going for the final 3 miles. I averaged 6:28 miles, but really needed to get rolling much more quickly and flat out just push harder.

Two words: Turbo Maui

Monday, September 29, 2008

Triathlon Race Simulations

Nothing gets me ready for a race like a race simulation. No duh, right? As much as I don't like to drive the 2:30min round trip to Bartlett Lake in Cave Creek, AZ, the location is ideal for Xterra triathlon race simulations. The Xterra race courses this time of year are pretty a 2-lap, 1500m lake swim, go uphill on a bike for 3,000ft and then run a 10k as fast as the trail permits.

At Bartlett, the climb is a road bike climb which was all the better as I could use my Power Tap, capture some good data and get the right feel for the right watts. "Right watts???" Yes, "right watts"....race adrenaline will naturally enable me (and you) to push beyond the norm, but I need to be able to keep this pace going for the duration which requires some checks and balances. I've got the "feel" dialed.

Beyond the obvious fitness benefits to performing race simulations, I reap large mental gains when doing these workouts. Visualization is a necessary and great tool, but re-creating the physical demands and figuring out how to keep putting the watts down on the bike when I am mid-way through a climb and suffering like a dog is a whole different animal. The good news is that, as always, once I submit to the treatment, I emerge a stronger and faster triathlete.

I knocked out two really tough simulations this past weekend. Both included my standard pre-race warm-ups (20min bike/10-12min swim) followed by a 1500m open water/wetsuit swim, 2.5hrs of riding where 1hr was race pace and all out, slightly shorter than race distance, runs. You will notice the heavier weight on the bike and the lighter weight on the run. Bottom line, comparatively I am a better runner and need to squeeze every bit of riding gains from my training.

The rest of the week is all about Xterra Nationals at Lake Tahoe. I am doing a partial taper for this race as to not jeopardize to greatly my training for Worlds in just 4wks. Bring it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

All Hail the Triathlete's Wetsuit

Not really. I don't like swimming in a wetsuit even if it makes me :07/100m faster. This year of racing has actually worked out pretty well in favor of my distaste. Kind of ironic, but the only two races that I wore a wetsuit in were both in Arizona...yeah the state where it is over 100 degrees right now as we talk.

Why the fuss? Well, Xterra Nationals at Lake Tahoe is next weekend and it is requires a wetsuit. For today's swim and for pretty much every swim between now and Tahoe, I will for some % of each workout be in my wetsuit. Don't get me wrong, my Zoot Zenith is very nice and was the best one for me when I spent hours trying tons of them on months ago at Trisports' endless pool.

I wore my Zenith for about 2000m today. At first, I felt like I could barely move. Once through some basic warm up sets and drills, the suit started to feel better/I started getting more use to it. The only saving grace for the wetsuit today was that it helped me post my fastest 100m splits ever. Yes, I know a wetsuit inherently is faster, but I am not sure I have actually swam enough in a suit to really take advantage of it. Whatever the "speed" case is, come Tahoe, I will not be surprised by how the suit feels or by how the suit impacts my stroke.

One thing I will look forward to over the next number of days in the pool will be the wonderful sensation of taking the suit off and hopping back into the pool for some more laps. Wow. Talk about turbo arm speed and unreal range of motion! You know the feeling of wearing those ankle weights for a while and then taking them off? Same deal here. The great liberating feeling aside, I swam significantly slower (:07 sec/100m) without the suit on. However, I did set new, non-wetsuit PRs on some 50s later in the set. Yee-haw.

I will take the suit out to Saguaro Lake this weekend for some 1500m TT action. Basically, I will swim the AZ Xtreme Xterra course.

Off for a mellow trail run.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Rest; A Triathletes Best Friend

The Xterra triathlon season is long and hard. Now, with Nationals and Worlds on the line, is not the time to compromise training. The length and intensity of the season is no excuse. If anything, this is the time to bring-it with a greater level of focus, grit and power than at any other time.

So, here is exactly where I am at with my season. I am tired. Not exhausted. Not over trained. Not unmotivated. Not unable to complete extremely challenging workouts. Just's OK. I've been hitting it hard for the better part of 10 months with the next 6 weeks in mind. I am getting faster. I've broken out of a plateau on my swim. My form, speed and focus are good in the water. Open water has become my partner in crime. I've never produced more watts on the bike over any duration or terrain - short, middle, long distance - hills, rollers, flats - road bike, mountain bike. I relish the thought of racing up to the top of Lake Tahoe. I've never run faster as a triathlete. My ability to transition into the run post-bike is becoming second nature. My track workouts are paying off with higher top end speed and the confidence to run hard and fast.

Tired, fast and focused. Weird combo? Not sure. All I do know is that it only works with a focus on getting quality rest and eating quality food. Rest I break down into going to bed early, taking naps when possible and scheduling workouts so that I am as fresh as possible for key workouts. The workout jiggering are the responsibility of Coach Brian Grasky of Grasky Endurance who, by the way, is so totally to thank for...well...much of the good stuff to come. On the eating end of things, it is pretty simple. Eat a lot of good food. Sounds simple, right? Maybe I will share a food diary of what I eat one of these days.

Tahoe is two weeks away. I am eager to keep up the good work between now and then. Today, I hit Mt Lemmon in favorite climb. For the first 14 miles of the climb I focused on maintaining a high tempo wattage. From miles 14 to 26, where there are some "rollers" from 6,000ft elevation to 8,500ft elevation, I pushed the uphills at a LT+ wattage. Good stuff to get this type of work at altitude. Totaled about 4hrs of riding and around 6,500ft of climbing. Tomorrow, I have some 8min mtb intervals followed by a transition run where I am basically going to go as fast as I can for as long as I can.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Satisifed With Managing Life and Triathlon

When life gets very busy, outside of triathlon, maintaining forward and positive training becomes paramount. This time of year when training matters most (Xterra Nationals and Worlds on the horizon), it is not good enough to simple get through a workout, but to seek quality and flat out make big gains. Just as I have been training my body all season, I have also been training my mind to deal with not only managing triathlon related things like pushing through a hard workout or focusing when it really counts during a race, but dealing with how to get dialed-in to do what it takes when it comes to training, irrespective of what is going on at work.

As I sit here reflecting on the past couple of weeks, I have to say I am satisfied with my forward progress with training....actually, I haven't sacrificed a single thing amidst a very busy work schedule. I am right on track with where I should be and a continuing to push the envelope on every area of training. Sweet.

On the swim I hit a bit of a plateau, but I am actively employing a strategy to push through. When training gets "easy" and times stop coming down...its is time to change it up. The goal of my new plan, which is one week in, should buy me another minute, or so, on race day. It matters and I'll take it.

On the bike, I wrapped up the 6hr/long ride stuff two weekends back and have been really working on very specific areas where I was deficient on at Ogden. I love it...some things are so very easy to remedy, while others are more difficult. In particular, while keeping my vertical training assault on full bore, I've been working both on the road and on the MTB with maintaining power over rolling terrain. Get it. Got it. Done. This will help on the middle section of the Tahoe / Xterra Nationals course. What a shame to hit the pure climbs well only to loose time on the easy stuff. No mas. Another big addition to my bike has been to include a couple days of MTB training with a super fast training partner who really pushes me. We did 4hrs with 5500ft on the MTB on Saturday on terrain that was much rockier and more difficult than Maui. Just what I need...although I seem to have to take my poor Cannondale Taurine into the shop after every time I do this ride. Rocky is an understatement.

Apart from track workouts, running hasn't been much of a focus of late....not anymore. Last week started a nice block of balanced run focus. The track stuff persists and I really dread the workouts because I do them solo...and...they are hard. Every workout seems to take all I've got. The frequency, duration and speed of bricks are picking up in addition to the addition of some duathlon-like workouts that are oh-so-deceiving. By this I mean, in a run-bike-run scenario, the first run typically feels real good and lures your in...then...the bike feels abnormally hard...and the final fun is as you'd expect...hard. Today I did such a brick and was able to turn a pace above my normal race pace pretty "easily."

I haven't fully absorbed what this week has in store, but it looks like about 12k in the water, 5 bikes and 4 runs, 3 of which are transition runs.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Let the Run-Up to Xterra USA Championships Begin!

Well, it actually begun quite a while ago, but now with Ogden out of the way, I have the next challenge to focus on, Xterra USA Championships. See, Ogden, the Xterra Mountain Championships, was a designed to be not only be a guide to my current level of fitness, but to test the various types of training, tapering, racing strategies etc I've been exploring. A lot can be learned over the course a triathlon season and I encourage everyone to never stop building, learning, evaluating, testing and improving. To be more accurate, I will be employing the growth over the past three Xterra seasons towards the remaining two races of the year, Nationals and Worlds. This is always true, the employing learning part, but I feel like significant growth has occured of late.

After Ogden's race two weekends back, I jetted over to Colorado Springs to catch a friend's wedding and to hang with my sister for the week. Great times. I use to live in Colorado Springs and was super happy to be back. For this trip I only had my mountain bike with me, but that was all I needed. I didn't exactly follow my prescribed training plan and erred on the side of biking more, which was ok. One thing that I had forgotten about Colorado Springs was that every ride has lots of fairly steep uphill....and lots of pretty sick downhill. I mean I get my fair share of climbing here in AZ, but it is not really comparable, not even close. From a power perspective I am able to accomplish my workouts and get "enough" climbing where I live now, but.....not the same level of climbing quality as if I were to live in Colorado. Needless to say, I miss the place.

I wasn't able to fully diagnose my altitude experiment with flying into the race last minute and racing within 18hrs of being at altitude immediately post-race. But after spending time in Colorado Springs at altitude, I definitely noticed the elevation and its impact on my performance 3, 4, 5 etc days after being "up there." So...I will re-create the fly-in last minute for Tahoe. I thiking it works(ed).

While being in Colorado was nice, I did realize how mechanical I've become with life here in AZ and how good I have it. All my training needs are easily met and I have settled into a nice schedule. I now exactly where to complete each and every workout that coach Grasky can throw at me. I highly recommend checking out AZ if your are a multi-sport athlete. Maybe I'll formalize an early season Xterra camp or two....hmmm.

On training this week, the most noteworthy tough workouts are in the pool. I mean everything looks pretty tough, but, since I struggled a bit in the pool today, the remainder of the swims seem hard. It's in my head, of course. I did get to do a good workout with Tom Obrien this morning on the Hawes trails near Red Mountain (Northeast Mesa). We did a short ride with 4x10min at race pace with 2min recoveries followed by a 30min transition run at 10k race pace. If you recall, I lost some time on some of the rolling and techie sections at Ogden. Well, today Tom taught me a simple thing how to improve my mountain bike riding. He was riding behind me during the intervals above and noticed (and corrected) a couple of shifting/pedalling inefficiencies. Tom is a great mountain biker and some of the stuff he showed me today should help my performance significantly on certain parts of Xterra courses...and even more at mountain bike races.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Xterra Mountain Championship Results

2nd place age group
5th place overall amateur

One word summary of results: Pleased
One word summary of how I feel: Wrecked

To set the table for the race replay, it's important to let you know my travel schedule. Initially, I was set to arrive in Ogden on Thursday in order to have plenty of time to pre-ride, register etc. As I am in experimentation mode, I decided to sample a "racing at altitude" recommendation made by Trevor Glavin . Basically it goes like this: Fly in as close as possible to the race time. Get the race done within 18hrs of arrival. So, I switched my ticket and did this. It has been a whirlwind, let me tell you.
5:30 - I flew out of Phoenix
8:00 - Landed in Utah around 8:00 (lost an hour in transit)
8:30 - Rented my car and got my bags
8:45 - Stopped by Subway for a super nutritious pre-race meal (yeah right)
9:15 - Arrived in Ogden
9:30 - Put my bike together by 9:30 (turbo) in the hotel parking lot.
9:45 - Realized I was at the wrong hotel and then went to the correct hotel.
9:50 - Met up with the crew from Cody Waite's EPC Multisport team
10:00 - Watched Dara Torres smoke the 50m prelims at the Olympics
11:00pm - Head in the fold out bed
5:00am - Head out of bed
5:30 - IHOP for another healthy meal
6:30 - Race venue for packet pick-up

Wow. I am tired just writing/reading this. did the altitude thing work?? I will say that I didn't necessarily notice altitude all that much, but I am raced much differently this go around. I knew there was a glass ceiling that if exceeded would blow my race. I know, no explicit answer, I think it worked. Will I do it for Nationals at Tahoe? I don't know. It is all about the value equation, right?

Slightly better performance - stress from frantic travel - not being able to pre-ride the course = ?

Alright, onto the race. The 1500m, 2 lap swim was at Pineview Reservoir at the base of Snow Basin Ski Resort. Water temp was 71 degrees. Wetsuits were "optional" for amateurs. Pros were in "no wetsuit" mode. The pro water temp cut-off is 68. Not sure where this rule came from. I opted to NOT wear a wetsuit. Am I crazy? Well, I hate to drop another equation on you, but check this out.

My 2XU Super Elite Endurance race suit, although not really a true speed suit, in my opinion, is pretty fast. Is it faster than my Zoot Zenith wetsuit? All else being equal the wetsuit is "faster." But, I have not swam in my wetsuit since June. The wetsuit, although it's as good as it gets, is still not as flexible as speed suit and leads to muscle fatigue. Also, at altitude, breathing comes at a premium and a tight wetsuit might hinder freedom of the inhale/exhale action. So, I love open water swimming and had my mind made up to not wear a wetsuit before I showed up. After a quick survey of the shoreline pre-race, I was probably the one of the only amateurs without a wetsuit on.

The gun sounding set the flurry in motion. My strategy was to "chill" and ease into the swim. I've been working on some specific aspects of my stroke (and brain) to make this work. Right away, I noticed I was not executing my strategy, but was quickly able to adjust. My brain power during a race is getting much better. All-in-all, the first 300m or so was brutal. there were over 300 athletes in this race all charging full steam for one lone buoy in the middle of the lake's cove. Bedlam. I typically don't get beat down during swim starts, but today was different. I can't remember the sequence, but I definitely got a swift blow to my throat followed by my goggles being ripped off my face from the other side. I had to stop for a second. Super dangerous as one could get malled. I quickly fixed the problem and, actually, the incident enhanced my focus. It didn't piss me off or get my adrenaline going, I kind of laughed and thought to myself, "this sport is supposed to hard." I settled into a nice pace early on and not once found feet to draft off of. I was constantly looking ahead to the next person or next group to catch up to. I certainly negative split the thing and finished roughly 3min faster than last year.

Key takeaways: My swim training is dialed. 4x swims per week, longer distance intervals and more open water swimming paid big dividends. Looking towards Tahoe, I will keep similar training in motion while spending more time in my wetsuit (Lake Tahoe is pretty much always 56 degrees).

Once on the bike, I used the first stretch of road to get de-funked from the water before hitting the trails for the upcoming 3500ft of climbing. With the exception of two very fast pros (both top-10 at worlds last year), I was doing all of the passing. I would settle in, check-in with my body, then pick it up some more. I more or less eased into the bike too. My goal was to get in a good spot prior to a long stretch of single track where passing would be difficult. The middle section of the course was twisty single track that trended upwards. While I didn't loose focus in this section, I think I was not very efficient and lost time. I kept passing people, but I did get passed by one other pro biggest competition in my age group, Luke Jay. I stayed with Luke for a while, but slowly but surely lost ground. A big no-no on a course where you can't see too far ahead; out of sight out of mind. I kept riding my own pace thinking I would run him down. Looking at the times, I wasn't close. Luke had a great day. Congrats to him.

The bike course was different from the 2007 edition and lost a bit of climbing that once took us way up near the top of Snow Basin. This year, the supplement was a serious of serious steep, loose climbs followed by some really fun, twisty, rocky single track that was a little up and a little down. On the steep stuff, I was in my smallest chain ring combination and just tried to spin up the climbs without grinding to a stop or blowing up my legs. The other fun stuff was a bit concerning (along with other downhill sections of the course) because I had -0- rear brake the entire race. Bummer, but not the end of the world. I had to be a little more cautious than normal. Some disc brake issue...not sure what yet though.

Key takeaways: My long gradual hill climbing power was solid, but my ability to pace on varied terrain left a bit to be desired. My muscle endurance and endurance in general were good and I appreciated the long Mt Lemon days. Tahoe has a number of good climbs, but does have some sections in the middle where I need to be able to switch from "climb" mode to "roller/technical" mode while maintaining pace. Training will need to be modified, not in intensity or duration, to include more hard stuff on varied terrain.

Onto the run. Uphill grind to start with. My strategy was to ease into this too (see a theme?). Once topping out, I opened up my legs and started to put down a good pace. Not blistering as I would have liked, but fairly fast. The course has a bunch of different sections from tree covered single track to rocky trail exposed on the side of the mountain that required fast feet. Fun. I passed a couple of people, but no one of consequence. Looking back, I had more in the tank and should have really hammered more.

Key takeaways: I will have to look at race times before really knowing how I performed, but I need to be fully aware and confident that I can run people down. There are three legs to this sport of triathlon, all of which can be significant factors to determining the winner. Tahoe is basically a flat run course with a number of little twists, creek crossings etc. Leg turnover and a high top end speed will be critical. I have already been hitting the track for top end speed and I feel it is working to this end, but I think my training will need to include some longer really fast runs.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Value of a Great Bike Shop: Focus Cyclery

There are so many moving pieces and parts to being a triathlete that it's a wonder to me how everything gets accomplished. It seems like it's "enough" for me to simply eat, sleep, go to work, get in workouts...and...barely hang out with my wife. So, what happens when something gets out of sync or something pops up that wasn't planned? Chaos is not an answer. This is were a solid support team steps in. No, I don't mean like a crew similar to the one that roles around with the Garmin/Chipotle boys , but in reality, they serve the same purpose; to keep you going strong towards your goals.

Today, in particular, I would like to pay special tribute to Mike, Jessie, Cale and Jack at Focus Cyclery located in Gilbert, Arizona. Focus Cyclery plays a big role in my support crew network. Case in point: I showed up to the shop a couple of days ago after a mtb ride with a leaky fork that wouldn't lock-out. Within a couple of hours, after Focus moved my issue to the front of the line without me asking, as I never would ask, I learned that, for lack of the technical part name, my fork's insides were blown. Big problemo considering 1) I have a big race in next weekend, 2) Cannondale's Lefty SL fork ain't cheap to fix or replace and 3) sometimes parts take a while to find there way to the local bike store. So, what now? Mike, Focus' owner, said no problem we'll get you rolling ASAP. I didn't really know what this meant until I actually saw the bike today. Was I going to get an older or different version of a Lefty as a loaner? Not so much. I rolled into the shop to find a brand spanking new Lefty SL on my bike. Word up! I'll say that again. Word up!

I mean, without Focus Cyclery having my back in a huge way, where would I be? Apart from being mountain bike less, I would not be able to race next weekend at the Xterra Mountain Championships in Ogden, a critical step in my approach towards Xterra Nationals and Worlds. I'll say this, if you live in Phoenix Metro or are ever in Phoenix Metro and are looking for a bike shop, please stop by Focus Cyclery and check them out. They even sell triathlon gear too. If you don't live in Phoenix, please cruise down to your local shop and buy the guys behind the counter a round of coffees and don't ask them for a single thing, not a deal, not a freebie...nothing....just be cool. You never now when you will need your support crew.

After the thoughts above, training updates seem tiny, we crash week I am not feeling 100% in both mind and body, but still able to put down some seriously intense workouts without cracking. I have been in "crush every record mode" for a little while and have been fairly successful, so it is hard to feel good with just maintaining status quo. As if cranking out 15%-20% more wattage on the bike than earlier in the season is no good. Gimmie a break! Graksy, my Xterra triathlon coach, knows what he is doing. I have been more of a head case over the last 5 days than I have ever been. Not in a bad way, but I am questioning and evaluating everything because my plan is non-standard and the stakes are high. The positive thing is that I feel in no one over trained. I know exactly what that feels like and I am not there. Actually knowing that I am not there gives me motivation and confidence to keep on chugging.

One critical element of my plan that has kept me healthy is that I brought my volume down to accommodate the increase in intensity. Sounds simple right? Well, not so fast. Apart from overcoming the mental hurdle I call the "volume" dilemma that many endurance athletes face (more is better), I am in the process of striking a balance between keeping up enough volume for this phase of training (still 2.5mths away from Worlds) and nailing the intensity in a way that actually pushes me to the limit, but not over. Do you know exactly where that point is with yourself? I don't but I am finding it. Another little piece to this whole equation is a "what works for you" unknown variable. What my coach wisely deduced is that I literally need an above average amount of intense workouts. What works for you?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Keep On Pushing

I have taken a new interest in seeing how my body responds to being pushed. It is funny, in hind-sight, that I use to take every single race so seriously and truly expected to be in top form for every single one. Inexperience I suppose. Now, I genuinely relish the opportunity to try new things with not only specific workouts, but with larger blocks of training, race day strategy etc. The whole enchilada.....everything is fair game. What this really means, with respect to being in top form for race day, is that you kind of have to be willing to accept the results of a failed experiment...or be prepared to reap the rewards of the increased risk. Enough with being vague!

What all this specifically means today is that I am trying some new workouts that push me well beyond my typical comfort zone, or ordinary intense training. For example, today's workout consisted of roughly 2hr mtb ride of which 40mins where intervals going up some gnarly climbs at a threshold pace followed by a transition treadmill run where I set the pace for 6:15 miles and simply held on for as long as I could. No warm-up or easing-in, just set it and went. I lasted for 30 minutes. This might not sound considerable to you, but with the fatigue that has set in as the result of the cumulative effects of intense training over the past number of weeks....this was tough. I physically cracked after about 20mins and then put the brain on cruise control for the last 10mins. I will keep forging ahead tomorrow with a 3.5hr road bike ride and a 2500m open water swim to stay true to my "crash" week. Not big, but, trust me, enough at this point. Looking back, pretty much all of my intensity workouts in each sport are not the "norm" that you typically see or that I hear others doing. This is great and might be the answer to how to not leave potential fitness on the table come race day.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Triathlon Crash Week and Mt Lemmon Intervals

No. I didn't crash; knock on wood. It's time to further dial-in exactly how I best peak. With the big races on the horizon, I have a great opportunity to test out/simulate what my coach, Brian Grasky, and I think to be the best lead-up with Ogden, the Xterra Mountain Championships, as a guinea pig. I am roughly three weeks away from the race and am embarking on a "crash" week. The bottom line on crash weeks is to push harder than normal (volume and intensity are levers to pull to encourage this) so that significant fitness gains are recognized a couple of weeks down the road. The simulation will extend beyond this week and will actually run all the way up to Ogden. With a careful eye to what has/has not worked all season thus far and this new/soon-to-come info, I should have a pretty decent picture of how best to get my body firing on all cylinders for Tahoe, the Xterra USA Championships. The trick for the next week get all things focused on training. Everything has been streamlined. Pantry and fridge are packed with good food. Clothes for work and workouts are all clean and ready. Equipment is organized and functional....and....the training plan is locked-in. So, here we go.

Coming off of super solid training since my mid-season break has me so excited and ready to race. Today, for the first time ever, I had a rush of adrenaline thinking about the swim. I was picturing myself at Ogden launching out from the start and settling into a crushing swim pace. This was followed by an "ease" of getting into a similarly crushing bike tempo headed on up the long climb. Weird, but good.

I've blogged about Mt Lemon before, but it is so great I have to talk about it again. I did Mt Lemon with Tom O'brien, a fellow AZ Xterra triathlete, yesterday, Sunday. After grabbing a breakfast consisting of two super sugary treats from Starbucks and a grande Americano, we met up with the Phoenix Tri Club a couple of miles away from the base of the climb and cruised with them for a nice warm-up. I had a gnarly set of intervals lined-up for the day and knew that I would be pretty much solo for the entire climb, with the exception of Tom rolling along. We did the following set up Lemon:

Do this entire set 2x:
3x5min @ CP 6 @ 80-90rpm; 3min recovery b/w reps
10min rest
3x5min @ CP 6 @ 50-60rpm; 3min recovery b/w reps
10min rest
3x3min @ CP12 standing; 3min recovery b/w reps

Actually, the set was so long, we ran out of mountain to climb....and....there was 26 miles of mountain. It was hard to push less than Zone 2 on the recovery, so this set really added up.

I love climbing.

A quick follow-up on the other sports. On swimming, I have comfortably increase volume slightly and have been seeing some notable increases in both speed and muscle endurance (as noticed by the ability to maintain speed over longer stretches). Positive. On the run, I and still banging heads with the track. It'll come around and this past week was better than the week before. I was actually able to push a little bit towards the end of the 8x800s vs. falling of the face of the earth. My recovery post-track workout was an issue two weeks ago, but I think I solved the dilemma by shifting some training around. The track is still way hard and I have to breath deep when I see the workouts, but it's worth it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Soild Tough Week Complete

Ahhh....A tough week is in the books. This week had its' challenges fueled by not only increased workout intensity and breakthrough workouts, but work stress. Work stress, or stress in general, is a sneaky little bugger. I've found myself able to operate at nearly 100% irrespective of work stress during pretty much all base periods of training, but once the intensity hits...forget it. This go around, I decided to really listen to my body much more closely than I have in the past. To achieve my goals there is no way that sub-par training will do. When it's time to train hard and hit it, I have to really hit it. In hind-sight, now that the week is done, I really didn't deviate too much from my plan, I just moved some things around based on how I was feeling. Listen to your body! I've already built my learning into next weeks plan and am looking forward to crushing it once again.

On to training....I wrapped the weekend up with some big rides and some light swimming and running. I logged around 10,000ft of climbing split between the road and mountain bikes. One modification to my standard bike intervals was to build one of my interval days into my long Saturday ride. Typically, I do intervals on the bike on Tuesday and Thursday and focus on endurance and tempo on the weekends. Moving one of the interval days to the weekend really frees-up the week to add in some increased intensity on the swim and run while taking some recovery on the bike. Plus, it has added some variation to my workouts.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Scheduling Workouts is an Art

Scheduling workouts is an art that I have yet to master. I view this as a positive and a negative.

Positive: I want to produce different/improved racing results. To do so, I have to train differently than I have in the past. Feeling like I am out of my comfort zone and needing to re-think the scheduling of my workouts is an indication that I am in fact pushing and moving into uncharted territory.

Negative: To get the most out of every workout, I need to be fresh and charge each and every workout appropriately (hard stuff real hard and easy stuff real easy). With new workouts on my plan that I didn't do in the first half of the season coupled with simply moving into a more difficult phase of training my workouts haven't been balance appropriately and I have not been able to complete some workouts as spec'd. No bueno.

No biggee. Eyes wide open. I will get it fixed.

Two main reasons I got to this point:
1) I typically swim 3-4x/wk. To fit everything in this week, I have done three days in a row of swimming that have left my arms/shoulders noticeably fatigued. Form, gone. Ability to hold moderate/prescribed pace, gone. I started to fall apart during a set of 800s at race pace yesterday. Today during a set of 10x200s, I fell apart 1/2 way through the workout. Some of this "melt down" had to do with muscle fatigue and some had to do with #2 below....

2) This morning, I did my first track workout of the year. Crazy, huh? Well, refer back to my comment about doing things differently....I have to get faster. I did a main set of 5x1200 at 5k race pace. Yuck, ouch, puke and some other four-letter words. I simply have not done any real speed work in so long and my body and mind just had no idea what to do. The first three intervals were on target although very uncomfortable (to me there is a difference between very hard and uncomfortable), but the final two were significantly off pace :09 and :13 seconds off respectively. This workout left me tired for hours...I usually recover pretty quickly, but even 5 hrs later, I was still feeling it.

Bottom line....anaerobic endurance set on the track followed by a tough muscle endurance set in the pool on fatigued upper body = the need to take a look at how my workouts are scheduled.

Doing 2-3 sports a day doesn't leave much room to wiggle.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Recovery Complete. Cool.

The scheduling of workouts for the remainder of my year will be a balancing act. This past week I took a recovery week. I didn't necessarily need a recovery week because 1) my body was holding up well, 2) my motivation was at an all-time high and 3) my ATP (Friel's annual training plan) was necessarily indicating that I needed one.

So, why did I take the rest? First, I trust my coach Brian Grasky. Second, to set up the rest of the year, schedule wise, I had to take the week "off." On a coaching note, if you are a coached athlete or considering being coached, I strongly recommend engaging in robust dialogue with your coach. Over time, your coach will learn quite a bit about you as an athlete, but I am a firm believer that you will always know yourself better. You might not know how to articulate the way you are feeling or how a training session went - in words per se, but if your gut presents a discomfort about a particular piece of your plan....don't dismiss it. Address it.

Back to my recovery week. I really rested for 5 days and hit the weekend fairly hard. It worked out ok because I had a two day business trip in the middle of the week that really only limited me to short, moderately productive runs. I got in a test in each sport where my swim test went well and my bike and run tests netted little improvements. Not worries at all. In general, I am seriously re-evaluating what my recovery weeks look like and how my mind and body respond to them. On the "mind" side of things, I need to find a way to keep riding the positive momentum from putting in solid/hard weeks. I kind of get "down" mentally during a recovery week. On the body" side of things, I need to keep feeling fresh while still recovering. I know I don't really "lose" fitness and that recovery is extremely good for my body, but often times I feel like certain parts of my fitness regress....not sure how to quantify this, but things centering around how my body responds to regularly scheduled workouts and discomfort from difficult sessions.

This week I am entering a build phase with slightly less volume with slightly increased intensity. I am keeping up a decent swim volume w/4x/wk , hitting the most intensity on the bike and easing up the volume on the run while adding in my 1st track workout of the out!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Is More Swim Training Worth It?

I've wrestled with this question often and assume that other triathletes have similar thoughts. Earlier in the season, I decided that my swim was "fast enough" and that my time would be better spent on other sports, particularly on bike. So, I simply maintained my swim. Was this the best decision? Is it the best decision going forward?

In talking with many other triathletes about the swim and this question, this comment also comes up, "I would have to put in 50%-100% more time in the pool to simply save :45 seconds on the swim in a race. Where as, if I only increase my bike training by 10% I would save 3:00 on the bike in a race." This makes sense and this is usually where the conversation stops.

However, I think there is more to this equation. It isn't simply a one-to-one relationship where more swim work equals a faster swim time. For me, I think the equation goes like this:

More swim work = more pre-race confidence + a faster swim time + a faster bike time + a faster run time

Let me explain....

More pre-race confidence: The swim is always the first leg of a triathlon and is likely the place that many of the pre-race jitters are dealt with. Knowing you have trained well for the swim should not only alleviate negative doubt that could seep into more of the race well past the swim, but should promote a positive outlook, which we all know positively impacts performance.

A faster swim time: Assuming you aren't just doing more swim work in vain and know what you personally need to improve, this is fairly self explanatory. Putting more productive effort towards swimming should result in a faster swim time.

A faster bike/run time: If no more time is spent on either the bike nor the run in training and only an increased productive effort is devoted towards swimming, it is likely that you will hit the bike with more energy purely from improved swim fitness in addition to reaping the benefits of the positive outlook referred to above. Same goes for the run; increasing fitness in a preceding sport should lead to improved performance in a subsequently performed sport.

I buy into the longer, more complicated equation and have implemented the resulting outcome; increased productive effort devoted towards swimming. Yes, I might only save :45 seconds off of my swim time, but will likely pick up significantly more in the long run.

On caveat...I have not made this change without considering its' impact on primary bike and run training. I have gone through a similar "equation exploration" with each sport and have adjusted my training appropriately.

Any data to support this you might ask? Well, this is test week, again, and my swim times have improved :04/100 to a season's best. Bike and run tests to follow later this week....I am confident that I will PR those as well.

Getting dialed in.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Long Live Long Rides

Today, I was supposed to do either a group road ride or a group mtb ride, per my guru-esque coach, Brian Grasky. Two problems with this:

1) I would have had to drive to the group ride, a big no-no in my book.....driving to a ride and...
2) my preferred MTB buddy, Tom Obrien, was out of town.

These things coupled with the having to get up at 4:30 to beat the heat and the challenge to somehow out-do Cody Waite's 55,000 ft of climbing in two weeks in preparation for Ogden - Xterra Mountain Championship left me challenged of what ride to do.....not sure why this became so complicated. I rolled out solo from my house on my road bike to find as much climbing as I could. 84 miles and 4:45hrs later, I accumulated exactly 6,000 ft ascentby heading out East of Phoenix passed Canyon Lake and Tortilla Flat. Not bad. The longest sustained climbs of the day were around 4 miles long. I felt like I really had to work for these vertical feet. I would have much rather done a long climb like Mt Lemmon. For whatever reason, because none of the climbs were independently very long, I felt like I had to go harder than a high zone 2/low zone 3 power. Long story short...I went hard and it felt good.

As I neared my house I headed up/down Usery Pass, a popular loop that many locals ride, to find a couple of things:

1) A cycling dude chillin' under a tree who "over did it a little and was cooling off" (it was around 100 degrees by this time; time for me to go home)
2) A 50+ yr old cycling dude who jumped on my wheel up a climb who then pulled around with some decent speed (note to self and others reading....don't try to throw down when you've already shut it down for the day)

Anyway, I opted to hang with this guy who was putting down some pretty serious power. I road side-by-side with him, then resorted to hanging on his wheel...then...he pulled up with a cramp and that was that...the final sign that it was time to go home. After another couple of minutes above threshold on the climb (my motor was going...couldn't turn it off) I, finally, headed for home. Joyous. Just a couple symptoms of heat exhaustion (no more sweat, chills etc) and a couple miles...boom...done deal.

A couple of worthwhile notes on the ride today were that I ate more than normal on the ride, about 250 calories per hour and I drank a lot (stopped everywhere I could to re-fill often). This duh.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Base 3 Progress, Daily

I am always a little nervous about losing fitness coming off of a race and subsequent transition periods. Yes, in fact, I've lost fitness, but the benefits were 1) I got rested up enough to race fast and 2) my body and mind have had a chance to breath and have found a way to re-muster the courage to have at it again.

Now in the middle of my 2nd week back at training, Base 3, all sluggishness from taking time off is virtually gone and all systems are "GO." I am still adapting to the general "tiredness" associated with training with a decent amount of intensity and volume. I love learning about my body and how it responds to training. At this stage in the game I can discern between "tiredness" and over training.

I've done a number of key workouts this week that have included 5x6min hill repeats just under LT on the bike, a run with 24mins at zone 3/tempo with some powerful, quick footed strides for 20sec x 7 up hills mixed in and some race-paced 100s and some longer sets of 800s in the pool. Fortunately, I've been able to get everything done in the mornings before work or at lunch.

A big workout weekend is on the horizon and, quite frankly, it scares me. Not the duration or intensity, but the heat/weather. Even starting at 5am, I will get my fair share of 100+ temps. I have a couple of things to confront this. First are insulated water bottles. I fill these the night before and put one in the fridge and one in the freezer. Next, my "personal cooling system" consists of filling my 50oz Camelbak with water, freezing it and popping it on my back for long rides. It gradually melts, keeping me cool in the process and leaves me a nice reservoir of reserve water. Finally, I just got De Soto Arm Coolers from TriSports. Supposedly, these arm coolers "are guaranteed to keep your arms cooler in training and racing than if you had nothing on your arms at all." We'll see....

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mt Lemmon

This week wrapped my first full week back training after my mid-season break. All in all, a great week. I am gradually falling into a nice routine and am refining some scheduling things that make training more convenient. Simple things like going to bed / waking up at the same time, dialing in pre-workout nutrition of the most important things here in the desert....finding a way to get workouts done early in the morning/day. Little things add up.

The highlights of the week were riding Mt Lemmon and achieving one of my bike power goals during a mid-week test. I love climbing on the road bike and Lemmon has roughly 26 miles and (6,600 ft of elevation gain) of it. My goal for the day was to maintain a high zone 2/low zone 3 the whole way up while pushing up past threshold towards the top. It was a hard earned 70 miles (in total). Mission accomplished. I can't wait to go back. On the bike power goal, unaware to me at the time, during a mid-week TT/test on the road bike, I exceeded my 30minute power goal. My coach let me know...glad to see he is keeping tabs on me and looking at my power files.

This week is a big one. Probably the biggest ones for the rest of the season (sounds weird to say). My run saw some good progress early in the season, but has since regressed back to '07 speed/plateaued a bit. So....time to hit the run hard. Actually I have a lot of work to do in all three sports. Being a triathlete is fun...never short of work to do, progress to make, races to get better at.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

1/2 a Watt

With all the "free" time I had last week while not formally training, I was able to pick up a few new bike pieces and parts. Two of which were installed tonight. A new Selle Italia XP saddle (160g) and new Specialized Rib Cage MTB bottle cages (66g for the pair). These two changes netted a 108g reduction in my Cannondale Taurine's weight. After some late night math skills, these savings will spare me exactly 1/2 of 1 watt at my FTP (functional threshold power). Nice...right?

I love routine and I am getting back into a big way...well...I better be! After my swim test (3x300s) today, I have some work to do. I've lost a couple of seconds/100 over the past couple of months. I must say though that after the Temecula race in May, I did intentionally cut back my swimming to make room for more bikes and runs. I'm back to 4x swims/week one of which will be open water.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Test Time

Being back into training feels great. No kidding. Three weeks of racing plus one week off plus a clear vision of what needs to be done to take it to the next level equals a super happy camper. Pumped. I wish there was a way to bottle this feeling and pull it out at will. Maybe I can.

This week is filled with some pretty tough training and testing. In my head I was going to ease back into training...not so much. Yeah, nothing race-prep intensity, but still mucho volume and pretty tough stuff...including one tough test in each sport. I knocked out a 40min time trial on the road bike today, have a swim test tomorrow and a run test in two days. Testing will be a big part of my plan for this remainder of the season. Dial it in.

You will hear me talking about climbing on the bike a lot over the next couple of months. It's a must. Ogden, Tahoe and Maui all have a lot of it. So, I will be doing a lot of it. Starting this weekend I will join my coach, Brian Grasky, in Tucson for some suffering on Mt Lemmon. Speaking of Grasky, he just told me he will be doing an the Snow Valley Xterra and that he was running some serious run splits at a local race a week or so back. Awesome! I am so stoked for him to be back in the game. For those of you who don't know, Brian broke his leg badly about 14mths ago, had a bunch of complications, but has persevered and emerged a he always does. Training with him this weekend (and many more over the next couple of months) will be great.

I've got to recognize a pretty special moment. During the Xterra East Championships, my parents were able to see me win my very first, 1st place at a regional race. Super special....on Father's Day and all.'s to my Mom and Dad. Thanks for cheering like crazy!

Monday, June 23, 2008

1st Half Wrap

I just wrapped up the 1st half of my season and am officially back to structured training.

With many lessons learned and some decent results, I am super focused and very excited for the remainder of the season which culminates with the Xterra World Championships in Maui, HI on October 26.

2008 Results so far:
Arizona Xtreme Xterra:
1st AG, 5th Overall

Xterra West Championships:
3rd AG, 11th Overall

Deuces Wild Xterra:
1st AG, 1st Overall

Xterra Southeast Championships:
2nd AG, 6th Overall

Xterra East Championships:
1st AG, 7th Overall

*Qualified for Maui (had to get top-2 at an Xterra Championship race)
*Secured 1st place in the Southwest Xterra Points Series (had to accumulate 3 AG wins with one being a Championship race to get max points)

I just wrapped a transition week where I trained very little and at a lot (gained 5lbs!). My mind and body are rearing to go to say the least. Just where I need to be. Prior to this transition week I had three races in three weekends. With all the travel and a race prep training schedule, I am due for some solid and consistent volume. I am diving into some testing this week with a normal Base 3 workout mix. Pumped. 5 bikes, 4 swims and 3 runs. Focuses over the upcoming weeks will be force/climbing on the bike, race-paced/open water swimming on the swim and speed/track work on the run.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Deuces Wild Xterra

The Deuces Wild Xterra in Show Low, Arizona has become a standard stop on my race schedule. Show Low is about a 3hr drive from Phoenix, is usually a couple of degrees cooler, set among the pines and is at 6,500 feet elevation. What's not to love? A great break from the desert. The Xterra that was on Sunday was just one part of a triathlon weekend filled with a half ironman, olympic distance race and a huge raffle ($30,000 worth of schwag) that were all put on by Trisports.

The timing of this race couldn't have been better as it fit nicely into my peak/race phase of training, one week prior to the upcoming South East Championship in Birmingham, Alabama (where I am right now) and the East Championship in Richmond, Virginia the following week. More on training later.

We cruised up to Show Low on Saturday morning and headed straight for the race course for a pre-ride. I headed out for an hour spin and Mandy headed out for trail run. Finishers of the the road tri's were still coming in and the tri-atmosphere made for an exciting time (read this as "I think its' cool to ride around a road tri on a mountain bike...oh, the looks!). The big feature of the bike course was a 4.5 mile climb with the last portion being over some loose, baby-doll head sized rocks. I only pre-rode up to this section then turned around and headed for home. No need to do anything more. The weeks training was brutal and I wanted/needed to go easy.

Back at the parking lot, I caught up with my coach, Brian Grasky and talked over the course, how I was feeling and some race strategies. He still has the course record, so he knew what to say. After a quick swim in the 60 degree lake and registering, we headed back to the hotel for some R&R.

For dinner, we headed up to Pinetop, a short 15min drive away, for a sweet home cooked dinner with a Phoenix Xterra bud, Jonathan Sellwood (thanks Man!). It was hard to beat the killer grub and sitting on the back porch at a killer lakeside house. Perfect scenario the night before a race.

I've been riding for ~15min and swimming for ~10min as my warm-up this year. The short bike seems to help my legs get engaged when the bike leg hits. So, I road to the race course early in AM to set up transition and get ready for a 7AM start. I'll beat the heat any day, so earlier the better for me. I've feel I've finally figured out how to relax leading up to a race and am now really enjoying the entire triathlon race process, race morning being part of this. Familiar faces, good short conversations and the ability to focus on performance vs focus on the competition.

An 800m swim should be easy, right? Well, it kind of was, but it sure felt a lot harder at 6,500 ft with a cold wetsuit (cold = more stiff = more tired muscles). Not much else to say other than the swim went ok and I was glad when it was over. I came in out of the water in 12th but was able to leave transition in around 7th.

This race, and actually the past year, has been about the bike. It finally clicked. These things were pulsing through my mind, "ride the bike like a bike race", "make me legs shake" and "don't even think about the run, it will take care of itself." This is what I did and started to pick off riders one-by-one. I moved into the race lead at the top of the and never looked back. I knew I was doing the bike right and it felt good. Finally...all the hard training actually being used in the race. About time.

I came into T2 with 2nd place about 45 seconds behind me, but didn't stop to see who it was. I knew the run course was fast and that I was feeling ok. It took me a little while to get my legs going, but after a mile or so, I was on cruise control. The course had a couple of long stretches and an out-and-back that served as good places to see how the competition was one in site. I knew I was going to win. 1st overall win at an Xterra with an ok swim, a good bike and an ok run. I'll take it! I am not really sharing exactly how much of a breakthrough race this was for me, but let's just say, "HUGE!"

Now, on to the East Coast for some serious racing. Alabama and Virginia for Xterra Regionals. It's peak time, what I've been training for the past 6mths. Only one result will be acceptable.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Xterra West Championships

Quick summary:

  • 3rd 25-29 Age Group
  • 11th overall amateur
  • 11min improvement or 2007


  • Non-wetsuit, 74 degree water - I really prefer non-wetsuit swims
  • My 2xU Super Elite suit from Focus Cyclery worked and felt super slick and fast
  • Got off to a smooth start and was with the lead age groupers the entire swim
  • Came out of the feeling fresh and confident


  • Temperature started heating up for the two-lap course that had plenty of climbing
  • Found bike legs pretty quickly (been working on swim/bike bricks and used silicone ear plugs to fend off balance issues)
  • Kept leaders in site on first climbs, but started to loose ground once they got out of site as the descent started
  • Maintained an ok pace while keeping focused and positive even though the top places had gotten away
  • Nutrition and hydration was spot-on; 6 Cliff shot blocks, 2 GUs, 1 bottle of water, 1 bottle filled with PowerBar endurance mix and 1 bottle of Hammer Perpetuum


  • Super hot by now and had to tackle one long grind that required a little walking followed by a two lap section with some steep rollers and fast descents
  • Didn't feel like I could push until 3/4 of the way through
  • Legs held up good on the step stuff by monitoring how high I picked my legs up and how hard I pushed
  • Stopped at every aide station for a water and a splash of cold water on the head

What's next:

  • My peak is on the way over the next couple of weeks
  • I will leave it all on the bike the next races, the top spots are very close
  • This weekend I will be taking some family time in Destin, FL
  • Following weekend is a local race in Show Low, AZ, Deuces Wild
  • Two weekends from now will start the East Coast adventure with the SE Championships in Alabama followed by the East Championships in Virginia

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bring the Intensity; It's Race Time

While there are a couple of months and numerous training sessions between now and my first peak, race intensity workouts have become common place. With my first Xterra race this weekend, I am starting to get into the race mindset and tough workouts really help accomplish this. All of this hard work has been to make sure that I'm prepared to go super hard and hopefully fast during the race. There is no reason to conserve. There are no second chances. The implication of this is severe suffering. Flat out. No way around it. It is going to hurt, but this is why I've been training. My body can take it. The faster I go, the sooner it is over....ha. I am ready.

This week is a recovery week. I am typically VERY ready for recovery weeks when they come. I am reminding myself that I will feel better and better each day between now and Saturday's race. Today I did a 2hr mtb ride with a couple of short LT efforts followed by a short LT run brick. I usually push past LT particularly on brick runs, but I now the purpose of these workouts this week and understand that every little bit I push over LT will prohibit my recovery. So..I listened to my HR monitor and that was that. The rest of the week leading up to the race has a number of easy workouts with short bouts of high intensity. Just enough to keep my body sharp without hindering recovery. Since this race is not of high priority and I have to keep on plugging away at my training plan, I will put in a long endurance ride on Sunday post race. I am off to practice some transitions in my garage. Every second counts.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Building with Perspective

This is the time when hanging tough is tough, but essential. Turning all this hard work into race speed is what I am working on during this build phase. Feeling fast is not really the goal right now although it would be nice. Unfortunately, most of what I "feel" is tired. Focusing on recovery and really listening to my body is super crucial right now. Case in point; yesterday at lunch I did a super hard anaerobic set in the pool where I basically went all out with a much faster (than me) masters' group. This morning before work I hopped on the trainer for one of my key bike trainer workouts which was to be followed by a key run brick. After the prescribed warm-up, I noticed I not only lacked the motivation to complete the workout(s) (which is a lot to do it correctly), but my energy level was nill. I bagged it, went to work and re-convened with the workout(s) later in the day. Mental and physical had been restored and I knocked it out. I enjoy learning about my body and now know that I need roughly 24hrs between "break through" workouts if I want to do them right.

Over the weekend I was fortunate enough to help my coach, Brian Grasky, with an Xterra mini-camp at Saguaro Lake, the site of the upcoming AZ Xtreme Xterra. I still feel like I have so much to learn about triathlon, so I went into the mini-camp a little uncertain about what value I could add as one of the leaders. Well, let's just say I've learned a lot and got tons of satisfaction out of working out with a bunch of motivated athletes that were basically in the same boat that I was in just a couple of years ago. I look forward to seeing this bunch on race day and wish them the best of luck. Pre-riding is so valuable for both the seasoned and new triathlete. Particularly related to the value of pre-riding; in the water, we identified numerous sighting points along the route, on the bike, we figured out where the best places to fuel and how to navigate the hike-and-bike sections and deep sand sections and on the run, apart from figuring out that I've been going the wrong way for two years, we pointed out aide station locations and figured out the best places to "recover" after hammering the hills. Worth it!

Looking to the next couple of weeks I am deviating from the traditional 3 weeks on 1 week off routine in order to make the most of the upcoming races which include the Xterra West Championships in about a month while carefully juggling key training sessions and recovery. I have confidence in this direction. A solid base, good milestone testing and a thoughtful plan put together by an experienced coach help, to say the least.