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.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

2.4 Miles is Far

Today I did the 2.4 mile open water swim at Tempe Town Lake. It started kind of late, 10:30, which presented a minor nutrition challenge and meant that I would be doing my long ride during the heat of the day (almost 90). These early season, sport specific races are great for testing not only fitness, but pre-race stuff.

Today I focused on nutrition and being super chill, but focused. On nutrition, which seems to get easier with experience, I did my typical cereal breakfast (Kashi mixed with granola and soy milk). 1hr out from the race I ate a power bar. 30min out from the race I had a small bottle of PowerBar Endurance (check the goes to the best price out there...if you aren't already sponsored). I sipped on some water here-and-there. That was it. It seemed to work just fine. I probably won't do anything much different for Xterra.

On the "being chill" side of things, never underestimate the value of getting your gear ready the night before. You will sleep better and won't be as stressed out on race are less likely to forget things like goggles, your helmet etc. I am terrible at pre-registering, but I have committed, thanks primarily to my wife, to pre-registering for every race. 1 for 1. So, what all this amounts to is that I was able to focus on the task at hand. For me, physically walking slowly to-and-from the car, start/finish, body marking etc really does the trick. I am also finding that thinking more about execution vs. fitness and what-if scenarios is supremely better for my mindset. I have to have faith in my training and understand that I have been lining up for competitions of some sort for nearly 25 years.

Forgive me if I don't give a big race report. I swam a big rectangle for 58:10 minutes (1:22/100y) for 8th AG, 34 overall. I am ok with this I suppose, but I think it's slow particularly comparing to others' times who I regularly swim with. I left about 4:00 - 6:00 minutes on the table. My first 1.2miles (roughly) was 27:24 (1:17/100y). Oh goodie, Xterra races are only 1500m. I recently read a quote that said something about how Pros don't make excuses for their performance, they just fix it for next time. So, next time I won't crash my mountain bike the day before a 2.4 mile open water swim that has left me barely able to even lift my bike off of my hitch mounted bike rack. : )

I followed up the swim with a tough, 4hr road bike ride. I cruised out on the IMAZ course with a nice tailwind. Spun through Fountain Hills, where they always seem to have a festival that messes up traffic. Bypassed the coffee place that has killer coffee cakes....I was only about 1.25hrs into my ride, so I couldn't justify the coffee cake nor my standard 2x espresso. NORBA was in town this weekend at McDowell Mountain, so I road over to the park to check out the racing. The pros were getting ready to go off and all those dudes looked super fast. Pro mtb racers are kind of intimidating to me for some reason...more so that roadies. I ran into to Dan DeMos who rides for Focus Cyclery. He won his age group in Expert. Congrats. He also told me that Tom Obrien crushed the field and won the entire Expert class. Since Tom is an Xterra guy, I really hope I put like 10 min on him on the swim (which ain't going to happen). GO TOM!!! He really needs to give full-time mtb racing a shot. He would be pro in a season. From there, I headed through Rio Verde and up 9-mile hill. really is exactly 9 miles to the top. After topping out in Cave Creek, I headed straight back to Tempe as fast as I was brutally hot. Summer is (almost) here.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Tick-Tock, Back @ It

There are so many things to stress about that it is often easy to loose site of simple things that make I do triathlon for fun. Yes, I want to get better and put up some good results, but I get a kick out of it...the entire process. There, I said it. I often hear people say that "when you aren't having fun training, then you might need to take a break." I don't subscribe to this. As the number of workouts per month, per week, per day increase, the probability of having a workout that I simply don't feel like doing or don't have fun while doing is highly likely. The trick, for me at least, is to call a spade a spade and simply manage through what the cause of my dissatisfaction is. Interestingly enough, the more dissatisfaction I have (read: stress), the more opportunity to manage this dissatisfaction comes along...and...thus the ability to get better at managing it. Where does this leave me....1) at the tail end of a recovery week 2) nearly relieved of stress after a super mellow 2k drill swim / 1hr sunset mtb and 3) completely stoked for the weekend full of somewhat epic training. Epic to me = a) long brick day where b) I have to drive to the training spot...don't ask me why. Maybe it has something to do with packing up the Subaru with a bunch of stuff. Before I get into what is on tap for the weekend, I need to recap a somewhat troubling unresolved situation with my bike. The situation is this, I have to get faster on the bike and have been putting in significantly more time on it. Higher focus = higher expectations. I did a bike test on Thursday and did not get the results I wanted. I will spare you the excuses. Once I got home and downloaded my Powertap data, I kind of freaked out and embarked on a mission to truly understand all the data the cycling software, WKO+ presents. I started to comb the Internet for answers and delved, yet again, into Hunter Allen's and Andrew Coggan's book call Training and Racing with a Power Meter (a must have for those who train with power). Well, needless to say, I now know that I really have a lot to learn. Part of me wishes I could just pay Hunter Allen $2000/mth to solve my mental issues via a robotic like, mathematical masterpiece of a training plan that, in the end, might or might not be better than what I am doing now. Not so fast. Neither Rome, nor my fitness was, or will be, built in a day...or an evening going cross-eyed looking through forums about training with power. Looking back through my data file from the bike test it really wasn't bad. I like doing tests on a long steady hill. This course was rolling with some pretty decently long stretches of downhill. Maybe I just suck because "power is power", but trying to hold 330+ watts going downhill made me prematurely blow up....then fight the rest of the effort to find the pieces. Enough!

My first Xterra race this season kicks of in just a couple of weeks with the DCB Adventures Arizona Xtreme Desert Triathlon at Saguaro Lake, AZ. Last weekend, Tom Obrien, who will likely win the Expert division at this weekend's NORBA National here in AZ, did some training on the course. We did about 2800 of open water swimming in the lake followed by 2x laps of the mtb course and capped off the day by running the 5 mile run course. Tomorrow, I will be solo, but will start the day with an easy run of the running course at zone 1/2, 2x laps of the bike course at zone 2 and then another full lap of the running course at zone 2/3. Pre-riding the course is super important and I am happy I can do it so frequently. The bike course does have two hike-and-bike hills on it, one of which tore the sole off of one of my mtb shoes. These are the replacements, pretty sweet. I opt for the three-strap vs. the buckle to not only save time in transition, but buckles + sand/dirt = NO OPEN. Sunday has another sweet training day on tap. In prep for Ironman Arizona DCB Adventures puts on a 2.4 mile swim in Tempe Town Lake over the actual IM course. After seeing what doing 2.4 miles in a wetsuit is like and what the suit does to the back of my neck (pretty sure it will move well past just chaffing), I will hop on my road bike and do a 4hr+ ride on part of the IMAZ course and then head into North Scottsdale to find a couple thousand feet of climbing.