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....