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.