Friday, September 28, 2012

Training For Star City: Week 6

Training For Star City
Week 6

     Mon: Tempo: (8 miles) Perfect start for my 1st of 3 tempo runs for this distance. With a final pace of 7:27 it shows to be on par with my better 6 mile tempo runs. PR for this course is 54:57 (6:51 pace) set Sept 11 of 2011 while I was training for the Richmond Marathon. With no marathons on my schedule, I doubt I reach that level of training, but it seems likely that I will continue to see improvement and possibly approach the 7:01 pace I set during week 6 of training for this years Blue Ridge 1/2. HERE is the comparison data.

     Wed: Long: (10 miles) Something just killed me out there today. I hit "the wall" after 7 miles and struggled just to keep moving and finish the scheduled distance. Original intent was to kick every mile into the high 7's, but I had nothing for the hills towards the end of the run. Possible contributing factors might be my schedule change at work forcing me to reorder my workouts, poor pre-workout fueling, poor hydration, late start, and/or general fatigue. I'll keep an eye on it and expect a better 10 miler next week.

     Thurs: Recovery: (5.25 miles)  Maintained a steady low end pace for the entire 5 miles..., which was all I had set out to do. Mission accomplished!

     Fri: Intervals: (6 miles) Continued weekly improvement for my interval run. Hit advanced pace targets (7, 6, 8, 5) for the first 4 laps (2 miles) and did the remaining 8 laps (4 miles) with the intermediate pace targets (8, 6, 8, 6) that I've been training with up to this point in this training cycle. Good numbers today! Gives me encouragement that Wednesdays disappointing long run was likely just a fluke.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

2012 Claytor Lake Sprint Tri

     2012 Claytor Lake Sprint Triathlon

     Having completed the 5 race requirement for the VTS series award at Richmond just 6 days ago, I approached the Claytor Lake Sprint Tri as more of a workout and not really a race. The Claytor Lake Sprint Triathlon had 3 main factors that kept it on my radar A) The price increase for registration didn't kick in till the Wednesday before the event B)It is a stand alone event (not part of the VTS series) and C) At 500meters, it is the shortest open water swim triathlon that I know of in the region.

Unflattering self photography.  The GoPro sits just above the eyebrows when it is correctly positioned.
     I usually postpone registering for events until just before the registration fee increases and this race was no exception. I wanted to be sure the "feel" of it would fit in with the 1/2 marathon training plan I'm currently following. On Tuesday afternoon I decided on two race goals that would make this event more of a casual low intensity workout than an actual race, so I decided to participate with a "just finish" mentality.

     My first race goal was to test the feel of open water swimming. I hadn't had much experience on the open water, but I regularly swim around a mile non-stop during my pool workouts, so I had hope that the skill set would translate over. 

Arrived. Picked up my race numbers. Set up my transition. Then went to check out the swim course.
     My second and perhaps more pressing goal was to test my new GoPro camera in a race environment and see what kind of video I could put together for a race report. I suspect many of us bloggers, from time to time, like to think we can write the perfect piece that just draws the reader in and makes them feel like they were right there with us...that's something I think about sometimes and I figured a GoPro video, with the right editing, might go a long way towards drawing the reader in.
     Having never participated in an open water swim I didn't want to take for granted that I would be able to achieve my primary goal, but I did have plenty of pool experience and training. On Thursday I even wore my GoPro for a 1000m continuous swim just to make sure it wouldn't upset my rhythm in any way. It didn't. so I was confident enough to give the open water a shot.
The red dot near the boat is the right side buoy, set 100 meters from the shore.

The red triangle shape in the water is the left side buoy, also set 100 meters from shore.
     Now I had participated in an open water swim triathlon last year at Smith Mountain Lake as a runner on a relay team and I looked at the 1500 meter swim course at that one and thought "No frackin' way!". In my mind I figured 500 meters would look considerably less intimidating, but when they got the buoys in place and I looked out at it I realized I was mistaken and immediately thought "No way am I doin' this."

     My disqualification seemed likely before the swim even started, but I knew I could reach the first buoy and their were plenty of kayaks in the water, so it seemed reasonable to make a go of it with considerable regards for my safety and welfare.
     The result for the swim was not as good as I had hoped, but I can't diminish at all what a great achievement it was for me make it as far as I did. The atmosphere that far from shore was just too foreign to my senses and I found myself unable to navigate as I would have liked to. I decided it was better to play it safe and get a lift from a kayak than to take a chance at swimming too far off course. The penalty would be a disqualification, but I still had a video to record, so I maintained my sense of purpose.

     Making the video in and of itself was a great experience. Now that I have a GoPro I'll probably be making more like this. The Windows Movie Maker software is very basic and easy to use and it even got me pointed in the direction of the Free Music Archive for vast quantities of soundtrack music. I eventually found the works of  Krackatoa and selected four Krackatoa tracks for the soundtrack. I corresponded with the artist directly by email to make sure my use was within the boundaries of Creative Commons licensing and was given specific, easy to understand details on how to make certain I attributed his work correctly. In my opinion the music really makes the video come alive, so I am happy to create as many links as possible to generate enthusiasm for the musical aptitude of Krackatoa!

     I split the video in 3 parts to accomadate processing. Pt 1, above, is the swim and T1. krackatoa's This ain't Kansas  is providing the sound track. Of the 3 parts to the video this track matched the video best. The Wizard of Oz references capture my frame of mind almost perfectly.

     I approached the bike with a less than competitive frame of mind. I was still shaking off the DQ for using boat assistance with the swim and didn't see any need to push past a medium intensity effort. krackatoa's track Goldengate honey sets an appropriate tempo. I even stopped for 4 minutes to try to assist a guy who had a flat tire. Opportunities to pay goodwill forward in a race environment are often fleeting, so since I was already DQ'd helping a guy out was a no brainer. Unfortunately his tire never would stay inflated...looked like a bad valve stem to me...
     Coming into the world of triathlon from a strong running background it's no wonder the run portion of the video is the longest. I started out at 2x speed for the first mile, then slowed it down to live speed for the last 2 miles. I was going to just do the whole run at recovery pace (10 min/miles), but after the first mile I was feeling really good so I decided to make it a progression run. Final splits per Garmin show as 9:51, 8:50, and 7:21. I made the audio from the video louder for the last two miles because I found me talking to myself about my pace to be amusing. Krackatoa's use of monkey sounds in the background with Monkies in the Temple Tribes struck me as quite appropriate for a trail run and finishing up with krackatoa's Komodo Dodo fit right in with its steady rhythm.

This aint Kansas (krackatoa) / CC BY-NC 3.0
Goldengate honey (krackatoa) / CC BY-NC 3.0
Komodo Dodo (krackatoa) / CC BY-NC 3.0
Monkies in the Temple Tribes (krackatoa) / CC BY-NC 3.0

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Training For Star City: Week 5: Taper & Race(s)

    Training For Star City: Week 5
Mini Taper & Warm up races

     Sun: Practice Race #1: 3.1 miles: Using a sprint triathlon as a warm up race for a half marathon requires a certain amount of creativity in the number interpretation. Basically you have to convert the energy expended in the swim and the bike into a running equivalent, s(r)+b(r), then you need to subtract the recovery factor for the time spent in transition, [s(r)+b(r)]-t(r)=r. Basing my estimate on this formula, it seems likely to me that everything leading up to the run carried a run equivalency rating of 6.2 miles, so the effective training statistic for just running is the 6.2 mile mark to the 9.3 mile mark, holding a pace around a 7 minute mile that far along into the race is encouraging.

     Mon: Tempo(ish): 6 miles: The day after a race is usually not ideal for tempo running, so I wasn't looking to see any impressive numbers come out of today. I decided that I'd just push a tempo pace on the uphill miles (4 and 5), run recovery paces for the down hill miles (1 and 6) and then just show moderate effort with the flat miles (2 and 3). Happy to say it worked out quite well with everything kickin' into the 7's.

     Tues: Recovery: 5 miles: Typical recovery day. Wet and drizzle. Stayed indoors with the elliptical and only ventured outside for the run. I took my new GoPro with me, but I wasn't incredibly happy with the recording so I'll delete it and try again. The camera itself did great. I'm going to have fun playing with it.

     Thurs: Intervals: 6 miles: Finally hit all pace speed work pace targets. I have one more week with the 6 mile speed work set, so I'll make it harder next week by targeting 7's on the level recovery lap.

     Sat: Practice Race #2: 3.1 miles: Once again converting swim, bike, and rest segments over to a run equivalent, I come up with 4 miles as an equivalent start factor for this run. Off the bike, I decided to slip on the old Vibrams and just take it easy. Eventually I decided I was taking it too easy and decided to do a progression run with final splits at 9:51, 8:50, and 7:21. I was just kickin it around easy and enjoying the remainder of my step-back week.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Free Boat Ride at the Claytor Lake Sprint

     Free Boat Ride
     The comfort zone is a wonderful happy place..., but nothing ever grows there. I stepped outside of my comfort zone this morning to attempt an open water swim triathlon. It was only 500 meters (about 1/3rd mile) and I usually swim twice that distance without stopping when I'm practicing at a pool. Something about being out in the open water just messed with my mind and I had to abandon my effort after about 200 meters. I accepted a boat ride back to shore and went on to complete the course from there, but my time(s) will be declared "Unofficial" and probably listed as a DNF (Did Not Finish)

     I'll do a full race report in a few days about my experience this morning and I won't dwell too much on the fact that the boat ride back to shore earned me a DNF (Did Not Finish), instead I'll be focusing on what a great overall experience it was to just be out there facing my weakness and moving closer to making it a strength.

     The lesson here is prep work. I pushed against my boundaries and discovered that I still have much further to go than I thought I did. Now I know...knowing is half the battle.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

2012 Richmond Tri Club Sprint Triathlon

2012 Richmond Tri Club Sprint Triathlon
Shirt front with visor and race bib
     Traveling out of town for a race requires that certain precautions and considerations be taken in order to assure the best possible race experience. Bike, helmet, running shoes, goggles and oh, I don't know...maybe even a spouses luggage. Not 5 miles outside of Richmond my wife asks if I placed her luggage in the Blazer and I had to admit that in fact I had not. An unplanned shopping trip immediately was tacked on to our agenda and while a large unscheduled fiscal expenditure might have been in order, I some how managed to escape the consequences of my folly with only a slight ding in the weekly budget. Marrying a rational woman with a good sense has consistently been a huge blessing in my life!

     My expectation for the race itself was largely just to maintain middle-of-the-pack statistics, with the added twist that since I am now technically 4 weeks into a training plan for a 1/2 marathon in November, that I should be able to lay out a high end run statistic with a Tri 5k PR being a strong likelihood especially with the flat nature of the course.

Setting up my transition area at 0 dark :30
     The swim starts were 15 seconds apart. Many pool swims start participants at 10 second intervals and I do like the way 10 sec interval starts get everyone through the process quicker, but I like the 15 sec interval starts for the way it decreases congestion in the swim lanes. I wasn't having a horrible swim, but I couldn't find my high end pace at all. Fortunately, with the 15 sec interval start, only one person had to get past me and I accommodated the effort by stopping at the end of the lane for about 3 seconds so they could speed on past. A second person was on my heels as I was getting out of the pool, so I was relieved to have only lost one spot.

     The path to the transition area was quite long. I look for my transitions to be under 2 minutes and I remembered thinking "Not this time". Sure enough, I came up a little shy with a 2:23. I had made some minor T1 transition errors in my last 2 triathlons, so I was very methodical about this one and nailed it to the best of my current expectation.

Few good photo ops at this event, but here is one of me in transition.
     The bike leg went relatively smoothly. Arriving in Richmond too late to familiarize myself with the route, I had to rely on road markings, signs, and people in front to follow. I passed a good handful of people and usually had someone in eyesight that I was working on passing. This course was very flat and I didn't have to work hard to feel like I was getting plenty of speed for my effort.
Bike route as recorded by Garmin

     The 2nd transition was typical. Park bike, remove helmet, change shoes, pick up water bottle and go. Time was typical too with a 1:31 consistent with my current expectation.

     Laying the run course out along sidewalks was a new one on me and I had some reservations concerning the amount of passing that would be going on in a much narrower space. I was relieved to see that runners were using the road without penalty, so I used the road in a few spots where the sidewalk was too crowded to maintain my pace. I didn't look at my Garmin till about 1/2 mile in and I saw I was holding a sub 7 pace. Perfect. A sub 7 pace gets me to the finish line in under 22 minutes which is my BIG race goal. Mile 1 gets knocked out in 6:47 and the elevation changes are all very slight and subtle. I never felt like I was running downhill, but apparently I had been because when I turned around at the half way point I could feel the increase in effort to maintain my pace. Fortunately, my running economy is starting to kick in from my speed work training and I only lost a few seconds off my pace with the 2nd mile and just a few more on the 3rd. I'm not going to dig through all my prior race stats, but if my memory serves, then usually I lose about a 1/2 minute off my pace per mile during a tri sprint run leg, so holding my pace as close as I did to the pace of the 1st mile was a huge win for me and finishing in 21:46 gives me a big shot of confidence with regards to the 1/2 marathon plan I'm using to train for the Star City 1/2 in November.

Just out of the T2 transition and ready to run!
     Finishing with a final time of 1h10m46s represented a good middle-of-the-pack effort and a back-of-the-middle-of-the-pack effort within my age group. I interpret this to mean that the 40-44 age group was just particularly strong today, but the numbers are what they are and anyone is free to interpret them as they see fit. Being so highly invested in my run game right now I just attach significance to the run stat which yielded me a 2nd in my Age Group of 16 and 27th of 133 overall. I can be happy with that. Special shout out to Neil B representing the old school very well today with a Top 3! Way to go Viking! And to Team USA member Kim A., who won her age group! You guys owned it today!
Kim A., who went on to an Age Group Win!

Neil B., rounded out the top 3 for the 40-44 Age Group!

     This race concludes the 5 race mandate that I needed to qualify for the VTS series award. What do I get? A shirt. Did I do it all for a shirt? Hell, naw. This stuff is fun. I like having events to focus my training on. Its the difference between "training as a fact of life" and "just training when I feel like it". Would I recommend it? Sure. Come on out and give it a tri !

Richmond Tri Club Sprint Triathlon (300m/20k/5k)
2012 Time 01:10:46 (S-7:46, T1-2:23, B-37:22, T2-1:31, R-21:46), Place-63/133 Men, 11/16 Men 40-44
  Garmin data:    RUN     BIKE  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Training For Star City: Week 4

Training For Star City
Week 4
     Sun: Progressives: (5.34 miles) Felt good and easy just like it should. I even used the last lap for above target intensity and kicked it into the 6's when my goal was a 7:30. My confidence had taken a hit after last Sundays poor showing with this workout, but todays strong numbers confirm that last Sunday was just a fluke likely brought on by the many factors I mentioned in that weeks post.

     Mon: Tempo: (6.01 miles) Not a particularly strong tempo, but it was my fastest 6 miler in over 6 months if only by a few seconds. Main thing is it was significantly faster than last Monday.

     Tues: Recovery: (4 miles) Focusing on form and comfort. The one day of the week when I allow my body to run the mind instead of the mind running the body.

     Wed: Intervals: (6.04 miles) Hit 11 of 12 targets. The 3rd uphill sprint was exhaustive and I was crashing hard so I relaxed my expectations and allowed myself an extra 30 seconds, taking my pace into the high 7's. This allowed just enough energy conservation to get me through the last 2 legs at target paces. A good place to be at this point in the game.

     Fri: Long: (10.02 miles) Steady improvement with my long run. Added 2 miles this week to make it a 10 miler. Opted for my Mountain Side route which is about 5 miles of up followed by 5 miles of down. I was a little bit slower than when I was running this route in the spring, but I was running it at a later point in the training cycle, so its not exactly an apples to apples comparison. I was about 90 seconds faster than my last 10 miler a month ago and on a tougher route,plus I was also at a faster pace than last weeks 8 mile long run, so the training is doing its job.

Friday, September 7, 2012

"Blinded by Science"

    "Blinded by Science"
 (A Random Rant)

      If you ever run out of "experts" with competing theories about what is better and what is best in the world of fitness, then by all means brag about it. I'm sure some are more right than others, and if you happen to be the kind of person that is really into "doing what your told", then by all means find someone you trust and do what they tell you.

     Me? When it comes to fitness (and even life in general), I believe the only "stupid" thing you can do is be miserable. Do what makes you happy and have fun with it. I never needed a "scientist" or an "expert" to tell me what I was doing right and wrong. Instead I tried a variety of things and closely monitored my results. In short...I became my own scientist, I learned what works for me, and I became an expert on me.

     Yes, you can get a lot of good information from knowledgeable people. Weigh it and consider it with due diligence. My observation is that if it makes you feel good...go for it! If it creates discomfort...stop! Main thing is just get off the couch and have fun with some form of physical activity. Being "results" oriented is great for athletes, particularly the paid ones who make a living from their results. For a great many of us, however, quality of life is what its all about.

Training For Star City: Week 3

     Sun: Progressives: (5.31 miles) Hit all the easy targets, but realized I was going to miss the target for the 9th lap, so I just took it easy for the rest of that lap and the 10th one. Possible factors for the lack of performance include 1) 5 days a week of running is simply not working well for my training strategy, 2) Lingering effects of above average quantity of alcohol the night before. 3) Poor nutrition choices over the past 24 hrs and 4) I may be more content in my comfort zone than what I have been in the past. I've got some good stats under my belt and if I just want to "go through the motions" of training with no real goal or expectation for a high end performance, then so what?

     Mon: Tempo: (6 miles) Not exactly a high end performance, but still an encouraging run in light of the fact that I never really felt any fatigue. I translate this to mean that my body is starting to adapt to the stresses associated with the higher running mileage.

     Tues: Recovery: (4.06 miles) Subbed the elliptical in for the bike cause I was concerned about the weather.  The middle portion was just some easy neighborhood miles in my vibrams.

     Wed: Intervals: (4.02 miles) Hit all pace targets for the first time this training cycle! Even though Monday's Tempo wasn't incredibly fast, I could feel significant stamina and endurance gains starting to come through. Today was a big test to see if it Monday was a fluke or the start of a trend. The results are encouraging.

     Fri: Long: (8.05 miles) Kinda slow, but can't read too much into it given the heat, the elevation profile and 10 miles of easy cycling for a warm up. I consider myself to be either "at" or "near" my athletic peak when I can run up the mountain in the 8's and down the mountain in the 6's. I had it for the first 4 miles today, but the last 4 I just couldn't find the zone.