Training Week: 8/25-8/31

Swim: 15,800 Yards (3:41) 
Bike: 194 Miles (9:05)
Run: 34 Miles (4:30)
Total*: 118.5 Points (17:17)
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Swim: I closed this week with a 1.5 mile swim in the Atlantic ocean off the coast of the Jersey shore, where I will be spending Labor Day weekend and (mostly, after Saturday morning’s long run) taking a little bit of a load off from training. Other than that, this week was more of the same in the pool–no great sets to speak of, just trekking to the pool and getting work done. The swim is the discipline in which I intend to maintain high volume, and maybe even increase the yardage slightly, in the next month of training. Despite there being a small performance return on time investment in the water, it causes the least lasting fatigue and carries the least injury risk, so in my view it’s a good place to spend time when you have it.

Bike: No excitement on the bike this week. I wasn’t able to get out of Philadelphia for my long ride, so I completed my long 80 miler (as well as another 54 mile ride) on the Schuylkill River Trail. With the addition of a couple 90-minute trainer rides of sweet spot and threshold intervals, it was another strong cycling week in volume and intensity.

Run: Other than a 14-mile long run in oppressive humidity, the run mileage this week was almost all easy, aerobic stuff–I am trying to keep the run volume up as much as possible without crippling my ability to complete strong cycling workouts, which are more important for me right now.

Total: Another solid week to close out August, which was far and away my highest-volume month of training yet and the most in each sport individually: 70,400 yards (40 miles) of swimming; 768 miles of biking; and 135 miles of running. I am happy with the recent training I have completed and think I can start scaling back the volume and scaling up the intensity in coming weeks, starting with a full dress rehearsal at the Delaware Diamondman half Iron/70.3 on September 9th.

*I have a non-standard system for quantifying my training output. (Swim Miles x 4) + (Bike Miles / 4) + Run Miles = Total Points. Listed time is time spent swimming, biking, or running, not rest between intervals, walking, etc.

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Training Week: 8/18-8/24

Swim: 17,600 Yards (3:54) 
Bike: 220 Miles (10:41)
Run: 32 Miles (3:25)
Total*: 127 Points (18:00)
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Swim: This was a solid, consistent week of swimming. My recent focus has been on lengthening sets–I am now doing 15 x 200 rather than 12 x 200, 8 x 400 instead of 8 x 300–in order to simulate the demands of a lengthy, 1.2-mile swim. When I leave the pool with fatigued shoulders and feel lingering soreness the next day, I know I’ve done my job. I’m getting stronger in the water–I am now doing my 400s at the pace I was doing my 200s at the beginning of the summer–but the time improvements are slim and getting slimmer. I am reaching a natural plateau that I may not exceed without a change in routine (i.e. more and/or harder swimming, working with a coach, swimming with a team/group, strapping plastic slats on my hands and binding my feet together…things like that). That said, this plateau may fall within the “good enough” level for age-group triathlon swimming and the additional effort may not be the best use of time and energy, but we’ll see how I fair in upcoming races.

Bike: The bike was good news and bad news this week. I had a breakthrough on Saturday, when I drove down to the flatlands of coastal Delaware to ride the Diamondman 70.3 course, where I’ll be competing September 9th. The prescribed workout was ~80 miles with 56 miles hard (around half-Iron level), but I felt strong and ended up holding around 10 watts higher on the hard portion than I had planned, or 251W average (~3.85 W/kg) for a 2:22 split (23.6 mph). I have never seen north of 250 watts for such a long period, and I was comfortable doing extended stretches in the 260-270W range, which was extremely difficult for me to maintain not long ago. However, the effort took its toll–I felt trashed at the end despite proper fueling. Had I needed to, I doubt I could have run a fast half marathon in that state. So I learned something important with the workout: my 235-240W target for half-Iron competition is probably right, even though I’m capable of better.

For the bad news, I was riding in a bike lane when a car pulled out from the right side of the road and ran directly into me. I went crashing over the hood of the car before rolling off and hitting the pavement. Luckily, I and my bike are okay–I have some elbow and hip soreness and my front wheel needs to be trued, but other than that we escaped unharmed. However, my iPhone, which was in my jersey pocket, was not so lucky. The driver said he didn’t see me, and I suppose this kind of thing is inevitable. I hate to ride the trainer more–I can’t get nearly the same power for my perceived exertion that I can outside, and it’s terribly boring–but cycling in Philadelphia is so dangerous; almost every ride I have some sort of close call. The bike paths, with all the weaving pedestrians and cruisers riding two abreast, are almost as hazardous as the roads. Nothing makes me miss living in Colorado like cycling in Philly.

Ethiopian Fare

Run: After Saturday’s bike effort, my legs felt a little sluggish at the outset of my Sunday long run, but after 3-4 miles I had warmed up and was running smooth and fast. Within the 15-mile run, I was able to split 10K, 10 Mile, and half marathon segments of 37:01, 1:00:17, and 1:20:35, the last of which is about what I’d hope (though not necessarily expect) to run at the end of a half Ironman. That night, I refueled with Ethiopian fare to emulate my (athletically superior) distance-running brethren from the horn of Africa.

Though I will never outrun the Bekeles down the home stretch, the comfort with which I am holding various paces in my runs (and at comparatively low heart rates) is proof that I am developing good run fitness on low mileage (24 miles per week average in 2012). If I can stay healthy enough to increase my mileage by 25% in 2013 (to, say, 30 miles per week on average), I am sure I’ll continue to make gains.

Total: This was an excellent week in terms of volume and performance. On top of back-to-back breakout workouts over the weekend, I logged a healthy amount of training all week. In general, my body seems to be coping with the training stress better than ever–I recovered quickly from the long bike and run, and I feel only moderate fatigue at the close of one of my highest-volume weeks ever. If I can continue this kind of quantity and quality of training in the coming weeks, I should be prepared to perform at my best at the end of September.

*I have a non-standard system for quantifying my training output. (Swim Miles x 4) + (Bike Miles / 4) + Run Miles = Total Points. Listed time is time spent swimming, biking, or running, not rest between intervals, walking, etc.

Training Week: 8/11-8/17

Swim: 12,300 Yards (2:43) 
Bike: 107 Miles (5:53)
Run: 21 Miles (2:38)
Total*: 76 Points (11:16)
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Swim: Despite this being a recovery week with less cycling and running, I didn’t get to the pool as much as I had hoped. I did have one frighteningly quick workout where I saw some splits I haven’t seen before (unfortunately, this was balanced by a couple agonizing sessions, including a long 8 x 500 meter set on a 30-second rest interval that caused at least as much psychological as physiological stress). As I have learned, the swim will be there as long as I can keep the consistency, which is a lot more difficult in practice than it is on paper.

Bike: The highlight of this week was a long ride in western Maryland that followed a good chunk of the bike course of the Savageman Tri, a race that is infamous for its difficulty. The ride was supposed to be another hard 4-hour ride at upper-tempo/half-Ironman pace–this will be perfect, I thought–and things were going fine for the first 15 to 20 miles as I was able to average north of 245W over gorgeous rolling terrain. Then the descents started to scalp my gains–on the bright side, I set a new PR for max speed at 49.3 mph–and the ascents started to test my physical wherewithal.

By the time I was halfway through the ride, I had already put in three extended efforts at close to threshold power–6.5, 11, and 6 minutes, respectively, pushing north of 270W, which was what I needed in my lowest gear to keep from falling over. Needless to say, I was gassed. Then at mile 40, things just got silly. Starting with the famous Westernport Wall (“the steepest climb in all of road triathlon”), the ascent to the top of Savage Mountain (around 2,500 feet of elevation gain, it appears) was cruel and unusual–every bit as challenging as Colorado’s front range. 220W was all I could muster for the next 10 miles, which took me almost 50 minutes.

The Westernport Wall

The descents, too, were treacherous, but the scenery was beautiful, and I highly recommend the West Virginia/Western Maryland area for some choice (albeit challenging) riding. When all was said and done, I’d ridden 70 miles in 4 hours (a paltry 17.3 mph) at a disappointing power level (213W avg / 230W normalized) but with 7,800(!) feet of elevation gain. One day, I will be back to take on the full bike leg as part of the Savageman Triathlon, and I’ll actually come ready with the proper gearing and a healthy respect for the terrain.

Run: After Saturday’s ride, I took a full day off on Sunday (typically my long-run day), so this week was consequently light on the run. This rest was welcome, as I plan to get in a few 30+ mile weeks in the coming month of training.

Total: This was a much-needed recovery week after four consecutive high-volume weeks. Still, I got in a couple good rides on the bike, a few solid swim sessions, and my typical Thursday hill intervals for the run. This coming weekend and week, it’s back to real business with some heavy volume and intensity planned. Just six weeks out from my key race, the time to make incremental fitness gains is short, though I feel that I’m almost where I want to be in all three disciplines. As always, the wild card is staying healthy enough to get in adequate run training, though as my strength, I have some leeway there.

*I have a non-standard system for quantifying my training output. (Swim Miles x 4) + (Bike Miles / 4) + Run Miles = Total Points. Listed time is time spent swimming, biking, or running, not rest between intervals, walking, etc.

Training Week: 8/4-8/10

Swim: 17,600 Yards (3:56) 
Bike: 174 Miles (8:37)
Run: 32 Miles (3:42)
Total*: 115.5 Points (16:16)
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Swim: My swim is definitely back, and all it took was brutal consistency. With over 60K yards in the last four weeks, I’m now comfortable where I am. A strong 6 x 400 set (in 5:43 average, short-course meters) gave me confidence that the work is paying off and that I’ll be more than capable of swimming 1:20 / 100 yard pace in wetsuit races this fall.

Bike: The highlight of this week was Saturday’s 82-mile, four-hour tempo ride in the Pocono mountains with over 6K feet of climbing. I set out to do 55 miles at 240W (half-Ironman goal power) followed by some endurance riding, but after a brief stop for a Red Bull and a Gatorade I felt strong enough to continue pushing back to the house. Ultimately, I probably rode too hard, averaging 238W (3.6 W/Kg) and 245W normalized for an IF of 0.87 and a 298 TSS (i.e. tantamount to an Ironman bike effort).

Poconos Morning

Run: After my Poconos ride, I transitioned immediately into a hard four-mile brick run, which started out being painful and ended up being excruciating, but on the bright side my body seemed to accept the Ironman Perform I’d taken in order to test the nutrition I’ll receive on race day. The next morning, I logged a 14-mile long run with over 1,000 feet of climbing. It wasn’t my best effort, but I pushed through on tired legs…which are really the only running legs you have in triathlon.

I continue to have niggling pain in my hip, but I was thrilled to get in another 30-mile running week. If I can stay healthy enough to maintain this consistency in the coming weeks, I am confident I’ll be where I want to be in late September.

Total: This was supposed to be a low-volume week, but I couldn’t pass up the big training opportunity in the Poconos, and I had difficulty taking down time for more than a couple days. Frankly, I’m a little annoyed to see the total tally because I do feel a bit overtrained–I had to cut short a tempo run yesterday, and my legs often feel like lead. But this is what happens when you have no coach, have a fly by the seat of your pants training plan, and are a foolish, inexperienced athlete with no self control!

This coming weekend, I have another hilly ~80-mile tempo ride planned for Saturday morning, but I intend to take Sunday and Monday a little easier. We’ll see.

*I have a non-standard system for quantifying my training output. (Swim Miles x 4) + (Bike Miles / 4) + Run Miles = Total Points. Listed time is time spent swimming, biking, or running, not rest between intervals, walking, etc.

Training Week: 7/28-8/3

Swim: 16,700 Yards (3:40)
Bike: 180 Miles (9:01)
Run: 31.5 Miles (3:50)
Total*: 114.5 Points (16:30)
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Swim: After 43,000 yards in three weeks, my swim is finally back. For a little bit of inconsistency—I had a couple light weeks and then took the better part of a week off—I lost a good amount of fitness. My set splits were well behind where I had been just a few weeks before. Though “real” swimmers are repulsed by the concept of using a watch in the pool, my Garmin helps me keep track of my sets and keep tabs on my fitness after the fact. I can compare splits down to the tenth of a second from weeks, months, or (*shudder*) years before.

Bike: The week began with the Nockamixon 20K Time Trial (race report here). I was able to fit in some threshold work Monday and sweet spot work Tuesday before my legs balked. On the back of a 10-mile morning run, I set out Wednesday afternoon for an endurance ride and could not hold 200 watts to save my life. This was my first experience truly “bonking” on a ride, and not for some lapse in nutrition but just from utter fatigue. I soft-pedaled the 25 miles home—a compulsory “active recovery” ride, if you will.

Run: Despite the time-trial effort on Saturday and some ongoing hip issues, I had one of my best runs in many weeks on Sunday—15 miles building into a half-hour threshold segment. While I am happy to be able to run close to six-minute pace given how little I’ve run since June, I need to be able to maintain that level more comfortably in training so I know I can run that speed (for 13.1 miles, no less) after a tough swim and bike. If my hip pain continues to abate and I can consistently run 30-mile weeks, I should have no problems getting there by late September…but that’s no small if.

Total: This was another successful high-volume week and the conclusion of a critical block of half-Ironman prep. Maintaining the swim, improving on the bike, and getting healthy for the run are the current and ongoing priorities. The coming week, I’ll get a slight volume reprieve at the price of a couple very intense bike and run workouts.

*I have a non-standard system for quantifying my training output. (Swim Dist x 4) + (Bike Dist / 4) + Run Dist = Total Points. Listed time is time spent swimming, biking, or running, not rest between intervals, walking, etc.

Race Report: Lake Nockamixon Time Trial

Since I have never competed in a cycling race (outside of triathlon), I was excited for the Lake Nockamixon 20K Time Trial, which was on an out-and-back course over rolling terrain. In terms of performance, I figured I could ride between 275 and 285 watts, or 108-110% of my estimated FTP. I thought this might be good for around 30 minutes on the 20K course.

Grimacing

There wasn’t much fanfare in this time trial. Each rider received a time, showed up at the start a few minutes prior, and set out on the course in 30-second increments at the specified time (mine was 8:44:30). When the time came, I took off and was immediately grateful for my power meter because I realized I had no idea how to pace myself. With the adrenaline of the start, I was pushing 330-350 watts right away and, knowing these numbers were unsustainable, coached myself into a more manageable pace around 300.

I had my Garmin set up to give feedback every 2K so that I could mentally parse the effort into 10% segments. When I came through the first segment in just under 3 minutes with average power just north of 300 watts, I knew I was where I needed to be. The second segment was largely uphill, and with my eye on my power I diligently kept my watts under 320, holding back the natural inclination to push hard going up.

After the first big hill, I settled into a steady rhythm with my power and cadence. It took concentrated effort to hold power on the descents, and at times 270 watts was all I could muster in my 52-11. After the turnaround, I knew I could maintain through to the end. In the last 2K, I gave what I had left to finish strong.

The end result was an average power of 298 watts (~4.6 W/kg) and a time of 29:36 (~25 mph) for 1st place in Category 5 (cycling newbs). I was thrilled to have knocked my power target out of the park in a very evenly paced effort.

As I continue to work on increasing my power, I know I need to work on my position (this is obvious from scrolling through the race photos–I have one of the most upright positions of the participants). I had a cursory fit when I bought my bike, but the wrench who set me up knew it was my first TT bike and set me up in a very non-aggressive position–very comfortable, but decidedly un-aero. ~300 watts should get me more than the velocity it did, even on a hilly course like Nockamixon. Now, where to find $300 for a professional fit.

Training Week: 7/21-7/27

Swim: 14,100 Yards (3:06)
Bike: 200 Miles (10:04)
Run: 25 Miles (3:10)
Total*: 107 Points (16:20)
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Swim: Slowly speeding up in the pool. It’s hard to stay motivated here, and more often than not I’m dreading the impending workout as I walk to the gym. However, the Olympics is helping, and I got in a nice Ironman-length open water wetsuit swim this week, which is always a treat.

Bike: I continue to progress on the bike, though I am finding it difficult to get in both volume (>200 miles per week) and intensity on the bike in addition to running. While I managed to get in two 50+ mile tempo efforts (one on the Poconos 70.3 course, which I’m coming to know well), at no point in the week did I feel capable of really hammering a good 2×20 threshold workout or V02 intervals–my legs were just too fatigued.

In this week’s edition of near-death cycling incidents, I was rapidly descending a hill in the Poconos when I spooked a deer, which scampered out of the brush directly toward me on the road. Luckily, the deer halted just as I roared by, but I was so close to it that my front wheel rolled over the top of the deer’s hooves. Despite being down in the aero bars, I held control of the bike after the minor speed bump. Scary stuff…inches could have made for a gnarly accident.

Run: While my hip is still nagging me, the pain seems to be easing slightly. I managed to run for three consecutive days after laying off the first part of the week. The highlight was hill repeats in the rain, which was a nice break from the heat.

Total: Despite only six days of training, this was my highest-volume week since I’ve been in Philadelphia. I have one more week of heavy volume planned for this training block, followed by a couple weeks of lower-volume, higher-intensity work. In terms of fitness, my swim is almost where I’d like it to be, and a 20K TT (report forthcoming) gave me confidence that I’m improving on the bike. For the run, I just have to be patient and hope the pain eases enough to let me maintain my conditioning.

*I have a non-standard system for quantifying my training output. (Swim Dist x 4) + (Bike Dist / 4) + Run Dist = Total Points. Listed time is time spent swimming, biking, or running, not rest between intervals, walking, etc.