Doing More With Less Since 1972

Tag: cycling (Page 1 of 4)

2021 Six Gap Training – A Complete Dummy Taking A Stab At It

It’s hard to call this a plan, especially since there’s a lot of playing by ear going on. It doesn’t have specific workouts laid out over 20 weeks or anything like that. This is more like a framework for a training approach, and it’s not based on any experience as a coach. It will be based on a bunch of data, which I’ll write about later. I’m the guinea pig, and I’m going to have to live with the results on pain day. I have some assumptions, some limiters, and a hefty dose of experimentation going on here.

What’s tough about training for Six Gap Century is that it isn’t just a century ride–covering 100 miles isn’t the only challenge presented here. Actually, the distance itself hardly factors in when you look at the big picture.

Six Gaps is a complicated problem. It’s actually a set of problems.

Yeah, yeah…I know there are lots of cyclists out there who have banked enough miles, climbs, and saddle time that they can just show up on September 26, ride Six Gap, then go out and to a 100k recovery ride the next day. But I’m not really a cyclist; not even a triathlete at this point. I’m just a dude who has done a variety of endurance events, but nothing this big that’s cycling focused. I’ve always pretty much middle of the pack, and if I can accomplish the same thing here I’ll be pretty happy.

I need some kind of training plan. And I don’t enjoy cycling all that much, so I need one that keeps me engaged.

So I’m going to approach this problem like I’d approach any other–what are the challenges I’m trying to overcome for this event? What are the problems that need to be solved?

For me, the big issues that need to be covered are:

I’ll start with mental toughness. In the end, I think this is the most important muscle to exercise. How do I plan to do it? Lots of time on the trainer, and not a lot of time outside. My past experience with mainly-trainer training has worked really well for me, and I definitely feel a difference when I go outside for an actual ride–it’s way more stimulating.

Imagine spending a few months listening to podcasts about nature, and then going in and watching a documentary about the National Parks on an IMAX screen. It’s that different.

The side benefit here is that the trainer allows me to work on almost all of the other aspects I need to address, excluding bike handling skills. I plan to go over my plan for each of these other issues in later posts, but I’m definitely going to use the trainer as my main training tool.

I’m going to break it down further in the next post. I’m always surprised at how much I have to say about stuff.

FTP Test – For Real

After my humbling performance in the Team Time Trial #95, I knew it was time to get on to the real business I have to take care of on Zwift. Not riding tours or group rides. The focus has to be on getting better.

Like, real results.

Still, I did want to do the makeup stage of the 2021 Tour de Zwift. It happened to be the climbing stage, and since I was only going to do one ride in this stage, I chose the most advanced one. Gulp. This took about 20 minutes longer than I was hoping it would. It was brutal. Another confirmation that I’m not where I need to be.

I did take a day off, but wanted to stick to the schedule. Legs were pretty heavy, but I went ahead with the FTP test. I’d done these before, back in the Trainerroad days, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Luckily, Zwift has a different type of FTP test that doesn’t take nearly as long and isn’t as grueling. I did a ten minute easy rise to get my trainer warmed up and did a quick calibration, then on to the test.

Unlike the 45 minute efforts I’ve done before, this one went pretty fast, and it only hurt for a little while. It’s a 5 minute warmup, followed by 1 minute intervals at increasing wattage. It didn’t even take me 18 minutes to complete and for my HR to get to critical.

I ended up at 243 for and FTP–for real this time, not virtual power. That makes sense. I was hoping for somewhere around 250. It’s funny to read back through old posts from before and see that history may not repeat itself, but it rhymes. I’m at 2.6 w/kg, and my goal (once again) is to get to 3.0 w/kg. Roughly, that means increasing my FTP to 270 watts and getting my weight down to 198 pounds.

Totally doable. In fact, I’ll have a hard time keeping those 7 pounds on if I’m doing all the workouts. My raw wattage may not jump all the way to 270, but if I weigh in at 195 pounds and hit a raw score of 265, the result is the same.

First Experience in Zwift TTT Racing

Alternate title: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good: I have an image that proves I was actually with this group at some point of the race

The Bad: It was evident early on that I couldn’t hang

The Ugly: My heart rate and recovery

Some background…

I’ve been doing a weekly Zwift recovery ride on Wednesdays with the Vikings – Valhalla team. This ride is super-fun, super-inclusive, and they seemed like a great group of people to ride with and represent. It didn’t take long to realize that this was the team for me. I’m doing this for fun and health, not for champeenships or money. Is there any money in Zwift racing? A different topic to explore.

After doing a race where I was not up to snuff, I can confirm that these are some cool people. No one dogged me out for not being able to keep up. In fact, they did everything they could to keep me in the group and only dropped me after the 2nd or 3rd time I told them that they should drop me.

As a member of a team I definitely feel like I let them down. But the best thing I could do was to let them go on without me. These guys were way stronger than me, and as I watched them finish as I continued to putter along the course I was amazed at the effort they put in. I have a lot of work to do before I try one of these again.

Race Report – Or at least the part I participated in

Zwift TTT is made up of up to 8 riders, and the time of the top 4 riders to cross the finish line is what counts. In the league we were in, there can be 3 “B” class riders and the rest “C” class. I’m a C rider, which means the responsibility to pull the group and ride at the front didn’t fall on me as much as others. We had a team of 6 in the start pen, but one of our riders had a technical issue, which had us start with 5 riders.

The call was to ride on raw watts over w/kg because we were riding a flat course. We were shooting for 300 watts at the front.

That’s 3.2 w/kg for me.

*Gulp* That’s hot. I was already a little worried. In the start pen I noticed my HR was over 100, and I wasn’t even pedaling–just nervousness and adrenaline, and that didn’t serve me well at all. Then again, they were only asking for 15 seconds of effort from me for my turns. I was determined to stay on for as long as I could, and I knew it was going to be about recovering for the 1:45 seconds my teammates would be pulling.

Since I’ve started riding again, the highest HR I’ve touched so far is 173. And I mean that I TOUCHED it. I can’t stay there for any amount of time. So I was really mindful of where my HR was and paying close attention to it. Two minutes into this ride I hit 158 on a pull, then I recovered. I hit 160 at ~4:00, and I recovered.

At ~5:00 I hit 161, and I climbed up to 169 in the next three minutes, and it just wasn’t recovering.

Somewhere between 10 to 13 minutes I fell off the back, and teammate Sylvan pulled me back to the group. I stayed in the 4th position for the rest of the time I was with the group, until the 20:00 mark or so. But I was stuck in the mid 160s and still struggling, so I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do this for another 25 minutes. I fell off again, and Sylvan slowed down to try and help me catch back up, but I was cooked. I was having some trouble with Discord to tell the guys to go without me–wasn’t sure they could hear.

When they made the call to drop me (great call!) I was tasked with “just finish”. That way if someone else had an issue we would at least get credit for the race…just a horrible time. It’s clear from the power graph above that I immediately started soft pedaling and trying to recover. I knew my best chance for a better time was to get my HR under control and then ride the best I could.

It took me 12:00 to get my HR under 150! Once I recovered, I tried to keep my HR at a reasonable rate and get the best time I could. Pretty boring work, so I decided to watch the rest of the team finish. Wow–the effort those guys put in was inspiring to watch. And it was great to hear how happy they were at the finish line!

They finished at ~44:00. There’s no way I could have stuck with them. No way. It’s crazy to look at the graph of Sylvan’s ride to see how much he was recovering when trying to pull me back to the group. And the work he put in after I dropped is just crazy.

I still had 2.6 KM to go after the team finished, but now there was zero pressure to get any kind of time. Just riding for pride at this point, and I’d already had that taken from me LOL. I pedaled into the finish and did the sprint at the end. Woopity Doo!

Ok, so how do I fix this?

I learned a lot on this ride, and it’s pretty evident what I need to work on:

  1. Increased FTP–I have a lot of room to grow in the C class
  2. Weight loss (to give me better w/kg)
  3. Intervals, intervals, intervals

So Friday was a light swim day–just short and easy to get the heaviness out of my legs. Today I’m doing the last Tour de Zwift ride that I missed to get every stage completed and a short easy run. After that (and a rest day on Sunday) the work begins.

Monday: FTP test. I need to baseline exactly where I am. I think my rating on ZwiftPower is a little inflated at this point because I’ve only had a smart trainer for a week. It’s evident that the power readings (estimated) from my dumb trainer were super inaccurate as the power increased. So I need a better baseline

Tuesday I’m going to take a rest day. Well, a rest from cycling. I’m actually going to get to roll on Tuesday! Woot!

Wednesday is going to be the start of a 6 week FTP builder. That takes care of increasing FTP, and if it’s like other plans I’ve done before there are lots of intervals on the menu.

And for the elephant in the room…almost literally…weight. When I was at BJJ peak fighting shape, I was walking around at ~190 pounds for most of the day. I was never under 200 when I was doing triathlons back in the day, and I think that extra 10 pounds made a big difference. I just hadn’t been small in so long I thought 200 WAS small. Now I’m aware of how much more athletic I feel at 190, and I’m motivated to get there from my current 205. Picking up some BJJ training is going to help with that for sure, but it’s going to be a tough row to hoe.

Daily Reading List — April 25th

Triathlon Fatalities Aren’t Going Away – Really hope someone can figure this out. Everything I've heard is that most of the people who die are fit and experienced, but have an undiagnosed heart condition.

And, uh, we also really need to do something about the number of people getting mowed down by cars when they are out training on their bikes. I stay inside the house because of that. Also there is Netflix.

Inspiration and Outrage in Boston – Outrage! If you're worried about the integrity of bandit runners, stop using your company's computer and bandwidth to try and track down bandit runners using Twitter and Facebook.

Ronald McDonald gets a makeover – Ronald McDonald now *serious* about being creepy. No more messing around.

American Teamwork–How Ryan Hall Helped Meb Win Boston – Great story about sacrifice for your teammates. Ryan Hall has smarts real good.

Why There Will Be A Robot Uprising – Some touch screen devices seem to have already achieved the desired outcome of preventing people from turning them off. #NoDisassemble

Drone Footage of a Rocket Taking off and Landing is Spectacular – The takeoff and landing is amazing on its own. Drones for the +1!

Post-Run Yoga – I blindly clicked, guessing low lunge would be the first thing on the list.

Google’s Secret Weapon To Keep Amazon And Microsoft On Their Toes – Race to the bottom of prices with a concurrent race to the top on speed? Sounds good to me!

4 Manly Lessons from the Minor Leagues – Some great stuff in here for triathletes too, even if you aren't trying to be a pro or get some sort of sponsorship. "Dominate the things you can control." and "Action without vision just passes time." are two of my favorites.

Unfollow Chocolate Milk! – It's about time someone with a louder voice than me said it. I bet Kool Ade, Tang, and every other sugary drink company wishes they'd thought of this scam before the Chocolate Milk cartel did.

Weekend warrior: mastering the art of the triathlon humblebrag – Really, there's no reason to be humble about it. If you're going out and doing ultra distance events regularly, or kicking ass in your age group in short and mid distance events, you are a bad ass. You are MUCH more of a badass than 90% of the population.

Flaunt it while you have it. You're not getting any younger.

Penn State Rugby Team Suspended – Here's the thing–college kids like to drink cold beer and, apparently, set things on fire.

When you have a problem with scholarship Division 1 athletes behavior, you can expect to have similar issues with non-scholarship club sport participants.

Ok..it's probably fair not to expect them to set things on fire because they aren't happy with their coach, but still.

Daily Reading List — February 18th

Helmets not even in top 10 of things that keep cycling safe – Have to agree with this. My biggest fear on the bike is that it will somehow come dislodged from the trainer in the middle of an interval and I'll go slamming into my desk.

Dispelling Lactic Acid Myths – Gyah! I learned a ton reading this article!

"The takeaway? Concentrate on exhaling."

5 Myths About Running That Are Ready to Be Retired – "Chocolate milk as a recovery drink" needs to be added to every list like this.

Calf Heart Attacks – Ouch! Glad I've never had this. You'll never believe what the number one thing you can do to help this running injury get better. Yep…stop running.

Tour of Sufferlandria recap – Best. Haiku. Every

Angels Haiku
Pain pain pain pain pain
Pain pain pain pain pain pain pain
There were no Angels

The Pleasant Places to Live – Cool map! Take into account the sea breeze, and I'd argue that our June and July on the East Coast of Florida is pretty dang nice. Boost our numbers!

Cycling ‘much safer than playing rugby’ – Well, now that's finally answered.

Google Releases Chromecast SDK To Developers – Avalanche of game updates coming in 3,2,1…

Faster First, Then Farther

I just thought of something while wandering around the grocery store aisles. This is changing my not-so-well-put-together plan for 2014.

I’m going to take a year to forget about going far, and just focus on getting faster.

I’ve heard this idea discussed on the ZenTriathlon podcast pretty often, and it ran through my mind while doing the Tour of Sufferlandria also. It always seemed right, but just not what I wanted to do, so I kind of ignored it.

I like going far.

And fast hurts.

Over the last year, I’ve proven to myself that long isn’t a problem for me. True, still no 140.6 on my resume, but I’ve done the long swim thing, the long run thing, and the ride-the-bike-hard a lot thing.

What I haven’t done (ever) is the fast thing.

And here’s what I realized today…

My ability to go long is not going to be limited by my age. But my ability to go fast is a place where age has probably already caught up with me a bit.

I can always go farther, but I won’t always be able to go faster. So I’m going to go faster this year and keep everything relatively short. That means nothing longer than a half-marathon for runs, nothing longer than an Olympic distance tri, and a lot of time swimming intervals with a masters group.

And more yoga. And more lifting. And more weight loss.

Daily Reading List — January 17th

NCAA Welcomes Women’s Triathlon – A little bit of a different view here from me, but I can't imagine why you'd want the NCAA involved in your favorite sport. Stay away from my beer pong.

Steven Lord Blog: The Rhythm Of Life (and drafting) – I see people drafting in races all the time. And I really don't give a ladybug if they do it. Eventually, this is going to result in a really big pileup in a really big race. Besides, virtue is its own reward.

From Victim to Villain in a flash – As they are fond of hollering in East Tennessee — "Git off the rowed!"

I <3 Trainerroad.

6 Simple Habits To Keep You Consistently Happy Every Day – All very easy to do. I'd add another–Just.Slow.Down. That probably falls under disengagement.

Narcissists tweet more often and crave followers on Twitter – So younger narcissists are more likely to post to twitter, and middle aged narcissists are more likely to update Facebook.

Unanswered questions here: what about middle aged people who update twitter a lot? Was Instagram even considered in the narcissism scale, out did they run out of space to measure it there?

10 Tips for Dating a Single Mom – Hilarious. Read the comments first, then go back and read the article. The comments are pure gold. Gold Jerry!

Van Halen’s 1984 Turns 30 Today — How Does It Hold Up? – Best quote from this whole (incredibly good) post:

"Does it ['Panama'] hold up? Embarrassing question. Yes, it holds up. It might be holding this entire goddamned country up."

Happy People Count Their Current and Future Blessings – "View living a spartan lifestyle as temporary, merely a prerequisite to joining the ranks of the socioeconomic achievers in America."

This is Sparta!

My Rookie Year On The Tour

I’m doing a challenge run on New Year’s Day, but my next “race” is going to be the Tour of Sufferlandria.

Technically, this isn’t a race either. It’s just a 9 day beat down on the bike.

I got an awesome gift this year–every single Sufferfest video. I can’t decide if that’s because I’m loved, or because people really want me to suffer. I’ll take it either way. They’ll at least respect me when I finish, right? I’ve wanted to try these videos out for a while, and since I’ve been using Trainerroad my interest has peaked.

I’ve been off the bike for a couple of months and focusing on marathon training. But that race was two weeks ago, and I still think my biggest triathlon gains are to be had on the bike. So last night I did a new FTP test, using the Rubber Glove video from The Sufferfest. My old FTP was 305, and I expected that number to fall. (Un)fortunately it went up.

Way up. My new FTP is 399.

I blame it on the hot chick making omelettes.

I’m honestly not sure how this happened–bike setup on the trainer was the same. The only real difference was a slightly cooler environment. I’m hoping this is a true measurement, and that I gained this power with a 2 month focus on high running volume and ample rest going into the test. Either way, I’ve set myself up for some absolutely brutal training rides over the next 6 weeks heading into the Tour.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen over the rest of 2014. I’m reconsidering the self-supported 140.6 because of safety concerns. But I think I’m ready to step up to the big boy plate this year. I’m about 2 years into uninterrupted training and steady improvement–big gains on the bike in the second half of this year and a new found ability to run long distances without bonk.

The two major factors have been Trainerroad and a much cleaner diet with a lot less sugar and grains (thanks Vinnie!). I think I finally have a decent handle on race management as well. That’s probably a fleeting window of opportunity. I’ll start messing it up again soon. But I need to take advantage of this window while it’s open.

So…Great Floridian?

2013 Battle Of The Bridges Race Report

I did this race back in 2010 when it was called the Health First Triathlon. It’s one of my favorite race courses. Check that…I think this may be my favorite race course. The race has improved since 2010, when then run was definitely short, and the swim course more confusing.

The re-branding as Battle Of The Bridges sounds more cool as well. I like.

Packet Pickup

As always, when you have packet pickup at Running Zone, you know it’s going to go super smooth. They have an area of the store dedicated to packet pickup. It doesn’t hurt that it’s so close to the house. I also appreciate the fact that you are able to pick up your packet beginning on Wednesday, so you aren’t wading through a crowd of people the day before the race when you should be resting. This year’s bag included another nice t-shirt and a really nice hat with a little extra sweat band inside–very important feature to me.

Race Strategery

Pacing: I was planning on using Neighbor Ben as something of a pacer for this race. I didn’t tell him about this, but I’m sure he was plotting my demise for weeks too. 🙂 We’re really close in everything–pretty much dead even on the swim. I think he’s a faster runner than me, and I’d guess I’m faster on the bike if we were time trialing for 40k.

That’s in stand-alone races…but tris are a different animal, and he and I approach them a little differently. I think I’m much more conservative on the bike to try to get my optimal run. I subscribe to the idea that it’s impossible to have a “great bike and a horrible run”. “Bad run” indicates over doing it on the bike, at least for me. My expectation was to finish pretty close to him on the swim, that he’d give a little more than me on the bike, and that I’d hopefully be able to close down the gap again on the run.

The best thing about Ben is that he’s a competitor. I think I’ve been missing out on pissing contests for quite a while, and I’m really happy the guy who got my attention by easily taking the ball away from me at rugby practice when I first moved here now lives right down the street. I already knew from doing some training with him that there would be no quarter given and no mercy on race day.

Oh…and he also likes old school rasslin’.

Anyway, I’ve been doing plenty of intervals on the bike, so I decided it fit nicely to attack the hills and the sections of the course with headwinds to get my intervals in for the race, relaxing a little on the flat sections and a lot on the tailwind sections. Physics says this is the correct way to ride for optimal speed if you’re interested in reading about it.

TIP: Physics is the most reliable thing in any race.

Fuel: This has been my biggest change recently. I’ve cut waaaaaaay back on sugars and grains in my diet. It got me over a hump to knock off another 5 pounds–mostly visceral fat I think. I’ve been running and riding on zero fuel to try and switch over to using fat for fuel (I have plenty) instead of sugar. I went with a banana and a Laura Bar pre-race and planned on another Laura Bar at the beginning of the bike. I had a couple of packs of Gu in my shorts, just in case, but I wasn’t planning on eating them.

Diesel racing. No bonking.

Race organization and start

Ben picked me up at 5:45 to make the haul down to Eau Gallie. We talked about 80s hair metal and our favorite Rock and Roll Pump Ups the whole way. He understands the power that is Motorhead.

Parking was simple and ample, plenty of body markers at transition, plenty of space for everyone to get set up, and no lines for chip pickup. Even the port-a-potty lines were reasonable.

I was expecting the turnout to be a little bigger. There were only 3 waves for the Olympic distance race, and my wave was 2nd to go off with 15 people in my age group (40-45), and 103 participants overall. I like being in later waves because it gives you more people to chase on the bike. Not that I’m ever in the top swim pack in my wave, but the more people you can hunt on the course, the better.

The sprint had a larger field with 204 athletes.

Swim (1500+)

00:34:27 (5th in AG, 26th overall)

Ben and I swim this spot every Wednesday, and the buoys have been out for a couple weeks–no surprises showing up race morning and wondering if the course was laid out long. It was. No looking down at my watch at the finish and wondering why it took so long–I already knew it was long based on my training swims. I usually do 1500 in 28:00 +/- 30 seconds, but I knew this was going to be somewhere around 34:00. It actually felt shorter, especially on the leg going north. I thought it was maybe sub-30:00, but it didn’t worry me at all to look down and see that big number on my watch at the finish.

I think this was important because I didn’t feel any need to try and make up time on the bike. If I’d expected 28:00, it could have changed the complexion of the race. I was hoping for some rougher water because I’ve been out there training in the evenings when the water is typically much choppier and the current stronger. Anything that would give me an edge, you know?

Turns out, I did get a little bit of an edge on the swim–the edge of a rock. I cut my big toe on my right foot open when I took a dolphin dive at the very start of the swim. It played a little bit of a factor in the rest of the race, but I’m very happy with how I handled it. It was stinging for the whole swim, so I knew it was a cut, I just didn’t know how bad it was. But it had zero impact on my swim, so I decided to deal with it if and when it became an issue.

T1

00:1:17

This was the best transition I’ve ever had. I went really minimal for this race. T1 consisted of of putting on a helmet and going! Shoes in the pedals already, no HR strap, etc.

I also committed to sprinting T1 and knew to (TIP) stay to the right coming off the pier to take advantage of the shower. I ran by a lot of people in T1 with the plan of jacking my HR up as high as I could. The thinking being that cranking it up would work to my advantage since I was going to put on my shoes and grab a bite to eat early in the bike. A higher HR would get the blood pumping into my legs, and I could let it recover while I was dealing with food and shoes.

Ben was turning into his bike rack about 4 steps ahead of me, so I knew I was right on track. I got to see some of my cheering section coming out of T1. It’s been reported that I wasn’t my usual smiling, cheery self. Part of that was that this was a shorter race, which made it a much more intense effort. Also, I was now thinking about dealing with the toe.

Bike (27 miles)

1:17:36 (9th in AG, 39th overall)

I love, love, love this bike course. It’s fast, with only three 90 degree turns. Not much more than feathering the breaks until the dismount is required. It’s not hilly, but the four small causeway sections keep the low-country people honest. I relish those “climbs”.

Tip: I like to eat solid food at the beginning of the bike. I wasn’t using a bento box for this race and didn’t have any electrical tape, so I just crammed a Laura Bar into my helmet. This worked great! Once I was going on the bike I just reached up and grabbed the bar and started munching. Adding this to the back of tricks!

My heart was racing pretty hard when I mounted and started north on Pineapple. I revved up to about 18 mph and put a shoe on, revved up to 18 again and put the other shoe on, grabbed the bar out of my helmet and started a high cadence pedal staying over 18 while I ate and took in some liquid. I started putting some pressure on the toe to see if I could get some new information. It felt like there was a big knot/blister on the bottom, but I couldn’t tell if it was still bleeding or what was going on. I decided I’d check it at T2 and figure out what to do about it then.

Ben passed me about a mile and a half in, and I was all the way to US1 before I could feel the HR start to come down. I knew he’d be going at it pretty hard, so I thought I was in good shape as long as he was in site. By the time we reached Pineda Causeway (6m) I was riding easy and ready to attack the climb. I took it at over 19 mph, but made sure I was riding high cadence and not mashing big gears (thanks Trainerroad!!!!). I passed a bunch of people, including Ben, on those first two bridge bumps and soaked in the recovery on the downhills.

I was going at a nice clip headed south on 513 but not pressing the HR. I estimated the wind was at our backs and that I’d need the juice when we headed north on Tropical Trail. I knew I was in a good spot when Ben passed me back about 3 miles into that stretch and I was going 23 mph.

Sure enough–headwinds as soon as we started up Tropical Trail. I focused on ignoring the numbers on my bike computer and concentrating on my effort level instead. This was going to be a 5 mile stretch of effort, and I approached it as a 15 minute Trainerroad sweet spot interval. I can’t adequately express how much Trainerroad has benefited me on the bike. I’d really like to ride this course as a straight up time trial to see how fast I could do it. I’ve done this course faster in a tri, but never as efficiently and never with so much left over for the run.

The second trip down 513 was more of the same–relatively high speed with lower effort. Ben pulled out of site, but I didn’t chase. I knew I had a little bit of work left to do on Eau Gallie causeway. It’s a little steeper and longer than Pineda, but I kept it at a high cadence and went up pretty quickly. As I crested the top I pulled my feet out of my shoes and tried to see if I could learn more about the toe. Speed picked up pretty quickly, so I wasn’t really comfortable trying to get a good look at it. Instead, I decided to spin the legs out and wait to see how my  towel looked in T2 after I wiped my feet. I also realized at this point that more information wasn’t going to change anything unless I was absolutely gushing blood.

T2

00:02:00

A little slower than I’d have liked, but there were extenuating circumstances. I cleaned my feet off like I normally do and saw I was definitely leaving some blood on the towel. Nothing too bad, but I made absolutely sure my socks were going to protect me as best they could. The best thing about this race was leaving T2 and seeing the oldest offspring smiling and screaming for me at the timing mat. I heard her for a looooong way down the road!

Run (10k)-High Drama

00:51:50 (4th in AG, 30th overall)

If you’ve read this far, you won’t mind how long this section is. With every triathlon I do, I become more and more convinced that it’s just a running race. This is where all the action happens.

My favorite thing about this run course is that the last three miles feature two hills. Well, they aren’t really hills, just a big bridge. They aren’t huge or anything, but that’s all up to perception, and I don’t perceive those to be insanely big hills. “You can take the boy out of Tennessee…” and all that.  Again, a slight advantage for me against the lowlanders. I actually enjoy running on hills, and it just so happens that we run intervals on this bridge every Wednesday right after we swim.

As soon as I left T2 and headed up Pineapple, I could see Ben a pretty good ways up ahead. I was hoping to be a little closer at this point in the race, but the only thing I could do about it was to run. I focused on two things–high cadence and toe evaluation.

I’m not going to lie. It hurt, and the first thought I had was that I shouldn’t run and end up injured with a marathon looming in the future. I decided to keep running for a while and have a discussion with myself to help me decide what to do. Here’s that whole conversation broken down into bullet points:

  • What hurts worse..the toe or the rest of your body because you just got off the bike? Rest of body.
  • DNF is off the table, so what are you going to do…stay out here and walk a 10k? Uh…that sounds horrible. No.
  • You’re almost a mile in now. Look down…is your shoe bloody yet? No.
  • Ok, now you are a mile in. The rest of you body feels better now…is the toe pain enough to make you stop? HELL NO!

Decision made.

I was expecting/planning to run the first mile in 8:30 +/-10 seconds. The plan was to spend the second mile doing some math to figure out what kind of splits it would take from that point to go sub-50:00. My first mile split was 8:04. Oops.

I tried to let off the gas a little, but I think I got a little psyched out by the fact that I didn’t seem to be closing in on Ben. He’s a faster runner than me, but I thought I would have a shot at catching him if he’d overspent on the bike and I hadn’t. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any information about the gap between us at that point. There’s a turnaround in the 2nd mile and I noted where he passed by me on his way back and took a split to see how long it would take me to get there. I was just less than a minute behind him, but it didn’t seem like that was going to close anytime soon. Mile 2 split was 8:07.

But all of a sudden, he seemed closer. I watched him cross into the shade of a tree and took another split to see how long it took me to get to that point. Surprisingly, I was only down 35 seconds! I realized I was probably going to catch him pretty quickly at this pace, so I decided to slow down just a tad. I was 99% sure I had gone out too fast at this point and was not going to make it under 50:00–not with those hills coming up. The best thing I could do was try to regroup and get ready for the hard part. The hills were going to be my best chance to pass other people in my age group.

Mile 3 split was 8:13, and I passed by Ben just as we went up the little hill at Creel Street. As we turned onto Highland, I spotted another guy in my age group who had BLOWN by me on the bike. His head was bobbing a little, and it seemed like that small bump in the road had taken a lot out of him. I regrouped a little and passed by him, trying my best to appear fresh.

After that, I felt like I was running on my own for the most part. It’s a little scary not knowing what’s going on behind you, and there’s no way to see the gaps between athletes again on this course until somewhere around the 5 mile mark. I let the unknown of what may be happening behind me drive me forward. Whatever was going on back there, I wanted to be as far away from it as possible. Also, I knew that there were plenty of people in my age group in front of me, and I wanted to apply as much pressure on them as I could. I’m making a huge assumption here that I even entered someone else’s mind. I’m sure I didn’t, but it was helping at the time.

Mile 4 finishes near the top of the causeway, and I got there in 8:32. I was pretty happy with that split considering the hill involved, and I estimated that most of my competition couldn’t take that hill at the same pace I had. It was nice knowing that I’ve run that thing a bunch of times and have never quit on it, even when doing intervals. Race day is not the day to set a precedent like that.

The pain of a 10k was starting to build up, but I realized I’d completely forgotten about the toe!

Mile 5 is all downhill and flat, but I only ran an 8:37.  I think I lost focus a little on that mile, thinking it was a gimme. Disappointing, and something I need to make sure I don’t do again, but I knew I had one more hard effort to go, and I’d soon be happy I’d given myself some breathing room.

Mile 6 up and down the causeway was an 8:32.  On the climb I saw another guy in my age group (who’d also smoked me on the bike) walking. I set my sites on him and gauged that I could catch him before the top. If I did, he’d have a hard time catching me back on the downhill, leaving me about a quarter mile to hold him off. I could not believe it when he started running about 2/3 of the way up the hill. I took another shot at him, but realized he’d gotten a rest during his walk, and now the tables were turned–it was going to be tough for me to catch him on the downhill and last quarter mile.

When he glanced over his shoulder and saw me, I knew the jig was up! He ended up beating me by 17 seconds. I talked to him afterwards and we agreed that both of us had dug just a little deeper from that point. He was visiting from south Georgia and said, “man…those causeways humbled me.”

Finish Line and Post-Race Analysis

2:47:09 (6th in AG, 30th Overall)

I was spent at the finish…veins pumping battery acid just like they are supposed to be. They had nice cold towels and water for us and, as is the case for just about every race these days, nice medals. Honestly, I’m not sure a race of this distance warrants a medal, but the kids get excited about it.  I’ve decided they should only give medals for races that make me consider quitting several times during the event and to swear them off forever. Or if it’s something I haven’t done yet because I don’t feel ready. So basically marathons and ultras for running, and 70.3 and up for triathlon.

Kidding, but not really. I wouldn’t mind if they gave you the option to pay a lower entry fee and opt out of the medal. I’d do that for just about every race. I’d have immediately traded my medal for an extra cold towel and a cold cold beer. Personal preference–finisher medals just don’t matter that much to me. The Missus says it’s important for the kids to see them as a physical reminder of the effort that went into getting them. I get that part of it, so let the medal awards continue!

There was plenty of fruit, water, and baked goods at the finish line. Additionally, they had beer and wings at Squid Lips after the race was officially over. We didn’t stick around for that though–opting for better quality beer by the pool at the house instead with a soundtrack featuring more Motorhead and rasslin’ conversation. I was honored to be crowned the Davidia Dr. World’s Heavyweight Champion of Endurance Sport.

I have no illusions about my ability in the short term to win my age group (2:30:00 won it). My strategy is long-term. I plan to simply out-live everyone in my age group. See you punks in a few decades.

But I’m seriously motivated by the fact that the difference between 3rd and 6th (me) was only 3 minutes. It lights a fire under my booty–I think I can find 3:00 minutes somewhere in a 2:45:00 race. I felt like we were really fighting it out the whole way (at least I was) and I’m planning to come back to this race next year faster, and maybe with a (more) decent bike.

I think I lost a little time on the run because I failed to manage my pace correctly at the start, and I also gave up a little on that 5th mile. There’s a chance I went a tad too hard on the bike and took a little off my run, but there’s just as good of a chance that I didn’t go quite as hard as I should have and left some time on the bike course. That’s really hard to tell without a power tap.

The People Who Made It Happen

As always, I want to thank my family for coming out and supporting me on race day and working their schedules around my training when necessary. I try to minimize that, but sometimes it affects them. Also, thanks to all the volunteers and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Department for keeping us safe on the swim and in the intersections and manning the aid stations.

I am especially appreciative of the folks manning the medical tent who tended to my foot after the race. My toe box and sock were bloody, but luckily no stitches required. If you want to get a look at how nasty the situation was, click here. When I say “nasty” I’m mostly referring to the foot itself–not necessarily the cut. They cleaned it up (the cut, not the foot) and wrapped it for me. As I told the medic, I wanted to squeeze in as much quality medical care as possible before October 1.

Lastly, I want to give a shout out to Coach Brett Blankner at Zentriathlon.com. His podcasts have made a huge impact on my training, nutrition, and race management over the last two years. A little secret:  most of what he talks about applies to life in general, not just triathlon. Especially helpful for this race was an episode from a few weeks ago in which he discussed Zen racing and your ability to deal with the unexpected. What if the swim gets cancelled? What if your goggles leak? What if you accidentally drop a water bottle? What if you cut your foot open as the horn is blowing at the start? This episode was the first thing that crossed my mind when I felt the sting, and I was able to remember what I’d learned from it and remain calm.

Thanks a ton Brett! You are doing a good thing and making a difference for people!

Daily Reading List — September 24th

Physiological demands of rugby – Best. Sport. Ever.

“For example, in an 80-minute match, a loose forward can expect to burn about 2000 kCal, compared to 1 700 kCal for backline players. This is 25% higher than what has been measured for professional soccer players. By way of comparison, a 90kg man running a half-marathon (21km) burns about the same amount of energy as a Super 14 player every weekend!”

When To Replace Your Drivetrain – I’ll cut to the chase here, and the news is good news. Until shifting becomes an issue, the only thing you need to change is the chain. That’s one of the cheapest and easiest thing to change on the bike!

How to recognize the artists of paintings – I just doubled my knowledge of art.

The truth about the war for talent – “The best news is that attitude is a choice, and it’s available to all. You can probably win the war for attitude with the people you’ve already got.”

Yup. And the one person we all have is ourselves. Win.

Another Brain Burp of Cool Triathlon Stuff

Trainerroad

First things first…if you have even been considering joining Trainerroad, this is the week to do it. You can get in for $89/year instead of the usual $120. That’s good for as long as you’re a member, and it was already the best deal in triathlon training. This is not an affiliate link, and I don’t get anything for sending you to them except that I feel I owe it to them for the great strides they’ve helped me make on the bike. Their website was updated yesterday and now has even more great features.

Battle of the Bridges Olympic Tri

This is an “A race” for me, and it’s two weeks away. I only race “A” races because that’s what a race implies to me…that I’m going to do my best. The work I’ve put in on Trainerroad will hopefully pay off big here. I’ve been focusing on the run for the last couple of weeks because I have 10 weeks to go to a marathon after this race. I’m thinking the grunting, groaning, sweating, and near tears I’ve already put in on the bike are going to get me out of T2 fresh and ready for a special 10k.

Hardcore History

The best thing I’ve found in a long time to listen to while running. I love the ZenTri podcasts, but I need more hours of audio, and these are incredible. Dan Carlin is a great story teller, and this stuff is amazing. He also has the Common Sense podcast. These are going to come in very handy as the run miles start increasing for marathon season.

 

 

 

How To Set Yourself Up For a Bad Run – Really Bad

I had a bad long run yesterday–one of those really bad ones that only seem to happen two or three times a year. If you’ve never had one, consider yourself lucky.

Bad runs are a lot like those really good runs you get every now and then, only different. The difference is that everything that makes your good run so great doesn’t happen in a bad run. You probably could have figured that out on your own, but I felt the need to drive the point home.

Because I spent much of the rest of the day trying to stay off my feet and doing nothing, I had time to reflect and figure out what happened. From what I can tell, these re the most important elements in creating a really bad run for yourself–useful if you want to be prepared for every situation on race day.

  • Eat like crap the night before. I’ve been eating so good for so long that my body is now sensitive to what used to be normal food for me. We went out on Saturday night and, being the hogs we are, encouraged each other to eat stuff we wouldn’t feed the kids since they weren’t there. “Don’t need dessert–I’ll fill up on bread, thanks. On second thought..bring the bread pudding.”
  • Don’t sleep enough. This one is tricky. Sometimes six hours is enough to squeak by on, but in this case it wasn’t. A key indicator is that I wanted to go to bed a couple of hours earlier than I did, but it wasn’t in the cards.
  • Start tired. Not sleepy tired, but tired-tired. I did a bike ride the day before…not a super tough ride, although there was a on-the-edge-of-LT 40k time trial in there. The problem is that I did it in the afternoon and not the morning, so I only had 12 hours to recover. This ride also contributed to the feeding choices at dinner, since we left right after the ride to eat.
  • Get smashed the night before. Didn’t do this one, but I thought I’d throw it in there because it’s a sure-fire way to mess up your run.
  • Leave the house 30 minutes late. Yeah, I felt like dookie for most of the run, but the heat wasn’t doing many any favors at all at the finish. Replacing those last 30 minutes with some relatively cool weather at the beginning of the run would have helped.

One of my neighbors was finishing up his bike ride as I was finishing and was nice enough to give me what was left in one of his water bottles. He made the comment, “You look like you’re cooked. It feels so hot out here, but it’s only 87.” Right. 87 isn’t nearly as bad with a 20 mph wind in your face and some sweat evaporation taking place. I’d have pushed him off that bike if he hadn’t just given me water.

Gaming Triathlon Training

There’s nothing like having another competitive person push, pull, and drag you to the next level of performance.

I’m a big fan of playing games during training when I’m coaching sports like rugby and baseball. Games are a great way to avoid monotony during training sessions–drills are boring and standing in line to do drills is even more boring. Games also keep the intensity of a training session higher because, unlike a drill, you can actually compete and win. Games also help create an artificial pressure.

I’m not sure why I never even tried to come up with anything for Triathlon training. Maybe it’s because I only have myself to worry about, and the monotony doesn’t bother me very much…dunno. But it’s not quite as easy to dream up endurance training games as it is in ball-related sports.

But I came up with a couple anyway–both depend on a partner.

Swimming

Neighbor Ben and I were talking last week about how much benefit we’ve gotten from swimming open water only. It’s way more exciting that swimming in a pool, even if the danger is mostly perceived, and there’s so much more to deal with–sighting, chop, currents, no walls, etc. Then last week, he T-boned me during our swim and had a head-on collision with another lady. We were laughing about it the other night, but then realized we may be onto something.

What if we went out and played Open Water Tag? It would work something like this…

Both players swim out to the middle of a body of water as a warmup–say 500m or so. Player One then goes under water and holds his breath for 30 seconds. While this is happening, Player 2 swims away in any direction. At the end of the 30 seconds, Player 1 comes up and finds (sighting–key skill) Player 2 and sprints (key skill) towards him to “tag” him. Player 2 can swim anywhere he wants to avoid the tag, changing direction (key skill) at any time. However, Player 2 has to swim head-up (strength/sighting) the entire time he’s being chased.

Running

This is another tag-type game–Interval Tag. After warming up, both players do something somewhat strenuous to take a little mustard out of both–something like 20 burpees. Player 1 then runs away on a pre-determined course while Player 2 rests for 30-45 seconds. Of course, Player 1 will be going at a jog after the burpees.

After his rest, Player 2 chases down player 1 and tags him as soon as he can. Once the tag has been made Player 1 (the original chaser) continues along the course. Remember, he just did an interval, so this will most likely be a recovery jog. At the same time, he’s going to want to put as much distance as he can between himself and Player 2.

Meanwhile, Player 2 (who was just tagged) stops to do some type of exercise like pushups/squats/plank. He should be pretty well rested at this point, but he’ll also have some urgency to finish the assigned exercises and get on with the next chase.

Cycling

If you want to play a cycling game, that’s easy. Sign up for Trainerroad. It’s downright addictive in the way it gets into your head and drives you to match the prescribed power output.

Racing Is Just Like Getting Drunk

I was talking to Neighbor Ben last night about racing. And racing. And racing. He’d just finished a run, and I’d just finished a bike ride, and there was only one beer each involved in this conversation. One of the themes that kept rising to the surface is that some people like to train more than they like to race, and other people like to race more than they like to train.

Neighbor Ben likes to race.

I know this because he said, “I like to race.”

I like to train.

I know this because I train a lot, and I hardly ever race.

I know there are lots of factors involved, even if I can’t exactly put my finger on all of them. I won’t lie–one big factor is that racing, especially triathlon racing,  is expensive. A local race we were talking about doing last night is $100. This is for a no-frills Olympic distance race. Hard to justify that when a new low-end pair of bike shoes cost the same amount, but I still haven’t forked over money for them, even though I probably should have done that a couple of years ago.

Racing is also more time consuming. As soon as your training day becomes a race day you are committed to showing up early to set up your transition area and sticking around for results. That means either dragging the family along or spending time away from them. And that’s just if you’re racing locally. Racing can also involve travel.

Yet another reason I try to avoid racing for the most part is a character flaw I have. I seem to always find a way to rationalize taking way too much time off after a race. That’s not good.

But mostly, I just enjoy the training more in general. Maybe it’s just my personality makeup. I’ve always liked practice. I was the same way with rugby. I don’t think I’d go so far as to say I liked practice more than games there, but I really did enjoy going to practice. With triathlon, I think I’m in it for the training and lifestyle more than the racing.

For me, racing is like getting drunk. It’s fun and all, but not something I want to do more than a few times a year (if that).

So in the case of our proposed Olympic distance race. It’s tempting, mostly because of the peer pressure being exerted by I-Love-To-Race-Neighbor-Ben, but it doesn’t sound nearly as interesting to me as swimming across the Indian River just for fun.

I know some people line things up as “A” races, “B” races, “C” races…whatever. That’s great if it works for them, but I don’t think it works for me. I may not enjoy racing as much as I enjoy training, but when I am racing, I’m racing. I can’t imagine a situation where I slap down money to enter a race and then “just train through it.”

Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks I guess. But it’s good for me to think long and hard about who I am before throwing down entry fees in $100 increments.

[image credit]

Daily Reading List — August 21st

Mall Becoming Cheaper Than Amazon – And the consumer wins again!

The problem with the mall is that I have to go to the mall. Triple B (Bed, Bath, Beyond) is like a SkyMall you can walk through.

John R. Mathers 2 Mile Cross River Swim – This is tentatively scheduled for September 15 this year, and I can't wait. I really like the John Mathers story Rob gives us in this post. That there was a real man.

The Internet: We’re Doing It Wrong – By wrong, I thought they meant we just spend too much time on it. Turns out, that's not what they meant at all.

Preventing Swamp Crotch – Blue Gold Bond powder is definitely the most manly choice. Baby's butt paste is highly recommended though.

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