Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Back In the Saddle...

This time of year my work tends to slow way down and therefore I'm home a lot more and not constantly travelling.  I've really been enjoying time at home with the girl, friends, and finally being able to log some solid training weeks.  I've also had some fantastic breakthrough workouts where I've gone home feeling like I've really learned something about myself, or hit a new level in something or figured something out.  Last week I logged just shy of 13 hours of training and this week will be the last big push before the Amica 70.3 where I'll probably get up to 15 hours or so.  More on that in another post...   for now lets get back to those breakthrough's.

Swim...    My swim is definitely my weakness.  I've put a decent amount, but not enough of pool time in this offseason.  I made some progress and finally was able to swim the same distances I can cover in open water in a wetsuit in the pool with no wetsuit.  So that was good.  I also managed to get my pool 100yd time down a little bit, but no huge speed breakthroughs.  But in the last week or so I've had two fantastic swims.

Last weekend the girl and I did a two mile open water point to point ocean swim.  We swam from 1st Beach in Newport around the point, and into second beach.  This is the longest distance I've ever swam.  Previously my longest was 3500yds and this was 3608 according to my Garmin.  Considering its only July and I have till October to get up to 2.4 miles I feel pretty good about that.  I was definitely nervous swimming that far out from shore and navigating around the break at the point and various rocky bits in the swells but it was fantastically fun.  Even the billions of tiny tiny little nonstinging jellyfish we had to swim through didn't upset me too much.  I was really psyched I was able to cover the distance and I hope to repeat that or a similar swim once a week as my "long swim" workout.  Fortunately the ocean was pretty calm and other than some big rollers once we got out away from the beach it was pretty calm.  Heres the gps track of our route.
The other big breakthrough I had was a swim at Georgiville Pond this week.  I was mucking about with my stroke on the way back to the beach to kill the boredom and decided to try breathing only to one side every fourth stroke.  Specifically to my left.  It actually felt really good.  I was able to exhale more air and therefore take more in and I was pretty comfy breathing at that interval.  I then started to mix that up with sighting slightly differently that I was before and that worked out well too.  I felt like I was going faster as well as I wasn't interrupting my swimming constantly by breathing.  Specifically I think I need to work on breathing to my right side as something is twisting and causing me to slow down when I breathe that way.  So breathing only to my left fixes that and I felt like I had better momentum.  So that part of the swim felt really good.  So definitely worth further experimentation.  My stroke felt much smoother this way too and I've had issues with my right arm hurting that are somehow related to the way I breathe to that side and this alleviated that tension in that arm immediately...   so it was a worthy experiment and something I need to spend more time on.  I'm looking forward to swimming again on thursday and seeing if swimming the entire session that way is any faster.

Bike:  I've really started to put in some quality bike workouts lately.  Specifically last week I had three great sessions.

-Tuesday I had a great session involving some sustained FTP work and a bunch of 3 minute intervals along the beach followed by more FTP work.  It was damn hard work but well worth it.

-Thursday I focused more on sustained efforts at just under FTP.  So I had some big chunks of time where I was really working.  So really a long interval session.  I didn't focus on the clock as much as I did geography.  I'm developing a pattern and route for this type of workout thats full of a very technical rolling course thats quite fun to try and focus on hammering through.  But the real breakthrough of this workout happened when I started thinking about cadence.  I noticed the other day that my bike cadence seems to be dropping lower and lower on my tri bike for some reason.  Last season my cadence was always at or around 90, and lately its been at 75.  Which is not ideal for me to run fast off the bike.  So thursday I spent all my dedicated hard work intervals trying to keep my power up and sustained while keeping my cadence high.  And wouldn't you know it I ran faster off the bike.  So...   I learned a great deal that workout.  Big mental note...   start paying attention to cadence again!  I decided during my IM I'm only going to look at 3second Power, Speed, and Cadence.  Nothing else matters.  Those are the things I can control.

-Sunday I did my long ride on the very hilly TT course.  My plan was 4 evenly paced loops of the course with a goal for an 18 average.  Well that goal fell a wee bit short!  First two laps I help my average and kept my power at around a 160Watt average, and I kept a wattage ceiling on the climbs of 240.  Every time I approached going over that I slowed down.  Nice and evenly paced and no giant wattage spikes.  Then it all started to fall apart....   the last two laps I slowed down progressively more and more.  I still did ok on the hills, but I had no gas left to hammer the downhills.  My average speed and power plummeted and I no longer had to worry about a wattage ceiling.  I was struggling to hold 200watts on the climbs.  Simply put...  I need to do more hill work.  It was a great session and I learned a lot...   but I need to get to the point I can hold 18 for four laps of hills hills and more hills!  But...   after all that suffering I still ran sub 8's on my brick run. 

Run:  So my last post was all about the fear of running again....     and that was a very real fear for me.  Well I'm happy to report that I've been making slow and steady progress on that front and I'm starting to feel like I'm FINALLY on a path to a full and cautious recovery.  My first few runs felt like crap quite honestly.  My pace was stupid slow.  I was running 10's or high 9's and yet my RPE was huge and felt like I was really working.  My heartrate was way too high for that pace as well.  So clearly I've lost a TON of run fitness with all this time off.  So I just decided I needed to put my head down and carefully increase the mileage.  So thats what I've been doing. 

A few days ago I had my long run day with a goal of 8 miles although the route I chose ended up being 9.  When I started the run I didn't feel all that great but I started to notice that my stride was really being shortened up.  My right leg just didnt want to extend forwards far enough and it was shortening my stride and slowing me down.  My leg was tight and it was resisting the reach.  So I started forcing it cautiously.  After a half mile it started to loosen up and my pace started to pick up.  So I focused on that and really worked to keep my pace up.  Eventually I didn't have to focus on it so much and I ended that run with an average just under 9 minutes per mile.  I was quite pleased, but still only cautiously optimistic.

Friday I ran a 5K that the girl's workplace was putting on.  She asked me to pace her to a PR for her at an 8 minute pace.  I said I wasn't sure I could do that as I haven't run that fast yet but I'd see what would happen.  Well...   I'm happy to say good things happened!  I havent tried to run fast yet but being in a large pack of runners starting out fast made it easy.  I just followed them.  We ran the first mile at close to a 7:30 pace which was awesome.  I was so happy out there to be running faster again.  Not super fast, but hey, I'll take it!  Eventually the girl asked me to slow up a bit and we ended the day with a PR for her at just a tiny bit over an 8 minute average.  We would have had the 8s had there not been a large hill in mile 2.  After the run I felt great and the 8 minute pace felt EASY!  I was psyched!

Sunday I ran off a very hard bike workout and again was running nice and fast easy 8s.  It felt great to run freely and easily at that pace again, albeit only for a short distance.  So today I wanted to do another short fast run.  So I headed out for a three miler and really went for it on the slow climb away from my house.  I averaged 7:30s for the first two miles and then I let myself slow down and relax for the rest of the run.  In the end I ran what felt like an easy 8 minute pace for the last 1.5 miles home.  So for the 3.5 mile run my average was around 7:45 or so which was fantastic.  Funny how last year that would be my normal pace for an easy five miler and this year it feels fast!  Oh how an injury changes things!  Anyway...  point is I'm starting to get my mojo back.

Next up...   tomorrow I have a ten miler to run at a nice easy pace so hopefully that goes well.  I'll keep increasing my run distance and hope to get from last weeks 19 mile total to 21 miles this week.  A definite focus on open water and a bit of overdistance work on the bike this weekend and then its time to start the two week taper for the Amica.  Yep.  I've decided...   I'm going to go for it.  No idea what will happen on the run but I feel ready enough to race that I'm going to give a shot and see what happens.  It should hopefully give me a good idea of my fitness at this point in the season and a bit of a guage on how my injury recovery is going.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Time to Pull The Trigger?

I've been quiet lately.  This time not because I have not been able to update, but because I'm not sure what my update will be.  Theres been a lot of uncertainty as to my level of fitness and when I'll be ready to start racing this summer.  So I've almost been afraid to write anything about it.  But I think its time for an update.  So we'll break it down into the usual S/B/R categories.

Swim:  My swim fitness has been in a constant state of flux lately.  I have some weeks where I've been pouring on the yardage in the pool, and others where I've spent some frustrating time in open water in ocean chop not getting very far.  I've had a couple of decent swims in the pond though in calmer waters, and a nice but freezing cold 1.3 mile swim in a gorgeously calm ocean a couple of days ago.  My average pace per 100/yds in open water has increased slightly to 1:45/100 (during the 1.3 mile swim) so that was good.  Still not where it should be eventually but not bad.  Its been too cold here lately to do a 1.2 mile no wetsuit swim in open water but I've done a couple of those in the pool and although they've been slow, I've been able to get through them no problem.  I am definitely nervous what that will be like on raceday though if I have to do the Amica without a wetsuit.  Mostly I'm just nervous that not having that safetly blanket will elevate my heartrate.  I know I can do the distance, it just may not be as fun. 

Yesterday I went out to swim at a local beach here and it was quite choppy out.  We got slapped around pretty good by the ocean.  It was the kind of chop that just picks you up enough in the water to drop you awkwardly and I ended up with several mouthfulls of ocean water from breathing at the wrong time.  I did ok, but I ended up calling it quites after just over a half mile as my fun tank was full and I was ready to call it a day.  Still...   it was an improvement over the last time I swam in a chop a couple of weeks before that where I gave up very early.  So I'm confident I'll get my "sea legs" back in short order and be up to longer swims in the chop.  I'm looking forward to doing the 1.7 mile 1st to 2nd beach swim this summer as my weekly long swim so I need to get up to speed on longer distances in rougher water.

In summary...   not thrilled with my swim right now, but it could be worse.  Again...  consistency is key!

Bike:  My bike has been coming along.  Mostly I've just focused on getting my bike fitness back and building a nice base.  I know that if I race the Amica that I won't be fast, but I know I can put in a good effort now.  My power is every so slowly coming back and thats promising and in previous weeks I've had some interval goals that I wasn't able to meet (falling short of number of planned repeats) but lately I've been doing quite well in that regard so thats good.  I've been getting in a 56 mile ride every weekend and at least two other 30 mile rides a week typically so thats been good.  I just need to pick up my level of effort on those rides.  Having the power meter has been great as it keeps you honest and shows you exactly how your fitness is progressing.

Yesterday I had a bit of a "breakthrough" workout on the bike.  I've noticed when looking at the data that my bike cadence on my tri bike has been getting lower and lower.  I've been averaging around 75-80 lately and thats just not my style of riding.  So yesterday I decided to do my very best to pedal at a cadence of 90 and try and hit the same power targets.  Results were promising.  I felt like I was hitting the same power numbers at a tiny bit lesser effort.  And I know I'll run faster off the bike with a higher cadence.  So keeping an eye on that is going to be a habit going forwards.  Currently I now just stare at three numbers on my bike computer.  Power (3 second average), Cadence, and Speed.  I don't really need the speed but I like adjust my climbing style (in aero or not) based on my speed and it lets me see the relationship between speed, cadence, and power.  All good stuff.  I felt like I started to learn things yesterday on my ride and that was great.  So hopefully quality workouts like that continue.  I'm developing a somewhat informal interval style workout and route here on the island.  I start with a warmup ride through town to get to ocean drive thats about three miles long.  Then a nice steady effort of around 80-90% FTP for an out and back on the ocean drive, then another few miles easy till I get from ocean drive to 2nd beach which includes a fun 38mph downhill that I then hammer as fast as I can down past the beach and try and keep that speed through the flat as long as I can which turns into a nice 1 minute interval.  Then once I'm at second beach its another pair of intervals (about 2-3 minutes each) out to the point and back, and then another steady effort out to the end of Indian avenue, quick rest at the turnound, and then hammer back to the point, one more interval from there to the hill at 2nd beach and then easy pedal the few miles home.  While not a strict interval session its got a lot of concentrated hard efforts.  And repeating the same course is teaching my about my bike, how and when to shift, corner etc..etc...   so its been great and I'm enjoying it.  Theres also a lot of challenging cross winds riding near the ocean and thats been good for me too.  Sometimes the headwinds are brutal and you can hit huge power numbers at slow speeds on the flats.  Its pretty funny stuff.  So yeah...   I'm pretty happy with where my bike is.  I need to do more hill work in preparation for the Amica and Timberman but I'm working on that.  I also need to start some overdistance work and building my long rides up to get ready for B2B.

Run:  Well heres the tough one.  I've been running on the roads for a few weeks now.  I've built my weekly mileage up to 17 miles and my long run up to 9 miles in an effort to feel like I can run 13 at the Amica.  I need to be really patient here.  My right leg is still not perfect.  All the docs say go ahead and run on it, but its not the same.  I still have no speed and I'm having to work very hard to get my run endurance back to where it was.  If I stop paying attention I fall into 9-9:30 min miles.  Last year on shorter runs I'd land at 7:45s to 8s when I wasnt paying attention.  My hill speed is a joke and whatever is wrong with my right leg is causing me to shorten my stride and slow down my cadence.  So running has been frustrating as I miss my old legs.

A couple of days ago on my 9 mile run I did learn some things though.  I figured out that my right leg has a very short stride and when I tried to lengthen it I felt resistance in that glute/hamstring area.  (despite the doc telling me my left leg is now tighter than my right after all the focused stretching work I've done on the right leg).  So I feel discomfort when I lengthen that stride.  However it seemed to loosen after a mile or two of focusing on lengthening my stride.  This also got my pace down to 8:30s.  So that was promising.  So from now on I'm going to focus on lengthening my stride all the time and see what happens.  My hope is to run the hilly 13.1 at the Amica in sub 2.  Not a lofty goal, and nowhere near my 1/2 iron PR of 1:36.  But its a start.  I really think this year is going to be  a write off as far as running goes.  My plan is just to try and get back into form for next year and work on my endurance to get ready for B2B.  The speed will have to come again later.  I just hope it comes back at some point.

Today Im going to run a 5K that the girl's work is putting together.  The alpha male part of me wants to be the stud that shows up and beats all her coworkers.  Part of me wonders how fast my stand alone 5K will be.  (last year was the first year I really ran much in the way of 5Ks and all of those were as part of sprint tri's)  I know I can go 19:XX in a sprint, but what can I do in a standalone 5K?  Well I'm certainly not going to find out today!  The girl asked me to pace her to a 23-24 5K and I don't think I can do that.  I haven't been able to run sub 8 yet and I am afraid to try for fear of injuring myself.  Its just too soon.  So I'm pretty sure the girl is going to beat me today.  Although she mentioned something about running with some friends of hers so we may take a more relaxed pace and just enjoy the run.  We'll see.  Either way I need to try and enjoy it and not let it get to me.  My competitive spirit can be pretty fierce sometimes.

For now I have to just be happy I'm running again.  And on the plus side I have three new pairs of Zoot running shoes sitting behind me to try and decide which ones I want to keep.  I ordered their lightweight racing flat, a lighweight mid distance flat, and a training shoe to try and see which I liked.  Jury is still out but I have only run up and down the hall in them so far.  I have to keep them clean enough that I can return the ones I don't want.

Racing:  So although I have not registered yet, I am thinking that I will be able to race the Amica 70.3 coming up in a few weeks.  I've put some 1.2/56/3.5 bricks together that were encouraging so I know my fitness to be able to cover the distance comfortably is there.  So it will be a good time to test out my new liquid based nutrition plan and see what happens.  Plus I love the though of racing in my old home town.  Despite the fact that I rode the course a week ago and the road conditions in the last ten miles are absolutely atrocious.  Its also quite a challening course with tons of rollers in it.  Should be good fun.  So thats still the hope.  I am however still shy about pulling the trigger on registering.  I think one more week and two more big giant bricks and I'll decide.  I have time as I'm only planning on a one week taper as this isn't an A race and I need to train right through it.

So theres the update...   

I'll leave you with one other piece of wisdom...

When you live in a 4 bike household (between me and the girl) don't decide that cleaning and lubing all four bikes on the same day is a good idea.  Took me four hours which is mind numbingly dull!!!!