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.

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