Monday, February 28, 2011

First Race of 2011

S - 17,100 yds, 4:50:00 hrs
B - 215 mi, 10:53:56 hrs
R - 48.6 mi, 6:05:05 hrs

1 bike race

Total - 21.82 hours

Another day another dollar, right?  Well, if I actually made money doing triathlons I suppose I could use that metaphor but unfortunately, I do not.  I do, however, seem to be good at making [spending] money at bike racing . . . more on that later!

Thankfully, the MAC was open for normal hours this week.  There were no marginal collegiate swim teams meeting and taking up most of the facility so I was able to get in some consistent swimming this week.  Nothing really special or worth mentioning, although I guess I can't say that since that would make this whole "blog" thing seem not worth mentioning, but I digress . . .

My saddle time was good again this week; at first glance it may look like I missed out on some hours in the saddle (which technically, I guess I did considering my last 4ish weeks have had more miles) but with the extra intensity provided by the bike race on Sunday my cycling was certainly up to par.  My schedule on the bike was the same as usual M-Saturday (with a very, very slightly increased volume) leading up to the race on Sunday.  I was feeling pretty flat and sluggish on the bike Thursday-Saturday and on Saturday limited myself to 55 miles as opposed to my "normal" 60 miles with a small group.

Running was actually a slightly higher volume but I ran a bit slower on about half of my runs (most notably Sunday evening's 60 minute recovery run at 8:30 pace) so the mileage dropped a bit.  I had a super awesome long run on Wednesday (that has now gotten up to 95 minutes w/ tempo in the middle) but the rest of the week was either normal or sub-par (I've probably said this before, but that expression makes no sense and I'm only using it out of spite).

Race Report:

Donaldson Center RR, Cat 4, 36 miles (5 laps)

At the start line I positioned myself appropriately: dead last.  I get annoyed with cyclists at road races (crits are a different story altogether) because they are so intent on getting in the front when the race is long enough to make something like that irrelevant (unless of course you're in the Masters 35+ race and two guys go off the front in the FIRST corner and hold it for the next 6 laps...ridiculous) in the races I've done.  The start finish line led quickly to a downhill with a 90 degree right hand turn followed by a short, steep uphill with a 90 degree left hand turn.  With a tail wind (it was ridiculously windy out on the course and the last mile and first 2-3 miles of each lap had a tailwind, the rest of the way was head/cross wind) the pace was high and the group was stretched out quite a bit.  The "peloton" accordioned quite a bit, which is pretty typical for races at this level.  There were a couple of attempts at attacks but as we hit the headwind section they were proven to be overly ambitious.  I was still situated in the back but began to move up as the head/cross wind wreaked havoc on the field.  It was mildly amusing to watch people drop off on slight inclines (into the wind) at mile 5 of a race.  Towards the end of the first lap the "pack" was becoming less and less of a reality and it seemed like some strong guys were pushing the pace on the front so I closed down a gap to a group of about 6 and nobody came with me so this small group worked to the end of the first lap.

As we got through the tail wind section and up some rollers the group had whittled it's way down to three: myself and two other young guys (I was the oldest, weird!).  It was hard to tell at this point whether this was a smart move or not but I was feeling strong and optimistic so I tried to get the other two guys to work with me and actually work together to put some time on the "pack."  One of the guys seemed to get it but the other had obviously done relatively little racing as he didn't seem to understand the concept of a rotating pace-line.  By the end of the first lap the pack was, for the most part, out of sight and so we came through the start/finish area and started our third lap.

At this point, it was fairly obvious that I was the strongest in the group.  Note: I'm not bragging, it's just a fact. When you know, you'll know too.  One of the other guys definitely seemed to be having a little more trouble; his pulls were very short and I could tell with both of them that their breathing was a little ragged.  Since at this point I was still unsure whether I break was going to succeed or not I was a tad bit worried.  The tailwind sections of the course were obviously very easy (relatively speaking) and when getting to the head/cross wind sections I tried to get the other two to do a quick, constantly rotating pace-line.  As I said before, one guy got it, the other didn't.  There aren't many things more frustrating than being in a group with 2 other people and only 1 of them knows how to race properly.  Luckily, in the end it didn't end up mattering.  As we came through the third loop I was on the front through the finishing straight (again, but I only did this for the pictures!) and we started our fourth loop.

The first part of the loop was, again, relatively easy and then we made it to the tough section for the second to last time.  A moto official came up beside us (he had come to us twice previously to give us the time back to the "group") and told us that a breakaway in the Pro 1/2 race was catching us and we'd need to stay over to the far right, as well as telling us that we had 2 minutes on the "chase."  The Pro 1/2's had started about 5-7 minutes before us (maybe a bit more) and the breakaway group was lapping us.  It's cool to say that I've been passed by George Hincapie (his company puts on this training series of races).  After the break passed I knew that our group had this race won - as long as any of us didn't do anything stupid - since the 2 minute gap was twice as big as it had been previously.  We came through the end of the lap and the bell rang for our final go-round.

This lap was pretty much the same as all others, just a little bit slower.  I knew that I could probbbably drop the other two and forge ahead on my own but I wasn't sure enough to take that risk.  So we continued on with our normal schedule of pulling.  I would say, in all honesty, that I was pulling roughly 70% of the time.  I was also pulling the strongest.  Note that this wasn't necessarily just based on "feel" but also on miles per hour.  I like to be as objective as possible.  So with 1k to go I found myself on the front "leading out" but I wasn't going hard as I wanted to be sure that I could take these guys in the sprint.  The guy behind me asked if I "wanted to just take it" (he was being nice since he knew that I had done the majority of the work in the break) but I said go for it if you want to since I was fairly sure neither of them would be out-sprinting me.  Luckily, I was not wrong and was able to come away with the victory.

All in all, I was quite pleased with how this race finished.  I can't lie, I went in with the expectations of winning and was glad to see that I had the fitness and desire to take the win.  I was also happy that I had worked out for 5 hours the day before and was still able to drop the hammer when necessary.  Do you hear that?  It's my bike fitness coming up fast!  I have to thank Steve Watkins for that quote.

Next week brings more of the same, including the same bike race again on Sunday.  I will go in expecting to win again, but only need a top 5 placing to get enough upgrade points to submit my Cat 3 request.  We shall see.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Getting (more of) the work done

Swim - 18,700 yards (5hrs, 25 mins)
Bike - 238 miles (12 hrs, 37 mins)
Run - 49.4 miles (6 hrs)

Time - 24.04 hrs

So firstly let us dive in to this astonishingly new and different weekly recap.  I'm not sure how I keep coming up with creative material for these posts but my super sweet brain loves to churn it out I guess!  After a weekly recap I address some questions I've received about my training.

The toughest thing for me this week was swimming.  The MAC had really weird hours due to a collegiate swim meet being held at the facility almost all week-long and so consequently I was forced to swim at other pools on solo adventures, which - when you're used to swimming in a super awesome pool with other awesome people - can be a bit of a mental struggle.  Consequently, my Wednesday and Thursday swims were very much a struggle to get through.  Subsequently, I cheated a bit on Friday and Saturday; swimming both days instead of just Saturday so I could meet some peeps on Friday and not have to swim as long on Saturday!  As a result of all this, I had a few more yards than I was "supposed" to but they weren't fun yards. Next week will be back to a normal schedule (hopefully).  I see some super fun workouts on my plan and am looking forward to doing them... sort of!

One of the most fun things about the past six weeks is seeing how much stronger I've been getting on the bike.   Not just through detailed, objective metrics that WKO+  and my powertap provide but just from a perception standpoint I can really tell that I'm going to be a different kind of cyclist this year.  I think one of my "issues" (maybe a bit strong calling it that) last year was that I was rather one dimensional.  The "left side" of my power profile (meaning short term, maximal type effort power) was nothing special.  Sure I could bust out a sprint or two in a group ride and hammer for a while at a nice, upper end aerobic effort, but I couldn't repeatedly blow out 1+ minute efforts at big power levels then recover, then do it over and over again.  By raising this "left side" of my power profile I'm going to make my right side a lot stronger as a result.  On that note, I had some great rides this week and really got to enjoy the warm weather.  I wore short sleeves and only bike shorts twice this week, which sets a new 2011 PR.  4 out of my 5 rides came Thursday through Sunday and I'm really starting to feel more durable, i.e. I can go hard on a 60 mile ride on Saturday and recover to go hard again on a 70 mile ride on Sunday.

My running volume was almost the exact same as last week, which was on purpose.  There was no increase in my scheduled workouts and I ran faster/slower some days than last week so my mileage was very similar.  I had good runs on my three key days (in my eyes) of Wednesday (long run), Friday (short fartlek), and Sunday (post long ride medium long run).  On Sunday I was running at Mcalpine to save some wear and tear on my quads and was having no trouble averaging 6:40-6:50 pace at an "aerobic" RPE.  I see no reason why I shouldn't be able to do that pace or better in my halves this year.  Of course, I've thought that in the past but I think I'm actually doing the work necessary to run that fast in races.  In the past I've let running lag a bit (30-35 miles/week) so me thinking I could run 1:25-1:27 was really just a pipe dream.  You can't fake that in long course racing, although a lot of people (myself included) try.

Next week brings more of the same; my overall volume will likely drop a tad bit because over the next two Sundays I have two bike races so my rides won't be quite as long but I'll be running and swimming about the same.

Now, in an attempt to address the most commonly heard question with regard to my training: "Why are you training so much, so early?

1) Because to compete at an elite level, you cannot fake it in long course racing.

Now, to expound on this a little bit, my situation is different than most people.  To maximize my potential by using AVAILABLE training hours, I can train a LOT and still recover effectively.  Most people cannot, since they work 40+ hours a week.  For them to train (regularly) 20+ hours/week would require AM/Noon/PM workouts and they consequently would dig themselves into a deep dark hole.  I can get in 3+ hours a day because when I'm not working out, working, or sleeping, I can sit down and RECOVER.  Yes, I'm lucky.  I know that; I'm not dumb.  I'm actually pretty smart but only my parents would tell you that.  My situation is unique and I'm taking advantage of it.

For those of you who may ask: "Why so much so early; what are you training for?" my answer is simple: I'm training to train.  Meaning that the more I train, the more I convince my body that it can handle this sort of training load, recover, and come back for more.  I'm also training this much because I have early season races that are important to me.  Ask yourself this: do you think Craig Alexander is piddling away at 10-12 hours a week right now?  If you say yes, you are being rather ignorant.  I am not Craig Alexander (dang) but the best triathletes in the world (and the ones that aren't the best but want to maximize their potential) train year round.  Just because it's "early season" doesn't mean you shouldn't be putting in work!

Right now is the best time to be building up a big, solid foundation of fitness to build on later in the year once race season approaches.  Too many people seem to believe that they can start really training in April or May and have effective race seasons.  Obviously, depending on your schedule, that may be your only option.

2) I would be incredibly bored if I didn't train so much

Obviously, if I wasn't into triathlons I would have made a real attempt to find a career at this stage so this point is sort of moot.

So, to end my "rant," for those that think I'm going to blow up mid-season I am seriously doubtful of those claims.  I predict I will be stronger than ever and raring to go because my results will be so promising.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Some pet peeves and some weekly recapping

Swim - 5:00 hrs = 17,400 yards
Bike - 12:10 hrs = 227.4 miles
Run - 6:01 hrs = 49.3 miles

Total - 23.19 hrs

This week included my first real valley in this, most recent, training "block."  It also included my first missed workout that was (unfortunately or fortunately?) not due to being tired but to being stupid.  I would say these things never happen but then again, they really do.

I'd like to begin this week by mentioning a couple of my most frequently encountered pet peeves (interestingly enough, almost all of them have to do with workout-related topics).

1) I HATE how every single driver in Charlotte feels the need to get to a stop sign at 20 mph and then very late, hit the brakes.  What this looks like to me (as a cyclist or runner) is that the driver is not going to stop and he or she (one sex does seem to do this more frequently than the other, especially around the booty loop...) is just going to roll through the stop sign.  This is both annoying and dangerous, the latter evidenced by me getting run into by a car on the booty loop last year.  The driver rolled up to the stop (in a hurry), didn't see me in the .0001 second look to the left at oncoming traffic and subsequently accelerated and ran into little ol' me!

2) I very strongly dislike the way drivers merge at two, very specific, intersections.  One is coming down East Blvd where it goes from two lanes into one (and the left lane is a left turn only before disappearing) and the other is in front of Queens College, where the exact same thing occurs: the left lane becomes turn only and the right lane is the "go straight" lane.  In both of these situations, cyclists are almost always in the right lane, continuing straight.  Many times drivers do not know that their lane is about to go away (and a lot of times they do, but don't care) and so are surprised to see oncoming traffic ahead of them and merge right into the other lane.  Many times, that lane is taken up by cyclists who, due to motorists general ignorance, are never treated like the "vehicles" they are.  So the driver cuts off the cyclists.  Wham, bam, thank you ma'am.

Now, just to elaborate further on these two points, cyclists are really very much to blame for the amount of ignorance/uncaring that motorists show because many of them blatantly disobey traffic rules that, as vehicles, they are supposed to follow.  To a certain extent and in certain situations, I do such things myself.  There are a couple of people (booty loop champions of whom one stands out; he's always out there and he's always representing a certain team and he's always wearing race wheels on the booty loop) that stand out as being the worst offenders and what they seem to fail to realize is that they represent all cyclists when they do such things, just as certain drivers who do something stupid then have sweeping generalizations applied to all other drivers.

Another thing that drivers seem to forget is that if they cut it too close, saying for example they're put out by a certain group of people (cyclists), speeding by and accidentally clipping a cyclist at 30+ mph, that person is not likely to come out the other side alright.  The driver is protected, air conditioned, and pampered in their metal cocoon and seem to think that, like them, cyclists are invincible.  While I certainly feel that way when I'm sprinting past a dying Watkins, I know that if I tangle with a car, I will NEVER win.

Now, I'm also more than ready to admit that I've been at fault on BOTH sides.  I do, however, try to do dumb stuff as little as possible.

Whew, onto the weekly recap.

Some solid swimming workouts this week, as has been the case for a while.  Got in a nice 5,000 yard swim on Monday in which, for the first time in recent memory, my muscles actually got tired towards the end.  In between my shoulder blades I was beginning to get a little tight, but I suppose that's ok given how many miles we had swum (hard).  Since I wouldn't be able to swim on Wednesday night, I got back in the pool again on Tuesday for another 4000 yards.  I think that's the most work I've ever done in two consecutive days in the pool.  I was certainly tired on Tuesday but not much more so than is usual these days.  I was happy to get in as many yards as I did and only swim four times.  It used to be that 16-17k yards took 5-6 swims.  Now it is four.  I imagine sometime in my not too distant future I will see a fifth swim on my schedule.  Needless to say, that is awesome.  More swimming is more better.

Some super sweet biking miles this week, which I didn't expect after my big mess-up on Thursday evening.  In preface to that, I had a very good workout on Tuesday with some very hard, short intervals (normal Tuesday stuff) and was planning to head up to the Huntersville Business park to meet Behme for 90 minutes easy-ish on Thursday night.  I made the long drive up there and realized I had left my shoes at home.  What's funny is I've done this before, except last time it was at a race and I was only saved because Todd lives so close and hadn't yet left home to come watch the race.  This time, I had no savior.  John felt like riding on the trainer at home so we trucked over to his house and I wore Carrie's pink cycling shoes for 40 minutes (sorry Carrie!) before I had to call it quits.  She had strange wedges in her shoes and they were way, way too small so I called it quits.  So what was supposed to be 90 mins turned into 40 and I since I wanted to make up for that a bit I rode a bit more on Friday/Saturday.  Friday was my first bad ride; my legs felt like garbage and 200 watts felt like a lot.  I was worried for the weekend but like the true champion I am my legs somehow turned a 180 and felt great on Saturday and Sunday when I managed to get in 130+ miles in two days.  I even set a recent wattage high (in the past month or two) at the Lowell sprint sign on Sunday (I will say that it worked out to ~21 watts per kilogram).

Some very solid running this week as for whatever reason I was running a bit faster than I usually do and since my running schedule is laid out by minutes, not miles, this consequently means I ran relatively more miles!  AMAZING!  The runs of note were a great long run on Wednesday, a solid fartlek-like workout on Friday (after my bad bike ride, which hinted it may not have been as bad as I thought) and a great medium run on Sunday after two days of riding.

All in all, a solid week.  Next week will be extremely similar!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Superbowl Week! (I don't care)

Swim: 4:55 hrs        (16,500 yards)
Bike: 11:29.25 hrs (213 mi)
Run:  5:50 hrs        (46.9 mi)
+20 mins of core (ouch)

Total: 22.24 hrs

If I'm being completely honest with myself and with my avid readers there wasn't that much different that I could say about this week versus last week.  I could most likely copy my extremely engaging weekly report from last time and paste it into this week's "report" and it would be 99% accurate.  Some minor nuts and bolts items would be changed, like exactly how I did the workouts and how they felt but for all intents and purposes these weeks mirrored each other very closely.

Here are some items that stand out in my head from this week:

1) My weekend runs have been going very well.  My schedule on the weekends these past two weeks has included 2 bike rides (~6-6.5 hrs b/w them), 2 runs (50 and 65 mins Sat/Sun respectively) and 1 swim (Saturday).  I generally ride/swim/run on Saturday and ride/run on Sunday.  Neither of these runs are bricks as I tend to think bricks are pointless.  So I've gotten in four runs in the past two weekends with each following 3+ hours of riding.  They have easily been my best runs of the week (this weekend especially).  I think my bike fitness is manifesting itself through being able to run better and better as 3+ hour rides don't really drain me much.

2) My swim workout on Saturday was very good.  I was scheduled for a main set that included 5x400 on 5:30 interval and 9x100 on a 1:30 interval (descending sets of 3 on that one) and I had to swim at the Dowd as the MAC was closed for a swim meet (all weekend, blah).  I was going through the 300 mark this weekend faster than I was completing 300s (5x300 last Saturday) last weekend on a "tougher" interval.  I was even swimming by myself this time around, unlike most of my swimming

3) I drank a nice big glass of HTFU on Saturday morning and got my ride out of the way, despite the fact that I rode solo in the 40ish degree misty wet day.  It wasn't my best ride, but I rode pretty steady and for the first time since having a powermeter tried to really not spike my watts (or dip too low), something that is surprisingly difficult to do.  I know that at Louisville last year there were certainly times where I was cranking out HUGE watts unknowingly while going up some of those hills.  Since RPE and HR lags so far behind actual effort level on the bike my watts were likely sky high and the hill was over before my HR/breathing had a chance to catch up to the effort level.  I've also noticed lately how many people I ride with tend to ride very hard on the initial sections of hills, not realizing how much harder they are going and how many more matches they burn than someone who rides steady (note: like I aim to do, not like I actually do right now).

4) I could not have cared less about this Super Bowl.  Both of the competing teams had incredibly annoying fans (massive, sweeping generalization) and based on my stance on sexual assault (I'm against it), I was rooting for the Packers.  It's sad too, because this would have been a pretty exciting game if I cared at all.  It was nice, however, to see all the previews for some exciting upcoming movies (Cowboys and Aliens, Thor, Captain America, etc).  Comic book movies are sweet.  Well, mostly.  Spiderman 3 was terrible (and the only midnight showing I've ever gone to and subsequently have been unable to make myself go), X Men 3 was abysmal; I could go on, but I won't.

As exciting as this blog post has been (aren't they all) I've pretty much worn through all available material in my head.  I don't have anything interesting or witty to comment on for any of the workouts (I burped a lot when I ran on Sunday) and I don't follow current events so I don't have any insight into the world.  Surprising as it may be, it is true.