Sunday, August 29, 2010

How to Pick a Good Race

The other day, a good friend of mine approached me with some tri-related questions.  You see, some co-workers of his had just completed a local race and came away with a less-than-impressed feeling.  They wanted to know if there were other local tris - sprints and oly-distance races - that I could recommend.

Well, I could come up with a good half-dozen off the top of my head, but their question got me thinking.  I've been in well-run races, but I've also been at events that can be best described using words that begin with 'cluster' and 'circle'.   So, when the rubber meets the road, what makes a good event?  What should one look for when selecting an event, and what should be expected when competing?

I'll start by going over what I look for before picking an event.  Then, I'll go over the things that you should expect from each race and some red flags that you should consider 'athlete repellent'. 

Before the Event

Okay, so last January you made a resolution to 'get back into shape'.  You started running, swimming and even bought a bike.  You want to sign up for a race, but want to make sure you'll have a good time.  Races aren't cheap.  This isn't like the local 5K where you can race for $15 and still walk away with a free t-shirt.  Even the cheapest sprint tris are usually over $50, and prices go up from there.  Bottom line: how do you get the most bang for your buck?

1.  Location

This one is fairly straight-forward.  Some folks like to pick a destination race that serves as a kind of mini-vacation.  My first race was an Olympic in Winona - about 2 1/2 hours southeast of the Twin Cities.  It was a nice town to visit and race in, but traveling with all the gear got a little complex.

In the end, I'd recommend picking a local race for your first.  There will be fewer travel concerns on race day, plus, you'll be able to race portions of the course and get the lay of the land.

2.  Triathlete Forums

That's right.  Hit The Interwebs.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again - Beginner Triathlete is a great source.  In addition to member's race reviews, there's also a very active forum.  Have a question?  Just start a thread in the forum and you'll get the answers you need.   Earlier this year, I posted some questions in the Wisconsin forum about training on the Ironman course and got plenty of good advice.

Slowtwitch also has some valuable insight to offer.  Although, I've found that it caters to the more experienced athlete.  If you're new to the scene, it may not be for you.  However, if you're a techno-weenie that could spend all day discussing optimal race wattage and the 15-degree aerodynamic properties of your Zipp 808 wheelset, then Slowtwitch would be right up your alley.

3.  The Race Website

Race sites can be really hit-or-miss.  You should expect sites to be organized and current.  Links to registration information and course maps should be easy to find and understand.  Let's look at two examples.

Here's the course map for Trinona - my first race:
It's easy to read, well laid out and organized.  It even includes both Sprint and Oly distances without getting cluttered.

And here's the run map from the St. Paul Triathlon, a race that The Wife and I did as a relay last year:
It looks like someone found a map on-line, printed it, then scanned it, then used MS Paint to 'touch things up'.  Boo.  Hiss.
Looking at the two course maps, which race do you think would be more well organized?  #1 - right?  Yeah.  Me too.  Now, I'm not saying that a well-run site always means a well-run race, but it IS a good indicator.

During the Event

So you've done your research, got some forum advice, picked a race and laid down your hard-earned cash on registration.  Great.  Assuming that you've kept up with your training, the only thing left to do is to reap the rewards.  But what should you expect from the race?

1.  Well-Informed Volunteers

Volunteers are the backbone of any event.  They do everything from directing traffic, to life guarding, to  handing out fuel on the course.  I'm not suggesting that any one volunteer is better than another.  However, how the race director prepares the volunteers is critical.  The last thing you want is to hit a turn on the bike course and be sent in the wrong direction, or ask where the medical tent is and get a shoulder-shrug.

2.  An Organized Transition Area

The swim-in, bike out/in, and run out should all be clearly marked.  Areas for relay teams and elite athletes should be separate from the age-groupers.  I don't want to wake up at the butt-crack of dawn to get to the site early, set up my transition area and then find out that I have to move because someone forgot to mark the transition aisles.

Some may disagree with me, but I think that transition areas should be off-limits for anyone that isn't an athlete or a volunteer.  If you're there to cheer, that's great, but I'll have to wait to see you until I'm on the course or at the finish line.

3.  Well-Marked Course Routes

First, let me say this: It is the responsibility of EVERY racer to know the course prior to race day.   That said, when you're actually on the course, you'll be focused on your burning lungs and achy legs, and may need a reminder which way to turn next.

On the swim, buoys should be large and frequent.  On a windy day, basketball-sized buoys aren't going to be easy to see over the waves.  Turn buoys - those placed on the corners of the course - should certainly be easily visible.

For the bike, most races are going to have a volunteer or police officer at each intersection.  Gravel should be swept off of the road for any turns.  For races that have two distance racing simultaneously - Sprint and Oly for example - there should be clear signage so that you don't accidentally turn back onto the course when you should be on our way to the run.

On the run, signage isn't usually as big a deal.  There is usually some kind of 'caution tape' to get runners headed in the right direction after T2.  Again - if two different distances are running at the same time, the routes should be clear.

4.  Adequate Hydration and Nutrition

For sprint races, this isn't usually an issue.  I would not expect a water or sport drink refueling stop on the bike course.  On the run, 1 or 2 stops is plenty for a 5K.  However, on longer courses, especially during hot days, adequate fuel can make the difference between a Personal Record and a Sad Panda.

For example,  during the Liberty Triathlon last June, there were bottle-drops every 14 miles.  That's 3 stops for the 56-mile course.  Nice.

However, last year, I did the Square Lake 1/2 Ironman out in Stillwater.  There was 1 bottle drop at the half-way point of the bike.  You had a choice of either water or Gatorade, and that was it.  Oh, and did I mention that it was 92 frickin' degrees that day?  For racers expecting to 'live off the course' this was not a good thing.

That said, if you are planning to do a longer race, try to find out what nutrition will be available on the course for race day.  If you're used to Gatorade and they're serving HEED, you may want to integrate that into your training so that it's not a shock to your system.  You don't want to be belching up gels and sport drink all over your new racing singletl.

5.  Good Swag

I'll be honest.  For all the reasons that I tri, one reigns above them all: FREE STUFF.  If you want to keep me coming back year after year, you've got to offer me more than just the same ol' blue t-shirt.

Here are shirts from some of the races and events I've done over the last couple of years.  Tell me if you can see a pattern...

Okay, the Liberty shirt (lower right) is a technical T and that's pretty cool.
I'm looking for something a little more unique.  Most races will give you a 'swag bag' filled with anything from sponsor coupons to snacks, to chamois cream (note: do NOT mix up snacks and chamois cream).  But I get a kick out of races that forge their own trail for giveaways.

The Chaska Tri does a great job of this.  No, you don't get a t-shirt for this event, you get a frickin' transition bag!  For a $55 entry fee, that's a pretty good deal.

Last year's was pretty sweet...

It was also pointed out to me by some friends that this would make a great diaper bag.  Thanks guys, way to ruin my transition bag for me. 
This year, things got even cooler...

Yep, that's a backpack style bag, stainless water bottle and running gloves.  SWEET!
6.  Easy Access to Results and Photos

Once your race is done, the next thing you're going to want (other than a hamburger and a massage) is a look at the race results.  A well-run race will have results on-line within 24 hours.  Some races will even have a results station on-site where you can give a volunteer your race number and they will print off a receipt with your race time, splits and rankings. If you screw up the timing, or it takes you 2 weeks to post results, that's a good way to keep people from coming back to your event.

The same thing goes for race photos.  A quality race will have photos available within a week, with a link placed on the race home page.  After all, the narcissist in all of us is going to want to look through each and every one to find that elusive "lookin' good in spandex" photo.

Well, there you have it.  This should get you off to a good start.  Should you have any questions, or want to recommend some other things to improve your race-day experience feel free to zap me an e-mail

Later gators.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Home Owner: 1, Home Owner's Throne: 0

Today, I was planning to post about how to find quality races - races that are well organized and fun to compete in.  Instead, I'll be spending my time celebrate one of life's little victories.

I fixed my own toilet.

There's little worse than the feeling you get when you push your toilet lever...and nothing happens.  If you're a plumber, or mechanically inclined, this may not seem like a big deal.  When you've never had to deal with plumbing problems before, it can get downright scary.  I represent the later.

Using my instincts, I removed the top of the tank to take a look at the 'guts'.  Here is what I saw:

The tank is full and ready to go...or so I thought.

Okay.  Fine.  So, lets give it a flush now, shall we?

From what I could tell, when you push the lever, it lifts a chain, which in turn lifts a plunger, allowing the water to drain down into the bowl and wash away all the evil-ness.  But that wasn't happening here.

Notice, that the hinge is now separated from the plunger thingy that holds the water in the tank.

I removed both the hinge and the plunger thingy, reconnected them and clipped them back into place.  After the tank filled again, I gave it another try - same result.  Dang.

The offending equipment.

Okay. So reassembly wasn't going to work.  I took the parts out again and headed down to the hardware store.  But first, I expressed my true feelings to the failed plumbing hardware.

Serves 'em right for making me stick my hands in a toilet tank.

As usual, the local Ace hardware store had what I needed, and I was in-and-out in just a couple of minutes with a shiny new plunger thingy.

Notice that it's ONE piece - no chance for separation.
 The new part clipped easily into place.  The only thing left to do was wait and pray.  After the tank filled again, it was time for the moment of truth.  I pressed down the lever and heard the satisfying gurgle of a functioning throne!

Plunger up + water evacuating = SUCCESS!!
I was so excited with my handy-work that I waited for the tank to fill again just so I could waste water bask in the sweet, sweet glow of victory.

Aaahhh.  To the Victor go the spoils.

Sure.  It's a minor victory, but it's still a victory.  Yay.

That's all for today.  I'll be back soon to talk about what to look for when you're trying to decide which race(s) to do.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why I Tri

There are fewer than 3 weeks remaining until Ironman-Wisconsin.  Yikes.  I officially started tapering yesterday.  The taper is the last few days or weeks before a race where workouts become shorter and rest periods become longer so that you feel fresh and energized for race day.  The general rule is 'the longer the race, the longer the taper'.  For the Ironman, it'll last 3 weeks, but for shorter races, it may only last 1 week, or even just a couple of days.

On the positive side of things, the most difficult training sessions have come and gone.  It's time to pick up some last minute supplies, surf YouTube and the Blogosphere for motivation and inspiration, and get my head put on straight so that even my brain is ready to go on September 12.  This all brings up an obvious, yet often ignored question: Why DO I Tri?

Huh.  That IS good question.  Here's the best I could come up with:

1.  It's Healthy

Before I started training for and competing in triathlons, I was a fatty in training.  Was I morbidly obese?  Well, no.  But 210 pounds on my stubby 5'8" frame wasn't looking good, and wasn't feeling good either.

Now, I don't mind tooting my own horn (mostly because I don't like the idea of somebody else's lips on my horn - heh heh) but now I'm down to a svelte 168.  Sure, I could probably lose another 10 pounds and get even faster, but man, even now it feels great to buy smaller clothes.  Heck.  Now, my arms actually look like ARMS instead of uncooked sausages.

So, yeah.  I suppose I tri because it's helped me lose weight and keeps me in shape.

2.  It Beats Doing Chores

No.  Seriously.  Some days, the last thing I want to do is go home and mow the lawn, do the dishes and fold the laundry only to realize that the day is done.  I'm not trying to say that  I'm a deadbeat slob.  However, I AM fortunate enough to have a job and wife that allow me to take hours at a time to pursue this type of lifestyle.

I tri because it's more fun than being a REAL adult.

3.  I Want to Delude Myself into Thinking I'm Awesome

You heard me.  I like to compete.  I'm not likely to ever win a race, or even win my Age Group - unless I'm still doing this into my 80s and end up being the only octogenarian in the race.  Even so - every race has its own little victories.

For example, the first time I did the Chaska Tri.  I came in 18th out of 30 in my age group.  This year, I came in 10th out of 31.  I didn't come anywhere close to winning, but I felt AWESOME.

It's probably a condition similar to people that play basketball, softball or any other sport into their golden years.  There's something in each of us that wants to be a pro athlete.  The only difference is that most want to close their eyes and imagine themselves as Michael Jordan or Ken Griffey Jr., and  I want to be like Craig Alexander or Chris Lieto.

4.  I Want Other People to Think I'm Awesome

Yeah, it's completely narcissistic, but there's this weird sense of pride I get when I talk about my training and races.  When someone asks me what I did Saturday afternoon and I tell them I did a 10-mile training run, or a 100-mile ride, they roll their eyes and say something to the effect of, "wow, I don't know how you do that".  In a sick kind of way, that feels REALLY good.

On a side note.  I also want The Wife to think I'm awesome.  It's probably the caveman part of me, but there's something oddly rewarding about getting home, beating my chest, pointing at my training log and saying "Grunt. Grunt.  Look what Eric do.  Eric swim far, then bike far, then run far.  He sleep now."  

Plus, sometimes the best part of my week is when she says she's proud of me.  Say it with me now: "Awwwwww."

5.  It's a Bucket List Thing

This is most specifically related to the Ironman.  The Wife and I are both in our early 30s.  We don't have any kids.  Yet.  Lately though, it seems like they'll be on their way sooner rather than later.

I'd like to think that I will be doing an Ironman a year for the next several decades.  But, this probably won't be the case.  The bottom line is, if I don't do this race now, I'll likely be in my 50s before I have another chance.  Who knows?  Maybe we'll be able to balance parenthood, careers and an Ironman lifestyle.  Then again, maybe monkeys will fly out of my butt.

In the end.  I've got to get while the gettin' is good. 

Oh.  And Wife - if you're reading this, I'm still on board with the whole *ahem* baby-making process.  Just let me recover a few days after the Ironman before you start 'jumping my bones'.  There are some rather critical components that are still going to be quite sore after 112 miles on the bike, ifyaknowwhatImean, and Ithinkyado.

6.  I Feel Like I Have To

This is the hardest one to explain.  I think that there's a part of me that feels more alive when I'm suffering, or when I'm trying to do something and I'm not completely confident that I'll succeed.   Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm not trying to say that I 'get off' on pain.  However, if achy quads, burning lungs and lunch climbing up your throat don't make you feel alive, I don't know what will.

I've got a little voice in my head that whispers 'do it'.  Only, the more I train, and the closer I get to September 12, the louder the voice gets.  No matter how many day's I've trained in a row, how bad my day at work was, or how groggy my legs still are from yesterday's workout, that voice just keeps saying 'do it'.

Maybe it's my own ego, or my conscience, or my guilt, or even the Holy Spirit.  Honestly, I don't know.  What I DO know is that when I DON'T listen to The Voice, I don't like the results.

Maybe I'll have a better understanding about this whole thing after the race.  I sure as heck hope so.

Well.  There you are.  As far as I can tell, THAT'S why I tri.  I wasn't planning to get this heavy on you, but maybe it's healthy to get heavy from time to time. Shoot.  Maybe it'll help me get my head on straight - or at least pointing forward.

I'll be posting again shortly.  I think my next one will be about what exactly makes a quality race.  After all, if you're going to spend all this flippin' time training, you had better make the races worth your while.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Workouts have Multiple-Personality Disorder

I just finished the last few workouts in the most intense stretch of the year.  I'm tired.  A rest week couldn't come at a better time.  Here's what I've been up to:


Nobody ever said that training for an Ironman would be easy.  Last Thursday turned out to be one of the least successful workouts of the year.  Going in, the plan was to do another 3-hour run, similar to the one from last week.  The only change is that I planned to go around Medicine Lake clockwise this time around.

When I left the house, loaded with pockets full of PowerGel, it was about 95 degrees.  At first, I thought about postponing the run until the weekend when the weather was cooler.  But, then I said to myself, "Self: don't puss out now.  You need to be prepared for a really hot run during the Ironman."  I should have listened to my gut, rather than my ego.

The first few miles were okay.  It usually takes me a mile or two to warm up my legs and get into a groove.  Today felt weird.  Maybe the fatigue from the last few weeks was getting to me, or maybe the heat does funny things to you, or maybe the fact I was a little 'backed up' was doing a number on my body.  Heck, it could have been all three, or none of the above.

All I know, is that by the time I hit mile 5, I was toast.  My heart rate was jumping into the high 160s even on a slow jog, I had a wicked side stitch, back spasms, and the black flies were eating me alive.  Add to that the fact that I now had a large lake between myself and home-sweet-home and you have a recipe for one sad panda.

I ended up walking most of miles 6-8, and was finally able to get a jog going again for the last mile or so towards the homestead.  My 3-hour 18+ mile run had turned into an 11-mile slog that took 2:20.  Blah.


Friday was a pool workout.  I like the pool.  I like to swim.  Shoot.  At this point, I'll do anything that will get me out of running shoes for a day.  The workout was a real confidence booster.  After a quick warmup   I had 3 intervals of 700 yards each, with increasing intensity.  This was identical to a workout from just a couple weeks ago, and the results were close to the same:

700y RPE3 - 11:27 = 1:38/100y
700y RPE4 - 11:02 = 1:34/100y
700y RPE5 - 10:43 = 1:31/100y

I was pleased.  After the disaster that Thursday turned out to be, it was nice to feel normal and somewhat successful.


This was a beautiful day for a bike ride.  I did a variation on a 90-mile ride from 2 weeks ago, but added an extra 10 miles to make it an even century ride.  I tried to simulate race day as best I could.  I kept to gels, Shot Bloks and Endurolytes at regular intervals.  I did stop for water, Gatorade and a banana along the way - but water and bananas will be available on the course in Madison, and Gatorade was the only available energy drink at SuperAmerica that day.  I think this will be about as close as I'll get to race-day nutrition.

There weren't any major hiccups on the fuel side of things, which is a good sign.  The last thing I want is a bad case of The Toots when I'm on the run. 

It was a nice relaxed pace overall, but there were quite a few stoplights, especially along the southern portion of the route.  If you take out all the stops and starts, I'm guessing that my average speed could be a good 1 MPH faster.  If I can average 17 MPH during the Ironman, that'll get me out of the saddle in just a hair over 6.5 hours.  I'll take that any day.

In fact, to reward myself for another century ride, I decided to treat myself to not one, but TWO icee-fun-pops!


Sunday was scheduled to be a rest day, but I was still cranky about my run on Thursday.  After taking most of the day easy, my ego decided that I wanted to go for a quick run to get my 'mojo' back.  It wouldn't be anything crazy - I was supposed to be starting a rest week after all.

I headed out from home along one of my normal  4.5 mile routes.  My first mile - mostly uphill - clocked in at 9:10.  Okay.  That's nice.  But can I do it again?  Mile number 2 was mostly flat.  It registered at 8:50.  Huh.  A negative split.  Papa likes.

Mile 3 had a bit of a downhill, so when I checked my Garmin and it said 8:27, I was pleased, but wanted more.  For mile 4 I hit the gas a little more.  I hammered it up the steep hill leading up to 36th Avenue and then booked it towards home as the seconds ticked away.  I managed to finish mile #4 in 8:08.  Wow-Four negative splits in a row.  That IS nice.

I ran the last 1/5 of a mile towards home at a near sprint before taking a breather and then heading out for a 15-minute cooldown. Man.  That felt good.

I know that a 5-mile run doesn't require anywhere near the effort that a 18+ mile run does, but it feels good to know that I've still got some good efforts in me somewhere.  Hopefully, I'll be able to find some more of that mojo come race day.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Top Signs You're Married to a Triathlete

I owe my wife a ton.  She does a lot of the things that I just don't have time to do, or tolerates the fact that a lot of projects have been postponed until after the Ironman.  She's great.  Heck.  She even rubs my neck and shoulders after a long day in the saddle, even when I still smell like sin.  If that isn't love, then I don't know what is.

With that, here is a list (in no particular order) of the top signs that you're married to a triathlete:

1.  You've run a load of dishes through the dish washer that was nothing but water bottles and caps.
2.  You've had this conversation:
Spouse: Geez.  How come your legs are smoother than mine?
Triathlete: Because I shave mine more often.
Spouse: Oh yeah.
3.  If you try to *ahem* 'have relations' before a race, they quote Mickey from the movie Rocky: "Women weaken leeeegggss."
4.  Their car smells like a high school locker room.
5.  You've gone to REI with a 'grocery list'. 
6.  They've put off an oil change so that they can save up money for new bike parts.
7.  They have a closet full of the same running shoe model - purchased in 3-6 month intervals.
8.  They try to talk you into waking up with them before 5am so you can 'cheer them on' at a race, and then wonder why you want to stop for coffee on the way to the event.
9.  The best part of their day is uploading their training data.
10.  You've learned to stop seeing at meals as delicious food, and started seeing them as protein, carbs, fats and nutrients.
11.  They can watch Old Yeller without batting an eye, but tear up when they watch Ironman race clips on YouTube.
12.  One or both of you have put off major life decisions, such as going back to school, changing jobs, or starting a family until after the 'next big race'.  
13.  They say 'I love you' more often than usual so they can soften you up so you'll allow them to spend 'just a couple more hours' on the road or in the pool.

Feel free to drop a note in the 'comments' section to add your own items to the list.

As of tomorrow, it will be 1 month until Ironman Wisconsin.  I've got a few fun posts planned, so stay tuned.


Monday, August 9, 2010

More Mega Miles

I'm tired.  Like, really tired.  I'm in the meatiest part of my training plan right now.  Here's a quick summary of the last few days.


Last Thursday, I had my longest run workout ever. Yes. My LongestRun. Ever. In. My. Life.

I got home from work and hit the road as soon as I could - knowing that I'd probably need all the daylight I could get.  I wore my new De Soto shorts and jersey for two major reasons.  First, I'm planning on wearing the same kit for the Ironman and wanted to get the best simulation I could for race day.  Second, the jersey has 3 big pockets, and I needed to carry half a dozen Power Gels to keep fueled for the run.

The route I picked out started by heading West to Medicine Lake.  Then I did 2 laps around the lake.  The good news was that I only had to carry one 12-ounce water bottle since there are several parks around the lake with drinking fountains when I needed a refill.

The map is courtesy of my Garmin FR305 and SportTracks.

The run itself was definitely a learning experience.  My goal was to average 10-minute miles as long as I could and then just wait to see what happened.  Things went fine for about the first 10 miles.  It got a little weird from about mile 12-15.  My heart rate started to drop and I felt sleepy.  My best guess is that even with a gel every 30-minutes, I was low on calories.  For future long runs, I'll likely have to up my gel intake to 1 every 20 minutes.

In the end, I ran for 3 hours and averaged 10:17 per mile.  It's not nearly as fast as my run leg during the Liberty 1/2 Ironman.  But, I didn't have adrenalin on my side this time around.  My goal for Madison is a sub-5-hour marathon.  A 10:17 pace puts me in at 4:30.  There will be no way to know for sure if I'll break 5-hours on the run, but I'm still optimistic.

Oh yeah.  And as a reward, I treated myself to Kentucky Fried Chicken for a recovery meal.  Take THAT nutrition plan.


Friday was a rest day, as in 'butt in recliner, watching TV and going to bed early'.  It felt freaking GREAT.


The plan called for a 5 1/2-hour bike.  This coincided perfectly with Tour de Tonka, a great community ride that leaves from Minnetonka High School and continues on to a few different route choices ranging from 16 to 100 miles.  Of course, since I'm in Mega-Miles-Mode, I did the Century.  Here's a photo of me just before the ride started all dolled-up in my Twin Cities Spoke jersey.
This is my 'excited' face.

The weather was a little dreary for the first half.  By 'dreary' I mean, it rained from mile 2 until 49.  It wasn't terrible.  The rain helped cool things off - just don't ride immediately behind someone with your mouth open.  Eew.

The skies magically cleared up for the 2nd half of the race and we were treated to a beautiful 50 miles.  The wind was even at our backs once we made the turn and started heading East towards Waconia.

This is my 3rd year doing Tour de Tonka.  They always seem to do a good job.  One would think that a community ride with half-a-dozen different routes and over 2000 participants would be a logistical nightmare.  But, these guys pull it off well.  The courses are well marked, rest stops are well stocked and there are volunteers everywhere - even on the Century course.  Well done.


Sunday was a simple open water swim.  I drove over to Lake Independence.  It's the same lake that held the swim for the Liberty 1/2 Iron.  They have a long stretch of beach that is protected by buoys, so I was safe from playing bumper-cars with the speedboats and jetskis.

The swim was nice and relaxing.  I put my Garmin in a zip-lock back and tucked it into my swim cap to try to track my route.  It worked out pretty well -

I wanted to swim for 75 minutes - which would have brought me pretty close to race distance for the Ironman.  But when I saw lightning on the horizon I decided that maybe Mother Nature wanted me to go home have some leftover KFC.  Thanks Mother Nature, you're a real pal.


Today was another long pool workout.  It was a combination of a ladder and some 100-yard repeats.  For the most part, it was uneventful - except for the parts when the lane lines kept coming unhooked from the edges of the pool and floating into my lane.  Bah.

I'll be hitting more heavy-duty hours on the road, in the water and on the bike this week, but I've got a recovery week coming up, so I suppose I can tolerate just a little more suffering.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lotsa Lotsa Lotsa Training Hours

Yeah.  I know.  The posts are few and far between lately.  First, I leave the country for a week  Then, I return home and am welcomed by the three most intense training weeks of the year.  Granted, last week was a bit of a wash as I was fighting a cold.   But things ramped up quickly, starting last Thursday.


This was my first run in over a week.  My last run was on the treadmill in the resort's air conditioned gym, so running outside with a dew-point in the 70s was a bit of a rude awakening.  Okay.  It was more like a slug in the gut.  The heat kept sending my heart rate through the roof, and I had to slow down repeatedly to keep from red-lining.  By the end of the run I had sweat so much, it looked like I had just finished a pool workout.  It looks like I'm going to have to re-learn running in the heat.


Friday was a fun little pool workout.  The meat of the workout called for repeats with increasing intensity.  The first leg was at a comfortable pace.  The 2nd repeat was at 'cruising' speed - think driving down the highway on a road trip - efficient, but quick.  The 3rd leg tweaked it up one more notch - steady, but really pushing it this time.  Here are the splits:

11:20 = 1:37/100y
11:02 = 1:34/100y
10:35 = 1:30/100y

Seems pretty even to me - good enough to call it a successful workout.


Saturday called for kind of a screwy brick session.  For those of you that aren't hip to my tri lingo, a brick is any series of back-to-back workouts.

First, I had to do a run in the morning.  It was just a hair over 1/2 an hour.  No big deal.  Then, I had to wait until later in the day to do a swim, followed by a run.  The day kind of got away from me, and I didn't end up hitting the pool until nearly 7:30.  I did a steady, non-stop 2200 yard (1.25 mile) interval at a 1:35/100y pace.  Nicely done.  There was one problem though. 

The next part of the brick session called for a 60-minute bike.  However, I started swimming so late that I wouldn't be able to hit the road for an hour before I ran out of sunlight.  There was only one thing to do - head back home and dust of the trainer.  It had been in mothballs since spring, but came to the rescue on Saturday night.  Still, it felt weird to bike while watching TV again.


This was a loooooong bike ride - the longest of the year so far.  Now, as some of you may recall, my last long weekend ride didn't turn out so well.  In essence, I was working on the fail-road (all the live-long day).

This time around, it was a different story.  I made sure to have plenty of fluids on me and made a couple stops along the way to pick up some water, Gatorade and fresh fruit.

First, I headed down to Chaska - about 25 miles on the nose.  The, I headed east through Prior Lake, Savage, Burnsville and Apple Valley.  Then, I headed North through Eagan and into St. Paul.  I made one more pit-stop on Grand Avenue and then headed down Summit until I reached the river.  From there, It was just a quick hike down the Greenway trail to get back into my neck of the woods.  The whole thing looked something like this:

Notice the gap in St. Louis Park where I stopped my Garmin at an intersection and forgot to restart it until 2 miles later.  Whoops.

In the end, I pedaled through just a bit over 92 miles in 5:31.  At least I know, that at a relaxed pace, I'll be able to cover the 112 miles in the Ironman somewhere in the 6:30 range.  

Oh yeah, I almost forgot.  After the bike, I had to do a quick 20-minute run.  That felt a little weird, but at least I could still hold a sub-10:00/mile pace.  


There was only one workout scheduled for Monday - a wicked-long swim.   I had to do 8 repeats of 500 yards each.  The odd-numbered repeats were at an easy cruise and the evens were at at a more strenuous pace.  I sure felt more fatigued for this workout than the swim from the previous week, and really had to gut out those intense intervals.  My splits seem to reflect the fatigue too:

8:16 (1:38/100y)
7:46 (1:33/100y)
8:20 (1:40/100y)
7:35 (1:31/100y)
8:24 (1:40/100y)
7:39 (1:31/100y)
8:24 (1:40/100y)
7:42 (1:32/100y)


Tuesday was another screwy brick workout.  The first chunk was a short swim workout that I was able to do over lunch.  I'm fortunate that my office is literally across an alley from my health club, so I can just hike over there to hop in the pool.  It was a pretty straight forward workout with 12 100-yard repeats.

In the evening, I had to get somewhat creative.  The plan called for a 60-minute bike (first 30-minutes easy, last 30 minutes HARD) followed by a 30-minute run.

I was helping out again with the Tuesday Night Time Trial out in Maple Plain.  I showed up early and set up part of the course.  Then, I took my leave for the easy 30-minute ride.  Then, I hopped at the end of the line for the time trial - and off I went!  It was a grueling 11-mile course with constant rolling hills and I was going balls-out.  Or, at least as balls-out as I could go considering the workout volume of the previous few days.

I finished in 31.06, which is a 21.22 MPH average.  The only other time I raced this course was 2 years ago and I managed a 19.5 MPH average, so, I'll take anything over 21 with a smile. After all, I'm not training for a sprint.  I'm in it for the long haul.  For the record, the winner on Tuesday clocked in at 28.47 MPH.  That's just SICK!

Wednesday (Today)

The first workout today was just an easy-peasey-lemon-squeezy run over lunch.  I jogged over to the Centennial Lakes park.  For those of you familiar with Edina, it's where all the money goes to feed the ducks.  See...

When I got home from work, I just headed out for what was essentially a recovery ride.  I hit some paths near Medicine Lake and then headed West towards Wayzata.  For those of you not familiar with Wayzata, it's where all the money goes to have coffee.

Tomorrow, I'll have the longest run of the year so far - almost 3 hours.  Yikes.  The challenge will be picking a path where I can re-fill my water bottle at local park drinking fountains.  Okay.  Fine.  The REAL challenge will be actually running 3 hours straight, but I'm trying not to think about that part.

Finally, after a well-deserved rest day on Friday, I'll be riding the 100-mile route in Tour de Tonka along with several thousand other riders and my homies from the Twin Cities Spoke

The scary thing is that next week calls for even more training hours.  Eeek.