Friday, April 29, 2011

Get in Gear 10K Race Preview

Have you ever had one of those workouts where you wish you could harness your performance, put it in a bottle and drink it before a race?  Last week, I had that type of workout.  I had recently been getting over a nagging knee injury.  It wasn't serious; just a bit of a pain in the butt (er...knee).  The result was that I hadn't really done any hard-core running for the last couple of weeks. 

Anyway,  last Saturday, I left the house for a tempo run.  For those of you not in-the-know, tempo workouts are used to increase your speed over longer distances.  For example, one may run a 5K at their 10K race pace, or a 10K at their 1/2 marathon pace.  In my case, I wanted to get in a solid 5-6 miles to prepare me for the Get in Gear 10K

Well, I took off on my run and, after a little complaining from my legs ( we HAVE to run today?  The couch was SOOOO comfortable) I was able to find a nice, steady pace.  I felt great, and everything seemed to be clicking.  When my Garmin chimed in at the first mile at 8:15 I was pretty surprised.  That's the fastest mile I've run since the downhill portion of the Chaska Tri last year

I still felt fresh, so I tried to keep the pace the same for miles 2 and 3.  They clocked in at 8:05 and 8:02.  Mile 4 was 7:47, but that was mostly downhill, so I was cheating a little.  Mile 5 was flatter, and I managed an 8:11.  I was starting to really feel it at this point, but was able to push through the last .62 miles at a 7:44/mile pace.  So, I covered 5.62 miles in 45:08.  That's an average of 8:01 per mile.  Holy Cats!

So, that brings me to the preview of the Get in Gear 10K race this Saturday.  I'd love to have a repeat performance and finish with splits at or below 8:00 per mile.  That would mean breaking 50:00.  So, that'll be my lofty goal tomorrow.

The course is flat.  Like, pancake flat.  The only real hills to speak of are to get on to and off of the bridges over the Mississippi.  So, if I fall short of my goal, I can't exactly blame the killer hills.

The weather is supposed to be in the low 50s tomorrow morning, which is right in my wheelhouse for fast runs.  Unfortunately, it's also supposed to be rainy.  I don't mind running in the rain too much.  It's standing in the rain waiting for the race to start that can be a pain.  Of course, hopefully I'll be working hard enough so that I'll be worried more about my achy legs and less about getting a little soggy.

One other thing to keep in mind is that this could potentially be a very crowded race.  Last year, it took more than 20 minutes for the 10K runners to cross the start line.  I'm hoping to start far enough back in the pack that I won't get trampled by the real runners - you know, the folks averaging under 6:00/mile.  Then again, I don't want to start so far back that I have to weave through the crowd for 6+ miles.

So, lets recap:

Super-Lofty Goal: Break 50:00
Not-Quite-As-Lofty-But-Still-Pleased Goal: 51:30
"Meh." Goal: 52:30

I'll be back tomorrow to let you know how it went. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Training Hurt vs. Training Injured

As much as training and racing in triathlons has helped me get (and stay) healthier, I'll also admit that they can beat the holy heck out of your body.  Over the last few years, I've had my share of minor setbacks.  Last year, I developed tendinitis in my left foot, which took a good chunk out of my training right in the middle of the season.  This year, I've had some minor abdominal stress along with a little patellar tendinitis in my right knee.

Now, I know that I've been pretty lucky so far.  Nothing has sidelined me for any significant amount of time.  Aside from juggling around a few workouts or holding back on running for a day or two, there's hasn't been a huge impact to my training.  Of course, one nice thing about triathlon is that if you can't train for one sport, there are two others to keep you occupied.  When I couldn't run for a while last year, it was time to rock 'n' roll in the pool.  In other words, I've trained 'hurt' plenty of times, but haven't hit anything serious enough to be considered 'injured', causing me to have to stop training altogether.  Again: Hurt = keep training.  Injured = no training.

So, then the question becomes, "How do I know the difference?".  Like most of us, I'm not going to head to the doctor every time I feel a little stiff.  Shoot.  If that was the case, I may as well move in to the clinic. No.  As a general rule, once a body part gets hurt, I'll give it a day or two so I can understand it.  After that, I'll try home therapies.  If the body part starts to feel better, I'll continue.  If not, it's time to see the doc to see what they have to say.  Obviously, the severity of the pain is going to have a lot to do with this.  If my broken shinbone is poking up through my skin, I'm not going to 'see how it goes' before heading to the doctor.  Let's use my recent spell of tendinitis as an example.

Things first felt a bit 'off' near the end of a run two weeks ago on Sunday.  At first, I thought that I had just tweaked my knee a bit and didn't thing much of it.  I thought that I would just walk it off and it would go away on its own.  Then, later in the day, while on a bike ride, things went from 'off' to downright painful.  Every time I pushed down on my right pedal it HURT.  Of course, I couldn't just stop and call a cab, so I just sucked it up and limped my way home.  Again, I wasn't too worried.  I iced it, took some ibuprofen and stayed off my feet for the rest of the day.  I didn't get really worried until the next day when I woke up and it still hurt like a mother.

Luckily, I only had a swim workout scheduled on Monday, so at least my legs would get a rest.  After my time in the pool, I headed home for some RICE therapy (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation).  The next morning, the pain was much more manageable than the day before.  "Okay," I thought, "at least we're going in the right direction."

Tuesday, my plan called for a run and a bike.  Running was out.  No freaking way.  But, I wanted to see what would happen on a quick bike ride.  I headed out on a nice, flat route that would be easy on the knees.  I was definitely aware of my knee, but it felt more like pressure than pain.  It was a good sign.  I upped the intensity just a tad, but the pain didn't increase.  So far, so good.  I headed home and started icing again, just to be safe.

Wednesday was a mid-week rest day.  It was good timing.

Thursday was supposed to be a long tempo run along with speed work in the pool.  Well, the knee was feeling light years better compared to Sunday, but it still wasn't to the point where I was comfortable running - especially for a 100-minute sufferfest.  So, I did the pool workout and then a spinning session to at least get my heart rate up for a while.

Friday was another long day in the pool.  Easy-peasey.  No issues.

By Saturday, I was finally ready to try running again, but I wanted it to be in a controlled environment.  So, for the first time in weeks, I packed up my running gear and headed to the gym.  I started at a modest 6.5 mph on the treadmill and things felt okay.  Over the course of 40 minutes, I slowly sped things up to 7.0 mph.  I could feel a little pressure in the knee, but no real pain.  Great!  We ARE on the right track.  I also wore a kneecap strap, just to add a little extra support, but I'm not sure if it made any difference. Honestly, I think it only succeeded in chafing the back of my leg.

During the first chunk of the following week, I still stuck to swims and bikes.  The pain was all but gone, so, by Tuesday, it was time to get back on the schedule.  The plan called for a 2-hour run.  Since the forecast called for snow (ugh, SNOW?!?) I hit the treadmill again.  It went something like this:

Good Idea: Going for a 2-hour run.
Not-So-Good Idea: Going for a 2-hour run on the treadmill at the gym.
Bad Idea: Selecting the treadmill pointed at the TV playing a Bravo marathon of 'Pregnant in High Heels'.  
Even-Worse Idea: Letting said TV show convince you that your next career path should be as a 'Maternity Concierge'.

Anyway, after 2 hours and 13.4 miles, the knee was sore, but good.  Heck.  After 13+ miles, ALL of me was sore but good.  My knee and I were back in business.  

Since then, I've had a few more runs and started taking things outside again.  I even had a breakthrough workout yesterday where I rocked some super-fast splits on a tempo run.  Hopefully, that'll mean a good PR at Get in Gear next weekend.

So, what's the takeaway?  Well, I suppose #1 is that I've been very fortunate that I've only had to train hurt, and have never been laid out with a severe injury.  Beyond that, I've learned to be flexible when my body starts barking at me.  Things are going to hurt from time to time.  The best move is to nip it in the bud by making adjustments to the training schedule. Or better yet, do some preventative maintenance like stretching and foam-rolling to keep from getting hurt in the first place.

So, now that my engine is firing on all 6 cylinders again, I'm REALLY looking forward to seeing how things go at Get in Gear on Saturday.  I'll be doing the 10K and The Wife will be racing in the 5K.  I'm hoping that the staggered starts for these races will allow us to cross the finish line at the same time.  Stay tuned to find out what happens.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I hit two major milestones in the last couple of weeks.  First off, I passed 1000 miles of cycling miles for 2011.  Now, most of those miles were on the trainer, and the trainer doesn't always accurately represent how far I've gone.  Okay, technically I wasn't actually GOING anywhere, so I guess most of those 1000 miles are virtual miles.  But, the work was anything but virtual, so I'm going to celebrate.  Yay me.

Second - and this is a bit of a bigger deal - I celebrated my 1-year blog-iversary. Woo hoo!

Way back in 2010 I started writing as a way to document my training experiences leading up to Ironman Wisconsin.  Go ahead, check out my first post.  Pretty modest, eh?  Well, the Ironman came and went, but the blog kept on going.  Sometimes I'd post about training, sometimes I'd post about food, and sometimes I'd post about all sorts of unrelated crap

In the end, things usually come back to training and racing.  I've had a lot of great experiences and met many groovy people through swimming, cycling and running.  In my mind, blogging about it is just a natural extension of being a member of this community.  Plus, I like writing, and this blog allows me to scratch that writing itch in a way that I usually don't have the opportunity to out there in the Real World.

So, I'll keep writing.  Sure, there's no big name triathlon this year, but I've got a marathon coming up in October, and all kinds of other goodies to look forward to this summer. 

Oh, and don't forget to 'Like' me on Facebook.  The more 'likes' that I have, the more it feeds my hungry ego, and the more entertaining I become.

I'm kinda like Audrey 2, except, instead of dentists, I eat Internet traffic.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Week of Workouts

It's been a busy week.  My training plan is calling for a lot more two-a-day workouts, plus the volume is going up.  So, basically, my day consists of waking up, working, working out and sleeping.  Don't get me wrong though, I love getting some longer workouts in, especially since all but the swimming can be done outside now. 

Here's what I've been up to over the past 7 days:

There was just a swim last Monday, and it was a speed workout at that.   In general, speed workouts are shorter, but more intense.  So, I spend less total time in the pool, but swim faster than race pace during the repeats.  Here's the plan for Monday along with my 100-yard splits:
50y Swim, 50y Kick Drill, 50y Swim, 50y Kick Drill, 50y Swim.
Main Set:
400y - 1:32/100y
100y - 1:22
100y - 1:22
100y - 1:22
100y - 1:22 (how do you like THAT for consistency?  Eh?   EHHHH?
300y - 1:34/100y
100y - 1:25
100y - 1:26
100y - 1:25 (starting to feel it here - had to struggle to keep it up)
200y - 1:34/100y
100y - 1:25
100y - 1:25 (DEFINITELY had to work harder to keep the pace steady for these last two)

3 x 75 yards (nothing fancy here, it was just enough to wind down and return to 'normal')

This was a long day.  Since I work an earlier shift, any workout that can't be done over lunch has to wait until after I punch out.  So, I packed the bike into the car the night before so I could zip out to Medina and cruise around for a 2-hour bike, before heading over to the pool for an evening swim.

I have an affinity for the roads out west.  The wind can be a little rough when it's coming out of the west.  It really teaches you to get nice, low and aero.  I started at Holy Name Church and headed out onto the course.  It was breezy, but nowhere near as bad as it could be.  After 1:48 on the road and a little over 32 miles, I ended up with a 17.8 MPH average.  No, it's not race pace, but for a solo ride early in the season, it's not too shabby. 

So, I packed up the bike again and sped over to the nearest pool.  This is where I learned a valuable lesson about fueling for workouts.  You see, I had plenty of gas in the tank for a 2-hour bike ride, but I neglected to eat while riding and ended up running on fumes during the swim.  Heck, I was so pooped that I had to cut the swim short.  Ordinarily, I would just tough it out, but I was so drained that my swim form was turning to garbage.  It was better to just cut my losses rather than practice bad form.

It was the 3rd day of the week, and I did my 3rd swim.  This time, it was a long, steady session.


Main Set:
2500y (1:34/100y) - I felt really good about this set.  Since last year, my splits have dropped about 6-7 seconds per 100 yards.  That's 2-3 minutes of saved time over a half-iron swim.  Hopefully, that will get me out of the water even more quickly so that I can put more distance between myself and the stronger cyclists on faster bikes.

4 x 50y - Again, nothing special.  It was just enough to relax and get limber again.

After the swim, I headed home and went for a run.  No, it wasn't anything epic.  I just did a quick 4.25 around the neighborhood.  I managed to keep my splits under 9:00/mile, but it wasn't easy.  I always feel a little oogy running after a swim.  Maybe it just takes a while to get my land-legs back.

There was only one sport to work on for Thursday.  Shoot, after all these two-a-days, it was nice to just worry about doing ONE thing.  The weather was absolutely PERFECT for a run.  It was warm enough to wear shorts and a t-shirt, but it was cool enough so that I didn't sweat buckets.  As a result, my splits rocked.  Heck, they were better than my 10K race splits from last year.  In the end, I covered 6.7 miles in 57:38.  That gave me an average of 8:36 per mile.  Sure, I'm no runner.  I mean, really, there are plenty of folks out there that can wax my fanny in running.  But, 2 years ago I was grunting out 11:00 splits in training and couldn't break 10:00/mile in a race if you were chasing me with a knife. 

Friday was a rest day...or so I thought.  I got a text from The Wife half-way through the day asking if I would go for a run with her.  She's just getting back in to running again and is aiming to to the Get in Gear 5K in a couple of weeks.  So, I sure as heck wasn't going to say no.  We did a 2.5 mile loop around the neighborhood.  She ran the whole thing and only stopped for a stoplight.  Not bad.  I'm proud of her.

I did another group ride out of Chaska with the Twin Cities Spoke, just like last week.  Only, this time around it was a 38-mile loop.  We were really hauling tail that morning.  These guys focus a lot more on cycling than I do, so they're much stronger in the saddle. 

As we got further into the ride, a handful of the faster riders picked up the pace.  I tried to keep up, but ended up being just a smidge too slow.  As a result, I ended up riding a good chunk of the route alone.  That wasn't necessarily a bad thing.  I got the chance to get into the aero bars again and get in some good time-trialing.

Sorry.  I don't have a map for this ride.  I neglected to charge the battery on my Garmin, so I had to ride nekkid on Saturday.  What I DO know, is that we covered 37.75 miles in just a hair over 2 hours.  That puts my average speed at about 18.1 MPH.  Now, this was a group ride, and it's a heckuva lot easier to go faster in a group, especially when you hide from the wind behind the stronger riders, like I do. 

The workout plan called for an hour run followed by a 90-minute ride. The nice thing about running with a Garmin, is that you can make up your runs as you go along and always know how far you've gone.  Sunday, I did another jog around the neighborhood.  Near the half-way of the run, my right knee started to feel a little goofy.  I didn't want this to turn into anything, so I just cut the run short and headed back home.

For the bike, I headed out to Baker Park again to meet with the folks from Beginner Triathlete.  The weather was looking nasty, and the wind was really kicking up.  Only one other person showed up to ride, but we still rode a good chunk of the Liberty Tri course.  In the end, I did get in just over an hour and a half of riding. 

My knee started to feel weird again during the tail end of the ride.  It hurt just below the kneecap whenever I flexed my quad to push down on the pedal.  Again, I didn't want to risk injury, so I sped home after the ride and iced that sucker.

The knee was still pretty sore this morning, so I decided to skip my evening ride.  However, I was able to get in another nice swim. 

4 x 75y, 1 x 100y

Main Set:
1000y (1:33/100y)
1000y (1:33/100y)


So, there you have it.  One week of workouts.  Well, almost.  I'll try to get in a longer bike later this week to make up for what I missed today.  I'm not too worried yet.  Every season has its setbacks.  Last year, I had problems with my left foot, so a sore knee isn't too big of a deal...yet.  In the mean time, I'll keep icing the sucker and concentrating on the swim.

Later gators!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Group Rides and New Duds

This was a great weekend for cycling.  It was relatively dry and relatively warm, plus I got to be in my first group rides of the year.  That's right.  I said 'rides', as in 'more than one'.  The first ride was with my homies from the Twin Cities Spoke.  We do a spin session on Saturday mornings throughout the winter, but now that Spring is here, everyone is itching to hit the road.

We met down in Chaska at 8:30am, so it was still plenty chilly.  The good news was that our club clothing order had come in, so I got to give my new wind shell a test drive.  We headed south through Carver, up through a crazy-steep hill and then headed north towards Victoria.  Parts of our ride were on the Chaska Tri bike course.  It felt good to see that part of town.  It makes me feel like race season is just about within sight.

It's nice to ride with these guys.  There are folks with various levels of ability, but most of them are much stronger cyclists than I am.  So, I get a little motivation to work a harder than I normally would on a solo ride.  Plus, if I'm hurting, there's usually someone to draft off of.

One pretty sweet part of that morning was picking up the new team kits that I ordered a couple months ago.  I' had been going the last few years using just one team jersey and one pair of shorts.  So, when this year's order went out, I grabbed a little Christmas cash (thanks Mom!) and some of my allowance money (yes, I have an allowance, but that's a story for another post) and placed my order for two pairs of shorts, two jerseys, a base layer and a wind shell.  So, getting my delivery yesterday was a bit like Christmas morning part II.

Naturally, I ran home, locked the door and went through all my swag.

Then, I tore those bags open.
Oh Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy!
This is exciting for a few different reasons.  First and foremost, I can now wear the team gear for training AND races.  It'll be nice to 'dance with the one who brung ya', if you know what I mean.  If you'll recall rule #1 from my rules of the road, it's important to remember for whom you ride.  Second, my current training gear, team-sponsored and otherwise, is in pretty sad shape.  My shorts, especially, are really showing their age - you'd age more quickly too if you spent that amount of time near my nether-regions.

Third, the team has re-designed their shorts with a black panel in front and back, rather than the old purple/navy panel. 
The old shorts.
Why is this important?  Well, colored spandex has a habit of showing, um, how do I say this? "unwanted moisture".  In the past, I had to walk out of the rest room with my helmet over my lap (no matter how much you shake and dance, the last two drops go in your pants.)  Plus, even if your my bladder wasn't an issue, any amount of cycling is going to cause a little sweating, so after a workout I'd end up looking like I wet myself.

Anyway, on to Sunday.

I've mentioned before how I use Beginner Triathlete to track my workouts and connect with the local tri community.  Well, since many of us are getting antsy to ride outside, several members organized an impromptu group ride out on the Liberty Triathlon bike course.  We were scared that the threat of rain would ruin the afternoon, but, it turned out to be a great day for a ride.  The highs were in the 50s and the sun peeked out from time to time. 

So, 7 of us met over at Baker Park and headed out on a nice casual ride around the course.  It was nice to chat with some 'forum buddies' and learn what everyone was up to.  One fellow was riding for just the 2nd time on clipless pedals.  Like anyone new to clipless pedals will tell you, accidentally tipping over while stopped is a rite of passage.  So, we all had a bit of a giggle when he had a bit of a "gravity attack" when the group stopped (sorry Adrian!). 

Of course, I didn't want him to feel bad, so the next time I had a chance, I decided to "accidentally" tip over too.  And just to make things "extra convincing" I decided to tip over onto one of the other riders (sorry Sarah!) and take a chunk out of my knee.

Okay, it wasn't a 'chunk', but it did draw blood (also: notice the lack of awkward sweat lines).

Once we all stopped falling over, the ride went really well.  The wind coming out of the east was a little gnarly, but once we started to head west again, we got to enjoy a little free speed.

Getting outside and riding with folks was excellent.  Hopefully, we can get some more of these group rides together throughout the spring as we're all putting in our base miles.

Speaking of base miles, since I'm wrapping up my first rest week of this training plan, tomorrow will be the beginning of my first Base Training week.  What does this mean?  Well, it means my volume will go up, especially for swimming and cycling.  Don't worry though, there will be plenty of time to focus on the run later on.