The Experiment Continues…PART TWO: Power

The experiment continues.

Over the last couple of weeks, my plan has consisted of swimming, biking, running and strength training sessions.  I’ve logged the workouts in an app that I LOVE, called Training Peaks, recording within the application all of the data that comes along with 21st century technology (heart rate monitors, triathlon GPS watches, and my IPrecious).  I’ve completed a number of training sessions in all four disciplines, so that I have a fairly decent-sized sample in order to crunch some numbers that will actually mean something to my training and improvement.  This is the second post wherein I’d like to briefly talk about the data.  In this post, I’d like to elaborate on a number that stares me in the face every time I hop on my bike (I named him Maximus, after a horse from a Disney movie…and with that, let the lambasting commence within the comments…) or take a cycling class at my gym: Watts.

20130626-055155.jpg   (This is Maximus)

If you ride your bike a lot or go to spin classes, you can track the amount of power your legs are generating through the amount of watts shown on your GPS or the device attached to the stationary bike on which you take your spin classes.  Here’s what the device on the bikes used within my usual spin class look like:


My spin classes normally go for 45 minutes, but I try to get there early in the hope that they will turn on these devices 10-15 minutes before class starts.  In the example above, you can see that the device was only turned on about 5-6 minutes before the class began, so the only hard data I have to go on for the morning’s effort is captured here.  Normally, I’ll start my morning with a run of 45-60 minutes before transitioning to a spin class, so my legs have already been forced to work for a bit before this 45 minute cycling session begins.  This means I am warmed up and awake – but the tank of energy has already been depleted.  During triathlons I will already be tired by the time I hit the bike – a 2.4 mile swim can do some damage – so hopping on the bike not feeling 100% is a good thing.

When I first looked at this screen, I could understand RPMs (revolutions per minute – how fast those pedals were going around in a one minute time span), MPH (miles per hour, just like a car), heart rate (beats per minute – got that one), calories burned (say hello to an extra Oreo – oh hell yeah), time and miles covered.  The one data point I didn’t really understand was Watts.  So I did some reading and I asked a couple of Ironman athletes in my gym about how to use this data point in my training.  What I learned was freakin’ awesome.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I focused all of my time and attention on average speed and miles covered.  I used these two pieces of training data to measure my performance.  The faster I went, the bigger my smile at the end of the 45 minute training session.  The other athletes poked holes in my analysis almost immediately.  Here’s the breakdown on what they shared:

  • average RPMS – a nice statistic to track, because the higher your average, the quicker your leg turnover.  That’s nice to know – but it’s not a predictor of future race performance because you aren’t pedaling in wind, rain, on uphills, downhills, etc.
  • average MPH – another fun little statistic – but don’t use it as a predictor because a) you are only going 20-23 miles in an hour on the stationary bike, and b) no elements, heat, hills.
  • Calories burned – nice if you want an excuse to eat another Oreo.  (I do.  I like this number.  So there.)
  • Miles covered – nice little piece of information, but it doesn’t mean you will rack up mileage even close to what you see on the screen when you are riding in a crowd of other athletes on race day.

So there I was, left with only one data point left: watts.  When I asked about this number, I got a solid lesson over awful cups of burnt coffee that left me re-thinking how I attack my cycling workouts from then on.  The average watts figure at the top of the picture above measures the average amount of pure power being created during the training session.  This figure is a more pure measurement of cycling strength because it is immune to the other variables.  It simply states how much power your legs are giving off.  The More power generated, the faster you go.  Simple.

OK – so how the name of Zues’ rear-end do I measure my average watts, comparing the power that I currently generate to the amount of power I need to generate over a 112 mile bike course (leaving some juice in the tank for a marathon)?  Well their obvious first answer was “just try to meet or exceed your average every time.” OK, well that’s easy enough to track.  But how does watts translate into speed in a race?  That’s where the conversation got a little gray.  However, they recommended looking at pro triathletes statistics on-line, since they usually share these data points post-race.  I followed their advice, using my Unicorn as the race of measurement (Ironman World Championships in Kona).

Ben Hoffman is an elite Ironman triathlete.  He came in fourth this year at the Ironman World Championships, as was the top American male finisher.  While I couldn’t find his 2016 stats, I was able to google his 2014 cycling statistics for this race, and the numbers blew me away.  Ben covered the 112 mile Kona bike course in 4 hours and 33 minutes.   He maintained an average speed of 24.4 miles per hour, with a cadence (RPMs) of 89.  He averaged 2:27 per mile.  The average watts he generated for this portion of the race was 274.


While I am not nearly looking to keep up with these beasts, at least it gives me an idea of how watts translates into speed.  Hoffman averaged 24.4 miles per hour and the average watts were 274.  While listening to the live coverage of this year’s Ironman World Championship, the announcers estimated that the leader on the bike (and eventual winner – Jan “Frodo” Frodeno – was probably putting out close to 290-300 watts on average.  He covered the bike course in 4:29.

Using the elite athletes’ numbers as a point of reference, I designed a couple of goals for myself going forward:

  • During these 45-50 minute spin classes, my primary goal is to generate an average watts figure that beats my prior workout.  In the picture above, I averaged 254 – so I know cranking out a 250 average watt session is possible.  My next goal will be 255…then 256…etc.
  • I’ll need to attach a power meter on Maximus, and then collect a sample of data to measure my watts for longer rides.  Obviously, the average will be lower than in my spin sessions.  However, I am hoping to begin at around 220 and then get stronger from there.
  • By the time next July rolls around, I am hoping to have an average of 230-240 watts for a 100 mile training ride under my belt.  That should get me back to the transition area in plenty of time to begin my 26.2 mile waddle to the finish line before the clock hits midnight.

The data matters.


The Experiment Continues…PART ONE: Heart Rates

The experiment continues.

Over the last couple of weeks, my plan has consisted of swimming, biking, running and strength training sessions.  I’ve logged the workouts in an app that I LOVE, called Training Peaks, recording within the application all of the data that comes along with 21st century technology (heart rate monitors, triathlon GPS watches, and my IPrecious).  I’ve completed a number of training sessions in all four disciplines, so that I have a fairly decent-sized sample size in order to crunch some numbers that will actually mean something to my training and improvement.  My next few blog posts will briefly talk about the data.  I’ll start off with one set of data points that I find increasingly interesting and even…dare I say…helpful.

Heart Rates

I’ve figured out what my threshold and max heart rates are.  I cannot stand wearing a heart rate monitor, since it feels like a wrestler with the skinniest arms in the world has just snuck behind me and is constantly attempting to back suplex me in order to win the WWE Intercontinental Title.


(That’s the Nature Boy, Ric Flair….the most awesomest wrestler of all time, ever…period.)

I began wearing a heart rate monitor daily during my running and cycling sessions.  I did this so that I could create a data sample and see what the numbers tell me.  According to some calculations, an athlete’s max heart rate is supposed to be 220 minus the person’s age.  I’m 45 years young, so that makes my maximum heart rate 175.  Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had some challenging training sessions where I’ve amped up intensity in order to a) crank up my metoblism for the rest of the day, thereby burning more calories as I sit at work and click away on a keyboard, and b) train myself to handle harder efforts for longer periods of time, thereby improving my finishing kick for a marathon and also improving my ability to bring myself back under control early during a marathon or ultra after I catch myself going out too fast.

So now that I found out that my maximum heart rate was 175, I now needed to figure out what my heart rate should be during training.  What range should my heart be pounding away at during different types of runs (tempo runs, speed work, my weekly long run, recovery runs, etc). Those ranges are normally estimated by first figuring out what your Anaerobic Threshold is (“AT”).  Here’s what Competitor Magazine had to say about AT:

“…Like maximum heart rates, AT is also specific to each individual, but is trainable. Your AT is the point at which enough anaerobic metabolism occurs for more lactic acid to be produced than can be rapidly cleared from the body. This occurs from 65-95% of your maximum heart rate, depending on your fitness level.  You can recognize this level as that point where breathing becomes labored but maintainable. If you continue to increase your pace, you soon will reach failure and will have to slow down to continue…”

So based on the numbers, my AT would be 65-95% of my Maximum Heart Rate (175), depending on my fitness level.  I guess I fall somewhere between The Rock and Meatloaf when it comes to fitness level, so I estimated my AT to be 80% of my maximum.  So this brings my AT to the magic number of 140.

Great.  I have two numbers.  So what?  How can I use the data to improve?  OK, great question.  Once again, I’m going to refer to Competitor Magazine for some ideas.  They first suggest breaking your training down into 3 specific zones within which you’ll train:

“Zone 1: Aerobic sessions, 30-50 beats below your AT
Zone 2: Threshold training, 5-15 beats below your AT
Zone 3:
Anaerobic (interval) training, 5-10 above your AT”

How much training an athlete should do within each of these zones depends on the sport in which he / she is competing, an the corresponding distance to be covered.

Some people make a decision to run 100% of the time, paying attention to their zones.  Based on what I have heard and read, heart rate training is an awesome methodology if you are training over a long period of time.  It also takes some serious patience, since the concept (at least at the outset) is really running slower now to go faster in the long run.  You basically train your heart and your body to produce more energy / speed / power while requiring less from your heart to do so.  Your body becomes much more efficient.

At this point, I’m just really touching the surface of heart rate monitors and their use during training.

How Am I Using This Data?

I’ve decided to focus on my heart rate twice a week.  Once during a run (Monday mornings), and once during a cycling training session (Monday morning).  Basically, Monday is Happy Heart Day for me.

My workout schedule calls for an early morning run starting at 4am, where I look to cover 10 miles.  This run focuses on Zone 2, where I want to keep my heart rate 5-15 beats lower than my AT.  Then I transition to the gym, where I get about 30-40 minutes to chill out, grab some water and rest before hopping on a bike and cranking up the intensity a bit.  A Monday morning cycling session is 45 minutes in duration, and my goal is to train within 5-10 beats above my AT.

The rest of the week, I complete my training without thinking too much about my heart rate.  Why? Because I want to see if there is a difference in the way I perform.  Everything I’ve read makes me conclude that there should be a difference in the quality of my performance on Monday – but my sample data needs to grow in order for me to become more confident in my assessment.

Results Thus Far

I actually do have some news that I can report at this early stage: since I’ve completed a majority of my training (way too much, actually) at heart rate that his more rapid than my goals should be, I received an automated email from Training Peaks that stated that my new maximum heart rate is now 190.  So this means that my AT has increased to 152.  So my Monday morning run will be completed from now on at a pace that keeps my heart at around 142-145 beats per minute.  If I see the rate going higher than 145, I have to slow up and bring it under control.  When I transition to the bike on Monday morning,  my goal will be to hang around 155 beats per minute for the session.



Saturday- Run and Prepare

October 8th 2016

The Day’s Game Plan:

Up at 5am.

Saturday is my long run day.  It’s a key to building endurance, so I need to be focused.  I’m gunning for 18 miles today, at a nice steady, easy pace.  Shooting for an average pace of about 11:30 per mile, keeping in mind that the next race is October 30th in DC.  My goal for that race is a sub 5:30 pace, which translates into a 12:33 pace for 26.2 miles.  If I can pace at 11:30 – and no faster – for 18, it should put me in good position to tick off my first time goal.

I picked a rather interesting course for this run.  I’m going to head up the west side greenway, starting that the Intrepid on 44th Street and crossing the George Washington Bridge.  I’m going to yell hello to New Jersey, then turn around and head home.

Fuel-wise, I’m going to test out the Clif Builders Bar – mint chocolate chip.  Let’s see if I bonk at any point along the way.  I’m going to take portions of it every 30 minutes.  It’s only 300 calories, but it’s over 20 grams of protein – so I’m going to see if that helps me or if I need more along the way.

As for hydration, I have that covered.  My camelbak will work just fine.  I’ll take water every 20 minutes – that should be sufficient.

Recovery will also be important – so I’m going to go with chocolate milk within 30 minutes of finishing it up.

Day Three…and This Ain’t Gettin’ Easier…

October 7th 2016

The Day’s Game Plan:

Up at 5am.  Now that’s a bit better…

Friday is Brace Yourself Day.  The weekend’s workouts are longer than anything I do during the weekdays, so I need to get some work in in order to continue to help the weight loss along, but I need to brace myself for the demands of Saturday morning.  So the day starts with a 45 minute run, nice and easy.  Just log some miles.  Hustle home, grab my workout bag and head to the gym.  The goal here is to continue to jack up the metabolism with a spin class.  45 minutes, and I’m gunning for 600+ calories burnt.

I’ll find some time in the middle of the day to get some core strength workout in.  The evening will just rest.

Nutrition-wise, I’ll one again bring lunch to the office  I’m going to continue the protein-heavy routine in the morning, followed by a hefty portion of grilled chicken and salad for lunch.  Not worried so much about calorie intake today, as I’ll need the extra fuel tomorrow.  I just need to lean away from the garbage…and when I’m hungry, that’s not easy.

The Outcome

I was up early, and logged some solid miles at tempo before 5am.  Felt awesome.

Diet-wise, I was solid as well.  It was as if I clicked on all cylinders today.  Now I have to hope that I get some momentum going through the weekend and roll into Monday with three days of solid training and nutrition under my belt.

Speaking of nutrition: tomorrow is my long run, and I am going to begin experimenting with different, new fuel during the run.  Tomorrow I’ll begin the long run fueling experimentation with the gel that I know is provided at mile 18 of the NYC Marathon: Clif Shots.  I have used this gel before, so I am going to experiment with utilizing them throughout my run by fueling every 30 minutes.  I have never done this before – I normally elect to carb load the evening before, top off the tank with carbs on race morning, and then take the gels that the course provides whenever they provide them.  Not exactly a sound plan, as I have “bonked” (crashed) almost every time I’ve gotten to miles 20-21 of the race.  I want to finish with a ton of energy and I want a quicker time – so we’ll see if this does the trick.



Day Two of the Experiment

October 6th 2016

The Day’s Game Plan:

Up at 4am.

Thursday is Long Swim Day.  it starts with a 45 minute light run, after which I hustle home, grab my workout bag and head to the gym.  The goal here was to log 2000 yards in the pool, and then hit the weights.

I’m guessing that I’m already going to be achy by the evening, but the goal one again is to amp up my metabolism by doing a workout at home that primarily focuses on core strength.  Again, I’m hoping that by amping up my metabolism right before bed, my body will burn more calories that it normally does while I sleep.  I’m scheduled to weigh myself on Sunday after my long workout, so we’ll see this this slight adjustment makes any dent in my number.

Nutrition-wise, I’ll once again bring lunch to the office.  I’m going protein heavy in the morning with some hard boiled eggs and a shake, but this time I am lowering the calorie total a little.  Let’s see how long I can hold out during the day before a crave a damn Three Musketeers bar.

The Outcome

Well the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.  Playoff baseball got the best of me – a great pitching duel and a 3 run homer in the 9th send the Giants into the division series and send the Mets to the golf course.  As a result, I didn’t get enough sleep and woke up too late to swim.  So I went to plan B: get home on time this evening and work out heavy to make up for the miss.

Started off the day solid nutrition-wise, having a protein shake and 3 hard boiled eggs for breakfast.  It got me through most of the morning…until I cheated and had a small chocolate muffin for absolutely no good reason whatsoever.  This is the kind od nonsense that has to stop, and I’ll need to experiment with methods of re-training myself to crave better snacks in the future.

I hit the gym by 6pm, and absolutely CRUSHED 2,000 yards in 45 minutes.  I’m going to be sore tonight – swimming at a race pace (I need to be able to cover about 1,100 yards in 26-27 minutes or less by Ironman time) really works muscles that I didn’t know I even had.

I then made the judgement call of hitting the weights for about 30 minutes.  Nothing heavy – just a basic full body workout with weight is was manageable (not trying to bench press a Buick).  Since  few people have asked about strength training, I added a page on this blog that outlines my usual strength training plan.  It’s nothing fancy – just basic stuff.

I felt good, so I decided to punish myself a bit my forcing myself to hit the dreadmill for 30 minutes.  I figured that I could use the time on the dreadmill to force myself to maintain a pace that sped up every minute I was on there.  So I set the thing to start at an 11:30 pace, and then made myself run just a hair faster every 60 seconds.  I was sprinting by the end, unable to control my breathing.  My lungs got away from me, which almost resulted in me heaving all over my shoes.  Five minutes later…I felt awesome.

Lessons Learned

  • Sleep is key.  Either stick to my sleep plan by hitting the sack by 9:30, or budget in an evening workout.  Don’t wait until morning, when I find myself sleeping through my alarm.
  • I didn’t take in enough calories yesterday.  As a result, I didn’t sleep well and I woke up hungry.  Although the protein filled me up before I left home, the calorie debt made that chocolate muffin extremely tempting.

Today’s Nugget(s)

On this day in 1783, Benjamin Hanks patents the self-winding clock.

On this day in 1882, the first World Series game was played.  (Cincinnati beat Chicago, 4-0).

Day One of the Science Experiment…

October 5th 2016

The Day’s Game Plan:

Up at 4am.

Wednesday is Speed Day, so warm up with a 1.5 mile run around the lower loop of Central Park, until I hit the base of Cat Hill.  The goal is to complete four hill repeats before heaving all over my bright orange Brooks.

Once I wrapped that up, I waddle home, grab my workout bag and head to the gym.  The goal here was to log 1000 yards in the pool, and then hit the weights.

In the evening, the goal is to amp up my metabolism by doing a workout at home that primarily focuses on core strength.  I’m hoping that by amping up my metabolism right before bed, my body will burn more calories that it normally does while I sleep.

Nutrition-wise, I’ll bring lunch to the office so that I’m not tempted to eat what I really want: a chicken parm hero from Luigi’s.  I’m also going to go protein heavy in the morning with some hard boiled eggs and a shake.

The Outcome

Well, I got up in time and knocked out a relaxed swim.  1000 yards in 28:01.  Water seems to be my natural element – although I know it’s a training session, swimming is almost therapeutic to me.  I got these cool-looking new googles too – they make me feel like Fonzi.


I changed into my running stuff and ran 1.5 miles as a warm-up to Cat Hill.  The hill is about .35 of a mile, with a steep incline at the outset which tapers off with about 1/10 to go, so hill repeats on this section of the park are not very enjoyable to a shlub like me.  I got 4 repetitions in before I had to call it a morning – there were too many bikes going in the wrong direction within the running lane, and if one of them hit me this morning I was not in the mood to be Mr. Forgiveness.  Instead, I would have channeled my inner Ric Flair and suplexed the schmuck.


I knew it was time to call it a morning when one of these two-wheeled whackjobs flew by me – without a helmet – while in the designated runners lane – going opposite the flow of traffic – while texting.  Given the fact that it was before 6am and sunrise still hadn’t provided some degree of natural lighting to the park, this guys was a rolling accident about to happen.  Now don’t get me wrong: I love cycling.  As a triathlete and Ironman hopeful, it’s the one discipline that I need to spend the most time on.  However, when I ride I try to respect the rules of the road and those around me.  I got the work in, so I felt fairly accomplished by the time I got home.

I stuck to my protein-heavy breakfast: a couple of hard-boiled eggs and a shake.  I’m trying to get myself to stop craving sugary awesomeness like Oreos (seriously – Oreos should be a darn food group – it should go Oreos, Pizza, Pop Tarts and General Tso’s Chicken).  Kicking the sugar craving will NOT be easy.  I have absolutely no discipline, so saying no to those round tasty little pieces of Nabisco heaven is going to feel like root canal without the Novocaine.  However, the juice is worth the squeeze.  So the first real experiment that this new adventure has triggered deals with diet.  I’ve come to realize that the things I now need to say “no” to historically have constituted a decent size of my overall caloric intake.   So switching to a much healthier selection will not be easy.  It also didn’t help that I was lazy this morning and forgot to put together a sizable salad for lunch.  As a result, lunch consisted of a couple of handfuls of pretzel pieces.  This will cause my overall calorie count for the day to be less than the total I have budgeted for myself: 2,300.  I’ll need to compensate by having a bit more protein tonight.

Had a simple salad with a couple of ravioli for dinner.  Figured that I am in severe calorie debt today – I can tell from the raging migraine I’ve been dealing with and the stats on  (Yes, I am using a website to count my darn calories and make myself more accountable – would much prefer using some Deal-A-Meal cards).  I wanted to stay away from heavy carbs at night, but I think I’ll need the efficient energy that comes from carbs in the morning.

The evening workout, right before I crashed tonight, was annoying.  I am not a huge fan of core work, because it’s a weak point for me.  We’ll see over the coming weeks whether the concept of cranking up the metabolism right before bed helps burn more calories.

I look at the first 2 weeks of this experiment as a data-gathering phase.

Today’s Nugget

October 5th 2011: Steve Jobs passed away at the age of 56.

Crazy Ones



It’s Been a While…

After my 500 mile adventure last August / September, I really went into a funk.  I had spent 18 months training for the challenge of running from San Francisco to Anaheim, and the journey was incredibly special.  Friends and family kept motivating me forward as I prepared for covering more than a marathon a day for 18 day – and that encouragement helped me stay focused when I would have normally slacked off.  When the journey began on August 18th 2015, I felt ready athletically – but I almost lacked the the mental ability to exit the car and start running from the Walt Disney Family Museum that morning.  All of that training…and I almost was unable to get myself out there and begin the actual long distance run.  As the days rolled on and we got into a rhythm, getting out there and logging the miles became easier.  Then, as the end of event drew closer, excitement built within me – I may actually be able to pull this off.  When I finished in the concourse of Disneyland, the first feeling that washed over me was “Wow.  It’s over.  I made it.  I survived”.  The Disneyland Half Marathon felt fantastic that year – like a real victory lap shared with friends.  What I didn’t realize was just how much that effort took out of me.  I found that out in the months that followed.

Normally, as I prepare for one marathon, I make sure to have another one lined up after it in order to maintain my motivation for training.  last year was no exception – I was scheduled to run the TCS New York City Marathon on the first Sunday of November.  What I didn’t realize was that I was so emotionally drained that I completely overlooked it.  I really mailed that race in – it was the first time since I began running the five boroughs in 2005 that I simply longed for it to be over.  It is my favorite day of the year within the city, and all I wanted to do was move on.  A sorry state of affairs.

In January, I went down to Walt Disney World to run the marathon with a bunch of friends. That was a fun time, but once more my heart wasn’t in to the race itself.  The running funk had now lasted four months and I couldn’t shake it.  I began looking for answers.

I realized that I pushed myself to another level last year, and I may have burned out a bit on running.  So I set a new goal for myself…one that would be challenging and hopefully kick the tires & light the fires: Ironman.

I targeted the Ironman Vineman on July 30th as my entry into the event series, I purchased an on-line training program, and I set off to conquer 140.6 miles.  Swim, bike, run became a daily credo.  I’d hit the sack by 9:30pm, got up by 4am, and logged my run.  Then I’d hit the gym, and swim a while – until it was time to transition to a spin class.  I’d finish up the morning routine at 7:15am, rush home and get ready for work.  Saturdays were my long run days.  Sundays were BRICK days (days where I’d log a long bike ride and then hop off and run a bit).  (FYI – some say that BRICK really means Bike Run…ICK!).  The routine felt good after a while, and it’s one that I currently maintain to the best of my ability.  However, without someone to hold me accountable – a decent triathlon coach – I failed to see strong improvement in my times for any of the three disciplines.  July crept closer – and I was not ready.  So I backed out of the race…and the tires deflated again.  I needed to attack this issue from another angle…and the new assault on improvement had to happen quick, as my fall race schedule was bearing down on me.

I began to analyze my daily routine and then…it just hit me.  I need to channel my inner Mad Scientist.  I need to treat my training as my ongoing experiment.  So the first thing I needed to do was come up with short-term and long term-goals that I wanted to achieve (because you cannot perform experiments without first knowing what you want to create), then analyze my my training schedule to enhance the process in order to get where I want to go.

First – the goals.  Well that’s easy: I want to be faster, and I want to be able to run longer without tiring.  I also want to drop weight (a dream of mine for YEARS), and get stronger overall.  Those are the long-term goals.  Rome wasn’t built in a day (I learned that from numerous rides within Spaceship Earth at Epcot).  So what about short-term goals?  That was pretty easy too: Finish the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon in five hours, then enjoy a gallop through the streets of New York City for 26.2 miles the following Sunday.  Two weeks after that, finish / survive the NYC 60k in Central Park, and then continue to train for the Goofy Challenge in January 2017.  From there, I’ll develop a race schedule that requires more longer-distance efforts, throwing in my first half marathon with my daughter in April.  A tough 2017 race schedule should then prepare me for Ironman Vineman in late July.  After Vineman….2018 has something special in store that I’ve dubbed the Florida Running Project (more on that much later).

Once I laid out my short-term and long-term plans, I realized that one thing was missing: specificity.  A good scientist needs to have sound attention to detail, as proper measurements are key to improving something.  So I needed to attach actual time goals for each race, in order to focus my training effectively.  So I created an Excel spreadsheet, and within it I began to lay out my daily training routine.  From there, I added one thing: time targets for each run, swim or bike session.  There it was in black & white: specificity.

Now that I had the level of detail I believe that I needed, I needed to develop something to ensure that I focused on my targets daily.  Why?  Because my training begins at 4am and I’m usually a zombie at the beginning.  So any time-specific goals could be written off at that hour in lieu of simply “checking the box”.  I need to think of each day as an experiment, and the experiment would fail without proper focus.  I came up with a two-step process to address this risk: I developed a routine where, right before I go to bed, I write down the following morning’s run goals on an index card. I review it, and then I crash for the night.  That way, I wake up with those goals still fresh inside my noggin.  Then I take the card with me during my workouts.

Another thing that a mad scientist needs in order to conduct experimentation is data.  I decided to centralize all of my data collection from each training session within an on-line application called Training Peaks.  I’ll go over the day’s data and try to analyze what was solid and what needs improvement.  I think there are several factors that need to be tinkered with in order for the day’s experimentation to be successful:

  • Did I stick to my training plan?  If yes, awesome.  If not, why not? Figure out the cause and fix it.  Things I’ll need to consider:
    • Did I get enough rest?  If not, that can screw up the experiment.
    • Did I not hydrate properly during the workout?  If not, the experiment could easily fail.
    • Any pain?  If so, it needs to be addressed ASAP.
    • Did I fuel properly?  I have a tendency to NOT use gels, bars or any other type of fuel during long workouts (2 hours +).  That’s not smart, and part of the experimentation will be the types of fuel I’m using at the crack of dawn.
  • Did I stick to my diet plan?  If yes, awesome.  If not, why not?  Address the issue and move on to tomorrow.  let’s face it: without proper fuel, training will stink.  Throw the wrong fuel in the tank, and training will suffer for it.
  • Did I stretch?  I hate stretching, but I am now learning that it’s a necessary evil.  I cannot stand doing it, but it just needs to get done.
  • Was I mentally in the zone?  If my head isn’t in the game, the entire day’s experiment will crash.  Some days I am fired up, and some days I dread getting up.

In addition to this sort-of high-level analysis, I’ll also evaluate my performance numerically, from heart-rate monitor data to threshold analysis in order to measure improvement.  If I plateau at any point, I’ll be able to identify it…and then further experimentation will happen.  I feel like Dr. Frankenstein.

Now all I need is one of those cool white lab coats…..