March 28th, 2017

Today’s Training Sessions


So I slept in this morning – I needed the rest and I didn’t get enough sleep last night.  So I planned to make up for it during the remainder of the day.  Note to self: get to bed at the planned time of 9:30pm.  I need to start thinking more about recovery.  I need to take rest seriously.



Squeezed in another 40 minute run on the treadmill.  Got the heart rate up.  Went back to the office with an elevated pulse, which was the plan.  This was my high quality work for the day, cranking out


5am Strength Training session focusing on the legs and core, then switch to a swim session (1200yds).  Finish up with a 6:30am cycling session, just to burn calories.  The goal was to focus on power.


How Did It Go?

The day was solid – by the end of spin class, I felt like I had accomplished something.  Swim – bike – run – get a tiny bit stronger.  Boom.

2 days down.  19 more to go until a positive habit takes hold.

March 27th 2017

Today’s Training Sessions


5am Strength Training session focusing on the Upper Body and Core

6:30am Cycling session – this is weekly HQ (high quality) cycling workout, focusing on high RPMs while maintaining strong wattage.


Squeeze in a 40 minute run on the treadmill.  Get the heart rate up.


Run session: tempo day.  Nice and steady, maintain pace.

Finish the day with 1200yds in the pool.  Turn up the heat here.

How Did It Go?

After a relaxing weekend, I jumped right back on the training horse and went to work early.  I realized that the morning routines that I had booked in my training program consisted of three legs: a run, followed by strength training, and wrapped up with cycling….and that was too much for a single session where quality is also a concern.  So I am trimming my morning training sessions to focus on 2 items at a time.  I began with a strength training session and added in some stretching.  Then I switching to cycling for about 55 minutes.  Burnt about 1,000 calories.  Left the gym feeling deliciously saucy.


Scored a light run in the middle of the day – about 30 minutes at an easy pace.  I’m using a quick trip to the closest Equinox to my office during lunch in order to take my mind off the midday hunger for Oreos and a chicken parm hero from Luigi’s.  Getting out of my office in the middle of the day did the trick.

I found a swim class offered by the gym this evening.  At first I had reservations about swimming with a group…but then I figured that taking spin classes has improved my upper leg strength and pace on the bike, so it was worth taking a shot.  Well……it was awesome.  A great workout, and it pushed my endurance (which shows me that I have a TON of work to do).  2.4 miles in less than 140 minutes.  I better step this up.  I finished off the evening with a lite run on the dreadmill, just to shake out the legs.

They say that in the sport of triathlon, there are actually 4 disciplines: swim….bike….run…and nutrition.  I need to work on that 4th discipline with a bit more consistency as well.

Hey…the first step in fixing a problem is admitting you have one, right??





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).