March 31st and April 1st 2017


So Friday was a self-imposed rest day.  All I focused on was my nutrition….but going out to a fairly awesome Italian restaurant doesn’t help matters.  Now I could sit here and say that I was disciplined – I ordered the branzino and fresh veggies for dinner instead of the fried calamari and fresh pasta with a delightful meat sauce……but that would be a lie.  Friday was a complete cheat day.  Workouts be damned.  Dietary discipline: screw you.  I did absolutely nothing right as it pertained to training for July 29th.  What is July 29th?  Glad you asked.

ironman vineman 230x120 1

It’s now referred to as Ironman Santa Rosa…but the race remains the same.  Swim 2.4 miles.  Bike 112 miles.  Run 26.2 miles.  Brag for the rest of your life.  I have to be able to swim 4,400 yards in less than 2 hours and twenty minutes.  I have to bike 112 miles and then be out there beginning the marathon by no later than 5:30pm.  I have top then finish the marathon before midnight.  That’s the task in front of me.  So why in the name of Zues’ hindquarters did I think that treating myself to that second glass of super tuscan and that awesome amaretto gelato (yeah, I had that too) was a good idea?  Because every once in a while, you need to reward yourself with something awesome.  Small victories deserve to be celebrated.  The only thing missing was a glass of amaretto.  (good thing I had a flask with me…)

This morning I was really dialed in.  I began with a strength training session where I keyed on upper body conditioning.  Upper body strength will be important because the stress of swimming that distance will wear out my shoulders and arms.  The bike’s 112 miles will sap strength from my chest, arms and back as I hold myself up on Maximus (that’s the name os my bike) (yes- I named my bike) (and yes, It’s named Maximus…I tell dudes that I got the name from the movie Gladiator, when I actually named it after the horse from the Disney animated film Tangled).  The run will require me to finish the long day by swinging my arms like pistons while bent at the elbow at a 90 degree angle for approximately 5 hours.  So lifting those weights really matters.

After I lifted , I hopped on the bike for an hour.  I did a 15 minute warm up, followed by 45 minutes of hard interval training.  I worked on 30-60 second extremely hard internals, because while on the bike, I need to be able to sprint past the bike in front of me within 30 seconds of making my move on a bike in front of me, or else I could be hit with a 5 minute penalty.  Today was one of those high quality sessions that showed me that I have the juice to get that portion of the job done – and done well.  I then hopped on the dreadmill for a quick 2 mile run just to make sure that my legs can transition from one discipline to the other with some form of efficiency.  Today’s training all had a purpose – and that made the difference in my performance.

It’s funny: a few weeks ago, I had a colonoscopy done at the age of 46.  It’s a few years early – but my dad had colorectal cancer more than once, so I have a genetic predisposition.  Two the things that had to be biopsied from this procedure took two separate testing sessions of testing before determining a benign status.  that 7-9 days of purgatory scared the crap out of me.  A few or to later, I am having a rather long needle jabbed into my chest to test a lump that resides in between my pectoral muscles.  The verdict is out – and another week spent in the in-between.

It’s funny: why does it take a 4″ syringe jabbed into your chest to remind you that yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today’s a gift…which is why it’s called a present.  Sometimes a person needs a swift kick in the glutes in order to dial in and focus on the tasks that need to be accomplished.  I’m sure the joy will come back with a positive verdict…however that’s not the point.  I shouldn’t need to be scared out of my wits in order to appreciate the here and now.

I need to take the lesson learned and allow it to further improve how I do what I do going forward.

(OK – so I read through this whole post, and realized that it was rather direct and not-so-funny.  So I’ll end it with a joke:A horse walks in to a bar. The bartender says “hey – why the long face?”)

(hmmm….that wasn’t so funny.  OK – I’ll try again.  Moses and Jesus are playing golf.  Moses pulls out the driver and crushes a drive 250 yards down the center of the fairway. He smiles at Jesus, and then says “you’re up”.  Jesus pulls out his driver and snap hooks his drive into the woods.  Moses lets out a laugh – “wow, the woods are lovely this time of year – have fun trying to find that one, you Ben Hogan wanna be!”  At that moment Jesus raises his arms to heavens….and then a stream appears to run across the fairway, originating from the woods.  And there, swimming in the stream, is a bass.  The bass has a golf ball in his mouth.  At that moment, a hawk swoops down, grabs the bass and takes off.  The bass drops the ball, it falls from the sky and lands on the green…where it rolls into the hole for a hole in one.  Jesus lowers his arms, looks at Moses and smiles.  Moses then pauses for a moment, and then blurts out “….OK LOOK – ARE WE GONNA PLAY GOLF OR ARE WE JUST GONNA FUCK AROUND????”)

Buddy_christ

….ok – now I can sign off for the evening.

 

 

 

 

 

March 30th 2017


So today was interesting, to say the least.  I had a simple medical procedure yesterday, so I’m a little sore still this morning.  My chest felt tight.  The morning workout consisted of a light run, followed by some upper body strength training.  My performance was…..well….lackluster at best.  It was if I was simply going through the motions.  The plan was to score a high quality running effort in the morning by crushing some hill repeats in Central Park.  That plan was quickly changed to a light run followed by upper body work due to the residual discomfort from having a decent-sized needle jabbed into my chest.  Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.  Hmmmm…..maybe that Mike Tyson has some wisdom after all…….

I took midday off, and focused on taking in more water and less calories.  Nutrition – otherwise known as The 4th Discipline (seriously, that sounds like the title of a crappy karate movie starring that dude that played Sho Nuff in the Last Dragon) was my in-office workout.

I spent a few hours in the gym this evening, starting with a strength workout for the legs, then a lite run of 2 miles with interval sprints baked in, and wrapping up with an hour on the bike.

The day started rough, and ended well.  And to celebrate: 2 slices of NYC pizza and a glass of wine.  Why?  Because I earned it.  (insert mic drop here).

 

 

March 29th 2017


Training

I took the morning off from training today.

At midday, I worked in a short 40 minute dreadmill session, getting 3.8 miles in.

By 5pm, I was in the gym, doing a strength session before hopping on the bike for 90 minutes.

 

The 4th Discipline

Today’s focus was on nutrition – otherwise known as the fourth discipline of a triathlete.  This, by far, is the weakest part of my game (and that is definitely saying something, as my blood type is Ben & Jerry’s triple chocolate brownie).  So what I decided to do today was to jack up my metabolism by doing a midday workout, while dropping the total amount of calories consumed for the day.  The lack of calories would make a strong performance in my evening training session more challenging, so I eliminated the high quality portion of the session (an endurance swim) from the schedule, electing to perform some strength (to build up muscle mass), following by a cycling session (which burns calories efficiently).

By the time I got home, I was definitely hungry, and wanted to basically chow down on an entire package of tortellini (damn those things are tasty).  However, I remembered the old saying:

20130317-133003.jpg

What I desire most is to shed the unnecessary fat and replace it with lean muscle.  The more weight I drop, the quicker I will get…and long as I keep training hard.  This is the tricky part of the game, as the body craves calories when you amp up the effort – and yet, in order to lose weight you basically need to take in less than you burn for the day.  I can’t fast and train – this much I know (plus, if I fast, I’ll become even more obnoxious than I already am).  So I am going to do two things:

  • I’ll continue to eat healthier, and…
  • I’ll distract myself midday (when I get cravings for empty calories) by going for a midday run or completely immersing myself in my work at my desk and removing references to a clock on my desktop (which distracts me from the actual time of day, thereby allowing me to work through those cravings without my stomach knowing that “It’s 2pm: time for junk!!!!)

 

Yes, I am going to bed slightly hungry – but I knew the beginning of this transition was going to be a challenge.  And what do I want most?  It sure isn’t another Oreo.  Not.  Any.  More.

Game on.

March 28th, 2017


Today’s Training Sessions

Morning:

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.

 

Lunchtime:

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

Evening:

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

Morning:

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.

Lunchtime:

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

Evening:

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.

IMG_3054.JPG

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:

image1-1

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.

Whoh.

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.

woooo

(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.