Thoughts on the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon


I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: the first Sunday in November is the single greatest day of the year in New York City.  Period.

Marathon Week begins the prior Sunday, with the annual Poland Spring 5 miler held in Central Park.  This is followed up with a week’s worth of events for kids, spectators and runners alike.  Then the Expo opens up at the Javits Center the Thursday before the race…and there is no larger marathon expo in the world than the huge running party through on the west side of Manhattan over a four-day span.  50,000 runners swing by to pick up their bibs and swag.

The Friday before race day, the Parade of Nations is held along the west side drive near Tavern on the Green.  Over 100 nations are represented in the awesome 5 borough black party, and the festivities are capped off with a pretty impressive fireworks display at the finish line.  Once this parade is over, the New York Road Runners host their annual Night of Champions…and the guest list reads like a who’s who of runner.  From last year’s new York City Marathon winners, to Bill Rodgers, Shalane Flanagan, the one and only Meb, and a whole host of other running elites – they all show up to help raise money for the New York Road Runners kids running programs.  I was lucky enough to score a ticket to this shindig, and it did not disappoint.

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Saturday morning, the annual Dash to the Finish is held, where runners can start a 5k in front of the United Nations, held down 42nd Street to 6th Avenue, hang a right and head north to Central Park, where the race finishes across the marathon finish line.

Sunday morning begins rather early, as some of the runners’ transportation from Manhattan to the runners village in Staten Island begins at 5am.  So runners are up and out early, knowing that the first wave of the race goes off 4+ hours later.  (A quick note to anyone thinking about running this race: the city of New York is basically shutting down for this 26.2 mile block party.  So yes – you are asked to get up really early to start your trek to Staten Island. And yes – once you get to Staten Island there will be a rather vigorous security check before you are let in.  And yes-  once you are in, you’ll have to hunker down and wait a while before you get to run.  And yes – it’s windy and usually cold in the village as you wait.  So please – accept these things as part of the overall experience, because the juice is worth the squeeze.)

Race morning was a bit chilly and damp.  I was worried about the rain, as I never really had to run this race while having to deal with more than the two usual elements: wind and cold.  Those two are not a surprise – each year I show up to the starting line a bit more prepared for those challenges.  Rain, on the other hand, would make this race a bit more challenging for me.  I was running with Team for Kids, so the charity tent came in handy!

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I started with Wave 4, at around 10:55am.  The first mile is a 200 climb up the Varrazanno Bridge, and runners usually get to view the Manhattan skyline very clearly here.  This morning, however, the fog kept that view from us.  The first mile should be run easily and under complete control, as runners need to deal with the exposure to a pretty strong, cold cross-wind as they head to Brooklyn.  However, I watched as runners around me took off like jackrabbits.  As the saying goes: “Let the Kenyans go….we’ll meet again at mile 18….”.

Mile 2 rewards you for the climb with a nice downhill into Brooklyn.  (A quick note hear: run in the middle lanes of the bridge, if you start on its lower deck.  If you don’t know why, I’ve leave you a hint….it has something to do with full bladders and a lack of port-o-crappers on the span of the bridge, along with 35,000 runners directly above you…..I’ll wait for that to sink in a bit…….ok – you got it?  Good.  Moving on…)  By mile 3, runners are thrown on to 4th Avenue in Brooklyn.  Here is where the party starts.  Even with the mist / drizzle coming down, people came out to scream their lungs out.  Miles 3 through 13 are amazing.  These miles are some of my favorites on he course, because it is a perfect display of what makes this city so damn awesome:  every race, color and creed together, screaming as one for 50,000 strangers of all ability levels from over 100 countries.  At one point, I just had to stop for a moment to soak in the general splendor before waddling on.

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Greenpoint is the last neighborhood in Brooklyn before crossing the half way point and entering into Queens.  Queens has a few loud spots – but it’s mostly subdued from miles 13.1 to 14.5.  Then the noise picks up, as if the fans were trying to help you step on the gas to get over the 59th Street Bridge (otherwise known in my home as Mt. Sonofabitch).

The 59th Street Bridge rears its annoying head near mile 15.  This is a tough climb, and it takes a lot out of the runners.  I’ve seen the upward climb here turn into something resembling a zombie movie over the years.  if you are running this race, train with this hill in mind – don’t let it beat you.  If you aren’t prepared for it, it will kick you square in the teeth and set you up for a rough last 10 miles.

As you come down the span of the Bridge, you make the signature turn of the race: a 270 degree left hand turn that throws you onto First Avenue.  The party rolls on here – loudly – for the next couple of miles.  The noise bounces off the buildings and turns the course into a corridor of sound.  It’s one of those spans of the course where you are given a jolt of energy.  However, if you are running this race, do NOT let the fans motivate you to kick up your pace and release your inner Alberto Salazar. You still have work to do.  Stay under control and just enjoy the experience as you work your way north to The Bronx (the only borough of the city so darn awesome that it’s very name contains a “The” in front of it).

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Runners cross over into The Bronx via the Willis Avenue Bridge.  The Bronx has a few small twists and turns, but they bring the noise when you enter my hometown.  With the noise comes the attitude that makes this borough so special.  For instance: The DJ playing music right near the mile 20 marker will call you out if he sees you struggling a bit.  “…I see you, number 45867….in that red shirt… YOU GOT THIS!  NOW LETS CRANK THIS UUUUUUPPPP!!!!!!” He would say versions of this over..and over…again.  And trust me: I watched as that runner in that red shirt went from walking to jogging.  Grab some water at the water stop just past Mile 20, and you’ll be greeted with messages like “man, you’ve got this.  Kick this race’s ass.” Wall?  What Wall.  There may be a Wall on this course, but fans in The Bronx want you to knock that thing down.  I left The Bronx feeling better than when I arrived.

When runners leave The Bronx, they cross the mile 22 marker and enter into Harlem.  This section of the course is my absolute favorite.  They take the attitude that just embraced you in The Bronx, and they turn that up another 3 notches.  Runners have just four miles.  Harlem’s fans do not let you forget why you are here.  Time to go to work and get this job done.  The crowds, at points, push onto the course and basically will you around Marcus Garvey Park.  One highlight: the gospel choir.  THAT is an emotional part of the course, and it helps crank you up a bit.  Once the runners hit mile 22.5, a long steady climb begins up 5th Avenue to Engineer’s Gate: the entrance into Central Park.  Rain or shine, cold or windy, the enthusiastic fans come out in droves from here to the finish line.

Rolling hills bring you from the entrance into Central Park to the right hand turn that carries the runners onto Central park South.  Another brief incline at Mile 25.3 gets you to Columbus Circle.  Here, runners re-enter Central Park and head up the west side drive to the finish.  One last hill at mile 26.1 to conquer before you earn your medal.

The rain made this race a bit more difficult, because my gear (including my shoes and socks) were soaked about half way  through the effort.  I could feel the blisters starting by the time I entered The Bronx, which resulted in a slight change in my stride.  That may not sound like a big deal, but a change in the way you run due to discomfort midway through a marathon makes the rest of the race much more challenging, and the added distraction messes with your head a bit.

I elected to receive a runner’s poncho instead of checking a bag this year – and this allowed me to exit the park and head home much quicker.  I think I’ll elect not to check a bag every year from now on.

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This was my 12th New York City Marathon in a row.  I haven’t missed one since 2005 (knock on wood).  Each year, the course is the same.  The hills are in the exact same places.  The wind is still there to smack you in the face at the start.  The pain still shows up.  At mile 15 I always zone out as I climb Mt. Sonofabitch.  When it’s all over, I’m sore everywhere.  All of these things occur annually, and they aren’t so warm & fuzzy.  But you know what else hasn’t changed?  The fans.  New Yorkers spill out onto the streets, rain or shine, every year to the tune of 1-2 million just to yell for shlubs like me.  Brooklyn is still….Brooklyn (and that’s a compliment).  First Avenue is still loud.  The Bronx gets better every single year.  Harlem is still marathon holy ground to me.  Spilling into the park is still glorious.  The final 3/10 of a mile is still the greatest 3/10’s of a mile in the sport of running.  And there is always that moment of two after the medal is hung around your neck where you stop and look around at the people that you ran alongside – complete strangers hours ago, now all carrying that glow that comes from not giving up, embracing the suck, seeing a goal through…and standing in the park, quiet and victorious.

 

 

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The 2017 NYC 60k in Central Park


Every year, two weeks after the TCS New York City Marathon, the New York Road Runners hold their sole ultramarathon of the year: The New York City 60k.  This is a 37.2 mile endeavor that takes runners around….and around….and around….and around….Central Park.  For the uninitiated: Central Park consists of three specific “loops”.  The Lower Loop consists of a 1.7 mile road that goes in an oval from the southernmost part of the park to the 72nd street transverse.  The Middle Loop consists of a 4 mile oval from the 72nd street transverse to the 104th Street transverse.  The Upper Loop goes from the 104th Street Transverse around Harlem Hills.  One entire loop of park translates to about 6-6.1 miles.

On Saturday morning, at 8am, I’m going to try to complete this 60k.  I’ve tried three times, and I’ve failed three times.  Twice I’ve failed because I lacked the stamina – I was still too burnt out on running after the marathon.  Once – I lacked the heart.  I just quit on myself.  That’s been gnawing at me all year – the fact that this is the only race that I have ever DNF’d is irritating enough.  The fact that I DNF’d last year simply because I lacked the damn heart to push myself through discomfort is causing me to chomp at the bit for this race. In 2015, I pushed myself well past what I thought was my limit with regard to endurance or pain threshold.  I was hit by a car, and kept going.  I came face to face with a mountain lion, and I kept going.  I injured myself more than once, and I kept going.  Needless to say – this year I have some unfinished business.

I’m going to be representing two teams during this race.  The first is Do Away With SMA – my charity that I started in 2014 to honor my brothers and fight Spinal Muscular Atrophy, the number one genetic killer of kids under the age of two in the world.  The second is the New York Road Runners team for Kids – the charity that provides running programs for kids in an effort to fight childhood obesity.  Both are solid causes, and both can use any assistance you’d care to donate.  I’m asking you to consider a donation to either cause, for both of them are doing their best to help those that need it.  Any donation will help their missions.  Here’s the information, if you are interested in contributing:

Do Away With SMA:    Do Away With SMA

Team for Kids:    New York Road Runners Team for Kids

I’ll be posting live on Facebook on Saturday, just to give you all the jist of what this type of race is like during my 9 laps around Central Park.  Wish me luck…I’m going to need it!!!

 

Thoughts From the 2017 Marine Corps Marathon


On Sunday, October 22nd, I ran the 2017 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC.  I’ve been having sleeping issues over the past few weeks, so I felt a bit under-trained coming into this race…and then life decided to split 8’s and double down on the challenge when I began getting nauseous and extremely congested the evening before the race.  My charity team – Do Away With SMA (“DAWS”, for short) had four runners competing in the marathon, myself being one of them.  As President of the charity, I really felt a duty to suck it up and fight through whatever evil microscopic annoyance turning my stomach into the biological equivalent of Disney’s California Screamin’.

The marathon expo was held at the Gaylord National in Arlington, VA.  Obtaining the bib and race shirt was an extremely quick and seamless process.  The long sleeve shirts issued to every runner have always had a reputation for being of the highest quality – and this year was no exception.  The race gear contained a decent selection of designs – but Large and Extra Large sizes were unavailable by Saturday morning.  So – note to 2018 runners – go to the expo on Friday if you are looking for large or extra large jackets and quarter-zip shirts.

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Getting to the starting line on Sunday morning was a simple process, as I stayed at the Hampton Inn across the street from the Gaylord National, and the marathon ran buses from the race’s home resort to the runners village beginning at 4:30am.  Another note to 2018 runners: pack a throw-away sweatshirt, as early morning temperatures can get into the mid 40’s in mid October (I didn’t pack anything to keep me warm, and I couldn’t get the chill out of my chest until the race began.  Two hours of standing in the cold, unprepared).  Once we headed to the starting line, the sun decided to show up, taking some of the chill out of the air.

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A parachute team flew the American flag in to the starting line as the anthem played.  This was followed by an amazing flyover…and then the howitzer went off, starting the long march to the finish line.

 

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Within the first two miles, there are several hills – so be ready for that and stay under control early on – don’t go out too fast, or else this course will punish you in a way that other races can only dream of.  As it was, I felt solid early on pace-wise, even struggling through the congestion.  The one thing on my mind during those first few miles was my like of fuel in my stomach, as that evil microscopic annoyance basically yelled “EVERYBODY OUT!” about an hour after dinner Saturday night.  The good internal vibes existed up until mile 9….and then I began to feel like I was already running on empty.  Not a good point in the race to feel like this.  Yet another note to 2018 runners: make sure you take in calories 2 hours  before race time – top off your tank – because you’ll need the energy later.

By Mile 10, I knew this wasn’t going to be my day.  I was coughing a lot, and felt like I didn’t take in enough water – remember that water stations are every 2 miles, not every single mile like lots of other marathons.  This was something else I didn’t plan for – and not knowing the distance between water stops was a pure rookie mistake on my part.  Mile 10, however, provided the runners with a view of the Lincoln Memorial and the sounds of the Marine Band.  This lifted me up a bit – and I was already beginning to need the motivation.  As it turns out, one of the most amazing moments of the race was just ahead of me.

If you really want to know where the heart and soul of this race resides, it beats within the Blue Mile, which begins at Mile Marker 12. To the left and right of the runners’ lane were plaques with fallen soldiers’ pictures, names and ranks. It went on for what felt like 3/4 of a mile. Any chatting between runners ceased the moment you crossed into this part of the course. You could literally hear a pin drop. Some runners stopped in front specific plaques, lowered their heads in silent prayer, and then Marined Up and soldiered on. At the end of this 3/4 mile tribute, family and friends of the fallen held American flags on either side of the course and yelled inspiration to us all…….for what felt like another 3/4 of a mile. If this part of the course didn’t lite your fire, then quite simply your pilot light is out. I get chills just thinking about it 48 hours later.

At Mile 17, the course brings you onto The Mall, where you enjoy the views of hte Capital Building, The Smithsonian, and other awesome museums.  It was at this point where I met Al.  Al is pretty amazing, as he has completed all 42 of the Marine Corps Marathons, from 1976 to present.  I said my hello and congratulations on this incredible streak.  His response was simple “…it keeps me young!” It was a quick exchange – but one that was pretty awesome.

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By Mile 19, I felt like I wanted to quit.  I had been fighting this feeling most of the morning, but by this point it almost overwhelmed me.  Thank Zues that a marine happened to be there at that moment and began to yell encouragement.  “Time to suck it up!!!  REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE HERE!” I must have heard those words from a number of Marines throughout the race – and those are the words I’m embracing as my mantra from now on.  They got me through the final 7 miles, and up the final hill at mile 26.1.

After I received my medal, I waddled over to the water / gatorade station. During my walk, I met a man who was in his late 60’s / early 70’s. He was standing alone under a tree and looked somber. I asked if he was OK, and he said that he was fine – but the toughest part of his day comes next. I asked him to elaborate. His response “I’m going to visit my brother in Arlington right now – he’s earning one more medal.” I congratulated him on finishing and left him to his duties. Another moment I will never – ever – forget.

The race is not easy. Lots of concrete. A congested start / first mile. Not much shade. Temperatures that began at 45 degrees and went to 80 in 4 hours. Hills early in the course sap you more than you realize. It’s a hard race – but it’s the hard that makes it great.

A HUGE OORAH to my teammates, and everyone that supported us.

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:

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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.

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(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.

 

 

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.

the-fonz

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.

woooo

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 Myfitnesspal.com.  (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