Sunday, September 27, 2009

Week 40: Review

It's nearly been a year since I ran my first half marathon, and reading over the many posts from others running this year's Scotiabank races brings back a lot of good memories. I had initially intended to run the half again this year as a tune-up race for the full at the Goodlife Marathon in mid-October. Unfortunately, the injury messed up those plans so I didn't get to head out and race this morning.

Either way, sports injuries are part of the equation in any running schedule and learning to work around problems is an important lesson along the way. As annoying of a speed bump as it was, it only took a couple of weeks to clear up so I am thankful that it didn't end up being something more serious. I did lose some fitness between the downtime itself and having to be careful building back up, however I'm still in relatively good shape so it's just a minor setback. If it wasn't for the close proximity to the race itself, it likely would have just slowed me down a bit.

While my intention to get my marathon time down to 3:20 didn't pan out, I did manage to get a Triathlon in despite the problems and that will form an important foundation for my base training over the winter. After this morning's 10 miler, my heart rate is beginning to fall back into the normal range so the fitness is comming back. If it continues along this trajectory, I'm hoping to be able to race the half marathon in October's race and potentially put the summer's training to use there as well.

Getting back to the point, the running sessions this week went quite well. I'm starting to add speedwork back into the equation, and ended up bumping my long run this morning to about 10 miles. While the heart rates are still higher than I'd like for my normal paces, they are coming down so I'm getting back into the swing of things. I might give a short tempo run a shot this week to see how that goes, however I'll have to play it by ear.

I did have a few annoyances with the footpod cutting out on me this week, but after a bit of testing it appears that it's just the battery going on me prematurely. I've had a few issues on and off since I replaced it last month, so it's likely just a matter of a cell that was sitting on the shelf for too long and was depleted to start with. I'll have to head out and look for a replacement, although given this experience I'm likely going to be looking for a better shop to buy them from in the future.

Cycling-wise, I only ended up getting one session in on Friday due to weather. That ride was also a bit shorter than planned (50K vs. 80K) due to scheduling issues, but the weather was great so it was an enjoyable ride nonetheless. This coming week looks like it's going to be a bit dodgy as well, but I'm going to have to focus on working around it a little better so that I can at least get in two decent rides.

With respect to swimming, I managed to get my two sessions in as planned. On Tuesday I did a number of 750m sets, and on Thursday I did two 750s and a 1000m set to keep myself comfortable with longer distances. Fortunately, thanks to Melanie I managed to find a decent Triathlon swimming clinic and will be starting it tomorrow evening. I missed the first session at this point, but there are still nine weeks left so there is plenty of instruction left. The swim is by far my weakest discipline, and an opportunity like this to improve my technique will likely do me more good than anything else.

Week 40 Totals:
Running: 48.3km (30.0mi)
Walking: 3.5km (2.2mi)
Cycling: 50.2km (31.2mi)
Swimming: 6.7km (4.2mi)
Total: 108.7km (67.5mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 1,948.9km (1,211.0mi)
Walking: 202.4km (125.8mi)
Cycling: 3,172.2km (1,971.1mi)
Swimming: 59.9km (37.2mi)
Total: 5,383.4km (3,345.1mi)

As noted above, this week is likely to be pretty unstable in the weather department so I may need to move things around a bit. I've got a tentative plan lined up, but it's going to depend on when I can get those cycling sessions in. I'm also flirting with replacing Tuesday's speedwork with a tempo run to test out the legs, but I'll have to see how I feel at that point.

Mon 50K Ride, Swim Clinic
Tue 2mi Swim, 5mi Recovery w/6x100m
Wed 30K Ride (if weather permits), 10K Recovery
Thurs 2.5mi Swim, 6mi GA
Fri 50K Ride
Sat 4mi Recovery, 80K Ride
Sun 11mi (17.7K) LSD

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lessons Learned...

Saturday's race was a new experience, and now that I've had a few days to digest things I figured that I'd try and reflect on things a bit and get down the lessons learned:
  1. Training independantly for the marathon worked well because it was simply an escalation of what I'd done before. The Triathlon is a completely different sport, however, so in retrospect joining that tri clinic would have been the smart move even if it meant stepping back a bit on the cycling side of things. Getting proper training and practice for the transitions and swimming sides of the race would have likely cut a significant amount of time off of my race.
  2. When it comes to the transitions, knowing what to do and actually doing it are two very different things. Simple things like rolling up my socks past the heel before the race would have likely shaved a good amount of fumbling, but one often doesn't think about these sorts of things until they've run into the problem.
  3. Watching other people race, it is evident that having cycling shoes attached to the pedals prior to the race is a significant time saver. I didn't attempt that this time around as the technique required to do that requires a lot of skill and practice that I don't have at this point.
  4. Furthering the above, getting a proper set of triathlon-specific cycling shoes would likely be a good investment. Dealing with three straps per shoe isn't ideal (especially if I ever want to attempt the technique listed in point 3), and the extra padding that Tri-specific shoes offer make it more practical to forget about the socks until the run stage (when the feet are dry and getting them on is easier).
  5. Getting elastic shoelaces is likely a good idea, as about a third of my T2 time was spent tieing my conventional laces. Either way, I will need to get some practice in these laces before the race, however, so it was likely a good idea to forget about them this time around. With longer races, however, the increase in transition time may be excusable for better comfort in the run stage - but for the sprint distance it's just too big a cost.
  6. While I can swim comfortably in the pool for extended periods, and the open-water aspect didn't seem to be a huge issue in and of itself, the traffic really messed with me this time out. When training, I think I got too dependent on finding and locking into a rhythm and the traffic in the lake made it difficult to stick with that. Focusing in improving my technique so I'm not so dependent on a single steady pace to be comfortable is likely the path to addressing this, so taking some clinics/lessons over the winter is likely what I need to do. Fortunately, I have a lead on what appears to be a really good one ;)
  7. I have a tendency to be a bit shy, and have to stop worrying about being polite when attempting to pass during the cycling stage. On several occasions I got stuck behind slower cyclists that were blocking my path, and in retrospect simply advising them of my presence likely would have been enough to deal with that. We were told to do that in the pre-race briefing, but my Canadian instinct to be polite made me feel uncomfortable about the concept of what effectively would have been yelling at someone to get out of my way. I had no problem warning people who were already over to the right that I was about to overtake them, but doing the same to people in the passing lane felt somewhat uncomfortable. That's not to say that I should be a jerk about it, but if they don't know that you're waiting for them they can't do anything about it.
  8. I need to recalibrate my feeling of fatigue in these races, as the legs felt quite tired by the time the running phase started so I pulled back a lot more than I needed to. Cycling largely uses different muscle groups than running, so the tired feeling of those tissues often has little impact on one's ability to run quickly. Once I eventually opened up near the end, the fatigue disappeared nearly immediately so I need to get used to that. While I did do a few pseudo-brick sessions during training, I don't think that I moved from cycling to running fast enough to get a proper feel for this.
  9. While my running followed a strict schedule, my swimming and cycling were largely on an ad-hoc basis. It worked out well this time around, but I should focus on finding a formal training program for any future Triathlons. Pfitzinger's book has done wonders for my running, so hopefully I'll be able to find something similar on the multi-sport side.
  10. I need to get more used to taking fluids in on the bike while I'm still moving. In training, I run into enough traffic lights that I can generally take in all of the fluid that I need when stopped. In a race, however, you're moving continuously so it's important to look for opportunities to take a drink - especially with the potential dehydration from the swim stage that goes before the bike stage. Fortunately this race was short enough that that wasn't an issue, but despite bringing two bottles along with me I barely drank more than a half bottle.
  11. Looking into getting a set of aerobars and a second seatpost (so I can rapidly switch between road and TT configurations) would likely be a good investment. Aside from improving aerodynamics and reducing work on the running muscles, those aerodrink bottles appear to be a good solution to point 10 above ;) With that said, I might be better off just saving my pennies and buying a TT bike with the appropriate geometry.
Either way, sorry for the unstructured post but I figured it was worth recording this stuff so I'll remember when it comes to preparing for the next one ;)

Week 39: Review

With the triathlon last week, I did a bit of a taper to help prepare myself for the race so my overall mileage is down significantly from the previous week. Contributing to this was the fact that I developed a sore throat on Monday, so that also forced me to move things around from what was planned. Fortunately the throat got better pretty quickly so it didn't pose a huge problem, but I'm still a bit stuffed up so it's not completely gone at this point.

Outside of all of that, my plans for this week were pretty fluid so while the actual execution was significantly different it wasn't really a problem either way. I would have liked to get the long ride in on Monday as planned, but I didn't want to venture that far out with the sore throat so I figured I'd play it safe for the race. With the race coming up, I figured that a little lost training was less significant than having to do the race in a compromised condition - especially as this was pretty much my last chance for this season.

As mentioned in my last post, the race itself went quite well despite the problems leading up to it. Naturally, there were a few snags that slowed me down a bit, however none of them were related to physical preparation and they all add up to valuable lessons learned for any future attempts. Either way, the process itself was extremely enjoyable and it's definitely something that I want to do more of.

Week 39 Totals:
Running: 26.9km (16.7mi)
Walking: 2.5km (1.6mi)
Cycling: 44.3km (27.5mi)
Swimming: 3.9km (2.4mi)
Total: 77.6km (48.2mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 1,900.6km (1,181.0mi)
Walking: 198.9km (123.6mi)
Cycling: 3,122.0km (1,939.9mi)
Swimming: 53.2km (33.1mi)
Total: 5,274.7km (3,277.5mi)

As for this week, the rain and humidity has messed things up once again but it appears that after today things will start getting better. I've already started working speedwork back into the mix, and I hope to get a proper long run in this Sunday now that I'm comfortable the ankle is better. Depending on the weather, I'd also like to head out for a long ride (80-100km) on Friday or Saturday. Regardless, the tentative schedule is as follows:

Mon Rest (was going to do a bike ride, but it rained most of the day)
Tue 2mi Swim (3x750m), 5mi Recovery w/6x100m
Wed 30K Ride (if weather permits), 10K Recovery
Thurs 5K Swim, 5mi GA
Fri 80-100K Ride
Sat 4mi Recovery, 50K Ride
Sun 8mi (12.9K) LSD

Going forward, I'm starting to reconsider my options at this point. The original plan was to focus first on getting my Marathon time down to 3:10 in order to qualify for Boston and perhaps do a few more Triathlons on the way to get some practice. At this point, however, I'm seriously thinking about putting that on the back-burner and trying to work toward a Half-Ironman in fall 2010. If I focus on building a base in all three sports over the winter, and then do progressively longer Triathlons over the summer it should be possible.

Working to refine my marathon time was enjoyable, but training to simply do better at something I've already done doesn't quite have the same sheen as aiming at something bigger. I've refined my times on shorter distances over the past year, but most of that has simply been a byproduct of working my way up to the marathon. Training for the Triathlon mixed something new into the equation, and gave me a brand new target to aim for.

At some point I'd like to try my hand at a full Ironman, but getting to that point will take a few years of concerted effort. Having that big target up there on the horizon is something that I missed while training for my second marathon, so putting that back into the mix could potentially be a significant motivator. Given that the Ironman contains a marathon, however, putting some focus on that race as well is something that could be part of the equation rather than an ultimate end.

With that said, not everyone is built to do a race like that so I'm not entirely sure that my frame is even capable of that sort of thing. The basic concept of a race that takes normal people well into double digit hours borders on insanity, and the very thought of aiming for such a thing is daunting. The marathon is something that I know that I can do, and while a 3:10 target is challenging I'm pretty sure that I can pull it off with enough work. Moving my focus away from that and coming back to it later could potentially make that process more difficult, so part of me wants to just stick with the existing plan and worry about the longer Triathlons in future years.

Either way, I have plenty of time to think about this in the off-season and at this point I really need to focus on the remainder of the running season. The full marathon is certainly not possible at this point, however I'm still considering doing the half at the Toronto Marathon in mid-October. I'll have to accelerate the rebuilding process at this point to be in proper shape for it, but as the injury appears to be out of the way that shouldn't be a huge problem. I also like the idea of the Zoo Run, as I've yet to get around to running a 10K race as of yet. Time is running out to register, so I'm going to have to figure it out one way or the other ;)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Lakeside II: Race Report

After getting all of my gear ready last night, I got up at 5:30 this morning in order to get down to the race site by 8:00am. The race itself started at 10:00, but there is a lot to set up for a Triathlon and seeing as this was my first I wanted to be doubly sure that everything was in order. Looking at the thermostat, it was 3C when we headed out so it looked like it would be a cool day. I put on my race clothes and then put another layer on top to keep me warm until the race and headed out the door.

Most of my race equipment (aside from the wetsuit and bike) while I was taking inventory the night before. A lot more stuff to worry about than when getting ready for a running race.

We made a few wrong turns on the way, but we still managed to get up there shortly before 8am. I unpacked my stuff and headed towards the race site. Fortunately, the registration tent was already open (it wasn't scheduled to open until 8:15) so I got all of my stuff and headed over to transition. The racks were assigned by bib number, but fortunately few people were there this early so I had my choice of spots on that rack and grabbed the one on the edge closest to the bike exit.

After racking my bike and setting up my transition area, I walked around the various aspects of the start/finish lines to familiarize myself with the layout. It was pretty straightforward, and as my rack was right near the edge of the transition area it was easy to spot from a distance. I took a closer look at the maps they had of the swim, bike and run routes to familiarize myself with the details then headed back to transition to watch my stuff.

Things started filling up quickly after that, so I looked around to see how others were setting things up for any potential ideas. It was still too early to put on the wetsuit, as while it was cool it wasn't cold enough that that would be comfortable outside of the water. As such, I just relaxed and took in the atmosphere to help get the mind ready for the race that was coming.

About 30 minutes before the start, I put on and adjusted the wetsuit just before the organizer's started the pre-race briefing. After hearing them out, I headed over the beach to do some warm ups and familiarize myself with swimming in the wetsuit. I was a bit worried as I hadn't had an opportunity to test it out before the race, but it worked quite well right off the bat and I was able to comfortably do a few 100m sets. As the wave 1 start approached, I headed back into the shallow water to get out of the way. I stood around nervously for a bit, checking all of my equipment and going through my plan for the rest of the race.

After a quick announcement, the starter's horn was sounded and the first wave was off. As the second wave moved forward to the start line, I possitioned myself in the middle of the pack. On the inside edge I was worried about having too much traffic, but on the outside I was concerned about drifting off of the line so I figured that I'd split the difference. The plan was to keep a relatively comfortable pace and not worry too much about pushing it, as this was my weakest discipline and I didn't want to burn myself out.

Swim (600m) - 13:39 - 2:17/100m

Three minutes later our horn sounded and we were off with arms and legs flailing everywhere. After about 30 seconds, it was evident that it would be extremely difficult to maintain a rhythm as there were bodies in pretty much every direction. Every time I was hit or I bumped into someone else, it through off my routine and it became difficult to keep my breathing under control. I eventually managed to push my way out of the main mass and had a bit of a repreive, but I had to push to do that so I was a bit more tired than expected.

When we hit the first bouy, things started getting crowded again so I took a wide line to try and avoid that. It worked well, however it also meant that I was covering more distance than I would have if I'd taken the corner directly. Either way, I took this leg a little slower to get my breathing back under control but it was still difficult. After hitting the second bouy I managed to start getting into a decent pattern again and pushed my way into the shore.

As we got close, people started standing and running. While I knew that I'd be faster if I kept swimming, I was pretty tired at this point so I just got up as well and ran the rest of the way in. Once I got into ankle deep water I unfastened the zipper on my wetsuit and removed the top half while I ran toward my transition station. Fortunately, other than a little trouble finding the pull cord on the first try it came off quite easily before my feet were out of the water so I could focus on the rest of my transition.

T1 (Swim to Bike) - 3:11

When I hit my transition station I removed the lower half of the wetsuit and set it down on the back edge of the towel I had set up. Fortunately, other than a bit of leakage around the neck it has mostly kept my clothes dry so I was in good condition for the next leg. The next step was to get my socks and cycling shoes on, and it's evident that the socks were not a good idea. Trying to get wet feet into socks with nowhere to sit down and nothing to lean on was a clumbsy process and took a good deal of time. After getting the left foot on, I just sat down on the ground to get the right one on as there was no sense in wasting more time.

Once that was ready, I quickly grabbed my race number, watch and sunglasses, then put on and fastened my helmet. I then unracked my bike and ran to the bike start line. I was expecting this to be a bit of a problem, as cleated cycling shoes aren't exactly designed for running on. Fortunately, most of the path to the mounting line was grass and dirt so it wasn't much of a problem. I was able to pass the line, clip in and get off within a matter of seconds.

As noted above, 3:11 is a pretty pitful transition time so this is something that I'm definately going to need to work on. The socks were naturally the biggest problem here, so the next time around I'm going to have to bite the bullet and see if I can pull it off without them. Naturally, it saves a lot of time but I was a bit concerned about getting blisters in the process.

Bike (20km) - 39:04 - 30.7km/h

The bike ride was probably the most enjoyable leg of the race, as the legs were still fresh and I was able to fly past a lot of people in the process which did a lot to boost my confidence. The route was a relatively pleasant one, with only a handful of very small hills to deal with. When I had decent openings I was able to maintain 35km/h paces on the flats and there wasn't really any wind to deal with either.

The tricky part, however, were the passing rules in this leg of the race. Due to the size of the drafting area we aren't allowed to remain in for more than 15 seconds, there were basically only two lanes to work with. On the flat straight segments it wasn't much of a problem, however on uphill and downhill segments lots of people were passing others, so the passing lane was full. In order to avoid getting within the 5m no-drafting zone behind them, that meant that I had to apply the breaks a lot (bleeding off energy) until I could get an opening.

Either way, there isn't really much that could be done about this given the structure of the race. The solution, naturally, is simply for me to get better at the swim and T1 stages so that I can start the bike leg sooner and get out ahead of the traffic ;)

T2 (Bike to Run) - 1:48

At the end of this leg, I dismounted at the line and ran the bike back to the rack. After securing it on the rack, I quickly popped off my helmet and cycling shoes and put on my running shoes. I lost a bit of time here as I elected to use conventional shoelaces and had to tie them, but aside from that everything else went quite smoothly here. There were a few things I could have streamlined a little (eg changing shoes before helmet, so it isn't in the way) but the main improvement I need to make here is getting used to elastic laces.

Run (4K) - 19:58 - 5:00/km

When I hit the run segment, I wasn't really sure how the previous two legs would effect me so I elected to take it conservatively. I've run a 5K race at a 4:11/km pace, and could probably pull out a sub-4 pace over a 4K course, but whether that would be possible after the bike and swim was up in the air. Additionally, due to my time off from injury my heart rate has been a bit higher than normal, and a nagging cold has pushed it up a bit as well so I wasn't sure how a full-blown VO2Max effort would last.

Furthering the complexity of the situation, I made a significant tactical error with my RS800 HRM. I had switched it on at the begining of the bike segment to get heart rate and elevation for the ride, and configured it to also record speed from the footpod. Naturally, on the bike the footpod wouldn't be in range so nothing would be recorded, but I assumed that it would pick it up once I got back and started running. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case as the watch had obviously given up on connecting to the footpod (ie I should have stopped the first workout and started a new one). As such, when I hit the run I had no readout of my pace or distance, and simply had my HR to work with.

As such, when it became obvious that I only had heart rate to work with I elected to not worry about it too much and just take it easy. I caught up to another runner who was going at a comfortable pace and stuck with him for a while. Unfortunately, part way through the second kilometer he started to slow down significantly so I had to drop him and head out on my own. At this point, I was accelerating a bit and felt good so I let myself speed up a bit more. I hit the turnaround point and began heading back.

As I approached the resort, I realized that I only had about 500m left so I figured that I'd open up and see what was left in the tank. As I accelerated I realized that there was plenty left in the tank so I stepped up to a full sprint passing a handful of people. I had to slow down a bit on the final turn as it was narrow and I had to navigate around another fellow, but once I got into the final stretch I gave it everything and flew over the finish line.

It was obvious at this point that I could have easily run a lot faster for most of the run, but until I got to the end I wasn't sure how well my body would have taken it so I played it a bit too cautiously. Naturally, not having my normal pacing information made it even more difficult, as I had to base my targetting off of heart rate which is a little off-kilter at this point. Either way, this is part of the learning process and I'll know next time that the fatigue isn't quite as bad as I thought it would be.

Gun time: 1:17:37 (overall results)
Swim: 13:39 (156/265)
Bike: 39:04 (53/265)
Run: 19:58 (58/265)
Place overall: 88/265 (66.8 percentile)
Place in age group: 6/18 (66.7 percentile)

Regardless of all of that, the race today was an excellent experience and I hope the first of many more. There were a lot of lessons learned here and, by extension, a lot of room to improve. Primarily, I should be able to comfortably shave a couple of minutes off of my transitions (largely because they were so brutal this time around) which is a heck of a lot easier than gaining that much time in any of the three sports.

Naturally, my swimming also has a lot of room for improvement so I'll have to do some work on that. While I've largely got the physical aspects of it in place at this point, I need to work more on technique so that I'm not so easily thrown off by outside influences. I should also try and get some more practice in open water, but that's difficult to do in the off season so that might have to wait a bit.

First Triathlon in the books...

I'm just waiting for the official results (spoiled by marathons where they are updated in real time), but from my own timing I managed to finish in 1:17:43. Will write up a report as soon as I have the breakdown of the various bits, but either way it was an excellent experience and hopefully the first of many. The swim was a lot more challenging than I'd expected, not so much physically, but more psychologically as it was difficult to get into a rhythm in that mass of people. The transitions were a little rough (as expected), but the bike and run segments went without a hitch.

Part of that was due to the fact that I was way too conservative on the run. When I broke into a sprint at the end it was obvious that I had a lot left in the tank. I wasn't sure exactly how the fatigue from the earlier stages was going to impact me so I was renascent to risk an all-out VO2Max effort. As such, I held back a lot in the early portion of the run and didn't open up soon enough. With that said, this was my first shot at this so I elected to be cautious as I wanted to make sure that I could finish strong.

The one big mistake that I did make was that I assumed that my watch would automatically pick up the footpod when I switched from the bike to run segment. Instead, after trying to connect during the bike segment it obviously gave up and didn't pick it up in the run section. As such, I had no pace readouts during the run itself and, more significantly, I don't have any telemetry to look over after the fact. I did hit the lap button when passing the markers so I do have some rough splits, but the only second-by-second data I have is heart rate and elevation. In retrospect, when I hit T2 I should have stopped the exercise and then started a new one. For future races, however, I definately need to get a proper cyclocomputer so I leave the RS800 to the running bit.

More to follow...

Friday, September 18, 2009


Just working out the details for tomorrow and figured I'd make up a few checklists to make sure I didn't forget anything. In case there are any Triathletes reading this, I figured I might as well post them up here in case there is something I'm overlooking!

Equipment that I'm going to have to bring along (not including what I'm wearing):
  1. Bike.
  2. Bike Pump.
  3. Wetsuit.
  4. Helmet.
  5. Sunglasses.
  6. Swimming Goggles.
  7. Running Shoes.
  8. Cycling Shoes.
  9. Running/Cycling Socks.
  10. Shoehorn.
  11. Race Number Belt.
  12. Towels (at least three).
  13. Heart Rate Monitor.
  14. Bodyglide.
  15. Water bottles for Bike (w/Gatorade).
  16. Extra Gatorade/Water for after race.
  17. Change of clothes for after race.
The plan for the first transition is as follows:
  1. As soon as I'm out of the water, remove upper half of the wetsuit while running to the transition zone.
  2. Once top of wetsuit is off, remove goggles and swim cap.
  3. When I arrive at my bike, drop goggles/swim cap and take off the rest of the wetsuit.
  4. Quickly dry off feet with a towel and put on socks.
  5. Slip into cycling shoes.
  6. Put on sunglasses and helmet.
  7. Put on race number belt facing the back.
  8. Unrack bike and run for cycling start.
  9. On the way, switch HRM on to record remainder of the race.
And when I get back, the second transition plan is as follows:
  1. After dismounting from bike, run back to the rack.
  2. Safely rack the bike.
  3. Remove helmet.
  4. Take off cycling shoes and switch into running shoes.
  5. Rotate race number belt to the front.
  6. Head off for the run stage.
I've got some rough plans for how to lay things out, however that is going to depend a lot on exactly how much space is going to be available in the transition zone. Most of the above should be pretty straightforward, but the snag points will likely be around the wetsuit removal and footwear switches. If the transition zone is really crowded, racking and unracking the bike may be a potential problem as well. Those aren't really that bad on their own, but when under time pressure they could easily become an issue.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Final Preparations...

I'm now within 48 hours of the race and am just getting my ducks in a row at this point. I got the last bits that I needed at the Running Room shop after my group run yesterday, and have now tested the Tri shorts both in running and cycling with no issues. I was a bit concerned that the minuscule chamois would be an issue, but on my test ride it didn't really feel that much different than the big thick one in my normal cycling shorts. Naturally, that may be a different story on a longer ride, but fortunately the Triathlon only has a 20K leg so that shouldn't be an issue.

I picked up the wetsuit rental (Nineteen Pipeline) this morning and got walked through the process of putting it on and taking it off by the staff. While it is certainly tight it's a lot less restrictive than I thought it would be. It is obvious, however, that I'm going to need some help getting it on as I wasn't really able to contort my arms enough to pull the zipper up under my own power. Getting it up onto my legs was a bit difficult as well, especially as you have to kind of palm it up to avoid ripping the material. Fortunately, getting it off was no problem at all and that's largely the important part (as you can take as long as you want getting it on, but the clock is running when you're taking it off).

I was hoping to get a short open water swim in today, but my schedule didn't end up working well for that. I'm still hoping to get out tomorrow morning, but I'm not certain that that's going to be possible either. That means that the race will probably be my first experience swimming in a wetsuit which isn't ideal, but as I'm doing this race more to gain experience than to get a specific time I'm not too worried about it. I can always get some practice on Saturday morning when I warm up in the lake :oP

I'm still not sure what my bib number is as the organizer's web site doesn't seem to have any form of confirmation list that tells you these things. I did get a newsletter and it looks like I'll fall into the wave 2 start (three months too old to fit into wave 1), but outside of that I'll have to wait for race morning to get more information. They also don't really have any detailed diagrams illustrating how things will be laid out in the transition zone, so I'll have to do some scouting in the morning as well.

I am also taking the time to pour through the somewhat complex rules that govern these races, and it looks like passing on the bike leg will be a bit interesting. As drafting isn't permitted in Triathlons, there is an exclusion zone of 3x7m around other bikes that you can't enter under normal circumstances. When you are passing, you can enter this zone but you need to clear it in less than 15 seconds which pretty much means that any passing will have to be of the sprint variety. That shouldn't be an issue on the flats and on downhill segments, but on uphills that may be a bit annoying. With that said, I'm not sure how anal they are about enforcing these rules. I do most of my rides solo so I'm used to riding without a draft, but I tend to like to overtake in a more gradual manner ;)

Either way, the main challenge in this race is going to be the transitions as I have little to no experience with this. I've read through pretty much everything that I could find on the topic, and watched another Triathlon to get a feel for it, but knowing what to do and actually doing it are often different things. Aside from direct mistakes, one also has to worry about problems that neighbors create so there can be unanticipated issues that need to be dealt with. This is the big part that makes me wish I had done that Tri clinic, as getting some practice on this sort of thing would have been quite useful.

The other thing that may be a bit difficult will be pacing myself in the water. I've done enough in the pool over the last couple of weeks to be confident that I can comfortably cover the distance at a decent clip, but when one is in a group the vacuum effect can take over. Further, as I have no method of objectively monitoring my pace it will be difficult to gauge exactly how fast I am going, so there will be some recognition lag to deal with here. Unlike a pool, there are no walls to grab, so if I go out too fast and get tired part way through it could pose a problem. As such, I will have to be especially careful to be mindful of how hard I am pushing.

With all of that said, the next matter is figuring out my targets and how I intend to attack the race. I've managed to get myself to a point where I can comfortably cover much longer distances in each of the sports individually, however I'm not entirely sure what effects they will have on one another. As such, any targets that I have are going to have a pretty wide margin of error. If the stars align perfectly and I don't run into any issues, my best case scenario is a finish in about 1:10 (14m swim, 37min ride, 16min run and ~3min for transitions), but I'm likely going to run into some issues so that's unlikely. I've managed those paces continuously in longer sets for all three sports (4K, 80K and 5K respectively), but only in isolation. More realistically, I'm hoping to get in within 1:20 but I won't really be upset as long as I finish in under 1:30. Either way, the primary goal is to finish at this point so I'm not going to be too preoccupied with time (just wanted some ballpark numbers to aim for) ;)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Week 38: Catching Up...

As noted in previous posts, I pulled a ligament a few weeks back and am just in the process of getting back into the swing of things at this point. As there wasn't a whole lot to report, I haven't really been keeping up with the weekly reviews so I'm going to take this opportunity to cover what I've been doing:

Week 34 Totals:
Running: 45.0km (28.0mi)
Walking: 0.5km (0.3mi)
Cycling: 84.1km (52.3mi)
Swimming: 5.6km (3.5mi)
Total: 135.2km (84.0mi)

Week 35 Totals:
Running: 0.0km (0.0mi)
Walking: 0.0km (0.0mi)
Cycling: 0.0km (0.0mi)
Swimming: 2.3km (1.4mi)
Total: 2.3km (1.4mi)

Week 36 Totals:
Running: 0.0km (0.0mi)
Walking: 0.0km (0.0mi)
Cycling: 0.0km (0.0mi)
Swimming: 3.0km (1.9mi)
Total: 3.0km (1.9mi)

Week 37 Totals:
Running: 14.3km (8.9mi)
Walking: 1.0km (0.6mi)
Cycling: 65.2km (40.5mi)
Swimming: 7.3km (4.5mi)
Total: 87.8km (54.5mi)

As you can see, I lost a good deal of mileage after the last few weeks but I'm working on building that back up at this stage. Fortunately, there is no sign of the injury at this point so it looks like it's recovered, but I'm still being careful to make sure I don't push it too hard too soon. After this week I think I'm confident enough to start mixing in some light speedwork to help regain some of my lost fitness, but naturally I'll have to play that by ear.

Since I was anxious to give a Triathlon a shot before the end of the season, I signed up for one next week in Lakeside. As such, this week I focused on ramping things up to prepare for that race. While I won't likely be able to do it as fast as I would have in Orillia (although the swim stage will definitely be better), the main focus at this point is to gain some experience so I can properly race one next season. The transitions and some of the more technical aspects of the sport (multisport pacing, equipment selection, logistics, etc.) will be a challenge the first time out, so experience is a pretty important aspect for these races.

My main concern about this was the swim stage, as the Try-a-Tri distance was sold out by the time I got around to it and I had to sign up for a longer distance. Fortunately, the pools in the area have switched over to their winter schedules so I had a little more time (3 hours vs. 1.5) to play around and experiment with endurance. As such, I headed out on Tuesday with the intention of doing a quick warmup and then seeing how long I could hold out.

After about 750m of warmup (5x50m + 5x100m), I broke into the main set and kept going. Once I got into a rythum, I was able to keep everything in check and wasn't really getting too tired. I was careful not to go too fast as I wanted to focus on distance at this point, and that appeared to help a lot. After about 1:35 of the set, I hit the 4K mark (~2:22/100m) and while I was tired I wanted to try and knock out another kilometer. I did have to slow down a bit at this point, however I pushed through and got to 5K in a little over 2 hours (averaging 2:31/100m for the full distance). I finished off with a slow (~4:00/100m) 250m cooldown set to make it a clean 6K and climbed out of the pool (which was rather difficult in and of itself). While I was wiped after that session (burning about 1800kcal), it did a lot to bolster my confidence.

On Thursday I headed back to the pool, but as Tuesday's session left me pretty tired I planned to take it easier this time out. As such, instead of one big set I elected to do a number of 600m sets to (a) get used to the distance and (b) get a feel for what kind of pacing to expect. After my standard warmup, I pushed through seven 600m sets (was originally going to do five) taking between 14 (2:20/100m) and 16 minutes (2:40/100m) each. I then finished with an easy 50m set to get to 5K and called it a day. I likely could have gone faster, however this pace felt about right as I have to keep the cycling and running stages that come after the swim in mind. Naturally, open water swimming is different than pool swimming so I will have to make adjustments during the race, but it is a much better idea than I had last week ;)

Aside from the swimming, I also started getting back into the practice of doing proper bike rides again. On Monday, I headed up for a ride to Kettleby and back (~50km), which has a good number of decent hills. I made it up to the turnaround point on Jane St., I elected to modify the route slightly and head over to Weston Rd. for some larger hills. While I've taken this route heading north before, this was the first time I attempted it going southbound and the hills are a lot more aggressive that way. The largest of them (Strawberry Hill) took about four minutes of sheer pain to climb, and nearly wiped me out (my heart rate was above 180bpm (zone 5) for most of it). Either way, I successfully made it to the top and after a short break continued on. While there were a few more big hills down the road, they really didn't feel like much after fighting that monster ;)

The fun of climbing hills like this on a bike is that one really doesn't have the option to stop and take a break. Trying to get cold started up an 8% grade is nearly impossible, and cycling shoes aren't really suitable for walking the bike up. The upside, however, is that it forces the rider to stick with it and fight their way up to the top. Unlike running, however, I find that I can recover from those intense efforts much quicker - while it's punishing while you're climbing, 10-15 seconds of coasting after you've crested is all that is needed to be ready to attack another. It does give me a lot of respect for the professionals can consistently knock out 200km/day up the sides of mountains (that make these hills look like speed bumps) at 30km/h for a couple of weeks in the big tours ;)

Week 38 Totals:
Running: 37.1km (23.1mi)
Walking: 1.5km (0.9mi)
Cycling: 121.1km (75.2mi)
Swimming: 11.0km (6.8mi)
Total: 87.8km (54.5mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 1,873.7km (1,164.3mi)
Walking: 196.4km (122.0mi)
Cycling: 3,077.7km (1,912.4mi)
Swimming: 49.3km (30.6mi)
Total: 5,197.1km (3,229.3mi)

As far as preparation goes, I took some time on Friday to do a little looking around for wetsuits. Unfortunately, finding much information about the various options is extremely difficult. The manufacturers websites have little more than lists of tradenames with no descriptions of how those technologies work, and there aren't much in the way of independent reviews on anything but the top-of-the-line models. The local shops did help a bit, however while they were good at providing general advise (eg higher end suits are more flexible, but also more fragile) they couldn't provide the kind of objective technical comparisons that I was looking for. Given the size of the investment that these suits require, I want to have a much better understanding of the differences before I sink my money into buying one.

As such, I simply arranged to rent one from the shop that was the most helpful and will worry about which one to buy at a later point. The upside to this approach is that I can try one of the potential candidates (a Nineteen Pipeline) in race conditions to get a feel for how well it works for me. As I can pick it up on Thursday, I'm going to try and get at least one open water swim with it on before the race.

Other than that, I've pretty much got everything in order. I do still have to pick up a few small things, but the biggest question will be the logistics of heading down there in the morning. It appears to be about a two hour trip, and as I want to be there plenty early to get a decent spot in the transition zone it's going to mean a very early morning. As such, I'm going to have to get everything packed and ready the night before so there is a lot of planning left to do ;)

As for the next week, the schedule is still a bit up in the air as I'm working outside of the context of a formal plan at this point. I do have to play things by ear to aide in recovery, and with the race on Saturday I have to work in some form of taper as well so it will be a complex week. Either way, my rough plan is as follows:

Mon 80K Ride
Tue 4K Swim (5x600m), 5mi GA w/5x100m
Wed 30K Ride, 6mi (9.6K) Recovery
Thurs 3K OW Swim
Fri 4mi Recovery (AM)
Sat Sprint Triathlon (600m/20km/4km)
Sun 8mi (12.9K) LSD

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Signed up for my first Triathlon...

After a strong swim this morning (6K, 5K of which was continuous) I bit the bullet and signed up for the Sprint Triathlon in Lakeside (600m swim, 20km ride and 4km run) in a week and a half. As I noted here, I originally planned to do the Try-a-Tri in Orillia a few weeks back, but an injury threw a wrench into those plans. The ankle is feeling much better at this point, however, and with only a couple of races left in the season I wanted to make the training count for something.

The swim distance is a little longer than I would have liked, but as the Try-a-Tri distance for this event was sold out I had to choose between the Sprint distance or a race this weekend in Wasaga. In the end, I felt that the extra time to prepare would be more important and given the session today I'm hoping that the 600m open water swim won't be too much of an issue. It also means a more competitive field that I'll be in, so there will be more pressure to get everything right the first time.

As for my plan, I don't want to push too hard this time out as it's more to gain experience in the sport than it is to race all out. With that said, when you're toeing the start line the adrenaline has a tendency to take over so it might not end up that way ;) While I've done some bike-run brick sessions, I don't really know what kind of effect the swim will have on me prior to the other sports so it's difficult to peg down what I'll be able to do. Given my training speeds, I should be able to pull it off in around 1:10-1:20, but without knowing how fatigued I'll be it's difficult to say. Naturally, the transitions are also going to be a bit unpredictable as I don't really have a detailed idea of how this particular race will be set up. Plus, with my lack of experience I'm likely to make a few mistakes ;)

Either way, this means that I have a good deal of work cut out for me over the next few days. I've got a pretty good handle on the training end of things at this point, however I will have to look into and buy/rent a wetsuit and grab a number of other items (elastic laces, race number belt, etc.). I also have to figure out exactly how to lay everything out in the transition area, as well as the logistics of getting down to the start on the morning of the race (it starts at 10am, so I'll likely want to be there by at least 8am and it's a couple hours away).

Saturday, September 5, 2009


The injury threw a wrench into my racing plans for the fall, so at this point I'm working on formulating what I'm going to do instead. The original concept was to do the Orillia Tri a few weeks back and then the Toronto marathon. Naturally, I missed the Tri as I was still limping at the time and the loss of two weeks of training is too far to catch up on this close to a marathon.

At this point, I'm basically back up and running. The swimming hasn't really been hurt much, and cycling-wise I'm not too far behind. I havn't really tested running at speed just yet, however I'll be testing that out tomorrow and see how it goes. With that said, I'm not going to be doing any speedwork in the immediate future, and distances are going to be short while I build back up. The tricky part, however, is that I've always used structured training plans based on target races so figuring out my schedule is going to be dependant on what I elect to do.

In the running sphere, it shouldn't be a huge problem finding alternative races. I was planning on doing the Toronto Marathon in October, so I don't think the half marathon would be a huge problem at this point. I've also heard a lot of good things about the Zoo Run (10K), so I'm seriously thinking about that. Either way, there are a variety of races available over the next couple of months so I've got some time to consider my options.

The Triathlon side, however, is a bit more complicated. As they are dependant on the water temperature, they don't have nearly as long a season so I don't have a lot of time to work with. Looking over the schedules, it's basically down to the next couple of weeks. While I could do the Try-a-Tri in Wassaga next weekend, that doesn't give me a lot of time to get back up to speed dispite the trivial distances involved. The race the following week would work better, but as the Try-a-Tri distance is already sold out I'd have to move up to the sprint distance. The running and cycling bits of that wouldn't be a problem, however as this would be my first shot at open water swimming I'm a bit concerned about that leg.

At this point I'm leaning towards the sprint race, as I think the additional recovery time will be important at this juncture. I managed to swim nearly 3K continuously in the pool this week, which bodes well for my ability to cover 600m in the race. Unfortunately, there is a world of difference between swimming in a controlled pool and in open water so I'm still a little nervous about that.

The other caveat is that I'll have to look into the wetsuit side of the equation as there isn't a lot of time to figure that out. I was likely going to do the race in Orillia without one, but with the extra time in the water and the potential for cooler water in late September that's likely not too wise if I do elect to go down this route. I would have liked to try it out before the race, however it's difficult to find suitable locations to do sustained swims in open water (especially on one's own).

The other option, of course, is to simply forget about it for the time being and just use the off season to strengthen my swimming. I could then jump into longer distances from the start and be a good deal more competitive than I can at this juncture. The problem with this, however, is that I wouldn't get any experience with transitions and any screw ups after a full winter of preparation would be a lot more frustrating than they would be now (where it was simply a secondary objective).

Either way, I have a bit of thinking left to do on this topic but wanted to get it down to help work my way through the options in a structured way. Naturally, I'd be welcome to any outside input that might have a different perspective than I'm looking at it from ;)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Getting back into it...

The ankle has improved markedly over the last three days, so I'm starting to work my way back into my routine. I did a short 15K session on the bike yesterday to see how it would handle the stress, and it worked out great. I stayed close to home and avoided any big hills to be safe, but there was absolutely no pain even with a few hard sprints mixed in to test it out. The upside to cycling is that the cleats lock the foot into moving along a single axis, so it doesn't stress the joint quite as much as walking or running would. It allows me to warm things up an exercise them without too much risk of re-injuring them, so I figured it was the best way to get back into it.

Since swimming doesn't really use the legs all that much, I've pretty much stayed up on my training on that front regardless of the injury. As such, I headed out to my regular Tuesday session today and was pleasantly surprised when I saw the signs notifying us of the change to their winter schedule. Since the swimming lessons are done for the year, they've got more time for their other sessions and this pool has been moved up to a little over two hours. As I didn't know about this ahead of time I couldn't take full advantage of it, but I was able to squeeze in a few more minutes.

Either way, I headed out with the intention of warming up with 5x50m and then 5x100m, then moving to 800m sets to work on my endurance. Once I got going, however, I got into a comfortable groove so I elected to just keep going and see how long I could hold out. In the end, I managed to knock out a continuous set of 2,750m and only really stopped because I was running out of time and needed to do a cooldown. After that, I did a slower 250m set to cool down and finish off before getting out of the pool (doing a total of 3.75K).

Thanks to that, I'm now putting some serious consideration in skipping the Try-a-Tri distance and giving the Sprint distance a shot first. The last race of the season is near the end of this month, but the Try-a-Tri distance was sold out. As such, to do the shorter distance I'd have to do a race within the next couple of weeks which doesn't give a lot of time to get back up to speed. Doing the longer distance would mean a more grueling race, but it would also mean more time to prepare for it. As before, the running and cycling shouldn't be a problem, but my biggest hangup was the 750m swim (vs 400m) stage that starts it off.

With that said, being able to swim a distance in a pool is a bit different than swimming it in open water. Primarilly, in the pool you get a push-off every 25m that gives the arms a bit of a rest, and you don't really have to deal with a horde of people in your way. Further, the 750m distance is the shortest path around the bouys, so without any significant experience in open water sighting I'll likely end up doing a good deal more. On the flip side, the bouyancy of the wetsuit (if I go that route) does apparently make it easier, and the ability to draft off of other swimmers can help as well. How much those various factors balance against one another is my main concern at this point ;)

Either way, I'm likely going to do a walk this evening or tomorrow morning to test things out, and if all goes well I hope to get back to running tomorrow afternoon. Starting out with the Running Room groups is probably my best bet, as my body has never been good at slowing down so being able to go out with a slower group should help to keep my pace under control ;) If that goes well, I'll start the process of rebuilding my running slowly and hopefully get battle ready within the next couple of weeks!