Sunday, April 25, 2010

Week 16: Review

Another great week working back into my normal rhythm. With the bike now outside and decent weather to ride in, I'm finally getting my cycling mileage back up. I had hoped to get it to 100 miles for the week, but unfortunately a flat tire yesterday threw a wrench into those plans. Other than that, running went quite well with everything going roughly as scheduled. As one of the guys I run with on Wednesday had run Boston on Monday, we did a bit shorter distance than normal for our group session. Swimming also went well, with all sessions going down as planned.

Getting back outside on the bike it's difficult to reign myself in as I'd love to do some longer rides again. With that said, as I mostly did a maximum of distance of about 30K on the trainer this winter I limited myself to 50K rides this time around to be safe. I'll stretch that out a bit more this week and hopefully we'll be able to get the Saturday group rides back together shortly for the longer sessions.

Naturally, the downside to riding outside is that the weather sometimes can be unpredictable. On Wednesday's 30K ride, for instance, I ended up getting caught in a cloud burst just as I was heading back home. It didn't last too long and I managed to get to shelter pretty quickly, but I had to clear one of the larger hills on the course during the thick of it (bicycle brakes are significantly less effective when the rims get wet, so high speed descents can be a bit unnerving).

The one upside to that ride, however, was that I got a chance to try out the 705's mapping capacity. I was originally planning on doing the normal route, but part way through I felt like trying something a bit different than normal. There was a hill in the area that I've driven on a few times and have wanted to ride for a while, but most of the roads going towards it aren't particularly friendly for bikes (no shoulders, blind turns, etc.). When I stopped at an intersection I pulled up the map page on the cyclocomputer and managed to find a route that could get me there safely. It ended up working great, and aside from the weather (which I would have hit anyway) it turned out to be a good route that I'll likely do again sometime.

The map was also useful yesterday, as it made it a lot easier to tell my family where to find me after I flatted. Rural roads have some great scenery, but unless you are keeping track of every cross street it's sometimes difficult to pin down exactly where you are ;) Sideroads have a tendency to look somewhat alike, and trying to guide drivers to your location based on visual landmarks can be a bit sketchy. Fortunately, as I'd just made a turn it likely wouldn't have been too difficult to describe - but with the GPS I was able to be very specific.

On the tire front, I didn't get around to grabbing a replacement tire today between the long run this morning and short hours at the local stores. I'll be heading out tomorrow morning to grab what I need, although I'm still debating about whether to do it myself or have it done and worry about learning later. If the weather permits I'd like to get a ride in tomorrow afternoon, so part of me doesn't want to risk messing it up and figuring that out 10K into that ride ;)

Week 16 Totals:
Running: 48.8km (30.3mi)
Walking: 2.0km (1.2mi)
Cycling: 143.6km (89.2mi)
Swimming: 7.4km (4.6mi)
Total: 201.8km (125.4mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 610.4km (379.3mi)
Walking: 38.6km (24.0mi)
Cycling: 882.5km (548.4mi)
Swimming: 96.1km (59.7mi)
Total: 1627.6km (1011.3mi)

Saturday, April 24, 2010


After a great 50K ride yesterday, I headed out again just after lunch today to get in some more miles ahead of the rain coming in the next couple of days. Tentatively I was looking at doing an easy 40K (to make it a clean 100mi for the week), but I left the option open to go a bit longer if I felt good. The skies were overcast and temperatures great, so the conditions were quite comfortable from the start.

When I got out the developed areas and into the rural roads, however, the easterly winds were quite strong (~35km/h steady with ~45km/h gusts) so it was a bit of a fight. Fortunately, as I was heading east to start with this wasn't an entirely bad thing as the legs were still fresh and the tailwinds would likely help to offset the tired legs on the way back. Once I made the turn north, the crosswinds were a bit annoying but they were a heck of a lot better than fighting off the headwinds.

Once I got to King Road the original plan was to head east again to Keele and then loop around to get the 40K I had planned. Despite the winds, I was still feeling pretty good so I elected to plot out a different path and add some more distance. I could have just repeated yesterday's ride, however I felt like mixing in a few more hills so I pulled up the map on my Garmin and planned an alternative route continuing on to 16th, across the highway and then back south via Weston Road (which has a number of rolling hills vs. the long downhill grade on Jane). It added a bit more difficulty to the mix as well as some variation on the scenery I ride past.

With the plan finalized, I headed up the long climb along Jane and made my way up the long climb to the 16th sideroad. I then carefully made the left and took the tree lined rolling hills over to Weston Road. Once I got to the intersection, I pulled over and took a quick break before beginning my trip back down Weston. At this point the majority of the climb was complete, and aside from a few rolling hills on the way back I'd be able to log some quick splits as I descended back towards my place.

Unfortunately, once I got going at hit the first downhill segment (just before a decent climb) I heard a rumbling noise from the rear end of the bike. I promptly pulled over and dismounted, only to see a small hole at the top of the tire and a quiet hissing noise as air escaped. It was a pretty slow leak and the tire was still pretty hard, however I was too far away from home to attempt to ride through it. While I did have a spare tube and was thinking about getting some practice changing it out, the tire was obviously damaged and as I didn't have a replacement for that there wasn't much point. As such, I called it a day and took out the phone to arrange for a pickup.

The upside is that I managed to get the most difficult components of the ride in, so I likely got a good percentage of the intended training effect. The portion of the ride that I did do was pretty much all either uphill or into a headwind, and the portion that I missed was mostly downhill or with a tailwind so I didn't lose too much work. Unfortunately, that means that my average speed was pretty crappy, but getting the heavy work in is the important part ;)

This was the first time I've had a flat in the field so I don't really have a lot of experience with this sort of thing. Having a spare tire would have been helpful, but unlike tubes they're pretty big and heavy so I'm not sure where I'd put one at this point. Either way, I've never actually changed a tube/tire myself as of yet so I likely would have made a mess of it even if I'd attempted it ;) Naturally, the only way to learn is to give it a try at some point so I'm thinking of just picking up a tire and trying to replace it on my own rather than bring it into the shop like I normally do. This was bound to happen at some point, and while there wasn't much I could do this time around I'd like to have some experience making the switch in case this happens again.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Week 15: Review

After a couple of slow weeks, I managed to get back into the routine of things this week. I had to move some runs around to work around some rain, however I managed to get in everything that was planned for a change (including a great 12 mile run this morning). Either way, the weather has simply been spectacular considering the time of year and that's made it much easier to stay on track. There's been a bit of rain, however temperatures have remained comfortable (if not a bit warm) so I've been able to stay away from the winter clothing and enjoy the much more comfortable summer stuff.

Thanks to the conditions, I brought the bike in on Wednesday to get the tires switched around for outdoor use and a tune up to make sure nothing was wrong. While I didn't get the group ride we wanted to do yesterday in due to bad weather (strong winds, rain, snow and a bit of hail), I did manage to get in two good outdoor rides. It felt great to finally get back onto the roads, as the miles go by much faster when you're not staring at a wall. I likely could have done more distance on both rides, but I elected to hold myself back and keep the mileage down to the 30-40km I've been doing on the trainer. I'd love to put down a 100km ride again, however it's been a few months at this point so I figured I should rebuild the mileage carefully.

Additionally, getting out on the bike gave me an opportunity to try out the new aerobars, saddle and cycling computer. I've been practicing with them for a couple of months on the trainer, however being bolted into position didn't really allow me to get the full experience. The new saddle worked well, although the 76 degree seat angle (vs 73) is going to take some getting used to especially on the hills. It pushes the weight a lot further forward, even when using the drop bars, which has significant effects when dealing with large grades. While I can switch back and forth quite easily, I'm planning on sticking with the aero position for the time being to get myself more used to it.

I also spent a lot of time down on the aerobars, and they definitely make handling a lot more challenging. The first time I used them the bike was swaying back and forth quite a bit with each pedal stroke, but that's been getting much better the more I use them (and program my brain to generate the corrective steering inputs). With that said, their benefits to aerodynamics were immediately obvious - once I got up to speed, I was managing about 4-5km/h faster without any additional effort. Further demonstrating this, on Thursday's ride there was a nasty 45km/h headwind along an exposed stretch of road, but as soon as I got down in the aero position it became an order of magnitude easier. They're such a simple addition to the bike, but it's clear that they can make a substantial difference.

As for the cycling computer (Garmin Edge 705), it is definitely a lot more useful outside than it is on the trainer. The amount of information that it can display and record is staggering, I just wish that there were more than two user-configurable displays (vs 6 on my Polar) as it's difficult to take full advantage of that in the field ;) Being able to pull up a graph on the elevation covered was quite handy, and I can definitely see the maps coming in useful for some of my longer rides. The colour screen was easily readable in the sunlight (backlight was off), and the controls easy to operate while still rolling.

I also put together a pre-programmed course on bike route toaster and used in on Thursday's ride. In addition to providing turn-by-turn directions, it also allowed me to program in a desired pace (taking into consideration slowdowns on uphills) and determine how far ahead or behind that target I am. As this was a very familiar route that didn't provide a whole lot of benefit, however when we start stretching out to the long rides again and hit roads that I don't know so well I can see this being quite a powerful tool.

Either way, once I've had a chance to put it through its paces on some longer rides I'll make up a proper review of the 705 and post it here. But from a first impression I'm certainly satisfied with my choice at this point in time ;) Now, just have to save up the cash to get a power meter to go along with it...

Week 15 Totals:
Running: 51.3km (31.9mi)
Walking: 1.9km (1.2mi)
Cycling: 98.4km (61.1mi)
Swimming: 7.2km (4.5mi)
Total: 158.8km (98.7mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 561.6km (349.0mi)
Walking: 36.6km (22.7mi)
Cycling: 738.9km (459.1mi)
Swimming: 88.7km (55.1mi)
Total: 1425.8km (886.0mi)

As an aside, I'd also like to wish everyone running the Boston Marathon good luck for tomorrow's race. Hopefully I'll be able to join you guys in future years, but for the time being I'll be cheering you on from here ;)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Weeks 13 &14: Review...

Didn't manage to get around to writing up a review for last week, so I'm just combining the two together to simplify things. Unfortunately, both weeks were well short of mileage targets due to a combination of factors. Either way, I did what I could to make the miles I did put down count for as much as possible and as I'm still in base training it's not really a huge deal.

Week 13 started out a bit rough due to time commitments in the early week. We got in a great group run on Wednesday, however directly following that my right glute was feeling a bit tight. With the Harry's 5K on Saturday, I decided to play it safe and skip the sessions until the race and stretch it out as much as possible. I was worried that I'd be dealing with another injury, however it didn't bother me at all during the race and it's felt fine since then so it looks like I dodged a bit of a bullet.

On Sunday I ended up missing my long run as we went out to a family Easter party, and there just wasn't enough time to fit it in. Normally I'd just reschedule to Monday, but with the race on Saturday and the muscle tightness before I elected to just write it off and continue on as planned. I generally try to avoid missing this run at all costs, but without a specific goal I figured that the recovery was more important at this juncture.

This week worked out very well for cycling and swimming, however I missed one mid-week run for my yearly physical and my Saturday recovery run due to scheduling issues. The group run on Wednesday was also a bit shorter than normal as one of the group members was tapering for Boston, so that cut into the mileage total a bit as well. Other than that, the weather this week was quite good so the sessions that I did get in were quite productive. Thankfully the race was a big confidence booster, so I allowed myself to push a bit harder than I've been doing in previous weeks to get back up to speed.

Fortunately, I was able to get in my long run this morning under near perfect conditions. I did overdress a bit as it was a bit cool when I left (8C with a cool breeze), but rapidly got pretty warm (18C with full sun and little wind). It wasn't too bad, but it was enough to elevate my heart rate a bit more than usual. Either way, I brought along extra Gatorade in case I needed it and that kept me fighting through to finish off the planned 11 miles. I was thinking of adding another mile into the mix as things were going well, but decided against it as I was already pretty soaked.

Additionally, due to the rescheduling I ended up doing another brick session on Friday. As I've yet to trigger the lead legs feeling that I've been told you're supposed to get in these sessions, I picked up the pace a bit on the bike to target about 260w (a little under 33km/h). That certainly made the bike leg more challenging, but again I still felt great for the run leg so I'm likely going to have to push a little harder next time.

On the cycling front, I'm likely going to bite the bullet and get the bike shifted over to outside use early this week. The long term forecast is looking relatively good, and our cycling group has been talking about getting out on Saturday so it's likely as good a time as any. The weather today in particular was spectacular, and I would have loved to have gotten out there in these conditions. With that said, the weather can be unpredictable in April around these parts, so I may be regretting it down the road ;) Getting outside, however, will allow me to do much longer rides than I can mentally take inside, so even if I do end up missing a few sessions I'll likely still be ahead of the game.

The other upside to getting out on the road is that I'll finally be able to try out the new cycling computer and aerobars. I've been using them for a couple of months now, but taking them out on the road will realize a lot of potential that sat idle when on a fluid trainer. The aerobars are likely to take some getting used to as the handling is a good deal more complex, but the more time I have to get used to them before the races start the better ;)

Week 14 Totals:
Running: 34.2km (21.3mi)
Walking: 1.3km (0.8mi)
Cycling: 100.3km (62.3mi)
Swimming: 7.4km (4.6mi)
Total: 143.2km (89.0mi)

Week 13 Totals:
Running: 16.7km (10.4mi)
Walking: 0.0km (0.0mi)
Cycling: 40.0km (24.9mi)
Swimming: 3.5km (2.2mi)
Total: 60.2km (37.4mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 510.3km (317.1mi)
Walking: 34.7km (21.6mi)
Cycling: 640.5km (398.0mi)
Swimming: 81.5km (50.6mi)
Total: 1267.0km (787.3mi)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Harry's Spring Run-Off 5K Race Report

One of my favorite races of the year, Harry's Spring Run Off goes through the hilly terrain of High Park. While it isn't exactly ideal for setting personal bests (thanks to the 350m long 8.5% grade at the end), the it's a gorgeous route and does a great job of setting the mood for the coming season. Further, a number of friends from University run it as well so it's a good chance to get caught up.

I didn't really know what to expect this time out, as it had been months since I've done any speed or hill work (trying to avoid re-injuring the back). Further, after the group run on Wednesday my left thigh was a bit sore, so I took the last two days off to rest it before the race. It was still a bit tight this morning, but fortunately a few stretches before the race seemed to loosen it up. Either way, my target was to squeeze in somewhere between a fun run and an all-out effort. I didn't want to push it too hard and blow up on the final climb, but I also wanted to test how well my fitness was progressing.

As such, the tentative goal was to aim for a ~4:30/km pace (roughly tempo effort) and then decide what to do as the race unfolded. I lined up about three rows back from the front of the corral ahead of the start. I didn't want to be right up front as I wasn't going to push it, but I also didn't want to be weaving in and out so I didn't go too far back either. Thanks to a slight downhill grade for the first 15 meters or so, people have a tendency to go out way too fast for the first 500m and then start falling back in groves, so it's a bit tricky to position oneself well.

1K 4:14 169bpm

When the starter's horn sounded, as with previous years, the field took off at about a 3:30/km pace so I pulled over to the right side and did what I could to keep my pace within range. After about 300 meters or so, the crowd thinned out a bit and I was able to stabilize my pace to a 4:20/km level. I was feeling great and the thigh wasn't giving me any trouble, so I elected to hold onto that pace and see what happened. My breathing and heart rate were still in the comfortable range, and the legs weren't showing any sign of fatigue.

Nearing the end of the first kilometer was an aide station (positioned more for the 8K race before this one), and at this point I started to pass through the hordes of traffic that had started out too fast and were now falling back. I managed to find a path through without much resistance, so I was able to maintain my pace coming around the corner and starting the descent.

2K 4:04 183bpm

The second kilometer of the race starts with a level section and then proceeds to drop a little more than 100 feet. As such, I took advantage of the descent and accelerated a bit when I hit the downhill segment. Thanks to this, I was able to shave off about 10 seconds from this split while maintaining a relatively stable heart rate. I was still passing a lot of people in this segment, but fortunately the road is still pretty wide at this point so that was relatively easy.

At the 1.9K mark, the steepest part of the descent begins - stretching out for about 400 meters at a -7.6% grade. I've always had trouble with this hill, as it's steep enough that my body wants to brake itself to control the descent speed. Intellectually I know that I should just let gravity take over, but overcoming the instinct takes a lot of effort. Either way, I averaged a 3:55/km pace over this stretch, maxing out at about 3:35 near the top of the hill.

3K 4:16 185bpm

After the big descent, the course levels off so the third kilometer is relatively flat. There are a few small rolling hills, but nothing of significance. As such, I settled back into my 4:20-ish pace and kept going. My heart rate and breathing were remaining rock stable at this point, and the body was feeling great, with no signs of fatigue setting in.

At this point I was well ahead of schedule, but while I was gaining confidence in my speed I still wasn't entirely sure about my ability to scale that final hill without the specific training I'd done in previous years. As I neared the end of the kilometer, I elected to pull back the pace a bit to leave some fuel in the tank for the final push. I hated to do it as I was making great time, but as it didn't seem likely I'd beat my 20:55 PB on this course I felt it was better to do it now than be forced to do it on that hill.

4K 4:28 187bpm

The fourth kilometer has a few more significant rolling hills, and traffic started picking up again as fatigue started to kick in for many runners. I weaved in and out to get through it, but took a conscious effort to keep the pace reduced as per my concerns in the last kilometer. My heart rate picked up a bit on the climbs, however on the flat and downhill segments it was dropping slowly so I was getting a bit of rest in.

In retrospect, that slowdown was a bad decision as I was still well within zone 4 and my breathing wasn't problematic at all. The legs still felt fresh, and while the final hill is definitely challenging I don't know that this bit of rest really did a lot to help. Unfortunately, I wasn't sure what to expect as I hadn't gotten around to testing out my fitness on climbs in recent weeks. While I didn't do any formal hill training, the bike provides similar muscle recruitment so it's obvious that that did the trick.

5K 4:28 190bpm

The final kilometer of this race is always challenging, as the knowledge of the upcoming hill tends to hover over everything else that is happening. For the first 650m or so, I held the same pace as I did in the previous kilometer (4:28) and focused on deep breathing to minimize my heart rate. Fortunately, I was still pretty comfortable at this point so that was relatively easy to do. The heart rate did go up a bit as there is a small positive grade in this section (0.7% overall, 2.1% in the latter half).

With about 350m to go, I turned the corner and started heading up the final climb. The hill has an average grade of 8.5% and includes a 200m stretch at over 10%, which at the end of a race like this can be incredibly painful. When I hit the bottom of the hill I started to lose some speed, but thanks to a friend cheering me on I sucked it up and pushed through managing to average a pace of 4:10 for the final 200m of the climb. While it was draining, when I reached the top and ran the final 15m stretch to the finishing line there was still plenty left in the tank.

In the end, I hit the finish line in 21:35.5s which was a lot better than expected. Had I gone all out and not slowed down after the third kilometer, I may have been able to get close to my personal best. I don't know that it would have been possible to beat it regardless of what I did, but it is obvious that I am in better shape than I had thought. Either way, the intent of getting out today was more to get back into racing mode than hitting any specific time target, so I'm happy with what I achieved.

This particular race is a difficult one to plan, as that big hill at the end makes it a highly strategic course. Short distance runs like this are easier to do by feel, but having to save some energy for that final push means that it needs a bit more foresight than that. If you go out to fast, you implode when you hit that hill and lose a lot of time. If you hold out too much on the initial segment, you've got plenty left in the tank for that hill but you sacrifice time that would have been easy to get. Unfortunately, there's no way to know for sure until you hit the finish line and at that point it's too late to do anything about it ;)

The other tricky part about it is that that final hill always makes me feel like I am moving at a snail's pace. Looking back at the telemetry, it's obvious that it didn't slow me down much - but if you asked me to estimate my pace while I was climbing I likely would have guessed somewhere around 5:30-6:00. I'm not sure if it's just the extreme grade, the other runners fighting alongside me or the lactate messing with my brain but it can be quite deceiving ;) Fortunately, the slower I think I am going the harder I'll push so maybe that's a good thing!

Chip time: 21:35.5 (overall results)
Gun time: 21:36.6
Pace: 4:19K
Place overall: 67/1633 (95.9 percentile)
Place in men: 56/775 (92.8 percentile)
Place in age group: 15/138 (89.1 percentile)

Full Telemetry