Sunday, June 27, 2010

Week 25: Review

Another good week for training, the only real exception was the rain yesterday taking a chunk out of my cycling mileage. Thankfully Friday's weather was good, so I was able to switch around the long ride for one of the medium distance ones in order to limit the damage. With that said, the heat and humidity have been lingering for most of the week so while I did get pretty close to my mileage targets the paces were a bit slower than I'd like.

On the swimming front, the pools are starting to get busier as the summer begins to come around. Tuesday's session, for instance, was packed and I basically had to choose between fighting through extremely slow swimmers (~3:00+/100m) in the medium lane or pushing it to try and keep up with the guys in the fast lane. I decided to bite the bullet and stick with the stronger group, and while it wore me out pretty good (trying to do 1500m sets while keeping up with guys doing 100m sets added to the complexity) I was able to get my mileage in :D

As for running, I was debating whether I should do another 16 miler like I did last week or back off a bit and call it a recovery week. With Canada Day coming this week, however, I figured it would be better to tough it out this morning and allow myself to take a few liberties next week as the schedule will likely be a bit tighter. Fortunately it was overcast this morning so I didn't have to deal with the sun like last week, but the humidity was pretty brutal and it was hard to breath in that thick air. Either way, I managed to fight through it and log another 16 miles at a reasonable pace.

Week 25 Totals:
Running: 59.7km (37.1mi)
Walking: 2.1km (1.3mi)
Cycling: 166.5km (103.4mi)
Swimming: 7.3km (4.5mi)
Total: 235.6km (146.4mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 1066.2km (662.5mi)
Walking: 57.5km (35.7mi)
Cycling: 2195.8km (1364.4mi)
Swimming: 160.1km (99.5mi)
Total: 3479.6km (2162.1mi)

I still haven't gotten around to settling in on a race plan for the year, and as such my training is still operating on an ad-hoc basis. Normally I'd be worried about not being in a structured plan at this point, however fortunately I've managed to maintain pretty high base mileage in all three sports so it shouldn't be too hard to work spool myself into a program when I do lock things down.

While there are tonnes of pre-planned running programs to work with, most Triathlon books I've read so far just give you the principles and leave it to the reader to build up their own plan. It makes sense as it would likely be difficult to pin down a fixed plan given all the variables inherent in multi-sport events. How much time one should devote to each of the three sports is going to depend on their strengths and weaknesses so some personalization is required. I'd love to sign up for a proper coaching service (where a skilled professional could design a dedicated plan for me), but at this juncture that's just not realistic. As such, I've got to find some time to sit down, consolidate the theory that I've read up on so far and put together something.

In other news, I've looked through my options of the hydration front and have pretty much settled on picking up a Speedfil for the bike. I still need to hunt down a retailer that actually has these things so I can check it out in person, but it seems to be the most logical choice for my requirements. While I do generally get enough to drink on training rides, I only tend to drink when I come to a stop. This means that I gulp water down rather than slowly sip during a ride, and in a race scenario where there are no stops I'm worried about not getting enough in. Having that straw in my face seems like a good way to address both of those issues, and I think that's worth the cost of a bit more aerodynamic drag.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Catching Up: Weeks 22-24

Have been pretty busy the last few weeks and unfortunately have been falling behind on adding my weekly reviews. As such, I'm bunching together the last three weeks into one post to get back on track and will have to make sure to find some more time in the upcoming weeks ;)

For the most part, the last little while has worked out relatively well. My running and swimming targets haven't been too much trouble, but my cycling is a bit behind thanks to a string of crappy weather on Saturday mornings (when I normally do my long rides). I've compensated by moving rides around a bit, but it's difficult to find the necessary amount of time on weekdays to complete significant distances. I'll have to try harder as I want to start ratcheting up my mileage and get some 100 mile rides in this summer, but that's going to be partially dependent on what mother nature throws my way ;)

Either way, my totals are as follows:

Week 22 Totals:
Running: 51.5km (32.0mi)
Walking: 1.3km (0.8mi)
Cycling: 140.9km (87.6mi)
Swimming: 7.1km (4.4mi)
Total: 200.8km (124.8mi)

Week 23 Totals:
Running: 56.6km (35.2mi)
Walking: 1.3km (0.8mi)
Cycling: 134.8km (83.8mi)
Swimming: 7.5km (4.7mi)
Total: 200.2km (124.4mi)

Week 24 Totals:
Running: 59.6km (37.0mi)
Walking: 2.9km (1.8mi)
Cycling: 137.1km (85.2mi)
Swimming: 7.0km (4.3mi)
Total: 206.6km (128.4mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 1006.5km (625.4mi)
Walking: 55.4km (34.4mi)
Cycling: 2029.3km (1260.9mi)
Swimming: 152.8km (94.9mi)
Total: 3244.0km (2015.7mi)

Longer term, I still need to figure out a racing schedule for this year. Things have been crazy recently so the two early season races I was eying have come and gone. As I've mentioned before, I'd really like to fit in Ironman Muskoka in September, but before I commit I want to get some intermediate distances in to make sure I'm ready. I'm probably looking at somewhere between five and six hours to finish such a race, which looks pretty intimidating considering my marathon only took 3.5 and I was pretty wiped by the end.

Additionally, it's also quite an expensive race ($270 for registration, plus a hotel for at least one night, pre-race meals, wetsuit rental, etc...) so part of me is thinking that it might be smarter to do a few other races and use the left over funds to buy my own wetsuit by the end of the year. It's not so much that I mind paying that kind of money for a race, but if I'm going to do that I'd like to be a bit more confident that I'm going to do well in it before I do.

Ideally I could do some of the unofficial half-iron races first (with the objective to simply finish) and then the real thing in September (with a proper time objective), but unfortunately those races are in the next couple of weeks and there was no way I could get up to speed this year. If I limit myself to a long course triathlon (2K/55K/15K) this year, I'd likely be able to ramp up fast enough to pull that plan off in the following year.

Either way, will have to think about it a bit more but I do have to come to a decision soon as a formal training plan is getting more and more critical :oP

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Working on Climbing

For my first year and a half of riding, I used a simple Cateye computer that gave mean real time readings but didn't record that data. I used my Polar running computer to record some basic information (time, heart rate and elevation), but without speed/distance/cadence plots to go along with it that data had limitations to it's usefulness. I finally got around to getting a proper cyclocomputer (Garmin Edge 705) earlier this year, which has allowed me to better examine what I am doing on the bike.

One of the aspects that I've been trying to work on has been climbing on the bike. Looking over my ride data, it appears that it's more of a psychological issue than a physical one. Even during the biggest climbs, my heart rate while ascending is almost always significantly lower than it is on long flat stretches (where I'm pushing to get the speed up). Further, my cadence is generally up around 110rpm which indicates that I'm shifting down too early and the fatigue is likely more from spinning like a madman than pushing too hard.

Part of this is simply a matter of being over conservative when it comes to budgeting available strength. On the flat segments I can go all out as when/if I get tired it's easy enough to slow down and/or stop for a rest. On a climb, however, you need a good amount of power to simply keep moving forward so tiring out is a big problem. Stopping is also not really an option, as trying to cold start up a hill is very difficult and walking it up is pretty much impossible with cycling shoes. Rationally, however, most of those flats last a lot longer than any hill around here so I need to learn to cut into some of those margins when heading up a heavy grade.

Naturally, the physical aspect follows the psychological one. By falling back to an easy gear too early, I'm not developing the force necessary to keep turning a large gear at lower cadences. That in turn reinforces the behavior, as it becomes progressively easier to rely on high leg speeds rather than high force when climbing as that's what the body is adapting to. As such, the only way to break this habit is to explicitly focus on correcting it.

As such, I've been trying to go out of my way to select hilly routes over the last few weeks to work on this. This morning the weather was a lot cooler than it's been lately, so I elected to give it an extra push when I got to the uphill bits. Whenever I hit a steep uphill segment, I left it in the big ring (bottoming out at 50x19, but typically at around 50x17) and forced myself to push through it. Fortunately, I was able to get up all of them without any trouble (although I had to break down and stand to make it up the last bit of the final hill), and while I felt like crap on the way up I recovered reasonably quickly afterward.

This is certainly not the optimum strategy for normal riding as it makes for a slow final stretch when the legs are fighting off exhaustion. Regardless, I figure that the exaggerated quantities of force required are a good way to train myself (both mentally and physically) to be a little more aggressive with gear selection on my ascents. It's naturally going to take a lot more of this to build my climbing strength up, but with enough work I'm hoping to get a lot better at this aspect of my riding.

Situations like this are where power meters come in very handy as they provide objective guidance on what can be sustained. If one can hold X wattage down a flat stretch of road for Y minutes, then the same can be done on a hill. The speeds and gearing will be radically different, but if you're holding the same power level then all of that is irrelevant. Unfortunately resources don't allow me to get that particular tool at this point, but it's definitely high on the list ;)