Friday, July 26, 2013

Fitting it All In: The Schedule

If the title and description to this blog don't make it obvious enough, I'm not the most creative person.  In person I can be witty, if a bit dry, but my writing definitely trends toward being descriptive and fact driven...leaving out the fun and emotion.  Hopefully, the more I write the better that gets!

Anyway, I was looking at the blog title and realized that I hadn't even written anything on why I call this a struggle with the triathlon lifestyle.  Other than having to work hard, which all athletes have to do, I haven't really addressed my personal challenges with work, marriage, parenthood, triathlon and life in general.  Honestly, I don't think it's overly unique.  Most folks have busy lives and a lot going on.  But I do think I pack a lot in to my limited time!

Work:  I'm a project management professional/engineer in the Oil & Gas industry.  That means I organize and lead the projects that get oil & gas out of the ground and to the refineries for processing.  That has a heavy component of engineering, with leadership and business mixed in.  It's a cyclical job; with some periods where work is 70+ hrs per week, while other weeks are a smooth 40hrs.  The best news is that my new employer has 9/80s, which means I have every other Friday off!

Home: Well, I'm a husband of just over 9 years and a dad to a 16 month old son and 3 dogs.  My wife, Analise, works for another company in the same industry as me and has hours more demanding than mine but a shorter commute.  The dogs are awesome, but get neglected and spend most their days laying about.  Finally, our son TJ is the centerpoint of our lives.  Super active kid and a super happy kid.

Hobbies:  Not much these days other than triathlon.  I LOVE to read, but now I'm mostly limited to audiobooks on my commute.  I read fiction and a lot of non-fiction.  In a perfect world, I love to study sports physiology, philosophy and physics.  Maybe someday I'll be able to get back into it to the level I'd like to.  I also love to golf, eat/cook good food and drink good booze.  I'm a whiskey fanatic and have dabbled in some brewing as well. 

So cramming all that into a 7 day week gets challenging.  My typical day looks like this:

4:45am - Alarm goes off
5:15am - On the road to work
6:00am - At my desk, logged on and working
10:00am - Lunchtime Run
11:10am - Back at my desk eating lunch
4:00pm - On the road home
5:00pm - Home
5:00-6:30pm - Home alone with TJ.  Playtime!
6:30-7:30pm - Analise gets home.  Make dinner, wash TJ and put him to bed.
7:45-9:00pm - On the trainer on bike nights
8:30-9:30pm - In bed, lights out, fast asleep...

On Monday, Wednesday and Fridays, that changes a bit when I go to Master's swim, which starts at 530am.  On those days, I'm on the road by 4:45 and make it to work by about 6:55. 

Basically, I can account for my day down to about 5 minute increments on most days.  There's very little time to waste.  I have a lot of concrete times that I have to work around.  At work by 6, home by 5 so the nanny can leave and TJ going down at 7:30.  Moreover, we have a rule that we don't workout while TJ is awake, so that we can maximize our time with him.  With two working parents, that's important.

Weekly workout schedule looks something like this:

Mon:  Masters swim and strength.  I expect we'll start working in easy runs in as IMCoz approaches.
Tue:  Easy run and a hard bike (i.e. 6x4min)
Wed: Masters swim and hard run (i.e. 12x2min)
Thur:  Strength and tempo bike
Fri: Masters swim and steady run
Sat:  Long bike w/ transition run
Sun:  Long run

More or less that's how it goes.  When everything is clicking, it all works well.  It just doesn't allow for much room for error.  If my day gets off by just a few minutes, it can completely derail my workout plans. 

So anyway, that's it!  That's why it's a struggle to maintain the lifestyle needed to continue my progression in this sport.  I told you it would be mundane!  But while it seems straightforward, it can actually be pretty stressful, trying to make sure those workouts are done and fitting everything in.  It leaves little room for other hobbies, fun or friends, but we try hard to fit those in as well.

The hardest thing?  Sleep.  I really need 7-8 hours per night, but I probably average well under 7.  When 9pm is the first chance all day to relax, it's so hard not to pour a cocktail and read for a few minutes or read up on the Dallas Cowboys or browse Slowtwitch!

18 Weeks to go until Cozumel!!!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

My Ego: What got it all started...

So it goes without saying that men are superior to women when it comes to physical accomplishments.  Right?  I mean, just look at any professional sport that has both male and female leagues.  Look at the Olympic world record times.  This is as obvious as stating that women can't drive!!!

So maybe I'm a chauvinist pig, but it's hard to argue with the above statements.  But even if they're true, they can easily lead to a mindset that can get a guy like me in trouble.  Which, is exactly what happened back in 2002 when I first started dating Analise, my wife and best friend.  Here I was, this tough West Point cadet, and there was no way a female was going to put me to shame.

I entered West Point at my current height (5'11") but only 150lbs.  With the unlimited and high calorie food, I quickly gained weight and peaked at 185-190lbs for my last couple of years.  Almost all muscle and overall very fit.  I could run a 2 mile PT test run in under 12 minutes, do over 100 pushups in 2 minutes and over 110 situps in 2 minutes.  I was one finely tuned machine!

Or so I thought.  Early in my Cow Year (junior), I started dating this cute girl who ran on the cross country team.  She was a fellow physics major who didn't seem to mind my seemingly complete lack of personality.  We went to air assault school together, we studied together, we ate together, and unfortunately, we also ran together. 

At West Point, dating is a bit weird.  You can't go out on normal dates or hang out in dorm rooms.  So for time together, we'd go on runs; my badass self with the female XC runner.  A few weeks of this, and she was convinced that I was the best listener ever.  Apparently it didn't occur to her that I couldn't get a word in because I was doing everything I could just to breathe!  After a month or two, my friends had to go to her and ask her to take it easy on me.  It turns out I had developed a stress fracture from trying to keep up, but wouldn't admit it since there was no way a women could outrun me!

It took me years to catch up.  We married and trained together, but she continued to smoke me in race after race for years.  Running, triathlon, didn't matter.  In 2007 she finished fourth OA female at the Longhorn HIM (now Austin 70.3), while I limped to a 6+ hr finish.   She crushed her competition over and over, while I tried to keep up and just finish races.  My ego just couldn't handle it.

I trained.  I worked.  I hired a coach.  And eventually, I was faster.  We did Ironman Coeur d'Alene in 2009 and I beat her by over an hour.  But I wouldn't haven't done that training if I wasn't working to beat her example.  I owe a lot to her.  I wouldn't have run or even dreamed of triathlon without her.  (maybe I'll post the story about her buying her first bike later).  She introduced me to endurance training and this sport, and I definitely am indebted to her for it.  She's gone on to have a baby and put other priorities first, but she's still my inspiration.

I'm going to ask her to do some "guest" blog posts.  She's not only a much more entertaining writer than I am, but she'll provide some great perspective and contrast to my posts.  I'm a bit more focused and numbers oriented, while she's the "happy go lucky" side.  She might even make this blog enjoyable to read!

Deep down, I'm still that guy, struggling to keep up with the hot XC chic.  And as long as that's the case, I'll keep getting faster.  Take motivation wherever you can get it!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Shadow Creek Ranch Triathlon - Race Report

It’s nice to finally have a solid race under my belt.  I’ve been waiting since last August to walk away from a race feeling like it was a solid result!  It wasn’t a perfect race by any means, but overall this was a really strong race.  Here’s a breakdown of how it went:

I actually did a taper for this race, which is a rarity for a low priority sprint triathlon.  It was more due to the fact that I had 4-6 weeks for strong training and I was due for an “unload” week.  So the taper was more coincidence than anything else, but it worked out well. 

I got my gear ready on Friday evening, giving the bike a really good cleaning and taking time to pay attention to the details on setup.  I’ve been getting a bit too casual with prepping my gear, so it was time for that to change.  I got a short ride in on Saturday to test out wheels, brakes, gears and nutrition setup.  All was good to go, so I packed things up and set my alarm for 3:30 am. 

Race MorningSo yeah, I like to get to races early.  There’s nothing more stressful than feeling rushed or not having time to react of something goes wrong.  I rolled out of bed at 3:45, ate a bagel and banana and sipped on an espresso while I got ready.  Really, there wasn’t much to do but take bottles out of the fridge and kill time so that I can get in my requisite 2-3 trips to the bathroom.

I was on the road by 4:10 and reached transition right at 5.  They were still getting set up, but I was able to get my bike racked and transition setup by 5:15, with plenty of time to kill.  The nice thing about local races is that there are a ton of familiar faces, so I made my rounds and caught up with some folks I hadn’t seen in a while.

Warm up
My wave started at 7:08, so I went out for a 1 mile jog at about 6:20.  It was a bit early, but I wanted to allow time to get in a longer swim.  The run was really just to wake the legs up a bit, and I fit in 4-5 race pace strides.

At about 6:35, I got in the water and swam the entire swim course backwards; so 500m at a steady pace, with some practice on sighting.  After getting out of the water to watch the 4-5 waves in front  of me start, I fit in another hard 100m before my wave started to really get ready.  I was feeling pretty good at this point but it’s hard to tell how the body will respond when the gun goes off. 

Swim (500m)

8:44 (1:36/100yd)
6thAG/56th OA

This swim course is a straight shot down a narrow man made finger lake.  There’s a slight bend to the left, but this is pretty much just 500m of straight swimming. 

I’ve been working hard on my swimming so I was hoping to see the work pay off today.  I didn’t swim hard, but kept the pace steady and smooth.  I also focused on navigation and trying to find some feet to latch on to, which are two things I usually do horribly at. 

After some early zig sagging, I did finally find some feet to follow and settled into a good steady pace.  I really didn’t feel like I was working hard, but I wasn’t going to risk pushing too hard and ending up in no man’s land.  6th AG isn’t superb, but it left me with less time to make up than I normally have. 

36th AG/57th OA

Man, the M30-34 AG must have some fast transitioners!  I’ve never been super fast at T1 since I don’t clip my shoes into the bike and insist on putting them on and running in them. I still gained 5 places during the T1 moving from 56th OA to 51st OA!

Bike (16.1mi)
38:52 (25.9mph)
4th AG/20th OA  (8th amateur)

The bike course is a super flat, 2 loop course that’s surprisingly technical.  There are a total of 4 180 degree turns and quite a few other turns. 

I came into this race with the intent of nailing the bike, since I’ve been struggling with it so much recently.  I wanted to keep my cadence high and keep my power between 260-270W, which is around 90% CP.  I had my garmin set up to show power and cadence and focused on keeping those numbers in the target ranges.  It hurt....bad.  And that's probably how it's supposed to feel!

Average Power: 266W
Average Cadence: 95RPM

I really think the higher cadence helped.  I managed to pass 31 folks on the bike, moving from 51st OA to 20th OA. 

40th AG/57th OA

In and out.  Not super fast, but solid enough not to lose any places. 

Run (3.2mi)
3rd AG/19th OA

The run course is just over a 5k, but it's a slow course.  Very congested and hot and humid.  The fastest time was 19:XX something, so that tells you a lot about the course.  The first and last .5 miles are super congested, which made passing impossible.

This run hurt a lot.  I felt like I overcooked the bike a bit, because I ran the first mile in 6:31 and even that was painful.  Conditions were super hot and humid, and getting a breathing pattern down was impossible.  Still, I managed negative splits for each mile and ended up with an OK run.  

Ave Pace: 6:21/mile
Splits: 6:31/mi, 6:26/mi, 6:23/mi, 5:51/mi

I picked up another 7 places on the run, finishing 13th OA (3rd amateur).  

3rd AG/3rd Amateur/13th OA
This was a solid race.  I still feel like it's just scratching the surface, but I'm really pleased with the result.  I beat out a good number of the elites/pros and showed that I'm still on the upswing for this year's races.  With a full calendar remaining, I'm pretty stocked about the remaining races!

Race Review:
This was a really nice race; perfect for families and spectators.   The swim is fast, but the water is your standard hot, murkey muck that you find in TX.  The bike is incredibly flat, but that second lap gets incredibly congested and dangerous.  The run was flat, although not as fast as you'd expect.  Well run and convenient, I'll definitely be doing this race next year!

Congrats to Gael Souci, Jimmy Vaeth, Guillaume Penel, Sean Anger(it happens!), Meril Moen, Greg Colvin and others.  It's so much fun to race with friends!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pre-Race: Shadow Creek Sprint Triathlon

So this weekend is the Shadow Creek Sprint Tri here in Houston.  I haven't done it before, but I've heard pretty good things about it.  It's actually a decent sized race for a local sprint, with somewhere between 600-700 competitors. That usually means some strong competition!

Local races are the best.  There's not as much build up or stress, the travel is minimal, and you get to see a lot of the same faces that you see at other races.  Sometimes you develop rivalries with people who don't even realize it.  Other times you have a group of friends racing with you with friendly wagers on the line.  Either way, these events are really fun and are a huge reason why I love this sport.'s still a race.  That means it's going to be hard work and a ton of pain, even if I'm smiling the whole way!  Below is an update on how I feel going into the race.

Overall:  I'm feeling better than I have since before Timberman 70.3 last August.  My fitness isn't quite what it was then, but I'm feeling good and have found a groove again in my training.  It may be a bit early for some of the hard work I've done recently to really kick in for a race effort, but it bodes well for races in the coming months. If you look at the chart below, you can see that there's been some good work put in over the past couple of months.  My positive training effect is about where it was for Timberman, but the performance plot indicates that I'm probably still feeling some of the effects of the negative TE to fully benefit. 

Swim: I've been doing some pretty consistent and strong swim training, so this is the leg that I'm most excited to see how I do.  My pool times are as fast as I've ever seen, with sustained efforts of 1:20-1:25/100yds.  Of course, I usually struggle to keep a straight line and execute effectively during races, so we'll see.  For the 500m, I think an 8-9min swim is realistic. 

Bike:  Normally a strong suit, I've let off on the bike quite a bit since last year.  The results were evident at Tejas.  I should see a strong rebound but not quite to what I would consider my normal standard.  This is a flat and fast bike, so for the 16 miles, I'm expecting 38-40 min. 

Run:  I haven't been doing a lot of speedwork but I have been consistent.  I'd expect a solid but not spectacular run.  If my swim and bike improve as expected, I should be able to push the pace on the run a bit more too.  This is a 3.2 mile run, so depending on my pacing I'd expect 18-19 minutes. 

Prediction sure to go wrong: Based on last years results, I think I have reason to expect a solid placing.  Overall, with transitions, I'm looking at 67-70 minutes.  We'll see.  This week has been a light week so I should be fairly well rested. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ironman Training - What it's all about!

Before embarking on a journey to a new Ironman, Analise and I had some heart to heart discussions about how the training and preparation was going to impact our lives.  We promised that it wouldn't take over our lives and that we'd still prioritize TJ, each other and our jobs.  It's easy for training to become such a high priority and source of stress that other things get sacrificed. 

A common perception of Ironman training is that it has to be high volume and all consuming.  I have friends who start doing long runs and long rides 6-8 months out, thinking that distance and volume are the key to finishing the 140.6 miles.  To an extent, they're right.  You need to have the endurance to finish the distance and doing some longer workouts are key to building that endurance.  However, the high volume approach that seems to be so popular is very rarely the most efficient and effective approach.  Well, unless your focus is on just finishing and not your finish time...

At E3 Training solutions, our approach is to build a program built around the individual.  It's an evidence based approach that utilizes proved training methods.  In the early stages you focus on general fitness; building your critical swim speed, critical power and run speed.  As you approach your race, you transition into more race specific fitness, which for an Ironman is your moderate intensity, longer duration workouts. 

I'm 22 weeks out from IM Cozumel.  For the next 8-12 weeks, my focus will continue to be increasing my general fitness.  That means a combination of VO2 max sets (to raise the ceiling) and threshold sets to hit that sweet spot of maximum adaptation.  Until 3 months out from the Ironman, my volume will actually be pretty low; 10-12 hours per week for the most part.  There will not be any century rides or 2+ hour runs in the training plan.  With my limited available training time, I'll be focused on getting faster.

In September, 3 months out from the Ironman, the transition will begin.  The "superload" weeks will start being worked in and the volume will increase.  Still, it won't be insane volume. Long runs will be 90-120 min.  There might be a few 100+ mile rides mixed in, but very few.  The focus will be on pushing out that speed that has been developed to the longer durations.  All sessions will have an element of intensity, targeting race pace.  And since the goal is to go fast on race day, I won't be taking it easy on those rides.  Runs will be at steady pace, finishing with 30-40 minutes at tempo race.  The rides will be even more intense. 

Bottom line is that it's all about training load and targeting the adaptations that will be required for race day.  A high volume approach can work if it really is HIGH volume with plenty of intensity mixed in.  That means 20-30hr weeks with a lot of rest and recovery mixed in.  If you're a busy person like me who has a life to live on top of this hobby, that's just not possible. 

Instead, I focus on efficiency.  Maximizing training load through targeted workouts.  Knowing exactly where my fitness stands and basing the workouts on that information.  Generic workouts can't do that.  They focus on ensuring the athlete has the endurance to finish the Ironman.  I'm focused on racing the Ironman.  Yeah, that might only mean a 5-10 AG finish or something similar, but it also means maximizing my finish time based on the training time I have available. 

We'll see what my coach has in store for me and I'll post it here.  For now, I know the focus will be something like this:

Swim:  Continue to do Masters Swim.  This will address my biggest weakness and ensure consistency.

Bike:  The key session here will be 6x4 min @ 105%CP workouts during the week.  The weekend rides will be steady at 80-90% for 2-3 hours. 

Run:  We'll focus on increasing my Critical Velocity (CV).  Main sessions will be 12x2 min at T pace.  Long runs will be 60-90 min with an element of intensity at the end. 

Other:  Shoulder PT, core strength and stabilizing muscles will all be targeted throughout each week. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tejas Sprint Race Report

So below is my race report for the Tejas Sprint Triathlon that I did on June 2.  It's a bit short on detail, but I'll make sure the future reports are a bit more entertaining.  This one was just an info dump for my coach.  Overall it was a pretty average race at best, but it was a good wake up call.

Tejas Sprint Triathlon (600yds, 12mi, 3mi)
2 June, 2013
509 finishers
Preparation:  Training leading up to this race was sporadic, but starting to become more consistent.  I only had about 3 weeks of swim training under my belt, and very limited time on the bike.  Run training had been pretty solid.

Pre-RaceI woke up at 330 to finish the final packing and get some calories in.  I don't like to be rushed on race morning, so the early morning wakeup is critical.  Unfortunately our son is sick and hadn't slept much during the night, so I was pretty tired.  We got on the road by 4:15 and drove the 1hr to the race site.  It was a 1 mile walk from the parking to transition, but we found it and got everything set up.  All normal pre-race routines (gear and body) went well.  I did notice some lightning in the distance but didn't know if it were headed our way.

Pre-race with some cool characters

Warm Up:  40 minutes before race start I headed out for a 2 mile run.  In the middle I did some pickups to race pace and scouted out the course.  I put my shoes in transition and grabbed my swim gear.  I headed out for a swim warmup and did about 300 yards, getting a feel for the buoys and sight lines.  Overall I felt nice and loose. 

Swim (10:29; 5th AG, 76th OA):  Our wave was the largest, but fortunately we were the third wave, so the course wasn't too congested.  I started off fast with the lead group, but apparently I veered off course about 150 yards in, and then over corrected.  After this I found myself near the front/middle pack.  I started to fatigue about 400yds in and didn't have the strongest finish.  I still had to swim through a lot of people from the first two waves, and managed to finish with the 5th best swim time in my age group.

T1(1:19; 61st OA):  I slipped up here when my swim skin got caught on my timing chip.  Lost about 10 seconds getting it off, but still gained 8 places OA. 

Bike(32:29; 5th AG, 36th OA):  I started off feeling really strong on the bike and the first half was strong.  We had a slight tailwind and I was passing a lot of people from the first two waves. I averaged 25mph and 259W for the first 5 miles.  At the turnaround, the storm front hit and hit hard.  The rest of the bike was a ride for survival.  Visibility was limited to about 10yds and winds were up to about 40mph.  Riding aero was extremely difficult and a lot of people just pulled over to the side.  I kept going but at a much more conservative pace as water was 1-2" deep.  The storm let up a bit for the last couple of miles, but my overall pace was already slow.  Some waves got the storm as a tailwind, but ours took the worst of it.  At the end of the day, it was even playing field for my Age Group.  Normally my strongest event, my bike was really poor today.  I gained 36 spots during the bike, but it should have been more.  I was several minutes faster on this same course 2 years ago.

It started off nice...

...but the storm hit right before the turn around.
This picture does not do the rain & wind justice.

T2 (0:53; 93rd OA):  Okay transition.  Could work on this more.

Run (18:49; 4th AG, 15th OA):  Not a fast run by any stretch, but it was a decent finish to an otherwise mediocre day.  I kept the pace consistent and averaged 6:22.  I didn't have a single person pass me, but I didn't pass anyone in my AG either.  I knew my day hadn't been great, but I was happy to finish with a good effort on the run.  Most importantly, I felt like this was a pace I could have held for double the distance, even if I didn't have much extra speed.  I gained 11 spots during the run.

At least I had a decent run!

Overall (1:04:10, 4th AG, 22nd OA):  This was a good benchmark and wakeup call.  I finished 23rd overall out of 396.  That's not good enough, but it fits the level of commitment I've shown to my training recently.  I have a few opportunities to redeem myself over the next couple of months and I plan on making good.  I'm disappointed by the 4th place AG finish, and should have been faster than 22nd out of over 500 people.

Smiles all the way around!

And thanks for my race crew for the support!!!

Getting Back in the Groove

It turns out that when you're already busy, finding time to keep up a blog is difficult.  Oh well, as with everything else, I'll do what I can!  It's 4th of July week and I'm taking tomorrow off.  It's otherwise been incredibly busy at work and at home.  My home projects are getting a bit overwhelming, but training continues!

So I'm getting back in the training groove.  That means finding a good rhythm and routine for workouts, but it also means constant fatigue and soreness.  Those last two are welcome friends that are harbingers of long term success of handled well.  They can also cause you to crash and burn if not handled well.  By this point I know my body well enough to listen to it when necessary, but this is also an area where I trust my coach, Jorge, to keep me just under that threshold of overdoing it. 

Early on with Jorge, he gave me some great advice.  He said that even when you're not feeling up for a workout, at least try to get out and do the warm up and that if you're still not feeling great by the end of the warm up then pack it in and call it a day.  As he said would be the case, some of my best workouts have come on those days when I thought I was too tired to work out.  Unfortunately, there have been plenty of days that I've not been mentally able to get geared up for a workout and have packed it in.  A lot of the times it's the mental fatigue, not the physical, that gets in the way. 

With that in mind, yesterday was probably close to my worst day of the year both mentally and physically.  I was tired and struggled through work.  I cut my swim short and ended up losing discipline and 'oversnacking' a little bit.  I knew I was finally feeling the effects of several weeks of steady training, which hasn't happened much this year. 

Then, today, I felt better on my workouts than I have any other day of the year.  Oh, my legs still felt a tad sluggish and I would have loved to just relax a bit.  This morning was an easy 40 minute run, which felt easier than any run I've done all year.  I had to hold back from pushing the pace.  My 6x4min @105% CP workout this evening was a slow warmup, but I absolutely nailed the main set.  I closed it out with a shoulder rehab session.  Days like these are real confidence builders, and it was preceded by one of my worst days of the year. 

6x4 Workout (292W, 297W, 297W, 300W, 303W, 306W)

So I'm feeling good.  I did my power tests over the past two weeks and set a PR of 354W for my 5MP and stayed the same for my 20MP with a 295W.  It's not great, but I haven't done the training to expect differently.  I've got my run CV testing coming in the next two weeks, which is terrifying.  I'm not sure which is worse, the 20MP test or the 2 mile run test.  Either way, no fun!