Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Taper and (hopefully not) Last Thoughts

Hi Guys,

I know, I know, it's been forever since I last posted.  I have a new-found appreciation for the folks that  continue to provide good content for their blogs on a regular basis.  That is a task for which I was found sorely lacking - turns out I barely like reading other peoples' training blogs (much less like writing one).  Anywhooo...


I put together a pretty strong 12 week training block where I tried to focus more on maintaining top end output. I spent a lot more time doing powerlifting and compound movements in the weight room and then piggy backing a swim, bike, or run.  I also spent a lot more time doing squats and deadlifts this time through  (the yoke bar was a godsend for my shoulder - see below), and when my joints complained, I kept the reps in the 8-12 range.  While I think it will be good for the Swissman (of course, time will tell), my left knee and calf gave me problems on and off the throughout the bloc so I think I need to work in more rest days.

Early Spring Track Work

Trainer work in Pensacola

I got in a few productive days of training in Key West and Pensacola, Florida in the middle of the winter so that was nice.  I also got to do some work in Flagstaff, AZ and in Boulder, CO, so I am not as worried about the altitude (in any event, I basically live at sea level, what the hell am I gonna do now?).  Additionally, I spent a lot more time on the bike doing hills, and I spent a lot more time on the trails running with dead legs.   I did my swimming blocks, but not near as much as I have done in the past.  Kind of a weird thing - I ruptured something in my elbow after a trail running mishap; otherwise, I emerged pretty much unscathed. OK, enough of that, reading training recaps is as much fun as watching paint dry.

Here are two of the funnier highlights.

"Old School"

Getting back into the dirty part of the gym was an adjustment.  You would think that having spent my teenage and the better part of my adult years there, I would recall how, uhm... testosterone laden it could be, but I was pleased to realize that it hasn't changed all that much since I started (which incidentally, was in the mid-70's).  This sounds like me 35 years ago and makes me smile...

I had a spill on my bike a few years ago, and it beat me up enough that basically my right shoulder is now held together with chicken wire and duck tape. I had to make peace with the fact that there would be some strength movements that I could no longer do (though I could swim well enough - weird).  One of the things I could not do was squats with the Olympic bar - it took some convincing, but at my request, the work gym purchased a "yoke" or safety bar.

So, I get a call at my desk when it comes in and I am like a kid at Christmas.  I run downstairs to take a look and a lot of the young men are working out (it's around lunchtime), and more than one looks at the bar with a mixture of suspicion and curiosity.  I see one of them who seems curious and provide a little background of what it's good for.   Of course, it would be wrong not to demonstrate, so I did my best Vanna White and demonstrated how to use it, too.

 Me - "the resistance profile is a bit different since the weight sits differently, but you can still load up - what do you think?

One of the 20-somethings harrumphed - "not for me, I am Old School."

Me - "'Old School' - I see."

It still makes me smile.

"You're probably gonna die."

Swissman is nothing if not a test of the ability to ride a bike well.  I have a buddy at work who is an avid cyclist and thinks like someone that does.  When he learned about my trip, he barely made mention about the ascension part of the climbs.  He immediately focused on the downhills.

Me - "I'll do alright."

Him - "But the hairpin turns and all that... "

Me - "Yeah, I know, but I'll ride the brakes if I have to."

Him - "they better be new brakes - I still think you're probably gonna die."

I sure hope he's wrong about that.

Tapering and Swissman

My best races have been the ones where by the end of the training block I am just happy as shit to go into taper.  Kinda like now.  I started this last training block at 173 lbs. I tried to stay above 165 lbs. to maintain strength, and only dropped to 163 lbs. this morning.  My bodyfat has stayed in about the 9-10% range, and I definitely gained functional strength, so no complaints.  As I am sure many triathletes experience, toward the end, I felt like I couldn't eat enough to maintain weight.  Additionally, I have woken up dehydrated for two or three weeks, so I know that I have gotten about as much out of the training block as I can expect.

The next time I hit a taper just right will be the first time, but I am excited about and feel fairly prepared heading to Switzerland and doing this event.  As most of you know, the Swissman Extreme Triathlon isn't like what you might think of as a "traditional" triathlon, it seems to be more of an adventure race.  It is almost certainly the only race I will do where I plan to stop and take pictures.  We are heading out to Switzerland on the red-eye this afternoon and should be wheels up by 1800 local. I will post if I can, but will, for sure post a race report after (assuming, of course, that my buddy is wrong).  Seeya.
This Always Makes Me Smile.

Sunday, March 27, 2016


Captain Obvious - "when your racing across the ceiling of Switzerland, your going to have some changes in elevation.  That means hills, son."  Thanks Captain.

I like hill training quite a lot.  Seriously.  There is something to me about powering up a hill on a bike that is challenging and satisfying and, I think, imparts a a sense of accomplishment within a ride or a run. In the mid-Atlantic, we have some rolling hills, but nothing like out in Colorado, Utah, or northern Arizona. 

Right now, my hills of choice are in Fairfax.  The bike track is on Hunter Station Road.  With a few particularly steep stretches, its good little strip to take the sting out of my legs.  I have a 3-4 mile loop that is fairly safe (wide roads and mostly residential area) so I do repeats.  My "go-to" ride right now is to head to Vienna and back to warm up (about 15 miles), do hills until I get bored (I am up to eight), and then head back home for my run.  

Seneca in the Fall
Seneca Tract is where I like to do most of my runs.  The terrain is uneven and the changes in elevation make for a good workout.  Add in the weight vest and it makes for a good workout. 

Seneca in the Winter
Seneca last Sunday

That, and I think it's pretty.   I do have to be careful to stretch my hip flexors when I am done.  Spending so much time on a bike and running and climbing hills (and then sitting at a desk all day) can definitely make one less flexible. I keep at it, but the struggle is real.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Track Work

In preparation for Swissman, I decided that I need to blow up the old way I have done things in the past and look at all the facets of my race preparation.  I had been a big fan of heart rate training and a lot of long slow distance work in the lower heart ranges, but found that after a while  I didn't really get that much bang for my buck. Yes, there is something to low intensity training, but after a while I felt like my output was actually declining. Not what I was hoping for.

I decided to change my approach to focus on strength and power (which I think will probably be important climbing and running through the Swiss Alps).  I haven't forsaken endurance training, of course, but I will be spending a lot more time this training cycle getting faster and stronger.  Hence, I return to the track. 

Not too often, mind you (maybe once a week), but enough to stride out a little more in a structured (and measured) environment.  So, my first track workout was Sunday - ok.  Over the next few days, I experienced a little more hamstring soreness than I expected, but nothing too bad.  Lots of stretching and recovery work (I am trying out a Compex machine), and feel like it might be a good approach.  More on the Compex in another post.

With the spring (and the very flat Cherry Blossom 10-miler) coming,  Sunday morning track work seems just the ticket.  That and it might actually fun to run around a football field without some coach yelling at me.  And to think that only took 35 years.   

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Biking Outside!

Hiked with the weight vest this at Seneca this morning and then I took the bike out of the basement and rode up to Arlington.  Only about 30 miles, but it was good to actually ride a bike.  I don't actually mind the trainer as much as some, but I do prefer to ride outside.  The Washington Old Dominion trail was showing signs of life, too.  Lots of runners (some, no doubt preparing for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler) were out, as were more than a few cyclists.  With the air temps in the high thirties when I started, it wasn't so bad.
My Steed
Made a few upgrades to the commuter bike this year.  Re-taped the handlebars to something more visible (important because I ride in low-light conditions) and changed from the stock Raleigh saddle to a Fizik Aliante gamma.  I also put on fenders (front and back), but the jury is out on whether I will keep them or not.  I feel like it interferes with the handling a little, so I may take them back off.  More to come on that.  Anyway, it felt good to ride and it looks like it's time to start commuting to work by bike again...

Beach muscles workout and swim later today,

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Key West

Hi guys - sorry, it has been a couple weeks since I last posted.  Last week, the boss and I went to Key West to get some sun, train a little, and relax for a few days.  The week running up to Key West was a deload week anyway, so there wasn't a whole lot for me to share. It has become kind of a thing for us to head to Key West in the middle of the winter to break it in half.  We usually stay at the same bed and breakfast, the La-Te-Da, and we've been to most of the restaurants there at least once, so it is a just a comfortable place to hang out for a few days.

When I can't decide whether to run or swim
For a couple years, they held a triathlon there called the Bone Island Half and Full Triathlon.  I did the half in January of 2014, which was a good way to start the year, but I guess it became too difficult to get the necessary permits to run it again.  I followed it for a while on the message boards and the general consensus seems to be that it was poorly run.  I didn't expect much, but it gave me a reason to train through the winter (and I even won a bottle of champagne!).

Bone Island Triathlon
This time around,  we got a couple decent runs in, used beach cruiser bikes to tool around to a couple other keys and I got in an open water swim (the water was pretty choppy, but not bad).  Though it was an OK block from a volume standpoint, it was mostly about getting some sun and relaxing...

Cruisin' for chicks

Monday, February 15, 2016

Snowrunning and the Training Mask Update

For those of you in the mid-Atlantic, you know that today is a(nother) snow day.  I don't really mind being inside, but I hate being STUCK inside.  So in our neighborhood, that means lots of shoveling, a run if I can fit it in, and hikes all over here and there.  Folks in the Washington metro area are notoriously poor at reacting to snow - you'd think that we'd get the hang of it, but it really is quite pathetic.  Anyway, I have found that there is a little bit of a trick to running in the snow.  There is some good and bad with it - it is easier on the knees because you are landing on a softer surface, but you have to shorten your stride a bit so the number of foot contacts is greater.

More Snow Running. Sigh.
When the Car is Cleaned Off

On the bright side, I have been using my Elevation Training mask for a few weeks and I think that there may actually be a training effect there.  I had really only purchased one because one of the trainers at the Y was convinced it might work. I figured that it was worth a try, so I have been using it during my trainer work.  I think the next step night be to wear it during my hikes to see how challenging that might be. I'll keep everyone posted.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Bike Commuting

Summer Commute
Not Summer Commute
The slight improvement in the weather and it being lighter when I leave for work gets me to thinking about bike commuting.  If I am not on travel and if the weather is reasonably cooperative, I like to commute to work a few days a week by bike. I have ridden to work at 15 degrees fahrenheit, but that’s not much fun if you have any skin that is exposed.  My rule of thumb has kind of evolved that 30 degrees is cold enough.  I am very fortunate that I live not too far from the Washington & Old Dominion trail, which heads out about 50 miles west out of Washington DC.  The commute to my office is only about 12 miles each way, and my Raleigh 2.0 cyclocross bike has almost 1900 mostly commuter miles.  

My Steed (note the espresso thermos)
In the mornings, I generally like to listen to the Economist or the Wall Street Journal on audio.   I have actually listened to some of my economics lectures on audio on the way to work.  Don't usually want to think too much on the way home; one of my favorite things is to ride home on Fridays in the early Spring and late Fall listening to Sinatra or Nat King Cole or a book on tape - basically you’re riding into the sunset for most of the ride.  If I’m feeling particularly energetic, I will follow it with a short run to get my brick in for the week.

Feeling like WALL-E
A couple final thoughts about commuting - I am not exactly a fashion plate when riding,  Especially in the winter, I don't mind looking like the Michelin tire man (with all the layers).  Also, if you can, PUH-LEEEASE take a shower when you get to work.  I sometimes pull up and one of my fellow commuters parks next to me in the garage - the brother smells like he hasn't bathed in a month - take a shower son.  Finally, lights and reflectors are a must. Cars need to see you, and you only need to get hit once to ruin your day.