Sunday, July 26, 2009

Week 31: Review

Just finished up a wet 38K ride on the bike a few hours ago, which was pretty much par for the course this week. The last few days have seen tonnes of rain around these parts, and it's done a good deal to mess up my schedule ;) I elected to skip Friday's ride as the weather was unpredictable, and swapped around my long ride with my long run as things were supposed to be better today than yesterday. Unfortunately, that didn't end up being the case and today was pretty much wet the entire day (in retrospect, doing things as planned likely would have worked out perfectly).

As I'd only logged about 66K on the bike so far this week, however, I decided that I had to get out there anyway and at least make it to 100K. I watched the weather radar carefully, and tried to pick a gap in the storm system that would allow me to get in as much time as possible. It worked out well for the first 21K or so of the ride, however after that point the rain started coming down hard. I pulled into a gas station to get cover from the rain, and contemplated whether to continue on or call for someone to pick me up. The rain slowed down a bit after a few minutes, however, so I set back out.

Naturally, at this point the roads were wet again so I had to play it safe and keep the speeds down to avoid any problems (bicycle brakes don't work so well when the rims get wet). It didn't take long before it started pouring again, however, but there wasn't really anywhere to take cover so I kept going. I elected to take a slightly longer route home that ran through more urban areas (so there was somewhere to stop if necessary), which ended up being a good call as the electrical activity started picking up a bit. I popped into the plaza where the local Running Room shop was and took cover until things calmed down, and then set off to do the last 8K of the route back home. By the time I did get back to my place, I was thoroughly soaked and my lower back was coated quite well in road grease ;)

The one thing that was good, however, was that the sunglasses I picked up a few weeks ago did a lot to make it easier to deal with this weather. When traveling at 30-40km/h down the road in rain, the water can be a serious problem to maintaining visibility in conditions where you need as much situational awareness as possible. This was the first time I've used them in the rain, and my prior experiences with other sunglasses in this scenario have been that the lenses just get saturated with water and do more harm than good. Fortunately, Oakley's hydrophobic coating appeared to do wonders and the water just rolled right off of the glass which made things a lot less difficult than it would have otherwise been. I just wish there was a way to get this stuff on my car's windscreen ;)

I was supposed to do a 4 mile recovery run today as well, but after that session I didn't really feel like getting soaked all over again so I elected to skip it. This week was a recovery week anyway, and as recovery runs aren't really intended to apply training pressure the cycling and swiming I've been doing should achieve the desired ends. Other than that, however, I managed to get all of my running mileage in this week, including the 12 miler I did yesterday. While the stifling humidity made it a bit difficult, the relatively short distance meant that it wasn't much of an issue.

As for swimming, I covered most of the details in my previous post. Managing to squeeze in two sessions this week did a lot of good, and I'm going to try and do the same thing this week. Further, I managed to improve my technique and push myself a little harder this time around so I've made some significant progress. I've got the overall endurance aspect at this point, so it's just a matter of nailing down the pacing and breathing aspects so that I can do it continuously. I'm covering a lot more distance than I will have to in the race itself, but doing it in a pool and in a lake are two very different things.

Weekly Totals:
Running: 53.1km (33.0mi)
Walking: 1.3km (0.8mi)
Cycling: 104.3km (64.8mi)
Swimming: 4.6km (2.9mi)
Total: 163.3km (101.5mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 1,650.6km (1,025.6mi)
Walking: 188.0km (116.8mi)
Cycling: 2,669.6km (1,658.8mi)
Swimming: 14.6km (9.1mi)
Total: 4,522.8km (2,810.3mi)

The upcomming week is looking like it's going to be pretty unsettled as well. They are pretty much calling for rain every day, but the weather reports have been hideously unreliable lately so it's hard to tell whether that will actually pan out. If it does end up being as bad as predicted, however, I might take the opportunity to bring the bike down to the shop to get the drivetrain cleaned off. It's getting a bit messy at this point, and the water that got run over it today likely washed away some of the lubricant so getting all of the grease off and a fresh coat of clean oil on would likely be a good idea.

I'm hoping to squeeze in two 90 minute swimming sessions (vs. one 60min and one 90min I did this week), and will be focusing on trying to keep going for longer between breaks. Ideally, I'd like to try a few 200m intervals this time mixed in with a good number of 100m segments. Naturally, my ability to do this will be dependant on the traffic level in the pools and I might have to make the jump to a faster lane to pull that off.

Upcoming Week:
Mon 50K Ride
Tue 10mi (16.1K) GA w/5mi (8K) @ LT, 2.7K Swim
Wed 30K Ride, 4mi (6.4K) Recovery
Thurs 11mi (17.7K) GA, 2.7km Swim
Fri 50K Ride
Sat 100K Group Ride, 7mi (11.3K) GA w/8x100m
Sun 18mi (29.0K) LSD

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Swimming Progress...

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've been able to swim significant distances in the pool but have had some trouble doing so without taking breaks. As the triathlon's swim stage is done in a lake, there are no walls to grab onto so that is something that I have to work on. As such, this week I've been doing what I can to force myself to take shorter and fewer breaks wherever possible to get myself out of the habit. Further, in an effort to accelerate my progress I also elected to try and get two swimming sessions in this week as there is precious little time left ;)

I headed out for my first session on Tuesday at a smaller pool in the area. It only has 12m lengths which is a little annoying, however it's not as busy as the other pools so it gives me a little more freedom to do my thing. After the first 10 lengths, I only allowed myself to take a break after a minimum of four lengths (48m) and resolved to keep any breaks as short as possible. That worked out surprisingly well, and I was feeling strong throughout. As the session progressed, I started mixing in a few sets of six and eventually eight uninterrupted lengths which helped a lot to boost my confidence. As the end of the session approached, I did five sets of eight lengths to help work on keeping my stamina up.

In the end, I managed to squeeze in 154 lengths of the pool (1,848m) during the one hour that we were allowed in the pool. I was still feeling strong by the end and would have liked to keep going for a little longer, however they have swimming lessons after the length swim so they kick us all out of the pool at that point ;) Either way, that brought my overall average pace up to 3:15/100m, which is significantly faster than the 4:12/100m pace I've been doing until now.

I headed out for my second session today in the larger 25m pool, however thanks to the crappy weather there were a lot of people out so the traffic made things a bit difficult. As they were doing lifeguard training in half of the lanes, only three were open to the public. While we started out with only two people in our lane, we got up to five within ten minutes or so which got a bit more crowded than I'd like. Adding to the complexity, two of those people were going pretty slowly and one was all over the map with his pacing so I pretty much had no choice but to stop after each length to open up a big enough gap not to run into them. On the upside, however, it sometimes forced me to push a little harder than I would have otherwise in order to pass the slower guys and avoid the traffic.

Fortunately, after about an hour the others tired out and left so I had the lane to myself for the last half hour or so. That was tempered a bit as the lifeguards started pulling the lane markers out with about 10 minutes to go, so I only got about 20 minutes of good swimming in. Either way, despite the issues I still managed to nail down a faster pace than Tuesday, covering 106 lengths (2650m) in 1h20m for an average pace of 3:01/100m. I took breaks a lot more often than I did on Tuesday, however those breaks were a good deal shorter so it added up to a better total. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get in any full 100m sets during the session, but it was a good workout either way.

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm pretty sure that the breaks are more of a psychological limitation than a physiological one at this point. When running or biking, you want to avoid taking breaks, however you know that you pretty much can do so whenever you'd like. In the pool, however, the only real opportunity is when you hit those walls, so when you start to feel a bit tired you begin to question whether or not you'll be able to make the next length. Mix in the fact that the more fatigued you get, the more difficult it becomes to maintain your breathing rhythm and it can be hard to push yourself to the next level. These two sessions appear to re-enforce that, and I'm hoping to be able to continue working on it until I can push through 400m without interuption.

As I wasn't able to do everything that I wanted today, however, I did take the opportunity to focus a bit more on my technique which should help a bit as well. Primarily, I focused on the position of my hands during the entirety of the stroke - making sure they entered the water perpendicular to it's surface, and moving my wrist so that they were pushing more towards my back than down. It was surprising just how much more power I was able to produce with such a small adjustment. Additionally, I also tried to exhale more air during each stroke so that I could focus more time on inhaling during the breathing stroke (versus wasting time exhaling what was left). That appeared to help as well, however it's difficult to quantify how effective it is without the longer sets.

Either way, swimming is certainly a much more complicated sport than running or cycling. Technique forms a critical component of how well you can do, and in many cases can easily be more significant than physical capability. While I'm relatively confident that I'll be able to get myself to the point where I can swim the race in August, I'm pretty sure that I'm going to need quite a bit longer before I'll be as comfortable with it as I am with the other two sports ;)

With that said, I only started back to swimming six weeks ago and I've definitely come a long way during that time. If I can keep up with two sessions per week for the remaining four weeks, hopefully I'll be able to maintain my current rate of progress and I might be able to surprise myself ;) Mix in a little race-day adrenaline and one can often pull off things that would otherwise seem impossible!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Week 30: Review

A bit late on this update as I've been pretty busy over the last little while. Either way, last week went pretty much as expected. I did end up being busy on Tuesday with some family stuff, so I ended up pushing that run back to Wednesday morning, which meant that I missed the bike ride scheduled on that day. Weather wise, we were pretty lucky (there were a few days that threatened rain, but little came of it) so there wasn't too much in the way of unexpected problems along the way.

On Thursday I elected to try out a different pool to get a feel for the different options in the area. In addition to being a newer building, it's 25m pool was better optimized for lap swimming and they offered a 90m length session rather than the 60 and 75 minute sessions that other pools around here offer. Either way, I hopped in as soon as the session started and it was just me and a couple of others so we all had our own lanes to start. After about 15 minutes a few more people came out, so we had to shuffle around a bit but there was still plenty of room for everyone.

As before, I forced myself to take shorter breaks and take them less often which helped a lot in getting me comfortable with the sustained swimming I'm going to need for the tri. I did force myself to do a few 100m sets uninterrupted, and they went a lot better than expected (although I still did need a good break after them). For the second half of the session, I tried to make sure that I did at least two lengths (50m) before taking any breaks.

Unfortunately, for the last 30 minutes of the session the pool started to get a bit more crowded which slowed me down a bit - skewing the average pace a bit on the low side (averaged about 4:12/100m). As I don't really have any way to time myself outside of total time taken vs. total distance covered, it's difficult to get an idea of how fast I was going. Either way, I felt a good deal stronger and it's nice to have a little more time to get the exercise in (although I'd ideally like to find a pool with 2hr+ sessions).

Both Friday and Saturday's bike rides ended up going really well, maintaining average speeds of 31.4km/h and 30.6km/h paces for the duration of the rides (35K and 80K respectively). Thanks to the cooler weather and overcast skies, I felt strong for the duration and was able to successfully attack some of the more difficult hills without switching down to the small chainring. Unfortunately the threat of rain on Saturday meant that the group didn't get together again, so I was solo for both of those rides.

Sunday's run was scheduled to be a 16 miler with 10 miles at marathon pace, but as I accidentally did the MP bit during last week's run I elected to just do a normal LSD. While the temperature was reasonable (23C), the humidity was extremely high when I headed out (~68%) which made it pretty difficult. I think I didn't hydrate sufficiently after Saturday's sessions, as I was quite thursty for the duration of this run, which added to the difficulty. I drank all four 8oz bottles of Gatorade that I brought with me, and ended up taking in another four bottles of water (refilled them along the way), so it wasn't due to a lack of fluids during the session itself. Oddly it didn't seem to be correlated to speed, and slowing down seemed to actually make it worse - as such, I elected to cut off the run at 15mi and simply did the last mile or so at an elevated pace.

Either way, I felt fine as soon as I stopped so it didn't really end up being a problem. The sessions that I've done since have been fine, so it was likely just a bad day more than anything else. The one catch with doing all of this suplimentary training is that I have to keep a closer eye on hydration and fueling than I would if just running. The differing muscle groups mean overtraining isn't a huge concern, however with a 2.5hr/1600kcal ride on Saturday my water and glycogen stores have to be carefully managed.

Weekly Totals:
Running: 71.2km (44.2mi)
Walking: 3.4km (2.1mi)
Cycling: 158.8km (98.7mi)
Swimming: 1.9km (1.2mi)
Total: 235.3km (146.2mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 1,597.5km (992.6mi)
Walking: 186.7km (116.0mi)
Cycling: 2,565.3km (1,594.0mi)
Swimming: 10.0km (6.3mi)
Total: 4,359.5km (2,708.9mi)

Starting this week, I'm going to try and get two pool sessions in to start stepping up the intensity and better preparing myself for the race. I'm seeing significant improvements now that I'm forcing myself to keep going for longer, but to keep the training pressure on I think that I need more than one session per week. I think a lot of my trouble keeping going is more psychological than physiological (ie as you get more and more tired, that wall is more and more tempting), so it's just a matter of forcing myself to keep going. Ideally I'd love to give a 50m pool a shot at some point, unfortunately there don't appear to be any of them in this area. There are three of them in Toronto proper, however two of them are closed because of the strike and the third (at UofT) is going to be going down for maintenance early next month so it won't help a lot either (and it's a pain to park around there).

Some open water practice would be ideal, but it's difficult to find a lake where you can swim for a decent duration without having to worry about getting mowed down by boats ;) I did run into a fellow swimming across Wilcox lake (it's too small for proper powerboats) during my ride on Saturday, however he didn't appear to be particularly happy with the water quality so I'm not sure if I want to try that one out ;)

Upcoming Week:
Mon 35K Ride
Tue 8mi (12.9K) GA w/10x100m, 1.9K Swim
Wed 30K Ride, 5mi (8K) Recovery
Thurs 8mi (12.9K) GA, 1.9km Swim
Fri 50K Ride
Sat 100K Group Ride, 4mi (6.4K) Recovery
Sun 12mi (19.3K) LSD

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Week 29: Review

Aside from Monday and Saturday, the weather was excellent this week. There wasn't too much rain, and the temperatures were generally pretty comfortable (vs the brutal heat we've had in the last few weeks). I did miss my Monday ride as it was threatening to rain for most of the day, however it didn't actually add up to much so I likely could have gone out without any issues. Either way, the legs were a bit tired at the end of last week so the rest day probably helped more than it hurt.

On Wednesday the weather was near perfect and while I set out to do a 30K ride I ended up doing a little over 40K. In the afternoon the group again wanted to do 13K, so I also ended up getting in some extra mileage. We did it a bit faster than I had planned (5:10/km vs. 5:30/km), but it was still relatively comfortable so it didn't pose a huge problem. The extra mileage turned out well, as I ended up having to cut my 10 miler on Thursday short due to time constraints (had to get to the pool).

Due to time constraints I also missed the bike ride on Friday, as the grass was in need of a cut and I had to go downtown in the afternoon. While down there, I also took the opportunity to pick up a pair of Oakley Jawbones as I've needed something to protect my eyes when out on the bike (both from debris and UV), and they appeared to be the best match for my requirements. I took them out for my ride on the weekend and am certainly happy with the investment (will post more on this topic later).

On the weekend, the weather report was calling for rain on Saturday so I elected to switch my long ride to Sunday, and do my long run instead. There were some pretty severe thunderstorms in the morning, however it cleared up in the afternoon so it worked out quite well. In retrospect, I would have easily been able to do my ride in the later part of the day, but the weather reports were calling for a second band to come through around 2pm so I didn't want to take a chance of getting stuck out there.

Either way, I headed out around 3pm for my 15 mile run, and while it was hot I managed to fight through it. The only caveat was that since I was doing this run out of sequence I hadn't explicitly checked the training schedule and shortly after the 5 mile mark was unsure of whether this week was supposed to be my marathon pace run or not (checking afterwards, it wasn't). As I still had about 10 miles to go, I figured that I'd play it safe and do the rest at MP (ie 4:45/km). Up until this point the heat wasn't much of an issue, but naturally once I accelerated it began to catch up to me. I'm not sure if it was the heat itself, or simply the fact that I didn't have a chance to mentally prepare for the extra effort ahead of time, but the remainder of the run was quite difficult.

Shortly before the 15K mark I stopped quickly at a convenience store to refill my Gatorade bottle to ensure that I didn't run out. That worked out quite well, as it avoided the scenario I've run into in the last couple of weeks and took away the stress of having to run the last bit of the run without hydration. While the marathon pace segment was demanding, I was able to fight through and maintain a slightly higher than planned 4:41/km pace for the duration. I did allow myself to slow down a bit through the hilly segment, however I made up for that near the end of the run when I didn't have to budget my energy anymore. Naturally, that average shows that my pacing is still a little uneven, however it was a significant improvement from last week and there was a lot less yoyoing.

On Sunday, I headed out for my 50 mile ride at about 2pm. The temperatures were much better than the previous day, although there was a strong wind coming out of the west that would make the return trip quite demanding. I was a little worried about the legs being tired after yesterday, but with the tailwind in the first segment of the ride they had no problem keeping up with the targeted pace despite the net positive grade. I took a slightly different route than last week which depressed my speeds a bit (it took me through a residential area, so I had more stop signs to deal with), but despite that it was quite a pleasant ride and I managed to pull off an average of 29.0km/h so it was quite productive as well.

When I returned home, I still had a 4 mile recovery run planned but with a couple of miles still in the bank from Wednesday, I figured I'd do a 2 mile brick run instead. As such, I quickly changed out of my cycling clothes and into my running stuff, and headed out for a lap of the subdivision. I was expecting it to be pretty difficult after the ride, but it was actually suprisingly comfortable. The ride meant that the legs were well warmed up before I started, and the muscles were still in pretty good condition so it was more of a fight to keep my pace down than it was to keep going. Overall, I managed to maintain a 4:45/km pace over the route before heading inside.

On the swimming front, I forced myself to take shorter breaks this week and it helped immensely. Previously, whenever I lost my breath I'd stop long enough to fully recover, whereas this week I only gave myself a short break and forced myself to deal with laboured breathing. Breathing in the water requires a lot more control than it does when running and cycling, so learning how to keep it under control when under heavy loads is an important aspect that I need to work on. Either way, I managed to average a 4:06/100m pace versus the 4:30/100m pace that I've been doing in previous weeks - still quite slow, but a significant improvement nonetheless. I also managed to work myself up to doing six lengths uninterupted, which is a lot better than the two or three that I was able to do in previous weeks. That's still a long ways off from being able to pull of 375m continuously, but that's what training is for ;)

Weekly Totals:
Running: 67.8km (42.1mi)
Walking: 2.1km (1.3mi)
Cycling: 134.5km (83.6mi)
Swimming: 1.7km (1.1mi)
Total: 206.1km (128.1mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 1,526.3km (948.4mi)
Walking: 183.3km (113.9mi)
Cycling: 2,406.5km (1,495.2mi)
Swimming: 8.1km (5.0mi)
Total: 4,124.2km (2,562.7mi)

This week is looking pretty good weather-wise as well, so hopefully I'll be able to get in all of my sessions for a change. As I did the 10 mi marathon pace segment yesterday, I'll likely count it as done and simply do the 16 miler scheduled for this Sunday at the normal long-run pace. I probably won't be able to fit two pool sessions in this week, but I'm hoping to switch over next week to help improve my progress on that front.

As for cycling, I'm again hoping to get back together with the group on Saturday morning. We were actually going to do it this week, but the weather through a wrench in those plans. The thunderstorms made it impossible to go out when we would have liked, and scheduling complexities didn't allow us to work out an alternate time. Keeping my fingers crossed that next Saturday's weather will be a little more stable ;)

Upcoming Week:
Mon 30K Ride
Tue 9mi (14.5K) GA w/5mi (8K) @ LT
Wed 30K Ride, 5mi (8K) Recovery
Thurs 10mi (16.1K) GA, 1.6km swim
Fri 50K Ride
Sat 100K Group Ride, 4mi (6.4K) Recovery
Sun 16mi (25.7K) LSD

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Week 28: Review

Came up a little short this week as I ended up missing both of my recovery runs due to scheduling issues. Wednesday was Canada day, and I was out with the family for the entire day so there wasn't an opportunity to get out. On Saturday, I was busy in the morning and had to do my long ride in the early afternoon. As such, I planned to do the 4 mile recovery run right after to make for a brick session and get a feel for the combination of the two sports. Unfortunately, I ended up heading out a little later than I would have liked and was concerned that running that close to the long run on the next day.

On the cycling front, I missed the Wednesday session for the same reason as Running, and the weather limited what I could do on other days. Swimming was a little short as well, as I got to the pool a little later than expected and only had 45 minutes before they kicked us out. Either way, the sessions that did get fit in were harder than usual (thanks to headwinds on the bike and time limits in the pool), so regardless of the reduced mileage I got in some good training.

This morning's run started off pretty well, with decent temperatures (~23C/30% humidity) but that quickly changed. The humidity stayed within reason, however the temperatures rose to a much warmer 28.8C by the end of the run. While not as bad as it's been in the last few weeks, I'm still not completely used to it so it took it's toll. After the first hill, my heart rate wasn't recovering as quickly as usual so I was running at higher levels than I should for a long run. As such, I took a few breaks along the way to keep the HR in check.

Adding to the complexity, I also ended up running out of Gatorade (despite bringing a little under a liter with me) after the last major hill. Combined with the heat, that made the final stretch quite difficult and I ended up stopping about a quarter mile short of my target to avoid overshooting my house and adding a ~1K cooldown walk at the end. Will have to remember to bring some more change along with me on future long runs so I can stop and refill my bottles at the halfway point (my hydration pack can only carry four 8oz bottles).

Either way, I managed to average a decent 5:00/km pace for the 14 miler. My heart rate averaged 160bpm, although it hovered at around 170bpm at points (the average was depressed partially by the breaks) so it was still pushing well beyond the mid-to-high 150s I usually target. I should note that while my HR was high, aside from the last bit my perceived effort wasn't noticeably heavier than usual. Had I not been wearing the HRM, I likely wouldn't have bothered with the breaks.

Weekly Totals:
Running: 51.2km (31.8mi)
Walking: 8.6km (5.3mi)
Cycling: 109.9km (68.3mi)
Swimming: 1.0km (0.6mi)
Total: 170.7km (106.1mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 1,458.5km (906.3mi)
Walking: 181.2km (112.6mi)
Cycling: 2,272.0km (1,411.8mi)
Swimming: 6.4km (4.0mi)
Total: 3,918.1km (2,434.6mi)

I'll be busy tomorrow morning and it looks like the weather will go downhill in the afternoon so I'll likely not be able to fit in a ride. Other than that, this week should hopefully go according to plan. Running will continue to scale up, and I'm hoping to squeeze out another 100K ride on Saturday. As far as swimming goes, I'll likely hold at the one mile level and just focus on building stamina and speed. Given the proximity of the triathlon I'm hoping to work on switching over to doing two sessions per week.

Upcoming Week:
Mon Rest
Tue 8mi (12.9K) GA w/10x100m
Wed 30K Ride, 5mi (8K) Recovery
Thurs 10mi (16.1K) GA, 1.6km swim
Fri 50K Ride
Sat 100K Group Ride, 4mi (6.4K) Recovery
Sun 15mi (24.2K) LSD

On other fronts, I finally managed to get out and try on the Oakley Radar and Jawbone sunglasses for the bike. Out of the two, the Jawbone appeared to be a slightly better match - the Radar's top frame appeared to obstruct my vision a bit when in lower positions whereas the Jawbone arched up and stayed out of the way. They had a model called Radar XL that resolved this issue, however taller bridge looked a little goofy so it wouldn't really be useful for anything other than cycling.

The main catch with the Jawbone, however, is that I'm not sure how well ventilated it would be compared to the Radar. The Radars have an open frame design allowing more air to get around the base of the lens, whereas the Jawbone has a more closed-in design. Most of the Jawbone lenses are vented so that should help a bit, but it's difficult to judge this sort of thing inside of a store. The other caveat is that the Jawbones are still hard to find at this point, so getting specific styles/lenses is tricky at this point. My preference would be to get the Transitions version of the glasses that change their transmission level depending on light levels, but I've been unable to find them anywhere.