Who is Ted?

I'm the father of two beautiful daughters and an amazing wife. For fun, I enjoy the long hours of seemingly endless suffering that endurance sports (mostly running, cycling and triathlon)provide. During my "down time" I'm an avid beer snob and self-described gourmet chef (in other words I like to burn things on a stove or grill).

Friday, March 27, 2015

Testing 1. . . 2. . .3 . . Testing

The arrival of Spring Break has given me the opportunity to delve into training a bit more this week.  Although I had some travel at the beginning of the week, I have managed to get in some consistent sessions including a longer test session earlier in the week.  The purpose of this session was two-fold.  First, I wanted to get a sense of how I would feel after a 2.4 (more or less) mile swim.  Although I have swum this distance in the past, I've never followed it up with a bike/ run. In addition, I wanted to get a sense of where I'm at with just over four months to go.  How much progress have I really made?  How much more do I have to do?  While it's common to schedule a half Ironman with 2-3 months to go, I wanted to see my current level in advance of that.  There's plenty of time to get better.

The Plan, a very long workout!
With a warmer (albeit windy) forecast last Tuesday, I planned out the following workout: a 4000 yard swim at the local pool, a 50 mile bike ride, and a 10 mile run.  I allotted 90 minutes for the swim, 3 hours for the bike ride, and another 1 hour 40 minutes for the run.  While the swim would be fairly close to the full distance, the bike would represent about 45% of a full Ironman ride, and the run would make up just under 40%.

I arrived at the pool around lunch time, and was able to get in right away and start swimming.  Throughout, I swam at a steady pace (around 2:00/ 100) and I took very few breaks (other than to adjust my goggles which seemed to constantly be leaking).  I felt comfortable through the first 3000 yards, but the last 1,000 was a bit of a slog.  I could feel my form starting to slip and there was a gradual slowdown with each 100 taking an extra second or two.  I'm sure this is due to the fact that I normally "fit in" a swim of 2,000 yds or less during the week.  The extra 40 to 50 minutes definitely makes a difference. When all was said and done, it took me about 1 hour and 20 minutes to do the entire swim.

Once the swim was complete, I hustled into the locker room, rinsed off, and changed into my biking gear.  The transition was about 10-12 minutes, but I made my way out to the car where my bike was waiting inside.  After loading water bottles, getting my shoes, helmet, etc.  I set out for the ride.  The 50 mile ride is an out and back course along, you guessed it (if you read this blog regularly), the test track.  There was a very strong tail wind through the first part of the ride which gave me a bit of extra recovery starting out.  In fact, I barely had to pedal through the first 4 miles as there's a slight downhill as well.  Throughout the ride, I felt very good (a recent head cold hadn't set me too far back) although I did note that my heart rate was slightly higher than it would be without the swim before hand.  I managed to stay well below threshold most of the time, but it would quickly increase from say 115 to 145 bpm whenever I started to put a little more effort in.  I managed a solid pace most of the time, and worked to keep my cadence higher when climbing or confronting the wind (at a couple of points the gusts were so strong I thought I might get blown off of the road!).  Turning around at 25 miles, there was a bit more time spent battling the winds, but it wasn't too awful.  I reminded myself that there are no guarantees that there won't be wind on the Ironman course (in fact, it's quite likely) so I might as well get used to it.  By the end of the ride, I started to feel a bit more fatigue in my legs (not unlike my experience at Harvest Moon in September), but given the wind and my pace, I felt fairly good about the ride.After tacking on an extra mile to make sure I hit at least 50 miles, I rolled up to the car after about 2 hours and 45 minutes.

The always exciting test track bike ride.  Wind gusts of +20 mph made portions of this very exciting!

By this point, it was late in the afternoon and the warmest part of the day.  I drank a bit of water, changed into my running shoes, and set off for the 10 mile run.  I hadn't really planned out a route, and so I wound up running an out and back course that consisted of a mile with a slight downhill, followed by a mile with a steady climb (what goes down, must come up, no?).  The first three miles felt very good, but by the time I turned around and started back up for mile four, things started to unravel.  I started to feel the heat, and my heart rate stayed at a steady 161 which is well above my aerobic threshold.  At the end of four miles, I stopped at the car and drank the last of my water and Gatorade (which wasn't much) and set out again.  I felt a bit better after that, but my HR remained high, and by the time I reached the end of mile five it was clear that I'd just run out of energy.  Throughout the run, I averaged a pace of around 8:30 to 9:00 minutes per mile, but I was starting to drop to 10 minute miles by the end.  I'd found my limit, so after 6.2 miles, I called it a day.  A bit shorter than I'd planned, but I didn't feel like I would gain anything from going further.

Lack of Nutrition and Hydration had me cutting this one a bit short.

What I learned:

  • You have to respect the swim.  I don't think I'll have any problem completing the swim portion of the Ironman, but it can't be underestimated.  Between now and August 2nd, I will want to start increasing the average length of my swim.
  • The bike is coming along well, but I need to push the nutrition more.  I wasn't as aggressive about taking in nutrition on the bike and this cut into my running performance.  
  • I need to slow down and hydrate better when running.  My goal pace for IM Boulder is anywhere from 9:45-10:30 per mile.  So why am I trying to run at an 8:30-9:00 minute pace right now? Tuesday definitely taught me that I need to be a bit more conservative when running. 
  • I must take in more nutrition/ hydration.  Although I'm doing better with this,  I'm just not taking in sufficient calories for any effort longer than 2-3 hours and that was evident on Tuesday.  I felt fine through the first 4 hours, but it was very clear that I had no more energy during the last three miles of the run.  I shudder to think what it would have been like had I needed to run another 22! Hydration is another factor.  The temperature on Tuesday afternoon was in the low 70's.  It was probably a touch warmer for me as I was running on the street with absolutely 0% shade from trees, etc.  During IM Boulder there will be more shade, but the temperature could easily be 20 degrees warmer during the run.  If I don't stay hydrated and cool, I will be in for some serious trouble.
  • Five hours and 20 minutes is a long time, but it's nowhere close to the time that Ironman Boulder will take!

Despite the shortened run, I feel pretty good about where I'm at right now.  I know that I have a tremendous amount of progress to make during the next four months, but I don't feel like I'm behind or way off in my training.  In April, I'll start to experiment with some lower intensity, higher volume workouts.  This will gradually become the norm as my training gets more race specific in the early summer.  Today, I'm going out for a ride with something new (see below).  I'll let you know how it works!

Sunday, March 8, 2015


Five months to go.  I just finished a very strong February (the most I've ever done in the winter by a fair stretch) and the trend is continuing into March.  It will hit a bit of a hiccup next week when I travel to New York for work, but nothing to derail me too much.  Here's hoping the weather is better there than it has been of late (although the long range forecast is calling for some rain at the end of the week back east).   I suppose that will make coming back to Colorado all the more sweet.
February didn't get off to the smoothest of starts.  I began the month with a nasty stomach virus, and so I took the first week to ease back into training (Ironically, this easy week would have been a pretty solid week a year ago).  Throughout the month I hit the rest of my 33 scheduled workouts.  I even wound up running further than I'd planned.  These runs were generally done after my longer bike rides on the weekend, and after getting my planned 2 miles in, I'd just keep going.
As part of my training for Ironman Boulder, I've tried to set some monthly goals.  In January, it was to consistently hit all of my workouts, and I came pretty close to that.  Here's what I'd planned for February:

As I look back on the training over the last 4-5 weeks, I can easily say that I hit my training target for February in terms of building strength and hitting the volume targets (barring the week I was sick) that I'd set.  After the recovery week where I only managed 66 miles of riding, the next three weeks of cycling looked like this: Week 2 (112 miles, 6 hours 45 minutes), Week 3 (94.5 miles, 6 hours), Week 4 (132.21 miles, 7 hours 7 minutes). The monthly volume for riding came out to a total of just over 350 miles.
More important than the "total" of riding that I did, was the quality of the riding.  The majority of the riding that I did was on the trainer using workouts from Trainer Road.  Specifically I focused on their Mid Volume Half Iron Distance Plan.  These workouts included a number of tempo rides, intervals, and my favorite form of torture: "over and under" rides, which consist of intervals first spent riding above FTP, and then shifting to just slightly below FTP.
Since I began triathlon, my approach to cycling has been mostly just to go out and ride.  I will occasionally do some hill sprints or short intervals, but it has never been very consistent.  In past winters, I would ride occasionally outside when the weather was warm, and I might put in a half hour of casual spinning on the trainer, but that was really about it.  Trainer Road has added more structure, intensity, and interest in my riding this winter, and I've noticed a big difference.
Yesterday, was a lovely day with temps in the mid 50's so I decided to get my riding done outdoors for a change.  After driving over to CSU-P,  I did a popular ride out on the DOT road to the test track.

Not much to see out at the track!
  As I rode, I concentrated on keeping my cadence higher and my heart rate lower.  Normally on an early season ride of fifty miles, I would be gassed after about 30 miles and my average speed would hover somewhere around 16-17 miles an hour.  On yesterday's ride I averaged just under 20 miles an hour, and more importantly, I didn't feel wasted halfway through the ride.  In fact, I kept waiting for the "bonk" to set in, but it never did.  When I finished, I followed it up with a 7 mile run and averaged around 8:30 per mile.   Looking back a year ago, my estimated power on a similar ride was about 105 watts.  Yesterday, it was around 150 watts.  Big improvement.

The "S" and the "R":
Although they weren't my focus during the month of February, I also had a pretty good stretch of swimming and running in February as well. I made it to the pool a total of 7 times, and covered 13,500 yards, even managing to get a couple of longer swims in that I hadn't expected.  I know that these numbers will have to "grow" a bit in order to accomplish the 2.4 swim of the Ironman, but given the time restrictions I have at the moment, they'll have to do.  One thing I really tried to do in February was pay attention to my form and technique in the water.  I'm trying to stay consistent and not swim just for swimming's sake.
When it comes to running that has also gone well. I ran 8 times in February and 5 of those were after a long bike ride.  Usually I'd run somewhere between 3-4 miles, but as I move into march, I'm lengthening those runs a bit, and starting to focus more on the amount of "time" running as opposed to the distance covered.  My pace on those runs has been above my estimated Ironman pace by about 2-3 minutes, so I'll have to back off of that a bit to see what a slower pace feels like off of the bike (It's much easier to run 7:30-8:00 minute miles when you're only running 4-6 miles compared to 26.2!).

What's next:
Now that I'm a ways into March, I've been looking at plans for the month and the goals, I've established.  In terms of biking, the weather hasn't been super cooperative so far, so I haven't been able to do a lot of riding outdoors.  I'll stay hopeful and maybe I can log at least one outdoor ride each weekend on either Saturday or Sunday for most of the month.  I also have a SBR workout planned towards the end of the month.    I'm going to continue building with the Trainer Road workouts and since  I'm getting into the back half of the Triathlon Build Plan so I'll follow through on a few more of those workouts before the taper phase kicks in.  As it stands, my planned cycling volume will continue to be fairly close to February.  It may stretch a bit higher if I can get some more outdoor rides done.  I'd also planned to add an additional day of swimming this month, but it looks like that may get pushed back a month.  I'll be traveling and there are a few other obligations that I have, which will make a 3rd weekly swim kind of hard.  When I look at my training schedule right now, I'd need to either double up with a bike day, or swim on a Friday morning.  Usually Friday is my rest day before the weekend, and I'm not sure that the value of an extra swim would make up for losing a day of rest.  I'm also not sure how that would impact my key workouts on the weekend.  I'll probably push the extra swimming back into April.  I do know that once June rolls around, I'll have ample opportunity to do some more swimming, so I'm not too worried about that.
March Goal will probably be adjusted.
There are two things that I'm trying to do with regard to nutrition.  First, I'm really working to be more aggressive about consuming nutrition during exercise.  I know that it's the only thing that's going to keep me from having a complete bonk, and I want to make sure that my stomach can handle the combination of energy drink, gels, etc. well before Ironman.  I'll keep using a mix of GU gels, Power Bar Gels (they're on sale right now), and Gatorade.  So far they haven't done a number on my stomach, but I haven't done more than about 3.5 hours, so we'll see.

In terms of my overall eating, I'm still doing fairly well, although not as strict as before.  The truth is that if I'm too strict, I tend to keep losing weight.  Earlier this week, I weighed in at just over 163 lbs.  That's fairly thin for my 6'1" frame.   I'm still trying to eat well, and I'm really avoiding the junk food (and absolutely no fast food), but I'm also allowing myself to indulge a bit more.  One thing I continue to do is eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.  This seems to have a huge impact on how I'm feeling.

There are now less than 150 days until IM Boulder.  I'm still very excited and I'm pleased with where I'm at in my training.  With spring approaching, I'm certain that my enthusiasm will only grow!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Trainer Road Review . . . an update!

Last November, I joined Trainer Road in an effort to bring a little more intensity and purpose to my riding.  It is now about two months later and in that time, I've logged somewhere around 500 miles on the trainer.  All of these rides have been done using Trainer Road.  In short, TR has been a great tool for training so far this year.  Here are the benefits that I've noticed:

An affordable way to train with "Power":  Since I don't own a Power meter, I usually gauge my effort according to Heart Rate and/ or perceived exertion.  TR allows you to establish a virtual power based on the trainer that you use (they have a list of many different brands/ models, so you're likely to find yours).  Whether or not virtual power is completely accurate is difficult to say, but used consistently, it allows you to establish a basis for comparison with yourself, which is really what matters.  However, for a middle of the pack guy like me, it fits the bill at a nice price point.  In the nearly 30 rides that I've done, I've definitely developed a sense of what my effort feels like at different power levels. Since HR and cadence are also detailed on the TR software, it has helped me to get a sense of how hard I'm working at various stages in any given workout.
 I've also done two FTP tests using TR.   Each was an hour long ride building up to the last 20 minutes done as hard as is sustainable.  From that last 20 minnutes, an FTP is established.  Subsequent workouts are done in relation to this FTP so if a workout interval requires you to ride at 90% of your FTP, it will automatically adjust to that percentage.  The first test I did right after I joined TR.  I established an initial FTP of 182 on that ride.  In mid-January I completed a second FTP test with a score of 196 watts.  The graph from each test is listed below (Note: The initial test was set with FTP at 200 which was just a "guess" as I hadn't tested before.  The second test shows an FTP of 182, the result from the first test.  After the second test, a new FTP was established at 196).  I'll plan on doing another FTP test in about a month to see how I've progressed.
First FTP test in Late November with a result of 182 Watts.
Second FTP in January.  Result was an FTP of 196 Watts.
Increased frequency of rides:  The allure of data (along with the powerful incentive of working towards an Ironman) has been a strong incentive to get on the trainer and ride.  By the end of the month, I will have over 500 miles for the year (including 300+ this month).  This is way above my seasonal average.  I'll admit I'm a bit of a data nerd in this regard.  The opportunity to analyze the outputs from a ride are extremely satisfying and a great way to finish up after a workout.

More purposeful riding:  In the past, I would usually get on the trainer and spin at a steady cadence for somewhere between 30-50 minutes.  Very rarely would my ride extend beyond this level.  And while my average trainer ride is currently only at about 1.2 hours, they involve a lot less mindless spinning and much more purposeful training.  In the last few months, I've become familiar with everything from Isolated Leg Drills to Over and Unders to 30 second bursts at 130% of FTP.  The rides on TR do an excellent job of maximizing your workout time.  Now keep in mind that they aren't at the same level as the insane and appropriately named "Sufferfest" videos (that shit really is crazy!), but they also don't let you sit back and relax.

TR captures "Career" stats, documenting the data from all of your rides.
They also have a variety of extended training plans.  My introduction to TR was the "Sweet Spot" Low Volume training program that averaged about 3.5 hours of riding a week for 6 weeks. This was found in the "base training section" as all training plans are divided into either base, build, or specialty phases.  It was a great introduction and perfect for someone like me who was starting to ramp up their training.   After the Sweet Spot, I've moved on to a Triathlon program.  It's a Half-Distance Mid Volume plan that averages to 5.3 hours/ week (although many of them clock in at 6+ hours).  In a regular week, I will usually ride an hour on Monday, 75-90 minutes on Wednesday, and finish the week with a couple of 2 to 2.5 hour rides on Saturday and Sunday.  The creators of TR have promised an Iron-Distance program, but so far it has not materialized.  I'm hoping that it will soon, although I imagine I will begin to get outdoors a bit more as the weather warms.

A "snippet" of the Sweet Spot Plan.
Convenience= more time to train:  While not limited to TR, there is definitely truth in terms of the ease of going downstairs and getting on the trainer to ride.  Normally, getting ready for an outdoor ride takes a fair amount of time (even more if I'm driving somewhere to start).  With the trainer downstairs, this time is greatly reduced.  Given the fact that most of my weekday rides occur in the morning, there's simply no way that I could be riding outside, so there is definitely an advantage there.
But does it work?:  Last weekend the weather was just too nice to stay inside.  I decided to go for a 40 mile ride outdoors.  I looked at the planned two hour ride on TR that basically consisted of 4x25 minute intervals at a higher pace (still below FTP however).  Using my Garmin, I set up an interval workout to use during my ride, and although I didn't have the benefit of Power, I made an effort to ride at a higher cadence/ effort during each interval.  I rode the 40 mile route in just over two hours with an average speed of 19.7 mph.  I also noticed that my average cadence was 84 rpm.  This is an improvement from other rides where I usually average anywhere from 74-77 rpm.  Right now, my riding seems similar to where I would be in early to mid- Spring.  For the Ironman, I'm hoping that my average speed is not below 17 mph, so I feel like the time on the trainer is helping me to get closer to that goal.
Results of an outdoor ride after 2 months on TR.  
What lies ahead: I'll continue using TR as a regular training tool for the next 5 weeks or so.  That will put me into spring break where I hope to start integrating a few more outside rides (particularly on the weekends if the weather cooperates).  TR also has software that allows you to create custom workouts.  You can build a workout that includes different levels of workouts and adjusts to your FTP.  For example you can build warm-ups, interval sets, etc.  I'm working to set up a custom ride of about two hours that will help me to dial in the intensity that I'll need for IM Boulder.  No doubt it will take some tweaking, but it should be a good way to measure the intensity that I'll need against my current level of fitness.
TR is good if:

  • You want to train indoors, but find the trainer a bit boring.
  • You would benefit from having training plans and workouts available that meet your riding needs (whether that's triathlon, criteriums, or cyclecross).
  • You are time-crunched and need to use the trainer to get workouts completed.
  • You love data

You can skip TR if:

  • You plan to do more than 70% of your riding outdoors.
  • You just want to spin and aren't focused on a long term goal or plan.
  • You have no interest in data.
  • You don't ride a bicycle at all.
I'll continue to use TR during the next several weeks and I imagine that it will still play a big part in my training until early summer when my schedule "lightens up" a bit.