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).

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

T Minus 3 . . 2. . .1 . . . Train!

January 1st is the official start of my Ironman Training although it's really been more of a "soft" launch since I've been spending most of the last month ramping up my fitness.  I've also been spending a lot of time over the last few months reading about IM training and perusing various plans on the internet. I won't actually be picking a plan, but wanted to see what is consistently presented across a variety of plans.  I've also been reading Going Long by Joe Friel and Gordon Byrn, and while it doesn't provide so much of a week by week training plan, it does establish an overall premise on which to create a periodized approach to Ironman training.
So as I start to lay out my plan for the next 8 months, there are a few basic tenets that I believe will set the stage for a successful Ironman:
Ride More. . . With this in mind, the majority of my initial training will be centered around increasing endurance and strength on the bike.  In year's past, running has tended to dominate my early season training.  It's also my strongest area so I think it's been easy to fall back on running.  But if I'm going to have a shot at completing an Ironman, I really need to focus on riding more often, longer, and better.
Every workout should have a goal . . . No more mindless training.  Swimming, Biking, and Running should be purposeful.  This doesn't mean that every workout is intense or a "key" workout, but it does mean that I should have an outcome in mind before I jump in.  If I'm running 10 miles, what's the point.  Am I building speed through intervals?  Is it training at aerobic threshold?  For each workout in my training plan, I'll be listing my goal(s) for that day.
Eat Better . . . I'm not going on a diet but my diet will change.  I tend to eat what I please and I'm fairly capricious when it comes to food.  If I decide I want donuts, I get 'em.  Passkey for dinner? Why not?  If I want to do my best at Ironman, I need to think about food a little differently, in that it's fuel for my training.  Doesn't mean it still can't be tasty (it can and should), I just need to have a bit more balance and select the healthy alternative whenever possible.
Adios  Super Passkey Special . . . we shall meet again!
It takes time . . . To effectively train is going to require some time.  I don't suddenly have more time available, which means I'll have to "make" time.  This means more early morning workouts and probably some late nights.  It also means I'll need to get more rest than usual, which also takes more time.  Committing to Ironman training involves some sacrifice.  This means that I may have to forgo that late night of sampling beers or staying up for an extra episode of "The Wire." (can always make it up on the trainer right?)
L.S.D . . . (Longer, Slower, Distance) I probably won't win Ironman Boulder in 2015 , but I also don't want it to take sixteen hours and change.  During the first part of the year, I'll be working on building strength and skill on the bike.  Most of my indoor riding is centered around a variety of longer intervals with a varying degree of intensity.  As the year progresses into spring and summer, I'll move to longer rides and a few longer runs as well.
Ride More . . . Did I mention that I plan on riding a lot more? During the last few weeks, I have gotten pretty diligent about hitting the trainer.  Using Trainer Road has really helped and a couple of upgrades to our DirecTV system will help to keep it entertaining. I've got a couple more items on the way to help with the biking experience, but more on that in an upcoming post.

With the BIG goal of completing an Ironman this summer, I've also tried to divide my training up a bit by establishing some monthly training goals.  These are stepping stones that will help me to be in a good spot by August 2nd.  I've still got a few of these to work out, but they will help to build confidence and a sense of progress as I move into the year.  Here's what I have so far:
January is Consistency month . . . with about 25-30 workouts planned, my goal is to hit all of them.  Sure I'll take a pass if I'm sick or injured, but I plan on using the first month of training to build solid habits in terms of training often and regularly.  I will get back to swimming 2x week and this will also be the first month where my biking increases to 4 times a week (about the middle of the month).
February is the start of the bike build . . . Average weekly cycling ranges from about 70 miles (recovery week) to 110 miles each week throughout the month.  The grand total is about 400 miles.  This month may be the most important part of my training as it sets up a lot of my future success on and off of the bike.  I'll still continue to swim twice a week, but I will also drop my running back quite a bit.  Just enough to keep it familiar, not much more.  I've found that the run is just fine as long as I get out and run a little bit at least once a week.

My new love for cycling!  The pink part behind the bike is what my ass will look like after all those miles!
In March, the cycling continues plus a 3rd weekly swim . . . As the weather improves, I plan on getting in some outdoor rides of longer duration.  I'll also start adding in a third swim workout this month.  Swimming is tricky in that the pool/ work schedule I have means I can only get about 35-40 minutes for each session.   I'm going to add a 3rd session one afternoon a week (probably on Fridays) that will allow me to get a longer session of somewhere between 60-90 minutes.  I know that I won't see incredible gains in swimming with this approach, but my goal for Ironman is to finish the swim feeling okay.  If it takes me a little longer to complete the swim, so be it, as long as it doesn't leave me feeling like I've burned a bunch of energy.  Depending on the weather during Spring Break, I may also look at doing some kind of brick activity.  Not certain on that yet, but I'd like to do something just to get a sense of where I'm at.

The beginning of April puts me roughly 16 weeks out and with a solid base going into the last half of training, I should be in good position for a solid Ironman.  My goals for the months of April through July will largely depend on what I accomplish during the first 3 months of the year.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Trainer Road . . . initial impressions

I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of riding the trainer.  It is a soul-sucking, life-draining, exercise in tedium and boredom.  Despite my best intentions, it's easy to pass over the trainer in favor of more enjoyable activities such as mowing the lawn or vacuuming the car.  Pulling weeds and shoveling snow are also strong contenders. I've tried all kinds of distractions and while a good television program can help a bit, I still would find myself constantly staring at the clock over the course of a ride.  A planned hour ride would become 45 minutes, then 40, and eventually 30 minutes.  I just couldn't stand being on the bike and going absolutely nowhere.
When it comes to triathlon however, the bike is not my strong point.  I wouldn't go so far as to say I have a weakness on the bike, but I'm typically that guy who has an "okay" ride, and then a much stronger run.  While this has served me well for the sprint and Olympic distance events, I could tell during the Harvest Moon Half last fall, that the bike was a bit of a limiter.  Instead of feeling fresh going into the run, my legs felt wobbly and I quickly became fatigued.  Since I plan on tackling Ironman Boulder next summer, I know that I will have to dramatically improve my bike fitness if I want to successfully complete, let alone survive, that kind of distance.   And while there are plenty of days during the winter months to do some outside riding, they aren't frequent enough to guarantee any consistent training.  Couple that with an overall lack of time and it's clear . . . the trainer and I have to reach some kind of agreement.
My trainer set up probably has something to do with my lack of joy at training.  The TravelTrac Fluid Trainer I own is a few years old and about as entry level as you can get.  The ride isn't terrible, but it lacks some of the stability and "flow" of a Cycle Ops or a Kinetic Trainer.  Still, it's been quiet and reliable and has easily paid for itself many times over.
Throughout the fall, I've been considering some ways that I might be able to make the trainer experience more interesting.  One really intriguing option is called Zwift (saw it on DC Rainmaker), Zwift combines a "video game" style ride with Strava like features.  You can ride with (or against) other riders in a virtual world.  It looks very cool, but unfortunately, it's still in Beta and not available to the masses at this point.  So instead, I decided to try out Trainer Road.  There were a couple of reasons for selecting this one:
1) Low monthly cost of $10.00
2) I had all of the necessary gear to make it work.
3) TR supports all kinds of trainers including my very low-end TravelTrac.
4) I don't own a power meter (and don't really plan on getting one anytime soon), but TR has developed a "virtual power" that while not the most precise, is at least somewhat consistent for training purposes.
Trainer Road also requires a rather simple set-up.  I'm not going to go into all of the details about how to sync it with the Ant+, etc (you can read about that here), but it was a relatively simple operation (I actually did it twice after finding an old laptop in the basement that I could dedicate solely for TR).  With the proper downloads, I had it up and running in less than 20 minutes.  I decided to start w/ a 20 minute FTP test.  This was done towards the end of an hour long session that included a bit of "practice" at higher intensities.  The screen itself reminded me of the "peaks and valleys" that you might see on a fitness cycle in a hotel or club, but throughout the ride, a set of instructions or "tips" would appear on the screen as well.  Before a change in intensity, etc., there was a three second beeping countdown that cued you to the next part of the workout.  I have to admit I was pretty spent after that first test.  My FTP, based on this initial test, was at 182.  I will plan on repeating the test again in a month, after having more time training with the set up.

The 20 minute FTP test comes towards the end of the workout.  The end result for me was an FTP of 182.
Since that initial ride, I've only managed about 4 rides (travel and a subsequent illness knocking me out for about a week and a half).  That said, I do continue to find them enjoyable (as much as riding the trainer can be enjoyable) and more importantly, they really pass the time.  The rides I have done have mostly been interval types of workouts, although I did do one workout that really focused on some form and some leg drills.  I'm using a "low volume Sweet Spot" training plan right now that I plan to carry through into the new year.  Here's a sampling of a couple of rides that I've done:

The workout above was called Mount Field and basically consisted of some longer intervals at a moderate level of power.  The most challenging part of this ride was trying to drop down in output in between each interval.

This workout was called "Goddard" and was decidedly more challenging.  The weirdest part were the isolated leg drills.  It feels really awkward to try and pedal on a trainer with just one leg.  I was definitely happy to finish up this workout!
So, I'm poised for some workouts in the coming weeks using Trainer Road and as the winter progresses, I'll be adding and adapting those training rides a bit (may even see about combining a few of these).  I'll keep you posted with regard to how it goes.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Big Bear Brew Fest 2014

I'll have to admit that as we walked up to the back of the long line that snaked its way out of the convention center, I was feeling a bit nervous about the event.  Did we just waste $80 on tickets to an event that would fail to even approach expectations?  Would we get inside only to discover long lines and little beer? Perhaps this feeling was due to the fiasco at the Foam Fest back in August.  After lining up for the $10 entry into the fair, and then shelling out another $25 for the festival, we were met with the sad sight of only 8 breweries selling beer.  What had once been fun and something to look forward to, had turned into a rip-off. Absolutely pathetic and perhaps signaling the end of the Foam Fest (at least for me anyway).  Fortunately, the Big Bear Brew Fest was the complete opposite of all this.
Little beer mug!
The line at the convention center was actually moving quite quickly and so we found ourselves inside within 10 minutes.  With our lanyards around our necks, and our mini-beer mug tasting cups, it was time to enjoy some beer.
The entire convention center floor had been opened up for this event and the represented breweries spanned from one end to the other.  Each of the corners also had representation from a distillery including some homemade moonshine and the Breckenridge brewery distillery.  There was a fairly wide variety of breweries represented, the majority being local and regional beers, but also from around the country. I would estimate that there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 45-50 breweries represented, each serving anywhere from 2-6 beers.  Throughout the event, a camera crew wandered around interviewing attendees and brewers alike.  These were displayed on large screens at each end of the convention center.  Though I don't think too many people paid attention to the videos, it did create a somewhat interactive experience.
Plenty of Beer!
With plenty of beers represented, there was little wait for any particular beer (the only long line the whole night was to use the restroom).  We slowly made our way around the convention floor, and while I didn't sample at every single tent, I did manage to hit a number of them at least once.
Best Pour- The friendliest tent at the event was definitely the combination tent of Bristol Brewing and Boulder Beer.  They were happy to have us try each of their offerings and their pours were the most generous.  And this was at the beginning of the event mind you, not at the end where everyone starts to fill those glasses a little fuller.  Our little group probably spent 10-15 minutes at the Bristol tent given this generosity and friendliness of the pourers.
Best Tent- Shamrock Brewery had the absolute best set up.  A couch, television, music, and a chandelier created a nice ambiance when sampling their beer.  Shamrock wasn't really offering up anything different than what they have at the restaurant (we did wind up there later that night), but their set up is always entertaining, and I appreciate the effort they put in (more on their beer later).
Saddest Moment- Discovering that Eddyline Brewing from Buena Vista, didn't make it to the party.  It's one of my favorite breweries and I always find a number of styles that I enjoy.  Sorry that they weren't there as I would have spent a good hour at their tent!
But, what makes a beer memorable?-  Considering that I tried somewhere in the neighborhood of about 30 different beers that night, remembering them all can be a little difficult.  That said, there were a few that stood out in my mind for a number of reasons.  In some instances, it was their unique flavor.  They brought something different to the table.  I always appreciate when this happens.  It's easier I suppose for a brewery to bring their "flagship" beers to an event, but when they bring something unique or unusual as well, it just demonstrates their true understanding and passion for "craft beer."  At the same time, a beer can stand out because the brewer has done an excellent job or "representing" the style of a beer.  By correctly combining the elements of an IPA for example, there doesn't really have to be any kind of "gimmick."  If I discover one of these beers at an event, I'm most likely to go out and buy some more as soon as I can find it.  The third thing that makes a beer stand out at a beer fest is the experience with the brewery.  I'm by no means a beer expert, but I do take some time to learn about different styles of beer and what to expect from them.  Still, it's helpful when I'm served a beer, and the person pouring the beer takes the time to tell me a little bit about what I'm drinking.  If a unique brewing technique or ingredient is used, tell me about it.  If there is something special about the taste or style of the beer, I'd like to know.  To me this is what makes a brew fest special.  It's an occasion where the brewer and the drinker get to interact directly.
Beers of the night- In no particular order, here are the beers that really stood out for me on this particular evening.
Shamrock Brewing3rd Street Coffee Stout-  This is a collaboration (of sorts) with the Solar Roast Coffee Shop down the block, and it is an excellent beer that probably should be part of their year round variety.  A very well-balanced flavor (the coffee and chocolate flavors are present, but not overwhelming) and a medium-bodied mouth-feel that is perfect for the taste.  Some stouts will be disappointingly thin or overly "chewy," but not the 3rd Street Stout.  I've written about this beer before (it was on my list of top beers in 2012), and even wandering around with hundreds of beers available, I found myself craving one of these.
Epic Brewing, Imperial Pumpkin Porter- Porter style beers were definitely underrepresented at the festival, but this beer stood out for other reasons. I've never been a huge fan of the pumpkin beers (I don't dislike them), but this one was quite good.  The porter style was well presented, and the spiced flavor of the beer was appropriate.  No one spice dominated the beer, and it didn't try too hard to be "pumpkiny."  And while it was sweet, it wasn't sugary.  The finish was bold, not bitter or overwhelming.  Originally founded in Salt Lake City, Epic also has a brewery in Denver.

Boulder Beer, Slope Style Winter IPA- No, this isn't a white IPA (a variety I'm not very fond of).  It's a Winter IPA.  Boulder Beer may do the absolute best job of naming its beers to match the flavor therein  (I'm looking at you Chocolate Shake Porter).  With a rich, amber color and a piney aroma, this beer is perfectly at home in the mountains . . . in a ski lodge . . . on a winter afternoon.  If I make a beer run today, this is probably the one I'll go looking for.  I'm a hop-head, and this IPA really represents the style well.  This will definitely be on my list of top 2014 beers.

Three Barrell Brewing, Hermano Sour Style Ale- This was by far the most unique beer of the event. The brewery is located on the western edge of the San Luis Valley town of Del Norte (not to be confused with the now defunct Del Norte Brewery in Denver, sigh).  They have a variety of Sour Style Ales that all have a "Dia de los Muertos" vibe (see label below).  The closest thing I could compare this to would be "shandy" style beer, but that doesn't really do it justice.  There is definitely a lemon-like quality, but the flavor is much more complex than beer and lemonade mixed together. The mouth-feel of this ale is definitely more medium-bodied, and it isn't a "hot summer day" type of drinker.  I think most people probably either love or hate sour beers, but if you are of the former persuasion, then Three Barrel is a place to check out.

Paradox Beer Company, Whiskey Barrel Hell for Stout- Paradox is the most creative brewery in the state of Colorado as far as I'm concerned.  They don't "do" a quirky beer every now and then, it's their core business.  Taking a traditional recipe or style, they'll start riffing on it and come up with something unique and delicious.  As it happened, I was craving something "aged in a whiskey barrel" on Saturday night, and the Hell for Stout was perfect.  Paradox are true "craft" brewers and the attention to detail is evident in their beers.  The Hell for stout has complex flavors and is worth savoring slowly  If beer was jazz, Paradox would be Miles Davis.  I'll be keeping my eyes open for a bottle of this to put into storage for a special occasion.

Walters Brewing, Pilsner- I'm maybe being a bit of a "homer" here, but I really do like this brewery. To say it's unpretentious is an understatement.  As a "new" brewery (they've acquired the name and recipe from the Goliath brewery of day's past), they are still finding their way a bit, but  their flagship pilsner is a great demonstration of the style and quite quenchable.  The festival offered up an opportunity to do a bit of comparison as well.  Right across the aisle from Walters was the Coors tent.  I grew up on Coors in a way.  The commercials (cue John Denver style music in the background), the brewery in Golden, all part of the growing up in Colorado experience.  There's no denying that Coors was really the original "Colorado" brewery.  Back in the day, a case of Coors was coveted nationally.  You just couldn't get it anywhere, so it was something special.   In a weird way, the popularity of Colorado Craft Brewing on a national level probably has something to do in part with the "mystique" that was created by Coors, brewed with that "Rocky Mountain Spring Water" all those years ago.  But I'm digressing into nostalgia here, and this section is really about Walters.  So I tried Walters, and then I sampled some Coors.  Walter's was better.  Way better.  The flavor was more complex, and it had a nice finish.  This would be a beer that I could drink all afternoon on a hot summer afternoon, and it would be a great addition to any barbecue.   Just like the brewers, it's an unpretentious beer. Very drinkable while grilling up some brats and burgers, you know the type of beer I'm talking about.  The Coors, well, it was disappointing.  Little flavor and an unpleasant finish.  Guess it's best left to the memories!

Lost Highway Brewing Company, Grave Robber Fraud Quad- In addition to having the coolest logo at the brew fest, this up and comer had a couple of great beers, including their Belgian-style Quadruple.  This is not a style of beer that I often drink, so it's always a treat to find one that is so well-done.  This is a fairly new brewery up on East Colfax in Denver.  Next time I make it up that way, I may need to go and check it out.

Bonus- Best Logo!
Honorable mentions- Lagunitas Day Time IPA, Dogfish Head Saison and 75 minute IPA, San Luis Valley's Green Chile Mexican Style Lager, Bristol's Laughing Lab Scottish Ale, and Oskar Blues Old Chub Nitro.
The beer fest was an awesome event and a truly legitimate experience for enthusiasts of good beer.  We had a great time and I would expect that it will return again next year, bigger and better than ever.  I wouldn't be surprised if the event sells out early next year, and I wouldn't be surprised to see even more breweries represented next year.  Hats off to Big Bear.  They've only been on the scene a couple of years now, but they have done an excellent job of providing a quality beer experience in Pueblo!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Getting ready for 2015

Now that the first week in November is over, I'm about 7 weeks out from the official start to my Ironman Training.  In the meantime, I've mostly been doing a bit of this, and a bit of that, as I get ready for more structured workouts.   In the near future, I'll post an "outline" of my training plan, or at least what I envision it to be.  It will be centered around a few basic principles that I've come to believe in over the past few years of triathlon (2015 will actually be my 6th season!).  Right now the biggest component of my off season preparation has to do with my "long run."  Between now and the end of the year, my goal is to be "fit" enough to tackle a marathon distance long run, using a 5:1 ratio of running and walking.  So far, I've found this to be the easiest on my body in terms of recovery.  I'm trying to do one long run every 10 days (give or take a day).  I figure that if I can continue at that rate, I should have a very solid aerobic base with which to start off my training.  I've also started doing a bit more stretching and even a bit of yoga.  The one thing I'd like to avoid is starting the season with another calf muscle pull.  This will of course take diligence on my part and be sure to be stretching each and every day.  I'll be sure to post again as training starts to ramp up.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

2014 Season Analysis (taking the long route . . . long post!)

Rambling Introduction
It's that odd time of year again.  The races are over and done, somewhat cooler weather is settling in (35 degrees as I write this) and giving us a hint of what's to come for the next several months.  Although I'm still swimming, biking, and running, it isn't driven by a goal.  It's done for fun, and because not doing something feels disappointing and sad.  In previous "off seasons," I used to worry about getting out of shape, but that thought no longer crosses my mind.  Swimming, Biking, and Running aren't just things that I do, they are part of who I am.  Letting those go would be like letting part of myself disappear.  Not going to happen.
Beginning (at least in earnest) in January, I will start training for the biggest challenge to date, the Ironman.  I approach this with a mixture of trepidation and confidence.  The nervous side reminds me of how wasted I felt a month ago after completing a half-iron distance race.  As that discomfort fades, it's replaced by my belief that with a few hundred days to prepare and train, I can be ready for whatever Ironman throws at me.  I know it won't be easy, but it won't be impossible either.  The psychology of the thing is key.
I am my father's son.  When he sets his mind to something, he's relentless in his preparation.  He will study, analyze, and plan a project to meticulous detail.  It isn't so much to seek perfection, but rather to be well-prepared and to develop contingencies for any obstacles or challenges that may arise.  It keeps the wheels from coming off and while the outcome isn't always what you expect, it's usually a success.  This is how I intend to approach the Ironman. I will learn as much as I can, study it from many angles, and develop strategies, contingencies and plans that will see me to the finish line.  But before looking forward, I'm going to look back.  And that's really the purpose of this post.  I want to review this past season, and see what I can learn from what I've done.  Reflecting on how I trained, where I succeeded and when I fell short will help me to prepare a plan for the coming year.

Big Picture Review . . .
Going into January 2014, I had a pretty good sense of what I wanted my year to look like.   Having suffered a bike crash in the fall of 2013, this was my comeback year, and I wanted to get back on the horse (or in this case the bike).  Despite the late season crash, I saw 2013 as a success as I completed an ultra, and set a PR in the half marathon at the tender age of 41.  I also completed my first century ride, and long distance swim race.  In essence, 2013 was all about the volume, and it seemed to have served me well.  So volume was my "strategy" going into the new year.  If I could top my mileage from the previous year, I would certainly do better, right?  Well . .. while I still believe that volume is a key factor for success in endurance racing (and it will still be a cornerstone of my preparation), there's more to it than that.

The chart above shows the total "time" that I put into each discipline per month.  This include more trainer rides over the winter, as well as a commitment to get to the pool more frequently during the winter months.  Since I wasn't training for an "ultra" as I had in 2013, I wasn't out running to the same extent, but I also wasn't injured (apart from a slight calf strain at the start of January).  My build continued up through the month of June, but dropped a fair amount in July when work took me out of town for a couple of weeks (Note: September totals are lower because I set the custom date range for this chart to September 7th, the last race of the season, although recovery and sickness made the rest of the month rather low anyways).  Looking back now, I realize that in the first part of the year, I was doing less "going long" and really working more on intensity/ frequency.  This did increase my total volume overall, but that didn't really translate to the same base level of endurance.

My early season races this year included both a sprint triathlon in May and an Olympic distance race in early June.  I was pleased with the outcome of these two races, but I was definitely focused more on speed than on distance.  This became painfully evident during my first "long event" of the season, the Mountain Top Cycling Club Experience Ride, the third week of June.  Even with a long bike ride in late May, I felt completely burned during this event.  Instead of seeing improvement from the previous year, I struggled greatly, and by 75 miles or so, it became a battle just to finish the thing.  I managed to do so, but it wasn't pretty.
Then in early July I found myself in NYC.  I didn't have a bike, and my schedule kept me extremely busy, so I switched gear and did more running.   This included a number of runs at higher intensity including an 11 mile long run on the weekend where I managed an 8:00/ mile pace.  When I returned at the end of the month, I managed to get back on the bike a bit, and entered August with plans for several long rides.  Work kept me busier than usual, and after a couple of weeks, I realized that my fitness level, while good, wasn't optimum.  I adjusted my goals for my "A" race, the Harvest Moon Half Triathlon, recognizing that sometimes, "life" gets in the way, and you have to take it in stride.  In the end my race turned out decent, and I finished the year at least feeling good, if not thrilled, about the season.
I knew this year that I also wanted to do more cycling and swimming than in year's past, and it appears that I will accomplish that by the end of December.   The distribution of time spent on each sport has shifted.  Whereas in years past, I would have spent more time running, biking and swimming got more attention than before.

Overall, I feel like my training this year set me up for more speed, and a bit less endurance.  This made longer events feel harder than I might have hoped. To a certain extent, I think this has more to do with how I "entered" the season, rather than what I did during the season.  When I started training in January of 2013, I'd already built up to a 20 mile long run (at elevation no less).  And while injuries early in that year set me back a bit, by May I'd done my ultra and a long mountain ride.  Going into 2014, I was coming off the bike crash, which depleted a lot of my base mileage.  Before the year even got started, I'd already suffered a small calf injury which kept me from running until late January/ early February.  I did put together some long runs in February and March, but they were only to about 15 miles or so, and left me pretty wiped out.  That's a key piece I'm going to consider for my start in January of 2015.

Just keep swimming . . . Just keep swimming . . .
So far in 2014, I've done more swimming than in any previous years.  Starting in January (the first time back in the water since the crash), I consistently got to the swimming pool at least twice a week and that expanded to three times a week whenever possible.  As I've noted before, this hasn't made me a lot faster, but I do feel like I'm expending less energy in the water.  This is also the first year that I've tried to take a more structured approach when training.  For the first few years, I pretty much just got in the pool and swam.   This year, I worked on including more actual workouts including technique work, kicks, and speed work.  That seems to have had the biggest impact on my swimming, and something I'll plan on doing more in the coming year.

A challenge with the swimming has to do with the available swim times, relative to my own schedule.  The best time for me to swim is before work.  I don't mind getting up and swimming at this time, but since the pool opens at 6:00 and I have to be back home for the kids by about 7:00, this really only leaves me with about 40 minutes to get a workout in.  It's something that I will have to look at for 2015, when I'll need to build to some more extensive workouts.

The other big challenge is the number of OWS opportunities that I get.  The nearest OWS to me are easily 2 hours or more, which means I get very little practice.  In 2014, I hit the open water a total of three times.  Two of those were during triathlons.  For the coming year, I may see if I can't get up to Boulder for a couple of their stroke and stride events in the summer.  I'll also take a look at options in Colorado Springs, and the Fort Collins/Loveland area when visiting my parents.

Actually Lance . . . it is all about the bike . . .
By the time 2014 winds down, I will have logged more miles on the bike than in any previous year since I started doing triathlon.   A goal this year was to get stronger on the bike but I don't feel like  I realized that goal.  I have ridden more on the trainer than in years past and it's something that I will continue to do.  I will also stay on the tri bike a great deal more in 2015.

Being out of town for two weeks in July definitely impacted my efforts towards stronger bike fitness this year.   I managed to get enough riding in to complete the Harvest Moon in just under three hours, but my legs definitely felt a bit cooked when I started the run.  A bit more data from the 2014 season:
The speed factor definitely increases once the spring/ summer months roll around.

Although I'm not really a "grinder," my bike cadence is slower than typical . . . something I'll look at during the off-season.
It's been said that the secret to success at Ironman is strong cycling fitness.  For the remainder of the current year, I will spend more time on the trainer and try to get more riding frequency in.  I find it difficult to spend much more than an hour on the trainer at any given time, but once January rolls around, I'll look to do a few longer rides down in the basement.  I'm even considering a subscription to Trainer Road (or the new Zwift if it's available) to give me more options when working out.  

Born to run . . .
I still love running the most.  Probably always will, and it's hard to choose to swim or bike sometimes when what I'd really prefer is to put on a set of headphones and head out the door.  Without an ultra to train for, I've definitely run a bit less compared to the year before. Barring injury, my run mileage will probably be similar to what it has been in the last couple of years.  

Although strained calf muscles in January and May impacted those months, I still ran a few times a week during the rest of the year.  In the off season, I'll run a bit more, and plan on doing a long run each week in the off-season leading up to January.  This will help me to start the year with a strong aerobic base.

The chart above shows my average heart rate (for running) across the six previous months.  With an average of 148 bpm, this is slightly higher than my Aerobic Threshold which would be around the 137 bpm mark.  Note that these do not include races as I tend not to race with a HR monitor.  
Going into 2015, I know that I will need to think about a plan for the Ironman in terms of the run.  With strong bike fitness, I'd like to follow that up with a solid run.  I'm not talking about anything under four hours, but I'm considering employing a 5:1 Run/ Walk ratio right out of the gates.   This strategy served me well in doing training for the Ultra and it really seems to help limit the amount of fatigue that sets in.  It's also great for training as it greatly reduces the recovery time after a long run.  I will continue to toy with this idea in the off-season before making a final determination.

Other Factors . . .
There is a bit more data that I can look at in order to review the 2014 season.  One of those is consistency.  The data at Beginner Triathlete.com allows me to compare my planned workouts vs. my actual workouts.  It's a less than perfect tool, but here's the way it looks:

By and large, I managed to make the time to get workouts completed, and only came up short in a few instances.  If I missed a workout on one day, I usually found a way to make it up on another.  I'm really not shooting for perfection on this part, I just want to be as consistent as possible.

Race Performance . . .
I didn't do a lot of events this year where I really raced for a place/ time.  I did a total of 3 triathlons this year which was a 30% increase from the year before.  Here is how those races broke down:
Although I'm definitely not at the pointy end in any of these races, I did manage to finish within the top 25-42% for my age group in each of the races this year.  I also set a PR in each of the events so I'm definitely pleased with the season overall.  More importantly, I was able to get back into triathlon after my crash.  The injury, while better, still lingers, and from time to time (especially during swimming), it can still be a bit sore.

Take aways . . .
So what does it all mean?  As I look to the coming year, there are definitely a few keys that I'll apply to my preparation for Ironman in the coming year.

  1. Enter the year with a strong aerobic base:  Between now and the new year, I'll emphasize aerobic fitness as a building block to my training.  Longer and slower will be key as I enter the year and get ready to implement a training plan.
  2. More cycling, more often, with more structure:  I tend to go out and just ride without any solid goals or plans.  Sometimes I'll ride fast, and other times I'll ride slow.  Hill work, intervals, cadence work, etc. all will need to come into play for 2015.  
  3. Same with Swimming:  Although I engaged in more structured swim activity in 2015, I can still do a lot more in the build up to Ironman.  Given the time limits I have for swimming, and the lack of OWS locales, each swim workout needs to be purposeful, and designed to help me improve if not in speed, at least in efficiency.  
  4. Strength, Core, and Flexibility: I didn't really touch on it in this post, but one thing that I will work on this off season is much more strength and core work, along with daily stretching.  If there was one area of my training where I really fell short this year, it had to do with sub-minimal attention to strength and core.  That can't happen for 2015, especially when it's such a fraction of the overall training time
Conclusion . . .
August 2015 is a very long ways off.  Between now and then there will be snowstorms and hot summer days, and plenty of successes and setbacks.  There is a lot of "work" to do in preparing for the Ironman, and I'm just at the beginning phase.  But for me racing has always been the "reward" for the long journey of training, and that's what I really enjoy about endurance sports.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Harvest Moon Triathlon Race Report

. . . There was only a half mile to go . . . probably even less than that.  I looked down at my feet mostly because I was too exhausted to lift my head any further.  Every step that drew me closer to the finish also inspired a steady wave of nausea like the small ripples washing onto the shore of a lake.  I took the deepest breath that I could and tried to hang on.  A few other competitors came by me in the last stretch leading up to the finish.  Finally, I rounded the corner and up ahead the finish line came into view.  Directly in front of me was the optional "slip n slide," but I deferred, knowing that hurting as badly as I was, I might not be able to make it up and off the slide before the next competitor came barreling down behind me.  I wandered back behind the slip and slide and grabbed a couple of bottles of water.  There was a concrete post that reached just to my shoulders.  I leaned forward and rested my arms and head for a minute, before a kind volunteer offered to get me some recovery beverage.  As nasty as the orange concoction tasted, I stuck with it, knowing how badly I needed the calories.  With that my 2014 triathlon season came to a close . . .

Several hours before that I awoke at my brother's house.  I'd had a solid night's sleep and I awoke not feeling overly tired.  That said, I was fairly anxious as I realized that I had a long day of racing ahead.  I didn't doubt my ability to complete the race, but I wasn't sure how I would perform with the limited amount of training I'd gotten to do in the previous month.  After a quick breakfast we hit the road and reached the race venue in a short twenty minutes.  Our early arrival meant that we were rewarded with a close-in parking space right next to the transition area.  It took us little time to get set-up, body-marked and to take the obligatory trip to the port-o-potty.  A short while later we were down at the water's edge listening to the pre-race announcements.

The Swim:
I'd heard that the water in the Aurora reservoir was a tad cooler, but also very clear, and this was certainly the truth.   As our wave got underway, it was amazing to actually be able to see within my immediate vicinity while staring down into the lake.  This was the first OWS I'd done since the Boulder Sunrise Triathlon back in June.  It was an out and back course that was approximately 1.2 miles long (perhaps a bit shorter than that).  Starting out I had my usual ordeal with being in the washing machine caused by the dozens of other swimmers all around.  I'd tried to move off to the right side, but I still found a number of people coming up from behind me and so I tried not to get kicked or punched.  While I managed to avoid any knock out blows,  I did find the right side of my goggles had a small leak, and so every couple of minutes I was forced to roll onto my back and drain my goggle.  In spite of this, my swim went surprisingly well.  I really tried to focus on both my breathing and my stroke technique, and the more I concentrated, the easier the swimming felt.  As I reached the final turnaround buoy and glanced at my watch, I was pleased to see that I was heading back after an outbound swim of 16:55.  At that pace, I would be right around 34 minutes total, which was well below what I'd anticipated.  I pressed on and did some of my best swimming in the last two to three hundred yards.  When I reached the shore I was a tad slower at 36:55, but this was still on the pointy end of what I'd hoped to do.  Even better, I did not feel tired and I still had plenty left for the rest of the day.  Swim Result (Based on prediction chart): Between Epic and Great.

Transition One:
Sometimes it's easy to take the transition time for granted in this long of a race. Given that the race lasts several hours, there isn't the same level of pressure that can be found in a sprint or olympic distance event when it's essential to be in and out in less than a minute.  Still I wanted to make my transitions a bit quicker and not waste unnecessary time.  I had no trouble getting either my arms or my legs out of the wet suit, even with my watch and timing chip.  I quickly dried my feet and got my shoes on.  The helmet and glasses presented no problems and I was out on the bike course.  Total time for T1 was a quick 2:37.  T1 result: Between Great and Good.

The Bike:
The wind was out and it favored us on the outbound leg.  In fact most of the first 30 miles were somewhere between 21-24 mph with little or no effort.  I even clocked one of the miles in under two minutes.  I coasted most of the downhill sections in order to save some energy for later.  I figured that as long as my average speed was somewhere around 20 mph, I was on target for a great ride.  Halfway through I was at 1:18, which would mean a 2:36 ride if I kept the same pace.  I knew that I wouldn't and right around 30 miles the course turned back towards the start and I found myself confronting a steady headwind, as well as a fair amount of climbing.  I did my best to increase cadence on the hills and spin up them with as little effort as possible.  That being the case, I saw my pace dip to below 13 mph on several occasions.  I continued to ride conservatively, but even as I climbed the last bit back to transition, I sensed that my legs were a bit more fatigued than I'd hoped.  My time for the bike leg was 2 hours, 56 minutes, and 14 seconds.  This was a bit slower than I would have hoped, but given the wind and hills was a decent result, putting me somewhere between a "good" and "great" performance.

Transition Two:
Back in transition, I experienced some minor confusion as I returned my bike only to find another bike in my spot.  Another competitor had placed it there without realizing that he was one space off.  At the time, I found this fairly irritating though in retrospect it wasn't such a big deal.  Funny how races can make us hyper-sensitive to things.  At any rate, I racked my bike and carefully got into my running shoes.  As with T1, I didn't want to spend a lot of time in transition.  I was able to stay focused and managed to make it out in 2:58.  Closer to Good in terms of results.

The Run:
Starting out on the first mile, I felt a bit winded and tired from the bike and I sensed that it would be tough to string together a really solid run.  I decided to really look at it as a mile to mile situation.  I pushed forward and to my surprise I hit the first mile in just over 8 minutes.  That was too damn fast I thought to myself.  I stopped and walked through the first aid station so that I could get plenty of water and ice.  The sun was beating down fairly well at this point, and I wanted to be sure that I stayed cool.  The next two miles were a bit slower and I probably spent a little too long at the mile 3 aid station.  I made a mental note to try and walk through the aid stations rather than stopping completely.  Just past mile four I found a bathroom and decided that a quick break was in order.  I also discovered that my right calf muscle had begun to cramp up a bit.  I stopped a couple of times to stretch it out.  I still had 9 long miles ahead of me and I contemplated that I might be walking a fair amount if my calf got any worse.  Instead what I discovered is that the pain was diminished if I kept moving.  I decided to keep running and as I did, the cramping was less bothersome.  I kept getting closer to the turnaround and saw my brother a few minutes ahead of me.  There was a small miracle when I reached the turnaround.  The sun disappeared behind some clouds where it would remain the rest of the afternoon, and I suddenly felt rejuvenated.   As I worked my way back to mile seven, I picked up the pace quite a bit.  Unfortunately, it was a bit too much, and my calf seized up on me again.  I stopped and stretched it out as best I could, but it would remain a dull ache for the next six miles.  Still, I pressed on.  Without the sun, it was much cooler and I even managed to skip a couple of the aid stations.  In retrospect, I probably should have hit one or two more, as I think the last couple of miles were really a "bonk" for me.  I managed to catch up to my brother once at mile 9 and then again at mile 10.  It goes without saying that we were both feeling the effects of a long day of racing.  My time for the run was 2:08:41. This was a "less" than average performance, but I can honestly say that I gave it everything I had, which is the true measure of success.

My overall time for the race was 5:47:27.  This put me in 112th place overall out of 363 competitors.  That's within the top third overall.  In my age group I was 19th out of 45 competitors, or somewhere around  the top 43%.  I've had better finishes in other races, but I still was pleased to be in the top half overall.  When I look at my overall time that gives me a result that is pretty close to a "good" performance, and I'd say that feels about right.  With a bit more training, I think I could have cut the bike time down by a few minutes, and with better bike fitness, that will translate into a stronger run.  I can't say when my next half distance race will be, but I know the next time, I will be in better condition than I was this go around.

Speaking of next races, I know that the next big challenge for me is Ironman Boulder.  This race was a not so subtle reminder of how difficult that race is going to be.  Had IM Boulder been yesterday, I would have been nowhere close to finishing.  Mercifully, it was not.  I will take a bit of a break now, and then sit down to plot out a strategy for tackling that next great challenge.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

2014 Harvest Moon Triathlon Race Plan

In October of 2013, I was cruising along the bike course of Ironman 70.3 Austin.  With around 8 miles to go, I was feeling great and was about to dial back my speed a tad so that I would have something left for the run.  At that moment, a large orange cone appeared on the road straight in front of me.  There was no time to brake or maneuver around it, so I clobbered it at a little over 20 mph, hoping my momentum might help me to stay upright.  It didn't, and instead of finishing the race, I wound up in the emergency room with a broken collarbone, cracked rib, and a pretty fair amount of road rash.  I would spend the next two months recovering.
Not so great ending to Austin 70.3

It's now 10 months later, and I'm gearing up for the Harvest Moon Triathlon.  This is a half-distance as well, albeit a local, non-WTC one.  It's my last triathlon of the season, and most likely my last until Ironman Boulder next year. For 2014, the Harvest is my "A" race and I'm excited to get after it.
That said, I've had to adjust my goals a bit this time.  Last weekend I went out for a ride and a run, and while I didn't feel terrible, I can also tell that I'm not at optimum fitness.  I don't have any doubts about finishing, but I also recognize that I haven't put in the time and effort into training to put together a sub 5:30 performance.  There have been a number of reasons for this but the main one has been that work has been unusually busy this month.  Not only do 55-65 hour work weeks reduce the amount of time available to train, but they also do a decent job of zapping the energy to go out and train.  I don't have any doubt that I can finish the race, and I still feel like a sub 6 hour race is feasible, but I will need to be feeling 100% and I will need to race smart.  So with that, here's my race plan!

Taper Week:
With students reporting back to school next week, it will be an ideal time to taper, as I'll still be quite busy.  My plan is to do a ride this weekend, and get a short swim and run in during the coming week.  That's it. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday will be full rest days for me.  I want to be "itching" to go at the start on Sunday morning.  After last weekend's difficult workout, I've also been paying better attention to my nutrition.  I've laid off the beer (sigh) and recognized that a steady diet of breakfast burritos, pizza, and onion rings is probably not helping any.  I mean, Jesus!  I ate donuts at least twice the week before last.  And when I say "ate donuts twice," I don't mean that I ate two donuts.  Consider half-dozen to a dozen to be a better unit of measurement for how said donuts were consumed. All of that is behind me now, and with two weeks of healthy living, I should be doing much better come race time.

You just can't do that!
Race Day Plans:
The extended forecast for Aurora looks to be pretty decent.  Afternoon T-storms are likely, but at this point, it doesn't look like it will be scorching hot or freezing cold.  That said, you can never be certain what you will get with the weather.  I've done a lot of training in hot weather this summer, so I'm used to it, but I would prefer temperatures in the 50's and 60's come race day.
I like a simple transition area, so I will try to keep things to a minimum.  If the weather is rainy and/ or cold, I may have to add a few items, but we'll just have to wait and see.

Extended forecast for Aurora next weekend
I've been giving some thought to nutrition as it has been quite some time since I've done a race of this length.  While I don't plan on doing a lot of "experimenting" on race day, I do plan to take in a bit more nutrition than in the past.  I've had a few "bonking" moments throughout the summer that I believe are due in part to a lack of sufficient nutrition along the way.  I will probably put a couple of solid power bar items into my kit for the bike as I find these are less upsetting to my stomach.

The Swim:
The swim remains my biggest limiter.  I've worked more on swimming this year than ever before, but that hasn't really translated to getting much faster.  The lack of opportunities to do some OWS also doesn't help, and so I am not the greatest at sighting.  That said, I do feel more comfortable in the water and I'm not nearly as exhausted from workouts.  I've added more structure to my workouts and really concentrated on better form.   My goal for this race will be to swim comfortably and to try not expend too much energy, saving it for the bike and run.  I believe that a swim of 38-42 minutes is reasonable for this race.

Transition 1: Coming out of the swim, I will try to hustle out onto the bike course.  T1 is an easy place to lose 2-3 minutes if you aren't careful.  I believe that a simpler transition area helps with this as it reduces the time you need to get going (2-3 minutes).  I will skip the socks at this point.

The Bike:
I've felt pretty good on my longer rides this month.  A few weeks back, I knocked out a 62 miler and kept a pretty steady pace the whole time.  However, since my fitness isn't as strong this year, I think the bike is where I need to be careful.  It would be easy to put in a really strong ride, only to wind up struggling through the run.  From what I understand the bike course isn't difficult, but it does have a number of rolling hills and false flats on it which means it will be difficult to keep a steady pace throughout.  Barring weather issues, I think I can ride this anywhere from 2:48 on the high end, to 3:05 on the slower end of things.  That said, I would really prefer to be somewhere in the middle of these two numbers.
Transition 2:  After a long bike ride, this is an easy area to lose some time.  I will throw on my socks and shoes here, and put on my visor.  I've been running with a visor and without sunglasses which has made for one less thing to worry about (2-3 minutes).

The Run:
Looking at run times for my age group from 2013, it looks like most finishers in the top half ran between a 1:40 to a 2:20.  Since running is still my strongest area, I feel like I can put in a decent run.  Earlier this year, I would have hoped to do it sub 1:50, but I think that this is probably out of reach.  If it's at all hot, this could be another factor.  Therefore, I'm going to shoot for something between a 1:55-2:05.  What I would like to do is run the first half at about 15-30 seconds slower per mile than the second half.  If I feel good at 10 miles, then I can put the hammer down and finish strong.

The "Chart":
As always, I like to chart out the possibilities for the race.  Here are some possible scenarios:

Barring any major disasters, I honestly believe that I have a shot at finishing somewhere around the 5hr 45 min mark.  The truth is, if the weather is decent, I will be satisfied with anything under 6 hours.  That would be a good starting point going into the off-season before gearing up for IM Boulder.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ironman Boulder 2014

This isn't a race report.  If you're looking for a first hand account of the race from swim to bike to run, you won't find it here.  I was at the Ironman on Sunday, and I was at the finish line well before the first athlete arrived.  This year I volunteered at the race which was absolutely awesome.  Along with my brother, we were stationed at the finish line.  It was really cool to see all of the athletes make their way in to the finish and celebrate that moment of accomplishment.  Originally we were signed up to pass out medals and t-shirts, but after a while we wound up being the ones to pass out water bottles (People seemed very thirsty when they finished?).  The finish line was a very inspiring place to be.  Some folks screamed and yelled and jumped around as they finished.  Others were more subdued.  There were a few tears, a few wheelchairs, and plenty of tired faces.  I was busy, and so I did not take many photos, but here's a few to enjoy.

There isn't a better view than the finish line.  Here's a photo of everyone waiting as Justin Daerr, the overall winner, makes his way down the finisher's chute.

There were a few other SoCoT2 members volunteering (along with many racing) and thanks to Kim for snapping this photo of my brother and I getting ready to hand out medals.

One of the jobs of the volunteers it to be a finish line "catcher."  They help to ensure that the athletes make it from the finish line to the exit area without any mishaps.  When Laura Bennett, a professional triathlete from Boulder finished, she had a special "guest catcher."  I was a little slow on the picture taking, but she was assisted by none other than Mirinda Carfrae and her husband Tim O'Donnell.  Pretty cool when the current Ironman World Champ shows up at the finish line!

This was the third event that I've volunteered for this summer and it has been a really cool to see the races from a different perspective.  Alas, I won't be back to volunteer at Ironman next year . . . The photo below explains why!

Yup, here goes!  Next year will be my 6th year in triathlon and it's time to take the plunge.  My brother (who is also going to race) and I got up early on Monday morning and made our way to Boulder High School where we were able to "priority register" for next year's event.  After witnessing last Sunday's race first hand, I'm very excited to be signed up for 2015.  I know that a lot of blood, sweat, and tears stands between me and the finish line, but in the end, it will all be worth it!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Manitou Incline

Yesterday, Melisa and I took a trip up to Manitou Springs to do the "Incline."  For the uninitiated, the Manitou Incline is an abandoned rail line that runs up the side of a mountain just west of Colorado Springs.  For several years, it became an unofficial trail (it was actually trespassing) that has lured hikers, endurance athletes, and just about anyone else who wants a challenge.  It is a little over a mile long and gains 2,000 feet.  The average grade on the incline is 40%.  You can read all of the nitty, gritty details here.
I found this graphic which demonstrates nicely the height of the Incline relative to some other tall locales.

We got a late start and didn't wind up getting onto the trail until mid-morning.  By this point it was fairly hot which added to the challenge of the climb.  Fortunately, as we gained altitude, we were greeted by a refreshing breeze which helped a great deal.  Still, an early morning or a cooler day would be preferable.  As you climb, you will see all kinds of folks on the incline.  Some are running, others are hiking, and plenty are just plain sucking wind.  

A couple of climbers making their way up the last few steps.
The trick to the incline (in my opinion) has to do with pacing.  It's important to find a steady climbing rate that allows you to keep moving forward without pushing the cardiovascular system to the brink.  If you go too fast, you will be forced to stop every 20 feet just to catch your breath.  This will add a great deal of time to your climb.  If you move at a steady pace however, you may not rocket to the top, but you also need fewer breaks.  Even pausing for 10 seconds usually does the trick if you are gong slow enough.  Here's a very short video of what the climb looks like (this is about 1/2 way up).

For our trip, we took our time and stopped along the climb.  It took us well over an hour to make it to the top, but we weren't in any rush either.  Instead of climbing back down the incline, we took the Barr Trail.  The trail is about 2.9 miles (the sign says different) but involves more switchbacks and fewer steep descents.

All Smiles after reaching the top!
We are planning at least one more trip this summer up the incline.  I'd like to try to see how fast I can get to the top the next time we go (the record is 16:42, but I'd be happy with a sub 40:00 minute time).  If you have the opportunity to make this trip, and you're up for a challenge, I highly recommend it! (Note: The incline will be closed for repairs later in August.  They are anticipating a four month closure).
Looking back down the trail from the top