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).

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Back to "Maff"

Yesterday, I went out for my first Maffetone test in over a year.  If you are unfamiliar with Phil Maffetone, and his approach to training, you can find more information about my experience with this kind of training at this post, this post, or at this post.  Or, you can simply visit his website which will give you all of the official information you need.  The short version is that with Maffetone training, you do nearly all of your training at your aerobic threshold.  This teaches your body to become more efficient at burning fat for energy, and as your volume of training increases over time, you become faster at that threshold level.  One of Phil Maffetone's early coaching clients, was a guy named Mark Allen, whom you might have heard of.
Mark Allen: A pretty good triathlete!
I had some success to this approach in 2013.  Within a couple of months of training, I saw my pace at Aerobic threshold drop by nearly a minute per mile, and I also found myself feeling less dependent on "fuel" during exercise.  Unfortunately, a running injury derailed further testing so I didn't get to see what further progress might indicate.  Still, I did manage to PR at the half-marathon distance last year, and I have to attribute some of that to being more efficient.
So at the onset of 2014, I find myself willing to embark on a new round of Maffetone training.  My goal is to measure results with a monthly 5 mile test to see if I can gather more extended results.  Based on my experience a year ago, I think this training approach holds promise, but I wouldn't say that I'm a complete "convert" to Maffetone just yet.
This time around, I'm going to take a slightly different approach to the "tests" than compared to a year ago.  For starters, I have a new 310xt that I'm using for HR tracking, and I'm a bit more adept at using its features.  This allows me to set up workouts and courses which I can upload to the device.  In so doing, it will buzz and beep at me as I move through the warm-up, etc.  It will also alert me if my HR drops or exceeds the threshold level.  The biggest change however is that instead of doing my testing on a track as I did a year ago, I'm using a route that I run on a regular basis.  There are a few reasons for this.  One is that a course will also allow me to consider some additional variables like elevation increase and decrease.  I also like the idea of testing in a situation that is more consistent with my regular training.  Lastly, running around the track 20 times is just plain boring.
The course is relatively flat, but has a few climbs which will provide some authentic data over time.
Another major difference this year will be the nature of my training.  In 2013, I was gearing up for a 50 mile trail run in May.  This meant that the overwhelming majority of my training was running.  This year, I'm doing a much more balanced approach to training which means more cycling and swimming.  Still, I am going to add a weekly long run to my regimen in order to build up to about 20 miles by mid-April.  You just can't beat running for building a strong aerobic base.  Based on my first test yesterday, I'm going to need it!  
More biking and swimming, but limited run miles
To date my training is much more limited due to the late October accident and then a slight calf muscle strain at the start of the new year.  I'm getting back into it, but my overall mileage has been lower (particularly in the run).
Nice weather made for nice running
Yesterday's test consisted of a 10 minute warm-up followed by 5 miles of running at a heart rate between 130-139 bpm (essentially my aerobic threshold range).  It was a nice enough day to wear shorts and a t-shirt, and I took along a visor and an iPod nano (I will be consistent in my future tests and run with the same outfit, music, etc.  I will also try to run on a day when the weather is similar).  My current weight is 172.4 lbs which is slightly above what I normally weigh during racing season. I will continue to monitor weight over time to see how any changes may impact heart rate and pace.

This chart shows that my pace had a range of about 48 seconds from the fastest at 10:45 up to 11:33 per mile.  Some of this was impacted by elevation, so the next set of tests will be revealing in terms of how much of a difference appears (if any).  I have to admit that this was much slower than I'd anticipated, but it speaks to the limited aerobic base that I currently possess.  In the world of Maffetone, I'm less fat-adapted at this point, and therefore, less efficient.

Heart Rate:

This very boring chart shows that my average HR was steady across each mile of the test (averaging 137 bpm).  Technically my threshold is 138 according to Maffetone, but this comes close enough.  During the entire run, I tried not to exceed this threshold and in fact, my Max HR for the entire run never exceeded 142 bpm which is well within an acceptable range.  

Overall Data:

This last table shows all of the information together including changes in elevation.  As I repeat the tests, I will update the pace and HR information to include within the charts and graphs.

Now it's about time to go hit the bike trainer for a while and take in some "House of Cards" while I ride.  Nothing like snarky D.C. politicians to get the blood pumping!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Book Review: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

As an endurance athletes, we are drawn into the idea of "testing our limits."  Completing a long distance triathlon or an ultra marathon allows us to experience "suffering," and we test ourselves to see how much pain we can take.  The Tour de France, arguably the toughest endurance race on the planet, is a "clinic" on how strong, both mentally and physically, an athlete must be just to finish the race.  As strange as it seems, we relish the opportunity to struggle with pain and suffering.  It is, what we do for fun.  After reading the book Unbroken, these ideas of endurance, pain, and suffering are cast in a new perspective.  This book tells the story of what these things truly mean.
This is the story of an Olympian runner, Louis Zamperini, and his experiences in the second world war as a bombardier on a B-24, and a POW in Japan.  At the start of the story we learn that Louie was a rambunctious child; wild, unruly, and fond of breaking into the kitchens around town in order to steal food.  Through much of his early years, it seems that he will likely end up behind bars, but not as a soldier in a war.  However, as he grows up a bit, he gains the opportunity to start running, and his talents as a track star emerge.  By 1936, he qualified for the Olympic team, and ran in the 5000 meters in Berlin.  While not the fastest runner there, it was clear that come 1940, he will be the man to beat.
Peering through a hole in "Super Man"
With World War Two exploding across Europe, the next set of Olympics doesn't come to be, and like many young men at the time, Louie finds himself enlisted in the Army Air Core.  Eventually, his unit is deployed to the Pacific Theater.  During their first mission, it becomes clear how dangerous and terrifying the fighting can be.  After a successful bombing run on a Japanese outpost, they are repeatedly attacked by Japanese Zeros.  Their plane named Super Man, is so severely damaged that it will never fly again.   Their first mission, however, is a resounding success, but shortly after, Louie and his crew find themselves on the receiving end of a bombing mission.  Laura Hillenbrand vividly describes the feelings of sheer helplessness that the grounded pilots feel as wave after wave of bombs descend upon them.  As bomber crews, there is a twisted and horrific irony in this experience as they endure what they in turn, have visited on the enemy.
Surviving the bombardment, Louie, along with his pilot and good friend "Phil," were soon sent to Hawaii, while they awaited another plane and a new crew.  In the meantime, much of their time was spent doing search missions for planes that had gone missing (according to the book, a staggering number of airmen were lost due to accidents and crashes).  It was on one such mission, that the plane in which Louie was flying went down due to mechanical failures.  The plane was called "The Green Hornet" and it had a reputation as an unreliable aircraft.  After falling into the ocean, only Louie, Phil, and one other crew member survived.  This is where the story of endurance truly begins.
After crashing into the ocean, Louie and his pilot lived nearly 50 days on a raft
For nearly 50 days, the men drifted west from the crash site.  By the time they reached the Marshall Islands some 2,000 miles later, there were only two of them left.  Instead of salvation however, they now found themselves prisoners of the Japanese.  Their situation soon went from bad to worse, as they were transferred from one group of soldiers and into the POW system.  They endured days, weeks, and eventually months and years of torture, malnutrition, and psychological suffering at the hand of the Japanese, who largely disregarded any conventions about how POW's should be treated.  Behind all of this was the realization that there would likely be no rescue.  It was rumored that if Japan were losing the war, they had a "kill all POW's" order that would eliminate them before they could be saved.
Unbroken captures the story of Louie and his POW's in great and eloquent detail, and also describes the lives of the soldiers after returning home.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

New Toys

My big Xmas present this year was the acquisition of a new GPS/ HRM watch.  For the last couple of years, I've been using a combination of a forerunner 205 & 305 (given to me by my brother).  However, given their age, the batteries have started to fail and after much deliberation, I decided that a new watch would be the way to go, as I knew I would get a lot of use out of it.  As part of this acquisition, I also wanted to get a Cadence/ Speed Sensor for my bike so that I could get more accurate data on the trainer, which will be the primary location of my cycling this winter.
As a frequent reader of DC Rainmaker, I knew that would be my first stop when looking at watches as he conducts extensive reviews of different watches and monitors.  In essence, if you want to know anything and everything about endurance sports technology gadgets (watches, power meters, software, etc.), this is the place to go.  Over the last few weeks I'd looked at several possibilities including a new release from Adidas that looked very promising with a built-in music player, but all of the devices seemed to be lacking in one area or another.  Finally, it came down to two choices: The TomTom Multisport, or the Garmin 310xt.
The TomTom Multisport watch had a number of features that I really liked including the fact that it was super fast when connecting to satellites.  I also liked the idea of a device that was bluetooth enabled for connecting to HRM and Cadence sensors.  In fact, if money were no object, I would have likely gone with this set up.  But to get the watch and accompanying items, I was looking at a price of around $300.00, which was a bit more than I wanted to spend at the moment.  Another consideration (albeit a smaller one) was the 10 hour battery life on the Tom Tom device.  While it will be extremely rare that I'd want something with a longer battery life, the reality is that I do hope to do an Ironman or another Ultra at some point, and while I'd be pleased with a sub 10 hour time in either event, that is highly unrealistic.  A longer battery life was something that I'd have to consider.
Sensor comes with everything you see here. . .
With that in mind, I turned to look at the Garmin 310xt.  This watch was a precursor to their 910xt and while it lacks some of the features, it still seemed like a good option.  Since I already have a Garmin HR strap (thanks again Brother!), this also knocked a pretty good amount off of the total cost.  It's also a slightly less expensive item and so I was able to get a decent deal through Amazon (about $165). So early on Christmas morning, I pulled the trigger, and with a free trial to an Amazon Prime membership, I was even able to select next day shipping for less than $10, meaning that my package was set to arrive on Friday night.  I could hardly wait!  Perhaps you heard the stories about UPS and Fedex being behind schedule this holiday season?  Well, I can verify that they are true.  It was in fact, Monday afternoon before my items arrived (Amazon kindly refunded my $10 next day fees, although I canceled my trial to prime membership anyway).  My toys were here, and I was psyched to get started playing!
Good speed, but too much post run pain!
However, only a few minutes before their arrival on Monday afternoon,  I'd decided to go for a short run.  I hadn't been for a few days, and I was eager to take advantage of a beautiful afternoon.  I set out from the house and decided some half mile intervals would be fun.  I wound up having a fairly intense workout.  Too intense it turns out.  I awoke in the middle of the night to experience an extremely unhappy calf muscle in my left leg.  Having previous experience with strained calf muscles, I knew that I had pushed a little too much, so any opportunity to run with my new toy, was on hold for the time being.  That did however, give me an opportunity to install the speed/ cadence sensor and try that out a bit.    The installation was relatively easy and I had it installed and paired with my Garmin in a matter of minutes. Still being mindful of my calf muscle, I decided a short 30 minute spin was the best option.

Perhaps you've had the opportunity when flying to get an "upgrade" to first class.  Or maybe when you checked into a hotel room they were able to "upgrade" your room to a suite with a balcony.  Or an even better description might be when you've purchased your first new car, and pleasantly discovered that the heater, air-conditioning, and stereo all work perfectly.  Such a difference compared to what you were driving before, no? That's how I feel about my new watch. It's been a great upgrade. From the moment I first began setting it up, it has been, well, just better.  Faster than what I had been using by far.  Both in terms of finding satellites (it's even finding them when I'm inside), connecting to HR strap and sensors, and certainly downloading data.  In fact, while testing the speed and cadence sensor downstairs, it even transferred the data back upstairs to the computer where I had left Garmin Connect open.  When I went to upload the data into my BT training log, it was done in a matter of seconds.  I used to have time to go get a cup of coffee while waiting for an upload.
The data has also been great to have.  Prior to this, my trainer results have been merely a best estimate of my speed and time.  Our Tri Club is currently participating in the USAT national challenge and because I've been stuck on the trainer, without specific data, I've been required to count each hour as a total of only 15 miles.  While this has been a fairly close estimate, it's nice to get a bump of a mile or two now that I have more accurate results.  I also like the fact that I can now get information on my cadence and I look forward to using that further with some of the Sufferfest videos (Strava Premium has also added 3 videos in the training section which will be awesome to use as well).
Being able to track Heart Rate is probably the thing I most excited about however.  Through the first part of the year last year, I used Heart Rate as a key training component.  Without a viable option for this the last several months, I've relied more on RPE (rate of perceived exertion), which is helpful, but harder to analyze from a data perspective.  Between Garmin Connect, Strava, and BT, there are endless ways to analyze the numbers more.

To be sure I've only scratched the surface with the watch, and I know that I will want to try some other things with it, as I get more workouts logged in.  Until then, I will continue to enjoy my upgrade!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

1st Annual New Year's Day Fun Run

This morning we hosted our first annual New Year's Day Fun Run with options for a 3 mile or 5 mile run/ walk.   As the unofficial race director (A twitchy calf muscle kept me out of the event), I was out the door around 8:00 a.m. this morning to do the course marking.  I set off from home with a large piece of sidewalk chalk and a gallon zip lock bag of flour which I used to draw arrows for the unpaved portions of the long route.  The different routes were marked with either blue or red chalk for participants to follow.  I was surprised that it took a good hour to completely mark the two routes even though there was a good amount of overlap with the two courses.
Participants had their choice of two routes . . . the short run . . .

 . . . and the long run!
A little before 10 a.m., friends and family started gathering at the house.  It was a great turn out with over 25 people joining us for the inaugural event.  I gave a pre-race briefing and showed the course maps on our TV using my new Chrome-cast and connecting it to the Strava site on our computer. Within minutes, everyone made their way outside to the starting line under a beautiful blue sky.
Approximately 24 people and 2 dogs participated in the first annual New Year's Day run!
The runners and walkers were off, while I finished the final preparations for the post run meal.  All participants were treated to a post race treat of either green or red chili along with old fashioned sodas or Mexican Beer.

The first runners started arriving back at the house after about 30 minutes with most everyone getting back within the first hour.  The notable exception was Melisa, her auntie, and Lily, all of who walked the entire 5 mile course!
Post long route pointing!

Liliana did the 5 mile course, what a "risk-taker!"
Next year we'll plan to do our second annual race and who knows, maybe we can even add a t-shirt or some other swag for those that participate! Congratulations to all of our participants and we hope you are able to relax for the rest of the day!

A 3 mile runner relaxes after a grueling morning!