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, February 23, 2014

Indoor Triathlon Recap

This morning, I headed over to the Pueblo Athletic Club to participate in the Indoor Triathlon. Since most of my training has been at my aerobic threshold, I was curious to see what would happen if I decided to push the pace a bit more.  I wasn't entirely sure if this was a good idea or not, but I decided to go ahead and go for it.  It was fun, but I pushed enough to really make it hurt.
Unlike a traditional triathlon, the events are completed in reverse order (run, bike, swim).  In addition, your place in this event is based on how much total distance you cover.
The run consisted of 20 minutes on the treadmill.  I chose the "Woodway" treadmill which is a bit narrower, but has a nice soft belt for running.  I started the 20 minute run with a 10 minute/ mile warm-up of a couple of minutes.  Every minute thereafter, I increased the pace on the machine by about .2 mph.  I kept increasing the pace until I maxed out at about 7:00/mile.  With about 4 minutes left, I backed off a bit and finished the 20 minutes at a 7:30/mile pace.  My overall distance for this time was 2.5 miles.  Certainly not the fastest 20 minutes I've ever run, but not the slowest either.  I have to admit that I felt pretty gassed after that, but there wasn't any time to rest as we were on to the bike segment.
The bike segment was 30 minutes that was divided into 3 separate intensities.  For the first ten minutes we rode in the 15 gear.  Then it moved down to 10 for another ten minutes, before the final ten minutes in the 5 gear.  Despite being plenty tired from running, I managed a pretty good pace on the spin bike.  The first 10 minutes were a bit closer to how I normally ride although on my bike, my average cadence is still about 10 rpm's slower (I normally turn about 70-75 rpm's).  During the second segment on the bike, the cadence increased significantly.  It was even worse when we hit the last ten minutes.  In all honesty, I thought that the first ten minutes at gear 15 would be the hardest, but that last twenty minutes at such a high intensity was way worse.  When all was said and done, I'd managed about 15.6 miles during the 30 minutes.  Wish I could manage that kind of pace out on the roads!
The last phase of the triathlon consisted of a ten minute swim. Pretty straightforward.  The nice thing is that they had someone counting laps for you, so all you had to do was swim.  Considering how exhausted I was from the first 50 minutes, I managed to crank out a pretty decent swim (at least for me).  Nothing too fast, but I stayed fairly consistent and didn't let my technique fall apart.    I did do a lot more breathing, but I also managed to flip turn the whole time, which I'm sure gained me a length or two.  Total distance was .3 miles.
My official distance for the event was 18.41 miles and while I certainly wasn't the fastest person there, I was pleased with my overall performance.  Especially considering that I haven't really done any kind of speed work in the last several months.   Up next on the calendar is the Spring Runoff.  This year I will be doing the 10k with my daughter.  My only hope is that it isn't quite as intense as today's triathlon.

Maffetone Test #2 (2014)

It's been pretty close to a month since my last Maffetone test.  At that point, I was just coming off of a strained calf muscle and so my running miles were at a minimum.  Fast forward four weeks and things have changed a bit.  My running mileage is up, my swimming volume is about the same, and my biking, well . . . it's down from a month ago (due to more running).  I expect to pick that back up a bit this next week as I get back into a training rhythm.

The addition of the weekly long run has been the most dramatic change in my training to date.  Earlier this week, I took advantage of a day off to do my longest run so far this year.  While I originally planned to do a 13 mile run, my daughter met me at the door after my last lap, and she wanted to do a bit of running too.  We wound up adding another few miles and so when all was said and done, it turned into a 16 mile run.  I survived but I was quite thankful that the rest of the week was lower volume.  In fact, by the time I managed to crawl out of the pool on Tuesday morning, I was more than ready for a day off.
Saturday was planned to be my second Maffetone test of the year.  I'd watched the weather all week and it seemed like the conditions were as close to what they'd been a month before when I'd done my first test.  There was a bit more wind, but nothing that would drastically impact the test.
Before heading out the door, I reviewed the data from my previous test so that I'd have some basis of comparison while I was out.
It was a beautiful afternoon to be running and I quickly settled into a comfortable pace.  The first portion of this test is a 10 minute warm-up.  I had tried to adjust the workout to make it just one mile, but for some reason, the 310xt didn't pick up the change before I headed out the door.  So I set off at an easy pace.  Before long however, I was already pretty close to my Maffetone range which made me a bit nervous.  At ten minutes, I was bumping the bottom end of 130bpm where I had an alarm set, and the unit was buzzing and beeping at me non-stop as I moved between 129-130bpm.  Finally, I heard the countdown and the test was underway.  For the test my goal is to run as close to my Aerobic threshold of 138bpm for as much of the time as possible.  The pace varies accordingly.
I still have a long ways to go in terms of aerobic efficiency, but what a difference a month makes. The chart below compares the two runs:
Two Tests: Jan and Feb 2014
As you can see, my average pace per mile was somewhat lower across each of the miles.  In fact the average difference was about 43 seconds faster per mile, with the real difference coming in the last three miles where it was nearly a minute faster than before. There was also a range of about 37 seconds between my fastest and slowest times, compared to a 48 second range last time.
I think it's also interesting to see the difference in pace between miles two and three.  In this portion of the run there's a fairly long hill that tends to require a significant drop in pace.  On this second run today, my pace did slow, but not to the same extent as it had a month ago.  Once past this hill, the course has more descent, and it's easy to compare the difference between the two tests.  This also explains why the overall pace drops as the run progresses.  In a traditional Maffetone test situation on a track, you would see the opposite effect (the pace would slow, not speed up) as the body became more fatigued.  On the surface, it looks like the increased efficiency helps with tackling those hills.  That may be true to some extent, but a closer look at that portion of the run still shows a fair amount of slowing.  What it may do however, is allow for a faster return to a higher pace at the same HR.  It will be interesting to see how this looks after a third test in another month.
An inverse chart, the "dip" reflects a slowed pace when climbing the "hill."  It's a pretty significant change before returning to a faster pace.
In terms of heart rate, there was a bit more variability this time, but only by a beat or two.  One of the interesting things about this type of training is that you start to develop a sense of when your heart rate is exceeding the aerobic threshold.  Throughout the run, I could tell the moment I crossed that threshold, and sure enough, the 310xt would start beeping a moment later.  It was a little harder to sense a decrease in HR, but I think that this will become more perceptible over time.  The chart below compares my average HR across each of the miles.

Putting it all together, I'm very pleased with the progress I've seen over the last four weeks.  Enough so, that I'm going to keep at it for another month.  By the end of March, I hope to see a further increase, and I would absolutely love to knock another minute or so off of my average mile. Having three data points will be helpful in confirming that this is a viable method of training over the long term.  I will admit that if I continue to see significant improvements, I'm inclined to continue training this way.  I expect at some point however, I will hit some efficiency threshold which will result in some diminished returns.  In the meantime, I'll continue to Swim, Bike, Run at my aerobic threshold.
Ahem . . .except for one brief exception.  On Sunday morning, I'm going to head over to PAC for an indoor triathlon.  It's part of a local fundraising activity.  While I don't plan on going all out, I may push the pace a bit more.  The last time I was actually able to combine all three sports was back on the last day of August (nearly 7 months ago).   While an Indoor triathlon doesn't really compare to the real thing, it's something.  I'll recap later with a brief race report.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Extolling the virtues of the Run/ Walk Method

As much as I enjoy swimming and biking, I have to admit that my favorite discipline in Triathlon is still running. That makes sense considering that running is something I've done since I was in elementary school.  Now that I'm in my forties, I've run countless 5k's and 10k's, a handful of marathons, and even a 50 mile run.  But up until last year, I'd never trained with a mixture of running and walking.  I'd always felt that if I walked any part of a run I was somehow cheating or shortchanging the experience.  Real running required . . . well running only.  For my first marathon in fact, my only goal was to run the entire thing, no walking at all.
Of course, a mixture of running and walking is nothing new.  Jeff Galloway has used this approach with running for decades and you can get more specific details and rationale for the approach on his excellent web site.
For me it was training for that 50 mile race that initiated me to the approach.  As I started running longer distances, I began to experiment with a bit of walking as part of my training.  Initially, I would run for about an hour, and then take a 5 minute walk break.  This worked okay, but I still felt pretty spent after a run of more than a dozen miles.  Then I read about a 5 to 1 approach (5 minutes running, to 1 minute walking).  The increased frequency of the breaks concerned me a bit, but as I learned more about ultra running, I realized that walking was really a common part of training and racing for most folks.  This is the approach that I have consistently used during the last year when completing my longer training runs.  I've discovered a number of ways that this type of training has benefited me.
The first benefit, and probably the most important has been recovery.  Usually, a run of more than about 10 miles requires a couple of days recovery.  If any speed/ tempo work is included, that might mean even more time.  With the run/ walk method, the time needed for recovery is much lower.  This means I can get back to SBR much sooner and keep training.  In general, long runs that have been run/ walk have been easier overall.
Discipline has been another benefit of this method.  While it might seem that it would require more discipline to keep running, the opposite seems true for me.  It's very difficult to slow to a walk during a run, especially when I'm feeling good and I want to keep going a bit further.  However, the benefit of those walk breaks that occur only a couple of miles into the run, are obvious once the run stretches above 10 miles.  At that point, these breaks make the idea of running further much more manageable.
Lastly, the opportunity to stop during a run has provided the opportunity to further appreciate the experience of running long.  Stopping for a minute or two when you're a dozen miles from nowhere provides the chance to take things in a bit more.  I've managed to catch some beautiful scenery this way, or even enjoy the stillness of an early morning run.
Stopping to walk reminds you to enjoy the scenery a bit more.
The run/ walk method for training has not diminished my ability to run far without stopping.  During races, I can keep moving along without the need for these breaks.  Because most of my longer training is down at a lower HR, I haven't had a problem adding speed on longer runs having trained this way.

BONUS RACE REPORT: Valentine's Twosome

Staying warm before the race!
This is the world's shortest race report, but then it was also a very short race.  This morning, the family headed over to City Park to do the Valentine's Twosome, a 2 person relay race.  Lily and I ran the first 1.6 loop in about 25 minutes and Melisa and Maya "anchored" the second lap.  Our total time was 44 minutes.
Great Job to the youngest participant today!
And yes, the Johnson family finished DFL.  But it was fun.  Cold and snowy, but still fun.  I was proud of the family for getting out and doing this race together.  Afterward, we celebrated by going to Martinez Cafe for a great Mexican Breakfast (Eggs, Chile, Tortillas, Beans, Potatoes, and Hot, Hot Coffee).  A great start to the day for sure.
Post race w/ visions of Breakfast!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Snowy Saturday!

All week I've been waiting for my "long" run.  After a month of relatively random training and then last week's Maffetone test, I've been looking forward to getting started on a "build" phase in my training that will last the next 4-6 weeks.  This will emphasize a fair amount of running and should have me prepared with a solid aerobic base by the time Spring officially rolls around.
This route, but covered in White!
When I awoke this morning, I discovered that there was a fair amount of snow on the ground, and more was coming down.  By noon, the roads were either snow packed, or a slushy mess.  In other words, it was just perfect for a run.
One thing I love about summer time is how easy it is to go for a run.  It takes less than a minute to throw on a pair of shorts and a shirt, and pull on a visor.  In the winter, it's a bit more of a process. Fortunately, I wasn't in a big hurry, so I took my time, put together a playlist on iTunes, and got ready to head out the door.  I was feeling good!
Tunes for the trail!
Despite years of living in Colorado, I'm still amazed at how recklessly people will drive, even in the crappiest of weather conditions.  For this reason, I headed north out of my neighborhood and up to an underdeveloped area where there are plenty of trails to run on.  While this decreased the chance that I'd be flattened by a car skidding out of control, it did mean that I'd have to break a trail through the snow for most of the run.  But, since this had a much lower death factor than running on the roads,  I literally plowed ahead.
The frozen tundra!
Just over a mile into the run, I ran past a couple of other people who were out for a jog.  Seeing other runners around is a fairly unusual experience where I live, and it was doubly so given the conditions.  There were a fair number of folks outside, but most were shoveling the snow off of their driveways.
Although the snow continued to come down through most of the run, it really wasn't that cold out (maybe around 25 degrees).  I find that as long as I keep my upper body warm, I can run in shorts and not feel uncomfortable.  After a few miles, the snow was "sticking" to my shoes a bit, and my feet got fairly wet, but they never felt too cold or uncomfortable.
Not too shabby!
My original plan had been to run about 8 miles, but I wound up feeling pretty good and made it a little over nine miles.  My pace was extremely slow, but I chalk that up to the fact that most of the time, I was pulling my feet out of 2-3 inches of snow.  Despite this, or maybe because of it, I felt pretty good the whole time and enjoyed my longest run in over three months!