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.