Friday, June 25, 2010

2010: Raising FTP

Yea, that's how it's done. I found this photo when browsing through my old picture files.

Mountain bike racing is a really fun way to raise FTP although a little dangerous--tree branches that reach out and grab you, roots that snare the tires, loose mud to coat the chain and gravel to throw you sideways. In 2006, I did a stint of WORS (Wisconsin Off Road Race Series) racing to raise my FTP and it worked marvelously. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

2010: High Cliff HIM

Flat tire!

I was rushed this week and it carried over to the race on Saturday. The morning of the race, I struggled to get Adrienne's new Planet X Exocet bike working. I had tubular trouble with the Bontrager XXX rubbing on the seat stay. After various attempts at fixing it, it was a lost cause and so I had her race with it rubbing. Thank heavens that after a number of miles, she noticed it stopped. Yea, that's a watt sucker.

Ah, I kinda of like it when we "have to" swim. Year after year, the swim portion of triathlons are turing into deep water walking events. As expected, the weaker swimmers get to exit on the heels of us faster ones. This race was no different. Jeff Tarkowski and I even managed to have a conversation during the first quarter mile because of shallow water, plus the distance was short.

I exited T1 in third place. Out on the bike course, I caught up and passed Craig Lanza as Tarkowski started pulling away. I knew that he was going to, I just wanted to minimize the damage.

At mile 20 I came around a corner and suddenly got a flat tire. It didn't seem to do any tire damage, but I must of hit something hard causing a blowout. On the side of the road, I found out I grabbed the wrong spare kit from the car leaving me without any tire levers. After a while, a fellow racer threw me a set and I was able to get back on the road. I lost somewhere between 10-15 minutes. It was long enough that Adrienne rolled up next to me as I was getting back on the bike. I chatted with her for a moment before pressing on at "Matt" speed.

It took me nearly 23 miles to catch up to Jackie Arendt, the first female. I then rolled into transition as Alan Mast was finishing up lacing his shoes.

I got off to a good start staying alert to my running form (low arm swing). The ubiquitous side-stitch was present again. After two miles, I was up to speed going sub 7 minute miles but the gas tank felt low. I stayed strong for the first lap, but eased up during lap 2. The magic wasn't there and I simply held on at IM pace for rest of the run. I trickled in at 4:30.

In the end, it was a good learning experience and although the flat altered my time, I learned a few more things:

1. Ease up on the bike more -- keep HR at 150 for once instead of 160 then having it drop to 155bpm
2. Running fast is result of high motivation and proper bike pacing. I had neither this time around.
3. Side-stitch therapy - have 2 saltstick tablets for breakfast, eliminate water during the bike portion and substitute MotorTabs instead, have more salt tablets during bike and run
4. I prefer tubular over clinchers (easier to fix a flat, better feel for the road)

Also, it was great to see Jeff Tarkowski put on a show. The guy is incredibly fast and it's wonderful to be able to push him along a bit. Mister nice guy Mike Lavery did great as well taking second. Chris Wichert, unfortunately, came to the race already tired from some gruelling early week workouts and had to pull the plug a few miles into the run. I hope he keeps his head high. The other personal notable was Paul Eicker. He's a former swimmer of mine from when I used to coach a swim team. He's lightning fast and placed in the top five.

Monday, June 14, 2010

2010: Training Break

Sometimes the weekend just does not go like you want it to. Every year, my dad organizes a Father's Day fishing trip for us sons. This year I managed to get away hoping to get my training in as well. It did not happen. Overcast skies and a continual rain hampered both the fishing trip and the workouts. I managed to slip in the weekly bike rides during the weekdays hoping I could get a lot of swimming and running in while away on the trip. No luck. Although I did not post any zeros, I missed my long run and swam only 30 minutes one day. On the upside, I did catch one walleye and catch up on the musings of my brothers Mike and John. Both continue to live the high life in the their own way: Mike tours the woods of Bayfield County as a Forester with his dog Nelson and John as a financial analyst sorting out billion dollar deals on Wacker Driver in Chicago. They had plenty of stories to share. Dad, as usual, was fairly quiet to focus on walleye fishing. He means business when he's on the water. We also cruised our old property nearby to make sure all the Amman Investments are in good shape.

So, where does this leave me? I was planning to do High Cliff HIM this coming weekend, but given I'm short on training hours this month, I'm staying home to get the work in. Adrienne is still doing the race so I'll likely ride home after watching her.

Edit: I have decided to do the race.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ironman Training

One of the great athletes and coaches in triathlon is Chuckie V. If you haven't read his blog (, I recommend you look it over. Nearly even thing he writes (about triathlon) is gold. Personally, I follow a lot of his recommendations. Recently, he's written a wonderful piece about Ironman training with a template that, I believe, is better than anything else I've come across.

Chuckie V recommends:

Monday: Run (1:00) + Swim (1:00)
Tuesday: Ride (1:00)
Wednesday: Time-consuming Run (2:00) + Swim (:45)
Thursday: Ride (1:00)
Friday: Run (1:00) + Swim (1:15)
Saturday: Time-consuming Ride (4:00)
Sunday: Time-consuming Ride (4:00) + Run (1:00)

And again, the three primary challenges within this are the midweek long run, and the weekend rides. (The real challenge, however, is in repeating such a week ad infinitum.) The long run is (or should be) self-explanatory: get out and run for a long time. If you run it too hard (or you go too long), you'll know a couple days thereafter. Be in tune with this and be aware in advance of next week's long one. The bike rides are ideally set-up in a manner where the challenge comes on Saturday (i.e., a harder steady-state effort), with Sunday's ride simply done as a "Caveman day" or a "feeling based" ride, followed by a transition run (we are, after all, triathletes). If you feel (and are indeed performing) like crap on Saturday the two rides can easily be swapped…in hopes you won't feel poor again on Sunday.

Now, as to where the rest of the challenge should lay, that's up to the individual and the coach, assuming the individual has a coach. If not, this is what I advise…

But first a disclaimer! It's imperative in training that you don't become mired in protocol or in a specific code of conduct. Protocol simply cannot prepare you like an adaptive response to reality can. (Reality = events that unfold; life.) This adaptive-ness is essentially the "art of training" and is every bit as important (if not more so) than the "science of training". And though verified to generate desirable outcomes on a wide range of athletes, the following is merely a suggestion based on principles and fundamentals and can only work if you make it work. And alas, making it "work" is NOT entirely up to you but rather your body and its fickle, ever-irregular responses. Amend where needed, when needed, as needed.


Since the weekend is big enough Monday really ought to be recovery focused, a day free from the rigors of leg abuse. The hitch, however, is that we must continue to get the weekly load in, and starting the week with just a swim (regardless of what came the day prior) is a sure-fire way in which to fall short by the end of the week, and so Monday also includes an easy jog in the afternoon, preferably as late in the day as is feasible. And depending on how challenging the transition run was the day before, Monday's bout ideally ought to remain relaxed and slow, preferably on dirt or some other soft surface (rubber, pillows, babies butts, etc). As far as the swim goes, it's a good day for some "upper-body isolation" or "sport-specific strength work". Strap your feet together, throw on the paddles and a small pull-buoy and do a simple but challenging main set, like 10 x 250s @ 90% effort. With about two hour's training time in all, that leaves Monday a done deal.

As far as Tuesday is concerned, this is where the midweek bike challenge ideally fits in, at least on paper. (Keep in mind that everything is easy on paper, even an Ironman and even the Pacific Crest Trail, though you'll need that much more paper for the latter! And since everything is easy on paper, I plan to do my next long hike entirely atop the stuff.) In all truth, your body (and your drive) must always have the final say, but planning a hard strength-related ride here allows you to make the most of the restricted amount of time you have (or, more precisely, don't have). Warm-up approximately 10 or so minutes, then do 40-minutes at 95%-98% of FTP/UHOP in interval form (e.g., 5 x 8-minutes on 2-minute's rest), all the meanwhile seated in the aero-bars (not literally though, that'd be weird and hard to balance the bike) at slow, smooth cadences, roughly 65-70RPM. Cool-down for a minute or two and be done with it. Tuesday…check.

With regards to Wednesday, you'll need to find a way to squeeze the midweek long run here, particularly if your idea of a long run is two hours or so. If a long run to you is to the refrigerator and back, be sure to place the refrigerator in a town about 6-10 miles away. I advise waking up earlier than normal and setting out at 5am, before the rest of the lazy-ass world has even thought about waking; that way you'll feel pretty damn good about yourself (which is always an important consideration) when 7am rolls around, and the world still slumbers. The long run should be paced so that you could theoretically repeat it in 48-hours or so, without a hitch. If your recovery is compromised you went to hard. Later in the day (ideally at noon) a recovery swim is in order, to hasten recovery from the run (in a perfect world, you'd never finish the day with an abusive bout of exercise). This ought to be little more than a moderately challenging "flop" or gravity-removed movement. I usually have those I guide do more strength work with some light kicking (e.g., 20 x 75s pull {all gear} at 80-90% effort on a 5-second rest interval + 10 x 50s kick, alternating with kick-board and no kick-board. Include some backstroke and breaststroke to stretch things out.) Wednesday: done.

Thursday: If you're already a reasonably fit cyclist (relative to those you compete against), this ideally ought to be swapped for another swim or another run. If not, stick with the ride and go entirely by feel, ala the Caveman. Cavemen did not ride bikes (or their bikes had square wheels anyway) but it's important here that you do, or at least do something, whether easy or not (don't be afraid of easy; in training, it ALL adds up, even the easy stuff). I don't believe in taking a complete day off each week when time is of the essence, as it's doubtful your competition does. (Check this: One day off each week = two months off each year. Good luck goal-tending with that approach.)

As for Friday, this is where the hardest swim of the week comes, though your other swims should be tough too (recall that swimming is "easier" on the body, in terms of recovery). You needn't anything extravagant, just something challenging. My personal favorite was a 5,000-meter time-trial, but I'm known to suffer from a series of mental maladies, so I advocate something a little more stimulating, psychologically speaking. (The physical stimulus of a 5K TT is profound.) In general this means a workout that relates to your goal race: if it's an Ironman for example, then 20 x 200s on a paltry 10-second's rest will do the trick, so long as they're all paced faster than your intended race pace. (Remember: unlike this workout, an Ironman Day swim = extended warm-up; whereas here now you must present yourself with a challenge in order to set yourself up for fitness growth; development follows demand.) Today's run, however, is like most triathlon-related running and is simply about remaining consistent and strong; routine in running is perfectly fine (though sameness is not). Fast running is okay only if recovery isn't compromised and if injury/illness is averted. The 48-72 hours following a given run will tell you if you ran too hard; look back to look ahead.
-- Chuckie V