Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Back in Austin

  Vacations are great but I have never been very good at combining travel and training. If I do any training it is usually a run or too here and there and maybe a swim but never anything else. Well I am back in Austin and I have been grinding out some tough workouts in this heat. Last week I over extended myself when I should have pulled back on the reins and it ended up costing me a couple days of extra rest to recover. I just have to make sure that I am training in the shade, early morning hours or indoors.
  I have weighed myself after long runs and bike rides and it is not unusual for me to sweat out about 4-6 pounds. I have been hydrating pretty regularly with water and  Zico coconut water. I have enjoyed success with watered down Gatorade but I am looking to cut back on non natural sugars. I also have been eating a lot of fruit like watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries and pineapples to help with nutrient replacement and hydration and it seems to be doing the trick. It is frustrating to train in the summertime Texas heat. It's hot, I get grumpy and I just can't go as fast. This years La Nina weather pattern meant that we had no Spring to speak of and headed straight into 100 degree weather in May. It is now the end of June with no relief in site until September. Being out in the sun and heat definitely takes it's toll and I try to run and ride in the mornings and save the swims for my second workout of the day. I work late nights so that early morning alarm clock is not a fun noise. I try to make up the sleep difference with a post breakfast nap but sometimes there just isn't enough time.
  I am trying to run about 20-30 miles a week, ride about 70-100 miles a week and swim about 6-8 kilometers a week. I will ramp those distances up to peak for my big race which will be the Austin Triathlon on Labor day.  I am really looking forward to that race. It should be a lot of fun.
  Yesterday I had the pleasure of riding with my friend Paula out at the Veloway for a few laps. We started at a reasonable hour so the heat wasn't too bad. I brought my camera along for a few action shots.

Hook em Horns!
Paula riding the Veloway

  Oskar is doing great. We went on a slow 7 mile run around Ladybird Lake this morning with our friend Tony. He got to jump in and swim several times so now he is passed out on the floor for the rest of the afternoon. Lucky dog.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Surf break

  I had every intention of doing a great workout yesterday. The plan was simple: yoga, run and then core. But then the waves were looking pretty good at Ocean Beach here in San Francisco. So the plan was completely scrapped and replaced with a humbling surfing session. 
  I used to surf a few years ago. Now I am in better shape than I was back then but my wave knowledge is a little rusty. Reading the ocean to determine how the waves are coming in is a skill that takes a long time to acquire. When last I surfed I was just beginning to grasp some of the concepts. It is like a foreign language, if you don't use it you lose it. I had fun getting into the cold water and paddling out through the break but I only caught one wave, got bonked on the head with my surfboard, swallowed a gallon of seawater and nearly had my foot sliced open by the fin on my board. The last one was the deal breaker so I packed it in after that. But it was terribly fun and I am already scouting the surf reports for today.
Trail head where I surfed
  My long run on Sunday got switched to a long hike. It was about 5 miles along the same trail. In a way I think it was a little harder hiking it compared to running it. My legs are more sore than I think they would have been if I had run it. I think when you hike your stride is different and you engage different muscles for a longer period of time. Either way it ended up being a pretty good strength workout.
This is a view west of Golden Gate Bridge near the beginning of the hike.

                    This near the end of the hike. It was quite a view.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Recovery week in San Francisco

  I have been practicing a more natural progression of training. I increase the distance I train every week following the 10% rule. Well...let's just say that I try to follow the 10% rule. Sometimes I overshoot it a little and sometimes I come in just a little under 10%. I insert recovery days when needed. Here is a weekly total of my workouts for the past couple of weeks. Mind you this is the beginning of a build cycle that will last all summer.

Week 5/23-5/29
  • Run 13 miles
  • Bike 48 miles
  • Swim 2.7 KM
Week 5/30-6/5
  • Run 19.5 miles
  • Bike 70 miles
  • Swim 6.8 KM
Week 6/6-6/12
  • Run 19 miles
  • Bike 78 miles
  • Swim 7.3 KM
Week 6/13-6/19 Recovery week
  • Run 15 miles (23 miles if I put off brunch and go run right now)
  • Bike 15 miles
  • Swim 1.1 KM
  This week is obviously a recovery week. I am taking recovery very seriously this time around. Although I didn't mean to drop the distance this much I will pick up on Monday where I left off the week before. Right now I am in San Francisco for a few days without my bicycle. I have limited access to swimming but unlimited access to running. Unlike Austin right now I can run in the afternoon without worry of dying from heat exhaustion. There is about a 30-40 degree difference in temperatures here in NorCal. I am about to run the Lands End trail in San Francisco. It is about an 8 mile out and back trail along the coastline from Ocean beach to Golden Gate bridge. As you can imagine the views are pretty breathtaking.  Here is a photo I borrowed from

It is truly one of the more beautiful running trails I have done.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Jack and Adams Sunday Ride

  A couple of Sundays ago was my first ever group ride. I have been meaning to try out the free rides around town. I know that Bicycle Sport Shop, Mellow Johny's and Jack and Adams all have rides that I believe are free. After a little research I decided that the beginner "no drop" ride at Jack and Adams was the ride I wanted so I packed up the bike on Sunday morning and headed down to see what a group ride was all about.

 I met my friend Dale at the ride so I would have someone to talk to in case it got rough. He was just coming off an extended hiatus from back surgery so we decided to go easy on the "no drop" ride. We met up with about 40 or 50 other cyclists in the parking lot at Jack and Adams and divided up into three groups. The advanced ride had about a dozen people and they took off first. The intermediate ride had about 30 riders and they went next. The beginner group that I was in stayed around for about 5 minutes to discuss the route, riding etiquette and safety issues. We went over some basic signals and how we would be riding in a group.
  As we were standing over our bicycles I looked around and surveyed the other riders who had made it on time for the 8:30 roll out. There was about a dozen of us riding road bikes, triathlon bikes, mountain bikes and a hybrid. As our group leader James was finishing up the last details a girl rides into the parking lot and begins to circle the group. Her circling didn't seem menacing but there was definitely something peculiar about it. James asked her if she was going to ride with us and she said yes but that this was her first time to ever ride with shoes that clipped into the pedals so she was afraid to stop. After a few words of encouragement from the group she came to a stuttering stop but still on her feet. We applauded and then headed out.
  Our route was out Cesare Chavez to Lake Austin boulevard and on over Exposition/Enfield. We eventually made our way to Shoal Creek. James explained to us that "no drop" meant that nobody got left behind. If some of us got cut off at a stop sign or red light the rest of the group would wait for the stragglers to catch up. We rode at a pretty leisurely pace. It wasn't a difficult ride but there were sections that we could speed up to get the heart rate going. At about 12.5 miles we stopped where Shoal Creek runs into 183, for a water break in the shade and then headed back.
  The girl with the new shoes still had not fallen at any of the stops and everyone was still together so we were doing pretty good. On the way back about half of us sped up and missed our turn so now we had a two "no drop" rides going. We made it back to Jack and Adams in under two hours which made our average pace about 13-14 mph. Like I said it wasn't an intense ride but it was perfect to get the feel for riding in a group and learn the basics. Everybody was very nice and there was supposed to be free tacos waiting for us but you have to get back to the shop before they are all eaten.
  I am glad I did it and I am looking forward to the next week for the intermediate ride.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rookie Race Report

  I have been dragging my feet with blog post updates and triathlon news so I hope that finishing college at the University of Texas this spring will free up some time. I recently competed in the Rookie triathlon here in Austin, Tx. This was my second time to compete in this race and boy what a difference a year makes. I lost most of my pre-race jitters and was able to relax leading up to race day. The race date was moved up from May to April 17th this year. The venue was also changed from the Texas Ski Ranch to Walter E. Long park out at Decker lake. I was happy to swim at Decker but the tradeoff was the dreaded hills surrounding the park.
  As per usual I woke up late, got a late start and was stuck in traffic leading up to the race. Will I ever learn? It adds so much extra stress on race day which can easily be avoided. To be fair I did have to work the night before so I did need the extra sleep. I ended up arriving with plenty of time to set up my transition so I was able to relax after I got into the transition area.
  This year the Rookie was structured a little different than in years past. There was the open group which is all ages and sexes mixed together. This is the group where the overall race winners compete. Next it was divided into veterans, those who have competed in more than one triathlon previously, and rookies, those who this is their first race ever. The usual age groups categories still applied and I was raced in my new group men ages 35-39. I kept hearing how competitive the group was compared to others but I decided that did not matter too much to me since I really wasn't, "competing".
  The water temps at Decker lake were cold enough to allow wetsuits but you really didn't need them. The water wasn't that cold and the distance was only 300 meters. I debated the wetsuit issue until a friend of mine suggested that it would make for excellent practice so I suited up.
  My wave was the 3rd or 4th to start so I had some time to kill. I found my friends Lori and Marchele. Lori was a seasoned pro at triathlons but this was Marchele's very first one. Their wave didn't start for a while so they wanted to watch the first few groups go out. It was nice to see familiar faces and wish them luck.
  My wave was getting close to starting so I made my way to the front of the pack. We waded in and anxiously awaited the starting horn. Looking out to the buoys it didn't seem all that far to go. Normally this is when I start to freak out about swimming in open water with a huge group but I was strangely calm. I had been logging a lot of time in the pool at UT so I think I was feeling more confident about the swim than last year.
  The horn blared and we were off. The usual kicking and elbowing ensued but I was able to swim through it. Normally I would veer around the aquatic mosh pit and alter course but this time I stayed true. Yeah I got hit a few more times but I didn't let that alter my route and slow me down. We rounded the first buoy and it felt like I had kept my place in the front group. I was also able to maintain a pretty solid pace that normally would have left me gasping for air. I reached the shore feeling great.
5 minutes and 18 seconds later I was out of the water and still towards the front of my group. Normally when I stand up out of the water I am a little woozy and not in the mood to sprint to transition. This was different. I was feeling pretty pumped about the swim and had a lot of breath left so I hauled ass to transition and passed some more guys.
   Transitions have traditionally been one of my weak links and this would be no exception. I still use road bike shoes and they take some extra time to get in. I was also wearing a wetsuit so that slowed me down a bit. My T1 (first transition) time was a horrible 3:10. The guy that won my group did it in 1:44. Luckily I can practice this to get it down to a reasonable time. So after dragging through transition I escorted my bicycle to bike exit.
  When I passed through the bike mount area it quickly deteriorated to a cluster of bikes, fallen water bottles and scratched up arms, legs and bruised egos. The guy directly in front of me decided to mount his bike immediately in front of a line of cones. It was spectacular. He managed to saddle up with both legs properly straddling the bike but he had to negotiate the impromptu obstacle course that he now found himself. He weaved in and out of about four cones but couldn't manage to clip in before that fifth cone became his demise. I was still running with my bike to bypass the clusters when I saw him do all of this maneuvering and his eventual slow speed crash. I clumsily mounted my bike, clipped in and started to zip past the stragglers when I heard the big crash. I turned my head and noticed about 4 or 5 athletes writhing around on the ground intertwined with their bikes and other competitors. I felt lucky to have missed that one.
   After narrowly avoiding a disastrous start I began the tour de Decker. I have raced and trained this route a few times so there aren't many surprises. There are a few fast descents and some rough climbs. I am not a feathery lightweight competitor so I have to really take advantage of gravity on the downhills. I hammer away to get as much speed and momentum going down. Also I am not afraid to go fast so I stay off the brakes. It is when I hit the uphills that I have trouble competing against the lighter athletes. Out of the three sports cycling has received the least amount of attention from me this season so I was a little worried about how I would do out there. I struggled a bit but cycling was still the strongest. I finished the 11 mile course with a time of 34:27 and averaged about 19.5 mph. I was happy with that time but I think I need some more training time in the saddle.
  The second transition came and went with an ordinary T2 time of 1:09 (one guy in my group did it in 38 seconds). I parked my bike, slipped on the running shoes and headed out of transition. On my way out I looked back at the bike racks and saw that it was nearly empty. It was at this point in the race I thought that maybe I wasn't doing too bad after all. It is hard to determine how the race is going compared to the other athletes while racing so I use the state of the bike rack as a general measure. 
  On my way out of transition I spotted a runner in my age group a little ahead of me. He was keeping a pace just slightly slower than I could go so I focused on him and decided that I would slowly reel him in and pass him towards the end of the two mile run course. The race day temperature was pretty nice for the run but a little chilly for the bike. My feet were numb from cycling and the first mile felt strange to be running and not be able to feel your feet.
  I had my perfect plan of reeling in that runner but it totally failed when he stopped to get a rock out of his shoe, dang! I was on my own. I am not very good at running off the bike because I have trouble determining what pace I can hold. If I was just running it would be no problem but after cycling your heart rate is out of whack, you've got lactic acid buildup where it's not supposed to be and you just can't "lock it in". I figured it was a race so I just red lined my effort as hard as I could. After all it was only two miles right?
  With about a quarter of a mile to go the runner I wanted to follow passed me. It turns out after he cleared the rocks out of his shoe he had been reeling me in the whole time . He passed me at a pace I couldn't keep so I had to let him go. Usually I can kick the end of my races pretty good for the last 40 or 50 yards but this time there was no gas left in the tank. I almost caught the guy but he beat me by 2 seconds. My final run time was 15:07 for a pace of 7:34 minutes per mile. I was happy with the run. After I crossed the finish line the guy turned around and we both said, "Great Job!" at the same time.
  My overall time was 59:14. It was good enough to get 10th place in my age group. It was the highest I had ever placed in any race since play day at Shands Elementary school in Mesquite, TX. I kept hearing from friends how competitive the Male 35-39 age group was so I compared my time to the Veteran Male 30-34 group (the one is was in last year). I would have got 5th place in that group. If I competed in the rookie group in the M 30-34 (my exact group last year) I would have got 2nd place! I know these kind of comparisons aren't very accurate but it still makes you feel good about your race.
  Going forward from here I need to get way faster in the transition area, I need more time on the bike and I need to work on my run pace after the bike. I had a great race on a good day so I feel very satisfied.  Congratulations to my friend Marchele who raced her first triathlon and got the tri bug. My friend Ed Stephens got 7th overall and his brother Joe won his age group. Back to training and preparing for the next race.
Lori, Me and Marchele at The Rookie

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lactate Threshold and VO2 max as I understand it

   I recently scheduled a visit to the Fitness Institute of Texas for an evaluation of my running and fitness performance. They measured my height, weight, body fat percentile, heart rate, maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max), and lactate threshold (LT). It was a very informative session that included a consultation with the director of the institute. Besides bio mechanics, VO2 max and lactate threshold are the two best indicators of potential performance of an athlete.  I will talk a little bit about lactate threshold and VO2 max and how it relates to my training.
   When you exercise, in this instance run, your muscles produce lactic acid as a result of glycolysis. The more intense the run the more lactic acid is built up in the muscles. Fatigue sets in when there is an over abundance of lactic acid in the muscles and they cannot properly contract. LT occurs when lactic acid spills over into the blood stream and can be measured for performance purposes at the rate of heart beats per minute (HR).  Running right at your LT level will allow the endurance athlete to maintain speed and stave off fatigue for a longer amount of time than running past your LT.
   Another important factor is a runners VO2 max. The more intense the exercise activity the more oxygen the body requires to perform that activity. In other words the harder you run the more labored your breathing. VO2 max measures the maximal oxygen that the body takes in per minute. This number is recorded alongside HR to predict future performance. If the body was a car then VO2 max would be the miles per gallon. For a novice athlete the VO2 max can be increased by about 20% with training. The more experienced athlete will see only minimal change in their VO2 max. 
   Testing for these numbers is done in a controlled environment like a sports lab. While running on a treadmill the athlete wears a heart rate monitor. The speed of the treadmill is periodically increased to raise the intensity level of the session and to increase the heart rate of the participant. After warming up the test administrator checks the lactic acid level in the blood periodically by pricking the earlobe. Once LT is reached then the athlete dons a headpiece that holds the breathing tubes in place. The amount of oxygen the body takes in is measured this way at maximal effort.

With these numbers I am now able to tailor my training to produce better results at my races.

My Stats are:
  •  35 years old
  • 195 lbs
  • 16.8 % body fat
  • VO2 max 45 (mL/kg/min)
  • LT occurs at HR of 165
  • LT also occurs at 87.5% of VO2 max
After consulting with the fitness director I now have a more direct method of performing better. Out of all of these stats the percentage of my VO2 max that I hit my lactate threshold is the best. My main goal now is to raise my LT level while simultaneously lowering my body fat percentage. Based on this test on my best day, optimal weight, body fat % and racing conditions, I could run a 3:15 marathon. Currently my stats predict a 3:26 marathon. Although many other factors go into the final outcome of a race this information is definitely a confidence booster. I feel better equipped to make the most of my training.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

In: Texas Tri Series

  After much debate and internal wrangling I have decided to compete again in the Texas Tri Series. I think I want to try and compete and not just race in these events. So it's time to get to work. My training is progressing nicely and I feel that compared to last year I am ahead of the game. I am swimming and running more than last year so all I need to do is get the cycling volume up to par. Now that spring is here it is time to ride.
  My running group that I was in didn't work out for me so for now I am running solo. With my work and school schedule I need the flexibility of running on my own to make it all fit into place. For example my group used to do their long runs on Saturdays which meant I would ride on Sundays. I know a lot of Triathletes who prefer to train in the order of events. Now that my training schedule is more malleable I can swim on Friday, ride on Saturday and run on Sundays. If I feel like it that is.
  I recently had my Lactate Threshold and VO2 max tested at the UT fitness center. My next post will detail that experience a little more. For now I am off to swim at the beautiful Gregory Gym aquatic center.