New Bike

I decided it was time for a new bike.  I've been on a Cannondale Slice since 2008 and haven't gotten a new bike since I got a new road bike back in 2010.  There's nothing wrong with my Slice.  I just had the itch for a new bike.

I did a little shopping around and narrowed it down to a Cervelo P5 or a Trek Speed Concept.  Although the Cervelo is technically a faster bike (slightly) I decided to go with the Trek.  The brakes on the Cervelo aren't compatible with Di2 so I wouldn't be able to have shifters on the horns, and I figured if I'm going to go with Di2 I want the shifters on the horns.  I also really like the knob that allows you to make micro adjustments on the tilt of the saddle on the Trek.  That's pretty cool.  Sometimes it's the little things.

I've had some frustrating moments in the past dealing with bike shops, so I wasn't sure where I wanted to go to buy the bike.  A friend of mine recommended Machinery Row, and that's where Courtney bought her bike last year and she was happy with them, so I went to Machinery Row.  They were great to work with.  We worked out a good deal on a Project One Speed Concept and a Retul bike fit.  I'm very happy I decided to go with them.       

For those that don't know what Project One is, it's Trek's custom bike option.  You get to pick all the components and customize the paint.  Project One is pretty cool, but there are almost too many options.  I designed and redesigned my bike many times.  In the end, I went with this:

A friend of mine is a Project One painter, and I contacted him and he was able to find my order and paint my bike for me.  We grew up together and went to the same school all the way through high school.  It's pretty cool that all these years later I got to have my new bike painted by him.  He's a great painter and did a fantastic job.  He posted this pic on Facebook when he was prepping my frame:


I got my bike a few weeks ago and had the Retul fit done at Machinery Row.  After the fit, I got some video and compared it to my old fit and everything is almost exactly the same.  I'm really happy about that because I had a good fit on my Slice and spent a ton of time working on it.  

I haven't spent much time on my bike yet, and the few rides I have done have been on the trainer (because winter is never going to end) so it's hard to comment on it, but I think I'm going to like it.  Here's a picture of the final bike:


If the weather holds up, my first race of the year will be the Cherry Valley 20K Time Trial on April 13. 


My 4 Favorite Swim Tools

I think swim tools - pull buoys, paddles, fins, snorkels, etc - can be good, and I've definitely found some benefit using them.  However, I think you need to be careful and limit how much you use them or they become a crutch, especially the pull buoy.  I use the pull buoy some, but I try not to use it a lot.  I think a lot of triathlete use the pull buoy too much, partly because they read somewhere that it mimics wetsuit swimming.  That may or may not be true, I don't know, but I do know that using it too much makes me lazy.  I find that I don't engage my core as much when using the pull buoy, so I try to focus on that when using it and since the buoy is taking the kick out of the equation I try to put a lot of focus on my catch and pull (it is a pull buoy, afterall) so I'm not just going through the motions and making swimming easier by using it.  

One thing I do like the buoy for is days I'm completely smashed from other workouts.  If I'm seriously struggling in the pool because I'm really tired, I might grab the buoy and throw on some paddles and work on my catch/pull and see if I can still get in some quality work.  Fortunately, those days are pretty rare.

Here are 4 of my favorite swim tools:

Finis Tempo Trainer

Easily my favorite.  This thing changed my swimming.  I use it mainly for pacing long sets. Right now I'm swimming my 1000s at a 1:25 pace so I set this to beep every minute twenty-five and then I get feedback the whole time.  Chasing the beeps keeps my mind occupied so the long sets aren't so boring, and I know instantly if I'm falling off pace.  It was pretty eye-opening the first time I used it.  I started out way too fast and completely fell off pace by the halfway point.  I've gotten a lot better at pacing using this.  A LOT better.  Once I get comfortable at a pace, I bump it up one second and work on that pace for a while. It's a good way to slowly build your pace, and before you know it you're several seconds per 100 faster on your long sets.  You can also use it to work on your stroke rate, which I'll start doing soon as I begin to build toward my first half ironman of the season.

Finis Freestyler Paddle

I have some hand entry issues.  I turn my left hand out and then pull it under my body, and I angle my right hand a little sometimes so when I start my pull it's slicing through the water rather than catching a lot of water.  These paddles are helping me work on those issues.  They're a form building paddle rather than strength building.  They're designed to come off if you don't swim with good form.  I find they do help, and I've been using them in my warm up and cool down lately to help me focus on those issues and get in touch with good form prior to starting my main set.  They're fairly small paddles so they don't increase the surface area of your hand much, so I don't see much risk of shoulder injury with these.  I've never had any shoulder issues with any paddles, but I never swim hard with paddles. 


Finis Agility Paddle

Can you tell I like Finis products?  I just bought these, and although I haven't swam with them much yet I really like them.  These might quickly become my go to paddles.  They're kind of a mix between the Freestyle and a strength paddle.  They're designed to force good form, but they have a little more surface area than the Freestyler.  These don't have any straps so if you don't swim with a good hand entry or catch, they'll easily come off.  All you do is slip your thumb through the hole, and you squeeze the paddle a bit with your thumb to help keep it in place.  From there, it's water pressure that holds it against your hand.  

When I first put them on, with my very first stroke I angled my right hand a bit and these immediately pulled away from my hand.  Instant feedback.  They take more concentration than regular paddles with straps, but that's a good thing.  And without straps, you can take these on and off very quickly so you could work them into a set that doesn't have much rest and still hit your intervals.  I'll probably use these for my paddle workouts rather than my Speedo Contour paddles (good paddles, but I love paddles that force good form) and I think I'm going to rotate between these and the Freestyler for use during warm ups.

Speedo Ankle Band

This is a cruel little swim tool, but a good one.  Like the Tempo Trainer, this can really be eye opening.  I haven't done tons of work with bands yet, so I can't really comment yet on how much they've helped me improve (if at all) but I think they're a good tool and now that masters is over and I'm swimming on my own I'm working them into my sets on Mondays and Fridays.  Right now, I'm doing 4x50 on 1:15 with bands only (you might need to start with bands and a buoy) right after my warm up.  I started out hitting the wall in about 44 seconds and have managed to bring that down to 40 so I think I'm going to tighten up the interval to a minute and see if I can start coming in under 40 seconds.  Then I'm going to increase those to 75s and then 100s.  A good stroke rate helps and so does engaging the core to keep your legs toward the surface  (see goofy video). 

So those are my 4 favorite swim tools right now. 

Here's a great blog post from an outstanding coach, Joel Filliol:  http://joelfilliol.blogspot.com/2012/01/most-popular-post-on-this-blog-is-is.html

They're all great tips, but I think #21 is my favorite and it's probably the number one thing I don't like about masters programs - they never repeat workouts.  We repeat bike and run workouts all the time, and can easily see our progress when we do, but for some reason swimming always needs a new workout.  I love repeating sets so I can watch my times and see if I'm improving.  It keeps me motivated.



Bike Workout: Over/Unders

I thought I'd share one of my favorite threshold workouts.  It's called Over/Unders.  I haven't written about this yet - because I haven't really written about anything lately - but I found out late last year that I have exercise-induced asthma.  Being able to breathe has completely changed my training, and this workout is a prime example.  It would trigger an asthma attack and the workout would quickly spiral down the drain.  But now that I have that under control, I'm loving this workout.  It's tough, but time goes quickly and you get a pretty good bang for your buck in terms of getting in a lot of work in a fairly short period of time.

The workout:

Warm up (15-25 minutes)
    In the warm up I include a 5' effort building from 70% to 100% of FTP.  Then I ride easy for a bit and then do 3x30" (30") at 100-120% of FTP.  Then I ride easy for a few minutes and start the main set.

Main Set (55 minutes)
3x [3x (3' @ 90-95% of FTP, 2' @ 105-110% of FTP)]  
5' Easy between intervals

 Cool Down

So the main set is basically three 15-minute intervals where you alternate 3 minutes at 90-95% of FTP and 2 minutes at about 105% of FTP.  You should end each interval with an average power around threshold.  Bouncing back and forth above and below threshold really breaks up the intervals and makes time go quickly. 

Here's what it looks like. Yellow is power. 


Consistency is King (Swimming)

I've known for a while that consistency is king in training, but it has been my coaching the past year that has really driven that lesson home.  When my athletes stay consistent and keep getting the work done, they improve.  There have been a few big breakthroughs, but they've only come after months of consistent hard work. 

Consistency is tough because it requires discipline and patience.  It's logging the work day after day, trusting the plan...the process.  You have to love the process and enjoy the small victories, being just a little faster or stronger than a few weeks ago.  Those little victories add up over time.  Plan the work, work the plan.

I've always been consistent, but this year I decided to make consistency a primary goal.  To help with my consistency, I changed up my schedule.  My most inconsistent sport is swimming so I addressed that first.  In the past, I often scheduled swims on the weekends, but sometimes missed those for various reasons (excuses).  So I decided not to schedule any weekend swims and come up with a schedule I can and will stick with.  M/W/F mornings.  I'll add weekend swims at the lake this summer for additional volume. 

My training log showed that I struggle to get to the pool the most in January and February, so I signed up for a masters class.  The class is now over, and I'm glad to be back on my own.  It was a good class, but I didn't like the pool.  But masters got me into the habit of getting up early and swimming before work so it was worth it.  I've only missed two days of swimming so far this year due to the flu.  My swimming has never been this consistent.

I didn't even feel like I was swimming all that much.  I wasn't focusing on it. I just got up early and went to the pool 3 times per week with the goal of getting in at least 10,000 yards per week (which meant I had to swim an extra long cool down at masters sometimes).  

I decided to compare my Q1 swim volumes from 2008-2014 to see how my consistency compared to previous years.  2012 is the only year I did a big swim-focus block in the winter. It's also the year I swam my best Ironman time (1:04).  I was a little surprised by the outcome.  I didn't expect this winter to be so much higher than previous winters, and so close to the year I focused on swimming.

2014 includes planned workouts through the end of the month.

So... I've logged more yards than usual.  Big deal, right?  The real question is: am I a better swimmer because of it?

Yes.  I'm hitting times I've never hit before. I just swam 10x100 on 1:25 the other day for the first time.  I hit 1:14-1:16 on my 100s and then followed that up with a 1000 at a 1:25 pace.  The best I'd done previously was 10x100 on 1:30 hitting about 1:15s.  I didn't follow that up with a 1000 though.  I followed it up with a nap.

Now that I'm swimming on my own, I'm doing a threshold set on Mondays, swimming right around CSS (Critical Swim Speed).  Wednesdays is a volume day so I swim long endurance sets.  Today, the main set was 4x1000 at a 1:25 pace.  I use my Finis Tempo Trainer to pace those.  Fridays are "Fast Fridays" and those workouts include lots of fast swimming, sprints, fins, ankle bands, etc.  

The key is to find a schedule you can and will stick to and just do it.  No excuses.  I can't think of a single day at masters that was all that great.  I had good days and bad days, but mainly I just kept logging the yards day in and day out, week after week.  I never had a breakthrough.  I just kept plugging away and now I'm a little bit faster than I used to be.  Consistency.  




Planning 2014

I've been in planning mode the past several weeks, both for me and the athletes I'm coaching.  For 2014, I'm approaching things slightly differently than I have in the past.  In years past, I signed up for all of the races that I wanted to do and then I built my plan around that.  That's not a bad approach, but this year I picked my A races and then built my plan and then I looked for B and C races that fit into that plan.  This left out a couple of races I wanted to do, but it also helped me build a better plan for Chattanooga. 

My season is built around a block of races that don't necessarily fit together the best, but that's life.  My highest priority race this season is Ironman Chattanooga on September 28, 2014.  Ideally, I wouldn't do a lot of racing, or maybe no racing, in the weeks leading into that race so I could focus on my training.  BUT...Age Group Nationals is less than 90 minutes away for one more year and I qualified for Age Group Worlds in the Olympic and Sprint distance. Nationals is the weekend of August 10 and Worlds is the weekend of August 30.  It's not ideal, but I felt like I would really regret not racing Nationals and Worlds so I had to go for it.

So the challenge then becomes, how do I prepare to race two Olympic and Sprint distance races and an Ironman all within an 8 week block? Well....

The focus will be Ironman.  Nationals and Worlds will be my speed work, and the spacing works out surprisingly well.  When I'm in a big training block for an Ironman, I tend to go with a 2 on, 1 off weekly pattern so the weeks of Nationals and Worlds become my recovery weeks and it looks like this:

Not bad.  The toughest part of that schedule is going to be the travel required for Worlds, which is in Edmonton, Canada.  That will cut down my training volume that week quite a bit, but one thing I learned in the past is that I do best making that week 4 weeks out from an Ironman an easy week, so it kind of works out.  Hopefully, I'll come back from Canada feeling well-rested and ready to take on one final big block of training.

Here's my tentative schedule for 2014:

April 13 - Cherry Valley 20K Time Trial
April 26 - Crazylegs Classic 8K 
5/17-18 - Double Duathlon Weekend - Beloit and Delafield Duathlons back to back
6/1 - Lake Mills Sprint Triathlon
6/8 - Kansas 70.3
6/14 - Horribly Hilly Hundreds 200K Challenge Ride
7/6 - Janesville Sprint Triathlon
7/13 - Muncie 70.3
7/20 - Stray Kats 40K Time Trial
8/10 - Age Group Nationals
8/16 - Double Bong 40K Time Trial (maybe)
8/30 - Age Group Worlds
9/28 - Ironman Chattanooga




Three Sprint Tri Race Reports

I'm almost caught up with my race reports.  Here are three more.  I'll put the rest up in my next post and I'll be caught up (finally).

Janesville Sprint Tri - July 6

The old Janesville triathlon was my first triathlon back in 2007.  It disappeared and came back a few years later in a new location.  My goal has been to win this race, and I've come in 2nd every year.  This year, the race got a little hyped up on FB as a battle between the guy who won the first two years, the guy who won last year and me.  It's a time trial start and we got to be the first three in the water so we could race head to head.  

I was the slowest swimmer of the three so my goal in the swim was to minimize the damage.  I felt like I had a decent swim so once out of T1 and onto the bike I started pushing hard and chasing.  I managed to take over 2nd about a quarter of the way into the bike and started chasing down first.  I caught him a little after the halfway point and then put my head down and tried to build a bit of a lead.  

Nearing T2, the lead motorcycle hit a traffic cone and launched it into the air and it landed right under my front wheel.  I was sure I would crash, but somehow manged to keep it upright and make it safely back to transition.  The run went well, and I held onto my lead and finally won the Janesville triathlon.  It was only my second overall triathlon win ever, and unfortunately the first time my parents couldn't make it to the Janesville tri.  

Lactic Edge Sprint Tri - July 13

This was my first overall triathlon win last year so I wanted to go back and do this race again.  Plus, it was fun and I enjoyed the bike course.  I had a good swim and came out of the water toward the front of the pack.  I quickly worked my way into 2nd on the bike and pushed and pushed and couldn't catch the leader.  I closed the gap a bit, but eventually I settled in and accepted that I was not going to lead the way into T2 and that this would have to be a running race, something I typically lose.  We came into T2 pretty close, and I was a little quicker in transition so I closed the gap a bit.  Soon after T2, the leader slowed suddenly with a hamstring cramp and I was able to take the lead.  I dug deep and pulled a bit of a gap and held on for the overall win.

Silver Lake Triathlon - August 17

This race was a last minute decision.  The weather was looking perfect for the weekend, I was in the mood to race and I hadn't done this race in a few years.  My parents were able to make it to this race so I was hoping for another overall win.  They make it to most of my races, but have yet to see me win a triathlon.  

The swim was decent and I came out of the water in 3rd or 4th.  On the bike, I made my way into 2nd fairly quickly and started chasing down the leader.  I caught him and made the pass, and then he repassed me.  We went back and forth like that several times for about 6-8 miles.  It was really fun, and we were pushing really hard.  I decided to put in a really hard effort on a gradual climb and see if I could pull a gap.  It worked, and once I got a gap I was able to extend it before T2.  The run was tough and my legs were hurting.  I ran slower than Janesville or Lactic Edge, but managed to hold on for the win. My parents have always been very supportive of my racing (triathlon, motocross, etc) so it was fun to get to the overall win and have them there.

In my next post I'm going to write up some quick reports for the Tri-ing for Childrens olympic tri, Age Group Nationals, and the Hyvee triathlon.  


Ironman Chattanooga Course Preview

I don't think I've mentioned this yet, but I was one of the lucky ones to get into Ironman Chattanooga.  The race is September 28, 2014. 

Our plan was to drive to Wilmington, NC for Beach to Battleship then to Knoxville to visit friends and then cruise over to Chattanooga to preview the course and head home.  It sounded simple enough on paper, but once we hit the road we realized we had just planned a vacation that included 5 days in the car driving through 11 states.

I was hoping for a nice, sunny day but TN prefers I ride in the rain (Rev3 Knoxville) so the forecast was for 55 degrees with a light rain.  We drove to the swim start to see that and then drove out of town to the Bi-Lo grocery store so I could avoid the downtown traffic. My plan was to ride out, do one loop, and ride back which was about 60 miles.  Courtney drove back into town and toured the aquarium while I was riding.

The Ride:

The bike route.  It's a "lollipop" (even though it looks more like a knife).  You bike out, do two loops and then ride back.  Each loop is 44 miles.  A good chunk of the loop is actually in Georgia so this course covers two states.

Based on the comments I've read online, I was anticipating a very hilly course but it's not that bad.  There's a fair amount of climbing overall (4000-4500 feet for 112 miles) but a lot of it is long, gradual climbs that feel more like a false flat.  The way out is mostly climbing, but there weren't that many hills, just a few rollers with one longer climb right at the turn around (if you happen to find this post prior to riding the loop, the left turn onto Hog Jowl Road is right after the climb so be prepared or you'll overshoot the corner).  I was in the big ring most of the time so gearing wasn't an issue.
The way back is net downhill but it felt like there were more rollers than the way out.  Again, I was aero and in the big ring most of the time.  Even though it's net downhill, there wasn't much coasting.  I don't know if it was the conditions (light rain) or the gear I was wearing (vest stuffed in back pocket, road helmet, etc) but the course was slower than I expected.    

The elevation profile from my ride.  You can see the one climb in the middle before the turn onto Hog Jowl.  There was one more on the way back, but it wasn't bad either.  Otherwise, just rollers.

Compared to IMWI, this course is easier.  It has fewer hills, no tough climbs, very few turns, no tricky descents.  So it's easier, but it's not necessarily faster. There are a lot of false flats and enough rollers to slow you down.   

The course wasn't as scenic as I expected (the rain didn't help).  Mainly, you're just biking past old farm houses getting chased by dogs with the occasional view of the mountains.  The southern point of the loop is the most scenic.  The roads were in pretty good shape, and I don't remember seeing any potholes so compared to IMWI the roads are a lot better.  There were a lot of RR tracks - I think there are 6 sets on the way to the loop, 3 on the loop so you'll hit those twice, and then 6 more on the way back.  Some of them are pretty rough.    

Most of the course is on a road with no shoulder and I rode alone and felt safe the whole time.  I encountered very little traffic and the cars I did see gave me plenty of room.  I'd recommend not listening to music while riding this route so you can hear the dogs coming. There were no places to stop for water on the course.   

Courtney was waiting for me at the Bi-Lo and we drove the run course and then started our trip home.  

The run course.  Two loops.

The Run Course:

Everyone is worked up about the elevation of the bike course, but it's the run course they should be worried about.  There aren't any really big, steep, intimidating climbs but there are lots of rollers and long, gradual climbs that are going to be very tough during an Ironman. Compared to IMWI, the run course is much hillier. 

The section north of the river was the hilliest with the steepest climbs.  South of the river was flatter, but there were some long, gradual climbs that will definitely be challenging coming off 112 miles on the bike.  Since I just drove the run course and didn't run it, it's hard to comment much on what it's actually like.  I'm hoping to make it down to Chattanooga again before race day to ride/run the course.

Overall I think this will be a good course.  It's challenging, but not brutal.  The run will be the toughest part for sure.  I'm really glad we made it to Chattanooga so I could see the course before winter.  I have a better idea how I want to train for this race now, and it was nice to see the venue beforehand.

FYI - Training Weekend:  

There's a training weekend on the IMChoo course next May 17-18.  It starts with a 2.4 mile swim race and a ride on Saturday with a run on Sunday.  I believe it's free (except the swim race).  Here's the link to the FB group:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1425159107698013/1428307447383179/?notif_t=plan_mall_activity

I've been planning on doing Rev3 Knoxville again and then heading to Chattanooga again after the race to train on the course for a day or two and then heading back home.  Rev3 Knoxville is May 18 so it's the same weekend.  Right now, I'm undecided.  The training weekend sounds fun, but I really want to do Knoxville again.  I really wish Rev3 hadn't moved the race back.  It seems like there are a lot of races on that weekend.  

Decisions, decisions....

Coming up - I still have several race reports to write up.