Big Training Weekend

Friday, I got out for a short, easy lunch ride.  I kept it in the small chain ring and spun and enjoyed the weather.  After work, I swam 3 miles in Lake Wingra with a few hard efforts thrown in.

Saturday morning, Courtney and I got up early and headed up to Devil's Lake for more swimming. Another 3 miles.  This time I just did some distance, no hard efforts.  There was a threat of storms, but they never happened and it turned out to be a perfect morning for a swim.  The weather was great, winds were calm, and the water was perfect.  

Sunday, the weather wasn't so cooperative.  I had a big workout planned but postponed it to let the storms pass.  I'll ride in the rain, but thunderstorms are another story.  My original plan was to swim in the lake and then ride and run right after, but I opted to wait out the weather and do my swim at the Y.  Taking the kayak out of the picture made things much easier logistically.  

Late morning, it looked like the storms had passed so I headed out.  I swam super easy because it was going to be a long day, but mainly because my chest and shoulders were really sore from the 6 miles I swam the previous two days.  I'm not used to that kind of swim volume.  Then I headed home and got on my bike for 100 miles.  I rode somewhat easy for 2 reasons: 1 - I haven't ridden a century in about 2 months so I'm not really trained for that kind of distance 2- it was super hot and I wanted to make it through the whole workout.  In the end, I probably went a little too easy, but it was good base miles.  I averaged about 190 watts, and IM goal wattage is 215-220 so I was well below my goal.  But I got off the bike feeling pretty good so it was probably the right call.  My legs were tired, but not shot.

After the bike, I ran 13 miles.  I really wanted a good run, which was part of my thinking in going easy on the bike.  I've been playing around with the run/walk method and liking it so far.  I was hoping to go at IM goal pace, but I came up short.  I struggled with the hills in MN so I mapped out a very hilly route that included a couple of sections of the cyclocross course in Verona.  It was a tough route.  Add in the heat and fatigue, and my average pace was 8:35. 

Even though I didn't go at goal pace, I'm really happy with the workout.  The route was much hillier than the IM course so I didn't really expect to go at goal pace.  Plus, I'm not sure I want to be running at goal pace right now.  I don't want to peak too soon.  If I'm at goal pace right now, I need to hold that form for 2.5 months and that could prove very tough to do.  

So all things considered, it was a very good weekend of training.  Lots of volume and base building.  

 Courtney in her new kayak.  It was a great day on the lake.  Lots of sailboats, kayaks, canoes and even teams practicing for the dragon boat race.  We forgot to take a picture of them. 

 I can't believe these pics of her turned out so well.  Taking pictures while treading water isn't easy.

 My poor attempt at underwater photography.

 Action shot.

 Some video Courtney took toward the beginning of my swim.

 Swimming back toward the beach.

 Taking a break.  That's the great thing about having a kayak.  Taking breaks mean I don't have to tread water and I can get a drink.  It would be really tough to do 3 miles without a chance to get some water. Lake Wingra is really warm so getting dehydrated and cramping up is a concern.

  Still taking my break.  I needed a picture with the sailboats in the background.  I'm thinking cropping everything out and using this as my Facebook profile pic.  I'll be a floating head.


Crunch Time

When you take out the 3 week taper, there's only 2 months of training left for Ironman Wisconsin.  It's crunch time.  It's the point in any Rocky movie where the training montage begins.  

I love/hate this part.  I love it because this is what it's all about.  This is what my previous 6 months of training was all about.  Without that, I wouldn't have the fitness to put in the key workouts I have planned the next 2 months.  And this is the point where you gain that race day specific fitness that will get you to your goals.  There's pressure.  There's nerves.  It's fun.

I hate it because I feel like everything counts much more than before.  Every workout needs to be quality.  If you're doing a recovery workout focusing on cadence, you need to focus on cadence.  If you're doing tempo, you need to hit your numbers.  No slacking.  There's limited time left so there isn't much time to make up for crappy workouts, especially when it's due to a lack of focus.  Bad workouts happen, and they're not necessarily going to stop you from hitting your goals, but you can't afford to have bad workouts because you're not mentally in it.  Not during crunch time.  And that's the tough part.  For two months, you have to be focused and mentally in the game.  I feel like there's no margin for error -even though there probably is,  But it's kind of pressure filled, which is mentally draining.

This is my first week back at it after my 'A' race.  It's been a solid week with some good training, but it's going to take another week to get used to high volume again.  With my taper and recovery week, I haven't put in a big week in about a month.  I believe I gained fitness by doing the race - and had a lot of fun which is what this is really about - but my body got used to lower volume and the increased volume this week is taking it's toll.  I'm tired, but I have two easy days which should help.  Today is easy and tomorrow is super easy - just a swim and then plenty of relaxation.  Sunday, however...

1 mile swim, 110 mile bike, 13.1 mile run.  

I have a bad feeling about the forecast, but I'm going to do my best to make it a quality workout despite the heat and threat of thunderstorms.  Nailing this workout will give me a lot of confidence.  



Open Water Swimming

This weekend we went up to Devil's Lake for some open water swimming.  Courtney and I loaded up the kayak and met Jeff, Matt and Stephen at the lake for an early morning swim.  I'm the slowest swimmer of the group so it's a pretty tough workout for me sometimes, but that's a good thing.  They definitely push me and help make me a better swimmer.

The other day I stopped at Rutabaga to pick up some accessories for the kayak, and one of the things I bought was a water-proof bag for the camera so Courtney had some fun with the camera while we swam....

 Me, Matt and Stephen.  Jeff was super fast so there aren't any pics of him.  
I'm in the green cap, Matt in yellow, Stephen in orange.

We had a nice paceline going for a while.  Here we are (Stephen, me then Matt):

Me drafting off Matt.

Nice of Matt to acknowledge his dad on Father's Day.  

More video of us.  Stephen's leading, I'm drafting, Matt is on the right....


Drafting off Matt on the way back.

Here's some video of us heading back.  I'm drafting off Matt, which I was only able to do for a few minutes before I fell off (fatigue).  Stephen and Jeff are out front.  It's the only video Courtney was able to get of Jeff.  That's what happens when you swim 10 minutes faster than everyone else (he covered the 2.5 miles in one hour three minutes).

It's 2.5 miles there and back, but I wanted to swim for 90 minutes so as tired as I was I had more swimming to do.

I got in a total of 5300 yards (3 miles) so it was a really good workout.  It was great having a few guys to push me and get me out of my comfort zone, and even though I swam pretty slow and easy for the last 1/2 mile I think it was good for building endurance so I can keep up that faster pace for longer.  One thing I noticed watching the videos is that my stroke rate definitely slows when I get tired.  

After the swim, everyone went their separate ways and Courtney and I laid on the beach and soaked up some sun.  What a great way to spend the morning.


Changing Focus: The Rest Of The Plan

With my first of two "A" races over with for the year, my training from now until Ironman will take on a different focus: a bike focus.  This was the plan from the beginning, so I'm not changing strategies because of the race.  

I believe in the 'train your weakness' philosophy only to a point.  I think it gets over-emphasized.  Yes, you need to strengthen your weaknesses, but it's your strengths that are going to get you to your goals, especially if one of your strengths is the bike or run.  Swimming won't get you quite as much in triathlon just because it's the shortest leg of the event so there's only so much time you can make up with a good swim.

The bike is my strength, and I believe that if I'm going to make it to Kona I'm going to do it on the bike.  I'll still be putting in a lot of work on my running and swimming so it's not like my program is changing a whole lot.  Mainly I'm going to increase my bike volume and back off my running frequency a bit so I'm better rested for cycling.  I've been running 5 days per week for well over a year now and cycling 3-4 days.  I'm now going to run 4 times per week, but I'm increasing my mid-week run length so I'll still get in the same volume.  I'll be cycling 4-5 times per week shooting for 200-250 miles per week.  The week I'm doing the Endurance Nation Camp in July is going to give me more than 300 miles so July should be about a 1,000 mile month for me.  I've never biked 300 miles in one week (278 is my record) or 1,000 miles in a month. 

My cycling plan will include one long ride on the weekend, one mid-week long ride at a moderate pace, one tempo or threshold ride and a recovery ride.  My running will include either a tempo run or hill workout, a long run on the weekend, a long(ish) run mid-week and a recovery run where I'll focus on form and cadence.  I'm frustrated with swimming these days so I'm going to try things my way for a little while and see what happens.  What's my way?  Those who are very familiar with my training probably have a good guess: volume.  I'm a big believer in volume and I'm going to see what some higher volume does for me.  I can't really work in more swims per week, so I'm making my swim workouts longer to add volume to the program.  More frequency would probably help, but I can only do so many workouts in a week.  Each swim workout per week will be in the 5500 yard range - roughly 90 minutes of continuous swimming.

Here's my swim plan:

I went swimming a couple of weeks ago and rented a kayak for Courtney and she absolutely loved it so we bought her the kayak pictured above.  It's going to do wonders for my swim volume because all she wants to do is get out on the water right now.  I also have an H2O audio and I downloaded a metronome CD so I can work on stroke rate (per Jen's comment on my last blog post).  I've tried about everything with swimming - coaches, clinics, underwater video, masters, drills - but I haven't really worked on my stroke rate.  So my plan is stroke rate and volume and I'll see how I do at the Door County Half Ironman in a month.

Lastly, there's my core/strengthening routine I'll be doing every other day.  I'm going to post the entire routine in a future post.  It will be a short routine that will help my core strength and will help with injury prevention.  

I actually spent some time a week or two ago planning all of my workouts for the rest of the summer.  I haven't planned out my taper yet, and I think I'm going to tweak my plan a tad this week to make sure I have everything covered.  My main focus going forward, other than the bike, is key workouts.  I have my key workouts that I need to nail, and everything else is about supporting those workouts or making sure I'm well rested for those workouts.  

One other thing that's changing with my program: rest days.  I'm going back to Monday rest days.  I haven't been doing that and I'm paying the price.  Mondays have been swim only days, but it's not the same as a rest day.  I did Monday rest days last year and it worked out well so I'm going back to it.  My body needs one full rest day per week.  Tuesdays I feel pretty good (when I rest Monday) so those are my tempo days - I'll alternate between Tuesday run tempo and bike tempo each week. 

And the last piece of the puzzle:

Right now my weight is at about 171 and I want to go into Ironman between 160 and 165 (I was 186 on Jan 1 - the most I've ever weighed).  I bought the book Racing Weight to help me put together a nutrition plan that will give me the right nutrients and calories to support my workouts, but also help me shed some extra body fat.  

Every time I talk about weight, I get reminded I'm already lean.  I know.  It's not about body image or anything like that.  This is simply about performance and from a performance standpoint, I have body fat I don't need.  

200+ miles on the bike per week, 40+ miles running and 15,000+ yards in the water.  Add in core work, weight loss and some yoga and that's my plan in a nutshell.  Sounds easy....right?


MN Shows No Love: The Liberty Half Ironman Race Report

At the beginning of May I raced the Chain of Lakes triathlon in Alexandria, MN and the weather was horrible.  Cold and rainy.  This weekend I returned to MN for a half ironman and the weather was more of the same....just not as cold as it was in early May.  I'm starting to wonder if MN is the land of 10,000 lakes because the whole state is flooded.  Based on my experiences with MN weather, MN shows no love.

The forecast called for a chance of thunderstorms and a high of 68.  At the start of the race, the water was warmer than the air so I was kind of looking forward to getting the race started so I could warm up.  I was also hoping the rain would hold off until I could get off the bike.  I hate riding in the rain and getting my bike dirty, mainly because I hate cleaning my bike.  

The Swim:

My goal for the swim was sub 32 minutes.  I was in the 2nd wave and quickly realized I should have started in the elite wave.  Even though I'm not a very strong swimmer, I passed the majority of my wave and lost the draft.  I swam well - or so I thought - and the swim was pretty uneventful so there's not much to say.  The water was clean and very calm.  They had a ton of buoys so sighting was pretty good, although I had a few problems seeing them from time to time (I think that might be due to the tint of my goggles).  My only complaint would be the pontoon boat they had in the middle of the course.  Two times it came pretty close and I could practically taste the gasoline.  

I didn't wear a watch so I had no idea at the time, but I came out of the water in 34:50, well off my goal.  I have to say, swimming is the most unrewarding sport I've ever taken part in.  It doesn't matter what I do, I can't get faster.  Everyone says you need to work on form and join a masters group to get fast.  I did both and last year at the Rockman I swam a 35 minute swim.  This was disappointing to say the least.


After watching the video of me struggling with my shoes at Lake Mills and reading one of my GearGrinder teammates blogs about transitions - http://ericbeachblog.blogspot.com/ - I went out and did some transition practice during the week.  It paid off.  I had the 3rd fastest T1.

The Bike:

The bike was really good.  I stayed pretty steady and never pushed really hard.  I was going to average 240-245 watts, but went out conservative and was happy with my speed and how I was moving through the field so I kept my average at 235.  The course was decent, but had a ton of turns and lots of rollers so it wasn't the fastest course.  For the most part, the roads were good.  A few of them were rough, but nothing too bad.  The bike finished with an out and back to add some mileage, so I had a chance to count riders and see where I was - 10th overall.  By the time I reached T2, I was in 6th overall.  I only had time goals going into the race, but at this point I was really hoping to hang on to a top 10.  I figured I was now well within the elite wave which started 3 minutes before me so a lot of these guys had to pass me and put 3 minutes on me during the run.  

My bike time was 2:25 (23.1 mph), the 5th fastest bike split.


2nd fastest T2.  Practicing transitions pays off.

The Run:

The run started rough, got better, and then got rough again.  I admit, I knew nothing about this course so when I came out of transition and the course turned left and then left again up a long climb covered in wood chips I was regretting signing up.  I hate trail running.  Luckily, that was the only unpaved section.  The rest of the run was on a really nice bike path around the lake.  But while climbing that first hill, my right quad started cramping a bit and hurt pretty bad.  After the first mile, it loosened up and didn't bother me anymore but I could tell it was going to be sore later.  

I thought the course was going to be flat for some reason, and I was way off.  It was constant rollers.  There weren't really any flat sections.  You were always climbing or descending.  I felt okay for the first half but my pace was much slower than I felt I was trained to run so I was getting frustrated.  I was running a 7:41 pace and losing positions.  Although I was running slower than planned, I felt decent so I decided to hold that pace until the halfway point and finish up with a fairly hard 10K and make up some time.  At the turn around I stepped it up and my pace started dropping, eventually down to a 7:35 average....

.....and then the hills got the best of me.  At the 10 mile mark my legs decided they were going to do the pace setting and the pace they wanted to run was not the same pace I had in mind.  I faded and eventually finished with a 7:45 average - a 1:42 half marathon.  I felt I was trained to run a sub 1:35 half so I'm very disappointed in my run.  I can't say I hit the wall, screwed up my nutrition or even biked too hard (felt great coming off the bike).  I wasn't prepared for the hills on the run.  It's that simple. 

Total time: 4:44:11  17th overall and 5th in my age group.

It's my fault for not knowing the course well enough and training for it.  As the hills beat me into the ground, I realized I haven't been running hills lately.  That's not intentional.  It just happens that the route I run at lunch is flat and I like to do my long runs on the Military Ridge which is very flat.  

Lesson learned. 

Even though the race didn't go as I'd hoped, I'm proud of my results and glad I did the race.  It showed me where I'm at and what I need to work on for the rest of the year.  Even though the weather wasn't ideal (it rained during the run) the event was really well run and the course was great (even though it was tougher than I expected).  I would definitely recommend this race, and I think I might do it again next year.  The course reminded me a lot of the Rockman, but the organization of the event was much better. 

I'll be adding a lot more hills to my run courses, and I'm going to do some tough trail running even though I hate trail running.  I'm also going to do more bricks.  I haven't done as many bricks this year as I did last year and I think I paid the price a bit.  I'm also going to get out in the open water a lot more and see if I can improve my swim time at the Door County Half in a month.  

This week is an easy week with my focus on recovering from this race.  After that, it's all about the ironman.  Three months of hard, focused training.  I feel like I'm behind where I need to be right now, but I don't feel that Kona is completely out of reach so it's time to get serious and see what I'm capable of. 


Race Report: Lake Mills Triathlon

Sunday was the Lake Mills sprint triathlon.  I raced it two years ago and had a blast so I was anxious to get back and race it again.  Last year I did the Rockman Half Ironman so I missed Lake Mills.  This year with the Rockman off the calendar, that opened up this weekend for Lake Mills and I think it worked out great.  I'm tapering for MN and this gave me a chance to race a sprint tri, have some fun, and get in some speed work.  Plus, with being in a taper, I was pretty well rested for the race so I don't have any regrets about going into the race tired or anything like that.

And I got to meet a few members of my new team, which I have been meaning to blog about but haven't gotten around to yet.  I joined GearGrinders this year, and so far I'm really enjoying being a part of the team (more in a future post).

 http://www.gear-grinder.com/  Check them out.  Their coffee is fantastic.

Race Report:

The swim:  I was signed up for the elite wave, which was the first wave.  The swim went pretty well.  My swim time was good for me, but not great.  I'm making progress so I'm really happy about that, but it seems that I continue to find myself in the middle.  I lost most of the lead group early on and had completely lost that group by the halfway point and I more or less pulled the second group for the last half of the swim.  I'm not a very strong swimmer so I get frustrated when I find myself pulling a group.  I need the draft, but it's going to take a little more speed so I don't lose the draft when I have it, which I constantly do. 

Oh well.  It was still a good swim so I'm happy with it.  Here are videos of the start and finish of the swim.  In the finish, you can see me come out of the water right after the lead group.  I'm in the green cap on the right side of the screen.

The bike was really good.  I've had a few bad bike rides lately so I wasn't sure what to expect, but my legs felt strong.  I passed a lot of people very early into the bike, and was pretty surprised I was able to make up ground so quickly.  I could see the lead vehicle for the first quarter of the bike and eventually worked my way into 3rd.  The lead vehicle eventually disappeared, and I was alone for several miles.  Unfortunately, I got passed by two cyclists on the second half of the bike so I dropped back to 5th.  The first cyclist to pass me pulled alongside me, looked up the road and saw no one, looked at me, looked up the road, and then back at me and asked, 'are you in the lead?'  'Sorry, but I can't even see the leaders.'  I think he was pretty disappointed.

Anyway, I came off the bike in 5th so I was really happy with where I was because I was hoping to crack the top 10 for the day.  Lake Mills draws some tough competition so I wasn't sure I could do it, but I felt pretty good about my odds now that I was starting the run in 5th place.

Here's some video of T2.  Three things stand out to me watching this video.  #1 - I need to learn to put shoes on quicker.  #2 - I need to learn to stop ignoring my name because sometimes when a person yells "Go Mike" it's actually for me.  It registered too late that that was Courtney.  I kind of look like a dick in this video running past my girlfriend without a wave or smile or anything.  I need to pay attention.  #3 - Someone needs to tell that dude in black that this is a timed event. 

Anyway, here's T2....

The run was good, but I would've liked to have run a little faster.  I make up time on the bike and inevitably lose a little of it on the run.  I dropped 3 spots, which isn't bad, but unfortunately the guy that finished 10 seconds ahead of me was 1st in my age group.  

I finished 8th overall and 2nd in my age group so I'm really happy with how the race went.  I really want to get faster and be more competitive, but I can't look back at any part of the race and say that I screwed up so I know that I gave it everything I had and that was all I had yesterday.  That's a good feeling.  Even though I want to run closer to the front, it's that desire to get better that keeps me training and keeps the sport fun so it's a good thing (despite my lack of patience).

I'm planning on talking more about GearGrinders in another post, but I should mention that GearGrinders are fast.  Holy smokes.  John, the manager, sends out a weekly newsletter and includes results and I can't get over how many GearGrinders take home overall and age group awards every week.  And Lake Mills was no exception.  Check it out....

Robbie Greco, 29th OV, 1st of 8 AG 15-19, 28th Male, Time: 1:13:43
Adrienne Amman, 46th OV, 2nd of 33 AG 30-34, 3rd of 227 Females, Time:  1:16:00
Elizabeth Hartlieb, 49th OV, 1st of 26 AG 35-39, 4th Female, Time: 1:16:16

Two first place age group awards and Adrienne and Elizabeth were the 3rd and 4th place females overall.  The results GearGrinders post are impressive, and it definitely motivates me to keep training hard, and that's part of the reason I joined the team.  I hope I can keep improving and put together some good races and contribute to the team's success.  That's the goal.


Aquathon #1

What a lazy blogger I've been.  It's not for a lack of content, because there's plenty to talk about now that racing season has begun.  Just busy and lazy, I guess.

Anyway, the first aquathon of the year was a week and a half ago.  These are a series of races on Thursday nights where you swim 1000 yards and then run a 5K.  I typically do the first one of the year for sure, and might do some of the others.  They're fun, but they get tough to work into the training schedule as Ironman gets closer because they take up a good part of the evening and only last about 30 minutes so it's not much total training.  It's a good workout, though, and they're pretty fun.

As usual for the first aquathon, the water was cold.  58 degrees.  I really only had one goal and that was to PR the swim.  I've been swimming a lot more and I already hate the god-forsaken sport of swimming so if I don't see progress I might snap.  Seriously....it's gotten to that point.

14:30 was my previous PR and I wanted to break 14 minutes.  

The start was rough.  I started in the front and got beat up quite a bit in the beginning.  I realize it's a short race, but some people need to relax a bit.  What a waste of energy.

Anyway, it took until the first buoy before I felt really comfortable in the water.  It was my first open water swim of the year and I wasn't used to the cold water.  But once around that buoy, I relaxed a bit and got into a better rhythm and swam hard the rest of the way and came out of the water in under 14 minutes.  13:51, I think was my official time.

The run was tough.  It's not easy to go from swimming to running because your heart rate is so high, and I made this run more difficult by eating a little too much for dinner.  My stomach was bothering me a lot on the run and I thought I was going to have to walk for a bit.  But I managed to get through it.  I can't remember my official run time, but it was 21:xx.  Not the run I was hoping for, but not too bad either.