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.