Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On (to) Wisconsin -- 27 Weeks to Go Report Card

Didn't get anything posted last week, with nothing to blame for my omission than the usual "stuff to do." But as I look at the calendar today I see that I'm down to 27 weeks to go -- about half a year. Which got me thinking -- how's it going, anyway?

So I decided to rate myself on a few aspects of my preparation. Here we go, in no particular order or method...

Diet and nutrition -- B

Looking back, I've realized that I usually eat like c***. I'm very fond of fatty, salty foods with poor nutritional value -- in other words, I'm an average American ;-)  But without being too drastic in my diet, I think I've made some good improvements over the last few months. Fruit and vegetable consumption is up, fast food , meat, and cheese consumption is down. And I'm about two weeks into a 30-day break from beer and wine. I'm feeling slimmer, and have dropped 2-3 pounds since the start of the year. 

Strength, core, stretching -- C

A "C" isn't too bad, considering I probably used to earn a "D-" on this. I've established better routines for core, strength, and stretching, though I'm not as consistent as I'd like to be. As I get older, I'm realizing the importance of these. Need to work on this.

Faithfulness to training plan -- A 

This has been a strength for me so far this year. Having an IM coming up has really focused my mind on the task at hand, and I can count the number of missed workouts for this year on one hand, with several fingers held in reserve. With actual IM training still on the horizon, building a good base to work with is very important. It's not always easy, but I've been sticking to it. 

Swim, bike, and run -- A  

These flow primarily from the previous rating. Consistency has been paying off for me here. Swim endurance has gotten better, with a moderate increase in speed.  I'm not putting in big mileage numbers on the bike, but the work has paid off in better HR and watt numbers inside, and smoother, stronger riding outside. Running -- knock on wood -- has been injury free, and I've been able to shake it up with some good specific HR zone training and trail running. 

Mental attitude -- B

It's tough to be "up" every day, but I think my mental attitude towards training has been pretty solid. For the most part I'm enjoying what I do. Sure, there are mornings where it all seems like something of a chore, but I'm doing the little things to keep myself going. There's still a long road ahead, though, so this is something to work on and keep improving. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

"Extremely fit"

We've been fortunate to have made the decision to send our son Colin to a fine private school since the 6th grade. Tandem Friends School has rigorous academic standards, yet still makes time for interesting and enlightening non-academic pursuits. One of these is "Emphasis Week," a time when students will get together with teachers to pursue non-academic interests.

One of Colin's teachers, Steve, guides an Appalachian Trail hike each year. He'll take a group of about 15-20 Tandem students out for a 5-day, 4-night hike on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. I'm an avid AT section hiker (500 miles down, 1500 to go!), so it's fun to talk to him about his plans every year. Colin has been on one of Steve's trips before, and has hiked with me on the AT too, covering the Maryland section of the trail in 2010.

Colin signed up to do this year's trip, and Steve needed another adult -- so it was on me to fill the spot. I was tickled pink when Steve sent out his pre-trip email to the group and it said:

Ken Nail will be accompanying the trip as well as a second adult chaperone. If you know Ken, you know he is an extremely fit, experienced hiker/backpacker. I am thrilled that he can take part in this adventure! 

I'm convinced that Steve doesn't know anything about my triathlon background, or even care. But I can't think of a nicer compliment! And I can't wait -- there's nothing like a backpacking trip to focus yourself on the essentials -- walk, eat, sleep, repeat!

Weeks totals:

Swim: 2:40, 7000 yards
Bike: 3:45. 64.25 miles
Run: 2:50, 21 miles
Strength/core: 1:20

Total:  10:35

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pain in the Pool

I hit the pool in a pretty good mood this morning, ready to roll with my regular Tuesday and Thursday morning Masters Class. Another local triathlete, Bill, has joined the group recently and it's a good match. Bill's a solid sprint specialist; younger than me (early 40s). He swims well, but hasn't been doing as much yardage, so he starts to fade towards the end of class. But it's a good match -- the inevitable friendly competition keeps me moving during the early sets, and he's getting a chance to improve his endurance.

Today's class started with a 12-minute warmup swim. 700 yards for that, keeping my pace right around 1:40/100. Then a continual 300 yard kick with the board and fins. Then a 600 yard set with the pull buoy, breathing every 3 strokes for 200 yards, then every 5 for 200, and finally gasping for air with 7 strokes for every breath over the last 200.

Warmup done. Whew.

Now the meat of the session. 18 x 100 yards. 1-6 on 1:50; 7-12 on 1:45 with paddles; 13-18 on 1:35 with fins and paddles. An easy 50 to collect ourselves between sets of 6.

1-6 nice and smooth, hitting each 100 on 1:35-1:36. Bill's drafting along and providing a nice incentive to me.

7-12 I pushed hard with the paddles and clocked each interval at 1:30. I'm tired, but this is going well.

On to the last 6, and a morning well spent. First two, coming in nicely at 1:22 and 1:23. Then on the third, BAM! I push off from the wall and caught a cramp in my right calf, and a bad one, too. I floundered around in the water for a few moments until I could finally straighten out the leg and hobble back down to the end of the pool. I collected myself enough to put in a few easy 100s to finish the day out, but the rest of my morning was shot. No post-swim run or kettlebell class for me -- this thing hurt. It was all I could do to walk without limping.

Well what to do? I got a free protein smoothie at the gym snack bar (my birthday gift from the club), then went home and took a nap before rolling into work. I guess recovery is important too!


Sunday, February 12, 2012

On (to) Wisconsin -- Wrapping up an easy week

One of the key principles for any type of athletic conditioning is recovery. You have to give the body a chance to make adjustments and repair itself after you stress it. So it's typical to see an easier week about once every four weeks on a training plan.

No exception here. I've been doing a lot of base training at targeted heart rate zones -- typically in the extensive endurance zone, with some step ups into the intensive endurance zone. (roughly zone 2 and zone 3 in most plans.) Nothing too long so far -- my bikes are peaking out at around 2 hours and my weekend runs at 10 miles. But this weekend I'm reaping the benefit of the easy week -- no workout today!

Back at it next week, then my base training period wraps up. Going on from there, the biking will start to pick up, and hopefully the weather will continue to cooperate. Only about six weeks now until the Belmonte 25K trail run, though I might shoehorn in the Martha Jefferson 8K before then -- it's a popular early season tune up on a very tough downtown C-ville course.

Weekly totals:

Swim -- 2:25, 7250 yards
Bike ----3:00, 54 miles
Run -----2:50, 20 miles
Strength -0:20

Totals -- 8:35

Friday, February 10, 2012

60 and counting (and that's not my age...)

Actually, I turn 53 on February 16...

I've known for a while that I've had a good streak of workouts going since I got my training back on track in December. But the other day I counted it up, and realized that today will be 60 days straight of not missing a workout. So obviously, I have incentive not to miss my time on the bike this afternoon.

Now, that doesn't mean I haven't had a few days off during that streak, or I haven't had to shift things around on occasion. And, truth be told, there have been a couple of times where I've had to cut the scheduled workout a little short.

But on the other hand, sometimes I've done more work than my training plan has called for. And there have been many days with multiple workouts. In fact, there were about 90 different workouts in those 60 days -- all told about 75 hours of work. It's a good start, and I'm confident I'm putting down a solid foundation for this early in the year.

This has been a pretty good week so far. Had two good masters swim classes, and a good result with my heart-rate run test on Wednesday. And best of all, I get a day off on Sunday -- I'm gonna enjoy that!


Monday, February 06, 2012

On (to) Wisconsin -- Adapt and Focus

Sometimes your workouts don't go the way you want, but if you stick with it there's always an opportunity to get something positive out of it.

Case in point was my Sunday run. I'd had a solid week of training, and was really starting to feel some positive energy and improved fitness coming out of this base-building period. But as I started the run -- an easy-paced 10 miler -- something just didn't feel right. My form felt clumsy, my heart rate was way over target, and I just couldn't get into a smooth rhythm.

I tried pulling back on the speed and settling down, but after 3 miles I felt gassed, wobbly and worn out. I considered turning it around and calling it a day, but then I started thinking to myself -- in a long race there are going to be some tough patches to go through -- try to work through this one.

Time for a change in strategy. First get the heart rate down, second break the remaining 7 miles up into easy chunks. Get through this. I shifted into a run/walk mode with a 1-minute walk at the start of every mile. On the runs I counted steps to 50, then checked my heart rate to make sure I was keeping it easy.

It worked -- after a couple of miles I was into a good, smooth running rhythm and was still holding 9-minute/mile pace -- plenty fast enough on an easy day. And I got home satisfied -- I'd stuck to it; my 10 miles was in the bag, and I'd taught myself a valuable lesson in adapting and staying focused on the goal.

Weekly Totals:

Swim -- 2:10, 5950 yards
Bike --- 3:45, 65 miles
Run ---- 3:19, 23 miles
Strength/Core --- 1:20

30 weeks to go.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Mid-week thoughts: Keys to success

I've been racing tris for 8 years this season, and have been a runner for 10 more. I've been fortunate enough as a triathlete to have achieved a pretty good level of performance. I've been in the top 20-25% of my age group (50-54) each of the last three years, have qualified for USAT Age Group Nationals the last two years, and I usually get on the podium for my age group a few times each season.

I think one of the next challenges I want to bite off is to start coaching triathletes. There's a lot I think I can pass on to newer athletes, especially. So, I was wondering to myself -- if I could tell a new triathlete three keys to improving in triathlon, what would they be?

1. Have a goal

It's a good starting point. Goals aren't the same for everybody -- to some it's "just win, baby," while to others it's "just finish." Or you may want to do a lot of short races, or a few longer ones. But a goal that defines what you want to get out of the sport is important, because it helps you avoid an aimless approach to your training. And unless your bar for success is very low, you likely won't achieve your goals with an aimless approach. That leads us to...

2. Have a plan.

I start each season with a plan on what I want to do, and why I want to do it. For example, this year it's do an IM, because I want to take on the challenge of racing the iconic triathlon distance. Last year the plan was to race longer (two 1/2-IMs) in order to get more experience in longer races. Once you've decided on your plan, you can tailor your training to that purpose. And with a purpose-driven plan, you may find yourself able to reevaluate how you measure success, too!

3. Be consistent.

Once you've got a plan in place, it's time to execute it. Consistency in executing your plan is one of the most important keys to improving and meeting your goals. Your body improves through many small adaptations and progressions, not through huge leaps as the result of a single workout or two. And consistency will yield habit -- habit that may keep you active and healthy even if you're not racing.