Great Speed Swim Workout

With my upcoming race on Saturday morning, I decided to give my legs a break from the regular Thursday night pounding that hills with ERTC inflicted on them. Instead I went to our Tri club’s swim practise and was treated to a great workout by our coach Mike. It provided a good combination of pacing work, speed, and endurance all mixed into one package. I found this to be a lot of fun and am writing about this as much for the 10 people that might read this as for archiving this workout so I don’t forget.

The distance worked out to 2.2km and I finished it in around 90 minutes. I consider myself an “advanced beginner”.

Warm-up:

3x: 100m easy free style, 25m backstroke

+ 25m of back kick to get back to the start

Main Set 1(Hard Kick, Race Pace):

6x: 25m of kick at 40 seconds, 50m of freestyle on 1 minute, 30 seconds rest

Main Set 2(Race Pace – 10 seconds, Race Pace):

1x: 50m on 1:10, 50m on 1:00

1x: 100m on 2:20, 100m on 2:00

1x: 150m on 3:30, 150m on 3:00

Main Set 3(Active Recovery, Race Pace, AR, Above RP, AR, 2 x All Out):

100m on 2:30, 100m on 2:00, 100m on 3:00, 1oom on 1:50, 100m on 3:00, 50m on 50s, 50m on 50s

Cool Down:

100m easy free style

Notes:

-This workout uses speeds I am comfortable with where my race pace is approximately 2:00/100m. Based on that time you can adjust the workout to fit your own race pace speed.

-If you need more distance, tack it onto the 3rd Main Set

-On the 2nd and 3rd sets I worked on pacing myself so I arrived exactly at the allotted time which allowed me to practise pacing and also made for 2 sets of 600m of consecutive swimming

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Goals for the intermediate and far-away future, Marathon, Ironman, Comrades Marathon

I don’t know why, but I’ve always been the kind of guy who likes to plan things out. It may date back to my parents teaching me to save and be careful with my money. When I was young and spoiled(similar to this instant), I quickly outgrew the types of gifts one could receive in a single birthday or Christmas go-round. I’ve always been a Lamborghini man on a Volkswagen budget. Because of this, I quickly realized  that with some patience and a little short term sacrifice you can achieve some really cool things. When you are willing to take a step back and look at where you are headed from a long term standpoint, planning for the future becomes extremely exciting and gives you the drive you need to complete your goals whether it be to save money, travel, or do something few other people could ever imagine.

It’s easy to say that you’re being foolish or getting to far ahead of yourself when you set your goals high and for the distance future, but isn’t that the point? Sure, some short term, achievable goals are important to reaching those crazy goals, but why not set the bar really high?

In sports and training, I’ve always been an endurance guy. Early on, I don’t know why but I was always intrigued and motivated in going long distances, albeit, in proportions I considered achievable during my limited encounter with endurance sports during high school. At track meets, I quickly realized that while I was quicker than most, I could never win a 100m or 200m race. 800m, 1500m, 3000m, and Cross-Country on the other hand were my bread and butter. Sure, winning was easier because not many people were crazy enough to consider doing the longer distances, but maybe it was the seeming crazy part that I liked.

I’ve thought a lot lately about why I have taken to triathlon in the way that I did and if I I’m after it for the right reasons. Sure there is bragging rights about finishing a Marathon, an Ironman, or some other long distance event, but for me I don’t think that’s it. I’ve always been competitive and that plays a large part of it coming from a high-level sporting background. But I think taking to it in the way that I have can be broken down further, the best I can do to explain it comes down to one thing, learning about yourself.

In a 100m sprint, the race is over in about 11 seconds, which doesn’t leave you a whole lot of time to think. You are competing with the other 7 or 8 lanes around you and they provide all the encouragement you need to go fast. The hurt doesn’t really come until after the race. In an endurance event, be it racing or training, you have no choice but to think. Thinking about how much you hurt, thinking about how much easier quitting would be, and thinking about the competition between your legs and brain. Some how within those thoughts, there is also the time to parse through life. There are very few moments throughout the day, week, month, or even year when you devote time to truly consider who you are, think about what you’ve accomplished and done up to that point in time, and really find out what you are made of. In a race, or when training gets tough, and you dig deep for that motivation to continue, you conjure up a happy moment, think about something that makes you want to push harder, or visualize a goal, and really find out what drives you and you truly discover what is important to you. When you’re logging the long training hours by yourself, or are in the pool, it also gives you a rare opportunity to think about your decisions, relationships, the past, the future and all of that other stuff humanly stuff that we take for granted. For me, that is why I am intrigued by and addicted to endurance. The post-exercise endorphins help too.

Any ways, moving away from the philosophical stuff and back onto course, today I read a really amazing article on the Runner’s World website about the Comrades Marathon in South Africa. Over 12 000 people enter the 90km race every year and many don’t succeed in finishing within it’s 12 hour strict completion limit.  The race also takes place over Africa’s 5 biggest peaks: Cowies, Fields, Bothas, Inchanga, and Polly Shortts. Comrades’ is considered the world’s largest(in terms of competitors) and oldest ultramarathon race and has many interesting traditions surround it. Someday, pending I don’t completely blow up my body and I am still driven to race, I’d like to complete Comrades. I really hope to travel the world as I get older and think visiting both Africa and completing a race of this magnitude would both be amazing moments and memories. Here’s the race profile, you can see just how nasty the race really is with a half-marathon from 20-40km’s with a gradual climb and then all of the other “little” peaks and valleys.

 

This year I have plans to run a 30km race which is coming up in just a few weeks, and then another half-marathon later in September. I am really looking forward to both races, the former being the longest run of my life and first trail race, and the latter, a chance to try and break the 1hr 30min benchmark in a Half-Marathon. I have no immediate plans for moving up to tackle a full marathon and instead want to focus on building a solid base of endurance and injury resistance when it comes to running. As a intermediate distance goal I’d like to complete an Ironman by the end of 2015 but that is entirely dependent on my progress at the 70.3 distance after 2 years of racing them which is my plan for 2013/14 Tri seasons.

My personal philosophy when it comes to racing is not only to complete a race, but to be at least semi-competitive as well. That means not just pushing to finish, but pushing myself to finish faster. While it is unreasonable to hope for a podium finish in every race or even most of the races I will ever compete in, I at the very least want to be the slowest of the fastest competitors. If I cannot achieve this at least with the shorter distance endurance events I am thinking about entering, more training is necessary before I race them and will have to put that race or distance off.

As a precursor to Ironman I’d like to tackle a Marathon in the year leading up to it. So if all goes well I will start training for one in 2014 at the end of race season to help prepare myself mentally for the massive swim, bike, run in the year following. In the mean time I plan on throwing in at least one baby-ultra into my yearly race schedule as they are an interesting change of pace from my normal training and at least one half-marathon during the times when cycling and Tri season are over/haven’t began.

Coronation Triathlon

Well, today I officially became a triathlete. I also found out that you can do all of the brick’s, mini-tri’s and training you want, but nothing compares to the overall hurt that you experience in a real triathlon.

The swim was about what I expected it to be. I actually did a pretty good job of predicting my overall time and got seeded with a group of people who were all pretty close in terms of speed. Our lane had no real issues with passing or turning. One really annoying feature of Peter Hemming way pool that I discovered really quickly is that it lacks the little lip around the edge of the pool. While this really has no affect on you if you can flip turn, I cannot and it made grabbing onto the wall really tricky to do my side turns. There were probably about 4 or 5 really terrible turns that I had probably cost me a couple of seconds and some wasted effort.

The swim itself wasn’t bad, I felt I paced myself pretty well and made sure that I didn’t blow up. I did get the light headed feeling that I get when I really push my distance at high pace. It’s almost like a strong head ache, but I’ve had this before so I didn’t panic. I got out of the pool after swimming my 1000m and felt horrendously bad. This being the second time I’d swam 1000m in my life after doing 100m repeats and 400m time trials for most of my most recent training it was definitely a bit of a shock. I think it was more that I hadn’t really experience the feeling of swimming hard, or that long, then pulling myself out of the pool and sprinting for T1.

My transition was surprisingly fast. I got out of the pool about half a length behind the other 2 faster guys in my lane who said they had some major race experience and beat them onto the bike course. While I didn’t practise my transitions before hand, I really spent some time and thought about what I was going to do and laid my gear out pretty well. The toughest thing to simulate is the feeling of having shaky arms from the swim and feeling like you are going to pass out/vomit. Also, getting my tri-top on was another funny scene to watch. It’s tough to do when you are soaking wet.

The bike course was fairly tough. On the slight down hill heading towards the river, there was about a 20km/h headwind which really kills some of your momentum. There was one spot where the shelter was really good and the course got a bit steeper so I really pushed hard to get up near 47km/h ish. It was surprising how many people were not taking race lines, people were pretty much everywhere but on the fastest path through the course. This worked out really well for me as I didn’t have to deal with getting around people who were in the race line. The uphill was tough to gauge. It was in that awkward spot between a hill climb and a gradual slope so you really had to work hard to find the right effort/gear to climb fast but not waste energy. Also, it felt pretty sweet pacing people with race wheels and aero bikes and aero helmets on my entry level road biking Cannondale.

Other than the feeling of T1, the run was the hardest part and definitely hurt a lot as to be expected. I was familiar with the rubbery feeling that accompanies changing from the bike to run was from all of the brick sessions I’d done. But for some reason I had gotten really tight on the front-outside of my leg between my knee and my ankle. I have felt the feeling before when running on a sloped highway so maybe the strange elevations and angles of the roads and paths caused it. It really felt like the limiting factor in my run. I was going about as fast as possible without it exploding in pain. That being said I was still around ~165bpm average on the heart rate and was still going fairly fast. The only flat part of the course was the last 1.5km.  I started feeling a bit stronger and the pain in my leg either went down or adrenalin kicked in and I was able to lay down some sub 4min/km for the last little bit. I sprinted it in to finish the race off, I think people thought I was dogging it and then picked it up at the end when really my last 1km was a sprint in comparison to most of the people I passed.

Official Splits(with transitions)

1:40:29 Derek DOWLING Edmonton 7/26   M2029 231 
Swim: 113th   21:56 
Bike 36th   47:28 32.9km/h (includes t1 and t2)        
Run: 22nd   31:06  3:54min/km

Takeaways

-Need to do some more distance work in the swim

-Once my tri bike shoes come, I need to practise the flying mount. Running down pavement in carbon soled shoes is both expensive and looks really dumb.

-There is definitely value to taping gels to the top tube of your bike, it’s hard to get at them from the side pockets of my vest

-Power Gel’s taste about 100x better than GU’s

-Need to get out of the shoes on the bike quicker, could have had a train wreck when I came flying up to the dismount line and wasted time

-Need to drink more on the bike, felt pretty dehydrated going into the run

-Need to run more, I’ve been neglecting it

-Need to brick off of road rides more, it’s a lot different than bricking off a spin bike

Also, based on my Garmin which is pretty accurate, the course was short by about 1.9km on the bike and about 0.7km on the run. The difference between 7th place and an age group podium finish was about the difference between my swim time and the average of our age group.

Latest Swim TT

So today I did another 400m swim TT. My 100m splits were approximately:

1:49,1:44,1:39,1:30

For a grand total of 6:42. This absolutely demolishes my last PB in a 25m which was right around 8:32. Great to see the swim work continue to pay off. The big take away from both of my most recent swim TT’s is pacing. Instead of coming out in the first 100m like a bat out of hell, start fast but relaxed and gradually crank up the intensity as you near your goal. Ideally it would be best to swim the whole thing equally at threshold, but I still need to practise something like that before I try it in a race.

Peak Week and Other Race Plans

Spring has sprung, school is out for the summer, and I have been training like crazy. Since my schedule has stabilized I have been moving towards approximately 12-14 hours a week of training with a schedule of:

Mon: Long Run

Tuesday: Morning Swim, Night 4x5km bike tt’s

Wednesday: Open, but normally a recovery ride

Thursday: Hill Night on the Bike

Friday: Morning Run Intervals, Night open

Saturday: Medium Distance Ride(~100km)

Sunday: Long Ride (120+km)

Coronation is fast approaching and I am starting to feel like I’m getting into race form. My legs are constantly sore, a bit fatigued, and it will be nice to take a couple of days to rest them up. Today in the pool I did both a 400m TT and a 200m TT. These are both great for pushing race pace and are made up a great workout to peak off of. The catch was I decided to use the Wetronome to determine the approximate pacing I would use.

In the last TT’s I completed, I swam a 8:28 400m, and a 4:02 200m. This worked out to a Critical Swim Speed of 2:13/100m. Since then I have continued to work on technique and have spent a lot of time doing 50m and 100m repeats well above the 2:13/100m pace. While it was hard to see improvement as I was doing these sets, in both time trials I felt much more comfortable pushing the pace and was able to hold an elevated perceived effort for much longer than I normally could. After examining the splits from my last 400m TT, it was quite obvious that I was really inconsistent and came out and swam my first 50m in 52 seconds, whereas my second last 50m was 1:09, not ideal for distance swimming. This time Stefan, who’s been acting as a swim coach for me, decided to put me on a 1:02/100m pace. In combination with this consistency and intervals, I was able to swim an 8:11 – 400m and a 3:58 – 200m which are both PB’s. On top of this I have dropped my CSS time by 5 seconds to 2:06/100m meaning I should be able to hold this pace on race day for great distances without faltering. It turns out that my last test results were on April 17th, so I managed to make this much of an improvement in a month which is awesome.

My goal is to swim 1000m in under 21:00 at Coronation. It will be fast, but I think achievable if I am careful about pacing.

In other news, I have been attempting to get my Summer race plans all sorted out. This is the tentative updated version:

May 27th – Coronation (Sort of Olympic Distance)

June 16th – Fast Trax 30k Ultra (Trail Run)

June 23-24 – Devon Grand Prix (Bike Race)

July 7th, Edmonton ITU (Olympic Tri)

August 3-6th, Tour de Bowness (Bike Race)

August 18th – Kelowna Apple Triathlon (Olympic Tri)

September 23rd  – St Albert Fall Challenge (Half-Marathon) (Optional)

After this point, I hope to throw in a couple of Cyclocross races as well. It’s going to be a busy but fun summer of all kinds of racing I think! Hopefully I survive.

 

Dealing With Runner’s Knee and Other Past Injuries

Well, I’ve done it again. I’ve managed to give myself another injury caused by running.

Back in November, I suffered intense pain in my outer arch, but only when I ran. The culprit was a combination of two things. First, in my workouts I would run, and then ride the stationary bike. While riding, my calves had a tendency to cramp up. The problem with this is that tendons from your arches run up the back of your heel and into your lower calve muscle. So having tight calves, means tight tendons in your arches, which can easily become inflamed and cause a lot of problems. The second problem was I was running on old shoes. While I hadn’t put a whole lot of kilometers on my shoes,  they were about 3 years old and I had used them for cross training and weightlifting while I played football for the Bears. After replacing my shoes, taking about 2 weeks off, and continually doing calf stretches I was back to normal. I found the best time to do the calf stretches was while I was in the shower. The hot water helped them to relax, and instead of standing there like an idiot trying to wake up, I made the most out of my time.

In February, I suffered from a different kind of arch pain. This time it was on the inner arches and was a result of running a half marathon in slippery snow. My physiotherapist said it was a result of my toes clinching in my shoes for stability mixed with 21.1km of hard running. The pain was most prominent when I ran or if I went up on my tippy toes. To fix this, I did calf stretches and I used a tennis ball to roll out my arches. This hurt a fair amount, but it worked.

Now that those have gone away and I have begun to run longer distances at faster speeds more comfortably, I have self-prescribed myself with Runner’s knee. This site had a great set of tools to help do a basic diagnosis of what you might be suffering from. I am suffering from pain in the outer knee that goes away unless I am running. It normally really flares up over 10km. I found a good YouTube, posted below, that I’m going to follow to try and fix it. If not I guess I’m off to the physio again to help her pay for her trip to Paris.

Being just under 2 month’s out from the Fast Trax 30k Ultra Trail Run, I’m really hoping this goes away soon so I can get some good distance/speed training in.

Summer Race & Training Plans

This summer is sure to be a busy one between my summer internship, a part time web admin job, training, and racing. Oh yaa, and supposedly relaxation time. Anyways, I am gearing up for my first real season of endurance racing. So far I’ve put in 8 months of hard work and have another 1 month before my first real challenge. As it is my first real year of racing I’ve decided to really focus on my bike. This is where I believe I have the most potential to improve and really can add some major volume without hurting myself as I have already managed to do quite easily with swimming and running. The other reason why I am focusing on the bike is so I can attempt a half Ironman in the near future. I already know I can run a pretty solid half-marathon, and I can’t really swim any harder without re-injuring my shoulder, so making a 90km bike seem easy and short is by far the best option for this summer.

To make my bike better, I’ve joined ERTC. So far I haven’t been disappointed with the workouts. They offer interval work on Tuesdays, a hill night on Thursdays, and long rides on Saturdays and Sundays. My plan is to do Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturdays with them, and long Tri Club rides on Sundays with our club. 4 rides a week should be more than plenty to get me where I want to be.

I continue to keep making improvements with my swim. Since injuring my shoulder I have completed revamped my swim stroke to become more relaxed, rythmical, and more powerful all at the same time. I managed to beat my last PB which was 8:32s-400m which was in a 25m pool by 4 seconds(8:28s) in the Kinsmen 50m pool which is great. I did this while completely cutting out distance, speed, and cardio work and focusing solely on technique which is awesome feedback for my improving technique. Using the Swim Smooth website as I gude, I also found out today my Critical Swim Speed (CSS) today. CSS is an approximation of your lactate threshold speed or about what you should be able to hold for long distance swimming. My CSS is roughly 2:13/100m. Now that I know this, I can start to do sets at this pace to get used to swimming at my CSS which will push my threshold up so that I can swim faster, farther. The other good news is this is extremely slow and that there is tons of room for improvement.

Finally, my run feels as strong as always. I am becoming able to run long distances at high speeds, with lots of hills. From March 9th to April 9th I ran 104 miles as part of Strava & GU’s 100 000 mile challenge. I have been dealing with some knee pain on my left knee. So I have been trying to take it fairly easy.

So far for races, here is what I have planned:

1) Coronation Triathlon – May 27, 2012

1km swim – 26km bike – 8km run

This race is strange in terms of distance. My goal is to finish in a total time of (2:13s/100m x 1000m) + (26km/35km/h) + 8km x 4min/km = 22:10s + 45min + 32min + 3 minutes(transition) = ~1:42:00s. That being said, this is my first real triathlon so  as long as I finish under 1hr 45mins I will be satisfied.

2) Fast Trax 30km Ultra – June 16th, 2012

30 km of trail running

This should be an interesting run. I have never done a trail race let alone a 30 km run. I signed up for this race as motivation for run training. Once the trails start to dry up I will begin to do both long runs with trails and hill climbs mixed in. I’m not to sure what the course will be like yet, but my goal is to run sub 6min/km which would mean finishing in just under 3 hours. This would have been good enough for 3rd place in my age group last year.

3) Edmonton ITU – July 8th, 2012

1.5km swim- 40km bike – 10km run

Edmonton is hosting the national championships this year for the Triathlon Canada at Sprint and Olympic distances. This means that the top 10 finishers from each age group will qualify to represent Team Canada at the Triathlon Age Group World Championships. This is my A race, or most important race of the year for me. My goal is to finish top 10 in my age group although this will be a real challenge. The biggest obstacle will include this being my first open water race swim, although it’s in Hawrelak pond which is about 4.5 feet deep and also that my swim is really slow. Also, this will be my first Olympic distance triathlon.

My goal is to finish in a time of (2:13/100m x 1500m) + (40km/35km/h) + (4:10min/km x 10km) = 33:15 + 1:09:00 + 41:40 + 3min(transition) = ~ 2:27:00

Again, as it is my first real open water swim, a hilly bike course, and a crowded run, I will still be satisfied with anything below 2:30:00.

After ITU I have no set plans. I might throw in another Triathlon, perhaps the Edmonton Derby Half-Marathon, or something else. I really want to try out cyclo-cross racing as well. I feel like it will really help me build power for the next biking season and will help make me a more proficient rider.