October Training Update, Cyclocross, Frank McNamara, and GWN

I haven’t written in a while so I thought I’d take a moment to think about what I’ve done in the last two months, what I am currently up to, and an update on a big step I’m hoping to make in Triathlon next year. Let’s start with the current stuff. There hasn’t been much to report lately as for the most part, it’s been back to training without much serious racing.

Cycling

So far I haven’t had too much of a chance to race cyclocross because I’ve been travelling 2 of the 3 weekends that there has been racing in Edmonton. There are 2 weekends of Edmonton racing left so I am hoping to do at least one more race this season more as experience gained for next year than anything. I’ve snuck a couple of long rides in here and there as well. Every time I get on my road bike I remember just how much I’ve missed it even when it means riding into nasty headwinds(grinning the whole way) like I had to deal with today. Cross is fun, but I freaking love hitting the open road.

I’ve been doing most of my riding indoors on the spin bike lately which works out to about 3 hours a week. Once racing season ends, the Tri-Club will begin our brick sessions, during which I hope to get at-least two extra hours a week of riding in as I don’t think riding only 3 hours a week is going to be enough to get where I want to be for next year. For now I’ve tried to cap my heart rate at 150 bpm to try and focus on building aerobic fitness. So far it’s seems to be working although with only an hour of riding I sometimes struggle to feel really tired/not pin it during a workout as an older me would approve of.

Running

Recently I’ve been running 3 times a week. Easy on Tuesday nights, super hard speed workout on Wednesdays, and then another slightly harder day on Fridays. For the wednesday workouts, I’ve been completing the Frank McNamara Wednesday night XC races. So far I’ve been really pleased with my results as I neglected my run for much of the Summer(long runs once a week) and did absolutely zero speed work. I consistently finish around 15th place when the fast runners come out which I am quite happy with.  I’ve definitely noticed that I’ve become really comfortable running at high heart rates when I need too, and I can hold a really high effort(180bpm+) for the entirety of those races. This has definitely translated into an increase in running fitness as well. When I was training for Hypo-half last year I remember for about 150bpm I could run around 5:00min/km whereas now for the same effort I am running 4:45min/km’s. As of right now I am doing about 2 hours a week of easy, medium distance runs, and about 25 minutes of absolute max effort work. Once bike season ends I plan on adding an additional long run day into the training regime on Saturdays and then another hour of brick runs on Sundays, and then continuing with speed work on Wednesdays as well. This should leave me with about 3 – 4 hours of easy running a week, 30 minutes or so of top end speed work, and then an hour or so of tempo work on Sundays during the brick workouts for a grand total of 4.5 – 5.5 hours a week of training.

Swimming

My swimming is coming along nicely as well. I’ve definitely noticed a cycle of gaining speed through increasing fitness, plateauing/almost injuring myself due to form issues, fixing my form, and as a result, pushing through to a new level of swimming speed. At the end of August I started to develop a pain in the collarbone area, which was caused due to my hand entry. First I was not reaching as far as I should have been before entering the water each stroke. As well I was entering thumb first, which causes a lot of rotation and un-needed stress on the shoulder joints. And finally I was also entering with my hand much less than at shoulder width. After entering my hand further forward, out away from my head, and with my thumb level, I’ve noticed an improved catch as well as my shoulder problems going away.

Finally, we completed a 400m TT on Thursday evening. I was happy to find that I swam approximately 7:40s. A decrease  of about 33 seconds from my last TT in May! Since I don’t have any real background in swimming I’ve been leaving my training regime in the hands of our coaches but feel approximately the 2.5 – 3 hours a week I have been doing is about ideal to increase fitness while avoiding injury.

Great White North:  I’ve made the plunge and signed up for Great White North.  It’s definitely going to be my “A” race triathlon for the next year and is located in a nice gap between other racing I will be doing. I’ve set a super ambitious goal for myself of completing it in sub 5 hours.

Plan:

40 minute swim(2min/100m)

5 minutes for T1

34km/h on the bike for 90km’s = 2hr 38 minutes

5 minutes for T2

Leaving me an 1hr 37 minutes to finish 21.1km of running. (~4:35min/km)

Ideally I’d like to get through transitions quicker, however I’ve left myself time here as I have no idea how long they are and would rather overshoot on how long it’d take than expect to fly through there. I don’t see T1 getting much quicker than this as I’ll be getting out of the water with a ton of people, have to strip off a wetsuit, and have to navigate a bunch of slower triathletes to get onto the bike course.

I think this is going to hurt a lot, but it is definitely achievable. Based on swim smooths css calculator, my threshold speed is exactly 2min/100m as of now, and I’ve still got 8 months to improve. I definitely feel like I can hold 34km/h on the bike, especially with how flat the course is, plus a big fitness boost from another 2 months of road racing under my belt. Finally, I plan on running sub 1hr 30min in a half-marathon by the end of April. Assuming I hold this fitness and run no faster than 1:29:59 and don’t make any gains in the 2 months following, I’d need to run at 92% of my running only goal which seems doable.

Edmonton Police Half

I am aiming to run a sub 1:30 at this race. It’s going to be semi-hilly, but I think it is doable with the next 6.5 months to prepare for it. I ran 1:37 in half a foot of snow last February, albeit on a fairly flat course, so I think I should be able to make this happen.

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School of Cross + Hop N Hurl Race Cyclocross Race Report

I won’t go into crazy detail here about either of the two races I completed last weekend, however they were both a blast. As my first real Cyclocross style race other than Kettle Cross, I think things went quite well. I learned a ton about racing tactics, pacing, and bike handling in the weekend. I competed in School Of Cross on Saturday and Hop N Hurl on Sunday

Since I am still a Cat 5 Road Racer, I was placed into the most beginner category of Cyclocross racing, “Sport”. Despite shifting my focus back to running and having  not ridden either my road or cross bike at all in the past month, I still did quite well and felt stronger than many of my competitors in both races. My downfall was definitely being timid in the beginning of both races due to my lack of experience with steep descents, single track, and technical cornering. I plan on getting at least two more cross races in this season and plan on spending a lot more time on the cross bike before the start of next season to help get used to technical riding.

In hindsight, establishing a good starting position out of the opening sprint is super key, even more so than in Crit racing. If you aren’t in the top 10, you end up bottlenecked behingd 20 to 30 racers who are both slower and less proficient in the corners. I estimate that the leaders gain 2-3 seconds on you through every corner in the opening lap. I made the mistake in both races starting deep behind the leaders. I estimate about 30 back in both races. After things finally spread out, I managed to climb about 15 or so spots in both races. I definitely made a ton of ground up over the barriers and sand pits as most of the other riders don’t have the top end running speed that I am capable of. But in the end, you can only pass/catch so many people in 40 minutes when you’ve given the top 20 riders a minute head start in the first lap.

Next year I definitely intend on racing a full cross season with intentions of upgrading to “Expert” which is always easier said than done. I think I will have some added fitness as well as bike handling abilities. Right now I am back to building base for next year so I can start hard in March and hopefully cycle consistently all the way to November with a few small breaks in the middle.

I am quite happy with both races, I maintained a pretty high threshold for both races and felt like my legs were completely shot at the conclusion of both races meaning I was working hard enough. I would have finished in approximately 11th place in Hop N Hurl had I not kicked my chain off the little ring when I was hurling over the barricades. Oh well!

School of Cross CX:  17/44 Sport, +0:02:54

Hop N Hurl CX: 15 / 44 in Sport

Winter 2012 Training Plans and Goals for 2013

With Tour de Bowness and the Kelowna Apple Triathlon behind me, my Road Racing and Triathlon seasons have come to an end. I made it through the season in relatively one piece. I had to deal with a bit of an arch injury after Fast Trax 30km, left some skin on the Crit course at TdB, and have picked up a slight cough that I haven’t been able to shake since Edmonton ITU but other than that feel pretty good right now.

With the temperature starting to drop, only Cyclocross season remains. I have really mixed feelings about CX right now. It seems like it is going to be absolute blast, but I’ve crashed fairly hard on every CX ride I’ve been on to this point, so if I can end that trend I’ll be much more thrilled about the sport. So far I have 3 races in mind, the Kettle Cross Enduro, School of Cross, and Hop N’ Hurl. I plan on really only tapering for the first race as it will be quite a long solo effort. After the last cross race of the season, and when the snow hits the ground for good, I plan on taking a hard rest week to give the body a bit of a chance to recover.

Below I’ve attempted to outline my basic goals for next year’s race season.

Running

As of the first week in September I will be back to training with the Triathlon club full time as I am required to coach Tuesday and Friday evenings and will being participating in our club’s swims on Mondays and Thursdays. One of the big goals I have for next year is to complete the Grizzly Ultra Marathon in October 2013. The race consists of  a 50km trail run with 1 691m of elevation gain(OUCH!). I’ve talked with Jack from Fast Trax, who is the head coach of a pretty hardcore Ultra running club in Edmonton, and he’s built me a modified training plan based on what his racers normally do. I made it clear that I only have time to run at maximum four times per week, and not the 7-9 that his crazy athletes do. For now he has me on a Half-Marathon speed program which I intend to begin with the first week in September. My long term goal is to be able to go sub 1:29 at Edmonton Police Half-Marathon which means being able to run below 4:13min/km for the duration of the race. After completing this race in April, I will rest up and begin increasing the duration of my base and long runs towards the longer distances I need in order to do the Grizzly.

The training plan looks something like this:

Tuesday – Base Run < 60 minutes

Wednesday – Intervals or Tempo Run

Friday – Base Run < 60 minutes

Saturday or Sunday – Long Slow Run or Intervals

Since I really neglected my run near the latter half of the summer, averaging about 12km/week, I plan on getting my distance back up to around 25km/week and then will increase the volume slowly through September and October as biking season ends and my legs are more likely to survive  the 40+km/week the plan calls for.

Triathlon

I am not completely sure what my plans are for Triathlon next year. I am considering the move to longer course racing. I think I have the ability to race a Half-Ironman in a reasonable time. I am considering racing either Calgary 70.3 or Great White North however I cannot afford to do both. I am also considering the possibility of doing the Kelowna Apple again. I have a score to settle with that race. I feel with consistent off-season swimming, biking, and the run plan I intend to do, I will be fairly strong coming in to next year.

In terms of swimming, I’d like to crack the 30 minute barrier for the 1500m open swim. My best time this year was 31:40 at Edmonton ITU without a wetsuit. This takes a combination of sighting and fitness, which I think should be well within reach next year by swimming twice a week regularly through the Winter. This also means getting my race pace under 2:00min/100m. Without consistent summer training I believe I have gotten it down to somewhere around 2:05min/100m. Blazing fast, I know.

Bike Racing

I plan on hitting bike racing hard next year starting with Velocity Stage Race, Pidgin Lake Road Race, Devon Bikefest, Banff Bikefest or Rundle Mountain Stage Race, and then finally Superweek in Calgary if I’m not frazzled from all of the other racing I’ve done to that point. Ideally I hope to upgrade into Category 4 next year. Another Fall/Winter of hard work on the spin bikes plus hitting bike season earlier should enable me to score the remaining 20 points I need to make the jump fairly early in the season.

Fall/Winter Training Schedule

Monday – Core 1 hour, Swim 1.5 hours

Tuesday – Run 1 hour, Bike 1 hour

Wednesday – Run 1 hour

Thursday – Core 1 hour, Swim 1.5 hours

Friday – Run 1 hour, Bike 1 Hour

Saturday – 2-3 hours of biking/running or Off

Sunday – 2-3 hours of biking/running

Total: 12 – 16 Hours

Or, subtracting for about 30 missed workouts due to resting, holidays, school, social life I should log somewhere between 325 – 475 hours of training during the school year. Since the beginning of April I’ve logged 185 hours not including swimming which I suspect would push the total to somewhere in the neighbourhood of 225 hours. That also includes some pretty hard race tapers, and a 2 week dead zone where I did virtually nothing in July after Edmonton ITU.

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.

Glute Power Day

Workout Stage: Build 1

Week: 3

Workout Type: Power emphasis bike ride and hill sets

Purpose

Similar to last week we are continuing with our muscle mass/power workouts for the biking portion of triathlons or for road racing.

We started with a basic warmup and then did 2 x 1 hour sets for building power on the bike which looked like this:

(Repeated Twice – 1 Hour Each)

Warm Up, 5-10 minutes of spinning

3 x: 1 minute high cadence, 1 minute recovery

Exercise 1

Next we moved into one of the main building sets.

5x: 2 minutes at threshold(~170bpm for me) and should be at whatever cadence you feel powerful at pushing a pretty big gear

5 minutes of recovery

Exercise 2

This whole set is completed in TT/aero position.

5 minutes pushing a really big gear at about ~70-75rpm, getting the heart rate up to threshold(again ~170bpm for me)

10 minutes at about ~90-95rpm maintaining the same effort pushing a fairly large gear still

5 minutes pushing a really big gear at about ~70-75rpm, getting the heart rate up to threshold(again ~170bpm for me)

This workout was arguably the toughest spin workout I’ve ever done. 20 minutes at threshold is hard work.

Next we went for a run.

Warmup

Comfortable pace for about 15 minutes(about 4:45min/km for me)

Then find your favorite long hill.

Exercise 1

3-5x: 1 minute hill bounds: Bound up the hill using your glutes, they should feel fatigued near the top

Exercise 2

2-3x: 1:30 of running up hill without the heels of your feet touching, should feel it in the calves. It’s like running calve raises.

Cooldown

15 minutes at a comfortable pace.

This was a real good workout. Unfortunately I cramped up in my quads at the end of exercise 1, and only could do 1 set of exercise 2 because I had to get out of the valley I was in. Oh well, with time my body will adjust! Overall the workout ended up being about 2200 calories burned. So it was ice bath time and lots of food when I got home.

Also, as a side note, I saw a really cool article on Sweat Science(check it out) about age related muscle loss and triathletes. This makes me want to keep with this until the day I keel over: http://sweatscience.com/the-incredible-unaging-triathlete/

Bike Power Day

Workout Stage: Build 1

Week: 2

Workout Type: Power Biking and Stair Sets

Purpose

Last night we started with a new workout for Tuesday nights. Instead of doing the regular 1 hour run, 1 hour bike, we did a 2 hour run followed by some running. The basic idea of this new workout day is to build more muscle mass for the biking portion of triathlons or for road racing. Now that we have developed some muscular endurance and have cardio in place, the advanced or more serious members in the club are doing this to help gain some more power on the bike and muscle in the legs.

We started with a basic warmup and then did 2 x 1 hour sets for building power on the bike which looked like this:

(Repeated Twice – 1 Hour Each)

Warm Up, 5-10 minutes of spinning

Exercise 1 – Big Hill Climb x 3

The trick with this one was to try and be at maximum threshold by the time you reach standing climb and maintain that until you enter recovery in Aero. The target heart rate should be between 165-180 bpm.

2 min aero(90-95  rpm),

1 min seated(Up intensity, 85-90 rpm),

1.5 min seated(Up intensity, 80-85 rpm),

1.5 standing(Maintain intensity, 65-75 rpm),

2 min aero(Maintain, 90-100 rpm),

3 min aero(recovery, 90-100 rpm).

Exercise 2 – Max Effort 1 Min On/1 Min Min Effort Recovery x 5

This exercise is designed to work on power as well, target heart rate should be between 165-185 during the sprint. During recovery, back off as much as possible to allow the legs to recover. You want to be pushing the biggest gear you could manage on a flat straight away while still feeling powerful. I find I am the most powerful at 95-100 rpm so I tried to find the highest resistance that I could hold at this cadence over 5 sets.

On the 4th set, try and beat your 1 set cadence by approximately 5 rpm. On the fifth, set try and hold your first set cadence.

Cooldown – 10 minutes

Cooldown Speed Set:

Start at 80 rpm, build up 10 rpm / 20 seconds until you reach 120 rpm, hold for 30 seconds, then reduce cadence by 10 rpm every 20 seconds. Make sure to put enough resistance on at high cadences so it feels like you are pushing against something to avoid doing damage to your legs.

For the remaining time do whatever it is that you normally do during a cool down.

After doing this twice we went and did a great run workout also emphasizing leg power.

Warm-up

10 laps around the track or approximately 2km run.

Exercise 1 – Stair Set w/ Lunges

Next we did 3 stair sets with approximately 24 stairs per set and 10 stair cases in the set. In between sets we did active recovery by performing 60-80 walking lunges(30-40 each leg).

Exercise 2 – 5 Lap Recovery w/ Karioka and Buildups

Next we did 5 laps or so to get the legs going again after some inducing some heavy stress from the stairs and lunges. Following this we did 3 sets of Carioca(video linked below) going each way once per set for a total of 6 times over a distance of about 30m. After this we did 4 sets of build ups which consisted of about 15 butt kicks, 15 high knees, then accelerate to ~90% of top speed over 25-30m followed by gradual deceleration. These are designed to work on quick twitch muscle development and helps allow the body to coordinate movements at higher speeds.

All in all this workout took about 3 hours. My Garmin said I burned about 2400 calories so be sure to bring a bunch of water, eat well before the workout, and bring some snacks to eat during the workout as well.

Note: Living in Edmonton, Alberta in the winter means we ride spin bikes until the snow goes away in March or April. While the spin bikes are awesome, they are no replacement for getting out on the road and actually riding.