Thursday, June 23, 2016

Fitness Test Number One

This past weekend I had the opportunity to test my fitness and evaluate my progress after a month of training seriously.  I would be competing in the Lake Arcadia Aquathon. The race distances were a 500-meter swim followed by a 2 mile run.

I felt good about my swimming but my running has been slowed by a right hamstring injury that I suffered during my first week of training. I did some hard strides after a long run and I haven’t been able to shake the pain since. I have been doing essentially no speed work at all. Recovery has been slow because I continue to run on it at least a few times a week.  It’s a grade 2 strain. It’s not that serious but something that I need to take care of or it will become a chronic problem. I used to get by with this kind of stuff when I was younger, but now I have to think about the injury potential.

I had some idea about what I felt I could do in this race. I thought 7 minutes on the swim, and anything under 14 minutes on the run would be within my current fitness level. 

I had a good warm up but the hamstring was really bothering me. It was like a toothache in the back of my right leg.   

The race started out well. I took off in the lead and I was able to hold my power and speed of my stroke for about 300 meters of it. I fell off a bit in the last 100 due to lack of endurance. I let a young swimmer girl go by me for the swim lead. I was out of the water in six minutes and thirty seconds, which was faster than I had expected.

My transition was quick and I was first out on the run and settled into a sub 7 min/mile pace.  I was able to hold it for a mile or so and then the wheels came off.  The lack of anaerobic training was very evident and I was disappointed when some guy passed me in the last quarter mile of the race for the win. My run time was 14:19. I would have been happy with a 13:30.
My total time was 21:12 for 2nd overall.  


My swim is progressing well. I will continue to progress my interval speed out longer distances and will gradually cut my rest interval, as I get fitter. So far, I am only up to repetitions of 200 yards with a 30 second rest interval. I will continue with my dry land strength program and use my Vasa Erg Trainer on days that I don’t go to the pool.  I’m on target for a very good swim for my race in September.

My run is a different story. I felt stiff, not fluid, and slow. I was also in oxygen debt for a pace that I used to do for an Ironman a few years back. The hamstring ached but I tried to forget it.

I looked back at my recent training and saw that I had no business thinking that I could run blazing fast.  I just hadn’t put in the miles or the appropriate speed work. I was just running a few times a week at a slow pace. My mind tells me I can run sub 6-minute miles but my body says no you can’t!

I only have two months to build up my run fitness to a peak around the first week of September. I need frequency and speed work but I also need to heal the hamstring.  The current solutions that I have found are very hard workouts on the elliptical trainer. I can finish these with my legs feeling like jelly and without any hamstring pain. It’s also non-weight bearing so it will minimize the damage to my joints and muscles so I can recover faster. I should be able to progress to some treadmill running and eventually get to the track.

I have gotten back into daily Yoga. My injury was on the right side. I discovered that I’m so tight on that entire side. I need to balance out my body strength and flexibility. That might help me run more fluidly.

My next test will be a race at the same venue a month from now but the distances will be longer: 750-meter swim and a 5K run.  I’m hoping to improve the paces on both disciplines.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

I Feel It Happening

I hadn’t raced in seven years. I felt intimidated, as I looked around at all the fit triathletes nervously attending to their ultra expensive bicycles and wetsuits. I wheeled my, newly Ebay acquired, 2003 Aluminum Cervelo P3 up to the transition rack, pulled my old QR wetsuit, that I bought in the mid 1990’s, out of my backpack and took a deep breath.  I assumed that I would finish mid-pack at best but I was fine with that. It had been a long time since I had raced and I “let myself go” for years. My main goal was to finish Ironman Florida in November later in that year and be done with this crazy sport forever. I was using this race to see how I measured up against the sports’ best athletes after just five months of training.

The dawn sun gently rose above Edmond Orgill Lake as the 2005 Memphis in May Triathlon crew assembled the athletes for it’s unique time trial start format. Each of the 1600 athletes was sent off at eight-second intervals according to their race number. I was sent off in the middle of the pack, which meant I had to navigate around quite a few slower athletes during my entire race.
As I stood on the shore of that muddy lake and made my way closer to my send off, I looked down at my heart rate monitor. It was now reading over 100 beats per minute in anticipation my start… Go!!! I punched the start button on my watch and I was off……...

I had been in and out of the sport of Triathlon since the mid 1980’s. For some reason Triathlon suited me.  I grew up as a swimmer and in college I learned that I could run. I had immediate success winning the first triathlon I ever attempted by a large margin. There was always some life event that took me out of the sport that made me quit. I was reluctant to get back into it because I knew with my addictive and competitive personality it would consume too much of my time. I had a demanding job as an Anesthesiologist and three small children who needed my attention. However, there was still an allure. I had unfinished business. I was drawn back into it and that force had a power over me like a Greek Siren. I had yet to compete in or complete an Ironman. My medical partner, Rick Smarinsky, had done Ironman Florida, and the top 10 age group finish of my friend, Lynne Smith, in the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii in 2004 got me motivated. I could do this! I signed up for Ironman Florida as soon as it opened up for registration in the fall of 2004. I would finish this race and then hang it up forever. I could cross this event off my bucket list.

The training started immediately. I had a Polar heart rate monitor and an old Avocet two button click bike computer that just gave me speed and time. I didn’t have a coach. I just trained by feel. If I felt good one day I would do a hard workout. If I felt crappy, I would take it easy or just take the day off. I kept track of my training in a loose-leaf notebook writing each entry in pencil. My emphasis was on quality and my average training time was around eight hours a week.  I made sure every hard workout had a goal and I stayed consistent and rarely was injured.  My progression was slow but deliberate. I did some long rides in preparation for the Ironman that winter. My first 100-mile ride was exhausting. I was so drained. I remember thinking how would it be possible to run a marathon after that?!

By January my buddy Rick was off the back a lot on the bike during our training rides. I would ask him. What’s wrong? He replied,  “ You’re just getting faster!” Whatever I was doing was working. I was getting fitter and I could feel it.  My motivation began to build. Maybe I could do much more than just finish this Ironman. Maybe I could qualify for the big dance; The Hawaii Ironman……..

The swim in Edmond Orgill Lake was like a churning washing machine. I found myself bumping into, swimming over, and being punched by slower swimmers as I passed. The constant sighting in order to navigate the course avoid others made the swim very uncomfortable and energy consuming. I’m used to getting into a rhythm and gliding.  As I excited the water I looked at my watch. It was low 21 minutes for the 1500 meters. I had no idea where I was at that point in my age group but the time was far from the 19 minutes I used to do these swims in so I was a little disappointed. (I was just 4 seconds off the lead in my age group)

I remember getting my bike legs as a painful experience. I was stiff but I let it rip. I had rested well for this race and I felt the energy surge into my legs as loosened up. I kept the cadence high and was amazed that I was able to hold 28 to 29 miles per hour on the flats. I was flying by people who had gone out in front of me.  When I pulled into T2 I realized I had ridden the 40K course in 57 minutes! (58:37officially).  It was like I never got fat and out of shape or left the sport for 7 years.  I was on a pace to possibly break 2 hours for this! I was surprised!

The run brought me back to reality. I suppose the fast bike split had taken the gas out of my legs and I was just able to manage to tuck in under 42 minutes for that 10k. My final finish time was 2:04:46 for a masters overall win and 29th overall. It was my first race as a master athlete. Andy Potts, an Olympian, won the race.

I was shocked by my result. I just couldn’t believe it. How did I do that? I was so intimidated by all these people at the start of the race and I throttled them! It was a shocking start to my journey back as a Triathlete.  I experienced some great races and experiences from that point until 2009 when I was forced out of the sport once more.  

Fast forward to 2016.  I have toyed around with Obstacle Course Racing, Aquathons and Beer runs for the past few years.  I haven’t really trained for them. I just show up and race. This has been a painful way to race but I’ve had fun.  After the Spartan and OCR World Championships I swore that I would train next time but never was consistent, motivated, or would acquire some type of injury.

For the past month, I have been able to put in some progressive training and I’m seeing results. My times are getting faster and I’m feeling more comfortable running again. I’m using the same principles that I used for that 2005 Memphis in May race that got the ball rolling for me.  I’m training by feel.  I reflected back on that time and found a method remembered that method that worked for me.

I have set some goals for myself this year. I qualified for the 2016 ITU Aquathon World Championships in Cozumel Mexico in September.  The race is a 2.5K run/1K swim/2.5K run. To perform well, I will need to focus my training on power in the water and speed on the run.  To do this type of race fast, it will require optimizing VO2max. The risk of injury is much higher. I think this format suits me and I believe that I can perform well in this race. The result just depends on who shows up.

I’m bringing the blog back to document my progress and commit to this goal.  Hopefully, I can surprise myself like I did eleven years ago back in Millington Tennessee on that magical day in May 2005.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Full Moon 5K - Kaboom!!!! I exploded.

Last weekend I thought I would do a test run and see where my fitness was. Its been a while since I have run a 5K so all I know is how I used to run them.  I didn't rest for it. I was in Tulsa that weekend so I did an awesome swim workout at the Jenks Aquatic center in the morning then did a good 2hr ride on the bike. The run was in the evening. Based on my interval times, I felt that I could run high 19 to low 20 min.  I tried to get my fast running daughters to go with me but they both had excuses. It was a big race. Over 2000 people showed up for it and a Def Leppard cover band was at the finish with unlimited free beer to all. (age appropriate racers) It was going to be a nice evening for sure.

The correct way to run a 5K is to be able to hold the same pace throughout. I did exactly the opposite. I hit the 2.5 K then exploded. At 3 K I had a very strong urge to walk. Mentally I regrouped and readjusted my goal of just finishing under 21 minutes. I still managed to grab 3rd in my age group. I still can't believe that. I guess if you do the age adjusted calculations it gives me a low 18 minute 5K if I was young again.

So what went wrong. I went out at a conservative pace for me 5 years ago... not today. I also think my endurance is lacking. I've only been back at this for 5 months so I guess I can't expect too much too soon.
I uploaded my Garmin stats. Those of you who want to see how not to run a 5k... here it is. Enjoy;-)

Untitled by robchance at Garmin Connect - Details

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Last week things just started to come together. I had a few days where I couldn’t train due to work obligations so I decided to really hit it when I got a break. I got on my trainer and churned out 4 intervals of 6 minutes in the upper 270-low 280 range for an hour with a normalized watt score in the 230’s. After that, I took the bike off and went on a balls to the wall ride with the locals into the wind and hills for 22 miles resulting in a NP of 237 watts. I was expecting a social ride... Obviously, it wasn’t. After the ride I was able to run 2 miles in the 6:30/mile range by pushing the straights and jogging the curves on the track. Big breakthrough workout! That’s getting me back where I used to be. Progress through intensity. Below are the files from my interval session followed by the road ride. The hills started around 45 to 70 minutes into it. Some big numbers there. Look at my heart rate. I haven't seen numbers like that in a long time. 
I’m getting more comfortable running under 7 minutes a mile now. 6 to 7 mile tempo runs are in the 7:15- 7:20/ mile pace range currently. I’m able to negative split my long runs which is a habit I have always adhered to. 
My swimming is still lackluster. I am able to get in at least three swims a month but Im still able to hang with the guys that do three swims a week when I go. Swimming isn’t on my top priority list but as my races approach, I will have to address it. 
I came across an article in Inside Triathlon. This guy is doing just what I have found through all my years of experimenting with training really works. A link to his blog. here . It’s impressive what Sami did.  Personally, I don’t think everyone has the mental strength to train like this. Every training session involves some kind of torture. It’s not pleasant unless you are into that kind of thing.... I always have been :-)

Monday, April 30, 2012

April Update 2

I thought that I would post a quick update. I continue to see results in my progress. It’s encouraging to feel myself getting stronger and feeling the old Rob coming back.  I finally cracked the 160 lb barrier in weight and I’m now down to 158 (71 kg). I’m starting to get comments about my weight loss now.

I have done a few breakthrough workouts recently. Last week I did a 5 mile run followed by a 56 mile ride (200 watts NP) followed by another 5 mile run. The goal on the second run was to run it faster than the first one. I ran it one minute faster, 37 and change and it felt good. The one kilometer intervals have been making a big impact.

This week I have been riding with some of my old training buddies in Tulsa when I was able to break free from Joplin. It’s just good to get back to my old training grounds. My interval time remains on the trainer. Nothing beats it.

In March I was running my 13.1 mile training runs in 1:49- 1:45. Yesterday, the day after a long ride I was able to knock out one in 1:40. Just missed the 1:30’s. 1:40 is a pace a few years ago that would have been easy but I was very excited because it was almost 10 minutes faster than I ran a month ago. It’s looking very realistic that I could be doing these in the low 1:30’s by September.

I’m starting to think that Branson 70.3 might be a possibility.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

April update

Here’s a short update on my progress. I went to Palm Springs, CA last month for spring break with the kids and had a great time. We visited LA, Hollywood, and Beverly Hills. I ran and rode while I was there. This was a nice break enjoying the sunshine and it was great hanging out with my kids. After that trip I experienced a little setback. It’s just tough not to see my kids on a day-to-day basis and I wasn’t doing so hot mentally after I had to drop them off and head back to my small rental home in Joplin. I was working a lot and just skipped workouts in favor of drinking wine.

I’ve since kicked myself in the butt and started up again. Here is some of the latest data and progress.

Swim: I still haven’t been swimming. Just can’t get motivated to do it. Whenever I do I don’t have any trouble in that department so I know I will be able to ramp it up when the time comes.

Bike: My current FTP is around 230. When I started in January I was only able to hold 206 watts for 1 x 20 min and I was toast. Now I’m holding 235-240 watts for 2 x20 with a lower heart rate. I still need to ride more. I’m getting in maybe 2 rides a week 3 at best. But those are hard ones;-)

My goals are to increase the FTP to 250 or higher by September and be able to hold 200-220 watts for 3 hrs. 200 watts seems really comfortable right now on my intervals.

Run: The greatest improvements are here. Every run I do has some intensity in it and the results are showing. I have brought my 10-mile long run times down to 1:15. I am doing 1K repeats (4 currently) in 3:54-4:00 with 2 min jog……. Goal is to work up to 8 of these. My hill work is going well. A hill I used to have to walk on in February I now run up 6x.

Another indicator of my fitness is a workout that I did yesterday. 5K run 21:50 followed by 1:15 on the trainer with 4 x 10 min FTP intervals followed by another 5K @ 21:45. I know that’s not too fast right now but I was pleased that I was able to close that last 5K faster that the first one and run the fastest mile of 6:49 on the final mile. Eventually I hope I can get those 5K’s down to 20 min or better and run some 20 min FTP intervals on the bike in between. Getting my triathlon 10K under 40 minutes is a goal here. For a 50 year old, that would be a decent close.

My body weight has dropped to 161lbs and body fat 15%. It’s a long process. I haven’t done any long bike rides or runs so it’s harder to melt the fat away. My goal is to drop another 7 to 10 pounds by September and get the fat percentage less than 10%

I’m enjoying seeing my improvement and the progress that is occurring. That in itself is motivating. I try to make each workout a little harder and sometimes longer. Each workout builds from the previous and I’m keeping a close eye on fatigue and recovery. I’m starting to think about racing again. I’m not in race shape yet but Branson 70.3 in September has caught my interest. It’s close by and it has a difficult bike course which should be a great prep for Maui Xterra the month following.

More updates to follow as I continue to get fitter ;-)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Curves Are Moving In The Right Direction

Getting back in shape is a difficult thing to do. I wish I had never let myself go. I was just looking back at some of the workouts I was doing 3 years ago and find it hard to believe I will never be there again. I have to keep reminding myself that it happens one interval, one workout, one training block at a time. It took me a long time to get to the shape I’m in now it will take me a while to get back to the shape I used to be in then. The benefit I have is that I know how to get there and what it feels like once you’re there. Looking at my performance curve over the last six weeks helps me stay motivated.

Just before my major personal catastrophe, I was doing most of my bicycle training indoors on the trainer. For the time spent, there is no better way to get the work done. I look back on some of my bike workouts done in 2009 on the road and see some the efforts put in. I would do 2200 kj rides in 4 and a half hours. I would follow that up with a track/tempo half marathon the next day. Today, I’m getting 900-1000kj rides done in 1:30 on the trainer. I’m thinking if I can build my fitness to be able to do 4 of these a week I’m well on my way. Then maybe I can throw in some hard runs following these once I adapt.

I came across this video of how Andy Potts describes his training. I’m like Andy. I don’t mind putting in painful time on the trainer. It must be a swimmer thing. I don’t think everybody can train like this. It’s not a pleasant social thing.

I’m to the point now that instead of taking the entire day off to recover between workouts, I’m doing light workouts. It’s just another step forward. To facilitate further recovery I’m taking branched chain amino acids which contain glutamine. I feel this helps. I think many people get caught up in how much work you do and forget about the most important component... recovery. That’s where the adaptations take place.

The belly fat has been difficult to get rid of despite increased activity. I want to lose the pudge. I have started taking conjugated linoleic acid. There is some evidence that this can help in the trimming process. I have lost 13 pounds since I started this comeback endeavor so I’m also sure there is a bit of reorganization going on in my body composition as well.

Below are my latest performance curves for cycling and running. I have built some nice training models with almost perfect test/training correlations. Again, the red line is the negative effect of training, blue positive and green is projected performance improvements. I use this as a guide but I listen to what my body is telling me. My job often has me working 24 hours straight so that variable needs to be factored in. If I can’t do the workout like I’m supposed to. I either rest or take the day easy no matter what the computer tells me. I don’t have a pre-programed workout or coach so the pressure to get prescribed workouts in is absent. I just try to tweak the each weeks hard workouts to get just a little bit more progressively. I haven’t swam in three weeks but I’m going to crank that up once I get the cycling and running up to speed.

Above is my run and below is my cycling curve

I’m headed out to Palm Springs, CA to hang with the kids and my family next week. I should get in some good workouts done out there plus some good family time.