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.