Sunday, April 10, 2011

Armed Forces Triathlon Championships

On Saturday 9 April the U.S. Air Force defended their title at the Armed Forces Triathlon Championships hosted by Pt Mugu Naval Air Station, CA. With a majority of us on last years team, our goal was to repeat our victories in the men's and women's division. Since I train mainly for Ironman events, I have a difficult time keeping up with the speed demons who dominate the Olympic distance within the military so I'm content with simply contributing to the Air Force's effort in chasing the team victory. The race is set up using ITU draft legal rules with multiple laps for all three disciplines. The race begins with a beach start with the swim consisting of two laps of an inverted triangle. This proved to be the most challenging aspect of the race. Based upon last year's race, the swim ended up being about 4-7 minutes longer due to inaccurate measurements and stronger than normal currents. For us non-swimmers, this ended up being a huge obstacle. Besides being in the ocean longer than I desired, the temperature of the water was in the low 50s, something that took over an hour to recover from. In fact, one of our triathletes was pulled from the race for hypothermia. Once on the bike I was abel to join up with a Marine and we were able to work together to slowly pick off other triathletes. After picking up another Marine, the three of us worked the entire remaining 30K to finish the four loop bike course in 54 minutes. Conditions were to last year except with a little stronger winds, but nothing too detrimental. After exiting T2, I began the run with one of the Marines I biked with. We ran stride for stride the entire 10K, an experience that can bond athletes, especially if you share the military connection. After crossing the line in 2:00:23 I was a little disappointed with the results even though I felt strong throughout the race. I just couldn't understand what happened. That is until I talked with my teammates and realized everyone had the same experience with dramatically slower swim times compared to last year. The reason why I had such a vested interest in my results was the fact that my training has been dramatically different. For my entire triathlon career my training has been focused on LSD, long slow distance with high volume and low intensity. After recently coming to the realization that I can no longer dedicate hours upon hours to training on a daily basis, I made the conscious decision to rethink my workout regime. That's when I decided to adopted CrossFit and CrossFit Endurance. Below is a comparison of last year's times and this years results. In the next post I'll share some of my thoughts on CrossFit and where I plan to go from here in order to focus my attention on preparing for Ironman Canada.
2010 - 1:54:41
2011 - 2:00:23
2010 - 23:47
2011 - 28:54 (+5:07)
2010 - 53:28
2011 - 54:07 (+0:39)
2010 - 35:57
2011 - 35:47 (-0:10)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Countdown Begins

Well here we are, only months away from kicking off the 2011 season. With the house on the market, kids in full swing with school and activities, and the drama that constantly overwhelms the workplace, I still remain committed to CrossFit and CrossFit Endurance. In fact, I'm even more convinced it's exactly what I needed to take that next step up in performance. For so many years I've been putting in the miles, upping the volume, but still achieving the same results no matter how much time I commit to training. With the transition to a high intensity, short interval training philosophy I've seen some improvements in speed. For example, this past weekend I elected to do a longer run (10 miles, shorter than my typical long run but longest run in weeks). During the long run I incorporated a four mile tempo and was able to maintain a faster pace compared to previous long run tempo sessions (6:40-6:00 pace at altitude) while nursing a hamstring injury. I have yet to test my endurance on the bike and look forward to seeing how my stamina holds up the next group ride, hopefully this weekend. On the flip side, my swimming is something I've been neglecting for awhile now. After spending a majority of the pre-Christmas period putting in 4000 yds sessions daily, I let my swimming fitness slip away. Although I continue to swim three times weekly, my volume is low (1000 yds) and needs a massive makeover. For the next month I plan to commit myself to CrossFit Endurance and attempt to swim at least four times weekly and incorporate a lot more high intensity intervals. With the Armed Forces Triathlon Championships in Ventura, CA only a month away, I need to get my swimming fitness back to a somewhat more respectable level. The Armed Forces Championships is an Olympic distance tri that is draft legal, something I have a difficult time excelling at due to my subpar swimming skills. Although I had the second fastest bike leg last year (playing catchup) I was never able to reach the top competitors. This year my goal is to knock off a couple minutes on the swim in order to be a little more competitive and help the Air Force team win the team competition once again.
I plan to blog in the next few days and share with you my experiences getting to know Dick Hoyt and Lopez Lomong, something I'll cherish for the rest of my life. Definitely changes one perspective on life...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Committed to CrossFit

After writing my last entry I convinced myself I needed to dramatically overhaul my approach to training. I start a new job in Vegas at the end of May. I will be flying F-16s once again and with this assignment my workload will increase exponentially. No longer will I have the luxury of 2+hr daily workouts...and to be honest, it's difficult to maintain motivation year at year with 20+ hour weekly volumes anyway. So, after extensive research, I've elected to make the plunge and fully commit to CrossFit (CF) and CrossFit Endurance (CFE). No longer am I scheduling my life around lengthy workouts or getting frustrated because "something came up" and occupied my time. Emotionally, this transition has been challenging yet therapeutic. The difficult aspect is having to completely commit to a training approach that is 180 out from what we are use to; LSD. Besides being completely foreign to what the Olympic lifts entails, never mind giggling every time someone says "snatch" or "jerk", I had a difficult time giving up a mindset we've all believed in for years. Unfortunately I had no choice. I knew that if I reduced my volume while maintaining the same low intensity, I was doomed to decline in performance. I had to make sacrifices because I owed it to my family and my obligation to my country. However, once I made the commitment I was relieved that my life no longer revolved around century rides and epic trail runs. What I wasn't ready for was the amount of "shock" my body was about to experience. The workout durations are relatively short; however, the intensity is intimidating yet rewarding. Never have I been so sore working out for such a short duration after doing the CF Workout of the Day (WOD). I typically follow the CF WOD which is posted daily, to fulfill the strength training requirement and the CFE WOD three hours later. I typically get three runs, three bikes, and three swims in a week, all high intensity with durations ranging from 20-90 mins long. One thing I've noticed is that I no longer struggle to get in a workout even if it's 7pm at night. Having to jump on the trainer or treadmill for 20 minutes is a heck of a lot easier than convincing myself that anything less than an hour is not worth it. Over the next few posts I will report my progress (or regress) and discuss how my training is going; the good, the bad and the ugly. One thing is for sure, I am committed to this change and feel as though there is much to be gained from high intensity, short duration workouts. Only time will tell...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Challenge of Off-Season

I work +12-hour days...I have three kids all under the age of five...When off-season arrives there are certain expectations and a need to give more attention to specific personal/professional obligations. Don't get me wrong, my priorities will always be; family, job, triathlon; however, the emphasis definitely fluctuates depending on the time of year. No longer can I justify three+ hour workouts a day, especially when the light of day is limited. Besides, I'm easily susceptible to burnout from time to time, therefore specific steps are taken to in order to maintain the motivation necessary to continue improvement. As the days get shorter and the temps begin to drop, there are three key elements I make a priority; frequency, quality, and convenience.
Over the years I've always struggled with quality vs quantity. Should I focus on the heavy mileage at a lower intensity, or should I incorporate more intensity on a regular basis? It goes without saying that a long ride/run will be a part of the weekly routine; however, I've constantly debated the volume-intensity argument for years. It's only recently that outside influences have begun to limit my freedom to experiment with such workouts. No longer can I adjust a ride on the fly and extend it's duration an hour. With my desire to spend quality time with three energetic knee biters at home and the ever increasing military obligations at work, I've decided that frequency, intensity, and convenience will help me maintain a high level of fitness without having to commit obnoxious amounts of time in the pool, on the road, or around the track.
As I get older I've resigned to the fact that I will never exit the water in the lead pack, therefore, I've elected to focus on maintaining my current swimming ability. The most efficient way I can do this is through frequent swims (2-3K, five days a week) at a higher intensity. That way I'm able to get in and out without drastically effecting the schedule (mine or my family's). As far as the bike, I prefer to commute to work, accumulating over an hour in the saddle. Add the large climb and the additional weight from a backpack and it makes for a intense session. Finally, the run is slightly more difficult and needs to be specifically scheduled sometime during the day. With the addition of a Computrainer/treadmill I'm able to get in some miles after the kiddos go to bed. As far as intensity, I know my body cannot handle high mileage at a higher effort level. Instead, I've decided to adopt the Maffetone approach, maintaining the same heart rate throughout every mile. With consist 4am wake-ups from my children, knocking out several miles every morning has allowed me the luxury to only sacrifice a couple hours a week during work day hours to accomplish longer runs. With a focus on frequency, intensity, and convenience I'm able to maintain my priorities and still pursue my athletic goals and setting my sights on the road to Kona...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

IMMoo 2010

Overall Ironman Wisconsin was a great experience. I decided to do this race last year after getting involved with the USAFA Triathlon team. Each year the Academy sends a dozen or so cadets to race in IMMoo. How could I turn down the opportunity to represent the AF. I volunteered to haul the bikes up from Colorado so my adventure began five days prior to the race. The venue is well coordinated dispite the logistical challenge of the convention center and the parking garage. Our transition times were quite lengthy, but in the end everyone's faced with the same challenge. After deciding to start conservatively, the swim was pretty much uneventful. I actually decided to ease up at times throughout the swim, thinking my time was going to be slightly slower. After hitting the shore in 1:01 I gained some confidence heading up the helix. Ten minutes into the bike I had my first issue of the day; defective aerobars. I'm not too impressed with the Vuka extensions and elbow pads. The extensions came loose and floated around the entire ride. Nothing more frustrating then trying to shift and the shifter is upside down. The biggest mistake I made all day was the first half of the bike. After feeling pretty good in the swim, I bit off more than I could chew with the first loop. Cruising along at about a 4:45 pace I hit a wall between 50-70. After posting a 5:04, I was ready to get off the bike and start running. I began the marathon with Daniel (in photo) and ran the entire run with him. Daniel is a Swiss Army ER Doctor, who left for Iraq several days after the race for Humanitarian work. Daniel made this Ironman the most memoriable one I've had out of the nine I've done. I truly enjoyed our time together, especially miles 7-11 where I bonked pretty hard. After whoofing down several hundred calories I began to perk up although my left knee began to give out. Typically this type of discomfort would have affected my gait and slowed my pace; however, the SpiderTech Spider I was wearing gave me just enough support where I was able to maintain the same pace. My confidence grew throughout the remainder of the marathon. I was able to finish strong with a sub-7 minute pace for the last four miles. I finished in 24th place (9th amateur out of 2550) with a time of 9:37 (1:01 / 5:04 / 3:23). Now it's time to relax for several days before getting back on the horse. Kona...T-minus 24 days and counting...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Approach to IM Training

After listening to Craig Alexander discuss his total weekly mileage during a podcast interview, I started to scour the Internet for information pertaining to Ironman training volume. I am simply amazed by the drastic spectrum of approaches to training. Based on some of my recent findings, I elected to inquire about Michael Weiss' training during our group ride today. At first I was a little hesitant to ask him questions, mainly because this is their livelihood and some may be gun shy to divulge their secrets; however, Weiss was more than willing and very candid about his training. Several elements to his approach to training surprised me. First off was the swim frequency and volume he does on a weekly basis; six swims a week with a total hovering around 20+ miles! With a mountain biking background, Weiss has spent the last two years learning how to swim. In order to compete at that level he needs to drop his swim by another five minutes or so, according to Weiss. He also mentioned he does mostly longer sets (300s, 400s, etc...) with shorter rest intervals and does not spend too much time doing sets of repeat 50s/100s where most of us thrive. Other components to his training that amazed me was his approach to running. Weiss only runs about 40 miles a week. However, these miles are all quality to include a weekly track workout (repeat 400s, 800s, etc...). His longest run is 2:30 (18ish miles) max at an average pace of 7:00. For those of you familiar with the Santa Fe Trail, Weiss runs north from downtown Colorado Springs towards the Academy which is slightly up hill. The flat miles are around 6:30 pace whereas the hilly miles are a bit slower. After he noticed I was a bit shocked Weiss added that Andy Potts does not go over 1:45 for his long run when training for an Ironman. Weiss also stated that he has a fairly deep background in cycling and continues to focus on the bike in order to improve his overall endurance and strength. Now I know most of us mere mortals cannot transcribe their training directly into what we do and expect miracles. We simply do not have the genes, aptitude, resources, nor the time to reach a fraction of their level, but there are functions of their approach to training that can definitely enhance our abilities. This has definitely made me question my approach to training. With my weekly run volume between 50-60 miles, I'm definitely going to reconsider the frequency, quality, and volume of my workouts... Michael Weiss was very forthcoming and patient and I appreciate his generosity. Although we will never reach comparable achievements, when can be inspired to pursue and attain that next PR.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Check Your Ego at the Door...

"They'll always be someone higher up the food chain then you..." That's definitely how I felt today. Training has been going pretty good over the last few weeks as I prepare for IMMoo and Kona. This week I covered 350 miles on the bike, 66 on the run, and swimming...well, let's just say I've got some work to do in the pool. Friday was my long bike (120 miles) and yesterday was my long run (23 miles). Today was scheduled as a recovery brick (50/10). I knocked out the 10 mile run early this morning and then headed out for an easy 50 at a comfortable pace. That's where I had a conflict with my ego. For those of you who've ridden in Colorado Springs, you might be familiar with the Air Force Academy loop. I live and breathe on these grounds; whether it's for work or training, I'm somewhere within the 18,000 acres of this instillation. On Sunday's there's also a group ride that starts downtown and head's North to complete the Academy loop. I decided to meet up with "said" group in order to minimize the boredom of riding alone. Once I made my rejoin, I realized I was surrounded by some serious talent. In attendance was Danny Pate of Garmin Transition, Michael Weiss (IM St George winner), and several top USOC residential triathletes. So much for taking it easy. One of these days my old age is going to influence my decision making process... The first sprint wasn't even a contest. Several miles prior to the theoretical finish I decided to push the pace, mainly because no one was taking the initiative. Weiss immediately responded (something he was waiting for I assume) and so did Danny Pate. This quickly thinned the herd to a half dozen. The paceline continued to work together until about 1 mile from the finish. That's when Weiss and Pate walked away from the rest of us. I hung on to third, however, I had taxed my stores beyond what was planned. Besides, we still had several healthy climbs to conquer. At the finish of the flat sprint we gathered once again as a peloton and headed up the first long climb (2+miles of 1200' elevation gain). This time I was a little more conservative and sucked wheel from Weiss and Pate until I couldn't hang anymore. Those two simply walked away from the rest of us without any disregard for our well being. That left the OTC guys (Joe Umphenour and another guy who is top 10 in the world for 70.3) and myself to battle for third. We traded pulls until the last few hundred meters where I decided to test my limits once again. This time I was a little more successful (although I'm sure they had several more gears left with approaching races in the coming weeks). We gathered as a group (40 riders) once again and headed around the backside of the loop for a dramatic 3 mile descent. I worked my way to the front and watched as Weiss took off. Once again, with an ego of an eighteen year old, I sprinted after him in hopes of holding on. I reached his back wheel and hung on for dear life. We worked together to separate from everyone else as we reached speeds of 50 mph. I was on my TT bike so I had no problems taking my turn at the front. As we reached a long straight section of the descent I noticed we were actually gaining a little on an SUV several hundred feet in front of us. My only chance to achieve success! I stood and sprinted with everything I had left, trying to close the gap. This apparently caught Weiss off guard and he was unable to respond in time because God know's he would have crushed me otherwise. The SUV dragged me down most of the hill and I could see behind me that the group was closing the gap on Weiss, led by Pate. At this point I considered myself a cheater and sat up to wait for Weiss. I knew it was going to be a close sprint finish at the bottom of the hill between Weiss (breakaway) and the peloton (led by Pate). As I waited for Weiss to close the gap on me I started to accelerate to see if I could provide any pull prior to being swallowed up by the peloton. I maybe gave Weiss a 5 second pull before I completely blew up. The sprint once again was between Weiss and Pate with us stragglers hanging on. At this point I rode a few more miles with the group before I had to turn around and head home. Unfortunately I had to cut my ride down a few miles because I was completely destroyed and had nothing left. The lesson I learned from today's experience is that training for Ironman's can be a lonely business and any confidence you develop can quickly be put into check when surrounded by a more dominant species. Training continues...