Monday, May 26, 2014

A Week In The Life... (May 19-25, 2014)

As far as good weeks go, last week ranked pretty high up on the list.  Why, you ask?  Because I spent the week on the sun-drenched white sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, that's why!  With XTERRA only a couple weeks away I couldn't stop training though.  

Training Log:
I took Monday off last week to finish packing and getting things ready to leave for the beach on Tuesday.  We arrived at the beach late Tuesday afternoon and, after driving all day, I was a bit stir crazy.  I decided to go for a little run on the beach.  I wasn't really sure how far I would go or what my pace would be, I just wanted to run.  I ended up with 4 miles at 10:13 min/mile.  

Wednesday morning I was up early and hit the on-site gym for a little weight training.  I got a full body circuit workout in then spent the rest of the day throwing football/frisbee on the beach, "swimming" in the ocean and just doing general beach stuff.

Enjoying some breakfast after my workout.
Thursday I decided to give the Hokas some love.  As per the norm, I was up before everyone else in the condo so I got dressed and headed out for a run.  I decided to stay on the sidewalks and get some intervals in.  Like my Tuesday afternoon run, I had no idea how far I would go.  I did a 1 mile warm up then 3 miles at heart rate intervals.  I turned around after mile three thinking 6 miles on the day would be plenty.  I was right.  I've not quite gotten acclimated to the heat yet and by halfway through mile 4 I was feeling the sun just drain me.  I finished the run strong though and clocked in 6 miles at 9:31 min/mile.  

Friday and Saturday both ended up as "rest days" for me as well.  Friday I spent all day doing beach stuff again and Saturday was spent driving home.  

I had planned all along for Sunday to be a big brick day.  I opted for some course recon and general dirty fun on the trails in South Knoxville.  I hadn't really studied the bike course for XTERRA but I had a general idea of which trials they were using so I just rode a general loop and focused on my riding cadence and my pace.  I finished my bike split for the day with 17.2 miles at an avg speed of 8.8 mph gaining 1458 ft of elevation.  I got the bike loaded up, changed my shoes and set off on the run course.  I felt really good for most of the run.  My pace and heart rate were good and I was enjoying my run.  I knew, however, that the big nasty climb was waiting at mile 3 to punish me before letting me leave.  I made the turn onto Tharp Trace and the trail kicked up.  I soldiered up the climb but it was quite terrible.  The worst part is that going down isn't any better.  Once at the bottom, I was able to get my pace back and finished pretty strong.  I completed the 4.4 miles in 45:54 (only around 1:30 slower than my course best).  

Final Thoughts:
Another great week in the books.  I had every intention of doing some serious open water swimming in the ocean, it just didn't work out.  I got a few hundred meters in while the wife followed on her SUP board but nothing of any real note.  I'm really happy with the runs from this week and my ankle pain has mostly gone away.  I'm also feeling pretty good after the brick workout.  Looking forward to another good week of training before taper.

Weekly Totals:  Swim - does boogie board in the ocean count?, Bike - 17.2 miles, Run - 14.5 miles.  


Monday, May 19, 2014

A Week In The Life... (May 12-18, 2014)

Welcome back!  This was a really great (albeit busy) week for me both in and out of the training sphere.  I had some great workouts, got to do some travelling and finished off the week by getting to cheer on my friends and Rocky Top Multisport Club-mates racing in Sunday's Rev3 Knoxville Triathlon!

Training Log:
I'm going to try a little different format for my training log and chronicle it by day to see how that works out.  Let's get right to it and start with...

I started this week off with a nice easy run in the new Hoka Conquests.  I was still fighting a little nagging pain the left ankle so I didn't want to overdo it, just get the legs loosened up after all the bike miles last weekend.  Weather was nice at 5:45am, just cool enough to make it pleasant running weather.  It's also starting to get lighter now, which is nice.  I set out on my run and immediately felt my pace was good.  The Conquests felt much better than Bondi's that I had before.  To me, the Conquests feel a little more like a regular shoe, just with a lot more cushion.  I felt like the Bondi's tried to change my form a bit too much. My normal morning run route is a 1 mile (almost exactly) lap around my neighborhood.  It's a good little course with around 100ft elevation gain per lap.  I completed two circuits relatively pain free and decided to call it a morning.  

After work, I met up with the Rocky Top Multisport Club for their weekly swim at the lake.  This time I remembered my Garmin.  I got there a little late but still got in just under 1100 meters before we called it a night.  I had hoped to get in a bit more but it was still a great night in the water.  The water temp is coming up nicely and the wetsuit was almost unnecessary.  Even after only a few weeks, I'm feeling quite a bit more comfortable in the open water now.  I still feel like the swim is my weakest link and there's a lot more work to be done before XTERRA.

After a great swim Monday night, I was back up early for my Tuesday morning pool session.  I felt a little slow but my times weren't too bad.  I put in 1600m in 32:26 with an average pace of 2:01/100m.

Wednesday was another double day for me.  Kicked it off with some strength and conditioning circuits with my training buddy David.  I really feel that strength training is a vital ingredient in my training plan.  I don't do any heavy lifting but focus on plyometrics and  body weight exercises with some light weights thrown in for good measure.

Wednesday afternoon I headed to the Urban Wilderness trails for a preview of the XTERRA Knoxville run course.  I had run most of the trails that make up this course except one and it is a monster.  The course is listed at 4.1 miles but clocked in on my Garmin 910XT at 4.43 miles.  Total elevation gain on the course is just under 500ft with 200 of those feet coming in the last 1.5 miles.  In fact, last trail gains all of those 200 ft in just over .5 miles.  Needless to say, it's steep.  I cranked out a decent time though completing the whole course in 44:26.  Ankle felt much better on this run as well.  I was wearing a compression sleeve and only had a slight bit of pain about halfway through the run which went away after a short stop to stretch.

Thursday morning was another early pool day for me.  Workout for the day called for increase in total distance to 1650m and increase in long set to 1200m.  Pace felt good through the 1200 but I held back a little.  I picked up the pace during the 100's and then spent everything I had left in the 50's .  My third set I turned in my fastest 50m split to date at :43.7.  

Friday morning was another circuit workout with David.  Maybe in another post I will go into my strength training philosophy a little more (Note to self), but for now suffice it to say pushups were done as were situps and squats.  I also picked up and put down some metal a bunch of times.  What more could you ask for?

Saturday I joined the Knoxville Bicycle Company for their group road ride. The route followed a lot of the same roads as the Thursday evening rides but with some more added in.  After passing the Dam, we split off into two groups.  I followed the 40 mile group while the others went for a planned 60 mile route.  We finished the day at 38.79 miles (a new distance record for me).  What's better is that I came in feeling like I had more in the tank...

Since I felt like I had more in the tank, I went back for round two of the XTERRA course that afternoon.  I was planning for a slower run but the pace was still pretty good.  Finished off the course in 47:33 with no ankle pain at all.  I'm pretty stoked about that.  I also confirmed yet again that the final climb is a beast.  I really think that will be the point at which XTERRA Knoxville will be won (or lost).

While Sunday is normally my rest day, Cedar Bluff Cycles was having their Trek Bikes demo day at Concord Park... so I met David out there and we toodled around a bit.  I took a Boone 9 cyclocross bike out on the trails while he played on a Remedy 9 29er.  Then we hopped on some new Domane road bikes and spun around for a bit.  It was a nice fun little afternoon.  I have no idea how far we rode, I didn't even turn on the Garmin.

Other Exciting Things From The Week:
As I mentioned earlier, there was a lot going on this week outside of training as well.  Friday I took a little trip to Helen,GA with some guys from work to help set up for the Southern Worthersee.  The SoWo, as it's called, is a European Car meet with Volkswagens, Audis, BMW's and the like coming from all over to hang out and talk cars.  Helen, GA is a quaint little Baviarian styled town in the mountains of North Georgia.  This means, to get there, you must drive some of the best twisty mountain roads in the country.  Beautiful scenery, twisty roads and all wheel drive = not a bad way to spend a day.

Sunday was the Rev3 Knoxville Triathlon.  I spent the morning standing on the side of the road on the biggest climb on the bike route dressed in a morph suit cheering on the racers holding a sign that said "Smile if you pee'd yourself!".  I wasn't alone though.... oh no, I had help.

Nothing to see here officers....

It was a lot of fun.  Several of our club members placed and everyone raced their hearts out.  I'm really proud to call myself a member of Rocky Top Multisport.

Final Thoughts:
Whew, another crazy week in the books.  I made some good progress in my training and I'm feeling stronger each day.  XTERRA looms on the horizon and I'm really looking forward to it.  This week I'm off work and headed for some relaxation on the beach.  Not taking the bike so this week will a be a run/swim week for the most part.  Could be worse though!  

Final totals for the week: Swim - 4312m, Bike - 39mi, Run - 11mi, Total Time: 5.55 hours.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Week in Review (May 5-11, 2014)

Welcome to my Week In Review for the second week of May 2014.  In these posts I will be reviewing my training, as well as giving a look back at neat or interesting things that happened during my week.    

I started the week out this week with some quality time in the lake.  I met up with the Rocky Top Multisport Club for their first open water group swim of the year.  If you read my race recap on the Hammer Sprint Tri, you'll remember that I had a rough time on the swim.  I feel like I'm at a point where the swim distance is not an issue.  The longest race I have on the books right now is the XTerra at 1200m and I've been comfortable at that distance in the pool for quite some time but open water is still my monster in the closet.  I got in roughly a mile (I say roughly because I forgot my Garmin at home and, therefore, have no data from this swim) and felt really good for most of it.  I had some slight anxiety as my lap took me farther away from the shore but I just concentrated on counting my strokes and sighting straight at the buoy every 2 to 3 strokes and got myself calmed back down and in a rhythm to finish strong.

I took Tuesday and Thursday mornings off from swim this week.  I had some longer bike rides on the calendar for Tuesday and Thursday nights and I felt like fatigue was taking it's toll on my attitude so I opted for some sleep and rest to try and get myself back on track.

This was big week on the bike for me.  I've been fighting a nagging pain in my left ankle for a little bit and therefore have been taking time off from running.  This has allowed me to really enjoy some time on my bikes.  I got a ride in this week on all three bikes.  Tuesday night I met a friend of mine at the Urban Wilderness Trails in South Knoxville for a fast paced loop around (most of) the XTerra course.  We got in 11.1 miles, climbed 904ft in a little over an hour at an avg. speed of 9.1mph.

Thursday night I linked up with the Knoxville Bicycle Company for their weekly road ride.  I stayed comfortable in the "A" group the whole ride and finished the night with 29.05 miles in 1:30:24 at an average speed of 19.3 with 1,450 ft of elevation gain.

My new-to-me TT bike.  A 2002 Giant TCR Aero.
With rain in the forecast for Saturday, my plans for a long mountain bike ride were a wash.  Actually, my doing anything Saturday was a wash.  I got a message from a friend who wanted to ride on Sunday morning so I opted for that instead.  We decided on riding the Rev 3 Olympic course.  Earlier in the week I picked up a new-to-me TT bike and used this as a shakedown ride.  I really felt the effects of the longer cranks and taller gears on the bigger climbs, but on the flats and rollers this thing is FAST.  While climbing on this bike takes real effort, I feel it will pay dividends in the end.  I can't wait to get some more workouts in on this thing.  Final ride totaled at 23.3 miles with some green way detours.  Average speed was 17.8 mph with 1,085 ft of climbing.

Hoka One One Conquest
This week was a rest week for me on the run.  As I mentioned earlier, I've been fighting some ankle pain over the last few weeks and wanted to try and rest it a bit.

 That being said, my new Hoka One One Conquests came in Friday!  I'm planning on adding some run back in next week so stay tuned for that as well as a review of the new Hokas once I get some miles logged!

Final Thoughts:
There you have it.  All in all a pretty good week.  I'm in the final stretch before my next race.  XTerra Knoxville is 3 weeks away and I'm feeling pretty strong.  My open water swim is improving (although there is still a lot of work to do).  I'm also hoping to get some more brick days in over the next few weeks if my ankle holds.

Weekly Totals: Swim - apprx. 1650m,  Bike - 64mi, Run - 0mi (resting ankle injury).

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Race Report: Hammer Sprint Triathlon (April 27, 2014)

Last weekend I competed in my first triathlon.  I had spent the winter months preparing and I knew I needed an early season race to test out my winter training.  This one seemed like a good one.  The Hammer Sprint was a nice course in and along the Tellico lake in Lenoir City, TN.  It was relatively cheap and had gotten good reviews so I was looking forward to getting my feet wet (literally and figuratively) before XTerra Knoxville which would be my "A race" in June.

Race Weekend and Pre Race:

Race weekend finally arrived.  My prep week had been great.  My energy level felt high and I was full of confidence.  This being my first Triathlon, I really didn't know what to expect but I knew I'd trained well and that would show in my results.  As I said, this race was to be a trial run for my "A race" later in the year so I wasn't too worried about placing.  I just wanted to see how my body would react to the race and bring home some experience.

Wife was out of town Saturday and I was on my own.  I had planned Saturday to be a rest day so I didn't have much to do.  I met up with Phillip, a good friend of mine from Georgia, who came up for the race and got a nice little 2.25 mile run in to loosen up the legs.  The run felt really good.  We were chatting about life and the race, just generally catching up, but we still kept a respectable 8:43/mi average pace.  After that, it was back to the house to get the bike cleaned up for the race.   The weather was perfect and I enjoyed the time outside.  I had my Songza app streaming it's "80's Anger Management" station.  It was the perfect mix for my mood.  My work week had been rough and I needed this time alone to recharge.  Once my bike was clean, I did my penultimate pre-race inspection and tune up.  It was then I realized that my floor pump was no where to be found...  It then dawned on me that I must have left it at the mountain bike race I had done two weekends prior.  Oops.  I hung my bike back in it's place on my garage wall and decided that someone would have a pump at the race and that I would just use that one.

The rest of my day consisted of lunch at Panera with my parents for my birthday (did I mention it was my birthday?), some house work and a lot of not much else until packet pick up and race check in at 5:30 that evening.  This was a small race so packet pickup was a breeze.  After retrieving my packet and bag o' goodies, I stuck around for the race preview before heading toward home.  Of late, my pre-race dinner of choice has been Chicken Calhoun with extra rice from Calhoun's Restaurant.  It served me well before my last two half marathons and I saw no reason to change a proven routine.  It was getting a bit late so I opted for take-out.  I called in my order (and an order for Wife, who was on her way home as well) when I left the race site and it was ready when I got there.  I enjoyed a relaxing dinner in front of the TV with Wife (who had just gotten home), got my transition bag packed and off to bed I went.

Race Morning:

I started my race morning the same as I always do.  Wake up and make my breakfast of plain nonfat Greek yogurt with granola and honey.  I find this sits light on my stomach and gives me plenty of carbs, protein and sugar for fuel.  I try to eat between 2 and 3 hours before race time which gives me plenty of time to digest my breakfast and avoid "intestinal distress" during the race.  Breakfast consumed, I loaded up my gear, my bike, my nutrition and my sleepy wife and we headed to the race.  Transition opened at 5:30 and I wanted to get a good spot on the bike racks.

Loaded up and ready to head out.

 We pulled into the  race site around 6:15.  There were already some athletes there getting their transition set up but I still managed to snag a great rack space.  I unpacked, set up my transition and spent a few minutes visualizing my race.  I made a mental note of my bikes location and mentally stepped through my transitions.  Now, all that was left was to wait for the sun to come up and the gun to go off...

The early bird catches the good rack spot!

The Swim:

It was a brisk morning.  Ambient temperatures were somewhere near 60 degrees and water temperature around 67 degrees.  I was thankful that I had my wetsuit.  This would be only my second time in the open water and my second swim in my wetsuit.  As start time drew near, I waded into the water and made my way to the boom.  I hopped the boom and joined the small group of people already doing their warm up swim.  I did a quick 100m or so warm up before making my way back over the boom to wait for the start.  I found Phillip and we shared a few words and said our "good lucks."  I secured my goggles and set my sights on the first buoy. I knew the swim was my weakest leg so my strategy would be to wait several seconds and let the chaos subside before I took off.  However, as zero hour approached I found my self at the front of the wave (exactly where I didn't want to be).  It was then that I decided to change my strategy and try to stay out in front.  I would soon realize that was a terrible idea.

Before heading out for my practice swim.

There were words through a megaphone, then a horn and before I new it I was over the boom and headed for the first buoy.  I immediately realized the error of my new found strategy.  The cold water jolted my system every time my face hit the water.  My breathing got shallow and I couldn't find any sort of rhythm.  I pulled a quick forward glance and realized I was veering heavily to the right and off course.  I got myself corrected and by then was solidly in the middle of the pack.  I rounded the first buoy and headed for the second.  I still couldn't find any sort of rhythm.  My breathing was rapid and my heart rate was sky high.  I muscled my way around the second buoy and headed for dry land.  I had faded to the back of the pack by this time and just caveman'd my way ungracefully to the beach.  I couldn't really have asked for a worse start to my first race, but I knew I would be strong on the bike and the run and could make up some time there.  My hand grazed the beach and I pulled myself up and trotted disgustedly out of the water toward transition.

The Bike:

My transition practice paid dividends.  Before I knew it, I was running my bike down out of transition toward the mounting area.  Somewhere between then and now, I stripped off my wetsuit, didn't fall over, put on my socks, didn't fall over, put on my shoes, didn't fall over, and put on my sunglasses and my helmet.  I'd call that success.

Me in T1.

I mounted my bike and set out on the bike course ready to make up for the horrible swim with a heroic ride.  Things didn't start very well, however.  After turning onto the main course, I pulled the bottle from my frame cage and took in some liquid fuel.  I then promptly dropped my bottle trying to replace it in it's cage.  Damn wet hands.  Thankfully, I had thought ahead enough to bring two bottles (just in case!).  I situated myself on the bike, moved into position on my aero bars and settled in to a nice cadence.  I was feeling fast.  The course was a rolling 16 mile out and back with a nice stair-stepped climb halfway through.  I was already starting to overtake other riders as we made our way over the rollers.  I had scouted the course the weekend prior and knew that once we turned off the main road, the climb proper would begin.  As we neared the turn off, I took in a gel and then swung around the corner onto the climb.  I could see ahead of me, riders were already sitting up.  I put my head down and kept pushing my big ring.  Occasionally looking down I would catch a glimpse of the decal on my top tube "SHUT UP LEGS!".  They didn't listen, but I ignored them.  As I crested the top of the climb I was still feeling good.  I had managed to put quite a few riders behind me but knew I had to keep pushing.  I grabbed another hit off my bottle (without dropping it this time) and tucked into go fast mode for the down hill.  The descent was over far too quickly and we swung back onto the main road for the trip back to transition.  I kept my cadence up and head down and just kept trying to put other riders behind me.  I got passed by a 16 year old. He was fast.  He was also not in my age group.  I let him go.  Not long after that I swung back into the race site and came up on dismount.  I had already gotten my feet out of my shoes, now I just needed to get off my bike without falling.  I swung my leg over.  Don't fall... don't fall... my foot hit the ground... don't fall.... don't fall.. other foot hit the ground... MOVE LEGS!... legs obliged and we made it successfully back to transition.

The Run:

I had a bit of brain difficulty in T2.  I actually had a great time in and out, until I realized my Garmin was still on my bike.  CRAP!  I spun around and ran back to my bike to grab it (why? I don't know).  My friend passed me.  He looked bewildered.  Apparently, I managed to overtake him somewhere on the bike course.  No matter, I grabbed my Garmin from my bike and headed out on the run.  I was wearing a brand new pair of Hoka One One maximalist shoes for the race.  Yes, I know one should never try out new gear on race day but I had been having some problems with my other shoes and wanted to give these a shot.  It was only a 5k anyway.  My legs were feeling pretty good after the bike.  I was a bit afraid that I had pushed too hard on the bike but so far my legs were adjusting well.  I passed the first water station.  It was getting warmer outside now.  I grabbed a cup of water, took a sip and poured the rest down my neck.  It felt great.  The Garmin is set to alert me every mile.  It beeped.  I looked down, 8:06.  Perfect.  My heart rate was right where I wanted it and my pace was solid.  Next water station, another beep.  8:09. Perfect.  I knew I had some left in the tank.  I pushed my legs to go faster.  I was on the final stretch by now.  I had passed my Georgia buddy on the turn and knew he wasn't that far ahead of me.  I rounded the last turn and saw the finish.  SHUT UP LEGS! I hammered the last half mile and crossed the line with  a total race time of 1:22:54.  Good enough for 3rd place in my age group and only 2:30 or so behind my buddy who took 2nd!

From left: David, Me, Philip

Final Thoughts:

I had a great time at this race.  Racing with friends makes everything more fun and I had two friends racing with me.  Along with Phillip, another good friend, David, was competing in the duathlon (his first) and brought home a 2nd place age group finish!  The race organizers did a fantastic job putting everything together and keeping everything well in hand.  This race was exactly what I needed to help me focus my training for my next race and I walked away with some hardware for my efforts!