Training Update 4/3

The past two weekend group trainings have brought welcome twists to the routine for the past 4 1/2 months. Two weekends ago we had our first practice triathlon. Last weekend we had our first outdoor bike ride.

The practice triathlon involved swimming for 25-30 minutes in the pool, spinning on our bikes and trainers for 45 minutes, followed by a 5K (3.1 mile) run. The overall time/distance is about half about what we will be doing at the actual event. Rather than swimming laps as usual, the lane markers were removed and we swam the perimeter; half the time one direction, then switching midway and swimming the opposite direction. This was an eye-opening experience. We had done some drills earlier in the weak to practice swimming next to others, learning how to draft and swim across other swimmers when necessary. This took it to a whole new level since we were swimming with everyone in the group, having to periodically look up to see ahead of us, and deal with all of the other bodies around us. This definitely helped me get an idea of what it will likely be like on the actual event day.

The rest of that training went pretty well. Biking wasn’t much different as before, though I did pay more attention to the timing of my consumption of water and energy drink (I’m trying chia fresca) to practice for event day. With the exception of my feet, overall I felt good and confident through the end of the run. My Vibram FiveFingers are starting to chafe and cause hot spots again, which is frustrating. Not a good time to be happening just a few weeks before the race. I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do about it… deal with it and risk blisters by the end of the run, fall back to my traditional running shoes, buy new FiveFingers, use the new Invisible Shoes huaraches I just purchased, or find something else.

This past weekend was our first scheduled outdoor bike training. Oddly enough I felt a little nervous hopping on the bike without the trainer. I was so used to its rigidity and stability. The weather was quite cold, too… 37º F when we started and it didn’t get much warmer over the next few hours. We road an 18 mile out-and-back route at Kensington Metropark, followed by another 14 mile out-and-back route through the connected Island Lake state recreation area. The 2-hour ride went surprisingly well. I managed to stay near the head of the pack the whole time, which was reassuring. However, I could barely feel my toes by the end of the ride, it was so cold. I had worn two layers of socks (one pair of Injinji toe socks and a pair of wool hiking socks) and used plastic grocery bags to stop the wind. It wasn’t enough. When I went to put the Vibram FiveFinger shoes on, I couldn’t even tell whether I had managed to get my toes in the right places. I had to pinch each of the shoes’ toes to make sure there was a toe in each one! A number of my teammates have neoprene booties for slipping over their biking shoes. They seem to swear by them for training in cold weather. If I keep doing these early season triathlons, I’m definitely going to invest in some.

The first mile of the 3.5 mile run was awful. I could barely feel my feet, though I could feel enough to know that my ankles were having a hard time flexing. I clomped down the paved pathway that leads through the park, clenching my teeth and hoping my feet would warm up soon. It was one of those times when I was seriously considering giving up and turning around, but then thought of the cancer patients having to endure chemo. They have no choice, and if they could bear all of that, I could deal with this. So I did. Gradually my feet and ankles did warm up. I turned around at the mid-way point and had a decent run back, finishing with a 9:15 min/mile average pace.

I don’t know how well this cold weather training is preparing us for the event in Florida in four weeks, but at the very least it seems to be preparing me to just grin and bear whatever gets thrown at me.

Training Update 3/19

It has been a while, so I just wanted to post an update to let you all know I’m still alive and kicking. Training has been a roller coaster ride over the past few weeks. There have been a few weeks when I’m feeling great, running fast, and really have my swim stroke dialled in. Other weeks I feel run down and struggling to get through the workout, especially the advanced boot-camp type class I’ve been taking once a week in the morning. That kicks my butt every time.

I finally purchased a road bike back in February, opting to purchase a nice but used bike sight unseeen on eBay. I got a pretty good deal on the bike, though it been a little more expensive than I was originally planning; I need to replace the seat post, handle bar stem, rear tire, and chain among other things. Still, I’m pretty happy with it so far. It’s also nice to no longer sound like a jet engine starting up at the group trainings due to the knobby tires on my mountain bike making a racket on the trainer.

The weather was quite brutal up until about two weeks ago. It seemed like every Saturday was cold, windy, and usually snowy. That changed 180º this past weekend with temperatures in the 60’s and sunny skies. I almost didn’t know what to do with myself. Next weekend we will have our first practice tri and start biking outdoors instead of on the trainers.

Tweaked

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Spinning at Tweak in Birmingham. You might recognize the joker in front with the arms up in the air.

Rock climbed Wednesday. Took an hour long spinning class Thursday. Swam about 2600 meters Friday. Spun another hour and ran 1.5 miles on Saturday at the group training. I haven’t been strictly observing the weekday training schedule; in general I find the spinning classes at the gym, long weekend runs, and repeating the swim set from the week quite enough. Apparently it was a recovery week, hence the short run at the group training. I’m not used to running that short of a distance but it was for the best as there was about a half inch of snow on the ground. It was the first time I’ve run in the Vibram FiveFingers with that much snow. The sidewalks were mostly clear but there were a few places where no salt had been thrown down yet and a few icy patches on the road. I was fine for most of the run but then ran through some wetness in the parking lot at the end of the run and boy did my toes get cold!

Thank you to all who have donated so far! In addition to the $1300 that has been donated online to date, I’ve had about $843 donated by check and another $200 due to corporate matching for a total of $2343! For those of you who have written checks in the past month, I submitted them for processing on Saturday, so they should clear within the next week or so. If you haven’t donated yet, you still have until the triathlon at the end of April to donate, but it’s always nicer to do it sooner to save me the stress of wondering if I’ll meet my goal.

I have a few fundraising efforts underway at this point. There’s a poker tournament at Overtyme in Waterford this Saturday at noon that a fellow triathlon participant is hosting. The entry fee is $30 and I get $10 for every ticket I sell to it, so let me know if you want to go! There are about $4000 in prizes (both for placement and just door prizes), so there’s a good chance you’ll walk away with something even if you don’t do well in the tournament. I also had a meeting on Monday with the participant I’m organizing the beer tasting fundraiser in March to discuss more details. Should be fun!

Last but not least, the TNT Hike season is about to begin. This season’s destination hike is at the Grand Canyon on May 19th. We’ve got info sessions this week followed by the kick-off meeting next Thursday. Between the triathlon training and hike coaching, the next 5 months are going to be busy for me! If you’re interested in joining, please contact the TNT office at 248.581.3942 or go to teamintraining.org/mi.

Training Update 1/8

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Spinning at Performance Bike on my new trainer (Thanks mom- & dad-in-law :)) I’m on the far right… the only one still riding a mountain bike!

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Post-training group meeting discussing fundraising (I’m on the floor far right)

Yesterday we had an hour of spinning that included several power sets (hard effort, fast cadence) and a 15-minute endurance set at one gear higher than we expect to during the race. After the spinning we changed quickly into our running clothes and headed outdoors for a 2.5 mile run. Since we didn’t have any bike/run trainings over the holidays I’ve run several long distance runs for the past few weeks ranging between 6-10.5 miles. I didn’t think that the 2.5 mile run was going to be much of a thing but I was definitely feeling it the whole time. I don’t know if it was the biking before hand or the fact that I was trying to keep pace with some of the faster runners in the group, but I was really struggling to keep up.

I also swam another 200-yard marker set earlier this week. My time for the first marker set at the beginning of the season was 3:48 average. This past week I swam 3:29 average… about an 8% improvement! Now, it’s not exactly comparing apples to apples since I’ve started swimming in a pair of jammers instead of my old swim trunks. I’d like to believe at least half of that is due to the training.

Training Update 12/7

The past 3 weeks have been very busy, what with all of the family gatherings around Thanksgiving and working on the fundraising/holiday letter. As many of you know, I’ve gotten a bit creative with my holiday letters in the past few years… a Prairie Home Companion-like recount, a parody of The Onion (complete with an area man struggling with how to write a better holiday letter than last year), a “meta” holiday writing story. This year I struggled a bit more than usual. I spent a week struggling to write it as a dialog between two animals (ala David Sedaris’s Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk) before scrapping the idea and going with the concept of recalling our memorable moments from the year and providing the opportunity of similar big and little moments to those less fortunate, a notion I encountered at last year’s hike kick-off meeting.

We’ve had a number of group swim and bike/run training sessions. It’s been interesting to see the varying levels of experience in the group. Some people are just learning to swim while others have done several triathlons in the past. Similarly, some people have some very nice road/triathlon bikes while others (like myself) are currently using the only bikes we have… mountain bikes.

The swims haven’t been as tedious as I thought they might be, repetitively swimming back and forth in the pool. The first training we swam “marker” sets to be used for measuring progress over the course of the season. Subsequent training sessions have involved performing drills to emphasize certain aspects of form during the front crawl, such as body rotation, finger drag, and arm entry.

Though I was a swim instructor and lifeguard in high school and college, I have never swam competitively. I have swam laps before, even doing over a mile (more than required for the triathlon), though that was with a few breaks in between. I won’t have that luxury during the event, so I’m a bit nervous. I’ve started to focus my training on a technique called Perpetual Motion Freestyle which emphasises dynamic streamlining rather than brute force power in order to conserve energy. There are several multi-part videos available on Youtube describing the technique (search for “Total Immersion Perpetual Motion Freestyle“, “How to ‘Work Less, Swim Better’ in triathlon“, and “TI Swimming Faster Presentation“) So far I’ve been very impressed with how I can keep up with most of the better swimmers on the team yet feel very little fatigue afterward. The training is more about engraining muscle memory than building muscle.

We’ve had two bike/run training sessions so far. Each has involved riding on trainers at different intensities and intervals for about 45 minutes followed by a short run (1 and 2 miles respectively) to get us used to transitioning.

As far as individual training goes, I’ve been hitting the gym to swim laps and take advantage of the spinning classes since I don’t have my own bike trainer yet. On the Saturdays we haven’t had a bike/run training session I’ve done some long runs with a neighborhood running group I started running with before signing up for the triathlon. The Saturday after Thanksgiving I ran 10.5 miles with them, the furthest I’ve gone in my Vibram FiveFingers. 

I’ve also been trying to fit P90X workouts into my schedule, though those have taken a backseat for the past week just trying to take care of the fundraising letters and holiday obligations. I hope to pick that back up this week as things settle down.

Running with a Pier

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Running with a Pier.

We celebrated Thanksgiving on the west side of the state with Jennifer’s side of the family this weekend. I squeezed in a 5.5-mile run this morning that took me to this pier that juts out into Lake Michigan. The waves were about 5-6 feet high crashing hard against it. It’s too bad more of my runs don’t have such dramatic scenery.

 

First Group Training

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Spinning at Performance Bike. That’s me above the sun towel.

We had our first group training on Saturday: a 40 minute session on the mag trainers on our bikes followed by an easy 10 minute run, just to get us used to the idea of having a transition. Everyone brought their own bikes; some had some very nice (expensive!) tri bikes, a few (like me) just had mountain bikes. I don’t know if I’m ready to spend the big bucks yet but I would like to at least have a decent road bike to use. An avid cyclist friend of mine, speaking from years (and miles) of experience, indicated that being fitted for a bike is more important than the components. I’ll probably track down an inexpensive bike on sale in the off season and pay the extra money to have a comprehensive fitting done. We shall see.