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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Are You a Triathlete or Just a Swimmer, Biker, and Runner?

On occasion, I take my listeners with me to the Tyler, TX area for "Hill Training Camp". You can join me on this podcast to hear me do one of my classic train of thought diatribes as I cruise about a yet-to-be-finished highway in the middle of the woods.

Tyler is quite hilly and I love torturing myself on the terrain whilst riding my fixed-gear bike and running barefoot over surfaces that could barely be qualified as paved. The mix of deep woods, narrow roads, the rare passing car, and evil dogs is something I live for. If you have relatives that live in a hilly area, go pay them a visit!

I recorded this podcast on a hot, windy day; the second day of my new training format. I was reading Wes Hobson's article on training misconceptions (You can read that here) and was particularly struck by #6. He's basically telling us to quit training like swimmers, bikers, and runners and to train like triathletes instead. Being your ever-loyal tri lab rat, I put it to the test.

I usually run long on Saturday and bike long on Sunday. A long run for me consists of 6 miles in the morning and another 6 in the evening. This method is supposed to be as good as doing all 12 at once and gives you a lot more options in planning your day and support while in the field. My long bike is anywhere from 50 to 70+ miles in the brutal Texas heat, parusing about on wild-ass country roads with 70 mph speed limits and no shoulder, often in the upper 90's and high humidity, the more the better. I only take one pit stop, two if you're lucky. This is known by my buddies as "The Ride of Truth" or "The Church Ride" because if you're not in shape, you're going to find out the truth about yourself under that blazing sun or you'll calling out for God or one of his associates for help or to kill the idiot who suggested this ride. It's doable, but screw up and you'll melt because the latter 35 miles have no stores along the way. Yay, pain!

While I love my epic battle with the futility of living in a furnace every Sunday morning, I thought I'd do the Wes Hobson thing and train like a triathlete. First change: Bricks! I think every triathlete should be asking him/herself "How can I be doing more bricks?" I've been doing this a lot lately and finding it very rewarding. I run after I surf (exhausting!), bike to swim laps at the pool, run home after working all day, and run home from swimming. I don't do it all the time, but I'm sure doing it a lot more than I used to. Second move: Switch up these biking and running torture sessions into two much more useful brick torture sessions.

You see, If I bike 2 hours and then run 6 miles on both Saturday and Sunday, I'm getting in the exact same volume as I was before, but it's much more beneficial on race day. I'm sure I won't be able to do it all the time, but wouldn't this fall under the catagory of smarter training? Not sure? Let me tell you how it went and you decide.

First off, all my my running and biking to and from work and swimming has already made me feel more balanced. I'm not totally beat down from just one thing and then switching gears completely to take on the next task. I feel more solid and capable of taking on mixes of workouts than ever before. It's strange, but I actually feel like a triathlete instead of somebody who's competent at swimming, biking, and running.

This weekend's bricks were the clincher. Saturday, I cruised up and down steep hills on my fixie for two hours and then hit the pavement with my bare feet for a 6 mile run. I was a full mile into the run before I realized "Oh! I'm supposed to be in pain or at least uncomfortable because this is a brick run!" Truth is, I totally forgot. No pain, all gain. I cruised up and down those Tyler grades at a comfortable 9-9.5 minute mile while easily staying under 150 BPM.

Sunday was a different story. I went into it thinking it'd be the same as Saturday, but I was very wrong. The Tyler hills don't happen that often for me, so my calves were woefully sore and talking back to me as soon as I started running off the bike. That and the exhaustion from Saturday's drill and the afore mentioned bike ride began to really kick in. I immediately began trying to rationalize my way out of this mistake of a workout. Can I cut it short? How about walking? Nobody cares, so walking's cool, right? And the heat. Damn that heat.

It's then I realized how beneficial this workout truly was. I was feeling right then how I feel at an emotional downturn during a race. I knew it was only six miles and I was capable of doing it, so it was time to turn down the screws and do some pain training. I plodded along in the Sun, not allowing myself to stop except for a few really steep grades that sent my HR way too high, sipping away at my gatorade and imagining I was out on a half IM course. I've run the entire 13.1 half IM course before, so I can do 6 miles now. Experience is an amazing coach.

Let's compare the results: I could've run 12 miles one day, then biked 4 hours or more on tired legs the next. Tough, but what's the point? Method number two had me simulating race conditions EXACTLY, albeit with a much lower heart rate. I also spent 2 hours doing brick runs. That's enough said right there.

I'm hoping to switch to method number two more often than not. I get pretty peeved that I train so hard only to blown away on the run during a half IM. I really admire those speed demons, but I think there's more to it than just genes. I think that if I do this often enough, I can bump up the distances a little and be on the freakish side of good in just a few months. I'd like to see myself doing 3 hour bike rides and 10 mile brick runs eventually. Crazier things have happened.

Other notes about this show: I talk about Moonpie's overuse injury and Jetdriver's first half IM. Music featured is "No One Understands" by Berman, found on the Podshow Music Network.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Outpacing Cycling's Elite

If you're a fan of outright endurance over speed, you'll love this podcast. Gregg and I joined up with our local cycling group for their weekly 50 miler ride and we were put to the test. Now, these dudes and dudettes aren't newbies or slackers. To their credit, each one is very fast on the bike, possibly every one of them faster than me or Gregg. Not only that, but the ATM cycling team was enforce, all matching in their maroon jersies.

The group numbered almost 20 riders, all on very nice bikes and all very obviously very fast. There were three things about me that they didn't know (and probably didn't care about): 1. I was not interested in going fast. This was "below 150 HR ride" for me. 2. I'd ridden this course with these dudes before, long ago, and I knew that they stopped for rather long periods at least once. I don't like to stop. Period. 3. I'm a triathlete and I've been training forever to not have to stop. Triathlons are long periods of time-trial style riding and there are no breaks, even in the shelter of a peleton. I don't need to stop.

Oh, and in case there's any doubt about my insanity... I was riding my 1985 fixed gear. And I already ran 3 miles that morning and was planning on running another 3 later in the day.

So we start off and everything's cool. These guys just putt along for the first 9 miles or so, which is fine. It's good to warm up those muscles. Besides, my HR was already 134 and that's ok. Eventually, they start picking up the pace. I manage two pulls at the front before I'm so far over the max of my target HR that I give up the ghost. These dudes were MOVING. I think we were cruising along at 24/25 at that point.

I drop off the back and don't feel embarrassed. I know these guys are fast and riding faster than I wanted to. That and I'm very limited on my top speed riding a fixie. Gregg kept up with them for a short distance longer and then he fell off as well. He said that he wouldn't be able to keep up that kind of pace and make it the whole ride. Totally understandable.

I consoled Gregg by telling him I'm just cruising along at 150 BPM and it's overall a better base training method than what the others were doing. Besides, they stop at a gas station at the turnaround point and sit there for a long time. We'll surely catch them then.

So, now we get to the meat of the story - the part that illustrates the difference between pure cyclists and triathletes. Pure cyclists ride with lots of time in pacelines and at insane speeds, spending a vast amount of time taking turns sheltering each other from the wind. They also rarely carry more than two waterbottles. Anything more is considered bulky and not efficient and rightly so. Just take a look at what pro cyclists have on their bikes in a race vs. what a triathlete has on his/her bike in a photo in Triathlete Magazine. In contrast with the pro cyclist, the Ironman's bike has fuel all over it, often literally taped to the frame.

So there Gregg and I are, alone, riding along with me calling out my HR numbers for the both of us, and with our Camelbaks loaded with fluid and Bento Boxes holding fuel. We're also riding side by side, as many triathletes do, taking the wind head on as the pack of cyclists that dropped us are undoubtedly riding in a paceline and making much better time than us. I don't like to ride in a paceline. I like to ride full on into the wind because I'm not out there to cover the distance as fast as possible. I'm out there to work my body and every bit of resistance is good.

We roll into Caldwell, TX and pass the peleton. They're chilling at the gas station, bikes piled up in the parking lot. I told Gregg that he could stop and break with them, but I'm going to keep going. "It'll drive them CRAZY if we don't stop and we're out in front of them." Gregg stayed with me.

So we're riding back, going with the wind, and keeping it under 150. Gregg isn't as much of a student of the "below 150 for base" school as I am, so he's pulling ahead of me, but keeping me in sight. He pulls over to pee, so I catch him and we chat a bit. I tell him that we will be incredibly lucky to get much farther before the peleton runs us down. We ride, no peleton. We go farther, still no peleton. I tell him that we'll be lucky to make it to Twisters, a local gas station, before they catch us. That's at about mile 42 of the ride. I keep looking over my shoulder to watch for the immenent pack and their crushing speed.

With Twisters about a mile away on the horizon, I see the peleton. They are riding with the wind and staggered apart. The fastest guys have broken off the front and are hammering hard. I yell to Gregg "Here they come!" and he shouted back in confirmation that he'd seen them as well. We'd make it to Twisters before them, but no farther. I told Gregg that I'm not stopping. I want to see how far I can get before they catch me. Gregg sticks with the crazy man on the fixie.

We turn at Twisters and get on the home stretch of highway. I turn back to look and the peleton had disappeared! They had stopped at Twisters! Gregg and I finish out the ride with me nervously looking over my shoulder, but they never appeared again.

Triathletes take a lot of ribbing from cycling purists that we're slower than they are and we have "too much crap" on the bike. While this may be true, we can rightfully claim that they ride sheltered most of the time and often don't have the mental toughness to ride as long as us, fueling atop the bike along the way. A cyclist may "drop" a triathlete like a sack of potatos, but the triathlete is nearly sadistic in the amount of abuse he/she will take before getting off the bike or, God forbid, resting in the draft of another cyclist.

I hope this story gives some support to those tri-geeks out there who've been chastized by others for riding differently on our odd-looking bikes. No cyclist is better than another. We train differently for different reasons. You never know if the guy you passed sucks or if he's going to run 10 miles after getting off the bike and is just pacing himself. Here's the stats from the ride -

53 miles
Upper 80's with strong winds
Bike - 1985 Kuwahara fixed gear, 48x18 ratio
Avg HR - 145
Avg MPH - 17.3
Zero stops.
Fuel on the bike - 70 oz of water with salt added, 20 oz of gatorade with salt added, 2 cliff shots, one bite of Cliff Bar.

Oh yeah, ran 3 miles before, and another 3 miles that evening. TRIATHLON!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Coach Adam's Chat, Part 1.

We recorded this week's Coach's Corner teleconference and I'm putting the first half of it in this week's podcast. Click Here to Listen. I also play a voicemail from the UK and announce the first ever virtual triathlon in Second Life. Details are still to come, but you better get in there and practice!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Tri-de-Mayo Sprint Triathlon

What's better than doing a sprint triathlon? How about a sprint triathlon in your own town and having pros show up and start in your wave?

Today's podcast is the audio review of the Tri-de-Mayo, a rather small sprint tri with some big names. When there's only 300 people, pros like Jamie Cleveland and Andrea Fisher really stand out. Click here to listen!

As you can guess, this show has some great audio from the race. It includes interviews with Jamie and Andrea, a pre and post race commentary by myself and my beautiful co-host Emily, and a couple of voicemails. It is a definite "dont miss" show that will remind you of your own racing experiences.

There's two other issues we need to chat about. First, Zentri has been inducted into the Race Athlete Performance Network. The RAPN is a collection of the best podcasts and blogs about endurance sports and will hopefully result in some revenue! I've spent a lot of time on our mothership site (www.raceathlete.com) and the content is really good.

Second, I mentioned on this show that I received a ice pack from Snow Pack (www.snowpackusa.com) It's actually pretty darn cool! I must admit that I'm not an ice-user, so I was struggling with a reason to test it out. Well, I was really sore after this race and used it on my shin and instep. It worked pretty darn good! The big selling point is that the stuff has a consistancy of snow and molds to fit your body.

Ok, enough of that. Check out the show and visit www.raceathlete.com!

Monday, May 01, 2006

MS 150 show!

I cobbled together the audio I recorded from the MS 150 into a show and you can check it out here. It was a great experience and I want to thank all those that donated, especially www.teamforkids.org. The ride totalled 175 miles and traveled from Houston to Austin over two days.

I decided to be weird (big suprise) and do the whole thing on a single-speed road bike geared at 48 x 18. There was much consternation by certain folks that I wouldn't be able to make it, and I found that laughable. EVERYTHING used to be done on single-speeds, including the Tour de France, and those bikes used to weigh 50 lbs. Check out the show to find out if I was able to climb the steep hills on day two without falling off my bike!