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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.


Blogger Flatman said...

Very intersting article and philosophies...makes sense though!

6:07 AM

Blogger Barb said...

For some reason, I tend to perform better on the run when doing a brick. Maybe because my body is already warmed up? My 5k PR was during a sprint tri! Go figure?

4:30 PM

Anonymous brett b. said...

I'm learning that I can't handle the 3 hours of brick two days in a row. It's too much for me right now. I get weak and have to walk! I might switch up the second day and make it shorter or swim instead.

4:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

the down time show sucked! what a waste of time.

6:22 PM

Blogger texafornia said...

"waste of time" - EXACTLY! That was what it was intended to be (Down Time, get it?) You listen pretty hard for someone who didn't like it. Keep it up!

7:44 PM

Blogger road less traveled said...

Very cool you're training on a fixie and running barefoot! I've taken to racing with my fixie and running barefoot and it's great! Although, I have to say, I'm not the most competitive on the bike... shocker.

If you want to see some pics from the TriEvents Championship Race #2 last weekend, check out my little blog -

Have a blast!

4:24 PM

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How does a triathlon work

2:14 AM


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