Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Free Speed

Triathletes are always looking for that extra edge when it comes to swimming. They are willing to pay for private lessons, stroke analysis, and underwater videotaping. All of these things are indeed helpful but I have come to realize triathletes are simply overlooking one of the fundamental aspects of swimming: the concept of streamlining. 

Triathletes can wrap their heads around and open their wallets to the concept of being aero. The more aero you are on your bike the faster you are, even without a lick of additional training. For whatever reason that concept goes out the window when triathletes step onto the pool deck even though water is 1000 times more resistant than air (*. 

When I mention the word  “STREAMLINE” most people envision that moment after they push off the wall but streamlining is so much more.  Streamlining is a constant effort to minimize drag in the water. 

Today I was at swim practice watching people during a kick set. Most were using kickboards (which I do not recommend for the average triathlete) but almost everyone was lying on their boards like one would slump over a bar. The result was the majority of the boards were barely breaking the surface of the water.  The guy behind me even held his board a little cockeyed. When you see boats moving through the water the front end is up pointing straight forward reducing its own drag and allowing it to cut through the water. Think about all the extra energy expended to move a boat (or a person forward) if the front was sinking low. It is not pretty.

Here are a few examples of some very non-streamline triathlete habits:

  • Kicking on your back with relaxed shoulders and bend elbows
  • Dropping your elbows
  • Bowing your back
  • Dropping your legs
  • Sticking your butt out
  • Kicking with your knees instead of a straighter leg
  • Big kicks
  • Lifting your head
  • Head too low
  • Extraneous lateral movements

Don't get lazy, free speed for the taking! 
Next time you swim take some time to think about you versus the water. What can you tighten up to reduce your surface area and subsequently your drag in the water? What can you do to bring your body closer to the surface of the water where there is less resistance? Notice the difference. You are your own million dollar race wheel. 

*It concerns me this links to a UNC page where the writer refers to a shark as a mammal. Really UNC? Really?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Off to a Good Start

Just the other day I blogged about my year and a bit about my break post-ironman. The concept of the "getting into the swing of things" means you are slowly incorporating swim-bike-run workouts one at a time, one minute at a time. The total for the last two weeks looked a little like this:

Swim: 20.1 miles
Bike: 157.7 miles
Run: 52 miles

Obviously I have been swimming, I rode my bike outside for the first time in over a month+, and I have been getting into the habit of running everyday. My runs have been short and sweet. I am enjoying them while they last since I know it is only up from here, both in volume and intensity. I have already been warned my off-season training will break down to be about 50% running so like I said I am enjoying my short runs while I can. One of the things I really enjoy doing is trail running. I did not know I enjoyed trail running until I moved to Charlotte. Trail running in Charleston consisted of running the West Ashley greenway, a non-paved flat trail running 8 miles out of town. It skirts behind some neighborhoods and strip malls before it snakes back towards the marshes and water the lowcountry is famous for. Unfortunately since I left I think the greenway has been paved so much for that little piece of running paradise.

Found on 
When I moved to Charlotte I was introduced to a whole new kind a trail running. The hard kind with lots of bumps, roots, steep climbs, and sharp turns. My first introduction to real trail running was a Renaissance Park. I love the difficulty of it but I especially loved how unpredictable the course was. As a garmin-data-addicted athlete I never really took the time to run trails even though my coach gave me a free pass to run them whenever and as often as I liked. When I started back a few weeks ago I decided to reclaim my love of trail running and I was dedicated to hitting a trail at least once a week. 

Found on 
Sometimes love will make you do crazy things, like enter a trail race just as you are getting back in shape. I saw the Charlotte Running Company was putting on a race at the USNWWC and a got a little excited. I will be honest. I was planning to run the 4 mile. I totally thought the 4 mile was doable so I innocently asked my coach if I could pick what distance I ran out of the 4, 9, and 13 mile options. His response? 
"Yes you can choose, but not the 4 mile option :-)." 
Soooooooo I opted for the 9 mile instead. I also came to the realization fast cross country runner types in speedo-like running briefs often enter the short distances so really any way you look at it the 9 mile was really the best option. Getting ready to race was super easy and maybe took all of 5 minutes. I will never get over how much easier it is to race just one sport at a time. After milling about it was finally time to hit the starting line and even 5 minutes before the run started I had no idea which direction I was supposed to run in. It became fairly obvious pretty quickly and I just hoped to follow the masses. When the horn went off we darted to the trailhead. I was expecting a gut wrenching sprint to "get the holeshot" -the highly technical term where one sprints to avoid the bottleneck at the trailhead, no doubt coined by a dude- so I kinda sprinted but then I kinda didn't. Two girls were ahead of me entering the trail. The one closest to me was being super conservative which was probably smart because when I came to the first bridge I almost ate it by completely loosing my footing my first step onto the bridge. Screaming hysterically for a moment I gathered my wits enough to grab hold of the caution tape. Angels started singing, I didn't eat dirt, I knew I was saved. I caught the conservative girl quickly and passed her and unfortunately probably not with the proper trail running etiquette. Nevertheless I ran on and eventually caught the heels of a guy who ultimately tripped on root and faceplanted right in front of me. I stopped to help him but I still took the opportunity to pass him . . . .  

Hey, don't judge. 
He later caught back up to me and fell again but this time he passed me and ultimately beat me to the finish line. There you go, what goes around comes around. Talking to him after the race I learned he fell a total of 4 times which put me to ease because I was starting to feel somewhat responsible for his crashes.  I am not really sure what the proper etiquette is when trail racing. It seemed like a group would collect behind one individual and then everyone would pass him when just one person took the initiative to pass. I was content as long as I could see someone in front of me. I saw a few familiar faces working the water stops and their loud cheers seemed to resonate through the forest. I needed the pick me up because the last 20 minutes of the race contained the hardest and longest climbs of the course . . . . or I was getting tired. Knowing now how close we were to the finish, I should have fought harder to stay with "crashpad" after he passed me but that would mean hoofing it up the last hill and I was already done. 

I ended up winning the 9 miler for the women. Not a bad trail race debut and definitely not a bad showing for my first race back. I will take it and I may just sign up for a few more.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

2012 in review

As a triathlete I feel it is my duty to live up to the stereotype and finally publish my "year-in-review." I am just not sure how to best sum up 2012. 2012 was a turning point and subsequently the beginning to a new chapter in my triathlon career. I hired a new coach, Brian Stover from Accelerate3. To say I "hired" him is technically correct but I begged him to coach me. After two years of working with a great local coach I knew I was ready to take my racing to the next level. And I knew the only way to do that was through Brian so I begged, groveled, and appealed to his vanity.  One the reasons I wanted to work with Brian was the very fact that I had to convince him to coach me. I like that he took the time to determine if we had compatible personalities and he actually looked at what I had been doing in the past to determine if he could do anything differently to help me achieve my goals. Luckily, after many emails, I was accepted into the folds of Accelerate3, a distinction also held by Charlotte's only male pro triathlete.

So how would I summarize 2012? My year was . . . well . . . different. Brian took a look at what I had been doing and made some changes. Some big changes. The majority of the year was spent focusing on my weakness, my run, and strengthening my bike for . . . wait for it . . .  my run.

Run: 1,404.3 miles
Prior to this year my run volume teetered around about 25-30 miles a week . . .  on my biggest weeks ever . . . .  training for ironman. This year my average weekly run miles hovered around 45 miles a week. I even hit a weekly mileage PR of over 50 miles. I am not going sugar coat this transition, it was hard and at times seemed impossible. When I received my training calendar the run box was always marked, everyday, sometimes twice a day. I felt the run volume in the very seat of my soul but over time I got used to the new normal and I even kinda sorta momentarily started to feel like a runner. The work paid certainly paid off. Not only did I run a 5 minute PR in my 70.3 run split but for the first time ever I ran myself into 1st place (Augusta Race Report). No Pain No Gain or NPNG for short (yeah I just applied swimmer lingo to a run report - some things never change).

Stumpy Creek. I look fast. Ignore the obvious down hill 
Bike: 7,172.5 miles
Until I ran the report in my RunningAhead account I had no idea I put this many miles in on the bike. Only in the last few weeks going into IMCZ did I feel the least bit tired of being on my bike. At the time I thought my  dwindling motivation was due to the time change but 7,172 miles on the bike is a lot miles. In 2011 I dedicated one weekend day to riding and the other to running. Brian mixed things up for me by prioritizing my hard runs on the weekdays so I could put in more bike miles on the weekends. Don't think for a second I got a break! I still had to run on the weekend I could just run . . . for the pure enjoyment of it? Unlike with my run, everyday on the bike was like a new day. I loved being on my bike and loved taking on a challenging set of intervals. While I trained with a powermeter in 2011, my powermeter became less of a neat gadget and more like an essential tool. It even became my friend/enemy on some of my lonelier rides but it is probably best if we don't talk about that. 

OTM T2 approach
Swim: 284.3 miles (500,368 yards)
While I still probably swam more than 90% of triathletes my swimming took a major backseat in 2012. Running was my priority so I concentrated on just maintaining my swim. After I added in a second part time job (in addition to my full time job) as a coach for SwimMAC my swimming got delegated to only two days a week. I pity the fool who got in my way on those two days. I had to make those two days count so I am sure some innocent victims got the I-know-you-are-not-trying-to-talk-to-me-after-you-just-sandbagged-that-entire-set face. Rather than swimming faster I concentrated on swimming smarter. My swim in Cozumel, while not my fastest IM swim, was by far my most strategic. (IMCZ post)

IMCZ & characteristic wrist flip
While my season was long it was rather light having averaged only about 1 race per month. Last year I competed in a number of sprint triathlons. This year I cut back on the sprint races to focus a bit more on the longer distances. If you compare this chart to my 2011 chart you will probably notice the majority of my 2012 races are actually a bit slower. I ended up training through most of my races, focusing on the big WTC3: Muncie, Augusta, and Cozumel. This was also a big change and one that I initially struggled with mentally and physically. I knew I was putting in the work but I just needed to be patient. 

Ironman Cozumel brought closure to my season and I dived deep into a much needed break. I think I only took a one week off from workouts completely, my vacation week in Cozumel. December was a hectic month for me with some required travel for work as well as some additional holiday travel. Some days I swam, ok most days I swam, but some days I caught a yoga class, and I even went for a short run or two (voluntarily!). It was a nice mental and physical break. Sometimes you just have to shut down and reboot to get back to working at full capacity. When my first 2013 training calendar arrived in my inbox two weeks ago I was refreshed and ready. With all my training buddies back in training mode part of me wanted to jump back in but now I am really glad I did not rush the recovery process. It was a really good feeling to accept my first calendar with anticipation instead of dread. Here we are two weeks into it and you know what? I am ready.