Thursday, December 6, 2012

Maximizing Your Ability

I just finished reading 'Iron War' and it really opened my eyes to a lot of the reasons why coaches and athletes follow certain training methods and what they are supposed to accomplish. I always understood that classic training theory states that you need to start building your 'base' in the early season and as you approach your races in the spring/summer you should focus on higher intensity workouts to maximize your fitness. I usually scoffed at this type of approach because I really enjoy training with intensity and doing it all year long, and I figured that I was getting better every year so it was obviously working, right? I read that Alberto Salazar used to do crazy intense workouts all year long and he would destroy his competition at every race. The problem is that you are always riding along a razor's edge between burnout and injury and only complete rest and recovery for a long period of time can bring you back. It happened to Alberto and it happened to me... Such is life.

The one major insight I gained from reading Iron War though had to do with a study done in the US on Cross Country runners. A researcher was attempting to discover why some runners can be as successful as others while having completely different running styles or forms. The study hooked experienced and inexperienced runners up to an accelerometer and measured differences in their running stride, there was no surprise that experienced runners were more efficient and had less of a 'decceleration' phase associated with their stride. What surprised them was that both experienced and inexperienced runners tended to have a less efficient running stride when they were asked to concentrate on how they were running and to try to perfect their form. The conclusion they drew from this was that there is no one 'perfect' running form, everyone has their own unique way of running and there are only two ways to improve it. 1. run a lot of miles over many, many years, or 2. run at high intensity. When you run at high intensity you tend to 'think' less about how you are supposed to run and your body naturally finds it's most efficient way to run. That being said this flew in the face of all conventional wisdom at the time, that a runner needed to be coached and trained to run a specific way in order to be more efficient- not true!

It makes a lot of sense when you think about it, I look back at images of Dave Scott running along Mark Allen in 1989 and you could not have had two completely different running styles. Dave ran like he was trying to catch a bus 100m down the road, arms swinging wildly at his sides, feet outward in his typical duck-like run and then there was Mark, smooth, efficient, long measured strides and they both ran stride for stride and both did a 2:38 marathon at the end of an Ironman! Wow... You can't take anything away from Dave even though he lost the race that day he still did an 8:10 race and over years and years of training his body found the most efficient way for him to run, it wasn't Mark Allen's way but it was just as fast and effective.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ironman Arizona 2012

What an incredible week, Amber and I spent a short week traveling from the great white north to sunny Arizona. Our good friend Kevin competed in his first Ironman after months and months of hard training and it paid off big time. We left on a Wednesday and returned the following Monday but did a lot in those short few days. On Thursday Kevin and I rode the Ironman bike course and although I was on a beat up road bike I really enjoyed being outside and seeing the course all the athletes would be battling it out on. The ride out was tough with a headwind and slight uphill and the ride back was very fast and tons of fun. Friday we went to the outdoor pool and met some friends from Calgary and banged out a few laps.

It was also the day we got an up close and personal look at our new baby boy, we did a 3D ultrasound and it was incredibly emotional- both Amber and I really saw what he was going to look like and were so excited to see him! He's healthy, happy and ahead of where he should be in terms of development, his due date was pushed up to February 1st so we know he's growing very quickly. I can't wait to have a new member of our little family he'll be the most loved and cared for kid on the planet- that I'm sure of.

Sunday was the race and even though I knew it was going to be tough on Amber she did a really great job, resting when she needed to rest and making sure she ate regularly and had a nap when she was feeling run down. All in all the race was so much fun and had me reinvigorated to start training again for Ironman CDA. I started getting really serious about Achilles treatment and have gone to 2 ART treatments, it's a little early to tell if they are working but the doctor says if I keep it up I should be healed in three weeks.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Keep it Slow and Steady

Anyone who knows me understands that I sometimes have a hard time keeping my training 'moderate' even during the off-season. I know I can sometimes go a little overboard with training hard throughout the year but I honestly believe that's why I've been able to have such incredible results. However there is always a point of diminishing returns, where that extra hard ride or run does a lot more harm than good. When you are new to triathlon and not sure of where your potential lies I think you can get away with hammering fairly hard in all three disciplines and still see very good progress over the first 3- 4 years of racing. After all if you don't really know how the cumulative aspects of training are going to affect you and you may feel like after a hard 60- 90 minute swim, ride or run you can do it again tomorrow. It's not until you've gone to that place where the world gets a little fuzzy around you and you start to have tunnel vision or you simply feel like you want to sleep during a workout that you start to comprehend where your real limits are; for me that's usually during the 20 hour bike week leading up to an Ironman.

But there is a point where training more, or harder does a lot more harm to your body than good and usually that's when you start to notice injuries. Having to deal with an injury this year has been pretty humbling, I've gone from my usual after work run being a 15k jaunt in an hour to running 5k in 1/2 an hour. However I realized this year more than ever how much I enjoy being active and healthy and the competitive side of me has had to take a back seat for the time being. It's been 6 months since my injury and I'm still recovering but I'm hopeful now more than ever before I will get back to normal I just need to do the right things and I'll be on the road to recovery.

Every time I try to push to hard on the bike my achillies reminds me who's in control and I have to back off. I know a lot of people don't like indoor training but I love it, there is no better way to get stronger and stay focused then by being on the trainer for an hour or two. Afterall we live in Canada so if you don't like indoor training you'd better move. That being said I still need to take things slow and keep my focus on recovering more than building right now. I'm giving myself until January 1st to start some serious training again and that will only be 6 months away from my Ironman, that's the shortest amount I time I've put in to prepare for an IM but the law of diminishing returns is starting to show itself just before I turn 40 so I'm listening to my body and preparing myself to peak at the right time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Family Fun Run

This past Sunday was the first race I've done where I ran as a family with Amber and Harley, it was a nice change to the previous years I've competed in the GP Fall Classic. I set my 10k PR at this race in 2009 with a 34:25 and it was the first time I'd ever run a sub 37 minute 10k. I remember the extreme suffering I went through from start to finish to get that time and it was nice to just be a part of the race atmosphere without all the pressure to obtain another PR. I'm still dealing with the achilles injury but I can run, very slowly, which I'm very grateful for. I realize now how much more important it is for me to feel active and healthy than it is to win. I may be a lot slower but being able to be apart of the training and racing environment is a lot more important.

It was also the first time we ran with a new member of our family, Amber is 5 months pregnant and the little guy got a free ride (in utero). Amber has had some really tough times during this pregnancy but I'm really proud of her to go through it all and face it like a trooper, she is creating a life that we're going to love every day of our lives and I can't wait to find out what fatherhood is going to be like. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Missing It

Steve Suffering at IMC
It's hard to believe that I miss the suffering that you go through at an Ironman but the event itself is just such an incredible celebration and achievement that it outweighs any amount of pain you are going through on the day. Amber and I watched some local triathletes compete at IMC this Sunday, the last IMC in Penticton, and it was a lot of fun to track our friends and follow along as they reached certain points in the race. I remember thinking throughout the day that- "Steve must be hitting the rollers about now" or "he's probably hurting up Yellow Lake at around this time" and it brought me back to those moments for myself in the race. All the sacrifice and training during the entire year culminates in that one day and it doesn't matter if you hit your time goals or you don't when you are out there all you are thinking of is just getting to the finish.

I'm a little excited that WTC isn't apart of the race in Penticton any more, there were getting incredibly greedy and were taking advantage of all the great volunteers and athletes that go to that race every year. The fee was absolutely exacerbating, I think it was up to $675 which okay- in the grand scheme of things isn't huge but heaven forbid you get an injury and can't race- you forfeit all but $150. At that price WTC was making $1,755,000 on entry fees and if you add in race merchandise it's probably around $2.5M per year. All the operations were mainly handled by the great volunteers and the prize purses for the men and women's winners were only $5,000 each, really! $2.5M and you're only going to pay the winner of the race $5,000!! Come on... Well challenge Penticton is promised to be as great of a race with more community involvement it's just a shame that you can't get a Kona spot there anymore. Maybe Coeur D'Alene will start to be the go to spot for most Western Canadian triathletes, which could make qualifing A LOT more difficult.

Well I still enjoy the Ironman atmosphere and it's great to be a part of the race in any capacity, even as a spectator. Amber and I decided to go to Pheonix in November to watch Kevin race and I can't wait, I'm already starting to get the training bug again and watching Kevin is probably going to really make me want to get back into it for my own race IM CDA next June. I've never been to Arizona but it'll be a lot of fun I'm sure, I just have to find someone there that will lend me a bike.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Running at 1km/hr

There hasn't been much to post lately in regards to my training, I really haven't been. After suffering a really bad achillies tear in May it's been tough to go through the summer and not be out there swimming, biking and running. I was swimming and biking consistently after my injury but after taking a full 10 days off for vacation and not doing anything but walking I realized that the kick off the wall swimming and riding hills were not helping me heal properly. I went to Calgary with Amber for a few days and met with an orthodics guy who diagnosed a severe over-pronation in my stride so he said he could help with some custom orothodics. I was always a bit skeptical of these, thinking they were really just a sales pitch but when I initially got them in 2005 while training for my first Ironman they helped the achillies problems back then so I guess I'm sold on them now. The first week in them was aweful, my entire right leg from my calf to my sacrum was in pain but I knew I had to stick with it if I was going to get better. Eventually the tightness started to ease up and now I don't even know I'm wearing them.

I still have a bit of healing to do so I can't swim-bike-run but I've been starting back at the gym lifting weights again, light weights- 20-30 reps at a time and water running. Before I was injured my average after-work go-for-a-run pace was 15km/hr or 4 minute/kms now I'm reduced to running 1km/hr in the pool, 20 laps in one hour. It's tough to get in there and stay motivated but at least now I feel like I'm doing something, I might be starting from scratch again but at least I'm moving forward. I'm going to take the next month really easy, water running, weights, walking and hopefully by September-October I'll be back to normal running again. Amber and I are heading to Pheonix to watch Ironman Arizona in November so that will be a great early winter break and I'd like to do some light running in the warm Pheonix sun.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

One Final Kick At The Can

Last weekend was GWN race weekend and it's always a tremendous time to welcome in summer; the first major race of the year, the tour starts, everyone is happy and excited to race and you get a chance to see if all the training has paid off. It was a little bitter sweet because I went into it knowing I wasn't able to run with a torn achillies but I wanted to at least have a solid swim-bike. The weekend started off great hanging out with friends going for a little ride (which of course I got a flat on) and then going to the lake for one loop of the two loop swim course. I was pretty pleased to have finished the loop in 15 minutes, it made me think that perhaps I could pull off a sub 30 minute swim.

Race morning there were dark clouds to the west of us and wouldn't you know it by the time we got to the lake it was raining, not a hard rain but enough to make it annoying. I did all my pre-race prep and lined up a couple rows from the front and hammered the swim right off the start, I kept a solid pace and drafted off as many strong swimmers as possible. I was a little disappointed later to find out I did a 31:05 swim again but I was going as hard as I possibly could and given all the swimming I've done this year that's probably the top end of my time without swimming 5 days a week.

The rain made things on the bike really frustrating, my glasses fogged up and I put them in my pocket where they fell out at some point. So I didn't have them for the downhills which made the stinging rain difficult at 60+kms/hr. The entire ride I kept feeling like I couldn't push the same power that I normally do but I heard that from everyone else too so I'm attributing it to the cold. The way back I was pushing as hard as possible I knew I wasn't running so I wanted to power through right to the end. At the final turn right before the finish my front wheel hit a soaking wet crack in the road and went right out from under me. Bam! down on my left side I went and slid for 10-15 feet. Arrgh no, I jumped up and my chain was off on the front and back so I was fiddling with that for 20-30 seconds I was only a couple hundred meters from the finish of the bike so I was just shaking my head at how I could be so stupid. The bike only suffered a little nic on the seat, which can be easily replaced so I obviously took the brunt of the impact. My left knee, thigh, forarm and back have quite a bit of road rash which I can handle just fine but my ribs must have landed on my arm because they are really bruised and moving around is difficult. Oh well, all of it will heal soon enough and I think this is the universe telling me that it's time to call it a year.

I was really hoping to have a great race in Calgary but I've decided to roll it over to next year and fully recover my achillies so I can get back into running shape again. So that is the end of the 2012 season for me, a bit disappointing but not the end. I signed up for IM Coeur D'Alene 2013 so I'll start preparing for that in December/January and get a full, deep recovery going into it. Getting older is tough but listening to my body is key to making sure I can still train and race.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sometimes Things Work Out Exactly The Way They Are Supposed To

I guess it's no secret that my season hasn't quite worked out the way I've planned but the way I look at it I think this is what was meant to happen. No one wishes to be injured or hurt but I've been having a rough time again this year trying to stay healthy and I think it's just my body's way of telling me, slow down- we did A LOT last year and I need time to fully recover. It's true I probably went a little overboard last year, I started training hard in January for Puerto Rico 70.3 in March then geared up for the season in April, trained and raced hard right through to IMC and then continued until Kona in October. Those last few weeks between the end of IMC and Kona I was completely spent, I couldn't get through a long ride and my longest run was 28k. So I did the smart thing and planned to have a 'down year' only racing 1/2s and focusing more on speed but wouldn't you know it, the first race of the season and I tear my achillies. It's really tough to take mentally when summer comes around and I want to be out there running and riding and I just have to be patient. The type-A triathele in me is not great at waiting to heal but I'm doing the smart thing, listening to Amber and waiting until I'm back completely. It's been 4 weeks and I still can't run, I've been going to acpuncture, taping, cold and hot packs every night but the blood flow to that area is very limited so it's a long slow process.

If this injury is supposed to teach me to be patient then I've learned my lesson, the GP Tri is this weekend and I would love to go out there and kill it but I'm happy to participate as a team and do the swim- yes who would have thought that I would be the 'swimmer' on a team but it's true. Then GWN is two weeks away and I've already decided that I'll do the swim and bike but drop out after that. It sucks to not be able to compete in that race but if I want to have any hope at healing completely this year I can't go out and run a hard 1/2 IM, I'll tear my achillies completely and be out for the rest of this year and possibly next year. So maybe things are working out the way they are supposed to and this is my 'down year' and hopefully I can be ready for Calgary at the end of July and perhaps Vegas in September.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Learning Life's Lessons the Hard Way

It's been a challanging couple weeks, I've never really had to overcome an injury before and having to do it right smack in the middle of prime training season is tough to take. This achillies injury is still preventing me from doing any sort of running but that's how I know it was a bad one. I was concerned before the race about my achillies and I even asked a massage therapist what I could do to insure I wasn't going to be injured- unfortunately I did get injured and now I'm probably not going to be able to run for a full 6 weeks. At least I can be thankful I didn't experience a full tear and have to go through surgery and no running for a year! That would be unbearable. However I'm listening to my voice of reason (Amber) and not rushing my recovery, she knows what I need to do to get back to full health and hopefully I'll be able go full out at the Calgary 70.3. I've already determined that I don't think I can recover in time for Great White North 1/2 but I still want to do the swim-bike and I'll drop out at T2. At least I'll get something for my entry fee and I'll have a good time hanging out, racing part of it and watching part of it. I look at this as a good character builder and hopefully I'll come back from this stronger and be back in action later this summer.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Jasper Training Camp

May long weekend is always a great time- the weather starts to improve, the fitness that I've worked on over the winter finally is put to the test and there are great times spent out riding with friends. Traditionally Amber and I use this weekend to get in some great riding and we enjoy all the incredible scenery that Jasper has to offer. Jasper is such an awe inspiring place that it's impossible not to have a great time on all the amazing roads and trails. This year Amber is taking some time off training so unfortunately I didn't have my favorite training partner but luckily I had some of the Speed Revolution crew join me. I'm still recovering from my Achilles injury so I wasn't able to run but we got in a couple good swims and road rides.

Friday was a travel day, I worked in Edson and Jasper while Amber and Harley hung out and by the time I was done work I didn't have any motivation to do anything. 5 hours of driving and 7 hours of work will do that to you. Amber got us settled in the hotel and we hung out with some friends, we finally had a chance to meet Kevin- a great individual who's new to triathlon but I know is going to do well if he keeps up with all the tremendous training he's been doing. Saturday we all met for a swim and everyone was full of energy and ready to go! Robert and I blasted out a great 2500m felt great and were ready for a ride after an early brunch. The plan was to do Edith Cavell climb, an amazing 14km climb on a closed road with NEW pavement, switchback roads, leg burning gradients, plenty of other riders to catch and the best scenery in the world. Robert and I kept each other honest and the pace high and after 12k of climbing we hit snow, close enough to the top. We made the long and fast decent and waited for Bart and Kevin to join us. After about 15 minutes we new something was wrong and another rider told us that we had to go back up, one of our crew had a flat...ugh, really. The climb was hard the first time but doing it again... ouch. Fortunately after a couple kms of climbing we saw Bart and Kevin coming down so everything was fine and we headed back. Kevin had a sidewall puncture so his day was done but the rest of us wanted to get in our 100k for the day so we headed out towards Athabasca Falls.

The hard lung burning efforts were over after Edith Cavell but the legs were toast at that point so we just kept the pace honest and made it out to the falls. On the way back we decided to push things with the tail wind so we did a little drafting practice making sure that neither of us started to slack off. After 90k that day we were spent and we just cruised into town the last 7k. Showers and dinner at Jasper Park Lodge and everyone was ready for bed by 9pm.

Sunday was a bike-run day and the plan was another 100k up to Maline Lake. I love this climb, it's steady enough so that you're not grinding yourself into the ground but tough enough so that you get all the benefit of 50kms of climbing. Again there were a lot of cyclists on the road so Robert and I had plenty of people to catch but we kept the pace high and managed to finish the 50k up in 1:55, pretty good considering I don't think I've ever done that climb in less than 2 hours before. Lunch at the restaurant up there and a change of clothes from Amber who drove up with the girls to me us and we were set for the chilly decent back into town. Back in Jasper the plan was to do a 5k run but unfortunately my Achilles just wasn't ready for a run yet so I had to sit it out.

Monday we were all feeling really tired, Bart's shoulder was acting up so he sat out the swim but Robert, Kevin and I went to the pool for the final workout of the weekend. Amber designed a good 3x500m, 10x50m program for us and although we were really feeling the fatigue in the 500m sets we blasted out the 50's. The weekend done we all said our goodbyes and headed off in separate directions. It was a fantastic time had by all in the most incredible place in the world to train and I'm looking forward to the next one... perhaps next year?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Not Exactly The Race I Was Expecting

Well yesterday was the first race of the season and I'm almost wondering if it's also going to be the last. I went in feeling pretty good but I knew I wasn't going to have a tremendous result. I've been battling with Achilles issues all year and with the concentration on harder-faster efforts this year it seems to have gotten worse. I know I can't ignore the fact that I'm at an age where a lot of athletes who continue to race frequently and hard eventually start to experience injuries but I guess I just keep hoping that my body will hold together for 'one more year.' Honestly last year I had the season of my dreams, finishing GWN in 4:11, IMC in 9:44 and going to Kona so I don't have a thing to complain about. However it's always a little heart-breaking when you know you're not going to perform at that level again. I'll still compete and probably compete pretty well but I know that if I keep doing what I'm doing I'm going to rupture my Achilles and I don't want to never be able to run again.

I've always loved competing not for the thrill of winning but for the love of the activity itself so if I need to slow down to be able to do it longer, then so be it. I'm limping around really badly today and it's going to take a good week for me to feel normal again so I know that I'm not going to be able to get in the training I need to have a stellar season. That's a part of life and I'll be happy to continue to be active and race when I can but I'm going to have to be a lot more selective and not race as often as I'd like to.

The race itself was a lot of fun and even though a few of us ended up making a wrong turn we still got in the required distance and I put myself in that place I don't like to go too often. With the wind yesterday it was like running into a storm but I battled through and ended up winning, great result on a tough day. I just wish I didn't suffer the after effects of pushing that hard, limping around for the next week is not what I would consider reasonable for a local running race.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Time to Face the Voices

You know the ones I'm talking about the 'voices' that tell you this hurts too much and that you just need to stop what you're doing right now. This weekend is the first race of the season for me, the Brian Harms Memorial 10 miler and although it's not an "A" race I'm still hoping to do quite well and push myself again. I had a pretty good winter with the S.R. 5 mile race series but this is twice as long and twice as much pain. I've done this race for the past three years and it's always a nice race to dust off the racing cobwebs but it hurts like hell. I'm mentally preparing to suffer out there but you're never quite ready when it happens. The past two years I've been within 2 seconds of the same time, 58:45 and 58:47 so if I can pull off anything close to under an hour I'll be happy. I know I have the ability to pull off 3:30/km (56:00), but this is a rolling course and it can knock the stuffing out of your legs especially on the second lap so I'll go out and just try to silence the voices in my head and trust in the fitness that I've been working on. We'll see how it pans out this Sunday.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Patience Friends Patience

I think if I look back at some previous blog posts I'd probably find one somewhat similar to this one in early May or late April. It seems like as soon as the snow is gone and the weather starts to feel good outside I think I should be in phenomenal shape and I should be able to put in 20hr training weeks without feeling a thing. Well the body just doesn't work like that and after 6 months of lower volume training I've been feeling the effects of some longer rides and runs.

I was able to get in a 100k ride last Saturday and I was like a kid in a candy store, I wanted to hammer right away but I've bonked really bad during an early season ride doing that so I decided it would be better if I just hung with everyone for the first 50k and rode back a little harder. The ride went really well up until the final Nordic Centre climb back into town at the 92km mark. By that time my legs had done all they were going to do that day and I was struggling just to turn the pedals over.

It was nice to final get outside and get in a long ride, well long for what I'll be doing this year. I think it was a good decision not to do Ironman this year, my body simply can't handle the long training days like it used to and I'm going to enjoy having a bit more free time this summer to do some other things. The one thing I do love about training is close ties you have to all your training buddies, getting together after a hard swim, bike or run to swap stories is a lot of fun. It doesn't matter what the training is but usually longer training days have better stories. I still have great plans for this year and the first race is in 9 days, only a 10M running race but an early season effort over 10 miles is going to have lots of good suffering stories.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

One Final Speed Revolution Race- #6!

This past weekend was the final Speed Revolution race- #6; Stop-The-Punishment Rollers I was a little sad to see the series end but also a bit relieved. After 5 punishing 5 mile races I was feeling the draining effort but I was also starting to feel like my running form was coming back. After the last race I was sure I was losing 'it' but I was fighting a flu all week and the hills were absolutely draining. I ended up going slower than the last race where we did 2%-4%-6%-4%-2% change every mile and I was devastated.

This time I did have a stellar run, the race was a 2%-4%-2%-4%-2% change and I took a full 2 minutes off my time from 9 weeks ago. I felt a lot lighter and easier and the 4% didn't bother me nearly as much as it had before. It's nice to have some great athletes take part in the series and now I'm looking forward to organizing a Speed Revolution bike series for the spring and summer. The weather is finally starting to turn around and you can feel spring in the air. I managed to get my new bike out for a couple rides last week and even though I'm not in very good bike shape right now it feels so nice to be outside again.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Jasper in the Springtime!

I love Jasper in the spring, finally the long winter has ended and you can feel the warmth in the air and summer is just around the corner. Amber and I spent an incredible Easter weekend in Jasper and I managed to thoroughly tire myself out with a lot of trail running. Fortunately I had company with Amber and Harley close by. I arrived Wednesday afternoon from Edson after Amber drove from GP and we had a nice meal at Evil Dave's, they definitely know how to cook fish and the salmon there was awesome. I worked most of the day Thursday but was ambitious enough to go to the pool in the morning and got in a few sets of 500s. After work we went to the "Hunger Games" and I was pleasantly surprised, it was a pretty good show.

Friday was the start of my trail running adventures, I did the Pyramid Lake climb with Amber and H-Dog and spent a good two hours out there enjoying the day. I'm not really in trail running shape so spent the rest of the day relaxing and recovering. I didn't want the weekend to go to waste so I was determined to get out there on Saturday and Sunday too, Saturday was a shorter-easier hour run up the #1 loop with a nice view of the town at the top and Sunday was a tough snow packed loop on the #8 trail. After Sunday I was really beat up and started to feel some bad pain under my right foot. I knew what was wrong, my calves were completely knotted up and my achilles was telling me to take it easy. Thankfully I have a wonderful wife and she massaged them for me for a good hour when we got back on Tuesday and things are coming back to normal now.

We also did a couple things we don't usually do, drove up to Maline Lake and took in the views and went to Jasper Park Lodge for lunch/dinner. I can see why people enjoy staying there it's an incredible hotel but I'd much rather stay in a cheaper hotel and enjoy being outside. That's what Jasper is all about for me.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Speed Revolution Race #4- Threshold Test and Sufferfest

Last Saturday was the first opportunity I had to see if everyone who's been training with Amber and I have been making any progress with their running. Needless to say I was very happy with everyone's result. We started a 5 mile indoor treadmill running series on January 7th and every three weeks we do another race. The first race was the 'Threshold Test and Sufferfest' and you basically run as hard as you can at 2% for 5 miles. Everyone was really complaining how tough an effort like that was, especially immediately after the off-season. I expected everyone to hurt in January and I told them all that it's okay and too be expected to be out of shape this time of year, it's not important right now. What I didn't expect was that everyone would whip themselves into shape in 9 short weeks!

We had 8 racers show up, one who hadn't done any races before and all 7 of them finished with a faster time, amazing. The time improvements were anywhere from 0.19% better to 8% better. I told them all at the beginning to think about a pace they could sustain for the full 5 miles and hold on to it. They all are not only getting fitter but are learning how to race better, I saw some people have a much lower heart rate but still drop their time just by sustaining a better pace.

The next race is March 31st and it's the toughest one; 1 mile at 2%, 1 mile at 4%, 1 mile at 6%, 1 mile at 4%, and the final mile at 2%. It'll be exciting to see everyone in a couple weeks tackle this one again. I got some 'choice words' thrown at me for coming up with this race...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The 2012 Race Machine Is Here!!

I sold my bike to a great guy in Lethbridge back in December, thanks Kevin, and I've been using a loaner bike to get me through some of the winter indoor training until I could afford a new one. I already new I wanted to get a new Trek Speed but it was just a matter of saving up enough to justify getting it right away. Robert worked with the rep from Trek and got me a very good deal that made it all worth while. So the 2012 racing machine is an incredible black and white Trek Speed that's the perfect fit, I went with the quarq power meter, Garmin edge 500, and s-bend aerobars. I'm incredibly happy with the bike and I'm looking forward to putting it to the test this spring and summer.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Less Is More

It goes without saying that a lot of us in North American society are brought up with the idea that if you want better results you need to do more to get them. This is true in most cases, if you want to be a better runner- run more, better swimmer- swim more, make more money- work more. I think with the type A triathlete mindset we sometimes get caught in a trap of working too hard, or doing too much to try to attain more of something. One of the great things about competition is that you are able to gauge your performances against those of your peers or previous results. However one of the biggest dangers of doing that is thinking that your bad performance on a certain day or race was the result of not doing enough. There are so many variables that go into a race day result that looking back and critiquing your result harshly does nothing to improve your long term performance.

I'm reminded of some of the best coaches in the world and how they handle a bad performance- the good ones don't yell and scream at their athletes about doing this wrong and that incorrect, they make their athlete feel like it was just a bad day and they are going to come back stronger next time. As athletes we all do enough berating of our own egos after a bad performance, we don't need someone else doing it to us as well. A good coach will make their athlete feel strong and confident going into the event and insure that their mental focus is strong and unwavering. So much of being an athlete comes from the self discipline and focus off the race course as well as on, that's probably what attracts me to athletics in the first place and to see someone pull out an incredible result after all the discipline and sacrifice is really satisfying.

So why am I saying 'less is more' because I know and I see a lot of triathletes try to do more training, more racing to get better results. At a certain point in your life the tide will turn and you will realize that physically you simply cannot do any more, but mentally you can achieve results beyond anything you thought was possible. Being mentally focused and prepared for a race is more important than being physically ready, if you are calm, focused, determined, relaxed and confident you will achieve results beyond anything you even thought you were capable of. Go into training with determination and focus but try not to drive yourself into the ground, leave the workout feeling more confident and stronger than when you went in and you will get results.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Life Without Triathlon

It's interesting to think about what your life would look like if it took a slightly different direction. What would I be doing right now if I had different parents, what if they didn't encourage me to be an active, healthy, sports playing boy? What if I had been addicted to video games like a lot of young people today? I remember being a kid and walking through my neighbourhood and the streets were filled with kids playing street hockey, riding their bikes, and playing with each other. These days I go through the community and the streets are empty, everyone holed up in their homes trying to avoid their neighbours. It seems like paranoia and fear have gripped parents today and they feel like getting your kids to play outside is like throwing them into a pack of wolves. Don't get me wrong, I'm no expert when it comes to parenting but it seems like one of the basic principals of being a parent is not being followed today- to raise a healthy, independent, adventurous child who is prepared to take on the world with confidence and drive.

I had a little peek into how I would look if my parents didn't allow me the freedom I desired as a kid. I just hope that when my turn comes to raise a child I have the foresight and knowledge to let a kid be a kid and maybe they will love being healthy and active as much as I do. Don't laugh too hard but this is what I would look like if I didn't do triathlon (my wife can confirm that yes I am a food addict).

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Saturday Hill Climb

This past Saturday was the second race in our Speed Revolution race series and unlike 3 weeks ago this one was absolutely brutal. I told everyone before we started to make sure they pace themselves and don't blow up until they are in the final 2 miles. The race was 1 mile at 2%, 1 mile at 4%, 1 mile at 6%, 1 mile at 4%, and the final mile at 2%. It really felt good when I got to that final mile but that's when I was pushing the pace so I was hurting anyway. I was only a couple minutes slower than the last race (which was a constant 2%) so I called it a victory. I made sure I didn't kill myself in training leading up to it so I think that helped a lot. Far too often I'll go into a tough session like this having done too much during the week and really suffer but I made sure I was pacing myself properly during the first 3 miles and I had some juice to crank it up to 10-11mph during the last mile.

It may seem like it's a little too early to be doing these efforts for some athletes and that may be the case for you. However I can't emphasize enough how sessions like this just take my running to a completely different level. I have to be careful and make sure they are spread out over a few weeks but when you are running that hard for a short amount of time it just seems to push your threshold to an entirely new level. I already feel better during the second race compared to the first. I still need an afternoon nap and a good meal afterwards but that's to be expected when you're running all-out for 5 miles. I'm already looking forward to the third race of the series and to watch how much they are going to benefit everyone who's doing them. The first race we had 12 people and last week we had 10, I'm amazed to see some people hold 190+ heart rates! If you're going to do efforts like this make sure you have a couple easy days leading up to it and take a good few days to recover but they will help jump start anyone's running. Happy training!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Be Like the Water

I think a lot of times in life you can find yourself constantly struggling to overcome, breakthrough, or tear down all the obstacles that face you on a daily basis. The more I observe people who are successful in training, racing, work, and life are the people who don't have that "win at all costs" personality. There is something to be said about good healthy competition and how it forces you to strive to achieve a level within yourself that you never believed was possible but the more I watch and learn from those who accomplish their goals the more I realize how much they behave like the water.

It's a bit complicated to explain but imagine you are a stone at the top of a mountain, you are strong, solid, unyielding, and are willing to break anything in your path to get to your goal. Now lets say your goal is to get to the bottom of the mountain, you start rolling and you are crushing everything in your path; smaller rocks and stones, trees, roots, branches, streams whatever is in your way you can get through. However eventually you hit a stone even larger than you are and it stops you dead in your tracks. You fight and hammer and pound against the solid stone but it's useless there is no force great enough that you can create to get through this wall. Now imagine you are a stream of water and your goal is to get to the bottom of the mountain, you move and snake through the same trees, rocks, stones, and even other streams. When you get to the stone you follow the edge until you find the easiest way around it and eventually find your way to the bottom of the mountain.

The people that I find that are successful in what they do are not the type of people who bully, push, and force they're way to success. They are the type of people who are the most adaptable and fluid in their actions and behaviors. I admit that I am a bit of a fan of Ultimate fighting and when I see a fighter that is extremely strong and powerful and forces his way through everyone in front of him it is extremely impressive! However eventually those fighters will meet someone who is even more powerful, more strong, and more capable then they are. When that happens they fold and their confidence is lost. It's the fighters that move like the water, the one's that are difficult to hit and absorb any punches and kicks that are thrown at them that are successful. They understand that the fight is not about overpowering your opponent it's about doing damage while not getting damaged.

I look at a long term training plan in the same way, when I first started training for triathlon I had the mindset that more training, more intensity, and more racing was going to make me faster, stronger and allow me to become better. At first it worked and I started to think that this is the key! But I had to be willing to change my approach as my fitness changed and at first I was resistant to it. I just thought if I do more of X I'll get the result Y, but the body doesn't behave like that. The body breaks down and time and recovery are what help it become a better engine. Slowly I started to realize that over the weeks, months and years of training I was training my body and mind to take on massive training sessions but eventually I will hit a stone bigger than I was and I had to be willing to change what I was doing to still be successful. I have to thank Amber for helping me realize that the key to longevity in our sport is not having the ability to do more but to be able to adapt and change what you are doing and to fully recover. She's helped me enormously in the aspect of nutrition, the one area I am weak on, and it's equated to better training sessions and quicker recovery.

Everyone has their challenges in life and my advice to you is to simply face the challenge like the water, the more you absorb, adapt, change, and move with it, the more successful you'll be.