Friday, February 20, 2015

More on training by pace

Back in October I shared my idea to switch my marathon training metric focus from heart rate to pace. Since then I have found more support for this idea. Joe Friel himself makes an excellent case for this in the context of cycling, in his book, "The Power Meter Handbook." The problem is, nobody has a practical way to measure power while running, so heart rate is generally considered the next best metric. (Actually there is a company developing a waist mounted accelerometer that measures power while running. D.C. Rainmaker has tried a beta version.)

Ryan Riell has posted an interesting piece on the Training Peaks blog, "How to Train for an IRONMAN Marathon," and in it he makes a case for training by pace instead of heart rate. He does not throw out heart rate, rather he acknowledges the variability typical of heart rate and why that makes it a poor choice for monitoring performance. A better approach, he argues, is to establish pace zones that are analogous to heart rate zones and power zones. He points out that heart rate is an input metric, whereas power and pace are output metrics. Joe Friel compares training by heart rate with trying to manage the speed of a car by monitoring fuel consumption.

Riell suggests using recent marathon performance to establish three pace zones, then use that data to calculate three zones for Ironman pace. Clearly this approach is designed for top performing age groupers. He hints at this when he describes two example athletes, one who runs a marathon in 3:15 and another in 3:45. I for one would be thrilled to run a half marathon in that time.

It turns out that Riell's piece includes a hint about a method by Joe Friel for establishing pace zones. I searched around Training Peaks and found it. What a nice surprise. I like Friel's method because it relies on a 30 minute effort, something achievable by anybody bothering to fuss with this stuff. The same test I do regularly to set heart rate zones. If only Garmin had a display for these zones, like they do for heart rate and power. When I have some time I want to look back over my recent 30 minute time trials and see how my pace zones turn out.

I should point out that I am training for the Honu Half Ironman. Strictly speaking, my goal pace should be faster than the Ironman marathon pace. At my level, anything faster than walking is good. But it is nice to have goals.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Road ID app goes beyond bracelet

I started wearing a Road ID bracelet almost as soon as they came out. They had thoughtful ads on the Tour de France featuring a bunch of pro riders talking about crashes, so I got one. Later Pattie got one, too. Their quality is superb; I wear mine every day and I am only on my second bracelet. In fact, my first one is still functional, it just looks beat up.

The idea behind the Road ID is a small message with emergency contact information and a PIN number that emergency responders can use to look up whatever information I choose to place on my page at Road ID. Additional points of contact and medical stuff. I am not allergic to anything like penicillin, but it would help an ER staff to know if I was, or if I am taking blood thinners.

Recently Road ID came out with a smartphone app that complements their bracelet. It consists of two parts. First is a wallpaper maker that helps you to create a lock screen for your smartphone with contact information. Here is mine:

I chose to add the phrase about wearing a bracelet. Pattie took this pic with her phone, which you can see in the reflection. I obfuscated the phone numbers here, they are visible on my phone. Again, this is what you see when you turn on my phone.

The second part is a timer and movement detector. Once started, if I stop moving for more than a few minutes my phone will send a text message alert to whomever I configured -- in my case, Pattie. She can also see a map with my current location as given by my phone's GPS. My phone will do its best to warn me before sending the alert. Imagine how happy Pattie would be if she drove all the way to Hawaii Kai only to discover I had stopped off at Starbucks and forgot to turn off my tracker.

This is probably overkill for those morning runs where there are plenty of people around. It makes good sense on weekends, especially those long bike rides through the countryside. It might even work on an open water swim provided I place the phone in a zip-lock bag and put that inside my swim cap. On second thought, my phone is way too big for that. I know, stash the phone in a Kiefer SaferSwimmer.

I know that it might seem intrusive to the person left behind, but the peace of mind this app delivers is more than worth whatever disgruntlement is causes. And for those of you who cherish a long bike ride as a means to get away on your own for awhile, you really do not want to be all alone when your heart decides it doesn't want to work any more. Get yourself a Road ID, and the app.

Friday, February 6, 2015


For several weeks I have been unusually forgetful. I know am naturally inclined that way and have developed the usual countermeasures: routine and reminders. Those have worked well for years, but lately I have experienced a spike of forgetting stuff related to working out.

  • Two Wednesdays in a row I forgot to pack my HRM strap for spin class. Luckily Pattie loaned me hers.
  • This week I remembered my HRM strap, but forgot to pack my Garmin 800. No data.
  • One morning I got to the Oahu Club only to discover I forgot my towel. Luckily I always carry a TYR chamois and could dry off after my shower with that.
  • On a different morning I forgot to pack underwear. Must have been a Thursday, because I was wearing running shorts rather than a bathing suit. Had to wear those all day under my trousers. No comment.
  • Last Monday I was scheduled to swim after work. Got to work after Ben Williams' tri clinic to discover I had not packed the little swim bag with my goggles and caps.

I often get stuck in traffic. Besides longing for the Good Olde Days when I rode my bike to work, I use this time to ponder things. This morning I spent the time thinking about why I had become so forgetful. Here is my conclusion. It is my mind's natural attempt to save my life.

That is what our mind does, first and foremost; ensure our survival. When we are active we become fatigued. Sure you can talk till you are blue about oxygen depletion and lactate concentration, but in the end the feeling of fatigue that slows us down is our mind trying to save our skin.

Recently I have significantly upped my workout intensity. My Training Peaks PMC shows the purple TSS/d line way above the CTL and the TSB is as low as -20. In plain English I have been working hard and I should be feeling tired, and I do. The good kind. The kind of fatigue that feels like a reward. But my mind does not know about PMCs and TSBs. All it knows is that these workouts are killing me, so if I leave something I need at home I will skip the workout.

Thanks, mind. Maybe I do need to pull back a little. If there is anything certain about all this data, it is that how hard to train is much more art than science.