Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Marathon race report 2016

To sum up this year's Honolulu Marathon result: The first half went as planned, the second half, not so much.  This was one of those days when Plan A fell apart and left me searching for a way to salvage the day. In that regard I feel I did rather well.

Back in August I wrote about muscle fatigue, how this was the one thing more than any other factor that limits my success. This race confirms what I said then. To be positive I will say that I see some improvement.

Let's put up some hard numbers. Later I will dive into the fuzzy stuff.

PlanActual1st half2nd half
Avg Pace17:2818:2517:2919:18
Avg HR130128140117
Avg HR Zone2.
Intensity Factor0.750.740.780.71

The number everyone looks at first is overall duration, and here I totally missed my goal. However, if we look closer at these numbers some interesting things are revealed.

To help in understanding the raw numbers I have included some data charts from Training Peaks, beginning with all Garmin data over time (click chart to enlarge). The horizontal scale is time but I added a vertical line at 13.1 miles, and a horizontal line at heart rate 130BPM. I also marked three places; more below.

Red - Heart Rate
Yellow - Cadence
Green - Pace
Blue - Temperature
Gray - Elevation

My planned average pace was 17:28 min/mi. but I hoped to do a little better than that. To hit that pace I would have to do the flat portions a bit faster to compensate for the hills. I arrived at this pace by studying my runs from the last couple of months, working around the times I was injured. My typical long run pace was down around 18:00 with a goal of keeping my heart rate below 130. Typically my heart rate would slowly climb to around 135 as I warmed up, then after about twenty minutes my technique would smooth out and I could bring my heart rate down to 125-128. My goal for these runs was to spend several hours running without being a basket case for the rest of the week, and I achieved that. My race plan was to run faster than those long runs, to be that basket case at the finish line, so I targeted an average heart rate of 130 but would allow it to go a little higher in order to make my pace.

One of the many good things about this race was that my legs felt great right from the start. Chalk that up to a good taper and the mile walk to the start. Five minutes from the start I was at the pace and heart rate I targeted, and felt fantastic. People all around me were flying past, as if this was a 10K, but I held to my plan. I did have to dodge a lot of people who started in front of me but were already going slow. It takes a few miles to begin to sort out.

After five minutes I saw something all too familiar. I was running at a pace and effort that should produce a heart rate of 130, but I was at 140. I knew I had to hold back a little, but I expected that number to ease back down by mile 2. You can see several drops in pace (green) and cadence (yellow) where I walked the aide stations. I purposely walked up Nuuanu to save energy and get a picture of Santa in front of Murphy's Bar and Grill. I happened see run into some old friends there, too.  But there are a couple of spikes in the data -- one has me running at 6:40 min/mi pace! -- which I attribute to GPS errors caused by the highrise buildings downtown.

What I want to do now is step back and point out the general flow of the first half. I followed my plan, walking the steep hills, running comfortably hard, all the while feeling great. My average pace was spot-on, just 1/100th second per mile slower than plan, and that included the long walk up Diamond Head and again on the north side up to 18th Ave.

This is where I had my first big disappointment. No Batman. Every year there has been a guy on Kilauea Ave. in a fantastic Batman costume in a cheerleader/photo-op role. I even stopped to ask some neighbors. They missed him, too. Hope he is OK. Another thing I missed was the lady playing Christmas songs on accordion, around mile 18. She was there, with a sign that said her accordion was broken.

I was not watching cadence, letting that go to whatever felt comfortable. I did work on increasing my cadence a lot this year, and it paid off. I used to be comfortable around 68, and 75 felt impossible to sustain. Here I am cruising at a very steady 75, nice and smooth and relaxed. Those Chi Running drills worked!

The one thing that was not going as planned was heart rate. It remained stubbornly above 130, a fairly steady 140 with peaks to 147 on the two climbs front and back of Diamond Head. Yes, I planned to burn a match on those, so no surprise there. It was the sustained 140 that stands out. At the time I thought it was just what needed to be done to hit my goal.

I was beginning to feel some real fatigue as I looked for the 13.1 mile flag. I never saw one but I stopped just after my Garmin Fenix 2 registered 13.1, in order to text my split to Pattie. It was here that my legs decided they had had enough. At the points numbered one, two, and three you can see me struggling to keep running, giving myself first a short walk then at two a longer recovery walk. It did not help. Even running at an 18:30 pace drove my heart rate too high and my legs just would not keep going.

At the time I did not feel like heat was a factor, but looking at the blue temperature line on the chart I see where that might of been a factor. There are points in the second half where the on-course temperature hit 97F!

I know there are people who cut the course. It seems easy, the returning runners are right there. But that never occurred to me. My options were to abandon the race and walk back, or walk instead of run. I decided to keep going, and am glad I did.

I never practice speed walking but I did learn from Chi Running that the form is almost the same. Arms up same as running, some hip swing, easy relaxed recovery and foot plant. After a mile or two I was averaging a 19:30 pace. I whipped out my race calculator app and calculated a finish time three hours from then. I wanted to let Pattie know to hang out and not expect me anywhere near my planned finish time.

As the mikes passed I noticed several things. I was getting faster, often making 18:00 min/mi, the same speed had I slowed down my run. I was passing a lot of people. By that point in the day everyone around me was walking. But I was feeling good, going hard, and passing runners who looked like the walking dead, not to mention hundreds lining the side of the road, shoes off. Finally, by mile twenty, my legs had that exhausted feeling they always do around then. There were times when I thought I might never make it to the finish, but I kept going and my body, complaining as it was, kept working.

So much about my preparation went well. I ran out of Perpetuem as planned just past the Aloha station (mile 23) and finished on just water and one serving of Gatorade. I took a Hammer Endurolyte tablet at every aid station. Not even a hint of cramping, in spite of the extreme fatigue in my legs. No blisters, no sore toenails. Only a slightly sore lower back -- I used to run with my head hanging down which resulted in severe back ache after long runs. I have much better posture now.

There will always be races where things do not go according to plan. I think I did a good job of salvaging this race, making the best out of it I could. In the coming year I will focus even harder on increasing muscular endurance, to bring my pace up and maintain it to the finish line.

After race Pattie and I treated ourselves to a caffeine break at Starbucks -- I had a Mocha Frappuccino -- and later an early dinner at Eggs n'Things. Banana macadamia pancakes with a mountain of whipped cream. No upset stomach this year.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Marathon race plan 2016

The 2016 Honolulu Marathon is upon us, time to make a race plan. This year my training plan was very straight-forward. I did a 16 week plan starting in August just after Tinman. I had to double up to get in some bike miles in preparation for the Honolulu Century Ride in September, but after that it was all about running.

During the year I got a bit deeper into Chi Running. I even bought and read the book. Happily I had already adopted most of the form elements through the Newton style running. What I got from Chi Running was more attention to balance, less effort, and more relaxation. The result was, at least in how I felt, a faster cadence and pace at a lower effort.

Another thing I did that helped was to join Jason Fitzgerald's Strength Running team. At this level there is still no one-on-one coaching, but there is a great on-line discussion group and monthly webinar coach's meetings where we can ask questions. I got a lot out of it; glad I joined.

I have been very fortunate in avoiding training injuries. Or being sick, for that matter. I can't recall the last time I crashed on my bike. I recall a few mishaps running barefoot on the sand, but nothing that held be back. This fall my luck ran out. I did something that upset my right ankle, enough to severely curtail my run mileage mid-way through the training plan. It has improved, but there are days when I still feel a lingering pain. Like a noisy neighbor, you learn to live with it.

Just as the ankle came back I had another setback. Not really a training injury. A dead tooth. But, I offer the argument that a heavy training load compromises the immune system, and what kills a tooth is a bacterial infection. It turned out that the tooth was cracked, which provided a pathway for bacteria and nutrients to get down into the roots, and I cannot blame the crack on training. Whatever the cause, I was at first incapable of running, but even after the infection went down I decided hard training was a bad idea because my body needed to fight the infection. The result was that I had to drop back on my long run distance and ramp up again, so I never made it to 20 miles. The good news is that the long distances I could do finally felt good.

Last year I did a 5/1 run/walk. It worked, but this year I decided to go straight run. Which really means walk the steeper hills, walk the aid stations, and try to keep running as much as possible. Given my bumpy training all I can say is, we'll see.

I have the nutrition thing down pretty well. I carry a two flask Fuelbelt, with both flasks carrying concentrated Hammer Perpetuem. Given my planned duration I should have four scoops per flask, but I find that concentration hard to take in, and since I am comfortable with a three scoop flask I will go with that. Since I am not carrying water I can only take on fuel at the aid stations. I did all my short runs without any fuel, just a bit of water at the parks, and did fine.

Just to be clear, a normal concentration would be 1 scoop per 16 oz. bottle. I will be putting 3 scoops in 6 oz. of water, times two flasks. This is approaching the concentration of a gel. I take in about  1 oz. every 30 minutes, along with four to eight oz. of water from the aid station. Perpetuem is not high in electrolytes, so I usually take 1 or 2 Endurolyte tabs per hour.

On all of my recent long runs I was comfortable at a 17:30 pace. Still slow, but different from previous years in that I am holding that pace at a much lower effort, at the lower end of heart rate zone 2. I know I can run faster. 16:30 is doable. Even 15:30, which gets me just into zone 3, good for half marathon but too high for a marathon, for me anyway. The big unknown is how well I can sustain that 16:30. So, my plan is to hold back until we come down off the Diamond Head hills, past the Aloha gas station and the gradual uphill after that. Where the course starts a long gradual downhill around Aina Koa is where I will test my form by let my legs rev up a bit. I have to remind myself that on the way back that same long climb up to the Aloha gas station is a leg breaker. Go too fast early and end up walking all the way from Waialae Iki park past Kalani High School.

If I can maintain a 17:30 overall I should finish in 7:40. Last year I did 7:37, so of course I will try to beat that! My PR is 17:25:41 back in 2014. To beat that I need to get under 17:00. I did last year, until that climb up to the Aloha station where I fell apart.

One thing I keep telling myself is that those 17:30 pace long runs were done slow on purpose, so that I could continue training during the week. Sunday is race day. Nothing to do in the afternoon, nothing to do for many days. Don't hold back. A little pain and suffering is to be expected. At the same time, do not run so hard that my calves cramp up solid. Start easy, then go hard in the second half with whatever is left in the tank. Back off a little around Wailpe to rest the legs for the climb up to the Aloha station, expect to suffer there, then go as fast as possible down Kealaolu and Kahala Ave. Hang on going up Diamond Head, then run it out to the finish.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Event plans 2017

2016 is not quite over, yet it is time to start thinking about next year. At this time last year my goals were clear: do whatever I could to succeed at Ironman 70.3 Hawaii, a.k.a. "Honu." Even though my result was a DNF I had a great time preparing for the race, and definitely want to do it again. When? I doubt that I can improve enough to warrant the time and expense of another attempt in 2017. Besides, there are a lot of things I have not done, and I think I can use them to work on the improvements I need for success in long course triathlon. Better to work hard and plan a return to the Big Island in 2018.

As my 2017 plans began to coalesce I realized that I might improve more by focusing on one skill at a time. One of the challenges of triathlon is the need to divide ones time between three activities, swimming, cycling, and running. Oops, I left out sleeping. Well, that goes with any sport. Oh, and eating. Did I leave out anything? Beer?

Seriously, when I hang out with swimmers I hear about the daily trip to the pool. Same for runners; how can you consider yourself a serious runner and not run twice a day, every day? Anyone serious about cycling only gets off the bike to sleep.

One complaint I often heard from my fellow age group triathletes is that they admire professionals because training is all they do. Working out is their work. The truth is, even with nothing else to take your time there are limits to how much training your body can absorb. The average body will soon break down trying to do everything completely all the time. Someone once said that one characteristic of elites is their ability to train more without breaking down. That is something you are born with. The rest of us need to make the best with what we have.

Now let's delve into a less well studied area: learning and retention -- whatever it is that happens when we do a workout. When I say "learning" I do not mean memorizing a bunch of facts. I mean practicing a skill until you get really good at it. Increased strength and endurance are natural byproducts of mindful practice. All sports require that the body learn skills that are not inherently easy. Practice makes perfect. Better still, regular, consistent practice makes perfect. It is intuitively obvious that too much time between practice sessions results in very slow progress. The longer the gap between sessions, the more the body has to do over. Again it should be intuitively obvious that learning new skills becomes harder with age. A twelve year old can make enormous progress after studying piano for just one year, whereas someone over 50 who never studied piano will struggle to learn Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Where am I going with this? When I began to sketch out my year I spotted some trends, and decided to home in on them, the trends being the emphasis on one particular activity for a time. This focus is not exclusive. To have any hope of being good at triathlon means I have to keep up all three activities, swimming, cycling, and running. My thinking for this year is that by focusing on one for a time I will make a lot of improvement in that activity. After that the trick will be to stay active enough to retain the skills learned.

The chart below (click to enlarge) shows the focus by activity in terms of color saturation. The brighter the color, the greater the focus. The chart begins with this year's build to the Honolulu Marathon, thus the bright green. In January the focus shifts to the bike, at first climbing, then the red turns orange to highlight road race skills.

My "A" races will be the Hapalua Half Marathon in April, Cycle to the Sun in June, the Dick Evans Memorial Bike Race in August, and the Waikiki Rough Water Swim in early September. Finishing out the year, if I have any energy left, another Honolulu Marathon. I have neer done the CTTS, the DEMRR, or the WRWS. Bucket List!

For my "B" races I will do the tried and true triathlons and the North Shore swim series. I will not list the schedule here because I do not have confirmed dates for all of them.

In January 2018 things get back to normal with the start of the Honu base period. Hopefully the abilities developed during the previous twelve months will carry through the spring and bring me to the finish line.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Honolulu Century Ride 2016

My triathlon season ended with the Tinman, but I did not want to shutdown entirely at that time. Instead, I decided to focus primarily on the Honolulu Marathon in December, and do the Honolulu Century Ride with as much training as I could fit in without jeopardizing my marathon training.

A few years ago I tried a hybrid approach, moving some of the long run time to the bike. The result was disappointing. Yes, long rides do contribute to aerobic efficiency and endurance, but not enough to muscular endurance. A marathon requires muscles, tendons and bones be developed to a high degree, and the only way to do that is to run. The workouts that are most important to the marathon are the long runs, done over many, many weeks, gradually building to 18 or 20 miles roughly three weeks from the race. Shifting those miles to the bike will have a negative impact on muscular endurance.

Between the Tinman and the Century Ride my weekends consisted of a long run on Saturday and a long bike on Sunday. I was building on a strong base, especially with all the work I put in preparing for Ironman 70.3 Hawaii, so it was simply a matter of doing a build to be ready to do 100 miles at a moderate pace.

On the first of these long rides I was going too hard. My notes remind me that I stopped about every ten miles and was exhausted at the finish. That reminded me of what many coaches have said, that the long run and long bike must be done at low intensity in order to train the body to burn fuel efficiently. A long training ride should not leave you totally depleted. Go too hard too long and your life outside training will suffer, and your workouts over the following days will be have to be drastically curtailed. Oh, and by the way, the older we get the more critical it is to get the intensity right.

My goal for the Century Ride was to do it at an average of zone 2, a lot like the bike segment of a full Ironman, and stay strong all day. No cramping, no wheels falling off. No limping back through Kahala, no crawling over Diamond Head. That first workout was already up in zone 2 and it nearly killed me, so I knew I had to really hold back and build up to it. I am pleased to say my plan worked.


The table above shows four of my build rides and the century ride. NP = normalized power, a calculated value similar to average power that represents the effort in watts for an equivalent ride done at a constant effort. NP is considered more useful for doing comparisons than average power. IF = intensity factor, where 1.0 is maximum sustainable one hour effort, also known as threshold, or lactate threshold. Longer events demand an IF well below 1. My Century Ride IF is a bit lower that I would have liked, but not too bad.

What this data shows is that after my initial over-cooked effort I pulled back and built back up to where I could go all day at an intensity that nearly killed me after 30 miles. Those long and slow rides really paid off.

As the ride got started I saw something similar to the start of the bike segment at Honu. My heart rate was through the roof. At Honu I had the swim to blame, but here it was all adrenaline. Normally my heart rate zone tracks closely with my power zone, although of course the power number dances up and down like a butterfly while the heart rate lags slowly behind, but from the start all the way to Kailua the two were split by at least one zone, as much as two at first. It looks really strange to be rolling slowing up Monsarrat at five miles an hour and see your heart rate in zone 4. All I could do was wait for it to settle down. A good reason why a power meter is so useful.

When a ride can be done at a steady, constant effort, NP and average power we be equal. The more variation in effort, the greater the difference. Another useful calculated data point is VI, Variability Index. A VI of 1.0 means NP = average power, regardless of what the power level was. Triathletes on a flat course strive for a VI as close to 1.0 as possible. The typical bunch start bike race demands considerable variation in effort, so expect to see a higher VI.

I extracted some data from each of the eight stages of the Century Ride:



1 - Start to Sandy121853970.711.42
2 - Sandy to Kailua113924610.671.23
3 - Kailua to Kaneohe103802820.611.29
4 - Kaneohe to Swanzy95831970.561.14
5 - Swanzy to Kaneohe93813740.561.15
6 - Kaneohe to Kailua99692730.591.43
7 - Kailua to Hawaii Kai101763420.601.33
8 - Hawaii Kai to Finish91693620.541.32


After we got settled down out on the highway I noticed that I felt good at power level 1.9, allowing it to rise up into the mid zone 2 for maneuvering or small climbs, higher for more pronounced climbs. My zone 1.9 works out to be around 88 watts. As you can see, the average power for most of the ride fell in right around that level. NP is a different story. NP was high during that first stage, and VI confirms it. After stage 1 things settled down a bit, but there was still a lot of variation. This is understandable given the crowded roads and variable terrain. Towards the end I could feel my quads complaining whenever I let my power drift too far into zone 2 for any length of time.

Take a look at stages 4 and 5, the same segment going in opposite directions. The data are identical except for a small increase in maximum power on the return, probably nothing more than pulling away from the aide station. This reveals that there was no wind out there; the speed and duration numbers confirm this.

The charts below show that I achieved my goal of riding on average in zone 2, with a nice, even distribution of effort. That I spent more time in power zone 1 (purple charts) is a reflection of the variability, and that my cruise power target was just slightly below zone 2.

The really good thing about this ride is that for the first time in a long time I was not a wreck towards the end. I was happy it was over, but I still had plenty left to ride home. The muscular endurance was there.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Working on muscle fatigue

The Tinman Triathlon closed out the serious part of my race season for this year, leaving the Honolulu Century Ride and the Honolulu Marathon to close out the year. Prior to Honu I was undecided about doing the marathon. The thought of another long training sequence was not very appealing. I guess I got bored during the long taper to Tinman, made a week longer by tropical storm Darby, as that is when I decided to get serious about the marathon, joined Jason Fitzgerald's Strength Running group and began planing my fall workout schedule.

After Tinman I thought about what my challenges had been. What happened that failed to meet my expectations? What seemed to be keeping me from going faster? This is not a question without merit, in that I routinely finish near last place. If those other athletes are going so much faster, what do I need to do to be more like them?

For any athlete who asks that question -- are there any who don't? -- the first thing they will probably turn to is physique. The assumption that those other guys are faster because they are gifted. They have bigger lungs. Longer legs. Longer arms. Shorter legs. Smaller bodies. They are taller. Shorter. Thinner. Ripped.

It seems to me that there are certain physical features that contribute to success in certain events, but this only applies to a handful of people. Besides, there isn't much I can do about the length of my legs. What I can do, and work hard at, is to develop my form to the best of my ability, to learn how to arrange my body parts to make the most of what I have.

After we accept out body as perfectly suited to the task at hand we come to skill. Technique. I can't do anything about the length of my legs, but I can learn to move them in ways that allow me to perform better. Skill comes in two parts, knowledge and practice. I happen to love the knowledge part. I really enjoy studying technique, be it from books, videos, or conversations with experts. The practice part is not as much fun, but I am as consistent and conscientious as anyone. One thing is always true about technique: you can never stop working to improve. Especially swimming. The difference between a slow swimmer and a fast swimmer is for the most part a bunch of very small deviations from ideal form.

For endurance athletes -- for me at least -- the thing that comes right after skill is muscular endurance. However good our skill is, we need to repeat the muscle contractions that create that movement over and over again. What I notice is that towards the end of a long event my muscles start to complain a lot. I try to take inspiration from cyclist Jens Voigt's famous line, "Shut up, legs!" but that is never enough to keep me going. I first learned that "muscular endurance" was a thing because it is listed as a limiter on Training Peaks. Joe Friel goes into more detail in his books, such as "The Triathlete's Training Bible,"Chapter 6, "Training Advanced Abilities."

At last year's marathon I slowed considerably, walking a lot after mile 18. I was at my target pace until then, but missed my plan by a wide margin. At Honu I was exhausted after the swim and genuinely surprised how little power I could produce on the bike. At Tinman I had planned to run the entire 10K, in spite of the hills, but even before I got to Monsarrat I had to walk just to keep moving -- my legs felt like lead. I decided that I needed to focus on muscular endurance.

After deciding to look deeper into the subject of muscular endurance I found that, as so often is the case, there are multiple and sometimes conflicting views of what it is and how to improve. The "what it is" part can be divided into two camps. One, the older group, say it is physiological. Here is an example of one such description. I do enjoy the details.

How to Offset Muscle Fatigue.  Runner's World, October 8, 2009.

Joe Friel's discussion is similar, though less detailed. "A high level of muscular endurance results from adaptation of the mechanical properties of the muscles to resist fatigue, an elevated LT (lactate threshold -- gd) and tolerance of lactate that slowly accumulates at such intensities."

The other camp, of more recent vintage, claim that the physiological explanation is wrong, that the real limiter is the mind. Here are two articles that take this position:

Perception of effort, not muscle fatigue, limits endurance performance., March 19,2010.

Why Endurance Athletes Should Re-Think Fatigue. Bicycle Lab.

 I have decided to blend these two points of view together. I think it is obvious that an increase in muscular endurance cannot be achieved without physical training, and even if the mind-over-matter theory sounds a bit far out, it cannot hurt to include it in one's mental fitness training.

This does not mean the matter is resolved. Not at all. The next question is, what to do during workouts to increase muscular endurance. And, once again, I find differing opinions from people I have the utmost respect for.

There is one thing everyone agrees on. A good way to improve muscular endurance is do long intervals at or just below LTHR, either running or on the bike. Runners are likely to call this a tempo run. There appears to be a lot of flexibility in how long to make the work interval, but one thing they all have in common is a relatively long work interval and a short recovery. Apparently doing this very much above your LTHR does not produce the desired response, as you are actually stressing your anaerobic system, with the likely outcome of an extended recovery period -- several days before another quality workout can be attempted.

I decided to get started with something simple, done on the bike until the century ride at the end of September, then switching over to the run until the marathon in December

Bike: 3 x 12 min at 90% FTP, 2:30 recovery

Run: 3 x 12 min at 95% LTHR, 2:30 recovery

I figured that if I made significant improvement I could increase the working duration, something like this:

2 x 20 min at 95% LTHR, 2:30 recovery

LTHR is right at the start of zone 5. A lot of sources describe doing tempo runs at HR zone 3. For me, 90% LTHR comes in at low zone 3, 95% at very top of zone 3. The bike version is based on using a power meter, just figure that heart rate at FTP is LTHR. Same physiologic condition expressed a different way.

Now that I know what to do, the next step is, when and how often. To answer the second question first, at my age I only have room for one long run per week and one quality run per week. All the more so because I am still training as a triathlete even though my next goal race is a marathon. I had considered adding these to my calendar, making for two quality runs per week. The only available slot was Friday morning, the day before my long run. Jason Fitzgerald recommended against this plan, and I agree. So my weekly run schedule goes something like this:

Mon. Base run, 3 mi.
Wed. Quality run
Sat. Long run, 12-18 miles

I think hill repeats are another excellent workout, too good to ignore, and I am fortunate to live near a perfect hill for run and bike intervals. I plan to alternate hill work with track work, hills more for power and the track more for muscular endurance.

One more thing. As marathon training proceeds, the long run should finish at race pace. In Build 1 the long run should be done entirely at no higher than mid zone 2, with considerable time at the start in zone 1. It is during Build 2, the last three to four weeks before peak that the long run pace should be pushed for the last couple miles, to get the body and mind conditioned to running at that pace even while fatigued. Based on the articles mentioned above, this is as much about the mind as it is the muscles.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Tinman race report

This year's Honolulu Tinman Triathlon was a great race for me. The swim was especially good. The bike was fine. I thought I fell apart on the run but somehow managed to come close to my estimate. Quite different from Honu, and last year's Honolulu Marathon. Plenty of take-aways, the biggest being how to deal with muscle fatigue.

As always I came up with my estimates by writing down a bunch of different times, putting them in a bag, giving it a good shake, then setting it aside and looking back over my recent Training Peaks data. Tinman is like the Honolulu Marathon (and Hapalua) in that there is no cutoff time as there is in Ironman events, so for this race I did not even care about time. I did try to peek at my swim time as I ran up the beach, but since I can't even walk and chew gum at the same time I decided not to risk it. Once I hit the swim exit timing mat and pressed "Lap" on my Fenix 2 my swim time was lost to me, and there is no official clock anywhere near there that I know of. Just as well. For the bike the only numbers I cared about were power and heart rate; knowing my time would not help. On the run I was looking primarily at pace, with heart rate and cadence there on the same screen. So, during the race I had no idea what my time was. That is why I am so surprised by how close my estimates were.


The best thing about the swim was the complete absence of stress. I knew what to expect, I had my plan, and was ready to go. This time I did not hold back to let the others get out ahead, I took off as soon as I could and ignored the the thrashing going on all around me. Just as I figured it was not long until I was mostly alone. I did pass one struggling swimming who appeared to be doing a frog stroke; dog paddle arms and breast stroke kick. "Gee," I thought, "even I have better form than that." Maybe a frog is not the best label. They look funky but they can swim pretty fast. The wave behind mine began to catch me just as I got to the turn around, but only a few; no traffic jam at the turn. About twenty yards past the turn is when the pack got to me. Mostly I did not care, but there was one swimmer who insisted on getting just in front on to my left, swimming with considerable feet-down sag and constantly a threat of kicking me in the face. Finally I just pulled up, moved to the left, and got away from her. I felt as though had I held my spot I would have ended up over the reef along the shore, a place you really want to avoid.

I actually ran across the lawn to the bike coral. In the past I walked, the problem being vision. This time I just assumed the ground would still be there and hoped that the folks ahead had already found all of the ironwood seed cones. Who ordered the grass cut the day before the race? I spent an extra minute washing all the blades off before putting on my bike shoes. By the way, the Shimano TR9 shoes are incredibly comfortable and have held up well through lots of miles this season.

Speaking of apparel, I wore my IT&B kit and love it, same as for Honu. I have had problems with gloves. I have two pair of Giro Monaco gloves, one white, one black. Very comfortable. The white pair turned to stone after a run through the washing machine. I tried using hand moisturizer to soften them. Worked fine, but dissolved the tape holding on my tri bike's handlebar tape. The black pair remained soft but dyed my palms black. I know the rule about nothing new on race day, but even so I dropped by IT&B on Saturday and picked out a new pair of Pearl Izumi Elite gloves. Well, as I rode away from T1 I realized I had forgotten to put on gloves. The new gloves. No problem, rode fine without them. While packing up after the race I discovered I had not removed one of the tags, so I would have pulled a Minnie Pearl had I worn them. I did wear them Tuesday on the Tantalus Ride -- on my trusty Merlin road bike -- and the jury is still out. I like the synthetic textured fabric at the pads, but I don't like the way they feel on the drops. Could be that I have not ridden on the drops for many months.

Coming into T2 I felt ready to run. Complete opposite of Honu. I took off at a good pace, right where I wanted to be on the flat, around 14 min/mile. I had sworn an oath in blood to run the entire race, no walking, but by the time I turned right onto Paki I broke my vow and walked a bit. Going up Monsarrat was a walk/run. From 18th Ave on it was a mixed bag, but I did try to keep my walking pace as high as possible and I guess it paid off. When I did run I went faster than plan, and when I walked it was not as slow as in the past.

Even though I made my plan I feel the need to improve my ability to keep going hard for longer periods of time. We call these activities endurance sports, but the fact is, there are two distinct types of endurance. Aerobic endurance is about training the body to conserve glycogen and avoid running out of fuel. Muscular endurance is about training the body to endure repetitive muscle contractions, in particular getting rid of the byproducts of fuel burning that accumulate in muscle cells and inhibit performance. Aerobic endurance is improved with long workouts at low intensity. The kind of runs that we older athletes prefer to do. Muscular endurance is improved through Lactic Threshold workouts, usually long duration intervals at or near LTHR.

Going forward, my workout schedule is dominated by marathon training, with just enough swimming and cycling to keep me in the game. A typical week of runs looks like this:

Mon 3 mi base
Wed 4 mi, last mi @ tempo
Fri LT intervals, typ. 3 x 12 min at 95% LTHR, 2:30 recovery
Sat Long run
Sun Easy bike or run

My marathon prep long runs officially begin Aug 27, with a little sag for the Century Ride. My current long run mileage plan is 12, 12, bike test, 14, Century Ride, 12, 15, 15, 12, 16, 16, 14, 18, *, 13, race. 

Two weeks out , where I show an asterisk, I am trying something different. Thursday of that week is Thanksgiving. I plan to run 13 miles on Thursday and 13 miles on Saturday, a marathon split over two days. If nothing else that should burn off the turkey pounds.

I am going to be reading up on fatigue and sharing what I learn in future posts ... stay tuned.

Monday, July 25, 2016

A look back at power data

With the Tinman race being moved back a week to make room for Tropical Storm Darby I accepted an invitation from Ben Williams to check out his Computrainer set up at his new shop, Hawaii Triathlon Center. Very sweet, indeed. The task sort of simulated what we would have done for the race, only on a flat course and only thirty minutes. A thirty second time trial sounds deceptively easy. Without any let up by way of cornering or climbing or going downhill the legs just keep cranking out continuous power, something our bodies by nature dislike.

The first I saw reviewing my data was how my power level fell off. Actually it starts out a bit low, then shoots up, then falls. What happened there is that I began at an effort I planned to use cruising on the flat sections of the race course, then at Ben's urging changed to an all-out effort like that of a Lactate Threshold Heart Rate or CP30 test. After all, that is the definition of CP30, an all-out thirty minute time trial.

The second thing I noticed was how flat my heart rate was, once my power had settled down. Sure enough, I was grinding along at 140 BPM, exactly what my bike LTHR has been for at least a year. I was not paying attention to that number up on the display. I did notice I was hitting HR zone 5 on my Edge 800 head unit. My reaction to that was "Hey I am working pretty hard here." My attention was on the watts and cadence and trying to get both number higher. My legs refused to go faster for any length of time, and the HR line shows why. The body cannot sustain an effort above LTHR for very long. The more you do, the more it will cost a bit later.

Having gotten this far I decided to compare these numbers with some other recent data, with an eye on Honu. This turned up something quite revealing. My perceived effort at Honu was that I could not produce the power I needed. I felt like I was working really hard, but my speed and power numbers were well below plan. Take a look at this table and take note of the Honu numbers.

5/15Honolulu Tri133115691.0281
5/8Ford Island TT133161971.0357

For each event I selected a section from the entire event.that represented a similar effort. For the Computrainer workout that was the middle, thirty minute time time minus the thirty minute warm up and cool down. For the Tantalus climb it begins just after the first turn and goes almost to the top, to where the pitch flattens out. For Honu it is from Kawaihae (sea level) to the top of the Hawi climb. This year's Honolulu Triathlon was flat and my goal was to ride it at 85% FTP, as practice for Honu. I missed that goal, probably because I never let my power go above 85 but it did drift below quite a bit. On Ford Island I had to stop in the middle for flag raising, so I used the second half.

Two things jump out at me. First, I could only average 96 watts on the Honu climb, and that was at a heart rate higher than plan. Yes, that is how I felt, unable to produce the power I knew I was capable of. Second, I do much better climbing at a low cadence than going fast on a flat road. On the Computrainer I should have been up at 166 watts, my FTP, since I was at my LTHR. Only hitting 134 tells me my legs need to be conditioned to produce power at high cadence.

Back in January I measured my FTP at 161. As you can see, the May test had it at 161, but right after that Training Peaks bumped it to 164, and two weeks ago it bumped me up again to 166. I suspect that those increases come mostly from the Tantalus rides.

One more thing. That column labeled "VI." That stands for variability index, a computed value that shows how much the entries in a data set vary. The set 140, 140, 139, 140 will have a VI near 1.0, while a set like 140, 135, 145, 140 will have a similar average but a higher VI. All of my VI numbers are good except for Honu. To me that suggests how much I was struggling trying to go faster.

I am curious to see my Tinman numbers.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Tinman race plan

As anyone who has been following this blog knows, my big goal for 2016 was the Honu 70.3. Coming as it did in June that leaves about half a year with nothing to do. When Tinman sign-up opened I decided to put my conditioning to work one more time, but where Honu was serious stuff, Tinman is more about having a good time.

Based on my recent swim data I can expect a pace of 2:45/100yds. The course is 750 meters, about 820 yards, so that comes out to 22:30.

The bike is always a mystery because I never ride race distances at race pace. I used Best Bike Split to develop some models and came up with 1:39. Training Peaks just informed me my FTP has gone up again, this time only by two watts, but I am holding off changing my zones and stuff until after this race.

The run is as much of a mystery as the bike. Last Saturday I ran a 10K to get a better feel for the distance and sustained effort. Close to race effort but not nearly as hilly as the race course. Did it in 1:37. I was more interested in maintaining a high cadence than just going fast, will need to compromise a little there on Sunday. Let's just go with 1:40.

Here is how things stack up with my last two Tinman races:

201420152016 est

One thing we can see from this is how hard I have worked on my swim. For the bike and run I would like to improve, but it may just be that this is a fast as my body will go. Let's see what happens.

My fuel plan is pretty basic. The usual pre-race meal -- two pieces of toast with Nutella work well for me. On the bike I will carry a four scoop bottle of Perpetuem and two water bottles which I will swap at the turn around. I prefer to stop for that rather than risk a crash. I will get started on that coming out of T1 and as soon as I crest Diamond Head, to replace the calories I burned in the swim. At Honu I used Scratch Lab chews for this and they worked well, but for this distance an all liquid approach makes more sense. I will carry a Bonk Breaker, which I did use at Honu, but only as a backup plan in case I start to feel bonky, which did happen at Honu. I will take one Endurolytes tab every thirty minutes unless it is raining hard, which is a distinct possibility. For the run I will use my two bottle Fuelbelt, one two scoop bottle of Perpetuem and one water. I plan to have finished the Perpetuem as I climb Diamond Head on the return. I will also take Endurolytes as on the bike.

My goal for this race is to end my triathlon season with something fun. I am not going to worry much about pace and cadence and all that. Instead I want to perform well and be smiling at the finish line.