Day 43 – Like Will Rogers

131 days until IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga

Commentary

Long before I was born there was a guy named Will Rogers. If you’ve never heard of him, go look up his name. He is one of the most beloved men of his time and one of the most influential figures in my life (the other is my father). In the 1920’s Will Rogers had a syndicated newspaper column titled, “Will Rogers Remarks.” He just rambled on about things happening in his life, politics and society.

Will Rogers was, among many other things, a nationally known radio personality.

I’m no Will Rogers, but these blog posts have been a bit like his newspaper columns: rambling. From now on, the posts will be divided into two sections: Commentary and Workout Summary. If you like commentary, then I don’t have to tell you which section is for you. On the other hand, if you like numbers and data, you might be interested in the workout summaries. On the third hand, if you like both… welcome home.

Someday I’ll write more about why I look up to the man who was known as the Cowboy Philosopher and The Unofficial Ambassador of Good Will.

Workout Summary

Workout #1 – Bike

The following diagram will give you an idea of the intervals planned for this workout.

Graphical profile of workout plan

Normally, I would post a plot of my watts superimposed over the workout plan, but Xena, the bike with the power meter, is getting some love from Mitch, the bike shop mechanic this week. (Charlie was busy). Instead, I rode Red, the road bike without a power meter.

workout summary

So the only thing I had to record was heart rate. The TSS numbers in this table are based on a 166bpm threshold. If TSS and threshold are unfamiliar to you, suffice it to say that they are popular measures of workout intensity. In fact, the next chart may totally lose you.

The performance management chart is a confusing mess if you’re not used to it. The blue line is my level of fitness. You can see that as my fitness increases, so does my level of fatigue (pink line). The yellow line is indicative of my “form” which is the balance between the fitness and fatigue. On race day, I want a high fitness and a high form. Training increases fatigue which leads to increases in fitness and decreases in form. If I were to stop training today (2020-01-07), you can see the blue fitness line will stay level for about a week and the yellow form line will increase almost to 0 before fitness takes a dive. It’s a lot to take in.

performance management chart

This performance management chart has data starting in early December. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be any trends. If it interests you and you want to know more, I suggest reading Allan and Coggan’s book “Training and Racing with a Power Meter.” The thing to remember, however, is this TSS model is just a model. There are other models out there, but this is the one I pay attention to most of the time.

Workout #2 – Strength

Focused on glutes with bridges, side lunges, and body squats. Not much more to say on that.

Until tomorrow…

Day 42 – Last Day First Day

132 days until IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga

I will forever remember this day as a turning point my quest for triathlon greatness.

After 13 years of studying, training, racing, socializing and living like a triathlete, I am starting over. Perhaps I should call myself a “born again triathlete” or a “re-indoctrinated triathlete”. What’s different now? Now I have a goal and I have a plan.

The Goal

The big goal is to qualify for the big race on the big island of Hawaii: IRONMAN World Championship. This is no short term goal. In fact, it is a journey down a long highway with a destination so far away it can’t be seen. Yet it exists. I know it exists and I will be there. I’m not just saying this to be Mr. Positivity. Or am I? Time will tell.

The Plan

Plain and simple: discipline, focus, and small steps.

Discipline
Between the goal and the goal setter there are bound to be obstacles. It will take discipline to stay on the path to the goal. It will take discipline to foster the wisdom to know which obstacles should be moved and which should be avoided. Strict discipline will keep me on the highway or, if I stray, it will bring me back.
Focus
How much the goal is desired will determine the focus. To be distracted by attractions on the side of the road will make life interesting, but it will delay the goal. I’m 55 years old. I’ve enjoyed enough roadside attractions for now.
Small Steps
As long as they are in the right direction, small steps are all we need. A proverb I once heard and just found on Wikipedia says,

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Chinese proverb I found in Wikipedia

The first step on this journey is IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga. And the first step to get me there is a trainer ride tomorrow morning.

My first step to IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga is an hour and a quarter of bike intervals.

Until tomorrow…

Day 41 – Training Consistently

133 days until IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga

Yesterday’s post posed the question, “What does it mean to train consistently?” Then it rambled for a bit and ended with no answer. There was, however, a promise for some good old fashioned G-search on the subject.

G-Search

Of the approximately 109 Million results (in 0.46 seconds, by the way), I picked three of the four top articles that approached the subject. Actually, they tackled the subject head on. Two of the articles were on Active.com with unspecified dates and the other was a blog post from August, 2008 by Joe Friel. In total, the word, consistency, was mentioned 53 times, yet a clear understanding of what it meant was hard to glean.

As far as I can tell, training consistently means following a training plan with discipline. It means that you can’t make up your workout schedule, volume and intensity each day based on how you feel. The athlete that trains consistently will likely have to make training plan adjustments during the season but will do their best to follow the basic intent of the plan.

Friel used another word in is article: moderation. He says moderation is the key to consistency. Of the three articles I read, I think his explains it the best, but the following quote from one of the Active.com articles does a good job too.

Consistency doesn’t just apply to frequency of workouts, but how consistently the[sic] you adhere to the workout format.

Russ, M. Consistency: The Most Important Element of Training. Active.com

I know. I know. The quote is a bit wonky. It uses the word to describe itself which is not a good way to define something. But you get the idea.

If you want to read the articles for yourself (and I hope you do):

Until tomorrow…

Day 40 – Consistency in Training

134 days until IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga

What does it mean to train consistently? The word, consistent, comes up quite often in training books and endurance related podcasts, but I’m not sure what it means. It must be pretty important so I guess I should figure it out.

A quick Google query resulted in:

I’m stuck on “unchanging in nature…” That can’t be right. If my training is unchanging, then it will be incompatible with the concept of progressive overload. It would also be incompatible with the periodization of my annual training plan.

I’m sorry that I don’t have a nice, neat conclusion for this post, but if you hear a coach or sports physiologist emphasize the importance of consistency, then you need to question what they mean by the word consistency. I find it all very inconsistent with the principles of progressive overload and periodization.

I’ll do a little more G-search and see what I can find.

Until tomorrow…

Day 39 – Invitations and Qualifications

135 days until IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga

If you have followed this series of blog posts (started on November 26, 2019), then you know that my primary focus right now is on the “middle” distance race known as IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga. I’m not sure why they call it a middle distance when the USAT category for it is long distance. It involves a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run.

Although the focus is on that particular race, this blog series captures my thoughts and experiences as I travel along the road that leads to the Chattanooga event. The bigger goal for this athlete is to qualify for the IRONMAN World Championship race in Kona, HI and today’s thoughts have drifted in that direction.

Exactly how many ways can a person qualify to race in IRONMAN’s most iconic championship event? To answer that question, I did what any moderately intelligent, slightly competent person would do:

There’s doesn’t seem to be one simple answer, not even on the IRONMAN website. IRONMAN.com attempted to answer it on the other end of a link, but the link brought me back to their home page. I did find something interesting on the endurance-data.com website. I don’t know their sources, but it’s interesting anyway and I’m sure it’s not far from what we can expect in 2020. I’ve summarized their numbers in the table below and added three of my own.

CategoryNumber of Qualifiers
IRONMAN Race1885
IRONMAN 70.3 Race105
IRONMAN Hawaii23
Legacy Program175
Professional99
IRONMAN Foundation10
eBay Auction5
Women For Tri1
Executive Challenge25
Challenged Athletes?
Invited Special Interest?
Invited Celebrities ?

I added the three on the bottom. In my opinion, the invited celebrities belong on the bottom. I have little tolerance for people who claim glory based on their celebrity instead of their merit. Look at me. I have neither celebrity nor merit so I tolerate myself quite well.

If you are unfamiliar with the categories in the table, take a look at the web site from where I took the data. My road to Kona is headed straight for the IRONMAN Race category. Check with me in about 10 years and I’ll let you know how that’s going 😉

Until tomorrow…

Day 38 – Doping and Drafting

136 days until IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga

Unfair Advantages

How long did it take for Lance Armstrong to admit that he was doping? Three years? Seven years? Accusations of his doping were made public as early as 1999, but it was not until 2013 that he admitted to wrong doing in an interview with Oprah Winfrey (according to a Wikipedia entry).

Endurance sports have become very vigilant about unfair performance enhancement commonly known as doping. Several months ago I received a notice in the mail that age groupers like myself could be subjected to drug tests. I’m not a very good test taker. I hope I don’t have to study for it.

Armstrong did break the rules and for that he should be held accountable. But I’m wondering why we are so concerned about doping at all when we appear to have such a split personality with performance enhancement. Companies like Nike and Roka and Ventum want us to believe that their products will make us better, faster triathletes. The list of companies that make such promises is quite long and growing. Yet the endurance sport community seems to have no problem accepting such performance enhancing devices and nutritional supplements. Even without drugs, one might get the impression that Kona qualification is open to the highest bidder. That I don’t believe entirely.

Where do we draw the line? What’s the difference between a fair advantage and an unfair advantage?

What I’m Not Against

I’m not against drug testing. My point here is that each athlete must decide for themselves what makes a fair or unfair advantage and then live within the rules of their race or pay the consequences if they don’t. I’d like to believe that I can build my “engine” powerful enough that I don’t need a $15,000 bicycle or a full time nutritionist. I’d like to believe that it will be possible to qualify for the IRONMAN World Championships based on my training, my discipline, my persistence and my healthy lifestyle. Of course, none of that is really mine. It takes a good support group too. Could the quality of my support group be an unfair advantage?

The Value of Doping

How is it that doping is worse than drafting?

Doping is automatic bad stuff that I think will get you DQ’d. Drafting is a few minutes in the penalty tent. In my opinion, drafting should be punished at the same level as doping. They are both against the rules and they both create a very large unfair advantage. To prevent drafting, races have statistically analyzed the effects of different start schemes like rolling starts and strategically placed waves. Does it help? Probably a little. The U.S. Anti Doping Agency tests for doping. Does it help? Probably a little.

And who are these age-group dopers anyway? They must be good athletes to begin with, because doping will not put a middle-of-the-pack athlete on the podium (unless the pack is five athletes or fewer).

Enough of my rambling. You get my point.

Until tomorrow…

Day 37 – Happy New Year

137 days until IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga

Rather than tell you about my day, let me just say,

“HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

What the hell! Let me tell you about my day.

For the last 18 years, Surf City, North Carolina has hosted the new years day Dolphin Dip. There are a couple of videos embedded below and on the TriRiot YouTube channel that will give you an idea of what it’s like to be there.

COLD!

In short, thousands of people from the area gather on the beach and, at 12:00 PM exactly, they run into the water yelling loudly and proudly. It’s quite a scene, but there is a funny side to this. Their advance in to the water is quickly followed by a screaming retreat and cries of, “COLD! COLD! COLD!” Yes, I am usually one of them.

Brian and Rebecca Moxey, the organizers, are accomplished triathletes. They definitely know how to tap into that spirit of “pushing your limits.” What they have done is really quite impressive, because they have encouraged thousands of people to do something outside their comfort zones. Even if it is only for one day of the year, it is a day that everyone in attendance will remember.

Dolphin Dip 2020
Dolphin Dip 2015

Until tomorrow…

Day 36 – A Triathlete’s Epiphany

138 days until IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga

I may have had an epiphany this morning and it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it might.

My training plan doesn’t kick in until the new year, which begins tomorrow, so today’s workout was pulled from my Athlete Stash of Scholarliness. If you think of a good acronym for that let me know.

Anyway, back to that monumental moment of epiphanousness from earlier in the day. Running just before sunrise has a magical quality that comes from a slight fear of what lies beyond the dark. Bear, wild hogs, deer, even possums can be hazards to a runner with a dim head lamp. And believe me, all of those live in the woods near my house.

The goal of this workout was to complete a very slow recovery run following a short and easy indoor trainer ride. Heart rate was scheduled for zones 1 and 2 with a couple of short pokes into zone 3.

Anyway… I was jogging along at about 13:30/mi when the podcast filling my ears came to an end and the horizon started changing colors. Without a voice in my ear, my mind wandered, as most endurance athletes probably let their minds wander during training and racing. It wandered to Hawaii where I will someday compete with the best of the best in the world, and I use the word, compete, loosely here.

It is so tempting to envision myself slogging it out along the lava fields and into the energy lab (whatever that really is). Cheering spectators along Ali’i Drive motivate me to run toward the red carpet with every last bit of energy left in my body. But I soak in the whole experience as I run to the finish line and high five every hand sticking into the finishing chute. Then the magic happens and Mike Reilly calls my name, but the crowd is so loud it’s impossible to hear his famous words,

“… YOU. ARE. AN IRONMAN ” .

It doesn’t matter, because I know what he said. I look down at my watch to stop the clock… and OMG! I’m still in the middle of the woods in North Carolina running an 11:00/mi pace and my heart rate has sky rocketed to a whopping 140bpm.

Focus, boy! Get with the workout.

And then it hit me (the opposum, I mean the epiphany). If I can’t get control of my mind, I don’t stand a chance of training properly which means I need to buckle down and learn how to focus.

That’s it. As simple as that. All my long windedness for that. Thanks for reading it.

Until tomorrow…

Day 35 – Relative Perceived Exertion

139 Days until IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga

My New Friend, Alexa

Me: Alexa, How many days until Chatty?

Alexa: It’s coming up. There are 138 days until Chatty. I hope you’re ready.

Am I pathetic or what? I programmed my little home invader, also known as an Amazon Echo, to tell me how many days until IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga. Just below the title of this post the quote says 139 days , but Alexa tells me it’s only 138 days. Crap! That’s one day less of training.

Today I didn’t do any workouts, so that’s another training day lost. I’m not worried. I’d rather do too little training than too much. In reality, I’d rather do the right amount of training than not enough. Trying to figure out how much training is the right amount can be difficult. That’s why we have gadgets.

A Triathlete’s Best Friend

I used my Garmin 735XT yesterday in the pool for the first time. I’m still trying to learn how to use it. My first impulse with workout numbers is a competitive one: more is better. That’s OK for a first impulse, but not for long term success in this sport or any endurance sport. Heart rate monitors, power meters and GPS devices need to be used intelligently. They need to be used to train with purpose and guide our workouts. Without these devices, the only smart way to train is to use relative perceived exertion (RPE) which can be quite accurate if you’ve practiced with it a lot.

I used to think I had a pretty good idea of zone1, zone3 and zone5 when I used RPE. However, I went for an easy run a couple of days ago and had a tough time staying in zone1. Actually, I forgot my zones after I got out the door, so I estimated by setting 120bpm as my max heart rate for this run which began as a slow easy jog. Before two minutes the heart rate was at 125 so I walked to get it down. Then I jogged again for a minute which shot the heart rate back up to 125. After jogging/walking for about 10 minutes I realized I don’t have the faintest idea where my zones are with respect to RPE.

Me: Alexa, What are my heart rate zones?

Alexa: Rocky Point, North Carolina is on Eastern Standard Time

Until tomorrow…

Day 34 – Triathlon Books

140 Days until IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga

Books Are Wonderful Things.

For the younger readers here, a book is like a blog on paper.

If you look for triathlon books on Amazon.com, you’ll find plenty. In fact, you might be overwhelmed by the staggering number of people who write about triathlon. Maybe I exaggerate, but there are many books to choose from and the choice of which to read can be difficult if you are new to the sport.

As a side note – which really is not a side note because we are still in the main body of text – if you don’t know which should be your first triathlon book, consider joining a local triathlon club if possible. You’ll get a better introductory education to triathlon that way than through a book.

I have noticed a pattern among the few triathlon books I’ve read. They can be classified as either training books or perspective books.

Training Books

The Triathlete's Training Bible by Joe Friel
My favorite training book

The training books tell us how to do some aspect of triathlon. My favorite in this group is Joe Friel’s “The Triathlete’s Training Bible.” You are not going to curl up on a couch in front of the fireplace to read this book for the day. This is a book you will want to study. Friel carefully explains what the latest scientific evidence has to say about training the body to perform. It will not give you a race plan, but it will tell you how to create one that is specific to your needs. Other books in the training category include Don Fink’s “Be Iron Fit” and the current book I’m reading, Dan Golding’s “Triathlon: Winning at 70.3.”

There seems to be an abundance of books in the training category.

Perspective Books

Books that explore why we race or why we care about endurance sport or tell stories of great endurance feats make up the second category. These are books that offer perspective rather than attempt to make us faster. The first book like this that comes to mind is “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall who tells the fascinating story of an entire culture that raises its young to run great distances.

My favorite book in the philosophical category is Scott Tinley’s “Finding Triathlon. How Endurance Sports Explain the World.” Tinley boldly asks, “Why do sport at all?” and offers the most satisfying answers of anyone I’ve read. I enjoyed the book so much that it’s featured in a TriRiot video.

That’s about all that I can pull from my mind today. This morning’s swim workout was a doozie and I’m beat.

Until tomorrow…