August 29, 2007

1 cm can make a huge difference

No this post has nothing to do with what you may be thinking, but rather with a good bike fit. I told you few days ago that I scheduled a bike fit at the Cadence bike store in Philly. I did not want to brag about the bike fit before I had completed at least one long ride. And long ride it was - this past Saturday I had the longest bike ride of my training - 4 hours of riding (more on that later). After the ride I can say that the bike fit really helped. But let's take it step by step.

Bike fit

The bike fit was an interesting experience. The whole session took little over 2 hours. We started with short discussion and filled out a form about my riding skiils, performance, goals and problems I perceive with my fit. Then Brady (my fitter) took some basic measurement that are needed for the fit including analysis of my feet, flexibility in different positions and only after about 30-40 minutes of doing this I was allowed on the bike. Brady told me that I look crammed in the bike and that my knees are little on the outside. Then we started to tinkle with the seat position - raised the seat by 1 cm and moved it about 0.5 cm to the back. I was riding it for a while and it seemed ok. Then Brady took a look at my cleat position and re-measured where they should be. We replaced the cleats and put them to where Brady felt they should be - I was riding with cleats too much in the front of my foot - that explains the pain I had after the long rides from pushing the pedals practically on my toes. Now the cleats are much further in the back and I'm pushing the pedals with less effort and there is no pain in my toes even after very long rides.

Long ride

Saturday morning was very humid - actually the visibility was about 15 meters in a foggy mist, just great conditions for bike riding. I took off at 6:30 and started riding shortly before 7am. The fog was condensating on my classes. I had to wipe water off of the glasses every 10 - 15 minutes just to be able to see. On the other hand it was really nice day and I was very happy that there was no cross-wind. I also had my new aero helmet which is really cool. I definitely had a great ride and averaged 22.5 mph (while on the bike) and 19.5 with all the pit-stops and refueling stops. I did 4 loops around the lake which comes to little over 82 miles. On the 4th loop my friend Steve joined me and kept my pace in check so I was able to finish the ride feeling quite well. The three laps I averaged 55-58 minutes per look which gives me a hope that I could do the bike leg of the race in little under 3 hours. I definitely trust my biking skills and with the new fit and helmet I'm ready to ride 56.7 miles and feel good.

Sunday run

I started Sunday training early with 50 minutes swim and transitioned immediately into the long run of 2 hours. I ate nature bar before the swim so I was not feeling hungry during the swim or shortly after. Before I headed out of the house for the run I filled-up the fuel belt with water and took 3 GU gels with me. I also took one gel just before heading out and washed it down with water. The run was fine, but I was unable to go very fast - I actually had troubles keeping the 8:00 min/mile pace on the flat stretches and the hills were as slow as 11:00 min/mile. I felt tired especially after mile 8 and eventhough I hydrated. It got even worse after mile 9 when I ran out of water and gels. So I basically shuffled back home and finished the day with 12.5 miles eventhough I had hoped for 14 miles. Well I'll take it - the day was very humid and hot - it was 83 F (28 C) at 8 am and it got worse as my run progressed. Actually the weather on Saturday and Sunday was quite bad for training - the temperature climbed to 95 F (35 C) and humidity was very high - normal August weather in Philly, but not good for running. And I guess the 82 miles ride on Saturday did not help my run either. But it is a great practice for the race - I'll not be fresh when it gets to the run - in fact I'll be like 4 hours into the event with my glycgen stores running low and lactate build up getting up there. So yeah it will be fun and quite a challenge.

Nike+ sensor R.I.P

After little over a year of use the Nike+ sensor died on me. I logged some 1500 miles on it and took it with me to quite distant places. The sensor followed me on my races in the US, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Czech Republic and Canada. It will be missed - well not for long as I just bought a new one as I can not stand not to log my long weekend runs of 12-14 miles. It is all about the bragging rights ;-).

August 19, 2007

Back to the training

It seems like I did the Steelman long ago. I could not believe it was only last Sunday. After the race I took one day off on Monday as usual and then slowly eased back into the training week. It was a long one (9.5 hours), especially the weekend ride and run. Saturday was a bike day and it was the toughest ride ever. I did 3.5 hours in fairly strong wind. On this course I usually cruise 60-70 miles at average speed of 19.5 - 20 mph, but this time I was much slower - only 18.5 mph over 67 miles. After two loops - around 40 miles I was debating whether I have enough energy to keep pushing for another lap. In the end I did push through and had opportunity to play with different positions to optimize the aero position. I tried everything, but on the down hills with strong wind I was unable to get to speed above 40 mph. Normally I descend that hill at 45 - 48 mph. So the wind was definitely a huge factor. Also my average power during the ride was about 30 watts higher than even during the Steelman race. As you can expect I was quite tired in the end.

Today was run day and I was debating whether I could last for full 2 hours while keeping good pace. The plan was to try running the first 6 miles and then decide what to do - easy return back home or push for 13+ miles. First 4 miles were not easy - I was quite dizzy and could not get into the zone. At mile 5 I took GU gel, got into a good pace and kept pushing sub 8:30 per mile pace which is fairly good. On the hills my pace slipped a little but I was always doing better than 9:30 pace even on hills. At mile 10 I got second breath and passed another runner up-hill while doing 8:15. That felt good. Then I took long way back home and on the uphill back home my computer showed 14 miles. So the long run was in the end a good one and I averaged 9:01 miles. Not exactly what I was aiming for, but I'll take it. Not bad considering the 67 miles ride the day before and sleep of only 6 hours. So training saga continues. Next week is another long one before short week and then the race week. Oh yeah the race is very, very close.

August 17, 2007

Post Race Analysis

So my first race is behind me and now is time to sit down and do analysis of my performance so I can use the Steelman and a spring board for the half iron in September. Monday night I downloaded the Olympic distance results, eliminated all the DNFs and started looking at how I did compared to complete field, only mens and my age group. I focused mainly on the age group analysis as that should help me determine what I need to focus on to move up in the ranks. Here is the result of the analysis:

  • Complete field (306 finishers)

    • Swim 125
    • T1 204
    • Bike 74
    • T2 108
    • Run 172
    • Finish time 94

  • Mens (231 finishers)

    • Swim 97
    • T1 149
    • Bike 65
    • T2 82
    • Run 133
    • Finish time 79

  • Age group (31 finishers)

    • Swim 14
    • T1 23
    • Bike 12
    • T2 14
    • Run 20
    • Finish time 15

After this initial placement analysis I looked at how much slower I was in each discipline compared to the age group winner and also to the person who did best in that particular leg in my age group. So here we go, the first time is the age group winner and the second one is the person from my age group who did best in that particular leg in the race. All times are shown in min:sec format:

  • Swim 4:41, 9:06
  • T1 1:08. 1:35
  • Bike 7:54, 7:59
  • T2 0:13, 0:33
  • Run 7:41, 11:47
  • Finish time 21:37, N/A

So what can I read from all this?

  • I had pretty good bike and fairly fast T2.
  • Although I scored fairly high on the bike I could have done better. That bio break cost me good minute or two and if I improve my aero position (I suspect that my seat position is not optimal) I can shave off few more seconds maybe even minutes in the 56 miles ride that is in the next race.
  • My T1 time is horrible - almost twice the time as age group winner (only 25% of my age group peers were slower than I was in T1).
  • My swim was not great, but I did not have a bad time even though I did more than 50% of it doing back stroke and breast stroke. Wow that is a surprise.
  • My run is little on the slow side. I'm slower than average runner in any group (e.g. I'm in the slower half of the field, not by much but anyways in the slower group).

Now that I know how I did what does it mean for the short term training focus - read next 3 weeks until the Quakerman Half Ironman. I will continue with the training schedule, but I need to re-focus or insert additional practice in specific disciplines:

  • Swim - need to continue working on my swim including pacing and breathing. I will need at least one open water swim at Bethlehem Dutch Springs to have a real long swim practice. Pool practice does not prepare you for a long swim - hey tri-newbies listen to this - go find a lake before your race and have at least one long swim in the open water. The visibility in the water is different than in the pool and also it is a different feel to keep swimming for full 40 minutes without hitting a wall.
  • T1 drills are a must - I'll need to practice getting wet out of the pool in the wet suit, running around the pool and getting into my bike shoes, helmet and running with the bike. I did practice the run with the bike in my bike shoes before the race, but it was not enough to get me fast through T1.
  • For the bike leg I will be getting a better fit on the bike - I already scheduled appointment for Monday. I'm also expecting a new aero bike helmet early next week so I will have at least one long ride with it next Saturday. That should help during the race. And also more time on the bike will help me get even better speed especially for the hills. I'm not a very good climber.
  • T2 - few practice drills may help to get few seconds off of my time, but this is really not such a big deal.
  • Run - I wish I had more time to work on the speed, but that is not the case. For few weeks now I have tried to stay within the recommended pace for each run as the FIRST running program dictates it. But my tri-training plan does not have 3 weekly runs every week so I'm not 100% following the FIRST plan. I adopted the pacing recommendations for my runs and I try to stay as close to the recommended pace as possible. I can see some speed gain already - e.g. my 10k time during tri race being better than my 10k time in February. But the speed gain is not enough to help me move up in the run placement. I may also look into my race pacing plan for the run leg and be little more aggressive in my pacing than during the Steelman. I may have been a little conservative not knowing what my legs will feel like during the race. This is definitely an area that I will work on in the next months.

Thanks to doing Steelman I now know what are my weak spots. Before then I was only guessing. Now I know that next year is going to be mostly about running speed and swimming.

August 13, 2007

Steelman 07 photos

Today I spent some time after work browsing the huge collection of photos from Steelman Olympic race to find the following three nuggets. You need to click the link to see the photo. I ordered some prints, but unfortunately the company does not offer original digital images which would be my preference.

August 12, 2007

Steelman official finish 2:36:45

It's 4 a.m. and my watch alarm goes off. OK here we go - Steelman time. The morning prep was quite regular so I'll not bore you with how I made myself a coffee and breakfast. I left the house about 40 minutes later so I can get to the Steelman site and get a good spot on the rack. When I got to the park Nockamixon the place was already buzzing with activity. I had enough time to get my markings, get the bike and transition setup. During the setup the race director announced that the water temperature is 80 degrees and the wet suits are not legal. Anyways since this was my first race I decided to wear wet suit as the distance to the furthest buoy seemed quite long and I knew I'll not win or even place in my age group.

When I was setting up the transition I kept looking for my cell phone. It was like a mystery. I heard it ringing in my backpack on the way out of the house so it was there, but I was searching all the pockets and places and did not find it. Oh well I'll find it after the race and then meet up with the folks from Nike+ site that are also racing here.

At 6:50 I lined-up for the practice swim and the water was really warm. I was debating whether I should swim in the wet suit in such warm water, but then decided to keep it on and play it safe. After the practice swim we left water, walked over the mat and got ready for the start. After few minutes of waiting we heard the gun and off we went to the lake. I started the swim pretty fast and I think I took off too fast. After the first long stretch I was very tired and had another almost kilometer to swim. Oh well I said and changed my swim style to breast stroke and later to backstroke. I was going between the three styles for the rest of the swim, but mostly I did the breast stroke which is not very fast. I got through the swim and my time was not the best - 30 minutes to be exact. Even though it was not great I was still on pace to make my target time.

Getting out of the water was fun - the exit was slippery and thanks to the race volunteers for helping us out. Short run in wet-suit (yeah already warm from the water and now I run it this) to my bike stand. My T1 time was quite good considering I had to get out of the wet-suit and had to run the whole distance of the transition area with the bike. The 35-39 age group rack were the furthest from the bike exit - I guess we are supposed to be strong ;-). I hopped on the bike and got ready for that nasty hill that leads out of the park. It is bad even when you don't swim 1500m before trying to get up. It was quite bad, but I stayed seated the whole way up and got little break once I got on the main road. The bike ride was pretty uneventful except I had to stop before finishing the first loop (out of two) for little bio break. I lost few minutes due to that, but it was a good decision given that I still had some 15 miles to ride and then the run. I finished the bike in 1 hour 13 minutes and 49 seconds.

Then I ran to the T2 and transitioned to run shoes, grabbed my race belt and hat and off I was to the last leg. There was one surprise when I was getting my running shoes on - I finally found my cell phone. It was stuck in my shoe, so I just threw it on the transition mat and went for the run. Only after leaving the transition area I realized that I forgot the water bottle, but luckily there was enough water on the course. Also after running few hundred meters my race belt came off so I spent about 50 meters putting it back together which was fun and helped me to keep reasonable pace. I'm serious because in the previous bricks I had tendency to run too fast in the beginning and then I had cramps after 2-3 miles. The run was very good and I really enjoyed it although few people passed me, but I passed even more people including fellow olympic distance athletes. It felt good. I saved enough energy to sprint to the finish. And I beat my run PR by few seconds - so I guess my running performance is getting better even when I do all three sports and do not focus solely on running.

After I finished I took full advantage of the services for athletes and loaded up on bananas, grapes, water melon, but I skipped pizza. Did not feel like eating-up the fatty stuff. During the awards ceremony I finally met with the few folks from Nike+ site (first face to face meeting with fellow Nike plusers). And short after that I was heading home to get some shower, real food and some sleep. It was a great race and I am officially hooked. I'm really looking forward to the half ironman in September. It is not that far away - only 4 weeks to be exact. That is less that 30 days of training. I better work on my swimming.

Here is the official time from LinMark site as recorded by my chip for each leg of the race (there seems to be some rounding as I miss 2 seconds somewhere ;-):

Swim: 30:08
T1: 2:12
Bike: 1:13:49
T2: 1:08
Run: 49:30

August 7, 2007

Last few bricks before the race

This week I have few bricks scheduled - actually three - to practice the transitions. That should be fun. I did a long brick on the weekend on the race course and it was a lot of fun. I tried another fueling strategy that convinced me that I should stick with what I know - e.g. PowerBar before the race, then GU every 30 minutes on the bike and run. What I tried was no PowerBar in the beginning and towards the end of the bike I was feeling it. Once I transitioned to the run I took off too fast and then blew-up. I had to slow down and at some point I had to walk for about 2-3 minutes to get my heart rate back to normal. Then I was able to keep going. Another mistake I did was that I did not take any gels with me on the run - just water. I felt it quite a lot. So the bricks are definitely paying off already. I'm learning from mistakes that I would have otherwise did during the race.

Today I was supposed to do a swim, bike brick and I did a nice morning 45 minutes swim in the pool, then I ran around the pool simulating the exit from water and run to the transition area. Practiced taking off my watch, goggles and cap. Then I transitioned onto the bike, but my power meter would not work. So I tried to fix it. This leads me to decision to keep the Polar S625X on the bike for the race and I may take another watch RS800sd for the time keeping and distance on the run. Not ideal solution, but it will cut some time from the transition. I may even not need to take off the watch after the swim. I do not really need a HR from the swim. On the bike I'll have the power on the bike and HRM on RS800 and then on the run I'll get the distance from the RS800. Besides that I can record my R-R during the whole race with maybe exception of swim as the sensor does not work under water. Decisions, decisions, decisions...

August 2, 2007

10 days to first big day - Steelman

It is just about 10 days to my first triathlon. This race is a practice race that I treat as a training, but I'm already getting excited about it. Just today I started putting together a list of things I need to take with me to the race. It is a big change from running - for running all you need is shoes, good running clothes, race number, water belt and some energy bars or gels and you are good to go even for the big long races. For triathlon it seems to be a little more things. Here is my list so far:

Overall for the race
- Polar watch
- HRM belt
- RoadID
- gallon of water
- towel
- transition mat
- ankle belt for time chip
- electrical tape
- black marker
- race numbers (bike / run)
- Powerbar bar 2x
- PowerBar recovery drink 1x
- triathlon membership card
- drivers license
- money
- credit card
- backpack for all the stuff
- post-race clothes - shirt, shorts, underwear, socks
- orange jacket for case of rain
- race instructions
- toilet paper
- 4x tissue
- transition stall marker - baloon?

- swimming cap
- wetsuit
- swim goggles
- spare swim goggles
- ear plugs
- trash bag for wetsuit and wet clothes

- bike (with 2x bottle, bento box, pump, spare tube, tools on the bike)
- bike shoes
- helmet
- sunglasses
- energy gels (2-3 for sprint & international, 7 for HIM)
- white socks
- water bottles for bike 2x - filled up
- large bike pump

- running shoes
- running hat
- fuel belt / water bottle - filed up
- energy gels (1-2 for sprint & international, 5 for HIM)
- running belt - put energy gels to the running belt

I'm sure there are things I will not need and maybe few things are missing. I hope nothing important is missing, if it is I better figure that out before the race.

So I have one more week of training, few bricks and I should be ready to race the international distance triathlon. It will be certainly a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it. I do not shoot for any specific time. I really want to use the race to gain experience for the half iron race in September. There are few unknowns - swim for starters, I do not know how bad it will be swimming with many other people, transitions especially the first one is something that worries me a bit and I really did not do a complete set of swim, bike, run so I'm not sure how my body will take it. I think I can do this in under 2:45 and if I'm doing good I can get it done in 2:30. We shall see soon.