Thursday, January 26, 2006

No Kitty! That's my chicken pot pie!

Fact: The only thing that gets me through the bloody treadmill workouts is my iPod, with video. The treadmill is boring like Biology, and if one can load up with some episodes of The Office, time flies. To that extent, one becomes a source of amusement for all the bored ass runners around him when he's laughing aloud at what a tool Dwight is, and so therefore the love is shared and the time on the treadmill is a little less miserable for all.

It is, however, no easy task getting established on the treadmill so that one can watch television. I've found that the workout requires 3 towels, total. One to just drape on the arm rest for sweat, and two to hold the ipod. Behold: put two bath towels together - available for you at any Lifetime Fitness, or bring your own if you must - and fold the bottom up a bit until just that small section is twice as thick, and then attach your iPod arm/exercise band around the swaddling bundle. Now drape the rest of the towels across the back of the treadmill control panel in front of you, positioning the iPod so that it's conveniently in front of you, prime for watching. Adjust as necessary when foot-falls create vibrations that cause the iPod to slowly slide down. Easy as that. Note that you will, for the first 30 seconds or so of preparation, appear and feel like you're doing laundry as you try to negotiate some twenty feet of towel.

All of this is a preface to state how happy I am about today's monumental announcement from Apple that South Park is now available at iTunes. Season 1 and 2 for now, but more on the way. This will make those long hours on the ratwheel and the indoor bike trainer SO much easier to digest. Whoohoo!!!!!!!!! Mkay...

Friday, January 20, 2006

Like walking on air. No, really.

The Nike Air Max 360 makes its introduction tonight at midnight. This is one dope ass shoe.

Nike has done away with foam entirely in this shoe - the entire sole is air. This is a lot more than a gimmick - and a cool ass looking shoe - it's the foam that breaks down over time and distance, and is the reason why runners should only drive their tires 350 miles or so. Which is always a little sad for me, because depending on the time of season shoes might only last a few months, and they might still look really great - but inside, if the foam is starting to break down as it inevitably does after about 300 miles - running on them puts a runner at risk for pronation issues and injury issues with a lack of shock absorbtion.

The 360, being entirely air, doesn't break down like foam does. The price tag on the shoes is steep - about $160 - but if you consider that, since they don't break down, they might last twice as long as a normal pair of running shoes...then they might actually be cheaper in the long run than buying two pairs in the same amount of time.

Anyway, we'll see what the reviews are when they're in. Maybe when my new Moto's are out of juice I'll check them out - should be late spring by then. Hopefully they're a solid shoe that gets a solid response from the running community, because presently I am coveting them.

Testing, 1-2-3

Today was my last O2 Training, and the first useful benchmark of the year. If you click over on the Training Log and then follow the links to actually see my daily logs, you can go back to December 16th to the first test. That's what today's test was compared to.

So a refesher:

In December, I started O2 to get a jump on my base conditioning, which I don't usually start until January. I was in magnificently bad shape, having intentionally done hardly anything since the October Marathon. So in our test, which was essentially our 2nd meeting of the O2 class, we are to run 3 miles as fast as we can.

In December, I ran my first mile at an 8:12 pace. I generally consider 9:00 - 9:30/mile my 10k pace, so this is pretty generally consistent with my 5k pace when I'm in form - during the season I usually run a 5k during a Sprint distance triathlon in 25 minutes or less. This day, however, I was not in form. So my heart rate is going through the roof near the end of this first mile, and I'm really struggling. I'm well above my Anaerobic Threshold (AT), which means I'm burning sugar now instead of fat. It's a far less plentiful fuel, so the body has to work harder, and is sending lots of signals to the brain to slow the hell down. When conditioned, an athlete can push his AT up, and exist longer beyond his AT without the body rebelling. It's still not ideal, though, because sugar is an inefficient fuel. This is why, ideally, you like to be chugging along at a comfortable pace with your heart rate well below your AT, giving you room to work harder like climb hills or speed up, or go longer distances. Anyway, back to our story. So my AT was, at that time, a heart rate of about 164 beats per minute. At the end of that first mile I had an HR of around 175bpm. Not sustainable at all, and so when that first mile came up on the treadmill I immediately slowed way down - to 11 minute miles - so I could get back to my senses, settle my heart rate, and get back to burning efficient fuels. It was an ugly mess. So my second and third miles of the test I'm a blubbering idiot, and I finish at a not very respectable 30:04 - that's just over 10 minute miles. This, for me, in a 5k, is terrifically slow. Of course my first problem was starting out so fast, and I knew I'd suffer for this when I started, but I was curious how bad it would be. It was pretty bad, and that was a fair representation of my level of fitness then.

In the 6 weeks that I've done the O2 regimen, my base level of fitness has improved considerably. After about 2 weeks I had my breath back, and after about 4 I was already starting to have a sense about myself that I usually don't develop until later in the season - an intuition of where my heart rate is without checking the monitor, of how far I am from my AT, of how long I can sustain a given pace. This is all useful and productive stuff.

So for yesterday's test, I intended to negatively split the workout - that is, have my second half be faster than my first half. This requires sensible strategy in the first half so that I'm still going "as fast as I can" while holding something back to use later.

So my first mile, I ran about a 9:00/mile, actually 9:06. I concentrated on keeping my heart rate far away from my AT, and kept it around 150. If I were to sustain that pace, I'd finish in just over 27 minutes - 3+ improvement over last time, and I could've done so easily - I wasn't working hard at all that first mile. This is encouraging considering how much work went into my first mile 6 weeks ago. My second mile, then, I sped up to about 8:30/mile. My heart rate started to climb, until it settled at around 163. From this I know that my AT has probably climbed to around 169 or 170, because I was still feeling good. Working harder, no doubt, but feeling good. Sustainable for another two miles or so. My third mile, then, I sped up to right around 8:00/mile. Now my HR started to climb, and I was at about 171. Now I passed my AT, and I was working hard. Never struggling, though - I was never miserable, but I could tell at that point that I'd gone AT. With .5 miles to go I sped up to 7:45/mile, and the last .25 I sped up to 7:30. This kind of training, if done routinely, will train my body (hopefully) to speed up and finish strong the last half miles of races.

So I finished with a final time of 25:29 - almost 5 minutes faster than 6 weeks ago. I'm pretty satisfied with that progress. The breakdown, if you're interested is:

December 16th:
Mile 1 - 8:12
Mile 2 - 19:07
Mile 3 (total): 30:04

January 19th:
Mile 1: 9:06
Mile 2: 17:29
Mile 3 (total): 25:29

From here I need to continue to work on strength in my running - it's been a weakness of mine forever. I also need to continue to try and raise my AT, and become as efficient as possible in burning fat in my zones 3 and 4 - so that when my body is in my heart rate zone 4 - just before I go AT - I'm efficiently burning fat, which will allow me to go further, faster in that zone. I'll do that by continuing to work tempo and interval runs into my workouts, where I spike my HR up, and also treadmill workouts with steep inclines. I'll now start to slowly increase my mileage as well, so that I'm at around 15 mile long runs by mid April.

So far, so good. I feel just a bit ahead of schedule with my base training, which is great. Starting next week I work the bike in once a week, and swimming. Looking forward to it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Rotten to the Core...

Today I started some Core training. This is a marvelous buzzword these days that most people think means "working your abs", but in fact it's basically working the body's fulcrum - the abdominals, lower back, and hip flexors from which all other movement depends. The advantage from a triathlete's perspective to have core strength is that swimming and running in particular can significantly benefit from it, not just in overall strength but in injury prevention.

Specifically today, I started deep core training, which is the training of muscles that we've apparently evolved to forget. These are deep abdominal muscles that, as we've become more and more sedentary, our brains have actually forgotten how to connect with. That's fascinating. So these exercises aren't so much about "feeling the burn" as they are about slow and deliberate actions to redevelop that mental relationship. Crazy.

Also in the last week of O2 training - we had a "test" - 3 miles as fast as you can - our first week, and now we do it again. We shall see...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Hello Moto

Wow, an exhausting weekend. Lots of work to do - it's apparently a theme just now - so I missed 2 workouts this weekend. When I have that kind of workload, and the kind where my mind is wrapped around the projects, it's pretty obsessing. I have to follow it through until it's finished, and the day slips by quickly. Missing a workout becomes a sort of poignant regret...I feel like it's an opportunity lost, and I always worry - especially this early in my base training - that I'm losing time and training I just can't get back. It's not necessarily like that, but it's how I feel. Anyway, I'm hopeful that I can keep things straight and organized in the coming months. This may just turn into a journal of balancing entrepreneurship with triathlon. Hardly anything special...people do far more interesting things while training for triathlon. I don't have it particularly tough. Yet, this is my journey.

Boy howdy, there is some dreck spittle noise happening on American Idol just now.

Some new shoes: I've been training in some old Brooks from 2004 since The Great Marathon Feet Massacre of 2005. So some new Nike Air Max Moto IV. A full size larger than my normal size - I think that was Iris' advice, and it makes sense considering my poor luck so far with shoes, and how swelled my feet get after long miles. Nice and light, comfortable right now. One workout with them so far, which says nothing at all, but at least my feet didn't bleed and I didn't develop club toe.

In full on calorie counting mode for the next few months. 4 pounds lost last week, which is encouraging - I hope to average 2 pounds a week. We shall see.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


A solid couple of workouts the last few days. Short in mileage, but yesterday's especially was worthwhile - strength conditioning on the treadmill, going from 8-12 incline in 2 minute intervals, up to my anaerobic threshold (that point, measured by heart rate, when the body stops burning fat and starts burning sugar). Still, it's been tough the last 2 days just to get out the door. I've often said that, were it not for owning my own business, I don't honestly think I could do triathlon. I'm not the kind who'll get up at 5am to go workout, and I remember from my commuting days how weary I was upon getting home. That I have the flexibility to take a long lunch if needed, or get a few hours in the afternoon, or make up work in the evening if I have a long ride in the springtime before it gets dark is a significant advantage for me. But the other edge of that sword is that when I leave the helm, the ship is unsupervised. Deadlines need to be met, projects satisfied, progress made. It's difficult sometimes to get out the door, and it's easy to make training dispensable. I read somewhere once how a person needs to have the mentality that nothing is more important than training. That should be interpreted with some perspective - of course there are more important things than training - but the gist of the statement is to give it the same gravity you would any other serious appointment in life - a doctor's appointment, a work meeting, dinner with the family. I try to adhere to that, though I can't realistically always succeed. It's a struggle sometimes. Not to misrepresent - I'm obnoxiously blessed to have these things in my life, and my business is among the greatest things. I enjoy every second of it, even when it's pushing into my training time. But the last 2 days have been typical of the juggling I sometimes find myself doing.

Anyway, s'all for today. Time for my 9:00 snack and some Miami Vice before sleep. In the words of Rico Tubbs, "Crockett! Be cool!"

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Another fool boards ship...

My buddy Todd Schellenberg just told me he's officially registered for Lifetime's short course in July. Sweet! He hits the pool for the first time tonight. I know he'll have a blast. Good luck dude!

Monday, January 09, 2006


You want to say something important and significant. You want some phrase that simply captures something momentous...something like "In The Beginning", or maybe "And So Began", or "Once Upon A Time", or "All children, except one, grow up", or "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away", or at least, "Marley was dead, to begin with." But ultimately it's a day, just like most other days, and so in most ways unremarkable. Except that today, January 9th, 2006, Ironman begins.

Of course I've been training for it specifically for more than a year, and it could be said that Ironman began after the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon in 2004, when I first dared say it out loud. Or on the morning of September 12th of this year, when I sat at my computer, refreshing my screen like I would an ebay auction, paranoid that IM Wisconsin would sell out in mere seconds instead of hours. But today is the day, for no other reason that in my mind, today is the day. In a more organized world last week, fresh start to the new year, would've been the day. Alas, mine is not an organized world. It's not a scheduling matter or a matter of timing. It's not even a feeling. It's an impulse or an instinct. Something. But there is it, and here we are.

So, status report: I'm beginning week 4 of an O2 - Oxygen - training course. It's been useful as part of my base training, as it's entirely heart-rate centric. It's allowed me to slowly creep back into shape. I'm beginning Week 1 of a 12 week Half-Marathon specific training regimen as well. As it is, I'm in horrible shape. Okay, terrible. Horror was a month ago, now it's just terror. Far from the fine tuned machine I'll work to become. I'm soft mentally and physically. I'm race - overweight, as the offseason tends to do to me. That's okay, I'm used to it - in the 3 months I enjoy as an offseason I tend to become gluttonous and sedentary. It'll all come around, and usually quite quickly. I do intend, this season, to shed as many pounds as I can, so I'm carrying less up the hill. We shall see.

My first race of the season will be a half-marathon in St.Cloud in April, so from now until then I'll tend mostly to the run, which is my Kryptonite. I've learned enough these last 2 years to realize that hours spent in the pool and on the bike yield maybe a few minutes of improvement. Useful, but not critical. The run, however, is where I notoriously melt down, and I can lose significant chunks of time in doing so, erasing any slight gains I earned in the first disciplines. So it will be my season long focus. I want to approach this season as a runner doing triathlon. Since I'm naturally neither a runner nor a triathlete, it should be interesting. But if one considers that the whole point is to get through 114.4 miles before finally embarking on a marathon, one wants to feel solid about his running.

I'll also be pushing back my entire season, and so training schedule, so that I peak in September, rather than July, which is what I'm used to doing. This means I won't start putting in serious time on the bike and the pool until early May. Which means my first triathlon - a small, short thing in early May - should be a farce. But so be it. I have three objectives for the season, and they are: Improve on the run. Develop a sound nutrition strategy. Become Ironman.

So, welcome aboard. I don't really have a grand plan for what I'll be doing in this space. If there's something you'd be particularly interested in, let me know. I'll do my best to appear regularly. Shows may not be nightly. Thanks for coming, and don't forget to tip the bartender.