Ironman Lake Placid 2021

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of Lake Placid and all it has to offer. In fact, I advocate for the village whenever possible, and have introduced many people to the Adirondacks over the years. Lake Placid is truly one of those special places that offers something for everyone. The kids enjoy the shopping, the adults enjoy the dining, and families can enjoy the active lifestyle. Training is what first brought me to Lake Placid, and the rest is what kept me there.

Although I have only done the Lake Placid Ironman twice, I have raced in many other long course and WTC races and this is my favorite. During race week the entire village is full of athletes. You can really see the area come alive when the ice cream shop has a line out the door, and the lake is packed with people in wet suits. Every car has a bike rack and pasta is consumed as fast as it can be boiled.

Last year of course we all missed this event. No big crowds, no floating in the lake the next day. It was like many other events postponed a year to 2021. This made a sad Summer for sure. Not just for me, but all of the athletes who look forward to IMLP each year. Even training was way off. Normally on weekends getting closer to race day you will see dozens of people out cycling and running the course. During dinner if you sit lakeside you will see swim buoys floating around the lake into dusk. But last year was much more subdued. No need to work it if there are no races I guess. (I did race a ‘private’ 70.3 hosted by my coach at his LP tri camp) Generally speaking it was a gloomy Summer and didn’t have the same feel as it has in the past.

But here we are. The vax is rolling out, restrictions are being lifted, and finally there are some signs that we might have a race. This is by no means a guarantee, but some of the press from the local paper indicates the race directors are going for it. After reading that the Tupper Lake 70.3 was cancelled for June, the idea of racing one month later seemed pretty far fetched, but alot can happen in a few weeks. So as of right now, I am feeling good that this thing happens.

Now with that said, we will be heading back up to Lake Placid in a few weeks, and I plan to speak to some of the locals about what they know. At the end of the day this will come down to permits and profitability. The race can’t be done without approvals, and it won’t be done unless it makes financial sense for WTC to hold it. With the Canadian border still closed, and any number of travel restrictions still in place, that might be a deciding factor.

I won’t worry too much about that though. It is out of our hands, and all we can do it focus on the training. My coach has a great plan to help work on the cycling this year and the run is on point. For now the goal remains: crush IMLP.

Push or Pull?

Lately I have been seeing more and more around two opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to improving your threshold power or pace. The first school of thought is you push your power up through lower threshold workouts. The second school says you pull your power up with higher intensity work. So which is correct? Both.

Interestingly when training to get my mile under 5:00, I considered the following strategy. Run an interval at whatever length I was able to hold the desired pace for. Let’s say that interval is 400 meters at 1:15. With that in mind, I would build a program that focused on 400 repeats with some longer sessions such as 800’s and eventually 1000’s when I was able to perform a sufficient number of shorter laps but at the proper pacing. The idea being that by doing a larger volume of running at the desired or slightly faster than desired pace, I would build the muscle memory needed, the strength needed, and potentially the endurance needed. As the volume grew, and the rest shortened, I would expand the intervals to a longer distance but it would be necessary to keep the proper pacing. In this way I was pushing up my mile time.

However, that just isn’t enough. On top of stamina, I also needed some extra strength and speed. If you are only capable of running a 1:15 400 at your top end, the likelihood of being able to hold that pace is low. Continuing to train at that level helps, but mentally and physically you need more. The mile will always be hard, but if you want 5:00 pace to feel comfortable, you need to run harder during workouts so on game day it is no big deal. For these sessions I would go shorter but faster intervals with less rest. Doing 15-20 200’s shooting for around 33 seconds was about right. By going over goal pace I was pulling my speed and capabilities up.

So as you can see, I worked on both types of intervals. Over the Vo2 max and functional threshold. Both working together was a great approach, and a few weeks back I ran my fastest mile yet in 5:08. So there is still work to be done, but considering where we are in the season and how much I have been able to get to a track due to snow, I am pretty happy.

This same principle applies to cycling, maybe even more so. My coach has been giving me threshold and Vo2 max sessions alternating each week. These are also great for me because they really do cause completely different muscle responses. For example, I am very good at holding short painful bursts of power. On the bike or on the run it is something I have always been good at. So 125% of FTP for 60-90 seconds is very comfortable for me. However, when it comes to 10 minutes at FTP, sometimes I struggle quite a bit. The good news is that I am not neglecting either end of my range, and as a result I think the improvements are faster and likely more lasting.

I say more lasting because I have been holding the low 5 minute mile mark for about 4 months now even without getting to the track. The body has taken in the training and I have been able to hold on to it with minimal focus on that goal.

The same will be true for cycling, and with the weather starting to lighten up (although it did snow on my run yesterday) I am looking forward to trying out the new speed on some LBS pelotons. In fact, I am going to search them out just to see if I can ride through them after this big Winter training block. In my head I am riding like Frodo, but in reality it might be closer to Fro-no. Ok bad dad joke, but there is only one way to find out and hopefully I do soon.

So I Turned 35

For the 9th time, but I think I finally am starting to get it. This year I will be stronger faster and smarter than 9 years ago, although I doubt I will act smarter. As a birthday present for myself, I am going to register for the USAT Long Course championships in Long Island in September. While I may not be able to race this one if the European Worlds takes place, I would like to have something on the calendar besides IMLP.

If I am being honest with myself, European racing doesn’t look promising at this point. The travel restrictions and quarantine protocol are very hard to accommodate, especially if something goes wrong. Having just about wrapped up the required 2 weeks for domestic travel to another state, I am not excited to do it again. Yes, I could do the test and get out of jail quicker, but the weather has been terrible, and between that and not having a lot of free time with work it just didn’t happen. The inbound restrictions could be very impacting if you test positive while abroad and have to wait it out overseas. And also yes a ton can and likely will happen between now and September, but better to be prepared, even if I lose the USAT registration fee. If everything goes off as planned, I am game to do a 70.3 two weeks after an overseas 140.6. Bring it.

So outside of that gift of pain, I also was given some great new Bose earbuds by the family this morning that I am looking forward to testing out later today. Review to follow.

One new thing I am going to focus on this year is switching it up when I want, and keeping it fun. Last night as a change I jumped on the Peloton for a 30 minute ride. That was pretty good as I haven’t been on it in at least a year. I managed to get the heart rate screaming at 171! Higher than it was during the FTP test I just did. Craziness. The funny part was I finished about 5000th out of 48000, and only averaged about 165 watts. I just did about 260 watts for 20 minutes during the FTP so I think the Peloton bike may be a bit off on the wattage. Maybe. Or I just suck at spinning.

I would normally do a mile time trial on my birthday, just as a nostalgic thing, but the roads are very icy and technically I am still hiding at home. Instead I may give the treadmill a go and see if I can hit 12mph and hold on for dear life. It is nice to have a long term comparison of performance to look back over. Last year I ran a 5:46, I should be way up on that at this point. In fact, I just convinced myself, now seems like a good time to test that theory. Time to dust off the Alphafly’s and get after it before the cake comes out.

Fixing My Cadence

For a long time the cadence sensor on my bike has had a dead battery. It never seemed very important to me to fix, because, well, I was getting the workouts done. Recently I had some extra energy laying around and changed out the battery to get my rig 100% operational. All the bells and whistles. As a side note, the batteries it takes are those CR2032 and I have to take a second to call a few things out. First, they are so hard to get out of the package that I almost gave up. I think it required some form of surgical knife and a vise to cut open the plastic. Second, they are clearly labeled as having a ‘bitter coating’. Are there really that many kids eating batteries that we need a bad tasting flavor? Besides, it isn’t even really that bitter.

Moving on, my first ride in a LONG time with cadence shocked me a bit. I was holding around 65-70 RPM. This made me scratch my head a bit, and immediately assume the device was broken. Common theory says I should be closer to 90 RPM, that’s where the magic happens. Where your legs are fresh for the run and you rely on your cardio more so than your strength. After seeing that number, I did some sophisticated experiments such as counting pedal strokes for a minute, and concluded that sensor was right.

It would seem that over the past year, I fell into the habit of grinding alot more than spinning. To be honest it is probably longer than a year as I don’t recall the last time I used cadence. It hasn’t really ever been too important to me if I met the watts needed for the workout. And to be fully open, I still am not fully convinced it really matters and here is why. If I train my body to respond to certain loads or stresses and am able to achieve the desired output, do any other factors really matter? Another way of saying this might be if you run with an inefficient looking gait but at the same time are the fastest person in the race, will changing something make you better? If it isn’t broke don’t fix it they say. Sadly though I am nowhere near the front of the race, and the key to my ultimate success in triathlon is conquering the bike.

With big goals of qualifying for Kona last year now moved to this year, it will take every improvement I can muster to obtain the times needed. To put it in perspective, I will most likely need to race a sub 10 hour Ironman. In order to do that, I figure roughly 1:05 swim, 5:20 bike, 3:25 run. That leaves 10 minutes for transition, which at IMLP is reasonable. There is some float built in, for example, I think if I am in good condition I can run better than 3:25 which would give me more room on the bike. Here is the rub though, last Summer during our bandit 70.3, I rode one lap of IMLP (56 miles) in about 2:49. That only puts me at 5:38 so I still need to find 18 minutes (and yes I know 56 is much different than 112). That is a sizeable amount of time to make up, but the good news is I have a plan and the first part of that plan is making sure I check all the boxes on bike form, technique, fit etc.

Back to the cadence issue. This metric is pretty much all I am watching on the screen these days. The watts are locked in with Erg mode, so as long as I am turning the pedals we are good. I don’t really need to shift because the trainer adjusts resistance based on my cadence. Simple enough just focus on spinning fast and relaxed. Well, not really that simple since now I am essentially retraining my legs. There is a certain ‘feeling’ I am looking for that I get when I am working. Almost a resistance that tells me I am in the right spot. With the cadence shift that changes. You see the faster you spin the less the resistance for the same power output. You make the same power pushing less but faster. This is why they say that a faster cadence is superior for running off the bike. It taxes your muscles much less.

There are a lot of ways to get the cadence up, for one I could jump on the Peloton and get yelled at by a virtual instructor. Maybe I will try that on the next Wicked ride, but until then, I noticed that the higher wattage intervals seem to be helping. My coach has been throwing things such as 125% of FTP for 60 seconds followed by 2-3 minutes recovery and I saw a very interesting thing from that. Heading into the higher wattage I would naturally speed up the cadence to meet the wattage, but then right afterwards, when the rest set started, I would continue to spin at a higher than normal number. Doing these types of workouts has me averaging closer to 86 if I concentrate.

Will any of this make a difference? Time will tell. I do know that keeping an average cadence in the 60’s and hoping to run a sweet 26.2 miles quickly may not be the optimal path. I am on the bike anyway so working on a weakness only makes sense. Ultimately if it doesn’t work, that’s fine too. If it keeps everything the same but I pedal faster there may still be some wear and tear gains on the ol’ IT band. Either way, now is the time to adjust. With around 5 months to go I will keep at it and measure the progress with bike and run data. As long as the outputs don’t appear to suffer hopefully I can bring this with me on race day.

Traincationing

As I sit home with the family during our mandatory travel related quarantine, I’ve had a chance to think over some of the ways to keep the fitness going when you are away. Now, as a three sport fella, it isn’t always possible to get in all of the disciplines when you are away. In fact normally I will only get in running, and when lucky, an easy swim. That’s not a reason to stop moving though, so here are a few things I’ll typically do when we travel.

This recent trip was to Disney and there are still a considerable amount of restrictions in place. Limited access to fitness centers, you have to wear a mask EVERYWHERE including when running etc. I don’t think I have it in me to run in a mask, so for my runs, I went off property. In fact I was able to drive to a quiet development and put in some road miles before it got too hot out. For those that have been to Disney, you know that there is a lot of walking involved. In fact our long day of walking around EPCOT tallied up at just shy of 14 miles. So you are always on the move, which is an important point. Keep moving! Find a place to run if you can and get in some early morning cardio, but either way stay active.

It is pretty painless to pack a pair of running shoes or a swimsuit and goggles, and to save space you can stuff your suit into the shoes. Early morning exploration runs are the best, and if you can quietly escape, you won’t wake up the family.

Assuming you are going to dodge the fitness centers, which in most hotels are lacking anyway, what are some quick ways to get your swell on?

Pull ups on a tree are a favorite. These are great because they are always different when branches grow at odd angles. It makes you work a bit harder than what you are used to. Can’t find a tree, if you are at an outdoor facing hotel like Disney typically has, hanging off the second floor ledge might be an option. Admittedly this could be too high for some, so bring a towel to loop around the bottom of the railing. When you are below it should help to reach. Same goes for a tree, but running with a towel can be annoying.

Pushups, burpees, and walking lunges ftw. These winners can be done anywhere and make a standard run a bit more entertaining. Sprinkle in sets every 5 minutes on the run, and alternate the exercises. Put your feet on a bench, rock, or step if you want to make the pushups a bit harder.

Planks are another great one you can easily do outside of your hotel room or pretty much anywhere. Switch it up with a few marching planks or by dipping your hips to the ground. This is one of those cumulative exercises for me, meaning that the first set or two is pretty easy, but it quickly starts to suck after that.

As for the swim, I have stayed in some hotels with great pools and some with not so great pools. If you have a lazy river, and it isn’t too crowded, swim upstream. This makes you work a bit harder and is pretty unique. Very different than a lap pool, and probably closer to OWS than you think. For small pools, you can hang your feet on the ladder and work on stroke drills. Don’t expect to get much more out of your time than that unless you brought a tether.

When you travel try to plan ahead and figure out how you will keep up your routine. Do not, I repeat do not forget you are on vacation. Sometimes we get too wrapped up in training and miss the whole point of taking a break with the family. Relax. Enjoy the workouts when they come and when you can do them, but for a few days don’t make them the focus. You need downtime as much as you need to train.

Dieting is so fun.

Not really, but if I say it enough I may convince myself otherwise. Right now, I am officially about 40 days into my Weight Watchers ‘cleanse’. It has gone pretty well this year, and as of this morning I am down about 7 pounds from my starting point. I have done a ton of strength training over the last year, and have been very consistent with the other workouts, so I think the results have been pretty good. I don’t normally walk around with a ton extra, and to give a reference I am about 1 pound higher than when I did my first Ironman. I wouldn’t call it too leaned out, but I don’t think there is much further to go.

There are other free options out there, but I have always had success with WW, and they have great apps to help you track and give you good support options. There are several different payment plans, and you can opt into different programs based on what and how you eat. I am on the blue plan, and get most lean meat, vegetables and fruits for ‘free’. Meaning they don’t count against my daily totals.

The key to my success with WW is 2 things. First I need a consistent diet. To give an example, I start most days with 2-3 eggs, Fage Total 0% Nonfat Greek yogurt with frozen organic blueberries, and two slices of Pepperidge Farm Light Style 7 grain bread (dry, but I dip in the eggs). All in that is 2 points. If I am still hungry I will eat a banana or Honeycrisp apple.

For lunch I will do Boars Head Over Gold Turkey breast, a Tumaro’s multi-grain wrap, pickles, lettuce etc, and spicy mustard. I will also cut up a Honeycrisp apple and dip it in 2 tablespoons of the Chocolate PB mix. If I am hungry I add in another wrap. With two wraps and a ton of meat, that is 3 points. I get 23 points a day, and after lunch and breakfast I still have 18 left.

Dinners are shared with the family so I don’t expect them to eat the same thing everyday like I do, but I cook, so I control how the food is made. Typically, dinner will be some type of lean meat like ground turkey breast or chicken, salmon and shrimp are also pretty common. We tend to stay away from the pastas when we can and opt for rice (6 points a cup) or potatoes more often. I also will load up on salad and vegetables typically finishing out whatever everyone else doesn’t eat. I use the Olive Garden Light dressing which is also low in points. My issue is usually volume, and the fruits and vegetables get me to that full feeling.

With the left over points I will normally have a drink after my workouts and I have a chance to settle down for the evening. With my FIT points, I am way safe from my points limits, as I am getting about 150 of those a week on about 9-10 hours of working out.

Is that a hard routine? I don’t think it is, but I don’t need much variety in my life. Eating the same thing everyday doesn’t bother me and I feel like when I have something that works, stick with it.

I haven’t felt my performances decline in any measure, so the power and endurance is still there. I don’t have any real goals except to shed the Winter weight and get ready for the tri season. It seems like I am almost there, and once I hit what they call goal weight, I might relax a bit more and start having take out again. At that point though the workouts will be longer and harder, so hopefully the effects will counter balance each other.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

We’ve all had a helluva time for the last year and I think everyone is looking for a change of luck in 2021. So when things go wrong, it is easy to say FML.

Last week my coach put an FTP test on the schedule. Your FTP is supposed to be the output you can sustain for about an hour. There are many workouts and race paces built off of this value. For me, the idea was to set a baseline to gauge progress and make sure my workloads are dialed in. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am not a great cyclist. I self estimated my FTP to be 250 based on workouts and race data and have been using that for the last several months. With that said though, I’ve never done an FTP test. Because there was no up front knowledge on what to expect, I did some research.

First up I planned to use Zwift which has multiple options. There are shorter ramp workouts that are said to be less accurate, as well as a longer 20 minute full gas effort wrapped in warmups and shorter higher intensity sections. I apparently love self induced punishment and so decided on the longer more accurate test, which all in goes for 1:15. After picking which one I planned on, I read up on what to expect. Obviously, pain.

In short the test consists of an easy warmup, some heavier spins, a longer sustained effort, and then go time. Simple. I picked my normal route up Alpe D’Zwift (free climbing points when you are in ERG mode) and got after it.

You start out with a pretty long 20 minute spin to loosen the the legs followed by 3 minutes of 1 x (20 seconds easy, 20 seconds harder, 20 seconds hardest). Then another spin, followed by 5 minutes at above threshold, and a final 10 minute spin out before the 20 minute max effort starts.

These went quickly enough, seemed easy enough, and I had my plan. Music was blaring, lights were out, I was basically in my own basement gladiator stadium ready to do battle with my legs. As I approached the virtual starting line I spun up the cadence and took a deep breath.

As the ERG mode released itself, my power immediately went up 100 watts. Soon after so did my RPM’s. Unfortunately, I was doing 90+ RPM’s and not feeling the normal bite on the pedals. That sweet spot between easy and hard that means you are going the right speed for you. I went to shift into a smaller gear and remembered, my DI2 battery was dead. DOH! With all of the ERG mode work I do, I have no need to shift. My RPM’s are constant, and the resistance is modulated by the Wahoo, so shifting has no real impact beyond the few seconds before the Wahoo reacts. At this point, I am about 2 minutes in, and my power is steadily declining from a starting wattage of 280’s to 230’s. Not good.

I decide that because I am a clever fella, I would quickly open another app, put my Wahoo into ERG mode there, and ride out into the sunset. So I jumped into the Wahoo app, set my watts to 275 (I had just done 5 minutes of this so why not?) and switched back into the still running Zwift companion app. Well, let me tell you this, Zwift did not enjoy fighting over who got to run the Wahoo Kickr. The good news was my RPM problem was solved. The bad news is I was spiking the wattage to 380. Not good.

Unable to hold the wattages that were bouncing all over the place, I decided that it was not a valid test at this point, and sad to say, I stopped at around 52 minutes in. Listen, it happens, and even though I spent all day getting psyched up to give this my all, I wasn’t disappointed because I learned a few things.

First make sure your gear is good before you race or workout. I knew I had a dead battery, but just forgot to take care of it. That is on me. Second, be humble with your goals. Maybe 275 was too hard for me, and I should take an easier approach on my end, building as I went vs starting out hot. Third, these things happen. There is always the following week to try again. Which leads me to this week.

With the same FTP test up on my schedule, I made some adjustments. Of course the intitial one being the battery. All systems were good to go before the effort. Next, I adjusted the course to a flat one, and not my normal Alpe D’Zwift. My reasoning being that if Zwift was using the incline in the FTP it may have contributed to my downfall on the last effort. I didn’t want terrain to be the deciding factor. Last, I tempered down my pace based on feel and not numbers. In fact, I started the first minute or so no looking at the numbers and trying to go at a pace that felt right.

Before I give you the output, I have to say, that it was nice to go to my absolute edge of performance. Without racing for the last 12+ months, I miss pushing to my limits. It is hard to do on your own. The FTP test rose to the challenge though, and I saw a heart rate that I may have never seen on the bike. Trainingpeaks told me that I set a number of all-time efforts in power and heart rate as well. Pretty neat.

The 20 minute section basically unfolded with me taking a blind stab at effort, and basing it on feel. When I looked up, I saw I was holding about 260, so that was where I tried to stay. My strategy for this was to switch to a smaller gear every minute or so for 15-20 seconds and just mash on the pedals. This would spike my watts, and make me feel that when I went to an easier gear and lower wattage it was easy. Did it work? Probably not, but at the time it was what I needed to do. It let me break the workout up into smaller sections and helped me to push through the times when I was falling off pace. For the finish, I decided at around the third minute that with 2 minutes to go, I would give it my all. So I just had to get to minute 18 close to pace, and then finish strong. I did that, I think it worked, and I was pushing about 350 in the last minute to finish the overall 20 minutes at 258 watts average. This put my FTP at 245. Good? Eh, for me I think so. The Tour won’t come knocking, but it is still only January, and I am riding at what I think has been my peak pace.

As for other factors, I am still on the annual Weight Watchers start of the year diet. Details of that to come, but as of the FTP day, at my current weight, I was at 3.25 watts/kg. Again, not a very high number, but something I am happy with. It will be interesting to see how this number shifts with the increased training loads as IMLP and ITU LC Worlds gets closer.

The key to improvement will be consistency and discipline. Putting in the work, and keeping training as a priority are the only ways to get better. Well, buying a faster bike helps too, but after that, you have to work hard. It is better that way anyway.

Some Thoughts On Running With A Dog

The idea of running with my dog is very appealing to me. I have had dogs in the past, but never really succeeded in getting them interested or fit enough to run alongside me. One would get about halfway around the block before he would put on the brakes and demand to be carried back. Another was a zigzagger and eventually lost interest in even starting the run. Always fun. So what am I noticing with the Cocker Spaniel after getting some actual runs in?

First, and this is no surprise, the dog will drop deuce on the run. My last athletic dog would need to stop so often I would just give up and make it a walk. A friend of mine thinks picking up dog crap is hilarious. That if aliens are watching us, this simple behavior makes us look ripe for conquering. I don’t disagree. It sucks. So here are my rules for cleaning up after the dog.

  1. If we are in the WOODS or on a wooded trail, I am just moving it off the trail.
  2. If it is not easily picked up, it is staying put. Maybe pour some water on it or put a leaf over it?
  3. If there is a long way to run, and I am doubling back, I will leave the bag for the return trip.
  4. If there is a garbage can along the way it is jettisoned at first chance.

Let’s face it, running with a pile of swinging poop is the worst. So I will do whatever I can to not. Preferably he goes before the run, just like me, but ‘it’ happens I guess.

Next up are leashes. I use a running leash that I have mentioned before and it is great. Handsfree movement, all the good stuff. It seems however, I am sometimes the only one using a leash. In fact on just my last two runs I have come across other dogs off-leash. This is not a good look for dogs or their owners and here is why. If my dog is on a leash, and your dog is not, I can not keep them apart. This upsets my dog which in turn upsets me. I can promise nothing will happen to my dog, so if a problem occurs, that only leaves the other party and that isn’t fair. I follow the rules and if they say dogs must be on a leash, they must be on a leash. Even if you think you are alone. Just be safe and respectful.

Recovery seems to be an often overlooked topic for running with dogs too. These tough little mutts will go and go, so they need us to tell them to stop. Just as important though is to give them rest days just like you would yourself. They can’t tell you when they are hurt or sore, so play it safe, and really pay attention to their gate or actions before and after a run. If you are tired, they probably are too. So help them cool down, give them good food, and plenty of water. Don’t ramp up from 0 to 5+ miles a day or just like a person, you risk injury.

It is tough work to keep them clean and insect free. My Cocker has ears that act like tick elevators. I have pulled so many ticks off of him in such a short period that it is a mandatory check after each hike and run. Sure the medicines kill them off, but I prefer not to bring them in the house. As for the car, I usually bring several towels along and have a dog carrier that goes over the seat to keep it clean. I don’t try to get the little guy spotless until we are home and get a bath. Depending on the ground we covered and how messy it is, I won’t do a bath every time, but there are days when the mud is unavoidable and it has to be done.

There you have it. Just a few observations and things we are seeing so far. Probably nothing responsible and experienced dog owners don’t already know, but worth repeating for the newbs like myself.

Judgement Time

There is nothing worse than setting the bar too high. Unrealistic expectations deliver defeat. All too often people are not honest with themselves. They think that because they are good at something they are good at everything. It is pretty common actually, especially with competitive athletes. I have seen people who have done a single marathon jump right to Boston qualification as their goal. Or even people who have not raced a single triathlon go straight to an Ironman. We need to be honest with not only our abilities but our grind. The bigger the goal the harder we have to work. More work equals more time, something not everybody has.

I listen to a lot of motivational speakers and people who have succeeded in achieving their goals. I personally discovered how effective manifestation is almost 10 years ago, and have been very lucky in conquering anything I have set my mind to since. But I am also realistic both with what I aim for, and how hard I worked for it. Setting an impossible goal is not the problem, it is the work that goes into it that is. You can’t say “I am out of shape but tomorrow I will win a 5k”. Well someone probably can, but for most people you need to do the work. You want that 5k, good, now what are you going to give to get it? You are going to have to sweat, bleed, cry. You are going to have to miss dinners and wake up early. No pizza or wine on Friday. WHAT EVER IT TAKES. That’s how you get where you want to be. No free lunches.

But way too often people set the goal, and fold up like a card table at the first bump in the road. Doesn’t work that way. When I see a bump I go through it. Bump is gone. There are no bumps when you set your mind to doing something and are committed. Either you commit or you didn’t really want it to begin with. The middle of the road is paved with lofty goals that looked good but cost too much. Not too much money, but too much spirit. Too much time and sacrifice.

The irony in this is that people set challenging goals and then lie to themselves. In an effort to be happy we setup disappointment. We all do it from time to time. We tell ourselves we worked hard, we didn’t cheat, we got it done. Maybe we did, but nobody else can judge that except you. When I skip workouts, or bail because I just don’t want to push, I can’t stand short of my goal and be disappointed. I know why. You want it, you have to earn it.

The good news with this slice of humble pie is there is little more rewarding than when you push and obtain what you set out to accomplish. Someone tells you that you can’t do it? That is icing on the cake. Watch me go.

Setting goals and getting there is like climbing a ladder. You can’t skip too many rungs at a time or you will just fall back down. When I set out my goals for the year, I try to envision if they are truly doable. Next I sit with my family and make sure they are onboard. Having a big goal is great, but if the family is not supportive of the sacrifices they may need to make, you are being selfish. Lastly, I talk to my coach. Having someone that can slowly get you to where you want to be is very helpful. I see it so often, especially around this time of year where people get amped up. I’ll see them in a few weeks and hear “I have been to the gym every day this month.” or “I have run an hour every day.” Those are great to hear if they hold up. But going from 0-60 burns a lot of gas, and is very hard to keep up. The best approach is to ease into it, setup a series of mini goals, and do the work incrementally. Doing workouts that are challenging but not overwhelming keeps you going longer, and builds you far faster.

Whether or not we get to where we want isn’t always the most important thing. Being truthful about what we did, and how much we put in is. There will always be times when the work was done but the result doesn’t go our way. That’s life. When that happens you can hold your head high and say I gave it my best. When you don’t give it your all though, when you put the work off until tomorrow, that get out of jail card is gone. You have to own the defeat. You don’t have to like it, but you have to own it. Times like that can be very defining in their own right. They can give you the push you need to get there next time. The extra fuel that was missing.

In the end setting goals is how we set things in motion. Putting in down on paper, focusing on it, spreading out the work, and being honest with ourselves is how we accomplish them. You are your best and worst critic, use that to your advantage.

Build Your House With Bricks

Forget the saying “The hay is in the barn”. Around here we deal in bricks. Hard, heavy, and strong bricks. For those not initiated into triathlon yet, a brick is what we call a bike / run workout. It is meant to simulate the last two legs of the race, and is very effective. It is aptly named a ‘brick’ because your legs feel heavy like there are bricks tied to them when you start the run.

As fun as it sounds to run with bricks tied to your feet, this workout is a cornerstone in any triathlon program. Or I should say that it is in any successful program? The fact is that not everyone does bricks regularly. This is very shocking to me, and it can only be because they don’t understand just how important, but moreso how effective a training tool they are.

Admittedly I have been sans bricks for the past few months. In my defense though it has been what would normally be the off season and I turned over to a run focus based on trying to get faster. However, my coach has been peppering them back in, smaller for now, but starting to lay the foundation for the months to come.

My workout last night consisted of a challenging 60 minute bike followed by an easier 120-130 bpm heartrate run. The idea wasn’t too kill it the whole time but more to wake to legs up to the shift of usage that comes in T2. The bike was tough, and I think I rated it a 7 on my Traininpeaks report, but the run felt pretty relaxed which it was supposed to be. Since it was one of my first bricks of the new season, keeping the transition light is better to play it safe and stay injury free.

During the season as training ramps up so do the bricks, and towards the final builds of an Ironman training block one can expect to do 4-5+ hour rides with another 1-1.5 hour runs immediately after. Followed by a long run of 2+ hours the following day. But getting there takes time, energy, and patience. Competing in Ironman races definitely comes with some bragging rights among your sedentary friends, but there is a lot of work that goes into it.

There are some shortcuts though, and while they don’t replace time put in, they can simulate a physical reaction that takes alot of time to get to. One tactic my coach uses is multiple bricks in the same session. For example combining 3 x (40 minute cycle 20 minute run) for 3 hours in total. It speeds up the timing because you are able to push a little harder each time, making the last set feel like you have been riding for the 5 hours and are at the end of the long run. You deplete the energy quicker, still have good volume, and can simulate the experience without having to put in all the time. For those with a treadmill this type of combo is perfect over the Winter. It breaks up the monotony of stationary exercise into bite sized chunks, and you come out of your caves in the Spring ready to push even harder.

Something I always wondered was how quickly athletes need to go from a bike to a run in order to reap the benefits of this type of training. If you have to change or secure your bike before you can run it will take time, does that diminish the results of the workout? In my experience it does not. If you are able to plan ahead properly, and establish what you will do before hand it doesn’t typically take more than 10-15 minutes at max do do a transition at home or in a parking lot. But this is another opportunity to practice part of the race that doesn’t get a lot of attention which is transition. If you are home and can setup a race simulation of T2, go for it. If not, practice putting your shoes on quickly especially when tired and sweaty. Lay out some nutrition, and eat it on the go. It is the little things like this that can wind up making a big difference during a race.

Triathlon boils down to strength and endurance. The more you have of both the more successful you will be, but like anything else you need to hone your skills specific to your sport. The closer you can mimic the swim, bike, and run aspects that you encounter on race day, the better the results. So stop breaking up the bikes and runs and make sure you do at LEAST 2 bricks a week. Build that strong foundation on bricks now, and it will be there for you all season.