Body Maintenance

Getting older isn’t my favorite thing. I don’t notice it when I am in the moment, but when I sit back and think about it, the body seems to respond a little bit slower each year. Personally, just getting up after sitting for too long hurts sometimes. Yes, I grunt openly when I stand up in the office. Although my recovery time is still pretty good, the bounce back from injury is growing a bit more each time.

Things like this are to be expected, but we can slow the effects of some of these impairments, limit the occurrence, AND improve our performance with a few simple steps. These really do go hand in hand because unless we are doing the work in all areas training will suffer, and then too will fitness.

The areas I typically focus on are very basic. Warmup. Cooldown. Stretch. Strength. Rest.

Sounds simple, but I am guilty as the next person of neglecting the maintenance portions of my fitness routine. I rarely warmup outside of races, and cool downs, if they are not baked into the workout don’t happen much either. I stretch when need be, which doesn’t seem to be very often. Now, in my defense strength is covered, so maybe that is what saves me from serious injury. I also take care to stretch for really big efforts like a race or track workout. The point is I need to do better, especially as I age and continue to ask much from my body. If we neglect to care for something eventually it fails to work. Our bodies are no exception.

What does a warm up look like for me? During a recent track session, I did a VERY easy 10-12 minute mile. Just enough to move the legs and not much more. After that I hit the big muscles that tighten up on me during a hard effort: calves, quads, hamstrings. A few easy stretches to improve the muscle mobility. After that I move into the dynamic stretches. Primarily leg swings and lunges. It has always surprised me the difference between static and dynamic flexibility. Having done martial arts in the past, flicking a kick over my head is still possible, but touching my toes and holding it is very difficult. Another interesting detail of dynamic stretches is that from start to finish, it is very apparent that a wider range of motion is being gained. The difference between the first and 10th leg swing is dramatic, and one reason I stress people do even a few before the try to run fast. If there is a single thing to do before a race, this is it.

Cooldowns are equally as important. You want your body to slowly relax and not lock up muscles that were heavily taxed. Have you heard the phrase ‘rode hard and put away wet’? Yeah, if I don’t spend 5-10 minutes winding it down, the next day is one of those grunters in the office days. I typically do another 5-10 super easy minutes of jogging or spinning, and sometimes walking before I fully shut it down. Get the heart rate to a place where it actually belongs, and slowly ease back the throttle until you feel at rest.

Ah stretching. Let’s be honest, nobody like to stretch and most people don’t do it. Stretching is like flossing. Now, I have never been asked to join Cirque du Soleil, and for good reasons. In fact, I feel like most runners are notoriously tight. Seeing that I started down this path decades ago as a runner, it really isn’t any surprise that today I am not very flexible. I credit 10 years of martial arts in the gains I have made, but even that isn’t spectacular. The fact that most of us are so rigid means stretching is something we should all focus on. Full body static and dynamic work best for me, but some of my friends are firm believers in Yoga. Either way, whatever your choice, be sure to work in areas and movements that are lateral as well as linear. Forward and sideways legs swings, bringing the knee up and out, pulling the toes to the butt, angling the toes against a wall, these are the starting point you should do before each effort. Working in the back, shoulders, neck are also important when you are in the TT position or going to be swimming. Side lunges and some quick fiber movements like bounding or skipping also limber me up and help when there are big efforts coming. And yes, even for a marathon or slow effort you should stretch.

Strength is a funny topic among triathletes and most endurance sports in general. I often see the argument made that if you have an hour to strength train, you could better use that hour running, swimming, or biking. It is hard to argue that the more you perform a discipline the better the results will be. But as the title of this post says, you have to do the maintenance. If you don’t take care of yourself now, you will eventually no longer be able to do the things you can now. Strength training is very unique in this regard in that it not only prevents future injury and will keep you healthy longer, but it also has direct performance benefits. This isn’t to say that we need to go out and focus on bodybuilding expecting that other things won’t suffer. There has to be a balance. We need to focus on the core and the muscle groups that are prone to overuse and injury. Lot’s of body weight exercises. Pull ups, push ups, planks, walking lunges, side lunges. Use Bosu balls to enhance the stabilizer muscles. Ask yourselves this, what am I weak at? Pushups? Do those. Pull ups? You got it. After you build those up to a good level, move to the next weakness and keep growing.

Last up but maybe the most important is rest. Without rest we fall apart. Sometimes quickly, sometimes over a longer period, but it always comes. The more the training ramps up, the harder we push the more important the rest is. I try to sleep 6-7 hours a night. For me, the closer to 6 I get the worse off my training is. At 7 hours I am normally fully recharged and ready to hit the day hard. But even at 7 hours, when other factors such as stress being to kick in, maybe from kids or work, I may need to go longer and shoot for 8 hours. The key here is to listen to your body, and not be too specific with a number. Even if you feel good with one amount of sleep, don’t expect that won’t ever change. Adaptability will go a long way here. Rest DAYS are also key. You can’t push too hard every day. You can only go to the well so many times before it runs dry. Most weeks I do workout 6-7 days, but the workouts vary, and some are really just active recovery. An easy hour jog doesn’t always have to be a taxing workout. Just enjoy the time away, the reflection opportunity, and the fact that you can run an hour for fun. Keeping it easy on the easy days is very important. It is good to know you can go harder, but enjoy feeling lazy every now and then too.

Sometimes you eat the bear…

..and sometimes the bear eats you. As they say, it can’t always go your way and the last week has been a bit slow on the workout front. It started on Thanksgiving morning with the annual 5k Turkey Trot. Well, I ran the course. Alone. In the rain. I was determined though to use some of my new speed and set a solo record and keep tradition alive. It started off well enough, clocking my fastest opening mile on the course, and trying to settle in to a good rhythm. This was good news, and it gave me hope that the mile training was actually going to be good for something besides well, a mile time trial.

On the local course, mile 1 is the gift, and miles 2 and 3 are the payment. At about 1.5 you begin to ascend and are pretty steadily climbing until the last few hundred meters. In fact the last climb is up a road aptly named ‘Gallows Hill’. I have since renamed this Nemesis, but more on that later.

Knowing full well what was in store, I focused on staying relaxed and keeping my tangents as clean as possible. For those who are not familiar, I wrote an earlier post on running the tangents which essentially means to keep to the shortest points of a turn. Otherwise you run further than you need to, and on a windy and hilly course like this, every step counts.

As I turned on to the final climb, I was starting to pay the price for my opening mile. I have not been running too many hills lately, and that was also starting to show. Fast and flat is not always good for slow and uphill. The pain wasn’t unexpected though as this seems to be every 5k ever, so you slog on. Which I did, but with the apex of the hill in sight, my calf decided I was an idiot. Who does this? Alone, in the cold rain, on Thanksgiving? So it quit. It wasn’t so much a dull pain, but more of an immediate sharp knot. Obviously with the end so close I wasn’t going to stop, although I almost walked (almost). Instead, I limped through it and finished with my second fastest time on the course, and fastest in 3 years.

The rest of the morning and afternoon was spent cooking and laying down in the Normatec boots for recovery. I also wore compression socks for the day and used the roller on my leg. The damage was already done, but I think this helped the recovery a lot. With that said though, I elected to take Friday and Saturday off from intensity. Instead we went on a family hike and I did some lingering yardwork.

Sunday was another track workout and the leg felt to be at 90% so I dug in. After a number of intervals based on time and feel, I had a 5 minute tempo to finish things off. This was going pretty well, and I was comfortably running about 5:40 pace when all of a sudden the calf quit again. WTF. This was a quick return and I shut it down immediately. It was definitely disappointing, but I still managed all but 3 minutes of the workout, so the quality was there.

Since then I have spent the last 5 days skipping the runs and bikes and focusing on the recovery like rolling, Normatecs, and stretching. I did do some strength work making sure to avoid aggravating the calf during that. Things are almost back to normal, and I am going to test the waters today with an easier run with the dog. If that goes well, we will see what the weekend brings.

In an attempt to determine what caused the initial strain, I think it is from two things. First of course, the hilly course by default puts a lot of strain on the calves. When you are running up a hill aggressively, you are often on your toes. On your toes and short steps. This strains the calf. The other contributing factor I believe to be the Nike Vaporfly shoes. These have a very springy forefoot and I think tend to work the stabilizers and calf muscles a bit more than other shoes do. There is more movement from impact to push-off it seems. So between those two things and the idea that I was pushing hard, things broke down.

Is there any way to prevent it going forward? Yes, more road work. Soon I will be back to a normal Ironman schedule, and that will mean lots of long loops in the woods and on the road. Less high impact speed work, and a lower chance of injury from that. This has set me back a week, but sometimes the break and the rest is good, even if we don’t think we need it. First it rebuilds the desire to train hard. We always want what we can’t have. Second it let’s the body heal from being pushed to its limits. This sounds funny since it is born of injury, but in my experience, one injury means another is just around the corner. So taking care of yourself before complete breakdown occurs is important.

So that’s it. Hopefully everything is back operational for this weekend, and the sub 5 project can continue. If it takes longer so be it. Good. More time to work on stretching and strength, and be even more ready for the next round!

Make the Time

There are alot if people who will tell you they don’t have the time to workout. They are too busy to invest in themselves or their own happiness. These are the same people who will sit down in front of the TV for hours at a time day after day, idle and zoned out. The same people who bury their faces in the phone absorbed in a virtual life.

Don’t get me wrong, I spend most of the day online, and a Netflix binge is as good for me as the next fella, but I have no illusions that there is not enough time for me to train. The reality is that training is hard, or at least people think it is hard, and watching TV is easy. The reward for doing nothing is now. The reward for working out is later.

I won’t try to be the motivational speaker here. I have spent far too long attempting to convince my friends to go for a ride or run with me. That is why I have two groups of friends, the fit group and the work-a-holic group. My suspicion is that this is pretty normal, and most people can relate to this. I personally fall somewhere in between both groups. Enough that each one is impressed with my results in the other. Such as my worker friends are amazed I am still out there doing Ironman races, while my triathlon friends don’t know how I find the time with kids and running a business. Which brings me to my point, you find the time by making it a priority to find the time.

Recently I have started an experiment for myself. Nothing cutting edge or revolutionary, but I decided to write down and structure out my day. Here is a taste of what it looks like:

  • 5:30 Wake up
  • 6:00 Stretching, rollers, light weight body exercise, meditation
  • 6:15 Read or write something useful
  • 6:30 Shower
  • 7:00 Check email and breakfast
  • 7:45 Watch the news
  • 8:15 Start working
  • 5:00 Stop working
  • 6:00 Dinner and family time
  • 7:30 Workout
  • 9:00 Have some tea
  • 9:45 Read
  • 10:30 Lights out

This is not perfect, and I will of course make exceptions and allowances along the way. However, it gives me a chance to see that there is time to fit in everything that is important to me. Learning, spending time with my family, training, and running a good business. It does not leave alot of idle time in there to veg out, and that is on purpose. Fitting in 2-3 hours of bumping around the channels will cost me somewhere else. Maybe it is sleep, maybe it is a work deadline, but if this is a full day for me, something has to be traded. If we are honest and ask ourselves which is more important, watching a show we are not even paying attention to, snooping on social media, or getting in a killer brick session, the answer tells us all we need to know.

So there you have it. There is time to train. There is time to work. There is time to spend with your family. We just have to pay attention to our day, focus on the important things, and really give each one our mind share while we can. When that happens there are few things we can’t accomplish despite a busy and often stressful schedule. Remember, training and racing is a reward and blessing. Think of it as the dessert of the day. Something to look forward to, and a time when you really get to focus on you. Don’t neglect the other parts of your day though, and attack them with the same determination you have with a session.

Be the best version of yourself on all levels, and really work on ending each day better than when you started it.

180 BPM

Music is one of the most effective motivation tools I have. I will build full playlists for specific races or training blocks. For the last mile I often shuffle down to a key motivator song. We all do it. As my son says, “that song gives me energy”.

The hard thing has always been finding new music though. Something that keeps the beats at a steady pace where you just align your step or cadence to it. It also has to resonate. The lyrics or a video are just as important as the beat. Take the quintessential Rocky theme for example. Without the fight to prop it up that song would not be what it is.

Then comes the trick of bringing the music with you or playing it loud enough to overcome the treadmill or trainer. I use lots of different things depending on the situation. If I am doing a lazy run I will bring the phone and some wireless earbuds. From there I put on a playlist from Spotify and off I go.

For swims it depends on the venue. If it is open water I still use a waterproof iPod shuffle with waterproof wired earbuds. I don’t love this solution though because they always seem to fill up with water at some point distorting the acoustics. The benefit though is that if a bud pops out it is attached and you don’t lose it. For pools I have had mixed results with water proof Bluetooth buds paired to my phone. The underwater signal isn’t great, but if I am close enough it is functional. If you don’t want any interruption wired has still been the best for me.

On the bike, because I can carry more gear, most of the time I will use Bose or Yurbuds wired earphones. To me the wired always carries better sound and the weight and flopping wire isn’t a factor since you are in a pretty static position.

One trick I use on runs with a wired ear phone is to run the cord under the heart rate monitor. This keeps it pretty secure even in the bare shirted Summer when I have nothing to clip it to.

At home, I go Sonos on blast in the basement. It is more comfortable when I am drenched, and nobody seems to mind upstairs.

When it comes to finding new music, that is a tall order. For awhile I was snagging songs off of Peloton playlists when I did a spin ride. To be fair, I think the music playlists was the best part of the service for when it started. I haven’t been on a Peloton ride for some time now, but I have found a few of the instructors put their lists on Spotify so you can check them out. Of course Spotify has been great (Daily Mixes and Discover Weekly), but so has Pandora for finding new hidden gems. Lastly, Youtube on autoplay will get you songs you are not specifically looking for, and if you watch the video, sometimes something that you wouldn’t normally click works and can go into the playlist.

Everyone needs to find there own music and what works for them, but I try to build out the play lists based on time and intensity. For a long hard work out, I save the best for last, and maybe I put two or three choices so I can move past a song if it just isn’t cutting it. Although you can’t race with music, but you can train with it, and you can use that as your cue if you know the timing of the list. For example, once you hit X song, let it go, time to hurt.

My music is all over the place, but here are a few songs in no particular oder I am going deep with lately.

  • Summertime Sadness (Lana Del Rey and Cedric Gervais) 3:34
  • All Guys (Killrude) 3:00
  • So Strong (Fliwo) 4:51
  • Black Betty (Spiderbait) 3:25
  • Runnin’ Down A Dream (Petty) 4:21 – This is a final-kick-most-pain-you-can-take song for me. Weird right?
  • Rainbows & Waterfalls (Pretty Lights) 4:14
  • Daydreamin’ (Lupe Fiasco) 3:54
  • Fast Lane (Bad Meets Evil) 4:09
  • God’s Gonna Cut You Down (Johnny Cash) 2:38
  • Word Up (BossHoss) 4:10
  • Dance Monkey (Tones and I) 3:29
  • You’re Crazy (GnR) 4:08
  • Hot Like Sauce ( Pretty Lights) 7:01
  • Good Feeling (Flo Rida) 4:08 – “Giving up’s not an option get to get it in. I got the heart of 20 men.”
  • Rolling in the Deep (Adele) 3:48

That is an hour start to finish, enough for most workouts. Yes each of those is very different from the others. What can I say? It works for me, and hopefully you find something good in there.

Time Check

Have you ever been impatient? Yeah, me too. After missing last weeks track session due to horrendous weather (35 degrees and raining buckets) I thought a one mile time trial would be fun and a good check in on where I am currently. The coach agreed, and so we setup Sunday to go for it. As we were talking about the effort, I told him I wasn’t so much worried about anything but the night before when I would have some friends over for dinner. We tend to have a few tipples when we all get together, and this was no exception. I recall something about a shot and pickle juice, but that is another story. Add to that only four hours of sleep on Friday night, a big bike on Saturday, and Sunday morning was rough.

As much as we may not want to push ourselves when we are tired or sore, this is the time I try to push myself the most. In my head if I can get through the toughest times, then the everything else will be simple. I workout after dinner alot for the same reason. My reasoning is that if I can push hard with a belly full of cherry pepper pizza, race day will be a cake walk.

So Sunday rolled in, I wobbled around getting in fluids and some food, and laced up the flats for the mile. Instead of the track I wanted to do the time trial on the road. My reasoning being that my road has a slight decline on it, and I could use that slope to help keep the speed up. I used the run out as my warm up, and it took about 9-10 minutes. I did a few stretches, a few quick drills and took a deep breath.

I started off a bit slow I felt, but was pretty quickly moving well enough back down the road. My coach suggested I look for quarter mile indicators along the way which I did for some rough measures. The first one I ignored, but the halfway mark I glanced at the watch and it said 2:28 elapsed. This was great news and I was ahead of pace, although the watch also said 5:06 pace, so maybe the measurement was a little off. No matter, I cranked it up, and startled a couple out for a nice weekend walk. I can only imagine what I must look like going full gas down a quiet street. Sweaty, gasping for air, and red as a beet. Oh well.

The finish has a slight uphill but I dug deep, got on the toes and sprinted to the end. There was some nervousness to check the watch, but when I recovered enough I peeked: 5:12 1.0 miles.

That is the fastest I have run a mile in 23+ years. For comparison I did the exact same mile earlier this year and it was 5:42. Huge improvement. I also have been pushing on many fronts with work, working out, and projects in general, so the last few weeks has not been a great training block. But after seeing that time, I really think this sub-five may be in the works after all.

Today is an active recovery day on the bike and then back into the rhythm of things. I am thinking about foregoing beer, wine, and bourbon for the next month or so to really keep me focused and operating tip top. With it being the holidays normally that wouldn’t be much fun, but these aren’t the normal holidays. Sleep is another thing I need to focus on. There were multiple days last week where I took in only about 4-5 hours of rest. This isn’t enough when you are pushing yourself. For me it leads to getting sick, and from there training drops significantly. So for now the name of the game is stay healthy, only consume good nutrition (coffee excluded), and keep focused.

There are still a few weeks before Thanksgiving, which was my unofficial target for the goal time. If I want to hit that timeframe it will take everything I have and then some. It will hurt, and parts will suck for sure, but when it is done, I will have ticked something off the list I never thought I would see again. Achieving things you consider outside of your reach is very rewarding and probably the reason I get so much done in general. My goals are always big challenges and working on them makes other things easier. The key is to remember, don’t give up, put in the effort, and enjoy the journey.

(Pain) Endurance

Endurance athletes are a special breed of people. We do things that most people can’t fathom, and we come out with a smile. We torture ourselves day in and day out. So it is fair to say that for some endurance is not just being able to make your muscles move for a period of time. Instead, it is to make them move when they can’t. When they won’t. When everything hurts, but you refuse to quit. Enduring the pain is as important as any part of what we do, and what we are capable of.

I often tell people I walk around at a 7 out of 10 sore most days. You know like that frowny face chart at the doctors. Yeah, I am somewhere between red face and the worried orange looking guy.

Is it too much? Maybe a bit but I like it that way. When I am sore it feels like I did something tangible. Like I put some hay in the barn. I have read many books by cyclists and runners, and they all talk about their pain threshold. “Shut up legs” being a great example. How much they can endure. I tend to agree with the idea. I am not the best athlete especially when it comes to the bike, but I can go to dark places. I can twist myself up in a knot to push the pace. I will go to 100% and stay there until the body just fails, whereas I see more talented people tapping out well below there best. Thankfully it keeps me competitive haha.

Why is that? I am sure Tony Robbins has a better answer, but to me it is just a personal mantra to never leave any doubts. Never give less than I can no matter what excuses I have or can make. And believe me, I have many many excuses. I’m tired. I’m sore. I want to eat cake and pie. Or bourbon is also nice.

How do I train this mentality? It is not easy for sure, but probably my most successful technique has been to hold myself publicly accountable. To friends, to family, to training partners, whoever. If I say I will do it, I do it because I don’t want to go back on my word. It breaks down peoples’ trust in you. Another thing I do often are the micro-deals I have talked about in the past. I compartmentalize and force myself to tolerate the pain in small digestible morsels. Does this make it hurt less, no, but it makes it go by quicker.

Another aspect of getting it done is discipline. Adhering to a routine. Knowing that when you get to a certain point in the day it will be uncomfortable, but you will come out on the other side better then how you went in. We don’t want to get up early or push to failure. We do it because we train to ignore what we know is coming and just get it done. As they say, sometimes the hardest part is just getting dressed to workout. I agree. The annoyance of getting out of a warm bed to squeeze in something that hurts is counter to how most of us feel (I especially love putting on a wet heart rate monitor from the day before). But by doing it, we build patterns, habits, and behaviors that are there for us when we most need them. Keep pushing, set hard goals, and make sure you are holding yourself accountable. If you can maintain this type of structure and discipline as an ASPECT of your training, when it comes to game day, you will be able to push yourself beyond where others can.

Find your motivation and find your discipline. The words in this video have always resonated with me. “I didn’t come this far to only come this far.” Push past what you think you can do. Ten more seconds. Be better then yesterday.

There Is Always An Excuse

The last few weeks have been tough. Work is tough, the kids are busy with full time school (remember that?), there are projects going on, and finding daylight to train in is tricky. To me this is all part of the game though. Triathlon or really any time consuming hobby is not just about putting in the time, but managing the rest of your day. Workout life balance is just as important as work life balance.

I don’t think I am breaking any ground here, everyone knows how challenging it is to train hard and consistently put in the time. But when we push through the obstacles, we can see they are not so overwhelming when we just take a breath. Baby steps get you through it. Relying on the excuses stinks. Nobody else really cares if I work out so the excuses are just for myself. Me lying to me just doesn’t seem worth it.

One thing is for sure though, no matter how hard you try, things will not always go your way. Case in point I had a very small window to do my track session a few weeks ago, and the track was taken when I showed up (again). Nothing I could do about that. The key was to roll with it and not get too focused on the disappointment or missed workout. When you think about it, missing a day is only 24 hours, so you are just sliding the effort down the line a bit. No biggy.

After the missed weekend, I did resume where I left off this past weekend, and was back at it with the newly arrived Alphafly’s. I like them. Some initial thoughts are that they might run a bit small. I had a heck of a time getting one of them on. They felt fine to run in, but the opening for your foot is snug. The front air pods are for sure a unique feel and sprinting on the toes felt unusual. I thought I looked like a baby deer stumbling down the backstretch. Awkward but fast. Were they worth the $300 ? Eh, maybe, but a key piece of being a professional amateur is making up for talent with gear. In the workout I ran 2 x 1000’s (on 3 minutes rest) and 5 x 200’s (jogging 200) in them and they felt pretty good. I could see doing a marathon with them no problem, although I did get a blister on my Achilles so that will need some moleskin if I take them to an Ironman. Total run with warmup and cool down was about 5 miles.

Were they faster though that is the big question. So yes, my time was faster, BUT, I have been continuing to work hard and keep at the consistency so there is probably a bunch more left before my ceiling. Full disclosure for this effort I ran my first 1000 in 3:31 and the second in 3:33. Still about 20 seconds from where I need to be, but around 8 seconds faster than last time. I also ran my fastest 200 with the shoes on in around 33 seconds. So was it the shoes or just the growth? I think both. I have had the Zero’s for a few years now, and ran consistently faster in them. From 5k to marathon, I had a great year overall and the shoes had to play a role in that. I can’t discount the impact two design generations later these shoes make. Plus, I mean, Kipchoge #amiright?

After sharing the 3:31 1000 meter time, for some it might look like the sub-5 attempt will be impossible. On its face I would agree, but every single time I hit the track the numbers look better. Will it happen by Thanksgiving? Ah, that is a tough one. I can say for sure that I could have kept the 1k pace for 600m more. That puts me around 5:30’s. Thirty seconds in the mile is a long time, but the strength feels like it is there. So I need to keep working on my turnover and top end speed. More importantly I need to remind myself that my shortest race in the last two years was over an hour. One nice side effect is that I ran some intervals at 6:40 last night and it felt super easy. So if nothing else, I hope to see some benefits to my endurance speed. The bike numbers are also ticking up as are some of the strength measures I have. All good news.

I head back to Lake Placid this weekend, and will be playing in the snow for Halloween. Depending on the conditions a true speed workout might not be possible, but I heart running in the snow. In fact, it is probably my favorite time to run. YakTrax F.T.W. One way or another I will be running, it just depends on how fast.

Halfway There

The weeks continue to roll by and so do the track workouts. The tricky thing with track workouts at the moment though is schools are back in session. That means practices, games, fans etc. all milling around or watching from the bleachers. As confident as I may be, I am NOT going to be running wheezing laps around a track while a field hockey game is going on in the middle. So…sometimes we need to adapt and overcome.

This week, unable to find an open track when I had the window to run, I was forced to take it to the treadmill. The workout itself was pretty simple, descending count, ascending distance. (5×100, 4×200, 3×400, 1×800) All of these were to be at goal pace, or faster for the shorter ones. Sadly, my treadmill only goes to 12mph, so for anything shorter where I would be pushing for better than goal pace wasn’t possible. Is that an issue? Maybe long term, but for times when you need to just deal with the cards in front of you, it is ok. Besides, there are two benefits to a treadmill. One is that it really helps with turnover and getting the muscles used to a range of motion and speed. The second is one of the biggest advantages in my opinion.

Forced pace. When you set a speed on the treadmill, and let’s just assume it is accurate, you have to match it. If not, you will be spit out like a watermelon seed. Or in my case be flung into a wall and shredded by the belt (I do wear the safety clip over 11mph). As long as you can keep your grubby paws off the speed, you just have to go. No thinking, just keep up. I love that.

For this workout, the first few are always a bit of a shock to the system, but they are short and sweet. Even the 200’s are pretty easy. The 400’s started to hurt some, but there was good rest between them, and I have been doing 400’s the last few weeks so the pain wasn’t too bad. Now that 800 was a different story.

With my longest interval to date the 600m in Lake Placid, I was more curious about the 800 than I was looking forward to it. In fact, I wasn’t sure I would be able to do a 2:30 at all, but mentally I was prepared to give it everything to get there. After the 3rd 400 while I was letting the heart rate get back down to a reasonable level, I started to hedge. My mental toughness was wavering a bit. Something I had thought about all day, something I was going to crush, just didn’t seem in the cards, and I hadn’t even started yet. I was telling myself, just get to this far and if you need to quit, it is ok.

BS. I know it is BS, but the mind is a funny thing. Anyway, the interval started, and it was immediately hard. I knew from the 400’s that it would be hard to hit 400 at pace, but I was determined to get to at least that point. The halfway marked rolled by and I was still in the game! only 1:15 left in the lap and then done. 45. 30. 15 r-e-a-l-l-y long seconds and boom done. Somehow I made it 800m in 2:30. That is halfway to the 4:59 goal and with a lot of training time to go.

Now before you go telling me it was on the treadmill with no incline blah blah blah, yeah, I get it. Is it the same as outside, no of course not. But would I have pushed to the absolute edge like I did on the treadmill, no I don’t think I could have. The tools are there to be used, and to push us. Each workout has its purpose and you hope to make gains on each of them. For me, seeing that I could at least do what I did makes me feel better about the possibility of going sub 5:00.

Oh, and I also did the run in my Asics Kayano’s which are basically the running equivalent of a workboot. So when I slip on my new Nike Alphafly Next%’s I will have an even bigger ace in the hole. You can call me Kipchoge. And no they aren’t cheating. First they are approved to run in the Olympics, and second this is not a ‘race’. Just something for me.

Back in Lake Placid

With the kids in remote learning or hybrid or whatever we are calling it these days, one benefit is being able to escape for long weekends more often. So we packed up the crew and headed up to Training Camp North for a few days.

The weather has been perfect for those that like it a bit cooler. High 20’s at night and in the morning but 50’s during the day. Definitely sweater weather. Frost on the cars and time to pull out the gloves for morning workouts.

With the focus still on the run I have been poking around some new trails while the family walked them at the same time. The dog has been doing great with the walks as well. We have been doing between 2 and 3 miles a day and that is just enough to tucker him out. He won’t be ready to run them just yet, but he is getting good on the leash.

One thing I always like to do when I travel is explore the area on a run. For business trips I can’t always bring my bike or find a pool, but I have always been able to run. Finding the new spots or something I wouldn’t not have normally seen is alot of fun. This trip, besides checking out John Brown’s farm, I located a track for some speed work. Being an Olympic town, and home to some of the best Winter athletes in the world, it was cool to be on the track while others were there working on their own sports like skeleton.

Like last week, I started off with an easy warm-up and drills before getting into anything intense. It wasn’t too windy, and the temps were perfect, so I was ready to get to work. My workout started off with 200’s again, and this week I was consistently 3-5 seconds faster per interval. This put me inside of my goal pace which was nice. They also felt pretty relaxed, another good sign. After the set of 200’s it was on to 400’s which were a bit harder of course (they hurt). I tried to gauge pace and effort and came in pretty slow on the first one. Although I was able to increase the pace on each one, I was still just behind where I want to be. My next interval was 600 and that was a dumpster fire. Well, it wasn’t the worst thing I have ever done, but it hurt and I was slow.

Although I am still behind my goal numbers, it is week #2 of track work, and I need to keep that in perspective. Am I impatient? Yes, but only when it takes time to accomplish something. After years of Ironman and Half-Ironman races, it is like I am building from the beginning. I know that is not exactly true, endurance is still there, but my muscles have definitely adjusted to their new roles of being able to function for half a day without stop. If I am successful in this experiment, and I think I may actually be, it should serve as proof to anyone that they can calibrate themselves even a little later in life.

Admittedly, it doesn’t get easier as you get older, but if we keep ourselves fit and functioning, the hurdles in front of us are much more manageable.

What The Heart Wants

I have talked about heart rate zones a bit in the past so I won’t go into a gory description of them right now, but I would like to touch upon what your heart rate might be telling you. Before I do that though, if you don’t have a heart rate monitor, please get one. Seriously. This is a pretty inexpensive piece of gear, and is one of the truest measures of your body that I know of outside of a lab or blood work.

If you need any suggestions, check out the gear page on the main site for the Garmin watch. That might be overkill for most beginners, but I really do love my watch. I actually have a number of Garmin watches. This is mostly through upgrading, but it certainly comes in handy like the other day when my main time teller was dead. Luckily number two in the line up was not. It is important to have options?

There are a lot of choices out there with newer devices having the monitor built into them to avoid the need for a strap. There are pro’s and con’s to that though. The obvious pro being that you won’t end up with a horizontal friction burn across your chest all year, the con being that I find them to be less accurate. They are getting better though, so maybe the gap is closer than I think these days. For now though I am a proud strap wearer. I actually have been wearing some Body Glide across my chest to reduce the rubbing, and it seems to do the trick more or less.

As I went out for my run last night, I was somewhat excited because it was based on heart rate, and the numbers were not that aggressive. To be more specific, it was under 140 for an hour. This is a pretty easy run for me, but my ranges are specific to me. So while 140 running is on the easy side for me, it may be the top end for someone else. Where tracking heart rate becomes important though is during recovery and in measuring effort. What exactly does that mean and why do you care?

Say you head out for the same run on two separate days. On each run you keep your heart rate between 140-150. The first day you run 10 miles. The second day you run 8 miles. If everything but distance is the same, what does that tell you? There are alot of possible explanations between the two of course. Hard workout the day before. Not enough sleep. Poor nutrition etc. But without comparing and measuring the results, it is very difficult to isolate changes that impact your performance. I tend to find most of my fatigue is not the result of a single effort or poor night’s sleep, but rather a cumulative effect of several days. If I notice that I am running significantly slower based on heart rate, it is time to adjust.

Heart rate is also important to know how hard you are working. Keeping a specific pace is obviously a goal, but many times we need to know how our body is reacting to that pace to know what training to focus on. If you are able to hit your goal marathon pace, but within 30 minutes are at your top heart rate, it is not likely that you will be able to carry that pace for several more hours. I have been in Ironman races that as the day went on the heat went up. I knew I could physically run at a specific speed, but I also knew where my heart rate should be. If I didn’t pay attention to HR, and only focused on pace, there was a high chance of blowing up. It is just as key to know your HR targets as it is to know your time and pace.

Of all the benefits that come from training with hear rate, perhaps the biggest is rest. When the workouts call for an easy day, it means go easy. So many of us have the mentality that if it doesn’t hurt it is not working. Nothing is farther from the truth though. For most people, one or two days of high quality coupled with easy recovery and some bigger volume efforts are all they can handle. But instead of taking recovery as recovery, they go out and hammer those too. I am far from a pro or elite athlete, as I think most of us are, and I need the rest. I want to be ready when the big efforts are there, and put in the junk miles when I can. To keep me honest, I use the heart rate. Super easy is under 130 and this is normally a warmup, pretty easy is 140. From there 140-150 is a good hour plus rate and I can run that for a long time. At 150-160 I am going to hold that for about 1:30 to maybe 2 hours and above that is 10k and 5k pace. So those are my training lanes and guides for what watch for during training.

Are they perfect, no maybe not, but they do tell a pretty good story. That is why it is important to listen to the body, and not fight it. It knows when you are tired and trying to push through that can set you back even more through injury, prolonged fatigue or illness. Remember, every workout doesn’t need to be a PR, and taking it easy can actually be more beneficial than crushing it every time out.