Friday, January 30, 2009

Back in the pool

I hit up the pool this morning, and had a so-so time of it.

The gym I go to actually has two pools open during the winter months, one 25-yarder and another 20-yarder (which I affectionately refer to as the "old man pool," mostly because they keep the temp set at about 75 degrees and it attracts a more sedentary segment of the gym's population). The larger pool is usually inundated with Super Swimmers and/or a masters class in the mornings, and, because I'm not confident enough to throw myself into that mix, I usually elect to hang with the oldies if I need an early morning swim.

Which is generally fine. The warm water is usually much more attractive and easier to jump into first thing in the morning, and, assuming you're not sharing a lane with eight water-joggers, it can be a very relaxing experience. Well, as relaxing as swimming ever gets for me.

The only problem with the smaller pool is that 20 yards is just really, really short. Even for a crappy swimmer like yours truly, it seems like you're stopping to turn every 12 seconds. It's hard to get into any kind of rhythm, and it's difficult to follow any kind of set swim workout (i.e., "Okay, I'm going to do 4 x 200 alternating hard and easy, how many lengths is that? Hmmm...").

So today I just broke a 40-minute swim into five-minute blocks, which, for me is probably about 8 x 300 in a regular-temperature pool, but probably more like 7 x 300 in the old man pool (something about the higher temps makes me go even slower than usual....). I had to share a lane - with an actual swimmer! - for about half of it, which wasn't great (my lane-mate was swimming in a rather "animated" manner, and I was sure that he was bound to crash into me at some point), but the time went by pretty quickly.

Last night was a 45-minute treadmill run at about an 8:40 pace and one degree of incline. Felt fine, but I wasn't able to stretch as much as I wanted, considering that I was running a bit late.

Tomorrow is another trainer ride, and Sunday will be an outside run - the temps are predicted to go up a bit this weekend, so that should be nice. The 5 degree stuff is do-able, but not at all pleasant.

Have a great weekend, kids!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

VO2 max test

So, in the spirit of "I'm-really-going-to-take-this-IM-seriously-this-time," I'm going to get my VO2 max tested next week. Not so much to see how close (or far) I am to Lance Armstrong-like toughness, but rather to get a better picture of where my heart rate zones are set. The "Be Iron Fit" plan uses heart rate zones quite a bit to gauge exertion levels for each workout (although heart rate training has been criticized lately as highly inaccurate...), and I need to know where one ends and another begins in order to do it right. I did the test once before, maybe three years ago, and it didn't turn out so great - it gave me my VO2 max, but my zones didn't seem quite right. Like nowhere near the old 220-age computation. Hopefully, this time I get some numbers that I can work with.

Anywho, although I'm excited to get the data, I'm not looking forward to the test, itself, as it's a total ass-kicker. You perform it on a treadmill (although it can also be done on a bike), starting with a relatively easy grade/speed. The administrator then increases the intensity at given intervals (ie, so it keeps getting faster and steeper). There's a mask-like thing over your nose and mouth, which measures your oxygen intake, with a hose that runs to a computer.

So, basically, you end up hanging on as long as you can before your heart explodes or you just give up, whichever comes first. Yeah, tons of fun.

Training-wise, Monday was a rest day, Tuesday I did some strength stuff, and today I'm swimming. Still pretty leisurely, but that will change soon enough.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Weekend adventures

It was a pretty mundane weekend for us - went out to dinner with friends on Saturday night, then I hit trainer for just over an hour on Saturday while the wife was at work. I watched parts of Troy Jacobson's "virtual reality" IM Wisonsin course (, which was vaguely entertaining, but left a little to be desired.

The dvd basically follows four riders, including Coach Troy, as they ride one loop of the Wisconsin course (about 60 miles). Two of the riders have cameras attached to their helmets and there's a support car that also has a camera, so you're getting a number of different perspectives. Troy also gives advice on gearing and identifies the hills so that you can try to simulate the ride at home.

Anyway, I knew things were off to a rocky start when Coach Troy and Co. - within the first 15 minutes of the ride - get lost. I'm not kidding. They stop, check the map, turn around and admit they don't know where to go. Huh?

I mean, seriously, you couldn't just edit that part out? Or start the ride over? Considering that people were going to pay money for this thing, I thought it was pretty amateurish. But, whatever. It was nice to see the course again (I don't miss those rollers one bit...), and I'll probably do the whole thing (it's about a three-hour dvd) when the training calls for more miles and the weather sucks. Which, being the midwest, is almost a certainty.

Sunday was an hour run outside - the temps dipped again, but luckily the wind was calm, so the 5 degrees was "just" 5 degrees. Eh. That's Chicago for you.

Thanks for reading, kids - I hope my ramblings prove a bit entertaining (and thanks for the heads-up on the training camp, Lauren - we'll have to look into it).

Happy Monday!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On the upswing

Feeling a bit better today - hopefully, I've got this stupid stomach bug on the run.

Did an Expresso bike ( workout at lunch, which totally kicked my ass, but I feel great now. Did a (pretty measely) 1200 yard swim session last night, broken down into sets of 300 yards with a 100 yard cool down.

Sadly (or luckily?), we were shut out of the Horribly Hilly Hundreds ( this year, which we had casually discussed doing as a means of getting a nice hill workout in relatively early in the training schedule. The race has gotten increasingly popular in the midwest, and the 2009 edition apparently sold out in 14 minutes. Yikes.

So, we may just try to organize some kind of informal training weekend in Madison around the same time and tackle some of the IM hills without having to pay a registration fee.

Tomorrow is a strength day.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Well, my three-day weekend (including MLK Day) ended up being an involuntary training furlough - the wife and I were bit by the stomach flu, and spend the weekend either throwing up or waiting to throw up again.

Not fun.

But, before the bug bit, I did get in a nice bike/run brick (albeit a small one) on Friday morning, which felt good, and I was able to run (gingerly) for 30 minutes this a.m. at about a 9 min/mile pace.

I'm still not feeling 100 percent, but hope to get in a swim tomorrow, although it may - like today's run - be an abbreviated one.


Thursday, January 15, 2009


Well, it's getting ever-closer to the start of an actual training plan - the week of Feb. 15 is when the 30-week Be Iron Fit (I hate that name, btw) plan begins - and I'm 50 percent nervous and 50 percent excited to start up again.

It's been a long time since I had a structured, "you-really-need-to-do-a-certain-discipline(s)-today" workout routine in place. The structure sure is nice, but there's a certain level of pressure to get in each day's workout(s) that really doesn't go away until it's over. Until the 15th, I'm just dabbling in all three sports, one each day, six days a week, which I think has me at a pretty fair level of fitness. Fit enough to start a plan. Or so I hope.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Weekend stuff

Well, despite the crap weather, I got in my workouts for the weekend:

Saturday - one hour on the trainer, including four 5-minute intervals of standing climbs;

Sunday - hour run through the snow. The lakefront path hadn't been cleared (except for a few mis-guided idiots like myself and one brave/crazy cyclist).

Everything felt good, although the run took a lot out of me. Except for getting some groceries, we basically vegged the rest of the day.

Today I swam 1600 yards at lunch, divided into 6x200 (alternating hard and easy 25s) and 4x100 (alternating hard and easy 100s). Again, everything felt fine, and, considering there were only a couple other people in the pool, I even felt pretty fast.

Tomorrow is probably a core/strength day.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Morning swim

Not so much to report today - I've been trying to fend off a cold this week, so my energy's been a bit low, but I did make it to the pool this a.m. Nothing earth-shattering, but a pretty good effort considering the blahs:

- 400 WU, followed by 3x400 with 30 seconds rest between each set. Finished with 200 of easy swimming.

Probably do an hour-or-so trainer ride tomorrow, and a run (45-ish minutes) on Sunday, hopefully outside, weather-permitting.


Thursday, January 8, 2009


I'm a bit embarrassed to admit the following factoid: through two IMs, and a handful of half IMs, I have never put in more than a couple double workout days.

An admission such as this made on Slowtwitch (the obnoxious triathlon message board, for those who don't know) would likely get a bounty placed on my life. Everyone and everything - and I mean even the most basic of IM training plans, and quite a few 70.3 plans, as well - recommends incorporating two-a-days in order to get the requisite number of sessions in each week for each discipline. Conventional wisdom says that, to be successful (ie., finish upright), you need at least three quality workouts each week in each discipline. Sadly, there's still only seven days in a week. So, obvioulsy, there's the need for double-days.

I have, thus far, elected not to be that committed. Mostly because of time considerations, and partly because I was worried about whether my body could withstand that much beat-down over the course of a 20-odd week training period. Sure, I'll brick some bike rides, and I always try to get my long stuff in, but that's pretty much the extent of my training committment to date.

The Fink plan that I plan to use this time around incorporates two-a-day training sessions. And, I'll be honest, I'm a bit anxious about this. The plus side is that I'm much more likely to untap whatever potential (and I use that term loosely) I have if I put in more training hours. I realize that, in the past, I've really just skimmed by, and am arguably lucky to have completed both previous IMs as well as I did. At the same time, squeezing two workouts into your day - usually six days a week - is going to be a logistical pain in the ass. Some days, it can be hard to fit just one in.

But I'm going to try, and luckily I have my wife along for the ride, so I'll have her support. Fingers crossed, it will bring out my best performance to date. If I make it to the start line.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The plan

I'm trying out something new for this (third) IM - a legitimate, day-by-day, published training plan.

For our two previous journeys down the IM path, my buddy Drew has graciously crafted an outline of sorts for us to follow - basically identifying the approximate training loads for each week in each discipline, broken down into separate training blocks (ie., three weeks of build followed by a step-back week). The day-to-day workouts were left to each of us to determine for ourselves.

This format worked very well, especially as newbies, but I think I'd like to attempt a more detailed training regimine, one which takes all the guesswork out of training and doesn't allow me to avoid tough sessions by simply not including them in the week's schedule. Not that I would ever do that (ha!).

So, I'm tentatively going with a plan that's detailed in Don Fink's book "Be Iron Fit." It's a 30-week plan that, if I did my math right, I'll formally begin the week of Feb. 15.

I'll be honest, I'm a little nervous about committing to a proper training plan - What if I can't do all the workouts? Shouldn't I just do whatever I did last time? Maybe I should just spring for a coach? - But maybe the fear is a good thing. This plan will undoubtedly force me to put in more miles (and laps) than I ever have before in IM training, but maybe that's what I need in order to really see what I am capable of at this distance. We'll see.

It should be an interesting ride.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Race schedule

So, considering we're officially into the new year, it's probably about time to start planning a race schedule for 2009. The "A" race is obviously IM WI, but we'll need a few warm-up events to mix up the training schedule, get used to racing, and have some fun.

We're looking at starting the year off in Galena on May 16. This is a great sprint distance race, located in a very scenic (and hilly) part of Illiois, and just happens to be the site of my very first tri in 2003. Another plus for this race is that we could stay an extra day and get some good hill training in before heading back to pancake-flat Chicago. Unfortunately, the weather is very unpredictable that time of year, and, because of the expense, we might decide to go in another direction (Tri-Shark perhaps?).

IMWI is notorious for its rolling, never-ending hills, so the next event on the (tentative) agenda is the Horribly Hilly Hundreds on June 20. We did the 200k back in 2006, and it was a total beast. Hills, hills, and more hills. Probably the toughest day I've ever spent in the saddle. The 200k was a bit more than we probably needed, especially that early in the season, so we'd most likley do the 100k this time out, which is still no walk in the park.

Then we'll need a 70.3 to see how things are clicking, and we're signed up for Steelhead on August 1. Although the reviews for this race aren't great - too crowded, and the swim was canceled last year because of dangerous surf conditions - they're capping entry at 1800, which should make things a bit smoother out on the road. And I'm excited to do a race that we've never done before.

That's it, so far. We might throw something else in there for shits and giggles, but racing is sooooo expensive now, and we'll probably spend the remaining weekends getting in bike/run miles out in the suburbs. I'm still excited, so that's a good thing!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Cats are right - water blows

I have no trouble admitting that I don't like swimming. As a kid, my grandmother - who swam almost daily for decades - tried valiently to get me comfortable in the water. Alas, swimming lessons and summer camps did little to overcome my instinctive mistrust of the water.

Now running, that I can do. I was a runner before I was a triathlete, and, while I'm not giving the Kenyans any reason to worry, running is easily my strongest of triathlon's three disciplines. If I was one-quarter as good in the pool - and, more importantly, if it felt anywhere near as good - as I am on the track, I'd be a happier man. And a better triathlete.

But I'm not.

So, I struggle through my pool sessions in hopes of someday getting at least comfortable in the water.
Lately, I've found that if I come in with a set routine - a ladder, for example - and a set distance in mind, I can push through with minimal discomfort. In fact (gasp!), it almost approaches some degree of fun. Hopefully, this will the year that embrace triathlon's first leg. Or, at least make peace with the pool.

This morning I plowed through 2,000 yards, broken down as eight 250s with 30 seconds rest between each, and alternating easy and hard(er) 50s. Felt great.