Sunday, December 26, 2010

1 down

My first training block is complete (minus an hour sitting on my bike). There was a lot to like as well as the cruel reality that there is a lot of hard work ahead. My bike legs came around well and seem to be picking up strength every week. Because of my off-season swim focus, my swim is passable, in fact much better than usual. My run needs work. My slower effort paces seem to be coming around, but wow I've got a ways to go to find my A game. Today was 4x 1 mile repeats. I knew when I saw it on the plan that this would be a rough day. The christmas marathon of family, food and gifts is a big deal for my clan. Following a suggestion from Jesse, I tracked my trailing 3 day average of sleep going into this workout, and basically saw what I expected. I need sleep. Averaged 5.5 hours a day. Must do better. Must.

I ran the miles on the Shelton Highschool track, and the workout was everything I thought it would be: painful and slowish. It was windy on the back stretch, very cold, and snowy. 23 months ago I did a similar workout, albeit on the road as opposed to the track...track is hard on the brain, and put the miles under 5:50 with a fast of 5:44. 2 months later that was six repeats below 5:50. Today I did not break 5:50 once. 5:54, 5:57, 5:57, 6:00. True I was running on less rest between repeats this time (~1:40 vs 3:00+), and I was really tired, but if I'm honest I think I am slower. I weigh about 4-6lbs more than during those previous efforts. The weight is helping recovery, but the foot speed is suffering. My heart didn't really get tested today. It was the legs not turning over, the arms aching, the head rolling around. HR averaged around threshold, which is well below what I'll average on a higher quality effort.

The fact that I've had concerns about this workout could lead one (including me) to believe it was in my head. I was beaten before I began. This is somewhat true. However if I lost that first battle I won the war of wills today. I thought I'd quit after the second repeat. I finished it. Bent over. Hurled. Caught my breath. Saw my heart rate had already recovered completely. Hardened up and cranked out #3. I knew if I got through the third one I could get myself through the last. And while a 6:00 mile on the last repeat is nothing special, I was 6 seconds behind that pace w/400m to go. It took a 1:24 final 400 (5:36/mile pace) to hit that 6:00. The eyes were closed, the legs were burning, and the head was lolling backwards...but I did it.

The Brooks/Hanson running team trains using the philosophy that you aren't training for the first 16miles of the marathon during that 16mile run on tired legs, you are training for the last 16. Well today I felt like I was training for the finish of races. My finishing kick is probably my favorite part of my race. Today's workout reminded me I can still kick. I have 26 weeks to speed up the earlier miles of my race.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

More week 3

Okay week 3 is really in the books this time. I'll tell you about it, but I'm worried about jinxing myself. After a moment last week when my legs felt tapped, which I can pretty much say with 100% confidence was due to inadequate recovery (stress, nutrition, sleep), I've been extra diligent...and it showed. My legs were OUTSTANDING today. It was my longest ride of the block, coupled with a run, and I just crushed it. The power climbed steadily throughout the ride, and I felt really smooth on the run. And all this came after a very encouraging swim yesterday where I strung together a few 500s (actually 500,600,500 because I can't count!) with only a 9sec variance between the 500s. I've never been that consistent in the water.

So I'm relaxing about things. Hell it's not even December 20th! I feel like my form is as good, if not better than, Pumpkinman. Maybe I'm slower from the extra weight, but something's going right, and actually I've got a theory about that. The big difference this time around is my head. I'm focused. I like my job. The kids are older and sort of get it. At least they get that I have to do something and more or less let me park them in front of a Scooby Doo DVD and/or art supplies while I ride. In return I try to make sure eveything is done and I'm refueled by 10:00am. Longer workout, earlier start. But the single biggest thing is the realizing just how difficult training got the last time around. Leanna was ill. Every workout was something I just needed to get done and out of the way. There wasn't much enjoyment. Today when I came up the stairs and saw the kids sitting in the family room and Leanna downloading pictures in the living room, I knew that I could do this. It was quiet. Normal. We can all do this...together. We are a team, even if I'm the one training my body. And the team is strong.

Speaking of the team, we had a couple of other "team events" this weekend. Friday night Alexandra took part in her gymnastics exhibition, and Saturday morning Dylan tested for and received his yellow belt in karate. Sure he's 4 so he's not some full contact martial arts terror. But he is learning. His skill level is beyond that of the new "little dragons" and most of all he likes it. He likes it to the point he actually enjoys the occasional practice session with me at home. And he even surprised his instructor, Sensei Jesse, by knowing the difference between a front punch and a thrust punch.

Today the team did a nature hike around Sachuest Point. I'm pretty sure this is the first time we've all done the loop and I didn't end up carrying someone the last 1/2 mile or so. We saw plenty of wildlife. A red-tailed hawk passed about 15ft over our heads. And of course there was another coyote on my run this morning. "Nice doggy...Nice doggy..."

Friday, December 17, 2010

IMCDA Training week 3

Technically week 3 isn't over yet. But the "theme" is beginning to make itself known. As the training hours tip towards the double digits again, for the first time I woke up with my legs feeling tapped out. Okay I woke up at 4:15am, but nonetheless I felt a bit tapped out. I had an outstanding run Thursday, my paces validating what I sensed about my run; it was coming back. But add in some work and holiday stress, take out some sleep, and the restoration just didn't happen on schedule. I still got through the ride today in good shape, though at lower average power, but it seems unlikely I will be running on consecutive days this weekend. Fatigue begets bad form, and bad form begets injury. Job #1 is to avoid injury. To replace the missed run time, I'll be logging a little more pool and bike time. No big deal. As I've said before, it's not even x-mas; don't be stupid.

In other news I got a care package from De Soto sport today. 3 pair of shorts, repaired free of charge. Now THAT is customer service. I really needed those reinforcements, so the timing is perfect. Merry X-Mas!!

Finally, if you weren't in the holiday spirit yet, have a look. How can you not feel the magic?!

And if you're interested in reading something not triathlon related? Try this one!

What do non-rowers talk about at a party?

I have no idea. :)

Earlier this week I got an intriguing request all the way from New Zealand. The people at were interested to know if I would mind writing a little something for their site. "Well why the hell not! What do you want?" So this is where it got interesting. Among other things they were curious about a U.S. point of view concerning the recent shake up at USRowing. "Uh...shake up?" I felt compelled to reiterate my disclaimer; I have not coached since 1999 and it's been even longer than that since I've competed. However, I decided I'd do a little research and see what I found.

It took only a moment to learn that the big shake up involved the removal of long time men's coach Kris Korzeniowski and the plans to relocate the men's Heavyweight program from lovely New Jersey to balmy California. Likewise the Lightweight men are being relocate to Oklahoma. So if I'm totally honest about my reaction, it was as follows: Kris Korzeniowski is still alive? KK was "the guy" when I was in college, in 1985! And while I can see a rowing base in California, especially if they want a "warm water port", Oklahoma? Seriously folks, I really don't care how great the facilities are, I would not put Oklahoma and rowing in the same sentence. Do they have water? Yeah screwing the lighweights again... I know they're not the money boats. And what of the women? They're going to hang in New Jersey. So now we're spread all over the country. I guess Team USA unity is not the focus. And don't get me started on the still non-existent support for rowers themselves. Basically if you do not row in an Olympic event, you need to be self-funded. That's not going to hurt the talent pool! But let's face it, if we can get a gold in the heavy men's 8, do we even need other boats?! (Just call'n like I see'm.)

I'll stop short of offering much more commentary related to the moves. I've been out of things long enough to know I need to learn more before offering too much opinion. What I can offer is just how quickly I was able to come up to speed, really a function of how little USRowing has changed in 25 years. Sure people right in the middle of things might think it's sooo different, but big picture, not so much. Rowing in the US is a boutique sport. A great one and one I love, but enjoyed by a fairly select few. Need more proof? As I started reviewing names of coaches, I started recognizing people I knew or coached against. Hell one current US coach stares at me every morning from the picture of my wife and her development camp 8 from 1992. Small world.

If the goal is to reinvent USRowing to bring home more hardware, maybe more than a change of coasts is needed. Maybe the appeal needs to be broadened. No I don't have the "how to" for that. Just asking the question. My uncle Walter, a former Syracuse oarsman, was very active in Canadian Rowing. I recall him mentioning disarray up north as well (eh!). How did that turn out? I don't know. Guess I'll call him and ask. Might make an interesting next article!


PS: Also saw that Three Rivers Rowing Association (my former boathouse while I was coaching at Pitt) from the great city of Pittsburgh (my home town), scored a second club of the year award? Begs the question, how many community oriented clubs are there?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

IMCDA Training week 2

Okay, I'm only two weeks in to a 30 week haul, so no reason to overanalyze things...but then again if we never overanalyzed things we'd be missing out on one of the great privileges of being human!

The theme for this week was "back off the ledge." The focus was on a very workman like, and hopefully intelligent, approach to the training. And this amazing thing happened: things started clicking. And the more they clicked the more relaxed I became. The numbers are not world beaters right now, but things really feel like they are moving in the proper direction. The extra weight I'm carrying is definitely helping my recovery between workouts. The one area where my volume is a little off right now is my running, mostly because of intermittent discomfort in my right ankle. However, I had a very encouraging run on Friday, enough so that I really don't think I'm behind at all. I have a test of mile repeats in two weeks, so we'll have a better idea then, but let's just say I'm confident.

And then there's my swimming. Yesterday I had this strange experience. I put in ~2000yds and you know where I felt it? In my legs. No I do not have an egg beater kick. Far from it, actually. My best guess is that I was kicking off the wall a little harder than usual. Also, my shoulders did not feel it at all. Middle back some, but not arms and shoulders. Oh, and I also lowered my golf PR to 63.

It's a strange experience, this being confident and relaxed. Only a week ago I was ready to quit. Now I'm feeling good. Heck, it's December 12. There's time. I'm starting to think my biggest challenge will be to pace myself so I don't plateau too soon.

As an aside, there is this growing movement to return to my rowing roots for the C.R.A.S.H.-B.'s. In QT2 fashion, people want to ride an indoor bike TT and do an erg race in the same day! I miss rowing, but not really erg racing. I was never great at it and it hurt like hell. That said I'm concerned I will have to go for it just because... And I'm pretty sure I won't be satisfied unless I'm back pulling in the 6:40s anyway. That's a lot of work in a discipline I haven't done seriouly since 1995. The good news: rowing crosses over really well to triathlon. After all that's how I got into the sport.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

IMCDA Training week 1

I just completed my last workout of the first week of training. Only 29 more weeks to go! Already a pattern is developing. You know how I said I think I'm going to set a new record for "I can't do this"? Well I may set that record by New Years! As promised this journal is not going to be all "this was motivated...super excited!!!"

Yesterday was a very light day on the schedule. In fact the only real thing to do was get a baseline 400yd TT time in the pool, and a 20min easy recovery effort run later on. I was sort of excited to do the swim because I wanted to see that number I'd hit a couple of times the previous month: 5:30. Not because that number is very good, but because it's the best I've ever done in my life and represents a time 50sec faster than I've ever done at the beginning of Ironman training. Well long story short I only went 5:44. I'll not bore you with the reasons why, legitimate or not. Bottom line I came up short...and I ended up with a King Kong sized hair across my ass for the rest of the day because of it. In fact I passed on the run, but not because I'm lazy. In the back of my head I knew I'd run it waaaay too hard because I was in such a pissy mood. I lost count of all the "F--- I'm never going to improve. I'm kidding myself if I think I can break 10hrs" that passed through my head yesterday. Forget that I still posted my best time ever for the beginning of training. Forget that 10hrs is really going to be a function of hacking time off my bike, not squeaking time off of my swim. No, none of that mattered. I wasn't even sure I wanted to keep training. All kinds of crazy ideas went through my head. But somewhere in all that mental chaos, a little common sense kicked in. Forget training for the rest of the day. Get the X-mas tree. Decorate the house with the family. Knock back a drink or two. Watch a bad movie.

Today I was back, but on my bike trainer for 2 hours...and I crushed it. Not from a total power standpoint, but rather from the standpoint of power given my prescribed heart zone (15watts better than I had been posting all week). And the legs felt great. So yes, I'm not quitting. I'm really lucky Leanna gets me with regards to this. I'm positive I was testing her patience yesterday, and probably early today. She knows it's all part of the process: doubt, despair, and then HTFU you pansy. I'd like to say there won't be any more of these, but the truth is there are likely to be plenty. As long as they all end with a power jump on my bike...I guess I can deal!

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

6yr old theology

About a month ago Alexandra started asking about God. Then the other night Alexandra hits me with "what is 'Hell'?" Well, most parents I suspect would short this answer, but I know my daughter and she won't take the brush off, so I, despite some personal discomfort, decided to go back to my roots.

I am the son of a Presbyterian Minister and retired Professor of Theology, in fact the "James Henry Snowden Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology" at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (*note: as a kid I always thought my dad was saying he worked at a cemetery!*) I've grown up around theologians, so when I get lobbed a "what is Hell" question, well let's just say we could teach a course on this one. So out comes the "Children's Bible." I explained to Alexandra "if we're going to do this, we're doing it right and we're starting where all stories start, at the beginning. But be warned," I said, "these are not stories like Dr. Seuss stories. There is good. There is evil. Most of all, people in the world have very strong feelings about these stories. They argue over their meaning. They go to war for them. They die for them." Pretty heavy stuff for a first grader, but she took it pretty well. That said we're definitely going to pace this a bit.

Last night we read about Creation. Gee, nothing controversial there! I did overlay some of my beliefs, but explained them as such. I explained that not everyone thinks of this the same way I do, and as you get older and learn more you can make your own choices too. At the end of the night I explained that in my opinion, the arguing about the historical accuracy of these stories, e.g. did Creation really only take 6 days as we know days, really misses the point. The message in the stories is the important part, especially as we move into those later stories. Be a good person. Don't try to hurt people. Forgive others. Don't be a d-bag (okay I didn't tell her that one!).

And then, as only a child can do, she stared at me and said, "Okay Dad, but who created God?"