Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Hill Repeats on the Computrainer

One of the workouts Tony gave me to help increase my lactate threshold is short hill repeats on the bike. The idea is to raise my heartrate from about my aerobic threshold (115 bpm) to about 10 beats above my lactate threshold (155) as fast as I can, then drop it back to 115 quickly, then repeat nine more times.

After some experimentation, I've developed a loop course on my Computrainer that allows me to accomplish that. I start out gradually increasing the grade from 0% to 2%, to 4%, and eventually to a little over 5% at a point that is about .3 miles from the start line. If I hit the virtual hill hard, then my heartrate will be at about 155 at the top. The virtual course then trends downward for another 0.3 mile at about -3%, then flattens back to the start line. I put little s-curves in the course near the top of the hill and just before the start line to serve as visual indicators during the repeats.

Last night I did 1o repeats and got gradually weaker toward the end. Next time I plan to compete against my previous recorded repeats, but try to start slower and see if I can end up stronger during the later repeats. It's a great use of the 'race against your last ride' feature of Computrainer.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Slow Pace Pose running and a little beagle

Yesterday was my longest Pose method run yet, 5.75 miles. I took it really easy and ran with Betty Jean. I'm sure it't partially mental and partially physical, but it seems to be getting gradually easier. However, my average heartrate was higher than expected based on pre-pose method running data. That may be due to the very slow pace (9:11 min/mi) or the fact that I was about 4 pounds heavy from all the Christmas food.

My next 'experiment' will be to do a pose run at about 7 min/mi. That will give me data across a large spectrum. It would not surprise me to find that the pose method is less efficient for me at 8:30 pace and slower, and more efficient at 7:30 pace and faster, and about the same from 7:30 to 8:30 pace as heel-striking.

We (Betty Jean and I) picked up a passenger on our run yesterday. At about mile 1 on Jordan Road, we found a young beagle that was about to starve and/or freeze to death. Of course, we had to drive back to get it after the run. It's beginning to eat and drink now, and I think we've found a home for it. Tim says he's been looking for a dog -- now he has one!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Computrainer Real-World Comparison

Ok, now that I've had my computrainer for a couple of weeks, it's time for me to do an experiment. I'm going to create courses for a couple of the routes I frequrently ride from my house. I don't yet have the Topo-USA software that makes the courses automatically, so I'll have to enter the distance and slope information manually.

The purpose of my experiment will be to see how closely the computrainer courses match the real-world courses in effort (heartrate in this case) vs. speed. Power vs. speed would be an even better comparison, but as of now I have no real-world power meter, just the computrainer.

As I may have mentioned in an earlier post, my computrainer heartrate vs. speed data seems to correlate pretty well with the real-world data that I've collected -- of course the routes are varied for both, so the standard deviation at each heartrate is rather high. So now I'll build and ride my normal routes for specific-course analysis and post the results in a week or two. If the correlation is good, my next step will be to build the Tundra Time Trial course (on the Silver Comet Trail in Powder Springs) that I'll be racing on February 18th so I can get a feel for it ahead of time. If I find out that the correlation is poor, then there is no need for me to go through the exercise.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Frost Run

8am Saturday morning, Christmas Eve, 22 degrees. Jamie asked me last night if I'd be interested in running this morning with David and him. I agreed, and wondered earlier this morning if I'd made the right call. It was rough leaving the heater and the new Nine-inch nails song in my Jeep.

But after the first 1/2 mile, I warmed up quickly and was very glad I'd been 'led' on a Christmas-Eve run. I ran about 10 miles with Jamie and David, and they continued for three or four more. I figured since I'd only done one long run lately, and it was only 8 miles, I'd better work my way up the mileage chart with care. I was glad to hear that both of them are considering racing the Rock 'n Rollman half iron in June.

About 25% of the time, mainly on uphill grades, I ran using the Pose method. The rest of the time I ran heel-strike. It's the first heel-strike running I've done in about 2 weeks. And although it did feel somewhat more comfortable than Pose, it had a distintly clog-footed feeling that I hadn't noticed before experimenting with Pose. Maybe I'm making progress?

Friday, December 23, 2005

New Ride for Spring?

My latest bike fit revealed that I was a little too big for the Trek 5200 that I've been riding for about 3 years. It's a 56cm, and I probably need a 58cm. I also have a Cervelo P2K tri-bike. It's a 54 cm, but seems to fit me properly -- go figure. I'm looking at the Orbea Orca, and drooling. It's a great looking bike with great reviews. That would make for a nice start to my 5th racing season. For reviews go to:

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Body weight, fat %, muscle gain

I've been lifting (upper body mostly) with Jontae', a co-worker, for about 18 months now -- only twice a week though. An sometimes we miss a day, so we probably only average about 6 times a month. It doesn't seem like all that much, but it's made a huge difference from a strength standpoint. We've both made big gains in bench press max and the number of dips we can do, etc.

But I think I've plateaued now, and that's ok, because I don't want too much extra weight to carry up the hills on the bike anyway. Tony, my trainer, measured my body fat the other day and said it was at 10.4%. He told me he thought that was about right for my level of training, but that he would prefer that I not drop any more weight (I weigh 151 lbs now).

When I first started training for triathlon in May 2002, I weighed 158 lbs. Within about 8 weeks, I had dropped 10 lbs to 148 lbs -- a major change, and I think almost all of the lost weight was fat. I eventually bottomed out at about 146 lbs during the height of the first season and for a little while in 2003. But when I started lifting in 2004, I began to put some weight back on. Although a little of it might be fat (I can't push Betty Jean's pie away), most is muscle weight. So I figure I've dropped 10 or 11 pounds of fat (that's a very large amount when you think of it as 44 sticks of butter) and added about 4 pounds of muscle. Of the muscle gain, it's probably split between my upper and lower body.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Second Pose run a little easier

Five days after my initial try, I did another Pose method run. It's two days later now, and the calf soreness is mostly gone. I guess I'll try another one today at lunch. I think I'm into the tougher phase now -- making the new gait second nature. My guess is that it may take several months. I'm not sure how I'll handle running with my friends on the weekends. We've planned to to long runs on Saturday mornings to get ready for an April marathon, but there's no chance I could run more than a few miles using Pose.

Either it will get much easier soon, or I'll just alternate miles between pose an heel-toe. Another thought: I'll have to recalibrate my Polar pace module for my new stride.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Trying the Pose method

This one has been tough. I've known for a long time that I'm a heel-stiker, that is, I land on my heels when running, then roll forward to the balls of my feet and eventually 'toe-off.' I've also know for a while that there is a negative force vector when my heels stike -- I'm actually pushing myself slightly backwards for a split second before I roll forward on my foot and begin to push myself forward. Obviously, that is not a desirable thing if I want to get to the finish line quickly and efficiently. Another disadvantage to landing on my heels is the stress it places on my ankles, knees, and hips. The heel impact causes sort of a jolt with every step.

I've known about the Pose method for at least a couple of years now. The developer of the method is Nicholas Romanov (he's from eastern Europe, I think). It's more complicated than I'll get into here, but one of the big differences in it and the way I run now is that in the Pose method I would land on the midfoot/ball of my foot, not on my heel. The idea is that there is less impact on the joints, less foot-time on the ground, and a recruitment of muscular elasticity as a power source to facilitate forward motion. It's supposed to increase efficiency while reducing the chance of injury.

I bought the book a couple of years ago and got fired up about the new style after reading some of it. The next day I eagerly tried to go run using the Pose method. I didn't make it 100 yards down the road before I felt so much like a cartoon character that I gave up on it. My heartrate skyrocketed and my calves ached.

Last week, Tony told me that I really could benefit from altering my running gait to incorporate Pose method ideas. So I have decided to go cold turkey and quit the heel-striking if it kills me, and it might. My first Pose run was 6 days ago. I made it 3.5 miles. It was tough, but I toughed it out. For the next 5 days, my calves were too sore for me to run again, but I could tell that it was just training soreness, not the kind of pain you get from a joint or connective tissue injury.

Yesterday I tried it again. It was still very difficult to do, but this time the soreness is much less the first day after the run, as might be expected. I wore a heart rate monitor this time. I ran at about and 8-minute mile. During the run, my percieved effort was higher than with my old heel-strike method. I had to concentrate quite a bit while running to do it right. I expected my heartrate to be higher for my given pace than with my old method.

But when I downloaded the data and graphed it -- surprise! the Pose method in all of its awkwardness on my second run was slightly more efficient from a heartrate standpoint than recent heel-strike runs. I have concluded that once I run enough with the Pose method to make it second nature and to properly strengthen my calves, I should definately pick up some efficiency.

Another benefit is that for triathlon, the more I can use my calves to power the run, the better off I will be after getting off a quad-burning bike split. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

"Flipping the switch" and strength rides

I mentioned in an earlier post the bike testing revealed a good VO2max of 64, but also showed that I had a low lactate threshold (LT) relative to my VO2max. LT is highly trainable, but VO2max is pretty much set by genetics and health history (smoking, bronchitis, etc.), although it has a little flexibility. So I need to raise my LT through training. Tony has prescribed two ways for me to raise my LT.

The first is by training my body to transition into aerobic, lactate-producing mode at a higher heartrate. He says the best way to accomplish that is by "flipping the swich" over and over. That means going from my aerobic threshold (the point at which you start burning mostly fat for energy -- that's 114 bpm for me) as quickly as possible to 10 or so bpm above my LT. Short hill repeats are a good way to do that, but as I have learned, also a very uncomfortable way (some might say painful). As Tony told me, the body does not like to cross that threshold that much that frequently.

A second way to raise LT is to do 'strength workouts.' At first I thought this meant weight lifting, but it's not. It's riding longer distances at slightly over my LT. The cadence-power testing that I've been doing is a good example, I guess. I have not been prescribed any workouts for this yet.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bike cadence vs. power tesing

Next I began a very interesting phase of testing on the bike. Tony said he'd been heavily resarching the relationship between cadence and sustainable power output. Most cycling fans have heard about the crazy cadences that Lance uses -- something in the 120 range during time trials.

I started with a 90 rpm test. The testing protocol goes something like this:
1. Find a computrainer (you must use a trainer that is capable of holding a constant wattage regardless of cadence).
2. Warm up for about 30 minutes, gradually increasing wattage until you reach a heartrate that is 5 bpm above your lactate threshold (that's 150 for me).
3. Carefully adjust the wattage on the computrainer for the next 30 minutes to keep your heartrate constant at 5 bpm above LT.
4. You'll probably equilibrate at a certain wattage for at least the last 20 minutes or so.
5. Average the wattage for the last 20 minutes of the test -- that's your power output at that heartrate.
My 90 rpm power at 150 bpm was 175 watts.

I ran the same test at 70 rpm and got 172.5 watts, so I assumed that I'm a 'flat' guy - my power must not be cadence-dependent. My coach said that was a little unusual, but not unheard-of.

I ran the test at 100 rpm. I expected that power at least to be the same as 90 rpm, if not a little higher, because it 'felt good' when I rode at high cadences. Guess what? My power was 140 watts, 35 watts lower than my 90 rpm measurement.

Now I was intrigued, so I ran the test at 60 rpm, which was hard to do because I'm used to riding at 90 rpm. My wattage was 190! That's 15 watts higher than the 70 or 90 rpm tests. I was surprised. I need to do more work to see how long that power could be maintained. I think muscular fatigue might kick in at some point and render the low cadence unsuitable for long rides an maybe for group rides where acceleration is needed. But for 10-mi time trials and sprint triathlons, maybe I'd found and advantage!

I'm going to run all the tests again to confirm the results, but it's opened my eyes to a possible advantage that I hadn't considered.

Bike lactate threshold and VO2max testing

So far the only metabolic testing results that I have are on the bike. The first day Tony tested me on a spin bike with a gas chromatograph. The test measured lactate threshold and VO2max. He told me the good news was my VO2max was 64. I figured it was in the upper 50s, so I was happy about that. The bad news was lactate showed up in my breath (I was wearing a mask with a breathing tube) at a heartrate of 135 bpm. He said that was my machine-measured lactate threshold.

My understanding was that I should only be able to ride significantly above my LT for 30 or 45 minutes. I told Tony that I'd ridden for three hours last summer in the Rock 'n Rollman half-iron race at an average heartrate of 152 bpm. That just didn't add up for me. We repeated the test a week later and got identical results. So we performed a third test without the gas chromatagraph where Tony visually identified my LT on my own bike (trainer-mounted). He said it looked like my LT was 145 that way.

I guess maybe I begin generating lactic acid at 135 but have a very gradual transition into anaerobic condition. Noakes calls it lactate turnpoint in his running book, indicating that it's not really a threshold, but a point where a transition begins. I think my transition is just slow.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bike Finish at 2005 Rock 'n Rollman in Macon

I was experimenting with the photo feature and thought I'd throw this one up to see how it works. I guess it works ok, although my helmet looks like a mushroom.

Trying all sorts of new approaches

My first triathlon was in college -- at Auburn in 1991. I raced the Wet-n-Wild Triathlon at Chewacla State Park that year and the following year after I'd graduated and had taken a job in Atlanta. I lost interest until about 10 years later. I've now been training and racing sprints and olympic tris for four years. I've done the Rock 'n Roll-man half ironman race in Macon, GA for two years also.

But even though I've only failed once in four years to better my prior time at any race, I find myself plateauing in skill and waning in enthusiasm. So I've developed a plan to remedy the situation. I've had some metabolic testing done, hired a coach (Tony), and purchased a computrainer to better get ready for the coming season. I'm also determined to learn to run using the Pose Method (running on the balls of my feet instead of being a heel-striker).

Since I'm new to blogging, I'm not sure if anyone else but me will ever read what I'm typing here, but if nothing else, it will provide me with a way to document what I'm doing and sort of think through the process. If anyone reads this stuff that would just be an unexpected bonus.

My next few blogs will discuss 1. my metabolic testing procedures and results (I have found -- and am still finding -- the process to be very interesting), 2. my new coach and his methods, 3. the computrainer that I just purchased, and 4. my experiences with the pose method of running.
If I'm capable of getting any better without drastically increasing my training time, I'm determined to make it happen this year.