Tag: Training (page 1 of 4)

Racing a Half Marathon with Power: What I learned

A little less than two weeks ago I raced my first stand alone half marathon. The first time I had raced 13.1 miles without first swimming and cycling beforehand. There was a lot I learned both during that race, as well as in the lead up to that race. The majority of that came from my first training block based solely on running power. Here’s what I learned:

1. Most people run at a more variable power than you think

This one surprised me. In the transition from basing my tri air on pace to passing it on power I learned a lot about holding consistent power over different terrain. I knew I needed to back off on the uphill and push it on the down hills to keep the same power. What I didn’t realize is how variable most people are when it comes to power.

I train on fairly flat terrain here in Eastern North Carolina. My race was more towards the central part of the state and was described as “rolling.” At one point a man I was running along side simply looked over at me and said “up and down, up and down!” I noticed so much in this race how, when I would hold a steady power over the hills, so many people would pass me going up, and then I would pass them right back going down. And I was towards the front of the race where you would expect the more experienced pacers to be.

2. Consistent Effort is King

The focus on consistent power is all about effort. A variable effort wears you down more. Cyclists and triathletes who train with power on the bike probably have heard of the metric called “Variability Index” or VI. The VI tells you how variable your effort is. So if the workout is multiple 400m repeats, it will be highly variable. If it is 90 minutes at Tempo, it will be less variable.

In a race situation, keeping a consistent effort allows you to have more gas in the tank at the end. This race was probably my best paced race ever. At the 5 mile mark I picked up the pace (power) slightly and then again at the 10 mile mark. That last 5k was focused on a consistent uptick in pace ever mile or half mile. That last half mile was all uphill until the final .1 where I gunned it to the finish. I am not sure how many people I passed in that final 5k, but It felt good to finish with a strong kick and not have anything left in the tank when I crossed that line!

3. Run Downhill!

I mentioned this before, but taking it easy on the downhill makes no sense. It is harder on your quads. You spend energy braking yourself. You miss the advantage gravity give you!

I stated before that I passed so many people on the down hill. If you look at my power file, I also never got up to my goal power on those down hills either. I simply opened my stride and let gravity do it’s thing. Next time you are in a race, Run down the hills!

4. Train top end speed

This was more from the lead up to the event, but I spent a lot of time working on my top end speed. Speed drills, VO2max drills, miles repeats, you name it, I did it. These all are at the opposite end of the effort spectrum from where I was racing, but they improved my economy. The better your efficiency, the faster you run. Which leads me to my last point:

5. You’re faster than you think you are

This was eye-opening to me. I finished with an average pace of right around 7:30/mile. With that as an average for 13.1 miles that just blew my mind. I had paced shorter legs of a triathlon much slower than that before. I’m sure part of it was the top end speed work I did, but I believe part of it was the mental disconnect between power and pace. I had tri and without ever looking at pace. I raced without ever looking at my pace. I just held the watts because I knew I could. In the end, I was faster than I had ever run for such a long distance.

I think some of us, my self included obviously, keep a mental tab on how fast we are going and when it reaches a certain point our brains tell us to slow down for fear of imploding. This is really discussed in detail in Matt Fitzgerald’s book “How Bad Do You Want It?” There is a huge mental side to suffering during a race. When I took my mind off the speed numbers and put them on a power number, suddenly holding that pace felt easier. It allowed me to dig deeper and unleash more of my potential.

Going into this next season I am looking forward to training with power and I’ll keep sharing the lessons I learn along the way. If you don’t want to miss any of them, make sure you sign up to get my posts sent directly to your email! You’ll also get a FREE 5k or sprint triathlon training plan, and you’ll be the first to get my new Half Marathon POWER training plan!

Running with Power: A Crash Course

I’ve been running with a power meter for several months now. My first impressions were great, but I never went “all in” on training with it… until now.

It’s “off season” which means taking a break from the normal  structure of training, but not from exercise all together. I did take a bit of a break, but a Thanksgiving day Half Marathon is calling my name! For 6 weeks I thought it would be a good idea to train with running power alone and not even look at pace on my training runs. I’ll let you know how it goes after Thanksgiving, but for now, let’s get a bit of a crash course on training with running power.

1. Running Power is not measured same as Cycling Power

This is the first thing you need to understand. Cycling power is now a very mature technology. Almost all power meters for cycling measure direct force (the amount of force you are directly putting into the pedals/crank/rear hub). A Running power meter, however, is a different animal. Most running power meters measure movement or force in a 3 dimensional plane. In other words, not all of your running power is used to propel yourself forward. Side-to-side, up-and-down, and forward motion all add to running power.

This can help us see that as our pace goes down but we go up a hill, there is less forward progress, but we can still measure our work consistently (see next point).  It also tells us that as we bounce or wobble we are using power but not going any faster (see third point!)

2. Running with Power keeps your effort consistent

Many times we get a workout that prescribes running at X pace for X minutes. That is great, but what about going over a hill? What if the course we are running is rolling? Our effort going up the hill will need to increase to keep the same pace, and it will decrease when we are going down the other side. Multiply that by numerous hills on course and you many be spending half the prescribed amount of time in the prescribed zone.

Running power can help us stay on track when we are going over hills. Slow down going up and speed up going down. Too many people slow down running down hill and that only is wasting energy, fighting gravity, and trashing your quads!

3. Running with Power puts more emphasis on form

Form is so vitally important. The goal of a triathlon is not to get from point A to point B as fast as possible. It is to get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. Efficiency not only makes you faster, but it also helps you go further, faster. As a race progresses, running form usually goes out the window. This is true in straight running races too!

My first run with a power meter opened my eyes to this more than ever before! The longer the run was, the slower I got and the more watts I was putting out. Both bad things!

One workout I found online was a form run where you hold a set wattage and try to up the pace through weeks in form. Something you couldn’t quantitatively measure before without a power meter!

So that is a simple explanation of running with power. A crash course if you will. Obviously pace and great rate are still very important metrics, and running power is still in it’s infancy, but it is a game changer for sure! I’ll be running solely off power until Thanksgiving, and I’ll pace my Half Marathon solely on power. Stay tuned for the results and my thoughts along the way!

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Post Season Break- Won’t I loose Fitness?

Ahh… Off Season! There are so many different emotions that come to mind when you talk to a triathlete (or his family) about off season. First is relief! A hard, successful (hopefully) season is behind you. Time to focus on the holidays, put on a few pounds, and spend a little extra time with the family!

But so many athletes balk at the idea of taking a post season break! “Won’t I loose fitness?” They ask. Well… Continue reading

How to Test Your Race Nutrition Strategy

Bonk!

You hit the wall.

You know what I’m talking about. You ran out of energy on a long training day or in a race. What was wrong? You didn’t fuel right or you went too hard… or maybe both.

How do you fix it? Practice of course!

We all need to spend extra time practicing our race day nutrition strategy. Even sours course racing requires fuel to get to the finish line, so the question is… how do we do that?

I think weekends are a great time to work on your fueling. Here’s how!

1. Pre fuel
This is something you should do for every workout, not just weekend ones. The only exception to this could be if you are experimenting with fasted workouts. Even then, your big days need to be training ground for your race day nutrition. What are you going to eat for breakfast on race day? Do that in your training! Try it out. Take notes. See what works and what doesn’t. Don’t forget to note the timing too. Oatmeal takes longer to digest than peanut butter and jelly with chocolate milk!

2. Fuel
This is what most people think of for their nutrition strategy, but it is really only the middle pice of the puzzle. You know it’s hard to put a puzzle together if you he middle instead of the edges right?

Look at what your race demands are going to be. If it’s short, you may not need anything or just a simple hydration mix. Going long? You need something else to keep you going. Remember to look at hydration and nutrition. Read the labels and see how many calories and how many grams of crabs you are getting. Aim for 30-60g of carbs per hour, but don’t be afraid to go outside of that.

Again, take notes and see what worked and what didn’t. Try it out with bike rides, runs, and bricks so you can see how your body responds in each workout.

3. Refuel
The often neglected refueling. (Except on race day when there is pizza and chocolate milk and who knows what else waiting at the finish line!) You need to refuel so your body to repair itself and be ready for the next go-round.

There should be two parts to refueling: immediate recovery and your next meal. Get something in your system as soon as you can when you finish. My go to is chocolate milk! Then, make sure you eat a good meal in the next few hours.

Again, take notes and see how you feel. Do you feel tired for the rest of the day? Eat some more! Your brain isn’t getting enough glucose since it’s sending it all to your muscles.

If you practice this in the 12 or so weeks leading up your race, you will not only be better prepared to execute on race day, but you will go into the race stronger because your workouts will have been more productive!

What have you tried for your nutrition plan? What worked? What didn’t? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!

4 Thoughts On Season Planning

You may have noticed things have been quiet around here over the last month. I would say that was intentional… but that would kinda be lying a bit. The month of July has been crazy for me, and that’s normal for my job (I’m a Youth Pastor… summer means we throw the schedule in the trash as soon as we make it and pack in as much as we can while school is out!) This past month we’ve had a Community Outreach Week, a trip to an amusement park, a week-long trip to Atlanta, GA (Go Braves!!) and various other things thrown in like planning for the start of the school year,  family coming to town, and even church softball.

With all that craziness, my triathlon focus went out the door. I was able to keep up my bike rides for the most part. Runs were cut short, and swimming… well… I only swam 3 times in the month of July.

That put me down the path of thinking about season planning. We all know when our busy time of year is. If you’re in retail, Black Friday to New Years is your time. If you are in Education, the start and end of the school year are your time. I’m not going to go through them all, but you know what your time is. Since you know it, you should also take a look at your triathlon (or individual sport) season and plan accordingly. Here are 4 ways you can help ease that tension between life and triathlon life by planning ahead. Continue reading

Race Report- Bridge to Pier Triathlon

Your first triathlon will always hold a special place in your heart. Somehow, we feel a special connection to the place we first cut our teeth in the sport. The first time we put Swim, Bike, Run together in a single event. For me, that was on Oak Island, NC at the Bridge to Pier Triathlon.

I had this event marked on my calendar this year, but through a series of random events had decided not to register. Then, the monday before the race, I get an email telling me this was going to be the final year for the event. “I have got to do this” I told my wife. So… We did. I signed up at 7:30am on thursday, 30 minutes before online registration closed. At 4:30am Saturday, with the car loaded down with food and toys for the family (oh… and my triathlon stuff too lol) we started the 2+ hour drive to the race.

Pre Race

We got a nice view of the sunrise over the lovely North Carolina farmland. I ran over an opossum trying to cross the road. We made 2 potty breaks… 1 along the side of the road, and our 2 year old didn’t go back to sleep at all in the car. But we got there with plenty of time for the family to change out of their PJ’s and for me to pick up my race packet and set up in transition.

I figured out pretty quickly why this was the last year of the race. less than 100 people were in transition. A big thanks to Jones Racing Company for not canceling the race. I hope they didn’t lose money on it. On the flip side, my whole rack in Transition was first timers. Something I love about the sport and this race in particular. I shared some encouragement and got all my stuff in order. They announce that the official water temp was 76 degrees… Wetsuit legal! This would be my first race with a wetsuit, and only my 2nd swim in one!

Swim- 1/3 mile 12:16

The swim was rather choppy. Being in the ocean I had expected as much, but it seemed a little more so than usual. I was in the first wave with about 12 or 14 other guys. Going out to the buoy was rough! Once I made the tun I couldn’t see the sight buoy over the waves, and it didn’t help that our swim caps were red and the sight buoy was orange! I had to strategically time my sighting so I was at the top of a wave to get a good sight on the buoy. As is normal for me, I couldn’t swim straight and had to swim most of the course alone. I made decent time though, and I even think the course was marked a little long. My time 3 years ago for my first tri ever I did was 10 minutes. I know I’m a better swimmer now, so that would be why my swim was over 2 minutes slower.

The other obstacle was the rocks right along the edge of the water. I got out way off the mark from the flags they put down, so the rocks hadn’t been cleared. I still ran as much as I could to get to the timing mat up the road about 100 yards or so.

T1- 1:15

Another 50 yards from the timing mat and I was in Transition. It’s a little weird that they put the mat for Swim end and run start so far outside of transition. That would explain the long T1. I was very pleased with how fast I got my wetsuit off. For my first wetsuit race, I was thrilled actually!

Bike- 16.25 miles- 43:13

cycling has always been my strength! since I’m in the middle of building towards the Half-Iron distance, I didn’t quite have the short course speed I wanted, but I rode at about 95% of my FTP as much as I could. That high-end sustained power just wasn’t there. Still, I biked down about 3 guys in front of me and was the 5th guy off the bike. (Once you count the other waves, I was the 6th fastest bike split of the day). I was thrilled with that again.

I had some tought mental issues at the start of the bike when my power wouldn’t come up, but I eventually got it there and by the time we crossed the bridge again I had passed the only guy I knew  would be competitive in my age group. I knew he was a decent swimmer and a poor biker, so I planned to catch up and put as much time as I could into him on the bike. I got about 2 minutes on him, but I also knew I couldn’t match his run.

T2- 0:57

Not much to say about my transition. Again, this is pretty slow for me for a T2 time since the run start timing mat was a good 50 yards up the road.

Run- 4 Miles- 29:02

Like I said, I didn’t have the short course speed. and I hadn’t done a brick since my last race in late April. So my run suffered. I struggled to hold 8:00 and had horrible side stitches. A mile in a started to feel better, and 1.5 miles in I got passed by the guy in my age group. Right before that, as I saw the guys up the road and started to feel better I had a thought of running them down, but that all faded. I did my best and held on for 9th place overall! I’ll take a top 10 when I can get it!

Wrap-up- 1:26:40

I love this race. It may be because it is the place of my first race, but they just do sch a great job making it family friendly and encouraging first timers. I thought my 4:30am wake up and 48 hour prep time was spontaneous (I am not spontaneous at all!) but there was a guy there who woke up at 2am and decided to race and made the drive from even further than me that morning for his first triathlon ever! They really went out of their way to encourage him. It was awesome!

Some takeaways for me personally is- Run more! I know your bike pacing is key to a good run, but I really havn’t pout the speed work in that I need, even for a 13.1. Also, my open water swims need help. I should put more time into that.

A big thanks to Trisports for keeping my kitted and equipped. I also felt great in my Brooks shoes and a HotShot before the race kept me cramp free even with red-lining the whole race! Of course, Honey Stinger filed me race from start to finish.

Next on the schedule is hopefully an olympic sometime in August and then it’s off to the OBX tri for the Half-Iron Distance!

What’s your next race?

Are you stressed out?

Are you stressed out? That’s a phrase we hear a lot. I’m stressed. Don’t stress about it. Man, this is stressing me out!

We throw that word around, but do we really know what it means?

The actual definition of stress is either “pressure or tension exerted on a material object” or “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”

So really, there are two types of stress that an athlete needs to be aware of. The first is the kind we are all focused on: training stress. If you use Training Peaks you are probably very familiar with the term TSS or Training Stress Score. This is developed to help an athlete track the amount of tri naming stress they were placing on their bodies. This metric has become very popular now simply because it is such a good way to measure training load. It takes into account not only the duration of your training, but also the intensity of it as well. Over time an athlete can know very well how much they are able to handle as well as how much they need to increase their training week after week to see continual benefits.

The other type of stress is life stress. where training stress is mostly physical, life stress is mostly mental. We all know that feeling we get when work gets crazy or things are piling up around the house. The mental strain affects us physically and can adversely affect other areas of our lives such as training.

I recently got clued into this and how the two are so closely linked. I knew they were, but had never really tested the limits of how much stress my body can take. (Side note: this is not something I recommend as you will see.)

Coming off my first peak of the season I took a good week off and then slowly started to edge back into tri naming. I had a few weeks wiggle room in my plan so I wasn’t really going to hit things too hard at the start of this next build to give myself some more time off without being fully “off.”

About that time, my boss took his summer vacations and I was the one tasked with picking up the slack. Things went very smoothly, but there was a larger load of stress on my shoulders than I have been use to. I handled it well and was able to keep raining like I had planned, but then a few nights of not sleeping well on top of it all and I could tell I was not my normal self.

During this time I had also been tracking my Heart Rate Variability (HRV). This is a metric that, like resting heart rate, can clue you into how well you are recovering. My numbers had slowly gotten worse without my tri naming really ramping up yet. I knew something was up but I didn’t do anything about it.

To start off my first block of rinsing building to my next peak, I had an FTP test scheduled. That morning I could feel a little something off, and my HRV confirmed what I felt. The app I’ve been using (HRV4training) told me to take it I didn’t listen. I ran into the test full speed… and blew up catastrophically! I was a mess.

Thankfully I knew what my FTP was from a recent test so I just left things the same. But, I learned an important lesson: stress comes from many places. Take it a rest day when you don’t have one planned is ok. When you pr body tells you it’s time to ease off the gas, LISTEN!

Sometimes stress comes from many places. Just because you could handle more tri naming stress, doesn’t mean your body isn’t already at its limit due to other factors like sleep and life stress.

The moral of the story, don’t overdo it. And track your HRV… more on that soon!

3 Things to Put in Your Training Log

Now you know you need to keep a training log, and you have your training log in hand (or on the computer). Now what do you put in that log?

Well I’m glad you asked! Really there is no wrong answer. Something to keep in mind though is that it is far better to put too much information in there than it is to put too little. You would rather be sifting through excess info to find what you need than to be wishing you had written something down. In general, I like to log these three types of info:

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3 Types of Training Logs

So you want to start your training log, but you don’t know where to start. The good news is that this is totally up to you! You need to choose the type of log that you will actually use. It doesn’t matter how fancy it is if you don’t put any information in it.

Some people like high tech journals, and some people like $1 notebooks. Here are three types of journals for just about anyone!

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3 Reasons to Keep a Training Log

Some people have said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over hoping for different results.” Too often though, we do that in our training. We do the same thing week after week, season after season, and we wonder why we don’t get any better. Want to break out of that rut? Take a look at your training log and see what you’ve been doing and what you should change!

Oh… you haven’t been keeping a training log? Here’s 3 reasons to keep a training log, and 3 ways to do it!

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