Friday, April 29, 2011

Hamstring issue.

I haven’t been finding much time to post anything up here lately. Typically I’d write up a post during my commute, I’m guessing 80% of my commute time has been spent sleeping the last few weeks. I’ve definitely been physically tired lately. Motivation is still good tho’. That’s always a good thing.

I’ve been dealing with a really frustrating hamstring problem the last couple weeks. The massage helped it for less than a day. The worst thing about it is that it’s tight all the time. So my runs are awkward feeling, although not as awkward as walking. I’ve been back to my typical complaint of my foot not landing properly and all that. I wouldn’t call it a limp. It’s just awkward and wrong.

The other day I realized that there were times during the day where it was perfectly fine. Then like a switch, everything would get tight again. That was the clue I needed. I’ve been treating this thing as if it was inflammation or a muscular issue. That’s not the source of the problem. This is a nerve in my lower back being pinched. That causes my hamstring muscle to spasm. Hold that spasm long enough and of course the muscles will hurt.

So I went to the chiropractor today. It’s been awhile. I think this is only my 2nd visit of the year. (that’s very few for me). On the walk over I was thinking that I should probably skip my run tonight and just swim. Well here it is a few hours after my adjustment and things are looking up. I’m walking normally again and now I can’t wait to run. I think because they’ve been so miserable the last couple weeks that I just want to feel that normal running stride again, just to know it’s there. I’ve got a brick tomorrow, so I’ll probably be smart and skip tonight’s run, it was the shortest run of the week, so not a big deal.

Sunday I’ll be going down to the Jersey Shore to watch Jim and his gang run the NJ Marathon. I’m not at all familiar with the area, so being a spectator will be an adventure. I’ve looked at the course map and realistically seeing them at 3 points on the course is probably as well as I’m going to do.

A follow up on my swimming: I had a few miserable swims. My coach was planning on using bands around my ankles to keep my feet from getting out of control at the next lesson. Well, I got to the next lesson and I had already fixed most of that problem. Actually a ton of stuff has improved and I'm in a good place... for now. Maybe it will stick around for awhile this time....maybe.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Odd scheduling week

11 workouts is tough to fit into a 6 day week. Well I complicated things by adding the Massage on Monday night. Which caused me to take Tuesday off. Then I took Friday off as well. Fortunately, the weather changed for us Sunday and I got to do my 2.5 hour ride outside. I got rained on during the evening run but it was warm enough that it didn't matter.

There were some good moments this week. Wednesday night I ran 10 miles. The first 5 were miserable. I stopped often to try and keep my hamstring stretched out. At some point after 5 miles everything fell into place. I felt like I was running with good form. HR was low and my hamstring chilled out. It was a slow run but I felt good about it because I really thought my hamstring was going to force me to cut the run short. The weather was perfect for running which is why I moved my long run to this day.

Saturday: 90 minutes on the trainer. I spent a bunch of time trying different cleat positions. I was making drastic moves so that I could feel how the different positions felt. I think I'm in a better setup than when I started. I'm half tempted to get no float cleats. I think if they were locked in, I'd have an easier time finding what the neutral position should be. Next up, saddle position. I kept changing the height higher and higher until I finally felt that my right leg was no longer falling out of position. I think this may be the cause of my right hip/IT/hamstring.... problems. I can't figure out why the left didn't have the same trouble. When I'd do single leg drills, my right would have trouble going over the top. The left never had an issue. Once I got the saddle high enough both felt like they were circling evenly. My 90 minute ride was very comfortable. (low intensity)

Then off to the pool. There is something to be said about swimming when you are rested/recovered. I hit the water and my position felt great. So I decided to try and maintain that rather than hammer for speed. It was a great swim. Not my fastest but there was a ton of good stuff going on.

Best part of the week: I've started on my my tan lines. It was supposed to rain all weekend. Instead Saturday turned out to be awesome until about 4PM. We got to the lot and started taking the bikes off the car and Genine said "we should have brought sunscreen". Sure enough 2.5 hours later my arms are a bit red. A good reminder for next time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ugly swim / Deep Tissue Massage

My last two swims have been awful. AWFUL! I’m talking :10-:20 difference per 100 bad. I would be really upset if not for the fact that the one before those two was fantastic. AND I’m very aware of why I’m swimming poorly. We determined this at my lesson last week. My legs are the biggest problem. Not only do I have a problem keeping them high in the water, I also go too wide randomly as well. When I go wide, that often throws off my balance, then I try to correct my balance with my stroke. So things get ugly in a hurry.

You would think that because I’m aware of these things, I shouldn’t have these problems. Unfortunately that’s not how it is. It’s reminding me of learning how to play the piano. It’s one thing to read the music and hear it in your head, and a completely different step to make your hands do what you are thinking. Also swimming, just like piano, if you practice a mistake long enough, it is really hard to change that pattern.

I suppose the good part of my bad technique is that it’s as if I’m wearing a drag suit all the time. So it’s a good strength builder. When I put the wetsuit on, I should be flying. (Should be. We will see).

Sunday I ran the 4 mile race in Central Park, then went out for a 2 hour bike that afternoon. My right leg was not happy with me. During the bike, I kept feeling like I had the most awkward pedal stroke ever. It felt as if I was pushing only using the muscles on the outside of my leg.

Monday morning my ankle was tight. Kind of in the same way that it was last year during my aborted marathon training. Not a good sign. I stretched a bit, then went to the pool. I was really hopeful that the swim would stretch things out a bit. That didn’t really happen. I was not walking normally on that right foot. It didn’t hurt but it wasn’t right.

Fortunately, in preparation for the Marathon last year, I had signed up with a Massage place. Once I was injured, I stopped going. So I now have a bunch of massages that are already paid for at that place. So I call to find out if they have someone available for a deep tissue massage. (I’ve never had the same person twice). They said they did and the person they named I think is the person that had Genine nearly in tears. It’s been awhile, so maybe it’s not the same guy.

It was the same guy. Oh man. It was 60 minutes and all he worked on was the back of my legs. I really thought my right hamstring was going to be the most painful part but I was wrong. When he got to my right calf, he found a knot. He worked on it like crazy. It was intense. I was sweating because it hurt so badly. The bad news is that it never released. Which means I should go back again sooner than later.

Even tho’ that muscle still has a knot, I’m flexible enough that I’m able to walk normally again. Even though both my calves and my IT bands feel like they are bruised.

Overall I was feeling pretty funky on Tuesday, probably from the massage, so I took the day off. That may mean I miss a couple workouts this week but I think it was a good thing to do.

I guess it’s good to figure out how long it takes to recover from a massage. That way if you feel you need one before a race, you will know when to schedule it.

I would like to think that if you have fewer problems going into the massage. It won’t be as painful. I’m not sure that’s the case. I guess I’ll find out the hard way. If I’m smart, I should go back in again next week. Ugh.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Race Report, NYRR Run for the Parks 2011


We didn’t find parking as quickly as we had hoped. We jogged over to the race as part of our warmup. My legs felt like lead. We check a bag and had about 10 minutes before race start.

We tried to squeeze in a warmup with some speed. It didn’t really happen. Todd is in the 1st corral I’m in the 2nd. I’m late enough that I put myself at the very back of the 2nd corral and just stay there.

I’m really surprised at how uninspired my legs are feeling. Yesterday was a complete day off for me. I took pictures at the 5K race Genine ran. (She did really well BTW, I’ll let her report on that).

Today’s run should probably be a hard effort. It would fit the training plan nicely if that happened. So I make an effort to stay in this mentally. The shorter the distance the greater the suffer. The goal is to run at a pace that is just a touch slower than the point where my brain starts thinking “I really want to stop”, over and over again.

Horn sounds and we are off, and we are walking, jogging….. walking….. jogging… Crossing the start line barely jogging, great. This typically doesn’t happen, I wonder what the hold up is. I’m off to a slow start. I guess the back of the corral was a bad idea. Not a big deal, I’m just weaving around more often than I typically do. Unfortunately, there is no race day rush mentally. The one thing on my mind is still the fact that my legs are feeling like junk. I’m pushing tho’.

Mile 1: 7:30 min/mile HR 170-178

Not bad considering the congestion at the start. I’ve gotta get my mind off of my legs. Time to start picking people to chase down. This works fairly well. By the end of mile 2 I feel like I’m in my pace group, I’m not gaining much ground on anyone.

Mile 2: 7:14 min/mile HR 178-180

I decide to pick people that seem to be running this pace easily, figuring they will pace well for the next 2 miles. I’ve got a hill to climb in mile 3. I’m reminded that I no longer pass people on the climbs. That’s unfortunate. I’m staying close to my targets, I’m not letting them get away.

Mile 3: 7:34 min/mile HR 180-185

Alright the toughest part of the course is behind me. I’d like to say I turned it up into high gear for the final mile. I don’t think that’s the case here. I think I took advantage of the downhill and maintained the effort I’d already been pushing.

Mile 4: 7:07 min/mile HR 181-189.

Finish time: 29:28 which puts me in at a 7:22 min/mile.

I’m happy with that result. The way my legs were feeling today, I easily could have decided to jog the course for a training run. Instead, I got to find out that even when the legs feel lousy, that doesn’t mean they can’t race. It’s funny tho’, my 15K race a few weeks ago was a slower pace than today but felt faster.

It was a beautiful morning in Central Park with the trees flowering and it was warm enough to consider shorts and T-shirt, for the run. As we drove out of the city we saw people gathered for the Lincoln Tunnel run. You run the tube under the Hudson from NJ to NY. That might be a good run in the middle of the winter but certainly not today.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Data, the numbers game.

I don’t consider myself an extremely competitive person when it comes to triathlon. It’s not often that I go looking at other people’s results and find that to be something that motivates me. I think I’m more about self-improvement. I definitely will look at my past results and work towards beating my previous self.

I’ve done very little looking at the numbers for the last 4-5 months. I haven’t totaled my distances in anything on a monthly basis. Nor have I added up the hours I’ve spent training. Not knowing these numbers has made it easy to read other athletes blogs and not get sucked into thinking I need to do more, because they are.

I've been downloading data from my Polar watch but I'm not spending much time looking at that either. I'm saving it because I think it could be interesting to look at a year from now.

It’s getting closer to race season tho’ and I’ve started to do some things that have given me an idea of where I am with my speed and fitness. (the 5K & 15K and some timed swims at my lessons).

Last weekend, I biked around Round Valley. Which is the Buckman bike course. (less the bit from the parking lot). I have always had trouble knowing where I am with my biking. (Maybe because I was riding with friends more often than not?) Well, after the ride last weekend, I looked up my race times from the Buckman from a couple years ago. My ride the other day wasn’t too far off from that result. (I need to look at my watch again to remember just how far off). Of course I didn’t swim before my ride the other day, but I also wasn’t pushing nearly as hard in terms of effort. That is encouraging. I really want to get it into my head that I can dial back the effort during the bike leg on race day and still have a respectable time. That should help setup a better run. I already know the battle on race day is going to be to stay dialed back. I have a tendency to redline during a race.

Anyhow, I’m already looking forward to the race days. Hopefully we will have better luck in terms of weather on race days. This will be my 4th year at Mooseman. Of the previous 3 years, weather has altered the event twice. That's a bad average, let's get that back to 50%!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Gearing Up for the Tri season

It’s been a spendy few weeks. I guess I didn’t post on here about the new roof rack for the bikes that we bought. After almost losing my bike off the top of the car, I ordered up a Thule rack for the car. It’s definitely a very good rack and I worked at it over two days to come up with a configuration that would hold 4 bikes, fork mounted and 2 wheels.

I had wanted to buy a new helmet but have really been having trouble with spending 170-210 for it. So I’ve been watching out for deals. Bike Nashbar got my attention early last week with a big coupon for 21% on any single item. I went to their site to see if they had either of the helmets I liked. Sure enough, there is the Bell Volt. It’s an older model (does it matter?) and is not the color I would choose if I had to pick from a selection of colors (Metallic Sepia/Copper) but I couldn’t pass up the price. $89.99. I already know that it fits, its comfortable and well vented so it was an easy decision.

While I was on the site I also decided to check out what shoes they had. I’ve been really been unhappy with the ones I’ve been using. Some days are better than others but they need to go. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to realize that they are too narrow.

They had a pair of Shimano Tri shoes. I was happy with the Shimano shoes I had previously. I can return these if I don’t like them for just the cost of shipping. So I ordered these up as well.

Until they get scuffed up a bit, Genine will constantly tease me about them looking like tap shoes.

For the record, I did to a bit of research trying to find a better shoe. The one that was most interesting to me was a shoe by Northwave.

The fit was pretty good for someone with a bit wider foot or looking for a larger toe box. I may have bought them if they didn’t have to special order them for me, or if they had a guarantee of some sort. There were a couple things about the build that was odd to me that made me question their durability. I asked around the forums trying to get some feedback about the brand and didn’t get much.

Because the scheduled bike workout keep getting longer. I realized it is time to try out saddles again. There are other saddles out there that I want to try, it’s just tough to find a bike shop that has them. Then you need to find a shop that has the time and interest to allow you to put it on your bike for a test ride, either on the trainer or outdoors. I thought the Adamo Race saddle that I used last year was pretty good but over the winter I set that up on Genine’s bike. I don’t think I’m going to get that one back.

I definitely want a saddle with a cutout so I checked out the demo programs online. I rented 2 saddles from The Adamo Podium and the Selle SanMarco Mantra. I tried both of them on the trainer before Saturday’s 2.5 hour ride. I put the Adamo on 2nd and so that was what stayed on my bike to start the ride. I figured I’d switch after the first hour. Well that didn’t happen. I didn’t want to take the break to swap saddles, so the Adamo got a 2.5 hour test ride. I liked it. It’s not perfect but it’s much better than everything I’ve used this winter. Monday night I’ll probably swap for the Adamo Race saddle from Genine’s bike. That way she can try the Podium and I can remember what the race version was like. There isn’t much difference but only one way to be sure. I have to send the Demo saddles back Thursday. I have a feeling an Adamo will be on my bike again this season.

Here are the 5 saddles I've tried.

This weekend’s workouts were good. Genine rode on her day off Friday. 36+ miles in the cold rain. She’s much tougher than I am when it comes to the weather. I did my 2500m swim Saturday morning while Genine was at Intensati. Then when she left for work, I drove over to the Round Valley loop to do my 2.5 hours. My goal here was to stay in my HR zone of course but to also think about my pacing. I need to start to get a feel for what kind of effort I can hold over certain lengths of time.

I’ve always considered this loop to be a perfect training ride for the Mooseman course but I’d never really looked to see how they match up. After 40 miles, I started to think that maybe this course is actually tougher than Mooseman’s Olympic course. Here are the profiles from Map my ride, I think they must be guessing on some of the elevation on the Round Valley loop as the start and finish aren’t at the same elevation.

Round Valley:



I'm not very good at looking at these graphs and deciding the difficulty. The big climb at Round Valley does seem to be a good approximation of the big climb at Mooseman tho'.

Sunday I was supposed to go into NYC to run a 10K with Todd. I wasn’t planning on racing this one but it was going to be another run to towards the 9+1 for the 2012 NYC Marathon. Unfortunately, Todd wasn’t going to be able to go. I decided that it wasn’t worth waking up early, gas and toll money plus the extra hours out of my day just for a training run in Central Park. Instead I ran my hour with Genine and some friends.

As I said before, the volume is starting to build. The good part about this is I can see that I’ve got a good chance at losing more weight before Timberman in August. That is if I can keep my eating in check. I found myself really loading up the calories in preparation for the bike ride and that continued after the ride as well. Sunday wasn’t much different. Seems that I was tired enough that I kept on munching on carbs. I need to put some serious effort into tracking my food intake and figure out what’s going to work.

Last week, I didn't wake up to do any morning workouts. Not enough sleep and I never caught up. As a result a couple of days I did my run in the evening with a short break before biking on the trainer. Not my ideal plan for an evening. So this morning I was in the pool at 5:30 and got my 3500m out of the way. So far so good this week.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I have a feeling my blog posts are going to be poorly edited for quite some time. Most of these are written on the train during my commute. Trouble is, I’ll write for 5 minutes, then fall asleep. I’ll apologize for the lack of flow in advance.

I now have the next 12 weeks of my workout schedule. Initially I only had 6 weeks. Just looking at those 6 made me realize that it’s going to get tough. As I looked at the 6 after that, I laughed out loud. Just like that, my feelings about it went from being a bit anxious about it, to thinking it’s somewhat absurd. (I’m so glad that I’m only doing half iron and not full iron this year).

Now that I’ve had some time to digest what lies ahead of me, I’m psyched up about it. In 8-12 weeks I should be able to manage those big workouts, I just have to stick to the plan and stay healthy.

I think the bike volume is what concerns me the most. I have never put enough time in on the bike. Simply proven by seeing that my longest rides ever have both been on the Timberman course. Once as a training ride and once during the race, which was in 2009. Obviously, that is going to change this year.

Biking has been my least favorite part of triathlon, here is why.

Lack of comfort: If I go long, I hate my saddle. Once you are uncomfortable on your saddle, you are done for. I haven’t found a way to make it better. So I am on a mission to find the right saddle. More on this soon.

The other comfort issue is that often my back/hip on my right side becomes problematic. I’m curious if my right side is doing more than it’s share of the work. I’ve been focusing on my left side, trying to make sure it stays involved.

I also have a tendency to push too hard at the beginning of every bike workout. I think these harder efforts are putting extra stress on that hip as well. I need to dial it back and find a better pace. The last few years I think I got through the bike using intensity in my training. This year will be more about volume. I need to learn how to pace for volume.

I’m really not sure what to think about Columbia and Mooseman tho’. I may have messed up by not giving myself more of a build into those races. I’m not saying that I’m not going to do well there. I’m just saying I’m learning how this system works along the way, and I might have done things differently now that I have a better understanding of it. I probably could have had a build into these 2 early races, then another schedule leading into Timberman, two peaks instead of just one. Not a big deal, just something to consider going forward.

I’ve been at the pool twice since my last lesson. I guess I’d forgotten how tough it is mentally to work on technique, rather than just hammering out the laps. I’m not swimming as hard as I had been because I’m so focused on trying to make the changes Coach Q gave me. I’m convinced that working on this is worth it, even during my build schedule. If I can change the rhythm of my recovery stroke and correct my right arm pull, I think that I’ll be headed towards the next level. Maybe not the next level in terms of speed right away but efficiency should improve and that alone is worth it.

I think I’ve made some progress with this already. I swam 3000 the other night and stayed focused on this the entire time. It took awhile to dial it in. At first I wasn’t able to manage the changes without messing up my body position. Which made it so I had zero glide time. I kept adjusting and eventually got into a decent rhythm and I felt that I had incorporated many of the fixes. Next lesson is Tuesday. I’ve got a couple more swim workouts before then. Hopefully I’ll have it dialed in by then so I can get some good feedback. Because you know this works, you change one thing and it affects everything else… I’m sure he will pick up on some of the new funkiness I’m feeling, if not I’ve got some questions. Fortunately, he will have answers.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Swim Lesson

Genine was unable to make it to the lesson. When the Coach Q found this out, he gives me an option. Do I want him to coach me through a workout. Or do we continue with tweaking my technique. I wish the answer wasn’t so simple. Even tho’ I haven’t had a coached swim workout in 9 months or so, I had to stick with the technique help. He agreed but then added that he was going to have me race a 300, then a 200, then a 100 at the end of the hour and he was going take my splits.

I swim 100. I get to the wall and he asks which is my stronger arm. I say my right and mention the fact my left has some tendonitis. So I wouldn’t be at all surprised if my left is doing something crazy to compensate. Oddly enough, he tells me my left side is my good side! It’s entering wide, catching properly and staying wide through the pull, maybe not finishing. He says my right side, being the stronger arm, looks to be trying to power its way through the stroke rather than go with the flow. The result: A bit of a crossover in front, a pull that is underneath me, which leaves me nowhere to finish.

All this time I thought my left was a problem, turns out it could be in pain because it’s doing most of the work! (it never hurts during the swim by the way. It’s when I’m not swimming that I notice it)

Back to corrections: He has me put on hand paddles to give me huge feedback on how my hand travels. First I’m supposed to work on keeping the hand wide. Which I do quickly, then that turns into not enough depth. Still not enough depth because I’m entering too far out in front, keep the entry closer. (my brain is now on overload trying to do 3 things). He has me swim a bit like this while he goes and changes into his suit because we are going to add more.

He hops into the pool and watches from underwater. He spots even more cheating from my right arm. My left side has a decent high elbow. The right side collapses almost immediately. The list is now. Width, Depth, Entry, High Elbow.

I get this one rather quickly too, I just focus on reaching over a barrel.

(I now realize why I couldn’t count laps when I first started to swim. I had too many other things I was thinking about!!!)

The coach comments about how quickly I’m able to make these changes. I’d like to think it’s something I’m doing but really I think it’s because he describes the feel of each thing so well. I just make the adjustment and think about his description. I think my feel for the water is good, the trouble has always been figuring out what the goal is.

Because I’m picking these things up rather quickly, (Getting them to stick around is going to be the hard part, that’s why I’m writing all this down.) he’s going to add more. I’m finishing my stroke at my waist and I also push up on the water (some) instead of back. So we drill a bit where I hesitate at the finish before starting recovery.

Speaking of recovery… He mentions that if he were only to look at my stroke from above the water, he wouldn’t think I was much of a swimmer. My recovery is rushed whereas my stroke is actually quite smooth. He explains how my rushed recovery is forcing me to do more work with my shoulders because it’s leading the rotation. BOOM! (the sound of my mind blowing up) This might be the biggest comment of the night for me. I know that I end up leading with my shoulders the majority of the time, I just never had any idea of how to break myself of it. My recovery makes it nearly impossible to do otherwise! I could go on and on here about how much sense this makes. I can now think of the days when I’m really swimming smooth and I can picture how my recovery stroke on those days was much smoother. Heck I do this better every time I swim with a pull buoy!!

Wow… I LOVE when I get something like this. (By get, I mean understand, and get meaning receive. This makes the money spent well worth it).

We work on this a bit. I have a feeling that I’m going to be asking him about improving my recovery every time now.

Obviously there is quite a list of stuff to be worked on. Yet he still wanted to see how I pace myself, so he didn’t let me escape from doing the 300, 200, 100.

The 300 he just let me do my own thing. My first 50 was faster than all the others but the rest of the 50’s were basically the same. (I honestly don’t remember what the splits were). He seemed to think it was pretty good. I was happy that I wasn’t falling further behind every 50.

The 200 he told me to think negative split. That didn’t mean sandbag the first 100. That meant push through the second 100 fighting against the fatigue. I finished that a second faster than he had expected. (sorry no numbers again).

Now to the 100, he had a metronome and played the cadence I was swimming for the 300 and 200. He tells me for the second 50, he wants me to up the cadence to push for the negative split. The first 50 felt pretty good, as I push off for the final 50 I notice he’s pushing off as well and swimming along in the next lane… effortlessly (or so it seemed). He was watching to see how much of all the tweaks we worked on were still there during a sprint. This 100 was 3 seconds slower than a few weeks ago. 1:24. I’m not surprised, the other time I focused hard on finishing every stroke. This time I was focused on faster turnover and I was not in my rhythm. He still thought the time was good. His point was this, to get faster, I will need to work on increasing my turnover.

We’ve created quite a to do list. It’s unfortunate that I don’t have a coach to remind me of what I’m doing wrong during my workouts. The challenge will be to stay focused on these things constantly during my swim workouts. If I do them right for a few weeks they should start to become automatic. My swim volume goes up starting Monday. I’ll dial back the intensity a bit and focus on this stuff. Fortunately my next lesson is less than two weeks away.

Side note: Bob was at the pool Wednesday morning. He joined in on my workout... and crushed it. Some things never change.