Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Speedwork doesn't get easier, it just gets faster

The start of the week has gone really well with only a couple of speedbumps workwise.  It's getting harder and harder to get away but I have to keep reminding myself that spring and longer days are just around the corner and with that, comes training's 'extended hours'.  

I have not been training in the early mornings for 2 reasons:  1) I swim 3 nights a week and get home at 11pm and am too tired in the wee am; and 2) it's still too bloody cold until the afternoon sun peak.  Case in point:  today, -24C with the windchill at 8am.  By 2pm, it was -2C and sunny and beautiful.  I did manage to get outside for a bit to walk the dogs.  They appreciated not having to wear their coats!!

OK - onto the speedwork.  The adage is true - it's not easy, but it's getting faster.  I looked at my results from just 3 weeks ago and improved avg /km pace by 5 - 15 seconds.  The session (after warm up) was 1k, 2k, 2k, 1k with 1 min rest in between and I kept each interval nicely below 5min/km.  I wrapped it up with an easy 2km home.  Part of the pace improvement could have been both better weather and actual pavement ... I think my last session was partially snow covered.

Swimming on Tuesday night was interesting - a lot of 'no shows' slackers and so 4 of us split the 2 fastest lanes, each keeping to our side of the lane.  It made for some good 'ol racing on every drill / lap.  You bet your a$$ we were competing for form, speed, and stamina.  One of the guys with an oversized ego, who has always felt he should be in the fastest lane, was pulling up short every single drill.  He has always talked big Ironman talk in the locker room but fell to the slowest of the four of us and by the end of the hour on our last 200m set, he was a good 35 m behind.  You can imagine the locker room talk after class - not that any was needed whatsoever...most of us leave that in the pool, but this guy shared one excuse after another as to why he wasn't 'feeling in' in the water tonight.  I don't think anyone cared...we all left our performances in the water and were onto other stuff.

That's the midweek report.  Training is going well! 

Mon - 1hr ride
Tues - 1hr swim + Run speedwork
Wed - 90 min hard ride with drills

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A close call with the cold at -26C

For any northern triathletes or runners, you know what running in the cold is like.  The extra gear you wear for warmth, the snow and ice on the running surface, and sometimes the sheer cold temperatures slow you down probably more than you think - at least that is the excuse I am using about my 15km run yesterday.

I have to admit, I stayed out too long yesterday, though I didn't realize it until I got back to the warmth of the house.  It was a close call.  I skied most of the day, from 9:15 to around 2pm and the high winds and -14 temperatures made the 'real' temperature -26 with the wind chill.  I survived the day on the hill and headed out with my runners and gear at 2:30 for the one way trip home.

As I left the mountain and rounded the lake, it was a whiteout as the high winds picked up the snow of the frozen surface and scattered it through the air with abandon.  I usually see walkers out and about but yesterday - no one, despite the high volume of tourists for the Ontario long weekend.

Once I settled into my long run pace, I began to feel good about my clothes and temperature - I was neither hot nor cold, which was perfect.  Doesn't stop me from sweating though - no matter what, I'll break a sweat while running.

Through Tremblant village, I got nailed by the wind again around Lac Mercier and the falling snow was starting to accumulate on any surface sheltered from the wind.  There is a x-country / multi use path that runs near the lake and as my sidewalk along the road ran out, I opted to give it a shot instead of continuing down the road when the speed limit changes from 50 km/h to 80 km/h.

The surface was fantastic for running - or skiing, for that matter - and while the snow surface slowed my pace, it didn't bother me one bet.  I wasn't 'feeling it' this run anyway so it didn't matter - soon after the start of the run, my goal shifted from time/pace to just time.  I was running 6:20/km at this point.  The multi use path was great as it was sheltered from the wind and empty of obstacles and people.  I liked it so much, I did the 2 km stretch 3 times back and forth.  This was my second mistake!

I began to get cold from sweating and being wet - my layered gear is meant to wick away the wetness, but still, there are limits.  I know it was working as frost began to buildup on the outside of my softshell jacket on my chest.  Surely my hat had turned white at this point too, but I didn't dare take it off to check.

The last kilometer was the worst as my legs tightened up and I lost any power to climb the remaining hills home.  My pace slowed to 7:30.  I got really hungry and pulled an emergency bar from my pocket to help refuel.  The last climb, a relatively substantial one on our street, was the toughest - around 12 degrees and 200m in length.  I didn't walk it, but I was sure close to it.  I knew I had to keep going and get inside.

Once home, it was 4pm and the dogs were begging me to take them out.  Are you kidding me?  My temperature was 95.6 degrees and I needed to warm up.  I was hoping the batteries in the thermometer were failing as that is pretty cold.

At about 4:20 as I was about to head out in full snow gear with the dogs, my wife came home, thankfully, so she got the honor of walking the hounds!

I ran a hot bath and noticed my fingers had turned completely white - I mean like paper white.  Apparently it is something called Raynaud's Syndrown where the veins in your fingers spasm and constrict, shutting off effective bloodflow.  It is triggered by stress, or in my more obvious case, the cold.  I had to force blood from my hands into my fingers under warm water until some colour returned.  Thankfully it didn't hurt - it just tingled.

What a tough day...I'll have to be more careful next time.  The scary thing is that I didn't think I was cold until that last km.  Obviously I was cold long before that but it just didn't register.  Disaster averted!

Weekly totals:
Swim - 3 hours
Bike - 0
Run - 15km
* An insanely busy work week and resulting lack of sleep robbed me of my training.  I'll try not to let that happen again!!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ever seen a 20+ pound bird fly?

We have a flock of over 35 wild turkeys come through our yard at least twice a day and have come to actually like having them around.  They are usually walking or running through the trees, down our front walk way, across the driveway, to and from our neighbours, and back again.  I think their sole reason for living is to eat and reproduce.

The turkeys occasionally give us something new and recently, it was to roost in our trees.  At dusk, they look like large black blobs high up in the trees and we're amazed how they could perch so high on such small branches.  These are NOT small birds!  Sure enough, by morning, I caught a couple of them floating to the ground to begin their days' activities and it was a really cool sight.

Today's training was a nice easy long run - 90 mins and my goal distance of 15km.  A nice easy pace, however, it was a challenge because of the hills - in the Laurentian Mountains - and the falling snow.  It made for some nice scenery, but the strong wind and accumulation on the ground made form some difficult running.

By the time I got home, I was actually quite tired and hungry - obviously - I started the run at noon after skiing and hadn't eaten since breakfast.  I had a couple of bars in my vest in case of emergency.

As we sit here in February, I think about the fact it is mid winter, it's cold and snowy, typically strong winds, but that we really only have another 6 weeks to go until the April sun.  But the most important piece for me is proof that so many of us run and exercise despite the weather.  We're awesome!!  It motivates me to read about others' weather related triumphs and the perseverance they show to get out there no matter what.

I'm looking forward to this week of training and continuing to build the base.  The Ottawa Marathon is 15 weeks away and I'm kinda scared, actually.  Seems so close....

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Do you know where your meat comes from??

While I am not an environmentalist, a tree hugger, a protester, a causer, a do-gooder, there is one thing that is becoming more important in my life, especially as I get older and "think" about things a little more.

How many of you think about where your food comes from?  Whether it is vegetables and fruits or meats?  Prior to the last few years, I was one of the "most" that didn't give it a second thought or frankly even cared.  I could go to the grocery store, buy whatever, and consume.  It was easy, convenient, not terribly expensive and what I've come to better understand over the last while, it was unfortunately too good to be true.

I do not speak from a high horse here at all, BUT, thanks to YouTube, one of the most hated terms: "Social Media", and the thrust of technology, like video recorders on iPhones or other small devices, so much more information is surfacing on the reality of animals' lives in the 'industrialized' food process.

As I was at the grocery store after my swim Tuesday night, I had a great idea to buy a chicken and roast it at home and use the meat in my lunchtime salads and for sandwiches, etc.  As I reviewed the packaging, I was looking for at least a free range bird and at best, an organic bird.  Unfortunately no luck.  There was no way I was buying an industrially processed bird.  Why support these billion dollar corporations that pump their chickens full of antibiotics, steroids, and unhealthy feed?  No thanks.  And that's without any thought of how the chickens are kept in cramped cages, never seeing sunlight, a good chunk of them dying before being processed, and I don't mean at the processing plant, etc.  Anyway, long story short, I walked out of there with wild salmon instead.

OK, onto the good stuff!

I'm bridging movies between one ride session and another.  I finished watching "The Expendables" and started watching "Knight and Day".  Both great movies to ride to.  As for the workout - well, 90 mins and led off with some one leg drills after the warm up.  If you've never done one leg drills, you need to start.  They point out quite clearly every flaw in your pedal stroke and apparently, I have many.  Damn...hard stuff.  Going to have to work really hard to improve here.

We're off skiing again this weekend and I have a 90 min run planned for after skiing on Saturday.  Hoping for nice weather and no new snow on the roads.

I'll finish watching Knight and Day tomorrow, Friday, on a 60 min easy ride.  Saweet!

60 min swim
90 min bike
Getting there....

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tonight just wasn't fair

Hey, I'm not going to complain.  In fact, I'm going to thank you.  It wasn't you that gave us the 0F temperature and 20 mph a wind chill of -30C.  I'm too lazy to do the convert to F...actually, just too tired.

Tonight was another speedwork sesssion - 15 min warmup and then 6x1km sprints with 90 seconds rest in between, followed by a cool down.  Seriously?  Who needs a cool down at -30??  Just stop moving for longer than that 90 seconds and you are taking your life into your own hands!!  I actually stuck close to home for the sole reason that I didn't want to be too far away should 'anything' happen.

I signed up with a coach for many reasons, one of which is the accountability factor.  I know we are all intrinsically motivated and that's real nice and all, but when it's this cold and you are tired before heading out the door, there is no amount of intrinsic motivation that would have been enough to make me do it.  Tonight, I credit both my coach (as I know he would have run without complaint, leading by example), and my fellow tri-bloggers.  There are so many of you that get out there and 'do it' no matter what.  So far, I am in that camp with you, but I have to say thanks for setting a good example.  Whether you are in Ohio, Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Burlington, or've done the tough slugs and that's where tonight's inspiration came from.

I didn't get a chance to post yesterday because work was nuts, BUT, I was able to do the 60 minute easy trainer ride last evening, right before heading to the pool for my swim.  I watched the first half of a movie while peddling and were it not for the fat I had to bolt for the pool, I would have kept riding just so I could finish the movie!  It'll have to wait until tomorrow at this point.

Last night's pool session was decent, though we closed with 800m continuous free, 400 of which was with paddles and pull buoys.  Nothing like extra resistance to tire out your arms and shoulders!  I've learned my kick is exponentially stronger than my lane mates, but my overall swim is about the same.  I mentioned before I can't believe I am in the fast lane, not having had any real swimming experience prior to a year ago.  There is a 'super fast' lane reserved for 2 girls who are in our class who must have been competitive swimmers in college or something.  It's the only lane in the pool you'll find dolphin kicks and flip turns.

I've been pleased with my nutritional choices of late and I can already and visibly see the pay off.  I'm seeing the extra winter buffer starting to melt away and can attribute it to both healthy eating and increased exercise.  While yesterday was a good day nutritionally, the plate of spaghetti I had for supper did not sit well with me by the time my 9:15 pm swim start.  I didn't repeat that mistake tonight as I couldn't.  I was out running at dinner time and made an amazing protein shake upon my return, consisting of soy milk, peanut butter, chocolate flavored protein, and a banana.  It was like drinking dessert.  I followed it with some stretching and a hot bath.  I really needed to reset my internal temperature gauge back to "normal".  For my actual meal, I had a salad and found I needed to top it off with an eLoad sports drink.

One thing I've never mentioned is that I have to give kudos to Pearl Izumi for making the most amazing clothing.  I run in their Elite Softshell jacket and pant and find I am practically never cold.  I only wear 2 layers under the coat - a Fleece T-neck and a wicking T shirt - and nothing under the pants, except my skivvies of course!  Despite the high winds tonight, I was never really "cold" in them but given I tend to sweat, at least at a low grade, I could "feel" the cold when I stopped running, in between intervals.  Anyway, this has been my go-to outfit all winter long.  If you are going to run in north country, better invest in some quality gear and that'll make sure you really have no excuses when it comes to winter running.

Off to the pool now, and YES, I will be drawing on your perserverence, because guess what?  I'm actually really tired and yawning right now.  I'll feel better once I'm out there, though!

Speedwork - 60 mins, 9 km.  Average pace each km:  5:01
Ride - 60 mins easy
Swim - drills, drills, drills

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ride and type, or else!

How many times have you wanted to take 24 hours, and consider that length of time your morning??  I had one of those days on Thursday as I had to get a 75 minute ride in at lunch, which was made up of a series of drills and short 'high cadence' spins.

My morning was rough, work wise, and I ended up sitting in my bike shorts and shoes while praying my conference call would end.  I kept getting 'pinged' to talk about work things and that was eating into my ride time.  I hate it when that happens, but priorities are priorities.

Working at home is both a curse and a benefit.  Overall, you save money and time - two things we all wish we had more of, but your time drifts away from a standard workday and cruises into the evenings, and sometimes beyond.  The motto is 'quality versus quantity', however, but naturally, expectations are higher than you can deliver in an 8 hour day.  So, when I have the chance to get a run or ride in at lunch, I take it without feeling guilty, knowing I have either already put in buckets of 'quality', or will have more to do.

The drills on the Computrainer were great - but tough.  A few one leg drills at 140 watts - actually, they were supposed to be at 120 watts but I read the sheet wrong.  My bad....and I guess that is why I had muscle soreness after the ride in and around my calves and shins.  I was interrupted a few times while riding so the 75 minute ride went way beyond that.  I actually had to start a conference call / meeting at 1:00 and continue on the CT for 25 minutes.  Those who say the purpose of an aerobar is to make you faster or change you gears have never used them as laptop support!  They also held my phone, which was on speaker so I could hear the call.  At least I wasn't watching TV!!

There is one thing I did feel guilty about, however....I missed my swim Thursday night.  I was actually really really tired and fell asleep after supper while relaxing with one of the girls.  When I woke up, it was too late to get to the pool, unfortunately.  I was a little miffed, but obviously my body was going through some adjustments and needed to catch up.  This, from a guy who NEVER naps.

As we do every weekend, we take off skiing with the family to Tremblant in the province of Quebec.  This place is like a second home to me, having spent 11-12 years teaching and coaching skiing there and through the formative university and post bachelor's years.  Wow, what a place when you are 19 years old and there every weekend.  In your prime, you own this place!!

Instead of staying out all night like I used to do, I am home at a reasonable hour, if I go out at all, because I have a whack load more responsibility now.  Dogs need to be walked (no fenced yard there!) and kids need to be up an at 'em early.  Didn't stop me from going to La Forge Saturday night for a few beers with a buddy, though.  First time I've done that this year and it followed a fantastic run I had earlier in the day.  All winter, I have been skiing until around 1pm or so and then running home.  It's a hilly 10km run and depending on the day and the snow cover on the ground, I make it back in 55 to 60 minutes.  You lose a lot of power climbing on slippery / snowy roads.  But I think it helps build muscle, and one thing I know for sure, it does build character.  I've been running home in any weather condition and really enjoy it.  The pic to the left is my view at lunch on Saturday from the mountain top restaurant.

Bike - 75 min
Run - 10km
Ski - 2 x 1/2 days

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

OK, let's rock!

What's a little cold??  And a little wind??  I mean, who really cares anyway?  It's just a number and / or a feeling.  Dress appropriately and get over it, right?  Ya, I knew you would think that.  And I agree....let's rock!

What a great run session last night.  1.5 mile warm up, then speed work for ~4 miles as follows:  (note: 1km == 0.6 miles): Fast as you can for 1km, then 2km, 2km 1km, with 90 seconds rest in between.  I'm a running newb and this was my first session like this.  While I was motivated to get out there and do it, I really had to dig deep to keep up the pace.  It was uncomfortable, to say the least.  I worked hard and that last interval of 1km felt like it went on forever.  I was so thankful it went by in 5 mins, 24 seconds.  Not fast by a runner's standard, I know, but I'm working on it.

I had a decent ice buildup on my hat and even eyelashes by the time I got home.  But it pales in comparison to my black neck cover (left), which is white with frost in the picture.  I had all of 15 minutes home before I had to get in the car for swim class.

At the pool, I'm actually doing fairly well.  This is my first time swimming with this crowd and they were on their second session since the fall.  That's the period where I was lazy and took a lot of time off.  They were out there freezing their toes and working hard.     Somehow, I managed to be seeded in the fast lane and have worked hard enough to stay there.  Among all the drills, the main sets are usually timed (as in your max time is, say, 1:45/100m for 10x100m intervals).  We work hard and typically stay in the 1:30 - 1:50/min space, but towards the end of the hour, it's all any of us can do to stay below 2 min/100m. I really enjoy swimming but I think I picked up an inner ear infection from the pool as I have terrible vertigo / dizziness symptoms when doing kick drills on my side.  The pool spins and I veer off track, despite my best efforts to ignore it and stay focused.

Great news on the eating front.  I am on week 2 of a 'decent' diet (meaning eating well) and day 2 of a smokin' clean diet (meaning eating REALLY well).  I'm watching quantity and quality and weighed in this morning at 164.6 - that's down a couple pounds from the day before and may be a result of dehydration from the run/swim (though I drank 2 liters of fluids last night).  In any case, I'm not worried about it - as long as I continue to eat well, my training plan will get me down to race weight pretty quickly.

So, as this blog is also about our dogs, I have to say that I slept on the family room floor with Bumper last night.  Without boring you with the details, I think his auto-immune condition is relapsing.  He went from being stiff to unable to get up without screaming  - all in 24 hours.  I got him to the vet without delay and he's back on meds to help manage pain and inflammation.  It will be another night on the floor with him - he can't do stairs right now.  But it's like camping in your own house and think about how close I am to my coffee machine in the morning....I don't even have to go downstairs!  If you can spare some positive vibes for Bumper, please do - he needs them.

I think most of the US was blanketed by snow today, as was Ontario and eastern parts of Canada.  I think we got around a foot, which is the largest accumulation in 24 hours this year.  I cleaned my 250' laneway, decks, greyhound racetrack in the backyard, and helped my neighbours with their snow.  The plow gave us all 3 foot high walls, but at least the road was cleared!!  As a result of my 2.5 hours outside and busy work day, I didn't get my 90 min bike in.  Will have to make it up tomorrow.  I'm not someone who can train at 11:30 pm and be productive the next day.

I almost forgot - I made a significant commitment yesterday:  I signed up for my first marathon - the end of May!!!  Please let me find some inner strength to get to the start line healthy and finish that baby in fine form!

Run - 8km - warm up + speedwork 1km, 2km, 2km, 1km,
Swim - 60 mins
Work - whatever is left
Sleep on the floor with the dog - priceless.