Eight hours of sbr, one hour of core and weights, and about five hours of stretching. Feeling great. Back is 100% thanks to mr. foam roller (maybe my greatest ally, see video below), the weather has remained unseasonably warm and 7am is now considered sleeping in.
S - can feel stroke improving (water grab is more efficient, body roll more controlled and recovery is more relaxed) and in the groove of swimming before work
B - pedal strokes becoming more "circles" than "push-pull" and able to stay comfortable in the aero bars for longer
R - pace has improved while maintaining low heart rate, sub 8min miles (sub 5min km) at 75% or lower of max HR
Rolling into week four, a week of reduced work (7hrs sbr) to help the body absorb the previous couple of weeks.
With helpful encouragement from others and a little vanity, I've come to love running. For my teen years through about 25, I was always a little chubby. I wouldn't call it fat but never seemed to be as thin as I wanted to be. Runners were always thin, why not try that?
So, my last year at university I started running, not a lot, 30 to 45min sessions three or four days a week. This helped a little, but not a lot because of the continued drinking sessions multiple nights a week.
This carried on, improving ever so-slightly, for my first year or so after graduation. Then, I moved to London, a city known for it's drinking culture. However, as I knew literally no-one in the whole of the UK, my network had to be built from scratch. From a few chance encounters, my average running background and mentioning to a few folks that I was keen on getting into tri, the network began branching in an unexpected direction. I was making friends who talked about triathlons and marathons as if they were a natural part of life, a completely normal thing to do over the weekend. I was in awe.
With that, I signed up for my first marathon (combined it with trip to visit my brother in LA) and started working toward the shape that I am in today. As the weeks of training went by, I saw a few things: (i) having an organized program was much more efficient at getting me out every day than just taking it as I feel, (ii) the formula to distance racing isn't difficult (increase mileage gradually with a decreased week of work every so often for recovery) it just requires planning and effort and (iii) I didn't have time for all night drinking sessions and I actually preferred meeting friends for a pint or two then heading home.
By week fourteen or so, I was feeling better with each day, running 20mi for the long sessions and the bespoke suit I purchased before training was no longer such a great fit. It was the combined runner's high and visual re-enforcement from my changing shape that made me feel like my life was changing, for the better, on a daily basis.
Spring '07 vs. Fall '10
Since then, I've run three more marathons (NYC, Stratford-upon-Avon and Kildere) and am in the midst of planning the next one which will hopefully follow Bolton sometime this fall.
Biking, what a wonderful thing to do on a small Italian island where there are no cars and just as many people. Strolling through the open dirt roads, zig-zagging without a care as you take in the mountain on your right and the sea on your left... a fond memory from a recent trip with my girlfriend to Ustica Islands off of Sicily (highly recommended).
How about, struggling for breath, foreign pain shoots through legs, steering left, then right, out of control, "COME ON MATE, PICK IT UP, THE GIRLS JUST PASSED"...or maybe shear humiliation as you see your cycling partner in the distance coming toward you having doubled back to let you catch up after he originally pulled away as you struggled to keep pace... one a memory from my first group triathlon race (fun but obviously my bike speed didn't match the rest of ABC Tri) and the second a frequent occurrence when Alan (training partner, ironman in training and all around good friend) and I head out together.
Very different experiences but good examples of the dichotomy that is my life on a bike. While I always thought my legs were strong (for my size at least), it took biking to make me realize that there is a ton of improvement to be made and given most of the Ironman is spent on the bike, I look forward to the challenge.
Minimum two hours per day, five, six and sometimes seven days per week, 52 weeks out of the year for about 12 years... yes, swimming was my life. I was one of the "swimmers" growing up, all my friends were speedo-wearing pool-goers, we wandered the halls of school with the scent of chlorine never too far behind.
The last swim competition I attended was sometime during early 2001, and while it was weird to think that I never had to strap on goggles and dive in, it was easy to turn my back with no intention of ever turning around. Burned out and generally in search of a different life, it felt great (little did I know I'd eventually make that 180 and jump back in... possibly deeper).
I ask all the swimmers out there to think back through your swimming youth and remember all the things you promised yourself you would never do again
- swimming before school/ work and early on the weekends
- training on Christmas day and every other holiday
- stroking through water so cold your vision goes slightly blurred
Well, I made those same promises and have broken each of them feeling great about it every time. Up before 6am twice a week (soon to be three days/ week) to get in 2500m plus before work, closed pool on Christmas day (really? why would they do that?) and empty streets makes a great excuse for a transition bike to run session, fall/ winter pool sessions in any number of London's open air lido's (some heated, some not, sometimes with a wetsuit and sometimes not).
I've now realized that when I walked away at 18, it was only for a break. I've had a breather and have to get back to what is undeniably a part of my DNA. For this, I thank my parents for starting me in the sport, my friends for the laughs and support each step of the way and most of all the coaches who led the path and knowingly or not helped shape the work ethic, discipline and competitive spirit that push me through 140miles of swim, bike, run at the end of July this year.
and feeling good. Today was a brilliant winter's day in London with cool fresh air to keep the body and lungs relaxed with the brightest of suns in the sky to light the city. Great day for training.
Friday, however, was a struggle. Up for 6, body was feeling tired (which surprised me considering it had only been four days!), but once I was moving, the world felt right again. A brisk run along Regent's canal to the office is an ideal way to start any day.
I chalk the rough Friday morning up to the swim and cycle on Thursday, realize this is only the first week and in a few more, I'll be used to double sessions and more meters in the pool.
Saturday was a run through Vic Park and while it is a great place to train, once the sessions get longer, I'll be venturing to Hampstead Heath (the best park in London) for proper training with hills.
My back has been up and down all week, but still not painful, just tight muscles... yes, I'm still wearing heat pads.
So after a productive first day, Tuesday was time for a rest! Yes, seriously. The program is six days a week and it just so happens that the rest day this week fell on Tuesday (from now on, Monday will be the day of r&r).
Yesterday was also time to meet with the massage-therapist (once every three weeks). People have said (and I found out through my back injury) that a massage therapist every couple of weeks is good for injury prevention and to ensure consistent performance. Lucky me, there is a massage specialist at our work gym each Tuesday. For clarity's sake, this is not your typical sauna-ed, scented candle-ed, fully relaxed trip to the spa. The session focuses on pain. Given the limited time, focus is on the most sore/ tight muscles, and using force to relax these is not a fun experience, but is necessary. Having said that, yesterday was an easier session as we are still in week 1.
Today was the first transition session. 30min bike, transition to 15min run. So, I packed a "transition" bag with my running gear and after the bike, followed the article by article changing plan (bike shoes off, new socks on, running shoes on...) and took to the road. It feels good to be on a program again.
First day started with a lot of excitement and a little anxiety. A training program has not ruled my life for almost a year now. While I've been training and racing, its been whatever I feel like doing on each day which is no longer the case.
The program comes from "Be IronFit: Time-Efficient Training Secrets for Ultimate Fitness" written by Don Fink. Fink is an American triathlete and triathlon coach (www.donfink.com) whose personal best of 9:03 and list of coached athletes includes Spencer Smith (3-time world tri champ). I'd say this qualifies him as a good example and solid choice for my unofficial coach.
On waking up today, my back was feeling surprisingly good, loose. Through my over-ambitious "pre"-training, I injured my back muscles. The physio-therapist said my back was extremely tight due to overuse, but not a major deal, it just requires proper rest (which I've been giving it), not sitting in any one position for too long and heat (let me tell you, going around day after day with a heat pad on your back makes you feel a lot older than 28). But, back is improving everyday and feels about 95% today.
This week calls for 6hrs of sbr which started today with a 2500m swim and 30min run. So I popped over to London Fields Lido (a great 50m pool in Hackney) and went through the set concentrating on form (as discussed in Fink's book) while the other guys in the lane scrapped it out testing each other's pace. I have to say, after years of organized swimming, open swim at a public pool is quite entertaining. A lot of people swim on their own, but eventually they're all drawn together (including myself) by the desire to out-swim the others. This usually ends in five swimmers or more smacking feet and dueling it out at each turn until one-by-one people begin to drop off. The last man standing will usually do a couple "victory" laps before stopping for a much needed rest and possibly a chat with the other racers. Given my focus on technique, I kept to myself and went at my own pace.
After a cool-down in the pool, it was out to Victoria Park where the numerous other runners provide good motivation. Again, focusing on technique for the first ten weeks, the 30mins was more a test of patience and my ability to stick to a plan as my ego and legs begged to take-off every time someone burned past me. But, as instructed by coach, the first ten are all aerobic training (at a low heart rate, aerobic training to be discussed in a future post). I followed the instructions and enjoyed the blue sky and outdoors before returning home for some nutrition and a stretch.
All-in-all it was a good first session, and I'm looking forward to more.
It's been a long time coming, Monday, January 3rd, is day one of the 30 week training program.
From almost 14 years of youth swimming, through the weight lifting/ partying days at university that saw me edging close to 200lbs (90kgs), to the post graduate life in NYC where athletics were a thought that could never pass partying on the to do list and finally a move overseas, a new outlook on life and priorities that allow me to take on endurance racing.
Now it's 30 weeks to July 31st and Ironman UK (swim 2.5mi/ 3.9km, bike 112mi/ 180km, run 26.2mi/ 42km). The weeks are split into three ten week programs: base (6-11 hours per week), build (11-16) and peak (16-20). These hours are swim, bike, run (sbr) training only, they don't include stretching, core, weights or yoga which I see as necessary complements. Needless to say, all the effective time management tips you may have would be much appreciated!
My goal is to finish under 11:30 and a top 30 place in my age group (25-29). Swim in 1:05, cycle 6:30, run 3:54, which totally hinges on my ability to improve my cycling. Recently I've been able to average just under 17mph on a decently hilly 50 mile ride. To hit the 6:30 goal, I need to add another mile per hour to my speed and keep that pace for 112 miles. As for the swim, I recently finished a 2.25mi (3.6km) swim in 55 minutes with minimal training. I figure add 300m and a transition, and I should be on the bike by 1:05. Finally the run, with a hilly marathon best of 3:19, I'm hoping an extra 35 minutes is enough cushion after 114 miles of work.
This blog will keep you up to date on our trials and tribulations over the next seven months. Now, the reference to "our" is deliberate, not a type-o. Starting tomorrow this race will dominate my thoughts and daily schedule for 210 days impacting family, friends, co-workers and anyone I meet along the way. It is with their love and support that I will be able to endure the challenge and cross that finish line in July.