Thursday, 31 March 2011

Back on top

Six hour sleep last night, good morning swim, phenomenal bike session in the afternoon (legs felt great, technique maybe the best yet) and top it off with yoga at home.  Everything feels back on track and looking forward to long sessions at the weekend.

On an unrelated note, I received a timely email from a colleague about a speech given by Chetan Bhagat, an author in India and named one of the world's 100 most influential people.  Meet Chetan and have a read.

"... Don't just have career or academic goals. Set goals to give you a balanced, successful life. I use the word balanced before successful. Balanced means ensuring your health, relationships, mental peace are all in good order. There is no point of getting a promotion on the day of your breakup. There is no fun in driving a car if your back hurts. Shopping is not enjoyable if your mind is full of tensions. "Life is one of those races in nursery school where you have to run with a marble in a spoon kept in your mouth. If the marble falls, there is no point coming first. Same is with life where health and relationships are the marble. Your striving is only worth it if there is harmony in your life. Else, you may achieve the success, but this spark, this feeling of being excited and alive, will start to die." 
"One thing about nurturing the spark - don't take life seriously. Life is not meant to be taken seriously, as we are really temporary here. We are like a pre-paid card with limited validity. If we are lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2,500 weekends. Do we really need to get so worked up? It's ok, bunk a few classes, scoring low in couple of papers, goof up a few interviews, take leave from work, fall in love, little fights with your spouse. We are people, not programmed devices."

Full speech available from his website.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Let's make it three in a row

Another week taken over by work.  Monday was at it until 4.30am (with a one hour dinner break and two hour nap from 10pm - 12) and 1.30 in the morning on Tuesday rising four hours later to get a start on Wednesday.  All totalled, over 40hrs work, 2hrs training and 8hrs sleep in 3 days.

So far I've missed the Tuesday swim (only the second missed SBR session so far), which I'm not happy about, and the upper body weights session, not such a big deal.

For he sake of week 13 (and my own sanity!) I am hoping the late-late nights are behind me for this week.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Week 12 in review

Another week of peaks and valleys.

Tuesday began with a great swim and run including 5min z4 (sprint) effort which gave me a kick to start the work day.  Also received new calorie targets, and yes, I got ahead of myself with the 4000 calories a day.

Calorie intake/ Training
Monday - 2000 roughly 45:40:15 mix carb, protein, fat ("even mix")/ rest day

Tuesday - 3000 even mix/ swim, run and weights

Wednesday - 2200 even mix/ bike to run and yoga

Thursday - 3200 carb heavy/ swim and cycle

Friday - 3200 high carb and low fat/ swim, run and weights

Saturday - 3850 high protein and fat (good fats, i.e. avocado, nuts, cheese)/ long bike to run

Sunday - 2800 even mix but slightly higher fat/ short bike to run

Have implemented the plan, all is well on the consumption front.

Wednesday missed the yoga session because of working late, Thursday working late and by Friday, work had me in a severe valley.  Lots of work, pressure and stress.  The first time in my working life that I turned work away, the first time I physically or mentally couldn't tolerate an all-nighter to finish everything, the first time.  With it all boiling over, I was glad a friend had booked his birthday dinner for 5.30pm, and with the strike of 5pm, I headed for the weekend.  Working late this Friday wasn't going to happen and anyway, it wouldn't have been productive in my mental state.

Woke up Saturday still in a lull from the week and took to Richmond park with Alan.  A few laps at 22mins (all around my pb time!) was exactly what I needed.  A post-cycle run and I was back on track.

The weekend only got better from there as Natsuko and I finally had a full weekend together!  She's been taking a yoga teacher training course on the weekends but had this weekend off.  Saturday dim-sum lunch at Imperial China (highly recommended) and dinner at a friends'.  Today was full of sun, morning run and cycle, afternoon at the Towpath Cafe and Columbia flower market and evening watching a film.

Chilled out and rested, I'm ready for week 13.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Lido swim update

Great swim this morning, technique felt good and pull was strong.  Hovering around 90seconds per long course 100m at 70-75% effort.  Next step is to break the 90sec barrier.

Introduction of two Lido characters:

Red - a true animal in the pool.  Just shorter than me, probably weighs seven or eight kilos more with a similar body fat %, a bad-ass tattoo and red speedo.  As I stroke along at 90sec 100m's, this guy eases past me, and he just keeps swimming.  I don't think he does a predetermined set, he just gets in the water and swims for 30-40mins.

TATA - another strong morning swimmer that breezed past me a few times today.  No tattoo, but his swim cap is from the TATA ITU London tri.

I haven't introduced myself to either of these guys (remember I said meet and latch on to the people who can already do what you're striving for) but will keep you posted.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Early mornings

Nodding off on Friday night, I fully accepted the fact that I may sleep in on Sat and not get out on the bike until 9am or later (which is annoying b/c of the added traffic).  You can imagine my surprise when I was up at 6.15 and couldn't get back to sleep.  Thirty minutes later I could see the image of a blue sky creeping through the blinds, and my legs were practically begging to get up and out.  Who am I to argue?

Changed, readied my riding kit and off for Richmond Park.  Couldn't believe how smooth my legs were feeling despite the week and to top it off, my fastest lap around the park, sub-22.30 (for reference, Alan does laps just above 21mins and the measure of a true cyclist is 3laps in 60mins, so still a lot of improvement necessary).

Deer X-ing

from the top of a hill

150mins later, home, out of the cycling shoes, into my runners and complete loss of the smoothness I had on the bike.  It seemed my knees had a falling-out as they smacked each other while I moved along the canal.  If that's bad enough, my heels got in on the action, and there were a few moments I thought I'd trip myself straight into the canal!  I shortened the strides significantly, felt like a senior citizen rushing to make the early bird special on time, but was maintaining 4.30km's and just after 3k the session was complete.

Exhausted and exhilarated all at once, I sat along the canal for 20mins taking in the sunshine and attempting a stretch whenever enough energy had built up.

Sunday was standard, 30min low HR/ high RPM bike session followed by a quick rest complete with coffee from nude espresso (great beans!) and finally a moderate 75min run.

Looks like Saturday is going to be the true test with Sunday still long but more recovery than hard effort.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Never been this exhausted

What a day, what a week.  First five days through the build phase and I'm feeling physically at my limit.  Three sessions Tuesday, two Wed, two Thu and three today.  Literally every second of my day is filled with Ironman: wake, prepare meals for the day, supplements, warm-up, train, cool down, stretch, eat, electrolytes, supplements, log, warmup for next session, train, cool down, stretch, refuel (you get the picture).  It's wonderfully exhausting.

Sixty min run this morning followed by a leg and core session and had packed down 1300 calories by 9am (a couple gels, sports drink, carb bar, protein shake and LARGE porridge).  A busy day at the office getting things prepped for the coming wave of deals,  time for a quick pint to say farewell to a colleague and reach the pool by 8pm, 2600 calories (salad with cottage cheese, chicken salad and fruit, more fruit and protein shake).  I immediately knew the swim was going to be difficult but pushed ahead at a hard effort until I reached about 1000m and realized my stroke was falling apart and muscles were throbbing.  So I cut the effort and focused on technique for the next 2000m which seemed to get further away with each stroke.

Eventually done, recovery bar and heading home.  As I stood waiting for the bus, I felt hunger creeping up and luckily I had a bag full of fruit!  So, there I was at the bus stop, looking a mess after the pool in my shorts and long sleeve shirt, no coat (running to work limits the wardrobe you can carry) gobbling down fruit: first an apple then on to orange slices and finally kiwi.  Somewhere around the third piece of orange I noticed the girl standing on my right, digging around her McDonald's bag and stuffing her face with fries, 'I bet the two of us would make a funny picture.'  And the sad thing is that others at the bus stop probably thought I was the weird one.  I mean, honestly, when was the last time you saw someone in public downing fruit after fruit; unfortunately, we see the person with the McDonald's bag all too often.

Home now, veg medley with cous-cous, avocado and mozzarella salad followed by yogurt and whey for dessert.  By my calculation that's 4000 calories, going to have to check with the nutritionist, seems a bit excessive.

Good week and beginning to see what separates each phase of training, seems daunting.  'One day at a time, don't get ahead of yourself, stay focused and you'll make it.'

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Some inspiration and the LIDO!

Mark Cavendish, arguably the fastest road cyclist on earth, put it perfectly, "If you look back then you're stopping yourself from properly going forward... I never really think about what I've achieved because there's just so much more I want to achieve."

Finally back swimming at London Fields lido: 50m, open air and start from 6.30am, brilliant.  Also a different group than you get at a typical community pool.  It gets me going when someone breezes by me in the pool, which happened a lot this morning.  It reminds me of a very important lesson, the best way to improve is to find someone who can do or has accomplished what you want and train with them, hang out with them, ask'm questions, take it all in, think how what works for them can work for you and apply it.

Morning fog rising into the frigid air,
a great way to start any day.

and a summer pic

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Time for a change, Build Phase

Hard to imagine but 10 weeks have passed and I'm now in to the build phase.  Main changes: increase to three swim sessions per week, addition of training in heart rate zone 4 and inclusion of run on previously bike only Sat and bike on previously run only Sun.

Monday - rest and long stretch day

Tuesday - morning swim (3000-3500m), run (45-60mins) with some z4HR effort, core and upper body weights

Wednesday - morning bike (45mins) to run (30mins) session, evening yoga

Thursday - morning swim (3000-3500m), bike (60-90mins) with some z4HR

Friday - morning run (60-75mins) with some z4HR effort, core and legs session, evening swim (3000-3500m)

Saturday - bike (2.5-4hrs) to run (15-45mins) session, bike session to include some z4HR

Sunday - bike (30-75mins) z1HR/ high RPM, run (60-120mins), these don't have to be back-to-back (YAY for carbo-loading between sessions!)

Also, planning to do an olympic distance tri toward the end of the build phase.  This will give me additional race practice with the transition and racing techniques which I've been practicing.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Great sensation

Back from a 3hr ride and feeling on top of the world.  I even got to test out my tire changing skills (which need a lot of work) and practicing these side skills provides more confidence on race day.

Feeling so good, officially mentally recovered from the week and I think I'll roll this into an afternoon swim (positive breeds positive, it's a wonderful upward spiral!).

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Most challenging week yet

As mentioned, work has gone wild, but this week was another level.

Monday - (0 training/ 9.5hrs work) standard day, evening client meeting at their office meant I was home by 8pm, dinner and bed

Tuesday - (3hrs training/ 11hrs work) good morning swim and decent run to work.  With plenty of work going on, we find out there is a new transaction that needs to be approved by early next week, so we divi the work, put the other five plus projects on hold and while I got in all the training sessions, my work day lasts till 11, asleep just after midnight

Wednesday - (1.25hrs/ 12hrs) up at 6, bike to run session, feeling strong and ready for the day, 11.30 at night and still at work, brain fried, time to go home, get some rest and I made the conscious decision to skip the morning swim because making it meant less than 5hrs sleep and probably wouldn't be good training the way I was feeling

Thursday - (1.25hrs/ 14hrs) Up at 6.30, in to work early, missing the morning session and negative thoughts cloud my brain, 'how could you miss this swim session, maybe your just not cut out for this', not sure what I ate but feeling bloated throughout the day, 'Maybe my nutrition plan is all wrong.  Miss a session and nutrition going wrong', 5pm time for a break from staring at this computer screen, down to the gym for a 75min high rpm session, focus just not there, struggling, Ironman hopes collapsing all around me.  Back to my desk til 1am and finally my work is in a place to be able to present to my manager

Friday - (1hr/ 10hrs) another 6.30 morning, 60min run, first 10mins ok, next 25 a struggle as I sensed a lack of sleep and lack of glycogen (similar feeling to DST training, though this wasn't a DST session!), and final 25mins picked up as my mind/ focus recuperated but the pace was still slow.  Finished work at 6.30, skipped the core and leg session I usually do, home by 7.30 and asleep by 8.

All tallied 6.5hrs of training (excludes warm up/ cool down, stretching and preparing), 56.5hrs of work and the widest emotion range of any week yet.  I slept a ton on Friday night and while not fully recovered, I'm well on my way.

The sun was out in force today, which made training that much better.  Here's to tomorrow's scheduled session and possibly a makeup swim session (Coach says if you miss a session, just skip it, don't force it into another day's schedule, but I think a nice slow swim will be a good way to end the week).

Friday, 11 March 2011

Funny because it's true


About 1.30 in the am and just home from work.  If you can't tell from lack of recent posts, it's been a wild one (unfortunately not the socially exciting type of wild).

Will catch-up this weekend.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Spring Ballbuster 2011, Duathlon

In an effort to spice up training, Alan, some friends from work and I signed up for Human Race's Spring Ballbuster Duathlon in Box Hill, SW of London.  The race is run 8mi, bike 24mi, run 8mi mostly up or down hill, good training (map below, one lap = 8mi).

Up at 5am, I was feeling good, not tired.  I went to the car to load the bikes, absolutely freezing.  All of a sudden the race didn't seem such a good idea.  'Too late now?  Can we skip it and do a training session later in the day when it's warmer?  No, too late.'  Car packed and we're off.  Toasty warm in the car, great, feeling ready.  On arrival we got out to register and the frigid morning air hit me again.  'Why do we do this to ourselves?'

Then the pre-race events began: rack the bike, set up gear for transitions, check list of kit and nutrition, multiple trips to the bathroom, exchange strategies and stories with any racer within shouting distance and finally line-up and race briefing.  BANG, and we're off.

The beginning of these races is always a mental challenge.  You're brain is amped and body wants to use that energy to take off immediately.  Holding yourself back, preserving energy and sticking to the race plan is key from start to finish, especially for distance racing.  My goal was keep to zone 2 heart rate and learn how to regulate HR by changing cadence/ effort on the up and down hills.

Alan, Phil and I stuck together for the first 8mi run.  We chatted here and there, none of us working hard (my HR below 150).  Phil, an exceptionally fit athlete but complete rookie to distance/ multi-sport racing, mentioned how difficult it was to hold back, especially when old women and seemingly out-of-shape competitors go flying by.  I totally agree, but I also have enough experience to know that we'll pass most of them back later in the race and those that we don't, well, they're in that small percentage of the population that can perform as a top age-group athlete without looking like one.

Uphill on the first run lap.  Phil is in the orange jacket, I'm behind in
all black just off the shoulder of the red jersey, and if you really
focus you'll see Alan's head on my left, just peaking over the red jersey.

Off on the bike and without much surprise Alan started pulling away.  I couldn't believe my eyes when half-way around the first lap I passed him back.  'Wow, that's never happened.'  We hit the uphill and he was nowhere to be found.  We followed the same pattern on bike laps two and three with Alan confirming what I had been hoping, "You're bike's gotten a lot better," which came as I went by on the third and final uphill.  My HR averaged around 140, 130ish on downhill and flats and 150ish on the uphills.

Sunny, a friend from work.  We ran the
NYC marathon together in 2009.

Transition back to my running shoes and I was off, seemingly on my own.  I like to run hard off of the bike, I feel it gets my legs adjusted quicker, so I mixed the desire for low HR and running hard with an effort around 150.  My effort was definitely harder than the first lap (I secretly wanted to negative split), with HR between 150-155 which is still within zone 2.  Then it hit me, my stomach began to ache, the bathroom was calling.  I tried to ignore it, mentally fought stopping or not stopping, 'If you stop, Alan will blow right by, no chance to catch him.  But, I really have to go, is this stomach pain worth it, after all, you're taking this as a training session, not a race.'  Soon enough, I didn't have a choice, the next woody patch that provided enough cover, I went off-road and scrambled to get off the layers (I was wearing a one-piece on the bottom of all the layers, bad idea).  I did my business, grabbed my long sleeve shirt, racing top, race belt and hurried back to the road.  As soon as my feet touched the asphalt, I was off, first zipping up the one-piece tri-suit, then my racing top, click on the racing belt, and decided to run with the long-sleeve in my hand the rest of the way.  I couldn't believe it, Alan hadn't passed.  Shortly after, I hit the final uphill, twenty minutes and the finish line, 3:31:23.

First 8mi run - 59:22
Transition 1 - 1:52
Bike, 24mi - 1:28:01
Transition 2 - 1:52
Second 8mi run - 1:00:23 (a bit heart breaking, might have negative split without the bathroom break)

Post race is all about assessing, stretching and refueling (after all, Sunday is another training day).  Sports drink w/ extra salts and electrolytes to rehydrate, banana, apple, pear, oat based recovery bar, protein shake with extra amino acids, adaptogens (concoction of testosterone and immune boosting plants from the east, the boss of my nutritionist has a specialty in eastern medicines, MAN-UP fuel my nutritionist calls it, not tasty), 30min stretch to let my stomach settle and wash it all down with a beef and tomato sandwich and a coffee to warm up.

- 7:30 min miles at a steady zone 2HR on a hilly course
- bike was much improved (all this work is paying off!)

Takeaways/ Improvements
- Work with nutritionist to cut out unnecessary pit stops: I had to stop for the bathroom as has been the case in my last two marathons, not an efficient use of time
- Work on biking downhill: to be honest, I get scared of coming off the bike, so I typically tap the brakes down steep slopes, other competitors typically fly right past
- Get out on the road more to practice bike handling: I lose time and energy on technical aspects like cornering and grabbing drink bottles, just haven't spent enough time practicing at high speeds
- Better lacing of running shoes: I've been experimenting with looser lacing of the shoes, but I don't think this works for hilly runs, the tops of my feet took a beating on the downhills, more experiment

Great way to spend a Saturday morning.  As with most things worth doing, when you second guess why you're doing it (as I did with this race) remember you no longer have a choice, that was made when you originally signed up, just do it and you'll undoubtedly appreciate it later.

Was it worth?  Ten-fold yes.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

That was quick

Update with the nutritionist last week and all good news.  With his help and six weeks of work, I've gone from 12% body fat to just below 9%, whoopeeeee!  Along with this came weight loss, now 62.5kg (138lbs), which I did not want, but he says 62 is fine, and we'll work to maintain this weight.

Maintaining weight means higher calorie intake, especially as we get into phase two of training, build.  While higher calorie intake sounds good, it's not as simple as packing down extra candy bars here and there.  It's all about quality of food, so he's given me recipes for high calorie/ high quality meals and now I just have to find time to prepare these every day!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Solid Base

On week nine now, and I haven't made clear what I do on a daily basis.  Here's an outline of the base phase of the program:

MONDAY - rest day, nice long stretch session in the morning
TUESDAY - morning swim (2500m), run to work (30-60min), evening core and upper body weights (30-45min)
WEDNESDAY - morning transition session, cycle (45-60min) to run (15min), evening yoga
THURSDAY - morning swim (2500-3000m), evening high RPM bike session (45-60min)
FRIDAY - morning run to work (30-60min), core and lower body weights (30-45mins)
SATURDAY - cycle (90-180mins)
SUNDAY - run (45-90min)

DST - typically done Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday
"Weights" - typically more plyometrics than proper weight training