Two Weeks Ending 2015-07-19

Well my writing time last week was devoted to documenting the results of my wetsuit testing, so I didn’t get around to doing the weekly update, so this one is a twofer.

While I seem to have solved the swim issue, my bike fit continues to be a work in progress, after playing around with shortening the reach and it feeling initially very good and giving me good results in a couple hard two plus hour time trial efforts, I was stymied two weeks in a row in attempting to do 20 minute best effort tests.  As a result of that, I dug around slowtwitch and found my 2011 Critique Me Thread, where none other than Paulo Sousa, gave me a lot of great advice.  I credit that advice and it’s bike fit as being a very strong contributor to my biking break through in 2011.  As I’ve documented quite well, since that bike was wrecked in late 2011, I have been more or less searching for that feeling on the bike.  I spent some time reviewing that thread, and comparing it to pictures of my bike, and did my best to recreate it last week – basically more forward, more reach, more drop then what I’ve been doing for a couple years – it was the position I race at Racine this weekend – and I was tickled with how I felt during the race.  It leaves me feeling like I finally got the position I’ve been searching for after a long search.  We’ll see over the next couple of weeks how it goes, but prior to Racine, I had the bike setup that way for exactly 45 minutes of riding, and I didn’t feel like I was losing power or sustainability in the position as the race progressed.

Week 1

Monday – The typical easy run, and a swim – mainset 12×200 SCM @ 2:55 pull – I held sub 2:45 for all of them

Tuesday – Easy ride, quality run with a mainset of 4×5′ @ Daniel’s I-pace, with a 4 minute jog

Wednesday – First wetsuit test session (Profile Design Wahoo) and an easy run

Thursday – 6×3′ @ 350 watts on the bike plus an easy run

Friday – Second wetsuit test (Xterra Vendetta SLO)  and a long run with 5×10′ @ HIM pace

Saturday – easy ride and easy run

Sunday – 2.5 hours on the bike with an aborted 20′ best effort – kind of a bleh ride, easy run

Week 2

Monday – Zero

Tuesday – Shorter than usual easy ride + a run with 3x{2×2′ HARD (1′ jog)} (2′ Jog)

Wednesday – Third wetsuit test session (ROKA Full), easy run

Thursday – shorter than normal easy ride, with some efforts at 95%, easy run

Friday – Final wetsuit test (ROKA Sleeveless + Vendetta Small) + shortened easy run

Saturday – 45 minute bike with some race pace efforts + 15′ run with 5′ race pace

Sunday – Racine 70.3

 

I’ll endeavor to write up my thoughts on Racine and the plans from here.

Wet Suit Testing

As I have mentioned in my last couple posts, I’ve spent some time since Ironman Texas pondering the impact of a wetsuit on my swim. I decided that rather than ponder about it and do nothing, I was going to take action and gather some data and based on that data I would be more informed about my options to improve my swim.

I have three wetsuits

  • Profile Design Wahoo, size Medium
  • Xterra Vendetta, size Small Long
  • Xterra Vendetta, size Smal

I reached out to a friend who I knew had a sleeveless ROKA, to see if I could borrow it for some testing.  Lucky enough for me, he not only had a Maverick Pro Sleeveless, but a Maverick Pro Full suit, both size Medium.

Some notes, background and caveats for the interests of disclosure.

I am 5 foot, 10.5 inches, and my weight ranges between 170 and 175 pounds.

For all three companies of wetsuits, I should be a size Medium, which happened to be the size of the Wahoo, and both Maverick’s.

The Small Long, and Small wetsuits are a legacy of me purchasing my first Xterra wetsuit back in late 2008. I was replacing my aging and worn Ironman (now b70) wetsuit, and was conversing back and forth with Xterra on sizing. I was displeased with the amount of water that the Ironman wetsuit let in, so expressed to Xterra, I didn’t want that problem. Based on their recommendation, I sized down, but got a long to give the chest and shoulders more material to work with. This seemed to work OK, but I noticed that there was a fair bit of looseness in the waist and upper legs where water would want to settle.

Later, in 2011, I contacted Xterra to get a support, because just like on my Ironman, the left armpit of the suit was wearing away – almost melted or rubbed apart – which to this day I’m not sure if it’s something I did in caring for the suits, or a product of my swimming style – interestingly my now 3.5 year old Small Vendetta shows no signs of this wear. My suit was out of warranty, but they offered to sell me a new suit at a steep discount.  I bought a small, the thinking being trying to resolve the water around the waist and legs issue for the Small Long.

So that’s the story on why I have a Small Long and Small of the Vendetta.

When I first started in on triathlon, in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 – I generally had very solid swims. I would swim hard and fast, my fastest IM swim is still my first in 2005.  With only a couple of exceptions go on to have very solid races.

This changed in 2009, where I began to have very inconsistent performances in races, and with a few exceptions generally had to simply loll through the swim in order to have a solid race. I still remember before IMWI in 2010 – that my mantra was – “One of these kids is doing his own thing” – after recalling feeling like my day was over about 800 meters into IMWI 2009.

And now I’ve finally arrived at today, having taken action to close the thought loop that started with the swim at IMTX.

The first thing I did was re-read the blog that Brian Stover posted back in 2009 about the protocol he followed for wetsuit testing. I closely approximated that protocol in my testing, the most notable change was that I was only going to test one wetsuit a day and do a baseline swim each day. I elected to do this on a couple of assumptions. First, my swim fitness isn’t going to change much at this point – it is what it is. Second, I have been known to have some really, really bad days in the pool so I wanted to identify those days, and not test if a day like that turned up.

The test protocol I used consisted of the following:
3×300 Swim/Kick/Swim for a warmup
2×400 @ 6:00 Swim (in speedo)
Put the wetsuit on
Do a 200 Easy to make sure it’s on right and help settle it
2×400 @ 6:00 Swim
Take the wetsuit off and cool down.

I timed all efforts with a wrist watch that I started when I submerged for my push off, and stopped after I touched. I wore the watch on my left wrist, and finished all swims with my right hand. So touch, reach over and stop watch.

I chose 6:00 for the send off because it would give me enough rest that I could swim hard enough that I couldn’t game the tests, but had enough time to get a very full recovery so that I would not have to deal with falling apart on the second swim.

My goal perceived effort was to swim these at around Half Ironman RPE. To help make sure that even if my RPE was off, I took a 10 second count of my heart rate starting 5 seconds after I finished a swim, with a goal of having it be 21 or 22.

Finally, all times are reported in short course meters.

Results
Average of all baseline swims: 5:16
Profile Design Wahoo: 4:57.5
Xterra Vendetta (Small Long): 4:59
Roka Full: 4:50
Roka Sleeveless: 4:52
Xterra Vendetta (Small): 5:07.5

Below are the results of each individual swim, times are in seconds. Because I paced very poorly on Baseline number 3 – I created columns that calculated the difference between all baselines, and adjusted to discard baseline number 3, which felt about right effort wise, but based on HR was a bit harder then the rest of the swims.

Swim One Swim Two Average Difference per 100 from Baseline Adjusted Baseline Difference per 100 Notes
Baseline 1 319 316 317.5 0.4 0.1
Baseline 2 316 315 315.5 -0.1 -0.4
Baseline 3 313 312 312.5 -0.9 Whoops, that was fast, HR 24
Baseline 4 318 319 318.5 0.6 0.3
Average of Baseline 316.5 315.5 316
Wahoo 296 299 297.5 -4.6 -4.9 Lots of water in the chest
Xterra (SLO) 298 300 299 -4.3 -4.5 Water in the hips and legs, not too much shoulder restriction
Roka Full 290 290 290 -6.5 -6.8 This did not feel like a wetsuit
Roka Sleeveless 292 292 292 -6.0 -6.3 Very similar feelign to the full, slightly less restrictive, but a bit more water
Xterra (S) 304 311 307.5 -2.1 -2.4 I just wanted these to be over.

The takeaways I have are is that like on the bike fit is really really important. I have impressions about each of the suits, and I’ll share them, but I think that especially regarding the Xterra suits, my feelings are very dependent upon the fact that I have suits that definitely are the wrong size for me.

Impressions

Wahoo – After swimming in the Wahoo, I knew that my Vendetta was causing me problems. I felt like I could kick, my body position felt good, and my arms didn’t feel like they were going to die. I was really pleased by the experience, and left the pool thinking to myself “It’s one thing to know a wetsuit makes you faster, it’s another to experience it.” I felt like the collar on the Wahoo did not seal well and it filled up with water a fair bit. By the end of the second 400 I could feel a small amount of fatigue in my shoulders, but not bad.

Vendetta (SLO) – I was surprised at how this suit felt compared to the Wahoo, and my recollection of how the Small Vendetta felt at Elkhart Lake. The shoulders felt pretty loose and relaxed, but it felt big around the waist and I felt like water wanted to gather there and in the upper legs. I also felt like my body position was off in this suit, way too much buoyancy in the chest, and not enough in the legs. It really felt like my hips were being driven down into the water, which made it really hard to kick effectively.

ROKA Full – This was simply incredible. When I jumped in for the easy 200 and the first 100 was a 1:15, I said whoa boy. The amount of freedom my shoulders felt was insane. I felt like my body position was really good, and I was able to kick and swim well. This was the first time I’ve swam in a wetsuit where I felt like I was actually able to control my speed, every other time I have always felt like my swim speed was simply determined by what my pull was doing, and I didn’t have a lot of conscious control over it. I could have swam that pace for 400s all day long.

ROKA Sleeveless – This felt very similar to the full, a little more freedom in the arms and shoulders, but it also let in the slightest amount of water compared to the full. Strong kick, good power through the pull. I did feel maybe just slightly overbalanced in my stroke, with just a little too much lift in the hips, but not enough in the arms. I can see a lot of value in the sleeveless for a race like the Triple T PM Olympic, where you want a wetsuit, but you are already hot and sweating. A sleeveless will help get your temperature down, is easier to get on, but still gives your legs the support and warmth to keep from getting shocked as you hit the water.

Vendetta (Small) – When I was a 100 through the easy 200 I seriously debated just stopping the test – as I knew it was going to be bad. As I was suiting up, I had “hope” that it wouldn’t be that bad, as compared to the ROKAs it was actually fairly easy to get on and in position, and a few arm swings and such felt pretty free. Once in the water though it was clear that my shoulders and arms were extremely restricted. Based on how it felt, I was surprised by how fast the first 400 was, and the second 400 was just a matter of me dreading it and feeling super tired and feeble. It felt like my stroke was getting slower and shorter with every few arm cycles. I had always thought that this suit was causing problems by having too much leg flotation, hindering my kick, however now I’m pretty sure that the kick is just a symptom. My kick slows down and gets weak in conjunction with my arms slowing down and getting weaker as I try to keep my stroke timing together.  The first rep was the slowest of any suited swims, and I lost 7 seconds on the second 400 – what does that translate to at 1500 meters, or 3000 meters?

Conclusions

I’m not sure what the next steps are from here. In a perfect world, with unlimited budget I would go buy both a sleeved and sleeveless ROKA, as they are clearly the fastest of the suits tested and I can see the utility of having both, but that’s a lot of money, even $800 for a sleeved ROKA is a tall order. Perhaps I could try a medium Vendetta or Xterra’s new Vengeance using their always circulating discount codes, coupled with their 30 money back guarantee to get a sweet deal, or maybe watch ebay or slowtwitch for a used ROKA. Or maybe I just man up and buy one.I’m not sure, but I do know that I won’t be wearing the small vendetta this weekend at Racine 70.3

Week Ending 2015-07-05

Barely made this update before the end of the week after it’s updating.  It’s been a busy week this week.  Between work and family activities, I haven’t had a lot of free time.  After pondering a lot last week about my swimming and the potential impact of a wetsuit I’ve decided that I’m going to do some testing.  I’m going to do a test protocol similar to what Brian Stover did in 2009.  I’m going to test out a Medium Profile Design Wahoo, my Small Long Xterra Vendetta, my Small Xterra Vendetta, a medium Roka Pro sleeveless, and a medium Roka Pro sleeved.  I may search out a few others if I can get access to them.  The goal of this process is to figure out which wetsuit fits me best, and then decide how much it will cost me to fix the problem, if there is one.

I had intended to do a 20 minute best effort on Sunday, but it was a bit subpar.  I woke up feeling a bit flat and the warmup didn’t make things better.  I think it was just the long holiday weekend.  If this weekend doesn’t prove to be as exhausting I’ll probably give it another shot before Racine.

Monday – A short easy run, and a swim with a main set of 10×200 @ 2:55 Pull.  Most of the 200s were 2:40 or 2:41

Tuesday – an easy ride, and a hard run with a main set of 5×4′ HARD on 3′ rest.

Wednesday – 40x50s @ :55 – other than the first couple I held all of them under 35, and the usual easy run

Thursday – A hard bike with 6×3′ HARD – with the first being best effort.  I averaged 403 watts, which isn’t my best ever, but it’s pretty decent and I did go out really hot.  I took some extra rest after, and then knocked out the other 5 – which went quite well.  Closed the day out with an easy run.

Friday – Got up nice and early and did a 90′ run with 2×10′ @ HIM pace, then a 20′ block at IM Pace.  Did a quick swim with a main set of 5×400 SCY when we went to the outdoor pool with Ethan later in the day.

Saturday – Easy bike early in the morning, and a later afternoon run in the afternoon that I followed up with a beer and sitting in a pool in our back yard.

Sunday – 2 and a hour hour bike with a sub-par 20′ best effort, followed by several 10 to 20 minute blocks at HIM race effort, followed with a short run afterwards.

The main focus of the week was to really slow down on my easy runs, I have a tendency to run too fast on them, so I really focused this week on keeping them easy – which translates into Daniels E-Pace being a speed limit as opposed to a target.