2012: Another chapter completed

It’s that time of year again – how did my triathlon season go? As a whole it went very good.  There are parts of it that I’m not happy with and parts that I am happy with.

Training: with the addition of a 2 year old to my family in April – there was a strong possibility that I would have issues doing the training required for the performances I wanted.  I expected challenges to range from decreased motivation to train, to lack of time to train, to pressure to not take time away from the family.  In the end, I did experience all of these from time to time, but I am very happy with the balance that I was able to maintain between family, triathlon, and work.  Continuing to achieve improved results while being a father is very satisfying.

Results: I had 6 results this year that indicate that I am continuing to improve.  Breaking 1:20 in a half-marathon, setting the course record at the J-hawk Early Bird and my solid performance at the Triple T, are all great highlights.  IMCDA was a great experience and result for me within the context of my preparation.  Kona – well Kona was a great race.  While I “only” went 10 minutes faster than last year, when you look at my race relative to the field I made some very large gains across the board.

Luck: I continue to suffer from bad “luck” at my main races.  At Kona in 2011 I had a broken spoke, IMAZ a broken bike, at IMCDA seat post slippage; at Kona 2012 I was a bit under the weather.  Despite these setbacks, I am still delivering solid results – but each incident has without a doubt caused me to under-perform to varying degrees.  Going forward, I need to be much better about controlling variables, particularly in the lead up to my key races.  Food intake, safety, maintenance, sickness, etc; fitness and execution allow us to manufacture some of our own luck, but I would hate to suffer a bout of preventable bad luck that I can’t overcome.

Half Ironman: I continue to blow chunks at the half Ironman distance.  I’m not sure what combination of training, resting, or execution I have wrong at the distance, but I suck (at least in my opinion and the results tend to agree.)  At IMAZ I have shaved 46 minutes off my time 2007 -> 2011.  I would call myself competitive in my AG at Kona, yet I can’t break 4:20 for a half.  Loser.

Training inside: a side effect of adding a child to the family and working to minimize the impacts of training on family time, I spent an extremely large portion of my time on the bike inside.  I’m talking I spent so much time inside on the bike trainer, that I probably did more races then outdoors bike sessions.  I don’t regret this for a second, but I feel that this had a pretty negative impact on my bike handling and comfort level while training.  I’m not sure what I can do to mitigate this, but I did purchase a set of rollers and hopefully that will increase the variety of training and help to minimize the impact to my bike handling skills.

So what is the game plan going forward?

Honestly, I don’t envision doing too many things different from 2012 to 2013 in terms of training approach.  I feel that I made some big leaps in fitness this year: my 5 hour MMP increased by 8%, my 2 hour MMP increased 10%, I ran some very fast 5k efforts in training.  So I don’t feel or see the need for a radical change simply because I didn’t properly leverage that fitness at key races.  My continued improvement tells me that I have yet to reach the point of diminishing returns on the current approach, and that by focusing on the variables I haven’t been controlling; I will arrive on my target days able to leverage every ounce of fitness.

Specific to racing next year I have only committed myself to two: the Triple T and IMCDA.  Unlike last year, I intend to come into IMCDA fully prepared and ready to do my fitness justice, with the singular goal of qualifying to return to Kona.   Assuming that happens, I’ll head back to Kona with the same goal(s) that I had going into this year.

I will probably add a half or two in to the calendar to help rid myself of the frustration of poor performances at that distance.

2011 Year in Review

It’s time for my annual year in review post.  I sit down, think back about my year from a triathlon perspective, slice it, dice it, and otherwise think about what I did and than write about it and share it.  It’s as much for my benefit as your reading enjoyment.  You can read previous write-ups here.

Typically – the way this works is I make a bunch of pretty graphs comparing the volume, TSS, IF, kJ, etc for this year against previous years, both on a month by month basis and a year as a whole basis.  Than I spend a bunch of time talking about things I did good and things I did bad – and what I need to do to continue to improve.

This years format will be a little different.  Why?  In the end, the details of the training are meaningless.  I believe there are three  reasons for this:

First, a season/year is simply an artificial construct we as humans pin ourselves into.  Success in triathlon (or life), contrary to what the corporate world tells us, is not defined by years, quarters, months or weeks.  Yes, milestone dates are critical for us to determine if we are moving in the right direction along the path of success, but we must be careful to remember that improving ourselves is a constant process and allowing ourselves to slip into predefined time constraints can limit our progress (more on that in a future post).

Second, how much or how little I (you) trained, or what I (you) did means nothing.  You don’t get an award for having the most TSS, or running the most miles.  Results is what matters – did you achieve what you wanted to achieve, when you wanted to achieve it?

Finally, what did you learn along the way – and how will you leverage that to achieve more?

With this new approach to the review, the part about results is going to be pretty boring.  While I had some up and down race performances this year, I delivered at my two key races.  In both races, I had life best performances.  One of them was nothing short of a breakthrough performance – one of those experiences where down the road you ask yourself “Did I really just do that?”  That breakthrough performance at Ironman Arizona – also checked off my longest standing triathlon goal – finishing as the first amateur at an Ironman race.

Results – talked about, so now lets talk about some insightful stuff that I learned this year, and how I intend to use it in the future to continue improving.

Last year – one of the things that I really tried to figure out was, what did I do differently between 2009 and 2010 – that was the difference between a horrid 2009 and a successful 2010.  Logically one could ask – what did I do differently between 2010 and 2011 – that yielded a breakthrough.  Last year I examined a lot of different things that I thought it might be: taper, rest, fitness, execution – in the end I settled that execution was the *best* difference, but I still wasn’t sure.

After Ironman Hawaii and Ironman Arizona – I think it is really two things.  Commitment and belief.  In late August I sketched out what I believed was a training block that would deposit me in both Kona and Tempe with the right level of fitness.  I committed to executing that block 100% – I never once doubted what I was doing.  This left me with a dozen or so workouts that boosted my confidence like never before, each workout reinforcing the commitment and belief in this path¦ In the end the result was me believing with all of my being that I could put together the pieces to execute a breakthrough performance.

Kona was not the breakthrough performance I had hoped for, but it built my confidence even more – knowing that I could ride an Ironman bike leg @ ~230 watts in hot conditions, get off the bike, blow up on the run, but still run a sub 3:30¦.it started the wheels turning¦.

While commitment and belief were two big things that helped enable the breakthrough this season, the hands down biggest item that contributed to the breakthrough this year was nutrition and I don’t mean race nutrition.  Nutrition is a bit vague of a term, on the surface you might take it to mean I wasn’t eating a healthy diet or was short on a critical vitamin or mineral – perhaps resulting in anemia.  If you read the word nutrition and thought that – you’d be wrong.  I mean nutrition in a simpler sense – purely from an intake perspective.  In an attempt to get back down to what I raced Ironman Wisconsin at last year (173 pounds) – I ended up eating too little, forcing my body into a type of starvation mode – killing my workout quality, and resulting in no weight loss.  So I’d eat less – and the situation would get worse.  On and on for several months – roughly January to August.  In late August for a two week period I obsessively counted my calories and estimated my calorie burn.  What I found was that I was significantly under-eating 4 or 5 days a week and over-eating 2 or 3 days a week.  After that period of observation, I focused on continuing to count intake and burn – shooting for a slight deficit.  The result – my workout quality and consistency went WAY up, and from September 1st to Kona I lost 5 pounds, and between Kona and IMAZ I lost an additional 4 pounds!  All the result of eating more most days (on average 700 to 800 calories more), and less on a couple days (700 to 1000 less).  I arrived at Ironman Arizona the leanest I’ve been in my adult life.

Nutrition, commitment, and belief – how can I use the identification of these factors to continue to improve my performance?  Nutrition is definitely the most simple – count calories, estimate burn – make sure they match, so that I’m fueled properly for workouts and racing.

Commitment and belief are very intertwined.  I simple need to commit to the process of executing my training and believing that I am capable of great things.  As I am a self-coached athlete, I need to make the further step of believing that I know what I need to, to successfully guide myself to success.

In the end 2011, was the most successful season of triathlon yet, and not just because of some great performances, but because of the important lessons I learned about training, racing, and myself.

Where to from here?  In a change of heart for me, my goals are staying between myself and a selected few.  You’ll just have to wait and see…

Oh, and because I am such a numbers orientated guy – I will be posting a breakdown of 2011’s training in the next few weeks, but it’s simply a curiosity – almost entirely the same as it has been before!  Crazy like a fox.

2010 in review

If I had to sum 2010 up with a single sentence I think the only one that would be appropriate would be “Wow, what a ride.”

In 2010, I had periods of time in which I was both the least fit and most fit of any other time period over the last 6 or 7 years.

In 2010, I both rediscovered the true joy that I experience while training and racing for triathlon – and I experienced the raw hatred that I have for it.

In 2010, a mere week before my best athletic performance to date, I was almost ready to give it all up.

How’s that for a year?  In the end, I guess pretty damn good.

The older I get and the more times I ride this rock around the sun I am continually amazed at how much more perspective I’ve gained on life as compared to just a few years prior.  I sit and think – “Man, I’ve really figured it out.”  Only to look back on that moment a few years down the road and think “Man – if I only knew then, what I know now.”

Ironically, while I was doing the check-in deal thing for IMWI on the Friday before the race – Mary found a great quote on a fridge magnet:

For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin ” real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.

In case you didn’t realize it, this is my annual Tri-Season is done, and it’s time to get all touchy feelie about it.  Some of the things I like to cover are my overall feelings about the season, my volume totals, do some slice and dicing with volume and intensity metrics, look at my “action” plan as defined last annual review and see how I did, and finally lay out an action plan for the next year of triathlon.  I’m doing it a little earlier than previous years “ because my competitive season for 2010 is done.  Any race that I do the rest of the year will just be for fun and in support of my training objectives.  Once the year is well and truly wrapped up I’ll do a follow-up dissecting overall volume totals, but I wanted to get my thoughts on the year down on paper and out there, particularly to solicit feedback on what I need to move to the next level.

So how did 2010 go?  Incredible, I achieved more this year than I thought was possible, not only did I achieve a lot I learned an incredible amount of things about the human machine.  I think some of the things I learned are more important than the things I achieved so I’ll talk about them first.

First, I learned that it’s OK to take a break from a sport, to focus on a different sport.  This allows you to boost the focus sport significantly, and when you return to balanced training, the dropped sport will return quickly.  Alright, so I didn’t learn this directly, but I had direct experience watching all three sports go from zero or very low fitness, to near normal levels of fitness faster than I thought possible.  All of those advocates of taking a break from X to focus on Y – weren’t lying.

Second, I lot of things I know about race execution were reinforced and refreshed in my mind.

Third (really an extension of #2) – I learned that many of my bad races may have directly resulted from poor race day decisions and poor race week choices rather than some of the reasons I thought before such as allergies, season training load, etc – these probably had a role in some cases, but were not critical factors.

Finally – I realized that in 2009 – I was probably running much to fast on many of my runs.

So let’s get into the meat of this review.  How’d the season go from a results and progress perspective?

After a series of subpar races last year, I adopted the catch phrase “It only takes one race to make the season worth it.”  Fortunately in 2010 I’ve had four of them.  Four races that by themselves are worthy of making 2010 a success – each race had its own reason:  Saint Anthony’s – while my slowest Olympic in a long time – was a huge victory just by finishing.  The Triple T – blowing away all expectations and finishing in 2nd.  Door County “ not only was it a PR, but I discovered that I have some true mental toughness and competitiveness.  IMWI “ Matt Amman said it best œI don’t think we’re ever going to get that grin off your face.

Unfortunately I did not do Pleasant Prairie this year, so I lost my year to year benchmark race.  However, all the other repeat races I did were either an absolute improvement over previous years – or a relative improvement.  IMWI = Absolute.  Triple T – relative: While my overall race times were slower, it was primarily on the run.  Power wise my RPE felt much more comfortable in all races despite averaging equal or higher power than previous years.

Another huge thumbs up that I must give myself is my nutrition.  I actually was able to do the right things this year nutritionally and cross the mythic 180 pound barrier.  I raced Door County at a super lean 171 pounds and Ironman Wisconsin at 173 (so I slipped a bit at the end).  I have not been at this weight since 8th grade or so.  I don’t recall my weight in 8th grade, but I know in 9th grade and most of high school I was around 177.  My lightest in college was about 188.  On my wedding day I was 225.

When I look back on my season and its results, I’m simply tickled pink.

How about training?

My training in 2010 was nearly perfect.  It would have been nice to have started building my fitness a few months earlier, but the break was a key factor in how the season turned out.

Early in the season I focused a lot on rebuilding my FTP.  I did this by including a lot of threshold efforts into 3 rides per week: Tuesday PM, Thursday PM, and my long ride.  Once I was able to start running I changed the Tuesday PM ride into a run.  If you don’t count race weeks – there are only a handful of weeks where I did not include the Thursday night threshold workout – and only a few long rides where I did not include some form of interval work (typically these were planned in advanced).

One thing I noticed on the bike is that as the season progressed and my training load increased it became more difficult to hit my power targets on rides.  Some of that is probably a result of switching from an SRM to a Powertap mid-season, but it’s a trend I’ve seen in previous years.  I don’t know if this is good or bad, it just is an observation.  Perhaps it’s simply a result of not doing any sprint races in late July or August this year as opposed to previous years.  Or is it something else?

I held off on the quality running into very late in the season and then only included a handful of sessions.  I ran according to my Daniel’s paces almost religiously.  As my paces would start drifting faster, a race would arrive and prove that it was time to adjust.


On the cycling front this year was nearly identical from a TSS/kJ YTD perspective to 2009 – incredible considering how low my TSS scores were for January and February.  I was significantly behind 2008 though.


If you look at the montly TSS graph – one thing that is evident is that I may need to go back and adjust my FTP for the March/April timeframe…


A new view I made for my analysis this year was a CTL year-over-year graph.  The graph is pretty simple, but interesting.  On the cycling side, I started out much lower than ever before, climbed very steeply (need to double check my FTP for those months) – and then settled into a load similar to 2008, without the ginormous peak in July I had in 2008 and 2009.  I held that peak off about a month hitting it mid-August, and then letting it taper off into IMWI.


Running CTL fell into pretty much the same pattern.  Steep sharp rise at the beginning, and then it flattens out at around the same level as in 2008 and 2009.


It’s interesting that I have a “peak” in cycling all three years, but my running tends to rise to between 45 and 50 CTL stay there, taper  vs. the rise to 85 to 90 and then a taper off – I get my cycling CTL up, but I let it fall off without holding it.  Could that be important?

What about the rest views of running?  The running is interesting.  I was a strict adherant to Daniels Paces almost the entire season – only running faster in training after a race performance proved I was ready.  Other than races, and a handful of workouts almost all of my running was at Daniel’s E-Pace.  When I say almost all, I mean in the neighborhood of 90% including races, greater than 95% if you only count training.

As the following graphs show – from a YTD perspective my run training lagged pathetically, but once I was able to start running, it matched previous years month for month.


Volume is becoming more and more of a curiosity at this point.  As my transition to a training load measurement of training becomes more and more complete – volume is becoming more of an indicator of time commitment to the sport rather than a benchmark of training load.  However, it is still a good reference point to consider as a piece of the overall puzzle.  Please note that the tables below are not final for 2010 – and the totals for 2009 are slightly different than in my 2009 wrap-up since I did a little bit of training after that post.

Year Swim Bike Run
2005 380,741 yds 4,795 miles 1,272 miles
2006 416,137 m 6,138 miles 1,278 miles
2007 451,144 m 7,224 miles 1,410 miles
2008 373,512 m 6,375 miles 1,279 miles
2009 426,136 m 6,891 miles 1,314 miles
2010 315,512 m 5,375 miles 859 miles
Year Swim Bike Run Total
2005 116 hours 333 hours 171 hours 620 hours
2006 124 hours 351 hours 174 hours 649 hours
2007 140 hours 392 hours 183 hours 715 hours
2008 114 hours 348 hours 164 hours 626 hours
2009 132 hours 364 hours 169 hours 665 hours
2010 98 hours 295 Hours 124 hours 517 hours

All in all, 2010 was a good year from training.  While significantly less than previous years due to a loss of training time early in the year, it showed the power of past training and consistant training.  On top of that, it was quite educational to see the power of recovery and what it can do for you.

Another question that must be examined is “ what was different between 2009 and 2010?  Unfortunately “ I’m having a really hard time pinning it down.  When you look at the break down of training above “ there are differences, but not a lot.  Matt asked me this question recently – I said “ œI feel like I was a lot more deliberate this year.  To that he chuckled and said œYou’re Scott Bowe “ you’re always deliberate.

Well he’s right and he’s a bit wrong.  The only thing I did that was significantly different from a deliberate point of view was not jumping into races on a whim.  Doing a few sprints here and there can definitely impact a few key sessions “ but I don’t think it has the power to derail an entire season.  Does it?

Could it be drive or focus?  Was I less focused or take it for granted last year “ and that led to slips in race day execution?  Perhaps a bit “ but I trained for 4 months with a broken foot trying to make it happen.  Dumb “ yep.  Driven “ yep.  Were my expectations higher in 2009 than 2010 “ oh yeah.  Is that a bad thing?

What about my taper and rest cycles?  In 2008, 2009, and 2010 “ I pretty much didn’t take any rest weeks “ except for a few races.  My taper in 2008 and 2010 were essentially identical.  In 2009 “ I pushed a little longer and did a bit more of a drop taper “ yet arrived at race day with similar TSBs all 3 years (4 A races).

Bingo “ sure until you consider that SORT was a huge success in 2008 and 2009 after a crushing week of training and a drop taper.  This approach was a giant FAIL for Pigman in 2010 though.

How about pure Fitness?  My CTL for cycling was significantly lower in 2009 than the other two years on record.  That sounds good until you look at some of the good races and workouts I had.  While perhaps it wasn’t at the level of 2008 and 2009 “ CTL is simply a number and performances are the true indicator of fitness “ not a number.  They may not have occurred on the days I wanted them to, but 2009 was filled with loads of great performances.

The more I think about this and document my thoughts “ in reality I see more similarities than I see differences.  Am I simply chasing ghosts trying to explain how I was able to turn a lackluster year into a blockbuster year?

I think all of the things I have just mentioned played some role in my low level of performance in 2009, but there are just too many things that don’t fit the patterns to nail it on any signal item “ even taken as a whole I’m not convinced.  Heck “ I’m even willing to go back and clear the good name of Claritin “ I think that was just me looking for a scapegoat.

So we’ve come to the point that motivation, taper, fitness, and other things “ all contributed to a lack luster 2009.  When you add them together it seems pretty weak.

Hopefully “ you’re sitting there on the edge of your seat “ thinking œThis is getting good, he’s got some key piece of the puzzle that explains it all.

I’m sorry to say I don’t “ what I do have is a theory.  It’s surprisingly simple, and it’s something I have proclaimed loudly to everyone that will listen when I am allowed to preach on how to have a successful Ironman.  I won’t claim that this is a reason unto itself, or that it’s even valid “ but after a confidence building activity I undertook race week while finalizing my race plan “ I stumbled on a single word.

Execution.  In some ways that word is a cop out “ and in others it makes all the sense in the world.  As I wrote out my race plan for IMWI “ I took a detour and made some notes about races over the last couple years where I had poor overall performances.

Previously, when I reviewed those races I focused on my bike effort “ which proved to be a dead end.  IMWI 09 “ was literally an identical ride wattage wise to 2008 “ other than 2009 being a touch faster due to conditions “ if you overlay them on each other “ they are literally identical.  IMFL 09 “ I averaged < 200 watts for the first hour or so.  Several of the other races were the same way “ High Cliff 09, Pigman 10 “ all of them judging them by the bike alone “ great execution.

I don’t recall what it is, but something triggered me to look at the IMFL results closely.  When I looked at the results memories and sensations from the race filled my mind.  Initially “ I was struck by the fact that I had the 5th fastest non-pro swim split “ but realized that was a red herring as I looked at some other Ironman results.  What struck me were sensations that came back from the end of the swim and T1.  Feelings of being spent disorientated “ really struggling through transition with a foggy brain.

These quickly transitions to memories and sensations from Elkhart Lake where I remember exiting the swim and feeling like I was going to die as I ran to my bike “ which was a direct result of swimming the first 1/3 of the race trying for the swim prime “ and than just settling in to a slightly less aggressive pace.

Next High Cliff 2009 “ my swimming prowress crushed Craig Lanza “ who almost always exits the water +- 10 seconds of me regardless of the distance “ by almost 90 seconds.

Rockman 2008 “ feeling high off my race at the Triple-T,  feeling like I’m hot shit “ with a stacked field “ race for first on the swim to redeem my wrong turn in 2007.

Pigman 2010 “ I didn’t feel like I pushed the swim “ but with about 500 meters to go I knew something was up.  Exit the swim and my head is foggy and disorientated.

IMWI 2009 “ Ditto the feelings as Pigman.

Racine 2009 “ I do nothing on the swim “ I only lead the group because it’s convenient “ no effort whatsoever.  Rockstar.

IMWI 2006 “ My race notes pre and post race “ describe a desire to swim @ 75% of the effort as 2005 “ œI was happy to get out of the water and see 54:xx on my watch and fell completely fresh and with it, and not out of whack last year.

By now I was starting to get excited “ I started reading past race reports and looking at results.  Slowly a consistent trend emerged “ Rock the swim “ bomb the race.  As I paged through reports and results “ I found a couple of exceptions that bothered me.  As I examined those exceptions “ I discovered a secondary thread that was common “ Racing.  Races where I attempted to race “ generally ended sub-optimally; not always badly, but not optimal.

So what do I mean by racing “ take Tri-ing for Childrens 2009 for example.  I knew that Joe Kurian could easily put 5 minutes on me via the run.  I swam and biked haunted by that knowledge “ focused on optimizing my place instead of my time.  Camb Whitcomb Mason “ I didn’t think that I could out run Pete Metz if it came to a foot race “ so I instead expended my energy on the bike and swim “ trying to force him to keep up with me “ sure I ended up third, but I had a terrible run.

I continued to look through the results and race reports of the 50+ triathlons I’ve done “ I became a bit unsettled by the trend “ with only one real exception “ every race that I identified my objective as beating one or more specific people “ I performed poorly.  Every race in which I identified my objective as doing my best, having fun, or a similar outcome “ I performed well.

Surprisingly there were almost no races where the result was average “ I either was a rock star or a disaster.  Unfortunately “ I didn’t keep detailed notes about training, racing, and mental state while swimming in College or High School “ so I can only go back to 2003 when I did my first tri.

So is this a good diagnosis/analysis?  I don’t know.  Is it correct?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that it makes sense to me and seems to fit other trends in my life.  I have my cards, others have theirs.  My best game is to play the hand I’ve been dealt, not to play according to the hand my competitors have been dealt.

Finally – what about next year?

Next year I would like to continue the general trend of improvement – but I’d like to leave off the step backwards trend that I see emerging.  Additionally, since I started in triathlon in 2005 I’ve spent many weeks logging 20+ hours of training – I don’t want to do that anymore.  Realistically, I’m going to shoot to have the cap be 18 hours or so; this will realistically mean that will need to dial the intensity on many rides up and potentially reduce the frequency I train some sports.

I do not intend to share my season specific goals outside of my “inner circle” – but I will share my training objectives for 2011 – which surprisingly are a direct result of my specific goals. *gasp*

  1. Consistently execute threshold training for bike and run
    1. 350 watt FTP Target
    2. 1:14 Half Marathon
  2. Continue to focus on positive nutrition habits
    1. Maintain offseason weight below 175
    2. Experiment with body comp/weight to see if high performance is feasible @ 160 to 165
  3. Training cap @ ~18 hours vs. 23 hours

After IMWI this year – threshold training over the winter and early spring is a prime objective for me in both sports – perhaps even a little VO2 max work now and again.  The targets I’ve thrown out there are not thrown out lightly.  If you search my blog you will find a lot of references to shooting for a half marathon time of sub 1:20 – and I’ve never pulled it off.  A search will also tell you about why I selected 350 watts.

To save you some time:

The volume goal is primarily stemming from a desire to reduce my time commitment to the sport, so that I have more time to do other stuff.  The secondary reason for it is to try and find out if perhaps I’ve been limiting my performance by trying to do to much, and not allowing enough recovery.

I picked 350 watts for a couple of reasons – first it corresponds very well with an Ironman ride of a touch under 5 hours for me.  A 5 hour +- IM ride for me is the last piece of the triangle for me to be truly competitive in the overall amateur scene at most Ironmans.  Second – it’s a pretty good stretch goal for me.

A 1:14 half marathon is wickedly fast.  That’s 13.1 miles at a pace just slightly faster than I’ve ever run a 5k!  A bit of a stretch wouldn’t you say?  There is some sound logic behind this though.  If you accept that a well executed Ironman run is typically done around Daniels E-pace, my recent run at IMWI puts me in-between a VDOT of 61 and 62.  When I look at those times and paces for those VDOTS, I say no way I can run that fast.  However, my IMWI run tells me that maybe I can if I made a few changes.  This objective is my way of motivating myself to train my run in such a way to make sure that my 3:09 IM marathon wasn’t a fluke, but simply a sign of something better in the future.  In the end even if I’m unable to hit a 1:14 half (which is likely) “ even a result in the high 1:1xs or low 1:2x will be a significant improvement and confidence building “ especially since my running always tends to be skewed towards over-performance as the distance gets longer and the run is preceded by a bike ride.

To accomplish these objectives and set me up to be in a position to achieve my season goals for next year, I’ve got a lot of hard work to do.  Back in 2008, I purchased the Endurance Nation Outseason plan.  I bailed on it after about 8 weeks, and I didn’t even try in 2009 because of injury.  I’m optimistic that following the EN plan will be the magic juice that lets me meet my training objectives – as I did see results on the plan before bailing – in fact my highest ever 60 minute average power is from a Computrainer time trial done at around week 7 of the plan!

I’m going to do everything in my power to enable myself to see the plan through – with the positive swim lay off experience of this past year, I’m planning to start the plan off with no swimming and ease swimming in as the plan successfully progresses and the additional training load doesn’t keep me from feeling motivated or progressing.

I’m still trying to formulate how to best execute my training for the timeframe after the out season plan ends, while maintaining the focus on growing/sustaining my FTP and VDOT, staying within my volume goals, and ensuring I have the required endurance for a successful Ironman.

If you have any thoughts or feedback – I’d really like to hear them via a comment; thanks!

Not with a bang, but a whimper

So ends another season of triathlon.  I wish that I could say otherwise, I wish that I could be OK with my season because I had a number of good races.  The fact is I have a huge burden of disappointment right now.  I had a solid race at Racine, as well as a few solid sprint races – but the rest of my season was essentially a disaster.

So where do I go from here?  I see there as being 3 options:

1> Follow my instinct and do as Matt pondered in a comment, and plow forward convinced that my poor performance was due to weakness or a lack of fitness and proceed to stamp it out.

2> Take the other approach mentioned by Matt and back away from Triathlon as a whole for a while

3> Revisit my April 7th, 2009 post, mentioned by Jeff (in the same set of comments as linked above) – and remember that to focus on the journey of getting there – and let the result be the result.

Each approach has merit and I think would lead to a successful rebound next year.  However, I worry that each approach (alone) glosses over the real issues I am facing, leading to a successful 2010, but a potential repeat of 2009 in 2011.  The saying “those who don’t learn from the mistakes of the past are destined to repeat them” comes to mind.  The tail end of my swimming career seems to have been like this – a good year, followed by a bad year, followed by a good year.

Almost as if the success experienced caused me to lose an edge that lead to fast swimming, and the disappointment of a bad season fuels success.  Looking at my triathlon career I see myself beginning to experience a similar cycle: Rockstar IMAZ 2007, poor IMH 2007, Rockstar 2008, poor 2009.  Two steps forward, followed by one step backwards.  While that may lead to success in the long run, as we see with our economic situation – the steps backwards can be heart-wrenching.

How do I break this vicious cycle?  How do I move forard a step each year without having to suffer the fallback?  That is the mystery to me – I wish I had a clear cut answer but I don’t.  I have a thought of what I am going to attempt, but I have only hope that it will pan out.

Before going there, I think it’s wise to do a review of my triathlon journey thus far.


 So what does this pretty chart tell us? A lot, and at the same time nothing at all.  2009 from a volume perspective was pretty consistent with previous seasons and actually #2 in overall volume.  Here are some things that stand out to me:

1> 2008 and 2009 saw a large decrease in the amount of time I spent on strength and flexibility.  While I have never lifted weights in the traditional sense, I have always had a strength routine that I have included.

2> My swimming fell off a lot in 2008, in fact the last few months of 2008 saw a major decrease in volume across all three sports.  This decrease carried over to 2009 for swimming and running

3> My volume in 2009 is surprising, perhaps I did to much?  Or simply wasn’t organized enough with it?

While 2009 is not technically complete, enough is done to see the trend.  And because of my foot – not much running will happen until the end of the year.

Year Swim Bike Run
2005 380,741 yds 4,795 miles 1,272 miles
2006 416,137 m 6,138 miles 1,278 miles
2007 451,144 m 7,224 miles 1,410 miles
2008 373,512 m 6,375 miles 1,279 miles
2009 414,125 m 6,626 miles 1,314 miles
Year Swim Bike Run Total
2005 116 hours 333 hours 171 hours 620 hours
2006 124 hours 351 hours 174 hours 649 hours
2007 140 hours 392 hours 183 hours 715 hours
2008 114 hours 348 hours 164 hours 626 hours
2009 128 hours 349 hours 169 hours 646 hours

If I look at my cycling of 2008 vs 2009 from a kJ perspective, 2009 was generally lower by a significant amount the the previous year at that time.  What is nice about kJ is that it is a raw indicator of work and not dependent upon me accurate estimating my FTP. Below is a table of kJ by month (really 28 day sample points beginning 12/31/2007 (the “beginning” of 2008 from a training perspective). As a result of the 28 day sample, the months start to drift, so I will call them Month 1, Month 2, etc.  Month 9 ends the week of IMWI in 2008, and the week before IMWI in 2009.  Month 5 represents the month just before the Triple T.

Months 10 and 11 are included to represent IMFL 2009, not provide a comparison between 2008 and 2009.

Month 2008 2009
Month 1 18,337 11,612
Month 2 22,699 16,586
Month 3 17,037 16,619
Month 4 21,628 19,265
Month 5 26,411 21,878
Month 6 28,965 24,716
Month 7 33,709 38,764
Month 8 29,446 26,446
Month 9 24,261 30,780
Month 10 0 18,829
Month 11 3,375 27,826

 What does this mean?  First a reference point, to help understand the relation of a kJ to a ride.  IMWI 2008 – was a 4,218 kJ ride.  I had a couple long rides in August 2009 around 4,400 kJ.  So this table more or less tells me, that with the exception of two months – I did significantly less work on the bike in any given period than as compared to 2008.  Overlaying the values on-top of each other looks like this:


The graph highlights pretty well the gap between this year and last year in terms of work on the bike.  It’s interesting in that the big spike of work on the bike really result in some good performance shortly after at the Half and Sprint and Olympic distance.  The next interesting thing to look at is total kJ for the year as it accumulates each month.


Looking at it this way, it become pretty evident that the work put in on the bike was signicantly lower this year.  It took until after Madison to “break-even”.  This second kJ perspective could be a perfect explanation for why Madison was subpar – I just did not have the bike fitness to ride effectively.

So why did Florida go so horribly?  I have no idea.  My kJ had crossed the line and was the equal of 2008, the few months leading up to Florida were pretty decent if you adjust for a week off the bike after Wisconsin.  Right now, it is an enigma and something that will probably bother me for a long time – much like how not knowing how much time my flat at IMAZ bugs the hell out of me.

I didn’t graph out run mileage by month, but if we look at it from a mileage to date graph – it looks sickeningly like the graph posted just above for kJ to date.


When I look at my training this way, it seems pretty evident to me that while my overall volume/work for 2009 is pretty comparable to previous years, if I cut the year short at September it’s lacking pretty significantly – on the order of close to 10%.  With most of the shortfall coming in the first few months of the year, and while the numbers during the meat of the season were the same – the foundation was lacking when push came to shove (and it shoved pretty damn hard).

Drifting back to the 3 approaches above – how do I ensure a successful and consistant season next year, but also each year that follows.  After looking at the numbers, I don’t think that any of the approaches above are appropriate – at least not alone.

I think the answer lies in falling back to the basics by incorporating all of the approaches to lay down a solid, consistent foundation of work for future seasons.  That leads me to the plan for the next “season”.  Obviously, I am not signed up for an Ironman for 2010.  Will I do one – I have no idea.  I really want to, in order to prove to myself that I haven’t lost it, but I am pretty scared to do another one soon because of the fear of yet another disaster.

The plan as it stands now is to take a short unstructure break the remainder of this week and next, and then start swimming and biking again.  I’m going to take a few weeks off of running to allow my foot to heal, time to be determined based on the outcome of my Dr. appointment next week.

Beginning in December I’ll get into a regular Swim/Bike/Run? routine to prepare myself to yet again attempt the Endurance Nation Out-Season plan – modified a little bit to add some extra volume as the plan progresses (3rd times a charm – ?)  That will take 16 weeks, which I will cap off with a week of rest and then either St. Anthony’s or the Whitewater Early Bird.  Currently I’d say it’s 70/30 in favor of St. Anthony’s.

After that I’m going to do a typical 3 + 1 base/rest cycle going into the Triple-T.  The rest of next year will be 100% dependent upon the outcome of those races and how the training goes.  The results of the litmus test might be anything ranging from shifting to several months of fitness maintenance and minimal racing, and ramp up again in 2011, to doing something like the Rev 3 Irondistance or another IM distance race that I can get into – or something anywhere inbetween. 

Right now I’d say the deciding factor is less about “performance”, but more about perspective.  Can I do the training, enjoy it, and remember to focus on the process rather than letting myself be driven by the desired outcome?

2007 – Looking back

Here are some scatterbrained thoughts on 2007 from a triathlon point of view.

year in review


Season Review 

Swim: 380k – 116 hrs.
Bike: 4,795 – 333 hrs.
Run: 1,272 – 171 hrs.

Swim: 416k – 124 hrs.
Bike: 6,138 – 351 hrs.
Run: 1,278 – 173 hrs.

2007 (as of 12/28/07, not much left to go)
Swim: 451k “ 139  hrs
Bike: 7,224 “ 392 hrs
Run: 1,1410 – 166 hrs


This year was an awesome one from a tri perspective.  First and foremost I accomplished my goal of qualifying for Kona.  The season continued on a high note with PRs at the half distance, Olympic distance, and a sprint tri I’ve done for the past few years.  I also had some training and racing struggles that I had to deal with “ overtraining, stale racing, stale training¦

What did I do right?

I qualified for Hawaii “ and had a blast doing Hawaii.  Need I say more?

What did I do wrong?

I didn’t take enough of a break after Ironman AZ.  I put too much priority on early seasons races and the fitness needed to do well in them.  I took a bit of time off after the race (IMAZ), but I got back into pretty high volume/quality training to early.  Doing the Triple T, Rockman Half and Appleton Half, along with a sprint in a 5 week period did not help.  This made me spend a lot of July training poorly, and a lot of August trying to train easily to get back to normal.  Looking back it’s pretty obvious I was overtrained during this time “ one of the dead give a ways was the sudden onset of asthma that I had.

Although I was mentally struggling with training when Hawaii arrived, physically I would have been better off doing IM Florida “ as my fitness (and confidence in my fitness) was just finally starting to spin up.

Thoughts for next year

Train objectively using objective measures “ Power, VDOT, frequent low stress testing, etc.  I feel that part of the reason I had a good race at Arizona was because much of my training was indoors “ giving me the ability to completely control my intensity at all times, and provide clear cut objective comparisons between workouts.

Accept Difficulties “ Next year I need to do a better job of rolling with the punches rather then trying to force my way through them.

Race less “ I think a big part of the reason I got into an overtrained state was my desire to try to hold onto my early season peak for far to long.  I needed to take a solid 6 week break/recovery period after IMAZ, but instead 5 weeks later I was doing a crazy series of racing: Triple T, a sprint the next weekend, Rockman Half the next, a week off, followed by another half.  That was basically an Ironman, 2 halfs, and a sprint in a 5 week period.  I will not do that again.

I did way too many races this year “ next year I plan to focus on a couple key races, and œparticipate in the remainder; using them to reinforce good pacing and execution techniques.  I’m a little nervous about my Triple-T/Rockman repeat next year, but I hope that by not doing the other two races in June, the 6 weeks between Rockman and Racine will be enough, I’ll have to play the later race by ear.

Nutrition “ I got burned on my nutrition at Hawaii.  While I had used my exact same nutrition strategy in training leading up to Hawaii, there were two differences on race day: 1> It was ~10 degress warming in HI then the weeks leading up to it in Wisconsin; 2> I rode at the same œeffort I rode Arizona, but my training before Hawaii wasn’t the same quality as before Arizona “ so in reality it was to hard.  Those to factors contributed to my stomach becoming a sugar ball.  Dial in my nutrition more for all conditions and try to develop the ability to mentally adjust intake to conditions.

Not so much a thought for next year, but looking back, any future years of doing 2+ ironmans, I need to ensure they are either ~5 weeks apart, or ~6 months apart.  The former lets me recover from the race and carry the fitness over, the latter allows enough time to fully recover and rebuild my fitness.