Tuesday, June 26, 2012

ZOMG datagasm!

Holy macaroni, I have a GPS watch with a heart monitor that can go in the water and holds more than one workout and does a thousand magic things!!! Not only that, but it's THE ultimate triathlete's brain-in-a-box that counts and beeps and vibrates and makes sure it knows when you fall in a ditch or ride in a hot air balloon and you go pee and need to eat.

The Garmin Forerunner 910XT - my precious, you are mine!! Hubbs definitely knows how to treat me. I only said the word once after reading all possible GPS watches reviews on DC Rainmaker's blog and decided that there was no better than this - but I wasn't expecting to get it in this life anyway, you know, we've got a mortgage to pay. However, since we didn't have to pay for car insurance this month, it must have somehow fit in our budget. I'm not going to complain, I could not have asked for a better gift, it's our 15th anniversary this year after all.

After proper unboxing activities, I read all 12 quick start manuals (manuel de demarrage rapide, manuale di avvio rapido, schnellstartanleitung, guia de inicio rapido, manual de inicio rapido, snelstartgids, lynstartvejledning, skrocony podrecznik uzytkownika, aloitusopas, hurtigstartveiledning and snabbstartshandbok) to make sure that I covered it all, pushed all buttons that I could push before giving my fingers a cramp, pinned the charger clamp on its shiny body and plugged it into the wall,  then watched the battery level raise slowly from 54% to 100%.

As soon as it was ready (I may have slept a few hours in between), I took it for a ride drive on my way to work that is, then hooked the ANT gizmo to the computer, downloaded all software clients, drivers and agents and finally the firmware update for the watch. Eventually, everything was set and registered and ready to munch on data, so I went out for a 25 min lunch walk and later in the evening, for an hour bike ride.

It's awesome!! Plug the ANT gizmo in, workouts go out and straight on the Garmin website. Another click in the TP Device Agent and they are on Training Peaks website too. This is too easy to be true! Finally I no longer need a computer with a microphone that can listen to crappy modem sounds via Sonic Link to download the ONE workout that gets saved in the antique Polar S410 HRM. I probably don't need to fire RunKeeper either, although it's great for the real time tracking, not yet available on the Garmin website.

On Thursday, I'll be taking it to my swim workout, I can't wait to see how it performs in the pool. Ok, I am also dying to know how straight I swim in open water, so the weather will decide which one it'll be.

But for now, allow me to go have my datagasm while I play back my workouts. Ohhh, yeaaaah!!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rules are meant to be broken, with the exception of one

But first, this.

This is me and Neo, my tri bike, in one of the long and relaxed Zone 2 workouts from this past week. Notice that my hands are not even close to the shifters as for most of this ride, shifting is not necessary. It just goes on and on and on for about 15km, a straight line until the road stops and then I need to make the decision to go either left or right for 20-25km more. Most of the times, I go right. But this isn't what this post really is about since there are no rules when it comes to what my brain decides to do while on the road, it's just organized chaos in there. Some days I may follow the wind as well.

This is about the rules of the road, found on the Velominati's website, which I suppose are written by road cyclists for road cyclists. While I am not a road cyclist per se, I found it funny to look at this picture and see how many of these rules I've broken. Let's see:
Rule #7// Tan lines should be cultivated and kept razor sharp. 
Under no circumstances should one be rolling up their sleeves or shorts in an effort to somehow diminish one’s tan lines. Sleeveless jerseys are under no circumstances to be employed.
One of the main reasons why I am wearing a sleeveless shirt here is because I want to get rid of my tan lines!! They are driving me crazy, especially on my legs, so when I am not riding a bike or I'm running, I usually wear a pair of shorter shorts in the hope that my tan lines will fade on my legs as well.
Rule #8// Saddles, bars, and tires shall be carefully matched. Valid options are:
  • Match the saddle to the bars and the tires to black; or
  • Match the bars to the color of the frame at the top of the head tube and the saddle to the color of the frame at the top of the seat tube and the tires to the color where they come closest to the frame; or
  • Match the saddle and the bars to the frame decals; or
  • Black, black, black
My saddle does not match, oh the disaster!! Although I am trying to stick to the yellow/black theme overall (one could argue that I even bought my wetsuit to match the bike), the saddle is black with red accents. This is unacceptable. At the first saddle sore, that's it, I'm buying a matching saddle and will wrap the handlebars in yellow tape as soon as this one's worn out. Or I am wrapping the handlebars in red, thus matching saddle to the bars and going from a two-color theme to a tri-color one. Hmmm... decisions, decisions...
Rule #32// Humps are for camels: no hydration packs. 
Hydration packs are never to be seen on a road rider’s body. No argument will be entered into on this. For MTB, they are cool.
Ok, gimme a break here. I know that I have been riding a road bike for over 2 months, but I may need another year to be able to juggle with my water bottles while I ride in a straight line. Ok, what about 6 more months until I manage just to grab my water bottle from the frame without falling? I'm working on it. In the meantime, I may look like a camel, but I own it. Deal with it.
Rule #34// Mountain bike shoes and pedals have their place. 
On a mountain bike.
What about on a tri bike? I use mountain bike shoes because they are easier to unclip and walk in. I use mountain bike pedals because they have clips on both sides and I don't have to think. Are you saying that I need to look at my pedals and choose a side every single time that I stop at a traffic light? No way, Jose. Not until I find a way NOT to unclip while waiting for the green light, and that means joining the circus or mastering that equilibrium thing.
Rule #35// No visors on the road. 
Road helmets can be worn on mountain bikes, but never the other way around. If you want shade, see Rule #22.
Until reading the above rule, I had NO clue that visors were making the difference between road and mountain bike helmets. Someone needs to explain this to me. Isn't there MORE sun on an open road than in a forest? Nobody told me at Wal-Mart when I bought this one that's not meant for road biking. I'm pretty sure it said "bike" helmet and not "mountain bike helmet". That's what you get for $10 bucks... amateurs! Fine. I'll remove the damn visor.
Rule #39// Never ride without your eyewear. 
You should not make a habit of riding without eyewear, although approved extenuating circumstances include fog, overheating, and lighting condition. When not worn over the eyes, they should be neatly tucked into the vents of your helmet. If they don’t fit, buy a new helmet. In the meantime you can wear them backwards on the back of your head or carefully tuck them into your jersey pocket, making sure not to scratch them on your tools (see item 31).
The one day when I decide to leave my shades at home, hubbs takes a picture of me which proves that I broke this rule too. It was late in the day, okay? And sorry, they don't fit under, above or at the back of my helmet. And I don't have pockets either because I'm not wearing a friggin' cycling jersey with sleeves that give me perfect tan lines. PETA should be happy to hear that no bugs died while smashing against my eyeballs, so I should be ok, right?
Rule #42// A bike race shall never be preceded with a swim and/or followed by a run. 
If it’s preceded with a swim and/or followed by a run, it is not called a bike race, it is called duathlon or a triathlon. Neither of which is a bike race. Also keep in mind that one should only swim in order to prevent drowning, and should only run if being chased. And even then, one should only run fast enough to prevent capture.
That's it, I've had it. As a matter of fact, even if this wasn't a race, I did this bike ride as part of a BRICK, which means that I immediately followed it with a run. That's the basic definition of triathlon, you do bricks until you pass out or puke your bowels in a ditch, some bricks even last up to 17 hours and people doing them are called IRONMANS, and I'm going to be one of them one day!! To each their own. That's why I don't own a ROAD bike, but a TRI bike, at least it gives me enough reasons to break THE rules. :-P

You can go on and read the rest of THE rules, all 91 of them, you will sure know what it takes to call yourself a "road cyclist" after you're done.

BUT, whether you are a pure cyclist or a triathlete, for sure both camps agree on one thing, which is RULE #5. Not only you should NEVER break it, but you should live by it:
Rule #5// Harden The Fuck Up.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Feeling HOT HOT HOT!

Ole ole, ole ole... I don't know about you guys, but it's been melting braincells hot here in Toronto. This week we reached 43C/108F with the humidity factor and apparently this is just an intro to what summer has in store for us. This sounds good for some, not so much for others, I'm somewhere sitting on the fence as heat hasn't bothered me so much in the past. Proof is that I went out there twice this week in the scorching heat, one time to bike for 1h, another time for a 2h bike/run brick and I haven't died, wheee. I don't think I have a choice anyway, I cannot control the weather knobs and you can see below what my training weeks look like. They are more or less the same before the tri on July 22, but given the amount of effort I'm putting in, I wouldn't be surprised if I sign up for a half-iron before the end of the year. Ok, maybe not, I am not sure how my marathon training is going to interfere with tri training between July and October, but who knows what crazy ideas get to travel through my overheating brain during the summer months? You should always expect the unexpected with me.

As a proof of my madness, I also bought my first wetsuit. After doodling with the idea of renting one and still not finding a place where rentals are affordable and products are guaranteed to fit, I decided on an Xterra Vortex 4 fullsuit wetsuit thanks to the dozens of coupons floating on the intertubes. The particular coupon that I found gave me a rebate of 60% and I ended up paying $160 + tax + shipping for a suit worth $400. Not bad, given the popularity of this suit and the guarantees that they offer with it. It took just over a week to arrive and after an initial shock while trying to understand how in hell I was going to fit inside it (I got the Women's Medium size, but it looked tiny!), I was happy to see that indeed, it fit just like a glove and even better, it rewarded me with the instant superhero look.

Alas I could only wear it for about 10 minutes before I started feeling my insides slow cooking in it and had to peel it off along with 2lb of sweat. Since then, I had been VERY impatient to put it on again and try it in a real lake! Thankfully my local tri club has open water swims scheduled every week on Thursdays but alas they've been cancelled two weeks in a row, first time because of high levels of bacteria and yesterday because of a lightning storm (which looked just like this, I was in it).
Thankfully there is still a month before my triathlon and I haven't lost faith in the weather gods just yet.
See, I'm still smiling, even when I do my runs in the rain. ;-)

I'll leave you with a final note on this heat, a musical one, especially for those of you who live on the opposite side of the planet where you must starting to freeze your cojones by now. There you go! Feeling HOT HOT HOT!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bike: Lactate Threshold Test

There we go again... The week of lactate threshold tests continues and this time, I got to suffer on the bike. And what sufferfest that was!! Because I cannot control the road conditions (traffic lights and hills and wind and crazy drivers, that is) I decided to go to the gym and do this test on the stationary bike.

The protocol was almost identical to that of the run LT test, with the difference that I was supposed to hold a speed above 90rpms for 30 min, where the last 20min were meant to determine the lactate threshold. I wasn't quite sure how hard to go off the bat, so I did the following, on a Life Fitness upright bike:

15 min easy at L5-L7, 75-85rpm
10 min hard at L12, 90-92rpm
20 min hard trying to stay above 90-92rpm, incrementally going from L12 to L15 each 5 min
15 min easy at L1-L5

My heart rate kept on raising by bumps throughout the exercise, but I think I overshot the beginning of the 30min interval by a few difficulty levels and I ended up entering the LT interval in a high gear that I could hardly maintain without a large amount of effort, which quickly resulted in a puddle of sweat around the bike and me  holding on the handlebars for my dear life. When I reached 5 minutes before the end of the 20min interval I had to go down a level to L14 as I felt like passing out. Managed to remain on track for the last 5 minutes, but not without wondering if I was going to survive.

The last 15 minutes of cooldown came as a release and I swore not to return to the gym anytime soon. Now, to make you understand how hard I pushed on that bike from hell, here's the graph from my Polar HRM:

You know, naturally you tend to have a lower HR on the bike than on the run, right? Well, I ended up with almost the same LT threshold as the run. So going forward, my coach said that we should look at the overall HR as well and this one is lower by 10bpm than the run, so we're ok, I'm definitely not going to go back near these limits in my regular training.

In the end, I'm still not quite sure what my bike zones are going to be, but I will update the post when I find out.

And that's it with the tests for now, I hope (wait, I didn't do the swim yet, ouch). After the gym I jumped in my car and drove to a cidery a few kilometers north west from home to meet a few members of a local triathlon club, the Fletcher's Meadow Cross Trainers. This past week I joined their club and also became a member of Triathlon Ontario association, yo! They seem to be pretty active, organizing weekly speed work sessions for running and open water swims, which I will start next week, if I receive my wetsuit on time.

I am happy that I met more folks who are passionate about triathlons and are also very nice and welcoming individuals. I am looking forward to training with them in my hood and getting to know them better. Who knows, maybe soon you'll see me wearing a Falcons shirt too.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Run: Lactate Threshold Test

The results are in and I have fantastic news, at least for me (and my hubbs who usually accompanies me on runs). We can run FASTER, baby!! Ok, enough excitement for the day, but I am relieved with regards to my training zones. Here we go for the fun stuff.

I was scheduled to do the Lactate Threshold Test for running zones yesterday, but due to the evening being highjacked by a triathlon clinic on transition held by the fabulous folks at tritrek toronto, I ended up coming back home way too late to put on a good run. So I decided to do something that only triathletes and insomniacs do, set up my alarm clock for 5:30am and do the test while everyone else sleeps. It took me 2 very painful minutes to open my eyes and another 2 to find my way to the closet to retrieve my running clothes, then grabbed a quick breakfast made of a banana and a slice of banana bread because they go together so well, a small bottle of water and off I went to the track.

The test required the following:
- 15 minutes of warm up jog, finished with a few speed bursts to bring the heart rate up
- 30 minutes of incremental, hard running, where I had to hit the lap button on my heart rate monitor after 10 minutes so that the last 20 minutes of the hard run are set aside and averaged to find the lactate threshold (LT).
-15 minutes of cool down jog

The idea of the test was to be able to run hard for enough long time (30min) without bonking before the end, knowing that by the end of the test you left it all out there. I was a bit apprehensive as I found out that I couldn't set a pace target on RunKeeper for a particular interval, but eventually I decided to do the test completely by feel, trying to increase the pace every 4 minutes and hold it there for as long as I could. In the end, there was nothing left in the tank, so mission complete! Nice and steady HR increase, see the pretty graph below:

I highlighted the 3rd lap that corresponds to the LT test. As you can see, the HR average for that lap was 182, so as I thought, my Zone 2 is much higher than what we thought last week. However, since I pushed myself pretty hard during this test, my coach preferred to choose a more conservative LT for my training zones, so we settled on 172, which gave the training zones below:

The complete Runkeeper workout is here. MUCH more manageable than snail pace!!
Next, LT threshold test for the bike. Bring it!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Trial and error

Triathlon training is getting fun, folks. My weeks are now full on tri-mode: swimming and biking 2-3x week, running 3-4x week plus a few walks in between, with total volumes from 80 to 100 miles and guess what? I'm loving it! My body is adjusting pretty well, I think, and I am becoming rather obsessed with everything triathlon related, but I don't hide it, I am a bit anxious about what is coming. So much to learn and so much room for improvement, I hope.

Swim -
I am very slow in the pool, averaging 2:10/100m and loving the pull buoy because it's so much easier to swim with it, and I have a somewhat ok technique, but with a weak catch and pull (I think I am of the Bambino type). One thing I know I've improved upon is bilateral breathing - no issues there, however I know I am still lifting my head a bit and not relaxing my neck properly. Another problem is endurance, without the pull buoy I feel like drowning and I'm trying really hard to find a slow kicking rhythm, otherwise I don't last more than 50m. Also working on using my core muscles more by trying to rotate my body so I don't look like a floating pancake. Hopefully I can take another video of my swimming soon and you can point out all my flaws.
One thing I have not mentioned though - I am terrified of open water swimming. I used to swim in the ocean, without a wetsuit, so I know I can do it, but I haven't tried since I was 20 years old (that's quite a long time ago!). Thankfully today I made the jump, so to speak, and I bought a wetsuit because once you're committed to this sport, and I know I am, there is no point in spending 45 bucks in a rental when new suits go for $160, like this XTerra Vortex 4, which seems to be a good bet, given its popularity amongst triathletes.

Bike -
On the bike, I can hold some decent times for long-ish distances, averaging 16-17mph for a 2h workout, but having some issues with my saddle and aero position. The saddle is supposed to be good, it's a fizik Arione, but it may help if I tilt its head down a little - my lady bits are screaming in pain after most long rides even if I wear the most generously padded bike shorts. I also need to pay attention to my head position when riding in aero as neck gets stiff and a little achy if I don't switch positions every 15 min or so. One last thing is bike control and using appropriate gear ratios. I am not quite sure what to do because I don't have an onboard computer that counts RPMs and I am in love with the big gears like every newbie, so I must be overusing those in climbs instead of gearing down when needed.

Run -
With 2 marathons under my belt this year and another one this coming October, I feel rather confident there, I am definitely enjoying my runs - so far!, but again, I'm not the speediest mouse out there. I am hoping to finish my next marathon somewhere between 4h15-4h30, but today I got a taste of the (Ironman) endurance training medicine, and more precisely, running in zone 2, and it was horribly bitter. I don't know how my coach chose the 139bpm as my zone 2 average, but this better be wrong, it was the most painfully slow, crawling, trying-to-keep-a-running-form-when-I-could-have-walked run ever!! To put it into perspective, today I run 1h at a 8:17min/km pace, 3 full minutes slower than my 5K race pace!! WTF. Even when I started running 3 years ago, I was running faster than this. I know it's normal to feel this way about these runs, but I didn't feel like I was putting in the effort described here: "Starting to work just a little and you can feel your HR rise". This was no workout at all, damn it. Anyway, my coach gave me a Lactate Threshold test to do on Tuesday, so I will come back with my results then, but I think I know where this is going - all over the spectrum. My resting HR is 52 while my max HR is close to 200. When I ran the Paris Marathon I averaged 165bpm, so I was nowhere near my max. I think my zone 2 is rather beween 140bpm and 150bpm, but we shall see.

In the meantime, I found some good links about HR training on Beginnertriathlete.com.
Zone 1 and Zone 2 training explained
Lactate Threshold Heart-Rate Testing Protocol

Enjoy while I torture my brain.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Everybody poops

Whoa, what an article. Just came across this collection of stories, I can't even remember how, a link leads to another link, etc. http://espn.go.com/espn/print?id=5651802&type=story

The stories are intertwined, hard to find an excerpt that does this article justice, so here's what I found.
"Nothing can knock a superhuman athlete down to earth as quickly and severely as poop. That's the power of poop.
In other words, poop is the great equalizer. The fact that it happens so frequently, and publicly, to athletes in action creates a toxic paradox that, just like a triple bacon gordita, we don't exactly know how to process. This entire issue of The Magazine is proof of how we, as a society, regard athletes' bodies as the ideal representation of the human form. We hate and hide defecation because, as Freud said, it reminds us that we aren't, in fact, pure spiritual beings; we inhabit physical forms that are flawed, organic and, in the case of the New Orleans Saints, pretty dang nasty."
For the rest, which is very informative and well written, follow the link.

I just hope it will never happen to me. Ever.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Ride for Heart 50K Report

The year continues with the "firsts" and this one was my first ever Ride for Heart "group bike ride" benefiting the Heart and Stroke Foundation, where there were somewhere around 13,000 people in the "group", heh. I'm not going to call it a race because there was no competitive aspect to it, no chip, no rankings, aside from people like me who were pretty competitive with themselves for using this opportunity as a training tool or for going after personal bests. Of course, I had nothing to compare it with, other than my last week's 55km ride in my countryside, so I took it pretty chill for about 10 min, chatting with my friend Carol and enjoying the Toronto sightings outside the regular traffic jams. But then hubbs, who was participating as well with my old hybrid bike that he adopted after I got Neo, took off and I had the challenge of catching with him, if only I could. I tried to stay in the triathlon mindset and not go all out on the bike, but I also did not stop at all until 5-10km before the end when I finally decided to take some pictures. Thankfully the rain held off and by then a gorgeous blue sky was clearing before my eyes and I couldn't resist to capture the Gardiner Expressway filled with cyclists instead of cars.

The ride itself was only 45-46km instead of the advertised 50km, but because we parked our car along the Lakeshore, we managed to do 50km in total with the back and forth to Exhibition Place where the start/end was. I finished in 1h50 which was my fastest ride thus far outdoors, even though I took it easy for about 20min. Pretty happy with the time and with the fact that hubbs and I managed to raise a bit of money for the Heart and Stroke foundation, thanks to our generous supporter friends and colleagues.

I can't wait to do it again for the Toronto Triathlon Festival, 48 days from now! I was surprised at how much I enjoyed going downhill. For once I had no fear whatsoever even though I was doing over 50km/h. I think I am becoming an adrenaline junkie. On your leeeeeft!

Here's the Runkeeper activity, which I took from hubbs and modified to match my own times because mine vanished after resuming from a pause on the parking lot once I got back to my car. Only the last 20 seconds were found, which almost put me into a temper tantrum, but I was way too tired to even bother.

I would run to you

Last weekend we were chillaxing at home watching TV with the boys and decided to tune into the Prefontaine Classic meet that took place in Eugene, Oregon. My younger son is interested in starting track and field this year and of course, watching some of the best athletes is pretty inspiring for a young fella. But in between finals, we stumbled upon the latest Nike commercial and we all loved it. I found the 3 min version of this video thanks to Steve, so you can enjoy the full story too. There you go, I bet this will make you smile.