Running in the Oven


Summer is here!  Today, Santa Barbara is having the perfect Fourth of July weekend weather with brilliant sunshine, perfect 74 degree temperature and access to parks, waterfront and shopping.

As I was reminded during this morning’s run, running in warmer temperatures can be a challenge.  In fact, running along the waterfront this morning in direct sunlight and light humidity, I really felt like I was running in an oven.

So, I would like to offer some tips to help running in the oven a bit more fun and less likely to do you in.  Here we go:

  • Wear breathable, light colored clothing

    • I would not recommend wearing a black, cotton t-shirt, but I would recommend wearing a moisture wicking white t-shirt and grey shorts.  The idea is to wear clothes that will keep you cool through wicking sweat away from your skin while being light in color to reflect the sun’s rays.  I am a huge fan of Champion’s line of active gear.
  • Drink lots of water

    •  This is a no brainer.  If you dehydrate, your body will shut down and you could probably die.  In addition, the body dehydrates a lot quicker the higher temperature.  So, bring plenty of water with you and consume it regularly.  I run with an Ultimate Direction waist pack which is enough for shorter runs (6k).
  • Don’t over do it!

    • Be realistic, especially for the first few runs of the summer. When running in higher temperatures, run at a slightly slower pace.  This will prevent your body from overheating prematurely and requires less water. The slower pace might mean a longer run, but you will be building endurance as well as giving yourself time to enjoy the summer scenery!
  • Wear sunblock and a light colored hat.

    • Skin cancer sucks.  Avoid it by using a good quality sunscreen of SPF 45+.  You should also wear a light colored hat with a wide brim to keep the sun off your face and neck.  A baseball cap might be preferable by most runners, but it leaves your neck exposed, so use an extender with the baseball cap to protect your neck.

Follow these simple tips and you will be enjoying summer time running without the feeling of running through an oven.   What are you waiting for?  Go for it!

My Day of Enlightenment


Over the next few weeks, I will be bringing you snippets of some of the more memorable moments during my 18 month journey from office potato to triathlete.   These snippets aren’t currently included in the AricInTraining archives and more dear to my heart.  They will be a part of the book I am writing about my journey, yet to be named.  So here is the first snippet:

Workouts can be great.  Workouts can also be miserable.  For the past few months I had dedicated myself to strength and cross training workouts.  I was feeling pretty good, although the “struggle” seemed to be at a stalemate.  As you workout, you build aerobic capacity, strength, and improve your metabolism.   This is progress in the world of fitness.

So why was I struggling so much to run to a stop sign?  A day in March 2009 proved to be one of those “gotcha” days where suddenly things make a lot more sense.   My trainer had this ability to shake up the workouts and surprise me with some new and obscene way to torture my body.

On this particular day in March, the torture test consisted of a brief strength workout, followed by an outdoor run to the stop sign at the end of the block and back.  This wasn’t the first time and I hated how I felt when I ran this course, a 1/8th mile out in an increasing slope uphill, followed by a downhill sprint back.  Running at this point was very painful, my legs easily cramped up, with my muscles so tight, I couldn’t walk, my breathe so short that I was gasping for air, and my blood boiled to the point I thought my skin was going to melt write off.

And that day in March was no better, in fact it was worse and I was pissed.  Running the first 1/16th of the mile pretty much brought my immediate demise, yet I still had an increasingly slope to the stop sign.  My trainer was yelling at me to get moving and all I could feel was my body rejecting.  Reluctantly, I pushed on to the stop sign doing the obese shuffle and walked a significant portion of the return leg, bringing home a run for the finish.  It was horrible, I couldn’t breathe, my muscles ached, and I felt like getting hit by a Mack truck might actually make me feel better.

For some reason, I looked to my trainer, who had that annoyed look, for sympathy The dialogue went something like this (I don’t remember the exact dialogue):

Me: “I thought it gets easier with time.  That sucked!”
Trainer:  Looks at me dumb-founded
Me: Staring at him, looking for any shred of sympathy, but couldn’t find any.
Trainer: “What did you have for lunch today?” smirking.
Me: “A hamburger, some fries, and an iced tea. I was running late and had to grab something.”
Trainer: Looking at me as if I was a dumb ass “Well there you go…  eat crap like that to perform like crap.  You need to start eating salads. Now, go to the stop sign and back.”
Me: I just look at him as if I was just slapped hard across the face and then tossed into a pit of piranas.

And that was the day I gave up fast food.  My brain finally correlated diet with my poor fitness and realized that workouts were just a small piece of the entire journey to triathlon.   If I wanted to progress and enjoy my workouts, shedding the pain and building fitness, I had to get my diet in order.  Once I did, I quickly lost weight and busted through plateaus over the next year.  Before I knew it, I lost 60 pounds and was actually under 200 pounds.

Despite the enormous accomplishment, I struggle even today with my diet, which influences my workout enjoyment.  If I step off the deep end too far and for too long, eating treats, refined foods and not drinking enough water, I can feel that day in March creeping back into my body and it quickly reminds me of how important eating right is to consistent progress and feeling great.

Survey: Triathlon Training Solutions


One thing that is near and dear to my heart is analytics.  The second thing that is near and dear to my heart is triathlon.  What happens when you put the two together?  Triathlon analytics that can be applied to race results, triathlon training and nutrition.

It is such a fascinating topic to me that I recently created a solution called TrainingMetrix, which is still under development.  One of the goals of TrainingMetrix is to produce the best triathlon training analysis solution that gives you the feedback to perform.  I call it focused performance.

If you currently track workouts and nutrition via a 3rd party online solution, Excel, or just a simple notebook, please take the following survey (via SurveyMonkey): Triathlon Workout Tracking Survey.  The information will help me create the next generation solution that will help you perform your best.

Cheers!

The Daylight Savings Time Triathlon Checklist


Daylights Savings Time is a little inconvenient in that we lose an hour, but it marks a great time for triathletes to conduct a reality check. With March marking the start of the triathlon season, this is a great time to run through a checklist and get ready to rumble; taking inventory of your planning and gear.  Preparedness is a huge part of a successful triathlon.

Here a few things to check to make sure your season gets off to a good start. The list is not entirely complete, but it covers the most important concepts to help you be prepared:

  • Planning
    • Have you made a list of your races and ranked them by A, B and C?
    • What are your goals?  How many people know about your goals?
    • Do you have the first few weeks of your training plan scheduled?
    • Is your gym membership renewed?  Have you paid your triathlon club dues?
    • If you are using a coach, have you communicated your races and other needs to them?
  • Swim
    • Check your goggles, are they in decent shape?  The lens too scratched? The strap worn? It might be time to replace them.
    • Do you have a skull cap that fits you well?  Skull caps can wear out and be ill-fitting.  Silicon skull caps tend to last longer than latex and have a more comfortable feel.
    • Does your suit fit?  Whether you are wearing a speedo in a pool or a wetsuit in the ocean, does it fit? Poorly fitting suits that are too large can cause access drag in the water and slow you down.
    • Do you have enough anti-chafing gel for your first triathlon? Now is the time to stock up.
    • A small amount of baby shampoo.  When applied to the inner side of the goggles, it will prevent fogging and not sting the eyes.  (Thanks coach for this tip!)
  • Cycling
    • Is your bike clean?  If it is still sitting in the corner yet to come out of winter hibernation, now is the perfect time to dust it off and get it looking sparkling again.
    • Take the bike for a ride around the block; is everything in working order?  Do the brakes work?  Is there any hesitation in shifting gears?  Make note of anything that is abnormal.
    • Take the bike in for a tune-up.  Whether or not there is anything wrong with the bike from your test ride, take it to a good bike shop and have a tune-up performed.  This will help lube bearings and make any minor adjustments.
    • When you pick up the bike, get fitted.  You would be amazed at how minor adjustments to the fit can make a huge difference in your performance and your body can change since last season.
    • Check you helmet and make sure it hasn’t been damaged or shows signs of rot and that it fits properly.  If the helmet is damaged and needs to be replaced, it will be obvious.  Make sure the fit is snug and the straps are appropriately trimmed.
    • Grab your cycling shoes, shorts, and jersey and make sure they still fit.  Again, loose fitting clothes cause drag, so invest in new ones if need be, especially the shoes.
  • Run
    • Since we just took a look at your bike shoes, check your running shoes next.  Running shoes should be replaced about every 300 miles.  If they show the slightest bit of wear on the bottom, go ahead and buy a new pair, your feet with thank you.
    • Check your running shorts and shirt.  Replace if they don’t fit right or perhaps show off more than many people care to see.
    • Are you a FiveFingers wearer of the barefoot running movement?  Ah, okay, so when was the last time you washed your FiveFingers?  Maybe that is why you are running alone?
    • Adjust the fit of your hat and make sure it is snug but not tight.  Also, wash your hat.
    • Grab your running belt and make sure the zippers work and it is in good shape.  If it needs to be washed, wash it.  If it comes with matching water bottles and you’ve lost one, consider buying a new running belt as the bottles need to fit snugly into their holsters.
    • Do you have a number belt?  If so, make sure it too is in working order.  If not, toss some safety pins into your running belt.  You don’t want to arrive at a race and not have a way of securing your number to your clothing.
  • Nutrition
    • Have you made a nutrition plan? Are you going Paleo?
    • Have you documented your race fueling strategy?  If not, makes notes of how long your events are and what your caloric needs are.  You’ll have to experiment, but start by writing down a preliminary strategy and modify as you train.
    • Is your training/race fuel in your workout bag?  Nothing like leaving the house to start a long run to realize you left your fuel at home.  Always put extra bars in your workout bag.
    • Are you near your race weight?  If not, consider losing a few pounds. Your feet will thank you.
  • Transition
    • Do you have a spare towel?
    • Consider purchasing a helium filled balloon to mark your transition area for the upcoming season.  They can be re-used with a helium refill only costing a few bucks at the store.
    • Have you made your transition area checklist?  I’ll post one in coming weeks.
  • Other Stuff
    • Do you have a foam roller?  If not get one as I recommend foam rolling and stretching every night before you go to bed.
    • Purchase a RoadID.  If anything happens to you during training or a race, this simple strap can give emergency personnel much needed information at a glance.
    • Replace the batteries in your heart rate monitors and GPS devices.  I was on a long bike ride (30 miles) when my GPS’s heart rate strap battery gave out and it sucked.

I hope this list helps.  It is rather comprehensive, but there is no time like the present to give yourself a triathlete reality check and kick off your season right.   Taking a little time now to buy a few new pieces of gear and getting the bike tuned up can save you a major headache and possibly a “DNF” later.

Available at the following link is a triathlon race day equipment checklist to make sure you don’t forget any essential equipment on race day.  <Download our Triathlete_Race_Checklist>

Cheers!

PS If I left anything out, please leave me a comment or send an update to @AricInTraining on Twitter.

Triathlon Training Update – January 2011


It has been a while since I gave an update on my triathlon training.  Seems like after last year’s Carpinteria Triathlon, I went into hibernation.  For one reason or another, it was simply time to slow down, deal with life and do some regrouping.  So, the winter months were not exactly the most productive in terms of triathlon training.

But, it wasn’t like I spent the winter in bed.  In contrast to last winter where I spent quite a bit of time improving my physical side, this winter I focused more on the mental side.  I spent time reflecting on 2009 and 2010 triathlon seasons, studying “the mental edge” and positive visualization.  I learned a lot about what it meant to perform mentally whether during training or during a race.

Studying the Mental Edge

Two books helped me focus and provided some surprise inspiration.  Two of the books, “Zero Regrets” and “Spirit of the Dancing Warrior” are summarized in my post, Some Inspiration: Apolo and a Warrior.  The third book, Dan Millman’s Way of the Peaceful Warrior, is an interesting tale that parallels the other two.  Simply by being focused, in control, and breathing calmly, one can become a warrior at everything they do.

All three books have made me reconsider my approach to everything, but I am learning that becoming a warrior requires discipline, practice and even more discipline.  However, when I achieve the warrior state whether swimming, biking or running, the results are fantastic.  It is like I am transported to a land where gravity works with me, not against me and every step or stroke is pure bliss.  The hard part is getting to that state, which requires one’s mind to let go of all thoughts, step above any muscle pain and focus on breathing.  It takes practice.

C is for Consistency

Speaking of practice, my physical workouts have been sporadic.  Like I said before, life can be quite busy at times, especially during the holidays and end of year.

Daily workout score with moving average.

As you can see in the chart above, my triathlon training is rather inconsistent.  Each marker represents a workout with the value being a function of time and intensity.  Not only has the frequency of workouts dropped off, but also the intensity, starting in mid-January.  In fact, February has been dismal with more zero intensity days since I was an office potato.

The primary workout each week has been a cross training workout that combines strength with cardio training. The workout starts with intervals on the treadmill, then two circuits of strength and usually ending with more intervals on the bike or elliptical.

Weekends would include a long bike, run, swim or combination of the three.  I also started attending a group swim workout at the local pool, which proved to be highly beneficial.  Not only is it a longer pool, at 50m, but very motivational as swimming with other more competent athletes really makes me push harder.  My swim workouts have gone from 500-600 meters to well over 1 kilometer.

Going Forward

So, what’s next? Keep moving forward.  My first triathlon is the Ventura Triathlon at the end of June.  This gives me plenty of time to build my competitive spirit and get back into shape.  With the goal of completing the olympic course at the Carpinteria Triathlon in September, it is clearly time to come of hibernation and get going.  Bears can spend an entire year in their caves!

Mapping 2010 Workouts


One of the cool things about using a GPS enabled heart rate monitor, such as the Garmin 305, is that you can easily map your workouts.  Not only does this provide you with pace, distance, and elevation data, but it also gives you an entirely new source of motivation and inspiration.

Take the images below, for instance.  I took all of the data from Garmin Training Center and imported it into Google Earth.  Suddenly, in front of me was an entire year’s worth of workouts and races.   Wow…

Greater Santa Barbara and Goleta Area

You can see in the above map how concentrated my workouts are in certain areas of greater Santa Barbara/Goleta.  The waterfront of SB, to Goleta, the airport, and UCSB.  Included in this map are the UCSB Triathlon, Santa Barbara Triathlon Chardonnay 10-miler and my Jesusita Trail runs.

Looks I got around on foot and the bike, but one thing bugs me… how isolated the groups are. Perhaps, in 2011, I will have to bridge the gaps.

Carpinteria

I had some issues where Google Earth would not draw Carpinteria routes with Santa Barbara.  So, the above map is the area just off the right of the Santa Barbara/Goleta map.  Workouts in this area include the turn-around for long bike rides via the 150 and the Carpinteria Triathlon course.  Most of these workouts originated at East Beach in SB, but some started at the Carpinteria State Park.

Oxnard, Ventura and Points South

This area is where 2010 began, with the Boney Mountain Trail Run, which is mapped in the lower right of the map.  We also have the Ventura Triathlon, Strawberry Fields Triathlon and the Camarillo Duathlon (not as an official participant) mapped out as well.  Pretty exciting.

2011 Inspiration

Looking at these maps has already provided some inspiration for 2011.  As I noted before, I would love to start connecting the gaps between Goleta, Santa Barbara and Ventura.  This is going to mean climbing some gnarly hills, many, many more miles on foot and on the bike.  But then endurance athletes are known for their insane abilities.

I seriously can’t wait until next year, when I can review the 2011 maps and see where I have been.  Who knows, maybe I’ll get some training in outside of California!

Pace Strategy: A Saturday Run Workout Example


Pace strategy during any event, be it a triathlon, basketball game, or speed skating, plays a very large part in the outcome of your event.   Perform at a lower pace and you might be out run by your competitors without the ability to make a come back.  Perform too fast and you may exhaust yourself prematurely.   Finding the balance is where practice and analysis comes in.

My Run Workout

Saturday’s run was an endurance run, meaning slow and steady for a longer distance.  I was a little nervous going into this workout since the longest I had run following the sprained ankle was a 5k (33min).  This workout was expected to last one hour and cover at least 5 miles, hopefully more.   I wasn’t sure if my body was able to go the distance.

Pace, what is that?

I started out like I usually do, letting my body go as I don’t have much reference for pace when starting out.  It always feels like I am running slower than I really am.   And like usual, I was fast. Check out the split times in the chart below:

Let’s take a look at some highlights that you can see in the chart above:

  1. The first half of the run had a more sporadic pace than the second half. In fact, the second mile was more of an interval workout with fast pace for 0.25 mile and then a fast walk.
  2. The third split (2.35), was painfully slow as I was exhausted and walked up a long, shallow hill to Shoreline Park.
  3. In the latter half of the chart (3.35 and above), the more consistent helped moderate the heart rate, which was slowly climbing.
  4. The slowly climbing heart rate in the latter half of the chart, indicates that I was running above my true endurance pace.

One chart, lots to digest.  I think it proves that pace strategy is the largest determinant of success in running.  Had I taken it slower on the first half of the run, the latter would have been a lot easier and I wouldn’t have felt so exhuasted.

Why did it happen?

So why didn’t I take it easy?  Two reasons:

  1. I just started and didn’t have a sense of pace. – Yep, when I first start running, my body wants to go and it feels like I am running slower than I really am.  It takes a mile or two before I can start to moderate my own pace based on feel.  Solution: Run for ten minutes prior as warm-up and use my GPS to measure my pace initially.
  2. I listen to my iPod.  Listening to techno (Scooter’s “Jumping All Over the World”) gets me pumped up and I want to run at the same pace as the music.  It is rather hard to separate the body from the beat.  Solution: Find a slower paced songs for an endurance run.  Something like Podrunner mixes might work.

The next time you go out and run, keep in mind your pace strategy, it’ll save your run.  In fact, it could even save your triathlon.