Reflecting: What an Awesome Year 2011 Was!


On this New Year’s Eve, I can’t help but reflect on how much I’ve grown in 2011 and how awesome the year was.   While 2009 was the year of firsts and 2010 was the year of obsessive burnout, 2011 was the year of balance.  Here are some of my best, and not so best, moments.

September 2011 – Carpinteria Triathlon Sprint

The Carpinteria Triathlon is my favorite triathlon.  Period.  It was very fitting that this year was the first year that I swam the entire ocean swim freestyle.  No more side stroke and kicking with my legs.  This translated to more energy and a much improved run time.  While still not a PR, my finish time proved that swimming efficiently has a great impact on the other two sports!  Read my race report here.

Camarillo Duathlon – August 2011

The Camarillo Duathlon was the event that I’ve been eying since I set my goal to complete my first triathlon a few years ago.  Whether it was cancellations or my travel schedule, I was never able to make it to the event.  Feeling the need to reconnect with myself, I got myself down to Camarillo and had a great time.  Even though I did the sprint, this event drove home how much I love competing and no matter how busy the schedule gets, I must make time to compete and keep up with my training. Read my race report here.

Santa Barbara Triathlon – August 2011

The home town event was a wake up call.  Having come off the Camarillo Duathlon, it was time to get back in the water and finish my first tri of the season.  At the Santa Barbara Triathlon, wasn’t prepared for the embarrassment, a product of my lack of training (particularly ocean swims), poor dietary choices, and busy schedule.  Seeing the pictures of me with a farmer’s tan wearing a race jersey two sizes too small is highly motivating to get back to my 2009 level of fitness.  Read my race report here.

Next Generation Fitness Analytics: TrainingMetrix, LLC

2011 was also the year that I turned my passion for data, analytics, and fitness into a reality.  By forming an LLC dedicated to helping athletes of all types leverage workout data with analytics, I found my calling.  TrainingMetrix is the product of what I couldn’t find. Over the past few years I had struggled to find an analytic solution that worked for me, so I built one using Excel.  I am now in the process of turning this into a marketable Excel template and web app.  Check out TrainingMetrix.

2012 and Beyond

I am looking toward 2012 with great inspiration.  I see the next year as a blank slate for some pretty awesome things to happen on.  From expanding TrainingMetrix to completing my first long course triathlon (yep, I am going long!), to even holding my own duathlon as race director, I am planning to reach high and never look back.

I hope all of my readers can look back on 2011 and come away with some awesome moments.  If you have some less than awesome moments you can’t shake, leverage them for the better and look forward.

Happy New Year to all!  Let’s make 2012 the best year ever!

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!

Building a Triathlon Training Dashboard


A number of posts back, I talked about the creation of a triathlon training dashboard that would help me track my workouts and training status. I viewed the creation of this dashboard as an essential part of my training, after all keeping logs and journals during any fitness journey can provide inspiration and help identify key areas of focus. Keeping track of your workouts, goals, and performance is a very important part of triathlon training.

As an Analyst by day, I understand the importance of tracking metrics that drive success as well as drilling down into the meaning behind them.  Just like when I drill down into Sales to understand a change in pattern, drilling down into my own life and training is just as important to help me do my best at the next triathlon.

The original goal of the dashboard was to summarize all of the different components that drive performance in a triathlon or workout and track them as I worked toward my goals. My thought was to take these key metrics of workout intensity, duration, nutritional intake, and even life components like stress and sleep quality, record them in Excel and have them automatically roll-up into a series of charts.  The training dashboard would then be a combination of nutrition and workouts in a single view that helped me understand how I was tracking toward goals.  And, if I was off pace for goals, a drill down capability to figure out where I was going wrong… was it nutrition?  was it lack of sleep?  what was causing my lack of true performance?

While the dashboard I was building in Excel was always considered to be a work in progress, it never developed much beyond helping me understand:

  1. how much time was spending on training by sport
  2. how my running pace and cycling speed was improving
  3. what my focus was for the week
  4. when my next race occurred

The bulk of my nutrition and workout data was still being analyzed in Training Peaks as Premium subscriber. While the Training Peaks solution offers a great way to summarize and share workouts and nutrition data, it does not do a very good job of putting it all together.  Each area of focus still reside in their respective charts and it is very difficult to correlate a poor diet back to a decrease in performance.

As I continue to develop my personal Excel training dashboard, I must recognize where I have been struggling and why it is not easy to create a brilliant dashboard for triathletes or any other athlete for that matter. Here is why:

  1. Capturing workout intensity is a mathematical formula that is very difficult to capture.  In fact, Training Peaks developed their own proprietary formula that uses a number of data points to calculate a Training Stress Score (TSS) that rates the workout.   The best I have come up with is a factor of time and heart rate.  This is the biggest obstacle.
  2. Capturing life variables such as stress, sleep quality and positive visualization in an objective manner is difficult.  While I can easily record a point score for each variable in Excel and average them in my dashboard, the score I assign is based on a relative feeling against yesterday or the day before.  Since I have never experienced “worst” stress, how do I know what it really is?
  3. Normalizing component scores so they roll up into a single score.  My life metrics, nutritional scoring, and workout intensity scoring are all on scales.  To roll them up, I need to make sure each metric is weighted correctly.

Solving these issues will help me cross some major hurdles and reinvigorate life into my existing dashboard.  I hope to, in the future, automate and possibly market the dashboard to my readers.  I really think that Training Peaks and other solutions have yet to truly deliver on triathlon training analytics, let alone deliver a meaningful triathlon training dashboard.  After all, Training Peaks was built for cyclists, not triathletes.

*Update, 10/24/2011 – After working on various training dashboards in Excel, I decided it was time to share them with the public.  I founded a company called TrainingMetrix, LLC, with the purpose of bringing simple, yet sophisticated training analysis to athletes of all types, include triathletes.  Check out our community for more information.

If you are interested in helping me out with this project and/or interested in testing a beta dashboard, please email me at:  aricrmh ‘at’ gmail ‘dot’ com.

For more posts on triathlon training dashboard, please click here.

Stay tuned for more exciting things to come!

2010 Santa Barbara Triathlon Results Plotted!


As an Analyst, I love data and I love understanding patterns.  So, after finishing my 7th triathlon, the Santa Barbara Triathlon sprint, recently, I decided to do some analysis.  Check out the scatter plot below: (results here)

If you participated in this event, can you find yourself in the chart?

Seems like that group placing at the end really set themselves apart from the rest of the finishers.  Regardless of their finishing place, I am sure they had fun and I congratulate them on finishing the triathlon.

Another interesting thing is how tight the top 50 finishers are. From swim to T1, through Bike, T2 and run, the difference between places is just a matter of seconds.

Also, look at the distribution of T1 vs T2 times.  T2 seems much more consistent across the participants than T1.  Perhaps changing shoes is a much more consistent event than, say, removing a wetsuit and getting dressed.   Fascinating…

One of things that I keep hearing about this year’s event was that it was slower.  I personally took four minutes longer to finish the “same” course as last year (however, I had the flu).  So, the Analyst in me wants to prove or disprove this feeling.  Was the 2010 Santa Barbara Triathlon sprint slower than 2009?  You’ll just have to check back and see.

Week 08.2010 Training Review: Burn Out


There is no one to blame, but myself. What can I say… I started 2010 off with a bang, running faster, farther, and more intense than ever.  Unfortunately, this enthusiasm didn’t translate to swimming and cycling got left on the back burner. Accommodating these other sports only led to burn out.  Burn out or not, the progress is inspiring!

Training Summary to date.

I can break the chart into four groups (from left to right):  a) Fall 2009, weeks 41 through 49, b)  Holiday period, weeks 49 through 1, and c) Winter, weeks 1 through 6, and d) burn out, weeks 7 & 8.

  • Period A was the conclusion of the 2009 season, including the Santa Barbara Duathlon.
  • Period B was when I decided to start workout toward running a marathon, working it into my triathlon training plan
  • Period C was realizing that the 2010 season is not far away, cycling and swimming had been neglected, so I really cranked up the workouts.
  • Period D suffering from a cold and extreme burn out, workouts were missed and motivation went out the door.

The nail in the coffin for my burn out was during week 5 but began in week 4.  Training really picked throughout January until week four, when bricks were introduced.  At the end of week four I not only completed a 23-mile cycling and swimming brick, but I also attend a class at the gym called Ripped, which gave me an additional strength workout.  Then the following day I was supposed to run 10 miles…  I barely made three!   This was the start to burn out and I did tell my trainer and we made a slight change to the plan.

RUnning progressed nicely, until burn out set in.

Week 5 was supposed to be a recovery week.  For the most part if was, but week 5 ended with a mock triathlon consisting of a 500 yd pool swim, a 18-mile cycle and a painful 5k run.  That did it, burn out was inevitable.  As much as I tried to push on at this point, I couldn’t do it.  It was at this time, I started missing workouts (weeks 7 & 8), started feeling demotivated and lost perspective.  Here are some common symptoms of burn out:

  • Depression, loss of motivation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Extreme body fatigue, prolonged muscle soreness
  • Frequent sickness due to weak immune system
  • Moodiness
  • Loss of Sleep

Burn out is the body’s way of telling you that you pushed too hard for too long.  Training is an art and getting the balance right is a huge part of long-term success.   You can read more on Dealing With Overtraining and burn out, an article by Active.com.

Cycling was sporadic, then I over did it.

The most ridiculous part is that I never gave myself time to recover from that first killer workout at the end of week four, despite having a few days of light recover during the first part of week 5.  No wonder the mock triathlon at the end of week 5 was so painful! I saw it coming everytime I looked at the charts above, but I was in denial. My trainer kept pushing me to go harder; no pain, no gain.  Peer pressure wanted me to keep up, and I lost grasp of the reasons for doing this.

What would I have done differently? Taken week 5 off completely until my body was ready to continue and rework the training plan to accommodate regular cycling workouts, more regular swimming workouts and follow the 3 week build, one week recovery model to the teeth.

The sad part is that burn out led to my decision to not compete in the UCSB Triathlon (post: Don’t Forget the Journey).

Since it has been two weeks since my last full week of training, I am starting to feel more motivated again.  A huge part of me is very nervous about going back to training as hard as I did previously.  Is it really worth it?  I really want to train because I enjoy it, not because I have an event coming up and want to kick ass at it.  It is the people, the memories, the experience, and the joy that I want from this journey, not the most number of bibs.

Going forward, I will take another week of recovery, doing light swim, bike, and running workouts as I feel the body can accommodate them.  I will also continue to build out my detailed triathlon training dashboard, including nutrition charts, goals, and various metrics that will help alleviate burn out.  Above all, recognize that this isn’t a race… triathlons are plentiful and there is always next year.  Smart training leads to fun, joyful success.

How Is Cycling Performance These Days?


Cycling is something that I have enjoyed all my life.  For three of my four college years, I didn’t even own a car, riding my bike just about everywhere I needed to go.   Even after college, cycling became an enjoyable, albeit, infrequent stress reliever. So when I started triathlon training back in 2007, cycling was my strongest event, allowing me to focus on running and swimming.

However, things have changed a bit over the past few months.  In fact, running is now on par with my cycling.  While this means that my running have improved greatly, cycling has not had the attention needed to grow as much as running has.

Let’s review the chart below, illustrating cycling workouts since I participated in the Carpinteria Triathlon on 9/27/09.

Cycling Performance Since 9/27/09
Cycling workouts since 9/27/09

My reaction to this chart is a little like, “what have I been doing?”  Note that each dot on the red average speed line represents a workout (you can see the lack of workouts in November, January).  Here are a few things that are pertinent to this post:

  1. I finished the 2009 season strong, but dropped the ball on base cycling training throughout the fall/winter.
  2. Starting up again in December, distance was 50% higher than before.  Where is the build phase?
  3. While cycling distance has doubled, average speed and heart metrics are not too crazy, which means I am in better shape than I was before.

So how is my performance these days?  Ok, but not great.  Coming up on March 21st is the UCSB Triathlon which consists of a 0.5 mile ocean swim, a 16 mile bike, and a 10k run.  This will be my largest triathlon event yet and I am not feeling great about it and the chart above is partially why.   Time to get my act together and start training like a triathlete; not a runner; not a swimmer.

Going forward, workouts need to include at least one long cycling workout, two run workouts, three swim workouts (ocean) and whatever strength workouts I can fit in between.  My gut reaction to this is, “Geez…  that is a lot! When do I get to sleep, work, and live life?”  I guess the answer lies in, “how bad do I want this?”

When was the last time you found yourself frustrated with your training?  How often do you find scheduling/time constraints impact your training?

Week 52.2009 Training Summary


Triathlon training summaries are a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, you get to see your progress and gloat about your accomplishments.  On the other hand, you often start to see bitter realities that don’t make you so proud.  However you end up looking at it, the exercise of reviewing your training, your progress, and your goals weekly is essential.

The last time I reviewed my weekly training summary at Aric In Training, we four weeks ago, week 48.2009.  At that point, I was talking about putting my plan together, focusing on periodization, and publishing my goals (I owe you my goals… I know).  The whole idea was smart triathlon training for 2010.  Something went wrong in the past four weeks…

The Chart

Looking at this week’s chart, one will be shocked.

Week Triathlon Training Summary Chart
Wow, quite an increase in training time!

Wow. Check out that four week increase in training time since Thanksgiving week (48).  Each increase represents a substantial increase each week:

  1. Week 49 Increase: 125%
  2. Week 50 Increase: 25%
  3. Week 51 Increase: 19%
  4. Week 52 Increase: 12%

The 12% increase this week does not seem like a lot.  In fact, a 10% increase week over week is not unheard of in the fitness industry, but 25% is hefty!   The 12% on top of 19% and 25% is just plain ugly.

The Reality

So what happened?

  1. Substantial increase in run distance, which increases the overall training time. In fact, run distance in the past month has almost doubled. Sick!
    1. This week I had: 1) 4 mile tempo run, 6 mile speed workout, 8 mile “long run”
    2. The 8 mile long run was pace focused (sub 11:30) so most of the run was in zone 3, carb burning zone and I bonked quickly.  Long runs should be endurance runs where fat burn is key.
  2. What you don’t see is the intensity of the 17.5 mile bike ride on Dec. 25th.  With just one bike ride per week now back in the training plan, I would expect there to be an increase in time, but the ride should be easy, not hard.
  3. Swim time and strength workouts are being used as recovery days, not necessarily the ideal purpose for them.
  4. Goals were switched around.  I feel like I gave into peer to pressure as my trainer and and another client seem to be racing fast and hard to compete in a half marathon in March.  Getting sucked into the excitement was a bad decision on my part. Yes, I am competitive, but being competitive is not always smart.

But there is some good news.  Focusing on my running workouts week over week, one can see that I am progressing quite nicely.  Even with a substantial increase in distance, my average weekly run pace continues to improve.

Weekly Run Distance and Pace Chart
Distance Increases as Pace Improves

How do I feel?  Pretty good actually.  My muscles are definitely tired from today’s 8 mile run and I feel a little stressed as I have been trying to do so much… any yet the dishes still aren’t done.   It feels great to push the body a bit…  that runner’s high is amazing, but I am starting to feel like I am pushing too much.  Fatigue is settling in.

While I can go on and on giving insight into my training week, I think the above four items summarize what went wrong.  To sum up in two words:  lost focus.  Giving into peer pressure to participate and prepare for an event that is not on MY A-list is pulling me toward failure. I have so much to build on, it would be a shame to loose my momentum now.

Going Forward

One word: regroup.  AFter looking at my Facebook page tonight, I am hearing loud and clear that I am pushing my training too far.  My summary chart shows it, my body feels it, my friends say it, and my goals tell me to train smart.

Tomorrow, Monday, is a 100% rest day, as planned.  Then I will review my training plan and consider what it means to train for my A-list events.  What do I want from my 2010 season?  Smart training, competitive races, and enjoyable fun!

After reviewing the training plan, I need to take some further data points.  On 10/24, I ran 2-miles at 10:00 pace with a resulting heart rate of 162.  Doing a test this week will help me understand how my heart has improved its ability to sustain effort.  I hope to see it under 160??

Of course, I also need to talk to my trainer.  While he has been pushing me to train for the half marathon (afterall, I told him I was interested in doing it), I need to communicate my hesitation toward continuing at such a high level of training.

In addition, nutrition is the key.  While my nutrition has improved ten fold over the past two years, I will be honest that there is still room for improvement.  Focusing on eating simpler, nutritious meals that fuel me to perform is a huge priority.  You can read more about my nutrition experiences at Fitness and Food, A New Reality.

Lastly, going forward, all long runs, need to be heart rate runs, focusing on keeping my heart rate in zone 1 and 2 for the entire run.  Sure I can do 8 miles, but I can do 8 miles at a pace that teaches my body to burn fat, not carb.

Summary of the Summary

Staying on the current trajectory is going to lead to problems.  I felt it, saw it coming and now sit in my own reality of over-training.  Time to pull it back, regroup, refocus and stay true to what 2010 will deliver if I train smart.   Triathlon training is an awesome thing and is focused around goals, not my own made up peer pressure and ego.