Triathlon Training Dashboard: Chart Two


In my first installment on the topic of creating a triathlon training dashboard, I discussed a few issues surrounding the data, some challenges with metrics such as tracking intensity and some feedback on a popular online workout tracking solution.

In the time since I published the last post, an entire triathlon season has gone by and I am a little more experienced on the fitness and triathlon analytics front.  So much so, I created TrainingMetrix, LLC, a company dedicated to producing simple, yet sophisticated, analytics for athletes, triathletes, beginners, and anyone interested in fitness analytics in general.

The Purpose

Now that the shameless plug for my company has been accomplished, let’s get back to our second installment of building a training dashboard in Excel. The concept behind chart two is simply a check to see if the amount of time you are investing per day to accomplish your goals is appropriate.  The question is, “How much time am I investing each day toward my triathlon goals?”

The Chart

Chart two for the triathlon training dashboard is “Average Workout Time Per Week” seen below:

Excel ChartAs you can see, the data shows that I only spend about 20 minutes per day training.   What does this mean?  Well, it means that my triathlon goal is only worth 20 minutes per day to me, at least according to my actual time since August 1.

Chart in Context

Of course, the question will come up regarding how much time should I spending working out per week?  For a full distance triathlon, such as an Olympic, about 12 hours per week is normal.  This translates to 1:42:51 per day.  Compare this to my 0:20:26 average and it is clear that I won’t be finishing any Olympic distance triathlons anytime soon and the goal is to start increasing the daily workout time to a minimum sprint distance of 8:00:00 per week or 1:08:34 per day.

Note that I have not created a stacked series by sport, I am only looking at overall time per week.   The high level metric wouldn’t show the same meaning broken down by sport, which make it difficult to conclude “yes” or “no” to the question of investment.   In the context of sport, the “Weekly Training Summary” chart I discussed in the first installment is appropriate for more detailed sport analysis.

But Wait…

But, you might asking yourself why the “Weekly Training Summary” chart I presented in the first part of this series wouldn’t accomplish the same task.  I thought about this as well and I think both charts deliver separate meaning.  The Weekly Training Summary chart gives perspective on where I am spending time and how it is trending over time against distance.  The “Average Workout Time Per Week” chart takes a simpler approach by asking “how much time am I investing in my training on a daily basis.” Both are similar, but they tell different stories.

The Next Installment Is…

With TrainingMetrix coming up to speed and I continue to experiment with fitness and workout analytics, there is a lot on this topic still to come.  In fact, I would like to address the issue of tracking workout intensity over time in a simple, yet sophisticated way that anyone can do without expensive software.

Until later…  Happy Triathloning!

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!

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!

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!

My Fifth Triathlon Is A Week Away!


I set the goal of finishing my first triathlon for two reasons:  1) to prove to myself that I can do something that I never thought I could do, and 2) to get myself to lose weight and get in shape.

In June 2009, I finished the Ventura Triathlon sprint course in 1hr 38min.  You can read more in my race report: Completed the Ventura Triathlon. Not only did I accomplish the two reasons above, but I caught the endurance, multisport athlete bug. There is nothing like training for three sports while pushing my body to its limits.  The question became, how far will this go?

Since completing Ventura, I completed three more triathlons; Santa Barbara sprint, Carpinteria sprint, and the 2010 UCSB Triathlon.   Four triathlons set in paradise that challenged me in many distinct ways!

The Four Triathlon Results Plotted!

While one might think a triathlon is a triathlon and once you have done one, you’ve them all.  Well, triathlons are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get (thanks Forest!). Think about the factors that have a direct result on race performance:

  1. Training Plans (quality of workouts)
  2. Nutrition (are you fueling correctly?)
  3. Coaching/Support Network (who do you train with?)
  4. Race venue (what is the course/weather like?)
  5. Mental Preparation (are your psychologically ready to endure?)
  6. Pre race preparation (did you sleep, eat, stretch before the race?)

As you can see, the same triathlon is almost impossible to replicate.  This is at the forefront of my mind as I face the 2010 Ventura Triathlon, my first repeat triathlon in my career.   Not only is this going to show how much I’ve improved over the past year, but how successfully I executed my training, how good of a support network I have, and whether or not I am mentally tougher that I was a year ago.

While I went into the 2009 event just wanting to prove to myself that I can do it, there is much more at stake for the 2010 event. Sure I can do it, but the real question is, “How well did I spend the previous year preparing for this event and how much have I improved?”  We will know on June 27th.

Stay tuned…

Triathlon Results Plotted… Finally!


The Analyst in me is very happy.  After entering the results from the 2010 UCSB Triathlon “Open” division into Excel, I finally, without further ado, present the scatter plot:

UCSB Triathlon 2010 Results

The results are available for everyone to see at SBTiming.com.  So, if you want to see exact numbers and so on, please head over there for a copy.

Otherwise, spend a little time staring at the patterns. Here is what I see:

  1. The first person out of the water didn’t even get close to placing in the top 10.
  2. Overall placement is defined more by the bike than the swim or the run.
  3. There are five groups: a. top 6, b. centered on 1:33:00, c. centered on 1:44:00, d. centered on 1:55:00, e. the rest
  4. T1 and T2 times are minuscule in comparison to other events, but when competitive, mean the difference between first and second!
  5. If you swim well, you may not do so well on the bike.  Looking at these results this way, you can quickly identify strong sports.

What else do you see?  Leave a comment if you have anything to share.

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.