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.

How Training By Ego is Disaster

As a triathlete with some pretty lofty goals, I have to pay particular attention to training smart.  This means I need to:

1) Carefully plan out a quarter (3 months) of workouts using periodization.

2) Take plenty of time for rest to let my body recover from the stresses of building.

3) Listen to my body and skip a workout when my body tells me to rest.

4) Listen carefully to my trainer, peers, and fellow triathletes to make sure I am not overdoing it.

5) Record and measure each workout’s intensity and duration, reviewing my training dashboard frequently.

The Ego Run

However, sometimes the most calculated, well planned workout goes awry.  Take my recent 8-mile run as an example.   Waking up that morning I felt sick, stressed and lacked energy.  Since I had committed to my trainer to do it, I felt compelled to do it, after all, I trust his judgement.

Arriving at the gym, I still felt a little odd and even considered calling it quits, but my ego to push through kept me on track.  Then I met my trainer and he didn’t look so good.  I asked if we should reschedule, but we agreed it would be good to push through it.

Then we stared running and at 0.86 miles it was clear that my trainer was not doing so well and neither was I.  I suggested we cut it short, but we agreed to push through it.  At just over 4 miles we both agreed that in the future, if either one of us felt the way did that morning, we would reschedule. At that point our egos deflated and we started to have fun with our pain.

It was almost like that crazy episode of Modern Family called Run For Your Wife where the husband’s ego thinks it can out do the wife’s running capability.  In the end, the husband almost kills himself but the wife let’s him win. Why?

It took us 01:33:23 to cover 8.01-miles which gives us 11:38 pace overall.  Considering we both felt like crap, my longest previously was 6.6 miles, and we stopped a few times, this was really quite a successful run.

However, in the end, we were both in need of serious recovery time.  I about threw up and had sore ankles and legs.  He looked like death and had a sore hip and ankle.

The Lesson

In retrospect, I learned that when two guys get together, egos tend to inflate and smart decisions go out the door.  We were both lucky that we didn’t come away with more serious injury.

The lesson here is to listen to your body and don’t let the ego, commitment, training plan or anything else override what your body is telling you.


The future of your entire athletic ability is at stake.


Training Summary & Review: Week 48.09

Tracking the time you spend on each sport is a great way to focus on the sports that need improvement the most while also holding yourself accountable.  Since triathlons are really all about combining sports, tracking your triathlon training in the same way provides awesome visibility into your progress.

Without further ado, here is the most recent training summary chart by week:

Weekly Training Summary through week 48

Week 48 was last week and included the Thanksgiving holiday.  I took a trip to Texas for a family reunion.  As a result, week 48 was the lightest training week recorded to date with just over one hour and half.  This included:

A) a single strength workout (thanks Chris for squeezing it in!)

B) Three runs, totaling almost six miles (2 1.4-mi runs and one 2.8-mi endurance run)

The bad thing is the lack of swim time.  In fact, I haven’t been in the pool in two weeks. At this point, my lack of swimming ability is my biggest hurdle to a competitive triathlon time and the biggest thing preventing me from competing in a long course in 2010.  This must change going forward!

Here is some of my triathlon training strategy that I hope to work into a revised plan going forward:

A) Maintain the three run workouts each week.
B) 5 days of cardio workout
C) One off/recovery day
D) 2-3 strength workouts per week
E) Focus on swim technique and breathing ability at least twice per week

These five things look like this when you plot it out over the week:

Example workout triathlon training plan
With one day off, the other six are quite full.

To make it work, I had to double up on some days.  The long run on Sunday with a strength workout seems a bit extreme, but with Monday as an “off” day, I think it is doable.

Now that I have the basic structure of the plan down, it is time to plot it out for the entire year of 2010.  Then I have to figure out distance progression and how I want to handle periodization. Of course, first, it would help if I publish my goals so you all can see what I am planning to participate in next year.  All in due time…


Triathlon Training, Security Guards and Football

You might be wondering what triathlon training, security guards and football are doing in the same headline of this post.  They certainly don’t have much in common do they? Just keep reading.

When I left the house this morning for work, I planned on having my first speed workout for running this evening.  Last night, I programmed the Garmin 305 with the distances and paces so that I could accurately measure the 3×800’s at 10:00 pace.

So, after work, I hit the gym like I usually do.  This gives me a moment to wind down and start focusing on my run.  It also gives me an opportunity to change, foam roll and stretch.

Challenge Number One

After I stretched out, filled my water bottle and started packing up my gym bag, I suddenly realized that my Garmin 305 was no where to be found!

“Oh no! Where is it?”

Well, since it wasn’t on in its usual home on the strap of my gym bag, there was only one place it could have been.  You see I was really tired last night and didn’t prepare my gym bag the night before like I usually do.  Since I had programmed the workout into it, my tiredness apparently prevented me from at least staging it with the rest of the running stuff.  AND, in my haste to get out the door this morning for work I left it on my desk.

“oh, pooh! A lot of good it does me there!”

Anyway, perseverance is a triathlete’s middle name.  We don’t let these stupid little things interrupt our training addictions.

I had my Polar heart rate monitor with me, so I could, at the least, record heart rate, kcals, and time.  From that I could extrapolate pace.  Also, I know my heart rate zones so I know how hard to run, when to rest etc.

Challenge Number Two

After  I arrived at my usual running spot, I had this crazy idea to head over to a nearby high school and run on their track.  This would help eliminate the problem of trying to guess how far I ran. At the track, I could  calculate my pace better as the goal was for each 800 to be in 5:13.

Well, the giant school bus out front of the school and all the traffic around the school should have been an indication to just keep driving. But no, I found a secret parking spot on a side street and heading toward the track.

But then I noticed the gate to the track was locked and a big truck parked on it.  Hmmm…. something is fishy and it isn’t tuna!  Then I noticed the stadium lights were on.  I thought that was pretty nice of them to turn the lights on for me.  But, I kept walking and noticed that the next gate was locked too.

You have to remember that I am wearing dark sunglasses, a white hat, black track pants and a dark blue shirt.  I am certain I would be suspicious of me too.  The security guard definitely was!

Just after I noticed a number of camera men stationed around the track and the high school football team on the field, did I hear the security guard screaming at me.  Something about trespassing…  but I couldn’t tell because all I saw in slow motion was the long, billy club come out of her holster and it started swinging in my direction. (I think she thought she was Clint Eastwood; kill first, then ask questions).

I asked her why the gate was open and what the event was.  Apparently, everyone in Goleta knew there was a game tonight but me.  I live in Santa Barbara so, go figure.    Swinging the club, she asked me to leave or else she will call the police.  This is ironic because during this entire 30 seconds, about a dozen other people came through the same gate and hopped the fence right in front of her which made the camera guy yell about disrupting his shot.  Sure, pick on the dude from Santa Barbara.

In retrospect, this problem gave me an idea… create a calendar of availability for all of the tracks in the greater Goleta and Santa Barbara area.  I certainly would like to know when I should avoid going to a track due to an event; could have saved me the pleasure of meeting Bertha and her billy club.

Finally, The Run

At this time, I felt like this run was doomed from the moment I realized I left the gps on my desk.  However, I was there, the car was in a safe place and I had a lower middle class neighborhood in Goleta to explore.  So, I started out running a route that I had run before.

The idea was to get my heart rate up for about a half mile, then recover and repeat.  Since I had no indication of distance or speed, this structure went out the door rather quickly.  I did continue to run until the heart rate reached 180, jogged until it came back down to 160, and then ran to 180 again.

In the end, I only did this three times, covering 2.36 miles in 26:08 (11:04 pace, 165/181 hr).  While I didn’t go as far as I wanted, at least I didn’t let the circumstances prevent me from getting in a workout.

Now you now why triathletes have such perseverance.  You also now know what triathlon training, security guards and football have in common.

If you are interested in more about my experience with running, please check out From Office Potato to Runner, Part 1

Triathlon Results and Their Story

As an analyst, I love numbers and what they can tell you.  It isn’t necessarily the numbers themselves that are so fascinating, but their relationship to one another.  Be it a trend or a comparison of categories.

After completing the Carpinteria Triathlon sprint course and my trainer pointing out the interesting fact that I was just 19 seconds away from a top five finish on the bike course in my division, I got really curious about how I compared on the other sports and transitions.  After some work and lots of ETL, I produced the graph below:

Carp Tri Short Course, Men 30 to 34 Results
Carp Tri Short Course, Men 30 to 34 Results

As you can see, I placed 20th overall in my division, despite the above average finish on the bike course.  Here are some interesting tidbits:

1) If you notice that I am the only one with a run time slower than my bike time (orange triangle below green dot).

2) I was dead last on the run.

3) My triathlon transition times, T1 and T2 are more inline with the top 10 finishers than others finishing at the back of the pack. In fact, I had a better T1 time than the winner.

4) For the top 10 finishers, the swim times were close, likely within a minute of each other.

5) As well, for the top finishers, their bike times were about five minutes greater than their run times.

6) What is up with place 8 & 9, with such long bike times?  Given their very competitive swim times, I would say these were probably really good swimmers that recently started triathlons, so they haven’t developed their cycling muscles yet.

7) Notice how consistent the top 8 places are and how inconsistent the bottom 16 are.  I would be interested in reviewing their nutrition and training plans to see how the top compares to the bottom.  Do the top places have a triathlon coach, where the bottom half do not?  Would be interesting to dig more here.

So what does all of this mean?  It means that I can be a very competitive triathlete.  My approach going into the run course at was slow and finish steady, when it really should have been give it my all and finish mid-pack.   Going forward, these results influence my 2010 training plan.  Here is what I need to do:

1) Learn to swim efficiently.  Side stroke is slow and requires a lot of energy from the legs, putting me at a disadvantage.

2) Improve my run time by building better endurance.  Completing #1 above, will already help me here, but more long distance endurance training and speed work is a must.

Now you know why, as an analyst, why I am so fascinated by numbers.  They tend to tell you a story.  Are you listening?

Visualizing a Training Plan

As I start building my training plan for 2010 for the fourth time, I quickly realized that my problem with producing the plan is that I can’t visualize the progress. This is a problem with with the example plan that my trainer shared with me a while back.

I can see the progression of the endurance phase, that is just a matter of increasing bike/run distances each workout.  But when you move into speed and intensity workouts, how do you show the progress visually?  Training Peaks WKO+ software uses an rTSS metric derived from a number of variables.  The purpose is to normalize every run so that you can compare it to other runs despite route, elevation, weather, etc.

What does progress look like for each training phase?
What does progress look like for each training phase?

It is something like this that I think I need to develop for myself that shows the progress of intensity, yet handles more simplistic endurance progress.  If I can find something that can show intensity/distance/etc/etc of strength workouts, bike workouts, swim workouts, and run workouts all on the same playing field, I think I would find my missing link.

Clearly something like this does not exist.  As I mentioned before, Training Peaks offers something close, but I am unwilling to spend the $100 just to test it. Besides, I am on a Mac, which they don’t support.

Visualizing a triathlon training plan…  not as easy as it sounds!

Does anyone have any suggestions?