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!

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!

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  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.

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.

Triathlon Training Dashboard: Chart One

As an analyst, numbers fascinate me.  After two years of triathlon training, I feel great!  I feel even better when I see my fitness improvements on a chart. This is the one of the reasons why I wanted to create a training dashboard that compliments my 2010 triathlon training plan.

This post is one in a series of posts to discuss the building of the triathlon training dashboard and the relevance of each chart and/or component.  Understanding how I built my dashboard, I hope it will inspire you to take another look at how you track your training.

As a member of Training Peaks, there are things that I like and things I don’t like about their dashboard. One of the things I do like about their dashboard is the Fitness Summary pie chart.  It shows the time and percent training spent on each of the sports like bike, run, swim, strength, etc. Below is my most recent Fitness Summary chart for the past 30 days (October 2009).  You can see that I spent the most time running, the second most time spent on strength training, etc, etc.

My Training Peaks Fitness Summary, October 2009

What I don’t like about this chart is that it lacks trending, which is a problem with all pie charts.  What I really want to know is how have these percentages changed?  While this month (or whatever time period) I spent about 45% on running, how does that compare to my training three or four month ago.  To do this, I have to turn toward an alternative workout tracking solution.

Enter Excel.  Microsoft Excel 2007 is a blank slate just waiting to be nurtured into a masterpiece by an analyst like me.  After looking at the options, I settled on a weekly summary focusing on four sports: bike, run, Swim and strength.   I also decided that not only do I need visibility into the time trained on each sport, but the distance I covered as well.  If time stays the same, yet distance increases, it is a good indication that my ability in the sport is improving.

Below is my version of a Weekly Summary.

Trending My Weekly Triathlon TrainingI use a stacked bar chart by week to indicate the amount of time spent on each sport.  This enables me to:

1) See the overall amount of time each week spent on training.
2) See how much time each sport makes during the week
3) How the time spent on sport changes over time.

Using an area chart placed behind the stacked bar chart allows me to:

1) show the distance covered in each sport.
2) trend the distance over time to identify changes
3) placing it behind the bar chart, I can easily compare time with distance.

When you put it altogether, the number of insights you can get from my combo chart above compared to the TP pie chart at the top is much more.  It is quite fascinating to see the relationships and changes in my actual training performance each week and over time.  Here are some of the interesting things I see in this chart:

1) in the past three weeks, I have almost doubled the run distance compared to week 36 and 37 (time spent running has also increased).
2) the past three weeks, I have not done many bike workouts at all.
3) the amount of time spent on strength training is consistent week over week.
4) swim time has become more consistent, but I need to spend more time in the pool.

Has anyone noticed something missing on the area chart?  Yep, that is right, Swim distance is non-existent.  This is on purpose for two reasons:  1) plotting 975 yards on the graph with these scales would throw off the rest of the data (one solution is to convert yards to miles) and 2) time spent in the pool focuses on technique, not covering distance and I don’t count laps when I practice, meaning distance is irrelevant at the moment.

Seeing your training on a graph is not only a great accountability tool, but it also drives inspiration.  I can see how far my training has come and I want to see how far I can take it!

Can you visualize your training week over week like I outlined here?

Please stay tuned for the next post in this series…

Update:  I started a company called TrainingMetrix, that specializes in fitness dashboards, workout tracking, and focused performance for triathletes based on my frustration for finding a solution.  Please head over to our blog for more information on fitness dashboards and triathlon workout tracking.

If you are a data oriented triathlete like myself, you might also want to read, Triathlon Results and Their Story, where I plot the results of my division for the 2009 Carpinteria Triathlon.