Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Workout With a Clock

This was the first race of the season for me. Albeit more of a training interval since it was not really an ‘official’ race. This would be the second year that the club has done this event and it looked like it might be a tad chilly. Upon arrival, it seemed like there were very few people showing up at all. But as the morning progressed, cars started arriving. I have to say that when I woke up and saw that it was 23 degrees, I knew that people might be a tad nervous. But I also now that there are a lot of people who say thay will do a race, and then look for every and any excuse not to do it. I have this feeling come on when my feet are in the water at the start of a race. I knew it would warm up, but 8:00 is still pretty early.

By the time the race started, there were 7 of us. Mostly bundled up for the temp. it was… not what it would be. Fortunately Mark held the start a few minutes (40 to be exact) before firing the start gun, or saying ‘go.’ Once 8:00 came, it just kept warming up. Each 15 minutes the temp seemed to climb a few degrees. So by the time we started it was probably about 35 degrees. Granted, still cold, but the race was only going to be about an hour, and ½ that was running. So I layered up with some lycra and a scull cap for the bike. This would be the one and only race I would be able to wear my new TIMEX skin suit since it was from last year. But it had the most leg coverage and was a little bigger on me which allowed for an extra layer. Not to mention I think I sold everything else on ebay. The only parts I get a little concerned about are my hands and feet. I wore some cotton gloves on the hands and I put some socks on the outside of my cycling shoes of the toes. I just wrapped them around the toes and as much as the pedal and they just stuck there. I was very surprised how warm my feet stayed by doing this. I think it blocked the wind just enough and created enough dead air space to maintain some heat. Regardless, my feet stayed quite warm on the bike.

The field lined up on the start line… we all got in the front row with plenty of room. Mark did a countdown from 5, but had to stop at 3 because of some technical difficulties. But then maintained his count. And then the first ‘GO’ of the season came. We all took off and the 2nd Annual WWC was underway. Now, I have to say that busting your butt in a training race with 7 people is a tall order. I was wondering if I would really go at my race pace. But I really wanted to get some idea as to my current fitness. I knew that this illness had taken some out of me, but jut how much? Would I mentally be able to push myself hard enough to get some good information? I took off pretty quickly and settled into a pace that felt pretty close to a race pace for me. Granted, I did not have someone in front of me that was pushing me to go a bit faster, but I was working. I hit the 1 mile mark and started coming back. The way back is mostly a gradual downhill so it feels pretty good and fast. I was able to maintain a high intensity the entire run, but did not know my run split.

I came into T1 and things just seemed to come pretty naturally. But then again, it is a duathlon and all you need to do it take off your shoes and put on a helmet. Not too much to remember. But the mount went well, the shoes went on fine, and off I went. This I have to say was the one leg that I was most interested in because it’s a new bike and your position on the bike changes a bit when you train and race. Again, I knew that I was not at 100% of what I was before the flu, but I knew that I would get a good idea of power output and intensity. My new Trek TTX with the new Bontrager Aeolus wheels were ready to go at whatever speed I wanted to. I took off a little hot and my legs let me know. But I finally settled into a good pace. I have to say that the River Loop road was pretty beat up with frost heaves and a couple potholes that you would need to be rescued from if you hit them, or went ‘into’ them. But I managed to make it around those hazards. Initially it was supposed to be 10 miles, but I think it had always been 12 miles. So when I hit the turnaround and saw my split, I knew something was off. But it really did not matter, I was wanting to get some power data that I could use for future training.

As I was heading back I saw the rest of the racers cruising at what seemed to be a good clip. I saw Jessi in the lead group which was pretty neat to see since she has seemed to be riding well. As I rolled into T2, I was already thinking about what I was supposed to do. Get the feet out of the shoes, hope that my hands worked getting my running shoes on, and take the helmet off. All which went well with a few verbal exchanges with the people volunteering. It’s always hard to start the second run in a duathlon, or even the only run in a triathlon, when you come off the bike. You go from going 25 mph on the bike where you feel the wind against your skin and get used to that sensation. So when you start running, no matter at what speed, you feel like you are going so slow. So I try to focus on leg turnover and effort (HR). Once I settle in, I am a better judge. I never really pay attention to what my mil splits are, more on how I am feeling… and I never seem to ‘feel’ good on the run at that point. I still wanted to run a hard effort and get a good split. I made it to the turnaround and started the downhill trek back. I started to see the rest of the people and cheered them along as they were nearing the turnaround. That is one thing about these races, or any races that your friends do, is that it’s so great to see them on the course… it takes your mind off the pain a bit.

I finally saw the finish and kept it steady to the end. Now it was time to cheer others on. I knew they were out there working as hard as I was and I wanted to recognize their efforts. I ran back along the course and saw Erik and he seemed to have a pretty good clip going. Then there was Steve and Tim and then came Jessi. I started to run with her and I really did not say too much initially since I could hear the song that was playing on her iPod… it was that loud. As we got closer I gave her some words of encouragement and told her to elevate the pace here, and she did. She was truckin’ for the last 200 meters. I know she was excited to get one of these under her belt too so shake off the cobwebs. She had a great couple of runs and a solid bike. I think she was pretty happy with the day. Jim came in and so did Tracey. I think that was everyone.

Mark did a great job getting this together and pulling off another great event. I know that there were a lot volunteers that helped out too, and Kathi got a lot of supplies together and arranged to make things happen as well. Mark, and his fancy watches, was able to give each participant an accurate run, bike, and transition times, which was nice. I was not too sure where the transition ‘zone’ was, but I don’t think it made a huge difference. The splits were even posted the same day! How good is that? I guess there were not any protests, so that makes things go a bit more smoothly.

Great day, great data, and great people. Now on to the races!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Power, it’s what keeps you going

I have been asked a lot of questions about power. From what is it, to why use it, to how do I get more of it. Having used power in my training since 2004, I still feel like I have only scratched the surface of power in my training. But I can tell you that it is the one thing that has truly been a measure of what I do on the road when I ride my bike. Everyday I ride, is a little test, you could say. That does not mean I go all out every time I rode, quite the opposite.

I know that most people use their heart rate monitors and think it’s the same. But you have to remember that power, or watts, is the immediate work you are doing. Your heart rate responds to that work. And it takes your heart rate a few minutes to respond. Power, or watts, is immediate feedback based on the work you are doing. For example, when you start climbing up a hill, you generally start to produce more watts because of the increase in grade and power required to get your ‘weight’ up it. Your heart rate does no respond until a couple minutes up the hill, but you have been working at that effort since the bottom. It has just taken your cardio that long to respond. So you could be above your lactate threshold on many climbs and not really know it because you wait for your heart rate to tell you, whereas power would tell you instantly.

Power is a measure that is not impacted by health, rest, or sunny days. It is what it is. If you are producing 200 watts by drafting someone… then that is what you are producing. If you are producing 200 watts on a climb, then that is what you are producing. If you are producing 200 watts going downhill…It is what it is. So when you go and do interval training, you can immediately get into a ‘power zone’ rather than waiting for your heart rate to respond to a certain heart rate zone. Again, power is immediate, heart rate is not.

Probably the most common question people ask me is, “How much power do you generate?” or “What is your LT power?” That’s like asking someone how much they weigh and determining how fast they can knit (might be more of a positive correlation there than I think). One of the easiest ways, and commonly accepted ways, to ‘compare’ power is to divide your LT power by your weight in kilograms. There are some charts that compare this, but it does not mean you are a great cyclist or a poor one either. Just another number to compare. Because if a 100 pound cyclist produces 150 watts at their LT, and a 250 pound cyclist produces 350 watts at their LT, does that make the bigger person a better cyclist because of an increase in watt production? Not necessarily. The 100 pound cyclist produces 3.3 watts per kilogram. The 250 pound cyclist produces 3.1 watts per kilogram. So the power to weight ratio is similar, but will they ride the same speed? The lighter athlete will probably climb better and ride into headwinds better. But the larger cyclist will probably motor on the flats better and obviously go downhill better too because they do not have to deal with gravity and once they get their weight moving, they can produce a higher wattage. But turn that flat into an uphill… different story. You also have to factor in wind drag, and the bigger person obviously has more drag. But I don’t have a formula, that I simple, for that.

Now you just have to go and buy one... don't ask.

Power on…

Back from the Dead

First off, I have to say thak you all for the prayers and heart felt comments while I have been down and out. It was a tough battle, but one that I knew, in time, I would emerge from. I stayed away from medications (other than ibuprofen) as much as possible and tried to let the flu run its course. On Friday I visited the ER, and was told to hang in there. Then, 3 days later on Monday, I visited Group Health, where I was told that it still looked viral. Then again on the following Friday I went to Urgent Care after work where I was told that it looked like it had gone into a secondary bacterial infection and I was put on antibiotics. In a couple short days, I was feeling better. Over the weekend I was able to get in 2 rides and one long run. It felt good, though I was quite sore from the run since I had not run for 2 weeks…same goes for swimming. So, I am a little behind in my training, but way ahead in my recovery.

It is so important to take care of yourself when you are sick and not try to get in a little training which impedes your body from recovering. I know many of you have heard me say this, but I was told by one of my great cycling coaches back in 1986, Calvin Jones, who said, “For every day you train when you are sick, it adds on 3 more days of recovery.” Now, I don’t know how scientifically backed that is, but it seems to hold true.

So this time around, I did nothing while I was sick… not that I had a choice to. But once I was on antibiotics, I thought I might be in the clear. However, I would be lying if I did not say that I did go for one ride on my new bike at the end of my flu. I don’t think that helped at all, and I think that spawned the coughing that just would not go away and a few more days of illness... ironic huh? But I was able to ride my new steed. I was a little concerned that I would have a bad experience since I was recovering from being sick, and I would feel weak and slow. Nope… just wanted to go faster.

So now I am back in full swing, getting in all my workouts and feeling pretty good. I swam for the first time in 2 weeks today and I have to say that it did not feel all that welcoming. I did not even take splits because I did not want to know how much swimming fitness I had lost. I just did the workout and was happy to be in the pool again. Fortunately a guy, with knee length Bermuda shorts jumped in the lane next to me that kicked like a ferry boat. Needless to say, he was not going very fast, so that made me feel mentally better. Or at least I was moving faster than him.

I was able to sneak in a short run too that did not feel too great. Second run in over 2 weeks. I am still sore from my Sunday run. But that will come back eventually.

So, that is where I am. 2 weeks out from my Team Timex camp debut, missed 2 races (congrats to Ben and Michael for two amazing performances at 2 different races), and the rest of the season ahead of me. I am a little disappointed with getting sick, but that’s just a part of life. I really felt that I was making some HUGE progress in my swimming and running. And now I feel like I have lost quite a bit. But I had it once before, and I will have it again. It’s just about getting out there and doing it… and that is something that I know I can do. Well, most of the time.

Hope all of your training is going well. The race season is here. Let the fun begin.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

It's been one long week...

Fortunately for me, Jessi has done a great job of keeping most of you updated on my health, or lack of. I has been one long week for me. It all came to fruition on Tuesday when I felt this little 'scratchy' throat. It did not really feel all that bad. Normally when I get sick, my throat get quite sore fast and then it runs its course. This time, I was not feeling 100% motivated on Sunday, took Monday off of training and came home and took a 3hr nap, and then came straight home on Tuesday and went to bed knowing I was getting sick quick. Fortunate for me, Steve Miller agreed to substitute for me for the rest of the week. I knew that this flu bug has been a tough one, so I wanted to respect that. I also needed to be ready for the race in Canada that I was supposed to do on Sunday... silly pipe dream.

Wednesday came and went without much notice to me because I was in so much body pain with a headache, sweats, chills, couldn't sleep or rest. It was one of those days that I honestly wondered what people did that are 'single.' Without a support system... because I would have called the ambulance for sure.

The downer of all of this is that Tristan Brown, the Team Timex manager, busted hi hump to get me my bike and some clothes to race in for this weekend. And to be honest, I could not be further away from that with how I was feeling. I knew I was sick when I did not even want to look at my new steed and wheels and some really slick Timex clothes. I appreciate it now of course, but then, I would have old it for $10, figuratively of course. Tristan 2 Day aired it to me so I had is asap. And when I finally opened the box, it glowed with some many great things. A post for another time. I just feel so fortunate to have the support of Team Timex. They have been so good to me in such a short amount of time.

Thursday eventually came and I thought it was time to start taking some kind of medication. I went with Ibuprofen just to reduce the chills/sweats and hopefully enable me to get some fluids in me and maybe some food. In less than 12 hours, I lost 6 pounds. On Thursday, I was down 7.5 pounds. Things were not progressing at all. I called Group Health and they were booked... called the Lidgerwood GH, booked too. So I thought I would tough it out one more day. I had to start getting better.

Friday came, and I did not sleep well. I tried to rally and 'pretend' I was better. But all I could do is muster a off balanced stagger to the bathroom where I just sat on the toilet because the seat was cold and I did not think I could stand much longer. I put my face in my hands and closed my eyes thinking this might be a good place to sleep. Ya, I know, really clear thinking. Then I stumbled into the closet and laid down again. I just knew this was not good. I finally made it back to bed.

Jessi came home at about 9:00 and said she had called my dad and he was coming to get me and go to the ER. Wasn't too sure what that meant, but I went back to the bathroom to get ready.

My experience at the Sacred Heart ER was pretty humorous. You can read Jessi's blog because she posted some texts that I sent here while I was there. But in a nutshell, I checked in at 10:15am and left at about 3:15pm. In that time frame I had all my vitals taken, two q-tips rammed down to the back of my throat, 1 q-tip rammed up my nose to the base of my eye socket, gargled numbing solution, had 3 x-rays, 1 cup of liquid motrin, and 2 Styrofoam cups of water because I was dehydrated. The diagnosis? Not too sure. No strep, no flu, and no pneumonia. So what's wrong with me? Doc said that I probably had the flu, but it's probably gone. But I should be better by Monday. So I spent all this time to find out I need to wait until Monday to see how I feel? I m not feeling too confident in the medical field. I know they do their best, but I think they see so many people with the same thing that they quickly diagnose things and move on and really not taking the time to figure it out.

Saturday came with the same excitement, except I was not taking more Ibuprofen and a antihistamine as well. That helped me sleep better and I have been really trying to stay on top of that... and that has really helped. I was able to get out of the house for a short bit to watch Jessi, Steve R. and Matt C. ride out Hwy 2. It was a lot of fun to drive along and take some pics. I never was in a position that I wanted to be riding. These guys were going pretty fast, and I was out of breath just getting out of my car.

Later Saturday the Huskinsons (Jay and Michelle) stopped by and dropped off some chicken noodle soup and a very sweet card. It was so great o have that little treat. I ate it while they were here and we chatted and shared some ER stories. What a kind gesture from them.

That brings us to Sunday where the morning was pretty rough but I steadily got better as the day went on. I decided to join a small group riding from Tim S. house. They were Tim, Phaedra, Jennifer, "Tim's Friend," Steve, and me. I only wanted to test out the bike and ride easy for about an hour. These guy set a pretty stiff pace from the start, and I was just trying to figure out my positioning and trying not to get dropped. I think I ended up riding for about 1:30 and it was a gorgeous day. We'll see ho I feel tomorrow, but I was blowing my nose and spitting up quite a bit of stuff on the ride.

I got home and retreated to a hot bathtub. Then I took another nap. Still not feeling too well. But it's pretty promising when it' 6:30 now and still light. Good feeling.

A big shout out to my lovely wife who has been picking up the slack that has been created by my physical and mental absence. She has also been leaving me little snack bags near the bed with bottles or fluids and snacks for the rest of the day since she knew I would never leave the bedroom. Also for dropping off Emma and picking her up, not to mention all the other activities she has got going on not to mention training. I has been real blessing for me to not really have to worry about too much. I'm not a good patient, I tend to think I will just gt better somehow, but she is the one that ends up picking up the slack when I am sick.

Hope none of you get this bug, or one similar. It has dusted me pretty good. I hope to resume a few workouts this week, but I don't want a relapse either.