Monday, February 27, 2012

Switzerland?

I said I'd have to make some hard decisions about this trip if I wasn't running with some level of confidence by the beginning of March. Well, we're just about there.

I'm going to schedule a few more appointments with a couple of other specialists. Hopefully I can get seen some time in the next week. But unless one of them can flip a magic switch and get things working again, it doesn't really even matter any more.

This is stupid.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Setback

The past few days have been frustrating. I actually ran outside on Monday and Wednesday (first fifteen minutes, then twenty minutes) and felt pretty darn good about it. There was definitely some tightness toward the end of each run, but nothing I couldn't manage. Some quality time with a good book and a bag of ice seemed to settle things down, and then it was on to other things.

Then something happened on Thursday afternoon. My calf felt totally fine around lunchtime and then totally not fine by the time I got home from work. It's been nagging me ever since. I could even feel it on the bike today, which is definitely out-of-the-ordinary.

I'm getting pretty sick of this stupid injury. I'm also getting pretty sick of paying for specialized treatment that doesn't really seem to be working... Argh.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Riding the 165's

Ultegra 165mm crankset
As I mentioned in my previous post, I swapped out my 172.5mm standard crankset for a slightly heavier 165mm compact set. This morning, I took the new set-up out for it's first real test ride. Results were encouraging.

My pedal stroke on the new cranks is 15 millimeters shorter shorter in diameter than on my old set. This means I'm spinning smaller, faster circles. I didn't think I would notice the difference as much as I did... but my pedal stroke definitely felt a bit snappier. I definitely felt smooth, especially out in the aero extensions. I don't know that I was putting out as much power as I would've liked (this could be because my legs were already fried from Saturday's tough intervals), but I did feel a little bit faster.

Did I mention I raised my saddle 7.5 millimeters just before my ride? That doesn't sound like a whole lot, but believe me, it's nothing to scoff at. I was a bit worried while I was doing so, but after I started pedaling, everything seemed to fall into place.

Unfortunately, the most significant difference could be felt on hills - the lack of additional leverage is something I will definitely have to adjust to over time. I'm used to my cadence nearly bottoming out on hills, but with the new crank arms and smaller chainrings, I'm going to have to force myself to climb with a bit more finesse.

Getting up here hurt a lot more than it probably should have.

I'm meeting with Andrew from Bikefit on Friday to take a closer look at my position and try to optimize things a bit more. I know there's a sweet spot where comfort, aerodynamics and power output are balanced; hopefully he can nudge me closer to it.

Changes in position on the bike tend to take a while to really "sink in." I could tell today that I was using different parts of different muscles than I'm used to -- I'm pretty sore this evening! I'm sure the additional changes that we make on Friday will contribute even further to those sensations. But I'm five months away from race-day; I've got plenty of time to ease into things with the new position.

If you're looking for a verdict, I don't necessarily have one just yet. This crankset experiment is still in the data-gathering phase, but initial impressions are good.

I'll leave you with one tiny highlight from today's ride. Check out my top results on the "Tiburon Sprint" from Paradise Loop toward the roundabout. Does anything about my effort today seem promising compared to my previous bests? (Hint: I made it pretty freakin' obvious.)


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Macca 'n Me

Here's my tweet about the main set from my Friday morning swim:


Here's two-time Ironman World Champion Chris "Macca" McCormack's tweet after his Saturday morning swim:


Do great minds think alike? (Or on the other hand, maybe this just illustrates the difference between an amateur and the real deal.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

New Crank, Short Run

The weekend's almost here, so I thought I'd post a quick update on some new developments this week.

Vitaly helped me install a new crankset on my P3. Actually, that's misleading; I stood around looking confused while Vitaly installed the new crankset on my P3. I wound up going with an Ultegra 165mm. It's a bit heavier than the carbon FSA cranks we took off  -- maybe I should've gone Dura-ace? Either way, I'm curious to see how it feels on the open road over the next few days.

I also went for my first full-weight run of the year on Thursday afternoon. It was only fifteen minutes long, but that's a start. My Achilles and calf are both complaining a little bit today (more sore and tight than anything else), so we might still be a few weeks away from full recovery... but we're getting there.

If you're bored, check out this article about an awesome dude who decided to set his age group's hour-record for his 100th birthday.

Happy riding!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fifteen Percent


I'm writing this post from the sofa of an anonymous cabin in Tahoe. This is my reward for making it through the first four weeks of official training for the 2012 season. I'm kicking back by the fire with a glass of Martinelli's in hand and a some great tunes on the stereo. (In case you're wondering, I'm currently digging the Cook Trio's acoustic gypsy jazz.) This is the life!

I don't ski or snowboard, so these infrequent trips to Tahoe with Kristine and friends double as forced inactivity. This might be hard for some to comprehend, but I have an extremely hard time "resting" at home in San Francisco. Maybe it's the fair weather, or the pool's close proximity, or the bikes silently judging me from the wall in the dining room, but I just can't sit still.

I'm just as fidgety and restless here as I am back in San Francisco, but I'm without my bikes, goggles or running shoes, which means my fatigued muscles and tired tendons have a solid forty-eight hours to recuperate. Sometimes, my conscience kicks in ("You really should adjust your diet; you're not burning any calories."), but with just about five months of training ahead of me, I think I can probably afford to be a little bit less healthy this weekend.

The past four(-ish) weeks were pretty tough. I wasn't out logging lots of miles on the road, but I did return to M2 after a four month hiatus and I've been pushing the pedals there on a very regular basis. I also re-joined the local pool and master's program, so I've been knocking the rust off in the water, too. Getting back into two disciplines is hard work!

Running rehab is going well. There are still good days and bad days, but things are improving. I've been running semi-regularly on the Alter-G treadmill and hope to transition that to real road- or trail-running in the next few weeks. (This injury could turn out to be a mixed blessing in some ways: ramping bike intervals and swim practices back up at the same time was difficult enough; adding runs into the mix at the same time would have been impossible!)

Twenty-two weeks remain before Ironman Switzerland. One major training block's complete; five more to go. Bring it.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Introducing...

Triathlon training isn't always the most social of activities. Sure, you're out running, riding and/or swimming often, and yes, I have friends with whom I practice all three disciplines. But schedules are tough to line up, and the needs of every triathlete are different. It's not strange to find yourself slogging through a few training sessions per week on your own.

My biggest problem in these solo training sessions is coming up with a workout that's both interesting and challenging. If it's not both of these things, my mind wanders. Corners get cut, etc.

Yesterday, I created a new Twitter account that I will dedicate to record the main interval sets I do in the pool, on the spin bike, or (eventually) on the track. I hope to remember to update this after just about every workout. After a few weeks,I should have a solid grab-bag of main sets to keep me busy on lonely days. Anyway, allow me to introduce @ironw00t!


Some general ground-rules and explanation around my set abbreviations and jargon. (I'll try to remember to add to keep this list up-to-date.)
  • SPIN: interval numbers are typically based on watts. The percentages you see are based on the maximum watts I can sustain for ten minutes. Example: let's that maximum ten-minute average is 200 watts. If I needed to do a 2-minute spin at 90%, I would want to hold 180 watts (200 * 0.90) for the duration of the interval.
  • SPIN: It is safe to assume that a three-minute easy spin is inserted between all major line-items.
  • SWIM: When I say something like "B1m30" or "base-1m20," I'm talking about the standard amount of time I allocate per 100 yards. Example: a set calls for 3 x 200 at B1m20. This means I'm giving myself 2m40 per 200-yard item.
  • SWIM: Rest between major line-items in a swim set is generally less than 60 seconds.
As an added bonus, this Twitter account will also automatically tweet whenever I update this blog.

Happy riding this weekend, folks!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Crank Arm Length

I bought my Cervelo P3 in 2010. It was my first time trial bike. The bike shop fit the bike to me, and that's the fit I've been riding ever since.

I've definitely learned, adjusted and changed in the two years since that original fitting, so I decided to look into getting re-fit on the bike. I know I can be more aero, and I know I'm not getting as much power out of the pedals as I would like. I've split 5:20 in two Ironman races now, which equates to a 21 mile-per-hour average speed. That's pretty good, until you figure that there are guys in the race averaging 23, 25, even 27 miles-per-hour! I'm obviously doing something wrong.

Anyway, Vitaly and Michael G. both recommended I talk to the guy who fit them on their bikes, so I reached out to him. We had a long chat on the phone a few days ago, and it only took that short conversation for him to convince me that my crankset is too big for me. I did some poking around online and everything I read only confirmed that hypothesis. Someone who's 5'7" should not be riding on cranks that are the same length as a guy who's 6'7"!

Now I'm on a quest to find a crankset that's smaller. Andrew (the fitter) suggests I buy a used crankset and have it machined down to 155mm or so - a 17.5mm drop from where I am now. Yikes! The other option's picking up a stock 165mm crankset and just being happy with a 7.5mm change.

In either case, the shorter cranks should allow me to raise my seat, improve my hip-angle and lower my handlebars. And because the crank arms are shorter, my legs won't come up as high toward my chest, which should make things a bit more comfortable. This all sounds good to me: smaller cranks mean higher cadence, smoother pedal-stroke, improved aerodynamics and a more comfortable ride.

Now all I've got to do is figure out how I'm going to get there, and pull the trigger on a large lump of metal or two.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Data collection

Numbers
So... remember my last post about watts and power? Consider this a follow-up. After blitzing my legs for another week (three interval sessions in six days), I took to the roads on my Giant to collect a bit more data. I kept things mostly tempo and then uploaded the ride to Strava when I got home.

Aside: I'm sure there are better tools out there for power-data analysis (cue Vitaly's Golden Cheetah plug) but I'm really not looking to get that technical with this information just yet.

Anyway, here's what my numbers look like, more or less. Granted, one ride on already-sore legs doesn't make for a very statistically significant sample size. Hopefully a few more months of solid intervals and focused legwork will help me improve on these. (For what it's worth, the numbers I'm most interested in are my 10-, 20- and 60-minute averages.)

In related news I, actually got to do some running last week! Dr. Lord cleared me for twenty minutes of light jogging on the Alter-G treadmill at 80% of my body-weight. It felt okay, for the most part, but things started to get a little bit tweaky by the end of the session. That evening, my calf and Achilles tightened up a bit; I started to worry that I'd set myself back another few weeks.

Fortunately, the tightness didn't linger long; by the next morning, I was feeling mostly okay. That's a good sign. I'll probably try another twenty minute session tonight. If that goes well, I think it's time I start very gradually increasing the frequency and duration of my Alter-G runs. Could I be on track to start real running by the end of the month? (Knock on wood.)

The Alter-G treadmill at M2 Revolution cycle studio