Most of the nation is still dealing with winter. Since the official start of spring isn’t until March 20th, you might be wondering why I’m asking about summer.
I ask about summer because come Monday February 28th, we are only 12 weeks out from Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day is often considered the unofficial start of summer since many schools begin summer break after Memorial Day.
Did you have a New Year’s Resolution to get fit or try a new event this summer?
If you have had a fitness or enthusiasm lapse, don’t worry, it’s not too late to restart and get energized again.
If you need some motivation, sign up for an event that is at least 12 weeks into the future and start training. If you think, “the more the merrier,” then recruit some friends to do the event with you.
Q: Hi Gale, I am using your training plan for “Faster Olympic Distance Triathlon Time” in your book. I have one question. How come you have so many hours of training each week dedicated to swimming? A lot of the weeks we are swimming as much as running if not more. I am not a big fan of swimming but I was also curious why this is just because the swimming is a smaller chunk of the race than biking and swimming. J.B.
A: Hey J.B. ~ Thanks for using my book to help you get faster - and great question on the plan. When I designed the plan for the "average" triathlete and that person is generally a weak swimmer. I like people to swim three times per week to improve economy (less energy cost for time in the water) and to improve speed. It is best if I can get both.
I'll give you some real data. I did a sampling of the top 100 triathletes at the Loveland Lake-to-Lake Triathlon from the 2010 results. (Data table below.) This is a competitive race with a 30-mile hilly bike ride that has served as a regional championship event in the past.
Last year, the first place overall finisher had a swim of 19:27 and a run of 38:30. The 10th place finisher had a swim time of 28:28 and a run time of 38:26. As you can see, if the tenth place person wants to be in the top five or maybe top three, this person needs to work on that swim because they are losing way too much time to the leaders on the swim. The 10th place person could likely gain time on the bike as well.
Same race, the second place finisher had a swim of 23:32 and a run of 37:19. The bike times between first and second were similar. The second place person gave up time on the swim.
Another thing to note is the column tallying the difference between run time and swim time. Though the run does take more time, this can be as little as 4 minutes (56th place overall) and up to 22 minutes in the top 100 finishers. (Not all of which are listed on the chart.)
If you happen to be a strong swimmer – perhaps you swam competitively in your past history - I think you can cut the swims to twice per week and do okay.
For you specifically, look at your race results from previous seasons and see where you are losing time to the category leaders and set about making improvements to that sport.
In previous blog, I wrote about my prominent medial malleous bone. I thought I’d give you an update and post a photo so it is easier to actually see the issue. The first photo is my left foot in a normal position. You will notice that the ankle bone on the right side of the photograph sticks beyond the rest of the foot.
What happens when my I am trying to apply pressure to edge my ski, that ankle bone takes a good deal of pressure because it sticks out so far.
On deck at masters swimming, I began to look at other people’s feet. In a very limited survey, I didn’t see any other medial malleous bones that protrude as far as mine do. I also noticed that the other wet footprints on the pool deck had arch marks.
My feet are flat. Flat as flat can be. They’ve been this way my entire life and luckily I’ve never had any problems running.
Below is a photo of what my medial malleous bone would look like if I arch my foot, where an arch would be if I had one. Notice how an arch pulls that ankle bone in and makes it less prominent.
In the comment section of the previous blog, I was advised to put my Nordic boot in boiling water and insert an object into the boot to hold it open while the plastic boot shell cooled. I went skate skiing last weekend and this change did take some of the pressure off of that bone.
It was also recommended that I try Super Feet, an over-the-counter arch support. The intention was for the arch support to make it easier for me to edge the ski and to make that ankle bone less prominent. Though I do use Super Feet in the shoes I wear for strength training and my around-the-house shoes, they did not work in my Nordic boots. After about five minutes of skiing my arch, or would-be arch, was in a lot of pain. I think there is just too much arch for the amount of action that my foot sees in skiing.
I think I’m close to a pain-free solution, or combination of solutions. As my progress continues, I’ll keep you posted.
Q: Hey Gale - I’m frustrated and would very much appreciate your opinion. I began working with a new coach and my coach has me focus on pace and power, rather than heart rate, which I’ve really enjoyed. I love shooting for specific speedy numbers in my workouts and as often as possible I try to exceed the numbers assigned. Here’s the dig. While I’ve been achieving good numbers, it seems I’ve been sick more in the past year than ever before. Each time I seem to make headway on gaining fitness and speed, I get sick again. My morning heart rate is elevated and I’ve noticed that my heart rate is elevated relative to the power zones my coach uses. Coach says that heart rate isn’t important in my training and the only thing I need to worry about is pace and power. What do you think? D.L.
A: Hi D.L. ~ Sorry to read you’ve been sick a lot. Repeated illnesses can be very frustrating. I use multiple tools with my athletes to track progress and attempt to head off trouble. Achieving goal pace and power numbers on any given workout are just two of the many tools I use to monitor an athlete’s progress. Here are some thoughts:
Your heart rate is an indicator of how your body is responding to work and recovery. When athletes are coming back from an illness, I prefer to restrict workouts by heart rate rather than power or pace. I find that aiming for pace or power zones possible when the athlete was healthy, are not possible during recovery from illness and some athletes get frustrated when “the numbers” are not giving the answers they want. Until you are 100-percent healthy, forget about power and pace. Here are some guidelines for adjusting your training plan during and after an illness.
I have found, repeatedly, that pace and power will come around if you allow your body to heal and get healthy. Those that try to push for those higher numbers often see more setbacks. The more setbacks you have in training, the harder it is to achieve your optimal performance goals.
Once you think you are healthy, do pay attention to how your heart rate responds to various workouts and environmental conditions. What is your “normal” (that is normal for you) morning heart rate? What is your normal heart rate for lactate threshold power or pace intervals? What is normal for a recovery day? What is normal after you’ve recovered for several days? If you see a disconnect between heart rate and pace or power, log that in your journal and take it to heart. Perhaps you need another recovery day, when the plan called for another tough workout?
If you haven’t had a blood test recently, it might be a good idea to get one. A blood test lets you know if things are normal or out of range. Occasional retesting is a good idea so you can see if there are any trends in the numbers. Also, if you do get an illness, you can compare your normal healthy blood values to illness numbers.
Plenty of items affect recovery. See this link for a column on how much time it takes to recover from a race. Those items not only apply to races, but really tough workouts, and blocks of tough workouts, as well.
I think it’s a good idea to know your normal body temperature range. High, or heading towards high, body temperature can be another indicator of the need for more recovery to prevent an illness. Unfortunately I don’t have a hard number for you to aim for at this time. (i.e. “If your body temperature is up x.yz degrees, take the day off.")
I have to assume your coach has designed your training plan to elicit specific responses from your body, in order to help you peak for your upcoming event(s). Constantly trying to “over-achieve” the numbers assigned for you may be causing you more harm than good. If you think your training zones are too low or you wonder about the purpose of a workout (restricting pace or power), talk to your coach about it. The same comments apply to workout time and/or distance. If you’re in a cycle of overachieve, illness, overachieve, illness – it’s a sign something isn’t working correctly.
Is your life more stressful now than it was awhile back? If you haven’t told your coach about new items affecting your lifestyle, you need to.
Closely monitor how you feel. Yes, I know there is no feel-gauge, but you can use a scale to rank how you feel on any given day and during a workout. Use any scale you please – 1 to 5, 1 to 7, 1 to 10… In any case, rank how you feel. If 1 is terrible and 10 is great, how do you feel today? Multiple days rating less than five is a warning that you’re heading for trouble.
There are more items that you can track to keep an eye on how your body is responding to the demands of training – and life. I believe you need to monitor more than just power and pace. Only monitoring power and pace is like only looking at the speedometer of your car to determine if the car is working correctly. If you ignore the gas gauge, oil pressure gauge and other indicators on your car, you may end up broken down with a towing and repair bill that is very undesirable.
…from riding to Estes Park and achieving the Estes or Bust Turd Trophy:
This year’s trophies were handmade by Kathy Forbes, Pam Leamons, Belynda Seligman and Mary Ann Michels. And yes, those are perfectly preserved and lacquered elk duds glued on top of that old photograph of the Big Thompson Canyon.
I’ve written about the Estes or Bust goal in past columns and blogs. The Estes or Bust Challenge has the characteristics of good, challenging goals. As of last weekend’s celebration, 16 riders achieved 12 consecutive months of riding to Estes Park from Loveland, Colorado. Two additional riders will achieve 12 consecutive months if they ride February, March and April of this year.
At this year’s celebration party, I asked people why they began doing the Estes or Bust Challenge and why they continue. Here is what people said:
- - Riding to Estes once per month keeps one long ride in the schedule – it gives me incentive to get out no matter the weather.
- - It gives me incentive to plan to ride rather than making excuses for not riding.
- - It was a goal that I could use to challenge myself.
- - Knowing other people can do it helps me figure out ways to complete the goal.
- - Now that I have a string going, my wife wonders how long this is going to continue. I just don’t know.
- - I want to make five years of riding to Estes every month. That’s my long-term goal.
- - It gave me something to shoot for after surgery.
- - I get help from my family to achieve the goal. It’s not just my accomplishment, it’s theirs too.
Several of the riders have accomplished the ride after recovering from significant barriers.
Scott Ellis in December of 2006, less than a month after knee surgery.
Scott Ellis, Gale Bernhardt and Peter Stackhouse in December of 2007. The photo was within a few weeks of Peter’s thyroid surgery and radiation treatments. The red hat was a celebration of a clean bill of health.
Bruce Runnels on the switchbacks in October of 2010. His September ride was within seven weeks of major abdominal surgery to remove 45 inches of his small intestine.
This year’s trophy recipients include Todd Singiser, Scott Ellis, Pam Leamons, Peter Stackhouse, Kirk Leamons, Lee Rhoades, Bruce Runnels, Kathy Forbes, Sherri Goering, Belynda Seligman, Brandy Staves, Brenna Roberts, Ron Kennedy, Dennis Anderson, Gale Bernhardt and after riding through April of this year- Lou Keen and Mike Keen.
No matter what your challenges are this year - here’s wishing you courage, determination, persistence, good friends and supportive family.