Saturday, January 16, 2010

Beating Boredom- Part 4: Run

I love long runs. I love hard runs. Both present a challenge. They also have changing scenery, beautiful sun rises, other runners and different routes. My winter rule is 10 degrees and clear roads. So far, this winter has been great for running (jinx). But there are always those days when I have to hit the treadmill and I lose all of those great attributes of an outside run. Still, stifling air, other people controlling the TV remote, and the threat of a 30 minute time limit suck. The treadmill certainly has the potential for some serious drudgery.

The keys to actually feeling good about it are really no different than the swim and bike- it's about attitude, intervals and variety. The one additional variable that a treadmill offers is the pitch. So along with varying the times and speed, also change the pitch. Also make the intervals easy to remember- like every even minute or every multiple of 5. As a point of reference, my best 10k at the end of a tri is 41:10.

1. Strides. Pick a comfortable/easy cruising speed, say 6.5. At the beginning of each two minute interval, throw in a harder 30 second effort. Start at 7, then increase it by 0.5 on each one until you hit 10 (or feel like you're barely able to stay on). Then repeat the set at a 2 degree pitch. 28 min set.

2. Progressive speed. Once you've warmed up at 6.5, up the speed by 0.3 every 3 min. That's a small enough increment so you don't really notice the difference from the previous 3 min, but it doesn't take long to go from 6.5 to 8.9 (24 min). If you have more time, drop it back to 7 and start over, or 6.5 and add some pitch.

3. Progressive time. Using an easy base of 6.5 and a high end of 8.5, go 2 min easy, 1 min hard, 2/2, 2/3, 2/4, 2/5. 25 min set.

4. Progressive pitch. Keeping the speed constant, and higher than the base speeds mentioned above, say 7, make your easy intervals flat and increase the hard intervals by 1 degree each time- 0/1, 0/2......0/8. Play with the times so you can finish the set- the last run at 8 degrees should be pretty tough. If you change every 2 min, it's a 32 min set.

5. Long run. If you are trying to run for more than an hour, the above sets might be a bit much. Set the speed at 7 and change something every 5 min for 1 min. Up the speed or pitch, or both. This will help you stay out of a rut.

6. Roller coaster. Go 4 min each 6.5, 7.5, 8.5, 7.5, 6.5, back up & down again. Or keep the speed at 7 and change the pitch- 0, 3, 6, 3, 0, back up & down. 36 min.

7. Anchored yo-yo. With the "anchor" set at 6.5, take three steps forward and two steps back, returning to the anchor each time. 6.5, 7, 7.5, 8, 6.5, 7.5, 8, 8.5, 6.5, 8, 8.5, 9- 3 min each is 36 min. Or take the same idea with pitch, keeping the speed at 7. 0, 2, 3, 4, 0, 3, 4, 5, 0, 4, 5, 6.

8. Floating yo-yo. Just remove the anchor. Go 6.5, 7, 7.5, 7, 7.5, 8, 7.5, 8, 8.5. 4 min each is 36 min. Again, the same can be done with pitch. For both #7 and #8, you can change it so it's 4 steps forward and three back. Essentially, this is a way to "sneak up" on faster running.

9. Pyramid. The faster you go, the less time you put in. 3 min at 7, 2 @ 8, 1 @ 9, repeat a few times. Or keep the speed at 7 and go 3 min at 2 degrees, 2 min @ 5, 1 @ 8.

Now let's get silly...

10. Floating pyramid yo-yo. 3 min @ 7, 2 @ 7.5, 1 @ 8, 3 min @ 7.5, 2 @ 8, 1 @ 8.5, 3 min @ 8, 2 @ 8.5, 1 @ 9. Repeat for 36 min.

11. Progressive compound roller coaster. All intervals are 2 min. 6.5, 7, 7.5, 7...pitch goes to 3...6.5, 7, 7.5, 7...flat...7, 7.5, 8, 7.5...pitch to 3...7, 7.5, 8, 7.5...flat...7.5, 8, 8.5, 7.5...pitch to 3...7.5, 8, 8.5, 7.5, 7. 50 min.

I think you get the idea. You spend so much time thinking about what's next with these sets, and you're focused on the clock for just a couple of minutes at a time that it's impossible to get bored. Enjoy!

And the road is always better than the treadmill.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Beating Boredom- Part 3: Bike

Pretty much 100% of my biking in the winter is alone. I also do it at about 5:30 AM, and the temperature in the garage ranges from about 35 to 42 degrees at the start. So it's early, cold, I have no company, and the scenery doesn't change as I crank out the miles. Plenty of reasons to get bored and skip a workout. But being the sicko trithlete I am, I actually enjoy it. Other than what was mentioned in Part 1, here are some specific workouts that get me through. I use watts to guage my effort, but I guess you could use mph or heartrate (although a big lag effect) also. For a reference, I race an Oly at an average of about 265w. My average power for the Crank the Kanc TT was 276. I should also mention that I'm SURE certain coaches (in Brunswick) will say I could be doing better workouts. But in my mind, I'm just trying to get some time in on the bike, work hard, and have variety. I also find it really helps to write the workout down on paper the night before and leave it right next to my bike. As you know, it can be hard to think or remember where you are in a set when you're working hard or your mind wanders. You can also write down the total elapsed workout time next to each set, and keep a stopwatch going.

1. FTP test. This is one serious grind. The point is to go to failure. After a 32 min. warmup that includes some intervals, the set starts at 160 watts. Every 4 min, I add another 20w. This week I matched last year's effort, where I failed after 2 min @ 320w. I think I could go a bit further if I had company (competition). At the end, it's not only a real physical struggle, but mental as well. After a recovery, the workout takes 1:20. I definitely use my countdown timer for this one.

2. Long grind. Most of my rides have a bunch of intervals, but I'll occasionally throw in a 45-60 min effort at 200-230w. Every 5 min, shift to a harder gear and stand up for a minute. That loosens up your back and fanny, and is a good mental break.

3. Over / under. This is a great effort set. The idea is to split the time between easy and hard in equal amounts of time, but the easy ain't so easy. For example, do 4 min at 280w, then 4 min at 240w. The midpoint is close to race pace. Repeat 5 times.

4. Ladder the hard. Start at an easy rate, say 180w. This stays as the easy interval. The hard interval starts at 200w and adds 20w each time. To make things interesting (and to keep your mind occupied), change up the times. Try something like 1 min ez, 3 min hard or equal times for each (2/2), but take the ladder up further.

5. Ladder the easy. As opposed to #4, your base is 270w for the hard, and you keep increasing the "easy." It would look like- 160, 270, 180, 270, 200, 270...and so on. Again, play with the times. The total set should be somewhere between 30 & 45 min.

6. Combination ladder. Combine sets 3&4- Start at 160w and work the hard intervals up to 270. Then without a break, keep 270 for the hard, and start increaseing the easy. If you go 3 min hard and 1 min easy, the whole set should be something like 48 minutes.

7. Time ladder. With this one, keep the hard and easy efforts the same, but change the times. You can either keep increasing the hard while keep the easy the same (1 hard/1 easy/2/1/3/1/4/1/5/1), or keep decreasing the easy while keeping the hard the same (5/5/5/4/5/3/5/2/5/1).

8. 3 min base. Each set has 3 min of near maximum effort (I was well over 400w for the first 3 sets), and has an equal amount of time for very easy spinning. Start with 9 x 20 sec with 20 sec between each. Then proceed to 6 x :30, 4 x :45, 3 x 1 min, 2 x 1:30, and 1 x 3 min. Spin for an additional 2 min between each set. So it looks like- 9x(20 hard, 20 easy), 2 min easy, 6x(30 hard, 30 easy), 2 min easy, and so on. Very tough set, especially if you bust hump. Set the countdown timer for 8 min.

9. Beat the computer. With TrainingPeaks WKO+, you can easily see your previous max power outputs for various lengths of time. A few weeks ago, I did a 30 min effort with the goal of exceeding all four times- 1 (304w), 5 (266), 10 (240) and 30 min (211). As it was still early in the season and I hadn't put in any really hard rides, these hurdles were relatively easy. I did a straight 30 min ride with the goal of riding over 310w for the first minute, then over 270 for the next 4 (cumulative time is now 5 min), over 250 for the next 5, and over 220 for the last 20 min. By definition, if I do this, I will beat all of the benchmarks by a good bit because the big 1 min effort is also reflected in the 5 min effort, and so on. (I ended up at 354, 294, 271 and 243.)

As you can see, most of these sets involve constant changing. Long intervals are only 5 minutes. That way, you're only focused on the next few minutes, not the next hour grind. Just take one step at a time. Sure, we need to put in some longer, steady state rides, but the idea of this post is to keep your mind engaged and work hard.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Beating Boredom- Part 2: Swim

In Part 1, I reviewed a whole bunch of things that apply to the swim as well as the bike and run. This will focus on sets that are specific to the pool. Two things to keep in mind- first, you need to adjust swim times and intervals for your own ability. Second, I am of the less yardage / more quality school. As a sprinter at Tufts, under the tutelage of the great Don Megerle, it was all about race-specific, high quality training. I got good at 100 yards (:49 free), but typically crapped out at 150 (never under 1:52 for the 200). As a result, many of the distance ideas here are from seeing what "Lane 2" was doing, talking with Coach, experimenting, and the Y group.

1. The long, straight swim. Like riding over 80 or running over 18, different things happen when I go more than 1,000-1,500 yards straight. My core hurts all over and my technique falters. So it's obviously something that needs work. But a long time trial is incredibly boring and easy to bail out of. Two things help. First, get someone willing to do the same in the lane next to you. Notice I said in the next lane. This is best done when you and friend have lanes to yourselves, or at least can lead the lane. Friend can help with the pacing and provide a little competitive energy. Second, wear a watch with a countdown timer that you can hear underwater. I set mine for 2:36, and pay attention to where I turn every 200 yards. Not only does this keep me at an even pace, I'm also able to count yards. Otherwise I'd lose count after 150. Wondering how far you've gone is a sure thing for losing interest.

2. Rotating strokes. Often during warmup, I'll cycle through 100 free, 50 back four or six times. Again, it makes counting easier, and I'm always close to some sort of change.

3. Blasting. Swimming really fast is fun. Every now and then I'll dedicate a workout to swimming a couple of 100s at max effort. The entire workout is only a little over 2000 yds. Warm up for 500, descend 6x100 on 1:30, then 8x50 on 1 with 25 at max. That 25 can be the first 25, last, or middle, which incorporates the wall. The main set is 3x100 on 4. We do this so everyone gets a lane to themselves and clean water. Every swim is FAST, trying to break 1:00. The last 30-40 yards of the last one is pure hell. There's also time in there for an easy 50 inbetwen each one.

4. Tricking the body. Some fast 50s can trick the body into swimming a faster "controlled" pace. For a main set, do 3 x 4x200 on 3 with 6x50 on 1 (2x(ez, med, hard)) between each group of 4 200s. Drop your times on each set.

5. Use thinking as a distraction from the boredom and pain. Make the set so involved, with lots of changes, so that you really have to think to figure out what's next. Go 6 x (50, 100, 150), on a 45 sec per 50 yd. base interval, rotating easy, medium and hard- easy 50, medium 100, hard 150, medium 50, hard 100, easy 150, etc.

6. Turn it off. Occasionally, it's OK to tuck in and draft. Turn the mind off, let someone else do the counting, and enjoy the ride.

7. Know when to work. Instead of slogging through an entire workout at an even pace, alternate hard / easy. A great set is to alternate 8 x 150 with 8 x 100, all on 2. Descend the 150s. An interval of 2 forces you to at least put in some moderate work, even on the first one. The 100s are really slow, allowing you to focus on the 150s.

8. Start a challenge series with the group. On Wednesdays this fall, we did 30x100, 3000 mixed, 40x100, etc., up to 8000. Everyone knows what's coming, and in a sick way, looks forward to it.

Variety, from one set to the next, and one workout to the next, is the key. Enjoy!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Beating Boredom- Part 1: Overall

Yesterday, I sat on my bike in the cold garage for 1:25, working fairly hard, then drove to the club for an hour run on the treadmill. This morning, I got up at 5 to drive to the club (2 minutes away) so I could get on that same damn treadmill for 1:15. It's time to start ramping up for the Cape 10 mi which is in 5 weeks. Early on, I realized I'm engaging in potentially incredibly boring activities. Add staring at a black line on the bottom of a pool, and you've got a recipe for committal. So it got me thinking....what is it that allows me to engage in this insanity, especially during the winter when we are inside and don't actually travel for many of the workouts. (Just to clarify, I actually run outside more than 1/2 of the time.) In no particular order:

1. Dream up blog postings. This one will deal with training in general, then I'll do one for each sport. I'll even throw in some specific workouts that I find interesting and productive. I should also include one big fat disclaimer- like many triathletes, I'm probably a bit off my rocker. I also have certain buttons, that when pushed, work well for me. I'm sure others have additional solutions.

2. Beat past workouts. Obviously, this needs to be done in moderation. You can't just keep beating previous efforts and not expect to get injured. I use Training Peaks WKO+ to upload data from both my Powertap (bike) and Garmin (run). With the software, you can see things like what your best 1, 5, 10, and 30 min efforts have been at any point in a given time range. This works especially well for the bike. These observations frequently lead to specific workouts, which I'll list in subsequent posts.

3. Competitors. For me, just thinking about Jeff, Rob, and Bob keeps me going. I know they are working their tails off. I need to do the same.

4. Competitions. Early season competitions are a great motivator. They also may lead to modest changes in the routine, which can be refreshing.

5. Music. The iPod is perhaps the greatest training aid to come along in recent history. Set it to random shuffle so you don't know what's coming next. You might even hear a song you haven't heard in a while.

6. Vary time, distance and intensity, within the workout and from one workout to the next. Vary the gearing on the bike and pitch on the treadmill. more on this later. It's critical to mix things up- not only mentally, but also physically- you end up working different energy systems.

7. TV can work well, especially if it's a lower intensity workout. Personally, I find music to work much better when things ramp up.

8. Nutrition. It's easy to get bored if your performance trails off, which happens easily if you don't replace calories and liquids. For a 1:15 ride, I'll go through 2 full water bottles and a nutrition bar.

9. Company. Our swim group can be up to 20+ strong. It's a great group, and very competitive. I may be a good swimmer in the world of triathlon, but on a good day, I'm somewhere in the middle of this group.

10. Podcasts. I like IM Talk, The Competitors and Endurance Planet, all from the iTunes store. IM Talk is two guys in New Zealand who cover triathlon training and racing, spending more time on the IM distance. They can be a bit goofy, and one of them (Bevin) has one of the highest pitched voices I've ever heard. They can also get good interviews. This one is weekly. The Competitors are Bob Babbit and Paul Huddle. They get one good interview per episode, and do it once or twice per month. They do more triathlon than other sports, but also cover biking, running and other special interest stories. Good stuff. Endurance Planet has evolved over the last year or so, and is now a weekly one hour call with three interviews each. More endurance running, but also triathlon and other sports.

11. Have a plan. Knowing what you will do, and committing to that idea, can help to get to the finish. It's even more helpful when you have a weekly plan that this workout is a part of. If you just show up with no daily or weekly plan, it's easy to get off early because you aren't failing.

12. Break the time up into manageable chuncks. Focus on just gettign to the next time threshold. Intervals work for this. You can also eat a 1/4 bar every 15 minutes. Or stand up on the bike every 5 minutes for 60 seconds.

I'm sure there are other things that help fight off the boredom. Bottom line, do whatever it takes to stay engaged. So what works for you?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I sold it

I sold the snowboard today. No more of that foolish sport for me. Now I just need to find some skis....assuming the doctor says I can ski. We have a whole bunch of skiing planned, probably at least one day for 3/4 of the weekends from now until early March. My arm hasn't been improving much lately, making me think it's something more serious. It's the extremes that hurt- either a full extension or curl. Gripping and twisting, especially a strong handshake, really hurts. I was able to get in the pool last week, although only for 2000 and then 800 yards. I see the doc tomorrow afternoon...

Now that the new year has come, I can see my totals for 2009:
Swim 145 hours, 464,400 yards
Bike 136 hours, 2,485 miles
Run 143 hours, 1,042 miles
Other (mostly lifting) 14 hours

So that's a total of 438 hours. That's pretty low compared to many triathletes, but I'd suggest the main difference between 438 and the other totals I've seen is junk or recovery miles. I didn't race longer than an Oly, and trained accordingly. Most of the hours, especially once spring rolled around, were high quality. 2010 will likely be more of the same. Why mess with something that works? Sure, I'll make some improvements, but that's just tweaking.

Happy New Year to everyone! May your plans and dreams for 2010 come long as you don't plan on finishing in front of me. ;-)