Week 21 of training for Ironman Boulder 2017 is on the books. I can’t believe it is only 6 more weeks until race day. 5 months of training are behind me already. Although February was a bit of a wash, due to a pretty bad case of Bronchitis for a solid two weeks. March and April have been mostly trying to get back to where I need to be.
The early part of the week was spent mostly recovering from the St. Luke’s Half Marathon. My run on Wednesday was still feeling a little soreness in the legs. Thursday was a really good day. I had a great swim and was able to get out with some work mates for a really nice 2-hour ride.
My 2nd run of the week on Friday was ok. It was bit warm out(~85F) so that never works well for me. I took it easy and just kept things in zone 2.
My long bike ride on Saturday morning was great. I followed most of the old DCT ride route making my way up to Kempton, PA, down to Werley’s Corners and back again, totally just under 75 miles. Not super fast, but it was breezy and my watts indicated I was working harder what my speed indicated. It was warm Saturday, but the sun was behind the clouds most of the time so that helped.
I was also playing around with a GoPro too. 🙂
I drank two bottles of Skratch Labs, one water only, one bottle of Hammer Perpetuem(3 scoops) with some Beet Elite powder. I also had an Amrita Bar and a Honey Stinger Waffle for some solids. Oh yeah I also got some free, sample vegan crackers from the Rodale Institute while I stopped for a “natural break”, Phil Ligget would say.
I finished things off with a 20-minute brick run and broke in a new pair of Saucony Freedom ISO’s. More on those later.
Sunday was a bit cooler and overcast. Perfect for a long run. I was a bit leery about how the legs would feel after the long bike the day before, but things were feeling pretty good. I got in a little over 16 miles in about 2.5 hours. Things were getting a little stiff towards the end though and my IT band was tightening up. While stretching at a stop sign a guy stopped to make sure I was ok. That was cool! 🙂
I also ran the entire run in my new Saucony’s. They did pretty well too. No brake-in required. 🙂 Not sure if they are marathon material though. They are soft and comfortable, but not quite as luxurious as the Hoka Cliftons. Of course, the Hoka’s would have covered my feet in blisters too and the Saucony’s didn’t.
One other note was that I got in two good core strength workouts in this week too. I have been slacking on that lately and I am starting to feel it. I am thinking that this was also why my workouts towards the end of the week were better.
All-in-all feeling good. Another pretty big training week this week and then a little rest the following week.
When I first heard that there were some companies coming out with power meters for running, I couldn’t wait. I love to be able to objectively quantify my workouts. Knowing how this works for cycling, being able to add this to running would be a bonus. Then I thought about it a bit and realized it would probably be best to hold out a bit. The technology was new and Still evolving. Also, none of the training watches or software would pick it up anyway without some hacking involved.
I had played around a little bit with running power by using my Cyclops PowerCal Heart Rate Monitor which was kind of interesting. The problem was I had to run with my Garmin in biking mode all the time. Not something I really wanted to do since I would miss out on the other running-specific data. Then Garmin came out with the HRM-Runs’ running analytics which I thought was better data than just having power.
The Stryd Running Power Meter
The Stryd unit seemed to be the one that was getting the most attention and it had gone through a few iterations of its product already. It started out as a little widget that you clip on your shorts, then it turned into a heart rate strap and now it is a little foot pod. It finally seemed like they were stabilized a bit, so I decided to “pull-the-trigger” and order one. It took a few months to arrive.
I am glad I waited because the HR strap looks like it sticks out a bit and would look very strange bulging out of your shirt. One advantage of the HR strap one was that it measured power in 3 planes, vertical, horizontal and lateral, whereas the footpod only measures the first two. I don’t think this is a big deal for me since I think I am a pretty efficient runner thanks to my Chirunning practice.
I have had the Stryd footpod now for a few months now and feel I have some initial impressions of it. I say few months because I had to send it back to be replaced already since the tab where it clips to its back clip broke off. It doesn’t seem like there is much really to grab onto there. While it still held in place on my laces, I was a little leery it was going to fall off sometime. The folks at Stryd quickly replaced the unit and got me back and running again. Pun intended.
Collecting the Data
I started reading Jim Vance’s “Running with Power” book while I was training with the unit. I had already read Vance’s previous book “Triathlon 2.0” which I really liked, but I felt the Running with Power book was not quite as good. Most of it was just a re-hashing of the other books’ concepts on Power for cycling. While there were a few new metrics, namely Efficiency Index or EI, that are different from cycling, I feel this book is a little premature at this point since the technology is still being figured out. Hopefully the “Running with Power 2.0” will be better.
One of the recommendations in Vance’s book was to just start running with the power meter and start collecting data. For the next couple of months, I just ran with it and checked in on the numbers post-mortem of my runs.
After finally collecting several months of data I decided it was now time to analyze it. Well despite the fact that Jim Vance’s book stressed how essential the Efficiency Index (EI) metric was, none of the training sites, except for SportTracks even implemented it! Not even Training Peaks or Stryd! This is even though they published blog posts(here and here are just a couple examples) about Vances’ book and the metric itself. WTH? Also, SportTracks implemented only for individual activities so there was no way to track this metric over time.
Analyzing the Data
So what is a data geek to do? Start tracking it myself I guess. I started by downloading my workout summary data from Training Peaks and then crunching the numbers in my favorite analysis tool, Qlikview. Below is the running results for the current training season in regard to Efficiency Index(EI). The formula is V(M/min)/rPwr(watts).
Efficiency Index EI by Month
Efficiency Index Components by Month
As you can see in the first graph, my EI has dropped a bit from December to February and then pretty much leveled out from there. Is that good or bad? Pretty hard to tell without looking at the components of it. Personally, I think EI, by itself, is pretty meaningless.
February was pretty much a wash month for me. I was pretty sick for a solid 2 weeks of it and spent the next couple weeks getting back to normal again. Looking at my average velocity for each month it has been increasing steadily, which I would say is good. My power numbers have also gone up too. April increased significantly due to having a 4-mile and a half-marathon race in there. So if both the components are increasing, then I am getting faster and stronger I guess. This leaves EI pretty much staying the same. See what I mean by EI being meaningless by itself now?
One other variable is that my weight has dropped a bit during the training months. I was surprised that this didn’t affect EI at all. I would think I would have gotten faster while using fewer watts and am not seeing that happening here either.
Looking my average heart rate versus the increase in speed and watts does show that hasn’t changed too much. This would indicate that despite those increases in output, my aerobic “engine” doesn’t appear to be increasing. So I guess I am getting more efficient.
Another running power metric has recently come onto the scene called Runner Effectiveness. This is outlined in a recent post by Steve Palladino on the Training Peaks Blog. This metric, while similar to Vance’s EI metric, uses Watts/kg in the denominator instead which brings the athletes weight into the mix. It also uses Meters/second for velocity in the numerator as opposed to Meters/minute in the EI metric.
Running Effectiveness = (m/s) / (w/kg)
Palladino shows how this metric can be calculated in Training Peaks’ WKO4 client software program as well. I actually have a copy of this program haven’t had a chance to really delve into it yet. Perhaps the EI metric can also be calculated here too.
For now, I calculated this one too in my Qlikview app. As you can see below it pretty much shows a similar trend, just not quite as drastic as EI above.
Running with power is still new territory and there is still some data gathering and analysis that needs to be done to get anything valuable out of it. One thing that is valuable now is that it is a good way to quantify your individual workouts for calculating TSS. Is it necessary though? I don’t think so. It is a lot of money for something that is just a “nice to have”. I think training with pace, heart rate and time is still just as good and will save you a couple hundred dollars. If you have one of the watches that track the new running dynamics metrics, I think that they are more worthwhile for those looking to improve their efficiency. High cadence, minimal ground contact time and vertical oscillation will help you track that.
Yesterday, I ran the St. Luke’s Half Marathon in Allentown, PA for the 4th time. Last year I had gotten a new personal best time of 1:45:10 since the first time I ran the race back in 2010 with a time of 1:46:41. 6 years older and over a minute faster.
This year my plan was to start out a little slower so that I had a little more energy for the last half of the race. The second half of the race runs through the Lehigh Parkway which has some crushed stone paths and this short, steep little hills that seem to suck the life out of my legs.
I also planned to down a caffeinated gel around the halfway aid station so I had a little extra energy too. Last year I didn’t eat anything and I thought that may have left me a little depleted at the end.
The race started out well. I was running in the 7:45-7:55/mi pace and was feeling quite comfortable. Heading into the Parkway I kept my cadence steady and slowed a bit on the uphills to try to save my legs a bit. The hills still took their toll on my quads but I managed to keep a little quicker pace than last year.
At around mile 9, I looked at my Garmin virtual race partner and it showed I was about a minute ahead of last year. Hold steady now! Next thing I hear someone say the 1:45 pace group was coming up behind me. WTH?
The pace group passed me on one of the final little inclines and it kind of took some wind out of my sails. I never looked back at my Garmin to see if I really was over 1:45 because I thought it would depress me more. Now I wish I would have.
So I crossed the finish line in 1:45:20. I didn’t realize until I got home, but I had finished 10 seconds slower than last year. It is a bit frustrating to think that a little extra effort and I could have beaten last years time. Well, one thing is for sure I am pretty consistent I guess. Next up, Ironman Boulder!
The French Creek Triathlon was my first triathlon event of the year. I didn’t know a whole lot about the race, but the timing of it fit well into my schedule. After checking out the race course and past results on their website, I knew I was up for a challenging event. Most of the prior years’ Olympic distance finish times in my age group were hovering around the 3-hour mark. A bit long for typical Olympic distance events. Usually, I am around the 2:30 time frame for Olympic distance tris. Having mountain biked at French Creek in the past, I knew it was hilly and the bike and run course solidified this.
I drove an hour up to French Creek State Park on Saturday, via the beautiful back roads of the Oley Valley, to pick up my race packet and do a little bike/run brick workout to preview the course a bit. The bike route was definitely hilly and most of the roads were in nice shape except for a partial stretch of Rt 345 that is in dire need of repaving.
I had to delay my course recon ride a bit while the French Creek”Tough Kids” triathlon was finishing up. It was pretty cool seeing all these little kids out there giving it their all. While I was waiting a minivan pulled up and the guy driving rolled the window down and introduced himself. It was Todd Hydock, another Amrita Ambassador that lives in the Philadelphia area. I had known of Todd but had never met him in person. We chatted for a while until the kids race had finished. Todd was doing the sprint race on Sunday, so we would talk more on Sunday.
Race swag was pretty nice for a small event. They had a nice white race tech shirt and a Clean Bottle water bottle. I had always wanted to get a Clean Bottle but never got around to getting one. There was also a reusable cloth tote bag and some other items from Brandywine Valley tourism too.
It was pretty dark for the ride up and it was just barely cracking light when I arrived at the race venue. It had rained heavily overnight and was still overcast which kept things dark until I got to transition.
I found an empty space on the rack right at the swim-in/run-out end of transition. Everyone else seemed to be congregating towards the other end. I preferred having space. It was still quite damp out, so I was happy to suit up early with my wetsuit.
I gingerly made my down to the swim start in bare feet to get in a little warm-up swim before the race. I was the first one in the water. Water wasn’t too bad. A little cool but perfect for a wetsuit swim. The water was a light, muddy color but not so dark you couldn’t see at all.
I had a lot of time before my wave start since it was the 2nd to last wave. My toes were pretty much numb by the time the race started. I really need to remember to bring some old flips or socks or something. I chatted a bit with a lady named, Jennifer from NJ, who was also outfitted in full Amrita Kit. She was not an Ambassador but knew Arshad and was a loyal Amrita customer.
I also ran into Amy & Bill Kline who are good friends with my old tri-blogger-buddy Shanna. I have run into them a lot over the last couple years and they are really nice to talk too. I didn’t know it after the race, but it was their 17th wedding anniversary that day. Pretty cool to be doing a triathlon for your anniversary!
Finally, my wave was up. I sauntered into the water and was trying to stay back a little and to the left. The problem was everyone was staying back from the starting line. I was not about to stay back that far, so I ended up moving past everyone to the start line which was about waist deep. Not exactly where I like to be, but if they are going to lag back I might as well take the head start.
The first 200 yards kind of sucked like it usually does. It is just full of anxiety and nervous energy that it makes it hard to breathe. There was a little bit of bumping since some of the faster guys were going past or over me. Eventually, things settled out and got into my pace.
I had mostly clear water from there on out. Although I could have used some drafting help, not having to deal with others is nice too. I maintained a pretty steady swim and held steady for the rest of the two loop course. I never looked at my Garmin until I actually got out of the water.
I never looked at my Garmin until I actually got out of the water. It ready somewhere around 27 minutes, which is ok for me. I was hoping for faster but whatever. The worst thing is that the timing mats are the entrance/exit to transition, not at the swim exit. And it was at least tenth of a mile run to transition over little rocks. So my swim time ended up being around 28 minutes. I hate that!
The 1st transition went rather smoothly. Ditched the wetsuit and popped on my bike shoes, helmet and off I went. Ba-da-bing…ba-da-boom!
There were practically no flat sections on this entire bike course! You are either going up or going down. Nothing in between.
The road conditions are mostly good, except for one smaller section on Rt 345 that is in SEVERE need of paving. It also would appear to be a well-shaded course, but hard to tell when it was so overcast. The road was also pretty wet
from the rain the night before.
My goal on this leg was to not overcook my legs on the hills and save something for the run. I would also try to bomb the downhills as much as possible and use “gravity” to my advantage.
I feel I executed that plan fairly well. It was surely not the fastest of rides, but my legs were still pretty fresh at the end. I ate one and a half Amrita Bars and 2 bottles of Skratch Labs during the ride. It is pretty easy to eat when you are climbing hills all morning.
T2 was a bit of a blunder. I left my running shoes tied in a double know…duh!! So I was there fumbling around with that for far too long. It was such a rookie mistake. I also put socks on, which cost me some more time. Despite that, I still got out in 2 minutes and looking at the results probably would not have made much difference in the end anyway.
The run started out flat for about a 1/4 mile and then it was up…and up…and up…for the first 4 miles. As soon as my legs were getting accustomed to running, the hills started. There was one section along a small lake that flattened out for a little bit, but then it was up again. The Olympic course also took a left, when the Sprint athletes went right back to the finish, to enjoy another larger hill climb. By the time I reached the top my legs were screaming. I even walked about 10 yards or so just to get my HR down a little bit.
After the 2nd turnaround at the top of the last hill, it was all downhill for 2 miles to the finish. Ihave to say that last two miles were actually pretty fun. You knew you could just coast it in at that point. I felt bad for all the other athletes who were coming up those hills and was trying to give them some encouragement as I cruised past them.
I crossed the finish line feeling pretty good. The last 2 miles actually refreshed me a bit. Finish time was 3:01 and a few seconds. Not the best time for a Olympic distance event, but this was not your ordinary Olympic distance race.
After the race, I met up Amy & Bill, My Amrita-buddy Todd, and also Terry & Sean Fenoff who I had met at my a strength training workshop that my strength coach had a couple years ago.
I stopped by the timing booth and looked at the posted race results. I saw that I came in 4th in my age group, which left me a little disappointed that I missed the podium by one place! Ugh…so close!
I decided that it wasn’t worth sticking around at that point and started packing up my bike and things in transition. I was also texting my wife telling her I got 4th in AG. While I was doing that Bill had stopped by and congratulated me on getting 3rd Place in my AG???!!! What??!! He informed me that the 1st place guy in my age group won the overall 1st place for the race, so that got me into 3rd! SWEET!!
I immediately text my wife back and said “scratch that…I actually got 3rd!” She was a little bummed that she wasn’t there now. So back I went and hung out for the post-race awards. It was pretty cool since Bill & Amy both won their Age Groups and they announced that it was their 17th wedding anniversary too! Also, Terry, Sean and Todd all podiumed too. So it was pretty cool to see everyone up there.
I was pretty happy to finally get a podium finish in triathlon. I have been doing this for over 8 years and have yet to get a podium in a triathlon. I got one for running races and duathlons, but never a triathlon. I think the build up of experience over the years with good coaches and my focus on strength training this year is making a difference.
I am going to double up here on the last two weeks of build before my 3 week taper into Ironman Coeur d’Alene. It has been a pretty brutal 2 weeks since I really never had a full recovery week since about 5 weeks ago. I did a couple little 3 day recovery before and after the Todd Wiley Lake Placid camp, but still managed a decent training load for the weekend in between. Despite all this I have been feeling pretty good. A few of my longer workouts were in some pretty hot and humid temperatures and were obviously affected. My performances during the workouts when the weather was cooler surely made up for it.
Swims…I am still using the Finis Tempo Trainer and feeling pretty settled at around 68-70 spm. This is up from around 58-60 when I started using this tool early on in the season. My paces have picked up along with it and I am hoping this carries over to a few minutes gained in my 2.4 mile swim. I did both of my LSD swims at around 1:13 for just under 4000 yards. Given that this is without a wetsuit and no flip turns I think I could manage this time in Ironman which would be a 4 minute improvement over the last two years.
Biking…I have been averaging around 145 miles/9 hours a week on the bike for both weeks. My long rides on the weekends were just over 90 miles long running about 5:30-5:50 depending on the terrain. Most of my weeknight rides were steady state rides in zone 2-3, but I did manage to get one good hill repeat ride in on some of my favorites hills: Dogwood & Centennial!
My long ride on May 20th started out a little rough when a large flying insect fly directly into my mouth while cruising along at around 20mph. Ouch! It partially lodged itself into my mouth since it was partially open. I had to actually spit the thing out and it tasted like crap too! My lip
immediately swelled up to what felt like having a gumball in my lip. Judging for the picture I guess it didn’t look quite as bad as it felt though. I didn’t know what kind of bug it was and wasn’t sure if it stung me or that was just the impact of it on my lip that hurt. Eventually, the swelling subsided and my lip resumed to its normal size again. Why do I always get pelted with creatures when I am riding?
I followed the Dream Come True(DCT) route for the start of my long bike ride June 6. This is a nice somewhat challenging route with a little over 4000′ of climbing over 64 miles. This ride was also not without some wildlife incident as well. While cruising a downhill section of backroad that contained some overgrown shoulder a large doe popped out immediately in front of me broadside. I made some kind of grunt or yell as I came within about 10 feet of the animal and it quickly dashed out of my way. Another close call. Not too long after that I came across a lone fawn standing in the road. He scampered in down the road, heading in the same direction, for a bit before he darted up the steep bank. He was pretty young and no mother to be seen.
Runs…My Sunday long runs consisted of a 21 and 20 miler respectively. The 21 miler was a hot & humid one that I did 4 loops of the Ironton Rail Trail(IRT). The IRT is pretty shaded which helped defer some of the defer some of the sunlight but it was still a hot one. I ended up averaging around a 10:00/mi for the run. The next week I ran at the Lehigh Parkway and it was about 10 degrees(F) cooler and much less humidity. The Parkway is also pretty shaded but has about twice the elevation gain as the IRT. Due to the more temperate climate I was able to average a 9:30 pace over the 20 miles while maintaining a Zone 2 heart rate. More on track with what I would like to do at Ironman this year and a good note to finish on before my taper.
Heart Rate Variability(HRV)
My HRV has remained fairly steadily in the 70’s during this last two weeks. I have been flirting with the low recovery and low activation ranges most of the time, but still in the “ok to keep going area”. This is pretty much expected from where I am at this point. I should be overreaching a bit at this point, with a good 3 week taper coming up.
Compared to Last Year…
Comparing this years training on the Training Peaks Performance Management Chart to last year looks fairly similar. You can see that the last month or so of this year(top chart) I have incurred a bit more fatigue(pink link) with consecutive build weeks and no full recovery week in between. My Fitness(CTL in Blue) has steadily risen to a value of around 112 during my last build week, whereas last year I was up to 120 or so.
How am I feeling? A bit fatigued actually . Not terrible but I can feel the stress of heavy load. The weather has also been unseasonably warm for Spring which is kind of taking its toll on me. I do not do well in warmer temperatures. Usually I am even worse in the beginning until I acclimatize a bit.
Despite feeling a bit fatigued, I am still having some good workouts. I even skipped a few workouts last week and still ended up with more volume than I had planned. On Monday, I took the day off of training and just mowed my lawn instead. I wore my HR monitor and Garmin so I counted it as a workout. We’ll just call that active recovery. 🙂 I needed that day after not having a long run the Sunday before.
There was a couple cooler days during the week that I ended up going longer just because it felt good. I am trying to listen to my body and go with the flow a bit. My HRV continued to decline a bit earlier in the week, but gradually improved as the weekend approached. I then saw a slight drop again after my long run on Saturday, but held steady after a long bike on Sunday.
There is still a bunch of data points lying on the left of the iThlete Training Guide below. Big indicator of lower energy levels.
I had planned on riding a local 64 mile charity ride, called the Dream Come True(DCT) ride on Sunday so I moved my long run to Saturday this week. I was a bit nervous about my run on Saturday since I self-destructed on the run the week before. During the week I ordered a new Camelbak Octane LR Hydration Pack to help alleviate running out of water on my long runs again. My FuelBelt was not cutting it. I was glad I did, because it was really hot again and I drank every bit of it. I actually emptied the bladder as I was on my cooldown walking up my street.
I also played it a bit conservatively too and kept my pace around 10:00/mi just to make sure i got the volume in that I wanted. I also had several extra pounds of water strapped to my back which must have slowed me down a bit. I was happy to have a good long and successful run and I was able to put the previous week behind me.
On Sunday I woke up early, for me on weekend anyway, to do the DCT ride. The ride was only 64 miles and I wanted to get about 5 hours in. Usually 5 hours for an LSD ride would be about 80 miles for me, so I tacked on a few extra miles getting to and from the ride start at the Trexlertown Velodrome.
The ride was pretty flat for the first half and was along many of the roads I typically ride. I rode along with a girl from work and a couple of her friends for the first half. I eventually latched on to a couple guys with orange helmets around the Kempton area that were going my typical pace. A few other guys joined them and a pace line was formed. I stayed behind them about 10m or so and avoided most of their draft. I don’t want to get used to that. Also the stretch of road from Kempton to Werley’s Corners is awesome for getting down into the aerobars and just cruising.
I ended up bagging the final rest stop and just heading for the finish. It was getting kind of hot and humid out too, so I was eager get home. My legs were a bit stiff early in the day too since I had run long the day before. I don’t typically do that, so it was a bit different riding on tired legs. I did seem to get a second wind though on the last half of the DCT ride which worked out well since that half had all the climbs in it.
I ended up with around 80 miles in just under 5 hours. Not a too bad for a pretty mellow ride. It was a good end to another build week.
My fatigue level(pink) in the Training Peaks PMC chart below is peaking out a bit at the end of the week. My plan is to do a few easier days early in the week before I head up to Lake Placid for a training camp over the holiday weekend. I want to go into that fresh in order to take advantage a that big training block.
Now with the NJ Devilman race behind me it is time to focus on the final 8 week build for Ironman Coeur d’Alene. Unfortunately, the affects of the Devilman Half Lite continued to linger well into the week.
I was very exhausted on Monday and decided it would be best to take a rest day. On Tuesday, I did my normal endurance/form swim, but did a zone 2 bike ride that evening instead of my usual run. My legs were still really sore and they were not ready for a run just yet. My Heart Rate Variability was stilling showing signs of stress until about Thursday when it rebounded and shot back up int the 80’s again.
As you can see in the HRV timeline above, there was a bit of a death spiral for the next 5 days after the race. Saturday then rebounded quite a bit and then some long LSD workouts pulled things back down again. I had hoped that taking the entire day off on Monday would help to expedite my recovery, but things continued to decline after that.
The iThlete Training Guide below reinforces this as well. A majority of my morning readings are showing up on the left side of the graph indicating a lot of low recovery days. Granted that this week also a build week so overreaching a bit was part of the plan, but I still have another two weeks of build to go. Given this I am starting to consider adjusting my plan to only do two weeks of build and then follow with an easy week before I head to Lake Placid for a training camp. I want to be fresh for the camp since it is a big block training on its own. This is the kind of thing where HRV helps you manage your training as you go. You can follow a schedule but if your body is not responding to it you need to adjust. Using HRV and the tools that iThlete provides allows you to do that.
On Friday I headed over to Dutch Springs for a hour open water swim. It was a good swim but definitely not without some drama. You can check out the full scoop here…
On Saturday I decided to ride the Quad County Metric route which is a well-marked ride that runs by my home. Turned out that this years actual ride was this same day, so I ended up riding along with everyone doing the ride. I hooked into the ride just up the road which is on one of the tougher hill climbs on the ride. As I came upon the hill there were riders all over the hill zig-zagging up the road. Since I was pretty fresh I zipped up the road and passed most of the people. It is kind of mean since they probably have about 25 miles into their legs at this point.
It was a rather moist day. While it was not really raining, there was this mist in the air all day and I just felt “moist” all day long. After losing my iPhone to moisture the day before, I was not about to bring out my new phone for pictures today. It did dry up a little bit and I was able to capture one image.
I felt kind of bad riding with people doing the ride, but I was not utilizing their rest stops and I did veer off of the course for a bit. It was a pretty challengin ride though. it had about 4500 feet of climbing in around 56 miles. I tacked on some extra mileage so that I got about 72 miles in 4:40. I tacked on another 30 minute brick run right after too. All-in-all there were 4 category 4 climbs. Play that number!
Dirty D&L Run
On Sunday I headed up to the D&L rail trail for my long run. The plan was a 3 hour run which should end up being about 18-20 miles. It was a unseasonably warm day for sure. The D&L trail is nice for long runs due to its length, but it can leave you high-and-dry since you have to carry all your hydration and nutrition. I like to park midway at the Cove Road Trailhead so I can do a 4 mile out-and-back to the south and then re-tool and do a 5 mile out-and-back to the north.
I took a two bottle Fuelbelt, but I ran a little dry on the second half of the run. Somewhere around mile 12 things started to fall apart. I don’t know if it was the heat or the pretty hilly bike ride the day before, or both but the wheels fell off. I ended up doing a walk/run the last 4 miles of the workout. It was a bit of a confidence buster.
I managed to get back to the car and everything was ok. Given how spent I was, I decided Monday would be a rest day. Next week is another build week, so I needed some recovery to get the most out of the next week. We are coming down to the wire here and I don’t want to sabaotage all the hard work I have put in this season.
The last time I raced the New Jersey Devilman Half Lite, it was a cold dreary morning. I vividly remember the “ice cream headache” I had gotten when I plunged my head into the cold, dark water of Cedar Lake. I ended up with a decent result, but I remember thinking I would not be in any hurry to go back there again.
Well, turn the clocks ahead two years and now with a cold swim in Lake Coeur d’Alene ahead of me, I returned. This time armed with a new neoprene swim cap I was ready to tackle the 60 degree(F) black waters of Cedar Lake. I also figure an increased FTP and a couple Ironmans’ under belt, I could have a potential podium depending on who shows up that day. Hey, I did cut 30 minutes off my 70.3 PR last year.
Looking at last years results for my age group in this race, something under a 3:25 could get me a spot on a box of wood at the end of the day. My previous time was a 3:44 and looking at those times I could possibly shave off about 15-20 minutes altogether if I had a really good day. So I set out to do that.
I had booked a stay overnight at the Fairfield Inn in Millville, NJ as we did last time. It is a nice hotel and stashed out of the way in what appears to be a shopping mall that never came about. There are usually a lot of people staying there that are doing the race. We were not in a big hurry to get down to Millville this time, since there is not much to see except for strip malls and big box stores. From what I found there aren’t many restaurants with any healthy food either. Everything is chain restaurant junk food. I think they have every fast food place imaginable. Sorry Quakertown, but I think they have you beat. The best option is probably the Kawa Thai Sushi restaurant.
So, we left later in the day and stopped in Manayunk at the Couch Tomato restaurant on Main St. It was really good. I had a Pistachio Pesto flat bread pizza that had baby arugula and a lemon aioli on it. It was quite tasty. Also, Arugula has a ton of Nitric Oxide in it, for a little cardiovascular boost.
We arrived at the hotel around 8pm and checked in. After settling in, I did my last minute race preparations, watched a little TV and then I was quickly off to dream land. I had a great nights sleep too. Last time I did this race I was so wound up I hardly slept at all. I surely do not get as anxious about races like I used to.
I recently read the book “Headspace for the Perfect Race: Create a Winning Athlete Mindset” by Carrie Barrett which had a tip about how to script out your entire pre-race morning plan in order to take some stress off of yourself. So, I created a script detailing everything I had to do, including brushing my teeth and going to the bathroom, and how long it would take. Despite the constant ridicule of my anality by my wife, this took a huge amount of stress off of my morning. It was great. And my wife later admitted that she found it kind of helpful too since she could plan her morning “duties” without conflicting with me. It seems a bit extreme but I would really recommend it if you stress out on race mornings.
The breakfast at the Fairfield does not open until 6:30am, so if you are going to stick around for that you will be a little late to the race. They do have microwaves and fridges in the rooms which is great. I packed a frozen jar of my usual green smoothie this time and it was the perfect pre-race meal. My morning went smoothly and we were off to the race venue on time and with no stress. It was a gorgeous morning too. There were strutting gobblers(a male Wild Turkey) everywhere we looked on the way to the race.
I did not make the Saturday packet pickup so I had to get my race packet and get all my stickers on first thing. Piranha racing now has race tattoos for body marking so that takes a little more time on the part of the volunteers. Race number tattoos are better when you have mandatory day before packet pickup with more time to put them on.
I headed into transition and setup pretty quickly. Piranha also has marked tranistion spots which is SOOOO Awesome! It just makes things so much more organized and people aren’t cramming you into a little space like usual. Transition closes(7:30am) an hour before my wave start(8:30am), so after I set that up I have a whole hour to relax. I made one last port-a-john run and then I was good to go.
I ran into my Ironman blogger friend Shanna and her friend Amy while trying to locate my wife. I caught up a bit with them and then resumed my search for the wife. Turns out she migrated down to the lake with our friends Kim and Kiersten. Our friend Kim was also doing the race, so I met up with her shot the breeze until race start. Kim is preparing for her first Ironman at Lake Placid this year, so I have been trying to help her through the process. Nothing like the mystery of your first Ironman. Exciting!
We were both testing out our new neoprene race caps….Pretty hot huh?! 🙂
Before I knew it it was 8:30am and my wave was being called to the chilly 60 degree water of Cedar Lake. It wasn’t too bad after the initial rush of water into my wetsuit. My hands and feet could feel the coolness, but it wasn’t too bad. There were a bunch of guys in my wave and it was rather crowded in the small start area. It was only a minute or two before the announcer was yelling “GO!”
The swim start was brutal from the starting line to the first buoy. I mean it was arms, legs and bodies everywhere. I must have had two guys swim over top of me and I think I swam over a couple myself. If an Ironman mass start is worse than that I could not imagine it. About 2/3 of the way to the first buoy I got a mouthful of the scum water and starting choking on it . It was one of those chokes where you keep choking every time you breathe. I started breast-stroking until I could regain my composure again. I was talking myself back to calmness again and I was back on track by the time I reached the first buoy.
I quickly moved to the outside of the swim channel where there was open water after making the first turn. This allowed me to get back on my rhythm again. I then settled into a really nice stroke and just cruised through the swim. I checked my watch once after the first loop and I saw around 11 minutes. That is not too bad considering my choking incident. Now that the field had spread out I could really gain some speed. I really enjoyed the swim here this time. Before I knew it I was done both loops and heading for the aluminum stairway.
I checked my watch exiting the water and it read ~22 mins. So for a 0.8 mile swim that is around 1:36/100y pace which is really good for me. Also, my Garmin said my average stroke rate was around 70 strokes/min which is a little higher than what I have been typically doing in the pool. I have been really focusing this season on increasing my stroke rate to gain some more speed.
Unfortunately, the Devilman folks place the T1 timing mat at the entry into the tranistion area which is about a 1/4 mile away from the swim exit. This annoys me because it does not give an accurate representation of the swim. A quarter mile jog will really through off your swim metrics. I thought about it while jogging over there and hit the lap button on my Garmin halfway to the transition mat just so I could get more accurate swim stats.
Denise and Kiersten were standing right at the end of the exit plank as I ran by and gave them a thumbs up. I then heard Shanna a little further down the line and did the same. Considering the amount of fans at the race I had a good percentage of fan support! 🙂
Transition went well. I skipped the socks for the bike and put them next to my run shoes. I purchased some spray on sunscreen this year, so I gave my shoulders and arms and good spray since they typically get baked on these races. I don’t usually wear tank-style shirts so my upper arms arm prime sun meat. The spray worked well.
The T1 exit contains the timing mat for the bike start and then there is a tenth of a mile jog with your bike to the mount area. Again, more transition time is added to your bike time. This kind of bugs me, can you tell?
This bike course is flat and fast. There was minimal winds this morning too, except for a very light breeze out of the North. This gave a little tailwind on the way out to the turnaround. Riding out at 20+ MPH you could hardly tell, but coming back was a little more noticeable.
I had peformed an race analysis for this event using Best Bike Splits web site. The site recommended that I maintain an average of about 213 watts over the course. I performed this using my last FTP test, which was done late last season. Probably not real accurate for my current level, but I never got around to doing one lately. So I ended up staying a little bit below that in the low 200’s. Regardless I was keeping a good clip and I was feeling really strong most of the way.
There was a lot of drafting going on in this race. There was one guy I was behind for a while that was going at my pace, but I tried to keep him about 4-10 bike lengths ahead of me. One guy came up beside me and told me stay behind him and he stay behind me. “Huh?!” I never had anyone do that before. I ended passing the guy ahead of me after he got too close and we hopscotched each other a few more times for the whole race. Eventually everyone spaced out and on the second loop I was one my own most of the time. I prefer that.
The 10 miles heading back was definitely a little more taxing on the legs. The North breeze was more of a headwind and it picked up as the morning progressed. I finished the first loop in about 43 minutes, which was a little faster than I had planned. I passed Denise and Kiersten at the turnaround and they were not even looking.
I finished a bottle of Skratch Labs hydration and nibbled on my chunks of Amrita bars the entire bike. I was starting to feel a bit full on the 2nd loop, so I cut back on the eating a bit. This isn’t an Ironman smorgasboard!
On the last 10 miles I was starting to question whether I went too hard on the bike. It is such a fast course that it is easy to get carried away. But, my legs were starting to feel a little crampy and taxed. Hmmm?
I finished the bike in around 1:51 at about 22.2 mph average speed. This was about 13 minutes faster than my previous attempt and over 2 mph faster. The average speed was probably a bit more than that due to the jog to/from transition to the bike mount/dismount area. If you compare the actual ride stats to the Best Bike Split(BBS) race calculation, you can see that the projected time on BBS was 6 minutes slower and the power was 7-10 watts higher. A little off I’d say.
Would I have been better off at maybe around 1:55-6 and perhaps not feel as crampy in the legs? Most-likely.
My second transition was pretty much business as usual. I took another spray of sunscreen on my shoulders and a shot in my face. I did close my eyes. It ended up burning a little so I had to use my towel to get if off my eyelids. I also had two Fuelbelt bottles, one filled with Skratch Labs hydration and another with some Perpetuem mix. I decided hydration was the more important of the two and I felt I was well fueled with my Amrita Bars, so I took the Skratch Labs hydration with me.
I made my way across some ball fields and a driveway comprised of very loose sand onto the run course. My legs, particularly my quads, were feeling a little crampy from the start. It was like an octopus had its tentacles wrapped around my legs and it was squeezing. A sure sign I had pushed a little too hard on the bike. I stopped for a second while heading through the school parking lot to do a quick quad stretch, but when I did that I could also feel my hamstrings cramp up. So I pushed on. I have had this feeling before in the beginning of the run and I knew if I just pressed on, it would eventually go away.
I started out running about a 8:20/mi pace except for the 1st mile where I stopped to stretch. My plan was to run sub-8, so I was figuring the crampiness would wear off and I could pick it up a bit.
The majority of the out-and-back course runs across roads through very wide open farm fields except for the first mile that turns through some homes. The sun was starting to cook and there is no shade for relief. Fortunately, on the way out there was a slight headwind that helped to limit the heat. I dumped a cup of water over my head at each water stop to cool me down a bit.
I had my run shoes loosely tied in transition in order allow me to slip in them quickly. I knew I had to tighten them eventually, but I was putting it off as much as possible. At around mile 3-4, my laces decided for me that I finally had to tie them and came loose.
Now that my laces were snug I could really kick it in now right. My legs were just not there yet. I had a few people pass me, but fortunately they were all younger age groups. I hadn’t seen many in my age group all day. Only 1 or maybe two on the bike too. EIther I was really doing well, or I was way behind.
I finally reached the turnaround point at 4.4 miles. Now there was a tailwind and it was really feeling hot. I saw a K-17 team Jersey coming towards which turned out to be Ashley Stumpp who is from my area and also did Ironman Lake Placid last year. I gave her a shout of encouragement and may have startled her a bit. She looked to be “in the zone!”
My run pace continued to decline during the second half. My crampy legs were still there, but were tolerable. The reprecussions of the heat and going a little too fast on the bike were taking their toll now. My pace slowed into the high 8’s now. I felt I was still keep a steady pace, but my watch indicated otherwise. Not my plan.
I passed a younger guy in the last mile, who asked if I knew Todd Hydock. He said “He wears that stuff too.” Presumably referring to my Amrita tri jersey. I said I didn’t and he commented “that is probably why you are so fast!” I laughed and said “I am surely not fast!” Then after I was about 10 feet past him he picked up speed, past me and then slowed down in front of me. WTF?!
I then passed him again on the turn to the main road before turning into the school. I picked up my pace a bit so I would not have to deal with him again. I made the turn into the school, rounded the school and headed down the loose sand driveway to the ball fields to the finish line. My wife Denise and our friend Kiersten were there cheering as I past them. The younger guy I had previously passed twice, decided to make a last blast to the finish. Denise and Kiersten yelled to catch him and I just made a wave him by gesture. He wasn’t in my age group so I didn’t really care at that point.
A couple observations on the run…
As you can see from the run stats below, my heart rate continued to steadily increase over the run and was maxed out on the 2nd half. My HR was highest when my pace was actually slowing down. Surely a sign that the heat was effecting me. I haven’t really had to deal with much heat this season so far.
I always thought that the new Garmin Run Stats that come with their new HR monitor were a bit of a novelty. I happened to glance at these from my race and noticed a few things. My run cadence started dropping in the 2nd half of the run. My vertical oscillation, vertical movement while running, was higher on the 2nd half and my ground contact time decreased. So I was apparently spending more time in the air than on the ground. That is most-likely not a good thing since my pace slowed and my HR was increasing. Perhaps something I should keep in mind when my run starts to faulter a bit.
Run Time: 1:16:46
Finish Time: 3:36:32
I crossed the finish line and headed right towards the race tent to get some shade. I was totally wiped out. I started feeling like I was on the verge of puking. Not sure if that was from just racing hard or something leftover from last weeks stomach bug, or maybe both. Denise and Kiersten came over and we started chatting a bit. Things starting to spin as I was talking to them. I decided I better sit down for a bit and eventually everything calmed down. I did end up getting a chill and some major goosebumps. Definitely some affects from the heat.
I think I left everything I had on the race course. Now I was wondering where I might have placed. I ventured over to the timing table to see. I finished 44th overall which was easy to figure out. Age group results were a little more difficult to figure out since the screen kept scrolling. I finally figured out that I was 5th in my age group. Technically, I was 6th, but the one guy in my AG was in the top 3 overall.
While I didn’t get a podium spot, I am still pretty happy about my result. Overall I gained 8-9 minutes over my previous attempt which is a decent improvement for a shorter race like this. Placement-wise I moved up 21 places in the overall standings from 65th in 2013 and 5 places in my age group(11th in 2013). I really did pushed my limits and now have a very good understanding of where those limits are right now.
That’s my only race before my “A” race at Ironman Coeur d’Alene, so it is back to hard training again. The biggest takeaway from this race is that I really need to concentrate on a mellow bike leg at IMCDA. I am talking 0.70-0.75 level intensity. I want to have a really good marathon leg and trying to push the bike under 6 hours would not be wise. I need to shoot for a 6:00-6:15 bike leg in order to have a great run.
I now definitely have a different perspective on the NJ Devilman race as what I had previously. I would defintitely consider doing it again. I learned a few things and feel like it was a good pre-cursor for IMCDA.
My old ProForm J6 treadmill is getting a bit tired these days. It actually just shut off on me during my brick run last Saturday. It has served me well for the couple hundred dollars I paid for several years ago, but we both agreed it was time for an upgrade.
I have also learned to embrace the treadmill lately. I used to be a bit more “macho” and run outside no matter what, but I am totally over that now. I have nothing to prove there anymore and I am more than happy to chug along for miles while watching TV or or some videos. I also tend to get this wheeziness in my lungs when I do any intense activity in very cold temperatures. My wife used to refer to this as my “hockey cough” when I would come home late at night after playing ice hockey and be wheezing and coughing in bed. I obviously inherited the athsmatic-ness of my mother and grandfather.
I started doing some research online and found a few brands and features that I thought were important. I made the rounds to several shops in the area and tested them out. The LifeSpan TR4000i was one model that struck my eye online. It had good reviews and was rated highly by Consumer Reports and Runner’s world, but no one had any in stock to try. One shop had a TR1200i, but it was not setup correctly, so it was making all kinds of noise running on it. Not a good sell. Their price was also a bit higher than the online price of the 4000i, so I bagged that.
I headed down to Quakertown to FItness Factory Outlet which states they have the 4000i on their website. When I got there he stated that he only sold that online. He did have a bunch of these Spirit treadmills in the showroom. I tried them all and was very impressed. The price was right too. I went home and did some research on them and it turns out Consumer Reports also recommended the Spirit 485 higher than the 4000i I was looking at before. It also had a little better warranty too. So after thinking it over for a few days, I made the call to purchase!
I was pretty excited to hear that they had the model I wanted in stock, so I figured they would deliver in a day or so. I was told that the delivery guy would call me later that day to setup delivery. When he called I was a bit disappointed to find out they were about a week behind on deliveries. We agreed on the following Saturday to setup and deliver.
The driver arrived promptly at 10:30am with my treadmill. They carried the large box in and started setting it up. Eventually they called me down to report that the main wire adapter from the panel to the motor was broken. They were very apologetic, but I knew it was not their fault. They said that the Fitness Factory Outlet guys would get back to me. I psyched when the called me in a couple hours and said they had a wire from another unit and would be up in an hour to finish assembling it.
Stay tuned for a future post on my actual review of the unit after I get some use out of it. So far so good though!