Saturday, July 31, 2010

Swimming Long

It's incomprehensible that I routinely make 5-6 hours available twice a week for a long ride or brick workout, and, yet, seemingly, it seems impossible to allot just short of 2 consecutive hours to the discipline of swimming for any given day of the training week.

Incomprehensible, until the obvious fact bitch slaps you:  swimming long sucks.  There I said it.  Great swimmers, in particularly the great ultra distance swimmers, must either be the most imaginative people in the world, or whatever is antipodal to thought and imagination.  (Phelps might come to mind here by his personal detractors)

The reasoning for this conclusion results from what mental feats (or disasters) that are required to spend 2-6  hours a day staring at the black line of the bottom of the pool or the nothingness of a lake or dark ocean.  (People who train in tropical paradises including corral reefs and/or tiger sharks obviously fair better).

Yes Dave Scott famously responded when asked what he thinks about when swimming a 7000 meter workout:  "breathing".  And therein lies the proof.  We all know Dave Scott was a robot.  They probably forgot to automate the breathing function into his subconscious.

Also there is the 'easy out-ness' of swimming in the pool.  Around 3000 meters you say.  Man I'm tired.  Time to go 30 yards yonder to the warm hot tub or showers.  Cycling doesn't afford this temptation.  When 50 miles from home when you realize you are tired you HAVE to say, suck it up loser, get pedaling.  Takes immense effort to do this in a pool.  Especially when, as stated, you are staring at a black line beneath you.

Yet all this complaining is tangential to my real point.  You must, simply, swim long every once in a while.  Acknowledge these draw backs and just do it.  Like work.  Punching the clock.  Get it done.

Like cycling, swimming is one of the sports where you can train distances in excess of your race discipline.  Bike 150m, then 112 is much more manageable.  Swim 7000m, 3800 is a cake walk.  (Obviously running does not follow this rule.  You should not exceed 22-24 miles before your IM.  However, AFTER, in the off season, I surely encourage you to run a 50k or 50 miler to recalibrate your sense of 'long')

So I swam 5000 today (5 x 1000).  That's over 1200 more than I'll need for IM.  While that's a paltry distance for a real swimmer it does give me a modicum of confidence.  All week I had been doing drills and speed work.  But in the end, there is no avoiding it, get out there and swim long.  Feel the ache and burn and want to stop, and just stop looking at the clock and the tempting locker room door that leads you away from that damn black line of boredom, monotony, and, eventually, madness.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Launch - Test Run

How many puns and word plays can we make with a shoe called the Launch?  3? - 2? - 1?....  Sorry couldn't help myself.  In short, endless, so let's just lift off, take flight, shuffle to Cape Canaveral, and forget it.

Anyway, the shoe get's it's names from it's light weight (9.3oz).  However, it doesn't quite reach the helium injected non weight of the Green Silence (6.9oz).  But it's not supposed to.  Brooks has the Launch categorized simply under 'neutral shoe' while the Green Silence has been designated "competition".

For Brooks, I believe the Launch is supposed to accommodate a certain dualism.  Something that is race worthy, but also a light trainer for those going minimalist.  Kind of like the Nike Lunar Glide, an all in one shoe, just a whole lot better.

The Launch is more flexible and feels more natural to me than the Lunar Glide.  Not such an awkward platform in my eyes.  Sometimes I wonder what Nike is thinking.  It works for the world over, but not so much for me, I guess.

I can tell already the place the Launch will take in my arsenal:  light weight trainer when I don't feel like I need the support of the more plush Glycerine.  I'll keep the dirty Glycerine trail bound and try and keep my Launch demi-virgin (real word with fascinating etymology).

Previously I had been using the Green Silence for a light trainer, but no more.  The shoe just couldn't handle the repeated abuse and is showing wear fast.  I don't think this is a fault of Brooks, just user error on my part.  I'm thinking the Launch, being a sturdier shoe, should take the abuse the Green Silence could not.  Green Silence, meet the track and the race course.  You're cut off.

The Launch breaths well.  The mid sole to upper sole has a nice low profile that really lets you feel the road.  Probably not the best candidate for the heavy heeled striker.  Brooks has done way better in the past when it comes to being bold with their color scheme.  But then again, I got shipped boring green, white and black one, not the bitchin' bright red one which is available.

There might be an explanation for this, as the shoe was ordered by none other than Ryan Grote, the most unabashed of Jets fans.  Green and black, green and white, it's like algea-ish or something off a shampoo bottle.  Not a football team or a shoe.  Whatever, tho...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Unsightly Politics

Gather round and let me tell ye a parable:

I walked into the locker room at the YMCA and was confronted with two naked, older (not elderly, but, say, recently retired) men having a heated discussion about politics.  They were not sequestered in a corner, but front stage; old man balls out, hands on hips bitching about this and that.  Loudly.  I don't even know if they were agreeing or arguing.  It looked like they were just taking turns speaking.

That's it.  That's the whole story.  The moral?  What can we gain from this?

I learned that there is a time and place for politics.  And readers, I promise you, after today, I will never bring them into my blog.  I used to maybe put up a political jibe here and there on FB.  No more!  Why?  Because to the innocent bystander, politics is UGLY.  People should save it till they are in an isolated area with other people who are themselves ready to engage in policy debate.  Otherwise, people who consider each other political anti-christs should just get along nicely.

I've learned much today, dear reader.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Audiobook of the Week

I listen to a great deal of audiobooks.  I'm pretty sure if I were to visit Harvard they'd give me an honorary degree.  Really.  I've been training to them for years.

Just in Ayn Rand and Dostoevsky alone, I have over 200 hours of material.  No joke.

Yeah, I'm a dork.  But I'm going to share with you my favorite listens each week so you can hone your choices without as much trial and error that I've had to put up with.

This week:  Endurance by Alfred Lansing,  narrated by Simon Prebble

This reading is of the 2nd edition, 1958.  You can tell this is an older text because it is imbued with a certain kind of romanticism and poetry that non fiction writers just don't employ anymore.  It's not journalistic.  Lansing really tells a tale.  What does this mean for the authenticity of his narration of each man's experience of the horrible events?  Who knows?  But I don't care...

Oh, yes...about those horrible events.

This is the story of Shackleton's failed attempt to cross Antarctica.  It details the whole voyage and all it's characters.  (The ship was called the Endurance after Shackleton's family motto.  No, Shackleton was not marathoner or triathlete.)

When out training we suffer.  We feel sorry for ourselves and come home and whine to our loved ones about how tough it was out there and how hot it was or how cold it was and wah wah wah.  I do it all the time!  I'm a little bitch, sometimes...really!

So I found it refreshing to delve into the experience of a 17th month survival ordeal in which each second was often horrific.  I mean, what's a Ironman compared to 17 months!  What's a three week build or a month of base aerobic conditioning in comparison.  After all, I we do this with food and shelter.  Jesus, we are wimps!  

I don't want to give to much away because these true events are pretty amazing and almost seem fictional.  Just get the book.  It tops off at 10 hours so it's not the longest of listens, I finished it in two and half days of long rides, but it's well worth it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rest Day

There is a crazy phenomenon that tries to assert itself again and again into triathlon training.

Real life.

And against all my greatest efforts things such as grocery shopping and laundry occur.  I need to go to the bank or get the car washed.  I need to sometimes attend to things like basic hygiene.  That, and occasionally I have to communicate with the outside world, allowing friends and family to know that I'm still alive.  (Free tip:  don't make your last FB status "swimming at the lake" and then fall off radar for a few days.)

Herein lies the importance of a rest day.  One suddenly has 3-4 hours not dedicated to training that can be utilized for basic necessities.  I find it of utmost importance to take advantage of this in an attempt to make the rest of the maddeningly busy week smoother.  Here are a few ideas put into action while you are not actively swimming, biking, running, or lifting.

1)  Do all shopping and procuring of food and toiletries.  Buy lots.  Double what you think you'd need.
2)  Do ever piece of laundry that has been making your house smell like a gym locker.
3)  Empty all the gear from your car (it, most likely, HAS been a gym locker and DOES stink).  Let it air itself out, maybe vacuum it if you have the energy.
4)  Tackle each email in your inbox that you have been putting off.
5)  Pay all your bills due that week.  After a 6 hour brick, you're not going to remember.  No.  No way, now how.
6)  Acknowledge the existence of your loved ones.  Maybe say thank you.

I find it important to do at least one workout if possible.  But it is active recovery.  No intensity or duration.  Just form.  I find a swim filled with technique drills really helps dispense a great deal of lactic build up.  And if I can't manage it I DO NOT FEEL GUILTY.  At least I tell myself that.

Even God needed a day off.  I know we are triathletes and all, but we can maybe take a cue from the omnipotent.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bike Fit...Do it.

Here's a fact:  if the road is flat 25% of drag on your bike is road resistance, 75% is air resistance.  The single greats limiter of aerodynamics is...wait for it....YOU.

Triathletes like to buy stuff.  We get an aero bottle to fit on our aero frame.  My new bike hides the brake calibers behind the seat tube for a more aero flow.  We wear aero helmets, and god damn it, somewhere inside we really thinking shaving our arms and our legs makes us more aero.

Well, all these tiny details are kinda ridiculous when you compare them to the 125-190 lb and 5 ' to 7' human that is riding the bike.  Just think about it!

So before going nuts with you're aero this and your aero that, try making yourself aero.  If not, it's like watching a $10,000 ride  go down the coarse, thousands of dollars spent on shaving off grams, with 5 water bottles at 20 oz each.

A bike fit is needed for this.  A bike fit will not only get you aero, but will benefit:

1) your pedal stroke efficiency
2) your comfort
3) proper muscle group utilization
4) your power output

Now there needs to be a little give and take when it comes to getting aero versus being comfortable.  What good is having a bitchin' aero position if 20 minutes into your IM bike split you are dying to get the hell off your bike?

I find that it best benefits me to get as aggressive as possible and see if it's not going to work.  If I can't do my long rides, then it's time to raise my headset  or something.  But mostly, if all things are going properly, my legs hurt enough to keep me from noticing my back and my wrists (the profile design T2 cobras are wicked aggressive, but sometimes, ouch).

So where do you go to get fit?  Go find Rob at Marty's Reliable Cycle in Randolph.  I've been working with him for years and he is a pro at dialing me in right where I need to be.  We go over the pros and cons of how aggressive I can get on my bike and still be able to maintain comfort and my ability to run afterwards.  In short, we optimize my ride.

Find Rob Here

Or, you can be one of those individuals who spend a small fortune on your bike, wheels, and little aero do-hickies, and ride your bike int he most un-economical and non aerodynamic way.

A few tips when you go for your fit:
1)  Make sure you've been doing some race tempo rides and pay attention to your position.  It's probably much different than your casual position.  I've found time and time again that when I race I'm probably 50mm more forward in my saddle.
2)  Don't be afraid to pedal during the fit, work up a sweat and relax into your natural stroke.
3)  Make sure you can relate your style of riding and experience to your fitter.  It's an art, not a science.

Now, once you are optimized.  Then go by every aero do-hicky on the market!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Heat Advisory

The last two weeks have been brutal.  Admidst brown outs from rampant air conditioning and cooling centers being opened, some of us are out there cycling and running as far as we can.  Hell, in some of the more shallow open water lakes I've broken some heavy sweats during a long swim.

Let's address a slap in the face fact of being an Ironman Triathlete.  I don't care who you are, you are not going to start your Ironman marathon before noon.  If you did, you most likely broke the WR IM bike split.  Maybe the WR IM swim split, too.

Now think of all those whiney marathoners you know.  Wah wah, the race isn't starting till 8.00am.  It might be 60 degrees by the end.  Wah wah, this year is record heat of 65 degrees.

Let's look at some of the main IM calendar in North American.  June, July, and August.  Afternoon marathons here are very likely to be well above 80, if not 90.  Kona lava fields are ALWAYS 90 with 100% humidity.  Last two times I did IM Arizona let's just say it wasn't a breezy and cool 55.

As an IM triathlete accept the fact that you will run your marathons in the absolute worst marathon conditions...oh yeah, after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112.

That's why when there is a heat advisory, I'm out running or biking hard at noon sharp.  If I swim a 1 hour split and bike a 5 hr in IM KY, let's see, I'll get to start a marathon in the lovely August heat of 1 in the afternoon.  It's what it's about.  If it was supposed to be easy, it wouldn't be as interesting.

And next time a marathoner is bitching about the outrages temperatures at Boston.  Just laugh.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Importance of the Early AM Run

I hate the mornings.  Let me say that again.  I HATE the mornings.  Sometimes I'd like to compare it to castration with a dull spoon.  And I define morning as 9am.  10 years as a professional musician will do that to you.

So how do I feel about 6am?  5.30am?  bleh

Yeah, anyway.  I am exagerating, but you get the point.

Well, I run 2-4 miles around that time.  Even if I have a 'real' run scheduled for later in the day.  The morning run gets me up and moving.   

Do you procrastinate in the morning?  I do.  Suddenly I need to watch stock futures or organize my boxes of pop tarts.  Anything to keep from getting going.  I spend an hour 'fueling up' for a workout that gets moved farther and farther into the day.

But for the AM run, there is no fueling.  There is no nothing.  Just have a pair of shorts and my shoes at my bed side.  Wake and run out the door.  No thought.  It's half over before I wake up.  It's not so much about fitness, but attitude.  Also, if I can't get to my 'real' run for the day,  I don't feel guilty.  During high volume weeks this really keeps your miles up where they need to be.  Breaking up your miles into twice a day, morning and night, works really well for me.  I still keep my 'long runs' continuous.

Obviously, if my scheduled run is an A-priority track, I don't do this.  But otherwise, a quick 20-40minutes in the morning goes a long way to motivate for training on any given day.  Somehow I'm out on the bike or at the pool earlier than if I planned on starting my day on the bike or at the pool.  Go figure.  A quick run before breakfast sometimes leads to a great run after breakfast, too.  Experiment.  Have fun.  Make the morning a little less crappy, if you hate the morning.  Don't rush the run.  Don't push it.  Just enjoy the sunrise as best you can.

The Importance of a Swim Coach

Firstly, let me liken my experience utilizing a swim coach to what I know best: cycling.

Each time I spend quality time with a swimming expert and mentor I feel as if I had just been riding my bike for the last 3000 miles with the break rubbing.  Yes, huge wattage for a fraction of the potential speed.  Yeah, that sucks.  You may feel the same way in your swim.

My whole career has been spent hammering the swim to come out in the middle of the pack and then chasing down guys who swam much better, seemingly, on much less effort.  As I become more and more efficient swimmer I'm learning one thing:  yes, they did swim much faster and they used half the energy shed by my completely non-hydrodynamiclly inclined body.

2010, enter Melissa Grosenstein.  Find her on Facebook or track her down at the Randolph, NJ YMCA or hit me up for her info.  Or, now, maybe find her on a tri course, being that she just started racing, and, by the way, was the fastest Newbie AND an AG podium in her very first tri.  She won't mind me telling you it was mostly on pure fitness and swimming domination because experience sure didn't play into it :)  Being first out of the water must be nice!  (One day, with her help, I'll see how that feels.)

Working with her a day or two a week means one thing:  drills, drills, and drills.  She's on the money with this.  I'm going to paraphrase the epic triathlete Don Fink.  If you can bike 112 miles and run 26.2, you have the aerobic capacity to swim 2.4.  Period.  How efficiently and fast you do so has to do with your swimming form.  Thus, treat swimming like golf.  It's all about form during the majority of practice.

So now I've been in the water 5 days a week.  But only one of those days is focused on distance.  Once a week I get out in the open water and hammer for 2+ miles.  Here is where I build swimming endurance and work on sighting skills.

Otherwise, yes, I'm in chlorinated water staring at a black line on the bottom of the pool trying desperately to figure out how to roll my hips properly.  (Yes, ladies, my inability to dance even cuts into my triathlon performance).  Would seem boring, but each time I swim a new PR it gets easier and easier. In the Randolph Triathlon I only had to bike by 9 guys to be third on the bike course.

For those of you down towards the Princeton area please check out Erica Smith, a great swim coach I have worked with previously.  She's an OPEN WATER BEAST.  Find her on face book or hit me up for her number.  A collegiate all-american she'll get you in top form for sure

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Green Silence Rocks

AND IT'S RED AND YELLOW!!!!!  How awesome is that?  And the shoes don't match.  But yet they do.  They compliment each other, as in each shoe is the other's opposite.  It's hard to explain other than...sweet.  I love how people do double takes all the time as I run by.

Anyway, maybe I should touch on why I race/train in the shoe (though the cool looks do make the case).

The Green Silence is a racing flat for sure.  It's super light weight and flexible.  However, it offers a tinge more support than Brook's Racer ST.  Enough as to often inspire me to take this light weight shoe on a few training runs a week, leaving the Glycerine's home.  Even to the tune of a 18 mile trail run.

There is a great deal of hub bub and trendiness about minimalist barefoot yada yada.  It has it's place and it's merits.  But minimalist is not an all-or-nothing black and white thing.  At least I don't think it is  It's not either barefoot or huge cushioned stability shoes.  It's not an all or nothing.  Everyone loves to be part of a club, right?  So get your vibrums and run non stop in the them?  Bad idea.

However, if you want to lean towards the minimalist camp for your training shoes get The Green Silence.  If you just want a sick racing flat for the track or your race, get The Green Silence.

6.9 oz  Cased closed.

On another note, The Green Silence is ridiculously 'green'...not in color, as mentioned previously, but in eco-friendliness.  Recycled materials and soy based inks.  God damn it's better than granola.

Mid Season Race Recap

Some highlights of 2010

High Point Hill Climb TT
2nd cat 4/5/open

Bassman Triathlon
3rd AG, 11th overall

Superhero Half Marathon
3rd AG, 12th overall

Jerseyman Triathlon
2nd AG, 7th overall

Randolph Triathlon
2nd AG, 5th overall

Ironman Kentucky

My form is shaping up bit by bit.  All these races I was training through, meaning no taper, just another workout in the week.  My only big taper was for Eagleman, which was my biggest disappointment to date. DNF.  It hurts to still think about it.  But I was ill.  I was off.  It wasn't my day.  It was a disaster so I pulled the plug so I could immediately get back to some quality training.

I'm bummed I haven't marched onto the overall podium yet this season, but I use that as fuel for my training.  I will get there!  Each race I can point to a small weakness that kept me from it, and I am taking great care in addressing each shortcoming.  My swim is x10 better than when I began the season and the new bike set up is incredible.  More on these later....

Rebirth of The Blog

Back in the blogging saddle!

Yes, it's been quite some time since I've recounted happenings and events in my 2010 Triathlon season. Last check, I was blogging from Tampa florida where I went for spring training. I wasn't even punctual with my posts then.

My excuse at that time was the 25-30 hour training weeks just wore me out. Now I have another excuse to dodge responsibility with: earning a living. Training for Ironman is much, much easier if you don't work for a living. (Any and all sugar mamma's please contact me. An Ironman sure beats a pool boy).

I am able to fit my training weeks in around teaching guitar lessons and working at Marty's Reliable Cycle and The Running Co. , but little else gets done. Time blogging could be time spend eating or sleeping, and at times that is an easy choice regarding where to delegate my time.

But as the season progresses and my form takes shape I'm finding a bit more energy to get back to keeping all my friends up to date with my progress. It's mid July now and my form for IM Louisville is coming along fine. My race results have steadily improved throughout the season and I'm hoping for a solid peak come the end of August.

I hope to be a bit more regular and to address a variety of topics. Any suggestions? If anyone out there has a question hit me up. I'd love to add an "ask Jason" component to my ramblings. It's just another excuse to pontificate on the virtues or vices of some topic. :)

Be well.