Thursday, August 29, 2013

Week Review: August 25, 2013

The week in review is a look at what I have been up to in training as well as a (sometimes) look into the other side of my life as well as links to some of what I have found interesting on the interwebs. This week is about how I crashed and burned ...

Training Update:

So this was the week I finally dug myself into a bit of a training hole. The legs quit on me this past Sunday on my long ride ... which ended up as a not so long 51 mile trek. Not a good feeling. Needless to say this week's training will be much different as I attempt to dig myself out and start feeling good again as soon as possible.

I have a few things going on with my training that need to be balanced out. First, I have been focusing on increased run mileage and stress. With the Philly Marathon on tap in November, I have to balance out preparing for that as well as a few Fall triathlons. As my default position is to do too much, multiple race goals can cause "problems" for me. And by problems, I mean digging my own hole and jumping right into it.

So what happened? In the past, the big weekend is something I have used successfully. I ended the week with a few big days, back-to-back-to-back, much like I have done in previous training cycles. Transition workout and a swim on Friday, a long run and recovery ride on Saturday, then a long ride on Sunday. That is quite a bit of work, but I don't think that is the root of the problem. I think it has to do with what came before this weekend.

The stress put on the body comes from both total volume (mileage) as well as intensity (speed work, hill work, etc.). Looking back, I have increased mileage while adding in more hilly runs and rides. The combination was just a bit much for me at this time. Looking back at what I have done for the past few weeks it is obvious ... now.

Live and learn, right?

Interesting Stuff From the Interwebs:

I loves me some Greek yogurt. Here is a good look at the different brands and how they compare. (Eating Well With Gina)

Mark Sisson on what he does to recover from his workouts. Nothing too over-the-top, but a good breakdown of recovery techniques. (Mark's Daily Apple)

Running a marathon is quite the experience. Even if you are in top shape it is easy to make mistakes and not perform to your potential. Here is a nice piece by Running Times to help you solve your own marathon puzzle. (Running Times)

Music Video of the Week: A little Grouplove and their video for Ways to Go

Video of the Week: Is there any other video that could be here this week? Miley "don't call me Hannah Montana" Cyrus at the VMAs.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Book Review - Fitness Confidential by Vinnie Tortorich with Dean Lorey

Known as "America's Angriest Trainer," Vinnie Tortorich has been training celebrities and athletes for more than twenty years, becoming the go-to guy in Hollywood. Relatively unknown to most everyone less than a year ago, Tortorich has written a no nonsense, blunt assessment of just about everything fitness in America.

After reading the book I don't think he is as angry as he is mad. Mad at a fitness industry that has led many of us astray. Maybe disappointed with the world that we live in. Vinnie (can I call you Vinnie?) is a man who is dedicated his life to fitness and his clients needs. He is an athlete, he is a trainer. After 22 years in the business he has a knowledge base that few if any can compete with.

The book is under 200 pages and is a quick read, packed with personal stories that relate to the topic at hand. It reads quick for two reasons - the style of the writing and the compelling story it tells. There is an amazing amount of information packed into the pages with something for everyone.

When he was a young man growing up in Louisiana, Tortorich was a bit of an outcast, finding solace the day he found his local gym. For those of you who haven't been around the scene for 30 years, the gym of the 1980s is not your present day health club ... nor is it your current health club experience. The place where he started his fitness journey was full of large men and free weights. In the Summer it was hot and freezing cold in the winter. It was also a place where, for the first time in his life, someone other than his parents treated him well. I can totally relate.

Back in 1984 I walked into a place called Ottmer's Ironden in my hometown of Lakewood, NJ. It was the same type of place that Tortorich was training in, just in a different town. I was "the kid" who was always there, hanging out with the local bodybuilders and powerlifters. They took me serious as I did them. For me, like Tortorich, it was a place I could go and feel comfortable; it was a place that shaped me.

Which made me laugh when I read the pages dedicated to helping you get the most out of your health club membership. He is spot on when discussing the role of the "trainers" and the current layout of your standard health club facility. Which made me laugh a little harder when I think back to my former business, Body Dynamics. BodyD was a "health club," but I ran it like a gym. Did I offer aerobics classes? Absolutely. Did I have a fair amount of treadmills, stairclimbers, elliptical trainers? Heck yeah. Even machines by Icarian, Body Masters and Hammer Strength. But well more than half the floor space was dedicated to free weights and basic machines. Unlike your LA Fitness and 24/7s of the world, I was able to balance what people were led to believe they needed with what was actually needed. I think Tortorich would have appreciated BodyD.

If you are at all serious about fitness and maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle I recommend you read this book. You will find out where we are going wrong with both diet and exercise, and why the latest fad is nonsense you should ignore. Read. This. Book.

You can pick up your own copy here.

Disclaimer: I purchased this book on my own and love the fact that the author was inspired by Jack LaLane.

Train hard. Stay Focused.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Rule #2: Be Consistent

"I've learned from experience that if you work harder at it, and apply more energy and time to it, and more consistency, you get a better result. It comes from the work." - Louis C.K.

“There’s more to being a model than just being really, really good looking.” - Derek Zoolander

Training for a big event - marathon, Ironman, any event with "ultra" in it - requires work and dedication over an extended period of time. Getting in some big workouts is important. Can't be very effective at 26.2 miles if you don't do a handful of 20 mile runs. But, without a consistent regimen, those big workouts are at best less effective than one would hope, and at worst pretty much worthless in reaching your goals.

As boring as it may be, it is the day in and day out of getting in your workouts that can do the most for your level of fitness, and ultimately your racing success. You are better off getting 6-8 hours of training in each week, every week, than you are averaging 10 hours per week, but with wide swings in volume and intensity. So, what is the best way to go about being more consistent?

To start with you have to understand that training for that "big race" is not the only priority in life.
Work and family commitments come first. Training for your big race, while important, doesn't put food on the table or pay the mortgage. And a big day on the bike is less important than a close relative's wedding. Fortunately, for most of us, work and family commitments generally recur on a fairly consistent schedule, excluding big events or emergencies. By plotting out these commitments you can now start to put together your training schedule.

Now that we have that out of the way, the next thing to do is develop your personal basic work week. Doing this is relatively simple. Here are the steps:

1. Find the block of times you have available for working out -  Be realistic. Do not commit yourself to getting up at 4 am to get your daily run in if you work until 11 pm and are not a morning person. Also don't commit to 20 hours of work each week if you know it just ain't happening or if you aren't physically capable of doing that much work without burning out or breaking down.

2. Schedule in the weekly sessions that are fixed - This could be a masters swim group that meets on a Tuesday evening or a group ride you like to meet up with on a weekly basis. In my case, I have a Saturday morning long run and masters swimming on Tuesdays and Thursdays that are fixtures in my weekly training plan.

3. Schedule in your key workouts - This would include your long run, long bike, and interval sessions. Remember to allow for adequate rest between these key sessions. In other words, except for a specific big weekend-type of training block, make sure you have enough time between your key sessions to perform well and get adequate recovery.

4. Change your basic work week with your training plan/immediate goals - What you do in the "off season" is much different than what you do in the 12 weeks prior to an Ironman. You will also want to change your basic week with your goals for a specific training block. For example, when I was trying to improve my swim a few years ago I had a 10-week period where I swam 5 days each week, scheduling bike and run workouts around the swim. Once spring came around I was back to a more balanced approach to my training.

5. When life gets in the way, better to get a shortened workout in than no workout - Let's say you are forced to work late to finish off a big project at work, keeping you from meeting your weekly group ride. If time allows, you are better off getting on the trainer for 30 minutes of intervals than just skipping that workout. In such a case you are better off doing short, hard intervals than just doing some easy swimming, biking or running. I have a few examples of short, effective workouts below that work great in these situations.

For an example of what an Ironman workweek looks like, you can find Gordo Byrn's thoughts here.

10 minute warmup - build intensity
10 x (1 minute hard + 1 minute recovery)
2 minutes colldown

1 mile warmup
5 x (2 minutes @ 5k race pace + 1 minute recovery)
1 mile cooldown


1 mile warmup
6-8 x (400M uphill + recovery back down the hill)
1 mile cooldown

warmup - 300M easy
Main set - 8-12 x (100M @ threshold + 15 sec. RI)
cooldown - 200-300M easy

You can find Rule #1 here.

Train hard. Stay focused.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Week Review - August 18, 2013

The week in review is a look at what I have been up to in training as well as a (sometimes) look into the other side of my life as well as links to some of what I have found interesting on the interwebs.

Training Update:

After a lower volume week heading into Steelman Triathlon, it was back to a full week of training. Monday and Tuesday were low intensity to allow the legs to recover from the race, and the real work began on Wednesday with an early morning, hilly mid-distance run. The week ended with a long run on Saturday and a long bike on Sunday. In between there was some interval work, the Wednesday Night Group Ride, and a main set of 12x100 at Thursday Masters that did some damage (in a good way).

The long ride on Sunday was a challenge on a number of levels. To start, the legs were tired and sore, while the weather was not what I wold call ideal. While it didn't rain all afternoon, I knew I would be in and out of rain all afternoon. And the plan was to do some climbing, tired legs be damned. Really just wanted to sit on the couch.

After a few easy miles as a warm up, I made my way up Applebutter Road and then Flint Hill Road very early in the ride. Able to do the work but not feeling good about it is never fun ... especially in the rain. Instead of packing it in I just kept riding and eating. Finally, after about two hours, the ride didn't totally suck. Ended up with 60+ miles when I rolled back into the driveway.

On tap for this week is more run volume, lots of hills, and intervals at expected 70.3 pace for both the run and the bike.

On a More Personal Note ...

Went to The Meadowlands on Saturday evening for the Jets-Jaguars preseason game with Jim. After a little tailgating we headed in for the 7:30 pm start. The final score was a 37-13 Jets win which is good. A number of concerns remain.

To start, the first team defense was terrible. After spending the week talking about how they needed to have a fast start and NOT give up big plays, the first play on defense was a 30+ yard pass. Using a very basic,
high school-like offense, JAX scored on their first two possessions with little resistance from the Jets D. At this point it is easy to discount some of what occurred, but the missed tackles are concerning. Tackling is Football 101. Frustrating, but the backups did a great job and showed that there is some decent depth at many positions.

More important than the poor performance, Quinton Couples is expected to be sidelined for 3-4 weeks with a hairline fracture in his ankle.

On the offensive side of the ball, after two nice drives and 10 quick points to start the game, Sanchez, once again, became Sanchez, tossing an INT in the end zone. And Hill, as has become standard as well, dropped a number of passes that never should have hit the ground. There was a fair amount of good, however, including the running game, Braylon Edwards, and the special teams unit, which looked to be in mid-season form.

Interesting Stuff From the Interwebs:

So in my real life, I have been trying to embed video into our website. Here is our August Market Overview and Economic Summary. Please take a look and give me some feedback. (Magellan Financial)

Ever wonder how to figure out to set a realistic marathon goal time? Here's how you do it. (Runners Connect)

Former world champion and one of the greatest triathletes of all-time, Chrissie Wellington, with her top 50 race tips. (Chrissie Wellington)

Music Video of the Week: The Mowgli's are a relatively new band with a fun sound. Here is the official video for The Great Divide.

Video of the Week: So I love me some pop culture every now and then, especially if it has to do with a train wreck of a celebrity. So here we have Oprah interviewing Lindsay Lohan on her addiction problem. Why is it the celebrities are always the last to know they have a problem?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Race Report - 9th Annual Steelman Triathlon

The ninth iteration of the Steelman Triathlon took place on August 11, 2013 at Lake Nockamixon and was my seventh time racing here, with my first race in 2007. Unless I have an Ironman scheduled that keeps me from racing here, I'm here come race day. Dale has done a good job of growing this race and making sure there aren't any surprises come race day.

I am drawn back here every year for a number of reasons. Being local, it is an easy add every year, which brings out a big contingent of local triathletes. And with local tri club Endurance Multisport entering the scene a few years ago, the contingent of local racers has only grown. I enjoy traveling to races, but having a local race where a lot of your friends are competing is always a good time. Of course, having the local knowledge of the track and the ability to get down and ride the bike course is a nice bonus. From a training/racing perspective, being here year in and year out also enables me to see where my fitness/race readiness is before the Fall racing season.

My goals were the same as every year - finish in the Top 10 overall, win my age group, have one of the top five bike splits, run solid off the bike. I know, the only goal I have any control over is the run ... but that's life. At this race I want to win my AG, I want to have one of the fastest bike splits, and I want to place top 10.

Now let's dig right in ...


I love me a race where I can do packet pickup the day of the race. Especially a local race. Saves at least two hours on Saturday, not to mention the gas and hassle of getting to and from the race venue. Thank you for that Dale!!!

On the other end of the convenience spectrum is race morning, specifically the parking situation. You have to be there early. Real early. Like pre-sunrise early. Did I mention you had to be there early to get a parking spot? The Queen, The Mayor and I rolled into the park around 5:20 am and were relegated to the upper parking lot. If we were 10 minutes later we would have been even further away ... or maybe down at the marina where the race is held. My one big complaint every year is how they decide on parking. "Get there early" we are told so you can park at the marina (and not have to navigate up and down the hill). And every year I get there 90+ minutes before the first wave goes off and I end up parking in the upper lot. This would not be a big deal if ... and I do mean IF ... every year when I am walking down to the transition area there are not cars being sent down to the marina to park. And I'm not talking about handicapped parking, I am talking about race participants.

End of Rant ...

Once on site everything was laid back and enjoyable. Looked to be a good weather day with cloud cover and temperatures in the low 70s. Talked to a lot of friends and hug out until my swim wave (#3) went off at 7:15 am.

Swim: 1500M 22:38

Water temperature was 76 so it was wetsuit legal swim. There was a little bumping in the first few hundred meters and then I found some space and a comfortably hard pace. With only two waves ahead of mine, there were people to swim through but it wasn't that bad. I swam a relatively straight path and got out just behind two other 40-44 men. Lost a couple of seconds getting out of the water due to congestion, but no big deal.

T1: 1:59

Best perk of the day: On my way out of the water one of the staff members helping you out of the water unzipped my wetsuit for me. This. Is. Awesome!!!! Moved efficiently through with just a minor delay getting my wetsuit off (gotta work n that).

Bike: 40K 1:05:29

Normally heading onto the bike one would want to let the heart rate settle down during the first few minutes of the ride. That is not an option here as there is a sizable climb out of the marina before you wind through the park. Once onto the two loops on Rt. 563 you have a chance to get settled in.

When I made the right hand turn I found myself behind the #2 man in my AG and I settled in on the decline at an appropriate (legal) distance. Knowing he was a better runner than I am I made the decision to pull ahead of him at the first turn and see if I could get a buffer before hitting the run course. As we hit the first climb and then the flat I managed to get 20-30 seconds on him, but he closed that gap during the second loop. At the final turn of the second loop, I dropped my chain while shifting and he gaped me. I headed into T2 sitting third in AG40-44.

T2: 1:26

No problem running into transition and finding my bike. Forgot to put some lube on my Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13 running shoes and lost a few seconds futzing around.

Run: 10k 42:39

Out onto the run course my legs were immediately under me and I felt pretty good. I hit the 1 mile mark in 7:05 and picked it up a notch. Knowing I wasn't going to catch the two AG40-44 men in front of me my goal of top 10 overall and a solid race was the motivating factor. I was able to maintain my pace and intensity right to the finish line.

The fact that there is nothing more to discuss here is a very, very good thing.

Overall: 2:14:10  9th Overall 3rd in AG40-44 (But Won My Age Group)

I am happy with how I performed on Sunday, technically meeting all of my goals, even though I was really the 3rd person in my age group to cross the line. For those who don't know, if you qualify for the overall top three you are removed from the age group awards. The two people ahead of me were removed and I technically won. In reality, whatever!!! I was top 10 and my bike split was 5th best on the day. My run was solid and it should improve in the next few months.

If I'm being critical I would have to say that my bike split could have been better. The one mistake I made was not pushing as hard as I could on the longer, steady climbs. I was working, but pacing my effort. Last year I was faster on the bike because I basically just rode right at the line all day. Last Sunday, I was more tactical which cost me some time.

I also want to give a quick shout out to my Saturday morning crew who had some great performances as well. Emily and Cassie walked away with 1st in their respective age groups, Allison was 2nd in her age group, while Barb had a solid day and took 3rd in her age group against some real tough women.

Up next: A few weeks of solid training, then some Fall racing.

Train hard, stay focused.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Week Review: August 11, 2013

The week in review is a look at what I have been up to in training as well as a (sometimes) look into the other side of my life as well as links to some of what I have found interesting on the interwebs.

Training Update:

This week was a recovery for a number of reasons. After a few weeks of higher volume, the legs were starting to feel a bit too heavy. In the past I have found that bad things happen if I don't listen to this signal from my body. Push through, the body rebels. I decided this was not a good option. And with the Steelman Triathlon on tap on Sunday, lighter volume with short bouts of intensity was the theme for the week. Overall I logged approximately half the volume I did each of the prior two weeks.

Source: A. Fiorini
Steelman is a race I have done often and know the course well. It is not the fastest track, but a good race to use as a fitness test. I went into the race with simple goals - swim solid, bike as I can, run at my limit ... and win my age group, hit a top 5 bike split and finish in the top 10 overall. I don't have high expectations, right?

The good news is all my goals were technically met. I was 9th overall, had the 5th fastest bike split, ran a solid race, and won the Male 40-44 age group.  In actuality I was 3rd AG as two of the top four finishers were my age. It is what it is and you can't control who shows up. My official time was 2:14:08. I'll post up a race report in the next few days.

On a More Personal Note ...

Saturday night The Queen was down at Musikfest and Ke$ha on the main stage, giving me some time to kill. Being in my pre-race prep at this point, I spent some quality time sitting on the couch watching some preseason football. Specifically, the rebroadcast of Friday night's Lions-Jets game (games wasn't on live here in PA). It's a new season and new expectations ... although as a Jets fan, you know, it ain't exactly like being a Giants, Steelers or Cowboys fan. High expectations is something along the line of 10-6 with a playoff game. After last season's disaster, that seems like a big stretch.

Overall I was encouraged by the play of the first team on both sides of the ball. Marty Mornhinweg is the new offensive coordinator and it is a big step in the right direction. The Jets were able to move the ball, even with their top two running backs sidelined with injuries. The schemes were getting guys open. The offense looks more to the skill set of Mark Sanchez ... but he has to figure out how to NOT turn over the ball. Dude is killing me!!! Rookie QB Geno Smith looks like he could be the real deal.

The defense looked as I expected - nice play from the front seven with a new look in the secondary. Unlike the last few years the front seven were able to get pressure on the QB. With the trade of Revis to Tampa Bay, the days of shutting down one side of the field are over, making the play up front more important. There were some miscommunication in the secondary, but nothing unexpected this early in the preseason.

An encouraging start.

Interesting Stuff From the Interwebs:

I've been contemplating a power meter for my bike(s) for quite some time and, specifically, I have been waiting for the Garmin Vector pedal-based system to hit the market. Finally, it will be coming to market and here is the most in depth review review you will find until Ray does his truly in depth review. (DC Rainmaker)

Jeff Bezos wants to dominate the world. Very interesting interview and look at the disruption Amazon is causing and could cause in the future. (Fast Company)

Music Video of the Week: I first heard The Limosines a few years ago with their debut song, Very Busy People, which was stuck in my head for weeks on end. The have a new album out and a new song, Love is a Dog From Hell

 YouTube Video of the Week: Ever try doing a 1-leg squat. Not the easiest thing to do. Every try it with 315 on the bar?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Week Review: August 4, 2013

"Sometimes the truth isn't good enough, sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people need to have their faith rewarded." - Batman

The week in review is a look at what I have been up to in training as well as a (sometimes) look into the other side of my life as well as links to some of what I have found interesting on the interwebs.

Training Update:
Another solid week of training in the books this week, without the drama from last week. In case you missed it, you can read about it here. For the first time in more than three months I had a week with more than 40 miles of running, including a number of good runs. Started the week right with 8+ miles with G-boy, who was passing through town and ended it with a 15-mile long run on Saturday morning. In between I got some good "junk" miles in and a fast-paced transition run mid-week.

Well ... maybe not climbing like this, but a lot of climbing for sure!!!
I backed off the bike a bit this week, but did get plenty of climbing in when I did ride. The Wednesday night Steelman bike course, and a hilly long ride on Sunday morning/afternoon. I also hit the pool three times.
group ride was a small group this week, but hitting the hills always fun. Saturday I rode with Cassie down on the

Sunday is the Steelman Triathlon down at Lake Nockamixon so this week will be light.  It  is a race I enjoy and always try and perform well, but it tends to be more of a check on my current fitness than an "A" race. I am am trying something a bit different for this race with a slight modification of my normal "B" race taper. Still, I have some goals for where I want/hope to be on Sunday morning.

Right now I am a little unsure about how I will perform. Earlier in the year the calf strain had me spending a lot of time on the bike. Like, a whole lot. And my bike felt great. Now, with a 70.3 and a marathon on the Fall schedule (more on that in another post), I have been dialing up the run mileage. My run is feeling better, but not yet there. At the same time, my bike feels like it is suffering a bit. Kinda a weird place I'm in right now. Gotta have faith that a few easy days at the end of the week helps bring it all together.

On a More Personal Note ...

Life is back to a nice, boring routine. No concerts at the stadium. No big nights out. No Musikfest.  Just some dinner with The Queen on Saturday night at our favorite sushi place, Hana Sushi.This trip up to Nazareth was not the usual, however.

We get up there and there are roads blocked off everywhere. Apparently, while Musikfest is happening down in Bethlehem Nazareth has its own little music festival happening as well. There were a number of stages set up as well as a guy singing some country music on he porch of the Prudential Home Services (I swear I'm not making this up). We had to walk a few blocks but had no problem getting a table. Because who wants sushi when you can eat a pork sandwich on Belvidere Street.

Interesting Stuff From the Interwebs:

Mark Sisson over at Mark's Daily Apple wrote an open letter to doctors that is worth a read. He calls for all the right things. (Mark's Daily Apple)

Modern agriculture techniques can lead to problems .. one of them is the rootworm. Screwing with nature has its consequences. (NPR)

Running shoe technology is always changing and trendy. The minimalist trend began with the Vibrum a few years back. Max cushioning looks like the newest thing, courtesy of the Hoka One One. The big boys are catching on with Brooks launching the new Transcend and Altra's Olympus. Runblogger does a nice job discussing the new shoes with a look at the new shoes. (Runblogger)

And our video of the week is Hopeless Wanderer by Mumford & Sons, featuring Ed Helms, Justin Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Will Forte as, well, Mumford & Sons. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Rule #1: Hard is Hard, Easy is Easy

A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend about the troubles he was having with his feet. He is a runner turned triathlete, but he really is a runner at heart.  So maybe best describe him as a runner who does triathlons. The problems have forced him away from running, to the point where it has affected his race schedule. Because his heart is truly with the run as opposed to the bike, he is not the happiest camper. He had just met with a running coach to get some advice on technique. When he describes to me what the coach's ideas were, I shot back with something along the lines of, oh yeah, heals to your butt, cadence of 90 steps per minute, yada, yada, yada. He chuckles a bit and tells me I think like an engineer, with everything a certain way. Deep in the weeds of what's happening. Analytic is probably the best word. Thinking back, this is probably why I never became the musician I once wanted to become.

Quick side note: Here is a great look at the difference between the Simplicity of Steve Jobs and the more engineer-like Bill Gates - Presentation Zen

Anyway, As I have moved from gym-rat to triathlete I have come up with some rules that I try and hold to in my training and racing. Some I have just made up and are related to my personal "quirks." Others are fundamentals I have picked up from people much smarter than me (and there are soooo many people who fit into that category) with great multisport experience. Some would say "borrowed" ... others would use the term "stole" ... I would say much of this is simple fundamentals. The rest is simply shit I made up.

To be clear, these rules are totally about me and my training and racing. After years of doing this I have found what works for me. You may find this useful, or you may find me to be full of crap. I hope it's the former and not the latter.

To be rule number one the rule had to be the most basic and obvious of the rules, yet one of the hardest things to actually do. This one I really learned in 2006 when training for my first full Ironman. I remember sitting down with Bill at the very beginning of the year and thinking I was putting in some really good volume ... and then I saw the first three weeks of training. My first
thought was to follow it to the letter, wait until my body broke down, and figure it out from there. I never broke down. Over the next seven months the volume only increased and my body adapted. The  one reason why I made it was the wise words that came with the first few weeks of training:

Rule #1: Hard is Hard, Easy is Easy 

Sometimes the simplest things say are the hardest things to actually do.his rule is the easiest concept to understand yet the hardest for many of us to actually do in practice. What most of us do, myself many times included in this, is train in that grey area between  a truly fast and truly slow (aerobic). Using running as an example, far too many of us will run in that comfortably moderate, not really slow, but only sorta-fast. The grey zone.

There are a number of methods you can go about finding your easy pace. The three I am familiar with are using heart rate (zone 1 as recovery pace or zone 2 as aerobic pace), following the Maffetone Method, or the Daniels Running Formula (Click on the links for more information on any of these methods). The less technically savvy could defer to perceived exertion. No matter which method you prefer, you need to find your aerobic/easy pace.

A couple of side notes:

If you use Maffetone, things get a bit different, but there is a method that is time tested to work.
If you use Daniels for your running you will need to do something different on the bike - heart rate, perceived exertion or using a power meter.

So let's use the Daniels Running Formula (see .pdf link for the tables) to, in a very basic way, find our pacing example:

In order to use the formula you will need to find your VDot number by running a race. Yes, you can do it on your own, but a race is more realistic as most all of us will work harder in a race than "racing" the clock in a pre-dawn run. You then take the race result and match it with the corresponding VDot number in table 1. So if you ran a 5k in 20:40 you would have a VDot number of 48.

Now take your VDot and find that your corresponding paces are as follows:

Easy (E) Pace = 8:31/mile
Marathon (M) Pace = 7:40/mile
Threshold (T) Pace = 7:02/mile
Interval (I) Pace = 1:36/400 meter

As you can see there is a big difference between the paces ... and for good reason. When you are running at your interval pace or threshold pace you are working much different systems than when you are running your longer, aerobic miles. The grey area between these paces sorta, kinda, not really, work the different systems that will increase your endurance and make you faster. This is the basics - the 1000 foot view - and you can find out more of the nitty gritty by picking up the book here. The point is, hard is hard and easy is easy.

From a practical standpoint, if you are trying to increase your aerobic capacity/speed your body will be best served with smaller doses of speed work done hard and a much larger dose of aerobic miles around your E-pace. The longer, "easy" runs, when done properly, might not leave you with that feeling like you did a whole lot. But you did, you just didn't overstress your body, enabling your body to recover and become more fit. And if you race, isn't that really what you want to do?

My personal experience has been that I can really focus in when I am doing smaller amounts of speed work and hit the prescribed paces. And when I am cranking up the volume, I will break down if I don't run at the easier paces for my long runs, mid-distance runs and the "gettin' in the miles" workouts. The same applies for the bike, albeit based off of something other than Daniels. As an "old guy" I simply cannot do big volume without issues in the grey zone.

On the other end, when it is time to do intervals, I make sure I am ready to go and put the work in. Be it on the track, the road, the trainer, or in the pool, I make sure I the hard is hard. Really, really hard.

Train hard. Stay focused.