Thursday, October 15, 2015

Training Update

Been some time since I posted a training update ... actually it has been some time since I have been able to post on a consistent basis. Life has been busy but, isn't life always busy? In my case it hasn't even been racing that has gotten in the way. Really not much of an excuse.

To take this back a few months, the last triathlon I raced was Steelman on August 9th. I did well, winning my age group, swimming and running well, while throwing down the 3rd fastest overall bike split of the day. I had planned on finishing out my season with the Quakerman Olympic Distance Triathlon at the end of September, but that never happened. More on that in a minute.

Long and winding roadAfter Steelman I took a bit of a mini-break from structured training. I continued to swim/bike/run, just not on plan for a few weeks. Physically I needed a break and mentally it was nice to get away from the grind. Training with a purpose is great, but sometimes you just need to run for the sake of running, or ride with friends.

Which speaking of riding with friends ... the best part of the late season has to be the Monday night ride from the Velodrome. This year I have been riding most Mondays with the Lehigh Valley Wheelmen "A" ride. For the first few months the ride was led by Brian, who really did a great job of having an organized, safe ride. It was a drop ride, but I can't remember anyone getting dropped. Climbs were every man (woman) for themselves and a regrouping at the top, just like it should be. The fact that there were some strong climbers who would regularly show up really helped me keep the pressure on myself to push my limits.

In July Brian moved out of town but the "A" ride remained. It changed a bit, which turned out to be good. Most of the time the ride wasn't posted, but instead just a loose gathering. There were times we went out with Bruce and the "B" ride (which is no slouch ride btw) but most weeks we had 5-10 riders. Without a posted route we were able to kinda wander around Lehigh County.

Jonathan Soden - Rev3 TriathlonWith the shortened days we are done for the year. It was fun and I miss it already. Cannot wait for April so we can do it all again.

In the pool this year I had purposely given myself a pass from long, grinding sessions. With only short races on my schedule I found no reason to up the yardage for the sake of seeing a big number in the training log. Typically I lose some swim focus after Labor Day. This year that came early. After Steelman I struggled to get to the pool consistently. A few weeks ago that all changed.  All of a sudden I have motivation to swim again!!! Maybe it's some new workouts I've been trying out or just a burst of motivation, but getting into the pool has started to come more easily. Doesn't matter why, just matters that the mojo is back!!!

As for my run, things have been up and down. This year has been a very low mileage year for me, typically logging 15-20 miles each week. The plan had been to increase that mileage heading into a Fall half marathon, which I started to do before heading out to Colorado for Labor Day weekend. All was going well as I climbed Pike's Peak then raced a 10k on Labor Day at 5,800 ft of elevation. I didn't blog about the race, but it went well, placing 11th overall and 3rd in AG45-49. What a trip that was.

When I got back into town I ran the first leg (10k) of the Via Marathon relay for The Queen's CrossFit Lehigh Valley team. That went well, running a 43:30 then a jog from Allentown to my car in Bethlehem. All seemed well.

The next morning I woke up and a familiar pain had formed in my right calf ... a strain. This is something I have periodically dealt with over the past few years, and something I had hoped to avoid this year. Or every year really. I have trained all year long injury-free. My streak was over.

My typical protocol with any little pain is to take three days off from running then reassess the situation. I have found that three days is almost always enough time for some minor little thing to go away. I have also found that taking three days off of running tends to freshen the legs up. Mid-week the issue was still there so I elected to take an additional two days.

Saturday morning I went down to the tow path and ran an easy 6 miles with The Mayor. This worked out fine as my body could handle slow and flat. Still, I wasn't 100% right. What I needed was a good sports massage from the best darn therapist in the Lehigh Valley. Joe P. That visit did the trick and I have been back running my regular schedule for almost two weeks now.

Unfortunately the calf strain caused me to pull the plug on the Quakerman Triathlon. With a hilly run course I knew there would be a good chance that the strain would get aggravated. And not being 100% it made little sense to risk racing at that point in time.

The good news is I appear to be past the strain and back racing. On Saturday I'm running the Runners World 10k. Two weeks later (October 31) I'll be in Philly for the Rock & Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon.

Originally I wanted to finish my season by going sub-41 and sub-1:30 respectively for these two races. Realistically neither of these times will happen. Right now my fitness isn't that great. Having to take time off from running right when I needed to be out there getting in some miles didn't help as well.

I am perfectly good with my current reality. There are other races in the future. Big picture, there are races that are more important to me. 2015 has been about rebuilding strength around my right knee while enjoying shorter races. I have done both. So no matter what happens in the next few weeks, my year has been a success.

Thanks for reading.

Train hard. Stay focused.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Five Interval Workouts for a Better Triathlon Bike Split

A few weeks ago I wrote about my favorite leg of a triathlon - the bike - and how to improve your triathlon bike split. More volume (read: time in saddle) can make a difference for those with limited bike experience. When I first started training for Ironman I made some great progress by simply riding more. I gained endurance and strength, especially when I consistently rode hillier routes.

Just using volume to improve has one major drawback. As an age group athlete there is only a limited amount of time to train and recover. At some point we all hit the limit of the time we have to spend in the saddle.

I faced this issue a few years back. My riding was good, but I still felt like I had more potential. After years of basically "just riding" I took the leap over to the wild side, adding in interval sessions while reducing the total time spent in the saddle. Since making the change I have set PRs at all distances from sprint to Ironman.

Jon Soden - Ironman Florida Bike
Dropping a 5:23 at Ironman Florida in 2014

What follows are five of my favorite workouts. This is not an exclusive list of what I do, but these are the sessions I enjoy the most. What you will notice is they are nothing fancy. Some people "need' to have "fun and exciting" workouts, which I always take to mean a lot of variety. I am not that person. What I prefer is simple, measurable workloads that can be easily compared to past efforts. I want to not just be able to measure what I am doing today, but I want to be able to look back and see improvement over the course of a season, or from year-to-year.

All of these workouts can be performed on either the trainer or outside, unless otherwise noted. Always include a proper warm up and cool down.

Standing Strength Intervals 3-5 x (2 miles + easy ride back to the start)

This is a favorite of mine that I like to put into the mix early in the year, right about the time I start to ride outside again on a full time basis. Because I am in Pennsylvania this is usually late-March or early-April. Anyone who has been training mostly inside all winter can appreciate how different it is when you get back outside again, dealing with the elements and bumps in the road. After a few months of interval work inside I hope to feel strong. Problem has been, that strength inside doesn't necessarily translate outside right away. For me there always seems to be a delay.

This workout, given to me by Coach Bill about a decade ago, is what I use to get my legs back under me in short order. You will get some good work in the standing position, get the legs used to working hard outside in the elements, and get some good strength work in pushing a big gear. And speaking of the elements, I think you get more out of these if the conditions absolutely suck.

Where: This is one I do exclusively outdoors. My preference is to do this in just horrible conditions with wind and cold. A cold, stiff headwind is perfect.The more suffering the better. If for some reason you can't suck it up in the great outdoors, doing on the trainer this would equate to 3-5 x (8 min standing + 5 min recovery seated ez spin).

When: I do it once a week for 3 or 4 weeks. If done correctly this is very effective in jump starting your legs in the early season.

How: After an ample warm up I head out to a road not far from my house that gives me 2 uninterrupted miles, is flat to rolling and is usually into a headwind. Ideally you want the road to be a slight incline the whole way, I just do not have access to such a road.

The intervals are done standing with your bike in the heaviest gearing you have available (53/12 in my case). The cadence should be low. You simply ride as hard as you can to the two mile mark, where you drop back into an easy gear, turn around and head back to the start. I usually start with 3 intervals week one and increase the workload each week.

T-Max Intervals 4-8 x (2 1/2 min all out + 5 min recovery)

Sometimes you can find truly great things where you least expect it. I have read Bicycling Magazine most every month for years. I find it to be a nice read that gives good general advice. It also reminds me of things you sometimes forget or stop doing that maybe you should, like cleaning your bike chain on a regular basis. What I never really imagined was finding anything that could make a significant difference in my riding. That is, until I read this article on T-Max Intervals.

From the article:

"Laursen's findings, which have been backed by other recent studies, show that the workout he dubbed T-Max can, on average, increase maximum power output by 5 to 6 percent, and raise VO2 max sky-high. The T-Max Interval is effective because it tailors work and rest time, and intensity, to your genetic ability and fitness level, rather than prescribing an arbitrary set of conditions. Here's how it works: T-Max is the length of time you can hold your peak power output before succumbing to exhaustion--or, scientific jargon aside, how long you can ride really, really hard until you feel so much like you're dying that you stop. For most of us, that's about four to six minutes.Laursen found that cyclists improved the most doing intervals at 60 percent of their T-Max with double that amount of time for recovery between efforts. For instance, someone with a T-Max of four minutes would ride hard for 2:30, followed by five minutes of recovery." Source

I love these intervals for the pure simplicity of what they are.  I tend to keep the intervals at 2 1/2 minutes that will creep up to the 3 min range later in the year.

Where: These can be done inside or outside, but you need to be careful outside. If I'm doing them outside I have a piece of road I use that is slightly uphill to start then flattens out.  Because you are going all out, however, my personal preference is to do these on the trainer so I can focus on the work, not traffic.

When: These can be done all year long, although you should use caution on the timing of these during race season.

How: This is pretty straight up hard riding. If you are using power you want to try and stay at 120% of your FTP, if you are not these should be really, really hard efforts. If your power (or speed) dips more than 15% for an interval you are done, even if your plan says you have more intervals.

Aerobic Endurance Intervals 3-8 x (10 min @ OLY Effort + 3 min recovery)

This is one of my favorite workouts to do outside. Inside, I can tolerate these every now and again, but that is about it. I have a loop I like to do these on which is rolling terrain and I do not have to stop for traffic or lights. If I hit it right I can go 30 minutes without even seeing a car, let alone have to think about stopping. I also use this same loop for 6 min interval work as well .

Where: Inside or Outside, but I think mentally these work better outside.

When: Anytime of the year but I tend to do these once I get closer to my first race and periodically throughout the race season. It is one of my "go to" sessions.

How: I warm up by riding from my house out to the loop (approx. 30 minutes) then hit pace once I make the left turn onto the loop. Between efforts I make sure to hydrate and fuel up, pedaling as easy as I need to to get a full recovery.

If you train with power these intervals should be right at your FTP. If you do not, the effort should be about the effort you would put out for an Olympic distance triathlon.

Time Constrained Intervals: 10 x (1 min hard + 1 min recovery)

There are times where you just don't have the time to get a full workout in but you still want to get something done. This 30 minute workout is just the ticket for those times.

Where: Always inside. If you had time to get dressed, pump up your tires, clean your Oakleys you wouldn't need to do this workout

When: Anytime you are time restricted but still need to get a workout in.

How: These start with a 10 minute warm up where you want to build the intensity and maybe get 2 or 3 spin ups in before starting the main set. For the main set you gear up and pedal as hard as you can for 1 minute, followed by a 1 minute easy recovery spin. Repeat 10 times.

Seated Hill Repeats 3-8 x (10 min climb + full recovery)

I have this listed as a 10 minute climb because that fits the parameters of what I have readily available to me. These can be a bit shorter if needed or longer if you desire (and have an adequate piece or road or are inside on the trainer). These will make you strong if done correctly.

Where: I prefer outside but have done these many times on the trainer. If you are inside you can prop up the front of the bike to get a more realistic simulation of climbing.

When: During a strength-building phase of training.

How: Due to the muscular stress of this workout I err on the side of a longer warm up. For the intervals you want to use the largest gear in which you can sustain 60ish rpms in the seated position. Once you start you want to keep continuous pressure on the pedals until you make it to the top of the hill or your allotted time is completed. Turn around and head back to the starting point, making sure you get a full recovery between sets. If you are inside on the trainer you want to spin easy and make sure you are fully recovered before starting the next interval.

The first time you do this outside it will be a bit of a guessing game, which is fine. You may also find that due to elevation changes that you will have to periodically switch gears to maintain the proper intensity. Key is to make sure you're using consistent tension on the pedals and your rpms don't go below 50 or above 70. I find that the power numbers take care of themselves.

So there you have it, five of my favorite, most productive workouts for the bike. There are others, of course, but these are the ones I like and continuously come back to.

If you have any questions, leave a comment or hit me up with a private message or email.

Thanks for reading.

Train hard. Stay focused.