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It is now just a week and a half until the Superfrog Triathlon. I haven’t posted anything since the Camp Pendleton Triathlon. Up to Camp Pendleton I had been seeing incredible progress in my training. I was establishing new running threshold paces and new cycling threshold power almost every week. Things have since leveled out a bit, which is to be expected. Since I wasn’t seeing the same breakthroughs in my workouts, I decided to not post the results of workouts that seemed a bit pathetic in some cases. My effort for the workouts has been good, but the paces and powers weren’t really conveying that effort. If I was training without the technology of GPS and power meters, I wouldn’t be able to guess that though.

Even though I say the results seem a bit pathetic, I actually have had some great breakthroughs. During my last track workout, the final 400 meter repeat I did at 1:21, about 7 seconds faster than I’ve done on any 400 meter run this year. On 8/8 I set a new best 2 minute power at 475 Watts, during a 3 minute interval. My previous best was 461 Watts on 9/22/2009. That’s right, two years ago! On 8/20/2011 I set a new best 5 minute power at 412 Watts, the previous being 409 Watts set on 8/1/2011. Also, I’ve started swimming up a lane, with a 1:20 base instead of the 1:25 base that I had been swimming. Although the progress I’ve seen is slowing down, it is still there. Now that Superfrog is so close, it’s not so much about setting new PR’s in training, but preparing mentally for the race and feeling just rested enough to race hard.

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Date: August 6, 2011

Distances: Swim 500 m, Bike 30 Km, Run 5 Km

This was my third consecutive year competing in this race. I had registered Molly and me for it in 2008, but I ended up having to work that day and missed the race. For the next year I got to hear from Molly what a great race it was, how huge the waves were and her experience with being flipped and pinned underwater in the surf. In 2009 I was not feeling particularly fresh, but ended up having a great race. It was an exciting year because the military went off in the first wave and I took the lead about 5 miles into the bike and held it to break the finish tape. There ended up being two pros there that year that started in later waves and actually beat my overall time, so I placed third. My 2010 race I was passed in the run by John Hatala to finish 6th overall. My 2010 race report is here.

I was really looking forward to doing this race. It is my prep race for the Superfrog Triathlon on September 11. The race also served as a test for my current racing and readiness to race since I can compare the results. Remarkably, the conditions were really pretty similar between the past three races. It is cool and overcast in the morning, but by time the run starts the marine layer has burned off and it is hot out. The surf there is always big. This year there seemed to be more current than I remember, and although the waves didn’t seem as big I was hammered by them this year.

Arrival and Warm Up

This year I arrived a bit later than the previous two years. I immediately went and set up my transition area, where there were already a fair number of bikes. In 2009 my warm up consisted of trying to ride around in the parking area and then doing a short run. Since there really wasn’t a place to ride to warm up, in 2010 I brought my trainer and did a warm up on my road bike, with a short run after. This year I decided to keep it simple. I did a total of about 2 miles of running between my truck, the transition area, and the porta-potties. I didn’t bring any food or water with me, so I was pleased to see that they had some Gatorade available at the registration/finish area. A couple small cups of Gatorade at about 7:30 and I knew I was good for the race. I was in the 9th wave, so with a race start of 8:00, I didn’t get going until 8:40. I spent almost an hour watching the different waves fight the surf and current, and I spent the rest of my warm up with a few surf entries and exits.

Swim

Even though I am in much better swimming shape than the previous two years, I didn’t feel my swim went particularly well. The current was swift, but during my warm up I noticed that the stronger swimmers weren’t affected a lot by it. The weaker swimmers just couldn’t get through the surf quick enough to avoid getting swept past the buoys, so once they managed to get through the surf they had to back track. On the way out I took one wave hard, which totally knocked me back. The only thing to do though is to get going again and try to get under the next wave. I ended up sweeping around the buoy a bit wide, where I saw a couple swimmers from my wave were able to cut in front of me. The next stretch was parallel to the beach, where I was sitting on Colonel Harry Constant’s hip. On the way back in Harry and I both got slammed and tumbled by a huge wave that came down on us. All momentum lost, we were both sitting up in the water trying to catch our breath and shaking off the dizziness. Uggghh. I wanted to catch a wave in, not get dunked by one. I came out of the water just in front of Harry, but took my wetsuit off on the beach and entered transition right behind him. My swim spit was 11:02, Harry’s 11:01. We were the first in our wave. The swim is what it is, and different wave starts can be affected differently because of the timing of the waves and the current. There isn’t much you can do about that. Here is a summary of my swim splits:

Swim Splits

2011

11:02

2010

10:27

2009

11:54

 

T1

When I exit the water and am running to the transition area I start unzipping and pulling down my wetsuit. Once I get it pulled down to my waist, if there is still a decent amount of running to do I will finish pulling of my wetsuit. This allows for me to run without the resistance of the suit, but also gives me plenty of room to deal with getting the suit off. Sometimes transition areas can be tight, and fumbling with a wetsuit in a tight space isn’t that great. The downside to doing this is there was a lot of sand to run through, and pulling the wetsuit off after running through the sand would have pulled a lot of that sand off. I ended up with caked sand on my feet throughout the bike and run. After getting to my bike I dropped the wetsuit, and put on my shoes while I was putting on my helmet. These take about the same amount of time. After seeing people really mess up trying to jump on their bike with their shoes already in the pedals I started doing this and it doesn’t really seem to slow me down much. If anything, I feel I get situated on my bike a lot quicker and am ready to start hammering sooner.

T1 Splits

2011

0:48

2010

1:08

2009

0:50

 

Kudos to 15 year old Steven Emerson with a 42 second T1!

Bike

Although I like to think of ‘triathlon’ as my specialty, I’m credited by others by my performance on the bike. With the fastest bike split of the day, 50 seconds under pro-triathlete Heather Jackson, and 1:18 under the next male (39 year old Chris Masilon), I guess the evidence is that I’m strongest on the bike. With my FTP currently set at 337, and knowing that the bike leg would be about 45 minutes long, I tried to keep my power at 320-340. There are a few short climbs where I decided I would push over them at around 400 Watts. Last year I was flying by everyone on the bike, but the climbs I kept my power lower and a few people briefly passed me. Not really a big deal, but after the finish someone came up to me and congratulated me on my fast run (which actually sucked) because he had ‘passed’ me on the bike. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I had started 30 minutes after him, and he didn’t come anywhere near passing me. The reason why I surged up the hills this year wasn’t to avoid that awkward discussion, but to just get over the hill and not spend time creeping up it. I had done 400+ Watts for 5 minutes, so I knew I would likely benefit overall from this little effort and then recover on the descents. As it turned out, my peak 30 second power was 442 Watts, and peak 1 minute power was 386 Watts. I probably could have ridden a little bit harder up the hills, but there is the danger of going anaerobic, where too many matches are burned and it costs you dearly in any efforts later in the race. Below are the splits, average power, and normalized power:

Bike    

Split

AP

NP

2011

45:00

307

316

2010

47:01

309

315

2009

46:13

317

317

 

These results provide great information. Notice in 2009 that my AP and NP were the same. The Normalized Power is a calculation that gives an indication of what Average Power the rider ‘likely’ could have done. It takes into consideration low power efforts such as coasting, which drastically lowers the Average Power. Wit AP=NP, this tells me that my power didn’t fluctuate much. In 2010 there was a 6 Watt difference, and in 2011 a 9 Watt difference. The larger difference this year with a much faster time indicates to me that although I didn’t hold my power as even, I raced more tactically and it paid off. Higher efforts up hill, and lower efforts downhill. The minimal difference in the Normalized Power over the past three years is actually good news to me too. I had strong bike legs in 2009 and 2010, and I’ve been struggling to get back into shape this year. Although I would have loved to had crushed my power output from 2009 and 2010, getting back to that level is pretty satisfying. Beating my 2009 split by 1:13 is just freaking awesome.

T2

I rolled into T2 without shoes on. I felt that I spent more time than usual in getting my shoes on. My feet were caked with sand, so I tried knocking some of it off. That was futile. Then I made sure I put my shoes on snugly because I have had some problems with chaffing. Grabbing my race belt, I was off to see what I could do on the run.

T1 Splits

2011

0:48

2010

0:36

2009

0:51

 

Run

I’m getting tired of saying, but my running has been on steady decline over the past 3.5 years or so. During the past couple months though I’ve seen steady improvement that has me rather stoked. It isn’t where I think it needs to be, but I also think it will continue to improve for some time. The run starts up a long ramp that is the only hill on the run course. I just tried to focus on keeping a nice quick cadence, and kept trying to focus on relaxing my traps since I tend to tense up and hunch my shoulders. During the entire bike I had been flying by people, without a single person coming close to passing me. On the run I was doing the same thing. Once I hit the top of the ramp I saw someone ahead of me that I thought was running a fairly swift pace. It’s actually kind of tough to run fast when everyone around is running much slower, so I was excited to have someone to chase. I caught him rather quickly though, and he tried to hold on, but that only last about 5 seconds. I really just had to keep reeling in each person I saw ahead of me. Below are my Average Pace and Normalized Graded Pace for each mile for 2010 and 2011. I forgot to grab my Garmin in 2009, so I don’t have those splits.

Mile    

2011 AP

2011 NGP

2010 AP

2010 NGP

1

6:36

6:24

6:30

6:34

2

6:25

6:18

5:58

5:37

3

6:10

5:49

6:15

5:22

3.1

4:45

 

5:22

 

Entire Run

6:15

5:54

6:13

5:49

 

Run Splits

2011

19:16

2010

19:14

2009

19:00

 

Although my run was slower this year, I was very pleased with it. It feels like it has been a long time since I run anywhere near that pace.

Finish!

The race finish was awesome I rolled around the final corner and John Hatala (who wasn’t racing this year) was cheering for me, then I could hear Molly yelling for me. Both of them made me feel that someone I wasn’t aware of was on my tail, so I got a great final kick in (hence the 4:45 pace). Molly said later that since I’m 40+ pounds heavier than the athletes I was flying by I looked like a freight train. Here is a photo she grabbed at the finish:

Because of the wave starts, I had no idea how I finished. I decided to go grab my bike and gear out of transition, and ended up wasting a bit too much time down there chatting with people. Brian Long started telling me how the timing officials asked him if Heather Jackson’s time could be legit, because she finished over a minute ahead of the first male. He said now that they knew her time was good they were going to do the awards. I knew I needed to hurry up then, so I hustled up to put my bike in my truck and heard them announce that they were about to present the overall awards. I ran over to the posted results, bummed to see that my name wasn’t on the overall list. Then I noticed it wasn’t on the results at all. I went up to the timing tent, behind Mark Salisbury who was stating that his time was posted as 1:32, but he knew it was much faster. About 30 seconds after the awards were given, it became clear what happened. The overall winner, Mark Tripp, and myself had been disqualified for having times ‘too fast’. The assumption was that we had started in earlier swim waves accidentally. Tripp had fixed the problem before the awards presentation, but Salisbury and I didn’t. Our awards were handed out to the 4th and 5th overall. It was slightly comical, but still annoying.

Overall there were 1200 registrants, and just under 1000 finishers. Some didn’t start I’m sure, and there were a lot that didn’t finish the swim. Heather Jackson was the only pro there, but Mark Tripp is a well known triathlete in SoCal. I don’t think he is ‘pro’, but he did have a 1:58 finish at Superseal triathlon. I was the first military in, 3:27 under 30 year old Emilio Ramirez.

 

NAME

AGE

SWIM

T1

BIKE

T2

RUN

FINISH

1

MARK TRIPP

30

0:09:04

0:00:54

0:46:33

0:00:42

0:16:40

1:13:53

2

JERALD COOK

42

0:11:02

0:00:48

0:45:00

0:00:48

0:19:16

1:16:54

3

MARK SALISBURY

35

0:09:21

0:00:55

0:48:57

0:00:51

0:17:16

1:17:20

1

HEATHER JACKSON

27

0:11:08

0:00:56

0:45:50

0:00:39

0:17:32

1:16:05

2

CHRISTINA JACKSON

29

0:10:04

0:01:16

0:50:23

0:00:52

0:19:26

1:22:01

3

LEONIE CAMPBELL

27

0:10:48

0:01:27

0:49:36

0:00:37

0:20:13

1:22:41

 


Today I started my final six week block of training before Superfrog on September 11. My swim with Mission Valley YMCA Masters was great, with a lot of threshold and suprathreshold work (300’s and 200’s). This evening I was struggling finding the motivation to get out on the bike. I was starting something new (5 minute intervals), I hadn’t selected a section of road to do them on, and it was fairly hot out. I knew I needed to be psyched, because the workout was going to be tough and require a lot of effort and focus. I really wanted to do these intervals up Torrey, a nice steady climb that would provide me a great place for a steady effort. Instead I opted for something close to home. Although it was mostly up hill, the climb is gradual, with some flat and downhill sections too. It required me to shift gears frequently to keep the power up. Overall I thought it was a lot of fun doing these intervals because it required different skills such as changing cadence and position on the bike as well as shifting frequently. Although these intervals hurt, I found I enjoyed them a lot more than the shorter intervals. Below are the results:

Interval

Power

Max HR

1

409

152

2

385

152

3

391

153

4

384

153

5

388

155

6

374

150

7

400

156

Mean

390

153

 

Today I set a new Personal Best for my 5 minute power. My previous best was 404 watts, done on 6/25/2011 and 9/6/2009. I am planning on doing these intervals again in four weeks, so I’ll have another opportunity to surpass the 409 watt mark.

These intervals are rather timely since Joe Friel just posted on his blog about improving endurance through High Intensity Training (HIT), which he goes on to describe as VO2 Max training. Endurance athletes are limited by their VO2 Max, or the amount of oxygen they are physiologically able to deliver from to their tissues. Age and genetics are definitely factors in how high your VO2 Max can actually be, but HIT has proven to improve you VO2 Max.

For my threshold power (337 Watts), my VO2 Max Zone (Zone 5) is 357-407, which you can see I was at the upper end of. In the wattage group there has been a lot of discussion of how long of interval is ideal for VO2 Max training, 3, 4, or 5 minutes. Longer than 5 minutes is considered too long to be able to hold the VO2 Max power. Shorter than 5 minutes isn’t considered effective either, because the beginning portion of the interval is actually bringing your heart rate up, and you are just warming up to the point of physiologically being at your VO2 Max. The argument then becomes, if it takes 2 minutes to get to your VO2 Max, with a 3 minute interval you are only getting 1 minute at VO2 Max, but with a 5 minute interval you are getting 3 minutes of benefit. It’s interesting to a point how coaches, physiologists, and athletes can argue such points. I do agree though that the longer you can maintain a high power the better. Three minute intervals however should be done at even a higher effort than the 5 minute intervals.

Since at 5 minute intervals I was able to be at the high end of my VO2 Max zone, it makes me wonder if my threshold power is going up. That is the ultimate goal of all this training (whether long or short), so it’s a nice thing to ponder. This coming Saturday is the Camp Pendleton Sprint Triathlon, where I will be able to test my threshold during the 30K bike leg.

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