Showing posts with label Race. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Race. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

February Training Thoughts

I'm going to try something new on my little corner of the internet here. I'm going to use this space as my own personal training journal, and will try to keep up with an entry every Monday reviewing the past week's training as I prepare for the Swim Miami 10K, Daytona 100 Ultramarathon and the big goal, Ultraman Florida in 2018. This is sure to interest nobody, so I'll be writing in a way that is meant for me. Feel free to follow along, if you so desire.

For this first entry. I'm going to write down my thoughts for the entire month of February. It makes sense to look at the entire month because it comes off my failure at Skydive Ultra 100 at the end of January, and an entire month of heavy swimming focus with virtually no running and just a little time on the bike. So, let's look at February beginning with the swimming.

February Swimming

February was the biggest month of swimming in my life. I didn't have a real yardage target going into the month, but did want to try swimming every day of the month. I swam 27 of 29 days in February. My pool was closed on February 1st for chlorination treatment, so I'm comfortable missing that day. February 4th I also missed as I was stuck at the office for an unexpected late meeting. This miss hurts more. Overall, I'm quite happy with my February swim streak, however.

Total swim yardage measured by my Garmin for the month was 71,320 (or roughly 40.5 miles,) which does not include kick yardage and some drills amounting to perhaps another 10,000 yards over the month. That's about 40,000 more yards than my prior largest month in September 2015 as I finalized my Great Floridian Triathlon training. The finally three weeks of the month, I settled into about 20,000 yards per week which feels like a heavy, yet manageable, swim load for me.

I was able to sneak in one open water swim session on the final Friday of February with Boca Raton Triathletes. It's always a great time out there, and this one was particularly interesting as our swimming beach happened to also be the set for the filming of the new Baywatch movie. I even think I caught a glimpse of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson filming an action scene running down the Boca Inlet jetty.
On the set of Baywatch. These are not actual lifeguard stands, but movie props.

How did I feel about all the yardage? Well, not surprisingly, there were many moments of fatigue in my shoulders and arms by the second week. There was one Masters swimming session when this became most apparent. We were swimming 150 yard pull sets. I'd feel great for 100 yards, and then it would feel like someone pulled the keys out of the ignition and I could just barely coast the final 50 yards. Just no power left at all.

That said, I feel like this massive (for me) amount of swimming has been tremendously beneficial. I spent several days working on balance in the water and body position, and think that has improved a bit. My swim fitness is definitely better. And, perhaps most importantly, I've had several "ah ha" moments over the past couple weeks when I finally felt like I understood what the catch and pull was supposed to feel like. They were brief moments, generally no more than 100-200 yards. But I think it's a significant sign that something is starting to connect.

February's swim training culminated with a 5,000 yard pull endurance swim on February 28th. I felt comfortable and smooth throughout despite fatigue and finished in 1:21:19. It was a nice, steady swim with only 20 seconds difference between the fast and slowest 1,000 yard "laps." Now, to double that distance in the next 40 days.

For March, I intend on trying to maintain the 20,000 yards per week target, but doing so in 5 days of swimming  per week instead of 7 days. The first week of March, I'm resting a bit from the swim as I reintroduce running into my schedule. But by the second week, I hope to be back at 20,000 yards.

February Running

February was all about rest and recovery for running. I ran the Ancient Oaks 100 Mile Ultramarathon in mid-December. I tried to run the 100 miler at Skydive Ultra at the end of January...a big, fat fail. February was to include very little running, a bit of walking and mostly just letting sore joints and ligaments heal.

I succeeded in my goal. I didn't walk or run for the first two weeks. On February 14th, I completed my first measured walk at pace. Then I ran four times easily for 30 minutes between the 14th and the 29th. Nothing intense. Nothing of length. Just real easy recovery runs.

As I head into March, I plan to try an entirely new running plan. I'm going to run more frequently, six days per week, but for shorter distances. And I'm going to do something new for me, speed work. The plan is three bona fide recovery runs per week, two runs with intensity (Tuesday Fartleks, Thursday tempo), and one sorta long run. I'll do this for a few months until I want my training to become more specific and long in preparation for Daytona 100.

February Biking

I haven't been biking since the Great Floridian. Maybe 10 hours total in the saddle in the past four months. February's goal was to reestablish a habit of biking, nothing more. I kind of succeeded.

I have formed a good habit of jumping on the bike trainer every Tuesday and Thursday after my kids finish their swim team training and before they head to bed. These have been short and easy sessions, 30 minutes to an hour, with the sole purpose of getting back on the bike. I wasn't perfect about hitting these sessions in February, but did do them much more often than not. I plan to continue this into March.

I also compelled myself to join a Sunday longer group ride twice in February. Nothing super long (40 and 60 miles), but again getting back on the bike regularly. I also don't need a ton of length with no Ironman planned in 2016. I do need to keep building bike fitness and comfort as I look to Ultraman in 2018.

However, February wasn't a complete success with biking. I had hoped to start bike commuting to work once or twice per week, 20 miles each way. I haven't done it. I haven't even brought the bike I want to use for that to Tune Cycles to get it ready. I think I'd enjoy this commuting, but I'm also quite concerned about car traffic. I've just seen too many stories about people (including some I know) getting hit by cars behaving stupidly. I'm still struggling with how to proceed on this idea.
Beautiful sunrises help make the bike more bearable

But, overall, I'll take it. I'm back on the bike with some regularity. The joy for biking isn't there (perhaps a symptom of trainer riding) and it feels like a chore. Hopefully, with some more time in the saddle, that changes.

February In Review

Overall, I think February training went quite well. I'm feeling recovered from overdoing the running exploits, I'm back on the bike a little and I've made a ton of progress with swimming. Swimming the 10K at Swim Miami feels far more doable than it did a month ago. Another month of good yardage should really help out. I'll be slow, but I'll probably make it to the finish.

February was a success...on to March. More swimming, and the sweet return of running!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Four Lessons From The DTR Endurance Challenge 50K

On April 18th, 2015, I ran the DTR Endurance Challenge 50K. My second ultramarathon, and a complete different experience than my race at the Skydive Ultra. However, instead of a conventional race report, I thought it would be more interesting to write about the four big lessons I took out of this race which will include race details along the way.

Lesson 1: I Need To Run More

Going into the race, I knew I was undertrained, at least from a pure running perspective. I hadn't been able to run at all for a three week period after an odd knee issue in February and March caused by an ill-executed switch to new shoes. I had kept up aerobic fitness with plenty of swimming and biking, but the running training was lacking. Since Skydive Ultra at the end of January, I only got three long runs in prior to this race: two 14 milers and one 18 miler. And I had only one 30 mile week of training over that period. I was undertrained.

It showed up on race day. The race felt great for about 14 miles, and ok for another 4 miles. Then the wheels felt like they fell off. Lots of walking. So much discomfort. Generally, a very poor run after mile 18.

The most glaring symptom of my lack of training was having to battle a calf cramp the final six miles of the race. At Skydive, a race nearly twice as long, I only had one short moment where even the idea of a cramp entered my mind. At DTR, it was a long fight to fend off the cramp. Eventually, I switched my running form to heel strike which took pressure off the calves and allowed me to run a bit better.

But the lesson was learned... I need to run more. Biking and swimming are great; aerobic fitness wasn't an issue. And I need to do those things as I prepare for the Great Floridian Triathlon. But running long requires running long...often.

Lesson 2: Distance Is Only One Factor In Race Difficulty

So I went into this race thinking it would be hard because I was undertrained, but also thinking that the experience would be roughly 60% as difficult as my 50 mile race. I could not have been more wrong.

This race was brutal. We were treated to a record high temperature of 93 degrees during the day. Fortunately, there was occasional light cloud cover to offer at least some reprieve from the sun, but then the Florida humidity simply took its toll. The race began at 6:45 am, which meant we got about 30 minutes of running before the sun got on us. After that, it was nothing but increasing heat and sun exposure throughout the day.

The course itself held so many surprises. I knew there was some sand on the course. I had spent time beach running to prepare. I was not ready for nearly 12 miles of sand, made worse by the heat which evaporated every bit of moisture out of it leaving nothing but loose sand. The course was an out and back, and the sand wasn't too bad on the way out. On the way back, once every participant had been over it at least once, the sand became a grip-less mess. It was exhausting.

I had heard legend of the "Dunes of Heaven", a one mile stretch of rolling sand dunes beginning around mile 9. None were more than 50 feet high according to my Garmin, but they were relentless. Get to the bottom of one, and right back up the next you went. But the real surprise was that after the Dunes of Heaven, the rolling hills continued for another 5 miles to the turn around point. These hills were milder than the dunes and the trail was slightly less sandy, but the constant elevation change took me completely by surprise. I hadn't prepared. (Hey, it's Florida. Everything is flat.)

This course on this day was tough, really tough. The top finishers were a half hour off the finishing times the previous year. Sure, distance is one piece of the equation, but so are many other factors.

Lesson 3: Shut Up, Mind

Despite all the above issues, I actually didn't do too poorly in the race. While I was a full hour off the first finisher, I was less than eleven minutes behind the first place runner in my age group. Without much more effort, I could have made up eleven minutes. But much of the day, I let my mind and negative self-talk slow me down.

It's too hot. I'm just not fit enough. My stomach/foot/shoulder hurts. It's just a training run. I don't want to be here. And on and on and on it went.

However, I only had two bona fide time losses during the race. First, my calf cramp was a real fitness issue. Had the cramp truly set in, my race would have been over. So I had to manage that. But had I thought to switch running form earlier, I would have saved tons of time.

Second, I lost several minutes on a few occasions dealing with a leak in my hydration pack. This was a safety issue. I was able to slow down the leak by playing with the valve on the pack, and did take the time to make sure to do that so I wouldn't run out of water between aid stations. This cost me maybe 5 minutes total.

But mostly, those lost eleven minutes were the result of my mind slowing down what my body was capable of.

Lesson 4: I Really Love Ultra Trail Running

I felt horrible for much of the 5 hours and 29 minutes I spent racing. I was not near top form, the course and weather were absolutely demoralizing, and the bladder in my hydration pack began leaking leaving my back, butt, legs and feet soaked for hours.

I tripped on roots on four separate occasions, feeling like I could have broken a toe each time. Twice I outright fell and once tweaked my right shoulder while catching myself. For the first time ever in racing or training, I had stomach issues. Nothing severe. I was still able to eat and drink as needed. But it was uncomfortable for miles and miles.

My feet hurt, especially my left foot. I think I bruised the sole of my foot early in the race. By the end, it was nearly unbearable. In the final mile of the race, I felt what could only be a terrible blister on my large left toe. I blame the hours of water leaking from my hydration pack for that.

I was a mess, and I absolutely loved it!

Being out in nature, seeing a lightening storm off over the ocean, watching the sunrise as we ran, discovering deer moss, overcoming all the above issues to finish the race, eating whatever looked good at aid stations, the volunteers being so kind and helpful along the way; it's all such a great experience.

Frankly, I think ultra running is where I'll end up long-term. I enjoy triathlons and look forward to my first iron distance race in October, and love many parts of CrossFit. But there's something so simple and pure ultra running. Ultimately, it's just you, a pair of good shoes and clothes and nature fighting to reach the destination. It's so simple.

And it's by far the least expensive sport of those that interest me. Can't wait to run another ultramarathon soon...maybe 100K next?