Perpetual motion

Can't stop learning…

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New frontier

I’ve got my first real injury of the past three years of training. My left knee has been achy/sore and painful when running the past two weeks, so I’ve been taking things very easy. My guess is that I changed my gait to compensate for the bruise on my right foot’s big toe, and in so either twisted my knee or aggravated my ITB or something. It’s a bit of a weird situation – my mind says push harder, but I know that isn’t really helpful. Injury isn’t something you can take a giant hammer to. It’s a sign to take a bit of time to ease up on the running a little until I’m better.

Other things that have been bugging me: Before Eagleman (and before the TT before that), my legs just felt heavy and deadish. Just no power underneath, especially on the bike. Don’t know if it’s the heat or improper nutrition or what. Same thing happened this weekend doing hill repeats (3.8 miles at 6.5%). Felt like puking on the second one, so I bagged it after that. I’d show the data, but Garmin’s Edge 500 is a piece of shit and keeps eating my workouts (first Eagleman, and now the climbing repeats. Sent a pissed off email to Garmin. We’ll see what kind of lame response (“Please read the owner’s manual,” “We’re aware of this problem and working on a fix”, “We’ll look into it”) they send.

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Is it ever gonna be enough?

THIS REPORT IS LONG. SO WAS THE RACE. THIS REPORT IS MUCH COOLER THOUGH.

I tried to prepare myself for the heat by camping out the night before. My tent turned into a miniature rain forest, with small squalls of rain developing by my feet. I slept outside of my sleeping bag the whole night, and slept restlessly at best (interestingly, I had been talking to my friend in El Salvador about how she was managing to sleep in the heat and humidity there, and she said eventually you just accept being uncomfortable and go to sleep). That’s what happened to me. I eventually just accepted things, and slept fitfully throughout the night (which is to be expected the night before a race, no matter how warm, cold, comfortable, uncomfortable you are). Woke up at 4:15, rolled out of my tent and got my breakfast on (wheat thins and gatorade). Broke camp and changed into my gear for the day, organized my gear bag (including the unnecessary wetsuit) and headed over to the shuttle site. Shuttle ride over to transition was uneventful (as are most non-race things on race day… or at least they seem to be for me, knock on wood), and consisted of me trying to remember the route so I could get home later in the day.

As I rolled into transition, I heard the “no wetsuits today, the water is 79º” (or whatever it was) call. I was surprised a bit, but that’s life. I wasn’t really phased by that. I had been swimming well at the pool the last couple of weeks, so I figured maybe I would lose 3 to 4 minutes from a decent 1.2 mile time (for me, that’s like 32-33 minutes). Lots of waiting around, doing diddly-poo, waiting for the start. In hindsight, I should have had some water to drink. Of course, transition was closed so I couldn’t grab any water from in there, and I didn’t even think to look whether they were handing out water.

I thought I was swimming decently well. Front middle of the pack, which I guess it was (35 out of ~90). Started running into a lot of traffic on the second leg, and the current kept pushing my south of the buoys there. Turning for home, I had problems sighting the red finish kite (and the portapotties in the vicinity), and having seen the buoys for the home leg off line earlier in the day, it seemed necessary to sight off of those. I think, though, that they had corrected the buoys by that point so I could have saved a few seconds by sighting off of those instead of searching for the red flags (and swimming a bit too far east). As I neared shore, my hips started to get a bit tight, but it wasn’t anything worth drowning over. Got out of the water, wasn’t sure what my time was. Didn’t really care (I typically don’t know what my swim time is, so I always figure I’ll wait until I get finished with the day. Turns out I swam a 40:something.

T1 is T1. Uneventful. Bike mount was a bit hectic (almost ran into the first W25-29 as we left transition).

The bike was pretty decent, although I don’t have any data on it because my Garmin Edge 500 decided that it didn’t want to save said data. Actually, scratch that. The bike was not decent. It, for me at least, was a struggle with a body that didn’t want to push very hard. I was never able to get my HR up to the levels I wanted, and the few times I could get my power up to the wattage I wanted, my legs would feel very heavy. As I started out on the bike, I vomited a bit in my mouth (I think from drinking the choptank) and my hips continued to be a bit tight. The ride was pretty uneventful – not much in the way of excitement, just kind of disgusting feeling. Lots of traffic on the course and a number of times where passing was difficult as you’d have a slower person in front of you making a pass of a slower person (and sometimes I was said slower people). Shortly before we got to the turn for Old Field Rd (which passes the Blackwater Visitor Center) there was a fellow rider on the side of the road asking for CO2. I gave him my CO2 and inflator (I had unthreaded, he needed threaded). Apparently, this is illegal according to WTC rules. If anyone would like to turn me into the RD, feel free to. I would (and will) do it again in a heartbeat. As we turned onto Egypt road I was trying to take in as many liquid calories and liquid liquid as possible, thinking I was either under-nutrited or under-hydrated. So that’s the bike, or as much as I care to discuss about it. It was what it was. 2:36:something.

T2 is T2. Almost ran over one of the aquavelo peeps who was just kindof standing in my path. Other than that, uneventful. Grabbed my water bottle and immediately started pouring water on my head. It was not cold. Tossed the water bottle as I passed the finish line.

As soon as I started the run, I removed my Garmin 305 and put it in my pocket. I decided I really didn’t want to see how slowly I was going and psyche myself out. I stepped off the curb around mile 1 and twisted my ankle, but no serious damage was done and although it would have been a good excuse to stop for the day, I kept going (and any excuse to stop for the day (yesterday) would leave me regretting it tomorrow (today) so I’m glad I didn’t. I walked probably 75% of the aid stations, making sure to grab 1 or 2 cups of ice along the way, and here’s where a 1 piece suit rocks. I’d pour the ice down my top and it would congregate at my crotch, which has some major arteries and bits and likes to not be 300º. Anyhow, I really credit the ice down the shorts/suit for helping me stay coolish. The rest of the course I ran, save for one point where I decided slamming my right foot into the front of my shoe was probably not a good thing and finally tightened my lock laces (I had been running with them loose, which is probably equivalent to running in shoes a half/full size too big). At one point I was passed by one of the W25-29 and realized that her pace was not only matchable but maintainable, so I would end up passing her in between aid stations and getting passed by her at aid stations. I’m not averse to getting chicked, but she was one of two people I saw all day who were running past me and having someone to pace off of is incredibly useful. (She would end up beating me to the finish by a few seconds, and seemed to have had a good day. So kudos to her.) Tried to cheer for every DC Tri person I saw on the course, even though I race incognito. Last couple of miles felt like they took forever, but I am pretty sure they didn’t, as I eventually finished them. Turns out I negative split the run (52:something out, 50:something in). Could I have gone faster? Perhaps/probably. But I had fun out there and aside from tingling sensations in both arms and the sun beating down relentlessly on my shoulders, face and calves, I was never in a spot of bother/danger. Run time: 1:42:something.

Al those somethings and transition times added up to give me a nice round finishing time of 5:04:00. Not my fastest day, but only 5 minutes off of NOLA 70.3 earlier this year, and in much more difficult conditions.

THE END.

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Rip Off

I’m trying to do a better job of balancing work/life/training. After two years of racing Iron-distance, I’ve made the decision to take a year off and only race half-iron distance and shorter. There’s a lot more work that I can do in my training, but a lot of work that needs to be done with my life as well. Not sure I’ll succeed at any of the stuff I want to do. I think failure would probably be a good thing.
It’s gonna be an interesting year.

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J’ai des amis

So I screwed up my 5K test yesterday. I think it really goes back to the experience thing I’ve been thinking on. I really screwed up the pacing yesterday. My first mile was in 6:12, which for me really isn’t a sustainable pace right now. I think I’ll get to the point where 6:12 for a 10K is pretty doable. But in any case, I went out too hard, and after two miles I was just cooked. I used to think I had two speeds, fast and slow. I know I’ve got different gears now, but I don’t know how to tell what is too fast early on vs what is sustainable. I think it’s only after a few times of going out and racing, testing that I’ll really have a good feeling for pacing and stuff.

I’ll get there.

I need another reason why I need another reason

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A Total Waste

This weekend has been a near total waste. Woke up Saturday with the best intentions: 90 minute run in the morning, do all the work that I need to do over the weekend, do some laundry, make some cookies, and go to sleep at a reasonable hour. The run got pushed back because my stomach wasn’t feeling quite right. Went for the run, and at mile 4 had to make a pit-stop. Made it to a location where I can either continue on a path or turn for home in 45 minutes, and my stomach was rumbling, so I turned for home. All told, something like 6.25 miles in 48 minutes. Did cook and make cookies, but then I messed up the icing (granulated sugar != powdered sugar). Ended up staying up far too late, and then Sunday was a total wash.

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No one sleeps when I’m awake

Let me preface this by saying that I appreciate the ability to track workouts. I typically don’t do it on a day to day level (usually wait until sunday afternoon and then upload a whole weeks worth of data), and I haven’t developed a top-down vision of what the end results of my workouts should look like (on paper that is). I don’t know how many TSS per day is a good number for me, I don’t know what real progress looks like in terms of the shift in my normalized power curve. But the fact that I can develop that view, should I so choose, using the software that’s out there, is nice.

As a computer scientist, I’m always looking for an easier way to do things. I also get quite upset when I see things that could be done in a much simpler, more open, more consistent way. Which brings me to WKO+0. On a base level, it does most of what needs to be done by a tracking system (note that most of my complaints are triathlete based). In conjunction with TrainingPeaks.com, it does more of what a training system should do, and adds on some other nice-to-haves. But they are two very separate1 systems built on two very different platforms with integration going only one way. I can understand why the two systems are so different. They were both built with different audiences in mind (WKO+ was formerly CyclingPeaks and was geared towards cyclists with power meters, while TrainingPeaks (TP) is a newer (I think), web-based system geared more towards… everyone). WKO+ is a one-time payment for the software (one-license), while TP is a monthly (or free) subscription. They’re integrated only by the fact that you can correct your GPS files in WKO+ with a system/database/magical wizard hat that resides in the TP universe, and you can upload your workouts/training files from your WKO+ to your account on TP. That’s it. So while the original workout plan may reside on TP, you can’t see that in WKO+. But if you really want to do in-depth analysis of your training load and power progressions, you can’t do that in TP. They both have good interfaces for running files (I think the normalized pace data in WKO+ only makes me a bit more willing to go easy up hills by thinking that it’s ok, cause my normalized pace will be faster than I expect it to be), although I think the ability to quickly see all the intervals in a graphical form (in WKO+) is a nice touch. Neither has a really good system for tracking swimming workouts. I don’t know of any system yet that does a good job of that.

So far, except for the integration, everything seems great, right? Well, not so much2. WKO+ only runs on windows. Only as in you can’t run it from within WINE (I think) or on a Mac (unless you’re using parallels, bootcamp, etc). I get that. The population fo potential users is pretty damn small all things considered. So we’re talking about making a change to make things easier for maybe 15% of the potential audience. It’s quite clear that WKO+ is a legacy Windows product, and, again, I have no issue with that. Except that if I were going to rebuild WKO+ from the bottom, it would be a web/AIR/QT/GTK(ew) based platform. I’m not sure at this point in time that there are a huge number of things that need to be built in such a way that they are tied to one platform.

It’s also very difficult to go back and compare two workouts. Let’s say 6 weeks apart, I do the same workout. Let’s say it’s 4×15′ at 90% of FTP with 4′ of rest in between each set. If I remember the workout that I did 6 weeks ago, it’s pretty easy to compare today’s workout. Otherwise, I’ll have to go into TP, and try to find that workout, cause the workout details aren’t sent to WKO+ unless I hand typed them after my workout got downloaded from whatever device. Now, let’s say I’ve done that same workout 20 times in the past 2 years, and I’m interested in looking at the progression or making some comparison. There’s just no way I’m going to manually look through all of my history to do that.

So, if I were Peaksware and I were going to rebuild WKO+ from the bottom up, I’d probably make it a non-free plug-in/addition for TP and/or a more tightly integrated web-app3. Data from WKO+ should flow freely into TP, and TP data should flow into WKO+ (they are two very complementary products). Data within TP/WKO+ should be able to be searched for similar workouts, and if the data exists (lap data mostly), that should be searchable too. TP/WKO+ should be able to generate workouts for training devices (e.g., my 4×15′ workout should be something that once setup in TP, I can download easily into my Garmin or whatever other device that is capable of doing the like). Finally, I forget what I was going to say. Guess this is long enough.

0I don’t think they haven’t had these discussions internally. I know that software development, like all things, is a matter of compromise and a matter of what is possible to be done in a given amount of time. I’m free from those constraints here. Furthermore, if anyone from Peaksware (the makers of the packages discussed today), reads this and has any comments about it, I’m more than willing to give them their own post to respond, free from any editorial interference. Look, I’m not much read by anyone, so I’m not sure why they’d want to respond anyhow.
1I think one of the things that I’ll never forget from 9th grade english is how to spell Separate. A Separate Peace was one of our summer reading books. In the first week, we had an open book test/essay to write in class about ASP. I forget what I wrote about, but I do remember that we all were docked a third of a grade (e.g. A to A-, A- to B+) for misspelling Separate. I mean, we all had the book there, and misspelled the name of the book. I do find it hard to spell desperate from time to time, until I remember that it’s not spelled like separate.
2I’m ignoring the proprietary nature of the .wko file as there are workarounds and from, what I’ve heard, it’s changing in an upcoming release. Also, I don’t blame them for any driver finickyness in pulling data in.
3I think, given the market size and the amount of time it would take to relaunch a new WKO+, I’m probably out of luck here, as doing a major rewrite would probably require 2 teams: one to maintain the old code until the new code is ready, and another to build the new platform. And I don’t think the market is big enough to support that. But that’s a SWAG, as is this whole lecture.

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I never had light in my eyes anyway

So I’ve got three topics/post that I can write about, and I’m not really sure which one to write first. Training philosophy gets back to something I wrote to my coach a week after IMC and gets at what I see for myself going forward, then there’s a whole slew of ideas and opinions I have about tracking software/packages, and finally there’s one about my growth as a human being (if there’s been any). A lot of these ideas have been rattling around upstairs in the void for a while as I got settled into my new place, visited my family and had a slight change of scenery at work.

I have to say first and foremost I picked pretty good parents. Genetically, I think it’s a testament to them that given my athletic background I’ve been able to compete as well as I have. I mean, if you look at my athletic history, it’s been pretty unfocused and until I started doing triathlons, it was dormant for years. Sports I played as a kid: baseball (through 7th grade), basketball (through 4th grade, or maybe 6th… I think until we moved I played rec league), soccer (through 2nd grade maybe?), hockey (6th-freshman year of high school), swimming (through 5th grade), rowing (freshman year through senior fall of high school), golf (recreationally to the point that I got down to a 7 handicap at one point). In college, I played one week of lightweight football, and one year of rugby. Aside from that, I drank competitively. By the end of college, it really showed (I looked for pictures, I couldn’t find any online. I know there are… somewhere). I had gone from doing an olympic triathlon in September 2003 to probably weighing 200 lbs by June 2004, and looking it. Then graduation came and for 2.5 years I did nothing (except for maintain weight).

So that’s my athletic history. In spite of that, I’m a front middle of the pack (or back front of the pack) triathlete. I know there are others out there who are more athletically gifted and have a similar background and do much better. But I know that I am quite lucky to have the genetics I have.

So how does this tie to a training philosophy? Suffice it to say that the only background I had in triathlon was swimming, and those skills, while very useful, were a bit rusty. But here I am competing against people transitioning from competitive running (former collegiate runners, etc) and swimming and (less so) cycling, and the longest run I had before my first Ironman was a half-marathon. I’m competing against people who easily run sub-38 minute 10Ks. A lot of these guys have had years of coaching in one single discipline, years of competition. I’m not complaining at all. I may not have been good enough to run collegiately (I never tried). I may not have been good enough to run in high school (I never tried).

It’s probably best to discuss my goals for this upcoming season before I go on:
1. I live 8 miles (give or take) from work. I’d like to start running to work (getting some quality work in in the morning), and then running home (easy pace). I’d like to start running with a group regularly (let’s face it, I need to meet people). Basically, I’d like to up the mileage pretty significantly and see what my body can handle.
2. I have this vague idea that I can run a 17:XX 5K. After 3 weeks of no/light training, I think it’s possible to get stuff started up again and start crushing things. I think it’s doable. It’ll be hard, but, I think, doable.
3. I think for this year, I’ll pass on full IM distace racing. It’s a lot of time commitment, and while I think it is worth it, I think the ROI on doing a full ironman is much lower than doing 3-4 triathlons (olympic and half iron distance) in its place. That ROI is my own, of course. For instance, with each ironman, I get one datapoint of what works and what doesn’t. So I get one datapoint a year, and next year would be a third datapoint (now I know people are successful doing this and do a lot more races leading up to their ironman races than I do, but that’s not my plan).

In any case, I want to accumulate experience with different pacing, different race strategies, different tapering techniques, etc. Any coach you talk to should (and most will) say that what works for one person doesn’t always work for another person. Things happen and go upside down at a race that you can’t control, and I want to go from where that’s something I have to real with and adjust to and be surprised by to having the experience that tells me “hey, I know what’s happening and why and here’s how I deal with it.” Given my lack of racing experience since forever, I think taking a year off from doing long distance racing (and the amount of training entailed), will allow me to accumulate metric tons of experience and new abilities that I would be able to take to longer distances.

Ultimately, I love triathlon. I’ll do more. I’ll continue to try and qualify for Kona. Not next year though. But I also want to explore other opportunities to pu[ni]sh my body. See how far it can go till it breaks, and then see how well it works when it does. All within reason.

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First thoughts

I was able to pick up a Garmin 310XT from Citysports. Did my first run today with it, and wanted to test it out compared to the Garmin 305. I had them both charged up pretty well (damn near full), and in the middle of Crystal City, the 310XT picked up satellites just a few seconds (maybe 30 seconds) faster. Running through the high rises bordering Crystal Drive, they both had some issues picking up satellites consistently and giving me a proper pace. Ran my normal easy run route and despite feeling like my aerobic capacity has been ripped out of me, was able to do a decent 3.7 mile run. Both watches were pretty close in terms of pace per mile, etc at the END of the run, but during the run (especially noticeable in the last .7 miles), the paces were 10-15 seconds different. I think some of it might have to be due to going through a tunnel. There may be some issue with how the two watches interpolate distances when satellite reception is poor. I think the only way to really solve this will be to do runs where the miles are marked well so that I can test them both against something solid.

Other first thoughts:
The 310XT isn’t any bigger than the 305, and feels considerably less bulky.
They added vibration to the watch that’ll alert you to miles/laps/messages.
I don’t know if they didn’t test this at all, but the design of the wristband (specifically, the little loop that holds the excess band in place) is incredibly poorly designed, though the design is understandable. The loop has two metal teeth that are meant to prevent the loop from sliding around, but these teeth don’t allow for much room at all to get the strap through the loop. I assume that this loosens up over time.
One of the things I really really liked about the 305 (once I learned about it), was the ability to hold down the MODE button for 5 seconds at any time to bring up a menu that not only allowed you to switch sports without going through a number of menus, but also allowed you to turn off the GPS feature of the watch (if, for instance, you were using the watch as a stopwatch for 30x30s or FTP intervals). The sport switching still exists in the 310XT, but the ability to turn off the GPS has disappeared from the MODE button menu.
I’ve had some issues getting the sync between the ANT USB dongle and the 310XT to work instantly. I upgraded the firmware of the 310 immediately, as I had seen there were some issues with the older firmware (the upgrade took ~15 minutes of sync and install time). I’m sure I’ll figure this out as time goes on, but for now it’s a pain in the ass.

Still need to get the ANT+ upgrade for my powertap, but when that’s here, I’ll try it out, compare it to the PT Cervo, and let you know.

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Putting my hands on her bottom… bracket

This years upgrade to Dorothy: compact cranks. Spread the shopping out over a few stores, and the final pieces (bottom bracket, chain, spanner) arrived today. I was down to just my business socks and all black (so I could put my hands anywhere and not get visibly dirty.
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First had to remove the original chain, FSA cranks and MegaExo ball bearing. That took a bit longer than expected, as the instructions, while clear, are somewhat confusing (you have to leave the locking piece in and just force the crank out by unhexing/unscrewing the locking bolt. The whole time I was doing this though, I thought I was just destroying the crank (it’s hard to see whether the crank is actuall coming off, or whether you are just destroying the locking bolt). After that, getting the cranks off was pretty quick.

Finally figured out how to get the crank off.

Finally figured out how to get the crank off.

cranks-003cranks-004
Getting the new cranks (170 mm R700) on was pretty simple, albeit greasy (like all things bike related). Hardest part of the installation was putting the new chain on. Ended up putting it through the rear derailleur backwards the first go at measuring the links, but once I figured that out, it was pretty much a snap. I’d say the total experiment was probably a 7 out of 10 for difficulty, and could have been a lot easier if I had paid a bit more attention.
cranks-005cranks-006cranks-007
Like most things, I’m sure the next time will be much quicker (down from 2 hours to maybe 25-30 minutes) all told. Got in 50 mins on the trainer afterward. Big test will come this weekend when I get it out on the roads.

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314

It doesn’t feel like it’s been 5 weeks since I stopped doing anything. Feels far too soon to be pulling out the trainer again to ride and ride and ride and not go anywhere. Even so, it felt great to get out tonight and run for 30 minutes. Yeah, only 30 minutes, and maybe I went a bit harder than I should have, but still, it felt good. There’s a nip to the air now, which will, fortunately, make riding the trainer just a bit easier.

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