Perpetual motion

Can't stop learning…

Archive for September, 2009

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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It’s supposed to be cold in Canada, yah?

First things first: I finished ironman canada in 11:17:41, which is a 21 minute PR. If that’s all you care about, you can stop reading now.
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