Archive for the ‘Equipment’ Category

That Voodoo That I Do

Posted: November 10, 2017 in Equipment, Gym, Injuries and Owies
Tags:

And so it begins – the official off-season training program.

In truth, it actually started a while ago but I have begun to get myself back into a daily/weekly routine enabling me to cover all my swimming, biking, running and strength-building bases and already, these workouts comprise approximately 12-15 hours of my week.

I know, I know…I’m bat shit crazy but I’m owning it.

(Or so I keep telling myself anyway)

One of main priorities right now is to repair the badly atrophied muscles in my legs following my Iron Disaster this past June; my right leg specifically.  To that regard, I have added a new toy to my daily strength-building program – be it core at home in my basement or with the weights at the gym – the Voodoo Band (or “Voodoo Floss”).

voodo

And no, sadly, a “Voodoo Band” is not the name of some hip and rocking swing band.

Essentially, a Voodoo Band is an essential tool that, really, should be a staple tool in the gym bags of every athlete looking to improve range, restore joint mechanics, or unglue matted down or previously injured tissue.

Or so the advertising websites tell me, anyway.

What is really is, is a thick stretchy compression band that one can wrap around their limb (in my case, the muscles of my right thigh and Iliotibial band area) to allow the re-perfusing of tissues that have become stiff or gone cold after injury, and by compressing swelling out of tissues and joints.  Because the Voodoo Band can be used while actually performing the movement the athlete is trying to change, its effect on sliding surface and restoration and tissue mobilization is (apparently) unmatched.

I was first introduced to the Voodoo band on one of my visits to Legacy Health & Performance when Dr. Burr pulled one out during one our sessions.  My first instinct was to cower in the corner like a whipped puppy seeing as how the band – at first glance – kind of resembles something a headmaster might use to discipline an errant student.  Likewise, I’m pretty sure I saw this thing in a fetish video once at a Stag party years ago.

Either way, I was not exactly looking forward to it.

Thankfully, Dr. Burr started to wrap only the muscles of my right leg in it before asking me to perform a series of movements that, prior to this moment, had ached whenever I performed this same movement.  And low and behold, the pain had almost subsided entirely once wrapped in this thick rubber band.

Okay, that’s cool.

Had someone told me about the benefits of the Voodoo Band without my actually having tried it first, I would have assumed that naming it “Voodoo” was just a great marketing ploy to entice lay-people like myself into purchasing one and trying it out but, hey, there is definitely something to this bad ass looking stretchy thing.  Not long afterwards, I saw the band mentioned again in a book (also recommended by Dr. Burr) I had started to read called ‘Ready to Run: Unlocking Your Potential to Run Naturally’ by Dr. Kelly Starrett.  In fact, there’s a whole section dedicated to it.

If you believe Starrett, the Voodoo Band is the be all and end all of helping to cure what ails ya, runner-style.

And you know what?

I do believe him.

This Dr. Starrett fella sure doesn’t look like your typical emaciated, skinny-ass, sleek, greyhound looking Kenyan marathoner.  No, sir!  He’s a large, burly, ripped muscle guy with tattoos.  The kind of tattoos that mean “watch out, motherfucker!”  and not “hey, let me read you some poems about my vegan bicycle”.  Upon first glance, you might better picture him as the kind of person you’d expect to murder you while quietly humming to himself as opposed to out running endless hill repeats in the back country.  In other words, if this guy can run regularly and naturally, and without injury, then there might just be something to this whole Voodoo thingee.

What have I got to lose?

According to Starrett (and Dr. Burr), the Voodoo band is an instrumental tool in restoring the sliding surface between the layers of fascia, creating a omnipotent shearing effect that unglues those sticky sliding surfaces, helps to restore range of motion, floods the affected area with nutrient-rich blood, and helping to reduce swelling while reviving the joint.

Sounds totally boffo, right?

But what’s all that mean?

Well, beneath the skin there are two thick “layers” of fascia. The layer associated with the skin is the Superficial Fascial Membrane. There is another layer which is very closely associated with muscle and skeleton, called the Deep Fascial Membrane. The deeper layer is not simply a “wrap” around muscles and soft tissues, but is also integrated within these structures to pass force and information in every direction.

The superficial fascia is attached to the dermis via “skin ligaments”, called the Retinaculum Cutis Superficialis (RCS). The superficial fascia is attached to the deep fascia via more soft tissue bridges, call the Retinaculum Cutis Profundus (RCP).

Still with me?

Fascial layers are densely populated with all sorts of receptors, most notably mechanoreceptors. In case you didn’t catch that, this means that fascia is like a loud-speaker to the brain, saying “Hey, something is moving down here in your less intelligent tissues. Howzabout you get involved, all up in here?”.  Stack that with the fact that joint capsules (previously thought to be our main source of proprioception) are considered to provide strong feedback only during end range stretch/compression, I think we can safely assume that fascia is a key component in neurological feedback loops, especially related to movement.

So, how does this apply to the Voodoo Band/Floss?

It’s simple really.

voodoo-flossThe strong elastic compression will quickly alter fascia’s relation to all other aspects of the neuromusculoskeletal system when you move with it on.  It would likely take some tension out of certain areas of the fascia, shifting it to other areas via strong intra-sling/intra-layer tension redistribution and inter-layer shear.  Yeah, it’s all about the tensegrity, baby.

So what does this mean now?

Basically, it can massively alter neural input by making a quick change in the mechanical transmission of the fascial system (and its many mechanoreceptors) when moving underneath some strong compression and “stretchy-pulley forces”.

Yes, that’s the technical term.

What’s the ultimate take-away here:  looking at the Voodoo Band simply as a compression mechanism is quite simplistic, since the vast majority of users will wrap themselves up and move. 

Even simpler put:

Compression + Tension + Movement = Fibrosis release.

So wrap myself up and move I will.

Through a whole host of movements actually; squatting, lunging, and stretching specifically.  And here’s the important part, it feels good – during and after.  In a few short weeks I have noticed a significant improvement in all my former “ouchie places” and the power I once had is now beginning to restore itself and this pleases me.

And even when the pain and discomfort is no longer prevalent or a problem, I’m still planning to keep with the Voodoo Band during my strength routines as a pervasive action in order to stave off future injuries and that definitely can’t be a bad thing.

Oh, and hey, I also figure walking around the gym or at home with this bad ass thing wrapped around me isn’t exactly going to damage my street cred any as a total shit-kicker either, could it?

(Or so I keep telling myself anyway)

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I’ve been holding off on this writing this post for a while now because, well, I still can hardly believe it.  But I’ve got the confirmations, did the leg work and I suppose it’s safe to finally accept it as well as put it out there publicly that:

I AM A SPONSORED TRIATHLETE!

Yup.

I shit you not.

That’s pretty exciting, right?

Excuse me while I hyperventilate a little…

(Inside I’m screaming like a tweener at a Bieber concert)

But before I divulge the particulars, let me first comment that I am no rock star triathlete nor do I possess anything resembling a “God-gifted skill”, or even somewhat “pro” qualities and/or status.  I’m just an average guy who works his ass off to be the best that he can be come race day, with what little there is to work with of course.  Or, maybe it’s that there is actually a lot to work with given the current size of my ass, I’m not sure how you want to spin it.  However, what definitely holds true is that I work hard and try my best.

The idea came to me a few years ago to approach a few local businesses of which I am both a supporter and frequent customer, with the request to sponsor me as a local athlete.  I didn’t of course because, well, I’m a schmuck.  I figured that no business owner in their right mind would ever want to endorse a “nobody” which, in the greater scheme of things, I am.  After all, sponsorship’s typically go to athletes who win events and thereby promoting their said sponsors through the act of standing on the podium for all to behold and revel in.  And while I have been on the podium once or twice, it’s certainly not a regular occasion.  Besides, finishing first in the “Clydesdale” age group category isn’t exactly the “Big Time”, so I let the idea slip away like so many lost dreams.

It just wasn’t meant to be.

But this year, I need a new race suit.  And that means a pretty big expense seeing as how I only need the one.  The thought then of spending serious cash on a race suit that calls attention to brands such as Sugoi, Zoot, 2XU, Orca, Pearl Izumi or Louis Garneau who, really, don’t give two shits about me beyond the fact that I just handed over my hard earned bucks to wear their outfit, wasn’t very palatable.  Besides, I’d inevitably be just another faceless lamb in the flock along the race course seeing as how it’s very possible that quite a few other participants would also be wearing the exact same thing.

Boooooor-ing.

So I reconsidered the option of asking for a local sponsorship.  I figured, hey, you could probably see my ass from orbit as it is, so what better billboard for getting ones brand name seen and advertised is there?  Those skinny little pro assholes just don’t have this kind of girth on which to show off their sponsors, do they?

Hells-to-the-NO!

Now I’ve mentioned it before in other posts that I’m fiercely loyal to the area in which I live and train (Ridgeway, Ontario), and I practice “think Global, act local” as often as possible.  I also do my very best to support all our local businesses whenever I dine out, or go to shows and events, or just shop.  Maybe – just maybe – one of these businesses would be interested in returning the favor by making a small investment in supporting one of their own.

Now, let’s be clear.  I wasn’t asking for money to buy (or be provided with) expensive equipment, performance supplements, or even to cover the entry fees for my events.  I just wanted something spiffy to race in that has logos and the brand names of companies and businesses that I believe in, support and endorse; things that inspire me.

That’s not asking a lot is it?

I swallowed my pride then and approached three local businesses that I would love to represent and as fortunate would have it – they all agreed.  I guess that makes this my triathlon equivalent of “Say Yes to the Dress!”

So without any further ado, here they are:

Brimstone Brewing Co.

brimstone

CRAVE LOCAL FRESH

cravelocalfresh_mockup

The Unroyal Ride Ambassadors

index

It goes without saying that I am HUGE fan of all these businesses, and not just because they’re local and they’ve agreed to give me money.

I love everything they stand for:

  1. Fresh local food
  2. Great local beer
  3. Awesome local riding

Three of my favorite things in life I might add.

Of course, the bragging rights that go along with showing up to an Ironman triathlon in part sponsored by a brewery also definitely ups the “cool factor” just a bit too.

Take that Clif bar!

“Recharge with Milk”, my ass.

(bitches)

Both Brimstone Brewing Co. and CRAVE LOCAL FRESH operate out of The Sanctuary – Center for the Arts, a converted church 30 seconds from my front door.  My family and I love this place and frequent it often on evenings out for dinner, concerts, or just quiet pints of delicious craft beer (which aren’t exactly part of an “Ironman Diet” but, hey, “all work and no play…”, right?).  I will stop in on weekends for a bowl of homemade “recovery soup” on weekends after long winter rides and runs, and this is also my go-to place on “Daddy-Daughter Date Night” for a few rounds of Exploding Kittens while mommy is at work as well.  Chef Matt and staff certainly take care of us.

I am also particularly excited to represent The Unroyal Ride Ambassadors started by local in.cep.tion cyclery bike shop owner Brandon McGuire.  Essentially, they’re a “group of everyday riders, a few racers, all with no glorious ambitions of World Cup domination; rather to support, love and grow our sport”.

In other words, we’re ordinary dads on a mission.

Kind of like this:

But with bikes.

So what will I be wearing this season?

Well, just check out this bad ass race suit:

15934140_10154706980671351_89075910_o

How.  Cool.  Is.  That?

This is certainly going to turn some heads.

I just can’t wait for the season to get here already and I’m sincerely looking forward to racing for and supporting my new sponsors this spring/summer – hell, all year – by leading more group bike rides to and from The Sanctuary (rumor has it they have good beer and food) in order to explore the amazing area that I am so fortunate to train and live in.  How lucky am I?  Of course, it goes without saying that I will do my absolutely very best  to make them all proud come race time as well.

And, hey, even if I don’t get to stand on the podium this year, I’m pretty sure I still know a good place where I can get a decent victory dinner and drink and maybe even a congratulatory pat on the back and a “good job!“.  Whatever it happens to be, at the end of the day there will always be good soup and beer.

What else can I ever ask for?

I think everyone has obsessions of some sort, whether it be simply collecting things (of which I have many different collections ranging from vinyl records to bread clips), or Cacodemonomania (the constant belief that you are possessed by a demon, if only so you can say, “Don’t blame me.  It’s Cthulu’s fault I’m running late”).

Whatever it is, it completely consumes you to a certain degree.

Triathletes are no exception.  We are the Batman of the sporting world with absolutely no limit to amount of technological gizmos that we will own and use to enhance our racing and training programs.  As such, we are easily obsessed with these different nuances of our sport; especially given the extreme amount of data, information and equipment that is readably available.  Some of us will obsess over our bikes and biking paraphernalia, insisting on having the most state-of-art aerodynamics and performance-enhancing devices, others will obsess over the amount of data they record during their different blocks of training as a means of evaluating their progress.

While I don’t necessarily have all the latest devices and gizmo’s and, truthfully, I am beginning to lean more towards the “less is better” methodology of training, I am certainly guilty of having a few obsessions and when it comes to swimming, it seems that for whatever reason, my obsession lies with owning swim paddles.

In fact, you could consider this post then as “my life in swim paddles” as certainly, this weird obsession with paddles is very representative of my own development over the past six or so years as a serious swimmer.

It’s true, my swim bag is cram-packed with stuff so that I likely look more like Santa lugging around his toy sack between lanes.

All I’m missing is the beard and a reindeer leading the way (which, now that I think about it, might be a novel idea on how to better pace myself through long intervals).

This obsession all started innocently enough about two years into my journey as a triathlete-slash-swimmer (click HERE for a taste of those early days).  Our swim coaches at the time Bill and Roberto used to talk about the importance of incorporating some “paddle work” into weekly swim workouts.  Of course, at the time I was just lucky to not drown so I never paid it a second thought.  Eventually when I became a little more proficient in the water, a fellow TryForce member (Hi Chantelle!) mentioned that she was going to the Team Aquatics store in Burlington, Ontario to pick up a pair of paddles and offered to grab me a pair as well.

“Yeah, why not?”, I figured and readably agreed.

These are what I was handed a few days later:

img_1069

These little babies are aimed at allowing you to focus on your catch and your pull and vertical forearm.  Likewise, they are good for lengthening your stroke and overall keeping good focus throughout most phases of the stroke.  In other words, they are perfect for developing your “technique” and, yes, they can also be used for backstroke but, seriously, I didn’t do a lot of that anyway so who cares?

These worked great as I was in my development stage by that point.  But fast forward a year later and I’m swimming with The Coach and she suggests we do some paddle work.  So upon pulling out my teeny weeny paddles she begins to laugh uncontrollably.

Mocking definitely ensued.

It was kind of like that moment in Crocodile Dundee when a street hood decides to pull a knife on him:

It was some time before I lived that one down.

So, I decided to up the ante and invest on what I figured were the next level up paddle.

These beauties:

img_1066

Tech or technique paddles are designed mainly for aiding water-feel.  They have a nice, comfortable clam-shape to them that were easy to put on and comfortable to wear.

They kind of looked like what this chick is riding on:

clam

They are designed to aid catch, early vertical forearm (EVF), strength and pull; a bit of a Jack-of-all-trades as swim paddles go.  They are useful for building up shoulder strength primarily and I used these semi-religiously leading up to my 1st and 2nd Frank & Friends 10k Swim for Strong Kids.    I largely credit these for having the strong shoulders I developed over those two years.  I still use these from time to time but then I noticed that they weren’t quite as difficult to use as they once were and started becoming a little, well, bored with them.

But then one day Kyle Jones jumped in the lane beside me and he was using a pair of these:

img_1067

These Finis Agility paddles are now my favorite paddle and I regularly use them regularly.  They have no strap and fit on each hand using a simple thumb hole.  In order to keep them on your hands during the stroke you must keep a good catch and pull through on every stroke.  Everyone who has tried these has felt the immediate technique feedback and, likely, these may just be the best paddles on the market. And if you want just one paddle, I’d recommend these.

But did my obsession stop there?

Oh, HELLS NO!

I still wanted to incorporate regular strength building into my weekly routine beyond what my old Tech paddles did so, recently, I made another trip back to Team Aquatics and purchased these bad boys:

img_1064

Specifically, these Speedo Power Paddles are designed to create enough water resistance to build up your upper body strength.  They also help encourage you to keep your elbows high as you work through your stroke, for a faster, more powerful swim.

Plus, they look pretty bad ass.

There is absolutely nothing fancy-schmancy about them.  It’s basically a flat, plastic swim paddle that is fitted over your hand by mere pieces of rubber tubing fitted through small holes in the paddle itself. In other words, there are no bells and whistles to these things which is keeping to my more minimalistic “no frills” approach to training these days.

But am I done yet?

Not likely.

Not even close.

Now I’m eyeing these paddles for the very near future.

finis-freestyler-hand-paddles

Specifically designed for freestyle training, the Freestyler Hand Paddles plane the hand forward through the water, improving reach and distance-per-stroke.  With a long fin shape and unique “skeg design”, the Freestyler Hand Paddles promote a strong pull through, better hip-rotation and increased efficiency. An adjustable finger strap offers a perfect fit and the narrow surface area helps prevent shoulder strain.

Maybe Santa will be good to me this year.

**fingers crossed**

On Monday, I took Daisy in for her annual check tune up to in.cep.tion cyclery.  I figured it was high time since I’ve been putting a lot of kilometers on her this summer as I am apt to do every year and, being an older bike, I like to ensure she is in good running order.

Among the list of things I wanted accomplished this time around was to have the rear cassette cleaned out as it appeared as if a squirrel had proceeded to build itself a nest in it for all the gunk and road debris that had built up in it the past few months.  I thought this was normal.  However, upon pick up the next day, Brandon (the proprietor of in.cep.tion cyclery and ‘go-to’ guy for all things bike) dropped a little mechanical science on me regarding how to properly maintain my bike chain and, ergo, my rear cassette.

And, yes, I agree, for most cycle guru’s out there this might already be common knowledge and likely prompt a “What the fuck Terry, really?”  but, for all the other mechanical buffoons out there – like myself – this was a great learning opportunity that I thought I could share; basically, how to properly oil your bike chain.

For most, this probably seems like such a no-brainer thing to do requiring very little knowledge and mechanical aptitude; drop a few drops of oil on the chain, spin the pedals a bit and, Bob’s your uncle, you’re set to go.   How hard is that?  However, as it turns out, I’ve been doing it all wrong.  As I learned yesterday, there is a preferred “process” involved in effectively unfunking (ie. lubing) a bike chain that will both significantly improve your ride as well as limit the amount of wear n’ tear on the chain itself over time.

For the past eight years I have been lubing my chain the same way – the way I was shown how: drop a few drops of oil on my chain where it sits on the rear cassette (see below), and run it through by spinning the pedal backwards.  Presto!

Good to go.

1

Wrong.

First off, you should never drop the oil on at the rear cassette.  What I was basically doing was gunking up my rear cassette so that during the ride all the dust, grit and gravel I was inevitably riding over was being drawn up into the cassette and sticking there.  Hence the rats nest of shit that had built up in my rear cassette.  All this grime was essentially wearing down my chain prematurely each time the cogs passed through this tangled mess of debris.  Secondly, in applying the oil in this manner, I was dropping the oil on the top of the chain.  Now think about it, the top part of the chain isn’t really what comes into immediate contact with either the front or back cassette, or rear derailleur for that matter.  No, the bottom does.  So why am I applying oil on the top then?

Because I’m a total idiot, apparently.

Instead, I should be applying the oil to the bottom of the chain and, then, not over the rear cassette.

Here:

2

This way when you run it through the chain by spinning the chain backwards, it is more effectively lubing the actual parts of the chain that will come into contact with the rest of the bikes drive parts (ie. the cassettes and derailleur’s).

Makes sense, right?

 Let’s review:

3

Now, here’s the critical part.

Once you’ve applied the oil and run it through:

WIPE IT OFF.

Yes, wipe it off.

hioly shit!

I know.  It blew my mind too.

Before you begin riding, take a rag and gently hold it against the chain and continue back pedaling lightly in order to wipe off all the excess oil.  I know this might seem counter-productive, but the only oil that is really necessary is the oil which has seeped down into the chain cogs themselves as that essentially what comes into contact with the cogs of the front and rear cassettes.  Any extra oil on the top or bottom of the chain is only going to serve to further gather up more unnecessary road crap and then proceed to drag it all through the cassettes, which you definitely don’t need.  In essence, once you’ve finished this process, very little oil should come off at all if you were to run your fingers along the chain.  Currently, if I were to do this with my chain (well, prior to today anyway), I would be looking at grease marks which would likely never come off without removed a layer of skin.  And, heaven help me if it gets onto my cycling kit.

Just ask Kelly.

Honestly, how many times have you ended up a ride with that toothy imprint where you your right leg had briefly rested against the chain wheel; affectionately known as a “shark bite”.  Ideally, that should never happen.  Me?  I don’t consider it a ride unless I have to practically take a Brillo pad to my calf in the shower afterwards.

To me, this bit right here was a total revelation.

So I took Daisy out for spin today with her new clean and improved cassettes and here’s what I noticed immediately.  She sounded better and she rode smoother.  Sure, having just had a proper tune up certainly would have had something to do with this but, I’m also wagering that not having to have the chain pass through such crud in the rear derailleur had something to do with it as well.

So for those of you who were either shown how to do this seemingly basic bike maintenance procedure incorrectly, or just plain didn’t know any better (I fall into both brackets apparently)…now you do.

Happy riding.

Swim Goggle Showdown

Posted: August 1, 2016 in Equipment, Swim
Tags:

A few weeks ago, I was in the middle of my weekly swim workout when suddenly my trusty pair of TYR swim goggles snapped mid-interval.

Shit!

I’ve had this pair for the past four years and, really, four years is extremely long in the tooth for a pair of swim goggles so I can’t really complain as by this point they really owed me nothing.  Fortunately, I always carry a spare in my swim bag so it wasn’t a big deal and, besides, being the lazy ass I am, I just tied up the broken straps on the goggles and carried on to the end of my workout as I didn’t have much longer to go.

See what a clever monkey I am?

IMG_0739

Of course, this was only a temporary fix, meaning that I would have to acquire another pair eventually but for the time being, the band-aid fix was good enough.  As luck would have it, a few days later, Tri-Boutique, where I got this original pair featured an online sale so, of course, I clicked on the link, selected the exact same pair of goggles and proceeded to the check out.  Except this time they wanted an arm and a leg; $49.99 for the goggles themselves and then another $19.99 just to ship them to me.

That’s almost $70.00!

The first time I bought my TYR goggles I was using a coupon that I won from a race so I only had to pay for shipping and, really, $20.00 for a pair of quality goggles is a bargain indeed.  Except now, Tri-Boutique was only willing to offer me a deal if I spent more than $100.

Fuck that.

Sorry, Tri-Boutique.

See ya.

I am a cheap fuck, I admit it (click HERE  for more “Tightwad Triathlete” posts).

I opted then to go down to the local TrySport Niagara in Port Dalhousie, which specializes in triathlon and swim equipment figuring I could find the same pair minus the shipping costs.  However, when I walked into the shop I was dismayed to find that they didn’t carry my precious TYR brand.

Shit x 2.

You see, I am a helpless creature of habit in that once I find something that fits me and works well I tend to stick with it at all costs; I am loathe to change anything.  Call me obsessive-compulsive, I don’t care, I am loyal to what I like…sue me.  So when I realized that Trysport didn’t carry my brand I almost walked out then and there.  But, still, I needed new goggles and my imminent cheapness wasn’t about to let me spend 70 bones on them elsewhere so I reluctantly continued browsing.

At TrySport they only carried the Speedo brand.  Now, I have nothing against Speedo, don’t get me wrong – my swim trunks are Speedo as are some of my other swim equipment – however, I have never used Speedo goggles  before and that, to an obsessive-compulsive creature of habit such as I am, is scary business indeed.  The immediate good news was that the goggles were cheaper than the TYR’s would have been through the Tri-Boutique website, and that wasn’t even taking the shipping costs into account.  That basically equates to a savings of almost $40.00 right there.  So I bit the bullet and bought a pair of the most basic, inoffensive pairs of Speedo’s they had on the rack; skeptical as I was.

Today I tested those new Speedo’s.

Fit:

TYR:  They fit well, but they tended to give me those temporary black eyes after long workouts.  I realize that I could have fixed the problem by loosening the straps a bit but I like my goggles on the tight side, what can I say?  After four years, they fit (ie. seal) just as well as they did the first day I used them.  Yes, they were old, moldy and scuffed up as all get out but they never – ever – let in so much as a single drop of pool water.  Ever.

Speedo:  Damn, these things feel amazing.  The goggles are smaller than the TYR’s and fit directly into the eye sockets, and thanks to the soft silicone gaskets around the lenses they are about as comfortable as you will likely ever get.  It’s like having your eyes protected by little rubberized clouds.  Only time will tell though if the seal remains as good as they did with the TYR’s.

Visibility:

TYR:  At the beginning of the workout, the TYR’s are great.  You can see though the goggles clear as day and underwater, you could find a tiny earring from the other end of the pool as there is minimal distortion (and once, I did).  However, as the workout progresses, they began to fog up badly (As most goggles do) so that after every interval I had to do the ‘ol “Spit n’ Rub” to clear them up again.  This happened so regularly that I even considered listing this routine in my actual workout as I did it as much as I did any intervals.  It had become habitual through the absolute necessity to continue seeing clearly.

Speedo:  Similar to the TYR they are perfectly clear above water, however, they did distort my vision beneath the water.  I found this kind of troubling given the clarity I had become accustomed to with the TYR’s (assuming, of course, that I had just done the “Spit & Rub”).  However, after 60 minutes, there was literally no fogging whatsoever.  Like none.  In fact, I just left them on between intervals as there wasn’t really any need to remove them.  Of course this is likely just because they’re so new but, hopefully, the anti-fog coating will last longer than they did with the TYR’s.

Look:

TYR:

TYR

They make me look like Bono back in the 90’s (click HERE).  Booooooooooooooooooooooring.  That look (and U2 for that matter) stopped being relevant eons ago and nobody much cares anymore.

Speedo:

Speedo

Oh yeah, that’s some total Mark Spitz level kind of coolness going on right there.  Minus the million dollar ‘stache, of course.  Dare I say it:  I actually look faster.

I mean, really, you can be the ultimate judge, of course, but my vote is still for the slick looking Speedo’s.

So, for the time being, it’s so long faithful TYR goggles and hello Speedo’s.  May you serve your job as well as your predecessor’s…or else (click HERE).

Now, before I go any further with this post, when I refer to “naked training”, I am not referring to some weird and perverted nudist variety of swimming, biking and running in ones birthday suit.  And Lord knows that when it comes to this  body, that would certainly be a grizzly sight.  No, what I’m really referring to is the working out without  the benefit of a technological gadget with which to keep track of your workout.

I know, I know: “Say it isn’t so, Terry!”

But, yes, some crazy bastards actually think this is a good thing but I’ll get to that shortly.

It all happened innocently enough.  I was napping downstairs in front of the boob tube when the wifey decided she’s going to install some shelves in the kitchen so – as is prone to happen during impromptu DYI sessions – out comes the hammer and before you know it, my nap is interrupted by a total cacophony of banging and hammering.

So it’s so long nap time, hello pool!

However, in my haste to get the sweet fuck out of there, I forgot my beloved Garmin Swim.  In fact, I was half way to the pool when I glanced down at my wrist and realized it was bare.

Fuck!

Now, I have to be honest here, I had a good mind to pull a u-ey right then and there in the middle of Highway 3 and high tail it home in order to fetch it, but then the other side of my brain chimed in and said, “fuck it, it’s not important”, so I just continued on.

How bad could it be?

Well, it sucked.

I felt totally naked – hence the title.

See?

I said I’d get around to explaining it.

Anyway, some will try to rationalize that science will say that there’s actual value in flying solo sometimes without your gadgets and instead, learning to sense your intensity and training capacity.  These purists will claim that these gadgets disconnect them from the special moments that are often hidden during exercise.

Umm, “hidden moments”?

Hidden moments, like that magic moment where I get distracted during one of my runs, maybe the tops of some trees I was passing where blowing majestically in the breeze, whatever, and I ended up traipsing through a huge pile of dog shit in the middle of the road?  Yeah.  Magical.   Or how about that special moment where I tried to pee on the bike (click HERE) and ended up pissing all over myself.  In these cases, let’s just say that I prefer being “connected”.  The implication here is that by unplugging you are working out more for the “joy” of working out than for any other intended purpose.  And while I will confess to enjoying working out, I don’t think I necessarily workout for the joy alone.  Besides, if there is any joy to be found I’d like to revel in it afterwards by reviews the stats.

Others will suggest that training with the bare minimum of equipment liberates them, physically and emotionally, and frees them up for even better performance.

But, umm, how would they really know?  I mean, you can brag about how awesome a workout was but without the data to back it up, it’s just a grossly exaggerated tale of awesomeness.  The kind of story that fishermen will tell one another one too many cocktails.

And as far as being “free for a better performance” is concerned, well, I know that when I have me some kick ass tunes blaring in my ears I’m focused 100% on my performance.  In fact, I don’t notice anything else but my performance.  Hell, I have an entire blog dedicated to it (click HERE).  So if there’s some backing data to also verify that performance as provided through my Garmin 910XT, well, all the better if you ask me.

So, to me, these fitness hippies are just assuming the whole “if a tree falls in the forest” philosophy of training, except in my case today it’s “if I’m doing laps in the pool and I have no Garmin to track them, did they really happen?”  Anyway, the whole point I guess is that they rationalize the whole concept of naked training that it is somehow “healthier” to every once and a while leave the technology at home and simply go work out for, hell, shits n’ giggles I guess.

And to these technological naysayers I say:

Now, I admit, I’m not necessarily a complete gadget freak nor am I huge lover of technology.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that these devices are able to do what they do solely based on some sort of witchcraft voodoo or other, but that doesn’t mean I also haven’t learned to love the technology that I do have.

That’s right!

I like my gadgets and I am complete data whore and I don’t care who knows it.  Let’s just say that I like to see the end results at the end of my workout to validate all my blood, sweat and tears.  How far did I go?  How fast did I go?  What was my average pace?  How many calories did I burn?  These are important fucking questions.  Oh, and hey, nothing will give me a boner quicker than a good post-workout bar graph, let me tell you.

C’mon, look at this:

Data1

That shit is legit!

Now look at this:

Data2

Doesn’t have quite the same allure does it?

Fuck no!

Totally awesome-light.

So call me a hypocrite, I couldn’t give a shit.  But while your judgement hangs over me like the Eye of Sauron, what else is there really to say?

I missed my Garmin Swim today.

Deal with it.

Training Suffer Score (TSS)

Posted: February 17, 2016 in Equipment, In Transition
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I have officially survived my first week of official Ironman training as outlined and crafted by my new coach.  It’s hard to believe that the past four months have only been for the purpose of “training to train”.  Now my entire focus has shifted.  It’s no longer “what should I do today?”, its’ “what do I need to do today and how does it specifically relate to my ability to successfully survive 226.6 kilometers of swimming, biking and running?”

You see the difference there?

Subtle, but important.

Yes, it’s true, I’ve done it once before (click HERE) but it’s been hard to regain that same singular focus both physically and mentally over the past four years.  While, I think I’ve done some pretty cool and maybe even impressive things, they haven’t come without extracting a serious cost as it seems now that every year since, I’ve fallen victim to some owie or other.  Sure, I’ve overcome them – eventually – but it’s been frustrating nonetheless.

This year, however, is the  year (click HERE). This is the year I finally regain that Iron quality of fitness, retake that brass ring and get back to the business of kicking ass and taking names.  I finally feel that I am in the right place and the stars are all aligning perfectly where I can actually pull off this Ironman quest once again.

Fingers crossed anyway.

Step One:  find a coach.

I was immediately drawn to Coach Nicole for a few reasons besides the fact that she herself is an 11 time Ironman competitor. After all, just having survived an Ironman does not necessarily a good coach make. I’ve learned that much.

A good part of my decision is based on her understanding, and insistence actually, that “recovery” is every bit as important in the workout schedule as the workouts themselves. This is a lesson and practice I have yet to really learn and embrace given my propensity to get injured. So having someone who not only promotes this principle but actually drive it into my thick skull is definitely a huge benefit.

Step Two:  Register an account with TrainingPeaks.

This is where I have been asked to track all my workouts for Nicole to follow and assess.

Great.

Another site to log shit.

Now, understand that I am not exactly the biggest ambassador of change so my initial reaction upon signing up for a free account was that it was scary and different and, therefore, stupid.  After all, I already track my workouts and progress through Garmin.Connect and Strava, so why now TrainingPeaks?

Isn’t it just a different flavor of the same ‘ol shit?

But once I got started, I noticed that, hey, this is some cool fancy-flavored shit.

It logs all the usual bullshit like heart rate, pace, distance, zones, etc., but then I noticed this new data field that I wasn’t normally accustomed to seeing called the TSS.   Unfortunately, all my hopes of it being the name of the ship which was going to deliver a huge payload of lollipops were immediately quashed.

In actuality, it stands for “Training Suffer Score”.

Because, yeah, how much fun does that sound?

Basically, the TrainingPeaks site uses several physiological metrics to quantify the training stress of a particular workout or portion of a workout.  This allows me then the ability to quantify my workouts based on my relative intensity, duration, and frequency of workouts which, at the moment, are fucking intense – let me tell you! So, basically, one single value can now represent how intensely I worked out.

To this regard, think of “intensity” as an RPE value on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being fucking ridiculous.  You earn 100 TSS points for an all out, 100%, 60-minute workout.  Of course most workouts are not completed at 100%, so most workouts will accumulate less than 100 TSS per hour.  If I, say, exercised at a level 5 for two hours, then I would accumulate 50 TSS/hour or 100 total points.  Each new hour of the workout, calculates a new score out of 100 and so on and so forth.  So now that I am provided and understand this unique scoring system, I can even assign a daily point score through perceived exertion.  Or, I can simply let the site do it for me based on the amount of time I spend in specific heart rate zones being recorded through the workout.  It wouldn’t matter then if I were training for the Tour de France or in simply completing a local 5k charity run, because 100 points earned by a pro is relatively the same as 100 points earned for an ordinary schmutz like myself because the score is relative to each person’s individual threshold.

For example, this past Tuesday I ran a 60 minute 10.5k fartlek run in a snow storm.  I know, there’s that idiot factor creeping in again.  Anyway, my TrainingPeaks account calculated my TSS as 86.1 out of a 100 which seems pretty accurate to me given how much it sucked.  By comparison, my “easyish”  60 minute hill spin the previous day was only calculated as a 46.3 TSS.  And, yeah, it was pretty easy so less stress was likely created on my body requiring less recovery afterwards.

tired-athleteThe really powerful benefit of tracking this daily TSS is the new ability to leverage the TrainingPeaks “Performance Management Chart” to easily track your fitness progression over time.  TrainingPeaks will accurately calculate fitness known as a “Chronic Training Load (CTL), fatigue known as “Acute Training Load” (ATL), and finally a freshness or form factor known as “Training Stress Balance” (TSB).  I could get into how each calculation is made but, seriously, it’d be like explaining nuclear fission to a coconut*.

After all, this is why I pay for a coach.

However, the long and short of it is, we could quantitatively calculate how much stress I’m placing on my body and therefore, plan my training schedule – and more importantly – my recovery, accordingly, in order to compensate for that acquired stress.  Well, I could  do all this but I would also need the upgraded version of the site and I’m too much of a tightwad to pay out the big bucks, but I could

Just sayin’…

Maybe if I win the lottery some day.

Going forward, however, I’m going to be very conscientious about following this “Training Suffer Score” on the site and using this as a guide into predicting when I may need to ease off, pull back, or simply take a day off altogether.  Because at this point, it’s not about the race itself, it’s about making it to the starting line…healthy.

*My guess is witchcraft.