Archive for the ‘The Plan’ Category

It’s definitely not the way I anticipated beginning 2017.

It happened the Sunday before the Christmas weekend.  I went out for an anticipated long 100 minute progression run (I run in increments of 20 minutes now).  Shitty thing was, Mother Nature decided to throw me a curve ball as she is apt to from time to time by hurling down an epic ice storm the night before.

So, yeah, no progressions that day.

No problem – long, slow distance it was then – and out the door I went after my morning breakfast, coffee and poop ritual.  I had already convinced myself that if I managed to keep it slow and steady, I could still complete the 100 minutes and the workout could still be chalked up as a success.  The only other option was to do it on the treadmill at the gym and, yeah, no.  Fuck no!

Thing is though, I don’t think I felt solid pavement under my feet once.  Every road I ran – even the back roads that I thought would have been at least somewhat gravely and forgiving traction-wise – had fuck all to offer as far as solid footing was concerned.  In fact, to give you some idea what I was up against today, I got passed along Gilmore Rd. by an elderly couple…on skates.

Yes, skates.

There they went merrily on their way down the middle of the road in the middle of Buttfuck Stevensville on old beat up skates going heaven-knows-where.  Needless to say, my pace completely sucked (5:54min/km) and by the end of 90 minutes my quads were so shot that when my neighbor passed by and jokingly called out if I wanted a ride home I was all like “fuck ya!”, shut off the Garmin and hoped in – which is why for those of you who follow me on Strava, my run stopped abruptly at the corner of Nigh and Ridge Rds.  I just didn’t have the wherewithal to navigate the last 3k of black ice home again.

F-u-c-k that.

The next day, my right shin was tight…very tight.  So much so, I bunked off running for the rest of the week and for the first time in 8 years, I did nothing on Christmas Day.

Nothing.

I usually run a half marathon distance Christmas Morning (it’s a tradition) and there was the one year that I rowed a half marathon instead (click HERE), but this year:  nada.

Things started to get better gradually and the following weekend I started running easy for 60 minutes or so and successfully completed two of those, along with a few short drill and tempo runs during the week.  I thought things were progressing well so I decided to push my luck and try a short fartlek run again.

I’m such an idiot.

My only success that day was that I managed to complete the first 5 x 2 minute hard intervals (7.83k).  ‘Ol Thunder n’ Lightning felt tired but I cold attribute that to the 3 minutes of squats I did this morning as part of my 28 Day Challenge (click HERE).  But shortly afterwards, it was a quick slippery shit show of a slide straight to the bottom when my right calf/shin pretty much stiffened up forcing me to hobble like Paul Sheldon after his run in with Annie.  I could have kept running but I knew that would have be really special kind of stupid.  So, instead, in a bit of a panic as it was starting to rain down sleet and I was already cold, wet and still some distance from home, I did what I have never done before…stuck out my thumb and shamefully hitched a ride home with my tail between my legs.

How.  Embarrassing.

So what the hell went so wrong around the 7k mark when all my other runs the past two weeks have been getting progressively better?  Well, the last time I truly suffered on one of these runs I was wearing those exact same shoes (ASICS GEL 3030-2).  Upon inspection of my Strava account upon getting home I saw that they now have exactly 482.6 kilometers on them, give or take the treadmills sessions I’ve done over the past year or so, yeah, maybe this aggravation of my calf/shin issue is a by-product of that?

Well, that and my being a dumbass of course.

So now I’m on the injured list again.

16114630_10157979669500277_4687479425056172463_n

Fucksticks.

I’m quite confident at this point that what I’m dealing with is muscular and while I’m still injured, I’m not necessary damaged per se.  In other words, nothing popped indicated a torn muscle or ligament.  So that’s good.

However, it’s still sore.

As it turns out, there is a very good likelihood that I am suffered from what’s known as an “increased neural drive” to my right calf muscle.

Don’t panic, I’m not dying.

Here’s the skinny as I understand it, when you perform any action for an extended period of time – in my case, running – the body has two ways to power that movement, through the natural fuel that I consume (carbohydrates, proteins, and what have you) or through an automatic neural activation from the brain to the muscles themselves, known as neutral drive to the muscle.

The human body is essentially designed to move, specifically over long periods and distances, so once the primary fuel source begins to deplete itself that automatic neural drive begins to kick in and take over allowing the body to keep going by wiring electrical synapses directly to the muscle.  When it comes down to it, our bodies are primarily wired to be instinctively cavemen-like and we have evolved to allow us to keep running as there are gazelles to catch and mouths to feed, so to speak, so we have to keep going in order to survive.  This is likely what happened on that first long run when things began to go terribly wrong; I was tired, under-fueled and running with a poor form on the ice.

The problem is, that once this automatic neural drive kicks on, it doesn’t necessarily know when to cease and desist meaning that even though I had stopped and didn’t need to run anymore, unconsciously, my body was still in lion-mode chasing down gazelles on the African plain.

It definitely sounds cooler when I explain it that way, right? (thanks Dr. Burr)

Anyway, now that it’s fired up and causing me grief, what can I do in the meantime until it decides that enough is enough?  So while I go through my physio treatments with Dr. Burr at the amazing Legacy Health & Performance to coax my calf to give up on the gazelles already and just be, the question remains:

Now what?

My concern then is how do I continue with my training so that I a) don’t necessarily lose all my acquired run fitness and b) promote healing and no make the issue any worse?

My options then are twofold:

  1. Walking/slow shuffling
  2. Shallow water running

That’s if I don’t consider sitting on the couch doing nothing but eating bags of Ring-Ding’s mind you.

Luckily, I don’t.

Walking or the “slow shuffle” is aimed at replacing the longer non-stop runs. If the injury is not too severe then this can take the form of long hikes and to add resistance, the use of a weight jacket.  Now, I have no intension on strapping any more weight onto this already hulking frame, thank you very much, but I get the point. This type of shuffling would have the same duration of my current long distance times (ie. 60 minutes).  Case in point, Chrissie Wellington when training for Ironman Frankfurt completed all her runs as hikes and finished the race just a few seconds off the World Record.

I’m not so sure it would play out this way for me, of course, but it definitely beats the Ring-Ding’s.

I could do this slow shuffle (below any pain discomfort) on the track upstairs at my local gym on the outside lane in place of my Sunday long runs.  I’m sure it’ll be gutting to be lapped by all the old ladies walkers but if it’s aiding in m recovery while keeping me moving – so be it!

I’ll think of it as building mental strength through self-control.  I’ll just keep “shuffling” while everyone else just walks laps (literally) around me. This type of training has been adapted from Kenyan runners training methodologies.

For many Kenyan groups it is not even a debatable point on whether to ‘push on’ in continuing with the group track work. Injured athletes will often shuffle on the outside lane till their compatriots have finished. Very few carry the Western propensity to push on or hard when injured. The pace instead dictated by the ‘no pain level’.  Think of it as discipline in its most basic form.

And then there’s “shallow water running”, carried out in waist deep water.  Luckily, my local pool has such a wading pool for the kiddies.  This exercise would build (or maintain, however you wish to look at it) strength while still keeping in touch with the ground.  The run mechanics would change,  sure, as this form of running forces me onto the ball of the foot but the big advantage is that, hopefully, I can get back run form quickly.  Varying the depth of the water can even assist with the rehabilitation of various injuries until transitioning back to normal running.

I gave this specific shallow water workout a trial this past weekend and, holy shit!  It’s absolutely challenging!

What’ya know?

In fact, after 6-7 minutes of Figure-8’s I was absolutely sweating buckets seeing as how humid it was.  I’ve never considered this before seeing as how I’m always swimming in the pool and therefore submerged in water.  I’m not so sure the other people in the wading pool with me were as thrilled about my hard work (ie. perspiration) was I was but, meh, fuck ‘em.

After running repetitive Figure-8’s from the shallow end to waist deep water what I can absolutely guarantee you is that my legs were toast!  However, there was no pain.  So that’s definitely good.  The only drag was my having to constantly avoid all the mothers and babies and kids and whatever the hell it is that the creepy old dude was doing in the corner.

6nkawnts_400x400

There is also the deep water variety that I could perform with a floatation belt, but I’m not sure I’m 100% ready to delve into that level of crazy just yet.  If this injury goes on longer than another week or so, I will explore that option more closely but for the time being I think the shallow water running and track shuffling will suffice.

So my plan over the next two weeks or so is to supplement my three weekly runs with either a shallow water session or track shuffle and, hopefully, get myself back on track in February without having sacrificed too much fitness.

Knock on wood.

It all started last Friday, promptly at 3:01pm when I opened my email and saw a message from the Event Director of the Subaru EPiC Dartmouth Triathlon casually stating (as if nothing odd was transpiring):

You are receiving this email because you were registered for the 2016 Subaru EPIC Dartmouth Triathlon, and deferred your entry to the 2017 event.

I am going to attempt to transfer the amount you paid back into your hands electronically, but want to confirm that these are all still good addresses.

So send me a reply, so I will know this address works, and can send your refund.

My heart sunk.

This was me:

patrick-stewart-says-hed-reprise-his-role-of-captain-jean-luc-picard

Oh shit, here we go again.

If you recall, my planned Ironman was canceled last year due to road closures (click HERE).  I chose to take this as a sign, deferred my entry to the next year, and opted to focus on other goals, namely assisting with the SunRype Tri-Kids group for the summer.  And I’m glad I did as it’s ultimately a very rewarded experience, one that took my family out west to the Okanagan Valley, Calgary and then all over Ontario making kids triathlon dreams come true.  I (we) will be doing it again this summer as well.

However, it was the first year I didn’t compete in a single triathlon all summer and I realized that while the recovery was likely well needed and much enjoyed, I missed the thrill of completion and looked forward to getting back to business in 2017.  So, come October of last year it was back to the task at hand of kicking ass and taking names.

The EPiC Triathlon Challenge Facebook page was making semi-regular updates on the improved road conditions which only further whetted my appetite to race.  Once again, I was developing high hopes that this race would truly be an epic experience.

Until I received that recent email, that is.  Needless to say, it was not a welcome intrusion on the day.

As it turns out, the EPiC Triathlon Challenge had been cancelled uh-gain!

FML.

Here’s the official announcement/rationalization as provided by the Event Director:

Dear 2017 EPIC Triathlon Registrant,

When we lost our cycle route, and had to postpone the Subaru EPIC Dartmouth Triathlon in the Spring of 2016, we were on track for our best year ever (in terms of numbers of competitors).  At that time we didn’t know how being forced to take a year off would affect registration for the 2017 race:  Would we have even more registrants for 2017 from pent up demand, or would we have less from loss of momentum?

EPIC 2016 continued without the long distance triathlon, and the overall EPIC event had it’s best year ever!  We set record numbers in the EPIC Canadian Runs (becoming the 3rd largest Canada Day run in the country, plus adding a new Half and Quarter marathon).  We set record numbers in the EPIC Kids triathlon, record numbers in the EPIC Swim, and started a new adult Try-A-Tri.  Even without the long distance triathlon, we had the largest total number of participants ever – to the pleasure of the City and our Sponsors.

Immediately following the 2016 event, we opened registration for 2017 EPIC Kids for just one week…  57 kids signed up in the first 48 hours – all for a race 350 days away!

On the run side, excitement for 2017 and Canada 150 means registration for the EPIC Canadian runs will again be strong this year (now 5 race distances over three days, with the EPIC Double, the EPIC Triple and the new 3-day, 4-event, EPIC Marathon – 42.2k over three days).

Unfortunately, that same enthusiasm just has not materialized for the 2017 long distance events.  We had more kids register for our 2017 kids event in that first 48 hours registration was open, than new registrants for our 2017 long distance triathlon in the first six months between July and December.  Therefore, we have made the not-easy decision to focus 2017 on these growing events, and wrap up the long distance triathlon portion of the EPIC Weekend.

We know this news will be disappointing to those of you who did commit to the 2017 race.  Our entire team shares in that disappointment.

We know that the quality of the event has been there – from medals and swag, to meals, to medical services, to photo and video, to support on course.  We also know the experiences of the participants, lives changed, goals reached, and a huge amount raised by our participants for charity (over $135,000).

Yet, we never hit critical mass with this event – meaning registration fees never covered the cost of producing the event.  Each year we’ve found ways to continue, and to gather funds to subsidize the athletes – hoping that numbers would grow to the point where it could be self supporting.  Ironically, the events that are experiencing great growth, and that will continue for 2017 and beyond? Are those events that were initially started to share costs with, and subsidize, the long-distance triathlon.

Perhaps the EPIC Triathlon will be re-imagined in a different format in a few years time, or perhaps we will just have the memories.  In either case, it’s been fun, and a LOT of great times.  Those of you receiving this email were part of making EPIC happen, and if there were simply more like you eager to join us, the event would have continued for many, many years.

We have shut off registration, and are calculating refunds.  It’s a bit of a process, and some shuffling back and forth between us and Events.com (the registration host), but the goal is to have all refunds processed and back in to your hands by the end of January.

We hope that you will still join us for one of the other EPIC events this Canada Day Weekend 2017.  Canada150 is the biggest Canada Day that most of us will ever experience, and we’d still love to have you join us on the shores of Lake Banook for Canada Day Weekend 2017.

Now go do something EPIC!

What was my EPIC reaction?

I cried…epically, of course.

It felt like the triathlon gods had forsaken me and maybe this whole Ironman thing just wasn’t meant to be.  I was now faced with the same problem as the previous year, I had planned out our entire summer around this event meaning I had made other commitments, namely the SunRype Tri-Kids, and I hate  breaking promises.

This well and truly sucked.

EPiCally, even.

So while I had my own epic pity party, Kelly went on line and started looking for other opportunities.  However, most of the events she found either had closed their registration (ie. filled up) or were situated on a weekend that I already had a SunRype event planned.  Also, I am loathe to do my peak long distance training in the absolute worst (ie. hottest) point of the summer.  Fuck, no!  And seeing as how I’d already been down this path before last year, I started to give in that my 2017 Ironman simply wasn’t going to happen…maybe never.

I’m going to pause the story here for a moment to tell you that having the carpet yanked out from underneath you after you’ve already put in several months of training (not to mention the money into a proper training schedule provided by a coach) really, really sucks.

But having it happen twice?

tony-fuggedaboutit

FML x 2.

Then I found an event put on the HITS Triathlon Series (click HERE), located in the Hudson Valley of New York state (only a 6 hour drive away) on July 8th, only one week after the anticipated EPiC Challenge was to be held on July 2nd.  The website didn’t look very detailed or enticing but, hey, an Iron distance event is an Iron distance event right?  The challenge is still there.

So I did a little digging and read this on the event website:

The Hudson Valley is a top 20 destination in the world. A top destination deserves a top race! Introducing HITS Hudson Valley, NY July 9 at Williams Lake.

Less than 90 minutes from NYC lies the perfect setting for a perfect race. You’ll swim is in the pristine spring-fed Williams Lake, bike to the majestic Ashokan Reservoir and run on the historic Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.

That doesn’t sound too bad, right?

I also Googled the area and it does look pretty scenic.  So, yeah, maybe this wasn’t such a bad option after all.

And looking at the results from previous years, I also had a real chance of “competing” and placing well.  Sure there aren’t two thousand participants to compete against but, really, when can I ever possibly say that I had a real chance to podium in an Iron distance event?  Likely never, that’s when.  And I know that this is kind of an “ego-licious” thing to think, but I’d really like to be able to say that just once.

The other bonus to this event is that it wouldn’t also mean that I’d have to cancel any of my planned summer SunRype commitments.

And that  is truly EPiC.

So after receiving my prompt refund from the canceled Subaru event (kudo’s to them for being so professional) I signed up, and now it’s “So long Dartmouth, and hello Hudson Valley!”

It’s back on for 2017.

I will have another exciting announcement to make shortly in relation to this upcoming season, but for the time being it seems that my future Ironman status has been rejuvenated once again for the summer.

Time to get back at ‘er.

Today marks the halfway point in my 28 Day Challenge I assumed at the beginning of the year (click HERE).  I figured then that this deserves a little update on how things are progressing thus far.  Don’t worry though, I’m not going to slip in any more gratuitous fat pictures.

Well, not in this post anyway.

To review, my goals with this challenge were twofold:

  1. Improved core strength
  2. A start at losing some weight

So let’s begin with the first week, shall we?

The first seven days of the program (click HERE) called for a 2 minute plank to kick start off the whole routine.  Initially I didn’t think this was going to be too difficult as I do planks fairly regularly already.  However, what I learned – and very quickly I might add – is that what I think constitutes itself as a second is actually much faster (much, much faster) than it actually is when being ticked down digitally on the tablet I had in front of me to keep proper time.   I thought I could hold a plank for at least a whole minute, but in “Terry time”, that’s actually 43 seconds.   I did hang on for a full 60 seconds, but my shoulders more or less collapsed in on themselves at that point and I had to take a 15-20 second break before resuming the 2nd minute.

Yes, I stopped and restarted the clock while doing so.

In fact, it wasn’t until the 4th day that I was actually able to hold a plank for the full 2 minutes and, even then, just barely.

Core strength = improving.

Next, the routine called for 1 minute worth of push-ups.  Again, I wasn’t fretting too much as I do these now too.  In fact, I can snap off about 20 or so push-ups at a go until I’m fatigued enough that I have to take a break.  Thing is, that’s only 30 seconds…I still had another 30 seconds to go.  So, basically, my first 20 military precision push-ups were soon reduced to a slow, pained Sisyphean effort.  And, yeah, I had to take a 15 second break in the middle too.

My ego was definitely taking a beating.

However, the good news with the push-ups is that every day I made progress with the number I could knock off in that 60 minute time period.

Take a look at the first week’s push-up tally:

week-1

I’m pretty happy with that.  While I still needed to take a 15 seconds break in the middle I’m still pleased that I improved my overall push-up count by nearly 20 reps in just a single week.

Booyah!

The other routines called for 1 minute each of abs (using Kelly’s Swiss Ball in a fashion I’ve seen other triathletes use before – click HERE), birddogs, squats, Russian Twists, and whatever the heck it is you call this crazy maneuver:

absbutt

None of these posed too much problem, nor was I attempting to improve in number or duration so much as I was just trying to focus on doing it right.

And for the record, I took more than 15 seconds of break between each minute interval of exercise.  I needed it, believe me, and I doubt most people starting from scratch will be able to continue on with only this short period of rest.  I don’t think this has much to do with the overall routine so I’m not too bothered.  It’s not like I left, went and had a coffee and came back 45 minutes later but, yeah, 15 seconds was too short a break to be able to continue.

The only real sucky thing was that the routine also called to end the session with another 2 minute plank.

FML.

After the first 2 minute plank and the series of push-ups, and crazy abs/butt thing, my shoulders were pretty well toast, meaning that this full second 2 minute plank was only ever successfully accomplished on the very last day of Week 1 making me able to successfully hold 2 x 2 minute planks.

Success nonetheless.

Enter Week 2:

The second week was separated into 2 sets, the first set beginning with a 3 minute plank (FFS).  Now I can’t accurately relate what kind of fucked up contortions my mind acrobatics instantly started to conjure up in the ‘ol brain circus going on in my head at the point when I read three minutes.  How the fuck?  At the very least, I figured I could manage the first 2 minutes and then maybe a little more before needing a rest to complete the rest and, that’s true – I did – once and once only.  That’s right, folks!  On only Day 2 of the second week I banged out my first 3 minute plank, like…ever.   And a true three minutes at that!  So I guess suffering through those 2nd 2 minute planks in the first week were really working and I was now really beginning to see the real core improvement I was hoping for.

The other shitty thing was that all the minute intervals were now three minute intervals, not just the plank.  That means my 60 seconds of push-ups were now 180 seconds worth of push-ups and my 60 seconds of abs were now 180 seconds of crunches, et cetera and so forth.

God help me.

Anyway, after the first minute of push-ups, I was more or less reduced to wheezing like a dolphin with an itchy blowhole.  And I certainly needed more than a single 15 seconds break in the middle.  In fact, by the two minute point I was more or less doing 10 push-ups, taking a 10 second break, doing 10 push-ups, taking a 10 second break, repeat, until the end of the whole 3 minutes and trying not to pass out.  Not exactly ideal but again, what really matters is that the full three minutes were spent doing push-ups (give or take a second to get back in position after restarting the digital stopwatch on the tablet) as I was diligent to stop/start the time accurately.

Even still, again the results were impressive:

week-2

That’s 100 to 157  push-ups in seven days constituting over a 50% improvement in strength.  AND, towards the end of the second week I didn’t need as many breaks either.  Don’t get me wrong, I hadn’t suddenly turned into Charles Atlas or anything – I still needed them – but not as many of them.

WINNING!

The other three minute intervals of squats, crunches, Russian Twists and nutso donkey kick things were nothing special to write home about other than trying to support myself in the downward dog pose while doing my abs/butt kicks was challenging after popping off almost 160 push-ups, let me tell you!

I couldn’t feel myself getting stronger though.

Now, as for the overall verdict:  after two weeks (so far) my core and physical upper body strength have certainly improved.  On the bathroom scale (broken as it may be), I have lost 3lbs.  Now whether this is in direct relation to this particular workout or the fact that I haven’t been putting away the late night bags of Ring-Ding’s the way I used to is certainly debatable, but I will still take this as another success regardless.

Shit, this whole thing is just crazy enough that it might just work after all.  In fact, the web page where I found this challenge says this:

If you do everything correctly, you will achieve amazing results in just a month and, as a bonus, develop a habit of doing this simple ten-minute set of exercises every day. And if you want to improve your body even more, then doubling the effort is all you need to do!

Now I don’t know about the whole “doubling the effort” part, that shit is just KAR-azy  talk, but I can definitely see myself continuing with this routine or something similar afterwards as I no longer really dread, nor have to talk myself into doing it.

The only real challenge (and a small one at that) is just holding myself accountable every day to actually making the time for it and doing it.  But, hey, I’m already half way there and so far, so good.  There’s really no reason to make this a part of my everyday routine.

But better not get ahead of myself, I still have two more weeks to go and that’s an entirely different blog post.

It’s nearly New Year’s and, of course, the Interweb is lighting up with all the new and trendy “30 Day Challenges” for all those people who are looking to improve their fitness in 2017 to faun over.  Planks, sit-ups, squats, burpees, crunches, yoga, abs, crash diets, you name it, the Interweb is a virtual orchard of 30 Day Challenge ideas to choose from, all guaranteeing to trim fat, burn calories, maximize strength and otherwise contribute to you becoming a better you.

Lord knows what the “Little Black Dress Challenge” is but I’m sure not clicking on that shit.

Anyway, typically I would just call shenanigans on challenges such as these as my Bullshit Meter is approximately the size of Texas, so I have never actually taken on any of these challenges.  It’s not like I’m particularly sedentary anyway what with all the swimming, running and running I do now.

However, I’m currently on day seven of no running thanks to a shin issue and my cycling has been slim to none this week seeing as how it’s the holidays and we’re busy, and I’m stressing about all the extra holiday pounds I’ve inevitably tacked on since the beginning of the month.  Let’s just say that for the past 2-3 weeks while I have still been working out, I’ve also been stirring life’s cocktail a little, shall we say, vigorously.  In other words, I’ve approached my holiday diet this season with all the reckless abandon of DJ Khalid confronted with a horse trough of fried chicken and now I’ve dove headfirst into my custom made pity pool.  So I feel like, maybe, one of these challenges wouldn’t be such a bad thing to kick start the whole training program back into overdrive come January 1st.

And then there it was, proudly boasting over my Facebook feed (thanks Vilija!):  “7 Simple Exercises That Will Transform Your Body in Just 4 Weeks” (click HERE).

In a moment of weakness I clicked on the link (provided above).

The premise of the challenge is to spend 10 minutes a day performing seven different exercises, all of which I can do at home if need be, that will ultimately “change how you look in as little as four weeks”.   The site also suggests that “all you need is determination and ten minutes a day”.

Okay, so maybe I’m being a total sucker here and taking a much too enthusiastic sip from the barrel-sized cup of purple Kool-Aid that this site is peddling, but that shit is speaking my language.

For reals!

But being the stubborn idiot I am, I almost exited out from the website anyway as my inner skeptic still mentally told the author to go suck a fart.  But seeing as how my curiosity had been piqued just a tad, I decided to scroll down the page anyway just to see what these seven miracle exercises actually were and to my surprise, they were all regular exercises that I use now in my current gym routine…when I actually go that is.  All these drills are also been highly recommended in order to improve one’s core strength and thereby benefiting one’s running and cycling (which is why I started doing them in the first place).  Also, I have an extra yoga mat and a medicine ball here at home – two actually – so what excuse do I have for not actually using them?

None!

Unfortunately, I haven’t hit the gym (or my functional strength routine here at home for that matter) in over three weeks meaning that my current core program is next to nonexistent at the moment; a total dumpster fire of excuses and inactivity.

Essentially, it’s dead in the water.

Suddenly this 28 day, 10 minutes a day challenge started to light up my brain pan like a Christmas tree.

Maybe it was a sign and on the odd chance that this is the Homer Simpson green-glowing rod that starts the nuclear reactor, what harm could possibly come of my actually giving it the ‘ol college effort?

So what do I really want to get out of it?  It’s not likely that in just 28 days I’m suddenly going to have a sculpted body that someone would feel inspired to paint on the nose of a B-52 bomber.  No.  But I certainly would like to acquire two things:

  1. Improved core strength
  2. A start at losing some weight

I think that’s a reasonable goal.  It’s not like the challenge is guaranteeing me anything other than “amazing results in just a month and, as a bonus, develop a habit of doing this simple ten-minute set of exercises every day”.  Okay, so “amazing” is a bit subjective but I’d generally be happy with something…anything…resembling improvement.

The question now is how do I measure this success after the 28 days?

Well.  That’s certainly a tougher nut to crack.

I guess I would like to see a loss in weight.  Of course, I also intend on improving my diet some so it will be hard to say beyond a shadow of a doubt that this program 100% completely initiated to that loss or not, but I think it would be a safe assumption to make that it surely contributed.  So currently, I weight 218lb* (*groan*) and I will weight myself again in 28 days to see what improvement has been made.

Strength is an even harder thing to measure, but here’s a photo of my current core section that we can compare at the end of 28 days (be mindful of not staring directly into the fat).

Done gagging yet?

Clearly there is ample room for improvement and, yes, I know, my body looks like a melting ice cream cone so, hopefully, noticing an improvement will be easy to do if this challenge is genuinely successful.

At the very least, I will look like a semi-melted ice cream cone.

The real proof in the pudding will be in how it affects (effects?) my running cycling and, potentially, my swimming.  This unfortunately will be completely subjective but given that my running is currently lagging, I would hope to see some improvement in either my average pace at the end of one of my weekly fartlek runs, or a perceived improvement on how badly they suck (ie. feel) while doing them.

So it’s on.  I’m going to do this…beginning tomorrow (New Year’s Day).  It’s only 10 minutes a day. How hard can this really be?  Maybe I’m just being a total Code 3 wack-a-doo here but, seriously, I couldn’t give a flying fuck right now.  I need to do something in order to feel like I’m back on the right path towards my 2017 Ironman endgame.  I seriously need to put down the hot pocket, stop taking batting practice on my kidneys, and commit to a new short term goal that I to sink my teeth into and eventually stomp into the ground like a late season gewürztraminer.

So, ladies and gentlemen, faithful readers:

You expect to hear from me again in 28 days.

*I suspect that my bathroom scale if totally FUBAR-ed and it’s actually not that bad (closer to 207lb.) but I will use this scale in 28 days for consistency sake.

EPiC Disappointment

Posted: April 13, 2016 in In Transition, The Plan
Tags: ,

I received a bit of a shock the other evening when I opened my email and there was a message from the organizers of the EPiC Dartmouth Triathlon.  Usually, by this point before a major event I start to receive information about the event such as reminders about starting times, transition set up, etc., and this typically makes the event suddenly begin to feel “real”.  So it was with a bit of excitement that I opened the email to see what they had to say.

Unfortunately, it was not one of these types of “exciting” emails.  Instead, it was a message indicating to participants that the event had been canceled.

Huh?

My expression was probably something like this:

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I just sat there dumbfounded.

FML.

Here’s the primary issue as stated in the email:

“Two large sections of our bike route, comprising in total 28 kilometres of race distance, will undergo major construction this year, leaving us unable to guarantee a safe and secure competitive environment for our July 2nd event. Over the last two months, the EPIC team has worked continually with City Staff, NS Dept of Highways, the HPD & RCMP to identify an alternate route we could use for our 2016 event. In the last few days we exhausted the last of those possibilities.”

Now, first, let me just say that I have no issue whatsoever with the event organizers at all for making this decision.  They made the call they felt was necessary after doing what appears to be their very best to remedy an unfortunate and untimely situation.  The organizers have graciously provided participants the option to either a) receive a full 100% refund, or b) transfer their registration to next year’s event at the locked in price for 2016.

The fact still remains though, that I have already put three months of hard effort into training for this particular event including my having hired a coach and, suddenly, it’s all off the table.  So, needless to say, this announcement has therefore left me feeling very disappointed and discouraged and, ultimately, trying to figure out the answer to the immediate question:

What next?

So what it really comes down to is that my options are twofold:

  1. Find another event
  2. Agree to transfer my registration to 2017

My first instinct was to try and recoup the training by finding another event to switch focus to.  The problem being is that I have made other commitments to continuing my involvement with the SunRype Tri-KiDs series of races which I am very fond of being a part of.  That means then that just about every weekend throughout the rest of the summer from July onward will be dedicated to helping them run their amazing series of kids triathlons and my word is my bond so canceling on them now is not an option.  So if I choose another Ironman event later in the summer it will inevitably mean having to train without the benefit of most weekends to accomplish my long runs and bikes…not to mention having to do all this peak training during the hottest part of the year which was also something I was trying to avoid.

Yeah…

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…No!

So, how about other July Ironman event’s right?  And there are a few.  My issue with this, however, is that if I am going to fork out the big bucks to do a major event I want it to be something that I am really looking forward to; something that not only myself but my family can get excited about…together.

After all, I’m not in this alone.

The EPiC Darmouth Triathlon (which is currently on my “Bucket List” of races, by the way) was going to give us  the opportunity to travel out to the east coast together and, as HRH  is particularly excited to do…eat cake by the ocean (click HERE).

And, seriously, who can’t get behind a plan like that?

So simply doing an Ironman for the sake of doing an Ironman is not really a favorable option for me either.  What I ultimately decided then was to accept the offer to transfer my registration to the 2017 event instead.  This gives me the benefit of another year focused on the right things to get even stronger and, hopefully, giving me a better shot at actually feeling like I can actually toe the line at this thing as a serious competitor and not just someone hoping to make it to the finishing line (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

So, yeah, I admit it:  I had the secret goal of being able to place well at this event. And looking at the finishing times from last year, it is definitely in my wheelhouse to do that.  My chances of this happening at any official “Ironman” branded race is pretty slim to none at this point.

I mean, some day, sure…but now?

Not likely.

The next big question is:

Then what?

And this took a bit more time to contemplate.  I just don’t want to nothing this summer as far as competition goes so the dilemma I’m having now is basically, if I wasn’t doing this Ironman, what would I have been doing instead?

The answer I kept coming back to was this:

Having fun!

Simple.

The truth of the matter is that I don’t think I’d necessarily be competing, like, at all.  No, it’s more likely I would be doing different altogether; something that still enabled me to be active and healthy and continue on with my training, while still offering me a unique challenge to overcome.  “Competition” doesn’t necessarily have to be part of that formula.

Now so I’m considering other goals to accomplish; goals that perhaps I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish had Ironman still been on my plate.  Among these things I’m now considering include a single day Summer Solstice “Double Century” bike ride on June 21st from Barrie, Ontario to St. Catharines and participate in some local open water swim events at the 5k and 10k distances.  These would keep me both on the bike and in the water while will later transfer nicely into next season’s Ironman training program.

I also plan to keep up with my running as well, specifically focused on perfecting this whole “cadence” thing.  I’d like to keep with the shorter more intense runs like my prescribed fartleks and progression workouts, but there is not real need to keep “going long”…well, not “stupid long” anyway.  The plan would be to keep this strong base I’ve established through these past three months so that I can launch myself headfirst back into the plan next February feeling strong, speedy and capable.

Basically, something like this:

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So that’s it I guess.

It’s on for 2017.

The other thing that helps me with this decision is that in 2017, it will be exactly five years since Ironman Wales and, being the obsessive-compulsive guy I secretly am, I like prime numbers.  Taking another swing at the cat exactly five years later seems almost…cathartic.

What can I say?

It just feels  right.

So, sports fans, I guess there isn’t much else to say aside from the fact that I’m still moving forward, I’m still working hard and, hopefully, there will still be lots more fun adventures to journal about in the near future even though they likely won’t be Ironman specific…

…well, for a few more months anyway.

So am I disappointed?

Sure…of course.

However, will I carry on and come out stronger on the other side?

Absolutely.

As I alluded to in a previous post, my run workouts have become a bit, well, “intense” (click HERE).  Seldom do I ever have anything resembling an “easy run” in my training plan anymore.  No.  Those days are long gone.  Now everything has a specific purpose; either build strength or improve pacing.  And now the new Coach has gone and thrown another monkey wrench into the machine: “cadence”, or the number of strides I take per minute.

Yay.

While I’ve always heard about the benefits and importance of cadence from other “runners”, I’ve never really given it much thought or consideration.  Now when I first started swimming I didn’t see the importance of drills, or “watts” when I first started spinning either.  But eventually I did come to understand the importance these training tools provide and I have since incorporated them into my daily workouts religiously…but “running cadence”, well, not so much.  What can I say?

I can be a bit slow on the uptake.

And truth be told, when I was first told via email to “focus on my cadence” over, say “pace”, this was the first thing that came to my mind:

 –

Needless to say I wasn’t impressed.

Imagine me doing that through the back roads of Ridgeway in my stretchy tights.

Yeah.

I’d likely be burned at the stake as a witch.

However, being the dutiful foot soldier I am, I decided to give this “cadence” thing a chance.  First, however, I wanted to investigate it a little more in depth to discover what exactly the whole point and perhaps what the ultimate payoff will be come Ironman time.

What I’m really trying to say here is “hey, what’s in for me?”

What I’ve come to understand is that our bodies love rhythms.  And I’m not talking about your crunchy reggae beats but the natural rhythms of life itself.  We thrive on them.  Our heartbeats, breath rate, and need for rest are all based on rhythms that occur naturally in the body.  When our body has a natural rhythm to follow, it doesn’t have to work as hard. It just knows what to do and goes about the business of getting it done.

Okay, so “easier” you say?

I’m listening.

It turns out that most runners run upright with a long stride, causing them to land on their heels with their feet out in front of their bodies.  I happen to run like a retarded orangutan on stilts.  This tends to overwork the legs, as they have to pull themselves forward with each step.  Heel striking also causes huge impact to ankles, shins, knees and hips, and is a primary cause of running injuries. And Lord knows I’ve had my fair share of those the past few years.  However, when we run with a quicker cadence, our stride becomes shorter, making it easier for our feet to land underneath us, which then reduces heel striking, saves our knees, and helps prevent other injuries.

So, it minimizes injury too?

Go on.

Furthermore, most runners will spend too long in the “support stance,” or landing phase of their stride.  During that time, our leg muscles are engaged and supporting our body weight which, in my case, is a lot; fast bastard I am.  When you have a quick foot turnover, you’re supporting your weight for less time.  You actually expend less energy and become more efficient – two benefits that are especially important during those long training runs and on race day.

So I’m even less fatigued?

Fuck, yeah!

WINNING!

So how does one improve their cadence then?

Personally, I imagine running on hot coals.  This means that my stride is typically a bit shorter but my “turn over” rate is much higher.  After all, I don’t want to get burned on those imaginary coals.  You could also think of it this way, your forward momentum really only happens when you’re not on the ground but are actually in the air – get this – moving through space.  Wrap your brain melon around that!  You’ll just have to believe me here but there are, like, tons of scientific studies on the ‘ol Interweb thingee that you can reference.  Not that I really understood any of it but that’s the basic premise.  So the longer my foot is on the ground, the less I’m technically moving forward through space.  So, rather than think about actually planting my foot I concentrate on keeping it off the ground and therefore moving my fat ass through space.

This is basically my new focus now for all my runs and for the past few weeks, I’ve been trying it on all  my training runs; fartlek, long or otherwise.  I was initially curious what my actual cadence was so I learned that I can calculate my run cadence fairly easily by counting every step taken by my right  foot for 30 steps.  I then needed to divide this time into 3600.  The first time I tried this, about two week s ago, 30 steps with my right foot took me 22 seconds. So, 3600 ÷ 22 = …… Blue?  Cantaloupe?

Fucked if I know.

I failed math.

But when I got home I tapped it out on a calculator and learned that I take approximately 163 steps per minute, or the equivalent of a three-legged sloth doing the Watusi.

Good for me.

What I can tell you for sure beyond a shadow of a doubt is that it sucked…at first.

But stuck with it I did.

After a few workouts, I was able to increase my cadence to about 180 quite consistently; 180 being the recommended cadence for truly minimizing my risk of injury.  Now, I can’t maintain this for long periods, yet, but during these 2 and 4 minute intervals my Garmin data does verify that I am running at a must faster that I initially thought possible. Eventually, after approximately 6-7 workouts, I’m actually finding it a bit easier and spot-checking a few times during each of my workouts confirms that I am indeed running at an elevated pace – dare I say it – easier.

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The other noticeable difference is that ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning don’t seem quite so beat up after my runs and that  is definitely a good thing.

On my weekend long runs I am now focusing on increasing my cadence every 20 minutes so that I am, in fact, increasing my pace over time and distance and therefore becoming more adept at running more efficiently and effectively; basically finishing strong instead of dragging my ass across the finish line broken and battered which is usually the case.

And, this, is how I want to finish my Ironman.  I don’t want to simply survive the marathon as I did before (click HERE  or a little recap) – I want to rock  it.  The Ironman run is definitely my “limiter”, as it with most people I suppose.  Well, fat bastards like me anyway.  However, this time around I want to bend this thing over my knee and slap it’s ass.  So if that means getting more comfortable with and capable of maintaining a strong run form by working on this fast cadence thing, then so be it.

It’s on.

The Lost Art of Fartlek

Posted: February 26, 2016 in Run, The Plan
Tags: ,

One of the biggest changes of my current Ironman training plan is the inclusion of regular fartleks.  Likely, just mentioning that word is bound to get everyone (even runners) in the room giggling like a school girl but as a disclaimer for all my non-running, non-triathlon peers, unfortunately, “fartlek” has absolutely nothing to do with farts.

fartlekelf-e1411671909499Well, most of the time.

In the past, I have made use of tempo workouts, speed workouts, hill workouts as well and the dreaded long run workout.  And, of course, there’s always the easy run periodically because, well, just because.  Typically, fartlek runs were just thrown into the mix when I didn’t feel like doing any of the other aforementioned workouts but knew I should still be doing something.  In other words, a “fartlek” run was a fancy label to throw on an otherwise lackluster workout just to make it sound more strategized and formal.

So what is a fartlek officially, right?

Basically, “Fartlek”, which means “speed play” in Swedish, is a training method that blends continuous training with interval training.  Fartlek runs are a very simple form of a long distance run.  Fartlek training is simply defined as periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running. In the past, the old school mentality towards fartlek running has been to simply “sprint to the next telephone pole or mailbox”  and that’s how I usually applied them in my own workouts.  In some cases, it happened completely spontaneously when, say, I happened to find myself being chased by a turkey down the street (click HERE).  Basically, it all amounts to running hard when you feel compelled to do so (in my case, usually on a slight downhill) and then back off again when your heart rate starts to soar like a jack rabbit on crack and it isn’t fun anymore.

Simple.

The whole purpose of fartleks is to prepare a runner to handle the uneven paces of a race. In a race, a runner usually runs fast, then slower, then fast again. During my last Ironmam (click HERE) – shit, in every triathlon or run I’ve ever  competed in – this has pretty much been the case.  This variation in pace is largely due to the race course’s terrain and surges used by competitors at different points through the competition.  There is likely not a single race that I can remember where I wasn’t locked in some silent mental duel with other runners around me on the race course, all trying to break each other as a means of getting finishing one position higher in the finishing results, or on the podium.  In fact, it’s likely the best runners who can physically and mentally respond to these variations of pace and keep on keeping on.

So why now then?

Well, largely because Coach Nicole wants me to and that’s why I pay her the big bucks.  But, still, what’s her overall strategy at this point?

Besides making me suffer that is…

Well, the most ideal time to insert fartlek runs is when you’re making the transition to faster, race-pace type training like, say, after your winter base and before your spring race season begins – which is pretty much where I am now.  By doing a weekly fartlek run for a month before you hit the track, you’ll: 1) avoid the tendency to train too hard, too early; 2) learn your effort levels and how to adjust the workout based on how you feel; 3) develop an optimal base of speed training prior to hitting the track.

There are typically two recommended types of fartlek workouts.  The first, after a warm-up, is to perform 10 to 12 surges lasting 1 minute with a 1 minute jog rest in between with your effort being slightly faster than my 5K race pace effort.  Most runners find this to be at about 90 to 95% of their full effort – to which I can attest to, I assure you.  Research indicates that running at this intensity for a total of 10 to 12 minutes results in a higher VO2 max – your ability to consume and utilize oxygen.  As it turns out, I was doing workouts similar to this on Tuesday nights while HRH  was swimming. I was labeling them as “Hill” workouts solely because the intervals were being performed on a short hill along Welland Vale Rd. in St. Catharines, but each interval took me approximately just over a minute to complete finishing at the required 95%.

GO ME!

So given that this first type of fartlek has been accomplished already, I’ve actually moved onto the second type of fartlek run now, performing 4 to 5 four surges lasting 3 to 5 minutes each with a 1-2 minute jog in between.  My effort here is slightly faster than my 10K race pace effort but not as fast as those in the first type of fartlek.  Most runners here – well, I know I certainly do anyway – find this to be at about 80 – 85% of full on effort.  Research indicates that running at this intensity for a total of 15 to 20 minutes results in a higher lactate threshold – the balance point between the production of lactic acid and your ability to keep it from building up.

Here are the two fartlek workouts I am now regularly incorporating into my weekly training schedule:

Fartlek #1:

  • 10-15 min warm-up
  • 5 x 4 min HARD! (sub 5:00min/km pace), with 1 min easy “shuffle jog” recovery
  • 2 x 3 min  HARD! (sub 5:00min/km pace), with 1 min easy “shuffle jog” recovery
  • 10-15 min warm-down

Fartlek #2:

  • 10-15 min warm-up
  • 5 x 2 min VERY HARD! (4:30min/km pace), with 1 min easy “shuffle jog” recovery
  • Bonus 2 min rest
  • 10 x 30 secs ALL OUT!, 30 secs easy “shuffle jog” recovery
  • 10-15 min warm-down

After four weeks (I’m currently in week #3), I will simply add 1 interval per week in order to continue building on my aerobic capacity and threshold training.