Posts Tagged ‘No shit?’

Tightwad Triathlete #11

Posted: May 31, 2017 in Financial, Nutrition
Tags: , ,

I have just survived my first four week block of my Ironman build and while there have definitely been some setbacks and failing points (as is part of the whole journey) I have come out the other side more or less unscathed and successful.  It was during this period that one of my biggest challenges from the past reared its ugly head once again… namely adequate fueling and nutrition.

This has always been a huge challenge for me.  Most notably (and recently), it cost me a decent outing at last years Around the Bay 30k event (click HERE) where I totally bonked and died a horrible painful death in the back 10k worth of hills.

Yup.  1 cup of cluster; 2 cups of fuck.

Never…

Again.

But, hey, sometimes you just have to chuck these experiences in the “fuck it bucket” and instead use them as a learning opportunity.

And as I am now in my big distance builds, nailing this fueling and nutrition thing down is 100% crucial.  Not just in order to accomplish the big workouts, but so that I have an absolutely sound strategy in place for my Ironman race itself that enables me to perform to my full potential.

It’s crazy how fast my morning caterpillars of “can do’s” turn into the beautiful and mysterious “fuck it fly” by the mid-point of my workout if I haven’t fueled properly.

Now, I understand all the available products on the market: gels, chews, power bars, and the like.  And while I’m not disputing the validity and effectiveness any of these products, who the hell can afford all this stuff?

Think about it.  For a 4-5 hour bike ride, I’m going to need approximately 2000-3000 calories so when you do the math by breaking down these calories into, say, GU gels which provide approximately 100 calories, that’s potentially 20-30 gels.   And at approximately $2.00 a pop, that’s potentially a $40-$60 training day.  And then there’s the long run, the time trials, the long swims, etc., over weeks and weeks of training.

Holy shit!

You practically need to be Daddy-fucking-Warbucks to afford that.  Hell, why not just fuel with Beluga caviar and crystal flutes full of Dom Perignon?

By the time I arrive at the starting line I’d inevitably be this guy:

homeless man

What I’m delicately trying to say is that I’m a cheap bastard (click HERE).

In past experimentation’s I have used dried dates (click HERE).  But even still, that’s a shitload of dried dates to be eating for the course of a long workout.  And one can only have so much fiber before one starts to run into, how do you say… really serious issues?

Note:  that fart isn’t really a fart and you might have to leave a Hoboken Squat Cobbler by the side of the road.

There has to be a better solution.

So I started looking at what exactly does my body need?  Essentially, once it starts going (assuming I’ve already had a healthy breakfast or feeding prior to heading out) it needs quick burning carbs to continually stoke the fire and keep the engines running.

If only there was somewhere you could go to find plentiful options of quick burning carbohydrate sources?

Enter Bulk Barn to the rescue.

Behold:

bulk-barn-inside-3

When it comes to choices of quick burning carbs, your local Bulk Barn is essentially the equivalent of Shangri-La, Valhalla, Nirvana, El Dorado and the Garden of Eden all packaged up in a flimsy clear plastic baggie.

It’s a literal plethora of Swedish berries, fish, jelly beans, jube jubes, wine gums, and an entire Noah’s Ark of gummy critters of all shapes and sizes.

DAH-ROOL.

Yes, yes, I hear you all crying out:  “But Terry, that’s not healthy!” 

So let me be 100% perfectly clear here:  I do not give a fig newton about “healthy” when I’m fueling for long workouts.  All I care about is that it’s convenient to access and eat, it keeps me going, and it’s tasty.

And candy just happens to check all those boxes. Unlike honey dates and chocolatey protein bars, chewy candy does not melt.  If you’ve ever had tried to pry open (and eat) a baggie of chocolaty goop that has melted over the course of a 2 hour run, you’ll understand.  At best, most chewy candy might get a bit soft but that just makes it easy to scarf down and it’s easily packaged and retrieved from little baggies which are also conveniently available at Bulk Barn.

Win.

It also has the four essential things that I basically need to keep cycling or running:  calories, sugar, carbs and sodium.  I mean, really, the idea is to rapidly bring up your blood sugar without causing GI issues (ie. digests quickly).

Candy does that!

Here’s the nutritional breakdown for a single Swedish berry:

Swedish Berry

So a small handful of, say, 7 Swedish berries would equate to 91 calories, 14 grams of sodium, and 21 grams each of carbs and sugar.  You know, that’s pretty close to what I would have spent on a single GU gel…except much cheaper, and much tastier (my opinion).  AND, I don’t have to stick to just Swedish berries either.  No, sir!  I can pre-prepare my little baggies with whatever type of candy I want meaning that every mouthful every 15-20 minutes is something to look forward to.  Variety is the spice of life after all, right?

And it works!

Well, for me anyway.

Oh, and Peter Sagan also swears by them as well.  And if it’s good enough for one of the best long distance cyclists in the world currently, then you bet your sweet bippy it’s damn good enough for me.

I feel like a rolling Willy Wonka factory on my long bike rides.

Of course, you don’t necessarily want to fully rely on candy as your fuel source, you still need “real fuel” as a nutritional base – especially during long workouts.  However, you can top off your glycogen stores with candy if you feel your energy levels dropping, or if you need a boost to keep up with powerful surges, particularly in the last hour of a three-plus hour effort.

For the purposes of getting in real fuel, I have resorted to using something else: Nutella, or as I like to call it, “Nectar of the Gods”.

As with candy, I realize that it’s not “healthy”.  A two-tablespoon (37 gram) serving of Nutella contains 200 calories including:  99 calories from 11 grams of fat (3.5g of which are saturated) 80 calories from 21 grams of sugar.   Oh, and there’s also 2 grams of protein (slow burning fuel) to boot.  Not necessarily significant, of course, but it’s worth mentioning.

However, all I really give a shit about is whether or not it keeps me going?

And to this I say:  Abso-fucking-lutely!

But how do I manage to consume Nutella while cycling/running you ask?  I mean, it’s not like I can simply bring a jar of Nutella and a soup spoon with me is it?

Well, my ingenious (if I do say so myself) solution is make these little “Nutella bombs”.

IMG_1748

Bonus marks for having a Minion.

Basically, I just heap two- tablespoons of the good shit into the corner of a plastic baggie (also conveniently found on the cheap at Bulk Barn), tie the baggie off and, BAM!, the perfect little portion of hazelnut goodness.  All I have to then do then is pull one of these “Nutella bombs” out of my bento bag or fuel belt, bite the corner out of the baggie and squeeze it like a lime wedge on dollar beer night into my piehole.

Done.

From an ordinary 750 gram jar of Nutella ($4.99 at Bulk Barn) essentially equates to approximately 20 Nutella bombs.

That’s only 24 cents a bomb.

Booyah!

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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?

Bike riding is fun.  Sure, there are definitely some not so fun parts like when you’re going up a steep ass hill that never seems to end or when trying to maintain that tempo pace into a strong headwind but, hey, life is seldom an unbroken boulevard of green lights so what can you do?   You suck it up and get ‘er done.

But for the most part, riding is fun.

One of the cool perks of getting out and about on your bike is the ability to explore your neighborhood on a grander scale than you’d be able to while, say, running.   Not that you can’t explore while running but on a bike you can go further and if newly taken route should end up in a dead end, it’s not so aggravating in that you have to hike it all the way back again on foot.   This is my theory anyway as I’m sure others will wholeheartedly agree with me.

To this regard, I am also lucky in that I have a lot of room to roam and therefore, explore.  In my immediate area we have a plethora of battle grounds, historic forts, old barns and silos, century old (and even older) stone homes, and more country roads and fire lanes than you could shake a stick at.  Sometimes it’s a total bust or, worse yet, you find yourself cornered by dogs (click HERE), but other times you find something really neat that you never knew existed or something that makes you go “what the fuck?”  as was the case HERE.

Similarly, this was the same kind of scenario about a year or two ago when I came across this at the end of a dead end:

IMG_0351

Yeah.

It’s exactly what it looks like…a stupid big rock…suspended by wire…from a fence pole.

That’s weird, right?

Let me try to put it in better perspective for you on how incredibly stupid huge this thing is.

Here it is with my step daughter standing next to it:

IMG_0396

That’s pretty big, right?

And, believe me, this child is no midget so it sure ain’t no little casting stone.

Here it is again with a rubber duck:

IMG_0399

Don’t ask me why I happened to have a rubber duck.  I just did.

So, like I was telling you:  it’s fucking BIG!

It easily has to be a ton or more.

I remember the exact moment I first spotted it from the road as I whizzed past.  I was riding down to what would eventually turn into a dead end along Silver Bay Rd., here:

Big Rock

And I was all like:

giphy

So much so, that I had to circle back and check it out to make sure that what had initially registered in my head was actually true.

It was.

I must have then spent a good 15 minutes ogling at this monstrosity trying to make sense of it.  Questions immediately began to flood my brain at an incredible rate.  It was like my little lizard brain was trying to instantly run about a zillion mental computations about what on earth could have transpired to result in this huge ass rock to end up hanging precariously from a wooden fence pole in the middle of nowhere bit in each and every model I considered either the world or my brain blew up.

Anyway, just for shits n’ giggles, let me run a few of the more obvious queries I have about such a random curiosity.

  • WHY is it there?

I mean, seriously, why?

What possible purpose could this thing be serving?  Is it the remnant from some ancient Sherkston Stonehenge-like rock formation?  What is some kind of marker or milestone for pilgrims on their way to the local trailer park?

I just don’t get it.

Is it supporting something in particular?  But even then, that be a bit over kill, wouldn’t it?  Like getting the Hulk to open your pickle jar.

  •  WHO put it there?

Was it Heracles?  Aliens?

I inquired with the owner of the house whose property this thing rests when they were out cutting their lawn once and they told me that it was already there when they purchased their home years ago.  This gets me to wondering then, who in their right mind would ever want  to hang a rock from a fence post anyway?  Surely this is not the work of some fancy-pants Ritchie Rich type (of whom there are many in the area), whose name suggests they probably own a yacht, wears only cashmere sweaters and owns a Zurich-based truffle conglomerate.

No.

This is the handy work of a real dedicated working man for sure, which brings me to my last question:

  • HOW did they get it there?

Nobody – and I mean nobody – was ever going to simply lift huge ass thing up there by themselves, that’s for damn sure!  So, even if we did know what purpose it was supposed to serve, how on God’s green earth did they ever manage to get that fucking thing up there?  It’s not like it’s just come to be hanging there accidentally like some discarded orange rind.

Hells no!

Somebody wanted it there and made significant efforts to get it there.

So how in the fuck did they do that?

Did they use a tow motor, Bobcat, medieval lynch and pulley system, or was it achieved through some other lost method of moving around large ass rocks only know to prehistoric druids?

And when they got it up, how did they hold it there long enough so they could wrap enough wire around it to keep it suspended?  It completely baffles the mind.

In my mind this huge ass rock on Silver Bay Rd. is right up there with the Great Pyramids and Stonehenge as far as Wonders of the World go.

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.

gallery_6695_85_15690

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.

Training Suffer Score (TSS)

Posted: February 17, 2016 in Equipment, In Transition
Tags:

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.

You might remember that one year ago that I was participating as a guinea pig (I prefer the term “suffer Bunny”) in an Effects of Cranial Cooling on Temperature, Ventilatory, and Perceptual Responses to Exercise in Fire Protective Ensemble’ series of testing at the Brock University kinesiology lab (click HERE).

Basically, I allowed myself to be heated up like a baked potato in their “oven” while clad in full on fire-fighters gear and then ran the gauntlet to see the effects of heat on my overall performance.  The theory being that if I were allowed to temporarily cool off between exercise protocols using a “cooling hood“ that my performance might improve, or in some way become easier.

It didn’t.

It sucked…each and every  time.

And that’s no exaggeration, believe me.

So as a result, nobody really paid this study any notice.

Maybe they should have published the study along with a sexy type calendar.  I mean, after all, who wouldn’t want to gaze on this at their cubicle wall?

Am I making you hot, baby?

Am I making you hot, baby?

Here's some more sexy shit.

Here’s some more sexy shit.

I mean, we didn’t really prove anything did we?   No.  This particularly sucks because I (we) suffered apparently to only prove what everybody already knows, that getting roasted alive is not fun. It’s torturous actually.  This is completely the opposite of the Separate and Combined Effects of Hydration Status and Thirst on Voluntary Exercise Capacity’  study (click HERE) I did the year before which ended up turning the athletic and endurance world on its ear in regard to its rethinking of popular hydration strategies.  Plus, I officially got referred to as an “athlete”.

THAT  was some cool shit.

This?

Not so much.

But, hey, ‘c’est la vie’.

Anyway, here we are a year later and the official paper has finally been published.  So did we actually learn anything from this experiment?  I mean, if I suffered like a champ for this, surely, something  had to come from it right?

Thankfully, something did.

It isn’t much, true, but it’s something  at least.

However, a little background first. Studies were conducted in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s that suggested that head cooling strategies were effective in improving performance in hot and humid conditions.  New evidence from 2008+ shows that if we wear a neck cooling collar we can exercise longer, harder, and to a higher core temperature.  Plus we ‘feel’ much cooler while using it. Such strategies include forearm immersion, facial misting (no, it’s nothing kinky I assure you) and neck cooling collars were all suggested and proven to be beneficial.  The problem is, for fire fighters anyway, is that for forearm immersion to take place one would have to remove their jacket which isn’t practical when fighting fires and facial misting is less effective in highly humid environments because of the decreased water vapor pressure gradient (meaning we lose the ability to evaporate the sweat and thus fail to cool ourselves).   So, would a “cooling hood”, which is easier to apply during a fire-fighters recovery period since it does not require one to remove their jacket, actually help? It makes sense given that there is lots of blood flow in the head. In fact, 25% of our metabolism is centered in the brain, even though it only weighs 2 lbs.. Furthermore, the blood flow is closer to the surface so its effect would be quicker to cool the blood and feel cooler, than say cooling the foot or arms…theoretically, of course.

And that’s where I come in.

Through this testing we (I mean the researchers, of course) were aiming to see if fire fighters could benefit from the cooling effect provided by the hood in “uncompensable” heat stress and, ultimately, perform better.  Specifically, would it:

  1. Drop the body’s core temperature?
  2. Allow them to last longer?
  3. Enable them to use less air, allowing them to perform longer?
  4. Allow them to feel better?

I know, I know, you’re on pins and needles here right?

Well, let me fill you in on the findings.

First, the cooling hood had absolutely no effect on the core temperature at all…like, none.

Core Temp

See? Nada.

And I can definitely vouch for this: it was fucking hot no matter what.  Even after resting for 20 minutes (the standard recovery period for active fire fighters) with the cooling head, my core temperature continued to climb into the second exercise protocol.  Okay, there was a marginal difference in temperature as the graph above shows but it was nothing to get excited about.

However, perception wise, the cooling hood did make me feel a bit cooler even though, physiologically, there was no difference in my core temperature whatsoever.  This was reflected in the ‘Perceived Thermal Stress’ (PTS) ranking where I was asked to give my perception on the heat stress I was enduring at time.

It is interesting to note afterwards, however, that while the perception of heat stress improved overall, the actual perception of the exercises difficulty did not as recorded in my ‘Rate of Perceived Exertion’ (RPE).

No sir.

It blew.

There’s a problem with this though in that both the PTS and RPE are highly subjective.  I mean, when all you have to look at and dwell on during the torture session are those two charts in front of you, you begin to consider your next answer long before the question is even asked.  So do I choose to appear as a tough guy and say it’s easier or less hot that it really is, or do I answer honestly in that it’s hotter than Hades and this is complete torture?

I dunno.

What I can tell you from my recollection is that during the first 4-8 minutes of the second protocol, everything felt…tolerable. But that quickly changed.  And after that initial period, once again, it was like leaping into an active volcano.

And this was for both the Passive recovery (the first session without the cooling hood) and the Active recovery (the second session with the cooling hood).

Seriously, can you tell which one looks like it might have felt better?

Phil runs the gauntlet.

Phil runs the gauntlet.

Fuck no.

So whether or not this total and complete feeling of HOT and SHITTY (think of that doomed marshmallow that falls into the bonfire kinda hot) both times is reflected accurately in my responses, I can’t say for sure.

Likewise, there was no major difference in my heart rate either.  During the second protocol, my heart rate only decreased by a mere 10 beats per minute which, in the grand scheme of things, is insignificant.

Lastly, there was no difference in the air intake whatsoever so, no, working for longer periods was not likely going to be an option either.

So what does this all mean then?

Well, the overall conclusion is that the cooling hood provided no physiological differences whatsoever.  However, perceptually, there was an improvement in our thermal perception even though there was no actual change in the perception of the exercise itself.  So while we might have felt  better, it did absolutely buckus to improve our overall performance.

What it all boils down to is that the test or, rather, the ability to endure the second protocol was unequivocally mental.   What else is there?  Hey, if there was no change in the core temperature, air consumption or heart rate, any differences to our protocol times really came down to our mental fortitude, or our ability to ultimately endure.  What else is there?  In essence, given the extreme difficulty of the task, how long were we willing  to allow ourselves to suffer?

And believe me again, we suffered.

Hence my preference for the term “Suffer Bunny”.

So if this is a mental thing, how do we improve that?  And that  very question is the premise for the next series of experimentation’s that I was involved in at the Brock lab later and which, as they say, is another story.

More to come on that in the very near future.

(If you wish read the full paper in all it’s scientific glory, you can click on the attachment below)

Wallace-et-al.-2015-Cranial-Head-Cooling-Firefighters