Posts Tagged ‘Speed’

Today is a landmark occasion for running as it was 60 years ago today in 1954 that Roger Bannister did the impossible:  break the 4 minute mile.

Huh.  Lookitme posting about running n’ shit.

Yup, it was sixty years ago – on a windy Tuesday as a matter of fact – that Bannister collapsed into a swarm of men wearing stiff macs and bowler hats, his body feeling “like an exploding flashbulb” as he fell in total exhaustion.  It has since become known as one of the most iconic sporting moments in history.  Prior to this, it was deemed virtually impossible for a human being to go that fast.  Bannister had intended to retire after the 1952 Olympics, but having only come in 4th in the 1500m  final, hung on for another two years to make an attempt on the holy grail of middle distance running.

The story has it, that knowing full well that two other milers had the same intent – John Landy of Australia and Wes Santee of the USA – Bannister ran very early in the season at Iffley Road in Oxford, and, paced by his old friends Brasher and Chataway, came home under the magical time, taking 2 seconds off of Gunder Hägg’s nine year old mile World Record.  Amazingly after all the hype the record only stood for six weeks, when John Landy ran 3.57.9 in Finland.  Bannister then went on that season to defeat Landy in the “Mile of the Century” in the Empire Games, before winning the European 1500m  title and then retiring from the sport, aged 25.

To commemorate this feat, here is it in its entirety:


They say that fewer people have run a sub-four-minute mile than have climbed Mt. Everest.  Whoopee shit.  So why is this significant?  Even just a few years ago I wouldn’t have given two shits about Bannister either and any mention of ‘four mile’ would only have been dismissed with extreme prejudice as simply an overplayed song by an overrated white boy rapper wannabe.  However, I think much differently now about Bannister, this accomplishment…and even that Eminem track for that matter (it’s true).  Yes, I see it all much differently.

I see it now as a symbol of triumph in the face of adversity; an example of surpassing expectation.  Proof that the mind and spirit can conquer all.  And THAT,  folks, also happens to be my prime modus operandi as I get geared up for another season of triathlon and I have a lot to prove to myself, namely, be tough, be fast and – most importantly – dare to be great.  Forget what others tell me is possible, or what I tell myself for that matter.  It’s all possible.

Maybe a fitting mantra for my training going forward would be “Be Like Bannister”.


The Turkinator

Posted: October 19, 2013 in In Transition
Tags: , ,

Every now and again I stumble across an old photo on Facebook, or some other social media site that ends up jogging my memory about an event that occurred well before I was really into chronicling this whole triathlon journey on this blog; a story that might have otherwise been lost to time.

In this case, it was a photo about this particular guy:

The infamous Turkinator T-1000.

The infamous Turkinator T-1000.

Meet Fred, or sometimes referred to as Frank or ‘Terry the Terrifying’ (not my idea).  At the time I just called him ‘that fucking turkey’ and, believe it or not, this turkey was what you might call my first training partner.

I met Fred back in the summer of 2009 after I had just started to get myself rooted in triathlon after having competed successfully for one season in a few local races.  I didn’t really know what I was doing back then and I was just happy to make it to the finish line alive.  I didn’t really “train” as I’ve come to know it now and I didn’t understand the concept of having a disciplined training schedule.  I just swam, biked and ran whenever the mood took me.  My swim workouts (once a week) consisted of a few laps at the YMCA at some point during the week, my bike rides occurred on Sunday mornings with my TryForce group and my runs, well, I ran whenever I felt like it…which wasn’t often.  I hated running.  I mean, REALLY  hated running.

So at this particular juncture of my triathlon career, whenever I happened to run it wasn’t for very far.  In fact, my “long” runs consisted of, maybe, six or seven kilometers at best.  The idea of my participating in even an Olympic distance triathlon, much less an Ironman, was still absolute crazy talk, so those short six or seven kilometers were plenty long in my mind.  They were never done at anything more than a slow shuffle and I they took absolutely everything I had to simply finish without quitting or stopping to walk.  I was still pretty proud of myself at the time but, looking back at it now, they weren’t any real big whoop.  I mean, those distances are what I call my ‘recovery jogs’ now.  It’s funny how time and experience has a way changing your perspective on things.  C’est la vie, I suppose.  So anyway, from where I lived downtown at the time, these six or seven kilometers would often have me to the north end of town and back.

Yes, there were even these signs posted in the neighborhood.

Yes, there were even these signs posted in the neighborhood.

At this same time, another local character was beginning to frequent the streets in an around the north end as well.  Yup, you guessed it, Fred, a wild turkey.  I had seen signs referencing Fred and read the newspapers articles about him blocking traffic along Lakeshore Rd., but I never really gave any of it any serious consideration. After all, who worries about a turkey?

But then it happened.  I had made a turn onto Aquadale Dr. looking to check out a fresh neighborhood who had not yet had the pleasure of seeing this fat ass grace its pavement when there it was – standing in the middle of the road directly in my path – that fuckin’ turkey.  My first reaction wasn’t exactly one of nervousness or caution, but more of the type that one gets when they suddenly cross paths with a celebrity.  It was more of a “Holy shit!  The turkey!  Cool!”  type of response.  It looked passive enough, harmless even, so maybe I was even a bit enamored that I had happened to cross paths with the famous foul from the papers.

It just looked at me.  That’s all.  And as I got closer I figured it would just eventually give way and let me pass.  But it didn’t.  It stood its ground.  Now, I had also read in the papers that Fred had allegedly attacked a school bus, a police cruiser, kids on bikes, dog walkers and other neighborhood joggers but I had chalked it all up to just being part of a big media gag.  After all, it’s a fucking turkey right?  But I figured I give credit where it was due and proceeded to give the belligerent bird some berth and I moved to the side of the road and attempted to simply jog around it.

Yeah right.

Save the turkey, my ass!

Save the turkey, my ass!

Fred continued to stand his ground.  And when I came within, say, 15 ft. of the bird, it happened…he came after me.  And I don’t mean he just moved in my direction, I mean this damn thing gave chase…and fast!  Fred absolutely tore after me like nobody’s business and I was certainly not prepared for how incredibly quick this thing moved.  Did you know that wild turkeys can move up to 25 mph?  Yeah, me neither!  It was like a scene from ‘28 Days Later’, with my fat ass being chased down the street by this gobbling demonic foul.

Now, I’d like to say at least I was manly about it, but I doubt it.  It was probably more of a run with arms flailing madly in the air while shrieking like a little sissy girl, particularly when it pecked me once, twice, a dozen times on the back of my legs.  And let me tell you, if you’ve never been attacked by a wild turkey, it’s no bloody picnic.  I’m sure the passing motorists and local residents looking on from the safety of their front windows – and, yes, I did notice a few – must have been treated to quite the spectacle as this turkey gave chase to a chubby jogger in spandex.  And the worst part was that it didn’t exactly give up either.  He just kept coming!  Like a feathered terminator.

Now, remember, I didn’t train back then so the concept of “tempo” running, speedwork or  “fartleks” for that matter, were still as alien to me as playing the bagpipes with my asshole, so after a block I was pretty much running on pure fear and adrenaline rather than any degree of cardio fitness.  It felt like my heart was going to implode inside my chest.  And so it went for a few blocks, where Fred would slow down some so I would take a break too and then, as if he sensed weakness, he’d ramp it back up and give chase all over again.  It was as terrifying as it was mortifying.

In my head I was scripting my own eulogy:

Local triathlete meets end at the hands of marauding turkey while out jogging


Not exactly the kind of epitaph that someone wishes to shuffle off this mortal coil with, right?

They say that wild turkeys in urban settings are not very smart and they end up mistaking humans, vehicles and whatnot as other turkeys and act out aggressively as a way of asserting their dominance.  Or, they see their own reflection in something shiny and go on the attack.  But I ask you, what is so stupid to think that I – ME – a (then) 37-year-old runner in bright neon spandex shorts could ever be mistaken as another turkey?  I think Fred knew exactly what he was doing when he decided to lay into me.

That’s right.

I think Fred just hated triathletes.

There, I said it.

So in hindsight, that was my last run through the streets of north end St. Catharines anyway.  And to this day, whenever I come across wild turkeys – which, as luck would have it where I live now in the rural country, is quite often – instead of trying to go around it, I do an absolute 180° about face, and head in the opposite direction.  Quickly, I might add.  Shit, I still picture Fred for added motivation when I’m out doing my speed intervals now!

Oh, and let’s just say that that first bite of Thanksgiving dinner now is just that much more savory and enjoyable as well.

Fuckin’ turkey.

Attack of the Swim Doofi

Posted: December 14, 2012 in Swim
Tags: ,

Where my bike workouts are just beginning to get back to normal, well, as normal as they can be when stuck pedaling endlessly on a trainer going nowhere, and my run workouts are still non-existent thanks to a lingering injury, I am back to full force in the pool.  I have really come to enjoy my long morning swim workouts (I know, I know, I’m weird that way) and feel that I am finally beginning to become pretty proficient in the water.  Hey, I’m already head and shoulders beyond where I was even a year ago and I think that fact was pretty well excentuated by my better-than-anticipated result in Wales.  So the swim is emerging as my personal strength in triathlon.  Boo-yah!

It’s the one discipline out of the three where I am able to push other age groupers to their maximum thresholds and still feel relatively good doing it.  I’d damn near kill myself trying to do that on the bike, and I’d certainly experience a massive coronary if I tried to go full bore during the run.  But in the swim, I’m getting more confident.  In fact, this is my whole future strategy:  to get out of the water well ahead of those other sleeker, skinnier bastards before they can either catch up on the bike or run me down later.  It’s a strategy that has played out well for me this past season.  As such, I typically spend three days a week in the pool covering 10-12 kilometers despite it being early in the off-season.  Besides, if I do ever get that chance to cross Lake Ontario this summer, I want to be as swim fit as possible.

So this past Friday it was business as usual with nearly a kilometer of kicking as part of my 1.3k warm up prior to starting my main set.  Yeah, gone are the days of building up to that distance; now it’s a warm up.  Whoever would have thunk it?  In keeping with the standard lane etiquette that I prefer to endorse, I usually complete my warm up in the Slow Lane, which tends to run the better part of 45 minutes or so.   As such, I’ve become pretty familiar with the old ladies and their kickboards and pool belts and the old dudes who just want to hang out at the end of the lane and hit on the lifeguards.  It’s an eclectic bunch given that it’s the local YMCA, but we coexist peacefully while the other early morning eager beavers complete their 30-45 minute continuous swims in the other lanes.  Later, when they’re done and I’m ready to begin my main set I just bid ‘adieu’ to the geriatric swimmers and move over one lane into the Fast Lane.  ‘Easy peasy lemon squeezy’…everyone’s happy.

On that morning, however, as I was ducking under the lane barrier to begin my scheduled Force set, I was confronted by two other young, lanky swimmers as I surfaced.  They were, apparently, also looking to get in the Fast Lane.  Crap.  But, hey, what can you do?

Me“Good morning.  Do you want to share the lane?  We can just do circle swim.”

Swim Doofus #1“Well, we were kinda hoping to have the lane to ourselves.  Would you mind moving over another lane?”

Umm…pardon?  Considering that the other lanes were all otherwise occupied by slower swimmers in their properly designated lanes, or retirees doing their aquacize, or whatever it is they do in the Open area, I didn’t really relish moving anywhere, thank you very much.  Surely this tool was joking, right? A reasonable person might figure that three swimmers to a lane was perfectly acceptable and jump in ant to the business of paddling.  In fact, I’ve shared a lane with quite a few more, quite harmoniously, so why would these morons want the lane all to themselves?  The fuck?  It was a good thing I was still wearing my swim goggles as the laser beams radiating from my pupils might have eviscerated these idiots on the spot in a plume of disintegrated flesh.

Swim Doofus #2“Yeah, we were going to go fast.”

Oh no he didn’t.

Me“Were you now?”

I was trying real hard to keep my cool at this point.  Well, okay, maybe not that hard as my first instinct was to stretch his purple Speedo over his head in true atomic wedgie fashion before dunking him repetitively.  Seriously, purple?  But I digress…

Swim Doofus #1“We’re triathletes.  We go fast.”

Me“No kidding?”

The sarcasm was literally dripping from my lips at this point like the fat from Lincolnshire sausages off a George Foreman grill.  If there is one thing that pisses me off, its arrogance, so I took offence.  ‘It’s on fuck face’, I thought.

Me“Tell you what, how about I do some speed sets with you”, I continued.

I figured if we have to coexist, ignorant Doofus’ (or is it ‘Doofi’?) as they were, we may as well be doing the same type of workout.  Besides, now I had the motivation to go fast.  Imagine that.  I justified this suggestion by assuming that by circle-swimming I wouldn’t have to worry about my getting in their way with my paddles and pull buoy and stuff, nor would they have to wait at the wall between sprint sets to allow enough distance between me and them before starting their next sprint; but, really, I was looking for was a chance to make them suffer.  Besides, who couldn’t use a little more speed work, right?

Swim Doofus #1“Well, I suppose.”

Okay, yup, I’m totally inspired now.  ‘Your skimpy purple Speedo’s and varsity swim cap don’t scare me in the slightest.  Get ready for Thunderdome, motherfucker, because you just inspired me to kick your ass Waterworld-style.’

Me“Great, you just let me know when you’re ready to begin,” and I went back to my paddles.

Yes, part of me considered that I might have bitten off more than I could chew with these numbnuts, but how could I back down from the possibility of whooping two immensely annoying and egotistical douche bags at their own workout?  I was determined to give it my best shot or die trying.

It became apparent though that after a few laps of circle swim that I wasn’t necessarily out of my element.  Their form suggested that they were no budding Michael Phelps’, nor were they especially fast.  Sure, they were sporting fancy Subaru Triathlon Series water bottles and swim caps but, other than that, they seemed mediocre at best.  This was going to be fun.

Eventually, they begrudging notified me that they were finally ready to begin.  Let the slaughter commence…

Swim Doofus #2“We’re going to do 10 x 100m.”

Me“Okay, on a minute-thirty, or what?”

This inquiry obviously fell on deaf ears judging by the round of blank stares I received.

Swim Doofus #1“Umm, just Fast.”

O-kaaaay.  Clearly these meatballs were operating with all the high functioning purpose of a mentally challenged sea lion.  Fast it is.

Swim Doofus #1“We’ll go first and you can follow.”

Me:  “Lead on, MacDuff.”

Swim Doofus #2:  “Huh”?

Me:  “Nothing.  I’ll do my best to keep up.”

It just kept getting better and better.

Swim Doofus #1“How many laps have you done already?”

Me:  “I dunno.  I don’t really count…50-60 maybe.”

They exchanged a glance between them that I knew exactly how to translate: “Check this fatso out, brah, he totally thinks he’s going to keep up with our total awesomeness.”  Hey, I may have swim goggles on but I’m not blind you moolyaks.  Whatever…get ready to hurt, suckers.

Once we started I give them credit for beginning at a pretty brisk pace, but nothing to write home about.  Leaving approximately 10 seconds behind the second Doofus I was pretty much slapping his heels by the last 25 meters; his buddy, the first Doofus, wasn’t much further ahead.  And so it went for the next 5 x 100m  sets. After each set they were getting increasingly gasped.  Clearly not endurance swimmers so I decided to turn it on a bit…time to bury the needle and separate the swimmers from the paddlers, gentlemen.

On the sixth set, I pulled out from behind after the first 25 meters and passed them both like drowning chimps and arrived back at the wall a good 5-6 seconds ahead of them.  Now I was going to take a turn leading out and I started up again after about 10 seconds or so, or about half the recovery time they were allowing for.  I was hoping they’d feel pressured to keep up and they did.  Excellent!

The last four sets I didn’t let up nor rest at the wall for more than a few seconds to keep the pressure on.  By the last few sprint sets I was completing my 100m’s nearly a whole pool length ahead of these so-called speed demons.  By the end they were sucking air like two open chest wounds.   I admit to being a bit winded myself, but not to the point of failure.  I absolutely relished in the moment.

Me:  “You guys want to keep going?”

Instead of giving me a response, they just climbed out of the lane and headed for their towels.  I took this lack of response as a proclamation of victory and I couldn’t resist the urge to twist the knife just a little more because, hey, I can be a bit of an idiot like that.  This was just too much fun.

Me“Hey, I’m here every Friday if you guys want to share the Fast Lane again.  It’s not often I get to work out with real triathletes.”

Hey, tomorrow’s Friday isn’t it?  What are the chances they’ll be back for more?

I hate him.

Ridiculously Photogenic Guy

Where does he get off looking so good?  What I wouldn’t give to have, like, even a minute fraction of his seemingly effortless smile at any point in my own events.  Lord knows that, even at the best of times, I closer resemble Clyde the orangutan when I run.

This recent photo of a ‘Ridiculously Photogenic Guy’ taken during a Charleston, N.C. 10k  race has recently gone viral and, with it, the notion that running is, somehow, enjoyable.  And where it may be tolerable and *ahem*  fun for some, it’s definitely not for this guy…particularly lately.

Lately, it’s about going long – for hours on end – and it’s very doubtful that I will ever successfully achieve any degree of ‘looking good’ while doing it.  If you were to take my picture, I’d probably fall somewhere between the walking dead and someone in the throes of a full on cardiac arrest.  But be that as it may, I still have to get ‘er done.  And this is becoming quite the challenge, largely because there also has to be a shift in my mental focus now from the pace and distances that I’m accustomed to completing, to simply that of running for time.

For example, while I was training for half iron distances in previous years, I would practice at a specific distance (21.1k) and then maintaining what I thought was my half marathon running pace throughout and, maybe, even improving on that pace.  But now, I’m training to do that distance twice (off a 180k  bike ride no less)…something I have never attempted before.   This will be a completely new experience and realm of ‘suckitude’.  Realistically, this could equate to four (or more) hours of running just to cap off the day.  Fuck me.  Even at the Around the Bay 30k events I have competed in so far, the longest I’ve ever run has been 2:39:04 and – believe me – that was hard!  How I am going to manage another 12.2k  (or another hour plus) beats the living shit out of me.  I must be an idiot.  But therein lays my greatest challenge now.

I have to learn to trust that all those mid-season tempo runs and speed workouts have provided me the base for my long distance endeavors at this point, and now rely on that training to carry me through these long training days.  With my focus now shifting to that of time versus a specific distance or pace, my legs, while having no idea how far they have actually traveled, must become painfully aware and equipped to deal with every minute of it.

But it’s not easy.  Should I ever glance at my Garmin at any stage in my long run I begin to immediately feel frustrated and disappointed with myself.  Why am I going so slowly?  I should be about 3k  ahead at this point?  Am I totally tanking here or what?  My mind is a flurry of doubt given that, up until this point in my three years of training, I have trained to maintain a particular pace or distance.  Now, I am trying to push beyond that mentality and accept that to go longer, I also have to go slower and that equates to more time.  After all, I’m no Crowie.

Part of this whole difficulty of focus falls back to the decision I made earlier this year not to marathon prior to my Ironman event in September.  I figured then that the demands of a ‘standalone’ marathon bear little resemblance to that of a marathon following a 3.8  kilometer swim and 180  kilometers on the bike – the only real similarity is the actual distance covered.  I still believe that.  The way I preferred to think about it, was to consider triathlon as one sport, not three individual sports.  Therefore, I have to train to be a triathlete, not a swimmer, cyclist and runner, and in keeping with that perspective, I now have to shift my training to be more time-based, not distance specifically. In the pool and on the bike, I am finding this easier, but running?  No so much.

The best I can do at this point, is hide my Garmin (or not wear it altogether) and, instead, just run to my stop watch.  If the schedule calls for two and a half hours, then so be it; three hours, let’s get ‘er done.  Who cares what the pace is or how much distance I’ve covered.  The challenge now is to simply go forward, not necessarily how fast I am doing it, or look while doing it for that matter.  Easier said than done though.  But, hopefully, I am successfully training my legs to deal with the rigors of running to the point of collapse and then, continue to push on.

“The Need for Speed…”

Posted: January 11, 2012 in Run
Tags: , ,

Sure, it was pretty awesome when Maverick used this on Goose before going all going all uber-hip on the runway and, yes, humans may have evolved to be ‘runners’ specifically, but I’ve said it once before and I’ll say it again: “this body was built for comfort not for speed.”

In fact, the only thing I typically liked to race for was the buffet line, but now I understand that speed workouts are something of a necessity, albeit not altogether pleasant, workout for triathletes.  Originally, I thought that the common understanding about conditioning oneself for events of the Ironman caliber that it’s primarily important to find and work on that sustainable pace which you can keep over long distances, but that notion doesn’t really help me while I’m sprinting around the track.  So why am I running these short quick paced laps anyway if I’m ultimately training to go long?

First of all, to get faster in triathlon, I need to understand that the basis behind faster run times is to increase the speed and efficiency at which my muscles will contract (greater neuro-muscular facilitation).  In essence, I need to be able to recruit all available muscle fibers to go faster.  Whether I’m training for a sprint tri of under an hour or for the Ironman, I still need speed and it is best to do some type of speed training throughout the week.  Speedwork can take precious seconds off your race times, but it can also cause injuries if done too soon, too fast, or too often.  To avoid these pitfalls, you need to first come up with a plan.  Luckily, I have access to a high school running track at the end of my street, so after a quick warm up jog (10 minutes or so) and after a quick landscaping to carefully remove all the frozen dog poo, I have the entire place to myself…well, except the usual stoners behind the bleachers who like to watch in muted fascination that is.  It’s just so much easier to use a running track as it’s easier to keep record of your distances and time, while not being slowed down or hindered by traffic, stop signs, other pedestrians, busy intersections, etc.  After all, a dead triathlete isn’t a very quick triathlete…am I right?

“Speedwork” is a structured workout that uses periods of pacing equal to, or faster than, your usual race pace, sandwiched between easier recovery periods.  This fast training simulates the physiological demands of race efforts, and serves as the ultimate tune-up for your race season.  When done properly, speedwork can improve anyone’s pace over any distance.  The idea is to stress your body just enough to invoke some adaptation to that stress, but not so much as to compromise recovery time between workouts.  Another name for speedwork that you may be familiar with is “Interval training”…which, in my experience, is more commonly regarded as swim or cycle training.  Regardless of what name you prefer, the workout entails repetitions of various predetermined distances with recovery periods based on heart rate or time.  Typical distances I use for my repeats or intervals are from 400m to 1600m for each repeat.  The rest periods are determined either by pulse (you wait for a pulse rate below about 70%  of your maximum) or by a predetermined amount of time…like one added easy lap around the track.  A warm-up and cool-down period is always part of the workout and the total distance running “at speed”  rarely exceeds 5 kilometers.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I recommend going out right now and running a fast-paced Interval session today just because I said so…hell no.  I mean, I appreciate your mindless enthusiasm and all, but don’t.  First, you need to have that plan I mentioned.  There is a certain amount of base preparation required for this type of speed training to be productive and non-destructive to your body’s tissues.  This preparation can only come with a minimum amount of easy mileage leading up to the intensity of the speedwork phase.  If you run consistently year round, at least four times per week, then your body has probably been toughened-up enough over the long term to deal with the rigors of speedwork.  However, if you’re anything like me and prefer to take a brief hiatus after your big race to indulge in all those culinary treats and treasures that you missed out on during the racing season, you will need to establish yourself back into a regular running routine before attempting additional speedwork.  It has therefore been recommended that runners who want to participate in track workouts run at least every other day for a minimum total mileage of 20-25km’s  per week.  This will usually also eliminate any severe soreness the next day as your muscles will have toughened up enough to handle the extra duress imposed on a fast-paced track workout.

Once you get going on these speed workouts, there are some pretty important gains to be made.  Physiologically speaking, maximum efficiency of any movement is achieved when each muscle group contracts at exactly the appropriate moment for application of force in the desired direction, and Lord knows you don’t want your muscles fighting you when you want to go forward.  So when opposing muscle groups contract simultaneously there still may be movement, but energy may be wasted during this process.  Training a muscle to contract with appropriate force at the desired moment requires an electrical impulse to be generated through our nervous system.  This CNS/muscular relationship can only be improved by repetition of the specific movement…hence, quick repeated Interval sessions as the relationship between nerve impulse and muscular contraction is intensified under the stress of relatively fast running.  It’s also obligatory to become as muscularly efficient as possible in order to gain speed when you’re near your maximum effort.  In a sense your body is being “forced” to greater efficiency of movement because it’s using all available power to propel itself.  Therefore during anaerobic efforts, any gains in speed must come from either an increase in power, greater ‘efficiency of movement’,  or both in unison.  Okay, now you might respond, “But I’ve been told (or read somewhere) that my form will fall apart when I train at high speeds.”   Sure, but this is true only if you push too hard, so that’s why you do intervals with breaks in between so you have time to regain our composure.  And, believe me; you will appreciate those short rest breaks.

There is also a pretty significant psychological aspect of speedwork as well, namely, the faster you run, the more lactic acid is produced by your body so being able to push through this discomfort is absolutely key for triathletes.  Lactic acid is the single most limiting factor that deters us from running even faster so when we subject ourselves to the burn of lactic acid repeatedly, we build-up a tolerance for the sensation.  This is what is known as “mental toughness”.  There is another popular thought as well that speed is perhaps more of an “addiction.”  It feels good to move really fast under our own power, so we crave more and more.  Personally, I call ‘horse shit’ on this notion.  Where I will admit that I feel pretty good and my confidence skyrockets after I see improvements with my over all lap times, the only “speed addiction”  I’m ever likely to experience will be behind the wheel of a luxury model Maserati, but I digress…

So, without further ado, here are a few random samplings of the recommended speedwork sessions for this 2012 training season as given to me by my coach (task master that she is).  They might not be fun, but I’m banking that they will help propel me to some respectable Half Marathon and Ironman run times come September.  Hey, when you’re as desperate and scared shitless as I am, you’re willing to try just about anything…even this whole “going fast”  shit.

Speed 1:

  • w/u: 10 minutes easy jog
  • 8 x 800m @ 10k race pace w/ 90 second recovery jog between intervals
  • w/d: 10 minutes easy jog

Speed 2:

  • w/u: 10 minutes easy jog
  • 400m @ 5k pace w/ 30 second rest
  • 800m @ 10k pace w/ 90 second rest
  • 1200m @ 10k pace w/ 120 second rest
  • 1600m @ 10k pace w/ 180 second rest
  • 1200m @ 10k pace w/ 120 second rest
  • 800m @ 10k pace w/ 90 second rest
  • 400m @ 5k pace
  • w/d: 10 minutes easy jog

Speed 3:

  • w/u: 10 minutes easy jog
  • 3 x (1200m @ 10k pace w/ 1 minute rest, 400m @ 5k race pace w/  3 minute rest)
  • w/d: 10 minutes easy jog

Speed 4:

  •  w/u: 10 minutes easy jog
  • 4 x 1600m @ 10k race pace w/ 3 minute recovery
  • w/d: 10 minutes easy jog


But, alas, there is yet another type of speedwork that comes highly recommended as well and for which I will also participate regularly.  This beast is known as the “Tempo Run”.

This is hands-down the least complicated variety of speedwork. There are no distances to keep track of, no split times to remember; no hassles at all really.  All you have to do is run faster than your usual training pace, somewhere right around your 10K race pace. Unlike most speedwork which consists of relatively short bursts of high effort, tempo runs call for a single sustained effort.  The result is that your body learns ‘race economy’:  running at a fast pace for relatively long periods of time.  Tempo runs will give your top speed a boost, too.  By running nearly at race pace, your body becomes accustomed to running close to its upper limit (though not exceeding it).  In doing so, you actually increase that upper limit, and you become gradually faster.

After your usual warm-up routine, run at your easy training pace for at least ten minutes.  Then pick up the pace.  As mentioned above, this speed should be right around your 10K race pace (around 80%-85%  of maximum heart rate, if you use a heart rate monitor).  The time, distance and pace of your tempo run, as with all phases of your running, depends on both your ability and your goals…for me, we’ve decided that the 10k distance is most optimal.  You don’t really have to worry too much about figuring out the exact distance of your tempo run though as it’s really not terribly important.  The one value of knowing how far you are running, though, is that you are able to gauge your improvement over time.  Still, this is easily done by doing most of your tempo runs on the same route.  You may not know the specific distance, but you can still compare your times for that same fixed route.  But, for whatever distance you do choose, find a pace that is not so fast that you cannot sustain it for the distance, but not so slow that you do not feel challenged toward the end.  Tempo runs should be tough, but not impossible.  Depending on how you feel on any given day, how much spring is in your legs, and how far you are running, your tempo pace may vary from session to session.  That’s fine…don’t panic…you don’t suck.  The consistency that really matters is the pace within each session, so try to keep your speed level up for the full length of each tempo run.

Usually, after my own tempo runs my heart is a-beating like a rabbit on crack.

Treadmills (Yay or Nay?)

Posted: December 6, 2011 in Run, Training
Tags: ,
  • Long(ish) Run (click to see stats)
  • 9.77k (48:59)
  • Avg. Heart Rate = 163bpm
  • Max. Heart Rate = 174 bpm
  • Avg. Pace = 5:01/km
  • Best Pace = 3:24 /km
  • Calories = 932
  • Temp = 5º (rainy)
  • SOTD: ‘One Sunday Morning’  by Wilco

I am just now beginning to seriously get back into running.  Yeah, sure it’s December but what can you do?  I enjoyed my time off but now it’s time to get serious and get back to business. Fortunately, the temperatures so far have been extremely warm for this time of season as, usually, by now there either is or has been snow on the ground.  Tonight, I have to deal with the rain instead.

As I’m getting all gussied up and getting ready to go out, I was confronted by other running buddies in the locker room who where taking the (much) easier route on running indoors on the treadmill instead.  So after the initial rounds of mocking and verbal volleys of ‘you’re crazy’, ‘…nuts’ and ‘…insane’, we parted ways for our respective workouts – they in their comfy shorts and dryfit t-shirts and I in my tights, fleece and blinky reflective vest.  I can honestly say that I did feel somewhat silly heading out into the cold rain where I could just stay indoors and run comfortably instead but I just can’t bear running on a treadmill.

Seriously, I’d rather put out a campfire with my face than endure another treadmill workout…but are treadmills really that bad?  After all, there has been an entire book written for treadmill training (Treadmill Training for Runners).  Some elite runners even embrace treadmills (*gasp*).  Both the male and female winners of the 2000 US Olympic Trials Marathons, Rod DeHaven and Christine Clark, were heavy treadmill users.  In fact, Clark, an Alaskan, did almost all of her training on a treadmill in her basement in preparation for the Olympic Trials.  So it’s obvious that treadmill training can be as effective as running outdoors…or can it?  But, still, that doesn’t make it any less boring in my mind.  And so I pondered the potential pros and cons of treadmills over the course of my very wet 10k route and this is what I came up with.


1.  Convenience.  One of the great things about running is that you can do it almost anywhere, anytime.  But there are situations in which outdoor running is impractical and treadmill running might be more preferable…like, when it’s -8º  in near whiteout conditions and the roadways are icy and treacherous.  Another example may be if you often run before the sun comes up, a treadmill can spare you from having to run in the dark and risk being taken out by some dipshit in a Dodge Caravan running late for his early conference call.

2. Controlled workouts.  Even when you can run outdoors, running on a treadmill may be preferable in certain circumstances (or so I’ve heard anyway).  For example, if you want to practice running at your goal pace before an upcoming race, you can take advantage of your ability to dial in a precise pace on the treadmill and use it to get your body and mind accustomed to holding that pace steadily, or practicing running at a higher cadence, whatever.  In fact, most aspects of the workout can be instantly controlled by the user: speed, incline, warm up period, cool down period, and energy spent.

3. Easier on the body.  With all the wear n’ tear that triathletes punish their bodies with, sometimes it’s nice to get a low-impact workout session in.  Running on a treadmill feels easier physically because the ground is being pulled underneath your feet and there’s no wind resistance where running outside demands more from your body because you’re propelling your body forward stride for stride. Treadmills are padded, making them a good option if you’re fatigued, overweight or are experiencing minor injuries (especially with knee issues) and want to decrease the overall impact temporarily. For the record, you can better simulate outdoor running by setting your treadmill at 1% incline…just sayin’.


1. May develop imbalances.  While running on a treadmill, you are no longer required to pull your body forward with the back of your legs. Your left foot lands, the treadmill drags it behind you and you land the right foot before the left gets dragged back too far. Essentially, you’re lifting the back foot forward then cushioning the impact with your knees without needing to pull the leg back (since the machine does that for you).  This ‘pull back phase’ is vital for good, well balanced running and regular treadmill sessions may be robbing your butt muscles and hamstrings of the muscular development they require to be a good over well balanced runner that you would otherwise get while running outside.

2. Lack of real world conditioning.  This is what I will otherwise refer to as “mental toughness”.  When you run on a treadmill, you are spared the hassle and inconvenience of dealing with such important nuances as terrain, wind, temperature and the elements…all vital things you will absolutely need to deal with come race day.  How will you react to running in the cold, or the rain, or against the wind if you’ve conditioned yourself to run in only tolerable nicey-nice conditions?  For me, this is the prime reason I run outside as, hey, race day is also like a box of chocolates, you just “never know what you’re gonna get”…so best be prepared.

3. Burns less calories.  Need I say more, chubs?

4. Scenery?  Treadmills are boooooooooooring at the best of times.  Sure, some may come equipped with a television or whatever but, really, how hard are you working out when you’re watching Cake Boss’  instead of doing your speed intervals?  No matter how much I try, there is nothing to be enjoyed about staring at my sweaty reflection in the window ahead of me for hours on end while running in place on a treadmill.  Perhaps other people don’t mind staring transfixed on their own image in a mirror, or whatever but, personally, I need the comfort of experiencing different routes, seasons, climate changes, etc, and let’s not forget about f-r-e-s-ha-i-r.  Having to breathe in the bodily stench of the Sasquatch running beside me for an hour is not my idea of a fun training run.  Hells no!

5. Less chance of quitting.  Once you’re out – you’re out.  The only way to get back is to haul ass and make it happen, unlike running on a treadmill where you just step off and press ‘Stop’.  Lord knows, I’ve had days where I felt like quitting but when you’re still 12k  from your destination, there’s really not much else to do but cinch up your apple sack and get moving.  I wonder how many runs I might have bunked off had I been on a treadmill instead?

6. Downhills?  Yeah, good luck with that on a treadmill.

So, while I leave the overall verdict to you, personally, I’m keeping up with my habit of running outdoors as often as humanly possible come rain, wind, sleet, snow, zombie uprising…what have you.  Besides, I also learned tonight that running outdoors – despite the sloppy conditions – isn’t nearly so bad when you have something positive to dial into mentally in order to make the time go by.

All Hans On Deck!

Posted: August 21, 2011 in Motivation, Training
Tags: , ,
  • (Long) Bike (click to see stats)
  • (Long) Brick Run (click to see stats)
  • 75.04k (2:33:08) – 13.65k (1:12:42)
  • Avg. Heart Rate = 142 bpm – 160 bpm
  • Max. Heart Rate = 172 bpm – 167 bpm
  • Avg. Speed/Pace = 29.5/kph – 05:19 min/km
  • Best Speed/Pace = 72.6/kph – 04:15 min/km
  • Calories = 4942
  • Temp = 25º
  • SOTD: ‘It’s the Sun’  by The Polyphonic Spree

Today was my last big mileage day of the season leading into the Cancun 70.3 challenge next month and I couldn’t be happier.  Not only to be temporarily finished with the regular Iron-distance weekend Bricks, but for the opportunity to relax a little over the next three weeks and indulge in a little more ‘Me Time’, so to speak.  So bring on the taper week, baby…sweet, sweet, taper week!

And this couldn’t have come at a better time either.  Physically, I am feeling strong and able; I’m now weighing in at 177 lbs; I’m able to run and bike faster and for longer periods; my swim is comfortable and in good form; and I’ve developed my core strength, flexibility and balance beyond anything it has ever been capable of before.  But, mentally, I’m a train wreck.  Perhaps it’s the recent bout of depression brought on by the loss of my buddy, or perhaps it’s the fact that I’ve just quit a 20 year addiction to marijuana.  Maybe it’s the unfulfillment I’m currently experiencing in my professional life or this lingering sense of loneliness I’m also dealing with in my personal life – I don’t rightly know, but it’s causing me endless stress.

Long story short – I’m scared.  Scared I’ve bitten off more than I can chew and I’m going to blow up and look the fool amongst a field of my peers on a world stage.  Scared I’m going to let down my family, my mom, my friends, my support team, my coach, as well as myself.  Yeah, that’s it, I’m definitely scared.  Maybe it’s sign of overtraining, but I’m also figuring that this is simply a normal part of the process that most triathletes go through prior to their big day.  So I’m persevering and doing my best to, well…maintain.

And so begins today’s last Brick workout.

Our usual long group ride was called off on account of poor weather this morning, but come hell or high water (which was a definite possibility) I was determined to finish my last peak training week on the books.  Luckily, a few of the other riders either felt the same way, or missed the email altogether, and so a small group of four headed out from the Starbucks parking lot on Fourth Ave. at exactly 7:00am as we always do.  Among these riders was Hans Porten, and rounding out the group was his son Sebastian, as well as another member of out group Doug, both accomplished athletes in their own right (Doug is preparing for his own Ironman adventure next month).

Hans is a recent qualifier for Kona in the Mens 55-59  Age Group category.  What a treat!  How often do you get the chance to ride with a certifiable Ironman?  Hans finished Ironman Austria with an amazing overall time of 9:49:37 (click here  for his staggering finishing results); finishing first among a field of 58 other age group triathletes.  Holy shit!  Did you see those splits?!  No pressure here, right?  If ever I’ve had an “I’m not worthy”  moment – this was it.

But besides being an extremely humble and personable fellow, with a smile that would light up a Black Hole, Hans is a true ambassador to the sport and I immediately liked him immensely.  I learned that we had given ourselves similar 5 year goals in life, and where he is at the cusp of completing his; I am just at the beginning of mine.  So over the course of our ride, complete with challenging climbs, technical descents, and straight away tempo riding, I listened astutely to all the pearls of wisdom that dropped from his mouth like the beads of sweat from under my cycling helmet while my hamstrings burned with the intensity of a thousand suns.  I made a mental note of his “conserve, conserve, conserve”  philosophy of enduring long distance triathlon, as I did about his own personal training strategies.  I found solace in listening about his past challenges in dealing with heat and humidity as well as all of the other bumps and hairpin turns in the road that are still out there waiting for me, no doubt.  In short, over the course of a very fast 75k bike ride, I regained back a little of that confidence that I’d lost somewhere and realized that this whole being scared thing is not such the big deal I’ve made it out to be in my head.

So no matter what happens come September, I’ll be proud of my efforts and I’m thankful for the opportunity to simply be able to compete.  After all, as of only a short three years ago, this whole ‘Ironman’ man thing was just a pipe dream…quite literally.  But now, maybe – just maybe – Kona might not be such a far off possibility in my own future.  And that’s all the strength I need…for now.

In the meantime, I am equally excited to follow Hans’ own Ironman adventure at the Ford Ironman World Championships in Kona, come October.

What else is there to say?  Kill it, Hans!