Posts Tagged ‘Tips’

Bang the Drum Slowly

Posted: October 17, 2016 in Injuries and Owies, Swim
Tags: , ,

I get that injuries and ouchies are a part of triathlon.  I get it.  Really I do.  I have an entire category dedicated to them in this blog alone (click HERE).  But worse than the stupid self-inflicted injuries that come of my either doing too much, or doing it too soon, or just my being a dumbass, whatever, are those injuries that I unfortunately incur at the hands of someone else; another dumbass, if you will.

Those injuries, well, they tend to really bug me.

I have recently fallen to one of these types of ouchies which is now threatening to set back my regular swim training.

It began about two weeks ago when after one of my pool workouts, my right ear became plugged with water.  This in and of itself, is nothing to freak out about and I have long become accustomed to it happening periodically.  I figure that when one tends to spend stupid amounts of time submerged in contained bodies of water it’s bound to happen eventually – and it does.  What typically happens then is that a day or two will go by before that little pocket of water in my ear shifts and drains out my ear canal in a teny tsunami of warm fluid which, truthfully, feels awesome.  I figure most swimmers will liken this to a total “eargasm”.  Once this happens, usually after we’ve been lying down on that blocked side for a spell, all is right with the world again.

Sometimes, however, that blockage is a bit more stubborn and simply refuses to give up its stored up bounty of fluid – this is what is referred to as “Swimmers Ear”, or acute otitis externa.  This is highly annoying and exactly the case I found myself in exactly one week after that original blockage.  The symptoms can stem from echoing, itching or clogged feeling in the ear – and lots of discomfort (often a signal of an inflammation of the skin within the ear canal that occurs when water gets trapped there).

I my case it was “all of the above”.

Of course, I could have been doing lots of stuff during that week to be proactive (click HERE) but, as I’ve stated before, I’m a dumbass, and often when the opportunity to be smart and act accordingly comes along, I tend to fold like a Renaissance triptych.  I figured it would just unblock itself eventually.

It didn’t, and so a week later, on a Thursday morning, bright and early, I got up at 6:00am, poured myself a coffee, grabbed my book and headed to the local Urgent Care to have tie issue, hopefully, sorted out.

After about two hours, I was met with by the attending physician in an examination room who proceeded to attempt to flush out the blockage with a syringe full of warm water; not an altogether pleasant experience, believe me.  What he was trying to do was wash out a build-up of excessive wax that had gathered in my ear naturally, as protection against moisture and infection.

In this case, though, my bodies wax manufacturing system was working on overdrive and had instead build it up to the point that it was not allowing what water that did manage to breach its defenses, back out again.  I guess when it comes to wax manufacturing, by body runs with the efficiency of a Japanese auto factory.

What came out of my right ear as a result of the doctor’s “syringing” looked like something you might place on top of a birthday cake and light except, well, much nastier.  Almost immediately afterwards, I was rewarded with that warm gush of fluid out my ear and – low and behold – I could hear normally again.

Winning.

But then it all went horribly wrong and downward spiraled into a total Yakov Smirnoff opening for the Spin Doctor’s at the Iowa State Fair-like shit show.

You see, we decided that, hey, we may as well do the other ear while we’re at it.  After all, if one side is totally gummed up with wax then the other side can’t be too far off, right?  So we opted to give my left ear the same working over with another syringeful of water.

Unfortunately, this did not go as smooth as the other ear.  Within seconds of blasting the water into my ear I experienced an intense pain that was on my Top 5 of all-time painful moments.  Ladies and gentlemen, over the course of my life I have shot an arrow through my hand, subjected myself to being tattooed (click HERE) and endured being kicked square in the Charlie Brown’s by a scorned Eva Roditis on the schoolyard playground back in Grade 3, and this pain was definitely worse than any of those.

Much worse!

If the pain wasn’t enough, hearing (well, barely hearing the doctor that is) the doctor mumble “uh oh” definitely didn’t help matters any.  I definitely felt warm fluid coming out my ear but, but this fluid ended up not being water or another wax build-up, but blood…lots and lots of blood.

“I think I just perforated your ear drum”, he says casually.

FML.

Not winning.

A ruptured eardrum is a small tear in the thin membrane that separates your outer ear from your inner ear.  That membrane, known as the tympanic membrane, is made of tissue that resembles skin.  The eardrum serves two important functions in your ear.  It senses vibrating sound waves and converts the vibration into nerve impulses that convey the sound to your brain.  It also protects the middle ear from bacteria as well as water and foreign objects.  Normally, the middle ear is sterile, but when the eardrum is ruptured, bacteria can get into the middle ear and cause an infection known as otitis media.

Yay.

The doctor then informed me that I wouldn’t be able to swim for at least a week.  Shit sticks!  Furthermore, I would also undergo injecting four drops of antibiotics (which, as an interesting side-note here, my loving wife would place under her boob to warm up for me prior to dropping them in my ear – meaning my drops would now become affectionately known as “mommies boob juice” – how emasculating is that for an aspiring Ironman swimmer?) into my ear every morning and evening and then see my family doctor for clearance before getting back in the pool.

FML x 2.

Anyway, another week goes by of being injected twice daily with “boob juice” and I’m back at my family doctor’s (yesterday) to learn that a) there’s still wax in both ears, b) my ear drum is likely not healed yet, and c) I still can’t swim for approximately another two weeks.

FML x 3.

Needless to say I’m pretty discouraged at this point and now looking for viable options to protect my ear temporarily while it heals so I can at least get back in the pool, meaning, I need ear plugs.

Yay, again.

Remember this idiot (click HERE)?

petal-swim-cap-multi-retro-flower-bathing-cap_1

Yeah, I just took another colossus step to becoming them.

Not really knowing anything about ear plugs, I stopped by the local pharmacy to see what options were available.  In fact, there was a whole cornucopia of options; an entire rackful located inside an entire aisle of ear and hearing-related products.  It was like the pharmaceutical equivalent of a “Turducken“.  Who knew there was such a profound market for ear plugs?  But then again, come to think of it, my grandma probably kept her local pharmacist driving around in a Rolls Royce for the last 10 years of her life given how much stuff she had crammed into her ears on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, none looked very promising.  Most were either the variety used for noise protection, sleeping, or as my grandma used to claim, “keeping the wind out of my ears”.   I’m pretty sure one was just a little baggie of candy corn.  However, there was this one waterproof variety of which I was still a bit skeptical:

They’re essentially little wads of soft, tacky silicon that you warm up by rolling in the palm of your hand and then stuffing into your ear to create a waterproof seal.

Like so:

img_1031

I was dubious but I gave it a shot (at home) anyway and, honestly, it felt like I had just stuffed a Gummy Bear into my ear.  Likewise, I was doubtful that they would ever really stay in place in the water and, even then, they were only for a single use only.  Needless to say, I didn’t feel safe actually testing these things in the water so they were more or less tossed into the bottomless abyss of shit under my bathroom sink.

Then I found these TYR molded ear plugs at Team Aquatics in Burlington.  Besides being manufactured by a recognized swim equipment brand name, they weren’t the disposable variety. Instead they were marketed as “long lasting silicone” plugs made for swimmers, by swimmers.

img_1034

These definitely looked more promising.

Among the other benefits listed on the package was “allows hearing during use”.  I like hearing stuff when I swim, so this was a definitely bonus.  I couldn’t hear shit with the other soft silicon Gummy Bear variety in my ears.

However, they were a little more complicated to insert as opposed to just cramming a wad of silicon into your ear.

From the instructions:

“Top straight edge of the ear plug core should be in a perpendicular line with the face.  Outer rim fits into the hollow depression behind the ear canal.”

Umm, okay.

Who knew shoving soothing into your ear could be so difficult?

But then again, the instructions did also add:

“DO NOT PUSH THE EARPLUG SO FAR INTO THE EAR THAT YOU’RE UNABLE TO GET IT OUT.”

Gee, thanks.

Anyway, with a little twisting and prodding I did manage to maneuver them into what I think was the proper “perpendicular line (my) face” :

img_1035

And – get this – I could still hear fairly well.

Cool!

For good measure then, I also threw a swim cap on which I never really wear in the pool just to help keep them in place (hey, I already have plugs in my ears to I might as well go whole hog and look the part of the total swim geek) and entered the pool to give them a trial run (swim?).

Upon my first few laps they felt pretty comfortable actually.  However, that “allows hearing” thing went right out the window as everything sounded more, well, in utero I guess…which, truthfully, was very relaxing.  Maybe it was just because I also couldn’t hear the Ariana Grande bullshit they were playing on the pool deck between strokes anymore, whatever, it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.

I was a bit worried that maybe they weren’t completely watertight and that water was now leaking into the gaping hole of my tympanic membrane and I – unbeknownst to me – going deaf with each additional stroke so I kept my swim short to a few drills only (1300m).

Upon finishing, I unstuck the earplugs and everything immediately returned to blissful normality; no muting, no sloshing around in the ear, no nothing.

Beautiful!

Besides making me look like a total swim pussy, the plugs had done their job and held tight in preventing water from entering into my ear, meaning, that I can now get back to my usual weekly swim workouts while my ear drum continues to heal for another week or so.

Back to ‘winning’ again!

Oh, and what does the remainder of this “healing” process look like?  Well, absolutely nothing for the next 10 days while the membrane rebuilds itself and then I have start adding basic cooking oil into my ears to begin loosening up whatever wax that might still be lingering around in my ear.   Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Yeah.

Not so much.

Thankfully it’s not forever.

(edited:  10/19/16)

So after Sunday’s “trial swim” I was up early and in the pool at 6:30am ready to get my swim on.  Unfortunately, after the first 300m or so, one of the war plugs slipped out and, yeah, nowhere to be found, meaning that I was now forced to abandon my planned workout and doing a stupid amount of kicking drills instead so I could keep my head above water.

And you just know how I love  my kicking drills!

After informing the lifeguard what had happened, she put out the APB to all the other bobbers and floaters in the pool.  Basically, the whole pool was not on Amber Alert for my missing plug.

After 20 minutes or so, they were found by an old lady…four lanes over…on the opposite of the pool…on the bottom.

So much for “floats in water”.

Thanks, TYR.  Great job there.

NOT!

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

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

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

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

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

Good to go.

1

Wrong.

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

Because I’m a total idiot, apparently.

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

Here:

2

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

Makes sense, right?

 Let’s review:

3

Now, here’s the critical part.

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

WIPE IT OFF.

Yes, wipe it off.

hioly shit!

I know.  It blew my mind too.

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

Just ask Kelly.

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

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

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

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

Happy riding.

Swim Goggle Showdown

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

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

Shit!

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

See what a clever monkey I am?

IMG_0739

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

That’s almost $70.00!

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

Fuck that.

Sorry, Tri-Boutique.

See ya.

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

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

Shit x 2.

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

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

Today I tested those new Speedo’s.

Fit:

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

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

Visibility:

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

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

Look:

TYR:

TYR

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

Speedo:

Speedo

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

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

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

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

Yay.

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

I can be a bit slow on the uptake.

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

 –

Needless to say I wasn’t impressed.

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

Yeah.

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

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

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

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

Okay, so “easier” you say?

I’m listening.

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

So, it minimizes injury too?

Go on.

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

So I’m even less fatigued?

Fuck, yeah!

WINNING!

So how does one improve their cadence then?

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

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

Fucked if I know.

I failed math.

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

Good for me.

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

But stuck with it I did.

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

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

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

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

It’s on.

The Lost Art of Fartlek

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

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

fartlekelf-e1411671909499Well, most of the time.

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

So what is a fartlek officially, right?

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

Simple.

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

So why now then?

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

Besides making me suffer that is…

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

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

GO ME!

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

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

Fartlek #1:

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

Fartlek #2:

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

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

I promised you (click HERE) I would return with more unique Christmas shopping ideas for your triathlete and, true to my word, I’m back and here they are:

Circle Bike

It’s safe to say that all triathletes will experience “bike envy” from time to time, so who wouldn’t want to be seen rolling up in this $13,000 badass motorized monocycle? C’mon, they’d inevitably feel like General Grievous riding up on Obi-Wan Kenobi in ‘Revenge of the Sith’ (click HERE) and who wouldn’t to feel that fucking cool showing up to a triathlon on one of these things? This would earn you more than enough style points for the year, believe me.

Fit Desk

Work is a necessary evil sometimes but that doesn’t also necessarily mean you have to sacrifice your workouts either while you’re chained to your desk. No, sir! Not with this amazing ‘FitDesk’, a healthy alternative to a traditional desk and chair which combines a lightweight folding exercise bike and sliding desk platform you can use with a laptop, book, or whatever it is you happen to working on to pay the bills (like your next monthly credit card statement, for example). Nope. Now you can be reaping the cardiovascular benefits of a spin class while you’re working on your next PowerPoint presentation.

Potato Chips

If your triathlete is anything like me, they compete to eat. In other words, what’s the point of working out if you also can’t enjoy the culinary benefits of, say, potato chips? A life without potato chips isn’t a world worth living after all, so just imagine the look of pure excitement when they discover this ‘Healthiest Potato Chip Maker’ under the tree Christmas morning. Now your triathlete can indulge in their salty pleasure guilt free knowing their post-workout treat also has a reduced fat content and less calories than the typical store bought variety. You’ll instantly be elevated to a Saint status in their eyes – trust me.

Ear Warmer

Winter is practically on our doorstep and along with it, the cold, potential hypothermia and, of course, frostbite, so a pair of ‘Insulated Ear Warmer Headphones’ would be a very welcome piece of equipment in your triathlete’s cold weather arsenal. Sure, it means having electronic equipment situated right next to your brain pan but, hey, you also get to listen music and talk on your cell phone without also having to expose yourself to the subzero temperatures during their long runs. I mean, the fact that they’re running long through the brutal winter chill in the first place means they already have a screw loose somewhere, so it’s not like a few more missing brain cells is going to cost them a Pulitzer at this point, is it?

Cold Mask

And speaking of winter runs, there’s nothing worse that frostbite to the face so I anticipate that this ‘Subzero Warm Breath Mask’ will also be well-received under the Christmas tree as well. This fleece mask preferred by high-altitude mountaineers and Antarctic scientists because it humidifies and warms winter air for comfortable breathing. Plus, it kinda makes them look like Bain from ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (click HERE), so there is definitely an added cool factor involved as well.

Unicycle

No doubt, your triathlete will inevitably spend more than a few hours at home spinning endlessly on their trainer so why not add an element of fun t these sessions with the ‘Self Balancing Electric Unicycle’. Yes, this briefcase-sized electric unicycle is bound to provide hours of fun in the off season by keeping your triathlete perfectly balanced at all times with the use of gyroscopic sensors. Yeah, that’s right, gyroscopic sensors…what triathlete wouldn’t dig on that?

Boom Box

Prior to competition, many triathletes will try to ‘pump’ themselves up with whatever inspirational music jacks them up. Shit, most triathlon transition knapsacks come with a special rubberized slot through which to feed your iPod headphone cord just for this purpose. But why limit yourself to just your iPod? Why not roll into transition in complete style with this ‘Mobile Blastmaster’? Built onto a steel chassis that rolls on four 10” diameter pneumatic tires, your triathlete can simply pull this portable party by its wagon handle directly into transition with them. Coolness will inevitable ensue.

Bike Lane

Bike lanes are big (and important) issue amongst cyclists; and for good reason too. So how perfect is this: the ‘Cyclists Virtual Safety Lane’? This amazing device mounts onto any bicycle’s seat post and projects two 5-milliwat red lasers onto the ground; and BAM!, instant bike lane that provides motorists with a visual indicator of your cyclist’s presence. Think of it as an investment in your triathlete’s safety.

Shoe Rack

Personally, I find transition confusing as fuck what with all the pairs of shoes, race belt, assorted swim and bike shit, nutrition, etc. and I will inevitably miss something crucial. Never fails. I’m sure I’m not alone. But image being able to compartmentalize all your triathlon shit in transition and keep things organized with this ‘Configurable Cubic Shoe Rack’. Able to store up to 32 pairs of shoes, this rack provides more than enough space to store all your necessary swim, bike and run equipment. No more will they ever misplace or forget anything important and, thereby, end up with the perfect race experience.

Strength Reel

Triathlete’s are always looking for the perfect strength-building plan in the off season, the ‘ideal workout’ if you will. And not since the Tug Toner has there been a perfectly adaptable handheld aerobic workout for the upper body than this ‘Upper Body Aerobic Exerciser’. Endorsed by the American Physical Therapy Association (yes, there’s such a thing) for its portability and adaptability, it promotes strength, increased endurance (important in the swim), an increased calorie burn rate, and the ability to reel in the clean laundry from the clothes line in breakneck speed. Consider it a win-win for everybody.