Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Training v. Working Out

There are many differences between working out and training.  One of those differences was made very clear to me this past week.  Working has to fit into your schedule.  Training requires adjusting your schedule, within reason, to work towards your goals.

This past week I have been on Maui with my family.  It also coincides with the beginning of my 24 week build for Ironman Wisconsin.  I knew I was going to have trouble getting in the bikes but I wasn't too worried about that.

Monday was to be my first day of training.  Sunday night the family decided they wanted to do the road to Hana on Monday.  I knew I could get in one workout before leaving.  I also knew that I wouldn't feel like working out after being in the car all day.   So after the kids were in bed Sunday I went down to the pool and cranked out my first training session a day early.  The next day I got up before everyone and got my run in.

Tuesday I went back and biked a good portion of the road to Hana with a group ride put on by Go Cycling Maui.  Donnie has a great shop and he and the support crew were awesome.  The Litespeed bikes are nice.  If you're going to Maui, bring your shoes and pedals and Donnie will supply the rest - including Heed, Endurolytes, Gels, bars and peanut filled pretzels which may have never tasted so good.  We did 4500 feet of elevation in 40 beautiful miles.  You can also ride to the top of Haleakala - 10,000+ feet of vertical.  Despite how terrible this picture of me is, I had a blast.  You can make out part of the road on the cliff above my head.

I'll have to work my training around the family surfing lesson on Thursday.  Sacrifices, sacrifices.  Aloha!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Realistic Assessment and Plan is Key

"No battle plan survives contact with the enemy."  Colin Powell

This is often true of race plans as well.  With races the enemy may be the weather or other external forces.  Usually the real enemy of executing a race plan is the athlete's failure to follow the plan.  I have been that athlete before.  I have discarded race plans in the first 100 meters of a race and paid dearly for it.

I have also, on the  rare occasion, put together the right plan and followed it to great personal success. (Note the success was personal.  It didn't necessarily translate to the podium.)

The first key is to have the right plan.  This past weekend I ran in the Get Lucky 7k here in Minneapolis.  It's an odd distance that I've never raced before.  My training of late has been improving, but when you are starting from less than zero there's no where to go but up.  The two runs leading up to the race were awful slogfests.  Not encouraging.

I was concerned that I might crash and burn after the third mile.  I needed a plan.  I decided to go out VERY conservatively and try to build my effort throughout the race.  This would be the exact opposite of my Thanksgiving race in which I overestimated my fitness and went out too fast.

The second key is to actually follow the plan.  I placed myself well behind my goal pace in the start.  I figured the crowd would help hold me back.  I knew I would pick my way through the other runners at the beginning, but I'm better off doing that among the 10:30 min/mile crowd than the 8:30 min/milers.   I resisted the temptation to follow some other runners through the crowd.

With each kilometer I felt stronger and was able to pick up the pace.  By the midway point I was steadily passing runners who had gone out too fast.  I ended up averaging 10 seconds/mile better than I had anticipated.  Don't get me wrong, I was still slow, but I knew I was going to be.

Having realistically assessed my current fitness level I was able to set an appropriate goal and develop a plan to get there.  A coach can really help the athlete by providing an objective analysis of fitness, setting realistic goals, and developing the right race day plan.  The coach also holds the athlete accountable if the athlete abandons the plan.  That being said, there are times when you've got to toss that plan right out the window.  We'll talk about a few of those in the next entry.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Some Lessons Need to Be Relearned

Heading back onto the roads after a winter of riding (or not riding) on the trainer is always a bit eye opening.  This past week was gorgeous here in the Twin Cities.  I converted my Guru from trainer machine to road rocket (well something like that).  I went out for an hour and a half.  Here's what I discovered:

I don't drink enough without my aerobar hydration system.  When you're out in the wind and it's 55 degrees you don't have the same physical cues to drink that you have on the trainer i.e. the pool of sweat on the floor.  You also having to navigate traffic, potholes, and sand dunes leftover from the winter road treatment.  Those factors reduce the likelihood that I'll reach down and grab my bottle.

The end result was that for the rest of the day I was totally wiped out.  Spent a great deal of time trying to rehydrate.  I won't make that mistake again.  Well, at least not until next year.  The next time I head out on the road I'll have my Profile Design aero bottle in place and topped off.

The weather has returned to normal so it may be a while before I get out on the roads again.  When you do ride safe and drink plenty of fluids. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Group Training Does Have Benefits Though

While it's true that there are some hazards to joining a group for training (as I pointed out yesterday), the benefits vastly outweigh the risks.  This is particularly true if you verify the training plan and have the strength of will to let the group go on without you when the training doesn't match with your goals.

Here are just a few of the benefits:

There have been periodic reports of lone cyclists being attacked on bike paths here in Minneapolis - particularly at night.  Being in a group, whether on foot or on bikes, makes you a much less opportune target wherever you are.

You are much more likely to roll out of bed before the sun is up when you know your group (even if it's just one other person) is going to be there waiting for you.  The excuses for not working out we tell ourselves often don't hold up when they have to be given to a training partner.  The group can also help you get through any rough patches during your run.

Improved Performance
For those training sessions where you are trying to push the pace or distance, having a little competition can give you that little extra needed.  Just be sure you don't over reach and end up injuring yourself.

It's been pointed out to me (thanks Shaun) that group runs at conferences are great opportunities to network.  This is true not just at conferences.  Find a group at work that runs during lunch or before/after work.  Connecting with your boss (or your boss's boss)  outside the workplace is a wise career move.   Group training is also a great way to connect with others socially.  Everyone in the group has at least one thing in common.

The bottom line is find a group or training buddy and get out there.  Many local running shoe stores offer free training groups.  They usually have multiple groups at different paces/distances.  Do a little research and get in the right group.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Beware of the Group Run

We are taught from an early age that there is safety in numbers.  Use the buddy system.  Don't go out alone.  Well I'm here to tell you that isn't always the case.

This past weekend I was invited to join a group for a Sunday morning run.  I knew the groups pace would be fine (although this is one of the primary dangers in group training).  What I didn't know was that I would end up covering 50% more distance than I planned.  We were running along the river and had to make a choice to either turn around or continue until we got to the next bridge.  Most everyone prefers a loop to an out and back.  We thought it might add an extra mile or so.  Turns out it added over 2.5 miles.  Oops.

Some people can't run on their own or at least don't like to.  I'll be the first to admit that having others around makes the miles fly by (even when you aren't really flying).  The problem is you have to relinquish a certain amount of control to join the group.  Verify the plans for the run: the planned pace, the planned route. Only join the group if the plans match with your training.

I got lucky.  The added mileage didn't push me over the edge.  With a full day of rest I should be able to pick right back up with my training.  If the added mileage had been combined with a pace above my capabilities  I would not have been so lucky.

Be careful out there!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Real Pain in the . . . Foot

Last week I swam before yoga.  We started class in extended child's pose.  If you're unfamiliar with yoga you basically kneel with you knees wide and then go forward with your forehead on the mat.  I had just settled in when it struck me - it was like my right foot was in a vice.  I kept having to straighten my foot out to keep the arch from cramping.  Arrgh!  It's hard to get your zen on when you have to keep readjusting and coming out of the pose.

Later that week I was talking to a TFI athlete and he mentioned that he keeps getting foot cramps as well.  Most of us have heard the old standard - eat bananas and drink more.   I decided there must be more scientific advice.  So I started digging into the latest cramp research.  Turns out there really isn't any more scientific advice.  This is what I found.

Causes of Cramps
According to the American Academy of Osteopaedic Surgeons the exact cause of cramps is idiopathic.  That's fancy doctor talk for "we don't have a clue" why it occurs.  I recognize it because I'm married to a doctor.  They note that endurance athletes are susceptible to getting muscle cramps, particularly at the beginning of the season when the body isn't conditioned for the stresses of training.  Hey, that sounds like me - endurance athlete, deconditioned, starting back up.  Factors that contribute to the onset of cramps:

  • Muscle fatigue
  • Lack of stretching
  • Dehydration
  • Electrolyte Depletion
Maybe there is something to that drink more and eat bananas advice.

The good doctors at the Mayo Clinic recommend stretching and massage to alleviate cramps.  Apply heat to tense muscles and cold to sore/tender muscles.

Cramps can be the result of serious medical conditions so if you experience severe or persistent cramps you should see your physician.

In the interim, drink more and eat bananas.  Sometimes I guess "they" are right.