Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vary Your Pace to Improve Swim and Bike Performance

When you head to the pool do you swim countless laps at the same pace?  Does the length of your ride dictate how fast you go?  One speed for your midweek one hour ride and a slightly reduced speed for your long weekend ride?  Mix it up for improved performance. 
Many triathletes come from a running background.  They are comfortable with speed work such as tempo runs, fartleks and strides.
 If you are unfamiliar with those terms,  a tempo run includes a warmup, a sub-threshold portion and a cool down.  Sub-threshold pace is usually around 30 seconds per mile slower than your 5k pace.  Fartlek literally means "speed play" in Swedish.  A fartlek consists of alternating intervals of fast running (10k pace or faster) and easy running or walking.  Strides involve relaxed sprints for short periods of time sprinkled throughout a training run.
This speed work provides higher aerobic fitness and improved running efficiency.   Most of us know this.
Yet, we swim lap after lap at the same pace.  Pedaling mile after mile in the upper- middle area of our aerobic zone.  We're all comfortable there in the dreaded grey zone.  When we are done, we feel like we put in a good workout, but didn't really suffer.
Here are a couple of ways to include some speed in your swimming:  Following your basic endurance sets (100s, 200s, 500s,  include some 25s or 50s at maximum speed with 20 to 40 second recoveries.  It's like lifting weights in the pool.
You can also replace your basic endurance sets with fartlek sets.  Either alternate fast and slow laps, or slowly build your speed over some laps and then back down your pace.
Adding speed to cycling is even more fun -especially in a group setting.  Rather than spinning along in your group, institute some "telephone pole sprints."   As in, "race you to the third telephone pole."  Drop the hammer on your buddies.  Recover for a couple of minutes and do it all over again.   You can also do this on your own, but it's definitely more fun when you are pushed by others.
When you are on your own, you can add some speed with a tempo ride.  Warmup with around 15 minutes of easy spinning.  Be sure to include some short bursts of higher effort (around 30 seconds).  Increase your effort to near race pace (sprint or olympic distance).  Hold this effort for 20 minutes or break it into 2 x 10 minute blocks with 2-4 minutes of recovery in between.  Finish up with 15 minutes of spinning.
By including some speed work in your swimming and cycling, you will improve your race performance.  Variety also makes training more fun. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Fun with Fauna (or beware of the angry goose)

When running and biking (and occasionally swimming) in the Twin Cities, we often encounter wildlife.  It's usually one of the benefits of being out early or late in the day.  Sometimes it's a nuisance (goose poop on the trail).  Other times, it's downright dangerous.

Last spring when I was training for IM CDA, I turned a corner (one that's on the Minneman Triathlon route) and found myself bearing down on a black bear.  Though I wasn't in any real danger, if I had been going faster I might have had to hit the ditch or the bear.  Neither option is very appealing.

I've also been sprayed indirectly by a skunk while doing a 20 mile run before my first marathon. That was about 3 miles in.  The next 17 miles were not all that fun.

This past Sunday was a gorgeous day for a run.  I did a 90 minute run on a paved trail that ran next to a fairly busy road.  Less than ideal but it was where I needed to be to fit the run into my day.  Normally the only danger I would feel would be from inattentive motorists (or more likely cyclists on the trail).

As the trail approached a retention pond I noticed two geese close to the edge of the trail.  One goose was eyeing me warily.  As I got closer I moved to the far edge of the trail.  The goose lowered it's head and started hissing.  That's a lot like a bull in a movie stamping its foot before it charges.  I had visions of getting arrested for drop kicking a 30 pound goose.  I yelled "HEY" which gave it pause as I moved away without getting pecked.  I've seen marks on other runners from geese.

The worst part wast that I was on an out and back so I knew I'd have to cross that grouchy goose on the way back.  Those things smell fear, I swear it.  Fortunately they had moved on.

Surely some of you have had encounters with wildlife.  Share your story as comments below.  Be sure to provide an email address.  I'll contact you about sending you a free TFI running cap.

Be careful out there!

Monday, May 3, 2010

TFI Athletes Rock Ironman 70.3 Texas (and Sprint)

Mike O. and Ang O. competed in Galveston last month.

Mike was attempting his first 70.3.  We had spent a great deal of time putting a race plan into place.  Both the bike and the run at Galveston are  pancake flat.  The wind can be an issue on the out and back bike. It's important to focus on your effort level not your speed - especially when heading into the wind.

 Sunday the wind was in Mike's face on the way out.  he watched his heart rate and kept his effort within the planned range.  He got off the bike feeling strong.  His first 8.5 miles on the run were all consistent.  It was a bit of a struggle over the last miles in no small part due to a hiccup with his nutrition on the bike.

This race served two purposes for Mike.  1) get a 70.3 race under his belt to build confidence for IMWI. 2) test his nutrition and pacing for a longer race.  Check and check.

Angie had a perfect race (perfect because her first open water swim was canceled due to high winds).  She tore up the bike with a new PR and felt strong on the run.

The highlight of the weekend though for Angie was talking with pro Andy Potts.

All in all a great start to racing for TFI athletes!