Thursday, December 20, 2007

Why Tri?: A New Series

Endurance Planet 9-18-07: "The New Brand on the Block"

I've been pondering this question ever since I first posted on it: why tri? Why do we subject our bodies to such extreme conditions? Why do we ride/run/swim for hours at a time? Why do we scrutinize our eating and sleeping habits?

Hala Bissada gets at one possible reason in this interview (beginning around 1:50)
"After finishing my first race, practically being the last one across the finish line, there was a sense of pride and accomplishment . . . I thought I was gonna be all emotional and crying when I crossed the finish line . . . it was an awesome experience . . . It really helped me with my self-esteem, like I said, the sense of accomplishment--a sense of looking physically fit and feeling good about myself, from that perspective . . ."

I'm not quite ready to post an extended piece on my personal reasons for pursuing triathlon, but Hala Bissada gets at a lot of it.

We tri because it makes us feel totally bad-ass.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Spinning Workout 21 - Building Cadence

Since it takes so long to record each podcast episode, I've decided to start publishing my workout playlist with instructions here and on itunes (you can find Spinning Workout 21 as an imix on itunes, also). This way you won't have someone telling you what to do and when, but you'll at least have access to the music and the workouts.

Spinning Workout 21 - Building Cadence
Match cadence to song BPM throughout
The Tide is High (4:42): Pre-workout
One Way or Another (3:29)--81 BPM: Warm up
The Breaks (3:23)--90 BPM: Work form, establish baseline effort
Paper Thin Hymn (3:15)--92 BPM: Fast, short climbs
I Am the Man (3:58)--96 BPM: High effort TT
We Float (6:08)--98 BPM: Quick effort with bursts of high power, 1/2 cadence
Nikita (4:42)--105 BPM: TT
Heart of Glass (3:38)--110 BPM: Jumps at: 2nd verse, 3rd verse, last verse
Stupid Girl (4:19)--118 BPM: High intensity TT
Playgirl (3:51)--120 BPM: TT with standing intervals
Inside of Me (3:42)--132 BPM: TT, faster than tempo if possible; add an extra kick 30 seconds from the end
Sayonara Senorita (4:11)--126 BPM: Cool down
Time of Your Song (4:26): Stretch/post-workout
Kissy Kissy (5:02): Post-workout

One of the greatest things about spinning bikes is that you can spin your legs much faster with a flywheel than on a regular bike. This workout uses that advantage to train mental toughness (believe me, doing 132 RPM for three and a half minutes will be tough) and neuromuscular speed. By the last song, your legs will be going at near-sprint speed. This is also a perfect base building workout, because most of the songs keep you at an aerobic level, while the last few songs should push you over the top into Zone 4.

I will also still publish my workouts as podcasts; it'll just take a while.

Looking for more workouts? Go here!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Get Out!

Although I feel sort of guilty about it, having read Gale Bernhardt's blog about mountain biking in sub-freezing temperatures on snow- and ice-packed roads, Coach Jenny has really made my week.

I wouldn't consider myself that wimpy about running outdoors in the winter . . . I did a short trail run last weekend when the temps were in the mid-30s and it was lightly raining. And I ran back from my poor, be-ditched car yesterday on an ice-packed (obviously) dirt road (the temperature then was probably around 20 degrees F).

But I spent the last four years in Southern California; so I would bet that I'm wimpier than I think.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Race Report: Derby Rec Center Indoor Triathlon

Well, this was a good end to a craptastic week.

The Derby Rec Center indoor tri is an annual, local event, very small and low-key. 500 yd indoor pool swim, 6 mile (I know, right) bike on a stationary trainer, 2 mile (20 lap) run on an indoor track. Certainly the smallest (and shortest!) race I've ever done. But I don't care. It was awesome.

My heat began at 8:30 (the heats were leaving on a half-hour interval, seeded by time, beginning at 8:00), so I left my house at 7:30, hoping to get to the DRC at around 8:00. Well . . . that didn't happen. Because I slid off the road and got stuck in a ditch. I ran the mile back home, swearing all the way and wondering what I ever did to God (actually, let's not get into that). My dad came back with his truck and we spent the next hour and a half trying to get my car (his car, actually, because the key to my car snapped off in the ignition last night while I was at Wal-Mart getting a tire repaired . . . see? crummy week) unstuck. We finally got the car out of the ditch when a couple guys in a four-wheel-drive truck came by. It took them about five minutes to take care of it. Very nice of them. And of course, by this time it was 8:45, I'd missed my heat, and I was wondering whether I should go and try to squeeze into a later heat, or take it as a sign from the universe and crawl back into bed.

I drove around the block once (which is 4 miles, by the way), and the car was rattling because of the mud and snow that had built up around the wheels. I took that as my final sign and headed back home. "Wake me up when it's spring," I told my dad, as I came back into the house. I sat down at my computer to check my e-mail, and there was the pre-race e-mail . . . heat times, race day instructions, and all. It was about 9:00, at this point, but I thought . . . I've never, ever had a DNS. I have to at least go and try to get into the race.

And I'm very glad that I did.

Swim: 500 yd - 9:48
The time is approximate. My official split was 11:11, but that included my transition time. I know for sure that when I came out of the pool area, my timer (we each had our own timer) told me that I was at 9 something. Oddly enough, because I got squeezed into the last (fifth) heat, I ended up in the same lane as Rich, one of the guys in my spinning class, who's just getting into triathlon from cycling. It was really cool to have someone to kid around with pre-race, especially since this was the first race I've done where I had neither team nor family to accompany me. I felt confident and strong going through the swim, like I was giving it my all the whole time, but not wearing myself out too much for the bike and run. However, I wasn't entirely happy with my form. There were times when I felt like my legs were heavy and my head was up. I think it's because I was being lazy about my core stability; when I tightened my core, my body position evened out. Also, I was unimpressed with my breathing--every other stroke (I normally try to do every 3, to practice bilateral breathing). But I have to admit . . . I really like the pool swims; don't have to worry about dodging other people or fighting through packs of slow-pokes. You can just put your head down and swim. And that's what I did.

Bike: 6 miles - 19:00 minutes
The bike was mentally difficult. First of all, we were on LeMond trainers with a display panel that counts down the miles. However, the amount of resistance you use doesn't affect how quickly you complete the distance, so the best strategy is to spin along with no resistance and a high cadence. Which is hard to do for 20 minutes straight. I started to space out, and my cadence would dip down to 128 or so. It's a crazy thing to do to triathletes, no? We spend so much stinking time pedaling at the ideal cadence (whatever that is for you; for me, it's around 95) in the biggest gear we can manage. That's just how we train. So to put a triathlete on a bike and tell them to pedal their legs off for 20 minutes with absolutely no resistance . . . just silly. Anyway, it was fun, because all 10 of us in the fifth heat were in a long line together, so there was a little bit of banter to be had. And once again, I was right next to Rich, which was fun (even though I thought that he was going to kill himself; he was pounding away at 140-145 RPM the whole time). So the bike was less than ideal, but I felt like I did well.

Run: 2 miles - 18:18
Once again, this time includes the transition, so it's not entirely accurate. I know that my mile splits were both under 9:00 (the first was 8:51). Running on a 1/10 mile track for two miles is torture. But I felt that I pushed my body, and managed to maintain a high level of pain throughout (although I never pushed through that to a new level, which is always what I'm looking to do in short races). And sub-9 is the best pace I've ever set for a triathlon where the run comes at the end (I did 8:34 at the CSULB reverse sprint)! Also--a fun bonus--the track was upstairs (you know, wrapping around the gym), separated from a weight and cardio room by a low wall; the floor behind that wall, in between the track and the cardio room, was blue, so it had the azure, finish-chute feel.

But the best part of the day was that I got first place in my age group, with a time of 48:36! Well, allow me to add some caveats: the woman who was actually fastest in my age group got third place overall, which means that she was taken out of the running for age-group awards. She was a minute faster than me (if only I hadn't worn socks . . .), but I'm pretty sure, because of her placement, that I got fourth overall. And okay, there were only fifty people racing, and there were only four or five people in my age group, but I really don't care. I got first in my age group!

And I'm sure you could guess, but this really turned my day around. I mean, I still had to go pull a six-hour shift at the rock wall, but I was in a much better mood about it today. So I hope that this small triumph will be enough to pull me out of what has been a really terrible week. After my car went into the ditch this morning, I was afraid that the bad week was going to expand into a terrible month or something. But I feel much more motivated, now, to work harder at not letting any bad aspects of life spiral out of my reach and take over my whole outlook.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Product Review: Balance Bare

Some of you have probably already read my run-down of a selection of nutrition bars. This weekend, while shopping at Dillon's, I happened to read the back--more specifically, the ingredients--of a standard Balance bar. As soon as I saw "high fructose corn syrup," I despaired. Much like Iron Wil and her yogurt, Balance bars are one of my favorite options (although I often opt for the cheaper and less-filling Nature's Valley 36-packs) for on-the-go breakfasts.

Well, hard as it was to pass up such tempting new flavors as triple chocolate chaos, I decided to go the more disciplined route and tried the new (to me) Balance Bare bars. I bought three different bars, just to try them out: fruit and nut, chocolate chip, and cinnamon oats and honey. This morning for breakfast, I tried the fruit and nut variety.

The bar is surprisingly hefty, thicker and stouter than I would expect, whereas Balance bars are generally small and dense. The bar weighs 50 g, has 15 g protein, 7 g fat, and 23 g carbohydrate (16 from sugar, which seems to me really high). Like a standard Balance bar, the Bare has a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals, although I don't have a Balance bar around here right now to compare portions.

The bar has a very pleasant taste. It's sweetened with evaporated cane juice, which gives it a light, almost malty flavor and texture. It reminds of this really, really good trail mix I had once . . . I think it was called Mrs. Mayo's . . . and it was sweetened with pomegranate juice. This bar reminds me of that taste and texture. The bar is primarily crispy rice, I think. At least, that's what I think that textural element was. At any rate, the fruit and nut element was understated, but it was very tasty when I got a hit of dried cranberry or nut.

My main complaint was that the coating on the bottom of the bar gave the whole thing a crumbly, even grainy texture. I think that's probably from the added protein. So while the bar was actually pretty tasty, I didn't care much for the crumbly, malt-o-meal texture. And the fact that so many of the carbohydrates were sugars further deters me. So would I buy this bar again? Maybe if it's on sale; it was only a dollar, the other day. This definitely won't be one of my regular purchases, however. I guess if I want a nutrition bar that's all-natural, I'll go back to Clif (or just stick with my cheap, Sam's club bulk boxes of Nature's Valley).

I also recently tried a Muscle Sandwich bar (made by a completely different company than Muscle Milk, which also makes Cytomax). I'm sure it has plenty of protein and amino acids, but I will never put that in my body again. With enriched flour, partially hydrogenated oils, and high fructose corn syrup, it's no better than a high-protein candy bar, and if I want a high-protein candy bar, I'll buy a Snickers, pay less, and enjoy it a lot more. I would consider Muscle Sandwich a nutrition bar for muscle head amateur body builders who don't know any better.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

We Are Triathletes!

We are insatiable. We are unstoppable. We are not deterred by wind, rain, or snow.

We do not let the insignificant ephemeralities of normal, daily life detract from our goals. We do not give up, even under severe conditions. We do not stop moving. We do not have limits.

We are fitness machines. We are eating machines. We are not going to let silly things like cold weather stop our training schedules.

We are bad-ass.

We are . . . canceling our indoor triathlon because the ground is a little slippery.

Seriously, Wichita West YMCA, WTF?

Spinning Workout 4 - Intro to Climbing

It's here! It's here!


Black and White (3:47) : Pre-workout
Don't Stop Believing (4:10) : Pre-workout
Goody Two Shoes (3:29) : Warm-up in saddle, turn up to (3) halfway through
Back in Black (4:15) : +(4), get legs going, up at 2nd verse, +(5) at guitar solo
Bathwater (4:04) : down, stay in (5), pick-up at chorus, up and pick up at chorus, +(6) at bridge, -(5), down at coda, pick-up at chorus, up, stay quick at last instrumental
Step Away From the Cliff (2:48) : down, stay in (5), push it out
Breaking the Girl (4:57) : -(4), get legs going, +(5), up at chorus, down at 2nd verse, +(6), up at instrumental
Youth (4:20) : -(5), stay up, ++(7) at chorus ("Young man"), --(5) after chorus, ++(7) at chorus, -(6) after chorus, +(7) at chorus, --(5) after chorus, pick up slightly through end of music
Neighborhood #3 (5:15) : -(3), downhill, high cadence, +(4) after brief interlude (about 1:32), pound through brief flat
One More Sad Song (3:03) : in (4), get cadence going, +(5), up at pre-chorus, +(6) at chorus, -(5) at 2nd verse, +(6) at chorus
Yellow (4:29) : -(5), down, +(6), up after "For you I'd bleed myself dry"
How (2:51) : pick up cadence a little, +(7) at 2nd section, +(8) at 3rd section
For What It's Worth (2:43) : Cardiac cool-down
Papa Loves Mambo (2:43) : Stretches
One Sweet Love (3:58) : Post-workout

Looking for more workouts? Go here!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Don't Drink the Orange Juice

It may be tempting.

Everyone in your office and home may be sick. You may be borderline overtrained. You may have gone running in 35-degree rain this morning. You may even have the start of an itch in your throat.

But whatever you do, don't drink half a quart of orange juice.

"Why every not?" you ask. Orange juice is full of vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, and flavonoids. It is naturally sweet, tangy, and nutritious!

It is also loaded with sugar.

And if you drink a quart of it, you're liable to get a searing headache.

By the way, anyone know how to tone down a sugar rush migraine?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Art of Motion

Last night, I had the opportunity to see a friend from high school perform in a senior dance recital at Wichita State. I was absolutely blown away by the talent exhibited by these students (undergrads!), by the level of artistic expression they achieved, but most of all by their physical grace and power. My first thought, on watching these dancers move in ways that made me forget I was looking at people, was, "I wonder if I could recruit them to triathlon."

That thought made me pause.

Because while I believe in what I do--after all, I coach people through some very challenging experiences in order to achieve goals that at first seem unthinkable--it seems to me less than what these performers exhibited. Yes, dancers and triathletes share some common characteristics: Both groups train for power and performance, dancers and triathletes each strive to maximize strength, tone, and endurance, and of course we all look damn fine in a pair of tight, skimpy shorts. But dancers acquire this level of power, strength, endurance, and tone in order to communicate beauty and emotion to other human beings, while triathletes . . .

Well now . . . here we come to the crux: Why do we tri?
More to come.