Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Tragic Tale of the Pain in my Ass

Sigh. In the past year, the only injury I've had has been rock-climbing related. I think that run is at an end.

Starting last Sunday, I had a little twinge in my back. I didn't think much of it. Figured I had slept wrong and it would go away in a couple of days. When I went out to run that day, I sort of ran out of steam after about a mile. I wasn't tired; I didn't hurt; I just sort of . . . stopped. When I got back to my house, my dad said, "Well, there was probably a reason why you didn't want to run today." Whatever, I thought. The reason is because I suck!

The next day, I went to Pawnee Prairie Park to try that long run again. I thought that it would be more interesting and therefore more bearable to run on trails than on the long, straight, boring dirt roads. And I was correct! After the first ten minutes, I felt right as rain and at peace with the whole world, running over a soft, grassy trail and enjoying the sounds of nature.

Then, after about 20 minutes, I felt a little niggling pain in my right buttock, just to the right of my sacrum. Ooh, I thought. I don't think that's good. So I slowed to a walk, trying to determine what that pain might possibly be. After a few minutes of walking, it went away, so I tried again. Nope, there it is again. And I continued in that manner for the next 20 minutes or so, experimenting with walking and running to see what caused pain and what didn't. It was never so bad that I couldn't have run through it; I could definitely have kept going through this pain. But it was the kind of pain that made me slow down because something is definitely wrong back there.

Tuesday I managed a twenty-mile bike workout without pain, but today's spinning class brought it out. I have an appointment with a physical therapist on Tuesday, so we'll see what's up. I think that it's sciatic pain brought on by knots and tension in my piriformis, but considering the alternative possible causes (i.e. a herniated disc), I think it's best to be sure. Until then, I will not be running or cycling (except for my Monday morning spin class).

And that is the tragic tale of the pain in my ass.

Ironmom: A Swim Workout to be Eager For

Thanks to Robin for this swim workout, which has kicked my butt for the last two weeks' interval swims, and has presented me with my fastest 100 splits EVER. Give it a try as you start to work speed and power into your swim sets:

6 x 100 Fast
2 x 50 Focus on technique
5 x 100 Fast
2 x 50 Technique
4 x 100 Fast
2 x 50 Technique
3 x 100 Fast
2 x 50 Technique
2 x 100 Fast
2 x 50 Technique

Robin didn't specify rest intervals, so here's what I did:

100 SKIPS (swim, kick, IM, pull, swim)

5x100 fast on 3:00 interval
2x50 for technique
4x100 fast w/ 1:00 RI (rest interval)
2x50 for technique
3x100 fast on 2:00 interval
2x50 for technique
2x100 fast w/ 1:00 RI

100 cool down

I think the 3:00 intervals were a little long; they enabled me to pretty much fully clear the lactate from my blood, starting each repeat fresh. The 1:00 rest interval was challenging; I saw my form and speed deteriorate over the course. The 2:00 intervals were frickin' hard, but I only lost :02 between the first and last repeat. I averaged about 1:38-1:39 on my splits, with the fastest being 1:35 and the slowest 1:44 (the very last 100). But the whole workout was fully awesome.

Thanks, Robin, for a wonderful workout!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spinning Workout 18 - Rollers

A new workout! Woohoo!


Higher (3:55): Pre
What I'm Trying to Say (3:23): Pre
Porcelain (4:01): Pre
Rockin' the Suburbs (4:29): Warm up with one light climb; +(5), up @ 2nd chorus; -(4), down @ last chorus
Karma (4:18): Moderate to high climb; +(5) @ beginning; +(6), up @ verse, stay quick; +(7), stay quick @ “I remember when”; -(6) @ chorus; +(7) @ “I remember when”; +(8) @ 2nd time through chorus to end
Hey Baby (3:29): Descent; quick break to coast and bring resistance back down; beginning in (3), easy, quick spin; small increase every 64 counts (just enough to feel a little change); at (4)-(5) @ chorus; in (4), easy, quick spin; small increase every 64 counts; (4)-(5) @ chorus; quick in (5) at chant; add a little bit @ last chorus; pick up tempo @ 2nd time through chorus
Can't Stop (4:29): Moderate climb; intro to cruise, build to cadence; in (5) or just a little above, find climbing rhythm; add a little at 2nd half of verse; +(6), up @ 2nd verse; add a little at 2nd half of verse; down in (6) @ bridge, guitar solo; +(7), up @ last verse
Way Away (3:22): Descent; coast @ intro; begin in (3), easy, quick spin; add a little resistance @ 2nd half of verse; pick up tempo @ chorus; back off tempo at MT; +(4) @ 2nd verse; add a little at 2nd half of verse; pick up tempo @ chorus; back off @ bridge; add a little resistance every 16 counts; pick up tempo @ chorus
Satin in a Coffin (2:37): Moderate climb; ++(6), up, @ verse; +(7) @ 2nd time through verse; standing recovery @ slow bit; follow rhythm as it builds speed; back off resistance, cruise as music fades
The Machine Gun Song (2:51): Descent; in (4), match cadence; +(5), up @ chorus; -(4), down @ 2nd chorus; +(5) @ bridge; up @ next verse, stay up until end
Everlong (4:11): Descent; in (3), build to cadence; add a little at full entrance; add a little more every 32 beats during verse; don't add at MT; add every 32 beats during verse; +(5), up @ chorus; repeat sequence; rest during quiet interlude; build during song build; +(5), up @ last chorus
We're Not Gonna Take It (3:35): Moderate climb; stay in (5), down, quick; +(6), up @ chorus; down @ 2nd verse; +(7), up @ 2nd chorus; -(6) @ guitar solo; +(7) @ last chorus; -(6) @ fade
Carbon Monoxide (3:10): Moderate to hard climb; find rhythm in (6), standing; sit, maintain rhythm (adjust resistance if necessary) @ 2nd verse; +(6), up @ chorus; -(5), down, at quiet part; +(6), up @ chorus
I Ain't Saying my Goodbyes (3:43): Hard climb; cruise during intro; find rhythm in (6), up, @ full instrumental intro; add a touch @ 2nd time through verse; +(7) @ chorus; option to climb seated @ instrumental break; +(8), everyone up @ chorus; extra credit addition @ “you don't get upset,” stay consistent
Are You Gonna be my Girl (3:39): Cool down; cruise @ beginning; if you want to spin out quick on the descent, also acceptable
Somewhere Only We Know (3:57): Post

Looking for more workouts? Go here!

Quick Catch Video

I had a few questions about how exactly one does the Quick Catch drill which has been so helpful for me. And what better way to demonstrate than in film? Also see Dave Scott's video, which is actually filmed on a pool deck with real swimmers (not in a bedroom with a webcam)! Any more questions about this drill (or any others), just let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Go read Wil's insightful (and well-written) post.  Then come back here.

I've mentioned before that I'm not ready to tackle Ironman, yet.  I believe there will be a time for me to take my training to that level, but it's not now.

And looking ahead to that time when I will inevitably face a long day of hard work . . . looking even beyond that to when I have that day--whether it be twelve hours or seventeen--behind me . . .

I wonder what comes next.

After rising to what is arguably the greatest challenge of our age--the most demanding, the most grueling, the most gut-wrenchingly humbling--after conquering that, what's left?  Where do I go from there?

I think I go back to whatever it was I did before I started running.

I don't mean running in a literal sense.  I mean that there were things in my life that I was confronting before I got into this whole triathlon thing.  I faced pain.  I suffered.  I uncovered wounds I never knew I had.  I wrote angst-filled poetry.  For some reason, all of that got pushed to the background after my first triathlon.  Well, not immediately.  It sort of faded away.  I've been thinking that it's a result of moving into the workforce, that it's because I have a full-time job and don't have time for the angst, the philosophy, the exploration of my own self and soul.  But maybe it has more to do with sport than I realize.

Far be it from me to describe sport as escapism; that word is entirely too pejorative.  No, it's more like sport provides a training ground for me, a temporary place from which I can safely step back, observe the world, and learn.  It's teaching me discipline (self-control), endurance (perseverance), and the virtue of carrying on through suffering (or, as Wil said, carrying a cross).

Maybe that's why some athletes feel compelled to run double- or even triple-Ironmans (Ironmen?) . . . they just need a little more training.

Thanks to Wil for the insight and inspiration.  Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Getting Over the Hump: Overcoming March Malaise

What a crappy time to feel lack of motivation in training. The weather's starting to warm up; the equinox has come; we have more daylight, more warmth, less wind . . . and here we are reading blogs, putting off the inevitable swim, bike, run, weights, core, technique, drills, tempo, flexibility . . . It's all so overwhelming, and we don't want to do it anymore.

It seems to be a common problem, this time of year: I know I'm feeling it; several of the athletes I coach have mentioned it; I have a friend in Germany who just e-mailed me about the same thing--March Malaise; March Melancholy; March Mediocrity; March Don't-Make-Me.

Why is that? Like I said, it's the perfect time of year for training. We should all be chomping at our respective bits, rather than dreading the next workout!

I think it's because we've been training for several months, all in base training. We've worked our asses off since January, but have seen precious little result. Plus, the long steady work is starting to take its toll; after all, there are only so many times you can listen to your Long Run Ultra-Hardcore Superstar Like-Macca Playlist before you go a little nutty (and know exactly which song comes next).

If you're starting to feel a little lackluster in your training week, here are my ideas for putting some spark back into your schedule:
  • Throw in some intensity. Do some fartlek work in your long workouts. Fartlek means speed play. So play! Have fun with it! Include some short intervals in your tempo workouts. Add a big kick to the end of your workouts. If you've already worked through months of base work, some high-intensity training is not going to jeopardize your path to peak fitness.
  • Cross train. I know, I know; that's kind of our whole sport. I mean try something new. Find a climbing wall (or, if you are so fortunate to live in an area that has those funny things called mountains, get out and climb); take yoga or pilates; play basketball or soccer with your kids. Shake things up a little.
  • Get outside! Bonus points for going with friends.
  • Buy gear. You know that as soon as you pick up new equipment, you can't wait to try it out. It can be something small and simple (and cheap!) like new goggles, a running cap, or . . . okay, I can't think of anything small, simple, and cheap that you would need on your bike. What can I say? It's an expensive sport.
  • Reflect on your goals. This is the one that has by far been the most helpful for me. Take some time to think about what you want from this season and what it will take to get it. If you can remind yourself why you're working so hard and keep those things in front of you all the time, your motivation will strengthen. I recently finished a book that suggested writing down your goals and using a colored dot (or gold star, or anything similar) next to each goal. Let's say I place a red dot next to each goal on my goal sheet (I actually use a pocket-sized notebook for this). Then I put red dots on my toothpaste, my phone, my watch, my computer screen . . . Everywhere I look, I'm constantly reminded of my goals. Pretty soon, I think of my goals when I see a stop sign, or a red light. Even thinking about the technique gets me excited!
  • Rest. This is a big one. Don't skimp on recovery. Lack of motivation and general ennui are some of the symptoms of overtraining. Remember that it's better to be 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained, come race day. If you've been pushing hard and your body starts to say, "Hey! I don't wanna do this!" then listen! One thing I've done in my recovery weeks is replace scheduled workouts with goal sessions; two birds with one stone (I know you triathletes love that multi-tasking stuff)!
My final recommendation would be to find a race, a local 10k or a casual weekend time trial, to get your competitive motor running and remind you why you love this sport. Because I'm pretty confident that if you didn't genuinely love this sport, you wouldn't have read this far.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I am officially registered for Wildflower.

And at $175 for race entry alone, I'm definitely committed.

Look for a video on quick-catch, a new cycling workout, and an article on getting over the hump in the next week.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mental Training: A Break from your Regularly Scheduled Podcast

Well this is an experiment. I've read a few articles on mental training in the past few months. I'm guilty of not training the mental side of my racing hard enough, and I'm sure you are, too.

So I decided that guided meditation might work as a way to help us all prepare a little bit better for that next open water race.

Let me know whether or not this works for you: Is it helpful to have someone talk you through something we all should be doing anyway? What would make it more effective? More space between comments to absorb what I'm saying? Different conditions (i.e. a cold open-water swim, lake swim, river swim, swim through high surf, pool swim, etc.)? Corny Tai Chi music?

I would appreciate any feedback on this little project of mine. Let me know if you want more!

Mental Tri Training: Open Water Swim

"This audio file is a guided meditation for the use of open-water swimmers. In it, you will focus on relaxing and practicing good form. Try to visualize yourself completing each movement. The more real it is in your mind, the more beneficial the meditation will be in improving your neuromuscular performance in swimming."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Quick Catch

On my faster swim pace:

I've seen a 10-20 second decrease in the pace of my 100 yard repeats in the past month. I attribute the bulk of this new speed to one drill: the quick catch drill.

I spent all of last summer working on my balance on body position. I spent the off-season focusing on my recovery, entry, and breathing. By January, I was looking pretty good in the water. But I still wasn't going anywhere (at least nowhere fast). Focusing on my catch has allowed me to apply more power to the water using my arms, shoulders, back, and core. It took about a month of doing quick catch drills constantly--the first workout I tried it, I could only do about 30 meters before my arms were exhausted--for me to work the concept into my stroke, but it was definitely worth it.

I recommend doing the following sets (maybe not all at once, though) to help you incorporate the quick catch.

Drill Set 1
8x100 as
25 quick catch
25 fist swim
25 quick catch
25 regular swim
4x25 as fast as possible while maintaining the feel of quick catch

Drill Set 2
8x50 drill quick catch/50 swim (if you can't do quick catch for a full 50 to begin, do alternate 25 drill by 25 swim)
4x25 as fast as possible while maintaining perfect form

Drill Set 3
8x50 fingertip drag, incorporating the feel of quick catch (I love using fingertip drag as a base for focusing on other drill points, because it forces you to swim slowly with relaxed arms)
8x25 quick catch drill with high arm turnover

Quick catch drill isn't the secret to success for all mid-level swimmers, but it is the next step for many of the athletes I'm coaching currently, so I bet that it'll also apply to some of you.

For more on why quick catch is important, read this.

More Belief: Trusting in Trust

IM Able: Every Last Minute

This reinforces what I was saying last week; if you believe you can do something, you're going to push yourself through anything to bring your belief into the realms of reality, whether that's running a mile in under 4 minutes or finishing a 2-minute standing interval on the trainer.

Although I should amend with this: when I tell my spinning classes, "C'mon, just 30 seconds left! 30 seconds never killed anyone!" I secretly fear that someday 30 seconds is going to kill someone--or at least force me to prove my CPR and AED credentials.

Building Momentum

I feel like I'm flying.

Last week I absolutely nailed my swim workouts. Remember a couple weeks ago when I had to switch my workout plan from swimming 100s on a 2:00 interval to a 2:15 to give me enough time for recovery? This week I left comfortably on 2:00 for 4 repetitions, about :20 to spare between each one. I hit my 300s in 5:40, and my 25s in :19-:22. In the SwimEx this week, I swam 2.5 MPH. Also, my butterfly is starting to actually look like a swim stroke, instead of a drowning cat. I feel like a rock star.

The weather here was getting warmer and warmer, but then last week we had a ridiculous cold snap. I went out trail running on Saturday, despite the 20-degree weather (not factoring windchill). 4.2 miles in 40 minutes on the trails.

Yesterday, the cold snap broke. It was sunny and mid-50s with light wind from the north. I rocked out for 40 miles, averaging 16.9 MPH (which is only gonna go up, baby). Besides which, my ridiculous mid-arm bike jersey tan is back (whoo!).

This is exactly where I want to be, building up some solid momentum as I transition from base building to the higher-intensity, more demanding workouts of my build phase. This is the first year where I've really felt everything come together.

It's time to get excited for this season.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


It's not quite a podcast yet, but here are a few things to keep you busy while Audigy is being finicky.

GMC Workout 3/5/08 - Rollers (Zone 3 & 4)

32 Flavors (6:07) 92 BPM:
Warm up (Zones 1-3)

Barely Listening (4:06) 93 BPM:
Slight downhill (Zone 3)

Healer (3:51) 90 BPM:
TT (High zone 3)

'Cause You Can (3:01) 171 BPM:
Moderate hill (Zone 3)

Dammit (2:46) 109 BPM:
Descent (Zone 4)

What I'm Trying to Say (3:22) 160 BPM:
Moderate Hill (Zone 3)

Processed beats (3:07) 107 BPM:
Descent (Zone 4)

Mockingbird (4:10) 85 BPM:
Moderate climb (Zone 3)

No Brakes (3:03) 150 BPM:
Intense climb (Zone 4)

Criminal (5:41) 91 BPM:
Descent, with climb at the end (Zone 4)

Bathwater (4:02) 75 BPM:
Intense climb (Zone 4)

Tiny Little Fractures (2:28) 144 BPM:
Intense climb (Zone 4)

Tyrant (4:44) 99 BPM:
Descent (Zone 4)

The Light of a Fading Star (3:52) 102 BPM:
Descent (Zone 3-4)

Keep This Fire Burning (3:56) 100 BPM:
Cool down (Zone 2-3)

Chan Chan (4:16) 84 BPM:
Stretch (Zone 1-2)

I know the zones seem backwards ("Shouldn't my heart rate be higher while climbing than during descent?"); just go with me here. I want you to work on climbing efficiently. If you have trouble keeping your heart rate down at the beginning, keep working on it; eventually, your body will get the idea and it will make you a stronger climber. "Keep This Fire Burning" isn't available on iTunes, by the way, but I'm sure you can find your own favorite cool down song.

And a track workout . . .

Warm Up
1600, stride the straight-aways on the last 800

Dynamic warm up/drills

A skip

B skip

Side strides


Side-to-side drill

4x100 strides

Main Set

1 X 1600 -- 70% effort/zone 3

1 X 1200 -- 85% effort/high zone 3

1 X 800 -- 70% effort/zone 3

1 X 1200 -- 90 % effort/zone 4
200 active recovery between each interval

The 1200s are the key intervals, so work hardest on those. For all track workouts, record your times, but don't let them guide your pace; follow your heart rate.

Cool Down
400-800 easy

Sunday, March 2, 2008


Yah! There's so much I want to do and say with this blog, but so many times I start a post and get stuck halfway through . . .

This kind of thing shouldn't be happening so consistently to an English major. Seriously. I was trained (hah!) to do this.

So some quick updates . . .
  • I'm still working on the beginners' series; I'm just trying to decide between two topics for the next post.
  • I do have another cycling workout on the table; unfortunately, my computer ate it yesterday (Audigy crashed and I had to start over).
  • The weather here has been absolutely beautiful--60+ F and sunny (well, it's currently raining, but Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were gorgeous). I got a long run in Thursday of 10 miles, which unfortunately may have been too much. It had been two (maybe three) weeks since my last long run, and I think that the sudden re-establishment of heavy mileage demanded too much from my poor legs, which said, "Oh! no thank you! (link has some language)" As a result, my right foot and ankle are a little cranky--too cranky for running, which I discovered this morning when I tried to take advantage of the beautiful weather before church. So I may have to take (another!) hiatus from running. This is disappointing. But I will find a way (maybe the elliptical trainer?! noooo!).
  • I'm still eating around 80% raw, 20% cooked. I am really enjoying salads, dried fruit, fresh fruit, and nuts. Without having to worry about getting 100% of my calories from raw food, I don't have to muck about with nasty things like green smoothies (my one attempt at a green smoothie was teeth-burningly disgusting, which isn't to say that they're all universally bad). I also feel like it's much easier to put calories back into my body after 10-mile runs and 30-mile bike rides (potatoes, anyone?).
  • I road my bike to Lake Afton on Friday, wetsuit in tow, to see if it's warm enough yet for swimming. It's not.
  • I've reached that magical point of base training where I feel frickin' slow. And I want to go fast. But I must stick with my plan and go slow for another month. Sigh . . .
But you know what? Triathletes are great overcomers. We are. That's why so many of us suck at swimming and end up injured; whenever we come up against a challenge, we think, "Okay, I just gotta keep going. Just gotta keep those legs moving. Just gotta muscle my way to the end of the pool and back three more times."

A final note: Congrats to my friend Jonathan in the Distance for completing Ironman New Zealand this weekend! Fight on, Jonathan!