Monday, June 25, 2012
Bits and pieces
Run Last weekend I was in London (another conference...) and so I decided I would plan a long (25 km) run using Garmin Connect and uploading it to my 310XT watch. The weather was bizarrely good, especially considering it was foul just before I arrived and returned to being foul soon after I left. I did the run (including some extra little bits due to getting momentarily lost) in under two hours but, not being used to running so long lately, during the first hour I ran significantly faster than in the second. I ran in my Soft Start Run Amocs (the red ones which leave my feet looking like those of Christ on the cross) without any socks and without any blisters either.
I think this may be what inspired me to do something slightly unwise on Saturday, now back in Madrid. After a short but intense bike ride, I decided I would go for a run. Barefoot. I'm not sure what was worse: the friction with the pavement or the searing heat (which would burn your feet if you stood still for any length of time). I ran 15 minutes in one direction and then, of course, was faced with running back. My feet were fairly sore when I got back - the skin from the little toe on my right foot had rubbed off and there were a couple of blood blisters which needed lancing... I think that the damage is under control, though, and that my carefully cultivated leathery soles are still intact. Of course, there is always the possibility that a large piece of dead skin forms which will mean that I'll have to start all over again. It was nice to run barefoot - at least for the first 10 minutes - but I don't think it really warrants the patience I would need to get thick enough soles (not to mention maintaining them). If I'm honest, I'll admit that one of the reasons I felt like running barefoot was that I knew I wouldn't be able to run too fast.
Bike I've been spreading my attentions fairly evenly across my three bikes recently: the mountain bike, the road bike and the triathlon bike. On Saturday I took the tri bike out for a spin along a reasonably flat stretch of road. I wore the arm compression sleeves that I used in the Ironman last year and, whether it was for psychological or physiological reasons, the aero position felt easier to maintain. The road is really broken in parts and the vibrations tire out your arms. I find it much easier to stay in the aero position if I am actually going along at a good speed of 35-40 kph. I think this is because the extra effort to hold the position is only worth it if you are going at least that fast (or if it is really windy). I still have to shift my hands back and forth periodically to give relief to different muscle groups but the arm position that seems to work best for me is when I have the weight of my shoulders mostly supported by my elbows, such that my hands almost lift up from the aerobars as a result. I'm still trying to get hold of the nose cones for my bike which would allow me to raise or lower the bar: at the moment I am riding in a very aggressive position which would be where I would aim to get by the time I was about to race (which isn't for some time).
Swim I've ended up writing this in the reverse order of a triathlon but in order of my strengths (and therefore interests) to my weaknesses. Now that I am swimming with a 6 beat kick - which is more or less a continuous kick - the trick is to coordinate the arms and legs which have become a bit disconnected. It seems to be one of those left brain / right brain things: when I think about it too much it all falls apart; on the rare occasions when I get it right, it just "feels" right. I think I will finally have to bite the bullet and learn how to do those fancy turns at each end of the swimming pool. Luis has been banging on about it on and off since before I did the Ironman last year and he's right, it is a different sport to stop and catch your breath every 20 metres. The good thing is that the pool we have at home is only 9 metres long, so you can practice the turns (and not much else) to your heart's content. Another thing that we have been working on is grabbing as much water as I can at the catch. A mental image which I have found helps me with this, is to think of a chimney sweep (or Santa, if you prefer) lifting himself out of a chimney. You would do this with bent elbows and by engaging the shoulders and the lats. Learning to swim really is an iterative process: each time I "get" something new, something old breaks again. But on each iteration everything gets slightly better and what I really do notice is that my balance and "feel" for the water is much better than it was before.