Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lisbon Half Ironman Weeks 8 and 9/9

Into the final straight the natural question to ask is how well my training has gone and, more specifically, did I meet my

Training Objectives
- Convert endurance from Marathon training into endurance for an event that will last between 4:30 and 5:00 hours 
- Maintain as much as possible running speed from the last year of running focussed training  See below for how my "aerobic test" went
- Practice swimming technique and get used to swimming for up to an hour without stopping 
- Improve upper body strength I have become very lazy about weight training lately...
- Get used to aero position on the bike  This has gone better than I anticipated - I've even managed to tolerate an hour and a half on the turbo trainer without breaking which I find harder than riding on the roads.
- Develop bike speed  The high intensity intervals I did once a week should have some positive impact.
- Take advantage of commuting by bike when possible /2 Strictly speaking I did commute "when possible" only that the weather has been so bad that it has not really been possible (because there is a stretch I have to cycle in my work attire) very much of the time.

I'd also add another objective that wasn't part of my original list:
- Train respiratory muscles with Power Breathe  I've progressed from 30 breaths at 1.5 to 30 at 4 (out of 10 on the level 3 device)

It seems a shame now that we (finally) have such gorgeous weather here in Madrid, that I should have done virtually all my training this week indoors; the only exception was my leisurely commute to work by bike on Wednesday. (Actually, the weather has now returned to the cold, grey and wet days we've had most of the year so far.)

On Wednesday I also went for a swim, including 20 minutes at a pace I felt I could maintain over the Half Ironman distance. According to my Garmin swim, I swam an average of 1:56 per 100m, which translates into a sub 37 minute swim leg. Considering how much time and effort I have put into swimming lately, I'm satisfied with that kind of pace. If I want to improve any more, I will have to be more consistent and also mix in more variety (specific strength, speed, endurance and technique sessions). What I did find interesting, was that I naturally switched to a 4 beat kick pattern - as if the 6 beat kick that I had been using lately was over-the-top. I expect that this will feel even more natural in a wet suit which provides extra buoyancy thus avoiding the need to kick quite so often. The 4 beat kick is an asymmetrical pattern where you kick 3 times during one arm pull and only once during the other. The single kick is like the kick in the Total Immersion style and is used to rotate the body and is coordinated with the arm pull; the 3 kicks are timed to coincide with the pull, draw and push back.. I would have thought it would be more important to keep the legs high by kicking 3 times while breathing but it felt more natural to me to kick only once on the side to which I was breathing, probably because I could breathe more effectively this way. Or, seen another way, I could kick more effectively while holding my breath much in the same way as you breathe in between strokes while rowing, for example.

I spent a fair amount of time this week getting used to the aero position on the turbo trainer: I did one "easy" session of an hour and a half as well as some intervals of 15 minutes at Half Ironman pace and the bike section of my "brick". The idea this week in general has been to reduce volume by boiling the training down to its essentials, so I have increased the proportion of higher intensity while at the same time converging that intensity to Half Ironman pace. The brick, for example, consisted of an hour at HIM pace on the turbo trainer, followed by half an hour running at 3:50 pace (15.5 kph). It is always harder doing workouts on the turbo trainer because of the boredom and the lack of natural breaks from hills, corners, roundabouts etc. What also made the brick harder than normal was the mains electric shock that I got from touching the treadmill while wearing socks soaked in sweat - it made me shout out involuntarily. Regular readers will recognize this as one of my regular rants: I have lived in three different houses in Spain and in all three of them I have received electric shocks from touching toasters, microwaves, ovens, hi-fis. I guess I am more susceptible as I tend to go around in bare feet much more than most people. I can't help thinking that the 3 pronged plug we have in the UK, with it's explicit earthing, is a superior design to the European version.

That just left the other big "workout" of the weekend: that of packing my triathlon bike up into a small space for taking on the plane. While we are on the subject of "rants", what was Mr Allen thinking when he designed an alternative to the Phillips screw that was so similar to a circle that either the keys or the bolt would easily get rounded off? Still, I kept my calm and managed to dismantle everything without any disasters (unlike that time I tried to change the nose cone assembly). I had trouble figuring out which way the pedals were threaded (until I realized that you could actually see from the thread that was poking out) and worked up quite a sweat to get them off. There is an aspect of packing that I have to admit I quite enjoy and that is when there is a happy coincidence that conspires to optimize the space occupied. In this case, the "camel toe" of my Adamo seat was perfect for clasping the frame of the bike, thus holding the seatpost nicely in place. Lastly, I let the air out of my tires and swapped out the skewers for some crappy ones that I don't mind getting broken by the brutish baggage handlers. I definitely notice that I am much more patient when I have less volume (and not necessarily intensity) of training. My family notice it too...

I found my own packing list from last time to come in handy
The last time I did one of my aerobic tests - running 7 kilometres at a heart rate of 172 bpm (my Half Marathon intensity) - I did it on very tired legs and therefore got a tired result. I thought I would effectively end my training cycle on a (hopefully) good note by seeing how I fared on fresh legs. I happened to choose about the only rain-free window of the whole day which, otherwise, was a perfect temperature and similar to the temperature in which I've done my previous tests this year. It was, however, a bit blustery but, being a circuit around a tartan track, what was a head wind in one direction was a tail wind in the other. I was very pleasantly surprised to do my best time for this test ever, of 25:39 - this equates to a Half Marathon time of 1:17:19 (in theory...). Even if it is not realistic to extrapolate to the Half Marathon distance, it is worth pointing out that this was exactly the same pace that I ran my fastest 10K race in December and there is no question of GPS error here as I ran 20 laps of a 350m circuit (actually, for once the GPS was spot on - it normally adds an extra 200m or so erroneously). It felt completely under control with by breathing never getting laboured and I didn't find myself having to slow down towards the end in order to keep my heart rate at the prescribed level. I also took the opportunity to do a dress rehearsal with my Vivobarefoot Ultras - which I haven't used since the Marathon in Valencia last November - as well as an alternative to the BreatheRight nasal strips I usually use in competition.

I've no idea whether "dilating the nasal cavity" has any benefit on performance or not but it certainly feels like it does. On the one hand, I can't believe that the extra amount of air that can enter through the nose can compete with opening the mouth ever so slightly more (although I once remember arguing with someone who claimed that it wasn't physically possible to breathe in through the nose and the mouth at the same time). But maybe there is some other reason for it. For example, perhaps it influences our perception of effort. It's not quite the same thing but it is equally unexpected - when we dive into cold water we experience something known as the "dolphin reaction" which is a sharp inhalation in response to our noses being immersed in cold water: I suppose the intention (if evolution can have intentions) is to take one quick breath before going under water. Or maybe it's just the placebo effect. The problem I have with the BreatheRight strips is that they always come unstuck during a race and start getting on my nerves. They are also not very cheap at around 2 euros a pop. I usually end up using two of them per race because the first one invariably comes unstuck right away. I thought I would try the ClipAir nasal dilators which are a little rubber thingy which you insert in your nose.

At first sight they look as though they would restrict the airflow but they are somehow soothing and I might even consider wearing them during the night (rumour has it that I am a snorer). In a packet you have three different sizes and I went for the largest. It felt pretty good during the run but as I got sweaty it started to slip down gradually. In practice it means you just have to push it back up again every so often - a bit irritating but better than the BreatheRight strips which you have to replace once they come unstuck. Also, in a triathlon it's much faster to shove a little rubber gizmo in your nose than to put what is essentially a plaster on top of it. I have seen some people starting the swim of a triathlon with a BreatheRight strip or similar already in place and have wondered how long it manages to stay on and how. I've even considered supergluing one on (maybe that is their secret).

The last dress rehearsal was to go for a swim with my wetsuit, particularly to get used to the effect on my kicking (as the legs floar more) and to practice "sighting", or looking up regularly to check that I am still on course. The problem with swimming in a wetsuit in the pool is that you get very hot, so it's not really practical to do any kind of workout. It always amazes me how much difference the wetsuit makes. I think it is especially effective for people who don't swim particularly well as it covers up all our mistakes. Swimming comfortably I found myself covering 100m in 1:47 and, making an effort I perceived to be similar to the pace at which I swam 20 minutes earlier in the week, this dropped to between 1:30 and 1:35.

Tonight we go to Asturias which, unfortunately, looks to be where the rain is also going. All that is left is a 30 minute easy run tomorrow and a 20' sharpening run the morning of day before the race. My training has gone very well, I'm feeling pretty good just a slight runny nose and my big toe is still giving me some problems from when I tripped over back in January. If all goes well I will hopefully be able to beat my best time of 4:44 in the Lisbon Half Ironman on Saturday. My goal is to beat my best time for all of the legs of the triathlon individually: swim 36:23, bike 2:32:54, run 1:24:18. The transition times could also do with being cut down - I'm not sure why my T1 (first transition) time of about 5 minutes was noticeably longer than those around me - but I'm not going to try anything fancy like a jumping onto a moving bike or anything like that.

Tune back in on Saturday if you are curious to see how I got on.

Monday: nada not even nadar
Tuesday: 90' aero position on turbo trainer
Wednesday: commute by bike, 40' swim (10' easy, 20' @ 1:56, 10' easy)
Thursday: 3 x 15' aero position on turbo trainer @ 150-155 bpm
Friday: easy 60' swim, 30' run (15' @ 4:00, 15' @ 3:45)
Saturday: 60' aero position on turbo trainer @ 150-155 bpm + 30' run @ 3:50
Monday: 7km @ 172 bpm (25:39)

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