I feel like, in general, I work pretty hard on maintaining and improving my level of fitness. When I started working out in lake 2009, I made it a point to get five workouts a week in, a mix of cardio and resistance. But adding performance-specific cardio training to the mix seems to make that seem like nothing, especially when we’re talking triathlon where to improve even slightly I’ll have to improve in three separate sports. Hey — I’m not complaining! For the most part, the increase in training load has lead to a shift in the way I live; I’m outside a lot more, am making some great new friends, and I’m getting to know my body. But every now and then I just have a bad week, or a bad couple of weeks. Take this week for example.

Just to illustrate, this is what a “busy” workout week looked like around this time in 2010, which was not too long before I did my first 50 mile bike rally.


Besides my normal lifting routine, I was spending some time on a stationary bike to learn the riding position and to start to build some seat time. It may sound funny spending that much time on a stationary bike instead of on a real bike, but you have to keep in mind exactly how much of a beginner I was then: not only were my only bikes still in storage collecting dust, I also had zero understanding of how to ride. My trainer had me on the stationary bike building up tiny bits of “endurance,” which translate to an ability to ride like a beginner instead of, well, not at all. I transitioned to my bike on a trainer about a month out, but didn’t actually get on the road until a day before the event, though that was due to my own laziness in getting my bike out and getting it roadworthy. Still, I learned some good habits through that stationary bike time, including keeping my knees in while riding — as opposed to “riding a bronc,” as one of my friends calls it, and spinning freely.

Compare this to a “busy” week about a month back:


Besides the addition of all the specific run/bike/swim workouts thanks to my tri coach, I’m trying hard to maintain a good lifting schedule with good body splits. I’ve worked hard over the last few years to replace some of the remaining fat with muscle, and I’m not going to give it up without a fight, even as I drop a little weight to try and gain some advantage running.

Obviously this all adds up to more hours a week, but the real difference is the logistics. Most of the bike workouts during the week consist of intervals, so the bike needs to be on the trainer, and I need my bike shoes, water, my Garmin, my HR strap, my Bodybugg, the Bodybugg display, and hopefully something to watch on the TV to distract from the suffering plus whatever I need to control the TV. For outdoor rides, the bike comes off the trainer. When the rides start elsewhere, all that stuff has to go on/in the truck and back. Running is pretty easy, but has to be scheduled around the heat, which limits runs primarily to the early morning. Swimming is far and away the worst, requiring a constant mix of gear (goggles, fins, etc.) plus swim suit, change of clothes, stuff to store it all, and (worst of all by far) a plan as to where I’ll swim. Every pool I have access to is at least 20 minutes from the house, and they all offer different combinations of open hours, lap availability, etc.

All this leads up to this week, which was just a mess. I got in my bikes, brick, and runs by just forcing them out in the early AM. But I’ve had a hell of a time keeping up with the lifting over the last couple of weeks as the tri time ramps up toward my upcoming century and olympic tri. Swims took the biggest hit, though. Over the last two weeks I missed two of the three planned swims each week, and this week (even though I only had two planned), I missed both of them. It was bad enough that I actually got a note from my coach pointing out that if I didn’t start making the swim workouts, I’d likely have a bad time doing that 1500m in October.

Why does this happen? For one, it’s just been a down week. Between stress at work and other life issues, I’ve been a bundle of nerves and anxiety. That’s not exactly conducive to getting off one’s ass. With such a tightly-planned schedule, all it takes is 15 minutes of hesitation and the window slams closed for a potential swim workout. And I’ve been hesitating big time, probably just due to anxiety about other things.

Keep in mind, too, that despite making significant changes to my general fitness level, in many ways I still live in the previous body. When I miss planned workouts, I struggle with the irrational fear that I’ll immediately balloon up to my old size and lose all ability to be active. I’m getting a lot better at dealing with it — and I feel like outside of a relapse every now and then that I may finally know vs. just academically understand that eating a couple hundred calories over or under my daily plan won’t destroy my efforts as long as it’s not a daily thing — but the worry still clings to me. Disabling that worry means accepting that things are ok regardless of whether I make the workouts or not, which means also disabling the standard “hey, this is gonna be a problem for the upcoming event” concerns, too. In short: one in my position simply can’t trust basic gut feelings about this stuff. I have to figure it out on paper.

Adrenaline at Work

Anyway, having missed my swims on Monday and Wednesday, I thought I’d get one in yesterday along with my bike. But work issues stuck me at my desk right through my planned bike and swim times. Around 6 p.m. I finally got on the bike — right as the phone blew up with more problems, most of which could’ve been avoided. I’ll admit, I got a little angry about it. Witness the affect of adrenaline:

Here's yesterday's "pissed off" ride.

Here’s yesterday’s “pissed off” ride.

And here's last week's identical workout.

And here’s last week’s identical workout.

I’ve experienced this before. A long time back I was at the gym doing incline bench presses when a guy actually walked over and pulled weight off my bar to avoid walking 10 feet to the rack. Surprised, I confronted him, and we had a slight verbal altercation. I’m not a macho gym guy. Seriously, my gym time is happy time. So the whole thing really pissed me off. A few seconds later when I’d replaced the weight he took and started my next set, the weight that just a minute ago took all I had to make 10 reps felt light. Really light. I added more weight. Still light. More weight. Still light. More weight. Finally, it felt like before, and I completed the 10 rep set. The adrenaline pumping through me actually enabled me to lift a good 30% more weight with the same perceived effort. Even more entertainingly, after a two-minute rest, I couldn’t even lift the post-adrenaline weight off the rack for a single rep.

That’s exactly what happened today. I answered the call halfway through my warm up. The workout consisted of VO2Max intervals, which mean pretty much going all out for a minute followed by a minute of rest, repeating (for this specific workout) 12 times. (The first four intervals were similar-length zone 4 intervals for warm-up purposes.) Incidentally, this workout out beautifully for taking out rage on the bike — just pour the rage into the legs and dump it all our one minute at a time. Compare the graph of yesterday’s ride (top) to the graph of last week’s identical workout (bottom) to see the difference in HR. Today I pushed it literally “through the roof,” topping out beyond zone 5C, which isn’t even supposed to be possible. Yet those “all-out” intervals seemed easier yesterday than a week ago.

New LTHR Test on Monday

Note as well that busting out above Z5C also means that it’s time to re-test lactate threshold heart rate. The LTHR-based zones you see in the graphs came from my first LTHR test, which was a field test consisting of a five-mile time trial on actual roads.

This also works out perfectly, because I’m scheduled for a true LTHR test Monday in which I’ll ride the bike on a CompuTrainer while my trainer and a friend of ours slowly ramps up the resistance and draws blood for tests every few minutes, ultimately constructing a graph of lactate content that’ll show the exact point (in terms of HR and power, since the CompuTrainer has a power meter built in) where my body can no longer process lactate as quickly as I can process it. These numbers will go back into TrainingPeaks, which will generate new HR training zones, which I’ll then load into the Garmin. Cool, huh? Except, of course, for the hour-long LTHR sufferfest.

Getting Better

Since both Audra and I have been missing swims — and we totally missed the one we planned last night — we really wanted to at least remember how it feels to move in the water before our sprint tomorrow. With everything else on the (limited by work, too) schedule today, there was no way we’d get to a lap pool. Rather than let it get to us, we ran over to the neighborhood’s play pool and swam a bit there.

Working hard(ly).

Working hard(ly).

Audra, kicking ass.

Audra, kicking ass.

It doesn’t have lap lanes, and there’s no way either of us would’ve called it a “workout,” but we probably got a couple hundred yards in swimming in large circles around the pool. If nothing else, we got a lot of buoy turn practice.

After work I snuck the shortened pre-race-day brick on my training calendar, a one-hour ride consisting mostly of short (8 min) zone 4 intervals and a lot of zone 3 time followed by a 10 min zone 1 run with a few 30-second 5k race pace intervals. If there’s one thing the trainer does well, it’s drain sweat from me like a tap. (It reminds me of the Stairmaster in that way.) I need a fan for that room bad.

My view from the trainer.

My view from the trainer.

Getting Ready for Tomorrow

Really today’s workout was a three-sport brick: ride, run, shower. After the race pace intervals, the next interval was straight into the shower, then off with Audra to the packet pickup for tomorrow’s sprint.

Also to the left is the nicest gym bathroom I've ever seen.

Also to the left is the nicest gym bathroom I’ve ever seen.

Wow, the Cooper Athletic Center is pretty damn luxurious. Walking past the room where we picked up our packets we could see the pool where we’ll swim tomorrow. Wish I could afford a membership at this place. It’s convenient from home, too. Dammit.

Cooper's 50m outdoor pool, and a seriously nice gym with a view.

Cooper’s 50m outdoor pool, and a seriously nice gym with a view.

Then we made a quick stop by Tri Shop for a quick bike tune-up.  After last weekend’s rainy ride, I washed my bike down with a hose and got all the mud and crap off it, let it dry, then lubed the chain and shot TriFlow into the moving parts, but the rear brakes have been sticking. Our friend Stearns at the shop lubed the cable and brake mechanism and had it workout perfectly in about two minutes. I can’t say enough about buying a bike from a shop that you like and that’ll treat you well. Having a great bike is, well, great. Having a great bike that fits you is wonderful. And having a great bike that fits you that works perfectly all the time is about as good as it gets. My bike feels like my buddy that’s always up for doing something fun.

Back home, Audra installed a small bike bag to hold some race nutrition, and we attached our race numbers.

People call these "bento boxes," like the little Asian food boxes.

People call these “bento boxes,” like the little Asian food boxes.



Maybe it’s just the organization freak in me, but I really hate the way these top-tube numbers attach. They look ugly, they flap in the wind, and they brush against my legs all the time, too. I’m gonna have to do some research to find out if it’s too much of a rule issue to install the number elsewhere.

Finally, we packed everything up for the event tomorrow and made some food.

Transition bag almost ready to go.

Transition bag almost ready to go.

Packed and ready.

Packed and ready.

Looking forward to a great event tomorrow!