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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Change of Heart



Aside from the electrolytes and nutrition obsession, I’ve been reevaluating my training.  A family with two little kids eats up a good chunk of time (in a good way) with little left for training and/or going out in the country.  Those fine multi-day misadventure excursions have generally eroded, for now, which is not necessarily a negative.  I am able to get out each day for 1-2 hours and a longer outings once a month. To make the most of that time I need to focus intensely on my goals.  


After placing only ~130th overall and 30th in my age group on both triathlons (at least I'm consistent) this summer, I was totally blown away at the competition.  Older men and women were blasting by me at times.  What were these folks doing in training?  It certainly wasn’t just a $10,000 bike or fancy running shoes or they all had genetically high V02 max.  I started looking a little closer at what ironman coaches were advertising on the web, what kind of research was out there to support training methods.  It certainly is a huge sport with extreme competition, $ponsor$hip and tremendous variability in coaching styles.  It’s also one of the few endurance sports with ESPN type pros that basically anyone can sign up to race.  Therefore there seems to be quite a bit of endurance physiological data out there on elite and non-elite racers.   A little online extraction from interviews, articles and blogs of the pros led to some interesting reading too.  There definitely seems to be a trend of efficiency of time, core training, (very) strong emphasis on recovery and heart rate and a number of pro’s commented on the importance of a professional bike fit with a known fitter.  Certainly nothing earth shattering but still insightful that interval training while important wasn't the most important.  
Heart Rate
I basically made a decision to try something a little different, more structured in my limited time so I could train for both the 350 ITI this winter and a full ironman in the spring.  My background is swimming and typically I’m a big fan of high intensity cross training; swimming, core workouts, biking and running- it was the hard intensity level I thought made the best use of time.  Going back to the basics of heart rate seemed like a risk.  I never trained with heart rate and kind of scoffed at it as I always thought it was the easy way out (training at a lower HR). However, it's what a lot of the endurance world does, apparently, and this past b-day I got a Suunto Heart rate monitor from my 3 yr old daughter.  The Swiss in me absolutely loves looking at my heart rate watch.  The first thing I did was wear it to sleep and got my low HR which was somewhere around 38. Interesting stuff, especially uploading my sleep HR. Almost like a sleep study, can see spikes from dreaming... or when the baby cries.  Then the following day I slammed some intervals to get my high HR. It was easy to get above 180 in running uphill but could barely get to 180 on the bike up the steepest riding hill I could find.
Results?
I’ve been doing the heart rate training for about a month now.  Essentially 3rd zone or 70-80% max HR in both running and biking, focusing on hills.  It’s hard to go slow but what a difference how I feel.  My recovery is instant, I am going longer distances and I can get up and do it again the next day or if I had time just keep going.  If I keep my HR at a low HR zone right at 146 I can climb anything.  It is also interesting to see how biking HR and running are totally different. Biking (grinding) in snow uphill at 2mph at a 146 HR is waaay easier to control HR than pushing a bike at the same speed (HR 158). Now that's interesting b/c sometimes one perceives grinding a bike harder than pushing but maybe not? It certainly would explain how depleted I am pushing over Rainy.  


We have two hills close to town called Anvil and Newton.  They are both about 1,000 ft of gain and both trails are right about a mile in length so it’s fairly steep.  I ride with the fatbike up Newton and run up Anvil usually from town.  Although the recent snow considerably slowed my pace; 4 miles in an hour while I was wandering aimlessly  pushing my bike up Newton in zero visibility-


I won’t know the effects until I race but I would cautiously say I am optimistic (unless of course I am running down tundra in a snow storm and twist my ankle as I did last Sunday or fall (again) from the clipless pedals as I did yesterday).  Theoretically, the slower pace may be good for the ITI and afterwards I can throw in interval training for the ironman to get some speed.  We'll see... as in my last post, to be continued…

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