Monday, 8 December 2014

A week of experimentation.

Its been a busy week. The upside of being productive is there is plenty to write about, the downside is that there isn't the time. Thanks to the persistent encouragement of my wife however, I have found that time now.
The beginning of last week should have been part of my rest week, with The Program re starting its 4 weekly cycle last Wednesday. I was enjoying the rest, but it creates time. You get so used to fitting everything in that when you suddenly don't have to find 2+hrs per day to train it leaves you with time to think, and all that extra energy to burn.
Now is definitely the time to try new things, things that will hopefully pay dividends come races next year. With that in mind I decided to step out of my rest week early. Definitely not something I would advocate others to do, but I was feeling strong and well rested by Sunday so decided to trial the concept of the reverse taper. With that in mind I grabbed an early night Sunday, ready for the next few days ahead, and preparation for a local beach front 5k on the upcoming Tuesday evening.
Dodging the usual Monday morning endurance swim set, I started at 6am on a Bike/Run/Bike brick for 1.5hrs. I then repeated that brick Monday night, over 2hrs. Tuesday morning I got up and did another straight brick involving anaerobic interval sets for 45mins on the bike and then a nice 5k run.

My legs were certainly now under no illusion as to what I expected of them, and kept reminding me they were very aware that they had been put to work. By building the intensity and volume over a short sharp period following a rest the theory being tested was that the legs would be ready and expectant in meeting the demands that would be placed on them later. They should still be fresh enough from the rest to absorb the last 48hrs efforts, and know that it was time to work hard without yet being fatigued.
3 of us travelled to the race. Only making it by the skin of our teeth thanks to the abysmal planning and organisational skills of our driver, and his magical bag of kit that included absolutely everything he owned except his bike spilling out all over the car. It had been cold and windy all day, with plenty of rain, and nobody was holding much hope of this changing for the race. As it happened there was no rain, but the wind was strong and bitingly cold. I knew from the Humber bridge 6hr enduro a few months back I could expect plenty of salt and sand in my eyes. It is always tempting to think you will be OK to run in shorts and a vest while you are getting ready in the home, but I had plumped for a compression top and leggings and was pleased with the choice. It was about a mile to the start from the parking, and we took the opportunity to warm up on the way down.
On arrival at the start line I was surprised to find over 200 people in attendance. It's always good to see people who can be bothered to get out and get involved. I've never been a 'stand alone' runner, and could tell straight off there was plenty of pedigree on the line. There was also plenty of other Louth Tri members down there and the time passed quickly waiting for the start while everyone took turns to abuse my choice of bright fluorescent orange leggings. That kind of lip is welcome though, only serving to ensure I try harder to beat them and shame them !
Eventually the whistle blew and we were off. A straight initial 2km into a hard wind. I really wanted to use this event to test the reverse taper on my body, but also get a gauge of my speed once a month to measure improvements over the winter period, so I was keen to give it my best. Learning from the Market Rasen 10k a few weeks previous I eased off at the start, resisting the urge to power off like previously, and stuck just off the shoulder of the lead pack for the first 800m. After this point a hole began developing. It was a carbon copy of the last race. After about 1/2 a mile the lead group were pulling a gap and I just couldn't keep it closed. This continued, my lungs and legs burning as I tried to settle into a manageable pace. By 1200m the gap had extended to about 150 / 200m, but had stabilised. And that in a nutshell was where I stayed. I was up to speed and keeping even pace with the group in front, but once again I was unable to close it, or stop that gap forming at the start. The wind blew hard, and it made it tough slugging it out alone in the no mans land between packs, with nobody to draft behind. I finished 12th with a disappointing 18:54min. That was a good minute off what I had been expecting. Afterwards though it seemed everyone had suffered a minutes gain due to the weather, so all things being even it wasn't too bad. The race had served some purpose, it was highlighting a problem with getting up to speed at the start.
I went away thinking this was down to the reverse taper, and was annoyed at myself for trying it. My legs and chest hurting like hell after the initial start while I tried to settle into pace had served no benefit. A KFC on the way back and the usual dissection of the race with my fellow Louth competitors eased the grief.
Next day however I mentioned this to a fellow club member, and soon to be new club Chairman Steve. With years of running experience under his belt he immediately suggested that I wasn't warmed up enough at the start. He suggested that if my heart rate wasn't up there and ready to go, then that would explain the gap that developed while my body adjusted to what was required. That made sense. Something so simple that I had overlooked, and once again by taking the time to talk it through someone else could see the wood for the trees and had made a sensible suggestion. We had been delayed on the line, it was cold and we passed the time with chatter. That won't be happening again.... arrive in the nick of time, arrive warm and run hard. With so many variables it is hard to know if the reverse taper was a success or not, but next months race falls at the end of the rest week again, and I will take full advantage of that beforehand, and I can then compare more.
Wednesday ticked off a decent balanced swim set, with Ella enjoying the club swimming too.
Thursday, and a cancellation in the diary meant I had time to talk through a friend who I have recently drawn up a training plan for - to set up his turbo, and perform a Lactate Threshold test. By getting him to do a 10minute warm up on the bike, and then move straight into a maximum even sustainable effort for 20minutes, then taking the average heart rate during that 20 minutes this will give him his lactate threshold, and the starting point for the various zones he will be working through to build endurance over the winter.

Simon and the winter training shed/office.
Getting back a bit early gave me the opportunity to seize some daylight and put down a juicy 1hr at my Intensive Endurance pace on the bike, followed by a 13mile cross country run, and then straight back onto the bike for 1/2hr of interval sets moving between 4minutes at the Extensive Endurance point to 1 minute of Anaerobic repetition.
This is an interesting final part to this set. It is always a shock to the legs to get back on the bike after a run, much like running off the bike used to be during my first forays into triathlon. Maintaining pace is hard, but after the first 1minute of max effort the pacing becomes easier. As time moves on each 1minute interval shows a decrease in power, with my legs fatiguing quicker. The real surprise however is that while the overall power declines, the recovery pace increases slightly. By the end of the set the reward for the suffering is an overall increase in output (for no extra Beats Per Minute) over the 4 minute extensive endurance phase.
Friday was a rest day, needed after a week of a race and several big bricks. Enjoying the day with Sarah shopping and a monster fry up, before heading out into the hills to cheer on Ella at a County cross country event. Watching all the students run made me wish I had my trainers to hand. Still it is always good to stand on the side lines and take your turn to be a supporter, knowing there are plenty of times it is the other way around, and people being bothered to cheer me on.
Friday night was the Louth Tri Club AGM. The club was in fine form, with a cracking spread, the food highlight being an anonymous supplier of cool little LTC runner gingerbread men!

Ace little Louth Tri gingerbread men.
The evening saw a change in the guard, as the old Chairman stepped down to concentrate on competition next season. If ever there was a good reason to take yourself away from the administrative side of a club, then that has to be the best. Simon has begun his winter training in earnest now, and I have every confidence he will achieve what he wants. He has a sensible 2 year plan and is already well on the way to beating his first winter training goals.
Best Newcomer went to Team Conways youngest member - Luke, who is now holding his own admirably among the seniors, and the coaches award went to Oliver Whelpton, for consistent hard work. Oliver is always conspicuous in his absence from training sessions, and the award was well deserved for recognition of the quiet consistent effort he applies. Jackie Hall bagged most improved, and she definitely has, again consistent applied effort has got her the results she deserves. Female of the year went to Kerry Drewery, the club member responsible for me suffering the Hell on The Humber endurance marathon. She was the clear stand out winner having featured at the top of her age category through out the races she undertook last season. Finally the Male Triathlete of the year went to Ross MacGreggor. He was the only option for this award, having taken himself from complete novice 2 years ago to Midlands Sprint Champion 2015, bagging himself a Sprint Age Group spot for Team GB along the way, heading out to Canada to compete for his Country in the autumn and finishing 3rd GB athlete home - securing automatic requalification for next year at Chicago. Oh, and also winning the inaugural home town Louth Triathlon in September.

The Louth Elite Sprint Relay Team.
The one thing that stands out with all of these winners very clearly is the solid consistent effort they put into their training. Everything has a purpose, and there is a clearly defined goal at the end of it. They know it takes time, they work hard through the lows and it gives them the highs come race day. Its a pleasure and a privilege to train with them all.
On a side note, and a big bonus for The Working Class Triathlete Team, is that the outgoing Chairman Simon is now on The Program using our techniques to help him reach his goals. Oliver, winner of the Coaches Award is also well down the road of his personalised program, and Luke, the most improved for 2014 is also now on our client list, and will be starting his goal specific training plan in the next week or so once we have agreed all his targets and fully understand his aims for 2015. All in all a great show of effort that people have put into the plans we have been developing, making it a real honour to work with them and see them getting results through the hard work I know that each of them apply. The biggest win here for me is that seeing them work so hard gives me no option but to always also give my best. I cannot ask anything of others that I would not do myself.
Saturday morning, and after getting in at around 2am (just the right side of sober) I just managed to make it to the club swim set. It was good to see others still motivated enough too, including Oliver who had won an award and had reason to celebrate, and Jo who had been out too, and it was her birthday that morning! And they were still motivated enough to train. The set passed quickly, and I felt good on it. I was glad I went.
Home to a normal family Saturday.
Sunday saw a return to the extended brick designed to help my body learn to delay fatigue. Bike/Run/Bike at endurance and interval paces again, and by focusing on run and cycling economy this really helped me to again see improvements from last month.
Sunday also saw a nice surprise, fellow athlete and Friend Jon Bromfield kindly gave me his Polar Heart Rate Monitor, knowing I had been limping by with a cheap eBay affair. This rekindled my interest in the stats and has barely been taken off since......
The post set cold shower registered 44 beats per minute. Very pleased with the control of that.
This morning was also a return to the 7am swim endurance swim set with Ross. Only this morning he decided to trial his wetsuit in the pool. The usual gaggle of ladies were loving watching him wiggle into his rubber at poolside, but the exercise was a worthwhile one.
We all know you go faster in a wetsuit. We all swim at a given pace in the pool, and we all swim at an increased (wetsuited) pace in the Lake. You get used to that fact. You also get used to the approximate pace of your training partners in each environment. To swim this morning next to a wet-suited athlete while I was in skins cemented in my mind the value of that piece of kit. Ross is always quicker than me in the pool, but today he was seriously quicker. The increase in pace was noticeable. Especially at the start, he put down a 5:13 400m without even trying. The pace decreased over time as he progressed, but he was still faster than normal. Afterwards the only complaint was overheating, and shoulder strain. Both of those were not unexpected, and a worthwhile exercise in appreciating the value of the suit.

The question in my mind now is can you gain more time in a 400m pool based sprint than you would lose taking the suit off in transition if you wore one?
Cold showers after. They are the norm now. A little part of me is dreading having to re adapt to the heat in 11days time.

Post Shower Heart Rate.