race change

a couple of weeks ago i was all set to register for my first race of 2010, the tim hortons grimsby 5k. turns out that the information i got about this race earlier in the year was incorrect, and this is actually a 3k race, not a 5k. once aware of this new information, i promptly began searching for another race and discovered a 5k race in peterborough, and that's where i'm heading tomorrow morning.

i'm trying to decide how i feel about tomorrow. this race is sort of big for me but i'm not nervous; i feel sort of ready for it but i know that i'm still not quite; i want to get a personal best 5k time but i don't think that i will. this will be my first organized, competitive race since my injury last august. that injury was a huge setback and only since january have i been feeling like i'm beginning to regain my running strength. more than anything i'll be using this race to gauge my fitness level compared to this time last year. i know that i'm not any faster than i was, but i need this race to tell me if i'm at the same level or, if not, just how far behind. i'll also be using my heart rates from tomorrow's 5k to determine my race plan for next week's half marathon.

for finishing expectations i'm remaining realistic: i would like to make the top 10 overall, but i'll only be able to finish in the top 10 if i can run at the pace that i would like to maintain. i'm certain i can break 20 minutes, i hope to break 19 minutes, and i'll be thrilled if i can break 18 minutes. but breaking 18 minutes is a bit too far fetched at this point and i'm certain i won't even come close. my 5k pb is 17.40, but i don't think tomorrow is my day to break it; i'm just not strong enough yet. tomorrow's race is all about having fun and seeing what my body is capable of this early in the year. and it's also about trying not to break my neck in the slippery, sloppy, mushy snow that's blanketed southern ontario in the past couple days. this snow is making for pretty good packing snow so i might just start whipping snowballs at all of the athletes ahead of me. maybe i'll get on the podium that way.

dynamic warm-ups

throughout the year as my running mileage and intensity has increased, i've started noticing patterns. it seems that my best running performances tend to take place during brick workouts, where i do my running after spending some time on the bike. when my workouts are run-only, my body usually feels pretty beat up after finishing anything longer than a 60-minute effort. a huge goal of mine for 2010 is to remain injury free, and it was seeming like no matter what sort of strength and flexibility i've incorporated into my training, things still felt off and i wasn't going to be able to shake any seemingly inevitable injuries. during a recent trip to see my chiropractor with complaints of a sore left knee (similar to injuries in the past), i explained the whole everything is fine if i ride first situation. i let out a huge sigh of relief when i was told that the pain wasn't joint related at all, but that my knee was hurting because my hamstrings weren't getting warmed up properly before long run-only workouts. it seemed like such a no brainer to me afterwards! obviously my legs are warmed up much better after spending some time on the bike, but a typical warm-up while running would only consist of some light jogging before my hard efforts.

anyways, my sports chiro suggested that i look into dynamic warm-ups. i did some online research and came across a few articles, but i wasn't until i found this little gem on youtube that i was able to put together a warm-up routine and try it out. there were improvements immediately and i haven't had any soreness or muscle tightness in two full weeks of training with my new warm-ups. i've added a few small things that aren't in the video to make it slightly more multisport specific, but otherwise my routine is pretty much the same that you see here. combined with stretching, dynamic warm-ups have made a huge difference in my recovery and and how i feel post-workout, and i would recommend it to anyone. if you're trying to spot me on race day, look for the moron doing the completely ridiculous looking warm-up routine off to the side.

lactate test

my coach is general manager of absolute endurance, arguably one of the best multisport training facilities in the province. i do almost all of my training at absolute, and having access to the facilities and having a coach that owns the place comes with some pretty nice perks. one of those perks is lactate testing. the purpose of a lactate test is to determine what your lactate threshold is, and then use that information to determine training zones. particularly valuable to endurance athletes, you train in those zones to increase your lactate threshold, thereby increasing your performance. by no stretch of the imagination am i an expert on the subject, but in the very simplest of terms, your lactate threshold is the point just below the work effort that your body switches from using its fat supplies as its primary energy source to using carbohydrates as its primary energy source. your body burns through carbs much faster than fats, and an average person could very likely run a marathon at a very low exertion effort, using fat supplies to make it through the race. however, once that same person's body starts working harder and their heart rate increases, there's a point at which the body will switch to burning carbs. if not properly re-fueled, the body will run out of carbs long before crossing the finish line. the idea is that if you train just below your lactate threshold, your body slowly begins to adapt and will eventually switch to burning carbs at higher heart rates.

for those multisport athletes out there, we all know that our heart rates are much lower on the bike portion of the race than they are while running. that means you have to train in zones differently for each discipline. in november, when i had recovered enough from an injury that put me out for three months, i started my new training program with my coach. my leg was still recovering and it was too soon for a running lactate test, so my coach started me off with a test on the bike to see where i was at. going only from my workout logs from the past three months and how my body has felt, i knew that my cycling had improved since then, but it wasn't until last night's second lactate test that my coach and i got a much better idea of how far things have come in that time.

it would take me too long time to completely break the test down but i'll try to explain the jist of it. both tests (the first in november, the second last night) were identical and started out the same: i began by pushing 160 watts, i would ride for three minutes then my coach would record my heart rate, watts would then increase by 20, i'd ride for three more minutes and have my heart rate recorded, watts would again be increased by 20. this keeps going until, by feel only, i knew that i was working hard (when you know you're working hard, lactate is in the system). at this point it's a tough effort, about 80% of max, which i should only be able to hold for about 15-20 minutes. this is when my first blood test is taken and my blood lactate is recorded. at this point the watts are brought way down and held at a level that allows my heart rate to settle at 145bpm. this is the recovery portion of the test. once my heart rate has settled, my blood lactate is measured again and the watts start coming back up every three minutes. when the watts start climbing again, my heart rate slowly starts to come up again, and the test ends when my blood lactate level goes about 4 mmol/l (whatever that means). the numbers (both heart rate and wattage) just below that level is my lactate threshold.

so that's the complicated part. here's the real world, laymen part: in three months i've increased my wattage at my lactate threshold by 70 watts. and not only has my power output increased, but my recovery time has decreased. in theory that means that i'll be able to ride a course for a sustained effort at 70 watts higher than i could have three months ago, and i'll be able to push harder sooner after a big climb. this is a HUGE improvement!!! not only was my coach very excited with the results, but i was ecstatic! it was so awesome to see some fancy scientific numbers affirming what i already feel: i've come a long way on the bike in a short period of time.

another great thing that has come out of this test is that it's clear i know my body. at two different points during the test my coach asked me to guess my heart rate and my watts (which were blind to me) and both times i guessed them bang-on. this means that out there on race day i should be able to gauge how hard my body is working and i should know how long i can hold a specific effort. this should payoff huge in race management, helping to ensure i don't go out on the bike too hard too soon.

my body feels great on the bike, the numbers show gains, and next week i'll have a chance for a real-world cycling fitness improvement test. every so often absolute endurance has indoor 40k time trials. i haven't been able to do one since the end of october because of schedule conflicts, so next week's TT will be my first opportunity to do some side-by-side fitness comparisons. i don't honestly expect to be able to average 70 more watts for over an hour, but i do expect improvements. either way i'm looking forward to the workout.

too bad running is a whole other issue. my running speed is still sucky and slow slow slow. a geriatric in a wheelchair could probably beat me across the finish line in a running race.

you know you're working too much when...

...getting home from the office before 6pm on a sunday night is something practically worth celebrating. work has been completely insane since the end of last november, and every time i think it's going to die down it gets crazy again. the past two weeks i've been working like a madman, barely getting three hours of training in each week. but as of today, with the completion of my latest project, work officially cools down until the madness begins all over again, which it undoubtedly will. i love my job and i enjoy my work, but 16-hour workdays and working 14 days straight is lame-o.

getting right back on the training wagon, i have a lactate test on the bike tomorrow which i'm actually pretty excited about. my last bike lactate test was at the end of last october, so this will be an indication of how my riding has progressed since then. my coach has scheduled wednesday as a day off for me, but i think i'll sneak a workout it anyways. i'll just have to keep it a secret.

absolute endurance on breakfast television!

just got the word that absolute endurance (where i do most of my training) will be on breakfast television tomorrow morning (feb 4th), starting at about 7am. from the email i just received:

"Starting at around 7 am we will be featuring a few of the main components of our facility (computrainer, pool etc) and one of these 3 minute segments will be Cindy and I demonstrating and explaining a run analysis and how we use this information to treat our athletes and patients."

happy viewing!