How, after racing triathlons for 28 years, I put down the fastest bike split of my life

17 10 2012

I’ve been a fairly serious age-group athlete since 1984. My strength and favorite part of triathlon has always been the bike. I’ve had a few breakthroughs over the years; one being the season after my first full winter of cycling – indoors and out depending on weather. I recall having a little breakthrough when I first started using deep race wheels. One would think after all these years of training and competing, at 55 years old, my fastest performances would be behind me.

The summer season of 2012, I had two races with bike speed averages faster than I’ve ever gone before. One at the Indy Triathlon and a few weeks later had another in Chicago (26 miles in 59 min).

The difference this year? Cyclocross last winter.

Cyclocross is the perfect activity to keep motivated and bike fit over the winter. And as it turns out, triathlon training is absolutely awesome base training for cyclocross racing. And together, they make a well rounded fitness program.

Triathlon fitness is all about “threshold” effort and therefore threshold training. At the end of the tri season when a triathlete has maxed his/her threshold, it’s time to switch to anaerobic and VO2 Max intervals for cyclocross season. When cyclocross season wraps up in December, you roll back to base training for  triathlon season – except this time, the level of fitness going into base is much, much higher than ever before.

It’s good for the body to be pushed in new ways. Cyclocross racing puts a higher level of stress on the muscle and cardio system than does even the shortest sprint triathlon, increasing total fitness and anti-aging effect.


2011 Season

21 04 2011

I’m starting the 2011 season with legs that seem willing to run, so we’ll see how it goes. The plan is to stay healthy, by keeping run mileage to a minimum and go for a peak performance through four weeks in August – Tri Indy Triathlon – USAT National Age Group Championship in Burlington – Chicago Triathlon.

I plan on continuing my winter running routine – 2.5 miles, very easy every morning M-F. Take Saturday off from running and Sunday will be tempo day on my hard weeks. Here’s what the program looks like:
I’ll start Threshold/Vo2 Max intervals on Tuesdays in Phase 3 towards the end of June.

Last year, I had a stress fracture that goofed up my run training most of the summer, but even with almost no running in June (of 2010) and very little in July, I still had a very decent race in Chicago last year. I think this was due to two factors: Years of running in my past. And, lots of hard bike riding.

So, the plan is to bike as much as possible – Not big long rides, but lots of rides – many if not most, at high intensity.

Applicable reading:

the case for sprint training for endurance athletes

19 03 2010

Unlike sports which require strength, speed and power to be successful, distance running is primarily limited by the delivery and use of oxygen. There are no studies showing that strength training improves oxygen delivery from lungs to muscles. In fact, the resulting changes from strength and endurance training are contradictory. Strength training stimulates muscle fiber hypertrophy (growth). This may increase body weight, which increases the metabolic cost of running (more muscle requires more oxygen). Larger muscles also have a smaller density of capillaries and mitochondria, which is detrimental to endurance. Endurance training causes muscles to respond in an opposite fashion by increasing the number of mitochondria and capillaries to facilitate the use of oxygen. Endurance training also decreases body weight, optimizing oxygen use.

Despite this seeming contraction, there is growing research demonstrating the value of “power training” as opposed to traditional “strength training.”   Recent studies have shown, in subjects who used power training, running economy improved when subjects included explosive or heavy weight training in their training programs.

Besides the documented positive increase in running economy one of the biggest advantages of all-out power workouts is that they flood your body with Human Growth Hormone (HGH).  HGH is released in the body while sleeping so getting a good night’s sleep and even an occasional nap is a strategy athletes have used for years to maximize recovery and to ultimately, perform better.   Many bodybuilders and anti-aging types frequently take artificial injections of HGH at a very high financial cost.  HGH production decreases as we age so it is probably even more important to the masters athlete.

Power training is done with weights in a weight room using heavy weights ( >85% of one-rep max), and fast speeds for 3 to 4 sets of 5 to 6 reps. Another popular method uses plyometrics which includes jumping and bounding exercises involving repeated, rapid eccentric and concentric muscle contractions. This is shown to improve running economy and 5K running times.

I’m trying Hill Sprints as my form of power training for running (I think this most closely replicates the action of regular running plus it’s easy for me to get to a short hill perfect for this kind of workout.) and 25 yard sprints in the pool.

So far I can report no problems with knees or shoulders. In fact, I’ve decided the uphill effort doesn’t seem to stress my knee at all – we shall see. The workouts are a lot different from anything I’ve done before. Think about the last time you ever ran as hard as you could go with absolutely no pacing yourself – all out for 20 or 30 seconds. I’ve felt great this week and I’m kind of excited about trying something brand new after all these years.

Here are some interesting links on this topic. Most aren’t particularly scientific but it gives you an idea of the growing attention power training it getting.

Power Emphasis

17 03 2010

I’m starting a “power” phase of swim and run training which I plan to continue for a total of three weeks.  The fourth week will be a recovery week. I’ll post more later about the reasons for trying this strategy, but for now I’m going to share a couple workouts I’m doing.

After a 15 to 20 min warm-up run do:
4 X 30 sec – all out – uphill

I’m going to continue doing tempo runs on the weekend and possibly adding Threshold runs on the track (3 x 1 mile at 10K race pace) once a week. This is all dependent on my knee and ankle holding up. If it gets cranky, I’ll have to back off and stick to my easier paced, morning runs only.

You’re going to love this workout :- /    It takes a lot of time and doesn’t yield a lot of yards, and can be hard on your shoulders, but doing it once a week for three weeks should pay off (if you don’t injure yourself).

    Running total Running total
400 swim Warm-up 400 8 min
8 x 50 kick With 20 sec rest 800 18 min
4 x 100 drill on 2:15 Swim with hands in fists – not open 1200 27 min
20 x 25 on 1:00 Lots of rest – go VERY hard 1700 52 min
100 easy Backstroke and/or breast 1800 54 min
3 x 200 pull on 3:45 Your arms should be toast after this set. 2400 66 min
400 Warm down – mix in some backstroke 2800 74 min

Weekend swim workout

5 02 2010

Here is a fairly challenging workout that can be done in around an hour.

    Running total Running total
400 swim Warm-up 400 8 min
4 X 200 on 4:00 1st length of each 100, swim with hands in a fist. Work on using high elbow to grab water with entire forearm. 1200 25 min
100 easy backstroke   1300 27
100 on 2:00
200 on 3:30
Do the whole sequence 100, 200, four times. You’ll get lots of rest on the 100, but not so much on the 200’s. 2500 49
100 easy breaststroke   2600 52
4 x 100 pull on 1:45 Try alternate breathing if you can. Since you aren’t kicking, you won’t need as much O2. 3000 56
200 swim Warm-down 3200 60

The main set is done this way:

  • Do the 100 on the 2:00 interval
  • After 2:00, start the 200 on the 3:45.
  • After 3:45 start the next 100 again.
  • Do this until you complete the whole set 4 times.

Winter training plan

4 02 2010

I missed my daily late morning swim today. I had to work during my usual 9:30 – 10:15 break but it’s OK because I plan on swimming with the masters group tonight and it’s probably better to be fresh as possible for the competitive nature of those workouts. This afternoon, before masters swimming, I’ll do another short run, making it a three workout day.

Yesterday was a good day; I was able to squeeze in four snappy little workouts, keeping with my philosophy of high frequency – and in the case of running – low volume. I ran my usual, workday 5:00 a.m., 3.5 mile wake-up jog, followed by my 9:30 a.m.,1000 yard swim, followed by an afternoon 1500 yard interval workout swim, followed by a 45 min spin on the bike later in the evening.(indoors using rollers and a power meter).

Here’s what a typical January and February training week is looking like. I am still doing what I call a swim emphasis and that will continue through February. I obviously move things around and even add workouts occasionally, but this is the basic structure I’ve been following and will continue to follow until March.

Early morning Late morning Afternoon Evening
Monday 3.5 mile jog Swim 1500Hard time-trial of 200 to 500 yds Optional yoga 90 min of Tennis
Tuesday 3.5 mile jog Swim 15001000 continuous Sub-threshold bike ride (2 X 20 min @ sub-threshold watts)
Wednesday 3.5 mile jog Swim 1000400 @ 1600 race pace Optional swim Easy bike or however I feel
Thursday 3.5 mile jog Swim 10001000 continuous


Optional run Masters swim team workout
Friday 3.5 mile jog Swim 1000 – 1500Depending how I feel
Saturday 5 mile jog Masters swim team workout Optional yoga Tempo bike (1 x 40 – 60 @ tempo watts)
Sunday 6 mile runwith 3 miles @ tempo pace

I just came off an easy week because my swim times were slipping and my knee started hurting a bit more than usual. Planning an easy week once a month is probably a good idea, but I usually wait until my schedule (due to a vacation or busy work week) demands less training or until my body gives me clues, it needs a break.

Swimming – My hard swims are Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. Monday I like to do a time trial to check my fitness. Thursday and Saturday’s I swim with the masters group which is always challenging due to the yardage (3000-4000 yards), but more importantly, because of the competitiveness of the workouts.

Biking – I roughly follow the 3X/week, indoor cycling schedule outlined above this time of year. The two “hard” days are Tuesday and Saturday. Any time we get a warm day, defined as above 40 degrees, the schedule is scrapped I get outside on the tandem or my time-trial bike.

Running – Nothing very earth-shaking here. I’m keeping the frequency as high as possible with 7 or more runs per week. The only hard day is Sunday when I run 2 – 4 miles at tempo-pace.

Tempo is defined by me as 5-mile race pace + 15 seconds (or so). At this point and time; I’d guess my 5-mile race pace as 6:45/mi, so my tempo runs need to be around 6:55 – 7:05/mi. I’m a big fan of tempo runs for triathlon training for many reasons, but the number one reason is; tempo runs just happen to be almost exactly the same pace you’ll run your 10K leg of an Olympic-distance triathlon. How’s that for specificity of training? Also, for me, I think it has less risk for injury than faster pace intervals. As the racing season approaches, I may do some threshold intervals (mile repeats) on the track at 5 mile race pace, depending how my legs are holding out. There is a 5 mile race here in downtown Indy in a couple weeks. I plan on doing it to check my current fitness, but more importantly, to determine my proper training pace.

For more information on tempo runs,7120,s6-238-267–11909-0,00.html

February swim workouts

27 01 2010

build your swim fitness in preparation for the 2010 race season

I’ll post a new set of workouts each month, each progressing toward olympic distance race readiness. We’ll assume racing will begin at the end of May or early June.

I have two sets of workouts: “lunchtime” and “weekend.” Lunchtime workouts are shorter and attempt to get the maximum results in the shortest amount of time. Weekend workouts take a bit more time, allowing for work on stroke technique and longer sets. I’m posting four lunchtime workouts today. Tomorrow, I’ll post some longer, weekend workouts.

Feel free to comment or ask questions.

lunchtime workout #1

Running total Running total
500 swim Warm-up 500 10 min
4 x 100 on 1:45 Make sure you are getting between 15 – 30 sec rest, otherwise adjust interval 900 18 min
300 pull Keep elbows high – like you’re swimming over a barrel 1200 24 min
4 x 50 on 1:00 Make sure you are getting at least 10 sec rest, otherwise adjust interval 1400 19 min
200 Warm down – easy 1600 24 min

lunchtime workout #2

Running total Running total
500 swim Warm-up 500 10 min
8 x 50 on 1:00 Every other one HARD 900 19 min
6 x 50 kick 15 sec rest 1200 27 min
200 swim Build speed – swim each 50 a little faster – last 50 finish like racing 1400 31 min
200 Warm down – easy 1600 35 min

lunchtime workout #3

Running total Running total
400 swim Warm-up 400 8 min
200 pull Warm-up 600 12 min
200 kick Warm-up 800 17 min
4 x 100 on 1:50 1200 25 min
Rest 1 min 26 min
4 x 100 on 1:40 1600 34 min
400 Warm down – mix in some backstroke 2000 42 min

lunchtime workout #4

Running total Running total
400 swim Warm-up 400 8 min
200 pull Warm-up 600 12 min
200 kick Warm-up 800 17 min
400 swim @ Olympic distance race pace 1200 25 min
6 x 50 on 1:00 Descend 1-3 (moderate, fast, fastest) & 4-6 (moderate, fast, fastest) 1500 32 min
200 pull 1700 36 min
300 Warm down – mix in some backstroke 2000 42 min