Friday, December 31, 2010

The offseason

So it has been a very long time since I have posted anything. There are a lot of reasons for this. The primary reason is my new job as the company has internet access locked down. As a result I don’t tend to think about the blog that much. It also means I don’t read others nearly as often. The second reason is that it is the off-season. And while I am training hard, it just isn’t the same as having race results to talk about.

Anyway, here is what is new with me. As those of you reading this may recall, during my last few postings I was having a lot of issues with the Crohns disease. After several discussions with the doctor and several problems we made an increase to one of my medications (Humira) and did another short round of prednisone. I am happy to report that I have been off the prednisone for a couple months and I have not had a single flare up. For that I am very grateful. I had sworn off salads and rough veggies for a while, but am back to eating the occasional salad to try and maintain a somewhat healthy diet.

On another good note, I have avoided gaining 10-15lbs like in other off seasons. This year I had gained no weight up until my trip to Mexico where I gained about 3-4lbs. I am now sitting at about 206. This is also very good news as my weight loss effort usually gets serious in January. I know I said I was going to start right away…but I think we all knew that was total bullshit. It’s the off season. My plan of attack for the last several weeks has been to eat all the junk I can so it is removed from the house. I will not purchase any more junk moving forward. My only concern on the weight loss front is my workouts. Due to my new coaching I have more recovery time and less calorie burning time. I’ll discuss that in more detail later in the blog. Anyway, the push to get to 190 is starting slowly this week…but once the holidays are over it will be in full swing.

I have no real injuries to report at this time. Considering the workouts I am doing, this is a success. I do have some lingering tightness in my hip and ankle, but nothing serious. Both respond well to stretching.

I have come to set my actual race goals for next season and a little beyond. After just missing the qualifications for the ITU World Championships the powers that be decided to give folks another chance. Pigman in Iowa will be another qualification race. To qualify I need to get top 5 in my age-group and top 10 gets a roll-down slot. Last year 5th place was near a 5:15. I could do that without any trouble right now. But I suspect the competition at the race next year will be a bit tougher. It was also REALLY hot last year, so the times were a bit slower. For a realistic off-season goal I’d like to be under 4:30…and realistically that should get me qualified.

So my basic plan for the race season is to do Triple-T in May. This is 4 races in a 3-day span. A Super sprint on Friday evening. Two Olympic distance races on Saturday. And a ½ iron on Sunday. In total it is a full Ironman distance race broken into pieces. I won’t like, I am intimidated.

Beyond that I am sure I will do a small race or two while training for Pigman as that race isn’t until August. Should I qualify at Pigman I will then be finishing my season with the ITU WC’s in November. That race is in Las Vegas Nevada and is a 4k swim, 120k bike ride, and a 30k run. It is considered one of the most difficult courses in the world and features 9700ft of climbing on the bike and 2000ft on the run.

In essence I will be training for 2 ½ Iron distance races and a full Iron race. ITU is a bit shorter than a full Iron, but the course is challenging enough to require the fitness of a full Iron.

My goals for beyond this year are simple. 2011 is a springboard to IMWI 2012 where I would like to qualify for a Kona slot. That will take some work.

Bike Fit:
One of the things I knew last season, but didn’t know how to fix, was my bike fit. While the fit was very comfy, it was slow. It was my original fit to this bike when I had ZERO fitness, ZERO riding background, and NO idea what I was doing. Since then I have gained a lot of fitness and some knowledge. After my race in SC I had Scott and Matt come over for some end-of-season beers. It took them all of 5 minutes to look at my bike and ask if I actually rode it like that. Matt’s comment was something to the effect of “you’re like a big sail, you have zero drop!”. (Drop is basically seat height to the aero bar pads) More aero positions typically have your aero bar pads below the height of your seat, dropping your torso down. It is more complex than that…but that is the gist of things. In my case I had zero drop.

That is one VERY good reason for why my race times did not reflect my power output. Working with Matt and Scott I made couple changes. First they yanked all the spacers beneath my stem. That dropped my down by about 8cm.

After that change I rode against them outside and my FTP instantly dropped 30 watts. BUT, I was also only 4-5 minutes behind them in the time trial. So despite the power loss I was as close to them as I would have been in-season. It just happened that my first ride in that new position was the TT with them.

After that I also bought a new stem with a steeper down angle. That dropped me down about another 3cm. And recently I added new aero bars with a lower profile. I kept myself about level with that change but could easily drop another 3-4cm if I want. I do my best to post before and after pictures in the near future. The change is VERY dramatic. I am somewhat anxious to get back outside just to see what the difference in aerodynamics means from a time perspective.

My real Off-season (Out-Season) began November 1. Prior to that I had taken a little time off. At that time I had become a full member of Endurance Nation. Last season I had read a lot of their materials and built my own training plan based on their guiding principles. Compare to years past I had a LOT of success. But I made a lot of mistakes as well. I did some very foolish things and fried myself on many occasions. I never had a real clear cut training “plan” or goals. Now with EN I have those plans and goals. Scott B. has also been like a 3rd coach to me. I have a nasty natural tendency to bury myself…he talks me off the ledge. When I need to be treated like an idiot, he does that too.

The first 8 weeks consisted of threshold work. A lot of 15-20 minute sets at a very hard effort. Running on the track at zone 4 type pace. Here are my results.

In week 1 I tested my fitness and found my FTP was 270 in the new aero position. I was not happy with how low that power number was, but that’s just the way it goes. The aerodynamics will lead to time improvements just as much as increased power will. All of my riding is on the aero bars. Last season I was very disappointed in the difference of my FTP rides sitting up vs. races while aero. I don’t want to repeat that, so all intervals are aero and the wattage numbers are lower in that position. I am sad to report 350 watts by the end of this OS won’t happen in the aero tuck. But I am still hopeful I’ll bump up to about 310-315. That will represent a significant speed increase in my new position.

In the week 1 run test I really struggled. I finished with a 5k time of roughly 21:00. I wasn’t in the greatest running shape, that’s just how it goes after a little break.

In week 8 I retested. Due to the fit changes I was a little concerned about my bike testing and progress. I just wasn’t sure my body was acclimating to the new hip angle. I was wrong.

My FTP went from a 270 to 286. I probably could have squeezed another watt or two with better pacing. That is about a 6% increase in speed and all things being equal is about .6mph according to the calculator. Overall I was pretty happy. With slightly better pacing I might have been able to get a couple extra watts.

For the run test I went to the Petit track. I was using my new Garmin foot pod and went a 20:18. I was happy in the sense that this was a lifetime PR. I was a little aggravated because I REALLY wanted to break 20 minutes. Again, it is what it is. It is still a pretty significant improvement.

All in all I was happy. The training is obviously working and I am getting faster. Losing the last 10-15lbs should make a really significant difference in my run speed. In fact 15lbs might give me an additional 30s of speed per mile dropping my 5k to 19:45. Especially since the last 15lbs are all around my belly and not muscle!! We’ll see what happens.

The next 6 weeks consist of V02 work. And the final 6 weeks are more threshold work. It will be a challenging 12 weeks of hard work, but I am already looking forward to the season.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone. I will try to post a little bit more in the future.