Arizona 70.3

Short Version :

Stats:
Swim – 42:19
T1 – 4:07
Bike – 2:56:37
T2 – 2:58
Run- 2:04:41

Longer Version :

Goals for the race :

1-Break 5:30
2-Beat Shariq aka the running god

2017 has been pretty uneventful when it came to racing. I usually do about 3 races in a year , but this year it was just one.  I signed up for Tempe 70.3 with 3 of my other friends – Shariq , Sangram and Mary. Sangram broke his arm a couple of months before the race which put him out of action.

My preparation for the race wasn’t where I would have liked to be . I had to relocate from Michigan to California for work in June, I had an ear infection later on and then later on it was my back and then I just had trashy month of training where my performance went downhill.  I was just glad to make it to the starting line.

Pre Race :

Sangram , Mary , Jahnavi and I drove from San Diego to Tempe. On our way we hit a border patrol checkpoint in Arizona and we were asked to present our visa copies etc to show that we are here legally.  We just had our licenses on us, we were not carrying our passports and our visa copies. After making us wait the border patrol officer lectured us as to how we should carry our visa documents at any given point in time and the license with us isn’t good enough proof to show that we are here legally. This highway was just a few miles from the Mexican border , hence the scruitny. He obviously ran our licenses and figured out we were here legally and then let us go.  Once we reached Tempe, Shariq and I got race wheels set up on our bikes and headed to the expo with the rest of our support crew to drop our bikes off and pick up our packets.

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Arizona was hot and dry. The moment we reached Arizona I just could not get enough water. Even in my room with the AC on , I was thirsty , my lips felt chapped and my throat was dry . I just could not seem to get enough water.

Race Morning:

This year for some reason we were overly relaxed when it came to pre race prep , we were LATE on race morning, we did not bother looking up road closures etc. I think we made it to the transition area at 6:25 and Shariq’s wave started at 6:30. I was still in the transition at 6 35 trying to tape gels to Shariq’s and my bike while he left for his wave. To make matters worse I had clipped my nails before the race , I just could not open the fuckin tape. I think it was Jahnavi who helped me open the tape then ( She was standing near the transition ). I also forgot to fill in water in my front bottle and then realized that Shariq’s bike was missing his water bottles. I stepped out of transition to get his stuff but wasn’t allowed back in. A volunteer at the transition area agreed to go and put the bottles on Shariq’s bike. At the end of it considering how late we were ,  it worked out pretty well. Once the bikes were set up Mary and I had ample time , almost an hour and half till our waves got going. So we just took pictures !

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Swim:

Goal Time : 38:00
Actual Time : 42:19

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My swim prep this year was minimal. I probably swam twice a week, not more than 2000 yards and I did not start swimming till it was mid July. Talk about overconfidence. My swim sessions were around 45 min . Last year I was spending about 90 minutes in the water .

My swim did not start till 8:05 , which gave me plenty of time to relax but by 7:50 Am or so , the sun was out  and I was starting to sweat in my wetsuit and I had realized the night before that starting the swim at 8:05 mean I would be start running a half marathon at NOON and it would be around 96 degrees.  This was my first open water swim of the year , there were buoys every 100m and sighting wasn’t that bad considering the sun was already out. The race was wetsuit legal and the water felt comfortable . Not too cold not too warm. I felt alright during the swim , passed a few  people from the wave before me. When I came out of the water and saw my garmin , it was 42 min , I was a little disappointed but from what I had read earlier, people usually have slower swim times in Arizona.  At grand rapids last year I swam the same distance in 37 minutes, but then comparing open water race time’s isn’t the same as comparing your times in a pool.  I came out of the water , I saw Sangram and Jahnavi which bought a smile to my face. and words of encouragement always make you run a bit faster . Before I started my swim , Shariq was already done with his and already on the bike and I knew he had completed the swim in 41 min or so , so I knew my chances of beating him were slipping away as there was no way I was going match his run time .

Bike :

Goal Normalized Power : 180 Watts
Actual Normalized Power : 175 Watts

Actual Goal Time : Low 2:50’s
Actual Time: 2:56

My bike prep this year was full of ups and down’s . I had done a few 70 mile outdoor rides to Oceanside. I had my FTP go up from 200 to 220 in the first 6 week of prep, but then I struggled to maintain it and eventually my FTP plummeted to around 210 I think.

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The bike course consists of three 18 mile loops , which is relatively flat but a shit load of turns. I think maybe a total of 90 turns in 3 loops ?  I felt pretty comfortable on the bike, on the flat and relatively longer sections of the road I saw my average speed above 22 MPH which is good news in my head. The course had quite a few turn arounds and 90 degree turns and then multiply that by 3. It breaks your rhythym, as the day progressed it was getting hotter. Unlike my previous races, I did not have an urge to pee on the bike, because it was pretty warm. The second half felt like a drag because the bike course was getting deserted( My age group was the last wave to start ) to start and it was hot and I usually push my self harder by trying to keep up with bikes ahead of me, but when the bike course is empty , it’s sort of dull and it’s hard to push yourself.  During the bike course I saw Jahnavi and Sangram once , it’s always good to see your friends and family on the course. It made me happy.  I took the last lap a bit easy knowing there was a run ahead of me. Looking at my data , I had a normalized power of 176 Watts with an IF of 81 which I think is spot on pacing for a Half Ironman , I was expecting a 2:50ish bike split, but it was 2:56 :(. Also I sort of knew at this point that I wasn’t going to beat Shariq because I needed to open up a gap on him on the bike , but with a 2:56 bike split, I knew that wasn’t going to work.  ( After the race I realized his bike split was a 2:55), so he not only improved his bike time from his previous races but also beat mine. Looking at his run time , I think he went out too hard on the bike.

Run :

Goal time not accounting for the heat – 1: 50s
Goal time once I realized I was going to be running at noon : Sub 2 hours
Actual time : 2:04

The moment I started my run I knew it was going to be a tough one.  It was HOT AF. The first mile I looked at my watch and my  pace was around 7:50 – 8 min a mile , I knew this was unsustainable considering the heat and how thirsty I was . Then I could feel both my quads cramping , but I kept pushing through.  ( I  later on checked my data and my average moving pace for the first mile was 7:40 a mile, but a pee break and stopping at the aid stations led to a slower average pace ) , clearly I was capable of running after the bike, but the thirst and aid station stops ruined the run for me.  I did make it to the first aid station and I just couldn’t get enough water. I think I had 3-4 of those small cups, poured some over my head , then I took some ice and stuffed it in my tri suit and started running again but my thirst was still not quenched , and then not even 400 meters in I was thirsty again and my mouth was dry.  This is where I was annoyed because I was not that tired and I knew I could run the distance probably with minimal walk breaks but I was so damn thirsty the entire time . The run was pretty uneventful, just scorching heat burning my soul and making me regret my decisions and just whining in my head about the fact that mine was the last wave to go (1.5 hours from the first wave) , which makes it unfair.  My legs felt fine but I was just thirsty and couldn’t quench my thirst. I saw this lady go by me , all I remember was seeing her name on the bib and it said Monica. I tried to keep up with her , and it took me about 20 seconds and I let her go.  She was probably running sub 7 min a mile which is out of my league. Later on during the awards , I heard her name being announced as she got a qualifying slot for the 70.3 word championships.  Come to think about it, i stopped for at least 30 + seconds at every aid station trying to drink water , Gatorade , drench my self with a few cups and then trying to get some Ice in my tri suit to cool me down.  To put things in perspective even if my average moving pace was 8:30 a mile and every aid station stop cost me 30 seconds ( conservative estimate) , 12 to 13 stops ends up costing you about 6 min of your race time. In my head I was thinking if my wave started at 6 30 I would have been done by now and would not have to suffer in this heat.  I did have some company on the run which kept me going.  At the end of it I was glad I finished. Like every other race , made a jump at the finish line.

130_3rd-2332339-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1995_053663-12641717 My run split was around 2:04 and I was disappointed but then I also knew it’s unrealstic to expect a decent run when its 96 degrees and you start you run at NOON. Shariq ran a 1:49 and he had run a 1:34 at Muncie 70.3 , he also had issues on the run as his tracking anklet  came off , so he had to run with it in his hand and bend down at every sensor to make sure his anklet beeped every time he crossed it.  I would have loved to race him head to head in the same conditions , but his age group/wave was different ( 30 – 34 ) @6:30 AM and I was in the( 25-29) @ 8:05 AM . I never even saw him on the course. Well there is always next year 🙂

Post Race:

We waited for Mary to finish. She did pretty well considering she took a giant leap from a 5k to a Half Ironman , took a few pics, had dinner and drove down to Page , AZ so we can check out the Horseshoe bend and the Antelope canyon the next day.

Read about our Page trip here :

Sun’s out , Guns out !
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This race left me pondering , should I hire a coach ? I always seem to peak way too early before the race and then struggle to maintain my FTP and it’s been almost 1.5 years I’ve not broke past 220 Watts in my FTP test. That seems to be the ceiling I can’t get past. I had the same issue with Ironman Louisville , where my FTP was highest on the bike in the month of February (220 ish) and then I never improved  beyond that and struggled to maintain that FTP till October (214 Wattts). I do feel like I can go  faster and have a lot more potential , but I am never in the best shape on race day when it comes to the bike.

I haven’t decided what race I am doing next year , but I really want to break 5:30 in the 70.3 distance and get my FTP to 250 watts and break past the 220 Watt barrier.

Also I realized that this sport is pretty expensive and is burning a hole in my pocket. This led me to look for ways to look for additional sources of income – I.e. Bitcoin Mining with a cloud mining company called genesis mining. You all can do your own research but it’s been working out fine for me. If you all could use my code on genesis mining , I can return the favor 🙂

 

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My First Ironman – IM Louisville

Ironman Louisville was not supposed to be my first Ironman, it was supposed to be Coeur d’Alene, but I broke my arm 4 weeks out from Coeur D’Alene which forced me to have a DNS ( also my first DNS). So once my cast came of after 6 weeks I had exactly 5 weeks for IM Louisville.

Preparation for IM Louisville:

My swim prep was on point. I did not swim for 6 weeks while I was in a cast and had about 5 weeks to get back in swim shape for Louisville. It took me about 3 or 4 sessions and I was holding intervals what I used to. I was aiming for a sub 1:16 on the swim . In practice I had done 20X200 @4:00 so I knew it was something which I can achieve.

On the bike, I spent about a year biking 4 times a week. My FTP did go up, but it took a lot more effort just to keep it there. Any inconsistency in training would cause my FTP to dip a bit and then it would take me another 6 weeks to get it back to where it was. After I broke my arm, my FTP had dipped from 216 to 207ish in about 12 days. While in a cast I could not swim or run, so I just biked but I couldn’t do vo2 max intervals or balls to the walls effort. Once my cast came of, I did a solid 3 week segment and my FTP went upto 214.

Here is how I trained when I had a cast on:

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On the run, I had not improved much but what had improved was my ability to run of the bike as I biked A LOT the past year. After a 6 week break in training, I had about 4 weeks to get back my running legs and then a 1 week taper prior to the race. The first week after the cast came of I had a long run of 10 miles, the next week I ran 13 miles and the third week I ran about 15. Then I had terrible shin splints and did not run for 5 days and then somehow squeezed in a gentle 6 miler with Jahnavi and then did nothing in the last week leading up to the race.

Pre Race:

I reached Louisville on Thusday night along with Jahnavi (my better half now, officially). 2 of my buddies had already reached. Friday morning I took my bike to the expo, picked up my packet and all the good stuff. Gave my bike to racedaywheels and had them set up carbon wheels for the race ( Zipp 404’s). This was going to be my first time trying them out( There goes don’t try something new on race day). After that we headed for lunch to a restaurant and tried some southern food. I don’t think its my cup of tea.

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Finally after attending the race meeting on Saturday , I had some Thai food for dinner ( #Carbs) but could not fall asleep. I think I finally slept at 11 30 or 12 and then the next thing I know its 3 30 AM and my alarm goes of. I had 2 bananas, oatmeal , apple but for some reason I did not feel too good and sipped on a bottle of Infinit Nutrition till I got to the swim start.

 

Swim:

The swim is a one loop course and the water temperature was about 72 degrees which was perfect but it was a lil chilly in the morning , mid 50’s I think. Since Louisville has a rolling start and people line up , I was probably a KM out from the start line I think. While waiting there we took pictures.

My support crew held my spot while I looked for a port a potty.Once I did get into the water, I was like why is everyone so slow ahead of me and there was just 1 buoy which marked the turn around point around the Island. That for sure was not 100m away from the start point. I passed a lot of people, took a piss while swimming and felt good overall. My gut told me it was going to be a sub 15 on the swim. Sighting was a nightmare, I’ve seen IM Coeur D alene and 70.3 Muncie, they had buoys every 100m. Over here I think all I saw was 6 buoys ?? , there were so far away that every time I tried to sight I just saw caps. I passed a lot of people on the swim. When I came out of the swim and looked at my Garmin it said 1 13 and change. I was beyond elated.

Here is a pic of me making a mess of trying to get the swim cap of ( obviously there is a better way to do it): After this I had my wetsuit stripped and ran through transition. Nothing fancy happened in transition.

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Bike :

I had a pretty quick transition but I felt hungry coming of the swim , so I quickly pulled out the cliff bar I had in the bike bag and stuffed half of it in my mouth and then went on my way towards mounting line.

The bike course is full of fuckin rollers, after sometime it was just annoying. I could not settle down into a rhythm. I’m either going downhill and too scared and am on my brakes or I am trying to use the momentum of the downhill to get me up the next hill and then flicking through gears to maintain that effort. Also I accidentally hit “mode” on my Garmin which caused it to go to the next screen and show me my run data. After fiddling with my watch I had to restart the bike segment. It was annoying. In my head I knew I had to hold 160 watts or lower but geez only if I got a flat segment for more than a mile would I what was I holding. I was hydrating well and this was my first time renting/using carbon wheels. They sound effin awesome . I did not have any problems handling my bike because of them. Maybe next year I will rent the 808’s instead of the 404’s. I used up 4 bottles of Infinit nutrition before mile 60 ( special needs) and I pee’d a bunch of times going downhill and then washed my self with water. It just felt so wrong and it was my first time doing it “ON THE BIKE”. The pee went into my shoes and I could feel my socks wet. ugggh. But after doing it once, it did not bother me too much later on.  A lot of people passed me on the rollers. The last 15 or 20 miles are FLAT and the roads looked new which is what I was looking forward to. I put my head down , picked a gear which allowed me stay above 90 on my cadence and was pushing around 170 Watts and there was no looking back. I was easily over 20mph and I passed about 30-40 people I think. I was in the left lane the entire time just passing people. I enjoy flat courses because my shifting and bike handling skills are 0 since I train indoors on a trainer.  Towards the end when I did pee on my bike it , the process of peeing would hurt. I shrugged it away thinking it was because I was sitting so long on the bike? Overall I think I ended up peeing about 7 times on the bike. Had I stopped it would have cost me at least 7 minutes assuming each pee break was exactly a minute. Usually its more.

 

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Run:

The run is a 2 loop course and the second loop passes really close to the finish line so you can hear the music and people cheering as other competitors finish. It is also a reminder that you have another 13 miles to go and your second loop has just begun.

I was running from the dismount line and handed my bike towards a volunteer, ran though translation and my legs felt fine. I thought I was going to have a perfect race and I did not blow my self up on the bike. The moment I got out of transition and headed towards the run I wanted to pee but I could not see a port a potty. I asked a volunteer, she said it’s probably a mile away at the aid station. I was getting uncomfortable and needed to pee. I walked/jogged and finally could not take it anymore and took a piss somewhere on the road even before mile 1. But it hurt a lot, I was not sure what was wrong with me. It caused me to sit down for a few seconds and then when the pain disappeared I started to run again . I looked at my watch and was around 8 10 or 8 20 a mile and my heart rate in the upper 140s. I felt great. But those pee breaks continued at aid stations and each one was getting more painful and each pee break was costing me time as I would have to sit the pain out before I could start running but I was passing a lot of people while I was running. Finally I decided to swap water and gels for coke and chews but the damage was already done. I had gone up to 15 miles in training and that too after a 6 week break, so I knew I could probably hold my own till mile 13 but then its unknown territory. I looked at my watch and I was on track for a sub 2 hour half even with all those pee breaks but at mile 11 or 12 , I just couldn’t run. My run form and momentum had started to break down, I knew this was going to be a long day now. The last 10 miles were a walk, jog, chit chat with people next to me and wanting to get it over with. Finally when I was near the finish line , I was looking for my buddy as he was supposed to hand me a ring which I had planned to give Jahnavi at the finish line. I saw him, was soaking in the moment , jumped at the finish line and then went down on my knees and gave Jahnavi the ring.

The finish on 4th street live is pretty good. I heard they were out of pizza and people were a bit disappointed in the post race food. I did not stay back for food but went out for dinner with my fiends and family. I had the best support crew one could ask for. They made signs for me, drove me around, got up at 3 30 AM with me, flew and drove down from different places.

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The proposal:

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Post Race: I was not sore , I was just tired and wanted to sleep after we got Pizaa that is. The pee issue was not resolved, it still hurt when I took a piss but it was fine the next day. By the looks and my research on Web MD I over hydrated and my salt levels were too low or it maybe too much sugar, so it was hyponatremia or pseudo hyponatremia . By Wednesday the following week I was completely fine , but I was just lazy and lethargic. After the race I’ve just been looking back at my journey from running my first 5k and sleeping like a baby , to running my first marathon and taking swim classes.  For now, I’m thinking if I should race a full next year? If yes, I want a flat course unlike these technical bike courses where people with better bike skills get the better of me even though I might be more fit than them.

Here are a few post race pics:

I can’t belive I had requested for Jager at the finish line. Was in no state to take a Jager shot.

 

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Here are my race stats:

Pointers for Louisville :

1- The water isn’t the cleanest. If you’re picky on the water quality you might want to consider Lake Placid or Coeur d’ Alene?

2- The race is in Oct which means it’s sort of chilly in the morning but as the day progresses, it gets pleasant.

3- If you like Southern food and Bourbon, you might want to give this a shot? 😉

4- Bike course is rollers and I found it annoying after some time. I am fine with monster hills as long as its one big hill. You grind and get it over with. In Louisville its never fucking ending. I was actually annoyed because of them.

5- Would I recommend this race ? With a rolling start I think it favors swimmers who get anxious with mass starts. There was virtually no contact with people except the time I wanted to pass them. It was my fault , I underestimated my swim ability and did not bother getting in line first. So yes , I would recommend this race . The swim start is one of the reasons besides the finish on 4th street live and the early fall weather.

6- Run is flat:D

Goals for 2017:

1- Break 1:35 on the half marathon

2- Break 5:30 on the 70.3

3- If I race a full Ironman, break 11:30.

 
I haven’t decided what race I am doing next year , but I really want to break 5:30 in the 70.3 distance and get my FTP to 250 watts and break past the 220 Watt barrier.

Also I realized that this sport is pretty expensive and is burning a hole in my pocket. This led me to look for ways to look for additional sources of income – I.e. Bitcoin Mining with a cloud mining company called genesis mining. You all can do your own research but it’s been working out fine for me. If you all could use my code on genesis mining , I can return the favor 🙂

 

 

Measuring Progress – The Benchmark Test

When training for endurance events such as an Ironman , marathon etc and having a goal time in mind, you need to have the ability to quantify your progress, some sort of a benchmark test. The improvements in your benchmark tests keep you motivated and give you a reason to stay consistent and last but not the least let you know if something is not working. The benchmark tests are sort of a treat for your mind if you see an improvement , consider the benchmarks tests as mini goals and stepping stones towards your bigger goal, when I see an improvement in my benchmark test I am euphoric to see that my training , discipline, hard work is paying of. I get excited for the benchmark test a week before, just to see my hardwork payoff. It gives me  reason to continue doing what I am doing.   Usually people sign up for an Ironman a year in advance. Training aimlessly for a year isn’t fun and you will probably end up lacking motivation or the desire to even get to the start line. Measuring progress and seeing yourself progress is one of the best motivators to keep your head in the  game. So how does one measure progress and what sort of benchmark tests does one do? Well an Ironman consists of 3 legs – the swim, the bike and the run and a bench mark test for each discipline is a good way to make sure you don’t drift away from your end goal.  The benchmark tests also let you know if its time to scale your training zones so you are training efficiently.

You don’t need to complete the exact distance for each discipline (i.e. you do not need to swim 3800 yards or run a marathon every time as a benchmark test) and it’s just impractical and boring and monotonous to swim bike or run those distances just to test yourself . One of the benefits of training for such events is that there is a trickle down effect. So if you’ve been following a training plan which progressively increases in intensity and/or duration, your performances are GOING to improve over the shorter distances as well ( 500 yard swim, 8 min all out effort on the bike and a 10k on the run). These shorter distances are manageable by an everyday athlete, are not extremely toll taking on your body  and just practical from a training point of view .  These shorter benchmark tests are pretty good indicators of your actual race times

Benchmark test for the Swim – Swim a ~500 yard time trial every 8-12 weeks or do a 10 x 50/20 x 50 on the minute at the end of every 4 weeks and see what is the average pace you hold for the intervals. The 10 x 50 can be included as a part of your swim workout, you don’t need a separate  day to this unlike your bike and runs. The 10*50’s/20 x 50’s are short and keep you engaged the entire time since you look at the clock every time you complete 50 yards/meters. The return on investment in the swim is probably the least when compared to the bike and the run, unless of course you are just really bad at swimming and are learning how to swim.

Benchmark test for the Bike – Do a modified FTP ( 2 x 8 minutes) test every 4-6 weeks on your indoor trainer. I do it at the end of every 4 weeks. The reason I use the indoor trainer is straightforward – its a controlled environment every time I take the test and outside variables are eliminated. Imagine an interruption in an all out balls to the wall effort outdoors and you get interrupted by a flat tire half way through? I would be mad and would want to smash something , its just annoying and risky in my opinion. I personally prefer taking an FTP test at the end of the 4th week, because if you follow the traditional training block of 3:1 ( train 3 weeks and recover 1 week), you are essentially fresh for your FTP test.  I do not do a 1 hour FTP test. Instead I do 2 x 8 min all out efforts with recovery in between and then multiply the power average of the two tests  by .90 to get your FTP ( well I don’t do the math, the app – Traineroad does it for me). The 8 min test is very manageable and practical, I don’t think the everyday recreational triathlete or cyclist has what it takes to suffer for one hour and the ability to pace yourself well for an hour without blowing up or going too slow. So for me my FTP test is always in the first week of every month. Taking an FTP test on the first of every month is sort of a monthly thing for me,  the first week of every month I pay my credit card bills, pay my rent , pay my phone bills and take my FTP test. The FTP test ( 2 x 8 min in this scenario) is a workout in itself . The 2 x 8 min FTP test keeps you engaged because you get live feedback on power and you are always kept on the edge to make sure the power number doesn’t go below the number than previous test 4 weeks ago and 8 minutes of pain and agony is very manageable than 60 minutes.

This chart below shows that I improved every time I took my FTP test, hence I have a reason to keep training and get those numbers higher. Keeping a log of your benchmark tests and doing them consistently is a great way to measure progress and see what is working for you and what is not!

FTP progress

 

 

Benchmark test for the Run – I personally do not benchmark my runs myself in the sense I do not take the tests alone, instead I prefer to sign up for a race about 8-12 weeks out and I keep a realistic goal time and then include a shorter race as a benchmark test. So when I was training for Muncie 70.3, I signed up for the Pitts half marathon and kept a goal time of 1:45, but I signed up for a 10 miler about 6 weeks before the Pitts half ( goal within a goal within a goal which helps you achieve THE GOAL – sub 6 hour Muncie 70.3). If you are training for a marathon , a half marathon 4-6 weeks in is a good  benchmark test, if training for a half marathon, a 10k and/or a 10 miler placed withing your training plan is a good way to benchmark your performance.  You could do a time trial by yourself , but what I’ve found is that you can push your self further when you are racing because of the crowd support, volunteers and the availability of nutrition on the course.

So to sum it up – For swimming, a 500 yard time trial in the pool.  For the bike 2 x 8 min efforts on the trainer and for the run , sign up for a shorter distance race. These are the benchmark test which I believe are practical and feasible for the everyday athlete to keep themselves consistent.

Happy training and happy bench marking!

 

Trainerroad base plan review-FTP improvement

First of this isn’t a review of the Traineroad app. There are plenty of reviews for the app and if you are curious to know how does it work just watch their video ( Traineroad in 90 seconds) on YouTube. Also I do not get paid for writing this review, instead I pay ~10/month to Trainerroad. This is a review of their low volume traditional base 1,2 and 3 plan to be precise and it’s correlation in increasing my FTP. When you follow any cycling plan , the standard way of measuring improvement is measuring change in FTP, if your FTP rises you are getting fitter/stronger. So the question, does following a trainerroad plan increase your FTP ? For me, YES!

Did I expect an improvement in my FTP? Yes , since my cycling background is limited. Did I expect a significant increase in my FTP ? No, because this is a low volume plan and its the base phase, not a build/specialty. The goal of the base phase isn’t to raise your FTP, but one of the benefits for a beginner cyclist or for a person who has never followed a structured plan is that no matter what you do , you probably will see some FTP gains.

Their plans are pretty much a one size fits all/cookie cutters but the plans are event specific and you can can pick the volume. They have a base, build and a specialty version for cyclists, cyclocross , triathletes.  Within those they have low , mid and high volume version, so you can see what might be a good fit.  They tell you the stress and number of hours / week in each , so you should be able to decide what works best for you. I don’t think it can better than this where you have 3 version based on volume/number of hours for ~$10/month.

When I first took my FTP test on Trainerroad, I did not own a power meter , all I had was a speed cadence sensor so it was pretty much virtual power. My FTP as per Trainerroad’s virtual power was 109. I know this does not sound much, but from what I observed, the virtual power for my trainer was about 20 Watts lower, but that’s not the point here. To review the plan -the traditional base 1 had me on the bike thrice a week at around 65-75% of my FTP. The duration of the rides went up by 15 each the second week and an additional 15 minutes the third week with the fourth week reserved for recovery i.e. shorter rides. This a very classical/traditional approach where you follow 4 week blocks ( 3 for training and 1 for recovery, and the intensity/duration goes up in the first 3 weeks). After 4 weeks of traditional base Phase 1, it was time to retest my FTP and start with traditional base 2. My new FTP  as per Traineroads virtual power was 122. These 4 weeks in base 1 were nothing but boring and irritating, it had me bike 3 times a week at 65-75% FTP, no intervals nothing. I knew this when I selected traditional base phase 1 but I still whine about it for some reason. But the real time feedback is somewhat like a video game and I was somehow able to complete all the workouts, had I not had an interactive interface like Trainerroad, I probably would not have been able to complete such slow,steady and boring workouts longer than 45 minutes. The 15 min increments every week do a good job in preparing you for the longer rides in base 2 and base 3. You may struggle a bit in the first 3 weeks of base 1 but by the time you in base 2 and base 3,  workouts between 60-90 minutes are no biggie for you then.

I then decided to “invest” in a power meter , now the power meter I opted was the 4iii left crank based power meter. The entire process of finding a dealer remove my bikes left crank arm , order bearings etc for the new crank I had which was 4iii compatible cost me 3 weeks with no biking :(. After 3 weeks of waiting and excited like a lil kid, I took an FTP test again , but with a legit power meter this time, the 4iii power meter gave me an FTP of 145 which is about 20 Watts higher than what my improved FTP was based of virtual power after 4 weeks of traditional base  1, 3 weeks ago. So the 145 is by no means an improvement by sitting on my butt . Its a device actually measuring power and not calculated by Trainerroad based of a speed/cadence sensor and trainer type information.

After measuring my true power I decided to proceed with traditional base low volume II ( after a 3 week break from base 1). This has you on the bike 3 times a week, with the longer rides( ~2 hours) on the weekend and yes they are boring , they were at 65 – 75% FTP, but they weren’t all that bad  because I gotten use to spending time on the trainer thanks to base 1 and the other 2 rides in the middle of the week were tempo and sweetspot based and shorter in duration. The tempo rides went up by 15 min in week 2 and week 3, the longer endurance rides start at 2 hours in the first week and then increase by 15 min in week 2 and week 3. So you end up biking 4,4.5 and 5 hours in weeks 1,2 and 3 with the 4th week reserved for recovery( Again the classical 4 week training block, 3 hard 1 easy). I was religious with the regiment and stuck to it. After 4 weeks it was time to test my FTP again, my new FTP was 160! This was a 15 Watt improvement and I was on the bike only 3 times a week , about 4.1 hours on average/week over a 4 week duration.

Now it was time to proceed with the traditional  base low volume 3. Over here you are on the bike 4 times a week , the long rides are on a weekend at 2.5 hours, there are some tempo rides and some short 5 min interval sessions close to/at your FTP. The base 3 format is slightly different but still traditional, the overall duration of the rides in the 3 weeks is exactly the same at 5:30/week, what changes are length of the intervals and the intensity of intervals around your FTP(I.e. 90, 95,100,105 % FTP for 5 minutes), and you guessed it the fourth week is reserved for recovery. The plan has you do some threshold intervals,sweet spot intervals,tempos and a 2.5 hours endurance ride. The endurance rides remain unchanged through weeks 1-3, the threshold intervals go up in intensity but are for the same duration @ 5 minutes. The sweet spot intervals ( 85% FTP) are of different durations ( 12 min, 15 min etc) but the length of the workout does not change. I did an extra 1 hour ride during one of the weeks because I just felt good and was not a part of the Trainerroad plan , but the same week I did not pay attention to my on  nutrition and blew up in one of my long rides on the weekend. I had to cut it short by an hour or so. Fast forward to the FTP test after 4 weeks, my new FTP was at 171 as per Trainerroad . I did go out too hard on the first interval and saw a steady decline towards the end of it , and the second interval was fairly even paced. Since Traineroad averages the 2 , and I was toast from the first one and looking at my FTP test history, one of the 8 min intervals is always lower than the other by about 6-8 Watts, so I think 171 is still pretty accurate. For some reason the first minute I was  ~230 Watts on my first 8 min interval and I felt I could hold and was elated because the last time I did this test I had hit 180 in the 8 min interval, so in my head I was thinking I’ve made a 50 watt jump in 4 weeks, but soon shit got real I started fading :(. Pacing yourself for all out 8 min intervals is tough and you learn from it. I don’t know why , but when I hit 230 I felt it was sustainable at the time.

Here is a pic of my 8 min test at the end of base 3 using a legit power meter(4iii) and you can see me fade in the first 8 min interval.

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Here is a pic of the first time I took the 8 min test at beginning of phase 2 using a legit power meter ( 4iii)

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As you can see, I was around the 159/166 mark in the 8 min interval compared to one above where I was around 184 even after blowing up on the first all out 8 min interval. To put things in perspective, 145 was my FTP ( calculated at 90 percent of the average power held in the two 8 min intervals) at the beginning of Base 2, a power I could probably sustain for an hour. Now my FTP is 171 ( calculated at 90 percent of the average power held in the two 8 min intervals) and 145 is about 85% of my present FTP ( 171), in about 8 weeks 145 went from being my FTP to now my sweet spot interval! Efforts which I should be able to sustain well over an hour without fatiguing too much and still being able to bounce back the next day.

It is going to be inaccurate to say I jumped from 109 to 171 in 12 weeks , as the 109 was measured by virtual power and the 171 was measured by an actual power meter. To summarize – yes my FTP went up even in the traditional base low volume base phase and it went up every 4 weeks. To give you an idea to my riding ability, I rode a 3:01 at Muncie 70.3 which is a flat course before I ever used Traineroad. So consider me an average or slightly below average rider. That was my first time biking 56 miles, I had just trained randomly using Spinervals and/or watching netflix and all based of perceived effort.  So if your riding ability is close to mine or not as good as mine, you can be rest assured than even a low volume base plan will lead to pretty decent improvements.

Here is a breakdown of my improvements:

Traditional base low volume 1

Initial FTP – 109 ( Virtual Power)

FTP after 4 weeks – 122 ( Virtual Power)

Improvement – 11.92% or 13 Watts

( 3 week break to install a power meter)

Traditional base low volume 2

Initial FTP – 145 ( 4iii precision)

FTP after 4 weeks – 160 Watts

Improvement – 10.35% or 15 Watts

Traditional base low volume 3

Initial FTP – 160 ( end of base 2)

FTP after 4 weeks – 171 Watts

Improvement – 6. 87 % or 11 Watts

Improvement in last 8 weeks – 145 Watts to 171 ( i.e. 17.93 % or 26 Watts )

Improvement in Watts/Kg in last 8 weeks at FTP – 2.28 to 2.68.

Whats next? Its a week before New Years and I need to travel for a week to see my better half which means no more of pain cave for the next week or so.  Once I am back , I plan to follow the last 4 weeks of Trainerroads triathlon base plan for about 12 weeks ( they just added this). I asked them if I should just repeat traditional base phase 3 multiple times till march or should I switch to their triathlon base plan which is about 12 weeks. Trainerroad recommended I continue training using the last 4-6 weeks from the triathlon base phase instead of starting from week 1 and repeat it till I decide to move on to the build phase( march).

So in terms of improvement and the plan review, I believe your FTP is expected to rise the maximum in the build phase and that is what Traineroad says as well and I do believe it will rise for me and the majority of you if you stick to their plan. For a mediocre cyclist like me, even a low volume traditional base plan lead to some FTP gains. They have a variety of base plans to chose from ( sweet spot, traditional, sprint, olympic, half and full iron distances).  I expect that you would probably see better gains if you select a higher volume plan but you need to stick to it. So would I recommend Trainerroad plans? YES!! . Will their plans work for the majority of the cycling/multi sport community. I am inclined to say a Yes, for someone who is already very good and usually podiums I am sure they know what they are doing and probably need to work on specific weaknesses and probably need to select a higher volume plan. For the majority of the mortals with a job and are who are just entering into the realm of endurance sports, Traineroad is a no brainer at a fraction of the cost of a coach and yes it is better than you aimlessly spinning or going of perceived effort.

Will Traineroad plan get you to Kona? That is a lil tricky to answer for me for various reasons ,1-  I am not a certified coach and 2- I’ve not been to Kona. But I believe if you follow their high volume plan and cycling is your weakest leg, it’s a very good starting point without a coach and if you just Facebook them or shoot them an email, they can tell you if something needs to be added/tweaked to the traineroad plan you are following. Folks at Trainerroad are very responsive to messages, however they are not your personal coach but if you need a general guideline in terms of increasing the number/duration/intensity of workouts,  folks at Traineroad will be more than happy to help you with that. I’ve personally asked them questions before and I usually get a response the same day or the next day and they actually go out of the way and ask you if your issue/concern was solved!! Also they have a shitload of workouts to pick from each with a specific purpose , so if you are knowledgeable and know what aspect of your cycling fitness you want to work on, you can just pick a workout from their never ending list and do it.

So for those of you reading this, wondering if you should spend ~$10/ month on Traineeroad and wondering if the software or the plans are worth it. I would say , its probably the single best investment you can make. If you are paying ~$30/ month for a gym membership and you attend spin classes over there, I would suggest cancel that and spend ~$10/month on traineroad.

I will probably do a build plan review as well, but that means 8 weeks from the time I decide to do it. I hope my gains are more in build phase and I cross the 3.0 mark in Watts/Kg at FTP. If I can do that I will probably have a shot at a sub 6 IM bike split.

If you wanted to see the workouts I did and do some of your own analysis, here is the link to my career:

My base 1 started on Sept 1, 2015 and I was done with base 3 on Dec 19, 2015 and took my FTP test on Dec 20, 2015.

Happy Training!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chain Smoker to Triathelete

I started smoking when I was 17 or 18. At the time I smoked just for the sake of it , maybe to be cool. But before I realized it, I was addicted to cigarettes. I still remember telling myself , I am gonna try every brand once and I will quit before I get addicted. Before I realized it I was in college and had more freedom during the day, and the next thing you know –  I was addicted to cigarettes. I came down to the US for my undergrad and since I did not have a car and I hated walking down to the gas station for a pack in the fuckin winter(my first sem in the US was a spring semester in MINNESOTA, FML), I started buying cartons and  every time  I stepped out I had a cigarette dangling off my lips. I pretty much never thought of giving up smoking, because I had reached a point where I knew no matter how hard I tried I was going to fail. Fast forward to grad school, somewhere in 2011, I was lifting weights and tried to be regular but I was still smoking as if there was no tomorrow and still enjoyed getting drunk as fuck on Friday nights! Somewhere along the line I came across nicotine patches, I tried to be extremely sincere and did not smoke for almost a month and the patches do help. The first week was the worst, I threw up, got dizzy but stuck to it and was clean for a month and then I slacked again. In the mean time one of my buddies Md Shariq had registered for a 5K and wanted me to do it. I just said yes for the sake of it and was sort of looking forward to it at least when I signed up . The day before the race I was up till 3 or 4 AM drinking old monk ( for those of you who haven’t tired it, you need to!) and was praying that my buddy does not show up in the morning to wake me up ( I am glad now that he showed up and since I said I would drive him to the race venue , I did not have a heart to say no). So that was my first 5k and I think I was coughing so much that I wasn’t able to throw up properly but all that I was coughing out was mucus.

What did I learn from the race? That I am an asshole and could not stand the fact that women beat me. My time for the race was 28:10. My buddy on the other hand won the race with a time of 18 minutes. When I looked at his time, that’s when I realized, “Oh! so all that running he does actually pays of and damn is he fast”. I figured he was fast when I saw him at the start line , but a 10 min difference between our times gave me a better picture as to how bad I sucked.

Here is a pic of me prior to the race. A complete running newbile!!If you zoom in you can tell I am wearing Jordans. I thought these shoes were as good as running shoes if not better. FML

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There was a part of me which said this is just BS , you are not meant for long distance running, just stick to lifting weights. Somehow that one 5k, turned into occasional runs in the evening with my buddy with a quest to beat my previous time. It didn’t take me long to understand, that the entire ideology of, If I don’t win I don’t see a point in running, is wrong. I, without realizing it wanted to beat my previous time and I did not care if the person ahead of me was a female, a male or a kid. I just wanted to beat my time and be a better athlete than what I was yesterday. Now that’s training mistake number 1, try and go as hard as you can every time you run! . After a few 5k’s I decided I should sign up for a 10k and since I was not dying in a 5k I should be fine for a 10k. You can tell from the pic below that I was still a running newbie, I decided to start in the front so I end up with a better time :/ Had no clue about gun time vs chip time.

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I was actually impressed with my time (50:30) even though a lot of people overtook me in the first mile and I felt I was really slow even though I was not. It’s all relative! I had done it unbroken, my pace was faster than my first 5k and was pretty close to my then 5k pace. Then came winter, and I went back into hibernation and lifting weights. I was still smoking at the time and was experimenting with nicotine patches and wasn’t really successful.

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At around 2 AM one night, randomly surfing and killing time I saw an advertisement or an article, I forget what it was , but it was for a half marathon in New Bedford, MA( I lived in New Bedford at the time). I was like, ” I should do this, I’ve done a 10K and I wasn’t dying, maybe if I slow down a bit I can pull of a 21k”. I started pestering my buddy to sign up for it, for whatever reason he decided not to sign up but he said he would pace me and run as a bandit. I never understood the logic, but I was happy that he would pace me and not run his own race. I obviously had not trained for this since I was in hibernation. So the only thing I was relying on was my overconfidence and self pep talk – it’s just twice of a 10k, it can’t be that hard.  I had a goal to break 2 hours ( gave myself an additional 10 minutes based off my last 10k race). Prior to the race I stuck a nicotine patch so I didn’t crave a cigarette before the race started and I was still smoking the night before.I somehow finished the race unbroken, but not surprisingly in pain and in agony and missed my  sub 2 hour goal by 1 min and 29 seconds.:(

Pain and Agony

Pain and Agony

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My buddy on the other hand was having a ball. He could have solved math problems at this pace.

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The icing on the cake was the medal. I remember trying to walk and I was unable to for almost a week, it wasn’t DOMS, but it was my knees ( my knees were just not ready for 21 kms of poundage). During this time I was still on and off with my smoking. Fast forward to 2014, I decided that I’ve done a half , its time for a full. I had moved to a new place and had started using Chantix consistently and was weaning off the smoking. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to muscle my way though a full, especially if I was smoking, as luck would have it I found this amazing training group in Pittsburgh – Fleet Feet. They had marathon programs where about 200 people would meet every Sunday and you would be divided into pace groups and maps were given to you and every pace group had a leader to pace you. All you had to do was show up and just follow the person ahead of you. They also had water stops set up. My goal was to break 4 hours , and during my training I had broken my goal for 2 hours in the half which I had missed when I had attempted it for the first time. As luck would have it , I missed my goal by 34 seconds. I had almost given up smoking during this time all thanks to Chantix. Now I had no idea what to do, I certainly did not want to run another marathon anytime soon just to break the 4 hour mark. Had you asked me in 2012,  whats the difference between a 5k and a marathon I would have said a marathon and a 5k are the same thing, and had you asked me to run 42 km, I would think you’re just fuckin stupid and why would someone even want to do it. My brain would not have been able to comprehend the fact that someone could run 42km. So, after the marathon I wanted something challenging and new to break the monotony and something which was less stressful on my body. I was sort of aware as to what a triathalon was all thanks to google/youtube suggestions and the rest was taken care by my curiosity. So.So I asked my buddy , to sign up for the half Ironman ( 70.3). It took some convincing but I finally talked him into it. We signed up for Ironman Muncie 70.3 2015. In the time leading up to Muncie I had relapsed for about 2 weeks and then started Chantix again. At the time I could only doggy paddle 2 lengths of the pool and did not own a bike.  While training for the 70.3, I had set a new goal to break 1:45 in the Pitts half marathon. The timing was perfect , the Pitts half was about 2 months before the 70.3 which meant I got to train with fleet feet again. All I did was show up to the sunday runs and tried to hold an 8 min pace for as long as I could. Considering how unlucky I am, I missed my goal by one second, my net time was 1:45:01 in the Pitts half, but I wasn’t really upset since I had broken 1:45 in a prep race about 2 months ago and I had just recovered from a flu and pittsburgh is a pretty tough course. I later went on to complete my half Ironman in under 6 hours and felt- “this wasn’t that hard, and was probably easier than a marathon”.

Click here for the article on the comparison between a 70.3 and a 26.2.

I still wasn’t completely smoke free after my 70.3, I was still bumming cigarettes if I stepped out with one of my co workers who smoked .I still have some chantix left over, in case I ever get drunk and buy a pack and before heading into a downward spiral I get up next morning and pop in a chantix to kill any cravings I might have. My buddy and I have now signed up for IM Coeur d’alene and I have moved to Philly because of work.The winter is going to be brutal but I guess I have to suck it up, I am still looking for a group like fleet feet which has organized runs and has everyone training for a common race, that way everyone is consistent and you run with the same pace group every week and you get better as a group.

A lot of times I have wondered why haven’t I gotten faster if I’ve been running for 3 years? Well I did get a bit faster, but consistency is the key. You are not going to get significantly faster in a 5k if you are training for a marathon and putting in long slow runs and not doing tempo or intervals. They key to getting faster is to run faster which means track workouts and tempos! and I never did them. I did however learn to sustain a certain pace for longer distances as a result of the Sunday runs. After my marathon I haven’t really raced a 5k, so I do not know how much faster I am over the shorter distance. Also after my marathon in 2014 and my half ironman in 2015, I did not continue to run. I took a break and played soccer, lifted weights, traveled . As of now ( late 2015) I am not really lifting, I’m just focusing on my swim and plan to start running seriously in Feb. Till then I plan to bike indoors and just swim and lift occasionally. Also, I haven’t bought a pack in over 4 months now. I occasionally still do crave cigarettes and try not to give into to the urge.

Here are my race times in the past 3 years

My first 5k – 28:10 (April 2012)

My 10k – 50:30 ( Oct 2012)

First 13.1 – 2:01:29 ( March 2013)

My PR on a 5k – 22:42 (April 2013 )

My average 5k race time then : ~ 24 minutes and 30 seconds

Second half marathon – 1:54 ( March 2014)

Pitts Marathon – 4:00:34 ( May 2014)

Pitts Half marathon  – 1:45:01 ( May 2015)

Ironman Muncie 70.3 – 5:56 ( July 2015)
or you could just check my races out at athlinks 🙂
http://www.athlinks.com/athletes/238147739

So that has been my journey in terms of races and getting faster and/or running longer. It’s been an enjoyable journey so far, looking back I have no regrets of going to bed early on Sat nights so I could get up at 6 am on a sunday for my long runs. I never even thought in my wildest dreams that I could quit smoking or run a marathon or sign up for an Ironman. But I’ve realized that besides consistency in training, one of the most important things is to believe in yourself . I remember spending 6 weeks in the pool , 4 days a week and all I could swim was about 75 yards and was wondering how am I ever going to swim a mile. Well I never gave up and believed that I was going to do it, that lead me to be consistent with my training and before I realized it I was swimming ~2500 yards in the pool easy.

I still have not quit smoking, I might smoke or bum one from someone once in a month or if I come across a buddy who I used to smoke with. I hope to be able to resist the urge moving forward, as a back up I still have chantix with me. But from smoking a pack a day to smoking maybe 1 or 2 in a month is something I am proud of. I still do crave cigarettes occasionally, but the urges are not that bad where I need to go and buy a pack immediately. They wear off within 15-20 minutes. Hopefully by Aug 2016 I am completely smoke free and am ready for my Ironman.

At the end of it I would just like to say, take small steps at a time. Quitting smoking is hard, its not impossible. If need be talk to a doctor about options for quitting smoking. Had you asked me in early 2011, would I ever do a marathon I would have said a NO, had you asked me will I ever do an ironman? Even before I said a no, I would have failed to believe that normal people can do it. Had you asked me, would I be able to cut down smoking to a point where I would be fine if I did not smoke for a week? I would have laughed and lit up another cigarette. Your body and your mind are remarkable. Your body adapts sooner than you think and you need to believe that what you are aiming for is achievable. If other people have done it , so can you. It is possible to quit smoking and lead a healthy lifestyle and even participate in endurance sports even if you have been a smoker all your life and have been a couch potato for a while .

Failure is the stepping stone to success, if you fail in your first attempt to quit smoking, keep trying . If you could not run a 5k unbroken, be patient and keep trying. It’s only a matter of time before the persistent efforts pay of.

#chantix, #smoking

Bike 101

The bike is probably the most confusing investment a triathlete with a non cycling background can make. What kind of bike bike? Road bike or a tri bike? Carbon or Aluminium ? Why is that one more expensive that this one even though they look the same? What size fits me? Unfortunately I went through all that and spent months researching the bike and the components related to a bike , so I’ve decided to break it down which can hopefully help someone reading this make a decision and in general educate themselves about the anatomy of a bike

Road Bike vs Tri Bike

If you are just getting into triathlons, a lot of people suggest getting a road bike first and then seeing how you like the sport . If you enjoy it then go for a tri bike and they argue that handling a road bike is easier etc. In my opinion if you know you are going to complete a triathlon especially the longer distance ones ( 70.3 and 140.6), I would say just buy a tri bike even though it might be slightly expensive, rather than worrying about selling your road bike and then buying a tri bike. Also, if you are training for longer distances you are probably gonna be training most of the time indoors on a trainer ( more on that later).

Cost

At the end of the day, the difference between an entry level bike and a top end bike is the quality of components used. Yes, having carbon fibre components are light and expensive as fuck. For example carbon fibre wheels might cost you around $1600 per wheel.  Chances are that if you have a $1500 dollar bike and someone else has a $4000 dollar bike, the difference is primarily in lighter weight and better quality components and you two might have the exact same carbon frame. Items such as carbon cranks cost over $500. You can upgrade you bike slow and steady and find good deals on each individual components of the bike.  So if you are on a budget try and get an entry level carbon fibre bike ( below 2000) and then upgrade it slow and steady. Also if you get a 2-3 year old model, that’s fine, chances are the bike just had a new paint job and a newer components , and has the exact same frame.

Aero bars

if you for whatever reason decide to buy a road bike or own a road bike already and have now decided to get into triathlons, getting clip on aero bar is the best way to get aero  on your bike and shave of those precious seconds . If you have an entry level tri bike and are looking to upgrade your aero bars, it should be one of the last components you upgrade coz good aero bars start around 300 bucks and you can have better time savings by investing a lower amount in an aero helmet. Another place you could use that money is in a power meter, a power meter is THE training tool and helps you pace your self in longer races. An expensive bike or an entry level bike with a power meter, pick the one with the power meter!

Crankset

You can break down the crankset into 2 components :

1- The crank arm ( This is what the pedal is attached to )

2- Chain rings ( This is what the crank arm is attached to via a spider)

The crank-sets come in various sizes

53/39 ( standard)

52/38 ( standard)

52/36 ( Semi Compact)

50/34 ( Compact)

What the fuck are these numbers?

The first number (53,52,50) refers to the big chain ring in front. Its the number of teeth on the outer/big ring.

The second number ( 39,38,36) refers to the small chain ring on the inside.Its the number of the teeth on the inner/smaller ring.

Uh ok, so what do these numbers mean?

Well too put in bluntly, the bigger the ring the faster you can go.

So I should get a 53/39 instead of a 50/34 ? Why bother with a smaller crank?

True, but it also requires more effort 😀

So which one should I pick?

If you are on a budget, I would suggest going for a compact. If you had more money to spare I would buy a 52/36 and a 50/34. With the 52/36 you get the top speed of a standard crankset , and you have a smaller small chain ring in case you need it . I would not even worry about the 53/39 unless you are the HULK 🙂

Cog

These are the circular things at the back of your bike on which the chain runs. They are usually a 10spd or an 11 spd. And usually not all rear wheels are compatible with an 11 speed. Talk to your bike mechanic or look up details before purchasing an 11 speed cog as an upgrade to ensure your rear wheels is compatible

Cogs are denoted with a hyphen in between two numbers.

12-25 ( smallest cog/ring at the back has 12 teeth and the largest cog/ring at the back has 25 teeth ). But you must have noticed you have various cogs/rings in between. Those cogs/rings are in between the range of 12 and 25(13,14,15 etc) in this case.

Note : Over here the smaller cog/chain allows you to go faster, and the big cog/chain allows you to go up the hills and is a granny/easier gear.

Which one should I use ?

If you intend to ride or race in the flats a 12/25 is good with a 52/36 crank set.

If you intend to ride or race in this hills, a 11-28 or a 12-27 with a 52/36 or a 50/34 is a good choice. If you had to make a choice and spend money on only 1 cog and 1 crankset, I would suggest go with a 50/36 and a 11-28 at the back. If you are unfortunate to have a standard crank set up on your bike with a 12-25 cog and you are planning on racing IM wisconsin or something similar, you are SCREWED because of the hills. You will probably end up walking those hills and your legs are gonna be jelly by the time you are ready for the run. So never show up under geared on your bike, you WILL regret it. So in that situation I highly recommend “investing”  in a new crankset and/or new cog which allows you to get into relatively easier gears than if you were riding a standard crank(52/36 or a 53/39).

10 spd cog vs 11 speed cog ?

Its the number of cogs available to you ? 10 simply means 10 cogs, 11 means 11 cogs. The 11 cog means you have more cogs to chose from to fine tune your ride. But you need to keep in mind, not all wheels are 11 spd compatible.

Tires

The accepted nomenclature for tires is CC*mm ( 700 * 23CC, 700 * 25CC). Ypur road/tri bike is probably riding one of these, just check the tyre and you should see the size on it.

Which one should I pick? Latest research has shown that 25CC tires are faster for the same pressure compared to 23CC’s. So if you thought thinner was faster, you are wrong. It has to do with rolling resistance, go look up rolling resistance if you are really interested in knowing why.

So what are clinchers, tubular, tubeless?

               Clinchers – Is what most bikes come with. If you get a flat you remove the tire, then fix/replace the tube and put                   the tire back on.

               Tubular – This is when the tire is somehow sewn to the tube and then glued to your bikes wheel. Tubulars are                    more expensive, slightly faster and if you get a flat, it takes time to fix them since you have to glue a new tubular                   back again.

               Tubeless – This is interesting. You glue your tire to the rim and then fill the tire with a sealant. All minute tears                       and punctures are sealed immediately.  But if you were to somehow rip this  tire in a race ( very                                           unlikely) , its a big headache to put one back.

What would I recommend?

You probably got clinchers with your bike, its best to stick to them. If you do have spare cash,try going for a better quality clincher.

Front Derailleur 

This is the metal thing which help you change the gears on the front between the big chain ring and the small chain ring. There are plenty of options to chose from and then again the question is , is it worth the money? Should you invest in another part instead of this? Well, this is one of those things which will not really make you or your bike go faster , it only helps in better quality shifting and might be made of a better alloy so might be a few grams lighter, thats about where its benefits end. So unless you are really annoyed with the way your current gear shifting is upfront, its not worth spending money here unless you just have money with you and have no idea what to do with it.

Rear Derailleur 

Well, if there is a front for the big and small chain rings, there has to be something  in the back for the cogs. So the rear derailleur helps in shifting of the gear in the back (i.e. go up or down in the cog). Upgrading this component again does not really have any benefits in terms of direct speed. A better component might just provide better shifting and might be a few grams lighter.  But if you did have spare cash for whatever reason, and you had to pick between upgrading either the front or the rear derailleur , go for the front instead.

Tubes

Tubes are what go into your tires, its a similar concept to a car tube. You can get spare tubes for under 7-8 bucks. Tubes also have a size range. So if you googled bike tubes you would see them in a range of 22-28 CC, which means they are compatible with tires upto 28CC

Shcrader vs Presta

These are the valves which allow you to pump air in your tube.

Does it matter which one you have ? No, as long as you have a device which can inflate them in a race. I recommend a buying a Co2 infiltrator and a pump which is compatible with both the valves.

Trainers vs Rollers

The trainers allow you to mount your bike and then ride your bike without really moving. In trainers as well you have a wind, magnetic and a fluid trainer. The wind trainer makes a lot of noise, the flui trainer is expensive. The magnetic trainer is a good middle ground. I recommend looking up a deal and buying one online.

The rollers require you to balance yourself on rollers.

If you are gonna be training indoors , just get yourself the trainer. You can do crazy hard intervals on it and focus on speed and one leg drills rather than worrying about balance. If you know how to balance a bike, you know how to balance it. The rollers wont make a difference.

Miscellaneous :

These are items you will need but you can do without them for the time being if you don’t have a race sometime soon and plan to train indoors:

1-  Co2 Inflators – When you get a flat during a race, what do you do? You use a Co2 cartridge which attaches to an inflator which you then use to fill air. Generally for triathlons people carry 2-3 16gms co2 cartidges.

2- Allen Key/Tire level – Get an Allen key set to screw water bottle cages or other things to your bike. The tire level helps you get the clincher tire of the rim when you have a flat tube.

3-  Seat Caddy – During a race you need to carry your repair kit ( Co2 inflator, spare tubes, tire levers ). All these fit into a seat caddy or if need be you can stuff all this into an empty water bottle and mount it on the water bottle cage.

4 – Pump – If you are going to be riding outdoors on indoors, tires lose pressure pretty fast. Just buy the cheapest one you can find on ebay/amazon which has a scale on it . That way you are consistent every time and you know what you are putting in and don’t burst the tire.

5 – Power Meter – This is an expensive investment. I would recommend this only after you’ve done a few shorter races and have decided to compete longer distances and wanna train seriously. The power meter will be covered in a separate post .

6- Coach – This is similar to a power meter, a coach can’t help you unless you have a power meter. But i have a heart rate monitor, uh well it isn’t accurate and the most effective way to train. If you are gonna be hiring a coach, you are probably serious , if you are serious you need a power meter.

7- Helmet – If you have a triathlon signed up, wearing a helmet is mandatory, also if you plan to ride outdoors you should wear one for your own safety. But I would recommend not buying it from your bike store and see if you can find a deal online. Also, if you are training indoors and your race is a few months away , you can space out your investments. You can try and look up deals on aero helmets ( alien ones) online and look for deals, you should get one under 300. if you are not willing to spend that much, get a road helmet, they usually run from 50-150 bucks.

8 – Saddle – You sit on this a lot, if you think you could be more comfortable on a better saddle, go to a bike shop to try and sit on a few and see what fits you best.

9- Degreaser/oil – Its only a matter of time before  which you need to clean your bike. If you been riding outdoors you might have to buy it sooner, if you been riding indoors primarily, you could wait a few months before shelling out a few bucks on this. You need a degreaser and oil.  Watch this video by GCN on how to clean your bike.

10 – Water bottle/cage – you will need a water bottle cage for races, I recommend buying a cheap one from amazon. There is a lot of hype on carbon fiber and weight. To put it simply its not worth the money. If you are training indoors you can space this investment out and just keep a bottle next to you.

11 – Speed/Cadence sensor – This isn’t the best investment when it comes to training or pacing, but if you are on a budget and do not want to invest in a power meter, you can get a speed/cadence sensor. It’s a start and you can use the speed/cadence sensor to try and stay in the 80-90 RPM range . Its suggested that the higher cadence saves your legs for the run , so rather than pounding a big gear at 60 RPM, try going in an easier gear at 90 RPM. j]Just a note, speed isn’t the most accurate way to gauge your effort, a tail wind and a downhill , you could be touching over 40 miles per hour, on a hill you could be at 10 mph, The speed varies a lot depending on terrain and wind, hence the power meter is the way to go if you really wanna train seriously since the power you generate does not change based on the terrain and wind.

#aerobars, #cogs, #cranksets

26.2 vs 70.3

Which one is harder ? 26.2 or a 70.3? I’ve got a marathon and a half Ironman under my belt and on my car:)

When training for the marathon I had joined this running group called Fleet Feet in Pittsburgh. They met every sunday at 7 AM and we ran with our respective pace groups . It was a 16 week program designed for the Pitts Marathon in May. The biggest hurdle by far was getting up at 5:30 AM to have breakfast and then drive down to the starting point.I just don’t have it in me to go for long runs all by myself. Its something I simply cannot do. There is way too much to worry about such as but not limited to nutrition and directions, and last but not the least safety. If you live in a cold area and have signed up for a spring/summer marathon you pretty much have to train through the winter. Getting in your long runs on sunday morning is not fun. If you’re training for a marathon , chances are you will spend more time running than cross training since more or less all training plans ask you to run at least 4 days a week. If you somehow do stick to the plan and since you pretty much run the entire time, you will be faster for sure than if you were training for the run leg in in an ironman distance event. The long runs on Sunday were taking a toll on me when training for the marathon. I could not walk on Monday , was always sore. Also I learnt it the hard way that running 4 days a week is hard if you’ve not been running consistently for a few years especially if your sunday runs are long runs. All i had was a half marathon under my belt about 7 months ago and I had pretty much winged the half. As a result of not too much experience running and running too much too soon I had shin splints the entire time. I tried ice, foam rolling, compression socks and even went down to a chiropractor twice. In the end what I could conclude was running is taking a toll and I need a break , my body just cannot handle so many long runs for whatever reason. Finally on race day I had a goal to break 4 hours and I missed it by 34 seconds! My official time was 4:00:34. The hardest part in the race were the last 6 miles and that’s where the real race is, the last effing 6 miles. I was trying to makeup some time since I was running a bit conservatively the first 10 miles.

and wanted to negative split my race. So what I can conclude from the race was and I still feel today that the marathon requires you to put in those long runs and you need to suck it up on the Sunday mornings. 26.2 is a totally different ball game. You can get away by not doing speed work and tempo runs, but you can not be running a marathon without pain and agony if you’ve not gone on those long runs.

Triathlon is an expensive sport. If you do not know how to swim , you need to get a swim coach. if you’ve been a swimmer all your life , you wont have to take swim lessons! A few open water swims with a group and you will be fine. In terms of the time and effort required. Assuming you know how to swim and how to ride a bike I personally think its easier to train for the 70.3, Again I said easier to train not necessarily easier to race.I pretty much just swam bike and ran whenever I could. The reason I say easier to train is, you can go to the pool even if its winter or summer , the pools are warm and you can go get your intervals in or whatever is is that you had planned.

As far as the bike goes, you can go down to your local gym and attend one of those spin classes for an hour or so and you should be good. Again it’s in a controlled environment , you have music , booties, hopefully a hot instructor and you’re golden. If for whatever reason you don’t wanna drive down for that, you can setup your bike on one of those indoor trainers and whip out an interval workout from youtube or just simply bike and watch a movie. The only thing you need to be concerned about is a sweat puddle. When training on an indoor trainer make sure you have at least a fan facing you or else you’re gonna be drenched in sweat. As far as the run goes, you don’t have to put in 13 miles . Your longest run can be at 6-8 miles and you will be fine. You dont have to spend 3-4 hours on your long runs. The variety breaks the monotony. You can swim easy or swim in intervals , you can bike watching a movie or just do an intense circuit. Long runs are not the bread and butter. I personally never biked 56 prior to my 70.3 race and the bike leg was just fine for me. What i did not train for was run of the bike. I felt I should have included a few more run of the bike sessions just to get used to it. In my opinion you can get away without spending too much time on one sport, if you can dedicate 2 sessions a week for each sport, you will be able to complete a 70.3. You don’t have to put in crazy 3 hour long workouts on a Sunday.  On race day I did struggle during the run, but at the end I wasn’t exhausted to a point where I did not want to walk or could not walk. I was relatively injury free during the entire training . I guess overuse wasn’t the name of the game here.

Training for a 70.3 is easier than training for a 26.2. Racing a 70.3 might be harder than a 26.2 simply because of the weather. Chances are your triathlon is during the summer because you need to swim, duh! As a result your
run leg  will be around 11 AM which means its gonna be  hot. For anyone who has run in the heat, you know the  risk of dehydration , cramping and what not. if you have to run in the heat after a 56 mile bike leg, its pretty tough. On the contrary your marathons start at 7 AM and you’re pretty much done covered majority of the course before it gets really warm.  In the end one should respect both the distances. Accomplishing one or both is a major achievement for a lot of people.

As far as race day goes, if you go out too fast too soon in a marathon, you will pay for it in the last 6 miles for sure or maybe even earlier.

If you go out too hard on the bike in a 70.3 , you will pay for it on the run . In the end you reap what you sow. The marathon requires you to put in those long runs. The 70.3 is slightly more forgiving in the sense, you don’t have to worry about the weather too much. You can pretty much swim bike and run indoors. But try getting a long run(16-20 miles) on a treadmill and you will know why its called a DREADMILL!