Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why I love my Computrainer

Today I completed another interval workout.  It was a tough workout, but that is what intervals are all about.  I did it on my computrainer – using the coaching software.  This allows me to specify the precise power that I need to generate for the whole session. 
Today’s session looked like this:-

  • Warm-up – 10 minutes
    • start slow and increase power for 7 minutes
    • hold 172 watts for 2 minutes
    • rest for 1 minute
  • Initial Set – 5 minutes - to get ready for the main course
    • 30 seconds @ 230 watts
    • 30 seconds @ 123 watts
    • repeat 5 times
  • Main Set – 45 minutes
    • 6 minutes @ 240 watts
    • 3 minutes @ 123 – recovery between sets
    • repeat 5 times
  • Cool down – 10 minutes
    • reducing watts to around 125

1hr 10mins total – the actual watts were calculated based on power from previous workouts.  The great thing about this is that it really helps to keep your focus when all you have to do is ride, the computrainer dishes out the power/pain – so there really is no cheating.  I’d find it hard to do this workout on the road or a regular trainer.  Most of the time I listen to music or podcasts whilst riding in the basement.

The cool thing is that once the workout is over (and actually even during the workout) you can see what you have done (or are about to do) – check this out…


you can easily see the green line at the bottom represents the workout power, as described above.  The yellow line is RPM and the pink line is my heart rate.  I switched off other measurements to make it easier to view.  The view at the very top is the plan for the workout – a visual representation of the description above.  You get to see all of this during the session.

It is interesting to see the curve on the HR lagging behind the watts, which is expected.  This good thing here is that the HR/watts/cadence for each interval are all taking on the same shape (except for the first part of the first 6min interval). I  guess this means that my endurance is decent, meaning that I am not really struggling to complete the last 6 minute interval, it felt about the same as the 4th and 5th.

The blue vertical line just right of middle is where my mouse is positioned, it tells me that at that instant, my power output is 255w and the HR is 166 @ 99 rpm.

I had a look at as similar workout from a few months ago.  Back then my cadence and HR were at similar levels but my power during the intervals was much lower @200w.  That is some pretty good progress.  I still have a long way to go, but

Even though my CT is around 10yrs old – it still seems to work very well.  I am looking forward to the updated software which should be available in the next few weeks.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Computrainer Power/Efficiency

I usually spend a few hours a week reading articles, blog posts and other materials.  One thing that really interests me is the whole concept of power meters.

Earlier this year I purchased a 10yr old Computrainer.  After updating the handlebar controller chip and replacing a few other parts, I now have power when training indoors! 

I can see some good progress on my power output, using a 30 minute time trial on a flat course (10 miles). I have gone up from 194 watts to 214 after 6 weeks, and after 3 months I managed complete 30minutes at 245!  This is pretty amazing, for the last test I was hoping for something in the 220’s.  So that works out to around a 25% increase in 10 weeks, a great effort. 


Whilst my power is going up, my riding efficiency is something that I have to work on.

The computrainer software has a large amount of data available, both on screen while you are riding, and of course on the computer after a workout has been completed. 
Some of the more interesting statistics are :-

  • left/right power split – which helps to make sure you are in balance
  • spinscan value – how efficient or even each pedal stroke is
  • ATA – average torque angle. a measure of where the most power is generated – in degrees from top dead center.  This is something that I am working on understanding

It is obvious that you want the left/right split to be an even 50/50 – I am right around there most of the time, sometimes it drops 48/52 for a while but for the most part I seem evenly balanced.

Spinscan and the ATA numbers are something that I have to work on.  The idea is to get the spinscan numbers as high as possible, with 100 being perfect (but practically impossible, unless you are an electric motor). 

The question that I had was is:  what is a good/bad/average/excellent spinscan numbers?

For most of my recent training – I have been in the low-mid 60’s and a few times in the 70’s.  it is generally trending upwards, but I still didn’t know if a 65 is good or not.  I found an article on YouTube (here) which suggested the following for both spinscan and ATA:-


So – I am a C in ATA numbers, and lower (a D or E) for Spinscan.  This gives me a new short-term goals to work on for the off season.  I’d like to improve my efficiency before/during base training over the winter.

I’ve also read a lot of articles about power on the bike – and almost all of them refer to the “bible” – “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” by Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan. 

powermeter-bible2 I am really looking forward to reading this and getting a deep understanding of the whole power concept.  I want to understand as much as I can before I purchase a power meter for the bike.  I am considering waiting for Garmin to release the Vector unless is can somehow find the $$$ to purchase one sooner (not very likely).

Before I start reading this book – I am still working on finishing “Iron Fit” by  Don Fink.


Garmin Forerunner 210 giveaway – DCRainmaker

dcrainmaker is doing another giveaway, this time for a new Forerunner 210 – here’s the link november-forerunner-210-giveaway

Friday, October 15, 2010

Helmet Test - Standard vs Aero

Ever since I purchased my Rudy Wingspan helmet (about 6 weeks ago), I wondered how much faster it might be.  I have raced with it twice now, and had really good bike splits for each race.  But I still wanted to find out just how much faster it was.  I remember seeing some articles stating that over a 40k (25mile) time trial, these aero helmets should save somewhere in the region of 1 minute.
So I decided to perform a (non-scientific) test.  Since I don’t have a fancy bike computer or a power meter I had to go by my perceived effort, HR monitor and simple cateye bike computer.
The Helmets
Bell standard road helmet vs Rudy Project Wingspan
as you can see on the Wingspan, I used the mesh cover (right under the number from my last race).  The other options are a solid insert (no airflow) or no insert for maximum airflow.  I went for the middle.  I also had the tail cover installed (see pic below with the tail cover on/off)
The test was conducted at Prince William Forrest, a great place to ride with a 7.25 mile loop that has it all, flat/rolling/fast and a some challenging hills.  I managed to get some time mid-week, so there were no cars.  For the whole ride I only saw 2 other cyclists.    I used my road bike with aero bars – exactly what I use when racing.
the chart above (thanks to mapmyride.com) shows the course profile – harder than most of the triathlon’s that I have competed in.
After a 10 minute warm-up I proceeded to complete a single lap using each helmet.  I started with the standard helmet then followed-up with the aero helmet.
this picture shows the start/finish line – I began each lap with a standing start, the lines painted on the road made it easy to accurately repeat the start/end of each lap.
Since the laps were around 21 minutes for 7.25 miles – it would give me a decent indicator about how much faster it is, without having to spend the whole day testing.  Plus a the short laps meant I didn’t get too fatigued, although even 1 lap is a really good workout.  My level of effort was hard the whole way.

The Results
Lap Time Avg Speed Avg HR Max Speed
Standard Helmet
All speeds are in MPH.  The aero helmet was 21.3 seconds faster, a decent time improvement.  The average HR was a little higher, I think mostly because of the hard effort for lap 1, and my starting hr was higher.  I did rest for a few minutes between laps, which gave me time to take a few pics of the stats for the first lap.  The last time I rode 2 laps around this course my 2nd lap HR was higher by 6bpm, so another 7bpm this time is close enough.   My HR is always highest at the end of the lap, since the last mile or so is significantly up hill.
the 2 pictures below show my bike computer’s average speeds for both laps.  sorry, the quality is low.
Lap 1 average speed lap 2 average speed
I tried to pace myself evenly for both laps, not favoring one lap over another, however I think I pushed the steep downhill a fraction harder on the 2nd lap (max speed went up from 42.1 to 44.4) – the hill is short and steep so would not have made much of a time difference.  the helmet surely made a little difference in max speed too.
So taking 21.3 seconds per 7.25 miles and extrapolating over standard race distances, we get the following:-
Sprint Olympic half ironman Ironman
Distance (Miles)
Time Saving (mm:ss)
these numbers are of course all subjective, but I think they represent a decent indication of time savings.  Actually for a flatter/faster course with a higher average speed the time saving could increase.  I think my cateye computer also measures a little long, mapmyride.com shows the lap at 7.2 miles.  so these times above could be even better.
What I did notice was a big difference in how the 2 helmets felt, or more specifically sounded.  The standard helmet was very loud with all of the wind rushing past my ears, especially when riding over 23mph (which was for a good part of the lap).  The aero helmet covers part of my ears, and that really helps with the noise levels, so it doesn’t sound like you are going as fast.  As I moved my head around (up/down) there was one position that cut the wind noise to almost zero.  I’m not sure if that is a faster position, or just a better position with relation to wind near my ears.  It happened as I was looking down more towards my front wheel rather than out at the road in front. Comfort wise (heat/head temperature) I didn’t notice a difference.  It probably helped that the weather was perfect for riding (mid-low 70’s) with not much wind.
The last time I rode this course was 6 weeks before.  I used the same equipment as lap 1 (standard helmet) and had exactly the save average HR.  the differences were
Lap Time Avg Speed (mph) Avg HR Max Speed
6 weeks prior
test lap 1
so I was almost a minute faster for the same effort, after 6 weeks of pretty hard training.
So we can conclude that there is really no substitute for hard training!  In 6 weeks I improved almost 1 minute.  The helmet added another 21 seconds.  But those seconds came at no extra effort.  Add that to the 2 minutes I usually save when wearing a wetsuit and it starts to add up.
In my opinion the helmet and wetsuit are the best time/speed saving for the money spent.
a great day for a ride
I had a lot of fun completing this test, and would really like to do some more.  Some thoughts on future tests, given time (and budget)
  • complete the same test with a power meter & better bike computer (edge 500)
  • road bike vs Triathlon specific/TT bike (once I get one, perhaps 6 months away)
  • race wheels vs standard wheels

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Giant Acorn Olympic Tri 2010 Relay Race Report

Last year was my first year at triathlon’s.  My last race of the 2009 season was the Giant Acorn Sprint.  My friends Diane and Kathleen were also there competing.  Each of us is better at 1 of the 3 legs, and together we thought  we’d be able to do a decent relay time with Diane on the Swim, Kathleen on the run and me on the bike. 

With that in mind we thought it might be a fun way to end the season with a relay.  So that’s exactly what we did.  We chose the Olympic distance because the sprint distance seemed too short.

All three of us completed our first Olympic triathlon only 3 weeks before – at The Nation’s Triathlon so we had a good idea of what to expect for each of the 3 legs.

We arrived and got setup early and managed to get a great spot in transition – right next to the aisle.

The relay was the last wave, 18 minutes after the first wave.  Since i was doing the bike, i could sit back and be a spectator for the first 30 minutes of the race.

The first swimmers came out of the water in just over 24 minutes, 4 minutes ahead of us.  Diane had a really good swim and since all of the relay teams were in the same area in transition i had a good idea of our position at T1 (7th).   

Transition for relays are pretty easy, we were allowed to stand at our bikes, with helmet already on.  All we had to do was switch over the timing chip and i was away.  It was a different feeling running the bike through transition; usually i jogged, but this time i could run.  I passed a lot of people, especially on the uphill section just before the mount line.

I’ve worked hard on the bike for the last few months, which really showed with a great bike split at the Nation’s Tri (1:08:27).  My goal for this race was to beat that time.  I knew i could push hard because i didn’t have to follow up with a 10k run.  As i started on the bike, things felt really great. 

The relay teams were in the last swim wave, so that meant a lot of traffic on the bike course, especially on the first lap.  I found myself hailing ‘on your left’ a lot.   The bike course is a good one, mostly flat with some up/down hill sections, but one that you can keep a pretty good average.  The whole course is a single lane road, so there is really not much room to overtake, especially when it there are a lot of people on an up-hill section.  The one thing that really annoyed me is when people just would not keep to the left.  I often would see people riding right next to the middle of the road when no one else was around.  A  few were more scary; swerving out of nowhere.  I try to be as polite as i can letting people know i am there and want to pass with the standard ‘on your left’ call.  When i do this, i will often say thanks or offer word of encouragement to anyone who looked to be having a hard time.

The nice thing about the course was the markers on the road at every 5 miles.  This is a simple thing to do, with some orange spray paint, something that other races could learn from.  I use a cateye bike computer with speed and cadence, but i don’t use it to track distance during the race.  i like to get an idea of both my speed and current cadence, so that is what i usually have it set to.  I was already familiar with the course, however seeing these 5mile markers was a good check-point to monitor my progress.  Shortly after the first 5 mile marker there is a right hand turn from Moody Town Rd onto Kentucky Springs Rd/SR 652.  At this point the road is very smooth, and a little downhill.  The smooth surface is nice, especially since the other roads are a little rough.

After a slight decline there are a few hills.  I was really feeling good and passing a ton of people, especially on the uphill sections.  I don’t have the best bike, no carbon or anything fancy.  I have recently started using some clip-on aero bars (Profile T2+) which i really love, i was in them for most of the race, except for the some tighter turns and when needing to brake for some sections where there were tons of bikes in front.

At one point on the first lap, a few cars (the road was open) were stuck behind some of the slower bikers – i came up to them at the crest of the largest hill.  I had 2 choices, sit back and wait for them to move on, or pass the cars (on rt 652, with double yellow lines).  As much as i want to go fast, i know the rules and want to be safe.  that means no crossing the double yellow lines and basically being safe.  I tried to get the attention of the drivers ahead to give me a little room, and managed to squeeze by.  The extra bike training has really given me an extra kick if i need for passing or hills. 

I got to the end of lap 1 in exactly 33 minutes – ahead of schedule for a 1:08, now I’m thinking i can get close to 1:06!

the second lap was much easier, way less traffic to pass, but i still passed a lot of people.  I can only remember 3 people passing me for the whole 2 laps.  All of them were on really nice bikes TT bikes.  I passed many others with the full carbon TT and some with racing wheels.  This usually gives me a boost, with my alloy road bike.

for a lot of the 2nd lap – i found myself dueling with an age grouper, he had a really nice Cervelo P2C – he’d get more aero and pass me on the flat/downhill sections, and I'd come right back going up hill.  With about 5 miles to go he passed me again.  So I decided to try and drop him.  I upped the intensity all of the way to the finish and never saw him again!  Actually at the last turn i managed to pass 1 of the 3 people that passed me on the first lap.

I finished with a bike split of 1:05:42 and managed to negative split the 2nd lap by 18 seconds.  I couldn’t be happier about that!

T2 was fast, however it took me a few seconds to get the timing chip off.  I passed it to Kathleen and she headed out for the 10k run.  We were the first relay team out of T2! 

Kathleen put in a great run.  Diane and I walked up to the turn-around, right at the fork where you go left for the 2nd lap, or right to the finish.  We shouted words of encouragement for everyone we could.  After completing a few races now, i know how good it is to have people cheering you on, especially on the run.  Kathleen came past us in around 23 minutes for the first lap, and she looked strong.  We had a pretty good idea that we were still in 1st place, but we didn't know much about the other teams; and it is hard to see the ‘R’ marked on the legs of anyone coming by.  Kathleen is a great runner and gave it her all.  We moved a little closer to the finish line, and waited for her to come past for the final push to the finish.  She finished strong; our total time was 2:23:28 – good enough to win by over 3 minutes!  My first time on the podium.

here’s the relay results for the top 3 – full race results here Giant Acorn International 2010 Race results


so where did the team name J-SHORE come from?  Diane used the names of all of our kids :-

Jacob Sam Hugh Oliver Ruby Ethan

We had to wait a while for the awards ceremony.  To the credit of the race organizers, ceremony went quickly, and we got a nice engraved stone for our first place!



  • the bike training continues to produce results.  the last 2 races have been great! 
    I am at least 10% better than 2 months ago
  • after the tough ride my legs felt good.  A little wobbly after a fast slightly downhill flying dismount, but i think i could have posted a decent 10k run.
  • i am starting to think about purchasing a TT bike.  I’ve had some good races on my current (road) bike and think I'll improve my times with a real TT bike.  Perhaps I will start seriously looking early in 2011.  I really like the new Felt B16/B14.

In summary – this is a great race, not only because we did so well, but a good venue with a fast course.  I would definitely consider doing it again, but i haven’t really looked at my schedule for next year yet.  My main/’A’ races will be Eagleman 70.3 in June and the Nation’s Olympic distance again September – possibly the beach to battleship (70.3) in November.

Since this is my last race, of any kind, planned for this year; I'm officially in the off season!   I still have a lot of things to work on for next year.  The main thing i want to focus on is solid technique for the swim and run, and continue to improve on the bike.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Nation’s Triathlon 2010 – Race Report

First things first – how did it go? 
I finished in 2:28:11, 61 out of 496 for my AG.  This is by far my best race, substantially better than I had thought possible.  Before the race I created a chart of the best possible time I thought I could do (here).  This turned out to be 2:46.  I am still shocked I beat that time by so much.

My prep for this race was good (except for running), however I started getting some aches/pains on Friday before the race, and wasn’t feeling so good at all on Saturday morning.  I dosed up cold/flu medication and managed to feel ok on race day.  I was still congested, but I don’t think it affected the race too much.

On Saturday we got through packet pickup and the expo without problem, although parking close to the hotel was difficult.  Managed to pickup a few goodies at the expo too (transition bag, running visor, water bottle).

The forecast for Sunday’s race wasn’t good – rain overnight and continuing through the morning.  We got up at 5am and left the hotel at 5:45 to walk to the transition area.  It was raining, but it wasn’t too hard at that point.  By the time we got to the transition area it was coming down quite hard and was miserable.  It made setting up the transition area difficult, and it was really cold.  Many put on their wetsuits early just to keep warm. 


There were 5,000 people registered to race, but a lot of people came to transition just to remove their bikes and go home.  I had a few open spaces next to my bike, which made setup easy.  I setup my bike and put a garbage bag over my running shoes/hat/race belt for T2 – to try and keep them dry.  Pumped the tires and was ready to go.  The race start was delayed 20mins, giving us all a little extra time to get ready.    As I was leaving the transition area, I realized that I forgot to attach my bento box to the bike.  Since it had the gels that I needed for the ride I quickly got back and attached it. 

Swim – 27:37 – Wave #13

The pre-swim area was well organized.  Sections were marked for each wave to assemble before being marshaled in to the water.   My wave was #13, the first of 3 40-44 waves (496 finishers in my age group).  I zipped up my wetsuit with about 8 minutes to go and was feeling pretty calm.   I positioned myself at the front of the wave as we walked to the jetty so I'd have time to get a few strokes in before the swim start.  I am really happy that it did this.  As the announcers said 30 seconds I could see some people still trying to get in to the water.

swim-exit My plan for the swim was to not start too fast.  I wanted to swim just like I had done in training, focusing on being smooth and breathing every 3rd stroke.  I am very happy with the way the swim went.  The wetsuit definitely helped.  I kept pretty good form for the whole 1.5k.  One of the best things about this race was the swim buoys positioned at every 100meters, with the distance clearly marked.  This was a really good way to break the race down, all I had to do was focus on the next marker and just count them off.  Other races could really learn a lesson here.

There was a lot of bumping going on.  What I didn’t expect was running into people from the previous wave at the 300 meter mark, especially with the waves being 4 mins apart.swim-exit2

I was swimming quite well, and thinking my time would be pretty good – I was really hoping for a sub 30 time.  The turn around was at 600meters, at that point i could see a lot of people, some from 2 waves earlier.  It was often hard to see them and I bumped into a few (sorry).  I had to zig-zag a little but managed to keep a decent line for most of the race.

the last 200m was the hardest – so many people coming around 2 90degree turns towards the finish chute.

I started my watch at about 30 seconds before the race start and glanced at it as I exited the water, it was around 28 minutes!  I am really happy with that.  Official time was 27:37.  This was my best swim ever, significantly helped by the wetsuit.  I am happy that I followed my pre-race plan of taking it easy and finishing strong.

I didn’t notice much rain during the swim, and the water seemed clean enough.  It was definitely better than my last race in Culpeper.  So many people that I talked to were concerned about the thought of swimming in the Potomac.  It really wasn’t bad, I won’t think twice about doing it again next year.

T1 – 3:40t1

the distance from the swim exit to the transition area was long.  It took me almost 2 minutes to get to the transition area.  I think a 3:40 transition was pretty good.  Since I already had my bike shoes clipped in (see pic on left), all I had to do was take off the wetsuit and put on my helmet and glasses.

The wetsuit came off easily and I was out and on my way.  As I got close to the center aisle another competitor fell while taking his wetsuit off, his head crashed into my right thigh – ouch.  I stopped to make sure he was ok, then ran the bike out of transition.




Bike – 1:08:27 – 21.7mph

I was really looking forward to the bike portion of the race.  I had worked hard for the 4 weeks prior to this race, and my average speed was coming up.  I was hoping to finish around 1:18, just over 19mph.  The roads were wet, and the rain just kept coming for most of the ride, which slowed things down especially at the turn a round's and some other tight corners.  There were a lot of volunteers on the course that did an excellent job of warning us of tight turns and even some water hazards.

I was feeling really great on the bike, each time I looked down at my speed, I was over 20mph – often 23 or 24.  The course was very flat.  There were a few up and downs but mostly rolling.  Nothing difficult.  Most of the roads that I train on were much harder and I think this really helped me. 

there were 2 things that i didn’t like about the bike leg:-

  • lack of mile markers.  I would have liked to see ones at 10, 15 & 20.  I did remember that the race website showed the first turn around was at mile 10.  I hit that in 29 minutes and change.  Once I saw that I knew I was in for a good ride time.
  • some sections were narrow and a few sections had a lot of water.  with so many riding there were some places with a lot of people bunched up, as soon as the road opened up again I put in a surge to pass the pack.  there also seemed to be a lot of drafting – mostly unintentional I think.  Some people were definitely getting a sizeable advantage.  At least we were warned about the narrow sections, before the race and by the volunteers.

bikeI kept a good steady effort, aiming for a good mix of speed, but not killing myself so I'd have something left for the run.  I tried to focus on a good cadence and spent most of the race in the 90’s – exactly as planned.

Even with the rain, the ride was over quickly.  Much faster than I had expected (by 10 minutes).  As I went past the Watergate hotel and the Kennedy center I realized that I was nearly finished, and it was about 1h 5mins into the bike leg.  The picture on the right is close to the finish of the bike leg.

The race organizers did an excellent job with the bike finish – signs were posted every 100meters, starting 500meters out.  There were a lot of people lining the streets cheering.  That was fun.

I had a fast dismount, didn’t really slow down much at all and left the bike running.  I think I passed over 10 people who stopped to get off the bike.  The flying dismount really saves time.

Final time was 1:08:27 – way better than I had thought possible.  The flat course really helped there.  Most of my training rides were around 19-19.5 mph, but with more hills and on hotter days. 

The cool day and rain helped a lot – I didn’t even go though my first water bottle (40oz speedfil).  I had a gel at 30mins and about 1hr in.

T2 – 1:50

Nothing exceptional, but a pretty good transition.  Got the shoes on quickly – no socks, put on the visor, race belt and picked up my small water bottle, the one that attaches to your palm.  In previous races i always felt like I needed to sip water more often, rather than take a bigger drink at aid stations.  I picked up the bottle at the expo before the race and I am so happy that I did.

Run – 46:39

run The run was the portion of the race that I was most concerned about.  I didn’t really have a good idea of what time was possible.  Having 2 knee surgeries this year meant that I had not trained much, plus I have had a few calf problems recently too.  2 weeks before the race completed a 10k training run and managed to just break 50 minutes for the first time.  The next run after that i was going slow, and after 3 miles had some calf pain.  I didn’t run after that until the day before the race.

I started the run at a steady pace.  I was feeling great.  Usually my legs feel heavy after the bike leg, but this time i didn’t have that at all.  I think this is a result of some good training, and also good pacing on the bike.  My pace started out at around 8:30/mile and since i was feeling good i kept going faster.  The run was very flat, and with the rain easing and the cool temperature it was close to perfect running conditions.

I looked at my watch and after the fast swim and bike, I was 1:45 in to the race at the start of the run.  I had to look a few times to make sure I wasn’t seeing things.  I started to think that I had a shot at finishing within 2:30.  I couldn’t believe that I was even possible.

By mile 2 I felt some pain in my calf, but it didn’t really slow me down so i continued.  Actually i continued to pick up the pace each mile.  This felt really great. I continued a good steady pace and was passing a lot of people.  There were some really fast runners going past me, but not nearly as many as previous races.

run-2 The finish line was really well done, after passing under a bridge (14th st I think) there was a small rise and after that you could see the finish line about 400 yards away.  I put in a great final surge and finished the run in 46:39 – way exceeding my expectations.

I looked at my watch just after the finish – it said 2:28.  I couldn’t believe it.  I knew during the run I was going close to 2:30, but this was an incredible run, considering that I really haven’t trained for running.  The hard swimming and riding training that I have done have really increased my aerobic fitness, and this really helped. 

Final average pace: 7:32/mile – way better than any race before, especially for my first Olympic race.  I think the course might have been a little shorter than 10k too.

The finishing medal was a nice touch.

Post Race Review

finish-medal I am looking forward to this race next year – anyone considering entering should really give it a try. the course is flat and fast, and very well organized.

I lined up after i finished at the timing tent, but they didn’t have the results at first.  I did manage to get back there about 30 minutes later.  It was nice to see my official time – and have it printed for me instead of crowding around some paper pinned to a board.





What are the things that i can take away from the race?

  • I validated that my training is working.  I performed better than expected in all 3 legs.
  • the wetsuit definitely helps.  I’ll wear it in every race that i am allowed
  • the course was excellent and made for a fun race – hopefully next year without the rain
  • the hand-held water bottle is a keeper!  may even use that for longer training runs
  • the Speedfil drink system worked very well.  I could sip water as often as i liked without leaving the aero bars
  • for the first time i used an aero helmet – the Rudy Project Wingspan.   I’m sure this helped take 1-2 minutes off the ride time.  I got it only a few days before the race and had not used it on the bike yet.  I am very happy that i did.
  • race and pre-race nutrition was good. drank only water, consumed 2 gels on the bike and 2 enduralytes at the start of the run, continued sipping water throughout the bike/run (refilled once at mile 4 on the run).  Since it cool and raining, there was far less need to consume a lot of water.  Breakfast was a Hammer almond/raisin bar, airborne and a cold/flu tablet and water.  A packet of Powerbar Strawberry/Banana energy gel blasts (yum) while i was setting up and and a Hammer gel about 30-40 minutes before the swim start.  Drank a good amount of water throughout the morning before the race.
  • my heart rate was definitely under control for the whole race.  Much lower and all previous races, even with the faster speed for each leg.  The last race i did, i averaged in the 180s for the swim alone, this race was 167 – the bike was in the low 160’s.  this shows that i was pacing pretty well.  Run average was 168 and up to 183 for the sprint to the finish. 

What can I improve?

  • i still have more work to do on all 3 legs.  Mostly the run.  If i can stay injury free, i am really looking forward to next year/season.
  • speed up transition times.  I think i can take 10-15 seconds from each.  perhaps just by running a little harder & putting on the race belt/number while running.

Final times:-

Finish Time


average/pace heart rate avg/max


1:42/100m 167/175




21.7 mph 161/166




7:32/mile 168/183
Age Group


Gender Place


Overall Place




To think about for next year

I think i can cut a good amount of time for next year.  If i can cut just 1 minute off each leg that will get me in the 2:25 range, but if i can really work the bike/run i think i could get down to around 2:20.  If i can maintain some continued steady swim progress, and some good run/bike training should get me there. 

At some point I would like to buy a Triathlon bike, but not before I am stronger on the bike itself.  I passed many people with the full aero bike, wheels and all (that was fun).  My philosophy is to work on the engine first, then when I think the my current bike is slowing me down, I’ll upgrade.  I am hoping to do this early in the season next year.  Added to that is the fact that i have to save for a new bike too!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

5 Days to the Nations Triathlon - 2010

The nations triathlon is fast approaching – 5 days until race day.  Since this is my first Olympic distance race, i am not 100% sure how my body will react to the longer distance compared to the sprints i have done previously.

In preparation for the race, I put together some notes about how i think i might finish.  This is just my best estimate.  One of the big unknowns for me is how the bike leg will go.  All of the races I have done until now have been sprints, with a max of 700 athletes.  Each swim wave has been relatively small, and there is usually always a fair amount of traffic on the bike course.  The nations tri has something like 4,500 people – sure there are still wave starts (33 of them), with many age groups have multiple waves, but there is still going to be a lot of people out on the course at the same time.

So here’s my preview of how i think/hope the race will go

  Fast Average Slow Actual
Swim – 1,500m





Bike – 40k/25mi





Run – 10k/6.2mi





Transitions (1&2)










Given that i have not had the best year in terms of injury – i would be happy finishing anything less than 3 hrs.

The table above helps me to gauge what my fastest and slowest time should be, of course depending on a lot of factors, it helps me to work out a range of what is reasonable to expect.    What is interesting about this, is that 3:00 was the original goal i set for myself when i registered for the race in December 2009.  Today, even with the injuries, 3hrs seems easy enough.  After the race I’ll add a column for the actual race times to see how it compares.

Swim  (M40-44 - Wave 13 - 7:48am)

When I first started considering Triathlon – the limiting factor for me was 100% swimming.  Actually i had always wanted to complete a triathlon, but thought the swimming would be too hard.  I’ve worked hard on swimming this year, and i am now pretty comfortable with swimming the distance in the pool.  Note that i didn’t say fast.  Now that i found out that my local pool is yards and not meters, i had to manage my expectations a little too.  So what i though was 1,500 meters, was short (1,500m is around 1,640 yards).  The last time i did that distance (30min TT) i finished in 28:55 (details here).  Open water is going to be slower, especially with no walls to push off.  I am not doing flip turns yet so the advantage in the pool may not be huge, but at least in the pool i know that i am going straight.  I’d really like to break 30 mins, i think that might be possible if we could wear wetsuits.  Realistically, i will be happy with anything less than 32 minutes.  Since this is my first race longer than 750m, it will be interesting to see what i can do.

I’d really like to start the swim at a steady pace and not get caught up with trying to mix it up with the faster swimmers.  I did this on my last race and while i had a good time, i really pushed my HR limits (180+ hr).  Doing the same thing would be a problem with a race of double the distance.  I’d like to focus on technique and slow things down a little, if i can do that then i think i can still have a good time and have plenty of energy left for the bike/run.

It looks pretty likely that this will not be a wetsuit race.  I was really hoping for colder water so i could get a boost from my wetsuit.  Last week the water temperature was 85, today 80-81.  It is getting close to the 78 wetsuit cut-off.

Final note:  My age group is split across 3 swim waves.  I am in the first wave.  I wonder if they will mark us with the a/b/c wave too.  I am really competing for a time, not against anyone else, but i like to see what others in my group can do.  If i see someone ahead of me towards the end of the run, then I'll be trying to run them down – especially if i knew that they were in the same swim wave.


I’ve worked really hard over the last month – with very little prep on the bike for the entire year before that.  My recent rides have be averaging just over 19mph on for around 25miles mostly on rolling terrain with a few hills.  I used these training rides to come up with the time estimates above. 19.0mph would be 1:18.57.   The Nation’s course is supposed to be quite fast, but with all of the people, maintaining a good average might be a challenge.  I have never managed to top 20mph in any ride yet – that is one of my goals. I think it might be possible with a few more months of training under my belt.  Given how i have been training, i think something in the 1:17-1:20 time window is doable.  Anything less than 1:20 would be a great result.


Running has been tough for me this year.  The only thing of note that I have done is complete a half marathon (1:53:55) in May.  Since then i have had another knee surgery and not completed much running at all.  2 weeks ago i did manage to complete a 10k training run – this felt really great!  I set a new PR by breaking 50minutes for the first time.  However a few days after that i was out on a slow jog and had some calf pain – a week later it is still there.  I am trying to massage every day and it is getting better, but i don’t think i am going to attempt to run until race day.

Ideally i would love to finish in around 55:00 or less – if i have a good day i could get closer to 50, but if the calf hurts it might take a lot longer.  My conservative goal is anything less than 1hr.  I’ve completed 3 sprint races, each in the high 26 minute range (26:41, 26:51, 26:34).  Doubling that time gets me to around 55, but i don’t know how my legs are going to feel.  At least this run is mostly flat.


This race is on a much larger scale than anything i have ever done before.  Looking at last year’s results – the transition times vary wildly.  the front of the pack (M40-44) were between 3-4 minutes combined for T1 & T2, whereas the average for a 2:50 finish were up to 6 minutes.  I am hoping to make up some time in transition – so i figured leaving 4 minutes combined should be enough.    I may update this after i see where my bike will be racked, and how large the transition area is.

I do plan on clipping my shoes in to the bike and doing a flying mount, and won’t be wearing any socks, so that should hopefully lay the foundation for a fast T1 and T2.  Last race my helmet and glasses were knocked off before i got to transition, so i may put them on the ground to be safe.  I have aero bars on the bike now, so that might make them more secure up high.

So that’s it for my pre-race thoughts.  I am hoping that by posting this goal, it will provide a little more motivation to go and make it happen!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Swim Time trials – hard vs easy

In the last few weeks, i started swimming with the local masters team – this has really helped me improve way faster than trying to do it all on my own.  I am getting faster at the shorter sets (50s, 100s, 200s etc) but i haven’t done any distance work for a few weeks.

last night i didn’t have a plan before jumping in to the water.  After a warm-up i was feeling ok and since I have the Nations Tri (Olympic distance) coming up in just under 3 weeks, i decided to do some longer time trials.

So my plan was at first to try 5 minutes continuous to see how we go.  I didn’t get lap splits for this, but the end result was :-



Average Pace
(per 100y/50y)

4:55 300yards 1:38.3 / 49.16

compared to recent efforts, that is really great. I don’t think i have ever averaged faster than 50s for 50yards (often around the 53 mark).  I was puffing by the end of the 5 minutes, but felt quite good. 

So the next time effort (after short break) was for 10 minutes – for this set my perceived effort was harder, but the average time was very similar.  at the end of 10 minutes, i was definitely feeling it.  I don’t think i could have held that pace for too much longer.



Average Pace
(per 100y/50y)

9:58 600yards 1:39.6 / 49.83

interesting – within 1 sec/100y of the 5min TT.  The problem is that this is not a pace i could keep up for a longer swim.  Since i am aiming for 1500m/1650y for the Nations Tri.

So my next set was a 30min TT, about the time i think i can complete course.  For this set i purposely took it easy, trying to be comfortable and efficient.  I finished strong, and could have kept going at that pace. 



Average Pace
(per 100y/50y)

30:17.6 1750yards 1:43.8 / 51.93

I think this is an interesting result.  what felt significantly easier, was actually only 4 seconds per 100 yards slower.  I think i can happily give up those 4 seconds for a comfortable swim, and have lots of energy left for the rest of the race.

splits @ 300 and 600yards (had the lap timer on for the 10 & 30 minute tt’s)


5min TT

10min TT

30min TT









my goal is to be able to keep the 10min speed for a full 30 mins, but that will take a lot of work and some better technique.  for the last 10 minutes I managed to increase speed, as i was feeling pretty good.  This is going to be the plan for my race – start at a good steady pace, and hopefully increase the pace during the 2nd half.  I'd much rather do this than start out too hard (which is easy to do in a race) and not have much left towards the end.  I also just looked at the tide charts – low tide on race day should be 6:30 – right about the start of the first wave.  so the first leg of the out&back swim will be downstream, and of course against the tide on the way back.

This session represents somewhat of a breakthrough for me – only a year ago i was averaging well over 2mins per 100yards, right around 2:20 – 2:25.

I looked at my training log, and the last 30minute time trial i did was only 8 days before.  I managed to beat my time by 18 seconds.  Working on technique with the masters team really is making a difference.  The last time i did a 30min TT was April 1st – with an average of 53.9/50y – 1:47.8/100y (1700y in 30:33.1), this is pretty good progress (50y extra distance and 16 seconds less time).

If you were thinking about joining a local masters program, my recommendation is that you definitely should.  These numbers are evidence that it does work.  I didn’t think i was good enough to join in with the Masters team, but they were really great.  I have already improved a lot in only 3 weeks. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

2010 Culpeper Triathlon Race Report

This is my 2nd year competing in the Culpeper Triathlon.  I’ve had a tough year for injuries this year, so really had not spent any quality time on the Bike, and had not completed any runs since the Marine Corps 1/2 Marathon.  I have been working hard on my swim, so my plan was to have a good swim, and they take it easy on the bike and run.

I started on the front line of my wave, off to the right hand side (shortest line to the first buoy).  Usually i hang back a little, since my swimming is not strong yet.  This time i went out quite hard, trying to draft a little from the faster swimmers who jumped out in front of me.  The water in the lake is dirty – so murky that you can barely see you hands in front of you, so seeing where anyone in front of you is almost impossible.  I hit the first buoy in decent shape, but was definitely puffing hard.  Since i was on the right at the start, and it was a left turn, i had to take it a little wide.  I think i took it out too hard, and felt my form going – i tried had to breath every 2nd stroke because it wasn’t taking it easy.
overall a good swim – 14:39, including walking to the transition mat.  My HR out of the water was 183.  I really gave it everything i had, and walked to recover on the way to the bike.  The time was 2:10 better than the same swim from last year.

not much special here, other than the competitor next to me knocked off my helmet and glasses before i got there.  i think i lost 20 seconds finding my glasses.   For the 2nd time i had mounted my shoes to the bike (with elastic bands to keep them positioned) so T1 is really easy.  dump the swimming gear, on with glasses and helmet and go. 

1:57 – slower that i would have liked, but not too bad (2:14 last year) – pretty good considering the time lost to finding my glasses.  next time i may put the helmet on the ground, depending on how tightly spaced the bikes are on the rack

my goal was to keep a cadence average of 90 – i think i did well with this.  Since i had only had 1 road ride since October last year, i took it easy.  I still managed to get around in an ok time (57.12 compared to 56.09 last year), so that is pretty good.  I did managed to get a 2:00 drafting penalty.  I saw the motor bikes on the course, and i was trying hard not to be too close to those in front, but with so many bikes on the course this was difficult.  looks like i will have to try harder next time.

1:14 – pretty decent, nothing much to report.  Took my feet out of the shoes on the last downhill before the short uphill into transition.  passed a lot of people right at the dismount line.  racked the bike and put my shoes on pretty quickly. 

took it easy again, legs felt in pretty good shape after a somewhat easy ride.   Time was 26:41, pretty good considering i took it easy, and had almost no training.  run time from last year was 26:34.
Overall i was very happy – total time (minus the 2:00 penalty) was 1:41:34 – better than last years 1:42:09 even when taking the bike/run easy.  hopefully next year i’ll be injury free, and try to get to around 1:30.

The event is a good one, except for the murky water for the swim.  The bike course is challenging but not overly difficult.  the run is up/down hill, but also a good challenge.  I’ll be looking forward to this race again next year.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Recovering from 2nd Knee Surgery in 4 months

At the start of 2010, i was in the best shape i think i have ever been in.  I was thinking that it was going to be a good year, and had scheduled a number of races, including the Marine Corps 1/2 Marathon, and a triathlon in June, August, September and October (going on vacation in July).

The very next day I was running on the treadmill (slowly to increase mileage) and after 7 miles felt a pain.  the result-  torn medial meniscus in my right knee.  with my work travel schedule and waiting for insurance approvals, mri's etc - i had surgery on February 15th.  Recovery was pretty fast, and i still managed to run the 1/2 marathon in may.  but the week after that i noticed pain in my left knee.  Another MRI showed that i had also torn the medial meniscus in my left knee too.

as i am writing this, i still have the bandages and stitches from the 2nd surgery a week ago.  I am looking forward to friday when i can get the stitches out and get back into the pool.

One benefit from the first knee injury was spending more time in the pool!  so i am looking forward to continuing to improve my form and efficiency.

my run and bike have definitely suffered - i haven't ridden my bike since the last race from last year (october), so i am hoping the to get some strength and flexiblity to start riding again in a few weeks.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

2010 Marine Corps 1/2 Marathon

This is the first race i have had over 5k.  As I was preparing for this race, I tore a medial meniscus (right knee) in early January - had surgery in february and have been trying to get back to running since, without much luck. I was hoping for sub 2hr race, but didn’t know if my legs would hold up for a full 2 hrs of running. I had experienced some lower calf muscle pain, mostly in my left leg, that basically limited me to 2 training runs in the 2 weeks before the race. Other than some shin splints last year, I had never had calf pain before - it really make running hard. Part of the reason for this is the time-off from the knee surgery, but the other part is that I have changed to some Newton running shoes (which I love), but that does tend to put more strain on the lower calf's during the familiarization period - which I have not had time to complete yet.

So here's how the race went.

We got to the race venue with not much time to spare. Logistics were super easy - parked at a commuter lot and took the shuttle bus/coach to the venue. The starting line was a short 1/2 mile walk away. We were running a little late, but we had just enough time check our bags, and then walked to the start line.  Since we were relatively late, we didn't get a chance to get further up in the line, so started somewhat near the back of the pack. It took a little over 4 mins of walking with thousands of others to get to the start line.

The first 1-1.5 miles were a little tough - the pace was slow, as I was trying to make my way through the crowd, sometimes finding a hole in front and darting through it - with some more ducking and weaving I finally got to the point where it thinned out a little and I could hit my usual stride (slow and steady) - this was about the part of the first small uphil section.  Reflecting on the race aftewards, that first mile was a good way to warm up.

The weather was nice, overcast and not too hot. The first water station was around 2 miles in - it was a bit hectic, with all of the people around. But like the rest of the race, the people manning the stations were super friendly and did an excellent job.

I ran the race using my Polar RS300x with the footpod.  It was amazing how many people wore similar devices, it seems mostly garmin's. Mine is set to beep every 1/2 mile - I use that to check my pace. It was easy to tell the garmin's at they have a distinctive chirp. I saw many people with ipod's - one was even singing out loud as we made our way through old-town Fredricksburg. I did hear another racer get our her phone and ask whoever she was calling to get her an asprin!

At the 6mile mark I was feeling ok - hr seemed to be in check (averaged 155bpm, which is pretty low for me), my calf really started to hurt - I changed my stride pattern a little (more heel strike) which seemed to help, and managed to keep to a sub 9 minute mile pace (actually a little faster).
Even though it wasn't a hot day, i took advantage of each water station, I sipped 1 cup and poured another over my hat. The downside of this was that as the water dripped down, and of course mixed with sweat - my race number started to unravel. By 7 miles the top 2 pins had pulled out and by mile 9 I just ripped it off and put it in my pocket.

Miles 7 & 8 & 9 passed by without any problems - the sportz beanz at the food station were great!  I had not tried them before, was nice to have something that tasted good. I actually kept chewing on them until the hill between miles 10 & 11. I had spoken to some racers about the hill alongside the hospital. Whilst my pace dropped to around a 9:30/mile.  I managed to get through it well, passing many along the way. The tough part was after the main hill, you get a little break with some flat and a little downhill, then there is another up-hill as you get close to crossing I-95. The last 3 miles were the toughest for me, most of it is up-hill, and even the last 1/2 mile was on a little grade.

I finished as strongly as I could - closing the last mile in around 8 minutes. My goal was 2hrs and I managed to cross the line in 1:53:55! That was really great and did exceed my expectations. With a real lack of good preparation, it shows that my fitness level is really good. I look forward to doing this race again with some better prep and no calf pain - perhaps I could shoot for 1:40's. It seems that the time I have spent in the pool has really helped with my endurance. Except for the last 3 miles (the up-hill part) I felt pretty relaxed and was not breathing heavily at all. I did notice a lot of people seemed to be breathing very heavily. I guess that was reflected in my 155bpm average. Last triathlon I did my average HR was in the 170's (just short of 1hr 30 mins).

Post finish was well organized. As you walk along they have water and powerade, some food (bagels, bananas, oranges, pretzels) and after I picked up my back from the bag check, there was a very nice lady with an iPad - she typed in my race number and was able to tell me my official time.

Interestingly enough - my Polar watch tells me that I ran 13.21 miles - considering that I couldn't run the shortest possible course, that is pretty accurate.

Average HR155bpm
Max HR198bpm - may be a faulty reading?
Finishing HR183bpm
Average Pace8:42
Fastest Mile8:11 - mile 12-13
Slowest Mile9:07 - mile 1-2