Training

The Importance of Consistency

Often times I find myself fixating on the small details of training throughout each passing week, putting the majority of that focus on what I could have done better. - Why didn’t I go the full 40 minutes for today’s easy run? I should have got in an extra 500 meters during yesterday’s swim. I can’t believe I let myself skip that bike ride on Thursday. - These are all just examples, but you get the point.

When I flip the fixation from negative to the positives that are accomplished each week, the sound bites look much different. - Wow, I ran 45 miles last week. I can’t believe I broke 1:10 for the 100 in the pool. I rode my bike 5 times hitting a weekly total of over 130 miles. - The crazy thing about this second series of examples is that they came from the same week as the negative examples I shared earlier. 

 Long run with my Dad on the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon. This is from the week of training that I referenced above.

Long run with my Dad on the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon. This is from the week of training that I referenced above.

As each week passes, we have a chance to improve. We learn from our mistakes, we gain fitness while increasing our training load, and we hopefully continue to perfect our ability to swim/bike/run for incredible amounts of times and at varying levels of intensities. The thing I’d like to focus on for today is that this only happens if we do one thing…we need to be consistent. 

When I’m writing out training schedules for my athletes and for myself each week - I make sure to communicate which workouts are “no-questions-asked-you-have-to-get-this-in” versus the workouts that fall into the “would-be-nice-but-if-you-want-to-sleep-that-is-okay” category. The reason for this is that I know that if we hit 80% of the workouts and truly execute them (remember, make your easy days easy and your hard days hard), our fitness will continue to build as the season (and years) progress.

The final sentence I just wrote is important, especially if you are committed to living your life as an endurance athlete and enjoying a long career in your respective sport(s). Endurance is all about the long term plan. Today’s workouts and decisions certainly impact tomorrow, but this months workouts and workload will impact next year. 

I have definitely had to remember this over the course of 2016 thus far. I have traveled during 10 weeks of the 20 weeks which has meant that there have been plenty of workouts that have been missed or adjusted at the last minute. However, I’ve made sure to maximize my time and hit the big ones (huge thanks to April for supporting this as I am definitely a weekend warrior) and my fitness is higher this year than this time last year. 

Despite all the travel this year, I have been able to accomplish a lot in my training so far in 2016.

The intent of this short piece is simply to encourage you to focus on being consistent and keeping your eyes on the long term plan. If you are consistent, and overall do your best to keep progressing (emphasis on this word!!!) you will absolutely make strides towards being the best athlete that you can be. Of course, I hope that you make a point to enjoy the journey as well - as it's important to remember for us amateur athletes, that this is a hobby (although a very time-consuming and life-changing one) after all.

 My long term goal is to be as good as I can at the Ironman distance while being an even better husband and friend.

My long term goal is to be as good as I can at the Ironman distance while being an even better husband and friend.

Be consistent, enjoy the awesome journey, and always remember to look at the big picture versus letting yourself get stuck and negatively fixated on the details of each passing day. 

Aspects of a successful (and fun!) season: Micro Goals

Last season (2015), was a tough one for me. I had a career change, moved from Portland to Bend, and trained for my first Ironman. The thing that made it so tough wasn’t the personal or career stuff, it was the fact that I was burnt out before I even got to Ironman Coeur d’Alene. I spent a lot of time talking about this with April over the weeks leading into the race and absolutely the months after the race before we committed (a.k.a. April supporting me) to doing Ironman Canada this year, 2016. The thing that I realized in talking this through over and over, was the fact that my season lacked goals throughout – I was 100% laser focused on rocking my first Ironman, that I didn’t have other things that I was chasing or excited about. The biggest take-away that I had from last season was that I had to continually remember what I loved about Triathlon, and make sure to incorporate that throughout the year. I definitely love the training and am someone who chooses to have long training days on my days off or vacations. But, what I love even more is the competition – both against myself and others, as well as the insanely exciting environment of racing. In my previous post, I talked about how fit I’m feeling and didn’t mention a single thing about mental fatigue or burnout. And I want to talk about the why behind this, as it’s definitely a product of being very intentional with how I’ve structured this season's prep and training.

 Enjoying Ironman training in beautiful Bend, OR.

Enjoying Ironman training in beautiful Bend, OR.

Set Training Goals

I have written down all sorts of goals that I’d like to accomplish within my swimming, biking, and running this year. I’d like to break 1:15/100m during a workout. I want to hit an FTP of 310w by June. I want to break 4:30 in the half ironman this year. I want to run a sub 6-minute pace 10k. I want to run South Sister in Bend. The list goes on! These goals are so fun because they give my training purpose and I’m motivated by all of them. Just don’t forget to maintain focus, as these all require very specific workouts and attention to detail in order to accomplish.

Do What you Love

If there was thing I missed last season it was racing. I did 3 races in all of 2015 which left me feeling mentally tired, as I didn’t have those exciting race environments to look forward to. This year, I want to race as much as I can. I know that I won’t be able to show up to every race in top form, but racing is FUN and so is triathlon. The key here is to remember what you love – if that’s riding with groups, open water swimming, or trail running – just make sure that you are incorporating those things into your months.

Don’t Force It

The final thing that I’m finally coming to terms with is that there are times where a 5-hour workout is on the schedule and either my mind or body just doesn’t want to make that happen. Sometimes it’s good to push it and make it happen, but sometimes it’s good to cut it short or skip it and go on a date with your wife (or do yard work). Regardless, remembering that triathletes are made over the course of many seasons not based on individual workouts is an important thing that has helped me stay mentally sharp this season.

Let me know what your thoughts are on this and if there are any things that help make your seasons feel more successful and fun. Thanks for reading!

2016: Goals and Outlook

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2016 is off to an awesome start! I'm back to structured training which is exciting after a few months of staying fit without following a schedule. It seems like half of Bend has got some sort of sickness to start the new year as well, and unfortunately April and I both picked that up. I haven't missed a workout because of it, but I have been very mindful of reducing the intensity when necessary to allow my body to rest. This time last year I started 2015 off with the swine flu, needless to say, I'm excited to have kicked the sickness and to be starting the year off in a much better place! Before I dive into some goals for the year and the outlook I'm approaching the year and season with, I've got to share some fun personal news. I grew up in Alaska with Golden Retrievers, and I've always wanted a big dog that I could take running, hiking, and exploring. April and I have talked about it for years (literally) and without getting into the details, we decided to make it happen in December. We didn't want a dog that sheds, so we locked in on the Goldendoodle breed - they have the athleticism and intellect of a poodle, the great looks of a golden retriever, and they don't shed. They are amazing dogs. We found a family not to far away that had a few puppies and we fell in love with one of the males in the litter - I'm excited to introduce you to Riggins :)

Riggins

New season, new approach

This season I'm taking a different approach than I've taken in the past. I have 3 years of Triathlon specific training under my belt, with an additional 2 years of running volume. That's not a LOT when you compare me to other competitive age-groupers, however, I know that I have a big base and a solid amount of experience at this point. I'm entering this year a much more confident athlete, I know my strengths and my weaknesses, I know what gets me excited along with what keeps me motivated, and I know how to balance my triathlon lifestyle with real life. I'm choosing to focus on the process this season vs. obsessing on the outcome of my races and I'm so stoked to see the big improvements this year.

Last year, I started off the year very strict and rigid - putting too much emphasis on volume without truly attacking my weaknesses while working to maintain my strengths. This left me feeling burnt out before my racing season began which made for a lackluster second half of the year, something I am determined to avoid this year.

Being 7 months away from my A-race of the year, Ironman Canada. I'm not focused on volume at this point, as I believe that it's the 12 weeks leading into your race where specificity is key - for an Ironman this means volume mixed with race pace and effort work. I'm attacking my weakness (opportunity!) on the Bike with focus on increasing my threshold power, ultimately trying to increase my strength and ability to push out a lot of power. Simultaneously, I am maintaining my strength as a runner with 30 miles or so of running per week including 1 tempo run, a shorter interval workout, and a general endurance run. Most triathletes dread the swim, but after a 1 hour Ironman debut swim last year, I've realized that the swim could be one of my big advantages. I'm swimming 4 times per week right now focusing on strength and speed.

January Trainer Workout

Process goals vs. Outcome goals

My goals for this season are going to be different than they have been in the past. I'm leading with process goals and not focusing on the outcome. Trusting that when I execute the plan and follow the process I've set in place, that I will achieve the best outcome possible, for me. Here are a few examples of process goals that I have incorporated into my training:

  • Swim 4 times per week. Incorporate WORK into each workout and learn how to suffer in the water. Each week swim 10 x 100 on a send-off that gives me :10 rest. Each week have an endurance focused set where I swim at least 5 x 400 to develop shoulder endurance. Develop my top end speed while doing 20 x 50 each week with at least :20 rest between each interval.
  • Bike 4 times per week and train specifically, don't waste rides just spinning easy - that is what riding outdoors is for in the spring. Increase my upper end power by executing workouts that are hard and make sure to increase power output as my fitness builds.
  • Run 30 miles each week. Spend 20 minutes working under my 10k effort each week along with a short, hard workout that I would tend to avoid (example: 12 x 400 @ 5k w/ 200 slow recovery).

I believe that if I structure my training this way, that my race goals can be that much more specific. I will know my abilities and rather than saying I'd like to ride a 5:35 at Ironman, I can plan to ride at 75% of my FTP for the Ironman Bike (which I do believe will put me under 5:30!!!). If I train to the best of my ability, rather than shooting for arbitrary numbers, I will be able to race to the best of my ability. I can't be disappointed if I give my best.

2015 - Year in Review

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I go back and forth between wanting to do weekly summaries on this site about my training, racing, and progress. Part of me really likes the idea as I see several benefits: accountability, more frequent content on my site, a way to go back and review thoughts/feelings throughout the year, and the list goes on. I also see a few negatives: repetitive content, writing out of obligation, and taking myself too seriously :) However, I do take triathlon seriously and find a lot of value in doing reviews of training, tracking progress, and sharing what works and what doesn't (for me) with those of you that follow me. With that said, I'm going to separate my review of 2015 into 2 parts: quantitative (the numbers) and qualitative (my thoughts, emotions, etc.)

   Quantitative: The 2015 Numbers

There are a few expected numbers to be seen here: total run miles, bike miles, and swim yardage. I use Training Peaks religiously and there are a few numbers (TSS, CTL) I will share that are specific to this tool. Click this link to see the definitions of these terms and to also learn how they can radically transform your training, preparation, and racing.

Swim: 334,886 yards (190.28 miles), 80 hours and 1 minute (80:01:04). Bike: 3,767 miles, 207 hours and 52 minutes  (207:52:07). Run: 1,431 miles, 184 hours and 26 minutes (184:26:01). Strength: 14 hours and 19 minutes (14:19:05). CrossTrain: 10 hours and 37 minutes. (10:37:00). Total TSS: 33,248.8 Peak CTL: 122.5 Total Time: 486 hours = 20 days and 6 hours! (486:38:17) Total Distance: 5,388.28 miles

Qualitative: How I felt about the year

Across the board this was my biggest year of training. I am thrilled with how my body handled the training load (12-18 hours/week leading up to Ironman). I will also note that I took several significant breaks from training as well including 2 months of no cycling and hardly any swimming.

Mentally, I grew a lot. Learning and experiencing the benefits of a truly polarized approach to training. By this I really mean that I did a much better job of making my 'hard days hard' and my 'easy days easy.' I also finally took some time off. Not off as in zero activity, but I took 2 months off from focusing on multi-sport and just stayed fit while enjoying life. This meant a fair amount of running, a little biking, and enough swimming to not forget how :)

Finally, I failed forwards a few times in my training by the way that I structured my schedule as a self-coached athlete, leaving myself tired and feeling semi burnt out before my first race. I started a structured training block too far out from my A-race (Ironman Coeur d'Alene) while not having any races to sharpen myself up and keep myself motivated. I'll have a much different approach this year as I train for Ironman Canada with 3 big and very different races between spring and my July Ironman.

2015 was a great year personally and professional, I'm so thankful for everything experience and learned and am ready to make 2016 one for the books. Thanks for reading!

 

All About That Base

As I've segued back into a structured training plan, I've been surprised at how little my appetite has changed. Today when I got to master swim practice, I saw our coach for the first time in a few weeks as he's been traveling. The first thing he said was 'Mike, you're looking skinny!' We got to talking about the balance of weight loss and triathlon training and I realized the importance of this base phase that I'm in. I'm self coaching myself and using just about every resource available. There is a lot (a LOT) of literature out there about triathlon training, and I would say that a ton of it is conflicting. Not that this is surprising, when diving into any subject with quantitative and qualitative areas it's usual to have different opinions and point of views. With that said, there is a lot of debate around what to do in the base phase. Some say that you should focus on short, hard intervals and training that is very different from your race specific training, while others say long and easy is the way to go - and everything in between.

In trying to put additional focus and attention on my biking and swimming, It's made the most sense for me to go the 'long and easy' route. I'm running a fair amount, and will look to average 30-40 miles per week (mpw) over the next 2 months, maybe a bit more. The difference is that it is very easy running. Today I ran for 1 hour and averaged 8:42/mile. The easy mileage I'm putting in has so many benefits. I'm building up my aerobic engine and endurance without taxing my legs too much. This enables me to nail my cycling workouts while still getting in some solid mileage. It also is giving me a chance to lose some of the holiday/off-season weight as the easier mileage means my body is burning fat for the most part rather than glycogen and sugar. When I finish an easy hour run I'm not hungry and it's much easier to manage my appetite versus when I start introducing more quality in the coming weeks and months.

The base phase definitely contains a lot of training that isn't very stimulating. I'm certain that I'm laying a foundation that is going to have me ready to put in some real work as I continue building towards Ironman Coeur d'Alene and I'm excited to continue on this journey.

A Look Back / A Look Ahead

2014 was the biggest and without a doubt the best year of my life. I married the girl of my dreams on June 7th, and we started our life together which has been such an exciting journey. Triathlon wasn't the sole focus of my free time, but when we returned from our honeymoon I got to work and quickly got ready for one of my favorite races, the Deschutes Dash Olympic Triathlon in Bend, OR. I wanted to do a 70.3 so we headed up to Lake Stevens in August, and I returned to the Dalles to race the Aluminum Man Olympic. The theme for me at all 3 of these races was be competitive, that was my goal, and that was accomplished. Looking back on 2014 , it wasn't a huge year. However, when I look at the amount of quality work that I squeezed into a 6 month window (balanced triathlon training really didn't start till late June, I mostly ran the first half of the year) I'm feeling really confident going into my first Ironman build.

In 2014 my mindset changed, I became a triathlete, not just someone who does triathlon. I learned how to push myself to levels that I never thought possible, and really started to develop a community within the sport. I bought a power meter, and signed up for my first Ironman, and even did a photo shoot with my friend. The tools are in place, and I'm ready for my best year yet - both inside and out of the sport of Triathlon.

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By the numbers:

Swim: 311,520 yards (89 hours) Bike: 3, 249 miles (176 hours) Run: 1,382 miles (174 hours) Strength: 36 hours

Looking ahead to 2015 - it's going to be a HUGE year and I am so excited! I've partnered up with Hammer Nutrition again for nutrition support, am working with Team 10 Barrel again, and I am finalizing a few other opportunities over the next couple of weeks.

I'm signed up for my first Ironman this coming June - Ironman Coeur d'Alene. My training block officially starts up on January 5th. I've enjoyed my fair share of cookies and off days over the past couple of weeks and I'm stoked to get going. I'm going to use this blog as motivation over the next 6 months to write about my training, progress, learnings, and anything else I stumble upon as I work towards #IMCDA.

Happy 2015!

Off-Season: Working On My Weaknesses

Happy October! Since one of my goals is to write a little more frequently, so that each blog entry isn’t an entire book – I’m going to share what’s been going on so far this fall, and how my off-season is shaping up. I’m also thinking that the theme of the next few posts will revolve around off-season and what I’m doing to prepare for my first Ironman build for Coeur d’Alene next June. Reading through this last season’s race results and recaps, it’s clear that my swim and bike have improved significantly since the previous season. All of the races I did this year were unique: Deschutes Dash features a very short 1300m downriver swim, and an incredibly challenging 2000ft climb on the 25 mile bike. Lake Stevens 70.3 was a much tougher 56 (over twice the climbing) mile bike comparing it to Austin 70.3, my only other Half-Ironman. And Aluminum has a short 1000m swim, with a long 50k (31 mile) bike.

I used two different primary ways of evaluating this year’s performances to last years. First, I compared my overall standings in each discipline between the two seasons. Second, I used an obscene amount of data that I have available through Garmin and Training Peaks. My swims in every race were significantly more competitive overall this year, my bikes were much more competitive as well. No surprise, but my run continued to be right at the top and I even had my first race where I captured the fastest run of the day at Aluminum Man.

I have identified both the swim and the bike as my primary areas of focus for the next few months. I no longer want to rely on my run to catch the field, but want to be able to use the run to secure my placing and wins, be it in my age group (AG) or overall (OA). I will spell out the high-level goals that I have for the two disciplines, and then do a deep dive for both the swim and bike over the next couple of weeks.

The Swim

Anticipating the jump to Ironman next year – I know that my overall volume needs to increase. I also know that I am capable of a competitive time, and am going to lock in the goal of a one hour (1:00) swim at Ironman CDA. For the next 3 months I am focused on increasing my volume and frequency. I will go to 2 Masters swims a week where we focus on speed, spending a lot of time doing threshold paced work. I will spend 2 days a week working on form and drills, and have one day that is more endurance focused. The goal will be 10,000-15,000 yards/week over 4 or 5 days of swimming. I am in talks with our Masters coach to get some video analysis and 1:1 coaching done as well. Right now I can swim my 300’s right around 1:25/yard pace pretty comfortably on about 15 seconds of rest. I’m going to try and get these under 1:20 by the end of the year. More to come on workouts and progress!

The Bike

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve joined TrainerRoad and after talking with the guys on SlowTwitch, I am going to put in a block over the next few months to develop a strong base for Ironman training. I am doing the ‘Traditional Base – Low Volume II’ program to start, and will evaluate and increase after 4 weeks. I have done my first FTP test using their Virtual Power and measured a 287 FTP. I was a bit disappointed, but it gives me a true metric to use for training and a great starting block to build on. The training will be focused on FTP work, both right above and right below. Sweet spot intervals, and the endurance rides will contain a fair amount of quality. As I learn more and develop on the Bike, I will continue to share my progress as well as lessons learned.

Off-season?

I think most triathletes struggle with the concept of taking time off, at least taking time off from meticulously structured training. I am without a doubt guilty of this. Knowing that my next real build is going to be focused on Ironman Coeur d’Alene – I’m determined to define an offseason, to spend more time with my Wife, and to be completely OK with skipping a workout or eating an extra piece of pizza. With that said, I know I’m going to keep training, and I know that I’m not going to let myself gain more than a couple of pounds – so what is going to be different about ‘offseason’ compared to ‘in-season’?

  1. I am going to spend more time with my beautiful bride. This is going to be a great chance to spend extra time with her, take care of some house projects, and to enjoy dating each other.
  2. I am going to prioritize family, and practice flexibility with training. If I want to get my typical 2 workouts in for the day, but we have plans to meet up with family for dinner – I’m going to need to be running/swimming/biking before This is going to be good practice; I know I’ll have more than my share of morning workouts come January.
  3. I’m going to focus on my weaknesses. I have proven that I’m able to run competitively in distances up to 70.3, I’ve also demonstrated a lot of opportunity on both the swim and the bike. Upping the swim volume is going to be easy once the rainy weather returns to Portland. I have also joined Trainerroad and will begin my first bike training block at the beginning of October. I am going to be spending a lot of time in the pain cave this winter, and am so motivated to make big gains on the bike.
  4. I’m going to read. I’ve purchased books by Matt Dixon as well as Joe Friel – I’ve already read one and have made a big dent in the 2nd.
  5. I’m going to have fun! I LOVE to run and there are days where I’d rather run than swim/bike but the schedule says to swim/bike so that’s what I do. For the next couple of months, if I want to run, or if I want to lift weights – that’s what I’m going to do.
  6. I’m going to write more. I really enjoy having this blog, even though I only have a few people that read it. I’m going to make it a point to write on a more routine cadence – about a lot of the things I’ve mentioned above, and surely other content as well.

This list will continue to evolve, but this is how I’m viewing the ‘offseason’ today.

2014: Looking back, and looking forward

It's been (way) too long since my last post! A lot has gone on since Austin 70.3, and i'm going to post a few of the big highlights below. Personal

I got engaged! On November 30 (2013), I asked the love of my life to marry me. We've been planning a Central Oregon wedding over the past 6 months, and we are getting married in 18 short days down in Bend! I'm so thrilled to be taking this ginormous step forward with April, and we are both so excited to officially begin our lives together as Mr. and Mrs.

Triathlon Stuff (the highlights)

Despite the big time focus on planning a wedding, I've been able to accomplish a lot in the past 6 months - an accomplishment I'm really proud of. After Austin 70.3 (race recap below), I knew that Triathlon was going to be a big part of my life - so I decided that it was a time to pursue sponsorship (i'm going to write a post soon about what 'sponsorship' means to me, so more on that in the future).

Nutrition has played such a large role in training, racing, and recovering - so I knew I wanted a chance to link up with a company that I'd believed in my entire first year of Triathlon, Hammer Nutrition. I went through a formal application process, and found out right around Christmas that I'd been selected as a Hammer Athlete for 2014! It's still such an honor, and I can't wait to represent them this summer.

The 2nd big thing that's happened this year, is that I'm on a different Triathlon team going into the 2014 season. I was proud to race for Nike Team Endorphin in 2013, however, with some significant changes to the team dynamic, I felt that getting on a new team would be the right move. 10 Barrel Brewing (based in Bend, OR), decided to get into the endurance game, and they launched a team this past spring. I quickly jumped on the opportunity to apply for a multitude of reasons: I've always loved the way that 10 Barrel stands out in Bend, and what they stand for as a company, and the team has amazing title sponsors (10 Barrel Brewing, Wattie Ink, Picky Bars, and Hydro Flask). A few short weeks after applying, I got the acceptance e-mail and I'm excited to announce that I'll officially be racing for team 10 Barrel this season! More to come on this opportunity as well.

At times I feel like I'm blogging/writing for myself - but I do enjoy it. In a weird way, it keeps me accountable for training, and it's a great way to reflect. I'm going to plan on making some more regular updates to this blog, especially as I prepare to kick off the Triathlon season at Hagg Lake on July 12th.

More to come,

_m