Building Endurance to Tackle Life

Follow my journey to learn endurance sports with a sane and healthy approach.

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Been a While

Posted by Grundle on August 6, 2012

It has been a while since my last post, but I am still around.  I have had a rocky path in my training since I last posted.  I trained hard into the beginning of 2011, where I took some time off to dedicate towards my studies.  I then began training again, before having to take another break to study for the MCAT.   After taking that test I have finally been able to get back on the horse and train once again.

The bad news is that I am up 30 pounds, so it is taking some work to train healthily so that I don’t hurt myself while I get back into form.  The good news, is that the foundation I laid with my previous efforts has not completely disappeared, so I have noticed much quicker results than before.  A good example would be my running pace.  It took me close to three months, just to get down to 11 – 12 minute miles at heartrate.  I have been able to duplicate this feat in only three weeks.  That is a pretty encouraging sign.
Currently I am only training with no realizable goals in the near future, except for better overall health.  I believe I am going to start searching for some local 5k races so that I can have something to look forward to as well.  Stay tuned, I hope to have more for you soon.

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Huge Gains

Posted by Grundle on December 6, 2010

Meb Keflezighi

At the end of week five I am still seeing huge gains in my training.  It is these quantifiable results that motivate me and push me to go farther in my training regimen.   This week the largest gain that I noticed was in my running.  Once I figured out my Max Aerobic Heartrate (MAHR) and started doing all my training at or below that threshold I have had a very steady progression in performance.

My very first long run, which are usually 1 hour and 30 minutes, was at a blistering 16:44 pace.  I clearly remember that I couldn’t go slow enough to keep my heartrate down.  I was being passed by walkers, but I set my jaw and stuck to the training.  The week before thanksgiving I had another long run, but that time I ran it with a 14:12 pace.  As you can see that is a 2:12 per mile improvement in two weeks.

Yesterday I did another long run and once again, to my great joy, I saw another huge improvement.  The run was ran at a 13:00 pace representing another 1:12 per mile decrease in pace.  In five weeks my pace has dropped a total of 3:44 per mile.

Obviously as time goes on the pace decrease will be on an exponential curve with a slower decrease over time, but when I see numbers like this I cannot help but get excited about my training.  At first I used to feel guilty for feeling so fresh after a long training session.  That guilt has turned into elation as I have seen the huge gains I have made.  I don’t dread doing my daily training sessions because I am never miserable during or afterwards.

As I progress through this training, I become more convinced every day that an Ironman is not only attainable, but an event I could finish with a decent placing.  I am resolved to spend no less than a year of doing pure Heartrate training before considering the possibility of some lactate or interval sets.

Why would I spend a year doing such “slow” training?  I am convinced that many people bonk on the endurance races, not due to their “nutrition” but because they don’t have adequate endurance.  Go read any number of marathon race reports and you will see that many of them start having the same issues around mile 18 – 20 regardless of what nutrition they took in.  The only exceptions that I have seen consistently break this pattern have been strict heartrate trainers.

Let me close by saying that no I don’t believe that all pace trainers will bonk at that point.  There are plenty of successful pace trainers that do just fine, however it is the general pattern that worries me.  Because I see that pattern, then I have decided to respond accordingly by creating an aerobic base that is so monstrous that a pitiful little 26.2 won’t even register on my radar.

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One Month Update

Posted by Grundle on November 30, 2010

A month has passed since I started my training so I thought I should commemorate it with an update.  Going from couch to a fairly aggressive training plan may not be the wisest choice for most people, but I still feel like I have eased into it rather than making my body pay a big price up front before it adjusts.  I suppose I should structure this is two parts.  The positives and the negatives of the last month.

Positives

  1. More Energy – I have felt more energetic during the day since I have started.  Being lethargic caused me to feel lethargic.  When my wife suggested we go out, I just wanted to stay at home and watch a movie because I was “tired” from my “hard week at work”.
  2. Less Girth – I have noticed my pants becoming looser and my wedding ring has also started to wiggle around on my finger.  My wife has also started making comments, so she notices a difference.  These are great signs that I am making progress.  I know some people like to track their progress with graphs and numbers, but I think that may be too much for me.
  3. Fun – I have been greatly enjoying this process.  I really feel great after every day’s training session and I can’t wait to do it again the next day.
  4. People – I am meeting other people with similar goals.  They motivate me, and I find great joy in motivating them.
  5. Solitude – It is nice to be away from everything for a few hours every day to allow the mind to process the day and “idle”.  I actually don’t mind doing all my training alone, which is weird since many people would rather be in a group.

Negatives

  1. Time – It is a serious time commitment, especially when you have to cook afterwards which leaves little time left for studying before getting some sleep.  Basically this means I need to learn to manage my time more efficiently.
  2. Nutrition – I started all of this because I hate dieting and I am not very organized so I am not really positive I could stick to a “diet”.  I wanted to work hard so I keep eating normally, unfortunately over thanksgiving I had three days of no training and during that time I consumed a lot of sugary drinks, and restaurant food.  When I came back I was the same weight as on my first day of training.  I am sure that some of it is water weight, but it is a bit disheartening to see that in three days I went back up from 207 to 212lb.  I may have to take a second look at nutrition, although I really don’t want to >[
  3. Aches – I am very cognizant of every little pain in my legs especially in the knee area.  I have been doing my best to avoid injury and allow my body to work at the pace it is ready for.  So far I have had no deep injury feeling pains, but I did have one day of “ache” in my left knee after a bike workout.  As a precaution I have started doing weight training (which I despise) to build muscle strength in my legs.
  4. Solitude – Yes, this is also a negative.  My only regret is that my wife cannot join me in my training right now.  I am hoping that as soon as she finishes her studies she will be able to accompany me :)

After one month my run pace has dropped from 16 minute miles to 13 minute miles, on average.  I hope that by the end of another month it will drop even further into the 10 minute range.  My biking has gone from 19mph on average to about 21mph.  I am noticing on the bike that I have reached a crossroads of intensity vs. heartrate.  I think this is why my knee ached after one of my recent bike sessions, because I am pushing harder to maintain the same heart rate, but my leg muscles still need to be built up.

In swimming I have progressed greatly, but this week I took a step back because I realized that I need to swim with proper technique.  Even when I was putting up great times I had the bad habit of breathing every stroke.  I decided this was the week where I would break that and breathe every three strokes.  I am having to swim a little bit slower, but I think that in another few weeks it won’t be an issue anymore.

I am happy with my results, but I am not happy when I look in the mirror.  I am not happy that I haven’t reached my ultraman goal yet, so onward to more training.

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Ultraman Inspiration

Posted by Grundle on November 29, 2010

Mike Leroux - 2010 Ultraman World Champion

Over thanksgiving weekend a drama unfolded in Hawaii.  The Ultraman World Championships were held in Hawaii and if you have never heard of it then think of an Ironman and then imagine that the Ironman were a simple warmup to this race.

There are few races in my mind that are epic, but those that qualify are the Leadville Trail 100, Le Tour De France, and of course the Ultraman World Championships.  There are other races that are just as epic, but for me these are the top three that have always filled my heart with inspiration and an overwhelming desire to be out there competing with the best.  Each of these races have also had a profound impact on me and have contributed to why I do what I am doing now.

It was Le Tour that originally inspired me to stop laying around and start rehabilitating my crushed left leg.  I remember sharing many “rides” with the great racers as they pounded up the Pyrenees in heart stopping mountain stage battles.  Those precious moments gave me a love for biking that I never knew existed and in the process I slowly regained the lost muscle in my leg.

Leadville Buckle

It was the Leadville 100 Trail Race that re-0pened my eyes to running again.  After trashing my leg once, I was done with running for many years.  The one small saving grace was that I love the outdoors and I had fond memories of Cross Country.  When I read about the high altitude mountain trail running of Leadville I was captivated.  Sure I hated running, but only because I didn’t want to trash my body to endure a sport.  My thinking has changed.  If I can go long safely then those mountain vistas can be mine!

It was the Ultraman World Championships that opened my eyes to the capacity we have as human beings.  I found it truly marvelous that men and women like me, who have full time jobs, were training for a race like this and yet they were still being highly competitive in the process.  It was their spirit that eventually led me to set my goal of competing in an Ultraman.

This weekend I followed the Ultraman World Championship with my heart in my throat as the competition quickly turned into an all out battle between former champion Jonas Colting, Ultraman rookie Slater Fletcher, and returning star Mike LeRoux.

After reading about the 2009 World Championships I was particularly struck by Mike’s breakout performance.  He was a rookie that year, and so I scrambled to find his website and I was immediately impressed with him.  It seemed that he would take off and do almost any race, from scorching desert ultra marathons to an offroad ironman.  His race reports drew me in, reading more like a story than a dry recounting of race-time feelings and stats.  I rather enjoy reading about events around (e.g. before and after) the race just as much as the race experience.  In short order I became a fan, so I was hoping for a great result this year.

After day one Mike LeRoux was in second behind Jonas Colting coming out of the water in 4th place, after a personal best, and then he worked his way up into second on the bike finishing only 12 minutes behind Colting.  The big surprise was Fletcher who blazed through the bike portion of the day with the fastest time and only 10 minutes behind LeRoux.

Day 2 did not disappoint as it continued much as day 1 did.  The top three men continued their domination, but Colting opened up his gap in the lead to 32 minutes over LeRoux.  Fletcher continued to show his prowess on the bike and was able to pry second place from LeRoux’s grasp and finished nine minutes ahead.  Even though he was upended from second place LeRoux still improved his time on the bike from the previous year.  A positive finish and a great indicator that he was in top form leading into the final day.

Going in to day 3 LeRoux had to make up over 30 minutes on the run and he did not fail to disappoint.  Improving on the previous year’s run by over 30 minutes LeRoux was able to chase down Colting and secure an impressive win.  Despite some respiratory problems, Colting’s strong performance in the first two days allowed him to hold on to second place with Fletcher finishing in third.

It was an colossal year for Ultraman.  Not only did the men give a gut wrenching performance, but the women also turned in amazing results.   The top three women blasted through the course record, that has stood for over ten years, by over one hour each!  Amber Monforte, who finished as the top female competitor, destroyed the record by 1:38:40 while also setting a PR of 1:29:38.

As you can see, ultraman is such an awesome sport.  Where else can you set a PR of over an hour?!?  I hope you enjoy these results as much as I did.  I hope they motivate you to be galvanized in your training and to look forward to the great things you can accomplish if you are only patient, wise, and healthy with your training.

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Training Healthy Part 1

Posted by Grundle on November 14, 2010

My main goal when I decided to start this training plan was to be more healthy.  I wanted to have more energy, lose weight, and feel better about how I was spending my time.  Because I didn’t want to get hurt I decided to do some research on why people get hurt so often when they are training amateur sports, and more specifically  endurance sports.  I came to two very interesting conclusions that I think every new  runner/triathlete should consider.  I would also recommend this strategy to the returning athlete that hasn’t trained in several years.

  1. Use Heart Rate Training – This article will continue and examine HR training more closely.
  2. Work on Running Technique – Part 2 will take a closer look at this.

Since both topics are fairly dense I have decided to break this discussion into two part.  For the remainder of this article I will only discuss using Heart Rate Training.

What is Heart Rate Training?

At it’s simplest Heart Rate Training is simply forcing yourself to exercise at a certain HR limit.  For a triathlete it is used to train endurance.  According to Dr. Phil Maffetone there are two different types of training, one being anaerobic and the other being aerobic.  Most people are familiar with anaerobic training where they do speed drills and intervals, etc.  Through his research Dr. Maffetone discovered that you can get greater speed gains if you build an aerobic base first, but usually that means you have to run, swim, or bike slower than you are used to.

There is a term he coined called the Max Aerobic Heart Rate where if you train in that range you will be building your aerobic base.  What was most astounding about his studies is his results on the aerobic system vs. workload.  He found that roughly 95 – 99% of the energy used in endurance sports comes from the aerobic system.  If that is true, then why do so many endurance athletes spend so much time working on “speed drills”?

How Do I Calculate My Max Aerobic Heart Rate?

There is a fairly simple formula to calculate this number if you aren’t able to do a treadmill test.  It is called the 180 formula, and once again it is provided by Dr. Maffetone.  The following is cited from his article Want Speed Slow Down.

The 180 Formula

To find the maximum aerobic heart rate:

  1. Subtract your age from 180 (180 – age).
  2. Modify this number by selecting a category below that best matches your health profile
  • A.  If you have, or are recovering from, a major illness (heart disease, high blood pressure, any operation orhospital stay, etc.) or you are taking medication, subtract an additional 10.
  • B.  If you have not exercised before or have been training inconsistently or injured, have not recentlyprogressed in training or competition, or if you get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, or haveallergies, subtract an additional 5.
  • C.  If you’ve been exercising regularly (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of theproblems listed in a or b, keep the number (180 – age) the same.
  • D.  If you have been competing for more than two years duration without any of the problems listed above,and have improved in competition without injury, add 5.

So using Dr. Maffetone’s formula above I was able to calculate my own MAHR (Max Aerobic Heartrate).

  1. 180 – 31 = 149 bpm
  2. This is where you have to check your ego.  I originally wanted to say I fell into category C. but that was because I already thought 149bpm was kind of slow, but the truth is I fall into Category B.   So ego checked I subtract another 5.  149 – 5 => 144.

That is my MAHR, so if I want to get the best aerobic benefit I should keep my efforts in the range between 134 – 144 bpm.

Why Should You Use This?

I think that this training is vital for new athletes because it gives them a chance to know where their body is at.  For someone who has never trained an athletic discipline seriously they don’t know what they are capable of, but more importantly for them to start right in with speed work sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.  HR training forces someone to start much slower than they thought was necessary, but this is a perfect way for the body to adjust to the new exercise effort and more importantly for the new athlete to work on their technique!  Technique is vital for avoiding injury in all sports, including running, and HR training allows an athlete to go slow enough to focus on these things.

For a returning athlete I think this approach is even more important.  I remember all of the interval sets, and speed work I used to do in cross country and I am convinced that if I had tried to do those sort of workouts from the beginning, that I would be sitting here injured.  My body wasn’t ready for it and I also hadn’t run in over 10 years.  Sure my body remembers how to do it, but muscles certainly aren’t prepared which means that my joints would bear an unnecessary load and I would also deteriorate to sloppy form very quickly.

Did I mention that when you are in the aerobic range you burn fat instead of glucose?  That is correct!  For anyone whose main goal is to drop weight, then you should only do aerobic HR training since that is how you train your body to burn fat during exertion rather than a quick burn of glucose.

Conclusions

Remember that we are training to be healthy, not to be fast.  Speed will come with the correct type of training.  I am amazed that so many people are obsessed with speed and get hurt in the process of trying to obtain it.  Once they heal up from that injury they go back out, frustrated that they missed some days of training, and reinjure themselves.  Meanwhile, someone who has embraced the approach I am suggesting will be injured less, so they won’t have to go through that down time and rising frustration cycle.

There is also another effect that you will notice with HR training.  I have just completed my second week of training with roughly 70 miles per week, and 8.5 hours each week of swimming, biking and running.  I actually feel good and “fresh” after each of my workouts.   When I used to seriously train I would be exhausted after every workout, and I thought that this was how I could quantify that I had “trained hard”.

There are quantifiable results to this training.  Read about the MAF test that Dr. Maffetone describes in his above article.  I can also share my own short, but positive gains.  Before I adopted this strategy fully, I was using a different type of HR training on the bike.  That training asked me to do a 75% (156 bpm) effort for 1 hour and 20 minutes.   I ended up cycling a total of 25.75 miles.  This weekend I had the same workout planned, but I decided to use my MAHR as my target.  I ended up cycling 27.54 miles!  That means I went farther, and faster, with a lower HR.  What does that tell me?  My aerobic base has increased in these last two weeks!  I have quantifiable results, which means I know I am getting faster and yet I don’t feel like dying at the end of my training.

I consider HR training as a method where we listen to what our body says and respond accordingly.  Most triathletes and runners are doing distance workouts, so why should they try to sprint them every time?  Why should they try to risk injury and go faster than their body is ready for?  Have you been nagged by injuries, and a slave to your “pace” for all of these years?  Why not try something different and let your body tell you how to train!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Realistic Training

Posted by Grundle on November 3, 2010

Before I could ever begin to do a triathlon I needed to know how I was going to train for it.  Fortunately there is a lively community and various training plans out there on “the net”.  After searching extensively I finally decided that the best one for me is called the Ultra Distance Training Plan.

A few things about this plan that I liked.

  1. It was created by a successful  Triathlete who still competes named Mike Llerandi.
  2. It is a full 36 week plan for all stages of the training (Orientation, Pre-Season, Competitive, and Taper).
  3. It is designed specifically for the ultra distance that I want to do.
  4. It is a serious competitive plan.  If you don’t know how to swim or run, then I would suggest you skip it and start on your fundamentals first.
  5. You can find out more about it over at open-tri.com.  Please say Hi to Mike while you are there and let him know I sent you :)  Be sure to thank him for all his hard work, and for his generosity in making his plans free.  I am in his debt! [And so are you!]

This is how scared you should be if you are going to try the ultra. The donkey is the ultra, and you are the kid...oh the FEAR..it drips from those hee-haw teeth! (The kid has the hee-haw teeth, what did you THINK I meant?)

A word of caution, this plan is not for the faint of heart.  Jumping into the orientation week one I immediately destroyed my body.  I prefer to think of it as exorcising the demons.  Old Snively had possessed me and I had to get him out…and it hurt…BAD!

Now, why would I jump into such a crazy training regime right out of the gate?  Well, first of all you have to know that I am masochistic.  Read my first post if you didn’t…if I am going to do something it has to be WORTHY or I am just not interested.  Second of all I was a successful distance runner and swimmer in high school.  Those two sports are no mystery to me so I felt confident I could work back into them and realistically follow this plan.  Strangely, as I have progressed I have felt most comfortable on the bike…go figure…I missed my calling.

Now that I have a plan, I am able to progress in my training and follow a realistic progression.  Aha!  So this is what it feels like to have a “goal”.  I have to roll that word around in my mouth to get used to it.

For any of you gamers out there, lets just say that each week you complete you get an achievement in your real life points.  After several weeks you will feel like you leveled up, but in real life.  How sweet is that?  I am probably level 3 right now, but I am not totally sure.

Posted in Training | Leave a Comment »

The Beginning …

Posted by Grundle on November 1, 2010

All goals start with a beginning.  My goal is to do a full length Ironman, but how I arrived at that decision took a circuitous route.

As with all great things it all started with my beautiful wife.  One day she let me know that she wasn’t happy with my incessant couch sitting, video game playing, and eating habits.  I recoiled in horror at what she was insinuating — “Me?  A slovenly couch troll?  NEVER!”  So with a shrug, a half belch, and a “whatever” I went on with my blissful existence because, hey, I am perfect after all.

Fast forward a few months and daily reminders from her that I am not all that, and still slowly increasing in girth.  I had heard it all before, but now I was getting subtle hints from other areas.  First it was my jeans, why are they so hard to button?

The old under the gut trick, I am also a pro at this method.

Then my wedding ring spoke up, why did it chafe so much?  Finally I had to admit to myself I had a problem, so I went to my first AA meeting.  Although they didn’t talk much about weight loss I did learn a lot about air travel, bag limits, and flying coach.  [It's a joke you see since AA is also short for American Airlines -- RIMSHOT!]

I finally realized I needed to do something, but it had to be on my terms.  Ever since Junior High I hated weight rooms.  I could never figure out why a bunch of guys thought it was fun to just sit around and lift heavy objects for hours at a time.  I wasn’t your proverbial weeny kid either, it’s just that it didn’t add up in my head.  All of that boring work just for some muscles?  I think I’ll pass.  Since then my opinion hasn’t changed about weight lifting at all.

Let us also factor in the fact that I have already had two knee surgeries.  High impact sports seemed to be out of the questions so what in the world should I do?  Then it hit me, and to be honest I am not sure how it hit me but it did, and one day I was suddenly enamored with the idea of doing an Ironman triathlon.  Now THAT is worthy enough for me to get off the couch.  THAT is a goal I can exercise for.  THAT is what a REAL MAN would do [I felt like a lumberjack writing that last phrase]

You see I have this problem, and basically it is if I am going to do something I have to do it all the way.  I have to take the hardest route or I am not even remotely interested in it.  When I decided to learn guitar I wanted to do Classical Guitar because that seemed to take more skill.  When I got made fun of by a couple of Spanish speaking dishwashers I decided to become fluent in Spanish just so I could get back at them. [Which by the way after I was fluent they were long gone, but if I EVER see either one again I am READY!]

There also remains one little problem with my fantasy and it is that short little 26.2 mile run appended to the end of the swim and bike.  In true fashion I set my jaw and decided I would figure it out when I got there.

So here I am, past my prime, overweight and out of shape…about to begin a journey into the world of triathlon.  What will happen brave readers?

This is how I envision the villain against me. Even his laugh rings clear in my mind, sort of a nasally barking laugh...and his name is probably something like Snively or something even more dastardly (the horror!)

Will our hero forge ahead and reign victoriously over the field of competition to the roars of adoring spectators…or will he be crushed by that villain called laziness and injury?  Tune in for more and follow the saga as it unfolds!

Posted in Inspiration, Rants, Training | Leave a Comment »

 
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