Thursday, January 30, 2014

Run Training Phase 2 - the Journey Continues

Well people, phase one of my run training went really well. Phase one, was of course, base training or Zone 2 training for those of us using heart rate to determine training intensities. Base was all about building the foundation I needed to be able to run strong and injury free. And like the same says, it provides the base for the speed work to come. Phase 1 was 6 weeks long, and covered 277.7 km from the beginning of December. I found a few weaknesses in my form and was able to work on them while running at speeds that allowed for easy recovery. Also my run training was generally 6 days a week with no run longer than 45 minutes. So it was consistency that was key!

So now what is Phase 2? Well in Phase 2 (another 6 weeks) I (and my other athlete I coach) begin to work on pushing our Threshold limits, with the key still on endurance. We want to be able to power that heart up by running at extended periods close to the aerobic limit. Nothing so long that we risk pushing things and getting injured. We still aim for a slow progression. And no, this isn't about speed work just yet. Ultimately we want to get our easy running to go a bit faster.

So after running consistently for 6 weeks using shorter runs, this phase adds in 2 key workouts a week. Key workout 1 is the Threshold or Zone 4 run. Each week this run gets progressively longer and is the equivalent to the max effort you would put out for a 10K run. Currently I am at a 25 min threshold run, not including warm up and cool down.

The second key workout is the long run. This is an easy Zone 2 effort, so from that stand point should be easy after all that base. But as this is an increased distance, it is still considered a hard effort. The key to this run is to feel like you have a lot more to give at the end. Currently I am at 1 hour and 10 minutes. Obviously this long run will grow, but I have many weeks to do so, as this key workout will remain for the rest of the phases.

Now, while I am not focusing myself or my athlete on speed at this point, I am introducing our bodies to the idea of running fast, but with little overall stress. For myself that means a short interval session once a week. And by short I mean short. I am running less than 2 km overall at a high speed with plenty of recovery in between each.  And each interval itself is rather short (max 500 meters). These are considered Zone 5 intensity session, but the maximum output is lasting for less than 10 minutes overall. Basically I am reminding my muscles how to run fast, but not letting them focus on it just yet. That will come in the hardest phase of all, Phase 3.

So overall, Phase 2 started with a drop in mileage as my intensity grew. It is working back up to where it maxed out in Phase 1, will surpass that, then drop back again for Phase 3. I also cut one day a week from running, down to 5 days a week. Now that doesn't mean I sit around for 2 days, but these are active recovery days that allow my body to absorb the work I did during the week. I ride my bike, I swim, and I skate. I also continue my rehab and strength training to work on my weaknesses before they become injuries.

I am excited about my training and training someone else. I know she will be able to really unlock her potential this year.

I am also excited about continuing to explore the world of heart rate training based on what I learn from Jeff Zahavich at Kinesic Sport Lab.  His concepts for endurance athletes work. You just have to add water and believe.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

2014 Race 1 and Done - MEC PPP 5K

Well here we are in January already and though my training plan is aimed strictly at the Bluenose Half Marathon in May, I couldn't pass up the local MEC 5K race just down the road from me. Well that was until the weather forecast called for practically a hurricane.

 As I was just getting over being sick, I decided to wait until the day of to finally commit to the run, hoping the bad weather would pass, and luckily it did! The night before was a crazy wind and rain affair (my neighbour's shed blew away!). But by the time I was up and confirmed the race was actually happening, things were looking better.

Now as usual, I had all my stuff ready to go the night before, but just as I was getting ready to leave, I thought, why not grab a pair of shorts just in case. And I was glad I did.

I showed up, signed in and chatted with some people. Turns out the course had been all washed out during the storm. There were huge puddles, ditches and no spray painted arrows. But MEC had loads of course workers and pylons so that was fine. But what had just recently been a hard packed frozen crusher dust path (great for speed) was now a squishy mud fest. Glad I brought my trail shoes!

The rain was now pretty much stopped and the temp had soared to a crazy 10C (this is January in Nova Scotia). So with 10 minutes to go, I headed back to the car and changed quickly into shorts, took my place at the start line and within a few minutes we were off.

For the past 6 weeks I have been sticking to a training plan that called only for base mileage. My runs had been frequent (5-6 days a week) but nothing more than 45 minutes in length and all slow easy paced, for me. So I was interested in seeing if the legs had some oomph left in them.

As usual I took off feeling good. Last year I did this race in 20:28, which is slowish for a 5K for me, but not early in the season and not on a course that is uphill for the first 3 km. So this season I hoped to keep the average pace around 4 min/km. My good start was well under that as a couple of other runners surged ahead. Oh well, I thought. So far it doesn't hurt so lets go for it. One of those runners was racing the 10K, the other the 5K (Cameron).

My legs were turning over great, the new NB 1010 trail shoes felt nice, and I didn't mind the wet feet. I stuck with Cameron without hurting myself and decided to hang back just a bit to see how things would play out.

A little over 2 km in I ran by Marie-Claude G. who was training with a group and we exchange some waves and hellos. That was nice. Then I hit another hill (I mean seriously, it was all uphill for so long). No problems, though there were many tree branches to avoid.

Our pace was fine, my legs still had some energy and for a brief moment I thought about pushing into first place, but I looked and we were still 1.5 km from the finish, so yeah, I held back. But eventually Cameron found a slightly higher gear and pulled a slight lead on me.  I tried to hang in but we were back in the really wet squishy muddy area and my legs were just happy to hang in where I was.

The finish line loomed, and with what would a 5 second lead, I had no answer for first. I crossed in 19:50 and took second. A good 40 seconds faster than last year, where I had done a bit of speed work before, so not too bad.

Another MEC race, another 2nd place, ha ha. I joked with Race Director Christine that I might have to make a suit of armour out of these.

Lessons learned? Not that much actually. What I had, I gave. Cameron out ran me just fine. It is early in the season and I have done no speed training, so I can't expect to have speed yet. That will come. Hopefully for the next MEC race in April.  But next race up is the Tri The Oval 3 in February. I am really looking forward to that.

I am still training based on Heart Rate Zones based on the Jeff Zahavich Kinesic Sport Lab system, and it is still working for me. I am ahead of the game this year already and can't wait to see where I can take this!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My Heated Gloves One Year In

This article is updated for 2015 at the end.

So last year I finally gave up on cold hands and bought a pair of battery powered heated gloves (see that blog post here: ).

My main goal was to use these gloves for my winter commute via bicycle in Halifax. While the temps rarely get down as cold as places like Ottawa or Calgary, they do sometimes dip into the world of  -20C. Also as I have be growing older I have noticed my tolerance to cold, especially on my hands has been getting lower and lower. At this point when things hit -5C or less and there is any wind (welcome to Halifax, there is always wind) my hands just can't seem to take it. And it is really my fingers which get so cold. I doubt this is true Raynaud's, but it doesn't matter because my fingers get numb and then painful. And I have tried numerous gloves and mittens, all of which are okay, but not good enough for my cycling commute of 45 minutes to an hour (depending on road conditions).

So why not just drive you ask? Well I certainly could, but I don't want to. I want to remain active and cycling to work as much as possible helps me do that, and frankly, it was only my fingers that were a problem.

So anyway, I searched and read reviews and searched some more and finally came across the gloves which I bought from a Calgary company called Power in Motion.  What first drew me in was that they were a Canadian company, but also that they were a cycling company and an electric bike company at that. They researched and designed their own gloves which seemed a far better option than the other heated gloves I cam across, most of which were meant for snowmobiling or motorcycles, or were just sad cheap gloves with batteries that did next to nothing.

So what drew me in most of all was the fact that these gloves heated your fingers! Yes, not your palms, but your fingers and knuckles. And these were glove liners, so you could use them with your existing gloves. This became an even better feature as I found out later.

Now they may seem expensive at first, but when I figured out how many tanks of gas I would not have to use by being able to cycle in the winter I was sold. For most cars with the price of gas these days it was equal to about 3 tanks for the gloves, wires and a battery. It was a little more money to go for 2 batteries, which is nice, but certainly not essential.

I emailed the owner of Power in Motion, Ken and we chatted about the gloves and he hooked me up with his partner John in Ottawa who had a pair in my size in stock. John owns Bay Cycle and Sport and was super easy to order from, with the gloves shipped to me with a few days. If you are in Eastern Canada and want a pair I would deal with his shop, .

Okay onto the gloves one year later Ian. Move along as we read last years report (well maybe we did).

One year later and the gloves are still great. I charged them in the Spring and stored them in a cool place for the summer (my basement) and then pulled them out as the temperatures dipped below zero. This is where I really found that having liners instead of full fledged gloves was a bonus.

These gloves operate at three temperature settings, 30C, 40C and 50C. So depending on the weather of the day I can adjust the heat the gloves put out, with my choice of over glove. Sometime I use a leather work glove, other times my wind proof fleece lined lobster mitts, and even my heavy mittens if it gets that cold. And I can adjust the temp on the fly with the easy to push button on the wrist. That button is generally bright enough to show through even my heavy rain coat I wear as a top layer, while riding at night.

The gloves themselves have been robust and have shown me no signs of wear. The batteries still hold a good charge, and though I have not tested them to their max, they are able to keep on max setting for my entire commute in to work and back home, which as I have said can take close to an hour each way some days. This is both with the 2 battery or 1 battery setup. On a lower setting there is no worry about losing charge.

I rode much of last winter on a one battery system and it was fine, before I switch ed to the 2 battery system.  The advantage is that with 2 batteries, you get a much longer run time and complete freedom of movement. The disadvantage is a little bulk on your wrists. For me this isn't an issue, especially when riding either my daily commute or on a mountain bike taring through the woods.

The one battery system was much lighter and felt quit nice while riding. Where I didn't like it was when getting dressed. The wires ran down my sleeves and to a back pocket which held the battery. It was sometimes annoying getting the ends plugged into the gloves, until I found a system that worked well. This was a slight annoyance though and not a huge bother. They have since altered the design though, which I might like to try out. The newer design seems easier to get sorted out in the morning before your ride.

Now as I said, I originally bought these gloves for commuting, but this season they have been used for many more things. I am also a runner and while my hands don't get as cold while running, once the temperatures hit below -10C, my fingers get chilled easily and any run over 30 minutes is hard. So I tried these out this year for running, wondering they might be a bother. They weren't. I wore the 2 battery system and tucked the battery under my tight base layer. This prevent any jostling for my entire 45 minute run, and my fingers were warm and happy. As the temperature rose near the end of my run I was able to turn the heat down easily enough as well. Bonus!

And Halifax now has an outdoor long track speed skating oval, which is open to the public most of the time. Again, skating with these on was no issue and kept my hands nice and happy.

And just to show that they are durable, I use them on cold morning like we had recently when I have to shovel snow for extended periods. I put my work gloves on top and shovel away with no cold hands.

Oh and another reason it is nice that these are glove liners?

See the finger and thumb? Those let you use your smart phone or tablet or any touch screen without needing to take the heated portion of your glove off. You slip off the top glove, talk, take a picture, whatever, but your hand stays warm. Brilliant.

I am free for any other questions people have, leave me a comment or chat with me on Google+ at . I know it it tricky to want to spend money on an unknown quantity and I hope this blog post or my previous one has assured you that this is a quality product. 

Update 2015:

I have noticed that the newer gloves coming out don't have the smart phone/tablet sensitive finger and thumb any longer. I contacted the company about that and apparently it was prone to failure in the early gloves (not mine), so for the time being that feature isn't on the gloves anymore.

Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 Year in Review

I like to look back a  little at how my year of sporting activities went. I like to look for the highs and lows and hopefully use them to progress further the next year. I mean, part of the reason I keep this blog is to help me analyse things and improve. So let's get started.

Swimming: Well this one is easy. I did a minimal amount of work this past year, racking up a paltry 39 kms of swimming in total and swam slower in the one triathlon I did than the year before. So that about sums it up. Do less work, get worse results. No sense dwelling on this. This year, more swimming.

Cycling: 5400 km of cycling this year. Most of that was commuting and group rides, but I did manage to get a few great training rides in. Still, not enough of those rides were the quality I wanted. the cycling was great cross training for running and helped a lot when I hurt my hip. I also managed a few great rides in some of the multisport events I did, keeping my speed from last year. Still I would like to see that endurance increase and for this reason I will be working on the indoor trainer more frequently this year. I finally got an indoor trainer last year, a nice Louis Garneau model which is very simple, but I just need to use it better. Probably my best ride of the year was in the Greenwood Duathlon where I managed to have the fastest ride of the race. I rather liked that. I also did a lot of work on adjusting the bike to a better dutahlon/triathlon setup and thanks to Jeff and Sheldon at Sportwheels, we managed to do a pretty good job.

Running: 1575 km of running last year. We can start to see where my focus was. From the start of the year I knew it was going to be the year of my first marathon and I wanted to do it right. Thus the decreased focus on the other sports in my life. I just started with a new training regime based on heart rate thanks to Jeff Zahavich and the Kinesio Sport Lab and it was doing wonders for me. I pulled off my fastest half marathon by 6 minutes, I was running fast and strong. But June is also my busy month with duathlons and triathlons as well and as I kept racing hard and doing well, I also tried to keep up the higher mileage I thought I needed for the marathon in August. My mistake. Rest is super important, and races take their tole. So my hip went bad. I got it fixed, but not in time to run the marathon. I dropped to the half and still ran a great 1:27 in Iceland as the 19th fastest male. But I ran very little all summer as I rehabbed my injury. Live and learn. My numbers would have been so much higher if I had ran at all in July through the end of September, probably well over 2000 km for the year. I also took most of November off as a rest month. Not a bad idea at all. And I managed a few seconds and a first in the MEC race series, yay for me!

My plan is to come back with a marathon this year, though I will be aiming at the Fall so I can rest up a bit after May and June. I am also going to be much smarter with my strength and mobility regime, as well as seeing my team of healers (massage, chiro, PT) often during my heavy training months. I have some lofty goals again this year and if I play smart I think I can achieve them.

Multiports: Probably my best year yet, even though I wasn't able to get all the races in I wanted. I managed a best of 2 wins overall in duathlon and a 2nd place to take the points series championship for the first time. The shorter sprint distance events were my best as my speed in running was so great this year. I even managed to dip into a high 18 minute 5 km start for the Cyclesmith Duathlon.   After a long lay off, my overall endurance wasn't what I had wanted for the Riverport Duathlon, but I still managed a great time versus some heavy competition. I highly look forward to a few duathlons in the future as well.

I only did 1 triathlon this year and pulled off an Age Group win.  It was a slow swim, an okay bike ride and the run of my life, ha ha. Actually the run was mediocre as it was at this point in my year that my hip was starting to get bad. Thankfully I held together, but I hope next year to gt back to that race and give it a stronger go.

Even with the setbacks, the good far outweighed the bad from this years sporting endeavours. PBs in the half marathon, 5K, and duathlons, a new and smarter training regime, and a lot of new friends.

My main focus will still be running oriented I think, but I will use my need of cycling and swimming as a smart cross training and rest tool. Rest is the way to get faster overall, for if you are injured, well you can't really ruin fast. And I think I have proven that when I push too hard, too fast, my body finds a way to force the rest.