All posts by TriCoachMark

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The Tri Shop, with the help of David Bertrand, hosts an Expert Series. Two weeks ago, they tried to get Jamie Turner in for their 5 year anniversary weekend in November, but he was only available yesterday. It was very last minute, so in all fairness, not all of the local coaches who wanted to make it were able to. The DFW Tri Club was lucky that three of us (Coaches Lyndsi & Scott) were available for it (at the expense of a Transition & Flat Tire Clinic). For those who don’t know who Jamie Turner is… he just coached Gwen Jorgensen to Gold in Rio. Rare is it that we can get someone of this caliber into our area to speak. More rare is the timing shortly after a gold medal. With that, thanks are also due to our friends at Red Bull for helping facilitate it.

Although the talk was geared to coaches, some key takeaways I’d like to share with athletes are:

1) Compromise is the enemy of a successful athlete. Note, I think compromise in social situations is very important. But when it comes to sports, if you want to be successful, set your standards high and then minimize compromising.

2) Perceived competence is more important that actual ability in encouraging continuing participation in sports.

3) The athlete does the first 75% of the work. The person does the last 25%. In other words, it comes down to their character.

4) If you have to choose between strategy and character, be without strategy.

5) It is very difficult to teach discipline once you are grown up. If you have good habits, you are more likely to be successful. Examples of the habits he talked about, do you make your bed every morning, do you pick up after yourself?

6) Celebrate winning. The little wins and big ones. This point is interesting timing for me. I also have been listening to an audio book – Taking People With You, by David Novak, former CEO of Yum! Brands (very pertinent to me, since I also work in the restaurant industry). He was also talking about celebrating the small victories. Stephanie, when you won your age group recently, I advised you not to celebrate, since you have a bigger goal you’re aiming for. Reflecting on this, perhaps a celebration was due… we just need to figure out how to celebrate within the confines of discipline. Deal?

7) Journal the Power of 3 every day
3 things to keep doing
3 things to start doing
3 things to stop doing
-Try adding this to your nightly list. Perhaps when you are rolling out or in your recovery ice or warm Epsom bath; reflect and grow. 3 too hard? Start with 2.

Now this is all applicable to those of you with performance goals but if you are training and racing for fun, don’t confuse the above with me preaching that you need to get faster -coaches want to help you achieve and maximize your goals, whatever they are. The great thing about all of this is, maybe it doesn’t pertain to your athletic goals, but it certainly can and should be applied to what is important to you. In other words, reread that from the frame of your career’s perspective and again from your family’s perspective.

Happy training!

 

Swim Fitness

6 beat kick

To become a better swimmer, you need to gain Swim Fitness. Swim Fitness is earned on a few levels:

  1. Endurance
  2. Technique
  3. Mental
Endurance

Endurance is the first point, since you probably thought of this first. No matter how great of shape you are in, if you do not have good Technique, you will feel like you are out of shape when you swim. grizzly bear eating salmon(Not to mention, you might look like a grizzly bear. Don’t look like a grizzly bear! Look like a salmon! Wait, bad analogy.) To gain Endurance, you need to swim a lot. But swimming a lot will not
necessarily help you swim fast. If you do not have good Technique, you can have better overall fitness than all of the other swimmers and still be slower than all of them. So let’s come back to Endurance after we establish good Technique.

Technique

If you are new to swimming, you should be focusing on your Technique all of the time. When you first get into the water, your body doesn’t truly know what it should do to swim efficiently. After all, swimming is a complex, dynamic set of movements. Even if you did know where to place every part of your body at every moment of the swim stroke, it is possible that your body may not be able to get into that position if you have mobility issues. For example, as a Gym-Ratformer gym rat, my shoulders have always been very tight and I am constantly working on opening up their range of motion. There are many methods of doing this, but that is for another article.

Once you are able to get into the proper position and mobility is not your issue, then can safely put repetitive load in that position. When you work on your Technique, you are training your neuromuscular system how to perform the movement properly. You pick the total movement apart using drills to coordinate the intended movement with your actual movement. To really make that connection, you need to intersperse swimming with the drills. Maybe it looks like “Drill for 10 strokes – Swim for 10″ strokes”, or maybe it’s “Drill for 25 meters, Swim for 25 meters”; either way, you are constantly applying the drill to actual swimming and you are training your body proper Technique.

However, simply drilling and swimming isn’t enough to give you good Swim Fitness. You need to make sure you are doing the drills correctly. How do you do that? Well, you can film yourself and then compare that to YouTube videos, you can hire a coach to give you drills that will specifically help your issues, or you can join a beginner swimming class! It is no coincidence that the DFW Tri Club can help you with these second two options. In my personal swimming journey, I put in my time with private swim lessons and now I can comfortably go for a mile swim in the open water after taking several months off! (Unfortunately, I’ve done this twice in the last year.) Each lesson was an investment. I retained it all and those lessons have not left me. I’ve committed them to muscle memory, they are now apart of my Swim Fitness.

Endurance

Guess what else happens when you work on your Technique? You magically gain Endurance. Yep, before you know it, you can swim 500 meters straight. And then 1000. And next thing you know, you just swam a mile and you have more energy left. All this time, your mind was tricked into working on the task at hand, Drill 25 here and there and magically you became a swimmer. Sure, some of this is due to your improved Technique reducing drag, making it easier to slip through the water, but there is also the part that your swim muscles are now ready to handle the load longer.

Mental

Well, the Mental side of this comes with gaining confidence by doing it regularly. When you start swimming, you are constantly adjusting and trying new things. You may find yourself uncomfortable at times, but if you trust the process, you will slowly become more comfortable. And actually, there may come a point when you embrace the discomfort. When you swim past your comfort zone, you are pushing the limits of your Swim Fitness. You know that you can recover from a hard set while still swimming at a recovery pace, as opposed to stopping to take a break.

Knowing alternate strokes can also help your race times if you find yourself needing a break. You can do back or breast stroke, both of which allow for more breathing and you still proceed forward toward the finish, rather than just stopping and treading water until you are ready to proceed again. When you have recovered and you are ready to proceed with freestyle, then you will have started at a position that is now 10, 20+ feet closer to the finish than if you just stopped in the middle of a race. When your race time is now a minute faster than it would have been if you stopped, you can interpret that as being more Swim Fit. Again, these strategies come with swimming more… but more importantly, swimming smart.

Conclusion

Don’t be intimidated by learning how to swim. Most adults do not know how to swim properly. Take it from me, a Californian who grew up at the beach and in pools! Let a coach guide you. It will be much more efficient that way. Your faster progress will reward you with greater enthusiasm toward mastery. As adults, it is hard to find new skills to master. Swimming is an excellent skill to master. It increases your breathing capacity, works a lot of different and often neglected muscle groups, and it is easy on your joints. Thus, it is one that you can do until you are very old, well beyond your running and cycling years. Come and boost your Swim Fitness with us soon at DFW Tri Club Masters or the Swim Basics class!

My First 5K

Track

When I was a young lad, 5th grade (maybe?), I ran in my first 5K. It was a big deal for me at the time, since I ran by myself with a bunch of adults. During that race, I was cruising along mid-pack and feeling good! Then, an older guy (maybe my current age, doh!) offered me some unsolicited advice: “Don’t stomp my feet so loudly.”

For the next twenty years (or is it 30? Double Doh!), when I ran purposefully for training or racing (excluding soccer and sprinting), I continued to run with the that in the back of my mind. As a result, I ran more softly:  Landing on my heel and rolling onto my forefoot as I propelled myself forward in a quieter, more gentler fashion. So this presumably unlicensed coach effectively turned me into a heel striker! The act of heel striking meant I was applying brakes each time I put my foot down, which shoots an unnecessary shock up my leg and through my joints. This vicious cycle resulted in me running on soft surfaces whenever I could to “save my knees”.

My high school track coach knew how to push me hard and taught me how to run off the blocks and pass a baton, but he didn’t do much for my running efficiency.  It wasn’t until I started training for triathlon decades later before I learned proper running mechanics. I first learned them through run drills. Since they double as great warm-up exercises, you get to fire your proprioceptors and engage your neuromuscular system to establish good form before you start your workout. Tis the season to sprinkle them in during your track workout, so you come out of the off-season with better form. Better form means less risk of injury and greater efficiency. In other words, you get to train more without setbacks and the suffering ends sooner, since you’ll finish faster at the same effort!

In the end, my loud stomp wasn’t all that bad, at least I landed on the middle of my foot, which is built to reduce a lot of the shock before it gets to the knees. I think some of the noise came from my vertical oscillation. I should have embraced the midfoot strike, but I should have focused my force from an upward direction to a forward direction. If only I knew then what I know now, I would’ve beaten that old guy in my first 5k!

If you have any doubts about your run form, get a coach to observe you and nip it in the bud before you waste precious time and maybe avoid some costly injuries. And in the meantime, come out to one of our track sessions! We have a lot of track options tomorrow! For details, visit www.dfwtriclub.com/calendar.

Review: Stryd Running Power Meter

Having tested the new Stryd Running Power Meter for over a month now, here are my thoughts on it:

Power Meters measure direct energy output as power is being generated, compared to Heart Rate Monitors (“HRM”) that measure how hard the heart is working to support energy output. There is an indirect relationship between power and heart rate. Stated simply, your muscles store energy so they can do some work without major changes in heart rate. As energy production increases and energy storage in the muscles decrease, the heart is recruited to pump blood to replenish that energy. Thus, it takes about 30-60 seconds for your heart rate to catch up to changes in energy production.

When cycling power meters first hit the scene a couple of decades ago, they were very expensive and only used by elite athletes. Like all great new technologies, time has provided economies of scale and resultant falling prices, so you can now find them in most serious cycling circles. Any good coach will suggest getting a power meter before upgrading your bike, (well, depending on the bike, I suppose). As you may have heard before, “You need to build the engine before you build the machine.” And, “What good is a Ferrari if it has a Smart ForTwo engine.”

Now there is a power meter for running. And get this: The price is lower than all current cycling power meters. When you also weigh the fact that cycling power meters have educated consumers about what training with power means, I’d say the running power meter is now on a faster trajectory than we saw with cycling power meters. They will soon be as common as HRMs are today. We can now figure out exactly how much energy we used running through rolling hills. To use an example of running with only a HRM, it is entirely possible to expend 400 watts climbing a 20 second hill hitting Zone 5, but it goes undetected since your heart rate only climbed 10 beats per minute. Thus, it may still look like you are in Zone 3; you won’t even know that you have burned a match. With the Stryd power meter, there is currently a delay of about 3 seconds, but they have talked about decreasing that soon. In the end, 3 seconds is enough to save a match and adjust without cause for concern.

Interestingly, the chest strap HRMs we grew up with are on the verge of becoming obsolete thanks to the spread of optical HRMs in wrist watches. Unfortunately, Stryd goes on your chest too, so it looks like we won’t be able to shake chest straps just yet. At least it does also collect heart rate data, so our silly fashion trend and the tan lines that come with it will be sticking around for a bit longer. I mean, if I had a dollar for every time I was at the track doing 800s and a sprinter asked me what I was wearing around my chest…

When Stryd was first brought to Kickstarter, it was advertised as a device that clipped to the back of your run shorts. I imagine it is hard to get heart rate data from that spot, which may be why they moved it to the chest strap. Needless to say, I look forward to the day that they bring it back… which is hopefully the same day the Garmin 930xt comes with an optical HRM.

Stryd is currently selling their power meter for $200. For a triathlete, this price point is almost a no-brainer. We are used to paying top dollar for equipment, so this feels like a bargain. Even the cheapest cycling power meters start around $450 but can easily reach four figures. Not a bad deal, folks!

The strap that comes in the Stryd box is sub-par. You cannot snap or hook it around your chest; it is always connected like a rubber band. Since you want this thing tight on your chest when you run, it is a bit of a hassle to squeeze into it. BUT, don’t worry, the Stryd works with the Garmin and other HRM chest straps! Problem solved, although more on this soon.

Keep in mind, they are still working through the software side of this. To view my running data with Stryd, I have to log the workout as a bike ride, since Garmin hasn’t yet unlocked the ability to display and record power data in the run screen. Also, in cycling, power meters do not have integrated heart rate data, so we’re waiting on Garmin and the other watch makers to open up the ability to view both power and heart rate in the run fields from one device. For now, you should consider running with TWO chest straps!

Captain Dork (Police Academy)
Police Academy, Captain Dork after wearing two chest straps.

When I first tested this outdoors, I was shocked by how many watts I was pushing at my easy pace. It was difficult to run slow enough to get my power to drop below 200  watts! On a bike, it is pretty easy, but rolling inertia on a bike is much different than stomping through a run. To make more sense of this, I performed a blood lactate test on myself, while on the treadmill. I started my test at a very low speed and increased my speed by 1/2 mph every 5 minutes until exhaustion. This helped confirm the reasonableness of the numbers I was reading and the two tests were consistent. The lab environment controlled for the speed and eliminated the weather and hills from the test. I was able to go below 200 at the lower speeds and my Lactate levels rose in a predictable manner.

I then used this device in an Aquathlon. At the race, there were a couple of Stryd employees also in attendance! Although this is not officially waterproof, they confirmed that I could wear the device during the swim. Although it was a 1 mile swim, I was not diving with it, so there were no issues bringing it into the water for this race. The 10k run that followed gave me an average wattage that was in line with what I would expect from the lactate test. Since an “Open 10K” is a good field test to help determine your lactate threshold, in my case preceded by a swim, it corroborated the existing lactate test.

The final claim that Stryd is selling us on is that this can help improve your run form. Although I’ve played with my run form while using the device, I haven’t been able to test it properly. Every time I look down at my watch, I cut off oxygen by bending my neck and my form suffers. The guys at Stryd have at least one video that shows how this can give you feedback on your running efficiency. When I did play with it, I was not able to see a 10% drop like they mentioned in the video, but again, I did not perform a proper test. Check out the video for their claim:

As expected with new technology, upcoming firmware updates will make it a little more accurate and accessible. In the meantime, I am still very comfortable relying on this data.

My verdict: If you only run treadmills or you avoid hills and bridges, then running with a heart rate monitor alone will work just fine. It is steady feedback without much variation, so the additional effort may not be worth the marginally more expensive price. If you run on hills, frequently change your pace, or just love data, Buy! This is not a gimmick. Run, don’t walk to get your Stryd Running Power Meter. (And by the way, walking does not currently register on the Stryd – just running. It senses when both feet are on the ground at the same time and doesn’t report feedback.)

Eulogy

Grandma AliceWell, this isn’t exactly a triathlon post, but there is a lesson here that is worth sharing. If one person connects with this, then I did my job. Although hopefully I can squeeze out a few more.

In the end, if you’re a great triathlete and a crappy person, then no one will care if you’re a great triathlete. Being a good sport is a lesson I learned early on. It’s about respecting the other athletes and abiding by the established rules. Being a good person is something that takes a lot more practice and refining. The rules are not defined. There is one rule that stands out among the rest, but it is subjective and often clouded by ego – the Golden Rule.

Every time I think I have grown as a person and become better at treating others, I realize that I have a lot more to go. Even in this mourning period when this latest intense lesson is top-of-mind, I still catch myself falling into the trap of not following the Golden Rule. Out of everyone who I have ever met, the person who stands out the most with the highest ability to follow the Golden Rule is Grandma Alice, who passed away last week at the ripe age of 96.   With that in mind, my brother and I put together this Eulogy in her honor. It took about a minute to read, but if you are pressed for time, skip to the last paragraph:

I am Mark Reisman, Grandma Alice’s first grandchild. I am also speaking on behalf of my brother David, who contributed to this while he is on a Social Work internship in Thailand. Our words cannot do the Legend of Alice Schoenwald justice.  You all knew her and probably agree. Her magnetic personality made you feel better. She claims to have gotten this gift from her mom and couldn’t comprehend that she lived up to her.

Throughout the years she made self-deprecating comments. When we corrected her, time and time again she said that we should work for the diplomatic services. But the nice things we said about her were certainly true.  As my brother put it, she was that special, and sometimes I think everyone knew it but her.

When we were kids, we remembered going to visit our grandparents in Glenview, IL. I loved their house, it was so warm and cozy in the winter. It was split level, so they had a basement, which was my favorite part of the house – especially because we don’t have them in California. She was a great cook back in her day. We loved her crepes and her chicken soup. Lucky for her grandchildren, she passed that gift of cooking, and several of her recipes, on to her three daughters.

She stopped cooking when they moved to California. It was a shame, because it was so good. But Doctor Alice still made her Jewish penicillin, even if she couldn’t cook chicken soup any more. As long as she could talk, she was living. And if she was living, she made others happy.

My wife, Esther, and I are proud of being able to name her first Great Grandchild Abraham, after our grandfather. Of course Grandpa Abe wouldn’t know, but Grandma Alice, who had made sure she held on to life until at least one Great Grandchild was born, was thrilled! And we have a daily reminder of their legacy that will live on.

I think her dying wish is for everyone to be happy. And her formula to happiness is helping others to be happy. If you can affect someone like that every chance you get, you will be a stronger, happier person yourself. I challenge you to live up to The Alice Schoenwald standard of happiness. Be a kind, caring person every chance you get. Show appreciation to people you wouldn’t normally. Listen to them and understand them. Everyone wants to be liked. Everyone has some goodness in them. What can you do to bring that out of them and make them feel special? Whether they are a stranger, acquaintance, friend or family member, consciously think of Alice Schoenwald this next week. Notice how others react to you and notice how you feel. Make it a habit and that may give you the happiness and strength to sustain you for 96+ years.

 

D Mag: DFW’s Best Local Outdoor Swimming Locations

Here are what some of us local coaches, including the DFW Tri Club’s own Lyndsi Biejing, David Bertrand and myself, think are the Best Local Outdoor Swimming Locations:

http://www.dmagazine.com/health/2015/articles/03/the-best-swimming-holes-in-dallas

D Magazine Article

 

One minor correction to one of my quotes – Sand Bass Point actually has a good Lake Bottom, it’s the stickers walking to it that’ll get you.

Come and join the DFW Tri Club’s weekly Open Water Swims form April to October at Lake Grapevine – Sand Bass Point. For more details, please view our calendar.

 

Part II: Lactate and Performance

Effect of Training on the Lactate Threshold
Effective training pushes the LT line to the right, meaning fitness is increasing.

This article is continued from Part I: What is Lactate?

My first Olympic Distance Triathlon was not an easy one. I picked HITS Marble Falls, in the hills outside of Austin. I deemed it a “B race”, since it was more of an experiment than anything else. It was my first 1500 meter swim so that was my biggest concern going into the race. I got through the swim just fine, rather unmemorable in the long run. I do remember the bike though. I found that I was able to pass a lot of people on the rolling hills. I muscled up the hills every time. By the time I got to the run, my legs were mush. There was a steep climb right out of T2. I could not understand why my legs were so tired. It was the first time that I remember walking in a race. Most of the people who I passed on the bike while blasting up the hills ended up passing me on the run. If I had invested in lactate testing before the race, I would not have blown up like that and I would have had more fun. Lactate testing gives you your individual training and racing zones. Armed with your new lactate knowledge from Part I, these six tips will help you perform better and may help reduce the (H+ ion) acid burn. Less burn equals better quality training and quicker recovery. Do all of the following:

1)      Get stronger. Your muscles are made up of mitochondria, as well as other building blocks. When you exercise, it is the mitochondria that process the energy. The average person’s muscle mass consists of 2% mitochondria. A pro runner or triathlete can have up to 10%. This is 5x the capacity that can process energy and convert the waste back into ATP, which fuels your Anaerobic System. The ATP function of the Anaerobic System does not last long, from 2-10 seconds, but it is just long enough for the Lactic Acid System to kick in – that starts at about 10 seconds and lasts another 20 seconds.

2)      Stay hydrated. Water is H2O. Or, 2 parts Hydrogen and one part Oxygen. If you stay hydrated throughout the day and during exercise, you will avoid that limitation. Blood consists of 55% water. If you are dehydrated, your blood will thin and not carry the necessary nutrients that your muscles need to perform.

3)      Breathe deeply. Also known as diaphragmatic breathing. It is important to get enough oxygen, but for human beings, it is difficult not to. Our lungs are overbuilt, so getting oxygen is the easy part. It is the exhale that we need to do more of. A full exhale gets rid of the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) waste product. (Glucose plus oxygen produces carbon dioxide, water and energy.)  So a deep breath will not only get rid of CO2, but it will also clear your lungs of this to give you more room to take in more Oxygen (O2). Thus, this is not just an issue for when we exercise at the higher intensities; it can affect you well before that. If you focus more on expelling a full breath, oxygen takes care of itself, it will come into the lungs without much effort. Train this when you are at work, driving in the car, or while reading this article! It will become habit and easier to do when you exercise.

4)      Eat carbohydrates and sugars. Glycolysis breaks down sugar in your blood stream and turns it into ATP.  H+, Lactate (H+ buffer) and Lactic Acid (fuel source) are also generated in glycolysis. Glycogen is the stored form of carbohydrates and sugars that we have in our muscles and use for energy. During a long workout (or after a workout), we deplete the glycogen levels in our muscles. For them to recover and get stronger, we need to replace glycogen by consuming more carbohydrates. (Note: for full muscle recovery, we also need to consume protein, amino acids and other essential nutrients – feel free to search the interweb on this subject if you do not want to wait for my take on it). Note that muscle soreness is activated by inflammation and nociceptor (pain receptors) activity. Overtraining (especially in relation to the amount of carbohydrates and sugars you have eaten) and poor diet contribute to inflammation. Thus, eating the right food and at the right times will help improve your performance. (Click HERE for the hands down best rap about glycolysis there is.)

5)      Detrain your anaerobic system. For an endurance event, you should attempt to minimize the amount of acid that goes into your muscles. You do this by staying below your Lactate Threshold (“LT”) for as long as you can, but if you do go above it, to keep it as short as possible. Every time you go above it, you “burn a match”. It is possible to train to make your matches last longer and to increase the number that you can burn, which may be useful if you do Sprints or Crits (Criterium bike racing). As mentioned above, if you always work out hard, then you might have an overbuilt anaerobic system. So even at an easy effort level, your body thinks you are about to go hard again and instantly produces acid. This is why sprinters hate running long distance; they produce too much acid to go long. To correct this, you may consider substituting anaerobic work for Zone 2 aerobic work. Your top end speed may suffer, but you will delay your H+ (and lactate) production, which will allow you to go faster for longer. You can always circle back to the Zone 4/5 work later.

6) Recover first. Most of the H+ acid is gone in 30 minutes to 2 hours. If you work out hard again later that day you may generate acid again quickly, since your muscles are still sore and inflamed. Plus, you won’t get much out of that workout for this same reason; your muscles haven’t healed yet. If you keep adding stress to your muscles before they recover, you become weaker and your fitness decreases. If you give yourself enough time to recover in between hard workouts, then your muscles heal and get stronger, or supercompensate. When you start again, you will be stronger and you will be fresh, so you will not flood your body with acid right away.

In the final installment of this series on Lactate and performance, we will examine lactate testing and how this compares to other forms of testing as well as what the test will tell you. Train smart and stay tuned!

If lactate testing is something you are interested in, check us out!

Part I: Lactate – What is Lactate?

Fun with Lactate!
Fun with Lactate!

Your Lactate Threshold (“LT”) is the single biggest determinant of endurance race performance (Kravitz & Dalleck). In addition, it is the most reliable way to track your progress. Beginner triathletes come into the sport from different backgrounds and may respond differently to various types of training. The best way to know whether it’s working is by testing it “in the lab”. “The lab” represents a consistent atmosphere that is repeatable and controls for variables such as wind, hills, stops lights and heat. The test will tell you which energy systems you need to work on and can play a major role in determining your next training cycle. Testing this directly from your blood is testing it at its source.

You reap the benefit of this in training, since it allows you to train efficiently and effectively. Now that you know your LT, your “Threshold workouts” will be perfectly tailored so you train just below it, which allows you to adapt and increase it. You can then tailor your anaerobic workouts (above threshold) to teach your body to learn how to flush out the “acid” (we’ll define acid in a little bit) effectively so you can recover quicker and are ready for the next hard effort quicker. Finally, your recovery workouts will be exactly that, recovery. There is no more guesswork, you have your zones.

An example on the opposite side of the spectrum is a common challenge that new triathletes face when coming in from other higher intensity sports. They train with an ‘all or nothing’ mindset. In other words, they train too hard too often. These athletes may be very physically fit but produce too much “acid”. In these cases, once identified, it may be beneficial to set a training program where they will get better by keeping their workouts aerobic and detraining their anaerobic system! Yep, I said it! Detrain the anaerobic system. Before I explain why, it is useful to know how your anaerobic system works:

Science Alert (although this is somewhat simplified, skip ahead if you aren’t into the technical stuff): Upon digestion, carbohydrates and sugars turn into glycogen. Glycogen fuels the anaerobic system. As it releases energy, Pyruvate fuels the aerobic system while lactate and positively charged Hydrogen ions (H+) are released into the blood stream. Blood is responsible for carrying oxygen and other nutrients to your muscles. The harder your effort, the more lactate and H+ accumulates in your blood and muscles. Eventually, you are going to reach a point where you cannot flush the lactate and H+ from your muscles faster than you are producing them. That is your Lactate Threshold (“LT”).

Energy and lactate production system.
Image thanks to Jerry Kosgrove at www.lactate.com

Now that we have covered that, there is an important distinction to be made between Lactate, Lactic Acid and the H+ ion. Although lactate is released into the blood at the same time as H+, it is NOT lactate or Lactic Acid that causes the burn in your muscles. It is the H+ ion that is the “acid” mentioned above. Lactic Acid is actually a fuel source. It easily travels through cell membranes to the liver and converts back to glucose for more anaerobic fuel. The reason why we measure lactate and not H+ is that this is much easier to do. They are directly correlated; they are produced at the same time and lactate is actually the buffer that helps deliver H+.  It is common to hear people say that lactic acid causes the burn. Unfortunately, this is inaccurate. If it were true, it would certainly be easier to explain, but ultimately for us athletes (ie, nonscientists), it means the same thing, just replace lactic acid with “positively charged Hydrogen ions”.

Speaking of Hydrogen, did you know that pH stands for the power of Hydrogen? So when you flood your muscles with positively charged Hydrogen ions, you are making them more acidic. In other words, your pH balance gets more acidic. Per WikiPedia: “in chemistry, pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline. Pure water [is completely balanced and] has a pH very close to 7.” The pH range goes from of 0 to 14, with 0 being very acidic and 14 being very basic (alkaline). The pH balance of human blood usually stays around 7.365. Even with an extremely hard workout, our pH does not go very far outside of the 7 range. Thankfully, we are limited on how acidic we can get. Lactate is the base (alkaline) and lactic acid is the acid. Although hard exercise increases our acidity, consuming alkaline food while we are exercising will not have an effect on our immediate recovery. But consuming alkaline food as a regular part of our diet is very highly advised. There is some debate about whether it is the alkaline that helps or whether alkaline foods also tend to be more nutrient dense that is what helps. Regardless, try to limit highly acidic foods, like processed foods (stripped of nutrients), or wheat and sugar that do not have many (or any) nutrients. Fruits and veggies, on the other hand, are high in alkaline and coincidentally have a lot of nutrients. So although your blood remains pretty stable (slightly alkaline), avoiding acidosis is important to keep inflammation under control and eating a nutrient dense diet is extremely important to fuel your workouts.

Coming up in Part II, how this all relates to better performance.

Special thanks to Jerry Kosgrove and the plethora of information at www.lactate.com.

USAT Nationals Race Report

usatagnc14 finish shoot
Calm before the storm
Standard Distance Duathlon Nationals – St. Paul, MN

Not really being one to write up race reports, I didn’t make one for the Du championship three weeks ago. Nothing major happened, except for my phone flying out of my pocket to start the first run, costing me 15-20 seconds. The bike was a three loop course with two steep hills, which means 6 steep climbs. One of the downhills was a last minute course change that had us go down a tunneled hill with potholes. Precarious indeed. My second run was slower than the first by a wider margin than I had hoped (30 seconds/mi), but it was enough to get the job done. Finishing 13th earned me a spot on Team USA for next year’s Duathlon World Championship in Australia. Not to be confused with the Olympics, this is the amateur Age Group championship 🙂 I’m lucky it wasn’t as well attended as Milwaukee…

Sprint Triathlon Nationals – Milwaukee, WI

The best Sprint and Olympic race on US soil. The energy is electric and the talent is top notch. Last year, I did the Olympic Distance race, which was my A race for the year, so everything I did last year led to that race. I was well-coached, well-trained and well-rested. As a result, I had PRs in my swim (1:35/100) and bike (24.1 mph), but my run was a little on the slow side, at about a 7 min/mile. If I cut my overall Olympic time in half last year to estimate my time for the Sprint, I would have qualified for Team USA then. Using that math, I opted to try the Sprint this year. However, when a qualification race repeats at a venue, it tends to get faster, so I wasn’t going to take anything for granted. Plus, the World Championship next year is in Chicago, so there was definitely going to be a bigger draw this year.

Given all the possibilities, I was not nervous about this race like I was before last year’s big races. I did have a few things working against me this year that kept me from training like I was able to in the past. The only thing that directly affected this race for me occurred four weeks prior to it: I had another minor fall. This time, my bike skidded out from under me when going around a slick roundabout. My elbow tapped the ground and the shock went to my shoulder. It has kept me out of the pool since then. The bummer is I was just starting to get my swim endurance back and was ready to really step up my intensity.

That being said, I am in good shape and  I was ready to lay it all on the line and try to qualify for Chicago. I had a little over an hour between the transition close and the start of my wave, which allowed me to relax on the grass before the race and visualize everything I was about to do. Although I hadn’t thought about last year’s race much, it all came back to me in detail for this race. With about 30 minutes left, I jogged over to the swim exit and back, and then found a long stretch of soft grass to start my run drill warm up. They allowed us into the water to warm up, which I definitely took advantage of. For a Sprint distance race, I would’ve liked to have swum a lot longer than I actually did, but I cut it short because I felt some tension in my rotator cuff.

Swim

When the horn blew, I was off with the rest of them. I lined up near the far left and breathed to my right, which was the same side the buoys were on heading out. I did not start as hard as usual, but I did put in some effort to stay in the draft of those around me. I held the draft for about 150 meters -not quite long enough. I had people somewhat close to me, but the first half of the race wasn’t my best drafting period. That would have been last year’s race. I did follow someone in for much of the second half. I got out of the water with some decent energy, which means I didn’t go hard enough for a sprint. But I got through it and my rotator cuff seemed like it wasn’t much worse than when I started. Win. (Swim pace 1:42/100)

T1 was a long transition. I did it pretty efficiently, except for two extra steps getting out of my wetsuit. I jumped on my bike with cleats already clipped in. This year, my shoes were clipped in on the correct pedal… (lesson learned from the previous year. Doh!) But this year, my power meter didn’t pick up. I opted to try the lower maintenance version of race monitoring than using my iPhone and so a few days out, I got a Garmin Fenix2. The jury is still out; I need to ride my bike with it more before I decide. One thing to note: I opted to have the display on the inside of my arm, which seemed to work pretty well for the bike and the run, but the display only shows 3 things at once. I need at least 4!

Bike

The initial ride out is a very slight incline. Enough so I was averaging about 22 mph. I knew there was a hill before the U-turn and then it would be a fast slight decline. Sure enough, I hit the 30 mph mark and focused on staying aero and light pedaling down the slight decline. This is where I really wish my power meter worked! My heart rate monitor did work, so that’s something, but once you have power, it’s hard to go back. There were just two more climbs, one on each side of the bridge. Climbing is not one of my strengths (yet), so the fact that the Olympic is twice as long, with only a few flats removed did not work in my favor. Plus, not one person passed me on the bike the entire race. The guys I should have been riding with all got out of the water before me and I couldn’t catch them by myself. I tried recruiting a couple of guys but to no avail. (Bike pace, 22.4 mph)

Run

I flew off of my bike and into T2. I threw on my shoes and ran out just behind a transition neighbor who got there before me. He was running about a 6 min/mi pace and I could not catch him. My heart rate on the bike was above my threshold heart rate, but I felt like I could’ve sustained that for a lot longer. However, it did take a full mile for my heart rate to come down on the run. Unfortunately, my legs did not turn over automatically like I had hoped. I attribute this to not doing enough bricks leading up to the race. My heart rate did settle down for the second mile, as I typically allow to happen when I race – breaking it into threes. I didn’t realize it, but we were jogging into a slight headwind. Not enough to affect my run, but after the first U-close to the first mile mark, it suddenly became dead silent. It was erie, but began to make sense. We were now running with the breeze, which was the same speed that I was going. It definitely a mental push and my heart rate dropped soon after. Aside from the guy I couldn’t catch out of transition, no one passed me on the run, until the last mile. This was perfect, I had enough energy for a final kick, but barely. I was able to stay on the heels of the guy who passed me. When we had about 300 meters left, my Loncar teammate, Chance, was waiting for me, as I knew he would be. You see, the day before, I was in about the same spot and I did everything I could to get him to go as fast as he could for the final sprint. He got started running hard a little earlier than he would’ve otherwise, so mission accomplished! But then he one-upped me and stood 20 yards deeper into the course. Either way, it helped. I passed two guys before getting to the finishing shoot and was still able to hold the sprint to the end. (Run pace, 6:41)

Loncar Nationals sprint run
Thank you this guy for the final mile push!
Summary, Shout Outs and Conclusion

So again, no PRs set here, but I did leave it all out there and I felt like I raced hard. Overall time of 1:11:46.5 but up against a fast crowd! Other than the power meter not working, I didn’t make any mistakes, like putting the shoes on the wrong pedal or bringing my wife’s wetsuit (and spending 10 minutes trying to put it on before realizing it). I am privileged to be healthy and to be able to race. I supported when I could – even when I saw some Cambridge guys running 😉

Mark, Chance, Ben
Loncar StrongArms: Mark, Chance & Ben

Loncar represented with three podium finishes and Team USA performances from Stephanie Bassin (2) and Ben Drezek. Chance Dorris tried his luck and gained valuable experience. He’s a young buck, you’ll see a lot more of him going forward.

The DFW Tri Club was well represented as well, with Danny Faulkner, Aaron Lundberg, Victoria Repice, Annemarie Martin, Teresa Anderson, Veronica Schnitzius and Paul Oliver. (Am I missing anyone?) I saw most of you out there! Next year, I predict we’ll see more!

All we can do is try to improve. When life throws a little adversity at you, how do you deal with it? There is not one “right way”. In my case, I wasn’t able to repeat my performance from last year, but I felt like I did improve after factoring in adversity. I learned some new things along the way and I hope to adjust for next year. Although I have been focusing on Sprint distance training this year, I have 11 weeks until Austin 70.3. Challenge accepted. I’m signed up. I’m going to do it.

Riding Your Bike In The Rain

cycling_rain_tdf09

Riding your bike in the rain may be a scary proposition. If you haven’t done it much before, you have some things working against you; in addition to the lack of experience, you may be lacking some confidence. Hesitation can be the difference between wiping out and a good ride. That being said, if it’s not lightening or flooding out, next time it rains, follow this advice and get your experience so you have confidence in a race – and you can actually use the rain to your advantage.

1) Tires: deflate them by about 10 psi. This gives your tire a little more contact with the road.

2) Wheels: Most beginners and many intermediate/advanced use “Clincher” tires, which means you have an inner tube inside of their tire with an aluminum wheel. The other setup is the “Tubular” tire, which means the tire is the tube. It is glued onto the carbon wheel. Brake on carbon is not as effective as brake on aluminum. If you have both options and know ahead of time that it will be raining, you should seriously consider swapping your carbon wheels out and putting your aluminum wheels on. And don’t forget, you’ll need to switch your brakes too: Brakes for aluminum wheels don’t mix with carbon rims (and vice versa)!

3) Turning: Take extra precaution here by slowing down before the turn. The way you turn is different too. Where you place your center of gravity will affect the turn significantly. When it’s wet, try to get the bike to stay perpendicular to the ground! Your body can tilt into the turn, but get off of your seat and keep that bike vertical! That keeps the maximum contact with the ground, you don’t disrupt the forward motion of the tire and most importantly you are pushing the center of gravity upright, keeping the weight on that same plane of motion. This differs from turning on dry roads, where it’s good to lean your bike and body into the turn. But try the wet turn when it’s dry and see how it feels. You’ll notice the stability.

4) Path: Try to avoid riding on oil patches and slick, painted lane markers. Don’t follow the person in front of you as closely as you might normally. The spray from their tires will decrease your visibility. But do try to follow in their tire tracks. They usually clear some water for you so you have a little less water between your tires and the cement.

5) Gear: You will get wet. If you have rain gear, great! But you’ll still get wet. You may opt for unshaded eye protection; since it’s usually darker and tinted sunglasses will reduce visibility. Try not to wear white – unless you like the brown trail starting at your bum and working its way up your back – not to mention the inevitable jokes you will be subjected to it if you’re riding with friends who care about you.  🙂

6) Post-ride: Don’t forget to clean and dry your bike afterward. And tilt you bike so the water that got into your frame has a place to drain out! Water sneaks into the frame from the cable holes and seat post. You’ll want to be diligent about taking these measures to protect it from rust and early corrosion.

7) Rain bike: If you really get serious about riding in the rain, you can always convert an old bike to a “rain bike” and give it some fenders.

If I missed something about riding your bike in the rain, please add it to the comments below! I hope this helps you get out there next time. No matter your experience, take it slower than normal and get the experience under your belt.