Thursday, October 13, 2011

Some quick observations on my own weight loss

If you read this blog, you know I've developed a little triathlon habit.  Actually, it's a pretty big habit (six races in 2011.)  Anyway, this habit is still new to me -- I began training for my first triathlon in January 2010.

At that time, my weight at a minimum was around 208.  I say at a minimum because I was careful only to get on the scales completely naked and after a bowel movement.  So most of the time I was probably carrying more weight around.

Now I have a body composition monitor and a nifty little Google Docs set up where I smooth out the noise from my measurements.  My trend weight today is 180.8 and my body fat percentage trend is at 13.2%.  So I'm carrying around about 24 pounds of fat or a little less than one pound of fat for every three inches of height.  24 pounds sounds like a lot, but I'm a relatively tall dude.

I've lost at least 27 pounds.  For the sake of argument, let's assume I've only lost fat and not put on any muscle.  Of course, that's ridiculous, but we can establish a boundary.  I've lost more than half of the fat I was carrying around.  That's cool.  But I was carrying at least fifty pounds of fat.  Wow.  My body fat percentage was at least 25%.  If a surgeon had to work on one of my organs, they probably would have had to cut through more fat than the volume my organ occupied.

I'd like to lose another eight pounds of fat.  That would take me down to 9.2% fat if I also lost eight pounds of weight.  I don't know that I'll lose eight pounds of weight, though.  I want some more explosiveness so I'm going to start some strength training.  Assuming I gain a few pounds of muscle, this fat loss would probably take me down to about 8% fat.  So the carnivorous aliens won't want me for their dinner plates.

Anyway, this hasn't all been exercise.  I eat a fairly high-fiber diet that is mostly plant-based.  I have some chronic health issues that suggest I should limit my animal consumption.  I also try to limit my crap calorie consumption to immediately after a workout.  That way the extra calories are more likely to go to replenishing my glycogen stores rather than being converted for long term storage (i.e. fat.)  Of course, the weight loss and diet changes have basically made the health issues go away.  I'd like to keep it that way.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

SF Triathlon at Treasure Island Race Report

Just as a reminder, these were my time goals:

  • Total: 3:16:40 (oops Math mistake, these add up to 3:06:40)
  • Swim: 36:00
  • T1: 3:00
  • Bike: 1:25:40 (17.5 mph)
  • T2: 2:00
  • Run: 60:00
Here  are my actuals:
  • Total: 3:18:51
  • Swim: 43:00
  • T1: 4:31
  • Bike: 1:28:19 (16.8 mph)
  • T2: 2:17
  • Run: 60:44
A couple of notes first.  The run was actually 10.5 km.  So that's worth about 2:55 to add to my goal.  Also, I had a couple of racing mistakes.  First, on the bike I really had to use the bathroom.  There was a porta-potty on the course.  I stopped.  It was occupied.  A funny scene ensued where I asked if the occupant would be long who gave a response consistent with him either puking, shooting up or having just shot up.  San Francisco, you gotta love it.  So I held it and went to the bathroom after T2.  I don't know how much time I wasted, but I couldn't hold my bike pace much after that stop.  I hear in longer distances people just let go while still riding.  I'm just not that hard core.  The other racing mistake was I dismounted too early at the end of the bike course and had to get back on the bike.  No biggie, but it definitely cost me 30 seconds or so.

Anyway, I was really pleased with my performance.  I thought my goal was 3:16:40 and I'm pretty close to that.  In fact, with the extra half km of running, I beat it.  Of course, if I had added correctly, I would see that I missed my overall goal and basically the goals in each leg.  But, if I had added correctly, I would have adjusted the splits to give me a goal around 3:15.  3:06 was not a reasonable goal.

So how did the race itself go?  The swim went badly, but I did freestyle the whole way.  That was a first for me.  It was a two lap swim and the second lap went much better.  I just stopped kicking with a couple hundred meters left and sped up considerably.  Collin Mui and I came out of the water exactly together.  The first ever triathlon for both of us was SVST and he passed me right at the end there.  So Collin is a little bit of a barometer for me.  Maybe I am for him, too.  But anyway, we came out together, but it was obvious my legs were in better shape.  I ran off and left him.

I was really focused on transition and I think I did much better in T1.  4:31 is much better than 6 and 7 minutes I've done at other events.  Anyway, there's still some time to wring out, but until I switch to tri shoes and alter my wetsuit, I think there's not much more than a minute I can take off.

So I got out on the bike and things were going pretty well.  A woman was about the same speed as me and we passed each other a couple of times.  But my heart rate was a bit higher than I liked so I slowed down.  Then I had the bladder issues and a strong headwind developed on part of the course.  I think we had to do six laps and there was one little baby climb.  I always passed a lot of people on the climb.  I've decided I don't care much for courses where you have to do multiple laps.  So anyway, I finished the last lap and was heading to transition.  There was a volunteer waving a flag and I thought that was the dismount point.  So I hopped off and she yelled that I was too early.  So I hopped back on and rode for another 100 m or so.

T2 went well.  I have laced shoes so I had to tie them.  And my bladder was very near bursting.  I found relief in a porta potty.

Then I got out and started running.  I had to do three laps.  I got my heart rate where I wanted and really enjoyed myself here.  I lost focus a couple of times and found myself drifting off my pacing.  But I'm such a number hound that I glance at my Garmin habitually and correct myself pretty quickly.  On the last lap I tried to push it and just couldn't find the gear.  So while I was hoping to push my heart rate into the high 170s, I could only peak it out to 175.  I think part of it was mental -- there wasn't anyone for me to chase.  I guess I need to get more imaginative there.

I did see Collin again.  I think he was two laps behind me.  I ended up finishing fifteen minutes ahead of him.  I saw a coworker, Lito, on the run, but he was in a later wave.  Our final times were within a couple of minutes of each other.

So my swim time was really the only part I was unhappy with.  I did have something of a breakthrough mentally on the second lap.  I'm writing this report late, so I can tell you I have gotten much faster in the water since then.  I think if I were to swim that same course tomorrow, I'd finish at least ten minutes faster.

I'll probably do this race most years.  It's an easy course and it was well organized.  It really was a good race for my first Olympic distance tri.  Now if they could just measure the run distance correctly....

Alcatraz Race Plan

Date: August 21, 2011
Type: Slightly longer than Olympic Distance Triathlon
Goals (Time):

  • Total: 3:35:30
  • Swim: 40:00
  • T1: 7:00 (includes half mile run)
  • Bike: 1:23:30 (18 mph)
  • T2: 2:00
  • Run: 63:00 (9:00 pace)
Goals (Qualitative):
  • Enjoy yourself -- this is a beautiful course and you're doing the best thing possible to appreciate the beauty
  • Maintain a racing edge all the way through.  Stay mentally focused and in controlled collaboration with your body.
  • Use the terrain challenges to build confidence.  You've been training with difficult terrain and others have not.
  • Finish strong, but with nothing left.
  • Watch the heart rate and manage around lactate thresholds.  Remember around 162 on the bike and around 172 on the run.  Only exceed the thresholds when there will be a chance for recovery afterwards.
  • High cadence on the bike.  90-92 is the goal.  Don't be afraid to shift so you can maintain that.
  • If a woman passes you on the bike, do not try to keep up with her (you Neanderthal!)  If she can keep up with you on the bike, she probably runs at least a minute a mile faster than you on the run.  She is not that drill sergeant at Fort Bragg you had no respect for.
Actual race plan:
Leave at 3:10 AM to arrive around 4:00 AM.  Drink canned coffee and eat some carbs during the car ride.  Be quick about setting up transition and get on the first shuttle to the boat.  USE THE BATHROOM BEFORE YOU PUT ON YOUR WETSUIT!  Pack everything the day before and try to sleep by 8:30.  At wakeup put on sunscreen liberally.

After the shuttle ride, take it easy and try to find a spot where you can catch a few Z's.  Until the briefing you won't know how the swim start will work, but you're starting in the middle of the Bay.  You don't need to worry about positioning too much.

So you've jumped off the boat.  Just swim smoothly with a minimum of effort.  Once you've warmed up a bit, pick up the pace a little bit, but keep your form good.  The chop may keep you from breathing bilaterally.  If so, pay extra attention to sighting.  Kick as little as you can.  Your legs are for the other parts of the race.

When you come out of the water, your legs should be in great shape.  Get the suit off quickly, get it in the bag and get those shoes on.  Now you have a half mile run to your bike.  Don't hold back.  You want do that half mile in under four minutes.  When you get to the bike switch into the bike shoes and get going.

Now you're on the bike and it's time to get your heart rate down.  So take it easy.  Drink and eat.  The gummies will give you some caffeine so you should be eating some of those every 10 minutes or so.  Eat bars at 30 minutes and one hour depending on how you're stomach handles it.   If things go well, you'll get 5-600 calories and 30-40 mg caffeine on the bike.

Attack the hills.  Outbound, stand for up to one minute on ascents.  Inbound, limit it to thirty seconds.  Your descending skills are pretty good so you should be able to pass people both during climbs and descents.  But watch the heart rate.  Pedal to maintain a heart rate below 162.  You can go higher on climbs, but you want to bring it back down as quickly as possible.  On Great Highway, maintain a cadence of 90-92 rpm.  There will probably be some crosswinds.  Some people are going to gun it and burn themselves out on Great Highway.  Let them.  Some will just be faster than you.  That's okay; you'll get faster.  There are some hills right before you get back to transition.  Preserve energy here.

Handle T2 quickly.  When you get out on the run, first focus on getting your heart rate in the low 160s.  You want to keep your heart rate there except for climbs until the Sand Ladder.  Run the bottom third of the Sand Ladder.  Walk the middle third and run the last third.  Your heart rate will likely be in the high 170s at this point.  We want to bring that down to about 172.  Keep it there until you get to the Golden Gate Bridge (except for climbs.)  If you've fueled correctly, 172 is going to set your pace around 8:30 or even lower.  Now it's time to burn everything left in the tank.  Don't freak out if your heart rate climbs above 180.  Keep pushing it.  No one is going to pass you because you didn't realize you're almost done.  Just push it.  Don't worry about your slobber.  Don't worry about other people's slobber.  Push it.  Your body should feel miserable when you cross the finish line, but that's very temporary.  You will be all smiles after you complete this race.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

San Francisco Triathlon at Treasure Island 2011 Race Plan

Date: July 9, 2011
Type: Olympic Distance Triathlon
Goals (Time):

  • Total: 3:16:40
  • Swim: 36:00
  • T1: 3:00
  • Bike: 1:25:40 (17.5 mph)
  • T2: 2:00
  • Run: 60:00
Goals (Qualitative):
  • Nail transitions -- I've been giving up a lot of time on both T1 and T2
  • Relax in the water and swim mostly with my arms, not my legs.  I'm less interested in the time here and more interested in managing to freestyle the whole way.
  • High cadence on the bike.  This is a flat course and I will be tempted to lower the cadence in a higher gear.  Keep cadence above 85 and save my legs for the run.
  • Spend as much time on the bike in the drops as possible.
  • Finish with nothing left -- I've been training with 12-16 km runs.  I should have enough left to run negative splits on the last 5k.
  • Watch the heart rate.  My lactate threshold on the bike is around 162 and around 172 on the run.  Stay below it for the whole bike segment.  On the run, stay near, but not above until 2k to go.  Then blast it.
  • Stay calm and have fun.
Actual Race Plan:

I will leave the house at 5:15 AM to arrive around 6:00.  On the night before I'll set up the press pot and water boiler to get coffee ready.  I'll  make coffee first thing.  One cup before leaving and I'll drink the rest in a travel mug.  I'll eat lightly -- mostly carbs and fruit.  I'll have the van packed the night before.  I just have to load the bike and go.

Upon arrival at the race site, I'll pick a spot on a rack.  Then I'll Set up the spot with towels, equipment, etc.  I'll  make sure hydration gear and food  is all on the bike.  Then I'll check in, get body-marked, set up my race belt.  If possible, I'll lay down, take it easy and even nap.  I will apply sun-screen generously 45 minutes before the race starts.  15 minutes after sunscreen, I'll grease up my ankles generously and put on pantyhose to go under the wet suit.  I will immediately put on my wet suit.  Then it's time to get ready for Male 35-39 wave.  This is mostly about socializing and just before the start, quieting the mind almost entirely.

For the swim start, I will start wide right and towards the back.  The point is to avoid as much jostling as possible.  I will swim relaxed and keep my mind calm.  Some of the faster swimmers may lap me.  That's okay.  I am aiming to preserve my legs, so I want my swim to be dependent on my stroke.  I will enjoy how much easier it is to swim with a wetsuit on.  I will breathe bilaterally, taking a breath every fifth or seventh stroke.  If I'm not holding my mental line, I will occasionally breathe on the third stroke.

In transition, I will move with urgency.  The goal is to not give away any time.  I'll remember how I've been giving up 2-5 places with my transition time.  I will remember how, at Morro Bay, I did not pass the fat man until a mile into the run. I will get on the bike, follow the rules and peddle smoothly.  I have to do six laps.  I will eat 1/3 of the gummies every 10 km.  The Garmin will tell me when that is.  My  cadence will stay above 85 and I will stay aerodynamic in the drops.  There are no real climbs, so there shouldn't be much gear-shifting.  I will follow proper riding etiquette and rules (no drafting!), but I won't get stuck behind any slow-pokes.  I will finish both fluid bottles by the end of the bike ride.

In T2, I will maintain a sense of urgency.  I'll leave the bike gloves on.  I'll take most of the first running lap easy to test heart rate and pacing.  These should be around 6:00 km splits with a heart rate in the low 160s.  I will key on heart rate, not time.  After the third km, I will bring the heart rate to the high 160s and keep it there.  Hopefully, this will translate to 5:40 splits or so.  I will not force the pace, but watch the heart rate.  After 6 km, I will push the heart rate to the very low 170s.  I want to do the next two km right at threshold.  It would be great if this translated to 5:30 splits, but I will not watch that.  I will watch my heart rate.  Then with 2 km to go, I will forget about heart rate and just push it.  The goal here is to push beyond 5:15 splits for the last two km.  I will push it hard for these last two km, but I will push it hardest on the last km.  I should run the second km 2-5 seconds faster than the one before.

During the run, I will remember that the run is still a weak discipline for me.  I will run my pace and not get worried about people passing me.  I will remember that there are three laps and some of the people passing me are actually lapping me.  I will not chase anyone until the last two km.

I will smile.  Doing triathlons is expensive in terms of money, time, support and discipline.  The fact that I can do this indicates that I have a truly bounteous life.  It will perhaps not always be apparent, but being out there on Saturday is a celebration.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Updated Event Schedule

I mentioned in an earlier post that my endurance event schedule would have to change because I was abusing my family.  It really hit me when, after several rainy weekends, the sun came out and instead of spending the time with my family, I went for a six hour bike ride.  Yeah, that was really selfish.  Anyway, here goes the list for the rest of the year:

  • June 5: Morro Bay Triathlon; I'm probably going to have to drive back to Sunnyvale that day, so I'll stick to the Sprint distance.  It has a beach run and I don't have time to train for a 10K on the beach yet. 750m swim, 20.5 km bike, 5.4 km run
  • July 9: SF Triathlon at Treasure Island; This will be my first Olympic distance event.  1500 m swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run on an easy course
  • July 31: Santa Cruz Sandman; this one is just fun. 800m swim, 13 mile bike, 4.2 mile beach run
  • August 21: SF Triathlon at Alcatraz; this is my biggie event.  1.2 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 7 mile run
  • September 18: Catfish Crawl Open Water Swim South Bay 2: 2 mile swim
  • A Half Marathon in October or November
  • A couple of trail races in October or November
I've essentially set a four hour limit on events.  If I can't finish the event in four hours, I won't do it.  So no marathons until I'm sure I can finish in under four hours.  No centuries.  No 10 km swims.  No triathlons longer than Olympic distance.  It's less about the time of the event and more about the training demands.  If you do a four hour+ event, you need to go out for a few four hour+ training sessions.  I just don't have time for that.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Going to change Athletic Plan for this year

I got a little carried away with my plans so I'm going to dial them back a bit.  Basically, I couldn't go forward with these plans without damaging my overall quality of life.  My family needs me to be around and training for some of these events is not compatible with that.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

2011 Treeathlon Recap

It's been a colder than normal winter here in Northern California.  We've regularly gotten temperatures in the thirties and recently some of the local mountains got a little overnight snow dusting.  So training has been problematic.  It's just not much fun to run when the temperature drops; the early sunsets make most weekday bike rides unsafe; and it's always hard to make it to the pool.  I did buy a Kurt Kinetic bike trainer, though, and that has become my go-to workout.

I scheduled the Stanford Treeathlon, really as a training milestone.  It's a basic sprint tri and I felt like finishing would not be an issue no matter how poorly my training went.  Then the weather disrupted things.  The water in SF Bay near Redwood City has been in the high forties.  My understanding is that 55 degree water is the edge of safety for large events.  Most people are fine and handle it fine.  But when you're running an event, you have to consider the most marginal swimmers.  48 degree water would put some of those swimmers at risk.  The organizers rightfully canceled the swim portion and replaced it with a run, making the event a duathlon.  They considered making the event a 5-20-5 duathlon, but apparently got feedback that several participants lacked the fitness for such a challenge.  So they made it a 2-20-5 duathlon.

2-20-5 is a strange duathlon.  Two kilometers is such a short run that most participants probably wouldn't even start sweating.  I personally had no idea how fast I should run such a short distance.  My training has been pretty unstructured to this date -- I basically just go out and exercise without much thought.  I vary the route to affect the amount of climbing I do.  So, the day before the Treeathlon, I decided I would just simulate the whole race.  I reasoned that the Treeathlon was just a training event and if I cooked my legs, it didn't matter.  The terrain around my house is less flat than where the race would be, but I'd get an idea of how I should actually do the race.

I did the 2 km with an 8:36 pace.  This surprised the hell out of me.  I never try to run that fast.  When I do a 10 km training run, I'll run close to 9s at the end to get my overall pace below 10, but I didn't realize I could push out an 8:36 pace for more than a mile.  Then I hopped on my bike and went for 20 km around Sunnyvale and part of Cupertino.  I was warm so I didn't wear my jacket.  And I forgot my gloves.  That was a bad idea.  Anyway, the course I took has a pretty steady climb in the beginning.  I noticed that the spinning on the trainer really helped as I took this ascent pretty easily with a high cadence.  I got delayed for several minutes at Remington and Mary as a driver was on the far left side of the right turn lane when she wanted to go straight.  So the signal never changed until more cars came to go straight. (If you have to know it was an East Asian female driver whose looked only straight forward.  I tried to get her attention so she would move.)  Anyway, I ended up on the bike for 48 minutes with a lot of stopping for red lights.  So I got home, got back in the running shoes and went running for five kilometers.  The course I laid out starts out with about 200 feet of climbing over the first mile or so.  My legs were dead.  My pulse was good, though, as it stayed in the low 160s.  After I got through the first mile in something like 10:50, I decided to kick it up.  My legs were back under me and I thought I could push myself to maybe a 30:30 or 31:00 minute time.  I came in at 29:54.  I felt pretty good.  If I hadn't cooked my legs, I thought my times the next day would make me happy.

I got to the event later than planned, but was happy to see bike racks were assigned.  Of course, I had to squeeze in on my rack and as luck would have it, it was a short rack.  This would prove to be a big problem for me.  I couldn't get my bike on the rack without some vertical manipulation.  The top of the rack was lower than my seat and handle bars.  Anyway, I got settled in and got ready to go.  In my haste, I forgot my Garmin at home.  I felt a bit naked.

I met a couple of people I've met from other triathlons and waited for my wave to start.  My wave was supposed to start 10 minutes after the first wave, but that seemed off.  Also, the waves were too large for a narrow beginning run.  Anyway, my wave (under 39, non-college men) started.  I know my run times are slow so I put myself towards the back and just tried to run politely.  I probably went out a little too hard -- the adrenaline and seeing everyone else leaving you behind is a real test of discipline.  I never really settled into any kind of groove.  I did the leg in 9:24.  I think the distance was probably a little bit shy of 2 km, but that's still much faster than I anticipated.  I was planning on a 10:00 time.  Transition killed me as I had a hard time getting my bike off the rack.  I spent 2:08.7 in T1 meaning I was basically a minute slower than average.  Onto the bike and I found a comfort zone pretty quickly.  Since I lacked my Garmin, I don't know what my cadence was like.  I suspect it was a bit slower than ideal implying I was in the wrong gear.  Anyway, it was 3x lollipop course so it was pretty crowded the whole way.  I just tried to stay comfortable and keep a good cadence.  The course was very flat, so I did very little shifting.  My legs felt a little cooked -- I was definitely stronger on Saturday.  I came into T2 and that was a disaster.  I had a very difficult time securing my bike and I ended up spending 2:44 in T2.  I got onto the run and just tried to keep it together.  My legs were definitely in worse shape than Saturday.  The first mile was really hard, but it always is.  I got passed by a couple of guys there and I was tempted to chase them.  I just said to myself that I was here to run my own race.  I'm really not used to running without a heart rate monitor.  I have no idea what my exertion or pace was like at this point.  My legs were definitely feeling it, though.  The Saturday simulation certainly emptied my tank a bit.  I picked it up a little bit after the aid station and passed some of the slower college women.  The course was an out and back so I saw some people in pure misery once I made the turn.  I tried to give some encouragement.  I think I told one guy in obvious pain that there was glory at the end.  That's pretty silly now that I think about it.  But the last part of the race is about psyching yourself out.  When I got to maybe half or 3/4 a mile left I passed a really tall guy and there was no one else I'd be able to pass.  I thought about trying to kick it and made a half-hearted effort for maybe 200 m.  I had no idea on my metrics so I kind of gave up and just cruised in.  The guy I passed ended up finishing 18 seconds behind me, so I think he may have made an effort to catch me.  I was shocked to see I ran a 29:06 on the final leg.  I don't know if it was a true 5 km.  If so, my time is really shocking.

My transitions really killed my time.  If I had done them just average, I would have been probably 2:15 faster.  This would have put me basically even with the next guy in my wave.  Then the competitive aspect kicks in.  The next age group guy would have been about a minute ahead of me -- close enough for me to see and chase down in the last two miles.  I probably would have knocked another 60 to 120 seconds off my final run.  The time doesn't really matter to me.  This difference would have made the last two miles more fun.  After I chased the tall guy down without changing my pace, the finish was kind of boring.

Let's back up, though.  The Treeathlon was an event for me to measure my fitness.  I'm a little bit ahead of where I planned to be.  The Tierra Bella 200 km Bicycle Tour is six weeks from now.  I'm in a good position to be ready for that.  Mission accomplished.