Weekly Review – June 29 – July 5

Monday

Morning

This morning I tried something new. The swim set was pretty standard, until the end.

Since this is the beginning of my first ‘cognitive’ training week, I was focusing on race-paced efforts. So I swam 10 x 80 at race pace on two minutes. I’m getting better at being more consistent with my pacing, and most of the 80s came back at around 1:11.

Then it was time for some sprints: 5 x 40 on 50 seconds. Here the consistency was somewhat absent, but that could have been something to do with the fact that my goggles wouldn’t seal properly today. Who knows why.

Some drills for dessert, twice through: one arm; rooster tails; catch up; fingertip drag; ‘zipper’.

Then the pain came. I’ve read about band work for swimmers, and particularly band work for triathletes. I hadn’t tried it until today.

It started last week, when Kim posted a picture on Instagram, mentioning a band set she was planning. I messaged her to ask about it, and she said told me to try 4 x 25 with paddles, and then 4 x 25 without paddles.

So I tacked it on the end of my workout, like she said. Goodness! With paddles was certainly harder than without. But the real difference is that there’s nothing to keep your legs up. It’s all core strength. And nothing highlights weaknesses in that area more than this set.

It was a great eye-opener, for a couple of reasons. First, I need to do more work on my core strength. (I’m getting into the habit of planking for the length of time it takes for my second-breakfast oatmeal to spin in the microwave.) And second, it showed me that I really don’t kick that much when I swim.

For the first rep without paddles, I came in at around 38 seconds, which is only a few seconds faster than I’d do for the distance without my legs being bound.

It’s good to shake it up once in a while. And, talking to Nick on yesterday’s run, he’s planning to do some band work with the Masters tomorrow. That’ll be something to look forward to!

Afternoon

This afternoon I tried my first ‘cognitive’ run. I was planning to run with an app on my phone shouting mental arithmetic problems at me, that I was going to answer.

I was unable to find an app that would just shout maths problems at me. They all wanted me to write the answers into the phone. Something, something learning. (Who wants to learn!)

So I was forced to compromise. And my compromise was this: I ran along first going through the Fibonacci sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, &c.). I got all the way to 1587* before I forgot the number that came before.

Then I went through the multiplication tables up to thirty, starting with the three times table, and ending somewhere near 6 × 26.

It really did have a startling effect. In fact, thinking about it now, it reminds me of Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. In the book, Kahneman mentions an experiment involving multiplication and walking.

Most people can do simple multiplication in their heads while walking. But when you challenge them with something like, in my case, 610 + 987, they can’t manage it.

Kahneman says this is the difference between ‘System 1’ and ‘System 2’ thinking. System 1 thinking is the automatic thinking that allows you to read road signs, and forces you to think of this band when I write 7 × 6:

System 2 is the slower, more deliberative thought processes that let us do imaginative things.

And hard sums like 6 × 26 = 156.

The experiment went well. Doing sums really slowed me down. I was running at a fair clip, even for an easy run, around 8:30 miles. Halfway through the mental workout, I looked down at my watch to see something closer to 10:00 miles. It seemed to have worked.

(I did them out loud, to make the process more difficult. I’m sure the people who passed me were amused!)

I’ll be experimenting more with cognitive training in the coming weeks. I first learned about it from Krista Austin’s piece at Competitor.com, which is well worth the read. Or, you can read more about it here.


* When I got home, I asked Katy to check whether or not 1587 was a Fibonacci number. Turns out I should have had 1597, but I’ll take that. ^


Tuesday

Morning

This morning’s five mile easy run was notable for two reasons. First, because I had to make use of the facilities at a new petrol station.

More significantly, though perhaps of equal importance, I had wanted to do a max heart rate test but there was a mix up at the Y. The guard who was supposed to be relieving me didn’t know she was on the schedule. As a result, I didn’t get home until 7:30, by which point, there time for anything other than the five miles. But I’m definitely going to give it another try on Thursday, tag team willing!

Evening

I took three dead inner tubes to Masters’ this evening. Nick had an idea.

We were going to do a little band swimming. So, after the warm up, we did four times forty with bands. It was less of a shock to me than to everyone else, I think. Yesterday’s practice let me know what I was in for, and I actually managed a decent set of times.

Then we were done. 440 yards recorded on the Garmin, and swim practice was over.

Except…

WATER POLO!

That’s right, the eight of us played water polo for a good thirty minutes. And boy, does doing a thing once ever give you a whole lot of respect for the people who do that thing all the time!

It was quite the workout. Lots of Tarzan swimming; lots of backstroke; lots of contact practice (including several ankle grabs!); and a whole lot of fun.

After the game, Tara said to me "You’re vicious!" To which I replied, "Yeah, I get really competitive sometimes."


Wednesday

A combination of exercise- and anxiety-induced insomnia meant I got around four hours’ sleep last night.

I managed the Wednesday mile this morning (with a pit stop at 17 minutes). But when I got back from work, I fell asleep on the couch and woke to a scam phone call at around 15:20.

There was a 30 mile bike on the cards. But that’s not going to happen, as tired as I am at the moment.

So, instead of working out, I am going to put the two hours allocated to the bike ride toward finishing off some pieces that I want to publish here.


Thursday

Morning

This morning I did the test I had to ditch on Tuesday morning.

As I’ve got more into understanding the practical realities of endurance training, I’ve started looking into things like Functional Threshold Power (Cody Beals has a great piece on the (time) efficiency of FTP training here), VO2 max, and heart-rate zone training.

I know that the traditional methods of calculating max heart rate, on which training zones are based, is flawed. Mark Montgomery has a nice piece about the topic on SlowTwitch. Anecdotally, at least, dispels the big myth about max heart rate—namely that you can get a reasonable estimate of that number by subtracting your age from 220.

Montgomery writes of "a 19-year-old girl from Mexico who had a max heart rate of 260[, and] Spencer Smith, a 20-year-old world-beater with a max rate in the high 160s or so."

With that (easy) method out the window, I needed another way to find out my MHR. Enter Runner’s World. There is a short article on their website which suggests a pretty simple way to find your max heart rate.

At a track, do the following:

  1. Two miles easy, warm up pace
  2. One mile tempo
  3. 400 m build
  4. 400 m accelerating every 100 m

So, when I got back from the Y this morning, I took a brief non-nap (still recovering from not sleeping Tuesday night), then I headed to the track.

I was apprehensive, because I knew it would be a hard effort. And I was a little concerned that my (inexplicably) tired legs might hinder performance.

By the time I got to the end of the final 400 m, I was breathing heavily, feeling somewhat light-headed, and rather disappointed. I’d run 3.5 miles, my run workout for the morning, and generated a ‘maximum heart rate’ of 164. On closer inspection of my Garmin, that figure was revised up to 168.

The disappointment came from the fact that I’ve generated a higher heart rate than that in regular training. I guess I’ll need to keep looking for a MHR test.

Afternoon

Downtown Columbus is all screwy at the moment, because of road closures for some fireworks display.

I left in plenty of time to lift before Masters’, but I only had time for a few sets of bench press, and some shoulder work.

The swim set was a lot of hard efforts, which fit nicely with my ‘cognitive’ focus this week. I was able to hold consistent times with some hard pacing. I’m starting to get better at feeling pace in the water, rather than just feeling the water itself.


Friday

Morning

This morning’s run didn’t happen.

On my way back from work, I decided I was going to write rather than run this morning. So when I got back from the Y, I went down to my study. I’d planned to do some work on the latest chapter of my thesis. Instead, I sat in my chair, thinking about how I’d rather be working on the blog, or out running. But I have to work on the chapter. But I didn’t want to.

Variations on that theme went through my mind for a good half hour before I kicked myself out of the funk, and went upstairs.

I got changed into my running clothes, then I made a mistake. I sat down on the edge of the bed. Two or three minutes later, trying to summon some strength in my legs, I put on my work clothes and went downstairs.

My body still hasn’t recovered from this week’s bout of insomnia. So I took the morning off. (It doesn’t help that I’m a child, who, regardless of how tired he is, stays up until 10 every night, and then gets up before 4 every morning. I know, I know, I need to resolve this situation quickly if I really want to get Kona in 2019.)

Afternoon

I went into work early this morning because I wanted to get out early so I could go for a ride.

I got home from work much later than I thought (and hoped) I would.

I took a nap, still trying to catch up from Tuesday’s insomnia debaclé, then I decided to head out for an easy run.

This week, aside from being really tired and fatigued before working out, I’ve pretty much been feeling great while working out. And today was no different.

I headed out for an ‘easy’ 5 miler. This rapidly changed in my mind into an acceleration run. I’m working on my pacing, so I feel like these kinds of runs are important.

I started off at around 8:00 mile pace, and ramped up with each mile, until I ran the last mile in 6:11. It felt good, but I was breathing really hard by the end of it.

As I was running, I was keeping an eye on my heart rate. I didn’t really trust the test I did on Tuesday. I was tired

After the last mile, there is a sizeable hill (by central Ohio standards), which I attacked pretty hard in an attempt to find my real max heart rate—I did a better job this time. I got up to 174. I don’t know that I’m happy with it, but I might use it for my zones until MingoMan, and reassess for the marathon after that.


Saturday

Morning

Today was the first day of the Tour de France. It was also the first time I did a group brick session.

In honour of Le Tour, Nick invited a couple of people to his wife’s parents’ place. It’s a beautiful house, surrounded by quiet roads that make for some great riding and running.

We did 20 miles or so on the bike, including a few nice hill reps.

Then we headed out for a 5k run, which turned into a five and a half mile run.

We finished up the morning with the highlights of the Tour de France time trial.

Eventually, it ceased to be a social event, everyone involved fell asleep. It turned into a group nap. That’s when we knew it was time to leave.

Afternoon

At the end of this cognitive week, I’ve been feeling great. I wanted some more time on the bike; I wanted to make up for the missed thirty miles on Wednesday.

This morning’s brick was fun, but it lacked a little intensity. In the quest for a tougher ride, I took myself out for a twenty mile hard ride from my wife’s parents’ place.

The roads near them are flat, if not especially smooth. I have a tendency to drift off while I’m riding, but that might have had some serious consequences, given the poor state of the roads around here.

That said, it was a nice ride, and I was able to come home with an average speed of 19.9 mph, thanks in part to a downhill drag, and a string of green lights on the main road back.


Sunday

The cognitive training week ended with a brain fart. Sunday has become long run day. And so I planned a long run. In my head, I thought that today I was planning to run 12 miles.

It made sense. Last week I did around eleven, and so this week, I should ramp it up. And that’s how it was on my training plan that’s downstairs. The one I made in March, and look at only at the end of the month.

So I made a route along the bike path, and dutifully ran it. Every step was heavy and hard. The last four miles were pretty miserable. I ended up walking for about half a mile, which I don’t like to do, but which is sometimes necessary.

It was a failure of memory, and an act of hubris, from feeling good at the end of this week. Earlier in the day, I’d checked the training plan I’d made in Excel on my laptop, and it called for a 7 mile run today. I’d apparently wiped all memory of that from my brain.

I say that because, this morning, I’d looked at the plan and seen a four mile run planned for today, and changed it to seven because I was feeling good.

So I suffered through an accidental twelve-miler. I hope it wears off quickly. Although next week is endurance-focused, so maybe starting with fatigued legs won’t be so bad.

Tomorrow, I’ll spend some time developing a canonical training plan—something I’ve been meaning to do for a while—and attach it to the fridge.


Question

What’s the most effective way you’ve come across of getting to your maximum heart rate?

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