Sunday, January 27, 2008


I spent a number of hours this weekend re-reading Joe Friel's Triathlete Training Bible. I was re-impressed with what a great book that is.

When I first started this little coaching stint, I knew I had a lot to learn. That's why I did it. I read through the book, which is very detailed, and came up with a basic plan for Basta's first couple of months. I knew I'd need to go back at some point and learn more to get proper workouts designed for his last few months prior to the big event.

That point is now. He's entered the "Build" phases, and I wasn't exactly sure what those Build phases were supposed to entail.

I do now: levelled-off durations but building intensities. Anaerobic threshold workouts for the first time. Ok, bueno, we can do that.

But I also learned that I sort of skipped over one key piece of advice . . . Adjusting the workout schedule for the over-50 athlete. Oops.

It's a little worse than that, actually. I read that part initially and decided not to use it for Basta. Yes, he's over 50. 3 years over. But he doesn't look or act 50. He recovers very quickly, he's lean and fit, and he was so gung-ho for training that I thought I could give him the general Half-Ironman plan and he'd be fine.

Well, no. He hasn't been doing the training volume that I've prescribed. Honestly, I've been finding it hard to even schedule the volume, knowing what I do about his available free time and his willingness to do workouts. For instance, I know he won't do a three-hour bike ride very often so I'm scheduling him for a two hour bike, 1 hour of cross-training instead. Of that he might do the two hours, or he might do just 90 minutes on the bike. Then he'll skip the cross-training.

And he bitches about being tired and looking forward to his rest days and his recovery weeks. A lot, he bitches.

Weeeeeeellllll . . . . . The Bible says that the over 50 athlete needs more frequent recovery weeks and less overall weekly volume. Each phase should last 3 weeks, not 4, with the focus on quality intensity instead of greater volume. Mr. Friel seriously knows what he's doing.

So I redid the master plan. The plan that tells me how many hours per week to schedule and what workouts types to focus upon. The resulting plan is much better. MUCH better. I can schedule the workouts that he needs and it takes up the minutes needed. I don't have to throw in cross-training and long workouts I know he won't do just to meet the high weekly volume. He's happy doing intensity, so I can bump the intensity of one workout per sport per week.

And he gets to hit it hard two weeks, then rest & recover for a week. He's very happy about that.

I also realized that I had picked the middle of the annual-hours-recommendation for the Half Ironman distance. I went down to the low-end of that recommendation and came up with perfectly reasonable weekly workout hours. Less. Better. Since he wasn't hitting the high hours anyway, this just means that he'll get the personal satisfaction of actually meeting his prescribed hours each week.

Basically it turns out that his body knew his limits and was only doing what he should have been doing all along. Impressive.

In other news, we're sticking to our conviction to boycott the Chicago Marathon this year. This as a protest of gross mismanagement starting with the stupid decision to put a slick sponsor's mat down at the finish and causing the winner, Robert Cheruiyot, to slip and crack his head on the pavement, giving him a concussion and headaches that last to this day. The race director, Carey Pinkowski, took no responsibility for this and said, 'he collapsed from exhaustion.' No, he didn't. You made a mistake, immediately removed the slick mat for the rest of the finishers, yet refused to take responsibility for accident and blamed the athlete instead.

Then last year, same race director, high heat, no plans for extreme conditions. Water stations quickly ran out of water, one person died, and the race was cancelled. Race director? "Some runners didn't do adequate preparation." Yeah. No admission of fault, again. It's the runner's fault to expect actual water to be at water stations. It's not like this was free water, either. Each runner paid $125 to be told they were inadequately prepared if they can't run 26.2 miles in extreme heat without water.

Carey Pinkowski. No, you shouldn't still have this job.

Friday, January 25, 2008


So where are we?

Well, it's still raining, still windy. That means lots of time on the CompuTrainer.

The CompuTrainer arrived a few weeks ago, and let me tell you that thing is great. Far, far superior a plain ol' trainer.

It has a bunch of sensors that you put on your bike, then all of that feeds into the software on the computer. The software has various courses that you can ride, or you can make your own. A bunch of Ironman and shorter triathlon courses are in there, which is interesting. Most are really hilly. Far hillier than we get around here on the real road. You ride along, seeing yourself on the screen and a competitor beside you. As your terrain changes and you go up and down hills the pressure on the rear wheel changes and really feels like a hill.

But the best part is the SpinScan analysis which shows your pedal efficiency. It shows you in real time where the power in your pedal stroke comes from. Ideally, the graph is flat as power is consistent throughout 360⁰. Basta's pedal stroke shows most power at the top. Now that he can really see that, he is supposed to be working on changing his stroke to get more consistent power throughout.

All of this requires a computer, preferably one dedicated to this, situated in front of the bike so that the course and stats can be easily viewed. I have an old computer that is just sitting there unused in my office. It didn't quite meet the specs needed for the software, though. It require 32M video RAM, which is pretty small by today's standards, but this old computer has 16M. It met all the other specs fine.

I decided to give it a try, anyway. It might work just fine, just the graphic rendering would be a bit slow. And it did. The program works beautifully. Scene transitions are slow, but they get there. When you're sitting on a bike spinning hard and going nowhere it's not like you're in a big rush to see a screen change, anyway.

So we set up our home bike gym. We got some rubber mats and converted a 4x8 section of the bedroom into a gym. There was a weight bench and some weights there, anyway, so this wasn’t a huge change. It just protects the carpet from potential bike crud.

The monitor went on a table in front of the bike. It was a good quality monitor in its day. Now it is considered huge and bulky, but the resolution and quality is still good. It's perfect for this.

All of the sensors and wires attach to the bike with velcro. It's kind of a task to get them all attached, but it gets easier and quicker with practice.

And best of all, Basta likes it. He says it's way, way easier to do this than to ride the simple fluid trainer in the garage for an hour. Easier in the mental sense. You don't just sit there thinking, 'god, when will this be over.' There are plenty of stats to admire -- heart rate, power output, pedal efficiency. You can race against the virtual guy next to you. When you repeat a given course you can race yourself's previous performance. That feature is really cool.

I have yet to put my bike on it and try it out, but I'm going to this weekend. It's supposed to be rainy and windy for the next several days, so no real riding for me, either.

Whenever we buy an item like this, I like to calculate the cost based on number of workouts. This thing cost $1670, so that's what the first ride cost us. The next time he used it, two days later, the cost per ride went down to $835. Three days later, another ride, $556/ride. And so on. As of today we've put 10 rides on it, so the cost per ride is now $167. When it gets down to $10 per ride I'll consider it paid for, since that's what we pay for a spin class a the gym. That'll be 167 rides. I seriously doubt if I'll be tracking it that long. But right now it's fun to see the number drop rapidly.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Just in case it's not abundantly obvious to everyone, training in the off-season SUCKS. Big time.

The short days and the rain make for long hours on the treadmill and the trainer.

The holidays make for interrupted schedules and shuffling workouts to try to get them done.

The post-holiday blues make the training that much harder. Now it's just putting in the hours. No joy, no excitement, nothing to look forward to. It takes a dedicated athlete to train in the off-season.

Basta is dedicated. He's made up his mind to do this and he's doing the workouts. He's not enjoying it, though. He said this is really teetering close to this being, 'not fun.' He says he's not all that interested in doing an Ironman any more. He'll do the two Halfs that he's signed up for, then back off and stick to Sprints and Olympics.

That's fine with me. Who knows if that's what will really happen, though. This is just off-season blues talking at this point. We haven't had a competition in a while so there's been nothing to stimulate his excitement for competition.

He's not training with others, either. Training is largely solitary but joining a group can make it a lot more fun. He's a very social person and I think he'd enjoy a bike group, especially. He's been doing a lot of spinning lately and knows all of his fellow spinners now.

He's trying to change his workouts, too. If I have him down for a 90 minute run he wants to change it to 45 minutes today and 45 minutes tomorrow. I tell him, no, it doesn't work that way. He needs the long distance work to make the physiological changes in his body that only long distance will give him. He says, 'yeah, yeah, yeah, I know' but then runs 45 anyway. Sigh.

He is enjoying the benefits of training, though. His blood pressure is down to 93/60. His bodyfat appears to be nil. He says he wants to ingrain the routine of working out 6 days per week and continue that forever and ever, even if he stops doing triathlon someday.

That's an excellent goal. A goal I am working towards, too. The only reason we started triathlon was because it was a fun way to stay fit and become much more fit. Basta's desire for the podium has faded for now but it may rekindle with our next competition.

And that is the upcoming Surf City Marathon. We're both doing the Half Marathon. He's running a 10K in 48 minutes these days (7:58 pace), so I'm predicting he'll do this half in 1:46 or so. That'll be a PR.