Monday, April 14, 2014

March Review

It seems like the off season gets shorter every year, but the new racing season brings about exciting times. I opened up my season in Florida for the Clermont and Sarasota Continental cups the first two weekends in March.

Neither event was much to write home about. I had a solid race in Clermont but with the deep field, I did not perform up to expectations. I rode well and felt strong going on a break from the 2nd chase pack with Jason Pedersen, but we did not quite catch the primary chase.

I closed the race with a 16:50 for the 5.3 km course, only finishing 27th just ahead of 2012 Olympian Manny Huerta.

The next week in Sarasota, I wanted to really push the swim and just hang on. I thought I was doing that and exited in good but not great position. There was a large main chase pack forming and myself, Justin Roeder, Brandon Nied, Graham Leitch, Taylor Reid and a few others chased hard and just latched on. I had just pulled through when we made connection and as we went through transition, a Canadian in front of me fell and I got stuck behind that. I never went down, but lose valuable time after just putting out 6.3K of extremely hard work to catch the bunch. I ended up TT'ing with Graham the rest of the race and it was over from there. 34th place is not what I look for, but I have no choice to keep my head down and keep working.
The next week, I raced the Adrenaline 5k in Haddonfield, NJ to get a good workout in and keep feeling sharp. I ends dup running 15:19, so not bad but I really fell off pace the last mile. My running has been a bit behind from having an injury that kept me out of running until January 1 of this year.

I am excited to get going with the rest of the season. Next big ITU race is in Barbados where I had a great race last year. Happy training!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Physiology of Run Training

     Since it's the end of my semester, and I am just starting training again, I decided to make a series of posts regarding the training for triathlon (or the sports individually) from a physiological perspective and how it relates to what we as athletes do every day.

     I want to start with running for a few reasons. First, it's usually my favorite activity, I am currently coaching at high school team, and I have read a lot into the physiology of it and include that in my master's thesis.

     For triathletes, usually the "season" takes off in early spring and culminates around the fall. Most athletes, myself included, will train for two peaks within a season; one in the late spring, and the second in the fall. Because of this, I think it is very important to start finding the events in which you wish to race early, and you can plan your training from there.

     I think it is rudimentary to look at phases of training as black and white. Traditionally, a season of run training may look something like: 6-8 weeks of base, 4-6 weeks of aerobic specific training (tempo runs, fartleks, etc), and finally shorter speed training for the last few weeks of the season. While this is a pretty good plan, I think it is important to blend each of these phases while training.

    Backing up, lets delve into some of the physiology behind running fast. Your training should reflect well upon your racing goals. The first variable of importance will be lactate threshold. This is the point where your body cannot buffer lactic acid anymore because you are consuming more oxygen than you can take in and process. When exercising at a lower intensity, you are generally in what is known as "aerobic" exercise. Enough oxygen is present to fulfill the requirements of glycololysis (the method for which ATP is produced). As the intensity increases, the body requires more oxygen to keep up with the muscles' increased work load. At a certain point, the intensity crosses a point known as the lactate threshold, and the lactic acid produced as a byproduct of glycolysis can no longer be "buffered" by carnosine, and the body can only exercise in this "anaerobic state" for a few minutes. Because this lactate threshold pace is a pace that many 5k-10k runners and spring to olympic distance triathletes must operate in, I think it is very important to be cognizant of it and how to improve it.
    In order to improve lactate threshold, it is good to run at or around that pace for an extended period of time (no surprises here). The best way to know this pace would be from a lactate analysis in a physiology lab, but it can be reasonably estimated from various online calculators. One of my favorite ones is I think it can overestimate training paces at times, but it is not a bad idea to follow. To improve lactate threshold, tempo runs can help tremendously. During the winter or build season, I like to do longer tempo runs of 8-10 miles slightly slower than lactate threshold pace because it works a bit more on strength that will be called upon later. I will shorten those tempo runs to the calculated lactate threshold pace as the spring comes and races are closer. These workouts are a staple of my "base training" plan. I like to try to get on soft surfaces and run them off the track during the winter, but as they approach pace, I think they are good to do on a track where you can consistently measure times. Keep in mind, these runs are getting faster through the year, and by race season, they are to be done at a pace that will lower your lactate threshold or "LT". If you run way faster than your threshold, you will be unable to complete the 20-30 minutes of LT running, so it is good to lock into your goal LT pace. This is generally slightly slower than goal 10K race pace. Keep in mind, these runs at LT are only a piece of the picture.

    Next up is the long run. For triathletes, I think it is important to get a long run in for musculophysical reasons. Running long (25% or so of your weekly mileage). The long ride for triathletes takes care of some advances of long runs because your body becomes more efficient at fueling itself, but I think they are both necessary. For running specifically, the long run is a great workout and should be a staple of most build phases. Not only does it make the legs stronger physically (often a limiting factor in races 5K and up), but it also is a good mental test. I like to get 2- hour long runs in the winter at a pretty good base pace. You can find some recommended base paces, but from a physiological perspective, you want to run fast enough to be working, but not getting close to LT or a workout pace. From early Lydiard running days, the long run was emphasized for all runners racing events from 800 meters to the marathon. I believe there is a good reason to develop the aerobic system for all athletes as well, and the long run is a good method to improve musculoskeletal fitness. Furthermore, for marathon and ironman athletes, the long run allows for practice of proper fueling for the race. Practicing eating those foods which you hope to consume in the race. The long run can continue well into the season, but during the race season, the total distance should decrease with the intention of maintenance rather than lengthening.

     VO2 max is sort of a "buzz word" in running physiology. VO2 max is the maximal uptake of oxygen your body can consume during exercise. There are a number of apparatuses a VO2 max test may be done on, but for most, a treadmill will elicit the highest number (because more muscle groups are being worked, and therefore more oxygen must be proliferated). The VO2 max test consists of slowly increasing the grade and speed of a treadmill while monitoring VO2 and respiratory exchange ratio. (the ratio of oxygen consumed and CO2 expelled). A VO2 max test may also be estimated from an all out 6-8 minute run. There are more tables that will estimate VO2 max from 5K times. I do not think the actual number is completely necessary, but rather training of this "physiological ceiling" is important. Your VO2 max is as efficient as your body can be, and it is not highly trainable. When you do VO2 max workouts, they are very high intensity, and should be introduced about 3-4 weeks before your races start. As the season goes on, it is important to work more on VO2 max workouts than the others. An example of a VO2 max workout that I like is 6-8*600 or 5* 1000 meter repasts around 3200 or 3k pace. This should be a pretty intense session, and the rest should be 3 minutes or so. I like to get the 'feel' of running at this VO2 max pace. it is pretty well corroborated with 3K race pace, so it is likely faster than you will ever be running in a triathlon, but it is important to be efficient at this pace, so slower paces also become more efficient.

     The last topic I want to mention is maximal speed. I think there are usually two very polar schools of thoughts on this. One thinks it is of upmost importance in olympic distance racing and 5k-10k work, and the other thinks it is completely unimportant. As usual, the truth lies in the middle. It is important to have a fast top end speed for efficiency, but should not be the top point of emphasis. For this, during the build phase, 6-10 strides after maintenance runs help to maintain foot speed. Later in competition, workouts such as 10 200s with 200 recovery at mile race pace, followed by 10 200 uphills are good ways to maximize neurological efficiency and maximize your speed. These fast pace efforts can include "hill sprints' or 10- second hard efforts up hills at the end of maintenance runs to improve biomechanics and neurological efficiency.

As a finishing part of this post, it is important to run fast if you wish to race fast! Just consistent slow running can only get you fit, but not sharp. Doing faster pace efforts are beneficial to everybody! But, caution should be taken to ensure proper recovery from them.

Here is a sample outline of a mini season (6 month block) of just the run training.
Weeks 1-6 include building mileage and varying the paces of runs. Not every run should be the same pace! Strides should be done every run and hill sprints 1-2 times per week. A weekly long run should be added (20% of total mileage for runners only, and likely more for triathletes since they are not getting high running numbers). On days when you feel good, pick up the pace and see how it feels. Designate one or two days where you can do a fartlek such as 1 minute on/1 off, 2/2, 3/3, 4/4 and back down.
Weeks 7-12 Should continue emphasis on strength with longer LT runs. Find the level for which you are comfortable to run a bit slower than your LT pace for 40-60 minutes. Long runs should stay at a good distance. Strides should be continued. Hill repeats are another good workout to do for strength during this time. I would structure a week something like
     M- Maintenance run with 6-10 strides, T- Hill repeats, W- X train or easy run Th- Maintenance run with strides, F- 40-60 minutes slightly slower than LT pace Sat- Easy and Sun- Long run
Weeks 12-16 Now, racing is usually looming, and it is important to begin running at a pace where you want to race. Tuesdays can be switched for harder VO2 max type work, and tempos can be slightly shorter but faster. The long run is less important to be lengthy, and recovery becomes more important.
End of the cycle Continuation of what you are doing with the inclusion of some fast efforts well below race pace and all other workouts look to recover. 10- days out of a peak race, I like to do a hard session to lower muscle pH and simulate the race conditions well.

That is my running philosophy and some vague ideas about running. If you have any specific training or physiology questions, please do not hesitate to e- mail me at

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

2013 In Review

So it has come to the end of the triathlon season where seasonal reports abound and mixed feelings about the season usually hover in the air. It is a time for reflection on the year, your career thus far, and what you hope to accomplish in the future. Here is a short recap after I graduated undergrad at University of Delaware in Exercise physiology with minors in chemistry and spanish.

During the early season, I opened up at two continental cups in Florida, with a 29th in Clermont and a flat out in Sarasota. Pretty bummed about those, but prior to flatting in Sarasota, I had been in the mix for a top 10 finish. That gave me confidence moving forward.

Following those races, I had a fire inside me from a missed opportunity. I raced the Delaware Valley Duathlon, a local duathlon on a hilly course in 30 degree tempos. I won and set a current course record in the process, opening with a 15:39 5k leg on a hilly XC type course and gaining a minute on the closest racer.

Myself, Dave Slavinski (2nd), and Holden Comeau (3rd)

Following that, I raced in Barbados for my highest ever continental cup placing, 7th with the 3rd fastest run split. A recap of the race is shown here,
It was a rainy and difficult race, but I had a great outcome and I was excited.
Coming out of the chase pack racing hard
I ambitiously raced two non drafting races following Barbados in Knoxville for REV 3 knox and the 5150 Colombia Triathlon placing 19th and 12th respectively. Those were tough races for me with not having the top end 40K bike to really compete. I was still very happy with Colombia and loved the REV 3 vibe.
Highlight of REV 3 knox was coming out of the water next to Conrad, the Caveman Stoltz, 2* Olympian and multiple world champ in XTERRA
I traveled to the ITU continental cup in Dallas two weeks after Colombia 5150, but my rear deraileur got banged and damaged on the way there, causing major problems after swimming with the second pack. This was a pretty tough race for me. I did get to stay with three Canadian friends, Andrew Bysice, Aaron Thomas, and Emma Lujon, showing how ITU brings people together!

I took a mid season break before racing Philly Triathlon (or Tri Rock Philly), coming 7th professional in a not- so- great mid season race, where I just was happy to get it done. From there, I went to NJ for the NJ State triathlon to race some studs on the bike. I came 3rd in a race where I just did not have the run legs to close after a very hard 26 mph average bike.

Back to ITU racing in August for Elite Under- 23 World Duathlon Championships in Ottawa, ON, Canada. A few weeks of run specific work had me working hard, but not quite making the top group. A first 5k of only 15:20 did not make the cut, and I was chasing hard. I ended up 12th overall, not a bad result, but not what I had hoped for. Still a great race at a high level.
Above, on the second run leg and below working hard in the bike group as shown by the grit!

I then traveled north to Maine for REV 3 maine in probably my best non draft race of the year, despite only coming 15th. I swam well, biked a very solid 60 minutes even on a fair course, and ran 33:50 off a non draft bike. I was again happy, but not satisfied. Also, the day after the race, I began formal studying for my Masters in Biomechanics and Applied Physiology. Hopefully, once I am done that, I can afford to just train without school and maximize my potential.

In early September, I raced a local 5k with good prize money, Teri's Run, where I came 7th in a time of 14:59. First time breaking 15 in awhile, so that was good news!

I had two plane bad races in September including a hasty attempt at Savageman half iron distance race, while being quite underprepared. I had the race lead 30 miles into the bike, but by mile 40, I was toast. Then, I traveled to San Juan for a continental cup where I received a swift kick in the head and raced the rest of the event in a fog, later to find out, I had a minor concussion. I again roomed with three Canadians, Andrew Bysice, Tyler Bredschneider, and Domi Jamnecki. It's cool making friends across countries!

I did a hard effort on a 10- mile "light trail" race only 2 miles from my house in Newark, De where I ran mostly with my roommate, Andy Weaver for a 53:09 finishing time (2nd to him, and faster to the previous course record). It is mostly crushed rock and dirt trail along a river.
Myself, Andy Weaver, and Mike DiGenarro at the start

I shook that  mini concussion off for my final race of the year, the F1 double- super sprint triathlon in San Diego. I got to stay with two friends who live out there, and everybody racing knew one another. The individual event was extremely difficult, I do not think my HR has ever been that high for that long. With 800 meter bike loops and 6- corners, it was quite hard to get a break. Then we raced again in a relay format. I raced with my friend, Jason Pederson and we came 4th in another very hard effort. These races are definitely not friendly to runners, but an awesome opportunity to get better at ITU racing. I look forward to racing in more.

I am finishing up the 2013 season with Rothman 8K in Philly, November 16th with the hopes of running 24:45 or so. I feel like my run fitness is really high, and I'd like to end with a good 8k time. Looking forward to getting training for 2014 and a schedule on the way.

Monday, August 26, 2013

REV 3 Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Last weekend, I headed 8- hours north up the east coast to Old Orchard Beach, Maine for my second REV 3 race of the weekend. The start list was extremely deep with 37- male pro starters, making it the largest non- drafting pro field I have ever raced.

21:31, 90 seconds behind the leaders.
The swim was a run in to the Atlantic, a big rectangle, and long run out to t1 (0.3 miles). I got out pretty poorly on the start and found myself getting clobbered by the large pro field. I broke out of the second pack by the bouy at 400 meters, but did not catch the front pack. It was a bit disappointing because from the splits, there was a pack around 20 minutes and a second pack at 22 minutes with me lying in the middle. I did love my new Roka Maverick Pro and that made me feel much more comfortable than I ever have in a wetsuit swim. I have never enjoyed wetsuit swimming, but with this suit it feels much better.

Bike: 1:00:37, 24.8 mph
After the long run to T1, I got out of my wetsuit quickly and onto the bike in a sea of age groupers doing the half. It was fairly congested initially, but it broke up shortly thereafter. I was soon caught by part of that second group and I rode with Alex Willis, Vezina (CAN), and Justin Roeder for the majority of the ride. With the pro rules of staggered riding, it definitely makes for an interesting "dance" when the field is so large. We rode through a few fast swimmers, and we had a few people ride through us that retrospectively, I wish I had tried to go with. I felt like I was riding hard for 5 miles but the remaining 20 felt very comfortable. There was a group not too far up the road that rode mid 57 minutes. That may have been a bit too fast but I think I am getting close to that speed.  We came off the bike in 20-22nd position.

Run: 34:05, 5:30 pace
This was my best 10k in a triathlon of this season. I have been focusing a lot of biking/swimming for the past 1.5 years and I lack a lot of the speed I had when I ran track PR's. That is ok, because I am starting to get some of that back as I have been able to workout with my roommate, Andy Weaver, and the high school kids I am coaching. With getting the other two sports caught up to my running, I am feeling like a more well rounded triathlete. Just 2- years ago, I would swim decently, bike very slowly, then run a low 32' run. That was not effective to "race" a triathlon, so I am happy with my progress.

Next up is Savageman 70.0 distance triathlon... What? yeah, that was an interesting choice to sign up for that as my first long course triathlon! I am excited to race it and get a taste of this monstrous race.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

U23 World Duathlon Champs

This last weekend I had the opportunity to race U23 World Duathlon champs in Ottawa.  This is an ITU event and brought in quite a lot of talent. Only being 8.5 hours from my house, it was a great chance to get in an ITU race.  It even had a local feel as my mom, girlfriend, and her family came out to support.

Ottawa is a beautiful city and it was great to get there a few days before the race.

Onto the race. I had put in some great workouts heading into this race with a recent 3k just under 9:00 feeling comfortable and thinking that would be the pace for the first 5k of the race. I was a bit off as we took off and the first run was 14:35 for the leaders.  I ran mid 15:20s and was left in a bike pack of 6 that worked pretty well but we were unable to bridge up. I could feel similar calf cramping to last year's world du champs, so I was determined to stretch that and not let it lock up.

The bike had a very technical section each lap (3 lap course) with a crit style 4- corners and two chicanes and a 180 all rolled up together.  We could not ride this before the race, so it was a bit difficult seeing the scene for the first time.  As each lap went by, the turns felt more comfortable and it was a nice technical reminder.  At one point, a seagull was right on the apex of a corner we were coming to. Thankfully nobody hit it, but I thought that bird was about to get popped.

On the second run, I could feel my calves hurting a bit, so I eased into it.  It was only a 2.5 km run though, so that slow start certainly hurt my chances at a great split.  I finished up 12th overall for the U23 elite world champs.  Not the result I had hoped for, but not a bad day.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

New Jersey State Triathlon Addition to Schedule

I am really excited to add the New Jersey State Triathlon to my schedule this year.  After joining with the Philly Pro Tri team, I saw that this was one of their key team races.  This race draws large numbers with a sprint on Saturday followed by an Olympic distance on Sunday.  Because of this "festival" format, there will be a great range of talent, ability, and goals present at the race. The sprint is Saturday, June 20th and the olympic is the day following.

For information about the race, check out
to see their website.  There will be an elite wave as well as standard age group waves, so there is room for all!

I have a few thoughts on the race in general as to why I wanted to race it.  First, it has all the makings to become a major city race in the future (in my opinion).  It reminds me of how the Philadelphia Triathlon started as it grew in size and eventually attracted a world class field as well as a huge age group field.  Secondly, the course is really scenic.  From a video on their website, you can see the calm waters for the swim, a flat and seriously fast bike ride, and a great run in the park.  A lot of people say triathlon needs to incorporate more hills, but I think both a hilly course and a flat course are just about the same difficulty.  There are plenty of hilly races I've done (Del Valley Du, REV3 Knox, Columbia) that are definitely difficult, but you can move out of the saddle and never lose focus because things are always changing. A flat course makes an athlete stay motivated the entire time as you must stay tucked on the aero bars and focused on your output.

That's all for now.  If you are looking for a great race in the mid Atlantic area, check out The NJ State Triathlon and lets race!

Dallas Mishap

Nobody ever wants to detail a bad experience for them, but it helps to learn and grow from those times. The Dallas continental cup was certainly one of those experiences for me.  I arrived to the race Thursday before the Saturday race. After a few flight delays, I got into Dallas around 11 pm and found a cab to my hotel with three Canadian athletes I knew from other races. I did not assemble my bike until the next day, and all seemed fine.  I did my standard pre race routine of short swim, bike, and runs and plenty of sitting down and hydrating. All seemed okay, albeit feeling a little sluggish.

Come race morning (after splitting a pull out bed with Andrew Bysice), Andrew, Aaron Thomas and myself went to ride to the course and my bike was making a pretty terrible grinding sound.  I got to the race and an official threatened to disqualify all of us for "riding on the girls' run course." The funny thing was, we were not on the girls course at all.  After explaining this to an ITU official, the initial race official walked away with no other words and we were cleared to start.

On the way over, my deraileur was not working unless I was in the little ring. Definitely not good for a pancake flat ITU course. I brought it over to the race mechanic, and he eventually said he would take a look at it. I honestly have flown with my bike many times, and take good care of it, so I do not feel as though this was at my own fault. I always take the deraileur off to fly, but anyway this mechanic did not seem too happy to help. Regardless, he found out that part of my deraileur must have been "dinged" and although I did not feel it the day before, it was slowly getting worse by riding.  He tried to bend it back to the best of his abilities but I realistically only had 2-3 gears in the big ring. Those were the 12 and 13 cog in the back. After this adrenaline surge of trying to fix my bike, the officials moved the start up 20 minutes to hope to avoid the bad weather.  I was pretty frazzled and tried to keep my cool.

The race start went pretty well and I exited the water at the back of the second group (15:44- swim was short by a good bit).  We were told we were 50 second down to the leaders, and I was pretty excited to be in such a large group with some solid cyclists in it.  Then I was quickly reminded of my deraileur problems.  Every acceleration, I could not match as I was grinding in a big gear. After desperately trying to maintain contact with the group, My deraileur completely snapped into the little ring. I do not know the mechanism for how this happened, but I could not get it back into the big ring.  At this point, I was forced to call it quits as the group I was in rode up and away and I was in a small third pack for a bit but with no shifting, it did not help me and I eventually pulled off. That group was eventually lapped out anyway, and I know I could not have continued to ride in the little ring. Certainly not the outcome I had hoped for, but only a learning experience and I have to accept that it's part of the sport. Next up, Philly Triathlon!