Week 16/17 – A Little Science (6/2/14-6/15/14)

Since I did a special blog post to describe my experience at the GORUCK Challenge, I thought it would make sense to combine a couple of weeks of the training blog. I completed weeks 16 and 17, on my way to the 24-week goal. With just 7 weeks to go, I’m almost at the end of the Base 3 period, and getting ready for the final training phase, Build, which will finish up just before my taper.

There is no doubt that my fitness has improved. As regular reader of this blog very well know, I track everything, and I’m able to get a good idea of how, precisely, my fitness gains have come about. One of the metrics I’m using is Chronic Training Load, or CTL. To briefly describe the concept, as you regularly stress your body during training, there is obviously a cumulative effect. The three primary “glossary” terms to consider are Training Stress Score (TSS), Acute Training Load (ATL), and the metric that I’ve already mentioned, Chronic Training Load (CTL). TSS is a calculation that takes into account both intensity and duration, thus giving a more precise measurement of workout effectiveness. At the end of this post, I’ll include definitions and formulas. For the purposes of simplicity within this post, I’ll put this in the context of cycling, although these concepts apply equally to all the disciplines.

My CTL, essentially, tells me how much training stress I’ve adapted to by this point. I strive to have my CTL improve each week. It’s a 42-day average, so one huge session, or even one pretty full week, only increases the CTL by a measured amount. From other reading I’ve done, top professionals, such as Craig Alexander or Chris Macca, have a CTL of about 140 at race time. This number is less as the ability/performance level goes down, with top age-groupers at about 120 (those qualifying for Kona.) Solid finishers in age group categories may end up between 90-100. At the beginning of my training plan, I set my CTL goal to be 112 by race day. Due to various factors, such as work, cross training for GORUCK, missed workouts, and abbreviated workouts because of home obligations, I’m behind on that goal. See the chart below for where I am as of the end of Week 17. The best I can really hope for now, if I stick to the training plan 100 percent, would be a CTL of approximately 100 on race day. As you can see in the chart, one flaw in the approach was that I intended to have a CTL of 40 when the training plan began, but I was just over 20, so I began at a huge deficit. With 7 weeks to go, the discipline has to be perfect to allow my body to perform under the stress I intend to inflict upon it…

As for the last two weeks of training, the GORUCK Challenge played heavily into the schedule. In Week 16, I missed both the long ride and long run, substituting them with that epic event. In Week 17, I had some extra recovery time. The Challenge was extraordinarily hard, and I was quite sore for about 3 days. I was back in the swing of it by Wednesday, and had two very good swim workouts during the week. I made a subtle change to my stroke technique that resulted in a great improvement in my efficiency. Given that the swim is the leg that I’m most concerned about, I’m really happy to see it coming together. All told, I did more than a half-ironman distance swim on both Thursday and Friday, followed by a strong ride on Saturday, where I rode the Ironman 70.3 course the day before the event. Even though I had to change a flat, I still finished in 2h45m, so that bodes well for the bike leg. Finally, I did a half-ironman distance run on Sunday, keeping it in zone 2 the entire run, and finished in just over 2 hours.

There’s actually a great, detailed reference here for those that are as anal-retentive as I am: http://www.endurancecorner.com/wko_definitions

So, that being said, now it’s time to start making race-day predictions… IF my discipline is good, and I stick to the training plan, and IF my nutrition is solid for next 7 weeks, and IF bad things (such as flat tires) don’t happen on race day, then… my prediction of times for the race will be as follows:

Swim: 1h25m
T1: 10m
Bike: 6h20m
T2: 5m
Run: 4h45m
Total: 12h45m

I can do better than this, I think, but I want to be realistic, at the same time. After all, it is my first full Ironman…

Alright, gotta run. On the road in Chicago for the week, and have to get those workouts in!!!

Until next week…

Train on!!!

Glossary Terms (from The Power Meter Handbook, by Joe Friel)

Normalized Power (NP): An expression of average power adjusted for the range of variability of power during a ride. A better reflection of the metabolic cost (“kiloCalories”) and effort of a ride than “average power.” In running or swimming, this would be measured as Normalized Pace (NP).

Intensity Factor (IF): The ratio of a rider’s Normalized Power to Functional Threshold Power. An indicator of how challenging the workout or segment thereof was in terms of intensity only.

Functional Threshold Power (FTP): The highest mean maximal power a rider can sustain for 60 minutes. In running or swimming, this would be measure at Functional Threshold Pace (also FTP, just to make it confusing…)

Training Stress Score (TSS): The workload of a training session based on duration and intensity. TSS = (workout duration in seconds x NP x IF) / (FTP x 3600) x 100

Acute Training Load (ATL): The recent workload of training (such as the past 7 days) as defined by the frequency, intensity, and duration. Expressed as Training Stress Score per day. It’s the average of TSS/day for the most recent 7 days.

Chronic Training Load (CTL): The workload of a relatively long period of time (such as 6 weeks) defined by the frequency, intensity, and duration. Expressed as Training Stress Score per day. It’s the average of TSS/day for the most recent 42 days.


Race Report – GORUCK Challenge (June 6-7, 2014)

GRC Logo
What is GORUCK?

Group Photo

GORUCK Challenge Class 1051 Boulder, Colorado, USA June 6-7, 2014

Wow. I guess that’s the best way to start this post. I believe this was the hardest physical effort I’ve done since I left the military, 21 years ago. Thankfully, I’ve been preparing for this event for awhile.

Heading Out

Heading out!

First, some background. What is GORUCK? For those of you that have never heard of it, GORUCK is a company that manufactures equipment for the US military’s elite special operations forces, and also makes that equipment available to the general public. The company was started by a former Special Forces soldier (aka Green Beret). He decided to hold events, with some of the proceeds going to support the Green Beret Foundation, a charity that helps the families of Special Forces soldiers that were killed or injured in combat. The event I did is called the GORUCK Challenge, which is the second tier of difficulty for their events. It consists of carrying bricks in a rucksack (4 bricks if you’re under 150 lbs, 6 bricks if you’re over 150), an American flag, and a team weight. Our weight happened to be a motorcycle inner tube, filled with sand, and sealed with duct tape. It weighed about 30 lbs. Our team consisted of 28 people (25 guys, 3 girls), plus the cadre, Adam, who is a US Marine. GORUCK events take place all over the world. A challenge is supposed to last 8-10 hours, and cover 15-20 miles. Nobody is allowed to carry a phone or a watch, so nobody knows what time it is, or how long/far you’ve been moving. You can see more info here: http://www.goruck.com/en/Events#.U5cek00U-Uk

No, I'm not puking...

Not gonna puke… not gonna puke…

Tim Carrying Mark

Fireman’s Carry

The Beginning: Our challenge began in Boulder, Colorado. It lasted 12 ½ hours. Whew… It began at 9pm, in a little park called Chataqua Park, in Boulder. Once we were all gathered in the park, the cadre introduced us to the concept of a “welcoming party” where we spent roughly two hours performing a variety of physical tasks, to include bear crawls, crab walks, and fireman’s carries. Just for context, my ruck, with bricks, water, and other supplies, weighed about 55-60 pounds. Carrying that wasn’t particularly easy. However, carrying my ruck, AND a person that weighs 180 pounds, was a bit harder… not to mention they ALSO had a 55-60 pound ruck on. Sprinting up and down hills with that load almost made me puke… almost. After just this initial two hours, everyone was soaked in sweat, and exhausted. Only 10+ hours to go…

Bear Crawl

Bear Crawl

The Log

The Log

Crab Walk

Crab Walk

A Walk in the Park: Upon leaving the park, we walked toward downtown Boulder. It was downhill, so would not have been so bad, if the cadre hadn’t found a big, heavy log on the side of the road for us to carry. We proceeded down to Boulder’s Central Park, where we did another hour of grueling physical exercises. We did bear crawls while dragging a person underneath us, crab walks, duck walks, and two bizarre activities called the Tunnel of Love and the Stupid Frog. At the same time we were going through this challenge, another group was doing a challenge in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The cadres knew each other, so we were treated to the opportunity to do a team push up contest. We ended up beating their team total by more than 100 push ups, but it was at the expense of any strength we had left in our arms. After at least another hour of this fun, once we were thoroughly spent, we formed up and marched on down to a convenience store, where we restocked everyone’s water supply. Most, if not all, had already gone through 3 liters of water by this time. I also took the opportunity to eat a Bonk Breaker bar, as well as consume my second gel of the evening. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through training for Ironman, it’s that nutrition and hydration are keys to success, and without them, almost assured failure. HYDRATE EARLY, HYDRATE OFTEN!!

Getting Wet

Crawling through the stream

Climbin' Up That Hill

Climbing Red Rocks Trail

Up, Up and Away: Up into the mountains we trudged, up steep, slippery trails, through streams (where we were required to crawl on our stomachs through freezing water), and up a rock face to the top of the nearest peak. For this climb, I volunteered to carry the team weight, so that added about 30 pounds to my load. Since we weren’t moving quickly enough to make the cadre happy, we were required to select two group members to carry up the slope, so we carried two of the girls, who were the lightest group members. We knew things would get worse, so we were pacing ourselves. At the top of the mountain, after climbing more than 1,000 feet, we had our first break of the night, and rested for 15 minutes. Thankfully, we were able to put our rucks on the ground and give our shoulders a rest. Another gel, and another Bonk Breaker bar for me at this point. I pulled my windbreaker out of my pack, too, because I was soaked to the skin, and the outside temp was about 42F. Down the mountain, slipping and sliding on loose soil and rocks, we made our way back to where we began climbing. As we crossed the road, and worked our way back toward Boulder, Cadre Adam happened upon a couch…

The Couch

The Couch

It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn: Cadre Adam had one team member lay on the couch, and six team members carried the couch for the next several miles. We swapped out team members as individuals got tired, which become more and more frequent. Before long, I had my windbreaker open, then off altogether. This was really getting tough! After a couple of miles, to keep the guy on the couch from getting a break, he jumped down, and we put the log onto the couch, and carried it that way. Along the way, Adam spotted a truck tire, so he threw that onto the couch also. It was becoming heavier and heavier. We could see the sun starting to come up on the Eastern horizon, giving us some idea of what time it may be. We all remained soaked in sweat, and completely exhausted. Throughout the event, the cadre would designate a Team Leader (TL) and Assistant Team Leader (ATL). I hadn’t been designated yet, but I knew it was only a matter of time… I took several turns helping to carry the couch, and also spent a good amount of time with the team weight. We were walking along the bike path next to Boulder Creek, when Adam spotted a sand volleyball court. With an evil gleam in his eye, he asked the group, “Has anyone ever heard of a sugar cookie?” We all groaned. He had us bury ourselves completely in the sand, rucks and all. We had sand in our eyes, ears, noses and mouths, not to mention everywhere in our clothes, and it stuck to us because we were wet. Misery. We got the couch back in the air, and moved along. We kept along the bike path until we reached another park. We placed the couch next to the path, and grouped up in the middle of the park.

Worm Pushup

Worm Pushup

The Hill

The Bear Crawl Returns


Human Zipper

Zombieland: The sun had finally come up, and we were in a circle in the middle of Carpenter Park. Even though it was now light enough to see, we were like a group of walking dead. There were many people with cramps, sore joints, and other painful ailments. We were also out of water. Cadre Adam was asked to let us head over to a water fountain and refill our water supply, but we had to earn it first. We lined up at the bottom of the hill, and had to bear crawl all the way to the top, where we turned around and crab walked down to the bottom. Everyone in the group could only move 5 or 10 feet at a time before having to stop and rest. We were reorganized into a line on our backs, and formed a “human zipper.” Each member of the team had to “crowd surf” from one end of the line to the other, multiple times. As we laid on our backs, and attempted (sometimes in vain) to hold our teammates above our heads, we were showered with sand from all the cracks and crevices in their clothes and packs, and once again, it went into our eyes, noses and mouths. We continued by forming a line to do huge push ups as a group, They’re called worm push ups because it looks like a worm, as the whole group tries to lift up at once, layered on top of each other. After several attempts, the cadre showed some mercy, and we were able to make our way over to the parking lot for another break. Morale remained high, despite everyone’s pain and fatigue. We spent some time eating and drinking (yep, another Bonk Breaker for me) and getting as much sand as possible out of uncomfortable, unmentionable places.

Leading the Herd: As we finished our break, Adam came over to me and designated me the Team Leader. He didn’t assign an Assistant Team Leader, but rather looked at me, and told me I had exactly 20 minutes to assemble the team, and make it to my objective. The objective he gave me was about 1.6 miles from where we were standing. As a triathlete who has been training as much as I have, 20 minutes sounded generous, but when I considered the weight we had to carry, and our level of fatigue, it was going to be a real challenge. I got everyone ready to go in about 0 seconds, and we set off at a slow jog. As team members fell behind, I assigned others to carry their ruck for awhile, so they could recover. We wound our way through the streets of Boulder, and in a final sprint, arrived as a team at the intersection I had been told to head to. Unfortunately, we missed the time limit by 45 seconds, so we were certainly going to pay the price. Again. I was told to assemble the group into a single file line, and get ready to do the “Elephant Walk” which means to put your left hand between your legs, so it could be grasped by the person behind you, with their right hand. We formed a bent-over line of people, who now had to wind our way up the stairs for all five levels of the parking garage that sat at the corner of the intersection. We went up the stairs that way, then back down. Thankfully, I was then relieved of my duty as TL.

Home Stretch: Upon leaving the parking garage, there was no mercy from the cadre. We were divided into multiple teams, and each team was assigned a “casualty” that needed to be carried from that point forward. We started with four teams of seven members, so there was plenty of folks to rotate through the duty of carrying another person, or at the very least, someone else’s ruck. As we walked, team sizes got reduced, and additional casualties were assessed, to the point where we had nine casualties. Essentially, on each three-person team, one person was a casualty, one was a carrier, and the third person carried all the gear. We were under a time limit again, so we had to move quickly uphill toward the finish. We made it back to Chataqua Park, now 12 hours after we had started. We were so excited to get to the end that we were running and cheering, at least until we realized that we weren’t quite done…

Final Exam

Final Exam

Final Exam: Adam gathered us into a circle in the middle of the park. Twelve hours earlier, during our introductions, Adam had said that we would get to know each other by name, and learn a fact or two about each other. He even mentioned there would be a test. I guess some though he was kidding… he wasn’t. He looked at our circle, and asked for a volunteer to come forward and state each team member’s name, and two facts. Nobody could do it, so we were assigned more bear crawls, sprints, pushups, etc. Adam would re-form us into a circle, and ask again. While in the circle, we usually had to hold our ruck over our heads, or sometimes straight out in front of us. Most (including me) couldn’t sustain this, and every time a ruck dropped down, it was more bear crawls. We finally figured it out, and used teamwork to get everyone’s name right, and say something about them. Adam was pleased that we were working as a team. He formed us into two rows, and said we had only one more thing to do. Adam’s MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was 321, so he told us to do 321 burpees, then it would all be over. I’ve never done more than 50 burpees in a row in my life, but I wasn’t going to give up. As it turns out, this was the last demonstration of teamwork required, so the 28 team members did 13 burpees each, which exceeded the 321 required. We were done!

I’ve been sore for two days following the event, but it was a great experience. I’ll have friends for the rest of my life from within the group.

Week 15 – The Home Stretch (5/26/14-6/1/14)

Here we are, just having finished Week 15. With just 9 weeks to go at this point, it’s good to have the feeling that my bike and run abilities are coming along well. I am still struggling with the swim, and will be focusing on this to ensure success on race day. It’s such a small portion of the race, from a time perspective, but can be disastrous for the unprepared. Many will attempt this race, and fail on the swim portion. To that end, I will indeed do whatever I have to in order to succeed. I’m dedicated to the preparation.

One of my favorite quotes:

Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t. – Jerry Rice

Jerry Rice, for those unfamiliar, is a retired American football legend, who played the majority of his career for the San Francisco 49ers football club. He won three Super Bowl rings during his 20 year career, and is considered by many as the best player of all time. The attribute that he is best known for is his relentless preparation. Rice is remembered for his work ethic and dedication to the game. Jerry RiceIn his 20 NFL seasons, Rice missed only 10 regular season games, 7 of them in the 1997 season, and the other 3 in the strike-shortened season of 1987. His 303 games are by far the most ever played by an NFL wide receiver. In addition to staying on the field, his work ethic showed in his dedication to conditioning. One of the best known examples of his dedication and ethics may be “The Hill”, a long and steep hill that is “two and a half miles up”; Rice would sprint across the hill literally every day to improve his abilities. “The Hill” has served as an inspiration for many other players in 49ers organization, among them former first-round pick wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, who neglected to train with Rice on “The Hill”, and was subsequently traded. Known as one of the best blockers at his position, there was no aspect of playing wide receiver at which Rice did not excel.

What we can learn from this is the importance of work ethic. Yes, we sometimes suffer when we get out of bed extra early for a swim workout, or when we compromise family time to get our long rides/runs done, but this dedication – this work ethic – is what can set us apart. I am committing to doing what I have to do for race day success, and that includes finishing every swim workout, and having an exceptional work ethic. I will not fail.

Workout Report

I was home again this week. Instead of the typical Monday recovery day, I ran the Bolder Boulder 10K race. It was a decent fitness test, and I ran the race primarily in zone 2, then zone 3 at the end, to simulate race day pace. Even my low-heart-rate training runs are beating my previous PRs, so that’s a good sign, I’m sure. The running is going well. I also spent time doing some specialty training, by running with a rucksack on. I’ll be participating in the GORUCK Challenge on June 6-7, so I’m in the final stages of preparation for that. On both Wednesday and Friday, I did my normal run workouts, but also did a short, slow run with a 40-pound rucksack on my back. The shoulders are getting a key workout. I’m ready! Since I’m racing in the Boulder Peak Triathlon (Olympic) on July 13th, I’ll be doing my long rides on that course, to familiarize myself. Also, the Ironman shares part of that course. On Saturday, I rode the course, then an extra 28 miles. Great ride. On Sunday, I had a nice long run of about 12 miles. My friend, Roy, ran a 5K on Sunday, and finished in 20:18. Not only is that a great time, but he is 52 years old, and he was keeping up with the college track stars! On top of that, he told me that’s a comfortable 10K pace for him. Nice job, Roy! You’re an inspiration, so keep it up.

Week 15

Nutrition Report

The nutrition aspects of training are going well. Since I’ve been doing this for 15 weeks already, everything is pretty much habit. Being at home makes it easier, but I’m finding it not to be a problem when I’m on the road, too. Over the course of this training plan, I lost weight at first, dropping almost 15 pounds right at the start. I started at 180 pounds, but I’ve been sitting at 166 for the last 7 weeks, so that’s clearly going to be my race weight. I went from 16% body fat down to 9%, and now I’m about 7.5%. That’s probably the biggest change. As the training demands have increased, so have my caloric requirements. I was eating about 2,200 calories a day initially, and now I’m over 5,000 per day.

I’m on the road again for at least two weeks in June (maybe even three), so the rides will suffer, but running and swimming won’t be a problem. The end of the week will culminate in the GORUCK Challenge, so that should be interesting. I’ll do a full report on that.

Until then…

Train On!!!