Monday, April 26, 2010

My Metronome Arrived Last Week

I finally realized that I need to learn how to run. I don't know what took me so long. I have cycling books and magazines to help me learn how to cycle. I even have a book on swimming, despite being on swim teams in my youth. I figure since I've been running since I was a wee one, I must know how to run, right?

A few weeks ago I did a hard 5k training run and I just wasn't getting any faster. It didn't make any sense. How could my cycling and swimming be consistently improving and my running continue to suck? The answer I came up with is that it must be technique. So I headed over to Amazon and, after a look of review reviewing, I purchased "The Triathlete's Guide to Run Training" by Ken Mierke because many of its reviews mentioned technique.

One of the first ideas he presents is having a high-cadence run, ideally in the 180 strides-per-minute (spm) range. He strongly recommended that I get a metronome to help me in this quest. I would need to decrease my stride-length so I could move away from being a heel-striker and use the metronome to find out what my current cadence is. From there, I would gradually build up to the 180 range. Fortunately, they make these little electronic metronomes that are perfect for what I need so I bought one on eBay.

I went for my first runs with it over the weekend and what a difference! First, I could comfortably run at 164 spm. I had done a few runs the past few weeks where I decreased my stride length but having a metronome was interesting. It sure does keep you honest in the form department because you can't be turning over that quickly and have bad form for long. I did a five-mile run on Saturday and, only paying attention to cadence and form, turned in my fastest pace on a run over 5k. I wasn't even wiped out afterwards, either. There must be something to this cadence thing. Take a look at a marathon on TV and count out the cadence of the lead pack. They're at least 180 spm. It's something I hadn't noticed before.

Ideally I think I would like to move to more of a forefoot striker. Way back when I was briefly on my high school's cross country team. We ran barefoot for almost all of our workouts and the only way to run barefoot is by landing on your forefoot. We were all fine (and 100 pounds lighter, natch) so there must be something to this forefoot thing. We'll see later but, for now, I am just concentrating on getting the cadence up. I dabbled briefly with forefoot running but it trashed my calves so I will wait until after my June triathlon to play with it some more.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Report: Los Angeles Triathlon Championship Series #1 2010

Total Time = 1h 34m 12s
Overall Rank = 162/245
Age Group = Clydesdales
Age Group Rank = 6/11

Pre-race routine

Had my traditional Subway sandwich the evening before at 6, with some Ovaltine before bed. Woke up at 4am and downed some Nutella on toast. I had packed the night before so all was set to go. Left the house around 5:2t and arrived at a great time. Got a good parking spot and an aisle spot in transition.

Something different this time was I put some chamois cream in my trisuit. On longer courses, this suit (Garneau) caused some discomfort on the bike so, while I wasn't expecting that on this shorter course, I wanted to try out the cream in a race environment (i.e. with a swim).

Event warmup

Got in the water, got used to the temperature (which took faster than it usually does), and did a bit of swimming. Given my calf problem (see below), I wonder if I should start doing some running beforehand.


Distance = 500 meters
Time = 9:06
Age Group Rank = 7/11

For some reason these OWS really wear me out at the beginning. I think it's the nervous energy of the start of a race plus bumping into people. I really need to get over that. I also need to get over the need to start towards the back of the pack. While I'm not a FOP swimmer, I'm not BOP and I spend too much time passing people during the first hundred yards.

Once I got in the clear, things were okay. It looks like I have tendency to drift to the left so I guess I need to work on swimming with my eyes closed to fix that. Sighting was okay--better than in the past but still needs some work.

One thing that really helped was that I listened to the instructions at the beginning of the race. We were told that the round buoys were what we needed to pay attention to, not the oval ones. During the last leg I was sighting on the round buoy but I noticed that the vast majority of the pack (and by "vast majority" I mean "everybody I could see") was swinging wide around an oval buoy, further off to the right. No lifeguards told me to get back on course and as I was getting out of the water I heard the announcer tell an upcoming wave to use the round buoys (I think I was being used as a positive example). This saved me a bit of time.

I wasn't so happy with my effort (I felt slow and tired) until they posted the results and I saw my time. My timed pace was almost exactly my pace during a practice 500 that I did in a pool earlier in the week. Maybe the course is short but that pace would explain why I was so tired at the end of the swim.

What would I do differently?

I need to place myself more towards the front of the pack to avoid having to pass so many people. I'm handling swimming in traffic just fine (thank you high school water polo!) so I need to work on going out quicker to hang out up front.


Time = 2:32

I was so tired after the swim that I pretty much shuffled up (a hill) into T1. Wetsuit came off fine--only one foot got stuck. Hopped on the bike and went.

One weird thing was that as I was shuffling into T1, I felt a pain in my right calf. Calf pain after the swim? I've felt that pain before and it didn't bode well for the run. I hoped that the bike would warm it up for the run (it did).

What would I do differently?

Run instead of shuffle from the lake. Would have saved some seconds but I just couldn't do it.


Distance = 24 km
Time = 48:41
Age Group Rank = 8/11

I am so glad I previewed the course last weekend. I knew which hills to get out of the saddle for and which to stay seated. No turns surprised me. My gear changes were great. Despite my relatively low placing, I was very pleased with how I rode.

At the end of the ride I downshifted and spun, as well as standing up to flex my calves, so I could prepare for the run. Seems to have helped my run and the aforementioned calf pain.

I flaked in the fluids department, drinking only once. Didn't matter so much for this race but the coming races in this series will be longer and I'll need to drink on the bike because there will be consequences if I don't.

Chamois cream seems to have worked (i.e. survived the swim). We'll see for sure on the longer course.

What would I do differently?

I'm just not a 20 mph cyclist yet but I am 2 mph faster than last year so maybe next year? I'm sure a TT bike would have helped, too. Just gotta work more on the engine.


Time = 1:20

Not bad. I didn't have really good focus here, so that didn't help. I also need to practice getting my Garmin off the bike--I was kind of a mess doing that. I got into my shoes better than usual, though. I'd like to think it was the Body Glide I put on the shoes that morning.

What would I do differently?

Practice more than getting off the bike for T2. I have that part down. I need to do the "grab the belt and Garmin" thing better.


Distance = 5 km
Time = 32:33
Age Group Rank = 9/11

I just sucked here. The spinning and flexing I did on the bike, as well as my brick training runs, seemed to help me get going--I didn't feel exactly great but I didn't feel as awful as I did at UCLA last month. I did my high-cadence thing that I've been working on but I didn't feel all that good until two miles in. By then I had been so slow that it didn't much matter. Probably my worst (not slowest) run ever.

What would I do differently?

The next two races in this series are in the next two months, with bike legs of 40k. Since I don't need to do so much prep for those bike legs, my focus for the next two months is going to be the run. While I'm not going to get fast, I plan on getting faster.

Post race

Warm down

This was an odd one. I had some oranges, drank some fluids, and walked around. The weird thing was that I was a bit light-headed and my pupils appear to have dilated. I looked around and the whites were glowing white. It was weird because I didn't have to squint, so everything wasn't bright like that, but all the white t-shirts and white cars were intensely white. I'm guessing my pupils were dilated because of the exercise but I can't be sure. The light-headedness did go away after a while and I didn't faint (or feel like I was going to) so I guess all was well. Weird.

What limited my ability to perform faster?

The run (as usual).

Event comments

Nice race. Loved the swim in a lake, since I get seasick in the ocean. Challenging bike course (somebody in the clydesdale group cheated and only did one lap). Nice run course (wish I could have enjoyed it). The volunteers were awesome! Screaming teenaged girls! I felt like one of the Jonas brothers.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Report: Santa Clarita Century 2010

Time in the Saddle: 7:13:33
Elapsed Time: 8:30
Distance: 100.93 miles

So...many...hills. The event's website describes the course like this: "This is not an easy century. While not the hardest event on the calendar, it is still challenging with one lengthy climb, three shorter, but extended climbs, and several smaller hills." That's an accurate description and it tells me I'm not ready for Breathless Agony yet. ;-)

The plan was to draft as much as possible--shamelessly. In that, I was successful. I can really tell my gains from last year's half-century. I've moved from the back-of-the-pack to the middle-of-the-pack. On hills, too! Even in the last 20 miles I was able to go up hills slowly but faster than some of those around me.

I might have gone out too hard but I think it was just the difficulty of those hills. I asked at the top of Alisa Viejo how steep the climb was. Somebody said that at its steepest it was only 14-16%. Only?

I plan to have compact cranks installed on my bike at the end of this season so we'll see how that helps next year.

Though it got windy in the afternoon, the winds weren't grabbing my wheels on the downhills. Plus I sat up on a lot of them so I wouldn't be going too fast in the winds. That seemed to help. On the big downhill after the course high points I did hunker down. I was sad to see that I only hit 48 mph, though.

Working on my cornering definitely showed in the Mint Canyon part of the course. I didn't need to hit the brakes at all.

What would I do differently?

I made a mistake by not eating so much at the first SAG stop. It didn't affect me right away but it did later. I ate more at the next two SAG stops, though. Next time, eat a lot, including a coke, at every SAG stop.

On a supported ride like this, I think it's best if I leave the Snickers at home and put my gels in the Bento Box so my jersey pockets have more room for clothing layers as they get peeled off.

Forgot sunscreen. Though I did burn, good thing it's only April.

Event comments

Loved the course. From the start under a banner to the tough climbs that just kept coming on after another, to the last mile through neighborhoods, over a bridge, and down into the mall. We even had a police escort out of the city. Okay, I didn't love the climbs as I was doing them...

The expo seemed kinda lame but that will get better in the years to come (this was only the second time they've done the ride).

Lots of helpful volunteers at every water and SAG stop. They even cheered us when we reached the finish line. The volunteers were really great!

I look forward to doing this ride again next year.