Ice…

Running has been going well, with a 55 minute run last weekend and no notable injury yet, so hopefully this keeps up!

Yesterday morning I went out for a run intended to be 40-45 minutes, but was met with a thin sheet of ice coating the entire city, with freezing rain continuing. I mentioned before that I have never had issues running in the Winter with my usual runners, but yesterday marked an end to that.

Right out the back of my building is a sidewalk slanted slightly down to get to the parking lot that leads to the road, and I didn’t have to step to get down, there was a wind coming from behind me that, combined with the ice, just let me slide down without effort. I carefully walked to the road, hoping it would be better being salted/sanded, but it was completely coated as well. Walking a few blocks to where I do my warmup I was slipping and sliding, and almost the entire run was mayhem.

There were some thin sprays of salt and sand covering maybe 10% of the roads, and I was happy to always hop on if I saw one, but otherwise everything was sketchy. I went around a corner and, for lack of a better term, drifted the corner on my shoes as I couldn’t keep from the outside slide. I was going fairly slow with my heart rate frequently dropping to zone 1, but the ice was brutal. I changed my route to avoid hills, and about halfway through decided to just do 30 minutes and bail on the rest.

I had been slipping all over, but not fallen over, though one near fall. A few blocks from the end I have no idea what happened, maybe tried to take a corner too tight, but one step simply went out and I fell back on my right elbow and then full back. Lay there for a few seconds before getting up and finishing. Wow. What a nightmare.

The weather forecast called for this turn to snow soon, so I was hoping my bike across town a few hours later would be OK, but when I went out to check a couple hours later the ice pellets were coming down like crazy and the thin sheet of ice coating the city had been upgraded to a thick sheet of ice. I figured biking would probably not be the greatest idea, so got the runners on and had to run across town instead. The ice pellets were fortunately quickly turning into wet snow, so grip wasn’t much of an issue anymore, but in the end I ran almost 20km. Not bad for a planned 40 minute morning run…

While this cross town run wasn’t in the best circumstances, things felt a lot better than last time, and I got both directions in just under an hour, with minimal ankle pain, so things are looking up! (Amusingly, given the prep time with the bike, it looks like the run commute is about the same time investment, so it’s not too much of an inconvenience given I’m not dead today and swam a good 2500m. Still thinking the next time I run and everyone else cancels their appointment I should just bring a bottle of whiskey and give everyone a treat after(/during?) the lift!)

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Breakthroughs

A breakthrough workout is one where you basically try to break the status quo, and do something your body is not used to in order to ‘shake up’ training and prevent plateaus. While the usual use of the term is for physical, e.g., higher intensity than usual, or longer than usual, there can also be mental breakthroughs in much the same way.

I did not forget my lock for my swims on Wednesday, Friday and this morning (or Thursday for gym work) and while this was great, that’s not a breakthrough… I felt much better in the pool this morning, so things seem to be going well there, but the breakthrough I want to mention was a run over the Christmas holidays.

I have been trying to get back in to running since probably August 2011, a few months after the accident. I was excited when the hospital physio finally progressed me to the treadmill, and even though we started at a 1.0, things improved quickly and all was going well. Then school started, things got busy, and I let it go.

Summer of first year, got back into it a bit. Still working through the recovery, it wasn’t easy and I mostly did short runs. School started again, and running took a back seat. Then in the summer I really wanted to get back, so I joined a study looking at running for ‘inactive’ people. They were comparing high intensity interval work (HIIT) with just running 30 minutes 4 times a week, and I fortunately got slated in the running group so had a month where I couldn’t let running slip.

I met some fun people, had some nice conversations and enjoyed the month, but once that came to an end I was on my own, and pushed myself a bit harder than I should have. In a few weeks my ankle was hurting and I decided I had to ease of running to let it heal. Next year, same thing again, I got back in, pushed too hard, and my ankle started hurting, so I backed off again. No matter what I did, every time I tried to get back in to running something went wrong and I didn’t continued.

This is where the breakthrough comes in. Over the holidays I had to bike across town on a Thursday afternoon for an appointment at the athletic center, and while I’m no stranger to riding in the snow, I checked the roads a couple hours early and they looked bad. The snow was coming down heavy, and even the busiest roads weren’t clear, so I decided to play things safe and run instead. Now I had been running lightly for a couple months now — mostly zone 1 running, and for no more than 30 minutes — but this was across town! This isn’t exactly a big city, but I was still planning on it taking anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes. Concerned about my ankle I was leaving the full 90 in case I ended up having to walk most of the way, but I was hoping just running slowly would be OK.

I take off early, even playing it safe on the walk time, and just walk for about 10 minutes, get out of the downtown area and decide it’s time to run. Maybe 3 minutes run and 2 minutes walk? I’ll see how I feel as things go. Running along a long block, I figure I’ll just walk at the next intersection, but it turns green right before I arrive and I figure why not keep running a bit more. Feeling OK.

This goes on until I get to a part where the sidewalk is completely snow covered and I can’t even tell where it is, so I am dipping into in-and-out driveways, running through car sales lots, and jumping on the road when there is no traffic behind me (and waiting for traffic when this wasn’t possible) but things keep up. Still feeling OK, I am over halfway across the city, up the only real hill, and just the last stretch to go. Still going!

Let me reiterate, I was going slower than I have possibly ever run, to try and make sure I was not putting any extra stress on the ankle than necessary. Regardless, I head along the last long road, and I am just a few hundreds meters away when 60 minutes has gone by. Not only have I somehow survived with no ankle pain, I am actually making a decent time! Moreover, because I left expecting perhaps a 90 minute washout, I had a lot of extra time, so I figured I would walk around an extra loop in the area instead of heading straight to the athletic center and waiting. I was going to walk the whole thing to get a good cool down, but after a few minutes I still felt good enough and wanted to run a bit more, so slow and steady I took it up again and kept going.

I ran almost all the way there! Maybe about 75 minutes, and no ankle pain, legs tired of course, but well. I was blown away, but before getting too excited, I then had my appointment, and had to get home after. I had a one hour session in the gym there, so figured I would just walk a slowwww walk home since my legs would be even more brutalized at this point, but as I stood on the sidewalk to head home I just felt like trying running, and sure enough, as before, kept things slow and I ran home.

Now I had to wait at some intersections, I walked some of the sketchy (snow/ice-y) parts, and walked maybe 1-2 km each way as a warm up or sketchy breaks, so it’s not quite what it sounds, but I made it. Almost 3 hours on foot with a 1 hour session at the gym in between, and my ankle was fine. This was a breakthrough for me, as slowing down seemed to avoid whatever kept on happening to my ankle, so I have been a bit more aggressive with getting my running volume up while taking advantage of long run = slow run, and so far things are still fine. If you’ll knock on wood with me, this year may be the year I finally get back into everything! *Knock knock knock*…

(Also, while my ankle was fine, I threw my compression pants on and basically lay down for the rest of the day, apart from walking the dog, and took alllll of Friday off, slept in, anything and everything to help the legs as they had been destroyed, regardless of the success!)

Training in paradise

I had been meaning to write a little more over the last few weeks, but the holiday season was pretty hectic (though fun!) and then I got a bit of a congested nose and dry throat (on top of the humidity bottoming out lately) so I didn’t get a chance. But things have been exciting!

I have been mostly doing light swimming, spinning and running so far, nothing specific. I divided up the 32 weeks until my first potential goal race into batches of 4, and today marks the first 4 week segment where the focus shifts to some force and muscle work as well. I had only loosely outlined the 32 weeks with ideas of each 4 week phase in November, but spent a lot of time last weekend putting in some more details, writing out goals and ideas of what to focus on where to best meet them, hours and timing to safely be in half iron shape by June, and I was getting excited seeing everything come together. (I am using The Triathlete’s Training Diary to do this. I have had this for years, but never used it. Finally decided to use this instead of random scraps of paper and spreadsheets, and it’s really great!)

Next I spent some time writing out what workouts I would be aiming to do over the next 4 week phase, and I was just looking forward to everything more and more. Sure enough, morning comes and I am getting ready to get my first workout in, an easy swim of 50s, 100s and 200s. I get to the pool and…… crap, I forgot to bring my locker lock. Wallet, keys and phone all with me, no lock….. It’s -15 out and snowing, so while my clothes are less valuable, I would have been screwed if those disappeared while I was swimming. I am excited for this next phase, so I do NOT want to bail on the very first workout, so I wrap my pants with keys/phone/wallet in my towel and bring that out to the pool while leaving my clothes in an unlocked locker, hoping for the best. (I didn’t really expect anything to be taken as I haven’t heard any bad stories about this place, but the signs warning us to lock all our valuables certainly weren’t offering their support.)

Next step, in the pool. New Year’s resolution time doesn’t seem to make the pool too busy, so I get a lane all to myself. My brother got me (a really awesome) Tempo Trainer for Christmas, which I have used a couple times now, and had it on again today. Just swimming a light warmup to start I had it on but not beeping yet, and a few strokes down the pool I hit it with my arm. Strange as I never hit it before, but maybe my stroke is off. All is fine after.

At the other end of the pool I am ready to turn back, but just feel like checking if I was hitting the thing because it was sitting wrong. Touch, touch, touch? It’s not there? Crap…. I must have knocked it off with that hit! No more warmup, just going to look for the thing now. Swim back, can’t see it. Alright, another back and forth, slowly looking left and right on the bottom. Can’t see it. One more time, looking really carefully, I see a few things in the deep end and decide to dive down and take a look. Nope. Next. Nope. Crap! I can’t see anything, so it’s time to go to the lifeguard, tail between my legs, asking for help. “Um, I lost something in the pool, what are my chances of finding it?” She asks what it is, what colour it is, and we start walking along the pool in search. Maybe 10m down she spots it FLOATING pretty much where I felt I hit it. It floats. It FLOATS. I had been swimming by the thing each time staring at the bottom of the pool while passing it. “Thanks!” as I hop in, grab it and get back to normal.

Warmup is a toss up, so on to drills. The Tempo Trainer stays on, all is well. Get to main set, and halfway through I decide to call it a day. The locker being open, the Tempo Trainer falling off, oh well. Hop out of the pool and, as expected, the locker and my things are just fine. (Thank you world!) I still swam about 1000m, so the day wasn’t a complete loss, and on days like today you can only really laugh at yourself and imagine how things can only get better from here!

Shameless plug: As per the hectic holiday time, most of it came from my deciding to build this! (Lots of fun, and surprisingly simple, but time consuming.)
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Winter training (part 1)

While I’m still deciding on a look to go with here, a reasonably informal post seems appropriate, so let’s talk winter training!

Many don’t like training much through the winter because, fair enough, it’s cold, and it’s busy with the holiday season, new year plans, etc…. Things can be hectic, why not take a break? Of course taking a week or two off completely is perfectly fine, and even a good idea for your body if you are coming to the end of a hard training/racing season, but I have not, and fitness can disappear quickly if you stop altogether for too long, so I’m going to keep going as I feel great finally getting back into all three sports. But how does this work with snow, ice and all the fun winter obstacles in the way?

Well for the swim nothing really changes. The pool felt a little bit cooler this morning, but after a few hundred meters all was fine. Winter is a great time to drop back on distance and put an emphasis on form, doing loads of drills, to make your stroke more efficient and hence swim easier. I have enough room to improve so this is my focus until I’ve brought my stroke per length down (while keeping stroke rate reasonably high).

For the run and the bike you can be outdoors, but you need to dress appropriately! My rough rule of thumb is: for the run, dress for walking around in about 10 degrees warmer than it is, and for the bike closer to 15 because of the added wind chill. For example, when it’s hovering around 0 I can wear normal running pants (or shorts, though below 0 and I try to keep my skin from being exposed) and a light base layer along with a thin windbreaker. That’s usually enough. Light wool gloves keep the hands warm if the air is crisp, and good to go. If it goes below 0 I tend to wear a light toque as I am not a fan of cold ears.

Below -5 and I’m definitely wearing a running toque, even for a short run. Below -5 is also when I usually shift from usual running pants to thermal tights. Nothing too heavy, but adding a bit of insulation is nice. Similarly, for the upper body a thin thermal layer may be nice over the base layer, with the thin windbreaker if it’s windy out. It isn’t until it gets below -10 that I want a thermal windbreaker and a pair of (usually windbreaking) gloves over the thin wool gloves. (Over them, so wearing two pairs. The thin wool is the best insulation you can get since wool can still insulate when you sweat, whereas most thermal gloves lose a lot of their ability to insulate if you sweat in them, so can be risky unless the temperature is perfect. I have tried many different thermal gloves that all claim to be the best for subzero, and I have not found a pair that works on its own.) I have run in -30 with a wind chill feeling like -40 and haven’t needed more than this, though a light pair of pants over the tights is nice for the pockets to hold keys.

One important thing is to leave space between the tights and pants since the air between the layers is warm from your body heat and leaving some air to warm up from the body instead of just letting the heat escape through each layer helps insulate. (If you have two tight layers one on another you can lose this free insulation!) I run in the same running shoes all year round, though you can add traction clips (e.g., Yaktrax) if it’s very icy. So far just slowing down a bit – though not that much – on sketchy roads has worked for me.

On the bike, shift by 5 degrees, e.g., before it goes below 0 and I put a toque under the helmet and tights over my shorts (over! Keep the chamois against the skin, and tights over shorts makes it a lot easier to remove them if it warms up mid-ride.) The only other difference is some windbreaking gloves over the wool gloves might be nice for running, but can be a life saver on the bike as your hands are basically the only thing completely not protected from the wind, and I have had veeery cold hands during and after rides. Can not recommend trying this… My feet also get cold below -10, so a nice pair of windbreaker booties is great, or a nice pair of wool socks.

TL;DR: Find a nice balance with a body fitting base layer, a lose thermal layer over top and a windbreaking outer layer as necessary.

It’s better to be cold at the start so the exercise warms you up to a nice temperate, otherwise starting at a nice temperature means you will warm up to a sweating temperature and that can spell disaster for insulation in the cold.

Also, wash your bike after if you take it out in the snow! The salt on the roads can be devastating for your frame, so best be safe. Because of how much effort can go into cleaning the bike well I tend to limit my outdoor winter rides to once a week and all other rides indoors. I have never used a treadmill instead of braving the elements on the run. Snowy runs can be fun! I definitely shift focus from longer rides/runs though, but more on that in a future post.