Road to Challenge Aarhus: March Training in Review

Beautiful Views on March Morning Runs

What a month. After February I had a few things to get working on and in March I have definitely moved closer to half ironman fitness. One of the things that all endurance athletes struggle with is time. After February I figured that adding 10 minutes per training would take the training volume up by about an hour on a weekly basis. By and large that has worked out pretty well. Where February ended up being a 14 hours 24 minutes training month, March had another 12 hours in it. It was especially the two first weeks that were really good. The two next weeks were pretty OK, but with other commitments the bike had to suffer and that took total training time down.

I learned a few things too that I’d like to share. Maybe they’ll prove useful to you:

  • Forefoot running training from zero to long distance takes long! I’ve had to set my sights on 5km forefoot running this year. Maybe next year I’ll be able to do 10km.
  • Nearly doubling training volume from month to month is a bit of a stretch. Be cautious and make sure to be listening to your body to avoid over-training. This goes for all sports, but especially for running!

Also, March seems to have been a bit of a strong month for social training platform Endomondo. I at least started getting invitations from people I connect to on Facebook, LinkedIn and from people I just haven’t heard from for years. That way I get to know another side of these people, which has been very interesting so far.
The weather has been very mild too so more and more people start training outside – also very encouraging!

Finally here’s a run-down of how I think March was per sport and what needs to happen over the next 3 months prior to Challenge Aarhus:

Swim: No real change since February. Still have to watch my left shoulder, so my number of swim sessions will stay flat until Challenge Aarhus. The required 1,9km is not a problem at all, so the swim is still on track! Learned in a podcast from TriSwimCoach that it could well be very smart to do a very relaxed swim in order avoid getting out of the water with a too high heart rate.

Bike: Weather was mild in March, so I’ve been outside a few times. Right now it’s a bit dark in the morning, but soon I should be able to do a morning session on the bike. This is probably where I need the most improvement, but we’ll see about that in April. For sure I will have to add kilometers to the cycling.

Run: March was an excellent month for running. Did my first half marathon in training in a time I believe is a personal best (note to self: check that on Athlinks). That said I probably can’t recommend doing three times the training volume month over month.
Now that the half marathon distance is in place I have started working on speed. For April that will mean shorter runs with 1km intervals at race speed or faster. Race speed is the pace I need to maintain to run “Broløbet” on the 28th of May in less than 1 hour and 45 minutes.

As a final challenge for April, I’ll be doing a self-paced and self-supported half ironman on the 16th of April. Standing at the starting line of a race without knowing that you can make it, doesn’t seem like a good idea…
Experienced triathletes have advised against doing half ironman as part of my training, but it just feels like the right thing to do. Therefore the week from 9th to 16th will be extremely relaxed with just a few relaxed and relatively short runs. After the half ironman the interesting part will be: how long does recovery take.

In other words: An interesting month lies ahead! 🙂

Road to Challenge Aarhus: February in Review

And that’s the end of February. From a training standpoint and getting ready for Challenge Aarhus in July I’m not sure it was a good month at all. I am 100% sure that the next 4 months have to be a lot better for me to be reasonably comfortable at the start of Challenge Aarhus. Let me try to break the month down:

Training until February 2011

Overall: had a cold for about a week just trying to stay in the game, but didn’t train at all, which already stresses me since I know I should be doing more. Also this month I sure didn’t sleep in as early as I wanted, but then again, when you’re not fit to train who cares about getting up at 5:30 (so I didn’t).

Swim:

Very satisfied with the number of sessions for February (7), the time spent and the mileage done. More than any month prior to February. Increased speed nicely with improved technique and the distance is now more than OK. Even if I did experience some issues with my left shoulder, those were a result of over-reaching. Basically: if I can keep this fitness level on the swim for the rest of the year I’ll be happy.

Bike:

In February I’ve had more sessions on the home trainer than ever before, but am still really looking forward to 5-8 degrees warmer weather so I can start cycling outside – the home trainer is just SO boring! To increase strength I’ve been working on both one-legged and regular intervals. The aim is to build strength in both legs as well as work my technique. Also the bike leg is of little concern – anything up to 90km at low pace should be OK.

Run:

This is where it becomes interesting! So far training has been going alright and I’m aiming for a 1:44 half marathon time (not as part of the half ironman, though. Recently, however, I seem to be plateauing with little progress. At the same time I’m often close to injury, especially since I tried to start Newton forefoot running. Need to find a better way to get into that. Early runs for the month of March show progress on strength and distance, so plateauing might now be a thing of the past.

What I want for March:
Increase the weekly training volume by an hour. I figure that if I add 10 minutes to each training I’ll make that. So far I’ve had a long run and a long swim this week, but we’ll see what the weekend brings. Eventually I should be able to have two training per sport per week, each of at least an 1-1,5 hours.

That should get me fit for Challenge Aarhus – fingers crossed.

First Run in Newton Neutral Performance Trainer a.k.a. Gravity

First time out with the Newton Gravity.
Pretty interesting run, as the running style changes a bit. Ran the distance in what’s generally referred to as a front-foot running shoe.
For the first three kilometers I went on in a relatively relaxed sub-5-minute pace. Point here is that sub-5-minutes usually isn’t relaxed for me, so the first impression is that I CAN run faster with these shoes.
That said the calves still need to get used to this type of running: after the first 3-4 kilometers I did start to feel it a bit of soreness and slowed down to avoid injury.
Now, a few hours later, I seem to be fine. A bit tired in the calves but otherwise feeling good.
Looking forward to more runs with the new shoes.

The #1 Most Important Advice for Endurance Athletes

Just a few days ago an old colleague of mine asked me what my #1 tip would be for someone who had recently started running and was now aiming at half and full marathon distances.

My response was pretty brief and I’ll share it here and elaborate on it a bit further.

The #1 advice to endurance athletes is:

Don’t get injured!! Whatever you do, train smart, don’t overdo things and through that, avoid injury!

You’ll likely want superman (or -woman) fitness and strength, run a marathon, do an ironman, and all that very quickly – but especially in endurance sports things take time.

Instead you will want to take it slow. If you can slowly build your endurance and keep on building then that really long race you want to be able to do will eventually happen.

Personally I didn’t always know this. I would sign up for races in the way to near future and try to do them being semi fit for the event, injuring myself either during training or during the race.

Since the beginning of 2010 I try to go about my build-up in a different way. I try to follow some basic rules that will leave me free of injury:

  • never add more than 10% to individual runs. Another version of this rule says you shouldn’t add more than 10% to weekly running volume and some even go on to work with months and quarters.
  • if you feel pain, never try to push through it. You might just be making things worse. Yesterday was such a day for me in the pool. I had to back off from getting better 50m swim time as my left shoulder started hurting. That swim was ended about 15 minutes early to avoid injury.
  • avoid going all out in sports your muscles are not used to. This goes for cross-training, gym sessions etc. which are part of your training plan, but also for the occasional game of football with your colleagues.
  • if you train or race with someone else who’s above your level – get them to perform at your level. Don’t try (too hard) to follow theirs as that could well be too much for you.

Following these rules has served me well so far. Only had few minor injuries over the past 12 months and every time they’ve been a result of not adhering to the rules outlined above.

Train hard, but train smart!

Announcing Self-Paced Half Ironman Triathlon

2011 has got to be the year of the half ironman distance triathlon for me, and the training is aimed at being able to swim 1,9km, bike 90km, and run half a marathon on the 3rd of July. Last year I did just a single sprint triathlon at 500m swim, 20km bike, and 5km run, without having any particular problems with the distance. Before that sprint triathlon I did a self-paced sprint triathlon of the same distance to better understand the distance without participating in an actual race.

In a half ironman a lot more unknowns enter the game. For instance:

  • nutrition
  • can I do the distance? In time?
  • which effort can I sustain over such a period of time?
  • what kind of training do I need?
  • what’s my current fitness level for this distance?
  • what do I still need to train?
  • all the stuff I haven’t thought of…

To have answers to have all these questions when I toe the line on the 3rd of July, I’ll be repeating a self-paced triathlon this year – except this time it will be a self-paced half ironman distance triathlon.

Should be loads of fun – you can come and join if you want – for the entire event or just part of it. Venues are:
* swim: sportfondsenbad Amsterdam Oost
* bike start: Sportfondsenbad Oost
* run start: to be decided

The event will take place on the 16th of April in Amsterdam, Netherlands for anyone who cares to join. The event can be found and tracked on:

http://www.endomondo.com/event/838098

Half Ironman Distance Swim Training

Back from Mexico after about a week and have just one more training that I need to report on. As you may have read previously I have signed up for Challenge Aarhus later this year – a half ironman distance triathlon in Aarhus, Denmark.
The race includes a 1,9 km open water swim in a bay – something I’ve never done before. I imagine that many triathletes are in the same situation before their first half ironman. Here in Amsterdam I have few little opportunity to go and do an open water swim – especially in the cold of January. That’s why I decided to take an hour out of the program to take an afternoon swim – going the full distance.

Luckily in Mexico the water is more than warm enough to just jump in without a wetsuit – I guess that’s the easiest swim I will have all season.
After getting in I was followed on the first 400 meters by supportive colleague Mark who turned out to be about 20 meters faster than me per 100 meters. I guess I still need to work on speed.
The next 600 meters were pretty tough and only when I needed to swim less than I had already done, things got a bit more pleasant.

Salt water – it turns out – is salty. The salt enters respiratory systems and irritates nose and mouth a lot. Waves played about as little role as the waves will at Challenge Aarhus. I think very calm waters can be expected in the bay there, so things should be pretty OK.

What does need some work is my fitness level in the water. I prefer to be able to do the distance with plenty of energy left and that was not the case in Mexico. Especially the last 200 meters were felt and I my thought is that I will need to work on some extra swimming strength. Maybe not so bad now that I returned from Mexico with a couple of injuries to my left leg, which will keep my activity level relaxed over the next two weeks. Maybe do some swim trainings with a pull buoy so the legs can rest and the upper body can work. The swim took 55 minutes and you can have a look at it here. 55 minutes is within my 1 hour estimate for the swim, but it may still improve.

Long story short this was an all in all good experience. Now I have an idea what it takes to do a 1,9km open water swim. At Challenge Aarhus I expect similar conditions, but colder water will mean that it’s a wetsuit swim, which will increase buoyancy and ease the swim and lower the fatigue. All that means that I’m still on track to Challenge Aarhus. Happy, happy!!

The Beach

As previously mentioned 2010 started off with a run on a beach in Cancun, Mexico. Well, it just so happened that my second run of 2011 went down the exact same beach.

I always like comparing results from year to year looking for what the improvement has been – or not. It’s just a good way to see how your form is developing.

Two days ago I did an almost 12km run on the beach between our hotel, Puerto Morelos, and the hotels beyond the village and this morning I ran a 5k. Should have been 6k, but a football (soccer) injury made me change my mind. Wouldn’t want to seriously injure myself. In-between the two runs I tested the half ironman swim distance – more on that in a different post.

First a few things about running on a beach:
– the sand means you’re not as fast as usual;
– if you run on the beach, chances are you’re in a warm location – that could well slow you down as well;
– right at the water beaches usually have a downhill from the beach towards the ocean, which means your running ground isn’t level. I suspect that could hurt your knees and hips – watch out for that!

Either way, especially the run this morning brought back memories of last as I was on the beach at 6:30 to enjoy the setting sun. There were a few other runners out, but I guess that most people tend to keep their eyes closed until a bit later in the day.

As mentioned, the football injury kept me from doing my normal run pace (as did stopping to take pictures and video). Basically I’m unable to run heel-strike without pain in my left shin, so I got in 5k of fore-foot running. It made me think that even if fore-foot running just takes you forward at the same pace as heel strike, just being able to sustain fore-foot running for a decent distance adds flexibility to your run, makes sure you can run if heel-strike-specific muscles are injured, and probably just strengthens your leg in general so your normal heel-strike run will be more stabile and powerful.

Either way, those are some of the benefits I saw today and thoroughly enjoyed.

2010 in Review

Ah yes… No end of the year without a proper review of the past year.

2010 started with a run on one of the beaches in Canun, Mexico. As I recall, it was a rough 6km run, which took me 40-something minutes. Rough, in the sense that I hadn’t really done the kind of training I do now. My fitness level was not where I wanted it to be and something needed to change.

At roughly the same time thoughts emerged on what my three main focus areas in life should be. Eventually I picked family, work as the first two natural choices. Training, finally was put in place as the third. That I wanted three main focus areas was no coincidence. Anything that you wish to do well requires focus, and cluttering your day with activities takes time and focus away from what’s really important. I started making a more serious effort to make my trainings and set two sports goals for 2010:
1) compete in a sprint triathlon;
2) run a 5km in less than 20 minutes.

Come April I had gotten doing the trainings down to being fairly regular and consistent. All three sports of triathlon: running, cycling and swimming was getting attention and improvements were being made. Also my media consumption changed and I spent more time listening to podcasts that were endurance sports related.
That lead to more and more input on the sport about training, racing, recovering and also about nutrition.

In May that lead to me dumping coffee altogether, which you can read about elsewhere. Either way we’ve now come out of 2010 without me having had any coffee the past 7 months.

I think it was during this time that Klaus, my racing buddy, brought up in conversatin that he had signed up for the Aalsmeer Triathlon and asked if I wanted to join. Shortly after I had signed up to the first triathlon since my debut in 2002 on the Olympic distance. My goals quickly became to beat Klaus, but also to beat the finish time for friend and ex-colleague Keld, who had raced a strong sprint distance at the same race a few years earlier. Also, I decided to change what happens on this blog. It used to be more about technology, and while tech is interesting it just isn’t one of my three focus areas and had to go.

During summer training went on and on race day in August I managed to keep Klaus just seconds behind me, but not beat the time that Keld had raced earlier (I still wonder how he managed such a strong bike leg).

Having checked the first box of my 2010, training focus shifted to running for. 12th September run in Haarlem. The 5km distance there was to be where I would see if I could break 20-minutes.
Eventually I did really well the first 3km, but started to fade on the fourth kilometer and finished with a time of 20:48 – just 49 seconds off my goal or 10 seconds too slow per kilometer. I’m confident I can reach that goal in 2011.

With all races for 2010 completed training focus moved to my weakest discipline and I’ve spent more time in the pool in the second half of 2010 than ever before. 2011 was comong closer and races started appearing on calendars.

So far I’ve signed up for three races. The first is the “Broløbet” in Denmark on the 28th of May – a half marathon across Storebælt on a highway bridge. My goal is to finish that race in less than 1 hour 45 minutes. I’ve also signed up for Triathlon Holten’s Olympic distance race on the 10th of July, but the big one for 2011 is one week prior to that.

The original plan was to gradually increase the distance of triathlons starting with sprint in 2010, do olympic in 2011, do half ironman distance in 2012 and then see what should happen after that. But when the Challenge organization came up with the half ironman distance race “Challenge Aarhus” in my birth city and what I consider my home city in Denmark, I couldn’t resist signing up!
The goal for my participation in “Challenge Aarhus” on 3rd of July is to complete the race and enjoy every minute of what promises to be a spectacular race.

2011 lies ahead and for 2010 I can only conclude that the season has been extremely
satisfying. I reached or gotnvery close to my goals and became quite fit in the progress. It’s also given me an opportunity to discuss health, sports, lifestyleand perspectives on life in general with old, close friends as well as more recent acquaintances. All of that has been very interesting and provided food for thought.

That’s a style and a focus I wish to continue in 2011 as I get started with new challenges in sport as well as professionally. It feels like I will have a good year.

Here’s to your 2011: I hope it will bring you health and happiness!

Challenge Aarhus, Half Ironman Triathlon: I’ll be there!!! :-)

I just had to participate in this one!!: The Challenge organization has come up with a new spectacular triathlon race. This is one is a half ironman distance race in my home city. Welcome to Challenge Aarhus.

The Challenge organization which also host to triathlon ironman distance and half ironman (70.3) races such as Wanaka, Roth, and Copenhagen is now getting ready to launch a new race: Challenge Aarhus !!

Challenge Aarhus takes place on July 3rd 2011 and is a half ironman distance race consisting of a 1,9km swim, 90km bike and 21,1 run. What makes me so enthusiastic about this particular race is that it takes place in my home town of Aarhus, Denmark, and the route is nothing short of spectacular!

That’s also why I’m very excited to have joined Challenge Aarhus, which will be my very first half ironman distance race – I simply can’t wait! It will be one of the great things of 2011 and I’m looking forward to it like a kid looks forward to Christmas. Just set up the event on Endomondo too and added the race to Athlinks.

The route promises to pass through spectacular sites. With start at Tangkrogen, which is also the starting point of the Marselisborg run and bike races, Challenge Aarhus will pass the Sculpture by the Sea on the swim, the hills of Aarhus on the bike, and then finally will pass through the ARoS Museum of Art as part of the half marathon route. Absolutely amazing!!

I’ll make sure to post more about the route, my training and thoughts on the race as we get closer to race day!!

Winter Training on the Bike

http://www.endomondo.com/embed/workouts?w=qrEQ3vc4M9U&width=250&height=400Probably one of the most boring things to do as a triathlete is putting hours into bike training during the cold months. Right this very moment it’s about -1 degree celsius here and there’s ice on the roads. Even the most fanatic of athletes must succumb to such forces of nature and move inside.

This evening I’ve done my first indoor rides on the home trainer – a 30-minute session consisting of 10 minutes of warm-up, roughly 15 minutes of intervals with 1 minute hard, 2 minutes to relax, followed by a 5 minute cool-down. It was great to get the workout in, and I can see how this type of training can keep the boring moments of the home trainer down to a minimum while reaping significant benefits.

The intervals will do well to improve strength in the quads, calfs, hips and glutes. Once the weather gets better I can start doing some distance work.

To get used to the aerodynamic position I will do all sessions using my road bike turned triathlon bike and the trainer used is the Tacx Swing my wife gave me years ago. It’s really been parked in the basement for the majority of its life, but I think it will come to extremely good use during this winter – I just have to get those trainings in!!

Besides that I’ve been doing an excellent swim training and an OK run this week. During the swim session, what stood out to me was about 300-350 meters at 1 minute per 50 meters. I guess I’ll be doing some intervals in coming weeks to see if I can get that below 1 minute per 50 meters consistently without killing myself (preferrably). Have a look at my most recent swims here.
The run was good too in the sense that I did most of it running fore-foot, so I can now start to see the light at the end of the tunnel with regards to being able to run for a full 8-10 kilometers on the front of the foot. Then I can start working speed and combining that with moving to half-marathon distance runs.

After a week of doing nothing at all while battling a cold, I finally decided to just train with the cold. So far it seems that I’m getting better by doing that.

Finally I’ve recently been on the phone with a good former colleague turned race buddy about the planning of the 2011 race season. Boy do I have a surprise for him. More about that later! 😉