Coach and I aren't really calling this a race, but more like a test. A couple of things we were testing: my swim, since I have been working really hard at it, and my HR fitness. As you may know, I have been doing a lot of baseline HR training. This didn't set me up too well for this 'race' as it is all out, Go! Go! Go! Fast! Fast! Fast! However, some interesting things happened.
I did this race last year and it goes like this: 10 minute swim, as many laps as you can do. T1 is 15 minutes and doesn't count in your times at all. Bike is on a spin bike with a cateye cyclometer measuring your speed and distance for 30 minutes. T2, 5 minutes, again, doesn't count towards total time. Run on the treadmill for 20 minutes.
I went into this with massive butterflies. In fact, I would say they were more like termites. I haven't had a race since early October and it amazing how you get 'used' to that race aticipation. When you get a bit out of practice, it really gets hold of you. I had a hard time choking down a sandwich two hours before my race. Gah!
So let's get to it. For the swim I did 20 laps. Last year I did 21. I cannot explain this. We (coach and I) expected this to be higher. In retrospect, I probably could have pushed things a bit harder. I do remember feeling like I wanted to puke last year, this year, not so much. I did get out very winded with a bit of that asthmatic wheezing going on. Really though, I chalk it up to not pushing myself enough. I also think I think too much in the water. I am constantly analyzing what I am doing: stretch out, tight core, no fishtailing, pull like you are climbing a ladder, pull all the way through, feel the water like when you are sculling, kick from your hips.....you get the picture. All good stuff, but I try to think about it all at once while swimming.
I learned my lesson last year. Back closure sport bra. Men, you haven't a clue, but ladies, you know how hard it is to get a pullover sport bra on when you are wet. That is why they have folks helping you dress in the tent at IMs. Last year I needed someone to help me get the damn thing on. This year, no problem! I also remembered plenty of Aquaphor for my lady bits (more on that in a moment).
My bike training has consisted of pushing some big gears and keeping my HR at baseline aerobic, mixing in some interval training to mix things up, but not any fast spinning at all. Last year I managed 16.09 miles in 30 minutes. This year I did 15.89 for 30 minutes. Last year my average HR was 159, Max HR 174 and I shredded the inside of my thighs, OUCH!!!! Ah! But I lubed up big time and walked away from the bike unscathed!
|Last year's souvenir from the bike.|
This year my coach told me to "Take it up to 160-165 for the first 10 min. Assess how this feels at 10 min and if you feel like you can bump it up in the middle section then do that... Then the last 10 min really go for it! Can you get your HR up past 174?" My average HR was 159 with a max of 168. For virtually the same time and mileage (only a difference of about 2 tenths of a mile). Here is the thing though. I had to bust my ass to get my HR to 159 and I couldn't even get it to go to 174 as hard as I was trying. I can tell you this too, I'm sure that it only kissed 168 briefly and probably only once. I'm sure I would have been able to make it go higher if I could have pushed some bigger gears, but just spinning madly, it wasn't happening. I was also interested in comparing apples to apples from last year.
A simple walk of a few feet over to the treadmills which probably have to best view of any treadmills in all of Manhattan.
Here is where things get interesting. Last year I did 2.1 miles in 20 minutes, average HR 168, max HR 174. I started out at 6.5 on the treadmill and was already hitting HR 171 right away and stayed in that range the whole time. I also ended up having to back down on the pace to 6.0 for a while then back to 6.3 then finally to 7.0 at the very end. This year my average HR 163, max HR 174 for 2.33 miles for 20 minutes AND I had to keep pushing the pace up and up and up to get my HR up; big difference.
This time the plan was "...start first 10 min steady at HR 165-170MAX- do NOT go above 170 in the first 10 min. Then, in the last 10 min go by feel but push push push and let's see how high you can get your HR. Can you get it above 180?"
Based on last year and what I do know about myself on the treadmill (which isn't a lot as I always try to run outdoors), I started at 6.0 (vs. 6.3 last year). I quickly found myself having to up the pace since it was feeling too slow and I was not anywhere near the planned HR zone for the first 10 minutes. I had to keep upping the pace and checking my watch and upping the pace and checking my watch. It took me nearly 8 minutes to get my HR to 165 and I think I was at 6.7 on the 'mill at this point, then it was already time to pick things up again. Again I was checking my watch and upping the pace; repeat. I was at 7.0-7.1 and still only at about 169 HR. Man, I was really having to work to get my HR even to my anaerobic threshold. Finally with 3 minutes left I started to really try to push it to get to 180 (I was finally suffering, panting and my legs were Jell-O from the bike) and still at 7.8 I only got up to 174.
So, here is the thing. It felt WAY more easier than it did last year. I was shocked at how quickly I had to up the pace just to get my HR up. I am sure I could have started out faster, but I was being conservative based on how quickly I burned out on the run last year. I also was paying strict attention to my HR and the time; not my pace (except the need to raise it when my HR wasn't responding) or my mileage. In fact when it was done, I didn't see my mileage and it got lost on the computer before I could recover it, but the guy next to me was watching it, he said he was trying to catch up to me, so he told the lady what I finished with, thank you guy! Last year I averaged a pace of 9:31 for the run and was hurting to whole time. This year I averaged a pace of 8:35 and really had to push to find my point of suffering. I was so shocked at the difference.
In conclusion, I probably could have pushed myself more on the swim and run. I have no excuse for the swim, but for the run, I wasn't sure what to expect and went out with expectations based on my experience last year and discovered that I am much fitter than I thought this year. As for the bike, I don't think I could have spun my legs any faster. I really, really tried, but I could not get them faster than 34 mph and not for very long, 30-31 was what I could hold; I haven't been doing any fast spinning for any duration, so I am not too surprised by this.
I didn't do any race specific training for this, this was a test to see how my HR training has been going. I have to say, it felt easier and harder. Easier to maintain a faster pace and way harder to get my HR up; I really had to work to make it happen. This isn't conclusive per se, and I will be testing my baseline for the second time soon to see if there was any improvement, but I am psyched, this felt completely different. You might argue that it has been a whole year since I did this race and of course, with continuous training, I would improve; very valid and probably true. However, I have to say, especially on the run and I am sure my coach will back me, I have seen very little improvement on my run in terms of speed over the last year and I would venture a guess that I would not have run that 8:35 pace if it weren't for the HR training. Besides, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I'll stick with this and see what else might happen.