Monday, September 29, 2008

Metabolic Bike Test

As I firm up my plans for next year, I like the option of racing Silverman. It is nearby and thereby reduces the headache associated with long distance travel, different time zones and acclimation. The course is billed as one of the more difficult ones and that plays to my advantage. As I don’t have top end speed and aerobic endurance is a relative strength, the longer the day the better off I am.

I haven’t been to the Las Vegas to train, so I’m contemplating a review of the bike course during this year’s race. (Nothing like a fully supported training day!!) Realizing I’m not in the best of bike shape right now (read: no rides longer than 90 minutes in the past 2 months), this will require a little aerobic bike building over the next 6 weeks. This should be pretty congruent with my current restorative program. Currently I’m spending the majority of my training week in flexibility, and lesser degree core strengthening. I can safely add in the cycling without interfering with THE 2009 PLAN, ie fully recovering the plantar fasciitis I’ve been nursing since April. I will cover the rehab program in a future update.

In years past, I’ve documented my running base build with 30 runs/30 days on the TriCoWS website and my blog. This year I will track my progress on the bike from relative unfit bike shape to the fitness required to ride the Silverman course 6 weeks from now.

I will post my version of the MAF run test: the Metabolic Bike Test (MBT) to demonstrate my change in fitness. Nothing fancy and there are certainly a variety of similar protocols (Chuckie V writes about his here), but I will use what I have available currently in my garage-a computrainer hooked up in stand-alone mode. For those unfamiliar with computrainer, the system can be run without the use of a computer. I’m setting it up on ergometer mode, which allows me to train against a specific workload for a specified time. I haven’t sorted out if you can save this file, so I wear my basic hrm and record hr. The basic premise is that the metabolic cost (measured imperfectly by avg. hr) for the duration (60 min) and workload (180 watts) of the training session will decrease as I become fit. In simple terms, my avg. heart rate for the hour will decrease from the baseline value the longer I train.

In this case, I’ve chosen to 180 watts for 1-hour duration. 180 watts corresponds to the average watts I’ve ridden at the last few Ironman bike rides. You can self select your cadence and I ride 84-85. Speed recorded by the computrainer is immaterial and doesn’t translate in any meaningful way. I break every 10 minutes for 30 sec by shifting down and standing, with my cadence dropping in the 40’s...the power requirement remains 180 (I typically do a lot of standing during hill climbs and I find it interesting that my hr drops at least 6-8 beats when I do this on the road and during the test). This little break relieves the numbness in the “man parts”, which seems to be more prevalent for me when on the trainer.

I will have baseline and 5 weeks of data points collected by Nov. 9th. This should be interesting. I will post my MBT results as we go along weekly.

Baseline Data:

Date Watts Duration Avg. HR
9/28 180 60 min. 147

I was a interesting to see my avg hr end that high. I typically ride an ironman ride in 5:10-5:25 with my avg hr in the upper 130’s. A couple of thoughts…my computrainer tends to have a lower power reading than my SRM when using concomitantly. My SRM is at the shop, so I can’t compare. During the first 10 minutes my hr hovered around 140 and steadily rose from there. I suppose this is likely a reflection of my relative poor fitness and not surprising.

Update in a week. Enjoy the great weather as we enter fall. I haven't commented in awhile, but Gordo has started a new forum that is currently invite only. Shoot me a comment if you are interested in joining and I will forward you an invite.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Restoration and 2009

I’m fully recovered from IM Placid and contemplating my plans for next year. As most can relate, it takes a full year to make a solid effort towards reaching your race goals (in addition to successfully signing up for an M-dot branded race!)

So, I thought I would share my thoughts on how I approached my recovery, planning for next year, and the 1st crucial stage in the process.


Following an Ironman, your body has been subjected to significant stress. Injury to your muscles, disruption of your normal hormonal balance, and depression of your immune system occurs. Before training again, ample time is necessary to recover from the event and avoid significant long-standing health issues.

The muscle tissue damage sustained on race day continues for a few days following the event. A period of secondary injury occurs the few days after the race and results in swelling and further cell damage. Evidence of cell damage is seen when laboratory work is performed. From an athlete’s standpoint, we feel sore, swollen, and stiff. This lasts for 2-4 days. After the initial injury phase, our muscle begin to repair themselves. By 7 days, most soreness is gone and muscle flexibility is restored. If one were to test a single effort muscle test, this effort would demonstrate pre-race results by 7 days but in no way indicates full recovery. The recovery during this period is governed by the restoration of calcium balance and the glucose transport system and is largely intact by around 14 days. However, the time required for full muscle recovery varies significantly and depends on several variables, the most important is likely the effect of pre-race training regimen. In any regard, there are studies that show decreased maximum torque and cellular changes as long as 4-6 weeks following the event.

The immune system is impaired and we are susceptible to upper respiratory (URI) and other infections following race day. There are reports of 25% of participants of long endurance events experiencing URI’s in the 2 weeks following the event.

Finally, my mood the few days following the event is quite elevated despite my tired physical state. This generally persists for the first 7-10 days and corresponds to the time when I begin to feel physically recovered. Soon after this time, usually around 3 weeks following the event, I find myself more irritable and a bit depressed.

So, how do I recover? The first few days are compression socks, ice, and gentle massage for the initial and secondary damage days. I use running as my gauge to return to physical activity in order to prevent any overzealous attempt at quick recovery. As this tends to be the most difficult activity to resume, I wait to raise my effort above a steady at any sport until I can run comfortably. My return to sport begins once my initial soreness resolves (usually around 5 days). An easy walk/jog and swim are my first workouts. I then will continue 30 min run/walk sessions for the first 2-3 weeks with an occasional bike and swim. However, I typically don’t feel fully recovered for 5-6 weeks. Until I can run comfortably downhill and assume a baseline run pace at an aerobic effort, I limit my rides to less than 2-3 hours.


So, I’m fully recovered according to my criteria. Though not fit, I could sustain extended, hard efforts in any sport. As I plan for the upcoming year, my initial focus will involve returning to a regular base of core strengthing, yoga/stretching, and weakness/injury rehab before attempting a committed return to aerobic base building. This “restorative” phase will allow me to build high frequency volume with less risk for overuse injury.


So, my race goals for next year are two-fold. The first is to continue on my quest for a fast(er) ironman run. The second will be to experience racing near the front in a smaller field. For now, I’m considering either a return to IM Brazil or a maiden voyage to my home state IM for the fast run. I need a little more recon to sort that out. For a smaller race, I’m considering the Silverman. The difficult course likely plays in my favor, as aerobic endurance is more a strength than high end speed. I may take the opportunity to preview the course in the upcoming race.

Enjoy your recovery or taper phase if heading to Kona,