Monday, February 27, 2012

Sharpen your speed skills with track work

We're hopefully in the last few weeks of winter and many of the earliest spring races are just a little over a month away.  With that in mind, if you've been slugging away through the winter months on the treadmill, or are looking to sharpen your running skills and start picking up some speed, getting on the track might be just what you're looking for.

I personally have a love/hate relationship with track workouts.  On the one hand they're mentally and physically demanding and uncomfortable.  On the other hand, if you want to become a faster runner, then run fast, and one of the best ways to do that is on the track.  The balance between speed and the physical and mental stress of running track leads to one of it's greatest benefits; track work really provides you with a sense of how your body feels at different stress levels, providing you with valuable experience for your next race.

Over the past two years I've really noticed that track work has improved my running economy and helped me move towards a more mid foot strike.  On my longer runs this has translated into quicker leg turnover and greater physiological efficiency.  In terms of the aerobic benefits intervals and track offer, work done at or slightly above your functional threshold heart rate pays dividends.  Track work and intervals allow improved running economy which translates into decreased oxygen extraction at sub maximal pace, increased maximal oxygen consumption at maximal pace, and improved lactate tolerance, which delays fatigue. 

So what do you need to know to hit the track?  I've personally found the research and insight provided by Greg McMillan to be a great resource.  Probably one of the best kept secrets on the internet for runners is the McMillan Run Calculator.  This tool, which is also available in an excel spreadsheet if you're a real run geek, is an exceptional predictor or run performance.  Input your best or most recent race result, and it provides some pretty decent numbers around what your performance should be for different race distances, as well as what you should be targeting for training and track paces.

As always, ask your coach for their thoughts on getting on the track, but if you're keen to get going, here are a couple other resources with some good track workouts;

McMillan Run Calculator
Runner's World - Get on Track Running Times - The Best 10k Workout
No Meat Athlete - Three Track Workouts Guaranteed to Kick your Ass
Running Planet- Marathon Interval Training

Now, who wants to hit the track for some lung busting 800's? 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Running Music

I've never really blogged about what I listen to when I'm running, but I'm often looking for good run songs so I figured I'd write a quick post on some awesome runs that I use to amp me up for a tempo run, or calm me down for a long slow run.

So here's what's on my "HTFU" playlist (thats actually what its called, and if you don't know what HTFU means, Google it).

  • Bulletproof - La Roux (high tempo song that gets me started)
  • Coming Home - Diddy (there's something triumphant about the opening song that I just love)
  • Eye of the Tiger - Survivor (this is a staple)
  • Gives You Hell - The All American Rejects (Need I say more?)
  • I'm Shopping Up to Boston - Dropkick Murphys (This is a GREAT song for short fast intervals)
  • Icky Thump - The White Stripes (Try having this song in your ear and not feel bad ass)
  • Imma Be - Black Eyed Peas (Kind of a "what are you made of?" song for me)
  • Stronger - Kanye West (Probably a cliche workout song by now, but still good)
  • Rooftops -  Lostphophets (This song is all about giving it your all, used to be the Flames opener song)
  • Rolling In the Deep - Adele (Its the opener to this song thats the most motivating, great song)
  • Kings and Queens - 30 Seconds to Mars (Great song, really motivational)
  • Not Afraid - Eminem (What would a HTFU soundtrack be without some Eminem?)
  • Time - Hans Zimmer (This is one of the songs from Inception, and was at the end of the 2010 Kona broadcast when Macca was on his last couple miles on his way to the win, listen to this song at the most mentally challenging point of a workout and visualize the finish line at your big race in slow motion, so powerful)
 Now that you know what I use to push me up a hill or crush a tempo or interval run, here's my playlist that I use to slow myself down for a Sunday morning LSD run.

  • Use Somebody - Kings of Leon (Such a chill song)
  • Stop and Stare - One Republic (A cool song that you can visualize your whole season to)
  • Airplanes - B.o.B feat. Hayley Williams (preparing for Ironman Canada I listened to this so many times wishing and hoping I'd finish the swim!)
  • Dog Days are Over - Florence + The Machine (You can totally run on a Sunday morning and be perfectly content listening to thise)
  • Edmonton - The Rural Alberta Advantage (I can't say enough awesome things about this band, just download their album Hometowns, its awesome and the whole album should be on this list)
  • Unwritten - Natasha Beddingfield (Girlie music at its best)
  • Lighters - Bad Meets Evil (A song about struggle and triumph, also with Eminem)
  • I Love this Road - Emerson Drive (Showing some love for country music here, pick your fave run route and listen to this song)
  • I Believe - Nikki Yanofsky (The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Theme! Listen to this, watch this montage, and just be inspired by our Canadian athletes)
  • All These Things That I've Done - The Killers (See the video below, enough said)
Lastly there are two videos that I use to amp me up and get me ready for a run or a workout.  Just watch them.

And this next one gives me chills, you don't even need to watch it, just listen to it

Have a great run!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lance Armstrong Returns to Triathlon

Lance on the bike at Panama 70.3
This past Sunday Lance Armstrong marked his return to triathlon with a remarkable second place finish at Panama 70.3 against a strong field of competitors including one of triathlon's strongest cyclists, Chris Lieto.  Going into the race predictions for his results were all across the board if you looked at the Slowtwitch forums, or at the response Tri It Multisport had to it's #LanceTris twitter contest.  Few people predicted he would finish as strong as he did, and if one thing is for certain, triathlon's top athletes have been put on notice that there is a new contender in the ring.

I honestly do believe that Lance Armstrong returning to triathlon is a good thing.  I know that there's been some debate on this around the web but the Livestrong marketing machine brings the sport a level of attention and appeal that few organizations can rival.  Even marginally more media coverage and general public interest is sure to appeal to equipment manufacturers and sponsors alike, which in turn means more funding for races, greater selection of equipment brands, and hopefully bigger purses for pros.  I don't think that Lance can do for triathlon what he did for cycling in the US, but at the very least he participation in the sport lends credence to its legitimacy as a mainstream sport.  Lets not forget, that triathlon has only been an Olympic sport since 2000, which is very recent when you consider that the bar is set pretty low for what's considered a sport in the summer Olympics.

With Lance comes the controversy associated with the doping allegations that have followed him around since his earliest Tour de France days.  I don't want to weigh in on whether he did or didn't dope.  The way I see it, if he doped, he was a doper who beat all the other dopers, if he didn't dope, he was clean and beat all the dopers.  Don't get me wrong, any sport at any level has to be clean, but I think that the USADA and WADA should concern itself with ensuring sport is clean today rather than digging up graves to see who wasn't clean in the past.  Its an embarrassment to see that there are still so many elite athletes using PEDs today while the USADA and WADA are busy carrying out what seems to be a personal vendetta against Lance Armstrong.  Rather than spending millions of dollars pursuing Lance, anti doping agencies should be spending resources on increased random testing for athletes and more mandatory testing at events.  Similarly, to quell any controversy that Lance brings to the sport, the WTC should redouble its efforts to test its athletes and do so in the most transparent and thorough manner possible.

Lance's performance at Panama 70.3 was truly exceptional, the guy is 40.  Some people are going to see that in and of itself reason for suspicion.  What a lot of people don't know is that when Lance Armstrong was 15 he was racing against Mark Allen and Dave Scott, arguably triathlon's two greatest living legends.  Simply put, he's a machine, he's been racing and winning at sport's highest levels since long before anyone could reasonably accuse him of doping.

If anything is certain, I think we can all look forward to one of the most exciting years for triathlon in quite some time.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Let's Talk About it :-)

Today is Let's Talk day which is being promoted by Bell with spokesperson and Canadian Olympic hero Clara Hughes. I didn't wake up this morning planning on writing a blog post on mental health issues, but its a topic well worth some discussion. As someone who has been personally impacted by an important person in my life going through a battle depression a few years ago, I know its an issue that we too often look past.

One of the greatest impediments to people seeking help when they face challenges around depression is the stigma and social perceptions associated with mental health issues.  As a society depression is a seldom talked about issue that impacts more people than we than we realize. In fact, according to the Canadian Association Mental Health, depression will affect 1 in 5 Canadians, and the other four will know someone impacted by it.  Here are a few more surprising facts on mental illness and depression.

The problem with depression being such a closed, not talked about issue is that it leaves those facing these challenges feeling alone and isolated.  A person going through depression may think that what they're feeling is "crazy", or just a part of life, or something that is their own fault, and that admitting it to yourself and others is just a sign of "weakness".  Because of these stigmas, people battling depression are often reluctant and unwilling to take that first important step towards getting through that fight, the simple act of telling someone.

Lets be clear on one thing, depression has got nothing to do with weakness.  People battling depression aren't in that fight because they are weak.  Lets look at an example.

Clara Hughes is one of my heroes.  I love what she has done for sport in Canada, and I think she's one of the greatest athletes that ever lived, the perfect combination of grace and grit.  She's one of five athletes in history who has medals in both the winter and summer Olympics, more people have walked on the moon.  People who have met her and competed against her say she is the toughest person they've ever met.  Clara Hughes also battled with depression.  So if a person like that can be brought down by depression, how has it got anything to do with personal weakness?

Simply talking about depression is a step forward in breaking down stigmas and barriers for those battling with it.

Please, I urge you to take a five minutes right now to learn a little bit more about depression through some of the great resources Bell has put together on their webpage here- Let's Talk About It.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

2012 Race Schedule

Well its not too long now before the 2012 Race Season starts to ramp up.  It feels like just yesterday that the season was winding down and even though I've put in some good work over the past couple months, I still have a few seconds to shave off my 100m time in the pool, a couple minutes get rid of on my Half Marathon time, and a few more watts to find over the next month and a half before things really start.

Banff Olympic Tri 2012 (Relayed the bike)
With the race season in mind though, I thought I'd post what I'm planning on racing this year and hopefully I'll see a few of you out there this season!

  • March 17, 2012- St. Patrick's Day Road Race- 10km - This will be a good tune up to see where I'm at with the start of the season.  Last year I ran this one in I think the 43minute range.  Hopefully I can get that around 41 this year
  • Calgary Police Half Marathon- April 29, 2012- This is a very good, very competitive race to start the year off.  It was my first half mary and its a route I really enjoy.  Very well organized, looking forward to this one and hoping to get low 1:30's for this one, my third time out for this.
  • Velocity Stage Race (Edmonton)- May 5, 6, 2012- I did this bike stage race last year and did awesome at the TT only to be brought back down to earth in the crit and road race.  It was a very challenging day with high winds, I hope to hone my road racing skills for this one and get high on the GC.
  • Centaur Subaru Half Marathon (AKA Calgary Half Marathon), May 27, 2012- This will be a B-race for me, a few of the runners from the Lululemon 4th Street Run Club will be out as well and I'm looking forward to putting down a decent half time for this, but more importantly I'll be there to cheer everyone else on.
  • Chinook Half Ironman, June 16, 2012- My first triathlon of the season, looking forward to this one. Its a great local half iron. I came in 2nd in my age cat here and 11th overall last year, hoping to improve on that this year!
  • 2012 ITU Long Course World Championships, July 29, 2012, Vittoria-Gasteiz, Spain- Goes without saying this is the A Race for the season. Its a slightly different distance, 4km swim, 120km bike, 30km run.  I'll be training for it a bit more like a half iron.  The swim will be like an IM swim, but the 120km bike is well within my comfort zone and should actually be pretty enjoyable, the 30km run, again closer to a half iron especially with the shorter run.
  • Sea Wheeze Half Marathon, August 11, 2012, Vancouver, BC (Tentative)- This is a big maybe and will depend on how long I'm in Europe for, and my condition following the ITU Long Course WC, but I'm not counting it out.  The Lululemon family has been a great supporter of mine this part year and if the stars align I'm hoping to be there for this one.
  • Ironman Canada, August 26, 2012- Definitely not planning to race this one, I'll be out there tweeting, blogging, volunteering, and supporting my many friends who will be racing including a few of the team from Tri It Multisport, and one of my training partners, Shayne Arsenault.
  • Rock and Roll Half Marathon -December, 2012- Probably one of the best excuses I can come up with to get down to Vegas again. 
After that I'll call it a season. Busy enough wouldn't you say?  I'm hoping to do more bike racing this year so some of you may see me at either Tuesday night crits, or Wednesday Night Races.  I'll also probably round off the season with a half marathon, likely the Last Chance Half, but we'll see how it all plays out.  I'd like to be racing more triathlon this season, but with wedding and travel plans I definitely have some more important things to do :-)

Anyways, hope to see you all around and if anyone wants tips or feedback on any of these races, feel free to ask away!