Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tri Camp - First Ride

So, there we are...crack of dawn and ready to roll. Everyone is glancing around, checking out each other's gear, choice of clothing, number of water bottles on board, etc. It feels like something out of National Geographic where the pack has to determine the pecking order.

Fortunately for us, the results of our Bike AT test have taken the guess work out of it! Paul Huddle calls the clan to order and calls out the groups and ride leaders. We're divided into Group 1 and Group 2..and then 3 groups of five within each of those.

I'm in Group 1...but don't let the number fool you. Group A of Group 2 has Michellie (Ironman 2006 champ) as their ride leader. Her group had the kick-ass, been there-done that Ironman finishers in it. Group C of Group 1, led by the lovable Huddle had the First Tri or haven't Tri'd in awhile folks. As one gals husband told her after she mentioned that she was in Huddles' group, "You know Huddle always gets the slowest riders, right?"

Me? Group B of Group 1. In my ever present competitive nature, I'm in the 5th out of 6 groups according to speed. Not my proudest moment I tell you...but then again, that's why I'm here. So after a few moments of "Good lord, I can't believe I'm this far back..maybe I shouldn't even be here...I should have tried harder on the AT test-- I hadn't puked, so I didn't go hard enough..I have got way too much junk in my trunk, that's why I'm so slow, etc." I pulled myself together and vowed to make the most of my training ride...even if I was at the back of the pack.

And so, with a smile, we shove off...riding to our first destination...a big, empty parking lot to practice bike skills. Group 1 arrives (Group 1 rode to the pool for their swim workout first) and the coaches have us line up in a long line side by side...we looked like a motorcycle gang..and they talked about bike safety, how to turn and how to stop. (Which as we all know, this magical skill alludes us all from time to time..). So we bike rodeo'd around the parking lot, practicinig turns and riding up to the coaches and coming to a smooth (not screeching) stop and calmly clipping out when the coaches yelled "STOP!".

The good news here is that I:
1. Did not hurt anyone else during the skills
2. Managed to stop and clip out when asked, and
3. Did not fall over in line because I couldn't get out of my clips.

Others, whose names will not be mentioned here, were not quite so lucky. :)

Friday, February 9, 2007

Tri Camp - Day 1

Aside from really cool staff, the other campers are way cool! There are quite a few masters ladies (read women over 40) who have done Half and Full Ironmans before, a Collegiate swimmer, a Navy Seal, a Marine and even Deena Jones...you might have seen her on a little reality series.....Survivor - Amazon! Plus tons of other great (and really, really, really fit) weekend warrior athletes.

Day 1 arrives with more testing and video taping for Gait Analysis by THE man in custom insoles for athletes, Danny Abshire. (Check out his stuff and credentials at www.custominsoles.com). No pressure or anything, right? This test is a little more low key in that all we have to do is hop on the treadmill, warm up and run while they video tape you from every angle so that he can analyze your stride, your recovery, your pronation, where you strike on your foot when you land, how your arms swing, your body position, what your shoulders are doing, etc. All the elements of running form...he's going to check it out.

So I hop on and start running on the treadmill. I try to get up to a comfortable speed and look natural and just run like I always do. But of course I start with the mental dialog....am I running with good form, are my arms crossing my body...I'm trying a braid in my pony tail because the marine layer fog out here is turning my hair into an afro and the swinging is driving me crazy...I wonder if my butt looks big as they are taping from the back...I hope you can't see my legs jiggling all over the place. how embarrasing would it be if I fell off the back of this treadmill with everyone watching and it caught on tape...oh well, maybe I'd win some money on America's Funniest Home Videos or something...am I running in the middle of the treadmill...don't look down, you don't want that on the tape..quit weaving..I must look like a drunk runner on this thing...ugh.

"OK..Dionn, we're good!" says Katai (pronounced Kay-tie). I hop off and go sit out by the pool with the other campers as folks roll through the gait analysis testing until the next event at 2:00 a bike ride with John Duke (CEO and Publisher of Triathlete Magazine!)...nickname, "The Devil". Fortunately, John was ready for a pleasant 1-hour tour of the Pacific Coast Highway...delightfully showing us the beautiful beaches and beautiful surfers! It was a nice, mellow ride designed to make sure our bikes were in good working order and prepared for the big rides coming over the next couple of days.

Upon our return one ambitious and ironman-looking group of campers decide to suit up and head out for an afternoon run since the next scheduled event is 6:00 dinner. I'd love to go as well, but I'm fearful of ending up running by myself as those guys looked hella fast....so I decide to just hang out and be social with the others. (Hmmm..where is my comfort zone do ya think?)

6:00 comes and we get the official Camp kickoff welcome and introduction. Paul, Roch and Paula have all the staff line up and they do introductions of everyone. As I stated before, its an impressive bunch of folks not only from their physiques but the accomplishments they've racked up over the years. I feel like we're in real good hands over the next couple of days. It's going to be fun!

Our first official lecture is on swimming technique by Roch Frey (pronounced Rock). I'd like to give major props out to two of the affiliated swimming coaches of Rogue starting with Monica Williams and most recently Stephanie (who's master program will be the swimming portion of the Rogue XTREME Tri challenge this year). In Roch's lecture, he emphasized many of the points and drills that Monica and Stephanie have been making over the past couple of years. For anyone who has been swimming with these ladies, take serious comfort in knowing that they know what they are talking about as well and are preparing you and I fantastically!

The major take aways from Roch's lecture were: Drills are important as they help you make your stroke more efficient....and once you have an efficient stroke, you can easily get faster by simply speeding up your efficient stroke. After the lecture, I felt really confident in my swimming abilities and was really relaxed about the first swim workout scheduled for tomorrow.

The next lecture was on Bio-mechanical performance and injury prevention from Danny Abshire. The key lessons here were that it was really important to listen to your body. It has a myriad of feedback opportunities for you that can help you figure out what's going on with your body. He also mentioned that is was really important to have 3 plans in a race because you just never know what's going to happen on race (or a training) day.
Plan A: everything is going great, just as expected, no surprises, Race ON!
Plan B: something's hurting, or you are bonking...start asking questions, is my blood sugar low, do I need to eat something, am I dehydrated, let me take a drink, am I fatigued, maybe I should slow my pace, or walk for a bit or take a 30-sec stop at the next aid station...
Plan C: everything has gone to hell, continuing on will definitely hurt me...it's time to stop...Live to fight another day.

After Danny was done, it was time to hit the rack...tomorrow will be the first big workout day starting with a bike ride from 7:30-9:45 ending at the pool and then followed by a swim workout from 10-11:30....all before lunch. oy. time for bed indeed.

Tri Camp - Day 0

Sometimes, it's all about the people. And let me tell you, the folks here running this camp are all amazing with great stories.

The first person I met was Steve Katai who picked me up to take me to the wind tunnel testing. Steve has a great story in that he was just your average everyday guy, lifting weights in the gym when he came across an ad in the paper...the Degree Everyman Ironman Challenge. Basically, Degree wants to prove that anyone can be an ironman (given the right training and motivation of course) and to prove it, they'll take an average joe(sephine) off the street and turn them into an Ironman. Well, Steve sent in his application, was selected and 5 MONTHS later after training like and with the pros in San Diego goes on to compete in AND finish his first triathlon...the Ironman! Wow! (And I'm doing all this agonizing on stepping up to a half! oy.)

The coaching staff including Paul Huddle, Roch Frey, Jimmie Riccitello, Paula Newby-Frasier and Heather Fuhr are staples in the past, current and future history of the sport of triathlon. Between them they have astonishing accomplishments like 24 time Ironman Winner, years and years of professional competition at the ironman level, race directors, head of officials, authors, commentators, XTERRA world champions, Professional Sportswoman of the Year, Ironman World Record Holders...and many more accolades. (You can check them out at www.multisports.com!) Let's just say, these guys are good! And the most amazing thing about them is that they are all super cool! They are so excited that other people are into the sport like they are...they are so interested in helping you out and reaching your goals. Not pretentious or pompous...just fun and fiesty when they need to be. :)

So Day 0 and the first part of Day 1 goes something like this...arrive, set up, test, test, test. Great.

Prior to coming to camp, you had to fill out this athletic history where they ask you things like: how many triathlons have you done? Longest race? What was your time and distance? Have you ever done an ironman? Best half ironman distance and time? etc.

Day 0: Find out who lied on their history!
First we get looked over on our bikes by some of the best bike fitters in the nation. MANY MANY kudos go out to the guys at Jack and Adams (www.jackandadams.com) , especially Jack - since he did my bike fitting, because Paul and Jimmy thought my setup and fit on my bike was really great. So if any of you haven't been recently fit on your bike, I highly recommend you go see the guys at Jack and Adams...they rock and there's a lot of great..um..stuff to see at the store! We made a few minor adjustments and then I was cleared for my first set of testing....Anaerobic Threshold (AT) Heart rate test on the bike.

Similar to the heart rate tests we've done with Rogue (like the 8-mile time trial and then take your max heart rate), the goal here is to find your threshold heart rate so that you can then find the appropriate heart rate zones to be training in based upon the workout goals (endurance vs strength, etc). The multisport guys describe it as "the level where breathing becomes labored but maintainable. If you continue to raise this pace, you soon will hit VO2 max, beyond which, you will reach failure (puking and bleeding from your lungs." It is the rate that you perceive as being "very hard" and about the pace you should be racing an Olympic Distance Triathlon. (Note: they consider the Sprint distance pace should be perceived as "very, very hard" just shy of puking. Whereas the Ironman distance pace should be somewhat hard at 70-80% of your max heart rate.)

In this case for the test, they hook your bike up to a bike trainer that has a computer on it that measures your power, resistance, speed, etc. After a brief warm up, and going at about 18 mph they start applying resistance to your wheel (workload) starting at 100 watts. They note your heart rate (bpm) and you tell them a perceived exertion level (7 being the easiest 20 the hardest --I'm about to puke). Then every 90 seconds they increase the resistance by 20 watts and note your stats again. The idea is to keep going up 20 watts until you can't go anymore or puke...which ever comes first.

So I start out feeling good at about a 9. Each increasing interval I evaluate my perceived exertion level at probably one higher level....until about the 4th interval. I'm suddenly breathing hard, having to really concentrate on keeping my cadence up and speed at 18mph. "One more?" Paul Huddle asks..."let's go" I reply. Now my perceived exertion is jumping by twos! I'm up to 15. "One more?"...."let's go". Ugh. "What's your PE?" Huddle asks....I look at the chart...the numbers are swimming and its hard to focus and read..."17?"..."Ok...looking good Dionn...how about one more?"... I think to myself, please don't let me embarrass myself...I think about the fact I'm wearing a Rogue Training shirt...I want to represent Rogue proudly..."Ok" I reply. Head is down, quads are burning, sweat is pouring off my head, running down the bridge of my nose. I see a drop pausing at the tip before it falls to the ground. I glance over at the speedometer...17.8mph..."Pick it up cowboy" I think to myself. 18.1 mph. good. How long the hell is 90 secs anyway..shit. I swear I can feel my own pulse on my neck...who needs a heartrate monitor anyway...he should be able to count the beats from 10 feet away! OY!

"OK..we're good!" Phew, it's over...I wonder how I did... "Alright, good work Dionn..cool down for about 5 minutes and then you can hop off." A very non-commital response. While it is in fact a "test", Paul assures me that my numbers are exactly that...MY numbers...there is no right or wrong, pass or fail..they are just my own.

I get my bike off the trainer and return it to my room. I come back and hang out with some of the other athletes that are arriving and getting tested. I casually overhear Huddle talking with some of the other coaches who are administering the tests. "We're doing 90sec intervals with 20 watt increase. If you think they are weaker, do it in 5 or 10 watt increments." Ok...at least by appearances I mustn't look weak since he did me at 20 watts. phew. Of course appearances can be deceiving.....

Some of the other campers and I hop a shuttle going to the bike shop to pick up some extra gear. It's pretty chilly in San Diego for this time of year. We will be riding in the early morning and I'm in need of some full fingered gloves and some spare tubes. The last thing I want is to be out on the road looking like an amateur and freezing to death.

It feels like it has already been a long day...between the wind tunnel testing and the AT test, I'm just hoping I'm ready for the real craziness that begins tomorrow. So what better way to prepare than by going next door to the bar after dinner and throwing back a couple of Capt. Morgans with some new friends??? :)

Afterwards I head back, do some email and head to bed saying a quick prayer, "Please let me be decent tomorrow."

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Tri Camp - Day 0 at the Wind Tunnel

Here we are! What a great adventure ahead of me! I'm heading into San Diego to attend a triathlon training camp. I'm nervous as hell because while I'm not UBER competitive, I like to consider myself a middle of the packer. But rolling into a top notch training camp with folks who have completed several Ironmans....I just don't want to be last.

Day 0: Wind Tunnel Testing
When I roll into the San Diego Low Speed Wind Tunnel facility, I'm immediately met by a super friendly staff and a huge sign that says "Test Where Champions Test". I can't help but catch the glances as they size me and my equipment up. I glance around the waiting room and look at all the pictures of previous athletes that have been tested there before me. Here's a brief list:

2006 Tour de France Champion, Floyd Landis
2006 Ironman World Champions , Michellie Jones and Norman Stadler
2006 World Time Trial Champion, Kristin Armstrong
among other familiar names like Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie, Chris Legh, Tom Deboom, Levi Leipheimer.

And now of course, Dionn Schaffner.

What the hell am I doing here! Please lord, do not let them see I'm a pretender. Please let me be able to clip in and pedal like (or actually against) the wind. Please, please do not let me embarrass myself. (Moment of silence as we all pray together).

"OK, Dionn...let's go over our test plan for today!" We chat about what's going to happen, I saddle up for the first test run.



"OK Dionn...we want you to just warm up for a bit and we're going to have a nice easy ride and do some tests. Alright? How about you get up to a comfortable 25 mph and we'll turn on the wind."

So at this point I'm thinking to myself..ok..I've got to ride for about 45 minutes. My fastest pace in the bike portion of the sprint triathlon (about 40-50 minutes) is 19 maybe 20mph. But right now, I need to go 25..no hill, no wind behind (in fact a wind in front!). Hmmm...what's wrong with this picture.

I buck up and start peddling...I should have a Red Bull or something..how the hell am I going to get to 25 and keep it there?! Somehow, by the grace of the Tri Gods, I get up to 22mph without looking like I'm going to die. Craig Willet looks me over and says, "OK..that's good cadence at 90, no bounce, let's just keep it there." Lord, I'm in over my head!




"OK Dionn, we're starting the wind." You can hear the generator and propellor starting up before you feel the cool breeze on your face. It is very much a James Bond kind of a feel..you feel like you are deep down in this secret lab with technicians behind glass, cameras shooting from every angle, people talking and pointing at different streams of data on various monitors, turning dials, making notes. It was really very cool. If you don't like being the center of attention, this is not the test for you. But you know me...




I won't bore you with the details of each test but here's the basic jist. The idea is to without changing your own effort, reduce the drag ultimately resulting in time savings per hour...meaning free speed. On the floor just in front of me was a big display that showed my speed, cadence, watts, tunnel velocity and a graph showing my drag. You can see the same display in the pic here. So by making various changes, you could literally see the real-time graph of the drag going down. (It's the yellow and black on the bottom of the monitor here...see how it is going down after we made a change?).



For instance, for me it showed that by increasing my reach forward out on my aero bars by 1 cm, I shave on average 15 secs off my miles per hour pace. By dropping my post 1 cm, I shave 30 secs off my miles per hour. Since I've got signficant flexibility in my back (which was quite foreign to them...I guess most of the guys are pretty tight), we pulled my aero bars out 4cm and dropped the post 3.5...and saved 102 secs! Another reference point, the guys said on average, would be for those of you who currently do not have aero bars...if you get some, you can shave 20 secs without working any harder.



The thing to note here is the old adage that our dearest Ramsay preaches, "Boobs to the tube" is exactly what you want to do if you want to get aero. I told the guys at the wind tunnel that and they absolutely fell out! They said they weren't sure if they could use it with the other women that came through without getting some kind of lawsuit, but they would definitely use it on the guys. Ramsay Wall was given full credit, of course.



The next biggest AHA moment was head position. By simply lowering my head down into my shoulders (not looking down, but think more like a turtle pulling his head into its shell), I shaved 70 secs!! Ok, so without having to change any of your equipment, a simple movement of the head can really make you more aero. To put it into perspective, buying new swanky expensive racing wheels generally yields you 60-75 secs. You do the finances.



Of course the tradeoffs are speed/power vs comfort/endurance. So the trick is to find a happy medium. If you are just time trialing or doing sprint triathlons, you don't have to be comfy, you have to be fast. For Ironman....you gotta be able to settle in for the day on your bike, so you'd better get comfy. So of course, ducking your head for a day wouldn't do you well, but cruising along on a downhill or flat when you are hawking down that next age group?? Say quack and DUCK! :)



The final adjustment we made was switching from a road helmet to an aero helmet. You know the serious folks look funny in those helmets, but they shave an additional 22 secs off. Free Speed. Take it if you want. I personally am going to pass on the aero helmet...I'm just not that good.



I've got a super cool DVD that shows all the testing from 3 angles plus the display. It'll be fun to watch over beers over the next ice storm. I'll keep you posted! :)