Toughest Swim Workout of the Year  

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Given that it was only our second masters session of 2010, that’s not real news, but in reality, it was as tough as any session this season, and definitely one of the toughest ever.

I knew it was going to be a humdinger when coach started her pre workout briefing by telling us “Today, we are going to do an I.M. workout.” That’s IM as in Individual Medley, as in F-B-B-F, or Fly, Back, Breast, Free. As in I swim only one of those strokes even moderately well, I am going to croak doing the rest.

IM training is a bit of a dichotomy. There’s a word and a half. Go look it up. On the one hand, the workouts are not boring. For a 100m set, you only have to swim one length of each stroke. The Constant changes makes the time fly.

On the other hand, if you are like me, inexperienced in all strokes, particularly in the Fly, back, and breast, the sets can be torture. Once I finished just one length of fly I was ready to stop at the wall and sink to the bottom. But I didn’t, I survived.

So the workout went like this. The Warm up, was 4 sets, in reverse IM order, done as 3 x 50 (25 drill/25 swim) and then 4 x 25 kick. Not really a warm up for me. When I was finished, I was ready for a nap. Kick sets kill me, even short ones. So by the time we completed the warm up, my blood was pumping.

The main set was simple. 8 sets of 100 IM for time, done on about 4 minute intervals, so it worked out to about 2 minutes rest for me. Coach allowed us to substitute 1 length of free for any other stroke, but brave, or stuipid me decided to try the sets with no substitutions.

The gold star for me was that I didn’t die in the water. But on top of that I improved as the sets went on. In fact, my first set clocked 2:02 for 100m. By the third I had managed to relax, get my breathing right on thr fly, concentrate on my turns, and hit 1:58. My best was set 5 where I managed 1:56, then on sets 6 and 7 I was dead on 1:57. That’s pretty consistent swimming for a weekend warrior like me.

So here is a tip, if you are getting bored in January in the pool with lap after lap of freestyle, throw in a couple of IM workouts.

Musical Monday, Heave Away, The Fables  

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I was at a basketball game on Saturday, and during the warmup they played, Heave Away by The Fables. I hadn’t heard this song in a while, and when it played, I thought gee, that would be a good spin song.

I couldn’t find a no video for this, but someone on Youtube put it to a slide show.

And yes, every single training ride I do looks like the pictures. Ocean, Icebergs, the works.

Spinning, and Be True To Your Wheel  

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I thought a few shameless snaps of my favorite tennis player would get me a huge traffic spike, but to no avail. So since everyone seems more interested in swim bike run dribble, I decided to jot down a few thoughts about spinning.

Avoid the Boredom

The first thing about spinning is that you have to occupy your mind during the numbing boredom as you sit and pedal. I have a couple of spinerval DVD’s but truth be known, sitting and watching a bunch of other people spinning is only moderately less boring than spinning by yourself. That’s where a good movie comes in. Like Tin Cup

Everyone remembers the “Go for it clip” but my fav is the bank off the Port-A-Potty, I just cannot for the life of me find the clip.

Set the tension

The second thing is that you have to be sure to sync the tension on the roller with the workout. That means that you have to be sure to set the tension so the big gear intervals are getting you to the right intensity. Likewise the low gears have to be set to avoid overworking and allow recovery. During last my Monday session, I had the tension set just right so that the 5 x 45 second ILT was extremely difficult for the last 10 to 15 seconds. My hip flexors are screaming now. I usually try to back off the tension exactly 1/2 turn so I can set it back in the same position next workout. It’s important to back it off to avoid putting the wheel out of true.

Be True to Your Wheel!

Which brings me to probably the most important thing about spinning. That is, your back wheel must be true. If your wheel is out of true on the round, with flats or bulges, your wheel will slip and then bite on every revolution. On top of causing little pieces of your tire to shread off, and jolting your legs on each pedal stroke, it’s plain annoying. The difference in spinning on a true wheel, versus an untrue wheel is like night and day. If it weren’t for the boredom, I’d be incline to say it’s a pleasure to spin on a good wheel.

Spinning on a wheel with no wobble is slightly little less important, but if your wheel has a big wobble, you will have the same effect as rubbing a piece of rubber back and forth across the roller. This will cause excessive heat buildup, and a nasty smell.

My recent experience is that truing one direction will get you pretty close in the other. I am using a crashed wheel that was badly bent. Removing the flats and bumps, greatly reduced the wobble. And when I started tweaking out the wobble, the smoothness of the spin improved. I am already looking forward to my next session. Well sort of.

True Tips

I won’t provide step by step instructions on truing a wheel, there are much better resources available for that.

But I do have a couple of tips.
1. Use a spoke wrench. You can get away with a small spanner or adjustable wrench, but you can get a spoke wrench anywhere for dirt cheap, and it fits in between the spokes and will alow fine tuning.
2. Use baby steps. Half turns at the most. Quarter turns are better. There is nothing more frustrating than over tightening spokes, and causing a wobble in the other direction.
3. Remember which turn increases tension, and which increases. It can be a little counter intuitive because you are turning the nipple, and not the spoke.
4. Keep checking. The tension or compression in the spokes may cause the rim to move over days. So it may be nesseccary to re-true every couple of rides or so.
5. Be patient. The first wheel I ever trued took me weeks. Seriously. I would spen an hour or so, get fed up, then leave it for a couple of days. Then go back. The wheel on my current spin bike was probably done in less than a half hour or so in total.

And don’t worry, I am not riding the crashed wheel on the open road. I have an old beater set up as my spin bike, and the wheel is dedicated to this bike only. If I do fall off, it won’t be at 50kmh

Weather, Maria Sharapova, and the Australian Open  

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Cape Spear Lighthouse. The most easternly point in North America. This pic came from The Weather Network. You know, the ambitious weather site. I haven’t seen the lighthouse from this angle before, but a cool shot none the less.

If you don’t like reading about the weather my only advice is GO AWAY, because without it, I would be stuck today with a massive case of writers block. The weather around here is consistently inconsistent.

Take today. We are finally getting some relief from the -9 deg C and sub 20 wind chill. Yes, break out the grass skirt, its up to a balmy -5 deg C at 8:00 am, on its way to -2. On Saturday it was warm enough that I broke out the workhorse, my mountain bike for an outdoor 90 minute ride. The roads were mostly dry, but I still had to bundle up with triple layers, and my fingers lost feeling after an hour, and I had to take an hour or so after my ride to clean off the salty muddy mess, and re-lub the chain. But even at just under 2 deg C, it was still way way better than a 90 minute trainer session in my basement.

Luckily, I don’t live in Melbourne Australia where the temps are expected to hit 29 deg C today during the Australian Open.. I guess Maria Sharapova doesn’t like the heat either as she took an early exit from the competition.
OR DOES SHE! Maybe she would rather lounge on a beach in that heat, and let someone else have a turn at winning.

Well, Hey Maria, if you happen to read this, and really don’t like the heat, then feel free to come pay us a visit here. You’ll never complain about it being too hot this time of the year.

By the way, speaking of Maria, try googling her for images, and count how many pretty pictures come up before one of her playing tennis. Amazing. I am still a big fan though. I hope she goes deep into the next major which I think is the French.

Musical Monday, The Backyard Beach  

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Oh to wish. This morning it was -9.0 deg C (15.8 deg F). But the wind chill is -21 deg C (-5.8 deg F)

Anyone with pre tween kids probably have already seen this episode of Phineas and Ferb. They built a huge beach in their back yard and had a party.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

Typical Weekly Training Schedule Part 2  

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As described in the previous post, Once guidelines were defined, it was relatively easy to lay down a fixed weekly schedule. You can check out my goals and guidelines here.

The next step was to get a calendar, and scheduled in the fixed items. After that, I scheduled in my other obligations. Basically anything that would influence my schedule, like kids activities. Then finally, fill in the rest of the workouts.

Since I missed out on the winter spin sessions, my only scheduled item was masters swims on Thursday evening, and Sunday Evening. So that was the easiest part.

Next came other obligations. Wednesday my wife had Yoga which left an evening home workout session. Saturday morning was my son’s curling which left the rest of the day. Sunday was kids swimming lessons at 11:0 so if I wanted to, I could get up early enough to get in a morning session to compliment my evening masters swim workout.

So after spoiling a couple of calendars, I came up with the following weekly schedule.

Saturday: Bike, aerobic session. Long spin session or outside ride weather permitting.
Sunday: AM Yoga or Core. PM Masters swim
Monday: AM Optional easy swim. PM Power builder Spin session.
Tuesday: AM Swim Resistance focus with paddles and Sculling drills. PM Yoga or Core
Wednesday: AM Swim Drill session. PM Power builder Spin session.
Thursday: PM Masters
Friday: Recovery Day. No scheduled workout. Light stretching optional.

So I am off to a decent cycling and swim based winter training session.Although I managed to hit all my dryland sessions this week, but fell behind on my swimming because the pools are still closed for the winter maintenance. Hopefully next week they will be opened, and I can back on track 100 percent. Come summer, I am looking forward to some kick ass results.

Typical Weekly Training Schedule Part 1  

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If you are a busy weekend warrior like me, trying to indulge in multisport while supporting 2 kids, a wife, keep a house from falling down and not get fired from your job, scheduling your typical training week is probably your easiest challenge.

It’s not always as simple as getting online, hiring a coach ,or buying a how to book, and faithfully following a set schedule. In fact flexibility in training schedules is one of the things that drew me to triathlon. Fortunately, the busier a person is, the easier it is to build a typical weekly training schedule.

I’m a fan of the typical weekly schedule where the focus of the individual workouts can change, but the schedule looks the same week after week. I got that advice from Gordo Byrne’s site when I was training for Ironman Florida 2006, but for the life of me, I can’t find the article again. In any event, this method makes scheduling so much easier, especially if you are trying to fit training in around set masters swim workouts, or spin classes.

Here is how I came up with my schedule for the next 10 to 12 weeks or so.

The first step was to lay down some soft goals and guidelines which looked like this.
1. Start my spin program. Plan for 2 to 3 spin workouts per week. Power builder on weekdays, longer aerobic on weekends.
2. 2 to 4 swims per week including masters. This was easy as I can swim on my lunch break.
3. Continue with strength, core, flexibility work. For this I plan to incorporate a combination of P90X core and yoga as well as some other core and/or yoga programs.

I don’t like winter running, so I didn’t plan for it, and didn’t worry about not hitting the pavement. I also wanted to focus on cycling which is my weakest discipline. Hence, the extra effort cleaning up the cave, and setting up the trainer.

So these were the guidelines that gave me my starting point. Once they were defined, it was relatively easy to lay down a fixed weekly schedule. To see what it looks like, check back.

Power Builder  

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My pain cave is ready, my trainer and my spin bike is ready, so all that’s left is the sweat and puke.

My first power builder session was Monday night. I spent the weekend cleaning out the cave and setting up the spinner truing my back wheel, and doing an hour easy spin to help set the tension on the roller, and season my butt.

Monday’s session looked easy on paper. 2 sets of intervals. The first was 5 sets of single leg pedaling (ILT) the second was 5 sets of seated big gear sprints. And there was lots of recovery spinning in between.

Before I tell how it went, let me state the importance of preparation. That means not eating too much supper because it doesn’t taste as good coming up as going down. It also means ensuring you have a working reliable time piece. Every single digital watch in our freaking house was out of commission, including two Dora digital watches from Macdonalds, and my heart rate monitor which appears to have died in the pool after I recently had the battery replaced.

So to complete the session, I used my dress watch with a the tiny face with no numbers. I had to rely on counting my revs, and counting steamboats to stay on pace.

As I stated, the session doesn’t session doesn’t appear tough on paper, but the beauty of spinning is you can go as hard or easy as you want and nobody can tell if you are dogging it, or holding back puke. It is also important to be sure to have the roller tension on the trainer just right to make the session hard enough to be effective.

The single leg pedaling started fine, but after about the third set, and the hip flexors became fatigued, smoothness went down the toilet. It took a lot of concentrating to keep the pedal stroke smooth and round. By the end I was happy it was over.

The seated sprints were also easy starting off. But after the first two, it really took effort to get the pedals going at low cadence, and building up and holding a high cadence for 15 seconds seemed like 15 hours.

The program appears to be fairly progressive. By the mid way point, week 6, this same workout has grown from 5 x 30 second ILT and 5 x 15 second seated sprints to 5 x 60 second ILT, and 6 x 30 second seated sprints, so it definitely gets more challenging.

Wednesday is session 2. 2 x 5 minute form intervals, and 5 sets of 30/30’s. Boy I can’t wait!

My New Pain Cave. How I spent My Saturday.  

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Not My Place Really!!! I used this picture for effect only.

Last Monday was registration for our winter spinning sessions. The good news for our local cycling community was that there were a ton of new people. More new faces than I ever seen before. The bad news for me was that despite showing up 10 minutes early, my preferred time slot filled before I could register. Due to outside obligations, my preferred slot was the only slot that I could make. So no winter spin classes for me.

That left only one alternative. Do my own spin program. To do that, I had to overcome 2 challenges. Finding a good solid indoor cycling program, and finding a place to train.

Regarding the second, the main obstacle was that my basement looked like it was staged to film a trailer for the new reality show, Hoarders. So in order to make space for my trainer, and entertainment centre, I needed a major cleanup and re-organization. 4 hours and a trip to the city landfill later. I had my Pain Cave.

The second was finding a solid program. There were many options including simply scrolling the net for different spin workouts, but I was really looking for a set program with a purpose, and settled on a 12 week Power Builder program by Coach Fred Matheny of

The program mostly consists of 2 weekly 50 to 60 minute powerbuilding sessions per but recommends a third aerobic session. The sessions don’t look terribly challenging, but according to the program description, the key is to do the intervals at Super high intensity, and then take adequate recovery . The result is supposed to be an increase in power that can be taken on the road, after the snow melts, and the spring outdoor season starts.

So now that I have a program and a location, tonight is my first session. Two intervals. The first consisting of 5 sets of 30 second single leg intervals per leg with 60 seconds spin in between. The second is 5 sets of 15 second seated sprints with high resistance and 2 to 3 minutes recovery in between. Both sets are bookended by a good warmup and cooldown, and are seoerated by a 10 minute recovery spin. By late this evening, I’ll know tomorrow if it’s a waste of time or not. Check back for the review.

Friday Funny First of 2010  

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In honour of the newyear, here is some more Friday Humour to get it off and rolling. If you fall into one of these categories, you are off to a very bad start.

Be patient, the list comes right after the minor corporate intrusion. But hey, gotta pay the light bill somehow!

2009 Retrospective  


Some of my bloggie friends seem to have had an awesome 2009 race season. My very best good friend Craig Alexander repeated at KONA. (Actually I’m sure Craig hasn’t a clue who I am, but he still repeated in KONA) Fellow blogger Charisa placed in her age group in KONA and came home with a salad bowl, and a pro card. (She drops by my blog from time to time and leaves me nice comments)

Although my year turned out better than Tiger Woods, to be truthful, for me 2009 was a little bit of a letdown. After a 70.3 PB in Corner Brook in 2008, and a trip to Clearwater, I was keen to ride the wave of success into 2009, focus on our local events, set some more Personal Bests, and maybe if the stars aligned, place in my agegroup at at least 1 event.

To execute, I focused on bike training over the winter. I thought I was well on my way with a good solid training season on the trainer and at spin classes, as well as a ride outdoors when weather permitted. I am still convinced that I improved my power last winter. Trouble was that I also increased my body mass. (That’s secret cyclist code for I got fat) Not obese mind you, just 10 or 12 pounds over my race weight from the year before.

As a result, I was off on all my time goals, and didn’t come near placing in any of my planned races. My targets were sub 44:00 for the downtown 10k. A mid to late season sub 35:00 for a 20k ITT. And sub 2:35 for our local triathlon.

Needless to say, I was nowhere near any of these. In fact, when we started off our ITT season, I couldn’t even manage to break 40:00 for the 20k ITT. I knew I would improve over the summer, but I also knew I was in trouble.

So here I am again planning out my summer racing season, full of ambitious goals. If anyone is interested in what I have in mind for this season, check back soon.

Can’t Contol Time? Control your workout.  

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It seems more and more articles are being written concerning training for time crunched athletes. I certainly see a trend towards shorter, more intense, high quality workouts. And none too soon for me. I find it increasingly difficult to combine family, work, and racing, especially with the programs you frequently see in the magazines.

Just like it says in the title above, no matter how big and strong you are, you can’t control or slow time. Inevitably, there comes a time when you are pressed for time, and getting in a short workout is by far better than skipping altogether.

Of course there are always options such as compressing your P90X workout as I posted about late October. Another option is to simply blast through a circuit session like I did Monday.

If you want to read more, click here!

Over the Holidays  

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Christmas represents a prime opportunity for two things.

1. Increase or build on your current fitness level.


2. Blow your current fitness level.

To me, the extended holiday represents a prime opportunity to get some me time, and get in some killer workouts. Even with all the visiting and festivities, as well as time with the kids, with no work in the schedule, 1 or 2 hours a day is not hard to squeeze in..

Even with the overindulgences. For me, the key was to refuse to fall into the F*@K-IT mode, and blow off activities because I was already eating and drinking too much. The way I looked at it, even if I was consuming too much, I would be far better off with some intense training sessions under my belt than without.

So over the holidays, I failed to stay off the toxic mixture of fermented grape refined sugar, trans fat soaked potato snacks, turkey and ham. Truth is, I didn’t really try that hard to refrain. It was Christmas afterall.

I did however, manage to stay fairly active. With a full week off, it was not hard scheduling in good solid training sessions.

Looking back, my 10 days looked like this. 4 dryland sessions, combining p90X workouts with my wife’s new workout videos, and included 2 core sessions. 4 solid swim sessions, although I missed 2 masters workouts, I dragged my ass to the lunch or morning sessions and did a couple of easy days of drills, and then a hard day with about 2500 yards of timed 100s, and some extended STROKE (Any stroke but Free) sets. I even managed a good 1.5 hour ride on my mountain bike, in the freezing cold, on a hilly course.

I am now ready to fall back into a routine. As tough as it was to get to work this week, it was good to be back on a schedule. So here is planning a good winter, and successful summer racing season.

Happy New Year!  

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Welcome to 2010. Holidays are over, work is started. There are no more excuses, the house has been purged of all reminents of the season. Tree, decorations, wine, and chocolates.

So it really is time to get my butt in gear, and get started on whipping myself back into shape. I am already feeling the effects of detoxifying myself. I have a bag full of healthy meals packed. I have my 2 litre water bottle full, and I am ready to start my parade to the little boys room.

I have a few new ideas in mind, as well as a few goals. Now that the panic at work has subsided somewhat, I have a little time to bang out a few posts, and try to keep my motivation.

Stay tuned, and stay happy.

BTW, fittingly, the video above is of the new years fireworks in Dubai. The new Dubai Tower opens today. Does anyone have a suite booked?