Race Season Managment: Logic vs. Ego

Posted in Lessons Learned, Paleo Athlete, Training on May 8, 2012 by Living Against the Grain

Last Sunday was the BMO Vancouver Marathon. Let me begin by saying, this event was amazing and I totally recommend it for anyone looking for an early season marathon on the West coast.  The course is beautiful and the organization is flawless. 

Anyways, I entered the race to help fine tune my run prior to Ironman Coure D’Alene on June 24th. 

Although I haven’t been training specifically for a marathon my goal was sub 3 hours.  I didn’t know if I had the fitness to pull it off but with my recent half marathon results I thought it was possible.

– 1:26:09 at the ‘My First Half Marathon’ in February (Vancouver, BC)

– 1:26:25 at the ‘Fool’s Day Run’ in April (Sunshine Coast, BC)

I ran the first half comfortably in 1:30 and my goal was to negative split on the second half as the course was predominantly flat for the last 18km. Unfortunately I started to labour around the 28 km mark and my pace started to slow.  I soon realized my 3 hour finishing time was not going to be possible.  

I hit the 30 km mark and was still cruising at around a 4:30/km pace but knew the last 10km was going to be a fight.  A 3:10 finish was still obtainable but with the 3 hour mark out of grasp, I decided to call it quits at 32km to avoid having to endure a lengthy recovery period.

Instead of finishing the marathon, I ran 32km, in 2hours, 19 minutes and followed it up with some lunch, a hot tub, and a solid afternoon training ride on the tri bike with some friends.

It was hard to drop out the race but I made the smart choice.  Running those last 10km would have put a huge dent in my next three week training block which is really the most important training time I have before ironman.

Congrats to all of those who finished! It was a beautiful course and a perfect day for a race.  


What is the major take away from this experience?  Listen to your body and remember what your goals are.  A triathlete needs to train like a triathlete.  Training like a runner + cyclist + swimmer will only serve to sub optimize your overall performance in the sport of triathlon.  Sure it sucks to miss your goal time, and it sucks even more to drop out of a race but you have to keep your priorities in mind and remember what the true goal(s) of your race season are…. and most importantly, keep it fun!

Looking forward to the next one!


The Standing Desk

Posted in Lessons Learned, Rest and Relaxation with tags on March 2, 2012 by Living Against the Grain

I am a big fan of standing at your workplace. Standing while working reinforces natural posture, facilitates passive strengthening of muscles and connective tissues, and prevents the shortening of your anterior hip and other ergonomic ailements. Try it out, starting in short periods of time working at your desk, and eventually work up to a full work day.

Follow up on Feb. 12th Half Marathon: Lessons Learned and Next Steps

Posted in Lessons Learned, Nutrition, Paleo Athlete, Training with tags on February 13, 2012 by Living Against the Grain

Today’s race was amazing. My finishing time wasn’t fantastic but the atmosphere was great, and the course was beautiful. It was rainy, but not too cold and the other competitors out there brought a great energy to the event.

I came across the finishing line in 1:26:08, a new PR in the half marathon by over 3 minutes, but admittedly, slower than I had set the cruise control for.

The goal time of 1:22 was a stretch but I really wanted to experiment with it.

Race strategy was two pronged:
1. Set a pace equivalent to 95% of my 10k PR and hammer it out for as long as I could until I couldn’t hold any longer.
– Reason: Test early season fitness identify weaknesses: Strength, speed,
mechanics, etc.
– Key take aways: Monitor when and where the pace became unsustainable and why.

2. – Drink only water and eat nothing
– Reason: Test body’s ability to metabolize fat during the race once glycogen stores had been depleted.
– Key take aways: Monitor when and where the shift from glycogen to fat occurred and test the efficiency of metabolizing
fat for energy.

Obviously you shouldn’t run two pronged experiment like this if its your A race of the season. By then, you should have everything figured out and dialled in. But today was a perfect opportunity.

I believe that self experimentation is a very important element to an athlete’s training plan. If you stay in your comfort zone, or always take down the same gels or sports drink its hard to see where your limiting factor is. Pushing out of your comfort zone allows you to see where your mechanics, strength, endurance or nutrition plan fails so sometimes, your best strategy is to just go for it and see what happens.

So I set my pace at roughly 3:50/km, fired up my POSE running technique, drank a little water at each aid station and stuck to my race plan.

Things were going well and I felt great for the first 15 km. I was right on pace, cruising along the Stanley Park sea wall and feeling fine. But the last 5-6 Km were a little slower than I had hoped.

Deciding to race without any high Glycemic Index gels or sports drinks may seem foolish to some, but my goal was to clearly indicate the point in the race in which my glycogen started to run out. I then wanted to gauge my body’s ability to efficiently metabolize fat for energy.

Why just read about this stuff in text books? I believe there’s some inherent value in going out and experimenting yourself!

To summarize my findings from today’s race: Things were cool and smooth until 15km.

– I average 3:49/km for this portion of the race and my energy levels were stable.

From Km 15-21 I was struggling to keep pace and my energy level dropped.

– I averaged only 4:05/km from KM 15 on.

The data I gathered today will now allow me to go back to the drawing board for my next 4-6 week training block.

– More stamina work, more strength work, and most importantly, GETTING THIS PALEO RACE DAY NUTRITION FIGURED OUT!

I think I’ll be experimenting with some of the stuff on this interesting blog post I just read:

If you have any insight for race day nutrition, please post in comments. Thanks!

2012 Race Season Begins with 21km around Vancouver’s Stanley Park

Posted in Rest and Relaxation, Training with tags , , , on February 12, 2012 by Living Against the Grain

After a short hiatus from the blogosphere I return with a short but pointed blog entry. To begin, I just want to say I hope you have all had a great start to 2012.

My 2012 race season begins tomorrow with a half marathon in Vancouver. BC. As a triathlete, my weakness is running so I have told myself I would focus this early part of the season on improving my run so that I am a more well rounded athlete for my main event: Ironman Coure D’Alene, on June 24th

Tomorrow’s race is the ‘My First Half Marathon‘ in Vancouver, BC. The course runs from the Yaletown community centre, around Stanley park and back. This course is flat, fast, and fun, and should be a great early season event.

A half marathon is 21km, so in preparation for such an event one could only assume my training plan has incorporated multiple long runs of 15+ km to get my body prepared for the demands placed upon it by running 21km.

This assumption however, is wrong. I have run only one long run in 2012 and it was a 10k two weeks ago that I ran in the rain on a cold afternoon weighing in at 196lbs. I started off at a slow tempo, found my grove around 2-3km in, and low and behold, ended up setting a new PR at 37:53. Needless to say, I was shocked.

My training over the past 6 weeks has been based first and foremost on the development of efficient movement patterns and technique, and then the development of strength, speed, power, and stamina.

I have been following the Crossfit Endurance protocol quite closely, involving 4-6 crossfit workouts, 3-4 strength and conditioning workouts (incorporating the conjugate strength method popularized by Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell) and 2-3 run workouts cycling through short intervals, long intervals, and one tempo or time trial each week. The programming on the crossfitendurance site is brilliant, I just tweak it ever so slightly to fit athletic goals and fitness level.

So all this talk and no action means very little. The intent is not to look at my run splits and say ‘wow this guy is fast.’ On the contrary. Any competitive runner would look at my times and say they are quite slow, and that person would be right. The point is, at almost 200lbs I have learned how to run fast, run efficiently, and train in a way that avoids repetitive stress injuries and keeps me looking forward to the next workout.

I am on to something new, something exciting, and something that we can all tap into. It’s the development of holistic strength and endurance through crossfit inspired exercises, that when done correctly, and with properly executed rest and recovery periods, can create new frontiers for athletic performance.

I’ll write an update tomorrow after the race.

Goal time for the 21k: 1:22:00

Constant Variation, Optimal Results

Posted in Rest and Relaxation on November 4, 2011 by Living Against the Grain

In the first two months post ironman I’ve learned what it feels like to have your body’s energy stores truly and utterly exhausted. It’s a humbling and gratifying feeling at the same time. Overall, its not awesome, but eating the right diet and sleeping lots gets you back to full steam in only a few weeks.

I’ve also learned that as an athlete, you can never stop learning, growing, and varying your training regime. Everything to do with your training plan must be targeted (i.e. Rest, intensity, duration, and volume) however these elements must also be constantly varied in order to prevent special adaptation or ‘accommodation’.

If your body starts accommodating to any sport specific movement pattern, it begins to weaken in other areas. Therefore as an athlete and especially as a triathlete you open the door to sub-optimal gains in your general physical preparedness and therefore your sport specific performance will be governed to a sub-optimal max.

Not to get too deep on this, but hear me out:

I believe its important to split up a training plan into three categories: general physical preparedness, Special physical preparedness, and sport specific training and then get after each one accordingly. When this is done correctly it will yield far superior results than a training plan that is too narrowly focused.

I will use my own experiences as the basis for this statement.

For the past 4 weeks I’ve been full on training but putting in only about 6-7 hours a week. Instead of building up sheer volume the focus has been on programming in 4-6 targeted crossfit workouts, tons of mobility wod, 2-3 conjugate strength workouts focusing on different lifts, and lots of low intensity, technique work.

With such a low volume of training any traditional training plan would put my level of fitness far below the pre-ironman peak back in August.

But in reality I have recently set PRs in the following disciplines:

Deadlifts, Front and Back Squats, 10km run, 400m run 100m swim, and my average pace for a variety of swim and run intervals has improved.

So what is the deal?

Its simple:

A low volume, high intensity, targeted, and constantly varying crossfit endurance style training regime, is a fun and super effective way to train for endurance sports.

One way to look at it is: Technique leads to proper movement patterns, which leads to the ability to handle more intensity, which leads to the ability to handle more volume (without injury), which then leads to increased performance.

Another way to look at it is….. De-evolve your training plan to tap into a prehistoric evolutionary power source.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors flourished in a constantly changing, dynamic environment. Embrace this heritage and program some hunter gatherer style variation into your training plan.

Further reading:

I encourage you to read up on Louie Simmons and the West Side Barbell method of strength training.
I say this because Strength training is crucial to both the development of an endurance athlete’s performance and injury prevention and the conjugate method which is used at westside barbell is hard to beat.

Review of the Vancouver Crossfit Endurance seminar on Oct. 1-2

Posted in Lessons Learned, Training on October 5, 2011 by Living Against the Grain

The Vancouver Crossfit Endurance seminar was led by Dan Hollingsworth, one of the head coaches for CFE, and hosted by Crossfit Vancouver. Dan was extremely knowledgeable, and he was a killer speaker. He kept the energy high and held the interest of the 25 attendees all weekend long. I learned a great deal of information over the two days and I am excited to apply what I learned to improve upon the results from my rookie triathlon season and help others achieve their athletic goals as well.

The seminar was a major eye opener for me personally because although I followed what I thought was a solid CFE training plan throughout my triathlon season, I really only tapped into a fraction of the potential this training system has.

Ideally a high end multisport athlete should be doing a 4-6 Crossfit and strength workouts a week, and supplementing that with 2 interval workouts per mode per week. A single sport athlete should do the same 4-6 crossfit workouts, and add on 2-3 interval sessions for their chosen sport.
Visit the www.crossfitendurance.com website for more details on that.

The point is I didn’t do that. I should have, but I had only 6 months to learn the sport of triathlon, and prepare for an ironman. Therefore I focused mainly on doing the interval, tempo, and time trial workouts for the swim bike and run, at the expense of my 4-6 crossfit workouts. I still did a lot of strength work, did the strength and conditioning recovery workouts after races, and did 1-2 crossfit workouts per week, but without the intensity and constant variation from 4-6 crossfit workouts, you simply cannot maximize the potential that comes from this style of training.

Considering the results I was able to obtain, I am very excited to see what can happen when this program is followed by the book.

Back to the seminar……Both days contained a nice mix of class room style learning inside Crossfit Vancouver and practical application outside.

We focused a lot on running technique, paleo nutrition, mobility wod, and programming a CFE training plan for athletes of all abilities. Dan would break up each individual lecture component with running drills, video, video review, lunch, or simply a Q&A period.

Because it was a crossfit Endurance seminar it was only fitting that at the end of each day we did a Met Con style WOD.

If I were to add anything in regards to constructive criticism, the seminar was a little light on the science behind why this style of training is so effective.
That being said, all that type of information is available on the Crossfit Journal, on the CFE website, or in FUTURE exercise physiology text books :).

is also a great site for more science behind the correlation between intensity/strength training and endurance performance.

I highly recommend that you attend a CFE Seminar if you are able to do so. You will meet many great people and learn a lot of valuable information.

Overall the seminar was absolutely…..

Crossfit Endurance Seminar, Vancouver, BC Oct 1-2

Posted in Lessons Learned, Paleo Athlete, Training on October 3, 2011 by Living Against the Grain

Hi all,

I attended the Crossfit Endurance Seminar this past weekend in Vancouver, hosted by Crossfit Vancouver and led by Crossfit Endurance head coach Dan Hollingsworth. It was an amazing experience and I highly recommend attending one of these seminars in the future if its possible to do so.

More to come on my learnings and experiences at the seminar.

Look out Vancouver…. I am in discussion with some excellent people whom happen to be Crossfit gym owners here in Vancouver. The goal is to start up a CFE training program designed specifically for Single sport and multi sport athletes from all levels of performance and all ranges of primary goal events.

We are on the cusp of something huge here and its going to be an exciting year ahead.

Soldiers and visionairies