As most of you probably know, I am competing in Ironman Lake Placid on July 28th which consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a marathon. It has been a long, hard journey over the past 5 years to get to this point, but I realized that my journey pales in comparison to the fight that others must endure. One such person is my cousin, Sarah, who is battling a blood disorder called, Aplastic Anemia, Continue reading
One thing I have been playing around with lately is Heart Rate Variability(HRV) as a way monitor the effects of my training load. I used to do this strictly by testing my resting heart rate(RHR) every morning, but HRV can tell you much more about what is going on in your body using the other details of your heart beat.
I first found out about HRV a few years ago from a chiropractor who would measure this occasionally to diagnose my overall health. He never really explained the details about it. More recently, I was re-introduced to this measurement through listening to the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast. If you are not familiar with Ben’s podcast, he is very knowledgeable guy in the field of exercise, training and biochemistry. Ben uses himself as a “guinea pig” for many of the things he recommends and is quite insightful. Listening to his podcast conjures up images of this really fit guy walking around with electrodes and monitors attached all over his body and pushing a cart full supplements around. Ben is a firm believer in HRV and also monitors it every morning.
What is HRV?
So what is HRV? I am not going to get into the nitty-gritty details of it, but it uses the wave and frequency measures of your heart beat to determine the state of your autonomic nervous system(ANS). You ANS is your sympathetic(“flight or fight”) and parasympathetic(“rest and relax”) systems. When these systems are in balance, life is good. When they are not, it usually indicates a stressor on the body. A heartbeat that is balanced has a variable time between each heartbeat(1.01s,0.92s,1.05s,0.98s, etc.). Less variation indicates a problem. If you would like more details about the HRV check out Ben’s podcast on it or this blog post.
How Do I Monitor HRV?
I never thought I would personally be able to monitor HRV. I assumed that the monitoring devices would be quite pricey. Low and behold, someone has come out with a iPhone app that does just that. Actually there are now several. I have been using the SweetBeat app($4.99 on iTunes) by SweetWater Health, LLC which just requires a heart rate monitor that you can communicate with your iOS device. That is either a ANT+ capable strap and a ANT+ dongle connected to your iOS Device or a Bluetooth Low Energy(BTLE) capable heart rate monitor strap. Either one should work.
The app is pretty easy to use. First, attach your heart rate strap and pair it up with the Sweetbeat app on your iOS device, then go to the front “monitor” screen and hit the Start button. Next, select the “HRV for Training” button to conduct a 3 minute session to determine your current HRV, stress, and heart rate. When in completes you will be presented with a graph of your historical values as an indication of whether it is good or bad and if you should continue training as usual. The HRV value is between 0 and 100 and the higher the value the better the state you are in. If your value drops significantly it is usually time for easier training or at most a rest day. You can then upload the session to their servers for the highly-anticipated charts that they promise.
They recommend setting a baseline HRV initially. You can also link up the unit with their “MySweetBeat” website too, but it is pretty lame at this point. They just have a calendar which shows all your readings for the month. They do claim to add charts soon, but I haven’t seen any progress here since I started. I wish they would add the ability to download your data to a CSV file so you can analyze it yourself. I actually record the value in a spreadsheet and use my analysis tool of choice to slice and dice it.
For more info on Heart Rate Variability check out this doc…
How I Analyze HRV…
Every morning before I step out of bed I strap on a HR monitor and run a 3-minute session for stepping out of bed. My main purpose for this is to determine if I am overtraining or possibly in the process of getting sick. I am fairly certain this won’t happen since I am under a coaches tutiledge, but it is always good to know what your body is doing during different phases of Ironman Training. I also am a bit skeptical of it and want to try to either prove it right or wrong.
Looking at my daily HRV values(above) really doesn’t show too much other than it jumps all over the place. The values in the first few weeks of my training season were a bit higher, but that was because Sweetwater Health changed their HRV algorithm resulting in lower values since then. So, ignoring the first couple weeks and looking at a rolling weekly average I can see it is remaining pretty steady at around 60-65, which I guess is ok. A better way of looking at this would probably be from a summarized weekly average.
Here you can see that as my training volume(in Hours) is increasing, my HRV is decreasing. Below, I have marked the chronological weeks and the type of training week it is. I can start to see a trend where my HRV is drifts downward going from Build 1 to a Recovery week and then shoots back up again on the next “Build 1” week. This shows how the training load affects the HRV and then after a full recovery it then rejuvenates again and you are ready to go again for another 4-week cycle. Most-likely, If you didn’t have that recovery week your HRV would keep on descending until you were thoroughly exhausted and possible end up sick. It also explains why I feel like crap during my recovery weeks.
Looking at this another way, by grouping by training week type also further demonstrates this same idea. The first Build week is typically the highest and the recovery week is always the lowest. Race weeks here are basically like a recovery week since all of my races have been training races without a typical taper.
The last graph is showing the average HRV for the type of workout I do during my typical weeks. The workout assignment to the HRV value is actually the previous days’ workout since I measure the HRV in the morning. One interesting thing is that my HRV is highest the day after a race day? Hmmm…did I not go hard enough? That’s weird. Those long bike/brick days surely take their toll on my system.
That’s enough graphs and charts for now. I am curious to see how this pans out as I can heavier into training closer to Lake Placid.
Thad Beaty great story of transformation to plant-based and Ironman finisher…
My stomach sank when I opened an email from a fellow triathlete/co-worker the other day. It indicated the “SwimSmart” changes to the swim start of Ironman Lake Placid and a few other mass swim start events. In the back of my mind I always wondered if this would happen, but I never thought it would occur this year. The year of my first attempt at IMLP.
My initial reaction was one of disappointment. When I signed up for IMLP, I accepted the challenge of the “washing machine” swim start as a part of the event that I needed to conquer. This event is my “Mt. Everest” and with a challenge like this you accept these difficult parts of that challenge. Now that that part has been removed, will this event still have the same meaning?
Last July when I stood on the banks of Mirror Lake at 7AM listening to U2′s “Beautiful Day” and watching ~1800 pink and green caps bobbing in the water, I had such strong emotion well up inside me. I could feel the anticipation of me being amongst that group the following year. It would be difficult, but I would get through it and settle in for nice long swim in Mirror Lake. Will that start still hold the same meaning? I had texted my wife the day I found out about the change. She was also a bit depressed about it too. That swim start had also held a similar feeling for her as well.
Now that I have had a few days to mull this over in my mind during some long swim, bike and runs, I realize I need to accept this change and look at what positive things it will bring to the event. First and foremost is the safety factor. There have been numerous deaths lately in the swims of triathlons. This is one way to limit that anxiety for the competitors which should hopefully take some of the stress off. As someone who has dealt with anxiety and panic disorder in the past, I can understand that. Why I don’t have that during a swim start I have no idea. I can now look forward to a fairly more enjoyable 2.4 mile swim in Mirror Lake without as much possibility of being kicked, punched and swum over. It definitely takes a pretty big weight off my shoulders for starting the event, so now I can just concentrate on the race and covering those distances.
Another positive is that I could possibly “swim the rope.” There is a yellow rope that runs about 4-6″ under water along the entire swim course in Mirror Lake. I had swam this course last year during the Troy Jacobsen camp and had my fastest open water swim ever. Seeing the cable underwater allows you to not have to look up to sight buoys and swim as straight as possible. I knew I would never have a chance at getting close to this during the actual IMLP swim before, but now this could be possible given the more gradual water entry. So I may be gaining a few more minutes on the swim by this change.
More time to celebrate! The event is now starting before 7AM, so that should mean I could get done a few minutes earlier. I really want to finish before dark and this throws some more time in that basket of making that happen. I really don’t want to be running down River Rd. in the dark with a glow stick on if I can help it. While walking back from volunteering last year that really had a negative affect on me and I know that would just really suck the life out of me.
…And there will always be the wetsuit strippers!!
I know the World Triathlon Corporation has the best of intentions with this change and I had a feeling it would happen sooner or later. Change is never easy and those that have already done the race may have a tough time with this. Although, if you have already survived the “Washing Machine”, then maybe it is an easier change to accept. I know for someone who was prepared for it, it is not a real easy change to accept at first. Given the positives though, I am now starting to accept it. They just better be blasting “Beautiful Day” by U2 when I start! Even if it means repeating the song over-and-over!
Thanks for reading!
I’m On No Sleep, No Sleep!. You Don’t know What It’s Like In There…
Race morning did not get off to a good start. I hardly slept a wink the whole night and was tossing and turning trying not to look at the clock. I am not sure what if it was the large chai tea I had after dinner or just the excitement of the race. Maybe both. Regardless it was not a good way to start a race day. On top of that I had a pretty lame hotel breakfast of a bagel w/ almond butter and a Clif Bar. I had brought oatmeal, but forgot to bring a bowl to make it in. Duh!
I got dressed and packed up my gear, but didn’t give myself ample time for bib pickup and transition setup at the race. I really don’t know what I was thinking here. I should have gotten up earlier since I could not sleep anyway. On our twenty minute drive to the event we got behind some guy with and Endurance Multisport sticker that was going slower than shit. We had a line of cars behind us too. We feared passing him since we would probably ended up missing the turn and he obviously knew where he was going since he had obviously picked up his bib already.
We got there and I quickly proceeded to registration and got my bib, chip and swag(t-shirt). By the time I got to transition, I only had 10 minutes until transition closed. The thing that sucks was I had a whole hour to wait until I actually started racing. I just don’t get that! I managed to setup my transition spot and threw on my wetsuit pretty quickly and then it was down to the water to listen to the pre-race meeting, national anthemn and then watch the other waves start out.
The Big Chill
It was freaking cold and windy! The temp was around 43-45 deg F and the wind around 10MPH. I kept my sweatshirt on over my wetsuit and it was still chilly. Denise was anticipating me getting in the water so she could put my sweatshirt on over her DOWN jacket. We hung out waiting for my start for what seemed to be forever. I was a bit anxious to find out whether the water would be colder or warmer than what it was outside. As the previous waves started, the lifeguards were busy returning the many folks abandoning the race before the first turn buoy. Not sure if it was the cold or the muddy water at the start from everyone kicking it up. I did hear one girl say her wetsuit was too big for her and it was taking on too much water. She had never used it before…rookie mistake there.
Finally my wave(purple caps for men >40) was called. We were after the yellow caps and the pink caps. I made my way to the narrow aluminum ramp that took us into the water. It was not too bad really. The bottom of the lake was that really soft murky mud that just seems to hover over the bottom. That usually freaks me out, but it was actually kind of warm so I let my cold feet wallow in it with pleasure. I got into my spot a couple rows back from front and slightly to the right and before I knew it the race director was yelling “Go!” from the shore line. Yes, nothing fancy here like a start gun or cannon. He didn’t even have a bullhorn. The start was pretty typical craziness with feet, legs and bodies hitting you from every direction. The water was so thick with mud you could not see anything. It was total darkness in the water. Didn’t really bother me too much, but I could see how a newer triathlete could lose it. My face had started feeling a bit numb from either the coldness of the water or the cold air when breathing, not sure which. I did get used to it. The madness continued to the first turn and then slowly mellowed out until the second lap.
I kept burping the entire swim which was very annoying. Almost felt close to puking a couple times. Not sure what caused that: the bagel(which I don’t normally eat) or the caffeine-infused Clif Bar I ate. As I made my way onto the 2nd lap, I could see Denise standing on the shoreline and I gave her a quick wave with my right hand. I thought that was funny that I was waving during the swim. I settled into a nice rhythm during the second lap and before I knew it I was exiting the water onto the aluminum ramp. There were a few of us exiting at the same time and one guy in a yellow cap took the underwater railing right to the family jewels…Ouch! I looked at my watch and it read 23 minutes…nice! That caught Denise off-guard too since I told her 25-30 and she missed me again coming out of the water. I yelled to her as I went past and surprised the crap out of her.
The run to transition was pretty long and it tacked about 2 minutes onto my swim time. T1 went pretty quickly as I opted for no socks and wearing my bike shoes to the bike mount(as opposed to clipping them in and running barefeet). Another long run to the mount area and I quickly jumped on my bike and away. I was fearing the coldness on the bike with only a tri tank/singlet top and no socks but it wasn’t too bad. My toes were numb at this point so, the socks would not have made much difference anyway.
“Did You See The Size Of That Chicken??”
I settled into a ~20 MPH pace on the bike which was feeling pretty good considering the stiff crosswinds. I found out later that the wind was around 10MPH at the start and increased to around 15MPH during the bike leg. Sometimes there were gusts that had to be worse. The course was 2 ~20 mile out-and-back sections. The 10 miles out was the worst wind-wise, but neither way was a cake walk. The course was extremely flat and if it wasn’t for the wind it could have been a mid-20 MPH average pace. I kept playing cat-and-mouse with one girl on the bike that was in severe need of a bike fitting. Her seat was way too high and her hips kept rocking up and down. It was amazing she could maintain that speed with such an aweful-looking pedal stroke. I would try to pass her and get far enough ahead of her that she would not pass me again, but eventually she would and then she seemed to slow down right after she passed me. I even took some time to ease up behind her just so I would not have to pass her again. Eventually she disappeared. Not sure if she got ahead of me or behind though.
The first loop of the bike course was pretty good. I was averaging about 200 watts on the bike and my legs were feeling pretty good at that point. The wind seemed to have increased towards the end of the first loop and the out portion of the second loop was tough. I could feel it in my legs and was wondering if I was going too hard. I was still pulling 200 watts but my speed had decreased a bit. I held it steady and figured I would easy spin when I got a few miles from the bike finish. There was a water bottle exchange at the turnaround and the girl out there handed me a water bottle that was still sealed. So I am trying to remove the cap and plastic from the bottle while I am riding. Kind of a pain.
On what I believe was the second loop, I was approaching a long dog-leg turn in the course where a police officer was blocking traffic from the side street. I had a slight tailwind so I was cruising around 22MPH when all-of-a-sudden came a cackling black mass 2-3 feet in front of my face. It was a freaking turkey! I never even saw it coming and it quickly put up out of the aerobars, which I needed. two hours in the aero position gets a little rough on the butt and lower back. The turkey came from the side of the road near the cop, so I am sure the officer had a bit of a laugh over that. So not only did the wind slow me down, but that turkey set me back another few seconds too. So much for the time I gained with my carbon fiber wheels and aero helmet.
“I can’t feel my toes! I don’t have any toes!”
I cruised into T2 and had a pretty good transition. I had a little trouble with my socks since I still could not feel my toes. Heading out of transition I made way across several baseball fields and then through very sand driveway gate. The sand was the really dry deep stuff that just kind of sucks you in, making you feel like you are going no where. I tried to avoid it as best I could, but it still sucked my momentum. Then we looped around the school and out the road. My wife was standing out by the driveway so we exchanged some quick comments as a breezed by. Then it was out some flat country roads on route to the ocean.
The run route wound through a quiet little neighborhood and then out some long flat roads flanked on both sides by some very low standing crops. No relief from the wind at all. And now the sun came out to heat us up a bit during the run. I did manage to get a little tailwind on the first half of the run which helped, although the way back I felt the business end of it. There was one small section of woods along the way the provided a little respite from the wind and sun, but it was less than a 1/4 mile and did not last long.
I managed to keep a 8:10min/mi pace on the way out and had aspirations of going under 8 on the way back. That actually ended up going the other way with the headwind. There was one guy a bit ahead of me in my age group which I could see stopping and stretching every so often. I was slowly gaining on him and had hoped I could pass him at some point. One guy came up to me and I stayed with him for a while and we chatted a bit. Slowly he crept away from me and the other guy in my age group must have collected himself since I never got close enough to pass. I tried to pick up the pace a bit in small intervals, but just could not maintain it for a long enough time.
When I hit the 1 mile-to-go aid station, I felt a bit of spark in my step as I knew I was almost there. The biggest thing in my head was being able to take a nap on the drive back home. I looked at my overall time on my Garmin for the first time and it read ~3:36(hrs). I was a bit surprised since my goal time was around 4:00(hrs). I had no idea how I was doing since this was the first I had looked at my overall time all day. I knew from the previous season that under 4 hours would put me in the top 10 of my age group, so I was pretty psyched about that. This helped my pick up the pace a little more now.
I made the turn into the school driveway and as I approached the school I ran up on another guy with the same age group number on his calf. I decided to run just behind him and wait until I got closer to the finish before I made the pass. If I went too early I might peter out and he could then overtake me again. As I ran with him I could tell he was running on fumes and as soon as we made the last turn around the school I went for it. I hit the soft sand again and I could hear someone coming up on me. Fortunately it was someone else in another age group. I hit the finish line at 3:44:12.
Are We There Yet?
I had totally forgotten about being sick the past few days and as soon as I stopped after crossing the finish line I started coughing! Ha…first time all day. I walked around with Denise for a bit to keep the blood from pooling in my legs. I checked out the food and the only thing I could eat was some veggie hoagie thing which looked lame with the hoagie roll. We decided to hit the Thai restaurant near our hotel instead. I also bumped into a guy that did the Troy Jacobson Lake Placid camp with me last year, so I chatted with him a bit. I then collected my stuff from transition and we made our way home. We stopped off at Whole Foods in Plymouth Meeting too and stocked up with some frozen, organic berries and other healthy things.
Overall, I think it was a good race in the fact that it showed my overall early-season fitness is good. I still have a long way to Lake Placid, but I think I am on the right track here. One more half-iron distance race at Rev3 Quassy to go and then it is all Ironman training from there on out. My training plan for next week is not skipping a beat either with a 13 hour week to follow. Fortunately I am feeling good post-race and I am recovering very quickly too. I will attribute that to the plant-based diet.
Until next time, thanks for reading!
As I sit here in bed at the Fairfield Inn in the lovely town of Millville, NJ, I am finding it hard to believe my first triathlon of the season is tomorrow morning. Although the gear laid out systematically around the room does remind me of it pretty regularly. Tomorrow is the NJ Devilman Half-Lite, which is something short of a half-iron distance with a 0.8 mile swim, a 40.3 mile bike and a 8.8 mile run. I do not have that nervousness and anxiety that I used to have in years past. Granted it is only my “C” race of the season, but that never mattered before.
I think the experience I have gained in the past few years has now given me a bit of confidence that I didn’t have back then. Tomorrow is a test run for me. Testing out my early season conditioning, what I need to work on and my first real run of my nutrition plan. I am eager to get all that worked out now so I can just get my mind and body ready for the big show in July. That is what really matters. If I screw something up or have some mechanical incident, now would be the best time to get that out to the way. I hope I am that lucky.
We headed down here around 8:30-9am this morning. Delayed a bit by a RV and truck fire on the PA turnpike for an hour we didn’t get to Cape May until almost 1PM. We headed out to Cape May Point for some lunch at the Cape May Point General Store and Restaurant. It was pretty good. They only had one vegan platter, but it was pretty good and I was happy. They also have smoothies, juices, and wheatgrass shots. Denise had a wheatgrass shot which was actually pretty tasty. Lunch was really good and it was nice sitting out on the sunny deck which was protected from the gusty winds.
After lunch we attempted to go the beach, but the wind was so bad we got sandblasted right off. We walked around some of the inner streets of Cape May for a while. We then made our way to the hotel in Millville to check-in which was an hour from Cape May. The hotel was back off the main drag in Millville which was nice since the town was mostly a conglomeration of every “big box” store you could think of. The hotel was triathlon central with every other car having a bike mounted on it. It is always such the scene.
We settled into the room for a bit and then made our way out for dinner. We found two possible places to eat: a thai place and a vegan place, called Wildflower, further downtown. We went to the vegan place which was in a shady part of town and somewhat hard to find. It was a bit small and kind of a hippy-style place. There were 3 guys and a woman in the tiny open kitchen which was quite amazing how they could work like that. We had some veggie noodle soup, and black bean hummus burrito and a quinoa salad. All was pretty good. I topped off the meal with a peanut butter granola bar.
We headed back to the hotel after dinner and I started organizing my stuff for tomorrow morning. 5am comes around quickly. My cold has dwindled down to a little cough here and there, but overall I am feeling pretty good. I hope it goes for good tomorrow. My only real anxiety about tomorrow is the water temperature. It is going to be in the 40′s tomorrow morning, so it could be a bit chilly tomorrow.
Time to go racing!