Using math to determine a race pace

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I am now about seven weeks away from my A race this year, the Utah Half-Tri.  My training is going pretty good, and I constantly think about what my final bike goal should be. I normally determine this based on my current training speeds and times (mostly  the 56-milers that are close to what the race will give me).

Now I find GG and his R.A.N.T.’s over at GGTri blog/website.  I don’t even know how I ended up on his website just a few days ago, but I read it and I liked it.  He got me thinking about how much a half-mile-per-hour increase costs in terms of Training Stress. I hadn’t really thought about that. I have always just been looking to INTUITIVELY KNOW a pace/effort I can hold and then run fairly decent afterwards. But this TSS thing got me thinking.

For most triathlons, you spend the most time on your bike.  If you want to be a faster triathlete, it makes sense to be faster on the bike.  So if you are doing long course races (70.3 to 140.6), this means that you can cut substantial time off your total race by maximizing your bike speed… right?

The short answer is yes & no.  Yes, you can have a good bike split, but it may result in a really poor run… more than negating the gains you made by riding fast.  Here’s why:  The physiological cost of increasing your speed is not linear.  In the following example for a full IM, a 5% increase in bike speed will “cost” you more than 21% in additional total physiological stress on your body.

Let’s play with some numbers:

  • If I average 18 mph on the bike for 112 miles, my total ride time would be 112 miles / 18 mph = 6.22 hours (6:13).
  • If I can squeeze out 5% more speed, my average speed would be 1.05 x 18 = 18.9 mph.  Getting an additional 0.9 mph can’t be too hard, can it?  At 18.9 mph, my total ride time would be 112 miles / 18.9 mph = 5.93 hours (5:56).  Basically 5% more speed translates to a 5% time savings, or nearly 17 minutes on a 112 mile ride.  That is a big savings.

 

Those are deep thoughts. But how do you quantify that? He explains….

  • At 18 mph (see note 1 below for model / input), the required watts on a flat road is 116.51.
  • At 18.9 mph (same input conditions), the required watts on a flat road is 131.93.
  • The increase in power required is 131.93/116.51 – 1 = 13.23%.  So to go 5% faster… you need to produce 13.23% more power (physical work)

But wait, there’s more. Now he talks about TSS, Training Stress Score. I always thought that was a way to look at training, but you can also use it for race planning. I have definitely learned something today.  He says…

So, if you could produce 185 watts for 1 hour at maximum capacity, your IF for a ride at 116.51 watts would be:  116.51/185 =0.63.  At 131.93 watts (second scenario), your IF would be:  131.93/185 = 0.71.  Using these to calculate Total Stress Scores:

  • TSS for 18 mph = IF x IF x Duration x 100 = 0.63 x 0.63 x 6.22 hrs x 100 = 246.9
  • TSS for 18.9 mph = 0.71 x 0.71 x 5.93 hrs x 100 = 298.9
  • The resulting increase in physiological stress:  298.9 / 246.9 – 1 = 21.1% increase.

So the question is:  Is the 5% bike speed increase is worth the 21.1% increase stress on your body?  As a rule of thumb, the upper limit of TSS scores during an IM is around 280 for a strong IM athlete and an upper limit of 260 for weaker runner or novice IM athletes.  Few pro’s push to 299 TSS values, so likely the 5% increase above would likely result in a poor IM run overall

 

That’s a lot to digest in a bit, especially for a guy like me who doesn’t like math but DOES like to know answers to that type of question. So what to do? Well, I am good at replacing my numbers in somebody else’s equations, so let’s take a look at my own specific needs here in relation to his specific thoughts.

I want to increase my race pace from 18.5 (St George 70.3) to 19.7 (Utah Half), which is . Let’s start at the top and kind of copy my info into his math from the calculator at www.gribble.com (I used all defaults except biker and bike weight).

- If I average 18.5 mph during a 56 mile bike, that is 3.027 hours, or 3:02, exactly my time at St George.

- If I average 19.7 mph during a 56 mile bike, that is 2.842 hours, or 2:50:30, pretty much my goal at the Utah Half.

- If I go 2:50 instead of 3:02, that is 12 minutes faster, or 6.6% faster (12 minutes / 182 minutes). I don’t know if that math is right, though because there isn’t an example of that formula. Aaargghh… Mrs Fenster back in 6th grade…help please!

- At 18.5 mph the required watts is 153.88

- At 19.7 mph the required watts is 180.2

- The increase in power required is 180.2/153.88 – 1 = 17.1%.  So to go 6.6% faster… you need to produce 17.1% more power (physical work)

 

Now for the look at TSS. My FTP as set on TrainerRoad is 240, using a Kurt Kinetic power curve but not a direct power meter. That number is good enough for me on this calculations. Let’s put my numbers into his example below and see what happens.

So, if I can produce 240 watts for 1 hour at maximum capacity, my IF for a ride at 153.88 watts is:  153.88/240 =0.641.  At 180.2 watts (second scenario), my IF would be:  180.2/240 = 0.75.  Using these to calculate Total Stress Scores:

  • TSS for 18.5 mph = IF x IF x Duration x 100 = 0.641 x 0.641 x 3.02 hrs x 100 = 124.09

  • TSS for 19.7 mph = 0.75 x 0.75 x 2.84 hrs x 100 = 159.75

  • The resulting increase in physiological stress:  159.75  / 124.09 – 1 = 28% increase.

Wow, that was strangely fun! And incredibly insightful. I am trying to increase my TSS by 28% for this race.  That would be significant if there weren’t a few major variables at play, such as the lack of a major hill in the Utah race, additional really good training in June and July, and the mostly flat course.  And that doesn’t figure in the “enemy” of the day being heat and wind.  But it is very insightful, and would be very useful if I had a direct power meter on my bike (alas, I am living the dream with a wife, kids, dog, and mortgage, so…).

Now let’s apply all that knowledge to gather up some wisdom. GG writes….

As a rule of thumb, the upper limit of TSS scores during an IM is around 280 for a strong IM athlete and an upper limit of 260 for weaker runner or novice IM athletes.  Few pro’s push to 299 TSS values, so likely the 5% increase above would likely result in a poor IM run overall (see note 3 below for more information).

That was something else I learned. I searched for the standard age-grouper goal for TSS during a 70.3 and found “the generally recommended range of .75 to .85 for age groupers racing the 70.3 distance” on a Training Peaks blog. That works for me, and I think I’ve seen/heard that before.

So, in summary, my increase from 18.5 mph to 19.7 mph is  12 minutes faster, requires 17% more power, and a 28% increase in TSS (which at 19.7 mph is at .75 on the low end of the generally recommended rage of .75 to .85 for 70.3 distance age-groupers.

I think the math required above is all pretty much spot-on, using my very subjective method of looking at previous races and training. Just this morning, I rode 19.7mph at a very easy pace for 24 miles, and I’m pretty sure I could hit that pace for another two hours and be able to run fairly strong. In fact, I followed that 19.7mph effort on the bike with 6.5 miles at a 8:20/miles, thinking I want to run 8:40/mile during the race.

What if I did an intensity factor of .80?  An FTP of 240 watts x.8 =  192 watts. Using the www.gribble.org calculator, that gives me 20.20 mph which is a time of 2.77 hours or 2:46:12.   Is that 0.5 mph and 0.05 intensity factor worth 4 minutes? I don’t think so, especially given the fact that I am expecting it to be really hot and will therefore want to be careful about bonking.

So, I guess I’m going with a goal of 2:50:00 for my Utah bike leg!

Product Review: BioFreeze

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BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): BioFreeze works great for quick healing of a strained hamstring.

I pride myself on not using any types of drugs or other stuff to heal my body. I think that if my body is telling me it hurts that it is indeed hurt. I average about four pills of any sort per year, mostly single buprofen-doses after I have truly overworked my body.

But I really stressed my hamstring once last year and had some biofreeze sample packets available. After applying this stuff once each day for three days and simply not running (I still biked and swam), I was ready to run again. Another three days of application andni was back to 100%. Previously, without using BioFreeze, this same injury would require two full weeks of no running and a week of easing back into full running.

I now use this every time I stress a muscle, and I am back to full speed within a week. Not only is the physical recovery really nice, I dont stress about losing too much time training. In fact, using BioFreeze has helped me turn the mental tides of an injury into positive opportunity to focus on other sports for a few days.

If you are looking for some muscle applicant and nothing else seems to work, give the BioFreeze a try….I think you will like it!

St. George 70.3 Detailed Review – A Race with a Family Adventure

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** Just realized I didn’t post this yet. Read on for details about the St George 70.3 and how one dad deals with a family adventure while at a destination race. **

 

My St. George 70.3 adventure started with my registration on September 5, 2013. In my six years of triathlon racing, I always seemed to be in pretty good shape in early May and then I would lose training consistency (if I ever really had any!) in Mid-May and then lose fitness. So, I figured an early May race is the way to go to see if that is really true. Thus, the St. George 70.3 was chosen as that early May race because it is a close enough drive (I stretched my six hour drive limit a bit) and it’s a big race.

I had two early worries.  Race day temperatures (ie heat) because I live in Idaho, and there is no heat available outside until mid-June.  Also, I would have limited opportunities for outside bike training before this race, which I decided wasn’t that big of a deal because I have a Kurt Kinetic fluid trainer that is pretty close to real-road feel.

Training Season

The winter training season went pretty good overall. I didn’t get to race at all in 2013 because a lot of things were happening or expected to happen, keeping me from signing up for races that I wasn’t sure I would get to do. Without races scheduled to keep me on task and also a lot of family travel, my training was even less consistent than ever. So, I was going into this training period with some fat on me (195 pounds) and having lost some of basic foundation fitness. I took my time building that base in September through the end of November. Then I had a great few weeks of bike training at the end of the year, and I started building up my bike and run together January through April. I started swimming again in mid-January after a multiple-month closure of the local pool for a big repair of some sort.

I wanted to be done building my fitness at the end of March and use April as a period to do the long workouts multiple times to build my confidence in my endurance and fitness. I basically did that, with some changes because of my work schedule. I ended up with limited bicycling opportunities at the very end of March and into April, but I had a lot of time for running and swimming. I took what life gave me and made the most of it.

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Sawtooth 60 Adventure Triathlon Quick Results

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Over the 4th of July weekend while I was already in the Sawtooth Valley but without my family, I did my own personal big training event I dubbed the Sawtooth 60.

The Plan: swim in Alturas Lake. Bike in the valley. Run up a trail next to Alturas Creek.

The swim was a failure, to put it short and sweet. On a beautiful calm morning and excited to get this swim, I was met by some of the local deer at my starting point. I got in the water, and it was just too deep and dark to swim in, and it really freaked me out.  I tried a second time with a different route, and it was still too deep and dark. It was frustrating, but I am absolutely confident that I made the right decision concerning safety; I was the only person awake for several miles and the water was about 55 degrees….if anything went wrong they would never find my body in that black hole of water that I could see down at least 30 feet until it got too dark to see anymore.

A completely calm Lake Alturas.

A completely calm Lake Alturas.

Several local deer greeted me at the swim start.

Several local deer greeted me at the swim start.

T1 was at my car in the parking lot. It took a while because I had to setup my bike and then fill water bottles and all that. No worries; this wasn’t a race.

The 53-mile bike was a great breakthrough success! I changed the route a bit because of a fire near the road to Stanley, but that allowed me to finally do the Galena climb. And at the top, I decided to go down the other side and come up the north side, too! After seven years or so of watching people do this and wondering about it, I finally did it.

Galena Summit at 8,701 ft.

Galena Summit at 8,701 ft.

Obligatory selfie photo at the overlook for Sawtooth Valley.

Obligatory selfie photo at the overlook for Sawtooth Valley.

T2 was faster than expected. Put my bike in the car. Lock it. Start running. Nice and simple.

The planned 10k run turned out to be a really awesome 9.25 miles trail run on a cool day with sunny skies and no over-heating because there was plenty of run-off and the creek was always near to splash on some cold water. I stressed my hamstring earlier in the week, but it did just fine on this run. I really surprised myself with my pace on this uphill, too.

This training event was really motivating because of the beauty of the venue and effort I put forth. I had only one bottle of HEED and a bottle of water on the bike along with some gels, and then only gels and creek water on the run. I wondered if I would have enough nutrition during the event, and it all worked out just fine…maybe because of all the chips and desserts I ate the day prior at the 4th of July events.

I will definitely be doing this training event again, with a couple of changes:

1. Find someone to swim with or move the swim to Camp Perkins area and then just drive to the pavement as part of T-1.

2. T-2 will be at the actual trailhead of Alturas Creek trail.  About three miles of the run was “wasted” by running on a gravel road instead of on the trails.

3. Go all the way down to Galena Lodge or maybe even further on the south side of Galena. I turned around about a half-mile up the road, not knowing exactly where the lodge was and not wanting to get too far down the hill.

If you ever get the chance to do something like this, GO FOR IT!

The Sawtooth 60 Triathlon

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I like the idea of doing my own triathlon courses. I don’t have to pay alot of money for race fees. It is not crowded. And there is an added simplicity of just me doing the race. I have done a few here in town starting at the pool and doing local bike and run courses  as race rehearsals, but now I am venturing out into the world. Honestly, these “races” are basically just full-on rehearsal workouts, but I like to add a bit of excitement. I have one coming up on July 5 in the Sawtooth Mountains in central Idaho. I invited the local triathlon club but there were no takers, mostly because of scheduling issues. Here’s the course, and I hope to have a “race” report by Sunday night.

Course Summary:  The race is centered around beautiful Alturas Lake in the central Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, with the lake at an elevation of 7,038 feet, the low point in Stanley, ID, at 6,200 feet, and the high point on the run at the top of Cabin Creek at an elevation of 8,827 feet.

The 1.2 mile swim will start at the Smokey Bear Campground boatdock and head east to a turn-around point and then come back.  The water will be very calm and clear, and it might be a bit weird swimming in that water and seeing the fish 20 feet below. stswim T1 is in the parking lot at my car. The bike heads north through the beautiful Sawtooth Valley to the town of Stanley and back.  Throughout the ride, I’ll see snowcapped mountains amid the bluebird skies. The route drops 1,200 feet steadily over the 25 miles to town, and then rises steadily that same 25 miles back to the campground for T2 . st60bike T2 is at the parking lot at my car. Nice and simple. The run is a smooth uphill, almost flat for three miles and then getting steeper at the trail heading up Cabin Creek. Three miles and 1,800 feet later, I will be in a nice little cirque and jump in a lake. Water will be available during the entire climb, as I will be next to Cabin Creek. After the quick relief swim, it’s three miles downhill during what is normally the hardest part of a race for me, and then two miles back to the finish line at my car. strun Weather is projected to be a low of 44 with light/variable winds, and a high of 78. The standard morning routine is calm and cool til about 10am, when the wind might come up a bit, which won’t bother me because I’ll be running.

SATURDAY Sunny

  • Friday NightMostly clear, with a low around 44. West southwest wind 5 to 10 mph becoming light and variable after midnight.
  • SaturdaySunny, with a high near 78.

Logistics: Swim: Standard items required. Goggles and wetsuit. Bike: Will bike with a camelback to ensure I have water and nutrition along the way. Will have a credit card in case I want to stop at the gas station in Stanley for some extra nutrition and maybe a mid-race coffee. Run: Will run with a camelback  to carry nutrition and extra sunscreen. Run tops out at 8,900 feet, so that will be challenging. I guess I’ll leave the fishing rod at the car and not worry about that opportunity to fish those lakes.

Expected Times: Start at 6:00 am. Swim = 35 minutes. T1 = 7 minutes, with extra time for unlocking my bike and locking up all my stuff in the car.  Bike = 3 hours, leaving time for an easy pace and possible wind.  T2 = 7 minutes, with time for locking my bike up. Run = 2 hours because there is a 1,200 foot climb and I want to take a dip in one of the lakes up there.  Total = 5:49, round up to 6 hours to simply the goal.

The overall goal is to have a good workout and finally swim, bike, and run a couple of courses I’ve always thought about doing while I spend time at Camp Perkins.  This will be some good high altitude training….if I don’t bonk early from the elevation.

Here comes the heat! And I like it!!

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I much prefer riding in really hot days with very little wind. An July and August in Pocatello are great for it!

Hot in the afternoon and warm in the mornings. I can choose whichever I prefer. Honestly I might do alot of both!

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Measuring a decline in swim efficiency using SWOLF from Garmin 910xt

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One of the things I like about the Garmin 910xt is the ability to get some swim data, specifically SWOLF (swim golf, lower is better) and an efficiency rating.  There is some debate about the usefulness about SWOLF, but for the sake of this quick post, let’s say it is at least somewhat useful.

BLUF (bottom line up front): being out of the pool for a month cost me 10% on SWOLF and efficiency, about 90 seconds per mile, and three seconds per lap. — But in that month, I took about 8 minutes off my half-marathon time!

The Details: I was out of the pool for about a month because it was being repaired. I got back into the pool with some quick and easy 1,000 swims last week to get back into the groove for swimming. Today, I did my first 2,000 yard set to see where I’m at….. basically, I’m slow and it hurts much more than it should…but that’s not the point of this post. I decided to look at my SWOLF from today versus one that felt good and I was swimming good. I checked back through my activity history and found a 1,500 swim from April where I was finding my 70.3 race pace for the St. George race. Perfect. Data analysis: Today was SWOLF = 38 and efficiency = 35.  That day back in April SWOLF 36 and efficiency 33. Almost a 10% difference! I suppose the watch isn’t quite accurate enough to really detail that 10% difference, but the number is the average of   up to 80 points of data (one point = one pool length).  Also interesting was the average 1 mile pace: 27:48 vs 26:19 in April…. a full 90 second difference over about 1800 yards, which is 36 laps, so we are talking about three seconds per lap that the pool repairs cost me. And that doesn’t count the affect of being significantly more tired after the swim session and how that would affect me the rest of a 70.3 race if that is what I was doing today. Below is the data, with the April swim on the left and today’s effort on the right. swimcomparison

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