Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas in Cali

We've been out visiting Anders for the past 4-5 days.  Very nice visit in a beautiful place.  The weather has been fantastic.

Unfortunately, my body is not cooperating.  I've been fighting a bad back for the last couple of weeks and its been very slow in improving.  At this point, my Aconcagua trip is in bit of jeopardy.  My back needs to improve quite a bit for me to give it a shot.  Not the best of timing as I'm missing a lot of important conditioning work.....time will tell..... 

Friday, December 20, 2013

More Fun With Numbers

Continuing with our recent theme, today we'll once again dissect some of the Age Group competitiveness data.  Yesterday we jumped into how I did vs. the 2nd best guy in each of my wins and how that correlated with overall performance.  Today, we look at all my 137 triathlons and see the relationship between having the best Swim/Bike/Run split in my AG and whether I win or lose.  Here you go:

- I've completed 137 triathlons and won 45.  This is a 32.8% win percentage.

- 24 times I've had the #1 swim split.  Of these 24 races, I've won 18 for a 75.0% win rate.
- 113 times I haven't had the #1 swim.  My record in these races is 27-86 for 23.9%.

-84 times I've had the best bike.  I'm 44-40 for 54.7%
-53 times I haven't had the best bike.  I'm 1-52 in these for 1.9%

-11 times I've had the best run.  I'm 11-0 in these for 100%
-126 times I haven't had the best run.  In these I'm 34-92 for 27.0%

Interpretation: Obviously the bike is the most positive contributor to my AG competitiveness.  I'm able to get the top split on the bike vastly more often than on the swim and especially the run.  When I do post the top bike split, my winning % goes up above 50%.  If I don't win the bike, I'm simply not competitive.  This isn't a surprise, because if someone is better than I am on the bike, odds are that they are just a plain better athlete--I run up against a lot of these guys at IM and H-IM races, especially Kona.  When I win the swim, and especially the run then I have a very good chance of winning.  When I do win one or the other, odds are that I'm the best athlete in my AG at that race.

-19 times I've had both the best Swim and Bike (but not the Run).  My record is 14-5 for 73.7%.  This is a bit surprising as the win % I have with just the fastest Swim and when I have both the fastest Swim and Bike is about the same.  I would have thought the 1-2 punch would have dramatically upped my win rate here.

-7 times I've had both the top bike and run (but not the swim) and I'm 7-0 for 100.0% in these races.

-I've never had both the top swim and run without getting the top bike as well.

-4 times I've had the top split in all three disciplines.  Not surprisingly, I'm 4-0 in these races.

-I've recorded 52 races where I was not top in any of the three.  My record is 1-51 (1.9%) in these races as I won Annapolis back in 2011 with the 2nd fastest swim, 2nd fastest bike, and 5th fastest run out of 38 competitors.

-1 time I had the fastest Swim split only (not the fastest in the Bike nor the Run).  I'm 0-1 here.

-52 times I've had the fastest bike split only.  I'm 19-33 or 36.5%.   Here we can see the 1-2 impact of the swim.  While I win at a 36.5% rate with just the fastest Bike split, my win rate jumps to 49.3% (37 of 75) when I post the both the top Swim and Bike.

Reflect on that last statement for a second.  When I post BOTH the top Swim and Bike I win slightly less than half the time.  This is a testament to how competitively weak my run is!

-On that last note, I've never just had the fastest run split (when I have the fastest run split I also always have the fastest bike split).

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Age Group Win Venn Diagram: Is it All About the Bike?

More fun with numbers.  Here is a Venn Diagram of my 45 AG wins where I plot the three disciplines (Swim, Bike, Run) and whether or not I beat the second place guy in my AG in each discipline during that win.  I do this because in each of the 45 wins I want to see, relative to the guy who was closest to beating me, how much each of the three disciplines contributed to the victory:

Besides addressing a seemingly never ending need of mine to analyze, what does the above tell us?  What is does is it gives me a sense of what is driving my AG wins--is it really just my bike or is there more to the story.  The above diagram indicates:

1. Of my 45 wins, 22 times I was faster than #2 in both the Swim and Bike.  9 times I just had the faster Bike.  7 times I had the faster split in all 3.  6 times I had both the faster Bike and Run and 1 time I only had the faster swim (2nd place guy was faster in both the bike and run).  I never had just the faster Run or both the faster Swim and Run only.

2. Of these 45 wins, 30 times I had the faster swim, 44 times I had the faster Bike, and 13 times I had the faster Run.

3. 38 times my bike alone was sufficient for me to win.  This number is composed of 3 elements: a. every race where I was faster in all 3 disciplines (7); b. every race where just my bike was faster (9); every race where either my bike was the faster and either my swim or run was also the faster but if the other discipline had not been faster, my bike was still good enough to win (15).  By the same token, 17 times my swim was suffient to win and 8 times my run was sufficient to win.

Also perhaps of interest is the following.  In my 45 wins I've been 45:51 faster than all of the 2nd place guys on the swim, which is 1:02 per race on average.  Here is how it breaks out by discipline:

Swim      +45:51     (+ 1:02/race)
Bike      +211:04     (+ 4:41/race)
Run        -31:42      (- 0:42/race)
Trans      +24:53     (+ 0:34/race)

Total     +225:13     (+ 5:34/race)     

Triathlon SBR Split Data

Continuing with the 2013 end of the year data dump the following charts summarize my Swim, Bike, Run split history in several ways.

This first analyses chronicles my SBR Age Group Placing over my 13 years in triathlon.  A number of conclusions:

- I've had the most success on the bike with 84 1st place finishes out of 137 races, which is about 61 % of my races.  My swim is second at 24 (18%) and run last at 11 (8%).

- I make the podium 42% on the swim, 79% on the bike, and 31% on the run.

- I seemed to have slipped a bit in the swim last year, which we've discussed before on this blog, and given my relative under investment in the swim the last two years, this is not a surprise.  I have decided to up my swim investment in 2014 to address this slippage.

- My bike remains the valuable competitive weapon that I've always enjoyed.

- I did a bit better in my AG on the run this year, but I attribute this mainly to smaller, weaker fields than in the past as opposed to any reflection of increased competitiveness on my part.

This next chart looks at my best OA %-tile finishes on the swim.  Note that they were all in the 2009-2011 period and none from the last two years.  For me, it would seem that I need to swim close to 400,000 yards in a year to be as competitive as I can be.  I see more pool time ahead!
Same chart for the bike.  Although none of my top 10 OA finishes are from 2013, I had two 1st place OA bikes in the last three years andn that combined with my strong AG showings tells me that all is right in bike-land:
And finally, the same chart for the run.  At least two major takeaways jump out.  First, note how much lower these numbers are than the swim and bike.  85%-tile gets me in the top 10 on the run, while I'd need 94 %-tile on the swim and 99.5%-tile on the bike.  Second, with the exception of that freakish breakthrough race at SkipJack in 2011, all of these top 10 where from 2007 or earlier--I'm long past my peak on the run!
Lastly, a look at my best split pace by discipline over the last 13 years.  I only had one addition to these lists--my swim at Fort Delaware where the pumping current helped me swim at a sub 20 min/mile pace.  I'm scheduled to do NYC this year and a strong current in the Hudson will probably help me challenge this number this year.  Notice how everything on the bike and run is from 2008 or earlier---sigh!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2013 Review: The Data Dump Begins

Ok gang, I'm going to start my review of the 2013 season/career to date.  I'll finish it before I head down to Aconcagua on 1/10.  Rather than giving a polished, interpretive summary, I'll let you see it as I see it--through a lot of messy data and analyses....This is the first of several posts--and it's in no meaningful order!

The first is the updated summary of my AG performance over my 13 years:

From this lens, 2013 was an outstanding year for me (competitively).  I won my AG 7 times out of 11 races, which is the second most in a year in my career.  In 2009, I won 8 times.  However, in 2009 I raced 14 times and all of those races were local, short course races as I decided to take an "off" year and not race long course or any major races.  A more direct comparison would be to say in 2009 I won 8 of 14 local races and in 2013 I won 7 of 9.  In any event, including all races, I had my second highest AG podium percentage and my highest Win percentage.  Now, I'm aware of all of the ins and outs of the data that go into this, but hey, I'll take it--in my AG, in the races I raced this year, I was pretty tough to beat. 

Now, in contrast to this rosy picture, I offer the following more sobering analyses.  First here is a review of my USAT rating history:
The above chart shows the history of my USAT ratings--with the old method and the "new" one that they adopted in 2006.  You can see, by this measure, I peaked back in 2007.  also, it would seem that I did a pretty good job ratings wise up through 2011--staying above 80 in both measures.  However, the last two years have not been as good as I have fallen into the mid 78s.  Is this the new reality or can I jump back up?  2014 will be important from a measurement perspective with respect to this dimension.

One last chart for tonight--this one depicts my top 10 rated races over my career.  Notable is  the abscense of any top 10 performances over the last two seasons.  I still cling to that late 2011 effort at SkipJack to believe that I still have one or more breakthrough performances left in my career....we'll see.

More analyses to follow in the days ahead.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Last week training totals

swim: 1000 yards
bike: 104 miles
climb/trek: 17:30 (31+ miles/10,000+ vertical)
total time: 25:31

Onward and upward!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Long Trek/Climb summary and pics from Shenandoah

Here is a summary of my 11 Long training sessions (mostly in SNP but also in LA) for Aconcagua, which I have completed over the last 6 weeks (I've also done numerous shorter efforts here in DE):

and here are pics from the last three days in Shenandoah:

Lower White Oak Falls:

Upper White Oak Falls/Winter Wonderland:

 Summit of Hawksbill Mountain--the highest in SNP:

Descending from Hawksbill in deeper snow on the AT:

Bobcat tracks on the Cedar Run descent:

The logs I shimmied across on my tummy to fjord the firgid Cedar Run:

Big bear tracks in Limberlost:

A nice lunch on a gorgeous winter day:

The steep and fun Robertson Mountain (East side) trail:

Robertson Mountain summit--very cold on this morning:

Strange tracks on the Old Rag Fire Road:

Old Rag from the base of Robertson:

Friday, December 13, 2013

SNP Round 4--Day 3

finished up this latest training foray down into SNP....I tried to take it a bit easier today....the climb up
Robertson was certainly not that but afterwards it was pretty tame as far as SNP goes...

It turned out to be very cold today....after I summitted the wind came in and the sun disappeared in front of tomorrow's storm....I was never able to get warm as I stubbornly refused to add a fourth layer in favor of pushing quickly through the hike so I could get up to Baltimore to visit Jen...which is what I'm doing tonight--sweet!   Here is the Garmin data from today (10+ miles/5+ hours/3000a+ feet vertical):

Thursday, December 12, 2013


I awoke at about 6 am after a full 9 hours of sleep to a body that was very sore and a back that was a bit iffy.  I think the dicey footing from the snow and ice that I dealt with yesterday played a number on my bod--all that slipping and sliding....

None-the-less, the stress of these climbs is what I'm looking for so I saddled up after a fine breakfast at the Best Western and returned to the White Oak parking lot as Skyline Drive was still closed (note to NPS--get your act together--the storm was two days ago and every other road in VA is fine...).

I ended up climbing the first 2.9 miles the same as yesterday and then did the upper White Oak Canyon trail and up near Skyline I did the Limberlost area.  This is a place where a whole forest of hemlock trees were destroyed some time ago by the hemlock wooly adelgid whatever that is.  Its a very cool place and it had the added attribute of being very flat--hey I was slammed after yesterday and I needed an easier effort today.

The big difference today was the descent---mostly on the Horse Trail and then the lower White Oaks Trail, which is vastly easier than Cedar Run.  In any event, I was around 5:45 and about 9.8 miles today with a bit more than 3000 feet of vertical climbing.  The Garmin data is below--also, photos to follow this weekend including the big bear tracks....

Tomorrow is my last day in this mini-cycle and I've decided to climb Robertson Mountain (you can see it in the map below) up the steep East face.  It's one of the steepest climbs in SNP with 1700 net vertical over 1.5 miles, which is an average gradient of 21%....should be great!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Back at the Best Westrern in Luray, Va--who would have thought that I would be spending my 7th night in a little over six weeks here at the BW in beautiful Luray?

I had a great, and very challening day today....I'll have to post photos later as my camera is not cooperating tonight.

so I went back to the White Oak Canyon/Cedar Run + Hawksbill summit  circuit that was my first SNP solo circuit climb.  With the two recent major winter storms and with Skyland Drive closedI had to improvise.   So I ended up getting up at 3 am and driving straight down to the VA 600 White Oaks parking lot and doing this very, very rigorous 11 mile climb.

There of course was a bunch of snow to deal with.  Not so bad on the main climb up White Oak but when I crossed Skyland and went for the summit of Hawksbill it got pretty deep--especially on the western side of the ridge--drifts over a foot.  The descent back down Cedar Run was especially very tricky--lots of flowing water, and ice on rocks--which made an already very challenging descent extremely tough.

As an aside--this is probably the hardest (mile for mile) hike  tht I've done in SNP---it's just relentless.

One thing I didn't anticipate is the snowmelt's impact on the streams/rivers and especially the two required fjords of Cedar Run.  Back in November these where technically interesting but not that significant challenges.  Today, the same crossings were impossible--or at the very least, they required wading through 2-4 feet on ice cold water.  Since it was 25 degrees outside I decided against this course of action.  In each case I was able to move downstream a bit and then stash my treking poles and then shimmy on my tummy across some ice-encrusted fallen trees....pretty challenging and more so rewarding....I'll post picks when I get bsck to DE this weekend.

In the interim, please find the Garmin details of this climb today--pretty similar to November although I took an extra 10 minutes today--not bad given how challenging the ice and show were:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Easy week last week--SNP tomorrow!

So with my travel to Florida and Boston last week it made sense to have a relatively light week:

Swim: 2735 yards
Bike: 153 miles
Run: 14 miles
Treking: 7 miles
Time: 14 hours

I was originally planning to go to Shenandoah for round 4 of my climbing/treking training on sunday but with our twin winter storms (Sunday and today), I've put that off until tomorrow.  I know they are expecting another 6+ inches there today and at the moment Skyline Drive is closed.  Hopefully it will be open tomorrow at 7-8 am when I get there at 7-8 am (assuming the roads are good enough).  If not I'll hike into the Park from the Panorama parking lot.

It'll be cold (probably around 15 degrees and up to a foot of snow in places so should make for a winter wonderland and some challenging trekking/climbing--perfect preparation for Aconcagua!   Hopefully, I'll update you from virginia tomorrow evening with a report of a good day's effort!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Triathlon Improvement: The Seven-Year Hypothesis--some empirical evidence

Early in my triathlon career I remember reading that upon taking up triathlon in a serious way that one could reasonably expect to see improvements for around seven years or so.  This improvement expectation seemed to not be dependent on age either--in other words, the benefits of improved fitness and technique that come with years of training and growing expertise through accumulated experience would counteract the natural human tendency to slow down as we age.

Now mind you, I never saw any actual studies on this and this Seven-Year Hypothesis seemed to be more of conventional wisdom that an empirically established result of a sophisticated study.   Upon simple reflection, one might assume that it would vary from person to person based on (at least) how fit one was when one started racing triathlons, how skilled one's techniques were in each of the three disciplines, how serious one was about training from year-to-year, how consistent that training was, whether or not one had to deal with serious injuries or major life distractions, etc.

Now in my case, I've completed 13 years of a pretty consistently serious focus on getting better at triathlon racing.  Over these 13 years I've logged over 10,000 hours of training and have raced in 137 triathlons.  If someone was likely to see the improvements hypothesized in the Seven-Year Rule it might very well be me.

A couple of more personal things are probably also relevant.  When I started I was the least advanced at swimming (of the three disciplines)--in fact, my first race I did the breaststroke!  Based on this low starting point and the great importance of technique in swimming it might be reasonable to hypothesize that I might continue to see improvements for longer than 7 years.  On the bike, while I was only a casual cyclist, I was soon to find that I had a natural affinity for cycling fast and so with a high starting point and relatively low cycling technique importance, perhaps my improvement curve would be shallower and shorter.  One counter to this is the importance of technology and one might get faster just by spending money over time.  My running background was the deepest and it's common knowledge that old guys like me (I'm 56) see the most dramatic decreases in the run vs. the swim or bike.  So perhaps the improvement curve would be shortest for the run for me.  And the decline the greatest....

Another issue is how best to measure performance over time.  After a bunch of experimenting I decided that there were two primary ways.  First I'd track my average percentile (or a slighly different measure--the % of racers I beat in a race) against the field as a whole from year to year.  To be valid, this method requires that the competitive quality is fairly uniform from year to year.  With 10+ races/year this seems a valid assumption as long as the mix of races is constant.  Unfortunately, this is  NOT true for me.  For example, any year I race Kona my percentile average is going down due to the strong competitors there.  I dealt with this in two ways--by limiting the comparative set to just local races or just to short course races--these two methods end up with a lot of overlap.  The second way i measure it is by taking my average swim, bike and run pace and comparing from year-to-year.  Now these numbers vary widely due to the course difficulty and climatic conditions (among other factors). I dealt with this by taking the average of my best 3 performances in each discipline each year--my thinking here is that this approach gives me what i call my "demonstrated fitness potential" each year.  Demonstrated, because I did it on average over at least three of the races in any given year.  As it turns out, I do enough shorter and similar difficulty races each year to make this a fairly valid approach.

OK, with that lengthy backdrop, let's look at my historical race data says.

The Swim 
Here are three charts on my swim performance over the last 13 years.  The first looks at my mile swim pace (min/mile).  The second tracks my Swim percentile for Short Course races.  The third graphs the percentage of competitors I beat for local races:

The blue lines are the actual data and the black lines are best fit polynomial regressions.  Potential conclusions might be:

- I had two swim improvement phases.  The first from 2001-2004 and the second from 2007 to the present.  I think this reflects a fitness improvement for the first phase and then a technique improvement for the second phase (although obviously both occur in both time frames).  I did begin to really focus on technique in 2007 after I found myself plateauing and this suggests the value of focusing on technique in the swim.
-All three charts show what looks like the end of the improvement road somewhere around years 10-12.  In my case the improvement curve was definitely longer than 7 years and seems consistent with the hypotheses discussed above.
-Perhaps I can find another improvement phase by returning to working with a coach and refining my swim technique and if not getting faster, perhaps heading off the inevitable age-driven decline in performance.

The Bike

Same three charts:

 Possible conclusions:

- The speed chart seems to indicate that I peaked in year five and I've lost about 0.1 mph/year since.  Lots of other race data seems to confirm this.  Notice how much shallower the curve is--the range from worst to best is about 4 times less on the bike than the swim.

-The competitive comparison charts seem to confirm a 5-6 year peak as well.

-All three seem to indicate that I may have slowed the erosion of fitness potential over the last couple of years--this may be a reflection of my returning to my roots and relatively re-emphasizing my biking the last couple of years.  It will be interesting to see if i can draw a line in the sand around 24 mph for a few more years.  I'd certainly like to!

The Run

Possible conclusions:

- All three charts seem to indicate (after some ups and downs in the early years) that I peaked around year 6

-Since 2006 things have clearly been heading down hill--and pretty quickly at that--for me in the run. It would seem in a five year period that I've lost about 1 min/mile--which is a pretty steep fall-off.  Much, much more than the bike and the swim.

-I'd like to think there is an indication of a slowing of my fall-off over the last couple of years but my gut tells me this is probably wishful thinking on my part.

Overall Race Performance

Both of these charts seem to indicate that I did enjoy about 7-8 years of improvement but now am experiencing that dreaded fall-off.  Basically my swim has helped deflect the decline in my run but this effect now seems to be running out.  My bike continues to be my saving grace and helping me fight the ravages of old age....

I decided to do one more analysis.  I wanted to look at my AG performance because I would have expected to see a bump up over the last two years as I moved up to the 55-59 YO AG....

Age Group

The upshot of the above 4 charts is I did indeed enjoy an improvement in relative performance in 2012 and 2013--with the exception of the swim.  Clearly, I've slacked off on the swim over the last two years (by choice).  I now have a decision to make about whether or not to reinvest in my swim....I'm going to think on it when I'm climbing at Aconcagua--my guess is that I'll decide to pay the price and see if i can't change the slope of these curves....

we'll see....