Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Back in 1979 I was a freshman at Michigan State University.  At this time, despite the proximately to the prior Ice Age, streaking (i.e. the practice of running around in public in front of people you know or might know with no clothes) was a big thing.  Being an 18-YO male from nowheresville, Midwest I of-course thought this would be a great thing to do.

So I did....with my less than awe inspiring body... I did run through the Brody complex cafeteria (where I worked 25 hours a week) to general derision and lack of interest.

That was streaking then.  this is streaking now.  The purpose of this post is to consider my Win and Not Win streaks in the great sport of triathlon.  This is part of the on-going data-mining exercise of the greatest, most irrelevant dataset ever created--my triathlon results database!  So are are all of my winning streaks (all 10 of them) and all of my not winning streaks of 4 or more:
So what can we learn from this analysis?  Here are my take-aways:

- My longest winning streak is only 4 races.  In fact, only twice have I been able to string together 3 or more wins in consecutive races.  Not that impressive.  However, when one considers my overall winning percetage through my first 127 races, it's not that surprising.

- I've won 39 of my first 127 AG races.  This is 30.7087%.  Based on this average win rate, and assuming an average distribution of races (an OK but not perfect assumption) then based on simple statistics I would expect the following:

- 2+ win streaks: Should happen 9.4610 % of the time.  I have 126 pairs of races so far.  therefore I would expect to have achieved 11.9 2+ win streaks.  I have 13 so all good.

- 3+ win streaks: should happen 2.8959 % of the time.  I have 125 triplets so far.  therefore I would expect to have achieved 3.6 3+ win streaks so far.  I have 3 so I guess I'm due here.

- 4+ win streaks: should happen 0.8893 % of the time.  I have 124 quartets so far.  Therefore I would expect to have achieved 1.1 4+ win streaks so far.  This is in line with actuall observed results.

- Not winning has been less of a problem since 2005.  Over the last 7 years, my longest losing streak has been 5 races.

- Most of my losing streaks start in June or July.  I've documented why this is in prior posts.

Hopefully, I'll add another win streak to the list at Smithfield a week Saturday...but it will be tough.

For sure I'll have more clothes on than in my first streak back in 1979!


Still churning through my upgraded database.  This mornings analysis looks at margins--both victory and defeat.  I sorted for the top 10 victory margins (and smallest 10), in terms of absolute time and relative percentage and my top 10 worse defeats--again both absolute and %.  Here are the victories first:

Not surprisingly, there is a fair amount of overlap between the absolute and % lists.  

Take-aways: I've enjoyed 6 races were my margin of victory was 10+ minutes.  All ten of my smallest victory margins are well under 1 minute.  I've won a lot of close AG races through the years.  My first victory at Lake Lenape in 2003 remains on this latter list.

My average margin of victory is of-course inflated vs. the mean due to some of the bigger blow-outs.

In the race I did this past Sunday, the tune-Up Tri, I posted a 8.3% victory margin or my 8th largest % margin of victory...this will get included when I update the database.

Here is what my defeat margins look like:

I lose by a lot more than I win by.  This is not surprising as my wins are all compared against the 2nd place guy, while my loses are compared against the first place guy, no matter what place I finish--even 100th.

My big defeats are all concentrated in IM or IM70.3 WC races.  Four of my biggest defeat margins are the four WTC world championships I've competed in--the best in the world are a lot better than me!

6 times if I had been 1% faster I would have won a race I lost.  10 times I need to be 1 min or less faster to claim a victory.

I've won more of the close ones than I've lost.  I don't view this as a reflection of my character nor competitiveness but rather a reflection of the fact that victories (for me) will tend to be smaller than defeats.

There you go.  A whole bunch of pretty trivial data.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Last week and how 'bout it Spring?

Last week's training volumes were affected by travel back from Antigua and the race on Sunday:

Swim: 2600 yds
Bike: 162 miles
Run: 17.5 miles
Time: 14:32

Fitness wise, and despite my late start, I feel like my swim and run are in not to bad a place for this time of the year.  I did my 100 repeats in the pool today in the 1:23-1:27 range, which isn't the far off of the 1:16-1:18 I typically see when I'm at my best in the pool.

My biggest concern is my bike.  My bike volume is way off prior years and the weather certainly is not helping much.  Yesterday, it snowed the whole day.  This is the day after my frist triathlon of the season.  I'm hoping to get out a bit this week and looking forward to warmer weather and being able to log those 2-4 hour rides that are the bedrock of my bike fitness....

Monday, March 25, 2013

Tune-Up Tri Race Report

First race of the season:

Tune-Up Triathlon Race Report
March 24th, 2013


Location: Manassas, VA
Distance: 1.68 mile run/4.31 mile bike/250 yard swim
2013 Triathlon Race Number: 1
Career Triathlon Race Number: 127
Conditions: Very cold—28 degrees at start.  Clear and negligible wind.  Pool swim.

First race of the 2013 triathlon (pre) season.  I was able to combine a trip 160 miles south to Manassas with a visit with Jenny in Baltimore.  This was my first time at this race venue.

This is a very unusual event for me.  Firstly, the event is run as a Run/Bike/Swim or reverse of the normal order.  This is done due to anticipated cold weather.  Second, the race is very, very short—dramatically shorter than any other triathlon I’ve ever competed in.  Third, this is the earliest that I have raced in triathlon and is in-fact only the 3rd time I’ve raced in the month of March.

My expectations were low for the race since I was a good 6 weeks behind my normal training program as my training start was delayed by Anders and my Aconcagua expedition in January.  I also didn’t expect to get a very good read on my fitness due to the sequence of the events and the nature of the run, bike and swim courses (more on that later).  None-the-less, I was excited to race again and while I didn’t know any of my competition in the race, I thought that there would be a reasonably good chance for me to win my 55-59 YO AG.  There 10 athletes in my AG and 159 overall.

I spent Saturday night at Jenny’s and then awoke at 4 am to drive the 80 or so miles south to Manassas.  I was there by 6 am and was able to get ready in plenty of time before the 7:30 am start.

The Run

Since it was so chilly, I wore my thin RAAM cycling LS jersey on top and some lightweight running pants on the bottom over my tri-suit.  I also sported a FC Barcelona hat and some running gloves.  I was in the third wave with the under 19 crowd, 50+ women and men 55 and older.  I was very pleased with this, as I knew that any older guys were likely to be in my AG.

Running first opened up a bunch of tactical questions for me.  Since my run is my weakest discipline, my tactical decisions typically revolve around how hard do I push the swim and bike to give me a big enough cushion and not burn-out my run before I even don my running shoes.  Today, my tactical questions were much more straightforward.  I knew if I stayed close to the run leaders it would be likely that the strength of my bike/swim would be enough for me to secure the victory.  Running first is a real tactical advantage for me!

At the gun I went out pretty hard to clear myself from some of the younger, overly enthusiastic crowd.  After the first turn (of 14 on the run course) I eased off a bit.  Soon however, two older gentlemen went by me.  They opened up about a ten-yard gap and I picked my pace up just a little to see how it felt to keep pace.

I felt pretty good and was having no real difficulties staying with them.  After running across some mulch and grass I glanced down at my Garmin and saw that we were about 0.6 miles in and I was well under an eight minute pace.  We made a turn out onto an out and back segment where we were crammed onto a sidewalk with runners going two ways.

I knew that the correct strategy was for me to just pace on these two guys and then put them away on the bike but I couldn’t resist having some fun, as I felt very comfortable with the pace.  I made a tactical decision and when an opening in the on-coming traffic presented itself I surged around the two leaders and a couple of other slower runners from the earlier wave.  I eased back into a nice steady-state pace and listened to see if my competitors would respond.  I could clearly hear them working hard to close down the gap.

Just pass 1 mile (which I passed in 7:37 with an average HR of 164 bpm) I hit the turn-around and saw that the two of them (Rice and Richard) were staying right on my back.  I played a bit on the way back to transition by surging several times for 40-50 yards.  Each time, the two R’s would respond and hang onto my pace.  When I slowed a bit so did they, seemingly not wanting to pass myself.  I smiled to myself at this point.  They seemed to have decided that I was the man to beat and were trying to hang on during the run and try to beat me on the bike and/or swim.  Good luck with that!

I was content to just stay in front of them and record the fastest AG run split.  I averaged 7:39/mile over the last 0.68 miles into transition and I finished the run leg with an elapsed time of 12:49 (7:38/mile).  My HR averaged 167bpm for the whole affair and my Garmin recorded 52 feet of climbing during the run.  I definitely had more in the tank—I tend to average 172 bpm in open 5k runs and I probably could have safely gone at least 20-30 seconds faster this morning.

I didn’t need to on this morning as I recorded the top run time in my AG and I was 38th OA (76.7 %-tile), which on the surface isn’t too bad for me.  However, given the screwy nature of this race, I won’t read too much into this result.  Here is where we stood in my AG after the run:

1.     Christofferson               --------
2.     Richards                + 0:02
3.     Rice                      + 0:05
4.     Willett                   + 2:00
5.     Metge                   + 2:01

Transition One

I ran hard into and through transition.  I knew I was in command of the race but I didn’t want to take any chances.  I didn’t want to have a poor T1 and have to play catch-up on the bike.  I switched shoes and tried to buckle my helmet but my gloves made it difficult.  I decided to just rip them off (knowing I would pay for it on the bike).  As I wheeled my bike out of Transition I glanced over and saw one of the two Rs was considerably behind me in his transition efforts.

I hit the mount line with an elapsed transition time of 1:00.  I covered 0.07 miles in transition and was really working with an average HR of 171 bpm.  I knew I had the lead and that it would be greater than I entered T1 with.  In-fact I had the top T1 in my AG (42nd OA) and enjoyed a nice gap at the start of the bike:

1.  Christofferson           --------
2.  Richards                   + 0:36
3.  Rice                          + 0:51
4.  Willett                      + 3:13
5.  Metge                       + 3:29

The Bike

My biggest fitness concern coming into this race was my bike fitness.  The late start combined with a horrible winter/early spring has conspired to really constrain my outdoor training leading into this race.  That said, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I didn’t expect to really learn much about my true bike fitness in this race.  Coming after the run as opposed to after the swim certainly is an issue.  But more importantly, this “4-mile” (actually 4.27 miles) course featured 15 turns and 4 180 out and backs!  More like a crit than a TT-style tri bike leg.

My Edge 800 decided to reboot itself in the cold to original factory settings so I had no idea what was going on with it.  It couldn’t display my normal pages and I wasn’t even sure if it had the appropriate slope and other calibration settings for my PM—probably it didn’t.  Two consequences of this—first I never looked at my computer during the race and 2nd, the power data numbers it recorded are very suspect.

After mounting up I immediately jumped out of the saddle and started pouring on the heat.  I figured this would be all over in 11-13 minutes so I was intent to just go as hard as I could.  The ride was very disorienting as I kept having to slow, turn, jump up and sprint.  At the first turn-around I got a chance to see where my pursuers were and I knew at that point they were not going to catch me.  For the balance of the ride I rode just “pretty hard” and here is what each of the miles looked like:

Mile 1

Time:              3:01
Speed:           19.9 mph
HR average:    161 bpm
Cadence:         80 rpm
Avg Power:      260 watts
Norm. Power:  280 watts      

Mile 2

Time:              3:02
Speed:            19.7 mph
HR average:    158 bpm
Cadence:         81 rpm
Avg Power:      233 watts
Norm Power:   239 watts

Mile 3

Time:              2:55
Speed:            20.5 mph
HR average:    154 bpm
Cadence:         86 rpm
Avg Power:      227 watts
Norm Power:   231 watts

Mile 4

Time:              3:17
Speed:            18.3 mph
HR average:    157 bpm
Cadence:         84 rpm
Avg Power:      242 watts
Norm Power:   245 watts

Mile 4.27

Time:              0:56
Speed:            17.3 mph
HR average:    156 bpm
Cadence:         76 rpm
Avg Power:      212 watts
Norm Power:   252 watts

For the ride as a whole, I averaged 239 watts and had a normalized power of 249 watts.  My HR averaged 157 bpm and my average cadence was 82 rpm.

I completed the bike leg in 13:11, which translates into an average of 19.4 mph.  Not surprisingly, this was close to two minutes faster than my closest AG competitors.  Overall, I posted the 9th fastest bike split (94.9 %-tile).  Here is where we stood after the bike:

1.  Christofferson           --------
2.  Richards                   + 2:21
3.  Rice                          + 2:50
4.  Willett                      + 4:03
5.  Metge                       + 4:13

Transition Two

This was my first ever bike to swim transition.  I knew I had a big lead and I had a lot of clothes to strip off.  I was joking with other folks in transition but by and large stayed focused on the job at hand.  I ended up taking 2:19 to execute the transition.  This was only 3rd best in my AG and was 37th best OA (77.2 %-tile).  Pretty messed-up transition.  A bunch of running in my tri-suit outside in 31-degree (it had warmed up a bit) weather.  This was followed by a longish WALK on the pool deck.  That said, my lead remained insurmountable:

1.  Christofferson           --------
2.  Richards                   + 2:11
3.  Rice                          + 3:07
4.  Willett                      + 4:02
5.  Metge                       + 4:42

The Swim

When I finally reached the start of the swim there were 5 other people congregated there seemingly not in the most hurried of states.  I knew I had won my AG race so I was not in a hyper-competitive state but I was still in race mode and anxious to jump in.  There was a fair amount of jostling but finally I was able to slip in (you were required to sit down and slip in).

I was shocked when I slipped in.  First, it was very deep and very deep I went!  Second, my frozen hands (and body to a lesser extent) interpreted the pool temperature to be about 140 degrees!  I surfaced and gasped at the sudden change of environment.  And then I was pushed by a largish dude in front of me in my face causing my left goggle lens to fill with water…Grrr…..

I proceeded to try to claw my way through the crowd in front of me but surprisingly I made little headway.  After 25 yards I stopped to try to fix my goggles and was immediately pushed by one of my fellow competitors.  All right—enough of this…lets go!

A side note on the rules of this leg.  This was a 10-length “snake” swim.  After each length of the 25-yard pool you had to touch the wall.  Then slip under the rope.  Then touch again and then go.  No flip turns nor pushing off in one lane and cruising under the rope.  The upshot of this was I had to stop and wait for a (seemingly) long time after each of the first 3-4 lengths.    The fourth length was especially hand-to-hand combat oriented!  After that I was able to clear the crowd and swim relatively easily.  On the 6th length (125-150 yards) I looked over and saw that no one was gaining on me and I cruised the rest of the way home.  Here is the Garmin data about my swim:

Length 1:        25.0        12 strokes
Length 2:        24.2        12 strokes
Length 3:        31.0        14 strokes
Length 4:        34.4        15 strokes
Length 5:        26.6        13 strokes
Length 6:        28.4        14 strokes
Length 7:        28.1        14 strokes
Length 8:        26.4        15 strokes
Length 9:        29.5        13 strokes
Length 10:      39.0        15 strokes

The last length obviously included a wait at the ladder, a climb up the ladder and a bit of a “walk” across the deck to the timing mat.

In any event, I finished the swim with a swim split of 4:54 having taken 136 strokes.  I’ll refrain from calculating my SGolf score, as it is certainly not representative of my fitness for this swim.

I was nosed out by two of my AG competitors on the swim and posted the 35th fastest swim OA (78.5 %-tile), which despite everything is not that bad for a pool swim for me.  My swim split was 4:54.

Anyways, I ended up winning the AG race by a very comfortable margin, especially from a percentage perspective.  I was 19th OA, which was good enough for an 88.6 %-tile.


-      Awesome to race again….I really love to race!
-      Pretty encouraging results overall
-      Felt good on the run…. can’t declare victory of course but I think I might be getting better with my training changes
-      Bike probably looked better than it really is
-      Swim data is not useful at all, but I’m not in very good swim shape
-      39th win!  I don’t take anything for granted and am relieved when I win again….I’ve still got some juice.
-      Nice start to 2013!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Demonstrated Fitness Potential Over Time

OK--yet another exercise in data excess!

I wanted to get a sense of how my peak fitness in each of the SBR disciplines has varied over time--how have the counter-forces of training/experience and age worked out over time?  I decided on the following methodology:

-Take the best three race performances as defined by pace (swim=min/mile; bike=mph; run=min/mile) each year and average them and plot the trendlines.

-I didn't just want to take the single best because of the non-desireable variability inherent in that approach (sample size).  I also didn't want to just average every race each year because some years I have no IMs and other years I have two--this radically affects average pace.  I thought about plotting the median demonstrated pace (and I still might do that) but I ultimately decided that taking the best three would be the best compromise and would give me a sense about each year--what my peak fitness (as measured by pace) was.  In practice this averages my three fastest/easiest courses each year and compares them.

So here are the three charts--the first is for the swim:

The first chart above shows my top 3 average swim pace (min/mile) by year (2001-2012).  NOTE: all of these three charts are what we used to call "McKinsey Charts" as the zero point of the y axis is not at zero.  In this case, it starts at 20 min/mile.  These charts both better highlight variation but also exaggerate it.  For reference purposes, the variation between my worst year (2008) and my best (2010) is 27%.

What this chart demonstrates is a gradual improvement in my swim from 2001-2005; a bit of a slide backwards from 2005-2008; and with my wholesale restructuring of my swim stroke, dramatic improvements over the last few years.  For stat freaks, the best curve fit (demonstrated by the black line) is a second order polynominal (which makes sense).  My guess is that going forward we'll see the effects of aging erode the improvements that I have recently achieved.  My guess is that 2010 was my peak swim year....

Here is the same chart for the bike:
A couple of things about this chart to orient the reader:

-since this is mph, up is good here--down is good for the swim and bike

-McKinsey graph--not much variation here--just 7% from best (2004) to worse (2002)


-I've always been good at biking--when I started I was averaging 23.2 mph!
-My peak in 2004 was 24.9 mph--this means i was routinely riding at 25/26 mph in my races....even without a lot of experience
-I've held a pretty high standard since....basically the data says I'm losing about 0.1 mph/year

-after my peak in 2004 age lead my fitness downwards...age is eroding my fitness potential on the bike

-however, a very concerted effort in 2010/2011 lead to a bump up

-2012 appears to be back on the downward trend...which i guess will continue in the years ahead...

This is a 4th order polynominal curve fit....

Here is what the run looks like:

Here, up is bad....there is a lot of bad here of course.

After the original bump up, I enjoyed a solid couple of years of getting faster as I embrased the triathlon experience.

However, after 2007, it has become increasingly less attractive, and pretty dramatically so.

The total variation on my run is about twice as much as my bike (which I think is a function of age hammering my run more than my bike) but half (and in the opposite direction) of the variation of my swim--ie, my swim has improved more than my run has declined...unfortunately, the swim doesn't count as much as the run (nor the bike for that matter).

The last two years seem to suggest that maybe I am plugging the dam over the last two years on the run...that would be awesome if true.  I'm certainly focused on doing so in 2013....we'll see what happens....perhaps, this measure is one of the most important for me in evaluating my training in 2013....

There you go...more data than I'm sure you wanted....but I think this really explains whats going on with respect to my true potential as a triathlete....not so pretty, but it is what it is....getting old and being an endurance athlete is hard!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Last Week and the RACE(!) ahead

After the big prior week, it's no surprise last week was less--volume wise.  combine that with 5 days down at Jumby Bay Island in Antigua (which was awesome!) and you have the recipe for a limited training week.  Still I did manage to get some work in:

Swim: 9,300 yards
bike: 101 miles
run: 24.7 miles
time: 15:23

Thursday was devoted to travelling and rum but beyond that I was able to enjoy some great open water swims in beautiful water.  I also met a guy named Martin Franklin (Chairman of Jarden which owns among other companies, Zoot) who is quite a good runner and did some running with him.  He told me all about his ultra exploits including Badwater and Leadville.

When we landed back at EWR on Monday night it was snowing--yuck!

Anyways, believe it or not I'm racing this Sunday.  This will be the earliest day of a first race in my career (the prior earliest was 3/2710 at IMCalifornia70.3--where coincidentally I KQed for the first time).

Given my late start to training this year, I don't expect much.  However, I'm excited to race as it also gives me a good excuse to visit my eldest daughter down in Baltimore.  The race is called the Tune-up Tri, which is exactly what I'm going to use it for.  It's in Manassas, VA.

I don't expect to get a real good read on where I'm at fitness-wise (which is typically what I look for in a pre-season race) because this race is unusual in a number of respects:

1. This will be the first triathlon whose split order is RBS as oppossed to SBR.  How this will affect my individual splits is unclear but it might be a good bet that my run will look a little better than it is and my bike and swim will look a little worse than they really are.

2.  This is by far the shortest race I have ever entered: 1.5 mile run/ 4 mile bike/250 yd swim.  I'm not sure what to think about this fact.  However, it'll be over in a hurry and I better do well in transition!

3.  The run is partially on grass and mulch and has 14 turns--basically we are turning every 1/10th of a mile!

4.  the bike is even worse!  15 turns with 4 180s over 4 miles.  It will be like racing a Crit.  I would expect to see my highest NP/AP ratio of all time.  I'm leaving the disc at home and am contemplating bringing my road bike.

5. Then we have to run inside and jump into the pool.  It's 10 lanes and one direction in each lane.  Which means we have to pass under 9 lane lines and we are not allowed to use flip turns.  Further we actually have to touch the wall in the lane we swim in.  Cross under.  Touch the wall of the next lane and then push off.

When I look at the prior results and I think about my typical times for these distances it would seem that i should be able to easily win this race outright.  However, with all of the above, it's easy for me to see that I'll be 4-6 minutes slower than prior history might indicate.

Who knows, but I'm looking forward to it!!!  I'll report on the results early next week!

Monday, March 11, 2013

More Fun with Stats and Docs

Did I ever tell you that I love stats?  Well, I do.

For this post I have sliced and diced my database to take a peak at the distribution of my races by type of race.  I've grouped my races into 4 broad categories: Sprint, International/Olympic, Half-IM, and Ironman.  Sprints last less than two hours, Int/Oly races last 2-4 hours, Half-IMs are 4+ hours and are not Ironman races, and Ironman are Ironman races.  The first two groups are Short Course (SC) and the latter two, Long Course (LC).

Here is how my 126 triathlons to date have varied over the 12 years that I've competed in Triathlon:
 From this chart you can see that I have raced primarily at the Sprint distance (85 races) with just 10 Int/Oly, 20 Half-IM, and 11 Ironman.  My main flirtation with the Oly distance race was back in 2003.  In 2004 I did my first IM and have been more focused on LC ever since.  To me, for what it's worth, the Oly distance is too long to be short and too short to be long.

As you know, I've often boasted that I'm a LC athlete.  so how can I say this when 68% of my races have been sprints and only 25% have been LC?  Well, if you compare this distribution of race types by Number of races and total Time raced you can see why:
The blue is the % distribution relative to the number of races.  The red is the same distribution relative to my time spent racing in each type of race.  You can see that I have spent more time racing IM races than any other type.  In fact, I have spent nearly 2/3rds of the total time I have raced over the last 12 years racing in LC races.

Ergo, I get to call myself a LC Triathlete (primarily).

Enough on stats for today.  Saw my ortho for what I believe is injection number 67 today--ouch!  My knee was hurting a fair bit right when I came back from Aconcagua but it has actually improved a bit over the last couple of weeks.  I've been pretty disciplined and have managed to loose 6-7 pounds and I think that's a real benefit.  In any event, the lube is in and I expect over the next few weeks to feel diminishing knee pain which should help facilitate my intended triathlon efforts in the weeks ahead....more on that latter!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Catching Fire, Calendar Patterns and the Incompatibility of SC and LC

I've been keeping the triathlon logs smoldering since the physical and mental throwdown I took from one Cerro Aconcagua.  Readers of these missives will have noted my slow climb back from that nadar over the last 4-6 weeks.  Well this week, the smoke turned into fire.  Its not a blazzing conflagration by any stretch but I definitely caught fire training wise this week.

And what a strange week it was weather-wise.  Saturn threw us for a loop M-W and then a fair approximation of spring broke out down the stretch and low and behold the abundant joys of training, and yes, riding, outside!  With any luck the weather will continue to improve and my body will hold together and I'll begin to snap into early season shape in the relative near-term.

This week featured hill/speed work on the run, a pair of 2,500 yard swim sessions and a bike FTP test that registered 242 watts (yes I know this is low for me at this point--normally around 270-280 watts at this point in the year) but I did it in the midst of a high TSS week and in any event, I'm expecting to add 20+ watts over the next few weeks....

Here were the week's aggregate totals:

Swim: 8,500 yards
Bike: 218 miles
Run: 37 miles
Cross-train: 3 hours
Total time: 25:39

While not a true Ironman training week, these totals would not look entirely out of place in my 14-week IM build and this was 8+ more hours than any prior week this year.  This might seem rash but with my 12-year base and my recent training work I could feel that my body was ready for a week like this.

On the analytical front, I have been reveiwing how my prior seasons have typically unfolded to see if there were any lessons to be learned from calendar patterns.  The first exhibit is a chart that plots my 126 races by month over the last 12 years:

The above chart depicts what I suspect most people would expect--that my peak months for racing are in the summer.  It also shows that I have raced in all but Jan, Feb, and Dec.  As I looked at this and other related data I reflected on how I have tended to break the racing season up into 4 distinct phases.  They are:

Pre-season: January-April
Early-season: May-June
Mid-season: July-August
Late-season: Septermber-December

Why this is so is not immediately apparent from the above chart.  To get a better sense of my race patterns consider the chart below:

This chart depicts the distribution (as measured by percent) of my races and of the time I raced by month.  The blue line is the same as in the first chart except that it's expressed in percentage terms.  The red shows how this distribution shifts when expressed in terms of time raced as oppossed to just simply the number of races.

What should be evident is the dramatic shift towards the right when we plot time.  The reason for this is my emphasis on long-course racing latter in the year (and conversely my emphasis on SC, especially sprints in the earlier part of the year).

So the four parts of my season split out this way (% of races, % of time):

Pre-season:  12, 8
Early-season: 34, 24
Mid-season: 33, 27
Late-season: 21, 41

Let me add one more chart and then I'll tie my racing and training strategy together and the illustrate the basic incompatibility of SC and LC training and racing.  The next chart shows my win and podium percentage by month:
It should be clear that relative to my AG, I tend to do better earlier in the season.  My win percentage peaks in pre-season and my podium percentage peaks in the early season.  I hit a lull in the mid-season and then have a little resurgence in September before falling dramatically off in the rest of the late season.

Why is this?  Well (not surprisingly) it has to do with my approach to training as compared to my AG competitors approach to training over time.  Here is the thesis in bullet point form:

-- I'm a "B" level triathlon talent (more accurately, I'm a B at swimming, an A at biking, and a C at running).  However, and I have a lot of comparative data with the hard core folks at Slowtwitch, I tend to train considerably more than my competition--especially early in the season.

-- I tend to put in lots more training effort during the winter months than my competition and this training tends to be focused more towards speed/quality than endurance/quantity.  As a result, I am more fit for Sprint and SC races in the pre and early season periods.  This is why I am relatively successful early in the year (I have 61% of my wins in just 46% of my races in these periods).

--By May, as the weather improves and then increasingly thereafter, my competition at these sprints are now coming into form and my win and podium percentages fall off.  Here, I began to be beaten by stronger athletes who are now matching my sprint specific training and fitness.

-- As I approach the mid season I generally turn my attention to preparing for and then executing LC specific training.  While this leads to more training stress and a higher level of pure fitness, it reduces my sprint/SC specific fitness.  To illustrate consider two key bike workouts.  Early in the season my key bike workout might be something like: 10 min wu/5X(8min@115% of FTP/4min easy)/10 min wd.  This might yeild a TSS in the low 100s.  During LC preparation my key bike might be: 6 hour ride with 4 hours at 75% of FTP which would yield a TSS of 200+.  In the former case, I am training explicitly for a sprint bike leg and the aggregate stress from the workout is not that bad.  In the later, I'm doing nothing to help myself with sprint fitness AND I am generating a lot of fatigue--I'm a lot more tired when I'm banging out 30+ hour IM build weeks!

-- Still, I like to race in the mid-season, it's just that I train through these races and I'm often very fatigued and certainly not tapered.  Plus, my SC sharpness dispates as I pile on the miles and ignore supra-FTP workouts.

-- September is a tweener month--I'm very fit then and I'm often tapering or at least very used to high training volume.  My competition often calls it a season around Labor Day and so my percentages spike.

--The rest of the late-season is all about LC/IM racing (8 of my 11 IMs in this period).  Here, while I am very fit IM-wise, it's just a whole lot harder to win, place or show at Kona than it is at the Hammonton Sprint (Joe Bonness is tougher to beat than Mickey Syrop)--thus my numbers plummet down the stretch.

Now in theory, I could raise my win/podium percentages by focusing on one or the other.  Indeed in 2009, I just did SC and in my 14 races I had 8 wins and 6 seconds.  However, I have found that I like to do both.  I have tried to incorproate both SC and LC key workouts at the same time but this 55-YO body quickly breaks down (I'll leave that approach to 25 YOs or pros).

So in case you were wondering why I crush it early in the season only to get wumped in the dog-days of summer, now you know.....

The above has helped me refine my pre and early season race plans which I'll share with you shortly.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

On Competition: Dinosaur Tales and AG Stats

Regular readers (you know who you are) of this space know that I have recently upgraded my triathlon race and training database--it is chock full of obscure data about a topic of little interest: my triathlon experiences over the last 12 years.  In an on-going public-disservice attempt, find below another installment of ireeverant data compilation and analyses.

This time what I examined is the nature of my direct competition in the races that I've raced through the years.  I'm talking about the old guys--the dinosaurs--especially those who live and race in and around New Jersey each summer.  I decided to make this analysis personal by looking at whom I race the most and how we've done--mano-a-mano.  My first pass was to sort my database and to find all guys who are +/- 2years of me and who have raced me at least 5 times over the last 12 years.  The two-year thing is an attempt to focus on guys who more than half the time are in my AG (though, I've included races with these guys when they were not in my AG--for example, once every five years, Mick and I are in different age groups).  Here, as best as I can tell, is that list of 24 guys:

So the person I've raced against most through the years is none other than the infamous Mickey Syrop! 25 of the 126 races, I've raced have been against the Mick--just about 1 out of every 5 races I have ever done over the last 12 years!  You can puruse the list and if you're familiar with the Jersey Dino scene, I know many of these names are familiar to you.

You can also see that I compiled my W/L record against each gentleman--for example, I have bested Mick 18 od the 25 times we have raced through the years.  I decided to take another cut at the above and regroup the result:

I've taken the (some-what controversial) liberty of grouping folks into three categories: "The Top Five", "My Peers", and Guys Chasing Me".  I expect I'll take some grief for this and would feel that any I receive is probably justified.  In any event, let me explain my thinking:

What I'm attempting to do here is "let the data speak".  I've ordered my old-guy competitors by our head-to-head record.  In so doing, I do get three pretty clear groupings.  The first is a group of 5 guys who are (in these races) clearly better than I:  Des, Wes, Rip, Wes, and Nace.  As you can see, this group has had little trouble kicking my butt through the years.

I took the liberty of using a bit of judgement (and looking at their performance against each other in these races only to rank them).  In so doing I see Des, Ken and Rip as being the top 3.  It's hard to separate them and I certainly wouldn't argue with anyone who ordered them differently but this is my view of the correct order.  For what it's worth, Des was the ITU World Champion at the Olympic distance several years back.  Of course, both Des and Rip seem to have disapeered from the local scene and of the group above, Ken is undoubtedly the best still on the job.

Wes is a great competitor and definitely the best runner of this group.  Nace is an outstanding old man triathlete as well, whom I was only able to best when he got rung up for two drafting violations (during his liberal drafting philosophy period) at the National Championships in 2003.  Over the years as Nace has expanded to ITU and LC racing, he has developed the most impressive resume of the above group.

These 5 guys were the gold standard for me during my first 4-5 years in the sport.  They represented the pinnacle that I strived to emulate.  During these early days, these guys motivated me to train harder, to buy new equipment, and to try to reach my full potential as an old guy triathlete.  Without them, triathlon wouldn't have been as important to me and i surely would not have achieved even the modest success that I have enjoyed.  Of course, there are better dinos roaming the earth--in the US Jeff Cuddleback and Joe Bonness come to mind and probably the best in the world is a Dutchman named Rob Barrel--as I've expanded my focus to LC and International racing, these later fellows have come to represent the true pinnacle.  None-the-less, I owe a lot to these "Top Five".

The next group of four represent my peers.  As I mentioned, Mick is the guy I've raced against most--he is a long-time and oft injured SC triathlete who is a real joy to count as a friend and competitor.  While I have the upper hand over the 12 years, it must be said that when Mick is fit and ready to race that he is better than I.  He often races when he is not which partially explains the above record.  What I've found through the years is that as the season progresses and Mick races himself into shape that he becomes a much tougher competitor.  In any event, I hope we have many more contests in the days ahead!

Tom Dillon is a better SC triathlete today than I am.  At one point I was 9-1 against him...he has won 4 of the last 5.  Tom has always been a better swimmer and over the last 2-3 years has dramatically improved his bike and his run has not suffered as much as mine.  A classic case in point is Lake Lenape last year, where he outswam me by a small margin and then I closed the gap by posting the best bike split out of the whole 200+ field.  But Tom was 3rd OA on the bike and just 8 seconds back.  He had no trouble out running me and beat me comfortably.  When Tom is fit, like he has been, he is out of my class.

Tom Senff used to beat me regularly but I have been having my way with him as of late.  Mercer is probably the closest to me in overall ability and I've been getting the slightly better of him as of late--although we are very close to each other at this time.

Of course, the composition of the race has a lot to do with the above results through the years.  There is no question in my mind that I could have beaten even the Top Five guys at the right time on the right course (say 2007 when I was at my relative competitive peak and at Bassman with its ultra long bike segment).  On the flipside, there are times and courses where i would have had no chance against these guys.  But at the end of the day, these are the 9 guys who have been most on my mind when I race at local sprints during the summer.  Indeed, if you look at the races that I've competed in and tabulated who won my AG when it wasn't me, what you find is:

Wes Burns 10
Des Nunan 4
Mickey Syrop 4
Tom Dillon 3
Ken Lehner 2
Rip Wagner 2
Nace Mullen 2 
Tom Senff 1
Mercer Craft 1

The last group is probably poorly labeled.  I'm sure they don't think they are chasing me--as with me, if they are chasing anybody it's the Ken and Wes and Rips of the world.  Anyways, I have done comparatively better against this group through the years.  It's not to say that they'll stay in this grouping.  In fact, I was very lucky to beat Jack at Lenape last year and he seems to be on the upswing.  Perhaps, like Tom Dillon, he is on the break of eclipsing me in our local battles.  Time will tell.

If I have offended anyone with this discourse, I apologize!  I hope to stir the pot a bit of course but let me emphasize, that all of the competitors on this list have my utmost respect.  You have had a primary and causal effect on the satisfaction that I have enjoyed in this great sport of triathlon.  I thank you all!

To end this post I'd like to share three big data dumps.  The first shows my AG win and podium (top 3) record through the years:

The next two charts display how my cumulative win (the number of wins divided by the number of races at any point in time) and cumulative podium percentage has changed over time.  I could obviously through more words at this but i think the data is fairly self-explanatory and I'm way past a reasonable word limit at this point!