Friday, May 30, 2014

Jersey Genesis tomorrow

I'm planning on giving the Jersey Genesis Sprint (.5/16/4) a go tomorrow.  Given where my body is at,  this probably isn't the best choice.  My legs have been very sore over the last week and my lower left leg continues to be a source of concern.   I have a lack of spring and power that has translated into sluggish runs and bikes.  I decided to take the last two days off to try to recover and my legs do feel a bit better.

Frankly, I'm confused by how my body has been responding to my increased training load.  I can't remember ever having this much trouble assimilating training stress--it may be a function of my calf problems or maybe one of the ever growing list of things that my advancing age is gifting....

In any event, my plan is to race the USAT LC Nationals next weekend and I'm going to use the race tomorrow as a test run--to see if my body can hold up to a Half-Iron distance race.  On paper, I'm at best 2nd or 3rd best of the guys entered in my AG so I won't be winning tomorrow but since I did this race last year I should be able to collect some good data and have a good idea of where I'm at fitness wise....

Monday, May 26, 2014

Last week

Solid training volume last week although most of it was concentrated M-W at the end of my Canyon Ranch trip.  My body feels pretty beat up and I'm trying to mange through some continuing lower left leg weakness (not really pain but residual weakness) that is limiting my running somewhat.  That said, great to be at the beach and starting to build my bike fitness in earnest.  This morning I'm swimming my first OWS with Midge and her crew--as I recall the swim we do is around 2.5 miles....Ah, summer!!!!

Swim: 10,500 yards
Bike: 225 miles
Run: 23.2 miles
Other: 4:00
Time: 25:11

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sadly, Canyon Ranch coming to an end

Jen and I just finished wathing Captain Phillips--her for the first time and me for the fourth.  I'm 4 for 4 crying at the end....

I arrived here last Thursday, mid-day with a very painful left calf having had to curtail my running entirely for 5 days and just spin easy on an indoor trainer for the bike.  I was resigned to a modest (2-4 weeks) period of recovery but hopeful that the PT/NMT and other therapies might speed that up.

I sit here tonight after 6 1/2 days on a new plane and feeling very bullish about my immediate and longer term athletic prospects.  My calf seems to be healed.  I've dropped 6 pounds (some water weight no doubt).  I've learned a ton about diet and things I'll want to do going forward to eat cleaner.  My swim today was my 9th consecutive day that I've been in the pool--a personal record by a long shot (previous best was maybe 4 or 5 days in a row).  I've had 4 yoga sessions and several other sessions designed to work on flexibility, balance and core strength.  I've had 4 very solid runs.  I've had a number of strong bike rides over the challenging terrain that the Bershire Mountains offer.

To give you a sense, here is what today looked like:

Up at 6 for an easy 65 minute spin on an indoor trainer.
Quick breakfast (425 calories) with Jen.
90 minute session with the head nutritionist here working through strategies for cleaner eating.
42 minute Z1/Z2 run with several long hills (I had a challenging 68 minute run yesterday)
Great outdoor lunch with Jen (Veggie Burger and Chicken Sausage and salad--475 calories)
1:44 ride outside which featured a 6-mile climb.
45 minute Yoga session that kicked my butt.
37 minute swim session.
Nice dinner with Jen of salmon and corn chowder soup and salad (550 calories)
Packed and watched the movie.

Everything is so convenient and the meals are ready when you want them--and oh so nutritious.  I supplemented my meals with a couple of their all natural energy bars and their phenomenal energy drink (orange juice, white grape juice, matte, iced teas, lemon oil, and sea salt).

Here is what the 6.5 days (half day on thursday) looked like (numbers are minutes or hours and minutes):

Th: 2:22: Bike-60 min/Swim-37 min/Yoga-45 min
F: 4:17: Bike-60/Swim-37/PT/NM-160
Sa: 5:10: Bike-3:48/Swim-37/Yoga-45
Su: 5:27: Bike-120/Run-54/swim-38/Yoga-90/Hike-25
M: 5:53: Bike-120/run-20/Swim-43/Hike-80/Strength & Flexibility-90
Tu: 5:24: Bike-3:15/Run-68/Swim-36/Hike-25
W: 4:53: Bike-2:49/Run-42/swim-37/Yoga-45

The totals for my 6.5 days here:

Time: 33:26
Swim: 15,000 yards
Bike: 233.3 miles
Run: 20.6 miles
Other: 10:05

I'm leaving here with great momentum....summer is coming....let's rock!!!!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Remarkable Progress!

As we end this week I can't believe the progress I made over the 7 days.  Last Sunday I couldn't put my weight on my left leg when climbing the stairs due to the calf pain.  Monday, I took a full rest day and resigned myself to likely 2-4 week shut-down of most of my bike and run training.  After some structural readjustment to my pelvis, some painful neuromuscular work, and lots of Yoga, I've come off of two pretty remarkable days.

Yesterday i was able to ride a challenging 53 mile ride up here in the Berkshire Mountains with not a whimper out of my calf.  I heaped some swimming and Yoga on top of that.  Encouraged by how my legs felt this morning, I did two more Yoga sessions, rode 31 miles, swam 2000 yards and had a great 6-mile run!  The later was interesting because I was sluggish early on with all the recent stuff I was doing and my lack of calories here at Canyon Ranch but after a few miles I actually felt fantastic.  I'm sure I'm suseptible to interpreting things this way but I really felt that my hips were more flexible, my hamstrings and calfs felt looser and I ran more freely.  Better.  Not to get carried away here because I only average a bit over 9-minute miles but it was encouraging.  The best news is that my calf seems to be saying; 'bring it on"!

So I think I may have dodged a bullet on this Peroneal injury--I won't declare victory until I can get through a normal training week--especially run-wise---I'm optimistic.

As it was, I ended up missing 8 days running and 3 days cycling.  The totals for this week:

Swim: 12,500 yards
Bike: 143 miles
Run: 6 miles
Time: 20:43 of which 6:10 was "other" (mostly Yoga)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Promising news/injury update

We arrived at Canyon Ranch yesterday afternoon and I was able to see the PT this morning.  He was very, very good in my view and quickly diagnosed my calf injury and it's apparent cause.  I was correct in identifying the Peroneal Longus as the area of pain but the PT's view is it was not tendonitis but rather an injury to the actual muscle--a tear of some type.  This was good and bad news.  Good news in that it wasn't a tendon issue--which I think can be quite difficult to fix at times.  Bad news, in that like a hamstring injury, a Peroneal muscle tear can linger for a while.  However, it's one of those things that can be treated with Rest, Ice and Compression and I should be able to get out and do some modest cycling beginning tomorrow and perhaps test the waters running-wise next week.  I have a green light to do things--I just have to stop if I feel the pain....we'll see beginning tomorrow.

The better news is that the PT diagnosed that I had Right Anterior/Left Posterior Pelvic Torsion--my pelvis was out of alignment.  This mis-alignment causes my left hip to ride higher than my right and for my right leg to be functionally longer--I had previously know about this leg-length difference but had basically assumed there wasn't much I could do about it.  He proceeded to re-align my pelvis by yanking quite hard on each leg--they litterally "popped" quite loudly--it felt weird but not painful.  We we re-tested the pelvis alignment my legs were now the same length.  He explained I was stressing my Peroneal Longus on my left, shorter leg because I had to roll my ankle more to make up for the relative shortness--this rolling was what was straining the Peroneal.

He gave mean the names of some Osteopaths in DE to follow up with if I needed it and also showed me an exercise I could do daily, which he thought would have a good chance of keeping me in alignment.

Later that day I had a 100 minute neuromuscular therapy on my glutes and legs.  This is a lot like trigger-point therapy, which at times feels a bit unpleasant, but really seemed to loosen things up quite a bit.

The upshot of all of this is my legs generally and my left calf specifically feel a great deal better.  I'm not out of the woods yet but am hopeful and optimistic that I've got a clear path to full recovery.  The next test will be a couple of hours on the bike tomorrow....

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Waiting but not wanting

So, I'm into my waiting for my tendonitis to get better phase.  Not where you really want to be but not as bad as one might expect.  For instance, I now have 2-5 hours more per day to do other stuff.  Also, I can now have a focused swim block--perhaps 3 weeks of 15,000 yards will help....

I'm hopefully meeting with a PT at Canyon Ranch on Thursday to address my calf issue and my lingering elbow/forearm pain.  With a week at Canyon Ranch I should be able to really get on top of my current problems.  I also plan to do as much "other" stuff as i can--I see lots of Yoga, ART, etc. in my future--plus tons of swimming.  All good.  The way I look at it is this is an opportunity to focus on weight loss, swimming and flexibility--all things that will be good.  I'll get back to the Bike and Run soon enough.

In the meantime, my Rudy Project Wing 57 finally arrived (I ordered it last November) and I have to say it is freaking awesome!  Of course, my ability to test it out is somewhat limited but I did put it through it's paces before dinner tonight:

Monday, May 12, 2014

Looks like Peroneal Tendonitis

The somewhat painful symptoms in my upper left calf continue.  The pain is on the outside of my calf, originating just below by knee cap and at times radiating down the outside of my calf to my ankle.  The pain is especially acute when I push off when walking or running and is very noticeable when climbing stairs (as I load my whole body weight on my left leg).

These symptons are consistent with Tendonitis of the Peroneal Longus--which is the skinny, relatively weak muscle behind my fibula (the small bone in the lower leg).  As you probably know, my left leg is a long-running problem area for me given my perforated medial articular cartilage.  Through the years my body has been forced to make all sorts of not particularly efficient compromises to deal with the chronic pain which radiates from there with every foot strike.  I wouldn't be surprised if this latest injury is a result of this on-going structural issue.

When you push off the foot needs to roll through the lift-off phase and if either the ankle or the hip are not supple enough it can lead to a situation where the body compensates by having the weak Peroneals do more of the work (and absorb more of the stress) as opposed to the much larger and stronger gastroc muscles.  I think this is what has led to my current predicament.

Unfortunately, my injury is probably of sufficient severity that I can't ignore it or train through it.  The PRICE (Protect, Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate) protocol seems to be called for.  This is relatively easy to accomplish but could very well take some time (most Grade One (the least severe) injuries require 2-3 weeks to recover from).

I'm scheduled to head up to Canyon Ranch later this week for a week of healthy eating and heavy training (was looking for 25-30 hours).  The later will obviously need to be re-evaluated at this point. The good news is they have some fine PT support available and I imagine I'll be spending quite a bit of time trying to quickly rehab my Peroneals.  Further, I'll have to address the underlying cause--probably a tight left hip so this is not a recurring issue going forward.

It's still too soon to gauge the full impact on my 2014 season except to say that it will have some.  My May plan is out the door at this point and my next two scheduled races (Genesis Sprint, Long Course Nationals) are certainly at risk.  Longer term, I have plenty of time to fix this, resume training and be ready to start my Kona build in July.  That is what I'll plan to do--if need be, I'll end up with a pretty limited 2014 racing season.

It is what it is!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Trouble in River City?

Interesting and enjoyable week!  It started in DE with the Striper Trip.  Tuesday was all about fishing so a rest day from a triathlon perspective.  Thursday included a trans-continental flight.  The weekend featured a fun time visiting Anders in LA and getting some high quality training in.

Unfortunately, I seem to have developed some type of a loweer leg problem.  It's specifically near my left knee (what else is new?) and is anterior and below the knee joint.  It resides at the top of my gastroc muscle and is not the ITB--but it might be related.  Anyways, pretty painful and defenitely aggravated with riding and walking around.  I skipped several workouts--really missed a couple of runs I was counting on.

I'm hopeful this goes away relatively quickly, but it could be an issue over the near future.

In any event, given the above I had an OK training week--wanted it to be more.  The numbers:

Swim: 8,500 yards
Bike: 181 miles
Run: 22 miles
Time: 17:03

Friday, May 9, 2014

Bassman Race Report

Bassman International Race Report
May 4th, 2014


Location: Bass River State Forest, NJ
Distance: 0.69-mile swim/31.1-mile bike/5.1-mile run
2014 Triathlon Race Number: 4
Career Triathlon Race Number: 141
Conditions: Partly cloudy to mostly sunny.  Chilly at the start but rising to mid-60s by race end.  10-15 mph wind.  Clear lake swim with water temp around 58 degrees.

The fourth triathlon of the 2014 campaign and the “official” start of my “regular” triathlon season.  I was coming off a three-week period where I recovered from IMNOLA70.3 and had a solid 8-day training block.  While, I was still way behind in my 2014 training I felt like I was beginning to make some progress in gaining a more normal level of fitness.  This race was part of a menagerie of Half, International, Sprint triathlons, duathlons and Aqua-bikes (a bit of an organizational challenge IMO) and there were just 106 finishers for the International this morning.  There were just 4 guys in my 55-59 YO AG and indeed I was the 3rd oldest person in the race. (Yikes!)

I’ve done this race 4 prior times in my career (I also have competed in a Sprint and an Off-Road at this venue as well).  I’ve won all 4 of those International distance races.  A big reason for that is the bike-heavy nature of this race.  The ratio between the bike and run at this race today is 6.1.  Contrast this to a normal Olympic race (4.0) or an IM format race (4.3).  Basically, this race has about 40-50% more bike in it than a “typical” triathlon.  And that is good for yours-truly.

In any event, as was the case last year, I had two main competitors: Ted Maglione and Tom Senff.  I’ve raced them both about 10 times before.  I’ve beat Ted in all of our prior races and have won 70% of my races with Tom.  Tom won the first three and I’ve been winning since.  While I’ve beat Ted every prior race, he has been steadily gaining on me and in my view posed the more significant competitive threat on this morning.  Indeed, last year I beat Ted by just 25 seconds (although he was assessed an additional 2:00 penalty so officially I won by 2:25).

The big issue for me is my lack of fitness as compared to last year.  This was especially a problem on the swim and run but my bike was quite a bit behind last year as well.  Given how close we were last year I knew I needed to execute a strong tactical race plan to remain undefeated at this race.  I was hopeful there was a way for me to do this and I opted for the following strategy:

1.   I would roll the dice a bit on the swim and go much harder than I have in the past—I was hoping to pick up 30+ seconds relative to my competition by going harder than I did last year.  I was risking blowing-up on the swim or impacting my bike but I felt the risk/return trade-off in this decision favored going for it.
2.   I would push hard on the bike but respect the distance of this bike split.  At 31 miles it was just too long to pursue a path similar to my swim approach.  However, last year’s ride was my first on my new BMC TM01 and my fit was way off and I had to sit-up a great deal.  While my fit is still not completely dialed in, it is a whole lot better and I was hopeful I could stay aero the whole ride and perhaps this better aerodynamic position would offset what I anticipated to be a reduced power output.
3.   I was planning on picking up time in transitions but I was able to do that in 2013 as well so I didn’t expect that to be a relative gain this year.
4.   I was hoping my approach on the swim and bike would put me in a similar position to last year.  On the run, I was planning to run faster than I did last year due in part to my improved bike fit.  In 2013 when I dismounted the bike I was very stiff and had a great deal of trouble finding my running stride.  I was hoping I would have less of a transition issue this year and that perhaps this would offset my inferior running training and fitness.

There were a lot of variables to consider and of-course, my opponents would certainly have something to say about the outcome as well.  That said, I entered the race “hungry” and determined to keep my unblemished record at this race.  In the back of my head I told myself that if push came to shove I would be prepared to dig very, very deep this morning.

The Swim

SNAFU.  Hey it’s Bassman, of-course it’s disorganized!  The Half started 15 minutes late and we ended up starting 46 minutes late as for the 3rd time the Police support for some reason did not show up.  The RD scrambled around and finally we were off.

The men were in the first wave this morning and at the starting line I positioned myself to the right of Senff.  Tom had the top swim in my AG last year and what I wanted to do was to keep him close but keep my effort easier for the first couple of minutes and then try to pull away from him.  Both Tom and I are “lefties” and being on the right side I had the advantage of seeing him while he could not see me.

At the gun, Senff surged ahead a bit but I was able to keep him in view just a few feet in front of me.  I was way on the inside on the buoy line (it was a clock-wise square course) and I drifted right to find conflict free water.  After a couple of minutes I felt really good and I decided to go for it and soon I pulled parallel to Tom and then moved ahead of him.

At the first buoy I was cut-off by a swimmer that seemed to lose all sense of direction but shortly after that I was around the buoy and back at it.  I lost a few seconds but Tom was still behind me.  I tried to focus on my swim cues for this race.  (I had been working this Spring on modifying my swim stroke a bit in the hope of simplifying my mechanics and making me faster in the water.  Sorry for a bit of a diversion on swim technique but what follows is what I had been working on and was now thinking about in this race):

1.   I tried to make the recovery phase of my stroke slow and easy.
2.   I did not initiate my catch until my recovery arm re-entered the water a few inches above my head.  At that point I was fully rolled over with my catch arm out and front of me and my head laying on the inside of my catch arm near my shoulder.  These two cues were meant to help lengthen my average distance per stroke (dps).
3.   At the initiation of my catch I tried to get a very early vertical forearm and just did a forceful in-sweep stroke followed by aggressive hip rotation to clear my body and to accelerate my pull.  I was trying to have a slower than normal recovery and a more powerful and faster than normal catch and pull.  This was a big change from my old stroke where I executed an “S” or “?” stroke with first an out-sweep and then an in-sweep.  This “S” stroke had the advantage of pulling less moving water but required me to change the pitch of my hand mid-stroke.  My old stroke required less physical force but was slower and more complicated.
4.   I also focused on consciously engaging my Erector Spinae muscles in my lower and mid back.  This had the benefit of lifting my hips and legs up higher in the water and behind the hole I was punching with my shoulders and head as well as tightening up and straightening my mid-section so I had a bit less horizontal oscillation in my stroke.  A friend of mine who was an All-American swimmer at Stanford suggested this latter correction.

In any event, I felt very good and smooth in the water.  No one was catching me from behind and indeed I was starting to catch some of the people who had started faster than I.  I felt comfortable with my effort-level, more than I intended, but I rationalized this away by taking comfort in the fact I was out-swimming Senff.  Since Senff had out-swam me in 2013 and he is a very experienced triathlete with a comparatively consistent swim, I figured I must have been gaining on the field as a whole.  However, this thought process was, in retrospect, flawed, as the real threat this morning was not Senff but Maglione.  I knew Maglione would be far behind me in the swim but there was no guarantee that just because I was doing relatively better this year against Senff that the same would be true for Maglione.  The net effect of this miscalculation was I swam easier than I intended to.

I was aware that I was swimming a straighter, better course than many of the swimmers in front of me—especially after the last turn.  The buoy line sagged in and the better line was actually wider to the left and away from the buoys.  Soon enough I reached the shore and hit my Garmin and noted a swim time of 17:58.  This was initially disappointing as last year I had swam 17:12.  As I was running up the beach I quickly concluded that the swim was longer than last year because I had outswam Senff and I “knew” I was faster this year.  Here in fact is how the two swims compare:

                            2013      2014

Distance (miles)      0.60        0.69
Time                      17:12      17:58
Pace (min/mile)      28:38      26:11
Cadence (spm)        36           35
Strokes                  619         632
DPS (yards)            1.71        1.92

So I did indeed have a stronger swim this year despite being less fit—this highlights the importance of technique for the swim.  The course was 15% longer this year.  However my DPS improved by 12% and this overwhelmed a slight reduction in my cadence to yield a 9% improvement in my average speed through the water.

Not surprisingly, this increased speed translated into competitive benefits.  I ended up with the 18th fastest swim OA (84.0%).  This is my best showing at Bassman in the swim to date:

2005              55.0 %-tile
2006              74.7
2008              71.8
2013              71.7
2014              84.0

I also compared my swim in 2013/2014 to a group of 5 triathletes (Chesson, McGee, Donohue, Senff, Maglione) who did the race in both years as well (in case there was a significant change in the relative strength of the OA field from year-to-year).  I was 4.4% slower this year while the group of 5 averaged 8.4% slower.  No doubt about it, I had a very encouraging swim this morning.

In my AG this is where the top 3 stood after the swim:

1.  Christofferson    --------
2.  Senff                 + 0:16
3.  Maglione            + 3:31

The above would seem at first glance to be very good news.  With respect to Senff, he had beaten me by 0:33 last year so I was 49 seconds relatively better off this year than last.  However, I was 4:40 better than Maglione last year so in a sense I lost 1:19 this year vs. Maglione.  Since, for the race as a whole, I only beat him by 25 seconds last year (not counting his penalty) this would have been a real concern to me had I known it.

The Transition

I was blissfully unaware of Maglione’s swim as I ran up the beach.  I was consciously trying to run hard through transition and when I arrived at my bike I did a very good job of turning into a cyclist.  I elected to forgo putting my long-sleeve jersey on this year, as it was a fair bit warmer this year than last.  Soon I was pushing my bike along the lengthy path to the mount line. 

I executed my transition in 2:42, which was a marked improvement over my 3:50 last year.  How this compares competitively we’ll never know as for some reason, the RD decided not to measure (or at least report) that information. This would have been good to know of-course because back in 2013 I was 57 seconds faster than Maglione in T1 and I would have wanted to be at least that much faster this year.  Last year I was 80.0 %-tile OA, so my guess is I was better than that this year.

The Bike

The bike course was once again changed this year—I think it’s been different all five years that I’ve raced here—why, I couldn’t tell you.  This year it was longer than last at 31.15 miles vs. 29.78 miles.  I felt pretty comfortable on the bike and really tried to settle in and relax—I wanted to stay in the aero position for the full ride, as the course here is pretty flat.

I had set my Edge 800 to auto-split at 2-mile intervals and the first few splits confirmed what I had expected—my watts were down this year at a comparable effort level vs. last year:


Mile 2: 227 watts @ 161 bpm
Mile 4: 212 watts @ 160
Mile 6: 221 watts @ 159


Mile 2: 241 watts @ 161 bpm
Mile 4: 227 watts @ 159
Mile 6: 230 watts @ 158

I absorbed this information with little surprise.  I wasn’t happy about it but I fully expected it—my bike fitness this year, at this point in time, is not that good.  Still, I decided to stick to my tactical plan and really focus on body position and trust that my better fit would offset my lower power production.

The ride was pretty unremarkable.  With so few people on the road it was pretty lonely.  For some reason I was never able to get a visual ID on either Senff or Maglione during the out-and-backs so I had no idea where I stood competitively (aside from the fact I knew I was winning).  I focused on good position and my nutrition.  It was relatively cool on the bike so I ended up drinking one 24 oz. bottle of Cytomax and about 200 calories of Hammer-Gel (a total of about 450 calories).  It wasn’t the most comfortable ride but I was able to hold an aero position for 95+% of the ride.

I completed my bike leg in 86:53.  This translates into an average speed of 21.5 mph.  Here is how the key bike parameters this year compare with 2013:

                             2013      2014

Distance (miles)      29.78      31.15
Time                      82:35      86:53
Speed (mph)          21.6        21.5
Climbing (feet)        308         278
Temperature           47           66
Avg. HR (bpm)        155         156
Avg. Power (watts)  231         215
NP (watts)              233         217
Cadence (rpm)        81           83

So it panned out pretty much as I had hoped.  My better position more or less cancelled out my lower power (I’m assuming the wind’s impact was similar, which I believe is a good assumption as the wind speed was similar in both years).  I spun a little better this year, though I would like to see that up around 85 rpm for a ride of this length.  Most importantly I jumped off my bike feeling vastly better than in 2013.

Competitively, I had the 9th fastest bike OA (92.5 %-tile).  This was considerably better than last year:

2005              85.0 %-tile
2006              94.0
2008              93.6
2013              85.0
2014              92.5

I was 4.8% slower this year and my comparison group of 5 was 5.0% slower.  The quality of the bike field overall may have been a little lower this year than last.

According to the official race results, here is where we stood after the bike in my AG:

1.  Christofferson    --------
2.  Maglione            + 5:03
3.  Senff                 + 7:42

Last year, at this point, I was 5:02 in-front of Senff, so a net improvement of 2:40.  In 2013, I was 6:49 in front of Maglione, which at first blush indicates I was 1:46 relatively worse off.  However, this includes Maglione’s penalty and if we ignore the penalty my swim/T1/bike was actually 14 seconds better relative to Maglione than last year.  I had managed to execute my tactical plan and despite being in considerably worse fitness this year, I did relatively better.

However, there is the matter of the 2-minute benefit that I received last year.  I would not be so lucky this year.  Last year Maglione had erased 4:26 on the run and I was just 5:03 ahead.  Unfortunately, I was in considerably worse run fitness this year and if I had known these facts I would have been concerned indeed.

Transition Two

I initially had trouble finding my transition area when I first arrived back in transition.  This wasted several seconds (which would have some impact as we will see) but soon I found my transition spot and then executed a very quick transition.  My transition took 1:52 at an average HR of 156 bpm.  This was similar to 2013 when I had a 1:53 transition.  In 2013 I a 90.0 %-tile OA so I imagine this year’s transition was relatively good as well.

With a little data manipulation I can back-out the impact of transitions this year versus Maglione.  I was 37 seconds faster this year in the two transitions than Maglione.  In 2013, I was 59 seconds faster in the two transitions.

The Run

I was hopeful that my better bike position this year would enable a better run as well and as I left transition I could tell I felt a lot better than last year (last year I was in so much pain I still remember it very distinctly).  I felt so good in fact I thought I might very well be running at an 8:00 min/mile pace.  Since I averaged 8:39 min/mile last year this would be very good news indeed.

However this proved optimistic as I hit mile one in 8:29 with a HR of 163 bpm.  Importantly, this was a slight improvement over 2013 where I went 8:36/161.  I was modestly disappointed with the 8:29 but I was pleased none-the-less as I had memorized my prior year’s result.  As I continued my run I became more and more confident that I would beat last year’s time.  Mile 2 was 8:37/163 vs. 8:42/162.

Around 2 miles there is an out-and-back section and I was able to see I was about 4 minutes or so ahead of Maglione and I remembered this is where I was last year as well.  Since, I was running well, I felt pretty confident—I knew I couldn’t relax but I felt if I just stayed “on it” that I could hold on for the win. 

I made a concerted effort to push mile 3 and I was rewarded with very good news: 8:13 min/mile @ 169 bpm vs. 8:46 @ 160 bpm last year.  I was much more engaged and aggressive this year.  I was hurting for sure but was dialed in on sustaining through to the finish line.

Around the 4-mile mark I saw Maglione again and could tell he would be unlikely to catch me—he was close enough that I couldn’t relax but I seemed to be in a pretty good spot competitively.  Mile 4 saw me split 8:22/mile @ 169 bpm vs. 8:37 @ 160 bpm last year.  I was pretty close to redlining it this year.

I began to turn my intention to Tim McGee, a 50 YO friend, who had beat me by 6:42 last year.  He was directly behind me this year but steadily gaining.  I didn’t want to blow up by pushing too hard to stay in-front of him, but at the same time as the finish line came closer and it was certain the Maglione wasn’t going to catch me, I wanted to try to hold him off.  With about 600 yards to go I began to push it harder.

My 5th mile was 8:25 @ 170bpm vs. 8:44 @ 161bpm in 2013.  I pushed very hard the final 0.11 miles and more or less rigged up with about 20 yards to go.  Tim caught me a few yards from the line and we both stumbled across laughing and trying to avoid puking.  My final 0.11 miles were at 6:50/mile pace and my HR averaged 173bpm—definitely above my redline.

My total run split was 42:56 and my average HR was 167bpm.  This was a very gratifying improvement over 2013 when I went 44:43 @ 161bpm.  (My per mile time improved from 8:39 to 8:23—16 sec/mile.)  This 1:47 improvement proved to be important, as this is where we finished in my AG:

1.  Christofferson    --------
2.  Maglione            + 1:18
3.  Senff                 +11:51

Overall, I had the 45th fastest run.  Here is how my OA %-tile has varied over the years:

2005              90.0
2006              78.3
2008              77.9
2013              52.5
2014              58.5

I was 4.0 % faster this year while the group of five was 3.9% slower.  Based on that I’d say the run strength in the OA field was stronger this year.

My final time was 2:32:30, which was 14th best OA.  Again a comparison to prior years:

2005              90.0
2006              86.7
2008              92.9
2013              74.2
2014              87.7


So what to make of all of this?  I had a pretty good race this year—from a tactical perspective.  I beat a triathlete that was probably fitter than I with good tactical execution.  I feel pretty good about this effort—my 47th AG victory (of 141--33.3%) and 2nd this year (of 4—50%).

With four races under my belt, I thought it might make some sense to step back and see where I am relative to a notional “potential fitness level” that I might reasonably expect to achieve this year.  I do this by comparing my OA %-tile results to a measure I created called my “Demonstrated Fitness Potential” (DFP).  The DFP is simply the average of my best three OA %-tile finishes for each discipline for any given year.  I can then compare this year’s races and calculate how much faster I would have been had I preformed at these DFP levels.  It sounds more complicated than it is.

The calculation works like this.  My average DFP for the last three years are as follows:

Swim:      91.4 %-tile
Bike:       98.9
Run:        77.1
Overall:    93.5

For the Bassman swim, I was actually at 84.0 %-tile.  Had I been at the 91.4 %-tile I would have been 1:37 faster, which indicates that I was about 8.8% off of where I should be when I’m really on my game.  Notionally this means I need to get 8.8% faster by the time I get to Kona.  This seems both reasonable and doable to me.  In fact I can imagine targeting the following numbers for my races in the latter part of the summer:

                             Bassman         Target     Change

Strokes/minute           35                 36        + 2.9%
Distance/stroke          1.92            2.03       + 5.7
Speed (mph)             2.29            2.49       + 8.8

Pace (min/mile)         26:11           24:04
Pace (per 100 yds.)    1:29          1:22

Turning to the bike, my shortfall turns out to be 9:14 or 10.4%.  This implies I need to generate about 289 watts (vs. the 215 I did in this race).  This number strikes me as somewhat high.  To reach my DFP in a race with 106 people, I’d basically have the 2nd best bike OA.  It’s a reasonable hypothesis that a bike heavy race like this attracts a stronger bike field than typical short-course races.  MY bike DFP is very sensitive to the strength of the top 2-3 cyclists in a race—so probably not a good estimate of how far I need to go on the bike.  I personally feel that I need to be more in the 240-250 watt range for a race of this length (my best prior power output at Bassman was 240 watts).  This would imply a need to improve my power output by about 11%.

Now consider my effort at New Orleans 70.3.  There I did 182 watts over 56 miles.  An equivalent wattage at 31 miles is about 193 watts.  This implies an improvement at Bassman of about 11% (of course this implies similar conditions and the conditions at New Orleans were considerably more challenging than Bassman).  If you believe all of these numbers I bridged about half of my fitness shortfall over the last 3 weeks—which seems plausible to me.  Of course, the next half will be far more challenging.

On the run, my shortfall is 4:04 or about 9.4%.  This implies a need to run about 8:02/mile—about 21 sec/mile—this seems like a good estimate of the work I need to do.  It also seems very doable.

Overall, my lack of fitness yields about a 14:55 aggregate time penalty for Bassman or about 9.8%.  In other words, if I was at my historically demonstrated fitness potential I would have finished 7th today instead of 14.   As a point of comparison, if we take my OA DFP of 93.5 %-tile it implies a smaller shortfall of 9:22 or about 6.1%.  This probably reflects the over-estimation of my shortfall on the bike.

On balance, I think an estimate of 6-10% improvement potential is reasonable at this point in the season given my late start.  I look forward to doing the work and earning that improvement!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Yesterday brought a welcome relief from the triathlon regimen as some buds and I went down to the Chesapeake for a morning of trophy Stripper fishing.  The boys had a great day and the resulting feast was one to remember....

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Bassman Headlines

The results are not yet posted but since I was there I know what happened.  Here are the headlines:

1. It was once again a great event.  It was once again very disorganized.  Love it or leave it!

2. I'm not very fit yet.  I knew that going in and my data supports that.

3. Despite my lack of fitness I still thought I could tactically execute a race plan that would yield an AG victory for me (and better OA performance than last year).  I did a really good job of race execution today and despite being quite unfit I was able to grab the AG victory--very satisfying.

4. I'm definitely getting fitter.  My numbers today were way better than New Orleans 70.3 and I feel much better post race tonight.

5. Still, the main point is I have a ton of work to do.  I need to do it starting now.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Bassman tomorrow

At the beach chilling before my 4th race of the season tomorrow morning.  I did a short ride and run today and felt pretty flat--certainly not what I'd like to feel like on race morning.  I have a bit of a stomach thing today/tonight so maybe I'm a little under the weather.  At this point, not enough to disuade me from giving it a go tomorrow.  I'm hoping tomorrow, with the excitement of the race, will yield something better.

I went to the race site and picked up my package this afternoon.  The water in the lake seemed fine to me--probably high 50s or low 60s.  Weather tomorrow seems pretty good--50-60 degrees during the race and about 10-15 mph winds.  Might be a bit chilly on the bike and I imagine my feet will be pretty cold by the time I get to the run.

I don't know how many people are in my AG because the RD has decided that is not a relevant piece of data to include in the list of participants.  I do know that the two gentlement who finished 2nd and 3rd last year are racing.  I won by just a 25 second margin (although 2:00 was added to the 2nd place fellow for drafting).  I'm not in as good shape as last year so this would seem to point to some concern about my ability to repeat.  However, I do have these things going for me:

- I took it very easy last year on the swim--as I review my RR from last year this would seem to have been a tactical error.  Tomorrow my plan is to swim easy for the first 3-4 minutes and then hammer away.  Given my lack of training this year I feel I need to roll the dice a bit on the swim and try to perhaps "steal" 30-40 seconds there....

- Last year was the first year I raced on my new BMC TM01.  The fit was horrible and I had one of my worse bike splits of my career--I was in a lot of pain.  My fit is much improved (although, I'll be using this race as a key input to the decision to go up to Cadence for a whole fit re-do....I feel it's almost a given that I need to do this if I'm going to ride this beast at Kona later this year--which I am!) but still not perfect.  I'm in quite a bit worse bike shape this year but I'm hoping the better fit cancels that out tomorrow....

- I had a really poor run last year as well--I attribute this to two things: 1) my run sucks (that will be true tomorrow as well), and 2) the bike fit impacted my running legs.  This may be hopeful feelings but I'm hopeful none-the-less that despite my lesser run fitness this year I can hold the line on my run relative to my competition.

- While I'm not very fit at this point in the year, I have raced 5 times already.  I did the same two sprints this year that I did last year and also the Cherry Blossom 10-miler both years.  However, this year I have also done a half-marathon and a IM70.3, which I have to believe will be important in a race this long: 0.6-mile swim/31.5-mile bike/5.2-mile run.

We'll see!  It's 9 o'clock--time to get some shut-eye!