Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Musings: A new addition

Howdy Folks!

This past weekend was a BIG weekend of racing.  There was SeaWheeze in Vancouver, Steelhead 70.3 in Michigan, MSC Bracebridge Race weekend and Iron Girl to name a few.  I had a couple of athletes racing (SeaWheeze & the ENDURun Half marathon) and Gary and I also raced (recap to come this week!).    Hard to believe that there's only a few weeks left of the summer racing!  We've got yet another race on tap this weekend at Toronto Island.  And, there's less than 4 weeks until Lake Placid 70.3!

We had a pretty action packed weekend but that's what usually happens when we race.   We opted to drive out to Gravenhurst the day before and stay the night so we didn't have to get up at 4:00 am to drive out that morning.  After the race, we headed back home to Toronto.  By the time we got back, unpacked the car and showered, it was close to 4:00pm.   So much for Saturday!  Although I did still have enough time to get a bit of "shopping" in.

If you follow my IG stories, you will have seen a bit of video from my local bike shop, Wheels of Bloor.  I love those guys.   They have the best selection of bikes and they are the biggest Cervelo dealer in Canada.  Gary and I have bought all of our bikes from them.  The crew they have working there now are such a great bunch of guys.  Knowledgeable AND personable which is huge when it comes to bike shops.  I find that some shops are very knowledgeable but not always personable.  Anyway....that's my little shout out to the WOB guys.

You probably see where this is going right?

You don't?  Well, let me clear it up for you.  We added another "member" to our "family".  Yup,  I bought a new bike.   How many bikes does one need?  The right answer is N+1, ha ha.  That now makes 8 bikes between G and I.  I never thought I'd see the day that happened.   I have a road bike, a tri bike and a mountain bike and now I have a cyclocross bike.  By mid summer, I'm usually planning for the off season, and this year I wanted to try some cyclocross racing.  Now that my bike handling skills have improved, I think I'm ready to try a race or two.

Here he is.  It's a Felt F65x with a matte black frame with red, grey and white accents.  Dead.  Sexy.

He also needs a name.  In keeping with my current tradition of naming all my bikes after Rush songs, I have a couple of names in mind.  G thinks I should call him By-Tor since my road bike is named Snow Dog (as per the song By-Tor and the Snow Dog).  I kinda like Xanadu, but perhaps that's a bit too feminine.  I also like Roll the Bones and One Little Victory.  Granted I will probably never ride this to One Little Victory but I still like the name, ha ha.

So that's the latest addition.  I may try to take it out for a spin in the park this week just to get used to how it handles but the real adventures will have to wait until post 70.3 just to be safe.

Speaking of Lake Placid, this was supposed to be a bit of a scale back week for me given that I was racing on Saturday and for the most part, it was just that.  I kept the intensity and volume low all week, knowing what I was in for on Saturday.  Saturday hurt like hell and I thought for sure I'd be in rough shape on Sunday but I actually felt alright and I got the all clear from my HRV app to do some intense training if I wanted to.  My original plan was to ride 3.5 hours and run 50 minutes.  The 3.5 hour ride turned into a 4 hour and 20 minute ride, followed by a 1 hour run.  The ride was tough.  We climbed almost 950m according to G's Suunto (which I trust more for correct elevation vs my Garmin) and I was riding my TT bike instead of my road bike.  Needless to say, I'm feeling much better about my climbing on my TT bike, ha ha.  The run off the bike didn't happen right off the bike, more like 25 minutes off the bike but my legs were still heavy from the ride and it took me a while to find my stride but once I did I chugged along nicely.  That was the big workout of the week so let's look at the rest of my week.

Monday:  OFF

Tuesday:   26km with the TTC Crew and a 25 minute weight workout

Wednesday:  2450m swim

Thursday:  8km run in the a.m and 28km interval ride around Matheson, 15 minute weight workout.

Friday:  OFF - drive up to Gravenhurst, have a beer, dinner, ice cream, watch a huge thunderstorm, go to bed by 9:30 pm.  Oh the exciting life of a triathlete.

Saturday:  RACE DAY!  750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run.

Sunday:  119.2km ride, followed by an 11.4km run.


Swim:  3254 m
Bike:  195 km
Run:  24.5 km

Total time:  10h 43 minutes

Still a big week but definitely scaled back from my previous week.   I had another big week mapped out but there may have to be some shuffling that takes place due to a very unique opportunity.  That's all Imma gonna say about that for now.  :)

Congrats to everyone who raced this weekend!

Does your bike have a name?  What do you think I should name my new steed?

~ Coach PK 

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Importance of Having a Health Care Team

Many of the athletes I coach are fairly new to running and triathlon so when things start to hurt and muscles start to get tight, they often ask me what I recommend.  Depending on what the issue is, my answer varies.  Over the years, I have assembled a team of people that I trust with my athletic health.   There are so many different types of therapies out there it's hard to know where to start so I'm going to break it down for you.

I'm going to classify things in terms of injury prevention and injury rehabilitation, mostly according to how I've ended up at each practitioner.  There is definitely overlap with all of these therapists as many of them can help in the healing of an injury as well as the prevention of an injury.


My go to for any sort of muscle (soft tissue) related aches, pains and tightness would be my RMT (Registered Massage Therapist).   If you're going to have ONE person in your health care arsenal, I'd recommend it be an RMT.

For other muscle and joint related issues, I go to a chiropractor.  Chiros get a bad rap a lot of the time which is unfortunate.  My chiropractor also does A.R.T (active release technique) and acupuncture so that is what I go and see him for 95% of the time.  On occasion I have some low back / S.I. joint issues so he will do the odd adjustment or joint mobilization work.

Another excellent practitioner to have on your health care team is an osteopath.  I like to think of osteopathy as a combination of massage and chiropractic treatment.  Osteopathy, according to Wikipedia is a "therapy that emphasizes massage and other physical manipulation of muscle and tissue and bones."  I've used osteopathy for low back and SI joint pain with a great deal of success.


Physiotherapists are the folks that 99.9% of injured athletes end up seeing.  A physiotherapist will help rehab your injury by having you work at building strength back up progressively and safely,  They will also help correct the imbalances or weaknesses that caused the injury in the first place.  That's why they have you do all those exercises.  That's why those exercises should ALWAYS be a part of your fitness / strength routine.  Your body will eventually revert back to the path of least resistance once you stop.

A good sports medicine doctor is also a very important person to have on your health care team.  If they're really good, they can get you slightly faster access to imaging.  Sometimes they offer alternative treatments like PRP injections, cortisone injections etc.   Unfortunately you usually have to wait anywhere from a couple of weeks to sometimes a couple of months to get an appointment, depending on the doctor.  A sports medicine doctor will also be able to refer you to a surgeon or other specialist if required.

An RMT for massage, a chiropractor for A.R.T and acupuncture and a physiotherapist for when everything goes to hell in a hand basket.

But where do you find these people?

Word of mouth.  Ask your coach, or other athletes who they would recommend.  I'm in the west end of the city so if I know my athlete is west end or willing to travel a bit, I'll always recommend someone on my healthcare team.

If you don't know any other athletes, do a google search and read reviews.  I feel it's important that you see someone at a sports medicine clinic as they are usually much more attuned to the needs of an athlete.  In an ideal world, your practitioner is an athlete as well.

I've seen a lot of therapists over the years.  Sometimes it can take a while to build a network of people that you trust with your health.  Right now I think I have a pretty solid team of people that help keep me healthy.   These are the folks that help keep me healthy.

David Lamy, RMT at Synergy Sports Medicine
Peter Lejkowski, Chiropractor / ART / Acupuncture at Pivot Sports Medicine
Lauren Roberts at The Running Physio

Other folks that I'd also recommend:

Kris Sheppard, Chiropractor at The Runners Academy 
Mark Casmiri, RMT at Pivot Sports Medicine
Miranda Tomenson, RMT at Swansea Massage Clinic
Xsenia D'Abramo, Physiotherapist & NKT practitioner at Annex RMT

Having a group of therapists that know you, your sport and your body is so important to staying healthy and to addressing and treating injuries when they come up.

Do you have a group of people that you trust?  

~ Coach PK

Monday, August 7, 2017

Monday Musings: The Holiday Monday Edition

Happy Holiday Mondayyyyyy!

Well we are officially one week into August and I am coming off my biggest week of training since the Lake Placid training camp back in May.   I actually feel pretty good today other than some stiffness in my legs and a tiny headache.  I'm chalking up the headache to the pint of beer and two glasses of wine I had last night, ha ha.

Remember last week when I said that G and I would probably save our short course racing until next year.  Well......that has changed.  We've signed up for two back to back sprint races.  We're doing Bracebridge sprint on Aug 13 and then my favourite, the Toronto Island Tri on August 20th.  We weren't sure the Toronto Island race was going to happen due to all the flooding on the island but they reopened the Island last Monday so the race is a go!  I haven't raced a sprint since 2015 so I'm bracing myself for the hurt.  I suspect I'll be taking a couple of days off afterwards because I'm just not used to racing at that high intensity.  Actually let me rephrase that.  I'm not used to RUNNING that hard these days.  Should be interesting to see what I can manage off the bike.

Looking through my training log, I've definitely put in 3 solid weeks of training.  That being said, I have yet to ride more than 83km on a long ride, ha ha.  I've spent a fair bit of time on my bike, just shorter rides.  I've also made a concerted effort to get into the pool and open water more.  I've been working on my stroke in the pool and I'm seeing a bit more speed but I'm still not catching the water well when my hands enter the water.  I swim much better with paddles but obviously I can't race with those so I have to keep working at it.  That will be my focus for the off season for sure.

This week is a recovery week for me so that means dialling back my volume and a bit of my usual intensity.  We are racing at the end of the week so will be a speed workout.   I'm starting to add a bit of more targeted run speed work back into my training.  My glut and hamstring have been feeling better, still not 100% but definitely better so I'm testing out my legs with a little bit of faster running.  Nothing too crazy but enough that I am getting a bit of harder workout in.  Adding this extra intensity would probably explain why I was so tired on Saturday.   So much so that I gave up on my workout.  Shit happens.  If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's when I need to listen to my body and pull the pin on a workout.

With that, let's look at my big fat week of training....

Monday:  OFF

Tuesday:  Double ride day:  30km with MGCC in the a.m. and 18km with my TTC group in the p.m.

Wednesday:  2150m swim in the a.m.  9km run with 3x1km repeats at 4:20/km followed by a 30 minute weight workout.

workout = CRUSHED
Thursday:  45.9km ride with Morning Glory.

Friday:  2600m swim, followed by a 25 minute weight workout and then a 2.5km run to test out my race day shoes sock less.

Saturday:  1263m swim at the Quarry followed by a 28km ride in the howling wind.  That was enough.  I was exhausted.   I went to bed just before 9pm that night and slept until 5:30 am the next day.  I woke up rested and ready to tackle a very big day.

Sunday:  83km easy ride with Morning Glory followed by a 17.5km run.  The ride was easy (avg hr was 110 BPM, Garmin T.E was 1.6).  The run was good until about 13km and then my legs were tired.  But that's exactly the kind of workout I needed.   I found that in Tremblant my legs started to fatigue by the 14km mark so I wanted to make sure I got some longer runs done off the bike.


Swim:  6013m
Bike:  206km
Run:  29.06km

Total time:  13h 8 minutes.  Yowza!

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday Monday, despite the crappy weather!   I'm going to spend the rest of my day off getting some baking and meal prep done.  Enjoy whatever you get up to today!

~  Coach PK 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Vo2 Max Test vs. My Garmin 920xt Predicted Vo2 Max

Heart rate monitors have come a long way since they first arrived on the scene back in the 80's.  I didn't start training with one until 2002 when I decided to do my first marathon.  At the time they were super basic.  You got time, distance and your average and max heart rate.  There was no GPS capability until Garmin released the Forerunner series in 2003.  Now, the variety of watches and features is incredible.  One thing I have noticed is that the heart rate monitor strap has become an option in many of these packages.  An option???  If you're going to spend upwards of $500 on a fancy watch, why not make sure you have all the bits and pieces so you can take advantage of all the features?   Ok, mini rant over.

One of the features that Garmin came out with years ago when they introduced the Garmin 920xt and the Garmin Fenix 2, was an estimated Vo2 max feature.  I thought this was a pretty cool feature and often wondered how accurate it was.  

What is Vo2 max and why is it important?  Vo2 max "is the maximum rate of oxygen consumption as measured during incremental exercise, most typically on a motorized treadmill.  Maximal oxygen consumption reflects the aerobic physical fitness of the individual and is an important determinant of their endurance capacity during prolonged sub-maximal exercise" (Wikipedia).

So, the higher your Vo2 max, the fitter and potentially faster you are.  I say potentially because a few things can come into play that can affect your speed:  1) running form and your physical limitations and 2) your mind / tolerance for pain.  There have been several studies over the last few years that essentially say that our brain dictates our effort and will cause you to ease up even when you have a bit more in the tank.  Knowing that, you really need to give it 110% during one of these tests. 

Based on the Vo2 max determined by my Garmin and the predicted race times associated with it I should be able to run an 18 minute 5km, a 39 minute 10km, a 1:25 half and a 3:03 marathon.  If I look at my PRs for all those distances, I'm at 20 minutes for a 5km, 39:40 for a 10km, 1:27 for a half and a whopping 3:16 for a full.  The only one even remotely close was my 10km time at 39:39.  I like to think I know how to suffer so I don't think I can chalk it up to my brain (but who knows).  The only thing left is running form / physical limitations.  My running form is not ideal so I'm sure I'm losing a fair bit of time because of that.  Or, Garmin is grossly overestimating my abilities (which is also possible).

At the end of July, I had the opportunity to do a Vo2 max test.  Surprisingly it was the first time I've ever had this test done.  I've had lactate threshold tests and lactate balance point tests done but never a Vo2 max test so I was curious to see how my Garmin info would stack up to the test results and to see where my fitness would rank in terms of my age group.

The test is usually done on a treadmill and you have to either wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth or, breathe through a tube with your nose plugged.  It's kind of like breathing through a snorkel.  It's not natural and it can feel quite claustrophobic.  I had a few moments of panic at the start but once I got my breathing regulated I was fine.  The test is a graded test so you go through various stages of exertion.  I started by sitting on a stool on the treadmill with the "mask" on.  Then I started walking for 5 minutes to warm up.  After the warm up the testers set the treadmill to roughly my 10km pace and I started running.  They said they were going to increase the grade 1% every minute.  I settled into a good pace and before I knew it, they were increasing the grade again.  One of the testers asked me about the speed so I told her she could up it a little bit.  So they increased the treadmill speed a bit.  I kept going and they increased the grade again.  And then again.  Each time they increased the grade, I had to point to a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) on a chart.  The grade was increased again.  My breathing was becoming more laboured.  I was definitely starting to work harder.  The grade was increased again and then again.  I had to signal when I thought I had one minute left.  I was really starting to labour.  The testers were both women and they were awesome at encouraging me to keep going. They increased the grade again.  That increase was it.  I signalled I had one minute left and fought with everything to keep pushing for that one minute.

Holy smokes was that hard.

Could I have gone harder?  Maybe.  If I wasn't breathing through a tube, then yes, of course I could have.  But that's not how this test works.

So, what was my end number:  53.1 ml/kg which puts me well above the norm in my age group.  It even puts me above the top end of the 25-29 year old age group.  I'm not surprised given that I'm a long time endurance athlete.  What I am surprised about is how close that measurement came to what my Garmin predicted.  My Garmin predicted a Vo2 max of 54ml/kg.  According to what I've read on various forums, Garmin has been pretty accurate in it's predictions.

The other thing that surprised me was my max heart rate, which came out at 184.  I have hit higher than this number in training both running and on the bike, which leads me to believe that I didn't give it my all in the test but that my head got the better of me.  My legs were just starting to feel that lactic acid burn when I signalled one minute left.  My lungs were burning and my breathing was laboured but in retrospect, I think I could have done one more minute, possibly even two.  That probably would have gotten me closer to what I suspect my max HR to be.

Why does all of this matter?  Well, as a training tool Vo2 max is helpful in establishing heart rate training zones if the test is administered by someone that knows how to do that.  It's also a good way to measure improvements in performance.  However, the key to an accurate test is to give it your all and that means pushing through your perceived limits.   You need to train your brain just as much as your body.

Have you ever had a Vo2 max test done?  What other types of performance testing have you done? 

~ Coach PK