Monday, March 17, 2014

24 hours & Heart Rate Variability

24 hours...of a week...madness.  (well 24:44 if we want to be exact..and us triathletes are nothing if not exact with training data & numbers :p)

Stats for the week:

Swim: 13,730yds
Bike: 254 miles (408 km...damn I should post everything in km looks more impressive)
Run: 28 miles (45km)
(Strength training and foam rolling in there but not included in time)

Last year was insanity fitting in training with starting a freelance Personal Training business trying to get that up and running spending hours at a gym trying to convince people who didn't know they wanted a Personal trainer that they needed one, and more specifically me.  It was a challenge to say the least, if I didn't sell my services I didn't get paid and I had zero experience.  Somehow my background in Project Management didn't seem to apply to this new vocation :p  It ended up working better than I could have thought but that made training a little more challenging trying to balance work, being on my feet all day, and training.  Last year I spent between 13-17 hours a week training with the exception of 2 peak weeks that were closer to 20.

Well this year is a little different.  One I have a full triathlon season under my belt, and found out that I'm pretty durable, two I have a whole lot more time to train.  I'm not working at the moment, and would go insane if I had nothing to do so I'm training (well nothing to do and the fact that I absolutely love the training and am pretty obsessed with triathlon may play a small part) :p  Luckily I have my coach Lucho to keep me in line or else left alone with all of this time on my hands I'm pretty sure I would end up an overtrained mess pretty quickly.  Its funny he has a way of pushing me beyond intensities I would think I could hold, and holding me back from over doing it at the same time.

Now not every week is going to be 24 hours of training (and this wasn't a planned 24 hours), but I am hoping to do more than I have in the past.  Goal number one though is to be able to do it while staying healthy and not hitting that overtraining minefield.  I'm doing a couple things to make sure I stay healthy during this, one of which is Heart Rate Variability.  I first heard about this from Tawnee Prazak on Endurance Planet (Pretty much got most of what I know about triathlon/nutrition from that podcast). I use the SweatBeat app, which is pretty cool, its an app on your phone and it connects to a bluetooth Heart Rate monitor.  Luckily I already had the monitor from using the MaccaX app training sessions, I have the Viiva 4iiii.

Side note Endurance Planet has kick ass gear now!

To get started they recommend you calibrate it after a few rest days to get a baseline, it worked out well I decided to start playing with it near the end of my off season when I hadn't run in a month, so I was able to set a baseline really rested.  What the test entails is putting on the HR strap when you wake up, lying still and just relaxed breathing.  Pretty easy, and stark contrast to everything else we do in this sport (like foam rolling..ouch).

From SweetBeats HRV guide, why HRV is important to performance sports:

"In competitive sports, improved performance is often achieved by alternating periods of intensive 
training with periods of relative rest. This is because after the body has been exposed to a stressful 
situation, providing that adequate recovery has taken place, it will adapt and become stronger. The 
alternating periods of intensive training and rest help an athlete avoid physical fatigue caused by over 

To better understand this, consider the function of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS has 
two branches, the sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic branch increases heart rate, 
blood pressure, cardiac output and a diversion of blood flow to the muscles. The parasympathetic 
branch decreases heart rate, lowers blood pressure and generally creates an environment for the body 
to repair itself. Not surprising the parasympathetic branch is very active during restful sleep. 
Heart Rate Variability, or HRV, is in essence a view into the ANS. By measuring your HRV, you can detect 
when the sympathetic branch is in overdrive and inhibiting the recovery and repair capabilities of the 
parasympathetic branch. Overtraining can create a sustained imbalance between the two branches of 
the ANS and can lead to a multitude of unwanted side effects."

Basically when your HRV is high, you are ready to train and kick ass, when its low it may be time for a recovery day.

I was tracking my HRV pretty sporadically, I think there is definitely something to it, but am still hesitant to trust an app to tell me how I'm feeling.  I did start using it more as training has started to pick up and see how it relates to how I feel and am pretty impressed with how accurate it is.  If nothing else it's a great way to prove to my coach I'm feeling as awesome as I say I am...even after tough training sessions :p

Some of the numbers I've seen: There was a week before my last duathlon that was the only time I've felt tired so far this year and it showed HRV in the high 70's that week.  After last weeks 100 mile ride and brick run it went down to 84.  After the 24 hour week it went into the high 80's but 2 days later came back up to mid 90's.  I know recovery is my strength and I bounce back quickly, so its been interesting to see that reflected in the data.

My latest, and the trend.
The other thing I've discovered...shots of tequila in Austin, TX are bad for my HRV.  Shocking I know.  Now I only seem to drink around triathletes, and most of these posts are about triathletes so you may get the idea I drink a lot...but I really don't, and a real night out really hits me hard!  We were in Austin for a wedding, and it was the day before my birthday.  So after wedding festivities we let loose on 6th street and there were a few shots consumed...The next morning Lucho had a long run on my schedule, lets just say that was not happening, out of curiosity I checked my HRV...55!!  It took 4 days to get it back into the 90's and I could feel the lingering effects to say the least.  So tequila is bad for training, lesson learned. (I still maintain that beer is the ultimate recovery drink post race for no scientific reason).

I'm still going to use listening to my body as the first indicator though, technology is very cool but after the last year of learning to listen to my body I know its going to tell me what I need.  Now that I'm not a stubborn mileage obsessed athlete I used to be :p

The 24 hour week.  It actually wasn't going to be that long, but I ended up doing a coffee type cruise on the Sunday that was so much fun just to enjoy being on the bike, chatting with like minded people and stop at a popular coffee spot to ogle the different bikes.  The schedule had a hard brick on it, and I was feeling good that afternoon so I decided to do a shortened version of the hard brick to get some of the intensity in.  It was definitely a bike volume focussed week, getting very familiar with Stiletto (my Shvi) and the new bike position.

Anyways thats my rambling for the day, loving training right now.  Its been alternating snow days, and sunburn days here in Colorado so I'm already starting to get some nice burn tan lines from getting outside anytime I can and soaking up the sunshine.  Just doing what I love.

Carpe Diem

Monday, March 10, 2014

Bike Fit Fun & What to expect

Somethings just not quite right...well as right as it can be sitting your ass on an itty bitty saddle for 100's of miles propelled by your own legs, trying to scrunch yourself into an aerodynamic position, typically ending in the same spot you started...

1st bike fit at the top, 2nd bike fit position below - lean mean and aggressive!

And yet I love it.  No wonder people think we are insane.

I messed with it. I had a bike fit done when I first bought Stiletto, and the plan was to get the initial fit done and then there is the option to come back afterwards to make adjustments after riding for a while to dial it in.  At least there should be with a good fitter fitterist fitologist (that just makes me think mixologist, and then I want a margarita).  The first fit was great on the front end, but the seat was a lot farther back than I was used to, since last year I was riding a bike that was too big and had to slam the seat forward.  That resulted on my calves having to take up a lot of the work, and by the time I got to running off the bike they had nothing left.

Unfortunately my truck died, I know shocking that an '87 Toyota pick up, with a bench bolted in the bed, that I got for like $800 died, I mean it should have been the picture of reliability :p  So with the shop being 50 miles away in Boulder and winter outside couldn't get back up there.

So I fiddled.  I tweaked.  Move this thingymagiggy (technical term), and my knee aches, move this whatchamacalit and my quads feel like bricks, don't even get me started on what happened when I adjusted the angle of the doodad.

I got it to a place where it felt ok on the trainer, but when I finally got to venture outside it just didn't feel right and running off the bike felt blah.  So I finally decided it was time to go back to the fitologist and get dialed in.  I had great experience with a Retul fit in Scotland and found a shop in Boulder - Colorado Multisport being fit by Ryan Ignatz - that used the same system so I went back to them.  (not sponsored by them or anything just a great experience)

Here is the bizarre part about living here, you can't spit without hitting a professional athlete.  I found out on a ride the next day my bike fitter is a pretty bad ass Pro Xterra Triathlete.  No wonder he seemed to know a little about this sport.

So what to expect from a bike fit:

First is the questionnaire.  Why are you here, what's wrong, your goals and the latest triathlon gossip.

After the gossip they make you do some calisthenics, see if you can touch your toes (I can't), hip flexibility tests, and some strength tests like single leg squats (yay didn't fall over).

Following your calisthenics session, they will have you hop on the bike and start pedalling.  If pedalling has ever felt natural or comfortable, wait until you have someone watching each stroke.  Suddenly you wonder what you are doing, thinking should I be pedalling in a circle?  Or more like a box? Have I always wobbled my knees?

The fitologist will then stand looking very intensely at your bike, with a furrowed brow like they are figuring out the ultimate question to the answer of 42 (and if you got that you are a geek :p).

Once they have solved the questions of the universe they will proceed to move many whosits and whatsits by millimetres.  Occasionally asking you to jump back on and get into a comfortable position and pedal, hum and haw and then continue their adjustments.  If you find a fitologist that is great at multitasking the triathlon gossip and tips will continue through this process keeping you entertained.

And then THE question comes up.  How aggressive can we go.  I let him know what my goals were and since I'm looking to use my bike to get me on podiums we decided to play around and see how low can I go (no not doing the limbo...although that would be fun if the shop busted out with coconut bras, steel drums and a limbo bar) and still run well off the bike.  Last fit I had some homework to do on hip flexibility and strengthen my gluteus med so that this position could be achieved.  Ended up moving the front end down an inch (or 2.5cm) and moving my bars/pads/seat forward.

Bike fitters have a tough job of making you aggressive but comfortable enough that you will be able to put in the miles, and as A type people most of us triathletes just say go lower, go lower.  They have to evaluate what we will actually be able to ride based on body type, flexibility, experience, history.  I've had some push back in the past because, yea, I've owned a bike less than 2 years and don't have much experience, but the bike has ended up being my strength and I'm pretty sure the years riding a super sport motorcycle should count for experience :p  Luckily Ryan took it all in and evaluated strength/flexibility and said, yea we can go aggressive.

Ok adjustments made, got a good workout in jumping on and off the bike and spent some quality time drooling over equipment in the shop I want.  Time to hop on to do the last test to see how the position feels.

Now I don't want to be dramatic or anything but when I started pedalling and settled into the new position it felt like magic, like I could go out and give Rinny a run for her money ;) (Its possible...if I didn't have to swim or run...and had a big head start on the bike).

Next up the pedalling analysis.  "You're doing it wrong" Ok he didn't really say that in so many words but he had some ways to improve my running off the bike and suggested some of the issues I was having wasn't the bike.  Now you think how many ways can you adjust moving your foot around in a circle when its fixed to the pedal??  A lot apparently, I have a tendency to point my toe down and give up the power house that is my gluteus (never thought of my ass as a power house), putting more stress on smaller muscles that fatigue quicker.  So homework after this visit, use my gluteus.  I also got a laundry list of things to think about on the bike and pay attention to, and what requires another visit if it feels off.

New position I've never ridden in and it feels more comfortable than the position I've been riding for months, I think this visit was a success.  BUT the real test comes when I get outside and put some power to the pedals and then see how the legs feel off the bike.

What better way to test than a long ride and hard brick, stay tuned for the results!

Carpe Diem