Training Analysis: July

Climbing the 3 Bears in Orinda, CA

Looking at the numbers, I can’t be disappointed with my training efforts during the month of July. This has been the most consistent triathlon training I have ever done, although I’m still looking to improve upon this in August. I’ve been swimming more frequently and longer than I have in the past, and this has certainly been reflected in my speed and comfort in the water. On the bike, I’ve driven up my FTP by almost 20 watts, and have been doing all my typical training routes quite a bit faster than before. On the run, my times haven’t gotten significantly faster (though I certainly ran faster at Tri for Fun #2 earlier this month than Tri for Fun #1 in June). However, I have been building endurance and aerobic fitness that should come in handy as I increase my running volume, which is the highest priority on my training agenda.

Here is summary of my training month:

Swim Total: 41500 yards (23.6 miles) over 21 sessions
Average: [9370 yards (5.3 miles) over 5 sessions] per week
Bike Total: 35 hours (591 miles) over 21 sessions
Average:  [8 hours (133 miles) over 5 sessions] per week
Run Total: 86 miles over 16 sessions
Average: [19 miles over 4 sessions] per week
Overall Total: 61 hours over 58 sessions
Average: [14 hours over 14 sessions] per week

Unfortunately, I went five days without training near the end of the month because I was in Nashville, TN for my fraternities national convention. However, even considering these five days off, I am happy with the average weekly training loads I put out across all three sports. Particularly, the average of 14 training hours per week is very great to see as I continue to build my fitness before the start of my competitive season (September and October).

Moving forward, there are a couple important changes I’m making to my training. Firstly, I’ve dropped the notion of scheduled rest days. At a bare minimum, I’ll schedule short recovery sessions for each of the three sports, which should total at least two hours. Thus, looking into August, my smallest scheduled training days will be as long as my average training day was in July, which I think is an ambitious, yet attainable goal. I’ve also adopted the principle of training each of the disciples (swim, bike, run) every day of the week; thus, looking into August, I’d like to see myself averaging as close to 3 sessions per day as possible, if not more (as I start to double on the swim or the run). Perhaps the primary goal looking forward is to see my weekly average reach 20 hours per week, if not a little more.

The average day consisted of 2 hours of training; 9 days contained at least 3 hours of training

Swimming

Progression of my chronic training load (CTL) in yards: an exponentially weighted average of accumulated stress over the last six weeks

I’m in very new territory for my swim training; in fact, I’m swimming more frequently, longer, and faster than I ever have before. I attribute this to largely one thing: consistency. I’ve never disciplined myself in the past to average 5 swims per week (at 2000+ yards per swim) over a course of a month as I did this July. I’m looking at it pretty simply for now: the more time you spend training in the water, the stronger (and thus faster) you’ll get. This is obviously not 100% true, but for a (relatively) new swimmer like myself, I do think that more is more.

I started off the month of July with a swimming regime that very much resembled my typical (and unacceptable) consistency from the first part of the season. In fact, in the first seven days of July, I only swam three times, netting myself a meager 6000 yards for the first week. Right around July 8th, I really stepped up: excluding my trip to Nashville, I only went two days for the rest of the month without swimming. That puts me at 17 swims over 19 days, which left me with an unprecedented, yet highly sought-after swim frequency. I hope to extend this consistency into August and through the rest of the season.

Looking ahead, I’d really like to start getting into some serious weekly mileage (for an amateur): by the end of the August, I’d like to be consistently swimming 20,000-25,000 yards (11-14 miles) per week. Thus, I’m going to be raising my scheduled swim distance by a couple thousands yards per week until I hit that amount. Once there, I’d like to sustain that kind of mileage for at least a few months and see where it takes me. As I’ve seen in running and cycling, volume alone can be a true limiter to reaching your potential. I don’t think I’ve seen anything near my potential in swimming, but I think I’m getting closer to a training load that will eventually reveal much of my potential.

Cycling

Course profile of my toughest ride this month

I came into the month with an FTP of 225 watts, and ended it at 240 watts (approximately 4 watts/kg). I think these are solid gains over the course of 31 days, and I am glad to see these results from all the time I’ve been putting in on the bike. I’ve spent a lot more time doing efforts around threshold and Vo2max, and thus I’ve gotten more comfortable training (and racing) at those kinds of intensities. Interestingly, as I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve noticed I enjoy hillier routes more. Taking a quick look at my training times, my average speed on hilly courses increased by more than two miles per hour. This is also a reflection of my increased FTP.

Over the course of the month, I accumulated 26,700ft of elevation gain over 591 miles riding. This puts my July rides at an average of 45 ft of gain per mile, which I am satisfied with. Most my important races are on (relatively) flat bike courses with less than 30ft of gain per mile, though I really enjoy training on hills, and I think they make me a stronger all-around cyclist. Thus, I’ll try to keep my average gain between 40-60 ft per mile to ensure I am riding enough hills without spending too little time on the flats. Personally, I have found it is slightly easier for me to put out high intensities efforts on hilly courses, and thus I need to make sure I can do threshold and sub-threshold efforts on flat courses as well, as opposed to just hilly courses. Looking at my training log, I define a course to be “hilly” if it has at least 80ft of gain per mile, and thus 6 of my rides (or 30% of total rides) in July were on “hilly” courses.

I love all the forests in the East Bay

This month, a big emphasis on the bike was building endurance for my upcoming long-distance triathlons, where I expect to ride for about 150 minutes (2 hours, 30 minutes) at an Intensity Factor (IF) of 0.83 to 0.85. Thus, I try to do a couple sessions that are greater than 150 minutes but at an intensity factor slightly below my projected race effort. A few examples of endurance workouts are outlined below:

  • On July 9th, I rode for 190 minutes (3 hours, 10 minutes) at an IF of 0.81. This was a very hilly, 47-mile route, where I accumulate 5000ft of elevation gain. It was a very scenic ride, making a loop around the Oakland Zoo and Lake Chabot, where I actually got slightly lost.
  • Only July 12th, I rode for 170 minutes (2 hours, 50 minutes) at an IF of 0.83. This ride was a nice contrast to the endurance ride a couple days before: it was relatively flat for all 54 miles, as I did loops at the Berkeley Marina; the ride was also slightly shorter in length but at a slightly higher intensity than the ride on July 9th, which is closer to (and thus a better simulation of) projected race conditions.

Another big cycling focus this month was spending time at Sweet Spot efforts, which I define as 90% of my threshold power. This allows me to break down my body at just the right intensity that maximizes gains while also limiting required recovery time: perfect for a time-crunched triathlete. These efforts are also great at preparing myself for olympic-distance triathlons, where I plan to ride at just above sweet spot power for 60-65 minutes. Here are a few examples of these efforts:

  • On July 16th, I rode for 95 minutes (1 hour, 35 minutes) at an IF of 0.86, where I spent a straight hour at 90% of threshold power. Although this was mentally tough, it was great preparation going into Tri for Fun #2, where I had the confidence to ride at a slightly higher effort (93% of threshold power) for only half the time (28 minutes).
  • On July 30th, I rode for 120 minutes (2 hours) at an IF of 0.88. This was an extremely painful effort; I remember wanting to turn around before the first hour was up, but I just kept on throwing down the watts. This was a hilly, 34-mile course through Redwood Regional Park and the city of Orinda, with 3200ft of elevation gain.

Power profile for July 15th's 2x20 minute test at functional threshold power (240 watts)

Going into August, I’d like to continue adding a bit of volume and a bit of intensity. My new cycling program focuses on two key workouts per week: a simple 2×20 minutes at FTP, and a 3+ hour ride accumulating over 200 TSS. This ensures that I am continuing to build my threshold power while also building over strength endurance over 3+ hours of riding, which will come in handy for the long-distance triathlons I have coming up. Outside of these two sessions, most of my rides will focus on accumulating volume at the upper end of an endurance effort (70-75% of FTP), with a bit of longer intervals spent at “sweet spot” power (90% of FTP). Looking ahead, I’d like to see my average weeks contain 10+ hours of cycling, and I’d like to start averaging closer to (if not more than) 200 miles per week.

Running

My attempt at out-of-shape tempo work (July 11), averaging 6:44/mile

My running has certainly been the most neglected of the three sports. However, given my history in running, I know my fitness will come back to me relatively quickly, I just need to make sure I get the miles in. Additionally, I have seen some gains in my overall fitness in terms of perceived exertion across similar efforts.

I have outlined a couple key sessions that played big roles in building my running fitness this month:

  • On July 5th, I doubled-up with two runs, where I accumulated 14 miles of running for the day. This was a great step towards conditioning my body to start running at a higher weekly mileage.
  • On July 8th, I ran an extremely tough 9-miler that accumulated 1400ft in elevation gain. This session gave me a lot of confidence in my strength as a runner, and I hope to compare times on this course in the future as a measure of fitness.
  • On July 11th, I ran a speedy tempo session on the track (see the diagram for mile splits) where I averaged 6:40/mile if you disregard the warmup. This was certainly helpful coming into my July race, Tri for Fun #2, as I wanted to see my mile splits improve significantly from Tri for Fun #1 in June, where I had a disappointing run.

Looking ahead, I’d like to start averaging closer to 50 miles per week, as I have done many times in the past. I’d also like to focus on three key sessions each week: a hill-focused run, a track session with 1000-2000m intervals at 5K-10K pace, and a long run; the rest of the runs are simply to increase volume. If everything goes as planned, I know I will enter my competitive season with an impressive level of running fitness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>