Starting A Triathlon Training Plan Before You Have To

I announced in January that I had selected a training plan for the Barrelman Triathlon (Half-Iron).  The plan is of a 27 week duration, meaning the start date of the plan was Monday March 16th.  That falls right on our family ski vacation (recap to come), but as I had mentioned in my February Goals post, I’ve been implementing the structure of the ‘Basic Preparation Phase’ for nearly a month and a half.  Here’s why this was a good idea.

Starting the Habit

  • For my program, Tuesdays and Thursdays had both swim and run workouts.  The more of these I did, the more #TwoferTuesday and #TwoferThursday became the norm for me.  Come those days, I was packing a swim-suit, running shoes, etc.  It became a fact of life, and when the real program starts, I can put my concentration into what kind of swim and run workouts I’m supposed to have (speed, endurance, etc.)
  • Any formal training program should tell you what they’re assuming about your basic level of fitness and current training volume.  These tend to be described in fairly general terms, but by pre-sampling the training program, you’ll have a better idea what you’re in store for at the outset.

Learning What Works/What Doesn’t


  • Doing triathlon training in February in Canada means a log of indoor work.  Tracking treadmill runs, was a challenge since  phone apps want GPS data (ditto a Garmin), but Samsung Gear Fit tracks well through step counting.  BUT, not if the Samsung Health App is started through the phone.  Endomondo pairs with my ANT+ Garmin HR strap, but the Samsung app doesn’t seem to, luckily, I still get some HR data through spot checks the Gear Fit makes.


  • On one of my ‘twofer’ days that have a swim and a run, I opted to do a treadmill run and had asked my wife if it was OK if I did the swim in the evening after the kids were in bed which is usually “clean up the kitchen then quality time” time – then I wouldn’t need to do an early morning workout.  Then, the Lightning Kid took forever to go to sleep (and asked for me) so what should have been an 8:00 departure turned into 8:30 or later.  An evening workout runs the risk of making sleep difficult, and the truth is I was feeling exhausted (and I had the sense that a cold was coming on).  I scrapped the swim in favour of rest, since getting sick would have sacrificed more than one workout, but the bigger takeaway is that mornings might be more practical after all.
  • The training program doesn’t seem to have much in the way of rest days, at least not in the early season.  This may be a problem for a 40-something athlete like me, I may be able to work around it by turning some workouts into ‘active rest’.  The best example might be substituting a Yoga class for a weights/strength session.
  • As of right now, the first week of the plan fell on the vacation in Vermont, and I got 3 hours 55 minutes of training volume done in a week that should have been 9 hours 30 minutes.  Yet, thanks to having followed the basic structure for most of February and early March, I could pick up at week 2 without missing much, at least in theory.  What I’ll do instead, is do Week 1’s workouts (since they have some time trialing that will be used to benchmark some of my paces and performance) then move to Week 3 and be in sync.

What’s Missing

  • What I didn’t do well during my pre-sampling, is get to know the different workouts.  The table/spreadsheet has codes to classify workouts into different categories like time testing, endurance, speed, form, muscular endurance, anaerobic etc. and now that I’m in the thick of it, I find myself pressed for time to learn what I need to do for tomorrow’s (or even today’s) workout. I still haven’t transcribed everything into my own spreadsheet, but I should be OK until May or so.

Make sense? Or am I crazy (I love it when you call me crazy!)?

Motivation Monday: My Vision Board

Vision Boards are a way to maintain motivation and maintain focus on your life goals.  It’s one of those new-age semi-hokey things that I’m guilty of rolling my eyes at when I’ve read or heard of them, but I’m nothing if not open minded, and when I started making goals for this year, some of them loomed a little large, so a little extra help staying focused might be a good idea.

I made a Vision Board of the things I don’t want to lose sight of.

Let’s break this thing down

  1. Barrelman Triathlon – My first Half-Iron distance triathlon, and the biggest goal for the year.  It’ll be just after my 42nd birthday, and if you’re a fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (like I am), you’ll know 42 is an auspicious number, so it feels good to commemorate that birthday with something big.  It’s going to take a lot of time and effort to get ready for that race, so it’s important to keep it in the forefront of my thoughts.
  2. 187.  That’s my goal weight in pounds;  back in the 90’s it was passed around as a kind of gangsta symbol (let’s not go too deep into the darker meaning of it… it’s a good weight for me and it sounds badass).  I’ve kissed that line, and moved back up a pound or two only to return to close to it.  I need to hold to the principles of the Doctor’s Diet for the majority of the time.  I think my increasing training schedule will help me even travel below that line but I need to make sure that I don’t start burning muscle by not allowing my calorie deficit to get too big on bigger training days.  And those calories, of course, need to come from the right (i.e. healthy) sources.
  3. Monetizing the blog (or at least making it a little more professional). This is the least serious of my goals both in priority and in defining what the goal is. The truth (or at least what I tell myself) is, I just like writing and I would do this even if no-one read. Still, I do get a kick when I get engagement from readers, and I enjoy when the blog generates an opportunity to try new things, and I get a wee bit envious when I see other bloggers get opportunities that have passed me by. Because writing is the part of blogging I enjoy most, when I get time to devote to the blog, I write a post. If I want to capture more opportunities (reviews, events, sponsorship), I know things have to change a little. Self-hosting the blog (on its own domain) and re-design could potentially generate things like brand ambassadorship or other opportunities. The driver is more recognition and/or status than actual money, however, I do need to keep in mind the fact that this blog is a hobby about my hobby, and will always be prioritized as such; i.e. way down the line from some of the other items on this vision board.
  4. Bicycle. A half-iron is serious enough mileage that a new bike is called for. My old bike (with aero-bars I put on myself) is not going to cut it; it’s at least 14 years old and I’ll bet the frame is a bit fatigued – I can see lateral motion in the lower parts of the frame when I pedal on the trainer. The bike in the pic is a the Trek Speed Concept, and while I haven’t decided necessarily on that particular one, I do have to admit both the old steed I’m thinking of putting out to pasture and my mountain bike are by Trek, they’ve served me well, and the Speed Concept is available at price points in the kind of range I was imagining myself spending. Plus, there’s that whole ‘Trek’ name that gets a rise out of my inner geek, you’ve seen me show the Live Long and Prosper (RIP Leonard Nimoy) next to the Rock Devil Horns… I mean it ‘Live Long and Rock On”.
  5. Resolve. My word of the year. There are bound to be challenges to all these goals, so central to achieving them is RESOLVE. I can either find a way around an obstacle (RESOLVE the problem) or show grit and determination to power through it (using my RESOLVE).
  6. Reading. Shark Boy has learned to read independently (simple words, but he does get them on his own) and obviously we want him to progress. I’m reading him a few pages from The Hobbit every night too, and it’s great seeing him get engaged by longer form story-telling (and dragons and wizards etc. too). We need him to improve his printing, and I hope I can get him do to a little writing of his own. The Lightning Kid needs to work on letter recognition and some of the basic precursor skills that feed into reading; it’s early yet, but we know it will take him longer so it’s great if we can get a head start. I’m proud of how we get outside and active as a family (and looking back at the February goals, I know we rocked them), but the more academic stuff can’t get left behind either. I’m also happier myself if I can get at least a little book reading (sorry, blogs and articles on the web don’t count) done every day.
  7. Walk The Line. I’m proud of my kids, which means I’m proud of my family which means I’m proud of our marriage. For a marriage to withstand raising children, never mind rambunctious, dynamic ones like ours, never mind if one has special needs, never mind if you’re constantly out and about as a family, it needs resilience. Resilience is built into a marriage in a similar way to how it is built into a body: it takes a variety of factors. For the body, it’s the right mix of nutritional ingredients and varieties of exercise. A resilient marriage has a similar variety of necessary components – and I probably haven’t learned them all yet, to be honest. I know respect, time for meaningful communication, affection, quality time and actual adult date nights are in there for sure. I’m proud of how well we’ve been able to stick to those things during the past 7 years. Training for a longer distance triathlon will impact all those things, I can’t deny it. What is important is that I keep to that line as closely as I can, even if I wander off it a little. I mustn’t, as Joey Tribianni might put it, let the line become a dot to me. I was going to call it Holding the Line, but then I couldn’t make a Johnny Cash reference, and you should always make a Johnny Cash reference if you’re given the chance.

Have you ever made a Vision Board? If not, what other motivational focus tools would you recommend?

Friday Five: 5 Things I Learned About Foam Rolling

On March 4th, I got to attend a Foam Rolling Workshop instructed by Caron Shepley of Personal Best.  Caron gave us the basics of why Foam Rolling is a good tool for recovery, and after leading us through some Yoga Sun Salutations to get our muscles warmed up, she walked us through some best practices for muscles that typically need it the most, and of course, benefit the most from foam rolling (or using a lacrosse/therapy ball).

  1. Foam rolling (and lacrosse/therapy ball  or other myofascial releases) work by hitting trigger points.  I pretty much knew this, but what I didn’t know was there was another way foam rolling works to aid recovery, namely…
  2. Foam rolling lengthens the muscle beyond what you can accomplish by stretching.  For each technique she showed us for a particular muscle, Caron first had us stretch it with a conventional stretch, that way we could feel the difference the foam roller made.  Apparently this is the recommended method even when you’re doing it at home.
  3. The glute muscle benefits more from side-to-side rolling.  For most people the larger glute muscles are long enough, but the piriformis muscle, not so much.  Addressing this muscle requires a side-to-side motion.
  4. Hamstring tightness is better addressed by lacrosse/therapy ball than a foam roller.  I found this one to feel really weird (I wanted to complain to a grown-up about a ‘bad touch’ but the only one to accuse was myself).  The ball has to sit just under the crease of your buttock and the top of the hamstring should feel like a thick rope that you roll over.
  5. While I always thought of the lacrosse/therapy ball as a way to treat tricky injury spots, it can also simply be rolled under the foot to prevent plantar fasciitis, one of the most common running injuries.

Do you foam roll? Use a hard ball? Any extra tips?

March 4th? March Forth!

Today is my father’s birthday.  He would have been 73 years old… at any rate, this date tends to make me a little sad, that we can’t celebrate it with him in person.  I know he’d be crazy about his grandsons, and they’d be crazy about him too.

Shark Boy knows a lot about his ‘Opa Klaus’ and sometimes asks questions about him, while I’ve been coaching the Lightning Kid on how to say the name.  The best way I know to celebrate his life is to get outside with my family and move.  I like to think he’s cheering us on and helping us overcome any obstacles on the way whenever we ski, bike, swim, run, or whatever.

I came across the idea that we should ‘March Forth’ on March the Fourth somewhere in my (probably online) travels last year, but it was too late to incorporate the message into my blog or other social media channels.  This year, I’m going to March Forth on March 4th, and throughout the year.  If you want to see how I do it today, your best bet is to follow me on Instagram…
As for the rest of the year, keep watching this space!

Tri-ed It Tuesday: Gear Corner Screws in my Shoes

In the past, I’ve used Yaktrax or another traction device that you strap onto the outside of your shoes to run safely in the snow and ice.  Some of the feedback I’ve gotten from the review and asking around is that putting screws into the soles of an old pair is a way to make sure you don’t slip, without having to muck around with an extra piece of equipment, and it’s cheap too.

I filed this away somewhere in my brain for at least a year before Jessica from Laces and Lattes reminded me of it and provided this link with instructions for the best implementation (via Skyrunner).

Skyrunner prescribes hexagonal sheet metal screws, and says 3/8″ isn’t too long for most shoes.  I wasn’t able to find 1/2″ screws, so I figured I would have to gamble.  I’d be putting them into my old Salomon’s which have served me well, and don’t owe me anything.  Being a trail running shoe, they’re already well suited to more extreme conditions and they’re probably the best shoe I own for running in the snow, regardless of what kind of traction assistance I’m getting (if any).  Still, the notion of these screws being in my shoes with the sharp ends pointing up made me nervous; one of the challenges I’ve found about winter running isn’t the snow or ice, per se, it’s the mixture of plowed sidewalk (running on cement) to sudden transition of ice and/or snow.  With the Yaktrax I found running on the plowed sidewalk to be like getting light acupuncture… I was worried it wouldn’t be so “light” with the screws!

I’m glad I had a drill with the right attachments; I wasn’t afraid of using some muscle/elbow grease to get the screws in, but the rubber makes it hard to get a hole started.  While the instructions mentioned having screws numbering upwards of 18, but that seemed like overkill.  I put 12 into each shoe, and I managed to be almost symmetrical on each shoe, but not quite.  

On Thursday, I took them out for a run.  Or more accurately a “Runch” – when you run on your lunch break.  Challenge #1: not wearing shoes with hard metal protrusions on the soles on any delicate surfaces like the change room floor (this goes double for my floors at home) on the way out.  I waited till I was on a rug by the exit before I put the shoes on.

The first surface I ran/walked on was the plowed walkway near the office.  To my surprise, the acupuncture feeling was less with the screws than I remember it being with the Yaktrax.  I did notice when I progressed onto the sidewalk on my way to enter the Etobicoke Creek Trail that I was getting some poking on the side of my foot, right in the space between my big toe and the ball of my foot.  Not stabby pain, but not comfortable either.

Once I was on the snowy trail, the discomfort went away entirely.  I couldn’t feel the screws at all.  That’s both the good news and the bad news.  I started off slower, with the intention of really making sure I warmed up properly and slowly in addition to wanting a negative split on the run.  On the way back, if I pushed the pace a little, my feet slipped backwards on each step.  If the snow had been packed down unevenly, my feet could slide laterally to the edges of the cleared/tramped down space of the path.  I made the final climb off the trail back out to the road without any extra traction at all.  It wasn’t totally slippery, but on the other hand, the Salomons have a good enough tread that I don’t think I would have slipped any more than I did had I not installed the screws in the first place.

I can practically hear proponents of this method now: I didn’t put enough screws in, or by placing some of them in between treads, I minimized their impact.  That may be true, but given that at least one screw was hurting my foot, I think I was right not to put too many in, and many of the screws were placed on the flatter areas of the sole, and did not provide any perceived improvement.
At least I got to do some of that winter outdoor Yoga all the cool kids are doing…

On the plus side, the screws stayed in place and I didn’t have to manage any extra bucking or unbuckling in the cold; when I was inside, I took off the shoes, and that’s it.  The screws didn’t cost much, but they cost more than nothing, and nothing is seemingly the value I got out of them.  Just my two cents. And now, I think I deserve a medal, because it’s really difficult to write ‘screws’ that many times without turning it into a dirty joke… I mean, it’s really hard (that’s what she said). *Whew*

Do you run in the snow with a little extra traction help? If so, what kind?