Cadence Thoughts and Spherical Horses (1 of 3)

During my undergraduate degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering I became extremely comfortable solving complex problems by simplifying them as much as possible. The anecdotal description of this process of simplification is to “consider a spherical horse”. The reason being is that solving for a sphere no matter the problem is much less complicated than solving for the real world shape of a horse. Some engineers or physicists call it a spherical cow, but I like using horses. It makes it the problem easier.

All three sports of triathlon contain a cadence element. The experts within their respective sports have gravitated within the past 15 years towards a cadence sweet spot. Differently said, there is believed to be an optimized rhythm for each sport which will produce the highest efficiency, lowest possibility for injury, and faster split times concurrently. I follow and read as much of the out-coming literature as possible for all three sports and get a large dose of the prevailing theories with each new blog post, published article, or book excerpt. I agree with or better said try to follow the prevailing theories from the experts in each sport with one caveat. I like to call this caveat: optimized personalization. I will discuss this exception once I have given succinct comments on the cadence of each sport.  Because I am somewhat of a lazy perfectionist, this process will require three Posts (one for each sport).  After discussing the cadence elements of each sport, I will give you my spherical horse solutions to back the prevailing theory.

Swimming Cadence

Diving into the cadence research for swimming is produces somewhat murky waters (two puns in one sentence woot woot). Many people talk up the total immersion method of swimming developed by Terry Laughlin, and I did as well during my first season of adult onset swim training. I found it beneficial and was capable of swimming a length of the pool with as little as 7 strokes. This method teaches you about inefficiency in your stroke, and forces you to hold a true body position or suffer dead spots and ultimately lose to drag. However, for me I found that such a low cadence on race day was utterly impossible regardless how I tried. I would always get amped up and my cadence would jump up to something I wasn’t used to. I also noticed that those individuals that were first out of the water churned even faster than I did when I was amped up. Hmmm, so then I started counting strokes of Olympic swimmers like Phelps and Lochte.  It jsut so happened to be the year of the London Olympics. Yep, for freestyle they were in the range of 60-90 strokes per minute (yes, I counted).  The deeper into the Internet Research I went the more I found that higher stroke rates were wanted.  And here I was spinning like a lazy windmill that could never be confused with a dragon.  One interesting study I saw showed an inflection Point with an individual’s stroke rate. Under and over that rate range showed decreases in ifficiency and VO2 numbers.  The document (which I can’t find right now for the life of me) stated that according to the skill Level of the athlete this most efficient stroke rate was above 60 for average swimmers, and between 90 and 100 for world class swimmers.

The Horse

Complicated equations are made easy by cute round horses.

Complicated equations are made easy by cute round horses.

The spherical horse for this and the other three sports are based on a similar principle.  I won’t get too technical, because first I don’t want to be wrong, and second, I don’t want to have to back up any calculations, but simplistically when someones arm is in the water, pulling backward, the resultant force produces forward movement (at least hopefully that is the case otherwise you are doing it wrong).  The overall movement results in speed for a swimmer and can be categorized as the instantaneous summation of the forces at that point in time.  Yes, there is much more than this that plays into the equation to determine forward movement for a swimmer (drag, surface area, temperature, density, etc..), but once again this is my spherical horse.  Thus, the resulting forward velocity of a horse (or human) is only dependent upon how often a stroke is applied.  This is because when you are not applying force to go forward the drag of the water is slowing you down.  Thus the more you can apply that force over the course of a minute, the less you will be affected by drag.  That of course to those of you that have even an elementary education should cause you to say, well duh, but sometimes we make our hobbies more difficult than they need to be.  the secret to swimming faster is simply to swim faster.  Applying this spherical horse to real life is harder to do, and something at which I am mediocre at best.  Now back to the pool.

ODLO Ingolstadt Fitnesslauf 2014

As a training run in between my first brevet and my planned half marathon, I thought I would run the 7 kilometer fitness run course that was part of the Ingolstadt Half Marathon.  This was somewhat of a late decision enter as I only signed up 10 days before.  When planning out my season for 2014, I had first checked the Ingolstadt Half Marathon to see if it was on a Saturday or Sunday.  Out of policy, I never do an event on Sunday.  Back in November when I saw the Ingolstadt Half scheduled for a Sunday (according to the date), I regrettingly looked for another one.  As is often the case, the race home page was not updated to the 2014 race details until January, as it was really on a Saturday.  Oh well, next year!  I will have to make sure I do the Ingolstadt half next year as I consider this to be my German hometown.  However, as I was already deep into a training plan with a half marathon in two weeks, I didn’t dare sign up for the half distance and opted for the “Fitnesslauf” version.  Thus, I could take part in the festivities and work it into my training at the same time.

Packet Pickup

The day before the race I went to the Saturn Arena (home of the champion hockey team ERC Ingolstadt) to pick up the packet with my oldest boy.  He got a kick out of a few things (like the man on the stage running backwards on the treadmill), but mostly he wanted to run through the vendor area where all the different companies were offering different running or endurance gear.  I was surprised to see a booth by Garmin and bothered the attendant about their upcoming offering of the fenix2 as mine was “in shipping”.  I wanted to see how soon they would have it, and how much I was saving by buying it from the states.  Turns out “mucho” in both money and time.  I was also surprised that the race goodie bag was very similar to what you would receive in the states as I was expecting more considering other German handouts.  One thing of note is that though some races state by whom the race shirts are made, most do not.  Thus, when I select medium (my preference for running shirts), it really becomes a toss up as to what I will really get when you don’t know the manufacturer.  The tag will always say Medium, but how it fits is always questionable.  I report this because this particular shirt is more like a small.  Sexy on the wife small.  Wait a minute…  problem solved.

Race Day

Another thing different so far in my German experience is that most races here start in the afternoon.  For example this “Fitnesslauf” began at 3:00 pm, and the Halfmarathon 2 weeks later was to start at 5:00 pm.  By 1:30 the traffic leading to the race area was completely at a standstill.  This was annoying for the boys and my 9 months pregnant wife.  I ended up getting out of the car and leaving them mid-traffic to do a warm up run and to get to the start line in time meet up with my co-worker as we had planned running together.  Being on time to a race trumps discomfort of the family right?

Upon meeting my co-worker, he gave me a neck-tie to wear.  What?  I guess he wanted to show that we came from the same place of work?  Normally I would have declined, but he seemed really excited about it, and because saying no to a fast speaking German is hard, I put it on knowing full well that I would give it back to him completely wet from my perspiration.

The Course

I love living in Ingolstadt, and the area they have created along the Danube is great.  Klenze Park, where the finish line was located, is a favorite hang out for our family in the summer.  It was also fun that this course incorporated 3 of the 6 ways you can cross the river within Ingolstadt limits.

Fun course

Fun course, even if the cobble stones on the last kilometer were not.

geht’s los

My half marathon training plan for that Saturday stipulated that I do a long run of 1 hour and 35 minutes within Zone 2.  So my intention was to run the 7 kilometers at an easy pace, and then keep on running for another hour.  Emphasis on “intention” in that last sentence.  The easy run part was perfect during the first kilometer as most people were elbow knocking to find room.

Swing those elbows!

I had communicated my plan to my co-worker, but his plan was to try to get accross the line under a specific time.  After the first kilometer, he picked up the pace and started moving faster than my easy pace, and moved up towards my threshhold.  OK…  then around the 2.5 km point, I had a clear chance to let him go ahead.  I had to make the decision, threshold run, or slow it down.  I made the decision to make it a threshhold run because I’m competitive.  I didn’t even think about it much.  I just did it.  Our pace then dropped under 5:00 min/km and I could hear him breathing harder.  For some reason or another (lack of rest, the recent 320 km on a bike, etc.), it took awhile for this increased pace to become comfortable, but when it did, it become a really enjoyable run.  I was able to take a sweating selfie as well.

Sweating selfie with co-worker.

Sweating selfie with co-worker.

Running with an Edge 500

I had purchased the Garmin Edge 500 earlier in the season, and had been using it for both bike riding and running to this point, and had gotten pretty comfortable holding it in my hand while jogging.  Although it can’t be set up to show pace (ie 5:00/km or 8:00/mile), it does show speed and can be programmed for autolapping every kilometer or mile at which point it will message you the lap time, which is the averaged pace for that distance.  DCRainmaker briefly mentions this in his review of the 500.  However, one thing he doesn’t mention which I have found a positive feature in comparing it to other devices I have, is that with the Edge 500, you can follow a planned route/course, and still have the autolapping feature available.  The 500 will also let you follow a prescribed workout and a course simultaneously (however, upon doing that, it takes the autolapping feature away).  I followed a premapped course  on the ‘Fitnesslauf’ because I wanted to know if the remaining distance and estimated remaining time features worked well.  They did, and I really liked that feature for a short race like this one.  This might not be a good thing to know when doing a longer race for the possible daunting reminder that one still has 1 hour 56 minutes LEFT TO RUN!

Another thing I like about running with the 500, is that when you have a workout scheduled on your Garmin Connect calendar and you upload your workouts to your device, it keeps track of the “Scheduled Workouts”.  This is cool to me, and falls in the realm of “why isn’t this feature on all devices?”.  One item of note hower, is that if you are doing a running specific workout, you can not set upper and lower pace limits, and must convert that to either speed or heart rate.  Also, when you want to push the workout to the 500, you need to change it to a cycling workout before the 500 will recognize it (although it will be a run for you).  These little nuances helped me immensely when I was waiting for delivery of the a run specific watch.  But now that I have received and used the watch, there are some things I like about running with the 500 over the it and other specific running GPS devices I have tried.  One of these for whatever reason is that the workout feature on the 500 even adapted as a run is still better set up than the my new multi-sport watch (without the bugs too) .  I also like the bigger screen and notification options.  These are of course minimal.

The Finish

When the Edge 500 stated that I had 1km left, I started to pick the pace up a little more.  However, this last kilometer coincided with a long stretch of running on cobble stones.  I don’t like cobblestones whilst running.  So the increase in effort when I looked back at the pace data, didn’t translate much to increase my speed.  However, upon coming down the last stretch my coworker asked mid breaths if I wanted to sprint the remaining 100 meters or so.  As stated previously, I am competitive and yes, we sprinted.  I out kicked him, but slowed up at the end because I was tired, and we crossed at the same time.  Ah, now isn’t that heartwarming.


Neck tie was my co-workers idea. It said “Life After Work” and had a cocktail glass on it.

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 9.34.11 PM

Running with a bike specific computer (Edge 500) works just fine.

Brothers, with one more En Route.

Brothers, with one more Enroute.