Halbmarathon Ingolstadt 2015

Background

I started specific training for this half on January 4th of this year. Sticking to my theme of free training plans, I scheduled a Garmin Connect Training plan on my calendar and had it push the workouts to my fenix 2. The plan I followed was the Half Marathon Level I plan with heart rate. I chose this mostly because of the desired 3 runs a week as I maintained my cycling volume through the winter. As for following the plan, I would say that the workout completion was around 85%.  I have been wanting to mention an inherent trait of the workout feature of Garmin Connect and I think now would be just as good as any. Due to the way workouts are programmed on the fenix 2, I only have my watch walk me through the interval or interval-like workouts.  When following a workout on the fenix 2 it removes the Auto Lap feature of a normal run which is something that I use to track progress. I have the Auto Lap set at kilometer intervals, and having it buzz or beep to notify me of the last Auto Lap is something I find beneficial. In contrast, when you are following a preset workout, the buzz or beep notification feature is employed to advise you of the next step be it an interval or rest cycle. So in order to still obtain those auto-lap messages for the Long Runs, Easy Runs, Tempo Runs, and Build Runs of the schedule, I stepped through those runs myself, or better said I controlled those workouts by watching my heart rate and pace. Along that same theme, my heart rate governed 90% of my workouts during this training schedule. I know that opinions differ as what to follow with a workout, but I made it a conscious effort to follow only heart rate to compare that style with my previous style of following only pace. I have liked the change, and have found it beneficial. By stepping through this training schedule I found myself as ready as I have been for any race to date. I attribute some of this readiness to my overall fitness gains from my winter training, but for run specific training I was very pleased by this schedule.

Packet Pickup

I really enjoy the packet pickup of each race, and I like it when the race makes it possible the day before the race. Picking up the packet the day before gets you into a good frame of mind for the mental preparation needed for each race. I accordingly picked up my packet the day before and perused the items they offered at discount. This is usually another good reason to pick up the packet the day before, as the selection is better and accordingly I picked up a few things at a discount price that I was eventually going to buy anyways. The pasta was good too.

Race Prep

Although I like the afternoon schedule of the races here in Germany, one disadvantage is that you have to wait all day for the race. This is usually OK for me, but due to the taper week, I was as wound up and full of energy like a coiled spring. Finally the time to leave the house arrived, and the with the whole family piled in the car we looked for a parking spot in the increasingly full lots of the Saturn Arena and Wonnemar. When we finally found one, it had started to rain, and we drug the kids through the rain to meet up with a friend of ours at the town hall in the middle of Ingolstadt. After a little while longer I made my way to the start line. I noticed a lot of people warming up, and I thought that in order to look normal I should do the same. I had no idea what I was doing, but I did a few high knees and some elevated cadence work and called it good. I figured running a half Marathon would be enough running for me for the day.  I also noticed that my heart rate was already pretty elevated due to the nerves and excitement I always feel just before a race.

los gehts

After a delayed start, the pack started slowly moving towards the starting line. I had grouped myself near what I thought was the 1:45 finishers. I started my watch at what I thought was the starting line and off we went. The course for this half was fun, and were it not for all of the people running, I would have really enjoyed it. I had asked my friend to take some pictures of me as I ran by and to my best bet estimated when I would be passing him. Standing near the town hall he would be able to see me pass 3 times. Looking at the pictures afterwards was interesting to see the increase in the discomfort in my face each time I passed.

Looking rather upbeat after 500 meters.

Looking rather upbeat after 500 meters.

21 Kilometers

As I started to tick off the kilometers on the course and see the splits on my watch, I was a little worried about how quick my heart rate had jumped into the 160’s. I was running in my normal Zone 3 or steady state pace, but my heart was already acting as if it was zone 4. This seems to be a theme for me as of late with my HR. It just seems to be 4 to 7 beats faster on race day when comparing it to a normal training day. This was somewhat of a concern for me as I progressed along because I was worried about the proverbial wall. I had set my virtual partner up for a 4:50/km pace (7:45/mile) and by kilometer 10, I was already 1 minute and change ahead of him/her. My HR was now in the low 170’s, and I kind of just had to go with it. Nothing was hurting too much, and though I stopped at the aid stations to get water and bananas, I really didn’t seem to need that much either. I was however, ready to ditch my jacket since it had stopped raining, and upon passing by the town hall another time I threw it too my wife who was a few rows back in the crowd.

Looking to throw a jacket!

Looking to throw a jacket!

In the meantime this little man was doing some running of his own (away from Mom).

In the meantime this little man was doing some running of his own (away from Mom).

The most difficult section of this race was around kilometers 13 and 14. Running along the top of the flood retaining wall didn’t allow for too many spectators to cheer you on, and it also seemed to stretch out forever. After that turn around, things started to pick up and my pace kept right in the same groove. Before long it seemed like I was running through the city center again.

This is the end

I have become accustomed to saying that a Half Marathon is 21.1 kilometers, and that last 0.1 kilometers is the toughest part. This is definitely true more mentally than physically. To add insult to this mental anguish, the finishing 100 meters of this course are on cobble stones. It hurts to run at high speeds on pave. In asking my friend to take some pictures of me, I specifically requested that he be there at the finish line to get the time clock as I passed under it. He did a wonderful job considering it was his first time doing action shots.

Trying to do some mental math.  What is 42 subtract 1?

Trying to do some mental math. What is 42 subtract 1?

Finish Line! 1 minute behind gun.

Finish Line! 1 minute behind gun.

PR in German is PB

42-1 is 41! My watch had to let me know that I had obtained my goal and gotten a PR (1:41:18 officially). Not only that, but knocked off 8:31 in the process. I was pleased. Very pleased. After 5 years of doing this as a hobby, I am finally starting to see the gains I was hoping for 3 years ago. I guess specified training is worth it. I was also on the fast side of the bell curve for a change. Now if I could just realize these gains with my doggy paddle.

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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.