Saturday, March 28, 2009

EN Out Season Results

For the last 3 years the winter was all about building a base to get ready to start training hard in the Spring. I never used a coach, or had a plan; I just set some volume and frequency goals for myself and figured it out as I went. This year was a little different, 21 weeks ago I drank the EN kool-aid and changed the way I train.

This is probably going to end up being another really long post, so I'll put a summary up front and you can decide if you want to keep reading after that.

Results Summary

  • First FTP test on 11/4 - 209 watts and 3.3 w/kg
  • Final test on 3/28 - 251 watts and 4.07 w/kg
  • 20% FTP increase


  • First run test on 11/5 - 5k for a vdot of 56.3
  • Week 16 test - 5k for a vdot of 59.5
  • Final test on 3/29 - snow and 30+ mph so I skipped it, I'll do a 5k next weekend and post again
  • 3.2 vdot point increase over the first 16 weeks

The Plan

My goal for this out season was to get stronger on the bike and at least maintain my run fitness. Therefore I selected the Endurance Nation Out Season Advanced Bike Focus Plan.

The plan was a 16 week plan including:
  • 4 days a week on the bike, under an hour each day, but lots of time at FTP or harder
  • 4 days a week running, under an hour each day, but tons of intervals at tempo pace or interval pace
  • No swimming in the plan

I did a total of 21 weeks of the Out Season, weeks 1-16, then took a week vacation to recover, and then repeated weeks 13-16.

Actual Workouts

First off, I have to say that the plan was great, but the EN forum was even more helpful. I was routinely checking in with a group of other members that started the same plan on the same day as me. This was a great source of motivation and accountability. I am very proud that I can say I completed every scheduled workout for the entire OS, and never skipped one. I was sick twice and also had a conflicts with work that required 4 AM workouts, but I got every one done because I knew my November OS team was out there getting the work done also.


I did every single workout in the plan exactly as it was described for the first 16 weeks. I accomplished this by creating ERG files for my computrainer and using the coaching software that forced me to either push the watts or quit. There were many many times I wanted to quit but I never did...and I only puked once.

When I repeated weeks 13-16 after vacation, I began to add some extra volume in and gradually worked up to an extra hour at 85% of my ftp at the end of one of the weekend workouts.

Overall, I am very pleased with the bike workouts and wouldn't change a thing. They did exactly what they were supposed to...ROI. I put in less time on the bike then ever before and my ftp went up more then I was hoping for. It was really great not to have to find two or three movies to watch each weekend for the countless hours on the trainer that I have done in past years.


The feedback I kept hearing form other EN members was that the out season plan will seam easy at first and then get really tough and therefore everyone said not to do any extra workouts. Even though I was coming off of a huge running year and in great shape, I decided to listen.

For weeks 1-8 I did exactly as the plan said, however the running seemed really easy and I felt I wasn't making any progress. Then the week between Christmas and New Years Day, EN did a running challenge where we earned points for running every day. Since I was focusing on getting strong on the bike this year, I decided to do the run challenge but not let it impact my bike workouts. I ended up running an hour or more for 10 days in a row and didn't miss a bike workout. After that I decided to gradually start adding more runs in.

I started by adding easy runs on Monday. After a few weeks of that, I also started doing a 30 minute run after the bike on Thursdays. Finally weeks 13-16 (both the first time and when I repeated them) I added a semi long run on Sundays, starting at an hour and getting up to an hour and a half once or twice.

I really think the EN plan is great for the majority of people the way it is written. However, I had just spent the last year running 7 days a week and averaging about 70 miles a week so I had a really strong base and was able to do more running. Plus in some sick way, I just really enjoy running and the days off were killing me in the EN plan.


Well, the EN advice is not to swim in the out season. I completely understand why they take the approach, but I couldn't do it. Swimming is by far my weakest area and I was not comfortable completely giving it up. However, I did greatly reduce my swimming for a while though and I always made sure my bike and run workouts got priority by swimming on days off or at night if I had the time and motivation.

Weeks 1-8 I only swam when I felt like it which ended up being about once a week on Monday when I was not doing a bike or run. Weeks 9-12 I started to slowly ramp back up and swam on Mondays and Fridays. Finally I got to swimming 3 times a weeks for the last 8 or 9 weeks.

In the end, I made some progress in my swimming by really focusing on my form and drills. Since my life allowed me the time to swim, I'm glad I did it. However, if I was to do it again and didn't have as much time available, I would seriously consider taking some time off from swimming.

Body Comp

The one other area I focused on was my body composition and eating. Not that I have much weight to lose, but I could improve here and have some goals for my race season.

I said swimming was my weakness, but easting habits may be even worse. I can't help it, I love to eat. I actually have significantly changed my diet over the last two years and now I eat much healthier foods overall, however I still like to eat a lot, as in really large portions and all day long.

The first 8 weeks of the out season were a roller coaster for my weight, just keep going up and down but always ended up right back at the same place. During January and February I did great and dropped about 3 or 4 pounds, but I managed to put about 8 back on a 10 day vacation.

Since vacation, I have been really focused and I got rid of the extra 8 pounds I put on during vacation and am within a pound of my goal for racing this year. Now all I have to do is stay right around this weight.

The Data

For those of you that really want to see the details, here are my PMC charts from Training Peaks WKO+ for the Out Season.

Bike Only:

Run Only:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

What a Great Day

Today was one of those days were everything just seemed to go right:
  • It was in the 50s with clear skies and no wind
  • I PR'ed at a half marathon, that I had not trained or tappered for
  • I had a great bike ride OUTSIDE
  • Did I mention is was in the 50s in Chicago in March

March Madness Half Marathon

I did this race becuase a few of the guys I train with over at Endurance Nation were going to be there and I thought it would be fun. I had no real goals or plan, I was just going to start off at a pace I thought I could easily hold for the whole race and see what happened.

Leading up to the race, I did not tapper at all, in fact yesterday I did 1:45 on the trainer with a brick run right afterwards and I pushed really hard. Warming up for the race this morning my legs were a little heavy and I could feel the fatigue in my quads from the hard bike ride yesterday, but overall I felt good.

The race was by far the hilliest race I have ever done, and the timing of the hills is what makes it really difficult because from mile 9 to 13 is mostly uphill and rolling hills. As usual I went out too fast for the first mile, but I quickly setteled down and was pretty close to my target pace 6:15 for miles 2-8. From mile 8 to 13 I gave it everything I had and had a few miles at around 5:50 pace, coming into the finish shoot I could see the clock at 19:55 and I sprinted as hard as could. I put it all out there and came in at 1:20:06.

It sure would have been nice to break 1:20, but I'm really happy with my results, a negative split, and I was 1:44 faster then my previous PR which was set at a very flat and fast race last year.

Here is the data for anyone that is interested, check out the total elevation changes even though the biggest single hill was about 200 ft and yes this file's altitude was corrected in WKO:

Forerunner305 [Run]:

Duration: 1:20:06

Work: n/a

rTSS: 150.8 (1.006)

NGP: 5:57 (270.6 m/min)

VI: n/a

Pw:HR: n/a

Pa:HR: 1.83%

Distance: 13.141 mi

Elevation Gain: 2105 ft

Elevation Loss: 2092 ft

Grade: 0.0 % (12 ft)

Min Max Avg

Heart Rate: 100 198 187 bpm

Speed: 1.2 16.2 9.8 mph

Pace 3:42 50:49 6:06 min/mi

Altitude: 696 910 816 ft

Bike Workout

Since I was only doing the race for fun, I wanted to also get my scheduled 2 x 20' at FTP bike ride in today. So after we got home, I dusted off my road bike which hasn't been out of the house since November and went for a ride outside.

My current FTP on the computrainer is 245 watts and I was really hoping that I would still be able to hold the watts after racing this morning. My legs were pretty sore warming up, but I was so thrilled to be outside I didn't care and went on anyway. I ended up holding 255w for the first interval and I figured I went out too hard and would fall apart, but on the way back I came up with 256w and finished stronger.

Here is the some bike data:

First Interval:

Duration: 20:01

Work: 294 kJ

TSS: 36.1 (intensity factor 1.04)

Norm Power: 255

VI: 1.04

Pw:HR: 1.11%

Pa:HR: 1.6%

Distance: 7.156 mi

Min Max Avg

Power: 0 538 245 watts

Heart Rate: 127 187 179 bpm

Cadence: 32 163 97 rpm

Speed: 0 30 21.5 mph

Pace 2:00 0:00 2:48 min/mi

Hub Torque: 0 277 77 lb-in

Crank Torque: 0 921 222 lb-in

Second Interval:

Duration: 20:01

Work: 301 kJ

TSS: 36.3 (intensity factor 1.043)

Norm Power: 256

VI: 1.02

Pw:HR: 5.46%

Pa:HR: 2.82%

Distance: 6.642 mi

Min Max Avg

Power: 0 503 250 watts

Heart Rate: 150 188 180 bpm

Cadence: 40 166 92 rpm

Speed: 0 28.1 19.9 mph

Pace 2:08 0:00 3:01 min/mi

Hub Torque: 0 220 84 lb-in

Crank Torque: 0 771 235 lb-in

Entire workout (213 watts):

Duration: 1:21:12

Work: 1039 kJ

TSS: 120.6 (intensity factor 0.944)

Norm Power: 231

VI: 1.08

Pw:HR: 0.6%

Pa:HR: 9.28%

Distance: 26.094 mi

Min Max Avg

Power: 0 538 213 watts

Heart Rate: 93 219 171 bpm

Cadence: 29 209 92 rpm

Speed: 0 30 19.3 mph

Pace 2:00 0:00 3:07 min/mi

Hub Torque: 0 277 73 lb-in

Crank Torque: 0 921 202 lb-in

I have 2 more weeks left of the Endurance Nation Out Season plan and then I am doing an 8k run as my final test and will post a summary.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Transition Week = Vacation

I finished up the first 16 weeks of the Out Season plan and next on the schedule was a 1 - 2 week recovery or transition period. I have been very pleased with the progress I made on my cycling power over the 16 weeks, and I think my run has improved a little also, but I haven't really tested it yet. Due to the weather conditions I am going to repeat the last 4 weeks of the OS plan again and then I will post my final results and thoughts on the 20 weeks of OS training.

Anyway, back to the point of this post, during this downtime for the training plan my wife and I went to Hawaii. I had no training goals at all, other then to run when I felt like it.

Well, I ended up feeling like it just about every day. Maybe it is because it has been so cold in Chicago and I enjoyed the prefect weather in Maui and Oahu, or just because I like exploring, but what ever the reason was a really enjoyed every one of the runs I did. I saw the sun rise a few days on both islands and even had a whale come up to breath close to the shore where I was running in Maui. For the most part I just took it easy and ran for 30-45 minutes, but a few times I would sprint up a hill or to the next intersection just for fun.

I did one actual swim in the ocean for exercise, I didn't go very far, but it felt good and helped build some confidence.

The other adventure on this trip was learning to surf. On our honeymoon in Kauai I tried surf for the first time. It went ok, I was able to stand up and catch a wave when the instructure told me when to start, however I was pretty much just along for the ride and had no control of what was happening.

This time I did a lesson at Waikiki beach with Aloha Surf and had a great experience. I started on their standard beginner board which was a 12' longboard with a padded top. I got up on the first try and after a few rides I was feeling pretty comfortable. By the end of the lesson I was able to time the waves on my own and paddle and get up on every wave I went for. I was also riding all the way in until the wave flattened out and then would sit back down on the board.

I enjoyed it so much and wanted to continue so I went back the next day and this time got a standard 10' long board that was not nearly as wide as the beginner board. I could tell right away this was going to be a little more challenging when I was paddling out the board almost tipped over a few times. In fact the first time I hit a wave (on the way out paddling) I fell off the side of the board.

It took about 30 minutes or so to get use to the shorter board, as I keep standing up too far forward and falling over the front of the board. It was amazing how much of a difference the 2 feet made. However, once I got the hang of it the shorter board was a lot more fun because I could actually turn it and had some control where I was going. It felt like I was actually surfing and not just along for the ride on a big floating board.

Here are some pictures from the first day when I started with really long beginner board.