Friday, December 25, 2009

7 Days…

A little over a week ago the small nagging pain in the top of my foot deciding to rapidly escalate to severe pain that prevented me from walking. After a trip to the Podiatrist, I was prescribed a week of zero physical activity, as little walking as possible (basically bed rest), a week of cortisone pills, and a follow up exam. The diagnosis was that I had tendonitis in the extensor digitorum longus and brevis that once again was caused by swimming with fins and then running on it just made it worse.

Those 7 days ended up being pretty tough for me, but in a much different way than I expected. Those who know me or follow my blog know that I haven't once taken 7 days off in a row since I started running over 5 years ago. In fact I took less than 7 days off from running in the entire last year (maybe even in 2 years). I was pretty bummed when I found out I couldn't run for at least a week a minimum. Not only was I going to miss the EN Holiday Challenge, I was also signed up for the Slowtwitch 100/100 challenge this year.

The first few days were pretty uneventful, it was still very painful to even attempt to walk so I limped around the house and didn't do much else. Surprisingly, I didn't miss running all that much since every time I tried to go from the couch to the bathroom it was a 5 minute ordeal and quite painful. The fun started about the 2 or 3 day when the cortisone kicked it. No, the foot didn't get better, but I was all of a sudden on a 24 hour sugar high, and still couldn't move.

After the 7 days of almost zero sleep and no physical activity besides for a few pull-ups I returned to the doctor. I was now able to limp at a decent pace and the pain was going down day by day. He confirmed again that it was Tendonitis and all I could do now was let it heal. However he did clear me to do non-impact exercise and then ease back into running the following week when I felt I was ready. He also suggested I take at least a month off of swimming and never again swim with fins as this is the third time I've messed myself up with them. It appears that no matter how much I stretch my ankles and feet are just not designed to swim.

The next morning I did a very easy bike ride on my trainer just to test things out. After 30 minutes, the foot still felt fine and I was thrilled, but I stopped and called it a day. Since it was still getting better the next day I decided to try an actual bike workout the next morning.

I started out with 15 minutes of easy spinning and then kicked it up to my FTP and figured I would see how long could hold it. 5 minutes in I felt great so I went about 5 watts harder, 10 minutes and I go another 5 watts harder, 15 minutes… ok now it was getting tough but I felt strong so I held to do a full 20 minutes. I had been scheduled to do an FTP test this week anyway so now I decided this ad hoc workout was going to become a 2 x 20. So I spun easy for 2 minutes had some water and then kicked it back up. The second 20 minutes was like any other FTP test... painful. My foot was still fine and didn't hurt at all though, so I pushed through to find that my FTP is up 14 watts! I don't think I have ever seen a 14 watt FTP increase in one block of training.

This only happened about 22 hours ago, but since I've been awake 21 of those 22 hours (thanks cortisone) I've been thinking about it a lot. I've always understood that the body needs rest and recovery. I follow a training plan, there is a ton of thought that goes into how I structure my weeks, months and seasons, but I always push myself as hard as I can for as long as I can, and I never truly rest.

For the 7 days I couldn't do anything, I sat and watched my teams all get stronger and kept worrying that I was going to fall behind and now I come back after my longest break ever and have a great FTP increase … hmmm.

Talk about a lesson learned… as I said before, until this injury I pretty much ran every single day for at least the last two years. I had hard weeks and easy weeks so I felt I was recovering, but I never took anytime off. I'm driven by accomplishments and I like to see my CTL go up on the PMC and my average pace to get faster, but I'm so driven that I'm afraid to rest. I was finally forced to rest and look what happens… my hard earned CTL line drops, but I see an awesome (and measureable) gain in my fitness.

Speaking of being driven, I started this whole endurance sports thing 5 years ago to lose weight and continued because it was fun and I truly enjoyed it. About two years ago my type A personality took over, I decided I wanted to go to Kona, and therefore I had to focus and give it 100%. Somewhere along the way this hobby stopped being about fun and all I cared about was hitting my fitness goals and my performance at races. I was enjoying it because of the results I was seeing not because I was participating in the events that I used to enjoy.

The NYC Marathon and Clearwater reminded me that I don't have to be on the podium or even close to have a great time. NYC was the best marathon I ever ran as I truly enjoyed every step even though I finished well over an hour slower than I could have. Sure there were things that I got upset about at Clearwater, but now that I look back, how cool was it that I was able to compete in a World Championship, visit my family, and have a great vacation with my wife to finish off the year.

For the last two years I've stressed out over every little detail of my training and daily life. I don't regret it for a minute because I got my Kona spot, but it's time to have fun again and this year is going to be different. I'm going to enjoy running in the Boston Marathon and I'm going to enjoy my dream coming true when I get to race with the best in the world in Kona. After that, who knows, maybe I'll want to get back into the competitive mindset, maybe I'll keep doing it for fun, or maybe I'll try something new.

I guess you can't lose (or gain) much fitness in 7 days, but you sure can learn a lot. It will probably be another 7 days before I can start running again. Maybe I will come back stronger, maybe not, but I will get the fitness back and great stronger over time.


By the way, it's 5 AM on Christmas morning and thanks to the cortisone that is still in my system I slept a total of 1 hour in the form of 3 20 minute naps. I guess this is my body getting ready for the baby!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Quarq Cinqo, Garmin Edge 500 and TrainingPeaks WKO+

I've trained and raced with a wired PowerTap SL and used TraningPeaks WKO+ for about 2 years now. To be honest, the first year was more like I just recorded data and learned what it meant, however I feel the second year I really learned how to both train and race with the power meter and use WKO to analyze not only my workouts and races, but overall training load. In fact, I would say a power meter and watch that can record pace the now the two most important pieces of equipment I own.

There is nothing wrong with my PowerTap, I've just gotten tired of some limitations and am ready for something new. Therefore after years of reading reviews on all the different power meters out there, I've know I wanted a Quarq Cinqo and I just had to wait until the compact version came out.

The challenge has been figuring what computer I wanted to go with. The main things I was looking for was a small, wireless, reliable computer that I allowed me customize what data showed on the screen and of course I wanted to spend as little as possible. The catch is it has to work with TraningPeaks WKO+. I thought the Garmin Forerunner 310XT was the perfect solution for a triathlete, but it doesn't work with WKO so it's not an option until a new version of WKO or new firmware comes out. The Garmin Edge 500 appears to fit all of my requirements; however I had to wait for it to be released and am nervous it will have the same issues as the 310XT.

That's enough rambling for now… on to the review.

Quarq Cinqo

When I received the Cinqo I got exactly what I expected, a crank and a magnet. Installation took at most 10 minutes as I took off the existing crank/bottom bracket, put the new one with the magnet ring in, and then installed the crank. I'm not going to go into much detail about the Cinqo has they have been reviewed by tons of people. The Cinqo appears to be very solid and only moving piece on it is the cap that unscrews to replace the battery.

I also have a second bottom bracket and magnet which make allow me to switch it to from my road bike to tri bike in just a few minutes and with only one allen wrench, almost as fast as moving switching rear wheels.

Garmin Edge 500

I took it out of the box and turned it on by a window to let the GPS acquire a signal. This took a few minutes, but it allowed me to do the quick setup and I than spun my crank and by the second revolution, the Edge beeped that it detected the power meter and both Cadence and Power were now showing on the display.

The mount was very nice and easy to use; it simply uses 2 rubber bands to hold it any tube. I choose to put it on the stem for now. You could actually move the mount to another bike pretty easily, but they include 2 mounts in the box so you are already covered for two bikes.

I played with the interface a little and setup the data screen how I thought I would like them. As expected, there at 3 screens and each can be configured to show between 1 to 8 data fields. I setup the first screen as a totals screen to show data about the overall ride (Time, Avg Pwr, Distance, etc). The second screen as a lap screen that I can have both average power and current power showing at the same time which is great for hitting interval targets along with the interval time. The last screen I just picked a bunch of other fields such as temp, grade, time of day, kJ, etc.

Total I probably spend 10 minutes setting it up… not to bad to have a power meter installed and ready to use in 20 minutes or less…and with no wires.

TrainingPeaks WKO+ Compatibility

So far so good as I love the Cinqo and I'm also very impressed with the Edge 500, however now the moment of truth, does it work with TrainingPeaks WKO+.

I know there are other options out there now, but I have been using WKO for two years now and am happy with it. Plus my entire team uses it, along with most cyclists I know that have a power meter.

Unfortunately, I do not have enough equipment to do a perfect test as the edge 500 is the only computer I have that will read data from the Cinqo. However, I do have a Computrainer and my Wired PowerTap so I can make some comparisons. Also, I have read a bunch on the issues with the 310XT smart recording such not recording all data every second as well as some reporting issues with different data in Garmin Training Center and WKO+

I have now done three workouts inside on the Computrainer with both the PT and Edge/Cinqo. I also made it outside for a quick ride to test with the GPS as well.

Getting the data into WKO+

There is no way to directly download data from the edge 500 to WKO, so I figured I could drag and drop the file like with an edge 705…wrong. The edge 500 uses .fit files, which I have read allow smaller file sizes.

Next I tried to download the data into Garmin Training Center. GTC found the edge right away but would not download the data. Sure enough there was just a new version of GTC realized for the edge 500, after the update, GTC found the edge and downloaded the file with no problem. Form their I could export the activity to a file and then import it into WKO+. This sounds complicated, but it really isn't bad, just takes a few minutes.

After I complained about this on Twitter, TrainingPeaks was quick to respond and they now have a new version of the device agent that supports the edge 500. The device agent is simple and works pretty quickly. It simply downloads all of the files from the edge 500 and then saves them either directly to TrainingPeaks on line or as a file on your PC. All I had to do then is drag the file into WKO+ and I was set.

The data

I expected the data between the 3 power measuring devices to be slightly different as they are measuring at different points on the bike and using different technologies. For the last two years my PowerTap has almost always been about 5-10 watts higher then my Computrainer and like usual in these tests it is as well.

First Test – I calibrated the Computrainer after 10 minutes of warming up and got an RCC of 2.07. At this time I also coasted and back pedaled to calibrate the PT and CInqo. About every 15 minutes I re-calibrated the Computrainer and it slowly went down by about 0.01 each time. As I expected the PT came in higher than the CT, and the Cinqo also came in slightly higher than the PT, which I assume is due to power being measured directly at the crank instead of the rear hub. However I was not very concerned with the actual numbers instead I jumped right into the detail and compared the intervals and looked at the data line by line.

From what I could tell everything looked good. The edge 500 had recorded data every second for each data field in the file. The recorded data and calculated data (i.e. TSS/IF/NP) also seemed very consistent when compared to the other meters. Additionally, I looked at the edge 500 data in Garmin Training Center (GTC), Garmin Connect(GC), WKO+ and on the device and it matched in each place.

Next Three Tests on the Computrainer – Each of these times I did the same thing, however each time I recalibrated the comptrainer (~15 minutes) I also backpedaled and coasted to trigger the auto-calibration on the PT and Cinqo. Both of these times I got the same overall results, however now the PT was only a few watts higher than the comptrainer and the Cinqo very close to the PT every time. Again all of the data matched across GTC, GC, and WKO+

Outdoor test – this time around I just took a quick ride around my block with the PT and edge 500/cinqo. At first review everything looked great still, but then I noticed one of the issues folks were complaining of with the 310XT. The average power was showing differently in GTC than in WKO. This appears to be because on the trainer I almost never coasted during a 60 minute workout, however during the 5 minute ride around my block, I coasted a few times. I messed with the settings on the edge 500 and noticed it was set to non-zero averaging for power. The average power on the edge 500 and GTC matched, but WKO was lower (and I know it includes zeros in the average). So I changed the setting to include zeros and tried again… this time the average power in GTC and WKO matched. I personally like to look at the non-zero averaging so I switched it back to the default setting and it doesn't bother me that GTC shows the average without zeros and WKO includes zeros because I only care about TSS which is based on NP anyway.


While I have only done a hand full of tests so far and can't do a true test with only one variable (i.e. use a edge 705 or joule and edge 500 with the same Cinqo at the same time), I still feel the edge 500 is working correctly with WKO+.

Therefore, I'm very pleased with the Cinqo and Edge 500 combo and think it is a great option for an affordable crank based power meter setup.

Edge 500 Pros

  • About the same size as the PowerTap Little Yellow Computer
  • Setup was quick and easy and it found the Cinqo on its own
  • 3 data screens that can each have between 1 – 8 data elements displayed
  • Very easy to use and straight forward menus (don't have to memorize how to find things)
  • The mount is very simple and solid, plus two are included in the box
  • Barometric altimeter for more accurate elevation readings
  • No speed and cadence sensor required (it's available as an option but I prefer to have as little as possible on the bike and don't see a need for it since the Cinqo provides cadence)
  • Courses can be programmed to provide turn-by-turn direction if desired
  • Works with my collection of Garmin and CycleOps heart rate straps so I don't need to by another
  • Great price point at $250 MSRP

Edge 500 Cons

  • Uses new .fit files that cannot be directly imported to WKO+
  • No direct download to WKO+, but the new TrainingPeaks Device Agent 3.0 makes the process pretty easy (easier and faster than using Garmin Training Center)
  • Workout feature is not included
  • USB port cover doesn't always stay closed


Now I just have to figure out what wheels I want to race on this year!

Friday, December 11, 2009

It’s been a while

My friends all know that I'm really bad (ok… horrible) at keeping in touch with people. I don't do it on purpose and I really hope it doesn't offend anyone; it's just the way I am. I get really focused on a few things and other things just slip, not that they are less important.

For the last year (ok, closer to two years) I have been focus on one day and one race. This consumed a ton of time and as a result I ignored many other things. After the race was over I have to get back to a few other things in my life and therefore this blog was neglected for a while as well. So here is a long post on what I have been up to since Ironman Wisconsin:

Post Ironman Wisconsin

My plan was to take about 2 weeks completely off after IMWI, get away from everything triathlon, then come back and hit the training hard until Clearwater to wrap up my season. Well things didn't really happen that way at all.

Usually have a big race I get a post race high that last for a few days, just like the post race soreness and then I'm back to normal both mentally and physically by the next weekend. This year was a little different. First off I never got sore, each day I woke up expecting to be sore and I was fine. I felt so good on Tuesday after the race I started working out again and felt great. The post race high, well that lasted a lot long than usually, more like 3-4 weeks instead of the normal few days. Pretty much every single day something about the race came up, or someone else contacted me to talk about it. It was really cool, but almost a little overwhelming. I have to say one of the highlights though was being Age Grouper of the Week on the IM Talk podcast (thanks Nemo!).

After all the attention went away, I pretty quickly burned out mentally on training and racing. It was weird because my body was fine and when I wanted to push myself I could hit all my workout targets, but I just didn't have any desire to work out or push myself. I was pretty much just done with Triathlon. At the same time a few other things happened as work got really busy and demanding, I wanted to spend more time with Theresa, see friends I haven't seen as much as I would like, and just get away for a little. So that's what I did, I stopped following any sort of a training plan and just did what I felt like when I felt like it. BTW, I also ate what I wanted when I wanted for about 2 months as well and the pounds sure add up quickly.

So I was about a 3-4 weeks away from Clearwater, getting more out of shape by the day, little to no desire to work out, and oh yeah, I had a unplanned Marathon to run in as well.

New York City Marathon

I can pretty much thank (or blame) my endurance sports addiction on two friends. Katie, the one that convinced me I could go from feeling like I was going to die on a 5 mile jog to doing a marathon in 5 months, has been running marathons for years and has done more marathons than I have done total races combined. A few years ago she got into running as a pace leader and always talked about how great it is and how much she enjoyed it. So I said I was interested in doing it sometime and to let me know if there was every an opportunity.

Sure enough when I was on post IMWI high still, I got an email from Katie with an offer to run the NYC Marathon as a pace leader for the 4:00 group. Of course I thought this was an awesome opportunity and wanted to do it, but I actually did the smart thing and reached out to Rich and Patrick first. I was pretty convince they would tell me I was crazy to consider running a marathon 6 weeks after IMWI and 2 weeks before Clearwater… but they said to go for it, so I did.

The problem came when I was burnt out on training, and now not only had about a month until Clearwater, I also had to be able to run NYC two weeks before I lead a bunch of people that were relying on me. I managed to motivate myself to do a few long runs, the good news was that since I wasn't training all that much in general the long runs felt pretty easy. I actually managed to pull of two 22 milers both under 2:30…not bad since I was almost 15 lobs heavier than IMWI!

The NYC marathon was an awesome experience though. I loved every minute of the race and had an awesome time talking to people and just enjoying the race, something I haven't done in a long time. I even carried a camera the whole race and took pictures and movies. I felt awesome after the race, in fact I even jogged to the subway (to stay warm), and then got on a flight home.

The next morning, well that was a different story. I went to get out of bed and almost feel over. I was as sore as my first marathon 5 years ago. It was different though, my muscles were totally fine, my hips and knees were killing me though. The soreness actually lasted almost the full week and I wasn't walking normal again until Friday. How in the world could I go under 10 hours in Ironman Wisconsin, never get sore, and start running again less than 48 hours later but after running a 4 hour marathon I could move for 5 days?

I thought about this for a little bit and discussed with a few teammates, the conclusion I have come to is that in the last 2 years, I have only run longer than 2:30 twice. Even though I have done countless 22 and 23 mile runs, they have all been around 2:30 or less, so my body was just not ready for 4:00 of pounding. Also, I ran NYC 13 lbs heavier than I was in Madison. I guess that weight makes a big difference.

Even with the 5 days of pain afterwards I still had such a good time in NYC helping others to meet their goal and just enjoying a race instead of racing, that I would do it again in a heartbeat.


After IMWI I was fired up and ready to crush it at Clearwater, but after the multiple week mental burnout and physical disaster after NYC marathon, my body had other thoughts. Clearwater quickly went from a race, to an event to enjoy. There has been a lot said about Clearwater so I'm not going to go into it, but the race lives up to it's reputation.

I'm very glad I did the race and I'm even more glad that I just did it for fun. I had a few choice words to during the race and right afterwards, but after I settled down I realized I really did have a good time. Theresa and I had a fun trip, got to visit family and it was just fun to race in a world championship. Plus it was awesome to know that untrained, overweight and racing at my IM target watts / pace, I could still pull off a 4:24 70.3 distance race…. It sure is one fast course.

Up Next

Now that all that is done with and the 2009 season is over, I'm back working with Endurance Nation and in the Out Season again.

I have a ton of goals I thought about for next year, plus a bunch have people have shared with me what they think I can do next year. However after my experience at NYC Marathon and Clearwater, and considering that Theresa and I are expecting our first Child this winter, I've decided 2010 is an "off" year. Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to train hard and race, but not like I did in 2008 and 2009.

In 2010, I will be running the Boston Marathon and racing the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. No matter what I am going to enjoy both experiences and make the most out of them. If I feel great on race day and I want to race, then so be it. If not, who cares, I'm not getting paid for results, I'm going to enjoy the day and vacation.

Of course, since I don't have any major goals for 2010, I've already got a list for 2011 J

Also, I recently picked up a Garmin Edge 500 to do some testing with. Hopefully I will get around to putting a quick review up in a few days. Stay tuned if you are interested in reading more about it.