Jan 28, 2010

Collection of Trainer Workouts

Lately, we have been getting a ton of rain in Tucson. The problem with rain in Tucson is when it rains, it floods. With the onslaught of nasty weather, I have been forced to do a couple trainer sessions. This got me thinking... I need to share some of the good trainer workouts that I picked up for LaMastra, Reddy, and other Cleveland boys. A few of these workouts have my own twist, but they all break up the monotony of an indoor session. Enjoy. 


WU - Warm up
CD - Cool down
AR - Active recovery (easy spinning) 
rpm - revolutions per minute
HR 1 - Recovery pace
HR 2 - Easy to mid aerobic pace
HR 3 - High aerobic to low anaerobic pace
HR 4 - Anaerobic to maximum pace

WU, 9/6/3/6/9/6/3 with half of interval for AR (9 min was @ Half IM pace, 6 min was @ Olympic pace, 3 min was @ Sprint pace), CD

WU, 12/6/3 (HR 2 low, HR 2 mid, HR 2 high), 10/5/2.5 (HR 2 mid, HR 2 high, HR 3 low), 8/4/2 (HR 2 high, HR 3 low, HR 3 mid), 6/3/1.5 (HR 3 low, HR 3 mid, HR 3 high), 4/2/1 (HR 3 mid, HR 3 high, ALL OUT), CD

WU, 3 x 5/4/3/2/1, 1st set @ HR 2 LOW, 2nd set @ HR 2 MID, 3rd set @ HR 2 HIGH, CD

WU, 4 x 4min (HR 2 low/HR 2 high/HR 3 low/HR 3 high) with 6min between each set, CD

WU, 5 x 3min @ HR 2 high, 3 x 5min @ HR 3 low, 3 x 3min @ HR 3 mid, 3 x 2min @ HR 3 high, 3 x 1min HR 4, CD

WU, 5 x {1min right leg, 1min left leg, 1min together}
Put in very easy gear and do the following (do NOT change gears)
:05 @ 120rpm :55 AR
:10 @ 120rpm :50 AR
:15 @ 120rpm :45 AR
:55 @ 120rpm :05 AR
:50 @ 120rpm :10 AR
:05 @ 120rpm :55 AR
3 x {1min right leg, 1min left leg, 1min together}, CD

I hope everyone enjoys some of these workouts. My favorites are the Cadence Ladder and the Ladder Intervals.

Cheers for Tucson.

Jan 23, 2010

Searching for Strength

It’s been almost 3 years since I began writing about triathlon. Originally, I wanted to write about each race as a way to chronicle my growth as an athlete. My writing wasn’t thought out, but it was passionate. If you go all the way back to my first few posts, you can feel my pain and glory. I wrote for myself. I never had any intention of letting anyone else read my thoughts about life or triathlon. Well, things change over time. There are several individuals that made me the athlete I am today. It was their advice, guidance, and encouragement that formed me. In time, I have realized that everyone is shaped by their surroundings, and it is your peers that help make you who you’re supposed to be. Without a few people, I wouldn’t be in Tucson right now. I wouldn’t be chasing my dreams, and I wouldn’t be writing this.

Deer Creek 2007 - first triathlon ever.

Life was much different when I did my first triathlon. It was almost 3 years ago. My roommate at the time, Brendan Barton, went to Columbus with me for the race. He was the person who introduced me to everything triathlon. He was one of the people who helped make me who I am. Thinking back, if it wasn’t for his guidance, I wouldn’t have even made it in the water that morning. I was messing around in transition without my body marked 5 minutes from the start of my wave. I had no clue what I was doing. I think back on that day without any hesitation. It was a turning point in my life. After the race, I was hobbling back to the car with Brendan at my side. He told me something I will never forget. He said “AJ, I swear to god. If this was just a one time thing, I will never talk to you again.” He was the first person to ever make me think that I had potential as an athlete. He was the first person who thought that I could go somewhere special in triathlon. Even I thought he was crazy when he said it, but his words have come back to me countless times during training and racing. All it takes is one person to believe in someone. I like to think that I had some type of impact on his first Ironman. I like to think that he drew strength from me at some point that day. Regardless, as athletes we are constantly looking somewhere, anywhere, for strength. Once you find that source, you’re golden.

So maybe that is why I started writing about triathlon. Maybe it is a way for me to reflect on my life and, once again, gather strength from the people that originally influenced me. Maybe it is a way for me to influence others and provide them with strength. I have an eternal dept to this sport. I’ll never hesitate to give back to it. The kindnesses of others have shaped me as an athlete. I look forward to the day that I can be as influential as the people that helped me.

This week hasn’t been a good one. But again, it has been the people around me who have made it better. Earlier in the week, I got side swiped by an idiot driver. I later realized that my shifting was all tweaked. One of the guys from swim practice, an unemployed bike mechanic, came over and fixed my bike up. His simple generosity went a long way. Today, I flatted 10 miles from home. My spare was leaking and I don’t know anyone’s number in this whole city. It didn’t take long for a random guy to pull over and offer me a ride back

This week’s circumstances have made me really think. The old saying is true. What goes around comes around. Don’t be afraid to help others. Believe in your friends and tell them so. Your encouragement goes a long way. At the end of the day, your friends will be the ones telling your story, and we all want to be remembered the right way.

Cheers everyone.

Jan 17, 2010

Long Straightaways, Headwinds, and Shitty Drivers

Yesterdays long ride seemed to never end. It was one of those rides where each mile clicks away a little slower than the next. Even though I dread these days, they are perfect for building mental strength if you tough them out... as long as you don't heave yourself in front of an approaching vehicle... I may have done both.

The fatigue of training started to slowly seep in this week. After climbing Mt. Lemmon, all of my workouts seemed a bit labored. It would take a long time to get warmed up and each workout was a little tougher than the last. After riding just under 300 miles in the first 7 days here, my body was starting to slow down. I've been sleeping more than ever, and I've been eating everything in site. I figured if I could get through this weekend, I'd take an easy recovery week.

We planned Saturday's ride to be long and flat. After climbing 6,400ft (more than a vertical mile) on Tuesday and Thursday's out and back over Gates Pass, my climbing muscles were pretty spent. Instead of heading out for another solo ride, I road with a semi pro downhiller and mountain biker. He was a strong rider and made this effort a little less suicidal.

We headed out on Old Spanish Trial, a very rolling road that heads south east of Tucson. After a quick climb up Pistol Hill, we headed due south on Houghton Rd. That's when the fun and pain really started. We were only 25 miles into the 75 mile ride, and my legs were already toast. Houghton Road was a 9 miles false flat into a brutal headwind. The mountains in the distance were our destination, but they never seemed to get any closer. By the time we hit E Sahuarita Rd, I needed a little liquid energy. My usual bonk killer, Red Bull was substituted for BAWLS... seemed like cocaine in a soda can. The next 11 miles to Nogales Hwy, were equally as brutal. We had a decent downhill but the headwind was incredibly strong. We got into a really good rhythm, taking several minute 25mph pulls... the wind was relentless. This ride couldn't be over soon enough. Eventually, my sugar/caffeine buzz wasted away and I was near bonk again. The jelly beans and snickers bar I had stashed away helped for awhile. The last straightaway into town was equally as long, boring and brutal as the rest. The wind wasn't as strong, but we never got that tailwind.

 After 68 miles of torture, I stopped at an intersection on Broadway... there was a red mini van to my left. The light changed and we both started pulling away. The lady driver sped in front of me by 15 ft, then made an immediate right into the gas station. I slammed on my brakes but this collision was inevitable. I crashed into the side of her car like a hockey player bouncing off the glass. She slammed on her brakes and I took off her mirror with my shoulder. This lady may have been the worst driver of all time. She freaked out because she thought she killed me... I didn't even fall down. My first reaction was to freak out on her, but she was so apologetic and scared that I had to calm her down. I was fine and there was no damage... except for her missing mirror and scratched up car. The next 7 miles home were a little more cautious. Drivers need to get there heads out of there asses... and stop texting while driving!!! Maybe next time, I'll take the bike path the long way home.

This ride was seriously tough. I recovered with an entire pizza and a nice tall soda. That evenings ice bath was the highlight. A few beers and some lounging around followed. A couple hours later, I couldn't help but take a run to Subway... I was already starving again.

Since I've been here I've ridden about 550 miles, ran 55 miles and knocked out 30,000 yards in the pool. Everything is aerobic, but I still need a little rest before I can get into any real mileage. Life is simple right now, and I am loving it. Money is tight, but I haven't spent much in the last two weeks. I've used a quarter tank of gas, and have only been out one night. Eat, sleep, train... repeat.


Jan 13, 2010

Climbing Mt. Lemmon

The 25 mile climb to SummerHaven was worth it. Look at that cookie!

I always considered myself a good climber, but I was never really certain. When it came to climbing roads in Cleveland, like Old Mill Road, I loved how easily I could go uphill. With that being said, I had no idea how 25 miles of sustained climbing would treat me... and then there was the altitude. I wasn't sure what I was in for.

I was lucky enough to have DJ Snyder in town from Houston for this workout. He was 4th M20-24 in Kona last year... he's the real deal. Climbing is much more enjoyable in the company of a good buddy. As we began the climb, I told DJ that my body has never been above 5000ft, except for in an airplane. He thought I would be in trouble once we hit 6000ft. SummerHaven, our turn around point, was a quick descent into the mountain after hitting 8300ft.

We started climbing and quickly found a good rhythm. The early miles seemed to fly by. I was so excited to finally climb Mt. Lemmon! The first several miles are some of the steepest with grades hitting above 8% consistently. I tried to relax as best as I could because I wanted to save my energy for higher elevation. After about 6 miles, I started feeling really good. We started to pick up the pace a little. In the first hour, we had climbed well past the 11 mile mark. I was very surprised at our pace up this mountain. We were now at about 5000ft above sea level, and I was patiently waiting to start sucking air.

Mile 15 - one and only break to put on arm warmers and a jacket

Right after we hit 5000ft, the terrain began to change dramatically. The desert landscape was replaced by forest. We were seeing evergreens, streams, and even a tiny bit of snow on the rocks. We kept the same pace up for the next several miles. We went through Windy Point and I was starting to wonder when the altitude would hit me. I still felt incredibly strong. The views from mile 14 - 16 are incredible...

After mile 17, it started to get a little chilly. However, the only sign of high altitude was the cold temperatures.  My body still felt really good, and I actually started climbing a little better towards the top. Again, we started to pick up the pace as we were enjoying some breathtaking views. At mile 21, we started to get excited. It was only one more mile before we began the small descent into SummerHaven. For the record, a few miles downhill at 8000ft above sea is exactly like riding in Cleveland in the winter. My toes, fingers and legs were numb. Once in SummerHaven, we went directly to the Cookie Cabin. There cookies were amazing, but I was more concerned with how awesome the fireplace felt on my cold limbs. We climbed 25 miles and 6400ft in 2:05... We thought we took it pretty conservatively too.

Getting back on the bikes with a pound of cookie dough in my throat was the hardest part. I finally started to feel the altitude. We had to climb 3 really tough miles out of SummerHaven, and the 40 degree weather didn't make it any easier. Luckily, the lady at the Cookie Cabin gave up some pizza boxes so we could stuff them in our jerseys for some insulation. Once reaching 8300ft again. It was finally time to descent! We had to be cautious for the first few miles because of all the snow and ice. There was almost a foot of snow in SummerHaven!

The descent was incredible to say the least. I threw my bike in the largest gear and started hammering downhill. I didn't touch the breaks for the first 8 miles. Right around mile 16, we were ripping down the mountain at 40+ with nothing but a straight drop to the desert floor to our left. It was incredible. The whole descent was the most exhilarating thing I had ever done in my life. This mountain was made for the descent... the courageous could bomb the whole thing without touching the brakes... maybe next time for me. We ended up finishing the 55 mile ride in just under 3.5 hours. The top speed on the descent was about 43mph.

For those people thinking about visiting me from Cleveland, you better start doing some hill intervals on your trainer because we are going right up that mountain. Be ready for the ride of you damn life.


Jan 11, 2010

1st BIG Saturday

On Saturday, I had been in Tucson for exactly one week. I had already logged 229 miles on the bike, and I was still planning on knocking out one more decently long ride. So far, the miles have treated me very well. The last time I cycled over 230 miles in a week, I was training in Lake Placid with peak fitness. Currently, I am really far from any fitness; however, the miles are flowing easily. All of my training has been very aerobic and easy, with the exception of a couple of hard pool sessions a week. I am really surprised on how easy it has been to put in the miles out here. The large variety of terrain and perfect weather makes training much easier. With that being said, I felt great on Saturday morning so I planned a pretty challenging 65 mile loop for my first longer ride.

I started the ride from my house at about 2400ft above sea level. It took about 15 minutes to get out of the city limits, but I was soon flying towards Mt. Lemmon on Kolb Rd. As I approached the foothills of Lemmon, the road turned upward. Even though I was only 25 minutes into the ride, I was already climbing a nice grade. Kolb Rd loops right at the base of Lemmon. The gradient was never too steep but it was a solid 20 minute climb before I started descending towards Sunrise. Even though the climb only reached about 3200ft above sea level, the view of Tucson is incredible. You can see the entire city with more mountains as the backdrop. From this elevation, I could see Gates Pass hovering over the Southwest part of the city. It wouldn’t be a couple hours until I got there, but I would have to save a little bit of energy.

The descent to Picture Rocks in long and fast! The road out west is about 10 miles long, but it was a gradual downhill the whole way. I was cruising at 26-32mph for most of the way. Once onto Picture Rocks, the road tilted upward again. This was a pretty short climb, no longer than Old Mill Road in Cleveland, but it reached a really steep gradient at the top. Once over Picture Rocks, the road was very rolling for the next 15 miles. About 50 miles into the ride, I started approaching Gates Pass from the backside (the tough side). I was already starting to get a little tired, but I would need to wake up if I was going to make it over.

Gates Pass rolls up and over this mountain.

The climb is about 3 miles in length from the bottom, but only the top sees really steep gradients. The first mile is very gradual. I started climbing the 4-6% grade rather easily. Once I reached the middle, the grade was 9-10% and I had to stand up. I got into a good rhythm, but I was trying to save energy for the top. The top of this climb was a 18% grade. I was working super hard and this point, but I could see relief in a minute or two. Looking back from the top was an absolutely incredible view of the desert to the west. The descent back into the city made up for the challenging climb. Before I knew it, I was cruising past University of Arizona, only 6 miles from home.

The view from the top of Gates Pass

I finished up the day with a quick 20 minute transition run, followed by a nice tall coke, an entire pizza, and a couple hours on the couch. Later I made myself an omelet… and even later I hit up In & Out Burger. I couldn’t resist.

On a side note, I found myself unwinding at a local bar that evening. I had the pleasure to drink with some of the best swimmers in the world. I believe there were about 6 Olympic medals and 1 current world record sitting at my table. I love Cleveland, but those kinds of credentials can’t be found at any of my old local watering holes. It ended up being a very cool evening to top off a really good week under the sun.


Jan 5, 2010

Winters Cycling Paradise

I’ve been in Tucson for a few days now and I don’t think I have stopped smiling the entire time. Lately, I’ve felt guilty talking to people from Cleveland. They are getting snowed in and frozen stiff, while I am cruising around in a jersey and shorts. The weather this time of year is unbelievable. When the sun is down, it can be a little chilly, like in the 40s, which is actually very comfortable compared to Cleveland. Once the sun comes out, it heats up fast. Lately, it has been in the low 70s for most of the days. When the sun is shining and the sky is blue, it’s hard to not be outside enjoying life.

On Sunday, I headed out for my first ride here. I waited until noon to head out because I wanted it to be warm. The weather felt like the most beautiful summers day in Cleveland, no wind, blue sky, and a warm sun… hard to remember that it was Jan 3rd.  It’s hard to know where to ride when you are new to a city. Luckily, I got in contact with Doug Friman, a member of the US Olympic triathlon team. He gave me the low down on the entire cycling scene in Tucson. Sundays ride headed north towards Mt. Lemmon. On a side note, my favorite part of living here is walking into my back yard and staring up at Mt. Lemmon. It is incredible. It took about 30 minutes to get out of the city limits. Even though there are way too many stop lights, the city riding isn’t horrible because of the wide bike lanes. Once outside of the city limits, I headed into the foothills of Mt. Lemmon. It was a fairly flat ride that headed straight through some really beautiful neighborhoods. I rode all the way to Oro Valley before swinging back towards town. The ride ended up being a little longer than I thought it would be, but I couldn't get myself to turn back home. I ended up riding about 60 miles in a little less than 3 hours. My legs were super heavy towards the end of the ride. It was a subtle reminder of how out of shape I actually am. My legs will come around soon enough.

On Monday, I headed out a little bit earlier. I was in the low 50s when I began, so I got to try out my new leg warmers. Monday’s route was much different. Instead of heading northwest towards Oro Valley, I headed northeast. I found this route way better for riding. I was out of the city in less than 20 minutes and within 35 minutes I was cruising by ranches near the base of Mt. Lemmon. This ride may be my new 2 hour loop. It was perfectly isolated from traffic, the views were spectacular, the road was rolling, the road was well paved, and the loop was fast! The only tough section was the 4 mile stretch heading south towards the Air Force base. It was up a gentle 3-4% grade but into a nasty headwind. Although, I wasn’t complaining much when I turned right onto Valencia and started ripping at 26-28mph all the way home. The weather was perfect again. It was a little cooler than Sunday, and I was fine with keeping my arm warmers on the entire ride. I ended up getting in 43 miles in less than 2 hours. My legs were heavy again towards the end.

Today, I am finally getting settled into the new place. I finally got some groceries and am getting around to putting all my stuff away. My roommates won’t be here until this weekend, so I still have a little bit of time to get fully settled. Being alone it great for now, but I am sure I will be able to use the company in a few days. The plan for today is pretty simple. A have a second interview this afternoon, then some swimming and running. I am pretty excited for my first outdoor practice since the summer. With the temps in the 60s, it should be a nice evening for a swim.

For everyone in Cleveland… enjoy the snow.

Jan 1, 2010

Memphis To El Paso

There is something about driving through western Texas that really sets the mind at ease. As the sun sets across the Texas sky, all we can see are mountains in the distance. For hours we’ve passed oil fields and wind farms. There isn’t much out here, but you can see for miles. We’ll be in El Paso in a few hours. It’s been another long day on the road. Tomorrow morning we’ll finish the drive into Tucson completing our 2000 mile road trip.

Memphis to Arlington – After a late night in Memphis and 6 hours of sleep, we piled back into the car and headed towards Texas. The trip started to get really boring when we entered Arkansas. I’ve driven straight across Kansas… I thought that was the worst drive in the country. Arkansas is right up there. The attendant at the only gas station we stopped at look at us like we were aliens. The gas station had a nice hunting and fishing theme. Very appropriate for the area. Let's just say we didn't fit in to well. To make this drive any worse, it continued to rain all the way into Dallas. We finally made it to Arlington just in time to watch an old friend’s band jam out. After their band practice, we headed out to Sunshine, a bar I haven’t frequented in many years (when I was 19, we spent two weeks in Arlington because our band ran out of money and we couldn’t make it to the next city). Like all of my friends in Texas, the bar had not changed much. Before midnight, we made it out to a New Years party. I’m glad there aren’t any pictures from this party because I wouldn’t be posting them!

Arlington to El Paso – Another 5 hours of sleep last night… That brings the trip total to 16 in three nights. We hit the road a little late today because it was hard to find a quick ride back to our car. We knew we’d be in for a long day on the road. It was another 10 hours to El Paso, and we’re both running on fumes. I haven’t trained since the day before we left. My body is stiff and dehydrated. The only thing that is making this drive any better is the beautiful weather and good music. The closer we get to El Paso, the cooler the landscape gets. We’ve been seeing cacti since an hour west of Fort Worth, and it is only getting more interesting as we head farther west. We’ll be in El Paso soon. Hopefully, we’ll settle into a hotel and find some authentic Mexican food. Should be another fun night, as long as we don’t stumble anywhere near Juarez… then it could be our last night.

Arizona in the morning… can’t wait.

PS What I've learned so far... The margaritas are strong in El Paso, the music is great in Memphis, and Texas has great parties.