Training Tuesday: halfway through TRI101

So last week marked the halfway point in the Fleet Feet TRI101 program. I can definitely see a big difference in my overall fitness level, although (as I learned on Sunday in the gym) I am not nearly as strong as I was when I was lifting regularly. This is in part due to the garbage diet I’ve been following; too many carbs, not enough protein, and probably too much fat to boot. That’s one of the things I want to focus on in the upcoming weeks as I start reintegrating lifting into my workouts. The bricks we’ve been doing at TRI101 class have been really helpful, too, along with the many small tips and tricks that the more experienced athletes and coaches have been sharing.

I continue to be tempted by signing up for more races, but at the same time I’m growing more nervous: my first real tri is in less than two weeks, and it’s hard to judge whether I’m ready for it or not. On the other hand, my friend Dana just ran her first sprint tri and finished 2nd in her age group— so it proves that even your first race can go well. My goals for the Shelburne tri are to not burn up all my energy in the swim. The bike ride is a longer distance than any I’ve done so far, so I’d like to finish that at my same ~15mph pace, and then get the run done in under 35 minutes. We’ll see how that goes.

The past week’s workouts:

  • Tuesday we bricked as part of our weekly class: 34:46 for 8.45mi on the bike plus a weak, slow 15:01 to run 1.41mi. As a bonus, I split my forehead open in transition and had to go get stitches, so I couldn’t swim for a little while.
    WP 20140617 003Like my old man always said: it’s not a project until blood has been shed
  • Wednesday I met up with a group of triathletes for a brick south of the airport. Damn, it was hot. 55:01 for 12 miles on the bike plus a super short 8:15 run of 0.8 miles. For some reason I didn’t get any cadence data from this ride. The reason turned out to be simple: the magnet that the cadence sensor senses fell off somewhere. I replaced it with several Buckyballs, which I stuffed into the pedal hole on the crank; a piece of electrical tape holds them securely in place and now I get cadence data again.
  • Thursday I skipped my normal morning run— after a race last Saturday, a long ride Monday, and bricks Tuesday and Wednesday I was ready for a break. I took Friday off too.
  • Saturday I volunteered at the Monster Tri. It was great fun; I saw a bunch of my tri friends and got a close-up look at how transition is supposed to work. I also took a bunch of pictures, some of which were better than others.
  • Sunday I dragged myself to the pool and swam ~ 500yd. I still don’t think my watch is counting swim laps right. Then I carried my tired self over to the weight room and got a lift in for the first time in about two months. I felt weak but good when done, and the DOMS I had yesterday and today is a small price to pay (especially since my glutes and hams were already sore before I even got there.)
  • Monday I geared up and went to downtown Athens for the 15-mile beginner ride that a group of local cyclists holds… but the weather wasn’t cooperating.WP 20140623 002

    Not acceptable weather for instrument flight or VFR bicycling

    Rather than get hit by lightning, I elected to go home. I didn’t even get to test the sweet handlebar mount I made for my watch so I can see cadence and speed data on the go: a trip to Home Depot yielded a piece of pipe insulation that was just right for holding it. However, I am confident that it will work.

     WP 20140624 004Nothing like a little Cajun engineering

     

Right now I’m hoping that the weather will clear so I can go on to TRI101, where we have a workout cleverly named “Rick’s Special” after our lead coach– it’s a 2 mi bike + 1 mi run brick, repeated as many times as possible. Should be fun!

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Thursday trivia #108

First, my thoughts and condolences are with the families of the pilots killed in the Westwind II crash at Huntsville yesterday. 
  • I don’t normally post on political topics here… but if you believe that six key IRS employees just happened to lose all of their email, at the same time, in a manner that’s not recoverable, then I have some hope and change I’d like to sell you. Government agencies and large companies pay large sums of money to prevent exactly that type of occurrence.
  • This looks pretty interesting: “Loss of Signal: Aeromedical Lessons Learned from STS-107
  • Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the first successful demonstration of an autopilot. We’ve come a long way since then.
  • Having two teenage sons both driving has reacquainted me with all the reasons I don’t like auto insurance companies. Every six months, when I write that check, my dislike for them peaks.
  • I’m loving the World Cup, but oddly I don’t care much about soccer in general. Go figure. I must be an American.

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Training Tuesday: gearing up

It’s amazing how much crap you can buy for triathlon training. I already had running shoes and a bike; since then I’ve bought a watch, a cadence sensor, a wetsuit, goggles, a race hydration belt, and an assortment of other odds and ends. Yesterday I finally broke down and bought swim fins, a kick board, and a swim pacing timer— not because I need those for the race but because I need them for the drills my swim coach is giving me, and if I actually spend money on the gear I will feel obligated to do the drills. Commitment device FTW! In the same vein, since it was about 25% more expensive to buy a wetsuit than rent one, I bought one for my upcoming triathlon in Vermont… but now, having bought one, I feel like I need at least one more open-water tri to justify it. Candidates include the Lone Star Sprint in Galveston (which seems to have a permanently broken web site), the Frantic Frog in Scottsboro, the Tri-Rock in Austin, the Tawas Festival of Races, or maybe one of these.

I think I am done buying stuff for this tri season, unless I break or lose something— certainly not out of the question. I think I’d like a heart rate monitor but that’s just because I like looking at pretty graphs, not because I think it would help my training. At this point I need to stick to the plan, be a little more careful about what I eat, and start getting some actual races under my belt. More experienced cyclists have suggested changing the big semi-knobby hybrid tires on my bike for thinner road tires, and I might do that, but we’ll see how my first race or two goes. I figure I can always buy more crap later, but having more stuff isn’t going to make me go any faster or train any harder.

This week’s workouts:

  • Tuesday and Wednesday I was out of town and didn’t do anything.
  • Thursday I went back to Bridge Street for another group run. I felt really slow starting off, but in the end I ran 4.67 miles in about 47:25— a new distance record for me. (In fact it was a bit longer because my watch didn’t start timing when I thought it did). This was a real confidence boost, because if I can run that distance well that puts me in good position to complete a 10K. I’ll do better this week, too; at once point I stopped to walk because the group in front of me had run out of sight and I didn’t know where the planned route was, so I waited for the group behind me to catch up.
  • Friday I swam. Maybe 475m, maybe 500m, maybe 600m. It depends on which set of data from my watch you believe, as I wasn’t manually counting laps.
  • Saturday I ran the Alabama A&M Cross-Country 5K. I ran it in 31:59, which is certainly not great. The course features a good-sized hill, though, so that’s my excuse. I saw a ton of folks from my TRI101 class, which was cool, and it was a good workout. Plus each finisher got a hand-painted souvenir rock instead of Yet Another T-Shirt, so that was cool.
  • Sunday, I celebrated Fathers’ Day by not doing anything exercise-related. I did eat a steak, though, and I think that should count.
  • Monday I joined the local Kreme Delite group (so called because that’s where we ride from) and did 12.51 mi in 55:29. I got to the ride site a few minutes late, and the group had already left, so I blundered around trying to find the correct street for the route, then encountered another late rider along the way— so he and I rode the route, only to find a big group at the finish line. Note to self: be on time for next time.

On to the next!

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Does Azure Machine Learning open the door for on-premises Office Graph?

Microsoft continues to expand the reach of its Azure services by introducing new capabilities, seemingly on a daily basis. Today I was surprised to see an announcement for the new Azure Machine Learning service (more background in this NY Times article). The link for the service apparently isn’t live yet, though.

The availability of this service raises some interesting questions around Office Graph, the set of nifty social-ish features that Microsoft introduced at SPC and reiterated at MEC and TechEd. We recently learned that, at least for now, there are no plans to offer Office Graph, and its associated features, to on-premises customers in the next release of Exchange Server. Carefully parse that statement; it could mean anything from “there will never be Office Graph features in on-prem Exchange” to “we can change our plans and include them at any time.”

It’s fair to say that Office Graph is designed to leverage the high scale of Office 365, and that because it is a resource-intesive group of processes and services, that there’s likely to be a lot of infrastructure for management, monitoring, and tuning of its components— not necessarily something that could trivially be unleashed on the existing base of on-premises customers. I’d bet that these services have a lot of interconnections, too. However, if Microsoft is adopting the Amazon approach of  “everything is a service”, as they seem to be, you’d think that having some parts of Office Graph running on Azure ML is not only possible but probable. And the Azure folks are clearly comfortable with hybrid environments, as witness the fact that the Forza 5 and Titanfall video games on Xbox One both make extensive use of Azure-based resources.

So, if Office Graph is (or could be) consuming Azure ML as a service, it would seem to lower the barrier for getting Office Graph-related services into on-prem Exchange. I’ll be watching closely to see what Microsoft announces, and even more closely to see what they do, around this issue— it seems like the best possible world would be one where on-prem customers can harness the scale of Azure to get access to Office Graph features and where Microsoft doesn’t have to engineer a complete support system around on-prem variants of the Office Graph components. Stay tuned…

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Thursday trivia #107

  • “Learned helplessness” is totally a thing, but perhaps some people are more prone to it than others
  • If I were critically injured, I would be totally OK with having my blood replaced with freezing salt water to “pause” my metabolism long enough for the ED docs to fix me up. 
  • In the past two weeks I’ve started watching 3 new shows: Longmire, Orange is the New Black (thoroughly enjoying it so far), and Halt and Catch Fire (atmospheric, but they muff a lot of technical details and the MacMillan character seems a straight ripoff of Don Draper). However, that’s all about to go by the wayside for two reasons: my “pre-order” list at Amazon is about to blow up with new books, and the World Cup is starting today.
  • Hopefully the airplane will be fixed in time for our scheduled trip to Perrysburg. If not, second prize  is the Fathers’ Day Weekend Inferno at Anaheim Chili.

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Training Tuesday: more of the same

[ I know this is a day late but the draft was sitting on my computer at home and I couldn’t post it yesterday. C’est la vie. ]

My weightlifting training should have been pretty easy: I had a daily eating plan and a scheduled list of workouts. All I had to do was stick with that schedule. The effort involved, of course, came from actually lifting the weights (and, sometimes, getting my lazy ass off the sofa and going to the gym). That is one of the key aspects of the Fleet Feet TRI101 program for me: the training schedule is laid out, day by day. In theory, all you have to do is follow it and you will, almost inevitably, get better at the individual events. But what if you deviate from it… for example, by mixing in races? I guess I’m going to find out. My first multisport event was on Saturday: the brand-new Mountain Deux aquathlon (a rather stupid name; it’s a ~5K trail run followed by a 200m swim).

I signed up for two more sprints, too: the Tarpon Tri in Houma (200m swim, 10mi bike, 5K run; super flat course but August in Louisiana, yikes!) and the RaceVermont Sprint in Shelburne, Vermont (where I’ll get to see Julie and her family, and for which I had to rent a wetsuit— Lake Champlain is cold!) I am a little nervous about the Vermont race because it’s a longer bike distance than I’m used to, and the swim portion is 500m of open water. It’ll be a fun challenge though.

Workouts since my last post:

  • Tuesday: in TRI101 class, we had a 40-minute group run scheduled. It was 88° when we took off, but I still managed 4.0 miles in 40:04. I’ll take it, but maaaaan, I was sweaty when we finished. I also had a swimming lesson, which went poorly— I am still having a hard time getting my stroke and breathing coordinated, and the drills Lisi taught me mostly just made me frustrated that I wasn’t doing them well.
  • Wednesday: I took a short ride to test my new cadence/speed sensor. Just under 7 mi in about 31 minutes.
  • Thursday: I had a root canal around noon, so I wanted to get a run in early. A local group of runners meets at Bridge Street for a 4.5 mile run, so I dragged out of bed at 0515 to join them. There were storm clouds building when we stepped off, then we started getting a really impressive lightning display about 1.5 mi into the run, so we cut it really short. 2.67mi in 23:14, which felt great— that’s very close to my “good” 5K race pace. The threat of getting zapped by lightning obviously helped, given my pace on the last part of the race. I love it that the watch gathers enough pace data to show the two (short) intervals when I took a walk/water break— those sharp downwards spikes.
    NewImage
  • Friday I swam 600m: in 3 sets:100, 400, and 100 again. I haven’t been doing the drills that Lisi prescribed, which means she’s been fussing at me.
  • Saturday was the Mountain Deux. See my full report here.
  • Sunday I had planned to do a brick, but wasn’t feeling well so I punked out. The schedule had a programmed day off anyway so I didn’t feel too badly about it.
  • Monday I had another swim lesson with Lisi. She introduced me to the notion of holding a steady stroke count, as well as giving me a whole bunch of drills. I swam about 450m, plus at least another 300m or so of drills. Then for fun, I took a bike ride through part of Limestone County— beautiful country scenery, followed by a big rainstorm once I was safely at home with the gear put away. This was the farthest distance I’ve ridden so far, just over 12 miles, and after finishing it I feel better about the Vermont distance.

This week I need to focus on getting in the pool!

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My first multisport event: Mountain Deux

Like every other endeavor, endurance sports have their own lexicons. Most people know what a triathlon is, but it’s a little unclear what to call a two-event competition. Turns out, it depends on which two events are involved: a bike/run combo is usually known as a duathlon, and a swim/run combo is apparently known as an aquathlon. I found this out more or less by accident; one of my TRI101 training teammates said he had signed up for Mountain Deux, an aquathlon here in Huntsville. It looked like fun so I signed up too, then ran it yesterday. The course was a hilly trail totaling just over 2 miles, followed by a 200m swim in a very nice, and nearly brand-new, saltwater pool. Sounds like fun, right? Turns out that it was!

Friday night I packed my gear: two towels (one to wrap my wet, muddy clothes in), swim cap and goggles, a change of clothes, and my race belt. Then, bright and early Saturday morning, I headed over to the race area, the Three Caves trail system. The race was small, so there wasn’t much in the way of check-in or registration; I found the transition area, staged my gear, and chatted with friends (including borrowing some bug spray and getting my race number inscribed on my arm) until it was time to start. We actually started from the Three Caves themselves, which means the first leg of the race was all uphill. This was not my favorite. After that initial climb, I settled into a slow and fairly steady pace, terrain permitting.

NewImage

The race course

Thursday and Friday the whole Huntsville area got hammered with rain and thunderstorms, so I was expecting a wet trail, and I wasn’t disappointed. I was surprised by how rocky the trail was. Big rocks, little rocks, flat rocks, pointy rocks: I didn’t feel like I was running so much as I was dodging, stepping over, or hurdling rocks. The last time I ran a trail race, in 2010, I turned an ankle while fording a creek when I stepped on a rock, so I’ve avoided trails since then.Where the trail was not rocky, it was slick and muddy. This definitely made it more challenging than my typical flat-surface runs. I ended up walking about a third of the trail overall, which hurt my time. The last leg of the race was all downhill, which was even more challenging because of the slippery ground. I nearly face planted a couple of times, but survived uninjured.

Transition was super easy: off came the long pants, shirt, shoes, and socks; on went the goggles and cap, and splash! Into the pool.

The swim was easy. I wasn’t trying to swim particularly fast, and I didn’t (although my watch mysteriously didn’t capture a time for the swim, and the event didn’t provide split times). I felt smooth in the water though, which is a big improvement. It was only 200m, so the short distance certainly helped make it feel easier.

My finishing time was 36:59, which more or less agrees with my watch time if you add in the missing swim. I didn’t have any particular expectations since this was so different than my normal race fare; I’m happy to have finished, uninjured, and I learned a few things: I can run just fine without music, it’s a bad idea to accidentally spray bug spray on your water bottle’s mouth unless you like numb lips, and trail running actually can be fun.

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