Monthly Archives: September 2007

Optygen: How Interesting!

I heard about Optygen many years ago but didn’t think much of supplements until just recently when I started taking SportLegs. I looked into Optygen and found that the Discovery Channel cycling team uses it so that does give it some legitimacy. Looking into the ingredients, apparently there are herbs from Tibet that increase VO2 max, reduce lactic acid, among other things. I thought to myself, “Exactly what I need!” and about 2 weeks ago began taking it. I did not know what to expect and hoped for the best.
Yesterday, I saw what I thought were the first two positive results of taking these Matrix-like “red pills”.
Our coach tells us to do this workout called the “lungbuster” which is a 400m pulling session whereby you breathe every 3rd stroke on the first 100, every 5th stroke on the second, every 7th stroke on the third, and finally every 9th stroke. To date, I have never been able to make it to the 9th; I am always out of breath by the end of the every-7th-breath-100m and have to fall back to every 3rd or 5th on the last 100. Yesterday, I could actually maintain breathing every 7th stroke all the way to the end of the 4th 100m. I still could not do every 9th, but maintaining every 7th was a significant improvement in lung capacity from before.
Then my second positive result was when I went for a 5 hour ride afterwards. I went climbing, and then did a rolling hills course after climbing back home. Not once was I breathing hard. My breath was very controlled and I did not feel any discomfort at all, whereas I sometimes do maintaining pace back home.
I am very encouraged by these results and think that Optygen seems to be creating them. I have to admit that taking all these funny chemicals, vitamins, and herbs into my body is a bit unnerving though; but that which does not kill me or the Discovery Channel cycling team must make me stronger, right?
More on this as I train towards NYC Marathon and then Ironman Western Australia.

I2A: Training by Time versus Distance

If you look around training programs, you’ll see that there are two camps for coaches: those that give you training programs by distance, and those that train you by time.
If you don’t know the difference, it simply means that some coaches and/or training programs tell you to train by swimming/cycling/running a certain distance per workout. The theory is, that if you hit a certain amount of distance at the right time and amount, you’ll be able to complete a race. Training by time, in contrast, focuses on being out there and swimming/cycling/running for a certain amount of time and not be concerned about the exact distance covered.
In moving from beginner to intermediate triathlete, I have found some interesting elements to training with either:
1. I started training for my first marathon by training with distance. As a beginner, I think that training by distance is more advantageous to you than training by time. This is because you don’t know exactly how long it will take you to complete a race. WIthout knowing, you may be under-prepared for a race if you trained using a time system geared towards more experienced athletes because more experienced athletes will be able to cover more distance in the same amount of time. By actually going the distance, you can train your body and mind to know how long it will take to complete a race, to prepare it for surviving the distance both mentally and physically, and to know what will happen to your body, joints, and mind for being out there that long. Otherwise, you’ll find out at the race itself and it could be rude shock to your system, which I feel is totally unnecessary if you had prepared sufficiently.
2. Once your experience with racing grows, you get faster, and you start knowing your body better. You can then start moving towards training with time, knowing when you can approximately complete a race. You can just train with quality up to about that time and you’ll be prepared by race time. An example would be when I was training for Ironman Brazil and I would do these 30+ minute hill repeats up Old La Honda, which was only 3.3 miles to the top. I would do enough hill repeats to be out there for 5 hours, but my total distance would only be about 50 miles. But yet this gave me enough fitness and strength to complete the much flatter Ironman Brazil bike course of 112 miles in 6:15.
3. With swimming, I use a combination of distance and time. I swim one 45 min, one 1:30, and one 2 hour workout each week to prepare for Ironman. Each workout varies in distance depending on the workout itself. But I know that in my 2 hour workout, I will cross 4000+ meters which will be sufficient enough to complete the Ironman swim.
4. When training for triathlon, the cross training factor really helps. All the mileage I put in on the bike really translates to fitness on the run. Thus, when I peak for Ironman, I usually am swimming a 4000+ workout, riding a 6 hour ride and do a run of 2:45 in the same week. All that saves me from killing my joints and needing to run 3+ hours, which some training programs tell you to do. In that 2:45, I usually reach a max of 16-17 miles; hardly the 21-24 miles that some training programs tell you to do. But I know that the cross training effects mean raised overall fitness and I don’t have to go the actual distance.
5. Knowing your race times means you can train for that time, and not worry so much about distance. For example, I know that I can ride the 112 miles of Ironman in 6-6:30 hours. Thus, if I ride with quality (not just cruising) for about 6 hours, I know I can complete the 112 miles of a race without actually covering 112 miles in training.
6. By the way, you can’t be cruising in training with time. You need to train with quality and smarts and not just think that if you jog or cruise the time, you’re going to be OK when race time hits. That happened to me during Ironman Austria. Thinking that I could just ride the same rolling hills course to prepare really screwed me when I got to the hills of Austria.
Switching from training with distance to training with time was a real signal to me that I was getting truly familiar with my body and fitness level, and knowing what it takes to train for Ironman without overdoing it and risking injury.

Swimming Cheek to Shoulder

In the last USMS Swimmer magazine, there was an article depicting a swimmer showing perfect streamline, one arm extended, form in the water. She was practicing the extension to pierce the water in as needle-like form as possible, and practicing to maintain this form. One thing they talked about was the fact that her head in the correct position resulted in her cheek being against her shoulder while her arm was extended forward into full extension for the stroke.
I have form that really falls apart when I try to swim faster, and also when I get tired. I really wanted to improve my ability to maintain perfect streamline form while swimming at high stroke rates. To that end, I began swimming like the woman in the article and making sure my arm was fully extended and that my cheek would touch my shoulder briefly before I began my stroke. The other thing I began doing was breathing only once every 4 strokes. This allowed me to hold my head in a stationary position and not be disturbed so much by taking a breath. I could rotate my body back and forth along the line dictated by my head and neck and make sure everything was in line and not swaying back and forth, causing drag.
So I began swimming that way. Certainly taking less breaths was challenging, but I seemed to have gotten used to that by now. If I need to take an extra breath, I’ll take another breath after my last one and then go back to once every 4 strokes. But it does help me to relax and try to be very efficient in the water.
The other thing I noticed was that by touching my cheek to my shoulder, it made sure that my arm was fully extended on each stroke. Pulling so much while having my arm extended caused knots to form in my serratus and lats, and my pecs began to get sore as well. I am sure this is my body’s way of adjusting to the more extended stroke. It also made me realize how short my strokes really were, and how more efficient they could be.
I dealt with the knots with lots of ART and some reduced swimming until my muscles adapted.
The result: I am more easily maintaining fairly fast (for me) swim times for 50 and 100 meters. I am finding that I can keep a faster speed for a longer period of time, than the way I was swimming before this cheek to shoulder/less breathing method. Keeping my body in a better streamline was also helping me maintain speed and not lose speed between strokes.