Summer 2010 Training Part 4: Run

Before cross country really gets going in full swing, and the school year for that matter, I want to finish off this series of posts about my summer training. This is the last post of a four-part series.

While much of this summer was focused on triathlons, at this point in my athletic career I am still a runner first, triathlete second. With each training session I did, the underlying question was always, “How will this prepare me for cross country?” In the beginning, since I was forced by my recovering knee to slowly increase my running volume, I figured any amount aerobic activity would help. I slowly increased my running volume to 60 miles in 6 days/week and held that throughout the summer.

As I explained in Part 1, each week was laid out about the same. I wanted to get it one workout, one long run, strides 2-3x, and the rest easy-moderate running (often over hilly terrain). My workout generally consisted of a fartlek or a lactate threshold (LT).

My favorite fartlek comes from Coach Heins that we do several times each season: 5-4-3-2-1-1-2-3-4-5 with half rest. So it starts with 5 minutes “on,” followed by 2.5 minutes recovery. Next we do 4 minutes with 2 minutes recovery, and so on. The workout gets tough on the way back up. On the 2nd 3 minute pick up you will only have 1 minute rest before it, while the 1st 3 minute pick up had 2 minutes rest before. See how that could get difficult?

My LT’s were generally about 5-6 miles and I often went off of heart rate. Before the workout I might set an alarm on the Garmin to alert me if I go over, say, 175bpm. If I do, I must slow down. There’s no magic to these kind of workouts. Just a long sustained effort that will obviously make you strong physically as well as mentally.

I did most of my long runs with Chris Baird out at Sycamore Canyon. It is a great trail with a steady incline for the first 6.5 miles or so before reaching a pretty tough climb. I am a big believer in the power of the long run and the many benefits that come along with doing them weekly. As long as I’m training to be running, as a single sport athlete or triathlete, I will always find a place for long runs in my training.

Before each race I also did a little tune up session on the track. Some mixture of 800s, 400s and 200s. The purpose of these was just to get in some race pace or slightly faster than race pace running so I could feel what running fast feels like.

So with this post I conclude my summer. I start graduate school tomorrow, which I am a little anxious for. I am also beginning my final cross country season which I know will provide many great memories and blog posts!

Summer 2010 Triathlon Training Part 1

Two hours/day

That’s what I told my friend and NAU teammate, Tim “Rube” Freriks, that my training plan would look like while recovering from knee surgery in March. It’s kind of like one of those clich??s — “An apple a day keep the doctor away.” Since I already love apples and eat my fair share of fruit each day, my mantra to getting healthy and back to what I consider normal was, to be specific, “two hours of aerobic activity each day”. . . or about 14 hours/week.

After reading about my recent successes in triathlons, and sharing that I had been been pushing well beyond that 14-hour level, Tim asked that I elaborate on what my training has looked like this summer. Because I like to get specific, I have decided to make a 4-part series on what my summer triathlon training has consisted of. This post, Part 1, will serve as an overview of my recovery from surgery, beginning full time training and what a typical week looks like. Parts 2-4 will focus on swim/bike/run specifically.


First and foremost, I have no doubts that surgery was the right answer. I suffered with knee pain from December until March, and was often limited to five or ten minutes of running at a time. Rehab began just one day after surgery with quad strengthening exercises. In the coming days rehab included range of motion exercises, massage, and eventually squats and lunges.

As I was promised by the doctor, I was able to resume running within a couple weeks of surgery, but at a much lower volume than I had anticipated. Still today I am running quite a bit less than my normal volume from before the knee pain began.

Full Time Training

Since my surgery, my training volume has slowly increased. It began with 20 minutes on the elliptical and peaked a couple of weeks ago at 19 hours, well above my 14-hour target. Below is a chart of my progression this summer.

Typical Week

When reading about professional athletes, one of my favorite insights into their lives is how they structure their days and weeks. Now that I am getting involved in triathlons, I have learned that balancing all three sports with appropriate recovery is no small feat. I, of course, am no professional and don’t have a coach, so I have done my best to create a schedule that I think meets my needs. This is an ideal week, and consists of about 18,000 yards swimming, 110-130 miles biking, and 60 miles running for a total of 17-19 hours:

  • Monday – For the second consecutive summer I am working as an Intern at ITT Aerospace Controls in Valencia. I get up around 6:30, eat breakfast and make my lunch, and arrive at work around 7:30. I get off about 4 and head straight to the gym to get in a swim workout — usually 5000 yards. Then it is home, dinner, and on the bike trainer for about an hour.
  • Tuesday – Go to work until 4. After work I do a 10-11 mile running workout.
  • Wednesday – TGIF; last day of work for the week. Regular run of about 9-10 miles and an unstructured swim of about 3000 yards after dinner.
  • Thursday – 8am: 8-10 mile run in the morning followed by a large breakfast. noonish: 5000 yard swim. 4pm: 20-25 mile bike ride.
  • Friday – similar schedule to Thursday.
  • Saturday – Long run in the morning, 14-15 miles.
  • Sunday – Long bike, 50-60+ miles. After the ride I refuel and rest for a little while and then run 6-7 miles.

I am glad Tim gave me the idea to do this as I know I will be delighted to read these posts in the future months, as I finish my collegiate running career, and years, as I continue as an aspiring triathlete. Expect the next three parts in the next week.

First Ride to Snowbowl

Humphreys Peak (12,637 feet)

Today was a brilliantly sunny, warm Spring day in Flagstaff. Conveniently, this was the first weekend of the year that Arizona Snowbowl was closed for skiing. There is still quite a bit of snow on the trails, however, so this means that car traffic is light and bicycle traffic is heavy.

Shortly after waking up and enjoying a banana and bowl of cereal (I love that you can eat before/during a bike ride, as opposed to swimming and running where you have to really watch what/when you eat), I headed out to meet up with Jared Threw, a member of NAU’s TriJack team that placed 29th at last week’s Collegiate National Championships (he was 58th and 1st for the team).

The view from 9,300 feet

We headed north on Highway 180 until we reached the road to Snowbowl, where the ascent began. This was probably the longest climb I have ever done (about 6 miles and ~2,000 feet of elevation gain) and I loved it! I will definitely be seeking out more climbs in the future. I need to work on my descending though, as Jared dropped me within the first few minutes.

I brought along my new JVC HD Memory camera that I got from my cousins Hanna and Dina as an early graduation gift. I took a few shots while riding and put it in a video (with some Weezer in the background, of course).

Weekly totals

This week I wasn’t able to put in quite as many hours as last week because of the heavy school load. I still managed 13 hours and 20 minutes with 5:27 running (45 miles), 5:02 swimming (14.15 km) and 2:50 biking (50.6 miles). With reading week ahead, I am hoping to get back over the 2 hours/day mark and continue to improve my fitness. I want to hit 50 miles of running, 20 km of swimming, and a couple of bike rides.

Weekly Updates

In my effort to turn all those I am acquainted with into runners, Tina has begun reading Once A Runner, hands down the best novel ever written about running. Naturally I have picked it back up and have read a few of the early chapters. While describing Bruce Denton’s prowess, the idea of a secret to running is introduced. Basically, there is no secret. The Secret is that you must run and run over years to reach your full potential. I have certainly followed this principle in my running career and have seen the rewards, especially over the last year.

Since I have been unable to run my usual volume I have taken to the pool, and more recently to the bicycle, with this same principle in mind. As Jordan Rapp, Ironman champion, put it on Twitter, “it’s the same ‘secret’ as running – swim a lot, swim regularly, & swim fast.” Hopefully the work I put in now, in addition to what I did before my surgery, will pay dividends when I begin to pursue triathlons full-time.

Weekly Updates

Since my surgery I have slowly been building my mileage. As a reference, my first week after surgery I did 20 minutes on an elliptical machine. Subsequent weeks had ~4, 5, 8, and 11 hours total of exercise. This last week I was able to get in 14 hours and 14 minutes of exercise, including 2:50 biking (2x’s, 59.68 miles), 4:53 running (6x’s, 40.85 miles) and 6:21 swimming (6x’s, 18km).

As the semester winds down I will be able to offer more detail into my weekly training.

“Only a fifth of what you normally do”

A month ago today I had surgery to remove Plica in my left knee. I am happy to say that I am now swimming, biking and running with some consistency. I have been doing a lot of rehab, nearly everyday since the day after my surgery, and I have to thank our team trainer Cherise for all of her help. She has so many athletes to care for and she always finds time to help me with exercises, ultrasound, and reassuring me that I’ll be back out there soon while I watch my teammates run workouts on the track.

Earlier this week I told Tim Freriks (Nicknamed “Rube” because he is our lone ranger freshman. You should hear his jokes.) that I was hoping to run about 20 to 25 miles this week. He responded with a chuckle and, “That’s like what? Only a fifth of what you normally do?” While my mileage is much lower right now, I am simply happy to be out there again, improving everyday, and not worrying about if/when my knee will hurt again. As of now I am still very glad that I decided to get the surgery. I have an appointment to see the doctor on Thursday so I should have a better idea of how my recovery is coming along.

Bus Canyon, Simi Valley, California
One of the views from one of my favorite runs

Since my last post I have been home for Spring break, back to school for 4 days, then home again to see my great aunt and uncle from Denmark. It is always nice spending time at home, especially this time of year when the hills of Simi Valley are all green. The little running I was able to do was truly a pleasure. I am so glad that I already have the perspective to realize “how good we had it” running as a youth and in high school. I feel like I have written this countless times over the last year on this blog: those trails are rich with memories.

Going home has a new perk this semester: Tina. My girlfriend Tina graduated from NAU in December, graduating with a double major in just 3.5 years. What a stud. Unfortunately this means that she isn’t in Flagstaff anymore. Long distance relationships aren’t my idea of fun, but this is just a passing thing.

Speaking of graduation, I have just over a month left of my undergraduate career! What’s even more exciting is that last weekend I received an acceptance letter to NAU’s Master of Engineering program. I still have at least an entire year of eligibility left and doing grad school seemed like the best way to make the most of my time here in Flagstaff.

Now that I am running more I should have more material. In the coming days I am hoping to have a good idea of what my goals will be for the next 6 months or so. (It’s crazy to think that cross country nationals were 5 months ago.)

Happy Spring!

FINALLY On With Recovery

Wednesday I had arthroscopic surgery on my left knee to remove Plica. I was told that the surgery was successful and that the it was the largest Plica the doctor had ever removed. Apparently it was about the size of two quarters and had begun wearing?? a groove in my patella. One of my reservations about the surgery was the possibility that the doctor might not find anything in the knee causing the pain. Needless to say, I was happy to hear he found what we were looking for.

The pain has been pretty minimal. I have been taking ibuprofen during the day and one Hydrocodone before I go to bed at night, taking less as each day passes. There is quite a bit of swelling, as is expected, so I ice it often and try to have it elevated at all times. Reducing the swelling is the key to how soon I will recover.

I have been given some quad strengthening exercises aimed at reducing the effects of atrophy as well as general strength in the knee. Each day I will hopefully be able to do a little bit more and will see a slight improvement in my range of motion.

I have an appointment on Thursday with the doctor to go over the surgery and discuss which activities I can resume doing. Hopefully I will be able to do some light running and some easy spinning on a stationary bike next weekend. It sounds like swimming might have to wait a while longer as the incisions must be completely healed before I get in the pool.

Until then I will continue to try to improve a little bit each day.

Surgery is the Answer

Yesterday I met with Dr. Yuri Lewicky to discuss my knee injury. We went over the MRI, which showed some Plica syndrome. The options are to continue doing physical therapy and hope the pain goes away, get a cortisone shot or arthroscopic surgery.

The PT option is working slowly, as I have been able to run 3-4 miles every other day with little to no pain. The issue with continuing with this route is that, even if the pain completely subsides for a while, there is still a possibility that the pain will return later on. My worst fear with this knee problem is that it will go away for a while, perhaps allowing me to compete this outdoor season, then come back while I am training for cross country.

Dr. Lewicky did not recommend the cortisone shot for a couple of reasons. First, because the Plica is rather small, it would be difficult to pinpoint exactly where it is. It is likely that the steroid would not be injected in the appropriate location. The other issue is that the steroid can cause problems with fat tissue atrophy.

The final option, arthroscopic surgery, was the doctors recommendation. From what I have learned about Plica surgery, it is very noninvasive surgery. Recovery time is rather short, with only about 10 days until I could resume running. More importantly, there is basically no possibility of pain related to the Plica returning.

So with that, I have decided to get the surgery. I will be getting the surgery during the week of March 1-5. This would leave me about six weeks before the Mt. Sac Invitational, where I am hoping to open up 2010 with a 5k, if all goes well.

Read more about plica syndrome and recovery.
NAU Tune Up

Last night was the NAU Tune Up, the last meet in Flagstaff of the indoor season. There were a couple of huge highlights, starting with the pole vault. In the women’s pole vault, Berlin silver medalist Chelsea Johnson won and another athlete broke the Canadian national record.

The men’s pole vault was absolutely ridiculous. The 2000 Olympic Gold medalist Nick Hyson and 2004 Olympic Gold medalist Tim Mack both cleared 17′ 6.5″. Watching from the sidelines was Arizona State coach, and 1996 decathlon Olympic Gold medalist, Dan O’Brien. Crazy.

Then there was David McNeil. Dave woke up yesterday morning and decided he wanted to qualify for nationals in the 5000. He had to run 14:25 up here in the dome, which would convert to an automatic national qualifier. He ended up running 14:17, which converts to 13:39, a new national leading time. Dave now leads the country in the 3000 and 5000. Impressive. Congratulations Dave!

Super Bowl, Knee Struggles & Swim PRs

Happy Super Bowl Sunday! What a great, American spectacle. I was rooting for the Colts (Manning is the man), but I am just happy it was a great game. We had some teammates over — Darius Terry, Joe Withers, Simon Gilna and Eric Lynch — and we all made and ate lots of food. My contribution was my Mom’s chili recipe and Trader Joe’s cornbread. Both were delicious.


The knee troubles continue. As of now, I am able to run 10-20 minutes without pain. As I go longer or increase pace it begins hurting. I have been icing, ultrasounding, and strengthening for over a month now with little improvement. It is getting pretty frustrating. And to frustrate me further, I have been trying to get a CD with my MRI images mailed to NAU’s team doctor for over a week now. Patience is a virtue, I guess.

Once the doctor receives the images, we will have some orthopedics take a look. Depending on their suggestions, I may end up undergoing arthroscopic surgery on my knee. I have read and been told that, as far as surgeries go, arthroscopic knee surgery is about as noninvasive as it gets, with reports of people back running in a couple of weeks. The quick recovery time makes the surgery very appealing. Frankly, I don’t see myself back running full strength in a couple weeks without the surgery anyway. Why not get it fixed?

But I am getting ahead of myself. For now, I wait to see what the doctors say.


Today I did a time trial as prescribed by USATriathlon. The protocol for the test is a 200 (yards or meters), 1 minute rest, 800. I did this test a month ago and, converting from yards to meters, 2:45 and 12:45 equivalents. In today’s test I swam a 2:39 and a 12:13, 6 and 32 second improvements, respectively. I plan to continue to do this test once a month to measure my improvement.

Needless to say, swimming is going in the right direction. Still, I have a lot of work to do. For 2010, I want to be under 2:30 for 200m and 11:06 for 800m (at sea level). I swam over 20,000m for the first time this last week. I am hopeful that many more high volume, high intensity weeks will get me closer to that goal.

Indoor and Outdoor

Because of my recent setbacks, running the 2010 indoor season is out of the question. There are but a couple meets left before the conference meet and there is no way I will be ready. Outdoor runs into the middle of May and beyond, so I think if I continue down the road to recovery, I should be able to salvage a decent outdoor season. After the improvements I made in cross country, I think even a mediocre season for me should yield some solid PRs.