2015 Icebreaker Report
The Walnut Creek YMCA Ice Breaker indoor triathlon is a great way to start a new training year. It’s held in January, and is very friendly to new triathlon competitors. The event is a 400 yard swim, “10 mile” bike ride (spinning bike) and a 2 mile treadmill run.
I really enjoy this race, and this year I focused on getting more participation from my Tri team friends, the Triathlon Racers of Iowa. I also spent some time coaching one of my daughter’s friends for her first indoor triathlon. Overall I was really pleased, as we added around 20 extra participants into the event… which assisted with the charitable aspect of the race and increased the friendly competition. And I was thrilled to help my daughter’s friend go from doing a single 200 yard swim last summer, to a sub 8:00 minute 400 yard swim in the race, with just 6 weeks of training.
Last year was a difficult training year for me. The year started off solid as I focused on running and was seeing some improvement in my VDOT and associated paces. Unfortunately I tore my meniscus in the last mile of the Fort Dodge half marathon in April. The bigger picture problem was that I also had no articular cartilage left in my right knee, and the bone on bone contact caused bruising into my femur. I was scheduled for surgery at the end of May, where they cut out my torn meniscus, and did micro- fracture surgery in an attempt to regrow some cartilage in the damaged area. Four days after my knee surgery, I ended up with appendicitis and had my appendix taken out. The combination of the two surgeries resulted in a blood clot forming in my right calf muscle, so I was put on blood thinners for 6 months. The net result was crutches for 6 weeks, no impact (running) for 6 months, and no riding outdoors while on thinners (okay, I broke that one a few times). Overall, it was less than ideal training conditions.
At my 6-month checkup I was told my running days were likely over, but that I could do whatever I could tolerate. I tried running a few times and ended up limping around for a day or two afterwards. I did some training on the Alter-G treadmill, with similar results. I had an injection of Syncvisc One (a viscus synthetic fluid) into my knee to see if that would help cushion the impact (helped a little). I continued some easy “running”… literally 1 to 4 miles a week (never more than 2 miles at a time), to make sure I could at least get through the 2 mile run. In the end, I adopted what I call the “squat shuffle” form, where I avoid fully extending my right knee to avoid the area where the cartilage is missing. It’s a very inefficient way to run, as it puts a lot of stress on my quads, but it did allow me to compete.
Fortunately I was still able to do some swimming and cycling during my recovery phase, which helped me avoid losing all my previous fitness. Although I hadn’t been doing a lot of swimming, I had been practicing with a tempo trainer. I felt like this tool was helping me to better manage my pacing and had a couple practice 400’s around 6:13, and I felt a sub 6:10 was possible. On race day I “over-managed” my pacing, meaning I waited too long to pick up the pace, and ended up with a slightly slower time than last year at 6:17. Live and learn.
They do not count transition time in this race, so it’s a great opportunity to take your time changing clothes and get your HR down. I also take the time to rinse my Tri shirt off and run it through the swimsuit centrifugal drier, so it’s damp (but not dripping) when I put it on. I do this to help keep myself cool in the warm spinning room and it works great.
The bike went better for me this year than last year. Unfortunately my PowerCal wasn’t synced to my Garmin 920, so I didn’t get any data on HR or estimated power. My FTP is somewhat close to what it was last year, so I likely had a faster bike time just because the bike I chose last year seemed to have an unusually high resistance. It’s a bit of the luck of the draw. Knowing that 2000 rpm is equal to “1 mile” on these spin bikes, the key to this race is simply spinning as fast as possible. I systematically increased my cadence (resistance level is fixed) from 110 to 120 rpm, and was in the 130’s for the last two minutes. In retrospect, I should have pushed the pace a bit earlier, as I felt like I had more in me on the bike. Again, I took a little time to get my HR down between the bike and run. I changed shoes, walked around slowly, and changed my HR strap so I could get a reading on my run.
With a total of 25 miles of total running in the prior 9 months and my strange running form, I thought an 18- minute run would probably be a realistic goal. That being said, I started the treadmill at a somewhat optimistic 7.5 mph to see if I could hold on (8:00 mile pace)… considerably different than starting at 9.5 mph last year. It didn’t take long before I had to back off a bit, but over time was able to pick it up again and ended up 16:22 at 8:11/mile… well above my running threshold HR of 170 with a peak of 177 bpm. Overall, I had a great day, and really enjoyed the race. I always enjoy racing with my daughter, and it’s a great time seeing and racing with friends.