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Why Cyclists Should Be Running

One thing that I’ve learned about pure cyclists is that they love to get out for a ride and don’t really worry too much about cross training unless they maybe hit the gym a few times a week. Go for a run? Forget about it and don’t even bring up the four letter word “swim”.

Before you write off running all together let’s sit down and have a little talk about this.

For the most part studies have not shown there to be any real correlation between running and getting faster on the bike. In a study by Telemark University College in Norway a group of scientists tested the effect of VO2max running intervals on elite cyclists’ time trial performance. The experiment was comprised of two blocks of high intensity running intervals during the cyclists’ pre-season workouts. The first block comprised 14 interval workouts in 9 days and the second was 2 months later and comprised 15 intervals in 10 days. In between the two blocks the cyclists followed a typical pre-season training schedule. cadana casino In the end these cyclists improved their time trial performance by a whopping 14.9% which I think any one of us would be happy with. The problem is that there was no control group to compare the running group to. Would other cyclists have had the same improvement if they had done VO2max intervals on the bike? We don’t necessarily know.

So if we’re not guaranteed an increase in speed, better pedal efficiency, or increased cadence then why run?

While running doesn’t mimic the exact muscle contractions that we use while cycling (running is eccentric contraction while cycling is concentric) there are still some good benefits that a cyclist can gain by pounding the pavement every once in a while.

Let’s address the various reasons that running might just be a good idea for cyclists.

Time Efficiency

Getting ready for a ride can be a fairly long endeavor. You have to pull your bike out, find your helmet gloves and shoes, check the tire pressure, and get nutrition and water ready. If you’re really Johnny on The Spot you can be out the door in twenty minutes or so. For an hour run all you need are shoes, shorts and a shirt. Get all those things together and you’re out the door in no time.

You might not always have time to do a multi-hour ride but hate the thought of skipping a workout just because of a time constraint. Instead of skipping your workout, go for a run that does fit into your tight schedule. Throw in some intervals and you can rack up a pretty decent amount of training stress pretty quickly.

Safety

You’ve had a long day at work and have gotten home after dark but still haven’t gotten your ride in. Now what? Drivers are crazy enough when the sun is out and get downright dangerous when it sets. Even in Texarkana where sidewalks are a hot commodity, running in the dark is relatively safe. With just a few flashing lights and some back roads you can sleep well that night knowing that you got a workout in.

Improves Muscle and Tendon Durability

Every athlete’s goal is to spend as little time as possible off the bike due to injury. Some cyclists go to pretty great lengths to make sure that their bodies are in top condition as to avoid down time. This is one reason why we hit the gym. Unfortunately most of us don’t have a home gym and must resort to driving to a local gym in order to weight train. The return on investment of having to go to a gym is relatively low when you consider all the time it takes to get everything together, get to the gym, get your workout in, get home and get cleaned up or back to work. This all feeds back to the Time Efficiency thought that it takes far less time to go for a run. Still want a strength aspect? Do hill repeats or bounds to improve your strength as well muscle and tendon durability.

Bone Density

This is the big one that road cyclists (mountain bikers and cyclocross tend to do all right from all the vibration, jostling, dismounting and running) and swimmers can really suffer from if they don’t participate in some kind of load bearing activity. In the last few years research has shown a high correlation between osteoporosis and osteopenia with cycling.

Basically how it works is that our bodies are continually rebuilding our skeleton by absorbing old bone and replacing it with calcium. Vibrations from running, plyometrics, weight training and even walking trigger the stressed tissue to begin this rebuilding process. Thanks to modern science we’ve designed bikes that take as much road vibration into the frame and out of our bodies. While this makes for a far more comfortable ride, it’s not doing our bones any good.

Simply making a few changes in your training (add running, basketball or jumping rope) and nutrition (getting more calcium through foods such as greek yogurt and dark leafy greens) can, over time, make for sizable improvements in bone density.

Unless you already know that you have bad knees, hips, ankles or back then give running a shot as a cross training tool, not only to be more time efficient or improve bone density, but to put some variety into your weekly training schedule. You don’t have to run for an hours on end. You can simply do a run/walk regimen of, for example, 2 minutes running & 5 minutes walking repeated for as long as you’d like. In time you can increase the running and decrease the walking if you feel so inclined.  If you’re going to be at the gym to lift weights anyway then add in a 10-20 minute run or walk as your warm up. If you do have a good reason that you can’t run, you’re not off the hook. You’re why I specifically included walking in ways that you can also see improvements.

 

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Why “Surviving the Swim” Doesn’t Work

For a good number of triathletes the swim is their weakness. I’ve found that this stems from the human nature of people simply not wanting to do what they’re not good at. Unless a person participated with a swim team as a youth, most triathletes have learned to swim as adults. Add in family, work, and other responsibilities that take away from training time and we find that the desire to spend what few training hours we have in the pool trying to teaching our bodies all the intricate movements associated with the swim becomes difficult to convince ourselves of. Going out for a run or a group ride ends up being more fun than spending an hour in the pool working on form and mechanics. So as the next race approaches and the triathlete’s swim stays stagnant, the reasoning starts to become “Oh, I’ll just survive the swim”, “The swim is just a way to get onto the bike” or “I’ll be wearing a wetsuit so that will help me save my legs for the bike”. While these excuses might give a person some pre-race comfort in this lack of preparation, their reasoning is full of holes.

If you’ve ever watch the broadcast of the Triathlon World Championship in Kona you’ll know that no one has ever been the first out of the water and won the race but, without fail, the commentators will always say “you can’t win the race in the swim, but you can certainly lose it”. For us mere mortals “win” means either hitting your goal race time or ending up on the podium.

If you’re to the point where you’re so frustrated with the swim that you find yourself starting to skip swim workouts and add in more runs and bikes then keep a few things in mind before you continue down this path and lose any swim fitness that you might have gained.

Swim workouts are about more than just muscular strength. They’re also about aerobic fitness specific to the swim. If you’ve reached the point mentioned above in your training then you’re probably used to getting in the pool and really struggling through your sets and finding that you’re out of breathe by the end, if you even make it to the end of the workout before quitting in frustration. Most of this has to do with improper technique, mechanics and body position where the correction of these items will lead you to being able to finish your workouts feeling better than you did previously.

So you decide that you’re going to “survive the swim” and end up exiting the swim already aerobically exhausted from fighting the water. How much do you think this is going to affect your bike and eventually your run? The answer is a whole heck of a lot. You could be the strongest cycling out on the course that day but with the amount of effort you just wasted in the swim I can promise that you won’t be putting in the fastest bike split time of the day. What this will lead to is pushing hard on the bike to try and make the bike split or hits the watts that you know you should make which will end up causing a disaster on the run of either having to walk or running a pace that is far below your goal.

All of this compounds on itself as the length of the swim gets longer. Now not only are we talking about the effect on our aerobic system but also the muscular fatigue that piles up on our upper body which we’re going to count on to hold good form on the bike and run. If you’ve done an Ironman of even a half Ironman then you know the fatigue that you have in your shoulders coming out of the swim just to hop on a bike, get into aero position for the next 56 or 112 miles. Upper body form here will make a huge difference on how your day goes, so not being able to support your upper body right from mile 1 on the bike will cause issues further down the line.

All of this is to say “Don’t neglect your swim”. If you’re struggling, then seek out assistance from a knowledgeable and experienced swimmer or coach and by all means be patient. Renowned coach Joe Friel gives the technique needed in the swim an 8 on a 10 scale where pedaling a bike might be a 4 and golf would be a 9 or a 10. In other words, swimming is highly technique oriented where you’re not going to pick up everything in a few months or ever a few years. Start from square 1, understand what and why you’re doing certain things in square 1, get it as close to perfect as possible and then move onto square 2.  Most importantly, exit the pool after each workout thinking about at least one thing that you did right, even if that one thing is that you just finished the workout. During these early stages of learning to swim you one can put a lot of focus on what went wrong or how bad a swimmer you feel you are. These negative thoughts will not lead you down the road that you need to go. I had a music teacher once that would tell me to make a “positive sandwich” if I was having a particularly difficult day during my lesson. What this consisted of is naming one thing that went right that day, then admit to one thing that needs improvement and finally list one more thing that went right. This helps you leave your workout on a positive note but at the same time realizing that there are still things that need to be worked on.

 

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Coach Patrick
USAT Level I
USMS Level II
www.transitionsendurance.com
patrick@transitionsendurance.com

Posted in Race Strategy, Swim

Why Triathletes Should Swim with a Masters Group

USMS

Hearing the term “Masters Swim” tends to intimidate a majority of swimmers who don’t consider themselves to be competitive or even competent in the sport of swimming. I believe that this is due to them using the wrong definition of the word “Master”. They seem to get a mental image of a group of muscular and intimidating swimmers who have been swimming since they were young and are better at swimming than they are at walking, all of which are anxiously waiting to jump in the water to start banging out a 5,000 yard set all at a 1:05 per 100 yard pace. In actuality the word “master” simply refers to a group of athletes that are over the age of 18. That’s all.

Another concern that I hear is that a swimmer feels that they are too slow. This is the beautiful thing about swimming with a Masters group, every Masters Swim that you go to will have the lanes divided up by pace and ability so you end up in a lane with others that swim at a similar speed. This not only gives you the comfort of avoiding a lane where you might be intimidated, be forced into a pace you’re not ready for or run over by faster swimmers, it also gives you a goal to work towards. After you get comfortable with the set up and organization of a Masters Swim it won’t be long before you start striving to move up into faster lanes.

But what about you faster swimmers, what can you gain from a Masters Swim workout? I don’t know a single athlete that doesn’t want to get faster, Masters Swim is an opportunity for that. Sometimes the answer to getting faster is mechanics and sometimes it’s simply introducing a new stress to your swim routine. Most triathletes that I know are Type A personalities, they thrive on sets, routines and competition. Masters Swim is a great chance to push yourself against others that swim at a similar ability. When put in these situations you’ll be surprised at how much harder you push and are able to get out of your workout.

You may be saying “I already have a swimming/triathlon coach, why do I need a Masters Swim?”. From the coaches angle or for the person that writes their own swim workouts, writing weekly swim workouts can be the most tedious thing your coach does for you so if they can get a break from that duty then they’ll definitely take it. More on the angle of your benefit though is that most coaches recognize the benefit of having their athletes attend a coached workout as opposed to a workout that they assign and their client goes and does on their own. Coached workouts tend to help athletes stay focused on the task at hand and keeps them “honest” in not taking too much rest and avoids them from getting too chatty with their lane mates between sets, therefore getting more out of each swim workout.

So why am I talking about how you should join a Masters Swim workout? Because we’re getting one started here in Texarkana. Starting on June 16th I’ll be the coach on deck of a Masters Swim at the Christus St. Michael Fitness Center on Mondays at 6:00pm and Fridays at 6:00am. I’ll be writing each workout for each session, giving each swimmer their intervals and send off times. These session will work very similar to the Vintage workouts that the Fitness Center has with each session costing $10 on top of your monthly membership.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me via phone or email.

 

Coach Patrick
USAT Level I
USMS Level II
www.transitionsendurance.com
patrick@transitionsendurance.com
979-676-1675

 

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Posted in Swim

Stroke Rate…Part 2

In my last post I touched on some of the basics behind stroke rate, why it’s very much an individual pursuit and not a one size fits all situation. In this post I’ll show you a research paper that helps prove that the arguments against high stroke rate, that it’s inefficient for example, aren’t really arguments that hold water (no pun intended).

In 2010 Scott McLean, Professor of Kinesiology at Southwestern University, and his team took 10 college swimmers ranging in ability and put them in an endless pool set at 1:40/100m to see what varied strokes rates did to the swimmer’s oxygen uptake, heart rate and perceived exertion (RPE). The final results were quite interesting.

The experiment started by having each participant swim at their natural stroke rate. Then, using a Finis Tempo Trainer Pro, each swam at -20% of their natural SR, -10%, +10% and finally +20%.  Since the pool was set at 1:40/100m each swimmer had to adjust the length of their stroke to accommodate the various stroke rates. For the slower SR, the stroke had to be lengthened and for the higher SR, the stroke had to be shortened. Each trial lasted for 1′ after steady state VO2 was verified and VO2 was measure during that minute. And to keep each swimmer from skewing the results, which percentage of their natural SR they were swimming at was kept a secret and randomized.

So let’s take a look at the results:

In this first graph from the experiment we get two bits of data, heart rate and oxygen uptake. Now if what is generally believed to be true, that of the idea that a long stroke is more efficient then we would expect to see both the heart rate and oxygen uptake be at its lowest while the swimmers were at -20% of their preferred SR and just increase from there as SR increased. But what this experiment found was most swimmers believe to be true. Each swimmer was actually more economical at +20%  than they were at just a slightly slower SR of -10%, both in heart rate and oxygen uptake.

Mean Oxygen Uptake_HR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This next chart gives us the same VO2 results and matches it up to the swimmers RPE. This is where randomizing the stroke rate comes in. If a swimmer was told that they were next going to be swimming at +20% of their preferred SR then they would go into it thinking that it would be hard, thus making it hard. But by keeping this information from them each swimmer was able to go into the next trial with no preconceived notion of what to expect.

Again, just as in the previous chart, RPE increase at the slower SR and decrease as the SR increased. Even decreasing more when over the swimmer’s preferred SR by 10% and only increasing slightly when SR was increased by 20%.

Mean RPE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the expiration each swimmers kick rate was also tracked to see how the kick rate changed as the stroke rate was altered. As expected, the swimmers kick rate increased at the slower SR’s in order to fill the gap left by the very long stroke, dropped significantly at the preferred SR and rose slightly at the faster SR. Think about this kick rate to SR and how it applies to you as a triathlete. The longer your stroke is, the more you’re going to be kicking and the more fatigued your legs are going to be getting on the bike.

Mean Kick Rate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To put a nice bow on this whole experiment, most swimmers I’ve worked with tend to have a stroke rate that is less than optimal for them and would find that increasing their SR would make them more efficient and faster. This higher SR also sets up triathletes for better open water swims since while we’re open water racing, not only are we trying to keep our momentum going forward but also trying to keep ourselves from being taken off course but other swimmers and waves. A slow stroke rate not only slows down our forward progress it leaves gaps for waves to other competitors to push us off course.

If you’re interested you can read the entire experiment here.

 

Coach Patrick
USAT Level I
USMS Level II
www.transitionsendurance.com
patrick@transitionsendurance.com
979-676-1675

 

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Posted in Swim, Uncategorized

Stroke Rate…Part 1

When we talk about cycling or running cadence we often refer to a cadence of 90+ steps/revolutions per minute which tends to be the most efficient for a majority people. Unfortunately we can’t use this same reasoning when it comes to swimming. We can’t fit everyone into the same mold and believe that each swimmer is going to swim at their most efficient speed at stroke rate X. A number of conditions come into play when discussing a swimmer’s ideal stroke rate, e.g. height, ape index, stroke style, ability (novice or elite), etc. Even if you know all of these it’s not a guarantee that you can pin point your perfect stroke rate without testing it out for yourself.

In the photo below are two elite triathletes, Kate Bevilaqua (3x Ironman Champion) and Guy Crawford. Kate stands about 5’4″ and Guy at 6’3″. At a steady pace Guy takes 57 strokes per minute (spm) while Kate takes 85spm. It would be unfair and inefficient for us to as Guy to speed up his Stroke Rate (SR) to 85spm but more often than not we usually see coaches that would try and slow down Kate’s SR to be more inline with Guy’s. The problem with this is that if Guy were to speed up to 85spm his stroke would become chaotic and his distance per stroke would decrease significantly in the frenzy while if Kate slowed down to 57spm she would have such an enormous glide in the front that she would end up slowing down dramatically and wasting a great deal of energy just to keep moving forward.

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That’s not to say that it’s the case every time that the taller swimmer should always have the slowest SR. The 2013 Barcelona World Championships saw American Katie Ledecky and Dutch swimmer Lotte Friis taking gold and silver. Friis stands at 6’0″ to Ledecky’s 5’10” but Friis swam at a staggering 95spm to Ledecky’s 81spm. Neither one of those stroke rates is for slackers but that is a huge spread between the two and if they were to try and conform to each others SR the results that day would have been far different.

All this is to say that when your mother always told you that you were a unique snowflake, in the case of Stroke Rate, she was right. Unless you’ve worked with a coach to determine the stroke rate that you’re most efficient at try not to listen to the nay sayers telling you that your Stroke Rate is too short/long for your speed/gender/height.

For a little extra viewing pleasure, below I’ve added a chart showing the average spm from the top 8 performers of the 2012 Olympic Trials. You can see that there is a very large range in SR between distance and gender.

Swim Rates

Coach Patrick
USAT Level I
USMS Level II
www.transitionsendurance.com
patrick@transitionsendurance.com
979-676-1675

Tagged with:
Posted in Swim

Distance Per Stroke

Low StrokeThere seems to be a general lack of misunderstanding regarding the Distance Per Stroke (DPS) swim drill that we see so often written into training plans and referenced in swim and triathlete magazines. Most of the time I see swimmers understanding that the sole purpose of this drill is see how few strokes they take during each length of the pool. And in taking less strokes, it’s believed that one will become faster because they’re streamline longer and use less energy because of the fewer strokes. All these potential results sound really great right? The problem is that the typical age grouper takes this drill to the extreme and it becomes a competition with themselves or their swim friends to see if they can get fewer strokes this week than they did last week. In doing so the swimmer loses focus on the ultimate goal which is to get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible and ready to get on the bike.

I can’t blame a swimmers for thinking this as “the lowest stroke rate, the better” tends to be the way that the drill is delivered. Just by doing a quick Google search I found these explanations that help explain the confusion.

  • “The higher your DPS (or lower stroke count) for every 25-metres in the pool the better.” (Source)
  • “When you slow down your stroke, but increase the distance and the power of each stroke then you speed up.” (Source)
  • “Efficient technique maximize the distance you swim per stroke. Several drills focus on maximizing distance per stroke. The simplest focuses on counting the number of strokes in one lap and then working to minimize it by one for each lap you swim.” (Source)

These are all reputable sources so I’m not going to say that they’re wrong, because they aren’t. It’s just that there’s more explanation needed in order for us to completely understand the purpose of this drill.

When a swimmer takes this drill to the extreme they start to take so few strokes and glide for such a long time that there are large dead spots in their stroke that have to be filled with either kicking, which will hurt the your bike and run, or there’s just a complete pause in forward momentum where the swimmer slows down or possibly even stops. Then what? Now that the swimmer has started to slow down they must regain their forward momentum with the next stroke. So they stroke hard and glide again, doing this over and over again for up to 2.4 miles. Think of it this way, get in your car and go for a drive but instead of keep your foot steadily on the gas pedal you pump the pedal causing the car to surge every second. How good of gas mileage do you think you’re getting? Not very good right. The same thing translates to you swim efficiency.

So what is the purpose of the DPS drill? The way that one gets faster in the pool (and in the run for that matter) is to increase stroke rate (SR) or stroke length (SL) (SR x SL= Speed). There is a delicate balancing act in play here as over emphasis on one side of the equation will effect the other side to its detriment. For example, we have all probably done the GOLF drill in the poll as prescribed by our coach, training plan or we just heard that it was an important drill so we started doing it. Say you go through a set of 4×50 GOLF drills and these are the results that you get (first number is Time in sec., second is SR and last is your GOLF score):

  1. 50 + 35 = 85
  2. 52 + 38 = 90
  3. 42 + 44 = 86
  4. 45 + 40 = 85

If we just look at these results what do we learn about the swimmer? Not a whole heck of a lot other than that the GOLF score is the same for number’s 1 & 4 with a pretty significant difference in stroke rate. There’s are a number of problem here’s though. One key factor that’s missing is being able to know how each 50 felt. After all, isn’t the point to find your most efficient stroke rate, and isn’t efficiency based on finding out how fast you can go for the entire duration of your race? Intervals 1 & 4 have the same (and lowest) golf score but there’s quite a big difference in 35 or 40 strokes per 50. Without knowing how each of these 50’s felt we can’t suggest a stroke rate that is possibly the best for this swimmer. If 40 strokes per 50 was a 5 on a 10 scale and 35 was a 6.5 then the swimmer would be doing themselves a disservice by trying to sustain 35 simply because they’re told that the lower stroke rate is “better”.

Also, notice that the swimmer is jumping all around with stroke rates. One thing that’s impossible to do is to keep a consistent stroke rate while in the pool without the aid of something like a Finis Tempo Trainer but how many of us have one of these? Say that the swimmer is most efficient at 40 strokes-per-minute. Now what? As the swimmer goes through their workouts it isn’t until the end of the 50 that the swimmer knows if they swam at the correct stroke rate or not. If they were low then more than likely they’ll over correct and end up too high on the next 50, followed by being too low on the following. The whole thing ends up being a big up and down of stroke rates where the swimmer never really settles into that ideal stroke rate.

Trying to train yourself down to the least number of strokes humanly possible might sound like a good idea but the fatigue gained by either powering through each subsequent stroke or having to kick harder to fill the gap just aren’t worth it.

Next week the topic will be stroke rate and why it’s not like the run or the bike.

 

Coach Patrick
USAT Level I
USMS Level II
www.transitionsendurance.com
patrick@transitionsendurance.com
979-676-1675

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Posted in Swim

How To Get Over A Bad Race

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career.
I’ve lost almost 300 games.
26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.
I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.
And that is why I succeed. – Michael Jordan

The worst race experience of my life happened last year during Ironman Coeur D’Alene. I had trained with the intention of getting in under 12 hours on a hard course and went into the race cautiously optimistic that I could pull it off. Getting my day set off right relied on a good swim with the goal of being to get out of the water in 1:06. finishing the first loop, I looked at my watch, happy to see just over 34:00. I knew that the next lap would go better since there would be a fraction of the body contact and that I might be able to find some fast feet to grab onto. This plan went out the window when the waves picked up and each stroke felt like the waves were stealing my power. I ended up getting out of the water at 1:13 but a 4:30 T1 time kept me pretty close to my race plan. Things hadn’t started out too bad. Then everything went down the drain. I started getting severe stomach pains just a few miles into the ride, had to stop after the first loop to ask my wife for any stomach medicine she might have,  had to lie down at mile 80 for about 30′, had a 37:00 T2 to lie down again and ended up walking the entire marathon. My sub 12 hour day turned into 16:23:52. Far from my goal and a terrible way to finish off my racing year.

Races can go bad for any number of reasons. Sometimes things go wrong that were within your control such as wearing a wetsuit that you had never worn, trying a different nutrition strategy or product, not paying close enough attention to your HR or watts. At other times things go wrong for no explained reason. You might get cramps, the weather  turns bad or you get multiple flat tires. When things don’t go according to plan because you made a stupid mistake that you either knew better than to do or your coach told you not to do then recovery is easy. You shake your head, say “Well that was stupid”, learn from your mistake and move on. But when bad things happen that are completely out of your control then the process can be a lot more drawn out and complicated to deal with.

Racing is not a cheap endeavor so when a race goes south it can cause a person to ask themselves a lot of questions such as Do I ever want to do race again? Why did I waste my time/money? Maybe I should find another hobby? It’s almost impossible to avoid such negative thoughts after a bad race but it’s part of the process of recovery.

  1. Wallow – It’s your right. You probably spent a lot of time, if not money on this race so if things went wrong then spend some time sulking. Vent your frustrations to friends, family or training partners. Everyone needs this time but don’t let it last too long or people will stop feeling sorry for you and just start getting annoyed so after a few days or a week move on to step 2.
  2. Reflect – After you’ve calmed down start looking at the fine details of your race to see if you can spot the reason for your downfall. Did you head out a little too fast and not pace yourself properly which lead to cramps later on? Did you swallow a lot of water during the swim? Did you not check your equipment well enough before race day? Was your taper not quite right? Were your goals realistic? Little things can make a big difference on race day so if you can figure them out then hopefully you can reduce the risk of them happening again.
  3. Set some new goals – Your new goal doesn’t necessarily need to be another race but since most triathletes are Type A personalities a new goal will need to be set. If your new goal is another race then great. If your new goal is to learning Dorodango then that’s great too. Just find something to focus on and move on from your bad race.
  4. Get back to it – This doesn’t necessarily mean signing up for another race. It could just mean getting back out on your bike and going for a ride for the purpose of remembering why you love this hobby you’ve chosen. For me the answer was sticking strictly to short course for a season. For all of 2013 I didn’t race anything longer than a sprint triathlon, I raced hard, raced mad and ended up on the podium for all but one race. This was my coping mechanism. I can’t tell you what yours will be. Some people might want to take a season completely off to regroup while others will only find resolution by signing up for another long course race. But you have to be careful signing up for a redemption race as these can often backfire on you.

A bad race may make you feel like a failure or that you let yourself or others down but regrouping is a necessary part of getting back to the sport that you love.

 

Coach Patrick
USAT Level I
USMS Level II
www.transitionsendurance.com
patrick@transitionsendurance
979-676-1675

 

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Posted in Ironman, Mental

How to Overcome Post Race Depression

iStock_000013619912XSmallThe completion of Ironman Arizona all but marks the end of long course racing here in North America for the year. This time of year often brings a slump into people’s lives as they’ve completed all their multisport races for the year and sometimes don’t know what to do with themselves now.

Long course racing is an all encompassing ordeal. From the time that you start training, whether that be 3 months, 6 months or a year, your life starts to revolve around your next workout. Your family, friends and co-workers know what you’re aiming for. They’re impressed and ask how training is going, how many miles you rode over the weekend and how they don’t know how anyone can do something like this. You and your training become the center of attention and it begins to define you. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that except for the fact that the day will come when the race is over and you’ll need something else to focus your time and effort towards. Trying to keep the “Ironman High” for as long as possible helps but eventually it will fade, life won’t be as exciting as it once was and everything around you starts to look a little more dull. This can be a really dark time as you try and refocus your day-to-day purpose. Below I’ve written up a couple of good ways to get past those “Ironman Blues” and be a happier healthier endurance athlete through the winter months.

  1. Volunteer – There’s no better way to appreciate the ability and blessing that we have to race than to give back to the racing community. Winter is a great time for running races and they need volunteers as much as triathlons do. Contact your local race director and ask how you can help. Hand out water, put medals on finishers or simply go and cheer people on. This is a great way to bring the excitement back for racing. As a bonus some race directors will even give you free entry into a future race for your volunteering efforts
  2. Have a Post-Race Plan – One big mistake that I made going into my first Ironman was not having a plan for what I was going to do after the race. Once I got back home to my job and didn’t have anything to do before or after work I felt a bit lost. Too much idle time leaves one with too many opportunities to sit and think. The final weeks leading up to an big race is full of travel planning, finishing up projects at work packing unpacking, repacking but taking just a few minutes to think about your post race plan will set you up for and easier transition back to “normal” life. Which brings us to…
  3. Keep Busy – You’ve definitely earned a break from training for a little while but staying busy will keep your mind from wondering to how you might feel that there’s a hole in your life. This busy work doesn’t have to be noble. My personal favorite way to fill the extra hours is to catch up on movies. Chances are that you’ve missed out on some great movies that have come out that all your friends have seen but you missed because you had an early ride the next day.
  4. Reconnect – During Ironman training it’s quite likely that you’ve neglected many things: family, friends, chores around the house, etc. Now is your chance to reconnect with friends that you haven’t seen for a while, take your spouse or significant other out on a date, go to the park with your kids or fix that clogged drain.
  5. Move On – You’ll always be an Ironman but there are more things to accomplish in both your personal and racing life. Pick a new goal whether that be to learn a language, play an instrument or another race. Take the effort, focus, energy and enthusiasm that you put into Ironman training and point it in another worthwhile direction.

 

Coach Patrick
USAT Level I
USMS Level II
www.transitionsendurance.com
patrick@transitionsendurance
979-676-1675

 

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Posted in Ironman, Mental

How To Pick Your Next Race

2144933705_1894d5d079_oThere’s been quite a bit of talk and banter going on within the Team Texarkana squad about what next big race they should do in 2015 (yes, they’re already thinking that far ahead). So the question arises of how should you go about choosing your next race? There are a number of factors to take into consideration when making this important decision considering the amount of money and time you’ll be spending in preparation for it.

Choosing which race, or more specifically which Ironman, you want to do comes down to much more than just “What race are my friends doing?” Don’t discount the role that friends and training partners can have in your preparation though. Having someone behind you that’s going through the same ordeal that you are can be quite motivating. They can give you motivation when it’s hot/cold/windy/raining outside or when your tired/sore/burned out. It’s also very helpful and calming to have a group of friends with you on the days leading up to the race. But if this leads you into a race that you don’t want to do or that doesn’t suit your strengths then it’s all for not because on race day it’s just you and the course. Sure you’ll have volunteers and other racers rooting you on but you’re the one swimming, biking and running so you’d better be mentally and physically strong enough to perform on the course you’re racing.

Here are some things to take into consideration:

  1. Time of Year – Training for an Ironman is basically like having a part time job in addition to all your other family and life commitments so selecting a time of year where you can devote the time necessary is paramount. Many people’s jobs are demanding at different times of the year. For example, I wouldn’t recommend an accountant to plan on an A race in the early season since their March and April months are smashed with helping people or corporations prepare their taxes.
  2. Weather – We’re lucky enough to live in an area of the country where we can get out and train pretty much year round. Being able to go out for a ride in February isn’t really a problem as long as you have the attire for it. But when selecting a race you have to look ahead and make sure that you can tolerate the weather conditions of race day as well. For me, I don’t handle the heat very well so I have to plan my A or longer races around that. You can acclimatize to the heat but acclimatizing to the cold is a completely different story. Your body just doesn’t make the switch in that direction as easily. If you’re not tolerant to the weather that you’ll be training or racing in then it’s time to rethink things.
  3. Course – I hear all the time that course A is easier than course B. In the end they’re all 140.6 miles of agony and discomfort. The race that you choose should suit your strengths. I’m not the strongest person on the climbs but I find that they help me break up 112 miles into more mentally manageable pieces so I raced IM St. George and IM Coeur d’ Alene.
  4. Strengths – Talking more on your personal strengths. If you’re a strong swimmer then IM Florida might be more for you with its ocean swim and swelling crests. If not, then maybe IM Lake Placid with a calm, clear swim. It even has a cable under the water that you can follow, minimizing the amount of sighting needed.
  5. Destination – Will you be making this journey with your family. If so then think of them when selecting a race. After all, while you’re out swimming, biking and running they’ll be twiddling their thumbs waiting for the split second that they’ll get to see you come whizzing by on the bike. Your family has supported you, cleaned up and washed your dirty workout clothes and put up with the endless talk about your latest race simulation, the least you can do is take them somewhere that they’ll enjoy too. Cost of travel should also be taken into consideration. Plane tickets and shipping your bike are not cheap endeavors in a sport that is already able to empty your wallet pretty fast. One final point on destination is the ability to train on the course of a close race. The mental strength that riding and running the course of your Ironman brings is priceless.
  6. Ironman vs. Iron Distance - There are hordes of fantastic racing organizations that are putting on some of the best races out there. Yes, Ironman has become the standard by which 140.6 is measured but it’s not the only available race organization. Some have gotten it into their heads that it’s “Ironman or nothing”. These people are short changing themselves on opportunities to have a great race at a fraction of the cost. A typical Ironman race costs about $650 while a HITS Triathlon Series iron distance race is only $300 and there’s one just down the road in Marble Falls. We’re also lucky enough to have Redman just to the north west of us for only $350. These races are also far easier to get registered for and don’t require you to make a commitment a year in advance. Who among us can tell me what their life is going to be like a year from now? Don’t pigeonhole yourself into Ironman only races. I definitely understand the appeal and would say that everyone needs to race one Ironman to experience the expansiveness of the event but don’t let yourself miss out on other great races. If you haven’t already then you need to read Chris McCormack’s article in last months Triathlete Magazine called “Why I Race”.

 

Coach Patrick
USAT Level I
USMS Level II
www.transitionsendurance.com
patrick@transitionsendurance
979-676-1675

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10 Mistakes Most Triathletes Make In The Out Season

There is a wealth of opportunities in the Out Season to accomplish some great things to set us up properly for the upcoming season. Unfortunately a lot of us don’t take advantage of these opportunities and miss out and making our next racing season better than it could have been. Here are 10 Mistakes that I see triathletes make during the winter months.

  1. Body Composition – During the racing season a good deal of triathletes will be watching very closely the calories that they are putting into their bodies. The Out Season is a time for each athlete to relax from this calorie counting and spoil themselves a little bit. But beware about how much you spoil yourself through the holiday season though. Bob Seebohar (2008 dietician for the Olympic Triathlon Team) told me that if he had an athlete come in up to 10 pounds heavier than their race weight then there season was basically already done before it started because it was too hard to get them back down to race weight and be competitive. I know that none of us are looking for Olympic podium slots but that doesn’t mean that we don’t want to either be competitive in our age group or with our previous year’s results.
  2. Obsess Over The Numbers – It’s been a long season of tracking data. You’ve crunched numbers, poured over charts and calculated paces and watts trying to figure out how to eke out a little more result in the final races of the year. It’s time to unplug for a little while. Go for a run or a ride without a heart rate monitor or pace watch. Enjoy being outside and take in some scenery.
  3. High Volume – If you raced long course in the previous year then more than likely you’ve been doing plenty of high volume training. During the winter months when it’s dark and cold is not the time to continue that trend. The triathlon season is long and hard enough without trying to training 20 hours a week for 52 weeks a year. If this is your training method then eventually you will breakdown mentally and physically risking the upcoming season and possibly your enjoyment of the sport.
  4. Sports Nutrition – Just like our training, our nutrition needs to periodized. A huge mistake that a good deal of athletes make is continuing to consume sports bars and gels during the Out Season. If you’re training for a marathon then great, eat the sports nutrition your need for the demands of your training but if you’re cutting down on volume then these high calorie, high carb sports bars are not going to help you in the body composition area. Below is a great chart that I got from Bob Seebohar about nutrition periodization where FV is Fruits and Vegetables, LP/HF is Lean Protein and Healthy Fats, WG is Whole Grains, and SNP is Sports Nutrition Products:Nutrition Periodization
  5. Not Taking Time Off – There is a difference between “Out Season” and “Off Season.” The time that most people need to completely disconnect for a period of time each winter is the “Off Season.” Staying mentally in the game year round is difficult not only on us but on our family and friends as well. Take some time in the off season to just be. Reconnect with your family and friends, let niggling injuries heal and enjoy some unstructured time. Be sure not to take too much time completely off though since you will be losing fitness. My recommendation would be to not take more than 4 weeks.
  6. Not Assessing The Previous Year – The Out Season is the perfect time to look over your previous year and think about how it all went. Make a list of what went wrong, what went right, what you learned and what you’d like to change in the upcoming season. Which leads us to…
  7. Not Setting Goals – Heading into a new season without goals makes the new season almost pointless and most definitely makes it random. Take some time to sit down and write down the goals that you have for the next year of racing. Make sure they’re S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely). For example, saying that you want to move up a step on the podium at your A race would be a good goal but saying that you want to saying that you want to run a marathon in under 4:00 next month when you’ve never run before in your life is just going to set you up for disappointment and discouragement.
  8. Ignoring Limiters – We all love to train in the sport that we’re best at. It’s fun, it’s motivating and it helps our self-esteem. All of which are typically not the results of training the sport that is our weakest. Training our limiters take a great deal of motivation to do is something that needs focus during the Out Season. If you’re a 23:00 1500m swimmer and a 1:00 10K runner then the time that you’ll have to spend in the pool to improve your swim time will be exponentially higher than the time that it will take to improve your run. The Out Season is all about Return On Investment) Where is the most bang for your buck spent?
  9. Trying To Be A “January Champion” – In Texas we have the ability to start racing pretty early in the year in comparison to other parts of the U.S. This opportunity can be your down fall if you’re not careful. If your A race is in March then by all means prepare to race it as such but if your A race isn’t until September then you’re doing yourself a disservice by trying to go into that March race in peak fitness. Your body can only peak do many times in a year. Don’t waste it on an early season race that you’re only using as a benchmark.
  10. Going To Easy and Without Purpose – If you ask any triathlete what they want to achieve in the upcoming racing season a majority of them will say that they want to get faster. This is what the Out Season is there for. Speed comes in many different ways. Improved bike fit, run form analysis, swim form work and just flat out hard workouts that stress our lactate threshold and VO2max.

 

Coach Patrick
USAT Level I
USMS Level II
www.transitionsendurance.com
patrick@transitionsendurance
979-676-1675

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