Spring Break Answer

Well the short answer is “Oooft.”  That race didn’t go well at all…it was NOT good.  Probably…no, definitely my worst race ever.  What made it so bad?  Was it the conditions -- inland inter-coastal Texas bayou swim in dark water that even hid your hand on your swim pull; steady 25mph cross/head wind with gusts over 30 on bike with no tailwind on way back (it naturally changed directions on the way back) still air and 100+% humidity (yes…I realize this is impossible, but oh it felt like it!) on the 3-loop run course.  NOPE!  Every single person out there had the same conditions.  Some had a phenomenal race, others didn’t.

So, what was the problem?  ME!  I’ve been racing for 6 years now and coaching for over a year now. This was my 4th Half-IM but I missed several things.  Some I know better, some were experimental for both myself and my athletes, and some were choices I made.  Here’s a breakdown:

1.       My Spring Break trip fell at the wrong time for this race.  With better planning, I could have picked a race on a different week with MUCH less effect.  I missed some key training during that week – but I also had an awesome family trip.  Lesson learned.  Training is important, but family trumps training.  Choose your races wisely!!

2.       I didn’t hydrate myself properly the day before. (I know better)

3.       I didn’t have my usual full pre-race breakfast or banana. (I know better, but I let travelling get in the way)

4.       In my training, I didn’t focus on the swim portion.  This was experimental to see if upper-body strength exercises could substitute for pool time.  It did not!

5.       I didn’t use enough salt for my bike nutrition, nor did I take in any extra salt like I normally would in those conditions. (I know better)

6.       During training, I didn’t ride my tri bike enough, and when I did I didn’t ride in aero.  Well duh…you have to train in aero to race in aero!  It wasn’t comfortable, so I let it go and ran out of time to make the proper adjustments before the race.  No aero also decreases power, so I was unable to go any higher than 210.  I was planning on doing 240. (I know better)

7.       My race day nutrition was off.  I tried a Payday while running and about choked – never try anything new on race day. (I made a choice)

8.       I tried caffeinated sport drink and gels to substitute for more coffee before the race, which elevated my heart rate excessively – again, new on race day (bad choice)

 

I have another Half-Ironman in 2 weeks.  I’ve been swimming regularly, and I will hydrate properly and revise my nutrition plan.  I believe the results will reflect a different kind of day.  So, we shall see how this next race goes.  Every race is a learning process and I am constantly learning.  If you’re thinking, why would I want a coach who can make this many mistakes or doesn’t know everything I would say any coach or any person who says they never do or knows everything is not being truthful.

I will leave you with this…Train harder!  Train smarter!  Finish strong!

NO EXCUSES

Spring Break

No tips today, instead I’m going to tell you a story.

It begins with calendarizing.  We all do it, right?  Gotta plan races around family activities, local and travelling alike.  This year I planned a Spring Break road trip with 3 families exploring central Florida, making sure to avoid all theme parks.  Fun, right?  Well…spring break was 2 weeks from my first race of the season, and this race just so happens to be one of my “A” races.  Is this wise? 

So, the dirty details:  31+ hours of driving in a week’s time, traveling with a 4-year old in addition to the six pre-teen and teen boys, switching hotels daily with the exception of one 2-night stay.  I planned ahead and brought my wetsuit and goggles for the springs and beaches; I also packed running clothes.  What could go wrong?  ß my thought the morning of the trip.  

I take full responsibility for the lounging around and partaking of adult beverages.  I take full responsibility for sitting on the beach because the water was too cold.  I own the sleeping in and the occasional afternoon beer by the pool.  I dressed in running shoes a couple of times (didn’t run), packed my goggles when we parked at a beach, I even swam 49 yards while swimming with the manatees – and the 4 year old.  Ha!

As we always tell our athletes though, families come first.  We love to train and race, but for 99% of us it’s for fun, NOT our job.  We do this crazy sport for the health and enjoyment benefits but never at the sacrifice of our families.  Kids are only young once and spouses will only be patient with you for so long if you put sport before family.  Now I’m not saying this was extremely smart or proper planning of my race calendar with the family calendar, but in order to maintain you must learn how to roll with the punches and adapt on the fly…just like what is required in racing.

So, you may be asking yourself, how did it work out?  Stay tuned and next month I’ll give you a race report and let you know how bad the damage is…the race is Sunday ;)

IMPROVING YOUR LACTATE THRESHOLD

IMPROVING YOUR LACTATE THRESHOLD

We’ve all heard the experts talking about Lactate Threshold and how important it is.  But what is it, why does it matter, and how important is it, really? 

During heavy exertion, lactic acid builds up in your legs and makes them burn, while lactate serves as a neutralizing agent for the lactic acid.   The harder you hammer, the faster the acid accumulates, until eventually the scales tip as your muscles generate more acid than you can neutralize.  At this point, your screaming muscles cry uncle until you back off and slow down.  This is called your Lactate Threshold, or the fastest pace/highest heart rate you can maintain for 60 minutes without feeling like you need a firehose to put out the burning in your legs.

HOW TO MEASURE YOUR LACTATE THRESHOLD

Most likely you won't find yourself in a lab where you pedal against an ever-increasing resistance while technicians take blood samples to measure the increasing lactate levels. But a field test on the road or on a trainer can serve as a much simpler alternative.

Thoroughly warm-up for 20 minutes, then hammer for the next 20, being sure to hit lap on your bike computer at the start and again at the end of the 20 minutes, then cool-down.  Jot down your times and average paces, heart rate & power if you have it.  

Repeat the test in eight weeks to see your progress.

HOW TO RAISE YOUR LACTATE THRESHOLD (LT)

Like most things to do with the human body, LT is partially genetic, but it can be raised with some targeted effort.  By pushing your limits intelligently, you can help your body become much more efficient at clearing lactic acid.  The trick is riding that razor-thin edge between the point where you can ride comfortably for hours and where you can sustain only a few minutes before blowing up.  It is important that you have plenty of base miles and some speed-work under your belt before you start LT training.  The bigger your aerobic engine when you begin, the better your results will be.  The following drills are designed to raise your LT.  Do not use multiple drills within one workout, and do LT training no more than two days a week.

1.       STEADY STATE INTERVALS

After a good warm-up, ride 10 minutes at a steady effort, keeping your heart rate three to five beats below your LT heart rate. Recover for 10 minutes, then repeat two more times. Once you're comfortable at this level, do two 20-minute steady-state efforts, recovering for 20 minutes between. Eventually, work up to one 30-minute effort.

2.      LACTATE INTERVALS

These intervals simulate the effort you need when racing on a hilly course, where you have to push beyond your lactate threshold for short surges then clear the acid and recover quickly. First, warm up. Then pick up the pace to your LT heart rate and hold that intensity for three minutes.  Then drop it back down to your aerobic rate for three minutes. Continue for a total of three cycles, or about 18 minutes.

3.      SPEED INTERVALS

Criterium, sprinters and mountain bike racers need to elevate their PAIN THRESHOLD as well as their LT, because those situations demand pushing past LT and holding it there for extended bursts over and over. By training at an intensity where your body can't clear the lactate, you'll boost your ability to keep riding hard in the face of high lactate levels. After a thorough warm-up, increase your effort to about five beats above your LT heart rate. Hold it there for two to three minutes. Reduce your effort for 60 to 90 seconds, just long enough so you feel partially recovered, but not quite ready to go again. Repeat three times.

Want to ride faster for longer periods of time?  Want to improve overall cycling fitness?  Want to impress your followers on Strava with your ability to take charge of and own a segment?  Want to crush your competition?  Then Lactate Threshold training is for you. 

Give it a try, and if you need guidance or want to dig deeper into your training, call me at 850-776-2685, or email me at coachdom@tripossibilities.com.

Train Smart & Finish Strong

As an amateur athlete, you have many choices on how to train.  You can plan on-the-go and hope to have great races when the time comes, or you can follow an organized training plan building up to your peak event.  You can hope to reach your goals, or you can plan how you are going to achieve those goals.  But in reality, we all know which one gives you the greatest chance for success.

 

The difference between these two training methods is not the amount of work or how motivated an athlete is.  The difference is in the pre-planning, so that your chances of hitting your peak form on the week of your big event are the greatest, then in working smarter rather than harder. Without a coach, planning your own training plan for an entire season can definitely be overwhelming. Here are some guidelines to help you on your way:

1)     Realistic Goal Setting: What do you want to do this season?  Be specific with the races and what you want to accomplish at each stage. "Get fit" or "win at every race this season" is not a concrete, time-specific goal. "Win the Subway Pensacola Cycling Classic on September 20th" is agreat example of a goal.  Your goal should be both challenging and realistic. The goal must be one about which you are passionate. Once you have your goals, you now have a focus for your training. Spend the most time and thought on this step as it establishes the base for everything else.

 

2)     Pick Races: Which races you choose will provide the outline for your training.The majority of your training plan should reflect the specific demands of your chosen goal event. Endurance events will emphasize aerobic fitness and tactical preparation. Short, fast events will require a larger volume of anaerobic, speed training.

 

3)     Calendarize: Using a calendar or a training software such as Training Peaks, mark down your A-race.  Count back from that date to figure out how many weeks you have available to train.Depending on your A-race distance and race type, determine the length of time you need to prepare sufficiently. Mark on the calendar all other information you have about your schedule between now and race day, such as days or weeks you cannot train and lower priority events.

 

4)     Periodize: Divide the weeks you have available to train into focused periods. The best way to do this is to work backwards from your A-priority race day. Label the week of your A-priority race "race week." Label the one to two weeks prior to that "peak week." Continue working backwards on the calendar and divide the rest of your time up into blocks of 4 week periods. Ideally you will end up with about 4, 4 week periods, a couple of peak weeks and a race week. Now you have a basic overview of your season.

 

5)     Recovery Weeks: Every 4-week period should end with a rest and recovery week.  The workouts should be light and short in your recovery week. Training volume should be about half of regular training weeks.  Rest and recovery are absolutely critical in your plan.

 

6)     Daily Workouts: Now you’re getting down to the important details about the training you will be doing on a daily basis. Start designing your training week by scheduling two to three key workouts for the week and then fill in the less important sessions as time allows.  This is the most complicated part of the program where paying for some good coaching advice will pay big dividends.

 

7)     Follow the Plan: The best plan in the world has a zero success rate without a dedicated athlete to follow it. Stick to your plan and you’ll get the results you desire.  Be patient. You don’t need to be flying when everyone else is.  Chances are that they’ll burn out by the time you start to peak.

 

8)     Keep A Training Log: Check back on your actual training to make sure you are following your plan.  Be accountable to it.  Doing this will force you to see how many workouts you miss, and how far off the mark you are to the original plan.  Keep watching the data to make sure it is heading in the direction you planned.

Keep in mind, training is NOT something that needs to control your life. Training randomly and doing what you are in the mood can certainly be enjoyable. There is no problem with setting aside specific times of the year for this.  Also, if daily enjoyment is your goal, then riding based on your mood may be the right plan for you. However, if you are goal-oriented and would rather strive to do well during a few parts of the season, then I highly recommend you start planning ahead of time and take the time to create a training plan.

 

 

Indoor Cycling – Good Idea, or Death by Boredom?

Indoor trainer rides provide cyclists a way to continue riding our bikes during inclement weather (it’s pouring right now as I write this) and when it dips below our Florida comfort zone of 50+ degrees.  But do the advantages outweigh the boredom that sets in within 5 minutes of beginning a ‘drainer’ ride…indoors…with no scenery…and no excitement…

The answer is yes, absolutely, but only if the cyclist is willing to properly utilize this valuable tool!

1.       You are on a bike -- even though the weather bites, winter has arrived and brought with it unbearable temperatures, or the sun is setting at 4:50pm every single day.  You are still on a bike!

2.      You can multitask – no need to balance (unless you’re on rollers…if you’re on rollers, then you definitely need to balance), so you can catch up on a whole season of The Walking Dead, or Game of Thrones, or read the latest issue of Velo News.  You can even participate in an online seminar or conference call with your boss.  You get the idea.

3.      Your workout becomes more focused, more intense.  There is no such thing as  coasting, downhill or otherwise, no stopping, no traffic, no tailwind.  When riding a trainer you must generate consistent power, or it just won’t work. 

4.      You can do your workout perfectly – let’s say for example you want to do 8 x 5 minutes at tempo at 95 cadence with a 1 minute rest.  On the indoor trainer you can do it exactly, NO excuses.  Outdoors you have obstacles on every ride - uphills, downhills, stops, etc. - that make it harder to stay at your target intensity for an entire workout.

5.      You can more easily control your cadence.  Pedal faster or slower, you can control all of it without external factors to change it.

6.      High intensity intervals become simply high intensity intervals -- just pedal hard in a lower gear for the designated time period, without worrying about cars or dangerous sections of road or turns or sand or rough roads.

7.      Less packing and planning leads to less time -- no need to pack up all of your supplies - food, flat tire kit, cold weather or rain clothes.  All that’s required is getting a table set up next to you with nutrition, and then just get on and go!

8.     With no stops or coasting, I believe an hour on the trainer translates to 90 minutes outside…how’s that for efficiency?

9.      No.  Daylight.  Required.  – which quite honestly is in rather short supply right now, am I right?

10.  You can stop at EXACTLY the right time.

 

Of course, there are a few minor drawbacks to overcome:

1.       The most obvious:  Boredom.  Doing Zwift or other resistance based software and watching TV helps me ride, but we understandably want to get out and have some fun outside!

2.      You don’t get to practice on real hills. You can raise the front of your bike up to simulate climbing, but it’s not quite the same.  There is great value in real outdoor conditions!

3.      Your bike handling will never develop as well if you’re indoors all the time.  Bike handling is vital to being a good solid rider, so get out there and group ride also.

4.      Trainer rides do not provide practice varying your riding position to fit the outdoor conditions.  Making your body smaller into the wind cuts down on unnecessary drag and gives you free bike speed.  You also need to develop the ability to make changes to your power profile depending on wind speed and elevation changes.  These are things you can only practice on the open road.

Tips to transition to Mountain Biking

1. Get Comfortable Moving Around on the Bike

Roadies are seated on the bike for the majority of any given ride. We might stand on the pedals for some portion of a climb or a sprint; but most of the time a we stay in the saddle. Mountain bike riders are not seated for a good portion of any ride that includes technical or difficult climbs and descents.

2. Move Your Body Weight Forward on Steep Climbs

When you climb steep trails or roads with loose sand, rocks and dirt, you will need to move your body weight forward so your rear wheel stays in contact with the earth, providing optimal traction. If you move your body weight too far forward, you lose traction. Move your body weight too far back and your front wheel can lift off of the ground.

3. Pedal, Pedal, Pedal

A big temptation on uphill sections is to get to an obstacle or tough section of the trail and stop pedaling so you can get a closer look at it, decide what to do and then make your move. If you've stopped dead in your tracks, more than likely you won't make it over or through the obstacle.

You've got to make decisions about what to do on the fly and then pedal, pedal, pedal. Most of the time, momentum is your friend. There are times when too much speed is bad, but not often.

4. Move Your Body Weight Back on Steep Descents

A roadie will make minimal adjustments to forward and aft body position on the bike, whether climbing or descending. A mountain biker descending steep trails will have their body position so far back, the saddle is completely visible in front of their torso.

5. Trust That Your Equipment Can Handle a Beating

Generally, roadies attempt to avoid hitting anything in their path—potholes, rocks, trash, road kill, etc.—because a hard hit can cause fork, frame and wheel damage.

Mountain bikes, on the other hand, can be ridden into and over obstacles because the shock system absorbs a good part of the impact. This impact includes dropping off of small and large cliffs. In Some Cases, it Is Better to Go Over the Big Rock Than Around it. Trusting that your equipment can handle these blows to the bike will make you a more confident and skilled rider. Your Equipment Will Get Scratched, Bent, Dented and Otherwise Damaged Cosmetically, don’t worry about it!

6. Some Trail Sections Are Perfectly Walkable

Yes, even the best riders get off their bikes and walk some of the really hairy sections of trail. Don't expect to ride every section of every trail. In fact, sometimes it's more energy and time efficient to just get off the bike and walk. For example, in Leadville there’s a lot of hike-a-bike!

7. Expect Instability

On a mountain bike, expect to have a feeling of sliding around on loose dirt, gravel, rocks and tree roots while you're riding. Unlike road riding, the ground is often loose and moving beneath you.

If you can relax and not over-correct your bike as it slides around beneath you, it is easier to remain upright. Being scared or getting nervous that the ground feels like ice can make you tense. Expecting instability makes it easier for you to relax and handle rough sections of trail.

8. Look Ahead at Least 15 Feet and Decide Where You Want to Go

One temptation is to look ahead and become fixated on an obstacle, watching that obstacle until you are literally on top of it. If you're doing that, you have not picked your next move after the obstacle.

Look ahead, pick a path and then trust your equipment can handle it. Also trust that you can make adjustments by feeling how your bike is responding to the trail. Feel your way through it, don't try to see your way through it.