Monday, December 27, 2010

You Ask I tell

I am starting a semi-regular feature here, called, You Ask I Tell. I fielded the questions on Twitter and will answer them here on the blog.

Rhys Spencer asks, "How can I do well in an Ironman triathlon without any swim training?"

The reality for many age-group triathletes is that swim training takes up the most amount of time with the least bang for the buck and with perhaps the greatest inconvenience of the three sports that make up triathlon. I am saying that you do need to swim, but once you have elevated the swimming to a certain level it's really hard to take it to the next level . . and the next level really may be only a few minutes faster. What to do? Make sure your stroke is a as good as it can be. Make sure when you get in the pool you really make every interval and workout count. Make sure that you do straight 30 min and even 60min plus swims at IM race pace regularly. Most Master's swim programs will not have you doing this, but it's my feeling and the feeling of a few top triathlon coaches that I have spoken to who feel these are important workouts for the IM swim.

Larry Bradley asks "Why do we see Age-Group triathletes finishing in the top 10 of some 70.3 triathlons?"

There has been a very quick proliferation of the 70.3 races in the past few years and the size of the Pro pool of athletes has not grown accordingly. Once you drop away from the absolute best long-distance triathletes in the world, you get into a gray area where there may be a mingling of second and third tier Pro triathletes and the very best Age-Group triathletes. Some of these Age-Group triathletes are very fit and experienced and when they have a good day they are finishing in the top-10 of races.

Rob Colling asks, "What is your training advice for those of us triathletes in the freeziest of areas?"

You need to focus on what you can do and what you can't do. Because triathlon is made of of three sports there are a number of different ways to skin the cat here. However, I find that many triathletes tend to lament the fact that they can't cycle that much because of snow, cold and lack of light and to not focus on what sort of training can be done despite the weather. One approach for some is to forget triathlon almost completely and just cross-country ski. However, to make this really work, you need to really commit to the skiing. A couple times each month does not count. You need to commit to 3 - 4 ski sessions/week and really work it. No skiing for you? This is perhaps the best approach for the non- skier: Make the winter a huge run focus and/or swim focus. Winter weather, should have minimal impact how much and how often you can run or swim. Winter running, with the right apparel and right attitude, can be some of the best running of the year! They say that the base for great summer running performances is laid in the winter. What about the bike? Forget the mega long terribly boring trainer rides. Hit the bike trainer a couple times each week, but really make it count. No noodling around. Quick warm-up. Go hard for 20 -30 minutes and then warm down. Done!

Hope this helps.

You ask I tell. Any questions?

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Christmas time is here

Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year

Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there

Christmas time is here
We'll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year
Oh, that we could always see

. . . .by Vince Guaraldi, Lee Mendelson

Paolina and I would like to wish all our friends and family a Merry Christmas. Safe travels and training wherever you may be!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Training Naked!

Back then they really trained naked!

Do you train naked?

Not talking about training in the nude - sans clothes, although I am sure there are some who do that to! Make sure you use sunscreen! What I am talking about here, is training without all the modern training and monitoring tools that almost everyone seems to be using these days - heart rate monitors, power-meters, GPS units and so on. Some also call this training blind.

I came of age as an endurance athlete back when none of these tools where around. Training tended to revolve around pace and time. These were the guide-lines and benchmarks that we used. Race-results were how we measured progress. The stop-watch and the results sheet don't lie! If we were going out for a 2 hour ride, we noted the fact that we had been out about an hour with our Timex watch, and it was time to turn for home. Simple! That was as about as advanced as we got.

I recall winning a nice Polar heart-rate monitor (HRM) a number of years ago, when I won a 5K running road race. I was interested to see what it was like training with it. Having taken Human Physiology at university and at that point having trained for over 10 years at a moderate level, I was familiar with the different zones and the importance of them in training. After doing some testing with the new HRM and finding out my maximum heart-rate through some field testing, I was able to establish what my zones were and what my heart rate ranges for each zone.

Remarkably, all my key training paces for both bike and run, matched up almost exactly with the key heart rate zones established for training. I had been using the various zones and knowing exactly what they were, by knowing how my body felt at those efforts and levels of intensity, and what the effort felt like, with the only outside input being a wrist-watch!

In a previous blog I talked about running frequency - runs/week - and how this was a great way to establish a solid base of running fitness. You could easily sub-in cycling or swimming to that frequency program as well. In that Blog I suggested that people, not worry too much about how they are running, the pace, the time, the heart-rate, and just run. Run so that you will be able to repeat that run the next day, and the day after that, and the . . . and so on. If you do this enough, in any sport, with a bit of trial and error you will find that edge, of where you can push it a little bit, but not go over. This is key - to find that true edge of your aerobic and endurance fitness and surf along it for little bits of time, and start to extend the time spent at the edge, based on feel. Why is this important? Because, this is what you are doing when you are racing - finding that edge, and then trying to maintain the maximum effort/pace for the distance that you are racing.

To newer athletes who have started up training exclusively with HRM's and power-meters on the bike and carefully scripted spread-sheet training programs based on numbers, limits and zones, this may seem absurd and a bit scary, but if you start training naked and based on feel, you will start to develop a very tuned-in sense, of how you are breathing, your stride or pedal rate, your turnover in swimming, how your legs and muscles feel, at that level of effort. You'll know, and that's a really good thing. The off-season, which is now for many triathletes, runners and cyclists, is a great time of year to try this. Just, run, or ride or swim. Go easy. Go hard. Find the edge. Note how you feel and what's going on with your body.

Do you train naked?

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