Ironman Australia, which is based in stunning Port Macquarie, was an interesting weekend observing human nature in action against a backdrop of what many would consider the edge of extreme endurance.
As a coach I learnt a lot more at this race from my experience of standing on course than I ever have before. I owe this to the insights my interest in psychology, and the understanding this study has given me. For the first time I concretely saw the difference between what was physical, and what was psychological. So a little summary is in order, hopefully this might help punters out there to have some clarity around that.
What is one of the key ingredients to a successful race? Without doubt the ability to hurt.
Contrary to popular belief, I would put it out there that psychological strength has very little to do with physical form, and everything to do with desire. The want, the bastard desire, the mongrel and the digger spirit are the backbones of the refusal to give in. I watched in pure fascination. The drama that unfolds at the front of the race is really no different from that which unfolds further down the field. Yes these dramas are occurring on a different level, but those levels are all relative. This was the first time I was really able to identify both mongrel and resignation in people’s faces.
For the athletes with the desire it was impossible to miss. They were fully absorbed by the process, they moved as one with what was happening, and it was easy to see that the fire was coming from inside, it was clearly something that was already in them. For the athletes who were resigned it was clear to see they were in judgement of themselves and what was happening to them. Angry, distracted, frustrated and in resistance.
The ability to hurt has nothing to do with physical talent. To suggest that it did would imply that some athletes hurt less than others, and that is far from the truth. Some athletes indeed hurt faster, but everyone hurts the same. It’s just that some judge the hurt more than others, whilst others refuse to listen to the mind’s voice and it’s stories. It is because of this refusal to listen that the mind backs out and becomes still, simply because it is receiving no attention. When the mind receives no attention it becomes dormant, and once the mind of an athlete is dormant, that athletes being gets absorbed into the process they are in. All the desire and the mongrel is fuel for the fire, and that athlete becomes a state of flow, a human bonfire. It’s no longer about thinking. It becomes an innate state of what needs to be done right now with the energy that the athlete is releasing.
If you are lost in thought and judgement that energy has no outlet, it has nowhere to flow, and so it becomes pure frustration. The athlete, through blind thinking, is blocking their own natural pathway to performance, and instead of becoming absorbed by the performance, they become more and more absorbed by the mind. A mind that is trying to desperately think it’s way out of this horrible experience It is having right now, and in the process getting further and further away from what they are truly capable of as an athlete.
Many athletes believe that the ability to hurt in a race will come from their ability to smash themselves in training. This is far from the truth. The world is full of great trainers/bad racers. The world is also full of average trainers/great racers. I know this as a coach and I’ve seen it hundreds of times over. The ability to hurt is the ability to turn off the noise, and to lose yourself in the process.
You can’t learn to hurt by having the perfect preparation. If you are judgemental and trying to think your way through things you will get the same result over and over. This is also about personal responsibility; you and only you are responsible for your race. So the ability to hurt yourself begins far before the start gun goes off. Take a moment to really look at your mindset in training and you will have a pretty clear picture of the mindset you will have on race day. If you fool yourself that all you need is the right preparation you will be in for a nasty shock.
Dormant mind or doormat of the mind, you choose.
Triathlon: Changing your life one hour at a time
Triathlon requires proficiency in three separate disciplines. However, finding the time to train is a challenge for anyone, never mind someone who works full time while juggling family commitments. But that extra hour in your day can be found more easily than you think. I’m going to show you how to overcome some popular excuses that stop people from changing their life one hour at a time.
No Time for Triathlon
I used to laugh at people who’d get up at 4:30am to go training. “You’re insane”, is a phrase that regularly popped out of my mouth. Yet I was also trotting out this little chestnut: “With work and kids, I just don’t have the time to do anything”.
So, how do all these other people do it? Are they all without kids, a demanding job, a house that needs cleaning and a family that’s high maintenance? Are they blessed with an extra 2 hours every day that I don’t know about? Do they also know where to find platform 9 3/4 to Hogwarts?
Every day as we go to work, walk the dog (which is exercise by the way), pass people in the street or sit next to people on the train we are inevitably seeing individuals who do in fact experience all these issues and many more on a daily basis. Yet some of them look really fit. How is this possible?
The answer is surprisingly simple
They set themselves a goal, and make the time.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “yeah sure, how do you just make the time? It’s easier for them because ……. but but but ……..” Well, hold that thought and let me answer the question with another question:
“Could you find an extra 1 hour each day if your life depended on it?”
Ironically, in some cases this is exactly the scenario. You just need to tune into the Biggest Loser to see people who are inevitably saving their lives by doing just that. Of course this is an extreme example, but don’t underestimate the power that one hour each day can make to your life and wellbeing.
I recently met a single mum with 4 kids that trained for and completed an Ironman. An Ironman !!!! That’s a 3.8km swim, 180km ride and 42km run. And let me be very clear that the event in itself was actually the easiest part of this whole equation. Training for something like that takes hours and hours out of every week just to get to the start line. Take a few seconds to think about the logistics she faces every day. I know I did.
So how do YOU do it?
In a lot of cases, it all happens in the wee hours of the morning before the rest of the world awakens. I personally exercise in the morning as I find it an amazing way to start the day. Despite getting out of bed at “insane o’clock”, it jump-starts my day by giving me a sense of achievement before most people have even opened their eyes.
Of course, that doesn’t always suit everyone’s circumstances. But luckily, there is more than one way to skin a cat.
Excuse Busting – Breaking down the Fortress
Success is often guarded by a fortress of excuses.
He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else. – Benjamin Franklin
How we overcome these excuses defines how we live our life. Getting started isn’t easy, and it takes commitment and perseverance to develop habits. So to help you get started I offer you the following ways to overcome the top 4 excuses that hold people back from changing their life one hour at a time.
#1: Work is too busy
Excuse busting tips:
- Block out specific times during the day for exercise
- Prioritise your work and ask yourself “will any small children die if I went for a run instead of doing this other task right now?” How important is it really?
- Renegotiate delivery times
- Even on the busiest days you can still aid recovery by stretching regularly, wearing compression socks under your trousers and using a spikey rolling ball on your feet under the desk
- Schedule walking meetings instead of sitting meetings
- If you’re the boss:
- learn to delegate and empower your team
- ask your PA to keep these times free
- set a healthy example for your team
#2: There are just not enough hours in the day
Excuse busting tips:
- Incorporate exercise into your commute to and from work. Drive part of the way and ride or run the other part. Park near a train or bus station so you can get back to your car in the afternoon
- Go for a run or a swim during your lunch break
- Go to bed one hour earlier and wake up one hour earlier
- Do something immediately after work before you settle in to watching the next episode of Game of Thrones
- Schedule time on your weekends – do something with the kids or put aside one or two hours just for yourself. My introduction to running was Parkrun every Saturday morning.
#3: It’s so hard to get out of bed in the morning
Excuse busting tips:
- Take a long hard look at your habits and identify trade-offs.
- I was a TV addict. I used to watch every series, every night and regularly stay up late. I decided that my health was more important than knowing whether the Mentalist eventually caught Red John. I started reducing the amount of TV I watched and began waking up one hour earlier. Initially this was just for 2 days a week, but over time this became a daily habit.
#4: It’s difficult to keep motivated
Excuse busting tips:
- I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I encourage you to join a group, a club, a team or exercise with a friend, your wife or the kids. We all need help to keep motivated and nothing does that better than introducing “obligation”
- Pay your coaching fees up front. I don’t know about you but the thought of wasting my money is a huge motivator
- Schedule a future event. Nothing keeps you honest like an impending deadline
- Keep your shoes next to your bed so they’re the first things you see in the morning
- My first running group was a free group of people that met twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30am for an hour. If I didn’t turn up I felt like I was letting other members of the group down
Above all, start slow and work towards developing habits. Try Parkrun once a week for the first few months while you get used to running and building your fitness. Begin by walking most of it, then slowly build up the distance you’re able to run each week. Once you’re running the whole way you might even consider riding instead of driving to the start line.
Triathlon is about changing your life one hour at a time and overcoming excuses. It’s about commitment and developing lifelong habits that will not only make you healthier, but also happier.
So take that first step and offer no excuses. A one hour workout is only 4% of your day. Set your alarm for one hour earlier tomorrow morning and go for a walk. Once you give it a go you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve. Maybe one day we might even be on the start line of an ironman together.
5 Tips for Selecting the Right Triathlon Bike
Sailors have their boats, archers their bows, but we triathletes have our bikes. If you think about it, the start and end of triathlons feature the human body functioning in its purest form – swimming and running – no equipment required. But those two parts are linked together by the bike leg. So a triathlete’s bicycle is the most important piece of equipment that he or she will ever consider.
The relationship a triathlete has with their bike is critically important. The bike is much more than simply a method for getting from the start of the cycle leg to the end. And it is definitely much more than just a ‘piece of equipment’. In fact, I believe that the relationship a triathlete has with their bike resembles closely that which a craftsman has with his tools, an equestrian has with the horse or even that a samurai has with his sword. The bicycle is the channel through which the athlete converts strength, power, energy and determination into forward motion. Ultimately, your bike should feel like an extension of your body.
What each individual looks for in a bike varies, so I can only speak from my own experience of more than ten years training and competing as a professional triathlete. So that’s what I’m going to do. Talk about what I look for in a bike and along the way I will share some practical tips on how to pick a bike that will suit you and allow you to perform at your best.
I need to say right up front that I have had the privilege of working with Giant to develop their Trinity Advance Pro. A bike engineered to be the world’s fastest and most aerodynamic triathlon bike in real-world conditions. I love my bike, so I’m a little bit biased when it comes to talking about this stuff. As I said though, I can only speak from my own experience. You need to do your own research and make your own decisions about what will be best for you.
Two key questions
I have to begin by confessing I’m not a ‘gear head’. Some athletes get right down to the ‘nitty gritty’ and love to talk about the tiniest details of their equipment. Honestly, that’s not me! For me, it’s all about finding the answers to two key questions:
- How does it feel?
- How does it perform under race conditions?
The technical specifications of equipment are meaningless if they don’t translate into real-world results.
So what are the characteristics you should look for in a bike? What makes a bicycle good? Let’s begin with how it feels. For me, a bike needs to feel solid. It needs to make me feel safe. For example, the Trinity has got a stiffer frame which definitely gives me more confidence to go for it in the fast, downhill stretches and also gives me better power transfer when I’m putting the pedal down and making a fast break.
And a good bike is responsive – it reacts quickly to your changes in power and position. It sounds obvious, but a bike has got to be comfortable – you’re going to be on it for a long time, both in training and when you’re racing. If it feels like it’s part of you, then that sets you free to give your best. If it feels good to be riding it, then you’re not thinking about your gear, you’re able to stay in the moment and concentrate on giving your best.
Tip #1 Always get your bike fitted
I am continually amazed when athletes spend a huge amount of money on buying a new bike, but then don’t want to spend the money to get it properly fitted. Invest the money to get it professionally fitted for your body and your riding style. Apart from the comfort issue, a poorly fitted bike means less comfort and less power generation and thus decreased performance. That leads me to my next point…
Tip #2 Choose a bike that is highly adjustable
The aim of the exercise when it comes to your riding position is to find the optimal compromise between aggressive riding position. This includes higher seat, lower bars, flatter back to give the most aerodynamic shape – and comfort and power. There’s no point in going super-aero if you can’t maintain that riding position. Plus, if you’re impinging your hips that will also suck your power and be counter-productive.
Having a bike that is highly adjustable means that you can test different positions. But you can also gradually adjust into a more aggressive riding position as your body becomes stronger and accustomed to the new posture.
Tip #3 Choose a bike that is aero in the real world
Manufacturers talk a lot about aero-testing in wind tunnels. For example, Giant wind-tested more than 250 different frameset configurations when they were developing the Trinity Advance Pro. But, they also tested them out on the road in race conditions. I was excited to be part of that process.
Nutrition and hydration are facts of life for triathletes. In the past, you usually strapped your hydration to your bike and strapped your nutrition to yourself or maybe used a Bento box. The trend in bike development now is to have integrated hydration and nutrition systems. I was fascinated to discover that the Trinity Advance Pro is actually more aerodynamic with the AeroVault storage system on the bike than it is without it!
Two final tips from me:
Tip #4 Always use the best gear you can afford
The reality is that it is rarely your bike frame that lets you down in a race. It’s much more likely to be something else in your setup. Don’t skimp when it comes to setting up your bike. I’ve always found Shimano to be reliable – I use Dura-Ace gear and it gives me confidence when I’m racing. My point is, you don’t have to be a full-on ‘gear head’ but you do need to know what quality equipment looks like. Read, research, ask the pros, check out the reviews and then remember that, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for.
Tip #5 Keep tweaking
We all love to get on a brand new bike. It looks good, it feels good and usually it inspires us to go harder. But developing that relationship with your bike takes time. So keep tweaking your ride. Get your bike fitted, work on your riding position. Those things will make significant improvements to your performance. But then continue to seek out those smaller gains. Even 0.5% improvements make a difference over the course of a bike leg and they reflect in your times and your results at the end of the day.
I hope these tips help you get the most out of your bike. Enjoy!
Deciding Last Minute to Do a Triathlon?
Tyler Pearce, widely known as The Vegan Cyclist, decided to do his first triathlon on the 3rd of June in Bass Lake, California and filmed it for YouTube. Trizone caught up with Tyler to chat everything from swimming back stroke to the ultimate competitive mindset.
Race Day Looms
“The race start line was a mile from my front door. I kinda thought I had to do it really,” Tyler told Trizone. “I hadn’t trained at all. Not once. But I wanted to just give it a try, and I think the participation numbers were low because they let me sign up on the morning of the race,” said Tyler.
Deciding between Olympic distance and sprint distance
“I couldn’t decide initially. I figured, if I’m going to do it, I might as well go all out and do Olympic.” In the next moment though, he saw the fastest record for the Olympic distance was three hours. “That’s a lot of time to be racing! I had a team’s bike race the next day and I wanted to do well in that, so I decided on the spring distance.”
Getting to know the course…or not
While some age groupers may study the intricacies of a course map for weeks before a race, Tyler hadn’t even seen the route. “I didn’t look at the map, I just assumed I’d figure it out.” Tyler actually did figure it out, while other people in the race didn’t. More on that later…
Wearing the right gear
“I didn’t know anything about wetsuits, so I wore my cycle kit. My mate let me borrow some goggles, but you just can’t look cool in goggles and a swim cap.”
Sussing out the field
“There were a bunch of buff, ripped, six-pack dudes all over the place. I was like sh*t! It’s super intimidating,” Tyler told Trizone. “There was also a guy who played collegiate water polo who was so strong-looking, I thought for sure he’d be the winner.”
Getting through the swim with whatever stroke works
Sure, triathlon is usually freestyle, but sometimes you just want to make it through. “After a few hundred metres I was sucking water, I couldn’t breathe,” said Tyler. “I was starting to get hypoxic because I couldn’t regulate my breathing at all!”
As the swim pack surged on towards the first buoy, where Tyler expected they’d turn left to start making their way back along the shore, they turned right. “They had us swim the Olympic distance. When I got to that first buoy and saw the next one was so far away I almost said ‘fu** it’ and swam to the nearest dock, but I didn’t. I made a plan.”
As the sea of swim caps of the leaders powered away from him, Tyler found himself in 15th place. “I was trying breaststroke but that wasn’t helping, so I got onto my back and found I was actually making good speed! Those faster guys in the chase pack were catching up and I could look at them backwards and try and stay in front,”said Tyler.
Ultimately, he made it out of the swim in around 15th place, but he experienced whole-body fatigue like he hadn’t before.
“I got out of the water and my body was having a weird reaction I’d never felt before. I mean, I’d never swam that far in my life so I guess that was it. My legs were jelly and my arms felt really heavy,” said Tyler.
As he jogged the few hundred metres from the shore to the transition, he was frazzled. “There was just so much! I was trying to put on my shoes by my hands were like claws, it was really weird.”
Tyler’s approach wasn’t about enjoying the event though, he was out there to win.
Optimising time at transition
“Some people were walking through the transition, just drying themselves off, patting themselves nice and dry. I wasn’t into that! I was trying to win! That definitely changed the whole feeling of my race, some people were there to have fun,” said Tyler, “not me.”
Powering through the bike
Tyler is a great cyclist, there’s not doubt about that, and he used his strength on the bike to pass those in his group despite it taking longer than he wanted. “I was quite far back so I had that chasing incentive. I’d look at someone I’d pass thinking ‘yes! I’m one more place up,’ but then I’d see the age number on his leg and see it said 54! I’d thank ‘damn!’ then keep peddling away, until I’d get to the next person and think ‘yes! I’m passing someone!’ then I’d see it was a girl. ‘damn again!’”
Despite Tyler’s modesty, he powered through the bike leg managing around 350-400 watts when pedalling and feeling great. By the turn around, he was in 6th place, and the three leaders were two minutes ahead.
Meanwhile, Tyler was inspired by those just just trying to finish. “The waterpolo player who was so intimidating to me at the start was riding a $70 bike. I mean, he was just going for it, wearing sandals! That was just so cool. I mean there I was thinking my $10,000 bike wasn’t good enough, and he’s on that. He was just doing it!”
Sticking to the course on the run
Feeling strong after the bike, and in around 4th place, Tyler was ready for the run. “I pulled my shoes on. I’d cut off the laces and tied them in a knot which made them easier to get on, but they flopped around on my foot. I’d never run in them before so I didn’t know what to do really,” Tyler told Trizone.
With his sloppy shoes on, he ran out of transition the same route as the bike leg and was told he was going the wrong way. So he ran out the way the swim ended, but was again told he was going the wrong way. “I went the wrong way three times! It was so frustrating, I mean, I was trying to win!” said Tyler joking, remembering he’d told us he hadn’t read the course map.
Powering through the run, an aspect of fitness Tyler doesn’t really practice, he was feeling OK until the two mile mark when the course deviated towards a really steep hill. “You got a playing card from a woman to make sure you did that section, then the course loops back on itself.”
Throughout the run, Tyler had been wary of a strong athlete in his age group who’d been a few people behind him. “He’d told me he ran track in college so I was pretty aware of him,” said Tyler.
Magically, when Tyler reached the finish, he saw the guy at the finish line in front of him! “I was like ‘umm, did you teleport?” There’s no way he could have gone the same way because we looped back and I didn’t see him. I didn’t want to be a douche, but I asked him if he went up the hill and he said no, they didn’t tell him where to go.”
Hiding his frustrating, Tyler wanted to wait until the podium was announced before saying anything, if at all. “I didn’t want to make a big deal, but c’mon! The guy ran 1/2 a mile less than me!”
Being humbled by your less-sporty friends
Tyler’s high school friend, Matt Lundy, had also entered the race and was thrilled for his friend who ended up beating him overall, and winning the men’s division. “It was very humbling to be beaten by a guy I’d been helping in the training crit. He was just better overall even though my cycling ability is better. It’s such a contrast to how I’m used to racing. You can’t think you’re going to be really good at just one sport and do well!”
It’s all about giving it a go
Tyler ended up winning his age group, which may have started his love of triathlon, but not of training. “I will definitely do another one, but I’ll probably just sign up and give it a go. I might get too wrapped up in it if I train like crazy, it might not be as fun,” said Tyler.
“When you first start something, the improvements you make at the start are huge! You make huge gains, that’s part of the fun!”
As a cyclist, Pearce knows all about taking the spontaneity out of racing. “I’m cycling at such a high level all the time, it’s lost that sense of newness. The gains are few and far between in my cycling. Sometimes I celebrate improving my FTP by 1 watt!”
Tyler’s take aways
Without training and with little-to-no swimming experience, Tyler Pearce gave his first triathlon a go at a moment’s notice. It’s this spontaneity he aims to portray through his videos, inspiring thousands to live a healthier lifestyle.
“I had heard about so many people who were on the fence about doing a triathlon, and after I posted my video, so many people commented or contacted me saying I’d inspired them to try racing,” Tyler told Trizone.
“Whether that creates a whole new active lifestyle for someone, or even a one-off, I’m really please I can inspire people to just forget the excuses and pull the trigger and do it! It could just change their entire lives for the better,” said Tyler.
Trizone wishes Tyler, aka The Vegan Cyclist, a huge congratulations for finishing his first triathlon.
We’d love to hear your stories of your first triathlon too! Share them in the comments section below.
What to do when you’re struggling with mental demons in a race
Many of us ask ourselves the ‘dark questions’ in an endurance event. Those questions are not necessarily “why is Tim Reed wearing speedos” or “how do pro athletes manage to tweet during an event?” Those questions are “am I good enough? Was my training hard enough? and can I finish?” It’s about our personal limits that we set.
While you’re racing an Ironman event, most people are so focused on PBs and finish times, it can have a negative affect on your ceiling of performance at whatever level you’re competing at.
Whether you are a sub-eight hour Ironman finisher, or a thirteen hour Ironman finisher, it’s human nature to aim to punch through the ceiling of performance. Most of this is mental; like when Bannister and Landy battled with the sub 4 minute mile. Once the barrier was broken though, it continued to be surpassed as that mental hurdle had been conquered.
Athletes can use this same premise when reaching their own goals and I have seen athletes struggle with a time barrier in an Ironman for years. Once they’ve beaten that time, it continues to fade away.
The Dark Questions
The dark questions generally get asked at a few points in any race, whether it be an Ironman or a sprint distance event. It’s the point of the competition when things start hurting, fuel becomes low and competitors are drawing away. It may be at a point when none of these things occur, but anything and everything else negative that happens in a race, no matter how small, can be amplified in a race environment.
The heightened amplification of a race makes us question the training, the commitment and the sacrifices we’ve made to be in that race. In the lead up to a big race, these factors should never be questioned, yet no matter how prepared you are, no matter who you are, the question will be posed and the body and mind will require an answer.
How do we push through the negative energy we experience in a race?
This is the tough one, as everyone is wired differently and has different motivations for competing in sport; whether you are a pro athlete racing for the win, or an age grouper going for a PB or Hawaii spot.
Through my own experience in the sport and training, I’ve devised some of my own solutions to help me deal with these moment of darkness. I am lucky (or unlucky) enough to train by myself most of the time, which has its advantages, especially in an Ironman; as I generally ask myself the dark questions about five times a day! Sometimes it gets asked a couple of times before I even get out of the door.
A long solo eight hour brick-training day can do more for your mental strength and resolve than it does for your fitness base, as these sessions are primarily used for this purpose by a lot of coaches who adequately call them ‘brain’ sessions. Essentially the main point here is that the more times you ask yourself the dark questions in training, the easier they will be to manage on race day.
If you’re lucky enough to have a fun, social, supportive group to train with; you might find it beneficial in the lead up to a big race to get out and “lone wolf’ it for a day or two in the lead up to an Ironman, especially if it’s your first attempt at the distance.
When you ask yourself: Have I done enough training?
Trust me when I say that even the Pro athletes question themselves leading into a big race. I remember tackling my first European season when I was racing in my early 20s. I turned up at a race and everyone in transition looked like they had been carved out of stone! I actually thought about just turning around and going home just from looking at everyone flexing around. I questioned my training and preparation and general fitness at this point, but I stuck it out and finished third overall.
After this experience, I taught myself never to question my preparation again, and to have faith leading into a race. It’s not just before the race, but during the race that you’ll question your training. I have found that putting yourself in the “box” in training has a huge mental benefit when hitting this point. Embrace the point in training where you feel depleted, push through and come out the other side. This has a great effect on your confidence and your ability to push on through a bad race without questioning yourself.
Schedule dark training days to prepare for race day
Power output, time and heart rate are all metrics that help you in a race, and you can plan until your heart’s content, but when it comes to a PB or a race win, a lot goes out the window, and you have to push through to reach new heights. I like to use a philosophy called “Embrace the Pain.”
It sounds a bit corny, but the more you experience the pain and familiarise yourself with it, the better accustomed you become to dealing with it. In saying this I don’t mean crush yourself every session until you vomit blood, more like program in an ‘evil dark’ Ironman day where you expect to encounter these issues once a week. If it’s a cold winter’s day and you’re battling against horizontal rain and wind, use this as a positive to make you better prepared for your next Ironman race up in tropical Cairns or sunny Busselton!
Overall, everyone asks themselves the dark questions, but the more you practice training and racing while questioning yourself, the better you’ll be on race day.
- Have confidence and self belief in your training and bring a good support group who keep telling you how good you are every second of the day leading in!
- If you have a coach, take them with you to the race or if not, a short phone call on the day before is good to reaffirm your beliefs.
- When the ‘dark question’ comes up in a race, dig in to your highlight reel of misery in training and say to your self it could be a lot worse.
- Have a solid nutrition plan that you believe in and have practiced before, to believe that you will come out of a bad patch is most of the way there.
- Find a small little ‘form finder’ race a few weeks out from you’re A race to boost your confidence.
- Find a consistent local TT course and stick to it, knock it out when you are fit and unfit as it gives a great indicator of where you are before, and in the lead up to the race.
- As hard as it sounds, remain positive throughout a race, as negative energy takes energy, positive vibes create energy!
Quick Tip: Why sticking to a program is the key to adaptation in triathlon training
I once read an article about Kenyan athletes. It explained why they run so well in their early teens and 20s, as opposed to most runners who take years of progression to attain the same results in their early 30s.
The answer was simple: By the time the Kenyan athletes were 18-19 they had accumulated tens of thousands of kilometres in training due to running/walking to school and just having running as part of their culture. Essentially, Kenyan athletes have a massive starting base and essentially a head-start on their Western counterparts by the time they reach their late teens and embark on their running career.
Success comes from building a solid base
The Kenyan athletes’ training program isn’t unlike a Triathlon training program when you break it down. Essentially, all these athletes are building a solid consistent base, which has huge benefits to your summer racing regime.
Use winter to work hard for summer
Money in the bank and kms in the saddle are irreplaceable in this sport, and there is nowhere to hide if you don’t do the hard yards in winter leading into summer.
The human body is an amazing machine as repetition to any given movement or action will eventually be adapted to, and become part of your lifestyle. This happens whether it takes a few weeks, months or years. Your body will eventually adapt, and once adapted it will start to benefit as the progression takes hold.
Changing training before adaptation: A common mistake athletes make
Many athletes don’t let the body progress enough to benefit from the given program. I made a lot of mistakes while I was a junior triathlete who was self coached. Often I listened to too many people and read too many magazines in order to achieve better results. I would have a good set of races and start to feel good, then I would say to myself that in order to get even better; I needed to change my training and train harder, whereas if I stuck to what I was doing I would continue my line of progression instead of injuring myself or overtraining.
Don’t waste your time ‘Spinning your wheels’
This is a common expression that can be used a lot by athletes who are “overtrained” and it generally means that the effort they are producing is not meeting the expectations they desire for the training. This leads to the term “spinning the wheels,” which means working with a high degree of effort with no forward propulsion.
It’s an extremely frustrating experience, especially when you have spent so much time and effort in training for the sport. That is why improvement does not happen overnight especially in Long Distance Triathlon as it takes years to develop a base big enough to race at a higher intensity over an ironman or 70.3 competition.
Key Tip: Progress at a rate your body can handle
Once you have established your racing schedule for the summer, you need to plan your training structure by breaking down the training into different phases in order to peak. This process is called periodization and can be used to develop any weaknesses an athlete might have.
If you are self coached, this process is vitally important and something that needs to be structured into a yearly plan. Planning this way enables you to progress at a rate that your body can adjust to overtime, setting up a good base to draw from when needed.
Targets and heart rate monitoring
Having targets is a great way of monitoring your improvement and progression rates. Use HR as a consistent factor throughout your training; it will tell you how your body is faring under stress, and how it performs from year to year.
Monitor your heart rate at certain outputs by testing yourself throughout the year. Whether this be a running test or stationary bike test, it will give you a reading of your outputs from year to year.
Monitoring your resting heart rate is also a tool that can be used to monitor improvements. You will begin to see certain patterns evolve over time. When you are really fit, you will see your HR drop, and if you are sick you will see it fluctuate accordingly. Gaining that insight into your performance is really handy for your progression.
- Be patient and be positive: The results will come eventually, every race is a step toward your PB
- Aim small, then you wont be disappointed when you cant achieve your goal
- Use a training diary to monitor each year’s improvement, and help you see how your training patterns influence your performance
- Try and stick with a coach for a decent amount of time. The body takes time to adapt to a given program and will adapt given the time – so be patient
- Plan your racing season well and train using the required phases of base building, speed/intensity and tapering
- Seek advice from a pro triathlete who has had consistent results over a long period
Quick Tip: How to Run Off the Bike
My triathlon coach Col Stewart once said that the key to running fast in a triathlon is to become a stronger cyclist! This made no sense at all to a 19 year old triathlete who would kill himself trying to run sub 3 minute kms every session. It only really started to make sense as I transitioned into long course in my early 20s.
I spent a lot of my professional triathlon career racing the tough, hilly French triathlon circuit where I was tested on just about every course with big hills, fast descents and riders who could push enormous watts. I came home from each French season really strong on the bike especially on the flat Aussie courses and this in turn effected how fast I could run. It was then when I began to think about “Triathlon Running” as opposed to “Fresh” road running.
Running while fatigued is so different to running fresh that gaining bike strength has an exponential affect on how fast you can run.
How to find your triathlon run pace
One of the keys to running fast in triathlon is finding your “happy place;” meaning you train for your fatigued running pace and learn to run at this pace all day so it becomes automatic during your hard sessions.
If your goal Ironman 70.3 run time is at 4min/km pace, that’s the pace you should be aiming for during your hard sessions. This often gets misunderstood by a lot of athletes especially when you break this pacing down into 400s or km reps as running this pace when not fatigued can seem quite slow. The idea is to become a metronome at this pace, whether fatigued or not.
Top tip: Double run day
A good way of utilising fatigue in training is to implement a double run day with a longer easy run in the morning and then a faster fatigued run aimed at hitting your goal pace later on in the day. This will not only ”break” up your long run day and reduce the load on the body but it will also induce a fatigue on the legs quite similar to a half ironman.
Seated climbs & hitting the gym: Leg strength
Increasing your leg strength to deal with a hard bike ride will have great benefits for your run in your racing. There are a few ways to do this and one of these is to set up a good base of hill riding, just tempo hill riding mixed in with some strength efforts will give you a great foundation for when you start to hit specific fast sessions later on in the year.
Seated hill reps in a big gear once a week will activate the critical bike muscles needed to push power and run off the bike a lot fresher. These muscles can also be activated by hitting the gym a few times a week and concentrating on hamstrings, gluteal muscles and calves. When these muscles are strengthening it increases both strength and reduces injury. After a big winter base of strength work you will be amazed at how well your running off the bike will become.
How do you work on running off the bike?
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