Coaching Project Part 2 and Training

Swim Bike Run

Well it’s been a busy few weeks my end and great to be able to publish this blog post finally. I don’t just think and write these up on the day you know! They do take time and I aim to put good content into them that are worthy of a read. 

So as promised, here’s the update on the coaching project I explained I was undertaking with Miia. I have also given details of performance updates my end as well. Therefore you get 2 for the price of 1 this time! How lucky you all are!

Let me cast your mind back. If you didn’t read the last blog post on the coaching project, you can read it here. I introduced you all to Miia, who is a keen beginner, and has shown great determination and dedication to her training so far. I wanted to provide you with the updates of how she is getting on, but also to show how the training is working. I’m going to break this down into the relevant parts of each discipline. It will be easier taking it one by one and I will also add in my training data along the way. This should put some things explained into some sort of context for you. 

Swim Training

As I mentioned before, without benchmarking and testing in training at different points through the training cycle, we have no idea whether something works or is having impact into our fitness or performance. For the swim, I like to use either a 400m or 1000m time trail. Miia being a novice, we use the 400m time trail until she is at a level where she is swimming the 1000m comfortably and it is worth taking a time from. 

In the last post we documented Miia’s initial 400m time trail. She had a time of 10min 45 secs. This was back in December and she then repeated it again in mid January after carrying out the technique sessions I planned for her. She had improved to 9min 48secs meaning her pace went from 2:32min per 100m to 2:27.  So this improvement only came from working on her technique. Since then we have not only been working on technique, however we also added in fitness sets to her swim. We wanted to build some specific swim fitness and develop that engine in the pool. 

We retested on 26th March. What is her time now you are wondering? Well it stands at…drum roll please…8min 42secs! Amazing! Truly great progress.

Test 1:    10:45          Test 2:    9:48          Test 3:    8:42

Her new time is obviously showing that she is getting faster. She’s knocked over 2 mins off in a short amount of time.

How much faster will she get? Who knows. One thing I can’t do with Miia is regularly get to the pool. Swimming improvements take time and require patience. Some would argue that she would improve naturally anyway just from swimming more – and this I agree with. But the question is how much would she have improved on her own? When would she have hit a plateau? In-fact, you could argue this with all three disciplines. Would she know which sets to do also to improve the swim fitness? This is the advantage with coaching – someone to do the thinking for you!

You see, there is still a lot of work to do with her stroke. There are many aspects that still need to be improved and areas that were highlighted before are better, but could be improved further. This is where the one on one pool coaching is really beneficial. Unfortunately, in this part of the season, we need to balance fitness and technique. Although Miia will continue to improve this year, the question is how much more? Personally, I feel these will be small improvements through the season, however if she puts some work in over the next winter, then I think there will be massive developments again. We need to now continue developing her swim fitness and begin some open water sessions. We are happy at the level of swim so far though.

My training has been going very well in the pool and my 1000m time trail has shown I’m faster now then I ever was. This is what I mean when I say we improve over time. You never make massive jumps, and if you do, they are usually early on. Below is a collation of my times over the last few years for this distance. Whenever I swim it, I swim it as flat out as I can go. A combination of fitness, improved technique and bloody determination has led to this.

1000m Time Trails:

2015:     21mins 33s

2016:     20mins 35s

2017:     18mins 29s

2018:     17mins 45s

2019:     16mins 35s

Fitness, technique is developed over time. The longer we do something, the better we become. I certainly feel Miia will improve further and this year is it about getting a first year baseline. It’s also about ensuring we are carrying out the technique sessions well with good form and not instilling bad habits. The better we become, the smaller the gains we make also.

I know that to improve my swimming times, I would have to swim an extra day a week. I’ve certainly swam more this year, including the extra day,  although probably every other week. Has this helped? Possibly. I’m probably averaging at around a minute less a year over that distance a year, but I also know I am more in tune with my technique than others and know when it feels right!

BIKE

This is a discipline I feel Miia is more naturally gifted in. She is a strong rider and this was noticed early on. We have been riding together when we can on a Sunday to get in our longer ride. Weather has hampered us a fair few times and I gave Miia a particular workout to do on the turbo if that happens. Again she has really followed the plan well and allowed her bike engine to be developed. So let’s explore her results…

Her initial bike test results were as follows:

Starting Bike FTP Power: 141w Starting Bike HR Threshold: 155bpm

Current Bike FTP Power: 171w Current Bike HR Threshold: 162bpm

And there we see it! Training to specific zones and following the plan has led to a massive increase. I think it’s fair to say also that on the second test Miia knew what to expect and pushed a lot harder than the first. I was meant to take a video of it but completely forgot! The more you do this test the better you become at judging the effort, and I was worried she went off a little too hard at first the second time round, although she surprised me and maintained it for the majority of the test.

Many wonder what this actually means, but basically the FTP is the level she could ride and and sustain for the duration of her event. Now, Miia isn’t necessarily going to use all this information, but as a coach, the data is important to allow me to analyse the fitness and performance gains. It tells me whether the workouts prescribed are having the desired affect.

Miia meeting Chrissie Wellington at the Triathlon Show – Excel London

Our longer rides have let her develop the endurance and distance and the shorter workouts at home have pushed the HR up and got her into zones where it is a little uncomfortable. She has taxed her cardiovascular system and will continue to improve in this discipline now that the next part of her training makes FTP workouts more specific.

My performance has also improved here as I’ve pushed my FTP up to 177W at the last test a few weeks back. You may note that this isn’t much more than Miia. The trouble with the test is you need to be able to pace it well, something I don’t think I did well in the last test. A consistent effort required throughout and resisting the urge to go to hard too early on and fading towards the end. The problem – I don’t think I went quite hard enough. You see cycling is based around power to weight ratio. You want to be light, but strong. I always keep a check on my weight throughout training and I’m currently hovering around 62kg. If you are lighter but can produce the same power as a heavy rider, you are stronger. It also means climbing hills you will be quicker. It’s why we see so many skinny Tour de France riders that are incredibly strong on climbs!

I asked Miia to keep an eye on her weight throughout training and before I mention this, I will say she gave me permission to publish this! Her starting weight was 73.5kg and now she is 70.5kg. Probably due from training, but certainly helpful in her bike performance.

Muscular endurance has been a focus for me to build the strength in my legs, and I have only just started to build my ftp with specific workouts. It just shows, bike fitness can come from a variety of ways. Miia also will continue doing this workout in her build phase.

Run Training

I think it will be fair to say that Miia has found Z2 HR run training hard. Not in the sense of actually doing it, but actually sticking to the zone when it feels actually quite slow – even slower than her normal run pace. Patience was key here and initially she was using her watch strap to take the heart rate that actually didn’t help. It was over-calculating it and it was only when she starting using a chest strap she found this out. I think her run has massively improved. We have done very little on speed work but just focused on consistency and trying to develop the engine. Look at these incredible results:

PB Half Marathon Times:

Initial PB: 2h 28mins

16th Dec Half marathon: 2:17:22 10th March Big Half: 2:07:37

Remarkable or what eh? She’s also brought her 5K time down now too. Initially her PB was 29mins which then went down to 27:21 and then 26:54. Miia can certainly see her improvement now and still wants to go closer to 2hrs for the half marathon distance. She will get there with this no doubt. She set out to run 2hr at the Big Half but just run out of steam towards the end. Why? Well I have no doubt she run a lot of that race anaerobically which is fairly taxing on the system and just run out of energy. The positive though is that the more she trains specifically and we look at adding some tempo running, this time will eventually come as her body becomes even more efficient. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this particular aspect goes.

And for me?

Well if there is one aspect of my training that hasn’t gone to plan, then running is it. The foot issue has been on-going and having to manage it means my running is slightly inconsistent. I’ve run two half marathons since and my aim is to try and get that consistent. I’m not too bothered with speed work as my body (foot) is not holding up to additional stress. The important thing, which I’m pleased to add though, is that things are finally starting to look up and the all important brick sessions are now happening. I managed over 20 miles this week without any issues…finger crossed now.

What was apparent recently in my half marathon was how strong I felt at the end of the Big Half. I certainly have the endurance and strength there, I just need to build a little durability in my body for the rigours of running!

Is data everything?

No certainly not! I know many pros and elite athletes who swear by riding on feel and if that works then great. Everyone can have a bad day at a race and not perform or just feel like crap. But what we are wanting to do is not only build fitness, but also confidence in our ability to complete and race events. Going into something knowing you have done the hard work is a much less stressful feeling than turning up and slogging your way around. I certainly hate racing like this. In-fact, for me it isn’t racing. I have no problem with anyone doing this and for many completing an event is an achievement. So it should be. When I started working with Miia, this was her goal. I think if you ask her now, she already knows she will complete it. The question will probably lead down the path of what time?

So I hope you enjoyed the read and the next round of blog posts will be race reports as the season is upon us. I can’t wait! It will be great to update on Miia’s races also. We both take on the sprint triathlon at Dorney lake in 6 weeks time.

Until next time – train hard and train well!

My daughter and I who just did her first 7 miles ride!

Training Updates and Periodisation

 

Here we are 6 weeks into training and 12 weeks out from my first A race – The Outlaw. I thought a brief update would be good to provide for the regular readers, so here it is. Below is a snapshot of my current fitness numbers.

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Current Fitness Levels

They are generated through my premium Training Peaks account. If you not aware of Training Peaks and the numbers above, they’re quite simple to understand. The main number (middle number) is my current fitness. How can you put a number on fitness you may think? Well Training Peaks does, and they do it very well through its calculations based around your training and stress scores placed on the body. I’m not going to go into that. If you keen to know more, then head over to their website as it explains it all.

My Fitness 6 Weeks Ago

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This was my fitness 6 weeks ago, which shows a remarkable improvement in a short space of time. The other numbers are useful as well.  The fatigue number tells us how much you are currently carrying, which changes constantly and allows to spot for injury, but also ensure we have recovery built into the programme. The longer the training goes on, and that number will increase over time. This is why recovery days and recovery weeks are so important when training, as we want to reduce this number and back off a little each week. This means we can usually go into the next week feeling a little more refreshed than we ended it. It affects the form number also which is a measure for how race ready you are. Most athletes will want to be somewhere between -5 and 10. This number also increases negatively the more tired you become. Reduce fatigue, and form improves. I’m not too concerned with this number at the moment and it will become more important as we get closer to racing as we look at a taper.

Currently I am scheduling a recovery week every fourth week into my plan. My fatigue levels at the end of a block are somewhere between 110-120 by the time I get to a recovery week. When the recovery week is complete they are back down to 20-40ish.   My aim is to get the fitness number somewhere around 100-110 for the Outlaw and then push it up a little further for Ironman Vichy. This will be difficult and a challenge over the summer holidays!

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Training so far has been going fairly well. I passed a major test two weeks ago when taking on the Olympic Park half marathon. I haven’t run that sort of distance in ages and I have only managed to get up to 8 miles in the first base block. The foot was absolutely fine only biting a little in the last mile. I must admit I felt ok throughout that race and took it easy for 7 miles or so running at 8 min miles.  I haven’t run 8 min miles for ages either! All base training has been Z2 which currently equates to about 9:10-20 min miles.

This race was my only long workout of the week as it was at the end of my recovery week. I put in a little dig mid way through the race and upped my pace to 7:30 min miles and sustained it for around 3 or 4 miles.  Towards the end of the race I did feel like I was blowing a little and the lack of mileage showed at that point. I came home in 1:45, so at this point in the season I cannot be more pleased.

I did have a little stiffness in the knee and foot next day so thought better to take the running down a notch and allow time for some rest. It has been fine though and I’m now back at it!

Why periodisation? Why is base building so important?

People underestimate the need to periodise their training. What do we mean by this you may ask? Well it is simply breaking the training into chunks that have specific goals to each. I’m currently still in the base building aspect which mainly focuses on developing the endurance engine. It’s an incredibly important stage and so often many people neglect it.

Once there is a solid base to work from, we can really start to develop other parts of the cardiovascular system. This means we now start to enter a build phase in the training where we may be focusing on building strength or increasing our threshold in each discipline. The intro blog video above details a current focus of mine in building bike strength in the legs. Although still in my base phase, we can still add some specifics to workouts and focus on things that need developing.

A recent Instagram Post

I certainly feel more dedicated this year. That’s not to say I wasn’t last year, although I was certainly less structured and racing far too much what with 10ks, half marathon, marathon all before even any triathlons. My build up this year to my first triathlon will consist of just two half marathon races and that is it. I’m really looking forward to the my  first sprint race and it still seems so far away!

Ok, I said this would be brief and I’m going to wrap things up there. I’ve recently been posting daily updates on Instagram so do head over there and give me a follow – Tri.To.Be.Iron. I’m always interested to hear people’s thoughts and comments so please like, share or get in touch.

Next update will probably be after the 8 week testing and where I will take on the Big Half in London. I will report on my 400m and 1000m swim time trail and my FTP result along with some detail into the training focus for the next few blocks. I’ll also be posting an update to the coaching project with Miia as she will close out her first 8 weeks and take on the testing again. All in all, a busy few weeks ahead and all this to juggle with a busy term at work!

Please like, share or comment….Check back soon!

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A Daddy and Daughter Training Day!

 

 

 

 

Coaching Project – Part 1

You may have read from my previous posts about how much I enjoy the coaching side of  triathlon. Whether that is coaching myself or other people. My teaching and leadership background probably helps with this as I feel I do (or I should) have a good understanding of what makes a good coach.

This year, I decided to take a further step and dedicate a little more time to helping others in their Tri exploits. It’s always difficult with this as I have my other roles – my work, family life, training and racing myself. There’s a lot to fit in! In a previous blog I introduced the athlete I was working with this year – Miia Amara. She is completely new to triathlon and one that approached me to help her.

I always think with newbies that the easiest thing to do is to basically to get them to train a little more consistently ensuring they swim, bike and run regularly, building up to a distance in which they will complete their event in. This isn’t difficult and there are guaranteed improvements until a plateau is usually reached. The real gains however, come from being a little more scientific and structured in the approach. Now what newbie is going to know this? Not many that’s for sure.

I agreed that I would help Miia on a more formative, in depth level. The only thing I asked from her was that she followed the structure and worked to the programme. I have been asked by others to do this before, although I have always been wary of it. Not because I didn’t want to do it, but because it takes a lot of time planning, adjusting and spending time with athletes in testing and analysing data to track improvement. I suppose that is why seeking a coach is fairly expensive, and it takes a committed athlete to want to take that step. I needed an athlete that was willing to give commitment back in order for me to do it and not waste my time. At no point was any money exchanged! I don’t claim to be some amazing coach or possess badges. What I do have though is experience in doing it myself and a lot of knowledge on it. I read a lot on this subject and have applied many of the concepts on myself. It’s great to be able to transfer some of that knowledge to someone else.

How come Miia you may ask? Well I could see she was eager to really get involved and I had her base training for 8 weeks prior to really starting a proper tailored plan. I could see she was dedicated and agreed to help her. Let’s meet our athlete:

Miia Amara

Age: 44 (and she did allow me to display this 🙂

Nationality: Finnish

Work: Airline Attendant

Athletic Experience: New to triathlon although is a keen runner and is part of East End Road Runners.

The Baseline…How we Started…

As with all training plans, a clear bench mark of current fitness and form were needed as a starting point. I spent some time in the pool with Miia looking at her swim stroke and what we needed to do to improve it. We also completed a run test and a bike test a little later on. Miia also committed to purchasing a Turbo for home training and any necessary equipment for the pool. You see, I told you she was keen!

We started in November 2018 together and looked at spending around two months working on swim technique and building up some base miles to build her endurance engine for the bike and run. We also rode together most Sundays on our long rides.

I would be supporting her until her first Olympic Distance Triathlon in June and she would be taking on two events which I would also be participating in. These were the All Nations Sprint and Bananaman Olympic. Miia would be also going for the London Triathlon at the end of July. In terms of what were her ‘A’ or ‘B’ races were, we weren’t overly too stressed about identifying these. I knew if she followed the plan until June, she would be in fantastic shape to take on her first Olympic distance. I’ll say that again – her first Olympic distance race! She will learn a lot about herself in that race and use it to prep for the second Olympic distance in July. I would hope also that by then, Miia would know the workouts to continue in her lead up to that final event. We also had the bonus of the sprint race beforehand in May to get her used to some race conditions.

She is also aware that to keep peak fitness for that amount of time is very difficult. Rest and Recovery are key aspects of training and these have been built into the plan designed for her, but also after her second event in June before she builds up again for her final race.

Run Training

What was interesting was Miia had expressed and showed me a few of her runs she had completed recently. Here is one:

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Miia was surprised to hear that although she thought she was aerobically fit, and had the endurance in her legs, I thought differently. Yes, she can run long, although, if we look at the pace of the run for each mile segment, it slows down considerably as we go on and the heart rate is all over the place. There were no hills on this route. Generally the more miles she ran, the slower you got. Yes this will happen to all athletes eventually, but what I was trying to explain to her was that we want to try and reduce the amount by which each mile slows down and ensure we hold onto the pace a little longer. The aim was to make her run a lot more balanced both in pace and effort.

I introduced Miia to MAF run training. I like and use this for building base miles and training our cardiovascular system to become more efficient, thus putting out a greater output, and in this case we mean pace. In essence, training at this particular HR (for her 145bpm) allows her to become more efficient and so she ends up faster without too much stress. It takes time and Miia has found this one challenging, particularly keeping to the desired beats per minute. It’s also difficult to run with others on this so makes this training a little lonely. If you can stick with it though, it does pay dividends.

We also took some base PBs for different distances and set some goals around these. Here you can see her performance indicator chart with current PBs and Maffetone results:

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We agreed to make these PB times something as a goal in bringing them down over the course of the year. In-fact she has already done this for both 5K and half marathon and I will update further on these in a future post.

Swimming

By her own admission, Miia had expressed that she needed lots of work around swimming. Initial pool tests and swim analysis did show me that she was correct in her own assessment. Like most triathletes, swim is an area of weakness and we had work to do here.  The results of her first 400m time trial are shown here:

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After spending time in the pool with her, highlighting some flaws in the stroke and showing the drills to correct these, I developed a swim plan for her to follow for 8 weeks or so with the drills built in to develop the areas of weakness. You can’t break too much apart in your swim. Little and often is best for improvement as it is one of those technical sports that has lots to think about. Trying to work on two or three things to improve on is usually too much for our brains to cope with! This swim plan mainly focused on the leg end and getting that kick going from the hip and not her knee. She took to the drills really well and got practising them and we took another test before her official triathlon training started at the beginning of February. This was her plan:

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On the 12th January we retested again and here are the results:

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So what do we already notice? Yes a massive improvement already just through improving technique! There is very little in this plan that develops swim fitness and so it is pleasing to see with a little bit of work on technique, we have already seen a big improvement. I expect her to continue on the technique side of things and also work on building some specific swim fitness now. We will retest again at the end of the base period in the plan.

Biking

Miia also undertook the FTP test for the bike to mainly give me the base line of what her current output is, and what she produces both in power and heart rate. I wanted to give her the personal heart rate zones and ensure she was aware of training correctly within these zones and necessary workouts to follow. I must say I was impressed with her on the bike. I worried at first in terms of pace on our endurance rides and whether she would keep up, although she is very comfortable on a bike and took to this like a duck to water! She is STRONG! It was clear that her bike leg is the strongest and strength out of the three disciplines. This is good considering the majority of the race is spent on the bike! I wouldn’t hesitate going on any long ride with Miia.

First FTP Test

Other Considerations:

Miia’s working pattern had to be accommodated here and this usually results in her working either two or three days each week. The working days are pure rest days. There is absolute no way any workouts can be fitted in due to the nature of her job. The plan has been designed to make the most of her time and it averages at around 6 or so hours a week for the base period. Potential athletes are always looking for plans to follow for something in the lead up to an event. I myself have done this in the past. The problem is that they are so generic and do not take into account prior fitness, baseline and are usually not fit for purpose for that particular athlete. No plan should be the same for everyone! Here is a snapshot of Miia’s first week:

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The key to all this though is enjoyment! Hopefully I have taken away all the thinking, scientific aspects and her worrying whether she is doing the right thing. I want her to enjoy her journey into triathlon and continue it long after this. Enjoyment is the number one goal! Performance will come along for the ride also.

I’ve split this blog into three posts, although it may end up being four by the end depending on the reporting and my time management. This of course being the introductory piece and setting the story or scene – whatever you want to call it. I will then write a second to give the updates and tracking of performance (probably after our initial 8 week base period), and either a final piece on the outcomes, although this may be in two parts in which I hope Miia will add a few comments herself about her experience.

It’s a slightly different take on my usual blogs and I do look for content that is both interesting and different. I hope you enjoy this mini-series as much as Miia enjoys her journey into triathlon! I will of course update on my performance and blog the race reports as usual.

Until next time…tail winds to you all!

I leave you with our route for the last easy endurance ride we did. it was blooming freezing although Miia took a 3rd and 4th on two Strava segments! Do give us a follow on Strava!

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A new year…a new me???

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I suppose the way to start my January blog post is to wish you all a Happy New Year, although it seems that line is running a little thin lately! Anyway, HNY all!

If 2019 is going to be anything like 2018, then we have another busy year ahead – both in life and in racing. I thought it was about time to update on the blog considering there were lots of things from the last post that needed tying up and updating on. So if you didn’t read the last blog post, I suggest this would be a good time as a lot of what I write about will be adding to this.

Injury and Base Training

I proceeded with the last two months working on my base fitness. This has mainly been on the bike, and for good reason. I’m also back in the pool after my lengthy shoulder issue. It’s been rehabbing really well and the injection was the best thing to give the physio the kickstart it needed. I was hesitant having this done but I think the guided ultrasound hit the spot exactly.

I’m more or less swimming 2k in one session at the moment and have built this up over the last few months. It means I can now begin a proper swim programme in which I will build the distance and speed again. The shoulder is ready and I am going to continue the physio exercises along with other training to ensure the strength and more importantly the flexibility is developed. I have since been discharged and after a long rehab process, it’s pleasing to see the efforts and medical intervention pay off. Long live the NHS!

I mentioned above about my bike base training but not much on the run side. This is something I don’t want to overly dwell on…another injury maybe? Well, in a word – yes. It’s a strange one, as apart from last season and the shoulder, my body held up pretty well. My foot issue all started in Italy when running – Plantar Fasciitis actually. All I am going to say is I think I’m more or less through it. It is the dreaded of all running injuries, and resting, stretching, rolling the foot and supporting it has made me now get to a position where I have completed 10 runs without issue. Just when one injury started to improve, something else broke down! Frustrating to say the least. I’m currently up to 45mins and just back in time for the actual Ironman training plan.

DATA ANALYSIS

So overall I’m really happy that I’m ready to swim properly now and the bike endurance base is also good. I think there has been around 35 Zone 2 endurance rides since the last blog and have been keeping track of the fitness in training peaks. I’ve upgraded my subscription to this for the detailed analysis and especially now I using the power meter on the bike.  My base rides will continue for another 8 weeks into proper Ironman training, along with developing the muscular force/strength in my legs. These are bread and butter workouts for triathletes and those which I have neglected in the past. Why you may ask? Well they put a lot of strain on your legs in general and injury risk is high especially for a bike workout. I simply haven’t been in the position to do them before, either coming back from injury or not having the time to fit them into the programme.

Not this year though! As this was the year I really wanted to concentrate more on the bike, I’m in a position to do them and have a reasonable base to begin them. They basically consist of short big gear reps. While this will make you breathe hard by the end, its prime purpose is to train your leg muscles not your heart and lungs, so you shouldn’t feel that you are gasping or struggling to catch your breath. I will complete around 6 weeks of this before tackling the FTP workouts.

Fitness Testing

Testing base fitness is important to ensure all the training parameters are set correctly – these being Heart Rate and Power. I completed the 400m time trail swim test last week and was pleased to swim it in 7min 2 secs. Not too bad considering the lack of swimming. I also completed the bike FTP test and it was pleasing to see that even just base training for 8 weeks raised my power and thresholds.

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If you look at the graph above you can see the stable aspect from about half way. This is the actual test after the initial warm up and cool down at the end. Results show improvements all round.

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Without having a true accurate picture of your fitness, it is hard to set workouts and create a plan that builds upon these. I haven’t tested my run for obvious reasons. I will continue to MAF run at the moment for around 8 weeks. There is a half marathon in 6 weeks time I’m entered for as well as the Big Half. The latter race will be used to really test the run fitness. Up to then I will continue to build my endurance and use the fist half marathon as a training run.

TRAINING PLAN

So I am now into my Ironman training plan – one that has been developed myself with the help and guidance obviously from all my reading, experience, fitness tests and data analysis. Here’s a snapshot of week 1:

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There are of course particular swim and bike workouts that go with these. The run volume at this early point is a little on the low side, although this is to ease my foot back in. As you can see, I’m a keen believer in strength and conditioning and always try and build this in at least once a week. I’ve written my first 4 weeks and will complete around 20 weeks until the Outlaw race. I have worked out my periodisation blocks which look like this:

4 week base 1 / 4 week base 2 / 4 week build 1 / 4 week build 2 / 2 week peak / 1 week taper/ 1 week taper + race week

This should see me in reasonable shape for the Outlaw and then I will rest and take a small break before racing over the summer (mainly Olympic Distance) and building again towards Ironman Vichy.

Coaching

Last year I helped out a few people and in particular Jacqueline Fernandez for swimming. You can read about her guest blog here. This year I have taken on one newbie to triathlon who requested help – Miia Amara. I am going to create a separate blog on this  as I have been working closely with her in preparing her for three triathlons this year. Look out for this in a future post. As mentioned before, this is something I really enjoy doing, although I always limit myself in how many people I help due to the time commitment and expectation from both ends.

French House

Oh and if you didn’t know, we are proud owners of our French property now and spent a lovely new year there. The future training venue will be developed.. 🙂

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Training, Power Meters and Updates…What more do you want?

Greetings.

I know! Two months since my last post. Well, here’s the update some of you have asked for…

I believe the last post mentioned something along the lines of writing about how I will use a power meter and what it would mean to my training. Well, ok I’ll do a little bit on that – but only a little. I don’t want to bore you all. What I would like to do is give you a rounded update of everything that is going on training and fitness wise, but also life in general and of course, the power meter bit. So, let’s get on!

Training

So what’s the fitness like? What am I doing? When do I start the training?

Questions questions questions. After a great summer and a recent trip to Italy, life has been good. I’ve recently celebrated my fortieth birthday and have entered a new age group in triathlon. Although I’m older and supposedly more decrepit as people keeping telling me, my results should automatically improve in my age group as I’m no longer competing against whipper-snappers and the age group is a little smaller! That’s not to say the 40-44 age group isn’t competitive – believe me, it is!

 

Over the summer and up to now I have just been keeping active. Nothing really structured at all training wise. I have since visited the Doctor to try and sort the shoulder issue I’ve been struggling with all season. This resulted in a referral to a sports clinic and has been a bit of nightmare to be honest. The last race of the season saw me take on the 2 mile Serpentine swim to complete the London Classics. That is the last time I swam – back at the end of September. I do really miss swimming although I had to commit to getting the shoulder sorted, and that meant stopping the swims for a while.

Without going into too much detail, I’ve just had my second ultrasound two days ago after 8 weeks of physio, which has resulted in a guided steroid injection. This is the price you pay for racing over a season on an injured shoulder! So I’m hoping to return to the pool in December. When that will be exactly who knows?

Injuries are annoying and something as I’m getting older I’m noticing more and more. Sometimes it isn’t about how fit you can get, but what fitness you can achieve without getting injured. The more I train, the more I understand my body and what it can cope with. For me it is no more about planning a 12 or 16 week programme and following it to a tee.  Yes I try to do that, although I adjust my plan on the fly and no longer worry if it isn’t followed exactly. Triathlon is hard on the body. A strong body that uses everything is one that is difficult to keep tuned. Listening and understanding it is key.

My reading around coaching and methodology continues and this is one thing I love doing. Comparing, evaluating, assessing and reflecting on my own performance and improvement are all possible through reading. It allows me to pass on knowledge also to my budding triathlete friends, especially where I have used and tried methods myself. A lot of my reading has been around the use of a power meter to improve my bike performance next year.

Power Meter Training

I’ll try and keep the geeky and technical stuff simple. You may be thinking ‘what the bleeding hell is a power meter?’ There are different types – pedals, cranks and hubs are a few. Too technical already right? Here’s a picture:

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Power meters are a great way to train incredibly accurately and also allow you to measure your performance and pace a race perfectly. All professional cyclists and triathletes use them. It’s how Chris Froome measures his effort so well on a long mountain climb.

You may remember me saying that my performance is lacking on the bike and I want to put some serious effort into improving it over the coming months. So at the back end of August I purchased a power meter – a german brand by Power2max. It’s a crank based system and cost me just over 600 Euros. Power meters are not cheap by any means, but I felt this was a good investment in comparison to hiring a coach. It will also mean I probably run a lot better and not burn too many matches on the bike!

The idea is that I carry out a simple test on the bike and work out my power zones and then train them resulting in improved performance. You can do this with heart rate to a certain degree although it isn’t as accurate and instant. It isn’t hampered by feeling, illness and conditions. It’s also important to regularly test and adjust the zones with increasing  fitness. I will also look to practice race like conditions with it in the new year on the road. And this is why I love triathlon – there really are lots of things to think about and you can make it as simple or as complex as you want to.

At some point I certainly want to take my coaching badges. I’m in the teaching profession anyway and know that leading groups and activities is second nature. I’d love to be able to apply this to triathlon and in that arena. Something for the future for sure, although I have no idea when!

Where am I in my training cycle?

Base training has begun for the bike and run. This is the process of building the aerobic endurance system. This will last for around two and half months. I’m not starting from complete scratch, although I do want to have great engine before I tackle the specific power meter workouts on the bike. I have developed my triathlon plan now for the first 6 weeks and will begin proper specific triathlon training at the end of January. This will lead me into the Outlaw Half in decent shape. I’m looking to do exactly the same for swimming (when I eventually get back in the pool) and running. This will be the longest time out I have had from the pool so it will be interesting to see what shape swim wise I will be in. I know in previous breaks (although no longer than about 4 weeks) it hasn’t taken too long to recover the endurance and my race pace. I hope this will be the case again.

Winter always includes some sort of strength training programme that I follow also. This is slightly hampered with the shoulder so I’m having to do what I can and work around that. It means 2 or 3 strength specific sessions every week. It is also important for injury prevention, something I’m really keen on!

Other News:

Oh and our French house purchase completes in December so I shall definitely be looking to do an April training camp out there next year. There’s a few projects to do involving a gym kit out and the separate house renovation. We will take our time with these.  I take on Ironman 70.3 Vichy in France next year so will base ourselves here for a few weeks in summer. The journey to Vichy is about 3 hours away and an event I’m really looking forward to taking on.

So that is it. Updates complete. I will try and publish again in December with some analysis of fitness. Tracking workouts and collecting the data is important to reviewing current and improving fitness. The geek in me likes this bit so it’ll be good to share my understanding on it. Until then…enjoy the on-coming winter – my least favourite season, Urgh!

 

Season End and Planning for Next Year…

Firstly – apologies on the short break and lack of posts over the last two months. I’ve been incredibly busy with work and then enjoying some family time. This is the post that for me closes my season. In September I hear you say! It’s the post in which I will review my year and look to 2018-19.  It’s been a great year, and one that I look back on and know I achieved and improved in a number of ways in each discipline. There was a lot of racing and so many achievements. So here goes…

 

Where do I begin with looking back? Many ask why I look at August/September as my season end. Well to me, it’s simple. My season calendar works with my lifestyle and work life. August is the time for family and holiday, and I usually ease down at that point of the year. I lose fitness and eat and drink lots! What are holidays for? It’s been a great summer with two family holidays and a new house purchase in France. More on this in another post, but here’s a sneak peak:

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One thing I that I make sure I do when not in training and racing mode, is to not completely stop. By this, I mean I usually still swim, bike and run, but in a much less structured way. No tracking of miles, no looking at pace but just doing it to enjoy it and not lose too much fitness. I feel it’s important to keep the body moving which is why I do it. Cyprus involved some very hot short runs and rides on a road bike rental. Also a little swimming, but nothing too strenuous. I still actually have one more more event to do in a few weeks – Swim Serpentine. I will be tackling the 2 mile distance in order to secure the London Classics medal so I’m not completely done!

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So what are the achievements this year?

Well it is probably much simpler to look at the three individual disciplines.

Swimming:

My times continue to fall and PBs were set at various distances – not by much but small improvements. . I haven’t focused on the swim at all this year but continued to maintain where I was. I have swam a lot less than normal and feel it isn’t a limiter for me so have put less work into it. I’ve certainly enjoyed helping others in this area this year. It makes me appreciate how far I’ve come in this discipline. I certainly realise that I would probably need to swim at least three times a week if I am going to get any more performance out. For a 3/4% rise, the time invested isn’t worth it.

Running:

Seven 10K races, 2 half marathons and my debut full marathon. My times on all distances have come down particularly over the half marathon distance where an 18min PB happened earlier in the year. My London Marathon run was hampered by injury and I was so pleased to manage a 3:53 even missing 6 weeks of running and only managing to run again two weeks out from it. I had an initial goal of sub 4 and somehow managed to do it. This has certainly left some unanswered questions for me at this distance. What time could I really run when fit and fully healthy? I think my next marathon will likely be Berlin (if I get in) in 2019. That’s the plan anyway…unless London rears its head with some unexpected place.

I do have one goal outstanding which is probably what I will work to over the winter, and that is going sub 20min for 5k. I know I can do this, although you can’t train for everything right? The two 5Ks I have completed have been in the 20 to 21min range. What is pleasing is I can pretty much hold this pace even in a triathlon which shows my improvement and strength over the shorter distance and when transitioning from biking to running. I don’t think the same can be said for the half iron distance. The half marathon times are no-where near the PB time. They don’t need to be and are not likely to be either. What is clear though, is that I need to bring them closer together and it is certainly an area to focus on.

Triathlon:

Every race I did this year involved me posting a new personal course or distance best. There were 4 triathlons and two of these were new courses, one being a half ironman – the Grafman. You can read about that event here. I didn’t quite get my 5 triathlons in this year and it’s always a tough decision to do one in September after holidays. It really is a bit of a slog when unfit!

So What Now?

Reflection is important as it allows you to analyse things that have gone well and aspects of training that have worked. Running has certainly been the highlight this year, although I’ve come to realise that my bike performance has stunted a little. This for me is the one area where I know lots of time gains can be made in future events if I put the work in over the winter. Cycling is going to be a huge focus for me over the next 6 months.

I intend to keep running at the same level and repeating the process I took this year. I believe I have more to come, meaning faster times. One thing the marathon training gave me was a superb base run fitness and I intend to build that again, although without the injury this time round. And on the injury…use them all as a process of learning. Not warming up properly for a race and then trying to run it as fast as possible is not good practice. A school boy error really, but one where the weather was so awful prior to it that it completely put me off. Lessons are learnt. Faced with that again I certainly would change my race plan or incorporate a warm up – somehow!

Coaching

I did contemplate the option of receiving some professional coaching although decided against it. I believe I understand enough of this process, read enough manuals by some of the top coaches, and follow a lot of what the they prescribe. I don’t claim to be a coach or as good as a top professional, although I can certainly put together a training programme based on the understanding of my body, performance and limiters. I love learning about the sport all the time and feel that coaching myself is part of the enjoyment I get. It is probably why I enjoyed helping others this year also. I continue to read and learn and during the summer reading involved me ploughing through this:

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Why? 

Well the theory behind improving my bike performance has been completed. I have taken the step in purchasing a power meter so that I can train more effectively and pace my efforts accordingly. Slightly cheaper than hiring a coach and now just to put the theory into practice. I will write a future post on my understanding of this and how I intend to train with it next month.

Strength and Training Specifically for Triathlon

This part of the season also allows me to deal with an underlying injury niggle – one of which I been suffering with for the last 7 months and that is with my shoulder. Not a major issue or one that has stopped me competing as it is manageable, although it does need some consideration as it hurts after every swim and sometimes during. There’s definitely limitations in what I can lift also.

I usually strength train every autumn, however this year I intend to increase the length of weeks I do this as well as ensuring I keep some maintenance during the specific triathlon training. It tends to drop off a little when structured triathlon training begins as getting all the major sessions in can become hectic with real life!

One other thing I noticed when looking back at my training last year was the lack of specific triathlon sessions. Certainly brick running was difficult as coming back from the groin injury meant me reducing the load and running only when I really needed to. The double load of a brick is dicey. Running on tired legs is risky and I definetly do not bounce back like I used to.

What are the plans for next year?

I want to race a lot more next season and return to doing two half ironmans. When I say race a lot more – I mean triathlon only. I’m going to do less of the smaller events such as the runs. I’m looking at potentially 6 races and this will include my first overseas triathlon in France whereby I will go to Ironman Vichy 70.3. This does open up a big question for me as this will be taking place at the end of August – yes…the time when I wind down and become unfit. I have somehow got to maintain that fitness over the summer holidays which will not be easy. It will probably mean starting my specific triathlon training a little later in the new year, having a mid season shorter break and then ramping up the training again. So here is my provisional race calendar:

Fix events sprint – Season opener at Dorney lake. (May)

Outlaw half – (May)

Windsor Triathlon Olympic – June

Bananaman Triathlon Olympic – June

London Triathlon Olympic – July

Ironman Vichy – August

I will certainly race a lot less with the running and don’t intend to do a marathon again unless there is some miracle of me getting into London. And even if I do, the goal will be to train as normal for triathlon. The pure focus next year is triathlon and making a massive improvement over the half distance. It’s about pushing myself next year and training has already started now. I’m into week 3 of my base schedule (mainly focusing on strength) and it’s nice to be back, even though it has been a bit of a slog. Do follow me on Strava @ https://www.strava.com/athletes/mansfield_danny

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So there you have it…it’s only taken me two weeks to write this! Next update – Using a power meter! Stay tuned and happy training, racing and enjoying life!