Project Ironman – The Bike: 3 Preparation Tips

Project Ironman – The Bike: 3 Preparation Tips

Ironman distance racing is ultimately about energy management. How you control and distribute your effort throughout the day is essential to a good finish. The ironman bike leg plays a crucial component to this end, as it normally represents the bulk of one’s total race time. Regrettably many still race the bike leg as if nothing were to follow, either caught up in the excitement of the day or on the quest for that new bike split PB. Yet the success of the subsequent run (assuming adequate training preparation) is very much predicated on what you do on the bike, from energy expenditure (pacing) to energy intake (feeding).

Here are three simple suggestions to help prepare your bike leg to have a positive impact on your run.

Technique – Practice Feeding

I will take a road less travelled. No talk about goal TSS, IF, cadence, peddling foot motion or about ideal head, back, hand position etc. Instead, a crucial fundamental – practicing the mechanics of getting nutrition from its storage place on the bike, or on your person, into you while staying comfortably in control of your bike.

This may sound presumptuous to many but forgive me. There is reason. I have personally encountered/witnessed individuals who were committed to an IM, kitted with slick race bikes, yet (in training) refused – literally – to reach for a water bottle (from a seated position let alone from the aero position) unless at a full stop, one leg on terra firma. All will agree that feeding is imperative in ironman racing. It is the 4th discipline. However, all the best nutritional advice and formulations are for naught if it remains affixed to the bike frame by T2.

It all starts with the set up – using kit or makeshift solutions that suit your comfort and ability/experience level. It is all fine and dandy that the latest trendy slick water bottle mount between the aerobars will save you 45s to 1min over 40k (in a wind tunnel).  It is of little value to you aerodynamically in an ironman if every time you have to drink you need to break position by sitting up or you lose directional control of the bike, because holding course with one forearm is precarious for you. In this instance, perhaps using a refillable aero bottle may be more suitable. Yes the wind tunnel numbers may show +0.0001g more aero drag on that straw than the former set up.  But if it helps you minimize movement on the bike while drinking then you will feel more comfortable to sip regularly whilst holding a better aero position for longer (win-win). And don’t feel belittled…. remember our World Champ…

Chrissie in Kona

Therefore comfort of access is crucial. If you are apprehensive to reach for items the more likely you will not eat or drink sufficiently. If you have a seat mounted cage, practice reaching back extracting and returning while keeping your eyes on the road. If you have a refillable bottle between the bars, practice refilling from another bottle on the fly. Likewise, practice ripping off gels taped to the top tube, reaching into your top tube food box or your jersey back pocket using either hand. Being ambidextrous is also advantageous. Should you race in a country where they drive on the opposite side of what you are accustomed to back home, the aid stations will likely be on that “new’ side. [Tip – practice your feeding mechanics while riding the turbo as well instead of having a buffet table alongside.]

So, whatever set up you chose for hydration and nutrition, you must practice using it as you would on race day. Learn to reach for things, and place them back on the move. If you are reluctant to do so, you may very well miss crucial feeding and begin accumulating a potentially unrecoverable energy debt before starting the run.

 Training – Holding Race Pace Under Fatigue

Everybody is a hero coming out of T1. Some even act like it’s a BMX race start Don’t believe me? Go to Kona and observe the sprinting and jostling of some age groupers not even 50m up the hill from the King K hotel – utter lunacy!  What matters is how you can sustain your race effort on the back half, to one-third of the course. This is where the real (smart) heroes shine.

In practical training terms this means first ingraining the necessary restraint at the outset of your long rides that will target race pace. No sense in beaming about your watts for the first 50k only to fizzle and falter by 80 km. Second, include progressively, longer continuous segments at target race pace effort at the back end of long rides when you are fatigued. These could start at 30 minutes and progress to 2 hours at the tail end of a 3 – 4.5hour ride. Don’t be afraid to try. Remember this is ironman race pace, not 40km time-trial pace.

Daniela has perfected the art of race pacing

The second component to these race-pace segments is cerebral – applying a race mindset, making tactical decisions as you would on race day. This will further amplify the value of such race-pace segments especially when facing undulating terrain with a tailwind. It will likely be difficult to hold a target power number. But you can still put out a “race effort” by doing the right things – i.e. holding tight aero and speed on descents, pushing a touch harder up a grade or into a momentary head/cross wind, deciding when to fuel based on terrain ahead and time etc. That is still relevant race-pace specific training.

Intervals are great for developing your race-pace. Long continuous segments will really train your physical and mental stamina and confidence to perform when tired, including making the right tactical decisions. The more you practice this in different conditions, the better positioned you will be come the run.

Race Preparation – Building Race Specific Stamina

Every ironman course is 180km (+/-), yet each one has its challenges – a climbing course is daunting for many, while holding aero position for hours on a flat course is unbearable for some. Barring an opportunity to ride the course in vivo, see it on a map and study the profile provided by the race or using Google Earth, Map My Ride or such. Appreciate, understand and then train to task…for the benefit of the subsequent run as well.

To highlight, consider Ironman Whistler. The course features approximately 2000m of cumulative climbing. There are about 20km’s of leg sapping, undulating terrain before the first major climb ~12km with 8-10% pitches thrown in. The last ~35km back to T2 is pretty much a sustained climb. In between there are lots of high-speed descents.

Obviously, climbing strength and descending skills should be incorporated into one’s bike training regime. With respect to race specific preparation within the last ~12 weeks, it would be beneficial to choreograph rides that accumulate a similar total elevation gain (or more) and periodically include a long sustained climbing effort on the back end, and then doing so before a transition run. This will achieve at least two things.

  1. You will need to diligently work your effort and fuel management to best position yourself energetically for the run. This may not be as straightforward as when riding a flat course.
  2. It will accustom your body to run with substantial climbing fatigue in it, which for some may be quite difficult as compared to a flatter course.

Likewise, if a course happens to have a lot of corners, you would want to plan rides that regularly disrupt your rhythm with frequent direction changes. Cumulatively this will have another unique effect on your disposition before the run.

Whatever the course you chose, study it, know it, train for it.

Incorporate these three tips into your ironman bike preparation to ensure you keep the “fuel flow” going, to remain on task as fatigue sets in and to bolster your confidence in handling the challenges of your chosen course. Doing so will increase the chances of a successful run.

 

Ed Rechnitzer has over 28 years experience in triathlon and has completed multiple Ironman events, including Kona. He is a Trisutto Coach based in Calgary.

Join Ed at one of his three Mont Tremblant Camps in July.

 

Forgive a Horse a Bad Run

Forgive a Horse a Bad Run

Have a bad race? Jump straight back in the saddle and carry on.

From time to time athletes will have what they perceive as a bad performance. This can lead to a grasping at thin air, trying to decipher, or come up with a reason for what is or was a possible cause.

As an example, I have seen athletes swimming the best they have ever swum prior to a race, but then have a poor swim on race day. Whether through self doubt, or discussions in a group environment, this can lead to doubt in their training program, and a desire (by the athlete) to throw everything out and make random changes based on their insecurities following this one poor result.

As a coach talking with athletes I often heard ‘X told me this is what they do’, or ‘Y says B also had this problem and how they worked on it’. In the above example of a poor swim, common suggestions include

  1. Bad wet suit – lets get another one
  2. Swim training not right – lets change the swim program
  3. Swim technique not right – lets change swim technique.

Any, or all three have the potential to wreck a whole race season!

In the sport of horse racing there is a very specific thought, before any changes are made –

‘Forgive a horse a bad run’.

Why?
There are so many reasons for a single poor performance, and a knee jerk reaction, after what could well have been an anomaly can have dire long term effects.


There’s always the next race to line up for!

Even in sports where one would think are played under controlled circumstances, we can observe anomalies. In Snooker, played on a perfectly flat table, small imperfections or dirt on the ball, or in the playing surface can affect the direction of the ball and the outcome of the game. Similarly in Golf, even with a perfect putting stroke, slight anomalies in a green can change the game, and if allowed to affect the players confidence then also the match, or even the players whole season.

The lesson is this –
Stop trying to take away good form because of an occasional performance that you are not happy with. If there is something wrong, you will be the first to have your coach questioning it. If he / she doesn’t, then show courage and stop doubting.

As doubt may indeed be the biggest problem for you.

Hold The Line

Hold The Line

Total Body Force techniques are taught at Trisutto Camps worldwide.

During our age group training camps we have seen athletes make incredible improvements in their triathlon swim using our TBF (Total Body Force) techniques. We have also found many athletes returned to their training environment, and individuals in their club or in the swim lane next to them have ridiculed their new stroke – despite the fact they move down the pool somewhat faster than they used to do!

It’s a tough gig going against the peer group in anything – both for athletes, and for coaches. As a coach, you often doubt and ask yourself is there a better way. For coaches, I say the hardest thing in coaching is to find a method that is not recognized by the hordes and stick with it. If I fall prey to the pressure when I invented our TBF methods and I am an Olympic level swim coach having coached 24 swimmers to the Australian Olympic team, I acknowledge how tough it is for almost all others.

However, the strength of our swim program can be illustrated with some of the successes of our athletes. When our now Trisutto coach Bella Bayliss was racing professionally there was a period when she and husband Stephen could only swim for 1 hour every second day due to a lack of pool facilities. The answer was to maximise the use of the time available – paddles and buoy,  10 x 400, 40 x 100, or one hour non-stop.


A familiar sight – Steve Bayliss leading out of the water. Photo Credit: James Mitchell Photography

Stephen Bayliss was considered not a good enough swimmer, with too poor technique for the British program.  As a 3rd pack short course athlete, and 2nd pack long course he was high elbows, breathing both sides, stretching out, counting strokes, wiggling like a worm on a fishing rod as he tried to do perfect technique. After watching him run and his natural gait I thought this man got a bit of skill – these swim coaches have just killed it in the swim.

We adopted the straight arm (English cricket fast bowler) swim stroke, with breathing on one side with the instructions:-

  • Stop trying to feel the water,
  • stop stretching out,
  • stop counting your strokes.
  • Use your natural turn over – the same as you have in the run.

Stephen did, and he got better and better. Soon he was in the first pack in Ironman, then soon he was leading the swims and every body could see who it was because of his straight bowling arm! Stephen was now swimming 47 minutes not 55 minutes, and was no longer in the 3rd pack of ITU races, but in the lead pack. He beat all the young ITU Brits out of the water.

The irony being when the federation coaches who got rid of him, suggested that if he worked on his technique, (which in their eyes currently looked awful) he could be the best swimmer in Britain. They still didn’t get it.

With swimming we must not lose sight of the fact that we are training for triathlon – and that we race in a wetsuit most of the time. Get the paddles on, pull buoy between your legs and get after it. To quote Bella:

‘I used to spend an hour and a half fussing about, trying to do all the perfect technique things in the water, gliding and stretching. It was paralysis by analysis! But once I just got in, got on with it, and just thought about nothing more than putting on the gear and giving it to myself, I improved by 15 minutes over 3.8K’.

For our athletes, and for those who have applied our techniques and improved their swim – Hold the Line!

For the coaches out there, if your athletes are improving, then it is working. If it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it!

 
Bella Bayliss is a former World Long Course Champion and 16 time Ironman distance Champion. She now runs a successful coaching business from Sands Beach Resort in Lanzarote.

Bella will be teaming up with Head Coach Brett Sutton in early Sept in Lanzarote, running a high performance advance level camp, specifically for those preparing for Kona. Stay tuned for details!

 

Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.

Paging the MIA Athlete

Paging the MIA Athlete

Hello? Hello? Are you out there?

Now that I’ve had some time to fully transition to my coaching role, I see so many of the mistakes I made as an athlete. First and foremost is the: Missing In Action (MIA) Athlete syndrome.

I was impossible to coach because of my lack of communication. I think this is one of the key reasons I was able to train and race infinitely better while in a camp situation where coach could watch me in the workout and get at least a few words of feedback out of me after a session. While away from camp, I would go quiet and when I did sent feedback it was data, as I was reticent to report back how I truly felt.

As an athlete, I thought my job was to do the training and shut up. I didn’t realize that giving detailed feedback, not just the data but also qualitative analysis of how I honestly felt, would help not only me but my coach. I think many athletes fall into this trap. They either only provide their coach with factual data on the workout or even worse give zero feedback at all. As a coach, it is hard to know exactly what your athlete is doing and how they are progressing with no feedback to review. The best tool your coach has is the athlete’s response to training and this is what truly will make the relationship successful. The best training plan in the world can fail if the communication is lacking.

 
My message to athletes is this. Please do not worry that you are weak or soft if you give an honest statement about how the session unfolded. The data is great, but your perceived effort is better. As a coach, I want to know if your legs felt heavy or you struggled on the hills, if you’re exhausted or you felt amazing. Please tell your coach everything, as this qualitative analysis doesn’t need to be long or overly detailed it just needs to be honest. This information is essential in completing the feedback loop and allows your coach and you to be even better together.

My old motto as an athlete was “shut up and do your job.”

My new motto as a coach is “do your job and let me know how it went.”

 
Mary Beth Ellis is one of the USA’s most decorated long distance triathletes with 11 Ironman Distance victories and a World ITU Long Course Title. Mary Beth has been a full time Trisutto coach since 2016 after she retired from Professional racing.

Join Mary Beth at one of her upcoming Mont Tremblant Camps in July.

 

Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.

Project Ironman – The Swim: 3 Preparation Tips

Project Ironman – The Swim: 3 Preparation Tips

Over the years I have frequently heard people insist that because the IM swim accounts for ~10% of total race time, it only deserves a commensurate amount of training attention. While the swim indeed represents a small fraction of your overall finish time, it still matters – a lot. You cannot (or most likely will not) win the IM on the swim but you sure can lose your day if it detrimentally impacts your bike performance and subsequent run. Here are three simple suggestions to help prepare your swim to have a positive impact on the rest of your race day.

Technique – The Recovery
Ultimately your swim preparation should aim to improve your ability to cover the race distance at (your) speed comfortably so you have energy in the tank to bike and run effectively. It all starts with a sustainable technique. This means one that you can replicate sustainably for~4000 strokes over 3.8k (factoring some navigational deviations along the way). The Recovery phase is key to this end.

The recovery is undervalued. People often pay lip service to it as simply that phase that somehow links the “Push” with the “Place”. When it is a point of attention discussion revolves around “proper” – dare I say aesthetic – form. I would argue that aside from being an inevitable biomechanical link in the stroke cycle it has a functional purpose.

Recovery means exactly that – recovery! Yet so many AG from a non-swim background (lacking the flexibility and coordination of fellow early-start pure bred swimmers) still work the recovery, contriving that high “chicken-wingie” finger-drag type procedure from the shoulder complex – because that is considered proper swim form. I see the energy tax in their body language.

Indeed the recovery phase is short lived. Passes in the blink of an eye at race effort. But it is still an opportunity to recuperate. Think of the upstroke phase when pedaling. How exhausting will it be to actively “pull up” every stroke over the course of 180k? So relax the elbow angle. Open it up. Is there an optimal angle? No. It can be completely straight. Whatever feels comfortable and provides your arm and shoulder with a momentary sense of respite (without of course compromising the placement of the hand on entry). The tension, pressure and power come under water where it matters. Over top – chill. Multiply that 4000x and there is some energy savings to be had. Remember – recovery means exactly that. Make it so.

Training – Race Pace Grooving (RPG)
In my fundamentals article I stressed the importance of rehearsing race pace (RP). An effective trial set to groove your swim RP, while developing and gauging progress in your stamina is to complete 4000m of 100m pull holding RP on a RP +7-10 sec send-off time – i.e 40 x 100p (1.50) @ 2.00. Of course one needs to work up to this possibly starting with 10 x 100, 20 x or 30 x, depending on experience. The goal is to hold RP from start to finish and see if and at one point in the set you start to fall off the pace. The seasonal objective is to make each trial feel better than the last (which means your efficiency and stamina are improving).

Naturally we want to see pace times come down as part of anticipated progression. What is most important is that you are able to sustain the effort 40x, consistently. If after 2-3 consecutive trials you are now coming in consistently with 12-15 sec rest, then you are likely ready to re-set your RP (in this example to 1.45 leaving on 1.55).

This trial set also helps potentially identify aspects that need further training attention. For example, if after 28-30 reps your pace tends to fall off to 1.58-2.02 and becomes a struggle to hold, then addressing stamina and holding TUF (Technique Under Fatigue) at the back end of training sets might be a point of attention. If the pace falls off mid-way and then consistently comes back on track or better for the back end, this may be indicative of distraction that may require more mental focus and cue development.

Try this trial set every 6-8 weeks to measure your progress from both a pace and energetic standpoint while concurrently grooving your RP effort. And remember to do this with NO WATER BOTTLE stops!


Race Preparation – Simulation Prep Sets
While it is never really possible to recon an actual IM swim course (as the full course is never set up until race morning – Kona being perhaps the closest exception) you can still get a sense of the course rhythm at home. By studying the actual course map found in the Athletes Guide you can design sets that follow the course pattern and allow you to develop your personal race approach/strategy with more specificity.

Using a fictitious IM race that has a 2-loop triangular course: 800m x 300m x 800m with an exit run around a buoy on the beach. You will quickly deduce that this course has 3x turns >90 degrees / points of convergence, and a tight inter-section between turn 1 and 2. This means there will be at least 3 points along the course, excluding the mayhem of the start, where some intensity will be inevitably injected into the mix causing HR to jack up momentarily requiring you to control it and settle back into your game quickly.

**[p = pull buoy, pp = pull + paddles, sri = sec rest interval, mri = min rest interval]

One specific prep session might be:
5 min warm up choice / 1-2mri full rest (waiting for the gun)
4 x 50p desc 1-4/5sri (start)

Then 2 times through:
7-8 x 100 (RP)/10sri (leg 1)
4 x 25 fast/5sri (turn 1, simulate convergence melee and its short and choppy nature, get HR up)
3 x (75 fast+25 mod-med) continuous (simulate the “bumper car” effect as people come out of the turn trying to re-sight and catching up/passing waves ahead)
4 x 25 fast/5sri (simulate turn 2 as above)
4 x 200 (RP)/15sri (leg 2)
4 x 25 sprint/5sri (turn 3, simulate HR rise from standing up and running. Round 2, do as 100 build by 25 to finish).
(Set 1- p, Set 2 – pp)

Incorporate these three tips into your IM swim preparation. They will help you conserve energy, develop your capacity to cover the distance at speed and build your confidence to tackle the nuances of the given course. Exiting the swim with resilience can only help your day on the bike and run.
Ed Rechnitzer has over 28 years experience in triathlon and has completed multiple Ironman events, including Kona. He is a Trisutto Coach based in Calgary.

Join Ed at one of his three Mont Tremblant Camps in July.

 

Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.

You Start. You Finish.

You Start. You Finish.

Don’t let the numbers determine the success of a workout! Trisutto Campers training in Mallorca.

What is an awful workout? 

How do we categorise a good or bad workout?  Is it a great workout when we hit certain times after we have had 3 days of rest to get ready? Is it awful when we are training hard, start a workout tired, and by the end are going just above a walk? How important is hitting ‘the numbers’?

An athlete I used to coach, Tereza Macel found her best form winning Ironman Canada followed by a fourth place at Ironman Hawaii after learning not to look at, or define herself by numbers. Instead when tired the advice was to focus on completing all workouts she started, never missing one or cutting one short. Instead a new motto was adopted –

You start. You finish.

Sometimes the finish may be ugly, and the time a slow terrible time, but is this awful training? Or is it a source of inspiration?

Ask how much confidence can grow by not leaving a workout defeated? Can we put a score on the discipline to cope while not hitting our numbers, and instead to keep going? How many points do we score for telling ourself that consistency will pay us back later, even if we can’t see it helping at this moment?

Likewise, our Trisutto Coach Lisbeth Kristensen was another champion athlete who learned the benefits of a no numbers approach. As an athlete and new mum, she had to overcome the little voice that said – ‘I can’t train like I used to’ after missing or cutting short sessions if her daughter was sick or had to be taken to creche.

This lead to self doubt and questioning of ‘I don’t know if I can still do it?’


Trisutto Coach Lisbeth successfully managed training, racing and being a Mum!

However, this was always the subjective side of super mum, as all in the squad marvelled at her antics. Super mum with a baby stroller would run like a maniac through town for up to 2 hours at a time, she’d ride her trusty mountain bike furiously baby on back and swim short but sharper sessions.

Let’s not forget being a mum is training in itself, and who can decide on how to score that? What I can tell you is the score that counts and the only score that means anything is race day. And on that count Lisbeth raced very, very well long into motherhood.

Quality of session or time is not always everything. Sometimes it is just about getting it done. It can be extraordinary what one can achieve when the focus is training to race as opposed to racing to train.

What is good training? What is awful? Like most things, it is in the eye of the beholder!

 

Lisbeth brings her 10+ years of professional racing and training experience under head coach Brett Sutton, to help athletes of all levels, to achieve their goals.