Training changes from 2017-2018

2016 was my most successful triathlon season to date. Changing job and trying to focus on swim improvements meant I made a number of changes to my training in 2017.

  1. Run training in the early mornings
  2. Joined a swimming club and swam more than ever before
  3. Swimming 4 times per week, in the evenings and Saturday and Sunday
  4. Bike training only 3x per week

This was not as successful as I hoped, so this year I have reverted to my old training schedule as much as possible. This means:

  • Swimming as little as possible ūüôā

I have gone back to swimming 3x per week, but this year I am swimming alone again, for 1 hour before work twice a week. When I was swimming with the swim squad I felt like I was spending too much time in the pool (up to 6 hours per week) and not training specifically enough for triathlon. Now 1 weekday session is mainly technique and the other is mainly speed. At the weekend I have been swimming a longer swim (now up to 4km). I also had swim analysis with Gabriela Minarikova from¬†Swim Smooth Czech Republic twice in the autumn, which I thoroughly recommend if you can’t spend time working with her (or Swim Smooth anywhere!) regularly. They were the most useful 2 hours I have ever spent in the pool and it has helped me focus on my¬†technique very much, especially in the off-season and when I started back to training properly.

  • Biking 4 times per week

Last year I swapped out my 4th bike ride for a 4th swim but when the season came round I felt badly prepared. This winter I followed a higher volume Trainerroad plan (I like the Sweet Spot base plans) and then a high volume half ironman build plan, which I have enjoyed, although as soon as the weather warms up I start modifying the long bike ride and the easy bike ride on the plan to allow me to ride these outside. I do the vo2 max and usually any above or near threshold intervals on my turbo trainer year round РI do not have time to ride my bike outside in the week.

  • Running, 1 short interval, 1 longer interval and 1 long run

I structured my running training better, this was for a number of reasons (my wife started taking my kids to school some days so I could run and go to work later ūüôā ), the winter wasn’t as cold and icy and last but not least, I decided to run speed sessions indoors when the weather was too bad to run them outside.

The final change I made this year was to use my Stryd footpod to structure a running program, which I have found very beneficial. This meant that instead of using pace or heart rate for running, I have only been using power Рand I have really enjoyed it.

In a typical week I usually did some 2-4 min uphill v02 max intervals @ up to 105% power, some longer intervals up to 10-20 mins @ around 90-95%, and a long run which I tried to keep in my zone 1 or low zone 2, sometimes with a fast finish or a harder portion in the middle. I have found it very useful and would recommend to anyone.

I am going to write another post about my experience with Stryd and what made me initially buy one.

  • Added 1-2 short strength sessions per week

On the advice of a running coach, I recently added a couple of short strength sessions, I don’t think they will have time to make much impact on my fitness yet but we will have to see how that goes!

Season’s goals 2018

After my first triathlon of the year last Saturday, I decided it is time to put my goals for the 2018 season here for all to see.

I am feeling quite excited about the year now! Last year I focussed too much on swimming and I felt my run and bike suffered a bit so this year I have gone back to my old training formula, with some tweaks here and there. I explain them more here.

Anyway, as the title says, here are my goals for 2018:

  1. Qualify for IM 70.3 Worlds
  2. Finish in Top 3 in AG in Trumer triathlon challenge
  3. Finish Challenge Almere in top 5 in AG
  4. Improve on run performance from 2017
  5. Complete a power-based end of season marathon

 

Plant Power!

 

I thought it was about time that I post about my diet change. Last summer I read Finding Ultra, the book about how diet and exercise changed author Rich Roll’s life.

While reading it, I noticed a few plugs for a book about his diet and recipes called The Plant Power Way, and as my wife has always been interested in vegetarian and vegan cuisine, I decided to buy her a copy – little did I know that in a few months I’d be a plant-powered athlete!

At first, I thought I’d just cut out dairy as my younger son has a milk intolerance and eat less meat (he is a meat lover, but the other won’t touch it!) but after reading the¬†No Meat Athlete¬†my wife bought me, adjusting my diet, and not cooking meat for a few weeks and then buying an organic chicken to prepare for Christmas dinner, I decided I didn’t want to touch the raw meat anymore and that was it – the accidental end of meat eating, at home anyway.

I still occasionally eat meat when I go to restaurants but maybe one day, when restaurants have the same good choice of meat-free food as meaty food then maybe I will stop altogether – who knows!

It’s a bit early to say for sure, but at the moment I feel better than ever, although in reality my diet hasn’t changed that much. I swapped cheese for hummus and beans, I eat way more green veg and have added a green smoothie a day, I also eat great salads from the No Meat Athlete book – give some of them a try – whether you intend to reduce meat or not – they are tasty and filling!

I hope to start posting some of my favourite recipes on here over time, so watch this space!

 

Less is more – going alcohol-free

After reading several times over the last couple of years about the negative effects of alcohol on weight loss,¬†and¬†metabolism and recovery, waking up one Saturday morning in March with a hangover and having to get up to train was the final straw, I decided to give going alcohol-free a try! As it turns out, I’ve just finished my most successful season ever!

Czechman – 20th place (6th in AG)

Schloss-Moritzburg triathlon – 2nd place

Slovakman – 7th place

Challenge Samorin – 1st in AG

Austria triathlon Podersdorf – 11th place (3rd in AG)

I suppose I’ll never know if it was from not drinking or training harder (see my Trainerroad review, I can only recommend this programme!) but I would like to think that being alcohol-free must have contributed, even if not directly then indirectly. If you’ve hit a performance plateau, why not give it a try?? I intend to stick with it for another season so I can compare results ūüôā

Here are some random  things I thought I would share:

  1. For me, I found giving up alcohol rather like giving up smoking (yes I used to smoke and gave up 12 years ago). Once I decided that I would not smoke, something happened and I suddenly found it quite easy to stop.
  2. This might not be for everyone. This choice was much easier for me than it might be for a young, single man. I rarely go out (I have two young children at home), and my drinking was mainly done at home in front of the TV to unwind. For a long time I have wondered why I bother and so it was just a case of exchanging beer or wine for tea/lemonade. After about a month I didn’t miss it at all (in fact after my race yesterday I had an aclohol-free beer and found I didn’t like it, this from a man who loved a pint until recently!)
  3. Worrying what other people think. This was less of a problem than I always worried. Maybe I don’t feel peer pressure as I used to or maybe people really don’t care if you drink or not!!

So if you want to take your training and fitness to the next level, why not give it a try?

The season at a glance

At the start of the season, I set myself 5 goals for the year:

  1. Finish a half ironman in under 4h30
  2. Finish an Ironman in 9h15
  3. Bike under 5 hours in an Ironman
  4. Qualify for The Championship
  5. Finish in the top ten at Slovakman

And here is how I did:

Finish a half ironman in under 4h30

I didn’t just finish one in under 4h30, but three!

Finish an Ironman in 9h15

I finished SChloss-Moritzburg in 9h17, not quite making 9h15 but this was what I worked out was the best I could do and so I am still pleased with this result

Bike under 5 hours in an Ironman

I managed this twice this year. I biked 4h57 in Moritzburg and 4h50 in Podersdorf

Qualify for The Championship

Not only did I qualify but I won my AG!

Finish in the top ten at Slovakman

I also achieved this and finished 7th!

Slovakman 2016

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After updating my page last year I said I wouldn’t write about this race anymore but after finally hitting my target here by getting into the top ten, I felt a short post was necessary!

This year the weather was not as hot as in previous years but on Friday evening there was a savage thunderstorm and rain throughout the night, meaning that transition was (a little) flooded in the morning. The rain stopped about 15 minutes before we started swimming but there was a very strong wind, meaning that on the 6-lap out-and-back course we had to struggle against the wind (I averaged around 45km/h one way and 28km/h on the way back!) This definitely gave us all something to think about!

Throughout the bike I managed my effort using my power meter and speed, which had to be done although I didn’t meet my time expectations on the course (again!). I was worried that if I tried to push too hard the marathon would be very difficult. I got off the bike in 9th position and started the run. This year the weather was much coooler still (around 24degrees) and I decided to pay no attention to my watch and run purely by feel. This made the run much more comfortable than previous years, where I had tried to meet specific cutoffs and never quite managed. It also meant that I was able to run the whole course except for a couple of short walk breaks¬†in the last lap.

So all in all, a great day without getting too uncomfortable (apart from the pain in my heel I have had since racing earlier in the season). I came away with a 7th place finish and a new personal best of 9h34, just outside my target time of 9h30 but happy nonetheless!

Still my favourite long distance race!

 

2016 Season – Part 2

After a 6-week break from racing, I’m finally coming to the end of the wait for the rest of my season to start. To read about my first races, click here

It’s been a strange few weeks, by the end of the last race I was suffering with achilles pain which has persisted to a greater or lesser extent for the last few weeks (I intend to write a post shortly about how I try to stay fit/limit injury). This has limited my ability to run in training, especially long and fast training.

While working through my specialty phase¬†I have also had a real mix of bike workouts, some felt really good and others felt really hard. I put some of this down to being tired (on our holiday in Croatia there was load music until 4 or 5 in the morning ūüė¶ for half of the week) and my son hasn’t been sleeping very well.

After returning home in the middle of last week, I’ve cut back my running to a bare minimum and I did a last long bike ride on Thursday. Saturday saw a short, fairly intense bike workout and Monday my last long swim.

Tomorrow I’m going to Piestany for Slovakman, so I guess I will see how the break has affected me! Getting excited now…..

Other races to come are:

13/7 Olympic triathlon Zdar (possibly)

20/8 Challenge Samorin

3/9 Podersdorf Ironman

 

 

Tacx Vortex Smart – Gone!

As a follow up to my previous Tacx posts here and here, I thought you might like to hear that after 1 month of hiding the turbo trainer deciding what to do with it, I rode it again with the same problems as before.

Very disappointed, I wrote to the shop where I bought it again (Wiggle) and arranged to send it back. Their service was brilliant. They sent a courier to collect the trainer and took it for tests. After that they informed me they had sent it back to Tacx and a few days later I recieved a full refund.

So now I have decided to stick with my ‘dumb’ trainer, at least for the foreseeable future!

Super start to the season!

I thought it was time to take a look back at the season so far. After 4 races, I am really pleased with my results:

7th May: Austrian 1/2 Iron, 4h08 (7th in cat, 19/200) You can read my review here

4th June: Czechman, 4h24 (5th in cat, 20/600) You can read my review here

11th June: Schloss-Moritzburg Ironman, 9h17 (2nd) You can read my review here

18the June: Moraviaman Iron relay (I rode 45km in 1h09 and ran 21.1km in 1h26)

In each race I have consistently ridden better than ever before with half ironman bike splits of 2h20 and 2h24, and an ironman bike split of 4h57. My average power is 15-20 watts higher than last year and my runs have been very consistent too (cca. 4min/km in half iron). I put most of this improvement down to the training plans I have been following on Trainerroad.com. I know I have been writing a lot about it recently but I am very excited that I am finally making some bike gains and have the added benefit of running better off the bike too. If you want a free trial of Trainerroad, please get in touch!

 

Measuring FTP – different methods

I came across this interesting article about the differences in measuring FTP (Functional Threshold Power) indoors and outdoors and thought it would be good to add some other ideas to complement those in the article.

In the Power Meter Handbook, Joe Friel talks about how Andrew Coggan, PhD came up with the idea of FTP as a measurement of the power an athlete can sustain at their lactate threshold intensity for about an hour (Friel 2012: 53). And how do we do this? Do a test.

The test is a simple one; find out the power you can hold you 60 minutes. While simple, it obviously has drawbacks – it would really challenge you to do a test this long, both mentally and physically, to go out on the road and ride as hard as you can for 60 minutes (Friel 2012: 54). Not only this but there is traffic on the road which might get in the way during your test!

Being a Trainerroad user, I am already familiar with testing my FTP at home on my turbo trainer using one of their tests. I always feel like my tests are not accurate though, and I think this is for a number of reasons:

  1. Trainerroad suggest resting for 2 days before testing (Friel also suggests resting for a few days before testing (2012: 60). I rarely want to rest for 2 full days every 4-6 weeks before testing, especially as the triathlon season draws closer.
  2. Testing on a turbo trainer is difficult – there is nothing to distract you from the effort (except if you have a window nearby ūüôā ). I’m pleased that Joe Friel says that most riders find this test more difficult indoors! (Friel 2012: 55)
  3. When I do have a couple of easy days before a difficult Trainerroad workout (either after a holiday, illness or business trip), I always find the workout easier than I would without this break. That might be obvious to most of us but once my routine gets back to normal these workouts are more difficult. Does this mean my FTP is set too high (I have trouble completing it now) or too low (I did it easily last week!)??!!

I have never tested my FTP outside, but it makes sense to me that for the reasons above and considering how I can move in and out of my saddle on roads that are not flat and consistent like testing indoors that my FTP will vary somewhat when testing outdoors vs. indoors. I have, however, used race files to estimate my FTP and to estimate target power for a given event (by using the 5% Friel describes (2012: 45), stating that when the duration of a race/test doubles, your power reduces by 5%). Using this formula I can estimate my FTP for any given distance quite easily.

This blog post explains more on how to estimate your FTP¬†if you don’t want to test every 4-6 weeks or are just starting out.

So now we come to the nitty gritty! How do we test our FTP outdoors?

As we see in the article, it is suggested that you ride an 8-minute or 20-minute test (as you would when testing on Trainerroad indoors) based on your experience and the type of races you will participate in, then deduct 10% or 5% depending on the length of the test.

Friel proposes a slightly longer test (30 minutes) but with NO percentage reduction РUNLESS you are with other people! (Then it becomes more like a race scenario and you should deduct 5%)

This is the most interesting difference between Trainerroad and Friel’s methodology and the main reason I consider I test low when testing indoors, and not necessarily due to fatigue as I suggest in points 1 and 3 above but more likely due to mental toughness. I am sure that I could work harder if I was racing or outside with other people than I could on my own, at home, sweating away on my trainer, and this is why I would consider he thinks it is best not to make the reductions suggested.

Based on the same 5% theory, with no reduction for a 30-minute test, perhaps the reductions suggested by Trainerroad are a little high and you could consider reducing a bit closer to 3% for a 20 minute test…. the question is, how much difference does it actually make to your wattage!

I’ll leave you to ponder ūüôā

So however you decide to assess your FTP now, here is a post about useful tips to remember when doing FTP assessments.