Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Dealing with the stress of heavy training loads

This time of year I always get reminded how demanding big training volumes can be on the body. Stress is stress and the challenge of trying to balance big training blocks while maintaining a healthy body/mind can be overwhelming. I have mentioned many times before that I have four keys to success: 1. Stay Healthy 2. Stay Consistent 3. Train Properly 4. Have fun I consider sleep to be the most important factor in maintaining optimal health. I get blood work done at least 2x a year and use other tests to see if I am in need of any supplement assistance to my daily diet. One supplement I use this time of year is Drenamin from Standard Process. This supplement addresses many of the key variables that I need: Drenamin supports adrenal function and helps maintain emotional balance. Promotes healthy adrenal gland function Encourages a healthy response to everyday environmental stresses and supports immune system function Maintains energy production Supports a balanced mood Contains a combination of key ingredients from Cataplex C, Cataplex G, and Drenatrophin PMG Good source of antioxidant vitamin C*

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

70.3 Timberman - Quick Recap

This was my 12th time racing the Timberman venue. I love this course and the surrounding area. I went to prep school on the lake back in 1990-1991. I have always admired the beauty of the Lakes region. I'm going to keep this recap very short and go over the major points of my race. Swim: I saw Charles Perrault right before our wave started and knew that I would definitely not be the fastest M40-44 swimmer on the day. I did try to hold his feet at the beginning and it was the first time that I almost overheated in a wetsuit. I could not hold him and I ended up doing the remainder of the swim by myself. Bike: I came into the race really well rested. I had a hard time settling in on the first 12 miles as my legs were so fresh from the rest. I was able to settle things down once I got onto the main road at mile 13. However, I did make two critical mistakes in hindsight. The conditions were hot and humid on the day. I did not take in enough calories to account for the extra needed in the heat. I, also, got behind on my hydration. There was 1 less aid station at the beginning of the bike this year and I dropped the water bottle at the 2nd aid station. So, I got my first bottle of water at the turnaround at mile 29. Both mistakes are completely my fault and I know better, but sh*% happens sometimes. Run: I started the run conservatively to find my rhythm and then built into a good clip by mile 4. I registered my first and only sub 6 minute mile at that point. Then the wheels slowly started to come off. This is where my 2 big mistakes on the bike started to manifest. It was like a slow moving train wreck. I started to lose energy and focus. I have experienced this numerous times in the past and I should have been able to recognize the symptoms. By mile 7, I was ready to take a nice long time out. So I made a deal with myself to walk the aid stations until I started to feel better. It took 3 aid stations to get back on track, relatively speaking. I was able to get back to a somewhat respectable pace for the final 5k and I crossed the line in 4:21:47 2nd M40-44/5th Amateur/ 34th Overall. This was not one of my better days. They say you learn more from your failures than your successes. While I do not consider this a failure, I sure learned a lot on the day.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Taking Risks: IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships Bike Pacing: From Training Peaks

Taking Risks: IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships Bike Pacing Thursday, August 13, 2015 | By Chris Thomas Email this article Taking Risks: IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships Bike Pacing The 2014 70.3 World Championship was my thirty-ninth Half Ironman distance race. So, I’ve had some opportunities to figure out what works well for me and what does not over the years. I am a bit of a data dork and love to analyze my race data. Race Day Numbers My effort on race day is dictated by triangulating my perceived effort, heart rate, and power in that order. I have found that I need to ride to my own feel. If I get too hung up on a certain power number or heart rate, then I do not race as well. However, I do know my zones very well from my training. When I line up for a race, I know exactly what I am capable of. I may have a good day or a bad day, but I am not just guessing what I can do. So I keep a close eye on my numbers like Normalized Power® (NP®), heart rate, cadence, and speed throughout the race to see how I am riding. I have found that this helps me to stay patient at the beginning of the bike leg, when my legs are fresh and to stay focused in the middle to later sections. I have had a tendency to flake out a bit in the past and my effort has dipped due to the lack of focus. Post Race Analysis According to Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan in their book, Training and Racing with a Power Meter, the optimal Intensity Factor® (IF®) range to race a Half Ironman is .83-.87. IF shows how intense your effort was as a percentage of your Functional Threshold Power (FTP).I have, personally, seen mine range from .76-.87 over the years. Another one of the other parameters I look at after a race is the Variability Index (VI). VI indicates how smooth your power output was over the ride. The lower your VI, 1.0 being perfect, the more evenly your power production. Joe Friel has stated that an optimal VI for triathlons is 1.05 or below in order to run well off the bike. I have ranged between 1.00-1.08 during my Half Ironman events. Data in Action Here is a look at my data from the 2014 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Mont Tremblant, Canada Proper Bike Pacing My Intensity factor came in at .82 for this race. While slightly below what I normally see, I felt that I performed well on the day. I had gotten dunked during the start of the swim segment, which cost me a little bit of time. So, I knew I needed to ride well in order to be in a competitive position starting the run. Each race is unique and the dynamics of the Mnt. Tremblant bike course were frustrating at times as packs formed and the tightness of the course design caused a few bottlenecks. In spite of these unfortunate situations, I was able to ride consistent and pretty much stuck to my game plan. I ended up with a variability index of 1.02 for the entire ride. However, even with the proper VI, my quads were very fatigued coming off of the bike as I pushed the last 7.5 kilometers as hard as I could. My goal was to create as much separation as possible during this hilly section. The bike effort brought me into T2 first in my age group. I had an uncharacteristically slow transition and dropped two places coming out onto the run. I could see my competition right in front of me, but I could not match the leg speed of my competition. I ended up getting run down by another athlete and just barely held on for fourth place in the M40-44 bracket by four seconds on fifth place. There were some speedy runners for sure. I was happy with my effort on the day and really felt that I gave everything I had. While my bike numbers indicated I should have been able to run well, I had used a couple of extra bullets that clearly affected me in hindsight. This illustrates that using numbers can help you make good decisions on race day, even if you gamble a bit. Racing is all about fitness, execution, and good decision making. Using data allows you to build on each of these elements. While my numbers were good, I gambled a bit and it was a good learning experience.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Challenge Quassy

I had raced the inaugural REV 3 half Ironman distance event in 2009 at Lake Quassapaug. That course was very challenging but fair. The race course design has changed many times over the years, but the topography of the area will always lend itself to a very challenging course. The 2015 edition did not disappoint. Swim: 27:54 (11th) I was looking forward to starting in the elite wave. I enjoy the competition and it's always nice to get clean roads. I was able to get a good start and I noticed a group of 3 swimmers to my left. I worked hard to bridge up to them, then tried to stay in their draft. It was almost an ideal draft. I was working hard to hold my position throughout the entire swim. At the final turn buoy, the swimmer right in front of me seemed to slow a bit and a gap opened up. I was able to bridge up to the top 2 swimmers and followed them into the beach. I was really happy to come out of my wave in 3rd place. Bike: 2:35:11 (4th)
I was able to come out of T1 in 2nd place overall. I knew the bike course was going to be challenging, so I tried to settle in. My coach, Paul Regensberg, asked me to hit the first half steady and try to build my effort on the 2nd half. I seemed to be sticking to the game plan for the first 40k of the bike. My power and heart rate numbers were decent. I knew I was not going to set any personal bests this day as I just did not have the necessary outdoor riding sessions in the bank. This course never lets you settle in. It consists of a lot of short steep hills with lots of technical sections. I was able to enjoy the lead car until the aid station around mile 25. At that point, an athlete (Pierre-Ives Gigou), went by me like I was riding training wheels. He was so smooth and steady. I knew right away I was not going with him. I hit the 30 mile point after the longest climb of the course and tried to hit the gas as coach prescribed. It was at this point that I realized there was not anything in the tank. So I focused on trying to stay as steady as I could the remainder of the bike. Gigou, a first year pro, put almost 13 minutes into me the remainder of the bike. While I would not have held Pierre on my best day, I know I could have made it a bit more interesting if my fitness was a bit more in line (typical triathlete excuse :-)). My normalized power results came in at 236 watts, which was 36 watts lower than I had produced back in 2009. It was one of those days. Run: 1:23:40 (3rd)
As I came off the bike, I received the information that I was about 12 minutes down. That was a bit disheartening. Coach Paul had asked me to do the run section as a good training day. I focused on my rhythm and tried to find a pace I could settle into. The run course was so undulating that I was all over the map. By the time I hit the hills during the last 5 miles, I was pretty fried and ready to get the race finished. However, even though I was really fatigued, I ended up running better than I had planned. Overall Time: 4:29:12 (2nd Overall) Summary: I entered this race season with the game plan of a late season peak. Usually I need to be at the top of my game this time of year in order to qualify for the Ironman World Championship. With that realization, I was happy with my results on the day. I gave what I had on the day.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Triathlon Canada: Ask the Coach

Dear Coach, A college athlete of mine recently asked me about the importance of sleep. He has a busy school, work and social schedule. His sleep was starting to suffer and he wanted to know if sleep was really that important to his endurance goals. Coach Chris’s response: I emphasized to my athlete just how important proper sleep is. Growth hormone is released during sleep and there is added hormone production when sleep is extended past normal ranges. On the flip side, a two hour reduction to one’s normal sleep pattern is equivalent to consuming enough alcohol to register a .05 blood alcohol level. While the average adult gets 7 to 7.5 hours of sleep daily, there have been recent studies done on athletes that show enormous benefits to athletic performance when they are able to get 10 hours of sleep per night. ESPN even did a story where they stated that sleep is the “magic pill” for athletic performance. I mentioned to my athlete that there are many devices on the market today that track the amount and quality of sleep. I, personally, use the Timex Move X20 to track my daily sleep patterns. I find that it really helps me stay more consistent. I’m also able to better understand my energy levels on a daily basis. LifeSport Coach Chris Thomas has over 10 years of coaching experience and is USAT certified. Chris is also an Ironman 70.3 World Champion (M40-44). He enjoys working with athletes of all levels. Contact Chris to tackle your first triathlon or to perform at a higher level. Find more tips on Twitter@LifeSportCoach.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

American Zofingen

Wow, what a race! This has been on my bucket list of races to do for quite some time. I had heard how challenging the race was from several athletes. However, just like most things, you have to find out for yourself! I came into the race having completed 2 outdoor rides since competing in the Ironman World Championships back in October. Both of those outdoor rides where done out in Arizona on Mt. Lemmon during my Timex team camp. So I had not been outside in the northeast in about 7 months. I had logged plenty of trainer miles, so I knew I was fit. I just didn't think I was race fit.
Here's the profile of the run course. The race starts with one 5 mile loop that includes 900 feet of climbing. It's single track for the climbs and groomed wide trails for the decents. I really enjoyed the first loop and felt ready for the bike. I knew it was going to be a long day, so I kept it pretty easy in zone 1 for the first loop.
Once I got onto the bike, I realized right away that I had made a big technical mistake. I still had my 11-25 rear cassette on from Hawaii. The first hill made me realize what a rookie mistake that was. My legs were working right out of the gate. There were sections of the bike that were a bit technical on a couple of the descents. Fortunately, my friend and prior winner, Mitch West had warned me to be cautious on the first downhill. The remainder of the bike was very challenging but enjoyable. By the end of the 3rd lap and 8,406 feet of climbing I was ready to get off my Trek Speed Concept. It had served me well, but I was ready for the 2nd run. My friend Mitch had told me that there were sections of the run that were really steep and would need to be walked. During the first loop of the race, I was thinking to myself that he had no idea what he was talking about. Well, as soon as I hit the run the 2nd time, I knew immediately what Mitch was talking about. Oh my gosh, my heart rate was running high and I was getting pretty dehydrated. I managed through the 3 loops by just focusing on keeping one foot in front of the other. It was not a run, but forward movement. The only real excitement came towards the end of the 2nd loop, when I almost stepped on a huge black snake. I screamed and jumped over it at the last second and I was very happy that there were no witnesses to my little freak moment. That certainly got my heart rate racing again. I crossed the finish line in 7:20:19 and managed to take the overall title. It was an experience I will not forget.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Genetic Testing

I love to learn. I also love to test. Each year I try to do something new to learn about my body and how I can maximize my physiological potential. Over the years, I've tested the following: VO2 max, blood threshold, sweat loss, metabolic efficiency, and wind tunnel. I always learn a lot from each experience. This year Standard Process came out with a new type of Genetic and Fitness assessment using DNA analysis. The link is here: http://www.standardprocess.com/Standard-Process/NutriSync#.VUuwRZMeo3Y The steps were very easy and not intrusive at all. I had to take a brief survey and do two cheek swabs. I sent the cheek swabs back to the lab for analysis. I was then provided with a 22 page report that gave me feedback on how I can improve my nutrition and fitness. This report is based on the analysis of my DNA, so it is completely unique to me. I discovered many interesting things from the report. One item that was especially interesting is that I have a salt-sensitivity. As an endurance athlete, this sensitivity can create some issues in my longer events. From an athletic stand point, my genes showed that I, personally, benefit from a combination of power and low intensity endurance activities. The report showed that I am at 77% of my potential for my nutrition and lifestyle. Overall, the report was very thorough and I look forward to working on the areas I need to improve on.