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I'm just an average age-grouper / weekend warrior blogging about Ironman Triathlon Training and this complex puzzle of juggling life, having fun and reporting on my various feats of strength and endurance adventures!

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The week before an IRONMAN or IRONMAN 70.3 can be very stressful. There’s so much you need to do, and yet, at the same time you know you need to be resting up for the big demands of the day. Here is a check list of the seven things you should do to help you sort out the “musts” from the “maybe after a nap” pre-race demands.

1. Get Your Bike Race Ready.

Not a great bike mechanic? Me either. Consider having your local guys check out your steed, and keep in mind that if you’re traveling for the race this might need to be scheduled well in advance. Bike shop guys/gals are inherently fun, easy to talk to, and you might learn something new. What is the cost of this compared to the mental cost of a broken chain at mile 10 on the bike course? I’ve never had a bike related issue in any triathlon, ever, simply by following this recommendation.

If you have had your bike shipped to the event, make sure either you or a qualified mechanic has a chance to make sure everything is in working order once it’s re-assembled. Plan at least a few quick rides in varying gears to make sure shifting/braking are working properly.

2. Practice Your Transitions.

It always baffles me when guys in my age group spend double, even triple the amount of time I do in transition and wonder why their race times don’t improve.

Review the swim, bike and run transition area(s) of your IRONMAN. If the race site isn’t too far away, drive over there and go over the even site, maybe even simulate a swim entry/exit and make note of where the bike and run exits will be.

Also practice with what you know you’ll have with you on race day. For example, get a few practice runs of pulling off that wetsuit while slightly fatigued (not all races have those lovely wetsuit removers!), and practice stuffing whatever fuel you’ll have on you in all the right pockets, etc.

The more realistic your transition simulation can be, the faster you will be on race day.

3. Finalize Your Nutrition Logistics.

Your nutrition strategy is technically something you should’ve been working on during much of your training, but the logistics of what you’ll need on race day are different. Purchase everything you’ll need from the minute you wake up on race day all the way through what you want to have on hand post-race. Have a plan for when/how much you’ll eat (based on what you’ve done in training and had success with) and be diligent with it.

4. Finalize Your Hydration Logistics.

Much like with fueling, your hydration strategy should not be something you are experimenting with or guessing about) on race day. Hydration logistics involve the actual process you will use on race day, in addition to how much fluid you need to obtain (or purchase) before race morning.

Do you know your sweat rate? Are you a drink-to-thirst athlete or one who goes on more of a schedule? How will you keep track of what you consume on the bike? Have you ever peed on a moving bike? Is that a skill you need/want to master? All of these are important questions to know the answers to before you line up to race.

5. Plan Your Post-Race Logistics.

While you’ll be on cloud nine after crossing that finish line, the endorphins will soon settle, leaving you tired, hungry and grumpy if you don’t have a post-race plan. Plus there are your spectators to consider. Make a plan pre-race of where you will meet (sometimes finish lines are the best place, but sometimes not), what they should bring you, and where you’ll go from there.

What will you eat? What clothes/shoes will you change into? If you do well in your age group, will you wait around for the awards ceremony? It could be quite some time after you finish; do you have sunscreen?

6. Familiarize yourself with the course.

If you are doing a local race, then you’ve likely had the opportunity to ride and run the course as part of your race preparation, but if you’re traveling to the race venue course familiarization is essential. Take some time to swim during the open water practices and see if you’ll need an extra cap due to cold water or possibly a skin suit if the swim might not be wetsuit legal.

Drive the entire bike course and make note of any good areas to refuel, spin out your legs and sit up for a bit, or really power down on the pedals for a stretch. Familiarize yourself as to where the hills and aid stations will be on the run and plan your run attire accordingly.

During all your pre-race sessions remember: You are a guest of the people of your race’s venue, so please respect and obey the traffic laws during your training practices.

7. Prepare (but don’t obsess!) over the major what-ifs.

Do you have any idea what would happen if you got injured? Do you know where the med tent is? Does your family know where you should meet if for some reason you end up with a DNF? Make sure you fill out all the necessary medical info on the back of your race bib, it’s a simple step that is incredibly helpful for medical responders in the unlikely event that something should happen to you during the race.

Do you know where the timing table is should you lose your chip? It happens. In Kona, they think this is important enough that they not only have an entire page of the pre-race guide devoted to it, they place the timing table (where replacement chips are available) at the swim exit, bike exit and run exit.

These aren’t all of the things you’ll need to do before race day, of course you might have bike check-ins the day before, and/or a mandatory race meeting to attend as well. But if you follow these seven tips you’ll be in a better position to have a fun and rewarding day.

The post 7 Things Successful IRONMAN Racers Do in the Week Before a Race appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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You know the feeling. You’re approaching the start line and the butterflies in your stomach start fluttering, sometimes gently, other times at a crippling, frantic speed. Pre-race nerves tend to wake up your inner demons, which say unhelpful things like:

“What are you doing?”
“You’re not ready for this.”
“My God, look at the size of him/her—you’re out of your depth.”

Before you know it, you’re spiraling into a world of negativity, which can ultimately hurt your performance. Everyone who competes will experience some pre-race nerves, but luckily there are things you can do to control them long before they start—saving your energy for what really matters.

Find Your Motivation

Spend a little time at the beginning of your training cycle thinking about your reason for taking on the challenge in the first place. This will not only help keep you focused during training but can be used as “power button” when those pre-race nerves threaten to drag you down. Once you know your motivation, print it off, keep it in your phone, or post it somewhere prominent. I’ve actually even written it on my arm on race day!

Draw up Mantras

Similar to your motivation reminders, mantras are short, powerful statements that help focus your mind during tough times (e.g. for me my swim mantra is “always on feet” and my run mantra is “I have this, lets go.”) Use these pre-race (and during your event) to help keep you calm, centered and in the moment.

Keep a Training Log

If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re already tracking your training to optimize performance—but your training log can also be a powerful counterbalance to pre-race nerves. Logging your training data, milestone rides/runs and how you felt during each can help incrementally build confidence.

Add Race-Specific Elements to Your Training

That means practicing starts, eating the food you plan to eat, and starting your training sessions at the time of day you’ll be starting your race. That way, on race day you’ll know what to expect, reducing your chances of any nasty surprises. You might be surprised how simply cutting down on unknowns can reduce your nerves.

Aim for Autopilot

Map/prepare/familiarize. Make sure you take time to plan out all your logistics, including housing, food, transportation, the course, registration times, start times, etc. You should feel like you’re on autopilot for the days leading up to the race. After all, energy spent stressing is energy you can’t use to perform.

Acknowledge How Far You’ve Come

Review your training logs and milestones from your completed training—it can come as a nice surprise to see how many hours/miles you have covered already. Often nerves are a result of feeling underprepared, but the hard proof can help reassure you that you’re up to the task ahead.

Make A, B and C goals

It’s good to be aware of your “perfect day” goals (when everything goes 100-percent right on race day) but you should also have B and C goals (for when you encounter minor or major setbacks). Being prepared to adapt to any situation throughout the day will help you stay calm and perform as well as you can even when plans go awry.


Head to the finish line and take a mental picture; imagine yourself finishing strong, closing in on the final kilometers on race day, soaking in the cheers and feeling amazing. The more you actively fill your head with positive images, the less it’ll fill itself with nerve-inducing negative ones!

The post 8 Simple Tips for Calming Pre-Race Nerves appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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As a competitive triathlete or a serious swimmer, you probably have read numerous articles about swim stroke, how to optimize it, how to view it on TrainingPeaks, and how to plan for it. Here are some tips for how to best calculate swim zones in TrainingPeaks to improve your pacing and better plan for your next race.

At the moment there aren’t a lot of specific swimming zones that are accurate for every swimmer. Power meters for cycling and running have allowed us to take a much more scientific approach to training, but the swim has been left behind and hasn’t had much zone-focused training.

To help debunk some of the swim mystery, I will discuss critical factors that affect your swim workouts, assist in setting your proper swim zones, and how to optimize your training while viewing the TrainingPeaks information.

If you have used TrainingPeaks, you will understand just how easy it is to gain fitness/fatigue in the swim. Your Training Stress Score® (TSS®) numbers will be very high when viewing or planning workouts. You will take a bigger hit on a swim workout than any other on the TrainingPeaks platform.

Your numbers can (and will) balloon out of control if you let them.  So when should you pull back on the swim and allow for recovery, just as you would on the bike or run?  Let’s take a look at the Performance Management Chart (PMC), which you see below. It usually looks something like this:


To maintain a proper Training Stress Balance (TSB), the yellow line on the chart above, and Fatigue level (the pink line on the chart above) during your training in other sports, heart rate (HR) zones, power zones, and pace zones are extremely important.

If you try to convert some of the more popular zones to the swim, it gets quite confusing. To illustrate the point a little clearer, let’s look at it from a different angle. Let’s say I have a HR threshold on the run of 180 bpm.  If I want to run at 85 percent of that I will be at a 153 HR.  Now let’s say I have a swim threshold of 1:23 min/100yd (average pace over the course of a 1,000yd test). If I want to swim at 85 percent of that T-pace, it will be 1:38 min/100yd.

Swimming at a speed this slow compared to your threshold changes how you swim. Your stroke rate will most likely drop and lengthen. This in turn will cause you to over-glide in your stroke causing a chain reaction of negative effects.

The first step in identifying your zones is to perform a 1,000 TT-effort test after a warm-up. From the result of this test, you will calculate your average pace per 100 (yards or meters). This average 100 time will become your threshold pace or “T-Pace.”

If you are an experienced swimmer (college/Masters/consistent swimming) you can take this average directly. If you are new to the sport or have not been consistently swimming, it is usually a good idea to add on another second to your average 100 time. After a couple of weeks/training cycles, if you are responding appropriately you can bump your threshold to the average 100 pace.

To determine if a swimmer is ready to bump up their threshold, I have athletes take the same 1,000 yd/m test again (a couple weeks later) and watch for the following:

A). Have they improved their ability to hold their pace over the course of the test compared to last time?

B). Is their pace steady and consistent? 

If I can answer “yes” to these questions, then their new average pace should equal their threshold pace.

Before I present my swim zones, I should mention they work the same regardless of your T-pace. Whether your threshold is 1:23 or 2:10 per 100 yd/m. The zones that I have seen an improvement in all athlete types are below:

Coquelin Swim Zones

Warm up Zone

Grey Zone

Endurance Zone

Tempo Zone

Threshold Zone

Supra threshold

All Out Effort
120% and over

Because the swims are at an Intensity Factor (IF) much higher than what is expected on TrainingPeaks this will result in two things:

You will be getting higher TSS (Training Stress Score) numbers compared to other workouts because the IF (intensity factor) is viewed as very high.
This will give you a bigger number to ATL (fatigue) and affect your TSB (form) more.

This causes the PMC numbers you are tracking to look a little different than expected. When using this method during periods when overall volume/intensity is higher, you will have slightly lower TSB numbers (in negatives) and slightly higher ATL numbers (positives).

This may be alarming initially, but you have to remember with the zones listed above being higher than normal comes a different way to read the PMC on TrainingPeaks. For other sports such as cycling or running you don’t want to stay below -20 TSB for very long because it leads to injuries/overtraining.

The same holds true for swimming but you can move that worry zone just a touch further to account for the numbers you will be seeing from these swim zones listed earlier.

Another helpful tip is to have multiple PMC charts on your dashboard. This will allow you to see what your true fitness is in each sport and further break down your ramp rate in each discipline.

Which leads me to my next point: How much (swim) fitness should you gain over the course of a seven day period?

Appropriate ramp rate of 3 to 6 CTL points per week will allow you to not go below the -20 TSB level in the swim specific PMC. Take a look at an appropriate swim progression:


Once you start to strive for more than 6 CTL points in a one-week period, it usually doesn’t end well unless that person is a seasoned swimmer who hasn’t been logging their workouts until now. Some athletes will start to react negatively once you dip below -17TSB, as is the case here:


Most won’t have a problem going a bit lower than that. Keep in mind the experience of you or your athlete before spending extended periods of time below this point. Doing so with athletes who are not accustomed to this type of swim training will almost always result in injuries.

So just a quick recap of everything we talked about:

You’ll benefit from using swim zones.
Ramp rates of more than 6 CTL points in one week are higher risk for injury.
When TSB dips below -17 you are asking for trouble.

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If you’ve just completed a 5K, the next logical step is to progress to running a 10K. Taking your running to the next level means more than just running more, it means adding in a little more to your running. You should start adding in different types of workouts into your training to help you succeed at your first 10K.

Bumping up your mileage

Running your first 10K doesn’t mean you should just double your mileage and hope for success. It’s recommended that you progress 10 percent a week for three weeks, maintaining or slightly dropping every fourth week.  This build-up and drop-off is the basic principal of periodization. The fourth week is where you recover slightly and allow your body to adapt to the 30 percent training increase.

The long run

Most 5K training plans won’t have a dedicated day where you focus on slower, low intensity mileage. The long run is where you’ll increase your time on feet and build up to running longer and longer. This is an essential day to focus on, as it is the biggest building block of your week, especially if you have your eyes on a half marathon in the future!

Training frequency

You’ll want to slowly build the number of days you run each week to where you’re comfortable running four to five times a week. This frequency does mean that you won’t come into every run 100 percent recovered from your last effort and that’s okay! As new runners progress, they learn how to recover and adapt to their training. What might have challenged you in your 5K training won’t be as hard as you progress in your long run and number of training days.

How long should I prepare?

Give yourself extra time to adapt to the higher training load. It’s recommended that you allow for two, four-week cycles [three weeks of build, one week of adaptation] to help you take the big step from 5k runner to 10K racer.

Where should I start for workouts?

Your workouts should replicate much of the run sessions you did for your 5K training, just for longer amounts of time. In addition to the long run (mentioned above) you should also add in some speed work, strength work like hill work if your 10K is on varied terrain, and fartlek running for race-specific speed.

If you’re looking for more direction for your next  5K, 10K, half marathon or beyond, check out my training plans in the TrainingPeaks Training Plan Store, or even schedule a consulation with me through the TrainingPeaks Coach Match Service.

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You train hard. You put in the hours and the effort day after day. Effort is rarely the limiting factor to an endurance athlete’s performance. Efficient allocation of that effort, or training hours, can be.

Athletes’ regimens often consist of a combination of hard efforts (Functional Threshold Power (FTP), Threshold, VO2 and anaerobic work) and easy efforts (easy endurance mileage) arranged depending on schedule, available friends or group rides, time and how they feel.

They often repeat this schedule consistently throughout the year rather than periodizing their training to focus on specific physiological, physical and psychological adaptations required for success in their races. Furthermore, athletes are often not progressing their training toward the specific effort level required on race day.

While this approach can result in fitness gains, especially in less trained individuals, it will eventually lead to a plateau in performance and ultimately fail to optimally prepare an athlete for the specific demands of their race.

Specificity is arguably the most important aspect of training that is often overlooked or ignored. A well-structured training plan will progress through multiple phases, each designed to elicit specific physiological adaptations, becoming increasingly more specific to the upcoming race. The combination of these phases will result in the compounding of performance improvements that will ultimately lead to the athlete’s optimal performance on race day.

The human body is an incredible machine and is capable of immense adaptation. This adaptation is determined by the stresses and strains we place on it. If we teach our body to perform at a specific intensity for a specific duration, it will adapt and improve at that task.

What it will not do is improve at a task that we almost never introduce into our training. While it is necessary to train all the energy systems during training, it is the timing of specific training stimuli that will determine race performance.

A coach or athlete must start with a “needs analysis” of what is required on race day and assess the athlete’s current fitness, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. The result of this analysis will guide the design of a plan to maximize adaptations for success. This plan must evolve to become increasingly more specific to the race demands if one is to expect success.

An Example

In the case of long course triathlon racing, race intensities for age group athletes tend to be around 80 to 85 percent of FTP for IRONMAN 70.3 distances and 70 to 75 percent of FTP for IRONMAN distance bike legs.

It is all too common, however, for athletes to never experience these intensities for anything close to race-like durations during training. Most of the training will be focused at FTP and VO2 intensities (100 to 120 percent of FTP) or “easy pace” (55 to 65 percent of FTP).

Specifically, there will be interval sessions with low durations and high intensities and there will be endurance sessions with low intensities and high durations. What will be absent is race-like intensities for increasing durations. Why do we do that? What will the body adapt to?

It would be more logical to introduce race-like “stress” into training to allow the body to adapt and become better at handling it. We still want improvements in VO2 and FTP but, as we get closer to race day, we want our training to become progressively more specific.

That is why introducing race-specific sessions is such a powerful tool in an athlete’s or coach’s toolkit. These sessions can be based on Training Stress Score® (TSS) and evolve from low intensity and high duration to race-like intensity and race-like duration. Over time the body will adapt to the stress and become better at handling it.

Leverage Technology

Technology has made remarkable advancements in recent years and has provided us with an abundance of tools to accurately measure our efforts. Why not take advantage of these tools to ensure all our hard work pays off on the big day?

Power meters on the bike allow precise measurement of our effort, making specificity in training easier than it has ever been before. Heart rate monitors and GPS on the run have been a staple of training for years now and allow real-time feedback to guide training and racing.

Power for the run is a relatively new tool, but it promises to revolutionize the sport by making that feedback even more valuable, increasing the level of precision in training prescription and analysis as well as race pacing.

With all these tools at our disposal, it becomes a matter of understanding, planning and implementation to create tailored and race-specific workouts and training plans that will vastly increase the probability of success on race day.

Use the Data

We now have the capability to precisely measure the overall training stress placed on our bodies. With this knowledge we can forecast race demands with considerable accuracy and structure our training to prepare our bodies for them.

Moreover, we can create a long-range plan and monitor actual adaptations versus what we have forecast. This will provide insight on the specific individual characteristics of each athlete, making precise adjustments to their training to further fine tune their race preparation.

We can discover that the “plan” for race day is either too aggressive or conservative, depending on how an athlete responds and progresses through training. We can also track an athlete’s adaptation to the required race demands over time to reinforce their confidence that they are making progress toward their goal.

On the flip side, the data can also alert an athlete or their coach to the fact that the current training plan is not preparing the athlete for the demands of their race. The data won’t lie!

For example, an athlete who is preparing for an IRONMAN race but who likes to join his local cycling group one to two- hour road race style ride will see fitness gains on the bike, but will those gains be the ones that will be the most appropriate for their ultimate race goal?

I would argue that the answer is “no.” The data will bear proof to this by showing improvement in the ability to repeatedly produce power for a break—a useful trait in a cycling road race—but not in the metrics that matter for an IRONMAN, such as four to five hour smooth power production.

Fitness can be described and measured in countless different ways. It all depends what you are trying to achieve. A power lifter is fit, so is a track and field sprinter and so is an IRONMAN athlete.

However, most of us would agree that if you put any of those athletes in the others’ competition they would do rather poorly. Therein lies the concept of specificity. Your body will excel at what you train it to do. Your training should create the aerobic, anaerobic and muscular foundation to maximize your (or your athlete’s) physiological and physical potential and then fine tune it to specific race demands.

A well-designed training plan will create this framework in a logical and organized manner. This will guide an athlete through the multiple cycles, addressing all the energy systems, each timed specifically to build upon the previous one to maximize the overall performance gains.

As the race draws near, the training should transition to ever more specific race preparation to optimize the adaptation to the particular demands of the upcoming competition. Any athlete will gain confidence by seeing their performance improve. This confidence will be a powerful motivator to adhere to the training and ultimately result in their best performance on race day.

We are all familiar with and live by the saying “don’t try anything new on race day,” so why would we try a new intensity level? How will your body respond to a “new” stimulus on race day? The answer is “probably not that well.”

A well-constructed training plan will encompass all the primary energy systems but will become increasingly specific to race intensity as the race approaches. This will not only allow for specific adaptations that will benefit the athlete on race day but will also build confidence that the specific and planned for pace is known and sustainable for the duration of the race. The end result will be an athlete’s optimal performance on race day!

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