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...No idea where I'm headed in 2016, but I can't wait to get there...

So you've landed here on my iWillNotBonk.com Triathlon Training Blog and you're probably wondering who the hell this Tavis guy is and what iWillNotBonk is all about.

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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An athlete recently contacted me after a run workout to report how he felt during the prescribed efforts. The workout was a long run of 23.6 miles with 2×25 minutes at ~92 to 94 percent of FTP, with five minutes of easy running between the intervals. It was certainly a challenging workout (the runner is targeting a marathon PR).

“The first 25 minutes was totally fine,” the athlete told me. “The second one was mildly rugged for the last 12 minutes or so.” Then he said, “For what it’s worth, it was definitely my legs crapping out that made the last couple of miles tougher. Breathing/aerobic stuff was totally fine.”

His comments made me curious to find out what may have happened. Temperature changes or hydration/fueling status changes could have caused the struggle of course, but in both of those cases, one might expect some tell-tale regression of power or other fatigue barometers. The same would be expected if the run and associated efforts simply fatigued the runner into decline.

The first data I looked at was the athlete’s power for the entire run (see the chart below). Was there any obvious visual evidence of a tailing off?

Answer: No.

I then looked at the second tempo effort by itself. Was there obvious visual evidence of a tailing off there?

Answer: No.

I decided to dig a little deeper into that second tempo effort, using some specialty reports and charts I’ve custom built in WKO4. First, I loaded a report that calculates the percentage difference of various metrics between the first and second halves of an effort.

In the second half of the second 25-minute tempo effort, the runner’s power was up 4.6percent, his speed up 10 percent, and his RE (Running Effectiveness) up 6.1 percent. Pretty good! Further, his horizontal power ratio was up 1.3 percent and his leg spring stiffness (LSS) was up 0.8 percent, while his ground contact time (GCT) and vertical oscillation both decreased. His flight phase, cadence, and stride length all increased. The power:GCT ratio (a good marker of fatigue) actually improved by 5.8 percent. In other words, the metrics suggested that despite the runner’s struggling, the production was still there and improving.

Just to confirm the report, I took a look at the recordings for various fatigue indicators over the course of the second tempo effort.

No suggestion of failing was evident.

What a great effort! Yes, RPE was going up, and it was hurting more to maintain power and speed, but the work was executed, and quite well as a matter of fact! It was perfect marathon training. After all, somewhere in that last 10K of a marathon, we want to be able to dig deep but still produce power and speed.

Summary

Running with a Stryd power meter certainly helps runners to execute a workout at prescribed power, and a robust analysis of the data (such as with the user-customizable WKO4 software) allows both coach and athlete to objectively determine if and how the workout was executed. In this case, instead of finding a failing, we found an impressive performance.

Learn more about how WKO4 can help you dig deeper into your workout analysis for better performance with a free 14-day trial.

The post Using WKO4 to Analyze the Struggle in a Run Workout appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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When the fine folks at TrainingPeaks asked me to write an article on athlete retention, I had to first ask myself, “What characterizes athlete retention?” I came to the conclusion that to keep it simple, we could boil it down to two main aspects.

One aspect is longevity of revenue from a given athlete. The other aspect is longevity of “coach engagement” with a given athlete. I would characterize “coach-athlete engagement” as subjective criteria, consisting of good communication, good workout compliancy, and the athlete generally being active and involved in the coach-athlete relationship, not a passive receiver of a training plan.

In the ideal world, “coach-athlete engagement” coexists with continued payment to a coach, but the reality is that is not always the case. Many coaches have stories of the athlete they’ve been working with for three years, that they feel like they are not providing a service to, because the athlete is not actively engaged in the coaching process. I establish this distinction, because I want to focus this article on how to build long lasting “coach-athlete engagement.” In my experience, if the athlete is actively engaged in the coaching process, the continuity of revenue follows.

What follows this verbose blurb is a list of processes that I have found successful in establishing longevity of “coach-athlete engagement.” The caveat emptor I must preface this list with is that at the end of the day every athlete is unique, and different processes are going to be successful in keeping him or her engaged.

Coaches can develop a model of what they believe works, but at the end of the day what is going to dictate their success, is their ability to adapt this model to different athletes.

I put the sentiment of catering to the individual as being key to creating an environment of athlete retention above anything else. That said, here are some things that have been key for me:

1. Keep it fresh for the athlete.

The effect of novel stimuli, both physical and mental, is massive. It is often said that overtraining in the clinical sense is extremely rare, and an “overtraining diagnosis” is often a product of mental stagnation.

Athletes are more likely to stay engaged over time if they feel they are part of an evolving process, not a program that is stagnant. Are there technique elements in which the athlete could use improvement? Is there a different style of training that could be incorporated? Are there mental barriers to an athlete’s performance that outweigh physical barriers?

These are all critical components of training that by varying and progressing with time can keep the athlete mentally engaged and guard against the athlete tuning out and passively going through the motions.

2. Involve the client in the coaching process.

OK, that is super broad, and I’ve already said it a few times. In action, the key to me is the athlete understanding that their subjective feedback on their training is just as important as any quantitative data coming in.

I like to admit, right off the bat, that the way I coach relies on a certain element of trial and error, and that only with the athlete’s feedback and involvement, can we foster any hope of getting close to the ideal model.

Having athlete buy-in to the concept that with time, and their involvement, together a coach and athlete can get closer toward the grail of ideal preparation for events, creates longevity right away.

3. Set short term and long-term goals.

The scenario is an athlete that signs on to a coach in November, citing a goal the following June. The coach does a great job, athlete smashes goal, feels they have accomplished what they set out to do, and ends the coaching relationship.

Not a bad thing, and sometimes this may be all the athlete is really looking for. However, I think a key in translating these short-term successes into long-term athlete retention, are in the planning process.

It is really easy to become focused on relentlessly pursuing the short-term that any idea of long-term gets thrown out the window. That is good for many reasons, but there is also a lot to be said for long-term progress.

I believe that true progress only occurs on a multi-year scale, anything else is just eliciting an optimal performance with what the athlete already came to the table with. Work toward the short term goals, but always be assessing and pushing the big objectives in the background.

4. Annually assess the season with the athlete.

Seek out criticism and input, and plan for the following year. An ever-evolving training process is the key to sustainability. Sustainability is the key to progress, because progress takes time.

It is a wordy list, and perhaps vague. Ultimately, everything circles back to involving the athlete in the coaching process. An athlete and coach can only hope to reach the model of ideal preparation—for an individual athlete—if they are incorporating not just quantitative data, but an athlete’s subjective feedback on what they perceive to be driving success, driving mental enthusiasm, and what hesitations they have about how they have been training. Create an environment where athlete’s have ownership of their coaching relationship, and coaches will have created an environment of athlete retention.

Ready to improve your own coaching business in 2018? Check out the many educational resources available to our TrainingPeaks Coach Edition users here.

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At the end of any key race many triathletes are lost as to what they should be doing regarding their own training. Whilst the months prior have been filled with many long, hard swim, bike and run sessions, there is now a gaping void to fill, and often it is hard to know what to do with all those extra hours.

I find most athletes are aware that the body needs a break at this stage, but I find many athletes are not sure exactly how they should best utilize this down time.

If you are someone who isn’t necessarily concerned with performance, then the off-season should be used to enjoy yourself and take a break from training and racing. It is great to start socializing with friends who you most likely haven’t been able to catch up with as regularly as you’d like. It is also a great opportunity to undertake any different challenges or off-season sports that you haven’t had as much time for.

However, if you are committed to improvement and want to maximize your training during the off-season so that you are ready for some PB’s next season, then you need a specific and targeted approach to your own training.

Here are the three most important things you should focus on in order to head into next season with that extra performance edge:

1. Get strong.

Whilst strength training is slowly gaining traction with endurance athletes it still seems many athletes are reluctant to incorporate this type of training into their own regimen at the expense of another swim, bike or run session.

A strength training program for an endurance athlete is very different to typical strength routines that power athletes most associate with strength programs. Therefore, make sure your strength program is reflective of your own individual needs.

One thing I regularly say to athletes is that you rarely slowdown in an IRONMAN because you are out of breath, you usually slow down because your musculoskeletal system starts to fatigue and break down, so getting in the gym will help resolve this and build your durability.

2. Work on your weaknesses.

I regularly hear athletes say they are determined to work on their “weakness” during the off-season, which I agree with. However, when the grind of doing something that is harder and typically less enjoyable than other disciplines hits home many athletes find it hard to stick it out and instead revert to doing the things they enjoy more and are typically better at.

There is nothing wrong with doing this, however if you look at your opportunity for improvement, you will usually find the biggest scope for improvement comes in your weakest and least enjoyable discipline, so stick it out and be patient. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Patience and consistency will be rewarded! Don’t be worried if your stronger disciplines suffer a little bit, sometimes you must go backward to go forward again. Your strength will usually always be your strength, so relax and know that the form will come back when you reintroduce that discipline back into your training.

3. Critically analyze your previous race season.

This is one of my biggest issues; when I see athletes fail to understand why a race didn’t go as intended. While it also very important to analyze your good race days, I find bad race days (while super frustrating) usually provide the biggest opportunity for education.

Probably the biggest and most frustrating issues I see are when athletes blame nutrition for a poor run performance, when really it was because a lack of run conditioning. Or when an athlete falls away during the back end of an IRONMAN ride, which they will put down to a tight back or some other pathology, but really it was because they did most of their riding in a group and didn’t spend the necessary time in the TT position honing their skills.

Be sure to be honest with yourself about your performance, because sometimes nutrition and/or a tight back are legitimate reasons why your race didn’t go to plan. This usually means checking your ego at the door before you analyze the performance.

For most of us athletes the sport is not our livelihood, therefore it is also important to reinvest your time and energy back into work, family and friends, all of which have usually had to make some sacrifices over the final few months to support your training and racing. Remember to make these people the priority again before you focus on improving your own performance next year.

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With many of us finishing up our racing seasons, it’s an unfortunate truth that some of you may end up with a disappointing final race, and unexpected illness that left you off the starting line, or even a performance that has left you aching for one more chance to use your fitness.

If you have decided to try and salvage your season with a late season (or very early season) race, you’ll need to find good form fairly soon after you peaked for your previous “A” race.

Reaching very good form again is very possible,  and you can achieve even higher returns on your form in form of a Personal Best and a lot of fun doing something different. So how do you train to peak twice?

The above chart shows a pretty much perfect picture of one of my athletes who was training for her first IRONMAN 70.3 in July (her “A”  race) and then for a marathon in October (her “B” race). You can see a progressive build up of the form until the highlight in July, then a recovery and summer holidays drop and then again an increase in form in time for her marathon.

This is how it should be: in your macro training cycle, you go from general to specific training during the winter and spring months. In late spring and summer, you build intensity and volume progressively and very intentionally, reaching highest training scores (TSS) roughly three weeks before your main race.

The longer the race, the more focus should be on volume close to the race, while keeping a decreasing amount of intensity. Some call this training approach “reverse periodization,” since it focuses on intensity first, in the 16 to 10 weeks before the “A” race, and develops volume later, in weeks 10 through two weeks out from race day. Whatever model you use, the maximum training stress should be reached three weeks before the race, or, for very experienced and fit athletes who can recover fast, two weeks or even 10 days before the main race.

Such a week could be well over 1,000 TSS and thus one of the toughest of the year. The following gradual reduction in volume and intensity and tapering will bring you to the perfect form on the race day: You will be fit, ready and rested!

Then, plan on one, or more optimally two weeks of full recovery after your main race, and you can start the cycle for the second peak. In this cycle of eight weeks, you are basically going through the same training periodization as you did six months before your main race, but in a compressed form.

You start with two weeks of a mini-transition period (compared to six to 10 weeks in the main season). Then you have three weeks of increasing intensity, where in the third week the volume is getting serious and followed by two weeks of volume focus.

Then one week of tapering and you are ready! With this compressed and very focused preparation cycle, you can truly be flying in your second peak race. The main condition, however, is that you are fully recovered from your main “A” race – physically, emotionally and mentally.

With the second peak in the pocket, you can then ease into the off-season. This second peak, with the pressure of your “A” race gone and the anticipation of the rest and “doing nothing” in the off-season, can be a very sweet experience, and perhaps, as was the case for all of my athletes this fall, also a chance to set a new personal best!

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According to USA Triathlon’s “The Mind of a Triathlete 2009 Study” nearly 62 percent of all triathletes are married and 11 percent consider themselves to be in a committed relationship. As you may know, training for an IRONMAN can be a very selfish task, especially if you are trying to punch that ticket to the IRONMAN World Championship. If you are married or married with kids—how do you manage your time with your spouse and your family? What if you both are IRONMAN triathletes craving to punch that ticket to the World Championship or Age Group Nationals?

This is a situation I am familiar with. My husband, Chris, and I each trained for and qualified for Kona at the 2017 IRONMAN Mont Tremblant. With these goals of ours came an important balancing act of how we worked together, trained separately, and supported one another through both our qualifying races and in Hawaii.

As we enter the new year and start setting our racing goals for next season, now would be a good time to talk with your partner to plan for next year and to really make sure that you head into the racing season on the same page. Whether you are both athletes or just one of you is, the point of this discussion should be to make sure both of you have a say in scheduling so no one ends up feeling shortchanged or underappreciated.

Here are five tips for how to optimize your training with your partner so you can each get the support, cameraderie—and sometimes space!—that you need to fulfill your racing goals:   

1. Organize your work schedule and triathlon training schedule.

The most important task to remember with each other is to understand your partner’s work schedule and training schedule. And if they aren’t in training, factor in the time they spend away from work that is important to them so it doesn’t get left out of the schedule.  

A good tool is to use a paper calendar or a calendar app and start plugging in what is crucial for each of your lives. Work is work. Plug that in. Kids have events. Plug it in. Start plugging in each other’s workouts and learn to respect each other’s time for training.

Maybe one triathlete is better at working out in the morning than another, so factor that in to how you will both get those sessions in. Be honest with yourself and with each other so you aren’t signing up for a regular morning swim session that you probably won’t make it to half the time, especially if your partner could use that time for his or her own session.

Tip: Head to Google Calendar and plug in your week on a shared calendar, so you can figure out where you can get your workouts done. Maybe a date night is heading to the pool together and then going out to dinner. Make it fun!

2. Organize your workouts so you can do (some of) them together.

The joys of working out together can be fun, but it can also be a challenge. Maybe one athlete is faster than another or one can lift more than another. Make sure none of your training turns into an “ego fest” with your partner—unless you can do that in a constructive manner!

The biggest takeaway of this is to learn how to do your workouts together, so you can be together. You don’t have to always do the same workout together but at least you can start together or maybe end up at the same post-ride coffee shop.

Sometimes it can be enough to just take the time to drive together to the gym or the pool, even if once you’re there you focus on your own pace and workout goals.

Tip: Try this fun workout in the pool: “10 x 100 Rabbit Chase.” The faster swimmer takes off at the top of the clock. The partner gives them a five-second lead and tries to catch the faster swimmer. Or you can flip flop that. The slower swimmer takes off at the top of the clock. The partner gives them a 10-second lead and tries to catch the slower swimmer.

3. Find a race to do together and make a “race-cation” out of it.

When planning your triathlon racing calendar, you always want to talk with your spouse about what would be an ideal place for you to race both logistically and financially. IRONMAN Hawaii would be the top of the list for a lot of triathlon couples, but remember you have to head to another IRONMAN to get that spot in Hawaii.

Are you celebrating your 20th wedding anniversary? Maybe you head to IRONMAN Australia. Are you trying to save money and you want to drive to an IRONMAN? Maybe you drive to IRONMAN Lake Placid,  IRONMAN Wisconsin or IRONMAN Florida (depending on where you live).

When you choose one or two “A” races for the year, consider there location beyond just race day. Are you able to make a “race-cation” out of it? Can you travel to Orlando with the kids after IRONMAN Florida? Can you head to Glacier National Park after IRONMAN Canada?

Tip: Head to the the Convention Visitors and Bureau to find out what you can do beyond your race, and if you have kids, include them in the conversation as well so they will be more supportive of your training and  excited for your racing.

4. Find the balance: One races, one is a Sherpa.

When planning your next season, sometimes you both cannot race due to work, family or life.

As the triathlete not racing, it can be difficult to stand on the sidelines, but remember, you have been the one on the start line before and you know what it takes to prepare and get ready for this race.

Your race is to be the best Sherpa your partner needs you to be. Every once in a while head to a workout with them, ride the trainer next to them or meet them on the trails with the kids and hike while they do their long run.  

Tip: Suffer in the Pain Cave together. Set the bike trainer up side by side. Watch an hour show, but don’t skip through the commercials. Once the commercial starts, do your interval work. Commercials can go from between three and five minutes, so pick an interval that you can hold within that hour, as you will probably end up doing four rounds of it. Your spouse will be suffering with you, which will make everything better!

5. Find time away of the swim, bike and run.

As endurance athletes, we can get consumed with our workouts, nutrition, the mind set, sleep, etc., but we also have to remember why we said “I do.” Maybe you were athletes when you met. Maybe one of you became a triathlete after you had children.

When you said “I do,” it was for “better or worse” and not “From Sprint triathlon to IRONMAN.” Your union goes beyond the swim, the bike and the run. You need to remember to hold on tight to each other through both of your athletic and non-athletic journeys, and continue to support each other through injuries, burnouts and amazing race results.  

Your real race in life is continuing to be a part of the 63 percent in the USA Triathlon 2009 Study. Don’t forget that. And know that it will take work!

Tip: Find something that you love to do together outside the swim, bike and run. Get a regular sitter. Go to a concert. Go for a hike. Go for a cup of coffee and talk.

Living the life as an Endurance Athlete Couple definitely has its perks, but just like anything else, it is something that you have to work together on. Let me tell you this, it was pretty amazing seeing my husband out on the Queen K on his bike racing at the sime time I was competing in my first IRONMAN World Championship. The journey to Kona was pretty amazing, but having my husband with me along the way was the cherry on top of that ice cream sundae!

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