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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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2016!? Starting from Square 1!

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So frequently, athletes have spent so much time and energy prepping for a race, the fact that somebody had to set up the race course, transition area, etc., before they even park to unload their bike is lost on them. I preach thanking the volunteers, smiling at the traffic controlling police, never yelling at one regardless of the frustrations of your day.

Although the following situations may not specifically have arisen on your race day—yet—you never know when old man Bad Luck will rear his ugly head and only through the kindness of a race volunteer will you have any shot of ever seeing the finish line.

No shoes, no service

One Kona athlete was having a pretty good day. The swim went well, and while the transition area was crowded, she was able to quickly change and head toward her bike. 

Once there, she was horrified to find that contrary to what she’d remembered, she had not left her bike shoes on the pedals of her bike like she had planned—but rather they were back in the hotel room! 

Almost frantic, she pushed her bike across the compound over to the swim-to-bike bag rack area she’d just left where she met volunteer director Bill Stockton. “What can I do, my shoes are in my hotel room?!” As an afterthought she offered, “and there’s a chance my husband is too.” 

Without hesitation, Bill, having helped distraught athletes in the past, gave her his cell phone, instructed her to call her husband and have him bring the shoes down to the race office. Once there, he gave them to a specific race volunteer. 

The husband did as he was instructed, and in less than 10 minutes, the shoes were brought to the bag rack and Bill handed them over to her. Like the famed baseball triple play combination of Tinkers to Evers to Chance, Bill made the handoff to the racer who gave him the biggest, most profuse thanks, and was off on Palani Road in a flash grinning from ear to ear. 

Total time lost—about 15 minutes. Day saved by a volunteer.

It’s (not) in the bag

Another athlete we’ll call #473, finished the swim. Smiling. Not the fastest in the water but he finished well under the 2 hour 20 minute IRONMAN swim cut off, even though most of the field preceded him out of the Pacific. 

Following a quick shower, he made quick progress reaching the bag area to fetch his T1 bag and bike gear. However, much to his shock, no bag! 

Like a crazy man, he ran to the men’s changing area and asked if the staff could see if any of the other recent finishers might have bag #473 by accident. No one present seemed to have it. At that point, more than 1,800 men and women had already been through the changing tents, each leaving a T1 bag as proof they were out of the water and safe, and a mountain of used T1 bags sat at the end of the changing tent.  

Immediately, a gang of volunteers rifled through the bag mountain and—amazingly— they found #473. But when they opened it, they discovered only a woman’s cap and woman’s goggles.“Those aren’t my things,” lamented the athlete. 

Another volunteer came up and looked at the bag, and then the race number stenciled on the athlete’s arm. It was #743; they didn’t match. A quick jog back to the racks easily located bag #743 which was re-introduced to its highly embarrassed owner and off he went. 

Total time lost—about 10 minutes. Day saved by a volunteer.

Out of sight

In IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 events, if you are a regular glasses wearer, you can leave your specs at the head of the swim (usually on a table) and retrieve them as you complete the 2.4 mile swim and head up to transition. 

One year an athlete left his specs on the table as he had multiple races previously, but as he crawled out of the water, neither he nor the glasses table attendant could find his spectacles. 

The guy didn’t know what to do, but he considered committing to finishing the event without his glasses. He knew it would be challenging at best, particularly on a speeding bike going downhill. 

He went to the men’s changing area and mentioned the MIA glasses to the volunteer assisting him with his gear change. This particular gent felt that the competitor deserved a second shot at glasses location “Stay here, I’ll go have a look for them,” the volunteer said before heading off back down to the swim start area.

Making his way the short distance back to the same glasses table, he didn’t seem them either. Not on the ground, not on any of the chairs. He widened his search to some of the surrounding table areas, thinking that perhaps they had been knocked off and placed on a different table at some point by a swimmer.

Although 90 percent blocked by two spare timing chip belts—on a separate table a pair of glasses was spotted. Sure enough, pay dirt! The volunteer grabbed them, slipped through racers and volunteers back to the men’s tent, bestowed the glasses to one very happy athlete just as he was finishing changing into his bike clothes. Thanks were spread all around and, grinning ear to ear, the bespectacled athlete grabbed his bike shoes and bolted for his bike. 

Total time lost—about five minutes. Day saved by a volunteer.

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Classic Nordic skiing is a fantastic winter sport that builds both aerobic and muscular fitness when good running conditions hibernate for the winter. But as any runner who jumps into the sport can attest, key differences between the two make for a challenging time on the ski trail if you don’t know basic technique.

I came to this sport as a runner who had spent years honing and teaching proper running form, and I still often think about how the two differ to help me find the movement in my body.

How to maximize your glide

Before diving into the nuances— exactly what is striding? Classic skiing uses groomed tracks and a method called diagonal striding for the majority of the movement (the other is double poling, but that’s another article).

There are two phases of a diagonal stride, the kick phase and glide phase. The kick phase is the period in which you get traction and the glide phase is well, when you glide and love life.

How can you maximize your glide? The following three components will help you glide down the tracks with ease:

Full weight transfer
A forward leg drive
Lengthening your stride.

We’ll discuss the first two which, if done properly, result in the third; all three equate to maximizing glide, the fundamental goal in all Nordic skiing, both classic and skate disciplines.

Getting a full weight transfer

If you’ve ever heard the slap of your ski behind you as you meander down the trail, that’s a sign that you’re not fully weighting one ski before moving to the other.

Transferring weight onto one ski before switching sides is crucial to gliding longer.

When your hips are fully over one ski when compressing the wax pocket or fish scale pattern, you get good kick, and, as the ski responds, the glide phase begins, propelling you down the trail. In addition, your other leg is free to drive forward for the next kick/glide cycle.

A powerful forward leg drive

Since there is no glide component to running, it’s most efficient to land close to your body’s center of gravity to minimize impact. For classic skiing, however, you will glide longer by driving your leg forward and bringing your body up to a planted foot in front of you, much like stepping onto a stair.

Driving your foot far in front of you and transferring you weight over to that ski puts you in the best position to powerfully set the wax and maintain better balance while you glide and bring the other leg forward.

While overstriding in running can cause injury or at least unnecessary muscular strain, lengthening your skiing stride gives you better kick and maximizes glide to go faster with less effort—a significant goal in any endurance sport.

Practice on (and off) the slopes

Achieving full weight transfer and driving your leg forward both take practice and require good balance since all of this is done while on skinny skis on a slippery surface.

You can improve your balance by standing on one leg while doing dishes or brushing your teeth. When that becomes too easy, close your eyes. On snow, pick a flat section of trail, ditch your poles, and feel what it’s like to transfer your weight from one ski to the other by bringing your hips up over your foot. Then, see how far you can go by driving your leg forward, transferring your weight to that ski, then repeating on the other side. Finally, when that feels natural, try it on a gentle hill, which will amplify the need to fully transfer your weight.

The post Tips for Proper Nordic Skiing Striding Technique appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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There are many reasons people don’t hire a coach: they can do it on their own, they don’t have time, their lives are too chaotic to stick to a training plan.

That’s what I hear before someone hires a coach. After? “I wish I’d hired a coach sooner.”

The right coach can help you get stronger, go farther and get faster—and they can teach you how to avoid or recover from an injury. The right coach will take your complicated life and schedule into account when mapping out your training, and they will provide a plan that’s flexible and effective.

Let me tell you about an athlete I work with who had all the reasons for not hiring a coach. He did really well on his own, completing several IRONMAN races and seeing some great success. But then he realized he needed help balancing his family, his work and his training.

Meet Jeff

Jeff lives in Arizona and completed his first IRONMAN race in 2000. He swam competitively as a teenager, was a bike commuter, plus he did a bit of running, so in 1994, Jeff figured he’d try a triathlon. Six years later, he took on an IRONMAN.

Jeff went on to do a handful more IRONMAN races on his own before realizing that he wanted to do better. He wanted to feel better in training and during the race. And, he wanted to get faster. However, he did not want to feel like he had a second, full-time job. He needed time with his young kids and wife, and he simply didn’t know how to balance it all.

Jeff learned how to train smarter, not harder

Jeff works as a commercial airline pilot. Over the years, we’ve learned that the travel takes a lot out of him and his training. He’s exposed to more germs, which can mean unexpected down time, and his sleep is interrupted and poor, reducing his high-energy hours.

When Jeff began working with me, he started providing his schedule to me with his sleep totals factored in, which provided me with an important metric from which to schedule his hard training days around. If I knew he had a week with limited sleep, I could plan for a recovery week so he still felt he was getting his training in, but at the same time he was taking better care of his body’s needs.

As many athletes, Jeff was in the “more is better” camp. He made it through his first two IRONMAN races by doing as much as he could when he could squeeze it in, and he never felt great during the race. He was tired all the time and not enjoying the training or racing much at all.

During our initial consultation, we discovered that Jeff often sits on that edge of overtraining, thanks to the cumulative effect of his travel, training and life. We’ve learned how to catch this earlier, so his training is not disrupted with long periods of down time due to exhaustion, illness or injury. Jeff maintains open communication with me and can tell me that his morning heart rate is up or his workouts are starting to feel flat, and we know to back down immediately.

Until we started working together, Jeff continued to push (as many athletes do), feeling like he was being lazy or just wasn’t fit enough. We fixed that! We’ve learned to make the most of the hours he has available, so he has time for all the parts of his life.

Jeff learned how to be creative with the chaos

So many athletes are discouraged looking at online training plans, they figure there is no way they can put in that many hours when jobs, kids, etc., make life unpredictable. I always tell my athletes to remember that there is more than one way from point A to point B, and a coach will have lots of ideas up their sleeve to make sure you reach your goals.

Jeff’s training is particularly challenging. His travel schedule is all over the map (literally!), and he often doesn’t have access to a bike or pool when he’s on the road. So we’ve learned to maximize his time at home for bike and swim and work more on running and strength when he’s traveling.

Jeff’s strongest in swimming and running, so when he’s home, we focus heavily on cycling. This means he has to be really committed to getting in the miles in the saddle when he can, despite the hot Arizona weather, and his smarter training has shown up in faster times.

Jeff learned how to better cope with the mental and physical challenges of IRONMAN training

Any athlete knows that you have to train your mind every bit as much(or more!) than your body. The right coach can help athletes build good mental stamina right along with the physical.

Jeff completed IRONMAN France in early 2017. Although a solid effort, it wasn’t the race he’d hoped for. He caught a cold on the way over and just did not have much energy. We made sure he had time to recover and get ready to take on IRONMAN Arizona later that year.

Unfortunately (but not uncommonly), Jeff had both a bad long bike and long run on his build up to Arizona. But knowing he had solid training behind him, he was able to keep his eyes on the prize.

He leaned on me to talk through the doubts and frustrations and refocus on what he needed to do. Jeff is a very positive guy, so we focused on tapping into that mental strength to get him ready to race.

Jeff learned how to have a plan A, B and C for every race

Coaching doesn’t stop on race day! We’d talked a lot before the race about possible obstacles and how to overcome them, so Jeff had lots of tools available if things went south.

When both his calves locked up during the swim, Jeff didn’t panic. He stopped, relaxed, took a few deep breaths and stretched. Before long, he was able to ease back into swimming.

Despite IRONMAN Arizona’s famous winds, Jeff stayed focused on the bike. He stuck with his plan to watch his effort and his heart rate and to keep power output steady, even during the tailwind sections.

On the run, Jeff has learned that it is better to slow down some than to completely blow up. This took a lot of me reminding him repeatedly that it really would work! Now Jeff works to reel people in during the second half of the run to help him stay motivated.

We also talked a lot about fuel. Jeff used to suffer with GI upset, dehydration, or both. Thanks to a lot of trial and error in training, he came to Arizona with a good fueling plan, plus plans B and C in case A didn’t work.

Jeff received the support he needed to bring it all together

According to Jeff, having a coach is invaluable when his schedule goes awry. He’s able to get back on track safely when he’s missed key workouts. He has another set of eyes looking objectively at his training and monitoring his progress to see when something needs to be changed. A coach knows to ask questions not only about training but also about his health, his schedule, and how the rest of life is going, all the factors that impact his training.

And in 2017, 17 years after his first IRONMAN, Jeff set a new PR.

Interested in finding the right coach to help you reach your goals? Let us help! Learn more about our Coach Match Service and how we can help hand-select the coach who meets all your needs. Questions? Email kgoldberg@trainingpeaks.com.

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As an exercise physiologist, I simply cannot deny the role genetics plays in our own performance potential. If IRONMAN and Olympic world champion Jan Frodeno chose to train the exact same way as Olympic track star Usain Bolt day in and day out, he still simply wouldn’t reach the level of track stardom as the great Jamaican—and vice-versa.

However, whilst recognizing the importance genetics play in relation to our performance, I believe there are other traits that are potentially more important. From my experience these other characteristics are key in separating one athlete from another, and while they have nothing to do with genetics, they are even harder to objectively measure.

Consistency

This is about the sticking to the process day in and day out. You won’t always notice the forward progress you are making as you are offering training under significant fatigue. However, if you can stick to the training plan, eventually the fruits of your labor will be reaped.

No point training like a pro triathlete for two weeks and then going MIA for two weeks; instead just keep ticking the boxes session after session, day after day, week after week and month after month.

There isn’t an issue with missing the occasional session due to family, work or other life commitments, just try to make sure this doesn’t become the norm. Always remember that consistency is king.

Discipline

I see lots of athletes really digging in during group training sessions or when they are under the direct eye of their coaching team. But what about those solo sessions when no one else is there watching what you are doing? Are you disciplined enough to hold your power during long hard efforts when no one else would notice if you just dropped your power by 10 percent for a few minutes? Try to always remember why you are doing what you are doing during these times, as this should provide the motivation for you to keep pushing out the desired workout.

Hard work

This sport certainly isn’t easy. The ability to manage three different disciplines whilst also maintaining family, work and social commitments is hard. And that’s without taking into consideration your strength, yoga, pilates, massage or physio needs as well.

I don’t know many triathletes who aren’t used to getting out of bed super early to get their training done and/or spending their lunch breaks grinding out another session to ensure they complete the prescribed workload.

This sport rewards hard work, and in most cases the athletes who work the hardest get the best results, so don’t buy into the hype about slowing down to go faster, or any other similar fallacy. I don’t think you will find any professional or top age group athlete say they reached their level of performance by working easier than their competitors.

That said, some endurance athletes can fall into the category of overtraining which is detrimental to performance, despite having the best intentions of working hard. A good coach and training plan should ensure this doesn’t happen.

Grit

I must admit this is the one trait I love most in athletes I work with. Whilst training tools such as GPS units, HR monitors and power meters are important, they do not measure the most important attribute of an athlete—which is grit or mental toughness.

Everyone has their own perception of what hard work feels like. I have seen vast differences in people’s own pain tolerance levels. I am sure we all know a couple of people who possess this trait. Think of your training mate who still wants to complete the session despite brutal winds or extreme temperatures. The one who seems to thrive as the session gets harder and harder. With this type of athlete, anything is possible given the appropriate guidance.

Competitiveness

Who has trained the hardest and who wants it the most? Most athletes are competitive when they are feeling fresh. I love trying to train competitiveness in athletes under fatigue as this is a completely different game.

Adding the dynamic of fatigue into the equation highlights and the true will of an individual to win or succeed in their sport. It is also important to know when to be competitive as well, if you are trying to win every single workout, including warm ups and cool downs, then you won’t last long.

Pick and choose your moments when it is time to lay it on the line and when those moments arrive make sure you refuse to surrender or to be beaten. You never know how close you are to cracking another competitor, so just try hang in there for another minute or another second—because it just might be worth it.

The post The 5 Key Traits of Successful Triathletes and How to Develop Them appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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It’s February and —whatever sport you practice—in the last three months you’ve probably wrapped up your 2017 events, taken a small break, and then returned to training, dreaming about those 2018 races and the improvements you’ll make on last year’s achievements.

You’re rested, motivated, excited, and (insert record scratch here) slower than ever? WTF? Did I erase all the work I did last year? What am I paying this coach for? How will I ever reach those lofty goals I set for 2018? Will I even be able to match last year’s pace, power, or speed? I probably need to add some more speed and intensity, right coach? Yeah?

As a coach, I hear comments like this through TrainingPeaks every morning at this time of year. Heck, I’ve thought these thoughts before myself, and have sent those same worried messages to my coach: Hey man, the run went OK, but I’m so much slower than I used to be. I used to run 7:00/mile for my easy runs. Now that pace feels really hard. 6:00/mile used to be an easy track pace. Now it’s my all-out pace. Are we doing something wrong? Maybe we need to do more?

Two different processes result in the kind of desperation outlined above, one physical and the other mental. The physical process is the simple and established process of de-training and then re-entering training, and the second, mental process is called magical thinking. I’ll go through each, and provide athletes and coaches a toolkit for dealing with the combined effects of these processes.

De-training is part of development

Your coach made you take a break at the end of last season, right? Or maybe you knew you needed a break after a really tough year. I’ve been dealing with a grouchy and intractable left hip/SI joint/hamstring/sciatic nerve/calf/ankle for a while, now, and at the end of 2017 I eagerly awaited some time off from training.

Over four weeks following my final race I did as little as possible from a triathlon perspective, other than performing my physical therapy as if it were daily prayer. I went for a couple of swims, and twice bike-commuted to the pool where I run Masters practice.

I experimented with the Ketogenic diet, and learned that you can basically eat only cheese and not gain weight (but you might get sick of cheese, amazingly). I worked on my coaching business and did some continuing education I’d been putting off.

On December 13 I started back to training, following a schedule that included some lightly structured swims, bikes and runs. You probably already know the script. I was slow. Quite slow. As I swim, I usually eyeball the big digital clock that sits on deck and check my current pace against my supposed history as a swimmer, forming judgments about how that particular day is going. I don’t need to bore you with a diary of my swimming paces, but unsurprisingly I was swimming about 10 to 12 seconds slower per 100 meters at a moderate effort than I’d swam at the same effort only a few months before—and the same pattern repeated itself in my running and cycling.

This process is called de-training, and it is a long-accepted part of athletics. When you stop working out, the adaptations you incurred through training begin to unwind and disappear. A much less-accepted aspect of sport is the fact that periods of detraining are necessary to continue long-term development.

We all know athletes (maybe it’s ourselves) who do the same training year-round, never varying their approaches or periods of recovery, content to simply keep achieving the same achievements. These athletes worry, deep down, that if they stop training all of their hard work has been for naught, and it will take longer to reclaim their lost fitness after a break. Their identities orbit the accomplishments and numbers in their trophy cases (real and imagined), and a loss of fitness, for these athletes, is really a loss of self. They are terrified at the prospect of taking a break.

We know, however, that the principles of overload, compensation, and recovery are well-established, and that an athlete’s training (and subsequent development) looks more like a healthy stock exchange than a straight line: periodic corrections and losses, but an upward trend over time.

De-training (a market correction) plays a central role in getting faster. A proper plan builds in regular periods of de-training (in-season they’re called recovery blocks), and a bigger period at the end of the year. So make your peace with de-training—days and weeks of rest can be just as important as days and weeks of hard workouts.

Your memory sucks

Yes, your memory sucks. You make think you’ve got a mind like a trap, but it’s a lot more like a lobster trap than a bank vault: plenty of things (water, smaller Crustacea, fish, heck, even lobsters) flow in and out of your lobster trap of a memory.

Your brain chooses what it wants and needs to remember, selecting for positive (do that again!) and negative (stay away!) memories. Over time our brains refine those memories, continuing to lionize up the positives and drape the negatives with dread.

These re-dressed memories form an important part of our identities. As a coach I hear this kind of remembering all the time, usually in a statement such as one of the following:

“I’m a xx:xx runner in a half-marathon,” or “I’m a bad open-water swimmer.”

There are two problems with thinking this way. First is that—as I said above—you’re probably misremembering things. Quick, what was the time of your best race in the last three years? No peaking or cheating, although that information is only a few mouse-clicks away. Got it? OK, now you can go look. Did you nail it? I’m guessing you didn’t.

We tend to romanticize those great performances, letting them form the bases of our athletic identities, and over time the remembered results or paces begin to creep faster and faster. This is an extreme example, but who hasn’t met someone who claims to run seven-minute miles in races, only to find out later that “seven-minute miles” apparently included running 7:59 per mile?

This kind of thinking is called magical thinking, and we do it both looking backward into the past and projecting ourselves forward into the future. I did it when I sent that note to my coach, claiming that 7:00/miles used to be my “easy” pace. So, intrigued, I went back and looked. Guess what? I was wrong. Like, really wrong. The same goes for my swimming. That “moderate pace” that was 10-12 seconds faster than my “newly returned to training moderate pace?” Actually it was only 5 to 6 seconds faster.

The second problem with thinking in this manner is that you’re using a fixed-mindset rather than a growth-mindset. As people, we really like to know where we fit in the pecking order, whether we’re talking about our local social structures, athletic leagues, or workplaces.

Being able to define yourself as “a 1:17 half-marathoner” or as having “a 300 watt FTP” clearly slides you into a particular stratum. That feels nice, especially if we perceive that stratum as being better than a majority of the people around us.

What isn’t nice, though, is that you are telling yourself a story, and that over time you’ll probably come to believe it. Running 1:17 for a half-marathon is pretty great, of course, but by saying that’s who you are, you are putting a limit on your ability to improve. Maybe 1:17 is the outer limit, but if you believe it is, I guarantee you that you’ll stay there forever.

Fighting back, moving forward

Okay, so we’ve established that de-training is good and necessary. You know that you’re probably misremembering your past fitness, and that fixed mindsets (“I used to swim 1:23/100 every time I went to the pool!”) pose risks to your development. Great. That’s some good self-knowledge. You still feel slow today, however, in these early weeks and months of the season.

The most important thing not to-do is to freak out and start changing the plan. If you do too much too soon, you’ll just get injured, or sick, or injured and sick. You’ll also experience the isolation of abandoning the sensible plan of progression advocated by your coach. But that’s a “not to-do,” which isn’t as helpful as a “to-do.”

Here’s what I do (and what I suggest my athletes do): Each week I make a note in my TrainingPeaks workouts that articulates what pace/power/heartrate/speed I was able hold in that particular workout.

When I’m swim fit, for example, I tend to swim around 1:23-1:26 per 100m at a moderate effort. During my first week back, I noted that “moderate” effort got me around 1:30-1:32. Last week, my pace per 100 had accelerated to around 1:25-1:27/100. By keeping a log (probably the most powerful thing you can do as an athlete, besides doing your training), I could see the real numbers improving (albeit slowly), week by week.

If I had trusted my memory, I wouldn’t have that powerful evidence, and wouldn’t have the confidence in my returning fitness that logging my paces and power generated. So don’t just trust your devices to upload all of your info! Leave your coach some notes tracking your returning speed. You may not be fast today, but you’ll know by looking at your log that you’ll be fast again soon.

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