Archive for February, 2018

Why T2 Can Be The Cure For A Bad Race

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How often, say before a race, are you just sitting in transition waiting, and you see another athlete with different tires, or a funny transition area set up and you ask her, “Say, why do you do that?”

People are very willing to share this information with you. In fact, they consider it a true compliment that you might wish to emulate them. By and large pre-race transition areas are fantastic places to meet new people and to learn new things to take with you to your next race.

T2: a place to regroup

I’ve always thought that both T1 and T2 serve different functions in longer races. In a sprint, my goal is to have the absolute fastest transitions, both of them, in my age group.

In fact, giving away time in transition is just plain dumb for the serious triathlete. I enter the race thinking, “How close to one minute can I make each of these discipline changes?” And just like practicing flat tire changing, rehearsing transitions before ever race is just plain smart racing.

But, in an IRONMAN or IRONMAN 70.3 race, the field is frequently larger and fewer athletes may be aiming for the podium. The remainder just want to finish with a respectable performance and the ability to maintain a near normal gait pattern the next day.

How to Prepare Your T2

If you are a highly competitive triathlete, looking to get onto that run as fast as possible, check out this article on how to perfect your bike dismount, streamline your transition area and become a better runner off the bike.

If, however, your goals are simply to finish respectively and perhaps have a more enjoyable run leg than you have in the past, then follow these simple three tips for a more successful T2.

Focus on the present

Maybe you had a flat at mile 10 of the race. Maybe you had two. We’ve all been there, and it stinks, but what happened is over, and dwelling on it will do nothing but cost you even more time.

If you roll into T2 with a less-than-stellar attitude, take a moment to compose yourself. Maybe sit down as you put on your running shoes, take some deep breaths and remember why you do triathlon in the first place—to have fun!

Really focus on each transition task to clear your mind and stay focused on the present. Set out your hat and sunglasses, take some extra seconds to breathe deeply while you adjust them on your face. Then, when you head toward the transition exit, set yourself some positive intentions for the run.

Whatever you do, don’t let whatever happened in the swim or on the bike enter your mind. Strike it away each time the memory enters your mind and instead focus on the road in front of you.

Start out slowly

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone in my age group dart out of transition at an insane pace—only to get passed by me halfway through the run because they’ve burnt all their matches and are walking.

Whatever your run pace should be is something you should practice in training, but the act of slowing down a bit can begin before you’ve even left T2. Don’t feel like you have to sprint to the exit, especially if you have a cramp or you’re going at a pace that is hardly maintainable.

The minute or so of walking you do toward the T2 exit won’t delay your finish time by that much (again, as long as this isn’t a qualifying event for you), and by taking those few extra seconds to take everything in, stretch that darn calf that always seizes up at mile 2, or take in some much-needed hydration or fuel might even help you reach the finish line faster.

Put on sunscreen

As a doctor I feel it is my duty to remind you just how silly it is to head out of transition (either one) without a fresh layer of sunscreen on, sunglasses and a hat or visor. Not only are you risking your health, but you might even be slowing yourself down! Becoming sunburned, depending on the length of your event, can dehydrate you, leading to a whole host of other problems.

Not only that, but if your race is extremely hot and/or long, not protecting your skin (the largest organ in your body!) can put you at risk of heatstroke as well. Yes, it may take a while to make sure that one spot you just can’t seem to reach is covered, but that’s what those fantastic race volunteers are for.

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3 Ways Your Hydration Status Changes As You Age

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Human life expectancy is increasing rapidly, with some current predictions suggesting that women will pass the 90-year mark relatively soon (well, those lucky enough to be born in South Korea in 2030 anyway). This is amazing when you think that just less than a century ago the average life expectancy in the U.K. in 1921 was 59 for women and just 55 for men.

The fact that we’re living much longer (combined with increases in free leisure time) has meant that more and more older adults are taking part in serious sporting events and achieving things that would not have seemed possible even a few generations ago.

Like Rob Barel winning the men’s 60-64 age group at the 2017 IRONMAN World Championship in Kona in a staggering 9 hours and 46 minutes—a time that would have placed him in the top 10 of the race overall well into the mid 1980s!

It’s great to see more and more older athletes taking part in endurance events, but how does age affect things like recovery, nutritional and hydration requirements? I’m going to look at that last one in particular and discuss three common traits of ageing that mean getting your hydration strategy right all the more important as the years go by.

1. You have less water on board to start with, so dehydration is more of a risk

Around 60 to 70 percent of your total body water is locked inside your cells in the intra-cellular compartment ( ICF), with the remainder sloshing around outside them as extra-cellular fluid (ECF).

Because your muscle cells contain a large amount of your ICF volume, the amount of muscle mass you have has a big influence on your total body water levels. Losing lean muscle tissue is an inevitable consequence of getting older (especially past the age of 50), so it follows that your total body water content declines as you age.

I’ve seen it reported that losing four to six liters of total body water between the ages of 20 and 80 is in the normal range, though there’s not a complete consensus in this area and my guess is that this may well vary considerably from individual to individual.

Although training (especially lifting weights) can help to reduce the loss of muscle mass with ageing to a certain degree, it’s basically impossible to halt it altogether. With this loss of muscle you also lose a significant chunk of your “reservoir” of fluids as you age, meaning that dehydration when you’re sweating a lot can occur more rapidly than it can for younger athletes.

2. You tend to lose more water through urine, so dehydration is more of a risk

Another thing that impacts hydration levels in older people is the fact that kidney function tends to deteriorate as you get older as well. Reduced kidney function means less concentrated urine can be produced and, as a result, more free water is lost when you pee.

This may be compounded in some by a reduction in levels of aldosterone, a hormone responsible for helping your body hold onto water more effectively.

3. Your sensation of thirst is diminished, so, you guessed it—dehydration is more of a risk!

A study published in 2001 clearly demonstrated that, whilst adults over 65 tended to drink sufficient fluids to maintain normal hydration status on a day to day basis, when their hydration levels were challenged by periods of sweating, their sensation of thirst—and therefore their tendency to rehydrate effectively—was compromised when compared with younger people.

The participants tended to correct this dehydration eventually, but possibly more slowly than would be compatible with optimal recovery from performance in high intensity sport.

These three factors suggest that older athletes need to be a bit more diligent with their hydration practices than younger people as the margin for error is reduced and the risk of dehydration is increased.

What can older athletes do to stay hydrated?
1. Be aware that you probably need to drink a bit more

This would be a good start. But, beware, I’ve written about the perils of dramatically over-consuming fluids before. In a nutshell, hyponatremia is a very real risk and this can really impact your performance and make you pretty ill, so that advice needs to be handled with common sense and care.

2. Take in additional sodium with your fluids when you’re sweating

Sodium helps you hold onto more water in your extra-cellular fluid and bloodstream and this reduces cardiovascular strain, helping you maintain your performance. It can also help you avoid cramp.

The concentrations of sodium in your body fluids are finely balanced by various mechanisms, so it can be a sensible idea to add a bit of extra salt to your food, and/or some sodium supplements in your drinks, at times when you know your hydration levels might be challenged. Increasing your sodium intake also increases thirst, which should urge you to drink more too.

As an aside, it’s worth noting that the 1,000mg/l and 1,500mg/l electrolyte supplements we make at Precision Hydration are 2x and 3x stronger than typical sports drinks, so they’re often very popular with older athletes who’re struggling to stay properly hydrated with water or weak hydration supplements alone.

Finally, it’s very important for older athletes to start training or events properly hydrated and to ensure they rehydrate effectively after they’ve finished.

If you’re an older athlete who struggles with hydration issues like dehydration or cramp after longer period of sweating, it’s worth taking Precision Hydration’s free online Sweat Test to help you get started with personalising your hydration strategy. And, if you have any questions at all, just drop me an email.

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3 Ways Race Volunteers Have Saved an Athlete’s Day

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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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Tips for Proper Nordic Skiing Striding Technique

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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.

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TrainingPeaks Success Story: How This Pilot Found Balance and Structure With a Coach

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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

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