Archive for May, 2018

Inside A Pro Cyclist’s Recovery After Training Camp

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Everyone knows, or has been, the athlete who dives head-first into volume and intensity, only to end up tired and slow come race day. In my last article I touched upon the physical and mental benefits of a “training camp.” But on the opposite end of the spectrum comes a possibly more important phase—what you do day in and day out. How do you plan your recovery and return to a consistent and sustainable training schedule after a big block of training? Let’s take a look.

After returning from a month on the road with UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling’s early season training camp (and my first race of the season at Oro y Paz) it was clear I was going to need some recovery. Beyond the physical aspects, I was craving a mental break and a “return to normalcy.” Having meals, bottles and ride food prepared, laundry done, and daily massage gives you ample time to rest, but after a while it can leave you feeling like a robot.


So when I got back to Colorado I spoke with my coach (David Wenger at Durata Training) about where I was at physically. I was given some guidelines for recovery, along with the freedom to plan my own training around the day-to-day activities I’d missed during the past weeks.

Physically, this meant a couple recovery rides, a day off, an easy MTB ride, and a couple 3-4 hour low-intensity endurance rides. I also made sure to stock up on sleep and some high-quality foods not containing rice! An easy week is going to look different for different athletes but in general there should be a big reduction in intensity and a moderate reduction in total volume.

Mentally, I wanted to pack in some quality time with my girlfriend, puppy and friends back in Colorado. The length of the intense period of training will have a big effect on your mental recovery demands. Just remember that it’s ok to put training on the back burner for a period of time to allow that desire and motivation to come back.

For me, that meant a rare non-cycling related trip. My girlfriend Reese and I found a dog-friendly Air BnB in Denver and packed up the car for a last-minute getaway. After a weekend of exploring some new cafes, breweries, and restaurants, I was back to feeling like a normal human and ready to start thinking about training again.

Back to Work

Once you’re recovered both mentally and physically it’s time to get back into the swing of things. Training camp was a lot of low intensity and high volume aerobic base work, I knew I would be dialing up the intensity at home.

Living at 5,000 feet provides an extra stress on the body, so I prefer to work mostly in shorter two and three day blocks when I’m home. If the weather is cooperative, which is rare in the spring, I try and plan Mondays and Fridays as easy recovery rides or days off. Not having a normal 9-5 job there’s no real need for this but it can be comforting to have some regularity. Otherwise I tend to forget what day of the week it is.

Like most of us, I also like to be effective with my use of time. I’m a big believer in the on/off type efforts like 40/20s, 20/40s, 20/10s for periods of 6-10 minutes. Training is a lot steadier than professional road racing and these efforts do a good job at mimicking the repeated “surges” that take place in a race. With a big base under my belt, the rest of February was centered around bringing back that “punch” I need for  goals to come.

Here’s a file from a 20/40 workout I did:


When I’m at home, a typical week of training will consist of 2-3 shorter interval days, 2-3 longer endurance days, 2 easy days, and 1-2 off the bike gym sessions.

Remember, consistency is the key to success. While big blocks of training or a team camp can take you to the next level in fitness, it’s what you do day in and day out that’s going to count come race day. Hopefully this helps you stay on track or bounce back after an exceptionally difficult training period. Thanks for reading and check back in for more articles throughout the season!

The post Inside A Pro Cyclist’s Recovery After Training Camp appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

GTN Presents: Swim Drafting 101

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As part of the partnership between the Global Triathlon Network (GTN) and TrainingPeaks, we’ll be bringing you twice-monthly episodes of the new “Triathlon Training Explained” show. Hosts and former pro triathletes Mark Threlfall and Heather Fell will answer your triathlon training questions, with the help of TrainingPeaks software, coaches and industry experts from around the world.

In this week’s episode of Triathlon Training Explained, hosts Heather Fell and Mark Threlfall discuss the elusive topic of swim drafting. While some triathletes swear by it, others don’t believe it gives them any performance advantage, and is riskier than it’s worth. To find out how much energy drafting can really save, and where you’ll get the most benefit, Fell and Threlfall took to the pool and did some research for themselves:

Triathletes in the know use TrainingPeaks to help plan, track and analyze their training. Get dialed-in with a free 7-day Premium Trial today!

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7 Things Successful IRONMAN Racers Do in the Week Before a Race

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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.

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8 Simple Tips for Calming Pre-Race Nerves

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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!

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How to Best Calculate Swim Zones in 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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