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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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The General Classification of the Tour of Utah was played out in two distinct phases. The first phase was the mountain top finish and the individual time trial of stages 2 and 3.

Click on the image below to see Gavin Mannion’s Stage 6 power file:

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The second and final pivotal moment was stage six’s 98 km (61 miles) finish up Snowbird Canyon. The race book officially listed 32km (20 miles) of this stage as categorized climbs.

With 2,288m (7,500ft) of elevation gain, UnitedHealthcare’s Gavin Mannion, lying second overall, needed to be attentive and on good form in order to hold his position from the lower places lined up just seconds behind him, as well as to look for opportunities to attack race leader Rob Britton.

The race was on from the gun with a large breakaway getting away early, putting pressure on the race leader. On the first climb of the day, American Fork Canyon, there was only a small select group left by the top including Mannion.

He averaged 304 normalized watts for 37 minutes up this climb, which equates to about 5.2 W/Kg, mostly staying out of trouble except for at one point he was involved in a crash and ended up lying in a ditch!

With catlike reflexes, Mannion got up again (and the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling director started to breathe again) and he quickly chased back to the front group.

08206-power-analysis-gavin-mannion-second-place-at-the-tour-of-utah-fig21

What was left of the peloton then made its way full gas through the valley, chasing down the breakaway before the final climb up Snowbird.

This was to be where the race was decided. Two Italian riders from the Bardiani team took the first and second places on the stage, but the GC battle was fought behind them with just four riders left to contest the overall win.

You can see from Mannion’s Pioneer file on TrainingPeaks that the first three quarters of the climb was fast, steady and sustained. With just a handful of contenders left at this point, these riders then went into attack mode, launching attack after attack at each other to see if any of them had weak legs.

Mannion’s climb up Snowbird took 32 minutes at an average of 312 altitude-affected watts (5.3W/Kg), with many power spikes in the last 20 minutes to finish fourth on the stage and hold on to his second overall in the General Classification.

08206-power-analysis-gavin-mannion-second-place-at-the-tour-of-utah-fig31

The final stage 7 was an 11-lap circuit race in downtown Salt Lake City finishing up a steep pitch. The race, as it had been all week, was aggressive with many attacks throughout with many stage-hunting opportunities trying their hand.

Click on the image below to see Mannion’s Stage 7 Power File:

08206-power-analysis-gavin-mannion-second-place-at-the-tour-of-utah-fig4

The GC men laid their arms down somewhat, saving their bullets for the final sprint to the finish line, which was a 700m uphill with a maximum gradient of 9 percent. Here is Mannion’s sprint to the finish line, netting third on the stage.

08206-power-analysis-gavin-mannion-second-place-at-the-tour-of-utah-fig51

The week at the Tour of Utah is a tough one, and Gavin was happy to finish second overall in the General Classification behind winner Rob Britton. Over the 26 hours and 23 minutes of racing, he burned 16,800kj, pedaled over 1,000km and climbed 12,291m—that’s one and a half times up Mt Everest!

Congratulations to Gavin Mannion on his great Tour of Utah!

The post Power Analysis: Gavin Mannion’s Second Place at the Tour of Utah appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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I have always loved books. I like the old ones, the hardbacks, the ones with history to them. I prefer the yellowed pages with dog-eared corners, scribbles in the margins, and people’s names in the front. This is not because I am so well read, I just love the transfer of information over time. I find it interesting that some knowledge is timeless and some is not.

Libraries on the other hand make me uneasy. I believe it is a volume thing, or perhaps the library rules that I was bound to break. The love of books is still there, but I get overwhelmed and saddened by the sheer quantity information I don’t have time to delve into or concepts I may never completely understand.

In the same way a library can seem overwhelming, it’s easy to get bogged down by the sheer amount of numbers that we are capable of tracking these days. Seemingly every sport has their key indicators to look for and our trusty GPS-enabled sidekicks have been taught to track them all.

From our heart rate data, velocity, power output and our location, we have all the information about every session we could ever want at our fingertips.  This is a great thing—a beautiful thing—not something to be overwhelmed by, but you have start small and use the right tools.

First, find a portion of your data that is in your wheelhouse and don’t be afraid of diving into other topics too. TrainingPeaks has innumerable tools to help with crunching the numbers.

The Performance Management Chart is my favorite for helping me think “big picture.” It also works better with more data points when I am trying to teach my young athletes about patience. I can zoom out to explain to them the span of a collegiate distance running career that involves 12 separate seasons over a four to five year period. I can then show them how much they have done thus far and encourage them to temper their immediate expectations.

08204-the-advantages-of-trainingpeaks-for-cross-country-coaches-fig1

Don’t Get Lost in the Details

When working with a team of athletes, the data can pile up fast, but when my athletes are diligent with their logs, TrainingPeaks does an excellent job of helping me tackle it—even in a group setting.

I can dive in the tiniest details (they’re there, trust me) or take a step back and quickly assess the big picture with my athletes. I can find the blown aerobic threshold run caused by the loose dog in the minutia of the data, or use charts on the dashboard to backup my claim that solid cross training during injury didn’t really hamper my athlete’s long-term fitness.

Many times I have different athletes who can get the same workout accomplished in a myriad of ways.  I have older athletes who are capable of more volume and/or higher intensities, and younger ones who are eager to impress with their own capabilities. However, the data might tell me they need to be held back.

Did what I have scripted accomplish what I had intended or was needed? Was the timing of the workout right within their weekly or monthly schedule? Looking at their training data allows me to use the information to sight in my workouts and adjust my aim.

It can also give valuable affirmation that my workout accomplished exactly what I was after.  Frequently I am at the workout watching and timing every rep and I am still excited to come back the office and check the data to see if it coincides with the feedback from the athletes and my own observations.

Impressed but not Oppressed

So the next time you walk through a great library or pull up someone’s Performance Management Chart do not be intimidated. Be impressed. Be in awe in the sum of knowledge, lessons learned, hard work, sacrifice, toil, sweat and time. After that, confidently find your own space, your own niche and start adding pages to volumes of workouts, data, knowledge and skills that together make great athletes and great coaches.

The post The Advantages of TrainingPeaks for Cross Country Coaches appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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The dog days of summer are here but so too are some of the best races of the year. Performing well in these races requires both fitness and an ability to withstand the heat.

Heat acclimatization in the weeks prior to an event is the most important step for beating the heat on race day.1 However, in addition to acclimatizing to the heat, there are a number of different strategies that can help you keep cool and improve performance on race day.

When you are exercising, roughly 75 percent of the energy required for muscle contraction is lost as heat. Hot summer days make it difficult for the body to get rid of all this heat. As a result, your body temperature begins to increase which can lead to dizziness, headaches, nausea, and even brain damage.

As you might guess, all of these symptoms can affect performance. Therefore, the key to maximizing performance in the summer (and what the strategies listed below attempt to achieve) is to limit the increase in body temperature.

Pre-Race Strategies
Pre-Cooling

“Pre-cooling” is done to decrease body temperature prior to a race and has been shown to improve performance.2 Pre-cooling can be done in a variety of ways such as soaking in cool water, wearing a cooling vest, wearing iced clothing/towels, using fans to increase airflow, and drinking cold fluids like ice slushies.

Some of these strategies are not practical at a race venue but others can be combined and when utilized together, can further improve race performance1.

It is important to note that pre-cooling is not appropriate for every kind of race. For example, short events such as sprints are impaired with pre-cooling since your muscles need to be warm for optimal performance3.

Additionally, pre-cooling does not always improve your body’s temperature regulation but can still improve performance due to psychological changes (i.e. lower perceived exertion)3.

Hyperhydration

In addition to carrying oxygen to the working muscles, the body also uses blood (more specifically the plasma) to transfer heat to the extremities where it is dispersed to the environment more easily.

In hot environments though, it is difficult to maintain plasma volume in part due to the increased sweat rate that results from heat acclimatization. Therefore, another race day strategy is to increase plasma volume pre-race.

This “hyperhydration” strategy involves drinking water with a high sodium content which has been shown to help with thermoregulation while also improving performance.4,5

Like pre-cooling, hyperhydration has some potential limitations. Hyperhydration can increase blood pressure to unsafe levels and can lead to digestive issues. Furthermore, if utilizing hyperhydration, keep in mind that additional time is needed for the fluid to empty from your stomach, making this strategy less feasible for early morning race events.

Other Strategies

Although they typically get less press, there are other pre-race strategies which still deserve mention. The first and easiest is to avoid direct sun by staying in the shade. Seeking out areas with a breeze is also beneficial as airflow helps with dispersing body heat.

Modifying your traditional warm-up can be another way to keep body temperature from increasing too much. This can be achieved by spending less time on the trainer, shortening hard efforts, and/or shortening the entire warmup.

Race Strategies
Pacing

In hot environments, the brain will change your pacing strategy so that a critical body temperature (~40°C, ~104°F) is not exceeded6. Thus, while dependent on the race, pacing strategies should be modified in accordance with the heat to involve slower starting speeds and saving attacks until the final portions of the race.

Of note, sticking to a slower pacing strategy can be difficult following some of the pre-cooling strategies described above as they can trick your mind into thinking the environment is cooler than it actually is6.

Optimal performance therefore requires confidence in your pacing strategy so that the critical body temperature is not reached early in the race.

Hydration Temperature

Your ability to effectively regulate body temperature is influenced not only by your ability to stay hydrated as mentioned above, but also by the temperature of the beverage you are hydrating with.

It is more difficult to consume large amounts of cold fluids, and recent evidence suggests that cold water can signal a reduction in sweat rate leading to a reduced ability to get rid of body heat.7

So while a cold beverage may be perceived as the most refreshing, you may consider keeping your hydration closer to room temperature, so that the body’s cooling mechanisms continue working to keep you cool.

Ice Socks and Pouring Water

Placing pantyhose filled with ice on your back under your jersey is another great way to stay cool during a hot race. The ice feels great and as it melts, and the water aids in evaporative heat loss.

Pouring water on yourself has a similar effect. Of course, environmental conditions need to be taken into account as humid environments will reduce evaporation, so pouring water on yourself can result in nothing but wet clothing.

It is also worth noting that pouring water on the head can be beneficial as the critical core body temperature is sensed in the head region.3

As we have all experienced, the heat can be a major limiter in achieving goal performances. However, utilizing the above strategies to stay cool can go a long way to improving performance and could even make racing in the heat one of your strengths.

Needless to say, it is important to practice these strategies prior to race day as this will help you better maximize improvements and achieve goal performances.

The post Race Day Strategies to Beat the Heat appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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I’m a data detective. I spend my days investigating clues in the TrainingPeaks dashboard, WKO charts, my “homemade” excel spreadsheets and even post-session comments from my athletes.

Why spend so much time examining this information? It’s where the clues to achieving your best performance lie!

Every time that my athletes (or I) race, I collect and analyze a series of metrics, including:

Pacing strategy, as evaluated by heart rate, power, rate of perceived exertion (RPE) and speed
Placement in the field
A summative narrative (prepared by the athlete)

The Narrative

Within a day or two of finishing the race, write a report to provide context for the day. Consider the following:

What did you learn?
What worked well?
What you are proud of?
What didn’t go well?
How well did you respond to things that weren’t in your control? (e.g., weather)
What are areas for growth?
What were your thoughts and feelings during the race? How did they influence your actions? What was or was not effective about your mental game?
How did your pre-race planning help or hinder you?
What was your fueling and hydration strategy? Did it work?
What were the circumstances of the day (weather, terrain, competition, etc.)?

Your narrative can (and likely will) go beyond this list of questions. Include anything that comes to mind—even if you don’t think it’s important.

When you (or your coach) conduct the analysis, the seemingly insignificant details can become key clues to unravel the mystery of how to continue to improve your performance for the next time.

Pacing

The key data for analyzing your pacing strategy includes:

Heart rate
Power
Rate of perceived exertion (RPE)
Speed

I start with overall averages first; then I split the file into the first half and the second half (or in thirds or quarters), as seen in the charts below.

07185-how-to-do-a-proper-post-race-data-analysis-fig3

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Segmenting the file allows me to assess consistency across the race. The file above represents a 45 to 49 year old male’s bike leg at IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga. The athlete’s effort was indeed consistent, as his power did not fade, and he even went just a few watts higher in the second half.

From there, I assess variability index. (Read more about VI here). This athlete had a high VI, at 1.12.

For this terrain, the VI should be lower, under 1.1 and preferably closer to 1.05. So, I examine what the cause might be: Are there a lot of valleys and/or spikes in power?

The Power Distribution Chart in the TrainingPeaks dashboard or WKO can be helpful for this examination.

What about heart rate (HR)? In the first 30 minutes, his HR was elevated above 160 bpm (which was the cautionary “cap” we set in his race plan).

He recognized this issue as he was racing, and he adapted by temporarily keeping the power under his target to help his HR settle, which it did. His narrative confirmed that this was an intentional strategy.

In a 70.3 from the previous season, this athlete ignored the higher heart rate in those opening miles, and his HR never settled in that race, which led to a lackluster run. Not so this time! He raced to a 25-minute PR with a strong, negative-split run.

Heart rate can also give you insight into whether you were well-hydrated or well-fueled. Pace or power to HR ratio (Pa:HR or Pw:HR) gives you a sense of your cardiac drift.

When this number is high (above 5 percent or so), it can be a sign of dehydration, or working beyond your current fitness level. This is where your narrative can be helpful in providing useful context to interpret what the numbers are telling you.

With respect to the athlete above, his Pw:HR was below 5 percent. This coupled with his even effort and strong run means that he executed this race as well as he could for the conditions of the day.

The data further demonstrates how one segment of the race can affect another. For example, have you ever heard (or said) this: “I had a good swim, and a great bike. But, my run was terrible.”

Here’s the hard truth: You didn’t have a good swim and a great bike if your run was terrible. You had a bad race.

The athlete mentioned above clearly learned from previous experience of a bad race to execute a good race this time.

While I’ve focused on a bike file as my example, you should conduct a similar-style analysis for the swim and run with whatever metrics you have available.

I don’t rely solely on one metric because I think a consideration of all of the available information will help you build the strongest case.

Placement in the field

Analyzing the field goes beyond just a basic glance at overall placement.

You should analyze your splits at various points in the race (if the race results provide various split times). Does your placement rise or fall as the miles pile on?

For triathlon, analyze your placement within each segment. To do this, create spreadsheets that include the 10 to 15 finishers who came before and after you (in age group, gender, and/or overall—depending on your particular competitive goals).

I sort  four tables (fastest to slowest) by:

Overall time
Swim time
Bike time
Run time

Using these tables, you can see at a glance where you fare in each sport compared to the field.

The table below provides a sample. Athlete “J” is highlighted in yellow. The run is clearly his strength. This prep race tells us that we want to continue to bring his swim and bike closer to that run as he works toward his “A” race of the season.

07185-how-to-do-a-proper-post-race-data-analysis-fig1

Beyond an understanding of your placing, this information provides perspective if you missed a time goal. Let’s say your goal was to ride a sub-six hour IRONMAN bike (112 miles), but you wound up riding 6:15 in hot and windy conditions. You are disappointed, perhaps.

When you do a placement analysis, you find that the average ride time in your age group was 6:42. Then, you realize you had a top-10 bike split.

You also make some comparisons to the previous year, finding that ride times this year were about 15 minutes slower compared to the previous year. Maybe now you aren’t quite so disappointed.

There are many factors to consider in your post-race sleuthing—beyond the space and scope of this article. I hope that this has given you useful tips to get started as your own data detective. If you are honest in your analysis, you will find valuable clues to break the case of your best race day.

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Most athletes understand the importance of protein, carbohydrates and fat in their diet. However, a compound that is often overlooked is dietary fiber. Fiber is a key nutrient in maintaining a healthy diet and GI system.

Fiber can be beneficial to endurance athletes in a variety of ways, but should be approached differently than other nutrients. Let’s take a look at what fiber is, and how athletes can utilize it in their daily diet and during training.

What is Fiber?

Dietary fiber is found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. It includes the parts of plant foods that your body can’t digest, and is made of carbohydrates that the body can’t absorb.

Unlike other carbohydrates, fats and proteins that get digested and absorbed by the body, fiber passes relatively intact through the body’s GI system.

Fiber consists of soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel like material. Insoluble fiber stays intact and helps promote healthy digestion.1

Fiber is most often associated with the prevention and relief of constipation, but it has many other benefits for the athlete and non-athlete alike. Fiber also helps you maintain a healthy weight and lowers the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Fiber for Athletes

An athlete’s approach to fiber should vary some from that of a person not actively training. The recommended daily intake is 20 to 35 grams, whereas 10 to 15 grams is what most individuals ingest on a daily basis.2

The goal should always be to obtain the recommended amount from whole foods rather than supplements. Many supplements are absent of key vitamins, minerals and nutrients, making them an incomplete source of fiber.

An increase in soluble fiber is linked to blood glucose stabilization, meaning less spikes or drops in blood sugar and a more consistent energy supply. The short chain fatty acids making up fiber also directly influence glycogen release in the liver. Glycogen stores in the liver account for up to 14 percent of available energy stores, or 100 grams of glycogen.3

Fiber is easy to acquire for athletes looking to add more to their diet. Many athletes’ go-to foods are great sources of soluble and insoluble fiber as well as carbohydrates.

Foods like oats, potatoes, oranges and brown rice are fantastic sources of vital nutrients for athletes. These high fiber foods also help you feel fuller longer, and thus help to maintain a healthy weight. This is especially important for athletes looking to reach “race weight” and achieve a lean body.

Fiber for Training

One of the most important things to remember when fueling for training is that fiber provides no actual calories due to its indigestibility. Therefore, it’s critical that athletes obtain the appropriate amount of calories for training from other key nutrients.

While fiber is important and has many benefits for athletes, it can also cause GI distress for several reasons, one of which is due to the fact that it slows the emptying of the contents in the stomach.

Ingestion of too much fiber close to a workout can cause issues during or after the workout. Try to time your fiber intake so that it’s ingested a minimum of two hours from your scheduled training session. This should ensure proper digestion pre-workout.

During increased training load, or leading up to race day, you may want to consider decreasing fiber intake as a whole. The greater caloric needs of athletes during increased training load may lead to an unnecessary increase in fiber as well.

If GI issues become present, take special care to decrease fiber intake without shorting yourself of valuable calories. Decreasing fiber in the days leading up to an event may help lessen the chance of GI distress on race day.4

Fiber is important for overall health and wellness for all individuals. Ensuring that you’re getting the right amount and that the timing and intake are appropriate can have even greater benefits for athletes.

Understanding the role that fiber plays in energy availability and digestion can help athletes further fine tune their nutrition strategy for training and race day. When you’re planning carbohydrate, protein and fat intake, be sure to consider fiber as part of a well-rounded and healthy approach to your training diet.

The post Fiber Intake Guidelines for Endurance Athletes appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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